Sir Robert Peel’s defeat on the Irish Coercion Bill made it a matter of course that Lord John Russell, the leader of the Opposition, should be called upon to form a Government. In fulfilling this task his first anxiety seems to have been to conciliate every section of the Liberals. Important offices were given to several Irish Catholics. This fact was accepted by some as a desire on his part to act justly towards Ireland; while others looked upon it with suspicion; regarding it as an attempt to buy up independent liberal representatives, corrupt the national leaders, and thus crush the agitation for a repeal of the Legislative Union. Richard Lalor Sheil was appointed Master of the Mint; Mr. Thomas Wyse was made one of the Secretaries of the Board of Control, and Mr. Redington was sent to Dublin Castle as Under-Secretary. A popular Irish nobleman, the Earl of Bessborough, accepted the post of Lord Lieutenant; the Chief Secretaryship was given to an English gentleman, Mr. Labouchere—a name which at first sounded strangely enough in Irish ears, but which soon became as familiar to them as the tritest O or Mac in the country.
There appeared to be in the public mind not only a pre-disposition to allow the new Government to come in peaceably, but even a desire to sustain and strengthen it was pretty generally manifested. All those members who had to seek re-election on account of having accepted office, were triumphantly returned. Their speeches and addresses to the various constituencies were, of course, looked to with much interest, as likely to indicate, or in some way foreshadow their future measures; but they were much more inclined to be reticent than communicative. Lord John himself, in his address to the citizens of London, dealt in those vague generalities under which politicians are accustomed to veil their intentions, or their want of definite plans. He told them they might feel assured that he would not desert in office the principles to which he had adhered when they were less in favour than at the time he was addressing them. He rejoiced at the removal of commercial restraints, and those that yet remained, he hoped to see removed without anything that could be called a conflict. These words were intended chiefly