The Prime Ministers of Queen Victoria
Edited by Stuart J. Reid
LORD JOHN RUSSELL
The Queen's Prime Ministers
A Series of Political Biographies.
Edited by Stuart J. Reid
Author of 'The Life and Times of Sydney Smith.'
The volumes contain Photogravure Portraits, also copies of Autographs.
THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD, K.G. By J. A. FROUDE, D.C.L. (Seventh Edition.)
VISCOUNT MELBOURNE. By HENRY DUNCKLEY, LL.D. ('Verax.')
SIR ROBERT PEEL. By JUSTIN MCCARTHY, M.P.
THE RIGHT HON. W. E. GLADSTONE, M.P. By G. W. E. RUSSELL. (Twelfth Thousand.)
THE MARQUIS OF SALISBURY. By H. D. TRAILL, D.C.L. (Second Edition.)
VISCOUNT PALMERSTON. By the MARQUIS OF LORNE. (Second Edition.)
THE EARL OF DERBY. By GEORGE SAINTSBURY.
THE EARL OF ABERDEEN. By LORD STANMORE.
LORD JOHN RUSSELL. By STUART J. REID.
* * * A Limited Library Edition of TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY COPIES, each numbered, printed on hand-made paper, parchment binding, gilt top, with facsimile reproductions, in some cases of characteristic notes of Speeches and Letters, which are not included in the ordinary edition, and some additional Portraits. Price for the Complete Set of Nine Volumes, Four Guineas net. No Volumes of this Edition sold separately.
* * * * *
London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Limited, St. Dunstan's House, Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, E.C.
LORD JOHN RUSSELL
STUART J. REID
I have looked to the happiness of my countrymen as the object to which my efforts ought to be directed
Recollections and Suggestions
London Sampson Low, Marston & Company Limited St. Dunstan's House Fetter Lane, Fleet Street, E.C. 1895 [All rights reserved]
LADY MARY AGATHA RUSSELL
HER FATHER'S CAREER
WITH TRUE REGARD
THIS monograph could not have been written—in the intimate sense—if the Dowager Countess Russell had not extended a confidence which, I trust, has in no direction been abused. Lady Russell has not only granted me access to her journal and papers as well as the early note-books of her husband, but in many conversations has added the advantage of her own reminiscences.
I am also indebted in greater or less degree to Mrs. Warburton, Lady Georgiana Peel, Lady Agatha Russell, the Hon. Rollo Russell, Mr. G. W. E. Russell, and the Hon. George Elliot. Mr. Elliot's knowledge, as brother-in-law, and for many years as private secretary, touches both the personal and official aspects of Lord John's career, and it has been freely placed at my disposal. Outside the circle of Lord John's relatives I have received hints from the Hon. Charles Gore and Sir Villiers Lister, both of whom, at one period or another in his public life, also served him in the capacity of secretary.
I have received some details of Lord John's official life from one who served under him in a more public capacity—not, however, I hasten to add, as Chancellor of the Exchequer—but I am scarcely at liberty in this instance to mention my authority.
My thanks are due, in an emphatic sense, to my friend Mr. Spencer Walpole, who, with a generosity rare at all times, has not only allowed me to avail myself of facts contained in his authoritative biography of Lord John Russell, but has also glanced at the proof sheets of these pages, and has given me, in frank comment, the benefit of his own singularly wide and accurate knowledge of the historical and political annals of the reign. It is only right to add that Mr. Walpole is not in any sense responsible for the opinions expressed in a book which is only partially based on his own, is not always in agreement with his conclusions, and which follows independent lines.
The letter which the Queen wrote to the Countess Russell immediately after the death of one of her 'first and most distinguished Ministers' is now printed with her Majesty's permission.
The late Earl of Selborne and Mr. Lecky were sufficiently interested in my task to place on record for the volume some personal and political reminiscences which speak for themselves, and do so with authority.
I am also under obligations of various kinds to the Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, the Earl of Durham, Lord Stanmore, Dr. Anderson of Richmond, and the Rev. James Andrews of Woburn. I desire also to acknowledge the courtesy of Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Andrew Lang, Mr. James Knowles, Mr. Percy Bunting, Mr. Edwin Hodder, Messrs. Longmans, and the proprietors of 'Punch,' for liberty to quote from published books and journals.
In Montaigne's words, 'The tales I borrow, I charge upon the consciences of those from whom I have them.' I have gathered cues from all quarters, but in almost every case my indebtedness stands recorded on the passing page.
The portrait which forms the frontispiece is for the first time reproduced, with the sanction of the Countess Russell and Mr. G. F. Watts, from an original crayon drawing which hangs on the walls at Pembroke Lodge.
It may be as well to anticipate an obvious criticism by stating that the earlier title of the subject of this memoir is retained, not only in deference to the strongly expressed wish of the family at Pembroke Lodge, but also because it suggests nearly half a century spent in the House of Commons in pursuit of liberty. In the closing days of Earl Russell's life his eye was accustomed to brighten, and his manner to relax, when some new acquaintance, in the eagerness of conversation, took the liberty of familiar friendship by addressing the old statesman as 'Lord John.'
STUART J. REID.
CHISLEHURST: June 4, 1895.
EARLY YEARS, EDUCATION, AND TRAVEL
1792-1813 PAGE Rise of the Russells under the Tudors—Childhood and early surroundings of Lord John—Schooldays at Westminster—First journey abroad with Lord Holland—Wellington and the Peninsular campaign—Student days in Edinburgh and speeches at the Speculative Society—Early leanings in politics and literature—Enters the House of Commons as member for Tavistock 1
IN PARLIAMENT AND FOR THE PEOPLE
The political outlook when Lord John entered the House of Commons—The 'Condition of England' question—The struggle for Parliamentary Reform—Side-lights on Napoleon Bonaparte—The Liverpool Administration in a panic—Lord John comes to the aid of Sir Francis Burdett—Foreign travel—First motion in favour of Reform—Making headway 21
WINNING HIS SPURS
Defeated and out of harness—Journey to Italy—Back in Parliament—Canning's accession to power—Bribery and corruption—The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts—The struggle between the Court and the Cabinet over Catholic Emancipation—Defeat of Wellington at the polls—Lord John appointed Paymaster-General 47
A FIGHT FOR LIBERTY
Lord Grey and the cause of Reform—Lord Durham's share in the Reform Bill—The voice of the people—Lord John introduces the bill and explains its provisions—The surprise of the Tories—Reform, 'Aye' or 'No'—Lord John in the Cabinet—The bill thrown out—The indignation of the country—Proposed creation of Peers—Wellington and Sidmouth in despair—The bill carried—Lord John's tribute to Althorp 63
THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA
The turn of the tide with the Whigs—The two voices in the Cabinet—Lord John and Ireland—Althorp and the Poor Law—The Melbourne Administration on the rocks—Peel in power—The question of Irish tithes—Marriage of Lord John—Grievances of Nonconformists—Lord Melbourne's influence over the Queen—Lord Durham's mission to Canada—Personal sorrow 88
THE TWO FRONT BENCHES
Lord John's position in the Cabinet and in the Commons—His services to Education—Joseph Lancaster—Lord John's Colonial Policy—Mr. Gladstone's opinion—Lord Stanmore's recollections—The mistakes of the Melbourne Cabinet—The Duke of Wellington's opinion of Lord John—The agitation against the Corn Laws—Lord John's view of Sir Robert Peel—The Edinburgh letter—Peel's dilemma—Lord John's comment on the situation 113
FACTION AND FAMINE
Peel and Free Trade—Disraeli and Lord George Bentinck lead the attack—Russell to the rescue—Fall of Peel—Lord John summoned to power—Lord John's position in the Commons and in the country—The Condition of Ireland question—Famine and its deadly work—The Russell Government and measures of relief—Crime and coercion—The Whigs and Education—Factory Bill—The case of Dr. Hampden 136
IN ROUGH WATERS
The People's Charter—Feargus O'Connor and the crowd—Lord Palmerston strikes from his own bat—Lord John's view of the political situation—Death of Peel—Palmerston and the Court—'No Popery'—The Durham Letter—The invasion scare—Lord John's remark about Palmerston—Fall of the Russell Administration 163
COALITION BUT NOT UNION
The Aberdeen Ministry—Warring elements—Mr. Gladstone's position—Lord John at the Foreign Office and Leader of the House—Lady Russell's criticisms of Lord Macaulay's statement—A small cloud in the East—Lord Shaftesbury has his doubts 199
DOWNING STREET AND CONSTANTINOPLE
Causes of the Crimean War—Nicholas seizes his opportunity—The Secret Memorandum—Napoleon and the susceptibilities of the Vatican—Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and the Porte—Prince Menschikoff shows his hand—Lord Aberdeen hopes against hope—Lord Palmerston's opinion of the crisis—The Vienna Note—Lord John grows restive—Sinope arouses England—The deadlock in the Cabinet 213
WAR HINDERS REFORM
A Scheme of Reform—Palmerston's attitude—Lord John sore let and hindered—Lord Stratford's diplomatic triumph—The Duke of Newcastle and the War Office—The dash for Sebastopol—Procrastination and its deadly work—The Alma—Inkerman—The Duke's blunder—Famine and frost in the trenches 236
THE VIENNA DIFFICULTY
Blunders at home and abroad—Roebuck's motion—'General Fevrier' turns traitor—France and the Crimea—Lord John at Vienna—The pride of the nation is touched—Napoleon's visit to Windsor—Lord John's retirement—The fall of Sebastopol—The treaty of Paris 254
LITERATURE AND EDUCATION
Lord John's position in 1855—His constituency in the City—Survey of his work in literature—As man of letters—His historical writings—Hero-worship of Fox—Friendship with Moore—Writes the biography of the poet—'Don Carlos'—A book wrongly attributed to him—Publishes his 'Recollections and Suggestions'—An opinion of Kinglake's—Lord John on his own career—Lord John and National Schools—Joseph Lancaster's tentative efforts—The formation of the Council of Education—Prejudice blocks the way—Mr. Forster's tribute 270
COMING BACK TO POWER
Lord John as an Independent Member—His chance in the City—The Indian Mutiny—Orsini's attempt on the life of Napoleon—The Conspiracy Bill—Lord John and the Jewish Relief Act—Palmerston in power—Lord John at the Foreign Office—Cobden and Bright—Quits the Commons with a Peerage 286
UNITED ITALY AND THE DIS-UNITED STATES
Lord John at the Foreign Office—Austria and Italy—Victor Emmanuel and Mazzini—Cavour and Napoleon III.—Lord John's energetic protest—His sympathy with Garibaldi and the struggle for freedom—The gratitude of the Italians—Death of the Prince Consort—The 'Trent' affair—Lord John's remonstrance—The 'Alabama' difficulty—Lord Selborne's statement—The Cotton Famine 299
The Polish Revolt—Bismarck's bid for power—The Schleswig-Holstein difficulty—Death of Lord Palmerston—The Queen summons Lord John—The second Russell Administration—Lord John's tribute to Palmerston—Mr. Gladstone introduces Reform—The 'Cave of Adullam'—Defeat of the Russell Government—The people accept Lowe's challenge—The feeling in the country 320
OUT OF HARNESS
Speeches in the House of Lords—Leisured years—Mr. Lecky's reminiscences—The question of the Irish Church—The Independence of Belgium—Lord John on the claims of the Vatican—Letters to Mr. Chichester Fortescue—His scheme for the better government of Ireland—Lord Selborne's estimate of Lord John's public career—Frank admissions—As his private secretaries saw him 334
Looking back—Society at Pembroke Lodge—Home life—The house and its memories—Charles Dickens's speech at Liverpool—Literary friendships—Lady Russell's description of her husband—A packet of letters—His children's recollections—A glimpse of Carlyle—A witty impromptu—Closing days—Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone—The jubilee of the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts—'Punch' on the 'Golden Wedding'—Death—The Queen's letter—Lord Shaftesbury's estimate of Lord John's career—His great qualities 349
LORD JOHN RUSSELL
EARLY YEARS, EDUCATION, AND TRAVEL
Rise of the Russells under the Tudors—Childhood and early surroundings of Lord John—Schooldays at Westminster—First journey abroad with Lord Holland—Wellington and the Peninsular campaign—Student days in Edinburgh and speeches at the Speculative Society—Early leanings in Politics and Literature—Enters the House of Commons as member for Tavistock.
GOVERNMENT by great families was once a reality in England, and when Lord John Russell's long career began the old tradition had not yet lost its ascendency. The ranks of privilege can at least claim to have given at more than one great crisis in the national annals leaders to the cause of progress. It is not necessary in this connection to seek examples outside the House of Bedford, since the name of Lord William Russell in the seventeenth century and that of Lord John in the nineteenth stand foremost amongst the champions of civil and religious liberty. Hugh du Rozel, according to the Battle Roll, crossed from Normandy in the train of the Conqueror. In the reign of Henry III. the first John Russell of note was a small landed proprietor in Dorset, and held the post of Constable of Corfe Castle. William Russell, in the year of Edward II.'s accession, was returned to Parliament, and his lineal descendant, Sir John Russell, was Speaker of the House of Commons in the days of Henry VI. The real founder, however, of the fortunes of the family was the third John Russell who is known to history. He was the son of the Speaker, and came to honour and affluence by a happy chance. Stress of weather drove Philip, Archduke of Austria and, in right of his wife, King of Castile, during a voyage from Flanders to Spain in the year 1506, to take refuge at Weymouth. Sir Thomas Trenchard, Sheriff of Dorset, entertained the unexpected guest, but he knew no Spanish, and Philip of Castile knew no English. In this emergency Sir Thomas sent in hot haste for his cousin, Squire Russell, of Barwick, who had travelled abroad and was able to talk Spanish fluently. The Archduke, greatly pleased with the sense and sensibility of his interpreter, insisted that John Russell must accompany him to the English Court, and Henry VII., no mean judge of men, was in turn impressed with his ability. The result was that, after many important services to the Crown, John Russell became first Earl of Bedford, and, under grants from Henry VIII. and Edward VI., the rich monastic lands of Tavistock and Woburn passed into his possession. The part which the Russells as a family have played in history of course lies outside the province of this volume, which is exclusively concerned with the character and career in recent times of one of the most distinguished statesmen of the present century.
Lord John Russell was born on August 18, 1792, at Hertford Street, Mayfair. His father, who was second son of Lord Tavistock, and grandson of the fourth Duke of Bedford, succeeded his brother Francis, as sixth Duke, in 1802, at the age of thirty-six, when his youngest and most famous son was ten years old. Long before his accession to the title, which was, indeed, quite unexpected, the sixth Duke had married the Hon. Georgiana Byng, daughter of Viscount Torrington, and the statesman with whose career these pages are concerned was the third son of this union. He spent his early childhood at Stratton Park, Hampshire. When he was a child of eight, Stratton Park was sold by the Duke of Bedford, and Oakley House, which he never liked so well, became the residence of his father. Although a shy, delicate child, he was sent in the spring of 1800, when only eight, to a private school at Sunbury—only a mile or two away from Richmond, where nearly eighty years later he died. In the autumn of 1801 he lost his mother, to whom he was deeply attached, and almost before the bewildered child had time to realise his loss, his uncle Francis also died, and his father, in consequence, became Duke of Bedford.
[Sidenote: SCHOOLDAYS AT WESTMINSTER]
From Sunbury the motherless boy was sent with his elder brother to Westminster, in 1803, and the same year the Duke married Lady Georgiana Gordon, a daughter of the fourth Duke of Gordon, and her kindness to her stepchildren was marked and constant. Westminster School at the beginning of the century was an ill-disciplined place, in which fighting and fagging prevailed, and its rough and boisterous life taxed to the utmost the mettle of the plucky little fellow. He seems to have made no complaint, but to have taken his full share in the rough-and-tumble sports of his comrades in a school which has given many distinguished men to the literature and public life of England: as, for instance, the younger Vane—whom Milton extolled—Ben Jonson and Dryden, Prior and Locke, Cowper and Southey, Gibbon and Warren Hastings.
He learnt Latin at Westminster, and was kept to the work of translation, but he used to declare somewhat ruefully in after-days that he had as a schoolboy to devote the half-holidays to learning arithmetic and writing, and these homely arts were taught him by a pedagogue who seems to have kept a private school in Great Dean's Yard. Many years later Earl Russell dictated to the Countess some reminiscences of his early days, and since Lady Russell has granted access to them, the following passages transcribed from her own manuscript will be read with interest:—'My education, for various reasons, was not a very regular one. It began, indeed, in the usual English way by my going to a very bad private school at Sunbury, and my being transferred to a public school at Westminster at ten or eleven. But I never entered the upper school. The hard life of a fag—for in those days it was a hard life—and the unwholesome food disagreed with me so much that my stepmother, the Duchess of Bedford, insisted that I should be taken away and sent to a private tutor.' At Westminster School physical hardihood was always encouraged. 'If two boys were engaged to fight during the time of school, those boys who wanted to see the fight had to leave school for the purpose.' At this early period a passion for the theatre possessed him, drawing him to Drury Lane or Covent Garden whenever an opportunity occurred; and this kind of relaxation retained a considerable hold upon him throughout the greater portion of his life. Even as a child he was a bit of a philosopher. In the journal which he began to keep in the year he went to Westminster School is the following entry:—'October 28, 1803.—Very great mist in the morning, but afternoon very fine. There was a grand review to-day by the King in Hyde Park of the Volunteers. I did not go, as there was such a quantity of people that I should have seen nothing, and should have been knocked down.' Most of the entries in the boy's journal are pithy statements of matter of fact, as, for instance:—'Westminster, Monday, October 10.—I was flogged to-day for the first time.' A few days later the young diarist places on record what he calls some of the rules of the school. He states that lessons began every morning at eight, and that usually work was continued till noon, with an interval at nine for breakfast. Lessons were resumed at two on ordinary days, and finished for the day at five. 'All the fellows have verses on Thursdays and Saturdays. We go on Sundays to church in the morning in Henry VII.'s Chapel, and in the evening have prayers in the school.'
[Sidenote: DR. CARTWRIGHT AND WOBURN]
His 'broken and disturbed' education was next resumed at Woburn Abbey under Dr. Cartwright; the Duke's domestic chaplain, and brother to Major Cartwright, the well-known political reformer. The chaplain at Woburn was a many-sided man. He was not only a scholar and a poet, but also possessed distinct mechanical skill, and afterwards won fame as the inventor of the power-loom. He was quick-witted and accomplished, and it was a happy circumstance that the high-spirited, impressionable lad, who by this time was full of dreams of literary distinction, came under his influence. 'I acquired from Dr. Cartwright,' declared Lord John, 'a taste for Latin poetry which has never left me.' Not merely at work but at play, his new friend came to his rescue. 'He invented the model of a boat which was moved by clockwork and acted upon the water by a paddle underneath. He gave me the model, and I used to make it go across the ponds in the park.' Meanwhile literature was not forgotten, and before long the boy's juvenile effusions filled a manuscript book, which with an amusing flourish of trumpets was dedicated to 'the Right Hon. William Pitt, Chancellor of the Exchequer.' A couple of sentences will reveal its character, and the dawning humour of the youthful scribe:—'This little volume, being graced with your name, will prosper; without it my labour would be all in vain. May you remain at the Helm of State long enough to bestow a pension on your very humble and obedient servant, John Russell.'
Between the years 1805 and 1808 Lord John pursued his education under a country parson in Kent. He was placed under the care of Mr. Smith, Vicar of Woodnesborough, near Sandwich, an ardent Whig, who taught a select number of pupils, amongst whom were several cadets of the aristocracy; and to this seminary Lord John now followed his brothers, Lord Tavistock and Lord William Russell. Amongst his schoolfellows at Woodnesborough was the Lord Hartington of that generation, Lord Clare, Lord William Fitzgerald, and a future Duke of Leinster. The vicar in question, worthy Mr. Smith, was nicknamed 'Dean Smigo' by his pupils, but Lord John, looking back in after-years, declared that he was an excellent man, well acquainted with classical authors, both Greek and Latin, though 'without any remarkable qualities either of character or understanding.' He evidently won popularity amongst the boys by joining in their indoor amusements and granting frequent holidays, particularly on occasions when the Whig cause was triumphant in the locality or in Parliament.
[Sidenote: SMALL GAME]
Rambles inland and on the seashore, pony riding, shooting small birds, cricket, and other sports, as well as winter evening games, filled up the ample leisure from the duties of the schoolroom. One or two extracts from his journal are sufficient to show that, although still weakly, he was not lacking in boyish vivacity and in a healthy desire to emulate his elders. When Grenville and Fox joined their forces and so brought about the Ministry of 'All the Talents' the lads obtained a holiday—a fact which is thus recorded in sprawling schoolboy hand by Lord John in his diary. 'Saturday, February 8, 1806.—... We did no business on Mr. Fox's coming into the Ministry. I shot a couple of larks beyond Southerden.... I went out shooting for the first time with Mr. Smith's gun. I got eight shots at little birds and killed four of them.' On November 5 in the same year we find him writing:—'Eliza's [Miss Smith's] birthday. No business. I went out shooting, but only killed some little birds. I used to shoot much better than I do at present. Always miss now; have not killed a partridge yet.' Poor boy! But he lived to kill two deer and a wild boar. 'Similarity of age led me,' states Lord John, in one of his unpublished notes, 'to form a more intimate friendship with Clare than with any of the others, and our mutual liking grew into a strong attachment on both sides. I only remark this fact as Lord Byron, who had been a friend of Clare's at Harrow, appears to have shown some boyish jealousy when the latter expressed his sorrow at my departure for Spain.'
Now and then he turned his gift for composing verses in the direction of a satire on some political celebrity. He also wrote and spoke the prologue at private dramatic performances at Woburn during the holiday season, and took the part of 'Lucy' in 'The Rivals.' A little later, in the brief period of his father's viceroyalty, he wrote another prologue, and on this occasion amused an Irish audience by his assumption of the part of an old woman.
The political atmosphere of Woburn and Woodnesborough as well as his father's official position, led the boy of fourteen to take a keen interest in public affairs. His satirical verses on Melville, Pitt, Hawkesbury, and others, together with many passages in his journal, showed that his attention was frequently diverted from grammar and lexicon, field sports and footlights, to politics and Parliament, and the struggle amongst statesmen for place and power. Although little is known of the actual incidents of Lord John's boyhood, such straws at least show the direction in which the current of his life was setting.
Whilst Lord John was the guest of Mr. Fox at Stable Yard, the subject of Lord Melville's acquittal by the Peers came up for discussion. Next day the shrewd young critic wrote the following characteristic remark in his journal: 'What a pity that he who steals a penny loaf should be hung, whilst he who steals thousands of the public money should be acquitted!' The brilliant qualities of Fox made a great impression on the lad, and there can be little doubt that his intercourse with the great statesman, slight and passing though it was, did much to awaken political ambition. He also crossed the path of other men of light and leading in the political world, and in this way, boy though he was, he grew familiar with the strife of parties and the great questions of the hour. Holland House opened its hospitable gates to him, and there he met a young clergyman of an unconventional type—the Rev. Sydney Smith—with whom he struck up a friendship that was destined to endure. The young schoolboy has left it on record in that inevitable 'journal' that he found his odd clerical acquaintance 'very amusing.'
[Sidenote: WITH LORD HOLLAND IN SPAIN]
In the summer of 1807 we learn from his journal that he passed three months with his father and stepmother at the English lakes and in the West of Scotland. With boyish glee he recounts the incidents of the journey, and his delight in visiting Inverary, Edinburgh, and Melrose. Yet it was his rambles and talks with Sir Walter Scott, whom he afterwards described as one of the wonders of the age, that left the most abiding impression upon him. On his way back to Woodnesborough he paid his first visit to the House of Lords, and heard a debate on the Copenhagen expedition, an affair in which, he considered, 'Ministers cut a most despicable figure.' On quitting school life at Woodnesborough, an experience was in store for him which enlarged his mental horizon, and drew out his sympathies for the weak and oppressed. Lord and Lady Holland had taken a fancy to the lad, and the Duke of Bedford consented to their proposal that he should accompany them on their visit to the Peninsula, then the scene of hostilities between the French and the allied armies of England and Spain. The account of this journey is best told in Lord John's own words:—
'In the autumn of 1808, when only sixteen years of age, I accompanied Lord and Lady Holland to Corunna, and afterwards to Lisbon, Seville, and Cadiz, returning by Lisbon to England in the summer of 1809. They were eager for the success of the Spanish cause, and I joined to sympathy for Spain a boyish hatred of Napoleon, who had treacherously obtained possession of an independent country by force and fraud—force of immense armies, fraud of the lowest kind.' There is in existence at Pembroke Lodge a small parchment-bound volume marked 'Diary, 1808,' which records in his own handwriting Lord John's first impressions of foreign travel. The notes are brief, but they show that the writer even then was keenly alive to the picturesque. The journal ends somewhat abruptly, and Lord John confesses in so many words that he gave up this journal in despair, a statement which is followed by the assertion that the record at least possesses the 'merit of brevity.'
Spain was in such a disturbed condition that the tour was full of excitement. War and rumours of war filled the air, and sudden changes of route were often necessary in order to avoid perilous encounters with the French. The travellers were sometimes accompanied by a military escort, but were more frequently left to their devices, and evil tidings of disaster to the Allies—often groundless, but not less alarming—kept the whole party on the alert, and proved, naturally, very exciting to the lad, who under such strange and dramatic circumstances gained his first experience of life abroad. Lord John had, however, taken with him his Virgil, Tacitus, and Cicero, and now and then, forgetful of the turmoil around him, he improved his acquaintance with the classics. He also studied the Spanish language, with the result that he acquired an excellent conversational knowledge of it. The lad had opinions and the courage of them, and when he saw the cause of the Spanish beginning to fail he was exasperated by the apathy of the Whigs at home, and accordingly, with the audacity of youth, wrote to his father:—
'I take the liberty of informing you and your Opposition friends that the French have not conquered the whole of Spain.... Lord Grey's speech appears to me either a mere attempt to plague Ministers for a few hours or a declaration against the principle of the people's right to depose an infamous despot.... It seems to be the object of the Opposition to prove that Spain is conquered, and that the Spaniards like being robbed and murdered.' It seems, therefore, that Lord John, even in his teens, was inclined to be dogmatic and oracular, but the soundness of his judgment, in this particular instance at least, is not less remarkable than his sturdy mental independence. Like his friend Sydney Smith, he was already becoming a lover of justice and of sympathy towards the oppressed.
[Sidenote: THE QUESTION OF A UNIVERSITY]
In the summer of 1809, after a short journey to Cadiz, Lord Holland and his party crossed the plains of Estremadura on mules to Lisbon and embarked for England, though not without an unexpected delay caused by a slight attack of fever on the part of Lord John. On the voyage back Lord Holland and his secretary, Mr. Allen, pointed out to him the advantages of going to Edinburgh for the next winter, and in a letter to his father, dated Spithead, August 10, 1809, he adds: 'They say that I am yet too young to go to an English university; that I should learn more there [Edinburgh] in the meantime than I should anywhere else.'
He goes on to state that he is convinced by their arguments, in spite of the fact that he had previously expressed 'so much dislike to an academical career in Edinburgh.' The truth is, Lord John wished to follow his elder brother, Lord Tavistock, to Cambridge; but the Duke would not hear of the idea, and bluntly declared that nothing at that time was to be learnt at the English universities.
On his return to England it was decided to send Lord John to continue his studies at Edinburgh University. The Northern Athens at that time was full of keen and varied intellectual life, and the young student could scarcely have set foot in it at a more auspicious moment. Other cadets of the English aristocracy, such as Lord Webb Seymour and Lord Henry Petty, were attracted at this period to the Northern university, partly by the restrictive statutes of Oxford and Cambridge, but still more by the genius and learning of men like Dugald Stewart and John Playfair.
The Duke of Bedford placed his son under the roof of the latter, who at that time held the chair of mathematics in the university, with the request that he would take a general oversight of his studies. Professor Playfair was a teacher who quickened to a remarkable extent the powers of his pupils, and at the same time by his own estimable qualities won their affection. Looking back in after-years, Lord John declared that 'Professor Playfair was one of the most delightful of men and very zealous lover of liberty.' He adds that the simplicity of the distinguished mathematician, as well as the elevation of his sentiments, was remarkable.
It is interesting to learn from Professor Playfair's own statement that he was quickly impressed with the ability of Lord John. Ambition was stirring in the breast of the young Whig, and though he could be idle enough at times, he seems on the whole to have lent his mind with increasing earnestness to the tasks of the hour. He also attended the classes of Professor Dugald Stewart during the three years he spent in the grey metropolis of the North, and the influence of that remarkable man was not merely stimulating at the time, but materially helped to shape his whole philosophy of life. After he had left Edinburgh, Lord John wrote some glowing lines about Dugald Stewart, which follow—afar off, it must be admitted—the style of Pope. We have only space to quote a snatch:
'Twas he gave laws to fancy, grace to thought, Taught virtue's laws, and practised what he taught.
[Sidenote: LIFE IN EDINBURGH]
Intellectual stimulus came to him through another channel. He was elected in the spring of 1810 a member of the Edinburgh Speculative Society, and during that and the two following years he was zealous in his attendance at its weekly meetings. The Speculative Society was founded early in the reign of George III., and no less distinguished a man than Sir Walter Scott acted for a term of years as its secretary. It sought to unite men of different classes and pursuits, and to bring young students and more experienced thinkers and men of affairs together in friendly but keen debate on historical, philosophical, literary, and political questions.
It is certain that Lord John first discovered his powers of debate in the years when he took a prominent part in the Tuesday night discussions in the hall which had been erected for the Speculative Society in 1769 in the grounds of the university. The subjects about which he spoke are at least of passing interest even now as a revelation of character, for they show the drift of his thoughts. He was not content with merely academic themes, such as Queen Elizabeth's treatment of Mary Queen of Scots, or the policy of Alcibiades. Topics of more urgent moment, like the war of 1793, the proceedings of the Spanish Cortes in 1810, the education of the poor, the value of Canada to Great Britain, and one at least of the burning subjects of the day—the imprisonment of Gale Jones in Newgate by order of the House of Commons—claimed his attention and drew forth his powers of argument and oratory. His mind was already turning in the direction of the subject of Parliamentary Reform, and from Edinburgh he forwarded to his father an essay on that subject, which still exists among the family papers. It shows that he was preparing to vindicate even then on a new field the liberal and progressive traditions of the Russells.
The Duke of Bedford was never too busy or preoccupied to enter into his son's political speculations. He encouraged him to continue the habit of reasoning and writing on the great questions of the day, and Lord John, who in spite of uncertain health had no lack of energy, cheered by such kindly recognition, was not slow to respond to his father's sensible advice.
[Sidenote: WELLINGTON AND THE WAR]
Meanwhile the war in the Peninsula was progressing, and it appealed to the Edinburgh undergraduate now with new and even painful interest. His brother, Lord William Russell, had accompanied his regiment to Spain in the summer of 1809, and had been wounded at the battle of Talavera. In the course of the following summer, Lord John states, in a manuscript which is in Lady Russell's possession: 'I went to Cadiz to see my brother William, who was then serving on the staff of Sir Thomas Graham. The head-quarters was in a small town on the Isle of Leon, and the General, who was one of the kindest of men, gave me a bed in his house during the time that I remained there.' Cadiz was at the moment besieged by the French, and Lord John proceeds to describe the strategical points in its defence. Afterwards he accompanied Colonel Stanhope, a member of General Graham's staff, to the head-quarters of Lord Wellington, who had just occupied with his army the lines of Torres Vedras. He thus records his impressions of the great soldier, and of the spectacle which lay before him:—'Standing on the highest point, and looking around him on every side, was the English General, his eyes bright and searching as those of an eagle, his countenance full of hope, beaming with intelligence as he marked with quick perception every movement of troops and every change of circumstance within the sweep of the horizon. On each side of the fort of Sobral rose the entrenchments of the Allies, bristling with guns and alive with the troops who formed the garrison of this fortified position. Far off, on the left, the cliffs rose to a moderate elevation, and the lines of Torres Vedras were prominent in the distance.... There stood the advanced guard of the conquering legions of France; here was the living barrier of England, Spain, and Portugal, prepared to stay the destructive flood, and to preserve from the deluge the liberty and independence of three armed nations. The sight filled me with admiration, with confidence, and with hope.'
Wellington told Colonel Stanhope that there was nothing he should like better than to attack the enemy, but since the force which he commanded was England's only army, he did not care to risk a battle. 'In fact, a defeat would have been most disastrous, for the English would have been obliged to retreat upon Lisbon and embark for England, probably after suffering great losses.' Within a fortnight Lord John was back again in London, and over the dinner table at Holland House the enterprising lad of eighteen was able to give Lord Grey an animated account of the prospects of the campaign, and of the appearance of Wellington's soldiers. The desire for Cambridge revived in Lord John with the conclusion of his Edinburgh course. His wishes were, however, overruled by his father, who, as already hinted, held extremely unfavourable views in regard to the characteristics at that period of undergraduate life in the English universities. The 'sciences of horse-racing, fox-hunting, and giving extravagant entertainments' the Duke regarded as the 'chief studies of our youths at Cambridge,' and he made no secret of his opinion that his promising son was better without them. Lord John's father is described by those who knew him as a plain, unpretending man, who talked well in private life, but was reserved in society. He was a great patron of the fine arts, and one of the best farmers in England, and was, moreover, able to hold his own in the debates of the House of Lords.
[Sidenote: THE FIELD OF SALAMANCA]
Meanwhile, at Woburn, Lord John's military ardour, which at this time was great, found an outlet in the command of a company of the Bedfordshire Militia. But the life of a country gentleman, even when it was varied by military drill, was not to the taste of this roving young Englishman. The passion for foreign travel, which he never afterwards wholly lost, asserted itself, and led him to cast about for congenial companions to accompany him abroad. Mr. George Bridgeman, afterwards Earl of Bradford, and Mr. Robert Clive, the second son of Earl Powis, agreed to accompany him, and with light hearts the three friends started in August 1812, with the intention of travelling through Sicily, Greece, Egypt, and Syria. They had not proceeded far, however, on their way to Southern Italy when tidings reached them that the battle of Salamanca had been fought and that Wellington had entered Madrid. The plans for exploring Sicily, Egypt, and Syria were instantly thrown to the winds, and the young enthusiasts at once bent their steps to the Spanish capital, in order to take part in the rejoicings of the populace at the victory of the Allies. They made the best of their way to Oporto, but were chagrined to find on arriving there that although Salamanca had been added to the list of Wellington's triumphs, the victor had not pushed on to the capital. Under these circumstances, Lord John and his companions determined to make a short tour in the northern part of Portugal before proceeding to Wellington's head-quarters at Burgos. They met with a few mild adventures on the road, and afterwards crossed the frontier and reached the field of Salamanca. The dead still lay unburied, and flocks of vultures rose sullenly as the travellers threaded their way across that terrible scene of carnage. However, neither Lord John's phlegm nor his philosophy deserted him, though the awfulness of the spectacle was not lost upon him. 'The blood spilt on that day will become a real saving of life if it become the means of delivering Spain from French dominion,' was his remark.
At Burgos the young civilian renewed his acquaintance with the Commander-in-Chief, and added to his experience of war by being for a short time under fire from the French, who held the neighbouring fortress. Wellington, however, like other good soldiers, did not care for non-combatants at the front, and accordingly the youths started for Madrid. Finding that the French were in possession, they pushed southwards, and spent Christmas at Cadiz. The prolonged campaign decided them to carry out their original scheme. Leaving Cadiz at the end of January they set off, via Gibraltar, Cordova, and Cartagena, for Alicante, where they proposed to embark for Sicily. But on the way reports reached them of French reverses, and they were emboldened once more to move towards Madrid. They had hardly started when other and less reassuring rumours reached them, and Lord John's two companions resolved to return to Alicante; but he himself determined to ride across the country to the head-quarters of the army, at Frenida, a distance of 150 miles. We are indebted to Mr. Bridgeman's published letters for the following account of Lord John's plucky ride:—'Finding the French did not continue the retreat, John Russell, my strange cousin and your ladyship's mad nephew, determined to execute a plan which he had often threatened, but it appeared to Clive and me so very injudicious a one that we never had an idea of his putting it into execution. However, the evening previous to our leaving Almaden, he said, "Well, I shall go to the army and see William, and I will meet you either at Madrid or Alicante." We found he was quite serious, and he then informed us of his intentions.... He would not take his servant, but ordered him to leave out half-a-dozen changes of linen, and his gun loaded. He was dressed in a blue greatcoat, overalls, and sword, and literally took nothing else except his dressing-case, a pair of pantaloons and shoes, a journal and an account book, pens and ink, and a bag of money. He would not carry anything to reload his gun, which he said his principal reason for taking was to sell, should he be short of money, for we had too little to spare him any. The next morning he sold his pony, bought a young horse, and rode the first league with us. Here we parted with each other with much regret, and poor John seemed rather forlorn. God grant he may have reached head-quarters in safety and health, for he had been far from well the last few days he was with us.... Clive and I feel fully persuaded that we shall see him no more till we return to England.'
[Sidenote: A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY]
The fears entertained for Lord John's safety were well founded. Difficulties of many kinds had to be encountered on the journey, and there was always the risk of being arrested and detained by French piquets. But the 150 miles were traversed without mishap, and in twelve days the 'mad nephew' entered the English quarters. He stayed at Frenida more than a month, probably waiting for an opportunity to see a great battle. But the wish was not gratified. Dictating to Lady Russell in his later life the narrative of his journey in Spain, he said: 'When Lord Wellington left his head-quarters on the frontier of Spain and Portugal for his memorable campaign of Vittoria, I thought that as I was not a soldier I might as well leave Lord Wellington and proceed on a journey of amusement to Madrid.'
General Alava gave him introductions, and in the course of his journey he was entertained at dinner by a merry canon at Plasencia, who pressed upon him a liberal supply of wine. When Lord John declined taking any more, his host exclaimed: 'Do you not know the syllogism, "Qui bene bibit, bene dormit; qui bene dormit, non peccat; qui non peccat, salvatus erit"?' At this stage Lord John found it necessary to hire a servant who was capable of acting as guide. He used to say that his whole appearance on these journeys was somewhat grotesque, and in proof of this assertion he was accustomed in relating his adventures to add the following description:—'I wore a blue military cloak and a military cocked hat; I had a sword by my side; my whole luggage was carried in two bags, one on each side of the horse. In one of these I usually carried a leg of mutton, from which I cut two or three slices when I wished to prepare my dinner. My servant had a suit of clothes which had never been of the best, and was then mostly in rags. He, too, wore a cocked hat, and, being tall and thin, stalked before me with great dignity.' Such a description reads almost like a page from Cervantes.
Thus attended, Lord John visited the scene of the battle of Talavera, in which his brother had been wounded, and on June 5, two days after the departure of the French, entered Madrid. Before the end of the month news arrived of the battle of Vittoria; and the young Englishman shared in the public rejoicings which greeted the announcement. 'From Talavera,' adds Lord John, 'I proceeded to Madrid, where I met my friends George Bridgeman and Robert Clive. With them I travelled to Valencia, and with them in a ship laden with salt fish to Majorca.'
At Palma the travellers found hospitable quarters at the Bishop's palace, and after a brief stay crossed in an open boat to Port Mahon in Minorca—a rather risky trip, as the youths, with their love of adventure, made it by night, and were overtaken on the way by an alarming thunderstorm. Whilst in Minorca Lord John received a letter from his father, informing him of the death of his old friend General Fitzpatrick, and also stating that the Duke meant to use his influence at Tavistock to obtain for his son a seat in the House of Commons. 'He immediately flew home,' remarks his friend Mr. Bridgeman, 'on what wings I know not, but I suppose on those of political ambition.'
The Duke's nomination rendered his election in those days of pocket-boroughs a foregone conclusion. As soon as Lord John set foot in England he was greeted with the tidings that he had already been elected member for Tavistock, and so began, at the age of one-and-twenty, a career in the House of Commons which was destined to last for nearly fifty years.
IN PARLIAMENT AND FOR THE PEOPLE
The political outlook when Lord John entered the House of Commons—The 'Condition of England' question—The struggle for Parliamentary Reform—Side-lights on Napoleon Bonaparte—The Liverpool Administration in a panic—Lord John comes to the aid of Sir Francis Burdett—Foreign travel—First motion in favour of Reform—Making headway
LORD LIVERPOOL was at the head of affairs when Lord John Russell entered Parliament. His long tenure of power had commenced in the previous summer, and it lasted until the Premier was struck down by serious illness in the opening weeks of 1827. In Lord John's opinion, Lord Liverpool was a 'man of honest but narrow views,' and he probably would have endorsed the cynical description of him as the 'keystone rather than the capital' of his own Cabinet. Lord Castlereagh was at the Foreign Office, Lord Sidmouth was Home Secretary, Mr. Vansittart Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Palmerston Secretary at War, and Mr. Peel Secretary for Ireland. The political outlook on all sides was gloomy and menacing. The absorbing subject in Parliament was war and the sinews of war; whilst outside its walls hard-pressed taxpayers were moodily speculating on the probable figures in the nation's 'glory bill.' The two years' war with America was in progress. The battle between the Shannon and the Chesapeake was still the talk of the hour; but there seemed just then no prospect of peace. Napoleon still struggled for the dictatorship of Europe, and Englishmen were wondering to what extent they would have to share in the attempt to foil his ambition. The Peninsular campaign was costly enough to the British taxpayer; but his chagrin vanished—for the moment, at least—when Wellington's victories appealed to his pride. Since the beginning of the century the attention of Parliament and people had been directed mainly to foreign affairs. Domestic legislation was at a standstill. With one important exception—an Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade—scarcely any measure of note, apart from military matters and international questions, had passed the House of Commons.
Parliamentary government, so far as it was supposed to be representative of the people, was a delusion. The number of members returned by private patronage for England and Wales amounted to more than three hundred. It was publicly asserted, and not without an appeal to statistics, that one hundred and fifty-four persons, great and small, actually returned no less than three hundred and seven members to the House of Commons. Representation in the boroughs was on a less worthy scale in the reign of George III. than it had been in the days of the Plantagenets, and whatever changes had been made in the franchise since the Tudors had been to the advantage of the privileged rather than to that of the people.
[Sidenote: FALLEN BOROUGHS AND FANCY PRICES]
Parliament was little more than an assembly of delegates sent by large landowners. Ninety members were returned by forty-six places in which there were less than fifty electors; and seventy members were returned by thirty-five places containing scarcely any electors at all. Places such as Old Sarum—consisting of a mound and a few ruins—returned two members; whilst Manchester, Leeds, and Birmingham, in spite of their great populations, and in spite, too, of keen political intelligence and far-reaching commercial activity, were not yet judged worthy of the least voice in affairs. At Gatton the right of election lay in the hands of freeholders and householders paying scot and lot; but the only elector was Lord Monson, who returned two members. Many of the boroughs were bought at a fancy price by men ambitious to enter Parliament—a method which seems, however, to have had the advantage of economy when the cost of some of the elections is taken into account. An election for Northampton cost the two candidates 30,000l. each, whilst Lord Milton and Mr. Lascelles, in 1807, spent between them 200,000l. at a contested election for the county of York.
Bribery and corruption were of course practised wholesale, and publicans fleeced politicians and made fortunes out of the pockets of aspirants for Westminster. In the 'People's Book' an instance is cited of the way some borough elections were 'managed.' 'The patron of a large town in Ireland, finding, on the approach of an election, that opposition was to be made to his interest, marched a regiment of soldiers into the place from Loughrea, where they were quartered, and caused them to be elected freemen. These military freemen then voted for his friend, who was, of course, returned!' Inequality, inadequacy, unreality, corruption—these were the leading traits of the House of Commons. The House of Commons no more represented the people of the United Kingdom than the parish council of Little Peddleton mirrors the mind of Europe.
The statute-book was disfigured by excessive penalities. Men were put in the pillory for perjury, libel, and the like. Forgers, robbers, incendiaries, poachers, and mutilators of cattle were sent to the gallows. Ignorance and brutality prevailed amongst large sections of the people both in town and country, and the privileged classes, in spite of vulgar ostentation and the parade of fine manners, set them an evil example in both directions. Yet, though the Church of England had no vision of the needs of the people and no voice for their wrongs, the great wave of religious life which had followed the preaching of Whitfield and Wesley had not spent its force, nor was it destined to do so before it had awakened in the multitude a spirit of quickened intelligence and self-respect which made them restive under political servitude and in the presence of acknowledged but unredressed grievances. Education, through the disinterested efforts of a group of philanthropists, was, moreover, beginning—in some slight degree, at least—to leaven the mass of ignorance in the country, the power of the press was making itself felt, and other agencies were also beginning to dispel the old apathy born of despair.
The French Revolution, with its dramatic overthrow of tyranny and its splendid watchword, 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,' made its own appeal to the hope as well as the imagination of the English people, although the sanguinary incidents which marked it retarded the movement for Reform in England, and as a matter of fact sent the Reformers into the wilderness for the space of forty years.
More than a quarter of a century before the birth of Lord John Russell, who was destined to carry the first Reform Bill through the House of Commons, Lord Chatham had not hesitated to denounce the borough representation of the country as the 'rotten part of our constitution,' which, he said, resembled a mortified limb; and he had added the significant words, 'If it does not drop, it must be amputated.' He held that it was useless to look for the strength and vigour of the constitution in little pocket-boroughs, and that the nation ought rather to rely on the 'great cities and counties.' Fox, in a debate in 1796, declared that peace could never be secured until the Constitution was amended. He added: 'The voice of the representatives of the people must prevail over the executive ministers of the Crown; the people must be restored to their just rights.' These warnings fell unheeded, until the strain of long-continued war, bad harvests, harsh poor laws, and exorbitant taxes on the necessities of life conspired to goad the people to the verge of open rebellion.
[Sidenote: 'FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE']
Wilkes, Pitt, Burdett, Cartwright, and Grey, again and again returned to the charge, only to find, however, that the strongholds of privilege were not easily overthrown. The year 1792, in which, by a noteworthy coincidence, Lord John Russell was born, was rendered memorable in the history of a movement with which his name will always be associated by the formation of the society of the 'Friends of the People,' an influential association which had its place of meeting at the Freemasons' Tavern. Amongst its first members were Mr. Lambton (father of the first Earl of Durham), Mr. (afterwards Sir James) Mackintosh, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. (afterwards Lord) Erskine, Mr. Charles (afterwards Earl) Grey, and more than twenty other members of Parliament. In the following year Mr. Grey brought forward the celebrated petition of the Friends of the People in the House of Commons. It exposed the abuses of the existing electoral system and presented a powerful argument for Parliamentary Reform. He moved that the petition should be referred to the consideration 'of a committee'; but Pitt, in spite of his own measure on the subject in 1785, was now lukewarm about Reform, and accordingly opposed as 'inopportune' such an inquiry. 'This is not a time,' were his words, 'to make hazardous experiments.' The spirit of anarchy, in his view, was abroad, and Burke's 'Reflections,' had of course increased the panic of the moment. Although Grey pressed the motion, only 141 members supported it, and though four years later he moved for leave to bring in a bill on the subject, justice and common sense were again over-ridden, and, so far as Parliament was concerned, the question slept until 1809, when Sir Francis Burdett revived the agitation.
Meanwhile, men of the stamp of Horne Tooke, William Cobbett, Hone, 'Orator' Hunt, and Major Cartwright—brother of Lord John Russell's tutor at Woburn, and the originator of the popular cry, 'One man, one vote'—were in various ways keeping the question steadily before the minds of the people. Hampden Clubs and other democratic associations were also springing up in various parts of the country, sometimes to the advantage of demagogues of damaged reputation rather than to the advancement of the popular cause. Sir Francis Burdett may be said to have represented the Reformers in Parliament during the remainder of the reign of George III., though, just as the old order was changing, Earl Grey, in 1819, publicly renewed his connection with the question, and pledged himself to support any sound and judicious measure which promised to deal effectively with known abuses. In spite of the apathy of Parliament and the sullen opposition of the privileged classes to all projects of the kind, whether great or small, sweeping or partial, the question was slowly ripening in the public mind. Sydney Smith in 1819 declared, 'I think all wise men should begin to turn their minds Reformwards. We shall do it better than Mr. Hunt or Mr. Cobbett. Done it must and will be.' In the following year Lord John Russell, at the age of twenty-eight, became identified with the question of Parliamentary Reform by bringing before the House of Commons a measure for the redress of certain scandalous grievances, chiefly at Grampound. When Lord John's Parliamentary career began, George III. was hopelessly mad and blind, and, as if to heighten the depressing aspect of public affairs, the scandalous conduct of his sons was straining to the breaking-point the loyalty of men of intelligence to the Throne.
[Sidenote: LORD JOHN'S MAIDEN SPEECH]
Lord John's maiden speech in Parliament was directed against the proposal of the Liverpool Administration to enforce its views in regard to the union of Norway and Sweden. It escaped the attention of Parliamentary reporters and has passed into oblivion. The pages of 'Hansard,' however, give a brief summary of his next speech, which, like its predecessor, was on the side of liberty. It was delivered on July 14, 1814, in opposition to the second reading of the Alien Acts, which in spite of such a protest quickly became law. His comments were concise and characteristic. 'He considered the Act to be one which was very liable to abuse. The present time was that which least called for it; and Ministers, in bringing forward the measure now because it had been necessary before, reminded him of the unfortunate wag mentioned in 'Joe Miller,' who was so fond of rehearsing a joke that he always repeated it at the wrong time.' During the first months of his Parliamentary experience Lord John was elected a member of Grillion's Club, which had been established in Bond Street about twelve months previously, and which became in after-years a favourite haunt of many men of light and leading. It was founded on a somewhat novel basis. Leading members of the Whig and Tory parties met for social purposes. Political discussion was strictly tabooed, and nothing but the amenities of life were cultivated. In after-years the club became to Lord John Russell, as it has also been to many distinguished politicians, a welcome haven from the turmoil of Westminster.
Delicate health in the autumn quickened Lord John's desire to renew the pleasures of foreign travel. He accordingly went by sea to Italy, and arrived at Leghorn in the opening days of December. He was still wandering in Southern Europe when Parliament reassembled, and the Christmas Eve of that year was rendered memorable to him by an interview with Napoleon in exile at Elba.
[Sidenote: A GLIMPSE OF NAPOLEON]
Through the kindness of Lady Russell it is possible here to quote from an old-fashioned leather-bound volume in her husband's handwriting, which gives a detailed account of the incidents of his Italian tour in 1814-15, and of his conversation on this occasion with the banished despot of Europe. Part of what follows has already been published by Mr. Walpole, but much of it has remained for eighty years in the privacy of Lord John's own notebook, from the faded pages of which it is now transcribed:—'Napoleon was dressed in a green coat, with a hat in his hand, very much as he is painted; but, excepting the resemblance of dress, I had a very mistaken idea of him from his portrait. He appears very short, which is partly owing to his being very fat, his hands and legs being quite swollen and unwieldy. That makes him appear awkward, and not unlike the whole-length figure of Gibbon the historian. Besides this, instead of the bold-marked countenance that I expected, he has fat cheeks and rather a turn-up nose, which, to bring in another historian, makes the shape of his face resemble the portraits of Hume. He has a dusky grey eye, which would be called vicious in a horse, and the shape of his mouth expresses contempt and decision. His manner is very good-natured, and seems studied to put one at one's ease by its familiarity; his smile and laugh are very agreeable; he asks a number of questions without object, and often repeats them, a habit which he has, no doubt, acquired during fifteen years of supreme command. He began asking me about my family, the allowance my father gave me, if I ran into debt, drank, played, &c. He asked me if I had been in Spain, and if I was not imprisoned by the Inquisition. I told him that I had seen the abolition of the Inquisition voted, and of the injudicious manner in which it was done.'
Napoleon told Lord John that Ferdinand was in the hands of the priests. Spain, like Italy, he added, was a fine country, especially Andalusia and Seville. Lord John admitted this, but spoke of the uncultivated nature of the land. 'Agriculture,' replied Napoleon, 'is neglected because the land is in the hands of the Church.' 'And of the grandees,' suggested his visitor. 'Yes,' was the answer, 'who have privileges contrary to the public prosperity.' Napoleon added that he thought the evil might be remedied by divided property and abolishing hurtful privileges, as was done in France. Afterwards Napoleon asked many questions about the Cortes, and when Lord John told him that many of the members made good speeches on abstract questions, but they failed when any practical debate on finance or war took place, Napoleon drily remarked: 'Oui, faute de l'habitude de gouverner.' Presently the talk drifted to Wellington, or rather Napoleon adroitly led it thither. He described the man who had driven the French out of Spain as a 'grand chasseur,' and asked if Wellington liked Paris. Lord John replied that he thought not, and added that Wellington had said that he should find himself much at a loss as to what to do in time of peace, as he seemed scarcely to like anything but war. Whereupon Napoleon exclaimed, 'La guerre est un grand jeu, une belle occupation.' He expressed his surprise that England should have sent the Duke to Paris, and he added, evidently with a touch of bitterness, 'On n'aime pas l'homme par qui on a ete battu.'
The Emperor's great anxiety seemed to be to get reliable tidings of the condition of France. Lord John's own words are: 'He inquired if I had seen at Florence many Englishmen who came from there, and when I mentioned Lord Holland, he asked if he thought things went well with the Bourbons. When I answered in the negative he seemed delighted, and asked if Lord Holland thought they would be able to stay there.' On this point Lord John was not able to satisfy him, and Napoleon said that he understood that the Bourbons had neglected the Englishmen who had treated them well in England, and particularly the Duke of Buckingham, and he condemned their lack of gratitude. Lord John suggested that the Bourbons were afraid to be thought to be dependent on the English, but Napoleon brushed this aside by asserting that the English in general were very well received. In a mocking tone he expressed his wish to know whether the army was much attached to the Bourbons. The Vienna Congress was, of course, just then in progress, and Napoleon showed himself nothing loth to talk about it. He said: 'The Powers will disagree, but they will not go to war.' He spoke of the Regent's conduct to the Princess as very impolitic, and he added that it shocked the bienseances by the observance of which his father George III. had become so popular. He declared that our struggle with America was 'une guerre de vengeance,' as the frontier question could not possibly be of any importance. According to Napoleon, the great superiority of England to France lay in her aristocracy.
[Sidenote: NAPOLEON'S PREDICTION ABOUT INDIA]
Napoleon stated that he had intended to create a new aristocracy in France by marrying his officers to the daughters of the old nobility, and he added that he had reserved a fund from the contributions which he levied when he made treaties with Austria, Prussia, &c., in order to found these new families. Speaking of some of the naval engagements, 'he found great fault with the French admiral who fought the battle of the Nile, and pointed out what he ought to have done; but he found most fault with the admiral who fought Sir R. Calder for not disabling his fleet, and said that if he could have got the Channel clear then, or at any other time, he would have invaded England.' Talleyrand, he declared, had advised the war with Spain, and Napoleon also made out that he had prevented him from saving the Duc d'Enghien. Spain ought to have been conquered, and Napoleon declared that he would have gone there himself if the war with Russia had not occurred. England would repent of bringing the Russians so far, and he added in this connection the remarkable words, 'They will deprive her of India.'
After lingering for a while in Vienna, Florence, Rome, Naples, and other cities, Lord John returned home by way of Germany, and on June 5 he spoke in Parliament against the renewal of hostilities. He was one of the small minority in Parliament who refused to regard Napoleon's flight from Elba as a sufficient casus belli. Counsels of peace, however, were naturally just then not likely to prevail, and Wellington's victory a fortnight later falsified Lord John's fears. He did not speak again until February 1816, when, in seconding an amendment to the Address, he protested against the continuance of the income-tax as a calamity to the country. He pointed out that, although there had been repeated victories abroad, prosperity at home had vanished; that farmers could not pay their rents nor landlords their taxes; and that everybody who was not paid out of the public purse felt that prosperity was gone. A few weeks later he opposed the Army Estimates, contending that a standing army of 150,000 men 'must alarm every friend of his country and its constitution.'
It was probably owing in a measure to the hopelessness of the situation, but also partly to ill-health, that Lord John absented himself to a great extent from Parliament. He was, in truth, chagrined at the course of affairs and discouraged with his own prospects, and in consequence he lapsed for a time into the position of a silent member of the House of Commons. Meanwhile, the summer of 1816 was wet and cold and the harvest was in consequence a disastrous failure. Wheat rose to 103s. a quarter, and bread riots broke out in the Eastern Counties. The Luddites, who commenced breaking up machinery in manufacturing towns in 1811, again committed great excesses. Tumults occurred in London, and the Prince Regent was insulted in the streets on his return from opening Parliament.
[Sidenote: PANIC-STRICKEN AUTHORITY]
The Liverpool Cabinet gave way to panic, and quickly resorted to extreme measures. A secret committee was appointed in each House to investigate the causes of the disaffection of a portion of his Majesty's subjects. Four bills were, as the result of their deliberations, swiftly introduced and passed through Parliament. The first enacted penalties for decoying sailors and soldiers; the second was a pitiful exhibition of lack of confidence, for it aimed at special measures for the protection of the Prince Regent; the third furnished magistrates with unusual powers for the prevention of seditious meetings; and the fourth suspended the Habeas Corpus Act till July 1, giving the Executive authority 'to secure and detain such persons as his Majesty shall suspect are conspiring against his person and Government.'
The measures of the Government filled Lord John with indignation, and he assailed the proposal to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in a vigorous speech, which showed conclusively that his sympathies were on the side of the weak and distressed classes of the community. 'I had not intended,' he said, 'to trouble the House with any observations of mine during the present session of Parliament. Indeed, the state of my health induced me to resolve upon quitting the fatiguing business of this House altogether. But he must have no ordinary mind whose attention is not roused in a singular manner when it is proposed to suspend the rights and liberties of Englishmen, though even for a short period. I am determined, for my own part, that no weakness of frame, no indisposition of body, shall prevent my protesting against the most dangerous precedent which this House ever made. We talk much—I think, a great deal too much—of the wisdom of our ancestors. I wish we could imitate the courage of our ancestors. They were not ready to lay their liberties at the foot of the Crown upon every vain or imaginary alarm.' He begged the majority not to give, by the adoption of a policy of coercion, the opponents of law and order the opportunity of saying, 'When we ask for redress you refuse all innovation; when the Crown asks for protection you sanction a new code.'
All protests, as usual, were thrown away, and the bill was passed. Lord John resumed his literary tasks, and as a matter of fact only once addressed the House in the course of the next two years. He repeatedly declared his intention of entirely giving up politics and devoting his time to literature and travel. Many friends urged him to relinquish such an idea. Moore's poetical 'Remonstrance,' which gladdened Lord John not a little at the moment, is so well known that we need scarcely quote more than the closing lines:
Thus gifted, thou never canst sleep in the shade; If the stirring of genius, the music of fame, And the charm of thy cause have not power to persuade, Yet think how to freedom thou'rt pledged by thy name. Like the boughs of that laurel, by Delphi's decree Set apart for the fane and its service divine, All the branches that spring from the old Russell tree Are by Liberty claimed for the use of her shrine.'
Lord John's literary labours began at this time to be considerable. He also enlarged his knowledge of the world by giving free play to his love of foreign travel.
[Sidenote: FEELING HIS WAY]
A general election occurred in the summer of 1818, and it proved that though the Tories were weakened they still had a majority. Lord John, with his uncle Lord William Russell, were, however, returned for Tavistock. Public affairs in 1819 were of a kind to draw him from his retirement, and as a matter of fact it was in that year that his speeches began to attract more than passing notice. He spoke briefly in favour of reducing the number of the Lords of the Admiralty, advocated an inquiry into domestic and foreign policy, protested against the surrender of the town of Parga, on the coast of Epirus, to the Turks, and made an energetic speech against the prevailing bribery and corruption which disgraced contested elections. The summer of that year was also rendered memorable in Lord John's career by his first speech on Parliamentary Reform. In July, Sir Francis Burdett, undeterred by previous overwhelming defeats, brought forward his usual sweeping motion demanding universal suffrage, equal electoral districts, vote by ballot, and annual Parliaments. Lord John's criticism was level-headed, and therefore characteristic. He had little sympathy with extreme measures, and he knew, moreover, that it was not merely useless but injurious to the cause of Reform to urge them at such a moment. The opposition was too powerful and too impervious to anything in the nature of an idea to give such proposals just then the least chance of success. Property meant to fight hard for its privileges, and the great landowners looked upon their pocket-boroughs as a goodly heritage as well as a rightful appanage of rank and wealth. As for the great unrepresented towns, they were regarded as hot-beds of sedition, and therefore the people were to be kept in their place, and that meant without a voice in the affairs of the nation. The close corporations and the corrupt boroughs were meanwhile dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders or a laugh of scorn.
Lord John was as yet by no means a full-fledged Reformer, but it was something in those days for a duke's son to take sides, even in a modified way, with the party of progress. His speech represented the views not so much of the multitude as of the middle classes. They were alarmed at the truculent violence of mob orators up and down the country; their fund of inherited reverence for the aristocracy was as yet scarcely diminished. They had their own dread of spoliation, and they had not quite recovered from their fright over the French Revolution. They were law abiding, moreover, and the blood and treasure which it had cost the nation to crush Napoleon had allayed in thousands of them the thirst for glory, and turned them into possibly humdrum but very sincere lovers of peace. Lord John's speech was an appeal to the average man in his strength and in his limitations, and men of cautious common-sense everywhere rejoiced that the young Whig—who was liked none the less by farmer and shopkeeper because he was a lord—had struck the nail exactly on the head. The growth of Lord John's influence in Parliament was watched at Woburn with keen interest. 'I have had a good deal of conversation,' wrote the Duke, 'with old Tierney at Cassiobury about you.... I find with pleasure that he has a very high opinion of your debating powers; and says, if you will stick to one branch of politics and not range over too desultory a field, you may become eminently useful and conspicuous in the House of Commons.... The line I should recommend for your selection would be that of foreign politics, and all home politics bearing on civil and religious liberty—a pretty wide range....'
As soon as the end of the session brought a respite from his Parliamentary duties Lord John started for the Continent with Moore the poet. The author of 'Lalla Rookh' was at that moment struggling, after the manner of the majority of poets at any moment, with the three-headed monster pounds, shillings, and pence, through the failure of his deputy in an official appointment at Bermuda. The poet's journal contains many allusions to Lord John, and the following passage from it, dated September 4, 1819, speaks for itself:—'Set off with Lord John in his carriage at seven; breakfasted and arrived at Dover to dinner at seven o'clock; the journey very agreeable. Lord John mild and sensible; took off Talma very well. Mentioned Buonaparte having instructed Talma in the part of Nero; correcting him for being in such a bustle in giving his orders, and telling him they ought to be given calmly, as coming from a person used to sovereignty.' After a fortnight in Paris the travellers went on to Milan, where they parted company, Moore going to Venice to visit Byron, and Lord John to Genoa, to renew a pleasant acquaintance with Madame Durazzo, an Italian lady of rank who was at one time well known in English society.
[Sidenote: MADAME DURAZZO]
Madame Durazzo was a quick-witted and accomplished woman, and her vivacious and sympathetic nature was hardly less remarkable than her personal charm. There is evidence enough that she made a considerable impression upon the young English statesman, who, indeed, wrote a sonnet about her. Lord John's verdict on Italy and the Italians is pithily expressed in a hitherto unpublished extract from his journal:—'Italy is a delightful country for a traveller—every town full of the finest specimens of art, even now, and many marked by remains of antiquity near one another—all different. Easy travelling, books in plenty, living cheap and tolerably good—what can a man wish for but a little grace and good taste in dress amongst women? Men of science abound in Italy—the Papal Government discouraged them at Rome; but the country cannot be said to be behind the world in knowledge. Poets, too, are plenty; I never read their verses.'
Meanwhile, the condition of England was becoming critical. Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, and other great towns were filled with angry discontent, and turbulent mass meetings of the people were held to protest against any further neglect of their just demands for political representation. Major Cartwright advised these great unrepresented communities to 'send a petition in the form of a living man instead of one on parchment or paper,' so that he might state in unmistakable terms their demands to the Speaker. Sir Charles Wolseley, a Staffordshire baronet and a friend of Burdett, was elected with a great flourish of trumpets at Birmingham to act in this capacity, and Manchester determined also to send a representative, and on August 16, 1819, a great open-air meeting was called to give effect to this resolution. The multitude were dispersed by the military, and readers of Bamford's 'Passages in the Life of a Radical' will remember his graphic and detailed description of the scene of tumult and bloodshed which followed, and which is known as the Peterloo Massacre. The carnage inspired Shelley's magnificent 'Mask of Anarchy':—
... One fled past, a maniac maid, And her name was Hope, she said: But she looked more like Despair, And she cried out in the air:
'My father Time is weak and grey With waiting for a better day.'
[Sidenote: OIL AND VINEGAR]
In those days Parliament did not sit in August, and the members of the Cabinet were not at hand when the crisis arose. The Prince Regent expressed his approbation of the conduct of the magistrates of Manchester as well as of that of the officers and troops of the cavalry, whose firmness and effectual support of the civil power preserved the peace of the town. The Cabinet also lost no time in giving its emphatic support to the high-handed action of the Lancashire magistrates, and Major Cartwright and other leaders of the popular movement became the heroes of the hour because the Liverpool Administration was foolish enough to turn them into political martyrs by prosecuting them on the charge of sedition. Lord John at this crisis received several letters urging his return home immediately. That his influence was already regarded as of some importance is evident from the terms in which Sir James Mackintosh addressed him. 'You are more wanted than anybody, not only for general service, but because your Reform must be immediately brought forward—if possible, as the act of the party, but at all events as the creed of all Whig Reformers.' Writing to Moore from Genoa on November 9, Lord John says: 'I am just setting off for London. Mackintosh has written me an oily letter, to which I have answered by a vinegar one; but I want you to keep me up in acerbity.'
Soon after Parliament met, the famous Six Acts—usually termed the 'Gagging Acts'—were passed, though not without strenuous opposition. These measures were intended to hinder delay in the administration of justice in the case of misdemeanour, to prevent the training of persons to the use of arms, to enable magistrates to seize and detain arms, to prevent seditious meetings, and to bring to punishment the authors of blasphemous and seditious libels. No meeting of more than fifty people was to be held without six days' notice to a magistrate; only freeholders or inhabitants were to be allowed even to attend; and adjournments were forbidden. The time and place of meeting were, if deemed advisable, to be changed by the local authorities, and no banners or flags were to be displayed. The wisdom of Lord Eldon, the patriotism of Lord Castlereagh, and the panic of Lord Sidmouth were responsible for these tyrannical enactments. On December 14 Lord John brought forward his first resolutions in favour of Reform. He proposed (1) that all boroughs in which gross and notorious bribery and corruption should be proved to prevail should cease to return members to Parliament; (2) that the right so taken away should be given to some great town or to the largest counties; (3) that it is the duty of the House to consider of further means to detect and to prevent corruption in Parliamentary elections; (4) that it is expedient that the borough of Grampound should be disfranchised. Even Castlereagh complimented him on the manner in which he had introduced the question, and undertook that, if Lord John would withdraw the resolutions and bring in a bill to disfranchise Grampound, he would not oppose the proposition, and to this arrangement Lord John consented. Shortly before the dissolution of Parliament, consequent upon the death of the King, in January 1820, Lord John obtained leave to bring in a bill for suspending the issue of writs to the corrupt boroughs of Penryn, Camelford, Grampound, and Barnstaple. But the alarm occasioned by the Cato Street Conspiracy threw back the movement and awakened all the old prejudices against even the slightest concession.
At the general election of 1820 Lord John was returned for the county of Huntingdon. As soon as possible Lord John returned to the charge, and brought forward his measure for dealing with Grampound and to transfer the right of voting to Leeds, the franchise to be given to occupiers of houses rated at 5l. and upwards. In his 'Recollections and Suggestions' Lord John says: 'With a view to work my way to a change, not by eloquence—for I had none—but by patient toil and a plain statement of facts, I brought before the House of Commons the case of Grampound. I obtained an inquiry, and, with the assistance of Mr. Charles Wynn, I forced the solicitors employed in bribery to reveal the secrets of their employers: the case was clear; the borough was convicted.' Whilst the debate was proceeding Queen Caroline arrived in England from the Continent, and was received with much popular enthusiasm. Hostile measures were at once taken in the House of Commons against her, and though the despicable proceedings eventually came to nought, they effectually stopped all further discussion of the question of Reform for the time being.
[Sidenote: THE 'FIRST GENTLEMAN OF EUROPE']
Like Canning and Brougham, Lord John took the side of the injured Queen, and he drew up a petition to George IV. begging him to end the further consideration of the Bill of Pains and Penalties against Caroline by proroguing Parliament. Such a request was entirely thrown away on a man of the character of George IV., for the King was bent on a policy of mean revenge; and as only the honour of a woman was concerned, the 'first gentleman of Europe' found the Liverpool Administration obsequious enough to do his bidding. When at length public opinion prevailed and the proceedings against the Queen were withdrawn in November, and whilst rejoicings and illuminations were going on in London at the Queen's deliverance, Lord John went to Paris, remaining there till January. Moore was in Paris, and he was much in his company, and divided the rest of his time between literature and society. He wrote his now forgotten novel, 'The Nun of Arrouca,' during the six weeks which he spent in Paris. A Frenchman, visiting the poet, 'lamented that his friend Lord John showed to so little advantage in society from his extreme taciturnity, and still more from his apparent coldness and indifference to what is said by others. Several here to whom he was introduced had been much disappointed in consequence of this manner.'
Lady Blessington, who was at that time living abroad, states that Lord John came and dined with herself and the Earl, and the comments of so beautiful and accomplished a woman of fashion are at least worthy of passing record. 'Lord John was in better health and spirits than when I remember him in England. He is exceedingly well read, and has a quiet dash of humour, that renders his observations very amusing. When the reserve peculiar to him is thawed, he can be very agreeable. Good sense, a considerable power of discrimination, a highly cultivated mind, a great equality of temper, are the characteristics of Lord John Russell, and these peculiarly fit him for taking a distinguished part in public life.' Lady Blessington adds that the only obstacle, in her opinion, to Lord John's success lays in the natural reserve of his manners, which might lead people 'to think him cold and proud.' This is exactly what happened, and only those who knew Lord John intimately were aware of the delicate consideration for others which lurked beneath his somewhat frigid demeanour.
[Sidenote: HALF A LOAF OR NO BREAD]
Early in the year 1821 Lord John reintroduced his bill for the disfranchisement of Grampound. Several amendments were proposed, and one, brought forward by Mr. Stuart Wortley, limiting the right to vote to 20l. householders, was carried. Thereupon Lord John declined to take further charge of the measure. After being altered and pruned by both Houses the bill was passed, in spite of Lord Eldon, 'with tears and doleful predictions,' urging the peers 'to resist this first turn of the helm towards the whirlpool of democracy.' Grampound ceased to exist as a Parliamentary borough, and the county of York gained two members. Although Lord John supported the amended bill—on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread—he at the same time announced that 'in a future session he proposed to call attention to the claims of large towns to send members to this House.' He was determined to do all in his power to deprive what he termed the 'dead bones of a former state of England' of political influence, and to give representation to what he termed the 'living energy and industry of the England of the nineteenth century, with its steam-engines and its factories, its cotton and woollen cloths, its cutlery and its coal-mines, its wealth and its intelligence.' Whilst the bill about Grampound was being discussed by the Lords he took further action in this direction, and presented four resolutions for the discovery and punishment of bribery, the disfranchisement of corrupt boroughs, and the enfranchisement of wealthy and populous towns. On a division his proposals were defeated by thirty-one votes in a House of 279 members, and this, under all the circumstances, was a better result than he expected.
On April 25, 1822, Lord John again tested the feeling of Parliament with his motion 'that the present state of the representation requires serious consideration.' In the course of a speech of three hours he startled the House by proposing that 100 new members should be added, and, in order that the Commons should not be overcrowded, he added another resolution, to the effect that a similar number of the small boroughs should be represented by one member instead of two. Mr. Canning opposed such a scheme, but complimented Lord John on the ability he had displayed in its advocacy, and then added: 'That the noble lord will carry his motion this evening I have no fear; but with the talents which he has shown himself to possess, and with (I sincerely hope) a long and brilliant career of Parliamentary distinction before him, he will, no doubt, renew his efforts hereafter. If, however, he shall persevere, and if his perseverance shall be successful, and if the results of that success shall be such as I cannot help apprehending, his be the triumph to have precipitated those results, be mine the consolation that, to the utmost and to the latest of my power, I have opposed them.'
Little persuasion was necessary to win a hostile vote, and in a House of 433 members Lord John found himself in a minority of 164. Next year he renewed his attempt, but with the same result, and in 1826 he once more brought forward his proposals for Reform, to be defeated. Two months afterwards, however—May 26, 1826—undaunted by his repeated failures, he brought in a bill for the discovery and suppression of bribery at elections. The forces arrayed against him again proved too formidable, and Lord John, deeming it useless to proceed, abandoned the bill. He made one more attempt in the expiring Parliament, in a series of resolutions, to arrest political corruption, and when the division was taken the numbers were equal, whereupon the Speaker recorded his vote on Lord John's side. In June the House was dissolved.
[Sidenote: A WHIG OF THE NEW GENERATION]
The Whigs of the new generation were meanwhile dreaming of projects which had never entered into the calculations of their predecessors. Lord John long afterwards gave expression to the views which were beginning to prevail, such as non-interference in the internal government of other nations, the necessity of peace with America and the acknowledgment of her Independence, the satisfaction of the people of Ireland by the concession of political equality, the advancement of religious liberty, parliamentary reform, and the unrestricted liberty of the press. 'Had these principles,' he declares, 'prevailed from 1770 to 1820, the country would have avoided the American War and the first French Revolutionary War, the rebellion in Ireland in 1798, and the creation of three or four millions of national debt.' Whenever opportunity allowed, Lord John sought in Parliament during the period under review to give practical effect to such convictions. He spoke in favour of the repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Bill, on the question of the evacuation of Spain by the French army, on the Alien Bill, on an inquiry into labourers' wages, on the Irish Insurrection Bill, on Roman Catholic claims and Roman Catholic endowment, and on agricultural distress.
During the closing years of George III.'s reign and the inglorious days of his successor, Lord John Russell rose slowly but steadily towards political influence and power. His speeches attracted growing attention, and his courage and common sense were rewarded with the deepening confidence of the nation. Although he was still regarded with some little dread by his 'betters and his elders,' to borrow his own phrase, the people hailed with satisfaction the rise of so honest, clear-headed, and dogged a champion of peace, retrenchment, and Reform. Court and Cabinet might look askance at the young statesman, but the great towns were at his back, and he knew—in spite of all appearances to the contrary—that they, though yet unrepresented, were in reality stronger than all the forces of selfish privilege and senseless prejudice. Lord John had proved himself to be a man of action. The nation was beginning to dream that he would yet prove himself to be a man of mark.
 Memoirs, Journal, and Correspondence of Thomas Moore. Edited by the Right Hon. Lord John Russell, M.P.
 Canning's Speeches.
 Recollections and Suggestions, p. 43.
WINNING HIS SPURS
Defeated and out of harness—Journey to Italy—Back in Parliament—Canning's accession to power—Bribery and corruption—The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts—The struggle between the Court and the Cabinet over Catholic Emancipation—Defeat of Wellington at the polls—Lord John appointed Paymaster-General.
WHIG optimists in the newspapers at the General Election of 1826 declared that the future welfare of the country would depend much on the intelligence and independence of the new Parliament. Ordinary men accustomed to look facts in the face were not, however, so sanguine, and Albany Fonblanque expressed the more common view amongst Radicals when he asserted that if the national welfare turned on the exhibition in an unreformed House of Commons of such unparliamentary qualities as intelligence and independence, there would be ground not for hope but for despair. He added that he saw no shadow of a reason for supposing that one Parliament under the existing system would differ in any essential degree from another. He maintained that, while the sources of corruption continued to flow, legislation would roll on in the same course.
Self-improvement was, in truth, the last thing to be expected from a House of Commons which represented vested rights, and the interests and even the caprices of a few individuals, rather than the convictions or needs of the nation. The Tory party was stubborn and defiant even when the end of the Liverpool Administration was in sight. The Test Acts were unrepealed, prejudice and suspicion shut out the Catholics from the Legislature, and the sacred rights of property triumphed over the terrible wrongs of the slave. The barbarous enactments of the Criminal Code had not yet been entirely swept away, and the municipal corporations, even to contemporary eyes, appeared as nothing less than sinks of corruption.
Lord John was defeated in Huntingdonshire, and, to his disappointment, found himself out of harness. He had hoped to bring in his Bribery Bill early in the session, and under the altered circumstances he persuaded Lord Althorp to press the measure forward. In a letter to that statesman which was afterwards printed, he states clearly the evils which he wished to remedy. A sentence or two will show the need of redress: 'A gentleman from London goes down to a borough of which he scarcely before knew the existence. The electors do not ask his political opinions; they do not inquire into his private character; they only require to be satisfied of the impurity of his intentions. If he is elected, no one, in all probability, contests the validity of his return. His opponents are as guilty as he is, and no other person will incur the expense of a petition for the sake of a public benefit. Fifteen days after the meeting of Parliament (this being the limit for the presentation of a petition), a handsome reward is distributed to each of the worthy and independent electors.'
[Sidenote: A SARCASTIC APPEAL]
In the early autumn Lord John quitted England, with the intention of passing the winter in Italy. The Duke of Bedford felt that his son had struck the nail on the head with his pithy and outspoken letter to Lord Althorp on political bribery, and he was not alone in thinking that Lord John ought not to throw away such an advantage by a prolonged absence on the Continent. Lord William accordingly wrote to his brother to urge a speedy return, and the letter is worth quoting, since incidentally it throws light on another aspect of Lord John's character: 'If you feel any ambition—which you have not; if you give up the charms of Genoa—which you cannot; if you could renounce the dinners and tea-tables and gossips of Rome—which you cannot; if you would cease to care about attending balls and assemblies, and dangling after ladies—which you cannot, there is a noble field of ambition and utility opened to a statesman. It is Ireland, suffering, ill-used Ireland! The gratitude of millions, the applause of the world, would attend the man who would rescue the poor country. The place is open, and must soon be filled up. Ireland cannot remain as she is. The Ministers feel it, and would gladly listen to any man who would point out the way to relieve her. Undertake the task; it is one of great difficulty, but let that be your encouragement. See the Pope's minister; have his opinion on the Catholic question; go to Ireland; find out the causes of her suffering; make yourself master of the subject. Set to work, as you did about Reform, by curing small evils at first.... I am pointing to the way for you to make your name immortal, by doing good to millions and to your country. But you will yawn over this, and go to some good dinner to be agreeable, the height of ambition with the present generation.'