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Chapter XXVI, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2


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Thus tortured and driven to madness, the Poles began to conspire against the brutal and perfidious tyranny by which they were oppressed. The train of revolution had been laid, and the French revolution of July, 1830, supplied the electric sparks by which it was ignited. The army, at the same time, had got the notion that it was to be removed to the South of Europe, to assist in crushing freedom in France and other countries, and that it was to be replaced by a native Muscovite force. The students of the military schools had also been exasperated by the arbitrary arrests of some of their number, and they began to sympathise with the disaffected people. These ardent youths therefore determined to lead the van of revolution, and to strike the first blow against the oppressors of their country. On the 29th of November, 1830, in accordance with a preconcerted plan, they proceeded armed to the grand duke's palace, into which they forced their way. They were first opposed by the director of police, who was wounded, and fled; next by the Russian general, Gendere, a monster of cruelty, whom they killed. By the closing of a secret door, the grand duke was enabled to escape, undressed, through a window. The object of the insurgents was to take him prisoner, and hold him as a hostage. He succeeded, however, in getting to the barracks, which were near the palace, and the imperial guards turned out and opposed the insurgents on their return to the city, but in vain: 300 of their number were killed, and the triumphant students passed on to the city, where they liberated all the state prisoners, and were joined by the school of engineers and the students of the university. A party entered the two theatres - which were open - and exclaimed, " Women, home! Men, to arms! " The summons was instantly obeyed. The arsenal was forced - the whole city felt the electric shock; the spirit of freedom thrilled every Polish heart; and in less than two hours 40,000 men were up in arms. All the Polish troops in Warsaw, with the exception of two regiments which the grand duke forced to remain with him, joined the insurgents. Constantine made several attempts to enter the city, but was repulsed, and at length gave up the attempt in despair; and in twelve hours the revolution was completed. The functionaries of the government having abandoned their posts, an administrative council was immediately formed, consisting of men distinguished for their talents, their characters, and their services. But their policy was hesitating and moderate. Instead of carrying out the revolution with spirit, and capturing Constantine and the army, as they might have done, they allowed him to escape under a convention, issued their decrees in the name of the czar, and demanded only the restoration of the violated charter. They forgot that there should be no half measures in a revolution. When they sheathed the sword and had recourse to negotiation, the emperor, of course, required, as a preliminary, absolute submission, and implicit trust in a power already proved cruel and perfidious. They allowed the national enthusiasm to subside during the delay, and when that was done they reversed their own policy by declaring the throne vacant. Thus precious time and favourable opportunities were lost. But when they saw that negotiation was vain, they prepared for a desperate struggle with the sword, and nobly did they fight the battle of freedom. All Europe was thrilled with the tidings of their stupendous efforts and sacrifices, their displays of bravery and heroic daring, worthy of the best times in the history of that gallant nation. On the 25th of February, 1831, the dense masses of Prussia, first brought into contact with the patriotic forces at Grochow, recoiled from the shock after a sanguinary conflict. Several battles were fought in March, and the war was continued, with varying success, during the summer. In September was fought the great battle at Warsaw, which lasted three days, and ended in the defeat of the Poles, after one of the most glorious struggles recorded in history. It was impossible that the people of England could avoid sympathising with this effort, still more warmly than with the French in their three days of July, which had such a different result. But all that the gallant Poles could get was barren sympathy and moral support, which went for little with the brutal despot, who now aimed what he regarded as a mortal blow at the life of the victim-nation. The result is described by a sympathetic writer: - " This blow proved decisive. European interference had been hoped for, but in vain; the faith of treaties had been appealed to without effect; the interests and the sympathies of the civilised nations of the west and the south had been invoked to no purpose; a powerful force still remained, and for a time, at least, a partisan warfare might have been carried on; but, thus abandoned to its own resources, Poland must at last have yielded to her gigantic antagonist. That country had no mountain fastnesses where her children, when overpowered by numbers, might take shelter; it had no fortresses capable of arresting and breaking the force of her assailants. Nothing could have saved her but a prompt and active interposition, founded on the treaty of Vienna; and such was the situation of France and England at the time, that neither judged it safe or expedient to interfere otherwise than by remonstrance. The Poles submitted. With reluctance they laid down those arms which they had taken up in the hope of re-conquering their national independence, and which they had so gloriously employed in many a hard-fought field. But all former experience of Muscovite vengeance could scarcely have prepared them for the miseries which have since been accumulated, in new and fearful forms, on their unhappy country. To say nothing of proscription and confiscation, her plains have been covered with ruins, her resources exhausted, her industry and commerce destroyed; abundance has given place to wretchedness and want; she has no longer a name or a place amongst the nations; her language, her literature, and her history cannot any more be publicly taught in her schools; and every effort has been made to destroy that sentiment of nationality which is part of the inheritance of every Pole. And all this has been done in the face of the public guarantee of the powers of Europe, if not without remonstrance, at least without any effectual opposition.''

To return to home affairs. Sir Robert Peel applied himself with great energy and diligence to the legislative work that he had proposed for his government. On the 17th he moved for leave to bring in a bill to relieve dissenters from the disabilities under which they laboured with regard to the law of marriage. It was felt to be a great grievance that nonconformists could not be married except according to the rites of the established church, to which they had conscientious objections. Attempts had been made by the whigs to relieve them, but in a hesitating manner, and with only a half recognition of the principle of religious equality. Sir Robert Peel took up the subject in a more liberal spirit and with more enlightened views. He proposed that, so far as the state had to do with marriage, it should assume the form of a civil contract only, leaving the parties to solemnise it with whatever religious ceremonies they chose. The bill for this purpose met the approval of the house, and would have satisfied the dissenters, if Sir Robert Peel had remained in office long enough to pass it. All the committees of the preceding year were re-appointed, in order to redeem, as far as possible, the time lost by the dissolution. A measure was brought forward for the improvement of the resources of the church of England, by turning some of the larger incomes to better account, and by creating two additional bishoprics, Ripon and Manchester. The premier did not act towards the dissenters in the same liberal spirit with regard to academic education as he did with regard to marriage. They were excluded from the privileges of the universities; and yet when it was proposed to grant a charter to the London University, that it might be able to confer degrees, the government opposed the motion for an address to the king on the subject, and were defeated by a majority of 246 to 136.

On the 20th of March Sir Henry Hardinge brought forward the ministerial plan for the settlement of the tithe question. It was proposed that in future tithes should be recoverable only from the head landlord, and that the owner should be entitled to recover only 75 per cent, of the amount, 25 per cent, being allowed for the cost of collection, and the risk and liability which the landlord assumed. He might redeem it, if he wished, at twenty years' purchase, calculated upon the diminished rate. The purchase-money was to be invested in land or otherwise for the benefit of the rectors and other tithe- owners. The arrears of 1834 were to be paid out of the residue of the million advanced from the consolidated fund, and the repayments of the clergy for the loans they had received were to be remitted. There was a good deal of discussion on this plan, lord John Russell contending that it was the same in substance as the one brought forward last session by the late government. There was, however, some difference between the two measures. In the former, the landlords were to get two-fifths, or 40, out of every 100, securing to the clergy 77| per cent., and involving an annual charge of 17J per cent, on the consolidated fund. This was the shape the measure had assumed as the result of amendments carried in committee. The ministerial resolution was carried by a majority of 213 to 198.

But all this was but preliminary to the great battle which commenced on the 30th of this month, and which decided the fate of the ministry. Lord John Russell, after the house had been called over, moved, " That the house should resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, to consider the temporalities of the church of Ireland, with a view of applying any surplus of the revenues not required for the spiritual care of its members to the general education of all classes of the people, without distinction of religious persuasion." This resolution was skilfully framed to secure the support of all the liberal party, and of the English dissenters as well as the Irish catholics; all of them being able to agree upon it, and to act together without inconsistency, though each might act from different motives and with different objects. The discussion was particularly interesting, as it turned very much upon the great question of religious establishments. Lord John Russell, lord Howiek, and Mr. Sheil, while fully admitting that an establishment tends to promote religion and to preserve good order contended that it ought not to be maintained where it fails to secure these objects, and that it must always fail when, as in Ireland, the members of the established church are only a minority of the nation, while the majority, constituting most of the poorer classes, are thrown upon the voluntary system for the support of their clergy. Concurring with Paley in his view of a church establishment - that it should be founded upon utility, that it should communicate religious knowledge to the masses of the people, that it should not be debased into a state engine or an instrument of political power - they demanded whether the church of Ireland fulfilled these essential conditions of an establishment. They asked whether its immense revenues had been employed in preserving and extending the protestant faith in Ireland? In the course of something more than a century it was stated that its revenues had increased sevenfold, and now amounted to 800,000 a-year. Had its efficiency increased in the same proportion? Had it even succeeded in keeping its own small flocks within the fold? On the contrary, they adduced statistics to show a lamentable falling off in their numbers. For example, lord John Russell said, " By Tighe's History of Kilkenny, it appears that the number of protestant families in 1731 was 1,055, but in 1800 they had been reduced to 941. The total number of protestants at the former period was 5,238, while the population of the county, which in 1800 was 108,000, in 1731 was only 42,108 souls. From Stuart's History of Armagh, we find that sixty years ago the protestants in that county were as two to one; now they are as one to three. In 1733 the Roman catholics in Kerry were twelve to one protestant, and now the former are much more numerous than even that proportion. In Tullamore, in 1731, there were 64 protestants to 613 Roman catholics; but according to Mason's parochial survey, in 1818 the protestants had diminished to only five, while the Roman catholics had augmented to 2,455. On the whole, from the best computation he had seen - and he believed it was not exaggerated one way or the other - the entire number of protestants belonging to the established church in Ireland can hardly be stated higher than 750,000; and of those 400,000 are resident in the ecclesiastical province of Armagh. "

Such being the facts of the case, the liberals came to the conclusion that a reform was inevitable. In order to adapt the establishment to the requirements of the protestant population, there must be a large reduction, and the surplus funds that remained ought to be applied to some object by which the moral and religious instruction of the people would be promoted. The least objectionable mode in which the money could be applied was the general education of the poor under the national board, by which children of all denominations could be educated in harmony together, as they had been ever since its establishment. The reformers denied that there was any analogy between the revenues of the established church and private property. The acts of parliament securing those revenues had all treated them as being held in trust for the benefit of the nation; and after leaving ample means for the due execution of the trust, so far as it was really practicable, the legislature was competent to apply the balance in accomplishing by other agency than the protestant clergy, to some extent at least, the objects originally contemplated by the founders of the religious endowments.

The case of the Irish church was stated by Sir Robert Peel, lord Stanley, and Sir James Graham, who argued that its revenues were greatly exaggerated, subjected to heavy drawbacks and deductions. The vestry cess had been abolished. A tax exclusively borne by the clergy of three to fifteen per cent, had been laid upon all livings, and the Church Temporalities Act provided that in all parishes in which service had not been performed from 3830 to 1833, when a vacancy occurred, there should be no re-appointment, and the revenues of that living, after paying a curate, should be destined to other parishes differently situated, but for purposes strictly protestant. Here, then, is a provision already made for the progressive diminution or extinction of the episcopal church in those districts where it is not called for, and can be of no utility. Whence, then, the anxiety to take away a surplus, which, in all probability, will not exceed 100,000 a year, from a church already subjected to such heavy and exclusive burdens? It is not pretended that the object of this appropriation is to apply the income seized to the payment of the national debt, or that it is justified by any state necessity. They argued that if the appropriation clause, as now shaped, once passed into law, not only would the protestant faith cease to be the established religion in Ireland, but the measure would be fatal to the established church in England also. It was to avoid that danger that the Irish legislature at the union had stipulated for the safety of the protestant church, and without going the length of contending that those articles were like the laws of the Medes and Persians, which could not be altered, yet they should not be infringed upon without evident and pressing necessity; and if there was any one Irish interest that should be treated with special tenderness, it was that of the church, which, owing to the minority which constituted its adherence, was beset with peculiar dangers. Besides, it was asked, what chance was there that the concessions! of this principle and the alienation of church property would pacify the Roman catholics, or heal the divisions of that unhappy country? Would resistance to the payment of tithe to a protestant church be removed by applying a small fraction of its income to a different purpose? Suppose the incumbents were removed from one-fourth of the parishes in Ireland, and their revenues applied to the national schools, would that alleviate the discontent in the remaining three-fourths, where the incumbents still resided and performed their functions? Would it not rather increase the agitation by encouraging the hope that by perseverance the church would be stripped of all her revenues? The measure, therefore, instead of bringing peace, would only stimulate strife and protract war. In fact, the conservatives contended that this was only the first of a series of measures avowedly intended to annihilate the protestant establishment. What said archbishop M'Hale in 1833, after four years' enjoyment of the rights and privileges granted by the Emancipation Act? He said, a After all the evils which have fallen on this devoted land, it is a consolation to reflect that the legislative axe is at last laid to the root of the establishment. The pruners of our ecclesiastical establishments have not read the Roman history in vain, when the two overshadowing plants which spread their narcotic poisonous influence all around them have been laid low. This is but the prelude of a further and still more enlarged process of extinction. By every reform abuses will be removed, until it is to be hoped, not a single vestige of that mighty nuisance will remain." Mr. O'Connell was not less frank in his avowal of ulterior objects. In October, 1834, he said: - "It is quite true that I demanded but a partial reduction. It was three-fifths of the tithes. Why did I ask no more? Because I had no chance, in the first instance, of getting the whole abolished; and I only got two-fifths, being less than I demanded. I had, therefore, no chance of getting the entire destroyed; and, because I am one of those who are always willing to accept an instalment, however small, of the real national debt - the people's debt - I determined to go on, and look for the remainder when the first instalment should be completely realised. My plan is to apply that fund in the various counties of Ireland, to relieve the occupiers of land from grand jury cess, and to defray the expense of hospitals, infirmaries, and institutions for the sick." In other words, said the conservatives, Mr. O'Connell proposed to confiscate the property of the church, in order to relieve the land from its appropriate burdens, and to exempt it from the support of the poor. They argued, therefore, that on no reasonable ground could it be maintained that this concession to Irish agitation could have any other effect than stimulating the agitators to make fresh demands. Sound policy required that the protestant establishment should be maintained in Ireland. It is the essence of an establishment to be universal. There must be a clergyman in every parish. His provision must be certain beyond the reach of fraud or agitation, beyond the reach of popular influence, so that he may not be obliged to adapt the doctrine to the taste of his hearers, or to lower the standard of truth. It must be sufficient for the support of a family in decent competence, for the clergy are permitted, to marry, and must not be socially inferior to the more respectable portion of their parishioners. The livings of Ireland were by no means above this standard, many of them were below it. For example, there were 570 under 250 a-year; 854 under 450 a-year, and 948 under 500 a-year. The whole, Sir James Graham estimated, would not average more than 200 a year. "It behoves the whigs," said he, "in a peculiar manner to oppose this mischievous and disastrous revolution. Whig principles consist not in death's heads and cross-bones, denunciations against those who venture to exercise their civic franchises according to their consciences, nor in prayers for mercy limited to those in heaven, but not to be extended to those on this side the grave. Genuine whig principles consist in a warm attachment to civil freedom, and the protestant religion as by law established. This is a vital question, upon Trhich no further compromise can be made. The property set apart by our ancestors to maintain and propagate the protestant religion is sacred, and ought only to be applied to sacred uses. More than this, those who minister at the altar ought to live by the altar. That principle is high as heaven, and you cannot reach it; it is strong as the Almighty, and you cannot overturn it; it is fast as the eternal, and you cannot unfix it. It is binding on a legislature consisting of Christian men, and acting on Christian principles, and no consideration on earth should induce you to compromise or destroy it." Sir Robert Peel, who argued all through upon the supposition that the concession of the appropriation principle involved the destruction of the established church, stated, that though he might be compelled to succumb to an adverse vote, he should ever condemn the procedure of procuring that vote at the expense of the Irish church, rather than by means of a direct motion of want of confidence in the government. He believed that on this question the house was not an expression of national opinion; he believed that his view was that of the large majority of the people; and he therefore felt strong to meet the decision that might ensue from his adherence to his view of duty to the Irish church.

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