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Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston

The Viscount Palmerston
Periods in Office: February, 1855 - February, 1858
June, 1859 - October, 1865
PM Predecessors: The Earl of Aberdeen
The Earl of Derby
PM Successors: The Earl of Derby
The Earl Russell
Date of Birth: 20 October 1784
Place of Birth: Broadlands, Hampshire
Political Party: Whig

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (October 20, 1784 - October 18, 1865) was a British Prime Minister and Liberal politician. He was in government office almost continually from 1807 till his death in 1865.


Early Life and Career

Henry John Temple was born at Broadlands, near Romsey, Hants. The Irish branch of the Temple family, from which Lord Palmerston descended, was very distantly related to the great English house of the same name, but these Irish Temples were not without distinction. In the reign of Elizabeth they had furnished a secretary to Sir Philip Sidney and to Essex in Sir William Temple (1555-1627), afterwards provost of Trinity College, Dublin, whose son, Sir John Temple (1600-1677), was Master of the Rolls in Ireland. The latter's son, Sir William Temple, figured as one of the ablest diplomatists of the age. From his younger brother, Sir John Temple (1632-1704), who was speaker of the Irish House of Commons, Lord Palmerston descended. The eldest son of the speaker, Henry Temple, 1st Viscount Palmerston (c. 1673-1757), was created a peer of; Ireland on the March 12 1723, and was succeeded by his grandson, Henry the second viscount (1739-1802), who married Miss Mary Mee (d. 1805), a lady celebrated for her beauty.

The 2nd Viscount's eldest son, Henry John, is mentioned by Lady Elliot in her correspondence as a boy of singular vivacity and energy. Educated at Harrow, Edinburgh, and St John's College, Cambridge, Palmerston succeeded his father on April 17, 1802. Before he was twenty-four he had stood two contested elections for the University of Cambridge, at which he was defeated, and he entered parliament for a pocket borough, Newport, Isle of Wight, in June 1807. He began his political career as a Tory and, thanks to the influence of his patrons Lord Chichester and Lord Malmesbury, he received a post in the ministry of the Duke of Portland), as Junior Lord of Admiralty from 1807. A few months later he delivered his maiden speech in the House of Commons in defence of the expedition against Copenhagen, which he conceived to be justified by the known designs of Napoleon on the Danish court. This speech was so successful that when Perceval formed his government in 1809, he proposed to this young man of five-and-twenty to take the Chancellorship of the Exchequer. Lord Palmerston, however, preferred the less important office of Secretary at War, charged exclusively with the financial business of the army, without a seat in the cabinet, and in this position he remained, without any signs of an ambitious temperament or of great political abilities, for twenty years. During the whole of that period Lord Palmerston was chiefly known as a man of fashion, and a subordinate minister without influence on the general policy of the cabinets he served. Some of the most humorous poetical pieces in the New Whig Guide were from his pen, and he was entirely devoted, like his friends Peel and Croker, to the Tory party of that day. Lord Palmerston never was a Whig, still less a Radical; he was a statesman of the old English aristocratic type, liberal in his sentiments, favourable to the march of progress, but entirely opposed to the claims of democratic government.

In the later years of Lord Liverpool's administration, after the death of Lord Londonderry in 1822, strong dissensions existed in the cabinet. The Liberal section of the government was gaining ground. Canning became Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the House of Commons. Huskisson began to advocate and apply the doctrines of free trade. Roman Catholic emancipation was made an open question. Although Lord Palmerston was not in the cabinet, he cordially supported the measures of Canning and his friends. Upon the death of Lord Liverpool, Canning was called to the head of affairs; the Tories, including Peel, withdrew their support, and an alliance was formed between the Liberal members of the late ministry and the Whigs. In this combination the Chancellorship of the Exchequer was first offered to Lord Palmerston, who accepted it, but this appointment was frustrated by the King's intrigue with Herries, and Palmerston was content to remain Secretary at War with a seat in the cabinet, which he now entered for the first time. The Canning administration ended in four months by the death of its illustrious chief, and was succeeded by the feeble ministry of Lord Goderich, which barely survived the year. But the Canningites , as they were termed, remained, and the Duke of Wellington hastened to include Palmerston, Huskisson, Charles Grant, Lamb, and Dudley in his government. A dispute between the Duke and Huskisson over the issue of parliamentary representation for Manchester and Birmingham soon led to the resignation of the latter, and his friends felt bound to share his fate. In the spring of 1828 Palmerston found himself in opposition.

As Foreign Secretary

From that moment Palmerston appears to have directed his attention closely to foreign affairs; indeed he had already urged on the Duke of Wellington a more active interference in the affairs of Greece; he had made several visits to Paris, where he foresaw with great accuracy the impending revolution; and on 1 June 1829 he made his first great speech on foreign affairs. Lord Palmerston was no orator; his language was unstudied, and his delivery somewhat embarrassed; however, he generally found words to say the right thing at the right time and to address the House of Commons in the language best adapted to the capacity and the temper of his audience. An attempt was made by the Duke of Wellington in September 1830 to induce Palmerston to re-enter the cabinet,which he refused to do without Lord Lansdowne and Lord Grey, and from that time forward he may be said to have associated his political fortunes with those of the Whig party. It was therefore natural that when Lord Grey came to power a few months later, he should place the department of foreign affairs in his hands upon the formation of the great ministry of 1830, and Palmerston entered with zeal on the duties of an office over which he continued to exert his powerful influence, both in and out of office, for twenty years (he held it 1830-1834,1835-1841, and 1846-1851). Palmerston's abrasive style gained him the nickname, "Lord Pumice Stone", and his manner of dealing with foreign governments who crossed him was the original "gunboat diplomacy"

The revolution of July 1830 had just given a strong shock to the existing settlement of Europe. The kingdom of the Netherlands was rent asunder by the Belgian revolution; Portugal was the scene of civil war; the Spanish succession was about to open and place an infant princess on the throne. Poland was in arms against Russia, and the northern powers formed a closer alliance, seemingly threatening to the peace and the liberties of Europe. In presence of these varied dangers, Lord Palmerston was prepared to act with spirit and resolution, and the result was a notable achievement of his diplomacy. William I of the Netherlands had appealed to the powers who had placed him on the throne to maintain his rights; and a conference assembled accordingly in London to settle the question, which involved the independence of Belgium and the security of Britain. On the one hand, the northern powers were anxious to defend William I; on the other hand a party in France aspired to annex the Belgian provinces. The policy of the British government was a close alliance with France, but an alliance based on the principle that no interests were to be promoted at variance with the just rights of others, or which could give to any other nation well-founded cause of jealousy. If the northern powers supported William I by force, they would encounter the resistance of France and England united in arms, if France sought to annex Belgium she would forfeit the alliance of England, and find herself opposed by the whole continent of Europe. In the end the policy of England prevailed; numerous difficulties, both great and small, were overcome by the conference, although on the verge of war, peace was maintained; and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the widower of a British princess, was placed upon the throne of Belgium.

In 1833 and 1834 the youthful queens Maria II of Portugal and Isabella II of Spain were the representatives and the hope of the constitutional party in those countries assailed and hard pressed by their absolutist kinsmen Dom Miguel and Don Carlos, who were the representatives of the male line of succession. Lord Palmerston conceived and executed the plan of a quadruple alliance of the constitutional states of the West to serve as a counterpoise to the northern alliance. A treaty for the pacification of the Peninsula was signed in London on April 22 1834; and, although the struggle was somewhat prolonged in, Spain, it accomplished its object. France, however, had been a reluctant party to this treaty. She never executed her share in it with zeal or fidelity. Louis Philippe was accused of secretly favoring the Carlists, and he positively refused to be a party to direct interference in Spain. It is probable that the hesitation of the French court on this question was one of the causes of the extreme personal hostility Lord Palmerston never ceased to show towards the king of the French down to the end of his life, if indeed that sentiment had not taken its origin at a much earlier period. Nevertheless, at this same time (June 1834) Lord Palmerston wrote that Paris is the pivot of my foreign policy.

Adolphe Thiers was at that time in office. Unfortunately these differences, growing out of the opposite policies of the two countries at the court of Madrid, increased in each succeeding year; and a constant but sterile rivalry was kept up, which ended in results more or less humiliating and injurious to both nations.

The affairs of the East interested Lord Palmerston in the highest degree. During the Greek War of Independence he had strenuously supported the claims of the Hellenes against the Turks and the execution of the Treaty of London. But from 1830 the defence of the Ottoman Empire became one of the cardinal objects of his policy. He believed in the regeneration of Turkey. 'All that we hear,' he wrote to Bulwer (Lord Dalling), 'about the decay of the Turkish Empire, and its being a dead body or a sapless trunk, and so forth, is pure unadulterated nonsense.' The two great aims he had in view were to prevent the establishment of Russia on the Bosporus and of France on the Nile, and he regarded the maintenance of the authority of the Porte as the chief barrier against both these aggressions. Against Russia he had long maintained a suspicious and hostile attitude. He was a party to the publication of the Portfolio in 1834, and to the mission of the Vixen to force the blockade of Circassia about the same time. He regarded the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi which Russia extorted from the Porte in 1832, when she came to the relief of the Sultan after the battle of Konya, with great jealousy; and, when the power of Mehemet Ali in Egypt appeared to threaten the existence of the Ottoman dynasty, he succeeded in effecting a combination of all the powers,who signed the celebrated collective note of the 27 July 1839, pledging them to maintain the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire as a security for the peace of Europe. On two former occasions, in 1833 and in 1835, the policy of Lord Palmerston, who proposed to afford material aid to the Porte against the pasha of Egypt, was overruled by the cabinet; and again, in 1839, when Baron Brunnow first proposed the active interference of Russia and England, the offer was rejected. But in 1840 Lord Palmerston returned to the charge and prevailed. The moment was critical, for Mehemet Ali had occupied Syria and won the Battle of Nezib against the Turkish forces, and on 1 July 1839 the sultan Mahmud expired. The Egyptian forces occupied Syria, and threatened Turkey; and Lord Ponsonby, then British ambassador at Constantinople, vehemently urged the necessity of crushing so formidable a rebellion against the Ottoman power. But France, though her ambassador had signed the collective note in the previous year, declined to be a party to measures of coercion against the pasha of Egypt. Palmerston, irritated at her Egyptian policy, flung himself into the arms of the northern powers, and the treaty of the 15 July 1840 was signed in London without the knowledge or concurrence of France. This measure was not taken without great hesitation, and strong opposition on the part of several members of the British cabinet. Lord Palmerston himself declared in a letter to the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, that he should quit the ministry if his policy was not adopted; and he carried his point. The French ultimately refused to go to war to defend their Egyptian clients, and the bombardment of Beirut, the fall of Acre, and the total collapse of the boasted power of Mehemet Ali followed in rapid succession. Before the close of the year Lord Palmerston's policy, which had convulsed and terrified Europe, was triumphant, and the author of it was regarded as one of the most powerful statesmen of the age. At the same time, though acting with Russia in the Levant, the British government engaged in the affairs of Afghanistan to defeat her intrigues in Central Asia, and a contest with China was terminated by the conquest of Chusan, afterwards exchanged for the island of Hong Kong.

Within a few months, Lord Melbourne's administration came to an end (1841) and Lord Palmerston remained for five years out of office. The crisis was past, but the change which took place by the substitution of François Guizot for Adolphe Thiers in France, and of Lord Aberdeen for Lord Palmerston in England, was a fortunate event for the peace of the world. Lord Palmerston had adopted the opinion that peace with France was not to be relied on, and indeed that war between the two countries was sooner or later inevitable. Aberdeen and Guizot inaugurated a different policy; by mutual confidence and friendly offices they entirely succeeded in restoring the most cordial understanding between the two governments, and the irritation which Lord Palmerston had inflamed gradually subsided. During the administration of Sir Robert Peel, Lord Palmerston led a retired life, but he attacked with characteristic bitterness the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with the United States, which closed successfully some other questions he had long kept open. In all these transactions, whilst full justice must be done to the force and patriotic vigour which Lord Palmerston brought to bear on the questions he took in hand, it was but too apparent that he imported into them an amount of passion, of personal animosity, and imperious language which rendered him in the eyes of the queen and of his colleagues a dangerous minister. On this ground, when Lord John Russell attempted, in December 1845, to form a ministry, the combination failed because Lord Grey refused to join a government in which Lord Palmerston should resume the direction of foreign affairs. A few months later, however, this difficulty was surmounted; the Whigs returned to power, and Palmerston to the foreign office (July 1846), with a strong assurance that Russell should exercise a strict control over his proceedings. A few days sufficed to show how vain was this expectation. The French government regarded the appointment of Palmerston as a certain sign of renewed hostilities, and they availed themselves of a despatch in which Palmerston had put forward the name of a Coburg prince as a candidate for the hand of the young queen of Spain, as a justification for a departure from the engagements entered into between Guizot and Lord Aberdeen. However little the conduct of the French government in this transaction of the Spanish marriages can be vindicated, it is certain that it originated in the belief that in Palmerston France had a restless and subtle enemy. The efforts of the British minister to defeat the French marriages of the Spanish princesses, by an appeal to the Treaty of Utrecht and the other powers of Europe, were wholly unsuccessful; France won the game, though with no small loss of honorable reputation.

The revolutions of 1848 spread like a conflagration through Europe, and shook every throne on the Continent except those of Russia, Spain, and Belgium. Palmerston sympathized, or was supposed to sympathize, openly with the revolutionary party abroad. No state was regarded by him with more aversion than Austria, Yet his opposition to Austria was chiefly based upon her occupation of great part of Italy and her Italian policy, for Palmerston maintained that the existence of Austria as a great power north of the Alps was an essential element in the system of Europe. Antipathies and sympathies had a large share in the political views of Lord Palmerston, and his sympathies had ever been passionately awakened by the cause of Italian independence. He supported the Sicilians against the King of Naples, and even allowed arms to be sent them from the arsenal at Woolwich; and, although he had endeavoured to restrain the King of Sardinia from his rash attack on the superior forces of Austria, he obtained for him a reduction of the penalty of defeat. Austria, weakened by the revolution, sent an envoy to London to request the mediation of England, based on a large cession of Italian territory; Lord Palmerston rejected the terms he might have obtained for Piedmont. Ere long the reaction came; this straw-fire of revolution burnt itself out in a couple of years. In Hungary the civil war, which had thundered at the gates of Vienna, was brought to a close by Russian intervention. Prince Schwarzenberg assumed the government of the empire with dictatorial power; and, in spite of what Palmerston termed his judicious bottle-holding, the movement he had encouraged and applauded, but to which he could give no material aid, was everywhere subdued. The British government, or at least Palmerston as its representative, was regarded with suspicion and resentment by every power in Europe, except the French republic; and even that was shortly afterwards to be alienated by Palmerston's attack on Greece.

This state of things was regarded with the utmost annoyance by the British court and by most of the British ministers. Palmerston had on many occasions taken important steps without their knowledge, which they disapproved. Over the Foreign Office he asserted and exercised an arbitrary dominion, which the feeble efforts of the premier could not control. The queen and the Prince Consort did not conceal their indignation at the position in which he had placed them with all the other courts of Europe. When Kossuth. the Hungarian leader, landed in England, Palmerston proposed to receive him at Broadlands, a design which was only prevented by a peremptory vote of the cabinet; and in 1850 he took advantage of Don Pacifico's very questionable claims on the Hellenic government to organize an attack on the little kingdom of Greece. Greece being a state under the joint protection of three powers, Russia and France protested against its coercion by the British fleet, and the French ambassador temporarily left London, which promptly led to the termination of the affair. But it was taken up in parliament with great warmth. After a memorable debate (June 17), Palmerstons policy was condemned by a vote of the House of Lords. The House of Commons was moved by Roebuck to reverse the sentence, which it did (June 29) by a majority of 46, after having heard from Palmerston the most eloquent and powerful speech ever delivered by him, in which he sought to vindicate, not only his claims on the Greek government for Don Pacifico, but his entire administration of foreign affairs. It was in this speech, which lasted five hours, that Palmerston made the well known declaration that a British subject Civis Romanus sum ought everywhere to be protected by the strong arm of the British government against injustice and wrong. Yet, notwithstanding this parliamentary triumph, there were not a few of his own colleagues and supporters who condemned the spirit in which the foreign relations of the Crown were carried on; and in that same year the queen addressed a minute to the prime minister in which she recorded her dissatisfaction at the manner in which Lord Palmerston evaded the obligation to submit his measures for the royal sanction as failing in sincerity to the Crown. This minute was communicated to Palmerston, who did not resign upon it. These various circumstances, and many more, had given rise to distrust and uneasiness in the cabinet, and these feelings reached their climax when Palmerston, on the occurrence of the coup detat by which Louis Napoleon made himself master of France, expressed to the French ambassador in London, without the concurrence of his colleagues, his personal approval of that act. Upon this Lord John Russell advised his dismissal from office (Dec. 1851). Palmerston got his revenge a few weeks later, when he brought down the Russell government.

As Prime Minister

After a brief period of Tory minority government, the Earl of Aberdeen became Prime Minister in a coalition government of Whigs and Peelites (with Russell taking the role of Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons) but it was impossible for them to form a government without Palmerston; he was made Home Secretary in December 1852.

Although exiled from his traditional realm in the Foreign Office, Palmerston played a key role in securing British entry into war against Russia in 1854. Soon after, Aberdeen's government fell because of public anger at the conduct of the Crimean war and Palmerston was the public choice for Prime Minister, even though he had been as much a part of the conduct of the war as any of the other ministers of the government.

He continued to serve as Prime Minister till his death in a term broken only by the Chinese crisis of 1857 and a failure to read the public mood in 1858.

Palmerston was an Irish Peer who always sat in the British House of Commons. He is regarded as a nationalist and as a social conservative. He was a womaniser; The Times named him Lord Cupid, and he was cited, at the age of 79, as correspondent in an 1863 divorce case. He was also a persistent abolitionist.

Palmerston is remembered for his light hearted approach to government. He is once said to have claimed of a particularly intractable problem relating to Schleswig-Holstein that only three people had ever understood the problem: one was Prince Albert, who was dead; the second was a German professor, who had gone insane; and the third was Palmerston himself, who had forgotten it.

Florence Nightingale said of him after his death "Though he made a joke when asked to do the right thing he always did it. He was so much more in earnest than he appeared, he did not do himself justice."

Lord Palmerston's First Government, February 1855 - February 1858


  • later in February, 1855 - Sir George Cornewall Lewis succeeds Gladstone as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lord John Russell succeeds Herbert as Colonial Secretary. Sir Charles Wood succeeds Sir James Graham as First Lord of the Admiralty. R.V. Smith succeeds Wood as President of the Board of Control
  • July, 1855 - Sir William Molesworth succeeds Russell as Colonial Secretary. Molesworth's successor as First Commissioner of Public Works is not in the Cabinet.
  • November, 1855 - Henry Labouchere succeeds Molesworth as Colonial Secretary
  • December, 1855 - The Duke of Argyll succeeds Lord Canning as Postmaster-General. Lord Harrowby succeeds Argyll as Lord Privy Seal. Harrowby's successor as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is not in the Cabinet.
  • 1857 - M.T. Baines, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, enters the Cabinet.
  • February, 1858 - Lord Clanricarde succeeds Harrowby as Lord Privy Seal.

Lord Palmerston's Second Cabinet, June 1859 - October 1865


  • late 1859 - Charles Pelham Villiers succeeds Milner-Gibson as President of the Poor Law Board (Milner-Gibson remains at the Board of Trade)
  • 1860 - Lord Stanley of Alderley succeeds Lord Elgin as Postmaster-General
  • June, 1861 - Lord Westbury succeeds Lord Campbell as Lord Chancellor
  • July, 1861 - Sir George Cornewall Lewis succeeds Herbert as Secretary for War. Sir George Grey succeeds Lewis as Home Secretary. Edward Cardwell succeeds the Duke of Newcastle as Colonial Secretary and Grey as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Cardwell's successor as Chief Secretary for Ireland is not in the Cabinet.
  • April, 1863 - Lord de Grey becomes Secretary for War following Sir George Lewis's death.
  • April, 1864 - Lord Clarendon succeeds Cardwell as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Cardwell remains Colonial Secretary).
  • July, 1865 - Lord Cranworth succeeds Lord Westbury as Lord Chancellor
Lord Palmerston addressing the House of Commons
Lord Palmerston addressing the House of Commons

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
The Earl of Aberdeen | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Foreign Secretary
1830–1834 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
The Duke of Wellington

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
The Duke of Wellington | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Foreign Secretary
1835–1841 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
The Earl of Aberdeen

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
The Earl of Aberdeen | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Foreign Secretary
1846–1851 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
The Earl Granville

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Spencer Walpole | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Home Secretary
1852–1855 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Sir George Grey, Bt

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
The Earl of Aberdeen | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Prime Minister
1855–1858 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
The Earl of Derby

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
The Lord John Russell | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Leader of the House of Commons
1855–1858 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Benjamin Disraeli

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Benjamin Disraeli | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Leader of the House of Commons
1859–1865 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
William Ewart Gladstone

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
The Marquess of Dalhousie | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
1861–1865 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
The Earl Granville

Preceded by:
Henry Temple
Viscount Palmerston
Succeeded by:

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