Gladstone and Palmerston, 1855–65

  • David Steele


As a comparatively young man still, a Canningite minister not yet enlisted among the Whigs, Palmerston let fall the inveterate prejudice that usually guided him within the political and social framework he wished to preserve. The Tories he described as being, within that common framework, ‘the illiberals’.1 His origins were never forgotten when he changed sides; in 1858 a far from uncritical friend and confidant, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, noted in his diary that ‘the rank and file of the party … think Lord Palmerston is more tory than liberal in his tendencies’.2 If Lewis was right, the archetypal Whig, Lord John Russell, understood Palmerston better than the Liberal backbenchers of the mid-1850s. Although estranged from Palmerston at the time, Russell was scrupulously fair to him in this respect, at any rate in the intimacy of extremely frank and interesting letters to his kinsman by marriage, Dean Elliot of Bristol. ‘It has pleased some … in want of a leader’, he wrote, ‘to set me up in opposition to Palmerston. Yet … on many … questions … I do not differ from him, and upon some … I have shown myself less favourable to popular measures.’


Public Opinion Prime Minister Foreign Policy Liberal Party Ionian Island 
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  1. 37.
    B. Porter, The Refugee Question in Mid-Victorian Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1979) ch. 6.Google Scholar
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© Peter J. Jagger 1985

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  • David Steele

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