The main interest as to the members of the new administration attached to Henry Brougham and to Lord John Russell, the Earl Russell of a later day. Brougham was to be Lord Chancellor, and the news of his appointment created a wild display of anger among his opponents. Brougham had made many enemies; in his outbursts of overwhelming and reckless eloquence he had spared no opposing force, man or institution, that came in his way. In the House of Commons he had sometimes denounced his antagonists with epithets such as no Speaker would now allow to be uttered in that assembly. The position of Lord Chancellor is one of the very gravest and the most dignified that a British subject can be called upon to occupy. It is not, indeed, a position of great political influence, for the Lord Chancellor is not expected to take frequent part in the debates of the House of Lords; and, of course, it is assumed that he will not there display himself as a political partisan. Nor is he in actual fact what he is very often called, the Speaker of the House of Lords, for he has nothing like the control over the Lords which every Speaker has over the House of Commons. If a number of members rise together the Speaker calls on one of them, and in the ordinary course of life his decision is accepted without dispute. But if a number of Peers rise together, each claiming to be heard, the Lord Chancellor has no power to decide who is to address the assembly. The Lords decide that for themselves by a vote of their own, if necessary. Nor has the Lord Chancellor any right, such as the Speaker of the House of Commons has, to decide upon all points of order; that right, too, the Peers retain for themselves. Still the position of Lord Chancellor is very high and is very dignified. The Lord Chancellor is declared to be the keeper of the Sovereign's conscience, and all the Tories were furious with anger at the thought of Henry Brougham being exalted to such a place. The King, indeed, himself objected to Brougham's being made Lord Chancellor; but he was prevailed upon by Lord Grey to withdraw his opposition and consent to the appointment. Lord Grey, at one moment of the controversy, suggested a possible compromise. He advised that Brougham should be made Master of the Rolls - a position next in rank to that of Lord Chancellor; but that as a sop to Brougham's well-known love of political debate, he should be allowed to retain his seat in the House of Commons.
King William made to this the very shrewd and sensible objection, that to make Brougham Master of the Rolls, and allow him still to sit in the House of Commons, would be to give him very high office and full freedom of debate as well; and the King added that there was no knowing whom Brougham might not attack if he were allowed the chance. Lord Grey pointed out that it would be utterly impossible for any Ministry to carry any Reform Bill if the co-operation of Henry Brougham were not secured in some way. These may not seem very exalted considerations to govern a Prime Minister or a Sovereign in the Ministerial appointments, but Lord Grey knew well what a force he had to deal with when he was dealing with Brougham; and although he believed Brougham to be a thoroughly sincere reformer, yet he had to recognise the extraordinary degree of vanity that was in Brougham's nature, and it was clear to him that Brougham was not a man to be offended. Of course if Brougham had been left out of the Cabinet altogether he would not, and could not, have turned round and proclaimed himself hostile to the principle of political reform; but it would have been very easy for him while still retaining his character of advanced reformer, and even in sustenance of that very character, to keep on criticising every clause of the Bill, insisting that the Government did not go far enough here, and were proving false to past promises there, and thus appealing at the most convenient moments from half-hearted reformers in the House of Commons to whole-hearted reformers outside it. The Bill could in any case only be carried by the most judicious steersmanship and by the most extraordinary blending of courage and caution; and Lord Grey knew very well that with Brougham as an ungracious critic the measure could not be carried at all. Even as it was, some intimation seems to have got to Brougham that there was a delay over his appointment, and at first he seemed disposed to take offence and decline to hold any manner of office in the new administration. But Lord Grey contrived to get over Brougham's objections, as he had previously got over the objections raised by the King, and it was soon made known to the world that Henry Brougham, Harry Brougham as he was more usually called, was to be the new Lord Chancellor of England.
The other appointment in which great public interest was felt, although of a very different kind, was that of Lord John Russell, afterwards Earl Russell. Lord John Russell was regarded as a man of the most brilliant promise. He belonged to one of the great historic families of England, a family which had during successive centuries written its name in the English annals. As a boy, he had sat at the feet of Fox; and he was always a close friend of the Irish national poet, Thomas Moore. The writer of this book has often seen Moore's portrait in its place of honour in the house of the late Countess Russell, Lord John's widow. Russell had a genuine love for literature as well as for politics, and every literary man of his time was made welcome in his house. He had acted as private secretary to the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, and had visited the great Napoleon at Elba, and had done his best to persuade Napoleon that there was not the slightest likelihood of Wellington attempting to seize the crown of England. Napoleon smiled and blandly submitted as to the judgment of an expert; but he did not seem absolutely convinced - what after all could be more natural than that a great military conqueror should cast a longing eye upon the crown of his master? Lord John Russell was a sincere and ardent champion of the claims of Catholic Emancipation, as he was indeed a champion of civil and religious liberty all over the world. He was a friend to Greece, and did all that came within his reach to forward the cause of Greek independence. His career, so far, in the House of Commons, had been full of promise. He never, perhaps, rose to the height of great parliamentary oratory; his presence was not commanding; and his voice, though clear and telling, was not strong or resonant. He was not a great orator as Robert Peel was, and as Gladstone and Bright afterwards were. But he was a perfect master of parliamentary fence; a most quick and dangerous antagonist. No one was happier with a bland incisive repartee, with an epigram which left something like a vitriolic burn behind it. Some of us can well remember Lord John Russell during his later years in the House of Commons and his years later still in the House of Lords. Some of us have often thought it deeply interesting to listen to Russell's words, if it were only for the reason that they were the words of a man who had talked with the great Napoleon at Elba.