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Calmly they heard each calumny that rose,
That all the world exclaimed, “What magnanimity!'
I shall say to Lord Granville, as Sir Peter Teazle said to Mrs. Candour, 'If my character is attacked, I only beg of you not to undertake my defence.'1
Even these quotations, however, show that Lord Russell was gradually forgetting the grave annoyance which he had undoubtedly felt. Men do not seek their quotations in • The School for Scandal' and 'Don Juan' till the first frown of anger is relaxing into something like a smile.
Lord Russell, moreover, derived some satisfaction from knowing that, if the arbiters as a body had decided against the Government of which he was the organ, the English arbitrator, in his elaborate dissent from the finding of the tribunal, had vindicated his conduct; while, a little later still, he had the satisfaction of reading the independent judgment which Mr. Grote expressed in a private letter to Sir G. C. Lewis :
I quite agree in the remarks contained in your last note about the unreasonable and insane language of the Americans against England.
The perfect neutrality of England in this destructive war appears to me almost a phenomenon in political history.
No such forbearance has been shown during the political history of the last two centuries. It is the single case in which the English Government and public-generally so meddlesome-have displayed most prudent and commendable forbearance in spite of great temptations to the contrary.
i Lord Russell did not verify these quotations apparently. He purposely altered one word in the quotation from Don Juan. But the saying, which he attributes to Sir Peter Teazle, is little more than a paraphrase of the original.
The period during which Lord Russell held the seals of Foreign Secretary was one of abnormal activity. The affairs of Italy, and the civil war in America, were only two of the subjects which occupied the attention of the Minister. A new war in China, a war between Spain and Morocco, the occupation of Mexico by France with all its fatal consequences, and the provision of a new King with a new title for the little Kingdom of Greece, were simultaneously demanding anxious attention. Lord Russell's treatment, however, of these and other questions is a subject rather for the historian than for the biographer; and these memoirs must pass on to two other matters which, in the event, were partially linked togetherthe Polish insurrection of 1862, and the German-Danish War of 1864.
The early history of the Polish insurrection may be given in Lord Russell's own words :
In 1862 fresh discontent, fresh conspiracies, and fresh preparations for insurrection existed in Poland. The Russian Government took what they considered effectual means to suppress these discontents. The mode was rather a singular one. Not satisfied with arresting the individuals who were supposed to be the leaders of the conspiracy, they made the conscription of January 1863 an engine for seizing upon their supposed enemies. The intelligent acting Consul-General at Warsaw, Mr. White, wrote, on January 14, that the list of persons intended to be taken as recruits had been made out, that the utmost pains had been taken to include in these lists all able-bodied men suspected of revolutionary tendencies, and who had been marked out as such by the police during the last two years. Thus the so-called conscription was
turned into a proscription. The lists of persons, usually made by lot, were made to comprehend all such persons as Octavius, Mark Antony, and Crassus might have deemed fit objects of suspicion ; and all these persons were to be condemned for life to be soldiers in the Russian army.
This act was naturally the prelude to resistance and civil war.
In Western Europe the cause of the Poles had always attracted sympathy. But the geographical situation of Poland -surrounded by the three great military Empires of Eastern Europe—made it difficult for any country, and impossible for a country whose strength was on the seas, to render them effectual assistance. This circumstance was expressed by Lord Russell himself, on March 25, 1862, in a speech in which he expressed his strong sympathy with a struggling people, but dwelt on the impossibility of affording them active help.
No statesman who has held the office which I have the honour to occupy, no Prime Minister of this country has, at any time, held out the prospect of material assistance to the Poles.
But, though Lord Russell was of opinion that the circumstances of this country made it impossible for it to render material aid to the Poles, he was prepared, in concert with other nations, to afford them moral support. It was originally the wish of the Western powers that a collective note of remonstrance should be presented at St. Petersburg by the four Courts of Austria, France, Great Britain, and Prussia. But it was ultimately decided that separate despatches on the subject of Poland should be simultaneously addressed to Russia by the Courts of Austria, France, and England. The despatch which was written by Lord Russell in accordance with this arrangement began by expressing the interest with which the British Government regarded, and the sympathy which it felt for, Poland; it went on to vindicate its right, under the Treaties of Vienna, to express its opinions on the subject; it declined to acquiesce in the doctrine that the provisions of those treaties in favour of the Poles had been cancelled by the insurrection of 1830; it argued that the
engagements which Russia made in 1815 had not been fulfilled; it pointed out that, whatever might be the final issue of the present contest, it could only be reached after a calamitous effusion of blood ; it declared that the disturbances perpetually breaking out in Poland 'necessarily produce a serious agitation of opinion in other countries of Europe,' and might, under possible circumstances, lead to complications of the most serious nature ;' and it concluded by urging the Russian Government so to arrange these matters that peace may be restored to the Polish people, and established upon lasting foundations.' In conversation-on the day on which the despatch was written—with the Russian Minister in London, Lord Russell declared that 'her Majesty's Government had no intentions that were otherwise than pacific, still less any concert with other powers for any but pacific purposes. But the state of things might change. The insurrections in Poland might continue and might assume larger proportions. If, in such a state of affairs, the Emperor of Russia were to take no steps of a conciliatory nature, dangers and complications might arise not at present in contemplation. Lord Russell went on to urge that the Emperor should offer an amnesty to those who would lay down their arms, and grant representative institutions both to Poland and Russia.
The Russian Government received this despatch, and the similar despatches from France and Austria, with some consternation. Face to face with these remonstrances, it endeavoured to gain time; and, as one means of doing so, it asked the mediating powers what they had to propose ? The three mediating powers were thereupon induced to formulate six points which they asked Russia to concede: (1) a complete amnesty ; (2) representative institutions; (3) a national administration ; (4) liberty of public worship; (5) the use of the Polish language in the public offices and in the law courts ; and (6) a regular system of recruiting. In addition to these six points—on which Austria, France, and Great Britain were agreed—the two latter powers proposed the immediate conclusion of an armistice.
Russia declined to take this remonstrance into consideration till the insurrection was put down. She refused to admit that Europe generally had any right to consider the future of Poland; and she emphasised her argument by specially inviting Austria and Prussia-partners with herself in the original partition of the country—to confer with her upon it. The reception of this despatch imposed a grave duty on the British Cabinet. In Lord Russell's own language-'the question came to be whether the three powers should together urge their demands by force or relinquish the attempt.' If France could have drawn the answer, force would probably have been used. Her Emperor and her people were equally disposed to intervene. But
The prospect of a war with Russia for the deliverance of Poland was a very cloudy one. The object to be aimed at must have been, not the fulfilment of the stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna, but the establishment of Poland as an independent State. The basis for the erection of such a State was almost entirely wanting. The aristocracy of Poland were distrusted : wide in their projects, narrow in their notions of government . . . The democracy of Poland were hostile to the aristocracy ; wild in their desires, bloody in their means. ... The policy of England, no less than the policy of Austria, would have shrunk from the creation of such a State. Besides these difficulties as to the object, the means of carrying on war against Russia, with Prussia as her probable ally, would have been hazardous and expensive beyond calculation. Moved by considerations of this kind, every proposition of France which tended to pledge the three powers to war was declined by the British and Austrian Cabinets." And Lord Russell, in a long despatch of August 11, 1863, in which he dealt with and controverted the Russian arguments, simply concluded
If Russia does not perform all that depends upon her to further the moderate and conciliatory views of the three powers, if she does not enter upon the path which is open to her by friendly counsels, she makes herself responsible for the serious consequences which the prolongation of the troubles of Poland may produce."
1 Speeches and Despatches, ii. 236.
2 Ibid., 417