Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston

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Lord Palmerston

Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (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.



  • With respect to the present expedition, it is defensible on the ground that the enormous power of France enables her to coerce the weaker state to become the enemy of England...the law of nature is stronger than even the law of nations. It is to the law of self-preservation that England appeals for justification of her proceedings. It is admitted...that if Denmark had evidenced any hostility towards this country, then we should have been justified in measures of retaliation. How then is the case altered, when we find Denmark acting under the coercion of a power notoriously hostile to us? Knowing, as we do, that Denmark is under the influence of France, can there be the shadow of a doubt that the object of our enemy would have been accomplished? Denmark coerced into hostility stands in the same position as Denmark voluntarily hostile, when the law of self-preservation comes into play...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.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 February 1808) on the British bombardment of Copenhagen, quoted in 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.


  • Our military force at this moment is as efficient in discipline as it is in numbers; and this not only in the regular army, but in the militia, volunteers, and other descriptions of force. We have six hundred thousand men in arms, besides a navy of two hundred thousand. The masculine energies of the nation were never more conspicuous, and the country never at any period of its history stood in so proud and glorious a position, as at present. After a conflict for fifteen years, against an enemy whose power had been progressively increasing, we are still able to maintain the war with augmenting force and a population, by the pressure of external circumstances, consolidated into an impregnable military mass. Our physical strength has risen when it has been called for; and if we do not present the opposition of numerous fortresses to an invader as the continent does, we present the more insuperable barrier of a high-spirited, patriotic, and enthusiastic people.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (26 February 1810), quoted in 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. 3-4.
  • Is it wise to say to men of rank and property, who, from old lineage or present possessions have a deep interest in the common weal, that they live indeed in a country where, by the blessings of a free constitution, it is possible for any man, themselves only excepted, by the honest exertions of talents and industry, in the avocations of political life, to make him-self honoured and respected by his countrymen, and to render good service, to the slate; that they alone can never be permitted to enter this career? That they may indeed usefully employ themselves, in the humbler avocations of private life, but that public service they never can perform, public honour they never shall attain? What we have lost by the continuance of this system, it is not for man to know. What we may have lost can more easily be imagined. If it had unfortunately happened that by the circumstances of birth and education, a Nelson, a Wellington, a Burke, a Fox, or a Pitt, had belonged to this class of the community, of what honours and what glory might not the page of British history have been deprived? To what perils and calamities might not this country have been exposed? The question is not whether we would have so large a part of the population Catholic or not. There they are, and we must deal with them as we can. It is in vain to think that by any human pressure, we can stop the spring which gushes from the earth. But it is for us to consider whether we will force it to spend its strength in secret and hidden courses, undermining our fences, and corrupting our soil, or whether we shall, at once, turn the current into the open and spacious channel of honourable and constitutional ambition, converting it into the means of national prosperity and public wealth.
    • Speech in the House of Commons in favour of Catholic Emancipation (1 March 1813).
  • If our armies are not so numerous as those of other nations, they have qualities which render them more valuable. Those raised by voluntary enlistment are more effective than those raised by conscription; and I should think a general would feel much more confidence in an arm raised as our armies are raised, than he could possibly have while leading to battle a band of slaves torn from their homes by force.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (23 June 1813), quoted in 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), p. 11.
  • I will venture to lay it down as a general principle, that there are no better means for securing the continuance of peace, than to have it known that the possessions in the neighbourhood of a foreign state are in a condition to repel attack. I am firmly persuaded that among nations, weakness will never be a foundation for security.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (26 February 1816), quoted in 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. 11-12.
  • I am far from wishing to treat lightly or inconsiderately the evils attendant upon a standing army. The history of those countries where standing armies have been allowed to usurp an ascendancy over the civil authorities, is a volume pregnant with instruction to every one. We may look at France, for instance, and derive a lesson of eternal importance. But when it is said, that in ancient Rome twelve thousand praetorian bands were potent enough to dispose of that empire according to their will and pleasure, it should be remembered that that was the result of a number of pre-disposing causes, which have no existence in England. Before the civil constitution of any country can be overturned by a standing army, the people of that country must be lamentably degenerate; they must be debased and enervated by all the worst excesses of an arbitrary and despotic government; their martial spirit must be extinguished; they must be brought to a state of political degradation, I may almost say of political emasculation, such as few countries experience that have once known the blessings of liberty.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (8 March 1816), quoted in 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), p. 12.
  • It has been said that that which has made England a great and an energetic nation, is the principle heretofore acted upon of maintaining a very low Peace establishment, while the Peace establishments of the continent have been uniformly high. I do not agree in that view of the subject. For my own part, I believe much of our financial embarrassment to have been caused by our former low Peace establishments, and to this circumstance the failure of many of our military operations may be traced.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (25 April 1816), quoted in 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), p. 14.


  • The honourable gentleman has alluded to the distresses and financial embarrassments of the country. I should be the last man to speak of those distresses in a slighting manner; but in considering the amount of our burdens, we ought not to forget under what circumstances those difficulties have been incurred. Engaged in an arduous struggle, single-handed and unaided, not only against all the powers of Europe, but with the confederated forces of the civilized world, our object was not merely military glory—not the temptation of territorial acquisition—not even what might be considered a more justifiable object, the assertion of violated rights and the vindication of national honour; but we were contending for our very existence as an independent nation. When the political horizon was thus clouded, when no human foresight could point out from what quarter relief was to be expected, when the utmost effort of national energy was not to despair, I would put to the honourable gentleman whether, if at that period it could have been shown that Europe might be delivered from its thraldom, but that this contingent must be purchased at the price of a long and patient endurance of our domestic burdens, we should not have accepted the conditions with gratitude? I lament as deeply as the honourable gentleman the burdens of the country; but it should be recollected that they were the price which we bad agreed to pay for our freedom and independence.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (16 May 1820), quoted in 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. 15-16.
  • I reverence, as much as any one can do, the memory of those great men who effected the Revolution of 1688, and who rescued themselves and us from the thraldom of religious intolerance, and the tyranny of arbitrary power; but I think we are not rendering an appropriate homage to them, when we practice that very intolerance which they successfully resisted, and when we withhold from our fellow-subjects the blessings of that Constitution, which they established with so much courage and wisdom...that great religious radical, King William...intended to raise a goodly fabric of charity, of concord, and of peace, and upon which his admirers of the present day are endeavouring to build the dungeon of their Protestant Constitution. If the views and intentions of King William had been such as are now imputed to him, instead of blessing his arrival as an epoch of glory and happiness to England, we should have had reason to curse the hour when first he printed his footstep on our strand. But he came not here a bigoted polemic, with religious tracts in one hand, and civil persecution in the other; he came to regenerate and avenge the prostrate and insulted liberties of England; he came with peace and toleration on his lips, and with civil and religious liberty in his heart.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 March 1829) in favour of Catholic Emancipation, quoted in 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. 84-85.
  • If I wished to convince an impartial Englishman of the policy of abolishing these [anti-Catholic] laws, I should bid him repair to the south of Ireland; to mix with the Catholic gentry; to converse with the Catholic peasantry...to see what a fierce and unsocial spirit bad laws engender, and how impossible it is to degrade a people, without at the same time demoralizing them too. But if this should fail to convince him...I should then tell him to go among the Protestants of the north. There he would see how noble and generous natures may be corrupted by the possession of undue and inordinate ascendancy; there he would see men, naturally kind and benevolent, brought up from their earliest infancy to hate the great majority of their countrymen, with all the bitterness which neighbourhood and consanguinity infuse into quarrels; and not satisfied with the disputes of the days in which they live, raking up the ashes of the dead for food to their angry passions; summoning the shades of departed centuries, to give a keener venom to the contests of the present age.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 March 1829) in favour of Catholic Emancipation, quoted in 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), p. 98.
  • It is impossible for any man, of late, to have set foot beyond the shores of these islands, without observing with deep mortification a great and sudden change in the manner in which England is spoken of abroad; without finding, that instead of being looked up to as the patron, no less than the model, of constitutional freedom, as the refuge from persecution, and the shield against oppression, her name is coupled by every tongue on the continent with everything that is hostile to improvement, and friendly to despotism, from the banks of the Tagus to the shores of the Bosphorus...time was, and that but lately, when England was regarded by Europe as the friend of liberty and civilization, and therefore of happiness and prosperity, in every land; because it was thought that her rulers had the wisdom to discover,that the selfish interests and political influence of England were best promoted by the extension of liberty and civilization. Now, on the contrary, the prevailing opinion is, that England thinks her advantage to le in withholding from other countries that constitutional liberty which she herself enjoys.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 June 1829) against the Duke of Wellington's foreign policy, quoted in 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. 128-129.


  • When Bonaparte was to be dethroned, the Sovereigns of Europe called up their people to their aid; they invoked them in the sacred names of Freedom and National Independence; the cry went forth throughout Europe: and those, whom Subsidies had no power to buy, and Conscriptions no force to compel, roused by the magic sound of Constitutional Rights, started spontaneously into arms. The long-suffering Nations of Europe rose up as one man, and by an effort tremendous and wide spreading, like a great convulsion of nature, they hurled the conqueror from his throne. But promises made in days of distress, were forgotten in the hour of triumph...The rulers of mankind...had set free a gigantic spirit from its iron prison, but when that spirit had done their bidding, they shrunk back with alarm, from the vastness of that power, which they themselves had set into action, and modestly requested, it would go down again into its former dungeon. Hence, that gloomy discontent, that restless disquiet, that murmuring sullenness, which pervaded Europe after the overthrow of Bonaparte; and which were so unlike that joyful gladness, which might have been looked for, among men, who had just been released from the galling yoke of a foreign and a military tyrant. In 1820 the long brooding fire burst out into open flame; in Germany it was still kept down and smothered, but in Italy, in Spain, and in Portugal, it overpowered every resistance.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 March 1830).
  • Proneness to changes and fondness for experiment have never been the character of the English nation. They have, on the contrary, been remarkable for tenacious adherence to existing institutions, and for stubborn resistance even to plausible innovations. Striking, indeed, is the contrast which, in this respect, they exhibit with their next door neighbours of the continent; for while France boasts of the newness and freshness of her institutions, the people of England place their pride and attachment in the antiquity of theirs. So hard, indeed, is it to bring this nation to consent to great and important changes, that some of those measures which impartial posterity will stamp with the mint-mark of purest wisdom, and most unalloyed good, have only been wrung from the reluctant consent of England, after long and toilsome years of protracted discussion; and even such acts as the re-admission of the Catholics of the pale of the constitution, and he prohibition of the traffic in the flesh and blood of man, were each of them the achievement of a hard-fought contest of many years.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 March 1831), quoted in 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. 159-160.
  • The landed interest is the great foundation upon which rest the fabric of society, and the institutions of the country. I mean no disparagement to manufactures and commerce; I know how essential they are to the happiness and prosperity of the country, and how much they add even to the value of the land. But the land of the country is the country itself, and the owner of the land has the deepest and most permanent interest in its well-being; tied down to the soil, he must share the fortunes of his country, whether in its greatness or its fall.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (3 March 1831), quoted in 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. 172-173.
  • I see those pretended politicians who place all their subtlety, and who think they serve their country best, in circumventing those with whom they treat, interpreting the conditions of a treaty in such a manner, that all the advantage results to their own country. Far from blushing at conduct so contrary to equity, to right, and to national honesty, they boast of their dexterity, and pretend that they deserve the name of great negociators. How long shall public men boast of conduct which would disgrace a private individual? ...Shall powerful states abandon openly that which is honest, for that which may appear useful? It often happens for the happiness of the human race, that this pretended utility is fatal to the powers who follow it, and that, even among sovereigns, candour and right are found to be the safest policy.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (16 July 1832), quoted in 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), p. 206.
  • I will not talk of non-intervention, for it is not an English word.
    • When an MP sought to correct Palmerston when he said "non-interference" instead of "non-intervention" in the House of Commons (2 August 1832)
Lord Palmerston
  • I cannot help regretting that honourable gentlemen on the other side of this House should, in all the views which they announce on questions of foreign policy, seem always, by some fatality, to sympathize with arbitrary and despotic government. I cannot help regretting that they should view with averted and disdainful eye the efforts of every country which is endeavouring to establish freedom, and that they should condemn those so pointedly, who, by good offices or friendly co-operation, engage in the attempt to assist such nations in forming free establishments
    • Speech in the House of Commons (10 March 1837), quoted in 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), p. 331.
  • In the outset, I must deny the charge made personally against myself, and against the Government to which I belong, of an identification with the interests of other nations...I am satisfied that the interest of England is the Polar star—the guiding principle of the conduct of the Government; and I defy any man to show, by any act of mine, that any other principle has directed my conduct, or that I have had any other object in view than the interests of the country to which I belong.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (19 March 1839), quoted in 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), p. 407.
  • Half the wrong conclusions at which mankind arrive are reached by the abuse of metaphors, or by mistaking general resemblance or imaginary similarity for real identity. Thus, people compare an ancient monarchy with an old building, an old tree, or an old man, and because the building, tree, or man must, from the nature of things, crumble, or decay, or die, they imagine that the same thing holds good with a community, and that the same laws which govern inanimate matter, or vegetable or animal life, govern also nations and states.
    • Letter to H. L. Bulwer (1 Sept. 1839), quoted in Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer's Life of Palmerston (Philadelphia: J. B. Lipppincott, 1871), vol. 2, pp. 261-62. (Palmerston was criticizing descriptions of the Ottoman Empire as "decaying," etc.)


  • Ministers, in fact, appear to shape their policy not with reference to the great interests of their own country, but from a consideration of the effect which their course may produce upon the position of Foreign Governments. It may very well be a desirable object, and one worthy of consideration, that a particular individual should continue in the administration of affairs in another country, but it is too much that from regard to that object, the interests of this country should be sacrificed, and that every demand of Foreign Powers should be acceded to...It seems to me that the system of purchasing temporary security by lasting sacrifices, and of placing the interests of Foreign Ministries above those of this country, is one that never can be worked out with advantage either to the honour of this country, or to that of the Administration which pursues such a course. Since the accession to office of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, no one can have failed to observe, that there has been a great diminution of British influence and consideration in every foreign country. Influence abroad is to be maintained only by the operation of one or other of two principles—hope and fear. We ought to teach the weaker Powers to hope that they will receive the support of this country in their time of danger. Powerful countries should be taught to fear that they will be resisted by England in any unjust acts either towards ourselves or towards those who are bound in ties of amity with us.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (7 August 1844).
  • I hold with respect to alliances, that England is a Power sufficiently strong, sufficiently powerful, to steer her own course, and not to tie herself as an unnecessary appendage to the policy of any other Government. I hold that the real policy of England—apart from questions which involve her own particular interests, political or commercial—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 wherever she thinks that wrong has been done...I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow... And if I might be allowed to express in one sentence the principle which I think ought to guide an English Minister, I would adopt the expression of Canning, and say that with every British Minister the interests of England ought to be the shibboleth of his policy.
    • Speech to the House of Commons (1 March 1848).


  • I therefore fearlessly challenge the verdict which this House, as representing a political, a commercial, a constitutional country, is to give on the question now brought before it; whether the principles on which the foreign policy of Her Majesty's government has been conducted, and the sense of duty which has led us to think ourselves bound to afford protection to our fellow subjects abroad, are proper and fitting guides for those who are charged with the government of England; and whether, as the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity when he could say Civis Romanus sum; so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (25 June 1850).
  • It is only from England, and from the exertions of England, that any hope can be entertained of the extinction of the slave trade, and of the ultimate abolition of slavery throughout the world; because it is England alone that feels any deep and sincere interest in the matter. England now holds a proud position among the nations of the earth, and exercises a great influence upon the destinies of mankind. That influence is owing,in the first place, to our great wealth, to our unbounded resources, to our military and naval strength. But it is owing still more, if possible, to the moral dignity which marks the character and conduct of the British people...Those who desire to see the principles of liberty thrive and extend through the world, should cherish, with an almost religious veneration, the prosperity and greatness of England. So long as England shall ride preeminent on the ocean of human affairs, there can be none whose fortunes shall be so shipwrecked—there can be none whose condition shall be so desperate and forlorn—that they may not cast a look of hope towards the light that beams from hence; and though they may be beyond the reach of our power, our moral support and our sympathy shall cheer them in their adversity, and shall assist them to bear up, and to hold out, waiting for a better day.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 May 1851), quoted in 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. 429-430.
  • The Beer Shops licensed to have the Beer drunk on the Premises, are a Pest to the Community. They are Haunts of Thieves and Schools for Prostitutes. they demoralize the lower Classes. I wish you would turn your mind to consider Whether this Evil could not be abated. That Beer should be sold like anything Else, to be taken away by the Purchaser to be consumed at Home is most reasonable and the more People are enabled so to supply the labouring Classes the better, but the words “licensed to be drunk on the Premises” are by the common People interpreted as applicable to the Customers as well as to the Liquor, and well do they avail themselves of the License.
    • Letter to William Ewart Gladstone (20 October 1853), quoted in Philip Guedalla (ed.), Gladstone and Palmerston, being the Correspondence of Lord Palmerston with Mr. Gladstone 1851-1865 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1928), pp. 95-96.
  • The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) asks, "What is our interest in this war?" and he also asked me to explain the meaning of the expression "the balance of power." Now, the hon. Member for Manchester and I differ so much upon almost every question involving great principles that I am afraid I shall be unable to gratify him by complying with his request to explain the meaning of the expression "the balance of power." I think, however, that a man of his unquestioned ability, of his extensive knowledge, who has arrived at the age which he has attained, and who has not by his intuitive perception acquired a knowledge of the meaning of the words "balance of power," is not likely to be greatly enlightened by any humble effort of mine. Why, Sir. call it what you like—"balance of power," or any other expression—it is one which has been familiar to the minds of all mankind from the earliest ages in all parts of the globe. "Balance of power" means only this—that a number of weaker States may unite to prevent a stronger one from acquiring a power which should be dangerous to them, and which should overthrow their independence, their liberty, and their freedom of action. It is the doctrine of self-preservation. It is the doctrine of self-defence, with the simple qualification that it is combined with sagacity and with forethought, and an endeavour to prevent imminent danger before it comes thundering at your doors. Now, Sir, I know that the hon. Member for Manchester is so attached to his principles—very properly and very sincerely so—that he thinks that peace is, of all things, the best, and that war is, of all things, the worst. Now, Sir, I happen to be of opinion that there are things for which peace may be advantageously sacrificed, and that there are calamities which a nation may endure which are far worse than war. This has been the opinion of men in all ages whose conduct has been admired by their contemporaries, and has obtained for them the approbation of posterity. The hon. Member, however, reduces everything to the question of pounds, shillings, and pence, and I verily believe that if this country were threatened with an immediate invasion likely to end in its conquest, the hon. Member would sit down, take a piece of paper, and would put on one side of the account the contributions which his Government would require from him for the defence of the liberty and independence of the country, and be would put on the other the probable contributions which the general of the invading army might levy upon Manchester, and if he found that, on balancing the account, it would be cheaper to be conquered than to be laid under contribution for defence, he would give his vote against going to war for the liberties and independence of the country, rather than bear his share in the expenditure which it would entail.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on the debate on war with Russia (31 March 1854).
  • Young Ireland, the Catholic Party and its newspaper organs in Dublin are trying to do all the mischief they can. They are praising the mutineers, and calling upon the Irish to follow their example. I think it will be advisable to call out and embody five thousand more Militia, making twenty thousand in all, and it would be best to bring over to England all the Irish regiments belonging to the Catholic counties, and to send English regiments to Ireland. Some of the Northern Irish regiments would be well left in Ireland. They are chiefly Protestants, and would be delighted to put down the Croppys if they should rise.
    • Letter to Lord Panmure (28 September 1857), quoted in Sir George Douglas and Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay (eds.), The Panmure Papers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908), p. 436.
  • Carlisle is right in saying that there is no serious danger to be apprehended from Ireland, but what I want to prevent is any, even the slightest, outbreak, and this is only to be done by showing that we have in Ireland a sufficient Saxon force to make any movement on the part of the Celts perfectly hopeless, and sure to bring immediate destruction on those who take part in it. Any outbreak of any kind in Ireland would be magnified by our enemies and rivals, and would greatly weaken our political position in Europe.
    • Letter to Lord Panmure (11 October 1857), quoted in Sir George Douglas and Sir George Dalhousie Ramsay (eds.), The Panmure Papers (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908), pp. 446-447.
  • My dear John Russell, Till lately I had strong confidence in the fair intentions of Napoleon towards England, but of late I have begun to feel great distrust and to suspect that his formerly declared intention of avenging Waterloo has only lain dormant and has not died away. He seems to have thought that he ought to lay his foundation by beating with our aid or with our concurrence, or our neutrality first Russia and then Austria: and by dealing with them generously to make them his friends and in any subsequent quarrel with us.
    • Letter to Lord John Russell (4 November 1859), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 534.
  • Our interests require that Egypt should remain what it is, an integral part of the Turkish empire. We do not want it or wish it for ourselves, any more than any rational man with an estate in the North of England and a residence in the South would have wished to possess the inns on the North Road.
    • Letter to Lord Cowley (25 November 1859), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 542.
  • It is quite clear that if by sudden attack by an Enemy landed in strength our Dock-yards were to be destroyed our Maritime Power would for more than half a century be paralysed, and our Colonies, our commerce, and the Subsistence of a large Part of our Population would be at the Mercy of our Enemy, who would be sure to shew us no Mercy—we should be reduced to the Rank of a third Rate Power if no worse happened to us. That such a Landing is in the present State of Things possible must be manifest. No Naval Force of ours can effectually prevent it. Blockades of a hostile Port are no longer possible as of yore. The blockading squadron must be under sail because there would be no means of supplying it with Coal enough to be always steaming, while the out-rushing Fleet would come steaming on with great advantage and might choose its moment when an on shore wind had compelled the Blockaders to haul off. One night is enough for the Passage to our Coast, and Twenty Thousand men might be landed at any Point before our Fleet knew that the Enemy was out of Harbour. There could be no security against the simultaneous Landing of 20,000 for Portsmouth 20,000 for Plymouth and 20,000 for Ireland our Troops would necessarily be scattered about the United Kingdom, and with Portsmouth and Plymouth as they now are those Two dock yards and all they contain would be entered and burnt before Twenty Thousand Men could be brought together to defend either of them...Now the use of Fortifications is to establish for a certain number of Days 21 to 30 an Equation between a smaller inside and a larger force outside, and thus to give time for a relieving Force to arrive. This in our Case would just make the difference between safety and Destruction. But if these defensive works are necessary, it is manifest that they ought to be made with the least possible delay; to spread their Completion over 20 or 30 years would be Folly unless we could come to an agreement with a chivalrous Antagonist, not to molest us till we could inform him we were quite ready to repel his attack—we are told that these works might, if money were forthcoming be finished possibly in three at latest in four years. Long enough this to be kept in a State of imperfect Defence.
    • Letter to Gladstone (15 December 1859), quoted in Philip Guedalla (ed.), Gladstone and Palmerston, being the Correspondence of Lord Palmerston with Mr. Gladstone 1851-1865 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1928), pp. 115-117.


  • I must make a protest against the sort of exaggerations in which the noble Lord has indulged. He has described the railway launching 2,000 or 3,000 ruffians upon some quiet neighbourhood in a manner that might lead one to imagine the train conveyed a set of banditti to plunder, rack, and ravage the country, murder the people, burn the houses, and commit every sort of atrocity...they may conceive it to be a very harmless pursuit...Some people look upon it as an exhibition of manly courage, characteristic of the people of this country. I saw the other day a long extract from a French newspaper describing this fight as a type of the national character for endurance, patience under suffering of indomitable perseverance, in determined effort, and holding it up as a specimen of the manly and admirable qualities of the British race...I do not perceive why any number of persons, say 1,000 if you please, who assemble to witness a prize fight, are in their own persons more guilty of a breach of the peace than an equal number of persons who assemble to witness a balloon ascent. There they stand; there is no breach of the peace; they go to see a sight, and when that sight is over they return, and no injury is done to any one. They only stand or sit on the grass to witness the performance, and as to the danger to those who perform themselves, I imagine the danger to life in the case of those who go up in balloons is certainly greater than that of two combatants who merely hit each other as hard as they can, but inflict no permanent injury upon each other.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (15 May 1860) on the illegal prize-fight between Tom Sayers and J. C. Heenan. The Radical MP Colonel Dickson replied that although "He sat on a different side of the House from the noble Lord, and did not often find himself in the same lobby with him on a division; but he would say for the noble Viscount, that if he had one attribute more than another which endeared him to his countrymen it was his thoroughly English character and his love for every manly sport". Palmerston was rumoured to have attended the fight and he contributed the first guinea to the collection for Sayers in the House of Commons.
  • To fortify London by works is impossible—London must be defended by an army in the Field, and by one or more Battles,—one I trust would be sufficient; but for this Purpose we must be able to concentrate in the Field the largest possible Military Force. in order to do so we must have the means of defending our Naval arsenals with the smallest possible Military Force, and this can be accomplished only by Fortifications which enable a small Force to resist a larger one. thence it is demonstrable that to fortify our Dockyards is to assist the Defence of London. As to Time we have no time to lose. I deeply regret that various circumstances have so long delayed proposing the Measure to Parliament, but it would be a Breach of our public Duty to put it off to another year. There may be some Persons in the House of Commons with peculiar notions on things in General and with very imperfect notions as to our National Interest who will object to the proposed Measures, but I cannot bring myself to believe that the Majority of the present House of Commons, or the House of Commons that would be elected on an appeal on this Question to the People of the Country would refuse to sanction Measures so indispensably necessary.
    • Letter to Gladstone (16 July 1860), quoted in Philip Guedalla (ed.), Gladstone and Palmerston, being the Correspondence of Lord Palmerston with Mr. Gladstone 1851-1865 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1928), pp. 142-143.
  • I am heartily glad that Elgin and Grant determined to burn down the Summer Palace and that "the blackness of ashes shall mark where it stood"… It was absolutely necessary to stamp by some such permanent record our indignation at the treachery and brutality of these Tartars, for Chinese they are not.
    • Letter to Sidney Herbert (20 December 1860), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), pp. 538-539.
  • I have watched the French Emperor narrowly, and have studied his character and conduct. You may rely upon it that, at the bottom of his heart, there rankles a deep and inextinguishable desire to humble and punish England, and to avenge, if he can, the many humiliations — political, naval and military — which, since the beginning of this century, England has by herself and her allies inflicted upon France. He has sufficiently organised his military means; he is now stealthily but steadily organising his naval means; and when all is ready, the overture will be played, the curtain will draw up, and we shall have a very disagreeable melodrama.
    • Letter to the Duke of Somerset (23 June 1861), quoted in Lord Dalling, Life of Palmerston: Volume II, p. 391.
  • It is in the highest degree likely that the North will not be able to subdue the south, and it is no doubt certain that if the Southern union is established as an independent state it would afford a valuable and extensive market for British manufactures but the operations of the war have as yet been too indecisive to warrant an acknowledgement of the southern union.
    • Letter to Sir Austen Henry Layard (20 October 1861), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 552.
  • 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.
    • Letter to Queen Victoria (5 December 1861), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 554.
  • 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.
    • Letter to John Russell (6 December 1861), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 554.
  • It would be very delightful if your Utopia could be realized and if the nations of the earth would think of nothing but peace and commerce, and would give up quarrelling and fighting altogether. But unfortunately man is a fighting and quarrelling animal; and that this is human nature is proved by the fact that republics, where the masses govern are far more quarrelsome, and more addicted to fighting, than monarchies, which are governed by comparatively few persons.
    • Letter to Richard Cobden (8 January 1862), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 590.
  • There is no doubt that all nations are aggressive; it is the nature of man. There start up from time to time between countries antagonistic passions and questions of conflicting interest, which, if not properly dealt with, would terminate in the explosion of war. Now, if one country is led to think that another country, with which such questions might arise, is from fear disposed on every occasion tamely to submit to any amount of indignity, that is an encouragement to hostile conduct and to extreme proceedings which lead to conflict. It may be depended on that there is no better security for peace between nations than the conviction that each must respect the other, that each is capable of defending itself, and that no insult or injury committed by the one against the other would pass unresented.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (17 February 1862).
  • As to the American [Civil] War it 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.
Lord Palmerston
  • The King of Prussia seems to have made his models of action Charles the first of England and Charles the Tenth of France and Bismarck is an humble Imitator of the Ministers of those Two unfortunate Sovereigns. I hope the King's fate will not be like theirs. The King...is quite wrong in attempting unconstitutionally to force his opinions upon his Parliament. He ought to give way and he will be compelled to give way.
    • Letter to King Leopold I of Belgium (15 November 1863), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 569.
  • Nothing is so difficult to change as the traditional habits of a free people in regard to such things. Such changes may be easily made in despotic countries like Russia, or in countries where notwithstanding theoretical freedom the government and the police are all powerful as in France... Can you expect that the people of the United Kingdom will cast aside all the names of space and weight and capacity which they learnt from their infancy and all of a sudden adopt an unmeaning jargon of barbarous words representing ideas and things new to their minds. It seems to me to be a dream of pedantic theorists... I see no use however in attempting to Frenchify the English nation, and you may be quite sure that the English nation will not consent to be Frenchified. There are many conceited men who think that they have given an unanswerable argument in favour of any measure they may propose by merely saying that it has been adopted by the French. I own that I am not of that school, and I think the French have much to gain by imitating us than we have to gain by imitating them. The fact is there are a certain set of very vain men like Ewart and Cobden who not finding in things as they are here, the prominence of position to which they aspire, think that they gain a step by oversetting any of our arrangements great or small and by holding up some foreign country as an object of imitation.
    • Letter to Thomas Milner Gibson (5 May 1864), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 507.
  • I have read your speech and I must frankly say, with much regret as there is little in it that I can agree with, and much from which I differ. You lay down broadly the Doctrine of Universal Suffrage which I can never accept. I intirely deny that every sane and not disqualified man has a moral right to a vote—I use that Expression instead of “the Pale of the Constitution”, because I hold that all who enjoy the Security and civil Rights which the Constitution provides are within its Pale—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. If every Man has a Right to have his Share in chusing those who make Laws, why should he not have a right to express his own opinion on Laws to be made. You did not pronounce an opinion in Favor of a specified Franchise, but is there any essential Difference between naming a Six Pound Franchise, and naming the additional numbers which a Six Pound Franchise was calculated to admit. I am not going to perform the Duty which Whiteside...ingly assigned to me, of answering your Speech but if you will not take it amiss, I would say, that it was more like the Sort of Speech with which Bright would have introduced the Reform Bill which he would like to propose than the Sort of Speech which might have been expected from the Treasury bench in the present State of Things. Your Speech may win Lancashire for you, though that is doubtful but I fear it will tend to lose England for you. It is to be regretted that you should, as you stated, have taken the opportunity of your receiving a Deputation of working men, to exhort them to set on Foot an Agitation for Parliamentary Reform—The Function of a Government is to calm rather than to excite Agitation.
    • Letter to William Ewart Gladstone (12 May 1864), quoted in Philip Guedalla (ed.), Gladstone and Palmerston, being the Correspondence of Lord Palmerston with Mr. Gladstone 1851-1865 (London: Victor Gollancz, 1928), pp. 281-282.
  • Mr. Gladstone's Doctrine which the Observer praised that every sane man has a moral Right to vote goes straight to universal suffrage which not even the most vehement Reformer has hitherto advocated. Moreover if every sane Man has that Right why does it not also belong to every sane woman Who is equally affected by Legislation and Taxation. The Truth is that a vote is not a Right but a Trust. All the Nation cannot by Possibility be brought together to vote and therefore a Selected few are appointed by Law to perform this Function for the Rest and the Publicity attached to the Performance of this Trust is a Security that it will be responsibly performed.
    • Letter to Charles Barrington (15 May 1864), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 565.
  • 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.
    • Speech at Tiverton (23 August 1864), quoted in ‘Lord Palmerston At Tiverton’, The Times (24 August 1864), p. 9.
  • As to the notion that the Brazilian nation see the criminality of slave trade and have for ever abjured it such a notion is too childish for a grown man really to entertain, however it may suit the Brazilians to endeavour to make it accepted. The plain truth is that the Portuguese are of all European nations the lowest in the moral state and the Brazilians are degenerate Portuguese, demoralized by slavery and slave trade, and all the degrading and corrupting influences connected with both... I have laboured indefatigably all the time I was at the Foreign Office to put an end to the slave trade, and though not with entire at all events with some considerable success and nothing shall induce me to load my conscience with the guilt of having been a party to promoting its revival. I am afraid Bright has been at you upon these Brazilian matters. He has always professed great horror of slave trade and has invariably opposed the employment of any and every means by which it could be made to cease.
    • Letter to John Russell (5 October 1864), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 544.
  • Mackieson gave me the other day a buffalo hide whip from Africa called in those regions a Peace Maker and used as such in the households of chieftains. Our Peace Makers are our Armstrongs and Whitworths and our engineers.
    • Letter to Austen Henry Layard (23 October 1864), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 590.
  • I beg to propose to you that toast which is the first to which honour is done in every society of Englishmen, I mean "the Health of Her Majesty the Queen" — a toast which embodies the expression of that which is the deepest and warmest feeling of every Englishman... It could not be expected that man would pursue with diligence and success the pursuits of industry if he were not assured that he would reap in security the fruits which that industry might produce, and I am happy to say that our Army, our Navy, our Militia, and our Volunteers do afford to the people of these realms that security which human arrangements can provide for them. We are happily now at peace with all foreign Powers; but the continuance of that peace is not likely to be less certain when it is known to all foreign nations that the Army, the Navy, the Militia, and the Volunteers of England are in a state of perfect efficiency, and ready if called upon to defend the interests and to maintain the honour and dignity of their country against all who might think fit to assail them.
    • Speech to the Agricultural Association at Romsey, quoted in "Lord Palmerston At Romsey," The Times (16 December 1864), p. 12.
  • As to tenant-right, I may be allowed to say that I think it is equivalent to landlords' wrong.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (27 February 1865). The origin of the famous epigram, "Tenant right is landlord wrong."
  • Gladstone will soon have it all his own way; and, whenever he gets my place, we shall have strange doings...He is a dangerous man, keep him in Oxford, and he is partially muzzled; but send him elsewhere, and he will run wild.
    • Remarks to Lord Shaftesbury at the dissolution of Parliament (July 1865), quoted in Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G. Volume III (London: Cassell, 1886), pp. 187-188. Gladstone said in a speech (18 July) in Manchester after he had been elected for South Lancashire: "At last, my friends, I am come amongst you. And I am come - to use an expression which has of late become very famous, and which, if I judge the matter rightly, is not likely soon to be forgotten - I am come among you "unmuzzled."
  • Lord Palmerston: Then you did not vote for me, friend Rowcliffe; you preferred voting for a Tory.
    William Rowcliffe: I did not vote for you, my Lord, for if I had, I should have voted for a Tory.
    • During the general election of July 1865 where the Chartist Rowcliffe voted for a Conservative and another Liberal in order to oust Palmerston from the two-member constituency; quoted in F. J. Snell, Palmerston's Borough (Tiverton, 1894), pp. 107-112.
  • Russia will in due time become a power almost as great as the old Roman Empire. She can become mistress of all Asia, except British India, whenever she chooses to take it; and when enlightened arrangements shall have made her revenue proportioned to her territory, and railways shall have abridged distances her command of men will become enormous, her pecuniary means gigantic, and her power of transporting armies over great distances most formidable. Germany ought to be strong in order to resist Russian aggression, and a strong Prussia is essential to German strength.
    • Letter to Lord John Russell (13 September 1865), quoted in E. Ashley (ed.), The Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston 1846-1865 (London, 1876), pp. 270-1
  • 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 from impossible that the American conspirators may try and obtain in our North American provinces compensation for their defeat in Ireland.
    • Letter to Lord de Grey (27 September 1865), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 581.
  • "Only three people," said Palmerston, "have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it."
    • Strachey, Lytton. Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901. New York Harcourt, Brace And Company, 1921 via Project Gutenberg
  • That's Article 98; now go on to the next.
    • His last words, quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (London: Constable, 1970), p. 583.


  • Die, my dear doctor! That's the last thing I shall do!
    • Apocryphal account of Palmerston's last words - Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men, 6th ed., comp. by Samuel Arthur Bent. Boston: Ticknor and Co., 1887; [Date of Printout]. via Bartleby.com

About Palmerston[edit]

  • Warmed by the instincts of a knightly heart, That roused at once if insult touched the realm, He spurned each Statecraft, each deceiving art, And met his foes, no vizor to his helm. This proved his worth; hereafter be our boast: Who hated Britons hated him the most.
  • Even if England still continues to increase in civilization and opulence, she may yet, as other stronger states also rapidly augment, perhaps not long retain her present commanding position in the world; and it may be that in future ages the name of Palmerston will be synonymous with her greatest glory. From one generation of Englishman to another, the saying will be handed down: We are all proud of him.
    • Palmerston's obituary in the Cologne Gazette, 20 October 1865, as translated in the next day's Times
  • Then you know what to avoid. Do the exact opposite of what he did. His administration at the Foreign Office was one long crime.
    • John Bright to Lord Rosebery in 1886, after asking him whether he had read about Palmerston's policies at the Foreign Office. (The Fifth Earl of Rosbery's journal, 17 March 1886)
  • 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."
    • William Ewart Gladstone recounting the conversation to Lord Rendel in 1889, from F. E. Hamer (ed.) The Personal Papers of Lord Rendel (London: Ernest Benn Ltd, 1931), p. 60
  • He loved his country and his country loved him. He lived for her honour, and she will cherish his memory.
  • I would walk twenty miles to see him [Palmerston] hanged especially if Thiers were to be strung up with him.
    • John Stuart Mill Complete works, University of Toronto Press, Earlier Letters, Vol XIII, p459-460, 30 December 1840.

See also[edit]

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