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The Foreign Legion. 255 were acquiesced in by the Cabinet against their own judgment and in deference to the judgment or influence of the Prince Consort, and that, in commending them to Parliament, the Cabinet, while seeming to urge the results of their own unbiassed deliberations, were in fact complying with a recommendation from a quarter of overwhelming moral weight, and yet to which they could not make even the most covert allusion. The policy of raising a Foreign Legion, however tempting from the pressing circumstances of the day, stands out in a clearer light when regarded in view of the rupture with the United States which it nearly produced during the year 1856, when Mr. Crampton, the British Minister at Washington, received his passports from the President and left the country, because of charges which had been made against the British Government of violating the neutrality of the United States by enlisting recruits for the British service. A resolution was introduced into the House of Commons alleging that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in the
differences with the United States on the question of enlistment has not entitled them to the approbation • of the House.' Lord Palmerston succeeded in evading the resolution by the use of his habitual adroitness in returning the charge of exciting differences between the two countries on the supporters of the Resolution. He tried to show that the effect of such a discussion would be to excite a spirit of resentment towards our ' neighbours and kindred in the United States, and that this was not the way to persuade the American people to cultivate the most friendly relations with England.''
Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, 1846-1865, by the Hon. Evelyn Ashley, M.P., vol. ii. p. 122.
An instance of still more marked and questionable intervention on the part of the Prince Consort in the affairs of Government is supplied by the strong partisanship he exhibited in respect to the policy of carrying on the war, when propositions for peace were under discussion in the House of Commons in May, 1855. Mr. Disraeli, on the 24th of May, moved a resolution by which the House was called upon to express • its • dissatisfaction with the ambiguous language and un
certain conduct of Her Majesty's Government in • reference to the great question of peace or war,' and to declare that it would continue to give every support • to Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war until * Her Majesty should, in conjunction with her allies, • obtain for the country a safe and honourable peace.' In the course of the debate Mr. Gladstone explained the views of those former members of Lord Aberdeen's Cabinet who, with himself, had lately seceded from Lord Palmerston's Government. He urged the making of peace on the terms offered by Russia, and argued that the limitation of the Russian fleet now demanded was an indignity to Russia. He said that all the terms originally insisted upon had been substantially conceded, and that it would be immoral, inhuman, and unchristian to protract the war not for terms but for military success. On the 3rd of June, 1855, while some of the stages of the whole debate were not yet completed, the Prince Consort wrote a letter to Lord Aberdeen with the obvious purpose of inducing him to use his personal influence over the members of his late Cabinet to persuade them to desist from placing obstacles in the way of actively prosecuting the war. The Prince writes as follows: 'I had sent Colonel Phipps to your house to
The Prince to Lord Aberdeen. 257 • know whether you were in town, and whether it would
be convenient to you to come here [to Buckingham • Palace] for a few minutes before dinner. He has not
found you at home, and I am therefore compelled to write to you upon a subject which would have been much better treated in conversation than it can be in ' a hurried letter-I mean the line which your former • friends and colleagues, with the exception of the Duke
of Newcastle, have taken about the war question. It • has caused the Queen and myself great anxiety, both on account of the position of public affairs, and on their own account. As to the first, any such declaration as Mr. Gladstone bas made on Mr. Disraeli's motion must not only weaken us abroad in public esti'mation, and give a wrong opinion as to the determi• nation of the nation to support the Queen in the war ' in which she has been involved, but render all chance of obtaining an honourable peace without great fresh
sacrifices of blood and treasure impossible, by giving 'new hopes and spirit to the enemy. As to the second,
a proceeding which must appear to many as un patriotic in any Englishman, but difficult to explain even by the most consummate oratory on the part of states'men who have, up to a very recent period, shared the
responsibility of all the measures of the war, and that “ have led to the war, must seriously damage them in
public estimation. The more so, as, having been pub• licly suspected and falsely accused by their opponents
of having, by their secret hostility to the war, led to • all the omissions, mistakes, and disasters, which have ' attended the last campaign, they now seem to exert . • themselves to prove the truth of these accusations, and (as Americans would say) to “ realise the whole
" "capital” of the unpopularity attaching to the authors • of our misfortunes, whom the public has for so long a time been vainly endeavouring to discover. However much on private and personal grounds I grieve for this, I must do so still more on the Queen's behalf, who cannot afford in these times of trial and difficulty " to see the best men in the country damaging them“selves in its opinion to an extent that seriously impairs • their usefulness for the service of the State.' The letter concludes with the words : 'I write all this now, • because the adjourned debate is to be re-opened tomorrow, and I could not reconcile it to myself not to
put you in possession of all I feel upon this subject, o which I know you will receive in the same spirit in which it is given.'
After citing this letter, Mr. Martin says that it seems to have had little effect in modifying the views • of Mr. Sidney Herbert or Sir James Graham, who
both spoke in the debate and strongly advocated a • cessation of the war on the terms offered by Russia. In a letter written on the 7th of June by the Prince Consort to Baron Stockmar, he says: 'Our debate is still • proceeding, and, as you will have seen, Cobden and « Graham have made Russian speeches. I wrote a • fiery (geharnischten) letter to Aberdeen, to which he
would not reply in writing, but preferred paying me a visit yesterday. In a two-hours discussion I think • I satisfied him, that Palmerston has acted precisely
as Aberdeen would have acted, although the suspicion • that Palmerston did not wish for peace may quite
possibly be well founded. Mr. Martin, in commenting on the debate, says that the eloquence of Mr. • Cobden, Mr. Bright, Sir James Graham, and Mr.
Mr. Martin on the Prince's Letter. 259
• Sidney Herbert fell flat upon ears that were little
inclined to adopt the praises of Russia, with which their speeches abounded, and their views of the terms
of peace which should satisfy the allies for their • sacrifices in the war.??
In introducing this correspondence, Mr. Martin says that the intimate friendship which had so long • existed between the Prince and Lord Aberdeen justi• fied him in making the late Premier aware of the . impressions produced upon Her Majesty and himself
by the line of policy adopted by his late colleagues.' But it is to be remembered that Lord Aberdeen was, or was treated for this purpose as, the leader of an influential party in Parliament opposed to the Government of the day; and that, notwithstanding the undoubted propriety of the utmost possible liberty being left to the natural play of the relationships of private friendship and ordinary intercourse, it was impossible for the Prince Consort to take such anxious pains to enforce his views on the leader of a party with respect to the critical party question of the hour without bringing an influence to bear far other than what was merely personal and private, and for which no theoretical view of the British Constitution has ever yet found a place.?
1 Life of the Prince Consort, vol. iii. p. 289.
? The most recent account of the transactions here alluded to is given by Mr. Gladstone, a prime actor in them; and though the narrative is not strictly relevant to the constitutional point now under consideration, yet it is fair to complete what is said in the text by making the following extract from Mr. Gladstone's review of the Life of the Prince Consort. The Aberdeen Government had . resisted, unanimously and strongly, the appointment of what was 'termed the Sebastopol Committee. The Palmerston Government * set out with the intention of continuing that resistance. Its Head,