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Chapter XIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2


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Seditious and alarmist articles in Irish papers, rumours carefully propagated of Fenian expeditions about to land on some point of the Irish coast, and the certainty that arms were being continually manufactured or imported, and distributed through the country, kept the Government on the qui vive all through the autumn; but the rumours were probably malicious, and certainly false, and no actual outbreak occurred. In America matters did not proceed quite so smoothly. Since the arrival of Stephens in the United States, the Fenians in that country had been distracted by a split which arose between their leaders. That the British empire should be destroyed was a political axiom admitted both by Sweeny and Stephens; it was only upon the modus operandi that these redoubtable chiefs differed. Sweeny appears to have considered that it was necessary to annex Canada first, and thence proceed to the conquest of Ireland; Stephens, on the other hand, desired that all other plans should be made subordinate to the preparation of a formidable Fenian expedition, which should disembark at some point in the west of Ireland. Loud was the debate, and voluble the discussion. The Fenian " senate" and most of the American Fenians adhered to Sweeny, while the Irish whose expatriation was of recent date swore by Stephens. Sweeny denounced Stephens as a " British spy," and doubtless Stephens was not at a loss for a fit epithet by which to characterise Sweeny -

" Strange such a difference should be
'Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee!"

The valiant Sweeny, as the year wore on, took measures to test the soundness of his strategic plan for the invasion of Ireland via Canada. On the morning of the 1st June, 1866, a body of Fenians of the Sweeny faction, numbering 1,000 men, under the command of a Colonel O'Neil, crossed the Niagara river from Buffalo, where it enters Lake Erie, and occupied the farm or hamlet called Fort Erie on the Canadian shore. The news of this absurd raid, with which the Fenians of the United States had been threatening Canada for months past, quickly reached Toronto; and the authorities there at once dispatched all the troops they could collect to the scene of action. 1,500 men, mostly regulars, under the command of Colonel Peacocke, marched by way of the Falls of Niagara and the village of Chippewa; while 500 militiamen, under Colonel Dennis, were sent by rail to Port Colborne. The Fenians made no forward movement that day, nor were they molested at Fort Erie; but by some extraordinary accident Colonel Dennis and a few of his men allowed themselves to be taken prisoners by them. The command of the militia then devolved upon Colonel Booker, who, on the morning of June 2, led his men forward from Port Colborne, along the margin of Lake Erie, to attack the invaders. Colonel Peacocke, misled by a report that the Fenians were marching upon Chippewa, led his forces to that place, and thus had no share in the trifling action which ensued. Arrived at a village called Ridgway, about half-way between Port Colborne and Fort Erie, Colonel Booker fell in with the Fenian column, which was advancing along the lake. A skirmish ensued, in which six militiamen were killed and forty wounded, the Fenians suffering about equally. Finding himself outnumbered, Col. Booker retired towards Port Colborne. The Fenians did not pursue; probably by this time they had heard of the proximity of Colonel Peacocke with his regulars. Wisely deeming discretion the better part of valour, they re- crossed the Niagara on the night of the 2nd, leaving a few of their wounded and some stragglers - in all about sixty men - in the hands of the loyalists.

Another raid, still more foolish and reckless than the first, was executed by the Fenians on the 7th June, when, to the number of 2,000 or 3,000 men, led by a General Spear, they crossed the frontier from the State of Vermont and occupied a little village called Pigeon Hill, not far from Montreal. Some slight skirmishes between this force and some small bodies of yeomanry and militia that were hastily sent against them are reported; after which Spear led his warriors back again, and was immediately arrested, along with Sweeny and another Fenian leader called Roberts, by the United States authorities. Indeed, nothing could be more honourable than the conduct of the American Government during the whole affair. President Johnson issued a proclamation denouncing the act of the Fenians in carrying war into the territories of a friendly nation as a gross violation of the laws of the United States, and requiring all Union officials to repress such illegal and by every means in their power, and to place under arrest any persons who should be found committing them. The indignation of the Canadians at these outrages - as disgraceful as they were absurd - was very great; and the funerals of the slain militiamen were celebrated with extraordinary pomp, and attended by an immense concourse of persons.

Fenianism had its victims in America; in Ireland, as has been seen, its ebullitions were so far bloodless. The day preceding Christmas-day, which rumour had assigned as the date of a rising, passed off in tranquillity; and the threats and predictions of the national journals were found to be mere wasted breath. The conspirators must have been conscious that their proceedings hitherto had been less formidable than ridiculous, and they determined, if they could, to give the authorities some justification for the additional precautions which had been taken. But the Fenian exploits at Tallaght, Manchester, and Clerkenwell must be reserved for a future chapter.

Among the deaths of this year, that of the ex-Queen of the French, Marie Amélie, was sincerely bewailed - far more so than is the usual lot of princes and princesses - both by the friends who knew her worth, and by the poor whom her charity and piety had consoled. Herself a Neapolitan Bourbon, daughter of Ferdinand IY. of Naples, niece of Marie Antoinette, and grand-daughter of Maria Theresa, she passed her youth amid the storms which attended the great French Revolution, and having accompanied her father into exile in Sicily, in 1802, was residing at Palermo in 1808, when another princely exile - another of those stately wrecks which the revolutionary tempest had stranded on every coast - visited Sicily. This was the Duke of Orleans, Louis Philippe. He became intimate with the family of the ex-King; an attachment sprang up between him and Marie Amélie, and they were married. Great purity and elevation of character, and deep religious fervour in the young bride afforded the foundation for a married life of singular beauty and harmony. Of her and her two sisters it used to be said, when they were children, that one was la bella, another la dotta, and the third - Marie Amélie - la santa. She and her husband came to France in 1814 in the train of the returning Bourbons, and Louis Philippe fell into his natural place at court as a prince of the blood; but the Hundred Days drove them again from France, and having taken refuge in England, they did not, after the second Restoration, return to Paris till 1817. When the Revolution of July had driven Charles X. from the throne, and a constitutional crown was offered to her husband, Marie Amélie, herself strong in Legitimist faith, and not believing that the mob of Paris had a right to dispose of a sceptre which had been swayed by a St. Louis and a Henri Quatre, was extremely averse to his closing with the proposal. But when she could not prevail, her duties as a wife outweighed the bias of her political predilections and aversions, and she entered as a mistress the halls of the Tuileries. The hand of affliction visited her maternal heart with the keenest strokes of sorrow; in 1839, her beautiful and gifted daughter, the Princess Marie, was cut off by an untimely death; and in 1842 her eldest son, the Duke of Orleans, having sustained a mortal injury through a fall from his carriage, expired in her arms. Yet she suppressed her own grief in order to minister comfort to her bereaved daughter-in-law, whom she tenderly loved. A few years later, this life of strange vicissitudes was visited by a storm perhaps the most unexpected, the most undeserved, of all. Unwillingly she had seen her husband mount the throne, but nothing in herself could have enabled her to realise the thought that, once installed there, he could ever pusillanimously resign it at the bidding of a mob. Lamartine, with his wonted grace and power of style, describes the scene at the Tuileries, where the Queen, her grey locks contrasting with the fire of her eyes and the animated flush of her cheek, said to the King, in language worthy of her Hapsburg ancestry - worthy of the grand-daughter of Maria Theresa - "Go and show yourself to the disheartened troops, and to the irresolute National Guard; I will place myself in the balcony with my grand-children and my daughters, and, if you fall, I shall see you die in a manner worthy of yourself, of your throne, and of our common misfortunes." When the King declared his intention of abdicating, she rebuked him with passionate earnestness. She cared not, she said, what was thought in or out of the Tuileries; but in her estimation revolution was ever a crime, and abdication a cowardice. According to Lord Normanby's report, her words were: - " Sire, n'abdiquez pas; montez à cheval, mettez-vous à la tète de vos groupes, et je prierai Dieu pour vous." When the Revolution was an accomplished fact, Marie Amélie, again an exile at Claremont, devoted herself partly to cheer and sustain her stunned and stricken consort, partly to the fulfilment of those duties to her children and grand-children, and to the society of humbler station around her, which, as a noble Christian matron, it was her pious joy to discharge with scrupulous fidelity. She closed her husband's eyes only two years after the Revolution of February. The only political question which deeply interested her in her later days was that of the Fusion between the Legitimate and Orleanist branches of the House of France. That reconciliation which we have just seen accomplished (1873) was the object of her ardent desires; for faith in, and attachment to, the principle of legitimacy were as clear and unwavering in her as in M. de Berryer, and she could not understand how a solid and unimpeachable title could trace its origin to the half-fortuitous result of a street-fight. Her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Orleans, with a natural jealousy of all that seemed likely to clash with the right of her son, opposed herself to the project of a Fusion; but this opposition of opinion cast no cloud over the affectionate intercourse which subsisted between the two. She outlived her daughter, the Queen of the Belgians, and even King Leopold, and lived during fifteen years of the Second Empire. She was a truly good woman, and as such attracted the respect and won the hearts not only of all the members of her numerous family, but of all the poor people among whom she lived; for, though a Roman Catholic of the strictest Neapolitan type, she knew no distinction of creed in her charities. To all who needed her aid she was ready to give it, and everywhere about Esher the name of the good French Queen was regarded with affection and veneration. Her life was prolonged nearly to eighty-four years, and her death was singularly peaceful; she had fallen into a gentle sleep, and in it passed away. In accordance with her own wishes, she was buried in the dress she wore on leaving France in February, 1848, for her long exile, and in her widow's cap, in order to show "how unalterably faithful she remained to the two guiding feelings of her life - her devotion to her royal spouse, and her love for her adopted country."

One of the most strongly marked personalities of the day - that of William Whewell, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge - was taken from English society in the March of this year. He was of humble parentage, his father being said to have been a blacksmith, but he received a good education at the Free Grammar-school at Lancaster, an institution of that class which, through the effect of recent arrangements overriding the intentions of founders, and restricting the entrance to the old foundation-schools of the country to boys who shine in a competitive examination, bids fair, unless special watchfulness be exercised, to be closed for the future against boys like young Whewell, whose parents are unable from poverty to give them an expensive preliminary training. But under any system whatever, it is hard to believe that such indomitable energy, such rare intellectual vigour, as characterised the Lancashire lad, would not have overpowered all social obstacles, and enabled him to " break his birth's invidious bar." In due course he proceeded to Trinity College, became senior wrangler of his year, and second Smith's Prizeman, and was elected to a fellowship at Trinity. The grasp and reach of his mind in the investigations of exact science soon made him known to the scientific world, and led to his being requested to write the " Bridgewater Treatise " on astronomy. Soon afterwards he produced the great works of his life, first the " History," and then the "Philosophy," of the Inductive Sciences. These are monuments to the rare ability and extraordinary energy of the man, which many generations will not see superseded. He was elected in 1838 Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge, and although his own contributions to ethical science are of no great importance, his excellent edition of Sir James Mackintosh's " Introduction to the Study of Ethical Philosophy " will long be valued by the student. Though at bottom a humane and kind-hearted man, Dr. Whewell, particularly after his nomination to the Mastership of Trinity in 1841, somewhat diminished the enlightening and beneficial effect which such rare powers of mind ought to have diffused around him, by the not very infrequent outbursts of an overbearing temper and the display of arrogant manners. Those who have often met him in society cannot fail to recollect occasions when opposition to his opinions, however mildly expressed, excited and irritated the Master to a degree which no one would have believed possible, and drew down a flood of angry and contemptuous words on the head of the objector. But this blemish detracted but little, after all, from the solid worth and weight of his character. Cambridge men all over the world associated for many years their recollections of the University with the well-known form of the Master of Trinity. That towering and stalwart form, that flashing eye, that strong vibrating voice, the generally menacing and formidable aspect of the man, were external characteristics that deeply impressed every freshman on his arrival, and were never forgotten in after life. But irreverent youth makes game of the most august earthly celebrities; and it is well known that this tremendous personage was familiarly known among the undergraduates by the soubriquet of " Billy Whistle! " Many works on various subjects attested the activity and versatility of his intellect; but it is only those on mathematical and physical problems which possess a high and permanent value. He showed his love for his college, and his generous zeal for the good of its younger members, by providing at his own expense a hostel at a little distance from the college for the reception of a portion of the overplus of students who could not get rooms in Trinity itself, and who would otherwise have had to go into lodgings. This excellent and judicious work has been extended since his death by money which he devised for the purpose. He was twice married, first to Miss Cordelia Marshall, sister of Lady Monteagie, and secondly to Lady Affleck, but left no issue by either marriage. He never seemed to have recovered the loss of his second wife, which took place in the summer of 1865; but the immediate cause of death was a fall from his horse while he was riding on the Trumpington Road, near Cambridge.

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Pictures for Chapter XIX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2

Dr. Whewell
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Mr. Brights
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John Keble
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