THE GREAT EVENTS BY FAMOUS HISTORIANS
A comprehensive and readable account of the world's history, emphasizing the more important events, and presenting these as complete narratives in the master-words of the most eminent historians.
Non-sectarian, non-partisan and non-sectional.
On the plan evolved from a consensus of opinions gathered from the most distinguished scholars of America and Europe, including brief introductions by specialists to connect and explain the celebrated narratives, arranged chronologically, with thorough indices, bibliographies, chronologies, and courses of reading.
Editor-in-Chief: Rossiter Johnson, LL.D.
Associate Editors: Charles F. Horne, Ph.D. and John Rudd, LL.D.
With a staff of specialists
CONTENTS of VOLUME XVII
AN OUTLINE NARRATIVE OF THE GREAT EVENTS, Charles F. Horne
(1844) THE INVENTION OF THE TELEGRAPH, Alonzo B. Cornell
(1846) REPEAL OF THE ENGLISH CORN LAWS, Justin McCarthy
(1846) THE DISCOVERY OF NEPTUNE, Sir Oliver Lodge
(1846) THE ACQUISITION OF CALIFORNIA, Henry B. Dawson
(1847) THE FALL OF ABD-EL-KADER, Edgar Sanderson
(1847) THE MEXICAN WAR, John Bonner
(1847) FAMINE IN IRELAND, Sir Charles Gavan Duffy
(1848) MIGRATIONS OF THE MORMONS, Thomas L. Kane
(1848) THE REFORMS OF PIUS IX; HIS FLIGHT FROM ROME, Francis Bowen
(1848) THE REVOLUTION OF FEBRUARY IN FRANCE, Francois P.G. Guizot and Mme. Guizot de Witt
(1848) REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS IN GERMAN, C. Edmund Maurice
(1848) THE REVOLT IN HUNGARY, Arminius Vembery
(1848) THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN CALIFORNIA, John S. Hittell
(1849) THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC, Jessie White Mario
(1849) LIVINGSTONE'S AFRICAN DISCOVERIES, David Livingstone and Thomas Hughes
(1851) THE COUP D'ETAT OF LOUIS NAPOLEON, Alexis de Tocqueville
(1851) THE DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN AUSTRALIA, Edward Jenks
(1854) THE RISE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, Abraham Lincoln
(1854) THE OPENING OF JAPAN, Matthew C. Perry
(1855) THE CAPTURE OF SEBASTOPOL, Sir Edward B. Hamley and Sir Evelyn Wood
(1857) THE INDIAN MUTINY, J. Talboys Wheeler
(1859) THE BATTLES OF MAGENTA and SOLFERINO, Pietro Orsi
(1859) DARWIN PUBLISHES HIS ORIGIN OF SPECIES, Charles Robert Darwin
(1860) THE KINGDOM OF ITALY ESTABLISHED, Giuseppe Garibaldi and John Webb Probyn
(1861) THE EMANCIPATION OF RUSSIAN SERFS, Andrew D. White and Nikolai Turgenieff
(1844-1861) UNIVERSAL CHRONOLOGY, Daniel Edwin Wheeler
The mutinous Sepoys blown from the mouths of cannon by the English at Cawnpore, Painting by Basil Verestchagin.
Charge of the Six Hundred at Balaklava, Painting by Stanley Berkeley.
AN OUTLINE NARRATIVE (Tracing briefly the causes, connections, and consequences of the great events.)
THE TRIUMPH OF DEMOCRACY, Charles F. Horne
In the year 1844 electricity, last and mightiest of the servants of man, was seized and harnessed and made to do practical work. A telegraph line was erected between Washington and Baltimore. [Footnote: See Invention of the Telegraph.] In 1846 mathematics achieved perhaps the greatest triumph of abstract science. It pointed out where in the heavens there should be a planet, never before known by man. Strong telescopes were directed to the spot and the planet was discovered. [Footnote: See The Discovery of Neptune.] Man had found guides more subtle and more accurate than his own five ancient senses. The age of figures, the age of electricity, began.
The changes were symbolic, perhaps, of the more rapid rate at which the forces of society were soon to move. Over all Europe and America great events were shaping themselves with lightning speed. Tremendous changes political and economic, social and scientific, were hurrying to an issue.
THE MEXICAN WAR
In America the Mexican War, vast in its territorial results, still more so in its effect upon society, broke out in 1846 over the admission of Texas to the United States. The superior fighting strength of the more northern race was at once made evident. Small bodies of United States troops repeatedly defeated far larger numbers of the Mexican militia. The entire northern half of Mexico was soon occupied by the enemy. Expeditions, half of conquest, half of exploration, seized New Mexico, California, and all the vast region which now composes the southwestern quarter of the United States. [Footnote: See The Acquisition of California.]
Farther south, however, the more populous region wherein lay the chief Mexican cities remained resolute in its defiance; and the Washington Government despatched against it that truly marvellous expedition under General Scott. The heroisms and the triumphs of Scott's spectacular campaign deserve to be sung in epic form. The dubious justice of the war was forgotten in its overwhelming success. From the captured Mexican capital the conquerors dictated such peace terms as added to the United States almost half the territory of her helpless neighbor. Europe at last awoke to the fact that there was but one Power on the American continent, a power with which even the mightiest monarch could ill afford to quarrel. [Footnote: See The Mexican War.] The very year in which the final treaty of peace was signed (1848) the Mormons, a religious sect, finding themselves unwelcome and out of place in Illinois, moved westward in a body. Enduring every hardship, every privation, perishing by hundreds in the trackless deserts, captured and put to torture by the Indians, they still persevered in their migration, and, halting at last in the valleys of Utah, began the settlement of the Central West. [Footnote: See Migrations of the Mormons.]
Also in that same year, gold was discovered in California. Thousands of eager adventurers flocked thither, and thus the vast wilderness that Mexico had lightly surrendered had hardly become United States territory ere it was filled with people, not listless semi-savages, but eager, energetic men, resolute and resourceful. The West joined the march of progress; it doubled the wealth and prowess of the East. [Footnote: See Discovery of Gold in California.]
THE UPRISING OF THE PEOPLES
Important indeed was that year of 1848, noteworthy above most in the story of mankind. In Europe it witnessed the greatest of all the outbursts of democracy. The common people, easily suppressed by the armies of the Holy Alliance in 1820, had been subdued with difficulty in 1830. Now in 1848 they rose again. Their gradual accumulation of power and passion would soon be irresistible. Even the petted armies of autocracy became possessed with the new belief in mankind's brotherhood.
This time the outburst began in Italy. Mazzini, the celebrated founder of the political society "Young Italy," inspired his countrymen with something of his own ardent devotion to the cause of liberty and Italian union. Then in 1846 Pius IX, last of the heads of the Roman Church to possess a temporal authority as well, ascended the throne of the Papal dominions. The new Pope was in sympathy with the democratic spirit of the times, and he established in his own States a constitutional government, granting to his people more and more of power as he judged them fitted for it. Soon, however, the most radical elements asserted themselves in the new Government. All that the Pope could find it in his heart to grant, seemed to them not half enough. The mighty spirit which he had let loose broke from his control. Before the close of 1848 there were riots, fighting in the streets; the Pope's chief counsellor was murdered, and he himself had to flee by night in secrecy, a fugitive from Rome. [Footnote: See The Reforms of Pius IX: His Flight from Rome.]
Ere matters had reached this pass, the sudden impulse given by Rome to democratic government had spread like wildfire over the whole of Europe. Thrones everywhere seemed crumbling to the dust. In January, 1848, the people of Sicily revolted against their tyrant king and formed a republic. Southern Italy, which had been part of the same kingdom, compelled the sovereign to grant a constitution. Other Italian States followed the example of rebellion. All Europe apparently had been but waiting for the spark. In France, dissatisfaction with the "tradesman-King," Louis Philippe, had long been bitter. In February, 1848, there was an open rebellion, Louis abdicated, and a provisional government was formed, which proclaimed the land a republic. [Footnote: See The Revolution of February in France.]
There was no fear now lest the other Powers interfere. Each Continental monarch was over-busy at home. Rebellion was everywhere. Every one of the lesser German States secured a constitution; and the inhabitants summoned those of Prussia and Austria to join them in establishing a single central government, either republic or empire, a "United Germany." On March 18th the Prussian capital, Berlin, was the seat of a savage street battle between citizens and the royal troops. Not until it had raged all day and upward of two hundred persons had been slain did the Prussian monarch, Frederick William IV, weaken and proclaim a constitution. [Footnote: See Revolutionary Movements in Germany.]
Austria, the stronghold of autocracy, the land of Prince Metternich, high-priest of repression, had proven as little ready as her neighbors to withstand the sudden storm. On March 13th the people of Vienna rose in most unexpected revolt, and Metternich, escaping from the city in a washerwoman's cart, fled to England. "We were prepared for everything," he lamented, "but a democratic pope."
The whole heterogeneous empire of Austria seemed to fall apart at once. The Hungarians rose in arms to fight for independence. The Bohemians expelled the Austrian troops from Prague. In Italy the Northern Provinces followed the example set them in the South. The people of Milan attacked the Austrian garrison and expelled it after four days of fighting. Venice reasserted her ancient independence. The King of Piedmont and Sardinia, declaring himself the champion of Italian unity, ordered the Austrian armies to leave the country, and marched his forces against them. The other little States hastened to accept his leadership and add their troops to his.
Yet against all these difficulties the military power of the Austrian Government began to make determined headway. The Bohemians were crushed by force of arms. In Italy the Austrian general-in-chief withdrew slowly before his many foes, until his Government could reenforce him. Then he turned on them, completely defeated the Sardinian King at Custozza and the next year at Novara, and therby restored Austrian supremacy in Northern Italy.
Meanwhile Rome, from which Pius IX had fled in horror, proclaimed itself a republic. Mazzini, the earliest hero of Italian unity, and Garibaldi, its greatest champion, were both members of the Government. The Austrians marched against them; but French troops had also been despatched to defend the Pope, and it was the French who, first reaching Rome, stormed and captured it. The republic was overthrown by a republic. [Footnote: See Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic.] Venice was the last Italian city to hold out, and surrendered to the Austrians only after a siege of many months had reduced it to starvation.
The Austrian revolution had also collapsed at home. In October, 1848, Government troops stormed the city of Vienna as if it had been a foreign capital, and defeated the students and citizens, who fought the soldiers from street to street.
Only in Hungary were the royal armies baffled. There a regular republican government was established under Louis Kossuth. Hungarian armies were raised, and, defeating the Austrians in pitched battles, drove them from the land. The Austrian Emperor in despair appealed to Russia for aid; and the Czar having just trampled out an incipient Polish rebellion of his own, came willingly to the aid of his brother autocrat. Just as Austrian troops had so often done in Italy, so now a huge Russian horde poured over Hungary, beat down all resistance, and having reduced the land to helplessness returned it to the angry grip of its insulted sovereign. [Footnote: See The Revolt of Hungary.]
Yet Hungary did not wholly fail of her revenge. She had brought about the downfall of Austria as a great political Power. The once haughty empire had been compelled to cry for help, to be protected, even as were Italy and Spain, against her own people. Her weakness was made manifest to the world. Never again could she pose as the leader of European councils.
Thus it was only in France and Germany that the results of the upheaval of 1848-1849 remained evident upon the surface. Prussia and the lesser German States became and continued constitutional kingdoms. Germany was united in a closer though still vague union, in which Austria and Prussia struggled for a dominant influence. But democracy had in many places committed such excesses that the huge body of the middle classes feared it and turned against it. Such citizens as had property to preserve concluded that, after all, their ancient kings had been less tyrannic than King Mob.
In France, too, this reaction was strongly felt. The revolution of 1848 had not been accomplished without an outburst from socialism or communism, which raised its red flag in the streets of Paris and was put down only after days of bloody battle with the more moderate elements. So the French middle classes wanted peace, and they elected as president of the republic Louis Napoleon, nephew of their once famous Emperor. In 1851 the President by a sudden coup d'etat overturned his own Government. He declared the land an empire under himself as Napoleon III. Enthusiastic patriots protested in burning words, but most of France appeared content. Property-owners welcomed the return of any government that was strong enough to govern. [Footnote: See The Coup d'Etat.]
Despite temporary setbacks, however, the advance of the power of the people in 1848 had been enormous. The dullest tyrant could hardly believe longer in the permanence of personal despotism. Even England, the stronghold of conservatism as well as of personal independence, was shifting her aristocratic institutions slowly toward democracy.
The Reform Bill of 1832 had been only a small step in the direction of popular government; but it opened the way for further reform. Almost immediately upon its granting, began what was known as the Chartist movement, an agitation kept up among the lower classes for a "charter" or more liberal constitution. This soon became associated with a demand for freer trade. The importation into England of bread-stuffs, especially corn, was heavily taxed, and thus the poorer classes were driven almost to the point of famine. The failure of the potato crop did at last produce actual and awful famine in Ireland. Her peasants still speak of 1847 as "the black year" of death. [Footnote: See Famine in Ireland.]
Hundreds of thousands of the poorer classes starved. Then began a stream of emigration to America. Under pressure of such facts as these, the English "Corn Laws" were repealed, and gradually Great Britain assumed more and more positively the attitude of "free trade." [Footnote: See Repeal of the English Corn Laws.]
EXPANSION OF EUROPEAN INFLUENCE
Yet despite all the internal difficulties that thus convulsed Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century, the period is also notable for the rapid expansion of European influence over the other continents of the Eastern Hemisphere. "Earth-hunger," the same passion that had swayed the United States in its Mexican contest, plunged the Powers of Europe also into repeated war. France extended her authority over the nearer African States of the Mediterranean. Indeed, one of the main causes for the rebellion of 1848 against Louis Philippe was the enormous cost in men and money of these African campaigns, undertaken against the truly remarkable Mahometan leader and patriot Abd-el-Kader. [Footnote: See The Fall of Abd-el-Kader.]
England tightened her grip on India, and extended her authority over the broader lands around it. The hopelessness of Asiatic resistance to European aggressiveness and military force was once more made evident in the widespread rebellion of the Indian natives in 1857. In quick succession, over vast and populous regions, both the people and the rajas rose against British rule. In the triumph of their first momentary victories they committed savage excesses which made pardon hopeless. Yet neither their numbers nor the desperation to which they were driven enabled them to hold their own against the mere handfuls of resolute Englishmen, who soon subdued them. [Footnote: See The Indian Mutiny.]
England's influence was also extended over Afghanistan and Southern Africa. Livingstone, most famous of missionaries and explorers, crossed the "dark continent" from coast to coast in 1851. [Footnote: See Livingstone's African Discoveries.] In that same year gold was discovered in Australia, and English adventurers flocked thither. The world grew small to European eyes. [Footnote: See Discovery of Gold in Australia.]
Even the extremest East was brought in contact with the West. As a result of the Opium War of 1840, China was compelled to open her doors to foreign trade. She was also compelled to surrender territory to England. Japan, which for more than two centuries had jealously excluded Europeans from her shores, received her memorable awakening from the friendly American expedition of Commodore Perry. [Footnote: See The Opening of Japan.]
THE CRIMEAN WAR
Russia sought to have her share also in the appropriation of territory and "spheres of influence." She and England were the only two European Powers which had not been seriously shaken by the upheavals of 1848. It seemed that they might almost divide between them the helpless Eastern world. England having already begun operations, Russia assumed a sort of protectorate over the Christians in Turkish lands, and proposed to England that the entire Turkish Empire should be divided between the two despoilers. The British Government refused the plan, mainly because it would give Russia a broad highway to the sea and make her a dangerous commercial rival. So Russia attempted to carry out her scheme single-handed, and began seizing Turkish provinces. She destroyed the Turkish fleet. Once before in 1828 the threat of a general European alliance had checked the Russian bear at this same game; but Europe was weaker now, the Czar stronger, and England far off and undecided.
Thus perhaps the Czar might have had his way but for Napoleon III. This new Emperor had been permitted by Frenchmen to usurp his power largely because of the military repute of his great namesake; and he felt that to hold his place he must justify his reputation. Frenchmen resented exceedingly the Czar's haughty assumption that only England was able to oppose Russia; and Napoleon III promptly asserted himself in the role of the former Napoleon as "dictator of Europe." The title so pleased the insulted pride of his people that they followed him eagerly, and remained blind to many failings through more wars than one. The self-constituted dictator insisted that his whole desire was for peace and the artistic beautifying of his country; yet if Russia persisted in extending her power and ignoring France—. In 1854 he joined England in the war of the Crimea against Russia.
It cannot be said that the allies achieved any great success against their huge antagonist. Their fleets bombarded the Baltic fortresses with small result. Their armies, hastening to protect Turkey, attacked the Russians in the Crimea, gained the Battle of the Alma, and then for an entire year besieged the fortifications of Sebastopol. [Footnote: See The Capture of Sebastopol.] But distance and changeful climate proved Russia's aids as they had in 1812. The allies' commissary and sanitary departments could hardly be managed at all; their troops died by thousands, and, though they finally stormed and captured Sebastopol, it was a barren victory. Russia, not so much overcome as convinced of the practical lack of profit in persistency, made terms of peace by which she once more drew back from her feeble prey. English statesmen were satisfied with the check administered to their great rival; and the French were delighted at the successful interference of their "dictator of Europe." He had rehabilitated the nation in its own eyes.
UNION OF ITALY
Ambition grows by what it feeds on. Napoleon determined to assert himself again. The bitterness of Italy against its Austrian masters offered an excellent opportunity, and in 1859 he encouraged the King of Sardinia to try once more the contest which had proved so disastrous eleven years before. The King, Victor Emmanuel II, prepared for war against Austria. The French joined him, so did the little North Italian States, and their combined forces were victorious at Magenta and Solferino. [Footnote: See Battles of Magenta and Solferino.]
Napoleon had declared that the combat should not cease until the Austrians were driven entirely out of Italy. As the price of his alliance he secured Nice and Savoy from Sardinia; and then, immediately after the bloody Battle of Solferino he suddenly changed front and declared that the war must cease. Austria yielded Lombardy, but kept Venice, the last of the possessions for which during more than three hundred years she had been battling in Italy. The Kingdom of Sardinia became the Kingdom of Northern Italy.
The next year (1860) Garibaldi, the lion-like fighter, the enthusiastic lover of Italy, gathering round him a thousand followers, made an unexpected attack on Sicily, which was held by the tyrant King of Naples. With his celebrated "Thousand" he won two remarkable victories. The Sicilians joined him; the Neapolitans were driven from the island. Not giving them time to recover, Garibaldi followed to the mainland, defeated them again, and was master of all Southern Italy. Meanwhile Victor Emmanuel, marching his troops southward, seized what was left of the States of the Church. The two conquerors met midway in Italy, and Garibaldi, grasping his sovereign by the hand, saluted him as King at last of a united Italy. Only Rome and Venice remained outside the pale, Rome protected by being in actual possession of the Pope, and, since France was still Catholic, guarded by French troops from the eager Italians. The year 1860 had been second only to 1848 in its importance in changing the outlines of modern Europe. [Footnote: See The Kingdom of Italy Established.]
Another change, immeasurably vast and still unmeasured in its consequences, may be dated from 1859, when Charles Darwin gave to the world his book, the Origin of Species. In this he proclaimed the doctrine of the evolution of all the more complicated forms of life from simpler forms. The idea, at first resolutely combated on religious grounds, has gradually received more or less acceptance into the entire religious fabric, even as were the discoveries of Galileo. [Footnote: See Darwin Publishes His Origin of Species.]
DISUNION IN AMERICA
Yet each and all of these events, important as they were, grew little in men's minds as the year 1860 drew to its close and revealed in America the coming of a mightier quarrel. The slavery question, once supposed to have been settled by the Missouri Compromise, had proved itself incapable of such settlement. The forward march of democracy had in fact made slavery an anachronism, outgrown and impossible. Even the Emperor of Russia saw that, and in 1861 liberated all the serfs within his territories. [Footnote: See Emancipation of Russian Serfs.] In the United States alone among the great Powers of the world, did slavery persist.
In 1854 a new political party, calling itself the Republican, was formed, having for its main principle opposition to the extension of slavery into the Territories. [Footnote: See The Rise of the Republican Party.] Other issues might and did complicate the central question, but it was the slavery issue that inflamed men's minds, made Kansas a "battle-ground" between settlers from North and South, and sent John Brown upon his reckless raid. Watching the increasing success of the Republicans, Southern leaders began to reassert the doctrine of the right of secession. They said openly that if a Republican president were elected they would leave the Union.
And in 1860 a Republican president was elected. Was the long-predicted, and to most of Europe eagerly desired, disruption of the United States at hand? Was the break to be accomplished peacefully or in flame and wrath? The fading year of 1860 left the advancing world of democracy in panic over the danger to what had been its most successful stronghold.
[For the next section of this general survey, see volume XVIII.]
(1844) INVENTION OF THE TELEGRAPH, Alonzo B. Cornell
After the experiments of Franklin that did so much to advance the study of electrical phenomena, and to suggest practical applications of electricity, physicists in all countries occupied themselves with investigations along lines marked out by the American philosopher. In 1749 Franklin devised the lightning-rod. But notwithstanding the labors of many investigators, it was more than fifty years before any other practical discovery or invention in electricity was brought into general use. The first great achievement of the kind was Morse's improvement of the electric telegraph. That Morse's fellow-countryman, Joseph Henry, chiefly prepared the way for that triumph, the following account, with just emphasis, demonstrates.
Among the European scientists and inventors to whom both Henry and Morse were indebted was the French electrician, Andre Marie Ampere (1775-1836), whose name (ampere) has been given to the practical unit of electric-current strength. Ampere was the first and is the most famous investigator in electrodynamics. He also invented a telegraphic arrangement in which he used the magnetic needle and coil and the galvanic battery. Others, in the latter part of the eighteenth century and the earlier years of the nineteenth, devised similar arrangements. But no strictly electromagnetic apparatus for telegraphic signalling was put to successful use until 1836, when, in England, Charles Wheatstone, who is commonly regarded as the first inventor of practical electric telegraphy, constructed an apparatus whereby thirty signals were transmitted through nearly four miles of wire. From 1837 to 1843 he had as an associate William Fothergill Cooke, and the two worked together to develop the electric telegraph. They afterward quarrelled over their respective claims to credit, but in 1838-1841 telegraph lines secured by their patents were set up on the Great Western and two other English railways.
Meanwhile other inventors were still working for the same results, in many parts of the world, and it has been significantly said that "the electric telegraph had, properly speaking, no inventor; it grew up little by little." Nevertheless with respect to the distinctive character of Morse's improvements, and his title to a peculiar place among those through whose labors the electric telegraph "grew," there can be no question.
Alonzo B. Cornell, son of the founder of Cornell University, at one time Governor of New York, was intimately connected with electrical and telegraphic affairs for many years; therefore on the subject here presented he speaks with professional authority. His father was the first builder of the Morse telegraphs.
* * * * *
During the early years of the nineteenth century but slight advance was made in the development of electrical science, although there were many persons both here and abroad engaged in experimental work, and there was considerable increase of literature bearing upon the subject. It was reserved for another illustrious American to accomplish the next important and decisive step in the pathway of progress. In 1828 Joseph Henry, then professor of physics at the Albany Academy, afterward a professor at Princeton, and subsequently for many years secretary of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, made the highly important discovery that by winding a plain iron core with many layers of insulated wire, through which the electric current was passed, he could at pleasure charge and discharge the iron core with magnetic power. Thus Henry produced the electromagnet which was the beginning of the mastery by man of the subtle fluid. He also discovered that the intensity and power of the electric current were materially augmented by increasing the number of the series of battery plates without increasing the quantity of metal used in their construction.
These discoveries of Henry were, beyond all question, the most important in real and intrinsic value ever made in the progress of electric science, as they form the solid basis upon which all subsequent inventors have been enabled to accomplish successful results in their various fields of endeavor. It is conceded by all familiar with the history of electrical progress that the name of Professor Joseph Henry is to be honored and cherished as one of the very foremost of scientific discoverers of any age or country, and it must remain a cause of sincere and permanent regret that of all the fabulous wealth that has resulted from the advancement of electrical science, this modest and unselfish inventor should have passed hence without ever having realized any substantial reward for his great work. Not only so, but he was never awarded the appropriate acknowledgment to which he was so eminently entitled for the inestimable benefits his discoveries conferred upon his countrymen and upon the world at large.
The possibility of utilizing Professor Henry's electromagnet for the purpose of transmitting intelligence to a distant point was conceived by still another American, Professor Samuel Finley Breese Morse, of New York, [Footnote: He was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, April 27, 1791.—ED.] during his passage on board the packet-ship Sully, from Havre to New York, in the winter of 1832. Incidental discussions between himself and Doctor Jackson, a fellow-passenger, in reference to recent electrical improvements on both sides of the Atlantic, led Morse to the conclusion that intelligence might be instantaneously transmitted over a metallic circuit to a distant point, and he thereupon determined to devote himself to the solution of the problem involved. The following day he exhibited a rough sketch of a plan for recording electric impulses necessary to convey and express intelligence. He pursued the subject with great devotion during the remainder of the voyage, and after arrival in New York began the construction of the necessary apparatus to accomplish his purpose.
Morse was by profession a portrait painter of more than ordinary merit, and was obliged to continue his artistic labors for a livelihood. He was a graduate of Yale College, where his attention had first been attracted to electrical experiments. He was thus, in a measure, prepared for carrying forward the important work he had undertaken, and pursued his labors with great assiduity. Devoting every spare moment to the pursuit of his object, which was attained but slowly by reason of his lack of mechanical skill and ingenuity, not until 1837 had he so far succeeded in his efforts as to be prepared to make application for letters-patent to enable him to secure and protect his rights of invention in the electromagnetic telegraph.
In explanation of the slow progress of his experimental work, Professor Morse, in writing to a friend, said: "Up to the autumn of 1837 my telegraphic apparatus existed in so rude a form that I felt reluctance to have it seen. My means were very limited, so limited as to preclude the possibility of constructing an apparatus of such mechanical finish as to warrant my success in venturing upon its public exhibition. I had no wish to expose to ridicule the representative of so many hours of laborious thought. Prior to the summer of 1837 I depended upon my pencil for subsistence. Indeed, so straitened were my circumstances that in order to save time to carry out my invention and to economize my scanty means I had for months lodged and eaten in my studio, procuring food in small quantities from some grocery, and preparing it myself. To conceal from my friends the stinted manner in which I lived, I was in the habit of bringing food to my room in the evenings; and this was my mode of life for many years."
After the continuance of this heroic struggle for more than five years, Morse found himself compelled to seek the aid of more accomplished mechanical skill than he possessed, to perfect his apparatus, and was obliged to surrender a quarter interest in his invention in order to obtain pecuniary aid for this purpose.
Having thus succeeded in obtaining, at such serious sacrifice, the requisite financial assistance to enable him to perfect the mechanism necessary to demonstrate his invention, Professor Morse lost no time in completing his apparatus and presenting it for public inspection. On January 6, 1838, he first operated his system successfully, over a wire three miles long, in the presence of a number of personal friends, at Morristown, New Jersey. In the following month he made a similar exhibition before the faculty of the New York University, which was an occasion of much interest among the scientists of the metropolis.
Shortly thereafter the apparatus was taken to Philadelphia and exhibited at the Franklin Institute, where he received the highest commendation from the committee of science and arts, with a strong expression in favor of government aid for the purpose of demonstrating the practical usefulness of the system.
From Philadelphia, Morse removed his apparatus to Washington, where he was permitted to demonstrate its operation before President Van Buren and his Cabinet. Foreign ministers and members of both Houses of Congress, as well, also, as prominent citizens, were invited to attend the exhibition, and manifested much interest in the novelty of the invention. A bill was introduced in Congress making an appropriation of thirty thousand dollars for the purpose of providing for the erection of an experimental line of telegraph between Washington and Baltimore, to illustrate, by practical use, its general utility. The bill was in good time favorably reported from the committee on commerce, but made no further progress in that Congress. Similar bills were subsequently introduced and diligently supported in each succeeding Congress, but it was not until the very closing hour of the expiring session of 1843 that the necessary enactment was effected and the appropriation secured.
The plan of construction devised by Professor Morse for the experimental line of telegraph to be erected between Washington and Baltimore, under the Congressional appropriation, provided for placing insulated wires in a lead pipe underground. This was to be accomplished by the use of a specially devised plough of peculiar construction, to be drawn by a powerful team, by which means the pipe containing the electric conductors was to be automatically deposited in the earth. This apparatus was entirely successful in operation, and the pipe was thus buried to the complete satisfaction of all concerned, at a cost very much lower than the work could have been accomplished in any other manner. Two wires were to be used to form a complete metallic circuit, for at that time it was not known, as was shortly afterward discovered, that the earth could be used to form one-half of the circuit. For purposes of insulation the wires were neatly covered with cotton-yarn and then saturated in a bath of hot gum-shellac, but this treatment proved defective in insulating properties, for when ten miles of line had been completed the wires were found to be wholly useless for electric conduction.
No mode had been devised for the treatment of india-rubber to make it available for purposes of insulation, and gutta-percha was wholly unknown as an article of use or commerce in this country. Twenty-three thousand dollars of the Government appropriation had been expended, and the work thus far accomplished was an acknowledged failure. Only seven thousand dollars of the available fund remained unexpended, and this was regarded as inadequate to complete the undertaking under any other plan. The friends of the enterprise were in despair, and for some time saw no other alternative than to apply to Congress for an additional appropriation. This, however, was regarded as almost hopeless, and the difficulty of the situation was extremely embarrassing.
An amusing incident was related of the means used to keep from public knowledge the desperate situation. Professor Morse finally visited the scene of activity where the pipe-laying was proceeding, and, calling the superintendent aside, confided to him the fact that the work must be stopped without the newspapers finding out the true reason of its suspension. The quick-witted superintendent was equal to the occasion, and, starting the ponderous machine, soon managed to run foul of a protruding rock and break the plough. The newspapers published sensational accounts of the accident and announced that it would require several weeks to repair damages. Thus the real trouble was kept from the public until new plans could be determined upon.
After long and careful consideration, Professor Morse very reluctantly decided to erect the wires on poles. This plan was, at first, considered wholly objectionable, under the apprehension that the structure would be disturbed by evil-minded persons. It had, however, become manifest that this was the only mode of construction that could be accomplished within the remainder of the appropriation, and, finally, upon ascertaining that pole lines had already been adopted in England, it was determined to proceed in this manner. The line was thus completed between Washington and Baltimore about May 1, 1844, and proved to be successful and in every way satisfactory in its operation.
Shortly after the completion of the line the National Democratic Convention, which nominated Polk and Dallas for President and Vice-President, assembled in Baltimore [May, 1844]. Reports of the convention proceedings were promptly telegraphed to the capital city, where the telegraph office was thronged with Members of Congress interested in the news. These reports created an immense sensation in Washington and speedily removed all doubts as to the practical success of the new system of communication. A despatch from the Honorable Silas Wright, then United States Senator from New York, refusing to accept the nomination for Vice-President, was read in the National Convention and produced an extraordinary interest from the fact that very few of the delegates had ever heard of the telegraph, and it required much explanation to satisfy them of the genuineness of the alleged communication.
Having thus established beyond all reasonable question the practical utility of the telegraph as a superior means of public and private communication, Professor Morse and his associates offered their patents to the United States Government for the very moderate price of one hundred thousand dollars, with a view of having the system adopted for general use in connection with the postal establishment. This proposition was referred to the Postmaster-General for consideration and report. After due deliberation that officer reported that "Although the invention is an agent vastly superior to any other ever devised by the genius of man, yet the operation between Washington and Baltimore has not satisfied me that, under any rate of postage that can be adopted, its revenues can be made to cover its expenditures." Under the influence of this report Congress very naturally declined the offer of the patentees, and the telegraph was thereupon relegated to the domain of private enterprise. The result was that the patentees finally realized for their interests many times the amount of their offer to the Government.
During the autumn of 1844 short exhibition lines were erected in Boston and New York, for the purpose of familiarizing business men of those cities with the characteristics of the new invention, but they attracted little attention and the promoters had much cause of discouragement on account of public indifference. For the purpose of arousing more attention to the system, appeals were made to the public press for favorable notice, which were also generally declined. The proprietor of one of the most prominent and enterprising of the New York daily papers distinctly refused to encourage the establishment of telegraph lines, for the reason, as he freely acknowledged, that if the new method of transmitting intelligence were to come into general use his competitors could use it as well as himself, and he would therefore be deprived of his present advantage over them for procuring early news by the use of an expensive system of special despatch then maintained by his paper. Two years later he refused to join other papers in receiving the Governor's message by telegraph from Albany, and was so badly beaten by his rivals in this instance that his paper was thenceforward one of the most generous patrons of the telegraph.
Early in the year 1845 a corporate organization was effected for the extension of the telegraph from Baltimore to Philadelphia and New York, under the name of the Magnetic Telegraph Company, for which a special act of incorporation was obtained from the Legislature of the State of Maryland. Nearly all of the capital of this company was subscribed by Washington people. Baltimore and Philadelphia furnished only a few hundred dollars, while New York contributed nothing. Slow progress was made toward the construction of the line on account of the difficulty of obtaining the right of way either upon railways or highways, and it was not until January, 1846, that the line was completed to the west side of the Hudson River, which formed an impassable barrier to further progress for a considerable period.
No method of insulation had yet been devised that would permit the operation of an electric conductor under water, and it was doubted whether a wire could be maintained for a span sufficient to cross the river overhead. Finally however high masts were erected on the Palisades near Fort Lee, and on the heights at Fort Washington on the New York side, and a steel wire was suspended upon them. This plan was successful, except that occasionally the wire was broken by an extraordinary burden of sleet in the winter season. This method of crossing the lower Hudson was continued for more than ten years, when it was superseded by submarine cables.
During the year 1846 incorporated companies were formed, under which telegraph lines were extended from New York to Boston, Buffalo, and Pittsburg, and within the next three years nearly every important town in the United States and Canada, from St. Louis and New Orleans to Montreal and Halifax, was brought into telegraphic communication. Thus, after fifteen years of struggle with all the pains of poverty, often lacking even the common necessaries of life, Professor Morse and his faithful colaborers had the supreme satisfaction, in 1847, of knowing and realizing that the telegraph system had finally achieved, not only scientific success, for this had been proven years before, but that financial success, ample and complete, had come to pay them richly for all the dark days and wearisome years through which they had passed.
Once generally established, the telegraph won its way to popular appreciation very rapidly. It was in harmony with the spirit of the age, and it was not long before every town of any considerable importance regarded telegraphic facilities as an indispensable necessity. The small cost soon induced the construction of rival lines, regardless of the rights of the patentees, and within a very few years unwise competition began to bring many lines to a condition of bankruptcy. The weaker concerns soon passed through the sheriff's hands and found purchasers only at an extreme sacrifice, at the bidding of the more provident and conservative proprietors of competing lines. Instead of inducing a more prudent course, these disastrous results only served to feed the spirit of rivalry, and general insolvency seemed to threaten the permanent prosperity of the telegraph business, in consequence of the wild and reckless competition which appeared to be inherent in its nature.
This extremely unsatisfactory condition of telegraph rivalry drifted on from bad to worse until 1854, when, from dire necessity of self-preservation, a few of the more prudent and far-sighted proprietors of telegraph property were induced to combine their interests with some of their competitors and thus avoid the ruinous policy which had been so rapidly exhausting their vitality. Accordingly the principal telegraph lines in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and some of the neighboring States were brought into fraternal relations and formed the nucleus of the Western Union Telegraph Company.
The new policy soon brought prosperity in place of waste and improvidence. Profits were devoted to the purchase of additional lines, thus enlarging their domain and strengthening their position. Prosperity increased with rapid strides; and the beneficial effects of extirpating wasteful rivalry and building up a substantial system with superior facilities and provident management gave the new organization a dominating influence among the telegraph companies of America. The same general policy has been pursued to the present time , and has resulted in the establishment of a prosperous corporation of magnificent proportions, carrying on a useful and beneficent business under a greater number of governmental jurisdictions, great and small, than any other corporate organization in existence.
For the development of the telegraph enterprise in America no thanks are due to the wealthy capitalists. As a rule they would not listen to suggestions of investing their money in what was contemptuously termed rotten poles and rusty wires. They wanted something more substantial and conservative as the basis of their investments. An early pioneer and builder of telegraph lines, whose name is now held in grateful memory for deeds of philanthropic beneficence visited the city of Chicago in 1847 to solicit subscriptions to the capital stock of a company then engaged in construction of the first line of telegraph between that place and the city of Buffalo. He presented a carefully prepared prospectus showing an estimated earning capacity of the projected line of one hundred dollars per day. The merits of the contemplated enterprise were freely canvassed at a meeting of bankers, at which one of the most prominent declared that any man who ever expected to see one hundred dollars per day paid for telegraphing west of Buffalo must be crazy and unworthy of belief. This oracular declaration prevailed, and the project was ignominiously rejected by the wise men of Chicago. Fortunately, citizens of smaller towns, like Ypsilanti, Kalamazoo, South Bend, Kenosha, and Racine, took a more sensible view of the proposed enterprise, and the line was built despite the contempt of Chicago capitalists. Now, however, the men of Chicago pay more than five thousand dollars a day for telegraphing at rates far lower than would have been thought possible in that early day.
The true spirit of enterprise, which has so grandly developed the resources of our imperial domain, has generally been found to prevail among people of modest means. Thus, nearly every dollar of capital contributed toward the establishment of telegraph lines in this country came from the offerings of people in very moderate circumstances. In this connection, therefore, it is extremely gratifying to state that very few enterprises of any kind have returned such generous recompense for the amount of capital invested as the telegraph and telephone lines in America. Considering the apparently temporary and short-lived character of the structures erected for these purposes, it seems difficult to comprehend the truth of this statement.
The method of telegraphic communication devised by Professor Morse has been continued in general use in this country, but instead of requiring separate wire for each circuit as formerly, six independent circuits are now operated simultaneously over a single wire by the use of the sextuplex apparatus.
(1846) REPEAL OF THE ENGLISH CORN LAWS, Justin McCarthy
After the repeal of the corn laws the tariff legislation of Great Britain was guided by a new policy, that of free trade, and it has been followed ever since. The reactionary tendencies of Continental Europe after the fall of Napoleon reached also to England, where they controlled the conduct of political affairs until Canning, in 1822, became Secretary for Foreign Affairs. His policy was liberal and did much in forming the public opinion that at length found voice in Catholic emancipation (1829), in the Reform Bill (1832), and in the abolition of slavery in the English colonies (1833). Then followed important amendments of the poor-laws, extension of local governmental powers in the towns, improvement of popular education, and other reforms.
Through all this gradual progress in liberal government and public amelioration, the need of another reform had been pointed out by some thinkers and statesmen, and at last the condition of the country favored the views of its advocates. The corn laws protected the English producers by imposing heavy duties on imported grain. At one time these duties practically prohibited such importation. McCarthy shows how the laws operated upon the people, and his story of the memorable agitation for their repeal and of the accomplishment of that object could not have been better told.
In 1815 the celebrated Corn Law was passed, which was itself moulded on the Corn Law of 1670. By the Act of 1815 wheat might be exported upon a payment of one shilling per quarter customs duty, but the importation of foreign grain was practically prohibited until the price of wheat in England had reached eighty shillings a quarter, that is to say, until a certain price had been secured for the grower of grain at the expense of all the consumers in this country. It was not permitted to Englishmen to obtain their supplies from any foreign land, unless on conditions that suited the English corn-grower's pocket.
We may perhaps make this principle a little more clear, if it be necessary, by illustrating its working on a small scale and within narrow limits. In a particular street in London, let us say, a law is passed declaring that no one must buy a loaf of bread out of that street, or even round the corner, until the price of bread has risen so high in the street itself as to secure to its two or three bakers a certain enormous scale of profit on their loaves. When the price of bread has been forced up so high as to pass this scale of profit, then it would be permissible for those who stood in need of bread to go round the corner and buy their loaves of the baker in the next street; but the moment that their continuing to do this caused the price of the baker's bread in their own street to fall below the prescribed limit, they must instantly take to buying bread within their own bounds and of their own bakers again. This is a fair illustration of the principle on which the corn laws were moulded. The Corn Law of 1815 was passed in order to enable the landowners and farmers to recover from the depression caused by the long era of foreign war. It was "rushed through" Parliament, if we may use an American expression; petitions of the most urgent nature poured in against it from all the commercial and manufacturing classes, and in vain. Popular disturbances broke out in many places. The poor everywhere saw the bread of their family threatened, saw the food of their children almost taken out of their mouths, and they naturally broke into wild extremes of anger. In London there were serious riots, and the houses of some of the most prominent supporters of the bill were attacked. The incendiary went to work in many parts of the country. At that time it was still the way in England, as it is now in Russia and other countries, for popular indignation to express itself in the frequent incendiary fire. At one place near London a riot lasted for two days and nights; the soldiers had to be called out to put it down, and five men were hanged for taking part in it.
After the passing of the Corn Law of 1815, and when it had worked for some time, there were sliding-scale acts introduced, which established a varying system of duty, so that when the price of home-grown grain rose above a certain figure, the duty on imported wheat was to sink in proportion. The principle of all these measures was the same. How, it may be asked, could any sane legislator adopt such measures? As well might it be asked, How can any civilized nation still, as some still do, believe in such a principle? The truth is that the principle is one which has a strong fascination for most persons, the charm of which it is difficult for any class in its turn wholly to shake off. The idea is that if our typical baker be paid more than the market price for a loaf, he will be able in turn to pay more to the butcher than the fair price for his beef; the butcher thus benefited will be enabled to deal on more liberal terms with the tailor; the tailor so favored by legislation will be able in his turn to order a better kind of beer from the publican and pay a higher price for it. Thus, by some extraordinary process, everybody pays too much for everything, and nevertheless all are enriched in turn. The absurdity of this is easily kept out of sight where the protective duties affect a number of varying and complicated interests, manufacturing, commercial, and productive.
In the United States, for example, where the manufacturers are benefited in one place and the producers are benefited in another, and where the country always produces food abundant to supply its own wants, men are not brought so directly face to face with the fallacy of the principle as they were in England at the time of the Anti-Corn Law League. In America "protection" affects manufacturers for the most part, and there is no such popular craving for cheap manufactures as to bring the protective principle into collision with the daily wants of the people. But in England, during the reign of the Corn Law, the food which the people put into their mouths was the article mainly taxed, and made cruelly costly by the working of protection.
Nevertheless, the country put up with this system down to the close of the year 1836. At that time there was a stagnation of trade and a general depression of business. Severe poverty prevailed in many districts. Inevitably, therefore, the question arose in the minds of most men, in distressed or depressed places, whether it could be a good thing for the country in general to have the price of bread kept high by factitious means when wages had sunk and work become scarce. An Anti-Corn-Law association was formed in London, It began pretentiously enough, but it brought about no result. London is not a place where popular agitation finds a fitting centre. In 1838, however, Bolton, in Lancashire, suffered from a serious commercial crisis. Three-fifths of its manufacturing activity became paralyzed at once. Many houses of business were actually closed and abandoned, and thousands of workmen were left without the means of life. Lancashire suddenly roused itself into the resolve to agitate against the corn laws, and Manchester became the headquarters of the movement which afterward accomplished so much.
The Anti-Corn-Law League was formed, and a Free-Trade Hall was built in Manchester on the scene of that disturbance which was called the "massacre of Peterloo." The leaders of the Anti-Corn-Law movement were Richard Cobden, John Bright, and Charles Villiers. Cobden was not a Manchester man. He was the son of a Sussex farmer. After the death of his father he was taken by his uncle and employed in his wholesale warehouse in the city of London. He afterward became a partner in a Manchester cotton-factory, and sometimes travelled on the commercial business of the establishment. He became what would then have been considered a great traveller, distinct, of course, from the class of explorers; that is, he made himself thoroughly familiar with most or all of the countries of Europe, with various parts of the East, and with the United States and Canada. He had had a fair, homely education, and he improved it wherever he went by experience, by observation, and by conversation with all manner of men. He became one of the most effective and persuasive popular speakers ever known in English agitation. He was not an orator in the highest sense. He had no imagination and little poetic feeling, nor did genuine passion ever inflame into fervor of declamation his quiet, argumentative style. But he had humor; he spoke simple, clear, strong English; he used no unnecessary words. He always made his meaning plain and intelligible, and he had an admirable faculty for illustrating every argument by something drawn from reading or from observation or from experience. He was, in fact, the very perfection of a common-sense talker, a man fit to deal with men by fair, straightforward argument, to expose complicated sophistries, and to make clear the most perplexed parts of an intricate question. He was exactly the man for that time, for that question, and for the persuasive and argumentative part of the great controversy which he had undertaken.
Cobden's chief companion in the struggle was John Bright, whose name has been completely identified with that of Cobden in the repeal of the Corn Laws. Bright was an orator of the highest order. He had all the qualifications that make a master of eloquence. His presence was commanding; his voice was singularly strong and clear, and had peculiar tones and shades in it which gave indescribable meaning to passages of anger, of pity, or of contempt. His manner was quiet, composed, serene. He indulged in little or no gesticulation, he had a rich gift of genuine Saxon humor. These two men, one belonging to the middle class of the North, one sprung from the yeomanry of Southern England, had as a colleague Charles Villiers, a man of high aristocratic family, of marked ability, and of indomitable loyalty to any cause he undertook. Villiers for some years represented the free-trade cause in Parliament, and Bright and Cobden did its work on the platform. Cobden first, and Bright after him, became members of the House of Commons, and they were further assisted there by Milner Gibson, a man of position and family, an effective debater, who had been at first a Conservative, but who passed over to the ranks of the Free Traders, and through them to the ranks of the Liberals or Radicals.
Every year Villiers brought on a motion in the House in favor of free trade. For a long time this motion was only one of the annual performances which, by an apparently inevitable necessity, have to prelude for many years the practical movement of any great parliamentary question. Villiers might have brought on his annual motion all his life, without getting much nearer to his object, if Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds, and other great northern towns had not taken the matter vigorously in hand; if Cobden and Bright had not stirred up the energies of the whole country, and brought clearly home to the mind of every man the plain fact that reason, argument, and arithmetic, as well as freedom and justice, were distinctly on their side.
The Anti-Corn-Law League showered pamphlets, tracts, letters, newspapers, all over the country. They sent lecturers into every town, preaching the same doctrine, and proving by scientific facts the justice of the cause they advocated. These lecturers were enjoined to avoid as much as possible any appeals to sentiment or to passion. The cause they had in hand was one which could best be served by the clear statement of rigorous facts, by the simple explanation of economical truths which no sophism could darken, and which no opposing eloquence could charm away. The Melbourne Ministry fell in 1841. It died of inanition: its force was spent. Sir Robert Peel came into office. Cobden, who then entered the House of Commons for the first time, seemed to have good hope that even Peel, strong Conservative though he was, might prove to be a man from whom the Free Traders could expect substantial assistance. Sir Robert Peel had, in fact, in those later years expressed again and again his conviction as to the general truth of the principles of free trade. "All agree," he said in 1842, "in the general rule that we should buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market." But he contended that while such was the general rule, yet various economical and social conditions made it necessary that there should be some distinct exceptions, and he regarded the corn laws and sugar duties as such exceptions. It may be mentioned, perhaps, that the corn laws had, in fact, been treated as a necessary exception by many of the leading exponents of the principles of free trade. Thus we have to notice the curious fact that while Sir Robert Peel's own party looked upon his accession to power as a certain guarantee against any concession to the Free Traders, the Free Traders themselves were, for the most part, convinced that their cause had better hope from him than from a Whig Ministry.
The Free Traders went on debating and dividing in the House, agitating and lecturing all over the country, for some years without any marked Parliamentary success following their endeavors. An immense and overwhelming majority always voted against them in the House of Commons. They were making progress, and very great progress, but it was not that kind of advance which had yet come to be decided by a Parliamentary vote. Probably a keen and experienced eye might have noted clearly enough the progress they were making. The Whig party were coming more and more round to the principles of free trade. Day after day some Whig leader was admitting that the theories of the past would not do for the present, and, as we have said, the Tory leader had himself gone so far as to admit the justice of the general principles of free trade. At one point the main difference between Sir Robert Peel, the leader of the House of Commons, and Lord John Russell, the leader of the opposition, seems to have been nothing more than this, that Peel still regarded grain as a necessary exception to the principle of free trade, and Lord John Russell was not clear that the time had come when it could be treated otherwise than as an exception.
An event, however, over which no parties and no leaders had any control, suddenly intervened to hasten the action and spur the convictions of the leaders on both sides, and especially of the Prime Minister. This was the great famine which broke out in Ireland in the autumn of 1845. The vast majority of the Irish people had long depended for their food on the potato alone. The summer of 1845 had been a long season of wet and cold and sunlessness. In the autumn the news went abroad that the whole potato crop of Ireland was in danger of destruction, if not already actually destroyed. Before attention had well been awakened to the crisis, it was officially announced that more than one-third of the entire potato crop had been swept away by the disease, and that it had not ceased its ravages, but, on the contrary, was spreading more and more every day.
The general impression of those who could form an opinion was that the whole of the crop must perish. The Anti-Corn-Law League cried out for the opening of the ports and the admission of grain and food from all places. Sir Robert Peel was decidedly in favor of such a course. The Duke of Wellington and Lord Stanley opposed the idea, and the proposition was given up. Only three members of the Cabinet supported Sir Robert Peel's proposals—Lord Aberdeen, Sir James Graham, Mr. Sidney Herbert. All the others objected, some because they opposed the principle of the measure, and were convinced that if the ports were once opened they would never be closed again, which indeed was probably Peel's own conviction; and others on the ground that no sufficient proof had yet been given that such a measure was necessary. Lord John Russell, almost immediately after, wrote a letter from Edinburgh to his constituents, the electors of the city of London, in which he declared that something must immediately be done, that it was "no longer worth while to contend for a fixed duty," and that an end must be put to the whole system of protection, as "the blight of commerce, the bane of agriculture, the source of bitter division among classes, the cause of penury, fever, and crime among the people." This letter produced a decisive effect on Peel. He saw that the Whigs were prepared to unite with the Anti-Corn-Law League in agitating for the total repeal of the corn laws, and he therefore made up his mind to recommend to the Cabinet an early meeting of Parliament, with the view to anticipate the agitation which he saw must succeed in the end, and to bring forward, as a Government measure, some scheme which should at least prepare the way for the speedy repeal of the corn laws.
A Cabinet council was held almost immediately after the publication of Lord John Russell's letter, and Peel recommended the summoning of Parliament in order to take instant measures to cope with the distress in Ireland, and also to introduce legislation distinctly intended to prepare the way for the repeal of the corn laws. Lord Stanley could not accept the proposition. The Duke of Wellington was himself of opinion that the corn laws ought to be maintained, but at the same time he declared that he considered good government for the country more important than corn laws or any other considerations, and that he was therefore ready to support Sir Robert Peel's Administration through thick and thin. Lord Stanley and the Duke of Buccleuch, however, declared that they could not be parties to any legislation which tended toward the repeal of the corn-laws. Sir Robert Peel did not feel himself strong enough to carry out his project in the face of such opposition in the Cabinet itself, and he tendered his resignation to the Queen. The Queen sent for Lord John Russell, but Russell's party were not very strong in the country and they had not a majority in the House of Commons. Lord John tried, however, to form a ministry without a Parliamentary majority, and even although Sir Robert Peel would not give any pledge to support a measure for the immediate and complete repeal of the corn laws, Lord John Russell was not successful.
Lord Grey, son of the Lord Grey of the Reform Bill, objected to the foreign policy of Lord Palmerston, and thought a seat in the Cabinet ought to be offered to Cobden. Lord John Russell had nothing to do but to announce to the Queen that he found it impossible to form a ministry. The Queen sent for Sir Robert Peel again and asked him to withdraw his resignation. Peel complied, and almost immediately resumed the functions of First Minister of the Crown. The Duke of Buccleuch consented to go on with him, but Lord Stanley held to his resolution and had no place in the Ministry. His position as Secretary of State for the Colonies was taken by William E. Gladstone. Gladstone, however, did not sit in Parliament during the eventful session when the corn laws were repealed. He had sat for the borough of Newark, which was under the influence of the Duke of Newcastle; and as the Duke of Newcastle had withdrawn his support from the Ministry, Gladstone did not seek re-election for Newark, and remained without a seat in the House of Commons for some months.
Parliament met on January 22, 1846. The "speech from the throne," delivered by the Queen in person, recommended the legislature to take into consideration the necessity of still further applying the principle on which it had formerly acted, when measures were presented "to extend commerce and to stimulate domestic skill and industry, by the repeal of prohibitive and the relaxation of protective duties." In the debate on the "address" Sir Robert Peel rose, after the mover and seconder had spoken and the question had been put from the Chair, and at once proceeded to explain the policy which he intended to adopt. His speech was long and labored, and somewhat wearied the audience by the elaborate manner in which he explained how his opinions had been brought into gradual change with regard to free trade and protection. He made it, however, perfectly clear that he was now a convert to Cobden's opinions, and that he intended to introduce some measure which should practically amount to the abolition of protection.
It was in this debate, and immediately after Peel had spoken, that Benjamin Disraeli made his first great impression on Parliament. He had been in the House for many years, and had made many attempts, had sometimes been laughed at, had sometimes been disliked, and occasionally for a moment admired. But it was when he rose immediately after Sir Robert Peel, and denounced Peel as one who had betrayed his party and his principles, that he made the first deep impression on the House of Commons, and came to be considered as a serious and influential Parliamentary personage. "I am not one of the converts," Disraeli said, "I am perhaps a member of a fallen party." A new Protection party was formed almost immediately under the leadership of George Lord Bentinck, a man of great energy and tenacity of purpose, who had hitherto spent his life almost altogether on the turf, who had had almost no previous preparation for leadership or even for debate, but who certainly, when he did accept the responsible position offered to him, showed a considerable capacity for leadership and an unwearying attention to his duties.
On January 27th Sir Robert Peel explained his financial policy. His intention was to abandon the sliding scale altogether, to impose for the present a duty of ten shillings a quarter on corn when the price of it was under forty-eight shillings a quarter, to reduce that duty by one shilling for every shilling of rise in price until it reached fifty-three shillings a quarter, when the duty should fall to four shillings. This, however, was to be only a temporary arrangement. It was to last but three years, and at the end of that time protective duties on grain were to be wholly abandoned. We need not go at any length into the history of the long debates on Peel's propositions. The discussion of one amendment, which was in substance a motion to reject the scheme altogether, lasted for twelve nights. The third reading of the bill passed the House of Commons on May 15th, by a majority of ninety-eight.
The bill went up at once to the House of Lords, and at the urgent pressure of the Duke of Wellington was carried through that House without any serious opposition. The Duke made no secret of his own opinions. He assured many of his brother peers that he disliked the measure just as much as anyone could do, but he insisted that they had all better vote for it nevertheless. Sir Robert Peel had triumphed, but he found himself deserted by a large and influential section of the party he once had led. Most of the great landowners and country gentlemen of the Conservative party abandoned him. Some of them felt the bitterest resentment toward him. They believed he had betrayed them, although nothing could be more clear than that for years he had distinctly been making it known to the House that his principles inclined him toward free trade, and thereby leaving it to be understood that, if opportunity or emergency should compel him, he would be glad to declare himself a Free Trader, even in the matter of grain.
Strange to say, the day when the bill was read in the House of Lords for the third time saw the fall of Peel's Ministry. The fall was due to the state of Ireland. The Government had been bringing in a coercion bill for Ireland. It was introduced while the Corn Bill was yet passing through the House of Commons. The situation was critical. All the Irish followers of Daniel O'Connell would be sure to oppose the Coercion Bill. The Liberal party, at least when out of office, had usually made it their principle to oppose coercion bills if they were not attended with some promises of legislative reform. The English Radical members, led by Cobden and Bright, were certain to oppose coercion. If the Protectionists should join with these other opponents of the Coercion Bill the fate of the measure was assured, and with it the fate of the Government. This was exactly what happened. Eighty Protectionists followed Lord George Bentinck into the lobby against the bill, in combination with the Free Traders, the Whigs, and the Irish Catholic and national members. The division took place on the second reading of the bill on Thursday, June 25th, and there was a majority of seventy-three against the Ministry.
The moment after Sir Robert Peel succeeded in passing his great measure of free trade he himself fell from power. His political epitaph, perhaps, could not be better written than in the words with which he closed the speech that just preceded his fall: "It may be that I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of good-will in those places which are the abode of men whose lot it is to labor and to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow—a name remembered with expressions of good-will when they shall recreate their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because it is no longer leavened with a sense of injustice."
With the fall of the principle of the protection in corn may be said to have practically fallen the principle of protection in that country altogether. That principle was a little complicated in regard to the sugar duties and to the navigation laws. The sugar produced in the West Indian colonies was allowed to enter that country at rates of duty much lower than those imposed upon the sugar grown in foreign lands. The abolition of slavery in the colonies had made labor there somewhat costly and difficult to obtain continuously, and the impression was that if the duties on foreign sugar were reduced it would tend to enable those countries which still maintained the slave trade to compete at great advantage with the sugar grown in the colonies by that free labor to establish which England had but just paid so large a pecuniary fine. Therefore the question of free trade became involved with that of free labor; at least, so it seemed to the eyes of many a man who was not inclined to support the protective principle in itself. When it was put to him, whether he was willing to push the free-trade principle so far as to allow countries growing sugar by slave labor to drive our free-grown sugar out of the market, he was often inclined to give way before this mode of putting the question, and to imagine that there really was a collision between free trade and free labor. Therefore a certain sentimental plea came in to aid the Protectionists in regard to the sugar duties.
Many of the old Antislavery party found themselves deceived by this fallacy, and inclined to join the agitation against the reduction of the duty on foreign sugar. On the other hand, it was made tolerably clear that the labor was not so scarce or so dear in the colonies as had been represented, and that colonial sugar grown by free labor really suffered from no inconvenience except the fact that it was still manufactured on the most crude, old-fashioned, and uneconomical methods. Besides, the time had gone by when the majority of the English people could be convinced that a lesson on the beauty of freedom was to be conveyed to foreign sugar-growers and slave-owners by the means of a tax upon the products of their plantations. Therefore, after a long and somewhat eager struggle, the principle of free trade was allowed to prevail in regard to sugar. The duties on sugar were made equal. The growth of the sugar plantations was admitted on the same terms into that country, without any reference either to the soil from which it had sprung or to the conditions under which it was grown.
It had for a long time been stoutly proclaimed that the abolition of slavery must be the destruction of our West Indian colonies. Years had elapsed and the West Indian colonies still survived. Now the cry of alarm was taken up again, and it was prophesied that although they had got over the abolition of slavery they never could survive the equalization of the sugar duties. Jamaica certainly had fallen greatly away from her period of temporary and factitious prosperity. Jamaica was owned and managed by a class of proprietors who resembled in many ways some of the planters of the States of America farthest south—of the States toward the mouth of the Mississippi. They lived in a kind of careless luxury, mortgaging their estates as deeply as they possibly could, throwing over to the coming year the superabundant debts of the last, and only managing to keep their heads above water so long as the people of England, by favoring them with a highly protective system, enabled them still to compete against those who grew sugar on better and more economical plans. The whole island was given over to neglect and mismanagement. The emancipated negroes took but little trouble to cultivate the plots of ground they had obtained, and were quite content if they could scratch enough from the soil to enable them barely to live. Therefore Jamaica did at a certain time fall far below the level of her former seeming prosperity.
The other islands had been better managed. Their estates were less encumbered by debt, and they passed through each successive crisis without sustaining any noticeable injury. In most of these islands the product increased steadily after the emancipation of the slaves. The negroes then began to work earnestly, and education grew not greatly but distinctly among all classes. Jamaica, the most unfortunate among the islands, has been constantly the scene of little outbursts of more or less serious rebellion. As the late Lord Chief Justice of England observed in a charge on a famous occasion, "The soil of the island might seem to have been drenched in blood." But these disturbances, or insurrections, or whatever they may be called, did not increase in number after the abolition of slavery and after the equalization of the sugar duties, but, on the contrary, decreased. During our time only one considerable disturbance has taken place in Jamaica, and in former years such tumult was of frequent recurrence. In the West Indies we have, therefore, the most severe test to which the principle of free trade could well be subjected. It is not too much to say that in the more fortunate of these islands it has established its claim, and that even in the least fortunate no evidence whatever has been given that the people would have been in any way the better off if the old system had been retained.
The navigation laws had, too, a certain external attraction about them which induced many men, not actually Protectionists, to believe in their necessity. The principle of the navigation laws was to impose such restrictions of tariff and otherwise as to exclude foreign vessels from taking any considerable part in our carrying trade. The law was first enacted in Oliver Cromwell's day, at a time when the Dutch were rivals on the sea, and when it was thought desirable to repress, by protective legislation, the energy of such experienced seamen and pushing traders. The navigation law was modified by Mr. Huskisson in 1823, but only so far as to establish that which we now know so well as the principle of reciprocity. Any nation which removed restrictions from British merchant marine was favored with a similar concession. The idea also was that these navigation laws, keeping foreigners out of England's carrying trade, enabled her to maintain always a supply of sailors who could at any time be transferred from the merchant marine to the royal navy, and thus be made to assist in the defence of the country.
Of course, the ship-owners themselves upheld the navigation laws, on the plea that, if the trade were thrown open by the withdrawal of protection, their chances would be gone; that they could not contend against the foreigners upon equal terms; that their interests must suffer, and that Great Britain would in the end be a still severer sufferer, because, from the lack of encouragement given to the native traders and the sailors, England would one day or another be left at the mercy of some strong power which, with wiser regulations, would keep up her protective system and with it her naval strength.
Nevertheless, the ship-owners and the Protectionists and those who raised the alarm-cry about England's naval defences were unable to maintain their sophisms in the face of growing education and of the impulse given by the adoption of free trade. In 1849 the navigation laws were abolished. We believe there are very few ship-owners who will not now admit that the prosperity of their trade has grown immensely, in place of suffering, from the introduction of the free-trade principle in navigation as well as in com and sugar.
(1846) THE DISCOVERY OF NEPTUNE, Sir Oliver Lodge
Among modern astronomical discoveries none has been regarded as more important than that of Neptune, the outermost known planet of the solar system. It was a rich reward to the watchers of the sky when this new planet swam into their ken. This discovery was hailed by astronomers as "the most conspicuous triumph of the theory of gravitation." Long after Copernicus even, the genius of philosophers was slow to grasp the full conception of a spherical earth and its relations with the heavenly bodies as presented by him. So it was also with the final acceptance of Newton's demonstration of the universal law of gravitation (1685), whereby he showed that "the motions of the solar system were due to the action of a central force directed to the body at the centre of the system, and varying inversely with the square of the distance from it." After making this discovery, Newton himself, with the aid of others, especially of the French mathematician Picard, labored for years to verify it, and still further verification was necessary before it could be fully comprehended and accepted by the scientific world. The discovery of the asteroids or small planets revolving in orbits between those of Mars and Jupiter, aided in confirming the Newtonian theory, which the discovery of Uranus, by Sir William Herschel (1781), had done much to establish.
From the time of Sir William Herschel the science of stellar astronomy, revealing the enormous distances of the stars—none of them really fixed, but all having real or apparent motions—was rapidly developed. The discovery of stellar planets, at almost incalculable distances, still further changed the aspect of the heavens as viewed by astronomers, and when the capital discovery of Neptune was made those men of science were well prepared for studying its nature and importance. These matters, as well as the simultaneous calculation of the place of Neptune by Adams and Leverrier, and its actual discovery by Galle, are set forth by Sir Oliver Lodge in a manner as charming for simplicity as it is valuable in its summary of scientific learning.
The explanation by Newton of the observed facts of the motion of the moon, the way he accounted for precession and nutation and for the tides; the way in which Laplace explained every detail of the planetary motions—these achievements may seem to the professional astronomer equally, if not more, striking and wonderful; but of the facts to be explained in these cases the general public is necessarily more or less ignorant, and so no beauty or thoroughness of treatment appeals to it or excites its imagination. But to predict in the solitude of the study, with no weapons other than pen, ink, and paper, an unknown and enormously distant world, to calculate its orbit when as yet it had never been seen, and to be able to say to a practical astronomer, "Point your telescope in such a direction at such a time, and you will see a new planet hitherto unknown to man"—this must always appeal to the imagination with dramatic intensity, and must awaken some interest in the dullest.
Prediction is no novelty in science; and in astronomy least of all is it a novelty. Thousands of years ago Thales, and others whose very names we have forgotten, could predict eclipses, but not without a certain degree of inaccuracy. And many other phenomena were capable of prediction by accumulated experience. A gap between Mars and Jupiter caused a missing planet to be suspected and looked for, and to be found in a hundred pieces. The abnormal proper-motion of Sirius suggested to Bessel the existence of an unseen companion. And these last instances seem to approach very near the same class of prediction as that of the discovery of Neptune. Wherein, then, lies the difference? How comes it that some classes of prediction—such as that if you put your finger in fire it will be burned—are childishly easy and commonplace, while others excite in the keenest intellects the highest feelings of admiration? Mainly, the difference lies, first, in the grounds on which the prediction is based; second, in the difficulty of the investigation whereby it is accomplished; third, in the completeness and the accuracy with which it can be verified. In all these points, the discovery of Neptune stands out as one among the many verified predictions of science, and the circumstances surrounding it are of singular interest.
Three distinct observations suffice to determine the orbit of a planet completely, but it is well to have the three observations as far apart as possible so as to minimize the effects of minute but necessary errors of observation. When Uranus was found old records of stellar observations were ransacked with the object of discovering whether it had ever been unwittingly seen before. If seen, it had been thought, of course, to be a star—for it shines like a star of the sixth magnitude, and can therefore be just seen without a telescope if one knows precisely where to look for it and if one has good sight—but if it had been seen and catalogued as a star it would have moved from its place, and the catalogue would by that entry be wrong. The thing to do, therefore, was to examine all the catalogues for errors, to see whether the stars entered there actually existed, or whether any were missing. If a wrong entry were discovered, it might of course have been due to some clerical error, though that is hardly probable considering the care spent in making these records, or it might have been a tailless comet, or possibly the newly found planet.
The next thing to do was to calculate backward, to see whether by any possibility the planet could have been in that place at that time. Examined in this way the tabulated observations of Flamsteed showed that he had unwittingly observed Uranus five distinct times; the first time in 1690, nearly a century before Herschel discovered its true nature. But more remarkable still, Le Monnier, of Paris, had observed it eight times in one month, cataloguing it each time as a different star. If only he had reduced and compared his observations, he would have anticipated Herschel by twelve years. As it was, he missed it. It was seen once by Bradley also. Altogether it had been seen twenty times.
These old observations of Flamsteed and those of Le Monnier, combined with those made after Herschel's discovery, were very useful in determining an exact orbit for the new planet, and its motion was considered thoroughly known. For a time Uranus seemed to travel regularly, and as expected, in the orbit which had been calculated for it; but early in the present century it began to be slightly refractory, and by 1820 its actual place showed quite a distinct discrepancy from its position as calculated with the aid of the old observations. It was thought at first that this discrepancy must be due to inaccuracies in the older observations, and they were accordingly rejected, and tables prepared for the planet based on the newer and more accurate observations only. But by 1830 it became apparent that it did not coincide with even these. The error amounted to about 20". By 1840 it was as much as 90", or a minute and a half. This discrepancy is quite distinct, but still it is very small; and had two objects been in the heavens at once, the actual Uranus and the theoretical Uranus, no unaided eye could possibly have distinguished them or detected that they were other than a single star.