Графични страници
PDF файл

quered.” He was regarded without opposition as the most exclusive of the exclusives. He was the first to introduce the German waltz, and a German dance-master in London received a guinea for every lesson, till he waltzed himself to death. Not only the fools of fashion but the worthiest men of the kingdom contended for the friendship of the young necktie dictator. The weaker sex fell at the feet of the beardless tyrant, as unresisting victims. The despatches relating to these delicate adventures are not made public, and here, perhaps, he was in the right. We only refer to this pre-historic period because Palmerston took with him into parliament the sweet consciousness of commanding, the certainty of victory, and the boldest confidence in the elegance and fascination of his manner; and though now upwards of seventy, he has received no other chastisement for his overweening pride than a few transitory attacks of gout. The contempt and irony displayed in his whole political career, the utterly unprincipled contradiction between his speeches and his actions, spring from this pre-historic Cupid-episode of his youth. His hair is white, but nothing could weaken and blanch the youthful elegance and arrogance of his parliamentary windings. With him the curved line has ever been the line of beauty.

As triumphant dictator over both sexes, he joined the Tories in 1807, or in his twenty-third year, as lord of the admiralty in the Duke of Portland's administration. Two years before, he had stood against Lord Granville for the representation of Cambridge. Being defeated here, he entered parliament as member for Bletchingly, until he succeeded in buying Cambridge, which town he represented until he altered his politics. He then went to South Hants, and eventually fixed on Tiverton, whence he has been returned since 1834.

His first parliamentary success, on the 3rd February, 1808, about the expedition to Copenhagen, characterises the "undefinable" at once. He triumphantly proved the constitutional beauty of keeping secret all despatches, and laid down the principle, which he has since always employed as a deus ex machina when he required it, that the publication of diplomatic documents was dangerous to the state ; the same was the case with the law of nations, for which he proposed to substitute the law of might. What is the law of nations? Practically considered, it is nothing but the sum of treaties and laws which diplomatists and statesmen have established for their own convenience. “ Break them if you can and are strong enough,” was the doctrine of the youthful Palmerston at an age when lads of commoner clay are enthusiasts for equity and justice. Keep the despatches secret, else they might rouse the plebeian feelings of honesty and justice! Here we have the first great characteristic of the Palmerstonian policy, the destruction of all just relations between nations and of the feeling of rectitude among Englishmen, by thousands of arbitrary acts of parliament to suit momentarily powerful cliques and interests of the hour. It is true that Palmerston cannot claim the entire credit of the innovation, for Metternich and Talleyrand had preceded him in the sinuous track ; still, it cannot be denied that Palmerston was a most promising pupil.

When Castlereagh retired from the administration of the war department in 1809, no one was inclined to be his successor. The deeply compromised portfolio was hawked about in vain, until the young Lord

Cupid consented to accept it and carry out the Castlereagh policy with more grace-and deception. He then became minister against Napoleon, we may say the whole world, and remained so through all ministerial changes until 1828, when Wellington took the reins of office. Palmerston was the Jupiter Maximus of the Peninsular War, whose traditions ruined the English army before Sebastopol ; it was Palmerston who brought about the battle of Waterloo ; the same Palmerston who banished Napoleon to St. Helena, and eternally excluded his family from the throne of France; and it was really the same Palmerston who preferred to insult his Queen, his colleagues, and the then popular opinion of England rather than deny himself—the celebrated defender of constitutional liberties in other countries--the precipitated recognition of Napoleon III.

During his ministerial career, Palmerston was wont to hold aloof from general questions, devoting his attention principally to special topics relating to his department. When the Catholic emancipation began to ferment, he gave another proof of his political sentiments: he asserted that the people ought not to be allowed to take part in the discussion of public affairs—he, who had so often been praised and abused as revolutionary collaborateur in propagating constitutional liberty in other countries. In March, 1816, he defended the increase of the standing army, and with equal zeal again in 1820. The objection that standing armies imperiled the liberties of the people, he contradicted by the assurance that the officers, exclusively belonging to the aristocracy, were a guarantee against this, and that one-half

of the army would defend constitutional liberty were the other half to attack it. Hence a civil war is a guarantee of liberty!

With the Tories, Palmerston had been ultra-Tory, especially with the first half of the Liverpool ministry, which became Liberal with Canning's accession (1822-1828). Under Canning, who is stated to be his ideal, Palmerston acquired another of his titles, “moderate Reformer.” The programme of these moderate Reformers contained as its chief paragraph,

Opposition to all Parliamentary Reform." With the Wellington-Peel ministry Reform ceased to be even a phrase. Palmerston was Canning's scholar. Canning's reforms were branded by Wellington as “very dangerous innovations,” but Palmerston passed over to the Wellington ministry as heirloom. When sharply attacked, he defended himself after his lordly fashion : "Four other members of Canning's liberal ministry have also joined Wellington. Was I the only one ? Besides, firm adherence to political principles is absurd. May not a man alter—must he not improve himself ?" "He frequently proved most brilliantly in his speeches that he had altered his views for the welfare of his country, and ridiculed political adherence to party principles. We are bound to allow him to be in the right, so long as alteration is development ; but the same admirer of development appealed too often to his political consistency, to his faithful adherence to his political convictions, and the most obstinately after his joining the Wellington ministry. With the same graceful impudence he extinguished all the fire of the anger at his dismissal, and his sins against the Queen after the coup d'état. Has not my honourable friend Russell recognised the coup d'état? Have not the other honourable gentlemen, who guard the greatness and liberty of England, recognised it ? Certainly they have.' General applause and hilarity in the

House. If a schoolboy were to excuse himself to his master after such a fashion, he would receive twice as sound a thrashing.

But Wellington had determined on kicking out the liberals and cleansing the Augean stable. Hence he took advantage of a hasty move on Huskisson's part, in which Palmerston was compromised, to compel their resignation. Thus Palmerston quitted the ministerial benches after twenty years' service, and became a popular favourite, because he had been a sacrifice to his liberal tendencies. Palmerston employed his “ holidays” in recommending himself to the Whigs, who were soon to attain power. Wellington fell on the “ Barricades of the Revolution of July," just as, according to Brougham, the Reform Bill of 1832 was gained on the same barricades. Palmerston took office as foreign secretary to the Grey ministry, for the Whigs had returned to power after fifty years' retirement, and retained office from 1830 to 1841 (with the exception of six unimportant months in 1834), and from 1846 to 1851, responsible for the whole foreign policy of England.

It used to be said that “ Canning's scholar” laid down, as the fundamental principle of his foreign policy, the liberal constitutionalising of the west and south of Europe, thus to gain a balance against the absolutist north and east. It was even added that he had evidenced great talent in this task. As a proof, people referred to the alliance with France for this object, the creation of Belgium, the favour shown Don Pedro in Portugal, and the quadruple alliance for the support of the thrones of Isabella and Maria da Gloria. It is possible that the conjuring tricks produced such an illusion. But, in the first place, how have these constitutional graftings thriven ? Secondly, how did he ill-treat and demoralise Isabella's constitutional throne, when Louis Philippe proved his superiority as diplomatic match-maker? Thirdly, and all in all, how does this “ leading principle” harmonise with Affghanistan, Syria, Egypt, the treaty of Hunkiar-Skelessi, Poland, Cracow, Hungary, the mouths of the Danube, the English vessel for the Circassians, the Danish treaty of succession—in a word, with Palmerston's persistent tenderness towards Russia and her extension of territory? Leading principle? liberal constitutionalism ? balance to the absolutist north and east? Persons boasted, too, of Palmerston's grand comprehension of the “European balance." Perchance, the constitutional liberty in Portugal, Spain, &c., weighed so heavily in the scale, that he thought he must keep constantly adding to the Eastern scale, in order to preserve the equilibrium.

From the Affghan war we need only quote the fact that Lord Palmerston had a Blue-book fabricated, from which he cut out all the passages that could compromise living and responsible persons; and so cleverly did he do it, that everything tended to the belief that the deceased consul in Cabul had been solely to blame. How Palmerston insulted his own officials, in order not to disturb the peace with Russia, must be readfully detailed in Kaye’s “War in Afghanistan”—before it can be believed. This Affghan war—the deposition and restoration of Dost Mahomed, while the Persians were besieging Herat-has received a brilliant illumination, and added a further proof of the wisdom of Palmerston's foreign policy by the recent operations in Persia. The English at that time sought to destroy their natural ally against Persia, and, after losing their army, restored him to his throne, on which the last war was intended to

support him, after Persia had been allowed to become de facto a Russian province.

The noble viscount was generally regarded as the chivalrous protector of the Poles. The Poles had been already one month under arms, when Palmerston took the foreign secretaryship in November, 1830. Palmerston held his tongue about it, until Hume publicly stated that he supposed the English government intended to do nothing for Poland. Palmerston sprang up in great anger: "Every species of responsibility which existing treaties impose on the government will be at all times properly fulfilled.” On the 9th of July, 1833, he told the House: “ The claim of Russia to Poland dates from the treaty of Vienna, which treaty guarantees the integrity of Poland.” Appealed to on the 26th of March, 1834, he replied: “The mere fact that England is a party to the treaty of Vienna, cannot be synonymous with England's duty to protect this treaty from any infringement on the part of Russia.” Once on a time a Milanese said to Frederick Barbarossa : “ Certainly you had our oath, but remember, we by no means swore to keep it.” On the 9th of July, 1835, Palmerston acquainted the House with the mysteries of the treaty of Vienna. “ It gives the English government a right to form and express an opinion about every infringement of this treaty. The co-signers had a right to demand that the Polish constitution should not be assailed, and this is an opinion I have not concealed from the Russian government. I imparted this opinion both before and after the fall of Warsaw. The Russian government, however, took a different view of the question." On the 20th of April, 1836, he consoled the House for its grief at the annihilation of Poland in these words: “The Emperor of Russia is incapable of extirpating so many millions of men as the various districts of Poland contain." A proposal for the support of Polish fugitives he declined, with the remark: “Such a support of these unhappy individuals is not in harmony with my duty, though it is extremely painful to me to be forced to oppose it” (25th of March, 1834). But the expenses of the fall of Poland he very liberally paid out of England's pocket, as is shown in a small work, “ Palmerston and Russia.” Austria sent a plenipotentiary to Paris on behalf of Poland. France expressed her willingness if England would join. Palmerston declined, with the following remark: “The time has not yet arrived to carry out such a plan against the will of a ruler whose right is undeniable.”

It would occupy too much space were we to draw our readers' attention to all the conjuring tricks performed by Palmerston with reference to Poland and Cracow. As to the so-called Dutch-Russian loan, for which England was a guarantee, to compensate Holland for the loss of Demerara, the Cape, &c., the separation of Belgium dissolved all responsibility on the part of England; but Palmerston solemnly declared that treaties must be kept in their integrity. Thus Russia obtained her expenses for the Polish matter. No wonder that the noble lord repeated so frequently, “Nothing can be more painful to men of noble feelings than discussions about Poland.”

And now for a glance at Palmerston's Oriental policy! The RussoTurkish war of 1828-1829 is well known. In 1833, Russia took Constantinople under her personal protection by landing troops on the Asiatic side, merely to save it for the Sultan. "The occupation of Constanti

nople by Russian troops sealed the fate of Turkey. It was the decisive blow to the independence of Turkey" (Robert Peel, March 17, 1834). Through the treaty of Adrianople the subjects had lost their respect for the government. Mehemet Ali, who had supported the Greek insurrection, revolted, sent his army under Ibrahim Pacha to Syria, conquered that province, and marched on Constantinople. The Sultan begged Russian help; the French admiral, Roussin, offered to keep the Egyptians in check if the Sultan declined Russian help. Too late! the Russians took Constantinople under their protection. In May, 1833, Count Orloff arrived at Constantinople with a letter from St. Petersburg, which the Sultan was induced to sign without previous communication with his divan. This document eventually became historical as the treaty of Hunkiar-Skelessi. On the 11th July, 1833, Bulwer asked for documents referring to the Turco-Egyptian complication ; Palmerston refused them : “ The documents are as yet imperfect, and the results not known.” Bulwer complained that the government had not taken the part of the Sultan, although he had asked for assistance. Palmerston did not deny that the Sultan had asked for help the year before (speech of 11th July, 1832). It was in the course of August (speech of 24th August, 1833). No, it was not in August: “The request for naval assistance was made in October, 1832” (speech of 28th August). But that was not quite right: “His (Palmerston's) assistance was sought by the Porte in November, 1832” (speech of 17th March, 1834). What an admirable uncertainty about so trifling a matter as the downfal of Turkey. It is the fact, at any rate, that Turkey asked for English assistance and refused the Russian, and that Palmerston dismissed two Turkish envoys sent for the purpose, although, according to his own confession (speech of 28th August, 1833), Russia recommended his interference. The Sultan waited three more months, until he had no alternative but to accept Russian assistance. On the 11th July, 1833, the noble lord asserted that, “had England thought proper to interfere, no Russian troops would have reached Constantinople.” But, why did not England think proper? There was no time. Mehemet Ali began his rebellion in October, 1831; the decisive battle of Konieh was fought on 21st December, 1832. There was no time between these dates. But in reality it was not want of time, but of a formal application on the part of the Porte. This arrived on the 3rd November ; the Russians did not land at Scutari till February 20, 1833. Well, it was not exactly the want of a formal application. “ It was a war by a subject against his sovereign, and this sovereign was an ally of the King of England ; consequently, it would have been inconsistent with good faith to enter into any communication with Mehemet Ali" (Palmerston, 28th August, 1833). The most perfect gentleman of the three kingdoms could not be guilty of such a breach of etiquette. Like the Spanish grandee, who allowed the queen to be burned to death because it would have been improper to touch her petticoats, Palmerston sacrificed Turkey to his feelings of consistency. Well, have we really reached the core at last ? Earl Grey, on the 4th February, 1834, offered the following nut to crack : “ We had at that time extended commercial relations with Mehemet Ali which it would have been against our interest to disturb.” Palmerston had his consuls and agents in Egypt in 1832. The revo

« ПредишнаНапред »