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class was in great part disfranchised; taxation was needlessly severe;
the press was restricted grievously; and Ireland was shamefully
oppressed.

I. As public attention ceased to be absorbed by victorious generals,
it turned to the miseries of the poor; and there was much discussion of
plans for their relief. Early in the century it became generally known
that Robert Owen's factories were unusually profitable, on account of
what he did for the intelligence, health, and happiness of the
operatives. His pamphlet, published in 1813, and often reprinted as a
_New View of Society_ argued strongly for universal education as the
remedy for poverty and crime; public opinion was much enlightened on the
Continent, as well as in England; but a sagacious member of the British
aristocracy said to him: "Oh, I see it all! Nothing could be more
complete for the working-classes; but what will become of us?"

Owen complained in this pamphlet that Sabbatarianism denied "innocent
and cheerful recreation to the labouring man"; and he spoke in public
of the influence of religion on progress, with a hostility which sadly
injured his popularity. His life was examined with a jealousy which
brought to light only its elevation. The opposition of people who
thought themselves respectable drove him into agitation for what he was
the first to call "Socialism." He published on May 1, 1820, his plan for
forming villages, where the people were to work under the supervision of
the eldest, and "be freely permitted to receive from the general store
of the community whatever they might require." These last words contain
the characteristic principle of Socialism, that every labourer is to be
paid according to his needs, whatever the value of the work.

A dozen such experiments were made in the United States, about 1825; but
it was found impossible to unlearn the experience of the race. Progress
has consisted in bringing each man's welfare into more exact proportion
to the value of his work. This tendency has never safely been suspended,
except under such coercion as has kept up industry and economy among
monks, Rappites, Shakers, and other docile enthusiasts. The cooperative
stores which Owen was among the first to open seem to have failed
because the salaries were not high enough to secure skilful managers.

II. The proof that a reformer was before his age is the fact that later
years caught up with him; and this is by no means so true of Owen as of
Bentham, who declared Socialism impracticable. He was one of the first
to advocate woman suffrage (_Works_, vol. iii., p. 463), savings banks,
cheap postage, collection of statistics, direction of punishment towards
reformation, and repeal of usury laws. His bulky volumes are in great
part occupied with suggestions for making the courts of justice less
dilatory and uncertain, less expensive to the poor, and less partial to
the rich. His _Principles of Morals and Legislation_ declared, in
1787, that the sole end of a ruler ought to be the happiness of all
the people, and that this rule should be the basis of ethics as well as
politics. One of his publications in 1817 claimed the suffrage for every
man and woman who could read, but insisted that this would be "worse
than nothing" without that "shield to freedom," the secret ballot.
An opponent who feared that this would destroy private property was
answered thus: "Has he ever heard of Pennsylvania?" The complaint
that freedom of the press to expose corrupt officials might weaken
the government was met by showing that there can be no good government
without it. To think our ancestors wiser than us, he says, is to take
it for granted that it is not experience but inexperience that is the
"mother of wisdom."

Bentham's best work was in sowing seed that his friends might reap the
harvest. Other authors were generously assisted by his manuscripts,
purse, and library; and there has been no stronger advocate of reform
than the _Westminster Review_, which he founded in 1824. The first
number showed that the Whigs were too much like the Tories. Their
leaders were noblemen or millionaires; their favourite measure,
abolition of rotten boroughs, was mainly in the interest of the
middle class; and their policy towards the masses was a seesaw between
promising elevation and permitting oppression. This article was by James
Mill, who showed in a later number that any church which was established
must, on that account, be bigoted. His essay _On Government_ urges that
the masses cannot be protected unless fully represented. They had
not yet found out all they needed; but education would teach it; and
occasional mistakes would not be so bad as systematic oppression. Among
his ablest books is a defence of the rationalism, bequeathed by the
eighteenth century, against Transcendentalism, which eclipsed it during
the first half of the nineteenth.

The inspiration of the new philosophy was added to that of many new
reforms; and a glorious literature blossomed in the long summer of
peace. Wordsworth's fear of "too much liberty" did not prevent his
encouraging intellectual independence most impressively. Scott tried "to
revive the declining spirit of loyalty"; but the result was universal
admiration of rebels and sympathy with peasants. Many authors who
adapted themselves much more closely and intentionally to the needs of
the age ceased long ago, for this very reason, to find readers. This,
for instance, was the fate of the indefatigable Cobbett.

Landor, on the other hand, was unpopular from the first, because
devotion to Greek and Latin literature made his style as well as some of
his favourite topics uninteresting, except for scholarly people who
were soon offended by such remarks as "Law in England and in most other
countries is the crown of injustice. According to her laws and usages,
Brutus would have been hanged at Newgate; Cato buried with a stake
through his body in the highroad; Cicero transported to Botany Bay."
"Certain I am, that several of the bishops would not have patted Cain
upon the back while he was about to kill Abel." "A peerage I consider as
the park-paling of despotism." In his _Imaginary Conversations_, Hofer
and Metternich, the emperors of Russia and China, the kings of Spain
and Portugal, the Spanish priest, Merino, and many other extraordinary
personages tell how badly England was governed by "the hereditarily
wise," and what a misfortune it was for all Europe, to have her rulers
enjoy such an intimate and universal friendship as was never known among
their predecessors.

No writer has spoken more mightily than Byron against the "blasphemy"
of ascribing divine authority to these "royal vampires." He knew that
Napoleon had been "the scourge of the world"; but he was indignant to
see the men who had struck down the lion kneeling before wolves; and yet
he looked forward to the reign everywhere of "equal rights and laws." He
spoke freely of the "sacerdotal gain but general loss" in superstition;
and his own highest faith was that "they who die in a great cause" would

"Augment the deep and sweeping thoughts
Which overpower all others and conduct
The world at last to freedom."

His poems revealed the grandeur of scenery, as well as history, and made
delight in mountains and thunderstorms felt as an ennobling influence.
His speeches in the House of Lords were pleas for parliamentary reform,
Catholic emancipation, and mercy to rioters infuriated by famine. In
1820, he was one of the leading Carbonari in Italy; he gave his life
to help the Greeks become free; and his name is still a watchword of
revolution.

His friend, Shelley, went so far in the same direction as to call
himself a republican, as well as an atheist. His life was pure in his
own eyes; but his opinions about divorce were punished by a decision in
Chancery that he was unfit to be trusted with his own children. He had
consecrated himself in boyhood to war against all oppressors; and
his position to the last was that of his own Prometheus, suffering
continually with the enslaved, but consoled by faith that his sympathy
will hasten the glorious day when every man shall be "king over
himself," when women, free "from custom's evil taint," shall make earth
like heaven, when "thrones, altars, judgment-seats, and prisons" shall
seem as antiquated as the pyramids, and when human nature shall be "its
own divine control." He took the side of the poor against the rich in
a drama which was suppressed on account of its severity against George
IV., and which ends with a portentous scene, where

"Freedom calls Famine, her eternal foe,
To brief alliance."

He spoke as well as wrote for the independence of Ireland; and he
would have done much for that of Greece, if he had not died soon
after publishing a magnificent tragedy, in which he showed what cruel
massacres were perpetrated while the rulers of Christendom refused to
help Christian patriots against the Turks. Byron is called the poet of
revolution; but Shelley was the poet of liberty. One was like a painter
who captivated the multitude, sometimes by his brilliancy of colour,
sometimes by his tragic pathos, and sometimes by his amorous warmth. The
other was like a sculptor who left a few statues and tablets, fanciful
in design and majestic in execution, for the delight of connoisseurs.
Fortunately the marble is likely to outlast the canvas.

III. These poets and philanthropists helped the people of England
contrast the wrongs they were suffering with the rights they ought
to have. That love of liberty which drove out the Stuarts revived, as
despotism was seen to increase pauperism and excite more crime than it
suppressed. The conflict between republicanism and monarchy in Europe
had changed to one between despotism and constitutionalism; and peace
made England free to resume the advanced position she had held in the
eighteenth century. The declaration of President Monroe, in December,
1823, that the United States would not permit the South American
republics to be overthrown by any despot in Europe, gained much
authority from the concurrence of the British Ministry; and the latter
was induced by Canning to form that alliance with France and Russia
which gave independence to Greece.

The attack on the slave-trade, which began while England was at peace
with her neighbours, had slackened in the shadow of the long war. The
wicked traffic was prohibited in 1807; but little more could be done
before 1823. Then an appeal for emancipation in the West Indies was made
to Parliament by Wilberforce and other organised abolitionists; and the
agitation went on until victory was made possible by the rescue of the
House of Commons from the aristocrats. The acts forbidding workingmen
to combine for higher wages, or to emigrate were repealed in 1824. The
criminal laws had already been mitigated, and some protection given
to children in factories; and the duties on wool and raw silk were now
reduced, to the common benefit of consumer, manufacturer, and operative.

The Whigs were strong enough in 1828 to repeal the Test Act, which had
been passed in 1673, for the purpose of enabling the Episcopalians to
hold all the offices, but had become a dead letter so far as regarded
Protestants. The House of Lords gave way unwillingly; and one of the
bishops secured such a compromise as kept Jews out of Parliament for
the next thirty years. Conscientious scruples against taking oaths
were treated at this time with due respect; and all British Protestants
became equals before the law. Canning had already made the House of
Commons willing to emancipate Catholics; but neither this reform nor
that of abolishing rotten boroughs could pass the bench of bishops; and
the Church stood in the way of a plan for free public schools. It was
the organised resistance of all Ireland to disfranchisement of Catholics
which won toleration from a Tory Ministry. Its leader, Wellington, cared
nothing for public opinion or the people's rights; but he was too good
a general to risk a war with a united nation. Even the minister whose
sympathy with Orangemen had won the nickname of "Orange Peel" declared
that it was time to yield. Popular prejudice against Romanism had
been much diminished by gratitude for the aid given by Catholic allies
against Napoleon. The bishops rallied around the King, who had never
before been influenced by what he called religion; but he was forced to
sign, on April 13, 1829, the bill which ended a strife that had cursed
Europe for three hundred years. Two-thirds of the bishops resisted to
the last; and the Tory party was so badly divided as to be unable to
prevent England from following the example set next year by France.

IV. By the Constitution of 1814, the power belonged mainly to the
Parisian bankers, merchants, and manufacturers. These men preferred
constitutional monarchy to either democracy or military despotism; but
they meant to maintain their own rights; and they were much offended
at the attempts of Charles X. to check mental progress and revive
superstition. His plans for fettering the press were voted down in the
Chamber of Nobles; journalists prosecuted by his orders were acquitted
by the courts; and he could not enforce a law under which burglars who
robbed a Catholic church would have mounted the guillotine.

Early in 1830, he dissolved the Legislature for declaring that he was
not governing according to the wish of the people. The candidates next
elected were two to one against him. On Monday, July 26, appeared his
ordinances forbidding publication of newspapers without his permission,
unseating all the deputies just chosen, and threatening that subsequent
elections would be empty formalities. The plan was like that of 1797;
but this time the soldiers in Paris were few in number and ill-supplied
with provisions, while their general was not even notified of his
appointment. The police allowed the journalists to spread the news
throughout Paris and publish a protest declaring that they would not
obey the ordinances and appealing to the people for support. The leader,
Thiers, had already called for a king who would reign but not govern.
Lawyers and magistrates pronounced the ordinances illegal. Printers and
other employers told their men that the next day would be a holiday.

On Tuesday, the crowds of operatives, clerks, students, ragged men and
boys could not be dispersed by the police. Marmont took command of the
troops that afternoon, and shot a few insurgents. That night all the
street-lamps were put out; thousands of barricades went up, after plans
but recently invented; and gun-shops, powder-magazines, arsenals,
and even museums were broken open. On Wednesday, there was a new city
government in the Hôtel de Ville; everywhere hung the tri-coloured
banner of Napoleon and the Republic; and the tocsin called out a hundred
thousand rebels in arms. The weapons of Crusaders were seen side by side
with the bayonets and uniforms of the National Guard, which had been
revived by Napoleon but disbanded by Charles X.

Marmont's orders were to clear the streets that afternoon; but the
soldiers were met everywhere by a heavy fire and a shower of paving
stones and furniture. One patriotic girl was said to have sacrificed her
piano. All the detachments were finally hemmed in between barricades
and crowds of rebels with pikes, muskets, and bayonets. During the night
they were concentrated around the Tuileries, where they suffered
greatly from hunger and thirst, as they had done during the day. Their
ammunition was almost exhausted; and new barricades were put up around
them. Marmont ordered that there should be no more firing, except in
self-defence, and tried in vain to make truce with the rebels. The
latter were joined on Thursday by the regiments in the Place Vendôme.
This position was entrusted to part of the Swiss who had defended the
Louvre; but the others were soon driven out by men and boys who swarmed
in at unguarded doors and windows. All the soldiers took flight that
noon from Paris.

All this time the King was amusing himself at St. Cloud, and boasting
that there would be no concessions. He now offered to dismiss his
Ministry and revoke the ordinances; but more than a thousand lives had
been lost. The Parisians marched against him: he abdicated and fled: the
Bourbons had ceased to reign. The men who had fought against him called
for a republic with universal suffrage and no State church; but the
wealthier citizens were afraid of war with Russia and Austria. A
descendant of Louis XIII. and a friend of Thiers was made King by the
Legislature. He called himself Louis Philippe, and promised cordially
to carry out the Constitution, which now meant freedom of the press, and
equal privileges for all Christian churches. The supremacy of Rome
in France was at an end. Seats in the Upper House could no longer be
inherited; and the right to vote for deputies was given to twice as many
Frenchmen as before. Patriots in all nations were encouraged; and the
Swiss cantons became more democratic; but Hegel was frightened to death.

Among other results were unsuccessful revolts in Rome and Warsaw, with
successful ones in Brussels, Cassell, and Dresden. The subjection to
Holland, which had been imposed by the Congress of Vienna, was hated
by the Belgians, partly because it made education secular, and partly
because it gave them only half the Legislature, and very few offices
elsewhere, although they formed three-fifths of the population. Priests
were active in stirring up the revolt which began at Brussels on August
25, 1830, after the performance of an opera telling how Masaniello had
set Naples free. The Dutch were driven out; Belgium was made a separate
constitutional monarchy by the vote of a convention of deputies; France
and England helped her maintain political independence; but it was to
the loss of intellectual liberty.

V. The success of rebellion with the pressure of hard times enabled the
Whigs to carry England for parliamentary reform. Peel and Wellington
hastened their fall by boasting that there could be no improvement of a
Legislature which accepted members for places without any inhabitants,
but not for Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, or some parts of London,
and which actually enabled one Scotchman to elect himself as sole
representative of fourteen thousand people, in a district where he was
the only voter.

The people were so discontented with the whole system of Church and
State, that thousands of sympathisers gathered around Cobbett in July,
1831, when he was tried for printing a statement that riots of farm
hands were doing good in forcing the clergy to reduce their tithes. Lord
Brougham, who had been made Chancellor, was among the witnesses to
the generally pacific tendency of Cobbett's writings. The jury did not
agree; and the Government gave up the case. There was but little more
political persecution of British authors.

Reform triumphed that autumn in the House of Commons. The House of Lords
would then have been conquered, if the bishops had acted like successors
of the apostles; but twenty-one out of twenty-three voted for prolonging
their own dominion. Their conduct made it unsafe for them to wear their
peculiar costume in the streets. Bells tolled, and newspapers put on
mourning. There were riots in all the cathedral towns. A duke's castle
was burned, because he insisted that the votes of his tenants were
his private property, and attempts to punish the incendiaries brought
Bristol, one Sunday, into the hands of a mob which burned the bishop's
palace, the custom-house, and many other buildings. It was agreed by a
meeting of a hundred thousand people at Birmingham, that no more taxes
should be paid until Parliament was reformed; and on very many houses,
especially in London, there was the following notice: "To save the
Collector unnecessary trouble, he is informed that No Taxes on this
house will be paid, until the Reform Bill pass into a Law." It was at
a meeting to encourage this course that Sydney Smith, who had done good
service for Catholic emancipation, told how vainly Mrs. Partington tried
to sweep back the Atlantic, during a great storm, and added: "Be quiet
and steady. You will beat Mrs. Partington."

The episcopal Partingtons continued to be even more hostile than the
lay members of the House of Lords; but all finally yielded to the
threat that there would be new peers enough created to vote them down. A
popular song made the Reform Bill boast that, "Twenty peers shall carry
me, If twenty won't, then forty will; For I 'm his Majesty's bouncing
Bill."

The throne was then filled by William IV., who reigned from 1830 to
1837, and who gave his consent, though sometimes unwillingly, to several
of the greatest reforms ever passed in England. The bill which he signed
on June 7, 1832, enabled 141 members of Parliament to be elected by
populous districts hitherto unrepresented, instead of by little
boroughs where the voters were so few as to be bought up easily, or else
intimidated constantly; and the franchise was also much extended,
though not outside of the middle class. Thus Great Britain ceased to be
governed by a league of irresponsible nobles, bishops, and other lords
of vast estates.

VI. They had kept the lower classes ignorant, in order to secure
obedience; and their methods were not given up at once. Newspapers had
already become the chief teachers of politics; and therefore they were
under a triple tax. A duty on paper added one-fourth to the cost
of publication. There was also a tax of three-and-sixpence on each
advertisement; and more of this lucrative business was done by the
publishers in New York City than by all those in Great Britain. A third
exaction was that of fourpence for a stamp on every copy; and prices
were thus prevented from falling below seven-pence, except in case of
violation of the laws. These threatened fine or imprisonment to whoever
should publish or sell any periodical costing less than sixpence,
and containing "news, intelligence, occurrences, and remarks and
observations thereon, tending to excite hatred and contempt of the
government and constitution of this country as by law established, and
also to vilify religion." This purpose was avowed explicitly, in so
many words, by _The Poor Man's Guardian_, which announced that it
was published "contrary to law" and would be sold for one penny. The
circulation was twice that of _The Times_, and the language often
violent. The publisher, Hetherington, was sent twice to prison for six
months; and could not go about except disguised as a Quaker. His papers
were packed in chests of tea, by an agent who was afterwards mayor
of Manchester. Another publisher, who devoted himself to reports of
criminal trials, used to send them out in coffins. Many unstamped
periodicals were in circulation. Some dealers carried them about in
their hats and pockets. Others hawked them in the streets, and declared,
when sentenced to prison, that they should resume the business on the
same spot as soon as they were released. Paid informers and spies helped
the Whig Government carry on more than two hundred prosecutions in 1835,
and more than five hundred previously. Subscription boxes for the relief
of the martyrs could be seen everywhere. Remonstrances were signed and
indignation meetings held in London and Manchester. "The Society for the
Repeal of All Taxes on Knowledge" kept up a vigorous agitation, which
was aided by Bulwer in Parliament. At last the publishers who bought
stamps found they could not compete with men who bought none. This duty,
and also that on advertisements, were reduced in 1836; and the result
was so gratifying, even to publishers of the best periodicals, that all
these taxes have been abolished.

Protestant bigotry had not prevented unsectarian public schools from
being opened in Ireland in 1833; and that year is also memorable for
the abolition of slavery in the West Indies, the extension of universal
suffrage in Scotland, the beginning of free trade with India and China,
the removal of disability for office from Hindoo subjects of Great
Britain, the protection of children from being overworked in factories,
and the suppression of supernumerary bishops and rectors in Ireland.

During the next three years, the local government of most English towns
and cities, though not yet of London, was taken from corrupt oligarchies
and given to all inhabitants who paid even a moderate rent; seamen
ceased to be impressed; Irish Catholics and English dissenters were
enabled to marry without apostasy; vexatious methods of collecting


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Online LibraryFrederic May HollandLiberty in the nineteenth century → online text (page 3 of 16)