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'Lord Pumice Stone'


From the Wall Street Journal:

Lord Palmerston (1784-1865), the man who guided Britain's foreign policy in the pivotal decades of the mid-19th century. . .is perhaps best remembered for his pugnacious public style and for saying, in response to an attack on his policies, that England had no eternal allies, only eternal interests. Such a statement makes him sound like tough-minded realist. Yet when he was foreign secretary in the late 1840s, he was denounced by Benjamin Disraeli for elevating—above Britain's interests—a philosophical, "sentimental" attachment to constitutional government abroad. Disraeli called Palmerston "the great prophet of liberalism in foreign affairs," and he did not mean it as a compliment.

Palmerston's tart rhetoric and overbearing manner exasperated foreigners, colleagues and even Victoria herself, but the public took a different view. According to a newspaper of the time, the British people considered him "a symbol of pluck and public spirit—a sort of epitome of all that is most English in the English character." He symbolized the self-confidence and commitment to progress of mid- Victorian Britain.

In "Palmerston," David Brown offers a meticulously researched chronicle that excavates the reality behind the image. . .

As Prime Minister he was an advocate of free trade and of reforms generated by 'legitimate public demands'. He got rid of the rotten boroughs, he initiated prison reform and he was a pugnacious defender of British subjects wherever and whenever they were in trouble around the globe.

As a boy he stood up to bullies twice his size. As the man conducting Britain's foreign policy, he defended freedom for he felt freedom around the world was in Britain's interest.

Yes it is.

Palmerston was sometimes called Pam. 'His abrasive style earned him the nickname Lord Pumice Stone'. Less flattering portraits than the one above show his visage looking a bit volcanic.

Like my co-editor, he was originally a Southampton boy.

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