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the Bishop of Durham. Dr. Maltby, who in 1850 held the see of Durham, to which he had been promoted on Lord John's own recommendation in 1836, was one of Lord John's oldest and closest friends. He had been his constant correspondent for more than twenty years; he had supplied him with much information for the religious chapters of the ‘Affairs . of Europe;’ and he had been his frequent counsellor on questions affecting the Church, and on the qualifications and characters of the men who were candidates for promotion in it. It was natural, therefore, to Lord John to open his mind freely to the Bishop; and he certainly did so on this occasion."
DownING STREET, November 4, 1850. MY DEAR LORD,-I agree with you in considering ‘the late aggression of the Pope upon our Protestantism’ as ‘insolent and insidious, and I therefore feel as indignant as you can do upon the subject. I not only promoted to the utmost of my power the claims of the Roman Catholics to all civil rights, but I thought it right and even desirable that the ecclesiastical system of the Roman Catholics should be the means of giving instruction to the numerous Irish immigrants in London and elsewhere, who without such help would have been left in heathen ignorance. This might have been done, however, without any such innovation as that which we have now seen. It is impossible to confound the recent measures of the Pope with the division of Scotland into dioceses by the Episcopal Church, or the arrangement of districts in England by the Wesleyan Conference. There is an assumption of power in all the documents which have come from Rome; a pretension of supremacy over the realm of England, and a claim to sole and undivided sway, which is inconsistent with the Queen's supremacy, with the rights of our bishops and clergy, and with the spiritual independence of the nation, as asserted even in Roman Catholic times.
1 The Bishop's letter, dated October 30, was primarily to thank Lord John ·for having complied with an application he had made to him on behalf of a meritorious scholar. He had gone on to say, ‘I do not know what your opinion, or that of the Government, may be respecting the late aggression Aof the Pope upon our Protestant religion. I confess I think it insolent and insidious,' &c. - -
I confess, however, that my alarm is not equal to my indignation. Even if it shall appear that the ministers and servants of the Pope in this country have not transgressed the law, I feel persuaded that we are strong enough to repel any outward attacks. The liberty of Protestantism has been enjoyed too long in England to allow of any successful attempt to impose a foreign yoke upon our minds and consciences. No foreign prince or potentate will be at liberty to fasten his fetters upon a nation which has so long and so nobly vindicated its right to freedom of opinion, civil, political, and religious. Upon this subject, then, I will only say that the present state of the law shall be carefully examined, and the propriety of adopting any proceedings with reference to the recent assumption of power, deliberately considered. There is a danger, however, which alarms me much more than any aggression of a foreign sovereign. Clergymen of our own Church, who have subscribed the Thirtynine Articles and acknowledged in explicit terms the Queen's supremacy, have been most forward in leading their flocks “step by step to the very verge of the precipice. The honour paid to saints, the claim of infallibility for the Church, the superstitious use of the sign of the cross, the muttering of the liturgy so as to disguise the language in which it is written, the recommendation of auricular confession, and the administration of penance and absolution—all these things are pointed out by clergymen of the Church of England as worthy of adoption, and are now openly reprehended by the Bishop of London in his charge to the clergy of his diocese. What then is the danger to be apprehended from a foreign prince of no great power compared to the danger within the gates from the unworthy sons of the Church of England herself? I have little hope that the propounders and framers of these innovations will desist from their insidious course. But I rely with confidence on the people of England; and I will not bate a jot of heart or hope, so long as the glorious principles and the immortal martyrs of the Reformation shall be held in reverence by the great mass of a nation which looks with contempt on the mummeries of superstition, and with scorn at the laborious endeavours which are now making to confine the intellect and enslave the soul.—I remain, with great respect, &c., J. RUSSELL.
If you think it will be of any use, you have my full permission to publish this letter. -
When this letter first appeared it was received with a chorus of approbation from peer, prelate, and people. Lord John, on this occasion at any rate, had not waited for the breeze to bear him forward. He had himself fanned the flame which was propelling his vessel. But, even in the midst of unprecedented enthusiasm, some whispers of dissatisfaction reached the Minister's ears. High Churchmen not unnaturally resented being called the unworthy sons of the Church of England. Moderate Roman Catholics deplored the application of such a phrase as ‘the mummeries of superstition’ to a service which they regarded as sacred. Even so old a friend as Madam Durazzo wrote to say, ‘Votre lettre à l'évêque de Durham m'a blessé au fond de l'âme;’ while reports from Ireland continually assured him that no member for a Roman Catholic constituency would have a chance of re-election if he were to support a measure which denied territorial titles to Roman Catholic bishops. Yet, even if Lord John had desired to retreat from a position of difficulty, the enthusiasm which his letter had created among the Protestants of England would have made withdrawal impossible. He was compelled, when Parliament met, to put words into the Queen's mouth announcing a measure to resist the Pope's aggression; and on February 7, 1851, the first Friday in the session, he rose to introduce a Bill for the purpose.
Lord John Russell, so Mr. Greville once said, always spoke well when a great speech was required of him; and his speech on this occasion was no exception to the rule. The House, so far, was with him ; and after four nights’ debate his motion was carried by an enormous majority. But it was already plain that, though the vast majority of the House was prepared to resist the aggression of the Pope, Lord John could not command the support of his usual followers on other questions. In the week, over which this debate was protracted, Mr. Disraeli secured a night for the discussion of agricultural distress, and was only defeated by a narrow majority of fourteen. On the Monday which succeeded its termination, February 17, Sir Charles Wood brought forward the Budget, and his proposals were received with disappointment and disapprobation. On the succeeding Thursday Mr. Locke King asked leave to introduce a Bill for equalising the county with the borough franchise; and, though Lord John distinctly undertook 1 to deal with the matter himself in the following year, and asked the House, on the faith of this assurance, to reject Mr. Locke King's motion, his party went into the lobby against him and defeated him by a majority of two to one. It had been intended to renew the discussion on the Budget on the following evening; but Lord John asked that the committee should be postponed; and the House broke up in some confusion, the members speculating whether the Minister was intending to reconstruct the Budget or to retire from his position. . The blow could never have come in its final shape if the Cabinet had not refused to sanction the introduction of the measure of Reform which Lord John for two years had urged on it. Even in the preceding month, the Prime Minister had been forced to yield his opinion to that of his colleagues. He wrote to the Queen on January 20, 1851–
Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and has the honour to state that the Cabinet are generally of opinion that no Bill for extending the franchise should be brought forward by the Government in the present year.
Lord John Russell acquiesces reluctantly in this opinion, and will so state to the Cabinet this day.
After Lord John's defeat, Lord Minto wrote—
EATON SQUARE, Thursday night. MY DEAR LORD JOHN,-, ... If my cold did not keep me at home, I should have walked to Chesham Place to give a vent to some of the indignation that is boiling over. If the saddle could be put upon the right horse it would be all very well; but as matters stand the blame and the discredit appear to fall upon you. If I were in the place of those who rejected your proposal, I could not consent to suffer you to be the scapegoat for my misdeeds; and I am willing to think that others may feel as I should have done, and may desire to have it understood that you had wished to propose a measure of your own. I shall be quite ready to throw out such a suggestion on Saturday, if you do not disapprove of it. . . These are hasty thoughts, which, especially if they be angry thoughts, are seldom worth much. But the expectoration relieves me.—Yours ever, MINTO.
* This undertaking was given without previous consultation with the Cabinet, and Lord John's conduct in giving it was subsequently resented by some of its Imembers.
Lord John dissuaded Lord Minto from carrying out his suggestion, anxious perhaps that his own retirement should not lead to any bitterness among his friends. For neither he nor the Cabinet was in doubt as to the course which should be pursued. On the following morning he placed his resignation in the Queen's hands, and advised her to send for Lord Stanley. Lord Stanley, however, declined to attempt the formation of an Administration until an effort had been made to combine the Whigs with the followers of Sir Robert Peel; and, by the Queen's desire, Lord Aberdeen, Sir James Graham, and Lord John met at the Palace with a view to ascertain whether such a combination were possible. Lord John thereupon drew up the following memorandum:—
Saturday night, February 22, 1851. Lord John Russell having been informed by the Queen that Lord Stanley declines to form a Ministry at present, and her Majesty having called on Lord John Russell to attempt the reconstruction of a Ministry of which he should be at the head, proposes to Lord Aberdeen and Sir James Graham the following points as the basis of an agreement. A Cabinet to be constructed anew of not more than eleven members, with reference only to their fitness for the several offices and their willingness to adhere to the following conditions:— 1. The present commercial policy to be inviolably maintained, and any commercial or financial measures to be in harmony with this policy. 2. The financial measures of the present year to be open to revision. 3. The Bill ‘to prevent the Assumption of Ecclesiastical Titles, &c., to be persevered in so far as the preamble and the first clause,