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Negro Emancipation page 2

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Let us comp ire this state of things with the condition of the West Indian colonies disclosed in "Statement, Calculations, and Explanations submitted to the Board of Trade, relating to the Commercial, Financial, and Political State of the British West Indian Colonies," ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on the 7th of February, 1831. In these authentic statements, it is declared that " for many years the distress of Jamaica had been accumulating, until it hid reached a crisis which threatened to involve all classes in ruin. The planter was unable to raise money to provide for his family, or to feed and clothe his negroes; the mortgages got no interest for his capital; British annuitants looked for remittances in vain; sugar did not pay the duties and the cost of cultivation; the planter's industry was requited only by accumulating debt; and they called for the interposition of the imperial parliament to save the landowners and capitalists from ruin, and the negroes from starvation." This appeal was supported by a plea that looks rather strange, coming from such a quarter. A committee, expressing the sentiments of the assemblies of Barbadoes, Antigua, the Virgin Islands, and other colonies, state: "The slaves are deprived of many comforts which they would otherwise enjoy from the prosperity of their masters. It is not to be expected that moral or religious improvement can continue to make progress in a community so situated. In such a state of affairs the consequences must be ruinous; the estates must be abandoned, civilisation, religion, and morality recede and vanish, as at Hayti, with the white population." Twenty- six of the first West India houses in England, addressing the government in May, 1830, affirmed that many of the estates had not paid their expenses for the last year, not to speak of the interest on the capital, or on the debts with which they were encumbered, or the support of the families dependent upon them. Under these circumstances, they declared that, " unless some immediate relief be afforded, despair and ruin must inevitably overwhelm the colonies and all dependent upon them, and great distress and inconvenience be sustained in the manufacturing, shipping, and other interests connected with the colonies." It is with such piteous appeals and doleful vaticinations, that every reform is met by the supporters of rotten systems; but the results invariably falsify their predictions, and realise in the long run the most sanguine hopes of the friends of freedom and progress.

Lord Eldon, whose conservative instincts grew stronger as his mental and bodily strength decayed, greatly disliked the new poor law; but he refrained from opposing it, because it was warmly supported by the duke of Wellington and most of the lords. He declined to attend any of the discussions respecting it, considering it a wicked measure that should be regarded by all good men with abhorrence. Writing to his daughter, he said, "Heaven grant that this new mode of treating the poor and needy may not bring forth those fruits which I for one anticipate! They are to proceed in this hazardous measure to-night, but unto their assembly mine honour shall not be united." The noble lord's last speech in parliament, delivered on the 25th of July, 1834, was an appropriate finale of his political life, consistent throughout in his opposition to ail " dangerous innovation," in which category he appeared to include every political and social change that the wisdom of men could devise. On this occasion he voted against the bill for making the Great Western Railway, being as usual careful to state that he gave his vote on "conscientious grounds."

The vehement denunciation of the Irish Coercion Act, upon its being renewed, by some of the Irish members, provoked lord Althorp to remark that they had expressed different opinions in private, and had admitted the necessity of the measure. The noble lord was required to name an instance, and he mentioned Mr. Sheil, who contradicted the assertion in so unqualified a manner, that, on the motion of Sir Francis Burdett, both lord Althorp and Mr. Sheil were taken into custody by the serjeant-at-arms. They were released after some time, on giving assurance that they had no hostile intention. A committee of inquiry, moved for by Mr. O'Connell, subsequently brought forward a report which, by acquitting all parties of blame, gave universal satisfaction.

Much inconvenience and misery were caused during the year by the trades unions and their strikes. In several places the workmen combined in order to enforce a rise of wages, and a more equitable distribution of the profits derived from their labour. The striking commenced on the 8th of March, when the men employed by the London gas companies demanded that their wages should be increased from twenty-eight shillings to thirty-five shillings a-week? with two pots of porter daily for each man. On the refusal of this demand, they all stopped working; but before much inconvenience could be experienced, their places were supplied by workmen from the country. On the 17th of March an event occurred which caused general and violent excitement among the working classes. At the Dorchester assizes, six agricultural labourers were tried and convicted for being members of an illegal society, and administering illegal oaths, the persons initiated being admitted blindfold into a room where there was the picture of a skeleton and a skull. They were sentenced to transportation for seven years. Their case excited the greatest sympathy among the working population throughout the kingdom. In London, Birmingham, and several other large manufacturing towns, immense meetings were held to petition the king in favour of the convicts. In the midst of this excrement, the manufacturers of Leeds declared their determination not to employ any persons in their factories who were members of trades unions. The consequence was, that in that town three thousand workmen struck in one day. On the 15th of April there was a riot at Oldham, where, in consequence of the arrest of two members of a trade union, a factory was nearly destroyed, and one person killed, the mob having been dispersed by a troop of lancers. Several of the rioters were arrested, and sentenced to terms of imprisonment, varying from six to eighteen months. On the 21st of April a meeting of the trades union took place at Copenhagen Fields, to adopt a petition to the home secretary, praying for a remission of the sentence on the Dorchester convicts. They marched to the home office through the leading, thoroughfares, numbering about 25,000, in order to back up their deputation, which, however, lord Melbourne refused to receive, though he intimated to them that their petition should be laid before the king, if presented in a proper manner. The multitude then went in procession to Kennington Common. On the 28th 13,000 London journeymen tailors struck for higher wages. The masters, instead of yielding, resolved not to employ any persons connected with trades unions, and after a few weeks the men submitted and returned to their work.

The conduct of the trades unions excited a great deal of angry feeling amongst the wealthier classes; and the government were vehemently condemned for not putting down the combination with a strong hand. It was said that the mischief they created was well known; that though their interference with trade, " their atrocious oaths, impious ceremonies, desperate tyranny, and secret assassinations had been brought under their observation," ministers could not be stirred to any exhibition of energy for the protection of the manufacturer, the workman, or the public. They were appealed to by the organs of the employers in such language as the following: - "Those whose lives and property have been endangered by these illegal associations have a right to call on government to employ some additional means for their suppression; those who wish for the prosperity of our trade, and, what is of far more importance, the prosperity and happiness of the working classes, should equally desire their extinction; those who hate oppression should give their suffrages for the putting down these most capricious and irresponsible of all despotisms. They are alike hurtful to the workmen who form them; to the capitalists who are the object of their hostility; and to the public, who more remotely feel their effects. Were we asked to give a definition of a trades union, we should say it is a society whose constitution is the worst of democracies, whose power is based on outrage, whose practice is tyranny, and whose end is self- destruction."

On the 28th of April the duke of Newcastle had brought the trades unions under the consideration the house of lords, and questioned ministers as to their neglect respecting the disturbances these combinations occasioned. Lord Grey contented himself with a quiet expression of regret for their existence, and of a hope that they would die out if let alone. Meantime, the government were ready to put down disorderly meetings. This apparent indifference called forth indignant protests from the marquis of Londonderry and lord Eldon. The lord chancellor declared that the meetings were illegal, and that they were likely to produce great mischief; adding, " Of all the worst things, and of all the most pernicious devices that could be imagined for the injury of the interests of the working classes, as well as the interests of the country at large, nothing was so bad as their existence." He also stated that there could not remain the shadow of a doubt of the justice of the conviction of the Dorchester labourers. Strikes and combinations, however, continued during the summer. At the Chester assizes, on the 5th of August, two men were indicted for the murder of a manufacturer during a strike in 1831. It appeared on evidence that the deceased had excited the ill fe ling of the trades unions of the place, where he had a mill, in which he gave employment to a great number of people. Two of his own workmen had agreed to assassinate him for the sum of £3 6s. 8u. each, paid by the union. They shot him as he was passing through a lane to his mills. Being found guilty, they were executed. On the 18th of the same month the workmen employed by the builders of London struck to the number of 10,000, including the artisans at the government works This course was adopted in consequence of a combined declaration of the master-builders, requiring them to abandon their connexion with trades unions.

On the 22nd of April Mr. O'Connell brought forward a very comprehensive motion. It was for a select committee to inquire and report on the means by which the destruction of the Irish parliament was effected; on the effects of the union upon Ireland, and upon the labourers in husbandry and operatives in manufactures in England; and on the probable consequences of continuing the legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland. This motion originated a debate on the repeal question which lasted four days. Mr. O'Connell himself spoke for six hours. The debate was chiefly memorable for a speech of Mr. Spring Rice, in defence of the union, which also occupied six hours in the delivery. He concluded by proposing an amendment to the effect that an address should be presented to the king by both houses of parliament, expressing their determination to maintain the legislative union inviolate. In a very full house the amendment was carried by an overwhelming majority, the numbers being for the motion, 523; against it, 38. Mr. Spring Rice's speech served the government materially, while by the conservatives it was regarded as "a damper" to their, own hopes.

The duke of Wellington was installed as chancellor of the university of Oxford on the 10th of June. The tories in that stronghold of conservatism availed themselves of the opportunity for a great political demonstration. It appears that they had condoned the duke for his tergiversation on the Roman catholic question, in consequence of his fidelity to the tory creed on the subject of parliamentary reform. The reception was everything that his friends could wish# Lord Londonderry, who was present, wrote to the duke of Buckingham - "Nothing could surpass the enthusiasm and intoxication of the reception. It was beyond our most sanguine expectation, even for the duke of Cumberland." Lord Eldon was also present, and shared in the ovation. " And in an extraordinary and affecting manner was their enthusiastic sympathy awakened when his grandson, lord Encombe, received his doctor's degree, and was presented by the law professor to the chancellor." Lord Eldon wrote himself that he was extremely affected by the treatment he received. " It is," he said, "quite overpowering to have met with the congratulations of multitudes here upon the reception of my name in the theatre yesterday over and over again. When Encombe had his degree, the manner in which the duke of Wellington received and handed him up to me, the people calling out 'Eldon!' was affecting beyond anything I ever met." When he returned to London, he said, with exultation, "I will tell you what charmed me very much when I left the theatre, and was trying to get to my carriage: one man in the crowd shouted out, 'There is old Eldon - cheer hi’?, for he never ratted! ' I was very much delighted, for I never did rat. I will not say I have been right through life - I may have been wrong; but I will say that I have been consistent." He expressed unbounded delight when lord Stanley, Sir J. Graham, the duke of Richmond, and lord Ripon resigned, and he declared that the misrule under which the nation had been suffering for some years must now be at an end. But to his great surprise and mortification, lord Grey's government rallied from this blow, and for a little time recovered its popularity. The whig attorney-general, who on his promotion had been thrown out at Dudley on account of Irish coercion, and the ministerial support of the pension list, was in a few days after returned triumphantly for the city of Edinburgh; and the different sections of the liberal party showed a disposition to re-unite, so that lord Eldon expressed a fear that the restoration of the tories was indefinitely postponed. He always, says lord Campbell, manfully adhered to this old, respected, time-honoured name of his party, under which for near two centuries they had so gallantly defended the altar and the throne, talking rather contemptuously of the upstart appellation of "conservatives," among whom he foretold would be some of very lax notions respecting both religion and politics.

The chiefs of the party were at this time sanguine in their expectation of being speedily called to office. Their hopes were founded mainly upon the dissensions that were known to exist in the cabinet. These dissensions were first revealed by Mr. O'Connell's motion for a committee to inquire into the conduct of baron Smith, when presiding as a judge in criminal cases, and especially with reference to a charge addressed by him to the grand jury of Dublin, in which he said: " For the last two years I have seldom lost an opportunity for making some monitory observations from the bench. When the critical and lawless situation of the country did not seem to be generally and fully understood, I sounded the tocsin and pointed out the ambuscade. Subsequent events deplorably proved that I had given no false alarm. The audacity of factious leaders increased from the seeming impunity which was allowed them; the progress of that sedition which they encouraged augmented in the same proportion, till on this state of things came, at length, the coercion bill at once to arrest the mischief, and Consummate the proof of its existence and extent.... I consider the epidemic of our day to be a turbulent abuse of the right of petition, making it a channel for the conveyance, not of humble prayer, but of refractory invective and insolent dictation. This abuse seeks to turn that which it so distorts (as was done about two centuries ago) into the means of demolition, and that which Shakspeare, I think, called ' hurly-burly innovation.' An appetite for this latter seems the mainspring of insurrectionary movement at the present time; while those who instigate it may be turning the restless impulse to purposes more regular and systematic, and more their own.... I abominate the misleader, while I pity the misled."

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