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though in readiness in debate he excelled all his contemporaries, the exertion was obviously too great for a frame which, never strong, was weakened by an illness whose effects he could not shake off. Conscious of his need for help, he made a strong effort to retain the services of Mr. Macaulay. In writing the admirable memoir of his uncle, which should be the pattern, as it is the despair, of biographers, Sir G. Trevelyan has omitted to notice that Mr. Macaulay, at Lord John's wish, remained a member of the Russell Cabinet, and enjoyed his easy office of Paymaster-General, for nine months after his defeat at Edinburgh; and that, when Parliament met, Lord John endeavoured to retain his services by suggesting that a vacancy should be made for him in Lord Zetland's borough of Richmond. The grounds on which this offer was refused are worth recording. OxFORD, April 23, 1848.
DEAR LORD JOHN,—The proposal which you made yesterday took me so much by surprise that I could not come to an immediate decision. I have since thought the matter over fully. I will not say that my tastes and wishes may not, unperceived by myself, have biassed my judgment. But I can truly say that I have done my best to ascertain what is the right, honourable, and useful course; and the result is that I have determined not to be member for Richmond.
A few weeks ago I should have felt very differently. But the events which have lately taken place on the Continent and in this island have placed me and all of us in a new position. It will soon be necessary for you to deliberate seriously on the propriety of removing some evils and anomalies which the Reform Bill spared. What the issue of your deliberations may be I cannot tell. My own opinion is that some concessions ought to be made with a good grace to the middle classes, and that, at the same time, all innovations dangerous to order and property ought to be firmly resisted. Now I feel that it would be quite impossible for me, as member for a pocket borough, to be of any service to my country in the approaching contest. On the one hand, if I should differ from the Government and from Lord Zetland, I should be bound in honour to take the Chiltern Hundreds. On the other hand, it would be impossible for me to speak with weight against violent innovations. I should make a very poor figure in opposition to a new Schedule A, while sitting for a borough which would probably appear in a new Schedule A. I should be constantly accused of holding, as the nominee of a great nobleman, language very different from that which I had held as the representative of a hundred and twenty thousand people. In short, I should bring discredit on myself, and be useless to you. The situation in which I am placed with respect to the question of the ballot is alone a sufficient reason for my determining not to come into Parliament at the present time and in the proposed manner. My opinions on that question have undergone some change, and perhaps do not now differ very widely from yours. But I feel that if I were now, on taking my seat for Richmond, to vote against the ballot, I should destroy my public character, and with it all my public usefulness. Two months ago there was no excitement in the country about organic reforms. If a motion had been made in favour of secret voting, I might have absented myself or divided silently with the Ayes, and no newspaper would have thought the matter worth noting. Now the case is very different. That at this conjuncture a member of your Cabinet should, on such a question, separate himself from all his colleagues would, in my judgment, greatly weaken your Government. Peel and Graham, Stanley and Disraeli, Hume and Cobden, would all join to deride and condemn a Ministry which showed such signs of disunion. If any of the Radicals were to praise me at the expense of my colleagues, I need not say that such praise would be more painful to me than censure. Yet, if I do not vote for the ballot, the universal cry would be, ‘You declared for the ballot on the hustings of Edinburgh; you voted for it; you spoke for it. You never said a word about your change of opinion till a great city turned you out, and an aristocratical borough proprietor put you in. And what could I say in reply ? I am confident, therefore, that, if I now come into the House of Commons as member for Richmond, I shall very soon go out again. By so going out I should probably inflict a serious wound on the Government. By quietly dropping out of public life I inflict no wound at all. The truth is that there is only one way of escape from all these inconveniences. I must therefore beg you to consider my resignation as final. I will call in Chesham Place on Tuesday, and give you my key.—Ever, dear Lord John, yours very faithfully, T. B. MACAULAY.
The programme which Lord John sketched out for the session was sufficiently ambitious. The position of affairs abroad and the Duke of Wellington's published opinion forced the Ministry to consider the arrangements necessary for defence against invasion; the famine in Ireland, which had compelled the Government temporarily to suspend the Navigation Acts in 1847, brought the policy of those Acts prominently before the Legislature; the miserable condition of the large towns, where no adequate provision was made for pure soil, pure air, or pure water, gave urgency to the great question of Sanitary Reform; while the circumstance of Lord John's own election, connected as it was with that of a Jew, Baron Rothschild, as his colleague, raised a similar issue to that which Mr. O’Connell's return for Clare had brought to the front nearly twenty years before.
Thus four great measures of legislation and finance were fairly before Parliament. But, before February was over, the revolution in France and the fear of increased taxation at home, had entirely altered the situation; and a session which had commenced with a demand for greater armaments, and with the proposal of additional taxation, concluded with a general desire for retrenchment, and a serious effort to bring the expenditure of the nation within its income. This radical alteration in feeling, for which the Government could hardly be held responsible, disarranged the whole programme of the year; and the plans of the Ministers were further modified by the necessity which, as they conceived, was imposed on them of seeking special legislative powers to control turbulence and disaffection. Much of the time, which it was hoped would be available for discussing Navigation Acts and Public Health, was occupied with the consideration of measures of precaution of which the Crown and Government Security Bill and the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act were the most striking. In these circumstances, the Bills which the Government had promoted early in the session could not otherwise than suffer. The Bill for Promoting the Health of Towns was, indeed, passed; the Bill for Removing the Disabilities of the Jews was passed by the Commons, but summarily rejected by the Lords; 1 the Bill for repealing the Navigation Acts was abandoned. Failures of this kind always throw discredit on a Government; and it so happened that the Ministry suffered in 1848 not merely from what it failed to effect, but from what it was compelled to do. The Protectionists had never forgiven the change which Lord John had made in 1846 in the sugar duties; they ascribed to it the severe distress which the West India Islands were enduring; and Lord George Bentinck, who had resigned his position as their leader, but who still retained all his antipathies to Free Trade, obtained at the commencement of the session a committee to inquire into the condition of the sugar colonies, and, by his own casting vote as chairman, carried a report recommending the virtual suspension of the Act of 1846 and the retention of a differential duty in favour of colonial sugar for the next six years. Lord John, though he disliked the report, unfortunately felt that he was powerless to defeat its adoption, and accordingly decided on proposing a compromise which gave a slight advantage to colonial sugar. The compromise was ill received by the more Radical members of the Liberal party: there was a universal expectation that the Government would be defeated on it, and the Cabinet formally decided to retire from office in that event.” Unfortunately, too, the chances of defeat were increased by a circumstance which was so rare that it could hardly be foreseen—Lord John's own indiscretion. In the course of the debate Lord George Bentinck had accused the Colonial Office of wilfully suppressing an important despatch,
1 During the discussion of the Jewish question Lord John sent the following letter in dog-Latin to his wife:Sabbat, Maii. 27. Malus sum. Non tibiscripsi hesterno die. Gaudeo salute tua et prolis nostrae. Dies natalis Reginae et concilium Cabinetti me constringit [sic] hodie ut non possum te videre usque ad noctem. Cras dies festivus et sanctus. Gaudeo. Non plus scribam. Pares Judaeis infesti, populus infestus Paribus, faciunt caldarium piscium bellissimum. CONJUX DEVOTISSIMUS.
* Lord Clarendon, writing on June 26, congratulated Lord John on his approaching fall. . . -
and of denying its existence. Lord John warmly defended Lord Grey, and, nettled by the attack, went on to say—
These mean frauds—these extremely dishonourable trickswhich the noble Lord imputes to [men in high office], are not the faults and characteristics of men who are high in public office in this country. They are characteristics of men who are engaged in pursuits which the noble Lord long followed.
Warned by “the burst of disapprobation from all sides,” Lord John attempted to explain that Lord George had himself detected a fraud of that nature respecting the age of a horse. But the House was in no humour for explanations; it persisted in placing its own meaning on Lord John's expression; and the prospects of a Ministerial success were evidently clouded by the indiscretion of the Prime Minister.
Reflection, however, convinced the House of Commons that it could not afford to part with the only available Ministry. Lord John's compromise was ultimately adopted by a sufficient majority. This victory, won at the end of June, gave Ministers safety for the remainder of the session. Yet, if they were secure from defeat, they could not be said to be either strong or popular. They suffered in public estimation from the failure of all their measures, and the public omitted to notice the cause of this failure. Lord John at a very early period of the session pointed out the reason."
There have been in the course of the last thirty years very great changes in the mode of conducting the business of the House. . . . When I first entered Parliament it was not usual for Government to undertake generally all subjects of legislation. . . . Two great changes have since taken place. . . . The one, that . . . since the passing of the Reform Bill it has been thought convenient, on every subject on which an alteration of the law is required, that the Government should undertake the responsibility of proposing it to Parliament; and the other great change is that measures of all kinds are now discussed by a much greater number of members, and a far greater number of motions are made by individual