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atives after the fall of Sir R. Peel.
the public welfare to demand an entire change of policy, it is not for him to carry it out. He cannot, indeed, be called upon to conceal or disavow his own opinions; but he is no longer entitled lead the forces intrusted to his command,
still less to seek the aid of the enemy. Elected chief of a free republic, — not its dictator, – it becomes his duty, honorably and in good faith, to retire from his position, with as little injury as may be to the cause he abandons, and to leave to others a task which his own party allegiance forbids him to attempt.
This disruption of the Conservative party exercised an The Conserv. important influence upon the political history of
the succeeding period. The Whigs were restored
to power under Lord John Russell, not by reason of any increase of their own strength, but by the disunion of their opponents. The Conservatives, suddenly deprived of their leaders, and comınitted to the hopeless cause of protection, were, for the present, powerless. They were now led by Lord Stanley, one of the greatest orators of his time, who had been the first to separate from Earl Grey, and the first to renounce Sir Robert Peel. In the Commons, their cause was maintained by chivalrous devotion of Lord George Bentinck, and the powerful, versatile, and caustic eloquence of Mr. Disraeli, — the two foremost opponents of the late minister. But they were, as yet, without spirit or organization, - disturbed in their faith, and repining over the past rather than hopeful of the future.? Meanwhile the Whigs, under Lord John Russell, were ill
at ease with their more advanced supporters, as The Whigs in office under they had been under Lord Melbourne. They had
nearly worked out the political reforms comprised
in the scheme of an aristocratic party; and Sir Robert Peel had left them small scope for further experi
1 See his own justification, Mem., ii. 163, 229, 311 - 325; Disraeli's Lord George Bentinck, 31-33, 390, &c.
2 Disraeli's Lord G. Bentinck, 79, 173, &c.
ments in fiscal legislation. They resistid, for a time, all projects of change in the representation ; but were at length driven, by the necessities of their position, to promise a further extension of the franchise. With parties so disunited, a strong government was impossible; but Lord J. Russell's administration, living upon the distractions of the Conserva tives, lasted for six years. In 1852, it fell at the first touch of Lord Palmerston, who had been recently separated from bis colleagues.
Power was again within the reach of the Conservatives, and they grasped it. The Earl of Derby 8 was a
Lord Derby's leader worthy to inspire them with confidence ; ministry, but he had the aid of few experienced statesmen. Free trade was flourishing; and the revival of a protective policy utterly out of the question. Yet protection was still the distinctive principle of the great body of his party. He could not abandon it, without unfaithfulness to his friends : he could not maintain it, without the certain destruction of his government. A party cannot live upon memories of the past: it needs a present policy and purpose ; it must adapt itself to the existing views and needs of society. But the Conservatives clung to the theories of a past generation, which experience had already overthrown; and had adopted no new principles to satisfy the sentiment of their own time. In the interests of his party, Lord Derby would have done well to decline the hopeless enterprise which had fallen to his lot. The time was not yet ripe for the Conservatives. Divided, disorganized, and unprepared, — without a popular cry, and without a policy, — their failure was inevitable. In vain did they advocate protection in counties, and free trade in towns. In vain did many “ Liberal Conservatives” outbid their Whig opponents in popular professions : in vain did others avoid perilous pledges, by declaring themselves fol
1 Supra, Vol. I. 357.
Supra, Vol. I. 136.
Peelites under Lord
lowers of Lord Derby, wherever he might lead them. They were defeated at the elections: they were constrained to renounce the policy of protection : they could do little to gratify their own friends; and they had again united all sections of their opponents. And now the results of the schism of 1846 were apparent.
The disciples of Sir Robert Peel's school had bithJunction of Whigs and erto kept aloof from both parties. Having lost
their eminent leader, they were free to form new Aberdeen.
connections. Distinguished for their talents and political experience, their influence was considerable, notwithstanding the smallness of their following. Their ambition had been checked and unsatisfied. Their isolation had continued for six years: an impassable gulf separated them from the Conservatives ; and their past career and present sympathies naturally attracted them towards the Liberal party. Accordingly, a coalition ministry was formed, under Lord Aberdeen, comprising the Peelites, — as they were now called, — the Whigs, and Sir William Molesworth, a representative of the philosophical school of Radicals. It united men who had labored with Mr. Canning, Sir Robert Peel, Earl Grey, and Mr. Hume. The Liberal party had gained over nearly all the statesmanship of the Conservative ranks, without losing any of its own. Five-and-twenty years before, the foremost men among the Tories had joined Earl Grey; and now again, the first minds of another generation were won over, from the same party, to the popular side. A fusion of parties had become the law of our political system. The great principles of legislation, which had divided parties, had now been settled. Public opinion had accepted and ratified them; and the disruption of party ties which their adoption had occasioned, brought into close connection the persons as well as principles of various schools of politicians.
1 Hans. Deb., 3d Ser., cxxii. 637, 693; cxxiii. 54, 406.
No administration, in modern times, had been stronger in talent, in statesmanship, and in parliamentary sup- Disunion and port, than that of Lord Aberdeen. But the union full of this
ministry. of parties, which gave the cabinet outward force, was not calculated to secure harmony and mutual confidence amongst its members. The Peelites engrossed a preponderance, in the number and weight of their offices, out of proportion to their following, which was not borne without jealousy by the Whigs. Unity of sentiment and purpose was wanting to the material strength of the coalition ; and in little more than two years, discord, and the disastrous incidents of the Crimean war, dissolved it.
Lord Aberdeen, the Duke of Newcastle, and Lord J. Russell retired; and Lord Palmerston was intrusted
Separation of with the reconstruction of the ministry. It was Peelites, from scarcely formed, when Sir James Graham, Mr. ston. Gladstone, and Mr. Sidney Herbert, followed their Peelite colleagues into retirement. The union of these statesmen with the Liberal party, so recently effected, thus completely dissolved. The government was again reduced to the narrower basis of the Whig connection. Lord John Russell, who bad rejoined it on the retirement of Mr. Gladstone from the Colonial Office, resigned after the conferences at Vienna, and assumed an attitude of opposition: The Radicals, and especially the peace party, -pursued the ministry with determined hostility and resentment. The Peelites were estranged, critical, and unfriendly.
The ministerial party were again separated into their discordant elements, while the opposition were watch- Combination ing for an occasion to make common cause with of parties
against the any section of the Liberals against the government. But a successful military administration, and the conclusion of a peace with Russia, rendered Lord Palmerston's position too strong to be easily assailed. For two
1 Ann. Reg., 1855, p. 152, et seq.
years he maintained his ground, from whatever quarter it was threatened. Early in 1857, however, on the breaking out of hostilities in China, he was defeated by a combination of parties. He was opposed by Mr. Cobden and his friends, by Lord John Russell, by all the Peelites who had lately been his colleagues, and by the whole force of the Conservatives? Coalition had recently formed a strong government; and combination now brought suddenly together a powerful opposition. It was not to be expected that Lord Palmerston would submit to a confederation of parties so casual and in congruous. He boldly appealed to the confidence of the country, and routed his opponents of every political section.8 In the new Parliament, Lord Palmerston was the minister
of a national party. The people had given him ston's popu- their confidence; and men, differing widely from sudden fall.
one another, concurred in trusting to his wisdom and moderation. He was the people's minister, as the first William Pitt had been a hundred years before. But the parties whom he had discomfited at the elections, smart. ing under defeat, and jealous of his ascendency, - were ready to thrust at any weak place in his armor. In 1858,our relations with France, after the Orsini conspiracy, -infelicitously involved with a measure of municipal legislation, — suddenly placed him at a disadvantage; when all the parties who had combined against him in the last Parliament, again united their forces and overpowered him."
1 Previous concert between the different parties was denied; and combination is, therefore, to be understood as a concurrence of opinion and of votes. Earl of Derby and Lord J. Russell; Hans. Deb., 3d Ser., cxliv. 1910, 2322.
2 The majority against government was 16; Hans. Deb., 3d Ser.; cxliv. 1846. Ann. Reg., 1857, ch. iii.
8 Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, Mr. Milner Gibson, Mr. Layard, and Mr. Fox, among his Liberal supporters, and Mr. Cardwell and Mr. Roundell-Palmer among the Peelites, lost their seats. — Ann. Reg., 1857, 84.
4 The majority against him was 19 — Ayes, 215; Noes, 234 — Ann. Reg., 1858, ch. ii.; Hans. Deb., 3d Ser., cxlviii. 1844.