Palmerston and the politics of foreign policy, 1846-1855
This thesis considers the career of Lord Palmerston during the important, but hitherto rather neglected, period of his political career immediately preceding his accession to the premiership in 1855, in a broader context than has previously been attempted. By combining a high political, that is governmental, approach to the question with what might be termed a low one - essentially all non-governmental factors - the reasons for Palmerston's supposed political invincibility, or at least longevity, can be more clearly understood. Such a focus simultaneously reveals a great deal about the nature and working of the Victorian constitution and the political influence of parts of the population traditionally regarded as falling beyond its pale. Through an examination of political manoeuvring in government, making extensive use of private papers, this thesis demonstrates the extent and ways in which Palmerston was able to exercise an influence over and manipulate his Cabinet colleagues, thereby securing their approbation for his foreign policy at a time when there were great pressures from the Crown and Parliament to remove him. The analysis is followed though to the history of the Aberdeen Coalition (1852-55) to explain why Palmerston came to be allied with many of his former adversaries in the first place and secondly how he managed, from his official post at the Home Office, to continue to wield great influence over the conduct of foreign policy - a question of special importance given that it was this government which was faced with the problem of managing the Crimean War. It is clear, however, that personal and party political relationships are incomplete means by which to explain Palmerston's career and elucidate the general theme of the politics of foreign policy. Palmerston's political strength rested to a large extent on the rather nebulous perception that he was 'popular', carrying with him the support of the country and embodying the mood of the nation. Public opinion, generally conceived, had a profound and complicated impact on politics during this period, particularly on Palmerston, yet this is an aspect of Palmerston's political life rarely examined by historians. It is in this thesis' attempts to underpin an account of political life at the centre with an analysis of political forces and influences beyond that a great deal of the work's originality is to be found. Examination of the role of the press, various forms of extra-parliamentary opposition (and support) across all social classes, and parliamentary opposition, including not only on what grounds were attacks made but why and with what effect, add a unique contribution to our understanding of Palmerstonianism and demonstrate the success and considerable good fortune Palmerston enjoyed in manipulating political life to his own ends.