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Lady John Russell

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dissolution or resignation are revolution and ruin and disgrace;
that the caballers are wrong, quite wrong, but that we must look at
the general question and the possible results (a hackneyed
expression which may sound wise but of which I too well know the
drift); that it may often be very honourable to abandon friends and
supporters with whom we agree, to conciliate the shabbies with whom
we differ; that, of course, they would be too happy to be out of
office, but people must not consult their own wishes; that I must
be aware that Lord John is supposed sometimes to be a little
obstinate, etc. In short, it all comes to this, that many M.P.'s
are afraid of losing their seats by a dissolution, and many others
whose boroughs are disfranchised hate the Reform Bill, and many
more are anti-Reformers by nature, and all these combine to stifle
it.... And to tell Lord John that really he has such a quantity of
spare character that it can bear a little damaging! I am ashamed
and sick of such things, and should think my country no longer
worth caring for, but for those brave men who have gone off to
fight for her with a spirit worthy of themselves, and but for those
lower classes in which Frederick [41] tells me to put my faith....
I must stop, not without fear that you may think me blind to the
very real evil and danger of dissolution or resignation at the
beginning of a great war. Indeed I am not--but those who see
nothing but these dangers are taking the very way to lead us into
them.... Lord Aberdeen is firm as a rock; it is due to him to say
so. How shall I prevent my boys growing up to be cowards and
selfish like the rest? You see what a humour I am in.... I never
_let out_ to anybody. When my friends give all this noble
advice I sit to all appearance like Patience on a monument, but not
feeling like her at all--keeping silence because there is not time
to begin at the first rudiments of morality, and there would be no
use in anything higher up. Good-bye, poor Lizzy, doomed to suffer
under my bad moods. God bless you all.

Yours ever, F.R.

[41] Colonel Romilly, husband of Lady Elizabeth Romilly, and son of
Sir Samuel Romilly.

_Lord Granville to Lady John Russell_

_February_ 28, 1854

I have just heard that Lord John has consented to put off Reform
till after Easter. It must have been a great personal sacrifice to
him, but I am delighted for his own sake and the public cause that
he has done it. There is no doubt but that nearly all who cry for
delay are at bottom enemies to Reform. Reform is not incompatible
with war, and it is not clear that a dissolution would be dangerous
during its continuance, but an enormous majority of the House of
Commons have persuaded themselves of the contrary.

In all probability the apathetic approved of the Reform Bill only
because it was out of the question for the present. Newcastle
agrees with me in thinking that a wall has been built which, at
present, could not have been knocked down by the few who really
desire Reform.

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 8, 1854

Painfully anxious day. Cabinet to decide on Reform or no Reform
this session.

Came here early with the children, wishing to be cheerful for
John's sake, and knowing how much power Pembroke Lodge and the
children have to make me so. Found this place most lovely; the day
warm and bright as June; the children like larks escaped from a
cage. At half-past seven John came looking worn and sad--no Reform,
and no resignation! Not a man in the Cabinet agreed with him that
it would be best to go on with Reform; though several would have
consented had he insisted, but he did not. Not one would hear
either of his resignation or of Lord Palmerston's. In short--the
present Ministry at any price. John dissatisfied with his
colleagues, and worse with himself. May God watch over him and
guide him.

LONDON, _April_ 11, 1854

The great day is over, and thank God John has stood the trial, and
even risen, I believe, in the estimation of his followers and of
men in general. The regrets, disapprobation, despair, reproaches
that assailed him from the various sections of his party, on the
rumours of his resignation, were of a kind that would have made it
wrong in him to persist; for they proved that the heartiest
reformers were against it, and would uphold him in remaining in the

There was deep silence when he rose. It was soon plain that the
disposition of his supporters was good; and throughout his noble,
simple, generous, touching speech he was loudly cheered by them,
and often by all sides.

At the close there were a few words about his own position: he said
that the course he was taking was open to suspicion from those who
supported him--that if he had done anything--Here his voice failed
him, and there burst forth the most deafening cheers from all parts
of the House, which lasted for a minute or two, till he was able to
go on. If he had done anything for the cause of Reform he still
hoped for their confidence. If not, his influence would be weakened
and destroyed, and he could no longer lead them. This was the
substance--not the words. It was a great night for him. He risked
more than perhaps ought to be risked, but he has lost nothing, I
trust and believe, and I hope he has gained more than the
enthusiasm of a day. May God ever guide and bless him.

_Mr. George Moffatt, M.P., to Lady John Russell_

103 EATON SQUARE, _April_ 12, 1854

DEAR LADY JOHN RUSSELL,--Pardon my saying one word upon the
touching event of last evening. A parliamentary experience of nine
years has never shown me so striking an instance of respectful
homage and cordial sympathy as was then elicited. I know that the
unbidden tears gushed to my cheeks, and looking round I could see
scores of other careless, worldly men struck by the same
emotion--and even the Speaker (as he subsequently admitted to me)
was affected in precisely the same manner. The German-toy face of
the Caucasian was of course as immovable as usual, but Mr. Walpole
wept outright. I sincerely trust that the kindly enthusiasm of this
moment may have in some measure compensated for the vexations and
annoyances of the last two months.

Believe me, your faithful servant,


_Mr. John Boileau to Lady Melgund_

LONDON, _April_ 12, 1854

I wish I could write you a long letter giving an account of last
night in the House of Commons.... I would not have missed last
night for the world. It was a melancholy instance of what a public
servant in these days may have to go through, at the same time such
a noble example of patriotism and self-sacrifice as I believe there
is not another man in England capable of giving--and though I
cannot yet resign my feeling that it would have been better in the
end both for Lord John and the Liberal party had he resigned, at
present I have nothing to do but to admire, love, and respect more
than ever the man who could, for the sake of his country and what
he believes in his judgment to be the best for her, go through as
painful a struggle as he has.... The scene in the House itself I
shall never forget--the sudden pause when he began to speak of
himself and his position--the sobs, and finally the burst of tears,
and the almost ineffectual attempt to finish the remaining
sentences, and at last obliged to give it up and sit down exhausted
with the protracted struggle and the strain of nerve. He was loudly
cheered from both sides of the House.

_Lord John Russell to Mr. John Abel Smith_ [42]

_April_ 12, 1854

DEAR SMITH,--As I find some rumours have been mentioned to Lady
John, false in themselves and injurious to me, I beg to assure you
that it has been the greatest comfort to me to find that I received
from her the best encouragement and support in the course which I
ultimately adopted. She could not fail to perceive and to
sympathize in the deep distress which the prospect of abandoning
the Reform Bill caused me, and it was my chief consolation during a
trying period to find at home regard for my fame and reputation as
a sincere and earnest reformer. That regard has now been shown by
the House of Commons generally, but there is no man in that House
on whose friendship I more confidently rely, and with good reason,
than yourself.

Yours ever truly,


[42] Lord John's election agent.

_Lord Spencer to Lady John Russell_

LEAMINGTON, _April_ 14, 1854

DEAR LADY JOHN,--I cannot resist giving you the trouble to read a
few lines from me on Lord John's speech the other night.
Remembering the conversation we had on the subject of the proposed
Reform Bill, when I ventured, perhaps too boldly and too roundly,
to let out my unworthy opinion in a contrary sense, I think I ought
to tell you that I had arrived some time ago at the same conclusion
which Lord John announced to the House of Commons the other night,
and I really believe if I had not, his reasons would have made me.
I never read a more convincing speech, and I never read so
affecting a one. No man living, I believe, could have made that
speech but your husband, and it gives me great pleasure to offer
you my heartfelt congratulations upon it.... Pray forgive me, dear
Lady John, for intruding thus on your time, and believe me,

Very faithfully yours,


_Lady John Russell to Lord Minto_,

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 24, 1854

MY DEAREST PAPA,--... I must dash at once into my subject, having
only a quarter of an hour to spend on it. It is that of John's
position; he has, I believe, raised his character in the country by
the withdrawal of the Reform Bill. His motives are above suspicion
and unsuspected; whereas, owing to the singular state of the public
mind, it seems pretty sure that they _would_ have been, though
most unjustly, suspected, had he persisted in his resignation. But
in the Cabinet I do _not_ think his position improved, rather
the reverse. The policy of the timid and the shabby and the
ambitious and the cunning and the illiberal triumphed; and all
experience teaches me that John, having made a great sacrifice,
will be expected to make every other that _apparent
expediency_ may induce his colleagues to require. He will always
be pressed and urged and taunted with obstinacy, etc., and told
that he will ruin his reputation, if for the sake of one question
on which he may happen to differ with them, he exposed his country
to the awful danger of a change of Ministry.... It is for the
avowed purpose of carrying on the war with vigour that Reform and
other things are thrown aside. The Ministry has not asked the House
of Commons or the country to declare, but has declared itself
indispensable to the country, and the only possible Ministry
competent to carry on the war. But if it has already proved, and if
it daily goes on to prove, itself incompetent in time of peace to
carry on measures of domestic improvement, and more specially
incompetent either to prepare for or prosecute a great war, has
John done right, has he done what the welfare of the country
requires, in lending himself so long as its indispensable prop? It
is not incompetent from want of ability, but of unity.... He is
considered by them to have wedded himself to them for better for
worse more closely than ever by the withdrawal of Reform.... The
wretched fears and delays and doubts which have, I firmly believe,
first produced this war, and then made its beginning of so little
promise, have had no effect as warnings for the future.... There
will probably soon be great pressure put upon him to take
office.... Nothing but the fact of his having no office, of his
only part in the Government being _work,_ has made him
struggle along a very dangerous way unattacked and unhurt.... With
his opinion of Lord Aberdeen's Ministry he would be _doing
wrong,_ though from no worse motives than excess of deference to
those with whom he acts, were he, after giving up Reform, to give
up the degree of independence which he now has.... You can now
partly conceive how doubtful I feel (and he does too) whether the
withdrawal of Reform will ultimately be an advantage, though it is
obvious that a break-up on that was more to be deprecated than on
almost any other subject. John said this morning of his own accord
that he feared he had been wrong in ever joining this Ministry. I
wake every morning with the fear of some terrible national disaster
before night, of disasters which could be borne if they were
unavoidable, but will be unbearable if they could have been
avoided. Do _not,_ pray, think me a croaker without good
reason for croaking. The greatness of the occasion is not

Ever, my dearest Papa,

Your affectionate child,


Matters were coming to a crisis in the Cabinet. The autumn and early winter
of 1854 brought the victories of Alma, Balaclava, and Inkerman. As the
country grew prouder of its soldiers its indignation at the way the civil
side of the war had been organized increased. The incompetence of the War
Office made the Government extremely unpopular, and a motion was brought
forward in the House of Commons charging them with the mismanagement of the
war. Directly after Mr. Roebuck had given notice of a motion for a
Committee of Inquiry, Lord John wrote to Lord Aberdeen that since he could
not conscientiously oppose the motion, he must resign his office. The view
which most historians have taken of this step is that it was an act of
cowardly desertion on his part. As a member of the Government, he was as
responsible as his colleagues for what had been done, and by resigning he
was admitting that they deserved disgrace. Quotations from two important
historical books will show the view which has been generally taken of his

Lord Morley, in his "Life of Gladstone," says:

... When Parliament assembled on January 23, 1855, Mr. Roebuck on
the first night of the session gave notice of a motion for a
Committee of Inquiry. Lord John Russell attended to the formal
business, and when the House was up went home, accompanied by Sir
Charles Wood. Nothing of consequence passed between the two
colleagues, and no word was said to Wood in the direction of
withdrawal. The same evening, as the Prime Minister was sitting in
his drawing-room, a red box was brought in to him by his son,
containing Lord John Russell's resignation. He was as much amazed
as Lord Newcastle, smoking his evening pipe of tobacco in his
coach, was amazed by the news that the battle of Marston Moor had
begun. Nothing has come to light since to set aside the severe
judgment pronounced upon this proceeding by the universal opinion
of contemporaries, including Lord John's own closest political
allies. That a Minister should run away from a hostile motion upon
affairs for which responsibility was collective, and this without a
word of consultation with a single colleague, is a transaction
happily without precedent in the history of modern English
Cabinets. [43]

[43] Morley's "Life of Gladstone," vol. i, p. 521. See also Lord Stanmore's
"Earl of Aberdeen," chap. X.

Mr. Herbert Paul, in his brilliant "History of Modern England," gives a
version of this occurrence, which, on the whole, is hardly less harsh
towards Lord John.

Well might Lord Palmerston complain of such behaviour as embarrassing. It
was crippling. It furnished the Opposition with unanswerable arguments.
"Here," they could say, "is the second man in your Cabinet, in his own
estimation the first, knowing all that you know, and he says 'that an
inquiry by the House is essential. How then can you deny or dispute it?'"
In a foot-note he adds, "Lord John offered to withdraw his resignation if
the Duke of Newcastle would retire [from the War Office] in favour of
Palmerston. It had been settled before Christmas between Lord Aberdeen and
the Duke that this change should be made. But no one else was aware of the
arrangement, and Lord Aberdeen, though he had assented to it, declined to
carry it out as the result of a bargain with Lord John."

Now both these versions leave out an important fact in the private history
of the Aberdeen Cabinet. Lord John had on two occasions at least,
subsequent to giving way upon the question of the Reform Bill, tried to
resign. Only the entreaties of the Queen and his colleagues had induced him
to remain in the Ministry; and then, it was understood, only until some
striking success of arms should make his resignation of less consequence to
them. But Sevastopol did not fall, and Lord John hung on, urging in the
meantime, emphatically and repeatedly, that the efficiency of the war
administration must be increased, that the control must be transferred from
the hands of the two Secretaries of War to the most vigorous Minister,
Palmerston. At the Cabinet meeting of December 6th, Lord John desisted from
pressing this particular change, owing to Palmerston having written to him
that he thought there were "no broad and distinct grounds" for removing the
Duke of Newcastle, and confined himself, after criticizing the general
conduct of the war, to announcing his intention of resigning in any case
after Christmas. When it was objected that such an announcement was
inconsistent with his remaining leader of the House of Commons till then,
he offered to resign at once. He would have gladly done so had they not
implored him to remain. On December 30th he drew up a memorandum of his
criticisms upon the conduct of the war; and on January 3rd he wrote to Lord
Aberdeen: "Nothing can be less satisfactory than the result of the recent
Cabinets. Unless you will direct measures for yourself, I see no hope for
the efficient prosecution of the war...."[44]

[44] For a full account of these incidents the reader must be referred to
Sir Spencer Walpole's "Life of Lord John Russell," chap. xxv.

When, therefore, on January 23rd, the Opposition demanded an inquiry, he
was in a very awkward position. He had either to bar the way to changes he
had been urging himself all along, or he was obliged to admit openly that
he agreed with the critics of the Government. Had he chosen the first
alternative he would have been untrue to his conviction that a change of
method in conducting the war was absolutely essential to his country's
success; yet in choosing the second he was turning his back on his
colleagues. No doubt the custom of the Constitution asks either complete
acceptance of common responsibility from individual Ministers or their
immediate resignation. Lord John had protested and protested, but he had
_not_ resigned; he was therefore responsible for what had been done
while he was in the Cabinet. He had not resigned because he thought it bad
for the country that the Government should be weakened while the war was at
its height, and he had hoped that by staying in the Cabinet he would be
able to induce the Ministry to alter its methods of conducting the war.
When he discovered that, in spite of reiterated protests, he could not
effect these all-important changes from within, and when the House of
Commons began to clamour for them from without, he decided that no
considerations of loyalty to colleagues ought to make him stand between the
country and changes so urgently desirable. It may be said that since he had
acted all along on the ground that in keeping the strength of the
Government intact lay the best chance of helping to bring the war to a
successful and speedy conclusion, he was inconsistent, to say the least, in
deserting his colleagues at a juncture which made their defeat inevitable.
But the inconsistency is only superficial; when he once had lost hope that
the Government could be got to alter their methods of conducting the war,
their defeat and dissolution, which he had previously striven to prevent,
became the lesser of two evils. It was not an evil at all, as it turned
out, for the dissolution brought the right man--Palmerston--into power.
Lord John's mistake was in thinking that his long-suffering support of a
loose-jointed, ill-working Ministry, like the Aberdeen Ministry, could have
ever transformed it into a strong one.

Lord Wriothesley Russell, [45] whom Lady John wrote of years before as "the
mildest and best of men," sent her a letter on February 8, 1855, containing
the following passages:

It is impossible to hear all these abominable attacks in silence.
It makes me sad as well as indignant to hear the world speaking as
if straight-forward honesty were a thing incredible--impossible. A
man, and above all a man to whom truth is no new thing, says simply
that he cannot assent to what he believes to be false, and the
whole world says, What can he mean by it--treachery, trickery,
cowardice, ambition, what is it? My hope is that our statesmen may
learn from John's dignified conduct a lesson which does not appear
hitherto to have occurred to them--that even the fate of a Ministry
will not justify a lie. We all admire in fiction the stern
uprightness of Jeanie Deans: "One word would have saved me, and she
would not speak it." ... Whether that word would have saved them is
a question--it was their only chance--and he would not speak it;
that word revolted his conscience, it would have been false. I know
nothing grander than the sublime simplicity of that refusal.

[45] Lord John's stepbrother.

Nearly two years later, Lord John Russell, in a letter to his brother, the
Duke of Bedford, said:

... The question with me was how to resist Roebuck's motion. I do
not think I was wrong in substance, but in form I was. I ought to
have gone to the Cabinet and have explained that I could not vote
against inquiry, and only have resigned if I had not carried the
Cabinet with me. I could not have taken Palmerston's line of making
a feeble defence.

How absurd it is to suppose that cowardice could have dictated Lord John's
decision at this time, his behaviour in circumstances to be recounted in
the next chapter shows. Unpopular as his resignation made him with
politicians, it was nothing to the storm of abuse which he was forced to
endure when he chose, a few months later, to stand--now an imputed
trimmer--for the sake of preserving what was best in a policy he had not
originally approved.

The troubles and differences of the Coalition Ministry did not lessen Lord
John's regard for Lord Aberdeen, of whom he wrote in his last years: "I
believe no man has entered public life in my time more pure in his personal
views, and more free from grasping ambition or selfish consideration."

Mr. Rollo Russell, on the publication of Mr. John Morley's "Life of
Gladstone," wrote the following letter to the _Times_ in vindication
of his father's action with regard to Mr. Roebuck's motion:


SIR,--In his admirable biography of Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Morley has
given, no doubt without any intention of injury, an impression
which is not historically correct by his account of my father's
resignation in January, 1855, on the notice of Mr. Roebuck's motion
for a Committee of Inquiry. I do not wish to apply to his account
the same measure which he applies by quoting an ephemeral
observation of Mr. Greville to my father's speech, but I do
maintain that "the general effect is very untrue."

Before being judged a man is entitled to the consideration both of
his character and of the evidence on his side. In the chapter to
which I allude there is no reference to the records by which my
father's action has been largely justified. There is no mention, I
think, of these facts: that my father had again and again during
the Crimean War urged upon the Cabinet a redistribution of offices,
the more efficient prosecution of the war, the provision of proper
food and clothing for the Army, which was then undergoing terrible
privations and sufferings, a better concert between the different
Departments, and between the English and French camps, and,
especially, the appointment of a Minister of War of vigour and
authority. "As the welfare of the Empire and the success of the
present conflict are concerned," he wrote at the end of November to
the head of the Government, "the conduct of the war ought to be
placed in the hands of the fittest man who can be found for the
post." He laid the greatest stress on more efficient

The miseries of the campaign increased. On January 30, 1855, Lord
Malmesbury wrote: "The accounts from the Crimea are dreadful. Only
18,000 effective men; 14,000 are dead and 11,000 sick. The same
neglect which has hitherto prevailed continues and is shown in

He held very strong views as to the duty of the House of Commons in
regard to these calamities. "Inquiry is the proper duty and
function of the House of Commons.... Inquiry is at the root of the
powers of the House of Commons."

He had been induced by great pressure from the highest quarters to
join the Cabinet, and on patriotic grounds remained in office
against his desire. He continually but unsuccessfully advocated
Reform. Several times he asked to be allowed to resign.

When, therefore, Mr. Roebuck brought forward a motion embodying the
opinion which he had frequently urged on his colleagues, he could
not pretend the opposite views and resist the motion for inquiry.

The resignation was not so sudden as represented. On the 6th of
December, 1854, when the Cabinet met, he declared that he was
determined to retire after Christmas; after some conference with
his colleagues, he wrote on December 16th to Lord Lansdowne: "I do
not feel justified in taking upon myself to retire from the
Government on that account [the War Office] at this moment." It is
not the case that a severe judgment was pronounced upon these
proceedings by the "universal" opinion of his contemporaries. His
brother. Lord Wriothesley Russell, wrote: "It makes one sad to hear
the world speaking as if straightforward honesty were a thing
incredible, impossible." And the Duke of Bedford: "My mind has been
deeply pained by seeing your pure patriotic motives maligned and
misconstrued after such a life devoted to the political service of
the public." But the whole world was not against him. Among many
letters of approval, I find one strongly supporting his action with
regard to the Army in the Crimea and his course in quitting the
Ministry, and quoting a favourable article in _The Examiner;_
another strongly approving, and stating: "I have this morning
conversed with more than fifty gentlemen in the City, and they
_all_ agree with me that in following the dictates of your
conscience you acted the part most worthy of your exalted name and
character.... We recognize the importance of the principle which
you yourself proclaimed, that there can be no sound politics
without sound morality." Mr. John Dillon wrote: "To have opposed
Mr. Roebuck's motion and then to have defended what you thought and
knew to have been indefensible would have been not a fault but a

Another wrote expressing the satisfaction and gratitude of the
great majority of the inhabitants of his district in regard to his
"efforts to cure the sad evils encompassing our brave countrymen;"
and another wrote: "The last act of your official life was one of
the most honourable of the sacrifices to duty which have so
eminently distinguished you both as a man and a Minister."

There was no doubt a common outcry against the act of resignation
at the time, but the outcry against certain Ministers of the
Peelite group was still louder, and their conduct, as Mr. Morley
relates, was pronounced to be "actually worse than Lord John's."
"Bad as Lord John's conduct was," wrote Lord Malmesbury on February
22, 1855, "this [of Graham, Gladstone, and Herbert] is a thousand
times worse."

The real question, however, is not what the public thought at the
time, but what a fuller knowledge of the facts will determine, and
I contend that my father's dissatisfaction with the manner in which
the war was conducted, and his failure to induce the Cabinet to
supply an effective remedy, justified if it did not compel his

Mr. Roebuck's motion accelerated a resignation which the Prime
Minister knew had been imminent during the preceding ten weeks.

My father himself admitted that he made great mistakes, that for
the manner of his resignation he was justly blamed, and that he
ought never to have joined the Coalition Ministry. He had a deep
sense, I may here say, of Mr. Gladstone's great generosity towards
him on all occasions. At this distance of time the complication of
affairs and of opinions then partly hidden can be better estimated,
and the conduct of seceders from the Government cannot in fairness
be visited with the reprobation which was natural to
contemporaries. The floating reproaches of the period in regard to
my father's action seem to imply, if justified, that he ought to
have publicly defended the conduct of military affairs which he had
persistently and heartily condemned. It appears to me that not only
his candid nature, but the story of his life, refutes these
reproaches, as clearly as similar reproaches are refuted by the
life of Gladstone.

Yours faithfully,




The debate upon Roebuck's motion of inquiry lasted two nights, and at its
close the Aberdeen Ministry fell, beaten by a majority of 157. Historians
have seen in this incident much more than the fall of a Ministry.

Behind the question whether the civil side of the Crimean campaign had been
mismanaged lay the wider issue whether the Executive should allow its
duties to be delegated to a committee of the House of Commons. "The
question which had to be answered," says Mr. Bright in his "History of
England," "was whether a great war could be carried to a successful
conclusion under the blaze of publicity, when every action was exposed not
only to the criticism and discussion of the Press, but also to the more
formidable and dangerous demands of party warfare within the walls of

After both Lord John and Lord Derby had failed to form a Government, the
Queen sent for Lord Palmerston.

Lady John, when her husband was summoned to form a Government, wrote to him
from Pembroke Lodge on February 3, 1855:

All the world must feel that the burden laid upon you, though a
very glorious, is a very heavy one.... Politics have never yet been
what they ought to be; men who would do nothing mean themselves do
not punish meanness in others when it can serve their party or
their country, and excuse their connivance on that ground. That
ground itself gives way when fairly tried. You are made for better
days than these. I know how much better you really are than me....
You have it in your power to purify and to reform much that is
morally wrong--much that you would not tolerate in your own
household.... "Whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are
lovely, whatsoever things are honest," on these things take your
stand--hold them fast, let them be your pride--let your Ministry,
as far as in you lies, be made of such men, that the more closely
its deeds are looked into, the more it will be admired.... Pray for
strength and wisdom from above, and God bless and prosper you,

But Lord John failing to find sufficient support, Lord Palmerston became
Prime Minister. His first Cabinet was a coalition. It included, besides
some new Whig Ministers, all the members of the previous Cabinet with the
exception of Lord John, Lord Aberdeen, and the Duke of Newcastle. But on
Palmerston accepting the decision of the last Parliament in favour of a
Committee of Inquiry, Gladstone, Sidney Herbert, and Sir James Graham
resigned; their reason being that the admission of such a precedent for
subordinating the Executive to a committee of the House was a grave danger
to the Constitution.

It looked as though the Ministry would fall, when Lord John, who had
previously refused office, to the surprise and delight of the Whigs,
accepted the Colonies. His motives in taking office will be found in the
following letters. He had already accepted a mission as British
Plenipotentiary at the Conference of Vienna, summoned by Austria to
conclude terms of peace between the Allies and Russia. He did not therefore
return at once to take his place in the Cabinet, but continued on his
mission. Its consequences were destined to bring down on him such a storm
of abuse as the careers of statesmen seldom survive. When Gladstone and the
Peelites resigned, Palmerston's Ministry ceased to be a coalition and
became a Whig Cabinet. The fact that Lord John came to Palmerston's rescue,
that he accepted without hesitation a subordinate office and served under
Palmerston's leadership in the Commons, shows that Lord John's reluctance
to serve in the first instance under Lord Aberdeen could not have been due
to a scruple of pride; nor could his obstinate insistence upon his own way
inside the Cabinet, of which the Peelites had complained in the early days
of Lord Aberdeen's Ministry, have been caused by a desire to make the most
of his own importance.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

PARIS, _February_ 23, 1855

I have accepted office in the present Ministry. Whatever objections
you may feel to this decision, I have taken it on the ground that
the country is in great difficulty, and that every personal
consideration ought to be waived. I am sure I give a Liberal
Government the best chance of continuing by so acting. When I come
home, I shall have weight enough in the Cabinet through my
experience and position. In the meantime I go on to Vienna.... I
shall ascertain whether peace can be made on honourable terms, and
having done this, shall return home.

The office I have accepted is the Colonial; but as I do _not_
lead in the Commons, it will not be at all too much for my health.

_Mr. John Abel Smith to Lady John Russell

February_ 24, 1855

I received this morning, to my great surprise, a letter from Lord
John announcing his acceptance of the Seals of the Colonial
Department.... I believe it to be unquestionably the fact that by
this remarkable act of self-sacrifice he has saved Lord
Palmerston's Government and preserved to the Liberal party the
tenure of power.... I never saw Brooks's more thoroughly excited
than this evening, and some old hard-hearted stagers talking of
Lord John's conduct with tears in their eyes.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

BRUSSELS, _February 25,_ 1855

The wish to support a Whig Government under difficulties, the
desire to be reunited to my friends, with whom when separated by
two benches I could have had no intimate alliance, the perilous
state of the country with none but a pure Derby Government in
prospect, have induced me to take this step. No doubt my own
position was better and safer as an independent man; but I have
thrown all such considerations to the winds.... I am very much
afraid of Vienna for the children; but if you can arrive and keep
well, it will be to me a great delight to see you all.... I have
just seen the King, who is very gracious and kind. He thinks I may
make peace.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _February 26,_ 1855

Mr. West called yesterday, and was full of admiration of the
magnanimity of your conduct, but not of its wisdom. J.A. Smith
writes me a kind letter telling me of the delight of your late
calumniators at Brooks's. Frederick Romilly says London society is
charmed. He touched me very much. He spoke with tears in his eyes
of the generosity of your motives, and of the irreparable blow to
yourself and the country from your abandonment of an honourable and
independent position for a renewal of official ties.... Papa is
very grave and unhappy, doing justice of course to your motives,
but fearing that in sacrificing yourself you sacrifice the best
interests of the country.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

BERLIN, _March 1,_ 1855

It was necessary in order to have any effect to decide at once on
my acceptance or refusal of office. I considered the situation of
affairs to be a very serious one. I had hoped that Lord Palmerston,
with the assistance of the Peelites, might go through the session.
Suddenly the secession took place, producing a state of affairs
such as no man ever remembered. Confidence in the Government was
shaken to a very great extent by the mortality and misery of our
Army in the Crimea. I could not resist inquiry; but having yielded
that point, it seemed dastardly to leave men, who had nothing to do
with sending the expedition to the Crimea, charged with the duty of
getting the Army out of the difficulty. Yet it was clear that Lord
Palmerston's Government without my help could hardly stand, and
thus the Government of 1854 would have been convicted of deserting
the task they had undertaken to perform. There remained the
personal difficulty of my serving under Palmerston in the House of
Commons; for my going to the House of Lords would have been only a
personal distinction to me and would not have helped Palmerston in
his difficulty. In the circumstances of the case I thought it right
to throw aside every consideration of ease, dignity, and comfort.
If I had not been responsible for the original expedition to the
Crimea, I would certainly not have taken the office I have now
accepted. Still, it brings the scattered remnants of the Liberal
party together and enables them to try once more whether they can
govern with success.... Lord Minto is now satisfied that I have
followed a public call; for public men must sacrifice themselves in
a great emergency. It was not a time to think of self.... We had an
account of the serious illness of the Emperor of Russia. If he
should die, I should have good hopes of peace....

March 2nd. News come of the Emperor's death. I hope it may be a
good event for Europe, but it makes me sad at present. "What
shadows we are and what shadows we pursue" constantly occurs to my
mind.... My mission may perhaps be more successful in consequence,
but no one can say. At all events you will come to Vienna....

Poor little boys and poor little Agatha! I should feel more
responsible with those children on a journey than with my mission
and the Colonies to boot.

In Paris his conversations with the Emperor confirmed his previous opinion
that the best hope of peace lay in winning Austria over to the policy of
the Allies.

Lady John joined him at Vienna early in March. In order to understand the
following extracts it is necessary to recall the history of the whole

Lord John had been dispatched with vague general instructions, and it must
not be forgotten that Palmerston was privately much more in favour of
continuing the war than Lord John appears to have understood at the time.
Palmerston, like Napoleon III, wished to take Sevastopol before making
peace; Lord John did not therefore receive during his negotiations the
backing he ought to have had from the Government at home. A hitch occurred
at the outset of the negotiations owing to the delay of instructions from
the Sultan. This delay was engineered by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who
was determined that Russia should be still further humiliated, and felt
sure of Palmerston's sympathy in doing everything that tended to prolong
the war. Lord John might complain justly that he was being hindered; but
the English Ambassador at Constantinople, who knew Palmerston's mind, felt
safe in ignoring Lord John's remonstrances. The first two Articles which
formed the subject of discussion dealt with the abolition of the Russian
Protectorate over Servia and the Principalities, and with the question of
the free navigation of the Danube. These Articles were accepted by Russia.
On the third Article, which concerned the Russian power in the Black Sea,
the representatives of the Western Powers could not agree. Gortschakoff,
the Russian emissary, admitted that the Treaty of 1841 would have to be
altered in such a way as would prevent the preponderance of the Russian
power off the coast of Turkey. This could have been secured in two ways:

1. By excluding Russian vessels from the Black Sea altogether;
2. By limiting the number of warships Russia might be permitted to keep

but to neither of these methods would Russia at first agree.

Two other alternative proposals were then made by the Austrian Minister,
Count Buol. The first was based on the principle of counterpoise, which
would give the Allies the right to keep as many ships as Russia in the
Black Sea. The second was a stipulation that Russia should not increase her
fleet there beyond the strength at which it then stood.

The representatives of the Allies were instructed from home not to accept
the proposal of counterpoise. So the second alternative of the Austrian
Chancellor was the last remaining chance of Austria and the Allies agreeing
upon the terms to be offered to Russia. Lord John wrote to the Government
urging them to accept this compromise; for in his opinion the only chance
of peace lay in the Allies acting in concert with Austria. At this juncture
he received a telegram from home saying that the Government were in favour
of a proposal, which had reached them from Paris, for neutralizing the
Black Sea.

Prince Gortschakoff at once pointed out that such a plan would leave Russia
disarmed in the presence of Turkey armed. Lord John considered this a
perfectly just objection on the part of Russia, while the proposal had the
unfortunate effect of detaching Austria from the Allies, who considered
neutralization to be out of the question. M. Drouyn de L'Huys, the French
representative, held the same opinion as Lord John, and when his advice was
not accepted by the Emperor, he sent in his resignation. Lord John likewise
wrote to Lord Clarendon, then Foreign Secretary, tendering his own.

_March 31,_ 1855, VIENNA

Private letters from Lord Clarendon and Lord Lansdowne full of
distrust and disapprobation of the proceedings here, though not
openly finding fault with John. Lord Clarendon's more especially
warlike, and anti-Austrian and pro-French; the very reverse of
every letter he wrote in the days of Lord Aberdeen.

_April 1,_ 1855, VIENNA

More letters and dispatches making John's position still worse;
representing him as ready to consent to unworthy terms, whereas he
was endeavouring to carry out what had been agreed on by the
Government. No doubt Lord Clarendon's present tone is far better
than his former; but that is not the question. John naturally
indignant and talked of giving up mission and Colonies. This I
trust he will not do unless there is absolute loss of character in
remaining, for another breach with Lord Palmerston, who is far less
to blame than Lord Clarendon, would be a great misfortune--besides,
it might lead to the far greater evil of a breach with France. I
rejoice therefore that John has resolved to wait for Drouyn de
L'Huys and do his utmost to bring matters to a better state.

On April 5, at Vienna, when he wished to resign, she wrote: "Anxious he
should delay this step till he hears again from home, as he might repent
it, in which case either retracting or abiding by it would be bad. Having
regretted his acceptance of office it seems inconsistent to discourage
resignation, but is not really so. His reputation cannot afford a fresh
storm, and he must show that he did not lightly consent to belong to a
Ministry of which he knew the materials so well."

At the end of April they came back to England.

_May 5,_ 1855, LONDON

After all the Emperor rejects the plan [the proposal to limit the
Russian fleet in the Baltic to its strength at the close of the
war] on the plea that the army would not bear it. John disturbed
and perplexed.

_May 6,_ 1855, _Sunday_

John went to town for a meeting at Lord Panmure's on Army
Reform--found here on his return a letter from Lord Clarendon
telling him that the Emperor had sent a telegram through Lord
Cowley and the Foreign Office to Walewski, offering him Foreign
Affairs and asking whether the Queen would agree to Persigny as
French Ambassador. Thus the dismissal or resignation of Drouyn
obliged John to resolve on his own resignation unless the Cabinet
should accept his own view.

_Lord John Russell to Lord Clarendon_ [46]

PEMBROKE LODGE, _May_ 6, 1855

MY DEAR CLARENDON,--I was at Panmure's when your box arrived here,
and did not get back till past eight. I am very much concerned at
the removal or resignation of Drouyn. I cannot separate myself from
him; and, having taken at Vienna the same view which he did, his
resignation entails mine. I am very sorry for this, and wished to
avoid it. But I have in some measure got Drouyn into this scrape,
for at first he was disposed to advise the Emperor to insist on a
limitation of ships, and I induced him not to give any advice at
all to the Emperor. Afterwards we agreed very much; and, if he had
stayed in office there, I might have gulped, though with
difficulty, the rejection of my advice here. However, I shall wait
till Colloredo has made a definite proposal, and then make the
opinion I shall give upon it in the Cabinet a vital question with
me. It is painful to me to leave a second Cabinet, and will injure
my reputation--perhaps irretrievably. But I see no other course. Do
as you please about communicating to Palmerston what I have
written. I fear I must leave you and Hammond to judge of the papers
to be given.... But I hope you will not tie your hands or those of
the Government by giving arguments against what the nation may
ultimately accept. I hold that a simple provision, by which the
Sultan would reserve the power to admit the vessels of Powers not
having establishments in the Black Sea, through the Straits at his
own pleasure at all times, ... and a general treaty of European
alliance to defend Turkey against Russia, would be a good security
for peace. If the Emperor of the French were to declare that he
could not accept such a peace, of course we must stick by him, but
that does not prevent our declaring to him our opinion. Walewski
spoke to me very strongly at the Palace in favour of the Austrian
plan, but I suppose he has now made up his mind against it.

I remain, yours truly,


[46] Spencer Walpole's "Life of Lord John Russell," chap, xxvi.

Lord Clarendon replied:


MY DEAR LORD JOHN,--... I am very sorry you did not come in just
now, as I wanted most particularly to see you. I now write this
_earnestly to entreat_ that you will say nothing to anybody at
present about your intended resignation. The public interests and
your own position are so involved in the question, and so much harm
of every kind may be done by a hasty decision, however honourable
and high-minded the motives may be, that I do beg of you well to
weigh _all_ the points of the case; and let me frankly add
that you will not act with fairness, and as I am sure you must wish
to act, towards your colleagues, if you do not hear what some of
them may have to say.

As you allowed me to do as I pleased about informing Palmerston, I
did not think it right to leave him in the dark upon a matter which
seems to me of vital importance. I need not tell you that your
intention causes him the deepest regret, and he feels, as I do, how
essential it is that nothing should be known of it at present. We
are not even in possession of the facts that led to Drouyn's

Yours sincerely,


"Moved by this appeal," says Sir Spencer Walpole, "and by Lord Palmerston's
personal entreaties, thrice repeated, Lord John withdrew his resignation.
Its withdrawal, however convenient it may have seemed to the Government at
the time, was one of the most unfortunate circumstances of Lord John's
political career. It directly led to misunderstandings and to obloquy, such
as few public men have ever encountered."

LONDON, May 8, 1855

John given up thoughts of resignation. Glad of it, since he can
honourably remain. I know how his reputation would have
suffered--not as an honest man, but as a wise statesman.

This was the second time in Lord John's career that his loyalty to the Whig
party involved him in a false position. On May 24th Disraeli proposed a
vote of censure on the Government for their conduct of the war and
condemning their part in the negotiations at Vienna. Lord John made, in
reply to Gladstone and Disraeli, an extremely forcible speech, urging that
the limitation of the number of Russian ships in the Black Sea did not give
sufficient guarantee to the safety of Turkey. Shortly afterwards the
Austrian Chancellor, Count Buol, published the fact that Lord John had been
in favour of this very compromise, which Austria had proposed at the
Congress. He was at once asked whether this was true, and he admitted that
it was. He could not explain that he had taken a different line on his
return because, had he stuck to his opinion, the French alliance would have
been endangered. The Emperor was persuaded that the fall of Sevastopol was
necessary to the safety of his throne. Marshal Vaillant had said to him, "I
know the feelings of the Army. I am sure that if, after having spent months
in the siege of Sevastopol, we return unsuccessful, the Army will not be
satisfied." [47] Since this was the case, Lord John had had to choose
between resigning on the strength of his own opinion that the Austrian
terms were good enough, thus bringing about the fall of the Ministry and a
possible breach with France, or relinquishing his own opinion and defending
the view of the Government and the Emperor in order to preserve a good
understanding with the French. Of course, to all the world it looked as
though, for the sake of office, he had belied his own convictions. Seldom
has any Minister of the Crown been placed in a more painful position. The
Cabinet knew the true circumstances of the case, and the reason why he
could give no explanation for his inconsistency: but many of his friends
did not. A motion of censure was proposed against him, and now that his
presence in the Ministry had ceased to be a support, and had actually
become a source of weakness through the condemnation passed on him by the
country at large, he offered to resign.

[47] Kinglake, "Invasion of the Crimea," vol. iii, p. 348.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _June_ 8, 1855

All is more beautiful than ever this morning. I am on my pretty red
sofa looking out from my middle window in lazy luxury at oak, ivy,
hawthorn, laburnum, and blue sky; not very much to be pitied, am I?
except, my dearest, for the weary, weary separation that takes away
the life of life--and for my anxiety about what is to be the result
of all this, which, however, I do not allow to weigh upon me. We
are in wiser hands than our own, and I should be a bad woman indeed
if so much leisure did not give some good thoughts that I trust
nothing can disturb.... Pray tell dear Georgy not to think any but
cheerful thoughts of me, and that she can do a great deal for me by
asking my friends--Cabinet and ex-Cabinet and all sorts--to visit
me whenever they are inclined for a drive into the country and
luncheon or tea among its beauties.

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 5, 1855

John to town and back. He is so much here now that my life is quite
different, and as I know he neglects no duty for the sake of
coming, I may also allow myself to enjoy it as he does.


Read John's speech and the bitter comments of Cobden and Roebuck.
Whether he was right or wrong in his views of peace, or in not
resigning when they were rejected by the Cabinet, he has nobly told
the simple truth without gloss or extenuation.


John writes that he saw Lord Palmerston and told him that he had
thought the Austrian proposals ought to be accepted at the time;
but that he did not think they ought now, after the late events of
the war. He proposed resignation if it would help the Government.
Lord Palmerston of course begged him to remain, which he will do.
The subject is more painful to me the more I think of it.


An anxious parting with John. He was to go straight to Lord
Clarendon, to find out what portion of the dispatches Lord
Clarendon was prepared to give. His explanation to be made to-night
of a sentence in his Friday's speech, by which some of his
colleagues understood him to declare his opinion to be that he
thought the Austrian proposal ought _now_ to be accepted. He
did _not_ say so, and such an explanation is much to be
lamented. His position is very painful, and my thoughts about him
more so than they have ever been, because now many of his best and
truest friends grieve and are disappointed. God grant he may have
life, strength, and spirit to work on for his country till he has
risen again higher than ever in her trust, esteem, and love.


A very anxious morning, thinking of my dear and noble husband,
doomed to suffer so much for no greater fault than having committed
himself too far without consultation with his colleagues to a
scheme which higher duties persuaded him not to abide by when he
failed to convince them. Anxiety to know his determination and the
state of his spirits made me send a note up to town early, to which
I received his answer about four, that he had written his
resignation last night and sent it to Lord Palmerston this morning.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 13, 1855

We are all well, but I am too anxious to be all day without hearing
from you; besides, and chiefly, I want to cheer you up and beseech
you not to let all this depress you more than it ought. Don't
believe the _Daily News_ when it says you have committed
political suicide--that need not be a bit more true than that there
was _trickiness_ or _treachery_ in your course, which it
also asserts. Depend upon it, it is in your power and it is
therefore your duty to show that you can still be yourself. You
will rise again higher than ever if you will but think you can--if
you will but avoid for the future the rocks on which you have
sometimes split. There is plenty to do for your country, plenty
that you can do better than any other man, and _you must not
sink._ You made, I believe, a great mistake in surrendering your
own judgment to that of those who surrounded you at Vienna; but who
can dare to say you were favouring any interest of your own, or
what malice or ingenuity can pretend to find the shadow of a low or
unworthy motive? Remember Moore's lines:

"Never dream for a moment thy country can spare
Such a light from her darkening horizon as thou."

As to your immediate course, what have you resolved? Surely your
own resignation is the most natural--you might persuade your
colleagues, if they require persuasion, to let you go alone, as you
alone are responsible, that you think a change of Ministry would be
a misfortune, and that you would be unhappy to find that added to
your responsibility.... The feeling that the Ministry may be
sacrificed to you is a very painful one, and I earnestly hope your
wisdom may find some means of averting this.... Now, my dearest,
farewell--would that I could go to you myself. I am told that the
expectation of the Whips is that you will be beat. Tell me as much
as you can and God speed you.... Good-bye, and above all keep up a
good heart for your country's sake and mine.

Lord Palmerston replied to his offer to resign in the following terms [48]:

PICCADILLY, _July_ 13, 1855

MY DEAR LORD JOHN,--I have received, I need not say with how much
regret, your letter of this morning, and have sent it down to the
Queen. But, whatever pain I may feel at the step you have taken, I
must nevertheless own that as a public man, whose standing and
position are matters of public interest and public property, you
have judged rightly. The storm is too strong at this moment to be
resisted, and an attempt to withstand it would, while unsuccessful,
only increase irritation. But juster feelings will in due time
prevail. In the meantime I must thank you for the very friendly and
handsome terms in which you have announced to me your

Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON

[48] Spencer Walpole's "Life of Lord John Russell."

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 15, 1855

John and I agreed that we felt almost unaccountably happy--there
is, however, much to account for it--much that cannot be taken from

_Lady John Russell to the Duke of Bedford_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 16, 1855

MY DEAR DUKE,--You will like to hear how John has borne his new
trouble, and I am very glad to tell you that he is in good spirits,
and as calm as a clear conscience can make him. The week before his
resignation was a very anxious one, reminding me of that sad and
anxious day at Woburn when he determined to dismiss Lord
Palmerston, and of that other when he resolved not to speak to any
of his colleagues before sending his resignation to Lord Aberdeen.
Those occasions were so far like this that it was impossible even
for me, though unable to judge of the questions politically, not to
foresee painful consequences in the altered relations of old
friends, and therefore not to lament his decisions; though he had,
as he was sure to have, high and generous reasons in both cases.
Here again, there has been much to lament in all that led to his
resignation and fresh separation from many with whom he has acted
during half his political life, many so highly valued in public and
private. One cannot but feel all this, nor do I pretend
indifference to what is said of him, for I do think the next best
thing to deserving "spotless reputation" is possessing it. But
there are many comforts--first and foremost, a faith in him that
nothing can shake; then a firm hope that the country will one day
understand him better--besides, the relief was immense of finding
that he would be allowed to resign without breaking up the
Government. In short, we agreed yesterday that after all our pains
and anxieties we both felt strangely and almost unaccountably
happy. Of course, seeing him so was enough to make me so, and
perhaps there is something too in the unexpected freedom of body
and soul which loss of office has given him. This state of mind, in
which he has just left me for London, gives me good hope that he
will get well through his hard task to-night....

Ever yours affectionately,


_Lady John Russell to Lord Minto_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 18, 1855

MY DEAREST PAPA,--I feel very guilty in not having written to you
since all these great events occurred, but you are pretty well able
to guess what I felt about them ... and the newspapers are much
better chroniclers of facts, though not of motives, than I can
be.... Of course, he proposed resignation immediately after he had
made his speech, but it was not then thought the Ministry would be
beat on Bulwer's motion, and Lord Palmerston and the rest begged
him to remain. Very soon, however, there was no doubt left as to
what would be the result of the motion, and as neither John nor
Doddy, the only other person I saw, had a hope that any fresh
resignation would be accepted, we had the painful prospect of the
destruction of the Ministry by his means.... But the surprise was
great as the relief when we found that not one man had the
slightest difficulty in making up his mind, ... and that one and
all felt it a paramount duty "not to shrink from the toils and
responsibilities of office." ... His _spirits_ have not sunk
and his _spirit_ has risen, and the feeling uppermost in his
mind is thankfulness that he is out of it all, and has regained his
freedom, body and soul.... There is plenty left for him to do, and
I trust he will do it as an independent member of Parliament, and
in that position regain his lost influence with the country. I am
most anxious he should not think his political life at an end,
though his official life may go forever without a sigh.... I ought
to add that he is on perfectly friendly terms with all his late
colleagues, ... anxious to help them when he can, but pledged to

Ever, dearest Papa,

Your affectionate child,


PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 23, 1855

Thunderstorm during which I sat in the Windsor summer-house writing
and thinking many sad thoughts; chiefly of my own ill-performance
of many duties on which my whole heart and soul were bent. Had I
but known when we married as much of the world as I know now,
though I should have been far, far less happy, I should have done
better in many ways.... Came in; went to my room with Georgy and
took Baby on my lap. Baby looked at me, saw I had been sad, and
said gravely, "Poor Mama," adding immediately, "Where is Papa?" as
if she thought my sadness must have to do with him. On my
answering, "He is gone to London," she put her dear little arms
round my neck and kissed and coaxed me, repeating over and over,
"Never mind, never mind, my dear Mama," and again, "Never mind, my
poor Mama."

The state of Lady John's health prevented her from leaving home, but Lord
John left Pembroke Lodge with two of the children on August 9th, for a much
needed holiday in Scotland.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _August_ 10, 1855

We got here safely yesterday an hour after time, which made about
fourteen hours from Pembroke Lodge.... Dearest, it is a very
melancholy journey; without you to comfort me I take a very gloomy
view of everything; but I hope the Highland air will refresh me
with its briskness.... I have a letter from Lord Minto, disturbed
at my not coming sooner, and supposing I shall be abused for my
Italian speech, in which he is quite right; but I may save some
poor devil by my denunciation of his persecutors.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _August_ 12, 1855

It grieves me to have to write what will grieve you, but it would
be wrong and useless to hide it from you--I was taken ill suddenly
yesterday.... What I bear least well is the thought of you. I did
so hope that after all your political troubles you might be spared
anxieties of a worse kind; but it was not to be.... I hope,
dearest, you will not hurry home immediately. I should be so sorry
to think you only had the fatigue of two long journeys, instead of
some weeks of Highland air. I know how sadly your enjoyment will be
damaged, but do not--I beg you, dearest--do not let your spirits
sink. Nothing would make your poor old wife so sad. Georgy is the
best and dearest of children and nurses; I am so sorry for her.
Yesterday she was quite upset, far more than I was, but to-day she
has taken heart. God bless you. Think what happy people we still
are--happy far beyond the common lot--in one another and all our

When Lord John heard of her illness, he wrote that he could not be a moment
easy away from her, and came home at once.

PEMBROKE LODGE, _September_ 8, 1855

Thank God! though in bed, I have generally been able to read and
talk, and for the last two days have given Johnny and the little
boys their lessons.... Cannot but hope I am a little less impatient
of illness, a little less unreasonably sorry to be debarred from
air and liberty and all I care for most in this world, than I used
to be.... I pray with my whole heart for the true faith and
patience that can never fail. I pray that, since I cannot teach my
children how to _do,_ I may teach them how to _bear,_ so
that even in illness I may not be wholly useless to them.



During the next four years Lord John remained out of office. He devoted
much time to literary work. Besides writing his "Life of Fox" and editing
the papers of his friend Thomas Moore, he delivered three important
addresses. The first was a lecture on the causes which have checked moral
and political progress. As will be seen from Lady John's diary, he was
still so unpopular that she felt some dread of its reception at the hands
of a large public audience.

LONDON, _November_ 13, 1855

Great day well over.... At-half-past seven set out for Exeter Hall.
John well cheered on his entrance, but not so warmly as to make me
quite secure for the lecture. It was, however, received exactly as
I hoped--deep attention, interrupted often by applause, sometimes
enthusiastic, and generally at the parts one most wished applauded.
A few words from Montague Villiers [49](in asking for a vote of
thanks), his hope that the whole country would soon feel as that
audience did towards a man whose long life had been spent in the
country's service, brought a fresh burst, waving of hats and
handkerchiefs, etc. Went to bed grateful and happy.

[49] Afterwards Bishop of Durham.

In 1855, Lord John bought a country estate, Rodborough Manor, near Stroud
in Gloucestershire, as he wished to have a place of his own to leave to his
children. It was in the parish of Amberley, from which he afterwards took
his second title and his eldest son, Lord Amberley, made Rodborough his
home for some years after his marriage.

_Lady John Russell to Lord Dufferin_

RODBOROUGH MANOR, STROUD, _November_ 16, 1855

DEAR LORD DUFFERIN,--Thanks for your letter. I began to think you
meant to disclaim all connection with your fallen chief. We have
just been, he and I alone, spending a week in London. In that
little week he underwent various turns of fortune--hissed one night
(though far less than the papers said), cheered the next day by
four thousand voices, while eight thousand hands waved hats and
handkerchiefs. I was not at Guildhall, but was at Exeter Hall,
which was just as it should be; for, in spite of a great many noble
and philosophical sentiments, which I always keep in store against
the hissing days, and find of infinite service, I prefer being
present on the cheering days. I hope you will think his lecture
deserved its reception. His squiredom agrees with him uncommonly.
He rides and walks, and drinks ale and grows fat. As for me, I have
not been at all strong since I came here, but I hope I am reviving
now, and shall soon be able thoroughly to enjoy a life happy and
pleasant beyond expression--such peace of mind and body to us both,
such leisure to enjoy much that we both do enjoy with all our
hearts and have been long debarred from, are blessings of no small
value, and when people tell me, by way of cheering me up under a
temporary disgrace, that he is sure to be in office again soon,
they little know what a knell their words are to my heart. However,
_che sara, sara_, and in the meantime we are very happy.
Yesterday I required some excitement, I must say, to carry me
through the day, for alas! I struck forty! Accordingly the children
had provided for it unknown to me, and acted Beauty and the Beast
with rapturous applause to a very select audience. ... We are much
pleased with our new home, green and cheerful and varied and pretty
outside, snug and respectable inside.

Ever sincerely yours,


P.S.--I hear you are going to be married to a great many people;
please let me know how many reports are true.

In 1856 Lady John and the children went abroad. They visited Lady Mary
Abercromby, whose husband was British Minister at the Hague, and later on
they joined Lord John at Antwerp. Thence they travelled to Switzerland,
where they remained till the end of September in a villa beautifully
situated above the Lake of Geneva, near Lausanne. The early part of the
winter was spent in Italy, where Lord John came into personal contact with
Cavour and many other Italian patriots, whose cause he so staunchly
supported during the next few years. The Villa Capponi, where they lived at
Florence, became the meeting-place of all the Liberal spirits in Tuscany;
and the Tuscan Government, who thought that Lord John had come to Florence
to estimate the probable success of the revolutionaries, set spies upon his

_Lord John Russell to Lady Melgund_

VILLA CAPPONI, _December_ 19, 1856

We have passed our time here very agreeably. Besides the
Florentines and their acute sagacity, we have had here many of
those whose wits were too bright or their hearts too warm to bear
the Governments of Naples and Rome.... As for the French
newspapers, it is the custom at Paris and Vienna to let the
newspapers attack everything but their own Government, which is
their notion of the liberty of the Press!

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

VILLA CAPPONI, FLORENCE, _January_ 1, 1857

MY DEAREST MARY,--You have my first date for the New Year.... God
grant it may be a happy one to us all. We began it merrily. Mrs. E.
Villiers, who, with her daughter, is spending the winter here, gave
a little dance. Twelve struck in the middle of a quadrille, which
was accordingly interrupted by general shaking of hands among
chaperons, dancers, and all. There is a cordiality and ease in
society abroad, the charm of which goes far with me to make up for
the absence of some of the merits of society in England. The
subjects of conversation among men are queer, no doubt; but what
people have in them is much easier to get at--and to me it is a
relief not to hear all the ladies talking politics, or rather
talking political personalities, as they do in London.

_January_ 2.--I am afraid, after having been abused as
unworthy of Italy (not so much, however, by you as by Lotty and
Lizzy) you will now charge me with the far worse sin of being a bad
Briton--but _that,_ depend upon it, I am not, whatever
appearances may say--on the contrary, a better one than ever, only
grieving that with such materials as we have at home we do not
manage to make social life pleasanter.... Yesterday we had our
usual Thursday party; and before more than five or six had come, I
went into the girls' sitting-room, which opens out of the
drawing-room, and played reels while the girls and two young
Italians danced--but they had not danced long before our frisky
Papa followed with Count Ferretti, and not only joined in a reel,
but _asked_ for a waltz, and whirled round and round with
Georgy and then with me, and made the old Count do the same. It all
reminded me of our Berlin evenings, except that Papa, though
twenty-four years younger then, was not inspired by the German as
he is by the Italian atmosphere, and never, to my recollection,
joined us in our many merry unpremeditated dances. It was hardly
less a wonder to see Henry follow the example yesterday, and add to
the confusion of the most confused "Lancers" I ever saw danced....
It is impossible to say how this letter has been interrupted....
The weather being too bright and beautiful to allow us to spend the
morning indoors, the first interruption was a drive to San Miniato,
where there is one of the finest views of Florence, and since we
came home I have been jumping up every five minutes from my
writing-table to receive one visitor after another--whereas many an
afternoon passes without a single one--and since they all
disappeared I have been called upon to help in a rehearsal for a
second representation of our "Three Golden Hairs," [50] which is to
take place to-morrow on purpose for Lady Normanby.... The gaiety
and noise of the rehearsals, the fun of the preparations, and the
shyness, which effectually prevents any good acting, all reminds me
of our dear old Minto plays. How very, very long ago all that
seems! Not long ago in time only, but the changes in everybody and
everything make the recollection almost like a dream. I was sorry
to say good-bye to poor old fifty-six, for though not invariably
amiable to us he has been a good friend on the whole, and one
learns to be more than grateful for each year that passes without
any positive sorrow, and leaves no blanks among our nearest and
dearest. God bless you, dearest Mary; pray attribute blots and
incoherences to my countless interruptions.

Yours ever affectionately,


[50] A children's play written by herself.

On his return, Lord John continued to give independent support to the
Ministry until circumstances arose which forced him to oppose Palmerston's
foreign policy. In March Cobden brought forward a motion condemning the
violent measures resorted to against China. Palmerston had justified these
measures on the ground that the British flag had been insulted and our
treaty rights infringed by the Chinese authorities at Canton. A small
coasting vessel called _The Arrow_ (sailing under British colours, but
manned by Chinamen, and owned by a Chinaman) had been boarded while she lay
in the river, and her crew carried off by a party from a Chinese warship in
search of a pirate, who they had reason to think was then serving as a
seaman on board _The Arrow_. Sir John Bowring, Plenipotentiary at
Hong-Kong, demanded that the men should be instantly sent back. It was true
that _The Arrow_ had at the time of the seizure no right to fly the
British flag, for her licence to trade under British colours had expired
the year before; but he argued that since the Chinese could not have known
this when they raided the vessel, they had deliberately insulted the flag
in doing so, and afterwards infringed the extradition laws by refusing to
restore the crew immediately. Upon the British fleet proceeding to bombard
the forts, the men were released, but the apology and indemnity demanded in
addition were not forthcoming. More forts were then bombarded and a number
of junks were sunk. The real motive of these aggressive proceedings lay in
the fact that the English traders had not yet been able to get a free
entrance into Canton, in spite of treaties permitting them to trade there.
Sir John Bowring made the refusal of apologies an excuse for forcing the
Chinese to admit them. Not unnaturally the Chinese retaliated by burning
foreign factories and cutting foreign throats. Meanwhile Palmerston at home
characteristically supported Sir John Bowring through thick and thin, and
the upshot was a long war with China.

Lord John detested aggressive and violent proceedings of this kind. His
speech on Cobden's motion was one of his finest. The following passage from
it expresses the spirit in which later on he conducted the foreign policy
of England himself:

We have heard much of late--a great deal too much, I think--of the
prestige of England. We used to hear of the character, of the
reputation, of the honour of England. I trust, sir, that the
character, the reputation, and the honour of this country are dear
to us all; but if the prestige of England is to be separated from
those qualities ... then I, for one, have no wish to maintain it.
To those who argue, as I have heard some argue, "It is true we have
a bad case; it is true we were in the wrong; it is true that we
have committed an injustice; but we must persevere in that wrong;
we must continue to act unjustly, or the Chinese will think we are
afraid," I say, as has been said before, "Be just and fear not."

Palmerston was defeated by sixteen votes, and went to the country on a
"Civis Romanus" policy, or, as we should say now, with a "Jingo" cry, which
was immensely popular. Its popularity was so great that there seemed no
chance that Lord John would retain his seat for the City. Even Cobden and
Bright were defeated in their constituencies, and the country returned
Palmerston with a majority of seventy-nine. Unpopular since his apparent
change of front regarding the Vienna treaty, it would have been small
wonder if Lord John had taken the advice of his committee and retired from
the contest; but he was bent on taking his one-to-hundred chance, and, as
it turned out, his courage won the seat.

LONDON, _March_ 7, 1857

J.A. Smith called on me to know whether John had determined what
to do. Said I thought he meant to fight the battle. He looked most
woeful, and said, "As sure as I stand here, he will not be the
member for the City."

I said I believed he thought it best at all events to stand. "Ah,
that's all very well if he had seen a chance of a tolerable
minority--but if he has only _two or three_ votes!" He also
said John had as much chance of being Pope as of being M.P. for the

Although a lack of the faculty which conciliates individuals was one of the
criticisms most constantly brought against Lord John as a political leader,
he certainly possessed the power of overcoming the hostility of a popular
audience, without abating one jot of his own independence or dignity. A
bold, good-tempered directness is always effective in such situations. He
never lacked the tact of an orator. In this election the Liberal Committee,
on the first rumour of his resignation, without verifying it, or notifying
their intentions to Lord John, substituted Mr. Raikes Currie, late member
for Northampton, as their Liberal candidate. Lord John at once called a
meeting to protest against the action of the committee. The following
passage in his speech was received with enthusiastic applause, and did much
to secure a favourable hearing for his anti-Palmerstonian views during the
campaign. It must be remembered that he had represented the City for
sixteen years.

"If a gentleman were disposed to part with his butler, his
coachman, or his gamekeeper, or if a merchant were disposed to part
with an old servant, a warehouseman, a clerk, or even a porter, he
would say to him, 'John, I think your faculties are somewhat
decayed; you are growing old, you have made several mistakes; and I
think of putting a young man from Northampton in your place.' I
think a gentleman would behave in that way to his servant, and
thereby give John an opportunity for answering. That opportunity
was not given to me. The question was decided in my absence; and I
come now to ask you, and the citizens of London, to reverse that

His success won back for him some of the general admiration which he had
forfeited by his loyalty to the Ministers in 1855. Many of the best men in
England rejoiced in his triumph; among them Charles Dickens wrote his

_Lord John Russell to Lady Melgund_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 1, 1857

...The contest has brought out an amount of feeling in my favour
both from electors and non-electors which is very gratifying. ...It
is the more pleasant, as all the merchant princes turned their
princely backs upon me, and left me to fight as I could (the two
Hankeys alone excepted)....Fanny has not been very well since the
election ... but this blessed place will, I hope, soon restore her.

_Lady John Russell to Lord Minto_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 4, 1857

The City election engrossed my thoughts for many days, and made it
difficult to write to anybody who cared as much about it as you
till it was over. I have since spent my life in answering letters
and receiving visits of congratulation, most of them very hearty
and sincere, and accordingly very pleasant. I thought my days of
caring for popular applause were over, but there was something so
much higher than usual in the meaning of the cheers that greeted
John whenever he showed himself, that I was not ashamed of being
quite delighted. There was obviously a strong feeling among the
electors and non-electors, in Guildhall and in the streets, that
John had been unfairly and ungratefully set aside, which far
outweighed the effect of his unpopular opinions on ballot and
church rates. Altogether there was a good tone among the people (by
which I don't mean only one of attachment to John) which made me
proud of them. Next to the pleasure of seeing and hearing with my
own eyes and ears how strong his hold upon his countrymen still is,
was the pleasure I was wicked enough to feel at the reception which
greeted the unfortunate Raikes Currie.

The repose of Pemmy Lodge, which I hope you will by and by share
with us, is very welcome after our noisy triumph.

_Mr. Charles Dickens to Lady John Russell_

_May_ 22, 1857

DEAR LADY JOHN,--Coming to town yesterday morning out of Kent, I
found your kind and welcome note referring to the previous day. I
need not tell you, I hope, that although I have not had the
pleasure of seeing you for a long time, I have of late been
accompanying Lord John at a distance with great interest and
satisfaction. Several times after the City election was over I
debated with myself whether I should come to see you, but I
abstained because I knew you would be overwhelmed with
congratulations and I thought it was the more considerate to
withhold mine.

I am going out of town on Monday, June 1st, to a little
old-fashioned house I have at Gad's Hill, by Rochester, on the
identical spot where Falstaff ran away, and as you are so kind as
to ask me to propose a day for coming to Richmond, I should very
much like to do so either on Saturday the 30th of this month or on
Sunday the 31st.

I heard of you at Lausanne from some of my old friends there, and
sometimes tracked you in the newspapers afterwards. I beg to send
my regard to Lord John and to all your house.

Do you believe me to remain always yours very faithfully,


_Lady John Russell to Lord Minto_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _September_ 27, 1857

John's reception at Sheffield equalled anything of the kind I had
ever seen in our "high and palmy" days. So little had we expected
_any_ reception, that when we arrived at the station and saw
the crowds on the platform I could not think what was the matter,
and it was not till there was a general rush towards our carriage
and shouts of John's name that I understood it was meant for him.
From the station we had to drive all through the town to Alderman
Hoole's villa; it was one loud and long triumph. John and Mr. Hoole
and I were in an open carriage, the children following in a closed
one. We went at a foot's pace, followed and surrounded by such an
ocean of human beings as I should not have thought all Sheffield
could produce, cheering, throwing up caps and hats, thrusting great
hard hands into the carriage for John to shake, proposing to take
off the horses and draw us, etc. Windows and balconies all thronged
with waving women and children, and bells ringing so lustily as to
drown John's voice when, at Mr. Hoole's request, he stood up on the
seat and made a little speech. All this honour from one of the most
warlike towns in the kingdom will surprise you, no doubt; indeed, I
am not sure that you will quite approve.

PEMBROKE LODGE, _December 25, 1857_

A bright and lovely Christmas.... Sat more than an hour in the
sunny South summer-house, listening to birds singing and boys and
little May [51] talking and laughing.... Dear, darling children,
how I grudge each day that passes and hurries you on beyond blessed
childhood.... I am too happy--there can hardly be a change that
will not make me less so.... A glorious sunset brought the glorious
day to an end.

[51] Mary Agatha.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Charlotte Portal_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _December_ 26, 1857

I cannot remember a happier Christmas than ours has been, and I am
sure nobody can remember a milder or brighter Christmas sky. I sat
more than an hour yesterday in the sunny South summer-house,
listening to the songs of the blackbirds and thrushes, who have
lost all count of the seasons, and to the merry voices of the boys
and little May, and thinking of many things besides, and wishing I
could lay my hand on old Father Time and stop him in his flight,
for he _cannot_ bring me any change for the better, and he
must very soon take away one of the best joys of my daily life,
since he must take away childhood from my bairnies.

In the meantime I know I am not ungrateful, and when the little
boys in their evening prayer thanked God for making it "such a
happy Christmas," oh! how I thanked Him too. We have had a
Christmas-tree, and for many days before its appearance the
children were in a state of ungovernable spirits, full of
indescribable fun and mischief, and making indescribable uproar.
John has been by no means the least merry of the party, and seeing
a game at "my lady's toilet" going on yesterday evening, could not
resist tacking himself to its tail and being dragged through as
many passages and round as many windings as Pemmy Lodge affords.

Although the Palmerston Ministry seemed firmly seated in power and were
certainly capable of carrying out the spirited and aggressive foreign
policy on which they had so successfully appealed to the country, an
unexpected event occurred during the recess of 1857 which led to their
downfall. On the night of January 14th some Italian patriots threw three
bombs under Napoleon's carriage as he was driving to the Opera. The Emperor
and Empress had a narrow escape, and many spectators were killed or
wounded. The outrage was prompted by a frantic notion that the death of
Napoleon III was an indispensable step towards the freedom of Italy.
Orsini, the leader of the conspirators, was not himself of a crazy criminal
type. He was a fine, soldier-like fellow, who had fought and suffered for
his country's independence, and he had many friends in England among lovers
of Italy who never suspected that he was the kind of man to turn into an
assassin. When it was discovered that the plot had been hatched in London
and the bombs made in Birmingham, a feverish resentment seized the whole
French Army. Addresses were sent by many regiments congratulating Napoleon
on his escape, in which London was described as _ce repaire
d'assassins_ and much abusive language used. The Press, of course, on
both sides, fanned the flame, and for some days the two nations were very
near war. The French Ambassador requested the Government to make at once
more stringent laws against refugee aliens, and in answer to this request
Palmerston brought in a Conspiracy to Murder Bill. Lord John informed the
Government that he, for his part, would oppose any such measure as an
ignominious capitulation to a foolish outcry.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _February_ 4, 1858

I have never seen John more moved, more mortified, more indignant,
than on reading a letter from Sir George Grey yesterday announcing
the intention of the Ministry to make an alteration in the
Conspiracy Laws under the threats of an inconceivably insolent
French soldiery. He had heard a rumour of such an intention, but
would not believe it. He thinks very seriously of the possible
effects of debates on the measure, and feels the full weight of his
responsibility; but he is nevertheless resolved to oppose to the
utmost of his power what he considers as only the first step in a
series of unworthy concessions. . . .

PEMBROKE LODGE, _February_ 20, 1858

John woke me at two with the news of a majority for the amendment
(234 to 215)--the country spared from humiliation, the character of
the House of Commons redeemed. But, privately, what will become of
our victory? Lay awake with the nightmare of coming office upon
me--went to sleep only to dream that John was going to the scaffold
(being interpreted, the Treasury Bench).

Although the division was taken in a very small house, as the above figures
show, Palmerston resigned, and after some hesitation the Queen charged Lord
Derby with forming a Government. This was the second time Lord Derby had
attempted to govern with a majority against him in the House of Commons.
The first task of the new Ministry was to patch up the quarrel with France,
and, thanks to the good sense and dignity of the Emperor, it was managed in
spite of the scandalous acquittal by an English jury of the Frenchman, Dr.
Bernard, who had manufactured Orsini's bombs. The Duc de Malakoff, whose
conduct in the Crimea made him a popular hero in England, replaced M.
Persigny at the French Embassy. His presence helped to remind Englishmen
that it was not many years since they had fought side by side with French
soldiers, and resentment against the Emperor's army died away.

PEMBROKE LODGE, _October_ 30, 1858

Dinner at Gunnersbury. Met Malakoffs, D'lsraelis, Azeglio. Never
before had opportunity for real conversation with D'lsraeli--a sad
flatterer and otherwise less agreeable than so able a man of such
varied pursuits ought to be.

Although these years of comparative leisure had been welcome to them both,
the issues at stake in Europe were so important that Lord John could not
help wishing he again had an opportunity of directly influencing events.

He writes to his wife on December 15, 1858:

When I reflect that a Reform Bill and the liberation of Italy are
"looming in the distance," it gives me no little wish to be in
office; but when I consider what colleagues I should have, I am
cured of any such wish. I can express my own opinions in my own

He feared that he would not have hearty support from his colleagues in his
views on Italy and Reform, which accounts for the above allusion.

In March the Ministry were defeated on Disraeli's Reform Bill, and
Parliament was dissolved. Meanwhile Italy's struggle against Austria was
exciting much deeper interest than franchise questions. On June 24, 1859,
the battle of Solferino was fought. Although the Austrians were beaten, the
cost of victory to the Italians and French was very heavy. The fortunes of
the whole campaign, indeed, had hitherto been due more to the incompetence
of Austrian generalship than either to the strength of the allies or to the
weakness of the Austrian position. Though Solferino was the fifth victory,
the others had been also dearly bought, and the allies still remained
inferior in numbers. Besides, should Austria go on losing ground there was
more than a chance that Prussia would invade France, when the prospects of
Italy would have been at an end, and England too, in all probability,
involved in a general war. Napoleon, who knew the unsoundness of his own
army, dreaded this contingency himself; though the English Court
supposed--and continued to suppose, strangely enough--that to provoke a war
with Prussia was the ultimate end of his policy. Generally speaking, the
English people were enthusiastically Italian, while the Court and
aristocracy were pro-Austrian. "I remarked," wrote Lord Granville to Lord
Canning at this time, "that in the Lords, whenever I said anything in
favour of the Emperor or the Italians, the House became nearly sea-sick,
while they cheered anything the other way, as if pearls were dropping from
my lips."

The elections did not strengthen Lord Derby sufficiently, and in June he

"Lord Derby's Government was beaten this morning," writes Lord
Malmesbury, [52] "by a majority of 13.... The division took place
at half-past two, and the result was received with tremendous
cheers by the Opposition. D'Azeglio (the Piedmontese Minister) and
some other foreigners were waiting in the lobby outside, and when
Lord Palmerston appeared redoubled their vociferations. D'Azeglio
is said to have thrown his hat in the air and himself in the arms
of Jaucourt, the French attache, which probably no ambassador, or
even Italian, ever did before in so public a place."

[52] "Memoirs of an Ex-Minister."

It was not easy to choose Lord Derby's successor, since the Liberal party
was divided; but its two leaders, Palmerston and Lord John, agreed to
support each other in the event of either of them being charged with the
formation of the new Government. The Queen, either because she was
reluctant to distinguish between two equally eminent statesmen, or because
she did not know of their mutual agreement, or more likely because she did
not wish the foreign policy of England to be in the hands of Ministers with
professed Italian sympathies, commissioned Lord Granville to make the
attempt, who, though he felt some sympathy for the patriots, considered the
peace of Europe far more important than the better government of Italy.
After he had failed she sent for Palmerston, under whom Lord John became
Foreign Secretary. This change of Government had a happy and instant effect
upon the prosperity of the Italian cause. Technically, England still
maintained her neutrality with regard to the struggle between Austria and
Victor Emmanuel, backed by his French allies; but the change of Ministry
meant that instead of being in the hands of a neutral Government with
Austrian sympathies, the international negotiations upon which the union
and freedom of Italy depended were now inspired by three men--Palmerston,
Russell, and Gladstone--who did all in their power, and were prepared,
perhaps, to risk war, in order to forward the policy of Victor Emmanuel and

Lady John unfortunately lost her diaries recording events from May, 1859,
to January, 1861; but it is known that she was in close sympathy with her
husband's policy, and she looked back upon the part he played in the
liberation of Italy with almost more pride than upon any other period of
his career. Italian patriots and escaped prisoners from the Papal and
Neapolitan dungeons found a warm welcome at Pembroke Lodge. She was never
tired of listening to their stories, and she felt an enthusiastic ardour
for their cause.


Farewell visit from Spaventa and Dr. Cesare Braico, [53] who goes
to Piedmont Wednesday. Spaventa full of eager but not hopeful talk
on Neapolitan prospects, Dr. Braico very quiet, crushed in spirits,
but not in spirit.

"For me the illusions of life are past," he said. "I have given the
flower of my youth to my country in prison--what remains to me of
life is hers."

In answer to some commonplace of mine about hope he replied, "To
those who have suffered much the word hope seems a lie.... While I
was in prison my mother died--my only tie to life." Said he left
England with regret, and should always gratefully remember the
sympathy he had found here. Told him I thought there was not
enough. "More than in my own country. We passed through four
villages on our way to the port after leaving the prison; not one
person looked at us or gave us a word of kindness; not a tear was
in any eye; not one blessing was uttered." I wondered. I supposed
the people (the Neapolitans) were _avilis_. "More than
_avilili--sono abbruttati_." All these sad words, and many
more, in beautiful Italian, would have touched any heart, however
shut to the great cause for which he and others have given their
earthly happiness, and are about to offer their lives. As I looked
at that fine countenance, so determined, so melancholy, and
listened to the words that still ring in my ear, I felt that,
though he did not say so, he meant to die in battle against
tyranny. He gave me some verses, written with a pencil at the
moment, to little May, who ran into the room while he was here.
Farewell, brave, noble spirit. May God be with thee!

[53] Spaventa and Braico had been prisoners in Italy for about ten years.

To get clear what Lord John's share was in the creation of Italy, we must
remember what hampered him at home and what difficulties he contended with
in the councils of Europe.

The Palmerston Cabinet, as far as ability went, was exceptionally strong.
Lord Granville, himself a member of it, had failed in his own attempt,
because Lord John had stipulated that he should lead the Commons, and that
foreign affairs should be in no other hands but Palmerston's; while
Palmerston, who was as necessary as Lord John to any strong Whig
Government, had declined to serve unless he led the Commons. The motive of
Lord John's demand that Palmerston should be Minister for Foreign Affairs
is clear; he did not trust Lord Granville where Italy was concerned. He
thought extremely well of his qualifications as Foreign Minister--he had
previously appointed him his own Foreign Secretary--but Lord Granville had
objected shortly before to Lord Clarendon's dispatch to Naples, in which
Ferdinand II's misrule had been condemned in terms such as might have
preceded intervention. This dispatch had had Lord John's ardent sympathy,
while Lord Granville had disapproved of it on the grounds that in diplomacy
threatening language should not be addressed to a small State which
prudence would have moderated in dealing with a powerful one, and that the
whole tenor of the dispatch was calculated to draw on a European war.

It was these views upon Italian questions--namely, that peace was
all-important and that little kingdoms, however corrupt and despotic,
should not be browbeaten, which made Lord Granville so acceptable to the
Court. Throughout the next two years he was the principal agent through
whom the Queen and the Prince Consort attempted to mitigate the pro-Italian
policy of Lord John and Palmerston. The Cabinet itself was divided on the
subject; the "two old gentlemen," as Sidney Herbert called them, were for
stretching England's "neutrality" to mean support of every kind short of
(and even at the risk of) committing us to intervention; while the rest of
the Cabinet, with the important exception of Gladstone, were more or less
in favour of abstaining from any demonstration on one side or the other.
When Palmerston came into power the matters stood thus: Austria, after
losing the battle of Solferino, was securely entrenched within her four
strong fortresses of Verona, Mantua, Peschiera, and Legnago, but her
Emperor was already disheartened and disgusted by the fighting.

Napoleon, too, on his side was anxious for peace--most anxious, in fact, to
extricate himself as soon as possible from the dangerous complications in
which his alliance was likely to land him. On the eve of Solferino he had
heard that Prussia, ready for war, was concentrating at Coblenz and
Cologne, and he knew well there was no army in France capable of much
resistance. He began, too, to realize that success pressed home might lead
to the formation on the south-east border of France of a new--and perhaps
formidable--Italian power; a possibility he had not considered when he
planned with Cavour at Plombieres their secret alliance against Austria.
The war was now becoming unpopular with far-sighted Frenchmen precisely
because its success plainly tended towards this issue; and, in addition,
the formation of such a kingdom, by implying the confiscation of the Papal
territories, was most distasteful to his Catholic subjects, with whom
Napoleon already stood badly and wished to stand better. After a brief
armistice, he proposed terms of peace to Austria, which were signed at
Villafranca on July 9th. They ran as follows:

Lombardy was to be surrendered to France and then handed over to Italy; the
Italian States were to be formed into a Federation under the honorary
presidency of the Pope (this was intended to soothe French Catholics);
Venetia, while remaining under Austrian rule, was to be a member of the
Federation, and the Dukes of Tuscany and Modena were to resume their
thrones. Napoleon wished to add a further stipulation that neither side
should use their armies to secure this latter object, but over this there
rose so much haggling that the outcome was only an understanding between
the two Emperors (not committed to paper) that Austria would not oppose the
establishment of constitutional government in those States, should they
themselves desire it, but at the same time she retained by her silence her
right to interfere for other reasons; while France on her side asserted
that she would neither restore the Dukes by force of arms herself nor--and
here lay a point of great importance--allow Austria to interfere should she
act upon the right she had reserved.

As may be imagined, to men who had set their hearts on a free united Italy,
such a treaty was exasperating. However aware Victor Emmanuel might be that
he owed much to France, he could not but be bitterly disappointed by
Napoleon withdrawing his help when the struggle had just begun and when the
freedom of Lombardy alone had been won. Cavour resigned in a passion of
resentment that Victor Emmanuel should have countenanced such a peace.
"Siamo traditi" was the cry at Milan and Turin. Yet Napoleon had already
done much for the union of Italy; in fact, he had done more than he knew,
and far more than he ever intended. Though no one at first fully realized
it, the stipulation that Austria should not attempt to use force to restore
the fugitive Dukes, and that France should abstain from similar
interference, really opened a path for the union of Italy. This was the
first important juncture at which Lord John brought valuable assistance to
the cause of "Italy for the Italians," since he kept Napoleon to his
promise, after he had good reasons to regret it, and bent the whole weight
of England's influence towards persuading reluctant Austria to accept on
her side the principle of complete non-intervention.

It must be remembered that the terms of Villafranca, in so far as the
question of armed intervention was concerned, had never been finally
ratified; and it was Napoleon's wish that the European Powers should form a
Congress at Zuerich, at which the Convention would acquire the stability of
a European treaty, and the nature of the proposed Italian Federation be
finally defined. Lord John and Palmerston, while protesting against the
clause of the treaty which, by including Venice in the Federation, still
left Austria a preponderating influence in Italian affairs, refused to take
part in this Congress unless Napoleon promised beforehand to withdraw his
army from Italy as soon as possible, and to join England in insisting that
no Austrian troops should be allowed in future to cross the borders of
their own Venetian territory.

At home the English Court did its best to prevent its Ministers exacting
these promises. It was the Queen's strong wish that the Federation of Italy
and the restoration of the Dukes of Parma and Modena should stand as
Austria's compensation for yielding Lombardy to Italy, and that the
Congress at Zuerich should insist upon these conditions forming part of the
ultimate European treaty. She objected to the pressure which Lord John was
applying to France, on the ground that in making England's presence
conditional upon an assurance that Napoleon would consider terms more
favourable to Italian independence than those already signed at
Villafranca, her Ministers were abandoning neutrality and intervening
deliberately upon the side of Victor Emmanuel. The contest between the
Court and the Foreign Office was obstinate on both sides; at one time it
seemed likely that Palmerston and Lord John would be forced to resign. Lord
John succeeded, however, in obtaining a favourable assurance from Napoleon
to the effect that if it should prove impossible to construct an Italian
Federation in which Austria _could_ not predominate, he would accept a
proposal for an Italian Federation from which Austria was excluded
entirely. On these terms England consented to appear; but after all these
intricate delays the Congress, dated to meet in January, 1860, never sat.
In December a pamphlet, inspired by Napoleon himself, entitled "Le Pape et
le Congres," had appeared, which advocated the Pope's abandonment of all
territory beyond the limits of the patrimony of St. Peter, and declared
that the settlement of this important matter should lie not with the
Congress, but in the hands of Napoleon himself. If these were the Emperor's
own views, Austria pronounced that she could take no part in the Congress;
for she would then be denied a voice in decisions very near her interests
as a Catholic Power and the first enemy of Italian union. The Congress
consequently fell through.

Meanwhile events had been moving rapidly in Italy. Relieved from the
immediate fear of Austrian coercion, the Tuscan Assembly had voted their
own annexation to the kingdom of Piedmont, and the duchies of Modena and
Parma and the Romagna soon followed suit. The question remained, could
Victor Emmanuel venture to accept these offers? He had the moral support of
England on his side, and in his favour the threat of Napoleon that should
Austria advance beyond her Venetian territory, the French would take the
field against her; but on the other hand, Austria declared that if the King
of Piedmont moved a single soldier into these States she would fight at
once, and Napoleon, while he threatened Austria, did not wish Victor
Emmanuel to widen his borders. Cavour was now again at the head of the
Piedmontese Government, and the problem of British diplomacy was to propose
terms so favourable to Italian liberty that Cavour would not be tempted to
provoke another war as a desperate bid for a united Italy, and yet of a
kind that France and Austria would accept. The terms Lord John offered
were: (1) that Austria and France should both agree to abstain from
intervention, except at the invitation of the five Great Powers; (2) that
another vote should be taken in those States which had desired to
amalgamate with Piedmont before the King should be free to enter their
territories. The other provisions dealt with the preservation of the
_status quo_ in Venetia and the withdrawal of the French troops from
Rome and Northern Italy.

It will be seen that the first clause was merely a reiteration, a
reinforcement with Europe to back it, of the clause which Napoleon, blind
to its results, had attempted to induce the Emperor of Austria to put upon
paper at Villafranca. Having failed then, he had contented himself with
announcing that he would not interfere himself, nor allow Austria to
interfere, by force of arms in Italy, a promise to which English diplomacy
had from that moment firmly held him. We have seen, too, that before Lord
John had consented to take part in the Zurich Congress, he had exacted from
Napoleon an assurance that he would consider, as an alternative to the
Federation proposed at Villafranca, the formation of an Italian Federation
in which Venice (or in other words Austria) should have no part whatever.

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