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I ought to add that Lord Aberdeen, in reading the passage in your letter relative to him, emphatically disclaimed any intention of showing you want of confidence as leader of the House of Commons, and expressed his readiness to show the contrary.
I am sure I feel as much as any one that the Government was formed on an abnegation principle. So let it continue to be, above all at a crisis which calls for it more than ever; and I should not have dwelt upon the Duke of Newcastle's hard position if I had not at the same time felt that a condemnation of a great department of the Government by the Government itself would deeply affect its power of serving the public. But I will say no more, and ought perhaps not to have said so much, for I understand your letter as rather intended to communicate than to invite opinions. Otherwise I should have called instead of writing.—Yours sincerely, LANSDOWNE.
I will take care of your letter in case you wish to have it returned to be copied.
Lord John seems to have had some subsequent conversation with Lord Lansdowne and his other colleagues, and, a few days later, thus announced his decision:—
CHESHAM PLACE: December 15, 1854.
MY DEAR LANSDOWNE,—I send you back my letter, not that you may make any further use of it, but that you may put it in the fire.
I believe that my proposition respecting the War Office, if accepted by Lord Aberdeen, would have produced greater vigour and efficiency in carrying on the war, but I do not feel myself justified in taking upon myself to retire from the Government on that account at this moment.
Notwithstanding Lord Aberdeen’s denial, I still maintain that he does not treat me with the confidence which can alone enable a leader of the House of Commons to carry on business with satisfaction—as Lord Grey treated Lord Althorp, and Lord Melbourne treated me. Of course, on my side, I am absolved from the duty of defending acts and appointments upon which I have not been consulted.—I remain, yours truly, J. RUSSELL.
But, though Lord John consented to remain in office, he was painfully conscious of the defects in the military arrangements of the Government; and on December 30 he drew up the following memorandum in order that the Cabinet might have specifically before it the various points which required immediate attention:- -
In order to find a remedy for the wants and evils under which our Crimean army is suffering, it is necessary to enumerate some of the principal of those wants and evils. 1. The soldiers are one night in the trenches out of two ; sometimes it is said two out of three. 2. When they return from the trenches they are in wet clothes, boots, and stockings, and have no change; so that their clothes dry on them. 3. Horses and mules are dying for want of provender—hay and chopped straw especially. 4. In consequence of the want of horses and mules, the soldiers have been kept on half and sometimes quarter rations for days together. 5. No huts have been provided for the soldiers, and wood is very scarce. 6. The sick have not been moved in time, and are miserably cared for in camp. Taking these as the principal wants and evils, it is necessary in the next place to point out the causes and the remedies. 1. When the allied armies took up their position in front of Sebastopol, they were nearly equal in number; but the British had in the Crimea the whole of their force in the East immediately disposable, and the French had only a part of theirs. The consequence has been that, while the English have been overworked, and their numbers scarcely increased by reinforcements, the French army has doubled its strength, and can afford to guard the trenches with one-third or one-fourth of its force. As the British army cannot be greatly increased, and the number of young soldiers must become proportionately greater than it has been, the most obvious remedy appears to be to concentrate the British force, and ask the French to occupy part of the line now in the hands of their allies. 2. There must have been great mismanagement to cause the want of clothes for officers and soldiers. From September 28 to November 12, all kinds of supplies might have been landed at Balaclava, and had only to be carried seven or eight miles to reach the most distant division.
The only remedy is to have coats, shirts, boots, and warm clothing supplied, and this remedy, it is presumed, has been adopted. 3. The death of horses and mules from overwork and want of food may be partly owing to the loss of twenty days forage by the hurricane of the 14th of November. But there must have been negligence. In this case inquiry is necessary; and an immediate remedy ought to be supplied, if it has not been already, by the Commissariat. 4. The soldiers cannot fight unless they are well fed. Upon this, as upon every other subject, there seems to be a want of communication between the English and French camps. The generals appear only to meet when some operation is contemplated, or on the day of battle. Had General Canrobert been informed that our troops were not fed, it cannot be doubted that 3oo or 4oo horses and mules would have been lent for the purpose of carrying up provisions. If in January the same evil recurs, our allies must be asked to aid us with their means of transport. In February, it is to be hoped, the railway will be established. 5. It is believed that, about October 8, Lord Raglan wrote to say that, if the army had to remain on the heights during the winter, huts would be required, and the narrow position then occupied did not furnish wood to make them. The huts do not appear to have yet arrived in the Crimea. It is presumed, however, that they have for some time left this country. 6. The want in this respect seems to have been supplied for the moment by our allies. Huts for the sick have of course been forwarded. Finally, there appears a want of concert among the different departments. When the navy forward supplies, there is no military authority to receive them; when the military wish to unload a ship, they find that a naval authority has ordered it away. Lord Raglan and Sir Edmund Lyons should be asked to concert between them the mode of remedying this defect. Neither can see with his own eyes to the performance of all the subordinate duties, but they can choose the best men to do it, and arm them with sufficient authority. For on the due performance of these subordinate duties hangs the welfare of the army. Lord Raglan should also be informed exactly of the amount of reinforcements ordered to the Crimea, and at what time he may expect them. Having furnished him with all the force in men and material which the Government can send him, the Government is entitled to expect from him in return his opinion as to what can be done by the allied armies, and in what manner he hopes to restore the strength and efficiency of the armies for the next campaign. Probably the troops first sent over will require four months’ rest before they will be able to move against an enemy. J. RUSSELL. December 30, 1854.
Lord John, however, was still dissatisfied with the action which the Cabinet was willing to take; and on January 1, 1855, he drafted a letter to Lord Aberdeen expressing his dissatisfaction at the position of the Ministry and at the conduct of the war, and asking him to submit his resignation to the Queen. But the letter was not sent; instead of despatching it, Lord John, on January 3, wrote to Lord Aberdeen—
Nothing can be less satisfactory than the result of the recent Cabinets. Unless you will direct measures yourself, I see no hope for the efficient prosecution of the war. . . . The French Government have, through Palmerston, expressed their readiness to concert with us a plan for the next campaign. Surely the circumstances are grave enough to induce us not to pass by this offer. It seems to me that the Duke of Newcastle, or Sidney Herbert, or Lord Hardinge, ought to go to Paris to consult with the Emperor and Marshal Vaillant.
Lord Aberdeen received the proposal coldly. Writing on January 4, he said—
I was a little surprised by your letter, yesterday, for I had thought that the recent Cabinets were rather satisfactory. . . . I was not aware that Palmerston had made any proposal, on the part of the French Emperor, to concert with us a plan for the next campaign. . . . We ought clearly to profit by the offers of French assistance whenever it can be of use; and, if sufficient instructions cannot be given to Lord Cowley to answer the purpose before his return to Paris, I have not the least objection that either the Duke of Newcastle, Sidney Herbert, or Lord Hardinge should go, provided their presence there can really be thought advantageous at this moment.
It so happened that, almost at the moment at which he received Lord Aberdeen's reply, Lord John had another letter which induced him to go himself to Paris. Lady Harriet Elliot, Lady John's youngest sister, who was seriously ill, was ordered to the South of France for the winter. She left England with Lord Minto late in the autumn; paid a visit to her sister, who was married to Mr. Abercromby, the British Minister at the Hague; and from thence was moved to Paris. She suffered so much, however, during her journey, that Lord Minto told Lord John that she must rest for some days before proceeding further, and that her future journey must depend on her strength. Lady John was naturally distressed at the serious news; and Lord John determined to take her over to Paris to pay, as it proved, a farewell visit to Lady Harriet. Melancholy as was the cause of the journey, Lord John did not neglect the public duties, in which he was so keenly interested, during his stay in France. He saw the Emperor, and had many conferences both with him and his Ministers on the conduct of the war. He returned to London on January 16, joined the Cabinet which was sitting, and took part in its deliberations on that day and on some subsequent days. On January 23 Parliament met; Mr. Roebuck at once gave notice of a motion on the conduct of the war; and Lord John, feeling, after what had occurred, that he could not undertake the defence of the Ministry, wrote the following letter to Lord Aberdeen:—
CHESHAM PLACE: January 23, 1855.
MY DEAR LORD ABERDEEN,-Mr. Roebuck has given notice of a motion to inquire into the conduct of the war.
I do not see how this motion is to be resisted. But, as it involves a censure upon the War Department, with which some of my colleagues are connected, my only course is to tender my resignation.
I therefore have to request you will lay my humble resignation of the office which I have the honour to hold before the Queen, with the expressions of my gratitude for her Majesty’s kindness for many years.—I remain, my dear Lord Aberdeen, yours very truly, J. RUSSELL.
VOL. II. Q