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frequent offers of Lord John to resign, he made on this occasion no attempt to extricate himself from embarrassment by concession.
It is not unnatural that Lord Aberdeen should have been somewhat weary of receiving Lord John's constant offers to retire from the Cabinet. Administrations, in this country, are usually based on compromise; and a dozen or fourteen men can hardly hope to maintain uniformity of action unless they are prepared to surrender some of their own opinions to the judgment of their colleagues. A Minister who is always resigning becomes in consequence an inconvenient colleague, whose presence is only tolerated, because it is essential to the existence of the Administration. Yet it is not fair to judge Lord John's conduct in 1853 and 1854 by the rules which are applied ordinarily to statesmen. It should never be forgotten that he had not entered Lord Aberdeen's Cabinet of his own will. He had joined it, against his own wishes and against his own judgment, because his presence was thought indispensable by his sovereign, the Prime Minister, and his own friends. He was entitled, in such circumstances, to expect a deference to his own views which it would be impossible for every member of a Cabinet to claim; and he had a right to resume his own independence whenever he found that his presence in the Cabinet was ceasing to be useful. It was, no doubt, a subject of complaint at the time that Lord John did not do this. Instead of retiring, he constantly threatened to resign. But the men who, over and over again, persuaded him to withdraw his resignation, on the ground that it would be fatal to the fortunes of the Government and the interests of the country, are not entitled to use this argument. Lord John was constantly asking to resign because Lord Aberdeen would never accept his resignation. Throughout 1853 and 1854 the leader of the House of Commons was playing the part of Moses to the Prime Minister's Pharaoh. The King of Egypt probably thought the Israelite a very troublesome and unreasonable suitor for constantly asking leave to retire from the fleshpots of Goshen; he very likely omitted to
remark that Moses only applied again and again for permission to march because again and again Pharaoh refused “to let the people go.' The verdict of history, at any rate, instead of blaming the Israelite as importunate, has condemned the monarch as obstinate; and experience has shown that, so long as the Pharaohs of modern life refuse to let their servants go, so long will the Israelites of to-day weary them with applications to be permitted to resign.
THE VIENNA CONFERENCE.
The retirement of Lord John Russell virtually terminated the | Aberdeen Administration. Though the remaining members
of the Cabinet consented, at the request of the Queen, to withdraw the resignation which was at once determined on, and to face Mr. Roebuck, their decision only postponed the inevitable end for half a dozen days. Mr. Roebuck's motion was carried on the morning of January 30, 1855, by so large a majority that the members who composed it forgot to cheer, and began to laugh. The great Coalition Government was at an end.
Upon Lord Aberdeen's resignation, the Queen in the first instance sent for Lord Derby, who professed himself unable to form a Government; she next applied to Lord Lansdowne, and, on his advice, saw Lord John. Lord John, however, was unable to obtain the support which would alone have justified him in attempting the task; and the Queen thereupon placed herself in Lord Palmerston's hands, who succeeded in reconstructing the old Administration.
On receiving the Queen's commission, Lord Palmerston at once asked for Lord John's assistance. Lord John did not feel himself justified in accepting office. But a new offer of a very different character was immediately afterwards made to him, and was at once accepted.
While war was being carried on with all its horrors in the Crimea, some prospect was afforded of securing peace. Negotiations had for some time been in progress for holding a conference which was about to meet at Vienna; and Lord John was invited to represent this country.
He thus declared his acceptance of the invitation :
PEMBROKE LODGE: February 11, 1855. MY DEAR CLARENDON,— I have reflected further on the proposal you made me yesterday; and, as not only you but the Queen and Palmerston think I might be of use in such a mission as you contemplate, I feel it a duty not to decline it.
It is right, however, that I should tell you my views upon two points of great importance, in order that you may, even now, withdraw your proposal if these views appear to you erroneous or inadmissible.
In the first place, I think the admission of Prussia to the conferences will be a less evil than excluding her from them. Admitted, she be partial to Russia, but held in check by the opinion of Germany, and the representations of the Western powers. Excluded, she will be altogether alienated. . . . But, putting aside policy, I think that, considering all our proposals are to be made with a view to the balance of power, and that Prussia has taken a part in all great consultations for this purpose since 1814, it would not be right to exclude her now.
If you concur in these views, I should expect you to support them at Paris and Vienna ; but, if they are not approved by France and Austria, I do not know that we could insist upon their adoption, and we certainly could not decline to enter upon negotiations because Prussia was not represented at the Conference.
The next point is one of still more importance. You say very truly that the alternative to be desired is either peace to Europe or the negotiations broken off leaving Austria in the field.
But in order to attain this latter result we must be prepared to carry Austria with us in the negotiations. If she could say to us, • You have refused fair terms of peace,' she would also say, 'There. fore I must keep my neutral position.'
Buol has given his hearty assent to the principle of putting an end to Russian preponderance in the Black Sea, and we must endeavour to concert with him at the moment of negotiations the mode of carrying that principle into effect.
If Austria, France, and England make this mode, in whatever shape it may be, the subject of a joint proposition to Russia, and Russia rejects it, Austria cannot refuse to go with us.
If we make a separate proposition on the part of the Western powers, and Austria does not support us, we lose Austria.
lf, on the other hand, out of compliance with the pacific dis.
positions of Austria, we make an unsafe peace, we lay the seeds of humiliation to England and France and danger to Europe.
This appears to me the difficult problem to be solved.
If you agree with me I shall feel sure of your support in the mission, and I will at once undertake it. But, if you disagree, it is better that I should not go than that I should fail in executing your instructions, and be disavowed at home.
Let me add that in my opinion, if the first conference gives fair hopes of success, an armistice should be established.
If you concur in the early part of this letter, I would propose to go by Berlin, and see the King of Prussia. I have seen the Emperor Napoleon and M. Drouyn de Lhuys so lately that going to Paris would be only a loss of time.—I remain, yours very sincerely,
J. RUSSELL. Lord Clarendon and Lord Palmerston warmly concurred in Lord John's views, and Lord John at once accepted the mission.
His acceptance gave great satisfaction. Lord Palmerston wrote
Your having undertaken the conduct of this matter will be a plain proof to all the world that England goes into the negotiation in earnest and in good faith ; and, if we do not succeed, it will be demonstrable that the impediment lies with Russia and not with us.
Sir Charles Wood wrote
The best news I have heard is what Clarendon tells me. You have a field open at Vienna which may do more good both to your country and Europe than it has often been in any man's power to achieve.
And you have advantages for doing it which no one else has.
The Duke of Argyll wrote
I have heard nothing in the way of politics for a long time which gave me so much pleasure as the announcement that you would undertake the mission of peace-maker at Vienna.
God grant you success in this great work—the noblest which any man can undertake : and I look to the straightforward way in which you will set about it .. as the best ground of hope for your success.