THE MINISTRY AS FORMED BY LORD JOHN RUSSELL. 407
THE MINISTRY AS FORMED BY LORD JOHN RUSSELL.
Marquis of Lansdowne . .
Lord Cottenham . . .
Earl of Minto ....
Right Hon. Lord John Russell
Right Hon. Charles Wood .
Earl of Auckland ....
Right Hon. Sir George Grey
Right Hon. Viscount Palraerston .
Right Hon. Sir John Cam Hobhouse
Earl of Clarendon . . ,
Right Hon. T. B. Macaulay .
Marquis of Clanricarde . .
Right Hon. Viscount Morpeth
Right Hon. H. Labouchere . .
. Lord President of the Council.
. Lord High Chancellor.
. Lord Privy Seal.
. First Lord of the Treasury.
. Chancellor of the Exchequer.
. First Lord of the Admiralty.
. Secretary of State for the Home Depart-
. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
. Secretary of State for the Colonies.
. President of the Board of Control.
. President of the Board of Trade.
. Paymaster of the Forces.
. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
. Woods and Forests.
. Chief Secretary for Ireland.
NOT OF THE CABINET.
Duke of Wellington . .
Marquis of Anglesey
Right Hon. Fox Maule ,
Right Hon. T. M. Gibson
H. G. Ward. Esq. .
Right Hon. R. L. Shiel
I. Jervis, Esq.
David Dundas, Esq. .
Master-General of the Ordnance.
Secretary at War.
Vice-President of the Board of Trade.
Secretary of the Admiralty.
Master of the Mint.
GRBAT OFFICERS OF STATE.
Earl Fortescue Lord Steward.
Earl Spencer Lord Chamberlain.
Duke of Norfolk Master of the Horse.
Earl of Bessborough Lord Lieutenant.
Right Hon. Maziere Brady . . . . Lord High Chancellor*
Right Hon. Andrew Rutherford
Thomas Maitland, Esq. . .
408 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
The great Irish Famine. The Potato-Rot of 1845 an d 1846. Modes of relief adopted
by the Government. Mr. O'Connell's call upon England for help. His death.
Munificent Subscriptions. Irish Landlords and Cottier Tenants. Navigation Laws
suspended. Ten Hours' Factory Bill. Abundant Harvest in England. Monetary
Pressure and Panic- Excitement on the subject of National Defences. The Duke of
Wellington's Letter. Proposed increase of the Income Tax. The House of Com-
mons on the night of the 24th of February. News of the Abdication of Louis
Philippe. Real causes of the overthrow of the French Monarchy. The Revolution
of 1848. Provisional Government appointed. Chartism in England revived by the
Socialist Revolution. The tenth of April. Preparations of the Government.
Physical-force Chartism at an end. The attempt at Insurrection in Ireland. The
French Republic established in bloodshed. Paris in a State of Siege. Prince Louis
Napoleon, President. Convulsions of the Continent. Progress of Improvement m
England. The Public Health Bill. The impulse to social amelioration given by
Prince Albert. Free-Trade Banquet at Manchester to celebrate the final extinction
of the Corn-Laws. Meeting of Parliament the next day. Tranquillity and Loyalty
of England contrasted in the Royal Speech with the condition of the Continental
Tables. Sovereigns. Populations. Occupation of the People. Census of Education.
Census of Religious Worship. Revenue and Expenditure. Commerce.
ONE of the most intelligent and experienced of the official men
attached to the Whig Government thus wrote in the beginning of
1848 : "The time has not yet arrived at which any man can with
confidence say that he fully appreciates the nature and the bearings
of that great event which will long be inseparably associated with
the year just departed." That event was " the great Irish Famine."
This thoughtful writer adds, " Unless we are much deceived, pos-
terity will trace up to that famine the commencement of a salutary
revolution in the habits of a nation long singularly unfortunate,
and will acknowledge that on this, as on many other occasions,
Supreme Wisdom has educed permanent good out of transient
We have seen how the first appearances of the Potato-Rot,
which was to deprive the population of Ireland of their too-exclu-
sive article of subsistence, induced that alarm in 1845 which was
the turning-point in the memorable change of the policy of sir
Robert Peel as to the supply of food for the population of all this
kingdom. The disease in the crop of 1845 was not so universal as
* " Edinburgh Review," vol. Ixxyii. p. 229, Article " On the Irish Crisis," by Sit
to prevent a considerable portion being saved ; but the quantity
that was found unfit for food when the store-pits were opened in
1846, fully testified to the wisdom of the step which sir Robert
Peel took upon his own responsibility before he quitted office, of
giving a commission to a great mercantile house to purchase a
hundred thousand pounds' worth of Indian corn in the American
markets. That supply was intrusted to Irish commissariat officers
in the spring of 1846, to sell from various depots at a moderate
price, wherever the ordinary supplies of food were found to be
deficient. The necessity for something more effectual than even
such a timely but partial supply was soon apparent. In 1846 the
fatal potato blight took place earlier, and was much more destruc-
tive, than in 1845. Father Mathew, the great temperance apostle
of Ireland, has described how, on the 27th of July, he saw in a
journey from Cork to Dublin the doomed plant blooming in all the
luxuriance of an abundant harvest ; but how, on his return on the
3rd of August, he beheld one wide waste of putrefying vegetation :
" In many places the wretched people were seated on the fences of
their decaying gardens, wringing their hands, and wailing bitterly
the destruction that had left them foodless." The experience of
the partial failure of 1845 had not taught the people that it was
dangerous to depend upon one species of food alone. The great
proportion of the early. culture of 1846 was that of potatoes. To-
wards the end of July the potatoes began to show symptoms of the
disease of the previous year. There was first a little brown spot on
the leaf ; the spots gradually increased in number and size, until the
foliage withered, and the stem became brittle. Then, although
the stalks remained green, the leaves suddenly blackened ; the
growth of the root was arrested ; the staple food of a nation had
perished. No potatoes were that year pitted. Those that were of
any value when dug up were immediately sold or consumed, in the
natural apprehension that they would rot. The autumn came, and
it was now found that the potato crop had, with very few local ex-
ceptions, universally and entirely failed.
Before the distress in Ireland had reached its height before
the word " Famine " was the only term which could express the
real state of human beings who would die for want of food if help
were not bestowed upon them the government of lord John Rus-
sell had devised various modes for the relief of sufferings and
privations which were, even in their early stage, far more extensive
than those which had been caused by the failure of the potato crop
in various years during the previous quarter of a century.
On the a8th of August, 1846, the royal assent was given to
HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
three Acts especially directed to meet the inevitable failure of the
great Irish esculent. They were Acts for the employment of the
poor in the distressed districts for a limited period ; for providing
additional funds for provisional loans and grants for public works ;
and for authorizing a further issue of money in aid of public works.
The application of these measures was a tentative process. The
Labour Rate Act at the beginning of September was directed to
be applied to twenty-four districts, proclaimed to be in a state of
distress. At the beginning of October this measure was found in
effectual, and the Lord-Lieutenant issued a circular authorizing the
undertaking of works of permanent utility. In the House of Com-
mons, on the 2oth of January, 1847, lord John Russell described
how the Labour Rate Act and other acts of the last session had
worked. An immense staff of servants, upwards of eleven thou-
sand, had been employed to furnish labour to half a million of
adults, representing two millions of souls, at an expense estimated
for January of 8oo,ooo/. It was difficult to find trustworthy ser-
vants, and to prevent the improper employment upon the works
of persons by no means destitute. It was desirable for the gov-
ernment to adopt new measures ; to form Relief Committees em-
powered to receive subscriptions and levy rates, and to be intrusted
with donations from the State. Out of the sums thus raised they
were to purchase food, and deliver rations to the famishing in-
habitants. The system of affording relief through public works
had utterly broken down ; the payment of money was evidently
liable to gross abuse ; and undrest food, such as meal, might be
exchanged for less needful articles by the improvident. Rations
of cooked food offered the most effectual mode of relieving the
helpless and prostrate people. Then began that beneficial system
which was limited by the Act to the ist of October, and which
reached its highest point in July, 1847, when upwards of three
millions of persons received separate rations. The Famine was
stayed. The harvest was approaching in which the staple food
was not affected by the disease. Impressively it has been said
by sir Charles Trevelyan "This enterprise was in truth the
grandest attempt ever made to grapple with famine over a whole
country. Organized armies, amounting altogether to some hun-
dreds of thousands, had been rationed before ; but neither ancient
nor modern history can furnish a parallel to the fact, that upwards
of three millions of persons were fed every day in the neighbour-
hood of their own homes, by administrative arrangements emana-
ting from and controlled by one central office."*
" Edinburgh Review," vol. Ixxxii. p. 269
O'CONNELL'S CALL FOR HELP. HIS DEATH. 411
The last time that the voice of Daniel O'Connell was heard in
Parliament was on the 8th of February, 1847. He called upon the
House of Commons to do something speedy and efficacious
some great act of national generosity, calculated upon a broad and
liberal scale. " Ireland is in your hands in your power. If you
do not save her, she cannot save herself." The great demagogue
was dying. The wretched parodists of his system of agitation,
which was powerful for good as for evil the ranting and swag-
gering young Irelanders, who, as Charles Lamb said of the early
dramatists, used blood as they would " the paint of the property-
man in the theatre " had separated from him when he declared
against the employment of physical force to obtain the Repeal of
the Union. In the famine he perhaps clearly saw how social evils
had been neglected for the advocacy of purely political objects
very uncertain in their possible benefits for the future, and deeply
injurious in their present tendency to put aside all real improve-
ment. He died at Genoa on the 1 5th of May. Had he lived he
would have seen and acknowledged how England had answered,
not merely his call upon her generosity, but had yielded at once
and wholly to the cry that had gone up to Heaven from the afflict-
ed land, and had stretched forth her hand to succour and to save.
Distressing as it must be, even at this distance of time, to look
back upon the amount of human misery produced by this national
calamity, there were circumstances connected with its relief that
we can regard with pride and admira'tion. The noble exertions of
public officers and private individuals, the unstinting employment
of the pecuniary resources of the government, the munificence of
the subscriptions sent to Ireland from the sister kingdom, the
tender sympathy with the sufferers of every true English heart
these might be considered by a captious few as the mere payment
of a debt from the happier island ; but if so the payment was large
and liberal, and such as could scarcely have been anticipated, even
by those who best understood the English character. Captain
Mann, an officer of the Coast Guard, who had seen the whole
course of this great affliction, and who, when the worst was over,
said, " I frequently look back upon it as a fearful and horrid
dream," was of opinion that " such sufferings, and such help, can-
not be easily forgotten." The Government in 1846 and 1847
advanced more than seven millions of money. The British As-
sociation for the Relief of the Distress in Ireland and Scotland
applied to Ireland half a million sterling of the subscriptions
raised. The Society of Friends collected in addition i68,ooo/. ;
and many persons in England contributed largely, independently
412 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
of any association. Sir Robert Peel, in his Cabinet Memoran-
dum of November r, 1845, thought there would be no hope of
contributions here for Irish relief. He apprehended that the
charitable would have Monster meetings and Repeal rent too pres-
ent to their minds to make any great exertions.* All such feel-
ings quickly passed away. England did her duty. " In the hour
of her utmost need, Ireland became sensible of an union of feeling
and interrst with the rest of the empire, which would have moved
hearts less susceptible of every generous and grateful emotion
than those of her sons and daughters." f It was during the event-
ful years from 184610 1850 that the vast amount of Emigration
took place which has been called the Irish Exodus. Before the
gold discoveries in Australia, the emigrants from England and
Scotland were comparatively few. " It is to Ireland that we must
chiefly ascribe the departure during those five years, of a million
and a quarter of emigrants from the ports of the United Kingdom,
three-fourths of whom went to the United States." J
Sir James Graham wrote to sir Robert Peel at the commence-
ment of the alarm with respect to the potato crop, " A great
national risk is always incurred when a population so dense as
that of Ireland subsists on the potato ; for it is the cheapest and
the lowest food, and if it fail no substitute can be found for star-
ving multitudes. " Why was the population of Ireland driven to
subsist on the cheapest and the lowest food ? Why was the agri-
culture of the South and West in a neglected state, little wheat
being grown, with oats inferior for milling purposes, and green
crops almost unknown ? Why was the sole foundation for a suffi-
ciency of food the renting of a bit of land on which a family could
be located in a miserable cabin ; the population rapidly increasing,
inasmuch as land used for raising potatoes will support three times
the number as the same land laid down to corn will support ?
These small tenures paid the landlord a higher rent than could
have been obtained by letting to cultivators on a large scale. The
rent of the cottier tenantry was always forthcoming, either in
money or in kind. This certain payment, however delayed, was
the absolute condition of their precarious existence upon the
cheapest and lowest food. Too often, even in the best times, they
were standing on the margin of absolute want, especially when
they were waiting for the ingathering of their crop. It was as
* Memoirs by Sir Robert Peel," p. 143.
t Sir Charles Trevelyan "Edinburgh Review," vol. Ixxxvii. p. 316.
$ See the Twenty-second Report of the Emigration Commissioners, 1862. Table, p. 65.
" Memoirs by Sir Robert Peel," p. 114.
IRISH LANDLORDS AND COTTIER TENANTS. 413
truly as boldly said, by a great political economist, soon after the
Irish crisis " With individual exceptions (some of them very
honourable ones), the owners of Irish estates do nothing for
the land but drain it of its produce." He had previously said
" In no sound theory of private property was it ever contemplated
that the proprietor of land should be merely a sinecurist quartered
on it." * Mr. O'Connell, in the speech we have quoted, replied
to some such inference: " It is asserted that the Irish landlords
do not do their duty. Several of them have done their duty ;
others have not. . . . But recollect how incumbered is the
property of Ireland, how many of her estates are in Chancery,
how many in the hands of trustees." The legislature did recollect
this; and in 1849 passed the Act by which a Commission for the
sale of. Incumbered Estates was established. From the beneficial
operations of this Commission, and through a better spirit infused
into the proprietors of unincumbered estates, much of the land
has come into the hands of skilful cultivators ; and that race of
cottier tenantry, of whose family one or more of its members was
supported by beggary, has in great part vanished. Religiously
and wisely did the Society of Friends in Ireland regard the
mysterious dispensation with which their country had been visited
in the blight of the potato, " as a means permitted by an All-wise
Providence to exhibit more strikingly the unsound state of its
The question of the probable scarcity of food, not only in
Ireland and in the Highlands and Isles of Scotland but in the
kingdom generally, was very early in the session brought before
parliament ; upon a proposal of the government for the total sus-
pension of all import duties upon corn, and of the Navigation Laws
through which importation was restricted. There was very little
opposition to this measure. The Protectionists were paralyzed
by the fearful presence of the Irish famine, which forbade the con-
sideration of class interests whilst three millions of people were
crying out for food. Sir Robert Peel has justly said, that if subse-
quent events could fairly be taken into account, the various
measures taken by parliament to mitigate the sufferings of 1846
and 1847, and "the hurried suspension of the Navigation Laws
and of the remaining duties on articles of subsistence, would exer-
cise no unfavourable influence on the opinion which might be
formed on the precautionary measures of 1846." Unanimously as
these measures were passed, as an absolute and uncontrollable ne-
cessity, there was scarcely a debate during the session in which
* John Stuart Mill" Principles of Political Economy," book ii. chap. ii. sect. 6.
414 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
the Repeal of the Corn-Laws, and the abolition or reduction of
Protective Duties, were not denounced as causes of present injury
and of future mischief. When the Budget was brought forward,
lord George Bentinck denied that free-trade had caused any in-
creased consumption, as affirmed by the Chancellor of the Exche-
quer, except in slave-grown sugar and in foreign silks ; and he
read an address from the Spitalfields weavers to himself, which
thus concluded : " We entertain the idea that had your lordship
possessed the reins of government, the people of Ireland would
not have perished to the extent they have, because we conceive
that your lordship would not have regarded the fashionable prin-
ciples of political economy, whereby the people might have been
saved." His lordship with great complacency affirmed that he
agreed with them.
It was during this session that the Ten Hours' Factory Bill was
carried upon the motion of Mr. Fielden ; the members of the gov-
ernment being divided in opinion, not only upon the general ques-
tion of this interference with labour, but as to the probable benefit,
or rather injury, of limiting factory labour to ten hours or to eleven
hours. Sir Robert Peel was strongly opposed to restrictions of
labour which might lessen the power of the operatives to command
the material necessaries and comforts of life. It had been said
that a diminution of the hours of labour would tend to the moral
and intellectual improvement of the great labouring class. " I
firmly believe,'' said Sir Robert Peel, " that the source of the fu-
ture peace, happiness, and prosperity of this country, lies in the
improvement, religious as well as moral, of the different classes of
society ; but it is thus in advocating the elevation of the people that
I oppose these restrictions. I do not deny the advantage of leisure ;
but of this I am perfectly convinced, that the real way to improve the
condition of the labourer, and to elevate the character of the work-
ing classes of this country, is to give them a command over the
necessaries of life." When the Bill went to the House of Lords,
lord Brougham laughed at the idea of passing the Bill for the sake
of mental improvement. After ten hours' work a man was too tired
for the task of self-cultivation. He had been trying to educate the
peasantry for these twenty-five years, and his constant competitor
and antagonist, by which he had always been defeated, was Sleep.
On the 23rd of July Parliament was prorogued by the Queen.
Her Majesty, after announcing her intention immediately to dis-
solve the present parliament, said " I rely with confidence on the
loyalty to the throne, and attachment to the free institutions of
this country, which animate the great body of my people. I join
win, (hem in supplications to Almighty God that the dearth by
whicj we have been afflicted may, by Divine blessing, be converted
into cheapness and plenty."
The prayer was heard. On the i;th of October thanksgivings
were offered up in all the churches of England for the abundant
harvest. But in a country of such large and complicated relations
as Great Britain, the transition from dearth to plenty cannot pro-
duce that universal gladness which is felt in simpler communities,
when the garners are newly filled, and the privations of the sum-
mer and the dread of the winter are removed in a bounteous
autumn. In September and October there had been such a pres-
sure upon the merchants and traders as had not been experienced
since the great panic of 1825. Mercantile houses in London of the
highest eminence suspended their payments. Corresponding disas-
ters occurred at Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. All the
usual accommodation in the Money Market was at an end. In
October the alarm swelled into a general panic; the crash of emi-
nent houses went on in London ; in the country, not only mercan-
tile firms but banks were failing ; the funds fell rapidly ; exchequer
bills were at a high rate of discount. On the rgth of October a
deputation from the bankers, merchants and shipowners of Liver-
pool addressed the First Lord of the Treasury on the necessity for
some remedial measures. On the 2jrd a deputation of London
Bankers urged upon the government to grant relief by a suspen-
sion of the Bank Charter Act of 1844. On the 25th of October a
letter was addressed, signed by lord John Russell and the Chan-
cellor of the Exchequer, to the Governor and Deputy-Governor of
the Bank of England, in which it was announced that " her Majes-
ty's Government have come to the conclusion that a time has
arrived when they ought to attempt, by some extraordinary and
temporary measure, to restore confidence to the mercantile and
manufacturing community." They recommended, therefore, the
Directors of the Bank of England to enlarge the amount of their
discounts and advances upon approved security, charging a high
rate of interest. The letter added, " if this course should lead to
any infringement of the existing law, her Majesty's Government
will be prepared to propose to Parliament on its meeting a Bill of
Indemnity." The recommendation was immediately acceded to
by the Bank of England. There was a partial restoration of
confidence ; but the ruin had been too widely spread not to make
its effects long felt by the mercantile and manufacturing classes,
and thus, by abridging the capital engaged in the employment of
labour, extending the suffering to the class least able to endure it
41 6 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
The New Parliament was opened on the i8th of November.
Mr. Charles Shaw Lefevre was re-elected Speaker. On the 23rd the
royal speech was delivered by Commission. It announced that
although the course recommended by Ministers to the Bank of
England might have led to an infringement of the law, the law had
not been infringed. It went on to say that the alarm had subsided ;
that the pressure on the banking and commercial interests had been
mitigated ; and that the abundant harvest with which the country-
had been blessed had alleviated the evils which always accompany
a want of employment in the manufacturing districts. On the 3oth