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The British Isles. page 2

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Under George I. (1714-1727) and George II. (1727-1760) the system of government by Parliament became fully established, the House of Commons being at this time largely influenced by bribery in the shape of places, pensions, peerages, inferior titles, orders of honour, and direct money-payments, and by control of elections in the small places called "pocket-boroughs." A Whig oligarchy thus had a large share of rule, subject to public opinion as expressed in the newspapers and otherwise. The two first sovereigns of the House of Brunswick (or Hanover) cared more for Hanover than for England, and the connection with that country was very harmful in drawing Great Britain into Continental struggles. The rebellion of 1715 was a miserable failure, ending in the ignominious flight of James Edward Stuart, the "elder Pretender," son of James II. Some fighting occurred at Preston in Lancashire, and some noble heads fell on Tower Hill. The rebellion of 1745 was more important, but had, probably, no real chance of success. " Bonnie Prince Charlie," a really charming young man for a picnic or a dance, who died a bloated drunkard in 1788, became the hero of many Jacobite songs. The respectable side of the matter was the admirable devotion of the Highland peasantry to a ruined cause. The disgraceful side was the savage cruelty, of the victor of Culloden, "Butcher" Cumberland, a royal duke, to the people who had supported the cause. The statesmanlike aspect is seen in the wisdom of the first William Pitt (earl of Chatham), who repaired the evil of the past in enlisting Highlanders to fight for the House of Hanover, and formed the first of the noble regiments whose colours have so often waved in glory on our fields of battle in many lands. The country was pacified, and laid open for the traffic of peace and trade, and for the admiring tourists of later times, by the creation of excellent roads. The ministry of Walpole from 1721 to 1742, was valuable to the country from a policy winch was marked by a steady love of peace, by economy, and by non-interference with the progress of national industry and wealth. The revenue grew, and the public debt declined, under his wise fiscal management.

Religious freedom for Protestant dissenters or Nonconformists - the Presbyterians of England, the Independents or Congregationalists, the Baptists, and the Quakers or Society of Friends - had its rise in the Toleration Act of 1689, allowing them to worship freely in their own way, on condition of taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, making a declaration against the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and assenting to the doctrine of the Trinity. Two oppressive Acts of Charles II.'s reign - the period of royalist and religious reaction - were thus repealed, except as regarded Romanists and Unitarians. Under Walpole, civil freedom was accorded in a large measure by the passing, from 1728 onwards, of an annual Act of Indemnity, securing Protestant dissenters who held municipal offices from the penalties to which they were liable under the Corporation Act of 1661 and the Test Act of 1673. The most important event of the early Georgian period was beyond doubt the famous religious revival called the Wesleyan Movement or Methodism. The Anglican Church had sunk into a lethargic condition, and little religious life was found except in the sects of Nonconformists. The prelates and the clergy were to a large extent absentees from their proper spheres of labour, their dioceses and parishes. Infidelity and immorality had spread greatly among the higher class of the laity and the lower part of the community, and the lives of many of the clergy were, at the least, very indecorous. The Methodists - a derisive term at first, applied to them by opponents who ridiculed their strict rules of conduct - arose at Oxford, where John Wesley, who was born in 1703 and died in 1791, a resident fellow, ordained as priest in the Anglican Church in 1728, gathered in his rooms a few friends for private worship. Among these enthusiasts were William Law, afterwards author of The Serious Call, and George Whitefield, who became one of the most powerful and influential of modern preachers, converting large numbers of the toiling masses of the people. In 1738 the movement was opened in London, with Wesley and Whitefield as the chief religious orators, and Charles Wesley, younger brother of John, as the writer of very popular hymns.

The Church declined to have anything to do with John Wesley and his efforts for religious reform, and he was thus obliged to become a "schismatic." His wonderful genius for organisation was displayed in his founding and development of a new religious body - the Wesleyans or Methodists - legally incorporated in 1784. The doctrines are, in the main, those of the moderate adherents of the Anglican Church, and, with various sects separated from the original body, the Methodists form now the most numerous, wealthy, respectable, and intelligent body of Protestant Nonconformists in England, the United States, and the British Colonies. A great reform of public morals took place; the clergy of the Established Church were aroused to a new life, and a healthy rivalry began which ended in the rise, within the Church, of the party known as Evangelicals or Low Churchmen.

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