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I never was what you would call a decided beauty; but if you were to see me now, you would not know the ugly, lanky, thin, scraggy, toothless individual who is now writing to assure you that the immaterial part of him remains still the same, and that it has no friends on earth to which it is more attached than to you and your sensible, kind lady. So I subscribe myself ever
Your most affectionate friend,
Although Robert Lowe had vindicated himself against misrepresentation by reversing the vote of the House of Commons, he did not resume the post of Vice-President of the Council of Education. He was succeeded by his friend, Mr. Bruce, now Lord Aberdare; but by his bold and resolute action he had saved the Department, and Mr. Lingen, despite everything, remained at its head.
It is hardly necessary to add that Lord Sherbrooke never bore any ill-will towards those who, by their support of Lord Robert Cecil's resolution, might have marred his career. A few years later we find him fighting side by side with Lord Cranborne against the Radical Reform Bill of Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli. With regard to William Edward Forster, when in the course of time that serious-minded statesman had himself to solve, under other conditions, the perplexing problem of national education, he had not to look in vain for support and sympathy to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer.
THE CLOSE OF AN EPOCH
Death of Palmerston-William Macleay's Death-Correspondence with Sydney -Defence of Canada-Lowe's Estimate of Palmerston-The Cattle Plague -Mill and Bright-The Landed Gentry and the Urban Democracy.
IN 1865 occurred two events which, although hardly unexpected, were in their different ways and degrees a source of sorrow to Robert Lowe. These were the death of his much valued Australian friend, William Sharpe Macleay, and that of his great political chief, Lord Palmerston.' Lowe had kept up an intermittent correspondence with Macleay ever since he left Sydney, but latterly it had become painfully evident to him that the quaint old philosopher of Elizabeth Bay was fast declining. He had, indeed, received warning from others that the death of his old friend was impending, and with that apprehension distinctly on his mind, he inaugurated the correspondence with Mrs. Billyard of Sydney, to which reference has been made in a previous chapter.
Robert Lowe to Mrs. Billyard.
Sherbrooke, Caterham: January 23, 1865. My dear Mrs. Billyard,-I have received by this mail a letter from William Macleay in which he promises to write to me again, whatever happens; but I much doubt from his letter, as well as from information from Salting, whether he will be able to keep his word. I must, I fear, make up my mind to the loss of our dear old friend. Sir George Cornewall Lewis died in office as War Secretary, April 13, 1863, aged 57; his loss was deeply felt by Lord Sherbrooke. Richard Cobden died April 2, 1865, aged 60. Sir James Graham and Sidney Herbert had passed away in 1861.
I had hoped that with his strong constitution and the longevity of his family, he might yet have lasted many years, but this I fear is not to be. I cannot, however, resign myself, at least without an effort, to break off all communication with a country in which I have spent some of the best years of my life, and to which I owe, at any rate, a good start here. I can hardly expect Billyard, busy as he is, to be at the trouble of supplying this want; and to say truth, anyone who wants such information will do more wisely to apply for it to a lady than a gentleman. Will you then, for old friendship's sake, undertake the task of being my correspondent, and keeping me au fait of such things in Australia as an old colonist may reasonably wish to know? I will endeavour to repay you in kind. Pray grant my request and confer a great obligation on
Your sincere friend,
William Sharpe Macleay died in Tasmania on January 26, three days after this letter was written.
Released from office, Robert Lowe took a very active part in the great debates of the year 1865; his most memorable speech-that on Mr. Baines's Reform Bill-will be alluded to in a subsequent chapter. But on the subject of the defence of Canada, raised by Mr. Seymour Fitzgerald on March 13, 1865, on the report of Colonel (afterwards Sir William) Jervois, Lowe made admittedly one of the weightiest and most influential speeches of the Session. The Civil War in America was still furiously raging, and an ill feeling towards England was rapidly growing in the Northern States, which it was thought portended evil for Canada. Rising after Disraeli, who also spoke with most admirable effect from his own standpoint, Lowe plainly showed the House and the country that he had not gone to America with Captain Galton and learnt nothing. His chief argument was that a small British force such as we were able to keep in Canada was an incentive rather than a deterrent to an American invasion. In my opinion' (he said), 'nothing would be so strong an incentive in America to war with this country as the notion that they could catch a small English army and lead it away in triumph.
Never mind if they were thirty to one; it would be all the same. The popularity which such a capture would confer upon the successful general or the President of the period would be irresistible.' There is no doubt that this forcible argument had no little effect on the mind of Lord Palmerston, who knew perfectly well that in the case of a serious war even the small force which we kept in Canada might have to be recalled. The speech had the further distinction, rare indeed, as far as Lowe's were concerned, of arousing the warm admiration of John Bright. The following friendly letter to Bernal Osborne lightly touches on the American question and the Westbury esclandre::
Robert Lowe to Bernal Osborne.
34 Lowndes Square: April 5, 1865. My dear Osborne,-I am very much obliged for your kind invitation to Ireland, which I should have been very glad to accept had I not already laid out my time; to wit, next week in Paris, and the week after to Dangstein, where you had better join us, I think. You don't say anything about two things of which I should like to know something. The first is your health, of which I heard but a poor account, gout and erysipelas being the ingredients specified, the other as to your seat. They say that you don't try Liskeard again, and are going in for Waterford County. We have had rather a lively time since we met in the way of dinners and parties. The season, so far as London residents are concerned, began in February and has been kept up with much spirit. Parliament, as you say, has been very dull. I have done what little I could to keep them alive, but, as you truly say, the 'Who's afraid?' and 'Come on' policy triumphed. Pam avowed in private the other day that all this tall talk was to keep the Yankees quiet. It is really intolerable to think that we may have Denmark over again in Canada. I think Bethell will have to go. He says people now spell embezzlement, embethelment.
In July 1865 came the general election in England, which resulted in an overwhelming majority for Lord Palmerston. Here and there seats were won and lost on reform or radical