Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
|The Right Honourable
The Viscount Palmerston
KG GCB PC
Lord Palmerston ca. 1857
|Prime Minister of the United Kingdom|
12 June 1859 – 18 October 1865
|Preceded by||The Earl of Derby|
|Succeeded by||The Earl Russell|
6 February 1855 – 19 February 1858
|Preceded by||The Earl of Aberdeen|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Derby|
|Leader of the Opposition|
19 February 1858 – 11 June 1859
|Prime Minister||The Earl of Derby|
|Preceded by||The Earl of Derby|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Derby|
28 December 1852 – 6 February 1855
|Prime Minister||The Earl of Aberdeen|
|Preceded by||Spencer Horatio Walpole|
|Succeeded by||Sir George Grey, Bt|
|Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs|
6 July 1846 – 26 December 1851
|Prime Minister||Lord John Russell|
|Preceded by||The Earl of Aberdeen|
|Succeeded by||The Earl Granville|
18 April 1835 – 2 September 1841
|Prime Minister||The Viscount Melbourne
Sir Robert Peel, Bt
|Preceded by||The Duke of Wellington|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Aberdeen|
22 November 1830 – 15 November 1834
|Prime Minister||The Earl Grey
The Viscount Melbourne
|Preceded by||The Earl of Aberdeen|
|Succeeded by||The Earl Granville|
20 October 1784|
Westminster, Middlesex, England
|Died||18 October 1865
Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, England
|Political party||Whig and Liberal|
|Alma mater||University of Edinburgh, University of Cambridge|
|Religion||Church of England|
Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, KG, GCB, PC (20 October 1784 – 18 October 1865) was a British statesman who served twice as Prime Minister in the mid-19th century. Popularly nicknamed "Pam" and "The Mongoose", he was in government office almost continuously from 1807 until his death in 1865, beginning his parliamentary career as a Tory, switching to the Whigs in 1830, and concluding it as the first Prime Minister of the newly-formed Liberal Party from 1859.
He is best remembered for his direction of British foreign policy through a period when Britain was at the height of its power, serving terms as both Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, as well as a brief period as Home Secretary. Some of his aggressive actions, now sometimes termed liberal interventionist, were highly controversial at the time, and remain so today. He held these great offices, when his party was in power, over a period of 35 years. He was the only Prime Minister to be over 70 years old at the beginning of his first term and is the most recent and oldest British Prime Minister to die in office.
Born the heir to an Irish peerage (which did not disqualify him from being a member of the House of Commons), he accompanied his parents on a two year Grand Tour on the Continent from the age of 8, before attending Harrow School, the University of Edinburgh (1800–1803), and St John's College, Cambridge (1803–1806); from 1803 he was also a militia officer in the period when an invasion by Napoleon was feared. He succeeded to his father's title on his death in 1802. After two false starts in the elections of 1806, he became a Tory MP for a pocket borough in 1807, and was made Secretary at War in 1809, responsible only for the finances of the war, and initially outside the cabinet. He held the job until 1828, only entering the cabinet in 1827 when George Canning became Prime Minister. Less than a year later he resigned when a growing rift split the Tories.
In opposition he switched his focus to foreign policy, and when he returned to office in 1830 it was as Foreign Secretary in a Whig administration; until 1851 he held the position when the Whigs were in power, dealing with a succession of crises in Europe and beyond. In 1852 he was made Home Secretary in the coalition government of Aberdeen, the Tories having insisted on Russell getting the Foreign Office. He was active in the role, passing various reforms but opposing electoral ones. When public discontent over the Crimean War brought the government down in 1855, Palmerston was found to be, despite the Queen's distrust of him, the only Prime Minister who could sustain a majority in Parliament. He had two terms, 1855–1858 and 1859–1865, before dying in office at almost 81, a few months after winning a general election with an increased majority.
- 1 Early life: 1784–1806
- 2 Early political career: 1806–1809
- 3 Secretary at War: 1809–1828
- 4 Opposition: 1828–1830
- 5 Foreign Secretary: 1830–1841
- 6 Marriage
- 7 Opposition: 1841–46
- 8 Foreign Secretary: 1846–1851
- 9 Home Secretary: 1852–1855
- 10 Prime Minister: 1855–1858
- 11 Opposition: 1858–1859
- 12 Prime Minister: 1859–1865
- 13 Death
- 14 Legacy
- 15 Cultural references
- 16 Lord Palmerston's First Cabinet, February 1855 – February 1858
- 17 Lord Palmerston's Second Cabinet, June 1859 – October 1865
- 18 Ancestry
- 19 Notes
- 20 Bibliography
- 21 External links
Early life: 1784–1806
Henry John Temple was born in his family's Westminster house to the Irish branch of the Temple family on 20 October 1784. Henry was to become the 3rd Viscount Palmerston. His family derived their title from the Peerage of Ireland. His father was Henry Temple, 2nd Viscount Palmerston (1739–1802), and his mother Mary (1752–1805), daughter of Benjamin Mee, a London merchant. From 1792 to 1794, the young future Lord Palmerston accompanied his family on a Continental tour of France, Switzerland, Italy, Hanover and the Netherlands. Whilst in Italy Palmerston acquired an Italian tutor, Signor Gaetano, who taught him to speak and write fluent Italian.
He was educated at Harrow School (1795–1800). Admiral Sir Augustus Clifford, 1st Bt., was a fag to Palmerston, Viscount Althorp and Viscount Duncannon and later remembered Palmerston as by far the most merciful of the three. Palmerston was often engaged in school fights and fellow Old Harrovians remembered Palmerston as someone who stood up to bullies twice his size. Palmerston's father took him to the House of Commons in 1799, where young Palmerston shook hands with the Prime Minister, William Pitt.
Palmerston was then at the University of Edinburgh (1800–1803), where he learnt political economy from Dugald Stewart, a friend of the Scottish philosophers Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith. Palmerston later described his time at Edinburgh as producing "whatever useful knowledge and habits of mind I possess". Lord Minto wrote to Palmerston's parents that young Palmerston was well-mannered and charming. Stewart wrote to a friend, saying of Palmerston: "In point of temper and conduct he is everything his friends could wish. Indeed, I cannot say that I have ever seen a more faultless character at this time of life, or one possessed of more amiable dispositions".
Palmerston succeeded his father to the title of Viscount Palmerston on 17 April 1802, before he had turned 18. The young 3rd Lord Palmerston also inherited a vast country estate in the north of County Sligo in the west of Ireland. He later built Classiebawn Castle on this estate. Palmerston went to St John's College, Cambridge (1803–1806). As a nobleman, he was entitled to take his MA without examinations, but Palmerston wished to obtain his degree through examinations. This was declined, although he was allowed to take the separate College examinations, where he obtained first-class honours.
After war was declared on France in 1803, Palmerston joined the Volunteers mustered to oppose a French invasion, being one of the three officers in the unit for St John's College. He was also appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Commander of the Romsey Volunteers.
Early political career: 1806–1809
In February 1806 Palmerston was defeated in the election for the University of Cambridge constituency. In November he was elected for Horsham but was unseated in January 1807, when the Whig majority in the Commons voted for a petition to unseat him.
Due to the patronage of Lord Chichester and Lord Malmesbury, he was given the post of Junior Lord of the Admiralty in the ministry of the Duke of Portland. Palmerston stood again for the Cambridge seat in May but he lost by three votes after he advised his supporters to vote for the other Tory candidate in the two-member constituency so as to ensure a Tory was elected.
On 3 February 1808 Palmerston spoke in support of confidentiality in the working of diplomacy and the bombardment of Copenhagen and the capture and destruction of the Danish navy by the Royal Navy in the Battle of Copenhagen. At the time of the attack on Copenhagen, Denmark was neutral but Napoleon had recently agreed with the Russians in the Treaty of Tilsit to build a naval alliance against Britain, including using the Danish navy for invading Britain. Pre-empting this, the British offered Denmark the choice of temporarily handing over her navy until the war's end or the destruction of their navy. The Danes refused to comply and so Copenhagen was bombarded. Palmerston justified the attack by peroration with reference to the ambitions of Napoleon to take control of the Danish fleet:
...it is defensible on the ground that the enormous power of France enables her to coerce the weaker state to become an enemy of England...It is the law of self-preservation that England appeals for the justification of her proceedings. It is admitted by the honourable gentleman and his supporters, that if Denmark had evidenced any hostility towards this country, then we should have been justified in measures of retaliation...Denmark coerced into hostility stands in the same position as Denmark voluntarily hostile, when the law of self-preservation comes into play...Does anyone believe that Buonaparte will be restrained by any considerations of justice from acting towards Denmark as he has done towards other countries?...England, according to that law of self-preservation which is a fundamental principle of the law of nations, is justified in securing, and therefore enforcing, from Denmark a neutrality which France would by compulsion have converted into an active hostility.
In a letter to a friend on 24 December 1807, Palmerston described the late Whig MP Edmund Burke as possessing "the palm of political prophecy". This would become a metaphor for his own career in divining the course of imperial foreign policy.
Secretary at War: 1809–1828
Palmerston's speech was so successful that Perceval, who formed his government in 1809, asked him to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, then a less important office than it was to become from the mid nineteenth century. Palmerston preferred the office of Secretary at War, charged exclusively with the financial business of the army. Without a seat in the cabinet, he remained in the latter post for 20 years.
After the suicide of Castlereagh in 1822, the Cabinet of Lord Liverpool's Tory administration began to split along political lines. The more liberal wing of the Tory government made some ground, with George Canning becoming Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons, William Huskisson advocating and applying the doctrines of free trade, and Catholic emancipation emerging as an open question. Although Palmerston was not in the Cabinet, he cordially supported the measures of Canning and his friends. On 26 February 1828 Palmerston delivered a speech in favour of Catholic Emancipation. He felt that it was unseemly to relieve the "imaginary grievances" of the Dissenters from the established church while at the same time "real afflictions pressed upon the Catholics" of Great Britain. Palmerston also supported the campaign to pass the Reform Bill to extend the voting franchise to more men in Britain. One of his biographers has stated that: "Like many Pittites, now labelled tories, he was a good whig at heart". Catholic Emancipation finally passed Parliament in 1829 when Palmerston was in the opposition. The Great Reform Act passed Parliament in 1832.
On 1 April 1818 a retired officer on half-pay, Lieutenant Davies, who had a grievance about his application from the War Office for a pension and was also mad, shot Palmerston as he walked up the stairs of the War Office. However the bullet only grazed his back and the wound was slight. After Palmerston learned that Davies was mad, he paid for his legal defence at the trial (Davies was sent to Bedlam).
Upon the retirement of Lord Liverpool in April 1827, Canning was called to be Prime Minister. The more conservative Tories, including Sir Robert Peel, withdrew their support, and an alliance was formed between the liberal members of the late ministry and the Whigs. The post of Chancellor of the Exchequer was offered to Palmerston, who accepted it, but this appointment was frustrated by some intrigue between the King and John Charles Herries. Palmerston remained Secretary at War, though he gained a seat in the cabinet for the first time. The Canning administration ended after only four months on the death of the Prime Minister, and was followed by the ministry of Lord Goderich, which barely survived the year.
The Canningites remained influential, and the Duke of Wellington hastened to include Palmerston, Huskisson, Charles Grant, William Lamb, and The Earl of Dudley in the government he subsequently formed. However, a dispute between Wellington and Huskisson over the issue of parliamentary representation for Manchester and Birmingham led to the resignation of Huskisson and his allies, including Palmerston. In the spring of 1828, after more than twenty years continuously in office, Palmerston found himself in opposition.
Following his move to opposition, Palmerston appears to have focused closely on foreign policy. He had already urged Wellington into active interference in the Greek War of Independence, and he had made several visits to Paris, where he foresaw with great accuracy the impending overthrow of the Bourbons. On 1 June 1829 he made his first great speech on foreign affairs.
Palmerston was a great orator. His language was relatively unstudied and his delivery somewhat embarrassed, but 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, but he refused to do so without Lord Lansdowne and Lord Grey, two notable Whigs. This can be said to be the point in 1830, when his party allegiance changed.
Foreign Secretary: 1830–1841
Palmerston entered the office with great energy and continued to exert his influence there for twenty years; he held it from 1830 to 1834, 1835 to 1841, and 1846 to 1851. Basically, Palmerston was responsible for the whole of British foreign policy from the time of the French and Belgian Revolutions of 1830 until December 1851. His abrasive style earned him the nickname "Lord Pumice Stone", and his manner of dealing with foreign governments who crossed him was the original "gunboat diplomacy".
Crises of 1830
The revolutions of 1830 gave a jolt to the settled European system that had been created in 1814–15. The United Kingdom of the Netherlands was rent in half by the Belgian Revolution, the Kingdom of Portugal was the scene of civil war, and the Spanish were about to place an infant princess on the throne. Poland was in arms against the Russian Empire, while the northern powers (Russia, Prussia, and Austria) formed a closer alliance that seemed to threaten the peace and liberties of Europe. Polish exiles called on Britain to intervene against Russia during the November Uprising of 1830.
Palmerston's overall policy was to safeguard British interests, maintain peace, keep the balance of power, and retain the status quo in Europe. He had no grievance against Russia and while he privately sympathized with the Polish cause, in his role as foreign minister he rejected Polish demands. With serious trouble simultaneously taking place in Belgium and Italy, and lesser issues in Greece and Portugal, he sought to de-escalate European tensions rather than aggravate them. He therefore focused chiefly on achieving a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Belgium.
William I of the Netherlands appealed to the great powers that had placed him on the throne after the Napoleonic Wars to maintain his rights; a conference assembled accordingly in London. The British solution involved the independence of Belgium, which Palmerston believed would greatly contribute to the security of Britain, but any solution was not straightforward. On the one hand, the northern powers were anxious to defend William I; on the other, many Belgian revolutionaries, like Charles de Brouckère and Charles Rogier, supported the reunion of the Belgian provinces to France. The British policy was a close alliance with France, but one subject to the balance of power on the Continent, and in particular the preservation of Belgium. If the northern powers supported William I by force, they would encounter the resistance of France and Britain united in arms. If France sought to annex Belgium, it would forfeit the British alliance and find herself opposed by the whole of Europe. In the end the British policy prevailed. Although the continent had been close to war, peace was maintained on London's terms and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the widower of a British princess, was placed upon the throne of Belgium.
France, Spain and Portugal 1830s
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 parties of their countries. Their positions were under some pressure from their absolutist kinsmen, Dom Miguel of Portugal and Don Carlos of Spain, who were the closest males in the lines of succession. 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 22 April 1834 and, although the struggle was somewhat prolonged in Spain, it accomplished its objective.
France had been a reluctant party to the treaty, and never executed her role in it with much zeal. Louis Philippe was accused of secretly favouring the Carlists – the supporters of Don Carlos – and he rejected direct interference in Spain. It is probable that the hesitation of the French court on this question was one of the causes of the enduring personal hostility Palmerston showed towards the French King thereafter, though that sentiment may well have arisen earlier. Although Palmerston wrote in June 1834 that Paris was "the pivot of my foreign policy", the differences between the two countries grew into a constant but sterile rivalry that brought benefit to neither.
Balkans and Near East: defending Turkey, 1830s
Palmerston was greatly interested by the diplomatic questions of Eastern Europe. During the Greek War of Independence he had energetically supported the Greek cause and backed the Treaty of Constantinople that gave Greece its independence. However, 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." His two great aims were to prevent Russia establishing itself on the Bosporus and to prevent France doing likewise on the Nile. He regarded the maintenance of the authority of the Sublime Porte as the chief barrier against both these developments.
Palmerston had long maintained a suspicious and hostile attitude towards Russia, whose autocratic government offended his liberal principles and whose ever-growing size challenged the strength of the British Empire. He was angered by the 1833 Treaty of Hünkâr Iskelesi, a mutual assistance pact between Russia and the Ottomans, but was annoyed and hostile towards David Urquhart, the creator of the Vixen affair, running the Russian blockade of Circassia in the mid-1830s.
Despite his popular reputation he was hesitant in 1831 about aiding the Sultan of Turkey, who was under threat from Muhammad Ali, the pasha of Egypt. Later, after Russian successes, in 1833 and 1835 he made proposals to afford material aid, which were overruled by the cabinet. Palmerston held that "if we can procure for it ten years of peace under the joint protection of the five Powers, and if those years are profitably employed in reorganizing the internal system of the empire, there is no reason whatever why it should not become again a respectable Power" and challenged the [metaphor] that an old country, such as Turkey should be in such disrepair as would be warranted by the comparison: "Half the wrong conclusions at which mankind arrive are reached by the abuse of metaphors, and by mistaking general resemblance or imaginary similarity for real identity." However, when the power of Ali appeared to threaten the existence of the Ottoman dynasty, particularly given the death of the Sultan on 1 July 1839, he succeeded in bringing the great powers together to sign a collective note on 27 July pledging them to maintain the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire in order to preserve the security and peace of Europe. However, by 1840 Ali had occupied Syria and won the Battle of Nezib against the Turkish forces. Lord Ponsonby, the British ambassador at Constantinople, vehemently urged the British government to intervene. Having closer ties to the pasha than most, France refused to be a party to coercive measures against Ali despite having signed the note in the previous year.
Palmerston, irritated at France's Egyptian policy, signed the London Convention of 15 July 1840 in London with Austria, Russia and Prussia – without the knowledge of the French government. This measure was taken with great hesitation, and strong opposition on the part of several members of the cabinet. Palmerston forced the measure through in part by declaring in a letter to the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, that he would resign from the ministry if his policy were not adopted. The London Convention granted Muhammad Ali hereditary rule in Egypt in return for withdrawal from Syria and Lebanon, but was rejected by the pasha. The European powers intervened with force, and the bombardment of Beirut, the fall of Acre, and the total collapse of Ali's power followed in rapid succession. Palmerston's policy was triumphant, and the author of it had won a reputation as one of the most powerful statesmen of the age.
China: Forcing free trade
China had sealed itself off from the world, permitting only limited trade under the Canton System and allowing no diplomatic contact. Palmerston saw this as an affront to his free trade principles, and demanded reform, sending Lord Napier to negotiate in 1834. China refused, and harassed the British traders bringing in opium from India. The upshot was the First Opium War, 1839–42, which ended in the conquest of Chusan by Henry Pottinger. It was later exchanged for the island of Hong Kong. Under the Treaty of Nanjing, China paid an indemnity and opened five treaty ports to world trade. Palmerston thus achieved his main goal of opening China to trade, although his critics focused on the immorality of the opium trade.
In all these actions Palmerston brought to bear a great deal of patriotic vigour and energy. This made him very popular among the ordinary people of Britain, but his passion, propensity to act through personal animosity, and imperious language made him seem dangerous and destabilising in the eyes of the Queen and his more conservative colleagues in government.
In 1839, Palmerston married his mistress of many years, Emily Lamb, Countess Cowper, following the death of her husband. She was a noted Whig hostess and sister of Lord Melbourne. They had no legitimate children, although at least one of Lord Cowper's putative children, Lady Emily Cowper, later Countess of Shaftesbury, was widely believed to have been Palmerston's.
Within a few months Melbourne's administration came to an end (1841) and 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 Palmerston in Britain was a fortunate event for the peace of the world. 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 Palmerston had inflamed gradually subsided. During the administration of Sir Robert Peel, Palmerston led a retired life, but he attacked with characteristic bitterness the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with the United States. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 resolved several Canadian boundary disputes with the United States, particularly the border between New Brunswick and the State of Maine and between Canada and the State of Minnesota from Lake Superior and the Lake of the Woods. Much as he criticised it, the treaty successfully closed the border questions with which Palmerston had long been concerned.
Palmerston's reputation as an interventionist and his unpopularity with the Queen and other grandees was such that Lord John Russell's attempt in December 1845 to form a ministry failed because Lord Grey refused to join a government in which Palmerston would direct foreign affairs. A few months later, however, the Whigs returned to power and Palmerston to the Foreign Office (July 1846). Russell replied to critics that Palmerston's policies had "a tendency to produce war" but that he had advanced British interests without a major conflict, if not entirely peaceably.
Foreign Secretary: 1846–1851
France and Spain, 1845
The French government regarded the appointment of Palmerston as a certain sign of renewed hostilities. They availed themselves of a dispatch in which he 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 honourable reputation.
Brown[who?] rejects the traditional interpretation to the effect that Aberdeen had forged an entente cordiale with France in the early 1840s whereupon the belligerent Palmerston after 1846 destroyed that friendly relationship. Brown argues that as foreign secretary from 1846 to 1851 and subsequently as prime minister, Palmerston sought to maintain the balance of power in Europe, sometimes even aligning with France to do so.
Support for revolutions abroad
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 sympathised openly with the revolutionary party abroad. In particular, he was a strong advocate of national self-determination, and stood firmly on the side of constitutional liberties on the Continent. Despite this, he was bitterly opposed to Irish independence, being very opposed to the Young Ireland movement.
No state was regarded by him with more aversion than Austria. Yet, his opposition to Austria was chiefly based upon her occupation of northeastern Italy and her Italian policy. 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 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. 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 Britain, based on a large cession of Italian territory. Palmerston rejected the terms he might have obtained for Piedmont. After a couple of years this wave of revolution was replaced by a wave of reaction.
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. 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. Even that was shortly afterwards to be alienated by Palmerston's attack on Greece. When Lajos Kossuth, the Hungarian democrat and leader of its constitutionalists, landed in England, Palmerston proposed to receive him at Broadlands, a design which was only prevented by a peremptory vote of the cabinet.
Royal and parliamentary reaction to 1848
This state of things was regarded with the utmost annoyance by the British court and by most of the British ministers. On many occasions, Palmerston had 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 fact that they were held responsible for Palmerston's actions by the other Courts of Europe.
When Benjamin Disraeli and others took several nights in the House of Commons to impeach Palmerston's foreign policy, the foreign minister responded to a five-hour speech by Anstey with a five-hour speech of his own, the first of two great speeches in which he laid out a comprehensive defence of his foreign policy and of liberal interventionism more generally. Reviewing his whole parliamentary career — reminding him, he joked, of a drowning man's visions of his past life — he said:
I hold that the real policy of England... is to be the champion of justice and right, pursuing that course with moderation and prudence, not becoming the Quixote of the world, but giving the weight of her moral sanction and support wherever she thinks that justice is, and whenever she thinks that wrong has been done.
It is generally supposed that Russell and the Queen both hoped that the other would take the initiative and dismiss Palmerston; the Queen was dissuaded by Prince Albert, who took the limits of constitutional power very seriously, and Russell by Palmerston's prestige with the people and his competence in an otherwise remarkably inept Cabinet.
Don Pacifico Affair: Parliament and the Queen, 1850
In 1847 the home of Don Pacifico, a Gibraltaran merchant living in Athens, Greece, was attacked by an anti-Semitic mob. The mob included the sons of a Greek government minister and, during the attack, Greek police did not intervene and stood by and watched the attack. Because Don Pacifico was a British subject, the British government expressed concern. In January 1850 Palmerston took advantage of Don Pacifico's claims on the Greek government and blockaded the port of Piraeus in the kingdom of Greece. As Greece was under the joint protection of three powers, Russia and France protested against its coercion by the British fleet.
After a memorable debate (17 June), Palmerston's 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 29 June by a majority of 46, after having heard from Palmerston on 25 June. This was the most eloquent and powerful speech he ever delivered, wherein he sought to vindicate not only his claims on the Greek government for Don Pacifico, but his entire administration of foreign affairs.
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It was in this speech, which lasted five hours, Palmerston made the well known declaration that a British subject ought everywhere to be protected by the strong arm of the British government against injustice and wrong; comparing the reach of the British Empire to that of the Roman Empire, in which a Roman citizen could walk the earth unmolested by any foreign power. This was the famous Civis Romanus sum ("I am a citizen of Rome") speech. After this speech Palmerston's popularity had never been greater.
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. In that same year, the Queen addressed a minute to the Prime Minister in which she recorded her dissatisfaction at the manner in which 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 accepted its criticisms.
On 2 December 1851 Louis Napoleon—who had been elected President of France in 1848—carried out a coup d'état by dissolving the National Assembly and arresting the leading Republicans. Palmerston privately congratulated Napoleon on his triumph, noting that Britain's constitution was rooted in history but that France had had five revolutions since 1789, with the French Constitution of 1848 being a "day-before-yesterday tomfoolery which the scatterbrain heads of Marrast and Tocqueville invented for the torment and perplexity of the French nation". However the Cabinet decided that Britain must be neutral and so Palmerston requested his officials be diplomatic. Prince Albert came to learn of Palmerston's favourable opinion towards the change in government, had sent a dispatch without showing the Sovereign. Protesting innocence, he duly resigned.
Home Secretary: 1852–1855
After a brief period of Conservative 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). It was regarded as impossible for them to form a government without Palmerston, so he was made Home Secretary in December 1852. Many people considered this a curious appointment because Palmerston's expertise was so obviously in foreign affairs. There was a story that after a great wave of strikes swept Northern England, the Queen summoned Palmerston to discuss the situation. When she enquired after the latest news, Palmerston is said to have replied: "There is no definite news, Madam, but it seems certain that the Turks have crossed the Danube".
Palmerston passed the Factory Act 1853 which removed loopholes in previous Factory Acts and outlawed all labour by young persons between 6pm and 6am. He attempted to pass a Bill that confirmed the rights of workers to combine but this was thrown out by the House of Lords. He introduced the Truck Act which stopped the practice of employers paying workmen in goods instead of money, or forcing them to purchase goods from shops owned by the employers. In August 1853 Palmerston introduced the Smoke Abatement Act in order to combat the increasing smoke from coal fires, a problem greatly aggravated by the Industrial Revolution. He also oversaw the passage of the Vaccination Act 1853 into law, which was introduced as a private member's bill, and which Palmerston persuaded the government to support. The Act made vaccination of children compulsory for the first time. Palmerston outlawed the burying of the dead in churches. The right to bury the dead in churches was held by wealthy families whose ancestors had purchased the right in the past. Palmerston opposed this practice on public health grounds and ensured that all bodies were buried in a churchyard or public cemetery.
Palmerston reduced the period in which prisoners could be held in solitary confinement from eighteen months to nine months. He also ended transportation to Van Diemen's Land for prisoners by passing the Penal Servitude Act 1853, which also reduced the maximum sentences for most offences. Palmerston passed the Reformatory Schools Act 1854 which gave the Home Secretary powers to send juvenile prisoners to a reformatory school instead of prison. He was forced to accept an amendment which ensured that the prisoner had to have spent at least three months in jail first. When in October 1854 Palmerston visited Parkhurst jail and conversed with three boy inmates, he was impressed by their behaviour and ordered that they be sent to a reformatory school. He found the ventilation in the cells unsatisfactory and ordered that they be improved.
Palmerston strongly opposed Lord John Russell's plans for giving the vote to sections of the urban working-classes. When the Cabinet agreed in December 1853 to introduce a bill during the next session of Parliament in the form which Russell wanted, Palmerston resigned. However, Aberdeen told him that no definite decision on reform had been taken and persuaded Palmerston to return to the Cabinet. The electoral Reform Bill did not pass Parliament that year.
Palmerston's exile from his traditional realm of the Foreign Office meant he did not have full control over British policy during the events precipitating the Crimean War. One of his biographers, Jasper Ridley, argues that had he been in control of foreign policy at this time, war in the Crimea would have been avoided. Palmerston argued in Cabinet, after Russian troops concentrated on the Ottoman border in February 1853, that the Royal Navy should join the French fleet in the Dardanelles as a warning to Russia. He was overruled, however.
In May 1853 the Russians threatened to invade the principalities Wallachia and Moldavia unless the Ottoman Sultan surrendered to their demands. Palmerston argued for immediate decisive action; the Royal Navy should be sent to the Dardanelles to assist the Turkish navy and that Britain should inform Russia of the intention to go to war with her if it invaded the principalities. However, Aberdeen objected to all of Palmerston's proposals. After prolonged arguments, a reluctant Aberdeen agreed to send a fleet to the Dardanelles but objected to his other proposals. The Russian Tsar was annoyed by Britain's actions but it was not enough to deter him. When the British fleet arrived at the Dardanelles the weather was rough so the fleet took refuge in the outer waters of the straits. The Russians argued that this was a violation of the Straits Convention of 1841 and therefore invaded the two principalities. Palmerston thought that this was the result of British weakness and thought that if the Russians had been told that if they invaded the principalities the British and French fleets would enter the Bosphorus or the Black Sea, they would have been deterred. In Cabinet, Palmerston argued for a vigorous prosecution of the war against Russia by Britain but Aberdeen objected, as he wanted peace. Public opinion was on the side of the Turks and with Aberdeen becoming steadily unpopular, Lord Dudley Stuart in February 1854 noted, "Wherever I go, I have heard but one opinion on the subject, and that one opinion has been pronounced in a single word, or in a single name – Palmerston."
On 28 March 1854 Britain and France declared war on Russia for refusing to withdraw from the principalities. The war progressed slowly, with no gains in the Baltic and slow gains in Crimea at the long Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855). Dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war was growing with the public in Britain and in other countries, aggravated by reports of fiascoes and failures, especially the mismanagement of the heroic Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava. The health and living conditions of the British soldiers was notorious and the press, with correspondents in the field, made the most of it. Tories demanded an accounting of all soldiers, cavalry and sailors sent to the Crimea and accurate figures as to the number of casualties. When Parliament passed a bill to investigate by the vote of 305 to 148, Aberdeen said he had lost a vote of no confidence and resigned as prime minister on 30 January 1855. Queen Victoria deeply distrusted Palmerston and first asked Lord Derby to accept the premiership. Derby offered Palmerston the office of Secretary of State for War which he accepted under the condition that Clarendon remained as Foreign Secretary. Clarendon refused and so Palmerston refused Derby's offer and Derby subsequently gave up trying to form a government. The Queen sent for Lansdowne but he was too old to accept: so she asked Russell; but none of his former colleagues except Palmerston wanted to serve under him. Having exhausted the possible alternatives, the Queen invited Palmerston to Buckingham Palace on 4 February 1855 to form a government.
Prime Minister: 1855–1858
Ending the Crimean War
Palmerston took a hard line on the war; he wanted to expand the fighting, especially in the Baltic where St. Petersburg could be threatened by superior British naval power. His goal was to permanently reduce the Russian threat to Europe. Sweden and Prussia were willing to join, and Russia stood alone. However, France, which had sent far more soldiers to the war than Britain, and had suffered far more casualties, wanted the war to end, as did Austria. In March 1855 the old Tsar died and was succeeded by his son, Alexander II, who wished to make peace. However, Palmerston found the peace terms too soft on Russia and so persuaded Napoleon III of France to break off the peace negotiations until Sevastopol could be captured, putting the allies in a stronger negotiating position. In September Sevastopol finally surrendered and the allies had full control of the Black Sea theatre. Russia came to terms. On 27 February 1856 an armistice was signed and after a month's negotiations an agreement was signed at the Congress of Paris. Palmerston's demand for a demilitarised Black Sea was secured, although his wish for the Crimea to be returned to the Ottomans was not. The peace treaty was signed on 30 March 1856. In April 1856 Palmerston was awarded the Order of the Garter by Victoria.
Arrow controversy and the Second Opium War
In October 1856 the Chinese seized the pirate ship Arrow and in the process, according to the local British official Harry Parkes, insulted the British flag. When the Chinese Commissioner Ye Mingchen refused to apologize, the British shelled his compound. The commissioner retaliated with a proclamation that called on the people of Canton to "unite in exterminating these troublesome English villains" and offered a $100 bounty for the head of any Englishman. The British factories outside the city were also burned to the ground by incensed locals. Palmerston supported Parkes while in Parliament the British policy was strongly attacked on moral grounds by Richard Cobden and Gladstone. Playing the patriotism card, Palmerston said that Cobden demonstrated "an anti-English feeling, an abnegation of all those ties which bind men to their country and to their fellow-countrymen, which I should hardly have expected from the lips of any member of this House. Everything that was English was wrong, and everything that was hostile to England was right." He went on to say that if a motion of censure was carried it would signal that the House had voted to "abandon a large community of British subjects at the extreme end of the globe to a set of barbarians – a set of kidnapping, murdering, poisoning barbarians." The censure motion was carried by a majority of sixteen and the election of 1857 followed. Palmerston's stance proved popular among a large section of the workers, the growing middle classes and the country's commercial and financial interests. With the expanded franchise, his party swept on a wave of popular feeling to a majority of 83, the largest since 1835. Cobden and John Bright lost their seats.
After the election, Palmerston passed the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 which for the first time made it possible for courts to grant a divorce and removed divorce from the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. The opponents in Parliament, which included Gladstone, were the first in British history to try to kill a bill by talking it out. Nonetheless, Palmerston was determined to get the bill through, which he did.
In June news came to Britain of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Palmerston sent Sir Colin Campbell and reinforcements to India. Palmerston also agreed to transfer the authority of the British East India Company to the Crown. This was enacted in the Government of India Act 1858.
After the Italian republican Felice Orsini tried to assassinate the French emperor with a bomb made in Britain, the French were outraged (see Orsini affair). Palmerston introduced a Conspiracy to Murder Bill which made it a felony to plot in Britain to murder someone abroad. At first reading, the Conservatives voted for it but at second reading they voted against it. Palmerston lost by nineteen votes. Therefore, in February 1858 he was forced to resign.
However, the Conservatives lacked a majority and Russell introduced a resolution in March 1859 arguing for widening the franchise, which the Conservatives opposed but which was carried. Parliament was dissolved and a general election ensued, which the Whigs won. Palmerston rejected an offer from Disraeli to become Conservative leader, but he attended the meeting of 6 June 1859 in Willis's Rooms at St James Street where the Liberal Party was formed. The Queen asked Lord Granville to form a government but although Palmerston agreed to serve under him, Russell did not. Therefore, on 12 June the Queen asked Palmerston to become Prime Minister. Russell and Gladstone agreed to serve under him.
Prime Minister: 1859–1865
In his last premiership Palmerston oversaw the passage of important legislation. The Offences against the Person Act 1861 codified and reformed the law, and was part of a wider process of consolidating criminal law. The Companies Act 1862 was the basis of modern company law.
Palmerston was considered by some of his contemporaries to be a womaniser; The Times named him Lord Cupid (on account of his youthful looks), and he was cited, at the age of 79, as co-respondent in an 1863 divorce case, although it emerged that the case was nothing more than an attempted blackmail.
Relationship with Gladstone
Although Palmerston and William Gladstone treated each other as gentlemen, they disagreed fundamentally over Church appointments, foreign affairs, defence and reform; Palmerston's greatest problem during his last premiership was how to handle his Chancellor of the Exchequer. The MP Sir William Gregory was told by a member of the Cabinet that "at the beginning of each session and after each holiday, Mr Gladstone used to come in charged to the muzzle with all sorts of schemes of all sorts of reforms which were absolutely necessary in his opinion to be immediately undertaken. Palmerston used to look fixedly at the paper before him, saying nothing until there was a lull in Gladstone's outpouring. He then rapped the table and said cheerfully: 'Now, my Lords and gentlemen, let us go to business'." Palmerston told Lord Shaftesbury: "Gladstone will soon have it all his own way and whenever he gets my place we shall have strange doings". He told another friend that he thought Gladstone would wreck the Liberal Party and end up in a madhouse.
When in May 1864 the MP Edward Baines introduced a Reform Bill in the Commons, Palmerston ordered Gladstone to not commit himself and the government to any particular scheme. Instead Gladstone said in his speech in the Commons that he did not see why any man should not have the vote unless he was mentally incapacitated, but added that this would not come about unless the working class showed an interest in reform. Palmerston believed that this was incitement to the working class to begin agitating for reform and told Gladstone: "What every Man and Woman too have a Right to, is to be well governed and under just Laws, and they who propose a change ought to shew that the present organization does not accomplish those objects".
French intervention in Italy had created an invasion scare and Palmerston established a Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom which reported in 1860. It recommended a huge programme of fortifications to protect the Royal Navy Dockyards and ports, which Palmerston vigorously supported. Objecting to the enormous expense, Gladstone repeatedly threatened to resign as Chancellor when the proposals were accepted. Palmerston said that he had received so many resignation letters from Gladstone that he feared that they would set fire to the chimney.
American Civil War
Palmerston's sympathies in the American Civil War (1861–5) were with the secessionist Southern Confederacy. Although a professed opponent of the slave trade and slavery, he held a lifelong hostility towards the United States and believed a dissolution of the Union would weaken the United States – and therefore enhance British power – and that the Southern Confederacy "would afford a valuable and extensive market for British manufactures".
Britain issued a proclamation of neutrality at the beginning of the Civil War on 13 May 1861. The Confederacy was recognised as a belligerent but it was too premature to recognise the South as a sovereign state. The United States Secretary of State, William Seward, threatened to treat Britain's as a hostile action. Britain depended more on American corn than Confederate cotton, and a war with the U.S. would not be in Britain's economic interest. Palmerston ordered reinforcements sent to the Province of Canada because he was convinced the North would make peace with the South and then invade Canada. He was very pleased with the Confederate victory at Bull Run in July 1861, but 15 months later he wrote that
"the American [Civil] War... has manifestly ceased to have any attainable object as far as the Northerns are concerned, except to get rid of some more thousand troublesome Irish and Germans. It must be owned, however, that the Anglo-Saxon race on both sides have shown courage and endurance highly honourable to their stock".
The Trent Affair in November 1861 produced public outrage in Britain and a diplomatic crisis. A U.S. Navy warship stopped the British steamer Trent and seized two Confederate envoys en route to Europe. Palmerston called the action "a declared and gross insult", demanded the release of the two diplomats and ordered 3,000 troops to Canada. In a letter to Queen Victoria on 5 December 1861 he said that if his demands were not met, "Great Britain is in a better state than at any former time to inflict a severe blow upon and to read a lesson to the United States which will not soon be forgotten." In another letter to his Foreign Secretary, he predicted war between Britain and the Union:
It is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the rabid hatred of England which animates the exiled Irishmen who direct almost all the Northern newspapers, will so excite the masses as to make it impossible for Lincoln and Seward to grant our demands; and we must therefore look forward to war as the probable result.
In fact Irishmen did not control any major newspapers in the North, and the U.S. decided to release the prisoners rather than risk war. Palmerston was convinced the presence of troops in Canada persuaded the U.S. to acquiesce.
After the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862 and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Palmerston declined Napoleon III of France's proposal for the two powers to arbitrate the war. Palmerston rejected all further efforts of the Confederacy to gain British recognition.
The raiding ship CSS Alabama, built in the British port of Birkenhead, was another difficulty for Palmerston. On 29 July 1862, a law officer's report he had commissioned advised him to detain Alabama, as its construction was a breach of Britain's neutrality. Palmerston ordered Alabama detained on 31 July, but it had already put to sea before the order reached Birkenhead. In her subsequent cruise, Alabama captured or destroyed many Union merchant ships, as did other raiders fitted out in Britain. The U.S. accused Britain of complicity in the construction of the raiders. This was the basis of the postwar Alabama claims for damages against Britain, which Palmerston refused to pay. After his death, Gladstone acknowledged the U.S. claim and agreed to arbitration, paying out $15,500,000 in damages.
The Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck wanted to annex the Danish territory of Schleswig and the German territory of Holstein, whose Duke was the King of Denmark, chiefly for its port of Kiel, and had an alliance with Austria for this purpose. In a speech to the Commons on 23 July 1863, Palmerston said the British government, like those of France and Russia, wished that "the independence, the integrity, and the rights of Denmark may be maintained. We are convinced—I am convinced at least—that if any violent attempt were made to overthrow those rights and interfere with that independence, those who made the attempt would find in the result that it would not be Denmark alone with which they would have to contend". Palmerston's stance derived from the traditional belief that France was the greater threat to Britain and was much stronger than Austria and Prussia.
For five months Bismarck did nothing. However in November the Danish government instituted a new constitution whereby Holstein was bound closer to Denmark. Schleswig had already been a part of Denmark for centuries. By the year's end, the Prussian and Austrian armies were massing on the River Eider. On 1 February 1864 the Prussian-Austrian armies invaded Schleswig-Holstein and ten days afterwards the Danish government requested British help to resist this. Russell urged Palmerston to send a fleet to Copenhagen and persuade Napoleon III that he should mobilise his soldiers that were placed on the borders of Prussia's Rhineland provinces. Palmerston replied that the fleet could not do much to assist the Danes in Copenhagen and that nothing should be done to persuade Napoleon to cross the Rhine.
In April Austria's navy was on its way to attack Copenhagen and Palmerston saw the Austrian ambassador and informed him that Britain could not allow their navy to sail through the English Channel if their intent was to attack Denmark, and if it entered the Baltic the result would be war with Britain. The ambassador replied that the Austrian navy would not enter the Baltic and it did not do so.
Palmerston accepted Russell's suggestion that the war should be settled at a conference in London but at the conference in May and June the Danes refused to accept their loss of Schleswig-Holstein. The armistice ended on 26 June and Prussian-Austrian troops quickly invaded more of Denmark. On 25 June the Cabinet was against going to war to save Denmark but Russell's suggestion to send the Royal Navy to defend Copenhagen was only carried by Palmerston's vote. Palmerston however said the fleet could not be sent in view of the deep division in the Cabinet.
On 27 June Palmerston gave his statement to the Commons and said Britain would not go to war with the German powers unless the existence of Denmark as an independent power was at stake or that her capital was threatened. The Conservatives replied that Palmerston had betrayed the Danes and a vote of censure in the House of Lords was carried by nine votes. In the debate in the Commons the Conservative MP General Peel said: "It is come to this, that the words of the Prime Minister of England [sic], uttered in the Parliament of England, are to be regarded as mere idle menaces to be laughed at and despised by foreign powers?" Palmerston replied in the last night of the debate: "I say that England stands as high as she ever did and those who say she had fallen in the estimation of the world are not the men to whom the honour and dignity of England should be confided".
The vote of censure was defeated by 313 votes to 295, with Palmerston's old enemies in the pacifist camp, Cobden and Bright, voting for him. The result of the vote was announced at 2.30 in the morning and when Palmerston heard the news he ran up the stairs to the Ladies' Gallery and embraced his wife. Disraeli wrote: "What pluck to mount those dreadful stairs at three o'clock in the morning, and eighty years of age!"
In a speech at his constituency at Tiverton in August, Palmerston told his constituents:
I am sure every Englishman who has a heart in his breast and a feeling of justice in his mind, sympathizes with those unfortunate Danes (cheers), and wishes that this country could have been able to draw the sword successfully in their defence (continued cheers); but I am satisfied that those who reflect on the season of the year when that war broke out, on the means which this country could have applied for deciding in one sense that issue, I am satisfied that those who make these reflections will think that we acted wisely in not embarking in that dispute. (Cheers.) To have sent a fleet in midwinter to the Baltic every sailor would tell you was an impossibility, but if it could have gone it would have been attended by no effectual result. Ships sailing on the sea cannot stop armies on land, and to have attempted to stop the progress of an army by sending a fleet to the Baltic would have been attempting to do that which it was not possible to accomplish. (Hear, hear.) If England could have sent an army, and although we all know how admirable that army is on the peace establishment, we must acknowledge that we have no means of sending out a force at all equal to cope with the 300,000 or 400,000 men whom the 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 of Germany could have pitted against us, and that such an attempt would only have insured a disgraceful discomfiture—not to the army, indeed, but to the Government which sent out an inferior force and expected it to cope successfully with a force so vastly superior. (Cheers.) ... we did not think that the Danish cause would be considered as sufficiently British, and as sufficiently bearing on the interests and the security and the honour of England, as to make it justifiable to ask the country to make those exertions which such a war would render necessary.
Palmerston won another general election in July 1865, increasing his majority. The leadership of Palmerston was a great electoral asset to the Liberal Party. He then had to deal with the outbreak of Fenian violence in Ireland. Palmerston ordered the Viceroy of Ireland, Lord Wodehouse, to take measures against this, including a possible suspension of trial-by-jury and a monitoring of Americans travelling to Ireland. He believed that the Fenian agitation was caused by America. On 27 September 1865 he wrote to the Secretary for War:
The American assault on Ireland under the name of Fenianism may be now held to have failed, but the snake is only scotched and not killed. It is far from impossible that the American conspirators may try and obtain in our North American provinces compensation for their defeat in Ireland.
He advised that more armaments be sent to Canada and more troops sent to Ireland. During these last few weeks of his life, Palmerston pondered on developments in foreign affairs. He began thinking of a new friendship with France as "a sort of preliminary defensive alliance" against America and looked forward to Prussia becoming more powerful as this would balance against the growing threat from Russia. In a letter to Russell he warned that Russia "will in due time become a power almost as great as the old Roman Empire...Germany ought to be strong in order to resist Russian aggression."
Palmerston enjoyed robust health in old age, living at Romsey in his home Foxhills, built in about 1840. On 12 October 1865 he caught a chill and instead of retiring immediately to bed he spent an hour-and-a-half dawdling. He then had a violent fever but his condition stabilised for the next few days. However on the night of 17 October his health worsened, and when his doctor asked him if he believed in regeneration of the world through Jesus Christ, Palmerston replied: "Oh, surely." His last words were, "That's Article 98; now go on to the next." (He was thinking about diplomatic treaties.) An apocryphal version of his last words is: "Die, my dear doctor? That is the last thing I shall do." He died at 10:45 am on Wednesday, 18 October 1865 two days before his eighty-first birthday. Although Palmerston wanted to be buried at Romsey Abbey, the Cabinet insisted that he should have a state funeral and be buried at Westminster Abbey, which he was, on 27 October 1865. He was the fourth person not of royalty to be granted a state funeral (after Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Nelson, and the Duke of Wellington).
Queen Victoria wrote after his death that though she regretted his passing, she had never liked or respected him: "Strange, and solemn to think of that strong, determined man, with so much worldly ambition – gone! He had often worried and distressed us, though as Pr. Minister he had behaved very well." Florence Nightingale reacted differently upon hearing of his death: "He will be a great loss to us. Tho' he made a joke when asked to do the right thing, he always did it. No one else will be able to carry things thro' the Cabinet as he did. I shall lose a powerful protector...He was so much more in earnest than he appeared. He did not do himself justice."
He was succeeded by his stepson William Cowper-Temple (later created The 1st Baron Mount Temple), whose inheritance included a 10,000 acre estate in the north of County Sligo in the west of Ireland, on which his stepfather had commissioned the building of the incomplete Classiebawn Castle.
Palmerston has traditionally been viewed as "a Conservative at home and a Liberal abroad". He believed that the British constitution as secured by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was the best which human hands had made, with a constitutional monarchy subject to the laws of the land but retaining some political power. He supported the rule of law and opposed further democratisation after the Reform Act 1832. He wished to see this liberal system of a mixed constitution in-between the two extremes of absolute monarchy and republican democracy replace the absolute monarchies on the Continent. More recently some historians have seen his domestic policies as Prime Minister as not merely liberal but genuinely progressive by the standards of his era.
However it is in foreign affairs that Palmerston is chiefly remembered. Palmerston's principal aim in foreign policy was to advance the national interests of England. Palmerston is famous for his patriotism. Lord John Russell said that "his heart always beat for the honour of England". Palmerston believed it was in Britain's interests that liberal governments be established on the Continent. He also practised brinkmanship and bluff in that he was prepared to threaten war to achieve Britain's interests.
When in 1886 Lord Rosebery became Foreign Secretary in Gladstone's government, John Bright asked him if he had read about Palmerston's policies as Foreign Secretary. Rosebery replied that he had. "Then", said Bright, "you know what to avoid. Do the exact opposite of what he did. His administration at the Foreign Office was one long crime." The Marquis of Lorne said of Palmerston in 1866: "He loved his country and his country loved him. He lived for her honour, and she will cherish his memory."
In 1889 Gladstone recounted a story of when "a Frenchman, thinking to be highly complimentary, said to Palmerston: 'If I were not a Frenchman, I should wish to be an Englishman'; to which Pam coolly replied: 'If I were not an Englishman, I should wish to be an Englishman.'" When Winston Churchill campaigned for rearmament in the 1930s, he was compared to Palmerston in warning the nation to look to its defences. The policy of appeasement led General Jan Smuts to write in 1936 that "we are afraid of our shadows. I sometimes long for a ruffian like Palmerston or any man who would be more than a string of platitudes and apologies."
He was also an avowed abolitionist whose attempts to abolish the slave trade was one of the most consistent elements of his foreign policy. His opposition to the slave trade created tensions with Southern American countries and the United States over his insistence that the British navy had the right to search the vessels of any country if they suspected the vessels were being used in the slave trade.
Historian A.J.P. Taylor has summarised his career by emphasising the paradoxes:
- For twenty years junior minister in a Tory government, he became the most successful of Whig Foreign Secretaries; though always a Conservative, he ended his life by presiding over the transition from Whiggism to Liberalism. He was the exponent of British strength, yet was driven from office for truckling to a foreign despot; he preached the Balance of Power, yet helped to inaugurate the policy of isolation and of British withdrawal from Europe. Irresponsible and flippant, he became the first hero of the serious middle-class electorate. He reached high office solely through an irregular family connection; he retained it through skilful use of the press—the only Prime Minister to become an accomplished leader-writer.
Palmerston is also 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 himself, who had forgotten it.
The Life of Lord Palmerston up to 1847 was written by Lord Dalling (Sir H. Lytton Bulwer), volumes I and II (1870), volume III edited and partly written by Evelyn Ashley (1874), after the author's death. Ashley completed the biography in two more volumes (1876). The whole work was reissued in a revised and slightly abridged form by Ashley in 2 volumes in 1879, with the title The Life and Correspondence of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston; the letters are judiciously curtailed, but unfortunately without indicating where the excisions occur; the appendices of the original work are omitted, but much fresh matter is added, and this edition is undoubtedly the standard biography. An early "biographer" of Palmerston was Karl Marx in 1853.
- The Town of Palmerston located in Southwestern Ontario, Canada was founded and named after Lord Palmerston in 1875. Palmerston is now part of the amalgamated town of Minto.
- Two distant places in New Zealand are named after him: the town of Palmerston, in the South Island, and the city of Palmerston North, in the North.
- The Australian city of Darwin was previously named Palmerston in honour of the Viscount. However a satellite city called Palmerston was established adjacent to Darwin in 1971.
- Palmerston Atoll is the most northerly of the Southern Group of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Amongst the 15 or so islands of the atoll, Palmerston Island is the only one which is inhabited.
- In the Rathmines area of Dublin 6 in the southern suburbs, villas are named after Lord Palmerston, as well as Temple Road and Palmerston Road. Both are quasi-translated variously as Bóthar an Stiguaire, Bóthar P(h)almerston, Bóthar Baile an Phámar and Bóthar an Teampaill.
- Several places in Portsmouth are named after Palmerston – notably Southsea's main shopping precinct, Palmerston Road.
- Palmerston Road in East Sheen, London, SW14
- Palmerston Place in the West End, Edinburgh, EH12
- Palmerston Road in Walthamstow, London & The Lord Palmerston Pub at the junction of Palmerston Road and Forest Road.
- The Lord Palmerston public house in Dartmouth Park, London, NW5 is named after Palmerston.
- Palmerston Park, Southampton was named after him, as was nearby Palmerston Road. A seven-foot high marble statue of Palmerston was erected in the park and unveiled on 2 June 1869.
- Palmerston Street in Derby
- Palmerston Road and Palmerston Park in east Belfast.
- Palmerston Boulevard and Palmerston Avenue in Toronto are named for him.
- Flashman in the Great Game – Early in this historical novel, Lord Palmerston sends Flashman on a mission to India. It happens that the Indian rebellion of 1857 is about to break out.
- The Simpsons – In the episode "Homer at the Bat", Barney Gumble and Wade Boggs come to blows over who the UK's greatest Prime Minister was (Barney supported Lord Palmerston, while Boggs favoured Pitt the Elder). Barney ended the argument by knocking Boggs out cold.
- 1862 – Palmerston is featured in the alternate history novel by Robert Conroy, depicting an American Civil War in which United Kingdom allies itself with the Confederacy after the Trent Affair at the direction of Palmerston.
- Skyfall – A close-up shot of a statue of Lord Palmerston features in an early scene from the 23rd James Bond film. The scene is one of many in which imperial imagery features prominently.
- Harry Potter – On Pottermore, J. K. Rowling wrote that Lord Palmerston was the subject of an irrational loathing by Priscilla Dupont (Minister for Magic in office 1855-1858). Dupont was forced to step down from her office after causing all sorts of trouble for Lord Palmerston, including coins in his coat pockets turning to frogspawn. Ironically, Palmerston was forced to resign two days after Dupont was.
Lord Palmerston's First Cabinet, February 1855 – February 1858
- Lord Palmerston – First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons
- Lord Cranworth – Lord Chancellor
- Lord Granville – Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords
- The Duke of Argyll – Lord Privy Seal
- Sir George Grey – Secretary of State for the Home Department
- Lord Clarendon – Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
- Sidney Herbert – Secretary of State for the Colonies
- Lord Panmure – Secretary of State for War
- Sir James Graham – First Lord of the Admiralty
- William Ewart Gladstone – Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Sir Charles Wood – President of the Board of Control
- Lord Stanley of Alderley – President of the Board of Trade
- Lord Harrowby – Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- Sir William Molesworth, 8th Baronet – First Commissioner of Works
- Lord Canning – Postmaster-General
- Lord Lansdowne – Minister without Portfolio
- 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
- Lord Palmerston – First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons
- Lord Campbell – Lord Chancellor
- Lord Granville – Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords
- The Duke of Argyll – Lord Privy Seal
- Sir George Cornewall Lewis – Secretary of State for the Home Department
- Lord John Russell – Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
- The Duke of Newcastle – Secretary of State for the Colonies
- Sidney Herbert – Secretary of State for War
- Sir Charles Wood – Secretary of State for India
- The Duke of Somerset – First Lord of the Admiralty
- William Ewart Gladstone – Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Edward Cardwell – Chief Secretary for Ireland
- Thomas Milner Gibson – President of the Board of Trade and of the Poor Law Board
- Sir George Grey – Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
- Lord Elgin – Postmaster-General
- July 1859 – Charles Pelham Villiers succeeds Milner-Gibson as President of the Poor Law Board (Milner-Gibson remains at the Board of Trade)
- May 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 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 – Edward Cardwell succeeds the Duke of Newcastle as Colonial Secretary. Lord Clarendon succeeds Cardwell as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
- July 1865 – Lord Cranworth succeeds Lord Westbury as Lord Chancellor
|Ancestors of Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston|
- Illustration, "One Head Better than Two", from Punch, November 1862, reproduced in Amanda Foreman (2010), A World on Fire, New York: Random House, Part I, "Cotton Is King", Chapter 14, "A Fateful Decision", p. 327.
- Karl Marx, "Palmerston: First Article" contained in Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12 (International Publishers: New York, 1979) p. 348.
- Edward J. Davies, "The Ancestry of Lord Palmerston", The Genealogist, 22(2008):62–77.
- Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), pp. 7–9.
- Ridley, p. 9.
- Ridley, p. 10.
- Ridley, p. 12.
- Ridley, p. 14.
- David Steele, ‘Temple, Henry John, third Viscount Palmerston (1784–1865)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009, accessed 11 December 2010.
- Ridley, p. 15.
- "Palmerston, Henry John (Temple), Viscount (PLMN803HJ)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Ridley, p. 18.
- Ridley, pp. 18–19.
- Ridley, pp. 19–22.
- Ridley, pp. 24–26.
- Ridley, p. 27.
- Ridley, pp. 27–28.
- Although peers of England, Scotland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom sat in the House of Lords and were not able to sit as Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, the Viscountcy of Palmerston was in the Peerage of Ireland which did not automatically grant the right to sit in the Lords. Palmerston was thus able to serve as an MP.
- Karl Marx, "Palmerston: First Article" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 348
- Ridley, pp. 29–30.
- George Henry Francis, Opinions and Policy of the Right Honourable Viscount Palmerston, G.C.B., M.P., &c. as Minister, Diplomatist, and Statesman, During More Than Forty Years of Public Life (London: Colburn and Co., 1852), pp. 1–3.
- Kenneth Bourne (ed.), The Letters of the Third Viscount Palmerston to Laurence and Elizabeth Sulivan. 1804–1863 (London: The Royal Historical Society, 1979), p. 97.
- Karl Marx, "Palmerston: First Article" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 12, p. 348.
- REPEAL OF THE TEST AND CORPORATION ACTS. HC Deb 26 February 1828 vol 18 cc676-781
- Ridley, pp. 147–153.
- Ridley, p. 98.
- Ridley, pp. 64–65.
- Ridley, pp. 105–106.
- David Brown, Palmerston: A Biography (2010) pp. 148–54.
- abuse of metaphors
- Ridley, pp. 208–209.
- Metaphor, reported by Trollope
- Ridley, Lord Palmerston, pp. 248–60
- Glenn Melancon (2003). Britain's China Policy and the Opium Crisis: Balancing Drugs, Violence and National Honour, 1833–1840. Ashgate.
- K D Reynolds, Oxford DNB, 'Temple, Emily'. Palmerston left his family seat Broadlands to her fourth, but 2nd surviving son Rt. Hon. Evelyn Melbourne Ashley (24 July 1836 – 15 November 1907)
- Robert Remini, Daniel Webster (W. W. Norton and Co.: New York, 1997) pp. 538–565.
- David Brown, "Palmerston and Anglo–French Relations, 1846–1865," Diplomacy & Statecraft, (Dec 2006) 17#4 pp 675–692
- Brown, Palmerston ch 9
- Ridley, pp. 374–375.
- Ridley, p. 379.
- Ridley, p. 381.
- Ridley, p. 387.
- Ridley, p. 394.
- Ridley, pp. 394–395.
- Ridley, p. 398.
- Ridley, pp. 398–399.
- Ridley, pp. 413–414.
- Ridley, p. 414.
- Ridley, p. 407.
- Ridley, p. 408.
- Ridley, pp. 408–409.
- Ridley, pp. 409–410.
- Ridley, p. 410.
- Ridley, pp. 415–416.
- Ridley, p. 419.
- Leonard, Dick (2013). The Great Rivalry: Gladstone and Disraeli. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 98.
- Orlando Figes, The Crimean War: A History (2010) pp 402-408
- Ridley, p. 467.
- J. Y. Wong, Deadly Dreams: Opium, Imperialism, and the Arrow War (1856–1860) in China (1998)
- Ridley, p. 506.
- Ridley, p. 565.
- Ridley, p. 563.
- Ridley, p. 566.
- Philip Guedalla (ed.), Gladstone and Palmerston, being the Correspondence of Lord Palmerston with Mr. Gladstone 1851–1865 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1928), p. 279.
- Guedalla, p. 282.
- Ridley, p. 564.
- Ridley, p. 552.
- Thomas Paterson; J. Garry Clifford; Shane J. Maddock (2009). American Foreign Relations: A History to 1920. Cengage Learning. p. 149.
- Ridley, p. 559.
- Ridley, p. 554.
- Kenneth Bourne, "British Preparations for War with the North, 1861–1862," The English Historical Review Vol 76 No 301 (Oct 1961) pp 600–632 in JSTOR
- Ridley, pp. 570–571.
- Ridley, p. 571.
- Ridley, p. 572.
- Ridley, pp. 573–574.
- Ridley, p. 574.
- ‘Lord Palmerston At Tiverton’, The Times (24 August 1864), p. 9.
- Ridley, p. 579.
- Ridley, p. 581.
- Ridley, p. 582.
- Hibbert, Christopher Disraeli: A Personal History (2004) p. 256
- Ridley, p. 583.
- Ridley, p. 584.
- "Profile of an Irish Village-Palmerston and the Conquest, Colonisation and Evolution of Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo". Retrieved 26 September 2013.
- Ridley, p. 587.
- Ridley, p. 588.
- David Steele, Palmerston and Liberalism, 1855–1865 (Cambridge University Press, 1991).
- Ridley, p. 589.
- The Times (10 November 1865), p. 7.
- Ridely, p. 589.
- Ridley, p. 591.
- Edinburgh Review. 1866. p. 275.
- Martin Gilbert, Winston Churchill. The Wilderness Years (London: Book Club Associates, 1981), pp. 106–107.
- W. K. Hancock, Smuts. Volume II: The Fields of Force. 1919–1950 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 281.
- A. J. P. Taylor, "Lord Palmerston," History Today Jan 1991, Vol. 41#1 p 1
- Hurd, Douglas (2013). Choose Your Weapons: The British Foreign Secretary. Orion. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-297-85851-5.
- Stanley Lane-Poole, 'Temple, Henry John', Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900, Volume 56.
- The Story of the Life of Lord Palmerston
- "Palmerston Park". City Centre Parks. Southampton City Council. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
- Cokayne, Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol. 6, 1895, pp. 187–8.
- Cokayne, Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol. 6, 1895, p. 187.
- Cokayne, Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol. 6, 1895, p. 187 ; Solicitor General, Attorney General and Speaker of the House of Commons ; son of the Rt. Hon. Sir John Temple, sometime Master of the Rolls.
- Cokayne, Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol. 6, 1895, p. 187 ; daughter of Sir Abraham Yarner, Muster-Master-General of Ireland.
- Cokayne, Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol. 6, 1895, p. 187 ; she was heir to her brother, Sir Richard Houblon.
- Cokayne, Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol. 6, 1895, p. 187 ; a Governor of the Bank of England.
- E.J. Davies, "The Ancestry of Lord Palmerston", The Genealogist, 22, 2008, pp. 62–77.
- Cokayne, Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol. 6, 1895, p. 187 ; Lord Mayor of London.
- E. Cruickshanks, "Barnard, John (c.1685–1764), of Mincing Lane, London, and Clapham, Surr.", The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715–1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970 ; a London merchant, of George Lane, St. Botolph's.
- E. Cruickshanks, "Barnard, John (c.1685–1764), of Mincing Lane, London, and Clapham, Surr.", The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715–1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970 ; daughter of Robert Payne, of Play Hatch, Sonning, Berkshire.
- E. Cruickshanks, "Barnard, John (c.1685–1764), of Mincing Lane, London, and Clapham, Surr.", The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715–1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970.
- E. Cruickshanks, "Barnard, John (c.1685–1764), of Mincing Lane, London, and Clapham, Surr.", The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715–1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970 ; a Turkey merchant.
- Notes and Queries: a Medium of Interchange for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc., 10th series, vol. vii, 1907, pp. 132–3 ; daughter and coheir of Nicholas Charleton of St. Bennet's Paul's Wharf, and sister of Sir Robert Godschall, Lord Mayor of London.
- Cokayne, Complete Peerage, 1st ed., vol. 6, 1895, p. 188.
- Bell, H.C.F. (1966). Lord Palmerston. Archon Books.
- Bourne, Kenneth (1970). The foreign policy of Victorian England, 1830-1902. Clarendon Press.
- Bourne, Kenneth (1961). "The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty and the Decline of British Opposition to the Territorial Expansion of the United States, 1857-60". Journal of Modern History: 287–291.
- Brown, David (2010). Palmerston. Yale. ISBN 978-0-300-11898-8.
- Brown, David (2002). Palmerston and the politics of foreign policy, 1846-55 (PDF). 1998 PhD dissertation version (Manchester University Press).
- Brown, David (2001). "Compelling but not Controlling?: Palmerston and the Press, 1846–1855". History. 86#201: 41–61.
- Brown, David (2001). "The Power of Public Opinion: Palmerston and the Crisis of December 1851". Parliamentary History (Published Online 2003): 333–358. doi:10.1111/j.1750-0206.2001.tb00381.x.
- Fenton, Laurence (2010). "Origins of Animosity: Lord Palmerston and The Times, 1830–41". Media History 16#4: 365–378.
- Fenton, Laurence (2013). Palmerston and The Times: Foreign Policy, the Press and Public Opinion in Mid-Victorian Britain. IB Tauris.
- Fuller, Howard J. (2014). Technology and the Mid-Victorian Royal Navy Ironclad: Royal Navy Crisis in the Age of Palmerston. Routledge.
- Guedalla, Philip (1926). Palmerston. London: Ernest Benn.
- Hicks, Geoffrey (2007). Peace, War and party politics: the Conservatives and Europe, 1846-59. Manchester University Press.
- Hoppen, K. Theodore (1998). The Mid-Victorian Generation, 1846-1886.
- Martin, Kingsley (1963). The Triumph of Lord Palmerston: a study of public opinion in England before the Crimean War.
- Ridley, Jasper (1970). Lord Palmerston. London: Constable. full-scale biography.
- Steele, David (May 2009) . "Temple, Henry John, third Viscount Palmerston (1784–1865)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edn. ed.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Retrieved 11 December 2010.; short scholarly biography
- Webster, Charles K. (1952). The Foreign Policy of Palmerston, 1830-1841: Britain, the Liberal Movement, and the Eastern Question. 2 vols.
- Bourne, Kenneth (1979). The Letters of the Third Viscount Palmerston to Laurence and Elizabeth Sulivan. 1804–1863. London: The Royal Historical Society.
- Bourne, Kenneth (1970). The foreign policy of Victorian England, 1830-1902. London: Clarendon Press. pp. 195–504. are "selected documents," many of them by Palmerston
- Francis, George Henry (1852). Opinions and Policy of The Right Honourable Viscount Palmerston, G.C.B., M.P., &c. as Minister, Diplomatist, and Statesman, During More Than Forty Years of Public Life. London: Colburn and Co.
- Guedalla, Philip (1928). Philip Guedalla, ed. Gladstone and Palmerston, being the Correspondence of Lord Palmerston with Mr. Gladstone 1851–1865. London: Victor Gollancz.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Viscount Palmerston
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- Viscount Palmerston 1784–1865 biography from the Liberal Democrat History Group
- More about Viscount Palmerston on the Downing Street website.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Palmerston, Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Archival material relating to Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston listed at the UK National Archives
- Portraits of Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston at the National Portrait Gallery, London
- Ancestors of Lord Palmerston