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Chapter XVIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3

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The saying of lord Grey, that he would stand by his order, has been often quoted as characteristic of his aristocratic spirit. He certainly did stand by it on this occasion, for his cabinet could scarcely have been more aristocratic than it was. It consisted of fifteen members, of whom thirteen were peers, or sons of peers, one was a baronet, and one an untitled commoner.

The ministerial statement was anticipated with great interest. It was delivered by the new premier, on the evening of the 22nd, Mr. Brougham presiding as lord chancellor. Foremost and most conspicuous in his programme was the question of parliamentary reform next, economy and peace. Having gone in detail through the principles of his policy, and the reforms he proposed to introduce, the noble lord summed up all in the following words: - " The principles on which I now stand, and upon which the administration is prepared to act, are - the amelioration of existing abuses; the promotion of the most rigid economy in every branch of the public expenditure; and lastly, every endeavour that can be made by government to preserve peace, consistent with the honour and character of the country. Upon these principles I have undertaken an office to which I have neither the affectation nor presumption to state that I am equal. I have arrived at a period of life when retirement is more to be desired than active employment; and I can assure your lordships that I should not have emerged from it, had I not found - may I be permitted to say thus much without incurring the charge of vanity or arrogance? - had I not found myself, owing to accidental circumstances, certainly not to any merit of my own, placed in a situation in which, if I had declined the task, I had every reason to believe that any attempt to form a new government on principles which I could support would have been unsuccessful. Urged by these considerations, being at the same time aware of my own inability, but acting in accordance with my sense of public duty, I have undertaken the government of the country at the present momentous crisis."

The duke of Wellington was a strong-minded man, yet even he experienced the marvellous influence of position on men's views of public affairs. Having given up the seals of office, he retired to Walmer, where from his quiet retreat he looked out upon the troubled political horizon; and nothing could be more gloomy than Iiis anticipations. According to his biographer, visions of the darkest hue were continually present. " He saw the political unions in England and Scotland acquiring from day to day more perfect organisation and a wider influence. In Ireland, Mr. O'Connell appeared to be raised above the control of law;' and the government, though it obtained a verdict of sedition against him, shrank from inflicting the penalty which the law awarded. All this seemed, to the duke's excited imagination, to indicate that the new cabinet was prepared to go to the utmost lengths, in order to conciliate the democracy; on which, indeed, and on which alone, he conceived that it would be driven in the end to rely. Nor were the prospects which met him while contemplating the condition of the continent, and the probable line to be taken by England in dealing with foreign powers, more satisfactory. 'I do not see how these men are to carry on the government,' he used to say,' so as to maintain order at home or peace abroad. It is very well for lord Grey to talk about standing out for reform, retrenchment, and non-intervention. Reform, as he calls it, he may or may not get; retrenchment I'll defy him to carry farther than we have done, unless he sacrifices the great institutions of the country; and as to non-intervention - with all the sympathies of his party enlisted on the side of democracy - that is in his case, impossible. Mark my words, you'll see the Belgian insurrection taken up, and a French army in the Netherlands before many months are over; and then if Austria, Russia, and Prussia move, what is to save Europe from a renewal of scenes which no man who has once taken part in them would ever desire to witness again?' ' But they are acting vigorously in the matter of the rural disturbances, at all events, and Mr. Stanley seems determined to stop the agitator's career in Ireland.' 'They are doing in the rural districts the work which we had begun and handed over to them; but what do you say to their intimacy with the political unions? Do you think they will be able to lay the storm which they have raised in Birmingham, Leeds, and Glasgow? or prevent it from sweeping away all the safeguards of the constitution? As to O'Connell, depend upon it that whatever Mr. Stanley may wish to do, Mr. Stanley's masters have other uses to make of the great O. than to gag him.' "

The duke of Wellington took too much credit to himself for his efforts in preserving the peace of the country. Lord Grey declared that when he entered office in November, 1830, he found the counties round London in open insurrection, and that no measures had been taken by the late government to put down these disturbances. This was true so far as incendiary fires were concerned. A system of outrage commenced in Kent before the harvest was fully gathered in. The disturbers of the peace did not generally assume the form of mobs, nor did they seek any political object. Threatening letters were circulated very freely, demanding higher wages and denouncing machinery, and the attacks of the rioters were directed entirely against private property. In the day armed bands went forth, wrecking mills and destroying machinery, especially threshing machines. At night, corn-stacks, hay-ricks, barns, and farm-buildings were seen blazing in different parts of the country. Even live stock were cruelly burned to death. In addition to this wholesale destruction, the rioters plundered the houses of the farmers as they went along. These disorders extended into Hants, Wilts, Bucks, Sussex, and Surrey, and they continued during the months of October, November, and December. In fact, life and property in those counties were, to a great extent, at the mercy of lawless men. Lord Grey lost no time in announcing his determination to punish sternly those disturbers of the peace, and to restore at every cost the dominion of law and order. He would give his most anxious attention to measures for the relief of distress, but it was his determined resolution, wherever outrages were perpetrated or excesses committed, to suppress them with vigour. In pursuance of this determination, two special commissions were issued to try the offenders. They finished their painful duties early in January. On the 9th of that month judgment of death was recorded against twenty-three persons, for the destruction of machinery in Buckinghamshire. In Dorset, at Norwich, at Ipswich, at Petworth, at Gloucester, at Oxford, at Winchester, and at Salisbury, large numbers were convicted of various outrages; altogether, upwards of 800 offenders were tried, and a large proportion of them capitally convicted. Only four, however, were executed; the rest were all sentenced to various terms of transportation or imprisonment. The prosecutions were conducted with firmness, but with moderation, and they were decidedly successful in restoring public tranquillity.

The middle classes at that time, bent on the acquisition of parliamentary reform, were anxious that the movement should be conducted strictly within the bounds of legality, and without producing any social disorders. There was, however, a class of agitators who inflamed popular discontent by throwing the blame of the existing distress on machinery, on capitalists, and on the government. This course of conduct served to encourage mobs of thieves and ruflians both in town and country, who brought disgrace upon the cause of reform, and gave a pretext for charging the masses of the people with a lawless spirit and revolutionary tendencies. Another class of agitators, chiefly old tories, were prophets of evil, full of forebodings of national calamity, ever dwelling on the ruin that impended over all the national interests, and, before all, upon the agricultural interest. Even the duke of Wellington, as we have seen, yielded to this desponding spirit, and indulged in the gloomiest apprehensions as to the future of England, from the moment he passed into the cold shade of opposition.

In Ireland there was severe distress prevailing over an extensive district along the western coast - no unusual visitation, for the peasantry depended altogether on the potato, a precarious crop, which sometimes failed wholly, and was hardly ever sufficient to last till the new crop came in. The old potatoes generally disappeared, or became unfit for human food in June, and from that time till September the destitution was very great, sometimes amounting to actual famine. There was a partial failure of the crop in 1830, which, coupled with the rack rents extorted by middlemen, gave to agitators topics which they used with effect in disquieting the minds of the peasantry.

The Irish viceroy appointed by lord Grey was the marquis of Anglesey. The interval between his two vice- royalties extended over a period of nearly two years, during which the duke of Northumberland was at the head of the Irish government. The manner in which relief was granted to Roman catholics, expressly as a concession to violence wrung from the fears of the legislature, confirmed the wildest notions of the people with respect to their own power. The offensive exclusion of O'Connell by the terms of the Emancipation Act deprived the concession of much of its grace and power of conciliation. Lord Cloncurry states that it is scarcely possible to doubt that had the Relief Act not been framed with the express design of excluding Mr. O'Connell, he would have quietly taken his seat; " and if he had not settled down into the ease of the bench of justice, he would have pursued a course of constitutional exertion for the social and political improvement of Ireland." It is not likely, however, that any seat on the bench, except that of the lord chancellor, would have satisfied the great agitator. Had he, the foremost lawyer, the great popular chief, been treated in the same manner as lord Brougham, who had occupied the corresponding position in England, Ireland might have been spared a whole generation of pernicious agitation. But the creed of O'Connell precluded this, as the Emancipation Act expressly provided that no Roman catholic could be lord chancellor. This very fact, that a Roman catholic lawyer, however eminent, could not rise to the highest place on the bench, was a source-of irritation, as fixing upon Roman catholics the brand of inferiority. In consequence of the securities with which the Emancipation Act was associated, the latter part of tlie year 1829 and the whole of 1830 were miserably distinguished in Ireland by party conflicts and outrages. To the government of the country thus torn and convulsed, lord Anglesey was again called in December of the latter year, and, considering his antecedents, no appointment was likely to prove so popular. "Nevertheless," says lord Cloncurry, " neither support nor forbearance were accorded to lord Anglesey. From the moment when it was known that he was re-appointed, he was treated by the demagogues as an enemy. And the extraordinary progress of liberalism made during his lieutenancy must in candour be set down to the account of his courage and perseverance, in fighting the cause of the people against both themselves and their enemies." On the eve of his departure for Ireland, he wrote to lord Cloncurry, saying, "O'Connell is my avant courier. He starts to-day with more mischief in hand than I have yet seen him charged with. I saw him yesterday for an hour and a half. I made no impression upon him whatever; and I am now thoroughly convinced that he is bent upon desperate agitation. All this will produce no change in my course and conduct. For the love of Ireland, I deprecate agitation. I know it is the only thing that can prevent her from prospering; for there is in this country a growing spirit to take Ireland by the hand, and a determination not to neglect her and her interests; therefore I pray for peace and repose. But if the sword is really to be drawn, and with it the scabbard is to be thrown away - if I, who have suffered so much for her, am to become a suspected character, and to be treated as an enemy - if, for the protection of the state, I am driven to the dire necessity of again turning soldier - why, then, I must endeavour to get back into old habits, and to live amongst a people I love in a state of misery and distress." In a subsequent letter to the same nobleman, he states that he had received a number of affectionate letters, warning him not to go to Ireland, that he would set his life upon a cast, or that if he did go he should enter Dublin quietly and secretly; oit which he remarked, that they might as well propose to him to mount a balloon. He would proceed unostentatiously but publicly to Dublin Castle. But he besought lord Cloncurry to see to it, that no friend of his should come forward to mix himself up with his " unpopularity He adds, " What a term for me to make use of amongst Irishmen! Let me alone, I shall like to meet their hostile ebullitions alone and unattended. It will be curious enough to contrast the first days of 1829 with the last days of 1830, and the whole change of sentiment to be upon the plea of a solitary law appointment. My particular desire is neither to attract notice nor to avoid it, and most particularly that not one single friend shall put himself forward to share with me the fortunes of the day; and therefore, my dear good lord, stay at home, and you shall hear that I am not less patient and enduring with the hostile and deluded people than I am feelingly alive to the cheers of an affectionate one."

Notwithstanding these apprehensions, the reception actually given to lord Anglesey was not at all so disgraceful to the country as he was led to anticipate. Mr. O'Connell kept out of the way; but a numerous assemblage of the most respectable citizens greeted his arrival at Kingstown, and escorted him to Dublin Castle, lord Cloncurry and lord Howth riding at the head of the procession. The populace confined the expression of their feelings to a few groans for "Dirty Doherty," whose promotion to the chief seat of the court of common pleas was the alleged offence of lord Anglesey. He was scarcely a week in Ireland, however, when O'Connell opened the repeal campaign. A meeting of the trades of Dublin had been arranged for the 27th of December, to march in procession from Phibsborough to his residence in Merrion Square, to present him with an address of thanks for his advocacy of a domestic legislature. Sworn informations having been laid before the lord- lieutenant to the effect that serious disturbances were apprehended from this procession, he issued a proclamation on Christmas-day, forbidding it under the act for the suppression of dangerous associations of assemblies. Mr. O'Connell therefore issued a notice, countermanding the meeting. On the 4th of January, Mr. O'Connell sent a deputation to lord Cloncurry to ask him to preside over a repeal meeting, which he declined. " Those who knew Mr. O'Connell," writes his lordship, "who recollect what a creature of impulse he was, how impatiently he bore with any difference from his opinions, and what a storm was the first burst of his wrath, will not wonder at what followed. Three very long letters were immediately issued, especially devoted to the business of vituperating me, but with ample digressions maledictory of lord Anglesey. I was a renegade, an aristocrat born and bred, a thinking patriot; it was a matter of doubt whether my heart was of stone or a human heart; and, worse than all, I was the friend of Algerine Anglesey." In a few days, he adds, the fever was brought to a crisis by the arrest of Mr. O'Connell and his agitation staff, " after a brisk pursuit through a labyrinth of ingenious devices, whereby he sought to evade the law, in the course of which it was found necessary to discharge five or six proclamations against him. To-day, Mr. O'Connell's audience and claqueurs were termed The Society of the Friends of Ireland of all Religious Persuasions. To-morrow, they were The General Association of Ireland for the Prevention of Unlawful Meetings, and for the protection and exercise of the sacred right of petitioning for the redress of grievances. Then, again, they were a nameless body of persons, in the habit of meeting weekly at a place called Home's Hotel; and as the hunt continued, they successively escaped from each daily proclamation under the changing appellations of The Irish Society for Legal and Legislative Relief; or the Anti-Union Association; The Association of Irish Volunteers for the Repeal of the Union; The Subscribers to the Parliamentary Intelligence Office, Stephen Street; until finally they were fairly run down at a breakfast party at Hayes' Hotel."

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