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.”
Posts Tagged ‘Viscount Palmerston’
Posted in personalities, tagged Benny Thomas, Life and Times of Charles Fox, Lord Aberdeen, parliamentary reform bill, pen portraits, politics, statesman, UK, Viscount Palmerston, Whig on December 12, 2012| Leave a Comment »
Lord John Russell(1792- 1878)
Disraeli’s difficulties lay in the fact both Whigs and Tories distrusted him. He was too individualistic to subscribe to any political program. He disliked the Whigs who had substituted a selfish oligarchy for government while the Tories were on a nosedive loosened from traditions, as leaders of the people and supporter of the monarch. To regain this historical position would sum up his own work for the next half a century.
No one in 1830’s could have guessed that it was feasible, still less that the flashy young Jew would be the motive force behind the Tories. In 1834 Lord Melbourne then Home Secretary met Disraeli in one of the parties. Attracted by his conversation he asked what was his aim. “I want to be the Prime Minister,”replied Disraeli gravely. Melbourne with a weary sigh explained the utter impossibility of such an achievement. He ended with,”You must put all these foolish notions out of your head. This won’t do at all.”
Melbourne when towards the close of ’48 just before his death, heard that Disraeli was to be the leader in the Commons he exclaimed,”By God the fellow will do it, yet.”
Viscount Palmerston, war secretary under many prime ministers was a man of great personal charm and exceptional abilities, perhaps the only member of the House whose brain, Disraeli respected. He was a Lothario and his many amatory adventures were no secret. He stood for many years in the way of Disraeli’s ambitions from achieving their fruition. One of Dizzy’s supporters before an election had collected evidence of a furtive love affair publication of which he was certain would discredit his adversary. Disraeli refused.”Palmerston is now seventy. If he could provide evidence of his potency in his electoral address he would sweep the country,” was his reason.
Like many people who were not native but made England home he was fond of England and the English way of life. However his acute intelligence and robust imagination elicited responses which were so different from that of an Englishman. He loved meeting people from various walks of life especially during political meetings and exchange pleasantries. His opponents seldom missed an opportunity of heckling him.
In delivering a speech he would invariably began slowly and quietly.”Speak up! I can’t hear you!”shouted someone at a Newpost Pagnell meeting in Dec,49. Back came the answer,’Truth travels slowly, but it will reach you in time.’
To one heckler, with whom he was on familiar terms, who called out,’Speak quick!’ he replied,”It is very easy for you to speak quick when you only utter stupid monosyllables.” He added,”But when I speak I must measure my words; I have to open your great thick head. What I say is to enlighten you. If I bawled like you, you would leave this place as great a fool as you entered it.”
Sometimes political hostility took on more personal forms. One jibed at him that his wife had picked him out of the gutter. His reply was a model of incisive wit delivered in his customary cool and unflappable composure. Dizzy replied,”My dear fellow, if you were in the gutter nobody would pick you out”.
His power of ridicule when given a cause was superb and he could floor anyone whether in the House or outside with a verbal thrust. By nature he was genial and never went out to aggravate the feeling of those whom he disliked. Once in the House he chose to ignore a vicious attack of one whom despised with an excuse, ”I have given him the mercy of my silence.”