THE RUSSELLS.—(UNDER THE HOUSE OF BRUNSWICK.) MIIE fame, we can
hardly say the good fame, of the family was sustained in the reign of William by Edward Russell, grand- son of the fourth Earl, the admiral, who gained a peerage, but left no issue, and whose reputation is seriously impaired by his double- dealing and treachery between James and William. Of his abili- ties there can be little doubt,—they were probably above those of Lord William Russell.
The career of Wriothesley Russell, second Duke of Bedford, son of the patriot William Russell, was short and insignificant. It began in foreign travels, and ended in a country retirement and devotion to horticultural and agricultural pursuits. Once or twice the Duke appeared in public matters—on the High-Church side in the beginning of the reign of Anne, but afterwards, in the Sacheverell proceedings, on the other side, and he continued an, adherent of the Whig party down to his death, May 26, 1711.
His eldest son, Wriothesley, third Duke, was a still feebler. charac- ter. He was, indeed, a patron of the fine arts, but a reckless devotee to gambling at the billiard table and on the turf, and so intellectually weak and easily imposed upon that he was the dupe of all the disreputable men about town and the laughing-stock of society. He did his best to impair the credit and lessen the wealth of his family, but luckily going abroad to Portugal for his health; which was always feeble, he had to land at Corunna, and expired there on the 23rd October, 1732, the only Russell since the founder who can be unhesitatingly pronounced a fool. Fortunately for the House, he did not live long enough to injure it seriously, and at his death his successor inherited a property not yet swollen by the great rise in rentals or the growth of I.ondou, but still in-. eluding the first and immense abbey grants, the chief share of the reclaimed Bedford Level, and the great property brought to the family by the heiress of the Southamptons, a property which, with the ancient grants, makes the melancholy man who now reigns as. Duke one of the three who may be fairly said toown London from Brunswick Square to Chelsea. These great possessions, then worth, on indifferent evidence, about fifty thousand a year, now valued on excellent testimony at six times that sum, had now fallen to a man who comprehended better than any peer or statesman of that age that power belonged in England to the great owners of land.
This was the brother of the third Duke, Lord John Russell, who
succeeded as fourth Duke of Bedford, a man of very different and far higher character, whose life, extending to the year 1771, is con- nected with all the leading political changes of that period. We have had already to notice some of his proceedings in speaking of other families. He was born in 1710, 'and married Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of Charle-s, Earl of Sunderland; and secondly, in April, 1737, Gertrude, eldest daughter of John, Earl Gower. Lord Stan- hope calls the fourth Duke of Bedford "a cold-hearted, hot-headed man, more distinguished by rank and fortune than by either talent or virtue." His own pages, however, elsewhere soften this estimate con:- siderably. Thus Lord Stanhope adinits him to have been an honeSt and honourable man, and appears to be inclined at other times to lay his faults on the shoulders of his friend and dependent Rigby, a jovial man of rather easy and unscrupulous principles. Bedford had the misfortune not only to quarrel with Pitt and the Grenvilles, bat also to offend both Horace Walpole and Lord Chesterfield, the last of whom is particularly bitter against him, while Walpole, more moderate in his remarks, cannot forgive Bedford his share in the downfall of his father's administration. It would seem tnat the Duke was a man of some-ability and considerable powers of appli- cation to business, though he often neglected it, owing, he himself said, to his natural indolence, but seemingly because he preferred country life at Woburn ; so that, as far as his own advancement was concerned, his temperament was stronger than his personal ambition, and led him to be inclined to refuse rather than seek office. Yet he was methodical and regular in his ways, and sa economical in his ideas that he was accused of avarice ; but- Walpole acquits him of this on the score of his well-known gene- rosity. He had a very hot temper, which accompanied a very unreserved, uncompromising, and frank character. He was very warm, both in his friendships and in his enmities, easily irritated with, but yet much influenced by, his friends. His friend the first Fox said of him, " He was the most ungovernable governed man In the world." When he once made up his mind he was inflexibly -obstinate, and to be moved by neither King nor people. Walpole admits his "inflexible honesty and good-will to his country." His cabals, such as they were, were in open council, and his errors were all the more remarked on because there was no attempt made by bim to disguise them.
The Duke began, like most of the younger men of the day, by opposing the administration of Walpole, inveighing especially against its corrupt practices and its cowardly or over-pacific policy abroad. The downfall of Walpole left the field open first for Pulteney, and then for Carteret and the Pelbams. Gradually the latter gained the ascendant, but finding the King disposed to side against them in the struggle with Carteret, they called in the aid of the Opposition. Bedford, who had opposed the German policy of Carteret, was one of these, and at a meeting of the Oppo- sition chiefs he was one of the majority who carried a resolution to join the Pelhams unconditionally. He was then, November, 1744, appointed First Lord of the Admiralty in the " Broad-bottom" Ministry, as it was called. In February, 1748, he exchanged this office for that of Secretary of State. " His chief employment as such was to negotiate a treaty with Spain, which he effected in 1750. The Duke of Newcastle soon became jealous of Bedford, and began to intrigue against him. As usual, he succeeded in his immediate object, first disgusting Bedford entirely with the Ministry, and then by dismissing his friend Sandwich from the Admiralty, in- ducing the Duke himself to resign the Seals in 1751. After the death of Mr. Pelham Newcastle found his administration giving way gradually, and endeavoured through Bedford's friend Fox to induce the Duke to accept the office of Privy Seal. But Bed- ford refused to act with Newcastle, and the fall of the latter soon followed. The Duke of Devonshire was put at the head of a Ministry of which Pitt was the leading spirit, and on December 15,1756, Bedford accepted the Lord-Lieutenancy of Ireland. Here, according to Lord Stanhope, he began with a very lofty standard and great professions of purity of government, but soon fell into the old way of governing by bribery. This appears to be true, though rather unfairly put. That the Duke endeavoured to govern by better means is admitted ; that he failed, and had re- course to the old lower agencies, which were found so successful, is only particularly blameable in him on account of his previous good intentions. He, however, persevered in one line of policy to which Lord Stanhope has not adverted. He from the first was the advocate of a relaxation of the penal laws affecting Roman Catholics, and not only endeavoured (though vainly) to get a modification of them, but in his own administration exhibited a strict impartiality between the two religions. The result was that warm addresses of gratitude were presented to him from the Roman Catholics, and when the French threatened and actually made a descent on Ireland in the interest of the Pretender, the Roman Catholics rallied round the Viceroy with strong expressions of devotion, and the expedition proved a ridiculous failure. On the other band, Bedford had some difficulty with the Dublin mob, who, taking into their heads that there was a design to carry the Union, broke into the Irish House of Lords, and committed other disorders till scattered by a military force. The Duke of Bedford continued in his Viceroyalty beyond the death of George IL, not resigning till January, 1761. On returning to Eng • land he supported in the Privy Council a policy differing from that of Pitt and Temple. He held that it was unwise to continue the war merely to deprive France of all right of fishing off Newfoundland, and to take Martinique from her merely because it suited the King of Prussia to continue the war with Austria. He urged that if we endeavoured to obtain a maritime monopoly, we should raise a coalition against us similar to that raised against Louis XIV. Pitt, supported by the City of London, maintained that France was our natural enemy, and that we must destroy her maritime and colonial power entirely, and could not without dishonour abandon Prussia. At last Pitt, in October, resigned, and in November Bedford accepted the office of Privy Seal. Bute claimed a relationship to the Duchess of Bedford, who had great influence with her husband, and flattered Bedford to the utmost. Under this influence the Duke lent himself to the unworthy secrecy towards Prussia which was observed in the commencement of the negotiations, and accepted the post of negotiator. He set out for Paris, and after som i disagreements with Bute on the score of powers, which the latter tried to limit, he concluded first thepreliminaries, and afterwards the treaty of peace at Fontainebleau in 1763. The Duke showed great firm- ness in at least one point of the treaty affecting the territories of the East India Co:npany, wIto, through a blunder of their own, had at first proposed an article which would have deprived' them of a considerable tract of territory conquered from them by the French. Bedford said he should demand his passports, and the French gave way. Bedford was still in Paris when he received from Lord Bute the news of his resignation (April, 1763), and was summoned by him to come over and assist in making a new cabinet. The Duke came over, but he found no guarantee against the intrigues of Lord Egremont, who had been thwarting him all along, and he distrusted Bute's apparent support. He therefore declined office, and George Grenville became the head of the new Ministry. Again an attempt was made to gain the Duke, but he had now discovered Bute's secret treachery towards him, and he sent in his- absolute terms that Lord Bute and his friends should be ex- cluded from office and influence, and Pitt brought in, the latter recognizing the peace as a fait accompli. Pitt declined this, and afterwards made it a condition with the King that the Duke of Bedford should not be admitted into the Ministry, and the Duke remained out of office till Lord Egremont's death made a change possible, and then, on obtaining a distinct promise from the King that Bute should be excluded for ever from his counsels and presence, Bedford in November accepted the Presidency of the Council. The King is said to have obtained this adhesion by betraying to the Duke Pitt's proscription of him. The Grenville administration had carried the American Stamp Act without diffi- culty, but was shaken by the Regency Bill, in which, by omitting to name the person and leaving the nomination to the King, they had virtually placed Lord Bute in the position of eventual Regent as abso- lute director of the Princess Dowager. Then, when they attempted to remedy this by excluding her by name, the King resented it, and tried to persuade Pitt to accept offica. This came to nothing, and then Grenville and Bedford made new conditions against Bute influence, the Duke going so far as to call him the " Favourite" in a personal interview with the King, and to hint that the compact respecting him had not been kept. The King then had recourse to the other Whig Houses, the Rockingham Ministry was formed, and Grenville and Bedford dismissed. This was on July 10, 1765. In the preceding May Bedford had had to stand a curious siege in Bedford House from the Spitalfields weavers, who resented the rejection of a bill to put prohibitive duties on Italian silks. Bedford showed himself on this occasion inflexible, and Horace Walpole draws a curious picture of the military array in his courtyard. The weavers were first dispersed by force, and afterwards pacified by a public subscription, and an agreement on the part of the silk merchants to countermand their foreign orders. The Duke, after his resignation, spent some time in Paris, and never again joined any cabinet. lie declined offers of Chatham and Grafton, though he advised his friends in 1768 to join the latter nobleman. His own health was fast failing ; his eldest son, the Marquis of Tavistock, a young man of the greatest promise, died in March, 1767, from the effects of a fall while hunting ; and his young wife, after giving birth to a posthumous child, fell into a decline, and died a year afterwards. The Duke himself only survived to the 15th January, 1771. His public life may be summed up in the words that he was a man honest and upright in his intentions, but who suffered personal influences to affect his judgment, and sudden personal feelings to direct his actions to an extent which placed him constantly in false positions, and in combination with persons with whom he had no real sympathy. Thus are to be explained probably those political vagaries which made the Whig statesman the associate of Lord Bute, and the great stumbling-block in the formation of a strong Whig government. In private life he was all that was amiable. The present Earl Russell, in opposition to Lord Stan- hope, asserts that he was extremely warm-hearted. He delighted in the amusements of country life, especially in cricket and private theatricals. He almost entirely rebuilt Woburn Abbey, on a plan of great extent, formed there a large gallery of historical portraits, and delighted in laying out anew the plantations of Woburn. He planned the Evergreen Drive in that park, and in making the plantations connected with it the gardener objected to some change of plan as destructive of the plantation and injurious to his (the gardener's) own reputation as a planter. The Duke replied, "Do as I desire you, and I will take care of your reputation." Accord- ingly, when the alteration was completed, the Duke set up a board, facing the road, on which was inscribed, " This plantation has been thinned by John Duke of Bedford, contrary to the advice and opinion of his gardener." He could have exhibited no more astonishing proof of his natural obstinacy when ,he had once made up his mind than in carrying his point against a self-opiniated gardener. Francis, grandson of Duke John, succeeded him as fifth Duke of
Bedford at the early age of six years. A long minority and an early death reduce the public life of this nobleman to the compass of but few years ; and these were all spent in Opposition, under the auspices of Charles James Fox, with whom he had a strong and lasting friendship, public and private. The Duke displayed considerable ability, and was the leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords during the earlier part of the French war, con- stantly urging the conclusion of peace, and opposing, as the Pre- sident of the Whig Club, the Sedition Bills and other domestic measures of the Pitt Government, and his speeches had great force with the Upper House. Yet when Pitt, in 1796, appealed to the nation to contribute to a new loan of 18,000,0001., at 5 per cent.—to be taken at 1121. 10s. for every 1001. stock—with the option to the proprietors to be paid off at par within two years after a treaty of peace, Bedford came forward with 100,0001. The Duke died at Woburn, March 2, 1802, unmarried, and was succeeded by his brother John, sixth Duke of Bedford. This nobleman, who entered Parliament for Tavistock in 1788 and sat for it till his brother's death, was less of a politician than an ardent agriculturist and a most amiable and respected country gentleman, residing the greater part of the year at Woburn. He engaged the services of Telford and others in re-draining and extending the Bedford Level, rebuilt Covent Garden Market at a cost of 40,0001., and spent a' like sum on the church at Woburn. To his house there he added a gallery of statuary brought by him from Italy. He was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in the short Gren- ville administration of 1806 ; but never - again accepted office, though a staunch Whig to the last. He not only improved his estates materially, but devoted great pains to ameliorating the con- dition of the farm labourers, rebuilding their cottages both in Bedfordshire and Devonshire, and re-letting them at a low rental— a process the familyare now, we believe, engaged in repeating. He died in October, 1839, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Francis, the seventh and late Duke of Bedford, who followed much the same course of life with his father, like him preferring agri- culture and country life to an active part in politics. The Duke, however, was understood to be a man of sound judgment in politics as well as country- pursuits, and he always participated in the counsels of his younger and more distinguished brother, Lord John Russell, whose debts incurred through his acceptance of office he re- peatedly paid—as Lord John stated to a Committee of the Commons appointed to inquire into salaries—and to whom he at last be- queathed an estate sufficient to support a new peerage. For many years the Duke, though without office, was in truth a leading member of the Cabinet—a position very rarely held by any one outside its pale. Under the careful management of the Duke the income of the head of the House of Russell attained to the enormous sum of 300,0001. per annum. The Duke died May 14, 1861, and was 'succeeded by his only son, William, eighth Duke, who has always led a very secluded and peculiar life, and is unmarried. The fame of the Russells has, it need hardly be said, rested for many years on the reputation and position of the uncle of the present Duke, Lord John Russell, the mover of the Reform Bill, and for so long a time the leader of the Whig and Liberal parties. He was created on 30th July, 1861, Earl Rus- sell, of Kingston-Russell, Dorset, and Viscount Amberley, of Gloucestershire. His eldest son shows some promise of maintaining the family character for ability, though as yet unknown as a politician. At Kingston-Russell the Duke has a farm of 800 acres, but this is only part of a grant of the manor, &c , made to Francis, second Earl, out of the lands of Beaulieu Abbey, Hants. The manor is in another family. Bewick, Dorset/shire, has long ceased to be a manor, but the liouse and farm still belong to the Duke of Bedford. Unless it was an early purchase, this seems to connect the family directly with the old Russells of Bewick.
Taken for all in all, no one of the great houses, except, perhaps, the Percies, who have so often saved her from invasion, has deserved better of England than that of Russell. The Founder was a great and successful plunderer of the abbeys, but it is better to plunder monks than to plunder the Saxon people, and the properties of the great peers came almost all from one of those two sources. Since his time one Russell has staked his head for the Protestant faith, a second the estates in successful resistance to a despot, a third has died' on the scaffold for the liberties of Englishmen, a fourth has aided materially in the Revolution which substituted law for the will of the Sovereign, a fifth spent his life in resisting the attempt of the House of Brunswick to rebuild the power of the throne, and gave one of the first examples of just religious government in Ireland, and the sixth organized 'and carried through a bloodless but complete transfer of power from his own order to the middle class, ventured to propose the admission
of the entire people to the control of their own affairs, and was defeated only because England was utterly content with his own previous work. The value of a nobility to a State has been questioned, but if a nobility is valuable, it is in families like the Russells that its worth consists. They overshadow meaner men a little too much, but then if the trees spoil the corn, it is also they which collect the rain.