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the Queen's Private Secretary, suggesting that the Queen should postpone her projected visit to Scotland on the double ground that war appears imminent in Germany,' and that certain questions of the Reform Bill, vital to the existence of the present Government, will be discussed.'
He wrote to the Queen on June 2–
Your Majesty's confidential servants are very sensible of the difficulty of the present crisis, and of the inconvenience of a change of Government. They will therefore anxiously consider their position before offering to your Majesty their resignation in case of a defeat in the House of Commons.
The course of obstruction so openly followed by the Opposition makes it, however, very difficult to yield to them on any point without incurring just reproach on the part of the public as having abandoned their principles and forsaken their measures on light and insufficient grounds. A week later he wrote
DOWNING STREET : June 9, 1866. Lord Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty. He is fully alive to the importance of averting a Ministerial crisis ; but Lord Russell would ill serve your Majesty's interests and those of the country if, by any premature concession, he were to expose his own character, and that of Mr. Gladstone, to the loss of public confidence, and those who would most taunt and reproach them with such a concession would be their implacable and insidious enemies.
And, after the division on Lord Dunkellin's motion, he wrote
DOWNING STREET: June 19, 1866. Lord Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty. Your Majesty's Ministers have fully considered the purport of your Majesty's gracious message in connection with the vote of last night in the House of Commons.
The proceedings of the last few weeks have convinced them that they will gain nothing by protracted discussions on the Bill.
The reasons against a dissolution founded on the general apathy of the South of England on the subject of Reform appeared to them valid.
There remains only one course ; and, as they are not convinced until it has been tried that the experiment of forming a Govern
ment under Lord Derby may not succ
acceed, your Majesty's Ministers feel themselves compelled by their duty to your Majesty and the country humbly to tender to your Majesty their resignation of the offices they hold.
Here is the Queen's answer :
The Queen has received Lord Russell's letter with the greatest concern. The adverse vote in the House of Commons, and the step which the Ministers have thought it right to take in consequence, have taken her completely by surprise, having understood from Lord Russell and others of the Government, whom she saw before going to Scotland, that there was no fear of a crisis.
In the present state of Europe, and the apathy which Lord Russell himself admits to exist in the country on the subject of Reform, the Queen cannot think it consistent with the duty which the Ministers owe to herself and the country that they should abandon their posts in consequence of their defeat on a matter of detail (not of principle) in a question which can never be settled unless all sides are prepared to make concessions; and she must therefore ask them to reconsider their decision. Lord Russell replied
DOWNING STREET: June 22, 1866. Lord Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty ; he has considered carefully your Majesty's communication, and proceeds to state the reflections which occur to him before laying that letter before his colleagues.
The serious view which your Majesty's Ministers took of the majority on Lord Dunkellin's amendment was not founded on any point of detail. The difference between rating and rental might have been adjusted by provisions adapting the rating value to the amount of rental proposed by the Government.
It was the general hostility shown by the House of Commons to the proposals brought forward by your Majesty's Ministers which induced them to think that the vote on Lord Dunkellin's amendment showed, on the part of the House of Commons, a want of that confidence which is necessary to the existence of any Ministry.
Further, in regard to a dissolution of Parliament, Lord Russell mentioned apathy in the South of England, not general apathy in the country.
It seems to Lord Russell that, if the Reform Bill is postponed, your Majesty's Ministers must declare their adherence to the principles of that measure, and must be at liberty to submit the
same measure, unaltered in regard to the franchise to be bestowed, but reconsidered in its details, and amended in regard to the distribution of seats, either to the present or to a new Parliament.
Should they be of opinion that a dissolution is necessary for that purpose, either now or in the autumn, your Majesty would be entirely free either to accept that advice, or to adopt the alternative, namely, the resignation of your Majesty's Ministers.
Lord Russell is well aware that the critical state of the Continent, now engaged in war, makes it advisable, if possible, to avoid a change of Government. At the same time your Majesty will recollect that, when Lord Russell informed your Majesty that your advisers would probably think it necessary to introduce a Reform Bill, your Majesty expressed strongly and decidedly an opinion that, if any measure on this subject were introduced, it ought to be carried forward to a final result, and not trifled with or dropped without any serious intention of abiding by the measure proposed with the sanction of the Crown. This opinion of your Majesty is shared by Lord Russell. He considers that vacillation on such a question weakens the authority of the Crown, promotes distrust of public men, and inflames the animosity of parties.
Later in the day the Cabinet met, and Lord Russell wrote again :
Lord Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and has the honour to submit the view taken by the Cabinet of their present situation.
That, on an expression by the House of Commons of confidence in the present Government, coupled with an opinion that the House wishes for the introduction at an early period of a measure founded on the principles and leading provisions of the ineasure proposed by her Majesty's Ministers in the present session, her Majesty's Ministers would retain their offices in compliance with her Majesty's request.
The Queen, on her part, would have assented to the proposed expedient if it could have been adopted by a unanimous Cabinet with a fair prospect of acceptance by the House of Commons. But, as day after day passed, it was evident that there was a smaller and slighter chance of the fulfilment of these conditions; the Cabinet consequently concluded that it was useless to go on; and the Queen reluctantly consented to accept the resignation of her Ministers.
The resignation of Lord Russell in the summer of 1866 not merely ended the short-lived Administration of which he was the chief; it proved in the result the termination of an official career which had commenced more than a generation before in the Government of Lord Grey. In one sense Lord Russell was amply vindicated. The breeze of popular opinion, for which he had vainly waited since 1849, freshened after his fall into a gale. The apathy of Southern England ceased with his resignation. Before a month was over, the railings of Hyde Park had given way to the pressure of a mob; men of all parties were aroused to the conviction that Reform was a subject to be treated and not to be trifled with ; and in 1867 a Conservative Administration brought forward a larger and more comprehensive measure of Reform than any which Lord Russell had ever contemplated. Thus, though it was not given to Lord Russell to be the author of a second Reform Act, the passage of the second Reform Act vindicated his prescience and proved the truth of his principles.
In other respects, Lord Russell's second Administration will not attract much notice from the historian. It will be chiefly recollected for its failures, and not for its accomplishments. It failed to avert the Prusso-Austrian War, just as it failed to carry its own great measure. It could not claim in its short existence that it had secured peace on the Continent, or that it had made any notable addition to the Statute Book.
Those then who judge by results will pass rapidly over the short months during which Lord Russell's second Administration lasted, and dwell rather on the other periods of his career during which he rendered great and important services to his country.
The fall of the Russell Administration in the summer of 1866 terminated-so it proved—the official career of the subject of this memoir. Within a few weeks of completing the seventy-fourth year of his age, he had long passed the period at which men usually look for retirement. Thenceforward his life was to be free from the cares of office. But, though his career as a Minister was at an end, his activity as a statesman had not ceased. At intervals, which were to become gradually less frequent with the advance of years, he emerged irom his retirement to support the cause of civil and religious liberty, whether at home or abroad, to which his life had been consecrated. Like the well-bred hunter in his secluded paddock, he was stirred by the whimper of the hound and the music of the horn; and, with pen and with voice, came forward again and again to promote the cause of progress, to encourage the oppressed, to denounce the oppressor.
The twelve years, however, which Lord Russell was still to live can be briefly described. Biography should occupy itself with the growth of youth and with the achievements of maturity, and should dwell lightly on the decline of age; and, though the lamp still burned clearly, though the brain was still active, one chapter may contain all that it is necessary still to relate of Lord Russell's career.
As Lord Russell withdrew more and more from political pursuits, he addressed himself more actively to his literary studies. In 1866 he completed the Life of Mr. Fox,' which had been interrupted by his accession to office. In 1868