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Chapter XXI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7


Revolutionary Publications - Loyal Demonstrations - Opening of London Bridge - Provision for the Princess Victoria - Coronation of the King and Queen - New Pears and Baronets - The Tory Peers tampering with the King - The Duke of Wellington labours to Extricate him from Whig Bondage - General Apprehension of a Great Convulsion- Edward Irving - Dr. Arnold - The Cholera - Ignorance of Sanitary Laws - The Plague of Revolution, and its Causes - New Political Combination, headed by the Duke of Wellington - Negotiations for a Compromise on the Reform Bill by Lord Wharncliffe - The Duke of Wellington's Predictions - Re-assembling of Parliament - Third Introduction of the Reform Bill - Lord John Russell's Alarm - Alterations in the Reform Bill - Combination of Numbers and Property - Debate on the Second Reading - The Reform Bill in Committee - Passing of the Bill - Debate on the Second Reading in the Lords - Lord Grey's Speech - Lord Shrewsbury - Lord Durham and the Bishop of Exeter - The Bishop of Gloucester's Defence of the Episcopal Bench - The Bill read a Second Time - Protest of the Duke of Wellington and others- Public Excitement during the Easter Recess - Proceedings of Political Unions - Aggregate Meetings at Birmingham - Ruse of the Opposition Peers - Lord Lyndhurst - Resignation of the Ministry - Lord Lyndhurst consulted by the King - Sir Robert Peel declines the Premiership - The Duke of Wellington's Attempt to form a Cabinet - Unpopularity of the King and Queen - Refusal to pay Taxes - Withholding the Supplies- Threats of Insurrection - Lord Ebrington's Motion for an Address to the King - Mr. Macaulay on the Position of the Opposition Lords - Sir Robert Inglis - Failure of the Duke of Wellington to form a Ministry - The King's Alternative: a Creation of Peers or Civil War - He submits to Lord Grey's Terms - The Third Reading carried - The King refuses to give his Assent in Person.
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The revolutionary spirit imported from France was manifested to an alarming extent in periodical publications during the year 1831. The writers indulged in a freedom of speech so daring that it is not surprising that the government was obliged to have recourse to prosecution in order to suppress the nuisance. A paper called The Poor Man's Guardian instituted a comparison between the French and the English governments, which shows how completely levelling and republican were the ideas of a section of the working classes at that time. Charles X. of France was Mr. Charles Capet, and they spoke of himself and his ministers as Messrs. Capet, Polignac, &c. In like manner the English government consisted of Messrs. " Guelph," Grey, Brougham, Denman, &c. The only difference between Charles Capet and William Guelph, they said, was, that Capet acted like a hero, and Guelph like a dastardly assassin. He and his minions had not courage to bite with their own weapons. " But," said the writers, " they will mangle us with the teeth of a diseased bloodhound; they will stab us with the dagger of a dead assassin. Cowardly tyrants! Are the people of England such sorry slaves that they can only talk and sing of freedom? Will not they, too, resist the laws of these tyrants? Will not they, too, have a glorious revolution? " "Citizen Hetherington" was the publisher of The Poor Maris Guardian. He was summoned before a magistrate, and fined for an infringement of the law, when he was defended by The Republican, another journal of the same character, in the following strain: - "lie considers the knowledge-taxing mandate of the Boroughmongering parliamentarians as much binding on the unrepresented people of England as the contemptible, impotent ordinances of Charles Capet were binding on the people of France. He who approves or enforces them must be a malignant fiend, and ought to be hunted out of civilised society. He who submits to them is a contemptible object and cowardly slave, a disgrace to his country, and an enemy to his fellow-citizens. Acting on this incontrovertible principle, he defies the ordinances of self-elected tyrants; he appeals to his fellow-citizens to support him in his honest, public-spirited exertions. His publications were instituted for the sole benefit of the cheated, plundered, and insulted multitude, to whom he appeals for protection against the diabolical machinations of the villains in power." The Prompter, another of the penny publications, raised the cry, "Down with kings, priests, and lords. Either in war or in peace, kingcraft, priestcraft, and lordcraft is a system of murder, plunder, and spoliation." It does not appear, however, that these denunciations had any effect upon the feelings of the masses, so far as king William was personally concerned. The coronation of the king and queen seems to have been prudently postponed, lest in the existing temper of the public mind, disappointed and exasperated at the resistance to reform, there might have been some outrage, or lest the expense of the pageant should add fuel to the popular discontent. But there was a demonstration in London in favour of royalty, with which the court had every reason to be content. On the 1st of August, the anniversary of the accession of the house of Hanover, the king and queen went by water from Somerset House, with their retinues, in their state barges, to witness the opening of the new London Bridge. The lord mayor and corporation made extraordinary efforts for their entertainment, among which was an ascent in his balloon by the "intrepid aeronaut," Mr. Green. The king ascended the long flight of steps from the water without any appearance of fatigue, and received an enthusiastic greeting from the countless multitudes that crowded around the scene. The keys of the city having been presented by the lord mayor, and graciously returned, the royal party proceeded to a pavilion that had been erected for their accommodation. Having inspected the bridge, they returned to the pavilion, and partook of a splendid banquet provided by the corporation. Many members of the royal family were present, including the duchesses of Gloucester, Cambridge, and Cumberland, the duke of Sussex, prince George of Cumberland, and prince George of Cambridge. The lord mayor was permitted to propose the king's health, and Sir Claudius Hunter the queen's. His majesty then, out of a gold cup, drank to the trade and commerce of the city of London, after which the loving cup went round among the members of the royal family. Finally, the king proposed the health of the lord mayor and lady mayoress, after which the royal party returned in their barges to Somerset House, followed by the state barges of the lord mayor and the city companies, gorgeously decorated. The multitude along the banks hailed the spectacle with acclamation. The king enjoyed the demonstration exceedingly, and as a proof of his satisfaction, the lord mayor (Key) was next day created a baronet. On the same day their majesties entered the house of peers, when the king gave his assent to the queen's dower bill, after which she rose and curtseyed three times to the gentlemen below the bar, members of the house of commons.

On the 3rd of August, a message having been received from the king, recommending an increased allowance to the duchess of Kent and the princess Victoria, earl Grey, in the house of peers, moved an address, representing the importance of making a further provision for the education, maintenance, and support of the honour and dignity of the princess, as heiress presumptive to the crown, which was agreed to; and in the house of commons, lord Althorp proposed an additional income of 10,000 a-year for the purpose, which was also agreed to. The princess, only child of the late duke of Kent and of the princess Louisa Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, widow of the hereditary prince of Leiningen, was born May 24th, 1819, the year before her father's death. She was now twelve years old.

The coronation of their majesties was fixed for the 8th of September, and the necessary alterations were made in Westminster Abbey for the occasion. On the morning of the appointed day numerous labourers, in scarlet jackets and white trousers, were busy completing the arrangements. Forty private gentlemen acted as pages of the earl marshal, and devised a novelty in the way of costume, clothing themselves in blue frock coats, white breeches and stockings, a crimson silk sash, and a small, ill-shaped hat, with a black ostrich feather, each provided with a gilt staff. Their duty was to conduct persons provided with tickets to their proper places. Three- fourths of the members of the house of commons were in military uniform, and a few in Highland costume. The equipages produced for the occasion were magnificent, the lord chancellor rivalling the lord mayor in this display; but neither of them came up to the Austrian ambassador in finery. The street procession commenced on Constitution-hill, and attracted thousands of spectators. Their majesties' carriage was drawn by eight horses, four grooms on each side, two footmen at each door, and a yeoman of the guard at each wheel. The crowds were in good humour with the spectacle, and manifested no disposition to dispense with royalty. The presence of the queen presented a contrast to the coronation oi George IV. Of the regalia, the ivory rod with the dove was borne by lord Campbell, the sceptre and the cross by lord Jersey, and the crown by the duke of Beaufort. The queen followed, supported by the bishops of Winchester and Chichester, and attended by five gentlemen pensioners on each side, the train borne by the duchess of Gordon, assisted by six daughters of earls. There was no banquet, Government having the fear of the economists before their eyes, and the nation having too lively a recollection of the coronation folly of George IV.; but the king entertained a large party of the royal family and nobility, with the principal officers of his household. The princess Victoria-and her mother were then in the Isle of Wight. Their absence from the ceremonial and the banquet was the subject of comment; but it was subsequently explained by the fact that the princess was in too delicate a state of health at the time to come to town and bear so much excitement. In London the day was kept as a holiday, and at night there * was a general illumination. "In short," says the duke of Buckingham, " there seemed so universal a satisfaction throughout the island, in consequence of this necessary f connection of the king with his people having been performed, that the well-disposed began to believe that democratic opinions had totally disappeared from the land."

The king had previously made some additions to the English peerage. His eldest son was ennobled by the titles of earl of Munster, viscount Fitzclarence, and baron Tewkesbury. His son-in-law, the earl of Errol, in the Scottish peerage, was made a British peer, by the title of baron Kilmarnock. Subsequently, the following were admitted to the British peerage: - lord Fingal, lord Sefton, lord Leitrim, lord Kinnaird, and lord Dover. Many other additions were made afterwards, and in this way the government obtained twenty-two votes in the upper house. In other quarters, ministers availed themselves of the royal prerogative to strengthen their position there, and overcome the difficulties in the way of the reform bill. Twenty-eight baronets were created, and the honour of knighthood was conferred upon about an equal number. On the whole, lord Grey found the king more accommodating than might have been expected. The leaders of the opposition persuaded themselves that his majesty was not a free agent, and they were torturing their brains to invent some plan by which he might be extricated from what they believed to be his degraded and dangerous position. The duke of Wellington was evidently very much pressed by his followers to endeavour to open the sovereign's eyes. In December, lord Eldon had an interview with the duke of Wellington, and sat with him an hour in deep conversation, from which it appeared that he had written letters to a great personage, meaning the king. In July he had written to the duke of Buckingham, revealing the state of his mind. There was no one more anxious than the duke " to extricate the country from its present difficulties; " but he must take care that in the choice of the efforts to be made for that purpose, he did not augment their number and intensity, rather than obtain any relief. He considered that the king had brought upon himself all his troubles by dissolving parliament; and he complained that his majesty had made no effort, nor manifested any wish to make an effort, to extricate himself. He described the king and his ministers, and a settled majority of the house of commons, as being " allied with the mob, the radicals, the dissenters of all persuasions, against the gentlemen of property of the country, the church, and all the establishments, religious, commercial, banking, political, &c."f The duke did not enter the new year with better prospects or in better spirits. In a letter, written on the 2nd of January, to the duke of Buckingham, he observed: - " When I wrote to the king in November, on the armament of the political associations, I had in hand a case on which I was certain that nineteen-twentieths of the whole country would concur with me. I did it likewise at a period of ^.he year at which I knew that, if the king wished to get rid of the bonds in which he is held, I could assist him in doing so. There was time to call a new parliament, and the sense of the country would have been taken on a question on which there could be no doubt. What did the king do? He concurred in every opinion which I gave him. His ministers saw their scrape, and prevailed upon the press and the political associations to alter their course; they issued a mock proclamation, and promised the king a bill to repress the associations, which promise they never performed, and the king is quite satisfied, and goes on with them as well as ever! " He then puts the difficulties of his position very strongly, in order to quiet the importunity of his friends. The mutiny bill would expire on the 25th of March. What was to be done in the meantime? He must see the king, and advise him to refuse to create peers - tell him that he would form a government, convince him that he could thus protect him - form a government, dissolve parliament, have a general election, &c. Could all this be done in time, and could he convince the king that this course would be attended with success? He was by no means sanguine upon this point. "If," said the duke, "he should find that I saw the risks and dangers which, as an honest and experienced man, I could not avoid seeing, he would shake me off, and would found his compliance with recommendations of his ministers even upon what should have passed with me. Believe me, my dear duke, that no man feels more strongly than I do the dangers of our situation. The great mischief of all is the weakness of our poor king, who cannot or will not see his danger, or the road out of it when it is pointed out to him; and he allows himself to be deceived and trifled with by ministers. I know that the times are approaching, if not come, when men must consider themselves as on a field of battle, and must sacrifice themselves for the public interest."

The duke of Wellington was not singular in his despondency with regard to the course of events, and the perilous nature of the crisis; some of the greatest thinkers of the age were profoundly affected by the conviction that they were on the eve of a great convulsion - that the end of the world was at hand, and that our globe was about to emerge into a new state of existence. The unsettled state of society accounts, in some measure, for the prevalence of the delusions of Edward Irving - then in the height of his fame; delusions from which such minds as Dr. Arnold's did not wholly escape. In reply to inquiries about the gift of tongues, that great man wrote: - " If the thing be real, I should take it merely as a sign of the coming day of the Lord. However, whether this be a real sign or no, I believe the day of the Lord is coming - i.e., the termination of one of the great ages of the human race; whether the final one of all, or not, that, I believe, no created being knows, or can know.... My sense of the evils of the times, and to what purpose I am bringing up my children, is overwhelmingly bitter. All the moral and physical worlds appear so exactly to announce the coming of the great day of the Lord - i. e., a period of fearful visitation, to terminate the existing state of things - whether to terminate the whole existence of the human race, neither man nor angel knows - that no entireness of private happiness can possibly close my mind against the sense of it."

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Pictures for Chapter XXI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7

The Earl of Durham
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Great Reform demonstration at Birmingham
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