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FOR THE YEAR
HISTORY OF EUROPE.
State of Public Feeling at the opening of the year-The War-Condition of the Crimean Army-Parliament reassembles-Notices of Motion on the conduct of the War by the Earl of Ellenborough, Mr. Roebuck, and Lord Lyndhurst-Sudden resignation of Lord John RussellHis conduct severely commented upon-His explanation in Parliament-Observations by Lord Palmerston-Conversation in the House of Lords-Explanation by Lord Aberdeen-Mr. Roebuck introduces his Motion-Speech of Mr. Herbert-The Motion is supported by Mr. Drummond, Colonel North, the Marquis of Granby, Mr. W. S. Lindsay, Mr. Layard, Mr. Walpole, Mr. Henley, Mr. Muntz, Mr. T. Duncombe, and others-Amongst the Opponents are Mr. Monckton Milnes, Mr. V. Smith, Admiral Berkeley, Mr. Rice, and Sir F. Baring -Speeches of Mr. Stafford, Sir Bulwer Lytton, and Mr. Disraeli in favour of, and of Sir George Grey, Mr. Bernal Osborne, Mr. Gladstone, and Lord Palmerston, against the Motion-Lord John Russell's reply to Mr. Disraeli-Result of the Division-Fall of the Ministry and the causes thereof-The Earl of Aberdeen communicates the Ministerial resignations to the House of Lords-Explanation of the Duke of Newcastle-Speech of the Earl of Derby-Lord John Russell, in the House of Commons, replies to the Duke of Newcastle's Speech-Mr. Gladstone's Speech-Further explanations-Speeches of Earls Granville and Derby, and the Marquis of Lansdowne-Lord Palmerston VOL. XCVII.
announces his Ministry to the House of Commons-Lord John Russell's Mission to Vienna-Mr. Disraeli, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. T. Duncombe, Mr. Horsman, and others, address the House-List of the new Ministers.
T the opening of the year 1855 the nation had been at war for nine months, and the conduct and progress of the campaign engrossed the attention of all classes, to the exclusion of every other topic doubts as to the capacity of the commanders abroad, and of the ministry at home, had gradually grown stronger. Rumours of neglect, disorder, and incompetency had long been prevalent; day by day the appalling truth became more apparent, and towards the end of January the public sympathy and indignation were roused to the utmost by the conviction that the soldiers of the finest army Great Britain had ever sent forth were ingloriously perishing of disease, overtasked and underfed, from the absence of the most ordinary calculation and foresight. The nation was greatly excited, and in the midst of that excitement, on Tuesday, January 23, Parliament reassembled.
On the very first evening there were several notices of motion in both Houses, tending to bring the conduct of the war under critical review. The most important were those by the Earl of Ellenborough in the House of Lords, and Mr. Roebuck in the House of Commons. The former would have involved a discussion upon the state of the army in the Crimea; the latter demanded a formal inquiry into the whole administration of the war. The attention of the public was centred in these two motions, and more particularly upon that of Mr. Roebuck. A few days subsequently
the stability of the Government was also threatened by Lord Lyndhurst, who, on the 28th January, gave notice that he should, on the 2nd February, move the following resolution :-"That in the opinion of this House the Expedition to the Crimea was undertaken by IIer Majesty's Government with very inadequate means, and without due caution or sufficient inquiry into the nature and extent of the resistance to be expected from the enemy; and that the neglect and mismanagement of the Government in the conduct of the enterprise have led to the most disastrous results."
The motions of the Earl of Ellenborough and Mr. Roebuck were to have been discussed on the 25th of January; but on that day Parliament and the public were astonished by the formal announcement of the resignation of Lord John Russell. His conduct in adopting this step at such a crisis was subject to much comment by men of all parties, and to severe criticism on the part of the press. It was remarked that he had for some time been actuated by a restless ambition which made him uneasy in the seat which his patriotism, or his love of office, had induced him to accept on the formation of the Coalition Ministry: that in declining to appear in the House of Commons as the representative of a Government which he had occupied so prominent a position, and thus apparently attempting to avoid the responsibility which was attached to every member of the Administra
tion, his conduct presented a wide and painful deviation from the rules of political morality, which had hitherto been faithfully observed in this country. It was said that he must have anticipated such a discussion as that which Mr. Roebuck's motion involved, and that, if he was unprepared to meet it, he might have resigned at a moment less inconvenient to his colleagues, and less injurious to the country; that it would have been more honourable to fall with the other members of the Cabinet, than to consult his own convenience or interest by leaving them in the lurch on the very day before a great parliamentary discussion on their past conduct and policy, in the responsibility for which he was so deeply involved. On the 26th of January, the orders of the day having been postponed on the motion of Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell proceeded to state to an unusually crowded House of Commons the reasons which had led to his resignation—a statement which he said he had postponed until that day at the request of Lord Aberdeen. Referring to the notice given by Mr. Roebuck, he observed that the power of inquiry was a most valuable privilege of the House, and that such a motion could only be resisted on one of two grounds, either that existing evils did not call for an inquiry, or that means had been taken to remedy those evils; with respect to the first, he said:" No one can deny the melancholy condition of our army before Sebastopol. (Cries of Hear, hear, hear!) The accounts which arrive from that quarter are not only painful, but they are horrible and heartrending; and I am sure no one would op
pose for a moment any measure which he thought likely, if not entirely to cure, even only to mitigate those evils. And, Sir, I must say that there is something that, with all the official knowledge to which I had access, is to me inexplicable in the state of that army. (Cries of 'Hear, hear!') If you had been told, as a reason against the expedition to the Crimea last year, that your troops would be seven miles from the sea-seven miles from a secure port, which at that time, in contemplation of the expedition, we hardly hoped to possess, and that at seven miles' distance they should be in want of food, of clothes, and of shelter, to such a degree that they should perish at the rate of from 90 to 100 a day, I should have considered such a prediction as utterly preposterous, such an objection as fanciful and unjust. But now we are forced to confess the notoriety of that state of circumstances." With respect to the other ground, he found, upon reflection, that it was impossible for him to urge that objection with effect. Reminding the House of the changes made last Session in the war departments, he stated that during the recess it had struck him that a better administration of those departments was required, and he proceeded to read a correspondence between Lord Aberdeen and himself upon this subject, in the course of which he suggested, as early as the 17th of November, that before Parliament met the seals of the War Department should be placed in the hands of Lord Palmerston, assigning his reasons confidentially to Lord Aberdeen, without throwing any blame upon Lord the Duke of Newcastle. Aberdeen did not concur in this
proposal, and his (Lord John's) only doubt was, whether he should not then have relinquished office; but he had adopted the advice of Lord Palmerston, and determined to continue his connection with the Government, having communicated to Lord Aberdeen his views as to the changes in the War Department, which he deemed indispensable to remedy its imperfections. In dealing with the motion of Mr. Roebuck, he was, however, bound to reflect whether he could fairly and honestly say, "It is true evils do exist, but such arrangements have been made that all deficiences and abuses will be immediately remedied;" and he could not honestly or without betraying the confidence reposed in him make that statement. He considered that he could come to only one conclusion-that, as he was unable to give the only answer that would stop inquiry, it was his duty not to remain a member of the Government. Accordingly, on the 23rd of January, he placed in the hands of Lord Aberdeen his resignation, which was accepted by Her Majesty. There was a report, he observed, that the suggestion he had made to Lord Aberdeen in November, to place the seals of the War Department in the hands of Lord Palmerston, had been adopted. If so, he was glad, he said, that his retirement had contributed to the change.
In conclusion, he said, "he should look back with pride to his association with many measures of the Administration; particularly with Mr. Gladstone's financial scheme in 1853. It had been remarked that the Whig party had not had its fair share in the distribution of power in that Administration. Previously to that time an
unjust belief prevailed that the Whigs were an exclusive party, wanting all office for themselves. "I believe that opinion to have been unjust, and I think that the Whig party during the two last years has fully justified the opinion I entertained. I will venture to say, that no set of men ever behaved with greater honour, or with more disinterested patriotism, than those-I might indeed say the whole-who have supported the Government of the Earl of Aberdeen. It is my pride, and it will ever be my pride to the last day of my life, to have belonged to a party which, as I consider, upholds the true principles of freedom; and it will ever be my constant endeavour to preserve the principles and tread in the paths which the Whig party have laid down for the guidance of their conduct." (Cheers.)
Lord Palmerston said it might be expected he should not allow the address of his noble friend to pass without some observations on the part of the Government. He assured him and the House that nothing could be more painful to himself officially and personally than the step Lord John had felt it to be his duty to take. He admitted that a public man had a perfect right to quit office whenever he considered that his continuance in office could not be reconciled with his sense of duty. When the correspondence between Lord J. Russell and Lord Aberdeen was communicated to him, he (Lord Palmerston), with his colleagues, urged Lord John not to secede from the Government, and he consented to remain; but from that time his noble friend did not revert to his proposal. He admitted that Lord John might have had a difficulty
meeting Mr. Roebuck's motion, but it was evident, he thought, that there were in his mind sufficient constitutional objections to that motion; and if he was decidedly of opinion that a different person ought to be at the head of the War Department, he should have given the Government an opportunity, before Parliament met, of saying whether the proposal should be adopted. The course he had taken was not in accordance with the
usual practice of public men, and was calculated to place the Government in a position of embarrassment, in which, at the hands of a colleague at least, they ought not to have been placed.
On the 25th of January, the fact of the resignation of Lord John Russell was officially announced in the House of Lords by the Duke of Newcastle.
Earl Fitzwilliam insisted upon the right of Parliament to know the causes of which had induced the leader of the House of Commons to adopt such a step.
The Duke of Newcastle said, in reply, that Lord John Russell had not yet made his statement in his place, and that until he had any comment or any attempt to elicit the cause of his resignation would be unfair to him; and the Marquis of Lansdowne closed the conversation by observing that it was not the duty of any other person to state for Lord John Russell the reasons for his resignation, which, he believed, would be done by the noble Lord himself on the day following, and which he alone was competent to state.
On the following day, the Earl of Aberdeen gave a brief explanation of the circumstances of the resignation. He said he was not fully possessed of the motives
which might have induced his noble friend to adopt that course, but he could not do better than read the letter which he had received :
"Chesham Place, Jan. 23, 1855. Mr. Roebuck has given notice of a "My dear Lord Aberdeen,motion to inquire into the conduct of the war.
motion is to be resisted; but, as I do not see how this it involves a censure upon the war departments, with which some of my colleagues are connected, my only course is to tender my resignation. I therefore have to request you will lay my humble resigna
tion of the office which I have the
honour to hold before the Queen, tude for Her Majesty's kindness with the expression of my gratidear Lord Aberdeen, yours very for many years.-I remain, my truly,
He then proceeded to state that two months previously he was aware that Lord John Russell was dissatisfied with the conduct of the war, but after the explanations which then took place, he was surprised at the receipt of the letter. He said he received that great loss with deep regret, and reminded the House that at the formation of the Government he expressly stated that he never would have ventured to undertake the formation of an Administration, had he not secured the active co-operation and assistance of his noble friend. Under these circumstances, and in ordinary times, he might perhaps have himself adopted a different course; but in the then condition of the country, and of the war, and of Her Majesty's Government, he felt it due to their own honour, to their own consistency, and to their sense of duty, to meet that motion