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inspired by his Radical mentor, Francis Place, combination
laws had been relaxed and trade-unions had been made
legal. But some farm labourers in Dorsetshire, where the
lot of the labourer was very wretched, having banded
themselves together as a union, six of them were indicted,
nominally for administering an illegal oath, and sentenced
to seven years' transportation. A demonstration of the
trades in their favour, on so large a scale and so menacing
as to call out soldiery and artillery, brought about their
pardon and recall to their native land.



374 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

1833 A beginning was made, on a small scale, of national
education by forming a committee of the Privy Council
for its promotion with an annual sum of twenty thousand
pounds, which was distributed through two school so-
cieties, one Anglican, the other undenominational and
regarded with jealousy by Anglicans. This was Broug-
ham's great subject, and other philanthropists, such as
Lancaster, Bell, and Raikes the founder of Sunday-
schools, had been labouring in the same field. It was
assumed that the chief cause of popular vice and crime was
ignorance, which popular education would dispel. Per-
haps in the discussion the distinction between popular
education and state education was not kept distinctly in
view; nor was it very clearly seen what principles the
adoption of state education involves. That the commu-
nity is bound to provide education for all the children whom
anybody chooses to bring into the world ; that the provi-
dent who defer marriage till they can support a family
are bound to pay for the improvident ; that one class
is bound to provide education for another class; are
not midisputed propositions. Nature, some contend, pro-
nounces that the duty as well as the right of educating
children belongs to the parents, or those to whom the
parents may intrust it. It is also to be observed that in
a community divided in religion the state can hardly take
to itself the duty of education without practically estab-
lishing secularism ; recognition of religion by giving its
ministers access to the children at certain hours being not
of great value, since what religion demands is the whole
life of the child. Nor is it likely that a state system of
education would be free from the defects of a machine.
The common schools of primitive New England and



IX THE FRUITS OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM 375

even those of Scotland in early days were probably less
unparental than state schools in the present day, nor was
there in those communities any sectarian division to pre-
vent the school from being religious. The voluntary
system might be the best, as it apparently is the most
natural, if ii\ had power to do the work. But the need
was urgent ; the object, if education was really the sov-
ereign remedy for vice and crime, was of transcendent
importance. Security of some sort for the voter's intel-
ligence was the indispensable safeguard of an extended
franchise. The state system, at all events, at this time
introduced in germ, has continued to grow till at last
its complete ascendancy seems assured.

When the franchise was extended a cheap political
press for the instruction of the new voters became a
manifest necessity of the state. The Whig government
proceeded to reduce the stamp duty on newspapers from 1836
fourpence to a penny, and to reduce the excise on paper
at the same time. The Tories urged that greater relief
would be afforded to the people by a remission of the
duty on soap. In the eyes of a true Tory a newspaper
press was a vulgar organ of evil speaking and sedition.
'The lowering of newspaper stamps would tend to intro-
duce a cheap and profligate press, one of the great-
est curses that could be inflicted on humanity.' 'The
poor man, as it was, could have a sight of a newspaper in a
coffee-house for three halfpence.' The reduction of the
stamp and excise could not fail to enlarge the realm of
the new-born power. Circulation was speedily doubled.
Nor was the benefit confined to newspapers ; it extended
to the Penny Cyclopaedia and other conduits of cheap
knowledge. Such a power as journalism, wielded anony-



376 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

raously, and therefore without personal responsibility,
may seem dangerous, and in fact is not free from danger
to the state. But political party at once found its way
up the back stairs of the editorial room and got the power
into its hands.

With the cheapening of newspapers as well as with the
general progress of intelligence may be connected the
1839 introduction of the penny post, achieved by Rowland
Hill after a long struggle with the official inertness and
mistrust of change, which, even when public servants are
most upright, are apt to put, public services at a disad-
vantage in comparison with private enterprise, which is
stimulated to improvement by the hope of gain.

This was generally a time of intellectual and scientific
activity, of adventure, discovery, and hope ; a time in
which frivolous amusements gave way to serious pursuits,
in which card-playing was renounced for conversation.
It was a time in which it has been jocosely said every-
thing was new, everything was true, and everything was
of the highest importance.

" Ireland is my difficulty," said Peel, when his time for
taking office drew near. It was not his difficulty only,
it was equally that of the Whigs, and must have been
that of any British government set to rule Ireland on the
principles which still prevailed. The union of the king-
doms had been politically equal, Ireland receiving her full
share of representation in the united parliament. But
Ireland, instead of being thoroughly and heartily incor-
porated, had continued to be administered as a depen-
dency through the lord-lieutenant and the Castle, while
protestant ascendancy had continued to be the rule of
government. Catholic Emancipation, long-delayed and at



IX THE FRUITS OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM 377

last enforced, had lost its grace. Nor had it been fol-
lowed by real equality. Catholics, their leader O'Connell
among the rest, were still treated as social pariahs, and
though admitted to parliament and there wielding power in
the national councils, were excluded from the offices of
government and even from the honours of the bar.
Tithes continued to be levied for the detested church of
the minority and the conquest, while its members were
a mere fraction of the people and its clergy were often
without congregations, in many cases non-resident. War
was waged between the people and the tithe proctors, and
on the side of the people with the paroxysms of cruelty
to which Celtic character is prone. The peasantry were
a vast conspiracy against the law, which to them was a
code of oppression. Murder and outrage stalked in their
most horrible forms through the land, while the arm of
justice was paralyzed, since none dared to bear witness
against the assassin. In Kilkenny, within a twelvemonth,
there had been thirty-two murders and attempts at murder,
thirty -four burnings of houses, five hundred and nineteen
burglaries, thirty -six houghings of cattle, and one hundred
and seventy-eight assaults with danger of loss of life. In
Queen's County during the same period there had been
sixty murders, six hundred and twenty-six nightly attacks
on houses and burglaries, one hundred and fifteen malicious
injuries to property, and two hundred and nine serious
assaults. There were also in one year two thousand and
ninety-five illegal notices. One case especially had im-
pressed Peel, when in his earlier days he was administer-
ing Ireland, as a proof of the pitch which deadly passion
had attained. Assassins entered a house in which were a
man, his wife, and their little daughter, The man was



378 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

found by the assassins on the ground floor. The woman
in the room above heard them murdering her husband
below. She put the child into a closet from which what
was passing in the room could be seen, and said to her,
" They are killing your father below, then they will come
up here to kill me ; mind you look well at them while
they are doing it, and swear to them when you see them
in court." The child looked on while her mother was
being murdered ; she swore to the murderers in court ;
and they were convicted on her evidence. The Orange
Lodges in England disbanded on an appeal from the
throne. In Ireland they remained on foot and met with
equal ferocity the savage hatred of the catholic Celt.
Macaulay, when O'Connell threatened the government
with civil war, could reply, "We are past that fear; we
have civil war in its worst form already."

O'Connell remained master of catholic Ireland. To
deal with him was most difficult. While he ostensibly
preached respect for law and order, he was always doing
his utmost to inflame the passions of his people. His
language, not only in speaking of opponents such as
Wellington and Peel, but of friends, such as Grey, who
thwarted his will, was incredibly foul. " Is it just," he said
of Grey, "that Ireland should be insulted and trampled
on merely because the insanity of the wretched old man
who is at the head of the ministry develops itself in
childish hatred and maniac contempt of the people of Ire-
land ? " He proceeded to denounce Grey, his family, and
his colleagues, as plunderers of the public, and implored
his brother reformers to come forward and teach " the
insane dotard, who was at the head of the administration,"
that Englishmen and Scotchmen were alive to the wants



IX THE FRUITS OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM 379

and sufferings and the privileges of the people of Ireland.
Attempts to put the law in force against him, amidst the
people who worshipped him, he defied. With such a
man, even if his cause was right, it was hardly possible to
act without dishonour. If the step of justice to Ireland
was slow, this man's attitude and conduct, which inflamed
every prejudice against his race and religion, must, in part
at least, bear the blame. Rather, perhaps, as a menace,
than with a hope of any practical result, he commenced,
and to the end of his life fitfully kept on foot, an agita-
tion for the repeal of the union. This, both. houses of
parliament had met with a resolution recording " in the
most solemn manner their fixed determination to maintain
unimpaired and undisturbed the legislative union between
Great Britain and Ireland, which they considered to be
essential to the strength and stability of the Empire, to
the continuance of the connection between the two coun-
tries, and to the peace, security, and happiness of all
classes of his Majesty's subjects." A brave resolution if
only the right measures could have followed.

Something was done in the way of pruning the mon-
strous exuberance of the Irish state episcopate, and tem-
pering the more flagrant scandals of the parochial system.
By commuting tithe into a rent-charge on the land, that 1838
impost was rendered, though not less unjust, less directly
galling to the people. Secularization of the surplus reve-
nues of the church, on which the Whigs had defeated
Peel and supplanted him in office, they were compelled
to abandon, not without loss of honour, that they might
carry the commutation of tithes. While the catholics were
still excluded from the national university of Dublin, a
grant was made to their ecclesiastical seminary at May-



380 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

nooth. Irish cities received a measure of municipal self-
government, maimed" by the constant fear of allowing a
catholic majority to gain the upper hand, as though it
had been possible to frame elective institutions in which
the majority should not prevail. The fancied necessity of
upholding protestant ascendancy pervaded and vitiated all
government and legislation. Suspension of Habeas Cor-
pus, martial law, prohibition of public meetings, trials for
sedition, formed the staple of Irish administration, whether
it was in Whig or in Tory hands. The abolition of the
Irish state church, the reform of the land law, the levelling
of all barriers of race and religion, the substitution, in
short, of a genuine union for a union of ascendancy, de-
pendence, and exclusion, were the necessary conditions of
a solution of the Irish problem ; and to the level of such
a policy the statesmanship of that time had not risen ;
nor, if it had, could it have carried with it the English
and Scotch people. It is always to be borne in mind that
Catholicism in countries where it prevailed, such as Italy
and Spain, was still less tolerant than was protestantism
in Great Britain and Ireland.

The suffering classes, meantime, had not ceased to suffer.
They had learned agitation in the struggle for the Reform
Bill, and their golden hopes had been disappointed in the
result. They also had a press with a wide circulation.
They treated universal suffrage as "a knife and fork " ques-
tion, and demanded for every freeman plenty of bread and
a good home. To enforce this demand they signed mon-
ster petitions, met in great conventions, and threatened
violence. To put the people down was not congenial
work for a Liberal government. Yet it was work for
which Melbourne was qualified by the calmness of his



IX THE FRUITS OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM 381

temper, and his half cynical, half sympathetic view of the
errors of mankind. The Chartists injured their cause by
attacks on the new Poor Law and opposition to free trade.

The Whig government, however, weak in men, weak
especially in finance, harassed by the termagant patronage
of O'Connell, ill-supported by the Radicals, dominated
by Peel, embarrassed by the Irish difficulty, loaded with
promises and expectations which could not be fulfilled,
was on the point of falling, when the lingering influence
of royalty was once more displayed, and the ministry was
respited by the demise of the crown. William IV., who
by this time had become thoroughly reactionary and hated
his reform ministry, died, and was succeeded by a lady 1837
whom the law held, by reason of her birth, qualified to
govern an empire at eighteen. The young queen, brought
up at a distance from her uncle's court, fell at once under
the influence of her Whig ministers, especially of Mel-
bourne, who was well fitted to win her attachment,
treated her with consummate tact, and took up his resi-
dence at Windsor, where, we are told by Greville, he
passed several hours every day in her company, and two
every evening at her side^ forgoing his habits of lounging
ease and his wonted expletives. The sovereign's name
was still one wherewith to conjure, and the Whigs con-
jured with it liberally and with effect. There was,
not for the first time, a reversal of parts, the Whigs becom-
ing intensely loyal, while the Tories became enemies of i
the court. A Tory member of parliament even used lan-
guage so uncourtly as to move a Whig to show his loyalty
and chivalry by provoking the blasphemer to the field.

This restorative, however, was presently exhausted, and,
on a question respecting the constitution of Jamaica, its



382 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

majority having been reduced to vanishing point, the
Whig government fell. Yet once more it lifted itself
from the ground by grasping the petticoats of the Ladies
of the Bed Chamber. The incident was called the Bed
1839 Chamber Plot. The Whigs had surrounded the queen
with their women. The women ought at once to have
resigned with the government ; but they clung to their
places, and their mistress naturally clung to her com-
panions. Melbourne having resigned, Peel was called
upon to form a government. He insisted that, as a proof
of the confidence of his sovereign, the principal ladies of
her household should be changed. The queen resisted,
and was countenanced in her resistance by the Whigs,
who, though they had resigned office, did not scruple to
meet as ministers and advise the crown. Peel then refused
to form a government, and once more, as in the time of
Anne, the Bed Chamber Ladies turned the day. That
Peel was constitutionally in the right is not disputed.
Even one so loyal to the crown as the Duke of Wellington
had no doubt upon that point. It is probable that the
Whig ladies might have been able to give trouble ; prob-
able also that they would have given it if they could. It
is not likely, however, that Peel would have yielded to
such an obstacle if he had felt that his time for taking
office was fully come. He was determined not to take
office without power.

1839 The Melbourne government returned weaker and less
respected than ever. A motion of want of confidence,

1840 moved by Sir John Yarde BuUer, into which Peel was
probably hurried by the uncontrolled eagerness of his
following to pounce on the expiring prey, was defeated
by a small majority. But a serious financial deficit, the



IX THE FRUITS OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM 383

most unpardonable of faults in the eyes of a middle-class
constituency, finally settled the fate of the Whig minis-
ters. Vainly in the article of death they sought to save
themselves by raising the question of the Corn Laws, to
the maintenance of which they had committed themselves
no less deeply than their opponents. No regard was paid
by the nation to so transparent a device. A resolution
of want of confidence was passed by a majority of one.
Appealing to the country, the Whigs were totally de-
feated. A resolution of want of confidence was carried
in the new House by a majority of ninety-one. The 1841
Whigs then resigned. The Conservatives, with Peel at
their head, came into power, and the epoch of the parlia-
mentary Reform Act of 1832 was closed.



CHAPTER X

THE EMPIRE

IITEANWHILE the United Kingdom had been expand-
ing into the British empire, embracing at this day,
besides the thirty-nine millions of people in the two islands,
three hundred millions in India and twenty millions, more
or less, in colonies scattered over the globe. Instead of
being sea-girt, England has an open land frontier of four
thousand miles, allowing for indentation, in North Amer-
ica, besides the whole northern frontier of Hindostan.
To hold this empire, she has to maintain a fleet not only
for her own defence and that of her trade, but for her
command of all the seas.

An empire this vast aggregate of miscellaneous posses-
sions is called. To part of them the name is misapplied,
and its misapplication may lead to practical error. Em-
pire is absolute rule, whether the imperial power be itself
a monarchy, like the Persian or the Spanish ; an aristo-
cracy, like the Roman or the Venetian ; or a commonwealth,
like Athens of old and Great Britain at the present day.
In the case of the British possessions, the name is properly
applicable only to the Indian empire, the crown colonies,
and fortresses or naval stations, such as Gibraltar and
Malta. It is not properly applicable to self-governing
colonies, such as Canada, Australasia, and the Cape,
which, though nominally dependent, are in reality inde-

384



CHAP. X THE EMPIRE 385

pendent; do not obey British law; do not contribute to
British armaments, and are at liberty even to wage com-
mercial war against the mother-country by laying protec-
tive duties on her goods.

The word " colony " too is used in a misleading sense, as
if it were synonymous with dependency or were limited
to colonies retaining their political connection with the
mother-country. The colonies of England, which now
form the United States, did not cease, on becoming inde-
pendent, to be English colonies.

In the feudal notion of personal fealty which led the
colonist to think that even at the ends of the earth he
remained indefeasibly the liegeman of the British king,
combined perhaps with the notion, also feudal, of the
crown as supreme land-owner, we probably see the account
of the political tie between the British colonies and the
British crown. The Mayflower exiles, in their compact
before landing, described themselves as loyal subjects of
King James, who had undertaken, for the glory of God,
the advancement of the Christian faith, and the honour
of their king and country, to plant the first colony in the
northern parts of Virginia. Had the exiles of the May-
flower been citizens of a Greek republic, they would have
taken the sacred' fire from the hearth of the mother city
and gone forth to found a new commonwealth for them-
selves, owning no relation to its parent but that of filial
respect and aifection.

Of the self-governing colonies, the chief and the type
is Canada, whose political history may be said almost to
include those of the rest. When Canada was conquered 1759
by the British, Voltaire openly rejoiced over its transfer
VOL. II вАФ 25



386 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

from the realm of despotism to that of liberty. A little
newspaper, the herald of a free press and political discus-
sion, soon appeared, and trial by jury was introduced,
though it seems not to the satisfaction of the French
who preferred French ways. The conqueror appears at
first to have doubted how to deal with his conquest.
Had he wished to Anglicize it, there would have been
little difficulty in so doing, the population being under
seventy thousand, and its social leaders, mostly official and

1765- military, having departed. But the storm rising in the
American colonies, whose secession was the certain and
predicted consequence of the destruction of the French
power on that continent, seems to have determined him
the other way. Conciliation of the French Canadians
through the priesthood which controlled them became his
aim; and this policy, seconded by the priests' hatred and
fear of the New England Puritan, kept Canada faithful
to the king's cause during the Revolutionary War. The

1774 Quebec Act secured to the French Canadians their civil
law and recognized their religion, confirming the secular
clergy in their position and in their reception of tithes from
the catholic population, subject to tests of allegiance. The
monastic orders, though excepted by the Act, were yet
left in possession. The signorial tenures created by the
French monarchy remained untouched. The Act was
little pleasing to staunch Protestants or to the British who
had begun to settle in Quebec for commercial purposes,
and expected to carry with them British institutions, and
though they were a small minority to stalk as conquerors
in Quebec.

But the British element in Canada and the other North
American possessions of Great Britain presently received



X THE EMPIRE 387

a large addition from the influx of United Empire Loyal-
ists, who, at the close of the Revolutionary War, had been 1783
driven from their homes by the blind vindictiveness of the
victorious party, disregarding the advice of its best leaders.
For these exiles Great Britain was bound in honour to
find new homes beneath her flag, otherwise she might,
after resigning her American colonies, have taken the
advice of those who would have had her altogether with-
draw from the continent. A set of families designated by
the crown for special honours, and constituting almost a
social caste, was thus formed in Canada under the name of
United Empire Loyalists, to transmit the memory of the
ancestral feud and combine fervent attachment to the
British flag with traditional antagonism to American con-
nection. Nor has the spirit of United Empire Loyalism
yet entirely died out, though of the descendants of the
original exiles not a few are now to be found in the
United States.

The French Revolution had passed its first stages when
Pitt framed an Act for the permanent settlement of Canada. 1791
To put a bar between the two races Canada was divided
into two provinces ; Lower Canada, now Quebec, for the
French, and Upper Canada, now Ontario, for the British,
thus perpetuating the French nationality. To each prov-
ince was given a constitution on what was taken to be the
British model, with a governor for king; a legislative
council appointed by him in the name of the crown, for
the upper house of parliament ; and for the lower house an
assembly elected by the people. The governor, however,
was intended not only like the constitutional king to
reign, but to govern ; to appoint his own executive council,
not to have it designated for him by the assembly ; and to



388 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

frame his own policy subject to the instructions of the
Colonial Office, to which, not to the colonists, he was to
be responsible. The members of the legislative council
were to be appointed for life. Power was taken to make



Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 74 of 84)