The Leading Facts of English History
by D.H. Montgomery
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Politically the English colonists in America enjoyed a large measure of liberty. So far as local legislation was concerned, they were in most cases preactically self-governing and independent. So, too, their personal rights were carefully safeguarded. On the other hand, the commercial policy of England toward her colonies, though severely restrictive, was far less so than that of Spain or France toward theirs. The Navigation Laws (S459) compelled the Americans to confine their trade to England alone, or to such foreign ports as she directed. If they sent a hogshead of tobacco or a barrel of salt fish to another country by any but an English or a colonial built bessel, they were legally liable to forfeith their goods. On the other hand, they enjoyed the complete monopoly of the English tobacco market, and in certain cases they received bounties on some of their products. Furthermore, the Navigation Laws had not been rigidly enforced for a long time, and the New England colonists generally treated them as a dead letter.

When George III came to the throne he resolved to revive the enforcement of the Navigation Laws, to build up the British West Indies, and to restrict the colonial trade with the Spanish and French West Indies. This was done, not for the purpose of crippling American commerce, but either to increase English revenue or to inflict injury on foreign rivals or enemies.

Furthermore, British manufacturers had at an earlier period induced the English Government to restrict certain American home manufactures. In accordance with that policy, Parliament had enacted statutes which virtually forbade the colonists making their own woolen cloth, or their own beaver hats, except on a very limited scale. They had a few ironworks, but they were forbidden to erect another furnace, or another mill for manufacturing iron rods or plates, and such industries were declared to be a nuisance.

William Pitt, who later became Lord Chatham (S538), was one of the warmest friends that America had; but he openly advocated this narrow policy, saying that if British interests demanded it he would not permit the colonists to make so much as a "horseshoe nail." Adam Smith, an eminent English political economist of that day, vehemently condemned the British Government's colonial mercantile system as suicidal; but his condemnation came too late to have any effect. The fact was that the world was not ready then—if indeed it is yet—to receive the gospel of "Live and let live."

550. The Stamp Act, 1765.

In accordance with these theories about the colonies, and to meet the pressing needs of the Home Government, the English ministry proceeded to levy a tax on the colonies (1764) in return for the protection they granted them against the French and the Indians. The colonists, however, had paid their full proportion of the expense of the French and Indian wars out of their own pockets, and they now felt abundantly able to protect themselves.

But notwithstanding this plea, a form of direct tax on the American colonies, called the stamp tax, was brought forward in 1765. The proposed law required that a multitude of legal documents, such as deeds, wills, notes, receipts, and the like, should be written upon paper bearing stamps, purchased from the agents of the Home Government. The colonists, generally, protested against the passage of the law, and Benjamin Franklin, with other agents, was sent to England to sustain their protests by argument and remonstrance. But in spite of their efforts the law was passed, and the stamps were sent over to America. The people, however, refused to use them, and serious riots ensued.

In England strong sympathy with the colonists was expressed by William Pitt (Lord Chatham), Burke, Fox, and generally by what was well called "the brains of Parliament." Pitt in particular was extremely indignant. He urged the immediate repeal of the act, saying, "I rejoice that America has resisted."

Pitt further declared that any taxation of the colonies without their representation in Parliament was tyranny, and that opposition to such taxation was a duty. He vehemently insisted that the spirit shown by the Americans was the same that had withstood the despotism of the Stuarts in England (S436), and established the principle once for all that the King cannot take his subject's money without that subject's consent (S436). So, too, Fox ardently defended the American colonists, and boldly maintained that the stand they had taken helped "to preserve the liberties of mankind."[1]

[1] See Bancroft's "United States," III, 107-108; "Columbia University Studies," III, No. 2, "The Commercial Policy of England toward the American Colonies"; Lecky's "American Revolution"; and C. K. Adams's "British Orations."

Against such opposition the law could not stand. The act was accordingly repealed (1766), amid great rejoicing in London; the church bells rang out in triumph, and the shipping in the Thames was illuminated. But the good effect on America was lost by the passage of another act which maintained the unconditional right of Parliament to legislate for the colonies, and to tax them, if it saw fit, without their consent.

551. The Tea Tax and the "Boston Tea Party," 1773, with its Results.

Another plan was now devised for getting money from the colonies. Parliament enacted a law (1767) compelling the Americans to pay taxes on a number of imports, such as glass, paper, and tea. In opposition to this law, the colonists formed leagues refusing to use these taxed articles, while at the same time they encouraged smugglers to land them secretly, and the regular trade suffered accordingly.

Parliament, finding that this was bad both for the government and for commerce, now abolished all of these duties except that on tea (1770). That duty was retained for a double purpose: first, and chiefly, to maintain the principle of the right of Great Britain to tax the colonies; and, next, to aid the East India Company, which was pleading piteeously for help.

In consequence mainly of the refusal of the American colonies to buy tea, the London warehouses of the East India Company were full to overflowing with surplus stock, and the company itself was in a half-bankrupt condition. The custom had been for the company to bring the tea to England, pay a tax on it, and then sell it to be reshipped to America. To aid the company in its embarrassment, the Government now agreed to remit this first duty altogether, and to impose a tax of only threepence (six cents) a pound on the consumers in America.

In itself the threepenny tax was a trifle, as the ship-money tax of twenty shillnigs was to John Hampden (S436); but underlying it was a principle which seemed to the Americans, as it had seemed to Hampden, no trifle; for such principles revolutions had been fought in the past; for such they would be fought in the future.

The colonists resolved not to have the tea at any price. A number of ships laden with the taxed herb arrived at the port of Boston. The tea was seized by a band of men disguised as Indians, and thrown into the harbor, 1773. The news of that action made the King and his ministry furious. Parliament sympathized with the Government, and in retaliation passed four laws of such severity that the colonists nicknamed them the "Intolerable Acts."

The first law was the "Boston Port Act," which closed the harbor to all trade; the second was the "Regulating Act," which virtually annulled the charter of Massachusetts, took the government away from the people, and gave it to the King; the third was the "Administration of Justice Act," which ordered that Americans who committed murder in resistance to oppression should be sent to England for trial; the fourth was the "Quebec Act," which declared the country north of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi a part of Canada.[1] The object of this last act was to conciliate the French Canadians, and secure their help against the colonists in case of rebellion.

[1] Embracing territory now divided into the five states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, with eastern Minnesota.

Even after Parliament had enacted these four drastic measures a compromise might have been effected, and peace maintained, if the counsels of the best men had been followed; but George III would listen to no policy short of coercion. He meant well, but his brain was not well balanced, he was subject to attacks of mental derangement, and his one idea of BEING KING at all hazards had become a kind of monomania (S548). Pitt condemned such oppression as morally wrong, Burke denounced it as inexpedient, and Fox, another prominent member of Parliament, wrote, "It is intolerable to think that it should be in the power of one blockhead to do so much mischief."

For the time, at least, the King was as unreasonable as any of the Stuarts. The obstinacy of Charles I cost him his head, that of James II his kingdom, that of George III resulted in a war which saddled the English taxpayer with an additional debt of 120,000,000 pounds, and forever detached from Great Britain the fairest and richest dominions that she ever possessed.

552. The American Revolution; Independence declared, 1776.

In 1775 war began, and the stand made by the patriots at Lexington and the fighting which followed at Concord and Bunker Hill showed that the Americans were in earnest. The cry of the colonists had been, "No taxation without representation"; now they had got beyond that, and demanded, "No legislation without representation." But events moved so fast that even this did not long suffice, and on July 4, 1776, the colonies, in Congress assembled, solemnly declared themselves free and independent.

As far back as the French war there was at least one man who foresaw this declaration. After the English had taken Quebec (S545), an eminent French statesman said of the American colonies with respect to Great Britain, "They stand no longer in need of her protection; she will call on them to contribute toward supporting the burdens they have helped to bring on her; and they will answer by striking off all dependence."[2]

[2] This was Vergennes; see Bancroft's "History of the United States."

This prophecy was now fulfilled. After the Americans had defeated Burgoyne in 1777 the English ministry became alarmed; they declared themselves ready to make terms; they offered to grant everything but independence;[3] but they had opened their eyes to the facts too late, and nothing short of independence would now satisfy the colonists. Attempts were made to open negotiations with General Washington, but the commander in chief declined to receive a letter from the English Government addressed to him, not in his official capacity, but as "George Washington, Esq.," and so the matter came to nothing.

[3] This was after France had recognized the independence of the United States, 1778.

553. The Battle of Yorktown; the King acknowledges American Independence, 1782.

The war against the rebellious states was never really popular in England. From the outset great numbers refused to enlist to fight the Americans, and spoke of the contest as the "King's War" to show that the bulk of the English people did not encourage it. The struggle went on with varying success through seven heavy years, until, with the aid of the French, the Americans defeated Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.[1] By that battle France got her revenge for the loss of Quebec in 1759 (S545), and America finally won the cause for which she had spent so much life and treasure.

[1] It is pleasant to know that a hundred years later, in the autumn of 1881, a number of English gentlemen were present at the centennial celebration of the taking of Yorktown, to express their hearty good will toward the nation which their ancestors had tried in vain to keep a part of Great Britain.

George III could hold out no longer; on a foggy December morning in 1782, he entered the House of Lords, and with a faltering voice read a paper in which he acknowledged the independence of the United States of America. He closed his reading with the prayer that neither Great Britain nor America might suffer from the separation; and he expressed the hope that religion, language, interest, and affection might prove an effectual bond of union between the two countries.

Eventually the separation proved "a mutual advantage, since it removed to a great extent the arbitrary restrictions on trade, gave a new impetus to commerce, and immensely increased the wealth of both nations."[2]

[2] Goldwin Smith's lectures on "The Foundation of the American Colonies." In general see "Lecky's American Revolution," and the "Leading Facts of American History" or the "Student's American History," in this series.

554. The Lord George Gordon Riots (1780).

While the American war was in progress, England had not been entirely quiet at home. A prominent Whig leader in Parliament had moved the repeal of some of the most severe laws against the Roman Catholics.[3] The greater part of these measures had been enacted under William III, "when England was in mortal terror" of the restoration of James II (S491). The Solicitor-General said, in seconding the motion for repeal, that these lwas were "a disgrace to humanity." Parliament agreed with him in this matter. Because these unjust acts were stricken from the Statute Book, Lord George Gordon, a half-crazed fanatic,[1] who was in Parliament, led an attack upon the government (1780).

[3] The worst of these laws was that which punished a priest who should celebrate mass, with imprisonment for life. See Taswell-Langmead's "English Constitutional History," p.627, and compare J.F. Bright's "History of England," III, 1087. [1] Gordon seems to have been of unsound mind. He used to attack both political parties with such fury that it was jocosely said there were "three parties in Parliament—the ministry, the opposition, and Lord George Gordon."

For six days London was at the mercy of a furious mob of 50,000 people, who set fire to Catholic chapels, pillaged many dwellings, and committed every species of outrage. Newgate prison was broken into, the prisoners were released, and the prison was burned. No one was safe from attack who did not wear a blue cockade to show that he was a Protestant, and no man's house was secure unless he chalked "No Popery" on the door in conspicuous letters. In fact, one individual, in order to make doubly sure, wrote over the entrance to his residence: "No Religion Whatever." Before the riot was subdued a large amount of property had been destroyed and many lives sacrificed.

555. Impeachment of Warren Hastings (1788).

Six years after the American Revolution came to an end Warren Hastings, Governor-General of India, was impeached for corrupt and cruel government in that distant province. He was tried before the House of Lords, gathered in Westminster Hall. On the side of Hastings was the powerful East India Company, ruling over a territory many times larger than the whole of Great Britain. Against him were arrayed the three ablest and most eloquent men in England,—Burke, Fox, and Sheridan.

"Raising his voice until the oak ceiling resounded, Burke exclaimed at the close of his fourth great speech, 'I impeach Warren Hastings of high crimes and misdemeanors. I impeach him in the name of the Commons of Great Britain, whose trust he has betrayed. I impeach him in the name of the English nation, whose ancient honor he has sullied. I impeach him in the name of the people of India, whose rights he has trodden under foot, and whose country he has turned into a desert. Lastly, in the name of human nature itself, in the name of both sexes, in the name of every age, in the name of every rank, I impeach the common enemy and oppressor of all!'"

The trial was continued at intervals for over seven years. It resulted in the acquittal of the accused (1795); but it was proved that the chief business of those who went out to India was to wring fortunes from the natives, and then go back to England to live like "nabobs," and spend their ill-gotten money in a life of luxury. This fact, and the stupendous corruption that was shown to exist, eventually broke down the gigantic monopoly, and British India was thrown open to the trade of all nations.[1]

[1] See Macaulay's "Essay on Warren Hastings"; also Burke's "Speeches."

556. Liberty of the Press; Law and Prison Reforms; Abolition of the Slave Trade.

Since the discontinuance of the censorship of the press (S498), though newspapers were nominally free to discuss public affairs, yet the Government had no intention of permitting any severe criticism. On the other hand, there were men who were determined to speak their minds through the press on political as on all other matters. In the early part of the reign, John Wilkes, an able but scurrilous writer, attacked the policy of the Crown in violent terms (1763). Some years later (1769), a writer, who signed himself "Junius," began a series of letters in a daily paper, in which he handled the King and the "King's friends" still more roughly. An attempt was made by the Government to punish Wilkes and the publisher of the "Junius" letters, but it signally failed in both cases. Public feeling was plainly in favor of the freest political expression,[2] which was eventually conceded.

[2] Later, during the excitement caused by the French Revolution, there was a reaction from this feeling, but it was only temporary.

Up to this time parliamentary debates had rarely been reported. In fact, under the Tudors and the Stuarts, members of Parliament would have run the risk of imprisonment if their criticisms of royalty had been made public; but now, in 1771, the papers began to contain the speeches and votes of both Houses on important questions. Every effort was made to suppress these reports, but again the press gained the day. Henceforth the nation could learn how far its representatives really represented the will of the people, and so could hold them strictly accountable,—a matter of vital importance in every free government.[3]

[3] See Summary of Constitutional History in the Appendix, p. xxvi, S30.

Another field of reform was also found. The times were brutal. The pillory still stood in the center of London;[4] and if the unfortunate offender who was put in it escaped with a shower of mud and other unsavory missiles, instead of clubs and brickbats, he was lucky indeed. Gentlemen of fashion arranged pleasure parties to visit the penitentiaries for women to see the wretched inmates whipped. The whole code of criminal law was savagely vindictive. Capital punishment was inflicted for about two hundred offenses, many of which would now be thought to be sufficiently punished by one or two months' imprisonment in the house of correction.

[4] The pillory (S531) was not abolished until the accession of Queen Victoria.

Not only men, but women and children even, were hanged for pilfering goods or food worth a few shillings.[1] The jails were crowded with poor wretches whom want had driven to theft, and who were "worked off" on the gallows every Monday morning in batches of a dozen or twenty, in sight of the jeering, drunken crowds who gathered to witness their death agonies.

[1] Five shillings, or $1.25, was the hanging limit; anything stolen above that sum in money or goods might send the thief to the gallows.

Through the efforts of Sir Samuel Romilly, Jeremy Bentham, and others, a reform was effected in this bloody code. Next, the labors of the philanthropic John Howard, and later of Elizabeth Fry, purified the jails of abuses which had made them not only dens of suffering and disease, but schools of crime as well.

The laws respecting the pubishment for debt were also changed for the better, and thousands of miserable beings who were without means to satisfy their creditors were set free, instead of being kept in useless lifelong imprisonment. At the same time Clarkson, Wilberforce, Fox, and Pitt were endeavoring to abolish that relic of barbarism, the African slave trade. After twenty years of persistent effort both in Parliament and out, they at last accomplished that great and beneficent work in 1807.

557. War with France (1793-1805); Battle of the Nile; Trafalgar, 1805.

Near the close of the century (1789) the French Revolution broke out. It was a violent and successful attempt to destroy those feudal institutions which France had outgrown, and which had, as we have seen, disappeared gradually in England after the rebellion of Wat Tyler (SS250, 252). At first the revolutionists received the hearty sympathy of many of the Whig party (S479), but after the execution of Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette,[1] England became alarmed not only at the horrible scenes of the Reign of Terror but at the establishment of the French democratic republic which seemed to justify them, and joined an alliance of the principal European powers for the purpose of restoring monarchy in France.

[1] See "Death of Marie Antoinette," in Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution."

Napoleon had now become the real head of the French nation, and seemed bent on making himself master of all Europe. He undertook an expedition against Egypt and the East, which was intended as a stepping-stone toward the ultimate conquest of the English empire in India, but his plans were frustrated by Nelson, who completely defeated the French fleet at the battle of the Nile (1798).

With the assistance of Spain, Napoleon next prepared to invade England, and was so confident of success that he caused a gold medal to be struck, bearing the inscription, "Descent upon England." "Struck at London, 1804." But the English warships drove the French and Spanish fleets into the harbor of Cadiz, and Napoleon had to postpone his great expedition for another year.[2] In the autumn of 1805, the French and Spanish fleets sallied forth determined to win. But Lord Nelson, that frail little man who had lost his right arm and the sight of his right eye fighting his country's battles, lay waiting for them off Cape Trafalgar,[3] near by.

[2] In 1801 Robert Fulton, of Pennsylvania, proposed to Napoleonthat he should build warships propelled by steam. The proposal was submitted to a committee of French scientists, who reported that it was absurd. Had Napoleon acted on Fulton's suggestion, his descent on England might have been successful. [3] Cape Trafalgar, on the southern coast of Spain.

Two days later he descried the enemy at daybreak. Both sides felt that the decisive struggle was at hand. With the exception of a long, heavy swell the sea was calm, with a light breeze, but sufficient to bring the two fleets gradually within range.

"As they drifted on their path There was silence deep as death; And the boldest held his breath For a time."[4]

[4] Campbell's "Battle of the Baltic," but applicable as well to Trafalgar.

Just before the action Nelson ran up this signal to the masthead of his ship, where all might see it: "England explects Every Man to do his Duty." The answer to it was three ringing cheers from the entire fleet, and the fight began. When it ended, Napoleon's boasted navy was no more. Trafalgar Square, in the heart of London, with its tall column bearing aloft a statue of Nelson, commemorates the decisive victory, which was dearly bought with the life of the great admiral.

The battle of Traflagar snuffed out Napoleon's projected invasion of England. He had lost his ships, and their commander, in his despair, committed suicide. The French Emperor could no longer hope to bridge "the ditch," as he derisively called the boisterous Channel, whose waves rose like a wall between him and the island which he hated (S14). A few years later, Napoleon, who had taken possession of Spain and placed his brother on the throne, was driven from that country by Sir Arthur Wellesly, destined to be better known as the Duke of Wellington, and the crown was restored to the Spanish nation.

558. Second War with the United States, 1812-1815.

The United States waged its first war with Great Britain to gain an independent national existence; in 1812 it declared a second war to secure its rights upon the sea. During the long and desperate struggle between England and France, each nation had prohibited neutral powers from commercial intercourse with the other, or with any country friendly to the other.

Furthermore, the English Government had laid down the principle that a person born on British soil could not become a citizen of another nation, but that "once an Englishman always an Englishman" was the only true doctrine. In accordance with that theory, it claimed the right to search American ships and take from them and force into their own service any seaman supposed to be of British birth. In this way Great Britian had seized more than six thousand men, and notwithstanding their protest that they were American citizens, either by birth or by naturalization, had compelled them to enter the English navy.

Other points in dispute between the two countries were in a fair way of being settled amicably, but there appeared to be no method of coming to terms in regard to the question of search and impressment, which was the most important of all, since though the demand of the United States was, in the popular phrase of the day, for "Free Trade and Sailors' Rights," it was the last which was especially emphasized.

In 1812 war against Great Britain was declared, and an attack made on Canada which resulted in the American forces being driven back. During the war British troops landed in Maryland, burned the Capitol and other public buildings in Washington, and destroyed the Congressional Library.

On the other hand, the American navy had unexpected and extraordinary successes on the ocean and the lakes. Out of fifteen sea combats with approximately equal forces, the Americans gained twelve. The contest closed with the signal defeat of the English at New Orleans, when General Andrew Jackson (1815) completely routed the forces led by Sir Edward Pakenham, brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington. The right of search was thenceforth dropped, although it was not formally abandoned by Great Britain until more than forty years later (1856).

559. Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

In the summer of 1815, the English war against Napoleon (S557), which had been carried on almost constantly since his accession to power, culminated in the decisive battle of Waterloo.[1] Napoleon had crossed the Belgian frontier in order that he might come up with the British before they could form a junction with their Prussian allies. All the previous night rain had fallen in torrents, and when the soldiers rose from their cheerless and broken sleep in the trampled and muddy fields of rye, a drizzling rain was still falling.

[1] Waterloo, near Brussels, Belgium.

Napoleon planned the battle for the purpose of destroying first the English and then the Prussian forces, but Wellington held his own against the furious attacks of the French. It was evident, however, that even the "Iron Duke," as he was called, could not continue to withstand the terrible assaults many hours longer.

As time passed on, and he saw his solid squares melting away under the murderous French fire, as line after line of his soldiers coming forward silently stepped into the places of their fallen comrades, while the expected Prussian reenforcements still delayed their appearance, the English commander exclaimed, "O that night or Blucher would come!" At last Blucher with his Prussians did come, and as Grouchy, the leader of a division on which Napoleon was counting, did not, Waterloo was finally won by the combined strength of the allies. Not long afterwards Napoleon was sent to die a prisoner on the desolate rock of St. Helena.

When all was over, Wellington said to Blucher, as he stood by him on a little eminence looking down upon the field covered with the dead and dying, "A great victory is the saddest thing on earth, except a great defeat."

With that victory ended the second Hundred Years' War of England with France, which began with the War of the Spanish Succession (1704) under Marlborough (S508). At the outset the object of that war was, first, to humble the power of Louis XIV that threatened the independence of England; and, secondly, to protect those American colonies which later separated fromthe mother country and became, partly through French help, the republic of the United States.

560. Increase of the National Debt; Taxation.

Owing to these hundred years and more of war (S559) the National Debt of GReat Britain and Ireland (S503), which in 1688 was much less than a million of pounds, had now reached the enormous amount of over nine hundred millions (or $4,500,000,000), bearing yearly interest at the rate of more than $160,000,000.[1] So great had been the strain on the finances of the country, that the Bank of England (S503) suspended payment, and many heavy failures occurred. In addition to this, a succession of bad harvests sent up the price of wheat to such a point that at one time an ordinary-sized loaf of bread cost the farm laborer more than half a day's wages.

[1] Encyclopaedia Britannica, under "National Debt."

Taxes had gone on increasing until it seemed as though the people could no longer endure the burden. As Sydney Smith declared, with entire truth, there were duties on everything. They began, he said, in childhood, with "the boy's taxed top"; they followed to old age, until at last "the dying Englishman, pouring his taxed medicine into a taxed spoon, flung himself back on a taxed bed, and died in the arms of an apothecary who had paid a tax of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death."[1]

[1] Sydney Smith's Essays, "Review of Seybert's Annals of the United States."

561. The Irish Parliament; the Irish Rebellion (1798).

For a century after the battle of the Boyne (S500) Ireland can hardly be said to have had a history. The iron hand of English despotism had crushed the spirit out of the inhabitants, and they suffered in silence. During the first part of the eighteenth century the destitution of the people was so great that Dean Swift, in bitter mockery of the government's neglect, published what he called his "Modest Proposal." He suggested that the misery of the half-starved peasants might be relieved by allowing them to eat their own children or else sell them to the butchers.

But a new attempt was now made to improve the political condition of the wretched country. That distinguished statesman, Edmund Burke (S550), had already tried to secure a fair measure of commercial liberty for the island, but without success. Since the reign of Henry VII the so-called "free Parliament" of Ireland had been bound hand and foot by Poynings's Act (S329, note 1). The eminent Protestant Irish orator, Henry Grattan, now urged the repeal of that law with all his impassioned eloquence. He was seconded in his efforts by the powerful influence of Fox in the English House of Commons. Finally, the obnoxious act was repealed (1782), and a, so-called, independent Irish Parliament, to which Grattan was elected, met in Dublin.

But although more than three quarters of the Irish people were Catholics, no person of that faith was permitted to sit in the new Parliament or to vote for the election of a member. This was not the only injustice, for many Protestants in Belfast and the north of Ireland had no right to be represented in it. Such a state of things could not fail to excite angry protest, and Grattan, with other Protestants in Parliament, labored for reform. The discontent finally led to the organization of an association called the "Society of United Irishmen." The leaders of that movement hoped to secure the cooperation of Catholics and Protestants, and to obtain fair and full representation for both in the Irish Parliament. A measure of political reform was secured (1793), but it did not go far enough to give the relief desired.

Eventually the Society of United Irishmen became a revolutionary organization which sought, by the help of the French, to make Ireland an independent republic. The sprigs of shamrock or shamrock-colored badges displayed by these men gave a new significance to "the wearing of the green."[1] By this time many Protestants had withdrawn from the organization, and many Catholics refused to ask help from the French revolutionary party, who were hostile to all churches and to all religion.

[1] See a quotation from the famous Irish song, "The Wearin' o' the Green," in the "Shan Van Vocht," in the "Heroic Ballads," published by Ginn and Company.

Then a devoted band of Catholics in the south of Ireland resolved to rise and, trusting to their own right arms, to strike for independence. A frightful rebellion broke out (1798), marked by all the intense hatred springing from rival races and rival creeds, and aggravated by the peasants' hatred of oppressive landlords. Both sides perpetuated horrible atrocities. The government employed a large force of Orangemen,[2] or extreme Protestants, to help suppress the insurrection. They did their work with remorseless cruelty.

[2] Orangemen: the Protestants of the north of Ireland, who had taken the side of William of Orange in the Revolution of 1688-1689 (S499). They wore an orange ribbon as their badge, to distinguish them from the Catholic party, who wore green badges.

562. Union of Great Britain and Ireland, 1800; Emmet.

Matters now came to a crisis. William Pitt, son of the late Earl of Chatham (S550), was Prime Minister. He believed that the best interests of both Ireland and England demanded their political union. He devoted all his energies to accomplishing the work. The result was that in the last year of the eighteenth century the English Government succeeded, by the most unscrupulous use of money, in gaining the desired end. Lord Cornwallis, acting as Pitt's agent, confessed with shame that he bought up a sufficient number of members of the Irish Parliament to secure a vote in favor of union with Great Britain. In 1800 the two countries were joined—in name at least—under the title of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland."[3]

[3] The first Parliament of the United Kingdom met in 1801.

Pitt used all his powerful influence to obtain for Ireland a full and fair representation in the united Parliament (1801). He urged that Catholics as well as Protestants should be eligible for election to that body. But the King positively refused to listen to his Prime Minister. He even declared that it would be a violation of his coronation oath for him to grant such a request. The consequence was that not a single Catholic was admitted to the Imperial Parliament until nearly thirty years later (S573).

Two years after the first Imperial Parliament met in London the Irish patriot, Robert Emmet, made a desperate effort to free his country (1803). To his mind the union of England with Ireland was simply "the union of the shark with its prey." He staked his life on the cause of independence; he lost, and paid the forfeit on the scaffold.

But notwithstanding Emmet's hatred of the union, it resulted advantageously to Ireland in at least two respects. First, more permanent peace was secured to that distracted and long-suffering country. Secondly, the Irish people made decided gains commercially. The duties on their farm products were removed, at least in large degree, and the English ports hitherto closed against them were thrown open. The duties on their manufactured goods seem to have been taken off at that time only in part.[1] Later, absolute freedom of trade was secured.

[1] See May's "Constitutional History of England," Lecky's "England in the Eighteenth Century"; but compare O'Connor Morris's work on "Ireland, from 1798 to 1898," p.58.

563. "The Industrial Revolution" of the Eighteenth Century; Material Progress; Canals; the Steam Engine, 1785.

The reign of George III was in several directions one of marked progress, especially in England. Just after the King's accession the Duke of Bridgewater constructed a canal from his coal mine in Worsley to Manchester, a distance of seven miles. Later, he extended it to Liverpool; eventually it was widened and deepened and became the "Manchester and Liverpool Ship Canal." The Duke of Bridgewater's work was practically the commencement of a system which has since developed to such a degree that the canals of England now extend nearly 5000 miles, and exceed in length its navigable rivers. The two form such a complete network of water communication that it is said no place in the realm is more than fifteen miles distant from this means of transportation, which connects all the large towns with each other and with the chief ports.

In the last half of the eighteenth century James Watt obtained the first patent (1769) for his improved steam engine (S521), but did not succeed in making it a business success until 1785. The story is told[1] that he took a working model of it to show to the King. His Majesty patronizingly asked him, "Well, my man, what have you to sell?" The inventor promptly answered, "What kings covet, may it please your Majesty,—POWER!" The story is perhaps too good to be true, but the fact of the "power" could not be denied,—power, too, not simply mechanical, but, in its results, moral and political as well.

[1] This story is told also of Boulton, Watt's partner. See Smile's "Lives of Boulton and Watt," p.1. Newcomen had invented a rude steam engine in 1705, which in 1712 came into use to some extent for pumping water out of coal mines. But his engine was too clumsy and too wasteful of fuel to be used by manufacturers. Boulton and Watt built the first steam-engine works in England at Soho, a suburb of Birmingham, in 1775; but it was not until 1785 that they began to do sufficient business to make it evident that they were on their way to success.

Such was the increase of machinery driven by steam, and such were the improvements made by Hargreaves, Arkwright, and Crompton in machinery for spinning and weaving cotton, that much distress arose among the hand spinners and hand weavers. The price of bread was growing higher and higher, while in many districts skilled operatives working at home could not earn by their utmost efforts eight shillings a week. They saw their hand labor supplanted by great cotton mills filled with machinery driven by "monsters of iron and fire," which never grew weary, which subsisted on water and coal, and never asked for wages.

Led by a man named Ludd (1811), the starving workmen attacked a number of these mills, broke the machinery to pieces, and sometimes burned the buildings. The riots were at length suppressed, and a number of the leaders executed; but a great change for the better was at hand, and improved machinery driven by steam was soon to remedy the evils it had seemingly created. It led to an enormous demand for cotton. This helped to stimulate cotton growing in the United States of America as well as to encourage the manufacture of cotton in Great Britain.

Up to this period the north of England had remained the poorest part of the country. The population was sparse, ignorant, and unprosperous. It was in the south that improvements originated. In the reign of Henry VIII, the North fought against the dissolution of the monasteries (SS352, 357); in Elizabeth's reign it resisted Protestantism; in that of George I it sided with the so-called "Pretender" (S535).

But steam transformed an immense area. Factories were built, population increased, cities sprang up, and wealth grew apace. Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield, and Liverpool made the North a new country. (See Industrial Map of England, p.10.) Lancashire is the busiest cotton-manufacturing district in Great Britain, and the saying runs that "what Lancashire thinks to-day, England will think to-morrow." So much for James Watt's POWER and its results.

564. Discover of Oxygen (1774); Introduction of Gas (1815).

Notwithstanding the progress that had been made in many departments of knowledge, the science of chemistry remained almost stationary until (1774) Dr. Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen, the most abundant, as well as the most important, element in nature.

That discover "laid the foundation of modern chemical science." It enlarged our knowledge of the composition of the atmosphere, of the solid crust of the earth, and of water. Furthermore, it revealed the interesting fact that oxygen not only enters into the structure of all forms of animal and vegetable life, but that no kind of life can exist without it. Finally, Priestley's great discovery proved to be of direct practical utility, since the successful pursuit of innumerable trades and manufactures, with the profitable separation of metals from their ores, stands in close connection with the facts which his experiments with oxygen made known.

As intellectual light spread, so also did material light. In London, up to near the close of the reign of George III, only a few feeble oil lamps were in use. Many miles of streets were dark and dangerous, and highway robberies were frequent. At length (1815) a company was formed to light the city with gas. After much opposition from those who were in the whale-oil interest the enterprise succeeded. The new light, as Miss Martineau said, did more to prevent crime than all the Government had accomplished since the days of Alfred. It changed, too, the whole aspect of the English capital, though it was only the forerunner of the electric light, which has since changed it even more.

The sight of the great city now, when viewed at night from Highgate archway on the north, or looking down the Thames from Westminster Bridge, is something never to be forgotten. It gives one a realizing sense of the immensity of "this province covered with houses," which cannot be got so well in any other way. It bring to mind, too, those lines expressive of the contrasts of wealth and poverty, success and failure, inevitable in such a place:

"O gleaming lamps of London, that gem the city's crown, What fortunes lie within you, O lights of London town! . . . . . . . . . . . O cruel lamps of London, if tears your light could drown, Your victims' eyes would weep them, O lights of London town."[1]

[1] From the play, "The Lights of London."

The same year in which gas was introduced, Sir Humphry Davy invented the miner's safety lamp. Without seeking a patent, he generously gave his invention to the world, finding his reward in the knowledge that it would be the means of saving thousands of lives wherever men are called to work underground.

565. Steam Navigation, 1807, 1819, 1840.

Since Watt had demonstrated the value of steam for driving machinery (S563), a number of inventors had been experimenting with the new power, in the hope that they might apply it to propelling vessels. In 1807 Robert Fulton, an American, built the first successful steamboat, and made the voyage from New York to Albany in it. Shortly afterwards his vessel began to make regular trips on the Hudson. A number of years later a similar boat began to carry passengers on the Clyde, in Scotland. Finally, in 1819, the bold undertaking was made of crossing the Atlantic by steam. An American steamship, the Savannah, of about three hundred tons, set the example by a voyage from the United States to Liverpool. Dr. Lardner, an English scientist, had proved to his own satisfaction that ocean steam navigation was impracticable. The book containing the doctor's demonstration was brought to America by the Savannah on her return.

Twenty-one years afterward, in 1840, the Cunard Company established the first regular line of ocean steamers. They sailed between England and the United States. Since then fleets of steamers ranging from two thousand to more than forty thousand tons each have been built. They now make passages from continent to continent with the regularity of clockwork, and in fewer days than the ordinary sailing vessels formerly required weeks. The fact that during a period of more than seventy years one of these lines has never lost a passenger is conclusive proof that Providence is on the side of steam, when steam has men that know how to handle it.

566. Literature; Art; Education; Travel; Dress.

The reign of George III is marked by a long list of names eminent in letters and art. First in point of time among these stands Dr. Samuel Johnson, the compiler of the first English dictionary worthy of the name, and that on which those of our own day are based to a considerable extent. He was also the author of the story of "Rasselas,"—that notable satire on discontent and the search after happiness. Next stands Johnson's friend, Oliver Goldsmith, famous for his genius, his wit, and his improvidence,—which was always getting him into trouble,—but still more famous for his poems, and his novel, "The Vicar of Wakefield."

Edward Gibbon, David Hume, author of the well-known "History of England," and Adam Smith come next in time. In 1776 Gibbon published his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," which after more than a hundred years stands the ablest history of the subject in our language. In the same year Adam Smith issued "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," which had a great effect on legislation respecting commerce, trade, and finance. During this period, also, Sir William Blackstone became prominent as a writer on law, and Edmund Burke, the distinguished orator and statesman, wrote his "Reflections on the French Revolution."

The poets, Burns, Byron, Shelley, and Keats, with Sheridan, the orator and dramatist, and Sterne, the humorist, belong to this reign; so, too, does the witty satirist, Sydney Smith, and Sir Walter Scott, whose works, like those of Shakespeare, have "made the dead past live again." Then again, Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen have left admirable pictures of the age in their stories of Irish and English life. Coleridge and Wordsworth began to attract attention toward the last of this period, and to be much read by those who loved the poetry of thought and the poetry of nature; while, early in the next reign, Charles Lamb published his delightful "Essays of Elia."

In art we have the first English painters and engravers. Hogarth, who died a few years after the beginning of the reign, was celebrated for the coarse but perfect representations of low life and street scenes; and his series of Election pictures with his "Beer Lane" and "Gin Alley" are valuable for the insight into the history of the times.

The chief portrait painters were Reynolds, Lawrence, and Gainsborough, the last of whom afterwards became noted for his landscapes. They were followed by Wilkie, whose pictures of "The Rent Day," "The Reading of the Will," and many others, tell a story of interest to every one who looks at them.

Last came Turner, who in some respects surpassed all former artists in his power of reproducing scenes in nature. At the same time, Bewick, whose cuts used to be the delight of every child that read "Aesop's Fables," gave a new impulse to wood engraving, while Flaxman rose to be the leading English sculptor, and Wedgwood introduced useful and beautiful articles of pottery.

In common-school education little advance had been made for many generations. In the country the great mass of the people were nearly as ignorant as they were in the darkest part of the Middle Ages. Hardly a peasant over forty years of age could be found who could read a verse in the Bible, and not one in ten could write his name.

There were no cheap books or newspapers, and no proper system of public instruction. The poor seldom left the counties in which they were born. They knew nothing of what was going on in the world. Their education was wholly of the practical kind which comes from work and things, not from books and teachers; yet many of them with only these simple helps found out two secrets which the highest culture sometimes misses,—how to be useful and how to be happy.[1]

[1] See Wordsworth's poem "Resolution and Independence."

The ordinary means of travel were still very imperfect. Stage-coaches had been in use for more than a hundred and fifty years. They crawled along at the rate of about three miles an hour. Mail coaches began to run in 1784. They attained a speed of six miles an hour, and later of ten. This was considered entirely satisfactory.

The close of George III's reign marks the beginning of the present age. It was indicated in many ways, and among others by the declining use of sedan chairs, which had been the fashion for upwards of a century, and by the change in dress. Gentlemen were leaving off the picturesque costumes of the past,—the cocked hats, elaborate wigs, silk stockings, ruffles, velvet coats, and swords,—and gradually putting on the plain democratic garb, sober in cut and color, by which we know them to-day.

567. Last Days of George III.

George III died (1820) at the age of eighty-two. During ten years he had been blind, deaf, and crazy, having lost his reason not very long after the jubilee, which celebrated the fiftieth year of his reign (1809). Once, in a lucid interval, he was found by the Queen singing a hymn and playing an accompaniment on the harpsichord.

He then knelt and prayed aloud for her, for his family, and for the nation; and in closing, for himself, that it might please God to avert his heavy calamity, or grant him resignation to bear it. Then he burst into tears, and his reason again fled.[1] In consequence of the incapacity of the King, his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, was appointed regent (1811), and on the King's death came to the throne as George IV.

[1] See Thackeray's "Four Georges."

568. Summary.

The long reign of George III covered sixty very eventful years. During that time England lost her possessions in America, but gained India and prepared the way for getting possession of New Zealand and Australia. During that period, also, Ireland was united to Great Britain. The wars with France, which lasted more than twenty years, ended in the great naval victory of Trafalgar and the still greater victory on the battlefield of Waterloo. In consequence of these wars, with that of the American Revolution, the National Debt of Great Britain rose to a height which rendered the burden of taxation well-nigh insupportable.

The second war with the United States in 1812 made America independent on the sea, and eventually compelled England to give up her assumed right to search American vessels. The two greatest reforms of the period were the abolition of the slave trade and the mitigation of the laws against debt and crime; the chief material improvement was the extension of canals and the application of steam to manufacturing and to navigation. The "Industrial Revolution" transformed the North of England.

GEORGE IV—1820-1830

569. Accession and Character of George IV.

George IV, eldest son of the late King, came to the throne in his fifty-eighth year; but, owing to his father's insanity, he had virtually been King for nearly ten years (S567). His habits of life had made him a selfish, dissolute spendthrift, who, like Charles II, cared only for pleasure. Though while Prince of Wales he had received for many years an income upwards of 100,000 pounds, which was largely increased at a later period, yet he was always hopelessly in debt.

Parliament (1795) appropriated over 600,000 pounds to relieve him from his most pressing creditors, but his wild extravagance soon involved him in difficulties again, so that had it not been for help given by the long-suffering taxpayers, His Royal Highness must have become as bankrupt in purse as he was in character.

After his accession matters became worse rather than better. At his coronation, which cost the nation over 200,000 pounds, he appeared in hired jewels, which he forgot to return, and which Parliament had to pay for. Not only did he waste the nation's money more recklessly than ever, but he used whatever political influence he had to opposesuch measures of reform as the times demanded.

570. Discontent; the "Manchester Massacre" (1819).

When (1811) George, then Prince of Wales, became regent (S567), he desired to form a Whig ministry, not because he cared for Whig principles (S479), but solely because he would thereby be acting in opposition to his father's wishes. Finding his purpose impracticable, he accepted Tory rule (S479), and a Cabinet (S534) was formed with Lord Liverpool as Prime Minister. It had for its main object the continued exclusion of Catholics from representation in Parliament (S478).

Lord Liverpool was a dull, well-meaning man, who utterly failed to comprehend the real tendency of the age. He was the son of a commoner who had been raised to the peerage. He had always had a reputation for honest obstinacy, and for little else. After he became Premier, a prominent French lady, who was visiting England, asked him one day, "What has become of that VERY stupid man, Mr. Jenkinson?" "Madame," answered the unfortunate Prime Minister, "he is now Lord Liverpool."[1]

[1] Earl's "English Premiers," Vol. II.

From such a Cabinet or Government, which continued in power for fifteen years, nothing but trouble could be expected. The misery of the country was great. Food was selling at famine prices. Thousands were on the verge of starvation, and tens of thousands did not get enough to eat. Trade was seriously depressed, and multitudes were unable to obtain work. Under these circumstances, the suffering masses undertook to hold public meetings to discuss the cause and cure of these evils; but as violent speeches against the Government were often made at the meetings, the authorities dispersed them on the ground that they were seditious and tended to riot and rebellion.

Many large towns at this period had no voice in legislation. At Birmingham, which was one of this class, the citizens had met and chosen, though without legal authority, a representative to Parliament. Machester, another important manufacturing town, now determined to do the same thing. The people were warned not to assemble, but they persisted in doing so, on the ground that peaceful discussion, with the election of a representative, was no violation of law. The meeting was held in St. Peter's Fields, and, through the blundering of a magistrate, it ended in an attack by a body of troops, by which many people were wounded an a number killed (1819).

571. The Six Acts (1819); the Conspiracy.

The bitter feeling caused by the "Manchester Massacre," or "Peterloo," as it was called, was still further aggravated by the passage of the Six Acts (1819). The object of these severe coercive measures was to make it impossible for men to take any public action demanding political reform. They restricted freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right of the people to assemble for the purpose of open discussion of the course taken by the Government. These harsh laws coupled with other repressive measures taken by the Tories (S479), who were still in power, led to the "Cato Street Conspiracy." Shortly after the accession of George IV a few desperate men banded together, and meeting in a stable in Cato Street, London, formed a plot to murder Lord Liverpool and his entire cabinet at dinner at which all the ministers were to be present.

The plot was discovered, and the conspirators were speedily disposed of by the gallows or transportation, but nothing was done to relieve the suffering which had provoked the intended crime. No new conspiracy was attempted, but in the course of the next ten years a silent revolution took place, which, as we shall see later, obtained for the people that fuller representation in Parliament which they had hitherto vainly attempted to get (S582).

572. Queen Caroline.

While he was Prince of Wales, George IV had, contrary to law, privately married Mrs. Fitzherbert (1785),[1] a Roman Catholic lady of excellent character, and possessed of great beauty. Ten years later, partly through royal compulsion and partly to get money to pay off some of his numerous debts, the Prince married his cousin, the Princess Caroline of Brunswick. The union proved a source of unhappiness to both. The Princess lacked both discretion and delicacy, and her husband, who disliked her from the first, was reckless and brutal toward her.

[1] By the Royal Marriage Act of 1772, no descendant of George II could make a legal marriage without the consent of the reigning sovereign, unless twenty-five years of age, and unless the marriage was not objected to by Parliament.

He separated from her in a year's time, and as soon as she could, she withdrew to the Continent. When he became King he excluded Queen Caroline's name from the Prayer Book, and next applied to Parliament for a divorce on the ground of the Queen's unfaithfulness to her marriage vows.

Henry Brougham, afterwards Lord Brougham, acted as the Queen's counsel. No sufficient evidence was brought against her, and the ministry declined to take further action. It was decided, however, that she could not claim the honor of coronation, to which, as Queen Consort, she had a right sanctioned by custom but not secured by law. When the King was crowned (1821), no place was provided for her. By the advice of her counsel, she presented herself at the entrance of Westminster Abbey as the coronation ceremony was about to begin; but, by order of her husband, admission was refused, and she retired to die, heartbroken, a few days after.

573. Three Great Reforms.

Seven years later (1828) the Duke of Wellington, a Tory (S479) in politics, became Prime Minister. His sympathies in all matters of legislation were with the King, but he made a virtue of necessity, and for the time acted with those who demanded reform. The Corporation Act (S472), which was originally passed in the reign of Charles II, and had for its object the exclusion of Dissenters (S472) from all town or corporate offices, was now repealed; henceforth a man might become a mayor, alderman, or town officer, without belonging to the Church of England. At the same time the Test Act (S477), which had also been passed in Charles II's reign to keep both Catholics and Dissenters out of government offices, whether civil or military, was repealed. As a matter of fact "the teeth of both acts had long been drawn" by by an annual Indemnity Act (1727).[1]

[1] This act virtually suspended the operation of the Corporation Act (S472) and the Test Act against dissenters so that they could obtain civil offices from which these two acts had excluded them.

In 1829 a still greater reform was carried. For a long period the Catholic Association had been laboring to obtain the abolition of the laws which had been on the statute books for over a century and a half, by which Catholics were excluded from the right to sit in Parliament. These laws, it will be remembered, were enacted at the time of the alleged Popish Plot, and in consequence of the perjured evidence given by Titus Oates (S478).[2] The King, and the Tory party marshaled by the Duke of Wellington, strenuously resisted the repeal of these statutes; but finally the Duke became convinced that further opposition was useless. He therefore suddenly changed about and solely, as he declared, to avert civil war, took the lead in securing the success of a measure which he heartily hated.

[2] See Sidney Smith's "Peter Plymley's Letters."

But at the same time that Catholics were admitted to both Houses of Parliament, an act was passed raising the property qualification of a very large class of small Irish landholders from 2 pounds to 10 pounds. This measure deprived many thousands of their right to vote. The law was enacted on the pretext that the small Irish landholders would be influenced by their landlord or their priest.

Under the new order of things, Daniel O'Connell, an Irish gentleman of an old and honorable family, and a man of distinguished ability, came forward as leader of the Catholics. After much difficulty he succeeded in taking his seat in the House of Commons (1829). He henceforth devoted himself, though without avail, to the repeal of the act uniting Ireland with England (S562), and to the restoration of an independent Irish Parliament.

574. The New Police (1829).

Although London had now a population of a million and a half, it still had no effective police. The guardians of the peace at that date were infirm old men, who spent their time dozing in sentry boxes, and had neither the strength nor energy to be of service in any emergency. The young fellows of fashion considered these venerable constables as legitimate game. They often amused themselves by upsetting the sentry boxes with their occupants, leaving the latter helpless in the street, kicking and struggling like turtles turned on their backs, and as powerless to get on their feet again.

During the last year of the reign Sir Robert Peel got a bill passed (1829) which oganized a new and thoroughly efficient police force, properly equipped and uniformed. Great was the outcry against this innovation, and the "men in blue" were hooted at, not only by London "roughs," but by respectable citizens, as "Bobbies" or "Peelers," in derisive allusion to their founder. But the "Bobbies," who carry no visible club, were not to be jeered out of existence. They did their duty like men, and have continued to do it in a way which long since gained for them the good will of all who care for the preservation of law and order.

575. Death of the King (1830).

George IV died soon after the passage of the new Police Bill (1830). Of him it may well be said, though in a very different sense from that in which the expression was originally used, that "nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it." During his ten years' reign he had squandered enormous sums of money in gambling and dissipation, and had done his utmost to block the wheels of political progress.

How far this son of an insane father (S567) was responsible, it may not be for us to judge. Walter Scott, who had a kind word for almost every one, and especially for any one of the Tory party (S479), did not fail to say something in praise of the generous good nature of his friend George IV. The sad thing is that his voice seems to have been the only one. In a whole nation the rest were silent; or, if they spoke, it was neither to commend nor to defend, but to condemn.

576. Summary.

The legislative reforms of George IV's reign are its chief features. The repeal of the Test and Corporation acts and the grant to Catholics of the right to reenter Parliament were tardy measures of justice. Neither the King nor his ministers deserve any credit for them, but, none the less, they accomplished great and permanent good.

WILLIAM IV—1830-1837

577. Accession and Character of William IV.

As George IV left no heir, his brother William, a man of sixty-five, now came to the throne. He had passed most of his life on shipboard, having been placed in the navy when a mere lad. He was somewhat rough in his manner, and cared nothing for the ceremony and etiquette that were so dear to both George III and George IV. His faults, however, were on the surface. He was frank, hearty, and a friend to the people, to whom he was familiarly known as the "Sailor King."

578. Need of Reform in Parliamentary Representation.

From the beginning of this reign it was evident that the great question which must soon come up for settlement was that of parliamentary representation. Large numbers of the people of England had now no voice in the government. This unfortunate state of things was chiefly the result of the great changes which had taken place in the growth of the population of the Midlands (or the central portion of England) and the North (S563).

Since the introduction of steam (S563) the rapid increase of manufactures and commerce had built up Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, and other large towns in the iron, coal, pottery and manufacturing districts. (See Industrial Map of England, p.10.) These important towns could not send a member to Parliament; while, on the other hand, many places in the south of England which did send members had long ceased to be of any importance. Furthermore, the representation was of the most haphazard description. In one section no one could vote except substantial property holders, in another none but town officers, while in a third every man who had a tenement big enough to boil a pot in, and hence called a "Pot-walloper," possessed the right.

To this singular state of things the nation had long been indifferent. During the Middle Ages the inhavitants often had no desire either to go to Parliament themselves or to send others. The expense of the journey was great, the compensation was small, and unless some important matter of special interest to the people was at stake, they preferred to stay at home. On this account it was often almost as difficult for the sheriff to get a distant county member up to the House of Commons in London as it would have been to carry him there a prisoner to be tried for his life.

Now, however, everything was changed; the rise of political parties (S479), the constant and heavy taxation, the jealousy of the increase of royal authority, the influence and honor of the position of a Parliamentary representative, all conspired to make men eager to obtain their full share in the management of the government.

This new interest had begun as far back as the civil wars of the seventeenth century, and when Cromwell came to power he effected many much-needed reforms. But after the restoration of the Stuarts (S467), the Protector's wise measures were repealed or neglected. Then the old order, or rather disorder, again asserted itself, and in many cases matters became worse than ever.

579. "Rotten Boroughs."

For instance, the borough or city of Old Sarum, in Wiltshire, which had once been an important place, had, at an early period, gradually declined through the growth of New Sarum, or Salisbury, near by. (See map, p.436.) In the sixteenth century the parent city had so completely decayed that not a single habitation was left on the desolate hilltop where the caste and cathedral once stood. At the foot of the hill was an old tree. The owner of that tree and of the field where it grew sent (1830) two members to Parliament,—that action represented what had been regularly going on for something like three hundred years!

In Bath, on the other hand, none of the citizens, out of a large population, might vote except the mayor, alderman, and common council. These places now got the significant name of "rotten boroughs" from the fact that whether large or small there was no longer any sound political life existing in them. Many towns were so completely in the hands of the squire or some other local "political boss" that, on one occasion when a successful candidate for Parliament thanked the voters for what they had done, a man replied that he need not take the trouble to thank them; for, said he, "if the squire had zent his great dog we should have chosen him all one as if it were you, zur."[1]

[1] See Hindon, in Murray's "Wiltshire."

580. The Great Reform Bill.

For fifty years after the coming in of the Georges the country had been ruled by a powerful Whig (SS479, 548) monopoly. Under George III that monopoly was broken (S548), and the Tories (S479) got possession of the government. But whichever party ruled, Parliament, owing to the "rotten-borough" system, no longer represented the nation, but simply stood for the will of certain wealthy landholders and town corporations. A loud and determined demand was now made for reform. In this movement no one was more active or influential among the common people than William Cobbett. He was a vigorous and fearless writer, who for years published a small newspaper called the Political Register, which was especially devoted to securing a just and uniform system of representation.

On the accession of William IV the pressure for reform became so great that Parliament was forced to act. Lord John Russell brought in a bill (1831) providing for the abolition of the "rotten boroughs" and for a fair system of elections. But those who owned or controlled those boroughs had no intention of giving them up. Their opponents, however, were equally determined, and they knew that they had the support of the nation.

In a speech which the Reverend Sydney Smith made at Taunton, he compared the futile resistance of the House of Lords to the proposed reform, to Mrs. Partington's attempt to drive back the rising tide of the Atlantic with her mop. The ocean rose, and Mrs. Partington, seizing her mop, rose against it; yet, notwithstanding the good lady's efforts, the Atlantic got the best of it; so the speaker prophesied that in this case the people, like the Atlantic, would in the end carry the day.[1]

[1] Sydney Smith's "Essays and Speeches."

When the bill came up, the greater part of the Lords and the bishops, who, so far as they were concerned personally, had all the rights and privileges they wanted, opposed it; so too did the Tories (S479), in the House of Commons. They thought that the proposed law threatened the stability of the government. The Duke of Wellington (S573) was particularly hostile to it, and wrote, "I don't generally take a gloomy view of things, but I confess that, knowing all that I do, I cannot see what is to save the Church, or property, or colonies, or union with Ireland, or, eventually, monarchy, if the Reform Bill passes."[2]

[2] Wellington's "Dispatches and Letters," II, 451.

581. The Lords reject the Bill; Serious Riots (1831).

The King dissolved Parliament (S534, note 2); a new one was elected, and the Reform Bill was passed by the House of Commons; but the upper House rejected it. Then a period of wild excitement ensued. The people in many of the towns collected in the public squares, tolled the church bells, built bonfires in which they burned the bishops in effigy, with other leading opponents of the bill, and cried out for the abolition of the House of Lords.

In London the rabble smashed the windows of Apsley House, the residence of the Duke of Wellington. At Nottingham the mob fired and destroyed the castle of the Duke of Newcastle because he was opposed to reform. In Derby a serious riot broke out. In Bristol matters were still worse. A mob got possession of the city, and burned the Bishop's Palace and a number of public buildings. The mayor was obliged to call for troops to restore order. Many persons were killed, and four of the ringleaders of the insurrection were hanged. All over the country shouts were heard, "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill!"

582. Passage of the Great Reform Bill, 1832; Results.

In the spring of 1832 the battle began again more fiecely than ever. Again the House of commons voted the bill, and once again the House of Lords defeated it.

Earl Grey, the Whig Prime Minister (S479), had set his heart on carrying the measure. In this crisis he appealed to the King for help. If the Tory Lords would not pass the bill, the King had the power to create a sufficient number of new Whig Lords who would. William refused to exercise this power. Thereupon Earl Grey, with his Cabinet (S534), resigned, but in a week the King had to recall them. Then William, much against his will, gave the following document to his Prime Minister:

"The King grants permission to Earl Grey, and to his Chancellor, Lord Brougham, to create such a number of Peers as will be sufficient to insure the passing of the Reform Bill—first calling up Peers' eldest sons. "William R., Windsor, May 17, 1832"[1]

[1] "First calling up Peers' eldest sons": that is, in creating new Lords, the eldest sons of Peers were to have the preference. William R. (Rex, King): this is the customary royal signature. Earl Grey was the leader of that branch of the Whig party known as the "Aristocratic Whigs," yet to him and his associate Cabinet minsiters the people were indebted for the great extension of the suffrage in 1832.

But there was no occasion to make use of this permission. As soon as the Lords found that the Cabinet (S534), with Earl Grey at the head, had actually compelled the King to bow to the demands of the people, they withdrew their opposition. The "Great Charter of 1832" was carried, received the royal signature, and became law.

The passage of this memorable act brought about these beneficent changes:

(1) It abolished nearly sixty "rotten boroughs" (S579). (2) It gave every householder who paid a rent of ten pounds in any town a vote, and largely extended the list of county voters as well. (3) It granted two representatives to Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, and nineteen other large towns, and one representative each to twenty-one other places, all of which had hitherto been unrepresented, besides granting fifteen additional members to the counties. (4) It added, in all, half a million voters to the list, mostly men of the middle class, and it helped to purify the elections from the violence which had disgraced them.[1]

[1] See Summary of Constitutional History in the Appendix, p.xxvi, S31.

Before the passing of the Reform Bill, and the legislation which supplemented it, the election of a member of Parliament was a kind of local reign of terror. The smaller towns were sometimes under the control of drunken ruffians for several weeks. During that time they paraded the streets in bands, assaulting voters of the opposite party with clubs, kidnaping prominent men and confining them until after the election, and perpetrating other outrages, which so frightened peacable citizens that often they did not dare attempt to vote at all.

Finally, the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832 effected, in its own way, a change which was perhaps as momentous as that which the Revolution of 1688 had accomplished.[2] That, as we have seen (S497), made the King dependent for his crown on his election to office by Parliament. On the other hand, the Reform Bill practically took the last vestige of real political authority from the King and transferred it to the Cabinet (S534), who had now become responsible to the House of Commons, and hence to the direct will of the majority of the nation. But though the Sovereign had laid down his political scepter, never to resume it, he would yet, by virtue of his exalted position, continue to wield great power,—that of social and diplomatic influence, which is capable of accomplishing most important results both at home and abroad. To-day then, though the King still reigns, the People, and the People alone, govern.

[2] Compare the three previous Revolutions represented by (1) Magna Carta (S199); (2) De Montfort's House of Commons (S213); (3) the Civil War and its effects (SS441, 450, 451).

583. Abolition of Slavery, 1833; Factory Reform, 1833-1841.

With the new Parliament that came into power the names of Liberal and Conservative began to supplant those of Whig and Tory (S479), for it was felt that a new political era needed new party names. Again, the passage of the Reform Bill (S582) changed the policy of both these great political parties. It made Liberals and Conservatives bid against each other for the support of the large number of new voters (S582 (4)), and it acted as an entering wedge to prepare the way for the further extension of suffrage in 1867 and 1884 (S534), representing the Commons, had gained a most significant victory; and further reforms were accordingly carried against the strenuous opposition of the King.

Buxton, Wilberforce, Brougham, and other noted philanthropists secured the passage through Parliament of a bill, 1833, for which they, with the younger Pitt, had labored in vain for half a century. By this act all negro slaves in the British West India colonies, numbering about eight hundred thousand, were set free, and the sum of 20,000,000 pounds was appropriated to compensate the owners.

It was a grand deed grandly done. Could America have followed that noble example, she might thereby have saved a million of human lives and many thousand millions of dollars which were cast into the gulf of civil war, while the corrupting influence of five years of waste and discord would have been avoided.

But negro slaves were not the only slaves in those days. There were white slaves as well,—women and children born in England, but condemned by their necessities to work underground in the coal mines, or to exhaust their strength in the cotton mills. They were driven by brutal masters who cared as little for the welfare of those under them as the overseer of a West India plantation did for his gangs of black toilers in the sugar-cane fields. On investigation it was found that children only six and seven years of age were compelled to labor for twelve and thirteen hours continuously in the factories. In the coal mines their case was even worse. All day long these poor creatures sat in absolute darkness, opening and shutting doors for the passage of coal cars. If, overcome with fatigue, they fell asleep, they were cruelly beaten with a strap.[1]

[1] See Gibbin's "Industrial History of England," E.F. Cheyney's "Industrial History of England," and Mrs. E. B. Browning's poem, "The Cry of the Children."

Parliament at length turned its attention to these abuses, and passed acts, 1833, forbidding the employment of women and young children in such work; a later act put an end to the barbarous practice of forcing children to sweep chimneys.

584. The First Steam Railway, 1830; the Railway Craze; the Friction Match, 1834.

Ever since the application of steam to machinery, the inventors had been discussing plans for placing the steam engine on wheels and using it as a propelling power in place of horses. Macadam, a Scotch surveyor, had constructed a number of very superior roads made of gravel and broken stone in the south of England, which soon made the name of "macadamized turnpike" celebrated.

The question then arose, Might not a still further advance be made by employing steam to draw cars on these roads, or, better still, on iron rails? The first locomotives built were used in hauling coal at the mines in the North of England. Puffing Billy, the pioneer machine (1813), worked for many years near Newcastle. At length George Stephenson, an inventor and engineer, together with certain capitalists, succeeded in getting Parliament to pass an act for constructing a passenger railway between Liverpool and Manchester, a distance of about thirty miles.

When the line was completed by Stephenson, he had great difficulty in getting permission to use an engine instead of horse power on it. Finally, Stephenson's new locomotive, The Rocket,—which first introduced the tubular boiler, and employed the exhaust, or escaping, steam to increase the draft of the fire,—was tried with entire success.[1]

[1] Stephenson's Rocket and Watt's stationary steam engine (S563) are both preserved in the South Kensington Museum, London. The boiler of the Rocket was traversed by a number of tubes communicating with the smoke pipe. The steam, after it hada done its work in the cylinders of the engine, escaped with great force through the smoke pipe and so created a very powerful draft. Without these two important improvements the locomotive would probably never have made an average speed of more than six or seven miles an hour.

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was formally opened in the autumn of 1830, and the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, was one of the few passengers who ventured on the trial trip. The growth of this new mode of transportation was so rapid that in five years from that time London and the principal seaports were connected with the great manufacturing towns, while local steam navigation had also nearly doubled its vessels and its tonnage.

Later on (1844-1847), Stephenson might easily have made himself "rich beyond the dreams of avarice,"—or at least of the avarice of that day. All he had to do was to lend the use of his name to new and doubtful railway projects; but he refused on the ground that he did not care "to make money without labor or honor." Meanwhile the whole country became involved in a speculative craze for building railways. Scores of millions of pounds were invested; for a time Hudson, the so-called "Railway King," ruled supreme, and Dukes and Duchesses, and members of Parliament generally, did homage to the man whose schemes promised to cover the whole island with a network of iron roads, every one of which was expected to be as profitable as a gold mine. These projects ended in a panic, second only to that of the South Sea Bubble (S536), and thousands found that steam could destroy fortunes even faster than it made them.

Toward the close of William's reign (1834-1835) a humble invention was perfected of which little was said at the time, but which contributed in no small degree to the comfort and convenience of every one. Up to this date two of the most important of all civilizing agents—fire and light—could be produced only with much difficulty and at considerable expense.

Various deviced had been contrived to obtain them, but the common method continued to be the primitive one of striking a bit of flint and steel sharply together until a falling spark ignited a piece of tinder or half-burned rag, which, when it caught, had, with no little expense of breath, to be blown into a flame. The progress of chemistry suggested the use of phosphorus, and after years of experiments the friction match was invented by an English apothecary, who thus gave to the world what is now the commonest, and perhaps at the same time the most useful, domestic article in existence.

585. Summary.

William IV's short reign of seven years was marked (1) by the great Reform Bill of 1832, which, to a great extent, took Parliament out of the hands of rich men and "rotten boroughs" and put it under the control of the people; (2) by the abolition of slavery in the British colonies, and factory reform; (3) by the introduction of the friction match, and by the building of the first successful line of steam railway.


586. The Queen's Descent; Stability of the Government.

As William IV left no child to inherit the crown, he was succeeded by his niece, the Princess Victoria, daughter of his brother Edward, Duke of Kent. (See Genealogical Table, p.323.) In her lineage the Queen represented nearly the whole past sovereignty of the land over which she reigned.[1] The blood of both Cerdic, the first Saxon king, and of William the Conqueror,[2] flowed in her veins,—a fact which strikingly illustrates the vitality of the hereditary and conservative principles in the history of the English Crown.

[1] The only exceptions are the four Danish sovereigns and Harold II. [2] See Genealogical Table of the Descent of English Sovereigns in the Appendix.

The fact stands out in stronger relief if we call to mind what England had passed through in that intervening period of time.

In 1066 the Normans crossed the Channel, invaded the island, conquered its inhabitants, and seized the throne. In the course of the next five centuries two kings were deposed, one died a captive in the Tower of London,[3] and the Catholic religion, as an established Church, was supplanted in England by the Protestant faith of Luther.

[3] Namely, Edward II (S233), Richard II (S257), and Henry VI (S305).

Somewhat less than a hundred years after that event, Civil War broke out in 1642; the King was dethroned and beheaded, and in 1648 a republic established. The monarchy was restored in 1660, only to be followed by the Revolution of 1688, which changed the order of royal succession, drove one line of sovereigns from the land, and called in another from Germany to take its place. Meanwhile the House of Commons had gained enormously in political power, and Cabinet Government had been fully and finally established (S534). In 1832 the Reform Bill was passed, by which the power of the people was largely extended in Parliament; the two great political parties had been reorganized; yet after all these events, at the end of more than ten centuries from the date when Egbert first became Overlord of all the English, in 829 (S49), we find England governed by a descendant of her earliest rulers!

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