To What Extent was Palmerston a Success in His Conduct of Foreign Policy 1846-51? Essay Sample

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  • Category: policy

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Palmerston was one of the most influential men in British Politics throughout the 19th century. During his years as British Foreign Secretary he had many successful events, which helped him gain a huge reputation. Palmerston was first present in the House of Commons in 1807, and was Prime Minister when he died in 1864 at the age of 81. Palmerston’s actions in many events between1846-51 lead to a number of successes

a number of successes in his performance as British Foreign Secretary. Throughout 1848 there were revolutions in numerous European countries, inspired by a mixture of liberalism and nationalism. Palmerston’s aim was for the Austrian Empire to survive as a check to Russian expansion. In this event, he took action in trying to influence the result by persuade Austria to grant independence to Lombardy and Venetia. British warships were also dispatched. Here, a general war was avoided and the balance of power restored.

Another success for Palmerston was the Don Pacifico Affair. He was trying to support a compensation claim after his house was burnt down, though Don Pacifico was only a British Citizen as he was born in Gibraltar. A British fleet was sent to the Mediterranean and used to scare the Greeks into paying. The Port of Athens was also blockaded for a month. This situation helped maintain British prestige and reputation abroad.

The Spanish Marriages could be seen as a success yet this had little to do with the efforts of Palmerston. He tried to stop the Spanish Queens from marrying the French, yet Isabella married her cousin Duke of Cadiz, while her sister married the Duke of Montpensier, Louis Philippe’s younger son. This could be described as a diplomatic defeat as Isabella had children, which meant that Montpensier was excluded from the throne.

However, there were many events that caused anger amongst other European powers and even some of successes had a negative effect. Although the Don Pacifico affair was a success it also caused a huge political row. France, Russia and Victoria and Albert thought that they should have all been consented before action against Greece began. The Haynau incident caused a huge rift between Palmerston and the Queen over an apology letter. This was meant to express regret for the actions of workmen towards the General, yet Palmerston accused Haynau of creating trouble himself, as he knew of the public’s dislike of him. The Queen only received a copy of the letter once it had been sent, and this was the first sign of conflict.

The final downfall of Palmerston and his biggest failure was the Louis Napoleon affair. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte became president of the French Republic and Queen Victoria was adamant that the country should remain neutral to the situation. However, Palmerston congratulated Napoleon on his success and so defied the Queen. This also caused huge anger amongst the British public. His resignation was ordered and he refused confrontation by following the command.

Even though it is clear that Palmerston had a number of failures as British Foreign secretary it is clear that he was making decisions that conformed to British Foreign Policy Principles. He did not have any effect on the outcome of the Spanish Marriages yet he was trying to stop marriage between France and Spain, which is keeping any one power from becoming dominant throughout Europe. Even though he was not sympathetic with General Haynau, by apologising he is keeping good relations with Austria. This was extremely important as it lies in the centre of Europe between two of the main potentially dominant countries France and Russia. Here he was also sympathising with revolutionaries rather than powers, which represents the principle of liberty for the individual. These examples show that Palmerston was trying to adhere to British principles in all of his actions even if they were not all successful.

Although Palmerston did have a number of victories in this period, some people can claim he was not successful between 1846-51 compared to his triumphs between 1830-41. He supported Belgian independence from France by calling an international conference to discuss the matter. This was regarded as one of his greatest achievements. In 1841 he called another conference and undid the treaty of friendship between Russia and Turkey. This meant that there was no longer a threat to the balance of power in this area. These events were some of many that helped Palmerston become extremely popular with the British public.

It is clear that Palmerston was tremendously popular with the British public throughout the duration of his term as Foreign Secretary. He was involved in a number of important events that helped Britain obtain the most powerful position throughout Europe. However, things began to deteriorate once Palmerston started to ignore commands and advice from the Queen. He was needed as a good negotiator and yet it became apparent towards his downfall that he was intent on going his own way on what he thought reflected British Foreign policy principles. Therefore I feel that it was the correct decision for him to be dismissed from power in 1851. He had defied Queen Victoria on too many occasions and his actions were supposed to stand for those of the monarchy, government and the public.

Overall, I believe that his conduct of British Foreign Policy was not as successful as the period of 1830-41. He still had many achievements in a number of situations and showed great political skills and power, yet he was responsible for his own downfall in 1851.

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