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

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


CHAPTER I: George IV, 1820-1830

1. [1] The Regent became King , and the Tory Government went on as before. On 23d February the ministers dined together at Lord Harrowby's, in Grosvenor Square. Arthur urged some desperate Radicals, who met in a loft in Cato Street, Edgware Road, to plot their destruction.

"There will be,"

said he,

"fourteen or sixteen there, and it will be a rare haul to murder them all together."

But a comrade laid bare their plans to Lord . The leaders were seized and brought to trial. and five others were executed. In April a Radical riot was attempted at Glasgow, but failed, though a regular fight broke out between a cavalry troop and some armed revolutionists at Bonnymuir. Both attempts showed the hopelessness of really putting down agitation and the unpopularity of the new king and his ministers.

2. [2] In had married of Brunswick, to please his father and to get his debts paid. They soon quarrelled and were separated. Since she had lived abroad; but now she came back to England and demanded to be acknowledged as queen. The ministers, prompted by , tried to treat with her and failed. would not let her be prayed for in church, and forced Lord Liverpool to bring forward in the Lords a bill to dissolve the marriage on the ground of her misconduct. The evidence showed that she had certainly been giddy and foolish, and very likely wicked. But public feeling rose high that so bad a husband as should complain of his wife's conduct. The Opposition took up her


cause. went out of office rather than act against her. , the most prominent Whig lawyer, became her attorney-general. Even , who

"feared she had been very profligate, could not help admiring her spirit."

Her house was always surrounded by a

"most shabby assemblage,"

that cheered the

" stout lady in a large hat and feathers,"

who bowed from the window. So strong was the feeling that the ministers dropped their bill after it had passed its third reading in the Lords by a majority of only nine. The queen's popularity now waned. People began to see how unworthy she was. She failed in an undignified attempt to get admission to 's gorgeous and wasteful coronation ceremonies. The mob hissed her, and, wearied with the struggle, she went home to die. A last wave of enthusiasm for her caused a bloody riot when her body was being conveyed through London on its way to its burial-place in Germany. On her coffin she had ordered to be written:

"Here lies


, the injured Queen of England."

was delighted at his wife's death, which he learnt when on his way to Dublin,

" eating goose-pie, and drinking whisky so abundantly that when he arrived he was in the last stage of intoxication."

He made in that state a mad speech in which he said

"rank, station, and honours were nothing, but to feel that I live in the hearts of my Irish subjects is exalted happiness."

He was wonderfully well received, and the port from which he sailed was called Kingstown in his honour. He was equally welcomed in Hanover, and next year was even more successful in a visit to Scotland, Sir taking a leading share in his reception. But his behaviour,

"like a popular candidate on an electioneering trip,"

disgusted right-thinking men. He soon shut himself up in

"the Cottage,"

or in his favourite Brighton Pavilion, a peevish, whimsical, prematurely old, thoroughly selfish recluse, with failing health, and few friends save his favourite Lady Conyngham and her greedy family, and his Keeper of the Privy Purse, Sir William Knighton, of whom he was afraid.

3. [3] 

"The Government,"

complained Lord ,

"is in a very strange and precarious state."

" Never,"

says an enemy,

" was anything so low and wretched as the Treasury Bench. It can only go on from the determination there is not to take the Whigs."

But many of the abler Tories were also outside the ministry, which represented only the reactionary elements of the party, such as (now Lord , by his


father's death), , and . There was also a very influential and brilliant body of liberal Tories, who boasted, with , to be the followers of , and

" since his death had acknowledged no other leader."

The death of the old king set them free from their last scruple about raising the Catholic question. On some subjects-for example, trade-they were more advanced than the regular Whig opposition, from whom they only differed by their hatred of Parliamentary Reform, which thought

"could not be raised without stirring the constitution to its very foundations,"

and because

"the House of Commons as constituted is adequate to all its functions, and showy theories and fanciful schemes of arithmetical or geometrical proportion would produce no amelioration."

The Whigs were now led by Earl Grey (formerly Lord Howick), the earnest and consistent advocate of reform, a man of

"elevated head, dignified, and gentle demeanour, and placid look, ready to become animated if any subject of interest arose."

In the Commons the amiable Ponsonby had been succeeded as leader by the accomplished Tierney. But the violent and versatile Henry had now pushed himself into great reputation.

" Besides his almost childish gaiety and animal spirits,"

says Greville,

"the facility with which he handles every subject, displaying a mind full of varied and extensive information, and a memory which has suffered nothing to escape it, I never saw any man whose conversation so impressed me. As Rogers said, when he went,

'This morning Solon, Lycurgus, Demosthenes, Archimedes, Newton, and Chesterfield, and a great many more, rolled away in one postchaise."'

Lord , after , had gradually drifted away from Grey, and tried to make a fourth party out of his little band of kinsfolk, including the Marquis of Buckingham, Sir Watkin Wynn, and his brother Charles Wynn.

4. [4] The Ministry had to strengthen itself or perish. It gave the Home Secretaryship-from which retired-to the only rising man of ability among the old Tories, (son of Sir Robert Peel, the rich manufacturer, great admirer of ), who had already become famous as Chairman of the Bullion Committee, which in had procured the resumption of cash payments by the Bank of England. It next won over the Grenvillites, and offered , whom the king would not hear of as a minister, the Governor-Generalship of . was


just setting out when, on 12th August , cut his throat in a fit of depression.



's talents were great,"

said Greville,

"though he, perhaps, owed his authority more to his character than his abilities. His appearance was dignified and imposing; he was affable and agreeable in society. His great feature was cool and determined courage. As a speaker he was prolix, monotonous, and never eloquent; but full of good sense and argument. He was considered one of the best managers of the House of Commons that ever sat in it. He was a great loss to his party; to his country, I think, he is none."

's suicide was the deathblow of old Toryism. The king was now forced to receive as Foreign Secretary and leader of the House of Commons. His friend, , became President of the Board of Trade, and Frederick Robinson (son of Lord Grantham, and a descendant of Sir Thomas Robinson, the would-be rival of and in )was made Chancellor of the Exchequer. (), Viscount in the Irish peerage, was Secretary-at-War. The Marquis Wellesley, 's elder brother, and famous many years before as Governor-General of , was already Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and Lord Liverpool was not strong enough to stand up against , who, though hated by the old Tories, was practically Prime Minister. A series of great administrative and practical reforms now succeeded the old policy of repression. shook England free of the Holy Alliance; prepared the way for free trade; reformed the criminal law.

5. [5] Revolutions were breaking out everywhere abroad. The Spanish colonies of South America were in full revolt from the narrow and oppressive rule of the mother country. In Spain itself the army rose and forced to accept a constitution. Portugal, angry at its king's continuing in Brazil, followed its neighbour's example. Naples, excited by the secret societies of Carbonari (charcoal-burners), also demanded the Spanish Constitution. The despots of the Holy Alliance met together in conference at Troppau and Laibach, and resolved that

"useful or necessary changes in legislation and in the administration of States ought only to spring from the free-will and weighed conviction of those whom God has rendered responsible for power,"

that is, from the kings alone. So they sent Austrian troops to restore despotism


in Naples, and before long a French army abolished the Constitution of Spain.

had in public declared that the system of the Alliance

" was in direct repugnance to the fundamental laws of England,"

but in private he had told Metternich and Nesselrode that England would not interfere with them. He was just going off to another congress at Verona, when he slew himself. It was 's first work to draw a deep gulf between the policy of England and that of the Alliance. He sent to Verona, with

"frank and peremptory declarations against any interference in Spain,"

and warmly protested when a hundred thousand Frenchmen poured over the Pyrenees

" to save Spain for a descendant of Henry IV. and from ruin."

In revenge he recognised the struggling republics of South America, for whom the gallant and unfortunate was now fighting.

"I resolved,"

he proudly boasted,

"that if France had Spain, it should not be Spain with the Indies. I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old."

John VI. of Portugal went back to Lisbon, and joined the Constitutionalists. But Dom Pedro, his eldest son, now became the of a free Brazil. Dom , John's second son, put himself at the head of an absolutist reaction in Portugal (). persuaded the king to recognise Brazilian independence.

" But,"

complained ,

"the ink with which this agreement was written was scarcely dry when the unexpected death of the King of Portugal reunited the two crowns"

(). Dom Pedro resigned Portugal to his seven-year-old daughter Maria, and stayed in Brazil. But Dom revolted against the regency of his sister Isabella, and absolutist Spain began a war

"in hatred of the new institutions of Portugal,"

in favour of the would-be despot. resolved to interfere.

"On Saturday,"

he told the Commons,

"the Cabinet came to a decision. On Sunday that decision received the sanction of his Majesty. On Monday it was communicated to Parliament, and on this Tuesday the troops are on their march for embarkation."

The Spaniards now withdrew from Portugal, and 's vigour secured for the time the throne of the little queen.

The Greeks had risen in revolt against the hateful tyranny of the Turks, and all that was generous and enthusiastic in Europe wished heartily for their success. forsook his life of idleness and selfishness in Italy to die for Greek liberty amidst the fever-stricken swamps of Missolonghi,


and was busy in organising a Greek navy. fully sympathised with them. The generous but weak-willed of Russia died in , and his successor, the strong and autocratic Nicholas, had less zeal for the Hellenic cause, but more desire for Russian aggrandisement. About the same time Mehemet Ali, Pasha of Egypt, sent his son Ibrahim Pasha with a well-drilled army to help his suzerain the Sultan. In despair the Greeks implored the protection of England, and signed on 6th July the Treaty of London, by which England and Russia pledged themselves to offer their mediation, and insist on a truce. Vague orders were sent to Sir Edward Codrington, who commanded the Mediterranean fleet, and he was told that if necessary he might enforce the armistice by cannon shot,

"although the measure is not to be adopted in a hostile spirit."

Ibrahim Pasha had just been joined by an Egyptian squadron, now anchored in the bay of Navarino, the ancient Pylos. Codrington was now joined by the Russian and French squadrons, and persuaded Ibrahim to accept a truce of twenty days. But the Pasha, furious on hearing that 's wild followers had attacked Patras, wreaked horrible barbarities in the Morea. On 20th October the three squadrons sailed into Navarino bay to enforce the truce, and, almost by chance, the Turks fired on an English ship's boat, and brought about a general action. The Turkish fleet was altogether destroyed.

" Out of a fleet of 60 men-of-war,"

wrote Codrington,

"there remained only one frigate and fifteen smaller vessels in a state ever to be again put to sea."

But was already in his grave. He had restored England's reputation abroad as the friend of freedom and of national rights, and had proclaimed the principle of the non-intervention of one nation in the internal affairs of another against the combined policy of the Holy Alliance.

6. [6]  was now Home Secretary, and though an enemy of all changes in the constitution, he was a first-rate practical man of business. For many years the virtuous Romilly had laid bare the abuses of the Criminal Law. Men could be hanged for over two hundred offences, including breaking down the head of a fish-pond, being found on the highway with a blackened face, injuring Westminster Bridge, or personating out-pensioners of Greenwich Hospital. But juries refused to convict and judges to sentence criminals to


such a monstrous punishment, so that many went scot free. Yet and the old Tories upheld the system, and Romilly had found it hard to pass bills which made it no longer capital to pick pockets or steal linen from a bleaching-ground. On his death the accomplished Sir James proposed more sweeping measures; but it was not until , when took up the question, that five statutes exempting from capital punishment about a hundred felonies passed with hardly any opposition. also reformed the unequal and oppressive marriage laws, and in consolidated much of the criminal law with great success.

Robinson, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a weak man, but he was guided by , a

" tall, slouching, ignoble-looking man, agreeable, unassuming, slow in speech, and with a downcast look, with no pretensions to eloquence, though luminous on his own subject,"

than whom

"there was no man so well versed in finance, commerce, trade and colonial matters."

Under his auspices a revolution in trade and finance was carried out. Robinson brought the finances into order, got rid of the delusive old Sinking Fund, reduced the interest of the war debt (much of which had been borrowed at 4 and 5 per cent.), gave a death-blow to the bounty system, and lowered a large number of war duties. For several years there was great prosperity, but in a severe Commercial Crisis revived the memories of and . Robinson still talked of our progress, and laughed at him as To meet the evil, the Government allowed joint stock banks to be established, and abolished bank notes under £ 5. But in his pungent Sir Walter raised almost as great a storm in Scotland against the latter measure as had excited in Ireland against Wood's Halfpence, and the Government gave way, so that Scotland still has £ 1 notes. The crisis brought about 's ruin, from rash and unlucky speculations.

[7] The Navigation Acts had long been justly regarded as the pillars of our naval supremacy; but they were no longer necessary, and had always cost a great deal. The United States had retaliated by adopting our policy, so that because England would not let their ships trade freely with England, they refused to allow our ships to trade freely with America. The result was that vessels of both nations made half their voyages in ballast. Continental nations, led by Prussia, now followed the same


policy. To avoid a long conflict of duties and difficulties, carried an Act which allowed the Crown to make treaties with foreign nations to admit their ships into our harbours in return for equal privileges to English traders. He thus laid down the doctrine of Reciprocity. The large reductions on duties which gave new life to the woollen and silk trades were an important step towards Free Trade. The repeal of the Combination Acts allowed workmen to form trades' unions, to bargain on fair terms with their masters for wages. But the hostility of the workmen and of 's party prevented the repeal of the Spitalfields Act, which gave power to the magistrates to fix the wages of the East End silk-weavers. David , perhaps the greatest intellect among English political economists, sat in Parliament for Portarlington, and the schemes of flowed largely from his teaching, but he died in before many were carried out. The Radical did a very useful work in looking into details and urging economy.

7. [8] 

"The language of the Tory party,"

said a close observer,

"is now universal and undisguised abuse of




wrote Charles Wynn,

"is indifferent to everything but repose, and seeks by any temporising measure to delay the evil hour of rupture and collision."

" The Cabinet,"

sneered ,

"resembled the chequered keys of a harpsichord, alternately black and white, down the whole line."

At the general election of , the Canningite , though Secretary-at-War, was opposed by his


(foe of Catholic emancipation) colleague Goulburn, for Cambridge University, and vented his spleen by denouncing the

" stupid old Tory party that thwarted the Government,"

and called the Premier

"a spoony,"

the Chancellor

" an old woman,"

and wondered why the

"fresh-minded and enlightened"


"run in such a pack."

On 17th February Liverpool was smitten with apoplexy, and the crisis came. was now forced to

" swallow a bitter pill and send for



, , , and the rest of the old Tories threw up their offices. But managed to form a ministry with the strong support of his faithful little band of followers; though the king made him take as Chancellor his foe Copley, a brilliant and astute lawyer (who now became Lord Lyndhurst), and also prevented receiving a higher office. Court favour was, however, sought by reviving the office of Lord High Admiral, and giving it to the , now become, by the Duke of York's


death, heir to the throne. A little later, the great Whig Lord Lansdowne (Lord Henry Petty), and Tierney, the Whig leader, entered the Cabinet.

The new Government received a damaging defeat on the corn question. But 's health was now breaking up.

" He felt,"

he told the king,

" as if every limb was alive like an eel, and lay all night as broad awake as if it were midday."

He struggled on bravely for a while, but on 8th August he died, in the very same room of the Duke of Devonshire's house at Chiswick in which Charles had breathed his last.

" He was,"

said even the Radical ,

"a genius, almost a universal one, an orator, a wit, a poet, and a statesman."

He had been attacked for ambition and want of seriousness.

"When he is serious,"

said an opponent,

"he is like Samson in a wig. Call him the conductor of the affairs of a great nation, and it seems as absurd as if a butterfly were to teach bees to make honey."

But his flippancy was always in his talk rather than in his mind, thus hiding from careless eyes his real depth of feeling and strength of purpose. In his later years he nobly redeemed the mistakes of his earlier life, and his death removed England's greatest statesman.

8. [9] 's death broke up the ministry. The king made Lord Goderich (

"Prosperity Robinson"

) Prime Minister, and took the Colonial Office and the leadership of the Commons. But again refused to have at the Exchequer, and forced in his place the common-place high-Tory Herries. This provoked violent quarrels inside the Cabinet, and the news of Navarino found them wretchedly divided. At last

"Goody Goderich"

(so the weak minister was nick- named) went to the king in despair, and told him to

" go home and take care of himself."

" Goderich began to cry, and his Majesty offered him his handkerchief."

9. [10]  now formed a ministry, in which was Home Secretary, and Lyndhurst Chancellor. To the disgust of 's widow and friends, , , Grant, and agreed to stop on, and the Catholic question was, as before, made an open one.

"Any ministry,"

declared the bigoted Duke of ,

"which excludes Lord


and includes Mr.


cannot gain my confidence."

But the two elements could not hold together, and was very angry when told the electors that he had

"positive pledges that his Grace would tread in


all respects in the footsteps of Mr.



In February Lord John carried the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, which, though for a century never carried out, still delighted the bigots by their presence in the statutebook. The Canningites voted with the Whigs, and to avoid defeat proposed a compromise that all parties accepted.

On 19th May again voted against his colleagues for giving to Birmingham the seats of corrupt and disfranchised East Retford. He went home and wrote in a pet to the Duke

"to afford him an opportunity of placing his office in other hands."

took him at his word, and filled up his place. , , Grant, and Dudley went out with him. The ministry was now purely Tory, if not purely

" Protestant."

It was so strong that was able to turn out the Lord High Admiral, who had set every one by the ears by his meddlesome incompetence and eccentricity.

10. [11] The Catholic question now came to a crisis. The Irish Catholics had hoped that 's Union would free them from the rule of the Protestant minority, and prepare the way for their admission to Parliament and office. But the bigotry and obstinacy of had put off Catholic emancipation, and Dublin Castle was still practically controlled by the Orange faction. So the Union proved a severe disappointment to them. The wretched land system left the condition of the rapidly increasing millions of poor Irishmen as miserable as ever, and outrages, cattle-houghing, and murders went on worse than before. After the followers of were free to raise the Catholic question again, and from onwards Catholic emancipation was an

"open question"

in every ministry. It was upheld by as well as , and the eloquent now pleaded for it in the united Parliament. , , and the high Tories led the opposition. Yet several times the Commons passed Catholic relief bills, which were thrown out by the Lords. The Marquess Wellesley, 's elder brother, had been sent to Ireland in as a Liberal Lord-Lieutenant, but his idleness and pompous Eastern ways made him quite unfitted for the post, and even laughed when he believed that a riot at a theatre in which a quart bottle was thrown at his box was a deliberate attempt to murder him. But Wellesley had the courage to quarrel with the Orange faction, though all his liberality would not conciliate the Catholics.

In the Catholic Association was formed, and col lected a Catholic rent. The founder was Daniel , the greatest and most national of Irish agitators, a Catholic, a Celt, a country gentleman of large property and good family, the first man at the Irish bar, and a speaker with extraordinary powers of stirring the emotions and ruling the hearts of his countrymen, brilliant and incisive, though coarse, violent, and unscrupulous. He now became absolute master of Ireland. At his bidding all crime and outrage ceased, and the people agitated in a lawful way. They held monster meetings, and the Protestants of the north became alarmed at their quiet determination. The weak and divided Government at last ventured to put down the Association (), but a new Association was at once started

"for the purposes of education and charity,"

and went on much as before. In there was a general election, and 's candidate in Waterford county easily defeated the Beresfords, though hitherto the forty shilling


had flocked to the poll like sheep to vote for their landlords. In became himself a candidate for County Clare against Vesey Fitzgerald, a popular Irish landlord and friend of the Catholic claims. The


followed their priests, and returned by an enormous majority, though as a Catholic he could not take his seat.

Civil war was now nearly breaking out, as was shown when the audacious Lawless attempted an agitation tour in Ulster.

"Yet the Government,"

said the Irish orator Sheil,

"folded their arms and sat inactive as if two gladiators were crossing their swords for their recreation."

Lord Anglesey, the well-meaning but weak Lord-Lieutenant, was at last dismissed for telling that he differed from the Duke. But the prospect of half the counties of Ireland turning out their Tory landlords for nominees of at the next election convinced Government that it could no longer resist. 's clear good sense now got the better of his prejudices, and the soldier Prime Minister, seeing that he was outflanked, hastened to entrench the Tory army in a new position. When Parliament met in February , proposed that the Association should be put down, that the Catholics should be admitted to Parliament on taking a new oath, but that, as a safeguard, the franchise in Ireland should be raised to £ 10 to put an end to the power of the poverty-stricken

"freeholders for life."

The high Tories complained they were betrayed, and waited for a chance of


turning out the traitors. Oxford University rejected for the narrow Protestant Sir Robert Inglis, and so high did the no-popery feeling run that thought himself lucky to get back to Parliament as member for the pocket borough of Westbury, and was compelled to fight a duel with Lord Winchelsea, who had written foolishly about his

"insidious designs to blind the Protestant and High Church party."

But the Bills easily got through Parliament, and more than a third of the bishops followed the primates of England and Ireland in voting for them. exhorted the king to stand firm. had declared, But he had neither courage nor constancy, and gave way at once.

" After all that I had heard in my visits,"

lamented ,

" not a day's delay. God bless us and His Church !"

, not allowed to sit for Clare without a fresh election, was returned without opposition. Flushed with his great triumph, he now started a new agitation for the Repeal of the Union.

11. [12] 's foreign policy was a complete failure. The king's speech lamented the

"conflict at Navarino with an ancient ally, and hoped that this untoward event would not be followed by further hostilities."

Greek freedom was now safe, though sought to confine the new state to the Peloponnesus. But Russia profited by England's weakness to pose as the liberator of the Christian subjects of the Turks. In she invaded Turkey, won liberty for Wallachia and Moldavia, and secured larger, though still scanty, limits for Greece by the Treaty of Adrianople.

In Portugal Dom had dethroned his niece, and made himself absolutist king in . resolved

"that no revolutionary movement shall come from England,"

and took up a neutral attitude. was now looked on as the great upholder of absolutism throughout all Europe, and the reactionary Polignac became minister to the bigoted Charles X. (King of France, after his brother 's death in ), because of his trust in the Duke's support.

, , and Lyndhurst were the real governors of the country. They had been compelled to surrender their principles at home, and break the continuity of our policy abroad. They had ignored the growing distress. They had broken up their party. On 26th June the death of was the beginning of further troubles.


[1] Cato Street Conspiracy, 1820.

[2] Trial of Queen Caroline, 1820.

[1] [1820-1822.]

[3] State of Parties, 1820-22.

[4] The liberal Tories added to and the Ministry, 1822.

[1] [1822-1826.]

[5] Canning's Foreign Policy, 1822-27.

[1] [1822-1827.]

[6] Reforms at home, 1822-27. Criminal Law.

[7] Reciprocity.

[1] [1827-1828.]

[8] Canning's Ministry and death, 1827.

[9] Goderich's failure, 1827.

[10] The Wellington and Peel Ministry, 1828-30.

[11] Catholic Emancipation, 1812-29.

[1] [1829-1830.]

[12] Wellington's Foreign Policy, 1829-30.

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