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But a long chapter might easily be filled with the letters of honest joy at Lord John's acceptance of the mission.
These letters did not blind Lord John to the difficulties before him. As he wrote years afterwardsThe circumstances of the time were unfavourable to the prospects
With Sebastopol untaken, and the pride of Russia unchecked, it was not probable that she would consent to terms which, in the opinion of the allies, would afford security to the integrity and independence of Turkey. Before the mission was proposed to me I remember that, in pointing out in conversation the difficulties of such a mission, I said, “It would be awkward to go to Vienna with a return ticket.' .
Still, however unfavourable the prospect, I thought it my duty not to decline a task which offered even a possibility of peace. The circumstances which had recently occurred—my abrupt retirement from the Queen's service was a reason the more for not avoiding the arduous duty thus imposed on me.
Be it observed, however, once for all, that, in appointing a person to negotiate at Vienna who had held for several years the highest station in the Queen's political service, the Ministers appeared to give a pledge that they really meant peace : that is to say, that they meant to accept such terms as the state of the war would warrant them in demanding from the enemy.
One more remark by way of introduction. It seemed to me probable that there would arise, after various propositions had been discussed, some new plan of pacification which would not exactly square with the views of any of the belligerents, but which might form a basis for fresh conciliatory proposals. In that case, I determined beforehand to leave Vienna, and bring home the proposals. I even communicated this intention to one person high in the confidence of the Government,
Almost at the moment at which he accepted this important mission, Lord John received news of his sister-in-law's—Lady Harriet Elliot's death at Paris. The circumstance made Lord John's parting from his family more painful, and, as a matter of fact, he lingered a few days in England before setting out on his journey.' He left London on the 20th,
1 Lord John had an additional reason for not starting at once, since he had the misfortune to catch a severe cold which confined him to bed. While he was thus laid up, on February 15, he wrote to Lord. Clarendon, and suggested
reached Paris that evening, and had long and important conversations with the Emperor, Lord Cowley, M. Drouyn de Lhuys, Baron Hubner, and Count Hatzfeld. These conversations confirmed the impression which he had formed that the best chances of success at Vienna lay in bringing Austria into line with the allies; and that the action of Austria depended, to a great degree, on the position of Prussia, since the former power feared to move while her flank was exposed to a possible attack from the latter. These considerations suggested that the key of the situation lay at Berlin ; and Lord John wrote to Lord Clarendon and told him that he was pressed to make his stay there a little longer than the single day he had originally contemplated.
While Lord John was still in Paris, an event took place in London which materially changed his position. The Palmerston Cabinet made up its mind to accept—as it could indeed hardly have refused—Mr. Roebuck's inquiry; and the immediate friends of Lord Aberdeen, Mr. Gladstone, Sir J. Graham, and Mr. Sidney Herbert, at once resigned. Lord Palmerston wrote to Lord John
This being the present state of things, we have come back to the position in which we were on the Monday after the Sunday, when I received the Queen's commands to endeavour to form a Government, and when I addressed myself to you.
I now, there
that the opening conference, at which Russia would only be formally asked to adhere to the general basis which had been agreed upon by the allies, night as well be managed by Lord Westmorland, the Ambassador at Vienna. “It has occurred to me that Westmorland, when he gets his full powers, might have a first conference [at which Gortchakoff's signature to the bases might be obtained]. Walewski has some notion that he [Gortchakoff] would refuse this. If he were to do so my going to Vienna would be a fool's errand.' Lord John sent this letter to Lord Ciarendon by Lord Minto, who had just returned from Paris, and who was surprised at the annoyance wiich Lord Clarendon displayed on reading it. His annoyance was really due to the circumstance that he thought that Lord John wanted, under Lord Minto's advice, to recede from the mission he had undertaken. But Lord John wanted nothing of the kind. He only thought it would be wise for the Government to obtain such preliminary guarantee as Prince Gortchakoff's signature would afford, that Russia was in earnest in her desire to treat. The event, it will be seen below, very much justified Lord John's hesitation.
fore, with the unanimous concurrence of all my colleagues, address myself to you again. We do not ask you to forego your journey to Berlin and Vienna, because we think that great public evil would arise from your doing so. But your stay at Vienna will probably not be very long. ... Our wish then is to know whether, under the peculiar circumstances in which the Government and the country are placed, you would be induced to give us your assistance in any way, and in any office, in either House of Parliament. The Colonial Office has been suggested by some as one to which you have paid great and successful attention ; Granville places the Presidency of the Council entirely free; George Grey would readily leave the Home Office and go to some other. Let me know by return of messenger your feelings and intentions. We suspend till your answer any definite arrangements.
Lord Clarendon wrote by the same messenger, urging Lord John in any event to go on to Vienna, and adding
I shall say nothing except repeating what I have often said before, that no Government calling itself Liberal has a chance of standing without you. Lord John replied to Lord Palmerston
Paris : February 23, 1855. MY DEAR PALMERSTON,—I have received your letter by messenger, and, having had a telegraphic message last night, was tolerably prepared for your communication.
The causes of the resignations of your colleagues I will not enter into, but it is obvious the decision to resign is more hurtful to your Government than if they had persisted in declining to join you. . .
In these circumstances I feel bound to give you any assistance in my power, and I also feel that such assistance as I can give will be most effective in the House of Commons.
I am not very particular as to the office I may fill; but, as I know the business of the Colonial Office, as I shall not have to bear, in addition to the labours of that office, that of leading the House of Commons, and as the Colonial Office can be placed in my hands without displacing any one, I prefer that office to any other. ...-. I remain, yours faithfully,
J. RUSSELL. By the same messenger he wrote to Lord Clarendon
Paris : February 23, 1855. MY DEAR CLARENDON,—I have accepted the Colonial Office
as you will have learnt by the telegraph. It has this advantage, that any other Secretary of State may perform the functions of the office till I return from Vienna.
I feel with you that, however small may be the hope of peace, I should not be justified in abandoning the mission now, and that the benevolent, as well as the malevolent, might say afterwards that a chance of peace was thrown away to satisfy party exigencies,
But, while I do this from my own sense of duty, I hope you will not ask me to connive at a waste of time at Vienna, in order to postpone the inevitable discussion on the third point,
My view is that the first and second points should be previously discussed, but only in general terms to see if agreement is likely. And the same course may be taken with regard to the third point. . All speculation, however, may be closed by Gortchakoff's refusal to sign the protocol. . -Yours truly,
Lord Palmerston replied
DOWNING STREET: February 24, 1855. MY DEAR JOHN RUSSELL,—We are all delighted with your answer to our proposal. Your accession will give universal satisfaction to the Liberal party, and beyond measure strengthen the Government. ..
While Mr. John Abel Smith wrote
BELGRAVE SQUARE : February 25, 1855. MY DEAR LORD JOHN,—Lord Palmerston sent for me early this morning, and showed me your telegraphic message of yesterday. I have never seen any one so thoroughly pleased and relieved as he seemed to be. He walked about the room as if he was treading on air. He seemed to appreciate-as he oughtyour self-sacrifice, and spoke of your magnanimity in just and well-deserved terms of praise. You have seized a happy moment to prove that your recent conduct had no tinge of personal interest in it. You have saved Lord Palmerston's Government, and secured the tenure of power to the Liberal party. I trust the House of Commons and the country will do you justice. I have been into the City, and, as far as I can judge, there is but one feeling of hearty approval of your acceptance of office, and I see no reason to fear the slightest trouble or opposition in your reelection, Your writ will be moved on Monday. my dear Lord John, most faithfully. yours, J. A. SMITH,
On the day after that on which he accepted the Colonial Office, Lord John left Paris for Brussels. There he had an important interview with the King of the Belgians, who gave him valuable information about the views of the Prussian, Russian, and Austrian Courts. On the following day he set out for Berlin, arriving there on the morning of the last day of February. During the three days he stayed in Prussia he had interviews with Baron Manteuffel, the Prussian Minister, the King, and the Prince of Prussia (the Emperor William). During the same time he received news, which could not but have an important effect on his mission, of the sudden illness and death of the Emperor Nicholas.
It was Lord John's object in going to Berlin to withdraw Prussia from the isolated position in which she has unfortunately placed herself by the narrow view which she has taken of her position and duties as a great power. He had not been in Berlin twenty-four hours before he found that this object was impossible.
The King holds in his hands the direction of the whole of the foreign policy of his kingdom. Baron Manteuffel, and various other instruments, official and non-official, are taken up and laid aside, supported or disavowed, exactly as the King pleases. Nor is there any man in Prussia who seems to have sufficient independence of mind to resent the manner in which he is flatly contradicted or quietly dismissed. It seems to be the King's special object to refrain from taking any part in the present war. He has no partiality for Russia as a power. He has no sympathy with the cause which the allies have undertaken to uphold.
The Prince of Prussia, on the following day, used firmer and clearer language. But Lord John saw that the decision was with the King and not with the Prince; and accordingly,
ithout even troubling himself to present his credentials, he set out for Vienna, where he arrived on March 4, where he was met at the station by the Emperor of Austria's own carriage, and where Lady John and his children joined him a few days afterwards.
The Western powers, in the course of the summer, had