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be so good as to lay before her Majesty my resignation of the office I hold.
It has become obvious that my continuance in office would only embarrass and endanger your Administration. It is for the advantage of the Queen's service, therefore, that I should retire.
I beg you will assure her Majesty that, if I could be of any use in the present critical state of affairs by remaining in her service, I would readily devote myself to the performance of my duties as a Minister. But neither the Crown nor the country would derive any benefit from my resistance to the present clamour.
I may wish to make a statement on Monday, but I have no desire to add anything to what I have already related of the decisions of the Cabinet.
I wish you every success in the conduct of this great war, and remain, yours faithfully,
Lord Palmerston replied
PICCADILLY : July 13, 1855. MY DEAR JOHN RUSSELL,- I have received, I need not say with how much regret, your letter of this morning, and have sent it down to the Queen. But, whatever pain I may feel at the step you have taken, I must nevertheless own that as a public man, whose standing and position are matters of public interest and public property, you have judged rightly. The storm is too strong at this moment to be resisted, and an attempt to withstand it would, while unsuccessful, only increase irritation. But juster feelings will in due time prevail. In the meanwhile I must thank you for the very friendly and handsome terms in which you have announced to me your determination.-Yours sincerely,
Three days later, in the House of Commons, Lord John explained the circumstances of his resignation. He laboured still under the radical difficulty that he was unable to state the true reasons which had influenced him. All he could do was to allude in vague language to 'circumstances quite independent of the merits of the propositions themselves, and which did not in the least alter my opinion of the merits of those propositions, which made it appear to my mind impossible to urge (their) acceptance upon the Government.' But his calm and dignified language made a deep
impression on the House. His old friend Lord Enfield wrote to him
Five-and-twenty years have passed since I first took my place behind you in the House of Commons, and nothing has ever occurred to weaken my allegiance or to shake my confidence in a leader so specially qualified to direct the Whig party.
At no period during that quarter of a century have I felt more proud of our choice than I do now, or more indignant with the timidity of some and the malignity of others.
Believe me, my dear Lord John, that you have a numerous and staunch body of supporters, who respect and love you, and the warmth of whose attachment is only made more fervent by these unscrupulous attacks. While Sir G. C. Lewis wrote
The dignified and impressive speech which you made yesterday evening was listened to with respect and attention by an audience partly hostile and partly prejudiced. It will, in my opinion, go far to remove the imputations, founded on error and misrepresentation, under which you laboured, and I shall be much surprised if, after a little time and a little reflection, persons do not come to the conclusion that never was so small a matter magnified so far beyond its true proportions.
On the following evening Mr. Roebuck drew attention to the report of the Sebastopol Committee, and founded on it a motion visiting with severe reprobation every member of that Cabinet whose counsels led to such disastrous results.' A man less generous than Lord John might have seized the opportunity to sever himself from the responsibility attaching to his old colleagues. He, who had unceasingly urged the consolidation of the military departments, and had voluntarily undertaken the ungrateful task of recommending the supersession of the Duke of Newcastle, might fairly have pleaded that he was responsible neither for imperfect organisation nor for inefficient administration. He took, however, the far worthier course of maintaining that every member of Lord Aberdeen's Cabinet is and remains responsible for that expedition and the consequences of it.' Lord Granville wrote to him the next day
LONDON : July 20, 1855. MY DEAR LORD JOHN,—I cannot tell you how pleased I am with what has taken place this week.
I ventured to mention the word reaction to you on Monday. My pet belief is that the further people go in a foolish direction the more certain they are to come rapidly back to an opposite point.
Your magnificent speech of last night seems to have completed what your very calm and dignified statement in the midst of so inuch noise had begun on Monday.—Yours sincerely,
While a correspondent wholly unknown to him sent him even a more gratifying tribute :
9 UPPER CORNWALL STREET, ST. GEORGE'S EAST ;
July 22, 1855. MY LORD,—I am a working man; and, from what I have read in the newspapers, I have been induced to take the liberty of writing this to thank you for what you have done for me and my order.
Allow me, sir, to express a hope that you will not be depressed in spirits in consequence of the brutal attacks of the whole press on your fair character. The press do not in so doing represent the people (at least of my order), who, on the contrary, look to you as the only man that can carry England through her troubles.
I know, my Lord, the great good you have achieved for my order, and therefore feel anxious for your welfare. In conclusion, I beg you will excuse the liberty I take in trespassing upon your valuable time. — Your obedient servant,
OUT OF OFFICE.
The circumstances of Lord John's retirement in July 1855 differed widely from those which had marked his resignation in the previous February. In February grave dissatisfaction with the policy of the Ministry had led to his withdrawal from office. In July he was in full accord with his colleagues. It is impossible to read the correspondence with Lord Aberdeen which preceded one event without pain. The letters in which Lord John and Lord Palmerston recorded their reluctant decision to part company can give the reader nothing but pleasure. Whatever differences may have separated Lord Palmerston from Lord John in previous years, no trace of them rankled in the breast of either on their separation in July 1855.
Towards the other members of the Cabinet, with perhaps one exception, Lord John bore nothing but good will. Of Lord Clarendon, for a time, he entertained other feelings. He thought that the Foreign Minister had aggravated his difficulties by neglecting to obtain Prince Gortchakoff's formal adhesion to the four points before he set out for Vienna; that he had placed him in a false and embarrassing position by springing on him the neutralisation proposal ; though he acquiesced in Lord Clarendon's refusal to produce all the Vienna correspondence, he considered that his own letters, had not been given in sufficient detail; and that the fact that he had only adhered to the Austrian proposal for the sake of securing Austrian co-operation had not been sufficiently emphasised. Some traces of the bitterness which he felt can
be detected by any one who reads with care a speech which he made at the close of the session on the conduct of the war. These feelings, however, soon wore away ; and, before the autumn was over, Lord Clarendon and Lord John were again corresponding on their former terms of intimacy.1
Lord John undoubtedly resented the conduct of inferior members of the Government. He naturally thought that, after his great services, he should not have been condemned by his former followers almost without a hearing. But, though he felt bitterly the conduct or those whom he had regarded as his friends, he carried with him into his retirement that calm demeanour which enabled him to conceal his sense of the wrong; and, without attempting to remonstrate or to reply, waited patiently for the reaction which his own conscience told him must ultimately come.
No man had ever earned retirement better. It was nearly five-and-twenty years since he had first accepted office under Lord Grey; and his friends had placed him in a situation for which his frail and feeble constitution, it was hoped, would be equal. During the interval, which had since passed, he had done harder work than any member of the House of Commons. For nearly twenty out of the five-and-twenty years he had been a Minister of the Crown; for fourteen he had led the House of Commons; for nearly six years he had led the House of Commons as Prime Minister. He had fairly won a right to the rest which had at last been forced on him. And the respite was in another sense welcome. Lord John could not look back at the history of the three preceding years without seeing that he had occupied a false position. His acceptance of office under Lord Aberdeen, almost forced on him by the solicitations of his friends and his sovereign, had led to nothing but embarrassment and difficulty. While he remained in office, experience had already shown that he could not recover the
i The overture came from Lord John. On the news of the fall of Sebastopol he wrote to Lord Clarendon and told him what, in his opinion, the Government ought to do. Lord Clarendon replied that he had read Lord John's letter to the Cabinet, where it had been received with cheers from all quarters.