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a. man of great talents, popular eloquence, and great influence, who neither keeps within the bounds of Parliamentary warfare like Lord Chatham and Mr. Fox, and who is yet such a master of law that he can do ten times more mischief than Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Mr. Emmet without incurring any legal penalty. For the present he seems to have dropped Repeal, which is his most dangerous weapon; and, such is the state of Ireland that every month of tranquillity gained gives a fairer hope for the progress of wealth, education, and civilisation.
The King's alarm was not entirely allayed by Lord John's explanation; but his confidence was increased by the closer knowledge, which he was gradually acquiring, of Lord John's character and opinions. He had hitherto regarded him as a dangerous innovator; the autumn of 1835 was to show him that Lord John's desire for Reform was prompted by a wish to improve and preserve the constitution, which the King had perhaps feared that he was about to destroy. Much, for instance, as Lord John had suffered from the conduct of the Lords, he had no intention of lending himself to an attack upon them. He wrote to Lord Melbourne on the 7th of October—
The Pitt party has been weakened, not strengthened, by making so many dull country gentlemen duller peers. . . . Two or three now and then may be useful, but I should regret any large creation. The best stuff would be Liberal Irishmen. The Orange peers ara so harmonious, and Duncannon is not an orator.
Twice during the recess he had an opportunity of stating these views in public. On his arrival in Devonshire, some of his old constituents—the inhabitants of Plymouth and the neighbourhood—waited on him to thank him for his great and protracted exertions, and for the attachment which he had shown to the cause of civil and religious liberty. In his reply Lord John referred in severe language to the conduct of the Lords:—
The same party which prompted and led this resistance have been opposed to every Liberal measure which has been proposed for the last seven years; and upon all the most important of those measures their resistance has ended in a confession that the struggle was hopeless, and that, although darkness was still to be desired, light was no longer to be excluded.
But he added—
Fortified, therefore, by past victories, relying firmly on future progress, I earnestly recommend you to look for the triumph of further measures of Reform rather to the effect of public opinion, enlightened and matured by knowledge and discussion, than to organic changes which cannot be proposed without causing division, nor carried without risk of convulsion. . . . For my own part . . . to the great landmarks of our liberties I must steadily adhere; . . . to the constitution of this country in all its branches I stand pledged by feeling, by opinion, and by duty.
And at a great dinner at Bristol, on November 10, where the Reformers of that city presented him with some silver candelabra 'raised by subscriptions of sixpence each, as a testimony of their high admiration and grateful sense of his public conduct and political consistency,' he again used scrupulously moderate language.1
These two speeches won him marked approval. Lord Grey 2 wrote on November 6—
I approve very much of your answer to the Plymouth address; thinking the Government bound by every consideration of duty to oppose a firm and decided resistance to Mr. O'Connell's new scheme for what some call reforming, but what he fairly acknowledges and avows to mean overturning, the House of Lords.
While his father, who was in Scotland recovering from the effects of a paralytic seizure, wrote more warmly—
1 The substance of the Bristol speech was published in a pamphlet (London, 1835), I have not attempted to enumerate all the occasions on which Lord John received testimonials of this character. One of them, in 1832, may be
recollected as the subject of one of H. B.'s caricatures, 'Ministers , their
2 Lord Grey—so Lord Ebrington wrote to Lord John on September 26—'is sadly low, and, I must add, sadly wrong, about politics. The O'Gonnellphobia stronger than ever, and the notion of any change in the constitution of the House of Lords treated as an utter overturn of the Monarchy, though he was forced to admit that they had done a good deal to deserve it.'
I cannot resist speaking of the admiration with which I read your answer to the addresses at Endsleigh. It is quite perfect.
The Bristol speech won equal approval from a more Conservative critic. Sir Herbert Taylor wrote, by the King's commands, on November 12—
The King noticed with much satisfaction in the report of the proceedings the tone of the speech which you made in reply to the address of the inhabitants who presented you with a piece of plate, and the spirit of your remarks.
Lord John stayed at Bowood for the Bristol meeting. He returned thence to London, where the Cabinet was reassembling. Business of importance was awaiting the Ministers. They had to determine, in the first place, on the legislation of the ensuing session; and they had, in the next place, to decide what to do with the Chancellorship. Lord Melbourne, unwilling to confer office on Lord Brougham, had placed the great seal in commission. But the Administration lost no time in announcing that the arrangement was provisional, and that it was intended to separate the judicial and political functions of the Chancellor. Very early in the recess Lord John drew up a memorandum, which he sent to the Prime Minister, in which he advocated the appointment of a permanent judge in Equity. In the following month Lord Melbourne and Lord John, who were in almost daily communication with one another on the subject, agreed that legislation should be attempted in the ensuing session, and that in the meanwhile Sir C. Pepys, the Master of the Rolls, should be advanced to the Chancellorship and a peerage. But the promotion involved a new difficulty. Two men, Lord Brougham, and Sir J. Campbell, the Attorney-General, were certain to aspire to the office thus vacated; and, so far as Lord Brougham 1 was con
1 In September 1835 Lord John decided on re-constituting an old commission to inquire into educational endowments, and on offering Lord Brougham, whose previous career marked him out for the post, the chairmanship of the commission. The King strongly objected to Lord Brougham's employment even in this capacity, and Lord John wrote to Lord Melbourne on September 30 begging him to overcome the King's objection. 'If Brougham is rejected after having consulted his friends, we shall have " war to the knife" from him, and, cerned, it was very doubtful whether the King would assent to his promotion; while Sir John Campbell's training did not qualify him to preside in an Equity court. Lord John wrote from Woburn on December 12—
With respect to the Mastership of the Rolls, I shall be content to see it given to Brougham, Bickersteth, or Campbell. I
am doubtful about the two first .
And Lord Melbourne replied on the 14th—
I have been thinking much about the great seal, and I feel great doubts whether I could conscientiously recommend the King to place Brougham at the Rolls. ... If the King were to say to me, 'After the manner he has acted, can you advise me to place him in a high judicial office, from which, however he may act, or whatever extravagance he may commit, I cannot remove him?' I know not what I should be able to answer. My opinion is to make Pepys Chancellor, and Bickersteth Master of the Rolls, with or without a peerage; but I think the former. ... To Campbell's complaints I should say that we were determined to try Equity lawyers in Equity courts. No common lawyer has recently given satisfaction.
I was not at all disposed [replied Lord John on the same day] to urge pertinaciously what I yet think a fair claim for Brougham. In your place, I could venture to recommend him to the King. But I cannot fairly ask you to be responsible for a man in whose soundness of mind and integrity of conduct you have so little confidence. The appointment of Bickersteth would have the advantage that the courts of Equity would be as well filled as the corruption of what is called Equity would permit.1
according to an old joke of Dudley's, Mr. Brougham's Monarchy Abolition Bill read a first time.' The King gave way very reluctantly, saying, 'he does not know what Lord Brougham may do in any situation ;' and Lord Melbourne added the next day, October 1, 'I have reason to think that the letter to you with respect to the appointment to the head of the Charity Commission was written, not with a view of persisting in the objection, but to let you know what were the feelings entertained "with respect to this individual.'"
1 Lord John had not a high opinion of Equity judges. In the memorandum referred to in the text as addressed to Lord Melbourne in October, he wrote, 'Two of the fittest men of our time to preside in an Equity court (Lord Eldon and Sir John Leach) had yet such faults that, according to the epigram, with one you never had the oyer, with the other never the terminer.'
Lord John did not cease to regret Lord Melbourne's refusal to appoint Lord Brougham. Nearly two years afterwards, on September 12, 1837, he wrote to
These arrangements were concluded in the first week of January 1836; and Lord John, who, since his return from Devonshire, had paid flying visits to Brighton, Holkham, and Woburn, settled in London to prepare for the coming session. Unfortunately for him, he was immediately afterwards laid up with fever; and, though the attack proved a very mild one, he was far from recovered when Parliament opened in the beginning of February. His father wrote to him imploring him not to do the honours of the dinner which the leader of the House of Commons always gives at the commencement of the session.
I trust you will consider it. You will be risking a relapse, et (t quoi bon i The Chancellor of the Exchequer can sit at the head of the table, and . . . read the King's speech, just as well as you can. Think how very important it is that you should keep yourself quite well, and in health and strength, to undertake all that will be required of you in the ensuing campaign.
If Lord John had cared much for anonymous abuse, a series of letters, which was just appearing in the Times, might have retarded his recovery. Mr. Disraeli wrote the first of the Runnymede Letters on January 16, 1836. The letter to Lord John Russell is dated January 30. Their author's subsequent career has given a permanent interest to these scurrilous productions; and though in the form, in which they are read to-day, they are a little less offensive than when they first appeared, the reader, accustomed to the careful manner in which the Times is now edited, is surprised that that paper should have stooped to insert them. In these letters Mr. Disraeli exhausted his powers of venom in attacking Lord John Russell. In the opening letter the seals of the principal office of the State are entrusted to an individual who, on the principle that good vinegar is the corruption of bad wine, has been metamorphosed from an incapable author into an eminent
Lord Melbourne: 'I have a letter from the Chancellor, very full and satisfactory. He says truly enough that Langdale will not be of much use to him. 1 always regret that office was not given to Brougham. It would have been better for the suitors and for the public.'