« EdellinenJatka »
George Grey. Lord Aberdeen reluctantly deferred to Lord John's wishes, and Sir George Grey, who was in Northumberland, was summoned to London. Lord Aberdeen hoped that the Cabinet had been reconstituted by this slight change. Perhaps Lord John thought so too, for he wrote to Lord Lansdowne— PEMBROKE LODGE, Dec. 15, 1853.
MY DEAR LANSDown E,-On going over with Lord Aberdeen Palmerston's letter to him with his letter to you enclosed, it seemed to us that he differed so entirely in all the elements of our Reform Bill that there was no chance of an agreement. The same thing appeared to Sir James Graham, and on Palmerston being told so by Lord Aberdeen he has resigned. Indeed he will probably tell you so to-day if the weather does not prevent his journey to Bowood.
I feel with you that the Government is much weakened by this secession. But I see no reason why we should not continue our consultations, both on the Reform Bill and on the Eastern question, and submit ourselves to the judgment of the House of Com mons and of the country.
There is to be a Cabinet, I believe, on Saturday, which I hope you will be able to attend. We shall be ready to go to Bowood on the day in next week which you may fix. . . .—Yours truly,
Lord Lansdowne's reply undeceived Lord John —
BOWOOD, December 16. MY DEAR J. RUSSELL,-. . . Had a full Cabinet been summoned—as, to say the truth, I think there should have been— before it [? was told Palmerston] in the name of three members of the Cabinet (very important members, doubtless) that his suggestions could not even be taken into consideration, I should instantly have gone to attend it at any inconvenience to myself. But I cannot, though I shall not at present withdraw formally from the Cabinet, see any advantage in my going there till I have had an opportunity of talking fully to you in private, and ascertaining how far there is any chance of those who are making themselves responsible for the whole measure consenting to any modification of
its provisions. . . .—Ever yours truly, LANSDOWNE.
Thus when the Cabinet met on Saturday the 17th they had not merely to confront the secession of Lord Palmerston, but to realise that the retirement of Lord Lansdowne could, in all probability, be only averted by concessions which could not be otherwise than distasteful to Lord John. And these concessions he was at once urged to make both by Sir J. Graham and the Duke of Argyll. Probably, indeed, Lord John would more willingly have sacrificed his own opinions to Lord Lansdowne than to any other man alive. Lord Lansdowne was his oldest and closest political friend, with whom he had long been in the habit of consulting, and to whom he had constantly deferred. And the very Cabinet which Lord John was attending showed him how ill he could spare Lord Lansdowne's presence. For, while Lord John was insisting that the massacre of Sinope demanded energetic measures, the Cabinet decided to wait, before doing anything, for news from Constantinople; and it even refrained from adopting the conditions on which Lord Clarendon and Lord Aberdeen had agreed that the passage of the Danube by the Russians should be made the ground for naval movements in the Black Sea. Lord John left the Cabinet deeply dissatisfied, and employed his Sunday in writing a letter of reproach to Sir James Graham, in which he indicated plainly that he could not go on. His feeling in the circumstances was only natural; and, though the publication hereafter of Lord Aberdeen's correspondence or of Sir J. Graham's memoirs, by any writer who has access to Sir James's papers, will show that Sir James thought that Lord John should not have insisted on the appointment of Sir George Grey on the 14th if he contemplated breaking up the Government within four days, it is fair to recollect that the threatened resignation of Lord Lansdowne, and the refusal of the Cabinet to accept conclusions on the Eastern question to which Lord Aberdeen and Lord Clarendon had agreed, had in the interval altered the whole conditions. Lord John's annoyance was, at any rate, fruitful in results. Sir James Graham wrote to him that, “in deference to his opinion and wishes, a despatch had been written to the French Government which, it was trusted, would be satisfactory to him.’" And Lord John received the satisfactory assurance at Bowood, where he was paying his promised visit to Lord Lansdowne. Nothing could have been more opportune for Lord John. Lord Lansdowne's influence with him was always exerted in behalf of compromise and moderation. He was, of course, more likely to yield when he found that deference had been shown to his own opinions; and Lord Lansdowne and he soon agreed on a compromise on the Reform question, under which a little more weight was to be given to county constituencies and a little less weight to towns. This compromise arranged, Lord John returned to London, where he found that another negotiation had been actively taking place in his absence. Lady Palmerston had hinted to some of her husband's old colleagues that Lord Palmerston had acted hastily in resigning, and that he was ready to return. The Duke of Newcastle, Mr. Gladstone, and Sir Charles Wood in consequence of these hints had long conversations with Lord Palmerston; and, on the 20th, Lord Aberdeen communicated these reports to Lord John, adding— I have told Wood and Gladstone, who have both spoken to me on the subject, that it is a matter which I must place entirely in
your hands before I could move at all: but that I should be quite ready to follow your advice.
On the 23rd Lord Palmerston himself wrote to Lord Aberdeen to withdraw his resignation, and the Ministry accordingly by the end of the year was reconstituted on its old basis. Lord John could not but regard Lord Palmerston's return to office with mixed feelings. On the one hand he could not help perceiving that it again left the details of his favourite measure open to discussion, or remembering that the letter in which Lord Palmerston had announced his dislike of the Reform Bill was not too courteous to himself. On the other hand, Lord Palmerston's presence in the Cabinet strengthened the hands of those who, like Lord John, had all along thought that * This was the famous despatch, actually sent on the 24th, approving the
suggestion of the French Government that the allied fleet should enter the Black Sea, and ‘invite' any Russian vessels of war to return to Sebastopol.
the best chance of preserving peace lay in using firm and decided language, and who concluded that, if war should unhappily occur, the party of action would require to be reinforced. Whichever of these considerations prevailed—and Lord John was influenced by both of them—the storm in the Cabinet had the effect of clearing the air. The details of Reform were rapidly settled to Lord John's satisfaction, and the reconstructed Cabinet spoke thenceforward with a firm voice on the Eastern question. While, however, harmony was established in the council chamber, the public out of doors was lashed into unusual excitement by the news of the Ministerial crisis. Most people declined to believe that Lord Palmerston would have left the Cabinet, on the eve of war, because he was unable to agree upon the details of a Reform Bill. They inferred that he had really resigned because he was dissatisfied with the Eastern policy of the Cabinet; and they assumed that Lord Aberdeen's reluctance to strong measures was increased by the attitude of the Court and the counsels of Prince Albert. It was roundly asserted, both in Liberal and Conservative newspapers, that the Prince was interfering unconstitutionally both in foreign and domestic affairs; and the charges which were made against him were couched in language and assumed a character of unusual and unjustifiable violence. Both the Queen and the Prince felt bitterly the injustice of accusations which their position made it impossible for them to repel. But they were, of course, forced to wait for the meeting of Parliament for their justification. On the 31st of January 1854, the first night of the session, the Prince's conduct was explained and defended by Lord Aberdeen in the House of Lords, and Lord John in the House of Commons. Nothing could be more complete than the vindication which Lord John thus gave. The whole fabric of accusation dissolved like a bubble. Mr. Greville wrote with perfect truth—
John Russell made a very good speech, and took the bull by the horns about the Prince, entered at once into the subject, and delivered an eloquent vindication of and eulogium on him in his best style. It was excellent.
The Prince himself was warm in his acknowledgments; the Queen hastened to express her gratitude and pleasure; and Lord Strafford told the Duke of Bedford that he had never recollected such an impression produced by any speech.
This preliminary debate was, however, only the prelude to much more decisive matters. Four days later Baron Brunnow called on Lord Clarendon to announce his recall; while, on February 17, in a debate on foreign policy, Lord John traced the whole progress of the Eastern question, and frankly admitted the imminence of war. He concluded—
For my part, if most unexpectedly the Emperor of Russia should recede from his former demands . . . we shall all rejoice to be spared the pain, the efforts, and the burdens of war. But if . . . peace is no longer consistent with our duty to England, with our duty to Europe, with our duty to the world . . . we can only endeavour to enter into this contest with a stout heart. May God defend the right ! And I, for my part, shall be willing to bear my share of the burden and the responsibility.
This dignified language excited unbounded admiration when it was uttered. Lord Charles Russell, who, as Serjeantat-Arms, was in close communication with members on both sides of the House, told the Duke of Bedford that ‘the general remark was, “This is the best thing he has ever done;” and Mr. Punch made the speech the subject of a poem, which Mr. Leech illustrated with one of his best CartOOnS.
The general apprehension of war was not favourable to the great measure of Reform on which Lord John had set his heart. He gave notice of its introduction for February 13. But on the 10th Lord Jocelyn, who by marriage was nearly connected with Lord Palmerston, asked him whether it was his intention to proceed bond fide with the measure. Lord John replied that he intended not only to introduce the Bill on the promised day, but to fix the second reading for March 13. He carried out the first part of this programme; but the House, which by this time was thinking of nothing but war, received the proposal with apathy, while Lord Palmerston