The Letters of Queen Victoria, Volume III (of 3), 1854-1861
by Queen of Great Britain Victoria
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A mere moral defeat, such as Count Buol seems disposed to consider as sufficient, would soon prove to have been none at all, and Austria would be the Power which, to its cost, would find out (when too late) that the preponderance of Russia is by no means diminished.

The Queen has given her permission to Lord John to go to Paris; he will find the Emperor as little able to help himself in this stage of the business as ourselves.

The Queen is afraid that the news of the Russian acceptance may induce our commanders in the Crimea to rest on their oars, and thinks it necessary, therefore, that immediate orders should go out, pointing out that the early fall of the town is just now more important than ever.

The Queen wishes Lord Clarendon to communicate this letter to Lord Aberdeen and the Duke of Newcastle.

She returns to Windsor this afternoon.

[Footnote 1: The celebrated "Four Points" were—

1. Cessation of the Russian protectorate over Moldavia, Wallachia, and Servia: the privileges granted by the Sultan to the Principalities to be collectively guaranteed by the Powers. 2. Free navigation of the Danube. 3. Termination of the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. 4. Abandonment by Russia of her claim over any subjects of the Porte; the Five Powers to co-operate in obtaining from the Sultan the confirmation and observance of the religious privileges of the different Christian communities, and to turn to account in their common interest the generous intentions manifested by the Sultan, without infringing his dignity or the independence of his crown.

Towards the end of 1854, negotiations as to the Four Points had been proceeding between the Allies and Austria, and on the 28th of December the Three Powers had agreed in communicating to Russia a memorandum giving a more exact interpretation of the Four Points. This was agreed upon as the basis on which the Plenipotentiaries were to meet at Vienna to settle the Eastern Question, and to conclude the war.

Another event, productive ultimately of results of great importance, took place at the end of January. King Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia joined the Western Alliance, and despatched 15,000 men under General La Marmora to the Crimea. This act was inspired by Cavour, the Sardinian Prime Minister, who took the step that Austria hesitated to take, and thereby established strong claims both upon the Emperor Napoleon and Lord Palmerston.]


Queen Victoria to the Earl of Aberdeen.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 10th January 1855.

Before Parliament meets for probably a very stormy Session, the Queen wishes to give a public testimony of her continued confidence in Lord Aberdeen's administration, by offering him the vacant Blue Ribbon. The Queen need not add a word on her personal feelings of regard and friendship for Lord Aberdeen, which are known to him now for a long period of years.

The Earl of Aberdeen to Queen Victoria.

LONDON, 10th January 1855.

Lord Aberdeen presents his most humble duty to your Majesty. He has had the honour of receiving your Majesty's most gracious letter, and humbly begs to return your Majesty his grateful acknowledgments for this mark of your Majesty's continued confidence and favour. When your Majesty mentioned the subject to Lord Aberdeen some time ago, he had not thought of any such distinction; and perhaps at his time of life, and with his present prospects, he scarcely ought to do so. There is no doubt that this unequivocal mark of gracious favour might strengthen his hands, and especially in those quarters where it would be most useful; but the power of misconstruction and malevolence is so great that the effect might possibly be more injurious than beneficial.

Perhaps your Majesty would be graciously pleased to permit Lord Aberdeen to reflect a little on the subject, and to submit his thoughts to your Majesty.

Lord Aberdeen entreats your Majesty to believe that in this, as in everything else, it is his desire to look exclusively to your Majesty's welfare. When he leaves your Majesty's service, your Majesty may be fully aware of his many imperfections as a Minister; but he trusts that your Majesty will always have reason to regard him as perfectly disinterested.

The Earl of Aberdeen to Queen Victoria.

LONDON, 11th January 1855.

Lord Aberdeen presents his most humble duty to your Majesty. He has maturely reflected on the subject of your Majesty's gracious letter of yesterday, and he is fully sensible of the very important advantage which, in his official position, he might derive from such a public and signal proof of your Majesty's confidence and favour.

Although this might naturally give rise to more or less of political animadversion, Lord Aberdeen would not hesitate in his decision, if the alternative were only between himself and some Peer of high rank whose claim consisted in being a supporter of the Government; but Lord Aberdeen believes that he may venture to make a suggestion to your Majesty, the effect of which would redound to your Majesty's honour, and which might not prove altogether disadvantageous to himself.

Lord Aberdeen understands that in consequence of the regulations of the Order, Lord Cardigan could not properly receive the Grand Cross of the Bath. From his rank and station, Lord Cardigan might fairly pretend to the Garter, but his violent party politics would make it impossible for Lord Aberdeen, under ordinary circumstances, to submit his name to your Majesty for this purpose. At the same time, Lord Cardigan's great gallantry and personal sacrifices seem to afford him a just claim to your Majesty's favourable consideration; and Lord Aberdeen believes that to confer upon him the Blue Ribbon at this moment would be regarded as a very graceful act on the part of your Majesty. It is even possible that Lord Aberdeen's political opponents might give him some credit for tendering such advice.

If therefore your Majesty should be pleased to take the same view of this matter, Lord Aberdeen would communicate with Lord Cardigan on his arrival in London, and would willingly postpone all consideration of your Majesty's gracious intentions towards himself. But Lord Aberdeen will venture humbly to repeat his grateful sense of all your Majesty's kindness, and his acknowledgments for the expression of sentiments which he can never sufficiently value.[2]

[Footnote 2: Subsequently Lord Aberdeen yielded to the Queen's affectionate insistence, and was installed Knight of the Garter at a Chapter held on the 7th of February.]

[Pageheading: WELFARE OF THE ARMY]

Queen Victoria to the Duke of Newcastle.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 12th January 1855.

The Queen returns the enclosed despatch to the Duke of Newcastle, which she has read with much pleasure, as bringing before Lord Raglan in an official manner—which will require official enquiry and answer—the various points so urgently requiring his attention and remedial effort. It is at the same time so delicately worded that it ought not to offend, although it cannot help, from its matter, being painful to Lord Raglan. The Queen has only one remark to make, viz. the entire omission of her name throughout the document. It speaks simply in the name of the People of England, and of their sympathy, whilst the Queen feels it to be one of her highest prerogatives and dearest duties to care for the welfare and success of her Army. Had the despatch not gone before it was submitted to the Queen, in a few words the Duke of Newcastle would have rectified this omission.

The Duke of Newcastle might with truth have added that, making every allowance for the difficulties before Sebastopol, it is difficult to imagine how the Army could ever be moved in the field, if the impossibility of keeping it alive is felt in a stationary camp only seven miles from its harbour, with the whole British Navy and hundreds of transports at its command.

Queen Victoria to the Earl of Aberdeen.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 13th January 1855.

The Queen has received Lord Aberdeen's letter of the 11th, and has since seen Lord John Russell's letter. It shows that the practice of the Queen's different Cabinet Ministers going to Paris, to have personal explanations with the Emperor, besides being hardly a constitutional practice, must lead to much misunderstanding. How is the Emperor to distinguish between the views of the Queen's Government and the private opinions of the different members of the Cabinet, all more or less varying, particularly in a Coalition Government?

The Queen hopes therefore that this will be the last such visit. The Ambassador is the official organ of communication, and the Foreign Secretary is responsible for his doing his duty, and has the means of controlling him by his instructions and the despatches he receives, all of which are placed on record.[3]

[Footnote 3: The cause of Lord John's visit to Paris had been the illness there of his sister-in-law, Lady Harriet Elliot; but he took the opportunity of conferring both with the Emperor and his Ministers on the conduct of the war.—Walpole's Life of Lord John Russell, chap. XXV.]



Lord Raglan to Queen Victoria.

BEFORE SEBASTOPOL, 20th January 1855.

Lord Raglan presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and has the honour to acknowledge with every sentiment of devotion and gratitude your Majesty's most gracious letter of 1st January, and the kind wishes which your Majesty and the Prince are pleased to unite in offering to the Army and your Majesty's most humble servant on the occasion of the New Year.

The deep concern and anxiety felt by your Majesty and the Prince for the privations of the troops, their unceasing labours, their exposure to bad weather, and the extensive sickness which prevails among them, are invaluable proofs of the lively interest which your Majesty and His Royal Highness take in the welfare of an Army which, under no circumstances, will cease to revere the name, and apply all its best energies to the service of your Majesty.

Lord Raglan can with truth assure your Majesty that his whole time and all his thoughts are occupied in endeavouring to provide for the various wants of your Majesty's troops. It has not been in his power to lighten the burthen of their duties. Those exacted from them before Sebastopol are for the preservation of the trenches and batteries; and there are many other calls upon the men, more especially when, as at present, the roads are so bad that wheeled carriages can no longer be used, and that the horse transport is diminished by sickness and death, and that the Commissariat, having no longer any sufficient means of conveyance at its command, cannot bring up the daily supplies without their assistance, thereby adding, however inevitably, to their labour and fatigue.

Lord Raglan begs leave to submit, for your Majesty's information, that the Allied Armies have no intercourse with the country, and can derive no resources from it; and consequently all the requirements for the conveyance of stores and provisions, as well as the stores and provisions themselves, must be imported. Such a necessity forms in itself a difficulty of vast magnitude, which has been greatly felt by him, and has been productive of the most serious consequences to the comfort and welfare of the Army.

The coffee sent from Constantinople has been received and issued to the troops green, the Commissariat having no means whatever of roasting it. Very recently, however, an able officer of the Navy, Captain Heath of the Sanspareil, undertook to have machines made by the engineers on board his ship for roasting coffee; and in this he has succeeded, but they have not yet produced as much as is required for the daily consumption.

The Commissary-General applied to the Treasury for roasted coffee three months ago. None has as yet arrived. A very large amount of warm clothing has been distributed, and your Majesty's soldiers, habited in the cloaks of various countries, might be taken for the troops of any nation as well as those of England.

Huts have arrived in great abundance, and as much progress is made in getting them up as could be hoped for, considering that there has been a very heavy fall of snow, and that a thaw has followed it, and the extremely limited means of conveyance at command.

Much having been said, as Lord Raglan has been given to understand, in private letters, of the inefficiency of the officers of the Staff, he considers it to be due to your Majesty, and a simple act of justice to those individuals, to assure your Majesty that he has every reason to be satisfied with their exertions, their indefatigable zeal, and undeviating, close attention to their duties, and he may be permitted to add that the horse and mule transport for the carriage of provisions and stores are under the charge of the Commissariat, not of the Staff, and that the Department in question engages the men who are hired to take care of it, and has exclusive authority over them.

Lord Raglan transmitted to the Duke of Newcastle, in the month of December, the report of a Medical Board, which he caused to assemble at Constantinople for the purpose of ascertaining the state of health of the Duke of Cambridge. The report evidently showed the necessity of His Royal Highness's return to England for its re-establishment. This, Lord Raglan knows, was the opinion of the Honourable Lieutenant-Colonel Macdonald,[4] whose attention and devotion to His Royal Highness could not be surpassed, and who was himself very anxious to remain with the Army.

The Duke, however, has not gone further than Malta, where, it is said, his health has not improved.

[Footnote 4: The Hon. James Bosville Macdonald [1810-1882], son of the third Baron Macdonald, A.D.C., Equerry and Private Secretary to the Duke of Cambridge.]

[Pageheading: THE ARMY BOARD]

Queen Victoria to the Earl of Aberdeen.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 22nd January 1855.

The Queen has received Lord Aberdeen's letter of yesterday, giving an account of the proceedings of the last Cabinet....

The Queen is quite prepared to sanction the proposal of constituting the Secretary of State for War, the Commander-in-Chief, the Master-General of the Ordnance, and the Secretary at War, a Board on the affairs of the Army, which promises more unity of action in these Departments, and takes notice of the fact that the powers and functions of the Commander-in-Chief are not to be changed. As these, however, rest entirely on tradition, and are in most cases ambiguous and undefined, the Queen would wish that they should be clearly defined, and this the more so as she transacts certain business directly with him, and ought to be secured against getting into any collision with the Secretary of State, who also takes her pleasure, and gives orders to the Commander-in-Chief. She would further ask to be regularly furnished with the Minutes of the proceedings of the new Board, in order to remain acquainted with what is going on.

Unless, however, the Militia be made over to the direction of the Secretary of State for War, our Army system will still remain very incomplete. The last experience has shown that the Militia will have to be looked upon as the chief source for recruiting the Army, and this will never be done harmoniously and well, unless they both be brought under the same control.

With reference to the Investiture of the Garter, the Queen need not assure Lord Aberdeen that there are few, if any, on whom she will confer the Blue Ribbon with greater pleasure than on so kind and valued a friend as he is to us both.

Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria.

CHESHAM PLACE, 24th January 1855.

Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty; he has had the honour of receiving your Majesty's gracious invitation to Windsor Castle. He would have waited upon your Majesty this day had he not been constrained by a sense of duty to write to Lord Aberdeen last night a letter of which he submits a copy.

Lord John Russell trusts your Majesty will be graciously pleased to comply at once with his request. But he feels it would be right to attend your Majesty's farther commands before he has the honour of waiting upon your Majesty.

[Pageheading: MR. ROEBUCK'S MOTION]

[Enclosure in previous Letter.]

Lord John Russell to the Earl of Aberdeen.

CHESHAM PLACE, 23rd January 1855.

MY DEAR LORD ABERDEEN,—Mr Roebuck has given notice of a Motion to enquire into the conduct of the war. I do not see how this Motion is to be resisted. But as it involves a censure of 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 resignation of the office, which I have the honour to hold, before the Queen, with the expression of my gratitude for Her Majesty's kindness for many years. I remain, my dear Lord Aberdeen, yours very truly,



Queen Victoria to Lord John Russell.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 24th January 1855.

The Queen has this moment received Lord John Russell's letter and enclosure, and must express to him her surprise and concern at hearing so abruptly of his intention to desert her Government on the Motion of Mr Roebuck.

Memorandum by the Prince Albert.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 25th January 1855.

Yesterday evening Lord Aberdeen came down here. He had heard that Lord John had written to the Queen, and she showed him the correspondence. He then reported that Lord John's letter to him had come without the slightest notice and warning, and whatever the cause for it might be, the object could only be to upset the Government. Upon receiving it, he had sent for the Duke of Newcastle and shown it to him. The Duke at once proposed, that as a sacrifice seemed to be required to appease the public for the want of success in the Crimea, he was quite ready to be that sacrifice, and entreated that Lord Aberdeen would put his office into the hands of Lord Palmerston, who possessed the confidence of the nation; Lord Aberdeen should propose this at once to the Cabinet, he himself would support the Government out of office like in office. Lord Aberdeen then went to Lord Palmerston to communicate to him what had happened, and ascertain his feelings. Lord Palmerston was disgusted at Lord John's behaviour,[5] and did not consider himself the least bound to be guided by him; he admitted that somehow or other the Public had a notion that he would manage the War Department better than anybody else; as for himself, he did not expect to do it half so well as the Duke of Newcastle, but was prepared to try it, not to let the Government be dissolved, which at this moment would be a real calamity for the country.

[Footnote 5: Lord Palmerston wrote him a most scathing letter on the subject.]

The Cabinet met at two o'clock, and Lord Aberdeen laid the case before it. The Duke then made his proposal, and was followed by Lord Palmerston, who stated pretty much the same as he had done in the morning, upon which Sir George Grey said it did both the Duke and Lord Palmerston the highest honour, but he saw no possibility of resisting Mr Roebuck's Motion without Lord John; Sir Charles Wood was of the same opinion. Lord Clarendon proposed that, as the Duke had given up his Department to Lord Palmerston, Lord John might be induced to remain; but this was at once rejected by Lord Aberdeen on the ground that they might be justified in sacrificing the Duke to the wishes of the Country, but they could not to Lord John, with any degree of honour. The upshot was, that the Whig Members of the Cabinet, not being inclined to carry on the Government (including Lord Lansdowne), they came to the unanimous determination to tender their resignations.

The Queen protested against this, as exposing her and the Country to the greatest peril, as it was impossible to change the Government at this moment without deranging the whole external policy in diplomacy and war, and there was nobody to whom the reins could be confided. Lord Derby and his party would never have done, but now he had allied himself with Lord Ellenborough, who was determined to have the conduct of the war....

Lord Aberdeen thought yet, that on him[6] devolved the responsibility of replacing what he wantonly destroyed. The Queen insisted, however, that Lord Aberdeen should make one appeal to the Cabinet to stand by her, which he promised to do to the best of his ability, but without hope of success. The Cabinet will meet at twelve o'clock to-day, but at five the Ministers will have to announce their determination to the Houses of Parliament, as Mr Roebuck's Motion stands for that hour.


[Footnote 6: I.e., Lord John Russell.]


Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria.

CHESHAM PLACE, 25th January 1855.

Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty. He has received with deep regret the imputations of deserting the Government.

Lord John Russell, after being at the head of the Ministry for more than five years, and being then the leader of a great party, consented to serve under Lord Aberdeen, and served for more than a year and a half without office.

After sacrificing his position and his reputation for two years, he has come to the conclusion that it would not be for the benefit of the country to resist Mr Roebuck's Motion. But it is clear that the enquiry he contemplates could not be carried on without so weakening the authority of the Government that it could not usefully go on.

In these circumstances Lord John Russell has pursued the course which he believes to be for the public benefit.

With the most sincere respect for Lord Aberdeen, he felt he could not abandon his sincere convictions in order to maintain the Administration in office.

It is the cause of much pain to him that, after sacrificing his position in order to secure your Majesty's service from interruption, he should not have obtained your Majesty's approbation.

Queen Victoria to Lord John Russell.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 25th January 1855.

The Queen has received Lord John Russell's letter of to-day in explanation of his resignation. She has done full justice to the high-minded and disinterested manner in which Lord John sacrificed two years ago his position as former Prime Minister and as Leader of a great party, in consenting to serve under Lord Aberdeen, and hopes she has sufficiently expressed this to him at the time. He will since have found a further proof of her desire to do anything which could be agreeable to him in his position, by cheerfully agreeing to all the various changes of offices which he has at different times wished for. If Lord John will consider, however, the moment which he has now chosen to leave her Government, and the abrupt way in which his unexpected intention of agreeing in a vote implying censure of the Government was announced to her, he cannot be surprised that she could not express her approbation.


Memorandum by Queen Victoria.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 25th January 1855.

Lord Aberdeen arrived at six o'clock to report the result of the meeting of the Cabinet, which was so far satisfactory that they agreed upon retaining office at present for the purpose of meeting Mr Roebuck's Motion. They expect (most of them, at least) to be beat and to have to resign, but they think it more honourable to be driven out than to run away. They will meet Parliament therefore without making any changes in the offices. Lord Aberdeen and the Duke of Newcastle fancy even that they will have a chance of defeating Mr Roebuck's Motion. Sir George Grey has declared, however, that, perfectly willing as he is not to desert his post at this moment, he will consider himself at liberty to resign even after success, as he thinks the Government has no chance of standing with Lord John in Opposition. The other Whigs would in that case very likely do the same, and the Government come to an end in this way; but it is not impossible that Sir George Grey may be prevailed upon by the Queen to stay. Much must depend upon the nature of the Debate.

Lord Aberdeen seems to have put the Queen's desire that the Cabinet should reconsider their former decision in the strongest words, which seems to have brought about the present result. He saw Lord John this morning who, though personally civil towards himself, was very much excited and very angry at a letter which he had received from the Queen. He said he would certainly vote with Mr Roebuck. The Houses are to be adjourned to-day, and the whole discussion comes on to-morrow. Lord Aberdeen brought a copy of a letter Lord Palmerston had written to Lord John. The Peelites in the Cabinet, viz. the Dukes of Newcastle and Argyll, Sir J. Graham, Mr Gladstone, and Mr S. Herbert, seem to be very bitter against Lord John, and determined to oppose him should he form a Government, whilst they would be willing to support a Derby Government.


Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria.

CHESHAM PLACE, 26th January 1855.

Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and is very grateful for your Majesty's communication of yesterday.

He confesses his resignation was very abrupt, but it is the consequence of many previous discussions in which his advice had been rejected or overruled.

Lord John Russell acknowledges the repeated instances of your Majesty's goodness in permitting him to leave the Foreign Office, and subsequently to serve without office as Leader of the House of Commons. These changes, however, were not made without due consideration. To be Leader of the House of Commons and Foreign Secretary is beyond any man's strength. To continue for a long time Leader without an office becomes absurd. Lord Aberdeen at first meant his own continuance in office to be short, which justified the arrangement.

[Pageheading: MR ROEBUCK'S MOTION]

Viscount Palmerston to Queen Victoria.[7]

144 PICCADILLY, 26th January 1855.

Viscount Palmerston presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and begs to state that Lord John Russell having made his statement, concluding with an announcement that he did not mean to vote on Mr Roebuck's Motion, and Viscount Palmerston having made a few remarks on that statement, Mr Roebuck rose to make his Motion; but the paralytic affection under which he has for some time laboured soon overpowered him, and before he had proceeded far in his speech he became so unwell that he was obliged to finish abruptly, make his Motion, and sit down.

Mr Sidney Herbert, who was to reply to Mr Roebuck, rose therefore under great disadvantage, as he had to reply to a speech which had not been made; but he acquitted himself with great ability, and made an excellent statement in explanation and defence of the conduct of the Government. He was followed by Mr Henry Drummond,[8] Colonel North for the Motion, Mr Monckton Milnes against it; Lord Granby who, in supporting the Motion, praised and defended the Emperor of Russia; Mr Layard, who in a speech of much animation, gave very strong reasons to show the great impropriety of the Motion, and ended by saying he should vote for it; Sir George Grey, who made a spirited and excellent speech; Mr Walpole, who supported the Motion and endeavoured, but fruitlessly, to establish a similarity between the enquiry proposed by Mr Roebuck and the enquiry in a Committee of the whole House into the conduct of the Walcheren Expedition when the operation was over and the Army had returned to England. Mr Vernon Smith declared that his confidence in the Government had been confined to three Members—Lord Lansdowne, Lord John Russell, and Lord Palmerston—and that it was greatly diminished by the retirement of Lord John Russell. Colonel Sibthorp,[9] Sir John Fitzgerald, and Mr Knightley[10] followed, and Mr Disraeli having said that his side of the House required that the Debate should be adjourned, an adjournment to Monday was agreed to; but Viscount Palmerston, in consenting to the adjournment, expressed a strong hope that the Debate would not be protracted beyond that night.

Viscount Palmerston regrets to say that the general aspect of the House was not very encouraging.

[Footnote 7: His first letter to the Queen as Leader of the House of Commons.]

[Footnote 8: M.P. for West Surrey.]

[Footnote 9: Sibthorp, whose name is almost forgotten, earned some fame as an opponent of the Exhibition of 1851, and remained faithful to Protection, after Lord Derby and his party had dropped it. His beard, his eye-glass, and his clothes were a constant subject for the pencil of Leech.]

[Footnote 10: Mr (afterwards Sir) Reginald Knightley, M.P. for South Northamptonshire, 1852-1892. In the latter year he was created Lord Knightley of Fawsley.]

[Pageheading: THE DEBATE]

The Earl of Aberdeen to Queen Victoria.

LONDON, 27th January 1855.

Lord Aberdeen presents his humble duty to your Majesty. It is probable that your Majesty may have heard from Lord Palmerston some account of the debate in the House of Commons last night; but perhaps your Majesty may not object to learn the impressions which Lord Aberdeen has received on the present state of affairs both in and out of the House.

There can be no doubt that Lord John Russell has injured his position by the course which he has pursued. His own friends having remained in the Cabinet, is his practical condemnation. He made a very elaborate and dexterous statement; but which, although very plausible, did not produce a good effect. It had been decided that he should be followed by Mr Gladstone, who was in full possession of the subject; but at the Cabinet yesterday held before the meeting of the House, it was decided that Lord Palmerston should follow Lord John, in order to prevent the appearance of a division in the Cabinet between the Whig and Peelite Members. As Lord Palmerston was to act as Leader of the House, the substitution of Mr Gladstone would have appeared strange. But the decision was unfortunate, for by all accounts the speech of Lord Palmerston was singularly unsuccessful.

In the debate which followed, the impression in the House was strongly against the War Department; and the indications which occasionally appeared of the possibility of Lord Palmerston filling that office were received with great cordiality. Sir George Grey made an excellent speech, and his censure must have been deeply felt by Lord John.

Lord Aberdeen has waited until the Cabinet had met to-day before he had the honour of writing to your Majesty, in order that he might learn the impressions and opinions of the Members, especially of those who are in the House of Commons. All agree that if the division had taken place last night, Mr Roebuck's Motion would have been carried by a large majority. This still seems to be the prevailing opinion, but there is considerable difference. The Motion is so objectionable and so unconstitutional that delay is likely to be favourable to those who oppose it. A little reflection must produce considerable effect. Lord Aberdeen sees that Mr Gladstone is preparing for a great effort, and he will do whatever can be effected by reason and eloquence.

It is said that Lord Derby shows some reluctance to accept the responsibility of overthrowing the Government; but the part taken last night by Mr Walpole, and the notice of a Motion in the House of Lords by Lord Lyndhurst, would appear to denote a different policy. The result of the Division on Monday will depend on the course adopted by his friends, as a party. It is said that Mr Disraeli has signified a difference of opinion from Mr Walpole.


Viscount Palmerston to Queen Victoria.

144 PICCADILLY, 30th January 1855.

(2 A.M.)

Viscount Palmerston presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and begs to state that Mr Roebuck's Motion has been carried by 305 to 148, being a majority of 157 against the Government, a great number of the Liberal party voting in the majority.

The debate was begun by Mr Stafford,[11] who gave a very interesting but painful account of the mismanagement which he had witnessed in the Hospitals at Scutari and Sebastopol, while he gave due praise to the conduct of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge toward the men under his command, and related the cheering effect produced by your Majesty's kind letter, when read by him to the invalids in Hospital. He was followed by Mr Bernal Osborne,[12] who found fault with all the military arrangements at home, and with the system under which Commissions in the Army are bought and sold, but who declared that he should vote against the Motion.

Mr Henley then supported the Motion, directing his attack chiefly against the management of the Transport Service.

Admiral Berkeley,[13] in reply, defended the conduct of the Admiralty. Major Beresford supported the Motion, but defended Lord Raglan against the attacks of the newspapers. Mr. Rice, Member for Dover, opposed the Motion. Mr Miles[14] found fault with the Commissariat, and supported the Motion, saying that the proposed enquiry would apply a remedy to the evils acknowledged to exist in the Army in the Crimea; and Sir Francis Baring, after ably pointing out the inconveniences of the proposed Committee, said he should vote against it, as tending to prevent those evils from being remedied. Mr Rich criticised the composition of the Ministry, and the conduct of the war, and supported the Motion as a means of satisfying public opinion. Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer supported the Motion in a speech of considerable ability, and was replied to by Mr Gladstone in a masterly speech, which exhausted the subject, and would have convinced hearers who had not made up their minds beforehand.

He was followed by Mr Disraeli, who in the course of his speech made use of some expressions in regard to Lord John Russell, which drew from Lord John some short explanations as to the course which he had pursued. Viscount Palmerston then made some observations on the Motion, and, after a few words from Mr Muntz,[15] Mr Thomas Duncombe[16] asked Mr Roebuck whether, if he carried his Motion, he really meant to name and appoint the Committee and prosecute the enquiry, saying that he hoped and trusted that such was Mr Roebuck's intention. Mr Roebuck declared that he fully meant to do so, and after a short speech from Mr Roebuck, who lost the thread of his argument in one part of what he said, the House proceeded to a division.

The Conservative Party abstained, by order from their Chiefs, from giving the cheer of triumph which usually issues from a majority after a vote upon an important occasion....

[Footnote 11: Augustus Stafford (formerly Stafford O'Brien), Secretary of the Admiralty in the Derby Ministry of 1852.]

[Footnote 12: Secretary of the Admiralty, who, contrary to modern practice, criticised on this occasion the action of his own colleagues.]

[Footnote 13: Maurice Frederick Fitzhardinge Berkeley, 1788-1867, M.P. for Gloucester 1831-1857.]

[Footnote 14: M.P. for Bristol.]

[Footnote 15: M.P. for Birmingham.]

[Footnote 16: M.P. for Finsbury.]



Memorandum by Queen Victoria.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 30th January 1855.

Lord Aberdeen arrived here at three. He came from the Cabinet, and tendered their unanimous resignation. Nothing could have been better, he said, than the feeling of the members towards each other. Had it not been for the incessant attempts of Lord John Russell to keep up Party differences, it must be confessed that the experiment of a coalition has succeeded admirably. We discussed future possibilities, and agreed that there remained nothing to be done but to offer the Government to Lord Derby, whose Party was numerically the strongest, and had carried the Motion. He supposed Lord Derby would be prepared for it, although he must have great difficulties, unless he took in men from other Parties, about which, however, nothing could be known at present.

Lord Aberdeen means to behave more generously to Lord Derby than he had done to him, and felt sure that his colleagues would feel a desire to support the Queen's new Government.

He said Lord Grey's plan[17] had not met with the approbation of the House of Lords. The indignation at Lord John's conduct on all sides was strongly on the increase.

Lord Aberdeen was much affected at having to take leave of us.


[Footnote 17: For concentrating in a single department the business connected with the administration of the Army.]

Queen Victoria to the Earl of Derby.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 30th January 1855.

The Queen would wish to see Lord Derby at Buckingham Palace (whither she is going for a few hours) to-morrow at half-past eleven.

Queen Victoria to the Duke of Newcastle.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 31st January 1855.

The Queen has just received the Duke of Newcastle's letter.

She readily grants him the permission he asks,[18] and seizes this opportunity of telling him how much she feels for him during this trying time, and what a high sense she shall ever entertain of his loyal, high-minded, and patriotic conduct, as well as of his unremitting exertions to serve his Sovereign and Country.

[Footnote 18: The Duke, in order to refute Lord John Russell, asked leave to state what had passed in the Cabinet.]


[Pageheading: THE LEADERSHIP]

Memorandum by Queen Victoria.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 31st January 1855.

We went up to Buckingham Palace and saw Lord Derby at half-past eleven. The Queen informed him of the resignation of the Government, and of her desire that he should try to form a new one. She addressed herself to him as the head of the largest Party in the House of Commons, and which had by its vote chiefly contributed to the overthrow of the Government. Lord Derby threw off this responsibility, saying that there had been no communication with Mr Roebuck, but that his followers could not help voting when Lord John Russell told them on authority that there was the most ample cause for enquiry, and the whole country cried out for it. Moreover, the Government, in meeting the Motion, laid its chief stress upon its implying a want of confidence in the Government—a confidence which they certainly did not enjoy. He owned that his Party was the most compact—mustering about two hundred and eighty men—but he had no men capable of governing the House of Commons, and he should not be able to present an Administration that would be accepted by the country unless it was strengthened by other combinations; he knew that the whole country cried out for Lord Palmerston as the only man fit for carrying on the war with success, and he owned the necessity of having him in the Government, were it even only to satisfy the French Government, the confidence of which was at this moment of the greatest importance; but he must say, speaking without reserve, that whatever the ignorant public might think, Lord Palmerston was totally unfit for the task. He had become very deaf as well as very blind, was seventy-one years old, and ... in fact, though he still kept up his sprightly manners of youth, it was evident that his day had gone by.[19] ... Lord Derby thought, however, he might have the Lead of the House of Commons, which Mr Disraeli was ready to give up to him. For the War Department there were but two men—both very able, but both liable to objections: the first was Lord Grey, who would do it admirably, but with whom he disagreed in general politics, and in this instance on the propriety of the war, which he himself was determined to carry on with the utmost vigour; then came his peculiar views about the Amalgamation of Offices, in which he did not at all agree. The other was Lord Ellenborough, who was very able, and would certainly be very popular with the Army, but was very unmanageable; yet he hoped he could keep him in order. It might be doubtful whether Lord Hardinge could go on with him at the Horse Guards. We agreed in the danger of Lord Grey's Army proposal, and had to pronounce the opinion that Lord Ellenborough was almost mad. This led us to a long discussion upon the merits of the conduct of the war, upon which he seemed to share the general prejudices, but on being told some of the real facts and difficulties of the case, owned that these, from obvious reasons, could not be stated by the Government in their defence, and said that he was aware that the chief fault lay at headquarters in the Crimea. Lord Raglan ought to be recalled, as well as his whole staff, and perhaps he could render this less painful to him by asking him to join the Cabinet, where his military advice would be of great value.

[Footnote 19: Lord Derby's judgment was not borne out by subsequent events. Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister when he died on the 18th of October 1865, ten years later. "The half-opened cabinet-box on his table, and the unfinished letter on his desk, testified that he was at his post to the last,"—Ashley's Life of Lord Palmerston, vol. ii. p. 273.]

To be able to meet the House of Commons, however, Lord Derby said he required the assistance of men like Mr Gladstone and Mr S. Herbert, and he was anxious to know whether the Queen could tell him upon what support he could reckon in that quarter. We told him we had reason to believe the Peelites would oppose a Government of Lord John Russell, but were inclined to support one of Lord Derby's; whether they were inclined to join in office, however, appeared very doubtful. The Queen having laid great stress on a good selection for the office of Foreign Affairs, Lord Derby said he would have to return to Lord Malmesbury, who, he thought, had done well before, and had now additional experience.

Should he not be able to obtain strength from the Peelites, he could not be able to form a creditable Government; he must give up the task, and thought the Queen might try some other combinations with Lord John Russell or Lord Lansdowne, etc.

He did not think a reconstruction of the old Government would be accepted by the country; however, whatever Government was formed to carry on the war, should not only not be opposed by him, but have his cordial support, provided it raised no question of general constitutional importance.

Should all attempts fail, he would be ready to come forward to the rescue of the country with such materials as he had, but it would be "a desperate attempt."

Lord Derby returned a little before two from Lord Palmerston, to whom he had gone in the first instance. Lord Palmerston was ready to accept the Lead of the House of Commons, and acknowledged that the man who undertook this could not manage the War Department besides. He undertook to sound Mr Gladstone and Mr S. Herbert, but had, evidently much to Lord Derby's surprise, said that it must be a coalition, and not only the taking in of one or two persons, which does not seem to suit Lord Derby at all—nor was he pleased at Lord Palmerston's suggestion that he ought to try, by all means, to retain Lord Clarendon at the Foreign Office. Lord Palmerston was to sound the Peelites in the afternoon, and Lord Derby is to report the result to the Queen this evening.


[Pageheading: LORD CLARENDON]

The Earl of Derby to Queen Victoria.

ST JAMES' SQUARE, 31st January 1855. (9:30 P.M.)

Lord Derby, with his humble duty, hastens to submit to your Majesty the answer which he has this moment received from Viscount Palmerston to the communication which he made to him this morning by your Majesty's command. Lord Derby has not yet received from Mr Sidney Herbert and Mr Gladstone the answers referred to in Lord Palmerston's letter; but, from the tenor of the latter, he fears there can be no doubt as to their purport. With respect to Lord Clarendon, Lord Derby is fully sensible of the advantage which might accrue to your Majesty's service from the continuance in office of a Minister of great ability, who is personally cognizant of all the intricate negotiations and correspondence which have taken place for the last two years; and neither personally nor politically would he anticipate on the part of his friends, certainly not on his own part, any difficulty under existing circumstances, in co-operating with Lord Clarendon; but the present political relations between Lord Clarendon and Lord Derby's friends are such that, except upon a special injunction from your Majesty, and under your Majesty's immediate sanction, he would not be justified in making any overtures in that direction.[20] Should Lord Derby receive any communication from Mr Gladstone or Mr. Sidney Herbert before morning, he will send it down to your Majesty by the earliest opportunity in the morning. Lord Derby trusts that your Majesty will forgive the haste in which he writes, having actually, at the moment of receiving Lord Palmerston's answer, written a letter to say that he could not longer detain your Majesty's messenger. Lord Derby will take no farther step until he shall have been honoured by your Majesty's farther commands.

The above is humbly submitted by your Majesty's most dutiful Servant and Subject,



Memorandum by the Prince Albert.

1st February 1855.

Lord Derby came down here at eleven o'clock, and brought with him two letters he had received from Mr Gladstone and Mr Sidney Herbert, who both declared their willingness to give Lord Derby's Government an independent support, but on mature consideration their impossibility to take office in his Administration. Lord Derby said, as to the independent support, it reminded him of the definition of an independent Member of Parliament, viz. one that could not be depended upon. Under the circumstances, he would not be able to form such an Administration as could effectively carry on the Government.

[Footnote 20: Although opposed to the ordinary procedure of party government, there were recent precedents for such overtures being made. When the Whigs displaced Peel in 1846, Lord John Russell attempted to include three of the outgoing Ministers in his Cabinet, and on the formation of the Coalition Ministry, negotiations were on foot to retain Lord St. Leonards on the woolsack.]

He thought that Lord Palmerston had at first been willing to join, but it was now evident that the three letters had been written in concert.[21]

[Footnote 21: Lord Palmerston wrote that, upon reflection, he had come to the conclusion that he would not, by joining the Government, give to it that stability which Lord Derby anticipated. He, however, gave the promise of his support to any Government which would carry on the war with energy and vigour, and maintain the alliances which had been formed.]

He was anxious to carry any message to any other statesman with which the Queen might wish to entrust him. This the Queen declined, with her best thanks. He then wanted to know what statement Lord Aberdeen would make to-night in the House, stating it to be very important that it should not appear that the Administration had gone from Lord Aberdeen through any other hands than the ones which should finally accept it.

It would be well known that he had been consulted by the Queen, but there was no necessity for making it appear that he had undertaken to form an Administration. The fact was, that he had consulted none of his Party except Mr Disraeli, and that his followers would have reason to complain if they thought that he had put them altogether out of the question. We told him that we did not know what Lord Aberdeen meant to say, but the best thing would be on all accounts to state exactly the truth as it passed.

After he had taken leave of the Queen with reiterated assurances of gratitude and loyalty, I had a further long conversation with him, pointing out to him facts with which he could not be familiar, concerning our Army in the Crimea, our relations with our Ally, negotiations with the German Courts, the state of public men and the Press in this country, which convinced me that this country was in a crisis of the greatest magnitude, and the Crown in the greatest difficulties, which could not be successfully overcome unless political parties would show a little more patriotism than hitherto. They behaved a good deal like his independent Member of Parliament, and tried to aggravate every little mishap in order to get Party advantages out of it. I attacked him personally upon his ... opposition to the Foreign Enlistment Bill, and pointed to the fact that the French were now obtaining the services of that very Swiss Legion we stood so much in need of. His defence was a mere Parliamentary dialectic, accusing the clumsy way in which Ministers had introduced their Bill, but he promised to do what he could to relieve the difficulties of the country. In conclusion I showed him, under injunctions of secrecy, the letter I had received from Count Walewski, which showed to what a state of degradation the British Crown had been reduced by the efforts on all sides for Party objects to exalt the Emperor Napoleon, and make his will and use the sole standard for the English Government.[22]

[Footnote 22: This curious letter of the Count stated in effect that the alliance of England and France, and the critical circumstances of the day, made Lords Palmerston and Clarendon indispensable members of any Ministry that might be formed.]

Lord Derby called it the most audacious thing he had ever seen, adding that he had heard that Count Walewski had stated to somebody with reference to the Vienna Conferences: "What influence can a country like England pretend to exercise, which has no Army and no Government?"

I told him he was right, as every one here took pains to prove that we had no Army, and to bring about that the Queen should have no Government.



Memorandum by the Prince Albert.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 2nd February 1855.

Lord Lansdowne arrived late yesterday evening. The Queen, after having stated that Lord Derby had given up the task of forming a Government, asked his advice under the present circumstances, to which he replied that he had little advice to give. I interrupted that at least he could impart knowledge to the Queen, upon which she could form a decision. The first and chief question was, What was Lord John Russell's position? Lord Lansdowne declared this to be the most difficult question of all to answer. He believed Lord John was not at all dissatisfied with the position he had assumed, and was under the belief that he could form an Administration capable of standing, even without the support of the Peelites. He (Lord Lansdowne) would certainly decline to have anything to do with it, as it could receive its support only from the extreme Radical side, which was not favourable to Lord John, but shrewd enough to perceive that to obtain a Government that would have to rest entirely upon themselves would be the surest mode of pushing their own views. Lord John, although not intending it, would blindly follow this bias, excusing himself with the consideration that he must look for support somewhere. He himself doubted, however, even the possibility of Lord John succeeding; but till he was brought to see this no strong Government was possible. We asked about the Peelites, Lord Palmerston, etc. He did not know whether the Peelites would serve with Lord John Russell—they certainly would not under him. There was a strong belief, however, particularly on the part of Lord Clarendon, and even shared by Lord Palmerston, that without Lord John a stable Government could not be formed. The Queen asked whether they could unite under him (Lord Lansdowne). He replied he had neither youth nor strength to make an efficient Prime Minister, and although Lord John had often told him "If you had been in Aberdeen's place my position would have been quite different," he felt sure Lord John would soon be tired of him and impatient to see him gone. He thought an arrangement might be possible by which Lord Clarendon might be Prime Minister, Lord John go to the House of Lords and take the Foreign Office, and Lord Palmerston the Lead in the House of Commons. We told him that would spoil two efficient men. Lord Clarendon had no courage for Prime Minister, and Lord John had decidedly failed at the Foreign Office.

Lord Lansdowne had had Lord Palmerston with him during the Derby negotiation, and clearly seen that at first he was not unwilling to join, but had more and more cooled upon it when he went further into the matter. Lord Derby and Lord Palmerston had had a full discussion upon Lord Grey, and discarded him as quite impracticable.... After much farther discussion it was agreed that Lord Lansdowne should go up to Town this day, see first Lord Palmerston, then the Peelites, and lastly Lord John, and come to Buckingham Palace at two o'clock, prepared to give answers upon the question what was feasible and what not. He inclines to the belief that we shall have to go through the ceremony at least of entrusting Lord John with the formation of an Administration.

Lord John was not without large following amongst the Whigs, and whatever was said about his late conduct in the higher circles, he believed that it is well looked upon by the lower classes. His expression was, that it would be found that the first and second class carriages in the railway train held opposite opinions.

Memorandum by Queen Victoria.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 2nd February 1855.

Lord Lansdowne arrived at two o'clock, and reported that he had seen all the persons intended, but he could not say that he saw his way more clearly. They all gave pledges generally to support any Government, but were full of difficulties as to their participation in one.

Mr Gladstone would clearly not serve under Lord John—might possibly with him—if much pressed by Lord Aberdeen to do so. He would probably serve under Lord Palmerston. Mr S. Herbert expressed apprehension at the effect upon the prospects of peace which would be produced by Lord Palmerston's being at the head of the Government.

Lord John Russell would not serve under Lord Palmerston, and fancies he might form a Whig Administration himself, of which Lord Palmerston, however, must be the chief member. Lord Palmerston would not like to serve under Lord John Russell—would be ready to form an Administration, which could not have duration, however, in his opinion, if Lord John Russell held aloof!

He found Lord John fully impressed with the fact of his having brought the Queen into all these difficulties, and of owing her what reparation he could make. Lord Palmerston also felt that he had some amends to make to the Queen for former offences. We asked Lord Lansdowne whether they could not be combined under a third person. He felt embarrassed about the answer, having to speak of himself. Both expressed their willingness to serve under him—but then he was seventy-five years old, and crippled with the gout, and could not possibly undertake such a task except for a few months, when the whole Administration would break down—of which he did not wish to be the cause. In such a case, Lord John had stated to him that the man to be Leader of the House of Commons was Lord Palmerston, meaning himself to be transferred to the House of Lords, in his former office as President of the Council.

Without presuming to give advice, Lord Lansdowne thought that under all circumstances it would do good if the Queen was to see Lord John Russell, and hear from himself what he could do. She could perfectly keep it in her power to commission whom she pleased hereafter, even if Lord John should declare himself willing to form a Government.



Queen Victoria to Lord John Russell.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 2nd February 1855.

The Queen has just seen Lord Lansdowne. As what he could tell her has not enabled her to see her way out of the difficulties in which the late proceedings in Parliament have placed her, she wishes to see Lord John Russell in order to confer with him on the subject.


[Pageheading: NEGOTIATIONS]

Memorandum by Queen Victoria[23]

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 2nd February 1855.

Lord John Russell came at five o'clock.

The Queen said she wished to consult him on the present crisis, and hear from him how the position of Parties stood at this moment. He said that immediately at the meeting of Parliament a general desire became manifest for a modification of the Government; that the Protectionists were as hostile to the Peelites as they had been in the year '46; that the old Whigs had with difficulty been made to support the late Government; that the dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war was general, and the country cried out for Lord Palmerston at the War Department; that he considered it of the greatest importance that Lord Clarendon should remain at the Foreign Office, where he had gained great reputation, and nobody could replace him. On the question whether Lord Palmerston would be supported if he formed an Administration, he said everybody would give a general support, but he doubted the Whigs joining him. He did not know what the Peelites would do, but they would be an essential element in the Government, particularly Mr Gladstone; the best thing would be if Lord Palmerston took the lead of the House of Commons. A Government formed by Lord Lansdowne or Lord Clarendon would ensure general support, but Lord Lansdowne had declared that he would not undertake it for more than three months, and then the Government would break down again; and we objected that Lord Clarendon ought, as he had said, not to be moved from the Foreign Office, to which he agreed. He himself would prefer to sit on the Fourth Bench and support the Government. The Queen asked him whether he thought he could form a Government. After having taken some time for reflection, he said he thought he could,[24] but he thought it difficult without the Peelites, and next to impossible without Lord Palmerston; he did not know whether both or either would serve with or under him; he would offer Lord Palmerston the choice between the Lead of the House of Commons and the War Department—and in case he should choose the former, ask himself to be removed to the House of Lords; he had been Leader of the House of Commons since '34, and as far as being able to support his title, he was enabled to do so, as his brother, the Duke of Bedford, intended to leave an estate of L5000 a year to his son. The Queen asked him whether he would do the same under the Administration of Lord Lansdowne, for instance; he begged to be allowed time to consider that. He acknowledged to the Queen—on her remark that he had contributed to bring her into the present difficulties—that he was bound to do what he could to help her out of them; and on the Queen's question what he could do, he answered that depended very much on what the Queen would wish him to do.

[Footnote 23: This Memorandum, though signed by the Queen, was written by the Prince.]

[Footnote 24: Colonel Phipps thus describes Lord Aberdeen's comment on Lord John Russell's words:—"I told Lord Aberdeen that Lord John had said that he thought that he could form a Government. He laughed very much, and said: 'I am not at all surprised at that, but whom will he get to serve under him? Has he at present any idea of the extent of the feeling that exists against him?' I replied that I thought not, that it was difficult for anybody to tell him, but that I thought that it was right that he should know what the feeling was, and that he would soon discover it when he began to ask people to join his Government. Lord Aberdeen said that was very true...."]

She commissioned him finally to meet Lord Lansdowne and Lord Palmerston, to consult together, and to let Lord Lansdowne bring her the result of their deliberation this evening, so that she might see a little more clearly where the prospect of a strong Government lay.

We had some further discussion upon Mr Roebuck's Committee, which he thinks will not be as inconvenient as all his friends suppose. It would meet with great difficulties, and might be precluded from drawing up a report. On Lord Grey's Motion[25] and the Army question he declared that he held to his Memorandum of the 22nd January which the Duke of Newcastle had read to the House of Lords, and acknowledged the necessity of maintaining the office of the Commander-in-Chief, although subordinate to the Secretary of State, and retaining the Army Patronage distinct from the Political Patronage of the Government.

[Footnote 25: See ante, 30th January, 1855, note 17.]

I omitted to mention that Lord John, in answer to the question whether Lord Clarendon would serve under Lord Palmerston, answered that he could not at all say whether he would; he had mentioned to him the possibility, when Lord Clarendon drew up and made a long face.


Queen Victoria to Lord John Russell.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 2nd February 1855.

The Queen has just seen Lord Lansdowne after his return from his conference with Lord John Russell and Lord Palmerston. As moments are precious, and the time is rolling on without the various consultations which Lord Lansdowne has had the kindness and patience to hold with the various persons composing the Queen's late Government having led to any positive result, she feels that she ought to entrust some one of them with the distinct commission to attempt the formation of a Government. The Queen addresses herself in this instance to Lord John Russell, as the person who may be considered to have contributed to the vote of the House of Commons, which displaced her late Government, and hopes that he will be able to present her such a Government as will give a fair promise successfully to overcome the great difficulties in which the country is placed. It would give her particular satisfaction if Lord Palmerston could join in this formation.


Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria.

CHESHAM PLACE, 2nd February 1855.

Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty. He acknowledges that having contributed to the vote of the House of Commons, which displaced your Majesty's late Government (although the decision would in any case have probably been unfavourable), he is bound to attempt the formation of a Government.

As your Majesty has now entrusted him with this honourable task, and desired that Lord Palmerston should join in it, Lord John Russell will immediately communicate with Lord Palmerston, and do his utmost to form a Government which will give a fair promise to overcome the difficulties by which the country is surrounded.

Lord John Russell considers Lord Clarendon's co-operation in this task as absolutely essential.

Memorandum by the Prince Albert.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 3rd February 1855.

Lord John Russell arrived at half-past one o'clock, and stated that he had to report some progress and some obstacles. He had been to Lord Palmerston, and had a long and very free discussion with him. He (Lord Palmerston) told him although the general voice of the public had pointed him out as the person who ought to form a Government, he had no pretensions himself or personal views, and was quite ready to accept the lead of the House of Commons under Lord John in the House of Lords; but that he thought that, if the Queen would see him, now that she had seen Lord Derby, Lord John, and Lord Lansdowne, it would remove any impression that there were personal objections to him entertained by the Queen, which would much facilitate the position of the new Government. They then discussed the whole question of offices, agreed that Lord Panmure would be the best person for the War Department; that Lord Grey could not be asked to join, as his views on the Foreign Policy differed so much from theirs, and he had always been an intractable colleague; that if Mr Gladstone could not be prevailed upon to join, Mr Labouchere,[26] although an infinitely weaker appointment, might be Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sir F. Baring replace Sir J. Graham, if he could not be got to stay.

[Footnote 26: He had been President of the Board of Trade in the former administration of Lord John Russell.]

Lord John then saw Mr S. Herbert, who declared to him that it was impossible for any of the Peelites to join his Government, connected as they were with Lord Aberdeen and the Duke of Newcastle, but that they would infinitely prefer a Government of Lord John's to one of Lord Palmerston, whose views on Foreign Policy, uncontrolled by Lord Aberdeen, they sincerely dreaded.

Lord John then went to Lord Clarendon, and was surprised to find that he could not make up his mind to remain at the Foreign Office under his Government. Lord John thought that the expression of a wish on the part of the Queen would go a great way to reconcile him. His objections were that he had always received the handsomest support from the Peelites, and thought the Government too weak without their administrative ability.

Lord John had seen none of his own friends, such as Sir G. Grey, Sir C. Wood, Lord Lansdowne, and Lord Granville, but had not the smallest doubt that they would cordially co-operate with him.

Lord John is to come again at a quarter before six o'clock. The Queen has appointed Lord Palmerston for three o'clock, and Lord Clarendon at four.



[Pageheading: LORD CLARENDON]

Memorandum by Queen Victoria.[27]

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 3rd February 1855.

[Footnote 27: This Memorandum, though signed by the Queen, was written by the Prince.]

In the Audience which the Queen has just granted to Lord Palmerston, he thanked her for the message which she had sent him through Lord John Russell, and declared his readiness to serve her in any way he could under the present difficulties. He had preferred the lead of the House of Commons to the War Department, having to make a choice between two duties which no man could perform together.

In answer to a question from the Queen, he said he hoped that the present irritation in the Whig party would subside, and that he would be able to complete a Government. He regretted that the Peelites thought it impossible for them to join, which would make it very difficult for Lord John. He had just heard from Count Walewski that Lord Clarendon was very much disinclined to remain at the Foreign Office under Lord John. They were to have a meeting at Lord John's at five, where he hoped to find that he had waived his objections; but he must say that if Lord Clarendon persisted he must himself withdraw, as he had indeed made it a condition with Lord John. The Queen asked him whether, if this attempt failed, she could reckon upon his services in any other combination. His answer was that it was better not to answer for more than one question at a time; we must now suppose that this will succeed.

What he stated with reference to the Army question and the Committee of the House of Commons was perfectly satisfactory.

Lord Clarendon, whom we saw at four o'clock, complained very much of the unfairness of Lord John in making him personally answerable for impeding the progress of Lord John's Government. The fact was that his opinion was only that of every other member of the late Government, and of the public at large; which could be heard and seen by anybody who chose to listen or to read. So impossible had it appeared to the public that Lord John should be blind enough to consider his being able to form a Government feasible, that it was generally supposed that he had been urged to do so by the Queen, in order to escape the necessity of Lord Palmerston. He acknowledged that the Queen's decision in that respect had been the perfectly correct and constitutional one, and perhaps necessary to clear the way; but he hoped that for her own sake, and to prevent false impressions taking root in the public mind, the Queen would give afterwards Lord Palmerston his fair turn also, though he could not say that he would be able to form an Administration. The Queen said that this was her intention, that she never had expected that Lord John would be able to form one, but that it was necessary that his eyes should be opened; Lord Clarendon only regretted the precious time that was lost.

He must really say that he thought he could do no good in joining Lord John; his Government would be "a stillborn Government," which "the country would tread under foot the first day," composed as it would be of the same men who had been bankrupt in 1852, minus the two best men in it, viz. Lord Lansdowne and Lord Grey, and the head of it ruined in public opinion. If he were even to stay at the Foreign Office, his language to foreign countries would lose all its weight from being known not to rest upon the public opinion of England, and all this would become much worse when it became known that from the first day of Lord John's entering into Lord Aberdeen's Government, he had only had one idea, viz. that of tripping him up, expel the Peelites, and place himself at the head of an exclusive Whig Ministry. Besides, he felt that the conduct of all his colleagues had been most straightforward and honourable towards him, and he was not prepared "to step over their dead bodies to the man who had killed them." The attempt of Lord John ought not to succeed if public morality were to be upheld in this country. He had avoided Lord John ever since his retirement, but he would have now to speak out to him, as when he was asked to embark his honour he had a right to count the cost.

Lord Lansdowne had no intention to go to Lord John's meeting, as he had originally taken leave of public life, and had only entered the Coalition Government in order to facilitate its cohesion; among a Government of pure Whigs he was not wanted, for there was no danger of their not cohering. Sir C. Wood declared he had no business to be where Lord Lansdowne refused to go in.

He thought Lord Palmerston would have equal difficulty in forming an administration, but when that had failed some solid combination would become possible.

Lord Lansdowne had declared that he could not place himself at the head for more than three months, but that was a long time in these days.



Memorandum by Queen Victoria.

Lord John Russell returned at six o'clock from his meeting, much put out and disturbed. He said he had nothing good to report. Mr Gladstone, whom he had seen, had declined to act with him, saying that the country did not wish for Coalitions at this moment. Sir J. Graham, whom he had visited, had informed him that the feeling against him was very strong just now, precluding support in Parliament; he gave him credit for good intentions, but said the whole difficulty was owing to what he termed his (Lord John's) rashness. He felt he could not separate from Lord Aberdeen, and had no confidence in the views of Foreign Affairs of Lord Palmerston.

He had then seen Sir George Grey, who told him he had no idea that a Government of Lord John's could stand at this moment; the country wanted Lord Palmerston either as War Minister or as Prime Minister. He must hesitate to engage himself in Lord John's Government, which, separated from the Peelites, would find no favour. Lord Clarendon had reiterated his objections, saying always that this must be gone through, and something new would come up at the end, when all these attempts had failed. He could not understand what this should be. Did Lord Clarendon think of himself as the head of the new combination? I asked what Lord Lansdowne had said. He answered he had a letter from him, which was not very agreeable either. He read it to us. It was to the purport—that as Lord John had been commissioned to form an Administration, and he did not intend to join it, he thought it better not to come to his house in order to avoid misconstruction. Lord John wound up, saying that he had asked Lord Clarendon and Sir G. Grey to reflect further, and to give their final answer to-morrow morning. The loss of the Peelites would be a great blow to him, which might be overcome, however; but if his own particular friends, like Lord Clarendon and Sir G. Grey, deserted him, he felt that he could go on no farther, and he hoped the Queen would feel that he had done all he could.


[Pageheading: LORD JOHN'S FAILURE]

Memorandum by Queen Victoria.[28]

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 3rd February 1855.

[Footnote 28: This Memorandum, though signed by the Queen, was written by the Prince.]

Lord Lansdowne arrived at half-past nine in the evening, and met our question whether he had anything satisfactory to report, with the remark that he saw his way less than ever, and that matters had rather gone backward since he had been here in the morning. He had been in the afternoon at Sir James Graham's bedside, who had had a consultation with Mr Gladstone, and declared to him that the country was tired of Coalitions, and wanted a united Cabinet; that they (the Peelites) could not possibly serve under Lord John or even with him after what had happened; that he felt the strongest objections to serving under Lord Palmerston. They were one and all for the vigorous prosecution of the war, but in order to attain a speedy peace. Lord Palmerston was known to entertain ulterior views, on which he was secretly agreed with the Emperor of the French; and when it came to the question of negotiations, the Government was sure to break up on a ground most dangerous to the country. Lord Lansdowne could but agree in all this, and added he had been tempted to feel his pulse to know how much it had gone down since he had been with Sir James.

The meeting between Lord Palmerston and Lord John had just taken place in his presence. They had discussed everything most openly, but being both very guarded to say nothing which could lead the other to believe that the one would serve under the other. He confessed everything was darker now than before. They both seemed to wish to form a Government, but he could really not advise the Queen what to do under the circumstances.

I summed up that the Queen appeared to me reduced to the necessity of now entrusting one of the two with a positive commission. It was very important that it should not appear that the Queen had any personal objection to Lord Palmerston; on the other hand, under such doubtful circumstances, it would be safest for the Queen to follow that course which was clearly the most constitutional, and this was, after having failed with Lord Derby, to go to Lord John, who was the other party to the destruction of the late Government. The Queen might write such a letter to Lord John as would record the political reasons which led to her determination. Lord Lansdowne highly approved of this, and suggested the addition of an expression of the Queen's hope of seeing Lord Palmerston associated in that formation.

I drew up the annexed draft which Lord Lansdowne read over and entirely approved.

He has no idea that Lord John will succeed in his task, but thinks it a necessary course to go through, and most wholesome to Lord John to have his eyes opened to his own position, of which he verily believed he was not the least aware.


Queen Victoria to the Earl of Aberdeen.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 4th February 1855.

The Queen quite approves of the pension to Sir G. Grey, which he has fully earned, but would wish Lord Aberdeen well to consider the exact moment at which to offer it to him, as Sir George is so very delicate in his feelings of honour. Lord John Russell will probably have to give up the task of forming an Administration on account of Sir George's declining to join him. If the pension were offered to him by Lord Aberdeen during the progress of negotiations, he could not help feeling, she thinks, exceedingly embarrassed.

Lord John Russell to Queen Victoria.

CHESHAM PLACE, 4th February 1855.

Lord John Russell presents his humble duty to your Majesty. He saw last night Sir George Grey, who is extremely averse to the formation of a purely Whig Government at this time. Since that time he has received the two notes enclosed: one from Lord Palmerston, the other early this morning from Lord Clarendon.[29]

It only remains for him to acknowledge your Majesty's great kindness, and to resign into your Majesty's hands the task your Majesty was pleased to confide to him.

[Footnote 29: Lord Palmerston wrote:—

"144 PICCADILLY, 3rd February 1855.

"MY DEAR JOHN RUSSELL,—I certainly inferred from what Clarendon said this afternoon at your house, that he had pretty well made up his mind to a negative answer, and I could only say to you that which I said to Derby when he asked me to join him, that I should be very unwilling, in the present state of our Foreign relations, to belong to any Government in which the management of our Foreign Affairs did not remain in Clarendon's hands.

"George Grey, by your account, seems to tend to the same conclusion as Clarendon, and I think, from what fell from Molesworth, whom I sat next to at the Speaker's dinner this evening, that he would not be disposed to accept any offer that you might make him.

—Yours sincerely, PALMERSTON."

Lord Clarendon wrote:—

"GROSVENOR CRESCENT, 3rd February 1855.

"MY DEAR LORD JOHN,—The more I reflect upon the subject, the more I feel convinced that such a Government as you propose to form would not satisfy the public nor command the confidence of the Country.

"To yourself personally I am sure it would be most injurious if you attempted to carry on the Government with inadequate means at this moment of national danger.

"On public and on private grounds, therefore, I should wish to take no part in an Administration that cannot in my opinion be either strong or permanent. Yours sincerely,



Queen Victoria to Viscount Palmerston.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 4th February 1855.

Lord John Russell having just informed the Queen that he was obliged to resign the task which the Queen confided to him, she addresses herself to Lord Palmerston to ask him whether he can undertake to form an Administration which will command the confidence of Parliament and efficiently conduct public affairs in this momentous crisis? Should he think that he is able to do so, the Queen commissions him to undertake the task. She does not send for him, having fully discussed with him yesterday the state of public affairs, and in order to save time. The Queen hopes to receive an answer from Lord Palmerston as soon as possible, as upon this her own movements will depend.

Viscount Palmerston to Queen Victoria.

144 PICCADILLY, 4th February 1855.

Viscount Palmerston presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and with a deep sense of the importance of the commission which your Majesty asks whether he will undertake, he hastens to acknowledge the gracious communication which he has just had the honour to receive from your Majesty.

Viscount Palmerston has reason to think that he can undertake with a fair prospect of success to form an Administration which will command the confidence of Parliament and effectually conduct public affairs in the present momentous crisis, and as your Majesty has been graciously pleased to say that if such is his opinion, your Majesty authorises him to proceed immediately to the accomplishment of the task, he will at once take steps for the purpose; and he trusts that he may be able in the course of to-morrow to report to your Majesty whether his present expectations are in the way to be realised.

[Pageheading: WHIG SUPPORT]

Viscount Palmerston to Queen Victoria.

PICCADILLY, 5th February 1855. (5 P.M.)

Viscount Palmerston presents his humble duty to your Majesty, and has had the honour to receive your Majesty's communication of to-day; and in accordance with your Majesty's desire, he begs to report the result of his proceedings up to the present time.

The Marquis of Lansdowne, the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Clarendon, the Earl Granville, Sir George Grey, Sir Charles Wood, have expressed their willingness to be members of the Administration which Viscount Palmerston is endeavouring to form, provided it can be constructed upon a basis sufficiently broad to give a fair prospect of duration.

Mr Gladstone, Mr Sidney Herbert, and the Duke of Argyll have declined chiefly on the ground of personal and political attachment to the Earl of Aberdeen, against whom, as well as against the Duke of Newcastle, they say they consider the vote of the House of Commons of last week as having been levelled. Viscount Palmerston has not yet been able to ascertain the decision of Sir James Graham, but it will probably be the same as that of his three colleagues.

Viscount Palmerston hopes, nevertheless, to be able to submit for your Majesty's consideration such a list as may meet with your Majesty's approval, and he will have the honour of reporting further to your Majesty to-morrow.

[Pageheading: THE PEELITES]

Memorandum by Queen Victoria.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 6th February 1855.

We came to Town to hear the result of negotiations, and saw Lord Palmerston at one o'clock. He said there were circumstances which prevented him from submitting a List of the Cabinet, but would at all events be able to do so in the afternoon.

Lords Lansdowne, Clarendon, Granville, Sir G. Grey, Sir C. Wood, Sir William Molesworth, and the Chancellor had consented to serve—unconditionally—having withdrawn their former conditions in consequence of the very general opinion expressed out of doors that the country could not much longer be left without a Government. He heard this had also made an impression upon the Peelites, who had refused to join. He submitted their letters (declining) to the Queen, of which copies are here annexed. They had been written after consultation with Sir J. Graham, but Lord Aberdeen and the Duke of Newcastle having heard of it, have since exerted themselves strongly to prevail upon them to change their opinion, and it was still possible that they would do so. Lord Clarendon had suggested that if Lord Aberdeen himself was invited to join the Government, and could be induced to do so, this would obviate all difficulty. He had in consequence asked Lord Lansdowne to see Lord Aberdeen on the subject, as his joining could only be agreeable to him. Many of the Peelites not in the late Cabinet had strongly disapproved of the decision taken by Mr Gladstone and friends, and offered their services, amongst others Lord Canning, Lord Elcho,[30] and Mr Cardwell.

[Footnote 30: Now Earl of Wemyss.]

Lord Palmerston had been with Lord John Russell yesterday, and had had a very long conversation with him in a most friendly tone; he asked Lord John whether he would follow out the proposal which he had lately made himself, and take the lead in the House of Lords as President of the Council. He declined, however, saying he preferred to stay out of office and to remain in the House of Commons, which Lord Palmerston obviously much regretted. They went, however, together all over the offices and their best distribution. He would recommend Lord Panmure for the War Department and Mr Layard as Under Secretary.... Lord Palmerston was appointed to report further progress at five o'clock.


The Prince Albert to the Earl of Aberdeen.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 6th February 1855.

MY DEAR LORD ABERDEEN,—It would be a great relief to the Queen if you were to agree to a proposal which we understand is being made to you to join the new Government, and by so doing to induce also Mr Gladstone, Mr S. Herbert, and Sir James Graham to do the same.

Ever yours truly, ALBERT.


The Earl of Aberdeen to the Prince Albert.

LONDON, 6th February 1855.

SIR,—I am sanguine in believing that the great object of the union of my friends with the new Government may be attained without the painful sacrifice to which your Royal Highness refers. Contrary to my advice, they yesterday declined to remain in the Cabinet, but I have renewed the subject to-day, and they have finally decided to place themselves in my hands. This rendered other explanations necessary, before I could undertake so great a responsibility. When I shall have the honour of seeing your Royal Highness, I will, with your Royal Highness's permission, communicate what has passed, so far as I am concerned.

I venture to enclose the copy of a letter which I addressed to Mr Herbert this morning, in answer to one received from him late last night, in which he expressed his doubts of the propriety of the first decision at which they had arrived. I have the honour to be, Sir, your Royal Highness's most humble and devoted Servant,


[Pageheading: MR SIDNEY HERBERT]


The Earl of Aberdeen to Mr S. Herbert.

ARGYLL HOUSE, 6th February 1855.

MY DEAR HERBERT,—I received your letter too late to answer it last night. In fact, I had gone to bed.

You say that you are in a great difficulty as to the course you ought to take. I am in none whatever.

I gave you my decided opinion yesterday that you ought to continue in Palmerston's Administration; and I endeavoured to support this opinion by the very arguments which you repeat in your letter to me. Surely this letter ought to have been addressed to Gladstone and Graham, and not to me. I fully concur in thinking that you came to a wrong conclusion yesterday, and I would fain hope that it would still be reversed.

When you sent to me yesterday to attend your meeting, I certainly hoped it was with the intention of following my advice.

Your reluctance to continue in Palmerston's Cabinet is chiefly founded on the apprehension that he will pursue a warlike policy beyond reasonable bounds. I have already told you that I have had some explanations with him on the terms of peace, with which I am satisfied. But whatever may be his inclinations, you ought to rely on the weight of your own character and opinions in the Cabinet. I am persuaded that the sentiments of the great majority of the Members of the Cabinet are similar to your own, and that you may fairly expect reason and sound policy to prevail in the question of peace and war.

But above all I have recently had some very full conversations with Clarendon on the subject, and I am entirely satisfied with his disposition and intentions. I am sanguine in the belief that he will give effect to his present views.

A perseverance in the refusal to join Palmerston will produce very serious effects, and will never be attributed to its true cause. The public feeling will be strongly pronounced against you, and you will greatly suffer in reputation, if you persevere at such a moment as this in refusing to continue in the Cabinet.

In addition to the public necessity, I think you owe much to our late Whig colleagues, who behaved so nobly and generously towards us after Lord John's resignation. They have some right to expect this sacrifice.

Although your arguments do not apply to me, for I yesterday adopted them all, you conclude your letter by pressing me to enter the Cabinet. Now there is really no sense in this, and I cannot imagine how you can seriously propose it. You would expose me to a gratuitous indignity, to which no one ought to expect me to submit. I say gratuitous, because I could not be of the slightest use in such a situation for the purpose you require.

I can retire with perfect equanimity from the Government in consequence of the vote of the House of Commons; but to be stigmatised as the Head and tolerated as the subordinate member I cannot endure.

If at any future time my presence should be required in a Cabinet, I should feel no objection to accept any office, or to enter it without office. But to be the Head of a Cabinet to-day, and to become a subordinate member of the very same Cabinet to-morrow, would be a degradation to which I could never submit, that I would rather die than do so—and indeed the sense of it would go far to kill me.

If you tell me that your retaining your present offices, without the slightest sacrifice, but on the contrary with the approbation of all, is in any degree to depend on my taking such a course, I can only say that, as friends, I cannot believe it possible that you should be guilty of such wanton cruelty without any national object.

I must, then, again earnestly exhort you to reconsider the decision of yesterday, and to continue to form part of the Government. I will do anything in my power to facilitate this. If you like, I will go to Palmerston and promote any explanation between him and Gladstone on the subject of peace and war. Or I will tell him that you have yielded to my strong recommendation. In short, I am ready to do anything in my power.

I wish you to show this letter to Gladstone and to Graham, to whom, as you will see, it is addressed as much as to yourself.

I hope to meet you this morning, and Gladstone will also come to the Admiralty. Yours, etc.



The Prince Albert to the Earl of Aberdeen.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 6th February 1855.

MY DEAR LORD ABERDEEN,—We are just returning to Windsor. Lord Palmerston kissed hands after having announced that his Peelite colleagues also have agreed to keep their offices. The Queen is thus relieved from great anxiety and difficulty, and feels that she owes much to your kind and disinterested assistance. I can quite understand what you say in the letter which I return. You must make allowances also, however, for the wishes of your friends not to be separated from you. You will not be annoyed by further proposals from here.

To-morrow we shall have an opportunity of further conversation with you upon the state of affairs. Believe me always, yours, etc.,


Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 6th February 1855.

MY DEAREST UNCLE,—We are here again for a few hours in order to try and facilitate the formation of a Government, which seemed almost hopeless.

Van de Weyer will have informed you of the successive failures of Lord Derby and Lord John ... and of Lord Palmerston being now charged with the formation of a Government! I had no other alternative. The Whigs will join with him, and I have got hopes, also the Peelites, which would be very important, and would tend to allay the alarm which his name will, I fear, produce abroad.

I will leave this letter open to the last moment in the hope of giving you some decisive news before we return to Windsor....

I am a good deal worried and knocked up by all that has passed; my nerves, which have suffered very severely this last year, have not been improved by what has passed during this trying fortnight—for it will be a fortnight to-morrow that the beginning of the mischief began....

Six o'clock p.m.—One word to say that Lord Palmerston has just kissed hands as Prime Minister. ALL the Peelites except poor dear Aberdeen (whom I am deeply grieved to lose) and the Duke of Newcastle, remain. It is entirely Aberdeen's doing, and very patriotic and handsome of him. In haste, ever your devoted Niece,


[Pageheading: A FAREWELL LETTER]

Queen Victoria to the Earl of Aberdeen.

WINDSOR CASTLE, 7th February 1855.

Though the Queen hopes to see Lord Aberdeen at six, she seizes the opportunity of approving the appointment of the Hon. and Rev. A. Douglas[31] to the living of St Olave's, Southwark, to say what she hardly dares to do verbally without fearing to give way to her feelings; she wishes to say what a pang it is for her to separate from so kind and dear and valued a friend as Lord Aberdeen has ever been to her since she has known him. The day he became Prime Minister was a very happy one for her; and throughout his Ministry he has ever been the kindest and wisest adviser—one to whom she could apply on all and trifling occasions even. This she is sure he will still ever be. But the thought of losing him as her First Adviser in her Government is very painful. The pain is to a certain extent lessened by the knowledge of all he has done to further the formation of this Government, in so noble, loyal, and disinterested a manner, and by his friends retaining their posts, which is a great security against possible dangers. The Queen is sure that the Prince and herself may ever rely on his valuable support and advice in all times of difficulty, and she now concludes with the expression of her warmest thanks for all his kindness and devotion, as well as of her unalterable friendship and esteem for him, and with every wish for his health and happiness.

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