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pressure on the Irish people; another to extend the Irish franchise, in accordance with the views which he had advocated years before as a member of the Melbourne Administration ; the third to remove a symbol of separation by the abolition of the Viceroyalty and the appointment of a fourth Secretary of State for Ireland. The first of these measures was passed. The second—after a comprotnise had been arrived at on the amount of the franchise-—also became law. The third requires a little longer notice.
It had been Lord John’s constant wish for many years to abolish an office which he regarded as an anachronism ; and it has already been shown that, on Lord Bessborough’s death, he had opened his mind on the subject to Lord Lansdowne. Lord Clarendon went to Ireland with the knowledge of Lord John’s intention, and concurring in his opinion. During his stay there he modified, to some extent, his original judgment, but he acknowledged that the Lord Lieutenancy could not be permanently retained, and that its abolition was only a question of time. He cordially agreed with the proposal which Lord John himself brought forward on May 17 for substituting a fourth Secretary of State for the Lord Lieutenant.
V[ici-:] R[i~:oAt.] L[ODGE], May 20, 1850.
MY DEAR LORD JOHN,—Your speech was quite excellent. There was nothing which I, here on the spot, and knowing the requirements of the public, could have wished to be different; and the few people whom I have yet seen agree that it was in all respects judicious and satisfactory. . . . This division, I hope, shows that you will have no serious opposition to apprehend. It is an enviable power to make such a speech at a moment when graver matters must have been weighing upon your mind. . . . “
But, though the excellence of Lord John’s own arguments and the inherent strength of his case promised a successful issue for his proposal, it soon became evident that its passage was impracticable. In the lobbies Ministers found themselves supported by preponderating majorities; in the House they were exposed to interminable discussion. Irish members, reflecting the views of Dublin tradesmen, talked against time; English members of the highest authority doubted the ex— pediency of creating a fourth Secretary of State.1 The debates on Lord Palmerston’s foreign policy, and the apprehensions which they created of a Ministerial crisis, were unfavourable
1 In later years Lord John himself came round to this conclusion.
WOBURN ABBEY, Augurz‘ 25, 1864.
MY DEAR PALMF.RsTON,—\Vith regard to the important question you have put to me, I have no doubt at all as to the abstract expediency of abolishing the office of Lord Lieutenant.
I consider the office as not merely useless but mischievous, and with this view I introduced a Bill some time ago into the House of Commons to abolish it—a Bill which was carried on its second reading by a large majority.
But, with regard to the manner of supplying the vacancy, I have somewhat changed my opinion. I rather think the measure would work better, and certainly would be more complete, if the Home Secretary were to take Ireland, as well as Scotland, under his care, than if a separate Secretary of State for Ireland were created.
This plan would also agree better with Lord Somers‘ wise notions about the Scotch Union of which you will find an account in the I-Iardwicke papers.
But in that case the Home Secretary must have ample assistance. Perhaps a Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Ireland, and certainly an Under-Secretary (Lareom) resident in Ireland, would be required.
The Attorney-General for Ireland should take charge of the Bills on Irish business, and have somewhat of the functions and authority of the Lord Advocate of Scotland.
The Lord Chancellor of Ireland should be confined, except as regards the choice and dismissal of magistrates, to his judicial functions.
The Cabinet has often met—-c.g., on the Chinese and Afghan wars—in the beginning of October, to consider measures of importance.
If it were then decided to abolish the office, I think the Home Secretary should be appointed Lord Lieutenant or Lord Deputy pro lem., till Parliament has had time to consider and digest the new system.
There are so many Acts of Parliament that give authority to the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Deputy, or Lords justices only, that it is very desirable to have an authority clothed with one of these titles. The Lords Justices are too weak to remain long charged with executive powers, unless under the direction of a Secretary of State or actual Lord Lieutenant.
These are my ideas on the subject. I have but one doubt, and that is as to the physical strength of George Grey. I trust, however, that with ample assistance he would be equal to the task.-—I remain, &c., RUSSELL.
Writing on the 28th of August, Lord Palmerston expressed his entire concurrence with these views, though he thought the moment inopportune fo making the change. :
to the prosecution of the measure; and from these various considerations Lord John felt its withdrawal inevitable. He announced his decision on July 4. Four years had passed since Lord John had kissed hands as First Minister of the Crown. During those four years Ireland had passed through the greatest crisis in her history. She had almost continuously occupied the attention of Government and Parliament. But the measures which had been introduced had necessarily been dictated by the exigencies of the hour. Lord John had endeavoured to meet the crisis of famine by encouraging as far as possible local effort, and by interfering as little as possible with the regular course of trade. By his amendment of the Poor Law he had made the Act both efficient and sufficient, and thrown distinctly on Ireland the duty of supporting its own poor. He had striven to grapple with Irish disaffection by using the ordinary machinery with which the law had supplied him; and, when the gravity of the situation made exceptional legislation necessary, had preferred the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act to the measures of coercion to which previous Ministers had resorted. He had done something to remove one great grievance by extending the Irish franchise. He had desired to redress a grave injustice by the adequate endowment of the Roman Catholic religion. He had attempted to substitute a solvent for an insolvent proprietary by facilitating the sale of encumbered estates. He had proposed to remedy a galling wrong by controlling the right of ejectment, and by recognising the rights of the tenant in his holding. He had tried to relieve an over-populated country by devising a considerable scheme for the emigration of the people. He had wished to get rid of a symbol of separation by the abolition of the Viceroyalty. Some of these proposals were defeated in the Cabinet; others of them were modified or smothered by Parliament; some of them were attended indirectly with consequences which Lord John and the wisest of his contemporaries failed to foresee. Examined singly, some objection may be raised to many of them. Taken as a whole they would have failed, even if they had passed, to redress all the injuries from which an unhappy country was suffering. But it may at least be said of them that, while no previous Minister had ever fallen on harder circumstances, no previous Minister had made so honest an effort to deal with the Irish question.
IN relating in the two previous chapters the difficulties which Lord John had to encounter in 1848 and 1849, in connection with Ireland and foreign affairs, it has been impossible to give any detailed account either of the failures of one year or of the successes of the other. In 1848 everything conspired to make the session abortive. In the first place Lord John himself through much of the period was in such weak health that he was physically unable to exercise a commanding influence on politics; and in the next place attention was forcibly diverted from the measures announced from the throne to the terrible events which shook the Continent from Berlin to Paris, and to their consequences on this country.
Lord John, it must be recollected, was only feebly supported in the House of Commons. On the formation of his Ministry, Lord Palmerston, Lord Morpeth, Sir G. Grey, Sir C. Wood, Sir J. Hobhouse, Mr. Labouchere, and Mr. Macaulay all held offices of Cabinet rank with seats in that House. But Lord Palmerston mainly confined himself to the business of his own department; Lord Morpeth, Sir J. Hobhouse, and Mr. Labouchere were only occasional speakers; Mr. Macaulay lost his seat at the general election of 1847; and, though Sir George Grey and Sir Charles Wood were admirable in council and in office, the rapid utterance of the former and the temporary unpopularity of the latter reduced their influence in debate.
Thus the brunt of every battle fell on Lord John ; and