HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE
JOHN RICHARD GREEN, M.A. Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford
MODERN ENGLAND. 1760-1815.
London MacMillan and Co., Ltd. New York: The MacMillan Co. 1896
First Edition, 1879; Reprinted 1882, 1886, 1891. Eversley Edition, 1896.
MODERN ENGLAND. 1760-1815.
CHAPTER II PAGE THE INDEPENDENCE OF AMERICA. 1767-1782 1
INDUSTRIAL ENGLAND. 1782-1792 45
ENGLAND AND REVOLUTIONARY FRANCE. 1792-1801 97
ENGLAND AND NAPOLEON. 1801-1815 144
I. THE COLONIES OF NORTH AMERICA AT THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE To face p. 1
II. EUROPE AFTER THE PEACE OF LUNEVILLE, 1801 146
III. EUROPE AFTER THE PEACE OF TILSIT, 1807 158
THE INDEPENDENCE OF AMERICA
[Sidenote: Growing influence of public opinion.]
The Chatham ministry marked a new phase in the relation of public opinion to the government of the State. In 1766 as in 1756 Pitt had been called into office by "the voice of the people" at large. But in his former ministry the influence he drew from popularity could only make itself effective through an alliance with the influence which was drawn from political connexion; and when the two elements of the administration became opposed the support of the nation gave Pitt little strength of resistance against the Whigs. Nor had the young king had much better fortune as yet in his efforts to break their rule. He had severed them indeed from Pitt; and he had dexterously broken up the great party into jealous factions. But broken as it was, even its factions remained too strong for the king. His one effort at independence under Bute hardly lasted a year, and he was as helpless in the hands of Grenville as in the hands of Rockingham. His bribery, his patronage, his Parliamentary "friends," his perfidy and his lies, had done much to render good government impossible and to steep public life in deeper corruption, but they had done little to further the triumph of the Crown over the great houses. Of the one power indeed which could break the Whig rule, the power of public opinion, George was more bitterly jealous than even of the Whigs themselves. But in spite of his jealousy the tide of opinion steadily rose. In wise and in unwise ways the country at large showed its new interest in national policy, its new resolve to have a share in the direction of it. It showed no love for the king or the king's schemes. But it retained all its old disgust for the Whigs and for the Parliament. It clung to Pitt closer than ever, and in spite of his isolation from all party support raised him daily into a mightier power. It was the sense that a new England was thus growing up about him, that a new basis was forming itself for political action, which at last roused the Great Commoner to the bold enterprise of breaking through the bonds of "connexion" altogether. For the first time since the Revolution a minister told the peers in their own house that he defied their combinations.
[Sidenote: Chatham's withdrawal.]
The ministry of 1766 in fact was itself such a defiance; for it was an attempt to found political power not on the support of the Whigs as a party, but on the support of national opinion. But as Parliament was then constituted, it was only through Chatham himself that opinion could tell even on the administration he formed; and six months after he had taken office Chatham was no more than a name. The dread which had driven him from the stormy agitation of the Lower House to the quiet of the House of Peers now became a certainty. As winter died into the spring of 1767 his nervous disorganization grew into a painful and overwhelming illness which almost wholly withdrew him from public affairs; and when Parliament met again he was unable either to come to town or to confer with his colleagues. It was in vain that they prayed him for a single word of counsel. Chatham remained utterly silent; and the ministry which his guidance had alone held together at once fell into confusion. The Earl's plans were suffered to drop. His colleagues lost all cohesion, and each acted as he willed. Townshend, a brilliant but shallow rhetorician whom Pitt had been driven reluctantly to make his Chancellor of the Exchequer, after angering the House of Commons by proposals for an increase of the land-tax, strove to win back popularity among the squires by undertaking to raise a revenue from America. That a member of a ministry which bore Pitt's name should have proposed to reopen the question of colonial taxation within a year of the repeal of the Stamp Acts was strange enough to the colonists; and they were yet more astonished when, on its neglect to make provision for compensating those who had suffered from the recent outbreak in due conformity to an Act of the British Parliament, the Assembly of New York was suspended, and when Townshend redeemed his pledge by laying duties on various objects brought into American ports. But these measures were the result of levity and disorganization rather than of any purpose to reopen the quarrel. Pitt's colleagues had as yet no design to reverse his policy. The one aim of the ministry which bore his name, and which during his retirement looked to the Duke of Grafton as its actual head, was simply to exist. But in the face of Chatham's continued withdrawal, of Townshend's death in 1767, and of the increasing hostility of the Rockingham Whigs, even existence was difficult; and Grafton saw himself forced to a union with the faction which was gathered under the Duke of Bedford, and to the appointment of a Tory noble as Secretary of State.
[Sidenote: His resignation.]
Such measures however only showed how far the ministry had drifted from the ground on which Pitt took his stand in its formation; and the very force on which he had relied turned at once against it. The elections for the new Parliament which met in 1768 were more corrupt than any that had as yet been witnessed; and even the stoutest opponents of reform shrank aghast from the open bribery of constituencies and the prodigal barter of seats. How bitter the indignation of the country had grown was seen in its fresh backing of Wilkes. Wilkes had remained in France since his outlawry; but he seized on the opening afforded by the elections to return and offer himself as a member for the new Parliament. To the surprise and dismay of the ministers he was returned for Middlesex, a county the large number of whose voters made its choice a real expression of public opinion. The choice of Wilkes at such a moment was in effect a public condemnation of the House of Commons and the ministerial system. The ministry however and the House alike shrank from a fresh struggle with the agitator. But the king was eager for the contest. After ten years of struggle and disappointment George had all but reached his aim. The two forces which had as yet worsted him were both of them paralysed. The Whigs were fatally divided, and discredited in the eyes of the country by their antagonism to Pitt. Pitt on the other hand was suddenly removed from the stage. The ministry was without support in the country; and for Parliamentary support it was forced to lean more and more on the men who looked for direction to the king himself. At a moment when all hope of exerting any influence seemed crushed by the return of Chatham to power, George found his influence predominant as it had never been before. One force of opposition alone remained in the public discontent; and at this he struck more fiercely than ever. "I think it highly expedient to apprise you," he wrote to Lord North, "that the expulsion of Mr. Wilkes appears to be very essential, and must be effected." The ministers and the House of Commons bowed to his will. By his non-appearance in court when charged with libel, Wilkes had become an outlaw, and he was now thrown into prison on his outlawry. Dangerous riots broke out in London and over the whole country at the news of his arrest; and continued throughout the rest of the year. In the midst of these tumults the ministry itself was torn with internal discord. The adherents of Chatham found their position in it an intolerable one; and Lord Shelburne announced his purpose of resigning office. The announcement was followed in the autumn by the resignation of Chatham himself. Though still prostrated by disease, the Earl was sufficiently restored to grasp the actual position of the Cabinet which traded on his name, and in October 1768 he withdrew formally from the ministry.
The withdrawal of Chatham however, if it shook the ministry, only rendered it still more dependent on the king; and in spite of its reluctance George forced it to plunge into a decisive struggle with the public opinion which was declaring itself in tumult and riot against the system of government. The triumph of Wilkes had been driven home by the election of a nominee of the great agitator as his colleague on a fresh vacancy in the representation of Middlesex. The Government met the blow by a show of vigour, and by calling on the magistrates of Surrey to disperse the mobs; a summons which ended in conflicts between the crowd and the soldiers, in which some of the rioters were slain. Wilkes at once published the letter of the Secretary of State with comments on it as a cause of bloodshed; and the ministry accepted the step as a challenge to combat. If his comments were libellous, the libel was cognizable in the ordinary courts of law. But no sooner had Parliament assembled in 1769 than the House of Commons was called to take the matter into its own hands. Witnesses were examined at its bar: the forms of a trial were gone through; and as Wilkes persisted in his charge, he was expelled as a libeller. Unluckily the course which had been adopted put the House itself on trial before the constituencies. No sooner was the new writ issued than Wilkes again presented himself as a candidate, and was again elected by the shire of Middlesex. Violent and oppressive as the course of the House of Commons had been, it had as yet acted within its strict right, for no one questioned its possession of a right of expulsion. But the defiance of Middlesex led it now to go further. It resolved, "That Mr. Wilkes having been in this session of Parliament expelled the House, was and is incapable of being elected a member to serve in the present Parliament"; and it issued a writ for a fresh election. Middlesex answered this insolent claim to limit the free choice of a constituency by again returning Wilkes; and the House was driven by its anger to a fresh and more outrageous usurpation. It again expelled the member for Middlesex; and on his return for the third time by an immense majority it voted that the candidate whom he had defeated, Colonel Luttrell, ought to have been returned, and was the legal representative of Middlesex. The Commons had not only limited at their own arbitrary discretion the free election of the constituency, but they had transferred its rights to themselves by seating Luttrell as member in defiance of the deliberate choice of Wilkes by the freeholders of Middlesex. The country at once rose indignantly against this violation of constitutional law. Wilkes was elected an Alderman of London; and the Mayor, Aldermen, and Livery petitioned the king to dissolve the Parliament. A remonstrance from London and Westminster mooted a far larger question. It said boldly that "there is a time when it is clearly demonstrable that men cease to be representatives. That time is now arrived. The House of Commons do not represent the people." Meanwhile a writer who styled himself Junius attacked the Government in letters, which, rancorous and unscrupulous as was their tone, gave a new power to the literature of the Press by their clearness and terseness of statement, the finish of their style, and the terrible vigour of their invective.
[Sidenote: Parliamentary Reform.]
The storm however beat idly on the obstinacy of the king. The printer of the bold letters was prosecuted, and the petitions and remonstrances of London were haughtily rejected. The issue of the struggle verified the forebodings of Burke. If, as Middlesex declared, and as the strife itself proved, the House of Commons had ceased to represent the English people, it was inevitable that men should look forward to measures that would make it representative. At the beginning of 1770 a cessation of the disease which had long held him prostrate enabled Chatham to reappear in the House of Lords. He at once denounced the usurpations of the Commons, and brought in a bill to declare them illegal. But his genius made him the first to see that remedies of this sort were inadequate to meet evils which really sprang from the fact that the House of Commons no longer represented the people of England; and he mooted a plan for its reform by an increase of the county members, who then formed the most independent portion of the House. Further he could not go, for even in the proposals he made he stood almost alone. The Tories and the king's friends were not likely to welcome proposals which would lessen the king's influence. On the other hand the Whigs under Lord Rockingham had no sympathy with Parliamentary reform. As early as 1769, in his first political publication, their one philosophic thinker, Edmund Burke, had met a proposal to enlarge the number of constituents by a counter-proposal to lessen them. "It would be more in the spirit of our constitution, and more agreeable to the fashion of our best laws," he said, "by lessening the number to add to the weight and independency of our voters." Nor did the Whigs shrink with less haughty disdain from the popular agitation in which public opinion was forced to express itself, and which Chatham, while censuring its extravagance, as deliberately encouraged. It is from the quarrel between Wilkes and the House of Commons that we may date the influence of public meetings on English politics. The gatherings of the Middlesex electors in his support were preludes to the great meetings of Yorkshire freeholders in which the question of Parliamentary reform rose into importance; and it was in the movement for reform, and the establishment of corresponding committees throughout the country for the purpose of promoting it, that the power of political agitation first made itself felt. Political societies and clubs took their part in this quickening and organization of public opinion: and the spread of discussion, as well as the influence which now began to be exercised by the appearance of vast numbers of men in support of any political movement, proved that Parliament, whether it would or no, must soon reckon with the sentiments of the people at large.
[Sidenote: Publication of debates.]
But an agent far more effective than popular agitation was preparing to bring the force of public opinion to bear directly on Parliament itself. We have seen how much of the corruption of the House of Commons sprang from the secrecy of Parliamentary proceedings, but this secrecy was the harder to preserve as the nation woke to a greater interest in its own affairs. From the accession of the Georges imperfect reports of the more important discussions began to be published under the title of "The Senate of Lilliput," and with feigned names or simple initials to denote the speakers. The best known reports of this kind were those contributed by Samuel Johnson to the Gentleman's Magazine. Obtained by stealth and often merely recalled by memory, such reports were naturally inaccurate; and their inaccuracy was eagerly seized on as a pretext for enforcing the rules which guarded the secrecy of proceedings in Parliament. In 1771 the Commons issued a proclamation forbidding the publication of debates; and six printers, who set it at defiance, were summoned to the bar of the House. One who refused to appear was arrested by its messenger; but the arrest brought the House into conflict with the magistrates of London. The magistrates set aside its proclamation as without legal force, released the printers, and sent the messenger to prison for an unlawful arrest. The House sent the Lord Mayor to the Tower, but the cheers of the crowds which followed him on his way told that public opinion was again with the Press, and the attempt to hinder its publication of Parliamentary proceedings dropped silently on his release at the next prorogation. Few changes of equal importance have been so quietly brought about. Not only was the responsibility of members to their constituents made constant and effective by the publication of their proceedings, but the nation itself was called in to assist in the deliberations of its representatives. A new and wider interest in its own affairs was roused in the people at large, and a new political education was given to it through the discussion of every subject of national importance in the Houses and the Press. Stimulated and moulded into shape by free discussion, encouraged and made conscious of its strength by public meetings, and gathered up and represented on all its sides by the journals of the day, public opinion became a force in practical statesmanship, influenced the course of debates, and controlled, in a closer and more constant way than even Parliament itself had been able to do, the actions of the Government. The importance of its new position gave a weight to the Press which it had never had before. The first great English journals date from this time. With the Morning Chronicle, the Morning Post, the Morning Herald, and the Times, all of which appeared in the interval between the opening years of the American War and the beginning of the war with the French Revolution, journalism took a new tone of responsibility and intelligence. The hacks of Grub Street were superseded by publicists of a high moral temper and literary excellence; and philosophers like Coleridge or statesmen like Canning turned to influence public opinion through the columns of the Press.
[Sidenote: Renewed strife with America.]
But great as the influence of opinion was destined to become, it was feebly felt as yet; and George the Third was able to set Chatham's policy disdainfully aside and to plunge into a contest far more disastrous than his contest with the Press. In all the proceedings of the last few years, what had galled him most had been the act which averted a war between England and her colonies. To the king the Americans were already "rebels," and the great statesman whose eloquence had made their claims irresistible was a "trumpet of sedition." George deplored in his correspondence with his ministers the repeal of the Stamp Acts. "All men feel," he wrote, "that the fatal compliance in 1766 has increased the pretensions of the Americans to absolute independence." But in England generally the question was regarded as settled, while in America the news of the repeal had been received with universal joy, and taken as a close of the strife. On both sides however there remained a pride and irritability which only wise handling could have allayed; and in the present state of English politics wise handling was impossible. Only a few months indeed passed before the quarrel was again reopened; for no sooner had the illness of Lord Chatham removed him from any real share in public affairs than the wretched administration which bore his name suspended the Assembly of New York on its refusal to provide quarters for English troops, and resolved to assert British sovereignty by levying import duties of trivial amount at American ports. The Assembly of Massachusetts was dissolved on a trifling quarrel with its Governor, and Boston was occupied for a time by British soldiers. It was without a thought of any effective struggle however that the Cabinet had entered on this course of vexation; and when the remonstrances of the Legislatures of Massachusetts and Virginia, coupled with a fall in the funds, warned the ministers of its danger, they hastened to withdraw from it. In 1769 the troops were recalled, and all duties, save one, abandoned. But with a fatal obstinacy the king insisted on retaining the duty on tea as an assertion of the supremacy of the mother country. Its retention was enough to prevent any thorough restoration of good feeling. A series of petty quarrels went on in almost every colony between the popular assemblies and the Governors appointed by the Crown, and the colonists persisted in their agreement to import nothing from the mother country. As yet however there was no prospect of serious strife. In America the influence of George Washington allayed the irritation of Virginia; while Massachusetts contented itself with quarrelling with its Governor and refusing to buy tea so long as the duty was levied.
The temper of the colonists was in the main that of the bulk of English statesmen. Even George Grenville, though approving the retention of the duty in question, abandoned all dream of further taxation. But the king was now supreme. The reappearance and attack of Chatham at the opening of 1770 had completed the ruin of the ministry. Those of his adherents who still clung to it, Lord Camden, the Chancellor, Lord Granby, the Commander-in-Chief, Dunning, the Solicitor-General, resigned their posts. In a few days they were followed by the Duke of Grafton, who since Chatham's resignation had been nominally the head of the administration. All that remained of it were the Bedford faction and the dependents of the king; but George did not hesitate to form these into a ministry, and to place at its head the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord North, a man of some administrative ability, but unconnected with any political party, steadily opposed to any recognition of public opinion, and of an easy and indolent temper which yielded against his better knowledge to the stubborn doggedness of the king. The instinct of the country at once warned it of the results of such a change; and the City of London put itself formally at the head of the public discontent. In solemn addresses it called on George the Third to dismiss his ministers and to dissolve the Parliament; and its action was supported by petitions to the same effect from the greater counties. In the following year it fought, as we have seen, a battle with the House of Commons which established the freedom of the press. But the efforts of the country failed before the paralysis of political action which resulted from the position of the Whigs and the corruption of Parliament. The deaths of Grenville and Bedford broke up two of the Whig factions. Rockingham with the rest of the party held aloof from the popular agitation, and drew more and more away from Chatham as he favoured it. The Parliament remained steady to the king, and the king clung more and more to the ministry. The ministry was in fact a mere cloak for the direction of public affairs by George himself. "Not only did he direct the minister," a careful observer tells us, "in all important matters of foreign and domestic policy, but he instructed him as to the management of debates in Parliament, suggested what motions should be made or opposed, and how measures should be carried. He reserved for himself all the patronage, he arranged the whole cast of administration, settled the relative places and pretensions of ministers of State, law officers, and members of the household, nominated and promoted the English and Scotch judges, appointed and translated bishops and deans, and dispensed other preferments in the Church. He disposed of military governments, regiments, and commissions; and himself ordered the marching of troops. He gave and refused titles, honours, and pensions." All this immense patronage was persistently used for the creation and maintenance in both Houses of Parliament of a majority directed by the king himself; and its weight was seen in the steady action of such a majority. It was seen yet more in the subjection to which the ministry that bore North's name was reduced. George was in fact the minister through the years of its existence; and the shame of the darkest hour of English history lies wholly at his door.
[Sidenote: The Boston tea-riots.]
His fixed purpose was to seize on the first opportunity of undoing the "fatal compliance of 1766." A trivial riot gave him at last the handle he wanted. In December 1773 the arrival of some English ships laden with tea kindled fresh irritation in Boston, where the non-importation agreement was strictly enforced; and a mob in the disguise of Indians boarded the vessels and flung their contents into the sea. The outrage was deplored alike by the friends of America in England and by its own leading statesmen; and both Washington and Chatham were prepared to support the Government in its looked-for demand of redress. But the thought of the king was not of redress but of repression, and he set roughly aside the more conciliatory proposals of Lord North and his fellow-ministers. They had already rejected as "frivolous and vexatious" a petition of the Assembly of Massachusetts for the dismissal of two public officers whose letters home advised the withdrawal of free institutions from the colonies. They now seized on the riot as a pretext for rigorous measures. A bill introduced into Parliament in the beginning of 1774 punished Boston by closing its port against all commerce. Another punished the State of Massachusetts by withdrawing the liberties it had enjoyed ever since the Pilgrim Fathers landed on its soil. Its charter was altered. The choice of its Council was transferred from the people to the Crown, and the nomination of its judges was transferred to the Governor. In the Governor too, by a provision more outrageous than even these, was vested the right of sending all persons charged with a share in the late disturbances to England for trial. To enforce these measures of repression troops were sent to America, and General Gage, the commander-in-chief there, was appointed Governor of Massachusetts. The king's exultation at the prospect before him was unbounded. "The die," he wrote triumphantly to his minister, "is cast. The colonies must either triumph or submit." Four regiments would be enough to bring the Americans to their senses. They would only be "lions while we are lambs." "If we take the resolute part," he decided solemnly, "they will undoubtedly be very meek."
[Sidenote: American resistance.]
Unluckily the blow at Massachusetts was received with anything but meekness. The jealousies between colony and colony were hushed by a sense that the liberties of all were in danger. If the British Parliament could cancel the charter of Massachusetts and ruin the trade of Boston, it could cancel the charter of every colony and ruin the trade of every port from the St. Lawrence to the coast of Georgia. All, therefore, adopted the cause of Massachusetts; and all their Legislatures save that of Georgia sent delegates to a Congress which assembled on the 4th of September at Philadelphia. Massachusetts took a yet bolder course. Not one of its citizens would act under the new laws. Its Assembly met in defiance of the Governor, called out the militia of the State, and provided arms and ammunition for it. But there was still room for reconciliation. The resolutions of the Congress had been moderate, for Virginia was the wealthiest and most influential among the States who sent delegates, and though resolute to resist the new measures of the government, Virginia still clung to the mother country. At home the merchants of London and Bristol pleaded loudly for reconciliation; and in January 1775 Chatham again came forward to avert a strife he had once before succeeded in preventing. With characteristic largeness of feeling he set aside all half-measures or proposals of compromise. "It is not cancelling a piece of parchment," he insisted, "that can win back America: you must respect her fears and her resentments." The bill which he introduced in concert with Franklin provided for the repeal of the late Acts and for the security of the colonial charters, abandoned the claim of taxation, and ordered the recall of the troops. A colonial assembly was directed to meet and provide means by which America might contribute towards the payment of the public debt.
Chatham's measure was contemptuously rejected by the Lords, as was a similar measure of Burke's by the House of Commons, and a petition of the City of London in favour of the Colonies by the king himself. With the rejection of these efforts for conciliation began the great struggle which ended eight years later in the severance of the American Colonies from the British Crown. The Congress of delegates from the Colonial Legislatures at once voted measures for general defence, ordered the levy of an army, and set George Washington at its head. No nobler figure ever stood in the forefront of a nation's life. Washington was grave and courteous in address; his manners were simple and unpretending; his silence and the serene calmness of his temper spoke of a perfect self-mastery. But there was little in his outer bearing to reveal the grandeur of soul which lifts his figure with all the simple majesty of an ancient statue out of the smaller passions, the meaner impulses, of the world around him. What recommended him for command was singly his weight among his fellow-landowners of Virginia, and the experience of war which he had gained by service in border contests with the French and the Indians, as well as in Braddock's luckless expedition against Fort Duquesne. It was only as the weary fight went on that the colonists discovered, however slowly and imperfectly, the greatness of their leader, his clear judgement, his heroic endurance, his silence under difficulties, his calmness in the hour of danger or defeat, the patience with which he waited, the quickness and hardness with which he struck, the lofty and serene sense of duty that never swerved from its task through resentment or jealousy, that never through war or peace felt the touch of a meaner ambition, that knew no aim save that of guarding the freedom of his fellow-countrymen, and no personal longing save that of returning to his own fireside when their freedom was secured. It was almost unconsciously that men learned to cling to Washington with a trust and faith such as few other men have won, and to regard him with a reverence which still hushes us in presence of his memory. But even America hardly recognised his real greatness while he lived. It was only when death set its seal on him that the voice of those whom he had served so long proclaimed him "the man first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow-countrymen."
[Sidenote: Declaration of Independence,]
Washington more than any of his fellow-colonists represented the clinging of the Virginian landowners to the mother country, and his acceptance of a military command proved that even the most moderate among the colonists had no hope now save in arms. The struggle opened with a skirmish between a party of English troops and a detachment of militia at Lexington on the nineteenth of April 1775; and in a few days twenty thousand colonists appeared before Boston. The Congress reassembled, declared the States they represented "The United Colonies of America," and undertook the work of government. Meanwhile ten thousand fresh English troops landed at Boston. But the provincial militia, in number almost double that of the British force which prepared to attack them, seized a neck of ground which joins Boston to the mainland; and though on the 17th of June they were driven from the heights of Bunker's Hill which commanded the town, it was only after a desperate struggle in which their bravery put an end for ever to the taunts of cowardice which had been levelled against the colonists. "Are the Yankees cowards?" shouted the men of Massachusetts as the first English attack rolled back baffled down the hill-side. But a far truer courage was shown in the stubborn endurance with which Washington's raw militiamen, who gradually dwindled from sixteen thousand to ten, ill-fed, ill-armed, and with but forty-five rounds of ammunition to each man, cooped up through the winter a force of ten thousand veterans in the lines of Boston. The spring of 1776 saw them force these troops to withdraw from the city to New York, where the whole British army, largely reinforced by mercenaries from Germany, was concentrated under General Howe. Meanwhile a raid of the American General Arnold nearly drove the British troops from Canada; and though his attempt broke down before Quebec, it showed that all hope of reconciliation was over. The colonies of the south, the last to join in the struggle, had in fact expelled their Governors at the close of 1775; at the opening of the next year Massachusetts instructed its delegates to support a complete repudiation of the king's government by the Colonies; while the American ports were thrown open to the world in defiance of the Navigation Acts. These decisive steps were followed by the great act with which American history begins, the adoption on the 4th of July 1776 by the delegates in Congress after a fierce resistance from those of Pennsylvania and South Carolina, and in spite of the abstention of those of New York, of a Declaration of Independence. "We," ran its solemn words, "the representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States."
But the earlier successes of the colonists were soon followed by suffering and defeat. Howe, an active general with a fine army at his back, cleared Long Island in August by a victory at Brooklyn; and Washington, whose force was weakened by withdrawals and defeat and disheartened by the loyal tone of the State in which it was encamped, was forced in the autumn of 1776 to evacuate New York and New Jersey, and to fall back first on the Hudson and then on the Delaware. The Congress prepared to fly from Philadelphia, and a general despair showed itself in cries of peace. But a well-managed surprise and a daring march on the rear of Howe's army restored the spirits of Washington's men, and forced the English general in his turn to fall back on New York. England however was now roused to more serious efforts; and the campaign of 1777 opened with a combined attempt for the suppression of the revolt. An army which had assembled in Canada under General Burgoyne marched in June by way of the Lakes to seize the line of the Hudson. Howe meanwhile sailed up the Chesapeake and advanced on Philadelphia, the temporary capital of the United States and the seat of the Congress. The rout of his little army of seven thousand men at Brandywine forced Washington to abandon Philadelphia, and after a bold but unsuccessful attack on his victors to retire into winter quarters on the banks of the Schuylkill, where the unconquerable resolve with which he nerved his handful of beaten and half-starved troops to face Howe's army in their camp at Valley Forge is the noblest of his triumphs. But in the north the war had taken another colour. Burgoyne's movement had been planned in view of a junction with at least a part of Howe's army from New York; a junction which would have enabled him to seize the line of the Hudson and thus cut off New England from her sister provinces. But Howe was held fast by Washington's resistance and unable to send a man to the north; while the spirit of New England, which had grown dull as the war rolled away from its borders, quickened again at the news of invasion and of the outrages committed by the Indians employed among the English troops. Its militia hurried from town and homestead to a camp with which General Gates had barred the road to Albany; and after a fruitless attack on the American lines, Burgoyne saw himself surrounded on the heights of Saratoga. On the 17th of October his whole force was compelled to surrender.
[Sidenote: France and America.]
The news of this calamity gave force to the words with which Chatham at the very time of the surrender was pressing for peace. "You cannot conquer America," he cried when men were glorying in Howe's successes over Washington. "If I were an American as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I never would lay down my arms—never, never, never!" Then, in a burst of indignant eloquence he thundered against an outrage which was at that moment nerving New England to its rally against Burgoyne, the use of the Indian with his scalping-knife as an ally of England against her children. The proposals which Chatham brought forward might perhaps in his hands even yet have drawn America and the mother country together. His plan was one of absolute conciliation. He looked forward to a federal union between the settlements and Great Britain which would have left the Colonies absolutely their own masters in all matters of internal government, and linked only by ties of affection and loyalty to the general body of the Empire. But the plan met with the same scornful rejection as his previous proposals. Its rejection was at once followed by the news of Saratoga, and by the yet more fatal news that this disaster had roused the Bourbon Courts to avenge the humiliation of the Seven Years' War. Crippled and impoverished as she was at its close, France could do nothing to break the world-power which was rising in front of her; but in the very moment of her defeat, the foresight of Choiseul had seen in a future straggle between England and her Colonies a chance of ruining the great fabric which Pitt's triumphs had built up. Nor was Pitt blind to the steady resolve of France to renew the fight. In every attempt which he had made to construct a Ministry he had laid down as the corner-stone of his foreign policy a renewal of that alliance with the Protestant States of North Germany against the House of Bourbon which could alone save England from the dangers of the Family Compact. But his efforts had been foiled alike by the resistance of the king, the timid peacefulness of the Whigs, and at last by the distrust of England which had been rooted in the mind of Frederick the Great through the treachery of Lord Bute.
[Sidenote: Death of Chatham.]
The wisdom of his policy was now brought home by the coming of the danger he had foreseen when the foresight of Choiseul was justified by the outbreak of strife between England and America. Even then for a while France looked idly on. Her king, Lewis the Sixteenth, was averse from war; her treasury was empty; her government, scared by the growth of new movements towards freedom about it, and fearful of endangering the monarchy by the encouragement these would receive from a union with the revolted Colonies, still doubted whether America had any real power of resisting Britain. It was to no purpose that from the moment when they declared themselves independent, the United States called on France for aid; or that Franklin pressed their appeal on its government. A year in fact passed without any decisive resolution to give aid to the colonists. But the steady drift of French policy and the passion of the French people pressed heavier every day on the hesitation of their government; and the news of Saratoga forced its hand. The American envoys at last succeeded in forming an alliance; and in February 1778 a treaty offensive and defensive was concluded between France and America. Lord North strove to meet the blow by fresh offers of conciliation, and by a pledge to renounce for ever the right of direct taxation over the Colonies; but he felt that such offers were fruitless, that the time for conciliation was past, while all hope of reducing America by force of arms had disappeared. In utter despair he pressed his resignation on the king. But George was as obstinate for war as ever; and the country, stung to the quick by the attack of France, backed passionately the obstinacy of the king. But unlike George the Third, it instinctively felt that if a hope still remained of retaining the friendship of the Colonies and of baffling the efforts of the Bourbons, it lay in Lord Chatham; and in spite of the king's resistance the voice of the whole country called him back to power. The danger indeed which had scared Lord North into resignation, and before which a large party of the Whigs now advocated the acknowledgement of American independence, only woke Chatham to his old daring and fire. He had revolted from a war against Englishmen. But all his pride in English greatness, all his confidence in English power, woke afresh at the challenge of France. His genius saw indeed in the new danger a means of escape from the old. He would have withdrawn every soldier from America, and flung the whole force of Britain into the conflict with France. He believed that in the splendour of triumphs over her older enemy England might be brought to terms of amity which would win back the Colonies, and that the English blood of the colonists themselves would be quickened to a fresh union with the mother country by her struggle against a power from which she had so lately rescued them. Till such a trial had been made, with all the advantages that the magic of his name could give it in England and America alike, he would not bow to a need that must wreck the great Empire his hand had built up. Even at this hour there was a chance of success for such a policy; but on the eve of Chatham's return to office this chance was shattered by the hand of death. Broken with age and disease, the Earl was borne to the House of Lords on the seventh of April to utter in a few broken words his protest against the proposal to surrender America. "I rejoice," he murmured, "that I am still alive to lift up my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and noble monarchy. His Majesty succeeded to an Empire as great in extent as its reputation was unsullied. Seventeen years ago this people was the terror of the world." He listened impatiently to the reply of the Duke of Richmond, and again rose to his feet. But he had hardly risen when he pressed his hand upon his heart, and falling back in a swoon was borne home to die.
[Sidenote: England against Europe.]
How well founded was Chatham's faith in the power of Britain was seen in the strife that now opened. From the hour of his death England entered on a conflict with enemies whose circle gradually widened till she stood single-handed against the world. At the close of 1778 the Family Compact bore its full fruit; Spain joined the league of France and America against her; and in the next year the joint fleets of the two powers rode the masters of the Channel. They even threatened a descent on the English coast. But dead as Chatham was, his cry woke a new life in England. "Shall we fall prostrate," he exclaimed with his last breath, "before the House of Bourbon?" and the divisions which had broken the nation in its struggle with American liberty were hushed in the presence of this danger to its own existence. The weakness of the Ministry was compensated by the energy of England itself. For three years, from 1779 to 1782, General Elliott held against famine and bombardment from a French and Spanish army the rock fortress of Gibraltar. Although a quarrel over the right of search banded Holland and the Courts of the North in an armed neutrality against her, and added the Dutch fleet to the number of her assailants, England held her own at sea. In her Eastern dependency, where France sought a counterpoise to the power of Britain in that of the Mahrattas, freebooters of Hindoo blood whose tribes had for a century past carried their raids over India from the hills of the Western coast, and founded sovereignties in Guzerat, Malwa, and Tanjore, the tenacity and resource of Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of British India, wrested victory from failure and defeat. Though the wide schemes of conquest which he formed were for the moment frustrated, the annexation of Benares, the extension of British rule along the Ganges, the reduction of Oudh to virtual dependence, the appearance of English armies in Central India, and the defeat of the Sultan of Mysore, laid the foundation of an Indian Empire which his genius was bold enough to foresee. Even in America the fortune of the war seemed for a while to turn. After Burgoyne's surrender the English generals had withdrawn from Pennsylvania, and bent all their efforts on the Southern States, where a strong Royalist party still existed. The capture of Charlestown and the successes of Lord Cornwallis in 1780 were rendered fruitless by the obstinate resistance of General Greene; but the United States remained weakened by bankruptcy and unnerved by hopes of aid from France.
[Sidenote: America and Ireland.]
Hardly a year however had passed when the face of the war in America was changed by a terrible disaster. Foiled in an attempt on North Carolina by the refusal of his fellow-general, Sir Henry Clinton, to assist him, Cornwallis fell back in 1781 on Virginia, and entrenched himself in the lines of York Town. A sudden march of Washington brought him to the front of the English troops at a moment when the French fleet held the sea, and the British army was driven by famine in October to a surrender as humiliating as that of Saratoga. The news fell like a thunderbolt on the wretched Minister, who had till now suppressed at his master's order his own conviction of the uselessness of further bloodshed. Opening his arms and pacing wildly about the room, Lord North exclaimed, "It is all over," and resigned. At this moment indeed the country seemed on the brink of ruin. Humiliating as it was, England could have borne fifty such calamities as the surrender at York Town. But in the very crisis of the struggle with America she found herself confronted with a danger nearer home. The revolt of one great dependency brought with it a threatened revolt from another. In Ireland, as in the Colonies, England had shrunk from carrying out either a national or an imperial policy. She might have recognised Ireland as a free nationality, and bound it to herself by federal bonds; or she might have absorbed it, as she had absorbed Scotland, into the general mass of her own national life. With a perverse ingenuity she had not only refrained from taking either of these courses, but she had deliberately adopted the worst features of both. Ireland was absolutely subject to Britain, but she formed no part of it, she shared neither in its liberty nor its wealth. But on the other hand she was allowed no national existence of her own. While all the outer seeming of national life was left, while Ireland possessed in name an army, a Parliament, a magistracy, the mass of the Irish people was as strange to all this life as the savages of Polynesia. Every Catholic Irishman, and there were five Irish Catholics to every Irish Protestant, was treated as a stranger and a foreigner in his own country. The House of Lords, the House of Commons, the magistracy, all corporate offices in towns, all ranks in the army, the bench, the bar, the whole administration of government or justice, were closed against Catholics. The very right of voting for their representatives in Parliament was denied them. Few Catholic landowners had been left by the sweeping confiscations which had followed the successive revolts of the island, and oppressive laws forced even these few with scant exceptions to profess Protestantism. Necessity indeed had brought about a practical toleration of their religion and their worship; but in all social and political matters the native Catholics, in other words the immense majority of the people of Ireland, were simply hewers of wood and drawers of water for Protestant masters, for masters who still looked on themselves as mere settlers, who boasted of their Scotch or English extraction, and who regarded the name of "Irishman" as an insult.
[Sidenote: Irish Government.]
But small as was this Protestant body, one-half of it fared little better as far as power was concerned than the Catholics. The Presbyterians, who formed the bulk of the Ulster settlers, were shut out by law from all civil, military, and municipal offices. The administration and justice of the country were thus kept rigidly in the hands of members of the Established Church, a body which comprised about a twelfth of the population of the island, while its government was practically monopolised by a few great Protestant landowners. The rotten boroughs, which had originally been created to make the Irish Parliament dependent on the Crown, had by this time fallen under the influence of the adjacent landlords, whose command of these made them masters of the House of Commons while they themselves formed in person the House of Peers. To such a length had this system been carried that at the time of the Union the great majority of the boroughs lay in the hands of a very few families. Two-thirds of the House of Commons, in fact, was returned by a small group of nobles, who were recognised as "parliamentary undertakers," and who undertook to "manage" Parliament on their own terms. Irish politics was for these men a mere means of public plunder; they were glutted with pensions, preferments, and bribes in hard cash, in return for their services; they were the advisers of every Lord-Lieutenant and the practical governors of the country. The results were what might have been expected. For more than a century Ireland was the worst governed country in Europe. That its government was not even worse than it was, was due to its connection with England and the subordination of its Parliament to the English Privy Council. The Irish Parliament had no power of originating legislative or financial measures, and could only say "yes" or "no" to Acts laid before it by the Privy Council in England. The English Parliament too claimed the right of binding Ireland as well as England by its enactments, and one of its statutes transferred the appellate jurisdiction of the Irish Peerage to the English House of Lords. Galling as these restrictions were to the plundering aristocracy of Ireland, they formed a useful check on its tyranny. But as if to compensate for the benefits of this protection, England did her best from the time of William the Third to annihilate Irish commerce and to ruin Irish agriculture. Statutes passed by the jealousy of English landowners forbade the export of Irish cattle or sheep to English ports. The export of wool was forbidden lest it might interfere with the profits of English wool-growers. Poverty was thus added to the curse of misgovernment; and poverty deepened with the rapid growth of the native population, a growth due in great part to the physical misery and moral degradation of their lives, till famine turned the country into a hell.
[Sidenote: The Volunteers.]
The bitter lesson of the last conquest however long sufficed to check all dreams of revolt among the native Irish; and the outbreaks which sprang from time to time out of the general misery and discontent were purely social in their character, and were roughly repressed by the ruling class. When political revolt at last threatened English supremacy over Ireland, the threat came from the ruling class itself. Some timid efforts made by the English Government at the accession of George the Third to control its tyranny were resented by a refusal of money bills, and by a cry for the removal of the checks imposed on the independence of the Irish Parliament. But it was not till the American war that this cry became a political danger. The threat of a French invasion and the want of any regular force to oppose it compelled the Government to call on Ireland to provide for its own defence, and in answer to its call forty thousand volunteers appeared in arms in 1779. The force was wholly a Protestant one, commanded by Protestant officers, and it was turned to account by the Protestant oligarchy. Threats of an armed revolt backed the eloquence of two Parliamentary leaders, Grattan and Flood, in their demand for the repeal of Poynings' Act, which took all power of initiative legislation from the Irish Parliament, and for the recognition of the Irish House of Lords as an ultimate Court of Appeal. But the Volunteers were forced to bid for the support of the native Catholics, who looked with indifference on these quarrels of their masters, by claiming for them a relaxation of the penal laws against the exercise of their religion and of some of their most oppressive disabilities. So real was the danger that England was forced to give way. The first demands were in effect a claim for national independence. But there were no means of resisting them, for England was without a soldier to oppose the Volunteers, while she was pressed hard by the league of Europe and America against her. In the face of such a rising close at home, it became plain even to the most dogged of Tories that it was impossible to continue a strife across three thousand miles of sea; and to deal with the attitude of Ireland became even a more pressing need of the Ministry which followed that of Lord North than the need of dealing with America.
[Sidenote: End of the war.]
The blow which had shattered the attempt of England to wield an autocratic power over her Colonies had shattered the attempt of its king to establish an autocratic power over England itself. The Ministry which bore the name of Lord North had been a mere screen for the administration of George the Third, and its ruin was the ruin of the system he had striven to build up. Never again was the Crown to possess such a power as he had wielded during the past ten years. For the moment however there was nothing to mark so decisive a change; and both to the king and his opponents it must have seemed only a new turn in the political game which they were playing when in March 1782 the Whigs returned to office. Rockingham was still at the head of the party; and on Rockingham fell the double task of satisfying Ireland and of putting an end, at any cost, to the war with the United States. The task involved in both quarters a humiliating surrender; for neither Ireland nor America would be satisfied save by a full concession of their claims. It needed the bitter stress of necessity to induce the English Parliament to follow Rockingham's counsels, but the need was too urgent to suffer their rejection. The Houses therefore abandoned by a formal statute the judicial and legislative supremacy they had till then asserted over the Parliament of Ireland; and from this moment England and Ireland were simply held together by the fact that the sovereign of the one island was also the sovereign of the other. The grant of independence to the one great dependency made it easier to recognise the freedom of the other. Rockingham in fact took office with the purpose of winning peace by a full acknowledgement of the independence of the United States, and negotiations were soon entered into for that purpose.
[Sidenote: The Peace.]
But America was bound by its league with the Bourbon Courts to make no peace save one common to its allies, and from its allies peace was hard to win without concessions which would have stripped from England all that remained of her older greatness. With the revolt of Ireland and the surrender of Cornwallis the hopes of her enemies rose high. Spain refused to suspend hostilities at any other price than the surrender of Gibraltar; while France proposed that England should give up all her Indian conquests save Bengal. The triumph of the Bourbons indeed seemed secure. If terms like these were accepted the world-empire of Britain was at an end. Stripped of her Colonies in America, stripped of her rule in India, matched on the very ocean by rival fleets, England sank back into a European State, into the England of the first Georges. And yet there seemed little chance of her holding out against the demands of such a league as fronted her at a moment when her military power was paralysed by the attitude of Ireland. But the true basis of her world-power lay on the sea. It was by her command of the sea that such an empire could alone be possible; nor was it possible so long as she commanded the sea for all the armies of the Bourbon powers to rob her of it. And at this moment the command of the seas again became her own. On the 16th of January 1780 Admiral Rodney, the greatest of English seamen save Nelson and Blake, encountered the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, and only four of its vessels escaped to Cadiz. At the opening of 1782 the triumphs of the French admiral De Grasse called him to the West Indies; and on the 12th of April a manoeuvre which he was the first to introduce broke his opponent's line, and drove the French fleet shattered from the Atlantic. With Rodney's last victory the struggle of the Bourbons was really over, for no means remained of attacking their enemy save at Gibraltar, and here a last attack of the joint force gathered against it was repulsed by the heroism of Elliott. Nor would America wait any longer for the satisfaction of her allies. In November her commissioners signed the preliminaries of a peace in which Britain reserved to herself on the American continent only Canada and the island of Newfoundland; and acknowledged without reserve the independence of the United States.
[Sidenote: England and the United States.]
The action of America ended the war; and the treaty of peace with the United States was a prelude to treaties of peace with the Bourbon powers. Their actual gains were insignificant. France indeed won nothing in the treaties with which the war ended; Spain gained only Florida and Minorca. Nor could they feel even in this hour of their triumph that the end at which they aimed had been fully reached. In half their great effort against the world-power of Britain they had utterly failed. She had even won ground in India. In America itself she still retained the northern dominion of Canada. Her West Indian islands remained intact. Above all, she had asserted more nobly than ever her command of the sea, and with it the possibility of building up a fresh power in such lands as Cook had called her to. But at the close of the war there was less thought of what she had retained than of what she had lost. She was parted from her American Colonies; and at the moment such a parting seemed to be the knell of her greatness. In wealth, in population, the American Colonies far surpassed all that remained of her Empire; and the American Colonies were irrecoverably gone. It is no wonder that in the first shock of such a loss England looked on herself as on the verge of ruin, or that the Bourbon Courts believed her position as a world-power to be practically at an end. How utterly groundless such a conception was the coming years were to show. The energies of England were in fact spurred to new efforts by the crisis in her fortunes. The industrial developement which followed the war gave her a material supremacy such as she had never known before, and the rapid growth of wealth which this industry brought with it raised her again into a mother of nations as her settlers built up in the waters of the Pacific Colonies as great as those which she had lost on the coast of America. But if the Bourbons overrated their triumph in one way, they immensely underrated it in another. Whatever might be the importance of American independence in the history of England, it was of unequalled moment in the history of the world. If it crippled for a while the supremacy of the English nation, it founded the supremacy of the English race. From the hour of American Independence the life of the English People has flowed not in one current, but in two; and while the older has shown little signs of lessening, the younger has fast risen to a greatness which has changed the face of the world. In 1783 America was a nation of three millions of inhabitants, scattered thinly along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It is now a nation of forty millions, stretching over the whole continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In wealth and material energy, as in numbers, it far surpasses the mother country from which it sprang. It is already the main branch of the English People; and in the days that are at hand the main current of that people's history must run along the channel not of the Thames or the Mersey, but of the Hudson and the Mississippi. But distinct as these currents are, every year proves more clearly that in spirit the English People is one. The distance that parted England from America lessens every day. The ties that unite them grow every day stronger. The social and political differences that threatened a hundred years ago to form an impassable barrier between them grow every day less. Against this silent and inevitable drift of things the spirit of narrow isolation on either side the Atlantic struggles in vain. It is possible that the two branches of the English People will remain for ever separate political existences. It is likely enough that the older of them may again break in twain, and that the English People in the Pacific may assert as distinct a national life as the two English Peoples on either side the Atlantic. But the spirit, the influence, of all these branches will remain one. And in thus remaining one, before half-a-century is over it will change the face of the world. As two hundred millions of Englishmen fill the valley of the Mississippi, as fifty millions of Englishmen assert their lordship over Australasia, this vast power will tell through Britain on the old world of Europe, whose nations will have shrunk into insignificance before it. What the issues of such a world-wide change may be, not even the wildest dreamer would dare to dream. But one issue is inevitable. In the centuries that lie before us, the primacy of the world will lie with the English People. English institutions, English speech, English thought, will become the main features of the political, the social, and the intellectual life of mankind.
[Sidenote: England in the American War.]
That in the creation of the United States the world had reached one of the turning-points in its history seems at the time to have entered into the thought of not a single European statesman. What startled men most at the moment was the discovery that England herself was far from being ruined by the greatness of her defeat. She rose from it indeed stronger and more vigorous than ever. Never had she shown a mightier energy than in the struggle against France which followed only ten years after her loss of America, nor did she ever stand higher among the nations than on the day of Waterloo. Her internal developement was as imposing as her outer grandeur. Weary and disgraceful indeed as was the strife with the Colonies, the years of its progress were years of as mighty a revolution for the mother country as for its child. The England that is about us dates from the American War. It was then that the moral, the philanthropic, the religious ideas which have moulded English society into its present shape first broke the spiritual torpor of the eighteenth century. It was then that with the wider diffusion of intelligence our literature woke to a nobler and larger life which fitted it to become the mouthpiece of every national emotion. It was then that by a change unparalleled in history the country laid aside her older agricultural character to develope industrial forces which made her at a single bound the workshop of the world. Amidst the turmoil of the early years of George the Third Brindley was silently covering England with canals, and Watt as silently perfecting his invention of the steam-engine. It was amidst the strife with America that Adam Smith regenerated our economical, Gibbon our historical, and Burke our political literature; and peace was hardly declared when the appearance of Crabbe, Cowper, and Burns heralded a new birth of our poetry.
[Sidenote: The religious movement.]
No names so illustrious as these marked the more silent but even deeper change in the religious temper of the country. It dates, as we have seen, from the work of the Wesleys, but the Methodists themselves were the least result of the Methodist revival. Its action upon the Church broke the lethargy of the clergy; and the "Evangelical" movement, which found representatives like Newton and Cecil within the pale of the Establishment, made the fox-hunting parson and the absentee rector at last impossible. In Walpole's day the English clergy were the idlest and the most lifeless in the world. In our own time no body of religious ministers surpasses them in piety, in philanthropic energy, or in popular regard. But the movement was far from being limited to the Methodists or the clergy. In the nation at large appeared a new moral enthusiasm which, rigid and pedantic as it often seemed, was still healthy in its social tone, and whose power showed itself in a gradual disappearance of the profligacy which had disgraced the upper classes, and the foulness which had infested literature ever since the Restoration. A yet nobler result of the religious revival was the steady attempt, which has never ceased from that day to this, to remedy the guilt, the ignorance, the physical suffering, the social degradation of the profligate and the poor. It was not till the Wesleyan impulse had done its work that this philanthropic impulse began. The Sunday Schools established by Mr. Raikes of Gloucester at the close of the century were the beginnings of popular education. By writings and by her own personal example Hannah More drew the sympathy of England to the poverty and crime of the agricultural labourer. A passionate impulse of human sympathy with the wronged and afflicted raised hospitals, endowed charities, built churches, sent missionaries to the heathen, supported Burke in his plea for the Hindoo, and Clarkson and Wilberforce in their crusade against the iniquity of the slave trade.
It is only the moral chivalry of his labours that amongst a crowd of philanthropists draws us most to the work and character of John Howard. The sympathy which all were feeling for the sufferings of mankind Howard felt for the sufferings of the worst and most hapless of men. With wonderful ardour and perseverance he devoted himself to the cause of the debtor, the felon, and the murderer. An appointment to the office of High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1774 drew his attention to the state of the prisons which were placed under his care; and from that time the quiet country gentleman, whose only occupation had been reading his Bible and studying his thermometer, became the most energetic and zealous of reformers. Before a year was over he had personally visited almost every English gaol, and in nearly all of them he found frightful abuses which had been noticed half-a-century before, but which had been left unredressed by Parliament. Gaolers who bought their places were paid by fees, and suffered to extort what they could. Even when acquitted, men were dragged back to their cells for want of funds to discharge the sums they owed to their keepers. Debtors and felons were huddled together in the prisons which Howard found crowded by the legislation of the day. No separation was preserved between different sexes, no criminal discipline was enforced. Every gaol was a chaos of cruelty and the foulest immorality, from which the prisoner could only escape by sheer starvation or through the gaol-fever that festered without ceasing in these haunts of misery. Howard saw everything with his own eyes, he tested every suffering by his own experience. In one prison he found a cell so narrow and noisome that the poor wretch who inhabited it begged as a mercy for hanging. Howard shut himself up in the cell and bore its darkness and foulness till nature could bear no more. It was by work of this sort and by the faithful pictures of such scenes which it enabled him to give that he brought about their reform. The book in which he recorded his terrible experience and the plans which he submitted for the reformation of criminals made him the father, so far as England is concerned, of prison discipline. But his labours were far from being confined to England. In journey after journey he visited the gaols of Holland and Germany, till his longing to discover some means of checking the fatal progress of the Plague led him to examine the lazarettos of Europe and the East. He was still engaged in this work of charity when he was seized by a malignant fever at Cherson in Southern Russia, and "laid quietly in the earth," as he desired.
[Sidenote: Trial of Hastings.]
In Howard's later labours the new sentiment of humanity had carried him far beyond the bounds of national sympathy; and forces at once of pity and religion told more and more in begetting a consciousness of the common brotherhood of man. Even at the close of the American war this feeling had become strong enough to colour our political life. It told on the attitude of England towards its great dependency of India. Discussions over rival plans of Indian administration diffused a sense of national responsibility for its good government, and there was a general resolve that the security against injustice and misrule which was enjoyed by the poorest Englishman should be enjoyed by the poorest Hindoo. It was this resolve which expressed itself in 1786 in the trial of Warren Hastings. Hastings returned from India at the close of the war with the hope of rewards as great as those of Clive. He had saved all that Clive had won. He had laid the foundation of a vast empire in the East. He had shown rare powers of administration, and the foresight, courage, and temperance which mark the born ruler of men. But with him came rumours of tyranny and wrong. Even those who admitted the wisdom and glory of his rule shrank from its terrible ruthlessness. He was charged with having sold for a vast sum the services of British troops to crush the free tribes of the Rohillas, with having wrung half-a-million by extortion from the Rajah of Benares, with having extorted by torture and starvation more than a million from the Princesses of Oudh. He was accused of having kept his hold upon power by measures as unscrupulous, and with having murdered a native who opposed him by an abuse of the forms of English law. On almost all these charges the cooler judgement of later inquirers has acquitted Warren Hastings of guilt. Personally there can be little doubt that he had done much to secure to the new subjects of Britain a just and peaceable government. What was hardest and most pitiless in his rule had been simply a carrying out of the system of administration which was native to India and which he found existing there. But such a system was alien from the new humanity of Englishmen; and few dared to vindicate Hastings when Burke in words of passionate earnestness moved for his impeachment.
[Sidenote: The Slave-Trade.]
The great trial lingered on for years; and in the long run Hastings secured an acquittal. But the end at which the impeachment aimed had really been won. The attention, the sympathy of Englishmen had been drawn across distant seas to a race utterly strange to them; and the peasant of Cornwall or Cumberland had learned how to thrill at the suffering of a peasant of Bengal. And even while the trial was going on a yet wider extension of English sympathy made itself felt. The hero-seamen of Elizabeth had not blushed to make gain out of kidnapping negroes and selling them into slavery. One of the profits which England bought by the triumphs of Marlborough was a right to a monopoly of the slave-trade between Africa and the Spanish dominions; and it was England that had planted slavery in her American colonies and her West Indian islands. Half the wealth of Liverpool, in fact, was drawn from the traffic of its merchants in human flesh. The horrors and iniquity of the trade, the ruin and degradation of Africa which it brought about, the oppression of the negro himself, had till now moved no pity among Englishmen. But as the spirit of humanity told on the people this apathy suddenly disappeared. Philanthropy allied itself with the new religious movement in an attack on the slave-trade. At the close of the American war its evils began to be felt so widely and deeply that the question forced itself into politics. "After a conversation in the open air at the root of an old tree, just above the steep descent into the Vale of Keston," with the younger Pitt, his friend, William Wilberforce, whose position as a representative of the evangelical party gave weight to his advocacy of such a cause, resolved to bring in a bill for the abolition of the slave-trade. The bill which he brought forward in 1788 fell before the opposition of the Liverpool slave merchants and the general indifference of the House of Commons. But the movement gathered fresh strength in the country with every year; in spite of the absorption of England in the struggle with the French Revolution, it succeeded at last in forcing on Parliament the abolition of the traffic in slaves; and this abolition was followed a few years later by the abolition of slavery itself.
[Sidenote: English manufactures.]
Time was to show how wide were the issues to which this religious developement and the sentiment of humanity which it generated were to tend. But at the moment they told less directly and immediately on the political and social life of England than an industrial revolution which accompanied them. Though England already stood in the first rank of commercial states at the accession of George the Third, her industrial life at home was mainly agricultural. The growth of her manufactures was steady, but it continued to be slow; they gave employment as yet to but a small part of the population, and added in no great degree to the national wealth. The wool-trade remained the largest, as it was the oldest of them; it had gradually established itself in Norfolk, the West Riding of Yorkshire, and the counties of the south-west; while the manufacture of cotton was still almost limited to Manchester and Bolton, and though winning on its rival remained so unimportant that in the middle of the eighteenth century the export of cotton goods hardly reached the value of fifty thousand a year. There was the same slow and steady progress in the linen trade of Belfast and Dundee, and the silks of Spitalfields. But as yet textile manufactures contributed little to the national resources; nor did these resources owe much to the working of our minerals. The coal trade was small, and limited by the cost of carriage as well as by ignorance of any mode of employing coal in iron-smelting. On the other hand the scarcity of wood, which was used for that purpose, limited the production of iron. In 1750 only eighteen thousand tons were produced in England; and four-fifths of its iron goods were imported from Sweden. Nor did there seem any likelihood of a rapid change. Skilled labour was scarce; and the processes of manufacture were too rude to allow any large increase of production. It was only where a stream gave force to turn a mill-wheel that the wool-worker could establish his factory; and cotton was as yet spun by hand in the cottages, the "spinsters" of the family sitting with their distaffs round the weaver's hand-loom.
But even had the processes of production become more efficient, they would have been rendered useless by the inefficiency of the means of distribution. The older main roads, which had lasted fairly through the Middle Ages, had broken down in later times before the growth of traffic and the increase of wagons and carriages. The new lines of trade lay often along mere country lanes which had never been more than horse-tracks, and to drive heavy wains through lanes like these was all but impossible. Much of the woollen trade therefore had to be carried on by means of long trains of pack-horses; and in most cases the cost of carriage added heavily to the price of production. In the case of yet heavier goods, such as coal, distribution was almost impracticable, save along the greater rivers or in districts accessible from the sea. But at the moment when England was just plunging into the Seven Years' War the enterprise of a duke and a millwright solved this problem of carriage, and started the country on a mighty course of industry which was to change both its social and its political character. Francis, Duke of Bridgewater, was a shy, dreamy man, whom a disappointment in love drove to a life of isolation on his estates in the north. He was the possessor of collieries at Worsley whose value depended on their finding a market at the neighbouring town of Manchester; and it was to bring his coal to this market that he resolved to drive a canal from the mine to the river Irwell. With singular good luck he found the means of carrying out his design in a self-taught mechanic, James Brindley. But in Brindley's mind the scheme widened far beyond the plans of the duke. Canals, as he conceived them, were no longer to serve as mere adjuncts to rivers; on the contrary, "rivers were only meant," he said, "to feed canals"; and instead of ending in the Irwell, he carried the duke's canal by an aqueduct across that river to Manchester itself. What Brindley had discovered was in fact the water-road, a means of carrying heavy goods with the least resistance, and therefore the least cost, from the point of production to the point of sale; and England at once seized on his discovery to free itself from the bondage in which it had been held. From the year 1767, when Brindley completed his enterprise, a network of such water-roads was flung over the country; and before the movement had spent its force Great Britain alone was traversed in every direction by three thousand miles of navigable canals.
[Sidenote: Mineral developement.]
To English trade the canal opened up the richest of all markets, the market of England itself. Every part of the country was practically thrown open to the manufacturer: and the impulse which was given by this facility of carriage was at once felt in a vast developement of production. But such a developement would have been impossible had not the discovery of this new mode of distribution been accompanied by the discovery of a new productive force. In the coal which lay beneath her soil England possessed a store of force which had hitherto remained almost useless. But its effects were now to make themselves felt. The first instance of the power of coal was shown in utilizing the stores of iron which had lain side by side with it in the northern counties, but which had lain there unworked through the scarcity of wood, which was looked upon as the only fuel by which it could be smelted. In the middle of the eighteenth century a process for smelting iron with coal turned out to be effective; and the whole aspect of the iron-trade was at once revolutionized. In fifty years the annual production of iron in Great Britain rose from under twenty thousand to more than one hundred and seventy thousand tons. During the fifty years that followed it rose to six millions of tons. Iron was to become the working material of the modern world; and it is its production of iron which more than all else has placed England at the head of industrial Europe. But iron was not the only metal which coal drew from the soil to swell the national wealth. The increase in its production was rivalled by that of lead, copper, and tin; and the "mining districts" soon gathered a population which raised them into social as well as economical importance.
[Sidenote: The Steam Engine.]
But it was not in its direct application to metallurgy that coal was destined to produce its most amazing effects. What was needed to turn England into a manufacturing country was some means of transforming the force stored up in coal into a labour force; and it was this transformation which was now brought about through the agency of steam. Engines in which steam was used as a means of draining mines had long been in use; but the power relied on was mainly that of the weight of the air pressing on a piston beneath which a vacuum had been created by the condensation of steam; and the economical use of such engines was checked by the waste of fuel which resulted from the cooling of the cylinder at each condensation, and from the expenditure of heat in again raising it to its old temperature before a fresh stroke of the piston was possible. Both these obstacles were removed by the ingenuity of James Watt. Watt was a working engineer at Glasgow, whose mind had for some time been bent on the improvement of the steam-engine; but it was not till the spring of 1765, amidst the political turmoil which characterized the early reign of George the Third, that as he strolled on a Sunday afternoon across the Green of Glasgow the means of effecting it burst on him. "I had gone," he says, "to take a walk on a fine Sabbath afternoon. I had entered the Green by the gate at the foot of Charlotte Street, and had passed the old washing-house. I was thinking upon the engine at the time, and had got as far as the herd's house, when the idea came into my mind that as steam was an elastic body it would rush into a vacuum, and if a communication were made between the cylinder and an exhausted vessel it would rush into it, and might there be condensed without cooling the cylinder. I had not walked farther than the Golf-House when the whole thing was arranged in my mind." The employment of a separate condenser, with the entire discarding of any other force in its action save that of steam itself, changed the whole conditions of the steam-engine. On the eve of the American war, in 1776, its use passed beyond the mere draining of mines; and it was rapidly adopted as a motive-force for all kinds of manufacturing industry.
[Sidenote: The Cotton manufactures.]
The almost unlimited supply of labour-power in the steam-engine came at a time when the existing supply of manual labour was proving utterly inadequate to cope with the demands of the manufacturer. This was especially the case in textile fabrics. In its earlier stages the manufacture of cotton had been retarded by the difficulty with which the weavers obtained a sufficient supply of cotton yarn from the spinsters; and this difficulty became yet greater when the invention of the fly-shuttle enabled one weaver to do in a single day what had hitherto been the work of two. The difficulty was solved by a Blackburn weaver, John Hargreaves, who noticed that his wife's spindle, which had been accidentally upset, continued to revolve in an upright position on the floor, while the thread was still spinning in her hand. The hint led him to connect a number of spindles with a single wheel, and thus to enable one spinster to do the work of eight. Hargreaves's invention only spurred the wits of a barber's assistant, Richard Arkwright, to yet greater improvement in the construction of a machine for spinning by rollers revolving at different rates of speed; and this in its turn was improved and developed in the "mule" of a Bolton weaver, Samuel Crompton. The result of these inventions was to reverse the difficulty which hampered the trade, for the supply of yarn became so rapid and unlimited as to outrun the power of the hand-loom weaver to consume it; but a few years after the close of the American war this difficulty was met by the discovery of the power-loom, which replaced the weaver by machinery. Ingenious however as these inventions were, they would have remained comparatively useless had it not been for the revelation of a new and inexhaustible labour-force in the steam-engine. It was the combination of such a force with such means of applying it that enabled Britain during the terrible years of her struggle with France and Napoleon to all but monopolise the woollen and cotton trades, and raised her into the greatest manufacturing country that the world had seen.
How mighty a force this industrial revolution was to exert on English politics and English society time was to show. By the transfer of wealth and population from southern to northern England, and from the country to the town, it was in the next fifty years to set on foot a revolution in both, the results of which have still to be disclosed. Of such a revolution no English statesman as yet had a glimpse; but already the growth of industrial energy and industrial wealth was telling on the conditions of English statesmanship. The manufacturer and the merchant were coming fast to the front; and their temper was more menacing to the monopoly of political power by the Whigs and the landed aristocracy whom the Whigs represented than the temper of the king himself. Already public opinion was finding in them a new concentration and weight; and it was certain that as the representatives of public opinion they would at last demand a share in the work of government. Such a demand might have been delayed for a while had they been content with the way in which England was governed. But they were far from being content with it. To no class indeed could the selfishness, the corruption, the factiousness, and the administrative inefficiency of the ruling order be more utterly odious. Their tone was moral, and they were influenced more and more by the religious and philanthropic movement about them. As men of business, they revolted against the waste and mismanagement which seemed to have become normal in every department of government. Their patriotism, their pride in England's greatness, alienated them from men who looked upon political eminence as a means of personal gain. Above all their personal energy, their consciousness of wealth and power, and to some extent the natural jealousy of the trader against the country gentleman, urged them to press for an overthrow of the existing monopoly, and for a fairer distribution of political influence. But such a pressure could only bring them into conflict with the Whigs whom the fall of Lord North had recalled to office. Though the Tories had now grown to a compact body of a hundred and fifty members, the Whigs still remained superior to their rivals in numbers and ability as well as in distinctness of political aim; for the return of the Bedford section to the general body of the party, as well as its steady opposition to the American war, had restored much of their early cohesion. But this reunion only strengthened their aristocratic and exclusive tendencies, and widened the breach which was steadily opening on questions such as Parliamentary Reform between the bulk of the Whigs and the small fragment of their party which remained true to the more popular sympathies of Chatham.
[Sidenote: William Pitt.]
Lord Shelburne stood at the head of the Chatham party, and it was reinforced at this moment by the entry into Parliament of the second and youngest son of Chatham himself. William Pitt had hardly reached his twenty-second year; but he left college with the learning of a ripe scholar, and his ready and sonorous eloquence had been matured by his father's teaching. "He will be one of the first men in Parliament," said a member to Charles Fox, the Whig leader in the Commons, after Pitt's earliest speech in that house. "He is so already," replied Fox. Young as he was, the haughty self-esteem of the new statesman breathed in every movement of his tall, spare figure, in the hard lines of a countenance which none but his closer friends saw lighted by a smile, in his cold and repulsive address, his invariable gravity of demeanour, and his habitual air of command. But none knew how great the qualities were which lay beneath this haughty exterior; nor had any one guessed how soon this "boy," as his rivals mockingly styled him, was to crush every opponent and to hold England at his will. There was only a smile of wonder when he refused any of the minor posts which were offered him in the Rockingham administration, and the wonder passed into angry sarcasms as soon as it was known that he claimed, if he took office at all, to be at once admitted to the Cabinet. But Pitt had no desire to take office under Rockingham. He was the inheritor of that side of his father's policy which was most distasteful to the Whigs. To him as to Chatham the main lesson of the war was the need of putting an end to those abuses in the composition of Parliament by which George the Third had been enabled to plunge the country into it. A thorough reform of the House of Commons was the only effectual means of doing this, and Pitt brought forward a bill founded on his father's plans for that purpose. But though a more liberal section of the Whigs, with Charles Fox at their head, were wavering round to a wish for reform, the great bulk of the party could not nerve themselves to the sacrifice of property and influence which such a reform would involve. Rockingham remained hostile to reform, and Burke, whose influence still told much upon Rockingham, was yet more hostile than his chief. Pitt's bill therefore was thrown out. In its stead the Ministry endeavoured to weaken the means of corrupt influence which the king had unscrupulously used by disqualifying persons holding government contracts from sitting in Parliament, by depriving revenue officers of the elective franchise (a measure which diminished the weight of the Crown in seventy boroughs), and above all by a bill for the reduction of the civil establishment, of the pension list, and of the secret service fund, which was brought in by Burke. These measures were to a great extent effectual in diminishing the influence of the Crown over Parliament, and they are memorable as marking the date when the direct bribery of members absolutely ceased. But they were utterly inoperative in rendering the House of Commons really representative of or responsible to the people of England.
[Sidenote: The Coalition.]
The jealousy which the mass of the Whigs entertained of the followers of Chatham and their plans was more plainly shown however on the death of Lord Rockingham in July. Shelburne, who had hitherto served as Secretary of State, was called by the king to the head of the Ministry, a post to which his eminent talents and the ability which he was showing in the negotiations for the Peace clearly gave him a title. But Shelburne had been hampered in these negotiations by the jealousy of Charles Fox, who as joint Secretary of State with him claimed in spite of usage a share in conducting them, and who persisted without a show of reason in believing himself to have been unfairly treated. It was on personal grounds therefore that Fox refused to serve under Shelburne; but the refusal of Burke and the bulk of Rockingham's followers was based on more than personal grounds. It sprang from a rooted distrust of the more popular tendencies of which Shelburne was justly regarded as the representative. To Pitt, on the other hand, these tendencies were the chief ground of confidence in the new Ministry; and, young as he was, he at once entered office as Chancellor of the Exchequer. But his tenure of this post was a brief one. The Shelburne Ministry in fact only lasted long enough to conclude the final peace with the United States on the base of their independence; for in the opening of 1783 it was overthrown by the most unscrupulous coalition known in our history, a union of the Whig followers of Fox with the Tories who still clung to Lord North. In Parliament such a coalition was irresistible, and the resignation of Shelburne at once made way for an administration in which both the triumphant parties were represented. But the effect on England at large was very different. Whatever new credit the Whigs had gained with the country during their long exclusion from office had been due to their steady denunciation of the policy and temper of Lord North's administration. That they should take office hand in hand with men whom they had for years denounced as the worst of Ministers shocked even their most loyal adherents; and the shock was the greater that a new seriousness in politics, a longing for a deeper and more earnest treatment of political questions, was making mere faction intolerable to Englishmen. But behind all this was the sense that something more than mere faction had really brought the two parties together. It was their common dread of the popular tendencies which Shelburne's Ministry represented, their common hatred of parliamentary reform, which hushed for the moment the bitter hostility between the followers of Rockingham and the followers of North. Yet never had the need of representative reform been more clearly shown than by a coalition which proved how powerless was the force of public opinion to check even the most shameless faction in Parliament, how completely the lessening of royal influence by the measures of Burke and Rockingham had tended to the profit not of the people but of the borough-mongers who usurped its representation. The turn of public opinion was quick in disclosing itself. Fox was the most popular of the Whigs, but he was hooted from the platform when he addressed his constituents at Westminster. Pitt, on the other hand, whose attacks on the new union rose to a lofty and indignant eloquence, was lifted by it into an almost solitary greatness.