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Political Tranquillity


Political Tranquillity - Position of the Ministry - The Royal Speech- Debates on the Address - The Syrian Expedition - Speeches of Lord Brougham, Lord Melbourne, and the Duke of Wellington - Speech of Mr. Grote in the House of Commons - Reply of Lord John Russell on the "Finality" - Amendment by Mr. Hume - Speech of Sir Robert Peel - Vote of Thanks to Admiral Sir Robert Stopford for the Capture of Acre - The Turkish Fleet delivered up to Admiral Stopford by the Pasha of Egypt, who is Confirmed in his possessions as Hereditary Viceroy of Egypt - The English Poor Law - Ministerial Bill to Continue the Commission - Debate on the Second Reading - Election of Mr. Walter for Nottingham - Operation of the Irish Poor Law - Registration of Voters in Ireland - Bills of Lord Stanley and Lord Morpeth - Proposed Extension of the Franchise in Ireland - Diminution of Irish Electors - The Government Measure carried after Four Nights' Debate by a Majority of Five - Lord Howick's proposed Franchise carried in Committee - Defeat of the Government - Jewish Disabilities - Defeat of the Bill by the Lords - The Scotch Non-intrusion Question in the House of Lords - Sir Robert Peel proposes a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government - Defeat of the Government by a Majority of One - Dissolution of Parliament - State of Parties - Lord Melbourne appeals to the Country - The General Election - Conservative Majority - Opening of the New Parliament - The Royal Speech - Vote of Want of Confidence in the Lords - Testimony of the Duke of Wellington to the Importance of the Services of a Peculiar Nature rendered by Lord Melbourne to the Queen - No Confidence Vote in the House of Commons carried by a Majority of Ninety-one - Sir R. Peel Master of the Situation - Resignation of the Melbourne Cabinet - The Peel Ministry - Prorogation of Parliament.
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At the opening of 1841 the country might be said to be free from all excitement on the subject of politics. There was no great question at issue, no struggle between rival parties seemed impending. Many of the principal questions which in former years had agitated the public mind had been settled or laid to rest. The Chartist riots seemed to have abated the desire of the leading reformers to extend the suffrage to the working classes. The Established Church was enjoying a welcome calm after the storms through which it had passed; and although Ireland was still regarded as an inexhaustible source of controversy and trouble, the monotonous repetition of Irish topics had so fatigued the public ear that it was not easy now to get a hearing on any Irish question. Besides, it seemed to the Conservatives almost useless to drive Lord Melbourne's Government to the verge of destruction, since it Was impossible to get rid of it; for, as if endowed with a charmed life, whenever it appeared to be on the point of dissolution, it was revived and invigorated by the smiles of royalty.

Such being the state of affairs, the opening of Parliament was regarded with comparative indifference. On the 26th of January, the Queen delivered the speech from the throne. The most important matter referred to in it was the question of China, concerning which Her Majesty said: - " Having deemed it necessary to send to the coast of China a naval and military force to demand reparation and redress for injuries inflicted upon some of my subjects by the officers of the Emperor of China, and for indignities offered to an agent of my Crown, I, at the same time, appointed plenipotentiaries to treat upon these matters with theĽ Chinese Government. These plenipotentiaries were, by the last accounts, in negotiation with the Government of China, and it will be a source of much gratification to me if that Government shall be induced by its own sense of justice to bring these matters to a speedy settlement by an amicable arrangement."

The address to the throne was moved in the House of Lords by Earl Ducie, and seconded by Lord Lurgan. One portion of the speech referred to a naval expedition which was sent to co-operate with the army of the Sultan in the Levant, in pursuance of a convention to which the Emperor of Austria was a party. This expedition was referred to as a matter of congratulation by the mover and seconder. Lord Lurgan remarked that the capture of Acre, notwithstanding what had been said of the deficiencies of our navy and arsenals, proved that they were in a state of perfect competency for any purpose which might be required. Nothing was more conspicuous throughout these proceedings, he said, than the high principles of integrity and perfect good faith of the British Government, whose conduct had been honest, sincere, straightforward, and forbearing. Another subject of congratulation, in which all warmly concurred, was the birth of an heiress to the throne.

Lord Brougham could not let the address pass in silence. " He did not mean to oppose it, only to remind their lordships that no one who voted for it pledged himself to any proposition that it contained. He was not quite satisfied that France cherished the friendly disposition towards England for which she got credit in the address, nor did he think that the peace of Europe was quite secure. With regard to our interposition in Turkey, the noble Lord remarked that to talk of renovating or re-organising an empire which had been, not for years, but for reigns 'as if stricken with paralysis' - a body which had already decayed and fallen to pieces, seemed to him the most chimerical object that could enter the mind of a statesman." Lord Brougham deprecated the course that had been pursued tending to alienate France for the sake of conciliating Russia, whereas the designs of Russia upon Turkey could be rendered hopeless only by the cordial alliance of France and England.

Lord Melbourne defended his policy with regard to the Levant, and the efforts to preserve the integrity of Turkey as much as possible in its existing state. It was evident, from papers on the table of the House, that it was the intention of the Pasha of Egypt to establish his own independence, to found a new Mahometan state on the shores of the Mediterranean, and by further encroachments to make himself the greatest Mahometan power in that part of the world, if not the only one.

The Duke of Wellington expressed his concurrence in the address, which he hoped would be unanimously adopted. He was one of those who approved of the policy of the measures that had been taken. The state of things in the Levant had for some years excited his anxious attention, and he was happy to say he had reason to think that the dangers which menaced the peace of Europe would be averted, and that in maintaining it France would join the other powers. The address was agreed to without a division.

In the House of Commons the address was moved by Lord Brabazon, and seconded by Mr. Grantley Berkeley, who spoke in the most eulogistic terms of the policy of the Government. Mr. Grote characterised the royal speech as not very rich in promises, presenting the sketch of a session as blank in prospect as the preceding session had been in reality. He condemned the Syrian expedition as indefensible on any correct view of international obligation. He trusted that we might escape the terrible calamity of a European war, but omens and menaces of warlike preparations were abroad, and the rumours of all Europe being placed on enlarged military establishments were in themselves no slight evil. Lord Palmerston, in settling the Eastern question, had unsettled all the relations of Europe. With regard to the Turkish empire Mr. Grote protested against our undertaking to maintain the integrity of that empire - " against spending the blood and treasure of the English people in providing factitious cement for that disorderly mass to which for ages nature has denied cohesion. If," continued the honourable member, " in respect to our internal affairs we are destined to obtain no further progress or improvement - if the cold shadows of finality have at length closed around us, and intercepted all visions of a brighter future; if the glowing hopes once associated with a Reform Ministry and a Reform Parliament have perished like an exploded bubble - at least in regard to our foreign affairs, let us preserve from shipwreck that which is the first of all blessings and necessities - that which was bequeathed to us by the anti-reform ministry and the unreformed Parliament - peace and accord with the leading nations of Europe generally, but especially with our nearest and greatest neighbour, France."

This speech called up Lord John Russell, who entered into an elaborate vindication of the policy of the Government which had been so vigorously assailed, and a full discussion of the Eastern question. With regard to the charge of "finality," he explained that he held that a continual progress in improvement had been made in commercial affairs, and in the political institutions of the country; that continual progress and improvement were the principles by which he and the Government would be anxious to abide; but while he would not mistake abuses for institutions, so, on the other hand, he would not mistake institutions for abuses, and attack them as if they were such. He wished not to undertake any reform, though called improvement, which might be incompatible with those institutions; he wished to maintain the Established Church, the hereditary House of Lords, and the hereditary monarchy. If any plans should be brought forward which, as he thought, tended to the establishment of a republic, to overturn the Church, or to destroy the hereditary peerage, he should oppose them; but it was not just to contend that resistance to dangerous innovations of that kind was a resistance to all improvement. Mr. Hume considered the policy of the Government to be not only bad but wicked; for it carried desolation and ruin into the Syrian provinces, and for no purpose that he knew of connected with the interests of England. He therefore proposed an amendment condemning the war with Syria, and the expense occasioned by it, deploring the rupture with France, and regretting that the attention of Parliament had not been directed to the state of the revenue and the distress and discontent of the labouring classes.

Sir Robert Peel next addressed the House, reviewing the conduct of the Government on the Syrian question, and charging them with want of candour in dealing with France on the subject. The debate then terminated, Mr. Hume having withdrawn his motion.

On bringing up the report on the address, however, Sir R. Inglis called the attention of the Government to the recent alarming agitations of the Repeal question in Ireland, and to the inflammatory language held by Mr. O'Connell on the subject. Meetings had been held in some of the principal towns of Ireland, at which he said hundreds of thousands attended. He wished to know whether Lord John Russell had adopted the alternative placed before him by Mr. O'Connell to be either a Conservative or a Repealer. The noble lord replied, that he did not accept the dictum of the honourable member for Dublin, nor feel bound to his alternative of Conservatism or Repeal.

On the 4th of February, in the House of Lords, the Earl of Minto moved the thanks of the House to Admiral Sir Robert Stopford, G.C.B., and the officers and men under his command in the late operations on the coast of Syria. The Duke of Wellington, in terms of the most earnest and cordial nature, expressed his admiration of the services performed by those engaged in the glorious expedition under discussion. He considered the capture of Acre one of the greatest deeds of modern times; but he thought it his duty to warn their lordships that they must not always expect that ships, however well commanded, or however gallant their seamen might be, would be capable of engaging successfully with stone walls.

The vote was carried unanimously, and the next day Lord John Russell moved a similar vote of thanks in the Commons. He wished to observe that the successful result of the operations was owing in a great degree to the character of the men who had directed them - a character formed and exalted by the institutions of a great and free country, and combining in a remarkable degree the qualities of valour and of prudence. Lord Stanley seconded the motion, which was warmly supported by several other Conservative members. On the 6th of April a letter from Sir Robert Stopford, acknowledging in suitable terms the vote of thanks, was read by the Speaker, and entered on the journals.

Acre, a celebrated city in ancient times, called Ptolemais, from Ptolemy, king of Egypt, was a strongly fortified sea-port, called St. Jean D'Acre by the Knights of Jerusalem. No town has suffered more from political revolution and the calamities of war. It was contended for as a great prize by all the successive conquerors of the East. It was possessed by the rulers of Egypt, by the Romans, the Saracens, the Christian Crusaders, and finally by the Turks. In the time of the Crusaders, it was populous and wealthy, containing numerous churches, convents, and hospitals, of which no traces now remain. In 1799 the Turks, animated by the example of Sir Sidney Smith, defended it successfully against a siege of sixty-one days by Napoleon. It was besieged by Ibrahim Pasha in the winter of 1831-32, during five months and twenty-one days, when nearly all its public and private buildings were destroyed. Its fortifications were subsequently repaired and improved by the Pasha of Egypt, but it could not stand long before the fire of British ships. On the 3rd of November, 1840, it was stormed by our fleet under Sir Robert Stop- ford, and reduced to ruin after a bombardment of a few hours, the Egyptians losing upwards of 2,000 in killed and wounded, and 3,000 prisoners, while the British had but 12 killed and 42 wounded. The town is situated at the extremity of a plain on the edge of the sea-shore, and at the point of a bay formed by the promontory of Mount Carmel on the south-east, and the termination of the plain on the north-east.

On the 6th of December the admiral transmitted to Mehemet Ali, the official authority from the British Government, in the name of the four Powers - England, France, Russia, and Austria - to maintain His Highness in the Pashalic of Egypt, upon the condition that, within three days after communication made to him by Captain Fanshaw, he would agree to restore the Turkish fleet to the Sultan, and evacuate Syria. The Pasha, in reply to this, expressed his sense of the forbearance shown to him, and said that he was anxious to act in the manner pointed out to him in the despatch. At the same time, ho enclosed a communication addressed by him to the Grand Vizier, in which he professed his entire submission to the allies in the following terms: - " Always disposed to make the sacrifice of all that I possess, and of my life itself, in order that I may obtain the good graces of His Highness, and recognising that by the intervention of the allied powers the favour of my sovereign is restored to me, I have made the necessary dispositions, in order that the Ottoman fleet may be given up to such person, and in such manner, as it will please His Highness to order. The troops that were in Candia, in Arabia, and in the Holy Cities, are ready to retire; and their evacuation will take place without delay, as soon as the order of my Sovereign shall have reached me. As to Syria and Adana, I have learned, by a letter from Ibrahim Pasha, dated the last days of the Ramadan, and which came to my hands overland, that he had quitted Damascus on the 3rd or 4th of Cheval, with all the army, for the purpose of returning into Egypt. Syria is, consequently, wholly evacuated, and my act of obedience is thus accomplished. These facts coming to the knowledge of your Excellency, I hope that, in communicating them to our Sovereign and master, you will intercede with His Highness that he will restore to his confidence the oldest and most faithful of his servants."

The long-agitated question of the East was thus rapidly approaching a settlement; and on the 11th of January, 1841, Mehemet Ali gave up the whole of the Turkish fleet, which sailed away for Marmorice, under the command of the Turkish admiral, Walker; and about the same time a firman was sent from Constantinople, whereby the Sultan accorded to the Pasha the hereditary possession of Egypt.

It is scarcely possible to conceive a worse government than that which was restored by our arms in Syria. The public officers were supplied from Constantinople. Their characteristics were duplicity and venality of the grossest kind, while the characteristics of the Government were feebleness, irresolution, inactivity, faithlessness, and poverty. All over the country, access to the pashas, and a favourable decision on matters brought before them, were only obtainable by presents of money. The Custom House officers were regularly bribed to allow goods to pass at lower rates than the tariff, or without entering the Custom House at all. In the courts of justice decisions were openly bought, and no man who was not prepared to purchase the Cadi's favour need go there. In cases where disputes were carried to the pashas by the English and other consuls, the most profligate violation of promises and rights was made without shame or fear. The natural consequences were - insecurity of life and property, universal discontent, and contempt of the Government. The English occupation gave some relief while it lasted; and the common salutation addressed to an Englishman by a native on the road was, "May God send more of you! "

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Pictures for Political Tranquillity

Sir W. W. Follett
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Procession of seceding ministers
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