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course which we have decided to take is right and will lead to a quiet termination of this business.—Yours truly, G. G.
Sir George Grey's anticipations were fulfilled. To quote Lady John's diary:—
Ioth.—God be praised, all has ended quietly. . . . John and I went between nine and ten to Downing Street. I divided the day between his room and Lady M. Wood's, where was also Lord Grey. One cheering report after another prevented us from having a moment of alarm after one o'clock—the hour at which the procession was to have left Kennington Common, instead of which the people quietly dispersed. . . .
11th.—Walk with John. Visits and congratulations without end.
The Duke of Bedford wrote—
I wish you joy most heartily on the events of yesterday, which cannot fail to produce the best effects everywhere, and show the country and the world that we do not mean to be scattered and trodden down like other Governments, and that there is resolution and power here to assert the supremacy of law and order. I hear but one opinion as to the conduct of the Government among rational men of all parties.—Yours affectionately, B.
Four days later, when all England was rejoicing at the victory of order, Lord John had his own reasons for thankfulness, for on that day his wife presented him with his second son.
Wi’ the violet and gowan he breathed his first breath,
To our country, still echoing danger and death,
The birth of this boy did much to complete the cure which had commenced with the fortnight's change at St. Leonards. As Lady John wrote on May 16–
This child has done much already to restore his health and strength. Summer weather and the success of all his political measures for the last anxious months have also done much, although he still has some cough.
1 The child's pet-name.
The suppression of the Chartist procession on April 10 had, indeed, improved the political outlook both in England and in Ireland. Lord Clarendon wrote with increasing confidence, and the rapid passage of the Crown and Government Security Bill armed him with fresh machinery for checking disaffection. Young Ireland in the early days of the Repeal movement had followed the stirring counsels of the Nation newspaper. But a party had now arisen in favour of stronger action than that which was advocated by the Mation. The prophet of this party was Mr. Mitchel; its organ the United Arishman.
The deliberate policy of the United Irishman was to force the hand first of the Government and then of the Irish people. Mitchel had made up his mind so to rouse the passions of the people as to compel the Government to take steps for the suppression of rebellion by the arrest of some of the leaders. Mitchel calculated upon the populace arising to defend or rescue their heroes—and then the game would be afoot; Ireland would be entered in rebellion; and the rest would be for fate to decide. . . . He kept on urging the people to prepare for warlike effort, and every week's United Irishman contained long descriptions of how to make pikes and how to use them; how to cast bullets, how to make streets as dangerous for the hoofs of cavalry horses as Bruce made the field of Bannockburn. Some of the recipes, if we may call them so, were of a peculiarly ferocious kind. The use of vitriol was recommended among other destructive agencies. . . . In the meantime the Government had to do something. The Lord Lieutenant could not go on for ever allowing a newspaper to scream out appeals to rebellion, and to publish every week minute descriptions of the easiest and quickest way of killing English soldiers."
1 Writing on March 30, before the suppression of the Chartists, Lord Clarendon said: “No Tipperary landlord ever received more threatening notices than I do, or more warnings as to when and how I am to be assassinated. I can't say these disturb me at all; but, as Dublin is full of the greatest ruffians on earth, I am obliged to observe a certain amount of precaution, and I only go out in the carriage for a short walk in the park, which makes me nearly a State prisoner. Redington is ill and absent; so is the Chancellor, though he can come to town occasionally when he is sent for. I have little or no assistance from anybody, and the life I lead is hardly endurable." Lord John did not always agree with Lord Clarendon's proposals for energetic coercion, but he recognised his great qualities, and gave him a loyal support in his difficult position.
Lord Clarendon accordingly decided to proceed against Mr. Mitchel under the new Act which enabled him to suppress a newspaper and to punish its editor. The trial was watched with great anxiety by the friends both of order and of disorder. The former thought it necessary to take the steps usual in Ireland, but repugnant to Englishmen, for securing a fair jury. The latter placarded the walls of Dublin with a notice that the curse of God, and the fate of perjurers and assassins, would fall on the jurors who convicted John Mitchel.” The verdict was unexpectedly satisfactory to the Viceroy. The jury convicted the prisoner. He was sentenced to fourteen years' transportation,
hurried under an escort of cavalry through the streets of Dublin, put on board a ship of war, and in a few hours was on his way to Bermuda.
The result ought perhaps to have shown Lord Clarendon that the danger was not so great as he had apprehended. But it must in fairness be recollected that it is one thing to judge after the event, and another to be wise at the time. The symptoms at the moment seemed very threatening. The United Irishman was succeeded by the Irish Felon, the language of the Nation became more violent; and Lord Clarendon thought it necessary to arrest the editors of both of these papers, as well as the three editors of the Tribune. Mr. Smith O'Brien, Mr. Meagher, and other leaders of the Young Ireland party thereupon left Dublin and withdrew into the country.
1 I have purposely, in the whole of this description, and in the subsequent extracts, used the words of an Irish writer—MacCarthy's History of Our Own Times, ch. xviii. 2 One of these placards is among Lord John's papers.
They held a series of gatherings, which might be described as meetings of agitators or marshallings of rebels, according as one was pleased to interpret their purpose.
Lord Clarendon, in his confidential letters, talked continually of the “insurrection’ and of ‘the rebel army;’ and on July 20 the news was so grave that Lord John postponed his son's christening, which had been fixed for that day, and went up to London. On the following day the Cabinet decided on suspending the Habeas Corpus Act, and on Saturday the 22nd Lord John rose at a special morning sitting of the House of Commons to introduce a measure for the purpose. So little had he anticipated the necessity for doing so that he had asked a party of friends to dine with him at Pembroke Lodge; and when he left home he charged his wife to do the honours of his dinner-table, to which he thought he had no chance of returning. But at eight o'clock he was back at Richmond radiant with the news that the Bill had passed through all its stages. One of the guests at his dinner-table, however, has told the story:—
The House of Commons was wonderful on the 22nd. Nobody had the least idea of it, not the Cabinet. It was an inspiration of John Russell's : he began by making an excellent speech, an hour and a half. When they divided he made a speech in the lobby, begged the people not to go away, and said he meant to propose to go on with the Bill. To his own amazement, as much as anybody's, he found no opposition, and carried the Bill through at the sitting. . . . It was a great event, for which neither the Lord Lieutenant nor anybody in Ireland will have been the least prepared.
Mr. Greville did not, in this passage, exaggerate the importance of Lord John's success. Just as the United Irishman had tried to force the hands of the Government, so Lord John had forced the hands of Mr. Smith O’Brien and his associates. Within a week after the passage of the measure, Mr. Smith O'Brien made his abortive attack on the police at Ballingarry which led to his arrest. ... Yet for a few days after the passage of the Bill the anxiety of those in authority continued to be great. The christening of Lord John's child, postponed in consequence of the bad news, was fixed for July 27; and Lord Melgund (the present Lord Minto) and Sir George Grey were asked to be the boy's sponsors. To Lord and Lady John's consternation, Lady Grey arrived at Richmond without her husband, with the news that all the South of Ireland had risen, and that the troops had refused to act against the insurgents. Agitated by intelligence which corresponded only too correctly with Lord Clarendon's anticipations, Lord John, instead of returning to Pembroke Lodge with his guests to cut the christening cake and drink the baby's health, drove straight to London. Stopping at Apsley House on his way to Downing Street, he had the satisfaction to find that the Duke of Wellington refused to believe that portion of the news which related to the misconduct of the troops. From Apsley House he proceeded to the Cabinet. One of his colleagues, Lord Campbell, said—
John Russell tried to look firm, but was evidently much appalled; and we were all in deep dismay. The Duke of Wellington was sent for, and orders were issued for pouring in reinforcements of infantry, cavalry, artillery, and ships of war from all quarters.
But, before the evening closed, the Ministry learned that no general rising of the Irish had occurred, and that the news, which had been telegraphed from Liverpool, was totally destitute of foundation. At the close of this anxious session Lord John set out on a journey of unusual importance. Just ten years had passed since he had paid his last flying visit to Ireland. He had gone there almost at the close of Lord Normanby's Viceroyalty, when an Irish Administration, conducted on Irish ideas, had spread comparative contentment and peace throughout Ireland. He determined to return in 1848 to see with his own eyes the condition of the country. He carried with him his wife and his eldest son and daughter. They left Euston on a bright