OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 27


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 <27>

Yet these great perpetrations of governmental ignorance, committed under the rule, and, so long as he was a reason- able agent, with the full approval of George III., have taught this generation great truths - one, that colonies may be retained by liberality and not by force; and another, that foreign wars belong only to foreign nations. On these points our present government have proclaimed the national doctrine, and have acted upon it in several cases. And whilst we condemn the folly of the government of George III., we must, at the same time, do justice to the quixotic magnanimity of that government, and to the bravery of the people. They played a great and generous part, if not a wise one as regarded their own people, or a just one as regarded posterity. In no age of our history did the military and naval talents and spirit of the nation rise into more imposing splendour. Not the victories of Drake and Blake, not the fields of Agincourt and Cressy, of Blenheim or Ramillies, could equal in terrible bravery the more sanguinary ones of the Spanish peninsula, or of Waterloo. Never was our naval or our military credit so low as at the conclusion of the American war. All nations exulted over us, and thought that the star of England's glory had gone down for ever. But, with new and more arduous occasion, that credit and that star rose again into heights never before reached; a Nelson and a Wellington far more than outdid all past glories, and the kingdom put forth a strength and a wealth which Struck the world with amazement. We no: only conquered by our own troops, but we poured out millions on millions of money, which tipped with power and victory the banners of a dozen other nations. Our gold kept on the march the myriad armies from the frozen regions of Siberia to the southernmost part of Spain. Our fleets were in all regions, and made prey of lands and islands everywhere.

When, in 1814, George III. awoke to a momentary con- sciousness, he was told that the tremendous war was at an end; that the great enemy was hunted down, and caged at Elba; that the allied sovereigns were then in London, being feted by his son, the regent. When he sank at length in death, he yielded the sceptre of a far mightier empire to his son than he had himself received. In Canada, in the immensely extended territory of British India, at the Cape, over a hundred spicy isles in western and southern seas, and over broad Australia, stretched the wondrous rule of England. Australia, planted as a mere penal settlement, as a depot of felons whom we wished to remove as far as possible from us - Australia, intended only as a Substitute for the lost convict lands of Kentucky and Maryland - was already putting forth germs of promise beyond conception, and bidding fair to be to us greater, more loyal, and more enriching than America.

Whilst George III. had been sitting in darkness and in intellectual alienation, the - empire over which he had nominally ruled had been growing in other and more essential directions. Mind, and the leaven of better principles, were at work, and must in the end leaven the whole mass. The government itself retained faithfully the impress which he had stamped upon it, though he had ceased to influence it directly. The mind of George, though essentially honest, was narrow and stubborn. His education had been defective, and, though religious ideas had been infused into his soul, they were not the broad and liberal principles of the Christian creed, which necessarily tend to the freedom of the race. George piously wished that every man and woman in his kingdom should have a Bible, but he had no conception of the revolution which that most equalising and enfranchising of volumes must produce when fully and freely studied. He saw no further than he had been taught, and sincerely trusted that piety and obedience to church and state were synonymous; he neither knew the depth of those principles, which lay as yet undeveloped to the popular mind, in the gospel, nor the infinitely higher order of government which must spring up with the clearer comprehension of Christ's words, that it shall not be amongst his disciples as it was amongst the Gentiles, where the kings of the earth exercised lordship over their subjects; this unrestrained lordship should be tempered by the law of the brotherhood of man. King Alfred, a thousand years before, had comprehended this when he said, in his will, " It is fitting that Englishmen should be free as the air they breathe." But Alfred was a great soul; George III. was an honest soul merely, of small calibre, brought up amid all the proud assumptions of a government, taught not directly from the Bible, as Alfred was, but from a state hierarchy. Therefore, George III. could not comprehend the right of America to resist arbitrary taxation; he could as little comprehend the right of his subjects to have full freedom of conscience, but opposed doggedly the emancipation of the catholics, on account of their creed. To all other reforms he was equally hostile, and his government and his son had, to the hour of his death, rigidly maintained the same principles of rule. They had, as we have seen, done their best to destroy the freedom of the press, the freedom of speech, and the right to assemble and petition for redress of grievances; they had turned loose the soldiery on the people exercising this right, and had armed the magistracy - many members of it extremely ignorant and self-willed, especially in the country - with full powers to seize on any person whom they pleased to suspect of free ideas, and, having shut them down in prison, had suspended the habeas corpus act, to keep them there, without a hearing, during their pleasure.

Never in the history of England, since the days of the Stuarts, had there been so determined an attempt to crush the national liberties as towards the end of this reign. But as the darkest and coldest hour of the night is that just preceding the dawn, so, in the midst of this harsh period of rule, there was springing the indomitable spirit of liberty under the rib of that death. This spirit was strong in the people, and there were not wanting champions of it amongst the higher classes. Besides such brawny leaders as Cobbett, arising out of the popular mass, there were lords Grey, Lansdowne, Holland, Cochrane, Russell, Sir Francis Burdett, Mr. Lambton, afterwards lord Durham, major Cartwright, Tierney, Brougham, and many others, bravely advocating liberal reforms.

The same reluctance had always marked the mind of George III. to reform the penal code as to reform political abuses. During his period of sanity he continued to behold unmoved the frightful ferocity of the criminal code, and to sign, unshudderingly, death-warrants for men and women, some of the latter with children in their arms, for the theft of a sheep or of a few yards of calico. It is, at this time of day, almost incredible with what a stern, unrelenting regularity the gallows dispatched hundreds and thousands of persons, who would now scarcely receive a three months' imprisonment. This characteristic of our government continued when the king could no longer influence it; but then, too, was a more merciful spirit at work in the public mind, and Sir Samuel Romilly and Sir James Mackintosh, in the last days of this reign, inaugurated a milder system, which has proved sufficient to meet the ends of justice.

The same darkness and apathy existed on the subject of education. The great bulk of the people during the Georgian period were almost wholly unable to read; but the reaction had also taken place in this department. Bell and Lancaster had roused a new spirit, and Raikes and Stock had instituted the mighty machinery of Sunday schools. Steam was already on lake, river, and ocean, through the discoveries of Miller of Dalswinton, of Fulton of America, and of Watt; and Thomas Gray was already calling in government aid further to put it in action by railroads on land. Not only was knowledge awaking, but the means of spreading it rapidly as fast as it received consciousness. Whilst royalty sate in emblematic darkness the people were breaking into light and power by the efforts of genius born amongst them. The manufacturing power of England was made gigantic by the inventions of Arkwright, Crompton, Watt, and the engineering skill of Smeaton, Brindley, Telford, and others. It was the hour of darkness in high places, and of progression in lowly ones. Government was brooding over stagnation at the very moment that the nation itself was putting forth evidences of vigour and action of all kinds.

Such was the reign of George III., in itself stern and conservative, but, by the force of long accumulating causes, the very starting point of a new era, the birth-time of new politics, new legislation, new literature, new industrial arts, and general progress. As for the old king, he was but a type of a departing time - blind and ungenial, and mad with the quixotism of standing the champion of all the kings of the earth, without taking from them one guarantee for popular liberty - of being the paymaster of Europe, and, as it were, the Atlas of the world's debts. But as he had long lived on, though sightless and effete, as a ruler, so the system of things was growing old with him, and had already lost its real vitality - it was moving only from the impetus of past causes. Beneath the palace, the prison-house of overstrained prerogative - beneath the houses of parliament, the strongholds of aristocratic domination - beneath the magistracy, the depositories of antiquated notions of subserviency to governmental bureaus, and of suspicion of the people, the ground was everywhere heaving with new forms of life and new growths of energy. The dry bones of all former down-trodden generations, scattered over the battle- plains of despotism, and over the low and despised Valleys of poverty's life, seemed to be clothing themselves with new flesh, and lifting up faces towards the heavens full of the consciousness of a descent thence, and kinship there, and with eyes full of all sorts of new meanings, new conceptions, new hopes and aspirations, and the capacity for unimagined things.

Though no perception of this new creation of human beings, as it were, from the clods and stones of the earth - of this new era, where every man should eventually become a king, with powers, arts, and intellectualises yet undreamed of, could have entered into the most clairvoyant moment of George's prime, and though he died wholly unconscious of the growing of this new birth in the pregnant body of the time, he carried with him the respect of his subjects for his integrity, crippled as it was by narrow intellectual vision, and for his piety, though it brought forth such little fruit in his own family. There had been something wrong in his domestic realm, as well as in his public one. The Singular spectacle of a couple of sovereigns, religious, moral, and orderly, and a family for the most part immoral and disorderly, was a peculiar one, and can only be explained by the examination of matters which belong only to the meta- physician. It is not our duty to inquire why the king failed in this respect; it is our business to prevent only the mistake, which would be a great one, of attributing the superior order of things which was about to take place either to the monarch or the ministry which ruled in his name. It was a regeneration arising out of the vital forces of the nation itself. Its energies were culminating from a thousand causes - from accumulated knowledge, artistic skill, governmental experience, and from the same old and indestructible root in the British nature which achieved Magna Charta, curbed the will of the rigorous Edward III., and of the still more haughty Elizabeth, broke through the deep-laid trains of Charles I., and his Laud and Went- worth, and drove for ever from England the hopeless James II. The resistance under George III. to the despotic efforts of the regent, of Sidmouth, Castlereagh, and Liverpool, was but the yet unfolded force which went on growing, ever clearer and more expansive, in literature, laws, and philanthropies humanities to the present time. All these points we shall now elucidate and establish by facts.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 <27>

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 27

Elba
Elba >>>>
Buonapartes return
Buonapartes return >>>>
Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo >>>>
Attack on the Chateau Hougomont
Attack on the Chateau Hougomont >>>>
Duke of Wellington
Duke of Wellington >>>>
Napoleons old guard
Napoleons old guard >>>>
Chateau Hougomont
Chateau Hougomont >>>>
Lord Somersets heavy brigade at Waterloo
Lord Somersets heavy brigade at Waterloo >>>>
General Bernadotte
General Bernadotte >>>>
Marshal Blucher
Marshal Blucher >>>>
Napoleons surrendering to Captain Maitland
Napoleons surrendering to Captain Maitland >>>>
Kingston, Canada
Kingston, Canada >>>>
Church of the Invalides
Church of the Invalides >>>>
Signing the treat of peace.
Signing the treat of peace. >>>>
Tomb of Napoleon
Tomb of Napoleon >>>>
The oasis in the desert.
The oasis in the desert. >>>>
William Cobbett
William Cobbett >>>>
Marriage of the Princess Charlotte with Prince Leopold
Marriage of the Princess Charlotte with Prince Leopold >>>>
George Frederick
George Frederick >>>>
Cawnpore, India
Cawnpore, India >>>>
Officers of the Bengal infantry.
Officers of the Bengal infantry. >>>>
Officers of the Bombay army
Officers of the Bombay army >>>>
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle >>>>
Henry Hunt
Henry Hunt >>>>
Hunt and people at Manchester.
Hunt and people at Manchester. >>>>
Death of George III
Death of George III >>>>
Royal Vault
Royal Vault >>>>
Brighton Pavilion
Brighton Pavilion >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About