Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston

British statesman and prime minister (1784–1865)

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", 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.

Lord Palmerston in 1855




"...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."
  • 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 defending the British bombardment of Copenhagen (3 February 1808), 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 (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 (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 state; 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 army 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 (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 (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 (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 (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 had 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 (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 in favour of Catholic Emancipation (18 March 1829), 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 (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 in favour of Catholic Emancipation (18 March 1829), 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 (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 lie in withholding from other countries that constitutional liberty which she herself enjoys.
    • Speech in the House of Commons against the Duke of Wellington's foreign policy (18 June 1829), 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 (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)
  • We shall drink the cause of Liberalism all over the world. The reign of Metternich is over and the days of the Duke's policy might be measured by algebra, if not by arithmetic.
    • Letter to Henry Sulivan in response to the French Revolution of 1830 (1 August 1830), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (1970), p. 103
  • [The French government's] assurances of friendship and peace are indeed incessant and uniform, but they continue actively preparing for war when nobody threatens them, and while every day discloses more and more their designs upon Belgium, and the underhand proceedings which they are carrying on with reference to that country. They every day betray an unceasing disposition to pick a quarrel, and to treat us in a manner to which we can never submit. Pray take care, in all your conversation with Sebastiani, to make him understand that our desire for peace will never lead us to submit to affront either in language or in act.
    • Letter to Viscount Granville (15 February 1831), quoted in Henry Lytton Bulwer, The Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, with Selections from His Diaries and Correspondence, Volume II (1870), p. 41
  • 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 the 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 (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 (1852), pp. 172-173
  • I never can admit that it can be wise to give way to the unjust pretensions of France for the purpose of gaining for the French government...the support of the violent party, or even of the moderate encroachers. Depend upon it, no good is gained by such concessions; you only whet the appetite instead of satisfying it. We should betray our own weakness and encourage fresh demands.
    • Letter to Viscount Granville (2 April 1831), quoted in Henry Lytton Bulwer, The Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, with Selections from His Diaries and Correspondence, Volume II (1870), pp. 74-75
  • Governments are not at liberty to act solely from motives of generous sympathy for the sufferings of an oppressed people, they are bound by the severer rules of general principles, to respect rights which are inherent in other nations.
    • Letter to Viscount Granville on the Portuguese Civil War (10 August 1831), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (1970), p. 166
  • 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 (1852), p. 206
  • Constitutional States I consider to be the natural Allies of this country and whoever may be in office conducting the affairs of Great Britain, I am persuaded that no English Ministry will perform its duty if it be inattentive to the interests of such States.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (2 August 1832)
  • I will not talk of non-intervention, for it is not an English word.
    • Answer to an MP who sought to correct Palmerston when he said "non-interference" instead of "non-intervention" in the House of Commons (2 August 1832)
  • The interests of civilization, the interests of commerce, and the interests of political independence, were all the interests of England, and all had been signally promoted by the emancipation of Greece.
  • Any insult offered to His Majesty's flag, however small the vessel which bears it, would be resented and avenged by all the means which Great Britain can command, [and] any hindrance opposed to the execution of these orders will be considered as an act of hostility.
    • Letter to Lord William Russell, who was on a special mission in Portugal (15 September 1832), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (1970), p. 170
  • 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 (1852), p. 331
  • Now the English nation is able to make war, but it will only do so where its own interests are concerned. We are a simple and practical nation, a commercial nation; we do not go in for chivalrous enterprises or fight for others as the French do.
    • Remarks to Adam Jerzy Czartoryski (10 March 1839), quoted in Memoirs of Prince Adam Czartoryski and His Correspondence with Alexander I, Vol. II, ed. Adam Gielgud (1888), p. 340
  • 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 (1852), p. 407
  • [T]he object they [the Five Powers] have in view is to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire; and they have a right to maintain that integrity, because its maintenance is necessary for upholding the balance of power in Europe, and is essential to the preservation of peace in the world.
  • 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 September 1839), quoted in Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer's Life of Palmerston (1871), vol. 2, pp. 261-62. (Palmerston was criticizing descriptions of the Ottoman Empire as "decaying," etc.)
  • It is indeed remarkable how contradictory are the assertions which the partizans of Mehemet Ali are driven to have recourse to; for while at one time and for one purpose they represent him as the great champion of Mahommedan feeling, at another time, and for another purpose, they extol him as the subduer of Mahommedan prejudice, and as a man who has had energy enough to coerce that religious fanaticism which rendered the Mahommedans so overbearing and intolerable to the Christians in all the transactions and intercourse of life.
    • Letter to Lord Beauvale (16 October 1839), quoted in Correspondence Relative to the Affairs of the Levant, Vol. I (1841), p. 449
  • I regret to learn that you are still not easy about your own affairs, but trust all will be speedily adjusted. You always allow me, dear Uncle, to speak frankly to you; you will, therefore, I hope, not be displeased if I venture to make a few observations on one or two parts of your letter. You say that the anger of the Belgians is principally directed against England. Now, I must that you are very unjust towards us, and (if I could) I might say even a little angry with you, dear Uncle. We only pressed Belgium for her own good, and not for ours. It may seem hard at first, but the time will come when you will see that we were right in urging you not to delay any longer the signature of the treaty.


"'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."
  • Your Lordship cannot too strongly impress upon the Portuguese Government that the conclusion of a Slave Trade Treaty is a matter which now concerns Portugal only but that the British Claims are a matter upon which Her Majesty's Government cannot admit any further delay. I have to remark to Your Lordship that as yet the new Portuguese Ministry differs from the preceding one in words only; that Her Majesty's Government expects deeds; and that evasion and delay cannot be accepted.
    • Letter to Lord Howard de Walden (31 January 1840), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (1970), p. 194
  • The rivalship of European manufacturers is fast excluding our productions from the market of Europe, and we must unremittingly endeavour to find in other parts of the world new vents for the products of our industry. The world is large enough and the wants of the human race ample enough to afford a demand for all we can manufacture: but it is the business of government to open and secure the roads for the merchant.
    • Letter to Lord Auckland (22 January 1841), quoted in C. K. Webster, The Foreign Policy of Palmerston, Vol. II (1951), pp. 750-751
  • You have obtained the Cession of Hong Kong, a barren Island with hardly a House upon it... it seems obvious that Hong Kong will not be the Mart of Trade... it is impossible that you should continue to hold your appointment in China.
  • They sally forth unawares on the villagers of the country; they put to death every man who cannot escape by flight; and they carry off into captivity the women and children. ("Shame, shame.") They carry away every head of cattle, every sheep, and every horse, and they burn what they cannot carry off—the crop on the ground and the corn in the granaries are consumed by the fire of the invaders. ("Shame.") What is the consequence? While in India our officers ride about unarmed and alone, amidst the wildest tribes of the wilderness, there is not a Frenchman in Africa who shows his face above a given spot from the sentry at his post, who does not fall a victim to the wild and justifiable retaliation of the Arab. (Hear, hear.) They professed to colonize Algeria, but they are only encamped in military posts; and while we in India have the feelings of the people with us, in Africa every native is opposed to the French, and every heart burns with the desire of vengeance. (Hear, hear.) I mention these things because it is right you should know them; they are an additional proof that even in this world Providence has decreed that injustice and violence shall meet with their appropriate punishment, and that justice and mercy shall also have their reward. (Cheers.)
  • He alluded to that grievance which was expressed by the demand for fixity of tenure. He held that it would be unjust for Parliament to interfere in the arrangements between the landlord and tenant. To do so, would be to establish a principle of confiscation—to interfere with the rights of property, the foundation of all human society—property which the poorest man by his own industry and exertions, might acquire, as well as the wealthy and powerful.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (23 June 1843)
  • Sir, a wise Government in its home policy considers the reasonable wants of the people; in its foreign policy, it is prepared to resist the unjust demands and the unreasonable views of foreign powers. The present Government inverts this method; it is all resistance at home, all concession abroad.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (28 July 1843)
  • [I]f this opium had been seized in the ordinary course of Chinese authority, as being a contraband article, brought into China against the law—if it had been seized by the Chinese authorities within Chinese jurisdiction, there would have been no claim on the finance or upon the power of this Government to demand compensation or redress from the Government of China. It was entirely owing to the manner in which the opium had been extorted, that the late Government had felt that an outrage upon British subjects had been committed, which not only authorised but rendered necessary measures of hostility, should such be required. It had been said that what the late Government demanded was satisfaction for the injured honour of the country, and that one of the ways in which satisfaction was to be given was payment for the opium so extorted.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (4 August 1843)
  • In addition to the demand for compensation to the holders of opium, the Government added another for payment of the debts of the insolvent Hong merchants, and also a third for the pay uncut of the expenses of the war. The last demand was certainly unusual in European warfare, but it was not unusual in Asiatic warfare; and under all circumstances, in order to make the Chinese sensible of the extent of the outrage they had committed, and that they might sufficiently feel the exercise of the power of Britain in vindication of their honour, it was thought expedient and proper to make them pay the expense of the war, in addition to compensating the injured parties.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (4 August 1843)
  • I will venture to say, that if all the other crimes which the human race has committed, from the creation down to the present day, were added together in one vast aggregate, they would scarcely equal, I am sure they could not exceed, the amount of guilt which has been incurred by mankind, in connexion with this diabolical Slave Trade. And is it not, then, the duty of every government, and of every nation on whom Providence has bestowed the means of putting an end to this crime, to employ those means to the greatest possible extent? And if there is any government and any nation upon whom that duty is more especially incumbent, is not that government the government of England, and are we not that nation? Political influence and naval power are the two great instruments by which the Slave Trade may be abolished; our political influence, if properly exerted, is great, our naval power is pre-eminent.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (16 July 1844)
  • 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]f anything were calculated to render permanent and secure our friendly relations with great neighbouring Powers, it was the placing ourselves in a position of security against any sudden or unforeseen attack. There was no complete security for friendly relations between different countries, except in a state of mutual defence.
    • Speech in the House of Commons in favour of rearmament (13 June 1845)
  • [I]f we arrived at that situation [when]...the one country was fully prepared for aggression, and the other wholly unprepared for events, the result must be either some very dreadful disaster or some deep humiliation to be sustained by the country so undefended.
    • Speech in the House of Commons in favour of rearmament (13 June 1845)
  • [I]f they were negotiating with a foreign country on a matter which might threaten war, it was so far from embarrassing the negotiation, that it would strengthen it, to place ourselves in a position to repel any sudden and unforeseen attack.
    • Speech in the House of Commons in favour of rearmament (13 June 1845)
  • Louis Philippe and Guizot have carried their point by boldness. Louis Philippe and Guizot, like practical and sagacious men, determined to knock us down at once, and make an apology afterwards if necessary to pacify us.
  • Mr. Harney...says the object and result of my foreign policy has been to establish tyranny and despotism. There really is something amusing in the novelty; for, after I have been accused all over Europe of being the great instigator of revolution—(Laughter)—the friend and champion of all popular insurrections, the enemy of all constituted authorities—after I have been charged with disturbing the peace of Europe by giving encouragement to every revolutionary and anarchical set of men—(renewed laughter)—it is somewhat amusing to hear charges the very reverse made against me by my present opponent.
    • Speech in Tiverton (31 July 1847), quoted in Speech of Lord Viscount Palmerston, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to the Electors of Tiverton, on the 31st July, 1847 (1847), p. 23
  • I cannot make out in what respect our conduct with regard to China is to bear out the charge of contempt for liberty and love of despotism which Mr. Harney has imputed to us. He says that we tried to compel the Chinese to smoke opium. Why, that charge is much the same as if a man were to be accused of compelling the people of England to drink beer or spirits or wine, or anything else of which they are exceedingly fond.
    • Speech in Tiverton (31 July 1847), quoted in Speech of Lord Viscount Palmerston, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to the Electors of Tiverton, on the 31st July, 1847 (1847), p. 30
  • [T]hese Chinese authorities suddenly turned round upon the men who had been their partners in this smuggling trade, and...they took thirty or forty British merchants, along with the British Consul, and shut them up, and plainly told them they should be starved unless they delivered up their stocks of opium... Now, I should like to know what Cromwell would have said if twenty or thirty British subjects and an officer of the Commonwealth had been shut up in limbo, and told they were to be starved... I know what he would have done. He would have stood no nonsense. (Laughter.) This was what we did. We said "This won't do; this is no go, gentlemen of China. (A laugh.) You have extorted valuable property from British subjects by a threat of locking them up till they die of starvation. We call upon you to refund the value of what you have so improperly and illegally wrested from our subjects." They refused; force was employed; and we brought them to our terms. In this instance at least, our policy was not attended with any expense. We said to the Chinese, "You have behaved very ill; we have had to teach you better manners; it has cost us something to do it, but we will send our bill in, and you must pay our charges." That was done, and they have certainly profited by the lesson. ("Hear," and a laugh.) They have become free traders too. (Hear, hear.)
    • Speech in Tiverton (31 July 1847), quoted in Speech of Lord Viscount Palmerston, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to the Electors of Tiverton, on the 31st July, 1847 (1847), pp. 31-32
  • 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 in the House of Commons (1 March 1848)
  • What business is it of ours to ask whether the French nation thinks proper to be governed by a king, an emperor, a president, or a consul? Our object and our duty is to cement the closest ties of friendship between ourselves and our nearest neighbour... There is nothing, I am convinced, in the real interests of England and France which can stand in the way of the most cordial friendship between the two nations.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (2 February 1849)


  • 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), quoted in David Brown, Palmerston: A Biography (2010), p. 320
  • 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 (1852), pp. 429-430
"...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."
  • 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 (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." ...[The] "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.
    • Speech in the House of Commons during the debate on war with Russia (31 March 1854)
  • ...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 he 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 during the debate on war with Russia (31 March 1854)
  • Talk to me of the aristocracy of England! Why, look to that glorious charge of the cavalry at Balaklava—look to that charge, where the noblest and the wealthiest of the land rode foremost, followed by heroic men from the lowest classes of the community, each rivalling the other in bravery, neither the peer who led nor the trooper who followed being distinguished the one from the other. In that glorious band there were the sons of the gentry of England; leading were the noblest of the land, and following were the representatives of the people of this country.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (19 February 1855)
  • I noticed, I must confess, with great pain the tenor and tone of the speech of the hon. Member for the West Riding, because there pervaded the whole of it an anti-English feeling, an abnegation of all those ties which bind men to their country and to their fellow-countrymen, which I should hardly have expected from the lips of any Member of this House. Everything that was English was wrong, and everything that was hostile to England was right.
  • Sir, I believe that if the House adopts this Motion...[t]hey will say, "Here is a Power that has been formerly great in arms, whose armies have gained victories in remote regions, whose fleets have floated triumphantly over every ocean... this people are now overcome by the love of gain. They fear the expenses and the efforts which may be necessary to protect their countrymen, and they abandon a large community of British subjects at the extreme end of the globe to a set of barbarians—a set of kidnapping, murdering, poisoning barbarians." I say foreign nations would feel that England has descended from that high station which hitherto she has occupied, at the beck of some of the basest, the meanest, and the most degraded beings in the civilized world.
  • If those who voted against us had risen to power, what ought they have to have done as the logical and inevitable consequences of their vote? They asserted that our proceedings were unjustifiable. They were bound, therefore, in the event of their success, to have apologised to the Chinese barbarians for the wrongs we had done...they must have paid the rewards which had been given for the heads of our merchants, and the cost of the arsenic which had been used in poisoning our fellow-subjects at Hongkong. Gentlemen, I cannot envy the feelings of those men who could witness with calmness the heads of respectable British merchants on the walls of Canton, or the murders and assassinations and poisonings perpetrated on our fellow-countrymen abroad, and who, instead of feeling their blood boil with indignation at such proceedings, would have had us make an abject submission to the barbarians by whom these atrocities were committed.
    • Speech in the Mansion House, London (20 March 1857), quoted in The Times (21 March 1857), p. 9
  • An insolent barbarian wielding authority at Canton had violated the British flag, broken the engagements of treaties, offered rewards for the heads of British subjects in that part of China, and planned their destruction by murder, assassination, and poisons.
    • Election address to the electors of Tiverton, quoted in The Times (24 March 1857), p. 9. The "insolent barbarian" was the Chinese official Ye Mingchen
  • 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 (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 (1908), pp. 446-447
  • To punish the guilty adequately exceeds the power of any civilised man; for the atrocities which have been committed are such as to be imagined and perpetrated only by demons sallying forth from the lowest depths of hell. But punishment must be inflicted, not only in a spirit of vengeance, but in a spirit of security, in order that the example of punished crime may deter from a repetition of the offence, and in order to insure the safety of our countrymen and countrywomen in India for the future. He will have to spare the innocent, and it is most gratifying that while the guilty may be counted by thousands the innocent must be reckoned by millions.
    • Speech in the Guildhall, London, on the Indian Mutiny (9 November 1857), quoted in The Times (10 November 1857), p. 7
  • These Yankees are the most disagreeable Fellows to have to do with about any American question; they are on the Spot, strong, deeply interested in the matter, totally unscrupulous and dishonest and determined somehow or other to carry their Point; we are far away, weak from Distance, controlled by the Indifference of the nation as to the Question discussed, and by its strong commercial Interest in maintaining Peace with the United States... I have long felt inwardly convinced that the Anglo-Saxon race will in process of time become masters of the whole American Continent North and South... it is not for us to assist such a Consummation, but on the contrary we ought to delay it as long as possible.
    • Letter to Lord Clarendon, 31 Dec 1857, Clarendon papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Quoted in Bourne, K. (1961). The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty and the Decline of British Opposition to the Territorial Expansion of the United States, 1857-60. The Journal of Modern History, 33(3), 287–291
  • 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 (1970), p. 534
"...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."
  • 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 (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. ... 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. ... 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 (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 Conservative 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 William Ewart Gladstone (16 July 1860), quoted in Philip Guedalla (ed.), Gladstone and Palmerston, being the Correspondence of Lord Palmerston with Mr. Gladstone 1851-1865 (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 (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.
  • 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 (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 (1970), p. 554
"There is no doubt that all nations are aggressive; it is the nature of man."
  • 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 (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.
  • We see in the East some of the evils which are incident to arbitrary sway. We witness in the West the widespread misery and desolation which are sometimes created by democratic and Republican institutions. We enjoy a happy medium between the extremes of these two forms of Government. Our institutions not only confer happiness and tranquillity upon the people of these realms, but enable them to enjoy the most perfect freedom of thought, of speech, of writing, and of action, unawed and uncontrolled either by the edicts of despotic authority, or by the Lynch law of an ungovernable mob.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (17 February 1863)
  • 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 (1970), p. 569
  • [Richard Cobden and John Bright] have run a muck against everything that the British Nation respects and values – Crown, Aristocracy, Established Church, Nobility, Gentry and Landowners. They have laboured incessantly to set class against class, and the Poor against the rich.
    • Letter to Lord John Russell (18 February 1864), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (1970), p. 526
  • 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 (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...[Your speech] 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 (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 (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 in Tiverton on the Second Schleswig War (23 August 1864), quoted in 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 Lord John Russell (5 October 1864), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (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 (1970), p. 590
  • If I have in any Degree been fortunate enough to have obtained some share of the Good Will and Confidence of my Fellow-Countrymen, it has been because I have rightly understood the Feelings and Opinions of the Nation, and because they think that I have...endeavoured to maintain the Dignity and to uphold the Interests of the country abroad, and to provide for its security at home.
    • Letter to William Ewart Gladstone (7 November 1864), quoted in Donald Southgate, ‘The Most English Minister...’ The Policies and Politics of Palmerston (1966), p. xxix
  • 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 in Romsey, quoted in 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."
  • 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 (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 when the Chartist Rowcliffe voted for a Conservative and another Liberal in an attempt to oust Palmerston from the two-member constituency; quoted in F. J. Snell, Palmerston's Borough (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 (1876), pp. 270-271
  • 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 (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 (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

Quotes about Palmerston

  • When we were at war with Russia, and when the nation, after trying statesman after statesman, continued in the distressing consciousness that the administration lacked vigour, the man who, for a quarter of a century, had been checkmating the policy of Russia was naturally called for. In no spirit of confidence or enthusiasm,—feeling clearly that others had failed, but by no means certain that the right man was yet discovered,—England said, ‘Try Palmerston.’ It was on the 8th of February, 1855, that the Earl of Derby withdrew, and that he took the helm. ... The country looked on in hope, beginning to breathe more freely...the practical instinct of the nation gradually decided that Palmerston was the man to whom the business of the war could be committed, and in whose hands the name of England was safe.
  • We learned to call him Old Pam, and to love him better than any Prime Minister was ever loved throughout the three kingdoms. All parties in the House took to him. It was pleasant to sit under his parliamentary government, and though there were Liberals more liberal than he, and Conservatives more conservative, the majority both of Liberals and Conservatives secretly preferred him to their special chiefs. ... Perhaps no single word goes so far in the description of Lord Palmerston as the word ‘manly.’ ... In every respect Lord Palmerston was masculine, not feminine. ... Lord Palmerston was at all points a man. No sentimental egotism, no moral irritability, no sweet feminine cant about him. A genial stoicism,—not the stoicism of the cynic,—an inestimable faculty of taking the good and leaving the bad alone, an invincible serenity and lightness and brightness of soul, distinguished him.
  • In 1864, when Austria and Prussia attacked Denmark, Britain remained neutral. This was due to Queen Victoria, who overruled Lord Palmerston, although that sharp-sighted statesman pointed out that Prussia wanted Kiel as a naval base. Thus we gave Germany her Kiel Canal.
  • He is to the middle classes what Feargus O'Connor was to the working classes.
    • John Bright to G. Crawshay (25 September 1855), quoted in David Urquhart, Materials for the True History of Lord Palmerston (1865), p. 11
  • 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, remarks to Lord Rosebery after Rosebery had been appointed Foreign Secretary (17 March 1886), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (1970), p. 591
  • When I went to Harrow in 1797, the late Lord Palmerston was reckoned the best-tempered and most plucky boy in the school, as well as a young man of great promise. We were in the same house, which was Dr. Bromley's, by whom we were often called when idle "young men of wit and pleasure." The late Lord De Mauley...and myself, were fags to Althorp, Duncannon, and Temple, who messed together; and the latter was by far the most merciful and indulgent. I can remember well Temple fighting "behind school" a great boy called Salisbury, twice his size, and he would not give in, but was brought home with black eyes and a bloody nose, and Mother Bromley taking care of him.
    • Augustus Clifford to Henry Lytton Bulwer (21 September 1870), quoted in Henry Lytton Bulwer, The Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, with Selections from His Diaries and Correspondence, Volume I (1871), p. 9
  • 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
  • In every post alike he showed the qualities that Englishmen love—pluck, good-humour, unflinching care for England's greatness, untiring zeal in the service of the State. His unexhausted, apparently inexhaustible spirits, his splendid physique, his untiring activity of mind and body, seemed proof against the inroads of old age.
    • Henry Stewart Cunningham, 'Statesmen of Harrow School', in Edmund Whytehead Howson and George Townsend Warner (eds.), Harrow School (1898), p. 170
  • Right, in his eyes, was right; and if he insisted upon it when a formidable enemy might be provoked, he treated with becoming scorn the argument that we should deal more gently with an inferior delinquent. "What?" he used to say; "we are to tax our people for the purpose of giving them a strong Government, and then we are not to maintain the rights of our people because their Government is strong. The weaker a Government is, the more inexcusable becomes its insolence or injustice."
    • Lord Dalling and Bulwer, The Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, with Selections from His Diaries and Correspondence, Volume III (1874), pp. 407-408
  • As we walked along I could gauge the popularity of Lord Palmerston. The moment he came in sight, throughout the whole building, men and women, young and old, at once were struck as by an electric shock. “Lord Palmerston! Here is Lord Palmerston! Bravo! Hurrah! Lord Palmerston for ever!” And so it went on through the whole building. One voice: “I wish you may be Minister for the next twenty years”.
    • Evelyn Denison's journal entry recording their visit to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London (1 May 1862), quoted in Notes from My Journal when Speaker of the House of Commons (1899), p. 116
  • He is the Tory chief of a Radical Cabinet.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, ‘To the Electors of the County of Buckingham’ (17 March 1857), quoted in John Alexander Wilson (ed.), Benjamin Disraeli Letters: 1857-1859 (1982), p. 28
  • He said he had had two great objects always before him in life—one the suppression of the slave trade, the other to put England in a state of defence.
    • William Ewart Gladstone to the Duke of Argyll (6 June 1860), quoted in John Morley, The Life of William Ewart Gladstone, Volume II (1903), p. 45
  • 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, remarks to Lord Rendel (1889), quoted in F. E. Hamer (ed.) The Personal Papers of Lord Rendel (1931), p. 60
  • Palmerston had two admirable qualities. He had an intense love of Constitutional freedom everywhere; and he had a profound hatred of negro slavery. ... I should not ascribe to him the overpowering conscientiousness which I ascribe to Peel.
    • William Ewart Gladstone's remarks to Lionel Tollemache (13 January 1896), quoted in Lionel Tollemache, Talks with Mr. Gladstone (1898), p. 128
  • Never...did I meet with any one that could tell a story with greater effect than the late Lord Palmerston.
    • James Grant, The Newspaper Press; Its Origin—Progress—and Present Position: Vol. II (1871), p. 207
  • A member of Lord Palmerston's Cabinet gave me an amusing description of their proceedings. At the beginning of the session, and after each holiday, Mr. Gladstone used to come in charged to the muzzle with all sorts of schemes of all sorts of reforms which were absolutely necessary in his opinion to be immediately undertaken. Lord Palmerston used to look fixedly at the paper before him, saying nothing until there was a lull in Gladstone's outpouring. He then rapped the table and said cheerfully, “Now, my lords and gentlemen, let us go to business.”
  • Nothing will induce her Majesty to have Palmerston [appointed as Home Secretary]... Her dislike of him is, in fact, of very long standing, and partly on moral and partly on political grounds. There are old offences, when he was at the Foreign Office, which sunk deep in her mind, and besides this the recollection of his conduct before her marriage, when in her own palace he made an attempt on the person of one of her ladies, which she very justly resented as an outrage to herself. Palmerston, always enterprising and audacious with women, took a fancy to Mrs. Brand (now Lady Dacre) and at Windsor Castle where she was in waiting, and he was a guest, he marched into her room one night. His tender temerity met with an invincible resistance. The lady did not conceal her attempt, and it came to the Queen's ears. Her indignation was somehow pacified by Melbourne, then all-powerful, and who on every account would have abhorred an esclandre in which his colleague and brother-in-law would have so discreditably figured. Palmerston got out of the scrape with his usual luck, but the Queen has never forgotten and will never forgive it.
    • Charles Greville, diary entry (28 August 1853), quoted in The Greville Diary, Including Passages Hitherto Withheld from Publication, Volume II, ed. Philip Whitwell Wilson (1927), p. 88
  • I cannot find any fault with Lord Palmerston's bearing on that July day [in 1847]. With all his natural tendency to caustic criticism, he was courteous and fair... Lord Palmerston was an aristocrat; no doubt about that. But he was genial, frank, and generous. Moreover he abhorred cant in every form... Coming over to England in 1878, I was told the following incident of Lord Palmerston, then dead some 13 years. It happened that some of the working class Radicals of the time were in the lobby of "the House" with the view of soliciting subscriptions from Liberal members for some unfortunate of the "advanced" corps, stricken down by disease, and suffering from that other and too common ill—impecuniosity; when the Premier was seen approaching. Said one of the party—"Here comes Pam, let us try him." The idea was pooh-pooh'd, but it was carried out by the suggestor. Lord Palmerston patiently listened to the story and responded with his usual kindly liberality, accompanying the gift by some pleasantry as was his wont. He had faced toward the chamber of the Commons, when suddenly turning back, he enquired, "Can you tell me what has become of an old Chartist acquaintance of mine, Mr. George Julian Harney?" The person addressed could not tell, but an older man of the group said he believed Julian Harney was in America. Lord Palmerston rejoined, "Well, I wish him good fortune: he gave me a dressing down at Tiverton some years ago, and I have not heard of him since; but I hope he is doing well."
    • George Julian Harney, reminiscences (10 March 1894), quoted in F. J. Snell, Palmerston's Borough (1894), pp. 87-88
  • Towards the end of his life, Lord Palmerston was invited to Bradford to lay the foundation-stone of the new Exchange. On that occasion, the working men were desirous of presenting an address to him, upon their wish for an extension of the franchise. Mr. Ripley, chairman of the Exchange Committee, utterly ignorant of Lord Palmerston's nature, refused to permit any approach to him. The worst enemy of Lord Palmerston could not have done him a worse service. Nothing would have pleased him better than to have met a working-class deputation. His personal heartiness, his invincible temper, his humour and ready wit would have captivated the working men, and sent them away enthusiastic, although without anything to be enthusiastic about.
    • George Holyoake, Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life, Volume II (1892), p. 78
  • Wherever there is an absolute tyranny in Europe, his Lordship is looked upon with hatred or mistrust, and wherever there is a desire for constitutional liberty, repressed by bayonets or threatened by irresponsible autocrats, there has his Lordship admirers and friends.
    • The Illustrated London News (27 December 1851), quoted in Donald Southgate, ‘The Most English Minister...’ The Policies and Politics of Palmerston (1966), p. xxii
  • Palmerston, rex and autocrat, is, for a Minister finding himself in such fortunate circumstances, far too irritable and violent.
    • Leopold I of Belgium to Prince Albert (26 November 1840), quoted in The Letters of Queen Victoria: A Selection from Her Majesty's Correspondence Between the Years 1837 and 1861, Vol. I—1837–1843, eds. Arthur Christian Benson and Viscount Esher (1907), pp. 249-250
  • [David Lloyd George said] he would see that an enormous amount of equipment & ammunition were supplied to the Abyssinians, which would enable them to put up a good fight. He says he feels sure that that is what Palmerston would have done.
  • He loved his country and his country loved him. He lived for her honour, and she will cherish his memory.
  • It was the singular position of Lord Palmerston that explained the qualified support given to him by some Conservatives. They found it hard to take part against a gay old Tory of the older school, disguising himself as a “Liberal,” and hoaxing the Reform Club. As a matter of sentiment, many Conservatives refused to deal roughly with one whom they regarded as a sort of Parliamentary grandpapa.
    • Daniel Owen Maddyn, Chiefs of Parties, Past and Present, with Original Anecdotes, Vol. II (1859), p. 174
  • As a Minister, although I often differed from him, I looked upon him as one of our greatest, especially in his knowledge of foreigners and their character. He was clear headed, always knew what he wanted, and was determined to carry it out, with great moral and physical courage. We shall be long ere we see his like again. He was English to the backbone.
  • Although a septuagenarian, and since 1807 occupying the public stage almost without interruption, he contrives to remain a novelty, and to evoke all the hopes that used to centre on an untried and promising youth. With one foot in the grave, he is supposed not yet to have begun his true career. If he were to die tomorrow, all England would be surprised to learn that he had been a Secretary of State half this century. If not a good statesman of all work, he is at least a good actor of all work. He succeeds in the comic as in the heroic—in pathos as in familiarity—in tragedy as in farce; although the latter may be more congenial to his feelings. He is not a first-class orator, but an accomplished debater. Possessed of a wonderful memory, of great experience, of consummate tact, of never-failing presence of mind, of gentlemanlike versatility, of the most minute knowledge of Parliamentary tricks, intrigues, parties, and men, he handles difficult cases in an admirable manner and with a pleasant volatility, sticking to the prejudices and susceptibilities of his public, secured from any surprise by his cynical impudence, from any self-confession by his selfish dexterity, from running into a passion by his profound frivolity, his perfect indifference, and his aristocratic contempt. Being an exceedingly happy joker, he ingratiates himself with everybody. Never losing his temper, he imposes on an impassioned antagonist. When unable to master a subject, he knows how to play with it. If wanting in general views, he is always ready to weave a web of elegant generalities. Endowed with a restless and indefatigable spirit, he abhors inactivity and pines for agitation, if not for action. A country like England allows him, of course, to busy himself in every corner of the earth.
    • Karl Marx, The Story of the Life of Lord Palmerston (1853), p.1
  • 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
  • Englishmen revered Gladstone, but they were never quite sure that they understood him; Palmerston they could pat on the back as one of themselves. ... His combativeness, his robust, if tactless, patriotism, his capacity for getting into scrapes and his equal capacity for getting out of them, his love of a "scrap," his freedom from malice, his gift for "keeping his end up" —all these things the average Englishman could understand and appreciate, for he saw in them a reflection of his own character.
  • Tho' he made a joke when asked to do the right thing, he always did it. No one else will be able to carry the things thro' the Cabinet as he did. I shall lose a powerful protector. ... He was much more in earnest than he appeared. He did not do himself justice.
    • Florence Nightingale to Dr. Walker (19 October 1865), quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (1970), p. 584
  • 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.
  • [Palmerston usually had some answer] ready for me; but one time I regularly shut him up. It was just upon the passing of the Poor Law Act which made legal the separation of man and wife after the age of sixty. I remember that day very well. There was Lady Palmerston there with a lot of ladies looking out of one window of the Three Tuns, all dressed out in ribbons and colours, cheering and laughing in high glee. His Lordship was at the other window speaking to the crowd and when he was going to get rid of this subject of the Poor Law, I ups and says: "You ought to have consulted Lady Palmerston before passing that there Act. How would you and her like to be separated after you was sixty years of age? Are your feelings any finer than those of the poor people you've been legislating for?" His Lordship pretended not to hear that, but I think he did, and so did Lady Palmerston too. That's what I call bringing it home to them.
    • William Rowcliffe, recalling the 1841 election in an interview (1872), quoted in The Daily News (25 October 1872), p. 5 and F. J. Snell, Palmerston's Borough (1894), p. 104
  • I can answer for my noble friend that he will act, not as Minister of Austria, or of Russia, or of France, or of any other country—but as the Minister of England.
    • Lord John Russell, speech in the House of Commons (20 June 1850), quoted in The Times (21 June 1850), p. 3
  • [H]is heart always beat for the honour of England.
    • Lord John Russell, speech in the Guildhall, London (9 November 1865), quoted in The Times (10 November 1865), p. 7
  • Lord Palmerston is generally regarded as the type of an astute and moderate leader.
    • Lord Salisbury's remarks to Malcolm MacColl (13 November 1884), quoted in Malcolm MacColl: Memoirs and Correspondence, ed. G. W. E. Russell (1914), p. 110
  • Lord Palmerston is a little too much inclined to consider himself the arbiter of the destinies of Europe. For our part, we are not in the least disposed to allow him to play, in our own affairs, the role of Providence. ... I must frankly confess that we are tired of his eternal insinuations, of his tone now protective and pedantic, now insulting, but always unbecoming, and we have decided that we shall no longer tolerate it. Lord Palmerston remarked one day to Baron Koller that if we wanted war, we should have it; and I told him that if he wants it he shall have it. I do not know whether Lord Palmerston applies to himself the phrase of Louis XIV, and thinks that ‘l'Angleterre c'est lui’.
  • P.'s popularity is wonderful—strange to say, the whole turns on his name. There seems to be no measure, no principle, no cry, to influence men's minds and determine elections; it is simply, 'Were you, or were you not? are you, or are you not, for Palmerston?'
    • Lord Shaftesbury, journal entry during the 1857 general election (9 March 1857), quoted in Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, K.G., Vol. III (1886), p. 43
  • But we are afraid of our shadows. I sometimes long for a ruffian like Palmerston or any man who would be more than a string of platitudes and apologies.
    • Jan Smuts (c. 1937), quoted in William Keith Hancock, Smuts: The Fields of Force, 1919-1950 (1962), p. 281
  • Lord Palmerston is certainly one of the most able, if not the most able, men of business whom I have met in my career... One feature in his character dissipates all these advantages, and prevents him, in my opinion, from ranking as a real statesman. He feels passionately about public affairs, and to the point of sacrificing the most important interests to his resentments. Nearly every political question resolves itself into a personal question in his eyes, and in appearing to defend the interests of his country, it is really the interests of his hate and vengeance that he satisfies.
    • Talleyrand, Memoires du Prince de Talleyrand, ed. Duc de Broglie, vol. iii (1891), pp. 406-407, quoted in Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston (1970), pp. 120-121
  • With his gaiety of spirit and his easygoing morals, he hated tyranny and oppression wherever they occurred. ... With his dyed whiskers and his red face, Palmerston exemplified British self-confidence and bounce. ... He was simply an individual of strong personality – resolute, self-confident and with great powers of physical endurance.
  • [T]he most English minister that ever governed England.
    • The Daily Telegraph, obituary for Palmerston, quoted in Donald Southgate, ‘The Most English Minister...’ The Policies and Politics of Palmerston (1966), p. xxviii
  • He had no reason to be a friend to P. by whom He had been worsted, but that that did not prevent him from regarding him as the first Statesman of this age and perhaps of any other.
    • Adolphe Thiers, recorded in Lord Beauvale to Lady Palmerston (5 January 1846), quoted in Mabell, Countess of Airlie, Lady Palmerston and Her Times, Vol. II (1922), p. 105
  • He was one of the earliest and most constant enemies of the Slave Trade; he was a staunch friend of Roman Catholic Emancipation; he abandoned the ground taken up by Canning in advocating the Reform Bill; he was a Freetrader long before Sir Robert Peel became a convert. Above all, he was a steadfast and devoted partisan of constitutional liberty in every part of the Continent.
  • The secret and source of his great popularity was his boundless sympathy with all classes of his countrymen... Englishmen were proud of him, not so much because he bearded foreign despots in his prime, or exhibited marvellous physical activity in his old age, as because they believed him to be a stout-hearted and benevolent statesman of the good old English stock... The name of Lord Palmerston, once the terror of the Continent, will long be connected in the minds of Englishmen with an epoch of unbroken peace and unparalleled prosperity.

See also

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