Imágenes de páginas

vassal, Mehemet Ali, viceroy of Egypt, whose army, under his son Ibrahim Pacha, had overrun Syria. Our fleet, under sir Robert Stopford and sir Charles Napier, in concert with Austria and Turkey, bombarded Beyrout, Sidon, and Acre; and Ibrahim Pacha was driven out of Syria. Mehemet Ali was afterwards secured in the possession of Egypt as hereditary viceroy ; but France, which had favoured his designs, for her own ulterior objects in the Levant, resented the conduct of the other four powers, and threatened war. The danger was averted by the removal of M. THIERS from office, and the accession of M. Guizot, who established with England the "entente cordiale" (Oct. 29, 1840). Our government permitted the removal of the remains of Napoleon from St. Helena ; they were deposited in the church of the Invalides (Dec. 15, 1840), under the dome of which they now rest in a magnificent sepulchre.

In 1841 the ministry of lord Melbourne fell through its own weakness and the growing confidence of the nation in sir Robert Peel, who came into power with a decided majority in the commons, after the Whigs had tried an appeal to the people and offered to the Corn-Law Reformers the bait of a fixed duty of eight shillings a quarter. Sir Robert grappled at once with the whole question of commercial policy, and with the accumulated deficit of several years. He adopted the principle, which has been since universally accepted, of lightening the weight of taxation on articles of necessary consumption and on the raw materials of our manufactures, and trusting to the impulse thus given to trade for supplying the revenue under other heads. In old times, particular branches of industry were encouraged by “bounties ; " they were afterwards “protected" against foreign competition by import duties; but the free-traders had condemned such protection as an injustice to the consumer, and, in the long run, an injury to the producer; and Peel now proclaimed that the true commercial policy was “ to buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest." But he proceeded cautiously at first. He abolished many petty and unproductive duties, and reduced others which were so high as to check consumption or encourage smuggling. For corn he retained the “sliding scale," but lowered the "pivot price” at which the duty became small enough to admit foreign grain freely in seasons of scarcity. To meet the existing deficit, and the temporary loss involved by his reforms, he imposed a property and income tax of sevenpence in the pound on all incomes above 1501. The tax was limited to three years, in the hope (though no pledge was given) that it might then be dispensed with. Those three years bore triumphant witness to the Peel policy. A large annual surplus enabled him to go on reducing taxes, and especially to attack the excise duties, which not only raised the

price of articles of necessity, but most vexatiously hampered manufacture and invention, such as those on soap and glass. The latter duty alone would have prevented the erection of the “Crystal Palaces” at Hyde Park and Sydenham. The success of Peel's policy was, in fact, too great for its author. It convinced men, except some farmers and landlords, that “protection ” for the growers of corn was no longer tenable. The Anti-Corn-Law League was declared to be a great fact," and the end was hastened by the cold wet summer of 1845, and the “potato disease,” which plunged Ireland into a famine. The league was joined by lord MORPETH (now the carl of Carlisle). Lord John Russell, who had become the leader of that party, declared for free-trade in corn, taunting sir Robert Peel for adhering to protection. But sir Robert had already made his decision and carried with him the majority of his cabinet. To avoid, however, the apparent inconsistency for which he had once suffered so severely on the Catholic question, he resigned (Dec. 11, 1845), promising his support to any ministry who would repeal the corn-laws. The queen sent for lord John Russell, who failed to form a government, and sir Robert returned to office, though with the loss of some of his colleagues, especially lord Stanley, who became the head of the new “protectionist party.” The repeal of the corn-laws (leaving only a duty of one shilling per quarter for the purpose of registering statistics) was accompanied by another sweeping reform of the tariff, to effect which the income-tax,was renewed for three years more, and it has since been continued at various rates (1846). This great change involved personal consequences, of which Peel had counted the cost. He was deserted by a large section of the party which he had spent fifteen years in rallying. amidst much bitter resentment, such as was expressed in the invectives of Mr. BENJAMIN DISRAELI (b. 1805). An Irish question was again seized as the occasion for his overthrow. That unhappy country was still the prey of agitation. O'Connell bad quarrelled with the Whigs before their fall, and roused the nation for repeal by a system of “monster meetings.” In 1843 the government had prosecuted him and obtained a verdict, on which he was imprisoned; but the House of Lords reversed the judgment. His influence was, however, declining and his health failing ; * but he was succeeded by a more violent party, who, under the name of “ Young Ireland,” appealed to the memories of 1798 and of the United Irishmen. The scarcity of 1845-6 came to their aid, and a new coercion bill was required. On its proposal, the Whigs united with the Protectionists to defeat sir Robert Peel, who finally retired from office in 1846,

* He died at Genoa (May, 1847), on his way to Rome, to ask the blessing of the leaving, as he truly boasted, a name which will ever be held in honour by the industrious producer, -the class from which his own father rose,-though exposed to the charge of vacillation and inconsistency.


Like sir Robert Walpole, whom he resembled in many points, be was a peace minister ; but he was more than once in danger of war. A long-standing dispute with the United States about their boundaries on the north-east and north-west was settled by the mission of lord Ashburton (Alexander Baring) on terms by which our strict rights were sacrificed to the desire for peace. The“ entente cordiale" with France was endangered in 1843 by her seizure of Tahiti and imprisonment of our consul, Mr. Pritchard, and still more in 1846 by the affair of the Spanish marriages, which needs a brief explanation. In 1833 Ferdinand VII. died, having made a will in favour of his daughter, who succeeded him as Isabella II., and revived the constitution ; but don Carlos, the late king's brother, claimed the crown as the male heir. As in Portugal, the queen's cause was espoused by England and France, and a “ British legion" of volunteers went to Spain under a Peninsular veteran, sir DE LACY Evans. After a long Carlist war and many internal revolutions, queen Isabella was established on her throne. Louis Philippe now revived the old Bourbon policy of the “ family compact;” and, in spite of the successive opposition of lords Aberdeen and Palmerston, the king of the French arranged the marriage of the queen of Spain with her cousin, don Francisco of Assisi, while her sister, the infanta Louisa, was united to Louis Philippe's youngest son, the duke of Montpensier (Oct. 10, 1846). The result was a coolness between France and England till the revolution of 1848; and at one time there was even an alarm of a French invasion.

Meanwhile the government of lord John Russell pursued sir Robert Peel's commercial policy in their settlement of the sugar duties (1847) and of the navigation laws (1849); but the course of prosperity soon received a severe check. In 1847 a bad season and a failure of the potato-crop produced a famine in Ireland and great distress in England. A loan of 10,000,0001. was voted for the relief of the Irish ; but they found a more effectual refuge in emigration ; and, while they began to prosper in America and the colonies, their removal, together with the sale of encumbered estates by a court established by parliament, opened the way for a new race of owners and cultivators and for the influx of capital. A new era of prosperity began with the famine of 1847; but it is already overclouded by the renewal of those agrarian murders which have been a greater curse to Ireland than Celtic indolence, Saxon tyranny, priestly domination or even professional agitators (1862).

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 bis

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 Exhibito and the second was opened on May 1, 1862. Owing to a F

with lord Palmerston, the ministry of lord John Russell fell in 1852; and the earl of DERBY (formerly lord Stanley, b. 1799), on acceding to power, with Mr. Disraeli, renounced the policy of protection. In the autumn of this year the duke of Wellington died (Sept.), and was laid by the side of Nelson in St. Paul's (Nov. 18, 1852). By a strange coincidence the dynasty of Napoleon was restored in France just after his conqueror's death. CHARLES LOUIS BONAPARTE, son of Louis Bonaparte king of Holland, and Hortense Beauharnais, having been elected president of the French republic in 1849, overthrew the constitution by a coup d'état (Dec. 2, 1851), was elected emperor of the French by the modern invention of universal suffrage, and proclaimed by the title of NAPOLEON III. (Dec. 2, 1852). Before Christmas the government of lord Derby were defeated on Mr. Disraeli's budget, and a coalition ministry was formed from the friends of sir Robert Peel, the Whigs, and the Radicals, with the earl of ABERDEEN as premier. Mr. WILLIAM EWART GLADSTONE (b. 1809), as chancellor of the exchequer, produced his memorable budget of 1853, on the principles of sir Robert Peel; but some of his calculations were deranged by the war with Russia in defence of Turkey, which broke out early in 1854. The events of that war, and of the INDIAN MUTINY of 1857, which led to the transference of India from the Company to the imperial government, are too recent to need relation here; nor have we thought it necessary to give the details of the Indian wars since 1840 or of those by which China has been brought into commercial intercourse with Europe, The year 1859 witnessed the conquest of Lombardy from Austria by the united arms of France and Sardinia, followed by the wonderful enterprise of Garibaldi in Naples, which made Victor Emmanuel king of all Italy, except Rome and the Venetian territory (1860).

During the period thus glanced at, the country has been governed by viscount PALMERSTON, who was called to power on the fall of lord Aberdeen (1855), and has since remained premier, with the short interruption of lord Derby's second government (1858-1859). On the verge of fourscore, he is still, in cheerful vigour, “our youthful premier." Lord John Russell, called to the House of Peers as EARL RUSSELI, is foreign secretary. The last achievement of this ministry has been the completion, by Mr. Gladstone, of sir Robert Peel's great scheme of free trade, by means of the budgets of 1860 and 1861, and the commercial treaty with France negociated by Mr. Cobden. Nor must we omit from this brief review of the last decade, the revival of a military spirit, “not for defiance, but defence,” which has called 150,000 citizens to arms as volunteers, while the resources of science are taxed to the utmost in the competition between guns such as Milton's angels fought with, and

« AnteriorContinuar »