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


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On the question of Parliamentary Reform, little interest was at this time felt in the country, and the apathy of the constituencies extended itself to their representatives in the House of Commons. Yet the question may be justly held to have advanced a stage, in consequence of a remarkable declaration made by Mr. Gladstone during the debate on Mr. Baines' bill for substituting a 6 rental qualification for the existing 10 householder franchise in boroughs. The previous motion had been moved by Mr. Cave; but Mr. Gladstone declared that although there was a general concurrence of opinion that the present was not a suitable time for the introduction by the Government of a comprehensive measure of Preform, yet he could not vote for the amendment, because it went to deny that the question of the reduction o the franchise was one which ought to be discussed and, if possible, settled. " What," he asked, "is the present state of the constituency, any departure from which some honourable gentlemen deprecate as a domestic revolution? At present we have, speaking generally, a constituency of which between one-tenth and one-twentieth - certainly less than one-tenth - consists of working men. And what proportion does that fraction of the working classes who are in possession of the franchise bear to the whole body of the working men? I apprehend I am correct in saying that they are less than one-fiftieth of the whole working classes. Is that a state of things which it weald be a domestic revolution to meddle with? I contend, then, that it is on those who say it is necessary to exclude forty-nine-fiftieths that the burden of proof rests; that it is for them to show the unworthiness, the incapacity, and the misconduct of the working classes." He argued earnestly that the proper way of dealing with questions such as this, was not to wait till a vehement agitation had been commenced in their favour, but boldly to anticipate and meet such agitation, and by conceding so much of its demands as was just and reasonable, deprive it of its dangerous quality, and, so to speak, take the wind out of its sails. Nor should it be considered as other than a portentous symptom if the working classes, engaged as they were in a continual and pressing struggle for subsistence, should take to agitating this question. "When a working man finds himself in such a condition that he must abandon that daily labour on which he is strictly dependent for his daily bread, it is only because then, in railway language, ' the danger signal is turned on,' and because he feels a strong necessity for action, and a distrust in the rulers who have driven him to that necessity." Mr. Baines' bill was lost by the adoption of the previous question, but it was evident to all that the ten-pound limit was condemned in general opinion, and could not much longer be maintained.

Another minister was compelled by circumstances to execute upon himself the " happy dispatch " before the end of the session. This was Mr. Lowe, the Yice-President of the Council, whom Lord Robert Cecil (now Lord Salisbury) charged with mutilating the annual reports of Inspectors of Schools, and excising from them passages which did not chime in with his own views, before submitting them to the House. An adverse resolution, grounded on this allegation, was carried in a thin House, and Mr. Lowe had no choice but to resign. But the explanation which he subsequently offered made it so abundantly clear that the charge was founded on a misunderstanding, and that he had done nothing but what the practice of his and other departments justified, that Lord R. Cecil frankly admitted that, had this explanation been made at first, he should have abandoned his charges; and the House was induced with little difficulty, on the motion of Lord Palmerston, to rescind the inculpatory resolution which it had just passed.

The Convocation of the Province of Canterbury - which, instead of being prorogued immediately after its opening, as had been the case since the reign of Anne, has gradually obtained the royal license, since the friendly intervention of Lord Derby in 1852, of proceeding to the dispatch of business - after discussions of extraordinary prolixity, passed what was called a " Synodical Judgment" (June 21, 1864), condemning the well-known work entitled " Essays and Reviews." Some time after, the matter was brought before the House of Lords, Lord Houghton desiring to know what was the legal effect of the judgment, and whether, in passing it, the Convocation had not exceeded its powers. On this occasion the Lord Chancellor (Lord Westbury) made a speech, the like of which, for scathing wit and contemptuous banter, has been seldom heard, " There are," he said, " three modes of dealing with Convocation, when it is permitted to come into action and transact real business. The first is, while they are harmlessly busy, to take no notice of their proceedings. The second is, when they seem likely to get into mischief, to prorogue them, and put an end to their proceedings; the third, when they have done something clearly beyond their powers, is to bring them before a court of justice and punish them." He went on to state that should any attempt be made to give validity to any act of Convocation, without the consent of the Crown, the persons so offending would incur the penalties of premunire. " I am afraid my noble friend has not considered what the pains and penalties of a premunire are., or his gentle heart would have melted at the prospect. The Most Reverend Prelate and the bishops would have to appear at the bar, not in the solemn state in which we see them here, but as penitents in sackcloth and ashes. And what would be the sentence? I observe that the Most Reverend Prelate gave two votes - his original vote and a casting vote. I will take the measure of his sentence from the sentence passed by a bishop on one of these authors - a year's deprivation of his benefice. For two years, therefore, the Most Reverend Prelate would be condemned to have all the revenues of his high position sequestrated. I have not ventured - I say it seriously - I have not ventured to present the question to Her Majesty's Government; for, my lords, only imagine what an opportunity it would be for my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to spread his net, and in one haul take in 30,000 from the highest dignitary, not to speak of the bishops, deans, archdeacons, canons, vicars, all included in one common crime, all subject to one common penalty.... Assuming that the report of the judgment which I have read is a correct one, I am happy to tell your lordships, that what is called a synodical judgment is simply a series of well-lubricated terms - a sentence so oily and so saponaceous that no one could grasp it. Like an eel, it slips through your fingers - it is simply nothing; and I am glad to tell my noble friend that it is literally no sentence." Much more followed in the same strain.

The tone of indignation which pervaded the Bishop of Oxford's reply showed that the stinging words of the Chancellor had gone home; yet the Bishop's answer, unpremeditated as it must have been, was not lacking in force and dignity. " If a man," he said, " has no respect for himself, he ought at all events to respect the audience before which he speaks; and when the highest representative of the law in England, in your lordships' house, upon a matter involving the liberties of the subject and the religion of the realm, and all those high truths concerning which this discussion has arisen, can think it fitting to descend to ribaldry, in which he knows that he may safely indulge, because those to whom he addresses it will have too much respect for their characters to answer him in like sort - I say that this House has ground to complain of having its character unnecessarily injured in the sight of the people of this land, by one occupying so high a position within it. I know enough of this House, and of the people of England, to know that it is not by trying, in words which shall blister those upon whom they fall, to produce a momentary pain in those who cannot properly reply to them, that great questions can be solved; but that it is by dealing with them with calmness, with abstinence from the imputation of motives, and, above all, with the most scrupulous regard to stating upon every point that which shall prevent any man in this House being led to a conclusion other than that which the facts warrant." Addressing himself then to the defence of the synodical judgment, he said: " We had to deal with this question - 'Shall the Church of England see these false doctrines stated by those who hold her ministry, and shall we, her highest ministers, having, under the sanction of our Queen, the opportunity of disavowing these errors, shall we timorously hold our tongues, because if we speak we may be subject to ribald reproach? or shall we, in the name of the Church of England, clear that ministry from being supposed to be at liberty to declare one thing as the condition of taking it, and then to speak another as the habit of its exercise? ' It was not, my lords, to put down opinion; it was to prevent men breaking their solemn obligations that this step was taken."

Parliament was prorogued on the 29th July; and the records of the remaining five months of the year contain little or nothing of public interest. Earlier in the year, the visit of a distinguished foreigner had been attended with so much of popular excitement and enthusiasm, that it deserves more than a passing notice. The man who had borne so large a part in the unification of Italy and the humiliation of the Pope, had a double title to an uproarious welcome from Englishmen, by whom he was regarded as the scourge of despots, both ecclesiastical and civil. The English people are commonly called by foreigners apathetic and dull, incurably infected with the gloom of their climate. But it is very certain that no people is more easily roused to a frenzy of enthusiasm by the arrival of a " lion." Generally, it is true, the lion must be a very rare one, and he must be royal; an Eastern monarch, with a swarthy face and a coat blazing with jewels, and a train of native followers holding their very lives by his good leave. If a personage of this kind arrives, though his political importance be infinitesimal and his moral character questionable, all classes of society vie with each other in doing him honour. England goes mad for a time. But once and once only in her recent history has she gone mad in the same way as this for an object wholly disconnected with the glitter and pomp of royalty. This was on the arrival of Garibaldi, in the April of this year (1864). There are various judgments abroad now-a-days upon Garibaldi. Since his visit to England, he has offended many of those who then cheered him warmly by unwise and unseemly interference with religious matters; and there is a party in England, small indeed, but not to be overlooked, who, full of sympathy for a defeated cause, especially a defeated Church cause, and bitterly resenting the means by which the Italian Government finally possessed themselves of Rome '-means which they pronounce to have been treacherous and unwarrantable - do not forget that it is to Garibaldi primarily that all that has happened in Italy since the downfall of the Bourbons must be attributed. But, in 1864, the feeling towards him was one of almost unmixed admiration. He was known to be a brave and disinterested soldier. The cup of personal power had been often at his lips, and he had put it calmly aside for the sake of a higher good than that of power - the good of national peace and unity. The wonderful Sicilian expedition, the swift overthrow of Bourbon tyranny in South Italy, his resignation of himself and his conquests into the hands of Victor Emmanuel, and, lastly, his failure and wound at Aspromonte - all these were fresh in men's memories. He had simple manners too, a fine soldier-like presence, and a cheery smile - descriptions of his unpretending life and habits had long before his visit travelled to this country and quickened the popular enthusiasm. Thus it was that all England went out to meet him when he came, and his reception was a triumph for him, and a credit to us. He came by sea to Southampton in the Peninsular and Oriental steamer Ripon. It was Sunday when he arrived; but the quays of Southampton harbour were crowded, and the ships at anchor were alive with a cheering multitude. A small party of personal friends came out in a steam-tug to meet him, the Duke of Sutherland, Mr. Seely, M.P., an old friend of the General's, and a few Italian gentlemen, representatives of their countrymen in England. "When they reached the Ripon, there was the General in the saloon waiting for them, his weather-beaten face bright with smiles; and as they neared Southampton and the crowded shores took up again and again the cry of welcome, Garibaldi came forward and stood upon the poop, waving his hand repeatedly, in answer to a greeting which thrilled all the spectators. Beside him stood his two sons, Menotti and Ricciotti Garibaldi, Signor Basso, his friend for fifteen years through war and peace, and his private secretary Dr. Guerzoni, a member of the Italian Parliament. He wore the red shirt, the uniform of those who volunteered with him for the service of Italy, and over it hung a grey and scarlet cloak, which fell round him in dignified folds, and suited his fine head and well-knit frame. Upon reaching the landing-place, the Mayor of Southampton was introduced, and offered him hospitality in the name of the town and corporation. Garibaldi accepted the offer and was driven to the mayor's house by an enthusiastic Garibaldian poetess who had begged hard for the privilege of conveying him thither in her own carriage. A cheering crowd accompanied him, but, once safely housed, the fatigued " Liberator " retired to his room out of the sight of the popular enthusiasm. He was still lame from the effects of his wound, and required the support of a stick when he walked. On the following day, he crossed the Solent, and spent the remainder of the week with Mr. Seely, at his house in the Isle of Wight. His friends were careful to spare him any undue labour and excitement, for his strength was not yet re- established; still many people had the privilege of seeing him in this comparatively quiet time of his stay in England, who will not soon forget his simple kindly presence and ready talk, his zeal not only for Italian liberty, but for the cause of freedom in general, and that childlike element in his nature, which has led him into many mistakes and into more than one rash and foolish utterance of opinion in matters with which he had no concern, but which, seen close by, has a peculiar charm. The General, however, could not be allowed to let too much time slip away in the Isle of Wight, always so attractive in the spring weather, which comes earlier there than in any part of England, and colours the woods and hangs the cliffs with green before a bud on the mainland has broken. London, ever ready for some fresh excitement, and very glad to break the monotony of what promised to be a dull season, was waiting for its prey, and a splendid we]U come was preparing. There was sufficient real feeling and real knowledge about the Italian question among the masses of. the metropolis, to secure the champion of a free Italy a warm reception, but before his arrival the infectious enthusiasm of the well-informed few had spread to the ignorant many, to those who scarcely knew that such a country as Italy existed, and only thought vaguely of Garibaldi as a friend of the poor and oppressed. All along the line from Southampton to the capital, crowds filled the stations, while at Nine Elms, where the General was to alight, a multitude of working men, arranged in procession according to their trades, awaited him. Side by side with them stood peers and members of Parliament, and when Garibaldi arrived he was received like a prince, through there was a touch of passion in the reception which is granted to few princes.

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

William Ewart Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone >>>>
Presentation of a sword to Garibaldi
Presentation of a sword to Garibaldi >>>>
Shakespeares Oak
Shakespeares Oak >>>>
Storming a New Zeland
Storming a New Zeland >>>>

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