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the proposal. The increasing tension of the situation in the East increased the objections raised to the Prime Minister's abandoning the helm: and, to quote his own words, he could not “at such a moment think of running away. From Lord Aberdeen's point of view it was difficult to gainsay the force of this reasoning. The true objection to his conduct was not that he failed to carry out his intention; but that he had announced an intention without ascertaining whether it would be possible to fulfil it. But, from Lord John's point of view, Lord Aberdeen's reasoning was defective. Rightly or wrongly, Lord John thought—and he thought in common with ninetenths of his fellow-countrymen—that Lord Aberdeen's love of peace, and friendship for the Emperor of Russia, were powerful elements making for war. Peace, so it seemed to him and others, could best be secured by the resignation of the Prime Minister; and (as has been already shown) he seriously doubted whether he was himself justified in continuing to serve in the Administration. On the other hand, there was something distasteful to his chivalrous temperament in deserting a Ministry which was passing through a grave crisis; and, satisfied by the failure of Lord Clarendon's proposal in September, and by a decision of the Cabinet authorising Lord Stratford to direct the fleet to pass through the Bosphorus and engage in defensive operations in any part of the Euxine, he continued in power. This determination, however, forced Lord John to consider another subject. In the statement, which he had made on behalf of the Ministry at the commencement of the session of 1853, he had said that it was proposed to defer the measure of Parliamentary Reform which it was intended to introduce till the spring of 1854. If this pledge were to be redeemed, the time had evidently arrived for preparing the measure; and accordingly, early in November, after Lord John's return to Richmond, the Cabinet appointed a committee of its members to consider its details. When the committee met Lord John laid before it the outlines of a scheme in which he proposed the disfranchisement of all boroughs with less than 300 electors; the semi-disfranchisement of those with less than 500 electors; the division of the 70 seats thus vacated between the largest counties and the largest towns; the reduction of the county franchise from £50 to £20 ; the reduction of the borough franchise either to the household franchise established in municipalities or to a £6 rating; the creation of what have since been called triangular constituencies, in which no elector should vote for more than two out of the three candidates; and the disfranchisement of freemen. But it was soon plain that one member of the committee, Lord Palmerston, not merely objected to many parts of this scheme, but was also prepared to question the necessity for Reform at all. He went so far, indeed, as to declare that the supposed necessity for change arose not from any popular demand, but from the declarations which Lord John himself had made in the House of Commons. Such an insinuation was neither quite generous nor quite just. Of all the members of the Whig party, Lord John had suffered most from his determination to resist any tampering with the Reform Act. Lord John, however, shall speak for himself:— PEMBROKE LODGE, November 16, 1853.
MY DEAR PALMERSTON,—I received your letter just before our meeting yesterday, and had no time to consider it before I came here. In the first place I deny entirely the historical truth of the assertion that the necessity for Reform arises principally if not solely from declarations made by me in the House of Commons without any previous concert or agreement with my colleagues. The facts are that from 1837 I have stood both in Government and in Opposition the brunt of the attacks made on the Reform Act. In referring to Lord Grey's and Lord Althorp's declarations that it was a final measure, in resisting the ballot, in opposing Hume's motions, I have had no assistance, and was left alone to bear the unpopularity of my course. At length I told my colleagues that I thought a further reform should be made. With the exception of Lord Grey and Hobhouse all agreed, but urged postponement. When this was the decision I thought myself justified in declaring that the Government would itself propose a further reform. Still my declaration was thought so little explicit that Page Wood, Vernon Smith, and others put us in a minority, my colleagues as usual remaining silent. We resigned; and, when we came back, Fox Maule, as the organ of the Government, promised Reform in the next session. Accordingly, at the beginning of the session of 1852, it was announced in the Queen's Speech. So much as to the past. The necessity for Reform now exists not in any declarations of mine, but in the existence of abuses and defects which it becomes our duty to remedy. I am sure I need not remind you of what Mr. Burke says of early reformations. The capitulations made with the Catholic Association and the Anti-Corn Law League are not to me inviting examples to follow. Next, are there these abuses : You admit the inadequacy of the electoral body in very small places, but object to a Schedule B. You do so, however, on a ground which I do not think can be maintained—that, taking the general nature and effect of the plan, it tends without necessity to produce a great derangement of legislative and political power to the injury of land, and the advantage of the manufacturing, commercial, and working classes. If you will consider the plan further, I think you will see— First, that, like the Reform Bill, it takes away power from individuals or classes who are weak and odious, and gives it to large bodies of the same class who are strong and popular. Thus Wilton, Harwich, Honiton, &c., lose their power, but it is transferred to Kent, Devonshire, Lincolnshire, &c., agricultural counties rich and populous, where the privilege once placed can be maintained. Secondly, in giving more members to Manchester and Leeds, we should not give members of the same class. The Conservative minority of these towns would for the first time have representatives. Thirdly, the proposition to give all the surrendered seats to counties would excite violent and natural opposition. The precedent of the Reform Bill is much safer, more constitutional, and would practically produce greater harmony. The object should be not to set town against county, but to blend and unite them. As to the franchise for the educated classes, I am quite ready to adopt it, in any shape in which it can be made workable. But, if the freemen are to be disfranchised, I think a large extension to householders indispensable. I am quite ready to discuss Graham's plan, or the £6 rating, or the £7 value in lieu of the £1o value. I lean at present to the municipal franchise. As we shall have an opportunity of discussing the whole matter on Friday, I will say no more but that I remain yours faithfully, J. RUSSELL.
Lord Palmerston's objections to Reform were not removed by Lord John's arguments. But, at the same time, it was soon plain to Lord Palmerston that, with the single exception of Lord Lansdowne, he had no supporter either in the committee of the Cabinet or the Cabinet itself. Early in December he communicated his objections to Lord Aberdeen. A few days afterwards he wrote a letter to Lord Lansdowne in which he stated that he could not agree to the extent of disfranchisement, the extent of enfranchisement, and the addition of the municipal franchise in boroughs to the £10 household franchise. He added that he doubted whether the measure could pass through the two Houses, that he did not choose to be a party to a contest between them, or to be dragged through the dirt by John Russell. Though he thought his presence in the Cabinet useful in modifying the system of foreign policy which, injuriously to the interests and dignity of the country, there was a disposition in other quarters to pursue, he could not consent to stand forward as one of the authors and supporters of John Russell's sweeping alteration.
On the 10th he forwarded a copy of this letter and of Lord Lansdowne's answer to the Prime Minister, who at once showed them to Sir James Graham. Sir James, on the 11th, communicated their substance to Lord John, adding—
It is clear that his [Lord Palmerston's] part is taken; and that he hopes by raising the war cry to drown the demand for an extension of the suffrage. This is the game which has been played before, and, as you wisely foresee, is about to be played again. But there is a nobler and a better one quite open, and be it yours. Propose a sound, but popular, measure of Parliamentary Reform; and, without making any undue concessions to Russia, cement the union of the four powers, maintain the integrity of Turkey, and preserve the peace of Europe. Cordial concord and co-operation between you and Lord Aberdeen may secure both objects, to the great advantage of the nation and to your own immortal honour. But cordial concord is necessary; and those who agree on Reform must not quarrel on the Eastern question.
You should see Lord Aberdeen as early as possible to-morrow, and I am quite sure that a perfect agreement between you is not only practicable but easy; and present circumstances, to say nothing of the past, absolutely demand it.
Accordingly on the following day (December 12) Lord Aberdeen and Lord John met. Probably no record exists of their conversation: but its purport may easily be inferred; for, on the 13th, Lord Aberdeen wrote to Lord Palmerston and told him that no material alterations could be made in the Reform Bill; and on the same day he wrote to Lord John—
I cannot say that my conscience is perfectly at ease in consequence of sacrifices I have made to the opinions of others; but I am so fully aware of the necessity of removing every shade of difference that I have made every effort to meet your views. My great hope and ground of confidence is that you have assured me your policy is a policy of peace. This, honestly and conscientiously carried out, excludes the possibility of any material difference.
It may be added that, at the interview which thus took place, Lord Aberdeen and Lord John considered what measures on the part of Russia should constitute a cause of war, and what acts should lead to coercive measures without a declaration of war; and they determined that the passage of the Danube by a Russian army should lead to coercive measures, and involve the interception by the English fleet of Russian vessels in the Black Sea. Lord John desired, though he did not insist, that this decision should be communicated to the Russian Court.
Within forty-eight hours of this important conversation two things of the highest importance happened: (1) Definite news reached England of the destruction of a Turkish fleet by a Russian squadron at Sinope; and (2) Lord Palmerston, replying to Lord Aberdeen's letter, resigned office. Lord Aberdeen, on receiving Lord Palmerston's resignation, at once asked Lord John to take the Home Office. Lord John refused, and urged that the appointment should be given to Sir
1 i.e. on the question of the war, not on the question of Reform.