Lord John Russell

(1792—1878) prime minister and author

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Prime minister. A small, cocky man, Russell was the third son of the duke of Bedford and was educated at Westminster and Edinburgh University. He entered Parliament in 1818, sitting for several constituencies until returned for the City of London in 1841, which he represented until his elevation to the peerage as Earl Russell. He first made his mark in taking a leading role in the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828 and he supported catholic emancipation in 1829. In Grey's administration he helped to draft the Reform Bill and was prominent in securing its passage through Parliament. Russell used the argument of ‘finality’ with such enthusiasm that he earned the nickname ‘Finality Jack’. During his long career Russell served in many offices of state. He was home secretary and colonial secretary under Melbourne, leader of the House under Aberdeen, foreign secretary under first Aberdeen and later Palmerston. He was twice prime minister: from 1846 to 1852 and again in 1865 to 1866. In 1845 he became a convert to the repeal of the Corn Laws. Outraged by what he saw as papal aggression he denounced the revival of catholic bishoprics in England in 1850 and introduced the controversial Ecclesiastical Titles Bill in 1851. Though associated in the public mind with Palmerston, Russell's relationship with his famous colleague was often stormy. Russell had been happy to see Palmerston go after the approval he had given to Louis Napoleon's coup in December 1851. In turn he fell victim to Palmerston's desire for revenge when in 1852 his government was defeated on its militia proposals. Russell was almost as difficult a premier as he was a colleague. In his second premiership he introduced parliamentary reform, which he believed had been thwarted by Palmerston for too long. But he had the mortification of going out of office and seeing Disraeli carry a Reform Bill which was more advanced than that which he had proposed.

Subjects: British History.

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