Lord Palmerston? George Ward Nichols? John Moncure? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Describing a counterfactual world typically requires a comically twisted statement:
What would have happened if what did happen had not happened?
These words have been attributed to British statesman Lord Palmerston, but I have been unable to find a citation. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: In 1850 Lord Palmerston delivered a speech in the House of Commons in London. The original phrasing of the expression differed a bit from the modern version given by the questioner. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
We have been told, however, that if it had not been for the war in Lombardy, the indispensable interference of Russia in Hungary, would not have taken place. What might have happened, if that which did happen, had not happened, I cannot undertake to say. (Hear, and laughter.)
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.