CHAPTER XXVIII. This chapter covers fourteen years from 1857 until 1871. As usual with Uncle Hugh, it is more political than personal, though the letters quoted in this chapter are more two old friends commentating on politics, and rather softer in tone. The whole chapter does have a rather valedictory tone.
For most of this time Josh and Adeline had retired to Wolverton Park, in Hampshire, a rather grand house they rented from the 2nd Duke of Wellington. In the 1861 census, Josh describes himself as ” Knight, J.P. and Adeline’s occupation was given as “Lady” There were three children there James, aged 34 and Emily, 30 and Adah, aged 21. The household comprised of the family, plus the cook Maria Butts (60), three housemaids, and three male servants. Richard Pratt, the butler was only twenty-four, Tommy Smith was a sixteen year-old house boy, and Charlie Jacob, the groom was twenty.
Thomas Milner Gibson, the Anti-Corn-Law Leaguer defeated in Manchester had won a by-election in Ashton-under-Lyne on 14th December 1857. He was the maternal great-grandfather of the Mitford sisters, through Thomas Gibson Bowles, the illegitimate son he had with a servant girl. Tommy Bowles founded both Vanity Fair, and The Lady.
The assassination attempt on Napoléon III referred to was planned and carried out by Felice Orsini who Josh had met at the American Ambassador’s dinner in 1854. Rather splendidly, his bombs were made for him by Joseph Taylor, an English gunmaker based in Birmingham.
When Parliament again assembled, every vestige of the Anti-Corn-Law League had disappeared from the benches of the House. Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, Mr. Fox, Mr. Milner Gibson, and Sir Joshua Walmsley had been unseated. Meetings were held to express sympathy with them. ” I had previously determined,” writes Sir Joshua, “ That if defeated at Leicester, I would retire into private life ; and despite several requisitions to represent constituencies, I adhered to this resolution. “ The session of 1857 closed without any Reform Bill being brought before the House.
Mr. Cobden, writing from Midhurst, 18th July, says: ” Looking at the servility of the House of Commons, and the absence of all earnestness in politics, I think we have no reason to be dissatisfied with our bargain — free air and exercise in place of being in a committee-room at Westminster. ”
The news of the attempt of the 16th January [it was actually the 14th January 1858]on the French Emperor’s life, had been received with reprobation by all classes throughout England ; but an official despatch from Count Walewski, accusing England of fostering crime and of erecting assassination into a doctrine, evoked a different feeling. Leaving unanswered and unnoticed Walewski’s despatch, Lord Palmerston, on the 8th February, moved for an alteration of the ” Conspiracy to Murder Bill. “ This brought on protest upon protest, against England altering her domestic laws at the dictation of a foreign power.
On the 19th, Lord Palmerston moved the second reading of his bill. Mr. Milner Gibson proposed an amendment, censuring Government for not having replied to the Walewski note, and his amendment was carried.
Before this vote of censure the Ministers retired, and Lord Derby came into office. The attacks of the French Colonels following closely on all this, roused public indignation to a high pitch. Mr. Cobden’s ideas on this subject are expressed in the following letter, dated 21st April, 1858 :
” Dear Sir Joshua,
” It was very kind of you to think of me. Your letter found us in great trouble. My poor brother, as you know, a sufferer from nervous pains. has been taken to his rest. The last two weeks were awful. It seemed as if the disease had seized suddenly on the spinal cord and moved slowly upwards, torturing him to death by inches. He underwent, for a fortnight almost, one continued paroxysm of agony. We could not witness it without praying God to release him and take him to Himself But I do not the less feel the void which his loss has occasioned. He was little known beyond his own family circle. His shyness and modesty prevented him from mixing in society. But he had a rare intelligence, and a memory so extraordinary, that I used to resort to it as to an encyclopaedia. I feel as if the daylight were partially withdrawn from my house. . . . “
” We shall, of course, be very quiet, and I do not feel any call at present to interfere in politics. I never saw so little above the political horizon worth fighting about. When the struggle is between Dizzy and Sam, earnest politicians may be excused for standing aside and taking a holiday. I quite agree with you about the scandalous tone of our papers respecting the state of France. But the worst part of the business is, that they are evidently bent on making bad blood between the two nations, for the sake of political capital. The Times, Economist, &c., only discovered those dangers and discontents in France after Palmerston’s downfall. “
” They want now to make it appear that his return to power is necessary for the French alliance, forgetting that he alone was the cause of the popular outcry in Hyde Park, against France and the Conspiracy Bill. The fact is, he wished to divert the attention of the House and country from domestic questions, and therefore he brought in that bill. A wise and honest minister would have prevented any public discussion on such a subject, by settling it privately, and showing to the French Government that it was unwise to moot it publicly, and thus rouse the well- known jealousy and pugnacity of our countrymen. But he was ‘ hoist with his own petard,’ and I hope he will not again intrigue himself into office. …”
But few letters remain now to be quoted of the correspondence extending over so many years between the two political allies and friends. An interval of nearly three years occurs before we find Mr. Cobden’s next letter, addressed to Sir Joshua in his retreat at Wolverton Park.
It is dated Algiers, where, after negotiating the Commercial Treaty with France, Mr. Cobden had gone to recruit his health, already impaired by the fatal malady that was too soon to rob England of his eminent services. From it we give the following extract ;
” 9th March, 1861.
“I am sorry to see your brief allusion to the unfavourable state of your health. I hope it is but a slight and temporary indisposition. For myself, though every year reminds me that I have passed my meridian, I have reason to be thankful for having come here for the winter, where the weather has been exceptionally fine, as it has been unusually severe in England. If you find your respiratory organs affected, you would find great benefit from a winter residence here. The hotels and lodgings are all full of visitors, the majority of whom are of course British. I intend to remain here till the end of this month. “
” The state of politics and the proceedings in the House offer but small temptations to return to one’s post — you have certainly the best of it in your rural retreats. In a letter which I got lately from Bright, he observes : ‘ What sensible fellows are Crook and Titus Salt to return to the care of their businesses and families. The worst feature in public matters is the apathy and indifference of people to domestic questions. It seems as if we had become blases by the excitement of foreign revolutions and wars, and had no longer any appetite for home politics. It will be well for us if material reverses recall us to a sense of what is due to ourselves. “
“It will give us pleasure when we again find ourselves at home (where I have scarcely found myself for two years), and renew our personal intercourse with your family. In the meantime, my wife joins me in kind regards to Lady Walmsley and all your circle, and I remain, “
” Very truly yours,
” R. COBDEN. ”
Two letters belong to the year 1864. We give them in their order :
” Midhurst, 6th March, 1864.
“My dear Walmsley,
“The two little pigs have duly reached, and promise to be a good addition to our Sussex stock ; many thanks for them. “
“Perhaps you have already seen the enclosed; if not, you will be glad to see that our friend Kossuth has just had a legacy of a thousand pounds, which I have no doubt will be just now very acceptable to him. By-the-way, I hear that the Hungarian refugees are beginning to turn their faces homewards, that Klapka is already at Turin, where there is said to be a plot hatching, and that unless Austria is as usual very lucky, she will have more fighting in the Adriatic than in the Baltic, and with worse results. It seems as if there would be a general commotion in the East of Europe, but wars and revolutions sometimes fail to come when they are most expected. “
“ I am going to town on Tuesday for a week or ten days before the Easter recess. But I really cannot help considering it an ignominious employment of one’s time to be a party to the hollow proceedings in the House. “
“With our united kindest regards to Lady Walmsley and your circle,
” Believe me, yours very truly,
“ R. COBDEN.
” If you should have Stephenson’s portrait photographed, I hope you will let me have a copy. ”
” At Mr. Paulton’s, 15, Cleveland Square,
11th March, 1864.
“My dear Walmsley,
” I have been amused by the article in The Standard. It is the first I have heard of my promotion. But there is, of course, not the slightest foundation for the report. I could not undertake any post requiring me to work in the City in the winter time. During the frost and fog of that season, I cannot breathe in the London air. I am strangely affected with a sort of asthma in certain states of the atmosphere. Since I have been in town, the weather has been so bad that I have not been down to the House once. No other medicine suits me but the thermometer at 70c. “
” Respecting the engraving or lithographing of my likeness, to which you kindly refer, I really do not know where it originally appeared, whether in London or Manchester. “
“ The proceedings of the House are dull beyond all example. There will be nothing done till Gladstone brings in his Budget. If the Tories were united and willing, they might have office at any time. But it looks as if the two chiefs had a tacit compact, by which it was understood that there is to be no change during the natural life of the Parliament or of the Premier. “
” I find Mr. and Mrs. Paulton very well, and Hargraves has got over the winter better than last year. They are looking to a migration to their country-place in the summer in the neighbourhood of Woking. My wife is here ; she joins me in kind remembrance to Lady Walmsley and your circle.
” Believe me, yours truly,
” R. COBDEN. ”
Death was soon now to sunder this friendship of thirty years, ” on whose surface,” says Sir Joshua, ”there was not a flaw. I think I possess Cobden’s last, or very nearly his last, letter. “ It runs thus :
” Midhurst, 18th March, 1865.
” My dear Walmsley
“ It was very kind of you to think of me with your prescription, which I have no doubt, in a given case, would be very useful. My throat trouble has, however, been somewhat peculiar. I have had what doctors call nervous asthma, which affects me only when the weather is cold or foggy. I am now pretty well, and am only waiting for fine weather to resume my duties in town. I hope in a few days to be able to leave home. There is some difficulty in knowing what one is to go to the House for at present. I confess I feel very little pride or satisfaction in lending myself as a witness to the hollow sham that is going on there. I suppose you will be paying your periodical visit to London. If so, I shall be happy to shake hands with you. My wife joins in kind regards to Lady Walmsley and your circle, and,
“ Believe me, yours very truly,
” R. COBDEN. ”
But this hand-grasp was never to be given. Mr. Cobden, confined to the house since November by bronchitis, brought on by the exertion of a long speech delivered in an overheated hall to his constituents, was in no fit state to undertake a journey up to London in the bitter cold of that spring. Three days after the date of the foregoing letter, on the 21st March, he came up to town, intending to take part in the debate on the Canadian defences. Bronchitis had seized him ere he reached his journey’s end. He was at once conveyed to his lodgings in Charles Street, where he died on the 2nd of April.
Our narrative now draws to a close. When Sir Joshua lost his seat in the electoral contest of 1857 he determined to retire from public life. ” My political career was now over, “ he says. ” I was fifty-six years of age when I entered Parliament. I could not at that late period acquire the facility of quick debate— so important to a public man, and which can be successfully cultivated only in the flexible years of youth — but I was up to the toil and drudgery such a life imposes upon whoever conscientiously enters into it. Whenever I addressed the House, I invariably obtained a patient hearing, for I was careful always to master the subject upon which I spoke. ”
After his eventful life, he was now entitled to allow himself a margin of rest. He took the lease of Wolverton Park, Hants, part of the estate presented by the nation to the Duke of Wellington. In this beautiful retreat, hedged round by friends, and ever exercising a genial, courteous hospitality, he spent some happy years. Horticultural pursuits and field sports had still the charm they had in the old days at Ranton Abbey. Nor was he forgotten by the nation. Requisitions from Liberal constituencies, inviting him to come forward and stand for their representation in Parliament, were on various occasions addressed to him. But he was firm in his resolution not again to enter the House of Commons as a member of its body.
Yet he watched with unflagging interest the progress of Reform, contributing articles in its support to The Daily News and other Liberal journals. Almost to the end, he kept up his connection with the Sunday League, remaining its president until within a few years of his death. To the last he was what he had always been — a man of the people ; from the people he sprang, and with them ran the strong current of his manly, generous sympathies. It was this sense of fellowship that led his voice and hand to be ever among the foremost of his day, in advancing every question and cause that involved their true interest and welfare.
In 1870, Sir Joshua removed to Bournemouth. Some time previously he had decided to build a house on an elevated stretch of moorland, and to end his days in this beautiful watering-place. His unabated mental and physical energy seemed to give assurance that he had yet many years to live, and he himself looked forward to a good old age. The building of the house and the laying out of his grounds were a source of much interest and pleasure to him. One day, before the building was completed, he gave the house its name. A few friends were assembled, when, raising a glass of wine to his lips, Sir Joshua gave : ” To the memory of my old friend, Joseph Hume, “ and accordingly the house was called ” Hume Towers. ”
The hope of spending some years in active rural enjoyment was not destined to be realised. In November, 1871, he died, after a brief illness. His widow survived him till September, 1873.
And now we cannot better wind up these memoirs than by quoting the touching words in which Sir Joshua describes what he owed to Lady Walmsley’s influence through life: ” My wife’s mild and gentle spirit, “ he says, ” constrained and tempered mine. Endowed with talent and excellent judgment, the advice she gave me in business, as well as in domestic matters, was in a great measure the source of my prosperity. I feel that but for her soothing influence and high standard of right, I might have gone sorely astray in the battle of life. She has indeed been to me all that woman could be. How much have I to be grateful for to Him who gave and has continued to me so good a helpmate. ”
CHAPTER XXVI. This chapter is a mixture of rather worthy campaigning to open the museums for the moral improvement of working men, and the suppression of ” vice and immorality ” – almost always a good thing, and is counterposed with the fallout of the Arrow affair in Canton [Guangzhou] which was the start of the Second Opium War. So while Josh has political and business sympathies for Sir John Bowring, he may well also have some family loyalty. Sir John is the great-uncle of Adeline’s nephew Hugh Mulleneux’s wife Fanny. Either way, the war culminated in the destruction and wholesale looting of the Summer Palace in Beijing by British and French troops in 1860 and the legalization of the opium trade.
After the death of Joseph Hume , Sir Joshua sought to carry out his work left unfinished. Next to the question of enlarging the suffrage, that of opening the museums to the working classes had of late years most occupied Mr. Hume’s attention. In 1846, he had submitted his first motion to that effect to Parliament, and in the last session he attended had renewed the effort. Sir Joshua had promised to continue it, and he kept his word. At this period some working-men formed themselves into a committee, for the purpose of keeping alive the interest in the question among their class. Round this nucleus numbers gathered, composed chiefly of men connected with the more artistic trades, of pianoforte makers, goldsmiths, jewellers, and carvers — artisans, who felt the importance, for their own instruction, of becoming familiar with artistic creations, and who were conscious of the advantages derived from such influences. The committee gradually developed into an association sufficiently important to style itself the ” Sunday League,” of which Mr. Hume became the president, and Mr. Morrell the secretary, and immediately proceeded to start a newspaper to disseminate its opinions throughout the country.
In 1854, the House of Commons’ Committee on Public-houses came to a resolution that, as a means of combating drunkenness, ” it was expedient that places of public recreation and instruction be open to the public on Sunday afternoons after the hours of two o’clock P.M. ”
The League considered this an opportune moment for presenting a petition to Parliament for ” the opening of the British Museum, the National Gallery, and Marlborough House, on Sunday. “ Sir Joshua Walmsley undertook to present the goldsmiths’ petition. Mr. Hume had promised to bring the question before the House of Commons during the course of the session. We have seen however, that he could find no day for its discussion, and in the February of the following year he died.
“ Several deputations waited on me soon after, “ says Sir Joshua, ” asking me to assume the presidency of the League, and to fight its battle in Parliament. To this invitation I replied, that my promise to Mr. Hume, and my own desire to continue a work that enlisted my heartiest sympathy, would lead me to accept the proffered post; but I knew that my conduct in the frame-rent question had made me many enemies in Leicester. At the next election I foresaw that my seat would be in jeopardy, and my parliamentary career might thus shortly be closed. The working-men persisting in their invitation, I acceded to it, and on the 28th March, 1855, I brought the question before the House. ”
When the House divided, out of two hundred and thirty-five present, forty-eight recorded their vote in favour of Sir Joshua’s motion.
” The men who so warmly stood up for the sanctity of the Sabbath forgot, in their zeal, that they demanded its rigid observance from the working classes alone. They denounced the profanity of a proposal, that would enable the poor man to look at pictures and other works of art on the Sabbath after morning service. They saw no profanity in their own privileged stroll among the curiosities of the Zoological or Botanical Gardens, or in the enjoyment of their West-End clubs. On the very Sunday following the debate on my resolution, I met in the Zoological Gardens, accompanied by his wife and two children, an ardent opponent of the measure. ‘ You here on a Sunday among the wild beasts ! ‘ I exclaimed stopping short and looking him full in the face as if astonished at the rencontre. He was much discomfited, but at once fell back on the reassuring logic of the difference of classes. ‘ Oh ’ he answered, ‘ it is a very different matter my taking a quiet stroll here with my family, and letting crowds of workmen rush off to the museums.’ “
” I could not admit the difference in principle, and as regards circumstances, the difference implied an argument in favour of the workman. In advocating the objects of the Sunday League, I was simply endeavouring to extend to the poor some of the civilising agencies that so abound in the daily life of the rich ”
While working with this aim. Sir Joshua found himself the centre of a very whirlwind of indignation.
” I was privately and publicly apostrophised, ” he says, “ as an infidel. The post daily brought me letters from clergymen addressing me as an atheist, ‘ an agent of Satan.’ From the pulpit, the same epithets were applied to me and the other supporters of the Sunday League. In Liverpool, on one Sunday, a hundred sermons were preached against us. In every town, in every parish, from every church and dissenting sect, a protest was raised against any attempt to do away with the holiness of Sunday; and were it really kept and observed in a holy manner, I should be the last to desire a change. “
In thickly-populated cities and in the drowsiest rural districts, the work of petitioning began. From the most revered pillar of the local church to the youngest Sunday-school scholar, all the members of the various congregations appended their signatures to the earnest prayer to Parliament not to open the doors of museums or the Crystal Palace to the people on the Lord’s Day.
Public meetings, in towns and villages, passed resolutions and expressed sentiments that would not have been out of keeping with the pharisaical spirit dominant in Jerusalem nineteen centuries ago. A society formed for the due observance of the Sabbath threatened with public exposure those who voted for Sir Joshua Walmsley’s motion. A Sabbatical frenzy seized the country. Amid all this tumult, it was difficult to hear the counter protests of thousands of hard-working artisans, who knew well that, among their class, Sunday was not a day of sanctity, such as all this commotion against its desecration implied; or to notice the calm verdict given by some of the highest intellects in England in favour of the objects of the Sunday League.
It required courage to face the storm that was raging, but Sir Joshua was not the man to be driven from any path he had entered after mature deliberation. The National Sunday League announced during the recess that the measure would again be brought before Parliament by its president in the ensuing session. On the evening of the 21st February, 1856, the lobby of the House of Commons was crowded The Speaker’s and Strangers’ Galleries were thronged, and conspicuous by their numbers were the clergy present. There was a perceptible stir of excitement through the assembly, deepening during the hour and a half employed in presenting petitions against the resolution that was to be the principal feature of the night’s debate. It was the evening for the discussion of Sir Joshua Walmsley’s motion for the opening of the museums on Sunday.
On this occasion his speech was more exhaustive than that delivered on the same subject the preceding year. He entered more fully into the bearings of the Sabbatarian movement, meeting the objections that had been so loudly urged against the objects of the Sunday League. Carefully abstaining, however, from any expression that might hurt sensitive, anxious souls, easily alarmed at what seems to them a lowering of that standard of faith necessary to salvation, he was nevertheless ” determined,” he said, ” not to shrink from any discussion calculated to elicit the truth, but truth applicable to all classes, and not an ideal to which our workers are sacrificed. Nor will I yield to any in an earnest desire to preserve the Sunday as free from labour as is consistent with the necessities of the people — a day of rest, devotion, and innocent enjoyment. I believe the measure now proposed is worthy the acceptance of the House, and calculated to elevate the moral and religious character of the people.”
” I am morally certain, “ he proceeded, after giving a summary of the petition signed by upwards of ten thousand workmen in favour of the opening of the museums, ” that were these institutions opened on the afternoon of Sunday, thousands, if not tens of thousands of persons, who now seldom leave their crowded courts and alleys on that day save to resort to the public- house, would be found with their wives and families visiting these pleasant centres of instruction. These people would return to their homes wiser and better men from the contemplation of the beautiful, and for their momentary contact with the finest products of the most gifted of our race. ”
After quoting eminent authorities, past and present, in favour of a brighter conception of the Sabbath, he laid his finger on the real evil the measure was chiefly directed against — drunkenness, that passion that saps and mines all force of character, wrecks virtue, and brings misery into the homes of our lower classes. This passion finds an accomplice in the tedium and stagnation of Sunday which well-nigh excuses and explains it.
Referring to the letter of a man of much practical experience, he showed that ” vice and immorality are relatively more prevalent in London than in the great Continental capitals ; and, especially, the relative proportion of immorality which prevails on the Sunday, compared with any other day of the week, is far larger in London than in the Continental capitals. In Edinburgh and Glasgow, where what might be called the judicial observance of the Sunday is stricter than in London, the vice and criminality prevalent on that day are also relatively greater than in London. ”
” This, “ reiterated Sir Joshua in conclusion, ” is an educational measure in its most comprehensive sense, and one that ought not to provoke religious controversy. As an educational measure, it would humanise and improve that class of the community, which millions spent in church establishments have failed to reach. ”
The discussion that followed was as intolerant in spirit, and as wide of the mark in its objections to the measure, as that of the preceding year. The comfortless homes of the poor; the fact that the large majority of working-men in crowded cities never enter a place of worship, but spend the Sabbath in gin-shops, for lack of a better place of entertainment to resort to; these realities were ignored by those who so loudly denounced the measure. Members of Parliament spoke as though the present observance of Sunday constituted godliness itself. It seemed as if to them Sunday was made holy by the mere fact of the doors of the museum being closed.
Lord Stanley again defended the motives of the Sunday League and its promoters. The faithful few of the year before spoke in favour of the resolution. When the House divided, it was found that the same forty-eight, out of the four hundred and twenty-four members present, had voted for Sir Joshua Walmsley’s motion. The Sabbatarian party received the announcement of their victory with ringing cheers.
In February, 1857, Sir Joshua moved “ for a Select Committee to consider and report upon the most practical means for lessening the existing inequalities in our representative system, and for extending to the unenfranchised that share of political power to which they may be justly entitled. ” The motion, however, found no favour with the House; after the fatigue and excitement of the Russian War, there was little zeal left for measures of home reform.
Sir Joshua brought forward this motion on the eve of the momentous debates in both Houses on the proceedings of Sir John Bowring in China, in the affair of the Arrow. Shortly before Christmas had come tidings by the Chinese mail, startling to ministers and the country, that for six weeks England had been at war with China. An insult had been offered to the British flag. In October, Chinese officials had boarded a Chinese vessel flying English colours, on a charge of having been concerned in an act of piracy, and carried off twelve of the fourteen that composed her crew. Swift and terrible retribution followed this act. The prisoners, indeed, had been given up, on the demand of Sir John Bowring, but Governor Yeh refused to make a public apology. Permission to foreigners to enter Canton, a condition insisted on by the English ambassador, had also been withheld. Then had followed the storming of the city of Hong Kong [ Hugh gets his cities wrong, and actually means Canton] and the shelling of Governor Yeh’s house.
On the 25th of February the debates on the Canton question began. Lord Derby brought the question before the Upper House. In a speech of fiery eloquence, he condemned the conduct of Sir John Bowring as hasty and cruel ” The Hotspur of debate “ failed on this occasion to carry with him the House of Lords. By a majority of thirty-six, the Peers justified the English ambassador’s action.
On the 27th, in the House of Commons, Mr. Cobden, true to the single-mindedness with which he ever pursued the great purpose of his life, set aside the claims of twenty years’ friendship, and moved “ that the papers which have been laid upon the table fail to establish satisfactory grounds for the violent measures resorted to at Canton, in the late affair of the Arrow. “ From the 27th of February to the 3rd of March the debates lasted Lord Palmerston stood by his appointed agent, and the ministerialists to a man supported him. Party spirit doubtless inspired some of the speeches delivered during that week’s discussion, but on reading the reports of it, the impression left on the mind is that the verdict given was deliberately and honestly arrived at. It recorded that, by a majority of sixteen, the representatives of the English people did not sanction the proceedings of their official in the Canton waters. Lord Palmerston, interpreting this decision to be a vote of censure on his Government, announced, a couple of days after, that he had advised the Queen to dissolve Parliament, and to appeal to the nation. It was a question on which there might well be a difference of opinion, and it was for the country to determine whether it would or not endorse that adopted by its representative ; accordingly, throughout the country there began the hubbub and preparation of a general election.
Sir Joshua says : ” I voted against Cobden’s motion. Personally I had a great regard for Sir John Bowring ; and I believed it was next to impossible to judge from a distance the fitting agencies to be brought to bear upon a people, whose code of political honour is so materially different from that of Western nations. I shared also Lord Palmerston’s opinion that government is bound to stand by the acts of a public servant, occupying a post of vast responsibility in a distant country, unless the case be clear against him. The Brutus-like severity with which Cobden denounced his old friend, impelled by a sense of public duty, made a deep impression on me .”
We have incidentally alluded to the correspondence between Sir Joshua Walmsley and Sir John Bowring; we think it may prove interesting to the reader here to append some extracts from the Governor of Hong Kong’s letters during this crisis in his life.
The first referring to this time is dated 11th April, 1857:
” My dear Sir Joshua,
“I hear from Edgar he has had some correspondence with you about Chinese affairs, and the course taken by The Daily News. It is the second occasion on which great injustice has been done me : firsts in the Shanghai duty question which is the chapter in my life’s history of which I shall feel proudest, and in which I sought to fight the battle of honesty and probity; second, the Canton affair, in which Weir has been so much led astray by . (there is a blank marked in the manuscript)
The newspaper here. The Chinese Mail, though much in the habit of abusing me, has on this occasion expressed a honest regret at the course taken by its proprietor. I would add that, though the merchants of Canton have been such sufferers, there is not one who has uttered a word of complaint against my proceedings, and they have been concurred in by the representatives of all the foreign powers, who are generally too well disposed to animadvert upon our proceedings. If my hands had not been tied by Lord Malmesbury, I would have settled the question peaceably years ago. It is a most erroneous and mischievous policy to allow Oriental nations to violate treaties, as it invariably encourages a continuity of acts that must end in collision. No man has ever done so much as I by pacific influences. Look at the Siamese Treaty, which has led in the first year to the lucrative employment of two hundred foreign ships, while the average preceding the treaty was only twelve. I have been knocking at every door in China with olive-branches in my hand, and have succeeded everywhere but at Canton ; and there I have never found anything but an obstinate determination to keep me at a distance, to disregard treaties, to show disrespect to our flag, to protect all who did us an injury ; in a word, to make the most solemn engagements a dead letter. I am persuaded justice will ultimately be done me, and I in the meantime must bear universal opprobrium, in addition to all the perils and responsibilities of my difficult position.
I have never met with a more humane man than the admiral, who has also been so much abused.
” Ever, my dear Sir Joshua, yours faithfully,
“John Bowring. ”
In the course of a letter, dated July, 1857, he writes :
” As regards China, I only wish they would have allowed me and the other ministers to have accomplished our work, and we would have obtained absolute indemnity for the past and a proud treaty for the future. But they have worked out a course of policy for themselves, and I believe Lord Elgin already feels he is engaged in the most serious difficulties. I shall aid him to the best of my power. It is natural enough that cabinets should suppose they know a great deal more about matters than those who receive their instructions from them ; but I presume we, who have lived so long in China, are, or ought to be, better acquainted with what can and what ought to be done than those who, ten thousand miles away, and whose opinions are the result of their knowledge of Western — not of Eastern — natures, lay down the laws for our guidance. “
” My only wish is to get into Parliament in order to compel the production of the whole of the correspondence which I had with the F.O. since I came to China, and which will show whether or not I have been a missionary of peace, a representative of justice and honour, turning neither to the right nor the left. “
I will show what I have done for the extension of trade (Siam alone employs two hundred ships in a trade of my creation). I will show that I have governed this colony for years, and have not drawn a penny from the imperial treasury. Every one of my predecessors has been covered with honours. My labours have exceeded theirs tenfold. I can point to results it was never their good fortune to obtain.”
In November, after the arrival of Lord Elgin, he writes thus :
“My dear Sir Joshua,
” Thanks, many thanks for your favour of 5th October. Though I have now no responsibility as regards our present relations with China and our hopes for the future, yet, I am happy to say. Lord Elgin has endorsed my policy. I believe he came thoroughly impregnated with the views of the opposition, but he has found that to persevere in the course marked out by Cobden and Lord Stanley, he would have to disorganise and imperil the whole of our relations, and to transfer to the Emperor a guard which he left Yeh to settle as best he might. … ”
We give one more extract from a letter dated 29th March, 1858.
” As regards Canton, Lord Elgin found it necessary to carry out my policy, in order to save himself from vexation and disappointment, and to prevent a general war with China, which the reference to Pekin of the local question would probably have brought about. I always believed that the Emperor would not support Yeh, whose supporters are not among his own countrymen, who bitterly blame him, but in an ignorant House of Commons. As the Emperor of China acknowledges that Yeh was wrong, has disgraced and dismissed him, I hope those who condemned me will acknowledge their error. Do not suppose, however, that I approve of the policy now being pursued. I think a fatal mistake was made when Lord Elgin reinstalled the Chinese authorities in Canton. They are all intriguing against us, committing many atrocities, while in the Chinese mind the impression is left, that we are not masters of the city. “
” Then again, the Ambassadors are gone north, without having done anything towards the settlement of the Canton question, which in my opinion should have settled in the locality the indemnity provided for out of the local revenues, the lands appropriated which we want for the factories (under fair rentals).
These matters ought never to have been referred to the Emperor, who leaves invariably such questions to the local Mandarins. It is a sad pity that any foreign power should have been called in to influence our policy, which 1 would have distinctly marked out, and submitted not for discussion but co-operation.
The interests of Russia are wholly territorial; those of France, Catholic proselytism; those of America, to catch what she can at the least cost. I am persuaded had the matter been left to the admiral and me, it would have been arranged satisfactorily months ago, without the cost of a penny to the nation, and with grand results to our trade. . . .”(The rest of this letter is missing.) “
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
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 . 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 hiscolleagues, 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 TheAtlas “ 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 carryon war with sufficient vigour. ”
On the 16th of February , 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.
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 , 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  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  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 , 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 ? ”
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
CHAPTER XXIII. This chapter takes in the General Election of 1852 which resulted in the Tories having a majority of six seats. Josh had been elected an M.P. for Bolton in 1849, replacing John Bowring who had been appointed British Consul in Canton [ Guangzhou]. He exchanged that seat for Leicester in this election. Again all the family details are frustratingly small. We discover that Josh and Adeline take the two youngest daughters Emily, and Adah on holiday to France. It was an interesting choice of places to go, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte had seized power in a coup d’etat on the 2nd December 1851, and would go on to take the throne as Napoleon III on the 2nd December the following year, the forty-eighth anniversary of Napoleon’s coronation. The press were whipping up scare stories about a possible French invasion, and the Duke of Wellington died. The new Houses of Parliament were almost completed, and the new House of Commons was used for the first time. The State Opening of Parliament was the first time there was a Queen’s Speech from the current House of Lords.
The account of Sir Joshua Walmsley’s friendship and relations with M. Kossuth, which formed the subject of the last chapter, has forced us to forestall the date of this narrative. We shall now glance rapidly at the events immediately preceding the Crimean War, and give some letters of Mr. Cobden’s belonging to the period, which he characterised as the third panic.
Parliament was dissolved in the spring of 1852. Lord Derby, on the 24th of May, announced his intention of appealing to the nation, in order to decide finally on the question of Free Trade versus Protection. If at the coming election an unequivocal verdict should be given for Free Trade, he bound himself to throw overboard the principle of Protection, and forthwith adopt the policy that had hitherto only roused the rancour and vituperation of his party.
As soon as it was understood that a dissolution was imminent, and that the result of the election was to be regarded as the verdict of the nation on the question of Free Trade, the country prepared to pronounce that verdict.
These were the circumstances under which Sir Joshua Walmsley and Mr. Gardiner, in fulfilment of the pledge given to the Liberals of Leicester, on being unseated in 1848, presented themselves once more for election in that town. Mr. Wilde and Mr. Palmer opposed in the Whig interest ; but many proofs of loyal attachment from adherents and friends in Parliament cheered on the Liberals in the contest.
“ I do hope you may be returned, “ writes Mr. Hume to Sir Joshua, on the 17th June, “ by an overwhelming majority, as your defeat would be a loss to the cause of progressive Reform. I am, indeed, sorry to learn that those who have hitherto been known as Whigs, and considered to be promoters of efficient Reform, should oppose you who have given such assiduous and persevering support to the plan of Reform which with the sanction of one hundred and thirty-six of the sturdiest and best reformers of the day, has been supported by me for the last three years. “
Mr. Cobden also writes :
” Monday night House of Commons.
” My Dear Walmsley,
“ I have yours of this morning, and rejoice to find you in so hopeful and resolute a spirit. If energy, industry, and tact can win, I know you have enough of these essential qualities for an election contest, to put your opponents at the bottom of the poll. You must consider that there is far more than your own personal fate in the balance, for if you were defeated, it would undoubtedly be taken as a verdict from a free and democratic constituency against the principles which Hume and the rest of us advocate in the House. We have to-day got through the estimates, and everybody now says we shall have the dissolution on the 26th. Nobody seems to want any further delay. The ministerial party are not gaining anything by the longer postponement, and therefore I suppose we may consider the matter settled. ”
At Leicester, the nomination of candidates took place on the 7th. The polling began on the following morning. At each return of the poll, the Liberal candidates were declared to be at the head. By four o’clock the market-place was thronged with electors and non-electors, waiting to learn the final issue. When announced, it showed that by a large majority the Liberal candidates had won the day. ” Hearty enthusiasm greeted this announcement of our election, “ says Sir Joshua, “ and for the last time in the annals of Leicester, the victorious candidates were chaired and carried in triumph through the principal streets of the town. Illuminations and acclamations continued far into the night ; every sign of popular rejoicing hailed our election. The honour of the constituency was cleared. These demonstrations testified also to the feeling and convictions of the inhabitants in the question of Reform. ”
The result of the elections throughout the country unmistakably showed that the nature thus appealed to would brook no unsettlement or modifications of the laws passed in 1846-49, repealing the duties on corn, on sugar, and the old navigation laws. The nation once for all declared for Free Trade, and elected a Parliament to deliver its verdict.
The following letter from Mr. Cobden was received by Sir Joshua during a short tour on the Continent, taken immediately after the Leicester contest :
“My dear Walmsley,
“We are rusticating in this quiet nook, to which I confess I become more and more attached, a proof, I suppose, of one’s declining energies.” [After some pleasant chat on home concerns, he passes on to the matters of political interest,] ” I do not think you have lost much, by not seeing the English papers since you left England. There has been quite a lull after the excitement of the elections. With the exception of a few dinners to successful candidates, and still fewer to unsuccessful ones, there has been no public stir. There is much speculation as to the future movements of parties and as to the probable ins and outs. But we have little to do with such combinations, and if Derby and Co. can shake off protectionism, I do not see why they may not give us as good practical measures as Russell or Graham. But I am in great doubt whether Dizzy [Benjamin Disraeli, who was the Chancellor] with all his ingenuity will contrive to doff his protectionist garment, and put on a Free Trade suit, without breaking up his party. There will be a score or two of the honest stupid men, who will not understand the word of command to ‘ wheel.’ In that case, I do not see how he can go on, for we are bound, as the first duty of the Free Trade majority, to have a distinct understanding that the Government gives up its protectionist hankerings. By getting rid for ever of the protective basis for the country party, we shall break up that country confederacy which stands in the way of all progress. But after upsetting the present Government, we shall be in no position to make a stable Government out of the opposition, for the chiefs will resist the ballot, and without that there can be no harmony or strength for the Liberals. I must tell you that the League, having a little money left, is employing Haly to collect together some of the facts connected with the intimidation, bribery, &c. of the late election, and although the League cannot use these facts for the purpose of advocating a reform of Parliament in the ballot, they will be very useful facts for others who can. Haly begins in the Isle of Wight, which is I believe a very strong case. I have heard nothing of Hume. He is, I suppose, in Norfolk, and most likely busy about Rajah Brooke. Fox is, I should hope, likely to be returned for Oldham. It is difficult to believe that the Radicals can be led by their leaders to vote for a Tory in order to spite Fox. By-the-way, I have this morning received a letter from Mr. Biggs, who tells me that his brother John is dangerously ill of fever, and that unless a favourable turn should take place he will be obliged to give up public life. Our harvest is in a critical state. It seems as if we are going to have another 1838. To-day I have not been able to leave the house. A drizzly rain has been falling without a breath of air. The wheat is sprouting in the sheaves, and a good deal of blight and mildew had shown themselves previously, so that even if we should have a sudden turn of fine weather, we cannot possibly have a good harvest. The corn will be in bad order, even if there should be an average quantity. This will be, to the farmers, a more trying season than they have had since 1846. “
” They will now see the full effect of Free Trade upon their interests. Formerly they could sell pig’s meat for human food, and the people had no choice but to take it at high prices. But now, with a free importation of good dry wheat from twenty countries, our farmers will be obliged to sell their sprout-wheat for no more than it is worth. This year will clear out many of the small farmers who are without capital, and it will go very far to put landlord and tenant upon a fair mercantile footing towards each other. The present turn of things in the agricultural world will not be in favour of Dizzy’s ‘ looming-in-the- future’ projects. He will be baffled in his hopes of reducing the interests on the Three per Cents. The revenue will sympathise with the bad harvest, and his agricultural clients will want a real relief, which their landlords will be forced to give them when they find that he cannot jump into a quart bottle to serve them. “
” In the end they will all come to my remedy — ‘a reduction of the expenditure ‘. You are right in saying that the Radical party have gained at the expense of the Whigs and Peelites. In fact the old Whig party is nearly extinct. They have lost all the agricultural counties, and the few county members who are Liberals go farther than the Whigs. If we take the ballot as a test, the whole strength of the Liberal party is Radical. And I do consider the ballot to be more and more the true test of Liberalism. The late election, particularly in the Irish counties, has brought to light more barefaced intimidation and coercions than ever were practised before. The extension of the franchise to the twelve-pound occupiers in the counties has brought a vast mass of poordependent voters under the screw of the landlord and the whip of the priest. The scenes witnessed in that country have been pitiable and heartrending, and knowing that the ballot would be a perfect remedy against their recurrence, my blood almost boils with indignation at the puerile pretences with which it is resisted. And I have made up my mind that I will be no party to any measure for extending the franchise or rendering elections more frequent, until the ballot be secured, for it will only be, as in Ireland, diffusing through a larger portion of the people those sufferings and oppressions which are now practised upon a more independent part of the community. I should like to see a declaration agreed to that in no case should an election be allowed to take place in town or country, without an effort to find a candidate to contest it for the ballot, and to pay legal expenses only. Now is the time to respond to the general feeling amongst the electoral body upon the question. “
” And this is the moment too for impressing on our so-called Liberal chiefs that the party cannot be held together unless by the cement of the ballot. If they should contemplate appealing to the country with some scheme of parliamentary reform omitting, the ballot, there would be no response sufficient to overbear the opposition of the Lords. But this topic will keep until your return. The Parliament will not, I expect, assemble before the beginning of November. You and Lady Walmsley are doing well to take a long respite amidst the natural glories which now surround you. My wife joins me in kind regards to her and to all your family party ; and, believe me, “
“ Faithfully yours,
On the 14th of September the Duke of Wellington died at Walmer Castle, at the age of eighty-three. A burst of grief thrilled through the nation at the news that the great warrior had passed away from us. All that was remembered of him now was his ” life-long unflinching devotion to England.” In that moment of supreme gratitude his constant opposition to all reform — which, at one time, had alienated from him large masses of the people — was now forgotten ; there was memory only of the exploits of the general ” who had fought fifteen pitched battles, captured three thousand cannons, and never lost a single gun.”
The following letter gives Mr. Cobden’s appreciation of the Duke of Wellington ; and his apprehensions of the effect likely to be produced on the public mind by his death :
” Midhurst, 25th September, 1852,
*’My dear Walmsley,
“ We are glad to find that you and Lady Walmsley and the young people are safe at home again. You will find the apathy of the country upon public questions roused into a sudden paroxysm of emotion at the death of the old Duke. The Horse Guards and the aristocracy will not fail to turn this fever-fit to account ; but though the democracy join in the cry, I do not see what it is to gain by it. It is an exaltation of the martial spirit of the country from which despotism draws its natural support, and before which the genius of liberty stands rebuked and humbled. Such, at least, are the grosser developments of the system on the Continent ; and the same principle, in a modified form, will be exemplified in the augmentation of the military power in this country.
” For the ‘ Iron Duke ‘ individually I have always felt a cold respect (who would have any warm attachment or enthusiasm for an iron man ?) If such work as he was engaged in be again taken in hand by this nation, we shall not find an abler, or an honester, or a more disinterested instrument to carry it to a successful issue. But I cannot join in the exaggerated tribute to the Duke as the ‘ saviour ‘ of his country ; and as for his saving the continent of Europe, I don’t understand why we should save some one hundred and fifty millions of people, who, if worth saving, would have done it themselves when opposed to thirty millions of Frenchmen.
” But as for the ten thousand times repeated nonsense about Wellington saving this country. Nelson did that at the battle of Trafalgar before we began our military career on the Continent ; and from the day on which that great naval victory destroyed the fleets of Napoleon, we were as safe from invasion as if we had been inhabitants of the moon. We spent four or five hundred millions after that decisive battle upon purely Continental objects.
” I repeat that the Duke did his work to perfection ; he neither jobbed, nor lied, nor intrigued like Marlborough, nor cursed and bullied like Blucher, nor boasted in melodramatic strains like Napoleon. But it is pure ignorance that prompts all this fustian about his having saved England, and it is only in the spirit of vain-gloriousness that we could persuade ourselves that, with our forty to fifty thousand men on the Continent (we never had so many probably as the latter at one time), we rescued one hundred and fifty millions from oppression.
” However, the old leaven is fermenting again, and it must work itself out ; and unless we peace people and financial reformers hold a discreet silence until the paroxysm is over, we must expect to be hooted.
“You must let me know what our friend Hume is talking and thinking about. I wrote to him on my return from the North, and gave him some information about Rajah Brooke, which I thought he would be thankful for ; but I have heard nothing from him since. You will find the suffrage question a dead horse just now. It will come to life again some day. The ballot has some vitality in it with the middle class. I have advised people in all localities where I know stirring men to get together facts showing the evil workings of open voting at the last election. I have also advised a central committee for collecting these facts to a focus. I hear that your Society is doing something of the kind; but I should like to see a separate committee at work by way of giving increased force to the advocacy of this question. Depend on it, the powers that be will give universal suffrage sooner than the ballot.
” You cut out the very heart of the aristocratic system in applying the principle of secret voting. My wife joins me in kind regards to Lady Walmsley and yourself and the young ladies, and believe me,
” Faithfully yours,
With the autumn deepened the national apprehension. The press added fuel to the fire by circulating stories of French naval preparations. Mr. Cobden’s letters throughout this period rebuke and deplore the popular excitement.
Thus he writes on the 2nd of October :
” My dear Walmsley,
“ I am afraid you have been allowing the alarmists to frighten you about French designs. It is all a matter of opinion upon which time alone can decide, but I record my firm conviction, that go far from the President or any other Government of France seeking to provoke hostilities with England, so impressed are they with our undoubted superiorityat sea — a superiority greater incomparably since the invention of steam navigation than before — that there is nothing they will so much striveto avoid. If we get into collision with France it will be about Belgium, Sardinia, or some other Continental interests.
” But at all events, let the danger be what it may of invasion or attack from France, let us at least be agreed that it is by sea, and nor upon land, that we are to be prepared to repulse the enemy. Once for all I say, if we are in danger (which I don’t believe) of an invasion, I am willing to be prepared with any amount of force at sea to repel it. Nay, if necessary I would agree to have a boom of ships of war, rafts, and gun-boats all round our southern coast. But you must satisfy me of the danger before I agree to that, and before I agree to anything being done, I must see all the large ships of war we have now got in distant stations moored near our own shores If you are alarmed (which I am not), you ought to call out for the return of our Mediterranean fleet to begin with.But let us not so far depart from our old habits as to allow the aristocracy to fill our land with soldiers officered by themselves, under pretence of protecting us from the French, for that is not the course likely to promote liberty. Sailors are not like soldiers, the ready instruments of domestic tyranny.
” You are under a mistake about my raising a ballot organisation. I have no personal aim in the matter. I don’t intend to put myself at the head of any fresh movement. I urged the formation of a Ballot Committee to collect information from all parts of the country respecting the ends of open voting, as disclosed at the late election. I have everywhere, when possible, urged the formation of local societies of the same kind and with similar objects in England, Ireland, and Wales. I urged upon some men in the Reform Club, whom I met there (such as Torrens, McCullagh, Haly, &c.) to work in this matter, and I advised them to try to bring Grote out of his shell, to give fresh force to the movement. So far from wanting to supersede our Society, I advised McCullagh to consult you in the first instance. In fact, if you can do the same thing through our Society (which I doubt, for I am not satisfied that we have a sufficient ramification or influential support in the country), it will not require to be done elsewhere. The ballot will be the greatest difficulty to surmount. You have expressed yourself satisfied with Lord John’s five-pound franchise, if made a crucial test, which is not a difficult point to gain. Our object should now be to screw the Whigs up to the ballot, which can only be done by our showing a wide and deep public interest in the question. Hume does not seem to differ with me, judging by the enclosed, which I have just cut out from The Hull Advertiser.
” Ever yours truly,
Here also let us insert another letter, still further illustrating what favourable results Mr. Cobden expected from the ballot :
” Midhurst, 16th October, 1852.
“My dear Walmsley,
” If I can put a spoke in Fox’s wheel, when in Lancashire, I shall be right glad to do so. I can’tbring myself to believe that a sufficient number of Oldham Radicals will be found to stultify themselves by voting for a Tory to defeat our excellent friend.
“ I hope you are taking advantage of the present favourable moment for giving an impulse to the ballot question. The machinery of the Reform Association ought to be employed in collecting information and arraying the forces, so as to take advantage of ‘ flood tide which leads to fortune. ‘
” There is no doubt that the Liberals of England, Wales, and Scotland are now enthusiastic in favour of a ballot movement. Don’t give in for a moment to the cry that the advocates of secret voting seek to shelve the other points of Hume’s programme. They are the only people who are really in earnest for any reform. You are, I see, about to visit Hume. He seems most anxious to prevent the Whigs coming back to office, without being pledged to a specific policy from which the people will gain something.
” The only way to gain his object is by making the ballot- the ‘ sine qua non.’ All other points of the Reformers’ creed the Whigs will dally with, and to some extent concur in. They will avow themselves for extension of suffrage, more equal distribution, no property qualification, and even shorter Parliaments. These are points in which they can agree and yet compromise them with the Lords as they did before.
” But the ballot, which is worth them all, can be neither frittered away, halved, nor quartered. It is ay or no to the entire measure. Doubtless it involves a larger and fiercer struggle to make a stand upon the ballot; it may require that we should keep the Whigs for years in opposition. So much the better.
” They and we are never so useful as when in opposition. I am. sorry to see the tone of The Daily News about our preparations for repelling a French invasion. The insertion of club letters from old soldiers, provoking a panic again, appears to me to be playing the game of the Horse Guards and the aristocracy, and to be putting the so-called Liberal party in the position which they never ought to occupy. If we are to be made to endorse our present warlike expenditure, and even to call for greater armaments, what policy have we to offer the public which can promise any reduction of Government expenditure ? But I forget I am writing to one who shares in the apprehensions I am deprecating. Let me try to convert you by the way. Read the enclosed very carefully, and talk the matter over with Hume, but do not write to me again about discontinuing my peace agitation. “
” Richard Cobden.”
The Queen opened Parliament on the 11th November, and the struggle at once began. On the 23rd, Mr. Charles Villiers submitted a resolution that the Act of 1846 was a wise, just, and beneficial measure, and that the further extension of the policy of Free Trade best suited the prosperity and welfare of the nation. This was opposed by Mr. Disraeli, who declared the intention of Government to resign if the measure were passed in its present form. Mr. Villiers then brought forward a modified resolution, already assented to by Mr. Gladstone. This was carried by a large majority, and thus Government fairly renounced protection, and took the Free Trade pledge.
Beaten on the question of the Budget, ministers resigned after ten months’ tenure of office, and Lord Aberdeen’s coalition ministry succeeded. What Mr. Cobden’s appreciation of it was, will be seen from the following letter :
” The Government is, I suspect, a fair representation of the state of public opinion, i.e. an agreement upon Free Trade, and no decided views upon any other question. The Cabinet is strong in men, but men of most heterogeneous views, and as they are nearly all leaders, it is just the Government in which you may expect a quarrel They have nothing to fear from without at present. I am very much disappointed at the course things have taken in London, Carlisle, Oxford, &c., where candidates have been allowed to walk over, whilst opposing the ballot. “
” In Oxford and Carlisle we have lost two votes upon this question !I attach little importance to the promised Reform Bill. There will, of course, be something proposed, as like as possible to Sir John’s abortive scheme, and which the Lords will deal with as they please, and the country will take little interest in the matter. To carry the ballot, without which anything else is mere sham and of doubtful use, will require lectures and an organisation in every town. To judge by present appearances, you and I shall not last (politically) long enough to see it carried. ”
In the midst of all these political changes, the opponents of Sir Joshua Walmdey and Mr. Gardiner made another attempt to deprive them of their seats. Again a petition was sent up to Parliament against their return, and again a Parliamentary Committee was appointed to try their case. It sat for six days in the early part of April On the seventh, before the case for the defendants had opened, the petitioners against them unreservedly abandoned their charges, and, through their leading counsel, withdrew every imputation upon them and their friends.
We shall conclude this chapter with one more letter of Mr. Cobden’s. Mr. Cobden saw plainly that the apprehension of war in the first place, and the interest in it in the second, would seriously impede the progress of Reform. In August he wrote to Sir Joshua, expressing his fears :
” Assuming that the Government intend to bring in a measure next session, which I suppose they must, unless public opinion can be directed to foreign politics (the oldest device in the world, but which John Bull seems ready enough to swallow), then it is undoubtedly the duty of all Reformers to be at their post, and endeavour to force the Government if it be unwilling, or to help it if it be so inclined, to make it a real and not a sham Reform Bill of our representative system. It appears that you are, beyond most men, pledged to such a course, unless you formally disband your Association ; for when or how can it possibly be of use, if not during the next six months ? I know of no plan for a general co-operation, which is what is most wanted. “
” Bright, in his letter to me yesterday, merely observes : ‘ I suppose there will be nothing doing about the new Reform Bill till November.’ Your old friend sent me a pamphlet yesterday about the ballot, with a note saying that he was giving much of his time to it, and wanting me to give him the names of any persons in Manchester likely to co-operate. I advised him to go or send a deputation to Manchester. This is the question upon which there will be the most determined resistance on all sides on the part of the aristocracy. It will not be carried without the same pressure as that which repealed the Com Law, and it will be accompanied by the same break up of parties, and an overthrow of perhaps more than one Government. “
CHAPTER XXI. This chapter takes us from 1851 to the start of the Crimean War in 1854. It’s mainly about Louis Kossuth who was a Hungarian émigré. Louis Kossuth (1802 -1894) was a Hungarian nobleman, lawyer, journalist, politician, statesman and Governor-President of the Kingdom of Hungary during the revolution of 1848–49. He was regarded as a liberal European statesman, and was seeking Hungarian independence from the Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hungary was a considerably larger country in the C19th, it lost 72% of its territory to neighbouring states in 1920.to Romania, Czechoslovakia,Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Austria, Poland, and Italy.
Lord Dudley Stuart who was one of Kossuth’s main parliamentary supporters was the Liberal M.P. for Marylebone. He was the youngest son of the 1st Marquess of Bute, and his mother was a member of the Coutts banking family. He married Princess Christine Bonaparte (1798–1847) in 1824, following her divorce from Count Arvid Posse, when he was twenty-one, and she was twenty-six. Her younger half-sister Princess Letizia Bonaparte (1804–1871) had married Sir Thomas Wyse three years earlier aged just sixteen.
On the 23rd of October, 1851, Kossuth landed at Southampton, and his reception there was of the most cordial kind. A crowd of his countrymen waited his arrival, cheering loudly the moment they caught sight of him. The English crowd greeted him with their usual enthusiasm as a man who, though beaten and an exile, had done good service in the cause of liberty and reform.
Mr. Cobden’s letter is dated the 10th of November, 1851 :
” My dear Walmsley,
” I got your letter at the moment I was starting for Southampton to pay my respects to Kossuth, otherwise it should have been answered earlier. I found the Hungarian leader at Winchester, in Andrew’s house, where I passed part of a couple of days with him. He is very much what I pictured him — mild, pensive, and earnest. In his features he is not unlike the lithographs, which, however, have given a romantic touch to the expression of his face, and a depth of colour to his blue eye, which does not quite fairly represent the original. He is slight and delicate in person ; and, if I must confess it, I should add, that his tout ensemble does not impress me with the idea of that power which he must undoubtedly have possessed to have been able to rise to the foremost place in a revolution, and to sway such human materials as surrounded him in the Diet and the camp. I suspect that his eloquence and moral qualities were the main source of his strength. He is undoubtedly a genius both as an orator and a writer. His speech, in English, at Andrew’s dinner, for more than an hour, was delivered with scarcely a mistake. Under all circumstances, it was one of the most marvellous performances I ever listened to. There was little attempt at rhetorical display, but it was a masterly English speech. ”
After a few weeks’ sojourn in England, Kossuth started for America. It was not till his return in the latter part of 1852, that his acquaintance with Sir Joshua began. They met at Mr. Cobden’s house. Speaking of the Hungarian patriot, Sir Joshua said :
” His striking appearance, his gentlemanly bearing, the quick sensitiveness of his nature that found such ready expression in impassioned words, the keen sense of a mission imposed upon him, all this explained to me the influence he had exercised over his countrymen. In conversation, Kossuth often reverted to Hungary. He spoke in a spirit of discouragement, yet there always lurked in his words faith in his mission. ”
There appeared in The Times of the 15th April, 1853, the announcement that the house of M. Kossuth had been searched by commissaries, consequent upon intelligence received by the Secretary of State, and that there had been discovered ” a store of arms and ammunition and materials of war, which may be the stock-in-trade of a political incendiary, but certainly form no part of the household goods of a private gentleman in pacific retirement. ” At this announcement of breach of faith towards English hospitality. Sir Joshua wrote to Kossuth He received the following reply :
“ 2l, Alpha Road, April 15th, 1853.
” Dear Sir Joshua,
” In answer to your note, I have the honour to assure you that not only the statement of The Times referring to my house having been searched, and arms and ammunition been found, is from Alpha to Omega false, but I can also add, that should it be indeed the case that the laws of England do not protect men from the most odious of preventive police measures, ‘ a domiciliary searching,’ no such discovery of arms, &c., could be made ; as, be it good or bad, it is a fact that I have no store of arms and ammunition in England, nor ever had since I am on English soil. “
” Anticipating, as I indeed do, that the time will yet come when I will have to use arms in a good cause, I follow with constant interest every new invention and every improvement in the fabrication of firearms, and neglect no opportunity to get knowledge of them, and to ascertain their practical results ; but I know what is due to the laws of your country while I live under their protection, and therefore I have never tried to have any store of arms in England, and indeed neither had nor have, whether in my house or anywhere else within the boundaries of English dominions. “
” With high and sincere regards,
” Yours respectfully,
” L. Kossuth,”
Sir Joshua brought the question before the House of Commons on the following evening.
” Had M. Kossuth’s house been searched by order of the Government ? ”
Lord Palmerston’s answer was evasive.
“ A house, not occupied by M. Kossuth, at Rotherhithe had been searched, and large quantities of gunpowder and several war-rockets had been found on the premises. “
On this, Mr. Duncombe rose and gave the following explanation of the mystery : “ The house that had been searched, and in which war implements had been found, belonged to Mr. Hales, a trader in gunpowder, who six years ago had taken a patent for the manufacture of a certain sort of rocket. “
” He had offered his invention several times to the Government, and the sale of these rockets had been going on to foreign governments for the last six years. M. Kossuth was in no way implicated in the matter. ”
The Liberals, headed by Lord Dudley Stuart, Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, and Sir Joshua Walmsley, took up M. Kossuth’s defence, and in his name disclaimed all underhand connection with the manufacture of war-rockets. The question was allowed to remain over, however, until Mr. Hales had stood his trial. The trial came off at the end of April. No evidence advanced could inculpate Kossuth. Lord Palmerston, in the House on the 5th of May, confirmed what the court had decided, ” that the evidence did not bear out or justify any proceedings against any other person, British or foreign. “ Once more M. Kossuth’s friends in Parliament warmly repudiated the charge so lightly made against him.
No patriot ever came into exile with cleaner hands than did M. Kossuth. He who had once had the control of the Hungarian treasury, was now nobly poor. We give the following letter, for it shows in what spirit he could accept help from the sympathisers of his country’s cause, but now he rejected it, when it came from others. The letter is dated February 3rd, 1854, when Government was still hesitating, temporising, and“ drifting into war. “ It was a moment of supreme import to the Hungarian leader, one laden with issues momentous to his country.
” Dear Sir Joshua,
“Several topics of importance induce me to trouble you with this communication. But before I begin, I beg permission to express the high gratification I felt at witnessing the late juvenile party at your house. It was a charming, cheerful view, such as can do good to a sad heart, as mine but too much is.
” Now, at once let me jump in medias res. It is not the least of the many curses attending misfortune like that of mine, that we cannot help but submit to the imperious necessity of accepting personal favours from compassionate friends, favours weighing heavily on our heart and soul, because we don’t know if we can ever reciprocate them.
” However, when the misfortune which forced us into the category of subventioned individuals is of a public nature, which ennobles our unenviable but not dishonourable position by the character of martyrdom for a sacred and virtuous cause ; and when the favours offered originate in sympathy for that cause, we think we may accept them without degrading our character, because we consider them as marks of approval of our principles and of our public conduct ; then we receive them with gratitude, we accept them as an encouragement to pursue the course which good and honourable men thus countenance.
” But when a personal benefit comes from a man hostile to the cause we suffer for, from one of the oppressors of our country, then the favour thus proffered assumes quite the degrading character of giving alms; equally offensive on the part of the donor, who takes us for base enough to be able to endure such a humiliation, as it would be infamous on our part to receive it.
” No, the cup of adversity may be yet more fully poured upon my head than it already is, the most, horrid misery may be thrown in the scale ; I might see my dear wife and children near starvation, crying out with a silent tear for a bit of bread, and my heart breaking at the sight, but not even the bread which would save them from starving would I ever take from a man who, being a friend to the enemies of my country, is my own dear country’s enemy.
“There is a distinguished and influential gentleman in England, who by former manifestations entitled me fully to take him for a friend of the cause with which ray existence is identified, and I cherished him as such with sincere gratitude, quite as much as I honoured him and honour him for his moral and intellectual qualities. I took him so much for a friend, that I approached him with unbounded confidence ; so much so, that I had no hesitation in not only receiving, but even asking from him personal favours and assistance for myself and my fellow-exiles. Now, of late this gentleman showed himself in the most decisive manner an open abettor of my country’s enemies. I have no claim or other views from him ; he is not bound to be my country’s ally, but I can certainly not play ignorance and cannot consider him a friend when he is an enemy. From such a man I cannot be base enough to hold any benefits. What in taking him for a friend I accepted, nay asked from him, weighs already too oppressively on my breast. I am just about to sell whatever I have, and at whatever price, to acquit myself of the material part of my obligations towards him for the past ; and as for the future, I certainly will never receive the slightest personal favour from one who is my country’s enemy.
” And as I have reason to suspect that that gentleman took an active and prominent part in that generous arrangement for my family which I unhesitatingly, and my soul filled with gratitude, accepted from your kind and friendly hands ; and for which I so gladly owe to you the warmest and sincerest gratitude, I therefore beg leave very pressingly to entreat you to be pleased to communicate to me the names as well as the amount of each of the contributions ; else, not knowing who they are, I would be placed in the awkward position of not knowing how far I may continue a generous assistance of sympathising friends without submitting to the insupportable degradation of accepting alms from an enemy.
” My second request is, would you kindly inform me where and how I may get a copy of the Blue Books on the Oriental question ?
” Further, it is evident that pending matters must soon come to a decision. Either there will be a speedy transaction (compromise), or a serious war between Russia on the one hand, and England and France on the other. And, in case of war, Austria can no longer temporise ; she is forced to make her choice between the Western powers and Russia. Now, in case she sides with the Western powers, England and France will become her friends and allies, and therefore our enemies ; and we can have nothing to hope from England, neither as a state, nor from Englishmen as particulars.
” That’s evident, and that’s natural. But as that issue is not at all certain yet, as the contrary is equally probable, I cannot think that the ministers of a great country like this, living blindly from the hand to the mouth, could have neglected to make up their minds about the course of policy which they intend to follow in that emergency.
” And I cannot imagine that there should be wanting private individuals in England, who, upon the condition of seeing England at war with Russia, and Austria siding with Russia, would feel inclined (as then authorised they certainly would be) to constitute a centre of active and effective agitation for the facilitation of such an assistance, which in that case private sympathy may feel inclined to afford the oppressed nationalities, then the natural allies of England.
” Hence, I beg leave to ask from your kindness, first, in what way and by whom the Government may be asked confidentially (but not publicly) whether, in the case of the above supposition, and in that emergency only, it intends to make any use, or afford any favour, to the Polish, Hungarian, or Italian nationalities ; second, whom would you think to be the fit men to act (always upon the same condition) as a committee of friends of Hungary, that I might timely enter into some consultation with them about the mode of possible immediate action, once that emergency arriving?
“These are very important matters, dear Sir Joshua, and it is their importance which will excuse me for asking your advice, equally valuable, as it is urgently demanded by pressing circumstances ; else we may be surprised by events, and found unprepared to do what then might be done.
” Please to accept the assurance of my high esteem and affectionate consideration, with which
I have the honour to be,
” Yours respectfully,
” Louis Kossuth.
In March came the Queen’s message, apprising her people that the long-pending negotiations for peace had failed, and that she was at war with the Czar. The country received the message with acclamation. It had grown weary of diplomatic reserve ; it had lost faith in the conferences at Vienna, with their fluctuating results.
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.
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 upperabsent 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.
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,
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.
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,
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 theattendance 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.
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 toestablish 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,
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,
” RICHARD COBDEN. ”
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.
CHAPTER XIX. This chapter covers more of 1848, with a couple of letters taking us up to 1850. The Corn Laws had been repealed in 1846, splitting the Tories. Sir Robert Peel largely did it to prevent a clamour for more radical reform, in particular from the Chartists. There were revolutions all over Europe looking for electoral reform and greater participation in political life by the middle and working classes. So it was a heady time.
It is also quite clear that Josh, Cobden, and Joseph Hume are looking for bourgeois rather than radical reform – taking power from the aristocracy and landowners, and increasing the power of the industrialists and manufacturers. So Josh is Radical but not too radical. He’s still a year away from becoming an M.P, and a part-owner of the Daily News, because as said in chapter 18 ” 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. ”
” Poor Bentinck ” referred to in Cobden’s letter isLord George Bentinck (1802-1848), third son of the 4th Duke of Portland who was the leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons between 1846 and 1848 who had died of a heart attack four days before Cobden’s letter.
Previous to starting the National Reform Association, Sir Joshua made a tour through the North of England. He had lost his seat for Leicester, but the fifty members of parliament who had formed themselves into a committee to advocate Reform principles passed a resolution, inviting him to continue honorary secretary to their body, and he had consented to do so. The result of this tour he gave in a letter to Mr. Cobden, which has unfortunately been lost, but the import of which may be gathered from the following answer :
” Hayling Island, Hants, 25th September, 1848.
“My dear Walmsley,
”I have been a good deal interested with the perusal of your letter, giving me a sort of political stock-taking of public opinion in the North.
Much depends for the future upon the course of events on the Continent. If the Germans fall into anarchy, or the Red Republicans get the upper hand in France, our middle classes will cower under the wings of the aristocracy for safety and protection, and you and I may close our accounts as agitators for awhile. In the meantime the economy and retrenchment cry is working and bringing people gradually to the ranks of the parliamentary reformers.
The Daily News is doing the part, and indeed, all parts, admirably, and it would be a pity indeed if, with such an efficient corps of writers, the paper cannot be not merely sustained but strengthened. By-the-way, I got a letter from Birmingham the other day, giving some details of the working of an association for buying county freehold votes. It is succeeding and extending its operations into the neighbourhood, and I feel quite convinced that this forty-shilling freehold scheme is the only certain though slow way of beating the aristocracy; and so I have said in a letter to the society, which will be read at the anniversary meeting on the 6th of October. Poor Bentinck ! what phantoms we are and what bubbles we pursue ! My wife joins me in kind regards to Lady W. and yourself.
“ Believe me, faithfully yours,
” Richard Cobden.”
An association had been started in Liverpool, under the name of the Financial Reform Association. The principal object of a visit paid by Sir Joshua to his native city was to see this body, and to attend a meeting to be held in the Portico, Newington, on the 29th September. The purpose of this association, as its name implies, was to enforce the principle of economy in public expenditure. It advocated also a system of direct taxation, levied upon property and income, instead of indirect taxation upon commodities.
The reform of the House of Commons, however, was not included in its programme, and in the estimation of Mr. Hume and his adherents, the reform of the House once effected, all other reforms would follow. On the appointed evening the meeting came off. It was crowded. This short extract from Sir Joshua Walmsley’s speech is a curious statement of the proportionate taxation of England relatively to other countries at that time :
” State taxation in the United States, in Russia, Prussia, and Austria, does not exceed nine shillings to twelve shillings per head, in France it is twenty-six shillings, whilst in our own it is fifty-two shillings and sixpence. In other countries the chief taxes are borne by the land, in this by the labouring classes. ”
In the following letter of Mr. Cobden’s relating to this meeting, one phrase in it, alluding to his own probable length of days, now reads like a mournful prophecy :
” Hayling Island, 4th October, 1848.
“My dear Walmsley,
” Many thanks for your letter and the newspaper, giving an account of the Liverpool meeting. You hit the nail right on the head. Don’t be afraid to repeat the blow again and again in the same place ; it is by such means only, that the arguments or the nail can be driven home. I was struck with the same impression as yourself, when reading Gladstone’s remarks, viz. that he gave proofs of being in earnest by his attacks on all sides — Peel, Lord Lansdowne, M’Neile, and the Tories ! I observe what you say about our friend Hume’s anxiety to send out an address ; this is the fit of weakness which has displayed itself in occasional attacks during the session. You and I may be well excused if we have not greater foibles before we reach his age, which you may, but I shall not. However, we must try to keep him quiet. The task before us will not be accomplished by proclamation, or even public meetings or petitions ; but by hard work, done in the same methodical way in which we conduct our private affairs. Yet public meetings and addresses and speeches must form a part of our operations. My first appearance must be in Yorkshire, but I do not yet know how or when. You will legitimately appear at Liverpool, because you are one of them ; but I think they had better not invite me to their meeting in the Amphitheatre, which ought to be a local affair to command attention.
I wish you were able to be present at the Birmingham freehold anniversary, on Friday evening next. That is a movement which, if rightly started and sustained, may accomplish anything ; but there should be an association in every division of a county in which there is a town population. For instance, Liverpool should undertake to wrest South Cheshire from the squires and parsons, and Manchester should do the same for North Cheshire. What say you to a trip up to Birmingham, to make the acquaintance of Mr. Taylor, and to inspect their plan of operation ? I shall remain here for three weeks more, if the weather be favourable; but it is my intention to run up to town for two days, to meet Mr, Bastiat from France, who has come over for a few days. ”
The following extract from a letter of Mr. Hume, dated Burnley Hall, 17th November, 1848, shows what the staunch old man, now failing in health, expected from Reform, and also his radical divergence of purpose from the one of the Liverpool Financial Reform Association.
” It has disappointed me greatly that I was not in town to have met you and Mr. Cobden as contemplated, and I regret that I shall not be in town this month. I have not yet made arrangements for December, though I feel inclined to remain quiet here, as I find the frame not equal to the spirit. “
” I observe with regret, that in the country there does not seem to be that desire for parliamentary reform which is at the root of all reforms. I observe further that the Liverpool association does not attack the army navy, ordnance, and colonies, the four chief sources of expense, but confine themselves to the personal salaries and some of the smaller establishments ; although I admit the proceedings abroad have been very unfavourable to any large reduction in these branches of the national expenditure. I agree with you, that reduction and equalisation of the taxes must be the object in view. But to be true to our principles we must look to a change in the House of Commons, as the best and only effectual means of effecting these objects. “
” I am surprised that such men as form the committee in Liverpool cannot see that, with half the House members of the aristocracy, quarter of naval, military, and officials, it is absurd to expect effectual reduction or relief until that proportion is changed. “
“I am now told that the experience of the Continent shows that general suffrage here would not improve your House much, and that the aristocracy and their connections will continue to rule and direct. If that be true, the more direct we can make the taxes, the sooner the burden will reach the aristocracy. “
” I believe that the course taken by the Birmingham association for the multiplication of freeholds is one of the best that can be adopted, and that I think we should consider how best to promote and extend over the counties in England and Scotland. I despair of anything good from Ireland, where everything appears so bad — hopeless I would say. I may observe that the proceedings in Yorkshire, in coquetting with Fitzwilliam, as all the towns have done, is but a poor example of what we may expect should be done. If the strong and rich Reformers in Yorkshire will not take the manly course of starting one of themselves for the seat, what have you to expect from the poverty-stricken, priest and aristocratic ridden population in other parts of the country ? Nothing ! “
“I hope Mr. Cobden has advised the union in some manufacturer, or well-known Liberal man of the people ; and let the result be for or against us, it must be an argument we may use. “
” I quite concur, if there be one or two able men with sound discretion, that can be employed to visit all the boroughs without distinction, to inquire and try what organisation can be made in each place for the purposes of making freeholds, promoting registrations, and keeping together all the Reformers to our extent of reform. But I think that should not be done by our committee, which should stand, as we have done, on our principles, and call on each community to take the best course to support us. “
“If that could be done by such a man as Mr. Wilson and originating in Manchester, so as to keep our committee free, I think we should be better able to keep our own in the House, and make our appeals to the spontaneous proceeding of the several constituencies as they came forward to support our motion.”
” I should hope that those who have hitherto as Chartists divided the Reformers, may now, from the experience they have had, be disposed cordially to act with us, though we may not be so forward as they could wish. “
“I see the good effects of Mr. Cobden’s moving in furtherance of those proceedings as every movement of his in Yorkshire has had a good result. But I think he should in that respect be as an individual. I have thrown out my views, at first thought, of what you have mentioned ; but I shall be ready to concur in what, after consulting our friends, you may think right to promote. I am grieved to see the state of France, Austria, Germany, Italy, all unsettled, and as yet productive of so much ill. I will not say unalloyed, as The Daily News of yesterday has very properly shown the progress of liberty already made ; and which will not, I think, be allowed to recede, however foolishly the King of Prussia and the Emperor may act ! ”
The following is an extract from a letter written to Sir Joshua a few days before :
” Burnley Hall, 24th October, 1848. “
”Until matters are more settled on the Continent, the British public will not give the attention to parliamentary reform that it deserves. But in the meantime, I am pleased to learn that the creation of freeholds in the counties, and of votes in the boroughs, is going on, and I really see the absolute necessity of that being done as speedily as possible ; and if any- thing could be done to make that general, the cause of Reform will of itself progress.
“ I hear of nothing whatever from the ministers, except an assurance, made with apparent sincerity, that they are resolved on economy and retrenchment to the utmost possible extent.
” If you have an opportunity, will you speak to the Secretary of the Financial Association at Liverpool, and remind him that when I sent him copies of all the papers they wanted, and some more, they promised to send me a copy of all their publications? They have not done so (to me here), and I have not been able to offer suggestions which I might have done.
” They have, I presume, some paper as their organ, and should send me a copy whenever any of their articles appear. I think, however, it must soon be apparent to them that the H. of C. is the root of the evil, and that the attention of all financial reformers must be directed to the reformation of that House !
“Belief by such course is direct and speedy, by the other circuitous and doubtful But I must subscribe myself
” Yours sincerely,
” Joseph Hume.”
The creation of forty-shilling freeholds, recommended in these letters of Mr. Cobden and Mr. Hume as a powerful means of securing reform, had been tried by Mr. Cobden in the days of the League.
James Taylor, of Birmingham, who had begun life as a hard-working artisan, and who was now secretary of the Birmingham Freehold Land Society, had been the first to start the movement. The Reform Bill had annihilated many of the franchises existing in boroughs, but it had left standing the forty-shilling freehold qualification, conferred by statute in the seventh year of the reign of Henry VI.
The Chandos clause had left the landlords the depositaries of political power in the counties. By the votes of two hundred thousand tenants at will they could virtually dispose of representation.
To wrest this power from the landlords, by creating a class of independent voters, was the object of the forty-shilling movement. The plan pursued by these associations was to buy up large properties, and divide them into lots. By the investment of from thirty to forty pounds, the subscriber was not only placed on the register of the county where his bit of land stood, but an annual return of ten per cent was secured to him.
The Whigs — nominally the party of Reform — sought to neutralise at every step the work of the party they called Radicals. In the following letter Mr. Cobden describes their animosity thus :
” 17th October, 1848.
” I observe what you say about the Whig animus. Depend upon it, that fraction of the aristocracy will join sooner or later with their brothers the Tories against us. In fact it is a virtual coalition, for wherever they can’t bring in a man of their own they will coalesce to keep one of us out. The Whigs have contrived to get hold of nearly all the influential press in Scotland ; and there are toadies of the party who, as ‘our London Correspondent,’ are continuously throwing dirt upon us. The enclosed I cut from The Scotsman Edinburgh paper, of last Saturday. It is a formidable task to fight against the aristocracy when it presents the front of a sham Liberalism, and especially so when we have to deal with a people of such strong aristocratic prejudices, that it would almost prefer to be ruined by lords than saved by commoners. In such a case we can only ultimately make progress by the use of great prudence and patience, and the application of much hard labour — a quality in which we can beat them hollow. I am every day confirmed in the opinion that great political changes will flow out of the repeal of the Corn Laws. The farmers, as a rule, are not devoted to the aristocracy or the Church. I see nothing to separate them henceforth from their own order in the House. ”
Divergence in aim now appeared among the Reformers themselves. At a meeting in the Free-Trade Hall, Manchester, in the beginning of January, 1849, Mr. Cobden denounced ” the horrid waste of ten millions sterling a year on fighting establishments, “ announcing his intention of submitting to the House, in the following session, a scheme of international arbitration. Writing to Sir Joshua about this meeting, he says in the course of the letter : ” We had a monster meeting, indeed, yesterday. I feel, more than ever, that we ought to have stuck exclusively to the ‘ Financial Reform,’ for the present. I assure you that, even with the ‘ Fustian Jackets,’ those sentiments which referred to a great reduction of armaments were far more enthusiastically responded to than the allusion to organic change. ”
The support of the survivors of the Anti-Corn-Law League, on which Sir Joshua had counted, also fell away from him, as will be seen by the following letter from Mr. Cobden, dated 20th October, 1850 :
” There is one point on which I wish you to be correctly informed : whatever may be done by Wilson, Bright, myself, and other prominent leaders of the League, in support of your four points, we must be reckoned only for what we are worth. We cannot bring the League force with us. I have been looking over my old League correspondence since I have been here. Sackfuls of letters have passed through my hands, and they have convinced me that the same men who did the work of the League cannot be depended on for any other agitation. It is thirteen years since we began the Anti-Corn-Law movement.
Many of the principal workers are grown old, and not a few are dead ; a very few of those who are still alive are in the mood for beginning such another labour. For myself, I have never disguised from the public that I could not do again, in any other cause, what I did in the League agitation. In the House, and in those localities where I can legitimately advocate the four points, you may reckon on my doing so. I have not the least idea that either the Whigs or Tories will give the ballot, or a fair redistribution of the electoral power ; and I quite agree with you that it would be well to have the Whigs in opposition again. But how is it to be done ? ”
Thus Sir Joshua was left with only a handful of followers, working in the same spirit as himself, putting aside every other end but that of parliamentary reform, considered solely for itself. In a note dated 1862, that refers to this period, Sir Joshua says :
” The Manchester school fell away from us after awhile. What motives or circumstances produced this lukewarm feeling I am unable now to determine. Although they voted with us in the House of Commons, they did little more. Cobden even seemed more anxious for financial reform and the ballot, than for an extension of the suffrage. Had the party acted together, with the energy and zeal that the members of the National Reform Association have evinced, we should not now be still looking for an extension of the suffrage. ”
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:
A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
No property qualification for Members of Parliament in order to allow the constituencies to return the man of their choice.
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.
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.
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:
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. 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.
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 :
vote by ballot,
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. ”
The motion that ought to have come on on the 23rd of May  , 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.
CHAPTER XIV. This chapter takes us from 1843 to about 1846, and follows Josh and Lord Palmerston’s defeat at the 1841 election in Liverpool. It is quite unlike the previous five [political] chapters. It’s a tale of country life, and a picture of Josh as an agricultural pioneer. But it also throws in a series of major political figures as guests of Josh. It introduces Justus von Liebig(1803-1873), and James Muspratt as proof of Josh’s pioneering ways. Professor Liebig (1803-1873) was a German chemist who made major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry, and was considered the founder of organic chemistry, and inventor of artificial fertiliser.
Richard Cobden was an Anti-Corn Law campaigner, and M.P, and shortly to be Josh’s next-door neighbour in Westbourne Terrace, in London. The Marquis of Saldanha was a Portuguese politician who was in exile following the Portuguese revolution of 1836, though he returned to become Prime Minister of Portugal in 1846. Sir Charles Wolseley (1769-1846), Josh’s neighbour in Staffordshire, was the 7th baronet of that name, and the family estate was in their hand for over a thousand years. The family finally losing it in 2014. Rather splendidly, Charles Wolsey was imprisoned for 18 months on sedition and conspiracy charges in 1820. William Cobbett (1763-1835) was a journalist, parliamentary reformer, and, towards the end of his life, a member of parliament. Cobbett spent two years in Newgate prison for treasonous libel in 1810.
As ever with Uncle Hugh, one is never entirely sure how much of this is embroidered, and what to take at face value, and what to be a little wary of. It could be him embellishing the story of his father, or it could be Josh himself adding to the tale, or mis-remembering. In any event, the only thing we can be sure of is William Cobbett not being at Ranton Abbey in 1846 because he had been dead for eleven years.
Sir Joshua deeply felt the loss of the Liverpool election, and he resolved to sever his connection with its municipality, and, without leaving business entirely, to enjoy a country life. In the year 1843 he carried out his plans, leaving Liverpool for Ranton Abbey, a property belonging to the then Earl of Lichfield, about seven miles from Stafford. This he rented, with the splendid shooting over several thousand acres.
With his accustomed energy he turned his attention to farming. ” Agriculture,” he says, ” was at a very low ebb in Staffordshire, and I resolved to mend matters if I could. Taking a few hundred acres of land into my own hands, I engaged a Scotch bailiff and two Scotch ploughmen. The tenants were a set of well-to-do farmers, whose brains grew a wonderful crop of prejudices. I got up an Association, the meetings being held at the Abbey, and argued with them, but it was hard work. Then I tried practical illustration. Turnips they asserted could not be grown on the land ; the soil was too heavy, and the fly took the young plants more than once in a season. I knew these objections to be valid, but thought I could overcome them. Taking a small piece of land, I manured it highly, forcing a crop of swedes early, so that it was ready for transplanting. As soon as the land was in a satisfactory state, and waiting a rainy term, I transplanted thirty-five acres. The result was a fine crop of turnips. I invited the yeomen and farmers to come and see the result. “
” They came, but they shook their heads over it. It was all very well for me, with a long purse, but it would not do for them. I proved to them by my account-books that the expense was not greater than the ordinary mode of culture, much hoeing out being saved. Still they shook their heads, and insisted turnips would not grow on this soil. “
” Another custom, dating from time immemorial, was to cut through the stiff clayey soil with a plough drawn by three, four, and sometimes five horses, placed one before the other in tandem fashion, led by a boy. At the Association meetings, I urged the loss of power consequent on the horses thus yoked dragging each the one behind him, and pointed out that two horses harnessed abreast would do more work, by giving all their strength to drawing the plough. A boy to lead them would also become unnecessary, and the expense of tilling the ground would thus be reduced one half or more. “
” Again the farmers shook their heads ; it was impossible, they said, for two horses to plough this stiff land. They declined to try the experiment ; the native ploughmen refused to enter my service, and drive my light Scotch ploughs with two horses yoked abreast. I was left in solitary grandeur to plough in my own fashion. The farmers would occasionally come round, and watch my two Scotch ploughmen at work in the fields. They shook their heads at sight of them, prognosticating I would soon come to ruin. A year passed, and I invited the farmers and the surrounding gentry to a ploughing- match offering a first, second, and third prize for the best work done within a certain time. On the trial- day ten teams were on the ground. A large concourse of spectators assembled, amongst whom were many leading agriculturists. Lord Talbot, Mr. Hartshome, Sir Charles Wolseley. It was a splendid day ; the house, the grounds, the fields were full of people. My two Scotch ploughmen stood behind their light ploughs, to each of which two horses were harnessed abreast. Every other plough present was drawn by a file of three, four, or five horses, the head of the foremost held by a boy. “
” When the ground was cleared the judges entered, and the first two prizes were adjudged to my two Scotch ploughmen, who had distanced all competitors in quality and quantity of work ; the third prize was awarded to an excellent ploughman who had been in my service but who had quitted it, and who that day drove three horses in tandem fashion. Thus were the advantages of the Gaelic system satisfactorily demonstrated. The next day Cobden and I were walking through some fields, when we came across the winner of the third prize driving a file of four horses. Cobdenremonstrated with him in his mild clear manner, reminding him of yesterday’s result and explaining the reason of it. The man shook his head ‘ It’s always been the coostome of the country and we’re not going to alter it, ‘ he said. After awhile, however, the farmers one after another gave the experiment a trial, and finding the result worked better, and expense curtailed by half, the ‘coostome of the country ‘ was altered and finally done away with. “
” I was not, however, always in the right. At one of the meetings of the Yeomen’s Association,I dilated on the efficacy of deep trenching. When I thought I must have convinced the assembly by my arguments, I asked my hearers if I was not right. ‘ Ay, ay, Sir Joshua, right enow’ answered an old farmer, with a dryly humorous puckering up of the corners of his mouth, ‘ if ye want a field full of nettles.’ “
” According to my habit, I at once tried the experiment I had advocated on one of my own fields, the one that had produced the turnips. This field I had deeply trenched, not a nettle had ever been seen on it, but now the farmer’s words came true. It produced the finest crop of nettles ever seen in the country. Henceforth, the farmers never forgot to bring up the fact against me whenever I propounded one of my new-fangled ideas. ”
Sir Joshua’s interest in agricultural pursuits brought him at this time in contact with Professor Liebig. He read this eminent man’s work on agricultural chemistry, and was so impressed with the force of the reasoning displayed in it, that he wished practically to try the effect of restoring by chemical means the disturbed equilibrium of the soil, thus returning to it the exact amount of substance lost in the labour of production. “ With Mr. James Muspratt, of Liverpool, “ he says, ” a man well versed in chemistry, I entered into an arrangement with Professor Liebig to manufacture an article that would give back to land all that cropping had taken out of it. That soil would never decrease in fertility if the equivalent of its loss were restored to it, and that chemistry could exactly ascertain the loss and give back the restoring element, I deemed that Professor Liebig had satisfactorily proved. The courtesy, simplicity, and high sense of honour of the German professor, coupled with his genius, made me look back upon this partnership with him as a privilege, such as the failure of the enterprise could not lessen. “
” The ingredient was found too expensive for the returns, and after a fair trial, upon which was spent some thousands of pounds, the undertaking was relinquished. Professor Liebig being freed from all loss or responsibility. Though unsuccessful, I continued unshaken in the conviction that the professor was right, and that the experiment would prove successful in other hands. It was almost impossible that a small private undertaking could satisfactorily establish and work out a principle comprehensively proved by a man of genius, but that by its very nature must require vast appliances to carry out. Yet I always felt pride in the thought that Mr. Muspratt and I had been the first in England to endeavour to put into practice Professor Liebig’s self-evident theory. ”
At Ranton, Sir Joshua delighted to gather around him his relatives and friends. The large house was always full of guests, among whom none was more frequent or welcome than Mr. Stephenson.
It was during one of his visits to Ranton that the portrait was painted that now hangs in the South Kensington Museum, and considered by the ‘ old man ‘ the best likeness ever taken of him. Another guest often to be met at Ranton was Sir Joshua’s neighbour, Sir Charles Wolseley, the friend of Cobbett. Of him. Sir Joshua says, ” Extreme in his political opinions. Sir Charles Wolseley advocated universal suffrage, annual Parliaments, paid representatives ; and yet he was loud in his denunciations of the manufacturing classes, whom he regarded as trenching upon the old county families, and whose interests he considered antagonistic to the landed interest. In the same breath that he portrayed the sufferings of the people, he would attack the idea of the repeal of the Corn Laws. Years before I knew him, his name had been struck off the Commission of the Peace, for instigating to sedition the mob at Chester, telling it in the course of an inflammatory speech that he had been present at the storming of the Bastille, and it was incomparably stronger than Chester Castle. He was the queerest compound of the aristocrat and democrat. His family pride was easily roused. “
” Once the Marquis of Anglesea, who was the principal owner of Cannock Chase, was negotiating with Sir Charles to buy from him the few hundred acres he held of that property. Before concluding the purchase, he requested the baronet to show his title-deeds, ‘ Go and tell the marquis that the Wolseleys held their estate before the Pagets were heard of. ’ said Sir Charles, and he at once broke off all negotiations. “
” Removal from the magistracy affected his spirits. His ways became eccentric ; he would often spend whole nights in his study, and the household would hear him in animated speech, addressing ‘Mr. Speaker,’discussing the various political questions of the day, and with powerful eloquence describing the hardships of the people. Often Sir Charles and I went out shooting together, and not seldom we would lose ourselves in vehement discussion, for towards me the old baronet would step out of the sensitive and somewhat gloomy reserve he adopted towards others. The subject of railways was another constant topic between us. Sir Charles opposed them as vehemently as he opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws. No good could come out of either, and to every argument advanced in favour of quick locomotion, he would growl out, ‘ Why should we want to go quickly ? Between your Anti-Corn-Law League and your rail – ways, you’ll ruin England.’ ”
At Ranton, game was so plentiful that it was necessary to shoot every week during the season. Here the training of Kirkby Stephen stood Sir Joshua in good stead. Keenly enjoying the sport, the exercise, the glorious sense of freedom he had so relished in his boyhood, he never missed an available day. A pleasant friendly feeling existed between the tenants and the reformer who was always rousing them out of the comfortable, inert habits they had followed for generations. It was counted a grievance when shooting over a farm, if Sir Joshua did not go in to lunch with the owner. He and his head keeper, weighing some eighteen stone, and who was as active as he was weighty, following close at his master’s heels, were always welcome.
” During my stay,” he says, ” at the Abbey, where game was so plentiful as to require my utmost exertions to keep it under, I never had a claim from a farmer, never had to pay damages of any kind, or to prosecute a poacher. ”
Of his skill as a sportsman he gives the following example : ” I once laid a wager with a crack shot that I would fire at whatever passed before me in a narrow avenue, and that I would not miss one of the first fifty shots. I was accordingly posted in the centre of a small cover, on a rising ground, an under- keeper placed behind me to load a second gun. Beaters drove the wood before them, and the result was I successfully made sixty-four shots before missing one. ”
These were happy days at Ranton ; many were the shooting-parties that set out on bright autumn mornings, and for the most part the men that composed the group had, in one way or another, made their mark upon their age. ” On one occasion, “ says Sir Joshua, ” George Stephenson formed one of the party, and he carried a gun, and tramped sturdily along with the others. The ‘ old man ‘ seemed to enjoy the scene, but I noticed that during the day he never once fired a shot. The bag made was a large one, and at dinner Stephenson broke out into earnest remonstrances at the inhumanity he had witnessed that day, at the cruelty exhibited in such wholesale destruction of the wild creatures that enjoyed life so harmlessly. His protest had little effect in damping our ardour; we set out merrily next morning, but the ‘old man ‘ declined to accompany us. When we returned in the cool of the evening, we spied Stephenson on the other side of the lake, close to its edge, apparently beating the air with a bush held in each hand. On approaching we found he was engaged in a conflict with wasps, a hecatomb of which lay dead at his feet. His face and his hands were stung all over. At dinner, when the cloth was removed and servants were out of the room, the sportsmen had a good laugh at the ‘ old man.’ He did not escape scot-free from the sallies levelled against him for his wholesale destruction of wasps, but he returned the cross fire with quick retort, and defended himself well. ”
While enjoying rural sports anddevoting much time and energy to farming pursuits it was evident this mode of life was nor enough to satisfy Sir Joshua’s energetic temperament, and that his mind was still pressing on towards the active political life that had once absorbed every other interest. ” Often when cover-shooting ” he tells us, ” a halt would be made at mid-day for lunch under the shade of some forest tree ; then political discussions would ensue between the sportsmen, and often interfere with the shooting. “
Sir Charles Wolseley would tell anecdotes of former friends. How, once he had invited Cobbett down to Wolseley Hall for a few weeks. There it was that the ‘ Legacy to Parsons ’ had been written, Cobbett dictating to his amanuensis in that pure idiomatic English of his, lashing himself up into a state of excitement, that every word might hit like the blow of a bludgeon. Weeks passed, Cobbett showed no signs of leaving. He occupied his leisure with gardening, a pursuit in which he delighted. Sir Charles at last, desiring himself to quit the Hall, intimated this to his old friend. Then the reason of Cobbett’s long stay came out. He, who at that time was influencing all England by his political writings and speeches, had not money wherewith to leave Wolseley Hall.
There was a walk on the farther side of the lake, which wound in and out amongst clumps of evergreens, and shaded by great trees. Here, in the Lady’s Walk, as it was called. Sir Joshua might often be found strolling about with such friends as Stephenson, Liebig, Cobden, the Marquis of Saldanha, William Cobbett, and others. With the three last he was ever sure to be deep in political discussions. They often urged him to return to public life. Invitations came from different boroughs to represent them in Parliament. ” My old friend Cobden was the most eager of all, “ says Sir Joshua, ” in pressing me to accept one of these. He would taunt me with abandoning the good cause. “ Some years were to elapse, however, before Sir Joshua would again seriously entertain the thought of entering Parliament.
In the meanwhile an episode occurred, that furnished many pleasant recollections to him in after life, viz. his journey to Spain with Mr. Stephenson.
CHAPTER XIII. There is a bit more explanation of the 1841 election here, and there are quite a few recent posts about the Irish elections that year. This is Hugh and Josh’s take on the election, with almost nothing mentioned about family. Josh and Adeline had become grandparents the year before, with the birth of Charles and Elizabeth Binns daughter who was named Adeline after her grandmother. Richard Sheil was the first Catholic alderman elected to Liverpool council; Richard Cobden – the Anti-Corn Law campaigner became the M.P. for Stockport that year, and seven years later he and Josh were next door neighbours in the rather grand Westbourne Terrace, in London. Then there is Josh’s mention of the advowson of St Luke’s in Liverpool which he ” had presented to a good and pious man “. An advowson was the right to appoint a vicar, and Josh may well have presented it to a good and pious man, but within three years he had given it to his nephew William Mulleneux.
Returning to his duties in the council, Sir Joshua now devoted himself to the Educational Committee. Shortly before his mayoralty, he had removed to Wavertree Hall, and there had drawn around him men whose names were well known in Liverpool. Locke, Dr. Shepherd, Cobden, the two Stephensons, Brassey, William Rathbone, and Colonel Williams were to be met here. This latter gentleman had been member for Ashton-under-Lyne, and was now justice of the peace. His upright, uncompromising principles were well known. Sir Joshua tells how, upon one occasion, he, as county magistrate, received an application for a summons from a servant, whose master had struck him. The master was an intimate friend of the colonel. On receiving the summons he treated the affair as a joke, failed to come, and a warrant was issued against him, ordering him to appear the following morning at six. It was seven when he came, and found the colonel working in his fields. Advancing, he held out his hand, laughing. ” Stand back, sir, this is our court,’‘ exclaimed the magistrate. ” Take off your hat.” The case was gone into, the defendant admitted the assault, paid the fine, and remained to breakfast with his judge.
Mr. Cobden, accompanied by some members of the League, visited Liverpool early in May, and a monster meeting assembled in the Amphitheatre to greet him.
Sir Joshua presided, and often said : ” It was I introduced Cobden to Liverpool “ The Corn-Law agitation had at this time entered on a new phase. The Whig ministry, beaten on the Jamaica, the Appropriation Clause, and other measures, still clung to office. When a deficit of two million pounds in the budget had to be announced, Lord John Russell made a bold effort to retrieve his popularity by bringing forward the following motion : ” That in a month hence, the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider the Acts relating to the trade in corn.”
With some show of reason, the Tories denounced this as a party move, intended by the Whigs as a means of keeping their hold of office. The Free-Traders, although convinced that the requisite change in the corn and import duties could only be effected by a strong and honest ministry, yet eagerly grasped at Lord John’s announcement, changing, as it did, the whole aspect of the repeal question. From being a theory advocated on platforms the Corn-Law agitation now advanced to the stage of a distinct official policy.
Ministerialists and Free-Traders united to convene meetings all over the country. ” In Liverpool,” says Sir Joshua, ” great excitement was caused by Mr. Cobden’s visit. The feelings of monopolists and anti-monopolists were strained to the utmost pitch. Upwards of thirteen thousand families in the town were dependent upon parish relief. Whatever, therefore, could affect the price of bread was of vital import. Notwithstanding the intensity of feeling aroused, the great Anti-Corn-Law meeting passed off quietly enough. Cobden’s eloquence, his earnest concentrated manner, produced a marked impression on his audience, amongst which were many antagonistic to his cause. ”
The 4th of June was the day fixed by Lord John Russell for bringing the corn question before Parliament, but before that day the Government added another to its long list of defeats. It was beaten on the Bill for the Reduction of Sugar Duties, As under this new check the Whigs still showed no indication of resigning office, Sir Robert Peel moved a vote of want of confidence in the ministry ; which vote being carried by a majority of one, the ministers dissolved Parliament and appealed to the country.
All over England, canvassing now began in right earnest. ” In Liverpool,” says Sir Joshua Walmsley, ” the first step of the Whig notabilities was to endeavour to bring me to a sense of my extraordinary presumption in presenting myself as candidate for the representation of the town. An eminently respectable group assembled in a house of business in Poole Lane, and there waited for me. Doubtless many of these gentlemen remembered my knocking at their office door, twenty-eight years ago. a friendless lad, seeking for employment. When I entered, portentous looks greeted me on all sides. No effort was left untried to shake my determination to contest Liverpool, and any amour propre I may have had was sorely punished ; yet these were the men that ought to have been my supporters. At last the storm broke fairly upon my head. Who was I, to dare to aspire to the position of representative of a town like Liverpool, when so many of higher standing had never dreamt of such a thing ? On what possible grounds could I base such pretensions ? Putting my hand into my pocket I drew out a paper. It was a requisition, presented to me that morning, bearing upwards of three thousand six hundred signatures — the most numerously- signed requisition that had ever emanated from the electors of Liverpool.”
” ‘ On this, gentlemen,’ I said, facing them, for my blood was up, ‘ On this requisition, signed by three thousand six hundred of my fellow-townsmen, I take my stand. And let me tell you, gentlemen, there is not a man here who will not forfeit his reputation for consistency if he does not vote for me. Nay, I go a step farther, and tell you there is not a man here who will not vote for me.’ ”
Thus ended the discussion. The next day in the Liberal papers, and on the walls of the town, appeared Sir Joshua’s address. It was a summary of the political views he had steadily advocated in public and private life. It declared for free trade, for national education, for “ enfranchisement steadily keeping pace with increasing intelligence,” and for the independence of the voter. ” The Legislature,” Sir Joshua said, ” that on the one hand fosters the desire for civil rights, and on the other affords protection to their conscientious exercise, adopts the only policy that can give stability to the Government and satisfaction to the people.”
“During six weeks,” says Sir Joshua, ” attended by Alderman Shiel, I visited personally from house to house, I attended public meetings nightly. That there should be a necessity for such canvassing I regretted, and the use and value of the ballot system urged itself strongly on my mind during this experience. I earnestly charged my supporters, although I should win thereby ten thousand votes, not to coerce anyone or use any undue influence in my favour. I could not but feel flattered at the reception I met with, during my canvass, from my fellow- townsmen of all shades of opinion. It proved to me that in my private capacity I had gained their respect and esteem ; but as a public man I had to encounter the opposition of the Tories, making common cause with the Abolitionists, the sugar-growers, the ship- owners, and agriculturists. The rallying cry of the Tory party, the ‘Church in Danger,’ was the more effectually used from the fact that the Dissenters had lately called for the separation of Church and State. “
” The pulpit lent its powerful aid against me; and in Liverpool, I, who had helped to throw open the Corporation schools to children of every sect and denomination, was emphatically and publicly denounced as an enemy of religion. On the other hand, I had the hearty co-operation of the advocates of free trade, the enthusiastic support of the members of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association.”
These were the active agencies for and against Sir Joshua Walmsley. A passive antagonistic element also remained to be overcome; one that had an influence on the cause of Liberalism all over England. The people had lost confidence in the Whig administration, but, not yet able to grasp the idea of free trade, identified the programme of the rising party with the antiquated Whig ministerial policy. A certain exhaustion likewise was perceptible throughout the country — a languor following the agitation that accompanied the passing of the Reform Bill.
Sir Joshua described himself as belonging to no party. He was simply an ” Anti-Monopolist ; “ in all sincerity he could thus describe himself, for with him, as with all genuine reformers, every political dogma he held was sanctified by a constant reference to the needs of the people. The repeal of the Corn Laws, the removal of all restrictions on commerce, was not a party question, but an aim some men had set themselves to attain for the better welfare of the whole nation.
Sir Joshua’s speeches during this period simply and broadly assert that his sole object in seeking to enter Parliament is to labour for the abolition of the Corn Laws and all monopolies, “ as unjust, and sanctioned by no law, moral or economic, and utterly adverse to the selfish ends of their promoters.”
The members of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association gathered loyally around him. The mass of non- electors, unconnected with the shipping interest, were in his favour. The Whigs no longer opposed him, but they preserved a sullen and passive attitude.
Lord Palmerston, in answer to a requisition to stand for Liverpool, had accepted to do so, on condition that the other Liberal candidate be returned with him.
When this answer was made known, the Tories bestirred themselves to ensure the return of Mr. Cresswell with that of Lord Sandon, whose seat was considered secure. Tuesday, the 28th June, was the nomination-day.
For days previous, preparations had been going on, especially directed to prevent the too close contact opposite the hustings of the friends of the contending parties, for the coming contest, it was anticipated, would be the keenest the old town had known for years. The Tory procession, preceded by a body of forty mounted policemen, was the first to march past. ” No Manchester dictation “ was the favourite device on its banners. Then came the procession of the friends of free trade, gay also with banners embroidered with mottoes : ” Walmsley, Free Trade, and National Education;” ” Walmsley, friend of the people.” Lord Palmerston was not present, but he was represented by Mr. Brocklebank.
Sir Joshua Walmsley was proposed by Colonel Williams. His speech was brief and to the purpose.
” Sir Joshua’s life,” he said, ” had been spent before his fellow-townsmen. He had served them through every grade of municipal offices. His political creed might be summed up in a few words. He believed ‘the object of all just and wise legislation should be the equal distribution of civil rights and privileges.’ He did not advocate sudden changes in the constitution, but he would support every measure, matured by enlightened men, and by them adapted to the altered circumstances of the time, and the increased intelligence of the people. “ To the badgering cries of ” Church ! Church !” he answered that at the sale of the advowson by the corporation, he had bought that of St. Luke, and although he was accused of injuring the Church, he had not sold that living, but had presented it to a good and pious man.
The next was the decisive day. Very early on that summer morning, groups began to form in the streets ; children, plucked by the clergy out of the tainted atmosphere of the Corporation schools, ran about carrying tiny scarlet flags, bearing the inscription : ” The Queen, the Church, and Scriptural Education.” Women, too, clustered together and discussed the issue of the coming struggle. They understood little of the import of the words Whig and Tory, but they knew but too well what hard times meant, and the sight of hungry children before empty cupboards.
” May the Lord send us those who will give us the big loaf, “ was the prayer that summed up their politics.
At eight o’clock the poll opened ; voting was backward ; a perceptible hesitation held back both parties. By noon came the news from London that three Conservatives had been returned for the city. The Tories hoisted a placard proclaiming the tidings.
As the day went on, and victory kept on the Conservative side, the town grew excited. To the cry of “Walmsley, friend of the people,” the Orangemen shouted, ” No Popery.” The shipbuilders began a riot to silence the cry : ” Walmsley and Free Trade.” Before the final state of the poll was declared, Liverpool was in an uproar, and Mr. Whitty and his police were striving vigorously but vainly to restore quiet. The Liberals were beaten ; the Tories had won the day.
Lord Sandon had polled 5,979 votes;
Mr. Cresswell, 5,792 ;
Sir Joshua Walmsley, 4,647,
and Viscount Palmerston, 4,431.
Mr. Whitty ‘s words fully described the effect produced by Sir Joshua’s defeat. ” The town that night was in a state of intense agitation. So soon as it became known that Sir Joshua was defeated, the lower classes broke loose, and the new police force became powerless to preserve order. They were forced to retire, and the mob remained in possession of the streets. Little damage was done, but the yells and shouts against the winners, the burning in effigy of the successful candidates, went on during the night. I never passed a more anxious time, and thought it would never come to an end.”
On the examination of the poll, it was found that several who had signed the requisition to Sir Joshua voted against him; but the influential Whigs, who had taunted him with presumption, had voted for him. There, however, they stopped. The powerful interest of the party had not been used in his favour.