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


The Ashantee War - Narrative of the Maori War in New Zealand: Its Origin in the Purchase of the Waitara Block: General Cameron take3 the Command: Sir George Grey appointed Governor: Affair of Orakau: Repulse at Tauranga: Submission of some of the Tribes - Chinese Affairs: Taeping Rebellion Put Down: Colonel Gordon: Massacre at Soochow- - Japanese Affairs: The Shore Batteries at Simonosaki Silenced or Taken: Prince of Nagato Submits - Irish Affairs: Great Fenian Meeting-: Riots at Belfast: Their exciting Cause the O'Connell Demonstration in Dublin: The Orangemen Burn O'Connell in Effigy: Excesses of the Catholic Mob: The Navvies and the Ship-Carpenters: Troops Called Out: Rioters Tried before Baron Deasy.- The Judge's Speech.
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It can seldom happen in a vast empire that a year should pass without some hostile collision taking place, either in one of its out-lying colonies, or in one of the semi-civilised yet wealthy communities which its merchants frequent. In 1864, little wars raged at the Cape Coast in Africa, and in New Zealand, England's youngest and fairest colony; while both in China and Japan hostilities, in which we were more or less engaged, were carried on. The Governor of Cape Coast Castle having refused to give up to the King of Ashantee two of his slaves who had taken refuge within British territory, the King made an incursion into the lands of the Fantees, a friendly tribe inhabiting that portion of the coast which adjoins our settlement. Thereupon Governor Pim ordered a force to proceed on an expedition into the Ashantee country, which, however, produced no coercive effect on the barbarian, and resulted in a heavy loss in officers and men, owing to the pestiferous nature of the climate. The matter was of no great consequence, yet, when it came to be debated in the House of Commons, it nearly upset the Government. Sir John Hay moved a resolution of censure, and, while acquitting the inferior authorities of blame, endeavoured to fix it all on the Cabinet. " The actual responsibility," he said, " lay on the Cabinet - the men who had betrayed Denmark and truckled to Germany; who had convulsed China and devastated Japan; who, ten years ago, sent a British army to perish of want and cold in a Crimean winter; and who had now sent out some hundreds of British troops to perish of hunger, thirst, fever, and want of shelter, on the burning plains and in the fetid swamps of Central Africa." Sir John Hay's resolution, in a rather full House, was rejected by the narrow majority of seven.

In New Zealand, where a native war had existed since 1860, some decided advantages were gained this year by General Cameron, and certain native tribes gave in their unconditional submission. The war arose out of a quarrel respecting what was known in the colony as "the Waitara purchase." An individual Maori, named Teira, belonging to the tribe of Wiremu Kingi (Anglice, William King), offered to the Government for sale, in 1859, a block of land on the river Waitara, near Taranaki. The Government, believing that no other rights over the land existed except those of "the vendor, agreed to purchase it; but this decision was vehemently protested against by Wiremu Kingi, who maintained that Teira could not of his own authority sell the land. Troops were sent to Taranaki in 1860, by the aid of whom the block of land was occupied; and thus commenced a harassing and inglorious Maori war, in the course of which the town of Taranaki was seized and plundered, and the entire settlement ravaged, by the native insurgents. To Major-General Pratt, who did little more than hold his ground against the Maories, succeeded Major-General Cameron, an officer of great vigour and ability; but still the resistance of the Maories, favoured by the wooded nature of the country, and the sparseness of the European population, continued. In 1861, the Duke of Newcastle summoned Sir George Grey (formerly Governor of New Zealand for several years at a most critical period) from the Cape colony, and intrusted him with the government of New Zealand. After a careful investigation - which, from his intimate knowledge of the native customs, no man living was more capable of conducting - into the original cause of quarrel, Sir George Grey wrote to the Duke of Newcastle (April, 1863) that it was his settled conviction, " that the natives are, in the main, right in their allegations regarding the Waitara purchase, and that it ought not to be gone on with." Proclamation was accordingly made to the natives that the purchase was abandoned, and all claim to it on the part of the Government renounced. But the passions of the Maories had been roused by the long continuance of a state of war, and their cupidity whetted by the plunder which they had amassed; the proclamation, therefore, produced little effect. On the part of the natives, the war chiefly consisted in the surprise and murder of scattered settlers, or in a guerrilla warfare against outposts and small detachments of the troops; on our part, it consisted in a series of attacks on their fortified pahs, or stockades, and, as a parallel operation with the former, in the securing of our flanks and rear, as the troops gradually penetrated into the interior, by the construction of good military roads. In some cases pahs were stormed with little loss; but the troops were not always so fortunate. The Maori position of Orakau (April, 1864) cost us a loss of sixteen killed and fifty-two wounded to storm; and in an attack on a strong pah at Tauranga, on the north coast, the troops were actually repulsed, with a loss of ten officers and twenty- five rank and file killed, and four officers and seventy- two rank and file wounded. The heavy loss in officers is thus explained in General Cameron's despatch: - "The assaulting column, protected by the nature of the ground, gained the breach with little loss, and effected an entrance into the main body of the work, when a fierce conflict ensued, in which the natives fought with the greatest desperation. Lieutenant-Colonel Booth and Commander Hay, who led into the work, fell mortally wounded; Captain Hamilton was shot dead on the top of the parapet while in the act of encouraging his men to advance, and in a few minutes almost every officer of the column was either killed or wounded. Up to this moment the men, so nobly led by their officers, fought gallantly, and appeared to have carried the position, when they suddenly gave way, and fell back from the work to the nearest covert. This repulse I am at a loss to explain otherwise than by attributing it to the confusion caused among the men by the intricate nature of the interior defences, and the sudden fall of so many of their officers." The pah was evacuated by the Maories on the following night, and they were soon after routed with heavy loss while endeavouring to intrench themselves near Tauranga. The Maories of this district soon after (August, 1864) submitted themselves unconditionally to the Governor, who expressed his intention of dealing leniently with them, and not in any case depriving them of more than one-fourth of the lands to which they should be ultimately proved to be entitled. The war was thus at an end on the north coast, but lingered on for some time longer in the Waikato country and around Taranaki.

In China, the rebellion of the Taepings was this year almost entirely suppressed, chiefly through the aid of British officers; but the suppression was attended with circumstances which called forth loud reclamations in Parliament against the policy of the Government. An Order in Council had been passed authorising British subjects to enter into the service of the Emperor of China; and a Colonel Gordon, taking advantage of the order, assisted by other English and American officers, drilled and disciplined a body of Chinese soldiers in the European fashion, and employed them in driving the Taepings and other disorderly characters beyond the thirty-five mile radius which had been stipulated for on behalf of the treaty ports. Following up his advantage, and co-operating with the military mandarins, Gordon, in the summer of 1864, aided them to reduce the town of Soochow, the last stronghold of the Taepings, of whom 30,000, including women and children, were cruelly massacred by the mandarins after the surrender. When the news of the massacre reached the British Government, the Order in Council authorising British subjects to enter the Chinese service was immediately revoked. This, however, did not avert a severe arraignment of their policy in Parliament, in which the Opposition were joined by several non-intervention Radicals. Mr. Cobden, who at this time was bitterly opposed to Lord Palmerston, and lost no opportunity of attacking him, had the hardihood to declare that if we had never interfered in the affairs of China at all, our trade with that country would have been in a sounder and more thriving condition than it then was. Lord Palmerston's reply was cogent and unanswerable. He pointed out that the general policy of this country towards China was guided by the principle of the extension of commerce, and all the interferences of the Government had been rendered necessary by circumstances connected with the protection of the mercantile interests of Englishmen. As to the cruelty and perfidy of the imperialists, however that might be, the Taepings were infinitely the worse of the two, each of them possessing the normal characteristics of the Chinese. The object of the Government, in assisting the Chinese Government in the collection of its revenue, and in allowing the services of British subjects to be placed at its disposal, was the restoration of order in the empire, the existence of which would be most advantageous to the commercial operations of this country in China. That permission, however, had been withdrawn, and would not be renewed. It was not difficult to prove against Mr. Cobden that, contemporaneously with the execution of the policy which he condemned, an immense development of our trade with China had taken place.

In Japan, several more horrid murders of Englishmen were committed by fanatical natives during the year; and an attempt was made, which was only partially successful, to destroy the batteries of Simonosaki. These batteries commanded the entrance into the inland sea of Japan, and the ruler of the place was in the habit of trying their range on any foreign vessel, of whatever nationality, that attempted to pass. An expedition, consisting of English, French, and Dutch ships-of-war, was organised at Yokohama, and, sailing to Simonosaki, subjected the batteries to a heavy cannonade (September 5), which was, however, vigorously returned, and with considerable loss to the expedition. Parties of sailors and marines landed, spiked the guns in some of the batteries, and brought others, to the number of sixty, with three mortars, on board the ships. On the 10th September, a minister from the ruler of the country, the Prince of Nagato, came off, armed with full powers to conclude a convention, which was ultimately arranged on the following terms: - (1) That the Strait of Simonosaki should be opened to the vessels of all nations; (2) that the shore batteries should neither be armed nor repaired; (3) that the Allied Powers should receive an indemnity, the amount of which was to be fixed by their representatives at Jeddo.

In Ireland, the unhappy consequences which result from the secular oppression of one race or religion by another were painfully illustrated this year by the riots at Belfast. Earlier in the year, a significant event had occurred in Dublin, which first disclosed the strength und wide extension of the Fenian conspiracy. A Fenian convention had met the year before in America, but that the society numbered thousands and tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters in Ireland itself was not generally known before the Rotunda meeting, on the 23rd February, 1864. This meeting, having been called by the O'Donoghue, Mr. A. M. Sullivan, and other leaders of what was called the National party, to testify their indignation at the proposal to erect a monument in Dublin to the memory of the Prince Consort, was mobbed, soon after the proceedings began, by a preconcerted attack of Fenians, and after a good deal of fighting vanquished and dispersed.

But the desperate riots which took place at Belfast, in the autumn, threw all minor scuffles into the shade. Ever since the time when, in the early years of James I.'s reign, after the self-imposed exile of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, the greater part of the province of Ulster was forcibly taken away from the original possessors of the soil, and parcelled out in grants of 1,000 or 2,000 acres among English Protestants and Scotch Presbyterians, the north of Ireland has been the scene of perpetual conflict, more or less undisguised, between native and colonist, Protestant and Catholic, Celt and Saxon. And this has been especially the case of late years, since the growth of the larger manufacturing towns, such as Belfast and Londonderry, has forced within narrower limits, and brought into closer contact, these two parties, as opposed in politics as they are irreconcilable in religion. In the country districts, the animosity between them, though always there, and ready to burst forth on provocation, shows itself rarely in overt acts of violence - or rather, its outbreaks are periodical, and can be calculated on. An Orange festival, or the death and burial of some country champion of either side, is well known to fan the smouldering flame. The procession of Orangemen can hardly hope to bear its flags and drums to their destination without some affront on the road, and hostile crowds may be expected at the Burial Service; or, unless the friends and relations of the dead are both strong and watchful, some midnight outrage may very probably be wrought upon the grave. But in the great towns, the state of things is far worse, and party relationships take a keener edge. In Belfast especially, the great seat of the linen manufacture, where thousands of men and women of both parties are employed in the factories, party spirit has always run extraordinarily high, and collisions between Catholics and Protestants have been frequent and bitter. In the August of this year, disastrous riots broke out in the town, under the following circumstances. There had been a great demonstration at Dublin, on the 8th, in honour of the famous Daniel O'Connell, and a monument had been inaugurated to his memory, as the champion of Catholic Emancipation and of the Repeal of the Union. The demonstration itself went off quietly. There was no disturbance in the streets, and members of both religions seem to have taken part in the procession. The Lord Mayor presided at the dinner given afterwards in the Rotunda; the Pope was omitted from the list of toasts; and the speeches, though delivered mostly by Roman Catholics, were both loyal and peaceable. It was a gathering creditable alike to the strong feeling and good sense of Irishmen. But the Protestants of Belfast, always keenly alive to the position of affairs in the capital, as is natural to a party which although in the ascendant knows itself to be insecure, felt, when the accounts of the Dublin proceedings reached them through the newspapers, extremely annoyed. They seem to have taken the affair not only as a triumph, but as a challenge, on the part of the Catholics. Accordingly) they eagerly prepared a counter-demonstration. An insulting effigy of O'Connell was made and carried through the streets, attended by thousands of mill-workers; and in the evening it was publicly burnt, amid the exulting cheers and laughter of the assembled crowds. Nor was this all. Next day, the Protestants announced that having burnt O'Connell, they must now proceed to bury him. A coffin was prepared, and borne solemnly to the gate of the Friar's Bush Cemetery, where it was, of course, refused admittance; after which it suffered the same fate as the effigy, and the ashes were thrown into the river running through the town. The bonfire, however, was still blazing, and the crowds around it were still engaged in hooting the " Liberator," when it became known that the Catholics were put in the Protestant quarters of the town, smashing windows and breaking furniture - a more serious and practical method of retaliation than that resorted to by the Orangemen.

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


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