John Russell, 1st Earl Russell

From Wikiquote
(Redirected from Lord John Russell)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"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."

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 statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century.




  • What a pity that he who steals a penny loaf should be hung, whilst he who steals thousands of the public money should be acquitted!
    • 1806 journal entry on the acquittal of Lord Melville for misappropriation of public funds, as quoted in Stuart J. Reid, Lord John Russell (1895), p.9


  • 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


  • Government will always be conducted for the benefit of those who govern. If the few alone govern, the interests of the few only will be provided for; if the people themselves have a share in the government, the interests of the many will be consulted.
    • Essays and Sketches of Life and Character (1820), p. 136
  • The natural balance of the constitution is this—that the Crown should appoint its ministers, that those ministers should have the confidence of the House of Commons, and that the House of Commons should represent the sense and wishes of the people. Such was the machinery of our government; and if any wheel of it went wrong, it deranged the whole system. Thus, when the Stuarts were on the throne, and their ministers did not enjoy the confidence of the House of Commons, the consequence was tumult, insurrection, and civil war throughout the country. At the present period, the ministers of the Crown possess the confidence of the House of Commons, but the House of Commons does not possess the esteem and reverence of the people. The consequences to the country are equally fatal. We have seen discontent breaking into outrage in various quarters—we have seen every excess of popular frenzy committed and defended—we have seen alarm universally prevailing among the upper classes, and disaffection among the lower—we have seen the ministers of the Crown seek a remedy for these evils in a system of severe coercion—in restrictive laws—in large standing armies—in enormous barracks, and in every other resource that belongs to a government which is not founded on the hearts of its subjects.
  • It is my persuasion, that the liberties of Englishmen, being founded upon the general consent of all, must remain upon that basis, or must altogether cease to have any existence. We cannot confine liberty in this country to one class of men: we cannot erect here a senate of Venice, by which a small part of the community is enabled to lord it over the majority; we cannot in this land, and at this time make liberty the inheritance of a caste. It is the nature of English liberty, that her nightingale notes should never be heard from within the bars and gratings of a cage; to preserve any thing of the grace and the sweetness, they must have something of the wildness of freedom. I speak according to the spirit of our constitution when I say, that the liberty of England abhors the unnatural protection of a standing army; she abjures the countenance of fortresses and barracks; nor can those institutions ever be maintained by force and terror that were founded upon mildness and affection. If we ask the causes, why a system of government, so contrary to the spirit of our laws, so obnoxious to the feelings of our people, so ominous to the future prospects of the country, has been adopted, we shall find the root of the evil to lie in the defective state of our representation. The votes of the House of Commons no longer imply the general assent of the realm; they no longer carry with them the sympathies and understandings of the nation. The ministers of the Crown, after obtaining triumphant majorities in this House, are obliged to have recourse to other means than those of persuasion, reverence for authority, and voluntary respect, to procure the adherence of the country. They are obliged to enforce, by arms, obedience to acts of this House—which, according to every just theory, are supposed to emanate from the people themselves.
    • Speech to the House of Commons on Parliamentary reform, 25 April 1822
  • May you remember, that the liberty which was acquired for you by your ancestors will be required of you by your descendants: then will you agree to a temperate and timely reform, reconcile the different classes of society, and prevent a convulsion which may involve all in one common ruin.
    • Speech to the House of Commons on Parliamentary reform, 25 April 1822
  • Who the devil will coalesce with people that don't coalesce with themselves.


  • [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
  • Allow me to imagine, for a moment, a stranger from some distant country, who should arrive in England to examine our institutions.... He would have made himself acquainted with its fame in history, and above all, he would have been told, that the proudest boast of this celebrated country was its political freedom.... What then would be his surprise, if he were taken by his guide, whom he had asked to conduct him to one of the places of election, to a green mound and told, that this green mound sent two Members to Parliament—or, to be taken to a stone wall, with three niches in it, and told that these three niches sent two Members to Parliament—or, if he were shown a green park, with many signs of flourishing vegetable life, but none of human habitation, and told that this green park sent two Members to Parliament? But his surprise would increase to astonishment if he were carried into the North of England, where he would see large flourishing towns, full of trade and activity, containing vast magazines of wealth and manufactures, and were told that these places had no Representatives in the Assembly which was said to represent the people.
  • Our opponents say, our ancestors gave Old Sarum Representatives, therefore we should give Old Sarum Representatives.—We say, our ancestors gave Old Sarum Representatives, because it was a large town; therefore we give Representatives to Manchester, which is a large town. I think we are acting more as our ancestors would have acted, by letting in Representatives for our great commercial and manufacturing towns, than by excluding such Representatives.
    • Speech to the House of Commons introducing the first reform bill, 1 March 1831
  • Wherever the aristocracy reside, receiving large incomes, performing important duties, relieving the poor by charity, and evincing private worth and public virtue, it is not in human nature that they should not possess a great influence upon public opinion, and have an equal weight in electing persons to serve their country in Parliament. Though such persons may not have the direct nomination of members under this Bill, I contend that they will have as much influence as they ought to have. But if by aristocracy those persons are meant who do not live among the people, who know nothing of the people, and who care nothing for them—who seek honours without merit, places without duty, and pensions without service—for such an aristocracy I have no sympathy; and I think, the sooner its influence is carried away with the corruption on which it has thriven, the better for the country, in which it has repressed so long every wholesome and invigorating influence.
    • Speech to the House of Commons introducing the first reform bill, 1 March 1831
  • Will this House say, "We will keep our power, keep it how we may; we regard not the petitions of the people, and are ready to abide by all the consequences of our refusal"?
    • Speech to the House of Commons introducing the first reform bill, 1 March 1831
  • To establish the Constitution on a firm basis, you must show that you are determined not to be the representatives of a small class, or of a particular interest; but to form a body, who, representing the people, springing from the people, and sympathising with the people, can fairly call on the people to support the future burdens of the country, and to struggle with the future difficulties which it may have to encounter.
    • Speech to the House of Commons introducing the first reform bill, 1 March 1831
  • Our prospects are obscured for a moment, but, I trust, only for a moment; it is impossible that the whisper of a faction should prevail against the voice of a nation.
    • Letter to Thomas 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


"Government will always be conducted for the benefit of those who govern. If the few alone govern, the interests of the few only will be provided for."
  • I confess, that on the general subject my views have in the course of twenty years undergone a great alteration. I used to be of opinion that corn was an exception to the general rules of political economy: but observation and experience have convinced me that we ought to abstain from all interference with the supply of food. Neither a government nor a legislature can ever regulate the corn market with the beneficial effects which the entire freedom of sale and purchase are sure of themselves to produce.
  • Let us, then, unite to put an end to a system which has been proved to be the blight of commerce, the bane of agriculture, the source of bitter divisions among classes, the cause of penury, fever, mortality, and crime among the people. But if this end is to be achieved, it must be gained by the unequivocal expression of the public voice....The Government appear to be waiting for some excuse to give up the present Corn Law. Let the people, by petition, by address, by remonstrance, afford them the excuse they seek.
    • Address to the electors of the City of London in support of Corn Law repeal, 22 November 1845
  • Party has no doubt its evils; but all the evils of party put together would be scarcely a grain in the balance, when compared to the dissolution of honourable friendships, the pursuit of selfish ends, the want of concert in council, the absence of a settled policy in foreign affairs, the corruption of separate statesmen, the caprices of an intriguing Court, which the extinction of party connection has brought and would again bring upon this country.
  • [I]t may be easily imagined that when those who are best off, in the most prosperous years, earn scarcely sufficient, those who had then been on the brink of famine, must have been unable to resist the flood of destitution and wretchedness which has over-whelmed them by the failure of the potato crop. Such has been unfortunately the case in the present year, during the visitation of a calamity which is, perhaps, almost without a parallel, because it acts upon a very large population, a population of nearly 8,000,000—for the Irish have gradually increased to that amount—while the famine is such as has not been known in modern times; indeed, I should say it is like a famine of the thirteenth century acting upon the population of the nineteenth.
  • Sir, it has always been my view that you never could effectually raise education in this country till you raised the condition and prospects of the schoolmaster; that view I have often expressed in this House. Whether I have been in or out of office, I have always thought that the drudgery of teaching without a sufficient reward, and with no prospect of future advantage, was such that men of talents and abilities, even although trained to it, could not but leave such a pursuit in great numbers for other and more profitable occupations; and this is not only my view, but one which I have found confirmed by all who are practically connected with the working of education. I have heard complaints without number that, after the training had been carried to a certain extent, and the schoolmasters established, the best of them, seeing what were the rewards offered in this country to persons of intelligence and well instructed, soon found other occupations far more valuable than that of teaching. This, Sir, I consider to be a great misfortune. No profession, in my opinion, is more important than that of training the youth of the working classes of this country.
    • Speech in the House of Commons on pensions for school teachers, 19 April 1847
  • It is quite true that landlords in England would not bear to be shot like hares or partridges by miscreants banded for murderous purposes. But neither does any landlord in England turn out fifty persons at once, and burn their homes over their heads, giving them no provision for the future. The murders are atrocious, but so are the ejectments. The truth is that a civil war between landlords and tenants [in Ireland] has been raging for 80 years, marked by barbarity on both sides. I am willing to finish the contest.... But if stringent laws are required, they must bear on both sides in the contest.
  • [E]ight millions were advanced to enable the Irish to supply the loss of the potato crop and to cast about for some less precarious food.... The result has been that they have placed more dependence on the potato than ever, and have again been deceived. How can such a people be assisted? No one in their senses would think of repeating the outlay to lead to a similar improvidence.
    • Letter to the Earl of Clarendon, 23 September 1848
  • [T]he great difficulty of this year respecting Ireland is one which does not spring from Trevelyan or C. Wood but lies deep in the breast of the British people. It is this. We have granted, lent, subscribed, worked, visited, clothed the Irish,—millions of money, years of debates etc etc—the only return is calumny and rebellion. Let us not grant, lend, clothe etc etc anymore, and see what that will do. Such is the result which MacHale, J. O'Connell, and Smith O'Brien have brought us. Now without borrowing or lending we could have no great plan for Ireland and, much as I wished it, I have to see that it is impractical.
    • Letter to the Earl of Clarendon, 24 February 1849


  • 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
  • I think it never can be assumed that a country in the position in which this country is can be secure from the danger of war. In the first place, we may have some aggression upon some of our possessions, or even upon our own country. In the next place, it is possible that we may have some dispute with respect to the rights of our subjects, or injury supposed to be inflicted upon them by subjects of other countries. In the third place, we are bound by treaty with respect to several of the countries of Europe to defend them, if attacked.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (16 February 1852)
  • [W]e are connected, and have been for more than a century, with the general system of Europe; and any territorial increase of one Power, any aggrandisement which disturbs the general balance of power in Europe, although it might not immediately lead to war, could not be matter of indifference to this country, and would, no doubt, be the subject of conference, and might ultimately, if that balance were seriously threatened, lead to hostilities. These are reasons, Sir, why we cannot believe ourselves altogether safe from the danger of war.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (16 February 1852)
  • If peace cannot be maintained with honour, it is no longer peace.
    • Greenock, 19 September 1853
  • We have heard much of late—a great deal too much, I think—of the prestige of England. We used to hear of the character, of the reputation, of the honour of England. I trust, Sir, that the character, the reputation, and the honour of this country are dear to us all; but, if the prestige of England is to be separate from those qualities, if it is to be separate from the character, from the reputation, and from the honour of our country, then I, for one, have no wish to maintain it.
    • Speech in the House of Commons condemning British hostilities against China in the Second Opium War, 26 February 1857
  • To those who argue, as I have heard some argue—"It is true we have a bad case; it is true we were in the wrong, it is true we have committed injustice, but we must persevere in that wrong; we must continue to act unjustly, or the Chinese will think that we are afraid," I say, as has been said before, "Be just and fear not." Whatever we lose in prestige, of which I do not presume to be a judge, I am convinced that the character and the honour of this country will be raised higher by such a policy. Never will England stand higher in the world's estimation than when it can be said that, though troublesome and meddlesome officials prostitute her arms and induce a brave Admiral to commence hostilities which never ought to have been begun, yet the House of Commons, representing her people, have indignantly declared that they will be no parties to such injustice; and that neither for commercial advantages, nor for political advantages, nor for any other immediate advantages to their country, will they consent to stain that honour which, after all, has been and must be the sure foundation of her greatness.
    • Speech in the House of Commons condemning British hostilities against China in the Second Opium War, 26 February 1857
  • 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.
    • The life and times of Charles James Fox, Vol. 1 (1859), p. 242


  • Her Majesty's Government can see no sufficient ground for the severe censure with which Austria, France, Prussia, and Russia have visited the acts of the King of Sardinia. Her Majesty's Government will turn their eyes rather to the gratifying prospect of a people building up the edifice of their liberties, and consolidating the work of their independence, amid the sympathies and good wishes of Europe.
  • For my own part, and speaking according to my limited vision, I do not believe those efforts of the Federals will be successful. No man can say that the North will subdue the South; but no man can say that the war is finally over, or that the independence of the Southern States is this state of affairs I should say, that looking to the question of right, it would not be a friendly act towards the United States, it would not be to fulfil our obligations to a country with which we have long maintained relations of peace and amity—a great country which says it can still carry on the war—it would, I say, be a failure of friendship on our part if at this moment we were to interpose and recognise the Southern States.
  • I rejoice heartily at the prospect of the negro vote.
    • Letter to British Ambassador to the United States Sir Frederick Bruce, 17 June 1863, quote in Paul Scherer, Lord John Russell, A Biography (1999), p287
  • President Lincoln was a man who, though not conspicuous before his election, had since displayed a character of so much integrity, so much sincerity and straightforwardness, and at the same time of so much kindness, that if any one could have been able to alleviate the pain and animosities which prevailed during the period of civil war, I believe that President Lincoln was that person. It was remarked of President Lincoln that he always felt disinclined to adopt harsh measures; and I am told that the commanders of his armies often complained that when they had passed a sentence which they thought no more than just the President was always disposed to temper its severity. Such a man this particular epoch required.
    • Speech in the House of Lords after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, 1 May 1865
  • [H]is heart always beat for the honour of England.
  • Mr. Delane is very angry because I did not kiss his hand instead of the Queen's.
    • Comment on his refusal to court the editor of The Times upon his becoming Prime Minister for the second time, quoted in George W. E. Russell, Prime Ministers and Some Others, 1918, p. 24
  • Many years ago the Political Economy Club of London came, as I was told, to a resolution that the emigration of two millions of the population of Ireland would be the best cure for her social evils. Famine and emigration have accomplished a task beyond the reach of legislation or government; and Providence has justly afflicted us by the spectacle of the results of the entire dependence on potato cultivation, and by the old fires of disaffection which had been lighted in the hearts of Irishmen, and are now burning with such fierceness on the banks of the Hudson and the Potomac. The census of 1834 gave the population of Ireland as 7,954,760; that of 1861, as 5,798,957. Thus two millions have been removed by the great famine of 1847-8 and the drain of emigration of the last twenty years.
  • When Lord Grey came into office, and the Whigs, after sixty years of exclusion, began a new scheme of Irish policy, there were two prominent evils in the government of Ireland. The first was the corrupt and intolerant system of administration called Protestant Ascendancy; the second, the Irish Church Establishment. The first of these evils—called by Burke, Non regnum sed magnum latrocinium [not a kingdom but a grand theft]; and by Fox, a miserable monopolising minority—was quite as great a grievance to the people of Ireland as the second. It drove into rebellion such men as Lord Edward Fitzgerald, the Emmets, and Wolfe Tone. By a series of what were called by Irish statesmen 'ripening measures,' the disaffected classes were irritated, goaded, spurred into insurrection; and when they had rebelled, were tortured, massacred, and shot, till the spirit of disloyalty, if not extirpated, was terrified and subdued. Hence a state of government, which was described by Lord Redesdale as one law for the rich and another for the poor, and both equally ill administered.
    • A letter to the Right Hon. Chichester Fortescue, M.P. on the state of Ireland (1868), p. 41
  • The matter to be lamented was, that, by the unwise and narrow policy of the volunteers, the legislative independence of Ireland was confined to Protestants only; that, in the whole course of imperial policy, government by corruption was substituted for government by force; that at the Union the large and wise plans of Mr. Pitt were rejected, and the miserable monopolising minority had complete sway, dominion, and office, with the short interval of 1806, till 1830. To overthrow this vicious scheme of administration was the first duty of a liberal Government.
    • A letter to the Right Hon. Chichester Fortescue, M.P. on the state of Ireland (1868), p. 45


  • The case appears to me to be one between the honour of the Crown of this country and the election of General Grant as President of the United States. For my part, I prefer the honour of Her Majesty—I prefer the honour and reputation of this country—to any prospects of the re-election of General Grant.
  • Belonging to the Whig party, the aim of that party has always been my aim — 'The cause of civil and religious liberty all over the world.' I have endeavoured, in the words of Lord Grey, to promote that cause without endangering the prerogatives of the Crown, the privileges of the two Houses of Parliament, or the rights and liberties of the people. According to my view, the Tory party cared little for the cause of civil and religious liberty, and the Radical party were not solicitous to preserve those parts of the Constitution which did not suit their speculative and theoretical opinions. To hold a middle way, to observe the precept of Dædalus and to avoid the fate of Icarus, is at all times difficult and in certain junctures perilous.
    • Recollections and Suggestions 1813-1873 (1875), p. 213
  • For three hundred years the Protestant Established Church of Ireland has been the most odious and offensive emblem of the corruption and the intolerance of England. To have quietly removed this monopoly so offensive to the Irish nation, the target against which the arrows of Ireland's best archers were always aimed, without any of the rabbling which marked the expulsion of the English liturgy from Scotland, without disorder, without riot, is a great feat in the history of any statesman. No man can complain that he has been wronged, a nation may rejoice that she has been righted.
  • I have seemed cold to my friends, but it was not in my heart.
    • Comment during final illness, as recalled by his nephew George W. E. Russell in Prime Ministers and Some Others, 1918, p. 24


  • If you cannot afford to do justice speedily and well, you may as well shut up the Exchequer and confess that you have no right to raise taxes for the protection of the subject, for justice is the first and primary end of all government.
    • Quoted in George W. E. Russell in Prime Ministers and Some Others, 1918, p. 23
  • What courage! There is not a man on the Tory benches around him but doesn't disapprove of every word he says.

Quotes about Russell

  • His life spanned the change from aristocratic to middle class England, from the England of broad acres to the England of factory chimneys. Russell was the man of the transition, the link between the old order and the new, belonging to the old order by birth, carried over to the new order by his ideas. He was the last great Whig; he became the first Liberal. Russell, more than any other single man created the Victorian compromise; he made the England we know, or knew rather, the England that is vanishing before our eyes.
    • A. J. P. Taylor, 'Lord John Russell', The Listener (20 March 1947), reprinted in Essays in English History (1971), pp. 67-68
  • Russell was a tender-hearted man and was made wretched by the thought of all the suffering of the Irish, but he set his face against any measure of relief which would interfere with the workings of natural economic law.
    • A. J. P. Taylor, 'Lord John Russell', The Listener (20 March 1947), reprinted in Essays in English History (1971), p. 72
  • 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
  • Busied with the tattle of valets and waiting-maids, you accidentally omitted in your Memoirs of the Affairs of Europe all notice of its most vast and most rising empire. This luckless production closed your literary career; you flung down your futile pen in incapable despair; and, your feeble intellect having failed in literature, your strong ambition took refuge in politics.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, 'Letter VII. to Lord John Russell' (30 January 1836), The Letters of Runnymede (1836), p. 56
  • Your aim is to reduce every thing to your own mean level—to degrade every thing to your malignant standard. ... In all your conduct it is not difficult to detect the workings of a mean and long mortified spirit suddenly invested with power,—the struggles of a strong ambition attempting, by a wanton exercise of authority, to revenge the disgrace of a feeble intellect.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, 'Letter VII. to Lord John Russell' (30 January 1836), The Letters of Runnymede (1836), pp. 60-61
  • But, my Lord, how thunderstruck must be our visitor when he is told to recognise a Secretary of State in an infinitely small scarabæus;—yes, my Lord, when he learns, that you are the leader of the English House of Commons, our traveller may begin to comprehend how the Egyptians worshipped—AN INSECT.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, 'Letter VII. to Lord John Russell' (30 January 1836), The Letters of Runnymede (1836), p. 64
  • Lord John Russell has that degree of imagination, which, though evinced rather in sentiment than expression, still enables him to generalise from the details of his reading and experience; and to take those comprehensive views, which, however easily depreciated by ordinary men in an age of routine, are indispensable to a statesman in the conjunctures in which we live. He understands, therefore, his position; and he has the moral intrepidity which prompts him ever to dare that which his intellect assures him is politic. He is consequently, at the same time, sagacious and bold in council. As an administrator he is prompt and indefatigable. He is not a natural orator, and labours under physical deficiencies which even a Demosthenic impulse could scarcely overcome. But he is experienced in debate, quick in reply, fertile in resource, takes large views, and frequently compensates for a dry and hesitating manner by the expression of those noble truths that flash across the fancy, and rise spontaneously to the lip, of men of poetic temperament when addressing popular assemblies. If we add to this, a private life of dignified repute, the accidents of his birth and rank, which never can be severed from the man, the scion of a great historic family, and born, as it were, to the hereditary service of the State, it is difficult to ascertain at what period, or under what circumstances, the Whig party have ever possessed, or could obtain, a more efficient leader.
  • A great reputation built itself up on the basis of splendid public services for thirty years; for almost twenty it has, I fear, been on the decline. The movement of the clock continues, the balance weights are gone.
  • [H]e had for the last few years done nothing, but injure a brilliant reputation.
    • William Ewart Gladstone, comment made to Queen Victoria and recorded in her journal, 3 December 1868
  • He brought into public life, and he carried through it unimpaired, the qualities which ennoble mankind—truth, justice, fortitude, self-denial, a fund of genuine indignation against wrong, and an inexhaustible sympathy with human suffering.
    • William Ewart Gladstone writing in 1890, quoted in Early Correspondence of Lord John Russell 1805-1840, Vol. 1 (1913), edited by Rollo Russell, pp. 109-110
  • The sham power Lord John Russell periodically wielded was not only sustained by the influence exerted by the family of the Duke of Bedford, whose younger son he was, but also by the absence of all the qualities which generally fit a person to rule over others. His Lilliputian views on everything spread to others like a contagion and contributed more to confuse the judgment of his hearers than the most ingenious misrepresentation could have done. His real talent consists in his capacity to reduce everything that he touches to his own dwarfish dimensions, to diminish the external world to an infinitesimal size and to transform it into a vulgar microcosm of his own invention. His instinct to belittle the magnificent is excelled only by the skill with which he can make the petty appear great.
    • Karl Marx in Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 347, July 28, 1855
  • Colonial reforms, educational schemes, the "liberties of the subject", public press and public meetings, enthusiasm for war and yearning for peace—all of them were but false pretences for Lord John Russell. The whole man is one false pretence, his whole life a lie, all his activity a continuous chain of petty intrigues for the achievement of shabby ends—the devouring of public money and the usurpation of the mere semblance of power. No one has ever illustrated more strikingly the truth of the biblical words that no man can add one cubit unto his stature. Placed by birth, connections, and social accidents on a colossal pedestal, he always remained the same homunculus—a dwarf dancing on the tip of a pyramid. History has, perhaps, never exhibited any other man—so great in pettiness.
    • Karl Marx in Neue Oder-Zeitung, No. 377, August 15, 1855
  • As long as the abolition of slavery was not openly announced, as he thought it ought to have been, as one of the main objects of the war on the part of the Federals, he felt no warm sympathy with their cause. But after President Lincoln's proclamation it was quite different, and no man rejoiced with deeper thankfulness than he did at the final triumph of the Northern States, for no man held slavery in more utter abhorrence.
  • Heard poor old Ld Russell was dead, having died last night. He had been ill for the last 3 weeks, & his memory quite gone. He was nearly 86. A man of much talent, who leaves a name behind him, kind, & good, with a great knowledge of the constitution who behaved very well, on many trying occasions; but he was impulsive, very selfish (as shown on many occasions, especially during Ld Aberdeen's administration) vain, & often reckless & imprudent. He was a link with the past, & was one of my first Ministers 41 years ago.
    • Queen Victoria, journal entry on the death of Lord Russell, 29 May 1878
Wikisource has original works by or about: