Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XXV.

CHAPTER XXV.  This chapter covers the mismanagement of the Crimean War; it is mostly in the form of letters between Josh and Richard Cobden. Both took a generally non-interventionist approach to European affairs, and their criticisms of the Army were political, in so far as the Army was still largely officered by the aristocracy. Officer’s commissions were still purchased at this point, rather than awarded by merit. It should be born in mind that both Joshua Walmsley II, and Hugh Walmsley were army officers, which possibly coloured Adeline’s views, who in Richard Cobden’s view ” sometimes takes too poetical a view of the glories of war.” But perhaps that’s the only way to cope with having two sons as serving soldiers.

Sir John Bowring mentioned at the end of the chapter was the fourth Governor of Hong Kong, had been Josh’s predecessor as M.P. for Bolton, and was the great-uncle of Adeline’s nephew Hugh Mulleneux’s wife Fanny Bowring Mulleneux. 


As the winter of 1854-55 drew on, the nation realised in its full force the meaning implied in the phrase that we had ” drifted into war. “ In the spring a gallant army had left her shores. In September, letters reached home, complaining that the changeable climate of the Crimea was unprovided for. Then followed reports increasing in gloom with the shortening days, of troops dying of disease and want

Shipping at the village of Balaclava, Crimea. 1854

Hearts in English homes sickened during that bitter winter at the pictures drawn by ” our own correspondents “ in the Crimea, of the condition of the sick and wounded. In imagination the nation beheld ” that bleak range of hills “ overlooking the Black Sea, where — ragged, shoeless, overworked, racked by disease in want of food, shelter, fuel — the remnant of its army was dying at the rate of ninety or a hundred per day. Seven miles distant the English held a port stored with every necessary provision and means of relief; but the road to it was made impassable by snow, which, combined with the pedantic delays of red-tape-ism, frustrated all efforts to bring comforts to the soldiers, ” I shall never forget the gloom of that winter, “ says Sir Joshua, ” when each man asked the other with whom did the fault lie, was it with the commanders abroad or with the Government at home ? “

” Excitement was at its height when Parliament opened on the 23rd of January [1855]. On the first night, the Earl of Ellenborough and Mr. Roebuck gave notice that on the 25th they would bring the conduct of the war under critical review. That night the country was taken by surprise by the resignation of Lord John Russell, who explained this unusual, if not unconstitutional step, by alleging that he could not resist Mr. Roebuck’s motion. The accounts that came from the East were ‘ horrible and heartrending,’ and ‘ with all the official knowledge to which he had access, there was something inexplicable in the state of the army.’ “

” He explained that during the recess, he had urged Lord Aberdeen to appoint Lord Palmerston to the Ministry of War, in the place of the Duke of Newcastle, a course the Prime Minister had refused to follow. When in the hour of reckoning Lord John Russell thus separated himself from his  colleagues, the conviction deepened in the minds of all who heard him, that culpable negligence could alone explain the cruel fate of the army in the Crimea. “

“ Roebuck was suffering in health on the night he brought forward his vote of censure on the conduct of the war. The emotion that overwhelmed him, the weakness of illness made him almost inaudible; what, he asked, was the condition of the army before Sevastopol, and how had that condition been brought about ? In faltering accents he told how an army of fifty-four thousand men had left England a few months previous ; this army was reduced to fourteen thousand, of which only five thousand men were fit for duty. What had become of the forty thousand missing? Where were our legions ? A stormy and angry discussion followed Roebuck’s motion. Ministers and their supporters opposed the inquiry as dangerous and useless, but the House, dividing, by a large majority declared in favour of the motion. In the face of this overwhelming vote of censure, ministers resigned. ”

They resigned on the 1st of February. Then followed a fortnight during which the country was left without a Government — a fortnight of cruel suspense, as it anxiously watched the protracted negotiations to form a ministry capable of making head against the national calamity. In this fortnight are dated some vigorous letters addressed by Sir Joshua to The Atlas newspaper, showing up the series of blunders committed since the landing of the army at Varna, maintaining that the aristocracy are not business men.

He wrote : ” And it is a man clear-sighted, clear-brained, quick to resolve and act, unshackled by the trammels of red-tape-ism, that is wanted at this juncture. ”

” I have read your spirited letter in The  Atlas “ writes Mr. Cobden. ” It is a pity that our quarrel with the aristocracy does not spring from some other cause than the complaint that they don’t carry  on war with sufficient vigour. ”

On the 16th of February [1855], the Cabinet was formed. It was a reconstruction of the former ministry, and included no new members. On Lord Palmerston, who had replaced Lord Aberdeen as Prime Minister, centred the nation’s hopes for the better management of the war. Lord Panmure was made Secretary of War in the place of the Duke of Newcastle. This change in the administration did not induce the House to rescind its vote in favour of Mr. Roebuck’s motion. The nation would not be put off; with passionate reiteration it demanded : ” What has become of our forty thousand missing soldiers of the army of fifty-four thousand that left our shores some months ago ? ”

The House of Commons persisting in the inquiry, another ministerial crisis occurred. On the 22nd of February, Mr. Gladstone, Sir James Graham, and Mr. Sidney Herbert resigned giving as reason that they had accepted office in the belief that Lord Palmerston would continue to oppose the formation of a Committee of Inquiry. They regarded this inquiry as unnecessary, unjust to officers, and dangerous. These vacancies in the Cabinet being filled up by the appointment of Sir Cornewall Lewis and Lord John Russell, the committee was appointed.

Siege Of Sevastopol

A few months later, its revelations justified the fears and suspicions of the nation. It showed that the Government had drifted into war unprepared, regardless of the difficulties and complications inherent to a struggle carried on at a distance. We sub- join the following extracts from a letter written by Mr. Cobden upon the fall of Sevastopol, and dated Midhurst, 27th September, 1855, showing up but too plainly the lamentable military mismanagement and failures that threw discredit upon the English arms in the Crimea.

After referring to a private circumstance relating to the death of a friend, and stating the general feeling of the moment, he proceeds :

” The French have covered themselves with great glory. I am sorry to say nothing but discredit and shame attaches to us; but as everyone speaks out, no doubt you will hear something of it at home. They may blame the men as much as they like ; I blame the system — a system which gives no encouragement to a man to discharge his duty — a system which has not only allowed but encouraged a crowd of officers to slink home on every possible pretence, from the Duke of Cambridge and Lord Cardigan downwards, and to leave, as substitutes for officers who know their men and were known by them, a parcel of mere boys from England, all anxious to come out because they had not the most remote idea what they were coming to. “

” My friend should have added that the men as well as officers who have gone out are mere boys. In fact, the recruiting-sergeant has been successful only in kidnapping children. The manhood of the country has contented itself with voting strong resolutions at meetings, making courageous speeches, or preaching inflammatory sermons; whilst the fighting has been left to unfledged striplings. It makes me indignant beyond expression to find my country exposed to the taunts of the world, as the cowardly bully amongst nations, always ready with the big threat, but skulking from the post of danger. Were I despotic, the first thing I would do should be to seize every newspaper editor, every orator, and every preacher I could prove to have fanned the flames of this war, and pack him off to take part in it until peace was arranged. “

” In sober seriousness, if we are to take a part in military operations on the Continent alongside of France, Russia, and the great powers of Europe, and if we would avoid the disastrous and ridiculous failures which we have witnessed, we must, like them, be prepared to submit to the conscription, by which a guarantee will be afforded that the interests and honour of the country are confided to a fair representation of the manhood of England. “

” As it is, we may fairly assert that the middle class, who, at least in West Yorkshire, are the most zealous advocates of the war, have taken no part in it. They form no part of the rank and file of the army, and, generally speaking, are only to be found as exceptions amongst the commissioned officers. When the operations of the war come to be calmly reviewed, it will be found that our sufferings and disasters have sprung almost entirely from our having started with pretensions to be on an equality with France, and having failed first with the numbers and at last in the quality of our troops. Lord Raglan himself stated that the terrible losses of last winter arose principally from our men having been overworked, the result of their inadequate numbers. And General Klapka, in his book on the war, says that the British, in spite of their heroic courage at Inkermann, would have been driven into the sea by the overwhelming numbers of Russia if the French had not come to their rescue : the small army of men which went out last year having been dribbled away, and mere boys sent to replace them. “

” The foregoing extracts from my friend’s letters will be interesting to my good friends your companions; but the following description of what he saw when he entered Sevastopol, I send exclusively for Lady Walmsley, who sometimes takes too poetical a view of the glories of war. “

“ On the Monday after the evacuation there was a flag of truce, and a steamer crossed to take away some wounded men left in one of the dockyard store-houses, which, as being rather out of fire, had been used as a hospital, I happened to be down on the spot at the time of the removal, and such a sight I never witnessed and hope I may never witness again. Hundreds of men, wounded in every conceivable maimer; some with amputated, some with broken limbs, some writhing in agony with musket-bullets in their bodies. All more or less neglected for many hours, were carried out of the wretched place in which they had been hurriedly placed, and were laid on the decks of the steamer for conveyance to their countrymen. The scene in the building itself was something awful, it was literally one huge mass of dead and dying men — belts, canteens, military equipments and dress, cut or taken from the men as they were brought in, were strewed about; and in many instances dead and putrid bodies lay over those still having a gasp of life left. “

” Anything more utterly shocking I cannot conceive. A huge tub passed me, under which two men staggered. Its contents consisted of arms, legs, feet, hands, and other parts of the human body. I know not what selection the Russian steamer could have made from the hideous mass, but when she had got her cargo she left, and next morning she was sunk with the rest. I passed the place again yesterday, and all around was still one mass of dead bodies in every stage of decay. The smell was frightful, and the sight of those dead bodies, swollen and blackened as they were, was worse. The whole place is a mass of putrefying human flesh. It is impossible to exaggerate the horrors which meet one at every turn. Determined not to leave anything in our hands that they could destroy, they actually hurled their field-guns, horses and all, harnessed as they stood, into the harbour. It was a strange sight to see them as they lay, through the clear blue water.”

” With our united kind regards to all your circle, “

” I remain, very truly yours,”


Let us give another letter from the same pen — the more interesting because of its application to our present position towards Russia — dated :

” Midhurst, 12th November, 1855.

“ My dear Walmsley,

” But, really, when I see the tone of the press, and the reports of such meetings as that in the City, where that old desperado, Palmerston, is cheered on in his mad career by his turtle-fed audiences, I am almost in despair. If our ignorant clamours for the ‘ humiliation of Russia ‘ are allowed to have their own way, look out for serious disasters to the Allies ! No power ever yet persisted in the attempt to subjugate Russia that did not break to pieces against that impassive empire. “

” Tartars, Turks, Poles, Swedes, and French, all tried in their turn, all seemed to meet with unvarying success, and yet all in the end shared the same fate. The Russians can beat all the world at endurance, and the present struggle will assume that character from this very day. The question is, who can endure the longest the pressure on their resources in men and money ? It is not a question of military operations; the Russians will retire, but they will not make peace on terms that will give any triumph to the English and French ; they will gradually retire inland upon their own supplies, where you cannot follow them, to return again if your forces quit their territory. In the meantime, high prices and conscription in France, and taxes, strikes, and heavy discount in England, will have their effect. And who can tell what the consequences may be in a couple of years ? We are exaggerating the power of a naval blockade, and the effect of the depredations we are committing on the coast of that vast empire, because we do not sufficiently appreciate the comparative insignificance of its sea-going foreign trade, as compared with its interior and overland foreign trade. An empire three thousand or four thousand miles square, with such vast river navigation, has resources, which we cannot touch, ten times more important than the trade we blockade. “

” The very fact of her having followed a higher protective policy, and thus developed artificially her internal resources, whilst it has no doubt lessened her wealth and diminished her power of aggressive action against richer states, has, at the same time, by making her less dependent on foreign supplies, rendered it easier for her to bear the privations which a blockade is intended to inflict. The more I think of the matter, the more I am convinced that the Western Powers, if they persist in their attempt at coercing Russia by land operations, relying on the effect of a blockade, will suffer a great humiliation for their pains. The only thing that could have given them a chance of success was the co-operation of Austria and Germany upon the land frontier of that empire. “

” This was the only danger dreaded by Russia, and hence her efforts to conciliate German interests ; for, as I said in the House, every concession offered by Russia has been to Germany, and not to the allies. However, it is no use reasoning on these matters, for reason will have little to do in the matter. It is a question of endurance, and time will show which can play longest the game of beggar-my-neighbour. “

” My friend Colonel Fitzmayor wrote to me on the 4th inst., on board the Ripon, off Southampton. He said he was going to Woolwich, to which place I immediately wrote him a letter, but have had no reply. He is perhaps gone to see his family, and may not get my letter for some days. I fear there is no chance of my seeing him here this week. When do you think of leaving Worthing ? I am sorry I cannot leave home to come and see you at present. With regards to all your circle,

” Believe me, truly yours,


In February [1855], Sir Joshua lost his friend, Joseph Hume. During the closing months of his life, the old man complained often with pathetic petulance ;

” I am in a grumbling condition, because I cannot do as I used, and yet would fain still do. The will remains the same, but the flesh is weak. ”

To the last the progress of the Crimean War was a subject of keen and painful interest to him. He kept on hoping to the last he would recover sufficient strength once more to take his accustomed seat in Parliament, and help to procure a more wisely administered system in behalf of the soldiers’ welfare. Those closing letters are touching evidences of an undimmed spirit and a failing body. The 4th December [1854] is the date of a letter written in a more hopeful vein :

” My dear Sir Joshua,

” I shall now expect to see you on the 12th, if I continue as I am ; but I have had doubts whether I should in prudence be able to attend the meeting. The state of the war and of public affairs is such as to call for a grand meeting as to numbers, and, I hope, strong in the advocacy of future and speedy measures for the support of our brave country- men in the East. There is much in Kossuth’s speech that deserves serious attention, but the condition and plan of Austria is what has destroyed the policy that ought to have been adopted, to unite and rally the popular and free principles against the military and despotic, which really is the great point to look to. “

“The Governments of Germany remember 1848, and have their fears of reaction which, sooner or later, must take place. But at present the difficulty is great, and we must give all the help we can to overcome that difficulty. “

” Let me have a few lines with any news that you may think worth repeating, and to engage my thoughts until the 11th, when I propose to be in Bryanston Square with Mrs. Hume. ”

The intended journey to London was never accomplished. We find him on the 21st January, 1855, writing:

” I have decidedly improved the last two days.  Although all was packed up, and the horses were ordered, I do not think I shall move for the week, unless some extraordinary occurrence shall compel me. I shall therefore hope for a line, if anything be worth attention. We have had two gentle falls of one inch and a half of snow each, and at this moment not a breath of wind. I have not been out of doors for four days, and a good pair of bellows would blow me over, and yet I have no pain to look to as the cause of all this. ”

The end was not far off On the 13th February Mr. Cobden wrote :

“ My dear Walmsley,

“ I wrote to poor, dear old Hume, some time ago, but when I was not aware that he was so very ill, and of course I expect no answer. I fear your apprehensions will prove too well founded. “

” Perhaps if he had retired from Parliament at the last election, and gone to Switzerland, or America, or to some new scene, with his family, he might have lived a few years longer. But he preferred to die in harness, and after all, life to him would have wanted more than half its charms, if he had abandoned Parliament. May Heaven smooth the pillow of the glorious old man. ”

On the 20th of February [1855] he died. In him the Reform party lost its oldest leader, and the country the man whose keen, firm sense of justice and indomitable resolution had raised a standard of integrity, and established principles of order and economy, that made a mark that can never be effaced on the public administration of affairs.

On the 26th of February [1855], moving for a new writ for Aberdeen, Lord Palmerston paid a high tribute to Mr. Hume’s memory. Sir Joshua Walmsley, overcome by emotion, alluded, in a short speech, to the privilege he had enjoyed of possessing for many years the confidence and friendship of Mr. Hume.

“ It may be justly said that his unostentatious labours for the public good were only excelled by his private worth. Even in the arena of political strife, he never made an enemy or lost a friend. And I would indulge the hope that the representatives of a grateful people will not suffer services, at once so eminent and so disinterested, to pass away without some memorial worthy of them and of the country. ”

Sir Joshua Walmsley wished that a national monument, voted by both Houses of Parliament, should be erected to the memory of his friend. Mr. Cobden and many others approving the idea, it was taken up, and a requisition, signed by two hundred and twenty-four members of both Houses, was presented to Lord Palmerston, calling upon him to propose  “ that a durable memorial be erected, by a vote of Parliament, to the memory of the late Mr. Hume, in testimony of the country’s grateful appreciation of his long, disinterested, and laborious public services. ”

But the proposal was silently defeated, on the plea that there was no precedent for it, that Joseph Hume had never been in office. A few hundred pounds subscription endowed a scholarship in the London University. Sir Joshua, keenly felt this rejection of a national recognition of his friend’s services. ” What man, “ he would often exclaim, ” had done so much for the best interests of his country, devoting his whole life to strenuous, unflagging work, without fee or reward ? ”

Hong Kong 1856

Sir John Bowring, writing from Hong Kong, in September, 1856, to Sir Joshua, remarks: ” I think it sad evidence of an unsound state of things, that a man like Joseph Hume should have been allowed to live and die without other honours than those which individual esteem and gratitude brought to accompany him on his progress, and which now gather round his tomb. The appreciation of the fiercer parts of human character ; the warlike, the passionate, in preference to the gentle, the pacific, the permanently useful, is somewhat startling to those who desire the world’s improvement. We grieve, protest, but where shall we find a remedy ? ”

The following graceful tribute from the same pen, to the memory of Joseph Hume, we find enclosed in another letter :

Not of the crowd, nor with the crowd did he

Labour, but for them, with clear vision bent

On to reform, steadily he went

Onward, still onward perseveringly ;

Yet not a hair’s breadth from his pure intent

Diverted, or by frowns or flattery ;

His nature was incarnate honesty.

And his words moulded what his conscience meant ;

So, honoured most by those who knew him best,

Leader or link, in every honest plan

Which sought the advance of truth, the good of man,

Still scattering blessings, through life’s course he ran ;

And when most blessing others, then most blessed.

Till called from earth to heaven’s most hallowed rest

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XXIV.

CHAPTER XXIV. This is almost self-explanatory politics, and the drift into the Crimean War.

Through the autumn [1853], the National Reform Association abated no jot of its efforts. Whatever reforming energy, at this crisis, existed in the country, centred in that body. But the apathy of the nation was great in regard to every interest, save the absorbing one of watching the signs of the approaching conflict.

Opening of Parliament-1854

When the Queen opened Parliament on the 31st January [1854], the first paragraph of the royal speech announced the failure of the hopes entertained in August of a peaceful termination of the existing difficulties between the Sultan and the Czar. Another paragraph announced that a measure for the reform of the representation of the people would be laid before Parliament.

There was a certain grandeur in the attitude of a Government, which, amid the quickly gathering portents of war, could thus employ the interval on which such mighty issues depended with the reform of abuses in its own system. On the 13th February, Lord John brought forward his third Reform Bill. The exposition of this peaceful measure succeeded an animated discussion on the movement of the fleet and the provisions of the troops.

” Lord John Russell’s Bill of 1854, “ says Sir Joshua, “ was very different from the one he had laid before Parliament in 1852. The clumsy contrivances, the timidity that had marked the latter, were nowhere traceable here. “

” As clause succeeded clause, it became evident that a generous measure of reform was now offered to the nation. The six-pound borough franchise, hampered though it might be by an enforced municipal term of residence of two years and a half, would be almost equivalent in great cities to household suffrage. “

” The ten-pound country franchise would admit within the pale of the constitution all who were above the grade of the agricultural labourer. Various franchises were created, recognising the claims of education and the modest property of the thrifty. The principle of grouping boroughs, that had encumbered the proposed second Reform Bill, was abandoned, and in its stead was substituted the reduction in boroughs of less than five hundred electors from two members to one ; the representation thus withdrawn to be given to single unrepresented towns, or added to the representation of large constituencies insufficiently represented. This brief notice of the Reform Bill of 1854 will show that it was conceived in no narrow spirit. “

” It was calculated that it would enlarge by one-third the actual constituency in the country. By the six-pound franchise alone one hundred and fifty thousand of the working classes would be admitted to vote. True, the measure included no item of Mr. Hume’s yearly motion. The ballot was ignored. A distinct property qualification was still the requisite to citizenship. In all its bearings, however, it was calculated so materially to improve the working of the representative system, that, at my instigation, the Reform Association formally determined to give it hearty support. ”

St Stephen’s Porch, Houses of Parliament 1854

But no Reform Bill could gain a hearing at that hour. The war, that for some time had been casting its shadow before, now became an actual and terrible reality. In March, the Queen’s message to Parliament announced the rupture of relations with the Czar. The second reading of the Reform Bill, previously fixed for the 13th of March, was deferred to the 27th of April. In the meanwhile, the nation’s professed indifference on the subject became more and more manifest ; all minor interests were swallowed up by tho absorbing one of the war, Since the night when Lord John Russell had explained the ministerial scheme to Parliament, only four spiritless public meetings had been held in its favour throughout the country ; only four petitions had been laid on the table, urging the House to persevere with it in spite of existing circumstances. The mind and heart of England were with its fleets in the Baltic and the Mediterranean ; with its departing armies ; and it had no care for other interests. An impatient feeling was growing up, demanding of ministers the withdrawal of a measure, the discussion of which the country was in no mood for at present; and upon which, if ministers were defeated, their resignation must follow ; and which, if carried, must involve a dissolution of Parliament, and the consequent ferment of a general election at a time when united action and vigilant watching of events were Parliament’s first duties. Still, to the queries as to the course Government proposed in relation to the Reform Bill, Lord John’s answers were evasive, revealing how keenly he felt his honour involved in redeeming the pledge he had given. On the 11th April, he yielded to the pressure of circumstances, and withdrew for the session the ministerial Reform Bill. The emotion that impeded his utterance in the closing passages of his speech, testified to the sharp conflict waged in his heart by a sense of conventional honour and the claims of a higher duty. The universal and hearty applause that greeted the announcement from all sides of the House showed that the sacrifice was understood and appreciated. 

Friend and foe united alike to commend the act.

These exciting topics did not, despite the magnitude of the interests involved, outweigh the interest felt by Sir Joshua for the sufferings of the poor framework knitters of Leicester ; and here we pause to remark upon that noble trait in the character of the man that, ever true to himself, his heart was with the people of whom he never ceased to feel himself one. Neither parliamentary or municipal honours, increase of wealth, or advantages of social position, could for a moment render him unmindful of the working people, with whose feelings his own were identified.

And now that Mr. Cobden’s anticipation of a bad harvest had been realised, and that an almost universal scarcity prevailed throughout Europe, aggravating the anxieties of approaching war ; with dear provisions and heavy taxation, the condition of the unfortunate work-people of Leicester, encumbered by the frame- rent system, weighed heavily on Sir Joshua’s mind.

So strongly did he feel as to the course to be taken in this matter, that he refused to be influenced even by the opinion of Mr. Hume, whom he revered and loved above all men. ” Hume, “ he says, ” severely and utterly condemned as unfair and almost cruel the proposal by Parliament of any measure that might lead labourers to imagine that the law could interfere between workmen and masters. To this I would answer that political economy is not a one-sided science, that it recognises the claims of labour to be co-equal with those of capital. ”   At the root of the fast-spreading evil —  strikes — is a confused conviction that this balance is not justly upheld ; and until some mode of legislation is hit upon, whereby a fair solution of differences can be arrived at, this form of lynch-law will prevail. While, in this case, where penury and oppression prevented appeal to strikes, was it true political economy to allow an extensive and important manufacture to be sacrificed to the petty and arbitrary profits derived by individuals out of the hire of the necessary tool ?

In February [1854], Mr. Charles Foster moved for leave to introduce a bill to alter and amend the Truck Act, which had been passed in 1831, for the purpose of enforcing the payment of wages in money. The object of Mr. Foster’s measure was to provide against the many evasions of the law by making the Act more stringent. Mr. Foster’s bill passed a second reading, and was referred to a Select Committee.

Early in March, Sir Henry Halford introduced a bill, drawn up in conjunction with Sir Joshua Walmsley and Mr. Packe, to restrain stoppages from the payment of wages in the hosiery manufacture.

Sir Joshua Walmsley, M.P. 1794 -1871

Sir Joshua appealed to the House to send the bill before a Select Committee. ” I have received numerous communications,” he said, ” from a number of persons connected with this trade ; and I can assure the House that all they desire is, that the whole subject should be fully and fairly investigated by a committee. ”

The second reading of this bill came off on the 22nd March [1854]. In a speech marked by deep feeling. Sir Henry Halford entered into many details depicting ” the distress, now grown to be proverbial, of the frame-work knitters of the Midland Counties. “ Sir Joshua Walmsley encountered the opponents of the measure, who maintained that it was contrary to the maxims of political economy. ” To inquire into the complaints of the industrial classes is not adverse to political economy. There is no free trade as respects frame-rents; the workmen must take the tools from those who give the work, and take them upon their own terms. “ 

After reading to the House letters addressed to him by operatives and employers :  “ Both admit,” he showed, ” the evils that have grown up, although, I am bound to say, they do not all agree as to the remedy. For my own part, I do not take up the question as a pastime; I am impelled solely by the sincere wish to produce a better state of things than now exists. “  A majority of forty-seven decided in favour of the bill being read a second time. It was referred to the same Select Committee appointed to consider the bill brought in by Mr. Foster, for the amendment of the Truck Act. Of this committee Sir Joshua was a member.

The decision of the House caused some excitement in Leicester. Separate meetings were held by manufacturers, middlemen, and operatives, to appoint deputations to lay evidence before the House of Commons’ Committee. The manufacturers’ meeting was private. That evening in the Town Hall, the frame-work knitters assembled in temperate and orderly fashion. The half-starved men eagerly deprecated the expectation ascribed to them, that legislature could interfere with wages. They did not wish, as it was asserted they did, to confiscate property. They demanded only to have to pay a fair price for their frames. They asked to be protected, that was all. This was their answer to the political economy plea, the force of which they understood well enough. Mr. George Buckby was their spokesman. ” We will conduct the agitation, ”  he said, ” in a good spirit, but at the same time with a determined opposition to a system fraught with mischief from beginning to end. ”

After detailing cases, the harshness of which it is difficult to conceive, the frame-work knitters passed a resolution thanking Sir Henry Halford, Sir Joshua Walmsley, and Mr. Packe for their endeavours to carry the bill through Parliament.

The Committee to inquire into the working of the Truck Act sat from the 15th of March to the 21st July [1854], and every day Sir Joshua attended its sittings. The inquiry, protracted so far into the session, allowed no time for the consideration of the question of the hosiery manufacture ; accordingly, the investigation of the frame-rent evil had to be postponed. The inquiry, however, was resumed in the following session, on Parliament granting Mr. Packe’s motion for a committee to be appointed to continue the work begun and left unfinished in the preceding year. From April to July this committee, of which Sir Joshua Walmsley was still an indefatigable member, inquired into the cause of the deplorable misery of the frame-work knitters. The evidence of many manufacturers, amongst whom that of Mr. Biggs, of Leicester, was conspicuous for its calm and earnest tone, condemned the system of frame-rent as ” the cancer in the hosiery trade. “

Mr. Biggs submitted a plan which he had adopted for years. In place of the usual custom of exacting full rent, whether slack time or illness impeded the knitter’s hand, he had substituted a system of deducting, for the wear and tear of his machinery, a certain ratio on the amount of work delivered in by the labourer.

This system the knitters liked, but the middlemen, as a rule, set their faces against it. The tale of the knitters was a simple and appalling statement of misery, out of which no issue seemed possible but a change in the system of exacting frame-rent. The evidence conclusively proved that whether it be in the power of legislation or not to effect a remedy, the hosiery trade was being sacrificed, and with it the interests of thousands of labourers, to the greed of the hirers out of the tool necessary for the manufacture. The report of the committee clearly indicated the conflicting currents in the trade and their fatal results. Parliament shrank, however, from the task, at once so delicate and so complicated, in attempting to reconcile under this new guise the claims of labour and capital, and again refused to interfere in the matter. The battle between manufacturers, middlemen, and labourers must be fought out by themselves, and so for the present the question  of frame-rents was dropped by Parliament. The good work that had thus apparently failed bore its fruit, however. Popular opinion in Leicester condemned the iniquitous oppression. Manufacturers were stimulated to fresh resources by the ruin that menaced the trade, and middlemen themselves became less exacting. The knitters remembered who had been their advocate in the House; they knew Sir Joshua had upheld their cause even against his best friend and in their squalid homes his name became a household word.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XX.

CHAPTER XX.  This chapter covers from February, 1849, when Josh was elected M.P. for Bolton, through to the spring of 1852. The family had left Ranton Abbey and were definitely in London by 1851. The census shows Josh and Adeline, with the two youngest girls living at 101 Westbourne Terrace, in Bayswater, just north of the park.  It was a grand address, in a newly-built terrace. According to the History of the County of Middlesex. ” The most spacious and dignified avenue is Westbourne Terrace, begun c. 1840 and ‘unrivalled in its class in London or even Great Britain’. The houses form long stuccoed terraces of four storeys and attic over a basement, with pillared porches, many of them designed by T. Marsh Nelson. They face carriage drives and were separated on either side from the tree-shaded roadway by screen walls surmounted by railings. ” The family had six servants, including 32 year-old scouser Thomas Randdes who was presumably a butler. Adeline had a French ladies maid. Next door to Radical Reform M.P. Sir Josh was Radical Reform M.P. Richard Cobden who was scraping by with only three servants.

Westbourne Terrace W.2

The Papal aggression, and the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill are fairly easily explained. The ” aggression ” was the restoration of the Catholic diocesan hierarchy by Pius IX in 1850, and the Bill was the government response to it, which made it a criminal offence ” for anyone outside the Church of England to use any episcopal title “of any city, town or place, or of any territory or district (under any designation or description whatsoever), in the United Kingdom. ” It was almost a dead-letter from the start, and was repealed twenty years later.


Sir Joshua now contested the borough of Bolton, for which he was returned in 1849. Though not an eloquent speaker, he possessed much ready tact. The town seemed divided into two factions, nick- named ” Broadcloths “ and ” Fustians.” At the close of a meeting, some person requested that they might hear their representative on Mr. Hume’s scheme of reform. The following evening was fixed for the purpose, and the hall overflowed with Fustian Jackets.

They listened with intelligent attention, and seemed to understand and approve of the scheme. Suddenly the unanimity of the proceedings was threatened. One of the Fustian Jackets rose, and in a speech full of dry humour and mother wit, criticised incisively the whole project. Each period wound up with the words : ” But I have a question to ask of our esteemed representative. “ This was spoken in a drawling tone, and each time provoked cheers and roars of laughter.

At last the query was put : “ Where, sir, are your Broadcloths to-night? “ This was pregnant with danger, pointing, as it did, to the smouldering enmity between classes, which kept the upper  absent from a workmen’s meeting. Sir Joshua rose. Complimenting the speaker on his ability, he continued : ” I must also ask him a question. Does he remember Queen Elizabeth’s reply when asked a similar one at a very important meeting.   ‘ Where were her guards ? ’  was the query. The Queen points to the masses before her : ‘ There are my guards,’ she replied. In the same language I would reply : ‘ There are my Broadcloths.’ The meeting proved a very successful one, and for years afterwards a very ragged jacket was always called in Bolton ‘ Walmsley Broadcloth ‘ . ”

In that year the National Reform Association, under his presidency, began its labours, and soon spread like a network over the country. Mr. Fox, Colonel Thompson, Osborne, Roebuck, Slack, and many others joined heartily in the movement, and became speakers or lecturers.

In the House, Sir Joshua never missed an opportunity to bring the question forward. No sooner were his parliamentary duties over than he scoured the country from Southampton to Aberdeen, addressing crowded audiences.

During the year 1850 alone, the Association held upwards of two hundred and twenty public meetings, and published one hundred and twenty thousand tracts. Conferences in London, Manchester, and the larger towns were held. Branch associations were fostered ; freehold land societies founded ; and in London, Drury Lane Theatre was engaged as a place of meeting. “ During the life of the Association,” says Sir Joshua, ” upwards of six hundred large meetings were held, and in no instance did we fail to obtain a vote in favour of our programme. “ Early in October, 1849, Mr. Hume, Mr. Fox, and Sir Joshua visited Norwich. St. Andrew’s Hall was crowded; the reception was enthusiastic, and filled them with hope.

St. Andrews Hall, Norwich

Here is Mr. Cobden’s view of the matter :

” October 6th, 1849.

” My dear Walmsley,

” I was much interested in reading the accounts of your proceedings. As an old hack in these matters, however, let me warn you against relying on the influence of these demonstrations. If such a meeting could be got up without the attendance of Hume, yourself, and other stars, it would have been a sign of spontaneous feeling. As it is, people can conclude that the meeting assembled to hear and stare at certain public men ; and, let me tell you, it is perfectly understood that with a moderate time for giving due notice in advance, the attraction of the names of those who figured in St. Andrew’s Hall would fill the largest room in the country.

Then comes the question, how such a demonstration can be turned to good ? Be assured it is only by impressing on your friends the benefits of organisation and steady work at the registration and at the forty- shilling freeholds, that any impression will be made.

Old Sir Thomas Potter used to wind up all his agitating speeches by these words, accompanying them with a heavy thump of his fist on the table : ‘Work, work, work!’ Try to impress the same on your friends. The Daily News to-day has an admirable article on your meeting, contrasting well with the rhodomontade [vain and empty boasting] of The Times, which shirks the question as usual.

” Believe me, faithfully yours,

“Richard Cobden,”

The same friendly greeting everywhere met the deputants of the Association. The Liberal London papers occasionally drew attention to the reports of crowded public meetings in provincial towns, and local papers reported the proceedings of branch societies, where the principles of the mother Association were discussed by the labouring and manufacturing classes. Yet, on the whole, this Reform movement attracted little public attention. One important result from it, after awhile, however, became manifest. The antagonism between the industrial and middle classes was declining. Meetings were held, at which a spirit of conciliation prevailed.

For example: “ At Aberdeen,” says Sir Joshua, ” where it was reputed that Chartism was rife, on the eve of the great meeting held by the Association, a committee of working-men was formed, where all agreed to renounce extreme views, in order to avoid giving offence to the middle classes. At the meeting, two thousand artisans, weavers, and mechanics attended, and cheered the speeches of the members of the Association. At Southampton, reputed another hot-bed of Chartism, the largest building in the town did not suffice to hold the crowd assembled to greet the suffrage reformers. A deputation of workmen attended. After my speech, the leader of the band stepped on the platform, and holding out his hand to me in the name of his fellow- workers, gave their adhesion to the principles of the National Reform Association. Up to that period, it had been impossible for the middle-class Reformers to hold public meetings, without interruption from the operatives, but now the two classes meet in every part of the kingdom. ”

Mr. Cobden acknowledged this important and beneficial result, at a Reform gathering held in Manchester, in 1851. ” By holding public meetings, “ he said, ” in the spirit of Mr. Hume’s motion. Sir Joshua Walmsley has conciliated large masses of the working-classes, and after many difficulties, he has enabled us to hold others in the same spirit. ”

Two absorbing interests filled the public mind, when Parliament met in February, 1851 —indignation at the Papal brief issued from the Vatican in the previous October, constituting an episcopal hierarchy in England and Wales ; and pleasant anticipations of the forthcoming great Exhibition. The feebleness of the ministry was admitted by all ; but the nation, looking forward to its holiday, hoped that when the measure for defeating the Papal aggression was passed, all needful work being accomplished, the ministry might yet get through the remaining labours of the session.

Lord John Russell

In the first week of the meeting of Parliament, the Premier brought forward the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, the scope of which we need not now enter upon. The anticipations, however, of a calm session, devoted to the accomplishment of a single enactment, were not realised. During the first lull in the discussion of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, Sir Joshua Walmsley asked Lord John Russell if it was the intention of ministers during this session to extend the franchise, and amend the deficiencies of the Reform Act of 1832.

Lord John answered that it was not the intention of ministers to do so during the present session, but promised certain amendments of the Reform Act, when the proper time came. This vague answer did not secure peace for the Government. Mr. Locke King followed a few nights after, on the 20th February, with the request for leave to bring in a bill to make the franchise in counties in England and Wales the same as in boroughs, i.e. the occupation of a tenement value ten pounds a-year. In the course of his speech, opposing Mr. Locke King’s motion, Lord John Russell gave a distinct pledge to bring in a new Reform Bill, should he be in office in the course of the ensuing session. He admitted that his views would not ” altogether meet with the approbation of the hon. member for Montrose and other gentlemen who agree with him; but, “ he continued, ” considering that by next session twenty years would have passed since the passing of the Reform Bill, I think it desirable to consider whether there are not great numbers of our fellow-countrymen not possessed of the franchise, who are fully qualified to exercise the suffrage, and whose exercise of the suffrage would tend to the improvement of the House. ”

Mr. Cobden attended the first meeting of the Association, at the London Tavern, after Lord John Russell’s declaration. His presence at this meeting testified to the altered position of the reform question. In simple and magnanimous language, Mr. Cobden now rendered homage to the work done by Sir Joshua and his council. ” I may say that I was a subscriber from the first to his National Reform Association. Sir Joshua Walmsley knows how I have sympathised with him, and at the same time how I frankly told him I could not boast of working as he had done. I have taken no prominent or active part in the agitation conducted under his auspices, but I feel no less warmly thankful to those who have done so; those who have kept the lamp of reform burning, and have trimmed it at a time when it was very likely to be neglected by the great body of the people. I feel grateful to all who have done so, under circumstances of neglect from myself and others. ”

He declared the question the Association had in hand the most practical one that politicians had to deal with ; and distinguishing, as Sir Joshua had always done, the reform of the suffrage from the reform of every other interest, he called upon the people ” to throw themselves into the question of parliamentary reform, in a way that would prove to the world that the English people had not lost that old attribute of their nation, that they knew how to seize the proper time for doing their own work in their own way. ”

After a short trip on the Continent to recruit his health. Sir Joshua returned and once more took his place at the head of the movement. Always unsparing in energy to attain whatever object he had set before himself, his labours during the recess of 1851-52 were excessive. As president of the Association, he took upon himself the management of its organisation, and bore the whole anxiety of its economical arrangements. His correspondence was a weighty item in his day’s work, for he adhered during this busy period to his invariable custom of answering by return of post every communication that called for a reply. As president, where fellow-workers were not called upon to attend, he was present at every meeting held by the Association, and these meetings were now held in every town, often with only interval enough to allow him to travel from place to place. Refusals to help in the work of stirring up an inert people came from the stanchest and oldest friends of progress.

The following letter from Mr. Hume accounts for his refusal, and gives also an interesting account of a recognition of his services by his native place :

” Glen Quart, 2nd October, 1851.

“ It is my anxious desire to forward the cause of reform in the most efficient manner, and consistent with the views and intentions on the subject of onward movement and the state of my health.

” I am much better, but always tired and done up at night, which proves to me that the stamina is not quite sound as yet, and that I must take care of my health. That is one reason. But the chief one is, that it is not consistent with my views for strangers to take the lead in any public measure affecting all classes, such as reform in Parliament, where the inhabitants of the place do not move and act in chief.

” There is no reason whatever why I should force myself, uncalled-for, by the people of Liverpool ! I could not avoid attending my own boroughs, as there I was on my own dunghill, but I declined to appear at Aberdeen, as I should have done at Inverness if asked. But, unknown to me, the magistrates and council met, and voted me the freedom of their borough and placed me next on their list to Lord Gough and Prince Albert. I had only been two hours in the borough (and without seeing one of that body) on my route to Red Castle, seven miles off, when the compliment was paid, and I declined to a deputation of magistrates who came the seven miles at 8 A. M. to invite me to a public dinner, but consented to drive in next day, Saturday, the 29th, at one o’clock, to receive the freedom. I desired that to be a meeting of the magistrates and council alone, but the anxiety of the inhabitants generally that I should pay the town a visit, induced me to agree to the meeting. I send you a newspaper and you will see what I have said, and as far as I can learn, all classes are satisfied. Now, it is impossible for me to get to Liverpool or any other place in England merely to make a speech (Scotland is my own field) as you propose to me.

“ If I had to receive the freedom, or any other fair and reasonable excuse, I would with pleasure meet your views when you consider that the cause we have at heart must thereby be promoted, and I hope that explanation will meet your approbation, though against your wishes.

” I think, at my age, I ought not to run the risk of being considered and called an itinerant agitator. As president of the Reform Association, you can appear anywhere the Association is wanted, but I cannot do so with propriety.

“ I hope to be in London by the 10th, as Mrs. Hume has only given me leave to the 14th to be at Somerton, where I am much wanted.

” My daughter has been enjoying the scenery here, which is really stupendous, and grander than any I had thought was in Scotland, and if the (time ?) admitted my friends in this part of the country would detain us longer.

” I remain, yours sincerely,

“Joseph Hume.”

Free Trade Hall, Manchester

The Free Trade Hall, Manchester, peopled with memories of the Anti-Corn League, was held to be the fittest place in which to inaugurate the new series of the society’s meetings. Mr. Cobden was unable to attend. While still on the Continent, Sir Joshua had received the following letter, declining to do so :

” Midhurst, September 10, 1851.

” My dear Walmsley,

” We are glad to learn that you have carried off Lady Walmsley and your family to the other side of the Channel, and hope to hear that they are deriving great benefit from the change of air and scene. I am leading the life of a hermit here, entirely out of the world, without any companions or acquaintances beyond my own family circle. We are in a thriving way, the children are as wild as young lambs in April. I got a letter from the secretary of the Reform Meeting, but I found it absolutely necessary in self-defence to decline the invitation. If I go to the North on the 24th, I can’t come back again. Already there are several engagements hanging over me for Yorkshire and Lancashire, and my only chance of escaping for a time from the platform treadmill is by declining to break corn at all. I don’t exactly understand the object or character of your intended meeting. If it be a gathering of Chartists offering the right hand to those who advocate Hume’s four points, the more it preserves the form of a working-class assembly the better. But, if it be intended for a Manchester demonstration in favour of a new Reform Bill, you must take care to secure the  attendance of the influential men of all classes. Whatever may be the nature of your gathering, I do not doubt that it will be abundantly satisfactory in point of numbers.

” The difficulty will be in forming and sustaining an organisation for permanent action. There never was much enthusiasm in favour of political reform in the manufacturing districts whilst trade was prosperous, employment good, and bread cheap, which you will be glad to find is the case now. And the present glorious harvest weather for the North of England seems to place all danger of any reverses out of the question for next year. Now, this is the safe time for making reforms, and if men acted from calm reflection and sober reasoning, instead of wild and sudden impulse, this is the time we should choose for amending representation. Let us hope that after the Exhibition closes the nation will consider its holiday ended, and begin to occupy itself with serious business. I shall look with interest to your proceedings in Manchester as the opening of the campaign and with kind regards to all your circle.

Very truly,

Richard Cobden.”

The meeting took place on September 24th, Mr. Wilson being in the chair. It principally consisted of working-men, who crowded every comer of the hall. This meeting was the first of a series held in every large town in the kingdom. Sir Joshua Walmsley’s speeches delivered during this time were the careful exposition and vigorous advocacy of Mr. Hume’s scheme of reform. We may sum up their tenor thus : Abridged duration of Parliaments, in order to preserve identity of opinion and purpose between representatives and their constituents. Extension of the suffrage, in order to bring within the pale of the constitution the interests and opinions of the unrepresented masses. Equality amongst constituencies, in order to insure a real and fair representation of national electors. The ballot as an indispensable requisite to honest elections.

We have mentioned incidentally the attempts made by the more violent Chartists, known as ” Physical Force Chartists, “ to obstruct the movements of the Association. ” On one occasion,” says Sir Joshua, “it happened that a large hall had been taken by the Association, where deputies from various parts of England, who had attended the congress for the consideration of the reform question, were to assemble; the hall, with the exception of the places reserved for the deputies, was as usual left free to the public. When the evening came, the delegates found to their consternation that every corner of the hall was packed with Chartists. At the first resolution proposed by Mr. Hume, who occupied the chair, Mr. Ernest Jones, who evidently possessed the confidence of the assembled crowd, rose, and moved a counter-resolution of adhesion to the people’s Charter, amidst tremendous cheering. I took the situation in at a glance, and saw the error we had committed in giving free admission to the hall. “

” Instead of discussing the reform question, I asked the chairman’s permission for this evening to debate with Mr. Ernest Jones the people’s Charter. Permission being granted, Mr. Ernest Jones was invited to say his say on the platform. His speech was fluent, plausible, and was received with storms of applause from the assembly, who did not perceive now utterly it had drifted from the question in hand. The subject of the Charter was scarcely touched upon. He launched into superficial platitudes connected with the intricacies of capital and labour. “

” When the loud cheers had partly subsided, I rose, and asking for fair-play and a quiet hearing, at once proceeded to answer Mr. Ernest Jones. It was a difficult task. The sympathies of the crowd were against me, and were fully roused. In a few words I pointed out that Mr. Jones had wandered from the question. The principles of the Charter had been the subject proposed. Little discussion, I showed, was necessary on this point, for on the Charter as a declaration of principles, there was no difference amongst us. The real object of Mr. Jones’s speech was to bring into antagonism, instead of into co-operation of mutual interests, the working classes and their employers. ‘ This cry of capital as being opposed to labour. ’ I said, ‘ is a miserable fallacy, and an unworthy attempt to create ill-will and inflame the passions rather than to convince the reason of the masses. I shall dispose of it by asking this simple question of the working-men around me : What would be the position of labour in the present state of society without capital? ‘ “

” I concluded by making it clear how much Mr. Jones had underrated the value of the extension of the suffrage, for which the Association was agitating. At the close of my address, there was a division, and from the lately hostile assembly less than one hundred hands were held up for Mr. Jones’s views. This is not the only occasion in which we have met with opposition from the more violent Chartists, but on none were our objects or our propositions defeated. With a just cause, the good sense and truthfulness of the masses may be successfully appealed to. ”

Some slight division of opinion still existed between the leaders of the Association and a few of the Liberal members of the House of Commons. On the general principle of Mr. Hume’s scheme they were united; on some minor points they differed. To argue out these points, it was decided to call a conference at Manchester. The invitation came from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Liberals.

Here let us insert an amusing letter from Mr. Hume, giving a hint how to treat a rival’s opposition :

” Burnley Hall, 20th November, 1851.

“My dear Sir Joshua,

“ I have yours of the 14th, and I am pleased that you are to be here soon, as the time approaches for the movement in favour of reform. It is impossible for me to leave this place, on many grounds, and therefore you must not think of it.

” I take a different view from you as to your course in the council of the R. and F. Association. Your address in the first place is too long to be read, in the second place it is throughout complaining, as if you were fearful the demonstration at Manchester were to oppose your parliamentary reform movements, and I consider that bad tactics. I believe there is great jealousy of you and of your movement, and that some of the parties would, if they could, throw you overboard and take the lead, as if they and they only were the parties to head and to urge on the movement.

“I would do as we did in 1810-11 with the education movement. I was on the committee of the Lancastrian move, and on behalf of the Dukes of Kent and Sussex, kept their movements right. At a time when Churchmen opposed the education of the masses, they at first took no notice of our progress ; then when they found we had made and were making progress, they resolved to  establish their own association (known as the Baldwin Court Association) for the Church alone, limiting the teaching to Church-men’s children or such as would read the Bible alone.

” At a public meeting at the Freemasons’ Hall, the Duke of Kent in the chair, I moved resolutions that we considered education (as you have done reform in the manifesto or address — I don’t like manifesto — at Manchester) essential for the future welfare of the people, and we congratulated the country on the establishment of the Baldwin Court Association in aid of the cause of education. We hailed them as coadjutors in the great cause, and we urged them to do their best to promote it, though limited to their own Churches, whilst ours was education for all.

” I did the same when King’s College was set up, in opposition to Gower Street University ; we held the King’s as an assistant and coadjutor, etc

” We never showed any symptoms of jealousy, as 4 if they intended to injure us. Now, if you take the same course, make the corrections of the address on the 27th, as far as I have sent you, leave out all the rest. Congratulate the country, or rather the friends and advocates of reform, that so influential a body as the Yorkshire and Lancashire proprietors and manufacturers were at length awake to the importance of the question ; and as Cobden, Bright, and others have subscribed to my motion, you take care to assume that their advocacy of these four points (as set forth in my motion, which should be copied verbatim) will do great good, and convince Lord John that nothing less than what I ask for can be proposed ; take it for granted that those who meet at Manchester (especially as Mr. Wilson, who was your chairman, will be in all probability their chairman) must at the least support all we had advocated.

” Indeed, they should advocate, as the first move, the abolition of sixty or seventy places like St Alban’s (into Schedule A), and then take my motion (or your address) as their problem.

“Treat every meeting as in aid of you, and as arising from your late efforts, and show not one breath of fear or alarm at the conduct of the cotton lords, although there is reason to believe they do not mean us well.

” I hope these few words will be enough to indicate to you the course I would take.

” When you fix the day for your public meeting, I will send you a letter of excuse to read, and will take the course I have chalked out, which I feel confident is the true one to take. The more slippery the point you have to deal with, the more my plan is recommended

” Yours sincerely,

“Joseph Hume.”

On Wednesday, 3rd of December, the conference was held at the Spread Eagle Inn. In the evening, a meeting of seven thousand people assembled in the Free Trade Hall. Mr. Bright, in a speech of massive and luminous eloquence, set forth the resolution agreed to at the morning conference.

On the ballot, triennial Parliaments, and a redistribution of the electoral franchise, the delegates were all agreed.

On the question of the suffrage, some dissent existed ; the more advanced Liberals opposing the insertion of a rate-paying clause as a condition of the exercise of the franchise. There had been some debating also on the necessary length of residence.

These were minor points of divergence, and the leaders of the Reform movement agreed to overlook them. Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, Mr. Hume, and Sir Joshua Walmsley laboured strenuously to preserve unanimity amongst their followers. There was in truth no practical difference between them; but some amongst them could not be made to see that, and imprudent speeches were sometimes made at public meetings.

” If there is a difference between us, “ writes Mr. Cobden, ” it is only in details, and not such as should induce reformers to place themselves as wranglers and quibblers amongst themselves in the face of their enemies. ”

Again he writes on the same subject :

” Midhurst, 15th January, 1852.

“My dear Walmsley,

” In reply to your inquiry about the mode of uniting the Metropolitan and Northern movement, I repeat I can see no differences to adjust; at least not in your programmes. There have been personal causes of alienation, almost exclusively arising from the class remarks of our friend Thompson, levelled at the large employers, who constitute the money strength of the Liberal party in Lancashire and Yorkshire. He seems unfortunately to have spoken under the influence of soured feelings, which have left a sting that will not easily be cured. I stick to my often-repeated doctrine, that the Northern capitalists, with all their imperfections, are the most liberal of their order in this United Kingdom. I speak particularly of the mill-owners and manufacturers of Lancashire and Yorkshire. They stand almost alone of their class, for even in Staffordshire and the other iron districts, you rarely find men of their wealth with the same disposition to share political power with the people. I foresee a complete deadlock and jumble of political parties in the House in the approaching session. If the Irish members should be faithful to their mission, they may knock the Whigs about like ninepins ; nor can any party govern until the country is prepared to recognise the principle of religious liberty as thoroughly as it does that of Free Trade, and repudiates as completely all interference by Parliament with Catholics as with corn. But what will your flaming Liberals of The M. D. Advertiser and The Daily News say to that ?

I hope to be in London next week, and we can then talk over matters. Meantime,

“I remain, very truly yours,


Mr. Hume also wrote :

” Burnley Hall, 26th January, 1852.

“My dear Sir Joshua,

” In respect to the threatened extension of the parliamentary reform beyond what was agreed upon as a fair and wise compromise in 1849, at the meetings previous to the wording of the motion that should comprehend what we had agreed upon, I can only remark that the advocacy, at the coming conference, of such extreme principles would be very unwise, and tend to shake the ranks of reformers throughout the country.

“I observe that the principles comprehended in our motion have been very generally approved of by the mass of the working classes (who are the parties chiefly excluded), and whoever disturbs that feeling is not a friend to progress.

“No man will stand on strict principle more than I will, when any good object is to be gained. But as I really desire to see the scheme of reform we proposed carried out, I hope we shall keep true to the compromise.

” In a free government like England, where every man is a politician, I may say with truth that every act of the Legislature is an act of compromise ; and he is the wise man that compromises to carry out good measures. Let us therefore act with consistency and wisdom, in that respect ; and I hope your council will well consider what I have stated as the course we can take in the coming contest. I shall not listen to a ten-pound or a five-pound franchise, but hold to the constitutional principles as set forth in the motion.

“I shall be up on Monday evening, and if you have anything to communicate to me before then, write to me here.

“ It is a delightful day, after a stormy night of wind and rain.

” Yours sincerely,

” Joseph Hume. ”

On the 3rd February, 1852, Parliament was opened by the Queen in person. The royal speech recommended an amendment of the representative system. On the 9th, Lord John Russell brought forward the measure that was expected would be the finishing touch, given by the author himself, to his own Reform Bill of 1832. The liberal spirit and bold handling that had marked Lord John’s work twenty years before, were nowhere visible in this supplement which he now laid before the House.

It was a superficial measure without the backbone of principle, that timidly dealt with details, without going to the root of any of the existing anomalies, or removing any of tHe evils which the first measure had left standing. To extend the franchise, and yet leave undisturbed the existing adjustment of interests and classes, was the problem Lord John set to himself.

He prepared to give the borough franchise to five- pound householders, the county franchise to be rated at twenty pounds a-year. There was to be some reduction of long leaseholds and copyholds, and a vote given to all who paid two pounds a-year in assessed taxes. The property qualification, also, for Members of Parliament was to be abolished.

The characteristic feature of the Bill was the manner in which Lord John proposed dealing with the small dependent boroughs. One principle the Premier rigidly maintained — that there must be no disfranchisement. Some anomalies were to be patched up. Small constituencies were to be enlarged by annexing adjacent towns to the existing boroughs. The scheme seemed fair enough at first sight, but on examination its glaring incongruities became manifest- Towns were to be harnessed together that had no link of common interest ; and large cities, that could not thus be yoked, were to be left still unrepresented.

The Reform League, headed by Mr. Hume, accepted the measure as a step in advance, but unanimously expressed disappointment at its narrow scope and unphilosophical spirit. Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright deplored especially the omission of the ballot. Sir Joshua Walmsley attacked the Bill for countenancing the evils left standing by the Reform Bill — the pocket-boroughs.

” There are fifty or sixty boroughs, “ he said, in the course of his speech, ” having less than five hundred voters, returning two representatives to Parliament. There are six hundred and twenty-seven towns, assessed to the income-tax to the amount of fifteen millions three hundred thousand pounds, that are totally unrepresented. Does Lord John suppose that such places will be satisfied to remain unrepresented, except such representation as they find through county constituencies ? ”

After some discussion, leave was given by a large majority to bring in Lord John’s Bill. The Times had prophesied that in the second Reform Bill, and in its history, “ we shall probably find the old parallel of the Iliad and the Odyssey “ But Lord John was not to write his Odyssey yet.

A ministerial crisis was at hand. On the 16th of February the Government, following in the wake of the panic out-of-doors, brought forward its Militia Bill On the 23rd of February, owing to a majority of eleven in favour of Lord Palmerston’s amendment. Lord John resigned. The Tories now came into power, and with their advent expired for the present all hopes of parliamentary reform. The National Reform Association, undaunted by failure, continued its labours, sending forth lecturers into all parts of the country, supervising the registration, organising freehold land societies.

On the 25th of March, undismayed by the triumph of his opponents, Mr. Hume, who for forty years had never been deterred by ridicule or unwearied labour from advocating the people’s cause, launched forth another protest against the existing corruption and abuses of the representative system. Sir Joshua seconded the quadruple resolution. After a lengthy, but somewhat abstract debate on Reform, the motion was lost, only eighty-nine members having voted for Mr. Hume’s four points.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XVIII

CHAPTER XVIII.  This chapter covers 1847, and rather more fully 1848. 1848 was also the ” year of revolutions “, it was the year the Communist Manifesto was published, a year after the height of the Great Famine in Ireland, and a year since the death of Daniel O’Connell.  Yet again Uncle Hugh’s somewhat loose with facts and dates. He states that ” After sitting for Bolton, Sir Joshua had redeemed his promise to his former electors, and now represented Leicester in Parliament. “, which was true in the sense that he became M.P for both – but he was only elected for Bolton in 1849 serving until 1852, and he was then M.P. for Leicester for a further five years until 1857. So in 1847 and 1848 Josh wasn’t an M.P. at all.

The Daily News was founded in 1846 by Charles Dickens, who also served as the newspaper’s first editor. It was conceived as a radical rival to the right-wing Morning Chronicle. The paper was not at first a commercial success. Dickens edited 17 issues before handing over the editorship to his friend John Forster, who had more experience in journalism.  Dickens rather splendidly became the literary editor instead.

Cobden and Hume, we have met before, and the Charter was the People’s Charter of 1838 which had six aims, and resulted in millions of people petitioning the House of Commons. The People’s Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic:

  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
  2. The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No property qualification for Members of Parliament in order to allow the constituencies to return the man of their choice.
  4. Payment of Members, enabling tradesmen, working men, or other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation.
  5. Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing less populous constituencies to have as much or more weight than larger ones.
  6. Annual Parliamentary elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since no purse could buy a constituency under a system of universal manhood suffrage in each twelve-month period.

Now Chapter XVIII:

Richard Cobden

It was owing in some degree to his friend Cobden’s expressed desire to see a new paper started to uphold the doctrine of non-intervention, that Sir Joshua became a part proprietor of the new Liberal organ, The Daily News. The following letter from Mr. Cobden in reference to this subject will be found interesting :

” It has always struck me, what was wanted in a new daily paper was a new direction of politics, to suit a coming want in public opinion, not already catered for by the existing prints. This is not easily hit upon, because if too much in advance of opinion upon any topic, the paper is in danger of not floating until the public mind grows up to it. On the other hand, if the policy be very obvious, it is already taken up by other journals, so that there is no void to fill up. I have a strong opinion that the time is at hand when the old foreign policy of this country may be systematically attacked with success. You may remember that I took up the subject in my pamphlets twelve years ago. “

” All my travels and experience since have confirmed me in my views. I was much in advance of the times when I wrote ‘ England, Ireland, and America,’ and ‘ Russia.’ There was much in the style and details of those pamphlets which, owing to my being a young writer and politician, was defective, but the principles were sound. The foundation of what little influence I have in the North of England was laid by the publication of those pamphlets, and the friendships I formed with the leading minds here arose out of those works. But now the ground is far better prepared for the advocacy of the non- intervention principle [in foreign affairs]. The adoption of Free Trade has simplified the question. “

” There is no longer any vague notion that our diplomatists can bring home a commercial treaty in their pockets, as the result of their intrigues. Nor do we expect or wish to gain any more colonies for the sake of their exclusive trade. The cost of these interventions, Portugal to wit, will be brought home to the comprehension of the people,  I shall take care that my countrymen understand it. “

” I suspect that your rival The Chronicle is an illustration of the decline of the opposite principle of intervention in the affairs of other countries. It has been Palmerston’s organ and I suspect its ruin may be in part attributed to that. We can talk this over when we meet. You know that I am not very tenacious of advising your paper to take my line, because I don’t know whether that would at all times be judicious. But I do believe the time is nearly at hand when a more rational foreign policy will be in the ascendant. “

” Truly yours,

” Richard Cobden.”

Mr. Cobden’s anticipations of increased taxation were realised. In February, Lord John Russell made his financial statement for the year [1848]. Admitting a deficient revenue, he yet advocated an increase of expenditure to reorganise the militia, according to the Duke of Wellington’s suggestion. To effect this and to cover the deficiency, he proposed an addition of fivepence to the income-tax. This created universal dissatisfaction, expressed freely by all sides of the House, and Parliament was still discussing the scheme, when the threatened French invasion collapsed, and Louis Philippe and his family, including the Prince de Joinville, arrived as fugitives in England.

Free Trade Hall, Manchester

Mr. Hume had often sketched out to his political adherents a plan of parliamentary reform. The necessity of this was acknowledged by many, but as yet no nucleus had been formed. After sitting for Bolton, Sir Joshua had redeemed his promise to his former electors, and now represented Leicester in Parliament. “At my suggestion, “ he writes, ” a few political friends were brought together, and it was unanimously resolved to hold a meeting at the Free Trade Hall. Endeavours were made to thwart it, but all adverse efforts failed, and the hall was crowded. “

” Looking back, “ he continues, ” on this meeting, I can trace the various motives which actuated each, so unanimous as a whole. Hume headed, as was his wont, this movement of social progress. He was seeking, by an extension of the franchise, to bring about financial reform, for it was only when the taxed should have a voice in the levying of taxes that the burden would be fairly adjusted. Cobden, absorbed in his aspirations after universal peace, and bent on realising his scheme for unfettered, world-wide commerce, looked upon the movement as a means for protesting against the taxation necessary for war. I simply went on the right the people had to a wider representation. ”

The meeting attracted much attention, and Mr. Hume would have issued an address at this period ; but for the present was dissuaded by his friends, especially by Mr. Cobden, who wrote to Sir Joshua a few days after as follows :

” Manchester, 22nd April, 1848.

“My dear Walmsley,

” The more I reflect, the more I am convinced that we must be cautious in the next step we take. We are not in a position to issue an address. We have no plan to propose, and any address without a plan would be unsatisfactory, and even cause suspicion of our motives. Before we take another step, we must be prepared to co-operate amongst ourselves. Now, I do not see the material for a parliamentary union at present. The country will by-and-by give us that union. But if we attempt to do something and then are shown up in the House as a disunited party, we shall only discourage our friends out of doors. The fact is, more importance has been attached to our meeting than it deserves. The public does not know what heterogeneous material we were composed of, and what a variety of objects and motives actuated us. Let us beware how we get into a false position and run the risk not merely of compromising ourselves, but what is of far more consequence, damaging the cause which we wish to serve. “

“ Faithfully yours,

“Richard Cobden “

And again on the 28th April, 1848, he writes, when the movement has made some progress :

“My dear Walmsley,

” Still I am of opinion that we did right to abstain from putting forth a plan. The country is generally fermenting and debating upon the question, What ought to be done ? and we shall know what ground to take after Easter, better than before. There is besides a great advantage in letting the country initiate the plan, and then it will take more interest in its own offspring. Yesterday we had a private meeting of our earnest old Leaguers. The room in Newall’s Buildings was full, and everyone was asked for an opinion, which resulted in a unanimous resolve that Wilson should send a circular to all the subscribers to the League of five pounds and upwards, asking their opinions upon the four points :

household suffrage,

vote by ballot,

triennial Parliaments,

electoral districts.

The answers to be considered private. In a fortnight we shall know the result. Every man was anxious for a beginning. There was plenty of good stuff present. But at first we should not carry all our rich Leaguers with us. ”

In May, matters were considered ripe for action. The committee of fifty-one members of Parliament resolved that Mr. Hume be requested to give notice to the effect:

” That leave be granted to bring in a Bill to amend the national representation, by extending the elective franchise so that every man of full age, and not subject to any mental or legal disability, who shall have been the resident occupier of a house, or part of a house, as a lodger for twelve months, and shall have been duly rated to the poor of that parish for that time, shall be registered as an elector, and be entitled to vote for a representative in Parliament; also by enacting that votes shall be taken by ballot, that the duration of Parliament shall not exceed three years, and that the proportion of representatives be made consistent with the amount of population and property. ”

Joseph Hume, M.P.

The motion that ought to have come on on the 23rd of May [1848] , owing to the lateness of the hour, was postponed till the 20th of June. A short discussion on the subject of parliamentary reform took place on the first night, when Lord John Russell assured the House that, ” speaking generally, he believed the working classes of the country wish for neither the Charter nor  Mr. Hume’s great plan, which comes somewhat near the Charter. “ As an answer to this assertion, on the 20th of June the table of the House was covered with petitions coming from every part of the country, supporting the demand for reform. Mr. Hume now explained his scheme in an exhaustive speech.

” After sixteen years,” he said, ” the Reform Bill had not effected the object for which he struggled. It had failed to answer all the purposes, which, as an ardent and zealous supporter of reform, he had advocated.”

Five out of every six adults had no voice in the Government ; a country thus governed had no true popular representation. He advocated a return to the triennial Parliaments as a means of quickening the sense of responsibility of members towards their constituents ; the ballot for the protection of the voters. ” Parliament, “ he held, ” was a mere instrument by which a constitutional country was governed.” He showed up the defective state of the electoral districts, allowing one-ninth of the electors of the United Kingdom to send up to Parliament the majority of representatives. The House discussed for three nights Mr. Hume’s scheme.

On the division upon it, a majority of two hundred and sixty-seven declared against it, only eighty-six members having voted in its favour.

A Pen Portrait of the House of Commons, 1854

The main text in this post is Chapter XXX. from ” The American Fugitive in Europe. Sketches of Places and People Abroad. By Wm. Wells Brown.”  published in Boston, Cleveland Ohio, and New York in 1855 which reprinted all of his earlier book “Three Years in Europe” with additional material up to, and including, his return to the United States. It’s an astonishing piece of writing, and all the more extraordinary for the fact that William Wells Brown was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1814, escaping to Ohio aged 20. At the time of writing, he was still potentially at risk of being returned to slavery as a result of the Fugitive Slave Act  of 1850, which ”  required that all escaped slaves were, upon capture, to be returned to their masters. Brown had legally become a free man in 1854  when it had been bought by Ellen Richardson of Newcastle, England. 

The choice of M.P.’s he describes is an interesting mixture. The majority he chooses could all be described as radical, pro-free trade, and in favour of greater Parliamentary reform; though there are sketches of Disraeli, Palmerston, and Gladstone, the great majority represent the newly industrialized cities of the north-west. 



The House of Commons  –  1854

The Abbey clock was striking nine, as we entered the House of Commons, and, giving up our ticket, were conducted to the strangers’ gallery. We immediately recognized many of the members, whom we had met in private circles or public meetings. Just imagine, reader, that we are now seated in the strangers’ gallery, looking down upon the representatives of the people of the British empire.

There, in the centre of the room, shines the fine, open, glossy brow and speaking face of Alexander Hastie, a Glasgow merchant, a mild and amiable man, of modest deportment, liberal principles, and religious profession. He has been twice elected for the city of Glasgow, in which he resides. He once presided at a meeting for us in his own city.

On the right of the hall, from where we sit, you see that small man, with fair complexion, brown hair, gray eyes, and a most intellectual countenance. It is Layard with whom we spent a pleasant day at Hartwell Park, the princely residence of John Lee, Esq., LL.D. He was employed as consul at Bagdad, in Turkey. While there he explored the ruins of ancient Nineveh, and sent to England the Assyrian relics now in the British Museum. He is member for Aylesbury. He takes a deep interest in the Eastern question, and censures the government for their want of energy in the present war. [ The Crimean War ]

Joseph Hume

Not far from Layard you see the large frame and dusky visage of Joseph Hume. He was the son of a poor woman who sold apples in the streets of London. Mr. Hume spent his younger days in India, where he made a fortune; and then returned to England, and was elected a member of the House of Commons, where he has been ever since, with the exception of five or six years. He began political life as a tory, but soon went over to radicalism. He is a great financial reformer, and has originated many of the best measures of a practical character that have been passed in Parliament during the last thirty years. He is seventy-five years old, but still full of life and activity–capable of great endurance and incessant labor. No man enjoys to an equal extent the respect and confidence of the legislature. Though his opinions are called extreme, he contents himself with realizing, for the present, the good that is attainable. He is emphatically a progressive reformer; and the father of the House of Commons.

Edward Miall M.P.

To the left of Mr. Hume you see a slim, thin-faced man, with spectacles, an anxious countenance, his hat on another seat before him, and in it a large paper rolled up. That is Edward Miall. He was educated for the Baptist ministry, and was called when very young to be a pastor. He relinquished his charge to become the conductor of a paper devoted to the abolition of the state church, and the complete political enfranchisement of the people. He made several unsuccessful attempts to go into Parliament, and at last succeeded Thomas Crawford in the representation of Rochdale, where in 1852 he was elected free of expense. He is one of the most democratic members of the legislature. Miall is an able writer and speaker–a very close and correct reasoner. He stands at the very head of the Nonconformist party in Great Britain; and The Nonconformist, of which he is editor, is the most radical journal in the United Kingdom.


William Johnston Fox M.P.

Look at that short, thick-set man, with his hair parted on the crown of his head, a high and expansive forehead, and an uncommon bright eye. That is William Johnson Fox. He was a working weaver at Norwich; then went to Holton College, London, to be educated for the Orthodox Congregational ministry; afterwards embraced Unitarian views. He was invited to Finsbury Chapel, where for many years he lectured weekly upon a wide range of subjects, embracing literature, political science, theology, government and social economy. He is the writer of the articles signed “Publicola,” in the Weekly Dispatch, a democratic newspaper. He has retired from his pulpit occupations, and supports himself exclusively by his pen, in connection with the liberal journals of the metropolis. Mr. Fox is a witty and vigorous writer, an animated and brilliant orator.

Richard Cobden M.P.

Yonder, on the right of us, sits Richard Cobden. Look at his thin, pale face, and spare-made frame. He started as a commercial traveller; was afterwards a calico-printer and merchant in Manchester. He was the expounder, in the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and in the town council, of the principles of free trade. In the council of the Anti-Corn-Law League, he was the leader, and principal agitator of the question in public meetings throughout the kingdom. He was first elected for Stockport. When Sir Robert Peel’s administration abolished the corn-laws, the prime minister avowed in the House of Commons that the great measure was in most part achieved by the unadorned eloquence of Richard Cobden. He is the representative of the non-intervention or political peace party; holding the right and duty of national defence, but opposing all alliances which are calculated to embroil the country in the affairs of other nations. His age is about fifty. He represents the largest constituency in the kingdom–the western division of Yorkshire, which contains thirty-seven thousand voters. Mr. Cobden has a reflective cast of mind; and is severely logical in his style, and very lucid in the treatment of his subjects. He may be termed the leader of the radical party in the House.

Thomas Macaulay M.P.

Three seats from Cobden you see that short, stout person, with his high head, large, round face, good-sized eyes. It is Macaulay, the poet, critic, historian and statesman.  If you have not read his Essay on Milton, you should do so immediately; it is the finest thing of the kind in the language. Then there is his criticism on the Rev. R. Montgomery. Macaulay will never be forgiven by the divine for that onslaught upon his poetical reputation. That review did more to keep the reverend poet’s works on the publisher’s shelves than all other criticisms combined. Macaulay represents the city of Edinburgh.

Joseph Brotherton, M.P.

Look at that tall man, apparently near seventy, with front teeth gone. That is Joseph Brotherton, the member for Salford. He has represented that constituency ever since 1832. He has always been a consistent liberal, and is a man of business. He is no orator, and seldom speaks, unless in favour of the adjournment of the House when the hour of midnight has arrived. At the commencement of every new session of Parliament he prepares a resolution that no business shall be entered upon after the hour of twelve at night, but has never been able to carry it. He is a teetotaller and a vegetarian, a member of the Peace Society, and a preacher in the small religious society to which he belongs.

Morton Peto M.P.

In a seat behind Brotherton you see a young-looking man, with neat figure, white vest, frilled shirt, with gold studs, gold breast-pin, a gold chain round the neck, white kid glove on the right hand, the left bare with the exception of two gold rings. It is Samuel Morton Peto. He is of humble origin–has made a vast fortune as a builder and contractor for docks and railways. He is a Baptist, and contributes very largely to his own and other dissenting denominations. He has built several Baptist chapels in London and elsewhere. His appearance is that of a gentleman; and his style of speaking, though not elegant, yet pleasing.


John Bright, M.P

Over on the same side with the liberals sits John Bright, the Quaker statesman, and leader of the Manchester school. He is the son of a Rochdale manufacturer, and first distinguished himself as an agitator in favour of the repeal of the corn-laws. He represents the city of Manchester, and has risen very rapidly. Mr. Cobden and he invariably act together, and will, doubtless, sooner or later, come into power together. Look at his robust and powerful frame, round and pleasing face. He is but little more than forty; an earnest and eloquent speaker, and commands the fixed attention of his audience.



W.E. Gladstone M.P. by G.F. Watts,1859

See that exceedingly good-looking man just taking his seat. It is William Ewart Gladstone. He is the son of a Liverpool merchant, and represents the University of Oxford. He came into Parliament in 1832, under the auspices of the tory Duke of Newcastle. He was a disciple of the first Sir R. Peel, and was by that statesman introduced into official life. He has been Vice-president and President of the Board of Trade, and is now Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Gladstone is only forty-four. When not engaged in speaking he is of rather unprepossessing appearance. His forehead appears low, but his eye is bright and penetrating. He is one of the ablest debaters in the House, and is master of a style of eloquence in which he is quite un-approached. As a reasoner he is subtle, and occasionally jesuitical; but, with a good cause and a conviction of the right, he rises to a lofty pitch of oratory, and may be termed the Wendell Phillips of the House of Commons.


There sits Disraeli, amongst the Tories. Look at that Jewish face, those dark ringlets hanging round that marble brow. When on his feet he has a cat-like, stealthy step; always looks on the ground when walking. He is the son of the well-known author of the “Curiosities of Literature.” His ancestors were Venetian Jews. He was himself born a Jew, and was initiated into the Hebrew faith. Subsequently he embraced Christianity. His literary works are numerous, consisting entirely of novels, with the exception of a biography of the late Lord George Bentinck, the leader of the protectionist party, to whose post Mr. Disraeli succeeded on the death of his friend and political chief. Mr. Disraeli has been all round the compass in politics. He is now professedly a conservative, but is believed to be willing to support any measures, however sweeping and democratical, if by so doing he could gratify his ambition–which is for office and power. He was the great thorn in the side of the late Sir R. Peel, and was never so much at home as when he could find a flaw in that distinguished statesman’s political acts. He is an able debater and a finished orator, and in his speeches wrings applause even from his political opponents.

Lord Palmerston, M.P. c.1855

Cast your eyes to the opposite side of the House, and take a good view of that venerable man, full of years, just rising from his seat. See how erect he stands; he is above seventy years of age, and yet he does not seem to be forty. That is Lord Palmerston. Next to Joseph Hume, he is the oldest member in the House. He has been longer in office than any other living man. All parties have, by turns, claimed him, and he has belonged to all kinds of administrations; tory, conservative, whig, and coalition. He is a ready debater, and is a general favorite, as a speaker, for his wit and adroitness, but little trusted by any party as a statesman. His talents have secured him office, as he is useful as a minister, and dangerous as an opponent.

Lord Dudley Coutts Stuart (1803-1854), MP

That is Lord Dudley Coutts Stuart speaking to Mr. Ewart. His lordship represents the populous and wealthy division of the district of Marylebone. He is a radical, the warm friend of the cause of Poland, Hungary and Turkey. He speaks often, but always with a degree of hesitation which makes it painful to listen to him. His solid frame, strongly-marked features, and unmercifully long eye-brows are in strange contrast to the delicate face of Mr. Ewart.The latter is the representative for Dumfries, a Scotch borough. He belongs to a wealthy family, that has made its fortune by commerce. Mr. Ewart is a radical, a staunch advocate of the abolition of capital punishment, and a strenuous supporter of all measures for the intellectual improvement of the people.


Lord John Russell, M.P.

Ah! we shall now have a speech. See that little man  rising from his seat; look at his thin black hair, how it seems to stand up; hear that weak, but distinct voice. O, how he repeats the ends of his sentences! It is Lord John Russell, the leader of the present administration. He is now asking for three million pounds sterling to carry on the war. He is a terse and perspicuous speaker, but avoids prolixity. He is much respected on both sides of the House. Though favourable to reform measures generally, he is nevertheless an upholder of aristocracy, and stands at the head and firmly by his order. He is brother to the present Duke of Bedford, and has twice been Premier; and, though on the sunny side of sixty, he has been in office, at different times, more than thirty years. He is a constitutional whig and conservative reformer. See how earnestly he speaks, and keeps his eyes on Disraeli! He is afraid of the Jew. Now he scratches the bald place on his head, and then opens that huge roll of paper, and looks over towards Lord Palmerston.

Sir Joshua Walmsley, M.P. 1794 -1871


That full-faced, well-built man, with handsome countenance, just behind him, is Sir Joshua Walmsley. He is about the same age of Lord John; and is the representative for Leicester. He is a native of Liverpool, where for some years he was a poor teacher, but afterwards became wealthy in the corn trade. When mayor of his native town, he was knighted. He is a radical reformer, and always votes on the right side.



Joseph Hume, M.P.

Lord John Russell has finished and taken his seat. Joseph Hume is up. He goes into figures; he is the arithmetician of the House of Commons. Mr. Hume is in the Commons what James N. Buffum is in our Anti-Slavery meetings, the man of facts. Watch the old man’s eye as he looks over his papers. He is of no religious faith, and said, a short time since, that the world would be better off if all creeds were swept into the Thames. His motto is that of Pope:

“For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight:
His can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.”

Mr. Hume has not been tedious; he is done. Now for Disraeli. He is going to pick Lord John’s speech to pieces, and he can do it better than any other man in the House. See how his ringlets shake as he gesticulates! and that sarcastic smile! He thinks the government has not been vigorous enough in its prosecution of the war. He finds fault with the inactivity of the Baltic fleet; the allied army has made no movement to suit him. The Jew looks over towards Lord John, and then makes a good hit. Lord John shakes his head; Disraeli has touched a tender point, and he smiles as the minister turns on his seat. The Jew is delighted beyond measure. “The Noble Lord shakes his head; am I to understand that he did not say what I have just repeated?” Lord John: “The Right Hon. Gentleman is mistaken; I did not say what he has attributed to me.” Disraeli: “I am glad that the Noble Lord has denied what I thought he had said.” An attack is made on another part of the minister’s speech. Lord John shakes his head again. “Does the Noble Lord deny that, too?” Lord John: “No, I don’t, but your criticism is unjust.”  Disraeli smiles again: he has the minister in his hands, and he shakes him well before he lots him go. What cares he for justice? Criticism is his forte; it was that that made him what he is in the House. The Jew concludes his speech amid considerable applause.

William Ewart Gladstone

All eyes are turned towards the seat of the Chancellor of the Exchequer: a pause of a moment’s duration, and the orator of the House rises to his feet. Those who have been reading The Times lay it down; all whispering stops, and the attention of the members is directed to Gladstone, as he begins. Disraeli rests his chin upon his hat, which lies upon his knee: he too is chained to his seat by the fascinating eloquence of the man of letters. Thunders of applause follow, in which all join but the Jew. Disraeli changes his position on his seat, first one leg crossed, and then the other, but he never smiles while his opponent is speaking. He sits like one of those marble figures in the British Museum. Disraeli has furnished more fun for Punch than any other man in the empire. When it was resolved to have a portrait of the late Sir R. Peel painted for the government, Mr. Gladstone ordered it to be taken from one that appeared in Punch during the lifetime of that great statesman. This was indeed a compliment to the sheet of fun. But now look at the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He is in the midst of his masterly speech, and silence reigns throughout the House.

“His words of learned length and thundering sound
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small head could carry all he knew.”

 Let us turn for a moment to the gallery in which we are seated. It is now near the hour of twelve at night. The question before the House is an interesting one, and has called together many distinguished persons as visitors. There sits the Hon. and Rev. Baptist W. Noel. He is one of the first of the Nonconformist ministers in the kingdom. He is about fifty years of age; very tall, and stands erect; has a fine figure, complexion fair, face long and rather pale, eyes blue and deeply set. He looks every inch the gentleman. Near by Mr. Noel you see the Rev. John Cumming, D.D. We stood more than an hour last Sunday in his chapel in Crown-court to hear him preach; and such a sermon we have seldom ever heard. Dr. Cumming does not look old. He has rather a bronzed complexion, with dark hair, eyes covered with spectacles. He is an eloquent man, and seems to be on good terms with himself. He is the most ultra Protestant we have ever heard, and hates Rome with a perfect vengeance. Few men are more popular in an Exeter Hall meeting than Dr. Cumming. He is a most prolific writer; scarce a month passes by without something from his pen. But they are mostly works of a sectarian character, and cannot be of long or of lasting reputation.

Further along sits a man still more eloquent than Dr. Cumming. He is of dark complexion, black hair, light blue eyes, an intellectual countenance, and when standing looks tall. It is the Rev. Henry Melville. He is considered the finest preacher in the Church of England. There, too, is Washington Wilks, Esq., author of “The Half-century.” His face is so covered with beard that I will not attempt a description; it may, however, be said that he has literally entered into the Beard Movement.

Edward Bulwer Lytton

Come, it is time for us to leave the House of Commons. Stop a moment! Ah! there is one that I have not pointed out to you. Yonder he sits amongst the tories. It is Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, the renowned novelist. Look at his trim, neat figure; his hair done up in the most approved manner; his clothes cut in the latest fashion. He has been in Parliament twenty-five years. Until the abolition of the corn-laws, he was a liberal; but as a land-owner he was opposed to free trade, and joined the protectionists. He has two country-seats, and lives in a style of oriental magnificence that is not equalled by any other man in the kingdom; and often gathers around him the brightest spirits of the age, and presses them into the service of his private theatre, of which he is very fond. In the House of Commons he is seldom heard, but is always listened to with profound attention when he rises to speak. He labors under the disadvantage of partial deafness. He is undoubtedly a man of refined taste, and pays a greater attention to the art of dress than any other public character I have ever seen. He has a splendid fortune, and his income from the labors of his pen is very great. His title was given to him by the queen, and his rank as a baronet he owes to his high literary attainments. Now take a farewell view of this assembly of senators. You may go to other climes, and look upon the representatives of other nations, but you will never see the like again.

Parliamentary and Financial Reform, Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 1851

This is from The Times, Friday, September 26, 1851. It largely comes about because of Sir Josh’s involvement. For anyone who’s interested, he’s a great grandfather x5. It’s also quite a radical meeting, and for that alone, thank you Manchester. 

Parliamentary and Financial Reform


(from our own reporter)

Last night a public meeting was held at the Free Trade Hall in this city, to receive a deputation from the National Parliamentary and Financial Reform Association. The hall in which the meeting took place was originally calculated to afford accommodation, it is said, to nearly 10,000 persons, but since the objects of the Anti Corn Law League were accomplished, the building has been, in some measure, curtailed of its fair proportions to adapt it to the purpose of dioramic and other exhibitions. The spacious hall was yesterday filled to repletion, and, probably, at the lowest computation, there could not be less than from 6,000 to 7,000 persons present, many of whom were evidently, from their dress and appearance, mechanics and operatives. Considering the crowded state of the building, the behaviour of the audience was most exemplary, and, although the pressure in some parts of the room must have been most severe, no interruption of any consequence took place in the course of the proceedings, The chair was taken at half-past 7 o’clock by Mr. George Wilson, formerly president of the Anti-Corn Law League and the deputation included Sir Joshua Walmsley, M.P., President of the National Reform Association, [Sir Josh was at that point, M.P. for Bolton, though he swapped it for Leicester the following year, and remained the M.P. for Leicester until 1857] ; Mr. W. J. Fox, M.P.; Mr. G. Thompson, M.P., and Mr. J. ,Williams, M.P.

Free Trade Hall, Manchester

The Chairman said, the meeting had been convened to receive a deputation from the National Parliamentary Reform Association, and, judging from the state of the room, he must say the invitation had not been neglected. The Prime Minister had announced that it was his intention, at an early period of the next session of Parliament, to introduce into the House of Commons a measure for improving the representation of the people. What that measure might be no one could be expected fully to know at present (a laugh), but he did not think it was likely to exceed the expectations of the people. (Laughter and cheers.) The only indication given by the Prime Minister as to the measure he intended to introduce might be found in a short speech, in which he intimated that he was not unwilling to abolish the qualification for members of Parliament. He (the chairman) hoped the measure to be proposed by the Prime Minister would be a full and complete one ; but it was necessary that meetings should be held, that organizations should be formed, and that public opinion should be excited on the subject; and they might depend upon it, if this course were taken, the measure would not be the less likely to be a valuable one, or the less sure to be carried. (Cheers.)

Lord John Russell

Whatever the nature of the bill might be, he did not believe it could pass without a rigid inquiry as to its merits being instituted by the people. It would not certainly possess all the attractions of the Reform Bill. It could not enfranchise again another Manchester, another Birmingham, another Leeds, or other large constituencies. It might not be so long in schedule A, though be hoped it would be equally long in schedule B. Lord J. Russell would, however, have to deal with two important subjects – the question of the suffrage and that of the re-distribution of electoral power, and in those questions alone be believed the people of this country felt as great a degree of interest as was ever connected with the Reform Bill of 1832. There were some easy well-to-do people, who expressed their astonishment when they heard reform mentioned; who might perhaps swallow a large dose of the suffrage, who might manage to get down the ballot, and who might not hesitate to consent to some redistribution of electoral power, but who, when they heard that it was proposed at the same time to shorten the duration of Parliaments, threw up their heads, in despair. (” Hear,” and a laugh.) Now perhaps, it might relieve the anxiety of these gentlemen if he told them that the oldest form of Parliament in this country was annual. (Cheers.) Eight Parliaments were held during the reign of Edward I. for eight years. In the reign of his successor Edward II., 15 Parliaments were held in 20 years; and, though in the reign of Edward III. this annual election was to a certain extent discontinued, there were still 37 Parliaments in 50 years. In the reign of Charles II. an act was passed, called the Triennial Act, which provided that elections should take place every three years. In the reign of William and Mary, another act was passed, which recited that the frequent election of members of Parliament tended to increase the welfare and improve the condition of the people, and that Parliaments should be triennial. It was, therefore, nothing very extraordinary, and certainly not unconstitutional, to contend that the duration of Parliaments should be shortened. In the reign of George I. the Septennial Act was passed, and during his reign there were two Parliaments in 13 years. In the reign -of George II. there were six Parliaments in 33 years; and in that of George III. 11 in 60 years.

Now, nine years after George II. ascended the throne, the public debt of this country was under £50,000,000. The great bulk of the present debt was incurred from 1793 to 1815, when the amount had increased to £ 865,000,000. Nearly the whole of that debt, therefore, was incurred during four, or five, or six Parliaments. He (the chairman) believed that even under the rotten-borough system which then existed, if more frequent appeals had been made to the people, they would have made a stand against the extravagant expenditure of the Government. (Hear, hear.) He wished to say one word with regard to the redistribution of electoral power, which was a subject on which he felt very strongly. In that county (Lancashire) they had 14 boroughs returning 22 members to Parliament, and the total constituencies of these boroughs amounted to 46,600 voters. Now, in Wiltshire there were nine boroughs, large and small, returning 14 members, and in which the aggregate number of voters was 4,294. In Buckinghamshire there were four boroughs, returning eight members, and whose united constituencies were 2,628. These two counties, therefore, returned to Parliament as many borough members as Lancashire, although ,the united constituencies of their boroughs did not amount in round numbers to more than 7,000. He found that in 12 agricultural counties, including Cornwall, Dorsetshire, Devonshire, Essex, Hereford, Herts, Surrey, Sussex, and Norfolk, there were 65 boroughs, returning 110 members, with an aggregate constituency less in number than the entire borough constituencies of Lancashire. It might be asked how it was that, at the time of the passing of the Reform Bill, such a state of things could be allowed to continue ? ‘

The reason was plain. They had invariably had in this country an agricultural and aristocratical Government making laws for a commercial people; and therefore in the arrangements which had been heretofore made the first consideration had been to give the aristocratical and agricultural interests a predominance in the House of Commons. There was a fiction that peers could not interfere directly or indirectly in the return of members to Parliament. He did not say they ever did so (a laugh), though he had certainly been at elections where he had seen peeresses riding about in carriages, and speaking to drapers, grocers, and other voters, but he did not believe their visits had anything to do with the election. (Laughter) Yet on examining a little book called Dod’s Parliamentary Companion  which he did not believe was published by his friend Sir J. Walmsley (a laugh), but was an orthodox and standard work -he found information given with respect to certain boroughs which he thought must be libellous. He considered it was actionable, if the noble peers referred to would but take the question in band, and dispose of the vile insinuation indirectly conveyed that their influence predominated in certain boroughs. (Cheers and laughter.) He did not mean for a moment to say that the names he was about to mention did not comprise those of men who would be an honour and credit to any constituency in the kingdom, He knew some of them to be as upright men, and if left to their own judgments as liberal men, and as much disposed to support the interests of the people, as any in the country; but, if the inference which might be drawn from Mr. Dod’s work, that they were returned to Parliament by the interest of noblemen having seats in the House of Lords, was correct, then he protested against such a system as cc contrary to the laws and institutions of the country. He would first take the borough of Ludlow, of which the Parliamentary Companion said, ” The influence of the Earl of Powis is considerable here ;” and he found that Mr. H. B. Clive – of course no relation to the Earl of Powis (a laugh)  -sat as member for that borough. He found it said of the borough of Peterborough, ” This is usually considered a borough of Lord Fitzwilliam’s “ a Whig peer. (Laughter and cries of ” Hear, hear.”) Surely nobody thought that these proceedings were confined to peers on one side of the house, and were eschewed by those on the other? (“Hear, hear,” and cheers.) Lord Fitzwilliam, a very liberal man under most circumstances, had a large interest in the borough of Peterborough, and his son, the Hon. G. W. Fitzwilliam, was returned as its representative; but he (the chairman) did not believe that Lord Fitzwilliam’s influence had ever been exerted to return the Hon. G.W. Fitzwilliam. (Laughter.) Of Woodstock it was said, “The Duke of Marlborough has influence here,” and the Marquis of Blandford, son of the Duke, sat for the borough; but they were bound to believe that the Marquis of Blandford had never derived the smallest advantage from the influence or support of the Duke of Marlborough. (A laugh.) The Companion said of the borough of Malmesbery, “Lords Suffolk, Radnor, and Holland divide the influence here.” and it was a curious fact that the Hon. James Kenneth Howard, youngest son of the Earl of Suffolk, was the member for Malmeebury. Then it was stated that ” the Duke of Bedford has considerable influence in Tavistock;”  and it was somewhat curious that the Hon. Edward S. Russell (no relative, of course, of the Duke of Bedford) was one of the members for that borough. (Cheers and laughter.) Of Thetford it was said,-” The Duke of Grafton and Lord Ashburton have considerable influence in this borough ;” and he found that one of the members was the Hon. F. Baring, the brother of Lord Ashburton, and the other was the Earl of Euston, eldest son of the Duke of Grafton. (Cheers, much laughter, and a cry of “Alter it” ) These were very curious facts; but they must observe that he would not commit himself to saying that there could be the most remote connexion between the return of these gentlemen and the influence possessed by the peers he had mentioned with the constituencies. (A laugh.)

Well, it was said that the Marquis of Lansdowne had influence in the borough of Calne, and it was not a little singular that the Earl of Shelburne, son of the Marquis, sat for that borough. But he found there was a commoner who did a little in this way, (Laughter) It was said of the borough of Eye, ” Sir E. Kerrison’s influence in this borough in considerable,” and it so happened that Lieutenant-General Sir E. Kerrison sat for the borough. (Great laughter,) In the borough of Arundel the Duke of Norfolk, it was stated, had considerable influence, and it seemed that some votes had been given by the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, the late member for Arundel, at variance, with the opinions of the Duke, and, curiously enough, the Earl of Arundel had resigned the representation of Arundel, and had obtained another seat. (Cheers and laughter.) He (the chairman) did not mean to say that the resignation took place under instructions from the Duke of Norfolk though some people had said so. (Renewed laughter) In Chippenham another commoner did a little on his own account. (A laugh.) ” Mr. Neald “ it was said, “ has considerable influence in Chippenham “  and Mr. Joseph Neald and his brother-in-law sat as members for that borough. (Hear hear.) Of Chichester it was stated ” The interest of the Duke of Richmond preponderates in this borough,” and, although they had heard a great deal of the Duke, very few of them might be aware that Lord Henry G.C.  Gordon Lenox, son of the Duke, was the sitting member for Chichester –(laughter) At Horsham the Norfolk interest prevailed, and the member for that borough was Lord Edward Howard, second son of the Duke of Norfolk. Of the borough of Dudley it was said “The prevailing influence is that of Lord Ward,” and Mr. J. Renbow, steward to Lord Ward, sat for that borough (” Hear” and laughter.) He did not mean to say that this state of things had been brought about by the intentional culpability of those who framed the last Reform Bill, but he considered that the people themselves had sanctioned it as much as they had sanctioned any other part of the measure. For the future, however, they must take care, if any nice family arrangements of this kind were attempted, to say to the aristocratic families who might seek to retain an unholy influence over the constituencies, “Keep your hands off, gentlemen, the Commons of England belong to the people of England (cheers), and by God’s blessing they shall represent the people of England.” (Loud cheers)

Mr. Alcock read letters from Mr. Hume, Mr. Cobden, Mr. T. M. Gibson, Mr. Bright,  Lord D. Stuart, and Mr. Wakley, who had been invited to attend the meeting, expressing their regret that various engagements prevented them from being present.

Sir Joshua Walmsley 1794 – 1871

Sir J. Walmsley then delivered an address of some length, in the course of which he observed, that their object was to restore the just political rights of their disenfranchised fellow subjects. The monopoly of the elective franchise in a community like this by one-seventh portion of the adult male population was a monstrous injustice and a glaring usurpation. The theory of the constitution was, that the House of Commons should be the embodiment and expression of the mind and will of the people, and their desire was to carry out that theory. Their watchword should henceforth be, “The Constitution, the whole Constitution, and nothing but the Constitution.” (Cheers.)

Some 18 months ago he had stood upon that platform as the humble but earnest advocate of Parliamentary reform, and he was happy now to congratulate them upon the progress which had since been made. If he could not assert that there was an active and intense feeling on the subject, he could at least say that there was an all but universal conviction of the necessity of further reform. (Cheers.)

The plan of reform put forth by the National Parliamentary Reform Association, and with the details of which they were acquainted, had the sanction and support of most, if not all, the Radical members of the House of Commons, and would increase the number of electors from 1,000,000 to 4,000,000, or thereabouts. It was safe, practical, and constitutional, and he trusted it was the least measure of reform with which the people would be satisfied. (hear, hear.)

Lord J. Russell had declared his intention to introduce a measure for reforming the Reform Act, but he (Sir J. Walmsley) would advise the people to save the Prime Minister the trouble of deciding what the new measure of reform should be by deciding the question for themselves. (Cheers and laughter.) They must practise in 1851 the lessons which their Whig advisers taught them in 1831, and do for themselves now that which they did for others then. They must crowd the table of the House of Commons with their petitions, that there might be no mistake either as to whether the people required reform, or as to their determination to have it. (Cheers.)

Mr. J. C. Dyer then moved the following resolution, which was seconded by Mr. Heywood, of Bolton:-

“ That the First Minister of the Crown having intimated his intention to introduce a measure of Parliamentary reform during the next session, the people should lose no time in giving effective expression to their wishes. This meeting doth, therefore. declare that any measure which does not re-arrange the electoral districts, extend the franchise to every occupier of a tenement, protect the voter by the ballot, shorten the duration of Parliament, and abolish the property qualification required of members, – will fail to satisfy the just expectations of the people -will be ineffectual in preventing the corruption, intimidation and oppression now prevailing at elections,, and in securing the full and fair representation of the people in the Commons’ House of Parliament. “

Mr. W. J. Fox, who, on presenting himself, was received with enthusiastic cheers, said that meeting was worthy of the great cause which they had congregated to support. The gentleman who had preceded him had complained of the feebleness of his voice in addressing so vast a multitude, but it had been well said that one voice had many echoes. It was always so when that one voice, however feeble, told some great truth or asserted some noble right which belonged to human nature, and the possession of which was claimed or reclaimed for human nature; and, if one voice so raised had many echoes, how must it be with the voice of congregated thousands, such as were assembled in that hall? (Hear, hear.)

What was the echo of their assertion of public right and justice but the acclamation of millions declaring that they had waited long enough for the possession of their legitimate inheritance? They had heard from the letters which had been read, and also in other modes, that the labours of the last session had rendered relaxation necessary for restoring the health and strength of the members of the House of Commons. It had been a very laborious session. (“Hear, hear,” and laughter.) The House of Commons heaved with the throes of the mountain in labour, and brought forth the little black mouse of a theological enactment. (Laughter) But if individual members of the House of Commons felt the need of a change of air for the renovation of their physical, and moral, and intellectual condition, how must it be with those on whom devolved the heavy responsibility of guiding the destinies of a nation, and of conducting the policy of the British empire? If Mr. Hume, Mr. Gibson, Mr. Bright, and other members needed a change of air, how much must Lord J. Russell need it? (Cheers and laughter.) He wished Lord J. Russell was there to enjoy it. (A laugh.)

He would find the atmosphere of that meeting very different from that of the House of Commons, and one which would do him much good. If the noble lord could be put under a course of Manchester meetings, he thought his weak sickliness might give way to the strength and energy of a real reformer, and he might become strong enough for his place. (Laughter and cheering.) The fact could not be denied that the atmosphere of that meeting, and of any large meeting of the people of England, was a different one from that of the House of Commons. A different class of feeling prevailed; their principles were asserted, other objects were contemplated, other sympathies were glowing in the bosom. For proof of this they had only to look at many of the leading questions which now interested the public mind of this country and of Europe.

In the House of Commons, the sympathy was with large military and naval armaments, and their enthusiasm was unbounded when a lucky officer won a victory, and got a pension and a title, while the sympathies of the people were with peace and the works of peace. The people looked for that which the majority of the Souse of Commons regarded as chimerical and utopian – they were desirous of that one brotherhood of nations when swords should be beaten into plough- shares. In the House of Commons they always found a readiness to vote away millions of the people’s money almost as a mere formal matter, while, in such meetings as that, the sympathy was with those from whose bones and sinews were extracted these millions which they wished to see, and which they had a right to see, rigidly economized. In the House of Commons there was too much sympathy with the despots of the continent, while the sympathies of such meetings as that were with the patriots of the continent. (Loud cheering.)

In the House of Commons he had heard a member ask, with a sneer upon his lip, whether the Secretary of State was aware that such a person as Mazzini was in this country. In such a meeting as that the question was when would not only Mazzini but Kossuth be among them. (Loud and continued cheers.) In the House of Commons members spoke respectfully of “His Catholic Majesty the King of the Two Sicilies,” and of  “the Emperor of all the Russias,” while there were some in that meeting who agreed with him that it would be no unpleasant sight to see a gibbet of two arms, with the Czar dangling at one end and the Catholic King at the other. (Great cheering and laughter.)

If Lord J. Russell intended to introduce a new reform bill that would satisfy the people, and would not need botching and tinkering within a dozen years, he should consult the feelings and principles which were expressed at meetings such as that, the precursor, as he trusted, of many more, which would insure the result towards which they were certainly advancing. The noble Lord was too little in the habit of doing this; his tendencies had always been to look to the narrow rather than to the broad and expansive, to the out- worn creed of an effete party instead of the living voice of the living millions, When Lord J. Russell should be reading his Bible of religious truth and liberty he went and consulted a bishop (laughter); he took counsel with a clique, when he ought to be listening to the voice of public opinion. Lord J. Russell was attentive to the tendencies of the House of Commons, when his senses should all be open to the language and the will of those who in theory and by right were the makers and the masters of the House of Commons (” Hear, hear,” and cheers.) The House of Commons was called representative. Representative, he would like to know, of what ? Supposing an intelligent foreigner were brought into the House of Commons, and looking round him, marking one man and another, were to ask, “What worthy and trusted commoner is that?” The reply might be, “Oh, Sir, he is a marquis; we have six marquises in the House.” (A laugh.) The foreigner would think this rather odd; but if he asked about another man he would be told “ Why, that is a viscount; we have eight viscounts in this house.” If he inquired about another member he might be told, ” Oh, he is an earl; we have several earls here.” If be asked about another he might be answered, “ He is a lord; there are 36 lords in the house, and at the back of these we have 61 baronets, besides 12 honourables (” hear, hear,” and laughter); altogether 274 persons connected with the peerage and the aristocracy.” (Cheers.) “And this,” the querist would say in amazement, “you call your House of Commons! What, then, is your House of Lords ? Why this is only a sort of junior or journeyman House of Lords ! (A laugh.) One finds them here in such multitudes that there seems not the least propriety in the designation you conventionally bestow upon them.” Nor, indeed was there. (Hear, hear.) He (Mr. Fox) was reminded of the young angel in Franklin’s fable, who asked an older angel to show him the earth and its curiosities. The old angel brought him down at a time when a tremendous sea fight was purpling the water with human blood. “Why,” exclaimed the young angel, “you have made a mistake! I asked you to show me earth, and you have shown me hell !” So the foreigner might say, “I asked you to show me your House of Commons and the chief thing you show me are your lords” (Hear, hear.) The House of Commons ought to be the reflex of the real commons of England of which those present at that meeting were part and parcel. Let any of them take up a position in any street of that great city, or upon London-bridge or in any place of multitudinous resort, and what spot could they find where one in every fourteen of the passers-by was a place-man? Yet it was so in the House of Commons. In what place could an individual post himself where he would find that every seventh or eighth man who passed by was an officer in the army or navy? Yet it was so in the House of Commons.  In what place could they find that every ninth man was a barrister? Yet that was the case in the House of Commons; and a fine place for the lawyers it was! (A laugh.) The promotions to good things there fell thick and fast. There had been three or four every year since he had had a seat in that assembly, and the House for the Commons was what Mr. Barry planned it to be -one end of a vista where in perspective they saw the House of Lords (Cheers and laughter) “ lt was, indeed, a lord-making factory;. (Renewed laughter) -,’ In what place, in this country could they find that every fourth person was either the son, or the brother or the uncle, or the nephew, or the grandson, or related by marriage to the peerage and the aristocracy? Yet so it was in the House of Commons.” It was evident he thought that,they required a new House of Commons, on a better principle  (” Hear “ and cheers ) The vice of its constitution was like the deformity of the poet Pope who was constantly exclaiming, “God mend, me,” and who was one occasion heard by a boy, who said, ” God mend you, you little deformity; it would be much easier to make a new one altogether.” (Cheers and laughter.) But how could they wonder that the House of Commons should be a deformity and incongruity when they looked at the mode and principle –or rather the want of principle- on which it was constructed? Their electoral system-if system it might be called which had nothing to answer to that word – went to the utmost verge of absurdity.

They had in the boroughs, 30,000 electors returning four representatives, and they had 30,000 electors returning 105 representatives. They had 330 members representing £ 6,000,000. of property, and they had 328 representing £ 78,000,000. There were nine counties that had 50 per cent. of the property of the country, and 34 per cent of the representation, There were 34 counties that had also 50 per cent, of the property of the country and 66 members. These incongruities were in a continual state of aggravation. The census returns just published showed the great importance of that which was placed first in the resolution. They showed the necessity of a redistribution of representatives in proportion to population, which happily was the same thing as in proportion to property. There were places where the population had diminished in the last 10 years, but which still returned the same number of representatives. There were places where the population was stationary, and where the representation remained the same as before. There were also places where the population had rapidly increased, and was likely to continue to increase, but which only returned the same number of representatives previously. In that city alone[Manchester], within the last 10 years the increase was 36,000 souls – a number which constituted the five-hundreth part of the entice population of the kingdom -a number equal to the population at the last census of 9 or 10 boroughs which returmed 16 members. The increase of population in Liverpool, Manchester, and Salford, was 85,876. Now 81,000 persons, in 18 boroughs, returned no fewer than 30 members to Parliament. In London the population had increased by 405,000, but yet there was no increase of representation. In Lancaster the increase had been only 55, and that place retained its two members. These incongruities were inherent in the Reform Bill itself, which drew an arbitrary line of distinction without any foundation whatever in reason or justice. Who and what was a  £10. householder? Why did the amount of his rent constitute his title to have a share, by representation, in the legislation of the country? The line was most unhappily drawn.

It included the most dependent of all classes, the small tradesmen, and it excluded the most independent of all classes, the intelligent operatives. What was the share of working men in the representation? What art and part had they in the present electoral arrangements ? He supposed it was seldom that a working man paid more than £ 15 a year rent, and he might take for granted that  all the working men who obtained the franchise under the Reform Bill were to be found in the number whose rental was between £10. and £15. a year. That number was between 90,000 and 100,000. Suppose the half of these were working men ; they got not quite 59,000 as the total number of the working classes enfranchised by the much boasted Reform Bill so that the working men who constituted the Commons of England had one vote to the 17 votes possessed by the other classes of society. This was an anomaly not to be endured. The middle classes owed it as a debt of justice to the working men to strive with heart and soul for their enfranchisement. He thought the time had now fully arrived for the fulfilment of that obligation. His fear was lest Lord John Russell should stick too closely to the little and accommodating way in which he achieved Parliamentary reform in 1832 – that he should be peeping about in society to see whether there was a class here or a class there that might be, as it was called, safely admitted within the boundaries of the constitution.

The course pursued ought to be directly the reverse of this. He (Mr. Fox) contended that there was a prima facie right to the franchise in all; and, instead of inquiring on whom Parliament should bestow a boon which it was not the property of Parliament to give, they should show good cause in every instance where the franchise was withheld or denied. (” Hear,” and cheers.) It was a privation, a punishment, a degradation, that should not be inflicted unless incapacity for its use were fully demonstrated against the excluded individual.

Lord J. Russell had his fears and apprehensions, which he had expressed at different times, and he seemed to be in great alarm as to the safety of some of the institutions of the country. Why, there was much greater alarm felt in other quarters when Lord J. Russell introduced his Reform Bill. He heard Lord John say, a short time ago, ” I cannot conceive that a House of Commons, merely representing numbers, would act in harmony with a monarchy, an hereditary House of Lords, and an established church.” His (Mr. Fox’s) thoughts then went back to the time when a townsman of his, a Norwich operative, made a collection of the prophecies uttered when the Reform Bill was introduced, and very alarming they were. Mr. Bankes said the Reform Bill would introduce a state of things approaching to the despotism of the mob; Sir J Shelley believed that if the bill passed no Administration would be able to carry on the government for six weeks; Mr. Price prophesied confusion and civil war, and believed some powerful chief would arise who would establish a military despotism; and Sir R. Vyvian considered that freeholders and landholders might satisfy themselves that their property would not be safe under a reformed Parliament, which might take the crown off the King’s head. (” Hear,” and a laugh.) Even Sir R. Peel then expressed his opinion that a reformed Parliament would give the government of the country into the hands of demagogues, and would reduce this happy land to a state of despotism and destruction, and that, though the monarchy would not be nominally abolished, still it would be virtually, by the democracy who would reign in the House of Commons.

As these predictions had not been fulfilled, he (Mr. Fox) thought that Lord J. Russell might have spared himself the folly of prophesying on this occasion. Let the noble lord do right and justice, and have the consequences to follow. (Loud cheers.) He (Mr. Fox) believed the monarchy would be perfectly secure under any reformation Lord J. Russell might dream of as contemplated by the most thoroughgoing democrats of this country, He believed the House of Lords would be quite as safe as it deserved to be. (Cheers and laughter.) As to the established church, he was not sure that every voter should be pledged, as his Lordship seemed to wish, to the support of that institution, (A laugh.) It arose on grounds of policy; it had been reformed and modified on grounds of policy; and the time might come when, on grounds of policy, it might be further reformed or entirely abolished. (Loud cheers.) Church, peerage, Royalty, only existed by the people and for the people. Their claim to existence and to respect was when they properly discharged their functions, and showed themselves in their several spheres truly subservient to the general good. While that was the case they were entitled to the respectful notice and support of the people.

When that ceased to be the case they were only entitled to the sentence, – “ Cut them down; why cumber they the ground? ” ( Loud cheering.) He would not go further into particulars on this reform question, for he would be followed by gentlemen who would amply supply any deficiencies of his. He would only express his heartfelt delight at this great combination. He anticipated a not remote and triumphant success from this union of the middle and operative classes for the common rights and interests of both. He thought he might safely prophecy in this case; for, by whom and in what way had the most brilliant achievements of public right in the history of this country been realized but by such a combination?  It was by an union of the trading and the productive classes, in the days of Norman despotism, that the vestiges of Saxon institutions and their free spirit were preserved in the country through those stormy times, until they should again become recognized, and again be regarded as institutions which were dear to the English heart, and which should be prolonged through all generations. It was by the union of the trading and the productive classes that feudalism was shorn of its terrors, and that eventually it was abolished. Every town and every guild was then a place of refuge for the victims of feudal tyrants lording it over the land. They fled to the abodes of industry, and there they were safe, and cities rose in the land, while castles crumbled in the dust. (Cheers.) It was this union of the intelligence of the middle and productive classes that realized that great event, the Reformation – great, not from the doctrines or the forms which it established, for these were the least part, the non-essentials of the work, but great from the assertion of the rights of mind and conscience (hear, hear) – rights belonging to the Catholic as well as to the Protestant – rights inherent in human nature, but which needed the protection of the broad shield of public opinion to keep bigotry and hypocrisy in high places from trampling them under foot. (Loud and prolonged cheers.)

It was this union of the trading and productive classes which, when the institutions of the country bad been grossly perverted and abjured, when the Throne had become the symbol of tyranny, and the altar had become the symbol of superstition, overthrew throne and altar both; and taught the people of this country that their rights comprehended even the solemn function of sitting in judgment on archbishops and on kings. (Great cheering.) It was to the union of these two great bodies that they owed all the best improvements since the settlement made at the Revolution of 1688. From that time to this every great, and good, and generous measure – every emancipation of serf-classes – the striking off the chains of the negro slave – the restriction of barbarous, and brutal, and sanguinary punishments – all great reforms had arisen, not from an aristocratical Legislature, nominally representative – they had arisen from the might of public opinion, commanding that body to know its duty, and to perform its duty, (Cheers.) By the union of these two classes had the burdens of the State, in all their weight, been borne and manfully sustained through the heat of long and toilsome days. By the union of these classes had the wealth, the intellect, the greatness of our country been realized. They had achieved its brightest victories; they had won by that union its noblest trophies; and as, by the union of the tradespeople and the operatives, the first Reform Bill was carried, so by that union would they at length enjoy another and a better reform bill, more just, more comprehensive, more glorious, and more enduring. (Loud and prolonged cheering.)

The resolution was then agreed to.

Mr. R. Kettle, barrister, of London, proceeded to read a long address from the Council of the National Parliamentary Reform Association to the people of Great Britain, calling upon them to declare their will on the subject of Parliamentary reform, The following are the principles recommended by the asociation as the basis of a representative system:-

“1. The extension of the suffrage to every occupier of a tenement or portion of a tenement.

“2. Vote by ballot

“3. Triennial Parlaments.

“4. A more equal apportionment of members to population

“5. The abolition of the property qualifieation.

“ Such a reform, carried in its integrity would make the House of Commons the embodiment and expression of the mind and will of the people, and with this,  and with nothing less should the people be content.”

With a view to the accomplishment of these objects the address offers the following suggestions:-

“1. Organization.- Let every city borough, town, and hamlet form its Parliamentary Reform committee. Apart from local organisation, let every Reformer enrol himself a member of the National Reform Association.

“2. Public Meetings.-The healthy political sympathies of the people should be aroused by frequent public meetings. 

“3 Petitions. – Let petitions be presented not only from every city and town, but from every workshop, hamlet, and homestead.

“4. The Press. – The press will do its duty if it sees the people are in earnest. The tracts and publications of the National Reform Association must be distributed – they must be read. Educate and sustain each other in this great work.

“5. Constituencies. – Let constituencies be faithful to themselves.  Personal considerations and personal attachments must be disregarded. There is no intermediate course. Every man who Is not for the people is against them. Let constituencies be prepared to replace with better men those who prove unable or unworthy to lead the people in this great struggle.”

Mr. J. Williams M.P., who was called upon to support the address said he was satisfied that after that meeting public opinion would become so mighty that to disregard it would be the blindest folly. The extension of the franchise could not be obtained for the people, but must be obtained by the people. Some allusions had been made that night to the Tories. Now, looking at that meeting of the people of Manchester, who cared for the Whigs, or who cared for the Tories ?  (Great laughter and cheers ) If those present at that and similar meetings united and formed a party, both Whig and Tories would be as feeble as the dying – as cold and inanimate as the grave into which they were both tottering. (Laughter and cheers.) As the treasurer of the London Parliamentary Reform Association he had to report to them that the association had held upwards of 500 meetings on behalf of the working classes of England, that they had money in the bank and that they did not owe anything. (A laugh)  They knew it was usual for men of business to take stock, and, as they knew the public money was freely disposed of by the House of Commons, he wished, when he first went into the House, to know the motives which induced members to support such grossly extravagant expenditure. He said to himself one day, ” Now, I will just take stock of these fellows.” (Laughter.) The first notice of motion he gave was for a return of the number of members who held appointments in the army, navy, and ordnance. Well the meeting might be sure he got into very bad bread with the House. (A laugh.) One gallant officer came up to him immediately after, in a bouncing manner, and said, ” Oh. oh! I find you have placed a very invidious notice on the paper,” and walked by him, thinking, no doubt he would make him very little. (Laughter.) He.(Mr Williams) said “Well, Sir, what’s the matter ?” and the gallant member replied, ” I shall put a notice upon the paper for a return of the number of retail shopkeepers in the house.” (Great laughter.) He told the gallant member that he could not do anything that would please the people of England, and especially the working-classes of England, better; he dared him to carry out his threat, but the gallant member had never done so. (Cheers and laughter.) He would venture to pledge himself that, if 3,000,000 of the unrepresented men of England would contribute the smallest sum to the Parliamentary Reform Association, in a very few months every man 21 years of age who had been 12 months in a lodging, should have a vote for a member of Parliament. (Cheers.)

After some observations from Mr. George Thomson, in advocacy of the principles of the Parliamentary Reform Association,

Mr. Heywood moved the second resolution, which was seconded by the Rev. J. Schofield, and carried unanimously:-

” That the cordial union and energetic action of all Reformers are now imperatively requisite. That the principles, advocated by the National Parliamentary and Financial Reform Association merit the support of the great body of the people of this kingdom ; and this meeting consisting of Reformers of every shade, pledge themselves, to sustain the well-directed efforts of that association. That the conveners of this meeting are hereby constituted a committee (with power to add to their numbers) for the purpose of organizing a branch of the National Parliamentary Reform Association, to co-operate with the Council in London; and that the committee be requested to take immediate steps  for that purpose.”

A vote of thanks having been given to the chairman, the meeting broke up soon after 11 o’clock.

The Times, Friday, September 26, 1851

The Working Man’s Monument to Sir Robert Peel – 1850


A public meeting was held yesterday evening, at 6 o’clock, in the grounds of the Belvedere Hotel, Pentonville, in aid of the national subscription fund for this purpose. It was announced that Mr. Hume would preside, and that Mr.Cobden would also be present. Both these gentlemen were detained by their public duties in the House of Commons, and the chair was taken by Sir Joshua Walmsley, who, at some length, explained the objects of the meeting, and paid his tribute of admiration to the memory of Sir Robert Peel. Sir Joshua alluded to the various great measures carried by the departed statesman, and dwelt with especial praise upon the sacrifices which he had made for the public good, and to secure untaxed food for the millions. The first resolution was moved by Mr. George Thompson, M.P., and seconded by Dr. Brownless, and was as follows:-

” That this meeting is of opinion] that the British nation has sustained a great loss in the premature death of the late Sir Robert Peel, and desires to offer to the afflicted family of the departed statesman an expression of their sympathy and condolence in the bereavement they have sustained.”

The motion was, of course, carried unanimously, the meeting testifying their approbation of it by uncovering while the show of hands was taken by the Chairman. The second resolution was moved by Mr. G. Harris, and seconded by Mr. P. P. James, and was

” That it is the opinion of this meeting that the nation at large in the lamented death of Sir Robert Peel has lost one of the first statesmen of the age, and the man above all others who, at the personal sacrifice of the support and esteem of many of his friends and associates, was nevertheless able and willing to carry out large measures for the practical good and relief of the masses in this country.”

Mr. Alexander Macphail and Mr. John Layton proposed and seconded the next resolution, which expressed the opinion of the meeting,

“That Sir Robert Peel had left a name which would long be remembered in the hearts and the homes of the working-classes of this empire, and that his memory should be deservedly cherished by those who earn their bread by their daily labour, as well as by those who desire the welfare and comfort of their poorer fellow-men.”

Another resolution, proposed by Mr. Wakeling, and seconded by Mr. James Yates, was to the effect, that a lasting testimonial of the gratitude of the working men of this country should be erected to the memory of Sir Robert Peel; that the subscription list for this purpose be open till the 1st of January, 18al, and that all sums be received from 1d. upwards. An almost perfect unanimity prevailed with reference to these resolutions, for two persons who endevoured to express views more or less directly opposed to them were summarily put down by the meeting, which was numerously attended. The secretary in the course of the proceedings announced that he had received letters from Lord John Russell, Sir James Graham, Viscount Hardinge, the Earl of Aberdeen, Mr. Gladstone, and other distinguished persons, expressing their approbation of the working- mans’ monument to the memory of Sir Robert Peel, and offering their assistance and co-operation.

The Times, July 13, 1850