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    • 2016.10.19 Wednesday
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    In Albert’s eyes Palmerston

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      Albert was very angry. He highly disapproved both of Palmerston’s policy and of his methods of action. He was opposed to absolutism; but in his opinion Palmerston’s proceedings were simply calculated to substitute for absolutism, all over Europe, something no better and very possibly worse — the anarchy of faction and mob violence. The dangers of this revolutionary ferment were grave; even in England Chartism was rampant — a sinister movement, which might at any moment upset the Constitution and abolish the Monarchy. Surely, with such dangers at home, this was a very bad time to choose for encouraging lawlessness abroad. He naturally took a particular interest in Germany. His instincts, his affections, his prepossessions, were ineradicably German; Stockmar was deeply involved in German politics; and he had a multitude of relatives among the ruling German families, who, from the midst of the hurly-burly of revolution, wrote him long and agitated letters once a week.

       

      of Germany’s future from every point of view, he came to the conclusion, under Stockmar’s guidance, that the great aim for every lover of Germany should be her unification under the sovereignty of Prussia. The intricacy of the situation was extreme, and the possibilities of good or evil which every hour might bring forth were incalculable; yet he saw with horror that Palmerston neither understood nor cared to understand the niceties of this momentous problem, but rushed on blindly, dealing blows to right and left, quite — so far as he could see — without system, and even without motive — except, indeed, a totally unreasonable distrust of the Prussian State The weak-willed youth who took no interest in polities and never read a newspaper. .

      But his disagreement with the details of Palmerston’s policy was in reality merely a symptom of the fundamental differences between the characters of the two men.

       

      was a coarse, reckless egotist, whose combined arrogance and ignorance must inevitably have their issue in folly and disaster. Nothing could be more antipathetic to him than a mind so strangely lacking in patience, in reflection, in principle, and in the habits of ratiocination. For to him it was intolerable to think in a hurry, to jump to slapdash decisions, to act on instincts that could not be explained. Everything must be done in due order, with careful premeditation; the premises of the position must first be firmly established; and he must reach the correct conclusion by a regular series of rational steps. In complicated questions — and what questions, rightly looked at, were not complicated? — to commit one’s thoughts to paper was the wisest course, and it was the course which Albert, laborious though it might be, invariably adopted. It was as well, too, to draw up a reasoned statement after an event, as well as before it; and accordingly, whatever happened, it was always found that the Prince had made a memorandum. On one occasion he reduced to six pages of foolscap the substance of a confidential conversation with Sir Robert Peel, and, having read them aloud to him, asked him to append his signature; Sir Robert, who never liked to commit himself, became extremely uneasy; upon which the Prince, understanding that it was necessary to humour the singular susceptibilities of Englishmen, with great tact dropped that particular memorandum into the fire.

       

      But as for Palmerston, he never even gave one so much as a chance to read him a memorandum, he positively seemed to dislike discussion; and, before one knew where one was, without any warning whatever, he would plunge into some hare-brained, violent project, which, as likely as not, would logically involve a European war. Closely connected, too, with this cautious, painstaking reasonableness of Albert’s, was his desire to examine questions thoroughly from every point of view, to go down to the roots of things, and to act in strict accordance with some well-defined principle. Under Stockmar’s tutelage he was constantly engaged in enlarging his outlook and in endeavouring to envisage vital problems both theoretically and practically — both with precision and with depth. To one whose mind was thus habitually occupied, the empirical activities of Palmerston, who had no notion what a principle meant, resembled the incoherent vagaries of a tiresome child. What did Palmerston know of economics, of science, of history? What did he care for morality and education? How much consideration had he devoted in the whole course of his life to the improvement of the condition of the working-classes and to the general amelioration of the human race? The answers to such questions were all too obvious; and yet it is easy to imagine, also, what might have been Palmerston’s jaunty comment. “Ah! your Royal Highness is busy with fine schemes and beneficent calculations exactly! Well, as for me, I must say I’m quite satisfied with my morning’s work — I’ve had the iron hurdles taken out of the Green Park.”


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        • 2016.10.19 Wednesday
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        • 19:07
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