Part 1 is here.
Chapter 59. Anne -- The Last of the Stuarts. 1702-1714.
Chapter 60. Constitutional History of the Stuart Period.
Chapter 61. Literature in the Stuart Period
Chapter 62. Writers of the Later Stuart Period.
Chapter 63. Science, Art, and Daily Life Under the Stuarts.
Chapter 64. George I. 1714-1727.
Chapter 65. George II. 1727-1760.
Chapter 66. Clive, Wolfe, and Washington.
Chapter 67. George III. 1760-1820.
Chapter 68. The Act of Union With Ireland.
Chapter 69. The French Revolution.
Chapter 70. The Great War with France.
Chapter 71. The Great War with France.
Chapter 72. George IV. and William IV. -- The Great Peace 1820-1837.
Chapter 73 The Days of Queen Victoria. 1837-1852.
Chapter 74. The End of the Great Peace and the Story of Our Own Times. 1852-1901.
Chapter 75. The Conquests of Peace.
Chapter 76. Steps on the Path of Freedom.
Chapter 77. Literature and Art Since 1714.
Chapter 59. Anne -- The Last of the Stuarts. 1702-1714.
Principal events during the reign of Queen Anne:
The Queen and her Councillors. (Ch 59)
"I am in such haste I can say no more but that I am very sorry dear Mrs. Freeman will be so unkind as not to come to her poor unfortunate, faithful Morley, who loves her sincerely, and will do so to the last moment." -- Queen Anne writing to the Duchess of Marlborough (1706).
We now come to the reign of Queen Anne, the last of the Stuarts. In order to understand the events of this reign, it is necessary to remember exactly who Queen Anne was, and what was her claim to the throne. Anne was the second daughter of James II., and sister of Queen Mary, whose husband -- William of Orange, or William III. -- had just died. By the rule which had always been observed in England, the crown would by right have gone on the death of James II. to his son, James Edward, Prince of Wales.
But we have already seen how the leaders of the English Parliament had, by means of a "Revolution," altered the descent of the crown, and placed Mary upon the throne instead of her brother. Now that William and Mary were dead, and had left no children, those who had made the Revolution were determined that they would not lose the advantages which they had taken so much trouble to obtain.
In the last reign the Act of Succession had been passed which declared that the crown should only go to a Protestant, and everybody except the Jacobites now looked upon Queen Anne as the right and proper person to occupy the throne. But though everything went off peaceably, and the new queen was crowned without anyone objecting, it must not be forgotten that there were still in England a good many friends of the Jacobite cause, and that in Scotland and Ireland the Jacobites were far more numerous than in England. It was all very well for Englishmen to speak of the young prince as the "Pretender," and to declare that he was not even the son of James II., but as long as the "Pretender" could find friends ready to fight for him in England, and could rely upon the help of France, the most formidable of England's enemies, he was always a person to be feared.
The fact, too, that Queen Anne, like her sister, left no children to succeed her did much to strengthen the Jacobite cause, and, as the years passed by, the danger to those who had brought about the Revolution greatly increased. But the claims of the "Pretender" to the crown of England were not the only causes of trouble during Queen Anne's reign.
The division between the two great parties of Whigs and Tories had grown sharper than ever, and the quarrels and rivalries of the two parties became fiercer every year. The Whigs, who had been the real authors of the Revolution, were determined that they would keep in their own hands all the power which their success had brought them. At home it was their object to limit the power of the Crown and to strengthen that of the ministry. Abroad they were determined to continue the war which William III. had begun.
The Tories, on the other hand, were ready to give more power to the king or queen than were the Whigs. Their chief supporters were to be found among the members of the Established Church. They did not like the war, and were constantly trying to put a stop to it. They had been willing to support King William when James was alive, and they were ready to support Queen Anne as long as she lived, but they had no great love for the next heirs to the crown, namely, the Electress Sophia and her son George; and many of their leaders would rather have seen the "Pretender" made king than allow the Elector of Hanover to be put upon the throne by the Whigs.
We have already seen how Queen Anne had quarrelled with her sister Mary, and how the cause of the quarrel had been Mary's dislike for the Duchess of Maryborough. Now that Anne was queen it was not wonderful that her friend the duchess should become a very powerful person. Indeed, at the beginning of the reign the two most powerful people in the whole of England were, without doubt, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. Before she came to the throne Anne had found most of her friends among the Tories, of whom Marlborough was one, and it was to the Tories, therefore, that she looked for her advisers. A ministry was formed, of which Lord Godolphin, a son-in-law of the Duke of Marlborough, was the head, and nearly all the Whigs were turned out of office.
But on one very important point the Duke of Marlborough differed from the other advisers of the Queen. Marlborough was a soldier, and both as a soldier and as a statesman he wished to continue the war with France, and, as a soldier, no doubt he was ready to go on fighting battles in which he felt sure that he could earn glory and distinction. But as a statesman he wished to continue the war for another reason: he believed that if Louis XIV. of France were once allowed to become the master of Europe, it would not be long before he would also be master of England, and he felt therefore that it was most important that the whole power of England should be used to help those who were in arms against the French king.
The War with France. (ch 59)
"He is a soldier fit to stand by Caesar,
And give direction."
Shakespeare: "Othello," Act II., Scene 3.
Space does not permit us to go into all the particulars of the great war which raged in Europe during the reign of Queen Anne, but it would be quite impossible to tell the story of the reign without saying something about the war, for its consequences are to be felt and seen at the present day.
The war is known as the "War of the Spanish Succession," and it was so called because one of the chief reasons for which it was said to be fought was to fix the "Succession to the throne of Spain." King Louis of France wished to make his grandson King of Spain; the enemies of France were determined that this should be prevented, or that, if it could not be prevented, it should at least be declared that, whatever happened, the same person should never be both King of France and King of Spain. We have only got to look at the map of Europe to see how dangerous it would have been to any country which happened to be on bad terms with France, if the King of France had been master, not only of his own broad dominions, but also of the great Spanish peninsula which shuts in the western end of the Mediterranean Sea.
But though the quarrel about the Spanish crown gave its name to the war, the war was really fought by the people of England, Holland, and some of the German States to protect themselves from the powerful and ambitious King of France. Louis XIV., without doubt, fought for glory and the love of conquest, and Marlborough was right when he advised the queen that it was the duty and interest of England to help those who fought against King Louis.
At the beginning of Queen Anne's reign, so great was the power of Marlborough, and so great was his influence over the queen, that, though Marlborough himself was a Tory, though the queen was a friend of the Tories, and though her ministers were Tories, the duke succeeded in persuading both the queen and her ministers to go on with the war, and by so doing, to please the Whigs.
The war itself must always be memorable in the history of England. For the first time since the use of gunpowder became general, an English commander showed himself to be a real master of the art of war. It may probably be said with truth that the Duke of Marlborough was the greatest general this country ever produced, and his greatness as a soldier was recognised, not only by his own countrymen, but by every nation in Europe, whether friend or foe. The French feared him, and his name became a household word in France, where young and old caught up the tune of the famous song, "Marlbrook s'en va-t-en guerre." ["Marlbrook sen va-t-en guerre" ("Marlbrook has gone to the wars"). The air is still very well known to us in England under the title of "We won't go home till morning," with the familiar chorus of "He's a jolly good fellow."]
The Dutch and the Protestants of Germany, however jealous they might be of a foreigner, agreed to place the duke at the head of their armies, knowing that he, and he alone, could lead them with success against the experienced generals of Louis XIV.
Indeed, the genius of Marlborough showed itself almost as much in his dealings with the Dutch and German generals with whom he had to act, as in the skill with which he led his armies into battle. The Dutch leaders especially, slow in their movements, jealous of interference, and often mistrusting their English allies, gave the duke the greatest trouble, and it was only by patience, by skilful flattery, and by persuasion -- sometimes accompanied by bribes -- that Marlborough was able to keep together the mixed army under his command.
One great man, however, proved to be an exception to the general rule. In Prince Eugene of Savoy, Marlborough found a skilful and devoted ally, on whom he could always depend, and from whose jealousy he had nothing to fear.
The Triumph of Marlborough. (ch 59)
"Great praise the Duke of Marlborough won." -- Southey: "After Blenheim."
The first battle in the war was a surprise to all Europe. The French armies, so long victorious, were considered almost invincible. The French generals were reckoned to be the most experienced and the most skilful in Europe. Great, therefore, was the rejoicing in England when the news arrived that on the 13th of August, 1704, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene had totally defeated a great French army at Blenheim, a village lying on the river Danube, in Bavaria.
Two years later another great victory at Ramillies, in Belgium (May 23rd, 1706), compelled the French to withdraw from the Netherlands. A victory by Prince Eugene at Turin, in the north of Italy, drove the French out of that country. On every side Louis, so often victorious, saw himself defeated. But France was then, as she is now, too great and strong a nation to be really beaten in a single campaign.
The year after the victory of Ramillies the French gained several successes over the Allies, and in the following year (1708) an expedition was again prepared for the purpose of bringing over the "Pretender" and invading England. Happily, the "Pretender" fell ill, and the expedition came to nothing. But it was plain that the war must be continued. Marlborough once more took the command, and on the 11th July defeated the French at Oudenarde, a town on the river Scheldt, in Holland, and the victory was followed by the siege and capture of the strong fortress of Lille (9th December, 1708).
In 1709 the last and fiercest of the four great battles in which Marlborough proved victorious was fought at Malplaquet, in Belgium (September 11th). The losses on both sides were very great, that of the Allies amounting to no less than 20,000 men.
The victories of Marlborough will always be remembered -- and justly remembered -- by the people of England. They were the means of preserving our country and the other Protestant States from being crushed by the great military power of France. Our free government and our present line of sovereigns are among the results which we owe to the genius of Marlborough and the bravery of his troops. The names of "Blenheim" and "Ramillies" have long been kept alive in the Royal Navy, and to this day are borne by two of the most powerful of our warships.
But there was one other victory won in the same year as that in which the battle of Blenheim was fought, which, though it was gained with little fighting and little loss, has left us a prize almost as great as that which Marlborough's splendid campaign secured.
We have on the opposite page a picture of the noble outline of the Rock of Gibraltar, the huge fortress which guards the western entrance to the Mediterranean, and on the highest point of which the flag of Britain flies. It was in the year 1704 that Admiral Sir George Rooke, being with his fleet in the Mediterranean, attacked, and captured almost without resistance, the fortress of Gibraltar, then in the hands of the Spanish allies of Louis XIV.
From that day to this, Gibraltar has remained in British hands. For many years it guarded the Straits, and was the most important fortress in all the British Empire. It remains as a great monument of our success in the days of Queen Anne, and it may one day become again as important and valuable a fortress as it was in days gone by. [The fortress of Gibraltar, having been taken by Sir George Rooke in 1704, was ceded to Great Britain by Spain by the Treaty of Utrecht, signed in the year 1713.]
The Tories in Office. (ch 59)
"When royal Anne became our queen,
The Church of England's glory,
Another face of things was seen,
And I became a Tory."
"The Vicar of Bray," written 1720.
But while Marlborough had been so successfully carrying on the war abroad, his position at home had been growing weaker and weaker. The Tories, as we have seen, disliked the war from the very beginning, and it was only Marlborough's great influence with the queen which had enabled him to carry it on at all.
Gradually the duke found that his old friends were leaving him, and that the Tories in the House of Commons lost no opportunity of making attacks upon him. This naturally led him to make friends with the Whigs, who he knew would support him in carrying on the war. In the year 1707 he persuaded the queen to call several of the Whigs into the ministry. A few of the Tories, among whom were Harley, afterwards known as Earl of Oxford, and St. John, afterwards known as Lord Bolingbroke, remained in the ministry. But it has always been found difficult for a Government to succeed when its members are not really agreed, and it soon became clear that the Whigs and Tories in the new Government were not agreed.
Harley was the first to see that the time had come when the power of the Duke of Marlborough over the queen might be destroyed. Marlborough's power had come through his wife, and his enemies now tried to destroy it by the same means. Queen Anne had made a new favourite, Miss Abigail Hill -- or Mrs. Masham, as she became -- cousin of the duchess.
The new favourite lost no opportunity of stirring up the queen's displeasure against her old friend, "Mrs. Freeman," by saying all the evil she could of the Whigs, and praising the Tories. The queen, who was really a very strong Tory, readily listened to these attacks, the more so as she had long been tired of the bitter tongue and quarrelsome temper of the Duchess of Marlborough. From this time the fate of Marlborough was sealed, and it was not long before his enemies succeeded in bringing about his downfall.
The favour of the queen having once been won by Mrs. Masham, and lost by the duchess, the disgrace of Marlborough and of the Whigs on whom he now relied as his best supporters in carrying on the war, was only a question of time. The downfall was hastened by an event which took place in London, and which stirred up the people as well as the queen against the Whigs.
This event was the trial of a clergyman named Dr. Sacheverell. It was a small matter in itself, but men's minds were so excited that it led to important consequences. Sacheverell was a Tory, and a clergyman of the Established Church. He preached a sermon at St. Paul's, in which he spoke in favour of the Divine Right of Kings, and of the duty of their subjects to obey them, whatever they said or did.
The Whigs were angry with Sacheverell, for they said that such teaching was an attack upon the Revolution, and upon the law as it had been settled by the Revolution. So angry were the Whigs that, instead of putting Sacheverell on his trial in the ordinary way, they went so far as to bring an "impeachment" against him.
As a result, Sacheverell was forbidden to preach for three years, but the attack which had been made upon him was looked upon by all the Tories as an attack upon the Church; and as the Church was a great power, and very popular in the country, a strong feeling was aroused against the Whigs. There were fierce riots in London, and some of the chief Whig ministers were driven out of office. A new Parliament was summoned, in which the Tories had a majority, and Harley, leader of the Tories, was made Prime Minister.
The Fall of Marlborough. (ch 59)
"Marlbrook, the prince of commanders,
Has gone to the wars in Flanders;
His fame is like Alexander's,
But when will he ever come home?"
Now that the Tories were in power, it was clear that the war which they had so long disliked would be brought to an end, and that, in order to put a stop to the war, Marlborough must first be dismissed from his office.
The queen, who was strongly on the side of Harley and the new ministers, dismissed the Duchess of Marlborough from Court, took away from her all her offices and honours, and refused to see her. Harley was made Earl of Oxford, as a sign of the queen's favour, and terms of peace were proposed to King Louis.
Marlborough now came back to England, to find that not only was the war in which he had earned so much distinction to come to an end, but that he himself was to be disgraced and deprived of his command. A whole set of charges was brought against him. It was declared that he had made a dishonest use of the money which had been voted by Parliament for the purpose of carrying on the war. He was dismissed from his command, and the Duke of Ormonde, who was suspected of being a Jacobite, was put at the head of the army.
Only one more thing remained to be done to bring the war to an end. The majority of the House of Lords had up to this time been friendly to the Whigs and to Marlborough. It was necessary to get the consent of the House of Lords as well as that of the House of Commons. By the advice of the Earl of Oxford twelve new peers were created for the purpose of giving the Tories a majority in the House of Lords as well as in the House of Commons.
All was now ready for the last step to be taken, and on the 31st of March, 1713, a peace was signed at Utrecht, in Holland, by which the long struggle between England and France was for a time ended. The terms of the peace were not favourable to England, whose armies had been so successful throughout the war. But there can be little doubt that among the ministers who made the peace there were some who were traitors to the country which they pretended to serve. It is known that one of them -- St. John, afterwards Lord Bolingbroke -- was at this very time plotting for the return of the "Pretender"; and it is believed that Harley, Earl of Oxford, was also trying to make terms with the "Pretender," so that he might have a friend in case the Stuarts should, after all, come to the throne again.
It was not wonderful, therefore, that a ministry whose members were actually plotting with the enemy should not have been very earnest in standing out for the interests of England.
But though the Peace of Utrecht was not very favourable in its terms to this country, it gave us three important possessions -- namely, the island, of Minorca, in the Mediterranean, the fortress of Gibraltar, and the island of Newfoundland, all of which had been claimed by our enemies, but which were now admitted to belong to Great Britain. Minorca has been lost, but Gibraltar and Newfoundland are still part of the British Empire.
The Last of the Stuarts. (ch 59)
"Be it enacted that The succession of the Monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and of the Dominions thereto belonging, after her Most Sacred Majesty, and in default of issue of her Majesty, be, remain, and continue to the Most Excellent Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover, and the Heirs of her Body being Protestants, upon which the Crown of England is settled by an Act of Parliament made in England in the twelfth year of his late Majesty King William the Third." -- 5 Anne, Cap. VIII., Art. 2.
The queen's health was now fast failing, and it was clear that she had but a short time to live. She had no child to succeed her, and for a time the country was in real danger of a return of the "Pretender." St. John, now Lord Bolingbroke, who had become Anne's most trusted minister, would certainly have called back the Stuarts on the queen's death if he had been allowed to do so.
But the greatness of the danger alarmed the Whigs, and they decided to act at once while there was time. The Duke of Argyle and the Duke of Somerset made their way to the palace of Kensington, where the queen lay dying. As members of the Privy Council, they had the right to an audience of the sovereign at any time. They now claimed their right, and were brought into the chamber of the dying queen. They told her plainly what was the danger which threatened the country, and how the Protestant cause, of which she had been during her life the great supporter, would be ruined if the Act of Succession were not obeyed, and if the Elector of Hanover were not made king upon her death.
There was one way, and one way only, they declared, by which the "Pretender" could be prevented from returning, and that was to appoint Whig ministers, who would insist upon the Act of Succession being obeyed. Anne listened to these counsels, and agreed to them. She gave the "White Staff," which was the sign of office, to the Duke of Shrewsbury, and made him Lord Treasurer, or head of the Government. The cause of the Protestant Succession had been saved. The new Whig ministers immediately sent a message to the Elector George, bidding him come over with all speed to England, and they made preparations to receive him and to put down any resistance which might be offered.
On the 1st of August, 1714, Queen Anne died, in the fifty-first year of her age and the thirteenth year of her reign. With her ended the line of the Stuart Sovereigns, which began with her great-grandfather, James I.
The Union with Scotland. (ch 59)
"The union of lakes -- the union of lands--
The Union of States none can sever--
The union of hearts -- the union of hands--
And the flag of our Union for ever!"
G. P. Morris: "The Flag of our Union."
A great part of the pages which contain an account of Queen Anne's reign has been taken up with the story of wars on the Continent and disputes between the two great parties at home. There was, however, one important event which took place in this reign which was brought about without war, and about which the two great parties for once managed to agree. This event is such an important one, and has had such a great and lasting influence upon our history, that it must be specially mentioned.
It was in the year 1707, the sixth year of the reign of Queen Anne, that the Act of Union between England and Scotland was passed. It may be asked, What need was there of any Act of Union between the two countries now that they both had the same Sovereign? But we have read enough in this book to make it quite clear that, though the crown of England and the crown of Scotland were both worn by the same king or queen, there was as yet very little real union between the two countries. On the contrary, there had been perpetual disputes and constant fighting, and the English Parliament and the Scottish Parliament had not only been quite distinct bodies, but had been strongly opposed to one another.
At the beginning of Queen Anne's reign there was a very angry feeling in Scotland against the English Government. A large number of people in Scotland, moved by the persuasions of a man named Paterson, had joined together to send out an expedition to the Isthmus of Darien, the narrow strip of land which divides the Atlantic from the Pacific and which connects the continents of North and South America. Those who joined in the expedition believed that Darien would become a great and powerful colony, and that its possession would bring great wealth and strength to the kingdom of Scotland.
The English Government, however, looked upon the expedition with little favour. They knew that it was sure to rouse the anger of the Spaniards, and would probably bring about a war which would injure English trade. The Spaniards did, in fact, attack the Scottish colonists. The colonists were defeated and ruined, and the whole expedition ended in total failure and in the loss of very large sums of money.
The Scots, smarting from their loss, declared that the English Government had destroyed the expedition, and the feeling against England became very bitter. The Scottish Parliament set to work to thwart the English ministers. They refused to pass an Act of Succession declaring that the Princess Sophia and her heirs should succeed to the throne of Scotland, and they showed themselves unfriendly in many other ways.
The English ministers prepared to punish the Scots for their unfriendliness. A Bill was actually brought into Parliament declaring that all Scotsmen should be looked upon as foreigners in England, that heavy duties should be levied upon goods crossing the Border from Scotland; and orders were given that troops should occupy the Border fortresses as if Scotland were already an open enemy. The Scots were now in their turn alarmed by the threats of their powerful neighbour, and, happily, wise counsels prevailed.
There was already a large party in both countries which desired to see a real union between England and Scotland, and steps were now taken to carry the wishes of these parties into effect. Commissioners were appointed by the Parliaments of the two countries to arrange the terms on which the Union should take place.
There was a great deal of "give and take" on both sides, but on the whole the terms were very favourable to Scotland, the weaker country. So favourable were they that in January, 1707, the Act of Union passed the Scottish Parliament by a majority of 41 in a house of 179 members. It had now only to pass through the English Parliament; and so skilful were the ministers in placing the matter before the two Houses that, despite the bitter feeling between Whigs and Tories, the Act was passed with scarcely any opposition, and became from that time the law of the land.
The first article of the Act is in these words: "That the Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall upon the First day of May, which shall be in the year One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seven, and for ever after, be united into one Kingdom in the name of Great Britain; and that the Ensigns Armorial of the said united Kingdom be such as her Majesty shall appoint, and the Crosses of George and Andrew be conjoined in such manner as her Majesty shall think fit, and used in all Flags, Banners, Standards and Ensigns, both at sea and land" [5 Anne, chap. v., art. I.]
The following are the principal points in the Act of Union between England and Scotland:
(1) The kingdoms of England and Scotland were to become one kingdom, under the title of "Great Britain."
(2) The Flags of the two countries were to be joined together. The Red Cross of St. George with the White Cross, or Saltire, of St. Andrew.
(3) The Parliaments of England and Scotland were to be united, and the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain was to sit thenceforward at Westminster.
(4) There were to be forty-five Scottish members in the House of Commons.
(5) Sixteen of the Scottish peers were to be elected by the votes of all the peers of Scotland, and were to take their places in the House of Lords. All peers created by the Crown in future were to be peers of the United Kingdom, and not of England or Scotland.
(6) Scotland was to take its share in bearing the debt of England, but a large sum (£398,000), was to be paid by England to discharge the debt of Scotland and to repay the losses of those who had suffered from the failure of the Darien expedition.
Such were the main points of this great Act of Parliament which has thrown open to Scotland the wealth and resources of England, and has given to its people a full share in the great naval power of the southern kingdom; an Act which, on the other hand, has given to England the energy, the courage, and the enterprise of Scotsmen, who have taken their full share in founding, strengthening, and keeping that great British Empire to which both Englishmen and Scotsmen are proud to belong.
Chapter 60. Constitutional History of the Stuart Period.
Magna Charta Re-enacted. (ch 60)
"And we will, that if any judgment be given from henceforth, contrary to the Points of the Charter aforesaid * by the Justice, or by any other of our Ministers that hold Pleas before them against the Points of the Charters, it shall be undone, and holden for nought." 25 Edward I., Chap. II.
[*Magna Charta and the Charter of the Forest.]
If we look back over the history of the Stuart Period, and ask ourselves for what it ought chiefly to be remembered, we shall probably say that it is to be remembered as a time when very great and important changes were made in the form of government of this country. It may be called, therefore, a period of great "Constitutional changes." If we have read the chapters which have gone before with care, we shall already be familiar with these changes, which are described in their proper places as they occurred.
But it will, perhaps, make it easier to recollect what the changes were, and to understand their true importance, if we collect them together into a chapter by themselves. At the end of the Tudor Period we found Queen Elizabeth reigning as an almost absolute sovereign, Parliament with scarcely any real power, and the queen taking the foremost part in everything which concerned the government of the country. The Divine Right of kings to rule was accepted as a truth which could hardly be questioned, and with the Divine Right of kings to govern there had also come "the right divine of kings to govern wrong."
When the Stuart line came to an end on the death of Queen Anne, all these things had changed. Parliament had become all-powerful. The Divine Right of Kings was an exploded idea in which only a few old-fashioned Jacobites believed. The sovereign still took some part in governing the country, but a much less active part than in Tudor days. It was the king's ministers who really carried on the business of the country, and who were responsible for the success or failure of the king's government.
Such were the principal changes which had been made during the 111 years of which we have been reading. As we know, there had been many struggles before the new state of things could be brought about or be made part of the law of the land. More than four hundred years before Charles I. came to the throne, Magna Charta had declared that taxes should not be raised without the consent of the Council of the kingdom, and that no one should be imprisoned without cause and without trial by his peers. But though the Kings of England had over and over again confirmed the promises made in Magna Charta, it was still found necessary, in the time of the Stuarts, to fight for those very liberties for which the Barons had contended under Stephen Langton.
It was to insure that the promise made in Magna Charta should not any more be broken that the "Habeas Corpus Act" was passed in 1679. The Habeas Corpus Act made it absolutely illegal to detain a prisoner in gaol without trial; and, what was more, it made every person whose duty it was to carry out the law fear the consequences which would befall him if he did not do his duty.
To this day the Habeas Corpus Act is acknowledged to be one of the greatest protections which a British citizen enjoys. If a person be imprisoned or detained in custody without proper trial or legal authority, the prisoner or his friends may apply to any judge, or to any one of a number of persons named in the Habeas Corpus Act, for a writ of Habeas Corpus directing the person who has charge of the prisoner to bring him up for trial. The judge dare not refuse to order the writ to be issued, for, by the Act, he may be severely punished if he does so. The person to whom the writ is sent dare not disobey it. He is bound to bring up his prisoner for trial, and knows that he, too, will be severely punished if he does not immediately obey.
The Petition of Right and the Bill of Rights have made it clear that it is contrary to the law for the king or queen to keep up a standing army in this country in time of peace, without the consent of Parliament. There can, therefore, no longer be any danger of the Crown raising an army to put down Parliament or to oppress the people.
By the same Act it has been made illegal for the Crown to raise taxes without the consent of Parliament.
Responsibility of Ministers -- The "Cabinet." (ch 60)
"The king can do no wrong."
The formation of the "Cabal" Ministry in the time of Charles II. was an important event, because it led to the plan of governing by a Cabinet Council, which is now the way in which the government of our country is carried on. The Cabinet is a small committee of from twelve to eighteen members chosen from amongst the ministers of the Crown. The Cabinet conducts its councils in secret, and it decides what shall be the policy of the Government in all matters. It is the Cabinet Council which really governs the United Kingdom, and which plays a very important part in governing the whole of the British Empire.
It is to the Revolution that we owe government by party and the responsibility of ministers. We have just said that the Cabinet really governed the country, but the Cabinet is appointed from among the members of one party only, and it is from the party which has the majority in the House of Commons that the Cabinet is chosen. So it is really true, in a sense, to say that it is a party that governs the country.
Together with party government came, very naturally, Responsibility of Ministers. When once it became clear that the Government must change every time the majority in the House of Commons changed, the king or queen could not be expected to be made answerable for things that were done by both parties. The Whigs invented a plan which got over the difficulty. They said, "It is the duty of the king or queen to rule only with the advice of his or her ministers. As long as the sovereign follows the advice of ministers, the ministers, and not the Crown, shall be responsible for all that is done." In order to insure this plan being faithfully followed, it was decided that a minister's name should always be signed after that of the sovereign, so that all the world might know who was responsible for any particular act.
Here is an example of King Edward's signature, which will show what is meant:
"Given at Our Court at St. James's, this Eighth Day of July, One Thousand Nine Hundred and One, and in the First Year of Our Reign.
"By His Majesty's Command.
-- "George Hamilton."
In books about the "Constitution" of England we often find it said that "the king can do no wrong." It is not hard, after what we have just read, to understand what this means. It means that if a wrong thing be done by order of the king or queen, the whole blame must be thrown upon the minister by whose advice the thing has been done, and not upon the sovereign. The sovereign does right to act according to the advice of the minister; the minister does wrong in giving the sovereign bad advice. Hence "the king can do no wrong."
The House of Commons and the People of England. (ch 60)
"So may it ever be with tyrants." [A transition of a famous Latin phrase. "Sic temper Tyrannis."]
We have spoken in many of the preceding chapters of what was done by Parliament and by the House of Commons. We should not, however, understand the history of Stuart times rightly if we believed the House of Commons to have been the same kind of body that it is now. In the time of the Stuarts, the members of the House of Commons were elected by a very small number of the people of England, and, in many cases, members were not really elected at all, but were appointed to their seats by the king or by some great lord.
In several instances, the right to sit in Parliament for a particular place was looked upon as belonging to a particular family. There was no such thing as an election such as we see nowadays, in which nearly every man in town or country has the right to give a vote. It was only in some of the large towns that there was anything like a modern election.
It must not be supposed, however, that, despite all these differences between the House of Commons in the time of the Stuarts and the House of Commons in our own day, the majority in the House did not often represent the real feeling of the majority of the people of England. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that on many occasions the House of Commons did not at all represent the majority of the people of England, but only the views of a very small class in the country.
As to the Revolution itself, to which we owe so much, it was begun and carried out, not by the people of England, nor, indeed, by the House of Commons, but by a few wealthy and powerful men, most of whom sat in the House of Lords. It is probable that much of what was done by the great lords who brought about the Revolution was done with selfish views. At the same time, it must be admitted that there were among these great lords, and those who supported them, many who really risked their lives and their fortunes in support of the cause which they believed to be the cause of liberty. They fought to bring about a change which they truly thought was necessary for the safety of their country, its religion, its laws, and its liberties. The United Kingdom certainly owes a great debt to the makers of the Revolution of 1688.
Nor must we forget to speak of the great Constitutional change which was made in the reign of the last of the Stuarts namely, the "Union" between England and Scotland, and the creation of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
One or two other points ought to be noticed in a chapter which speaks of the Constitutional lessons which are to be learnt from this period. The history of the period teaches us very plainly that Tyranny, under whatever name, is hateful to the English people.
They fought against King Charles and allowed him to be put to death because he acted like a tyrant. They allowed the House of Lords to be destroyed because it supported King Charles; but when the House of Commons, which then became sole master of the nation, acted like a tyrant, the country gladly saw the members of the House of Commons driven into the street by a party of musketeers. And once more, when the Army which had got rid of the Parliament, sought in its turn to ride roughshod over the people of England, the people of England, with one voice, declared that military tyranny was as bad as the tyranny of a king or the tyranny of a Parliament.
Nor did Englishmen rest contented until they had built up for their country a steady, reasonable form of government, in which every part of the nation took its share, and in which the tyranny of either king, Lords, Commons, or Army was, as they believed, made impossible.
Chapter 61. Literature in the Stuart Period
Milton, the Puritan Poet. (ch 61)
"Milton, thou shouldst be living at this hour;
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea;
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free;
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on itself did lay." -- Wordsworth.
In the next two chapters will be found a very short account of some of the great writers who lived during the Stuart Period. It is a good thing to know something about the life of a great poet or a great prose-writer, and to understand something of the time in which he lived and of the part which he played during his lifetime. Every writer, whether he be a poet or a writer of prose, owes a great deal of his thoughts to the things which he sees going on around him and to the circumstances in which he himself lives. The very language which he uses is but the repetition in a beautiful or in an orderly form of the words which he hears around him in his daily life.
But the real way to know a great author is to read his books; and no one should pretend to know anything about Milton, Dryden, or Addison, or any other great authors, until he has read the works which made those authors famous. But though in a book like this we cannot read the actual poems of Milton, of Dryden, or of Addison, we can, at any rate, learn who the writers were; and when we read "Paradise Lost" "Alexander's Feast," or the "Spectator," we shall be much better able to understand what we read, and to follow the meaning of many things which would otherwise puzzle us. We shall learn also why the language used by Dryden is so different from that used by Milton, and why the language of Addison is, in its turn, so different from that of Dryden.
In speaking of John Milton, first of all the great writers of the Stuart Period, we must not forget that even a greater poet than he actually lived for several years in the Stuart Period, and that Shakespeare, who died in the year 1616, not only lived thirteen years under King James's rule, but that some of his most famous plays, such as "The Tempest" "Macbeth," and "King Lear" appeared during the reign. But we have already spoken of Shakespeare in the story of the Tudor Period, and it was right to do so, for the thoughts and the language of Shakespeare were the thoughts and the language which he had learnt to use during the reign of the great queen to whom he paid so many compliments in his poems. Shakespeare is usually called an Elizabethan writer, and such he really was.
The same thing may be said of the writings of Bacon, who, as we know, lived through the reign of James I. and on into the reign of Charles I., and of whose best-known works "The Advancement of Learning" (1605) and the "Novum Organum" (1620) appeared during the reign of James I. His writings and his thoughts really belong to the time of Elizabeth more than to the century which followed her death, and it is for that reason that the writings of Bacon, as well as the writings of Shakespeare, have been mentioned in the story of the Tudor Period, and are not spoken of at any length in this Part, which deals with the Stuart Period.
If it were asked who was the most famous English writer of the seventeenth century, few people would have any doubt as to the answer. All would agree in giving the name of John Milton. Milton was born in the year 1608, in London. He was the son of a scrivener, or writer of legal documents. He was educated at St. Paul's Grammar School, and went to college at the University of Cambridge. Throughout his life he took the side of the Puritans, and he was on several occasions employed by the government of the Commonwealth to fill public offices. He was made Secretary to the Council which was appointed to carry on the government in the year 1649, the first year of the Commonwealth.
At the Restoration he fell into great misery, for he was one of the few supporters of the Commonwealth who were specially excepted by name from the pardon given by the king to those who had taken part in the war. He was imprisoned, and, to add to his misfortunes, his sight -- which he had injured by overstudy when he was a young man -- gradually failed him, and he became quite blind. Towards the end of his life he was released, and lived in poverty and retirement till the year of his death, in 1674. He died at the age of sixty-six, and was buried in St. Giles', Cripplegate; his monument may be seen in the Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.
It is not, however, as a politician that Milton is remembered, but as one of the greatest of England's poets. Milton was a Puritan, who lived among the Puritans, heard their speech, and understood their thoughts. It was natural, therefore, that in his poetry he should speak of religion, which formed so great a part of the life of the Puritans, and that the language he used should frequently be taken from the Bible, from which the Puritans so often quoted, and which they held so dear.
But Milton was also a scholar who had been educated at the University of Cambridge. He had learnt Latin and Greek, and was familiar with the writings of the great Greek and Latin authors. It is not strange, therefore, that in his poetry we should find many words and thoughts which are taken from the Bible side by side with many which are taken from the writers of Greece and Rome.
In his beautiful poem of "Lycidas" Milton uses a Greek name to describe the subject of the poem -- his friend Edward King, who was drowned at sea. The poem is a lament over the unhappy death of his friend, and in almost every line of it we find names and thoughts and words which are taken from the old Latin poets, and which can only be properly understood by those who have read something of the writings of Roman authors. Here are a few lines taken from the poem to show how true this is:
"For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime.
Young Lycidas, and hath not left his peer:
Who would not sing for Lycidas? He knew,
Himself, to sing, and build the lofty rhyme.
He must not float upon his watery bier
Unwept and welter to the parching wind,
Without the meed of some melodious tear.
Begin, then, sisters of the sacred well
That from beneath the seat of Jove doth spring:
Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string;
Hence with denial vain, and coy excuse:
So may some gentle muse
With lucky words favour my destined urn;
And, as he passes, turn,
And bid fair peace to be my sable shroud.
For we were nursed upon the self-same hill,
Fed the same flock, by fountain, shade, and rill."
The "Sisters of the sacred well" are the "Muses" who the ancients believed were the Goddesses of the Arts, and especially of Poetry. Jove, or Jupiter, was the great king and chief of all the gods of Greece and Rome.
Again, the beautiful lines which speak of the uncertainty of life and the suddenness of death can only be understood by those who know the ancient story of the Greeks and Romans that the life of man is a thread spun by one of the "Fates" and that as Clotho, the spinner, spins the thread, her sister Atropos stands beside her with a pair of shears in her hand and suddenly cuts the thread, and thereby ends the life of a man. Atropos is "The fury with the abhorred shears" who "slits the thin-spun life." But in this poem of "Lycidas," and still more in others of his great poems, are to be found proofs that Milton was a great reader of the Bible. One of his most beautiful and well-known poems is the Christmas hymn which begins with the lines
"This is the month, and this the happy morn
Wherein the Son of Heaven's Eternal King
Our great redemption from above did bring."
This poem was written in 1629, when Milton was a young man of twenty-one years.
But it was in his old age, when his sight had left him, that Milton wrote his greatest poem, called "Paradise Lost." In "Paradise Lost" is told the story of the creation of man, of his sin in the Garden of Eden, and of his punishment. The poem describes the story as it is told in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. It is a noble and beautiful work, full of great thoughts, and of lines which have become famous wherever the English language is known.
It is not all of equal interest, because parts of it are taken up with describing the religious quarrels of the times, quarrels which were of great interest to Milton, a strong Puritan, and a man who had taken part in the Rebellion, but which are not of such great interest now. There is, however, a great deal of "Paradise Lost" which is still of the deepest interest to all who read it. Few lines in the whole poem are better known than those which end the story, and tell how Adam and Eve, driven forth from the Garden of Eden by the angel with the fiery sword, made their way together into the world beyond.
"They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces throng'd, and fiery arms.
Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their Guide:
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow
Through Eden took their solitary way."
Among the other famous poems of Milton we may remember his "L'Allegro," a poem singing the praises of mirth and innocent pleasure, and "Il Penseroso," a poem on melancholy.
Puritan Prose-Writers. (ch 61)
"An' thus it was: I, writing of the way
And race of saints in this our Gospel day,
Fell suddenly into an allegory
About their journey and the way to glory."
-- Bunyan's Apology for his Book.
Another great Puritan writer of this period was John Bunyan, the famous author of The Pilgrim's Progress. He was born in 1628, in the reign of Charles I., and died in 1688, the last year of James II. He, like his father before him, had been a tinker, and lived in Bedfordshire. He was an honest, God-fearing man, learned in his Bible. He taught and preached repentance to his countrymen, but by his preaching he offended many persons, and was thrown into Bedford gaol. There he lay for three years, and it was while in gaol that he wrote the great allegory of "The Pilgrim's Progress," which has made his name so famous.
The book describes how "Christian," and "Faithful," and "Hopeful" journeyed on their way from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City; how Christian fell into the Slough of Despond; how he bore and at last lost the burden of his sins, which was heavy upon his back; how he was tempted in Vanity Fair, and was taken by Giant Despair at Doubting Castle; and how at last, after passing through The Valley of the Shadow, he crossed the River, and came to the Celestial City. The story is an allegory describing the life of a Christian man, his fight with evil, his trust in God, and his passage through death to Everlasting Life.
All these things, and many more, are told in the story of "Christian," "Faithful," "Hopeful," and "Christiana," Christian's wife. They are written in most pure and beautiful English, which every English man and woman, and almost every English child, can understand. Few books have ever been written in the English language which have been more widely read and better loved than John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress." In 1672 Bunyan was released from prison. He died sixteen years later in London, in the year 1688.
THE TRANSLATORS OF THE BIBLE.
We must not forget, in speaking of the great religious writers of this time, to mention the Translators of the Bible, who have given us the familiar words of the Authorised Version. They shared with Milton and Bunyan the power of writing clear and beautiful English, which has remained part of our English language, and which will be remembered as long as English is read or spoken.
It was in the reign of King Charles II. that the simple and beautiful prayer which comes in the service for "Those at Sea" was written. This prayer, which is read every day on every ship in the Royal Navy, was added to the Prayer-Book in the time of King Charles II. It is heard, read, and repeated by many who are not in the habit of using the Church Prayer-Book, and part of it may be quoted here, for it refers to one of the greatest Institutions of our country.
"O Eternal Lord God, who alone spreadest out the heavens, and rulest the raging of the sea; who hast compassed the waters with bounds until day and night come to an end; Be pleased to receive into thy Almighty and most gracious protection the persons of us thy servants, and the Fleet in which we serve. Preserve us from the dangers of the sea, and from the violence of the enemy; that we may be a safeguard unto our most gracious Sovereign Lord, King Edward, and his Dominions, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions."
Other Poets and Prose-Writers of the Early Stuart Period. (ch 61)
Protus the King speaks to the Poet--
"Thou leavest much behind, while I leave nought
Thy life stays in the poems men shall sing,
The pictures men shall study." -- Browning: "Cleon."
Among the great writers of the Stuart time must be mentioned the poet Dryden, who was born in the year 1631, when Charles I. was king, and who died in 1700, just before Queen Anne came to the throne. Dryden's poetry varies greatly, both in beauty and in interest. He wrote several long poems, such as "The Hind and the Panther" and "Absalom and Achitophel" which were really political poems, and referred to things which were going on at the time. The names, which were taken from the Bible, or from Latin or Greek stories, were really used to describe people who were alive at the time. Thus, in one of the poems just mentioned, Absalom is only another name for the Duke of Monmouth, Achitophel for the Earl of Sunderland. These political poems were of greater interest when they first appeared than they are now, but there are in them passages which are very finely written, and which will always be remembered.
They also contain many short, witty phrases which have never been forgotten. Such is the well-known description of the false patriot in the lines which tell us of the man who--
"Usurped a patriot's all-atoning name.
So easy still it proves in factious times
With public zeal to cancel private crimes."
Dryden also wrote many poetical translations of the old Latin poets, but it is by some of his shorter poems that he will always be best known. Of these the most famous are the splendid poems, "The Ode to St. Cecilia," and "Alexander's Feast" or the "Power of Music," which begins with the lines--
"Twas at the royal feast for Persia won
By Philip's warlike son:
Aloft in awful state
The godlike hero sate
On his imperial throne;
His valiant peers were placed around;
Their brows with roses and with myrtles bound
(So should desert in arms be crowned).
The lovely Thais, by his side,
Sate like a blooming Eastern bride,
In flower of youth and beauty's pride.
Happy, happy, happy pair!
None but the brave,
None but the brave,
None but the brave deserve the fair."
The last lines of the poem -- in which the coming of St. Cecilia, the Inventress of the "Organ," is described -- are very familiar:
"Thus long ago,
Ere heaving bellows learned to blow,
While organs yet were mute,
Timotheus, to his breathing flute
And sounding lyre,
Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire.
At last divine Cecilia came,
Inventress of the vocal frame;
The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store
Enlarged the former narrow bounds,
And added length to solemn sounds,
With Nature's Mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
Or both divide the crown;
He raised a mortal to the skies,
She drew an angel down."
(B. 1608, d. 1674.)
We must turn now from a great poet to a great writer of prose namely, the Earl of Clarendon whose name has already often appeared in these pages, and whom we know as a minister and as a politician. It is, however, as a writer of the "History of the Rebellion" that Clarendon is most justly famous. In that great book, not only does he give us a full and interesting account of the stirring events which happened during his lifetime, and in which be himself took no small part, but he has there drawn for us a number of pictures of Englishmen whom he knew which will always remain as wonderful examples of clear and beautiful writing and of lively description.
We have already read the descriptions which Clarendon has given us of two men whom he knew -- the one Falkland, a dear friend, and the other, Blake, a political enemy. We will here only quote one more passage taken from the same description of Lord Falkland.
This is how the historian closes his account of the life of the gallant young soldier who fell fighting at the battle of Newbury: "Thus fell that incomparable young man, in the four-and-thirtieth year of his age, having so much despatched the true business of life that the eldest rarely attains to that immense knowledge, and the youngest enter not into the world with more innocency. Whosoever leads such a life needs be the less anxious upon how short a warning it is taken from him."
Happy, indeed, is the man who could have so lived as to deserve such an epitaph, and happier still is he who, like Falkland, had a friend who could write that epitaph in such words as those which were chosen by Clarendon.
JOHN EVELYN AND SAMUEL PEPYS.
It would be hard to leave out of the list of the writers of this time the names of John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys. John Evelyn (b. 1620, d. 1706) was a gentleman of good position, whose famous house at Wotton, in Surrey, still preserves many memorials of his active and busy life. For many years he kept a Diary of the events which took place, and this Diary is one of the best and most interesting accounts of daily life in Stuart times.
Equally interesting, and far more amusing, is that wonderful book "The Diary of Samuel Pepys." The son of a tailor, Samuel Pepys (b. 1632, d. 1703), succeeded by his own industry, mother-wit, and good sense in raising himself to the position of a Minister of State and in becoming Secretary to the Admiralty. His Diary, which was kept from day to day from 1660 to 1669, was not intended to be seen by his friends. He therefore puts into it many things which, no doubt, would otherwise not have found a place there, but this fact makes it all the more interesting and valuable to those who can read it now. Few more delightful and amusing books have ever been written than "Pepys's Diary," and no book gives a better picture of life in London after the Restoration than this Diary of sharp-witted, sharp-tongued, merry Samuel Pepys.
There is only room here to quote one short passage from "Pepys's Diary," but it is worth putting in because it shows us what a pleasant, cheery fellow the good Mr. Pepys was. He is going down the river to see a friend when all the world in London was in terror of the Plague. This is his account of his journey: "By water at night late to Sir G. Cartwright's, but, there being no oars to carry me, I was fain to call a sculler that had a gentleman already in it, and he proved a man of love to music, and he and I sung together the way down with great pleasure. Above 700 died of the Plague this week."
["Pepys's Diary," July 13th, 1665.]
A word must be said of some of the other writers in the early Stuart period, because, though they are not such well-known persons as Milton, Dryden, or Bunyan, their works are still known and read by many. Richard Lovelace, the poet of the Cavaliers (b. 1618, d. 1658), had hard treatment from the king he served, for he was sent to prison by King Charles for presenting a petition during the time of the Long Parliament. It was in his prison that he wrote the famous lines to his lady-love, which begin--
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage,
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage."
Robert Herrick (b. 1591, d. 1674) was also a Royalist. He was a clergyman, and Cromwell turned him out of his vicarage, to which he only returned after the Restoration. He was the writer of many pretty and graceful verses, of which one of the best known contains the lines:
"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
"The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
The nearer he's to setting."
Edmund Waller (b. 1605, d. 1687) was a third Royalist writer of pretty poetry which made him famous in his own day, and which has prevented his name from being forgotten in our time.
Abraham Cowley (b. 1618, d. 1667) was yet another Royalist poet, who received but small reward from Charles II. for the services he had rendered to the Royal cause. Very few of the poems of Cowley have lived to the present day.
THE DRAMATISTS WYCHERLEY AND CONGREVE.
After the Restoration we come to the names of several English writers who were very well known in their day as the writers of plays. Among them the best known were William Wycherley (b. 1640, d. 1715), author of "The Plain Dealer" and many other plays, and William Congreve, a later writer (b. 1670, d. 1729).
The plays written by Wycherley and Congreve are very clever, but there is much that is disagreeable and bad in them. The fact is that under the rule of the Puritans men had been forbidden any form of amusement. When the Restoration came, therefore, there came with it a sudden change too sudden, indeed, for the country. Men were not content with reasonable amusements; they thought of nothing but self-indulgence, and they said and wrote many things which had better have been left unsaid or unwritten -- as though, having gone to one extreme in the matter of strictness, they were determined to go to the other in the way of freedom from all restraint and good order.
We must not pass over the Revolution without mention of Gilbert Burnet (b. 1643, d. 1715), whose famous history of the Reformation in England was written in the reign of Charles II., and who was most active in helping to bring about the change of government which led to William III. being placed upon the throne. Besides his history of the Reformation, Burnet wrote other well-known books on religious questions. He was Bishop of Salisbury when he died.
Chapter 62. Writers of the Later Stuart Period.
The Essayists. (ch 62)
"Writers, especially when they act in a body and in one direction, have great influence on the public mind." -- Burke.
So far we have spoken only of the writers whose names were known before the Revolution, but we must not forget that Queen Anne was a Stuart no less than Charles II., and that we must not, in the history of the Stuart Period, fail to mention the famous writers of Queen Anne's time. It is right to mention them apart from those of whom we have spoken in the last chapter, for there is the greatest possible difference between the writers of the last half of the seventeenth century and those of the first half of the eighteenth century. It is in Queen Anne's time that we come to the great Essayists, the writers of short papers or essays. Such were Joseph Addison (b. 1672, d. 1719), Sir Richard Steele (b. 1671, d. 1729), and Jonathan Swift (b. 1667, d. 1745).
At a time when newspapers were scarcely known, short essays, written by Addison, Steele, and Swift, were very widely read, and had a great influence upon people's minds. In "The Tatler," a sort of magazine which was started by Steele, Addison wrote a number of famous papers in which he attacked his enemies the Tories; but his most famous writings were in "The Spectator," which first began to appear in 1711. It was in the "Spectator" that the famous letters of Sir Roger de Coverley appeared. Sir Roger was supposed to be a kind-hearted, shrewd, country gentleman, who gave his views on a variety of subjects from politics and poetry to gardening, the fashions, and the trimming of wigs. Besides his writings in the "Tatler," "Spectator," and other magazines, Addison wrote a play called "Cato" and a considerable amount of poetry.
A still greater name than that of Addison is Jonathan Swift, who was born in Dublin in the year 1667. Perhaps Swift is most famous nowadays as the writer of "Gullivers Travels" a book which can still be read by anyone who is in search of an amusing story; but when Swift wrote the account of Gulliver among the Pigmies of "Lilliput," or among the Giants of "Brobdingnag," he not only meant to write a witty and amusing story, but to make his political enemies smart by the sharp things he said of them, and to ridicule many of the ideas and doings of Englishmen of his day.
The whole story of Gulliver is full of passages which were meant to raise a laugh against Swift's bitter enemies the Whigs, or to win favour for his friends the Tories. In order really to understand "Gulliver's Travels," it is therefore necessary to know something of the history of the time and to understand what are the thoughts Swift had in his mind when he wrote.
Among the other famous writings of Swift are "A Tale of a Tub" and "The Battle of the Books." These are, like "Gulliver's Travels," satirical writings in which the author attacks his enemies by means of humorous stories and witty comparisons. So great was Swift's power of saying sharp and witty things that he came to be looked upon by the Tories as one of their best champions, and to be feared by the Whigs whom he so bitterly attacked.
In 1713 Swift was made Dean of the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Dublin. Irishmen are justly proud of the great and brilliant writer, who was born and lived so long in the city of Dublin. Towards the end of his life Swift lost his reason. He died in 1745 at the age of 78.
There is little room here to speak of Steele (b. 1671, d. 1729). He was one of the famous essay-writers who joined with Addison in writing for "The Spectator" and "The Guardian." He began life in the army, but early gave up the sword for the pen. Towards the end of Queen Anne's reign he entered Parliament, but was turned out of the House for writing what was declared to be treasonable literature. Under George I., however, he was taken back into favour. The names of Addison and Steele always go together as those of writers of clear and beautiful English prose.
Daniel Defoe (b. 1661, d. 1731) was a busy politician and an active man during his lifetime, but it is not by his politics that he is remembered. It is as the writer of that wonderful story "Robinson Crusoe," which every English boy and girl knows, or ought to know, that Defoe will be remembered as long as the English language is read. "Robinson Crusoe" in his coat of skins and carrying his umbrella, "Man Friday," the Dog, the Goats, the Parrot, are friends of whom we never grow tired, and who seem just as real to us as any of the people who lived and died, and whose stories are told in this book. Besides "Robinson Crusoe" Defoe wrote several other stories, of which "The Life of Captain Singleton" and "The History of Colonel Jacque" are the best known. His "History of the Plague of London" is also a book of the greatest interest.
Pope -- Early Newspapers (ch 62)
"Why did I write? What sin to me unknown
Dipp'd me in ink -- my parents', or my own?
As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came."
Pope (writing of himself in "Prologue to Satires")
Perhaps the greatest name among the writers of the later Stuarts is that of Alexander Pope (b. in London 1688, d. 1744). He began writing when he was quite a child, and throughout the whole of his life was seldom idle. He wrote little that was not worthy of a great writer. In 1715 he published the first part of his translations of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" of Homer, the wonderful Greek poems which describe the Siege of Troy, and the Ten Years' War between Greeks and Trojans, and the wanderings of Ulysses. Here are some lines taken from Pope's translation, which show the form of his poetry.
The lines describe how the great Trojan hero, "Hector," bids farewell to his wife and child, before going to battle:
"Thus having spoke, th' illustrious chief of Troy
Stretch'd his fond arms to clasp the lovely boy;
The babe clung crying to his nurse's breast,
Scared at the dazzling helm and nodding crest.
With secret pleasure each fond parent smiled,
And Hector hastened to relieve his child:
The glittering terrors from his brow unbound,
And placed the gleaming helmet on the ground;
Then kiss'd the child, and lifting high in air,
Thus to the gods preferr'd a father's prayer--
'O Thou! whose glory fills th' ethereal throne,
And all ye deathless powers! protect my son!
Grant him, like me, to purchase just renown,
To guard the Trojans, to defend the crown,
Against his country's foes the war to wage,
And rise the Hector of the future age!'" --Bk. VI.
It cannot be said that Pope's translation of this great poem is the best and most correct that has ever been made, but the writing is so fine and spirited that we can admire it for itself, even when it does not give quite a true idea of the words and thoughts of the writer of the "Iliad." The "Essay on Man" is a most wonderful piece of writing. Every line of it seems to be fitted and polished with the same marvellous care. There are very many that have not read the "Essay on Man" who, nevertheless, are familiar with many of the lines which it contains. There is hardly any poem in the English language from which lines are more often quoted by writers, by speakers, and in ordinary conversation. It is in the "Essay on Man" that we find, among many other equally well-known passages, the lines which describe the nature of man:
"Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!"
Very familiar, too, are the following lines:
"Hope humbly, then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore.
What future bliss, He gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest."
The "Dunciad," a satire, and the "Rape of the Lock" are among other well-known poems by Pope.
We must not leave the subject of writers and literature without mentioning the beginning of one great branch of writing which has become very important in our own day. Before the Stuart time small printed sheets giving news had from time to time been issued on special occasions; but it was not till the days of Charles I. that we find anything like a real newspaper such as we are acquainted with at the present day.
It was during the Long Parliament that the practice began of printing a regular account of what took place in the two Houses, and this account was called "A Diurnal" -- or, as we should say, "Journal," or "daily." On the following page is a picture of a page from one of these diurnals, greatly reduced in size. The date on it is the 15th of January, 1643. "The Diurnal" was soon followed by many other newspapers, till in our day there is scarcely a town in the kingdom that has not got its daily or weekly newspaper.
Chapter 63. Science, Art, and Daily Life Under the Stuarts.
The Royal Society -- Newton and Wren -- Harvey. (ch 63)
"See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
Observe how system into system runs,
What other planets circle other suns."
Pope: "Essay on Man."
We have spoken of the band of famous writers who lived in the Stuart period, and we have divided them into two sets those who lived and wrote in the earlier period, before the Revolution, and those who lived and wrote during the last years of the period, and chiefly in the reign of Queen Anne. We have now to speak of two great Englishmen, who were among the most famous of all the men of their time, and whose work was done in the Stuart period the one a great mathematician, the other a great architect.
Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren can hardly be classed with either the famous men of the first part, or of the last part, of the Stuart period. They were both born during the reign of Charles I. -- Wren in 1632, and Newton in 1642. They both outlived Queen Anne, Wren dying in 1723, and Newton four years later, in 1727. They thus lived through both the Rebellion and the Revolution, and formed, as it were, a bridge between the early and the late part of the period. Before giving an account of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren, we must find room for a word respecting the famous Society to which they belonged, and of which they were the greatest ornaments.
This was the Royal Society, which was founded in the year 1645, and which received its name, and the Royal Charter which gave it its rights, from Charles II. in the year 1662. The Royal Society was formed to encourage the study of the Sciences: Astronomy, Anatomy, Mathematics, Medicine, and other subjects. At the present day we often see the letters F.R.S. placed after the name of some distinguished men. The letters mean "Fellow of the Royal Society," and serve to show us that this famous Society, founded two hundred and fifty years ago, still lives and flourishes, and carries on the work which it was founded to undertake.
By far the most distinguished member of the Royal Society in its early years, and perhaps the most distinguished man that has ever belonged to it, is Sir Isaac Newton. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and showed early in his life wonderful powers as a mathematician and a great thinker. It is, of course, quite impossible to explain here the great discoveries which Newton made, and which are described in his famous book, the "Principia." His greatest discovery was that of the laws of gravity. A story is told that as he was lying under an apple-tree he saw an apple fall to the ground, and that he asked himself why it was that the apple fell to the ground. It seems to us a very simple thing that an apple should fall to the ground. Everything in the world follows the same law as the apple, and will fall to the ground unless it be supported.
But the very fact that the rule or law by which a body falls down to the ground, instead of falling upwards, or remaining stationary, is without an exception, makes it the more important that we should know what this law and rule really is. It was this "force of gravity" which tends to make everything fall towards the centre of the earth, that Newton studied; and he was the first person to make it clear that the rule or law of gravity applied not only to things upon our own earth, but to everything in the whole of the great universe of which we have any knowledge. He showed that the same force which makes the apple fall to the ground kept our earth in its proper place in its pathway round the sun, and that all the planets, and even the most distant stars, which we can scarcely see with the aid of a powerful telescope, obey the same great law of gravity.
Not only did Newton show that the law applied to all substances throughout the universe, but he explained how the force of gravity makes itself felt, and laid down rules which enable us to calculate what will be the effect of this force in any case, whether upon the surface of the earth or on the great world of stars outside our globe.
Since Newton's discovery, much has been learnt in addition to what was written in the "Principia"; but all that Newton discovered has been proved to be true by those who came after him, and his name will always be remembered as that of one of the greatest discoverers and thinkers the world has ever known.
Unlike some other great men, Newton was held in high honour in his own day. He was made Master of the Mint, President of the Royal Society, and received the honour of being made a member of the famous "Academy of Sciences" in Paris, where his work was as well known as it was in England. Newton died in 1727, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Sir Christopher Wren was a Westminster scholar, and went to college at the University of Oxford. Like Sir Isaac Newton, he was famous and honoured in his own day, and, like Newton, he has left behind him work which makes his name as well known in our own day as it was in that of Queen Anne. It was the Fire of London which gave Wren his great opportunity of showing his skill as an architect. We have read how in that terrible fire no less than eighty-nine of the churches of London were burnt to the ground. Wren was intrusted with the task of planning a number of the new churches, which were to be built to take the places of those that had been destroyed.
Of these new churches the most famous is the stately cathedral of St. Paul, which still raises its lofty and well-shaped dome far above the busy streets of the city of London. Inside the cathedral may be seen, over one of the doors, a Latin inscription. In the inscription we are told how Sir Christopher Wren built the great cathedral, and how he lies buried within its walls, and at the end of it are the Latin words, "Si monumentum requiris, circumspice." This is what the words mean; "If you ask where is his monument, look around you." And, indeed, no nobler monument could have been placed over the grave of the great architect than the noble church which he himself had built.
Among the other famous buildings which were planned by Wren, and which are still to be seen, are The Custom House (in London), The Monument, and Greenwich and Chelsea Hospitals. Wren died in 1723, in the reign of George I.
One other name must be mentioned before we leave the world of science, and that is the name of William Harvey (b. 1578, d. 1657). Harvey, a physician, educated at the University of Cambridge, has earned fame by a discovery which, like Newton's discovery of the law of gravity, has become the foundation of a vast amount of knowledge which has grown out of it.
If we lay our finger upon our wrist we shall feel the quick, steady beat of the blood in the pulse as it passes from the heart, down the arteries of the arm, to the very ends of the fingers, to return thence by way of the network of veins, which bring it back again at last to the heart. It was Harvey who first discovered and explained to the world the way in which the blood circulates in the human body. It was he who showed how it passed out of the heart with each beat, flows through the arteries, and returns again through the veins, is refreshed and purified before it starts again upon its journey, and how this movement or circulation goes on without ceasing as long as life remains in the human body. Few discoveries have made a greater difference to the arts of medicine and surgery than Harvey's great discovery of the circulation of the blood.
Population Prices Wages Art. (ch 63)
"How small of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure."
Johnson: Lines added to Goldsmith's "Traveller."
So much space has been given up to an account of the political events which took place during the Stuart Period, and to the history of the long struggle between king and Parliament, that little room has been left to tell of the life of the country outside Parliament and far from political strife and turmoil. It must not be forgotten, however, that the daily life of the people, their happiness or distress, their progress and their prosperity, are really the most important things to be noted in a nation's history, and no one ought to think that he has anything like full knowledge of any part of history unless he has made a study of these things.
It must not be supposed for a moment that even during the height of the Civil War the whole thoughts of the people were given up to politics and fighting. On the contrary, there were tens of thousands of people who were only anxious to be let alone and to go about their business quietly and in their own way. Throughout the whole Stuart Period, the country, despite bad government and despite perpetual war, was growing richer and more prosperous. The population of England was nothing to what it now is, the total being not much more than five millions, or about equal to the population of London at the present day.
London was then, as now, by far the largest city. Then came Norwich and Bristol. The great cities of Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds were still comparatively small places. Trade, however, was rapidly increasing, especially as English merchants and sailors began to compete with the Dutch and Spaniards for the trade of the East and West Indies. Roads were bad, but attempts were made to improve them, and the use of coaches became much more general than it had hitherto been. In towns the sedan chair, carried by two men, was generally used for such purposes as a cab or carriage now performs for us.
Then, as now, while many grew rich many remained poor, and the number of paupers was increased by the unwise laws which prevented a pauper from leaving his own parish, though by doing so he might have gone to a place where he might have obtained work. The price of wheat was as high as 70s. a quarter. It is now sometimes as low as 20s. a quarter, and in the days of the Stuarts a shilling was worth more than it is now, so that 70s. then was even a higher price than 70s. would be at the present day. Wages were low, being generally about 6d. a day for those who worked in the country, but skilled artisans, such as carpenters and bricklayers, could earn as much as 2s. 6d. a day.
[20 shillings make a £; 70 shillings in 2017 might be £541 ($700) or more. 6d. (6 pennies, or pence) would be about £3.87 ($5) in 2017. 2s. 6d. a day might be £19.35 ($25) in 2017.]
At the present day wages are, of course, higher in all trades. There is, however, one exception which is worth while noting, and which is rather a strange one. The private soldiers who served under William III. received one shilling a day, which is exactly the sum a private soldier is supposed to receive every day in the time of King Edward VII.
The period of the Stuarts was, as a whole, favourable to Art. Both Charles I. and Charles II. did much to encourage painting. Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller were both of them foreigners who found a welcome for themselves and their art in England, and the great Flemish painter, Van Dyck, painted many of his most famous pictures in England. Charles I. himself made a very fine collection of paintings, but unfortunately the collection was broken up and partly destroyed by the Puritans during the Commonwealth.
Part Six. From the Accession of the House of Hanover to the Present Time. 1714-1901.
The sixth and last part of the present work continues the story of English history from the date of the death of Queen Anne and the accession of the House of Hanover, down to the present day. The difficulty of condensation, which has already made itself apparent in earlier portions of the book, is even more seriously felt in dealing with the full records and crowded events of modern times.
To give the main facts, to explain the great changes, and to indicate the characteristic tendencies of the time is all that can be attempted. The building up of the Empire in war and peace, the winning of India and of America, the loss of the United States, the fidelity of Canada, the great struggle between Britain and France, the long peace after Waterloo, and the political contests of the last sixty years -- these are the great events which have to be recorded.
The political and social changes which mark the present century, "Steps on the Path of Freedom," claim and receive mention. The full tables of facts, events, and dates supply to some extent the large but necessary omissions in the text.
Chapter 64. George I. 1714-1727.
Principal events during the reign of George I.:
The German King. (ch 64)
"When George in pudding-time came o'er,
And moderate men look'd big, sir,
My principles I changed once more,
And so became a Whig, sir;
And thus preferment I procur'd
From our new faith's-defender,
And almost every day abjur'd
The Pope and the Pretender." ("The Vicar of Bray.")
At the end of Chapter 59 we read how Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart sovereigns of England, died in her palace at Kensington in the year 1714. The strife between the two great parties in the country was fought out round her death-bed. The Whig Ministers, knowing the danger which they ran if a Roman Catholic king were placed upon the throne, had prevailed upon Anne in her last moments to dismiss her Tory Ministers, and to declare George, Protestant Elector of Hanover, her successor.
Messages were sent to the new king bidding him come and take possession of his kingdom, and every preparation was made to secure his safe arrival by men who knew that their own power, and possibly their own property and lives, depended upon the event.
It will be well to recall here one or two facts which we have already learnt about the new king, and about his claim to the throne. Here is a table which shows who the Elector George of Hanover was, and how he came to be the successor to the throne of England:
From the table it will easily be seen that, according to the law and custom of England, by which the eldest son and all the descendants of the eldest son of the sovereign are entitled to succeed to the throne before the daughter of the sovereign or any of the daughter's descendants, George was not the true heir to the Crown. He was descended, it is true, from Elizabeth, daughter of James I.; but James I. had, as we know, two sons as well as a daughter. One of these sons was Charles I., and a descendant of Charles I. was still alive namely, his grandson, James Francis Edward Stuart, son of James II.
Undoubtedly, if the old law and custom of England had been left unchanged, James Stuart, and not the Elector George, would have become king on the death of Queen Anne. But, as a matter of fact, a great change had been made in the law of England; for by the Act of Succession, passed in the year 1701, it had been declared and enacted as part of the law of the land that the succession to the crown should not pass to the Stuarts, but should go to the Protestant family of the Princess Sophia, Electress Dowager of Hanover, and her heirs, being Protestants.
The Elector George was the heir of the Princess Sophia, who died in 1714; and, therefore, by the Act of Parliament, George, and not James, became king.
There were, however, many people in the country who believed that Parliament had no right to alter the order of succession to the crown, and who, therefore, supported the claim of James; and there was a large party still remaining, known as "Jacobites," who wished to see the Stuarts put back on the throne. And thus it came about that the new king found himself beset at the very beginning of his reign by serious dangers.
Why King George Found a Welcome. (ch 64)
"And the frogs agreed that after all it were better to be ruled over by King Log than King Stork." -- Aesop's Fables.
At first it seemed almost impossible that George should be able to hold his own, for the forces against him were very powerful, and it seemed as if he were likely to get but small support among his new subjects. It was some time before the king could be persuaded to leave Hanover. At last he began his journey. A fleet was sent to protect his passage across the sea, and he arrived safely in England. By the Whig Ministers, who had secured the crown for him, he was welcomed; but there was little enthusiasm for the new king among the people generally. This was not strange. George was an elderly man, plain to ugliness, slow and unattractive in manner, and quite unacquainted with England or with English manners. He spoke German and not a word of English; and the strange scene was witnessed of a royal speech being read in the House of Lords by the Lord Chancellor because the King of England could not speak a single word which his subjects could understand.
When we remember that the powerful Tory Party was still smarting from its defeat, and angry at being turned out of office; when we remember that many of its members were open or secret friends of the Stuarts, and that James Stuart was reported to be young, handsome, and energetic, and in all ways a contrast to the new German king it is not wonderful that the friends of the "Protestant Succession" were greatly alarmed for the safety of their cause.
Happily, however, for England, there were forces equally strong on the other side which enabled the friends of the "Protestant Succession" to hold their own, to triumph over their enemies, and at last to win to their side men of all parties, creeds, and opinions in the United Kingdom. It was true that the new king was neither attractive nor popular; but if the people of England liked a Hanoverian king little, they liked a Stuart king still less. The memory of the reigns of Charles II. and James II. was too fresh to have passed from men's minds. Moreover, England was by this time almost wholly a Protestant country, and the Protestant cause had little to hope from a king whose best friends were to be found in the ranks of the Roman Catholics, and who always sought to bring England to his own way of thinking by the arms of foreign soldiers in the service of the great Roman Catholic monarch of France.
Neither must it be forgotten that during the reign of Queen Anne trade had been prospering, wealth had been growing, and the business of the country had largely increased.
All those who have to carry on business know that the best chance of success is when the country is peaceable and undisturbed; and it is when men are confident that the Government will continue, and the laws be fairly and regularly carried out, that they are ready to risk large sums of money in commerce or manufactures. There was not a single business man in England in 1715 who did not in his heart believe that the return of the Stuarts would mean disaster to his trade; and this fear, more perhaps than any other reason, led large numbers of well-to-do people to support the German king and his Whig Ministers, rather than the Stuart Pretender with his French and Scottish supporters.
The Beginning of Troubles. (ch 64)
"Where Law ends, Tyranny begins." -- William Pitt (Lord Chatham).
It was the Whigs who had brought King George over, and the Whigs now took good care that the king should reward them for their services. Townshend, Lord Halifax, General Stanhope, Lord Cowper, Sir Robert Walpole, and others -- all of them Whigs -- were appointed to the great offices of State. The Duke of Marlborough hurried back to England, hoping that he, too, would receive the honour to which he thought himself entitled. But a man who had betrayed so many masters was not one to be trusted, and the victor of Blenheim and of Ramillies found himself without power, and no longer either feared or respected.
For a short time there was peace at home and abroad. It seemed as if the enemies of the Government had been taken by surprise, and could offer no real resistance to the new king or to his Ministers. There were soon signs, however, that the peace was not to last long. Riots broke out in many parts of England, which grew more violent when the Government decided to impeach the members of the old Tory Ministry. So serious did the disturbances become that it was thought necessary to pass a special Act of Parliament for the purpose of putting them down. This Act, which is still part of the law of the land, is known as the "Riot Act" (1715).
The Riot Act declares that if "twelve or more persons are unlawfully assembled to the disturbance of the peace, and any Justice of the Peace or Sheriff shall think proper to command them by proclamation to disperse, if they contemn his orders, and continue together for one hour afterwards, such contempt shall be felony." This means that a magistrate may order a riotous crowd to disperse; and that if, after he has read the proclamation contained in the Act of Parliament, the persons who form the crowd remain assembled for an hour after the reading of the proclamation, they are all and each of them liable to be punished for doing so. It is often supposed that persons who take part in a riot cannot be punished until an hour has passed after the reading of the Riot Act, but this is quite a mistake. Any man who acts unlawfully is liable to be punished for doing so, whether the Riot Act has been read or not. What the Act says is, that if people have received proper notice to disperse, and refuse to obey the law for the space of an hour, their remaining together assembled after that time is in itself an illegal act, for which they can be punished.
It has sometimes happened that people who have joined the crowd, but who are not rioters, have been shot or injured by the officers of the law who have been ordered to disperse the rioters. Such people have no right to complain; for if out of curiosity or any other reason they choose to remain, when they have had full notice that it is illegal to do so, they have no one but themselves to thank.
The impeachment of the Tory Ministers was begun in the year 1715. The charge against them was that they had committed High Treason by making terms too easily with France during the last reign, and by giving away the advantages which England had justly won by her great victories. The impeachment, however, came to little, and most of the persons against whom the charges were brought were in the end allowed to go unpunished. But two of the most active of the Tory leaders, who doubtless feared that in their cases at least the charges of High Treason might be proved true, fled to the Continent, and openly joined the cause of James Stuart, or, as he was usually called in England, "The Pretender." The two men who thus fled were Bolingbroke and the Duke of Ormond, and both showed great activity in plotting against the Whig Government and in stirring up foreign Powers to help the Pretender,
It is possible that their efforts might have been successful, had it not been for an important event which took place at this time. This was the death of the old French king, Louis XIV., the life-long enemy of England. He died in 1715, in the seventy-seventh year of his age and the seventy-third year of his reign; and although he had been for many years feeble in mind and body, he was to the very last a dangerous enemy of our country.
The friends of the Pretender had always looked to the King of France as their chief and most certain support, but Louis XV., or rather his uncle, Philip, Duke of Orleans, who had now been appointed Regent to the young king, [Louis XV. was only five years old when he became king] was by no means so bitter an enemy of England as his predecessor had been, and the Ministers of the new king went so far as to believe that the advantage of France might actually be found in an alliance with Britain and its Whig Government.
"The 'Fifteen" -- Success. (ch 64)
"God bless the King -- I mean the Faith's defender!
God bless (no harm in blessing!) the Pretender!
But who pretender is, or who is king--
God bless us all! that's quite another thing." -- John Byrom.
Thus it came about, that when at last the Pretender and his friends made up their minds to risk an invasion of the United Kingdom, in the hope of uniting their friends and recovering the crown of England for the Stuarts, they found but scanty support from the French Court. At last, despairing of any effective aid from the Regent, James set sail, and, having by a lucky chance escaped the English vessels, succeeded in reaching Scotland with a single ship.
It was to Scotland that James naturally looked for most active support. The very name he bore was one which was sure to earn for him the friendship of the Highlanders, who remembered that the Stuart Kings of England were also the chiefs of the famous family of the Stuarts. Moreover, the rivalry and hatred which always existed between the various Highland clans had already enlisted a large body of the Highlanders among the enemies of the Whig Government. The most powerful of the Scottish Whigs was the Duke of Argyle, the head of the great clan Campbell.
The most powerful of all the clans, the Clan Campbell was hated as well as feared by those who had suffered at its hands, or who were jealous of its success -- in other words, by the greater number of the clans of the North. That the Duke of Argyle, "The McCallum More," as he was called, had taken sides with the Hanoverian king was in itself almost enough to range the Highlanders on the other side; and when to this inducement was added the chance of following a Stuart into England, there was scarcely a Scotsman north of the Tay who could not be reckoned upon as a friend of the cause.
In August, 1715, the standard of the Pretender was raised at Braemar, in Aberdeenshire; it was soon joined by many of the Highland chiefs and gentlemen, and in September a small army under the Earl of Mar began its march southward. Difficulties, however, soon began to appear. The Highlanders were brave and hardy, but were too much divided into different clans to allow of their forming a really united army, nor were they accustomed to make war in a regular fashion. Alike after victory or defeat, they preferred to hasten off to their own homes, in the one case to secure and enjoy their plunder, in the other to protect their homesteads from the enemy. Provisions and ammunition were also wanting; and what was still more important, it soon became evident that James Stuart, so far from being the brilliant and active prince of whom his friends had drawn so favourable a picture, was a man of little judgment, of no skill in war, unable to add to the number of his friends, and scarcely able to retain the friendship of those who were already devoted to his cause.
For a few days it seemed as if the Highlanders might win some success. They passed Edinburgh and reached the Border at Jedburgh. It was determined to push on into England, in the hope that the Jacobites in the northern counties would rise on behalf of the Pretender. But a double disappointment here met the invaders. Many of the Highlanders refused to cross the Border into England, and, leaving the army, returned to their homes. The remainder, with some troops under the command of Lord Kenmure, of Mackintosh, and of Mr. Forster, a Northumbrian gentleman, marched south. The leaders soon found that their little army of 2,000 men was all that they could rely upon for the invasion of England and the overthrow of the House of Hanover.
The English Jacobites, with a very few exceptions, held back, fearing to join an enterprise which seemed ill-managed and badly led.
"The 'Fifteen" -- Failure. (ch 64)
"I am at this moment come from the conclusion of the greatest and most melancholy scene I ever yet saw! You will easily guess it was the trial of the rebel lords." -- From Horace Walpole's description of the trial of Lords Kilmarnock, Cromarty, and Balmerino before the House of Lords, after "The 'Fifteen."
Meanwhile in the month of August, 1715, the Highland army entered Lancashire. On the London and North Western Railway, between Crewe and Lancaster, lies the large manufacturing town of Preston. On the south side of the town the ground slopes rapidly down the banks of the river Kibble, and a public garden and park now make the approach by the railway an exceedingly pretty one. Into the town of Preston the Highlanders marched, but this was the furthest point they were destined to reach. General Carpenter and General Wills at last came up with the rebels, and attacked the town with great vigour. The action was short, but decisive. The rebels were defeated and compelled to surrender.
As far as England was concerned, the danger was over, but in Scotland the struggle between the Duke of Argyle on the one side and the Earl of Mar on the other continued for a time. A battle was fought on the 13th of November at Sheriffmuir, in Perthshire. No decisive advantage remained with either party. One wing of the royal army defeated the troops opposed to it, while the other wing was driven back at the same time. Both sides claimed a victory which neither side had really won. An old rhyme recalls the history of this fight:
"Some say that we wan, and some say that they wan,
And some say that nane wan at a', man;
But ae thing I'm sure,
That at Sheriffmuir
A battle there was which I saw, man."
It was at this point of the campaign, when one party of his supporters had been defeated and destroyed in England and another party had failed to obtain any real power in Scotland, that The Pretender himself arrived in Scotland to champion his own cause. He landed at Peterhead on the 6th of January, 1716, and at once issued proclamations in his own name as King James VIII. But Fortune had already declared against him, and he was not the man to win back her favours. His little force melted away; the Highlanders, pursued by Argyle, retreated to the North. At last, on the 5th of February, scarcely a month after his landing, James took ship again and sought refuge in France.
He escaped with his life; his followers were not so fortunate. The principal leaders, both in England and Scotland, were taken prisoners. Lords Derwentwater and Kenmure were executed, but the Government wisely did not act with great severity, for it was plain that the country was not anxious for the restoration of the Stuarts, and nothing was to be gained by making unnecessary enemies.
Thus ended the rebellion known in our history as "The 'Fifteen." For a time it became really dangerous in Scotland, but in England the sight of the half-savage Highlanders did more to strengthen the royal cause than even the success of the royal troops. The English were half-angry and half-afraid when they saw these strange clansmen brought into the heart of their country, and they readily gave their support to a Government which was ready and able to protect them from such a danger. The time had not yet come when the "bonnets" and "tartans" of the Highland soldiers were to be welcome in every town and village in England, and when the valour of the clansmen was to be shown in many a hard-fought field among the bravest defenders of that United Kingdom which in 1715 they were doing their best to break up. In 1715 the claymore and tartan went down at the rout of Preston. In 1815, only a hundred years later, the claymore and tartan held their own during all the long day, in the thick of the battle, on the victorious field of Waterloo.
But the "The 'Fifteen" had important consequences in England. As the Riot Act was due to the special disturbances which took place at this time, so was another great Act of Parliament in like manner the outcome of the difficulties in which the Whig Parliament of George I. found itself. In an earlier chapter we read how in the reign of William III. an Act of Parliament called the "Triennial Act" was passed, by which it was enacted that Parliament should not last more than three years.
The time had come when, under this Act, the Whig Parliament, which had done so much to secure the position of the king, would naturally have come to an end and been dissolved, but the Government, and many persons who were not members of the Government, were alarmed at the idea of a new Parliament being called together at this time. The country was scarcely yet free from civil war. Plots and intrigues were known to exist on every side, and though the Pretender's expedition had failed, chiefly owing to the want of support from France, there was no knowing how soon a second and much stronger expedition might not set sail with French or Spanish aid. It seemed necessary that, at any cost, Parliament should remain unaltered for the time.
A Bill was, therefore, brought in and passed into law, by which it was enacted that the length of a Parliament should cease to be three years, and, unless it were earlier dissolved, should be extended to seven years. This Act, known as the Septennial Act (1716), has lasted down to our own time, and is still the law of the land. It was said by many at the time that Parliament had no right and no power to pass such an Act, or, at any rate, to make such an Act apply to itself. It was pointed out with great truth that if Parliament could prolong its own life to seven years, there was no reason why it should not prolong it to seventy. But in times of difficulty it is sometimes necessary to do things which would not be done, and ought not to be done, in times of quiet. The great majority of the people of England no doubt thought that Parliament had a real reason for passing the Septennial Act, for they believed that it was necessary for the safety of the country.
It has sometimes been suggested that it would be wise to repeal the Act and go back to triennial Parliaments, or even to have a Parliament every year. There will always be a difference of opinion as to whether such changes would be advantageous, but there can be little doubt that it would be very inconvenient to have a General Election, and perhaps a change in the Government of the country, every twelve months.
England and the Quarrels of Europe. (ch 64)
"War's a game which, were their subjects wise,
Kings would not play at." -- Cowper: "The Task."
From the year 1716, in which the first Stuart rebellion, under the Pretender James, was put down, to the end of King George's reign, in 1727, was a period of eleven years; and during the whole of those eleven years England was either engaged in war or was taking part in some dispute between the different Powers of Europe which might at any time lead to war.
There is not space to tell the whole story of the intrigues and alliances, of the failures and successes, the account of which rightly occupies many pages of a full and complete history of this time. But there are some points with regard to the foreign policy of England which must be mentioned, because they have a great deal to do with the condition of the British Empire at the present day. It must not be forgotten that though George I. was King of Great Britain and Ireland, he was also Elector, or Prince, of Hanover, a German State which bordered on the kingdom of Prussia, and which was deeply interested in all the quarrels between the various German States.
At that time Germany was broken up into scores of States, large and small from the great State of Austria, the powerful Electorate of Bavaria, and Prussia, now becoming a strong Power, down to little Principalities and even small independent towns with only a few thousand inhabitants. At the present time, as we know, the Germanf peaking people of Central Europe are divided into two unequal parts, the smaller number being subjects of the Emperor of Austria, and by far the larger number belonging to the urited German Empire, which was first established in 1871, after the great war between Germany and France.
But at the time of which we are speaking -- namely, the beginning of the eighteenth century -- there was no union among the German States, and, in consequence, there were endless rivalries between them, each State striving to get the better of its neighbour and ready to accept any help which was available, often without much thought of the consequences. But while Germany was thus divided there lay to the westward, across the Rhine, the powerful and united kingdom of France; while in the south-west corner of Europe was the Spanish monarchy, weaker far than it had been in the days of the Armada, but still a great Power which had to be reckoned with.
Among all these Powers, great and small, there were endless opportunities for alliances and counter-alliances; and for many years the foreign history of our country is concerned with the story of such alliances, in which the parties shift and change from one side to the other like the fragments of glass in a kaleidoscope.
One year England and France are allies; another year England has taken sides with one of the German Powers, and France has become an enemy. In 1717 we find England, France, and Holland united together to form a "Triple Alliance" against the rest of Europe. A year later (August, 1718) the "Triple Alliance" has been changed into the "Quadruple Alliance," or the alliance of four Powers -- England, France, Holland, and Austria -- against Spain, an alliance marked by the naval victory of Admiral Sir George Byng [afterwards Viscount Torrington] over the Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro, in Sicily.
From time to time every single Power in Europe, including Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Holland, was drawn into the conflict. As we have already seen, England was never able -- or, at any rate, never willing -- to stand outside for long. There were three reasons which compelled British Ministers to take part in European disputes. In the first place, George I. was a German sovereign, and never forgot, and never allowed his Ministers to forget, that the interests of Hanover occupied a greater place in his mind than those of Great Britain.
In the second place, the Stuart claimants to the crown of England still looked for their principal support to the two great Roman Catholic Powers of Europe, namely, France and Spain, and especially to the former. It is probable that after the death of Louis XIV. neither the French king nor the French people took much interest in the Stuart cause, but it was always useful to the Government of France to have some threat which it could hold out against England, and the friends of the Stuarts lost no opportunity of making difficulties between France and the Whig Government of England they so greatly detested.
And, lastly, there was one cause which, more than either of the others we have mentioned, tended to bring England more and more into the quarrels of European countries. Ever since the accession of the new king, wealth had been growing rapidly in England, and with wealth had come the growth of enterprise and the starting of many new commercial ventures. Year by year, as the century passed, English ships had been going further and further afield in search of trade; and as the power of Spain and Holland diminished, the position of England as a great trading and shipping country grew stronger. But the further our ships went, the more certain were they to come in conflict with other European Powers which already claimed possession, or sought to take possession, of the unoccupied countries of the world.
Spain still claimed enormous territories both in South and North America; in the West Indies, where Havannah, "The Pearl of the Antilles," gave her the command of the Gulf of Mexico; and in the East Indies, where the trade of the Philippines was forbidden to any but Spanish ships. In India, France was still a greater Power than Britain, while in extent of territory at least the same might be said of France in the great continent of North America. Portugal and Holland both had great colonial possessions, and the Cape of Good Hope, perhaps the most important position in the whole world, was in the hands of the Dutch.
There was not one of the great Powers of Europe which was not ready to fight in order to keep its colonial possessions; but to none of them, save to England, was the possession of new colonies and new outlets of commerce the most important thing to be gained by war. The Continental Powers were always concerned first of all to strengthen or enlarge their own borders on the continent of Europe.
Prussia and Austria, France and Spain, Sweden and Russia, were perpetually struggling to deprive each other of territory. It was the good fortune of Britain that she could make no claim to an extension of her boundaries at home. The frontier of the United Kingdom was clearly marked by the waters of the ocean; and thus it came about that during the many conflicts which disturbed Europe, the European Powers were nearly always ready to give up to England some distant colony or territory in exchange for the right to keep or to take some part of the soil of Europe. And when at last the long struggle was over, it was seen that while the boundaries of European States had been changed, and while some European Powers had grown strong at the expense of others who had grown weak, it was Britain that had really added to her territory, and had acquired an empire outside Europe, an empire to which we are now the heirs, and which it is our duty to keep with the same courage and energy as were shown by those who won it.
About the Country's Debts. (ch 64)
"English Funds, Consols 2 3/4 per cents., 113." [Extract from the City news of a daily newspaper, 1897. -- The meaning is that on the day in question purchasers were willing to give £113 in exchange for the promise of the British Government to pay them £2 15s. a year.]
Even in a short account of the reign of George I. such as that to be found in this book, it would not be right to leave out all mention of what is known as the story of the "South Sea Bubble," for nothing, perhaps, which occurred during the whole reign excited more interest or concerned a greater number of people. Two things must be remembered before we can properly understand the history of the "South Sea Bubble."
To begin with, England for the first time had got heavily into debt. In old times it had often been the practice of the kings of England to borrow money from their subjects or from foreigners for the purpose of carrying on wars or for helping allies. But the money so borrowed was the king's debt, and was repaid or not, according to the temper or power of the king. It was only since the reign of William III. that the practice, which has since become so common, of borrowing large sums by authority of Parliament in the name of the nation had been largely resorted to.
When a country like England wishes to borrow money, what is done is to give power to the Government by an Act of Parliament to borrow the sum required from anyone who will lend it, and to promise the lenders a fixed rate of interest to be paid every year in return for the use of the money. There are many ways in which the money may be borrowed, and the interest for the use of it paid. In some cases the Government asks that the money shall be lent, but does not promise to pay it back at any particular time. It promises, however, to continue to pay a fixed rate of interest until the amount lent has been repaid. The greater part of the debt of the country, which is sometimes spoken of as the "Consolidated Debt" is of this kind. Everyone who has lent money to the Government under this arrangement is said to hold a share of the "Consolidated Debt," or, as it is usually called, to be a holder of "Consols." For every hundred pounds which has been lent to the country the Government undertakes to pay a fixed rate of interest as long as the debt is unpaid. The rate of interest at present paid on Consols is £2 15s. for every hundred pounds, or in some cases only £2 10s.
Sometimes the Government only wants the money for a short time, and in such case an undertaking is given to pay back the money at a very early date. There is also another way, which was used much more frequently in the last century and at the beginning of this than it is at the present time; this is the plan of borrowing on life annuities.
According to this plan, the Government says to those who are willing to lend money, "If you will lend us so much, we will give you in return a promise to pay you a fixed sum every year for the use of it. We will pay you regularly as long as you live, but when you die there will be an end of the matter; you will have had payment during your lifetime. If you live long, you will have made a good bargain; if you die soon, you will have made a bad bargain."
When the Government borrowed by way of Life Annuity it always had to pay a higher rate of interest than when it borrowed in the ordinary way, when it was bound to go on paying interest to a lender while he lived and to his representatives after he was dead. No man knows how long he may live, and, therefore, no one would take the risk of lending on such uncertain terms unless he were sure of being well paid for doing so. On the other hand, there are always plenty of people ready to take a chance if they are well paid for it. The interest paid on the life annuities was high, and if a man were fortunate enough to have a long life, he got the benefit of the high interest for many years. If, on the contrary, he died soon after buying his annuity, the Government got the profit, for it no longer had to pay any interest.
At a time when it was not very easy to save money safely, when there were few banks, and when business was not carried on upon the great scale with which we are familiar nowadays, the plan of investing in annuities became very popular; for it always gave to the purchaser of the annuity the certainty of a livelihood in a time when there was great uncertainty in respect of almost every other way of putting by money. It thus came about that in the reign of George I. a large number of people were the owners of Government annuities. The Government had been compelled to borrow large sums of money for the purpose of carrying on war abroad and at home, and much of the money so borrowed was borrowed upon annuities of the kind that have been described.
The South Sea Bubble. (ch 64)
"Ye wise philosophers, explain
What magic makes our money rise
When dropt into the Southern main;
Or do these jugglers cheat our eyes?" -- Swift.
The Debt of England at this time was large, though not nearly so large as it became in later years; but it was so great that many people were seriously alarmed, and thought that if the borrowing went on much further the country would be unable to pay its debts at all, and would become bankrupt. Among those who were most anxious to pay off and get rid of part of the debt was Robert Walpole, who had now (1717) become a member of the Ministry, and of whom we shall hear a great deal more as we read on.
Walpole soon found out what he was in search of. A company called "The Company of Merchants of Great Britain trading to the South Seas," or, more shortly, "The South Sea Company," had lately been formed. The object of the company, as its name tells us, was to carry on trade with the various countries lying in the southern seas on the continent of South America, and among the islands of the Atlantic. Walpole made a bargain with the South Sea Company. He said: "If your company will undertake to pay off the debt which the Government owes to those people who have got annuities, the Government on its part will give the company certain advantages in the way of money and credit, which will be of the greatest value to it."
The company agreed to these terms and set to work to carry them out. They offered to pay anyone who had a Government annuity the amount that was due to him; but instead of offering to pay the annuity in money, as the Government had done, they gave to each person shares in the South Sea Company. It was believed that these shares would become very valuable, because everyone thought that the company, now that the Government supported it, would be very successful, and would make large profits. Everyone was delighted at the chance of exchanging the Government annuities for shares in the company; they readily gave up the certainty of always getting a small sum from the Government in the hope that they might, by good fortune, get a much larger sum from the company.
At first all went well; indeed, so great was the number of people who wanted to get shares in the new company that the price of the shares went up to ten times their real value. In other words, people were ready to pay a thousand pounds for a hundred pound share; they believed that the success of the company would be so great that they would receive a sufficient profit to repay them even for so great an expenditure. Soon the success of the South Sea Company led to the starting of other companies, some of them of the most absurd kind.
The most extraordinary scenes took place. The eagerness to buy shares was so great that people soon ceased to inquire whether what they were buying were of any real value, or whether the new companies could ever make a profit at all. Never had such excitement been known. But the fashion of buying shares in companies having once been set, everyone was in a hurry to follow it, without inquiring what was the business the company intended to undertake and what chance it had of succeeding. Men and women of all classes, high and low, rich and poor, were all alike caught by the new fever, all of them hoping and longing to get rich with the least possible trouble and in the shortest possible time. It has been reckoned that the shares in all the different companies amounted to no less than £500,000,000, or twice the value of all the land in England.
For a short time all seemed to go well. Many people really became rich by selling shares at very high prices; those who had bought the shares believed that they had become rich. It was not long, however, before the "bubble burst." It soon became clear that all the fine promises that had been made to the shareholders by those who got up the different companies were worth nothing at all. Then there came a terrible time for those who had spent so much money in buying the worthless shares. Hundreds had spent all they possessed in buying pieces of paper which were perfectly worthless. They saw themselves ruined in a day; and soon, throughout the whole of England, people learned with dismay that the "South Sea Bubble" had burst, and that those who had hoped to make their fortune by it had ruined themselves.
Great indignation was felt by those who had lost their money, many of whom, however, had no one but themselves to thank. It was said -- and probably with truth -- that some of the king's ministers had made money out of the South Sea Company, and several of them were turned out of office and out of Parliament. So great was the suffering and loss in the country, that Parliament was compelled to interfere and to help some of the chief sufferers. It was on this occasion that the name of Robert Walpole first became well known, He was a man of a prudent disposition, very skilful in dealing with money matters, and he soon won the confidence of the people and of Parliament. From this time forward his influence increased each year, till, in the next reign, he became one of the most powerful Prime Ministers that this country has ever known.
Throughout the whole of his life Walpole was a great lover of peace, and it was to him more than to anyone else that England owed her escape from war during the remainder of the reign of George I. Many attacks were made upon him by the Jacobites, and by some of the Tory party, but George wisely continued to support him.
On the 10th of June, 1727, George I. died in Germany. He is not a very notable figure in our English history. Plain, dull and uninteresting, caring more about Hanover than he did about England, he was only too willing to let his Ministers govern the English people, whose language he did not understand and whose country he did not love. But the reign of George I. is not without importance. The very fact that the king was unable to take a very active part in governing the country helped to make the Government chosen by the majority of Parliament stronger than it had ever been before. The fact that a Hanoverian king had lived on to the end of his reign in undisputed possession was also important. The Stuarts and their French allies had done their best to overthrow him and had failed. The people of England had clearly shown that, though they did not care much for the new king himself, they preferred a Protestant Hanoverian who would govern them in their own way to a Stuart who was supported by the Roman Catholic Powers, and who still believed in the "Divine Right" of kings to govern nations against their will.
Chapter 65. George II. 1727-1760.
Principal events during the reign of George II.:
George II. and His Great Prime Minister. -- Peace. (ch 65)
"Get place and wealth, if possible with grace;
If not, by any means get wealth and place." -- Pope.
It was in the year 1727 that George II., the second of the Hanoverian kings, came to the throne. He had one advantage over his father -- namely, that he could speak English -- but he was not distinguished in any way for his ability or his personal qualities.
The events which took place during his reign were of great importance to our country, but the part which the king himself played was a small and unimportant one. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that the very fact of King George succeeding peaceably to the throne of his father was a matter of importance to the people of the United Kingdom. George was neither a great man nor an interesting man, but he was the representative of the Protestant Succession. The Stuarts, as we shall see, had not yet given up their hope of regaining the throne, and George owed his security and the goodwill of his subjects much more to their fear of further civil war and of the return of the Stuarts, than to any good qualities of his own.
The reign of George II. lasted thirty-three years, and may roughly be divided into two periods the first, a period of peace under the ministry of Walpole; and, the second, a period of war under the ministry of Pitt, or of those who were influenced by Pitt. It was during the earlier and peaceful portion of the reign that the country gained that wealth and strength which enabled it to pass through the stormy period of war not only with safety but with success.
The first part of the reign was, as has been said, marked by the influence of Walpole. In the account of the last reign we learnt something of this remarkable man, and saw how he first gained importance by his wise action after the bursting of the "South Sea Bubble." But it was not till the reign of George II. that he became beyond all doubt the most powerful man in the kingdom, and acquired a position which enabled him to retain his office of Prime Minister for the long period of twenty-one years.
It is time, therefore, to devote a few lines to a description of this great man and of the methods by which he obtained and kept his power. Robert Walpole (born 1676, died 1745), afterwards created Earl of Orford (1742), first became a Minister of the Crown when he was thirty-two years of age. He resigned his office of Prime Minister in 1742, when he was sixty-six years of age, and after twenty-one years' service. The pictures of Walpole, and all that we know about him from those among whom he lived, tell us the same story. He was a plain, stout, rather ungainly man, whose conversation and manners, even in those days, were considered rather coarse. He was a great lover of power, and was never content to share his power with others. Indeed, throughout his life it seemed to be his aim to get rid of all those men of ability who surrounded him, so that he, and he alone, might become the centre of the Government. To this fact his fall was at last largely due; for he succeeded in driving so many of those who might have been his friends into the ranks of his enemies, that at length he found the party opposed to him so strong that even his influence and cleverness could no longer resist its attacks.
But while Walpole often seemed anxious to get rid of those who he feared might become his rivals, he at all times took care to surround himself with an army of supporters who were attached to him, not only by the favours which they had received at his hands, but by the hope of further favours to come. It must not be forgotten that Walpole lived in a time when government by Party had become the rule in England, and when, in order that a Minister might keep his place, he was bound to have the support of the majority in Parliament. Walpole knew this well, and he took steps to win to his side, and keep on his side, the support of Parliament, and especially of the House of Commons.
The plan which he adopted is one which would, happily, be impossible at the present time. It was a simple one, and consisted in buying or bribing Members of Parliament. In some cases payments were actually made in money: more often they were made in the shape of offices, which were given to Members or to their friends as the price of their support. There can be no doubt whatever that for many years Walpole bribed and bought the support of Parliament. It must be said, however, that the practice was common at the time, and that he was by no means the only person who adopted it.
On the contrary, it was the regular custom for leaders of the great parties to reward their followers, or to endeavour to buy the support of their enemies, by the promise of money, offices, and pensions. The practice was a very bad one, and Walpole, no doubt, carried it to a greater extent than it had ever been carried before, but it is only fair to say that the crime of bribing was not looked upon in those days in the same way that it now is, and that Walpole only followed the custom of the times.
It is only just, also, to Walpole, to say that, though beyond doubt he did bribe Members of Parliament and others, he never forgot what he thought to be the real interest of the country, and he bought votes in order to enable him to carry out what he really believed to be the best and wisest policy for the country. The best and wisest policy he throughout his life believed to be the policy of Peace. It was his one hope and aim to avoid a quarrel with any nation, and he showed the greatest possible skill in keeping out of war. It is true that at last he allowed England to become engaged in a war with Spain and France, but it was sorely against his will that he accepted a course with which he did not agree.
Walpole would, perhaps, have a higher place in the list of great Englishmen if he had refused to take part in carrying on a war which he believed to be wrong and unwise. It was, however, always truly said of him that he preferred to give way rather than rouse great opposition.
One of his wisest proposals -- a proposal for a new tax -- roused fierce opposition (1733). Walpole knew that his plan was a good one, and it has since been adopted; but rather than create a riot, he gave way and withdrew his plan. [This was a plan for putting an Excise Duty on Wine and Tobacco. An Excise Duty is one which is collected within the country from those who sell the taxed article, instead of being collected at the seaports from those who import it. At present there is a Customs Duty upon Wine and Spirits imported into the country, and an Excise Duty upon Spirits manufactured within the country.]
Walpole was in many ways a really great man, and England owes much to his wisdom and good government. He quite understood that the strength of this country greatly depended upon its wealth, and upon the success of its trade and commerce; and he knew that trade and commerce could only flourish in a country in which there was confidence in the Government.
Of Walpole, too, it may be said that he bestowed a boon upon English farmers for which perhaps they have never been sufficiently grateful to him. It has been said that the man who confers the greatest benefit upon mankind is he who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew before. Walpole did not quite do this, but he did something very like it. It was he who first introduced the growth of root crops, such as turnips, into England. It seems strange, but it is a fact that up to this time English farmers had known nothing of such crops. Now, however, they learnt to grow the roots which, ripening in the autumn, provided their cattle with good food throughout the winter, and went far to double the value of their farms.
"Jenkins's Ear," and War at Last. (ch 65)
"Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" -- Epistle of St. James, iii. 5.
For some years Walpole's power remained almost undisputed. In the year 1737, however, Queen Caroline, the wife of George II., died, and her death proved a disadvantage to Walpole. Caroline had always been a good friend to the Prime Minister, and her influence with the king had made her a useful helper to him in all his troubles. In Queen Caroline, Walpole lost a friend; in her son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, he found an enemy. Frederick, a worthless young man, had quarrelled with his father, and he soon became the centre of a party which was made up of all those who were discontented with the Government, and especially of those who were enemies to Walpole.
This new party grew in numbers every year, and Walpole by his own conduct added to its strength. His hatred of a rival led him to get rid of some of the cleverest of his supporters, and these former friends, dismissed from the Ministry and from the king's favour, soon became leaders of the new party.
At last, in the year 1737, the Opposition felt themselves strong enough to make an open attack upon the Prime Minister. They declared that in his efforts for peace he had allowed the interests and honour of the United Kingdom to suffer. They said that Spain had insulted and injured British traders, and that the time had come when war was necessary for the safety and prosperity of the country.
It was quite true that there had been many quarrels between Englishmen and Spaniards in their fight for the trade of South America. Acts of violence had been committed on both sides; and if the Spaniards were at fault, so, too, were the English. But the minds of Englishmen were easily inflamed by the stories which reached them. They heard of the injustice which had been done to their own seamen; and they heard little of, or paid no attention to, the Spanish side of the question.
The angry feeling against Spain grew fast, and at last it passed all bounds when the Opposition brought up in Parliament the story of "Jenkins's Ear." Jenkins was a sea-captain who had traded to South America. His story was that he had been taken by the Spaniards, and that his ear had been torn from his head by his cruel captors. Jenkins certainly had one ear missing; and, in proof of the truth of what he said, he would take an ear from a box which he carried and show it to his audience. Whether Jenkins ever had his ear cut off by the Spaniards at all is not certain. There were some who declared that Jenkins was a rogue who had had his ear cut off in the pillory by the common hangman; but whatever were the truth of the story, it served its purpose. Parliament and the people, already angry with Spain, readily believed the tale which agreed with their own view. The cry was all for war, and Walpole, much against his will, at last gave way and war was declared (1739).
Continental Quarrels, and the Rise of Prussia. (ch 65)
"That formidable confederacy of France, Austria, Russia, and Sweden, seemed determined to inclose and crush the King of Prussia." -- Horace Walpole, Lord Orford: "Memoirs of the Last Ten Years," written of the beginning of the year 1757.
"The year concluded with a torrent of glory for the King of Prussia." (The same, written of the end of the year 1757.)
We have now come to the beginning of the long series of wars which lasted, almost without stopping, from 1739 to 1815, or seventy-six years -- wars in which England was almost always concerned. It is not possible in this book to follow all the ins and outs of the quarrels which took place between the different nations of Europe. As in the previous reign, there were many changes, and those nations which one year had been bitter enemies, fought in the next year as allies against those who had but a short time before been their friends.
But, though the history of all this fighting is rather bewildering, there are one or two things which stand out quite clearly throughout it all. Whatever happened, England and France were sure to find themselves opposed to each other; that is the first thing to notice. It was enough for France to take the side of any other European nation to make England for the time that nation's enemy, and the same thing might be said with equal truth of the behaviour of France towards those who sided with England.
The second thing to notice is the rise of the Kingdom of Prussia. Already Prussia had become an important State under its Prince or Elector, Frederick, known as the "Great Elector," and the Prussian army had been formed and prepared for war.
In 1740, the thirteenth year of George II., Frederick, known in history as "Frederick the Great," ascended the throne of Prussia. His active spirit, his determination, and his skill in war, made him one of the most remarkable and most important personages in Europe. It was his aim and object to make the Kingdom of Prussia the chief among the German States. For many centuries Austria had held the place which he sought for Prussia; and hence it was against Austria, under the rule of the famous Empress, Maria Theresa, that he fought for the greater part of his lite. When France and Austria sided together, Frederick fought them both; when France offered help against Austria, he accepted French help.
England, as the great Protestant country, was justly looked upon as the natural friend and ally of Prussia; but at one time, when Frederick had joined with France against Austria, Prussia was actually at war for a short time with England, partly because England was friendly to the Austrians, and partly because England was sure to be found on the opposite side to France. It is pleasant, however, to think that though Prussia and England were for a short time supposed to be at war with one another, no battle was ever fought between them, nor have Englishmen and Prussians at any time shed each other's blood in war.
The third great point which we have to notice in the wars of George II., as in the wars of George I., is that, while the fortunes of England in Europe varied greatly while British armies, though often victorious, often suffered defeat outside Europe, in the countries beyond the seas, in America, in India, in the West, and in the East, the power and influence of Britain grew steadily from year to year, while that of her great rivals France and Spain grew less and less.
We must now go back to Walpole and the war in which he had engaged so much against his will. It would have been better if the Prime Minister had dared to be true to his own policy, for by giving way he did not succeed in keeping the power for which he cared so much. His enemies had become strong enough to defeat him, and at last, in the year 1742, he gave up his office and retired from the Government. He had been thirty-four years in the Government and for twenty-one years Prime Minister. [On his retirement Walpole was made Earl of Orford.]
Thus ended the public life of the great "Peace Minister." Already England's greatest "War Minister" was rising into fame. In 1735 William Pitt entered Parliament, and joined the party of the Opposition around the Prince of Wales. In a very few years Pitt was to become an even greater and more famous Minister than Walpole himself: but between the fall of Walpole and the time when Pitt became a Minister, several years of trial and trouble had to be passed through by this country.
The "Young Pretender" and His Friends. (ch 65)
"The news frae Moidart cam' yestreen
Will soon gar mony ferlie;
F.or ships o' war hae just come in
And landit Royal Charlie." -- Lady Nairne.
[ferlie: Make many wonder.] Scott's Waverley -- as well as the Skye Boat song -- is based on the events in this chapter.
In 1741 a fierce war broke out between Frederick, King of Prussia, and Austria, then under the rule of the Empress Maria Theresa. England took the side of Austria; France sided with Prussia. A British army, composed of British and Hanoverian troops, entered Flanders. On the 27th of June, 1743, a battle was fought at Dettingen, on the banks of the Maine, in Germany, between the forces of the British and their allies on the one hand, and the French on the other. King George himself was present with the army, and behaved well in the presence of danger. He was the last English king actually present in battle. The king's army was outnumbered, but the bravery of the troops not only averted defeat, but secured a hardly-won victory, and the French were compelled to retreat. Meanwhile, however, Prussia had beaten Austria, and had succeeded in taking from it the Province of Silesia, which from that day down to the present time has formed part of the kingdom of Prussia; and thus England and France were left to fight out a quarrel which both had begun on behalf of another nation. On the 11th of May, 1745, a mixed army of British, Dutch, and Austrian troops was defeated by the French Marshal Saxe, after a hardly contested battle at Fontenoy, in Holland. The battle itself had little influence upon future events.
Now that France was openly at war with England, it was natural that the French should do all in their power to weaken their enemies at home as well as to defeat them abroad. An easy way presented itself to the French Government. James Stuart, the son of King James II. -- whom we have read about under the name of the "Old Pretender" -- was advanced in years and disinclined for further adventures, but his cause was not without a champion.
His son, Charles Edward Stuart -- known in history as the "Young Pretender," and called by many the "Young Chevalier" -- was as ready as his father had been to strike a blow for the recovery of the crown which he claimed. For a long time his chances had seemed hopeless. Walpole had kept the peace with France; and without the aid of France success was not to be hoped for. Now, however, matters had changed, and the French Government, though not very forward in giving Charles Edward either men or money, was quite ready to encourage him in an adventure which might do harm to England and could do no harm to France.
In 1745 -- the same year as the battle of Fontenoy -- Charles sailed from France with a small French squadron of two ships -- the Elizabeth and the Doutelle; but a British 58-gun ship, the Lion, caught them at sea, and, after a sharp fight, drove them back to port. A second time Charles put to sea, and this time succeeded in reaching the coast of Scotland in the little Doutelle.
He lauded at Loch na Nuagh, in Inverness-shire, on the 25th July, 1745, and immediately called upon the Highlanders, and all friends of the Stuart cause, to help him. In some respects, the "Young Pretender" had an advantage over his father; for he was really a handsome and bravo young man, who earned the love, if not the respect, of all who fought for him.
"Charlie is my darling, the young Chevalier,"
so runs one of the Scottish songs. Perhaps the Scots, like many other people in similar cases, thought more of their young Prince after they had lost him than while they had got him.
At the same time, there can be no doubt that Prince Charlie was a man not unworthy to play an important part. But if the "Young Pretender" had some advantages on his side, in some respects he was far worse off than his father had been; for, in the first place, the Government of George II. was in a much stronger position than that of George I. had been, and the Jacobite party in England was no longer prepared to fight. In the second place, since the landing of the "Old Pretender," in 1715, roads had been made in the Highlands by General Wade, and it thus became possible for the Royal troops to march into the country of the MacDonalds and other clans on whose help the Pretender chiefly relied.
The "'Forty-Five." (ch 65)
"As for the people, the spirit against the rebels increases every day. Though they have marched thus far into the heart of the kingdom there has not been the least symptom of a rising, not even in the great towns of which they possessed themselves. They get no recruits since their first entry into England, excepting one gentleman in Lancashire, 150 common men, and two parsons at Manchester, and a physician from York. But here in London the aversion to them is amazing." -- Horace Walpole's letters to Sir Horace Mann, 9th December, 1745.
There is not space here to tell at length the story of the Rebellion of 1745. For a short time the slow movements and the bad generalship of the Royal generals favoured Charles, and allowed him to win a brief success. General Cope marched northwards from Edinburgh with an army of 3,000 men. Instead of meeting him, the Pretender passed by him and hastened southward. Sir John Cope, fearful for the safety of the capital, took ship at Inverness, and landed at Dunbar. It was too late, however; already Charles had reached Edinburgh, and taken possession of Holyrood, the ancient palace of the Scottish kings. The strong castle of Edinburgh was safely held for the king, but the city was at the mercy of the rebels.
On the 21st of September was fought the battle of Prestonpans, upon the Firth of Forth, a few miles to the east of Edinburgh. Cope's troops were unable to resist the fierce charge of the Highlanders; they broke, and fled in confusion from the field.
How the Highlanders fought both on this occasion, when victory crowned their arms, and on other occasions, when the fortune of battle turned against them, is finely described in the following passage taken from Sir Walter Scott's great novel of "Waverley":
"Both lines were now moving forward, the first prepared for instant combat. The Brians of which it was composed formed each a sort of separate phalanx, narrow in front, and in depth ten, twelve, or fifteen files, according to the strength of the following. The best armed and best born, for the words were synonymous, were placed in front of each of these irregular subdivisions. The others in the rear shouldered forward the front and by their pressure added both physical impulse and additional ardour and confidence to those who were first to encounter the danger.
"The clansmen on every side stript their plaids, prepared their arms, and there was an awful pause of about three minutes, during which the men, pulling off their bonnets, raised their faces to heaven and uttered a short prayer; then pulled their bonnets over their brows, and began to move forward, at first slowly. The pipes played, and the clans rushed forward, each in its own dark column. As they advanced they mended their pace, and the muttering sounds of the men to each other began to swell into a wild cry.
"The line of the regulars was formed directly fronting the attack of the Highlanders; it glittered with the appointments of a complete army, and was flanked by cavalry and artillery. But the sight impressed no terror on the assailants.
"'Forward, sons of Ivor,' cried their Chief, 'or the Camerons will draw the first blood!' They rushed on with a tremendous yell. The rest is well known. The horse, who were commanded to charge the advancing Highlanders in the flank, received an irregular fire from their fusees as they ran on, and, seized with a disgraceful panic, wavered, halted, disbanded, and galloped from the field. The artillerymen, deserted by the cavalry, fled after discharging their pieces; and the Highlanders, who dropped their guns when fired, and drew their broadswords, rushed with headlong fury against the infantry."
The March to Derby -- Culloden. (ch 65)
"Lochiel, Lochiel! beware of the day
When the Lowlands shall meet thee in battle array!
For a field of the dead rushes red on my sight,
And the Clans of Culloden are scattered in flight." -- Campbell: "Lochiel' s Warning."
After some delay the rebels crossed the Border, and marched southward into England. But the time had gone by when they could hope for success in that country, and the Royal army, despite its slow movement, was now gradually collecting together and surrounding the Pretender's little force. Still the Scots advanced without finding serious opposition, till on the 4th of December, 1745, they entered the town of Derby. But this was the furthest point they were to reach.
The greatest alarm prevailed in London. The king actually prepared to leave the country; and it was believed by all that, should the Pretender reach London, a French invasion would immediately follow. Luckily, at this point the strength of the invading force seemed spent, and instead of pressing on to London, the Scots turned and made their way back again to the North. The entry of the Scottish army into Derby is a memorable event in our history, It was, happily, the last occasion on which a successful invading army has made its way on to English soil. It was the last effort of civil war in England. For many a year afterwards that day was remembered, and there are those still alive who may have actually heard from the lips of men who were children at the time the story of the coming of the wild Highlanders, with their claymores and their kilts, their bagpipes and their strange speech, into a peaceful town in the very heart of England.
Charles hastened back to Scotland, where he was joined by a considerable number of friends and by a small party of French troops. His army, now raised to 9,000 men, had become formidable, and had shown its strength in a battle which was fought against the Royal troops under General Hawley at Falkirk, in Stirlingshire, January 23, 1746. For the last time, the charge of the Highlanders was successful, and Hawley's troops were forced to retreat. But by this time the Duke of Cumberland with his army had reached Scotland.
On the 16th of April the two forces met upon Culloden Moor, near Inverness. For a while it seemed as if victory would once more favour the Pretender; and the fierce charge of the Highlanders broke for a time the lines of the regular troops. But the jealousies which at all times divided the Highland clans now made themselves felt with fatal effect. The MacDonalds declared that they, and they alone, had the right to charge upon the right of the line. Charles had placed them on the left; the insult was one not to be borne, and they refused to budge. Cumberland's artillery and the steady bravery of the English troops restored the fortunes of the battle; the rebels were defeated, and the Highlanders fled to their mountains.
Charles Edward escaped almost alone from the field of battle. For many days he was a hunted fugitive through the country over which he had hoped to rule. A high price was offered for his capture; but the Highlanders to whom he was compelled to trust himself were all true men not one of them betrayed him. A romantic story is told of how the Prince was aided in his flight by a young lady of the name of Flora MacDonald, who led him past the careful watch of the enemy, disguised as her serving-maid, in a woman's clothes. It was not till the end of September -- five months after the battle of Culloden -- that Charles succeeded in escaping to France.
In the Highlands, the rebellion was punished with great severity by Cumberland. It was the object of the Government to break up the clans, and so to put an end at once and for all to the danger which always existed as long as their strength was unbroken. The wearing of the Highland garb -- the kilt and plaid -- was forbidden; and many of those who had sided with the Pretender were put to death, or deprived of their lands as rebels taken in arms. It is possible that unnecessary harshness was shown in putting down the rebellion, but there can be no doubt that the victory ot Culloden saved Great Britain from a very serious disaster. The memory of "Bonnie Prince Charlie" lingered long among the faithful Highlanders; and a few scattered Jacobites who had followed their leader into exile continued to speak of "King Charles III.," who was some day to win back the crown of his fathers. But that day never came; and with the close of the "'Forty-Five,'" as the rebellion which broke out in this year came to be called, the danger of a Stuart Restoration, and with it the fear of civil war, died away.
The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. (ch 65)
"Now Europe balanced, neither side prevails,
For nothing's left in either of the scales." -- Swift.
But though the war had come to a successful conclusion at home, it was being carried on less fortunately on the Continent. In 1746, the year of the Battle of Culloden, William Pitt first became a Minister of the Crown. Before his death he was destined to raise the fortunes of the country to the highest point, but his influence had not yet become greatly felt, and in Europe our troops suffered disaster. The Duke of Cumberland, who had been sent with a British army to Flanders, was defeated at the battle of Laufeldt, and the fortress of Bergen-op-Zoom, on the borders of Holland, was taken by the French.
But once more it must be noted that while bad fortune overtook our armies in Europe, in distant countries across the sea British power still grew, and grew at the expense of the power of France. If we look at the map of Canada, we shall see that off the northern point of Nova Scotia is an island called Cape Breton Island. Its importance is made clear directly we study the map, for it guards the entrance to the great Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the mouth of the River St. Lawrence, by which the cities of Quebec, Montreal, and Ottawa, and the great Lake of Ontario are reached. In the year 1745 Cape Breton Island was captured from the French by a British expedition; and what was more important than the capture of one island was the fact that the British Navy showed its superiority over its opponent in almost every sea.
But, though there were gains and losses on both sides, little profit seemed to come to any of the nations engaged in the war, and all parties were ready to join in signing the Treaty of Peace at Aix-la-Chapelle * in October, 1748. All conquests which had been made during the war by England or France were given up. France gave up Madras in India, which had been taken by General Labourdonnais on September 1st, 1746, and England gave up Cape Breton Island.
* [The short period of peace which followed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was not without value to the country, for it allowed a very important change to be made in the rate of interest payable upon the National Debt. The interest was now reduced to £3 for every £100, or to 3 per cent. This was a very great saving to the country, which had been paying 5 per cent., 6 per cent. and, indeed, in the reign of William III., as much as 8 per cent. on all the money which was borrowed by the Government. Three per cent, is a very small rate of interest to be paid for the loan of £100; but the Government of England had now become so strong, and was thought to be so secure, that those who had saved money were willing to put it into the "Three Per Cents.," because they knew that, whatever happened, they were certain to be paid, and would not lose their money. For more than one hundred and fifty years the interest paid by the Government of the United Kingdom remained at 3 per cent.; and it was not till the year 1891 that the amount of interest was reduced still further to £2 15s., and in some cases to as little as £2 10s. for every £100 borrowed.]
Now, at last, after many years of fighting, there was once more peace, but unluckily it was a peace which was to last for a very short time. The Prime Minister was Henry Pelham, younger brother to the then Duke of Newcastle; but the most active man in Parliament, and already one of the most powerful, was William Pitt. The Ministry of Pelham did not last long, for he died in the year 1754. Three years earlier, Frederick, Prince of Wales, who so long had been an enemy to his father's Government, had also died. His death was not a loss to his country, for he was a man who could hardly have made a wise king. He was little esteemed or respected by any party.
War by Land and Sea -- The Loss of Minorca. (ch 65)
" . . . dans ce pays-ci il est bon de tuer de tems en tems un Amiral pour encourager les autres." Voltaire: "Candide."
[Translation: "In this country (England) it is considered a good plan to put an Admiral to death every now and then, in order to encourage the others." Voltaire, the famous and witty French writer, is here laughing at the English for their treatment of Admiral Byng. The phrase. "pour encourager les autres" has become a common saying.]
On the death of Pelham, his brother the Duke of Newcastle became Prime Minister. Newcastle was a man without either judgment or ability, whose only strength as a Minister came from the support of the king, whom he flattered and sought to please in every way, and from the large sums of money which he was able to spend in buying the support of Members of Parliament and others on whom he depended.
Between Pitt and Newcastle there was from the first a fierce enmity, and Pitt's proud and eager spirit refused to submit to be ruled by a man whom he knew to be stupid, and whom he believed to be careless of the honour and welfare of England. It soon became clear that if the policy of Pitt were to prevail there would be war, for already conflicts had begun between English and French, both in America and India, and Pitt was determined that neither in the West nor in the East should the influence of Britain be diminished.
Soon the war which had been threatening so long broke out into flame, both in America and in India. Fighting which had begun between the English and French on the spot, without the consent of the Governments of either Britain or France, was continued, much against Newcastle's will, with all the force of the two countries; and no longer in distant countries only, but in European waters, and upon the continent of Europe. King George, who, like his father, cared more about Hanover than he did about England, was most concerned for the safety of his Electorate. He allied himself with his old enemy, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, and, through the Duke ot Newcastle, sent large sums to Frederick and the other German princes who undertook to fight on his side.
But though Pitt desired the war, and wanted nothing better than an opportunity to carry it on, he was determined that Newcastle should not direct it; and so fierce was his opposition that at length, in the year 1756, Newcastle was driven from office. It was none too soon; for already a great calamity had befallen our armies. A French expedition had been sent to attack the island of Minorca, in the Mediterranean -- an island which since the year 1708 had been in the possession of Great Britain. Admiral Byng was sent with a fleet to raise the siege. He fell in with the French fleet, but too late to prevent the landing of the troops. Having counted the ships, he thought them too strong to meddle with, and withdrew without firing a gun. After a brave resistance, the garrison of Minorca was forced to surrender.
Byng returned to England to be received with an outbreak of fierce anger. What could be more disgraceful than that a British admiral should desert a British garrison without striking a blow to save it? The Admiral was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death. The court-martial did its duty; but the law which compelled it to sentence Byng to death was a hard one, and it would have been a wise and a right thing if the king had pardoned the prisoner. He desired to do so, and his Ministers, and Parliament itself would rather have spared the life of the Admiral. But the fury of the people knew no bounds; they called for a victim, and Byng was sacrificed. He was shot by a file of Marines on board the Monarch.
It might have been right to shoot Admiral Byng as a punishment for his failure, but it could not have been right to shoot him because the people clamoured for his death. It is hard even for those who have been brought up all their lives as lawyers, and who have been trained as judges to be impartial and just, not to make mistakes in their decisions. It is quite unreasonable to look for justice or reason in the judgments of a multitude of men who have never been taught to weigh the value or the truth of charges, and who are moved only by their own passions and their own angry feelings.
Chapter 66. Clive, Wolfe, and Washington.
War -- England and France in India and America. (ch 66)
"'Tis dangerous, when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell-incensed points
Of mighty opposites." -- Shakespeare: "Hamlet."
While Britain had lost an important possession in Europe in the shape of the island of Minorca, her empire was being slowly but surely extended in other lands. Before reading this and the next two chapters, it will be well to look carefully at two maps in the best atlas we can find. In these two maps we shall be able to read the end of the story of which the beginning only can be told in the reign of George II.
The first map is that of the Peninsula of India. From where the dark shading at the top indicates the lofty ranges of the Hindu-Kush, down to the point where Ceylon hangs like a pearl-drop from the mainland at the bottom, we see a continuous red line drawn round the peninsula. That red line means that India from north to south, from Chitral to Cape Comorin, and the island of Ceylon as well, now form part of the British Empire, of which we all are citizens. [The total area of British India is 964,993 square miles, and the population is 221,172,200 (1891). The area of the Native States is 595,167 square miles, and the population amounts to 66 047,487 (1891).]
There will be seen on the map patches of a different colour which show the "Native" States, which are governed by Native Indian Princes, but which are friendly to us and all of which are controlled by the Government of India. When we come to look at the scale of miles at the side of the map, and to measure India from top to bottom and from side to side, we shall find that it is more than 2,000 miles long and almost 2,000 miles broad. Its area is 1,560,130 square miles, and its population is no less than 287.25 millions. This is indeed a great and wonderful possession to be ruled over by the people of our little islands; and when we learn how different was our position in India one hundred and fifty years ago from what it is now, the wonder becomes greater still.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the power of Britain in India was represented only by a few traders and officers sent out by the Honourable East India Company. Their principal station was in Fort George, which was close to, and now forms a part of, the city of Madras. There were a few other British settlements, but it could not even be said that, among the European Powers which possessed settlements in India, England was the most important. The first place was held by France, whose chief town was Pondicherry, about 100 miles to the south of Madras. Pondicherry is French to this day, but it is almost the only possession which France retains to tell us of the great power which that country once possessed in the Peninsula.
How it came about that the red line which marks the limit of the British Empire spread and spread until it surrounded the whole country, how the power of France in India was broken, and how, one after another, the various Native States were either conquered or won to the side of the British Government, will be very shortly told in this chapter; and in telling the story we shall tell also that of the life of one of the greatest Englishmen who ever set foot in India namely, Robert Clive. For the story of the rise of British power in India and the story of the life of Robert Clive are one and the same.
And now let us turn to another map representing a country in the West -- a country, or, indeed, a continent, greater and richer even than the splendid peninsula of India. Let us turn to the map of the North American Continent. We all know what are the great facts which that map can teach us. From the Arctic Circle, on the north, down to the borders of Mexico, only 26 degrees north of the Equator, we see everywhere familiar English names, but the red line which marks the limits of the British Empire does not include the north-western corner of the continent, nor the enormous country which stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific south of the 49th parallel. These portions form The United States of America, the great English-speaking Republic of the West. Between Alaska and the northern frontier of the United States lies the immense stretch of the Dominion of Canada, under the British flag; while in the Atlantic the red line surrounds Newfoundland, the West Indian Islands, and Bermuda.
On the American continent the last hundred and fifty years have seen a change even greater than that which we have witnessed in India. In the year 1700 the power and influence of Britain in North America was small, and was disputed, as in India, by the power of France. The English colonists who had settled in the New England States and in Canada found themselves menaced on every side by the French, who held large territories in the Southern State of Louisiana, and also in the Valley of the St. Lawrence. Already there was grave reason to fear lest the French should join hands between their northern and southern possessions behind the back of the English settlers, and thus hem in the New England States and shut them off for ever from the great continent to the West.
How it came about that the power of France faded away and was replaced by the power of England, how it was that the English language and not the French became the common speech of 70,000,000 people, must be told in this book; and to this story must be added another which will tell us how it came about that the English-speaking people of North America came to be divided among themselves, and how out of the whole English-speaking population which owned George II. as its king there grew up not one great State but two -- the Dominion of Canada, ever loyal to the British crown, and the United States, the great Republic which owes it no allegiance.
The story of the fall of the power of France in America and the rise of the power of Britain is the story of the life and death of General Wolfe. The story of the division among the English-speaking people and of the rise of the United States is the story of George Washington. And it is of these three great men, Clive, Wolfe, and Washington, that we are now about to read.
Clive. (ch 66)
"It might have been expected that every Englishman who takes any interest in any part of history would be curious to know how a handful of his countrymen, separated from their home by an immense ocean, subjugated, in the course of a few years, one of the greatest empires in the world." -- Macaulay: "Lord Clive."
In 1744, the year before the march of the Pretender to Derby, a young man of the name of Robert Clive, who had obtained employment as a writer or clerk in the service of the Honourable East India Company, landed at Madras. It was nearly two years since he had set out from his home in Shropshire; for in those days of sailing ships a voyage to the East lasted many months, and Clive had been forced to break his journey, much against his will, at more than one place on the way out.
When the young man first entered his office in Madras, the East India Company, of which he was a servant, was little more than a business concern, which owned a certain number of Settlements, or "Factories," in India, at which they were allowed by the native rulers to carry on their trade.
The chief of these settlements were at Bombay, on the west coast; at Calcutta, in the Bay of Bengal; and at Madras, on the southeast coast, in that part of India known as the Carnatic. The French, like the British, had also important trading settlements in India, and, thanks to the genius and bravery of Dupleix, the Governor, and of Bussy, a French officer, they had succeeded in obtaining a stronger position than their English rivals.
At the time of which we speak, India was in a state of confusion and conflict. The Mogul Emperors who ruled in Delhi had exercised authority over the greater part of India; but in the year 1739 the Mogul Empire was overthrown, and the various princes and chiefs who had in the past recognised the rule of the Moguls now entered into a fierce struggle among each other for the right to rule India. They little thought that the despised power which was represented by the British merchants in a few coast towns was to win that which they hoped to obtain. Still less could they have imagined that the young clerk who had just begun his duties in an office in Madras was soon to dictate terms and treaties to the strongest of them.
One of the first events in the struggle between the various native princes was the entry of the French into the fight. A small French force joined one of the native princes as his ally. Then suddenly it became clear to all India how great was the power of a drilled European force, however small. Victory crowned the French arms again and again. Dupleix quickly took advantage of the opportunity. He believed, and he had good reason to believe, that by making use of the quarrels between the various Native States, France might become mistress of India. He had, however, not reflected that what one European power could do, another could do equally well, or better. No sooner had the French been called in on one side than the British were called in on the other. On either side the number of European soldiers was very small; but wherever the Europeans appeared they seemed irresistible.
At first the fortunes of war were against the British and their allies. Madras itself was taken by the French (1746); while an attack on Pondicherry, the principal French settlement, was defeated. But the fighting had given Clive his opportunity. He hated his office-work and longed for the work of a soldier. He offered his services as a volunteer, and they were accepted. When Madras fell he refused the French terms which would have bound him not to serve against them again, and he escaped capture. He soon found plenty of employment in his new profession. [Madras was given back to England in 1748, in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la Chapelle.]
From that day forward he became the soul of the English party in India. To brilliant bravery in the field he added all the qualities which go to make a great general. Although peace had been made between England and France in 1748, there was no peace between the two countries in India itself, for the soldiers of the two countries took part, as before, as allies of the native princes on either side.
The tide of victory, which had hitherto been in favour of the French party, now turned. In 1751 Clive, with a tiny force, captured the town of Arcot, and held it through a seven weeks' siege. The name of the defender of Arcot became famous throughout India. Again and again he turned threatened defeat into victory by his energy and his bravery. He returned to England for a short time in 1753, but was soon sent back again to fill a high office in the service of the Company.
It was at this time that there took place the terrible tragedy which is connected in our history with the name of the "Black Hole of Calcutta" (1756). Surajah Dowlah, the Nawab (or native ruler) of Bengal, had attacked the British settlement of Calcutta, and the force was too small to defend it. The British retired in haste to their ships, but 145 persons were left behind. They were taken prisoners, and confined in a little room in which they could barely stand.
The next day they were to be brought before Surajah Dowlah. It was the height of the Indian summer, and the prisoners knew that they could not live through the night in that confined space. They begged to be brought before the Nawab. They were told that the Nawab was asleep and no man dare wake him. The night passed and morning came, and only twenty-three of the unhappy prisoners were alive. But it was not long before Calcutta became once more British. Early in the next year it was retaken by Clive and Admiral Watson, and has ever since been the chief of the British possessions in India.
The Battle of Plassey, and the Conquest of Bengal. (ch 66)
"From Clive's third visit to India dates the purity of the administration of our Eastern Empire. . . He first made dauntless and unsparing war on that gigantic system of oppression, extortion, and corruption. In that war he manfully, put to hazard his ease, his fame, and his splendid fortune." -- Macaulay: "Lord Clive."
On the 23rd of January, 1757, was fought the battle of Plassey, near Calcutta, in which Clive, at the head of a little army of 950 Europeans and 2,300 natives and half-castes, boldly confronted an army of 68,000 men, with fifty-three guns, under Surajah Dowlah, assisted by a small body of forty Frenchmen. Never was a battle more easily won, and seldom have greater consequences followed a single battle. But the victory cannot be put down altogether to the valour of the victorious army, for there can be no doubt that a large number of Surajah Dowlah's troops turned traitors on the field of battle. The British lost twenty-three killed, of whom seven were Europeans, and forty-nine wounded, of whom thirteen were Europeans. The enemy's loss was about 1,000 men, but their army was broken up and dispersed, and the victory made Clive and the English masters of Bengal.
From this day the name of Clive became famous throughout India, and also throughout the United Kingdom. On his return to London he became Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury. He was made an Irish peer, with the title of Lord Clive, in 1761. He returned more than once to India, and on each occasion gave fresh proof of his skill and bravery as a soldier and of his wisdom and statesmanship as a governor. Under his rule the British, who had nearly been driven out of Bengal, became masters of the three great provinces of Bengal, Beliar, and Orissa, which lie to the north of Calcutta, and the influence of the British was extended through the Native States, and especially through the great district of Oude. The influence of the French, which only a few years before had been so great, was for a time all but destroyed.
Two other great achievements must be remembered when we speak of Lord Clive. It was he who first tried to carry out the rule, which is now strictly observed in India, that those who take part in the government of the country shall never accept payments from those whom they govern, or engage in trade for their own benefit. This is a most important rule, for nothing can be worse for those whose duty it is to govern wisely and well than to take payments from those whom they govern. Such payments soon become bribes paid by wealthy men who wish to obtain favours. In the same way, there is always a great danger in allowing the servants of a government to engage in trade on their own account; for there is a great temptation held out to them to govern, not in the interests of the country, but in their own interests and with the object of making money.
Clive did not altogether succeed in compelling the servants of the East India Company to observe the new rules, but great credit is due to him for being the first who really tried to carry them out.
In the year 1766 he won still another victory, which was perhaps greater and more difficult to win than the Battle of Plassey. In that year the British officers belonging to the Native regiments in the Company's service, being discontented with their pay, mutinied, and threatened to disobey the orders of the Company. It was a moment of terrible danger, and Clive knew that if he were once to give way, all would be lost. He knew that discipline and obedience to orders are the first duties of a soldier. He refused to listen to the threats of the officers. With a few who were faithful, he went to the different regiments and pointed out the wickedness and folly of the mutiny, and threatened instant punishment to those who did not return to their duty at once. His firmness succeeded; nearly all the officers returned to their duty; a few only were punished. From that day to this the British officers in India have ever been among the most faithful and courageous servants of their sovereign and their country.
In 1767 Clive left India for the last time. The end of his life was not a happy one, for he was bitterly attacked by those who had been offended by what he had done in India. So bitter were the attacks that at last the unhappy victim, tormented beyond all endurance, lost his reason, and ended his great career by taking his own life (1774). It is to him, more than to any other man, that we owe our great Indian Empire; and it is by reading the history of his life that we learn how the "red line of British Dominion" in India extended so far and so fast in the reign of George II., and how the French power faded away and was destroyed.
Wolfe. (ch 66)
"Under these was Wolfe, a young officer who had contracted reputation from his intelligence of discipline, and from the perfection to which he had brought his own regiment. The world could not expect more from him than he thought himself capable of performing. He looked on danger as the favourable moment that would call forth his talents." -- Horace Walpole, Lord Orford: "Memoirs of the Last Ten Years."
We have just seen how, owing to the genius of Clive, England and not France gained the upper hand in India. We have now to learn how it was that in the far West, as well as in the far East, the power and the right to govern fell into the hands of English-speaking people.
In the West, as in the East, it seemed for a time as if the power of France were destined to prevail over that of England; and in the year 1758 the condition of the British Colonies in America was one of great danger. In that year, however, Pitt determined that he would make a great effort to regain the ground that had been lost. A large fleet and army under Lord Boscawen were sent across the Atlantic, while the colonists themselves were formed into regiments under the command of officers appointed by the King. Among these officers was George Washington, who in the command of his Virginian troops was able to give an early proof of his powers as a leader and a soldier.
For some time the campaign continued without great advantage to either side. Louisburg was captured by the British, who were in their turn defeated near Ticonderoga. Fort Duquesne was gallantly captured by Washington, who had been despatched from General Forbes's force for the purpose of taking it. The Virginian officer planted the "Union Jack" upon the captured fort, and gave to the place the name of Pittsburg, in honour of the great British Minister in whose service he was fighting. From the year 1758 the fortunes of the struggle against France in America began to improve.
We have already seen that in her battles near home, England during the early years of Pitt's time in office had not been very fortunate; but, despite bad fortune, Pitt had always believed in the power of Britain if only that power could be rightly used.
As a great Minister at home, he himself could do much, but he could not do everything. He required men of courage and ability to carry out the plans which he made. He had found such a man in Clive, and Clive had worked wonders in India. He now sought for another leader who could do in the West what Clive had done in the East. He was fortunate enough to find one. In the same year in which the battle of Plassey was won, a British expedition attacked the French seaport of Rochefort. The expedition was a failure; but one man, by his courage, attracted the attention of Pitt. This was Colonel Wolfe, an officer serving under General Mordaunt.
A year later, Pitt chose Wolfe for a command in America. The English colonists were hard pressed in that country. Montcalm, who commanded the French army, was a brave and skilful soldier, and he had the great advantage of being in possession of the strong fortress of Quebec, on the River St. Lawrence. The fortress of Quebec is situated on a rocky hill which overhangs the river. It was strongly defended, and seemed able to resist all attack; but few things are impossible to a brave and resolute commander whose soldiers will follow him anywhere.
Just beyond Quebec is the high ground, known as the Heights of Abraham. The steep crags seemed in themselves to form a sufficient defence, and they were ill-guarded. Under cover of the night, Wolfe moved his troops up the river till they came to the foot of the Heights. They climbed them in the dark. The French sentries fled, and when morning rose, the British army stood on the Heights. Montcalm at once gave battle, to save the city. The action was long and fierce. On the French side 1,500 men were killed. Of the British there fell 640, but the greatest loss which the British army sustained was that of its General.
Twice wounded as he was encouraging his troops, Wolfe was struck the third time by a bullet which pierced his chest, and this time the wound proved mortal. He was borne from the field, and, as he lay dying, one of his officers spoke to him. "See how they run!" said he. "Who run?" asked Wolfe. "The enemy," replied the officer; "they give way in all directions." "God he praised!" cried the General; "then I die happy!" and in the moment of victory he passed away. The French, too, had lost their leader, Montcalm, who was wounded in the battle and died the next day.
But though Wolfe was dead, the victory which his skill and courage had secured was complete. The city of Quebec surrendered; and from that day the fortunes of the British in North America steadily improved, while those of France, deprived of the services of the great Montcalm, and harassed by the perpetual attacks of the British fleets, declined.
A Wonderful Year. 1759 -- John Wesley. (ch 66)
"My Lord, I am sure I can save this country, and nobody else can." -- William Pitt to the Duke of Devonshire.
Nor were Plassey and Quebec the only victories which now came to cheer the people of Britain, who had been too long accustomed to mismanagement and defeat. The year 1759 must be forever memorable in the history of our country, for it was in that year that British arms were triumphant in every quarter of the world, and British power established in many a place in which it has remained unshaken through all the misfortunes of later years.
Early in the year came the news of the taking of Goree, [taken in 1758] on the West Coast of Africa. A little later came the news of the capture of the French island of Guadeloupe, in the West Indies. Both Goree and Guadeloupe have since been handed back to France [in 1814]; but Quebec, which fell to the British arms on the 13th of September, is to this day a British city.
In the same year (1759) came the news of British naval victories at Lagos Bay and at Quiberon Bay, where Admiral Hawke fought and destroyed the French fleet in a full gale of wind. In Germany, a British and Hanoverian force defeated the French at Minden, on the River Weser; while early in 1760, in India, Colonel Coote, afterwards General Sir Eyre Coote, gained an important victory over the French at Wandewash, between Madras and Pondicherry. Meanwhile the allies of Britain, supported by large sums of money voted by Parliament under Pitt's advice, held their own, or defeated their enemies on the Continent. Frederick the Great, in a wonderful campaign in which he fought in succession the armies of Austria and Russia, saved not only his kingdom of Prussia from destruction, but came out of the war feared and respected by all Europe. Well might Horace Walpole, the witty son of the great Minister, declare that it was necessary to ask every morning what new victory had been won for fear of missing a single triumph.
Pitt, whom all men looked upon as the man who had made these successes possible, was all-powerful; and the reign of King George ended in the midst of the glories and the successes of the country.
In October, 1760, the king died. He could do but little to serve the country, but he had done one thing for which he deserves its gratitude. He had supported his great Minister, William Pitt. We shall read in the next chapter how soon a change came over the scene, and how in a few years the country fell from the height to which Pitt had raised it, to a condition in which it seemed as if it must be ruined for ever by the misfortunes which overtook it.
Before we close the story of the reign of George II., we must pass for a moment from the accounts of war, and from the record of the exploits of great statesmen and successful generals, to say a word or two about the life and work of a very remarkable man, who laboured in the cause of peace and religion. The name of John Wesley (b. 1703, d. 1791) is even better known at the present day than it was in the days of George II.; for the "Wesleyans," who still follow the doctrines which he taught, may now be numbered by thousands, and the Wesleyan chapel is familiar in every part of England. Wesley was born at Epworth in Lincolnshire; he was educated at Charterhouse School, and at Christ Church, Oxford. He became a clergyman of the Church of England, and was soon known among his friends for his earnestness and goodners. At that time the Church of England, to which Wesley belonged, had, in his opinion, become inactive in many places, and its clergy, he thought, did not give enough attention to preaching, nor did they set a proper example to their congregations.
He joined a society of young men at Oxford known as "Methodists," and with his friend, George Whitefield, devoted himself to teaching and preaching, first in England and then in America. He returned from America in 1738, and again joined Whitefield, who, with his Methodist friends, had been preaching in the west of England. The teaching of these two earnest and able men drew together enormous congregations, and the number of the Methodists, of whom Wesley now became the leader, rapidly grew. Whitefield and Wesley soon found that they could not agree, and to the latter was left the work of drawing up the rules which have since guided the "Wesleyan Methodists," the name by which his followers came to be known.
Wesley remained all his life a clergyman of the Church of England; but, after his death, the Wesleyans separated from the Church, and have ever since remained distinct. There can be no doubt that, by the earnestness of his preaching and by the beauty of his own life, John Wesley did great good, not only to his own followers, but also to the Church of England, whose clergy learnt from him lessons which they in. turn practised. Many of them, though they did not join the Wesleyan Methodists, were taught by the example of John Wesley how great was the power of earnest preaching, and how much need there was for them to be active and earnest in doing the sacred work for which they were appointed.
When speaking of John Wesley, we must not forget to speak also of his brother, Charles Wesley (b. 1708, d. 1788), whose name will be long remembered as the writer of many hymns which are still sung in our churches and chapels, and the words of which are familiar to thousands of Englishmen throughout the world. Among the best known of these hymns are those beginning:
"Jesus, lover of my soul."
"Oh, for a heart to praise my God,
A heart from sin set free."
Chapter 67. George III. 1760-1820.
The Loss of the American Colonies. (ch 67)
Principal events during the reign of George III.:
"George, George, be King." (ch 67)
"Evil is wrought
By want of thought
As well as want of heart." -- Hood.
George III., was the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, of whose death we have read, and was the grandson of George II. He was only twenty-two years old when he became king. For nearly sixty years he occupied the throne. It cannot be said that he reigned during the whole of that time, for many years of his life were clouded by the madness which overtook him in his later years.
In the first year of his reign he was married to Charlotte, sister of the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in Germany. She proved a good wife to him throughout her life. The young king was very popular when he came to the throne. He was pleasant-looking, and, moreover, he was a thorough Englishman in his tastes. George I. and George II. had been looked upon as German, not as English, kings. Everyone now rejoiced to see an English king speaking English, and enjoying all the pleasures of an English country gentleman.
But the reign which began with such happy promise turned out to be a time of trial and trouble. And although the kings of England were now much less powerful in many ways than their predecessors had been, there can be no doubt that King George himself had a very great deal to do with many of the events that took place during his reign. He was not a wise man, and he was a very obstinate man, but he was very well meaning. His mother, the Princess Augusta, had always given him a great idea of what his position would be if he became king. "George, George, be king," she would say to him; and when he came to the throne it was to be a real king that George had made up his mind, and as although he was well-meaning he was not wise, the things that he did or tried to do with the best intentions turned out to be very unwise things and very bad for the country. Moreover, because he was very obstinate, and never forgot his mother's advice "to be king" whatever it cost, it often happened that, despite his good intentions, he did the greatest possible harm to the country which he really loved. In spite of all his faults, however, George III. won the affection of his people, and kept it during his life. The people knew him to be sincere, and they liked his homely ways and his frank manner. They readily forgave his mistakes, which they were always more ready to put down to the king's Ministers than to the king himself.
In 1761 Pitt was still Minister. The party which opposed him wished to make peace with France. Pitt was against making peace, for he knew that France had really made an alliance with Spain against England, and that the peace would not last. As he could not prevent the government from making terms with the French, he resigned his office, and George Grenville took his place in the House of Commons. The king was glad of the change, for he could not make Pitt do just what he pleased, and he liked Ministers who would obey his orders. He soon found a man to suit him. This was Lord Bute, a Scotsman, whom the king had made a Minister to please his mother, the Princess Augusta.
Bute was an incapable man, and was detested by the people. He soon showed that he was unfit to govern the country in difficult times. Although he had been put into office to make peace, he could not prevent the outbreak of war with Spain which Pitt had foreseen, and our fleets under Admiral Rodney and other commanders captured many of the Spanish possessions in the West and East Indies. In 1763, however, peace was at last made, and thus ended the terrible "Seven Years' War."
England kept the whole of Canada, and the islands of Tobago, Dominica, St. Vincent, and Granada; all these remain parts of the British Empire. Martinique and St. Lucia were given back to France. The former is still French, the latter has since become British.
The same year as the peace, Bute gave up office, hated by all, and Pitt again became a member of the government. But from that time, and until his death, Pitt never really had the full support of the king, who did not like a strong Minister who would have his own way. So much did George dislike an independent Minister that whenever he could do so, he chose men from the party which was known as "The King's Friends," * and, indeed, from any party which would help to make him free of the great Whig Ministers, such as the Duke of Devonshire, and Grenville, and of their ally Pitt. The time had now come when the danger of having weak Ministers was great; and we shall see in the next few pages what a misfortune overtook the country.
* ["The King's Friends" were those who, vithout belonging to either of the great parties, supported the king against both, in the hope of strengthening the power of the Crown. As they acted secretly and not openly in Parliament, they became unpopular with the English people.]
The American Colonies and the Stamp Act. (ch 67)
"My hold of the Colonies is in the close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges and protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. Let the Colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government; they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing, and their privileges another, that these two things may exist without any mutual relation -- the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and everything hastens to decay and dissolution." -- Burke: Speech on Conciliation with America.
In reading the story of the reign of George II. we learnt how the greater part of North America had fallen into the hands of the British, and how the French had been defeated. We have now to learn how it was that the great struggle arose which ended in British North America being divided into two parts, of which the northern, Canada, remained part of the British Empire, while the southern became a separate country under the name of "The United States of America." The story is too long to be told very fully here. It is full of interest and excitement to those who read it carefully. Many great men took part in the struggle on both sides, but the most famous of all those who took part was George Washington, whom we have already seen fighting against the French as an officer in the service of King George II.
At this time the British in America formed thirteen different Colonies, or "States," in that part of the country which lies to the south of the River St. Lawrence. On the north of the St. Lawrence was Canada, with a small population, partly British and partly French. The principal towns of the Thirteen States were New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, all of which lie upon the Atlantic Ocean. Quebec, and Montreal, on the St. Lawrence, were the principal towns of Canada. Up to this time the British Parliament had always claimed the right to make laws for the Colonies; and though the colonial Assemblies, or Parliaments, had power to make laws also, they still remained under the power of the British Parliament sitting many thousands of miles away in London.
Parliament, however, did not interfere very often; and, while the colonists looked to Great Britain for protection against the French, there was little complaint. Now, however, that the French had been beaten, the colonists began to feel themselves strong and independent. It is probable, however, that all difficulty between England and the Colonies might have been avoided, or at any rate put off for a long time, if the Ministry at home had been wise and prudent. Unluckily, bad counsels prevailed and things were done which led to quarrels with the Colonies, and finally ended in the outbreak of war.
It was in the year 1765 that the first step was taken which gave offence to the colonists. Pitt, disgusted with the opposition of the king, had given up office. In that year George Grenville, the Prime Minister, brought in and passed through Parliament an Act known as the "Stamp Act." By this Act the American colonists were compelled to write all their agreements and legal papers upon stamped paper sent out from England, for which they had to pay. The object of the Act was to get money for the public service from the American Colonies.
It was a good object, for it was quite right that the colonists should pay their share towards defending the Empire. But often a right thing may be done in a wrong way, and this was such a case. The tax -- for such it was -- was placed upon the colonists without their consent, and thus one of the chief liberties of British subjects was interfered with. So far back as the time of Magna Charta, it had been declared that no taxes should be raised without the consent of the Common Council of the Realm, or Parliament. Parliament, it was true, had given its consent to the Stamp Act, but the American colonists had no members in Parliament, and thus they were really taxed without their consent. There was great indignation in America, and many people determined not to carry on any trade with England until the Act had been repealed.
This time, however, the danger was got over owing to the wisdom of Pitt, and of Edmund Burke, the famous political writer, who now first began to take part in the debates in Parliament. Both Pitt and Burke condemned the Stamp Act, and Pitt declared that the colonists were right in resisting it.
The Act was repealed (1766), and in the same year Pitt himself became Prime Minister, and was summoned to the House of Lords as Earl of Chatham. Unluckily, however, the power of Pitt was not so great as it had hitherto been. In the first place, many who had always looked to him as a man of independence distrusted him now that he had left the House of Commons and become Prime Minister; in the second place, illness kept Pitt a great deal away from Parliament, and in the meanwhile his enemies grew stronger.
Washington, and the Declaration of Independence. (ch 67)
"First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow-citizens." -- From "Resolutions on the Death of General Washington."
Matters did not mend in America. During Lord Chatham's illness Parliament had passed an Act taxing tea, glass, and paper imported into the American Colonies. The colonists objected to the new duties as strongly as they had objected to the Stamp Act. Unluckily, a party grew up round the king who were determined to force the colonists to submit at any cost. The leader of this party was Lord North. When the news of the new duties reached America the greatest indignation was aroused; and when, in 1770, Lord North became Prime Minister, the feeling of the colonists could no longer be restrained. There were riots in Boston, and the troops were forced to fire upon the mob. The Southern State of Virginia, from which George Washington came, now joined the Northern States against the British government.
This was indeed a dark time for England. On all sides the clouds seemed to be gathering round her. News came from Boston (1773) that some of the citizens, disguised as Red Indians, had boarded the tea-laden ships and thrown the tea into the water. A Congress was called at Philadelphia, which began to raise militia and to pass laws directed against the British government. In vain did Lord Chatham try to avert the danger, and to persuade the king and Parliament to avoid a struggle by making wise concessions in time. Neither the king nor Lord North would listen to him.
In 1775 came the first outbreak of war; and in a fight between British troops and some of the Colonial militia at Lexington, in the State of Massachusetts, the British were defeated. But while the Thirteen States were driven into rebellion by the unwise action of the British government, the loyalty of the Canadians was secured by wise concessions, and the support of the gallant people of Canada was retained for the Old Country through all the troubled times which followed.
The rebellious colonists soon formed an army, which was placed under the command of Washington. In a battle at Bunker's Hill, near Boston, the British troops were victorious, though only after a great loss of life. It was here that, after the line regiments had been forced to give way under the heavy fire, the word was passed: "Make way for the Marines!" and the Royal Marines, passing through the scattered ranks of the soldiers, carried the day.
From this time forward, fighting went on in every part of the country. The colonists invaded Canada, but were defeated and driven back. Meanwhile both armies were largely reinforced. It was on the 4th of July, 1776, that Congress, as the Colonial Parliament was called, passed the famous Declaration of Independence, in which they declared that the Colonies were henceforward to be an independent nation, to be known for ever as The United States of America.
For some time the fighting continued with varying success, but, on the whole, with some advantage to the British, despite the fact that they were as a rule greatly outnumbered. It was not till later (1777) that the first great calamity befell our arms. On the 17th of October in that year General Burgoyne was compelled to surrender to a vastly superior force the whole of his army, numbering 3,500 men, at Saratoga, a town in the State of New York.
At home opinion was now much divided as to whether the war should be continued or on what terms peace should be made. Chatham was still in favour of conciliation, and urged Parliament to give to the Americans everything they claimed except their independence. But the king was obstinate; and though at last Lord North agreed to bring in a so-called Conciliation Bill, events had taken place in the meanwhile which put an end to all hopes of an agreement.
The Surrender of Yorktown, and the End of the War. (ch 67)
"They have fallen
Each in his field of glory: one in arms
And one in counsel -- Wolfe upon the lap
Of smiling Victory that moment won,
And Chatham, heart sick of his country's shame."
-- Cowper: "The Task."
It seemed indeed as if every calamity which could overtake a nation had befallen our land at the same time. In May, 1778, Lord Chatham died. His last speech in the House of Lords was in favour of peace and conciliation. His strength failed him as he was speaking, and he had to be carried from the Chamber.
This was but the beginning of calamities. France, which had long been looking out for an opportunity of revenging herself upon England, now forced on war, and French troops and French ships were sent to join the army of General Washington. In Ireland discontent and disaffection led to threats of rebellion, and French aid was promised to Irish rebels. In England disturbances broke out in the heart of London, and the famous and terrible riots known as the "Lord George Gordon Riots" took place (1780). A mob headed by young Lord George Gordon marched through the streets, burning and plundering. The leaders declared that their object was to protect the Protestant religion, and to put down Roman Catholic plots. But the movement soon became a mere riot, and peace was only restored after the soldiers had fired on the people in the streets and scores of houses had been burned to the ground or plundered.
To our long list of enemies Spain was now added, and in the same year, Holland also declared war against us. There was little hope now of the colonists listening to any terms of peace. It seemed as if Britain could never hold her own against so many enemies. Our fleet, too, was not large enough to protect the country and to keep the command of the sea. The bravery and skill of Lord Rodney, indeed, secured victory over the French in more than one quarter of the world; but on the coast of America the want of ships was terribly felt. Gradually the fortunes of war turned against the British troops. The French fleets transported and protected the American troops, while French regular soldiers were landed and fought side by side with the troops under Washington. On the 19th of October, 1781, the misfortune of Saratoga was repeated, and General Cornwallis, with an army of 4,000 men, surrounded and cut off from support, was forced to surrender to a mixed body of 18,000 French and American troops at Yorktown, in Virginia.
The war was now practically at an end, and it was clear that the British Government could no longer refuse to recognise the Independence of the United States. George Washington, who was justly looked upon by the Americans as the hero of the war, was made first President of the United States, and proved himself to be as wise and prudent in peace as he had shown himself to be skilful and courageous in war.
Thus ended the great struggle between Great Britain and the American Colonies which resulted in the creation of the great Republic of the United States. Whether, if wiser counsels had been listened to at home -- whether, if the opinion of Chatham and Burke had been listened to rather than that of George III. and Lord North, the separation might never have taken place, it is impossible now to say; but that the war which led to the separation was a terrible misfortune no one can doubt, for it created ill-feeling between those who not only ought to have been good friends, but who would have been good friends if mistakes on both sides had not stirred up strife.
"The Darkest Hour Comes Before the Dawn." -- "United Empire Loyalists." (ch 67)
"Greater no man's trust
Than his who keeps the fortress for the king." -- George Eliot: "The Spanish Gypsy."
Face to face with enemies on every side -- at war with France, Spain, Holland, Sweden, and The United States -- the darkest hour of England's history seemed to have come. But the darkest hour is often that which comes before the dawn, and, while Englishmen were still grieving over the loss of the Colonies, and fearing still further misfortunes, cheering news reached them from more than one quarter of the world. In 1782, the year following Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, Admiral Rodney engaged a French fleet of equal numbers near the island of Martinique, and totally defeated it, taking or destroying no less than eight ships.
The news of yet another triumph came to cheer the nation in the same year. For three long years the great fortress of Gibraltar had been besieged by the French and Spaniards. For three years the garrison, under its brave commander, General Elliot, had been exposed to perpetual attacks by land and sea. Tens of thousands of shot and shell had been fired into the place; and famine had tried the garrison even more than the attacks of the enemy.
In September, 1782, a last great attack was made by the enemy with huge floating batteries, and over 400 guns. Like all previous attacks, it was defeated. The great batteries were set on fire by red-hot shot fired from the British guns -- they burnt to the water's edge and sank. The victory was complete; the siege was raised; and Gibraltar was safe.
The French now began to understand that, though England had been hard pressed, she was far from dead yet; and France was at last forced to consent to terms of peace which but a year or two before she had scorned and refused. Peace was made in January, 1783; the independence of the United States was recognised. The French got little. Senegal and Goree, on the west coast of Africa, were given to them, and they were allowed to keep the two little islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, close to Newfoundland, but were forbidden to make fortifications or to keep soldiers there. [These islands still belong to France; and their occupation by the French is a source of great annoyance and inconvenience to the people of Newfoundland.]
In America a number of the loyalists who had stood by England throughout the war refused to remain in their homes under the new government, or to exchange the "Union Jack" for the "Stars and Stripes." They crossed the frontier into Canada, and there settled. Their loyalty and devotion recall the beautiful words in which is told the story of Ruth--
"And Ruth said, 'Intreat me not to leave thee,
Or to return from following after thee;
For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest,
I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.'" [Ruth 1. 16.]
They were known as "The United Empire Loyalists," and their memory should always be held in honour and esteem by every true Briton. Their descendants in the Dominion are to this day justly proud of their descent from the "United Empire Loyalists" of 1776.
Chapter 68. The Act of Union With Ireland.
Pitt and Fox.
"At this moment, there appeared before the country a young University student, rich with lofty eloquence, and heir to an immortal name; untainted in character, spotless in life; who showed the very first day that he met Parliament as Minister a supreme disdain for the material prizes of political life." -- Lord Rosebery: "Life of Pitt."
It was natural that the failure of Lord North's policy should put an end to his government. He was succeeded in 1782 by Lord Rockingham, a Whig; and in the same year Rockingham's place was taken by Lord Shelburne. The new Ministry lasted but a short time, but it must be remembered because it contained a very famous person. This was William Pitt, the son of the great Lord Chatham, who now, at the age of only twenty-three, became a Cabinet Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
This young man was destined to become as famous, though less fortunate, than his father.
Frequent changes of Ministries took place, but two men soon took the lead before all others in the House of Commons. One was Charles James Fox, the great leader of the Whig Party; the other was William Pitt, who speedily became recognised as the chief of the Tory Party and the only man able to oppose Fox.
In 1783 Fox became the leader of the government, under the Duke of Portland, and so great was his power in the House of Commons that it seemed as if nothing could shake it. The king was no lover of Fox; but the Whigs, though they had not the support of the king, had the support of his son, the Prince of Wales. Pitt took the side of the king; and it soon became clear that the real feeling of the country was on the side of the king and Pitt, rather than on that of Fox and the Whigs. But while Fox had so many supporters in the House of Commons, he remained all-powerful.
It was not long, however, before he fell. He brought in a Bill called the "India Bill," which was passed by the House of Commons. The king refused to accept the Bill, and persuaded the House of Lords to throw it out. He dismissed Fox, and made Pitt Prime Minister.
Then, indeed, there arose a strange state of things. A Prime Minister of twenty-four found himself in the House of Commons with a majority of almost two to one against him. Every measure Pitt proposed was defeated, and Fox used all his eloquence to make him and his Government ridiculous. But Pitt would not give way; he knew that the country was with him. Parliament was dissolved (1784), and 160 of Fox's supporters were turned out at the election. Pitt came back to office as Prime Minister with a large majority, and for seventeen years retained that high office.
Great Britain and Ireland. (ch 68)
"I sat by its cradle, I followed its hearse." -- Henry Grattan: Speech on Grattan's Parliament.
We now come to two very important events, one of which chiefly concerned our country alone, while the other affected the whole of Europe, and, indeed, the whole of the world. The first event was the Parliamentary union between Great Britain and Ireland. The second was the great Revolution in France, which began in the year 1789. In guiding the country through all the dangers and difficulties which surrounded it in these stormy times, William Pitt took the foremost place.
In order to understand what happened in Ireland we must go back a little in our history, and recall what had taken place in that part of the Three Kingdoms. It must be remembered that, although after the Reformation the whole of England had become Protestant, by far the larger part of the people of Ireland had remained members of the Roman Catholic Church. There were, it is true, a considerable number of Protestants in Ireland, chiefly in the north, but the Roman Catholics formed the great majority.
Partly owing to their different form of religion, partly owing to English misgovernment, and partly to other causes, many of the Irish had always been ready to take part in any attack upon the English power in Ireland. Ever since the days of Elizabeth, and indeed from a much earlier date, the country had been disturbed by almost endless civil wars, which had caused terrible suffering and had been conducted with great cruelty on both sides.
On several occasions foreign troops had landed in Ireland, and had found support in that country against England. More than once English armies had been despatched to Ireland, and after fierce fighting had put down rebellion. We have seen how in Cromwell's time such an event took place, and how once more, in the reign of William III., the Irish, with their French allies, had fought for James II. and the Roman Catholic cause against William III.
After the battle of the Boyne and the flight of James, the Protestant cause had been triumphant, and the Roman Catholics who had so lately been in arms against the King were treated with great severity, and were kept down by special laws.
It was impossible that all this trouble should pass over the land and not leave behind it bitter memories and divisions which were hard to heal. Much of the land of Ireland had been seized from time to time by either party in the hour of its triumph. The Protestants had been the last to win a victory, and had used it to turn out from their land those whom they considered rebels and enemies. Here was another cause of bitterness and strife.
Lastly, there was a political reason for Irish troubles which must not be forgotten. In the story of the reign of Henry VII. (ch. 50) we read an account of an Act of Parliament passed in the year 1494, and called "Poynings' Act" after Sir Edward Poynings, who was Governor of Ireland at the time. By this Act it was declared that whatever laws the Irish Parliament passed might be "disallowed" by the sovereign; and that if the sovereign refused consent, or disallowed a law, it ceased to have any effect, and no one was bound to obey it.
Now, as the king or queen was always advised by English Ministers, this really meant that, though Ireland had in name a "free" Parliament, the Irish Parliament could really make no laws except by the consent of the English Ministers.
For a long time there had been a party in Ireland who were very anxious to do away with Poynings' Act, and to free the Irish Parliament from the control of British Ministers; and in the year 1782, just after the close of the American war, when Fox was the most important member of the Government, the demand of this party had been granted and Poynings' Act repealed.
Grattan's Parliament and the Act of Union. (ch 68)
"The word 'Union ' will not cure the evils of this wretched country; it is a necessary preliminary, but a great deal more remains to be done." -- Lord Fitzwilliam to Pitt.
The leader of the party who sought for the repeal of Poynings' Act was Henry Grattan, a very famous and eloquent Irishman, who, however, was not content to urge his claim by eloquence only. He and his friends took the opportunity, when Great Britain was engaged in war all over the world, to enrol thousands of armed Irishmen, who were called "Volunteers." Whether because he thought it a wise thing to do, or because he feared the power of the Volunteers, or for both reasons together, Fox, as we have seen, agreed to give what Grattan asked for. Thus it was that in 1782 there sat for the first time in Dublin an independent Irish Parliament, of which Grattan was the most famous and most eloquent member. From him it has been called "Grattan's Parliament."
One strange thing must be remembered about this Parliament, and that is, that all the members of it were Protestants, and that no Roman Catholics were allowed to sit in it. Unfortunately, although Grattan had got what he desired, the new Parliament was not successful in giving to Ireland what she most required -- namely, peace and prosperity. On the contrary, disturbances soon broke out in every part of the island. The country, instead of becoming richer, became poorer; traitorous plots were made by Wolfe Tone and others, the object of which was to bring over the French and to betray to them the various strong places in the country.
The Roman Catholics united together to compel the Government to repeal the laws which prevented them from serving as Grand Jurors, or Magistrates, from bearing arms, and from voting for Members of Parliament; and in 1793 an Act of Parliament called the "Catholic Relief Act" was passed, which gave them what they asked for. But this was far from putting an end to the trouble. In 1795 an open rebellion broke out; and though at first both Roman Catholics and Protestants were joined together in the rebel ranks, the old sad quarrel between Protestants and Roman Catholics soon broke out again and divided Ireland into two camps.
The rebels called in the French to their aid, and General Hoche with an army actually sailed and reached Bantry Bay, in the county of Cork. There, happily, his ships were dispersed by a storm, and General Lake, who was sent with troops from England, succeeded in checking the rebellion. But it only broke out again more fiercely in the south, and once more English troops had to be called in under Lord Cornwallis to restore peace. It was plain that, at a time when Great Britain was at war with half the world, so dangerous a state of things could not be allowed to go on; and the danger became very pressing when the news arrived in August, 1798, that another French general, General Humbert, had actually landed with 800 men in the county of Mayo. Luckily, this small force was soon captured, but the peril was very great; and at last Pitt made up his mind that the time had come when the only safety for the State was to be found in treating Ireland as Scotland had been treated in 1707, and allowing her to send members to the Imperial Parliament in London, instead of keeping up a separate and independent Parliament in Dublin.
Accordingly, in the year 1799, Pitt felt that the time had come for putting an end to Grattan's Parliament. A Bill was brought into the Irish House of Commons for the purpose of creating a Parliamentary Union between Great Britain and Ireland, and a similar Bill was brought in and passed without difficulty in the British Parliament.
In Ireland, although the Bill was fiercely resisted by some, there was great difference of opinion as to whether the change ought to be made or not, and many petitions both for and against the Bill were sent up from all parts of the country. One strange difficulty had to be got over. At that time a seat in Parliament, both in England and in Ireland, was often looked upon as the property of some nobleman or rich person, who was said to "own the seat."
So common had the practice of buying and selling seats become that the rights of the owners had come to be admitted by all. Pitt, therefore, found it necessary, in order to get rid of the Parliament in Dublin, to pay very large sums of money to many of the members who called themselves owners of their seats. No less than a million and a quarter pounds were spent in this way. At last, however, the Bill was passed by a majority of forty-six, on February 18th, 1800. On August 2nd the Act, having passed the British Parliament, received the royal assent. It is known as the "Act of Union," and it provided that from that time forward the Protestant Parliament in Dublin should come to an end, and that Ireland, like Scotland, should send members straight to the Imperial Parliament at Westminster.
Chapter 69. The French Revolution.
The Beginning of the Revolution.
"In general, may we not say that the French Revolution lies in the heart and head of every violent-speaking, of every violent-thinking French Man?" -- Carlyle.
In giving an account of the Act of Union we have gone a little too far in advance in our story; for, long before the year 1800, great events had taken place both in England and abroad of which no mention has yet been made. For many years the government of France had been going from bad to worse. Exhausted by perpetual wars, the French people were prevented by cruel and unwise laws from making a proper use of the great natural riches of their country. The government was in the hands of the king and of a few nobles, who knew little, and cared less, about the sufferings of the poor.
Meanwhile there had arisen in France a number of very clever writers and speakers who saw the badness of the government, and the mischief which it did. These men set to work to preach to the people of France a new doctrine. They told them that, so far from it being right that kings and nobles should rule the people, the people ought to be free to rule themselves. They said it was a shame that a few should get rich while so many starved; that all men were really equal; and that everyone who set himself up above the people should be cast down from his high place. They pointed out that the foolish laws which had been made prevented the people from ever becoming prosperous or happy.
Many of the things which they said were true and wise; many were true but not wisely said; and some were neither true nor wise. But the burning words that were spoken and written, whether they were true or untrue, wise or unwise, were heard and read very eagerly by the starving and oppressed people of France, who were glad to be told that all their misfortunes came from their king and their government. And when men were in this mood, it was natural enough that they should think the time had come to get rid of the king and the government which they believed did them so much harm.
In the year 1789 began the great French Revolution, or rebellion of the French people against the government and the laws of France. The movement spread like wildfire through the country, and was especially strong in Paris and in one or two of the great towns. Everywhere men cried out for "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity." All men, they said, should be free and equal, and as brothers to one another.
The great prison of the Bastille in Paris was attacked and destroyed; and messengers were sent out to every country in Europe to teach foreign nations the new and wonderful doctrine of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity." Unluckily, however, these great changes were not to be made peaceably. The hatred of those who so long had felt themselves oppressed soon broke out against the nobles and the rich "Aristocrats," as they were called. Terrible scenes of bloodshed took place in Paris. Thousands of the "Aristocrats" were forced to emigrate from their country, and to take refuge in other lands. The king, Louis XVI. himself was made a prisoner in his own palace; and, though he tried to escape, he and his queen, Marie Antoinette, were caught and brought back to Paris.
The Death of Louis XVI. (ch 69)
"Unhappy country! How is the fair gold-and-green of the ripe bright Year defaced with horrid blackness; black ashes of Chateaus, black bodies of gibbeted Men! Industry has ceased in it; not sounds of the hammer and the saw, but of the tocsin and alarm-drum. The sceptre has departed, whither one knows not." -- Carlyle.
It was not long before what had taken place in France had its effect in England. Many of the rights which the French claimed had long ago been granted in England, and the "free" government of the country by Parliament had prevented the English people from becoming divided amongst themselves as the people had become in France. But, though in many ways England was better off than France, there were still great poverty and much suffering among the very poor, and there were many laws which were harsh and oppressive. And so, when it was known in England that the French people had risen in revolt with a cry of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" upon their lips, there were thousands who rejoiced at what had been done, and there were many who were even ready to follow the example of the French, and to attack the laws and the government of their country.
It was not long, however, before the English people began to see that, though there might be a great deal of excuse for what the French revolutionists were doing, yet that what they did was most dangerous, and threatened before long to set not only France but all Europe in a blaze. For, not content with crying out for "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," the leaders of the Revolution in Paris had begun to persecute all those who did not agree with them. The guillotine -- an instrument used for beheading criminals in France -- was set up in Paris, and scores of "Aristocrats" and others who were supposed to be enemies of the Revolution were seized and executed without trial. Massacres took place, and panic spread throughout the city. Louis XVI. had married Marie Antoinette, sister of the Emperor of Austria, and an Austrian army now marched into France to rescue the king and queen from the danger which threatened them.
Then was seen a wonderful sight. The leaders of the Revolution called upon all Frenchmen to come forward and fight against the Austrians. To the surprise of all Europe, the ill-clad, badly trained soldiers who marched into battle to the cry of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," or singing the "Marseillaise" -- the great song of the Revolution -- proved more than a match for the veterans of Austria, and the invaders were defeated again and again.
Meanwhile the anger of the leaders against the king grew fiercer and fiercer. On the lyth of January, 1793, the National Convention, or Parliament of the Revolution, voted for the king's death; and on the 21st of January Louis XVI. was beheaded in the midst of a howling crowd in one of the public squares of Paris. On the 16th of October his beautiful queen followed him to the scaffold.
All Europe was shocked at these deeds; but the leaders of the Revolution, so far from being abashed, now decided to carry the war into the enemy's country. They declared that all nations which did not agree with the doctrines of the Revolution were enemies; that their governments must be destroyed; and that freedom after the French pattern must be given to their peoples. Armies were formed, and marched into Belgium and into the German Provinces across the Rhine.
Great Britain and the Revolution. -- The British Navy. (ch 69)
"Thus much is certaine: That hee that Commands the Sea, is at great liberty, and may take as much, and as little of the Warre, as he will, Whereas those, that be strongest by land, are many times neverthelesse in great Straits. Surely, at this Day, with us of Europe, the Vantage of Strength at Sea (which is one of the Principall Dowries of this Kingdome of Great Brittaine) is Great; Both because, Most of the Kingdomes of Europe, are not meerely Inland, but girt with the Sea, most part of their Compasse; And because, the Wealth of both Indies, seemes in great Part, but an Accessary, to the Command of the Seas." -- Bacon's Essay "On the Greatnesse of Kingdomes and Estates."
It was not wonderful that in Great Britain there soon came a change of feeling towards the Revolution; and many of those who had at first wished well to the leaders of the new party in France now began to look upon them with disgust and fear -- disgust at their cruel and lawless doings, and fear of their threats of war and of their attempts to raise disturbances in other countries.
Pitt was one of the first to see that, though the French had begun by declaring that what they sought was to make all men equal and free, and to unite them in brotherly love, what they were actually doing could only lead to strife and bloodshed.
In England some of the most extreme friends of the Revolution tried to stir up the people to revolt. They said -- what was true -- that there was much misery in the land, and that many of the laws wanted altering; and they urged the English people to follow in the footsteps of the French in order to bring about the change. But Pitt, though he had always shown himself ready to make wise reforms and changes in the law, would never consent to allow lawlessness or violence. Severe laws were passed to put down the violent party whose best friends were in France. Many of these laws seem harsh and unwise to us now; but they were supported at the time by the great majority of the people of the United Kingdom, who saw the horrors which had taken place in France, and who felt that anything was better than a repetition of such horrors in their own country.
It was impossible that France should long carry on war in Europe without coming into conflict with British interests. Indeed, there can be little doubt that from the first it was the intention of the French to force a war upon Britain, It was not, however, till the year 1793 -- the year in which King Louis was beheaded -- that war was actually declared between England and France. From that day forward, for twenty-two years, the long struggle between England and France continued with but one short break. Not only England and France, indeed, but all the countries of Europe and for a time also the United States of America became engaged in the war.
It was a time of terrible danger and trial for this country. While other nations were defeated, and their territory overrun by the victorious armies of France, Britain alone held her own unharmed. Deserted by all her allies, she kept up what seemed at first a most unequal conflict unaided; and at last, when the tide of battle turned, and Britain and the Continental nations succeeded in driving back the French armies to their own country, it was Great Britain who was looked upon by all as the first and the greatest among the allies.
To two causes, above all others, was the success of our country due. In the first place, as compared with other European countries, we had a really free and popular government; and the whole power of the nation supported Parliament and the king's Ministers even in the stormiest times.
In the second place, we entered on the war with a powerful and well-trained Navy. Every year saw an increase in the strength of that Navy, and in the perfection of its training. For ten years running, nineteen million pounds a year was spent on the Navy alone; and the sacrifices of the country were not without their reward. Our fleets, under their great commanders, St. Vincent, Nelson, Collingwood, and many another gallant seaman, swept the seas. While France was master of half Europe, her dominion never extended beyond low-water mark. Britain was mistress of the sea; her shores were safe from attack; and the growth of her commerce upon the waters brought riches to her people, while to other nations the war brought nothing but misery and ruin.
Chapter 70. The Great War with France.
Part I. Napoleon Buonaparte.
"Some, what is more to the purpose, bethink them of the Citizen Buonaparte, unemployed Artillery-Officer, who took Toulon." -- Carlyle.
It is impossible to tell here the whole story of the long war which now desolated Europe. Britain took the side of Austria, and Pitt sent large sums of money to the Austrian Government. Unluckily, the Austrian armies, though they have always shown the most heroic bravery, have seldom been fortunate in war, and our allies suffered defeat in more than one battle.
For a time, however, the fortunes of war appeared to be equally divided, and there seemed reason to hope that France, exhausted by the war and weakened by troubles at home, would be compelled to make peace. But all these hopes were destined to be disappointed. In the year 1795 the friends of the Revolution were still masters of France, and, though the most violent and cruel of the leaders had lost their lives in the struggle, the heads of the government of the French Republic still preached the old doctrine of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity." They were far from guessing how soon they would throw all their fine ideas to the winds, and how soon they would give up their cry of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" for that of "Long live the Emperor!"
It was in the year 1795 that a quarrel broke out between the two parties which were fighting for power in Paris. Among the chief men on one side was Barras. Barras made up his mind that, in order to protect himself and his friends, the soldiers must be called in, and that if necessary they must be compelled to fire upon anyone who opposed them. He looked about for a man on whom he could rely to lead the soldiers. He found him. The man he found was a young Colonel of Artillery, only twenty-six years old. He was a Corsican who had already distinguished himself in fighting against the English at Toulon. His name was Napoleon Buonaparte.
Buonaparte did all that he was ordered, and more than all. The troops under his command fired without hesitation upon the people. The party of Barras were masters of Paris. But Barras and his friends had found their master also. The young soldier soon became the most famous and most popular man in Paris. He was made a general, and in the year 1796 was ordered to take command of the French army sent to fight the Austrians in Italy.
From that day forward the name of Napoleon Buonaparte became familiar in every country in Europe. This is not the place to write the story of this wonderful man; but that he was one of the most wonderful men that ever lived is beyond dispute. We may admire him, as many people did; we may hate him, as many people also did; but no one can read the history of his life without feeling that he was one of the most extraordinary men of whom history has given us an account, and that whatever he did, good or bad, showed him to be a man of wonderful power and gifted with a wonderful mind.
Now we must leave France and come back to England, and see how she fared. At first she fared but ill; and, had it not been for the success of her fleets, we should have nothing but disaster to record. Fortunately, even at this early date the British fleets showed their superiority. Lord Howe entirely defeated a French fleet off Ushant on the 1st of June, 1794, and the battle has become ever memorable in our naval history as "The Glorious First of June." In the following year our failures in Europe were made up for by some very important successes elsewhere. The Dutch had been compelled to take sides with the French, and to declare war against England. They soon suffered for doing so, for British expeditions promptly took possession of the island of Ceylon, the Cape of Good Hope, and Demerara, or British Guiana, in South America, all of which are at the present time parts of the British Empire.
Meanwhile Buonaparte had led the French armies to victory in Italy; and had not only beaten the Austrians but had compelled the Spaniards, as well as the Dutch, to take the side of France. He was determined that, if the French fleet were not strong enough alone, he would add to it other fleets which would enable him to crush Great Britain. Preparations were actually made in the Dutch ports for an invasion of England; but another great victory at sea once more saved the country. Sir John Jervis fell in with the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, on the south-west corner of Spain, and totally defeated it (1797).
It was in this battle that Captain Horatio Nelson displayed a skill and courage which made his name famous through the United Kingdom. In his ship the Captain he succeeded in cutting off the retreat of the Spaniards; two of their ships, the San Nicholas and San Josef, though they had received a hard pounding from Nelson's friend, Captain Trowbridge, of the Excellent, would have escaped had not Nelson boldly laid his ship alongside the nearest Spanish vessel, and taken possession of her at the head of a party of boarders. From the first ship he and his men clambered over to the second, which in turn surrendered to him. The story is told of how Nelson, standing on the deck of one of the captured ships, received the swords of the Spanish officers, and as he received them handed them on to his old coxswain, William Fearney; Fearney, in the most matter-of-fact way, tucked the swords under his arm, until he had quite a bundle of them. A well-known picture commemorates the incident.
The Mutiny of the Fleet. (ch 70)
"At this juncture, our one efficient arm, to which atone the nation could look for solace and even protection, was paralysed by insubordination; the flag of lawlessness had been hoisted, and the guns of the Navy were pointed at British shores." -- Lord Rosebery: "Life of Pitt."
The year 1797 is a very dark one in our history, for it seemed as if the one great safeguard of the nation -- our fleet -- were about to fail us in the hour of danger. The treatment of the seamen had long been very bad; their pay often did not reach the men, though the money had been voted by Parliament. Many small acts of injustice were justly complained of by the sailors, and among their officers there were some who had made themselves hated by their severity. In this year (1797) the discontent in the fleet came to a head. The crews of the ships at Spithead mutinied, and refused to obey their officers. At the same time the seamen, true to their habits of discipline and obedience, kept order on their own ships, and stated their grievances respectfully. By the wise action of Lord Howe, and by fair concessions, the mutiny was put an end to, and the men were induced to return to their duties.
But a much more serious mutiny broke out among the ships at the Nore, where the movement was headed by a seaman of the name of Parker. The ships were actually drawn across the mouth of the Thames so as to blockade London, and the government was forced to build forts and to place guns along the banks of the river for the purpose of sinking the mutinous ships if they refused to surrender. The panic in London -- and, indeed, throughout the country -- was great, as well it might be. The Funds fell to 46, and an Act of Parliament was passed allowing the Bank of England to make payment in paper money instead of in gold, so great had been the cost of the war and so scarce was the money required to pay for it.
Happily, however, the danger soon passed away. The mutineers at the Nore, frightened by the firmness of the government, and knowing that their countrymen disapproved of their violence, returned to their duties. Parker and one or two other ringleaders were taken and hanged. It was time that the fleet should be ready for action. Already a Dutch fleet was assembled in the River Texel under the orders of the French government, and was ready to sail out any moment. Admiral Duncan was blockading it with his squadron, when, to his despair, the whole of his ships, with the exception of his own flagship and two frigates, sailed away to join the mutineers at the Nore.
What was to be done? The only hope was to deceive the enemy, and this the Admiral succeeded in doing. All day long he made signals from his ship as if the rest of his fleet were out of sight to seaward. So the Dutch thought; and it was not till after the mutiny was over, and the British men-of-war had returned, that they at last ventured to sea. A fierce action took place off Camperdown (1797). The Dutch, always most stubborn fighters, showed themselves worthy of their old renown, but the victory remained with the British. Eleven Dutch ships were captured, and Duncan justly earned the title "Viscount Duncan."
"The Nile," and the Defence of Acre. (ch 70)
"To Sir Sidney Smith now fell the distinguished duty of meeting and stopping the greatest general of modern times," -- Captain Mahan, United States Navy: "Influence of Sea Power."
But, in these stormy days, if war ceased in one part of the world it was sure to be going on in another. In 1798 Buonaparte sailed with a French army for Egypt. The great French general hoped that by conquering Egypt he might open the way to India, and thus win for France the empire of the East. The French army was safely landed, and soon made itself master of Egypt. But the fleet which had brought it was destined never to return to France. On the 1st of August Admiral Nelson discovered the French fleet drawn up in line at anchor in the Bay of Aboukir, close to one of the mouths of the River Nile. There was but scanty room between the French ships and the land -- too little room, the French admiral thought, to allow another fleet to pass inside him without running aground.
Not so thought Lord Nelson. A ship which is at anchor swings with every change of wind and tide. "Where a ship can swing," said Nelson, "another ship can float," and he boldly led his squadron inside the French line. One ship, the Culloden, went ashore, but with the rest he fiercely engaged the enemy. The battle lasted through the night. The French flagship caught fire and blew up. In the morning the victory was complete. Out of seventeen ships the French had lost thirteen -- taken, burnt, or sunk. Two ships of the line and two frigates alone escaped, and of these four ships three were afterwards taken. Never was victory more complete.
But though the French army could not return to France, it was still all-powerful in Egypt, and Buonaparte himself undertook to lead it northward on the road to further triumphs, either at Constantinople or on the way to India. Once again, however, the British Navy placed an obstacle in his path. The town of Acre lay on the line of march. It was ill-fortified, and defended by a weak Turkish garrison. Luckily, the garrison included a British Naval Officer, Captain Sir Sidney Smith, who was the life and soul of the defence. Again and again did the French Grenadiers throw themselves upon the walls; again and again were they driven back by the brave garrison. At last relief came by sea, the French were forced to raise the siege and to retreat, and Buonaparte was compelled to give up all hopes of Eastern conquest.
But this great man only passed from defeat to greater victories. Despairing of success in Egypt, he returned to France, succeeding, almost by a miracle, in escaping from the British cruisers in the Mediterranean. Once back in France, he soon became undisputed master of the power and resources of that country. In 1799 he was made head of the French Government, under the name of "First Consul," and for fifteen years to come he remained absolute master of France.
"Armed Neutrality." -- The Battle of Copenhagen and Peace of Amiens. (ch 70)
"The Royal Navy of England hath ever been its greatest defence and ornament; it is its ancient and natural strength the floating bulwark of our Island." -- Blackstone's Commentaries.
England soon found, to her cost, that a strong Government had been set up in France. In Italy, the French under Buonaparte defeated the Austrians at the great battle of Marengo. Another Austrian army was routed by the French, under General Moreau, at Hohenlinden, in Bavaria. Austria could hold out no longer, and was compelled to make peace. Russia had up to this time remained friendly to England, but now Buonaparte succeeded in persuading Paul, the Russian Emperor, to take sides against England.
Soon the Northern Powers -- Russia, Sweden, and Denmark -- were compelled to join with France in refusing to allow British vessels to carry cargoes into their ports. This agreement, known as the "Armed Neutrality," at first caused great loss and suffering in our country. The price of corn rose to 120s. a quarter, and the greatest distress prevailed. Had it not been for the strength of the Navy, Buonaparte would have been able by this plan to crush England without a battle. We shall see, however, that the plan failed.
At the time, the British Government answered Buonaparte by giving orders to our Naval officers to seize cargoes carried in any of the ships going to or from the ports of France or her allies.
All this time Pitt had remained Prime Minister, striving hard to save the country from the dangers by which it was surrounded. His work was hard enough, for the friends on whom he had to depend were, many of them, weak and untrustworthy persons; while Fox, the great and eloquent leader of the Whig party, though he was unable to overthrow Pitt or to deprive him of the support of the people, continually attacked him in great speeches in Parliament, and on more than one occasion went so far as to express his pleasure at the defeat of the British arms and the success of the enemies of his own country -- a shameful thing for which all Fox's great eloquence and ability can never atone.
At last, in the year 1801, the quarrels among his supporters became so bitter that Pitt was actually forced to give up office; and a weak and unwise man named Addington [Afterwards Viscount Sidmouth.] for a time became Prime Minister.
But, whatever changes took place at home, the war went on abroad. Buonaparte, who was always anxious to strengthen his fleet, ordered the Danes to place their ships under his orders. Had this order been carried out, the danger for England would have been a serious one; for the Danes had good ships and excellent sailors. A British fleet was promptly sent to the Baltic. Sir Hyde Parker was in command; under him was Admiral Nelson. The fleet passed the Sound and reached Copenhagen. The Danes were summoned to give up their ships, and a fierce battle at once began. Nelson commanded the attack. The story is told that Admiral Parker, thinking that the fighting was too fierce and the danger too great, wished to recall Nelson, and that Nelson, who had previously lost an eye (as well as an arm) in battle, put up his telescope to his blind eye, and, declaring that he could not see the signal which permitted him to withdraw, gave the order for closer battle.
The Danes fought with the greatest bravery, and the British suffered heavy losses, but the victory was decisive, and the power of Denmark to injure us was for a time destroyed. Nor was this all; for the presence of Nelson and his victorious fleet in the Baltic was sufficient to prevent the Russian and Swedish ships joining the French. In the same year the Emperor Paul of Russia was murdered, and his successor, Alexander I., at once made peace with Great Britain. At the close of the same year arrangements were made for a general peace, and the news was hailed with rejoicing through the country, for all men were tired of the war, and many believed that Buonaparte was as sincere in wishing for peace as they were.
Pitt, however, was not one of those who believed that peace would last, or that Buonaparte could be trusted. He, however, consented to the terms which were at length arranged at Amiens on the 27th of March, 1802.
War Again. (ch 70)
"Saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace." -- Jeremiah vi. 14.
The Peace of Amiens was not a favourable one to Britain. Under its terms, Addington agreed to give up all the conquests which had been made in the war except the islands of Ceylon and Trinidad. The island of Malta, which had fallen into our hands, was to be surrendered. It was soon clear, however, that peace was not likely to last very long, and that those who distrusted Buonaparte had reason on their side.
The First Consul, free from attacks by England, set himself to work to make treaties and arrangements in Europe, all of which were intended to make him stronger before war broke out again. Officers were sent to all the British possessions with orders to report how they could best be taken and made of use to France. In fact, it was clear that, as far as Buonaparte was concerned, the peace was only to be a time of preparation for a second and more successful war. Seeing that the French did not keep to their promises, the British Government refused to give up Malta.
Matters soon went from bad to worse. At last Buonaparte openly insulted Lord Whitworth, the British Ambassador at Paris. It was no longer possible to keep up the pretence that the two nations were at peace, and in 1803, but one year after the Treaty of Amiens had been signed, war broke out again. The feeling between England and France was more bitter than ever, for Buonaparte actually went so far as to seize all the English who happened to be in France and throw them into prison. Such a thing had never been done before by the ruler of any nation. No wonder that the British people became angry, and resolved that they would fight out the battle, whatever it cost them.
But, in fighting out the battle, this country was at first at a great disadvantage; for Addington, who was still Prime Minister, was a man whom nobody trusted; and when at last a French army was actually assembling at Boulogne for the purpose of invading England, all men thought that the time had come when Pitt ought once more to become head of the Government. This feeling soon became so strong that, at length, Addington resigned his office in May, 1804, and Pitt, for the last time, became Prime Minister. In the same year Buonaparte took the title of Emperor, and reigned thenceforth as an absolute sovereign.
Boulogne -- Trafalgar. (ch 70)
"The enemy have learnt to fight better than they ever did; and I hope it is not injustice to the Second in Command (Admiral Collingwood), who is now on board the 'Euryalus,' and who fought like a hero, to say that the Fleet under any other never would have performed what they did under Lord N., but under Lord N. it seemed like inspiration to most of them. To give you an idea of the man, and the sort of heart he had, the last signal he made was such a one as would immortalise any man." -- Captain Blackwood (H.M.S. "Euryalus") to his wife, October 22nd, 1805.
It was indeed time that a strong hand should be at the helm. Buonaparte had made up his mind that Britain should, once for all, be crushed. He formed a great camp at Boulogne, and there tens of thousands of French soldiers were collected for the invasion of England. Hundreds of boats were got together, and every day the soldiers were practised in embarking and disembarking. Proclamations were actually printed in English, dated from London. In these the people of Great Britain were told that the French had come to deliver them from the tyranny of their Government, and to bestow upon them all the benefits of the great French Revolution. These proclamations were to be distributed as soon as the French army got to London.
There is a story of a British Admiral who was present when the question of an invasion by the French was being talked about. He was asked what he thought. "Well," said he, "I do not know how they will come; for my part, all I can say is that they shall not come by water." This was just the difficulty which beset Napoleon Buonaparte. Everything was ready for an invasion of England except that the invading army was on the wrong side of the Channel, and on the sea was the British fleet.
Buonaparte knew well that his only hope was either to destroy the British fleet or to get it out of the way for a time. One French fleet was at Brest, a harbour on the north-west coast of France; another was in the harbour of Toulon, in the south-east, and had been watched there by Admiral Nelson for many a long month. Buonaparte ordered the Toulon fleet to go to sea at any cost. His plan was that it should lead Nelson to pursue it, should give him the slip, and should return, pick up the ships at Brest, and, thus strengthened, sail on to Boulogne in full strength, and protect the invading army.
The plan very nearly succeeded. The French fleet actually escaped from Toulon; Nelson went after it, and, though he followed it to the West Indies, failed to catch it. He returned in hot haste, almost heartbroken to think that in the meantime the invasion might have taken place. Luckily, however, this misfortune did not overtake our country. Sir Robert Calder, with an ill-equipped, badly-manned fleet, fell in with the returning Toulon ships in the Bay of Biscay. Calder defeated the enemy, and took two ships. The rest took refuge in the harbour at Cadiz. [Nothing showed more clearly how much English people had come to expect from the Navy at this time than the fact that Admiral Calder, instead of being rewarded for having saved the country and taken two ships, was actually tried by court-martial and "severely reprimanded" for not having destroyed the French fleet.]
Buonaparte waited anxiously for the coming of his fleet, but it never came. On the 21st of October, 1805, the British fleet, consisting of twenty-seven ships of the line, under the command of Lord Nelson, fell in with the combined French and Spanish fleets, numbering thirty three ships, under the command of Admirals Villeneuve and Gravina, off Cape Trafalgar, in the south-west corner of Spain.
As the ships went into action, Nelson hoisted on his flag-ship, the "Victory," the famous signal, "England expects every man will do his duty." Every man did his duty, and ere night fell nearly the whole of the enemy's fleet had been taken or destroyed. Nelson, struck down by a bullet fired from the mast-head of the French ship "Redoubtable," died in the hour of victory, but he lived long enough to learn that the battle was won.
The great Admiral was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral mourned by the entire nation. The news of the great and final victory of Trafalgar itself seemed hardly to compensate for the loss of the heroic chief who had so often swept the enemies of his country from the sea, and preserved the shores of Britain from the foot of the invader.
But, happily, the great work which Nelson had set himself to accomplish was done when night fell upon the shattered remnants of the combined French and Spanish fleets. The power of France upon the sea had been finally broken, the fear of invasion was removed, and the way was now open for Britain to make her power felt upon the land, certain that the sea would always be open for the conveyance of her troops and the conduct of her commerce.
The figure of Nelson is a great and striking one, and beyond doubt he was the first among the many distinguished seamen who fought with him and under him. But, while giving honour, as is due, to the great Admiral himself, we must not forget the names of St. Vincent and of Collingwood -- from the one of whom he learnt, and with the latter of whom he worked in friendly rivalry. We must remember the "Band of Brothers," as Nelson himself called them -- the captains who commanded our battered ships through the long weary months of blockading, and in the day of battle -- Hardy, Trowbridge, Ball, and many another -- all these are entitled to be remembered as men who made our Navy fit to bear the tremendous burden that was laid upon it; and who taught us the lesson that a powerful, well-trained, and numerous Navy is the only real protection for our shores and for the commerce on which we depend.
Austerlitz. Fox in Office. (ch 70)
"He has faults; but they are faults that, though they may in a small degree tarnish the lustre, and sometimes impede the march, of his abilities, have nothing in them to extinguish the fire of great virtue." -- Edmund Burke's description of Charles James Fox.
The danger of invasion vanished with the victory of Trafalgar; and no one knew this better than Buonaparte himself. Even before the battle was fought he knew that Villeneuve had failed him, and his great mind turned immediately towards conquest elsewhere. The army which had been assembled for the overthrow of Britain suddenly received orders to turn its back upon the sea and to march away towards the south-east.
Almost before the world was aware that the camp before Boulogne had been broken up, French armies had advanced into the heart of Austria. On the 19th of October, two days before the battle of Trafalgar, an Austrian army of 40,000 men was compelled to lay down its arms and surrender at Ulm, in Bavaria. A month later the French entered Vienna; and on the 2nd of December, in the same year, the Austrian army was defeated and almost destroyed at the great battle of Austerlitz.
Britain indeed had been saved by her Navy, but her allies had suffered terrible defeats, and her great enemy, Napoleon Buonaparte, everywhere victorious on land, was master of Europe. It was at this unhappy time, when all his efforts to support and strengthen the allies of England seemed to have failed, that Pitt died. Already in ill-health, it is said that the news of Ulm and Austerlitz hastened his death (January 23rd, 1806). He left no statesman equally great to take his place; and, though he had not always been fortunate in his undertakings, Britain recognised in him a man who, in all trials and under all difficulties, had but one great idea before him -- that of serving his country to the best of his ability. William Pitt was in his forty-seventh year when he died, and had been twenty-one years a member of the Government.
On the death of Pitt, his great rival, Fox, took office as Foreign Secretary. Lord Grenville became Prime Minister, but Fox was the real head of the Government. For many years Fox had been Pitt's chief opponent in the House of Commons. He had made speeches, marked by the most wonderful eloquence, in which he condemned all that Pitt did, and, above all, condemned the war which Pitt was trying to carry on with success. Now, however, that Fox, after many years of waiting, had succeeded in obtaining Pitt's place as the chief member of a Government, he was very far from following the advice which he himself had so often given. He did not put an end to the war or make peace with Buonaparte; for, indeed, it was clear to all the world that, whatever he might profess, Buonaparte really aimed at nothing less than the conquest of the whole Continent, to be followed by the conquest of Britain.
Unluckily, although Fox agreed to carry on the war, the measures which he took were not successful, nor, indeed did he live long enough to see his own plans carried out. He died in the month of September, 1806, only eight months after his rival Pitt. The tombs of these two great men are seen close together in Westminster Abbey:
"The mighty chiefs sleep side by side.
Drop upon Fox's grave a tear,
'Twill trickle to his rival's bier;
O'er Pitt's the mournful requiem sound,
And Fox's shall the notes rebound.
The solemn echo seems to cry
'Here let their discord with them die.'"
Chapter 71. The Great War with France.
Part II. Buonaparte Master of Europe -- Jena -- Eylau.
". . . they rose, a nation true,
True to itself -- the mighty Germany,
She of the Danube and the Northern Sea,
She rose -- and off at onoe the yoke she threw."
-- Wordsworth: "A Prophecy, 1807."
England, alas! was now poorer by the loss of three great men, and she could ill afford to lose great men at a time when so many dangers beset her. Nelson, Pitt, and Fox had all passed away within a few months of one another. Luckily for England, though much was lost, much yet remained to her. The victory of Trafalgar had made her undisputed mistress of the seas. Although there were much suffering and poverty in the country, still, there had been a steady growth in wealth and prosperity. No enemy had gained a footing on her shores, and the spirit of the people was as firm as ever in its determination to fight out the struggle with France to its bitter end. And, lastly, it became clear that, though some great Englishmen had passed away, there were others ready and able to take their places. It was not long before the name of one of the greatest of these began to be known -- first, in England, and then throughout Europe. It was the name of Arthur Wellesley.
The Ministry which Fox had formed lasted only a few months after his death; and in 1807 a new Ministry was formed, of which the head was the Duke of Portland, but of which Lord Castlereagh and Canning were the principal members. It was their duty to carry on the war with France, but they soon found themselves threatened by a new move on the part of Buonaparte.
It seemed as if that great man, not content with defeating the Austrians, were determined to make all Europe either his allies or his slaves. In 1806 France picked a quarrel with Prussia. The Prussian army was no longer what it had been under Frederick the Great. The French gained a complete victory. The Prussian armies were almost destroyed at the two battles of Jena and Auerstadt. Prussia, men thought, had been for ever blotted out of the list of great nations.
But, with nations as with men, it often happens that a time of trial and suffering is the beginning of a new and better life. From the very day of the defeat at Jena the new life of Prussia began. Shame and sorrow weighed down the mind of every Prussian who loved his country; but the best men in Prussia were not content with sorrowing over their misfortunes: they determined that they would do all in their power to free their country and to make it once more great and independent. Little by little, step by step, they did their work. They taught their countrymen that the one great thought of their lives ought to be the freedom of their country and the defeat of those who had invaded it. They taught them, too, that only by patient self-denial, by practice and never-ending trouble, could they hope to make a Prussian army strong enough to drive out the French conquerors. We shall see how, in time, the work of these brave and wise Prussians was rewarded, and how at length Prussia not only drove the invaders out, but how her soldiers carried her flag into the city of Paris itself.
But for the time things looked very dark. Berlin, the capital of Prussia, was occupied by the French, and French garrisons were placed in all the Prussian fortresses. The Emperor of Russia, alarmed at the sudden defeat of the King of Prussia, sent an army to his aid, but the Russians were defeated at the terrible battle of Eylau, in 1807; and in the same year the nations of Europe were terrified to hear that a treaty of peace and alliance had been made between the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Russia, at the little town of Tilsit, on the River Niemen.
Neither Emperor would admit that he was the inferior in rank or dignity to the other. Neither would consent to visit the territory of the other, even for the purpose of signing the treaty. It was, therefore, arranged that the two Sovereigns should meet upon a raft anchored in the middle of the River Niemen. In this way the pride of both sides was satisfied. The two Emperors were recognised as equal, and it seemed as if the rest of Europe had only to submit to whatever terms France and Russia might impose upon it.
Wellesley in India -- "The Continental System." (ch 71)
"Great as was the power of Napoleon, it ceased, like that of certain wizards, when it reached the water. Enemies and neutrals alike bowed to his invincible armies and his superb genius when he could reach them by land; but beyond the water there was one enemy, Great Britain, and one neutral, America, [USA] whom he could not directly touch." -- Captain Mahau, United States Navy ("Influence of Sea Power").
But already causes were at work which were in the end to bring about the downfall of the great French Empire which now seemed so strong and so secure. One Power still remained unconquered and unconquerable, and that Power was Britain.
While France extended her boundaries in Europe, Britain added to her Empire over the seas. Ever since the days of Clive, the power of Britain in India had been growing, and in the years between 1802 and 1806 -- those years in which the Austrians had been beaten at Austerlitz and the Prussians at Jena -- British troops had been winning victories over native armies aided by French officers in India.
In September, 1803, was won the battle of Assaye, in which 4,500 troops in the British employ routed an army of 30,000 men under the native Prince of Scindia. The victorious British General was Arthur Wellesley, whose name was soon to become famous in history as Arthur, Duke of Wellington.
In the same year General Lake won the victories of Alighur and Laswaree, and captured the cities of Delhi and Agra. Once more all the attempts on the part of France to oppose us in India were defeated, and the power of Britain was established more firmly than ever in the Peninsula. It has been said that 'the gate of India' is the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape of Good Hope, as we know, had been taken once by England (1795), but had been given up again at the Peace of Amiens (1802). In 1806 it was captured a second time, and from that day forward has been one of the most important parts of the British Empire. Three years earlier the British flag was planted in yet another quarter of the globe, and the colony of British Guiana, in the northeastern corner of South America, was captured from the Dutch.
Buonaparte, who had hoped to secure for France so many of the British possessions, now saw with disgust that those possessions were increasing in number and strength. He had learnt that he could not destroy the naval power of Britain upon the sea; he now bethought him of a plan by which he hoped that he might destroy it from the land.
In November, 1806, "The Berlin Decree" was issued by Buonaparte declaring the British Islands to be blockaded, all commerce and correspondence with Great Britain were forbidden, Englishmen found in France were to be made prisoners of war, and their property seized, all British manufactures and the produce of British colonies were to be confiscated, and British vessels, or those coming from any British port, were to be refused admission to any French harbour.
In the following year (1807) a still further step in the same direction was taken. By the "Milan Decree" [so called because it was written from Milan, in Italy.] it was declared that any ship of whatever nation, which, after touching at any British port, landed its cargo at any European port might be seized, and its cargo taken by the Government. In order to make this plan work, it was necessary that every port in Europe should be closed against our ships, and an agreement between France and Russia was arrived at by which it was hoped that this purpose would be accomplished. The system which was set up under this agreement became known as "The Continental System."
It was hoped that by these means the enormous trade which was carried on by British ships, or by foreign ships sailing from British ports would be put an end to. But, unluckily for Buonaparte and his hopes, the ships which were at sea carried vast quantities of merchandise which the people of Europe were most anxious to have, and could ill do without. The whole of what was called the "colonial trade" -- the trade in sugar, spices, rum, silks, and, indeed, the whole of the products of distant lands -- could only enter Europe by sea. If they came from ports which were friendly to France, the chances were ten to one that the ships would be seized by the ever-watchful British cruisers. If they came in British ships or in ships which sailed from British ports, they were seized by the French officials, and thus, either way, the unhappy people who wanted the goods were the losers.
The suffering on the Continent soon became very great, and all sorts of tricks were tried to evade the decree. In the city of Hamburg brown sugar was actually carted out and laid down in the streets under the pretence that it was sand; in this way the watchfulness of the Custom House officers was evaded, and the sugar was afterwards gathered up in the streets and applied to its proper purposes.
It soon became clear that, though Buonaparte had succeeded in injuring his enemies a good deal, he had injured his own people and those whom he had forced to be his allies a great deal more. Nothing made the French Government more hated throughout Europe than the suffering which arose out of the "Continental System."
Again it was proved that if Britain could only keep command of the sea she was safe. For a moment it seemed as if her power at sea were again to be threatened, for news reached England that Buonaparte was about to seize the fleet of Denmark, which had been strengthened since the first battle off Copenhagen. A second time a British fleet was sent to the Danish capital. The Danes were ordered to give up their ships. Like brave men, they refused. The city was bombarded (1807), and the fleet was taken and brought to England. Once more the threat against our power at sea had failed.
War on Land -- The Peninsula -- Failure. (ch 71)
"We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning;
By the struggling moonbeam's misty light,
And the lantern dimly burning.
No useless coffin enclosed his breast,
Nor in sheet nor in shroud we wound him;
But he lay like a warrior taking his rest,
With his martial cloak around him."
-- C. Wolfe: "Burial of Sir John Moore."
Now that at last all fear of attack upon the shores of Britain was removed, the British Government felt that the time had come to carry on the war by land as well as by sea, and for that purpose troops were sent to Spain and to Portugal. Thus began the famous "Peninsular War," in which British troops proved themselves as brave and as capable of winning victory on land as our sailors had already proved themselves to be at sea. The Spanish Peninsula was then, as now, divided into two kingdoms; Spain, the larger of the two, was already under the power of Buonaparte. The little kingdom of Portugal still held out, and refused to obey the Emperor's orders to close its harbours to British shipping. This furnished a pretext for war, and accordingly a French army marched upon Lisbon, and at the same time Joseph Buonaparte, brother of the French Emperor, was declared King of Spain, in the place of King Ferdinand.
It was at this stage that British troops were sent out. A small force under Sir Arthur Wellesley, who had been recalled from India, landed in Portugal, where they found that the French had already taken possession of Lisbon. Fighting began at once, and, to the astonishment of all Europe, the French veterans were defeated at the battle of Vimiera (1808). So complete was their defeat that the French general agreed to abandon Portugal and return to Frarce with all his troops This arrangement was made at a place called Cintra, and is known as the Convention of Cintra.
A second expedition was now despatched under Sir John Moore, in order to march through the north of Spain to the assistance of the Spanish armies which still resisted French rule. Moore succeeded in getting as far as a place called Sahagun, when the news came that the Emperor himself was advancing at the head of a powerful army. The Spanish troops everywhere gave way, and Moore with his little force was compelled to retreat with all speed towards the sea. Soult, one of Napoleon's best generals, followed in pursuit with an army of 60,000 men. The retreat was terrible. At last, after great suffering and loss, Moore with his little force reached the town of Corunna, in the northwest corner of Spain.
Wherever the waters of the sea could reach, there the British ships of war could float, and there safety was always to be found. A fleet of men-of-war and transports was expected at Corunna. Once on board, his army would be safe; but so closely did the enemy press on that it seemed as if the British army might be destroyed before it could embark. There was nothing for it but to fight, and the tired troops turned fiercely at bay. The battle that followed was fiercely contested, but the object of the British was accomplished, and time was gained so that all could reach the ships in safety.
Unhappily, the gallant general of the British army, Sir John Moore, was mortally wounded in the battle, January 16th, 1809. The well-known poem by Wolfe tells us of his hasty burial on the ramparts of the city.
The Walcheren Expedition -- Victories in the Peninsula. (ch 71)
"This is England's greatest son.
He that gained a hundred fights,
Nor ever lost an English gun;
This is he that far away
Against the myriads of Assaye
Clash'd with his fiery few and won;
Warring on a later day,
Round the frighted Lisbon drew
The treble works and vast designs
Of his labour'd rampart-lines."
-- Tennyson: "Lines on the Duke of Wellington."
But with the retreat to Corunna came the end of our misfortunes in Spain, and from that day forward the British troops advanced from victory to victory until they had placed the "Union Jack" on the heights of the Pyrenees, and had fought and won a battle under the walls of Toulouse, on the very soil of France itself.
But while Arthur Wellesley was attacking the farthest point of the great French empire, other dangers threatened it in the heart of Europe. In 1809 Austria again declared war with France, and again the Austrian armies suffered defeat; but in the great battles of Essling and Wagram they fought with an obstinacy which cost the French dear.
Once more Buonaparte marched in triumph to Vienna, and this time, as though to make his conquest secure for ever, he persuaded or compelled the Emperor of Austria to bestow upon him the hand of his daughter, Marie Louise, in marriage.
The same year, 1809, was one of varying fortunes as far as Britain was concerned. An expedition of 40,000 men, which was sent to Walcheren, in the south-west corner of Holland, ended in a total and disastrous failure. Everything was mismanaged, fever broke out, and thousands of soldiers died miserably. It is said that out of 40,000 men sent out to the Island of Walcheren, no less than 35,000 men were compelled, at one time or another, to go into hospital.
But while the news from Holland was bad, the news from Spain was good, for tidings came that at the battle of Talavera (1809) Arthur Wellesley had a second time defeated the French. As a reward for his victory the general received the title of Viscount Wellington. But the Spaniards everywhere melted away before the French troops, and for a time Wellington was forced to retreat, and to shelter his army behind the famous fortifications which he caused to be built round Lisbon, and which were known as the Lines of "Torres Vedras."
It was not till 1811 that Wellington felt strong enough to move forward again. In that year he began his march towards the northeast, his object being to drive the French gradually back into their own country.
On the 16th of May was fought the terrible and indecisive battle of Albuera. The French were still far too strong, and our Portuguese and Spanish allies far too weak to allow of any real advance into Spain. In the following year, however, a most important piece of news reached Wellington, namely, that the peace between France and Russia was at an end, and that the Emperor had decided to embark on one more great war. From that day the whole energy of Buonaparte was given up to preparing for the great expedition which he had decided to make into the heart of Russia.
Exhausted by many years of war, France could no longer raise army after army as she had done in the first years of the Revolution, Troops could no longer be spared to help Joseph Buonaparte in Spain, and some of the best soldiers were recalled from the Peninsula to take their places in the "Grand Army."
The Russian Campaign -- The Abdication of the Emperor -- War with the United States. (ch 71)
"Soldiers, the second Polish War has begun. The first ended at Friedland and Tilsit. At Tilsit Russia swore eternal friendship to France, eternal enmity to England. To-day she has violated these oaths. She will vouchsafe no explanation of this strange conduct save that the French Eagles have not recrossed the Rhine and left our allies at her mercy. Russia hurrying to her fate must fulfil her destiny. Does she think that we are degenerate? That we have ceased to be the soldiers of Austerlitz? She offers us the choice between dishonour and war. Can our decision be in doubt? Forward, then; let us cross the Niemen, and carry war into the enemy's territory. The second Polish War shall not be less glorious to the arms of France than was the first; but the peace which we will conclude will bring its own guarantee, and will end for ever the baneful influence which Russia has exerted for 50 years past over the affairs of Europe." -- (The Emperor's Proclamation to the Grand Army of Russia.)
On the 24th of June, 1812, the "Grand Army" of 450,000 men began to cross the river Niemen into Russia under the eyes of the Emperor. It was this same River Niemen upon which the raft had floated on which the Emperors of France and Russia had signed the famous Treaty of Tilsit only five years before.
In January of the same year Wellington's army had broken down the first of the barriers which blocked the road to France, taken by storm the strong fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo, and three months later that of Badajoz, a still greater and stronger barrier. On the 22nd of July Wellington entirely defeated the French at the battle of Salamanca. In September the "Grand Army," after fighting a terrible battle at Borodino, in which 80,000 men were killed and wounded, entered the city of Moscow, the ancient capital of Russia. They found the city deserted, and in a few days, to the horror of the invaders, there broke out great fires in every quarter of the city, fires kindled by the Russians themselves, who preferred to see their capital burned rather than in the possession of an invader.
There was nothing left to the "Grand Army" but to retreat, and retreat across Northern Russia in the heart of a Russian winter meant death. Frost and famine struck down the retreating soldiers in thousands and tens of thousands. Of the great host which crossed the Niemen scarcely 10,000 returned in any order to the safety of the French frontier. And even here there was no safety, for the French frontier at that time included the Kingdom of Prussia, which had been forced into alliance with the Emperor. Now that the Emperor had fallen, both Austria and Prussia joined forces with the pursuing Russians, and France found herself face to face with the combined armies of Russia, Prussia, and Austria on the east, and with the combined armies of Britain, Portugal, and Spain on the south-west.
For a time the genius and military skill of the Emperor enabled him to keep up the unequal struggle, but not for long.
On the 21st of June, 1813, Wellington routed the French Army at Vittoria, and sent King Joseph and his Court flying out of Madrid. By the end of the year the duke had crossed the Pyrenees, and on the loth of April, 1814, he fought a final battle under the walls of Toulouse.
But already, ere the battle of Toulouse was fought, Buonaparte had ceased to reign. The three great armies of Russia, Prussia, and Austria had succeeded in uniting, and on the 16th of October, 1813, had forced the Emperor to give battle on the outskirts of the city of Leipsic in Saxony. Four hundred thousand men were engaged in the battle. It lasted three days, and ended in the total defeat of the French. Six months later, April 4th, 1814, Buonaparte, unable to continue the war, agreed to abdicate. A great meeting, or Congress, of the representatives of the Allied Powers met at Vienna to decide what should be done with the Emperor, and how the various countries should recover from France the territories they had lost. It was decided that Buonaparte should be sent to the little island of Elba, and that he should receive the rank of "Sovereign" of the island. The British sailors on board the ship "Undaunted" which carried him to Elba, stitched together a flag which was hastily invented for the new ruler and his tiny kingdom.
King Louis XVIII., the brother of Louis XVI., who had been executed in 1793, was made King of France, and peace was at last restored to the world.
Unluckily for England, it was not with France alone that peace had to be made, for in 1812 a useless and unfortunate war had broken out between Great Britain and the United States. In order to protect British commerce from the effects of Buonaparte's "Decrees" our Government had tried to compel all ships of the United States to call at British ports before landing their cargo. They had also allowed British officers to search United States ships for deserters. The Government of the United States complained bitterly. The complaints were listened to and the orders withdrawn, but too late to prevent war.
The unhappy and useless struggle lasted nearly two years, causing much ill-feeling and bringing no advantage to anyone. Englishmen were shocked to find that in several engagements between single ships our sailors were defeated. The fact was that we had grown too confident and had become careless. The United States Government had built vessels which were larger and more powerfully armed than British ships of the same class.
The famous victory of Captain Brooke, of the "Shannon," over the "Chesapeake" made some amends for a series of disasters, but the capture of the "Guerriere" by the "Constitution," and of several other single ships, was regarded as a calamity in England. The commerce of the United States on the sea, however, was for a time almost destroyed by the British Navy, which easily held its own in spite of the misfortunes which have been spoken of.
On land the fortunes of the war varied. A British attack on New Orleans was defeated with great loss, and our flotilla of boats on Lake Champlain was destroyed. A British force, however, entered the city of Washington and burnt the Capitol as a reprisal for the burning of the public buildings of Canada by the enemy. A Canadian force, composed largely of the descendants of the "United Empire Loyalists," sharply defeated a United States force which tried to enter Canada. The war, which neither side was anxious to prolong, and which had proved disastrous to the shipping of the United States, was brought to an end by a treaty signed at Ghent, in Belgium, in December, 1814.
The "Hundred Days," and Waterloo. (ch 71)
"My Lord, "Waterloo, June 19th, 1815.
"It gives me the greatest satisfaction to assure your Lordship that the Army never, upon any occasion, conducted itself better. The division of guards . . . set an example which was followed by all; and there is no officer, nor description of troops, that did not behave well . . . I send with this despatch two eagles taken by the troops in this action, which Major Percy will have the honour of laying at the feet of His Royal Highness." -- From the Despatch of Field-Marshal the Duke of Wellington, K.G., to Earl Bathurst, Secretary of State for War.
In the city of Oxford there stands, in an open space not far from Magdalen Bridge, a stone bearing an inscription. The inscription tells of the great peace made in 1814, which was welcomed by all the nations of the world as the end of more than twenty years' continuous war. Well might the people of Oxford rejoice that peace had come at last, for it seemed as if peace were for ever banished from the earth. Children had been born in the midst of war time, they had grown up to manhood, had married, and their children had in turn been born into a world in which the sound of the cannon and the clash of arms still drowned the voice of peace. War, war, nothing but war; and now at last, after more than a quarter of a century, peace had back to the land.
But what is the date upon this stone? It is 1814. We have read in an earlier portion of this book of the "Famous 'Fifteens,'" the four dates ending in "fifteen" which mark in our history great events. "1215," the first of them, is the date of Magna Charta; "1415," the second, is the date of the Battle of Agincourt; "1715," the third, the date of the Jacobite rebellion known as "The 'Fifteen." The last of the four is the date of a great battle; it is "1815," the date of the famous battle of Waterloo. For after all the rejoicings of Oxford and of the entire kingdom in 1814, it turned out that peace was not to return for yet another year, and that the man who so long had plunged all Europe into war was once more, and for the last time, to draw the sword and set the world aflame.
We have seen how, after the abdication of Buonaparte and the Congress of Vienna, the French Emperor had been sent to Elba. It was hoped that in that little island he would be kept safe. Great was the consternation and alarm when, in the month of March, 1815, news reached the Capitals of Europe that Buonaparte had succeeded in escaping from Elba, and had landed at Cannes, in the South of France, and that already the French soldiers who were serving under Louis XVIII. had, with scarcely any exception, forsaken their new sovereign for their old one, and had hastened to put themselves under the orders of the Emperor as soon as he appeared amongst them.
In a few days Buonaparte was in Paris. The King and his Ministers fled at his approach, and as if by magic a French army sprang up, ready once more to fight all Europe under the great General who had so often led French soldiers to victory.
Luckily, however, for Europe this last attempt to restore the fortunes of the fallen Empire came too late. Although the old soldiers of Napoleon's guard were ready to fight once more, the greater part of the French people were tired of the war. Moreover, the great armies which had defeated the Emperor at Leipsic had not yet been broken up, and thousands of soldiers -- Russians, Prussians, Austrians, and British -- were still in France, or encamped close to its borders.
It was on the 1st of March that Buonaparte landed at Cannes. On the 16th of June, at the head of a powerful army, he attacked on the same day a British army at Quatre-Bras and a Prussian army at Ligny. The Prussians, overwhelmed by superior numbers, were driven back; the British held their own with difficulty, and next day retired upon Waterloo.
The little town of Waterloo, which gave its name to the great battle which was fought on the following day (the 18th), lies about twelve miles to the south of the city of Brussels, and is separated from it by the great forest of Soignies.
It was close to this spot that the Duke of Wellington [The title of "Duke" was conferred upon Wellington at the close of the Peninsular War in 1814] determined to resist the French attack. He had under his command an army of 67,655 men, with 156 guns. Of the troops, 24,000 were British, 5,821 were foreigners under British command, the remainder being Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Dutch, and Belgians, who were acting in the British service, or as our allies under the command of the Duke. A very large number of the infantry regiments were made up of very young soldiers, who had not before taken part in war. The French army was composed of 71,947 men, with 246 guns.
The night of the 17th of June was wet and stormy; the soldiers, who were compelled to sleep on the open ground among the unripe corn, were drenched to the skin. The battle began on the morning of the 18th, which was Sunday; both Generals were anxiously hoping for news of the coming of help during the day. A French army of 30,000 men under Marshal Grouchy lay watching the Prussians a few miles off, to the south-east.
Message after message was sent bidding Grouchy hasten to the assistance of his chief, but the message arrived late, and when it arrived it was not understood, and Grouchy failed to march in the direction which would have led him to the battlefield.
On the other side the Duke of Wellington was anxiously awaiting aid from the Prussian army under Marshal Blucher. That Blucher would come if he could he knew full well, for old "General Vorwarts" [General Forwards] as Blucher was called by his men, never failed to hasten towards the sound of the cannon. Whether the Prussians would be able to come, or to come in time, was another matter.
The battle raged fiercely all the morning. The French cavalry and infantry made charge after charge upon the British lines and squares. The loss of life was terrible. A number of the Belgian troops, unused to war, fled from the field, and entering Brussels in confusion, spread the report that the day was lost. But the day was not lost. About midday the sound of firing upon the French right was heard. Some thought it was Grouchy, some that it was Blucher.
It turned out to be the vanguard of the Prussian troops under Bulow. This was good news indeed for the British General. If only his troops could hold firm till the Prussians arrived, the day was won. They did more than hold firm; as evening fell, a great and final attack was made by the French guards upon the British line. Like all other attacks, it was beaten back. The Duke gave the order to charge the retreating enemy. The retreat soon became a rout, for by this time the Prussian army was fiercely attacking the right of the French line. Resistance was no longer possible. The French fled in hopeless confusion, pursued by the Prussians. Wellington and Blucher met upon the field of battle. Buonaparte, borne away by his flying troops, escaped with difficulty. The victory was complete, but the loss had been great. The loss of the allies was 22,976 killed and wounded; the French lost over 30,000, besides many prisoners.
The Prisoner of St. Helena. (ch 71)
"Farewell to the land, where the gloom of my glory,
Arose and o'er-shadowed the earth with her name
She abandons me now but the page of her story,
The brightest or blackest, is filled with my fame.
I have warr'd with the world which vanquished me only
When the meteor of conquest allured me too far;
I have coped with the nations which dread me thus lonely,
The last single Captive to millions in war."
-- Byron: "Napoleon's Farewell."
Resistance was now really at an end. The allied armies marched on Paris. Once more King Louis was put back upon the throne; once more the fallen Emperor was a fugitive. Not knowing where to turn, he gave himself up a prisoner to the captain of the British ship Bellerophon. It was agreed that he should be confined in the little island of St. Helena, in the Atlantic Ocean, and thither he was taken. It was not till the year 1821 that Napoleon Buonaparte died in his island prison, but his part in European history had been played when he left the field of Waterloo, and it will be well here to tell in a few words the remaining story of his life.
From St. Helena he never escaped. The Governor, Sir Hudson Lowe, kept his prisoner safely. It is to be regretted that he was not content with this, but it cannot be doubted that he treated the fallen Emperor with a want of generosity and courtesy which has left a stain upon his name as a British officer. That Sir Hudson Lowe did what he thought was his duty, and that he believed that he was carrying out the orders which were given to him, can hardly be doubted; and it must be said on his behalf that Buonaparte had so often in his life broken his word and disregarded every obligation of truth and honour, that it would have been a great mistake to trust him or to believe him. But it is always well to respect the misfortunes of the fallen and to be generous to a defeated enemy, and that Sir Hudson Lowe was neither respectful nor generous is only too true.
Buonaparte died on the 5th of May, 1821. In the year 1840, by permission of the British Government, his body was brought back to France in a French ship of war, and was buried with great pomp in the stately tomb which now stands under the Dome of the "Invalides," in Paris.
The story of the battle of Waterloo has been told at some length, for, though since the year 1815 many great and many important battles have been fought, the battle of Waterloo still takes its place, and will always take its place, as one of the most famous and most important in history. It brought about the fall of the great man who for so long had been the terror of Europe. It put an end to a war which had lasted for a quarter of a century, and restored peace to the suffering nations. To everyone of British blood the name must be specially memorable, for on that famous Sunday in June the young soldiers of Britain showed to all the world that they were a match in endurance and courage for the most famous veterans of Europe, and the name of Britain was raised to the first place among the nations of Europe.
"So great a soldier taught us there
What long enduring hearts could do
In that world-earthquake Waterloo!" -- Tennyson.
Chapter 72. George IV. and William IV. -- The Great Peace 1820-1837.
Principal events during the reigns of George V., 1820-1830, and William IV., 1830-1837:
The Regency -- George IV. -- Navarino. (ch 72)
"Prouder scenes never hallowed war's pomp to the mind,
Than when Christendom's pennons wooed social the wind,
And the flower of her brave for the combat combined,
Her watchword, Humanity's vow!"
-- Campbell, describing the Allied Fleets at Navarino.
We now come to what seems the beginning of quite a fresh chapter in the history of our country. Hitherto in this book we have been reading chiefly about wars and fighting and of the long struggle in which Britain was compelled to take a part. It is impossible to write the history of those times without giving up much space to these things, for when a country is fighting for its life in every part of the world, the history of the fight must occupy a great, if not the first, place in any records of the events of the time.
Now, however, we have come, happily, once more to a time of peace, when the great events which occupy our attention are no longer battles by sea and land, no longer the conquest of new territories from our enemies, but rather the conquests of science and invention, the growth of our territory by peaceful settlement and colonisation, and the improvement of our laws by the wisdom of our statesmen and the orderly pressure of the people.
In many ways it seems as if the history of "modern" England, such as we know it, begins after the year 1815. Some of the great questions which then began to be talked about for the first time have only been settled within quite recent years. Some of them are still unsettled. There are many other things, too, which mark a division between the time before 1815 and the years which have passed between 1815 and the present day. We shall read about some of these things in these pages.
Meanwhile we must go back for a little to the study of dates, and must learn something about the order in which the Sovereigns of England came to the throne, and about the principal Ministers who in turn directed the government of the country.
It will not be necessary to say very much about these things, for the history of the last ninety years has depended very little upon what was done by George IV. or William IV.; and though it made a great deal of difference to the country whether it had good or bad Ministers, it will be best to speak about those Ministers when we come to describe the particular work in which each of them took a special part.
Still, in order that we may understand the chapters which follow, it will be well to go very quickly through some of the facts and dates which ought to be remembered by those who want to follow the history of the nineteenth century.
When the battle of Waterloo was fought, King George III. was still on the throne, but for some years past he had been a king in name only. The madness which had overtaken him once or twice in his reign had now greatly increased, and it had been found necessary to make his son Regent. For several years before he became king, George IV. really occupied the place of king under the name of Regent.
In 1815, therefore, George III. was still king, but his mind had given way, and his son George exercised the royal power as Regent. The Prime Minister was the Earl of Liverpool; Canning was one of the most important men in the United Kingdom, and the Duke of Wellington, who had served the country so well, not only as a general in the field, but as an ambassador charged with the duty of arranging peace, had perhaps more power and influence than either Lord Liverpool or Canning.
In 1820 George III. died, and was succeeded by his son, George IV. In 1827 the Earl of Liverpool fell ill, and had to give up his office. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by Canning. In this year was fought the battle of Navarino (1827), which must be mentioned, in the first place, because it is the only sea-battle in which England has taken part since Trafalgar; in the second place, it is remarkable because three great nations which so often, both before and since, have found themselves enemies, for once fought side by side as friends against a common enemy.
The story of the battle can be shortly told. The Greeks, who had long been trying to free themselves from the hated rule of the Turks, had risen in insurrection to regain their liberty. The Turks did their best to put them down with savage cruelty. At last the great Powers of Europe could allow the Greeks to be oppressed no longer. They gave notice to both Turks and Greeks that the quarrel must cease, and that an arrangement must be come to.
The Turks refused to listen to them. A combined fleet of British, French, and Russian ships was sent to Navarino, on the west coast of the Morea. A conflict might perhaps have been avoided, but one of the Turkish ships unwisely fired a shot. This was the signal for a general action, and after a hard fight the Turkish force was absolutely destroyed. The independence of Greece was now possible, and the little kingdom of Greece, with its capital in the ancient and famous city of Athens, exists to this day.
At the time of the battle, the Prime Minister of this country was Lord Goderich, for in the month of August Canning had died. Goderich however, was not an able enough man for the high office which he filled, and his ministry only lasted four months. In January, 1828, he was replaced by the Duke of Wellington as Prime Minister. A very famous man, Robert Peel, afterwards known as Sir Robert Peel, was appointed to the office of Home Secretary, a post which he had already filled seven years earlier under Lord Liverpool.
Catholic Emancipation and Reform -- Slavery -- The Factory Act. (ch 72)
"I believe a substantial measure of reform would elevate and strengthen the character of our population; that, in the language of the beautiful prayer read here, [in the House of Commons] it would 'tend to knit together the hearts of all persons and estates within this Realm.' I believe it would add to the authority of the decisions of Parliament; and I feel satisfied it would confer a lustre, which time can never dim, on that benignant reign under which we have the happiness to live." -- John Bright: Reform Speeches, 1859.
In 1829 was passed the great Act known as the Act for Catholic Emancipation. Something more about this Act will be found later on in this book, but it must be mentioned shortly in its proper place here. In 1830 George IV. died, and was succeeded by his brother William, under the title of William IV.
In the same year the Duke of Wellington lost one of his colleagues by a sad accident. The accident is memorable because it serves to remind us of a very important event. In the month of September, 1830, the Duke of Wellington with a large party went down to Lancashire to witness the running of the first trains upon the new "Railway" which had just been made between Manchester and Liverpool. The famous engine built by George Stephenson, and named "The Rocket," astonished all men by drawing its train at the rate of thirty miles an hour. It was a wonderful success. Unluckily, the day was marked by one misfortune -- Mr. Huskisson, who had filled the office of Secretary for the Colonies under the Duke of Wellington, was knocked down and killed. This incident serves as a landmark in our history to remind us that this was the time when the first railway trains ran in England; and was the real beginning of the great railway system which has since spread all over the United Kingdom and the world.
In 1830 the Duke of Wellington's Ministry came to an end. The reason of its fall was the refusal of the Duke to agree to the plan for a "Reform Bill" which was proposed to him by Lord Grey. By the Reform Bill a great number of persons, who up to this time had no right to vote for Members of Parliament, were to be given the right to vote. The Reform Bill, like the Bill for Catholic Emancipation, must be mentioned here, but something more must be said about Parliamentary Reform in another chapter.
Lord Grey now became Prime Minister, and under him were three very famous men -- Lord John Russell, Lord Melbourne, and Lord Palmerston, each of whom in turn became Prime Minister of England. Lord Grey, having advised the Duke of Wellington to bring in a Reform Bill, now of course felt bound to follow his own advice and to bring one in himself. In 1831 the Bill was brought in, but it only passed through the House of Commons by a majority of one. It was withdrawn, and a new Parliament summoned. In the new Parliament there was a great majority in favour of the Bill. It was brought in by Lord John Russell, and passed by a majority of 136; but the House of Lords refused to pass it.
The refusal caused great disturbance in the country, and in some places there were riots, and the feeling against the House of Lords was very strong. At the end of 1831 the Bill was brought in a third time, and in 1832 it came before the House of Lords again. The Duke of Wellington, who had hitherto opposed the Bill, now consented to its passage, for he felt that to refuse any longer would be dangerous to the country. On the 7th Jane, 1832, the Bill was passed into law.
One or two very important things were done by the Government of Lord Grey besides passing the great Reform Bill. In 1833 a famous Act was passed, by which slavery was for ever put an end to within the British Dominions. The Slave Trade -- that is to say, the trade of capturing free men in Africa, carrying them across the sea, and selling them as slaves in British colonies or in the United States had been put an end to twenty-six years before, when Fox was Prime Minister. The Act now passed set free all the slaves belonging to British subjects in any part of the world.
In the same year was passed the Factory Act, by which it was made illegal to employ children under thirteen years of age for more than eight hours a day, or persons between thirteen and eighteen for more than twelve hours a day. Since 1833 many other Acts have been passed shortening the hours of work, but this one deserves to be remembered because it was the first.
In 1834 Lord Grey's Ministry came to an end, and Lord Melbourne became Prime Minister, but only for a very short time, for in the same year Sir Robert Peel succeeded him. Peel dissolved Parliament, hoping to get a majority of Conservatives to support him. After the Reform Bill the Conservative party had for a time almost vanished from the House of Commons. What was then called the Liberal party numbered 486 members, while the Conservatives had only 172 members. In the new Parliament of 1835 many more Conservatives were returned, but not enough to give Peel a majority. He resigned in April, and Lord Melbourne again became Prime Minister.
In June, 1837, King William IV. died, and was succeeded by his niece,- the Princess Victoria, daughter of his younger brother Edward, Duke of Kent, who had died in 1820.
Chapter 73. The Days of Queen Victoria. 1837-1852.
Principle Events During the reign of Queen Victoria:
Canada -- The Chartists. (ch 73)
"The noble and illustrious lady who sits upon the throne -- she whose gentle hand wields the sceptre over that wide Empire of which we are the heart and the centre." -- John Bright, 1866.
We now come to the beginning of a time which seems more familiar to us than any that has gone before namely, the reign of Queen Victoria. In June, 1837, William IV. died. He left no children, and the next heir to the throne was his niece, the Princess Victoria, daughter of his younger brother, the Duke of Kent. On the 28th day of June, 1838, Queen Victoria was crowned in splendid state, seated in the famous and ancient chair used by the Sovereigns of England, and with which is enclosed the "Stone of Destiny" on which the monarchs of Scot land took their seat many hundred years ago. She was just eighteen when she became Queen.
The young Queen soon found that matters of great and high importance were being discussed at her Council Board. A difficulty had arisen in the great colony of Canada, where bad government and an unsuitable Constitution had aroused great discontent, and actually led to an armed rebellion. Happily, a wise statesman, Lord Durham, was sent out to restore order, and by following the advice he gave, the British Government was enabled to arrange matters peaceably. An Act of Parliament was passed in 1840, which settled for the future what was to be the position of the mother country and the colony. The two divisions of Canada known as Upper and Lower Canada were united under one Parliament.
In 1840 Queen Victoria was married to her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, a man of noble character and of great learning and accomplishments. His death in 1861 was a deep and lasting sorrow to the Queen.
In the years 1839 and 1840 there were serious disturbances in England, which at one time caused great alarm. These disturbances arose from the action of the so-called Chartists. The Chartists were men who had drawn up a list of political changes which they declared ought to be made at once, and which they said were absolutely necessary for the good of the country. There were six things which they demanded, and these were written down in a declaration, or Charter, and were called the six points of the Charter. The six points were as follows:
(1) Annual Parliaments -- that is to say, that there should be a fresh Parliament elected every year.
(2) Manhood Suffrage -- that is to say, that every grown-up man in the country should have the right to vote for a Member of Parliament.
(3) Vote by Ballot -- that is to say, that voting for Members of Parliament should be secret, in order that the voters might be free to vote as they pleased without interference.
(4) Equal Electoral Districts -- that is to say, that the country should be cut up into a number of districts or "Constituencies," all having the same number of inhabitants, rind that each of these districts should send one Member to Parliament.
(5) The Abolition of a Property Qualification -- that is to say, that any man might be elected a Member of Parliament, whether he owned any property or not.
(6) That all Members of Parliament should be paid.
Some of the points of the Charter have since been agreed to and have become law. Members of Parliament are now elected by ballot, and they need not have any property. The districts which send Members to Parliament, though they are not all of exactly the same size, are much more nearly equal than they used to be. There are those who still hope that the other three points of the Charter may some day become law also.
At the same time, however, those who were in favour of the Charter threatened to use great violence if they did not get their way at once. A great petition to Parliament was drawn up, and an enormous crowd, led by Feargus O'Connor and Ernest Jones, tried to bring it before Parliament. But Parliament would not receive the petition, which it declared was sent to it as a threat, and refused to listen to any claim that was supported by violence and force. The refusal of Parliament led to serious rioting in some places, and at Newport, in Monmouthshire, soldiers had to be called out to fire upon the people.
The Anti-Corn-Law League -- The Potato Famine. (ch 73)
THE FOUR "DEARS." "Dear Sugar, dear Tea, and dear Corn,
Conspired with dear Representation
To laugh worth and honour to scorn,
And beggar the whole British nation."
-- Ebenezer Elliott: "Corn Law Songs."
We now come to a very important time in our history, for it was in the year 1838 that the movement first began against the laws by which corn was taxed on being imported into this country. In that year the Anti-Corn-Law League, the object of which was to do away with the taxes on corn, was formed in Manchester. The chief leaders of the Anti-Corn-Law League were Richard Cobden, John Bright, and Charles Villiers. These three men went about the country speaking at great meetings, and explaining to the people, in eloquent and clear speeches, how much harm was done to the country by taxing the food of the people.
As was easily to be expected, all those who were owners of land were against the change proposed by the Anti-Corn-Law League. They knew that so long as the corn from abroad was taxed, the price of English corn grown upon their own land would be high. Parliament, however, could not be persuaded to do away with the corn taxes. Lord Melbourne resigned his office in 1841, and Sir Robert Peel, who followed him as Prime Minister, at first refused to take away the taxes on corn. He did, however, take away some taxes upon goods brought into this country, for at that time duties had to be paid upon almost everything that was brought in from abroad.
Some people prophesied that the taking off the duties would ruin the country; but this did not prove to be the case, for, on the contrary, trade improved, and four years later (1845) Sir Robert Peel again took off a very large number of duties. The owners of the land and the farmers now began to be afraid that Peel would end by taking off all the taxes upon corn, and, as it turned out, their fears were well founded. They began to distrust Peel, and under the leadership of Benjamin Disraeli, their spokesman, then a young man who had just entered Parliament, made violent attacks upon the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.
But the readiness of Peel to do away with so many duties had done much to encourage the Anti-Corn-Law League, and day by day a greater number of people throughout the country were led to believe in what the Anti-Corn-Law leaders said. Their task soon became easier, for there was great distress in many parts of England, and men were actually starving while the price of bread was kept high by the taxes upon corn. Bad as things were in England, they were much worse in Ireland. In that part of the United Kingdom the majority of the people lived then, as, indeed, they do now, upon potatoes, an uncertain crop, and one which frequently suffers from disease.
In the year 1845 the Potato blight fell upon Ireland. Thousands of acres of potatoes were suddenly and utterly destroyed, and in a few weeks Ireland was suffering all the miseries of a great famine. All that could be done was done. A very large amount was spent in relieving the distress. Parliament voted £10,000,000, and very large sums were collected in the form of private charity, to save the starving people; but all that could be done was far too little. Death and disease were everywhere triumphant. Thousands died of actual starvation, or of disease arising from want of food, or from bad food. Greater still was the number of those who were forced to leave their country, which could no longer support them, and to seek a home across the Atlantic, in Canada or in the United States. For miles the countryside was deserted, and ruined houses alone remained to mark where populous villages had been.
In 1841 the population of Ireland was 8,175,124. In 1851 it had sunk to 6,515,794. The want of cheap food in Ireland was plainly even greater than the want of cheap food in England, and at last Sir Robert Peel could no longer refuse to do what he believed to be right and necessary.
At the end of the year 1845 he declared himself in favour of "repealing the Corn Laws" that is to say, doing away with the taxes on corn altogether. But though Peel had changed his mind, the other members of his Government were still opposed to the repeal, and Peel was compelled to resign his office; but no one could be found to take his place, and he came back again, supported this time by the Whigs, instead of, as before, by the Tories.
In 1846 a Bill was brought in to do away with the taxes on corn. It passed through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and became the law of the land. Within a few years' time all taxes upon bread in any shape were taken away, corn came in freely from abroad, and the price of bread fell lower and lower.
There can be no doubt that the change was a very fortunate one for the greater number of the people of this country, who were able to live better and more cheaply than ever before. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that taking away the taxes on corn was certain in the long run to injure British farmers, who relied upon the sale of their wheat for their profits. In our own day, when wheat can be grown very cheaply in America, in Russia, in Egypt, and in India, and can be brought swiftly and cheaply across the sea to our markets, it is all but impossible for British farmers to grow wheat and sell it at a profit.
Troubles in the Year "Forty-Eight." (ch 73)
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." -- Burke: "Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents."
Although Peel had agreed with Lord Russell and the Whigs for one purpose -- that of repealing the Corn Laws -- the agreement did not last long. A difference arose between Peel's party and that of Lord Russell, and in 1846 Peel resigned his office and Lord John Russell became Prime Minister.
In 1848, two years after the repeal of the Corn Laws, the Chartists, about whom we have already read, once more disturbed the country. They took advantage of the fact that all over Europe, especially in France, risings had taken place in which the people had attacked the Government. In France there had been a revolution, which had ended in King Louis Philippe being driven from his throne and a Republic being set up.
Nearer home, too, there had been an outbreak. In Ireland a party, called "The Young Ireland Party," led by Smith O'Brien and others, had risen in arms against the Government, and it had been found necessary to call on the police to put them down. Feargus O'Connor, who was still the principal leader of the Chartists, thought that this was a good time to try to gain his ends by violence in England itself. An enormous petition was signed by those who were in favour of the Charter, and nearly 6,000,000 names appeared upon it. It was afterwards found out, however, that many thousands of these were sham names, or names which had been put down without the leave of those to whom they belonged.
The Chartists were ordered to assemble in their thousands on Kennington Common, now called Kennington Park, and near which is the great cricket ground, known as "Kennington Oval." The plan was to march in a body to Westminster, to present the Petition, and over-awe Parliament by a great show of force. There is, however, an Act of Parliament which forbids large crowds to assemble or meetings to be held close to Westminster while Parliament is sitting. This is a wise and just law, for it is right that the House of Commons, which has been elected by the people to do the work of the country, should always be able to carry on its debates without the fear of interruption or the threat of violence.
The Government, therefore, forbade the great Chartist procession to come to Westminster. It is one thing, however, to forbid a great body of determined men to do a thing; it is another to prevent them doing it if they have a mind. Clearly, if force were to be used on one side, force would have to be used on the other. A number of soldiers were brought into London under the orders of the Duke of Wellington, and placed in houses and courtyards, where they were out of sight, but where they would be useful if they were wanted. It was a good thing to have the soldiers in case of great need, but it is always a pity to call upon armed men to fire upon their fellow-citizens, unless it be absolutely necessary for the safety of the State. The Government, therefore, did a wise thing when they called upon all good citizens who were opposed to violence, and who wished to see the laws of the country made or altered in a lawful way by Parliament, to come forward and resist the Chartists.
A call was made and was soon answered. No less than 200,000 citizens enlisted as "special constables." The Chartists were wise enough to see that against such a force as this they were powerless. The great procession which was to frighten Parliament broke up and never reached Westminster, and the great Petition was finally driven down to Westminster in a four-wheeled cab, where it was examined and found to bear not 6,000,000 signatures, but less than 2,000 that were genuine.
Thus ended the Chartist movement. It has proved a useful lesson, because it has shown two things. In the first place, it has shown that in our country changes in the law, if they be wise and reasonable in themselves, will in time be made in a regular and lawful way by Parliament. In the second place, it has shown that the people of England are content to leave the duty of making or altering laws to the free Parliament which they themselves have elected, and that they will not put up with any attempt to change our laws by force and violence.
Chapter 74. The End of the Great Peace and the Story of Our Own Times. 1852-1901.
The Death of the Great Duke.
"Bury the great Duke
With an Empire's lamentation,
Let us bury the great Duke
To the noise of the mourning of a mighty nation.
. . . . .
"Mourn for the man of long-enduring blood,
The statesman-warrior, moderate, resolute,
Whole in himself, the common good.
. . . . .
"Great in council and great in war,
Foremost captain of his time,
Rich in saving common-sense,
And, as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublime." -- Tennyson.
In the year 1851 an event had taken place in France which must be mentioned here, because it had much to do with English history during the next few years. In December, 1851, Louis Napoleon, the nephew of Napoleon Buonaparte, had succeeded in making himself "President" of the French Republic. To do this he had used great violence, causing the soldiers who obeyed him to shoot down or imprison those who opposed him, and who still wished France to remain a Republic. This violence, however, was altogether successful at the time, and in the very next year, 1852, Louis Napoleon persuaded the French people to declare him Emperor of the French under the title of Napoleon III.
It was in this year, 1852, that Lord Russell's Ministry came to an end. It was succeeded by a Conservative Ministry, under the Earl of Derby, which, however, only lasted a few months. In the same year the Duke of Wellington died, mourned by the whole people, who, though they had sometimes disagreed with what he had done as Prime Minister, remembered that he was the man who had saved the country in its time of danger, and who throughout the whole of his long life had always done his best to serve the nation faithfully and honourably. He was buried with great pomp in the cathedral of St. Paul, where his stately monument may still be seen. A great poet has written a noble poem upon the death of the "Iron Duke." The whole poem should be read, but there is room here for a few lines only, which have been quoted at the beginning of this chapter.
On the fall of Lord Derby's Ministry in 1852 Lord Aberdeen became Prime Minister. Mr. Gladstone, who had held other important offices already, and had become one of the foremost members of the House of Commons, became Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Ministry of Lord Aberdeen must be remembered, because it brought with it the end of that long period of peace which Britain had enjoyed for forty years. It was in 1854 that the Crimean War began. In this war Great Britain, France, Sardinia, and Turkey joined together against Russia.
The actual excuse for beginning the war is not now very important. The four allied nations really entered into it for very different reasons. Turkey fought against Russia because the Turks and Russians had long been enemies, and the Turks knew that the Russians would drive them out of Constantinople if they could get a chance. Great Britain fought because it was feared in this country that the defeat of Turkey by Russia would make Russia all-powerful in the east of Europe, and would injure British interests in the Mediterranean and in India. It was thought in those days that Turkey might be made strong enough to keep Russia in check.
France fought chiefly because the Emperor Napoleon, who had won his throne by violence, was afraid of losing it, and thought that by making war in alliance with Great Britain he would turn the thoughts of his people to warlike matters, and would lead them to forget their plots against himself. Sardinia fought because the clever Minister of the King of Sardinia, Count Cavour, wished to show that Sardinia had really got an army which could fight. He also hoped that by winning the support of Great Britain and France he would make powerful friends, who would some day help to make his master King of Italy instead of King of Sardinia. The wise Cavour was not disappointed. Victor Emmanuel, the son of Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, was proclaimed King of Italy in 1861, and in 1870 the King of Italy entered the palace at. Rome as the Sovereign of a united Italian nation.
The Crimean War. (ch 74)
"Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd;
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die."
-- Tennyson: "Charge of the Light Brigade."
The story of the war is a long history of mismanagement, suffering, and loss. The allied armies were landed on the Peninsula of the Crimea, in the Black Sea, and a battle was fought on the River Alma, September 20th, 1854, in which the allies were victorious. The town of Sebastopol lay open and might probably have been taken the next day, but an unwise delay enabled the Russians to fortify the place, and it was made so strong that a regular siege had to be undertaken. The siege lasted eleven months, and during its progress fierce fighting took place under the walls of the fortress. At Balaclava the famous charges of the Heavy and Light Cavalry Brigades took place; the Light Cavalry Brigade of 600 men being nearly destroyed by the fire of the Russians.
On the 5th November was fought the battle of Inker-man, in which some 8,000 British Infantry, fighting in the fog without support and without the hope of help, kept at bay 40,000 Russians. Inkerman has well, been called "the soldiers' battle," for never did success depend more upon the valour of the officers and men who fought, and less upon the wisdom and foresight of those who directed the army.
While fighting was going on in the Crimea a fleet was sent up the Baltic, but did little. The big ships drew too much water to be able to move freely in the shallow waters of the Baltic, but for the time the whole of the Russian trade was stopped. An attack upon the Russian possessions in the Pacific by a British squadron was defeated.
Meanwhile the terrible Crimean winter closed in upon the army in front of Sebastopol. The sufferings of the troops from the cold were terrible, and they were made worse by the mismanagement of the Government at home, which had failed to provide the stores and comforts which were required. The French, whose army was much larger than our own, suffered nearly as much as did the British. On both sides the losses were terrible, but the losses in battle were nothing compared to those which were due to cold, starvation, and disease.
At last, at the close of 1855, this unhappy war drew to an end. After a terrific bombardment, an assault upon Sebastopol was ordered. It was only partially successful. The French took the Malakoff Tower, the British were defeated in their assault upon the fortification called the Redan. But the taking of the Malakoff had made the further defence of Sebastopol impossible, and the Russians at last surrendered. In March, 1856, peace was made. The Russians promised never to bring warships upon the Black Sea, and never to fortify Sebastopol. Both promises have long ago been broken.
It is impossible to look back upon this unhappy war with any feeling of satisfaction. It is said that the losses of the allies amounted in all to no less than 250,000 men, while those of the Russians have been placed as high as 750,000. One thing alone about this war can be remembered with satisfaction, and that is the splendid bravery which was shown by the soldiers and sailors who fought in those fierce battles, and who endured, without a murmur, the hardships and misery of the long siege and of the cruel winter, and the mismanagement of a blundering and unprepared Government.
The Conquest of Scinde and the Indian Mutiny. (ch 74)
"The heroes of whom I have written are only representative men; and rightly considered, it is the glory of the Indian Services, not that they have sent forth a few great, but that they diffused over the country so many good, public officers, eager to do their duty though not in the front rank." -- Kaye: "Lives of Indian Officers."
Scarcely had the festivities which were held to welcome the returning heroes of the Crimea come to an end, when a fresh call was made upon our army to meet with another and a more terrible danger. This time it was from India that the call came, and it was an urgent summons for help from our own kinsmen in the East.
Ever since the days of Clive the power of Britain in India had been growing greater and greater. In 1843 the great territory known as Scinde, which lies in the north-west of India, between the Punjaub and Baluchistan, was added to the British dominions. Between 1845 and 1849 were fought the two Sikh wars. In 1845 Sir Hugh Gough succeeded in defeating the Sikhs, who had crossed the river Sutlej and invaded our territory, at the battles of Ferozeshah and Mudki. In the next year Sir Harry Smith was successful in winning the battle of Aliwal, and Gough that of Sobraon. Beaten for a time, the Sikhs were compelled to give up part of their territory. But never had British troops had to fight against a braver enemy in India, and even now the struggle was not ended; indeed, it seemed for a time as though the victory so hardly gained would be lost again.
The Second Sikh War broke out in 1848, and Sir Hugh Gough [Sir Hugh Gough was made Viscount Gough at the close of the second Sikh war.] was almost defeated in a fierce battle at Chilianwallah. One last battle restored the fortune of the war, and by gaining a complete victory at Gujerat, Gough made the British masters of the whole great Province of the Punjaub, or district of the "Five Rivers," of which Lahore is the capital. [The five rivers of the Punjaub are the Indus, the Sutlej, the Jhelum, the Chenab, and the Ravi.]
The Sikhs, who had fought so splendidly against us as our enemies, have ever since been among the most loyal subjects of the Sovereign, and have shown, when fighting under British officers, the same splendid bravery and endurance that they showed when fighting against us.
It was fortunate that we had good friends on our side in India at this time, for a great peril was hanging over the British Government, and all those who were friends of British rule in India. It was in the year 1857 that the terrible Indian Mutiny broke out. This was a mutiny among the regiments of Sepoy, or Hindoo, soldiers, who were at that time in the service of the East India Company. For a long time the outbreak had been plotted and planned, but the British officers refused to believe that the soldiers whom they had commanded so long were on the point of betraying them. Such, however, was the case.
It is said that the immediate cause of the mutiny was the serving out to the Hindoo troops of cartridges which were believed to be greased with cow's fat. Among the Hindoos the cow is held to be a sacred animal, and on no account will a Hindoo who wishes to be true to his religion either kill a cow or allow the meat of cow or bullock to pass his lips. At that time it was necessary to bite off the top of a cartridge before putting its contents into a gun, and thus the lips of the soldiers came in contact with the fat which their religion forbade them to touch. It seems likely, however, that the serving out of the cartridges was rather an excuse for the mutiny than its cause. The plan had been formed long before.
Early in 1857 a native regiment broke out into open mutiny at Meerut, and soon in all parts of India other regiments followed the example, murdered their officers, and marched to Delhi. Taken by surprise, the Government was at first powerless to protect the lives of English men and women, or to relieve the forts in which those who had been successful in escaping had taken refuge, and were defending themselves.
Cawnpore -- Lucknow -- Delhi. (ch 74)
"Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Colonies and Dependencies thereof in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australasia, Queen, Defender of the Faith,
"Whereas for divers weighty reasons, we have resolved, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons in Parliament assembled, to take upon ourselves the government of the territories in India, heretofore administered in trust for us by the Honourable East India Company:
"Now, therefore, we do by these presents notify and declare that, by the advice and consent aforesaid, we have taken upon ourselves the said government, and we hereby call upon all our subjects within the said territories to be faithful and to bear due allegiance to us, our heirs, our successors, and to submit themselves to the authority of those whom we may hereafter from time to time see fit to appoint to administer the government of our said territories, in our name and on our behalf." -- From Queen Victoria's Proclamation to the People of India, 1859.
The story of what followed must always be read with deep interest by every English man and woman. It is a story of terrible suffering, of danger, and of death; but it is made bright and splendid by the many instances which it contains of the heroism and the noble courage of men and women of our race. Cut off from all help and from all news of their friends, the small British garrison, aided by bodies of faithful natives, defended themselves, sometimes with no better protection than the walls of an ordinary house, against overwhelming numbers. Very few lost heart; all believed that their countrymen would come to their aid if it were possible, and that, if it were not possible, it was their duty to keep the flag flying to the last, and to die at their posts with their faces to the enemy. In some cases the bravest defence was of no avail, and help came too late.
The British garrison at Cawnpore, after having held out for twenty-one days, surrendered to the rebel leader, Nana Sahib, when food and ammunition were both exhausted, and after they had received a promise that their lives should be spared. The promise was shamefully broken. Men and women alike were massacred in cold blood, and the bodies thrown into a well; four persons only escaped to tell the story of Cawnpore.
A little to the north-east of Cawnpore lies the great city of Lucknow, and here, too, a British garrison, composed of a few British and some faithful native troops, was shut up with a number of women and children in the Government building, or "Residency," of Lucknow. In command was Sir Henry Lawrence, one of the wisest and best of the many wise and good men who have left this country to take part in the government of India.
Early in the siege Lawrence was struck by a cannon-ball and mortally wounded. The command of the little garrison fell to Brigadier Inglis, and what seemed a hopeless struggle went on. The only hope was the arrival of help from outside. At last that help came, when on the eighty-eighth day of the siege Sir Henry Havelock, with a small force, fought his way into the Residency. But even now the danger was as great as ever, for the garrison, with the help of the new soldiers whom Havelock had brought, was unable to make its way out in the face of the overwhelming number of the enemy.
At last, after the siege had lasted 141 days, the final relief came. The sound of firing was heard outside the city, and soon the news arrived that a second British force, under Sir Colin Campbell, was fighting its way through the streets of Lucknow. Havelock and Sir Colin met amid the ruins of the Residency. This time the force was strong enough to march out through the enemy, and the siege of Lucknow, more fortunate than that of Cawnpore, came to an end.
By this time, indeed, the power of the mutineers was beginning to give way. Troops hurried out from England had begun to make their way up the country, and regiments on their way to China had been wisely stopped at Singapore by the Governor-General, for use in India, Above all, the Sikhs, under the wise government of Sir John Lawrence, brother to Sir Henry Lawrence, had kept true to the British Government, and Lawrence was thus able to send soldiers from Scinde to assist in putting down the mutiny.
On the 2oth September, 1857, the great city of Delhi, the centre of the mutiny, was taken by the British after a terrible siege, and from that time the fate of the mutineers was sealed.
The British Government rapidly regained its power throughout the country, the mutinous regiments were destroyed or disbanded, and their leaders put to death, and by the end of 1858 British rule was once more firmly established in India. But the terrible danger which had just passed away had taught some very plain lessons, which were not neglected. It was felt by all that the time had come when the government of a mighty country such as India could no longer safely be left in the hands of a private body such as the East India Company, and it was decided that the government should be taken from the Company and placed under the Queen and her Ministers.
An Act of Parliament was passed which enabled this to be done, and on the ist November, 1858, it was declared that the rule of the Company had come to an end, and Queen Victoria was proclaimed as the Sovereign of India, and the head of its government. [In 1876 the Queen took the further title of Empress of India, and whenever she signed her name on any official paper which had to do with matters outside the United Kingdom, she signed it "V. R. and I.," meaning "Victoria, Regina et Imperatrix," Latin words for "Victoria, Queen and Empress" (of India). King Edward VII. signs "E.R. and I.," which means Edward, Rex et Imperator, "Edward, King and Emperor."]
The Volunteer Movement. (ch 74)
"Form, form, Riflemen, form!
Ready, be ready to meet the storm!
Riflemen, Riflemen, Riflemen, form." -- Tennyson (1859).
From 1855 down to 1858 Lord Palmerston had been Prime Minister, but in that latter year he was turned out of office. A man named Orsini, an Italian, had made a plot to murder Louis Napoleon, the Emperor of the French, by means of an explosive bomb. The bomb was made by Orsini in England, and was taken over to be used in Paris. The Emperor escaped, but many people lost their lives by the explosion. Orsini himself was captured in Paris, but his plot had been formed in this country, and his accomplices, or those who were believed to be so, were in England. The French demanded that these men should be given up to justice, but many people in England were unwilling that the accused should fall into the hands of Louis Napoleon, whom they believed to be a usurper and a tyrant.
As a matter of fact, the law of England, as it then stood, did not allow the Government to give up the persons charged with helping Orsini. Lord Palmerston declared that if there were no law allowing him to do so, such a law ought to be passed, for he said that it was an intolerable thing that men should be allowed to plot and contrive murder in this country, should carry out their intentions against the ruler of a friendly state, and should then be able to find a refuge in England.
But the feeling against handing over the accused persons was so great that, despite the anger of the French Emperor and the French people, and despite the advice of Lord Palmerston, the House of Commons refused point-blank to pass the new law, and Lord Palmerston was forced to resign office. But not for long. He was succeeded by Lord Derby, under whom was Benjamin Disraeli as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The new Ministry had no strength, and in the following year Lord Palmerston came back to office again as Prime Minister. It was fortunate that he had come back, for this was a time of danger and trouble in Europe, and no one knew better than Lord Palmerston how to pilot the country through the danger which threatened it.
Among these dangers the most serious was the ill-feeling which had grown up in France against this country. So serious did this danger seem that it was felt by all that some special steps must be taken to guard against the danger of invasion. The French army was then, as it is now, much larger than the British army, and it was better prepared for war. It was therefore proposed that "Volunteers" should be enrolled in Great Britain and formed into regiments, ready to resist the French if they came. This was the beginning of what is called the "Volunteer Movement." The plan found great favour among all classes, and soon thousands of men came forward and set to work to learn something of drill and the use of the rifle. Ever since the year 1859 the Volunteers have been growing stronger and better prepared.
The Civil War in the United States -- The "Alabama" -- The Geneva Award. (ch 74)
"It follows from these views, that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary according to circumstances."
. . . .
"I hold that in the contemplation of universal law and of the constitution, the union of these States is perpetual." -- President Lincoln at the beginning of the Civil War.
In 1861 began the great civil war in the United States between the North and the South. The story of that war cannot be told here. It was a terrible struggle, which for a time seemed likely to break up the Union of the States, but which ended in making that Union stronger than ever. The quarrel first began upon the question of how far the United States as a whole had the right to interfere with the affairs of any particular State in the Union. Some of the States declared that they were too much interfered with, and that they would separate, or secede, from the Union rather than give in. The Government and the people of the Northern States said that they would not allow the Union to be broken up, and they fought for their opinions.
But before the war was over it was clear to all that the real question which must be decided was whether slavery should be allowed to continue in the United States, or whether it should be done away with.
Happily, the North, who were in favour of freeing the slaves, won the day, after a struggle which lasted for nearly five years, and slavery has now long ceased to exist in the United States. But though the war took place in a distant and foreign country, it made a very great difference to this country, and for that reason something more must be said about it. In the first place, it nearly brought about a great misfortune to this country, for it all but led to a war between the United Kingdom and the United States.
There were two things which nearly led to a quarrel. The first was the action of a captain of a United States man-of-war on the Northern, or Federal, [The Northerners were known as "Federals," the Southerners as "Confederates."] side, who stopped a British mail-steamer, called the Trent, by force and took out of her two messengers who had been sent on her by the orders of the Southern, or Confederate, Government. This was a thing which could not possibly be allowed, for clearly it would be impossible to permit foreign ships of war to treat our ships as if they belonged to them, or as if they belonged to an enemy. A request was made to the United States Government that the two men who had been taken should be given up again, and happily, wise counsels gained the day.
Abraham Lincoln, who was at that time President of the United States, was a wise and great man. He knew that the act of his officer was not a right one, and could not be defended, and he therefore gave orders that Mason and Slidell, the two Southerners who had been taken out of the Trent, should be delivered up again to the British Government. This was done, and all danger was for the time averted.
A second danger, however, arose, which threatened at one time to prove even more serious than the first. It was more serious because this time it was Great Britain that seemed to be in the wrong. It happened that the South were very anxious to obtain ships of war with which to fight the North and destroy the Northern merchant ships. The Southerners could not build the ships themselves, and so they sent over to England and ordered them to be built there. The ships were built secretly, those who knew what they were intended for keeping their secret very well. Even the British Government had no idea that the ships were being prepared to make war upon the North. If they had known, it would have been their duty to stop the ships, and prevent their leaving the country, for it is not allowed for one country to furnish weapons of war to another for the purpose of being used against a friendly country.
At last, however, the secret began to leak out, and the British Government were warned that one of the ships, known as the Alabama, was about to sail from Liverpool, and was to be used as a warship as soon as she had taken on board her guns and gunpowder. Directly the officers of the Government knew what was taking place they sent off post-haste to stop the ship; but they were too late -- the Alabama had sailed, and the mischief was done. It turned out that the mischief was very serious, for the Alabama proved to be a dangerous ship to the North; and, though she was at last caught and sunk by a Federal man-of-war, it was not until she had herself captured or destroyed many hundreds of merchant vessels belonging to the North.
Besides the Alabama there were four other vessels which it was said had either come from British ports, or had been allowed to use such ports improperly while fighting against the North. The best known of these ships were the Florida and Shenandoah. The Northerners were furious when they saw the mischief that was done to their commerce, and they hastened to lay the whole blame upon this country, and to claim from England damages for the loss which their country suffered.
As a matter of fact, whatever had been done by the ships had been done against the will of the British Government, if they had escaped it was only by an accident, and there were many in this country who thought that the United States had no just claim at all upon us. As long as this matter remained unsettled there was always danger of a quarrel between the two great English-speaking countries; and it was, therefore, a matter which we all ought to feel thankful for that the question was settled without bloodshed. In the year 1871, six years after the war in America was over, the British Government agreed to submit a part of the claims made by the United States to be judged or arbitrated upon by certain persons chosen for the purpose, and who were supposed to be equally fair to both sides.
The arbitration took place at Geneva, in Switzerland, and lasted a long time. The case for this country and that for the United States were carefully stated by lawyers on either side. At last the decision was given, and unfortunately it was against this country. The arbitrators declared that, although we had not desired to let the ships go, we had not taken sufficient care to prevent their going, and that therefore we must answer for the consequences. Their judgment was that England should pay to the United States the sum of £3,229,166 13s. 4d.
This amount was accordingly paid over, and thus the dispute was settled. It is a very fortunate thing that two great countries such as Britain and the United States should have been the first to set the example to the world, and to show that even serious disputes may sometimes be far better settled by reason and argument than by force of arms.
The Cotton Famine. (ch 74)
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Matthew vii. 12.
Besides the difficulty which arose out of the matter of the steamship Trent, and that which followed the escape of the Alabama, a third trouble arose out of the American Civil War which had a very terrible effect on England. The whole of the cotton which was used in the mills of Lancashire came in the year 1861 from the Southern States of the Union, chiefly from Alabama and Tennessee. Before the war had been going on very long, the North set to work to blockade, or shut up, all the harbours of the Southern States. They declared these harbours to be "blockaded," and forbade ships of any kind to go in or out of them. A few ships did succeed in passing in or out, "running the blockade," as it was called; but most of the ships which made the attempt were captured by the Northern men-of-war.
The consequence was that the ships bringing cotton ceased to arrive at Liverpool; and there being no cotton, the cotton mills had to be stopped; and thousands of men, women and children who were employed in them were thrown out of work. Soon there was very great distress, and even starvation, in Lancashire. Money was collected in all parts of the United Kingdom to help the poor Lancashire work-people, who were suffering from no fault of their own.
But though as much as £3,000,000 was collected, this was not nearly enough to provide for the wants of the thousands who were out of work. As long as the war lasted, the distress in Lancashire was very great indeed; and it was not till the end of the war, when the North had gained a complete victory over the South, that the supply of cotton began again, and the mills could once more be opened.
But though the story of the Lancashire cotton famine is a very sad one, there is a bright side to it, which should never be forgotten. There were many people in this country who wished the British Government to take sides with the Southern States, or, at any rate, to declare that they had become a separate nation and ought to be treated as such. If either of these things had happened, there can be no doubt that the blockade of the Southern harbours would have been put to an end at once, the cotton would have come over as freely as before, and the "Cotton Famine" would have been at an end.
If the people in the great county of Lancashire had united to make the Government take sides with the South, most likely the Government would have been forced to take such a step. But the work-people of Lancashire took a very noble part. They believed that the Northerners were in the right, and that they were fighting to put down the hateful cause of slavery; and so, though their own interests would have been served if Great Britain had helped the South, they never changed their mind, but all through the war, and all through the time of suffering which the war caused, they remained true to what they believed to be the right. What Lancashire did at this time ought not to be forgotten, either by Lancashire men or by any of their fellow-countrymen.
And now we are coming very close to the days in which we live, days which have scarcely gone by long enough to take their place in "history." But a word or two must be said about them, so as to bring the story which is told in this book down to the time when those who read it were born.
Our Own Times. (ch 74)
"Our purpose in this Bill is briefly this, to bring Elementary Education within the reach of every English home, aye, and within the reach of those children who have no homes. This is what we aim at in this Bill; and this is what I believe this Bill will do." -- Speech of Mr. W. E. Forster when bringing in the Education Bill, 1870.
In 1865 Lord Palmerston died, at the age of 80, and Lord Russell became Prime Minister in his place. The very next year Lord Russell had to make way for Lord Derby, who, as before, chose for the Chancellor of the Exchequer Benjamin Disraeli. It was during the Ministry of Lord Derby that a second great "Reform Bill" was passed, which gave to a great many people who had never had votes before the right to vote for Members of Parliament.
In 1867 an attempt was made by the members of an Irish Secret Society, known as the "Fenians" to start an insurrection in Ireland. A great many of the Fenians were soldiers of Irish birth who had fought in the American Civil War. The police, however, were well informed about the plot; some of the leaders were taken away prisoners, others escaped, and the insurrection came to nothing.
In 1868 Mr. Gladstone became Prime Minister for the first time, and remained in office till 1874. During this time two Acts of Parliament were passed which must be remembered. The first is the Education Act, the second the Ballot Act. Both Bills were brought in by Mr. W. E. Forster. It was the Education Act of 1870 which led to School Boards being set up in a great many places, and to all children being compelled to go to school. Other countries had already found out how great an advantage it was for the whole people to be properly educated, and both in France and Germany children were compelled to go to school as a matter of course. We have now learnt the same lesson in our country, and it is the law that all children must either be properly educated at home or be sent to school. By another law, which was passed in the year 1891, all parents were given the right to have their children's schooling free if they so desired.
By the Ballot Act the manner of giving votes in elections to Parliament was altered. Before 1872 all votes were given openly, and it was thus known which way any man voted. It was therefore possible for badly-disposed persons to punish voters for giving their votes in a particular way. By the Ballot Act all voting was made secret, and now after an election nobody knows for certain which way a particular man has voted. The new plan has helped to prevent voters being bribed or threatened, for it is no use bribing a man if you can never be sure whether, after taking the bribe, he has not voted the other way after all; nor is it any use threatening a man for the use he makes of his vote when you can never be certain how he has used it.
In 1874 Mr. Disraeli became Prime Minister, and governed the country for six years. It was in these years that wars took place in Afghanistan, and in Zululand, in South Africa. The Republic of the Transvaal, in South Africa, and the island of Cyprus were annexed to the British Empire.
In 1880 Mr. Gladstone, in his turn, turned out Mr. Disraeli. [Mr. Disraeli was in 1876 summoned to the House of Lords as Lord Beaconsfield. He died April 19, 1881.] Mr. Gladstone remained in office for five years. During this time the country was seldom free from war. In 1880 the Boers of the Transvaal rose in rebellion. The British troops sent against them were defeated, and our Government at once surrendered, and gave up the Transvaal. It has not been usual for a British Government to give in directly its soldiers are beaten, and though there were some who approved of what had been done, there were many who strongly condemned it.
In 1882 a British expedition was sent to Egypt to put down the army of Arabi Pasha, who had risen in revolt against the Khedive of Egypt, who was our ally. The forts of Alexandria were bombarded by the British fleet, and a great part of the city of Alexandria was, unluckily, burnt by a riotous mob before troops could be landed to keep order. Arabi was defeated at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, and was taken prisoner.
There was much savage fighting in Egypt after this, owing to the attempt of an Arab chief, who called himself the "Mahdi," to invade the country. General Gordon, a gallant and noble soldier, was sent to Khartoum, on the river Nile, and was there besieged by the followers of the Mahdi. After a long delay, British troops were sent to rescue him, but they arrived too late, only to find that Khartoum had fallen and General Gordon been murdered.
The political history of the next few years is chiefly concerned with what is known as the Irish Home Rule agitation. A large party in Ireland desired to establish a separate parliament in Dublin, and in 1885, Mr. Gladstone, who had hitherto not been in favour of Home Rule, declared himself to be one of its supporters. He was followed in his change of politics by many members of the Liberal party in Parliament, and in 1886 a Home Rule Bill was brought into the House of Commons; it was defeated by a majority of 30. In the new Parliament elected in the same year, the Unionists, or opponents of Home Rule, with Lord Salisbury as Prime Minister, were in a large majority. Six years later (1892), however, after another general election, Mr. Gladstone was once more returned to power, and in 1893 introduced a second Home Rule Bill, which passed the House of Commons by a majority of 34 votes on the 2nd of September, but was rejected by the House of Lords. Mr. Gladstone himself retired from politics in 1894, an d Lord Rosebery was for a short time Prime Minister, but in 1895 he was compelled to resign. Parliament was dissolved and the elections gave a majority of 152 Unionists, and Lord Salisbury again became Prime Minister.
In the autumn of 1900 another general election took place, when Lord Salisbury was once more returned to office.
In 1887 the "Jubilee," or fiftieth year, of the Queen's reign was celebrated. In January, 1892, the Duke of Clarence, eldest son of the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, died. In 1897 the sixtieth year of the reign of Queen Victoria was celebrated with great rejoicing throughout the whole of the British Empire.
The Boers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State declared war against the British in 1899, and a long struggle ensued, during which the two Republics were annexed to the British Empire, but a guerilla war was continued till May 31, 1902, when peace was signed.
On the 22nd of January, 1901, at the age of 81, Queen Victoria died, to the intense grief of the whole Empire. Her reign had lasted over 63 years, the longest of any English Sovereign. She was succeeded by her eldest son, who took the title of Edward VII.
Chapter 75. The Conquests of Peace.
The Australian Colonies and South Africa.
"Sea-king and Sage: staunch huntsman of pure fame.
Beating the waste of waters for his game,
Untrodden shores of tribes without a name,
That nothing in an island's shape,
Mist-muffled peak, or faint cloud-cape,
Might his determined thoughtful glance escape
No virgin lands he left unknown,
Where future Englands might be sown,
And nations noble as his own."
-- A. Domett: "Ranolf and Amohia."
Much of this book has been taken up in describing the way in which great portions of our Empire have been won and kept by the expenditure of the blood and wealth of our countrymen; but we must not forget that there are parts of our Empire as great and as important as those of which we have spoken, which have been won wholly or to a great extent without shedding of blood, and without a war against any European Power.
First and foremost of all must be named the great Australasian Colonies. It is not without reason that Australians love to honour the name of Captain Cook. It was he who, sailing in the South Pacific in 1769, sighted New Zealand, and next year landed in New Holland, now known as New South Wales. It was he who, a year or two later, discovered New Caledonia, and in 1778 the Sandwich Islands. Finally he met with his death at the hands of the natives of Hawaii, one of the Sandwich Islands.
From the days of Captain Cook the Australasian Colonies have grown -- first slowly and of late rapidly. Their early years were darkened by the fact that they were made Penal Stations for convicts sent from this country, and Botany Bay, one of the most lovely spots in New South Wales, earned an unhappy fame on account of the convict station established near it. In the year 1868, however, the sending of convicts to most of the Australasian Colonies was discontinued, and since that date it has been given up altogether. From that time forward the progress of the Colonies has been steady.
New South Wales, the oldest of them all, dates its history from its first settlement by Captain Phillip, who chose the position of the present capital of Sydney. Tasmania, formerly known as "Van Dieman's Land," had been diseovered as far back as 1642 by Tasman, a Dutchman; but it was not till 1804 that the first Governor was sent out to this beautiful island, and Hobart Town, its capital, now called Hobart, founded.
The rights of Britain to New Zealand were recognised in 1840, and the islands were placed under the Government of New South Wales. It was not till 1852 that a separate New Zealand Parliament was formed. Victoria, like New Zealand, was considered for many years a part of the Colony of New South Wales. It was not till 1851 that it received its present name, and became independent; and now, with its immense capital of Melbourne, it is one of the richest though not one of the largest of the Australian Colonies. South Australia, the great territory which, oddly enough, contains almost the northern point of Australia, [Cape Wessel] became a Colony in 1836. The remaining Australian Colonies, though they are already important States, are of very recent origin. Queensland may be said to date from 1860; Western Australia is older. On January 1st, 1901, the Colonies (except New Zealand) were confederated under the title of the Commonwealth of Australia. The outlying Fiji Islands, which now have their own Governor, were annexed to the Empire in 1874.
In Africa, the Cape Colony, as we have already read, was captured by British arms; but the great tracts of British territory in South Africa are in a large measure due to the energy and enterprise of British explorers. Natal was annexed in 1843. Zululand has since been added to it. The great stretch of territory between the northern frontier of Cape Colony and the southern end of Lake Tanganyika has now been added, under one form or another, to the British Dominions. The government of the Transvaal and of the Orange Free State was for several years in the hands of the Dutch Boers. In 1899, however, the latter made war upon the British, but were defeated, and their countries annexed (1900) to the British Empire. The States are now known as the Transvaal (or Vaal River Colony) and the Orange River Colony, respectively.
On the east coast, the island of Zanzibar and a large portion of the mainland, known as "British East Africa," have come under our rule, while our original possessions on the west coast, especially on the River Niger, have been greatly increased. A portion of the island of Borneo now belongs to a British Company, while Singapore and Hong Kong, two of the most important British possessions in Eastern Asia, have become ours by treaty -- the former in 1824 and the latter in 1842.
The British Empire. (ch 75)
"Sharers of our glorious past,
Brothers, must we part at last?
Shall we not thro' good and ill
Cleave to one another still?
Britain's myriad voices call,
Sons, be welded each and all
Into one Imperial whole,
One with Britain, heart and soul!
One life, one flag, one fleet, one Throne!
Britons, hold your own!" -- Tennyson.
It is well to consider for a moment what this "British Empire," of which we have spoken so often, really is at the present day. It is true to say that nothing like it has ever been known before in the history of the world. It covers an area of no less than 11,334,391 square miles; its population is no less than 382,612,448.
But these figures in themselves tell us little. It is neither the area over which it extends, nor the number of people whom it contains, that gives to the British Empire such strength as it possesses. It is sometimes necessary to weigh as well as to count. But when we come to weigh as well as to count, the greatness of the opportunity which has been given to British citizens appears more plainly than ever.
If we look at a map of the world we shall see that by far the greater part of the "temperate regions" of the earth outside Europe are within the limits of the British Empire. The British Islands themselves, the centre of the whole, are situated in a latitude (50 to 59 N.) which is so far north that in a less favoured part of the globe they would be in the region of almost Arctic ice. Lying in the warm current of the Gulf Stream, and washed by the waters of the Atlantic, they enjoy a climate in which, with all its disadvantages, the work of man can be carried on by a hardy and industrious race with a vigour and a freedom from interruption not excelled in any other country.
Canada, though exposed to the rigours of a severe winter, is a land in which men of white race can work and live and thrive. The great island continent of Australia is so large that although its southern portion extends into the Temperate Zone, it reaches in the north up into the half-tropical heat of the 11th parallel. But throughout nearly all the inhabited portions of Australia, in the lovely islands of New Zealand, and the scarcely less lovely island of Tasmania, men of European race can live and work without any great change in their habits or ways of living. In South Africa, where men of British race are pouring in by thousands, the same thing is to a very large extent true; and though the presence of a large native population makes life very different in some respects from what it is in Europe, there seems no reason to believe that the growing nation which is fast springing up is likely to lose the qualities which it has inherited from the old country, but that, on the contrary, it is in a fair way to become one of the strongest and most stirring branches of the great Anglo-Saxon family.
And it must be remembered that all these men of British stock are truly of one race, speaking one language, and one and all proud, and justly proud, of the famous history of the powerful and ancient land from which they all alike have sprung.
But this is not all that makes up the strength of the British Empire. Within its borders there are at this day more than fifty millions of men and women of British race speaking English as their native tongue. This, above all and before all, is the true strength of the Empire. But there are other things which in a lesser degree help to make it strong. It has been said of Britannia that
"Her march is o'er the mountain waves,
Her home is on the deep."
And the same thing is true, almost in the same degree, of the great Empire which is bound together by the waters of the sea, which now unite, and no longer divide widely-separated shores.
Let us once more look at the map, and learn the lesson which it teaches us. It tells us in very plain language that the gates of the pathways of the seas are in the possession of men of British race, and citizens of the British Empire. Look at the names, and mark how the places they represent stand sentinel on all the great ocean highways. Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Perim, Colombo, on the road to India and the East; Singapore and Hong Kong, still further to the East. Port Darwin, on the north of Australia, King George's Sound on the south, secure the road to the Southern Pacific. Again turn westward, and there mark where Halifax, Bermuda, and the West Indian Colonies knit together the transatlantic territories of the oldest and most widely extended of all the States of America, joining Canada on the north, with British Guiana on the south. Lastly, note how the remote Falkland Islands keep watch over the road which leads round Cape Horn; and how the harbours of Vancouver and Esquimault in British Columbia protect the end of the great Canadian Pacific Railway, and display the flag of our Empire upon the North Pacific Ocean. When we have noticed these things, and understand how much they mean, we shall know what is meant by saying that "The Gates of the pathways of the sea are in the hands of the British race."
But even this is not all that can be said of the great inheritance to which every subject of the King is born an heir. Mark where the huge peninsula of India lies bathed in the warm waves of the Indian Ocean.
That great peninsula, with its rich products, its teeming population, its wonderful history, is governed from end to end -- from the snowy Himalayas, which encircle and protect it on the north, down to the southern extremity where-Cape Comorin stretches into the Indian Ocean -- by men of British race. The right and the power to govern India wisely, honourably, and well, is one of the privileges in which every one of the King's subjects has the right to take his share.
Such is, then, the great Empire to which we belong. To-day it stands firm, and fair, the envy of all the world. But who can say how long it will stand as it does to-day? Whether it stand or fall will depend upon the wisdom and courage of the British race. If we stand together, no power in the world is strong enough to overthrow such an Empire. But if we do not stand together, if every part of the Empire thinks it is strong enough to get on by itself, and cares nothing for the welfare of the whole, then, indeed, it is certain that, great, and splendid as our Empire is, it will before long break up and be destroyed, and the greatest opportunity that ever was given to any people since the world began will be thrown away, never to be recovered.
There is an ancient story, one of the famous fables of Aesop, which tells how a young man, being set to break a bundle of faggots, at last gave up the task in despair, and came to ask advice of one wiser than himself as to how he should accomplish the task. And this was the counsel that his friend gave him: "United," said he, "the sticks which compose the bundle will never yield to your efforts; do but untie the string which binds them together, and then nothing will be easier than to break each separate stick at your leisure, and your task will soon be accomplished." The young man took the advice that was given him, and in a trice what had before seemed too firm and strong for the most powerful man to destroy, was broken into pieces with ease when once the bond of union was taken away.
And this story supplies a lesson which may be learnt, and ought to be learnt, by every Briton, wherever he lives, throughout the Empire. The United Kingdom is a great country; Canada is a great country; Australia and New Zealand are great countries; South Africa is, or is fast becoming a great country also; but not one of these countries can ever be as great or as powerful when standing alone as they perhaps might be, if they choose to stand as parts of the great British Empire. There are plenty of people, enemies of our country, who would rejoice to see the bundle of faggots unbound, and each stick composing it broken and cast aside.
But if those who belong to the Empire, wherever they live throughout the world, are determined not only that the bond of union shall never be broken, but that, on the contrary, it shall be drawn much closer, and made still stronger than it now is; then, beyond doubt, the future of our race will be not less great and glorious than its past has been. When once that union has been made sure and strong, then indeed the British Empire will be able to face the world without fear, and safe from all danger of attack, and will be able to grow in peace under the free institutions and just laws which many generations of Britons have won and maintained.
Chapter 76. Steps on the Path of Freedom.
The Growing Giant.
"A land of settled government,
A land of old and just renown;
Where freedom slowly broadens down
From precedent to precedent." -- Tennyson.
In the chapters which have gone before, we have learnt something of the order in which the principal events in the history of our country took place between the date of the accession of George I. and the present time. We have read a great deal about wars by sea and by land, about treaties and peaces, and about the doings of great statesmen and great soldiers. It must not be supposed, however, that such things as these make up the history of a great country like our own, or, indeed, of any country.
It is true that the wars which went on almost continuously between 1714 and 1815 were of the greatest possible importance to the United Kingdom, and, indeed, to the whole of what is now the British Empire. During those hundred years the foundations of the British Empire as we now know it were laid and firmly established. Seldom has a nation run greater risks than were incurred by our country during that time of war, and seldom has a nation gained more by war than was gained by the United Kingdom during the long struggle which came to an end in 1815.
But in that year, happily, war ceased, and the country enjoyed forty years of almost undisturbed peace. During those years, and the forty years which followed, very great changes were made or begun in this country which are of the greatest possible importance to all of us who now live in it.
It is not easy to describe all these great changes in a word or in a sentence, but if one were called upon to describe them very shortly it would be true to say that they were nearly all of them Steps on the path of Freedom. This may seem rather a hard sentence to understand, but its meaning can easily be made clear. It was no new thing that the English people should advance along the path of freedom. In an earlier part of this book we read how the Barons of England won Magna Charta from King John, and thus took a great step to free the people from unjust government on the part of its kings. We read how Simon de Montfort took another step by giving us a Parliament which, though not always as free as our own Parliament is at the present day, was through the whole of its long life at all times the freest and greatest assembly in the world.
The Reformation and the changes which followed it did something towards giving us freedom in matters of religion, and allowing people to think and believe what they pleased. But much more still remained to be done before this freedom was really won.
The Civil War, and the Revolution which placed William III. upon the throne, freed us from the tyranny of kings. And, indeed, in many other ways each century of our history has brought with it some fresh liberty, and though freedom came little by little, the cause of freedom always grew stronger. It would be a great mistake to blame or think ill of our forefathers because their ideas of what people ought to be allowed to do were not exactly the same as our own. A nation grows as a man grows, and what is wise and proper for the child is quite unsuitable for a grown-up man.
The people of England kept growing and stretching like a young giant, and as it grew, its old clothes the old laws which had fitted it well enough in its youth became tight and oppressive, and the healthy young giant began to push through them at knees and elbows. Sometimes a little patching was enough, but after a time patching would serve no longer, and a new suit, roomier and easier than the old one, had to be furnished.
But though the growth of English freedom had gone steadily on for hundreds of years, it must be confessed that during part of the time about which we have been reading in this book, there seemed to be a stoppage, and as if all hope of gaining more liberty had come to an end. The time when this stoppage seemed to take place was that which was occupied by the great wars which followed the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.
The French Revolution and British Freedom. (ch 76)
"We Englishmen stop very short of the principles upon which we support any given part of our Constitution: or even the whole of it together . . . But although there are some amongst us who think our Constitution wants many improvements to make it a complete system of liberty, perhaps none who are of that opinion would think it right to aim at such improvements by disturbing his country and risking everything that is dear to him." -- Burke: Speech on Conciliation with America, p. 110.
It is not hard to understand why this stoppage should have taken place. There were really two very good reasons for it. In the first place the war itself furnished a reason. There is an American proverb which says, "It is ill to change horses whilst crossing a stream." And indeed it is quite true that though a man who is fording a stream may have a bad mount, he will be wise if he waits till he gets to the other side before he changes it. And so it was with Britain. There were very many wise and clear-sighted men in the country who knew well that the nation had gone on growing while its laws and liberties had not grown, and who were quite willing, and indeed anxious, to improve the laws and to extend the liberties of the country.
But what they thought and what they said was: "Not now; there is a time for everything, but not for everything at the same time. Our country is fighting for its life: our first business is to win, and to free the country from the greatest danger of all -- that of conquest by a foreign nation." It was Freedom, after all, that they were fighting for. They knew well enough that if once the freedom of this country upon the sea and within her own borders were taken away, there would be an end of all chance of improving the laws, or, indeed, of living an honourable life under existing laws. Therefore they said, "Changes in the law are no doubt needed, but they must wait."
There was another reason, too, which for a time checked the advance of freedom. The people of France, or some of them, had declared that they, and they alone of all the peoples of Europe, knew what freedom meant, and that their way of getting it and enjoying it was the only right way. When, however, the people of England began to see that in spite of all the fine words which were used about it, freedom, as understood by the French at that time, meant plunder, and civil war, and lawlessness and cruelty at home, and that it meant endless war and conquest abroad; when, too, they learnt, as they did a little later, that all this fine talk about freedom was to end in the triumph of a soldier who had made himself absolute master of France, and ruled half Europe with the bayonet, they began to distrust and fear the very name of freedom which seemed to bring nothing but misery and tyranny in its train. Luckily, freedom may be won by other means, and may be used in other ways very different from those which found favour in France at the time of the Revolution.
When we think of these things, it is hard to blame our ancestors for not going quite so fast as we have done since. But though there may have been a good reason for going slowly for a time, it must not be supposed for a moment that the nation was not growing. On the contrary, it was growing very fast, and never did the old clothes seem tighter, and more inconvenient, and more old-fashioned than when peace came in 1815, and allowed the Government once more to turn its attention to matters at home. It was indeed time that they should do so, for already the discontent and distress which had so long been kept under had become very serious.
And now let us see what were the new steps on the path of freedom which were taken between the year 1815 and our own time. Here is a short list of the most important steps:
1. Freedom of the individual.
(a) The emancipation of the slaves.
(b) The freedom of workmen from excessive work.
2. Freedom of thought and religious opinion.
3. Freedom and extension of communication.
4. Freedom of the press.
5. Freedom of trade and commerce.
6. Freedom of Parliamentary voting.
Freedom of the Individual: the Abolition of Slavery and the Slave Trade. (ch 76)
"That execrable sum of all villainies commonly called a Slave Trade." -- John Wesley: Journal.
There are many kinds of freedom, but the most important of all, the one which must come first to our minds, is the right of a man or a woman to be free from interference with his or her right to live, and move, and act. It is proper, therefore, that in speaking of the freedom which the last hundred years brought with it, to put first and foremost the release of men and women from slavery.
Long ago slavery had come to an end as far as Englishmen were concerned. It was not till the year 1772, when George III. was king, that it was declared that the law of England forbade anyone to be kept as a slave within the United Kingdom. In that year the famous case of the negro Somerset was decided. A negro slave named Somerset was turned out in the streets by his master because he was ill and unable to work. The slave was found almost dead in the streets by a Mr. Granville Sharp, who, being a kind and humane man, had him taken to the hospital, and found a situation for him when he got well. Two years afterwards Somerset's old master met him, and at once told a policeman to put him into prison as a runaway slave.
"He is my property," said the master, "and no one has any more right to take him away than they have to take my hat or coat." Mr. Sharp and the master went to law to settle their dispute, and the Lord Mayor of London, who had to try the case, at once declared that Somerset was free, and that his old master had no right to claim him. The matter did not end there. The master, in defiance of the Lord Mayor, tried to carry off Somerset again, and at last the whole matter came before the judges. It was then that Lord Mansfield, speaking on behalf of twelve of the judges, declared that by the law of England a man became free the moment he touched our shores. This put an end to slavery in England for ever. It is now true to say, in the words of the poet:
"Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free;
They touch our country, and their shackles fall." -- Cowper
But more than this had to be done before Britain could be free from the blame of encouraging and allowing slavery. The next thing to be done after freeing the slaves in England was to stop the trade in slaves. This cruel and hateful trade was carried on between Africa on the one hand and North and South America and the West Indies on the other. Negroes dragged from their home by parties of armed men were crowded into the slave ships and carried across the Atlantic. Many died on the way from the overcrowding of the ships and ill treatment. Those who were safely landed were sold as slaves to work on the sugar and cotton plantations.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century two or three noble-minded men took the lead in trying to get the Government to declare the slave trade illegal. The chief among them were William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, and Zachary Macaulay, father of Lord Macaulay, whose name is so well known. The chief supporters of Clarkson, Wilberforce, and Macaulay were the members of the Society of Friends, commonly known as the "Quakers," who were foremost in this and in many other good works.
It was not till the year 1805, however, the year in which the battle of Trafalgar was fought, that the British Government issued its first order against the slave trade. Two years later a second order was issued stricter than the first, which forbade slaves to be taken to any British possession, and orders were given to British warships to capture all vessels which they found disobeying the order.
It was a great thing to have stopped the slave trade, but something more remained to be done, for in the British Colonies and West Indies, and on the American coast, thousands of negroes were still held as slaves by British masters. For many years the followers of Wilberforce and Clarkson did their best to persuade the Government to do away with slavery in every part of the British Empire. The part which had been taken by Clarkson and Wilberforce was now taken by Sir Powell Buxton and others. It was not, however, till the year 1838, in the reign of Queen Victoria, that an Act of Parliament was passed doing away with slavery in the West India Islands altogether and setting free all the slaves.
One thing deserves to be specially remembered when we read of the freeing of the slaves. Up to that time the slaves had been the property of their masters, and had been bought and sold just like cattle or any other kind of possession. Large sums had been spent in purchasing them, and it was clear that if they were all set free at once, without any payment being made to the masters, the latter would be ruined. Some people said that it was not necessary to pay the masters anything, that it was wrong to keep slaves, and that it would be a mistake to pay men who had been doing what was wrong.
But Parliament and the majority of the people were wiser and more honest than those who spoke in this way. They said, "The masters have only done what the law allowed them to do. If, when the law is altered, they break it, they will deserve to be punished; but it will be most unfair to punish them if they have not broken the law." And so it was decided to pay a large sum out of the taxes -- no less than £20,000,000 -- to the masters who had been suddenly deprived of their property.
This was honest and right, for if any other plan were to be followed as a rule by Parliament, no one would dare to spend money or engage in trade at all. An Act of Parliament does not make a thing right or wrong, it only makes it legal or illegal, and it would be very hard if people who had obeyed the law all their lives were to be punished because Parliament had suddenly changed its ideas.
Freedom of the Individual (continued): The Slavery of Toil -- Freeing the Worker. (ch 76)
"Work! work! work!
While the cock is crowing aloof:
And work! work! work!
Till the stars shine through the roof.
It's oh! to be a slave
Along with a barbarous Turk,
Where a woman has never a soul to save,
If this is Christian work!"
-- Hood: "Song of the Shirt."
We have not, happily, had to set any of our countrymen free from slavery such as that which existed in the West Indies; but there is a slavery of work which is often even more cruel and hard to bear than the slavery of a master. A great deal has been done during the nineteenth century to set free Englishmen, and more especially English women and children, from the slavery of long hours and overwork from which they suffered.
There are many men and women now alive who can remember the dark days when men, women and, indeed, young children, were set to work in mines and factories for twelve, and sometimes even for fifteen, hours a day. In those days work was indeed to many a slavery scarcely less terrible sometimes, indeed, more terrible than that which was endured by the negroes in Jamaica.
Few could hear the stories which were told of this overwork and its bad results without feeling for the sufferers and yearning to see the long hours of labour shortened. Unluckily, the workers found few who knew what they had to undergo, and fewer still who were ready to take trouble to make other people understand it. Happily, however, there were Englishmen whose hearts were touched by the sorrows of their fellow-countrymen, and who made it the special work of their lives to make these sad stories known, and to try to get Parliament and the nation to do something towards mending matters.
It was not an easy task. Few were found to say that they thought the long hours and the overwork a good thing, but many good and wise men were found who said that it was a dangerous thing to interfere with the right of men and women to work as long as they pleased, and that even parents had a right to say how long their children should work, and that no one ought to interfere with them.
There is a great deal of truth in what these men said. We have just been reading in this chapter how in a great many ways Englishmen had been fighting for greater freedom, and had succeeded in winning it. It is certainly true, that to prevent a man from doing what he likes with his own time, with the labour of his own hands, is to interfere with his freedom.
Happily, however, English people have a way of getting a good thing done by means of a little "give and take," and they have agreed that it is better to give up a little freedom in one direction in order to gain great freedom in another.
If we were to name any one Englishman as being the leader of the movement for shortening the hours of labour, we should give the name of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury, who as far back as the year 1833 brought in a Bill for limiting the hours of labour in factories, and who fought for the cause down to the end of his long life in 1885. But others had been at work before him, and there were others who worked with him.
In the year 1802 the hours of apprentices were shortened to twelve hours a day. In 1819 children under nine years of age were forbidden to work in the cotton mills; and children under sixteen were limited to twelve hours' work a day, and were forbidden to work at night. In the reign of William IV. (1833) a great change was made by compelling children to be sent as "half-timers" that is, compelling them to be sent to school during the half of the day in which they were not at work. So far, the children only had been cared for. It was to Lord Ashley that a first victory for the women was due. Their hours were fixed (1844) at not more than twelve hours a day.
Other Acts were passed, all helping to lighten the labour of women and children. Inspectors were appointed to see that the law was obeyed. In 1847 came perhaps the most important change of all, when the hours of work of women and young persons in the textile mills were limited to ten hours. This great change did not affect women and young persons only, but it affected the men working in the factories also, for the mills could not be kept open after the women had left, and thus the men's day also was limited to ten hours. The great workers for this Bill were Lord Shaftesbury, Mr. Fielden, Member of Parliament for Oldham, and Mr. Oastler, Member for Huddersfield.
Since the Ten Hours Bill was passed, still further changes have been made. The work in many factories has been reduced to nine hours a day.
Laws have been passed shortening the hours of railway servants; and in 1894 the Government of the country set a great example by shortening the hours of work in the Government workshops, the great dockyards and arsenals, to eight hours a day. Many people honestly believed that such changes as those which have been described would do great harm, and would injure the trade and industry of the country. But this has not hitherto proved to be the case; on the other hand, there can be no doubt that the shortening of hours has been a blessing to millions, and has given to those who were formerly slaves to their work leisure in which to enjoy their lives, and freedom to use their minds and their bodies according to their own inclinations during their own time. This is indeed a great freedom to have won.
Freedom of Thought and Religious Opinion. (ch 76)
"Give me liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." -- Milton: "The Liberty of Unlicenssd Printing."
There is hardly a time in English history in which we do not find some body of wise and brave men and women striving to win greater liberty of thought, and the right to hold their own opinions about religious matters without interference. In our own days there is little more to be done, for the battle has at last been won, and long before the year 1815 also many a victory had been won for the same cause but there were still some strongholds to be attacked and won even at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
In the first place, there still existed laws which prevented persons holding particular religious beliefs from enjoying the same rights as were allowed to all other citizens. These laws were directed against the Roman Catholics, the "Dissenters" that is to say, Protestants who "dissented" or differed from the Church of England and the Jews. We have read in an earlier chapter how it came about that these laws were made, and we have also seen that some of the most severe laws of the kind had already been done away with; but some of them still remained. For instance, the Roman Catholics felt it very unjust that in Ireland, where they formed a large majority of the people, they should not be allowed to hold public offices, to dispose of their property as they pleased, to vote for Members of Parliament, or to be elected Members of Parliament.
In England and Scotland also there were still special laws in force against the Roman Catholics, but they were less severe than those which existed in Ireland. It was still the law, however, that before a man could be appointed to certain public offices, or take his degree at the Universities, he must take an oath, called the "Oath of Supremacy and Allegiance." The oath was drawn up in words which prevented any Roman Catholic, and, indeed, any Dissenter, from taking it, for it would have made them declare that they believed things to be true which in their conscience they thought to be untrue. And thus many loyal Roman Catholics and Dissenters who would have served the country well if they had been allowed to do so, or who might have become successful scholars at the Universities, were kept out by the law.
In fairness it must be said that though the laws against the Roman Catholics were very old-fashioned, and in many cases very unjust, the better feeling which had grown up between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Great Britain, and to some extent also in Ireland, had led to the laws being used with much less severity than had been the case in earlier days. Still, there could be no doubt the time had come for doing away with the laws altogether, and allowing all loyal and true subjects to serve the country with equal advantages and under equal conditions. But in this, as in very many other great changes, it was necessary to go step by step, for the people who had been long accustomed to the old laws, required to be taught to agree to the change.
In 1791, when Pitt was Prime Minister, an Act was passed in Great Britain which did much to improve the condition of Roman Catholics in that country, and in the two following years, 1792 and 1793, great changes were made in Ireland also. Roman Catholics were allowed to carry on their religious services as they pleased, to dispose of their property as they wished; they were allowed on certain conditions to vote for Members of Parliament, and to hold certain offices from which they had hitherto been shut out.
Pitt, who was always in favour of doing justice to the Roman Catholics, proposed to allow them to become Members of Parliament, but to this King George III. would not agree, and Pitt, like an honest man, resigned his office rather than consent to what he believed to be unjust.
Little by little during the following years changes were made, all of which helped to free the Roman Catholics from the laws of which they complained. It was not, however, till the year 1828 that the most important step of all was taken. It was in that year that a famous and eloquent Irishman, named Daniel O'Connell, began to demand in earnest what was called the Catholic Belief Bill that is to say, a Bill which was to free the Roman Catholics in Ireland once fcr all from the restraints which still remained.
O'Connell succeeded in winning the support of the Roman Catholics in Ireland, and threatened to break up the Union between Great Britain and Ireland if Parliament refused to grant his demands. A very large party in England agreed with O'Connell, but the Duke of Wellington in the House of Lords strongly opposed him. At last, in the year 1829, the Bill was passed. The old Oath of Supremacy was altered, and a new one put in its place, which Roman Catholics were willing to take. Roman Catholics were allowed to become members of either House of Parliament, and to be appointed to almost any office in the State. The only three offices of importance which they were, and still are, forbidden to fill, are those of Regent, Lord Chancellor of England, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. [By the Act of Settlement passed in the reign of Queen Anne, it is provided that the Sovereign must always be a Protestant.]
But this is not quite the end of what has to be told of the steps which were taken to give greater freedom in matters of religion and opinion during the nineteenth century. It was not only the Roman Catholics who had a grievance against the laws. There were two sets of people who complained, and complained with reason. These were the Jews and the Dissenters that is to say, the members of Protestant Churches other than the Church of England or the Established Church of Scotland.
For many hundred years the Jews had received very hard treatment in almost every part of Europe, and had been refused many of the rights of citizens. It is pleasant to think that England has now thrown open every form of office [except those mentioned above] to the Jews. But the work was not fully done till the year 1858, in which year the law was altered so as to allow Jews to become members of the House of Commons. The change, besides being a just and a right one, has been well rewarded, for not only have the Jews living in this country helped by their skill and enterprise to make it prosperous, but they are now to be numbered among the most loyal subjects of the British Crown.
One more change had still to be made. Though nearly all the old laws which interfered with the freedom of religious opinion had been done away with, there remained one point which had to be dealt with. At the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge it was still the rule that every member of the University who wished to take what is called the "Degree of Master of Arts," [Usually written "M.A."] or who sought to be appointed to certain positions in the University, must sign a declaration that he was a Member of the Church of England. This declaration was called the "Test," and several Bills were brought into Parliament at different times for "the abolition of Tests." It was not, however, till the year 1871, when Mr. Gladstone was Prime Minister, that an Act was passed which finally did away with the Tests at the Universities. Since that time the appointments at the Universities have been open to all students who show themselves fit by their learning, and now it can fairly be said that full religious liberty is enjoyed by every man and woman in the United Kingdom.
Freedom of Communication -- The Steamboat and the Locomotive. (ch 76)
"What could be more palpably absurd or ridiculous than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stage coaches?" -- Quarterly Review (time of the construction of the first railways).
Another freedom which came within the nineteenth century is the freedom to move about with ease over long distances by sea and by land at a very small cost. This freedom has for the most part been given to us, not by changes in the law, but by the skill of inventors who have found out the means whereby we can travel swiftly and surely by the help of the power of steam.
The history of the steamboat begins a little before the nineteenth century, for experiments with a boat moved by a steam engine are said to have been made in 1787. It was not, however, till after 1800 that steamboats really began to be used. The lead was taken in the matter in the United States, where Fulton started a regular steamboat on the River Hudson in 1807. Five years later the "Comet," the strange looking craft of which a picture is here given, began to run regularly on the Clyde. Here is a brief account of one of the earliest steamers. It was written by a French officer in the year 1815, and describes a voyage from Philadelphia to New York, in the United States:
"The wheels, which are put in motion by the steam, are placed laterally beyond the cabin, and give motion to the vessel by acting as oars. They are of iron, 20 feet in diameter. Each of them is composed of two circles, 3 feet apart, between which are fixed planks of wood 2 feet wide, which are rapidly moved by the steam. The continual noise which this occasions resembles that of a watermill, and I am disposed to believe that the wheels of such mills first gave the idea of employing wheels of a similar kind which could be put in motion by steam. The centre of the boat is occupied by the mechanism of the steam-engine. The machine, and consequently the progress of the vessel, is stopped at pleasure by opening valves to let out the steam, and is set going in an instant by closing them. The steamboat went at the rate of six miles an hour."
In describing the passage of the steamer through rough water the writer becomes quite enthusiastic:
"The steamer performed its voyage in a wonderful manner. A real equinoctial hurricane was blowing, and the boat was navigating in an open bay, with a violent contrary swell, yet the motion was scarcely felt. Ennobled by the storm, the dashing of its oary wheels gave a certain character of grandeur to its progress which under such circumstances was really triumphant."
Once begun, the progress in building steamers has never stopped. In 1838 the first screw-steamer was built on the River Thames, and the screw has now become much more used than the paddle. Steamers have lately been built over 200 yards in length, and capable of steaming across the Atlantic in all weathers at the rate of 21 knots an hour.
Great as has been the change which has been brought about by the invention of the steamship, that which has followed the invention of the locomotive engine has been greater still. It is to George Stephenson, the working lad of Northumberland, that we owe this great invention. He it was who first succeeded in planning and building an engine which would run easily and pull a load after it.
In October, 1829, a great trial or competition was held between four engines which had been designed by different makers. The engines were the "Perseverance" the "Sanspareil" the "Novelty" and the "Rocket." The "Rocket" was George Stephenson's engine. It was soon seen which was the best of the four. The "Novelty" would not budge, the "Perseverance" crept along at a foot's pace, the "Sanspareil" broke down, but the "Rocket" not only ran with ease, but pulled a train of waggons after it at the rate of thirty-five miles an hour. This was indeed a triumph, and from that time forward the success of the locomotive engine was assured.
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened on the 15th September, 1830. A network of railways soon spread all over the United Kingdom and soon also over Europe and America. In our day there is not a country in the world where a railway is not to be found, and yet so quickly has the change taken place that many a man who has travelled from London to York in three hours and a half can remember making the same journey in the old mail coach, when the four horses changed every stage, and, driven at the best of their speed, took twenty-four hours to cover the distance.
The law, too, has had something to do with giving us freedom to travel about. The old Turnpikes on the high roads at which tolls were collected have been done away with. The taxes upon travelling, which are raised in the form of taxes upon tickets, have been reduced. The railway companies have been compelled by law to carry third-class passengers at not more than a penny a mile, and many of the companies actually charge less. Parliament has also compelled the railways to run a number of special cheap trains for workmen on the way to and from their work. Travelling, which sixty years ago was the privilege of the few, has now become the daily habit of all classes, rich and poor alike.
Freedom of the Press -- Cheap Postage --The Electric Telegraph. (ch 76)
"I'll put a girdle round the earth
In forty minutes." Shakespeare: Midsummer Night's Dream.
As far back as the time of Henry VIII. we read of greater freedom being gained in the matter of printing books, and learnt how, for the first time, leave was given to print the Bible in the English language. After the invention of printing, all sorts of laws and rules forbidding the printing of books were passed from time to time, but there were always Englishmen to be found who wished to see these laws altered, and greater freedom given.
During the time of the great war between England and France, the rules against printing books of which the Government did not approve, and especially against printing newspapers and political pamphlets, were particularly strict. The Government feared lest men should be persuaded by what they read to accept the teaching of the leaders of the Revolution in France, and of their followers in this country.
It is doubtful whether very much good came of the interference of the Government, or of the constant punishments of those who offended, but as long as the war lasted, very little was done towards helping on the cause of Freedom of the Press. Indeed, much was done to make it more difficult than before for the people of this country to obtain books and news cheaply. To begin with, there was a heavy tax upon paper; then again, every newspaper was taxed, till in 1815 there was actually a tax of fourpence a copy on every newspaper. So it can easily be imagined that cheap newspapers such as we now have were quite out of the question.
But during the nineteenth century very great changes were made. The laws under which people could be punished for writing things which were disagreeable to the Government were done away with, and men can now write what they please, as long as it be not calculated to injure other people in particular ways laid down by the law, or to offend against good manners in a way which the law forbids.
The tax upon newspapers was taken off altogether in 1870. In 1855 the last duties upon papers were taken off, and now not only can a newspaper be printed and sold without any tax being paid, but it can be sent by post from one end of the United Kingdom to another for a halfpenny.
Nor must we forget that great institution the Post Office, which has done so much to spread information throughout the country and throughout the world. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the price for sending letters by post was so heavy that most people never wrote letters at all, and those who did send them wrote as seldom as they could. The letters travelled slowly by the coaches, and thousands of places were without any post offices at all.
At length, however, the postage on letters was reduced to 4d. (1839), and the very next year to Id. It will help us to understand what a great difference the cheap postage made if we compare the number of letters sent in 1839, the last year of the fourpenny post, with the number sent in 1899-00 under the penny postage. The number sent in 1839 was 82,470,596. In 1899-00 the number of letters and post-cards had risen to 2,647,100,000.
The great work which the Post Office has done in other ways, in carrying parcels, in keeping a Savings Bank, and in helping people to save their money, is well known, nor must the wonderful invention of the Electric Telegraph be forgotten.
It was as late as the year 1838-39 that the first regular Electric Telegraph was set up in this country. In the year 1868 the Post Office undertook the management of the Telegraphs, and in 1899-00 more than ninety million telegrams were sent. In 1858 the first Electric Cable was laid between the United Kingdom and America, but it was not till 1866 that a working cable was completed. There are now (1897) nine cables from this country to America.
The cheapness of paper has led to the printing of millions of cheap Books, some of them good and some of them bad, and few people are now too poor to buy a book for themselves.
It must not be supposed, however, that because we can send letters to each other every day for a penny, or can talk to the end of the world in a few seconds by means of the telegraph wire, or because we can travel from place to place at fifty miles an hour for a penny a mile, that we have, for those reasons alone, become any better or much wiser than our forefathers. What a man says and thinks will not be wiser or better because he sends it over a telegraph wire. The man himself will not lead a better life, or even be a much wiser man, because he can travel from place to place instead of living quietly in his own home.
What these great changes have done is to give us, in these days, the power of learning, and the opportunities for gaining fresh information, which were denied to our forefathers. It must depend upon ourselves and upon our teachers and leaders whether we really benefit by all these wonderful discoveries and arrangements. Happily, there have been wise men in this country who knew well that all these things could be properly made use of if people were taught to understand and to value them. We have read how, throughout the country, thousands of schools have been set up, and how every child in England and Scotland is now compelled to go to school, and we may hope, therefore, that as the means of obtaining knowledge is increased, so also the power of the British people to make a right use of that knowledge will be increased also. If this were not so, the freedom of which we have spoken would be of very little use, and perhaps more of a curse than a blessing.
Free Trade -- Freedom of Parliamentary Voting. (ch 76)
"Thy winds, God, are free to blow,
Thy streams are free to drive and flow,
Thy clouds are free to roam the sky;
Let man be free, his arts to ply.
Give us freedom! Give us freedom!
Free Trade." -- Ebenezer Elliott: "Corn Law Hymns," No. 2.
In an earlier chapter we have read something about the Freeing of Trade and Industry, a work which was almost entirely done during the nineteenth century, though it had its beginning as far back as the year 1776, when a great writer, named Adam Smith, wrote a famous book called "The Wealth of Nations." In this book he pointed out, among many other matters, that it was a mistake to believe that the taxes or duties put upon goods brought into a country were really paid by the people of the country from which the goods came.
He showed, for instance, that if a tax of five shillings were put upon a quarter of wheat coming from a foreign country, the result was that the wheat cost the buyer five shillings more than it would have done without the tax; that the miller who bought it had to pay five shillings more in his turn, and the shopman who bought the flour five shillings more; and, lastly, those who bought the loaves made out of the flour had to pay five shillings more on the bread they ate. And thus it was not the foreigner who had to pay the tax, but the people in this country who were really taxing themselves. This seems clear enough now, but it was a long time before the truth was understood.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was scarcely anything which came into the country, and very few things which were made in the country, which were not taxed one way or another. Here is a famous passage which was written by the Rev. Sydney Smith, in which he describes how everything in the country was taxed one way or another:
"Taxes upon every article which enters the mouth or covers the back, or is placed under the foot; taxes upon everything which it is pleasant to see, hear, feel, smell, or taste; taxes upon warmth, light, and locomotion; taxes on everything on earth and the water under the earth, on everything that comes from abroad or is grown at home; taxes on the raw material; taxes on every fresh value that is added to it by the industry of man; taxes on the sauce which pampers appetite and the drug that restores him to health; on the ermine which decorates the judge and the rope which hangs the criminal, on the poor man's salt and the rich man's spice, on the brass nails of the coffin and the ribbons of the bride -- at bed or board, downlying or uprising, we must pay. The schoolboy whips his taxed top; the beardless youth manages the taxed horse with a taxed bridle on a taxed road; and the dying Englishman, pouring his medicine, which has paid 7 per cent., into a spoon that has paid 15 per cent., flings himself back upon his chintz bed, which has paid 22 per cent., and expires in the arms of an apothecary who has paid a license of £100 for the privilege of putting him to death. His whole property is then immediately taxed from 2 to 10 per cent. Besides the probate, large fees are demanded for burying him in the chancel; his virtues are handed down to posterity on taxed marble; and he is then gathered to his fathers -- to be taxed no more." [Edinburgh Review, 1820.]
We have seen how, during the nineteenth century, nearly all the taxes of which Sydney Smith so wittily speaks have been done away with. It is to Richard Cobden and his friends that this result is chiefly due. The Abolition of the Corn Laws, which put duties upon corn, was followed by the abolition of the duties on hundreds of other articles.
At the present time taxes are few in number, though some of them weigh heavily upon those who have to pay them, but the duties upon goods brought into the country have all been taken off, with the exception of duties upon the following articles: wine, beer, and spirits, tobacco, tea, lace, sugar, gold, and silver. [There are still a few small articles in which spirits are used on which duties are also paid.] Thus we see that in the freedom of our trade and commerce, as in so many other things, a great step has been made during the present century.
We must find a place here for a mention of a step which was taken in the year 1872, with the object of securing Freedom of Parliamentary Voting. This was accomplished by the passing of "The Ballot Act." Up to the time of the passing of the Act, votes for Parliamentary elections were given openly; that is to say, that the name of the person who voted was taken down as well as that of the person he voted for. This would seem at first sight a fair and reasonable thing, for no one ought to be ashamed of using the right which has been given him in the way he thinks wisest and best. But, unfortunately, experience has proved that when votes are given openly very bad consequences are certain to follow in many cases.
In the first place, people may be induced to give their votes to a particular candidate for the sake of reward, or, in other words, may take a bribe. Nothing can be worse than such a practice as this, for the man who takes the bribe sells his honour, and instead of doing that which he thinks is best for the nation, does that which will give him some personal advantage.
In the second place, bribery gives great power to those who are rich, and makes money the real ruler of the country. No greater calamity can overtake a nation than that which befalls it when men have power and influence, not because they are wise, good, or patriotic, but because they are rich. It has been said that "the love of money is the root of all evil," and there is a great deal of truth in the saying.
Besides the danger of bribery, there was always the danger of "intimidation." Those who could not be bought were very often compelled to give their votes through fear. Sometimes men voted for those who employed them, or for their landlords, not because they agreed with them, but because they were afraid of losing their employment or their houses. Sometimes men were threatened with actual violence if they did not vote in a certain way, and this was nearly as bad as the bribery. Luckily, Englishmen are so stubborn that it is not easy as a rule to drive them into doing or refusing to do a particular thing by threats; but sometimes, no doubt, the "intimidation" at elections was very serious.
In order to do away with these evils the Ballot Act was passed. It provided that every man should give his vote in secret by marking a cross on the ballot paper against the name of the candidate whom he wished to see elected. The paper, when it has been marked, is put into a sealed box or ballot box, and is mixed with hundreds or thousands of other ballot papers. The result is that nobody can tell how any particular person has voted, and it is equally useless to bribe or to threaten a voter, for no one can tell after the election is over how the person who has been bribed or threatened really voted. Voting by ballot is now perfectly secret, and thus we have secured "Freedom of Parliamentary Voting."
The Improvement of Machinery. (ch 76)
"Richard Arkwright too will have his monument, a thousand years hence; all Lancashire and Yorkshire, and how many other shires and countries, with their machineries and industries, for his monument!" -- Carlyle: "Past and Present."
We have already spoken of some of the wonderful inventions of the last hundred years -- of the steamship, the locomotive engine, and the electric telegraph. Something must also be said about those great inventions which have helped to supply the people of this country with good clothing at a low price, and which have enabled us to become the manufacturers of clothing and of stuff goods for millions of people outside the United Kingdom.
We must go back, however, further than the nineteenth century for the first of these great inventions -- namely, the spinning jenny, invented by Hargreaves in 1767. This machine enabled cotton to be spun by machinery instead of by hand, and as it had eight spindles to carry the cotton "bobbins," or reels, it worked much faster than the old hand-machines with a single spindle.
In 1769 Arkwright made great improvements in Hargreaves's machines, and he also invented the plan still used in every cotton and worsted mill, by which the thread is passed under a large and then under a small roller for the purpose of drawing out and lengthening the thread.
A few years later (1779) Crompton invented a machine which had the advantages of Hargreaves's spinning jenny, and of Arkwright's improvements. The new machine was known as the "spinning mule."
Since that time enormous improvements have been made in all the machinery both for spinning and weaving, and the general use of steam-power to drive the mills has enabled manufacturers to turn out millions of yards of cotton, woollen, and linen cloth at prices which have put the material within the reach of all.
For some time those who were engaged in working the old handmachines were greatly opposed to the new machinery. They said that the machinery would do away with the need for nearly all the workers, and that thousands of men and women would be thrown out of work and ruined. In many places they went so far as to get up riots and to break and burn the new machines. It was not long, however, before it became clear that instead of fewer workers beiag required, more were wanted than before, employment became more regular, and wages steadily improved. And now only the most ignorant or the most evil-minded persons endeavour to oppose new machinery.
Chapter 77. Literature and Art Since 1714.
Writers and Artists of the Eighteenth Century. (ch 76)
"The end of all earthly learning being virtuous action, those skills which serve most to bring forth that, have a most just title to be princes over the rest; wherein if we can show it rightly the poet is worthy to have it before any other competitors." -- Sir Philip Sidney: "The Uses oj Poetry"
In an earlier part of this book two chapters were given up to a short account of the great poets and writers, and of the artists and great men of science, who lived during the Stuart Period. The number of pages which were given up to this description was far too small to allow of anything more than a mention of these famous men and their works. And if it were hard to tell of the great authors and artists of the Stuart time in a few pages, how much more difficult is the task when we have to describe -- or, at any rate, to name -- the famous persons who have adorned the Literature and the Art of the United Kingdom since the accession of George I.
But what was said in a previous passage about great writers is true. It is not possible to understand the history of a country without knowing something of the great writers and thinkers who lived in it; nor is it possible to understand the writings and the thoughts of those great men unless we know something of the history of the country in which they lived.
Little more can be told here of authors or artists, beyond the names which they bore and the chief work which they did. There is only one real way of knowing anything about an author or an artist, and that is to read the books of the one and to look at the works of the other. Until we have done this, it is no use thinking that we know anything of those whose names are mentioned here.
We have already learnt something of the literary history of the country down to the end of the reign of Queen Anne, and some of the famous writers of that reign who lived on into the reign of George I., and later still, have been already mentioned. Among these are Addison, Steele, Swift, Daniel Defoe, and Pope; and among the great scientific men there are also Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren, both of whom died in the reign of George I. These, therefore, will not be mentioned again now.
We will speak first of Samuel Johnson, who was born at Lichfield in 1709. Johnson was not only a great writer, but a very remarkable and interesting man. The history of his life has been written in a book which has become very famous -- namely, "Boswell's Life of Johnson." Boswell was the friend and companion of Johnson throughout a great part of his life, and he wrote down for his book an account of the sayings and doings of his famous friend, which helps us to understand how great and how clever a man Samuel Johnson was. Johnson's best-known writings are his famous "English Dictionary," his "Lives of the Poets," and his "Vanity of Human Wishes." He also wrote a great many other books and papers. He was a friend of most of the chief writers of his time, who liked and admired him, in spite of his somewhat rough manner and strange appearance. He died in the reign of George III. (1784).
Samuel Johnson was a great Englishman. We have now to speak of an Irishman who lived in Johnson's time, and whose name will be remembered as that of a clever writer, and especially as the author of one very famous book. This is Oliver Goldsmith (b. 1728, d. 1774), who was born at Kilkenny. The great book which has made him famous is "The V icar of Wakefield" a sad and beautifully told story, describing the life of a clergyman with all its sorrows and pleasures, its small adventures and its trials. Scarcely less famous than "The Vicar of Wakefield" is Goldsmith's play, "She Stoops to Conquer." "The Deserted Village" is the best known of Goldsmith's poems.
There must be few readers of English, whether they be young or old, who do not know the name and something of the work of Thomas Gray (b. 1716, d. 1771). It was he who wrote the ever-famous poem called "The Elegy in a Country Churchyard" which begins with the well-known lines
"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me."
There is, indeed, scarcely a line in the whole poem which is not well known, and many of the lines have become so familiar that they are quoted by thousands of people who do not know whence they come. Gray received his education at Eton College and at Cambridge, and his poetry, and, indeed, all his works, show him to have been a man of learning, fine feeling, and good taste.
THE NOVELISTS: RICHARDSON, SMOLLETT, FIELDING.
There are few people in this country now who do not find pleasure in the reading of novels. It is to this time that we must look for the real beginning of English novel-writing, and three famous names must be remembered, the names of Samuel Richardson (b. 1689, d. 1761), Tobias Smollett (b. 1721, d. 1771), and the greatest of the three, Henry Fielding (b. 1707, d. 1754). There is much in the novels written by these three writers that does not suit the taste of those who read novels in the present day. But the books they wrote are full of good spirits, and truthful descriptions of men and things, and as such will always be read by many.
The most famous of Richardson's stories are two long novels, called "Clarissa Harlowe" and "Pamela." "Roderick Random" and "Peregrine Pickle" are perhaps the best known of Smollett's books. Smollett also wrote a portion of a History of England, which was greatly read at one time. More remarkable than any of the books which have been named was Fielding's great novel, called "Tom Jones" which was published in 1749.
ARTISTS: HOGARTH, REYNOLDS, GAINSBOROUGH, ROMNEY, FLAXMAN.
We must leave the authors for a short time, and say a word about the artists. It has often been the work of great writers to teach useful lessons by holding up the faults and vices of their time to the laughter or the indignation of their readers. The same work was done in another way by the famous painter, William Hogarth (b. 1697, d. 1764). In a number of finely drawn and well-painted pictures he caricatured the vices and the follies of his time. The subjects which he drew are often unpleasant and sometimes terrible, but no one who sees them can deny that they help to make what is bad, hateful and ridiculous. Some of Hogarth's pictures are to be seen in the National Gallery in London. In the same place may be seen the pictures of a greater artist than Hogarth, namely, Sir Joshua Reynolds (b. 1723, d. 1792), the most famous of all English portrait painters. Many of Sir Joshua Reynolds's pictures have been copied so often that they are familiar to all Englishmen, and there can be few who have not seen a print or a photograph of some famous picture by Sir Joshua; but the best way of understanding what the pictures were is to look at those which may be seen in the great public picture galleries. Unluckily, Sir Joshua was not careful to use the best paints, and, in consequence, some of his best pictures have faded, and are not so bright and beautiful as they used to be.
GAINSBOROUGH, ROMNEY, FLAXMAN.
And here may be mentioned the names of two other famous painters Thomas Gainsborough, born at Sudbury in Suffolk, 1727, died 1788, and of George Romney, the well-known painter of portraits, born in Lancashire in 1734, died 1802. The name of John Flaxman (b. 1755, d. 1826) must be mentioned as that of one of the few great sculptors our country has produced.
Edmund Burke. (ch 77)
"Burke is among the greatest of those who have wrought marvels in the prose of our English tongue." --J. Morley: "Life of Burke."
Outside the gate of Trinity College, the famous University of Dublin, there stand two statues which everyone who has ever been in Dublin knows well. They represent two great Irishmen, both of whom were among the most famous writers of the day in which they lived. Of one we have already spoken; namely, of Oliver Goldsmith. The name of the other may also be found in an earlier page of this book (Chapter 67), for Edmund Burke was a statesman as well as an author. But no account of the great writers of our country could be written without a mention of Edmund Burke and his works. He wrote on many subjects, not only on politics and upon what he thought to be the duty of the country at home and abroad, but upon other matters which had nothing to do with politics as, for instance, his essay on "The Sublime and Beautiful." Nearly all he wrote he wrote well, and few men did more to teach and guide the people of his time than Edmund Burke.
Burke was for a long time a member of the House of Commons, and some of his speeches are among the most splendid models of writing to be found in the English language. There is reason, however, to believe that Burke was not a good speaker, but that people preferred to read his speeches rather than to listen to them. It was Burke who was foremost in urging George III. to do justice to the American colonists, and thus to avert the danger of war. We have seen how he failed. It was Burke, too, who was the foremost in fighting against the violence and cruelty of the French Revolution. He had always been a friend of reform and wise changes, but he was a bitter enemy of lawlessness and violence. The famous "Letters upon a Regicide Peace" in which he attacked the Government for making peace with the French, had much to do in convincing people in this country that France was not to be trusted, and that peace could only be won after France had been beaten. It is pleasant to think that, while at times Irishmen of great ability have been enemies of the welfare of the United Kingdom, and especially of England, Edmund Burke, one of the noblest and ablest Irishmen that ever lived, was not only a true lover and faithful servant of England, but that he left no doubt of his goodwill when in one of his works he said of England, "This is my adopted, my dearer and more comprehensive country."
Cowper, Sheridan, Campbell, Lamb. (ch 77)
"Wisdom married to immortal verse." -- Wordsworth.
We now come to the names of the great writers who, though they were born in the eighteenth century, died in the nineteenth century, or just before it began. It is a wonderful list of names: we have reason to be proud of our country, which could produce in so short a time so many famous names. No Englishman can know much about the literature of the country until this "list of names," has become something more than a list, and until he has learned to know and love the work of the great writers whose names are to be found in it.
William Cowper (b. 1731, d. 1800) was born at Berkhampstead. The name of Cowper deserves to be remembered as that of a poet who, though he cannot be ranked under the greatest names of English literature, was yet a man who wrote much that was elegant and finished, a good deal that was really beautiful, and one poem, at any rate, which will always be familiar to English readers. Among the best known of his poems is the one which is quoted here, and which is an example of Cowper's best work.
THE POPLAR FIELD.
"The poplars are felled, farewell to the shade,
And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade;
The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves,
Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.
"Twelve years have elaps'd since I last took a view
Of my favourite field, and the bank where they grew;
And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat, that once lent me a shade.
"The blackbird has fled to another retreat,
Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat,
And the scene, where his melody charm'd me before,
Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more.
"My fugitive years are all hasting away,
And I must ere long lie as lowly as they,
With a turf on my breast, and a stone at my head,
Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.
"The change both my heart and my fancy employs,
I reflect on the frailty of man, and his joys;
Short-liv'd as we are, yet our pleasures, we see,
Have a still shorter date, and die sooner than we."
Many of his long pieces, such as "The Task" "Cowper's Table Talk" and others, are not very much read at the present day. One ballad, however, seems likely to make the name of Cowper immortal, and that is the famous story of John Gilpin's Ride. Cowper's "Letters" have been printed; they are most beautifully written and are of great interest.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan (b. 1751, d. 1816), one of the brightest wits of the day, was born in Dublin and educated at Harrow School. He was celebrated in his own day as an eloquent, quick-witted, reckless man of fashion, as well as a very clever play writer. He is best known to readers by his famous comedies The Rivals, The School for Scandal, and The Critic. These plays are still often acted at the present day, and their brilliant humour will always make them favourites with playgoers. Sheridan sat in Parliament as a Whig, and for a time filled a Government office.
Thomas Campbell (b. 1777, d. 1844), a Scottish poet who wrote much, but of whose writing little will be remembered or deserves to be remembered. In one or two poems only did he achieve any real success. It is by one or two such short poems" The Battle of Hohenlinden" and "The Battle of The Baltic" the latter beginning with the well-known lines--
"Of Nelson and the North.
Sing the glorious day's renown,"
that Campbell will be remembered, if he be remembered at all.
Charles Lamb (b. 1775, d. 1834). The writings of Charles Lamb have given so much true pleasure to so many people that, though it cannot be said he was one of our greatest writers, his name must be mentioned. It is by his "Tales from Shakespeare" and his "Essays of Elia" that he will be best remembered. It is in the "Essays of Elia" that Lamb's own gentle, bright, somewhat sad nature shows itself at its best. Lamb worked for the greater part of his life as a clerk in a Government office, but he was happy in having the friendship and esteem of some of the great writers of the day, who loved him for his gentle spirit and admired him for his delicate and fantastic writing.
Byron, Shelley, Keats, Burns, and Scott. (ch 77)
"But now, thy youngest, dearest one has perished,
The nursling of thy widowhood, who grew
Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherished,
And fed with true hue tears, instead of dew;
Most musical of mourners, weep anew!
Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last,
The bloom, whose petals nipt before they blew
Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste;
The broken lily lies the storm is overpast."
-- Shelley: "Adonais."
BYRON, SHELLEY, AND KEATS.
These three great poets lived and wrote at the same time, and perhaps they have more in common with one another than any other writers of their time. George Gordon, Lord Byron (b. 1788, d. 1824), will always be remembered as one of the most brilliant writers of English verse. He was one of those poets whose work was even more read while he was alive than after his death. His fame was not limited to his own country, but his poems were read in every country in Europe. His life was a strange one. Restless in mind and body, he travelled from country to country with a heart seemingly full of discontent with himself and the world, sometimes launching out into fierce attacks upon his enemies, and at other times describing in splendid verse the sights he saw and the thoughts which they raised in his mind. In Greece he joined in the rising of the people against their Turkish oppressors, and some of his finest poems are those which were written to reproach the Greeks for so tamely submitting to the Turk, and to remind them of the wonderful examples of their forefathers who fought for freedom. Such are the famous lines--
Hereditary bondsmen! Know ye not
Who would be free themselves must strike the blow?
By their right arms the conquest must be wrought?
Will Gaul or Muscovite * redress ye? No!
"True, they may lay your proud despoilers low,
But not for you will Freedom's altars flame.
Shades of the Helots! triumph o'er your foe:
Greece! change thy lords, thy state is still the same;
Thy glorious day is o'er, but not thy years of shame."
[Muscovite: France or Russia]
"Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," "The Prisoner of Chillon," "Don Juan," "The Bride of Abydos" are among the most famous of Byron's works. Of his shorter poems many are familiar to all readers. Such is the poem called "The Destruction of Sennacherib":
"The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee."
Very familiar, too, are the famous lines on the Battle of Waterloo, which are contained in "Childe Harold" and the splendid poem on the sea, which begins with the lines
"Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean -- roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin -- his control
Stops with the shore; . . . ."
Percy Bysshe Shelley (b. 1792, d. 1822), one of the most musical and at the same time most passionate of our English poets. In his short life of thirty years he added to English literature work which will never be forgotten, and which will always take its place in the first rank. His famous poem "Adonais" may be compared to Milton's "Lycidas." It is an elegy or lament over the death of his friend, the poet Keats, who died but a year before Shelley himself. Perhaps the most familiar of Shelley's poems is his beautiful "Ode to the Skylark" which begins--
"Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art."
Within a few months after Shelley had mourned the death of his friend Keats, he himself was drowned in the Mediterranean near Leghorn. It is a sad thing that so great a genius should have been taken away so young.
John Keats (1795, d. 1821), another singer of wonderful power and beauty, another name famous for all time, even though its bearer lived a shorter time than Shelley. In twenty-five years Keats, the son of a London livery stable-keeper, brought up as a surgeon's apprentice, rose above all difficulties, and made the world know that he was a poet, and a very great poet. For beauty of language, with the power to express deep thoughts in sweet words and melodious tones, Keats has scarcely a match in all our English poetry, rich as it is. "Endymion" and "The Eve of St. Agnes" are among the best known of his longer poems, and some of his shorter poems are of extraordinary beauty. It was Keats who wrote the well-known lines --
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing."
Keats died of consumption, at Rome, in his twenty-sixth year.
Robert Burns (b. 1759, d. 1796) was above and before all the poet of Scotland and Scotsmen throughout the world. He was the son of an Ayrshire farmer, brought up in very poor circumstances to follow the plough, of no education but that which he could gain for himself, and what he could learn front the natural objects which he saw around him. He spoke the language of the Lowlands of Scotland, and in this language, familiar to Scottish ears but not always so familiar to English readers, many of his poems are written. The poems, and more especially the songs, of Burns, are known to almost every Scotsman who can read; and, though no doubt Burns has not so many readers in England as in Scotland, yet even in the southern part of the United Kingdom the bright-spirited, liberty-loving poet has thousands of lovers and admirers. Among some of Burns's most famous poerns are "The Cotter's Saturday Night," "Highland Mary" "Tam o' Shanter" and the famous patriotic Scottish song beginning, "Scots wha hae." It was Burns, too, who wrote the well-known lines --
"Is there, for honest poverty,
That hangs his head, and a' that?
The coward slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, and a' that,
Our toils obscure, and a' that;
The rank is but the guinea-stamp.
The man's the gowd for a' that.
. . . . .
"What though on namely fare we dine,
Wear hodden grey, and a' that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A man's a man for a' that!
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, and a' that;
The honest man, though e'er sae poor.
Is king o' men for a' that!
. . . . .
"A king can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might
Guid faith! he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, and a' that,
Their dignities, and a' that,
The pith o' sense and pride o' worth
Are higher ranks than a' that."
Walter Scott (b. 1771, d. 1832), born only twelve years later than Robert Burns, who is the second great Scottish poet of whom we have room to speak here, lived on long into the nineteenth century, and died in 1832, the year of the great Reform Bill. Who does not know the name of Sir Walter Scott -- "the Wizard of the North" as men sometimes called him -- the wonderful writer who gave us the great tales of chivalry which are to be found in "Ivanhoe" "The Talisman," and "The Betrothed," or stories of Scottish life and adventure in such novels as "Old Mortality," "Rob Roy" and "Waverley" or pictures of the England of a past day in "Woodstock," "Peveril of the Peak" and "Kenilworth"? Who has not read the stirring lines of Sir Walter Scott's great poems, "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," "The Lady of the Lake," and "Marmion," the story of "Young Lochinvar" who bore off his bride on the fleetest of steeds; or the magnificent description of the battle of Flodden Field and the dying moments of Marmion, the proud English baron?
Scott, indeed, was a writer for all readers of the English language, of all ages and all tastes. A true Scot by birth and in feeling, no man understood better than he the glories of England, or loved its history and its people better. Here are some famous lines which stir the blood of every British subject, from whatever part of the Empire he comes:
"Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
'This is my own, my native land!'
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd,
From wandering on a foreign strand?" ["Lay of the Last Minstrel"]
The Lake Poets Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge. (ch 77)
"Time may restore us in his course
Goethe's sage mind and Byron's force;
But where will Europe's later hour
Again find Wordsworth's healing power?"
-- Matthew Arnold.
Among the famous group of poets known as "The Lake Poets" are those who have been mentioned above. They obtained their name from the fact that they all lived and wrote in the Lake District of Cumberland and Westmorland.
Robert Southey (b. 1774, d. 1843) wrote an immense amount of both poetry and prose. Although he became Poet Laureate, it is scarcely probable that much of his poetry will live long. Among his most famous works are "Thalaba the Destroyer,'" and "The Curse of Kehama," poems based upon old Asiatic stories. Of his prose works, perhaps the best known and the best written is his celebrated "Life of Nelson."
William Wordsworth (b. 1770, d. 1850), perhaps more than any of our English poets, was a great lover of Nature and of Nature's beauties. He wrote much, and much of his writing must always remain in the very first rank, both for depth of thought and for beauty of form. His "Intimations of Immortality" is one of the most famous poems in the English language. Among his other well-known works are "The Excursion," "The Ode to Duty," "The Prelude," and many beautiful sonnets. The following lines show us Wordsworth at his best, and they may properly find a place here because they speak of Charles Fox, one of the great men we have been reading about.
"Loud is the Vale! -- the voice is up
With which she speaks when storms are gone,
A mighty unison of streams!
Of all her voices, one!
"Loud is the Vale! -- this inland depth
In peace is roaring like the sea:
Yon star upon the mountain top
Is listening quietly.
"Sad was I, even to pain depress'd,
Importunate and heavy load!
The comforter hath found me here,
Upon this lonely road;
"And many thousands now are sad --
Wait the fulfilment of their fear;
For he must die who is their stay,
Their glory disappear.
"A power is passing from the earth
To breathless Nature's dark abyss;
And when the mighty pass away
What is it more than this --
"That man, who is from God sent forth,
Doth yet again to God return? --
Such ebb and flow must ever be;
Then wherefore should we mourn?"
-- (Lines composed on reading of the expected death of Fox.)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (b. 1772, d. 1834), a friend of Southey and Wordsworth. His work is less known than that of Wordsworth, nor can it be said to be equal to it in any respect. But some of Coleridge's writing is likely to be long remembered, and his strange and weird poem "The Ancient Mariner" will always prevent his name being forgotten.
Moore, Macaulay. -- The Writers of Our Own Time. (ch 77)
Nor must we forget the name of Thomas Moore (b. 1779, d. 1852), or "Tom Moore," as all the world will ever call him. Tom Moore, the tuneful poet of Ireland, who though he lived little in his own country, loved it well and wrote sweet songs about it, which every Irishman knows, and sings, and rejoices in, and which will never be forgotten.
Among the many half-mournful, half-joyful poems and songs which Tom Moore has given to the world are: "Lalla Rookh," "Odes of Anacreon," "Irish Melodies," "The Loves of the Angels."
Thomas Babington Macaulay (b. 1800, d. 1859) was a brilliant writer of prose and of ballad verses, which have always been popular on account of their spirit and the easy flow of their stirring lines. His "History of England,'" which was never finished, is a very brilliant work. His "Essays" form one of the most popular books in the English language. The best known of all his works, perhaps, are his famous "Lays of Ancient Rome" the story of "How Horatius kept the Bridge," and of "The Battle of Lake Regillus" and his poems entitled "The Battle of Ivry" and "The Armada." Macaulay was well known, not only as a writer but as a politician. He sat for many years in Parliament, was a member of the Government, and a Cabinet Minister.
THE WRITERS OF OUR OWN TIMES.
Now we have come almost down to our own day. Space will not allow us to do more than mention some of the great men and women whose names have become famous in the history of English literature almost within our own lifetime. Dickens (b. 1812, d. 1870) and Thackeray (b. 1811, d. 1863) are great novelists. Thomas Carlyle (b. 1795, d. 1881), the author of a great work on the French Revolution, was for many years occupied in preaching to Englishmen the need for being honest, strenuous and true in all their work. Two great poets, very different from one another, Tennyson (b. 1809, d. 1892) and Browning (b. 1812, d. 1889), lived and wrote in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Matthew Arnold (b. 1822, d. 1888), whose poems are less popular, but are read and greatly loved by many. These and many other names are there, which show how rich our country has been, and still is, in great writers; and there can be no excuse now for Englishmen and Englishwomen knowing nothing of the best books in their language when all are open to them in every public library, and most of them can be obtained for a few shillings or for a few pence in any shop.
A List of the Anglo-Saxon Kings and of the Sovereigns of England and of the United Kingdom.
Chief Kings of the Heptarchy
Hengist, 457-488 (first king)
Ella, 491-514 (first king)
Cissa, 514-584 (Conquered 723 by Ine, King of the West Saxons)
Cerdic, 519-534 (first king)
Erchenwin, 527-587 (first king)
Northumbria (Bernicia and Deira)--
Ida (Bernicia), 547-560 (first king)
Ella (Deira), 560-588
Aethelfrith, 593-617 (Unites Bernicia and Deira)
Aethelred, 774-778; Restored 790-794
Uffa, 571-578 (first king)
Beorna and Aethelred, 749-758
Beorna alone, 758-761
Crida, 586-593 (first king)
Cenwulf (Cenulph), 796-819
Egbert (Overlord), 823
Kings and Queens of England
Before the Conquest--
Aethelred I., 866-871
Edward the Elder, 901-925
Edmund I., 940-946
Edward the Martyr, 975-979
Aethelred II. ("The Unready"), 979. deposed 1013
Sweyn (Dane), 1013-1014
Aethelred II., restored, 1014-1016
Edmund Ironside, 1016 (reigned 7 months)
Harold and Harthacanute, joint sovereigns, 1035-1037
Harold I., sole king, 1037-1040
Edward the Confessor, 1042-1066
Harold II., 1065, killed at Hastings
The Norman Kings--
William I., 1066-1087
William II., 1087-1100
Henry I., 1100-1135
Henry II., 1154-1189
Richard I., 1189-1199
Henry III., 1216-1272
Edward I., 1272-1307
Edward II., 1307-1327
Edward III., 1327-1377
Richard II., 1377-1399
House of Lancaster--
Henry IV., 1399-1413
Henry V., 1413-1422
Henry VI., 1422-1462 (deposed)
House of York--
Edward IV., 1461-1483
Edward V., 1483
Richard III., 1483-1485
The Tudor Sovereigns--
Henry VII., 1485-1509
Henry VIII., 1509-1547
Edward VI., 1547-1553
The Stuart Sovereigns--
James I., 1603-1624
Charles I., 1625-1649
The Commonwealth, 1649-1660--
Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector), 1653-1658
Richard Cromwell (Lord Protector), 1658-1660
Charles II., 1660-1685
James II., 1685-1688 (d. 1701)
William III. and Mary, 1689-1702 (Mary d. 1694)
The Hanoverian Sovereigns--
George I., 1714-1727
George II., 1727-1760
George III., 1760-1820
George IV., 1820-1830
William IV., 1830-1837
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