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ending the war rapidly was lost. Thus thinking he wrote the following letter:— PEMBROKE LODCE : May 28, 1854.
MY DEAR LANSDOWNE,—As I consented to serve under Lord Aberdeen at your recommendation, I wish to submit to you my views and impressions at the present moment. These views and impressions are derived, however, not from any transient feeling, but from a long observation of the course of the Government. It seems to me that the presence of many able men in the Cabinet only tends to discordance of opinion and indecision; that no question is put before us in a shape to bring out a definite result. In a time of peace and ease this position might be tolerable; but I do not think that in a time of war, and that a war of the greatest importance, it can be consistent with the interests of the country. The Government, in fact, wants direction; and, in wanting direction, wants everything that is essential. The recent deliberations upon the policy to be pursued in reference to Sweden, Austria, and Greece afford abundant illustrations of what I say. Two courses are open to me. One, to leave the Cabinet on the grounds I have stated. The other to bring forward some master proposition, upon which to stake my continuance as a member of the Government. If the latter course is in your opinion the best, I would propose to bring the matter to an issue by recommending a clear understanding with Austria as to her objects and intentions. If they agree with ours we should proceed to state that we are ready to guarantee a new loan, or to advance a grant of money, for the purposes of the war. Which do you advise ? One of the two courses I must adopt.— Yours faithfully, J. RUSSELL.
It so happened that events helped to settle the matter. On the day on which this letter was written Mr. Drummond asked a question in the House of Commons as to the proposed organisation of the War Office; and the temper of the House was so clearly in favour of a change that the time for making it had evidently come. On the following morning Lord John suggested to Lord Aberdeen three courses: (1) that the Duke of Newcastle should remain Secretary of State for War, and that Sir George Grey should enter the Cabinet as Colonial Minister; (2) that the Duke should take the Home Office, Lord Palmerston the War Office, and Sir George Grey the Colonial Office; or (3) that the Duke should take the Colonial Office, Lord Palmerston the War Office, and Sir George Grey the Home Office. He added—
I rather think this arrangement the best. With regard to myself, let me go on at present as I am.
Lord Aberdeen at once replied—
ARGYLL House : May 30, 1854.
I saw the Duke of Newcastle this morning, after receiving your letter, and obtained his full concurrence in the proposed change. With respect to the personal part of the affair . . . I think it would be unjust to the Duke, under present circumstances, to remove him from the War Department. Your suggestion of Sir George Grey for the Colonies would be perfectly welcome to me if it were not for the hope of your reverting to your original intention of taking that department. It was from the great advantage to be derived by the Government from your occupation of the office, as well as the improvement of your own position, which made every one look at the division of the Colonial Office with so much satisfaction. It will be indeed a great disappointment if you should persevere in abandoning this intention. But the fact of the division of the office I consider as being now finally settled.
Writing on the following day, Lord John concurred that ‘it would be unjust to the Duke of Newcastle, under present circumstances, to remove him from the War Department if he preferred to retain that office.’ At Lord Aberdeen's re. quest he saw Sir George Grey. Sir George himself put in writing the substance of his conversation with Lord John :—
In order to prevent any misapprehension, I think I had better state in writing the substance of what I said to you in conversation to-day. I entirely concur in the opinion that it is very desirable that you should take some office. I think it will strengthen the Government and improve your position in the House of Commons. I further think that, if the Duke of Newcastle is to hold the office of Secretary of State for War, the best arrangement would be that you should take the vacant place of Colonial Secretary, if you felt that you could satisfactorily combine the business of the Colonial Office with the leadership of the House of Commons. In this case I think there ought to be no other change. . . . But if, on the ground of health or any other reason, you do not wish to take the Colonial Office, I will not decline it, if at the same time you become President of the Council." I should feel differently if you were to remain as you now are without office.
Lord John himself wrote to Lord Aberdeen—
PEMBROKE LODGE: June 5, 1854.
I have seen George Grey this morning. He is ready to accept the Colonial Office, if offered to him, provided I accept office at the same time.
What are you disposed to do in this matter?
Before I accept office I must have it understood that the Cabinet will in future be more ready, or rather I should say more pressed, to clinch matters of urgent importance than it has hitherto been. . . .
Lord Aberdeen, after some conference with Lord John,
concurred. DownING STREET : June 7, 1854.
. . . You well know how entirely I agree with Sir George Grey in thinking that it [your own acceptance of office] will greatly strengthen the Government and improve your own position in the House of Commons. As you and he both think that the Presidency of the Council is the office you ought to fill, I will endeavour to carry it into effect. I found yesterday that Granville was in Staffordshire; but I have sent to him, and expect him in London to-day, when I will communicate freely with him on the whole matter. I do not expect that he will create any difficulty.
Lord Aberdeen, however, had hardly despatched this letter before he changed his mind. He probably reflected that the addition of Sir George Grey to the Cabinet would strengthen the Whig element in the Administration, and that some of his own friends would dislike being passed over; while he shrank from the disagreeable duty of asking Lord Granville to take an inferior office to make room for Lord John, and Mr. Strutt to retire from the Duchy of Lancaster to make room for Lord Granville. Later in the evening he accordingly wrote again:— BLACKHEATH : June 7, 1854.
1 Lord John's taking the Presidency of the Council and sacrificing Lord Granville has been made such a subject of reproach that it seemed well to give the exact facts.
. . . I understand that Sir George Grey makes your acceptance of office an indispensable condition of his doing so; but I do not know if this is also the case with you. Should this not be the case it may deserve your consideration how far it would be expedient to delay the acceptance of office by Sir George Grey until the end of the session. This would relieve us from all difficulties about Strutt; and, if you took the Presidency of the Council, and Granville went to the Colonies, the Cabinet would remain as it is for the present. . . . I do not for a moment look to anything like party in the Cabinet; but, if a new member should be introduced, I am not certain that Cardwell and Canning might not feel aggrieved.
Lord John replied—
Had I been able to take the Colonial Office," matters might have been much more simple. But as that cannot be, and as I am pronounced unequal to so much labour with the lead of the House of Commons, I think it necessary that the other arrangement should be carried into effect at once. I have spoken to Sir George Grey, with your consent, and he is ready to accept the Colonial Office. Granville is ready to give up the Presidency of the Council. . . . As to Lord Canning and Mr. Cardwell, I cannot think that they will stand in the way of George Grey's accession to the Government. Strutt is the man to retire; and, if a Whig is to be added to the Cabinet, that will go but a small way to compensate the partiality of the original distribution of offices. . . . The heavy pressure of the war accounts for the continuance of the Government: otherwise the position would not be tenable. . . .
Lord Aberdeen gave way. The functions of the Secretary of State for War were separated from those of the Secretary
1 In refusing the Colonial Office Lord John acted on medieal advice. Writing on June 12, Lord Clarendon said, ‘I return the doctor's note, which is quite conclusive. If I had seen it before, or you had expressed a similar apprehension, I should not have said the little I did in favour of your taking the Colonial Office."
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of State for the Colonies, and Lord John's position was strengthened by his own appointment to the Presidency of the Council, and by the presence of Sir George Grey in the Cabinet. In deference, however, to the scruples of the Prime Minister, and perhaps to objections in other quarters, the military offices, nominally placed under the Secretary of State, were neither consolidated nor reorganised, and the full advantages which Lord John had desired to secure were not attained. But the policy of the Cabinet was thenceforward more vigorous. Instead of confining the war to Turkey, its members agreed to strike a blow at Sebastopol. Lord Aberdeen himself cordially approved this decision, while the famous Cabinet at which the instructions to the armies were finally agreed upon was held at Pembroke Lodge. The great master of the English language who has told the story of the Crimean War has related, in a passage which is not likely to be forgotten by those who have read it, how, before the reading of these instructions ‘had long continued, all the members of the Cabinet except a small minority were overcome with sleep. It is perhaps impossible to remove the impression which eloquence has produced by the plain statement of one who happened to be present. Yet it may be well to cite Lord John's own account of the sleeping Cabinet:—
Mr. Kinglake has detailed, and has preserved in his fifth edition, a story regarding the dinner of the Cabinet at Pembroke Lodge, which, although accurate in the immediate purport of his relation, would give a very false impression of the real deliberations of the Cabinet. Some days before that dinner, a Cabinet meeting was held in the daytime at which the whole question of sending an expedition to the Crimea . . . [was] very carefully and very maturely discussed. Lord Palmerston for some months had
* Lord John was, I believe, the only commoner who has held the Presidency of the Council since the days of the Tudors: and, as the President of the Council has high rank assigned to him when a peer, and has no special rank when not a peer, a difficulty arose in Court circles as to the precedence to be given to him. I have not ventured to enter into this matter. The mysteries of rank
in a country where the great officers in the State follow the subordinate officers of the Household are too deep for me.