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


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" And whereas we think it expedient to put an end to all such regulations, and to all sales and purchases, and all exchanges for money of commissions in our forces, and all dealings relating to such sales, purchases, or exchanges.

" Now, our will and pleasure isthat on and after the First day of November, in this present year, all regulations made by us or any of our Royal predecessors, or any officers acting under our authority, regulating or fixing the prices at which any commissions in our forces may be purchased, sold, or exchanged, or in any way authorising the purchase, or sale, or exchange for money of any such commission, shall be cancelled and determined.

"Given at our Court at Osborne, this 20th day of July, in the 35th year of our reign. By Her Majesty's Command, " Edward Cardwell.")

The anger of the Opposition at such a high-handed measure as this may be easily conceived. Mr. Disraeli talked of "a shameful conspiracy against the privileges of the other House;" the Duke of Richmond moved and carried a vote of censure in the House of Lords; for, as Lord Salisbury said, if the Government bill was a proper bill, the abolition of purchase was a question for Parliament to decide and Parliament only: and if the act of the Queen's ministers was constitutional, then their bringing forward the bill at all was disrespectful to the House. Therefore Mr. Gladstone was in the dilemma of having either acted unconstitutionally or disrespectfully to the House of Lords. Lord Cairns charged the Government with having " strained and discredited the constitution of the country." And a majority of eighty assented to the Duke of Richmond's proposition, " that the interposition of the executive... is calculated to depreciate and neutralise the independent action of the Legislature." And in the House of Commons, though no vote of censure was attempted, many Liberals of mark, such as Mr. M'Cullagh Torrens and Mr. Fawcett, sided with Mr. Disraeli in protesting against this resort to prerogative; an act which, said Mr. Fawcett, " if it had been done by a Tory Ministry, would have been denounced by Mr. Gladstone with the applause of the whole Liberal party." There can, in fact, be no doubt that the step, or the necessity which caused it, was most unfortunate, and especially unfortunate to Mr. Gladstone himself. It was highly expedient that purchase should be abolished; but it was most desirable that this should be done in a regular manner. Whether the blame of the irregular act is to be laid to the door of the House of Lords or to that of Mr. Gladstone, it was he that got all the unpopularity. Such stretches of exceptional prerogative as the issue of the Royal Warrant, or as the Collier promotion, did very much to lessen that personal loyalty to the Liberal leader which had been one of the great causes of his success in 1868. People took up Lord Salisbury's phrase, and talked of "the dictator," rather than of the leader; and the ordinary Englishman makes it a point of honour that he will not be dictated to. And so, although the object of the Government was attained, and the army "reconveyed from the officers to the nation," the Government and its leader were a good deal discredited; especially as the cost of the reform was very considerable indeed. The Government proposed to compensate the officers fully and liberally, paying them not only the legal "regulation prices " for their commissions, but the " over-regulation prices," which custom had legalised in the teeth of law. This compensation it was estimated would amount to, at the very least, six millions sterling - some said ten millions, - to be spread, of course, over a number of years: a large sum to take from the shoulders of the benefited class, and lay upon those of the general taxpayer.

The increased estimates for the year which the reform of the army made necessary were a sore perplexity to Mr. Lowe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is true he did not lament the high expenditure of the fighting departments; for, he said, he regarded an efficient army and navy as the best commercial investment in the world; but he had to face a large estimated deficit - no less than 2,713,000. This he proposed to cover, first, by charging the duties on wills and successions so as to make them three times as productive as before; a slightly increased income tax; and, above all, by a tax on matches. It was this last tax which attracted the most attention; and its ultimate fate is a good illustration of the danger of over-cleverness in matters of finance. Mr. Lowe had been afflicted by the thought of the waste going on in the use of matches, and of the perils attending such waste; and he thought that he might by one brilliant stroke lead people to economical habits and add a million to the revenue. For the number of matches annually made is almost inconceivably great; he announced that it was five hundred and sixty millions of boxes, without counting the forty or fifty millions of boxes of wax matches and fusees. He proposed, therefore, to put a halfpenny tax on every box of matches - a tax which, even if it had the effect of bringing down the manufacture by a third, would contribute nearly a million to the receipts of the year. But Mr. Lowe was either too much preoccupied to remember or too cynical to care that the match-making trade is in the hands of the very poorest of the London poor, and that to tamper with it would be to turn many thousands of human beings, most of them children, either into paupers or into criminals. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had invented a motto for the labels that he proposed to affix to every match-box; and to withdraw the tax would be to nullify a good joke - an unanswerable argument against withdrawal. " Ex luce lucellum " - " Out of light a tiny gain " - such was the inscription that every box was to bear; a motto which was a keen delight to the quondam Oxford tutor who proposed the tax, but which was a sore puzzle to the respectable House of Commons who listened to him, and which would have probably been neither illuminating nor profitable to the housemaids that were to use the matches. As it was, neither tax nor motto ever came to anything. When the amusement at Mr. Lowe's pun had died away, people began to see the serious nature of the proposal and the strong objections to it. A procession of match-makers, squalid and miserable, and some thousands strong, marched from Bethnal Green to Westminster to protest against the tax, and it was withdrawn. The same fate befell Mr. Lowe's proposal to increase the succession duties, - a proposal which struck a blow at one of the most cherished interests of the propertied class: nor was there any better destiny awaiting the plan of altering the mode of calculating the income tax by a percentage, instead of so much in the pound. On the whole, the Budget of the year may be said to have been a conspicuous failure, and to have done serious harm to the Government that proposed it.

Nor were many of the other events of the session such as to raise the spirits of the Ministry. Mr. Childers, who, after a distinguished career in Australia, had come home and been returned for Pontefract, and been made First Lord of the Admiralty by Mr. Gladstone, was forced by ill-health to resign. About his work, which at all events had been very thorough-going in its way, the most different and extreme opinions prevailed; his friends maintaining that his reforms had been the making of the navy, his enemies that they had almost been its destruction. Mr. Goschen succeeded him; an appointment which was severely criticised by those who thought it - the Admiralty - the wrong place for a member for the City of London, but amply justified by the speed with which the new First Lord mastered the details of his new office, by the vigour of his administration, and by the breadth of his views of public duty. Nothing could have been more telling than the speech which he made soon after his appointment, nominally to an after-dinner audience at the Mansion House, but really to the English public, on the foreign policy which England had observed during the war, and which we ought to continue to observe. " A policy of isolation," he said, " need not be a policy of selfishness; and many a country in Europe would prefer the disinterested neutrality of England to the sinister policy of some continental states. Among foreign peoples, who are accustomed to a more complicated diplomacy, England is never credited with simple honesty in her foreign relations. Some Machiavelian design is always attributed to her. Europe would have it that we abolished the slave trade because we were jealous of the competition of the French and Spanish colonies, and that we sided with Denmark because we feared what would happen supposing Kiel and its harbour fell into German hands. But, really, we are more single-minded in our foreign policy than any other nation; and the policy of the future ought to be based on single-mindedness and self-reliance. Recent events in Europe should teach us to rely, not on treaties and alliances, which often fail when the pinch comes; not on the word of statesmen - for secret treaties shake confidence in that - but upon ourselves. We ought to take the measure of ourselves, and, if necessary, to hold every man to his duty of maintaining the honour and glory of England at the same height at which it has been held through so many generations."

Only a very few of the remaining measures of this session of Parliament require notice. The Ballot Bill did not become law until the next year; for Purchase kept it back until towards the end of June: the Opposition carried on a furious warfare against it for five or six weeks; and when at last it was sent up to the Lords, it was rejected by them, by ninety-seven to forty-eight. The history of the bill may therefore be deferred until we come to chronicle its success. The conduct of the Opposition was vexatious, and could not fail to be damaging to the Government; for no man's endurance can face the loss of so many precious weeks without blaming his own side a little, as well as his opponents; As the bill was sent to the House of Lords, it was a very different bill from that which Mr. Forster had introduced; and some considerable alteration was due to the Liberal side. Mr. Henry James, for instance, helped by Mr. William Vernon Harcourt - two gentlemen who afterwards were, strangely enough, colleagues in Mr. Gladstone's Government as Attorney and Solicitor General - threw out that most unpopular, but most admirable, provision, that election expenses should be charged on the rates. This provision, without which purity of election will never be attained in England, was rejected; and the Government were content to leave it out in the bill of 1872.

A second, but a fortunate, ministerial failure was the Epping Forest Bill, in which the Government proposed to appoint a commission for settling the respective rights of the Crown, the commoners, and the lords of the manor in Epping Forest. Londoners do not require to be told that " the Forest," with its fine trees and stretches of wooded slopes, is the favourite holiday-ground of the dwellers in the eastern half cf London. For many years a stealthy process of encroachment has been carried on by a few persons who possess manorial rights over the great common land. Such is the state of the English law, that this kind of appropriation is quite possible and very frequent. The lord of the manor, regarding a common as so much waste land, and grieved that so much land should be allowed to go to waste, sets to work to "improve" it; and to improve it, he has to enclose it, until, by the help of a few posts and rails, and a few years of undisturbed possession, he establishes a prescriptive right to the land, and converts his shadowy manorial rights into absolute ownership. And as what is everybody's business is nobody's, the body of the commoners look on and grumble a little, but take no action until it is too late. This is exactly what was happening in Epping Forest, where the beauty of the positions and their nearness to London promised immense rents to enterprising lords of the manor who should venture to cut the land up into building lots. Fortunately, however, the Crown has rights over the " Royal Forest of Waltham," as Epping Forest is properly called; and the encroaching lords of the manor had to deal with another body as well as the commoners - namely, the Commissioners of Works. These commissioners, however, had begun the bad practice of selling the rights of the Crown to the lords of the manor. It was against this unpatriotic tampering with encroachment that Mr. Fawcett protested; and, in the end, both the 'personnel of the Government commission was strengthened by the addition cf Mr. Locke, and, on the motion of Mr. Cowper- Temple (a former First Commissioner of Works, before the days of Mr. Ayrton), the House decided that the Forest ought to be preserved untouched as a recreation ground for the people. The land recovered from the river by means of the Thames Embankment was also preserved for the Londoners against the will of the Government.

The bill for legalising marriage with a deceased wife's sister made no progress this year; carried by the House of Commons, it was thrown out as usual in the Lords. The bill for extending the franchise to single women rated to the relief of the poor, though rejected, was rejected by a narrower majority than before; 151 voted for it, and 220 against it - among the latter being that same Mr. Henry James whom Mr. Gladstone afterwards rewarded by the post of Attorney-General for his frequent and bitter attacks upon himself. The motion of Mr. Miall for disestablishing the Church of England was thought important enough to call out a strong debate. The Irish Church Act had made the motion not only a possible one, but even a motion to be expected; and no fitter man could be found to bring it forward than the editor of the Nonconformist newspaper. But the Dissenters were not strong enough in the House to make their success at all probable; not even though, as Mr. Disraeli charged them with being, they were " allied for the moment with revolutionary philosophers." The debate was interesting, as bringing not only a declaration of strong confidence in the Establishment from the leader of the Conservative party, but also as calling out a similar declaration from Mr. Gladstone, whose churchmanship had been thought by friends and foes to be rapidly shifting from the point of view of state-churchmanship which he had held so vigorously in his youth. That opinion had been rather encouraged this year by the success of the Government bill for the abolition of religious tests in the universities. This subject had been agitated for many years, and it had become a recognised aim of the Liberal party to carry the bill. The universities - that is, the resident teachers in Oxford and Cambridge - were singularly unanimous in favour of it; and many a meeting had declared how unwilling they were any longer to restrain the freedom of competition and study by retaining any tests whatever. Before the abolition, although any one might be admitted to a Bachelor's degree in Arts without subscribing to any declaration of belief, he could not hold a fellowship, nor qualify himself, by taking a Master's degree, for becoming a member of the governing body of the university, unless he subscribed his assent to the Thirty-nine Articles. It followed that a Dissenter could neither gain the great pecuniary prizes of a student's career, nor could he vote in the parliamentary elections for the university, nor take any part in the government of the place. At last, mainly perhaps through the means of the Solicitor-General, Sir John Duke Coleridge (afterwards Lord Coleridge), the bill became law; although some restrictions were still kept up. The test at the M.A. degree was abolished entirely, and no test was allowed to be applied in elections to fellowships. But the distinction between lay and clerical fellowships was still retained, in spite of Mr. Fawcett's proposal to merge them. Heads of houses, except in one or two cases, were still to be clergymen of the Establishment; and the test was to be kept up in Divinity degrees. With these exceptions, the demands of those who regard the universities as the property of the nation, and not of a single religious body like the Established Church, prevailed; just as the view of those who regard the army as the property of the nation, and not of the officers, prevailed also during the same session. The other bill of importance which became law this session was a trades' union bill, designed as a compromise between the extreme views of masters and men. It may also be mentioned that this year saw also the final repeal of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act.

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

Manchester exhibition
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The Royal academy galleries
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