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Lord John Russell

Lord John Russell(1792- 1878)
John Russell, the third son of the 6th Duke of Bedford, had naturally absorbed from his father a concern for the poor. At the age of fourteen he wrote in his diary, “What a pity that he who steals a penny loaf should be hung, whilst he who steals thousands of the public money should be acquitted.”
Soon after he finished his studies in 1812 his father arranged for him to be elected to the family seat of Tavistock. He was also granted the courtesy title, Lord Russell. In the House of Commons Russell supported the Whigs and in 1817 he made a passionate speech against the decision by Lord Liverpool and his government to suspend Habeas Corpus. Russell also took an active part in the campaign for parliamentary reform.
When Sir Robert Peel resigned Lord Russell was asked to form a new government. Russell immediate problem was to deal with the potato famine in Ireland. Russell attempted to help by allocating £10 million to be spent on public works in Ireland. Russell also paved the way the passing of the 1847 Factory Act. The following year he managed to persuade parliament to accept his government’s Public Health Act that gave municipalities powers to set up local boards of health.
In December 1851 Lord Russell sacked his foreign minister, Lord Palmerston, after he had recognised the government formed by Napoleon III in France without consulting with his fellow cabinet ministers. His political career was marked by his love-hate relationship with a formidable foe as Palmerston.In July 1861 he was raised to the peerage as Earl Russell. He continued to hold the office of foreign secretary and when Lord Palmerston died in October, 1865, Russell once again became prime minister. One of his first decisions was to try again to persuade parliament to accept the parliamentary reform proposals(The bill which included reducing the qualification for the franchise to £10 in the counties to £6 in towns) that had been rejected in 1860. The majority of the MPs in the House of Commons were still opposed to further reform and after the government was defeated on a vote on 18th June 1866, Earl Russell resigned.
After listening to Lord Russell in the House of Commons in 1838, Charles Sumners wrote thus: “Lord John Russell rose in my mind the more I listened to him. In person diminutive and rickety, he wriggled round, played with his hat, and seemed unable to to dispose of his hands or his feet; his voice was small and thin, but notwithstanding this, a house of five hundred members was hushed to catch his smallest accents. You listened, and you felt that you had heard a man of mind, of thought, and of moral elevation.”
(ack:http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRrussell.htm)
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