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had done something to remove one great grievance by extending the Irish franchise. He had desired to redress a grave injustice by the adequate endowment of the Roman Catholic religion. He had attempted to substitute a solvent for an insolvent proprietary by facilitating the sale of encumbered estates. He had proposed to remedy a galling wrong by controlling the right of ejectment, and by recognising the rights of the tenant in his holding. He had tried to relieve an over-populated country by devising a considerable scheme for the emigration of the people. He had wished to get rid of a symbol of separation by the abolition of the Viceroyalty. Some of these proposals were defeated in the Cabinet; others of them were modified or smothered by Parliament; some of them were attended indirectly with consequences which Lord John and the wisest of his contemporaries failed to see. Examined singly, some objection may be raised to many of them. Taken as a whole they would have failed, even if they had passed, to redress all the many injuries from which an unhappy country was suffering. But it may at least be said of them that, while no previous Minister had ever fallen on harder circumstances, no previous Minister had made so honest an effort to deal with the Irish question.
IN PARLIAMENT AND AT HOME.
IN relating in the two previous chapters the difficulties which Lord John had to encounter in 1848 and 1849, in connection with Ireland and foreign affairs, it has been impossible to give any detailed account either of the failures of one year or of the successes of the other. In 1848 everything conspired to make the session abortive. In the first place Lord John himself through much of the period was in such weak health that he was physically unable to exercise a commanding influence on politics; and in the next place attention was forcibly diverted from the measures announced from the throne to the terrible events which shook the Continent from Berlin to Paris, and to their consequences on this country. Lord John, it must be recollected, was only feebly sup: ported in the House of Commons. On the formation of his Ministry, Lord Palmerston, Lord Morpeth, Sir G. Grey, Sir C. Wood, Sir J. Hobhouse, Mr. Labouchere, and Mr. Macaulay all held offices of Cabinet rank with seats in that House. But Lord Palmerston mainly confined himself to the business of his own department; Lord Morpeth, Sir J. Hobhouse, and Mr. Labouchere were only occasional speakers; Mr. Macaulay lost his seat at the general election of 1847; and, though Sir George Grey and Sir Charles Wood were admirable in council and in office, the rapid utterance of the former and the temporary unpopularity of the latter reduced their influence in debate. Thus the brunt of every battle fell on Lord John ; and, though in readiness in debate he excelled all his contemporaries, the exertion was obviously too great for a frame which, never strong, was weakened by an illness whose effects he could not shake off. Conscious of his need for help, he made
a strong effort to retain the services of Mr. Macaulay. In writing the admirable memoir of his uncle, which should be the pattern, as it is the despair, of biographers, Sir G. Trevelyan has omitted to notice that Mr. Macaulay, at Lord John's wish, remained a member of the Russell Cabinet, and enjoyed his easy office of Paymaster General, for nine months after his defeat at Edinburgh; and that, when Parliament met, Lord John endeavoured to retain his services by suggesting that a vacancy should be made for him in Lord Zetland's borough of Richmond. The grounds on which this offer was refused are worth recording. Oxford : April 23, 1848.
Dear Lord John, The proposal which you made yesterday took me so much by surprise that I could not come to an immediate decision. I have since thought the matter over fully. I will not say that my tastes and wishes may not, unperceived by myself, have biassed my judgment. But I can truly say that I have done my best to ascertain what is the right, honourable, and useful course; and the result is that I have determined not to be member for Richmond.
A few weeks ago I should have felt very differently. But the events which have lately taken place on the Continent and in this island have placed me and all of us in a new position. It will soon be necessary for you to deliberate seriously on the propriety of re. moving some evils and anomalies which the Reform Bill spared. What the issue of your deliberations may be I cannot tell. My own opinion is that some concessions ought to be made with a good grace to the middle classes, and that, at the same time, all innovations dangerous to order and property ought to be firmly resisted. Now I feel that it would be quite impossible for me, as member for a pocket borough, to be of any service to my country in the approaching contest. On the one hand, if I should differ from the Government and from Lord Zetland, I should be bound in honour to take the Chiltern Hundreds. On the other hand, it would be impossible for me to speak with weight against violent innovations. I should make a very poor figure in opposition to a new Schedule A, while sitting for a borough which would probably appear in a new Schedule A. I should be constantly accused of holding, as the nominee of a great nobleman, language very different from that which I had held as the representative of a hundred and twenty thousand people. In short, I should bring discredit on myself, and be useless to you,
The situation in which I am placed with respect to the question of the ballot is alone a sufficient reason for my determining not to come into Parliament at the present time and in the proposed manner. My opinions on that question have undergone some change, and perhaps do not now differ very widely from yours. But I feel that if I were now, on taking my seat for Richmond, to vote against the ballot, I should destroy my public character, and with it all my public usefulness. Two months ago there was no excitement in the country about organic reforms. If a motion had been made in favour of secret voting, I might have absented myself or divided silently with the Ayes, and no newspaper would have thought the matter worth noting. Now the case is very different. That at this conjuncture a member of your Cabinet should, on such a question, separate himself from all his colleagues would, in my judgment, greatly weaken your Government. Peel and Graham, Stanley and Disraeli, Hume and Cobden, would all join to deride and condemn a Ministry which showed such signs of disunion. If any of the Radicals were to praise me at the expense of my colleagues, I need not say that such praise would be more painful to me than censure. Yet, if I do not vote for the ballot, the universal cry would be, ‘You declared for the ballot on the hustings of Edinburgh ; you voted for it ; you spoke for it. You never said a word about your change of opinion till a great city turned you out, and an aristocratical borough proprietor put you in.' And what could I say in reply 2 I am confident, therefore, that, if I now come into the House of Commons as member for Richmond, I shall very soon go out again. By so going out I should probably inflict a serious wound on the Government. By quietly dropping out of public life I inflict no wound at all.
The truth is that there is only one way of escape from all these inconveniences. I must therefore beg you to consider my resignation as final. I will call in Chesham Place on Tuesday, and give you my key. Ever, dear Lord John, yours very faithfully,
T. B. MACAULAY.
The programme which Lord John sketched out for the session was sufficiently ambitious. The position of affairs abroad and the Duke of Wellington's published opinion forced the Ministry to consider the arrangements necessary for defence against invasion ; the famine in Ireland, which had compelled the Government temporarily to suspend the Navigation Acts in 1847, brought the policy of those Acts prominently before the Legislature; the miscrable condition of the large towns, where no adequate provision was made for pure soil, pure air, or pure water, gave urgency to the great question of Sanitary Reform ; while the circumstance of Lord John's own election, connected as it was with that of a Jew, Baron Rothschild, as his colleague, raised a similar issue to that which Mr. O'Connell's return for Clare had brought to the front nearly twenty years before. Thus four great measures of legislation and finance were fairly before Parliament. But, before February was over, the revolution in France and the fear of increased taxation at home, had entirely altered the situation ; and a session which had commenced with a demand for greater armaments, and with the proposal of additional taxation, concluded with a general desire for retrenchment, and a serious effort to bring the expenditure of the nation within its income. This radical alteration in feeling, for which the Government could hardly be held responsible, disarranged the whole programme of the year; and the plans of the Ministers were further modified by the necessity which, as they conceived, was imposed on them of seeking special legislative powers to control turbulence and disaffection. Much of the time, which it was hoped would be available for discussing Navigation Acts and Public Health, was occupied with the consideration of measures of precaution of which the Crown and Government Security Bill and the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act were the most striking. Under these circumstances, the Bills which the Government had promoted early in the session could not otherwise than suffer. The Bill for Promoting the Health of Towns was, indeed, passed ; the Bill for Removing the Disabilities of the Jews was passed by the Commons, but summarily rejected by the Lords;" the Bill for repealing the Navigation Acts was abandoned. 1 During the discussion of the Jewish question Lord John sent the following
letter in dog-Latin to his wife:– --