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Chapter XXXVIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5


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Lord Clarendon, who was then Foreign Secretary, did not send an official communication to Lord Cowley in answer to this despatch, but contented himself with giving private instructions to lay before the French Government the sentiments, views, and intentions of Her Majesty's Government, which was thought to be a much more prudent course to be adopted with a view to allaying the excessive irritation of the French nation and army at the time. The despatch of Count Walewski, however, excited general indignation in England, which was rendered more intense by the fact that very violent addresses to the Emperor, full of abuse and threats towards England, had been inserted in the official Moniteur. There was subsequently a good deal of correspondence, which assumed a conciliatory tone on both sides; but in the course of which the Emperor insisted on the necessity of passing a new law, in order to prevent conspiracies like that of Orsini. Towards the end of January he wrote to his ambassador in London, saying, " I do not deceive myself as to the little efficacy of the measures which could be taken, but it will still be a friendly act, which will calm much irritation here. Explain our position clearly to the Ministers of the Queen; it is not now a question of saving my life; it is a question of saving the alliance."

Yielding to his pressure, Government 'on the 8th of February, brought in a bill to amend the law relating to the crimes of conspiracy and incitement to murder, either within or without Her Majesty's dominions, and whether the person killed or to be killed were a subject of Her Majesty or not." Such was the state of facts that became the subject of discussions in Parliament, which led to the defeat of the Government. The signal for commencing the war was given by the introduction of the Conspiracy Bill, the alleged necessity for which was urged by Lord Palmerston. He said he could not understand the objection that, because great irritation had been expressed in foreign nations, and certain military addresses had been published in an official paper, they were precluded from taking, on its own merino a step becoming the character and interests of the country. If our law was defective, we should not abstain from altering it because other nations had given way to impulses of passion, perhaps of fear. The French officers, in sending those addresses to the Emperor, were acting according to a custom of sixty years' standing; and the French ambassador had been ordered to state " that although the practice was a universal practice, if in two or three addresses out of many hundreds some passages were allowed to be printed to which objections had been taken in England, that circumstance must have arisen from the inadvertence of those having charge of the printing of those addresses. And on the part of the Emperor, he was ordered to state that he regretted such publication." To the motion for the introduction of the bill, Mr. Kinglake moved the following amendment: - "That this House, while sympathising with the French nation in its indignation and abhorrence at the late atrocious attempt made against the life of the Emperor; and anxious, on a proper occasion, to consider the defects of the criminal law of England, the effect of which may be to render such attempts vain, deems it inexpedient to legislate in compliance with the demand made in Count Walewski's despatch of January 20th, until further information be obtained, and until after the production of the correspondence between the two Governments subsequent to this despatch." He argued that either the measure proposed by the noble lord was merely a piece of law reform, or a political action suggested from abroad. If the former, it should have been proposed by one of the law officers of the Crown; but if it were a concession to the pressure put upon the noble lord by the despatch to which he referred, he must decline to concur in the proposed legislation. In fact, the Solicitor-General had given notice, for an early day, of a motion to introduce a bill to amend the law relating to offences against the person. Mr. Horsman seconded the amendment, strongly denouncing the bill. He was followed on the same side by several other members, but they were all exceeded in vehemence and plain speaking by Mr. Roebuck. The proposed law would in no way facilitate the discovery of an assassination plot, unless they introduced the police system of France. But in spite of that terrific police, the attempt had been made on the Emperor's life in Paris. " Yet," said Mr. Roebuck, " he turns round and insults this country. He, too, of all men upon earth, to dare to insult England; he who has partaken of her hospitality, who has been sheltered by her power! A bright example he set to England! There was a man who conspired to kill England's great hero, the late Duke of Wellington; there was a man, great too, but fallen in his greatness, and no one act of his life was more inconsistent with his greatness, who left a legacy to him who had attempted to assassinate the Duke of Wellington. My only explanation, my only excuse for that deed, is that the great Napoleon's mind was shaken to its base; I do not believe that in his right senses Napoleon would have perpetrated such an infamous act. But the man who had received the protection of England, who had come here after attempting crime after crime against his native land - that man, when he had climbed, to his present height and power, what did he do? He paid to this foiled assassin the wages of his dirty deed. This man has received his wages, is now living in Paris; and it was stated publicly and ostentatiously, that the present Emperor of the French had paid the legacy left by the great Napoleon to Cantillon, the disappointed assassin of the Duke of Wellington. And now in this House of Commons panegyrics are showered profusely over the head of Louis Napoleon by the honourable baronet opposite." In conclusion, he called upon the Commons, as freemen and the great protectors of the oppressed in Europe, to throw out the bill with all the ignominy which it deserved. Lord John Russell argued strongly against the measure, which he described as a cunning artifice by which it was expected that neither the people of England nor the Emperor of the French would be displeased. But, as the " den of assassins " was to remain, the French Government would say, "We have been deceived." The duty of the House, however, was not to give up, even to gratify the French Government, the right of asylum, or to alter the established law of England. The bill, however, was not without zealous and able defenders, the principal of whom were Sir George Grey and Mr. Disraeli. Lord Palmerston replied; after which leave was given to introduce the bill by a majority of 299 to 99.

But the indignant feeling of the country at anything like foreign dictation slowly gathered strength, and at length became terrible and irresistible. Public meetings had been held, at which the Alien Bill was denounced in the strongest terms. It came on for the second reading on the 19th of February, when Lord Palmerston did all in his power to mitigate the hostility against it, and its supporters generally laboured to keep out of view its political and international bearings, and to treat it merely as a domestic question of law reform. An amendment was moved by Mr. Milner Gibson, that the bill be read a second time that day six months. In the course of his speech he quoted from the Times a passage, which was received with cheers, to the effect that there was no constituted authority in Europe with which Lord Palmerston had not quarrelled, no insurrection that he had not betrayed; while, on the other hand, when he had made up his mind to court the good will of a foreign power, no sacrifice of principle or of interest was too great for him. The bill was supported by Sir George Grey, and vigorously attacked by Sir Robert Peel. He expressed his astonishment that the head of a Liberal Government should propose a bill which was opposed by almost all the distinguished Liberals in the House. They had been told the law required amendment; yet they had seen a reward of 200 offered for the capture of Mr. Allsop, and a Frenchman, named Bernard, had been arrested. "The truth is," he said, " that under cover of an amendment of the law, a bill has been submitted to Parliament at the dictation of a foreign Government. Why, Count Walewski, who reads us this lesson, was, twenty-five years ago, a member of a revolutionary committee in Poland." Referring to the insulting expression in the Moniteur, Sir R. Peel, in the midst of cheers and counter cheers, said, "Sir, they were inserted for the purpose of intimidating this country, and for the purpose of extorting from us the concession embodied in this bill, which I regret the noble lord, with all his past antecedents, and his former credit, should have condescended to introduce at the instance of such dictation. What does M. de Moray say? Why, that England is a lair of savage beasts, and a laboratory of assassins. I am ready to make every excuse for the courtiers of Louis Napoleon; I know perfectly well the conditions attaching to a position like that. M. de Moray is only imitating a predecessor in the office he holds, in the time of the First Napoleon - M. Champigny - who said his master, Napoleon Buonaparte, was an angel from heaven, sent to bless the time; and, like the great Invisible Being, he governed the world by his power and influence. Sir, I must say these expressions are rather far-fetched. But, the other day, an expression far more powerful was used towards Louis Napoleon by one of his flatterers, who thus apostrophised him in the course of an address he was presenting, ' Sire, you are too fond of liberty! ' "

The last compliment excited great laughter. Mr. Gladstone, at the conclusion of a powerful speech, made the following impressive remarks, as to the tendencies of modern society on the Continent: - " Sir," he said, " these times are grave for liberty. We live in the nineteenth century; we talk of progress; we believe that we are advancing; but can any man of observation, who has watched the events of the last few years in Europe, have failed to perceive that there is a movement indeed; but a downward and backward movement? There are a few spots in which institutions that claim our sympathy still exist and flourish. They are secondary places; nay, they are almost the holes and corners of Europe as far as mere material greatness is concerned, although their moral greatness will, I trust, ensure them long prosperity and happiness. But in these times, more than ever, does responsibility centre upon England; and if it does centre upon England, upon her principles, upon her laws, and upon her governors, then I say that a measure passed by this House of Parliament - the chief hope of freedom - which attempts to establish a moral complicity between us and those who seek safety in repressive measures, will be a blow and a discouragement to that sacred cause in every country in the world."

Mr. Disraeli, though he voted for the introduction of the bill, now voted for its rejection. The question now was, not between this country and France, but between the House of Commons and the English Minister. He demanded, Where was the answer to Count Walewski's despatch? It was copied probably in every official journal in Europe. What satisfaction was it that some indefinite words were dropped in a conversation? The whole affair was clothed in mystery. The Government had acted in a perplexed, timid, and confused manner, deficient in dignity and self-respect. He thought a great opportunity had been lost for asserting the principles of public law. The real question now before the House was not diplomatical or political; it was a question between the House and the servants of "the Crown. Had they or had they not done their duty?

After a spirited reply from Lord Palmerston, the House divided; when the bill was rejected by a majority of 19, the numbers being, ayes 215, noes 234. A vote of censure upon the Government, touching the great principles of national policy, left no alternative but resignation. Lord Palmerston could not go to the country again under such circumstances, for if he did, his supporters would be sure to be defeated in the existing temper of the public mind. Addressing the House, therefore, on the 22nd of February, the noble lord announced that Ministers had tendered their resignation to Her Majesty, which had been accepted. He understood that Lord Derby had been sent for by the Queen, and he moved the adjournment of the House for a few days to afford time for the formation of the new administration.

Lord Derby succeeded in forming an Administration. The Cabinet was composed of the following members: - Prime Minister, Earl of Derby; Lord Chancellor, Lord Chelmsford; President of the Council, Marquis of Salisbury; Lord Privy Seal, Earl of Hardwicke; Home Secretary, Mr. Walpole; Foreign Secretary, Lord Malmesbury; Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley; War Secretary, General Peel; Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Disraeli; First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir John Pakington, President of the Board of Control, Lord Ellenborough; President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Henley; First Commissioner of Works, Lord John Manners.

Sir Fitzroy Kelly was Attorney-General; Sir Hugh Cairns, Solicitor-General; Mr. Inglis, Lord Advocate of Scotland; and Mr. Baillie, Solicitor-General. The Irish Government was composed as follows: - Viceroy, Earl of Eglinton; Lord Chancellor, Mr. Napier; Chief Secretary, Lord Naas; Attorney-General, Mr. Whiteside; Solicitor-General, Mr. Edmund Hayes.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXVIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 5

The Earl of Clarendon
The Earl of Clarendon >>>>
Lord Palmerston
Lord Palmerston >>>>
Port of the city of Canton
Port of the city of Canton >>>>

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