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Now of thy strength
IT is now time to retrace our steps and relate the progress of domestic politics during the years in which Lord Russell's attention was so largely occupied with the affairs of Italy, of Denmark, of America, and other countries. On the conclusion of the session of 1861, Lord Russell took his family down to Abergeldie, where for a second time he became the Prince Consort's tenant. He stayed there for some six weeks, and in October turned southwards, passing a few days at Edinburgh, a few more at Minto and Bishop Wearmouth—where his son-in-law, Mr. Villiers, held a curacy—and at Gibside." During his short visit to Gibside Lord Russell was presented with addresses by the inhabitants of Sunderland and Newcastle, and was entertained at a large banquet in the latter town. In replying to the address he used Conservative language. The nature of our institutions and the genius of our people, while they sanction and promote the utmost freedom of discussion, are adverse to needless change; and it therefore behoves every friend of progress to wait with patience and to argue with calm
ness, till public opinion is fully convinced, and the national mind puts its seal on the measures introduced into the Legislature.
In his after-dinner speech he thus defined the characteristics of the legislation in which he had taken so prominent a part:—
There is one point to which I may perhaps advert, because it respects the principle which I think runs through many of our measures of later times, and shows an improvement in the general principles of government. What I mean is this: a great part of our task—for instance, all our measures in favour of religious liberty, relieving first the Protestant Dissenters, then the Roman Catholics, and lastly and recently the Jews—and all our measures with regard to Free Trade, have been measures not introducing new plans, not founded on speculative schemes, but merely unloosing the fetters which statutes and laws had placed on the due liberty of the subject.
Another passage in the same speech had a more personal interest.
Gentlemen, let me say, when I embarked in public life I did so with the view of carrying great measures into effect, having great public objects before me. It appears to me that public life is only honourable when it is directed to such measures. The pedlar who sells his pins and pincushions for sixpence has a better, because an honester, trade than the man who devotes his talents to public life for the sake of his own emolument and advantage.
On the morning, which followed address and banquet, Lord Russell and his family left Newcastle, parted at Peterborough with Lord Amberley, who travelled thence to Cambridge, which he was just entering as an undergraduate, and reached Chesham Place. On the next day they settled at Pembroke Lodge for the winter. Some weeks afterwards, while the nation was still mourning the recent death of the Prince Consort, he received the following letter from Lord Palmerston —
BROADLANDS : January 22, 1862.
MY DEAR RUSSELL,—The Queen has commanded me to inform you that it is her intention to confer upon you one of the vacant ribands of the Garter as a mark of her high approbation of your long and distinguished services.
She has been informed that it is not necessary for her to hold a Chapter of the Order—to which, at the present moment, she would have felt an insurmountable objection—and that a warrant from her will be sufficient for all purposes.
I should be much obliged to you if for the present you would say nothing about this until I have made some arrangements connected with the matter.—Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON.
During the Parliamentary session of 1862 Lord Russell enjoyed the advantages, which a peerage had conferred on him, of lighter labours and greater leisure. His chief speeches in the House of Lords were concerned with subjects connected with his department, such as the questions which were continually growing out of the civil war in America, and of the conflicts which occasionally arose between the partisans of autocracy and freedom in the new Kingdom of Italy. Home politics gave him little trouble. Lord Palmerston's presence at the head of the Government ensured a virtual truce; while the death of the Prince Consort in the previous December, and the opening of the second great International Exhibition in London in May, were causes indirectly operating for political quiet. Thus the session wore away without friction, and Lord Russell said little to occupy posterity's attention. The weight of increasing years, the happiness of his own home, the interest which he was taking in the affairs of other countries, and perhaps the soporific influences of the chamber which he had lately entered, were all affecting him; and he was postponing for another opportunity, or leaving to another generation, the solution of those great questions of organic Reform for which at an earlier period he had so manfully struggled.
Lord Russell was one of the commissioners appointed to deliver the speech at the close of the session on the 7th of August, and was necessarily present for the purpose, dressed in his robes, in the House of Lords. On the following day he left home with his wife and four of his children, slept that night in Bangor, crossed the Irish Channel on the following morning, and, after spending ten days at Bray, arrived at Carton, the Duke of Leinster's seat, on his seventieth birthday. From Carton Lord Russell paid a flying visit to his own property at Ardsalla, visiting the cabins of the poor and the houses of his tenantry. But his stay in Ireland was necessarily short, for, a few days after his return to England, on September 1, he set out in attendance on the Queen on a longer journey to Gotha. He took with him his eldest son, whose presence partly reconciled him to his separation from home; but, after three weeks’ absence, he returned to Pembroke Lodge, where he remained enjoying such rest and quiet as a Foreign Secretary can secure till the commencement of the session of 1863. During 1863 Lord Russell took hardly any part in general debate, and said little or nothing upon domestic politics which is worth recording. The legislative inaction which was coincident with Lord Palmerston's tenure of office, and which had been partly attributable in 1862 to the mourning of a Court and the attractions of an Exhibition, was encouraged in 1863 by the festivities attending the Prince of Wales's marriage. Thus, though the Foreign Office continued exceptionally busy, Parliament had no great measures for consideration; and Liberal statesmen, who, like Lord Russell, were growing old, had to console themselves with reflecting on the triumphs of the past instead of participating in fresh successes. This state of things was visible enough throughout the session; it was emphasised by Lord Russell himself during the recess in words which became famous. Twice during the autumn, which he passed at Meikleour, a beautiful place of Lady Lansdowne's on the banks of the Tay, he made important speeches. At Dundee, where he opened a park presented to the town by Sir David Baxter, he reviewed the legislative successes of the previous thirty years; and, alluding to the predictions, freely hazarded at the time, of injurious consequences, declared that he had never shared these fears.
Thirty years of experience have shown that I have not been mistaken in this hope. Every year has strengthened our political [position, and] confirmed, as you justly observe, our domestic tranquillity. •
And then, turning to external politics, he went on:—
As Secretary for Foreign Affairs it has been my object to preserve peace with honour.
Towards the end of September, Lord Russell was entertained at dinner at Blairgowrie, and again made a notable speech.