John Russell, 1st Earl Russell

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John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, KG, GCMG, PC (18 August 179228 May 1878), known as Lord John Russell before 1861, was a British Whig and Liberal politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century.


  • It is very odd that in England, where we execute so many, we do not prevent crimes.
    • A comment Lord John Russell made to Napoleon, December 1814 as quoted in Lady John Russell: A Memoir (1910), edited by Desmond McCarthy and Agatha Russell. p. 54
  • It is impossible that the whisper of a faction should prevail against the voice of a nation.
    • Letter to T. Attwood, October 1831, after the rejection in the House of Lords of the Reform Bill (7 October 1831).
  • I wish I knew what to do to help your country. But, as I do not, it is of no use giving her smooth words, as O’Connell told me, and I must be silent.
    • Letter to Thomas Moore, December 1832, quoted in Spencer Walpole, The Life of Lord John Russell. Vol. 1 (1889), p. 180
  • The grand rule of doing to others as we wish that they should do unto us is more applicable than any system of political science. The honour of England does not consist in defending every English officer or English subject, right or wrong, but in taking care that she does not infringe the rules of justice, and that they are not infringed against her.
    • Letter to Queen Victoria, 29 December 1851 as quoted in Lady John Russell: A Memoir (1910), edited by Desmond McCarthy and Agatha Russell. p. 119
  • If peace cannot be maintained with honour, it is no longer peace.
    • Greenock, 19 September 1853
  • Such has been always the course of our conduct towards Ireland. In 1780, in 1783, and in 1829, that which had been denied to reason was granted to force. Ireland triumphed, not because the justice of her claims was apparent, but because the threat of insurrection overcame prejudice, made fear superior to bigotry, and concession triumphant over persecution.
    • Lord John Russell, The life and times of Charles James Fox, Vol. 1 (1859), p. 242
  • [A proverb is] one man's wit, and all men's wisdom.
    • Variant: [A proverb is] the wisdom of many and the wit of one.
    • Remark to James Mackintosh on October 6, 1830, reported in his posthumous memoir, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Sir James Mackintosh, Vol. 2 (1836), p. 472

Quotes about Russell[edit]

  • Lord John Russell—I believe you may take my word for it—has probably, from association, from tradition, from his own reading and study, and from his own just and honest sympathies, a more friendly feeling towards this question of Parliamentary Reform than any other man of his order as a statesman.
    • John Bright, speech in Birmingham (27 October 1858), quoted in Speeches on Questions of Public Policy by John Bright, M.P., Vol. II, ed. J. E. Thorold Rogers (1869), pp. 14–15
  • Lord Russell had no fear of freedom. He could much more easily be persuaded to give up, and he would much more willingly abandon for ever the name of Russell than he would give up his hereditary love of freedom. The Government, which was led by Earl Russell in one House and by Mr. Gladstone in the other, was founded and acted upon the principle of trust and confidence in the people.
    • John Bright, speech in Birmingham (27 August 1866), quoted in Speeches on Questions of Public Policy by John Bright, M.P., Vol. II, ed. J. E. Thorold Rogers (1869), p. 193
  • My confidence in England rests partly on the honourable character of the statesmen to whose hands the reins of power are committed—on Lord John Russell and on Lord Palmerston. Lord John Russell, I will say it openly, at the risk of being considered more and more an Anglo-maniac, is the most liberal Minister in Europe.
    • Cavour, quoted in Lord Acton, ‘Cavour’, The Rambler (July 1861), quoted in Lord Acton, Historical Essays and Studies, eds. Reginald Vere Laurence and John Neville Figgis (1907), p. 178

External links[edit]

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