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Great Britain and Ireland.

Modern History. (a.d. 1492-1898). Europe from 1815 to 1898.
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In 1816 a British fleet under Lord Exmouth, aided by a small Dutch squadron, inflicted a signal chastisement upon the modern "Barbary corsairs" in the bombardment of Algiers. With a loss of nearly 1,000 men in killed and wounded on the victorious side, the Dey's fleet of many frigates and gunboats was fired; the strong batteries were knocked to pieces; and he was forced to liberate the whole of the Christian captives, to the number of about 1,650, chiefly Italians taken from small trading and fishing vessels. The same British admiral had previously, by the mere display of his force, effected the release of about 1,800 Christian slaves at Algiers' Tripoli, and Tunis. There was some further trouble with the obstinate and truculent Dey even after this lesson, and Barbary piracy ceased only with the French conquest of Algiers.

The ending of foreign warfare was followed by a period of domestic trouble in the British Isles. Bad harvests, and the high price of bread due to iniquitous duties on corn, caused much distress and discontent, under which artisans waged war against machinery and rioters, called "Luddites" from Ned Ludd, a half-witted lad who broke some stocking-frames, did much damage in the great manufacturing districts of the Midlands and the north of England. The peasants, in the rage of misery, burned the ricks of farmers. The "Radicals," as the advanced Liberals were called, were agitating for parliamentary reform, in order to remedy evils by new legislation. Unwise and unsympathetic ministers resisted agitation by repressive measures, suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in 1817, and passing, two years later, the famous "Six Acts" against all attempts, harmful or harmless, to change the state of affairs. The hero of the Peninsular War and of Waterloo was, under the influence of aristocratic prejudice, by no means a model of wisdom in domestic matters, though his sturdy honesty and simplicity of character, and his sagacity with regard to yielding when longer resistance meant civil war, were in favourable contrast to the proceedings of some extreme partisans of his political school. In July, 1819, a peaceful meeting held at St. Peter's Fields, Manchester, was dispersed with bloodshed by military force, and the angry reformers, in sarcastic allusion to Wellington's last victory, styled the outrage the "Battle" (or "Massacre") of Peterloo. Among other events of this period may be noted the lamentable death, in November, 1817, of the Prince-Regent's only child, the Princess Charlotte, with her newly born infant, son of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, afterwards the first king of the Belgians. She was heiress-apparent to the throne, and was universally regarded with well-grounded hope as an excellent future sovereign. In May, 1819, the birth of a princess, only child of Edward, duke of Kent, fourth son of George III., gave to the nation the Victoria who, as queen for more than 60 years, was to replace her who had so lately passed away. The death of the aged king in January, 1820, brought the Prince-Regent to the throne as George IV. (1820-1830). A chief event of his reign, known from the British histories, was the desperate "Cato-Street Conspiracy," of February, 1820, formed by Arthur Thistlewood, for the simultaneous murder, at a dinner-party, of all the cabinet-ministers, to be followed by the firing of London barracks, the seizure of the Bank and the Tower, and the setting-up of a republic. The leaders in this mad scheme were hanged, after betrayal of the plot and seizure of many conspirators at their meeting-place in Cato Street, near the Edgware Road in London. In the same and following years, great scandal was caused by the trial of Queen Caroline for misconduct as a wife, under a "Bill of Pains and Penalties" virtually an impeachment, brought into the House of Lords at the king's instance. A strong popular feeling in her favour was aroused, and she was so ably defended by counsel who included Brougham, afterwards Lord Chancellor, and Denman, who became Lord Chief-Justice, that the proceedings were abandoned. The hapless lady, who may be justly regarded as rather grossly indiscreet and indecorous in conduct than as guilty of what was alleged, was a Brunswick princess, the king's first cousin. She died in August, 1821, after a vain attempt to obtain admission to Westminster Abbey at the king's coronation, which she claimed to share. There are other events which will be seen in the history of Greece and of Ireland, and the reforming legislation which opened in this reign is elsewhere noticed.

Under William IV. (1830-1837), third son of George III. (his second son, the duke of York, having died in 1827), the period of progress was fairly opened by the passing, in 1832, of the First Reform Act. The persistent opposition in the House of Lords, led by the duke of Wellington, had caused serious riots at Nottingham, Derby, and Bristol, and had brought the country within measurable distance of civil war. The final surrender of the Lords, at the instance of the duke, and the king's assent, made law of the measure which conferred a large share of political power on the great middle class of traders, farmers, and professional men. Many small boroughs lost their two members; many more lost one; and nearly 150 seats in the House of Commons were thus given to large towns, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, and others, hitherto unrepresented, to new divisions of counties, and to new districts of London. The Scottish members were raised from 45 to 53; the vote in counties was given to tenants paying an annual rent of 50 pounds, and to owners of land or houses worth – 10 pounds a year; and in boroughs householders paying 10 pounds a year rent were enfranchised.

The events of the glorious and happy reign of Queen Victoria (1837-) need little notice for readers of a work published in the country where two jubilee-celebrations, at the completion of the 5oth and 6oth years of the longest reign of our annals, brought forth a special and abundant crop of books dealing with every feature of the sovereign's life and character, every domestic and foreign occurrence connected with that illustrious and venerable lady's career. The Victorian age has been, beyond all others in all history, one of progress and colonial expansion. Two more series of legislative measures completed the democratic constitutions of the British Empire at home. In 1867-68 the Second Reform Acts gave votes to most householders in boroughs, and to the better class of lodgers. In the counties all tenants paying 12 pounds annual rent received the franchise, u English boroughs lost their two members, and 23 others lost one member each. 25 seats were given to new boroughs, and to the London and the grouped Scottish universities, and 28 members were assigned to fresh divisions of counties. Scotland received seven more members by transference from England, and her number was thus raised to 60. This statute invested a large part of the better class of artisans with political power. The Acts of 1884-85 gave votes to the agricultural labourers, and to a large additional number of artisans, by granting the franchise to all householders in county-divisions who did not possess votes for borough-elections to the House of Commons. The present number of voters thus exceeds 6,000,000, and the constitution of the United Kingdom has become that of a republic, with powerful aristocratic and plutocratic elements, and with the great advantage of a hereditary president representing a dynasty regarded by all classes with the utmost loyalty. Ireland, for the first time in her history, was placed on an electoral equality with the sister-countries by receiving pure and simple household-suffrage. The lodger-franchise was extended to the counties, and a new "service-franchise" gave a vote to any man inhabiting a house in connection with any office or employment. 18 members, six of whom were taken from seats belonging to boroughs disfranchised, for "bribery and corruption," since 1867, were added to the House of Commons, raising the number of representatives to 670. It was the "redistribution of seats" part of this measure which gave it a very distinctive character. No borough with a population below 15,000 was now allowed to have separate representation, the householders and lodgers receiving votes for the county-divisions in which they dwelt. All boroughs between 15,000 and 20,000 in population lost one seat, if they had two, and by these changes 144 seats, in addition to the above 18, were placed at the disposal of the framers of the Bill. Two English counties, Rutland and Hereford, each lost a member, and the City of London was deprived of two out of four. The total number of seats for disposal thus became 166. A near approach was then made to representation in proportion to numbers of the population in each constituency, the present proportion, in the English boroughs, being one member, roughly speaking, to every 70,000 inhabitants. The counties and the great boroughs were broken up into single-member divisions. The changes thus introduced were of a startling character, especially in London. The capital now had 62 members; Liverpool nine; Birmingham and Glasgow, each seven; Manchester six; Leeds and Sheffield, each five; and so on in proportion to numbers. Many new county-subdivisions were created, each with one member; Lancashire, under the new arrangement of seats being represented, in county-divisions alone, by 22 members, and Yorkshire, apart from the numerous borough-members, by 26. 1 ne great increase of population and wealth in Scotland was recognised by the assignment to the northern kingdom of 12 additional seats, making her representation consist of 72 members. We proceed to describe briefly the progressive legislation mainly due to the first two of the three Reform Acts whereby a large body of the people became possessed of the power of self-government in the free choice of representatives in the House of Commons.

Dealing first with religious freedom, we find that in 1828 the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts of later Stuart days enabled Catholics and Protestant dissenters to hold municipal and other offices. The Catholic Emancipation Act will be seen under the history of Ireland during this period. In 1836 another relic of religious bigotry and intolerance was swept away by the Marriage Act which enabled marriages to be legally contracted in Nonconformist chapels and at registrars' offices. Jews had been excluded from Parliament, after the repeal of the Test Act in 1828, by the words "on the true faith of a Christian" inserted in the declaration made by a member on taking his seat. A Bill for abolishing the civil disabilities of the Jews in the British Isles was passed in 1833 by the House of Commons, but the measure was rejected by the Lords, and an act of justice was thus postponed until 1858, when Jews were admitted to both Houses, the first Jewish peer being Lord Rothschild, created in 1885. Up to a date beyond the middle of Victoria's reign, Nonconformists were compelled to pay Church-rates for the support of the Establishment, and resistance to this grievous injustice was often met by the issue of "distress-warrants" under which the plate-baskets of Dissenters were emptied and their kitchens rifled of goods. Year by year the struggle against the exaction was doggedly carried on in the parish-vestries and in the law-courts, and the difficulty of collecting the impost increased. A strong stand was made in the eastern counties, and a case known as "the Braintree case," from a parish in Essex, after 18 years of litigation and 13 legal decisions, gave a virtual death-blow to compulsory Church-rates by establishing the principle that no rate could be valid which was not made by a majority assembled in vestry. In 1868 an Act removed this grievance. The abolition of religious tests in regard to education was another step in advance. The restrictions which existed were such as to confine to Churchmen most of the advantages of the national universities and of the ancient grammar-schools and other educational foundations. In 1871 an Act threw open to Nonconformists all lay-degrees at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Two years later religious tests were abolished at Trinity College, Dublin. Another grievance of Nonconformists was the deprivation of the right of burial for their dead in parish churchyards with the usual service In many a rural parish, the rector or vicar, basing his bigotry upon the rubric prefixed to "The Order for the Burial of the Dead" - that the Office is not to be used for any that die unbaptised-refused to read the service over the remains of any unbaptised Nonconformist children or adults, or to allow a Dissent-ins minister to supply his place. Nonconformist ministers, with mourning relatives, were in such cases compelled to stand outside churchyard-walls, in a field or on the public highway and_ there conduct funeral-services for those who were being laid in the ground inside the walls. The great Archbishop Tait of Canterbury admitted this state of the law to be "barbarous." In 1880 the Burial Laws Amendment Act granted freedom in this respect to Nonconformists, permitting them to enter the churchyards and there, with due notice, conduct their own religious service over their dead.

Freedom of the press from shackles grievously restricting its power for good began in 1836 with the reduction of the hateful stamp-duty of fourpence per copy on all newspapers to a penny-duty. Even thus, a really cheap newspaper was impossible, because a heavy paper-duty still existed in addition to the stamp-charge. In 1849 an association was formed for the "Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge." In a few years persistent effort, in and out of Parliament, had its reward. In 1853 a budget of Mr. Gladstone's removed the tax of is. 6d. on every advertisement. Two years later the same statesman, in his budget, abolished the stamp-duty. In 1861 the same statesman caused the repeal of the paper-duty, and rendered possible the present enormous development, assuredly more for good than for evil, of the production of newspapers and books within the purchasing-power of the humblest reader.

In the days of County-councils and Parish-councils, municipal reform is an interesting subject. In the course of time the municipal government of towns had fallen into the hands of small self-chosen bodies, and the most scandalous and corrupt administration of affairs existed in more than 200 boroughs of England and Wales. The body of the citizens were the victims of treatment inadequately described by "jobbery" and "robbery." The funds of the corporation were, largely diverted to periodical guzzling of aldermen and councillors, and to other base uses, including bribery and treating at parliamentary elections. Charity-funds for which the members of the corporation were trustees were often shamelessly stolen. The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 swept away, in most of the cities and towns, this iniquitous system, and gave the administration of local affairs - gas, police, paving, cleansing, water-supply, and other matters - to councils freely chosen by the ratepayers who supply the funds. A new sense of citizenship thus arose, and with freedom came her beneficent train of attendants - energy, enterprise, a sense of responsibility, a just pride in good effected, resolution to do better still. A grievous want of the age - sanitary reform - could now be supplied, and the increase of medical knowledge was turned to beneficial use by reformers and legislators. Dr. Southwood Smith, Sir Edwin Chadwick, Dr. William Farr, and Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson are the men most justly honoured in this line, and to the legislature influenced by their labours and reports British citizens owe the Local Government Act of 1858, the Public Health Act of 1875, and other measures which have greatly and permanently lowered the annual death-rate in towns, and have made life, for all classes of the community, much better worth living. The County Councils measure, or Local Government Act, of 1888, extended to Scotland in the following year, created in England and Wales 60 "administrative counties" or districts, with aldermen and councillors, to control affairs previously regulated by irresponsible justices in quarter-sessions. A very wide and important system of local government is thus exercised by persons elected by resident ratepayers, and highly beneficial results have been already attained. The Parish Councils Act of 1894 completed the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourer by giving him self-government through his vote at meetings for the election of overseers, the management of allotments, the control of sanitary matters, and the regulation of parish-property and parish-charities.

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