Another wrote expressing the satisfaction and gratitude of the great majority of the inhabitants of his district in regard to his “efforts to cure the sad evils encompassing our brave countrymen;” and another wrote: “The last act of your official life was one of the most honourable of the sacrifices to duty which have so eminently distinguished you both as a man and a Minister.”
There was no doubt a common outcry against the act of resignation at the time, but the outcry against certain Ministers of the Peelite group was still louder, and their conduct, as Mr. Morley relates, was pronounced to be “actually worse than Lord John’s.” “Bad as Lord John’s conduct was,” wrote Lord Malmesbury on February 22, 1855, “this [of Graham, Gladstone, and Herbert] is a thousand times worse.”
The real question, however, is not what the public thought at the time, but what a fuller knowledge of the facts will determine, and I contend that my father’s dissatisfaction with the manner in which the war was conducted, and his failure to induce the Cabinet to supply an effective remedy, justified if it did not compel his resignation.
Mr. Roebuck’s motion
accelerated a resignation which the Prime
Minister knew had been imminent during the preceding ten weeks.
My father himself admitted that he made great mistakes, that for the manner of his resignation he was justly blamed, and that he ought never to have joined the Coalition Ministry. He had a deep sense, I may here say, of Mr. Gladstone’s great generosity towards him on all occasions. At this distance of time the complication of affairs and of opinions then partly hidden can be better estimated, and the conduct of seceders from the Government cannot in fairness be visited with the reprobation which was natural to contemporaries. The floating reproaches of the period in regard to my father’s action seem to imply, if justified, that he ought to have publicly defended the conduct of military affairs which he had persistently and heartily condemned. It appears to me that not only his candid nature, but the story of his life, refutes these reproaches, as clearly as similar reproaches are refuted by the life of Gladstone.
The debate upon Roebuck’s motion of inquiry lasted two nights, and at its close the Aberdeen Ministry fell, beaten by a majority of 157. Historians have seen in this incident much more than the fall of a Ministry.