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Personal Relations with Ministers. 309
looked upon as indistinguishable from hers. Nevertheless, in all the political crises which occurred during the period of his married life,—not excepting those of the Crimean War, in which Court intervention in administrative affairs far exceeded the limits of discretion, if not of right,—there is no sign that the notion of directly superseding the Government of the day, irrespectively of the vote and will of the House of Commons, ever even suggested itself to the Queen or the Prince. Had it suggested itself, and been for a moment entertained, or even had a rumour got abroad that such a notion was afloat in Court circles, there is no doubt that the watchful jealousy with which the influence of the Prince Consort was habitually regarded would have expressed itself in a form and with a determination for which constitutional history since the time of James II. scarcely affords a parallel.
3. The topic of the right of intervention on the part of the Sovereign in the conduct of the Ministers of the Crown has been to some extent anticipated in the preceding remarks. But while it may be admitted that the dismissal of a Government which still enjoys the favour of the House of Commons may be entirely outside the limits of the Sovereign's right, it must still be matter of question how far the Sovereign is entitled to refuse to retain in his service any particular Minister, or to control in a variety of ways, direct and indirect, the policy of the Cabinet. It has already been hinted that it would be unreasonable to expect the Sovereign to continue to hold communication with a Minister who, on purely personal grounds, had rendered himself obnoxious; and the test of the degree of animosity existing between a Sovereign and a Minister which would morally, and therefore constitutionally, justify the Sovereign in dismissing the Minister, is one of those matters, peculiarly characteristic of this subject generally, which cannot be mathematically defined by law or language, but must be measured by the somewhat rude though not insufficient mechanism of public opinion and traditional custom. The main difficulty arises when the grounds of objection to a Minister are partly private and partly public; or rather when an alleged persistence in some course of action connected with the discharge of public business, and yet accidentally obnoxious to the Sovereign, becomes a matter of personal irritation or pique. The treatment of Lord Palmerston by the Queen in 1850 supplies an instance of this critical state of things; and in weighing the case of Lord Palmerston against the Queen, the judgment on the constitutional right of dismissal,—not indeed at that time carried into effect,—will differ according as it is believed that the requirements of the Queen were or were not needlessly or even impracticably punctilious.
Early in 1849, Her Majesty thought it necessary to call the attention of Lord Palmerston, then Foreign Secretary, to the principle that the ultimate control of his office rested with the Premier; and that the despatches submitted for her approval must therefore pass through the hands of Lord John Russell, who, if he should think they required material change, should accompany them with a statement of his reasons. In a letter addressed by the Prince Consort to Lord John ltussell, on the 2nd of April, 1850, the writer notices that the result of Lord Palrnerston's management of foreign affairs had been, that' at a moment and in a 'conjuncture in which England ought to stand highest The Queen and Lord Palmerslon. 311
• in the esteem of the world, and to possess the confi'dence of all Powers, she was generally detested, mis'trusted, and treated with indignity by even the 'smallest Powers.' The writer goes on to add: 'As a 'Minister, the Sovereign has a right to demand from 'Lord Palmerston that she be made thoroughly ac'quainted with the whole object and tendency of the 'policy, to which her consent is required; and having 'given that consent, that the policy be not arbitrarily
* altered from the original line, that important steps 'be not concealed from her, nor her name used with'out her sanction. In all these respects Lord Palmerston 'has failed towards her; and not from oversight or 'negligence, but upon principle, and with astonishing 'pertinacity, against every effort of the Queen. Be'sides which, Lord Palmerston does not scruple to let 'it appear in public as if the Sovereign's negligence in 'attending to the papers sent to her caused delays and 'complications.' The final result of the Queen's and the Prince's discontent with the conduct of Lord Palmerston was the communication of the following memorandum from the Queen:—
'Osborne, 12th August, 1850. 'With reference to the conversation about Lord 'Palmerston which the Queen had with Lord John 'Russell the other day, and Lord Palmerston's dis'avowal that he ever intended any disrespect to her 'by the various neglects of which she has had so long 'and so often to complain, she thinks it right, in order 'to prevent any mistake for the future, to explain what 'it is she expects from the Foreign Secretary. She 'requires:—1. That he will distinctly state what he 'proposes in a given case, in order that the Queen may 'know as distinctly to what she has given her Royal 'sanction. 2. Having once given her sanction to a 'measure, that it be not arbitrarily altered or modified 'by the Minister. Such an act she must consider as 'failure in sincerity towards the Crown, and justly to 'be visited by the exercise of her constitutional right 'of dismissing that Minister. She expects to be kept 'informed of what passes between him and the foreign 'Ministers, before important decisions are taken, based 'upon that intercourse; to receive the foreign des'patches in good time, and to have the drafts for her 'approval sent to her in sufficient time to make herself 'acquainted with their contents before they must be 'sent off. The Queen thinks it best, that Lord John 'Russell should show this letter to Lord Palmerston.'1
When, in the December of 1851, the circumstances of Lord Palmerston's conversation with Count Walewski in reference to the coup d'etat occurred, as already detailed, the Queen wrote the following note to Lord John Russell, which no doubt was the real stimulus which impelled Lord John Russell to insist on Lord Palmerston's resignation of office :—
'Osborne, 18th December, 1851.
'The Queen sends the inclosed despatch from Lord 'Norman by to Lord John Russell, from which it ap'pears that the French Government pretend to have 'received the entire approval of the late coup d'etat by 'the British Government as conveyed by Lord Palmers'ton to Count Walewski. The Queen cannot believe in
1 Life of tlte Prince Contort, vol. ii. p. 305.
Comment of Lord Palmerston. 313
'the truth of the assertion, as such an approval given by 'Lord Palmerston would have been in complete contra'diction to the line of strict neutrality and passiveness 'which the Queen had expressed her desire to see followed 'with regard to the late convulsions at Paris, and which 'was approved by the Cabinet, as stated in Lord John 'Russell's letter of the 6th instant. Does Lord John 'know anything about the alleged approval, which, if 'true, would again expose the honesty and dignity 'of the Queen's Government in the eyes of the world ?'1
On the 3rd of February, 1852, Lord John Russell, in the course of accounting for Lord Palmerston's resignation, read to the House of Commons for the first time the Queen's Memorandum of August, 1850. In case it might be supposed that Lord Palmerston, by not sending in his resignation at the time of receiving the Memorandum, acquiesced in the censure it implied, and approved the constitutional usage on which it implicitly purported to rest, it is necessary to give his own account of the transaction, as appearing from a letter of his to Lord Lansdowne, written in October, 1852, with reference to a conversation with the Duke of Bedford, published in Mr. Evelyn Ashley's Life :—
'I said to the Duke that I thought it was very 'unhandsome by me, and very wrong by the Queen, 'for him, John Russell, to have read in the House of 'Commons the Queen's angry Memorandum of August '1850, hinting at dismissal. In regard to the Queen, he 'was thus dragging her into the discussion, and making 'her a party to a question which constitutionally ought 'to be, and before Parliament could only be, a question
1 Life of the Prince Contort, vol. ii. p. 412. (The italics are as printed in the Life.)