Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

а

one.

tions which he sustained to the country to the former occasion originated expressions of which he was never weary of giving his best antagonism to the court there was no denying, and worthiest efforts. But there was no real and it, therefore, did not seem improbable that need of vindication even at the time. Singu- such expressions had been repeated, or that larly enough, directly it was known that Lord he had imputed to the prince influences which Palmerston had withdrawn his resiguation, were opposed to him and to his policy, and many of those papers which had been fore- were therefore, in his opinion, antagonistic to most in their imputations withdrew them English interests, for Palmerston had a very with the utmost facility. Whether Palmer- sincere belief that the two things were inseparston had or had not anything to do with the able if not identical. storm of invective that had been raised, it Once during the contention Palmerston did abated directly it was discovered that he had give a denial, but it was not a very conclusive no need of that mode of accounting for his A long time previously a pamphlet had, supposed retirement from the councils of the it appears, been prepared, setting forth the state. But the accusations had the effect of inimical and adverse position of the prince in raising a violent uproar in the country. As relation to the state, and this was now referred the Spectator said, a whisper which was first to by the newspapers, with an insinuation, not insinuated for party purposes had grown into only that Lord Palmerston had handed to the a roar, and a constructive hint had swelled writer of the pamphlet, proofs of the prince's into a positive and monstrous fiction. The misdoings and copies of his alleged secret correstory, not only told in all parts of England, spondence, but that the prince had bought up but by some believed, was, that Prince Albert the copies of the work, suppressed its publicawas a traitor to his queen, that he had been tion, and made friends with Palmerston in impeached for high treason, and finally that order to screen himself. At the same time it on a charge of high treason he had been was intimated that there were still some copies arrested and committed to the Tower. Nay, in existence, and republication was threatened. the public appetite having grown by what it Palmerston thereupon wrote to the Morning fed on went beyond this, and there was a Post, declaring that he neither got the pamreport that the queen herself had been arrested. phlet written nor gave up any documents what

“ You will scarcely credit,” wrote the prince ever, but that he had, on the contrary, ento Stockmar, " that my being committed to treated that the pamphlet might not appear. the Tower was believed all over the country This was evidently saying too much or not -nay, even that the queen had been ar- enough, and it was followed by the publicarested! People surrounded the Tower in tion of the pamphlet in the columns of another thousands to see us brought to it! On the paper; not, probably, by any connivance of other hand, I hear from Manchester, where Palmerston, for, as Prince Albert afterwards Bright, Cobden, Gibson, Wilson, &c., held remarked, it was a miserable performance, their annual meeting, that they made very which could really hurt no one but Lord light of it, and laughed at all the accusations." Palmerston himself, as it accused the court

They were just the men who were likely to and Lord John Russell of having intrigued treat such rumours with a kind of humorous to subject Lord Palmerston falsely to the contempt, for they knew well enough what stigma of having cried up the coup d'état, with were the means likely to be taken by a cer- the conviction that a false belief on this head tain class of political opponents to foment was calculated to do him serious injury! As, popular prejudice. It is only fair to admit, however, it had already been proved in parhowever, that the same sort of disdain may liament that Palmerston had supported the have prevented Palmerston from contradict- coup d'état, it seemed scarcely likely that he ing the declaration that he was responsible would have wished this representation to be for the growth of the scandals with which revived or to be made public. There had been Prince Albert was assailed. That he had on a very decided antagonism between the prince

[ocr errors]

a

PRINCE ALBERT'S POSITION IN THE STATE.

47

and the ex-foreign secretary ever since the reason, however, it must be our interest to queen's remonstrances on the subject of the support Aberdeen, in order to keep the strucdespatches, which led to Palmerston's dismissal ture standing. Fresh reason for the animosity from the Russell administration, but there was towards us. So the old game was renewed a tendency to make Palmerston responsible for which was played against Melbourne after more than really belonged to him, and it was the queen's accession, of attacking the court, one of his characteristics to let things alone so as to make it clear, both to it and to the when they only involved his personal claims. public, that a continuance of Aberdeen in He would not take the trouble to defend office must endanger the popularity of the himself apart from his official position, and, crown.” strange as it may seem, he claimed the right Another element of opposition, the prince to abstain from personally defending himself declared, was the appointment of Lord Haragainst the complaints of the queen, on the dinge as commander-in-chief instead of Fitzground that it would ill become him to have roy Somerset (Lord Raglan), who had for any altercation with the sovereign. The same thirty years been military secretary under feeling might have prevented what could only the Duke of Wellington. It was assumed have been an indignant denial of having been that the appointment of Lord Hardinge was responsible for the imputations made against due to the prince, who had since the death the prince consort, and though there can be of the Duke of Wellington been in constant little doubt that he had given rather too free confidential communication with him on miliexpression to the suspicion that the dislike of tary matters relating chiefly to arms and the court had influenced the attitude of the equipments. But the matter really at issue cabinet towards his policy, it appears to have was the actual position which the prince was been admitted by Prince Albert himself that entitled to assume as one of the council, and the slanders which were levelled at the throne as the husband and therefore the adviser of during the Aberdeen ministry were not wholly the queen, and on this subject he knew well attributable to this source.

public opinion must pronounce in spite of "One main element,” he wrote to Stockmar, calumnies which, it could be shown, were " is the hostility and settled bitterness of the without the slightest foundation, and of misold high Tory or Protectionist party against representations which could be refuted directly me on account of my friendship with the late they were plainly met. He Sir Robert Peel, and of my success with the he believed, time the nation knew, he had Exhibition. . ... Their fury knew no bounds, long outgrown his first neutral position, and when by Palmerston's return to the ministry that, after constant study and unremitting that party (which is now at variance with attention to public matters, he could not, and Disraeli) lost the chance of securing a leader should not, remain unconcerned with political in the Lower House, who would have over- affairs-or rather with those affairs of state in thrown the ministry with the cry for English which, as the natural counsellor as well as the honour and independence, and against parlia- private secretary of the queen, he had a mentary reform, which is by no means popu- legitimate interest deepened by observation lar. Hatred of the Peelites is stronger in the and experience. old party than ever, and Aberdeen is regarded “A very considerable section of the nation," as his representative. To discredit him would he wrote to his old friend and counsellor, “had have this further advantage, that, if he could never given itself the trouble to consider what be upset, the keystone of the arch of coalition really is the position of the husband of a queen would be smashed, and it must fall to pieces; regnant. When I first came over here I was then Palmerston and John Russell would have met by this want of knowledge and unwillingto separate, and the former would take the ness to give a thought to the position of this place he has long coveted of leader to the luckless personage. Peel cut down my income, Conservatives and Radicals. For the same Wellington refused me my rank, the royal

w, and it was,

[ocr errors]

family cried out against the foreign interloper, idle talk of the last fourteen years have been the Whigs in office were only inclined to con- swept away by what has occurred. Every cede to me just as much space as I could one who has been able to say or surmise any stand upon. The constitution is silent as to ill of me has conscientiously contributed his the consort of the queen; even Blackstone faggot to the burning of the heretic, and I ignores him, and yet there he was, and not to may say with pride, that not the veriest tittle be done without. As I have kept quiet and of a reproach can be brought against me with caused no scandal, and all went well, no one truth. I have myself sometimes felt uneasy, has troubled himself about me and my doings; under attacks prompted by fiendish wickedand any one who wished to pay me a compli- ness, that I might here or there have unconment at a public dinner or meeting, extolled my sciously made mistakes. But nothing has wise abstinence from interfering in political been brought against me which is not absomatters. Now, when the present journalistic lutely untrue. This may have been mere controversies have brought to light the fact, good luck, for I can scarcely suppose that I that I have for years taken an active interest have not in some things laid myself open to in all political matters, the public, instead of censure." feeling surprise at my reserve, and the tact The queen had suffered no less than the with which I have avoided thrusting myself prince from a sense of the wrong which had forward, fancied itself betrayed, because it been inflicted on them by their detractors, felt it had been self-deceived. It has also and as they feared by the nation, which, rushed all at once into a belief in secret cor- under the fickle excitement of a great slander, respondence with foreign courts, intrigues, had been willing to cancel those sentiments of &c.; for all this is much more probable than simple loyalty and affection without which that thirty millions of men in the course of the throne itself would have been worthless. fourteen years should not have discovered, But they yet trusted to the honest instincts of that an important personage had during all the people, and looked forward to the meeting that time taken a part in their government. of parliament for a refutation of calumnies If that could be concealed, then all kinds of which might, after all, as the prince had secret conspiracy are possible, and the Coburg said, have the effect of bringing before the conspiracy is proved to demonstration.

country his just claims, a recognition of which “Beyond this stage of knowledge, which would at once give him his true position, and was certain sooner or later to be reached, we would leave no room for further misrepreshall, however, soou have passed; and even sentation of his relations to the throne and now there is a swarm of letters, articles, and to the government. On the 31st of January pamphlets to prove that the husband of the her majesty went to open parliament, and she queen, as such, and as privy-councillor, not was accompanied by the prince. Lord Aberonly may, but in the general interest must deen and the other ministers had seriously be, an active and responsible adviser of the advised that the subject of the attacks on the crown; and I hope the debate in parliament prince and his true claims should be brought will confirm this view, and settle it at once before the house, and had assured her that and for ever.

the slanders would then be effectually demol" The recognition of this fact will be of ished, and that general satisfaction and enimportance, and is alone worth all the hubbub thusiasm would be the result; that the reaction and abuse. I think I may venture to assume would be greater than any attack could be, and that the nation is ashamed of its past thought- that the country was as loyal as ever, only a lessness, and has already arrived at a just little mad.

. understanding of my position.

“The prince has now been so long before As for the calumnies themselves, I look the eyes of the whole country," wrote the upon them as a fiery ordeal that will serve to premier,“ his conduct is so invariably devoted purge away impurities. All the gossip and to the public good, and his life so perfectly

PALMERSTON'S RESIGNATION AND RETURN.

49

unattackable, that Lord Aberdeen has not the Lord Palmerston had resumed office before slightest apprehension of any serious conse- the meeting of parliament. His resignation quences arising from these contemptible exhi- had not been accepted, and though he waited bitions of malevolence and faction.”

for some time he consented to withdraw it. And he was right. It was expected that What would have been the consequence to some adverse demonstrations might be made the government if he had persisted in retiring against the prince, and the precaution was need not be discussed. People were asking taken of calling out the whole of the Horse another question-Had he resigned because Guards instead of a small escort only, while he could not agree with the other members the route of the procession was lined with of the cabinet on the Eastern question and policemen. These arrangements might have the steps to be taken with regard to the been necessary if the Russian ambassador, who approaching war? The opposition declared had not then left London, had chosen to that he had, the government affirmed that he attend, but he prudently absented himself. had not. No explanation was given. He At a few points, hisses were heard when had reconsidered the matter, and there he was. Prince Albert passed, but they were drowned He was himself more than usually reticent, in a tempest of cheering; and it was soon but he had written to his brother-in-law-the evident that the people had not been very | Right Hon. Laurence Sulivan—that the cause ready to accept in earnest the scandalous of his resignation was his inability to agree rumours that had been so widely circulated. with a scheme of parliamentary reform which The Turkish ambassador was, of course, re- was to be introduced by Lord John Russell. ceived with uproarious acclamations when he He had been placed on the committee of was seen in the procession, and there was the cabinet to prepare the plan, but he had no lack of the usual loyal demonstrations. insurmountable objections to the scheme, and So far as the queen and her consort were stated them both to Lord John and to Lord concerned, there was no need for further Aberdeen, who said he would communicate anxiety.

with the queen and his colleagues; but instead The distinct and warmly emphatic denial of this consulted Russell and Graham, who said which was given by Lord John Russell to the that Palmerston's objections were inadmissible, charges of improper interference by the prince with which he (Aberdeen) agreed. There in the Eastern question was endorsed by Lord was nothing left for Palmerston but to resign. Aberdeen. Lord Derby in the House of Lords “ I could not,” he says,

take bill which and Mr. Walpole in the Lower House spoke contained material things of which I diswith equal decision and earnestness in con- approved, and assist to fight it through the tradiction of the imputations which had been House of Commons, to force it on the Lords, made, and in vindication of the constitutional and to stand upon it at the hustings.” The right of the prince to support the sovereign letter had the following postscript:—"The by his advice in matters of state.

Times says there has been no difference in Lord Campbell, also, representing the highest the cabinet about Eastern affairs. This is an legal authority, gave unhesitating testimony to untruth, but I felt it would have been silly this view, and indeed the leaders of all political to have gone out because I could not have parties concurred in a declaration which many my own way about Turkish affairs, seeing of them had already endorsed, by an expres- that my presence in the cabinet did good by sion of personal regard and esteem for the modifying the views of those whose policy I prince. “The impression has been excellent,” thought bad.” he wrote to his former correspondent, " and These reasons for not retiring were potentmy political status and activity, which up to for in less than a week he wrote again to his this time have been silently assumed, have brother-in-law, to say that he should remain now been asserted in parliament without a in the government. “I was much and strongly dissentient voice."

pressed to do so for several days by many of

45

up a

VOL III.

66

new

the members of the government, who declared cision was not improved by the threatened that they were no parties to Aberdeen's answer defection of Lord Palmerston, and the susto me, and that they considered all the details picion that he had resigned in consequence of the intended reform measure as still open of what were called “timid counsels.” But to discussion."

more damaging still was the indecision of Had the members of the cabinet already Lord John Russell, who seemed to have a foreseen that Lord John Russell's scheme chronic tendency towards resignation, and

, would not pass—that it was not only defective who, while exhibiting before the country as in itself, but that the temper of the country an uncertain figure with undefined outline, would not brook so inopportune a moment came forward with a new proposition for for introducing a measure which would inter- parliamentary reform. During the whole fere with the one absorbing topic, the pro- session he only succeeded in obtaining dissecution of a war that would defer political if tinction as an example of how a high reputanot social progress? One can partly under- ion may be obscured by vacillation followed stand the attitude of men like Bright and by untimely action. The country was perCobden if they looked at the relative situa- haps not absolutely indifferent to a tion of the government and the country by measure of parliamentary reform, but it this light.

could not entertain two great and absorbing But Lord Palmerston had yet a few lines topics at the same time. Even people who to write. “Their (the members of the govern- had been waiting and clamouring for another ment) earnest representations, and the know- reform bill did not want it then, nor did ledge that the cabinet had on Thursday taken they want a measure which, though it was a decision on Turkish affairs in entire accord- elaborate, was evidently, and perhaps in conance with opinions which I had long unsuc- sequence, imperfect. cessfully pressed upon them, decided me to The proposed bill, though not complete, withdraw my resignation, which I did yester- was too wide to be hastily accepted, and the day. Of course what I say to you about the pressure and excitement of the coming war cabinet decision on Turkish affairs is entirely forbade due consideration being given to a for yourself and not to be mentioned to any

scheme which involved changes in the sysbody. But it is very important, and will tem of representation, several of which resemgive the allied squadrons the command of the bled those subsequently adopted, when the Black Sea."

country was in a temper to entertain a still These are suggestive lines. They were larger project. Briefly stated, this bill prowritten on Christmas-day, 1853. Almost posed that both in counties and boroughs immediately afterwards the French ambas- votes should be given to persons in receipt of sador, on hearing that Palmerston's resigna- salaries of not less than £100 a year, payable tion was withdrawn, wrote to him: “Au quarterly or half-yearly; persons in receipt début de la campagne que nous allons faire of £10 a year from government, bank, or ensemble, c'est un grand comfort pour moi et India stock; persons paying forty shillings une grande garantie pour l'Empereur que de per annum of income or assessed taxes; gradvous savoir l'âme des conseils de notre allié. uates of any university in the United KingVotre concours d'ailleurs pèse d'un poids très

and persons

who had for three years réel dans la balance, et on sait à Paris en possessed a deposit of £50 in a savings-bank. apprécier toute le valeur.”

In the counties votes were to be given also to The period of which we are writing was all occupiers rated at £10 per annum residing one of so much excitement that it is not sur- elsewhere than in represented towns, and in prising to find the reputations, or rather the the boroughs to all occupiers rated at £6 who popularity, of public men undergoing a con- had been resident within the borough for two siderable change. The position of the minis

years and a half. try was precarious, and its character for inde- Boroughs having fewer than 300 electors or

[ocr errors]

dom;

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »