Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The year 1848 was a great epoch in European politics. Ever since 1816 the restoration of despotism had created profound discontent. The French revolution of 1830 vibrated through the continent. We have seen its effect in Belgium. The Poles struck another blow for independence, but it failed after a fierce conflict, and the kingdom of Poland was absorbed in Russia. The Prussians and Hanoverians asked in vain for their long-promised constitutions, and Germans of every state dreamed of a united Fatherland. But the deepest source of discontent arose from the rule of Austria over Lombardy and Ver.etia, and virtually, through family alliances and treaties, over the whole of Italy. 'All resistance was kept down by martial law, and Italian patriots were immured in dungeons such as those described by Silvio Pellico. Tyranny begat conspiracy, and conspiracy was made the pretext for fresh tyranny. At length, in 1846, a new pontiff was elected, pope Pius IX., who was believed to be a friend of Italian Jiberty; and he introduced some reforms in the Papal States. About the same time the Italians found another leader in CHARLES ALBERT king of Sardinia, who granted a constitution to his own states. At this crisis the question of parliamentary reform was agitated in France. The new dynasty had been greatly weakened by the sudden death of the duke of Orleans, the heir to the throne, a popular and liberal prince (July 13, 1842), and the government had been conducted too much by corruption and intrigue. The prohibition by Guizot of a reform banquet (Feb. 22, 1848) led to an insurrection in Paris, which ended in a revolution and the proclamation of a republic (Feb. 24, 1848). The flame spread over Europe ; but this is not the place to write the history of the rising of 1848 and the collapse of 1849. The English Chartists attempted a display of force, which was put down by the mere attitude of precaution (April 10, 1848); and a more serious insurrection of “ Young Ireland” had a grotesque end in the capture of Mr. Smith O'BRIEN in a cabbage-garden. He and several other leaders were found guilty of treason, but their lives were spared, and after some years' transportation they were pardoned.

The half-century ended amidst a profound peace, which suggested to prince Albert and other philanthropists an exhibition of the industry of all nations in Hyde Park. The genius of sir JOSEPH Paxton provided a fit edifice of iron and glass, and sir Robert Peel was labouring for its success when he was killed by a fall from his horse (May, 1850). The Exhibition was opened by the queen on May 1, 1851 ; and its brilliant success, besides being imitated in other cities and countries, led to the plan of decennial Exhibitions, and the second was opened on May 1, 1862. Owing to a breac!

importance of the constituency. All boroughs with less than 2000 inhabitants ceased to return members. In the list of them (Schedule A) were places, such as Gatton and Old Sarum, which had ceased to exist at all, but still returned members on the nomination of the owner of the soil; and, absurd as this arrangement seemed, it was strongly defended as a means of introducing into parliament young and unknown men of great ability, of whom several had in fact sat for nomination boroughs. Places whose population was between 2000 and 4000 were restricted to one member. The 143 seats thus gained were given partly to great towns of modern growth, including the suburbs of London, which were divided into four boroughs; and partly to the counties, several of which were divided into districts, and altogether they returned 159 members, instead of 94. The franchise was greatly extended, on the basis of property (as before) and of income, as tested by the occupation of property. The constituency in boroughs was composed of occupiers of houses to the value of 101. ; but in the city of London the livery retained their votes. In the counties the voters were freeholders to the value of 40s., copyholders of 101. per annum, leaseholders of 101. for 60 years or 501. for 20 years, and, lastly, tenants paying a rent of 501. The last (called the “ Chandos clause,” from its mover) was carried against ministers, who opposed it as likely to create a constituency subservient to the great landlords. There were also important provisions for regulating and shortening elections, and for the registration of voters. Similar bills were passed for Scotland and Ireland, but with some difference in their details, especially as to the amount of the Irish franchise. The parliamentary constitution thus created has remained substantially the same for 30 years; the chief alterations being the extension of the Irish franchise, and the abolition of the property qualification " for members. The two boroughs of Sudbury and St. Albans have been disfranchised for corruption; and their four seats have been lately (1861) given, one to Birkenhead, one to South Lancashire, and two to the West Riding of Yorkshire,* making the composition of parliament as follows

England.

Wales.

Ireland, Scotland. COUNTIES .. .. .. 147

15

64 30
UNIVERSITIES
CITIES and BOROUGHS .. 320 14 39

4

0

23

Totals .. .. 471 29 105

53 Grand Total of Members for the United Kingdom, 658. The first reformed parliament met on Feb. 5, 1833. The Tory party seemed almost destroyed, but the tactics of sir Robert Peel * These two members are not to be elected till after the present parliament (1862).

organized a steady though small opposition, who assumed the name of Conservatives. The querwhelming majority for ministers enabled them to carry some great measures, especially the abolition of negro slavery in the West Indies and Mauritius, which was effected at a cost of 20,000,0001. for compensation to the slaveholders. The motions of the radical party for vote by ballot, triennial parliaments, and a further extension of the suffrage, were unsuccessful. Ireland was a constant source of trouble. Neither Catholic emancipation, nor reform, nor the reduction of the Protestant Church establishment, which was carried by the Irish secretary Mr. STANLEY (now the earl of Derby), could satisfy the priests and demagogues. O'Connell headed a new agitation for the Repeal of the Union, and collected a larger "rent" than ever, while payment of tithe was generally refused. The disorders which thus arose were met by a Coercion Act, which produced a schism between the Whigs and Irish Catholics. The proposal to apply Irish Church property to purposes of education led to the secession of sir James Graham, lord Stanley, lord Ripon, and the duke of Richmond from the ministry (May 1834) ; and earl Grey soon resigned (July). Lord Melbourne, formerly Mr. Lamb, now became premier, and carried an important bill for the amendment of the poor-law. But the ministry were much weakened ; and on the removal of lord Althorp from the House of Commons by the death of his father, earl Spencer, the king suddenly dismissed them (Nov. 1834), and sent for sir ROBERT PEEL from Rome, the duke of Wellington meanwhile holding the seals of several departments.

Sir Robert Peel undertook the government on “ liberal conservative” principles, and appealed to the country. But his intentions, since known to be sincere, were distrusted at the time, and, though he gained greatly by the new elections, he was still in a minority, and after several defeats he resigned (April 1835). Lord Melbourne returned to office, but without lord Brougham, who, however, helped the government to carry their measure for municipal reform (1836). They also passed an act authorizing marriages by dissenting clergymen and by a purely civil form, coupled with a general system for registering births, marriages, and deaths. The support of O'Connell, however, made the Conservatives the more hostile to the ministry, and they were violently attacked by the Radicals. At this juncture the king died, June 20, 1837, in the seventy-second year of his age, and within a week of completing the seventh year of his reign. He was succeeded by his niece the princess Victoria of Kent, and in Hanover by his brother Ernest, duke of Cumberland. The joy of the nation at the accession of a young and hopeful princess was not diminished by the loss of a troublesome burthen and an unpor. prince.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

VICTORIA I., our present most gracious and beloved queen, was proclaimed on June 21, 1837, by her two names of Alexandrina Victoria, but she immediately dropped the former. She was born, May 24, 1819. The death of her father (Jan. 23, 1820) deft her to the sole care of her mother, Victoria, duchess of Kent and princess of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, the sister of prince Leopold; and the charge was fulfilled with a care and wisdom, of which the fruit has been shown in every step of her Majesty's life.

She soon displayed a character totally opposite to the selfish indolence of George IV., and the weak good nature of William IV. She devoted herself to public and private duty with diligence, activity, punctuality, and economy. Having given up the domains of the crown for a very moderate civil list, she speedily paid her father's debts and those contracted by her mother for her education. Her accession was hailed with cheerful hope, based on the knowledge of the training she had received, and with chivalrous devotion to a second virgin queen, who had the advantage over Elizabeth in youth and gentleness. She was wisely guided into the strict path

of the constitution by lord Melbourne, and after him by succeeding ministers, by her lamented consort, and by the duke of Wellington, whose advice was always sought in great emergencies.

The queen was welcomed with enthusiasm on her first public appearance in the city, Nov. 9, 1837. Lord Melbourne's tottering ministry revived in the sunshine of her favour and in the strength of her liberal principles ; but there were clouds around and breakers ahead. They were suspected by the Radicals of receding from liberal principles under shelter of court favour, especially when lord John Russell announced the “ finality” of the Reform Act (Nov. 1837). Offence was given by their resistance to the shortening of the term of “apprenticeship ” which preceded the final emancipation of the negroes. Their Irish policy offended the Tories without satisfying the Repealers; and in CANADA they had to meet a formidable rebellion with measures of coercion. This rebellion led to the settlement of the affairs of Canada by lord Durham in the following year, and the union of the two provinces under a new and popular constitution. There was a marked coolness in the queen's reception on her way to open parliament at the beginning of 1838. The Conservatives under sir Robert Peel gained strength in the commons, and the government were in a minority in the lords, where they were assailed by the tactics of Lyndhurst and the invectives of Brougham. The Radicals raised a cry for“ Peerage Reform,” which ministers lost popularity by opposing. The bad harvests of 1837 and 1838 inflamed popular discontent, and a formidable agitation was raised by the Chartists, who propounded a new “People's Charter” of five points, namely, universal suffrage, vote by ballot, triennial parliaments, equal electoral districts, and salaries for members of parliament. Lastly, the repeal of the corn-laws was demanded by the Anti-Corn-Law League, wbich was formed at Manchester by Mr. RICHARD COBDEN, in September, 1838. At the same time the finances of the country were falling into confusion. In 1839 the ministry were defeated, and resigned ; but, sir Robert Peel having been prevented from forming a government by a matter relating to the court, they returned to office. In the autumn there were serious Chartist disturbances in Wales, and blood was shed in an attack on Newport.

On February 10, 1840, her Majesty was married to her cousin, Francis ALBERT Augustus Charles Emanuel, second son of the duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who was born Aug. 19, 1819. Parliament voted him an annuity of 30,0001., and the queen afterwards conferred on him the dignity of PRINCE CONSORT. In this year was formed the Quadruple Treaty between England, Austria, Prussia, and Russia. for the protection of the sultan of Turkey against his rebel)

Eng.

« AnteriorContinuar »