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Chapter II, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9


The Year 1862 - Affair of the Nashville - Meeting of Parliament - Speech of Mr. Disraeli on the death of the Prince Consort - The Revised Code - Reasons for its introduction - Adopted with modifications - Church Rates - Debates on the Civil War in America - Marriage of the Princess Alice - State of things in China - New Game-law introduced by Sir Baldwin Leighton - Reflections on it - Mr. Cobden attacks the Ministry - Reply of Lord Palmerston - Garrote robberies - Gift of Mr. Peabody - Affair of Aspromonte - Revolution in Greece - Banishment of King Otho - Election of Prince George of Denmark - Cession of the Ionian Islands - War in America - Operations in Tennessee - Battle of Pittsburgh - Landing - Campaign in Virginia - M'Lellan Commander-in-Chief - Lands his army on the York peninsula - Advances on Richmond - Battles of the Chickahominy - M'Lellan retreats - The troops re-embarked - Jackson forces Pope back upon Washington - Lee invades Maryland - Fall of Harper's Ferry - Battle of Antietam - Lee retreats - Burnside supersedes M'Lellan - Battle of Fredericksburg - Bragg's invasion of Kentucky - Results in failure - Naval operations - Taking of Roanoke - Exploits of the Merrimac - Her fight with the Monitor - Farragut passes the forts and captures New Orleans - Butler is made Governor - His famous proclamation - Execution of Mumford - Steps taken towards the emancipation of the slaves - Mr. Lincoln's message on the indivisibility of the United States - Reflections on it.
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The year 1862, which brought the terrors and the calamities of war home to ten thousand American hearths was for Europe a time of profound peace. Nothing more alarming has to be chronicled than a foolish filibustering movement by Garibaldi, and the overturn of a dynasty in Greece. Only a prescience more than human could have seen in the sinister apparition of Count Bismarck on the political stage of Prussia, and in the masterly manner in which lie out-generalled the Chambers and crushed their attempts to circumscribe the power of the Crown, the inauguration of that policy of " blood and iron " which was, in a few years, to result in two bloody wars, to tear up finally and for ever the treaties of 1815, and to alter the international relations of every state in Europe.

An incident happened in January, which brought forcibly home to the minds of Englishmen the difficulties and embarrassments of that neutrality in the American struggle which we had proclaimed, and were resolved honestly to maintain. An armed steamer, named the Nashville, ran up the Southampton Water, and anchored near the town. It soon transpired that she was a Confederate cruiser, and that, having just captured at sea a large American merchant ship, the Harvey Birch, she had, after removing her crew and such plunder as was not too bulky, set fire to and destroyed her. This proceeding was an inevitable consequence of the British proclamation forbidding either belligerent to bring prizes into any British port. In a few days, the U.S. steam frigate Tuscarora, her captain and crew boiling over with wrath and the desire for battle, came up the Southampton Water, and anchored within a short distance of the Nashville. To avert a collision, the Admiralty immediately sent a man-of-war to Southampton. Greatly to his chagrin, the captain of the Tuscarora found himself compelled to conform to the provisions of our Foreign Enlistment Act, which enjoin the authorities of any port in which two vessels belonging to belligerent states may be present at the same time, to allow to the one that leaves first a clear interval of twenty-four hours before the other may pursue. Thanks to this provision, the Nashville (which was no match for the Tuscarora) made her escape; but her career was of no long continuance, as she was soon afterwards chased into Gibraltar, and there sold.

Parliament met on the 6th February. In the royal speech the death of the Prince Consort was naturally the prominent topic. Among other results of the deep and universal sympathy with the Queen in her sorrow, was a general determination, rather tacit than expressed, on the part of statesmen of all parties, that the session should be a quiet one. In the debate on the address many things were eloquently and feelingly said, and it may be well to place on record here a portion of the remarks made by Mr. Disraeli, the spokesman of the Conservative party. After speaking of the common sentiment which, during the preceding ten years, had united the leaders of both parties in veneration for, and confidence in, the Throne, he continued: -

" All that is changed. He is gone who was the comfort and support of that Throne. It has been said that there is nothing which England so much appreciates as the fulfilment of duty. The Prince whom we have lost not only was eminent for the fulfilment of duty, but it was the fulfilment of the highest duty under the most difficult circumstances. Prince Albert was the consort of his sovereign; he was the father of one who might be his sovereign; he was the prime Councillor of a realm the political constitution of which did not even recognise his political existence. Yet, under these circumstances, so difficult and so delicate, he elevated even the Throne by the dignity and purity of his domestic life. He framed and partly accomplished a scheme of education for the heir of England which proved how completely its august projector had contemplated the office of an English king. In the affairs of state, while his serene spirit and his elevated position bore him above all the possible bias of our party life, he showed on every great occasion all the resources, all the prudence, and all the sagacity of an experienced and responsible statesman. I have presumed to touch upon three instances in which there was on Prince Albert's part a fulfilment of duty - duty of the highest character under circumstances of the greatest difficulty.... There is one point, and one point only, on which I will presume for a moment to dwell; and it is not for the sake of those who hear me, or of the generation to which we belong, but it is that those who come after us may not misunderstand the nature of this illustrious man. Prince Albert was not a patron; lie was not one of those who by their smiles reward excellence or stimulate exertion. His contributions to the cause of progress were far more powerful, and far more precious. He gave to it his thought, his time, his toil; he gave to it his life.... But what, Sir, avail these words? This House to-night has been asked by the honourable gentleman to condole with the Crown upon this great calamity. That is not an easy office. To condole, in general, is the office of those who, without the pale of sorrow, still feel for the sorrowing. But in this instance the country is as heart-stricken as the Queen. Yet in the mutual sensibility of sovereign and people there is something noble, something which elevates the spirit beyond the ordinary calamity of earthly sorrow. The counties, the cities, and the corporations of the realm, the illustrious associations of learning, science, art, and skill, of which he was the bright ornament and inspiring spirit, have bowed before the throne in this great calamity. It does not become the Parliament of the country to be silent. The expression of our feelings may be late, but even in that lateness some propriety may be observed. We, to-night (the two Houses), sanction the expression of the public sorrow, and. ratify, as it were, the record of a nation's woe."

There are sentences in this oration which read a little grandiose, it must be confessed; nevertheless, similar language was employed by all the leading men on both sides, doubtless with general sincerity; and the fact may be taken as a gauge of the strength of the monarchical principle in this portion of Europe ten years ago.

The first question warmly debated this session related to the new code of regulations, commonly called "the Revised Code," which had been promulgated by the Committee of Council for Education in the preceding summer. Two great defects had gradually become apparent in. the working of the system by which state aid was extended to primary schools - the one administrative; the other educational. The nature of the first will be apparent when it is stated that, till now, every teacher in a school receiving an annual grant, and every pupil teacher, had been separately recognised and dealt with by the Education department; and since the number of such schools had been enormously increased since the Committee of Council commenced its operations, the strain on the organisation of the department had by this time become nearly intolerable. Conceive a department having to make out monthly or quarterly pay-warrants, often for ridiculously small sums, for twenty thousand pupil teachers! The other defect of the system of annual grants Mr. Lowe (then Vice-President of the Council) considered to be this, that, notwithstanding the check of Government inspection, it did not provide sufficient security for the economical application of the public money. The grants often, answered, he thought, showy rather than useful purposes. A large proportion of the teachers - such was his argument - concentrate their attention on their highest classes, their extra subjects, and their cleverest boys; the annual examination thus becomes an occasion for the display of carefully selected pupils, and for the gratification of their master's vanity, and ceases to be a careful scrutiny, probing into the state of the school from top to bottom, and testing the progress made by the younger and duller, no less than that made by the older and cleverer boys. Nor was it in human nature, he thought, for the Government inspectors, though men of the highest character and ability, not to give in to some extent to this inevitable bias of teachers, and, however unconsciously, to be " carried away by their dissimulation." To inspectors also, it was a thousand times pleasanter to examine ten sharp boys than fifty stupid ones, and a saving of trouble to assume, without actually testing it, that the lower classes were relatively as far advanced and as well taught as the top class.

It was on the strength of considerations such as these that Mr. Lowe drew up his Revised Code, which was at once to relieve the strain on the administrative machinery of the department, and to introduce the principle of " payment by results." All recognition of, and all grants to, teachers and pupil teachers were to cease, and the department was henceforward to have dealings with none but the managers of schools. Secondly, the establishment grants for fixed sums, which had been hitherto made to teachers and pupil teachers certified to be efficient by the Government inspector, were to be replaced by capitation grants, regulated in the following manner: - On the day of the annual examination, all pupils who during the previous twelve months had attended school at least one hundred times, might be presented by the teacher to be examined by the inspector in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Six " standards," varying in difficulty with the age of the pupils, were settled in each of these subjects; and a certain small grant was to be obtainable in respect of any pupil who might pass satisfactorily in any one of the three.

The plan of the Government was severely criticised by many Conservative members, and met with little favour out of doors among those who had been most active in the establishment, and continued most zealous in the support, of primary schools. Especially the clergy of the Church of England complained of the suddenness of the change, of the utter disregard which it showed to the claims and services of the pupil teachers, of the pecuniary difficulties in which they themselves as managers would in many cases be involved by it. There were some who went so far as to say that the teachers and pupil teachers had obtained a kind of vested right in their annual grants; but this was soon shown to be a mistaken opinion. Mr. Walpole moved, on the 11th March, a series of resolutions, declaring it to be inexpedient to adopt the principle of payment by results exclusively, and censuring many other portions of. the Code. The House, however, went into Committee; but shortly before the Easter recess the Government took into its serious consideration the objections which had been raised to their plan, and resolved to introduce such modifications as would disarm the opposition of the more influential and reasonable objectors. The chief concession was the re-introduction of a small establishment grant, having nothing to do with " payment by results," to the extent of 4s. per annum for each child in daily attendance; something also was done for the pupil teachers. The opposition was satisfied, and Mr. Walpole withdrew his resolutions; and the scheme thus sanctioned by Parliament regulates to this day the apportionment of the public grant in aid of primary schools.

The attempt made in 1861 to pass a bill for the abolition of Church rates was renewed by Sir John Trelawny in the present year, but fared rather worse than before, the bill being rejected on the second reading by a majority of one in a full House.

The progress of the civil war in America - of which a connected account will be given farther on - excited a restless feeling in England, which naturally found its expression within the walls of Parliament. The tidings of sanguinary conflicts occurring along the whole frontier territory, from the west of Missouri to the shores of Virginia - of cities in flames, industry wrecked, hundreds of persons arrested under martial law and languishing in state prisons, relentless executions, and wholesale plunder - shook the mind of England to its inmost depths, and, according to the pre-conceived sympathies of different characters and classes, were variously judged and interpreted. Merchants, impatient at the cotton famine, found spokesmen in Parliament to inveigh against the fitfulness and inefficiency of the blockade of the Southern ports, and to urge the Government to interfere. But since, to say nothing of the strong evidence produced on the other side proving that the blockade was as effective as was possible under the circumstances, the very fact that there was a cotton famine established the point to any reasonable mind without more ado, the advocates of English interference on this ground took nothing by their motion. The language used by General Butler in his famous proclamation at New Orleans was reprobated with abhorrence on all sides, no speaker expressing himself more strongly than Lord Palmerston. Mr. Lindsay, the chief representative of that portion of the mercantile community of England which desired the recognition of the Confederacy as an independent state, proposed a resolution, in July, suggesting the propriety of offering mediation with a view of terminating the hostilities between the contending parties. The matter was warmly discussed, but in the end the counsels of prudence and caution prevailed, and the resolution was rejected.

With the exception of the new Game Law, to which we shall advert presently, the remaining proceedings of this Parliament were of minor importance, and may be dismissed in a few words. A dowry of 30,000, and an income of 6,000 a year, were voted without a dissentient voice to the Princess Alice, on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Louis of Hesse. In order to meet the distress in Lancashire occasioned by the cotton famine, a measure was passed, called the " Union Relief Aid Bill," for enabling the Unions in that county to borrow money, when the pressure and burden of pauperism had reached a certain point, upon the security of the rates. Alarmed by the formidable destructive efficacy which the Confederate iron-clad the Merrimac (or Virginia) had exhibited in her attack upon the wooden ships of the Federals, the Government proposed, and the House readily sanctioned, a vote of 1,200,000 for the strengthening and re-construction of our forts and arsenals. Lastly, a debate on the affairs of China disclosed a singular state of relations existing between Great Britain and the Celestial Empire. While trade on the coast had increased enormously, inland all was disorganisation. Seriously weakened in prestige by the result of the late war with England and France, the Chinese Government had in a great measure lost its hold of the reins of social and political order; society was crumbling to pieces in every direction, and the central power could give no effectual protection to the treaty ports. The rebel Tae-pings - anarchists and fanatics of the worst description - had agreed to a convention with the admiral on the station, whereby they undertook not to approach within thirty-four miles of Shang-hai, the great port near the mouth of the Yang-tse Kiang. But the Tae-pings broke this treaty, and spread terror and confusion almost to the gates of Shang-hai; trade was consequently deranged; and the British authorities, with the full sanction of the Chinese Government, raised an armed force, retook Ning-po from the Tae-pings, and made permanent and effectual arrangements for the defence of all the treaty ports. If events do not take in China the turn that they have taken in India, it will be rather owing to the mutual surveillance and jealousy of the "Western Powers, than because the process of gradual subjugation would in itself present much difficulty.

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Pictures for Chapter II, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9

George Peabody
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Battle of Pittsburgh
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Fight between the Monitor and the Merrimac
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Earl Granville
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