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I might choose (omitting, of course, his own) with the option of going to the House of Lords or remaining in the House of Commons under him. That proposition on the grounds of fairness and equality I am prepared to accept. I hope I have made myself clear. With Palmerston I could only have to consider who is to have the first and who the second office in the State. With you I could only occupy the third, and should not feel that I had sufficient security either on foreign affairs or on Reform. I am afraid her Majesty must encounter the difficulty of making a choice. But I do not think either Lord Palmerston or I should be inclined to do otherwise than submit with respect and loyal duty to her Majesty’s decision. I am glad you feel that I mean no personal unkindness to you. My resolution, however, as to your proposal is final.—I remain, ever yours very truly, J. RUSSELL.
Lord Granville, on receiving this letter, at once resigned the commission which the Queen had entrusted to him, and the Queen sent for Lord Palmerston.
94 PICCADILLY: June 12, 1859.
MY DEAR JOHN RUSSELL,-Granville having given up his commission to form a Government, the Queen sent for me this afternoon and has desired me to undertake the duty. I shall drive down to Pembroke Lodge as soon as I have dined in order to request your assistance, and to ask what office you would like to hold.—Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON.
The Queen's decision settled the question. The apple of supremacy had been definitely awarded; and, in the interests, both of his party and of his country, Lord John at once determined to accept office. He simply stipulated that he should receive the seals of Foreign Secretary." Both the Queen and Lord Palmerston would have preferred Lord Clarendon's appointment to that office, and Lord Clarendon's friends were inclined to complain that Lord John should not have given way to him. It is difficult to deal seriously with such a contention. Those indeed must have had a low opinion of Lord
1 He told Lord Palmerston on June 16 that ‘the importance of European affairs at this moment is my temptation and justification.'
John's services and claims who could have imagined that the man who had led the Liberal party for twenty years, and who was waiving his own claims in deference to the public interests, had not a right to insist on any office he thought proper to select. But, as a matter of fact, he had not only the right, but he would have been guilty of extraordinary folly if he had acted otherwise; for the question of the hour was the question of Italy, and on that subject Lord John not merely felt strongly, but he differed from Lord Clarendon. Lord John, therefore, had no course but to take the Foreign Office himself, or to risk the renewal of the dissensions which had weakened and discredited the Aberdeen Administration. He insisted, therefore, on receiving the seals of the Foreign Office, and to this decision may be attributed the fact that modern Italy acknowledges that she owes more to the moral support which she received from this country than to the material support of the third Napoleon.
LoRD JoHN entered on his second administration of the Foreign Office at a very critical moment. On June 4, in the week which preceded the final defeat of Lord Derby's Government, the battle of Magenta was fought. On June 24, in the week which followed the formation of the new Ministry, the Austrians were beaten at Solferino. But the Emperor of the French, horrified at the bloodshed which he had caused, and alarmed at the increasing difficulties of his situation, at once decided on stopping hostilities. He instructed Count Persigny, the French Ambassador in London, to ask the English Government to propose an armistice, and to suggest terms of peace; and, when the Cabinet declined to do more than authorise Lord John to hand the proposal to the Austrian Ambassador without comment, he sent a messenger to the Austrian Emperor proposing an armistice. A few days later, on July 11, the two Emperors met at Villafranca, and arranged between themselves the preliminaries of peace. Writing confidentially on July 13, Sir James Hudson, the British Minister at Turin, communicated to Lord John the conditions on which it was intended to make peace. They were as follows: Lombardy was to be ceded by Austria, Tuscany and Modena were to be restored to their Dukes, Venice was to remain Austrian, Parma was to be placed at Napoleon's disposal, and the Pope was to become the head of a Confederation of Italian princes. He declared that there was only one universal opinion at Milan and Turin, ‘Siamo
traditi;’ he added, on the 17th, that Napoleon was already styled ‘il gran traditore;’ that Victor Emanuel had only signed the armistice with the reservation ‘en ce qui me concerne;’ that he complained that Napoleon had treated him like a dog; that Count Cavour, rather than be a party to the treaty, had flung up office; and that Italy was lost if she did not throw herself into the arms of England. Before Lord John received these letters, Count Persigny called upon him, and told him that the Emperor of Austria desired that the terms which had been provisionally arranged at Villafranca should be embodied in a treaty. But that
The Emperor of the French thought that a European congress should meet in order to settle the remaining Italian questions and convert the convention into a European treaty.
And Lord John, writing to Lord Cowley on July 16, declared that, before the Government could consider the proposal, he must know whether Austria, as owning Venice, was to enter the proposed Confederation; whether the King of Sardinia and the King of the Two Sicilies were to be allowed to exercise their own free will as to entering it or not; whether French, Austrian, or Piedmontese troops were to be employed to restore their old rulers to the Duchies; and whether French and Austrian troops were to be left in occupation of Rome and the Romagna. He added, three days afterwards—
It seems to me that if Austria is a member of the Confederation, whatever the number of votes may be, she will have the Pope, the two Dukes, and probably the King of Naples in her train, and thus virtually rule the Austrian, not Italian, Confederation. If this point is irrevocably to be decided by the peace between the powers at Zurich, I think a conference can be of no use.
Lord John did not stop at this point. On the day on which he was thus writing to the British Ambassador at Paris, he wrote both privately and publicly to Mr. Corbett, the British Chargé d'Affaires at Florence, urging that a representative assembly should be convoked in Tuscany, ‘in order that the wishes of the people in favour of the autonomy of that country may be regularly and freely expressed.” He used the same
language in the House of Commons, defending the conduct of Victor Emanuel by pleading the example of William III., and declaring that he could be no party to denying the people of Italy the right of choosing their own sovereign which had been exercised in Belgium, Holland, Sweden, France, and Great Britain. On July 25 he sent a despatch to Lord Cowley, pointing out his strong objections to the presence of Austria in the Italian Confederation, and adding ‘that the only way of carrying into effect the declared views of Great Britain and France at the Conferences of 1856 is to free Italy as soon as possible from the presence of foreign troops whether French or Austrian;’ while, on August 16, he addressed identic despatches both to Paris and Vienna, in which he contended that every people had a right to choose their own Government, and that ‘the restoration of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Duke of Modena by foreign forces would be to return to that system of foreign interference which for upwards of forty years has been the misfortune of Italy and the danger of Europe.” Thus ‘Italy for the Italians’ was, from the very outset, the watchword of Lord John's policy. At Vienna this policy was from the first regarded with extreme irritation: Count Rechberg warmly resented Lord John's dictum that every independent State had a right to regulate its own internal government, and indulged ‘in very bitter reproaches’ against the British Government. His anger was not unnatural. There could be no doubt that both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were openly evincing a desire for Italian independence which was not compatible with the apparent interests of the Emperor of Austria. Even in England, the Queen expressed her dislike of the language which her Ministers were using. “We did not protest against the war, she argued; “we can hardly now protest against the peace.” Believing that Lord John and Lord Palmerston were more liberal than their colleagues, she appealed from them to the Cabinet as a whole; she insisted that the formation of an Italian Confederation and the restoration of the Dukes of Tuscany and
Modena to their Duchies should be considered as the com. VOL. II. X.