Magazine article History Today

Lord Palmerston Becomes PM: February 5th, 1855

Magazine article History Today

Lord Palmerston Becomes PM: February 5th, 1855

Article excerpt

HENRY TEMPLE, third Viscount Palmerston, was seventy when he became prime minister, which he remained with only a short break until his death in 1865,just before his eighty-first birthday. With the morals of a Regency buck, both a Tory and a Whig in his time, Foreign Secretary for many years and a swashbuckling, high-handed promoter of British interests, he was possibly the most popular prime minister with the mass of the population until the coming of Winston Churchill.

In 1852 Palmerston joined Lord Aberdeen's administration in the unfamiliar role of Home Secretary, as much because he needed the money as anything else. The fact that he had no direct responsibility for the Crimean War worked to his advantage, because it was criticism of the Government's conduct of the war that brought it down in 1855. Parliament reassembled on January 23rd with both London and the Government's prospects shrouded in freezing fog. A motion for a committee of inquiry into the conduct of the war was threatened in the Commons and on January 24th Lord John Russell, who had a high-minded penchant for resignation, left the government in protest against the incompetence of the War Office and the failure to put Palmerston in charge as secretary for war. On January 25th the resolution for the committee of inquiry was moved in the House of Commons and supported by the Conservatives and Lord John, who demanded that Palmerston be appointed to the War Office. Palmerston replied for the Government, but many who heard him thought him uncharacteristically half-hearted and unconvincing. …

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