« AnteriorContinuar »
perhaps have permitted him to proceed with his bill, or to substitute for it and carry another measure of a similar character and equal efficacy. But Lord Palmerston, who, though ambitious of office, never manifested any undue tenacity in the retention of it, determined to follow the rigorously constitutional though less convenient course, and at once resigned, leaving the fate of the Indian bill in the hands of a government which would probably not be able to command a majority in the house. Just before his resignation he received intelligence of the triumph of his Chinese policy, and of the capture of Canton by the British troops.
On the resignation of Lord Palmerston, Lord Derby was sent for by the Queen, and with some difficulty formed an administration, the principal members of which were: First Lord of the Treasury
Earl of Derby.
Marquis of Salisbury.
Earl of Hardwicke.
Earl of Malmesbury.
Sir J. P:kington.
The Earl of Eglinton.
Lord J. Manners. On Monday the 1st of March, the parliament having reassembled after the adjournment, which had been carried in order to allow the new minister time to make the necessary arrangements, Lord Derby rose in his place in the House of Lords to explain the circumstances under which he had assumed the government of the country. He excused himself from entering into a full statement of the policy which he would endeavour to carry out, on account of the shortness of the time that had elapsed since he took office and the late period of the session; but he referred to two questions which appeared to him specially to demand the attention of the government; the first of these was the question of the changes to be effected in the system of
THE NEW MINISTRY.
government, or rather the constitution of the home government, of India; the other was the question of parliamentary reform. On both these questions he expressed an opinion that it would have been better at present to have let them alone; but he at the same time acknowledged that, after the feeling that had been manifested with respect to them by the House of Commons, and after the manner in which the latter question had been referred to in several speeches from the throne, he thought that it would be his duty to try and effect a settlement of them.
As the preceding government had been thrown out of office on the ground that it had not sent an answer to the note of Count Walewski, one of the first duties that devolved on the new ministry was to send the answer which their predecessors had been censured for not having given. The reply was of course written by Lord Malmesbury the foreign secretary, who remarked in it that the language employed by Count Walewski in his letter had 'not unnaturally been understood to imply imputations not only that the offences enumerated are not recognised as such by the English law, and may be committed with im. punity, but that the spirit of English legislation is such as designedly to shelter and screen the offender from punishment. Her Majesty's government are persuaded, that had Count Walewski known, when his excellency held with your lordship the conversation to which I have adverted above, that such a construction was put on certain portions of his despatch of January 20th, he would have no difficulty in adding to the assurance then given the assurance that nothing could have been farther from his intention than to convey an imputation injurious alike to the morality and honour of the British nation. On the 12th of March a reply to this communication was received from the French government which enabled Mr. Disraeli to announce to the House of Commons the same evening that the unfortunate misunderstanding which had recently existed between the two countries was now entirely terminated in a manner alike friendly and honourable, and which would be as satisfactory to the feelings as it was conducive to the interests of the two countries.
On the 26th of March it fell to the lot of Mr. Disraeli, as leader of the House of Commons, to introduce the India bill of the new government, known at the time as India bill No. 2, in order to distinguish it from the bill that had previously been brought in by Lord Palmerston. As this measure, like No. 1, never went beyond its first reading, we need not enter into any description of it. A storm of ridicule and unpopularity arose against it, and it soon became evident that there was no chance of its passing: At this crisis, Lord J. Russell came forward and suggested that the house should deal with the question by way of resolution. Mr. Disraeli very cordially accepted Lord John Russell's proposal, and offered to allow him to move the resolutions. As, however, this arrangement was strongly objected to, on the ground that it was incompatible with ministerial responsibility, Mr. Disraeli himself brought forward resolutions on which a third bill might be founded, that he hoped would make its way through the house and be finally adopted. But before they came under the consideration of the house, an incident occurred which had nearly occasioned the dissolution of the newly-formed government. Lord Canning sent back the draft of a proclamation he proposed to issue, announcing a scheme of confiscation open
to very grave objection, and which would probably have caused the nearly-extinguished flame of rebellion to burst forth with renewed fury. Against the policy thus announced, Lord Ellenborough wrote a stronglyworded protest, which ought to have been kept secret till it had reached its destination. However, copies of it were sent to Lord Granville, the intimate friend of Lord Can. ning, and Mr. Bright, the leader of the party which advocated a mild and generous policy towards the natives of India. The consequence was, that the purport of the proposed proclamation and of Lord Ellenborongh's strictures on it became known; and Lord Shaftesbury in the House of Lords, and Mr. Cardwell in the House of Commons, brought forward motions which were in fact censures on the ministry, and which if carried would probably have caused another change of government. This result was averted by the resignation of Lord Ellenborough. It was afterwards found that objections similar to those which had been made by Lord Ellenborough had been raised by Sir James Outram in India, and that the proclamation had been modified by Lord Canning in accordance with his re1858.] MR. CARDWELL'S MOTION WITHDRAWN.
presentations. Lord Shaftesbury's motion had already been rejected by the Lords, and after a protracted debate, extending over four nights, Mr. Cardwell withdrew that which he had proposed, in deference to the wishes and opinions of several members who had previously intended to have supported it. The circumstances which accompanied this withdrawal were thus triumphantly depicted by Dr. Disraeli in an address delivered at Slough to the conservative electors of Buckinghamshire on the 26th of May, five days after the occurrence of the scene which he described :
* There is nothing like that last Friday evening in the history of the House of Commons. We came down to the house expecting to divide at four o'clock in the morning; I myself probably expecting to deliver an address two hours after midnight; and I believe that, even with the consciousness of a good cause, that is no mean effort. Well, gentlemen, we were all assembled ; our benches with their serried ranks seemed to rival those of our proud opponents; when suddenly there arose a wail of distress, but not from
I can only liken the scene to the mutiny of the Bengal army. Regiment after regiment, corps after corps, general after general, all acknowledged that they could not march through Coventry. It was like a convulsion of nature rather than an ordinary transaction of human life. I can only liken it to one of those earthquakes which take place in Calabria and Peru. There was a rumbling murmur, a groan, a shriek, a sound of distant thunder. No one knew whether it came from the top or the bottom of the house. There was a rent, a fissure in the ground, and then a village disappeared, then a tall tower toppled down, and the whole of the opposition benches became one great dissolving view of anarchy.'
Perhaps a more splendid specimen of high art in wordpainting, of an extravagantly-imaginative and decorative description, was never exhibited. It brings to the mind some of Martin's great pictures; only it has the advantage over them that motion has over rest, and the representation of the succession of events over the representation of their contemporaneous occurrence. The speech provoked more criticism perhaps than any address on a similar occasion ever was subjected to. It was repeatedly referred to in both houses; and Lord Derby, in defending and justifying it, thus alluded to the passage we have quoted from it: 'I felt eminently convinced that, great as was the wit, great as was the clearness, great as was the humour of this most graphic description—that which most peculiarly appertained to it was its undeniable truth. There was no exaggeration even of colouring; for no exaggeration could be applied to that matchless scene at which-I shall remember it to the last day of my life—I had the good fortune to be present.'
The passage which attracted so much attention was by no means the only portion of this clever and remarkable address that was subjected to adverse criticism. Two other statements it contained gave serious offence to the late ministry and their supporters, and were strongly controverted. In one of them Mr. Disraeli had applied to the late ministry the term 'cabal,' and in the other he had alleged that war with France was imminent when the late ministry quitted office. These allegations were indignantly denied by the members of the late government, but maintained and insisted on by Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli.
After all these discussions and interruptions, the House of Commons returned to the disagreeable but indispensable business of the consideration of the resolutions on which the India bill No. 3 was to be based. They were under the charge of Lord Stanley, and were subject to the especiallysevere criticism and animadversion of Lord J. Russell, at whose suggestion the plan of proceeding by resolution had been originally adopted. After long and careful deliberation, and much modification, the resolutions were at length agreed to, and embodied in a bill by which it was proposed that the government of India should be transferred from the Company to the Crown. A secretary of state for India was to be appointed, who was to be assisted by a council of fifteen, to hold office during good behaviour.' Eight members of this council were to be nominated by the crown, and seven, for the first time, by the board of directors, and afterwards by the council itself. One great feature of this measure was the introduction into it of the system of com. petitive examinations for the various civil offices, which had hitherto been in the patronage of the board of directors. This system had been advocated by Mr. Edwin Chadwick in the year 1827, in which year he brought it forward in a