HL Deb 26 January 1855 vol 136 cc943-4

My Lords, I think it may be convenient to your Lordships to receive information as to the circumstances connected with the retirement of my noble Friend, the late President of the Council, from the station which he held in Her Majesty's Government. That retirement, my Lords, must materially affect Her Majesty's Government, and from the station and character of my noble Friend great importance must be attached to it. I am not fully possessed of all the motives that may have induced my noble Friend to adopt this decision; and I cannot do better, perhaps, than read to your Lordships the letter containing the offer of his resignation, which I received from him on Tuesday night:— Chesham-place, Jan. 23, 1855. My dear Lord Aberdeen—Mr. Roebuck has given notice of a Motion for a Committee to inquire into the conduct of the war. I do not see how this motion is to be resisted. But as it involves a censure upon the War Departments conducted by my colleagues, my only course is to tender my resignation. I have therefore to request that you will lay my humble resignation of the office which I have the honour to hold before the Queen, with the expression of my gratitude for Her Majesty's kindness for many years past. I remain, my dear Lord Aberdeen, Yours very truly, J. RUSSELL. According to my noble Friend's desire, I laid his resignation before Her Majesty, who was graciously pleased to accept it. I have said, my Lords, that I was not fully possessed of the motives—all the motives—that might have induced my noble Friend to adopt this course. I was well aware that some time ago—two months ago—my noble Friend disapproved of or was dissatisfied with the conduct of the war; but after the explanations which took place on that occasion, and his constant activity in sharing the business and preparing the measures of the Government up to the day on which Parliament reassembled, I was certainly somewhat surprised, as well as deeply concerned, at receiving the letter I have read to your Lordships. My noble Friend may be at this moment giving—at all events, it is his intention this day to give—a full explanation of his motives and of his conduct. It is not for me to do more than express—which I do most unfeignedly—the deep regret I feel at the step which he has thought it his duty to take. My Lords, no man can possibly feel more than I do the great loss which Her Majesty's Government must sustain by such an event as this. Indeed, any of your Lordships who were present must recollect that at the formation of the present Government I expressly stated that I never would have ventured to undertake the formation of an Administration, had I not secured the effective co-operation and assistance of my noble Friend. My Lords, under these circumstances, and in ordinary times, I might, perhaps, have adopted myself a different course from that which I have resolved to take; but in the present condition of the country and of public affairs, and of Her Majesty's Government, I felt it due to our own honour, to our own consistency, and to our sense of duty, to meet that motion which is to be made this night in another place, and which will decide whether a censure is to be pronounced upon Her Majesty's Government or not. Even without the great and powerful and almost indispensable assistance of my noble Friend, we have thought it due to ourselves, to meet the motion so announced, and which induced him to take the course which I have now stated.