Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 49.djvu/487

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Russell
Russell
481

was the share taken by him in 1675 in the attempt to overthrow Danby, whom the country party suspected of supporting the king's corrupt subserviency to France. Soon after the meeting of parliament (April) Russell moved an address for his dismissal, and on his demand articles of impeachment were brought in. But the attempt, based on general charges of financial mismanagement and unconstitutional utterances, was defeated by Danby's cleverness in the management of votes. Parliament separated in November, and did not meet again till February 1677, when Russell's motion for an address to the throne to settle the nice question whether a prorogation extending over more than a year amounted to a dissolution was thrown out.

Early in 1678 he succeeded to the courtesy title of Lord Russell, on the death of his brother Francis, who, owing to a hypochondriacal malady, had long remained abroad and had never taken any part in active life. The event increased his importance at a time when his party watched with jealous anxiety the conduct of the king and of his chief minister, without being able to see clearly into the policy of either. While the Dutch alliance, following upon the marriage of the Princess Mary, favoured the prospect of a war with France, the king's designs were so closely suspected as to make it hazardous to vote him large sums on account of the war. Thus, on Sir Gilbert Gerrard's motion for an address asking the king to declare war against France, Lord Russell carried a proposal for a committee of the whole house 'to consider of the sad and deplorable condition we are in, and the apprehensions we are under of popery and a standing army.' It was the same apprehension that the king, under the advice of the Duke of York, and with the connivance of Danby, had no intention of vigorously prosecuting the war, but was merely seeking to obtain supplies for his own ends, which induced the leaders of the country party to listen to overtures from Louis XIV. In the negotiations which ensued the whigs and the French king both aimed at overthrowing Danby and bringing about a dissolution of the existing parliament, Louis hoping to nip the Anglo-French war in the bud, the opposition leaders looking to the election of a house in which their views should prevail. At the beginning of 1678 the Marquis de Ruvigny (brother of Lady Russell's mother) was sent over to England to manage the negotiation, as better acquainted with English affairs than Barillon, who had been accredited ambassador only a few months previously. On 14 March Barillon reported that Lords Russell and Holies had expressed to Ruvigny their satisfaction with his assurances that Louis had no wish to make King Charles absolute, and was ready to co-operate towards a dissolution of parliament. Russell, he further reported, had undertaken to work secretly with Shaftesbury for preventing an augmentation of the supply (l,000,000l.) already voted for the war, and for imposing conditions which would make Charles turn back to France rather than assent to them. In reply to Ruvigny's reference to the money he had brought with him for distribution among members of parliament, Russell observed that he would be sorry to have any commerce with persons capable of being gained by money, but he seemed pleased with this proof of the friendliness of the king of France, by whose aid the purpose of the opposition—the dissolution of parliament—could alone be effected. Finally, Russell acquainted Ruvigny with his intention of taking part in the attack upon Danby, and of even moving against the Duke of York and all the catholics. In a subsequent interview, after the subsidy had been granted without being openly opposed by Russell, he and Holles were reported to have adhered to their previous expressions, though in no very confident spirit. In April Barillon wrote that Russell and Holles, as well as Buckingham and Shaftesbury, had urged that Louis must oblige Charles to declare himself definitively for peace or war (cf. Dalrymple, Memoirs, 1773, ii. 158-72).

Whether or no Barillon (whose despatches were correctly copied by Dalrymple) was perfectly accurate in his language may be open to question; but as to the fact and purport of the negotiations reported by him no doubt remains. The policy of 'filling the cup' against the court involved the whig politicians in clandestine dealings with the French king, who was, as they themselves untiringly proclaimed, the worst enemy of their country's independence; and, even while stooping to this humiliating policy, they were being made the dupes of the superior adroitness of Charles II.

The 'Popish Plot' agitation, which set in before the meeting of parliament in October 1678, directed the efforts of the opposition to an attack upon the Duke of York. An address for his removal from the king's presence and counsels was accordingly proposed by Lord Russell. But though the principle of the Exclusion Bill was already in the air, the opposition was even more intent upon the removal of Danby; and their insistence in demanding his impeachment led to parlia-