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innumerable. However, I feel very courageous and that they will appear trifles if he succeeds; and if he is turned out before the end of the session, I shall never regret that he has made the attempt. It is a fearful time to have the government in his hands; but for that very reason I am glad that _he_ and no other has it. The accounts from Ireland are worse and worse, and what with the extreme misery of the unfortunate poor and the misbehaviour of the gentry, he is made very miserable. As he said this morning, at times they almost drive him mad.

During Lady John’s long illness in Edinburgh, Francis Lord Jeffrey had been one of her kindest friends, and had helped to brighten many a weary hour by his visits and conversation.

_Lord Jeffrey to Lady John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _December_ 21, 1846

It is very good in you to remember my sunset visits to you in the hotel. I never pass by its windows in these winter twilights without thinking of you, and of the lessons of cheerful magnanimity (as well as other things) I used to learn by the side of your couch. The Murrays and Rutherfords are particularly well; the latter will soon be up among you, and at his post for the opening of a campaign of no common interest and anxiety. For my part, I am terribly frightened–for the first time, I believe I may say, in my life. Lord John, I believe, does not know what fear is! _sans peur_ as _sans reproche_. But it would be a comfort to know that even he thinks we can get out of the mess in Ireland without some dreadful calamity. And how ugly, in fact, do things look all round the world!

One of the first acts of Lord John’s Government was to vote L10,000,000 for the relief of Ireland. In July, 1847, Parliament was dissolved. When it met again Lord John was reluctantly compelled to ask for its votes in support of an Irish Bill resembling the one on which the Liberals had defeated Peel the year before.

A bare enumeration of the difficulties which beset the new Prime Minister brings home a sense of his unenviable position. Ireland was on the verge of starvation and revolt; everywhere in Europe the rebellions which culminated in 1848 were beginning to stir, seeming then more formidable than they really were in their immediate consequences; in England the Chartist movement was thought to threaten Crown and Constitution; and, in addition, the country had taken alarm at the weakness of its military defences. Lastly, for power to meet all these emergencies Lord John was dependent, at every juncture, upon the animosity between the Protectionists and Peelites proving stronger than the dislike which either party felt for the Government. There were 325 Liberals in the House; the Protectionists numbered 226; the Conservative Free Traders 105; so the day Protectionists and Peelites came to terms would be fatal to the Government. Such were the troubles of the Prime Minister, who was a man to take them hard. As for his wife, her diaries and letters show that, however high her spirit and firm her principles, her nature was an intensely anxious one.

In December, 1846, they both went down for a short holiday to Chorley Wood, where, on the last night of the year, they held a “grand ball for children and servants. All very merry. John danced a great deal, and I not a little. Darling Johnny danced the first country dance, holding his Papa’s hand and mine.”



On January 1, 1847, Lady John wrote in her diary that the year was beginning most prosperously for her and those dearest to her. “Within my own home all is peace and happiness.” About a month later she became dangerously ill in London.

LONDON, _February_ 21, 1847

I have been very ill since I last wrote…. I felt that life was still dear to me for the sake of those I love and of those who depend on me…. I saw the look of agony of my dearest husband; I thought of my heart’s treasure–my darling boy; I thought of my other beloved children; I thought of those still earlier loved–my dear, dear Papa and Mama, brothers and sisters. But I was calm and ready to go, if such should be God’s will…. Dr. Rigby has been not only the most skilful doctor, but the kindest friend.

In the spring of this year, 1847, the Queen offered Pembroke Lodge to the Prime Minister. He accepted with thankfulness, and throughout life both he and Lady John felt deep gratitude to the Queen for their beautiful home.

Pembroke Lodge is a long, low, irregular white house on the edge of the high ground which forms the western limit of Richmond Park. Added to and altered many times, it has no unity of plan, but it has kept a character of its own, an air of cheerful seclusion and homely eighteenth-century dignity. On the eastern side it is screened from the road by shrubs and trees; on the other side, standing as it does upon the top of the steep, wooded ridge above the Thames Valley, its windows overlook a thousand fields, through which the placid river winds, now flowing between flat open banks, now past groups of trees, or by gardens where here and there the corner of an old brick house shows among cedars. The grounds are long rather than wide, and comprise the slope towards the valley and the stretch along the summit of the ridge, where beech, oak, and chestnut shade with their green and solemn presences a garden of shorn turf and border flowers. Walking beneath them, you see between their stems part of some slow-sailing cloud or glimpses of the distant plain; as you descend, the gardens, village, and river near below. There is a peculiar charm in these steep woods, where the tops of some trees are level with the eye, while the branches of others are overhead. As the paths go down the slope they lose their garden-like trimness among bracken and brambles. An oak fence separates the grounds of Pembroke Lodge from the surrounding park.

It was indeed a perfect home for a statesman. When wearied or troubled with political cares and anxieties, the fresh breezes, the natural beauties, and the peace of Pembroke Lodge often helped to bring calm and repose to his mind. What better prospect can his windows command than the valley of the Thames from Richmond Hill, the view Argyll showed Jeanie Deans, which drew from her the admission “it was braw rich feeding for the cows,” though she herself would as soon have been looking at “the craigs of Arthur’s Seat and the sea coming ayont them, as at a’ that muckle trees.” Certainly no home was ever more appreciated and loved than Pembroke Lodge, both by Lord and Lady John Russell and their children. Long afterwards Lady John wrote:

In March, 1847, the Queen offered him Pembroke Lodge for life, a deed for which we have been yearly and daily more grateful. He and I were convinced that it added years to his life, and the happiness it has given us all cannot be measured. I think it was a year or two before the Queen offered us Pembroke Lodge that we came down for a few days for a change of air for some of the children to the Star and Garter. John and I, in one of our strolls in the park, sat under a big oak-tree while the children played round us. We were at that time often in perplexity about a country home for the summer and autumn, to which we could send them before we ourselves could leave London…. From our bench under the oak we looked into the grounds of Pembroke Lodge, and we said to one another that would be the place for us. When it became ours indeed we often thought of this, and the oak has ever since been called the “Wishing Tree.” [31] … From the time that Pembroke Lodge became ours we used only to keep the children in town from the meeting of Parliament till Easter, and settle the younger ones at Pembroke Lodge, and we ourselves slept there Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays with as much regularity as other engagements allowed. This obliged us to give up most dinner engagements in London, and we regretted the consequent loss of society. At the same time he always felt the need of those evenings and mornings of rest and change and country air (besides those welcome and blessed Sundays) after Parliamentary and official toil, rather than of heated and crowded rooms and late hours; and he had the happy power of throwing off public cares and giving his whole heart to the enjoyment of his strolls in the garden, walks and rides in the park, and the little interests of the children. [32]

[31] When Pembroke Lodge was offered to them they remembered–with surprise and delight at its fulfilment–the wish of that day, known to themselves alone.

[32] Appendix at end of chapter.

The short Whitsuntide holiday was spent in settling in at Pembroke Lodge.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _October_ 29, 1847

… You would not wonder so much at his [Lord John’s] silence lately, if you knew what nobody but English Ministers’ wives _can_ know or conceive, how incessantly either his mind or body or both have been at work on financial affairs.

He has gone to town every morning early, Sunday included; worked hard the whole day in Downing Street, writing long letters and seeing one man and one deputation after another, on these most difficult and most harassing subjects–only returning here for tea, and with no time for any other correspondence but that between tea and bed, when a little rest and amusement is almost necessary for him–then waking in the night to think of bullion and Exchequer Bills till time to get up. Now this great anxiety is partly over; for when once he has taken a resolution, after all the reflection and consideration he can give to a subject, he feels that he has done his best, and awaits its success or failure with comparative ease of mind.

The difficulties of this Ministry have been briefly stated at the close of the last chapter; working with a precarious majority, they had to cope with starvation and revolt in Ireland, Chartism in England, and disturbances abroad.

In December, 1847, they passed their Irish Coercion Bill. [33] The passing of this Bill was one of the few occasions on which Lady John could not convince herself that her husband’s policy was the wisest one.

[33] “The state of Ireland was chaotic, and Lord Clarendon (Lord Lieutenant) was demanding a stringent measure of coercion. He did not get it…. The two Bills [Sir Robert Peel’s in 1846 and the Bill of 1847] were so entirely different that to call them by a common name, though perhaps inevitable, is also inevitably misleading” (“History of Modern England,” Herbert Paul, vol. i, chap. iv. See also Walpole’s “Life of Lord John Russell,” vol. i, chap, xvii.)

Subsequently, during the enforcement of the Act, the bitterness of the attacks upon her husband, who, she knew, wished Ireland well, and the sight of his anxiety, made her for a time less sympathetic with the Irish; but she did not, and could not, approve of the Government’s action at the time. Among Irishmen, a Government which had first opposed a Tory Coercion Bill, and when in power proposed one themselves, might well excite indignation. Ireland was already in a state so miserable that the horrors of a civil war with a bare chance of better things beyond must have seemed well worth risking to her people, now the party which had hitherto befriended them had adopted the policy of their oppressors.

On February 26, 1848, the news that Louis Philippe had been deposed reached the House of Commons. “This is what would have happened here,” said Sir Robert Peel, “if these gentlemen [pointing to the Protectionists] had had their way.” The astonishment was great, and the fear increased that the Chartist movement and Irish troubles would lead to revolution at home.

The immediate cause of the revolution in France had been Louis Philippe’s opposition to electoral reform; only one Frenchman in about a hundred and fifty possessed a vote under his reign. “Royalty having been packed off in a hackney coach,” the mildest of Parisian mobs contented itself with smashing the King’s bust, breaking furniture, and firing at the clock of the Tuileries that it might register permanently upon its face the propitious moment of his departure. He had embarked the next day for England, shaven and in green spectacles, and landed upon our shores under the modest pseudonym of “William Smith.” England did not welcome him. His Spanish marriage intrigues had naturally not made him a favourite, and his enemy, Palmerston, was at the Foreign Office. Two days afterwards Louis Napoleon Bonaparte left England to pay his respects to the Provisional Government. “I hasten,” he wrote in memorable words, “I hasten from exile to place myself under the flag of the Republic just proclaimed. Without other ambition than that of being useful to my country, I announce my arrival to the members of the Provisional Government, and assure them of my devotion to the cause which they represent.” He was, however, courteously requested to withdraw from France, since the law banishing the Napoleon family had not yet been repealed, a circumstance which enabled him to return to England in time to enrol himself in the cause of law and order as a special constable at the Chartist meeting.

LONDON, _February_ 26, 1848

We and everybody much taken up with the startling and in some respects terrible events in France. The regency of the Duchess of Orleans rejected by the Chambers, or rather by the Cote Gauche, and a republic proclaimed. Sad loss of life in Paris–the King and Queen fled to Eu–Guizot, it is said, to Brussels. We dined at the Palace, and found the Queen and Prince, the Duchess of Kent, Duke and Duchess of Saxe Coburg, thinking of course of little else–and almost equally _of course_, full of nothing but indignation against the French nation and Guizot, nothing but pity for the King and Queen and royal family, and nothing but fears for the rest of Europe from the infection of such an example. I sat next the Duke of Coburg, who more particularly took this _class_ view with very little reasoning and a great deal of declamation. Said he should not care if Guizot lost his head, and much in the same spirit. The Queen spoke with much good sense and good feeling, if not with perfect impartiality.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _March_ 3, 1848

How anxious you must be as to the effect which the extraordinary events in France will have upon Italy. They have been so rapid and unexpected that all power of reasoning upon them has been lost in wonder. Some pity must inevitably be felt for any man “fallen from his high estate”; but if, as I trust, the report of Louis Philippe’s safety and arrival in England is true, his share of it will be as small as ever fell to the lot of a King in misfortune; for the opinion that he has deserved it is general. It is seldom that history gives so distinct a lesson of retribution. You know what London is in a ferment of exciting events, and can therefore pretty well imagine the constant succession of reports, true and false, from hour to hour, the unceasing cries of the newsmen with 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th editions of all the newspapers, the running about of friends to one another’s houses, the continual crossing of notes in the streets, each asking the same questions, the hopes and fears and the conjectures one hears and utters during the course of the day, and the state of blank, weary stupidity to which one is reduced by the end of it. What _I_ mind most in it all is the immense additional anxiety and responsibility it brings upon my poor husband, who feels it even more than he would have done any other year from being still, I grieve to say, less strong and well owing to his influenza still hanging about him.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Minto_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _March_ 29, 1848

John returned to dinner, but some hours later than I expected him, which in times like these, when each hour may bring an account of a _new_ revolution _somewhere_, or worst of all, of a rebellion in Ireland, is a trial to a Minister’s wife. However, the reason was simply that Prince Albert had detained him talking. … Of course we talked a great deal with our visitors of France, Italy, Germany, and Ireland; but happily, engrossing as these topics are, the bright sun and blue sky and shining river and opening leaves and birds and squirrels _would_ have their share of attention, and give some rest to our minds.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _March_ 31, 1848

The preparations for rebellion in Ireland are most alarming, and John’s usually calm and _hopeful_ spirit more nearly fails him on that subject than any other. The speeches and writings of the Young Ireland leaders are so _extravagantly_ seditious, and so grossly false as to the behaviour of England generally, and the present Ministry in particular to Ireland, that I cannot but hope they may defeat their own objects…. Poor people, the more deeply one feels for the starving and destitute millions among them and admires their patience and resignation, and the more bitterly one resents the misgovernment under which the whole nation suffered for hundreds of years, the fruits of which we are now reaping, the less one can excuse those reckless ones who are now misleading them, who must and _do_ know that the present Ministers have not looked on with indifference and let famine and fever rage at will; that the subject of Ireland is _not_ one to which the Houses of Parliament never give a day’s or an hour’s thought, but that on the contrary, _her_ interests and happiness are daily and nightly the object of more intense anxiety and earnest endeavours on the part of her rulers than any portion of the Empire. We have had a week of such real spring with all its enjoyments, and to-day is so much finer and milder than ever, that the notion of streets and smoke and noise is odious. However, we have enough to go for, private and public. May God prosper the good cause of peace and freedom all over Europe.

The European revolutionary movement of 1848 did not prove serious in England. What actually took place was a mild mass meeting on Kennington Common, well kept within the bounds of decorum by an army of citizen police. In Ireland, a rough-and-tumble fight between Smith O’Brien’s followers and the police was all that came of the dreaded rebellion. But before these events took place the future looked ominous, especially to those responsible for what might happen.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

_April_ 8, 1848

John had a late night in the House, and made two speeches on the unpleasant subjects of the Chartist meeting next Monday and Sir George Grey’s “Security of the Crown” Bill; both of which ought to do good, from their mild and _whiggish_ tone, in spite of the sadly _un_-whiggish nature of the topics; the very, last to which one would wish a Whig Government to have to turn its attention. All minds are full of next Monday, and at this moment we have not a manservant in the house, as they are summoned to a meeting to learn their duties as special constables for that day. I find it difficult to be in the least frightened, and I trust I am right. The only thing I dread is being long without knowing what John is about, and as he would be equally unwilling to know nothing about me, in case of any march upon this house or any other disagreeable demonstration against the Prime Minister, we have arranged that I am to go to Downing Street with him in the morning and remain all day there, as that is the place he will most easily come to from the House of Commons. My spirits have been much lowered about the whole thing this morning, as Mr. Trevelyan has been here and persuaded John that it would be madness for me either to remain in this house or go to Downing Street, both of which would be _marks_ in case of a fight.

Mr. Trevelyan is very seriously alarmed, and talks of the effect the sound of the _cannon_ might have upon me, and has persuaded Lady Mary Wood to go to his house on Clapham Common. I do not yet know what the other Ministers’ wives are going to do, but I _do_ know that I think Milton quite right in saying:

“The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks, Safest and seemliest by her husband bides.”

However, I must do as I am bid, or at least I must do what makes _him_ easiest.

LONDON, _April_ 9, 1848

Hardly knew how much I had been thinking of to-morrow till I had to read aloud the prayers for Queen, country, and Parliament.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

DOWNING STREET, _Monday_, 3 _o’clock_

Well, here we are after all, Lady Grey, Lady Mary Wood, and I, with much easier minds than we have had for many days.

Everything has ended quietly; the meeting has dispersed at the persuasion of its leaders, who took fright. Fergus O’Connor especially has shown himself the most abject blusterer, and came pale and haggard and almost crying to speak to Sir George Grey–and told him how anxious he was that all should come to a peaceable end.

It seems too good to be true, after the various alarming reports and conjectures. Of course there will still be _some_ anxiety until the night is well over, and till we see whether the Chartist spirit rises again after this failure. To begin at the beginning, I ought to tell you that hearing a great clattering at six this morning I got up, and looked out, and saw immense numbers of Lancers ride from the West into Belgrave Square, which they left to go to their destination somewhere about Portland Place, after performing many pretty manoeuvres which I did not understand. Many foot soldiers passed by. I admired the sight, but silently prayed that their services might not be required. We packed the brougham full of mattresses and blankets, as it seemed likely that we should have to sleep here. Now we have little doubt of getting home.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _April_ 12, 1848

Yesterday was chiefly spent in receiving visits and congratulations without end, and very welcome they were. John and I had also a good long walk to freshen him up for a hard day in the House of Commons….

_April_ 13, 1848

Again many notes and visits of congratulation and mutual rejoicing yesterday. God grant that this triumph of the good cause may have some effect on unhappy, misguided Ireland; there is the weight that almost crushes John, who opens Lord Clarendon’s daily letters with an uneasiness not to be told.

_Queen Victoria to Lord John Russell_

OSBORNE, _April_ 14, 1848

The Queen has received Lord John Russell’s letter of yesterday evening. She approves that a form of prayer for the present time of tumult and trouble be ordered. She concludes it is for _peace_ and _quiet_ GENERALLY, which indeed we _may well_ pray for. A thanksgiving for the failure of any attempts like the proposed one last Monday, the Queen would not have thought judicious, as being painful and unlike thanksgiving for preservation from _foreign war_.

Our accounts from Germany yesterday, from different quarters, were very distressing and alarming. So much fear of a _total_ subversion of _all_ existing things. But we must not lose courage or hope.

In the midst of these troubles and forebodings, on the day that the Queen wrote the above letter to Lord John, their second son, George William Gilbert, was born.

Lady John was touched by the following letter from Dr. James Simpson (the eminent physician, later Sir James Simpson), under whose medical care she had been in Edinburgh some years before.

EDINBURGH, _March_, 1848

I heard from two or three different sources that your Ladyship was to be blessed by an addition to your family….

I _once_ made a pledge, that I would gladly leave all to watch and guard over your safety if you desired me. I have not forgotten the pledge, and am ready to redeem it–but not for fee or recompense, only for the love and pleasure of being near you at a time I could possibly show my gratitude by watching over your valued health and life…. With almost all my medical brethren here I use chloroform in all cases. None of us, I believe, could now feel justified in _not_ relieving pain, when God has bestowed upon us the means of relieving it.

_May_ 16, 1848

With a thankful heart I begin my diary again. Another child has been added to our blessings–another dear little boy. John was with me. Oh! his happiness when all was safely over. This child has done much already to restore his health and strength. Summer weather and the success of all his political measures for the last anxious months have also done much.

But the Irish troubles were by no means over; on July 21st Lord John introduced a Bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland. His case rested on Lord Clarendon’s evidence that a rebellion was on the point of breaking out, and circumstances seem to have justified this precautionary measure. The Bill was passed without opposition and with the support of all the prominent men in Parliament.

_July_ 21, 1848

Irish news much the same. A Cabinet at which it was determined to propose suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. John accordingly gave notice of it in the House. I had hoped that a Whig Ministry would never be driven to such measures. I had hoped that Ireland would remember my husband’s rule for ever with gratitude.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _July_ 28, 1848

I have another letter to thank you for. You really must not describe the beauties of that place to me any more. It must so perfectly satisfy the longing for what, after some years of such a life as ours, seems the height of happiness–repose. I struggle hard against this longing, but I doubt whether I should do so successfully without that blessed Pembroke Lodge, from which I always return newly armed for the turmoil. After all, I am much more afraid of my husband being overpowered by this longing than myself. He can so much seldomer indulge in it. He is so much older, and it is so much more difficult for him to portion out his employments with any regularity, which is his best preservative against _fuss_. Yesterday was a most trying day for him, and the more so as he had looked forward to it as one of rest and enjoyment. It was Baby’s christening-day, and we meant to remain at Pembroke Lodge after the ceremony to luncheon; but just as we were going to church came a letter from Sir George Grey with news of the whole South of Ireland being in rebellion, with horrible additions of bloodshed, defection of the troops, etc. As it has, thank God, turned out to be a hoax, a most wicked hoax, of some stockjobbing or traitorous wretch at Liverpool, I shall not waste your time and sympathies by telling you of the anxious hours we spent till seven in the evening, when the truth was made out.

And now let us trust that real rebellion may not be in store. It is dreadful to think of bloodshed, of loss of life, of the desolation of one’s country and of the many, many imaginable and unimaginable miseries of civil war; but one thing I feel would be more dreadful still, weak and womanly as I may be in so feeling–to see one’s husband unable to prevent the miseries, perhaps accusing himself of them, and sinking, as I know mine _would_, by degrees under his efforts and his regrets. Let us trust and pray, then, that we are not doomed to see the reality of so gloomy a picture. It is always difficult to me to look forward to great political failures and national misfortunes, perhaps because I have never known any; but the alarm of yesterday has made them seem more possible.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _August_ 3, 1848

… I do not care for my country or my husband’s success a bit more than is good for me, and I often wonder at and almost blame myself for not being more disturbed about them.

I know that he does his best, and that is all I care very deeply or very permanently about; though there may now and then be a more than commonly anxious day. If I thought him stupid, or mean, or ignorant, or thoughtless, or indifferent in his trade, I should not be satisfied with his doing his best even; but as I luckily think him the contrary of all these things, I am both satisfied and calm, and his own calm mind helps me to be so. Sometimes I think I care much more about politics at a distance than when I am mixed up in them. The fact is that I care very much for the questions themselves, but grow wearied to death of all the details and personalities belonging to them, and consequently of the conversation of lady politicians, made up as it is of these details and personalities. And the more interested I am in the thing itself, the more angry I am with the nonsense they talk about it, and had rather listen to the most humdrum domestic twaddle. Mind, I mean the regular hardened lady politicians who talk of nothing else, of whom I could name several, but will not.

PEMBROKE LODGE, _November_ 24, 1848

We have just had a visit from Louis Philippe. He spoke much of France–said that his wishes were with Louis Bonaparte rather than with Cavaignac for the presidency.

John expressed some fear of war if Louis Bonaparte should be elected; the King said he need have none, that France had neither means nor inclination for war. His account of the dismissal of Guizot’s Ministry was that he said to Guizot “What’s to be done?”–that Guizot gave him three answers: “Je ne peux pas donner la Reforme. Je ne peux pas laisser dissoudre la garde nationale. Je ne peux pas laisser tirer les troupes sur la garde nationale.” Upon this he had said to Guizot that he must change his Ministry: “Cela l’a peut-etre un peu blesse–ma foi, je n’en sais rien. Il a dit que non, que j’etais le maitre.”

When he heard that the National Guard said, if the troops fired on the mob, _they_ would fire on the troops, he knew that “la chose etait finie,” and when he went out himself among the National Guard, to see what the effect of his presence would be, La Moriciere called out to him, “Sire, si vous allez parmi ces gens-la je ne reponds pas de votre vie. Ils vont tirer sur vous.” He answered whatever might come of it he would “parler a ces braves gens”; but they surrounded him, grinning and calling out “La Reforme, nous voulons la Reforme,” pointing their bayonets at him and even over his horse’s neck.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

WOBURN ABBEY, _December_ 10, 1848

The great question of the French Presidency is decided, whether for good or for evil to other countries none can foresee, but certainly to the disgrace of their own. For here is a man, known only by a foolish attempt to disturb France, to whom no party gives credit for either great or good qualities, raised to the highest dignity in the new Republic, one of the advantages of which was to be that men should rise by their own merits alone. The common language of Frenchmen, or at least of French Royalists on the subject, is that they consider his election as a step to the restoration of Monarchy–but it is a shabby way of making the step, or it may prove a false one. You know we have had Louis Philippe and his family as near neighbours at the Star and Garter for some weeks, and we have seen him several times, to thank us for our inquiries after the poor Queen and Princes while they were so ill. Only think how strange to see this great King, this busy plotter for the glory of his own family and the degradation of England, taking refuge in that very England, and sitting in the house of one of those very Ministers whom he had been so proud of outwitting, giving the history of “ma chute.” This he did with great bitterness; representing the whole French nation as a mass of place-hunters, without patriotism and without gratitude, and with no tenderness to Guizot. There is nothing noble and touching in his manner or conversation, or I am sure he would have inspired me with more pity in his fallen state, in spite of many faults as a King. [34]

[34] In later years Lord and Lady John had much friendly intercourse with the Due d’Aumale, son of Louis Philippe, and with the Comte de Paris and the Due de Chartres (grandsons of the King), who were neighbours and welcome visitors at Pembroke Lodge.

During the earlier part of 1849, Lord John suffered from the effects of overwork, and like most tired statesmen he began to think of taking a peerage. On July 11th their third son, Francis Albert Rollo Russell, was born at Pembroke Lodge. The parliamentary recess was an easier period than they had known since taking office, and they had time to attend to other projects, although the difficulties with Palmerston at the Foreign Office were meanwhile coming to a climax.

In August Lord and Lady John founded a school at Petersham, over which she watched with unflagging interest till her death. They were amused by the remark of an old gentleman in the neighbourhood, who said that to have a school at Petersham “would ruin the aristocratic character of the village”–education and aristocracy being evidently, in his eyes, opposing forces.

The classes were held at first in a room in the village; the present building was not erected till 1852.

On August 32nd Lady John wrote in her diary:

Our little school, which had long been planned, was opened in a room in the village the day before Baby’s birthday, July 10th, and goes on well. We celebrated John’s birthday last Saturday by giving the school-children a tea under the cedar, and a dance on the lawn afterwards, and very merry they were.

In August and September the Prime Minister spent some weeks at Balmoral, and wrote as follows on his last day there:

_Lord John Russell to Lady John Russell_

BALMORAL, _September_ 6, 1849

I leave this place to-morrow…. No hostess could be more charming or more easy than the Queen has been–or more kind and agreeable than the Prince, and I shall leave this place with increased attachment to them.

The Queen had been to Ireland in August, and Lord Dufferin wrote an interesting account of her visit in a letter to Lady John.

_Lord Dufferin to Lady John Russell_

_September_ 10, 1849

As the newspaper reporters have already described all, nay more than was to be seen on the occasion of the Queen’s visit to Ireland, I need not trouble you with any of my own experiences during those auspicious days–suffice it to say that the people were frantic with loyalty and enthusiasm. Indeed, I never witnessed so touching a sight as when the Queen from her quarter-deck took leave of the Irish people. It was a sweet, calm, silent evening, and the sun just setting behind the Wicklow mountains bathed all things in golden floods of light. Upon the beach were crowded in thousands the screaming bother-headed people, full of love and devotion for her, her children, and her house, surging to and fro like some horrid sea and asking her to come back quick to them, and bidding her God-speed…. It was a beautiful historical picture, and one which one thought of for a long time after Queen and ships and people had vanished away. I suspect that she too must have thought of it that night as she sat upon the deck and sailed away into the darkness–and perhaps she wondered as she looked back upon the land, which ever has been and still is, the dwelling of so much wrong and misery, whether it should be written in history hereafter, that in _her_ reign, and under _her_ auspices, Ireland first became prosperous and her people contented. Directly after the Queen’s departure, I started on a little tour round the West coast, where I saw such sights as could be seen nowhere else. The scenery is beautiful and wild…. But after one has been travelling for a little while in the far West one soon loses all thought of the scenery, or the climate, or anything else, in astonishment at the condition of the people. I do most firmly believe that in no other country under the sun are there to be found men so wretched in every respect…. All along the West coast, from North to South, there has been allowed to accumulate on land utterly unable to support them a dense population, the only functions of whose lives have been to produce rent and children. Generation after generation have grown up in ignorance and misery, while those who lived upon the product of their labours have laughed and rioted through life as though they had not known that from them alone could light and civilization descend upon these poor wretches. I had often heard, as every one has, of the evils of absenteeism, but till I came and saw its effects I had no notion how great a crime it is…. They [the absentee landowners] thought only of themselves and their own enjoyments, they left their people to grow up and multiply like brute beasts, they stifled in them by their tyranny all hope and independence and desire of advancement, they made them cowards and liars, and have now left them to die off from the face of the earth. Neither can any one living at a distance have any notion of the utter absence of all public spirit among the upper classes…. Legislation can do nothing when there is nothing for it to act upon. Parliament to Ireland is what a galvanic battery is to a dead body, and it is in vain to make laws when there is no machinery to work them. A people must be worked up to a certain point in their dispositions and understandings before they can be affected by highly civilized legislation…. It is only individual exertions, and the personal superintendence of wise and good men, that can ever drill the Irish people into a legislatable state…. One or two things, however, seem to me pretty certain–

1. That under proper management the Irish peasant can be made anything of.

2. That, generally speaking, the present class of proprietors must and will be swept from off the surface of the earth.

3. That in the extreme West the surface is overcrowded, but not at all so a few miles inland.

4. That reclaiming waste lands and bogs at present is to throw money away.

I begin to fear I have written a strange rigmarole, but still I will send it, for though Irish matters cannot interest you as they do me, yet still a letter is always a pleasant thing to receive, even only that one may have the satisfaction of looking at the Queen’s head and breaking the seal.

The next entry from Lady John’s Diary is dated October 9, 1849.

After tea John told me that he had informed the Cabinet of his plan for the extension of the suffrage–to be proposed next session. All looked grave. Sir Charles Wood and Lord Lansdowne expressed some alarm…. To grant an increase of weight to the people of this country when revolutions are taking place on all sides, when a timid Ministry would rather seek to diminish that which they already have, is to show a noble trust in them, of which I believe they will nobly prove themselves worthy.

Lord John’s determination to carry through this measure himself, rather than to leave it in the hands of others, was afterwards the cause of the first defeat of the Whig Government.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _February_ 19, 1850

The weeks are galloping past so much faster even than usual that there is no keeping pace with them.

I neither read, write, teach, learn, nor do anything–unless indeed revising visiting books and writing invitations is to be called something. I want to be with my Mama, to be with my husband, to be with my children, to be with friends, and to be alone, all at the same time. I want to read everything, and to write to everybody, and to walk everywhere, in no time at all. And what is the result? Why, that I lose the very _power_ not only of _doing_, but of _thinking_, to a degree that makes me seriously uneasy and unfits me to be a companion to anybody older or wiser than Wee-wee, or Baby, whose capacities exactly suit mine. All this sounds as if I led a life of bustle, which I do _not_–but it is _too full,_ and there is an end of it. I dare say it is mistaken vanity to suppose that if it was emptier I should do anything worthier of record in the political, literary, or educational line–and at all events it would be hard to find a happier or, I trust, more thankful heart than mine, my troubles being in fact the result of many blessings.

The next session opened with the Greek crisis, which Greville described as “the worst scrape into which Palmerston has ever got himself and his colleagues. The disgust at it here is universal with those who think at all about foreign matters: it is past all doubt that it has produced the strongest feelings of indignation against this country all over Europe, and the Ministers themselves are conscious what a disgraceful figure they cut, and are ashamed of it.”

Palmerston had ordered the blockade of the Piraeus to extort compensation from the Greek Government on behalf of Mr. Finlay (afterwards the historian of Greece), whose land had been commandeered by the King of Greece for his garden, and on behalf of Don Pacifico, a Maltese Jew (and therefore a British subject), whose house had been wrecked by an Athenian mob. The Greek Government had been prepared to pay Compensation in both cases, but not the figure demanded, which turned out, indeed, on investigation, to be in gross excess of fair compensation. Palmerston’s action nearly threw Europe into war; Russia protested, and France, who had offered to mediate, was aggravated by a diplomatic muddle to the verge of breaking off negotiations. A vote of censure was passed by the Opposition in the House of Lords, which had the effect of making Lord John take up the cause of Palmerston in the Commons. The question was discussed in a famous four days’ debate. “It contained,” says Mr. Herbert Paul, “the finest of all Lord Palmerston’s speeches, the first great speech of Gladstone, the last speech of Sir Robert Peel, and the most elaborate of those forensic harangues, delivered successively at the Bar, in the Senate, and on the Bench, by the accomplished personage best known as Lord Chief Justice Cockburn.” Lord John, who was always good at a fighting speech, spoke also with great force. Mr. Roebuck’s motion of confidence in the Ministry was carried, but this success was largely due to the fact that a coalition between the Peelites and the Protectionists seemed impossible. Had it not been carried the Whigs would have resigned, and neither of the other two parties feeling strong enough to succeed them, they did not oppose in force the motion of confidence.

The day after Peel made his speech he was thrown from his horse on Constitution Hill, and on July 2nd he died.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

_June_ 20, 1850

… Day of great political excitement. After dinner I took John to the House and have utterly regretted since that I did not go up to hear him–for he made what I am quite sure you and Ralph will agree with me and all whom I have yet spoken to, was a most perfect answer; and I should have dearly liked to hear the volleys of cheering which he so well deserved. Now we shall either go out with honour or stay in with triumph–welcome either.

_Lord Charles Russell [35] to Lady John Russell_

_July_ 13, 1850

As you were not here to hear John move the monument [of Sir Robert Peel], I must tell you that he succeeded in the opinion of all. Dizzy has just, in passing my chair, said, “Well, Lord John did that to perfection. My friends were nervous, I was not; it was a difficult subject, but one peculiarly fitted for Lord John. He did as I was sure he would, and pleased all those who sit about me.”

[35] Lord John’s stepbrother.

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 17, 1850

For the first time since the session began John spent a whole weekday here, and such a fine one that we enjoyed it thoroughly. Our roses are still in great beauty, but it is a drying blaze. In the evening we cried over “David Copperfield” till we were ashamed.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Melgund_

MINTO, October 5, 1850

This whole morning having been spent fox-hunting, and the afternoon doing something else, I do not exactly remember what, I am obliged to write to you at the forbidden time (after dinner), instead of making myself agreeable. What a quantity I have to say to you, and what a pity to say it all by letter, or, rather, to say a very small part of it by letter, instead of having you here, as I had hoped and looked forward to, enjoying daily _gloomy_ talks with you, such as we always find ourselves indulging in when we are together…. Though I have scarcely walked a step about the place from obedience to doctors, I have driven daily with Mama–and such lovely drives! Oh! the place is in such beauty. I think its greatest beauty–the trees red, yellow, green, brown, of every shade, so that each one is seen separately, and the too great thickness on the rocks is less perceived. This was one of the brightest mornings, and you know what a hunt is on the rocks when the sun shines bright, and the rocks look whiter against a blue sky, and men and horses and hounds place themselves in the most picturesque positions, and horns and tally-hos echo all round, and everybody, except the fox, is in spirits. The gentlemen had no sport, but the ladies a great deal, and I saw more foxes than I had ever seen before….

Our time here is slipping away fearfully fast–there are so many impossibilities to be done. I am hungry to see every brother and sister comfortably and alone, and hungry to be out all day seeing every old spot and old face in the place and village, and hungry to be always with Papa and Mama, and hungry to read all the books in the library–and none of these hungers can be satisfied. We are all much pleased with Mr. Chichester Fortescue. He is agreeable and gentlemanlike and good, and Lotty and Harriet got on very well with him, which is more than I am doing with my letter, for they are singing me out of all my little sense–“Wha’s at the window” was distracting enough, but “Saw ye the robber” ten times worse.

In September the Papal Bull dividing England into Roman Catholic sees threw the country into a state of needless excitement. The year had been a very critical one for the Church of England. The result of the Gorham case, which marked the failure of the High Church clergy to get their own way within the Church, hastened the secession to Rome of Manning, James Hope, and other well-known men. Lord John’s letter to the Bishop of Durham, in which he expressed his own strong Protestant and Erastian principles, increased his popularity; but it was unfortunate in its effect. It encouraged the bigoted alarmist outcries which had been started by the Papal Bull, although his own letter differed in tone from such protests. The Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, which the Government brought forward in response to popular feeling, seems to have been one of the idlest measures that ever wasted the time of Parliament. It remained a dead-letter from the day it passed, yet at the time no Minister had a chance of leading the country who was not prepared to support it.

The Budget made the Ministry unpopular at the beginning of the session; and in February Mr. Locke King succeeded in passing, with the help of the Radicals, a measure for the extension of the franchise, in spite of opposition from the Government. Lord John had a measure of his own of a similar nature in view, as we have seen; but, in spite of his assurance that he would introduce it during the following year, the Radicals voted against him on Mr. King’s motion, and on February 20th he resigned.

The state of parties was such that no rival coalition was possible. Lord Stanley was for widening the franchise, but being a Protectionist he could not work with the Peelites; while Lord Aberdeen would not consent to the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, and was impossible as a leader so long as the anti-Catholic hubble-bubble continued. Lord John was therefore compelled to resume office.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _November_ 22, 1850

I am very glad you and Ralph liked John’s letter to the Bishop of Durham. It was necessary for him to speak out, and having all his life defended the claims of the Roman Catholics to perfect toleration and equality of civil rights with the other subjects of the Queen, I should hardly have expected that they would take offence because he declares himself a Protestant and a despiser of the superstitious imitation of Roman Catholic ceremonies by clergymen of the Church of England. Such, however, has not been the case: and Ireland especially, excited by her priests, has taken fire at the whole letter, and most of all at the word “mummeries.” The wisest and most moderate of them, however, here, and in Ireland with Archbishop Murray I hope at their head, will do what they can to put out the flame. No amount of dislike to any creed can, happily, for a moment shake one’s conviction that complete toleration to every creed and conviction, and complete charity to each one of its professors, is the only right and safe rule–the only one which can make consistency in religious matters possible at all times and on all occasions. Otherwise it _might_ be shaken by the new proofs of the insidious, corrupting, anti-truthful nature and effects of the Roman Catholic belief.

They have shown themselves for ages past in the character and conditions of the countries where it reigns, and now the Pope’s foolish Bull is the signal for double-dealing and ingratitude among his spiritual subjects–and consequently for anger and intolerance among Protestants–wrong, but not quite inexcusable.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _November_ 29, 1850

Far from wondering at your vacillations of opinion about John’s letter, both he and I felt, on the first appearance of Wiseman’s pastoral letter, that the whole scheme was so ridiculous, the affectation of power so contemptible, the change of Vicars Apostolic into Bishops and Archbishops, so impotent for evil to Protestants, while it might possibly be of use to Roman Catholics, that ridicule and contempt were the only fit arms for the occasion. But when he came to consider the chief cause of the measure–that is, the great and growing evil of Tractarianism–of an established clergy becoming daily less efficient for the wants of their parishioners, and more at variance with the laity and with the spirit of the Church to which they outwardly belong; when the whole Protestant country showed its anger or fear; when such a man as the Bishop of Norwich (Hinds), a man so tolerant as to be called by the intolerant a latitudinarian, came to him to represent the necessity for some expression of opinion on the part of the Government, and the immense evils that would result from the want of such an expression; when, after a calm survey of the state of religion throughout the country, he thought he saw that it was in his power to prevent the ruin of the Church of England, not by assuming popular opinions, but merely by openly avowing his own–then, and not till then, he wrote his letter–then, and not till then, I felt he was right to do so.

It has quieted men’s fears with regard to the Pope, and directed them towards Tractarianism. And we are told that a great many (I think one hundred) of the clergy omitted some of their “mummeries” on the following Sunday. That word was perhaps ill-chosen, and he is willing to say so–but I doubt it. Suppose he had omitted it, some other would have been laid hold of as offensive to men sincere in their opinions, however mistaken he may think them.

The letter was a Protestant one, and could not give great satisfaction to Roman Catholics, except such as Lord Beaumont, who prefers the Queen to the Pope. John has all his life showed himself a friend to civil and religious liberty, especially that of the Roman Catholics–and would gladly never have been called upon to say a word that they could take as an insult to their creed. But it was a moment in which he had to choose between a temporary offence to a part of their body and the deserved loss of the confidence of the Protestant body, to which he heart and soul belongs. He could scarcely declare his opinion of the Tractarians, who remain in a Church to which they no longer belong, without indirectly giving offence to Roman Catholics. But it is against their practices that his strong disapprobation is declared, and of the mischief of those practices I dare say you have no idea. I believe many of them, most of them, to be as pious and excellent men as ever existed; but their teaching is not likely to make others as pious and excellent as themselves; and their remaining in the Church obliges them to a secrecy and hesitation in their teaching that is worse than the teaching itself, which would disappear if they became honest Dissenters. I could write pages more upon the subject but have no time, and I will only beg you not to confound John’s letter with the bigotry and intolerance of many speeches at many meetings. I am keeping the collection of letters, addresses, etc., that he has received on the subject–a curious medley, being from all ranks and degrees of men, some really touching, some laughable.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _February_ 11, 1851

I wonder what you will think of John’s speech last Friday. I am quite surprised at the approbation it meets with here–not that I do not think it deserved, for surely it was a fine high-minded one, and at the same time one at no word of which a Roman Catholic, as such, could take offence–but so many people thought more ought to be done, and so many others that nothing ought to be done, that I expected nothing but grumbling. However, the _speech_ is by most persons distinguished from the _measure_. I have not yet quite succeeded in persuading myself, or being persuaded, that we might not have let the whole thing alone; treating an impertinence _as_ an impertinence, to be met by ridicule or indignation as each person might incline, but not by legislation. This being my natural and I hope foolish impulse, I rejoice that the Bill is so mild that nobody can consider it as an infringement of the principle of religious liberty, but rather a protest against undue interference in temporal affairs by Pope, Prelate, or Priest of any denomination. Lizzy and I went to the House last night. I never heard John speak with more spirit and effect. Do not you in your quiet beautiful Nervi look with amazement at the whirl of politics and parties in which we live? I am sometimes ashamed of the time I consume in writing invitations and other matters connected with party-giving–quite as much as John takes to think of speeches, which affect the welfare of so many thousands. But after all it is a part of the same trade, one which, though most dangerous to all that is best in man and woman, may, I trust, be followed in safety by those who see the dangers. I am sure I see them. God grant we may both escape them.

In a letter written to Lady Mary Abercromby, more than two years before, she had expressed her feelings with regard to religious ceremonies. It is interesting that the word _mummeries_, which excited so much indignation in Lord John’s Durham letter, occurs in this letter.

On January 13, 1848, she wrote:

Many thanks to you for the interesting account of the great ceremony on Christmas Day in St. Peter’s, and of your own feelings about it. I believe that whatever is _meant_ as an act of devotion to God, or as an acknowledgment of His greatness and glory, whether expressed by the simple prayer of a Covenanter on the hill-side or by the ceremonies of a Catholic priesthood, or even by the prostrations of a Mahometan, or by the self-torture of a Hindoo, may and ought to inspire us with respect and with a devout feeling, at least when the worshippers themselves are pious and sincere. Otherwise, indeed, if the _mummery_ is more apparent than the solemnity, I do not see how respect can be felt by those accustomed to a pure worship, the words and meaning of which are clear and applicable to rich and poor, high and low….

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _April_ 11, 1851

I wonder what you will do with regard to teaching religion to Maillie when she is older. I am daily more and more convinced of the folly, or worse than folly, the mischief, of stuffing children’s heads with doctrines some of which we do not believe ourselves (though we may think we do), others which we do not understand, while their hearts remain untouched…. Old as Johnny is, he does not yet go to church. I see with pain, but cannot help seeing, that from the time a child begins to go to church, the truth and candour of its religion are apt to suffer…. Oh, how far we still are from the religion of Christ! How unwilling to believe that God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts! How willing to bring them down to suit not what is divine, but what is earthly, in ourselves! Yet, happily, we do not feel or act in consistency with all that we repeat as a lesson upon the subject of our faith–for man cannot altogether crush the growth of the soul given by God–and I trust and believe a better time is coming, when freedom of thought and of word will be as common as they are now uncommon.

In May Lady John writes of a dinner-party in London where she had a long conversation with the Russian Ambassador (Baron Brunow) on the Governments of Russia and England; she ended by hoping for a time “when Russia will be more like this country than it is now, to which he answered with a start, and lifting up his hands, ‘God forbid! May I never live to see Russia more like this country! God forbid, my dear Lady _Joan!'”_

To follow the events which led to the fall of the Ministry it is necessary to look abroad. The power of the Whigs in the House of Commons, such as it was, was the result of inability of Tories to combine, owing to their differences concerning Free Trade. The strength of Lord John’s Ministry in the country depended largely upon the foreign policy of Palmerston, who was disliked and mistrusted by the Court. While Palmerston was defending his abrupt, highhanded policy towards Greece in the speech which made him the hero of the hour, a war was going on between Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, in which the Prince Consort himself was much interested. It was a question as to whether Schleswig-Holstein should be permitted to join the German Federation. Holstein was a German fief, Schleswig was a Danish fief; unfortunately an old law linked them together in some mysterious fashion, as indissolubly as Siamese twins. Both wanted to join the Federation. Holstein had a good legal claim to do as it liked in this respect, Schleswig a bad one; but the law declared that both must be under the same government. Prussia interfered on behalf of the duchies; England, Austria, France, and the Baltic Powers joined in declaring that the Danish monarchy should not be divided.

The Prince Consort had Prussian sympathies, and he therefore disapproved of the strong line which Palmerston took up in this matter. It was not only Palmerston’s policy, however, but the independence with which he was accustomed to carry it out, which annoyed the Court. He was a bad courtier; he domineered over princelings and kings abroad, and his behaviour to his own Sovereign did not in any way resemble Disraeli’s. He not only “never contradicted, only sometimes forgot”; on the contrary, he often omitted to tell the Queen what he was doing, and consequently she found herself in a false position.

At last the following peremptory reproof was addressed to him:

_Queen Victoria to Lord John Russell,_ [36]

Osborne, _August_ 12, 1850

… The Queen requires, first, that Lord Palmerston will distinctly state what he proposes in a given case, in order that the Queen may know as distinctly to what she has given her royal sanction; secondly, having once given her sanction to a measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered or modified by the Minister. Such an act she must consider as failing in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to be visited by the exercise of her constitutional right of dismissing that Minister. She expects to be kept informed of what passes between him and Foreign Ministers before important decisions are taken, based upon that intercourse: to receive foreign dispatches in good time; and to have the drafts for her approval sent to her in sufficient time to make herself acquainted with their contents before they must be sent off. The Queen thinks it best that Lord John Russell should show this letter to Lord Palmerston.

[36] “Letters of Queen Victoria,” vol. ii, chap. xix.

Palmerston apologized and promised amendment, but he did not resign, nor did the Prime Minister request him to do so. His foreign policy had hitherto vigorously befriended liberty on the Continent, and although the Queen and Prince Consort never strained the constitutional limits of the prerogative, these limits are elastic and there was a general feeling among Liberals that the Court might acquire an overwhelming influence in diplomacy, and that certainly at the moment the Prince Consort’s sympathies were too largely determined by his relationship to foreign royal families. It is clear, however, that as long as the Crown is an integral part of the Executive, the Sovereign must have the fullest information upon foreign affairs. Palmerston had gone a great deal too far.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _March_ 14, 1851

We have now heard from you several times since the _crisis_, [37] but not since you knew of our reinstatement in place and power, toil and trouble…. I should hardly have thought it possible that Ralph, hearing constantly from Lord Palmerston, had not discovered the change that has come over him since last year, when he took his stand and won his victory on the principles that became a Whig Minister, of sympathy with the constitutionalists and antipathy to the absolutists all over Europe. Ever since that great debate he has gradually retreated from those principles…. I am not apt to be politically desponding, but the one thing which now threatens us is the loss of confidence of the House of Commons and the country….

[37] The defeat of the Government on Mr. Locke King’s motion for the equalization of the county and borough franchise.

She was not right, however, in her estimate of the dangers which threatened the Ministry; they came from the Foreign Office and the Court, not from the Commons.

Kossuth, the leader of the Hungarian Revolution, had been received in England with great enthusiasm. He made a series of fiery speeches against the Austrian and Russian Governments, urging that in cases in which foreign Powers interfered with the internal politics of a country, as they had done in the case of the Revolution in Hungary, outside nations should combine to prevent it. This was thoroughly in harmony with Palmerston’s foreign policy. He wished to receive Kossuth at his house, which would have been tantamount to admitting to a hostile attitude towards Austria and Russia, who were nominally our friends. Lord John dissuaded him from doing this; but he did receive deputations at the Foreign Office, who spoke of the Emperors of Austria and Russia as “odious and detestable assassins.” The Queen was extremely angry.

Windsor Castle, _November_ 13, 1851

The Queen talked long with me about Lord Palmerston and about Kossuth.

After accusing Lord Palmerston of every kind of fault and folly, public and private, she said several times, “I have the very worst opinion of him.” I secretly agreed with her in much that she said of him, but openly defended him when I thought her unjust. I told her of his steadiness in friendship and constant kindness in word and deed to those he had known in early life, however separated from him by time and station. She did not believe it, and said she knew him to be quite wanting in feeling. This turned out to mean that his political enmities outlasted the good fortune of his enemies. She said if he took the part of the revolutionists in some countries he ought in all, and that while he pretended great compassion for the oppressed Hungarians and Italians, he would not care if the Schleswig-Holsteiners were all drowned. I said this was too common a failing with us all, etc. I allowed that I wished his faults were not laid on John’s shoulders, and John’s merits given to him, as has often been the case–and that it was a pity he sometimes used unnecessarily provoking language, but I would not grant that England was despised and hated by all other European countries.

The Kossuth incident was soon followed by a graver one. On December 1, 1851, Louis Napoleon carried out his _coup d’etat._ The Ministry determined to maintain a strict neutrality in the matter, and a short dispatch was sent to Lord Normanby instructing him “to make no change in his relations to the French Government.” When this dispatch was shown to the French Minister, he replied, a little nettled no doubt by the suggestion that England considered herself to be stretching a point in recognising the Emperor, that he had already heard from their Ambassador in London that Lord Palmerston fully approved of the change. In a later dispatch to Lord Normanby, which had not been shown either to the Queen or to the Prime Minister, Palmerston repeated his own opinion. Now this was precisely the kind of conduct for which he had been reproved: in consequence he was asked to resign. When it came to explanations before Parliament, Palmerston, to the surprise of everybody, made a meek, halting defence of his independent conduct. But he bided his time, and when the Government brought in a Militia Bill, intended to quiet the invasion scare which the appearance of another Napoleon on the throne of France had started, he proposed an amendment which they could not accept, and carried it against them. Lord John Russell resigned and Lord Derby undertook to form a Government.

Lady John wrote afterwards the following recollections of this crisis:

The breach between John and Lord Palmerston was a calamity to the country, to the Whig party, and to themselves. And although it had for some months been a threatening danger on the horizon, I cannot but feel that there was accident in its actual occurrence. Had we been in London, or at Pembroke Lodge, and not at Woburn Abbey at the time, they would have met and talked over the subjects of their difference. Words spoken might have been equally strong, but would have been less cutting than words written, and conciliatory expressions on John’s part would have led the way to promises on Lord Palmerston’s to avoid committing his colleagues in future, as he had done in the case of the coup d’etat, and also to avoid any needless risk of irritating the Queen by neglect in sending dispatches to the Palace. It was characteristic of my husband to bear patiently for a long while with difficulties, opposition, perplexities, doubts raised by those with whom he acted, listening to them with candour and good temper, and only meeting their arguments with his own; but, at last, if he failed to convince them, to take a sudden resolution–either yielding to them entirely or breaking with them altogether–from which nothing could shake him, but which, on looking back in after years, did not always seem to him the best course. My father, who knew him well, once said to me, half in joke and half in earnest: “Your husband is never so determined as when he is in the wrong.” It was a relief to him to have done with hesitation and be resolved on any step which this very anxiety to have done with hesitation led him to believe a right one at the moment. This habit of mind showed itself in private as in public matters, and his children and I were often startled by abrupt decisions on home affairs announced very often by letter.

In the case of the dismissal of Lord Palmerston, there was but Lord Palmerston himself who found fault. The rest of the Cabinet were unanimous in approbation. But there was not one of them whose opinions on foreign policy were, in John’s mind, worth weighing against those of Lord Palmerston. He and John were always in cordial agreement on the great lines of foreign policy, so far as I remember, except on Lord Palmerston’s unlucky and unworthy sanction of the _coup d’etat_.

They two kept up the character of England as the sturdy guardian of her own rights against other nations and the champion of freedom and independence abroad. They did so both before and after the breach of 1851, which was happily closed in the following year, when they were once more colleagues in office. On matters of home policy Lord Palmerston remained the Tory he had been in his earlier days, and this was the cause of many a trial to John. Indeed, it was a misfortune to him throughout his public career that his colleagues almost to a man hung back when he would have gone forward; and many a time he came home dispirited from a Cabinet at which he had been alone–or with only the support of my father, who always stood stoutly by him while he remained Cabinet Minister–in the wish to bring before Parliament measures worthy of the Whig banner of Civil and Religious Liberty, Progress and Reform. Nothing could exceed John’s patience under the criticisms of his colleagues, who were, most of them, also his friends, some of them very dear friends–nothing could exceed his readiness to admit and listen to difference of opinion from them; but it was trying to find the difference always in one direction, and that a direction hardly consistent with the character of a Whig Ministry.

The spirit which pervaded the foreign policy of Lord John Russell is shown in a letter from him to Queen Victoria dated December 29, 1851 [38]:

The grand rule of doing to others as we wish that they should do unto us is more applicable than any system of political science. The honour of England does not consist in defending every English officer or English subject, right or wrong, but in taking care that she does not infringe the rules of justice, and that they are not infringed against her.

[38] “Letters of Queen Victoria,” vol. ii, chap. xx.

Lord and Lady John often regretted that the duties of political life prevented them from having fuller intercourse with literary friends. There are short entries in her diaries mentioning the visits of distinguished men and women, but she seldom had time to write more than a few words. Her diaries–like her letters–were written with marvellous rapidity, and were, of course, meant for herself alone. In March, 1852, she writes: “Thackeray came to read his ‘Sterne’ and ‘Goldsmith’ to us–very interesting quiet evening.” And a little later at Pembroke Lodge: “Dickens came to luncheon and stayed to dinner. He was very agreeable–and more than agreeable–made us feel how much he is to be liked.” Rogers they also saw occasionally, and the letter which follows is a reply to an invitation to Pembroke Lodge. The second letter refers to a volume of poems in manuscript, written by Lady John and illustrated by Lord John’s stepdaughter, Mrs. Drummond. He had lent it to Rogers.

MY DEAR LADY JOHN,–Yes! yes! yes! A thousand thanks to you both! I need not say how delighted I shall be to avail myself of your kindness. I would rather share a crust with you and Lord John in your Paradise then sup in the Apollo with Lucullus himself–yes–though Cicero and Pompey were to be of the party.

Yours most sincerely,


_Mr. Samuel Rogers to Lord John Russell_

_April_ 15, 1852

MY DEAR FRIEND,–How could you entrust me with anything so precious, so invaluable, that when I leave it I run back to see if it is lost? The work of two kindred minds which nor time nor chance could sever, long may it live a monument of all that is beautiful, and long may _they_ live to charm and to instruct when I am gone and forgotten.

Yours ever,


The next entry from Lady John’s diary is dated March 14, 1852:

Yesterday John read a ballad in _Punch_ giving a very unfavourable review of his conduct in dismissing Lord Palmerston, in bringing forward Reform–indeed, in almost all he has done in office. He felt this more than the attacks of graver and less independent papers, and said, “That’s hard upon a man who has worked as I have for Reform”; but the moment of discouragement passed away, and he walked up and down the room repeating Milton’s lines with the spirit and feeling of Milton:

“Yet hate I not a jot of heart or hope, But steer right onward.”



My brother and I have here added a few recollections of our old home.


Pembroke Lodge, an old-fashioned house, long and low, surrounded by thickly wooded grounds, stood on the ridge of the hill in Richmond Park overlooking the Thames Valley and a wide plain beyond. It was approached by a drive between ancient oaks, limes, and evergreens, and at the entrance was a two-roomed thatched cottage, long occupied by a hearty old couple employed on the place, so careful and watchful that an amusing incident occurred one day when our father and mother were away from home. A lady and gentleman who were walking in the Park called at the Lodge, and asked for permission to walk through the grounds. The old lodge-keeper refused, saying she could not give access to strangers during the absence of the family. The lady then told her they were friends of Lord and Lady John, but still the old guardian of the place remained suspicious and obdurate; till, to her surprise and discomfiture, it came out that the visitors to whom she had so sturdily refused admission were no other than Queen Victoria and Prince Albert walking incognito in the Park.

Just outside the Lodge the Crystal Palace on the height of Sydenham could be seen glittering in the rays of the setting sun. In front of the house, eastward, were two magnificent poplars, one 100 feet, the other about 96 feet high, rich and ample in foliage, and most delicately expressive of every kind of wind and weather. They could be seen with a telescope from Hindhead, about thirty miles south-west. Grand old oaks, of seven hundred to a thousand years, grew near the house and made plentiful shade; southwards the grass under them was scarcely visible in May for the glorious carpet of wild hyacinths, all blue and purple in the chequered sunlight. Nearly every oak had its name and place in the affection of young minds. There were also many fine beech-trees in the grounds. On the western slopes were masses of primroses and violets, also wild strawberries. West and south, down the hill, was a wilderness, the delight of children, untended and unspoiled, where birds of many kinds built their nests, where squirrels, rabbits, hedgehogs, weasels, snakes, wood-pigeons, turtle-doves, owls, and other life of the woods had never been driven out, and where visitors hardly ever cared to penetrate. Outside, in Petersham Park, was a picturesque thatched byre where the cows were milked. Petersham Park was then quiet and secluded, before the time came for its invasion by London school treats.

East of the house was a long lawn, secluded from the open Park by a beautiful, wildly growing hedge of gorse, berberis, bramble, hawthorn, and wild roses. Further north was a bowling-green, surrounded by hollies, laburnums, lilacs, rhododendrons, and forest trees; at one end was a rose-trellis and a raised flower garden. The effect of this bright flower garden with its setting of green foliage and flowering shrubs, and majestic old trees surrounding the whole, was very beautiful. At one end, shaded by two cryptomereas, planted by our father–said by Sir Joseph Hooker to be among the finest in England–was a long verandah where our mother often sat in summer with her basket of books, and in winter spread oatmeal for the birds, which grew very tame and would eat out of her hand. Close by was a picturesque old thatched summer-house, covered with roses; on each side were glades of chestnut, hornbeam, and lime trees, and looking westward Windsor Castle could be seen on the far horizon.

Near the house was a noble cedar, with one particularly fine bough under the shade of which the Petersham School children and the “Old Scholars” had their tea on festive occasions, followed by merry games in the grounds. The view from the house and the West walk, and also from King Henry’s Mount, was most beautiful, especially in the spring and autumn, with the varied and harmonious tints of the wooded foreground fading away into the soft blue distance.

It was a glorious Park to live in. The great oaks, the hawthorns, the tall dense bracken, the wide expanses of grass, the herds of red and fallow deer, not always undisturbed, made it a paradise for young people. The boys delighted in the large ponds, full of old carp and tench, with dace and roach, perch, gudgeons, eels, tadpoles, sticklebacks, and curious creatures of the weedy bottom. There was the best of riding over the smooth grass in the open sunny expanses or among the quiet and shady glades. Combe Wood, a little south of the Park, was then an island of pure country, quite unfrequented, and an occasional day there was a treat for all.

Pembroke Lodge, the house, was entered by a porch overhung with wistaria; the walls on each side were covered with laburnums and roses; a long trellised arch of white roses led to the south lawn, which was sheltered from the east by holly, lilacs, and a very fine crataegus. From here was one of the loveliest views in the place, for our mother had made a wide opening under the arched bough of a fine elm-tree which stood like a grand old sentinel in the foreground. The bow room on the south side of the house was occupied by our father during his later years. Here stood the statue of Italy given by grateful Italians and the silver statuette given by the ladies of Bedford in recognition of Reform. The West room next the dining-room had been our father’s study during many of his most strenuous years of office. The floor was heaped high with pyramids of despatch-boxes. One day some consternation was caused by our pet jackdaw, who had found his way in and pulled off all the labels, no doubt intending, in mischievous enjoyment, to tear to shreds despatches of European importance.

Above the bow room was our mother’s bedroom; the view from here was exceedingly beautiful, both near and far, and she was never tired of standing at the open window looking at the loveliness around her, and listening to the happy chorus of birds–and to the nightingales answering each other, and singing day and night, apparently never weary of trying to gladden the world with their glorious melody.

It was indeed impossible to have a happier or more perfect home; the freedom, the outdoor life, the games and fun, in which our father and mother joined in their rare moments of leisure; the hours of reading and talk with them on the high and deep things of life–all this, and much more that cannot be expressed, forms a background in the memory of life deeply treasured and ineffaceable.



Although the Russell Ministry had been defeated upon the Militia Bill (“my tit-for-tat with John Russell,” as Palmerston called it), the victors were very unlikely to hold office for long. In spite of Disraeli’s praise of Free Trade during the General Election, a right-about surprising and disconcerting to his colleagues, the returns left the strength of parties much as they had been before. The Conservatives did not lose ground, but they did not gain it; they remained stronger than any other single party, but much weaker than Whigs, Peelites, and Irish combined. When Parliament met it was obvious that they would soon be replaced in office by some kind of coalition. Defeat came on Disraeli’s Budget. The question remained, who could now undertake to amalgamate the various political groups, which, except in Opposition, had shown so little stable cohesion? Since the downfall of the Derby Government had been the work of a temporary alliance between Peelites and Whigs, the Queen sent for representatives of both parties; for Lord Aberdeen as the leader of Peel’s followers and for Lord Lansdowne as the representative of the Whigs. Naturally she did not wish to summon Palmerston after what had happened; and to have charged Lord John, the other Whig leader, with the formation of a Ministry would have widened the discrepancies within the Whig party itself; for Lord John was unpopular with the Protestant Nonconformist section of the party, who were indignant with him for not strictly enforcing the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, and he had alienated the numerous believers in Palmerston by having forced him to resign. Lord Lansdowne was universally respected, and since he belonged to the rear-guard of the Whig party there seemed a better chance of his coalescing with the Conservatives. When he declined, pleading gout and old age, the task devolved upon Lord Aberdeen, who accepted the Queen’s commission knowing that Palmerston was willing to take office and work _with_, though never again (he said) _under_, [39] Lord John. It was most important that both the leaders of the Whig party, Palmerston and Russell, should come into the Cabinet; for if either stayed outside a coalition, which by its Conservative tendencies already excluded Radicals of influence like Cobden and Bright, it could not have counted upon steady Whig support. Would Lord John consent to take office? Upon his decision depended, in Lord Aberdeen’s opinion, the success or failure of the coalition. He had some talk with Lord John before accepting the Queen’s commission, which persuaded him that he could rely upon Lord John’s consent; but it is clear that at that time Lord John did not consider the matter decided.

[39] Although he asserted at the time that he would never serve under Lord John again, yet it appears that he was the only one of Lord John’s colleagues who was willing to serve under him, when Lord John attempted to succeed Lord Aberdeen. Morley’s “Life of Gladstone,” vol. i, p. 531.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _December_ 24, 1852

God grant our present good accounts may continue. [Lady Minto had been and was then alarmingly ill.] The two last letters have made me as little unhappy as is possible, considering how much there is still to dread.

Whenever my thoughts are not with Mama, they are wearying themselves to no purpose in threading the maze of ravelled politics, or rather political arrangements, in which we are living. Since I have been in _public life_, I never spent a week of such painful _public anxiety_. When I say that the possibility of John taking office under Lord Aberdeen was always an odious one to me, and one which seemed next to an impossibility, don’t for one moment suppose that I say so on the ground of personal claims and personal ambition, which I hold to be as wrong and selfish in politics as in everything else. And I shall feel a positive pleasure, far above that of seeing him _first,_ in seeing him give so undoubted a proof of disinterestedness and patriotism as consenting to be _second_, if that were all. But oh, the danger of other sacrifices–sacrifices as fatal as that one would be honourable to his name–and oh, the infinite shades and grades of want of high motives and aims which, at such a time, one is doomed to find out in the buzzers who hover round the house–while the honest and pure and upright keep away and are silent. At times I almost wish I could throw away all that is honest and pure and upright, as useless and inconvenient rubbish of which I am half ashamed. I never felt more keenly or heavily the immeasurable distance between earth and heaven than now, when after the day has been spent in listening to the plausibilities of commonplace politicians, I open my Bible at night. It is going from darkness into light.

And now you have had enough of my grumpiness, and I shall only add that all has not been pain and mortification. On the contrary, some men have come out bright and true as they were sure to do, and have shown themselves real friends to John and the country, and redeemed the class of politicians from a sweeping condemnation which would be most unjust.

After much hesitation Lord John determined to serve under Lord Aberdeen. He was persuaded to do so, in spite of strong misgivings, by the Queen, who was anxious to avoid the last resort of calling in Palmerston; her request was backed by the appeals of his most trusted political friends.

_Queen Victoria to Lord John Russell_

OSBORNE, _December_ 19, 1852

The Queen has to-day charged Lord Aberdeen with the duty of forming an Administration, which he has accepted. The Queen thinks the moment to have arrived when a popular, efficient, and durable Government could be formed by the sincere and united efforts of all parties professing Conservative and Liberal opinions. The Queen, knowing that this can only be effected by the patriotic sacrifice of personal interests and feelings to the public, trusts that Lord John Russell will, as far as he is able, give his valuable and powerful assistance to the realization of this object.

Lord John’s hesitation seems to have been not unnaturally interpreted by many contemporaries as the reluctance of an ex-Prime Minister to take a subordinate position, and some records of this impression have found their way into history. We have Lady John’s assurance that “this never for one moment weighed with him,” and that his hesitation was entirely due to “the improbability of agreement in a Cabinet so composed, and therefore the probable evil to the country.” His true feeling was shown by a remark made at that time by Lady John, that her husband would not mind being “shoeblack to Lord Aberdeen” if it would serve the country. [40]

[40] Stuart Reid’s “Life of Lord John Russell,” p. 205.

It may be pointed out in corroboration that three years later Lord John was willing to serve under Palmerston himself, both in the House of Commons and the Cabinet, though the latter had thwarted him at every turn in the previous Ministry, and hardly hoped for such generous support. A man in whom scruples of pride were strong emotions would have found far greater cause for standing out then, than at this juncture. Indeed, such an interpretation of his motives does not agree with the impression which Lord John’s character leaves on the mind. From his reserved speech, shy manner, and uncommunicative patience under criticism, from the silent abruptness of his decisions, his formidable trenchancy in self-defence when openly attacked, and his aloofness from any attempts to curry favour with the Press, it may be inferred that his character was a dignified one; but he was dignified precisely in the way which makes such actions as taking a subordinate political position particularly easy. He foresaw that his position would be one of extreme difficulty, but not–here lay his error–that it would prove an impossible one. It must be remembered that by subordinating himself he was also in a certain measure subordinating his party. The Whigs were contributing the majority of votes in the House of Commons, and they demanded that they should be proportionately powerful in the Cabinet. He was therefore forced to arrogate to himself an exceptional position in the Cabinet as the leader and representative of what was in fact a separate party. The Whigs kept complaining that he did not press their claims to office with sufficient importunity, while the Peelites reproached him with refusing to work under his chief like every other Minister. Whenever he subordinated the claims of the Whigs for the sake of working better with Lord Aberdeen, he laid himself open to charges of betraying his followers, and when he pressed their claims, he was accused of arrogance towards his chief. This, however, was a dilemma, the vexations of which wore off as places were apportioned and the Ministry got to its work; there was a more fatal incongruity in his position. He was technically a subordinate Minister, pledged to reform (as Prime Minister he had opposed a Radical Reform Bill on the ground that he would introduce his own), and the representative of the strongest party, also pledged to reform, in a coalition Cabinet anxious for the most part to seize the first excuse to postpone it indefinitely. In ordinary circumstances, if thwarted by his colleagues he would have resigned; but as it turned out, their excuse for thwarting him was at the same time the strongest claim on his loyalty. They made Crimean difficulties at once an excuse for postponing reform and for urging him to postpone his resignation.

At first, however, as far as those who were not behind the scenes could see, all went smoothly with the Coalition. The work of the session was admirably carried out. Lord John entered the Cabinet as Foreign Secretary; but as the duties of that office combined with the leadership of the House of Commons were too much for one man, he resigned, remaining in the Cabinet without office until 1854, when he became Colonial Secretary. The great event of the session was Gladstone’s famous first Budget.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

_April_ 19, 1853

Gladstone’s speech was magnificent, and I think his plan will do…. I think we shall carry this Budget, as Gladstone has put it so clearly that hardly a Liberal can vote with Disraeli to put him in our place. It rejoices me to be party to a large plan, and to have to do with a man who seeks to benefit the country rather than to carry a majority by concessions to fear.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 20, 1853

I am delighted with Gladstone’s Budget. I don’t pretend to judge of all its details, but such of its proposals as I understand are all to my mind, and the spirit and temper of the whole speech admirable; so bold, so benevolent, so mild, so uncompromising. I read it aloud to Lizzy and the girls, and we were in the middle of it when your letter came telling us how fine it had been…. Surely you will carry it? I feel no fear, except of your allowing it to be damaged in the carrying.

_Mrs. Gladstone to Lady John Russell_

_April_, 1853

MY DEAR LADY JOHN,–I thank you heartily for your very kind note. You know well from your own experience how happy I must be now.

We have indeed great reason to be thankful: the approbation of such men as your husband is no slight encouragement and no slight happiness. I assure you we have felt this deeply. After great anxiety one feels more as if in a happy dream than in real life and you will not laugh at the relief to me of seeing him well after such an effort and after such labour as it has been for weeks….

We have often thought of you in your illness and heard of your well-doing with sincere pleasure.

Once more thanking you, believe me, dear Lady John,

Yours sincerely,


I must tell you with what comfort and interest I watched Lord John’s countenance during the speech.

On March 28, 1853, Lady John’s daughter, Mary Agatha, was born at Pembroke Lodge. Lady Minto was well enough to write a bright and happy letter of congratulation on the birth of her granddaughter, but her health was gradually failing, and on July 21st she died at Nervi, in Italy.

PEMBROKE LODGE, _August_ 3, 1853

The world is changed to me for ever since I last wrote. My dear, dear Mama has left it, and I shall never again see that face so long and deeply loved. Tuesday, July 26th, was the day we heard. Thursday, July 21st, the day her angel spirit was summoned to that happy home where tears are wiped from all eyes. I pray to think more of her, glorious, happy and at rest, than of ourselves. But it is hard, very, very hard to part. O Mama, Mama, I call and you do not come. I dream of you, I wake, and you are not there.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

MINTO, _August_ 10, 1853

You will feel a melancholy pang at the date of the place from which I write. It is indeed very sorrowful to see Lord Minto and so many of his sons and daughters assembled to perform the last duties to her who was the life and comfort of them all…. The place is looking beautiful, and your mother’s garden was never so lovely. It is pleasant in all these sorrows and trials to see a family so united in affection, and so totally without feelings or objects that partake of selfishness or ill-will.

The old poet Rogers, who had been attached to Lady John since her earliest days in London society, now wrote to her in her sorrow. His note is worth preserving. He was past his ninetieth year when he wrote, and it reveals a side of him which is lost sight of in the memoirs of the time, where he usually appears as saying many neat things, but few kind ones. Mrs. Norton, in a letter to Hayward, gives an authentic picture of him at this time. She begins by saying that no man ever _seemed_ so important who did so little, even said so little:

“His god was Harmony,” she wrote; “and over his life Harmony presided, sitting on a lukewarm cloud. He was _not_ the ‘poet, sage, and philosopher’ people expected to find he was, but a man in whom the tastes (rare fact!) preponderated over the passions; who defrayed the expenses of his tastes as other men make outlay for the gratification of their passions; all within the limit of reason.

“… He was the very embodiment of quiet, from his voice to the last harmonious little picture that hung in his hushed room, and a curious figure he seemed–an elegant pale watch-tower, showing for ever what a quiet port literature and the fine arts might offer, in an age of ‘progress,’ when every one is tossing, struggling, wrecking, and foundering on a sea of commercial speculation or political adventure; when people fight over pictures, and if a man does buy a picture, it is with the burning desire to prove it is a Raphael to his yielding enemies, rather than to point it out with a slow white finger to his breakfasting friends.”

_Mr. Samuel Rogers to Lady John Russell_

_August_ 13, 1853

MY DEAR FRIEND,–May I break in upon you to say how much you have been in my thoughts for the last fortnight? But I was unwilling to interrupt you at such a moment when you must have been so much engaged.

May He who has made us and alone knows what is best for us support you under your great affliction. Again and again have I taken up my poor pen, but in vain, and I have only to pray that God may bless you and yours wherever you go.

Ever most affectionately yours,


In the autumn of 1853 Lord John took his family up to Roseneath, in Scotland, which had been lent them by the Duke of Argyll. They had been there some weeks, occasionally making short cruises in the _Seamew_, which the Commission of Inland Revenue had placed at their disposal, when threatening complications in the East compelled Lord John to return to London. The peace of thirty-eight years was nearly at an end.

ROSENEATH, _September_ 2, 1853

My poor dear John set off to London, to his and my great disappointment. The refusal of the Porte to agree to the Note accepted by the Emperor makes the journey necessary.

Lady John soon followed him.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Elizabeth Romilly_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _October_ 21, 1853

MY DEAREST LIZZY,–… I have never ceased rejoicing at my sudden flight from Roseneath, though its two causes, John’s cold and the Czar’s misdeeds, are unpleasant enough–but his presence here is so necessary, so terribly necessary, that neither he nor I could have stayed on in peace at Roseneath…. What he has accomplished is a wonder; and I hope that some day somehow everybody will know everything, and wonder at his patience and firmness and unselfishness, as I do…. I trust we may be very quiet here for some time, and then one must gather courage for London and the battle of life again. Our quiet here will not be without interruption, for there will be early in November a week or so of Cabinets, for which we shall go to town, and at the end of November Parliament may be obliged to meet….

Your ever affectionate sister,


_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _December_ 9, 1853

Your letter just come, dearest … I don’t think I am tired by colds, but indeed it is true that I think constantly and uneasily of your political position, _never, never_, as to whether this or that course will place you highest in the world’s estimation. I am sure you know all I care about is that you should do what is most right in the sight of God.

It may be well to remind the reader at this point of the diplomatic confusions and difficulties which led to the Crimean War. The Eastern Question originally grew out of a quarrel between France and Russia concerning the possession of certain holy places in Palestine; both the Latin and the Greek Church wanted to control them. The Sultan had offered to mediate, but neither party had been satisfied by his intervention. In the beginning of 1853 it became known in England that the Czar was looking forward to the collapse of Turkey, and that he had actually proposed to the English Ambassador that we should take Crete and Greece, while he took the European provinces of Turkey. In Russia, hostility to Turkey rose partly from sympathy with the Greek Church, which was persecuted in Turkey, and partly from the desire to possess an outlet into the Mediterranean. The English Ministers naturally would have nothing to do with the Czar’s proposal to partition Turkey. Russia’s attitude towards Turkey was attributed to the aggressive motive alone. Nicholas then demanded from the Sultan the right of protecting the Sultan’s Christian subjects himself, and when this was refused, he occupied Moldavia and Wallachia with his troops. England’s reply was to send a fleet up the Dardanelles.

A consultation of the four great Powers, England, France, Austria, and Prussia, for the prevention of war, ended in the dispatch of the “Vienna Note,” which contained the stipulation that the Sultan should protect in future all Christians of the Greek Church in his kingdom. The Czar accepted the terms of the Note, but the Sultan, instigated by Sir Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador at Constantinople, refused them. The Czar then declared war, and though the Turks were successful on the Danube, he succeeded in destroying the Turkish fleet at Sinope. This success produced the greatest indignation in England and France, and in March, 1854, they declared war upon Russia together.

Before these events Palmerston had resigned on the ground that the attitude of the Government towards Russia was not sufficiently stiff and peremptory; for, from the first, Lord Aberdeen had never contemplated the possibility of war with Russia. But before the month was out Palmerston had resumed office. It will be seen from the following letter, written by Lord John’s private secretary, Mr. Boileau, that disapproval of the Government’s negotiations with Russia was not the only motive attributed by Whigs to Palmerston in resigning. Lord John had joined the Ministry on the condition that he should bring forward his measure of reform; from the first most of his colleagues were very lukewarm towards it, but Palmerston was definitely, though covertly, antagonistic,

_Mr. John Boileau to Lady Melgund_

FOREIGN OFFICE, _December_ 19, 1853

You will be glad to know something about Pam’s resignation and the _on dits_ here–if, as I hope, you are safely arrived at Minto…. His own paper, the _Morning Post_, will do him more harm than good, I think. It will not allow that Reform has anything to do with his resignation–swears he is an out-and-out Reformer–and that his differing from the policy of the Cabinet on the Eastern Question is the only reason. Now this, in my humble judgment, I believe not to be the case. I feel certain, in fact I feel sure, that he goes out solely on the question of Reform, having been opposed to it _in toto_ from the first moment of the discussion on it in the Cabinet, and though he went on with them for a time, they came to something that he could not swallow. As to the question of the East, if he does differ from the Cabinet it is no more than Lord John or several others might say if they went out to-morrow…. The _Times_ of to-day has a very severe article against him. The _Daily News_ is very sensible and implies great confidence in Lord John. The _Chronicle_ is calm in its disapprobation of Pam–the _Morning Advertiser_, of all papers! is the most in favour, and is crying Pam up for Prime Minister already, and gives extracts from county papers to show how popular he is. The _Morning Herald_ is silent on the subject. I send you these flying remarks, as I dare say you will see nothing at Minto except perhaps the _Times_, and any news in the country goes a great way…. London is very cold and painfully dull without 24 Chester Square, and you must write to me very often. You see _I_ have begun very well….

Lord John, however, insisted on bringing forward his Bill in spite of opposition from his colleagues and many of the Government’s supporters. He felt that the party was bound to keep its promise to the country, while his colleagues urged that the House of Commons was so much occupied by the war that they had no time to consider such a Bill. As the House of Commons was not conducting the war itself the excuse was shallow. Lord John threatened to resign unless he was allowed to introduce his measure, for he considered the honour of the Ministry and his own honour at stake. From the following letters it will be seen how hard he fought for this measure, and with what poignant regret he found himself compelled at last to choose between letting it drop and resignation. His resignation would have meant a serious shock to a Ministry already in disgrace through their mismanagement of the war; rather than embarrass them further at such a crisis he chose the lesser evil of abandoning his Bill. But by yielding to the urgent appeals of his colleagues and continuing in office, his position became from day to day increasingly difficult. Finally, he resigned abruptly, for reasons which have been interpreted unfavourably by almost every historian who has written upon this period.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _February_ 14, 1854

I remember almost crying in Minto days, when you were twelve, because I thought it past the prime of life. What shall I do now that you are striking forty-three? I believe you have long ago made up your mind to the changing and fading and ending of all things here below, joys as well as sorrows, childhood, youth and age, hope and fear and doubt, and that you have learnt to look forward rather than back; but to me this is often a struggle still; and when the struggle ends the wrong way, how much there is to make my heart sink within me! Chiefly, as you may guess, the deepening lines on the face of the dearest husband that ever blessed a home, and the comparison of him as he now is with him as he was when we married.

Yesterday was a great day to us; the Reform Bill was brought in. I suppose I should be better pleased if there was more enthusiasm. I should certainly have a better opinion of human nature, if those who have cried out most loudly for Reform did not set their cowardly faces against it now; but at the same time there is a happy pride in seeing John’s honest and patriotic perseverance in what he is convinced is right, through evil report and good report, in season and out of season.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Elizabeth Romilly_

_February_ 28, 1854

DEAREST LIZZY,–To get out of my difficulty as to which of my other three correspondents to write to, I give my half-hour to you this morning. I must begin by thanking you all with all my heart for your most welcome congratulations on all that John has said and done since Parliament met, and especially his great speech in answer to Layard. It is indeed a happiness to hear such praise from people whose praise is worth having; but I have now learned, if I had not long ago, how worthless many of the congratulations are, which I receive after a good speech which has set the Ministers firmer in their seats. It may be right the week after to make one which has a contrary effect, and then the congratulators become revilers. I knew when I began to write that I should be disagreeable, but had hoped not to be so as early as the second page. However, having got into the complaining mood, I will not hurry out of it; and I shall be surprised if you do not admit that I have some reason for my complaints.

For the last ten days John has been urged and pressed and threatened and coaxed and assailed by all the various arts of every variety of politician to induce him to give up Reform! Mind, _I_ say give up, where _they_ say put off, because I know they mean give up; though cowards as they are in this as in everything else, they _dare_ not say what they mean. Will you believe that the language poured into my pained and wounded and offended but very helpless ears, day after day, by official friends, is to the effect that the country is apathetic on Reform, and that therefore it should not be proceeded with; that Reform is a measure calculated to produce excitement, conflict, disturbance in the country, and therefore it should not be proceeded with; that John having given a pledge was bound, “oh yes, certainly,” to redeem it, and that all the world will agree he _has_ most nobly redeemed it, if he lets his Bill fall on the floor of the House of Commons to-morrow, never to be picked up again; that if he proceeds with it, he will be universally reproached for allowing personal hostility to Lord Palmerston to influence him to the injury of the country; that his character is so high that if he gave it up, it would be utterly impossible for any creature to raise a doubt of his sincerity in bringing it forward; that