History of England, Part III, William and Mary to 1887

Tout, T. F. --Powell, F. York

1898

BOOK X. 1820-1887INTRODUCTION.

THE two strongest political forces of the nineteenth century are Nationality and Democracy.

After the Holy Alliance was formed by the restored despots of Europe, to protect themselves against these two great principles upheld by the Liberals of the Continent. The chief event of the history of the century is the gradual triumph of the national and popular cause.

At first Nationality and Democracy were closely bound together, and suspected of leading to revolution, infidelity, and anarchy. The Liberal movements of and failed because of this combination.

Sensible men gradually came to see that the first principle to be asserted was that of Nationality. When the national cause was no longer revolutionary, strong kings were found to put themselves at the head of it. The house of Savoy now set up a united Italy, and the house of Brandenburg a united Germany. England, France, and Russia were already nations as well as states. At last the house of Austria did what it could in this direction, by giving self- government to some of the many nations of which its empire is composed. The national principle has even spread to the Balkan Peninsula as the only way of solving the problems presented by the decay of Turkey. But the new national states became for the most part strong centralised monarchies, though with enough of a popular and constitutional element about them to show their origin. But the settlement of the form of government now became a home question for each.

In England there was little need to vindicate the national principle; and from the time of England's general

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[1] 
sympathy and influence has been with the national cause on the Continent.

England was therefore free for the other great principle to work itself out. The history of England since has been the history of the growth of popular power, of the growth of democracy.

The movement began with the establishment of religious and commercial freedom by the liberal Tories under The next step was the Reform Bill of , and the long train of measures which followed it. The popular movement hardly stopped when the Whigs lost power, through their inability to govern. The new Conservatism of established free trade and cheapened the food of the people; but in its struggle with vested interests his party split itself up ().

For the next twenty years there is a perceptible slackening in the growth of the popular cause, though much was done to improve the people's condition and make it fit to exercise the power it was soon to enjoy.

The death of Lord () marks the beginning of a new forward movement. Under the leadership of a whole series of sweeping reforms was brought about by the Liberals. The Conservatives, reorganised and inspired with new ideals by , were now hardly less democratic than their rivals. The Reform Bill of was passed by . The Reform Bill of , which made England a democracy, was carried by an agreement between both the great parties.

Political changes were not enough now. Men began to expect more from the State, and to desire great economical and social changes as well. These were just beginning to be accomplished, when the old parties were broken up by the adoption in by the Liberal leader of the Irish programme. The first act of power of the enfranchised democracy was to vindicate the unity of the empire, which, rightly or wrongly, it believed to be in danger. But this marks a new starting-point, and history must cease where present controversy rages.

England's progress in the nineteenth century has not been merely political. Her wealth, commerce, and manufactures have grown enormously. Her command of the world's trade has become more complete, though now more than threatened.

England's moral progress has even been greater than her material growth. Men have ceased to be satisfied with the

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complacent contemplation of material prosperity, and earnest efforts have been made to make England better, wiser, and happier. There has been progress, though not perhaps uninterrupted progress, in religion, morality, earnestness, and intelligence. A new way of looking at things has grown up which is sympathetic of the past, though not neglectful of the present. But much still remains to be done before we can feel real satisfaction.

 
 
Footnotes:

[1] [1820-1887.]

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