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Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston

Lord Palmerston (Henry John Temple) (October 20, 1784 - October 18, 1865), the third and last Viscount Palmerston, was a British Prime Minister and Liberal politician. He was in government office almost continually from 1807 till his death in 1865.


Lord Palmerston addressing the House of Commons

Palmerston began his career as a Canningite and served under him (and Lord Portland[?]) as Junior Lord of Admirality from 1807. In 1809 he became Secretary at War, a post he would hold for nearly twenty years. In 1828 the Duke of Wellington raised Palmerston to the Cabinet, but Palmerston resigned from Wellington's government over the issue of parliamentary representation for Manchester and Birmingham.

Palmerston's elevation to the post of Foreign Secretary[?], perhaps the post most identified with him, came in 1830 in Earl Grey's great reforming government. It was during this term in office that he successfully addressed the issues of Belgian independence and problems with control of Turkey. However, his abrasive style gained him the nickname, "Lord Pumice Stone", and his manner of dealing with foreign governments who crossed him was the original "gunboat diplomacy[?]"

Palmerston continued to serve as Foreign Secretary in the succeeding Whig governments of Lord Melbourne (1835-1841 and Lord John Russell (1846-1851).

In 1851 Palmerston resigned from the Russell government, largely because of disagreements with Russell and weeks later caused an election by bringing the same government down.

After a brief period of Tory minority government, the Earl of Aberdeen became Prime Minister in a coalition government of Whigs and Peelites (with Russell taking the role of Foreign Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons) but it was impossible for them to form a government without Palmerston; he was made Home Secretary[?] in December 1852.

Although exiled from his traditional realm in the Foreign Office, Palmerston played a key role in securing British entry into war against Russia in 1854. Soon after, Aberdeen's government fell because of public anger at the conduct of the Crimean war and Palmerston was the public choice for Prime Minister, even though he had been as much a part of the conduct of the war as any of the other ministers of the government.

He continued to serve as Prime Minister till his death in a term broken only by the Chinese crisis of 1857 and a failure to read the public mood in 1858.

Palmerston was an Irish Peer who always sat in the British House of Commons. He is regarded as a nationalist and as a social conservative. He was a womaniser; The Times named him Lord Cupid, and he was cited, at the age of 79, as correspondent in an 1863 divorce case. He was also a persistent abolitionist.

Palmerston is remembered for his light hearted approach to government. He is once said to have claimed of a particularly intractable problem relating to Schleswig-Holstein that only three people had ever understood the problem: one was Prince Albert, who was dead; the second was a German professor, who had gone insane; and the third was Palmerston himself, who had forgotten it.

Florence Nightingale said of him after his death "Though he made a joke when asked to do the right thing he always did it. He was so much more in earnest than he appeared, he did not do himself justice."

Lord Palmerston's First Government, February 1855 - February 1858