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Chapter XXXVII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8


State of the Country at the beginning of the Russian War - Conclusion of the Kaffir War - The Burmese War - Deficient Harvest of 1853 - The Wages Movement - The Preston Strike - Its Disastrous Effects- Opening of the Crystal Palace by the Queen - Description of the Building - The Emperor of the French: his Marriage - Visit of the Prince Consort to the Emperor at Boulogne - Visit of the Emperor and Empress of the French to London - Their reception at Windsor - The Emperor invested with the Order of the Garter - Visit to the Crystal Palace - The Queen's visit to Paris - Historical relations between the two Courts - Festivities at Paris - Visit to Versailles - Ball at the Hôtel de Ville - Fête at the Palace of Versailles - Departure of the Queen - The Italian Question - Speech of Lord Lyndhurst - Austrian Tyranny - The Neapolitan Government - Necessity of English Intervention - Sardinia - Conduct of the King of Naples - Speech of Lord John Russell on the state of Italy - Austrian Occupation - Lord John's interview with the First Napoleon - Speech of Lord Palmerston - Speech of Mr. Disraeli - Secret Societies and Foreign Occupation: their Reaction upon one Another - England and France recall their Ambassadors from Naples.
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The war with Russia, the conclusion of which has just been recorded, and its effects on political parties and cabinets, so fully absorbed the attention of Parliament and the public while it lasted, that comparatively little progress was made in the work of domestic legislation. It was not, however, altogether neglected. At the prorogation on the 20th of August, 1853, Her Majesty congratulated Parliament on the remission of taxes, which tended to cramp the operations of trade and industry; on the extension of the system of beneficent legislation, which increased the means of obtaining the necessaries of life; on the buoyant state of the revenue; the steady progress of foreign trade; the prosperity which pervaded the great trading and producing classes, without even a partial exception - all affording continued and increasing evidence of the enlarged comforts of the people. The Queen at the same time announced the termination of the Kaffir war, which had lasted since the beginning of 1851, the Kaffirs having repeatedly defeated our troops, and spread havoc through the villages. At length they were enabled to bring against us an army of 6,000 horsemen. They were attacked by the Governor-General Cathcart, with 2,000 British troops, and defeated with great loss. The result was that they accepted the terms of peace he proposed. The Royal Speech expressed the hope that the establishment of representative government in that colony would lead to the development of its resources, and enable it to make efficient provision for its own defence. Another subject of congratulation was the termination of the war with Burmah, which commenced in January, 1851, when a British naval force arrived before Rangoon, under Commodore Lambert, who, on January 4th, 1852, destroyed the fortifications of the Irrawaddy, and a few months later stormed Martaban, Rangoon, and Bassein. Later in the year, Pegu was captured, and annexed to our Indian Empire. The objects of the war having been thus fully attained, and due submission made by the Burmese Government, peace was proclaimed.

The session just closed had been a fruitful one - 116 bills had been introduced by the Ministry, of which 104 passed into law, 10 having been withdrawn, and 2 only rejected. This was the peaceful work of the Coalition Ministry, under the Earl of Aberdeen, which was destined to end its existence so ingloriously. Two powerful causes came into operation soon after, which clouded the political atmosphere, and gradually spread feelings of discontent and despondency throughout the nation - a bad harvest, and a costly war, miserably conducted. The effects of the short harvest were greatly aggravated by what was called "the Wages Movement," which commenced in April. It was generally felt by the skilled artisans that, though their employment was constant, and their wages good, they did not obtain a fair measure of the extraordinary profits resulting from their labour. The consequence was a general organisation of the trades to extort better terms from their employers, enforced, as usual, by strikes. The artisans engaged in the woollen manufacture led the way in putting forth their demands. They were followed by carpenters, ship-wrights, wagon-wrights, and almost every class of operatives. Large concessions were made to some classes, and those employed in the coal trade especially received enormous wages. But, as the prices of provisions continued to rise the movement spread to every part of the United Kingdom, assuming its most formidable aspect in the manufacturing districts, where strikes became general, and many mills were closed. A common fund was established for the purpose of supporting the unemployed workmen, and it was hoped that the manufacturers would soon be compelled to giye way. But the masters formed a counter-combination, and wherever a partial or local strike occurred, they all agreed to close their works, and thus to starve the operatives into surrender. The result was a bitter controversy, and a desperate struggle between capital and labour, which lasted with unabated obstinacy throughout the year, but, happily, unaccompanied by such acts of violence as attended strikes in former times, when the working classes were not so well educated. The leaders of the movement were able, intelligent, and energetic. The plan of the campaign was to conquer in detail, directing the attack against some particular town, compelling the firms to succumb individually till the capitalists of that district were subdued, and then carrying the war to another place. They hoped by this means to receive ample supplies for continuing the contest, because the great mass of workmen would always be employed, and would be able to support those that were out on strike. Preston and Burnley were the places in which the operations commenced on a large scale, and the contest which followed will be long remembered as "the Preston Strike." In that town, upwards of 15,000 idle hands were supported by contributions from the employed, which were so abundant, at first, that the enormous sum of £3,000 was distributed weekly - equal to about five shillings a head on an average. On this allowance they managed to exist for thirty-seven weeks. The effects were in some respects like those produced by the cotton- famine in Lancashire. First, the deposits in the saving- banks, and the sums insured for age and sickness, were consumed in obtaining the necessaries of life. Personal ornaments and wearing apparel were next sacrificed - sold for trifling sums to meet the cravings of hunger. With poor, scanty food, ragged clothes, and domestic discomfort of every kind, the habits of the operatives became debased, and their tempers morose. The retail traders, who depended upon them, became bankrupt; many substantial shopkeepers were ruined; trade everywhere languished, and the distress became general. Still the operatives held out heroically, they insisted on one-tenth of the profits of their labour; the watchword still passed from rank to rank, which shouted enthusiastically, "Ten per cent., and no surrender!" It was stated that the passion produced by this abstract idea became a sort of religious conviction, and in one place the people assembled in a chapel, and sang a hymn to "ten per cent."

But, as in wars between nations, the belligerents were ultimately compelled to come to terms by sheer exhaustion; the workers, as invariably happens in such suicidal contests, were the first to fail. In April, 1854, the supplies were diminished to a miserable pittance, the cardloom hands receiving but a shilling a week each. The contributions from distant towns fell off, while the demand was more than doubled, by the men of Stockport, to the number of 18,000, suddenly throwing themselves upon the fund. As Stockport had contributed £200 a week to the fund which they thus over-burdened, the struggle was necessarily brought to an abrupt conclusion. On the 1st of May, therefore, the committee announced that the employers had succeeded in their "unholy crusade," and that the operatives, generally, had deserted them in their hour of utmost need. The mills were opened and the work resumed; but some thousands failed to find employment, and were reduced to destitution and pauperism. It has been computed that the sums expended in maintaining the unemployed in Preston alone amounted to £100,000. The loss of wages was more than three times that amount; and, altogether, the loss to the working classes by that disastrous strike, could not be less than £500,000. The loss of capital to the manufacturers must have been incalculable, not to speak of the ruin of a multitude of shopkeepers. The principal leader was subsequently imprisoned for debt, contracted in carrying on the war.

We pass from this painful subject to a scene which furnishes a grand and beautiful contrast. On the 10th of June, 1854, the Queen opened the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. Many of those who witnessed the Exhibition in Hyde Park deplored the demolition of that magnificent structure, which the Commissioners of Woods and Forests would not suffer to remain. The materials were purchased by a private company, and removed to a new site, one of the finest that could be selected, upon which a new palace was constructed, far surpassing its predecessor in magnitude, fitness, and beauty, and answering its purposes incomparably better than its predecessor could have done. A full description of this unrivalled structure would be out of place here. It is necessary to see it in order to have anything like an adequate idea of its extent and magnificence, its superb grandeur and exquisite beauty. It has three transepts, the centre one being 120 feet wide, and 208 feet high from the garden front. The whole nave is covered with an arched roof. This gorgeous palace crowns an eminence, from which there is a commanding view of the metropolis, and of the rich and vast plains of Surrey and Kent. It stands upon grounds laid out with exquisite taste, adorned with fountains, statuary, trees, shrubs, and flowers, which make it one of the most delightful landscapes on which the eye can rest. Internally, the palace is constructed upon the principle of illustrating the architecture of different ages, keeping in view its purposes as an educational institution. Thus it comprises a series of palaces, Egyptian, Assyrian, Grecian, Byzantine, Moorish, German, French, English, and Italian. All these buildings, excepting the Egyptian, are reproduced on the scale of their originals. The building is filled with statues, casts of the great masterpieces of art, paintings, representations of savage tribes, exotic shrubs and plants, and art-collections of various kinds, new additions being made every year to its unrivalled attractions; while, in the way of concerts, exhibitions, and festivals, multitudes are congregated, and effect« produced, with which there has been nothing in Europe to compare since the fall of the Roman empire. Though created by the enterprise of a private company, it is in every respect worthy of the metropolis of the civilised world.

The inauguration was witnessed by 40,000 spectators. Around the dais in the centre transept were gathered the representatives of England's greatness and nobility. The Lord Primate and the Ministers of State were on the left of the throne; on the right sat the diplomatic body. In front were the directors of the company, in court dresses, with the Lord Mayor of London, his brothers of Dublin and York, and other provincial magnates. The members of Parliament and their families filled the lower galleries of the great transept. The Queen and Prince Albert arrived at three o'clock, and entered the Palace, preceded by Sir Joseph Paxton and Mr. Laing. With Her Majesty were the King of Portugal, his brother, the Duke of Oporto, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal, Prince Alfred, the Princess Alice, the Duchess of Kent, and the Duchess and Princess Mary of Cambridge. The National Anthem having been performed with very grand effect, Mr. Laing, the chairman of the company, presented an address to Her Majesty, to which a most gracious answer was returned. The designers of the building, and the scientific gentlemen who had undertaken the formation of the different departments, were then presented. This ceremony gone through, a procession was formed to perambulate the Palace, the Queen in her circuit being warmly welcomed as she passed. This done, Her Majesty and her immediate circle returned to the elevated platform, the Ministers of State and other public functionaries surrounding the dais as before. Then the One Hundredth Psalm, in all its simple grandeur of harmony, was pealed by the thousand voices and accompanying instruments of the choir. This led, by a natural transition, to the Archbishop of Canterbury's dedicatory prayer. The prayer was followed by the Hallelujah Chorus - a triumph of music; and the Queen, through the Lord Chamberlain, pronounced the Crystal Palace open. Once more the National Anthem rose and swelled under the lofty vaults, and the Queen departed.

To the humbler classes who read this history in remote provincial places, and in the British colonies, it may be interesting to know the dimensions of the Crystal Palace. It stands nearly north and south on the summit of the Penge Hill; its length being 1,608 feet, its greatest breadth, at the central transept, 384, and at the smaller transepts, 336 feet. The general width of the body of the building between the transepts, including the glazed find open corridors, is 312 feet. The nave consists of a grand avenue, nearly double the width of the nave of St. Paul's Cathedral, being 72 feet wide. At the height of 68 feet from the floor there springs a semi-cylindrical vault, 44 feet in the spring, which forms the roof. The central transept has a vaulted roof of 120 feet span. The span of this noble arch is about 20 feet larger than that of St. Peter's at Rome, and nearly 40 feet greater than that of St. Paul's in London. The space covered by this colossal vault is considerably larger than the whole Minster at York. At a distance of 528 feet on each side of the central transept, the nave is intersected by the two smaller transepts, each of the same dimensions as the one celebrated transept in Hyde Park. Three aisles run parallel to the nave on each side. The minor columns support three tiers of galleries, which are reached by a series of light staircases. At each end of the main building, 574 feet long, and from the south wing, a colonnade, 720 feet long, leads to the railway station. In cubic contents the new structure exceeds its predecessor by one-half. Nor are all the wonders above ground. The basement is a vast labyrinth of passages, tunnels, hot-water pipes, boilers, and machinery.

The Emperor of the French left nothing undone to secure his position and establish his dynasty. All the Continental monarchs of Europe, except the Czar, admitted him into the family of sovereigns, addressing him as " Monsieur, mon frère" The Emperor Nicholas could not overcome his scruples on the point of legitimacy, and had recourse to a compromise, and addressed him as " Mon cher ami," a slight which Louis Napoleon felt, but prudently passed over. The next step was to choose an empress. It was said at the time that his overtures of matrimonial alliance with several royal families were rejected. If so, he consoled himself with satisfactory reasons why such an alliance would not be desirable, and that he did much better by selecting for his bride Eugenie de Montijo, Countess-Duchess of Teba, daughter of Donna Maria Manuella Kirkpatrick, Countess Dowager of Montijos, Countess of Miranda, and Duchess of Penaconda, who was the widow of the Count de Montijos, an officer of rank in the Spanish army, and who married Mr. Kirkpatrick, father of the Empress, English consul at Malaga. She was said to belong to one of the most ancient families in Spain, and the heralds alleged that she had royal blood in her veins. The speech of the Emperor, announcing his intended marriage, on the 22nd of January, 1853, to the Senate and Législatif Corps, is remarkable. He avowed at the outset that the union did not accord with the traditions of ancient policy; but therein lay its advantage. A royal alliance would create a feeling of false security, and might substitute family interest for that of the nation. Besides, for the last seventy years foreign princesses had ascended the steps of the throne only to behold their offspring dispersed and proscribed by war or revolution. One woman only brought with her good fortune, the good and modest wife of General Bonaparte, and she was not the issue of a royal family. " When," he said, "in the face of all Europe a man is raised by the force of a new principle to the level of the long-established dynasties, it is not by giving an ancient character to his blazon, and by endeavouring to introduce himself, at any price, into the family of kings, that he can get himself accepted; it is rather by always bearing in mind his origin, by preserving his peculiar character, and by frankly taking up before Europe the position of one who has arrived at fortune (position de parvenu J - a glorious position, when success is achieved by the free suffrage of a great people." He then lauded the bride elect for her varied moral, mental, and personal accomplishments, saying, " I have preferred a woman whom I love and respect to one unknown, and whose alliance would have advantages mingled with sacrifices - placing independence, qualities of heart, and family happiness, above dynastic prejudices and calculations of ambition." The marriage ceremony, preceded by the civil contract, was performed with great pomp by the archbishop in Notre Dame.

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Pictures for Chapter XXXVII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8

Royal progression in Paris
Royal progression in Paris >>>>

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