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Chapter IV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 3


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All these reforms were just and desirable per se; but to propose them was tantamount to an interference in the internal politics of a foreign state which an ordinary statesman, in whom philanthropy did not outrun common sense, would have thought it idle to attempt, unless he intended to enforce his interference at the point of the sword. Prince Gortschakoff, had he thought it worth while, might have proposed to the British Government points such as these (we merely mention them as illustrations, without expressing any opinion of their desirability): - 1. The establishment of religious equality in Ireland. 2. The repeal of the law which excludes Catholics from the office of Lord Lieutenant. 3. The reform of the Irish judicial system, by the admission of Catholics to the highest judicial post, from which they were then excluded. One can fancy the look of stupefaction and disgust with which such a dispatch would have been perused in Downing Street, and with what promptitude, diplomatic civility barely veiling contempt, the Russian Government would have been invited to mind its own business. Nor could it be expected that Prince Gortschakoff, on his side, would return an answer substantially different, although the simultaneous pressure which France and even Austria were bringing to bear upon the Russian Government caused the rejection of the six points to be conveyed in language studiously measured and urbane. " The Principal Secretary of State of Her Britannic Majesty," said Prince Gortschakoff, writing in July, " will dispense us from giving an answer to the proposed arrangement for a suspension of hostilities. It would not resist a serious examination of the conditions necessary for carrying if into effect." Turning the tables on the remonstrating Powers, he said that the speedy re-establishment of order depended greatly "upon the resolution of the great Powers not to lend themselves to calculations on which the instigators of the Polish insurrection found their expectation of an active intervention in favour of their exaggerated aspirations."

The end of the diplomatic comedy was not far off. The Emperor Napoleon, observing that the views of the three Powers - England, France, and Austria - as expressed in their communications to their representatives at St. Petersburg, were not precisely in accord, proposed to the other two Courts to take, in the form of a convention or protocol, an engagement to pursue in concert a regulation of Polish affairs, by diplomatic methods, or otherwise, if necessary. The meaning of these words plainly was, that if diplomatic methods failed, the three Powers would not shrink from the arbitrament of war, in order to compel Russia to do justice to Poland. " Our proposition," the statement quoted from drily continues, " was not accepted." Referring to this critical moment of the negotiations, the Times, in its "Summary for the year 1863," after stating that Prince Gortschakoff about this time showed signs of yielding, proceeds, " It had transpired, however, in the course of the discussion, that England would neither follow the lead of France, nor allow herself under any circumstances to be drawn into a war in defence of Poland. The Russian Government consequently assumed a defiant tone," &c., &c. The propositions of the three Powers were quietly ignored; Russia proceeded in her task of restoring order by the methods familiar to despotic Governments, and the fate of Poland was sealed.

Certainly there was no obligation arising out of previous treaties or relations, which could make it incumbent on Great Britain to go to war on behalf of Poland: it may even be said that the national sentiment would have condemned, and rightly condemned, any Government which attempted to commit it to an armed intervention, keen as was the sympathy, and just the indignation, with which the struggles of the one side, and the tyranny of the other, were regarded by Englishmen. But then it was due to the honour and dignity of the nation that the line within which its interference would be limited should be clearly traced from the first; there ought to have been no possibility of mistake. Had Earl Russell distinctly intimated all along that under no possible circumstances would England take up arms, the Polish insurgents would have known that they had nothing but good wishes to expect from us, and other Powers would have appreciated the diplomatic efforts of the Foreign Minister at their exact value. It was cruel to talk to Baron Brunow about the possibility that " the state of things might change," and to intimate that if the struggle went on, " dangers and complications might arise not at present in contemplation," because such language, vague as it was, tended to induce the belief that, under certain circumstances, England might take up arms. Lord Russell, doubtless, knew just as well then as subsequently that England never would go to war for Poland; but perhaps he thought that " something would turn up; " he was playing, if it be not irreverent to say so, a kind of diplomatic game of " brag," and reckoned on the Russian Government's being frightened by bold words into a concession of what was demanded. England was thus made to appear before the nations as playing a somewhat unworthy part; and, unfortunately, as we shall presently see in the case of Schleswig-Holstein, this was not the last opportunity given to Lord Russell of exercising the peculiar species of intervention of which he was a master.

The task of repressing the insurrection in Poland was now committed to General Mouraviff, known for the siege and capture of Kars. He is charged with having authorised the perpetration by the soldiery of acts of barbarous cruelty in Lithuania; but it is fair to say that the Russians charged the insurgents with the commission of frightful excesses; and in the absence of precise information as to the conduct of both parties, it is better to suspend our judgment. In Russia itself, a feeling of indignation against the insurgents, amounting to hatred, displayed itself among the population, and found expression in loyal addresses presented to the Czar by the nobility and merchants of St. Petersburg. The sternest severity was resorted to, wherever there was any opening for it, by the Russian authorities. This was notably illustrated when an attempt was made to assassinate General Berg, who had just been appointed military commander of Warsaw. The occurrence took place on the 19th September. " He was driving through the Cracow suburbs, and had just reached a large building which formed part of the Zamoyski Palace, when shots were fired, and some bombs were thrown (whether from the building or not is uncertain, for the Russian and Polish accounts are at direct variance on this point), and they burst in front of his carriage, without injuring any one. The proprietor of the Zamoyski Palace (which contained, besides rich furniture, some invaluable manuscripts relative to the early history of Poland) was at the time absent, and resident in Paris. But this did not save his property from destruction. Russian troops were ordered to surround the palace, and everything which they could lay their hands upon was thrown out of the windows, and committed to the flames. Both it and the adjoining building were then confiscated, and turned into military barracks. Nothing, however, was discovered to implicate any one either in or connected with the palace; and the Poles assert that the bombs were thrown, not from the building, but from the opposite side of the street." Even to wear the customary mourning for the dead was forbidden, an order being issued at Warsaw, on the 27th September, prohibiting the wearing of mourning in memory of those who had fallen in the insurrection, One of the last successes gained by the insurgents was on the 3rd of the same month, when Lelewel, at the head of 700 Poles, attacked and defeated a superior Russian force. But he was soon overpowered by a combined movement of Russian columns; Lelewel himself was killed, and his followers driven over the frontier into Galicia. Czuchowski, the last of the Polish leaders of any eminence, was defeated at Radom, on the 6th November, and taken prisoner in a wounded and dying condition. The insurrection was practically at an end; and to reward the loyalty or neutrality of the Polish peasantry, the Emperor relieved them, by an ukase published in the February of the following year, of the burden of the prescriptive feudal rights of the nobles, to which their tenure had hitherto been subject.

Pacific modes of obtaining redress were not invariably preferred by Earl Russell. When an act of vigour could be performed which did not risk involving the country in war, he was ready to perform it. Thus he justified the conduct of the English envoy at Rio Janeiro, Mr. Christie, who had instructed (January 2nd, 1863) the British naval commander on the station to seize several Brazilian merchant vessels, in reprisal for the pillage of the Prince of Wales, an English merchant ship. This ship was wrecked in the province of Rio Grande in 1861; the natives pillaged the wreck, and were said to have assassinated some of the crew. Much angry correspondence ensued; the Brazilian Government dismissed two of its officials for want of promptitude in the matter, and prosecuted to conviction eleven other offenders; but the British Government still considered that more vigorous measures should have been taken, in order to prevent such outrages for the future, not less than to punish the actual offenders. A claim for compensation on account of the pillage of the cargo was advanced by the British Government; this claim seems to have been regarded in Brazil as excessive, and a similar view was certainly taken by several speakers, when the matter was debated in the House of Commons. Mr. Christie was then instructed to propose arbitration, but accompanied with conditions which the Brazilian Government thought it inconsistent with their honour to accept. Reprisals were then authorised to be made, and were carried out as above stated. The Brazilian Government then paid the sum demanded under protest, and a rupture of diplomatic relations between the two countries ensued. Another matter which had caused ill feeling - the unwarrantable arrest of three officers belonging to a British frigate, the Forte, by a guard of Brazilian police - had been referred to the arbitration of the King of the Belgians, who pronounced his opinion (June 18th, 1863), that in the mode in which the laws of Brazil had been applied towards the English officers, there was neither premeditation of offence nor offence given to the British navy.

Before we turn our eyes to America, and survey the important events of which that continent was this year the theatre, various occurrences of domestic interest require to be noticed. In February, two American ships, the George Griswold and the Achilles, laden with flour, the gift of Americans to the Lancashire fund for the relief of the distressed operatives, arrived in the Mersey. It was a gift gracefully made and happily timed, and called forth warm-hearted demonstrations of gratitude, the commander of the George Griswold being presented with an address by the Chamber of Commerce at Liverpool, expressive of thankfulness for the munificent gift. In connection with this subject of the Relief Fund, the reader may be glad to hear to what a magnitude it had grown in April of this year. Mr. Wilson Patten, one of the members for South Lancashire, stated in the House of Commons, on the 27th April, that the total sum raised up to that time amounted to 2,735,000, apportioned as follows: - the Central Relief Committee, 959,000; in clothing and provisions, 108,000; subscriptions from different localities, 306,000; private charity, 200,000; Mansion House Committee, 482,000; Poor Law Board, 680,000. Of this sum, the county of Lancaster contributed 1,480,000. At the same date there was a gross balance in hand of 845,000.

Towards the end of February, there was great agitation among the well-wishers and ill-wishers of the Church of England, on account of a suit brought in the Chancellor's Court at Oxford by the Rev. Dr. Pusey against Professor Jowett, charging him with having maintained heresy in certain of his published writings, particularly in the publication so well known as " Essays and Reviews." The Assessor, Mr. Mountague Bernard, after hearing the case fully argued, gave judgment. He first of all overruled the exception which the defendant had made to the jurisdiction of the Court; and then, after examining the statute under which he thought himself empowered to try the case, he decided that it was so vague in its terms as to leave him, in his opinion, a discretionary power whether to proceed to judgment or not; in the exercise of which power he declined to let the case go forward. Notice was given of appeal against this judgment, but the intention was afterwards abandoned. The merits, or rather the exact nature, of the controversy of which this suit was a symptom, we shall endeavour to appreciate in a later chapter, devoted to a review of the history of theology in England during the last twenty years.

The officials whose business it was to see that the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act were not infringed were resolved not to be a second time caught napping, as in the case of the Alabama. There was a three-masted wooden steamer, the Alexandra, being built at Liverpool. The rumour ran that it was being fitted out for warlike purposes, and was destined for the Confederate navy. The Commissioners of Customs accordingly seized the vessel before completion. The owners disputed the legality of the seizure, an i the case was tried by Chief Baron Pollock, guided by whose interpretation of the Foreign Enlistment Act the jury brought in a verdict against the Government. An appeal against the verdict was dismissed by the superior Court. But the failure of the prosecution against the owners was a matter of little moment when set against the practical evidence afforded to America, by the seizure of the Alexandra, of the determination of the Government, so far as the means at their disposal allowed, to compel individual Britons to observe that neutrality which was the unalterable choice of the nation.

In June, a civic entertainment of unusual splendour was given in the Guildhall, on the occasion of the Prince of Wales taking up his freedom. The son of a freeman, as all the world knows, is himself a freeman; and as the Prince Consort had been invested with the City franchise, the Prince of Wales came into the same privilege by inheritance; but ancient use and wont require that, just as in feudal times the heir to a fief was called upon on his father's death, " relevare hereditatem," to take up the inheritance (paying a round sum on the occasion under the name of a " relief " to the superior lord), so the son of a deceased freeman should "take up his freedom" ^-that is, apply for and receive formal admission to and registration on the list of the burgesses. A ball was selected as the occasion on which this ancient ceremony should be performed. The Prince and Princess arrived at the Guildhall soon after nine, accompanied by Prince Alfred, in his lieutenant's uniform, and several other members of the royal family. The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress advanced to receive the City's guests, and led them up the hall as far as the dais. Here the ceremony of admitting the Prince to the freedom of the City was gone through, with all the legal formalities, and a speech from the Chamberlain, in reply to which His Royal Highness spoke as follows: -

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Pictures for Chapter IV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 3

View of the exhibition of 1862
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The marriage of the Prince of Wales
The marriage of the Prince of Wales >>>>
Horticultural Gardens
Horticultural Gardens >>>>
Lord Lyndhurst
Lord Lyndhurst >>>>
General Jackson
General Jackson >>>>

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