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

Yours ever, F.R.

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

_Lord Granville to Lady John Russell_

_February_ 28, 1854

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

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

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 8, 1854

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

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

LONDON, _April_ 11, 1854

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

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

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

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

103 EATON SQUARE, _April_ 12, 1854

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

Believe me, your faithful servant,


_Mr. John Boileau to Lady Melgund_

LONDON, _April_ 12, 1854

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

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

_April_ 12, 1854

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

Yours ever truly,


[42] Lord John’s election agent.

_Lord Spencer to Lady John Russell_

LEAMINGTON, _April_ 14, 1854

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

Very faithfully yours,


_Lady John Russell to Lord Minto_,

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 24, 1854

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

Ever, my dearest Papa,

Your affectionate child,


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

Lord Morley, in his “Life of Gladstone,” says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[45] Lord John’s stepbrother.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours faithfully,




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

PARIS, _February_ 23, 1855

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

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

_Mr. John Abel Smith to Lady John Russell

February_ 24, 1855

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

BRUSSELS, _February 25,_ 1855

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _February 26,_ 1855

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

BERLIN, _March 1,_ 1855

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_March 31,_ 1855, VIENNA

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

_April 1,_ 1855, VIENNA

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

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

At the end of April they came back to England.

_May 5,_ 1855, LONDON

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

_May 6,_ 1855, _Sunday_

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

_Lord John Russell to Lord Clarendon_ [46]

PEMBROKE LODGE, _May_ 6, 1855

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

I remain, yours truly,


[46] Spencer Walpole’s “Life of Lord John Russell,” chap, xxvi.

Lord Clarendon replied:


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

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

Yours sincerely,


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

LONDON, May 8, 1855

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

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

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _June_ 8, 1855

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

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 5, 1855

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


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


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


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


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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 13, 1855

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

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

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

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

PICCADILLY, _July_ 13, 1855

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

Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON

[48] Spencer Walpole’s “Life of Lord John Russell.”

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 15, 1855

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

_Lady John Russell to the Duke of Bedford_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 16, 1855

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

Ever yours affectionately,


_Lady John Russell to Lord Minto_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 18, 1855

MY DEAREST PAPA,–I feel very guilty in not having written to you since all these great events occurred, but you are pretty well able to guess what I felt about them … and the newspapers are much better chroniclers of facts, though not of motives, than I can be…. Of course, he proposed resignation immediately after he had made his speech, but it was not then thought the Ministry would be beat on Bulwer’s motion, and Lord Palmerston and the rest begged him to remain. Very soon, however, there was no doubt left as to what would be the result of the motion, and as neither John nor Doddy, the only other person I saw, had a hope that any fresh resignation would be accepted, we had the painful prospect of the destruction of the Ministry by his means…. But the surprise was great as the relief when we found that not one man had the slightest difficulty in making up his mind, … and that one and all felt it a paramount duty “not to shrink from the toils and responsibilities of office.” … His _spirits_ have not sunk and his _spirit_ has risen, and the feeling uppermost in his mind is thankfulness that he is out of it all, and has regained his freedom, body and soul…. There is plenty left for him to do, and I trust he will do it as an independent member of Parliament, and in that position regain his lost influence with the country. I am most anxious he should not think his political life at an end, though his official life may go forever without a sigh…. I ought to add that he is on perfectly friendly terms with all his late colleagues, … anxious to help them when he can, but pledged to nothing….

Ever, dearest Papa,

Your affectionate child,


PEMBROKE LODGE, _July_ 23, 1855

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

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _August_ 10, 1855

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _August_ 12, 1855

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

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

PEMBROKE LODGE, _September_ 8, 1855

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



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

LONDON, _November_ 13, 1855

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

[49] Afterwards Bishop of Durham.

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

_Lady John Russell to Lord Dufferin_

RODBOROUGH MANOR, STROUD, _November_ 16, 1855

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

Ever sincerely yours,


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

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

_Lord John Russell to Lady Melgund_

VILLA CAPPONI, _December_ 19, 1856

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

VILLA CAPPONI, FLORENCE, _January_ 1, 1857

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

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

Yours ever affectionately,


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

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

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

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

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

LONDON, _March_ 7, 1857

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

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

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

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

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

_Lord John Russell to Lady Melgund_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 1, 1857

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

_Lady John Russell to Lord Minto_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _April_ 4, 1857

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

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

_Mr. Charles Dickens to Lady John Russell_

_May_ 22, 1857

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

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

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

Do you believe me to remain always yours very faithfully,


_Lady John Russell to Lord Minto_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _September_ 27, 1857

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

PEMBROKE LODGE, _December 25, 1857_

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

[51] Mary Agatha.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Charlotte Portal_

PEMBROKE LODGE, _December_ 26, 1857

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

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

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _February_ 4, 1858

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

PEMBROKE LODGE, _February_ 20, 1858

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

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

PEMBROKE LODGE, _October_ 30, 1858

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

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

He writes to his wife on December 15, 1858:

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

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

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

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

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

[52] “Memoirs of an Ex-Minister.”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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