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WOBURN ABBEY: December 16, 1848. MY DEAR LORD,-1 fully appreciate all the reasons for keeping up our military force, stated in your Grace's letter of the 8th.
But there are political considerations which appear to me to be of the utmost weight in the present state of our finances, and of Europe.
The estimated revenue for 1849-50 will not allow of the expenditure of 1848–9, without leaving a considerable deficit.
Such a financial situation ought not to continue.
But the imposition of a new tax, or an increase of the present taxes, would raise an opposition from all parties.
In the present state of the public mind, tranquil amid great storms, it is desirable not to give, without necessity, a topic for agitation, and a ground for discontent with our form of government or the state of the representation.
There are always agitations, but they are not to be feared unless there is matter which is agitable.
A gradual and prudent course of retrenchment will satisfy the public mind, and enable us to preserve our present safe and enviable position.
I state these considerations privately to your Grace, both because they cannot be stated in an official letter of the Secretary of State, and because your Grace's masterly comprehension of the interests of the State will enable you to combine the views of an experienced statesman with those which more properly belong to the Commander-in-Chief.
In order to make the reliefs less burdensome, Lord Grey is contemplating every possible reduction in our colonial garrisons.
On this subject, however, I will not further enter, as it would lead me far.
I will only say, therefore, that the system which will enable us to make the greatest and most speedy effort on the breaking out of war, without trenching too deeply on our finances in peace, appears to me the best.— I remain, &c.,
J. RUSSELL So ended the first of what Mr. Cobden used to call the three panics.' The pendulum of public opinion had violently vibrated from panic to parsimony, and the dread of additional taxation had quenched the desire for increased armaments. The army and navy estimates were rapidly reduced; till, when a new panic occurred in 1852, they stood at the lowest point which they had reached since the fall of the Whigs in 1841.
The consequences of the fall of Louis Philippe on the policy of the British Ministry were not at first visible. An element of uncertainty affected the situation. No one knew what a Revolutionary Government in France might desire, or be forced, to do. But Lord John, on the 28th of February, paved the way for a good understanding, by declaring that
We have no intention whatever to interfere with the form of government which the French nation may choose to adopt, or in any way to meddle with the internal affairs of that country. And M. de Lamartine, who became for a few months the guiding spirit of the French Councils, soon showed that he had a greater desire to maintain the English alliance than to disturb the settlement of 1815. M. de Lamartine, indeed, immediately after assuming the reins of government, issued a circular to the representatives of France at foreign courts, some phrases in which were calculated to excite alarm. But the language embodied in this formal document was intended for the people rather than for statesmen; and M. de Lamartine simultaneously seized an opportunity of conveying to the British Government, through the Duke of Wellington, an assurance of his anxiety to remain on good terms with this country.
This overture must have convinced Lord John that, what1 I have not thought it necessary to republish in this edition the singular correspondence between the Duke and M. de Lamartine, which has an historical rather than a biographical importance.
ever consequences were likely to ensue from the Revolution of February, danger to England could not be included in the number. France, however, was only one of the countries which felt the full force of the revolutionary movement. On March 13, less than a fortnight after the flight of Louis Philippe, the fate which had fallen on one of the youngest thrones in Europe overtook its oldest dynasty. The people in Vienna rose; defeated the troops ; forced M. Metternich, who had grown old in the service of the Empire, to fly; and obliged the Emperor to promise constitutional institutions. In the next ten days the people of Milan, after a terrific combat in the streets, compelled Marshal Radetzky and the Austrian garrison to evacuate the city. Almost on the same day Signor Manin seized the arsenal at Venice, drove out the Austrians, and proclaimed a Provisional Government.
The cause of Italian freedom, which had been apparently secured by these successes, had been very dear to Lord John from the days in which, little more that a boy, he had first visited the peninsula ; and during the preceding months had been closely occupying his attention.
In July 1846, when Lord John was resuming office, the death of Gregory XVI. led to the election of Cardinal Ferretti, a prelate of liberal opinions, to the pontifical chair. The friends of progress both in Italy and elsewhere were elated at the evident desire of the new Pope to promote liberal measures. For some months it seemed possible that Italy might realise the dream of moderate reformers, and that autocracy might everywhere be replaced by self-government. From the first, however, the cause of constitutional reform was beset by two dangers. On the one hand, the party of Young Italy, with M. Mazzini at its head, desired to go much further than moderate reformers were willing to travel. On the other hand, the Old Catholic party, which had the direct support of Austria, persisted in declaring that there was no halting-place between moderate and extreme measures. The new Pope hesitated in painful uncertainty between the advice which he received on the one hand from M. Rossi, who represented M.
Guizot and progress at Rome, and from M. Metternich and the Sanfedisti, as the Old Catholic party was called, on the other.
While the Pope was thus hesitating between progress and reaction, Lord John, with the consent of his colleagues, prevailed over the reluctance of the Court,? and decided on sending a special mission to Italy. He entrusted the task to Lord Minto, who had special qualifications for the office. In the first place Lord Minto's son-in-law was Minister at the Court of Piedmont; in the next place, as a member of the Cabinet, and as the member who in his department had nothing to do, he was both available for the mission and peculiarly qualified to speak the mind of his colleagues; while, in the third place, though blood is not usually a recommendation for office, it was certain that the Prime Minister's father-in-law would speak with an authority which no other man of equal ability could command.
During the autumn of 1847 Lord Minto's presence was everywhere regarded as an encouragement to reform.
Late in the year, however, more energetic movements disconcerted the efforts of the moderate reformers. Riots in Milan, in Venice, and in Central Italy justified, or seemed to justify, the acts of repression and interference to which Austria resorted. In January 1848 a rising in Sicily forced the King to concede what was known as the Constitution of 1812. In the same month the Piedmontese demanded and obtained representative institutions. The news of the revolution in February fell, therefore, like a spark on a magazine ready to explode. Milan and Venice, it has already been stated, drove out their Austrian garrisons; Piedmont formally marched to the help of the Milanese ; all Italy clamoured to be led against Austria ; and the Austrians actually appealed to Great Britain to mediate in the crisis.
The British Court watched these events with dislike. Prince Albert, six years afterwards, told Count Vitzthum that the King
1 Life of Prince Consort, i. 428, seq. The Queen thought the mission'a very grave question.'
of Piedmont had fallen like a robber on Lombardy in 1848.1 The Prime Minister, on the contrary, regarded the crisis with very different feelings. He shall, however, explain his own views in his own language :
May 1, 1848. The great highways of Europe having been broken up by late events, it is necessary to consider the present state of affairs both de jure et de facto.
M. Lamartine has declared the treaties of 1815 at an end, only reserving a respect for the rights of possession enjoyed by sovereigns of states.
As a consequence of the internal changes in France this new position is indefensible under the recognised principles of the law of nations.
But it is not so as a ground for changes made or contemplated since this view of M. Lamartine was first declared.
In 1813, Holland, Belgium, Milan, Tuscany, Rome belonged to France by treaties as sacred as that of 1815. Germany was subject to her.
Events changed this state of things.
Austria, Holland, and other powers acquired by force and established by treaty new rights.
In 1830 Ho nd by insurrection her dominion over Belgium, A new treaty recognised a new power.
In 1848 Austria has lost Milan, and is obliged to recognise new rights in Hungary and Bohemia.
Germany has broken loose from the powers which governed her, and is seeking a reconstruction in some more liberal form.
It is impossible not to admit that these facts form as good a ground for new transactions as the events of 1813-15 did for the Treaties of Vienna.
Nor are these changes less to be justified in reason. Napoleon used his power to oppress independent nations. Austria, Russia, and Prussia used the force given them by the indignation of the people of Germany, Spain, and Italy to establish large armies, and by large armies despotic and degrading forms of government.
Prussia broke loose from this system in 1847. Italy followed, and Austria itself has now had its revolution.
It is impossible to deny that France has as good a right to assist
i llemoirs of Count Vitathum, i. 109.