In Praise of Palmerston 99

It is impossible to read this without warming to Palmerston.

94 Picadilly
Oct 31, 1857

Rt Hon Sir B Hall
[Commissioner for Public Works, a cabinet post]

My Dear Hall,

I cannot agree with you as to the principle on which you think the grass in the park should be treated. You seem to think it is a thing to be looked at by people who are to be confined to the gravel walks. I regard it as a thing to be walked upon freely and without restraint by the people, old and young, for whose enjoyment the parks are maintained; and your iron hurdles would turn the parks into so many Smithfields, and entirely prevent that enjoyment. As to people making paths across the grass, what does that signify? If the parks were to be deemed hay-fields, it might be necessary to prevent people from stopping the growth of the hay by walking over the grass; but as the parks must be deemed places for public enjoyment, the purpose for which the parks are kept up is marred and defeated when the use of them is confined to a number of straight gravel walks.

When I see the grass worn by foot traffic, I look on it as a proof that the park has answered its purpose, and has done its duty by the health, amusement and enjoyment of the people.

In the college courts of Cambridge a man is fined half a crown who walks over the grass plots, but that is not a precedent to be followed

Yours sincerely


It is impossible to imagine a Prime Minister writing like that today, or any politician in power coming down on the non-authoritarian side of any argument.

Palmerston would have been absolutely furious at the government’s new secret courts, regarding them as fundamentally un-British. And he would have been quite right. I absolutely cannot believe the “Liberal Democrats” are doing this.

In judging the character of people, it is essential to take into account the environment in which they develop. There is no more convinced anti-monarchist than me, but I did not join in some unkind comments on this blog about the Queen’s recent illness, because I have spent some time with her and think she is a good woman. It is not her fault she was born as she was, and had I been I may well have behaved worse.

I appreciate Palmerston was not a socialist anti-colonialist. But it would have been very strange if he was.

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99 thoughts on “In Praise of Palmerston

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  • glenn_uk

    Chris – with your permission, please may we leave it there for now. I won’t do justice to your considered replies for a bit, dealing with a personal issue which makes all this suddenly seem terribly trivial. Take care, and remember to tell those you care about, that you love them.

  • Komodo

    It really pains men to recall this. One person in power* I can remember who really did come down on the side of the masses – once – was Thatcher. Some rabid Tory banker’s buddy MP was complaining that the scum on benefits should not be permitted to spend their criminally acquired income on fags and beer, and that said income obviously needed to be reduced if not ended for ever, for the benefit of the aforementioned feckless scrotes’ work ethic (etc). It was probably someone like Nigel Lawson**. Thatcher responded that it was their money to spend as they wished.

    *as opposed to seeking it
    **href=”>”Lawson presents “misleading messages” that his conclusion on temperature rise show a “surprising ignorance of elementary statistical analysis” and recommends the peer “begin with a course of reading of the IPCC reports.”

  • Chris Jones

    I hope your personal issue is resolved and you are well Glenn_uk. For the sake of all our loved ones i’ll offer this from the First global revolution publication by the club of Rome:

    “The common enemy of humanity is man.
    In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up
    with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming,
    water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these
    dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through
    changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome.
    The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”
    – Club of Rome

  • glenn_uk

    Hello Chris…. thank you for your well wishes, unfortunately they are unlikely to be met. Found out yesterday that the old man has inoperable, advanced, cancer of the liver, and doesn’t actually have much time left. He was being scanned for something else altogether when it was picked up. Amazing how suddenly one finds life turned upside-down.

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Glenn; No words can suffice. Just remember that there is some solace in having time to say farewell. It is much worse when someone is taken suddenly, leaving you to wish you had said more.

  • glenn_uk

    Ben: Thank you, appreciated. Still reeling from the shock, actually, but at least I’m glad that we have been frank about our feelings for each other, particularly in recent years. We have become great friends as adults, and always were very close. As mentioned, I’ve no idea how long we’ve got at the moment, a few months probably.

  • Mary - for Truth and Justice

    I too am very sorry to hear that Glenn and hope that your father has any pain that he gets properly relieved. I am sure that he is being helped through, knowing of your love and concern and that you have time together.

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