The year 1839 will be always memorable for the establishment of the system of a uniform penny postage, one of those great reforms distinguishing the age in which we live, which are fraught with vast social changes, and are destined to fructify throughout all time with social benefits to the human race. To one mind pre-eminently the British Empire is indebted for the penny postage. We are now so familiar with its advantages, and its reasonableness seems so obvious, that it is not easy to comprehend the difficulties with which Sir Rowland Hill had to contend in convincing the authorities and the public of the wisdom and feasibility of his plan. Mr. Rowland Hill had written a pamphlet on Post Office Reform in 1837. It took for its starting-point the fact that whereas the postal revenue showed for the past twenty years a positive though slight diminution, it ought to have shown an increase of ￡507,700 a year, in order to have simply kept pace with the growth of population, and an increase of nearly four times that amount in order to have kept pace with the growth of the analogous though far less exorbitant duties imposed on stage coaches. The population in 1815 was 19,552,000; in 1835 it had increased to 25,605,000. The net revenue arising from the Post Office in 1815 was ￡1,557,291; in 1835 it had decreased to ￡1,540,300. At this period the rate of postage actually imposed (beyond the limits of the London District Office) varied from fourpence to one and eightpence for a single letter, which was interpreted to mean a single piece of paper, not exceeding an ounce in weight. A second piece of paper or any other enclosure, however small, constituted a double letter. A single sheet of paper, if it at all exceeded an ounce in weight, was charged with fourfold postage. The average charge on inland general post letters was nearly ninepence for each letter. In London the letter-boxes were only open from eight in the morning to seven p.m., and a letter written after that hour on Friday did not reach Uxbridge earlier than Tuesday morning.
As the woollen manufactures of Ireland had received a check from the selfishness of the English manufacturers, it was sought to compensate the Protestants of Ulster by encouraging the linen manufacture there, which the English did not value so much as their woollen. A Board was established in Dublin in 1711, and one also in Scotland in 1727, for the purpose of superintending the trade, and bounties and premiums on exportation were offered. In these favourable circumstances the trade rapidly grew, both in Ireland and Scotland. In 1750 seven and a half million yards of linen were annually woven in Scotland alone.
Painting, like architecture, was at a very low ebb during this period, with one or two brilliant exceptions. Foreign artists were in demand, and there was no native talent, except that of Thornhill and Hogarth, which could claim to be unjustly overlooked in that preference. Sir Peter Lely was still living, but Sir Godfrey Kneller, another foreigner, was already taking his place. Kneller was a German, born at Lübeck, and educated under the best Flemish masters of the day. As he had chosen portrait-painting as his department, he hastened over to England after a visit to Rome and Venice, as the most profitable field for his practice, and being introduced to Charles II. by the Duke of Monmouth, he became at once the fashion. Kneller had talents of the highest order, and, had not his passion for money-making been still greater, he would have taken rank with the great masters; but, having painted a few truly fine pictures, he relied on them to secure his fame, and commenced an actual manufacture of portraits for the accumulation of money. Like Rubens, he sketched out the main figure, and painted the head and face, leaving his pupils to fill in all the rest. He worked with wonderful rapidity, and had figures often prepared beforehand, on which he fitted heads as they were commissioned. Sir John Medina, a Fleming, was the chief manufacturer of ready-made figures and postures for him, the rest filled in the draperies and backgrounds. Kneller had a bold, free, and vigorous hand, painting with wonderful rapidity, and much of the grace of Vandyck, but only a few of his works show what he was capable of. The beauties of the Court of William and Mary, which may be seen side by side with those of the Court of Charles II. by Lely at Hampton Court, are far inferior to Lely's.
This was a thunderstroke to Newcastle—Legge, who had been so pliant, thus to rebel. Newcastle, in his consternation, hastened to Pitt, imploring him to use his influence with Legge, and promising him the Seals as Secretary, engaging to remove all prejudice from the king's mind. But not only Pitt, but the public, had been long asking whether, in these critical times, everything was to be sacrificed for the sake of this old grasping jobber at the Treasury? whether Newcastle was to endanger the whole nation by keeping out of office all men of talent? Pitt stood firm: no offers, no temptations, could move him. Newcastle, finding Pitt unmanageable, flew to Fox, who accepted the Seals on condition of having proper powers conceded to him, and agreed to support the treaties, against which he had been equally as violent as Pitt, having just before said to Dodington, "I am surprised you are not against all subsidies." Robinson was consoled with a pension of two thousand pounds a year and the post of Master of the Wardrobe. The king had returned from Hanover, and Fox was not to receive the Seals till two days after the meeting of Parliament, so that he might keep his place and support the Address. By his accession to office he changed the violence of the opposition of the Duke of Bedford, and brought the support of the Russells to the Ministry. This strength, however, did not prevent the certainty of a breakup of the Cabinet. Pitt was now arrayed against his former colleagues.
In the report prepared by the League it was stated that during a very considerable portion of the year there were employed in the printing, and making up of the electoral packets of tracts, upwards of 300 persons, while more than 500 other persons were employed in distributing them from house to house among the constituencies. To the Parliamentary electors alone of England and Scotland there had been distributed in this manner, of tracts and stamped publications, five millions. Besides these, there had been a large general distribution among the working classes and others, who are not electors, to the number of 3,600,000. In addition, 426,000 tracts had been stitched up with the monthly magazines and other periodicals, thus making altogether the whole number of tracts and stamped publications issued by the council during the year to amount to upwards of nine millions, or in weight more than one hundred tons. The distribution had been made in twenty-four counties containing about 237,000 electors, and in 187 boroughs containing 259,226 electors, making in boroughs and counties together the whole number of electors supplied 496,226. The labours of the lecturers employed during the year had been spread over fifty-nine counties in England, Wales, and Scotland, and they had delivered about 650 lectures during the year. A large number of meetings had been held during the year in the cities and boroughs, which had been attended by deputations of members of the council, exclusive of the metropolis. One hundred and forty towns had been thus visited, many of them twice and three times; and the report further stated that such had been the feeling existing in all parts of the kingdom that there was scarcely a town which had not urged its claim to be visited by a deputation from the council of the League.
The chief governor of Ireland, at that time, was no timid civilian. He was a brave and distinguished soldier—a man of chivalrous honour himself, and therefore not prone to entertain doubts injurious to the honour of the profession of which he was an ornament. But Lord Anglesey was also capable of estimating the force of popular contagious influences on military discipline and fidelity in an extraordinary national crisis; and he was so alarmed at the state of things developed by the Clare election, that he wrote confidentially to Mr. Peel, cautioning him against supposing that Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, from vexation and disappointment, should exaggerate the danger of the crisis, and telling him that he would send Major Warburton on a secret mission, known only to his private secretary, to explain to the Government in London the state of affairs. Major Warburton, a very intelligent and trustworthy officer, was at the head of the constabulary, and commanded the force at Clare during the election. He testified, as the result of his observation there, that, even in the constabulary and the army, the sympathies of a common cause, political and religious, could not be altogether repressed, and that implicit reliance could not long be placed on the effect of discipline and the duty of obedience. On the 20th of July Lord Anglesey wrote as follows:—"We hear occasionally of the Catholic soldiers being ill-disposed, and entirely under the influence of the priests. One regiment of infantry is said to be divided into Orange and Catholic factions. It is certain that, on the 12th of July, the guard at the Castle had Orange lilies about them." On the 26th of July the Viceroy wrote another letter, from which the following is an extract:—"The priests are using very inflammatory language, and are certainly working upon the Catholics of the army. I think it important that the dep?ts of Irish recruits should be gradually removed, under the appearance of being required to join their regiments, and that whatever regiments are sent here should be those of Scotland, or, at all events, of men not recruited from the south of Ireland. I desired Sir John Byng to convey this opinion to Lord Hill."The calculations of no political party had ever been more completely falsified than those of the Jacobites and their congeners the Tories on the death of the queen. They had relied on the fact that the House of Hanover was regarded with dislike as successors to the throne of England by all the Catholic Powers of Europe, on account of their Protestantism, and many of the Protestant Powers from jealousy; and reckoned that, whilst France would be disposed to support the claims of the Pretender, there were no Continental countries which would support those of Hanover, except Holland and the new kingdom of Prussia, neither of which gave them much alarm. Prussia was but a minor Power, not capable of furnishing much aid to a contest in England. Holland had been too much exhausted by a long war to be willing to engage in another, except for a cause which vitally concerned itself. In England, the Tories being in power, and Bolingbroke earnest in the interest of the Pretender, the Duke of Ormonde at the head of the army, there appeared to the minds of the Jacobites nothing to fear but the too early demise of the queen, which might find their plans yet unmatured. To this they, in fact, attributed their failure; but we may very confidently assert that, even had Anne lived as long as they desired her, there was one element omitted in their calculations which would have overthrown all their attempts—the invincible antipathy to Popery in the heart of the nation, which the steadfast temper of the Pretender showed must inevitably come back with him to renew all the old struggles. The event of the queen's death discovered, too, the comparative weakness of the Tory faction, the strength and activity of the Whigs. The king showing no haste to arrive, gave ample opportunity to the Jacobites—had they been in any degree prepared, as they ought to have been, after so many years, for this great crisis—to introduce the Pretender and rally round his standard. But whilst George I. lingered, no Stuart appeared; and the Whigs had taken such careful and energetic precautions, that without him every attempt must only have brought destruction on the movers. The measures of Shrewsbury were complete. The way by sea was secured for the Protestant king, and the Regency Act provided for the security of every department of Government at home.[See larger version]
Encouraged by language like this from Ministers of the Crown, the voice of the nation became louder and more menacing every day. Meetings, attended by vast multitudes of angry and determined men, were held in Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and most of the large towns, especially where the democratic element was predominant. The worst and most destructive of the riots was at Bristol. The recorder of Bristol was Sir Charles Wetherell, noted for his vehemence in opposing Reform. Considering the excitement and desperation that had been recently exhibited throughout the kingdom, it was scarcely prudent for Sir Charles Wetherell to appear in Bristol at all on that occasion. At all events, he should have entered the city privately, and discharged the duties of his office as quietly as possible. Instead of that, he made a public and pompous entry into the city on the 20th of October, accompanied by the magistrates and a cavalcade of the Tory gentry. This offensive pageant was naturally followed by a mob of disorderly characters, hissing and groaning. They soon began to throw stones and brickbats, especially when the respectable citizens at the commercial rooms received their polemical recorder with three cheers. The mansion-house was assailed with a shower of missiles. The mayor having called upon them in vain to retire, the Riot Act was read, but the military were not called out to enforce it. Instead of dispersing, the mob overpowered the constables and drove them back, forced open the doors of the mansion-house, smashed the furniture, and armed themselves with the iron rails which they tore up from the front of the building. Sir Charles Wetherell and the magistrates providentially escaped by a back door, and the recorder made an undignified retreat from the city. The military were at length called out, and after some time the disturbance seemed to be quelled, and the dragoons, who had been much fatigued, retired for the night. Bristol, it is said, has always been distinguished for a bad mob. On the next day the rioters proceeded to the mansion-house, broke open its cellars, and regaled themselves with the contents. The military were again brought out to quell the now intoxicated rioters; but there was no magistrate there to give orders, and the troops were marched back to the barracks. The mob then proceeded in detached parties, each having a work of destruction assigned to it. One party went to the bridewell, broke open the doors, liberated the prisoners, and then set the building on fire. Another went to the new gaol and performed a similar operation there. The Gloucester county prison was next broken open and consigned to the flames. The principal toll-houses about the city shared the same fate. The bishop's palace was pillaged and burned to the ground. Becoming more maddened as they proceeded, their passions raging more furiously at the sight of the conflagration as it spread, the mob resolved that no public building should be left standing. The mansion-house, the custom-house, the excise office, and other public buildings were wrapt in flames, which were seen bursting forth with awful rapidity on every side. The blackened and smoking walls of buildings already burned were falling frequently with terrific crashing, while Queen's Square and the adjoining streets were filled with a maniacal multitude, yelling in triumph and reeling with intoxication; many of them lying senseless on the pavement, and not a few consumed in the fires which they had raised. In addition to the public buildings, forty-two dwelling-houses and warehouses were burned. The loss of property was estimated at half a million sterling. This work of destruction was commenced on Sunday, and carried on during the night. The sky was reddened with the conflagration, while the military (who had been sent into the country to avoid irritating the people) and the paralysed authorities looked on helplessly from a distance at the progress of destruction. On Monday morning, however, they recovered from their consternation, and resolved to make an effort to save the city. The magistrates ordered the military to act, and under the command of an officer of the 14th, the dragoons charged the rioters in earnest. A panic now seized the mob, who fled in terror before the flashing swords of the troops and the trampling hoofs of their horses, some of them so terror-stricken that they rushed for safety into burning houses. The number of persons killed and wounded during this terrible business was ascertained to be 110, and it is supposed that many more that were never heard of lost their lives in the burning houses. The ringleaders were tried in December, when many persons were convicted, of whom three underwent the punishment of death.
THE JUMMA MUSJID, DELHI. (From a Photograph by Frith & Co.)
[See larger version]In the House of Commons, too, the Speaker, Sir John Cust, was removed by death at the same moment, and Sir Fletcher Norton was elected in his place. On the 22nd of January, the same day that Sir Fletcher Norton was made Speaker of the House of Commons, the Marquis of Rockingham moved in the Lords for an inquiry into the state of the nation. The crumbling down of the Cabinet continued. James Grenville resigned; Dunning, the Solicitor-General, and General Conway, followed; and on the very day of Lord Rockingham's motion, the Duke of Grafton himself laid down the Seals. The whole of his administration had thus vanished, like a mere fog ministry, at the first reappearance of the luminary, Chatham.
CARLTON HOUSE, LONDON (1780).The year 1804 opened by an announcement that his Majesty was suffering under a return of his old malady. On the 14th of February an official bulletin was issued at St. James's Palace, informing the public of the royal indisposition; and the repetition of it from day to day, without specifying the nature of the illness, left no doubt of its real character. Still, on the 29th, Addington assured the House that there was no necessary suspension of the royal functions, and the bulletins grew more favourable; but it was well known that he was not really in a condition to transact business till the following September, though at times, as on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of May, he drove about in public, in company with the queen and princesses. Probably his advisers thought that the hearty cheers with which he was received might have a bracing effect on his mind, which had been cruelly harassed by the separation of the Prince of Wales from his wife, the king's niece, amid grave public scandals. Such a circumstance was exactly calculated to throw the royal mind off the balance; but besides this, the unsatisfactory state of his Cabinet and of parties in Parliament was such as greatly to aggravate his anxiety.详情
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