Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XXII.

CHAPTER XXII.  This is perhaps the oddest of any of the chapters in the book. To explain some of the context, I’m going to let Ian Buruma explain at little, followed by James Buchanan’s biographer,Jean Baker, in her 2004 book.  What on earth a British M.P. was doing there is absolutely extraordinary?

” It must have been quite a party. The anniversary of George Washington’s birthday: February 22, 1854. Mr Saunders, the American consul in London had invited the leading European political exiles for dinner with James Buchanan, the ambassador and future president of the United States. This would show the old countries which side the new world was on. The guest list was a roll call of the failed 1848 revolutions: Lajos Kossuth from Hungary, Alexandre Ledru-Rollin from France, Stanislaw Worcell from Poland, Alexander Herzen from Russia, and from Italy the triumvirate of Mazzini, Garibaldi, and Orsini. Karl Marx was not invited. he represented a faction – known by his critics as the “sulphorous gang” – not a country, and even if he had been invited, he surely would have despised the others as a bunch of bourgeois wets. In Herzen’s memory there were no German guests at all  ……”

” As with most good parties, this one had various subtexts. For one thing, the Americans had to reconcile their own not wholly liberal sociopolitical arrangements with their professed alliance to the “future federation of free European peoples. ‘ Herzen, who enjoyed such ironies, described the occasion as “ a red dinner, given by the defender of black slavery….. ‘. ” from Anglomania: A European Love Affair By Ian Buruma [currently editor of the New York Review of Books} 

James Buchanan became President of the United States in 1856 and his biographer Jean Baker says of him: ” Americans have conveniently misled themselves about the presidency of James Buchanan, preferring to classify him as indecisive and inactive … In fact Buchanan’s failing during the crisis over the Union was not inactivity, but rather his partiality for the South, a favoritism that bordered on disloyalty in an officer pledged to defend all the United States. He was that most dangerous of chief executives, a stubborn, mistaken ideologue whose principles held no room for compromise. His experience in government had only rendered him too self-confident to consider other views. In his betrayal of the national trust, Buchanan came closer to committing treason than any other president in American history. ”  Jean H.Baker,  James Buchanan, Times Books, New York: 2004.  It’s not too fine a point to hold Buchanan as largely responsible for the American Civil War.

Now Chapter XXII:

We have now to introduce a scene of an extraordinary character, of which, happily Sir Joshua has left an account in his own words, in which he was brought face to face with the great foreign revolutionary leaders, and of whose appearance and manner he made at the moment some slight but vivid sketches :

James Buchanan

” One morning, in February, 1854, “ he narrates, “ a gentleman was introduced into my study. On looking at his card, I found it was Mr. Saunders, the United States Consul. We had never met before. He intimated to me that his object in calling was to invite me to meet Mr. Buchanan, the American Minister, and some political friends. It was against my rule to accept invitations of a political or party character. I asked Mr. Saunders who the guests would be; the list was as follows: Mazzini, Garibaldi, Louis Kossuth, Walsh, Pulski, Ledru Rollin, Count Woxcell, and Orsini. I could not resist this catalogue of fiery names, and accepted the invitation. “

” At 25, Weymouth Street, Portland Square, the singular gathering took place. Mazzini sat at our host’s right hand. His appearance was very impressive and characteristic His eyes burning in his wasted countenance, his high, narrow forehead, spoke of a mind lofty and pure, but wanting in variety and flexibility. His whole appearance indicated a man of few ideas, but these ideas sublime and true. It was a never-to-be-forgotten sight, this group of patriots assembled together — the simple, manly, honest face of Garibaldi, the attenuated features of Woxcell, the grave and handsome countenance of Kossuth, the beautiful young head of Orsini. The dinner was genuinely American in the abundance and costliness of its service. The wit, the humour, the vivacity of the conversation, were delightful, but so long as servants were present, I knew the talk was superficial. “

Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872)

” When the cloth was removed and the servants had left the room, the doors were closed. I noticed they were double doors. Then a toast was given ; it was to ‘ Humanity.’  Mazzini was the first to speak. His austere eloquence lit with flashes of enthusiasm, profoundly impressed me. It was like listening to the utterances of the old Hebrew prophets. He sketched the dark part of humanity, trodden down by kings and priests. Then came the struggles of the people for liberty. He saw streaks of the dawn in the present. In the future lay the glorious day of a regenerated humanity, free, self-respecting, on whose banner the word “ Duty ‘ was inscribed. It was from his beloved Italy that he looked for this new revolution to come. “

” Each one of the party, after him, rose and addressed the gathering. And the theme of every speaker was his country’s sufferings in the past and present, and his aspirations for it in the future. All spoke freely, as men who had cast off restraint, and who were convinced of the accomplishment in the future of their object. In discussing their country’s wrongs, they frankly discussed the means by which they proposed to redeem and deliver her. From these means I should ever shrink. But at such a moment the reasoning power of the listeners was carried away on this torrent of fiery zeal, impassioned patriotism, and persuasive eloquence. As patriot after patriot spoke, each seemed to press on to a higher and ever higher view of the subject in hand. “

” After Mazzini, Kossuth addressed us in a speech full of power; but his eloquence was more flowery than Mazzini’s, and left less impression upon me. He was too much of a poet to guide up the dangerous height to which he had climbed. His friend Pulski was more of a man of business, and ever proved himself a sound patriot. “

Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882)

” Of all that night’s discourses, Garibaldi’s simple and straightforward words moved me most. He seemed to take the wisest view of the course to be pursued, and to bring to the service of the subject the greatest amount of practical knowledge. His address, more unpretentious, was, to my mind, more convincing than the others. Orsini looked like a man inspired by, and resolved upon, his purpose. He spoke with much seeming sorrow of the necessity for deeds which he himself was prepared to accomplish. I shall never forget how young and handsome he looked that night, and I am persuaded that the wisest course Napoleon could have pursued would have been to have pardoned him.

 

 

” Of Ledru Rollin I did not conceive a high idea. The impression he made on me was that of a disappointed politician rather than of a patriot. Count Woxcell represented Poland. An exile for many years, he was so poor as often to lack the necessaries of life ; yet he never complained. That night he had evidently risen from a bed of sickness. His fine features contrasted with the exhaustion and feebleness of his frame ; death was stamped on his countenance ; but his mind was bright with hopes of his country’s redemption. As he spoke of Poland’s sufferings, tears flowed down his pale cheeks. “

” When it came to my turn to speak, my heart was full of sadness. The words I had listened to were pregnant with poetry, patriotism, and love of humanity. They all emanated from men singularly gifted ; many whose private life I knew to be most estimable, and whose friendship it was a privilege to possess; and yet they all seemed to me to lack the one great, needful quality — a due sense of the responsibilities they proposed to incur. I felt that I, a cold, practical Englishman, could bring only my meed of common sense to sober their enthusiasm. I condemned and at the same time I sympathised with them ; each I knew was ready to undergo martyrdom for the sake of that which he believed to be his mission. “

” As I listened to them and noted the exalted expression of their countenances, the intellect and emotion that lit up their features, genuine sorrow came over me. It seemed a presentiment of the failure of all their plans, of the cruel fate that awaited some of them. I rose to speak, overwhelmed with diffidence and grief ; but I spoke out frankly what I felt. I told them that the constitutional changes the Liberals in England were seeking to obtain would not be difficult to accomplish, when my countrymen became convinced of their utility; and, therefore, our mission could not compare with theirs. I had listened with delight to the eloquence around me ; but I was unable to divest myself of the belief that the speakers were poets rather than statesmen. “

” They proposed to compass their ends through bloodshed, and yet, should they carry out their object, after inflicting great human suffering, they would find the large mass of the people wholly unprepared for the changes they contemplated Instead of a baptism of blood, it should be a baptism of education that should usher in the new era. Sudden changes in the social condition of any people had ever been followed by a great recoil, and if we would permanently benefit mankind, it must be done by steady and continuous education. “

“ The patriots listened in courteous silence. My words, as I feared, had jarred upon them. I was reassured and delighted, therefore, when Buchanan rose, and said he had listened to many speeches that night, but the one to which he had listened with most pleasure was that of Sir Joshua Walmsley. He then dwelt upon the necessity for caution, pointed out to the exiles the obstacles in their way. He did not appear less earnest than any who had preceded him, but he opposed all violent courses. The patriots assented to all he said. But the spirit of the meeting was chilled, a cloud had passed over it. “

” This extraordinary social and political gathering left a twofold indelible impression upon my mind. These men were honest, earnest, truthful, capable of achieving great good in their generation ; but they were unfit to wield political power. They were men of abstract ideas, wanting in flexibility, and therefore unable to deal with new conditions and circumstances as they arose in the world. ”

Felice Orsini (1819_1858)

The forebodings that had come over Sir Joshua’s mind that night were but too surely realised. Woxcell died in the course of the year, in his humble garret, far from the Poland he loved. A few years later, Orsini’s young head fell on the scaffold. It never has been reserved to Kossuth to strike the blow for Hungary’s freedom, that he had longed and waited for and prepared himself to strike, Garibaldi  was to taste captivity. Mazzini was to know the isolation, drearier than death, when friends drop away from the patriot and idealist, because he is unpractical.

[There is an entertaining footnote at this point: ” It must be observed that this was written before Garibaldi’s subsequent triumphs, and which were brought about by other means than those contemplated at this strange but pathetic symposium.” The triumph being the re-unification of Italy, finally achieved with the fall of Rome on the 20th September 1870. Felice Orsini had been guillotined in Paris in 1858 for attempting to assassinate Napoléon III  ]

After the Crimean War, the bitterness of exile was more than ever felt by Kossuth. The conviction forced itself upon him that he would never again be of use to Hungary. In 1856 he writes to Sir Joshua : “ I may have sown for the future ; but the day of harvest I am not to see. I feel I can do nothing more for my country. “ The very hope of seeing it again died out. When this hope was gone — that had been the consolation of his soul through the protracted years of exile — his heart nearly broke.

He had in his children, however, an incentive to work. We find him writing in The Atlas, and partly managing it. Acting under Sir Joshua’s advice, he delivered also, during this period, courses of lectures in the principal towns of England, which drew crowded audiences around him. Some years passed thus, and on 2nd March, 1861, he wrote as follows to Sir Joshua :

” 12, Regent’s Park Terrace,

” Dear Sir Joshua,

” Irrespective of the contents of your two friendly notes, I was very, very agreeably surprised by receiving again your handwriting, once so familiar to me, now not seen for a long time. Your withdrawing from town on the one hand, and the fluctuations which the stirring events of these last years had thrown me into, caused us to lose sight of each other. I, on my part, have maintained, as I always shall, a lively and grateful recollection of our past intercourse. I never ceased to cherish your name as one of those few, but dear friends, who stood faithfully by me in many gloomy moments of my cheerless life, who never wavered in their sympathies through good and evil report, and whose kind advice never failed me in the hour of need. And I see, I rejoice to see, that you are still the same as of yore ; we had lost sight of each other accidentally for some time, yet the first line I receive from you bears again the stamp of your old, still unabated kindness. You never approached me but to do me good, and so you do now…….

“We are about to bid adieu to good, dear old England ; and all of us feel deeply moved at the very thought. I have grown old on its hospitable soil, and my boys have grown from children to manhood on it. It has been endeared to my heart by many ties of imperishable interest ; the protection afforded to my homeless head; the flowers of consolation strewn on my thorny pathway; the inappreciable, still, joys of domesticity ; the recollection of the very hardships I had to overcome and the very cares and sorrows I had, that were mingled with my aspirations as with my daily bread — make England so very, very dear to me, that it is with a pang of melancholy feeling that I part with her. It may be for good, it may be for evil, that I do so ; but I must, so let come what may, it shall be endured.

“ But is not it strange, that to make my cup of vicissitudes full, I have in the very last days of my stay in England to pass through the ordeal of a suit in Chancery, and that too at a Bill of Prayer and Complaint filed against me, by whom? By Francis Joseph, the pretended King of Hungary,

“ Chancery! To be in Chancery is a word of terrific meaning, even to Englishmen, who are used to this ‘peculiar domestic institution:’ the very name of it adds heavy items of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pounds to one’s budget. My antagonist may have calculated on my incapacity of meeting him on this expensive field, or may be bent on ruining me, before I have waded across half of it. And in this also, he is not unlikely to have made a good account I may break down (not much strain is needed to bring me to this), but ‘ gli prometto la fede mia,’ it shall not be done before I have brought him to such odds with public opinion in this country, that all his speculations on an eventual support from England shall have vanished like a dissolving view. . . .

“ With many affectionate regards,

” I am, dear Sir Joshua,

” Yours very truly,

“Louis Kossuth. “

And here the figure of the great Hungarian patriot drops out of our narrative. Looking at Hungary,as she now stands, in recovered full possession of her antique constitutional rights, the violation of which had driven Kossuth to take the field, may we not say that his prediction as to the day of harvest has been fulfilled ? The day Francis Joseph had to submit to being crowned King of Hungary, in Pesth, and there solemnly swear observance of all her privileges, Kossuth stood vindicated in the eyes of history. Nor were his efforts in England vain. Through his speeches the people at large were made acquainted with the character of the question at issue, that it was one involving laws and religion akin to their own, and doubtless English sympathy with the Hungarians, and English example of combat by moral means, encouraged and inspired the opposition party in the Hungarian Diet under the leadership of Deak, to which eventually the House of Hapsburg was obliged to yield.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XXI.

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 :

Lajos Kossuth, 1848

” 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. ”

Lord Dudley Coutts Stuart (1803-1854), MP

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.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XX.

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

Westbourne Terrace W.2

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

St. Andrews Hall, Norwich

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

” October 6th, 1849.

” My dear Walmsley,

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

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

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

” Believe me, faithfully yours,

“Richard Cobden,”

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

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

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

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

Lord John Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

” Glen Quart, 2nd October, 1851.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

” I remain, yours sincerely,

“Joseph Hume.”

Free Trade Hall, Manchester

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

” Midhurst, September 10, 1851.

” My dear Walmsley,

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

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

Very truly,

Richard Cobden.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

” Burnley Hall, 20th November, 1851.

“My dear Sir Joshua,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

” Yours sincerely,

“Joseph Hume.”

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

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

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

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

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

Again he writes on the same subject :

” Midhurst, 15th January, 1852.

“My dear Walmsley,

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

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

“I remain, very truly yours,

” 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.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XIX.

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 is Lord 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.

Burnley Hall, Norfolk

” 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. ”

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XVIII

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

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

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

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

Now Chapter XVIII:

Richard Cobden

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

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

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

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

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

” Truly yours,

” Richard Cobden.”

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

Free Trade Hall, Manchester

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

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

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

” Manchester, 22nd April, 1848.

“My dear Walmsley,

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

“ Faithfully yours,

“Richard Cobden “

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

“My dear Walmsley,

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

household suffrage,

vote by ballot,

triennial Parliaments,

electoral districts.

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

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

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

Joseph Hume, M.P.

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

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

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

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

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XVII.

CHAPTER XVII.  I’m going to allow Uncle Hugh to describe this chapter. He calls it ” Joseph Hume -Sketch of his Career ” which to all intents and purposes it is. It is an odd addition to ” The Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley “, but it is quite clear that Joseph Hume was a major influence on Josh. So much so, the final home Josh built for his and Adeline’s retirement was called ‘ Hume Towers “. It is a very dense, and rather wordy chapter but for reasons known only to him, and possibly – but unlikely – an editor, this is where uncle Hugh thought it should be.

Sir Joshua’s acquaintance with Mr. Hume began on the occasion of his visit to London, in 1838 as one of the delegates of the Anti-Corn-Law League, When he took his seat in Parliament, in 1848, Mr. Hume was the veteran leader of the reformers there. Henceforth their lives were destined to flow in the same channel, a fact which entails the necessity of a chapter devoted to a sketch of Mr. Hume’s career, antecedent to the period of their common work. We shall draw, as usual, upon Sir Joshua’s notes for our brief summary of his friend’s course.

” Hume had, more than any man I ever met, “ he says, ” an invincible faith in the ultimate triumph of right, and he himself conquered in the cause of right by dint of a perseverance that I never saw surpassed.”

This key to the character of Joseph Hume we find given by the man himself in one of his letters.  “ As I said before, the object being good it is sure to succeed ultimately. Perseverance must be your motto, as it has been mine and will be, to the end of the chapter. ”

Born at Montrose, in 1777, his father, the master of a coasting vessel, died when the boy was still in early youth. To the mother’s energy and sterling devotion the children owed their education and rearing. On leaving the village school, Joseph Hume was apprenticed to a surgeon-apothecary of Montrose.

When his three years of apprenticeship were accomplished, he entered the medical classes of the Edinburgh University, which he continued to attend till 1796. We next find him sailing for India in 1797, having obtained, through the influence of Mr. Scott, member for Forfar and an East India Director, an assistant-surgeonship in the marine service of the East India Company. His first absence from England lasted eighteen months, but during the short period of his stay in India he had fixed on and planned the means by which to attain a wide field of usefulness.

In November, 1799, he once more set sail for India, embarking on board the Houghton for Bengal. The Houghton was one of the ancient arks of the Company. “ I often looked,” says Sir Joshua, ” at the exquisitely careful pen-and-ink sketches of the old ship that Hume had made during his voyage out, and which he preserved as memorials of it. “ This voyage proved to have some influence on his future career. The sudden death of the purser might have led to much confusion had not the young surgeon on board volunteered to fill his place. By the punctilious discharge of his duties and the genial courtesy of his manners, Hume made friends of all on board. He spent many hours of the day, he told me, in his little cabin, studying the Oriental languages, and beguiled his leisure by learning seamanship and navigation. When the Houghton touched at Ceylon, he took soundings of the port-harbour and its surroundings, all of which he mapped down with perfect accuracy. On reaching Bengal, officers and passengers united in presenting a testimonial to Hume. Thus he landed in India with a ready-made reputation.

The Company were not long in recognising the value of a servant who understood and spoke Hindostanee, and who thus possessed a key to the character and heart of the natives, which very few Englishmen had acquired. On the eve of Lord Lake’s Mahratta War in 1803, Mr. Hume rendered a signal service to the administration which brought him into still fuller notice. Lord Mornington had prevailed upon the Peishwa of the Mahrattas, who was carrying on war with a powerful tributary chief, to sign the treaty of Bassino with the East India Company. Two powerful native chiefs, however, the Rajah of Berrar and Scindia, the fiercest and most ambitious of all the Mahratta chiefs, not only refused to concur in the treaty of Bassino, but denied the power of the Peishwa to sign one of such importance without the consent of all the Mahratta princes. Scindia’s army, officered by Frenchmen familiar with the tactics of European warfare, vastly outnumbered the regiments of English and native troops opposed to them. Before this formidable adversary it was discovered at the eleventh hour that the English stores of ammunition were valueless, the gunpowder being rendered useless by damp. At this crisis, the chemical knowledge acquired by Mr. Hume in the modest Scotch laboratory saved all that a negligent administration had imperilled. He undertook and succeeded in restoring to the gunpowder all its lost properties.

Following the army in the capacity of surgeon, his knowledge of Hindostanee led to his being appointed interpreter to the general-in-chief. Nor did his duties end here ; he filled successively the post of paymaster and postmaster of the troops, and superintended the commissariat of an army of twelve thousand men. His richest experiences of Indian character were gleaned during this period of his life, when he shared the hardships of war with the natives, who were in the proportion of ten to one English soldier. Of the bravery of Brahmins he would often speak. Reverting to the Mahratta War years after in Parliament, when misgovernment had incited the sepoys to the mutiny of Barrackpore, he bore testimony to the loyalty that then prevailed among the native troops, and to their attachment to the English service. “During the Mahratta War, “ he said, ” when a vacancy occurred, fifty candidates applied for the place.”

We now draw from Sir Joshua’s notes : “ After the declaration of peace in 1805, Hume, who had realised a fortune, resigned all his civil appointments and returned to England. Thirsting for a higher sphere of action than that of making money, he refused an offer of partnership in one of the wealthiest houses in Calcutta.

Thoroughly versed in Indian affairs, and understanding the Indian character, he hoped to effect some reforms in the Company’s administration, which should prove beneficial to England and to the vast empire dependent on her. To obtain a seat in the East India Directorship, and one in the House of Commons, were the two aims that stood out clearly before his mind’s eye as he left India and set his face homewards. His large investments in Indian stock gave him a right to attend proprietary meetings, and on these occasions he resolved to advocate the schemes of reform which he had patiently elaborated.

It was very characteristic of the thoroughness of method and proceeding with which he pursued his work through life that, in order to fit himself for Parliament, Hume, immediately after his arrival in England, visited every sea-port and every manufacturing town of importance. He would trust no hearsay evidence of the condition of the people. He would acquaint himself with the state of each social grade by personal contact with it. After this study of England, he travelled over the Continent, visited Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Egypt ; he was present at the capture of Santa Wenna by the English ; travelled over Italy and passed some time in Malta and Sicily, and wherever he went he was actuated by the same resolve to study the character of the people, and observe the effect of their government and laws in their moral and social welfare. Satisfying himself with no superficial observation, he carried his investigations into the lower strata of society.

After this preparation, in 1812, Mr. Hume entered Parliament under the Percival administration. He entered as a Tory, introduced by a Scotch solicitor for “a valuable consideration.” When the future Radical paid down his money for his introduction to the constituency of Weymouth, he stipulated — as Parliament was entering on its last session — that the sum should ensure him a second return. The terms were agreed to. But very soon the Duke of Cumberland and his co-trustees discovered what manner of man it was they had let in unwittingly amongst them : a man who visited his constituents, who advocated schools and other mischievous social innovations. The Duke and his partners, on the dissolution of Parliament, returned part of his money to Mr. Hume, and looked about for a substitute.

” Six years,” says Sir Joshua, ” were to elapse before Hume was to resume his seat on the benches of the House of Commons. These six years of exclusion from Parliament were years spent in efforts to relieve and improve the condition of the working classes.”

” From this epoch dates his acquaintance with Mr. Place of Westminster, with Mr. James Mill, and Mr. Ricardo, and with other eminent philanthropists and social economists. The establishment of schools on the Lancastrian system first claimed his attention. These schools, the work of which was conducted through the medium of the scholars themselves, were established on un-sectarian principles. Another object — only second to the cause of education — which engrossed much of his time at this period, was the establishment of savings banks to induce the poor to husband their small savings.”

Mr. Hume’s ambition to obtain a seat on the Board of East India Directors did not wane by closer contact with home interests. At every periodical meeting he steadfastly exposed the abuses of Indian administration, but he was powerless to enforce the reform of those abuses unless elected one of the governing body. He failed in his efforts to become an East Indian director, but his canvass led to his meeting Miss Burnley, daughter of one of the directors. This lady soon after became his wife.

In January, 1819, Mr. Hume was returned to Parliament as member for Aberdeen. He was afterwards successively elected for Middlesex, Kilkenny, and again, once more, for Aberdeen, in the service of which constituency he died.

England was never in a more depressed condition than in 1819. Public meetings were held all over the country, and the sufferings of the people were the theme of every speech. Foreign nations judged England to be on the eve of a revolution, sanguinary as that of the French in 1793. Lord Sidmouth, as was his wont, saw rebellion and conspiracy in every demonstration. The strange panic that had laid hold of the public mind culminated on the occasion of a Manchester meeting, where a peaceable but numerous assembly of suffering workpeople was dispersed by a charge of cavalry, wounding and killing many. [This was Peterloo, here is Shelley’s view of the massacre]

Parliament not only justified the order of the frightened magistrates of Manchester, but passed six Acts that trammelled the press and the right of public meeting. Mr. Hume resisted in every stage their passing. He denounced them as ” harsh and precipitate.” From the first, he had withstood the panic spreading in all classes. He felt, to quote his own words, ” for the ruined farmer, the distressed manufacturer, the people burthened with taxation, the landlord without rent, and the labourer without work. ” ” It was his enlarged philanthropy,” says Sir Joshua, ” at a time when the most enlightened statesmen were merely party-men, capable of regarding or representing one interest alone, that fitted Hume to become the pioneer of reformers inspired to work for the good of the many as opposed to the interest of the few. ”

From the time of his re-entering Parliament under circumstances that seemed pregnant with future ruin, he set himself to withstand every abuse of the public money. He became the self-elected guardian of the public purse; fulfilling this office by using the right vested in every member of the House of Commons, to challenge and bring to a direct vote every single item of public expenditure.

To appreciate the task Mr. Hume accomplished almost single-handed, we must realise the amount to which the nation was taxed, and the light in which Government regarded its right of draining the people’s pocket.

It has been computed and verified by statistics that, for eight years, from 1813 to 1822, about seventy- seven millions were raised by taxes out of a total income, from all sources, of one hundred and fifty-five millions; ” or that one-half of the income of the country — derived from the produce of its land, its capital, and its labour — was wrung from it, in order to support the expenses of the Government and the war. ”

The difficulties Mr. Hume encountered in the course of his efforts to reduce this enormous amount of taxation, were not a little enhanced by the state of the public accounts. Their confusion defied the industry of man to reconcile them. On one occasion (26th June 1821), he complained that he and Mr. Ricardo, on examining various official accounts, had found  “ three public accounts, signed by the same person, all relating to the same period, and all differing in amount. ”

Early in the session of 1821, Mr. Hume announced his intention, ” until the House pledged itself to revise the establishment of the State, and adopt a principle of economy wherever that principle can be adopted, to bring forward motions from day to day, to compel it to that issue. “ The ministers and the large majority of the Commons sneered at this man of homely speech, who, for no party purpose, thus constituted himself censor of their proceedings. They called him a visionary, a harlequin-jumper, when he expounded his economical schemes. But their jeers fell scathless.

Mr. Hume was too simply in earnest to care much for the amusement he excited. The dry humour that occasionally flavoured his speech sometimes led him to turn his adversaries  taunts upon themselves.    ” If I am a harlequin-jumper, “ he said, in allusion to Lord Castlereagh’s sneer, ” ere long it will be seen what proficiency the noble lord and his friends will make in the leap in following me ; for follow me they must, in retrenchment, and in wholesale retrenchment too. ”

Faithful to his pledge, for four months of the session of 1821, day after day and night after night,Mr. Hume brought forward motions to effect reduction in the public expenditure. Several of these motions were negatived without a division. On the 21st of June, when the different estimates for the year were submitted to the House, he came forward in the full force of his censorship. For the first time, he produced those carefully-elaborated tables in which the various items of expenditure in every branch of the administration, for many years past, were carefully noted down, and the steady increase of expenditure made palpable. Sinecures were here tabulated and shown up as waste of public money.

The House listened in amazement to this evidence of the close scrutiny that had been brought to bear upon the smallest item of expenditure, and astonished heads of departments heard discussed before them the minutest arrangements of their offices, with which they were themselves totally unacquainted. Thus armed with facts and figures, Mr. Hume was invincible. Ministers and hostile majorities learnt to dread the appearance of those complicated and voluminous statements, although ” much laughter “ generally hailed the rising of the member for Aberdeen with rolls of paper in his hand. Where and how had he obtained all this knowledge, the accuracy of which was as marvellous as its extent ?

His name, in connection with the Corn Laws, is overshadowed by the great and deserved glory-shed over those of Cobden, Villiers, Bright, and Brougham.  But of this reform, as of every other, he was the pioneer, advocating the repeal of the Corn Laws years before the League was formed, and sparing himself no labour to prove the truth of his affirmation, that all protective legislation is suicidal policy. “No trait, “ again says Sir Joshua, ” better illustrates the singular disinterestedness of Hume, than the quiet way in which he would abandon the leadership of a question, when others took it up whom he deemed better fitted to accomplish the remaining portion of the work. Yet, a single stroke of his, in 1840, did more to clear the way for the repeal of the Corn Laws than the League’s tracts and lecturers. He moved for a Select Committee to inquire into the several duties levied upon imports, with a view to ascertain whether these imports were levied for protection or for the purpose of the revenue alone. “  The inquiry being granted, the labours of the committee established, beyond the power of future confusion, the general difference between the natures of the two sorts of taxation hitherto confounded in the public mind- taxation raised for revenue, and taxation levied exclusively for the protection of some favoured class interest. At the same time, he advocated parliamentary reform by speeches in the House and by out-door agitation, and there were few deputations coming up to London to petition Parliament for these reforms that did not leave some grateful record of acknowledgment to the oldest champion of their cause, the leader of what had once seemed a forlorn hope against abuses which impeded the free representation of the people.

The chronicles of the time record labours at which we can merely glance : — the discovery of the Orange Lodge Conspiracy, unravelled by his diligence and zeal, whose wide-spread ramifications extended over England, Scotland, and the colonies, to whose service a hundred and forty thousand men in the army were pledged, headed by Colonel Fairman, and the object of which was to make the Duke of Cumberland king, in the place of William IV., and to the exclusion of the Princess Victoria : — his crusade against colonial abuses ; his successful onslaught against the old combination laws preventing workmen consulting together upon the rate of wages at which to fix their labour, but which left masters free to combine against them ; his repeal also of the laws prohibiting the export of machinery, and the Act preventing workmen going abroad ; his constant protest against flogging in the army, the impressment of sailors, imprisonment for debt, &c. He took up the question of lighthouses and harbours ; in the former he secured greater efficiency and effected large savings, in the latter he prevented all useless expenditure for a time. ” His public career, “ says Sir Joshua, ” may be summed up in the words which he used to characterise Mr. Ricardo’s : ‘ The general interest of the community was the single object he had in view, and through good and evil report he pursued it, in the most liberal spirit of inquiry.’ ”

He never accepted defeat. Beaten night after night, upon motion after motion, still he returned to the charge.  ” Never mind, once you are sure you are in the right lobby, “ he would say to his handful of discouraged followers. At last his unswerving faith in the ultimate triumph of right won the day. The laughter that used to greet his plain speeches was heard no more, but gave place to respectful attention. He was felt to be the embodied conscience of the House. The fear of ” What will old Joe say?” nipped in the bud many an act of jobbery, that but for his presence would have been perpetrated in Parliament. His opponents were forced ultimately to give effect to the economical and financial reforms they had denounced as visionary. Sir Robert Peel himself, while still leader of the Tory party, publicly declared Mr. Hume “ one of the most useful members that had ever sat in the House of Commons. “ And Hume reaped his reward in contemplating the improved condition of the people, the simplification of accounts — above all, the higher moral tone prevalent in the administration.

The following amusing incident, often told by Sir Joshua, will illustrate Mr. Hume’s popularity amongst the working classes :

” A strike had been resolved upon by the London cabmen. The night was wet and miserable. On leaving the scene of our labours, we saw through the rain a reassuring assemblage of four-wheelers and hansoms. No sooner, however, did we hail the cabs, than with a loud halloo, the drivers impelled them in various directions. Hume and I were walking arm-in-arm. “

” ‘ We’ll give old Joe a lift,’ shouted three or four retreating cabbies, drawing up their horses.They actually fought for the privilege of giving him a lift ; and since I was walking with him, I was allowed to get in, and so shared the advantage of his popularity. ”

” He was more than commonly abstemious in his habits ; even at meals his mind was ever at work on the questions he had in hand. Possessed of unusual physical powers, the calmness of his temper was singular. His energy became trained industry, exceeding any power of endurance I have ever witnessed in other men. However late he might have left the House of Commons, he was in his study early. Frequently, when parting from him at his own door, at three or four o’clock in the morning, he would call out to me : ” Remember to be with me at eleven, for we have a committee on at twelve.” By that time he would have already attended to his voluminous correspondence, received visitors coming with varied subjects of information, attended to the innumerable applications for information, which he was always ready to give. In committee until four, the business of the House and his papers required his attention  until seven ; when he would take a very frugal meal, and returning to his duties, would remain until the breaking up of the House. With all this unceasing labour, I never heard him complain of weariness, or speak an unkind word of anyone, save perhaps on public grounds. He was as hopeful as a child, and sometimes more confiding than reason seemed to justify. “

We give the following pleasant little note from Mr. Cobden to Sir Joshua, enclosing him a letter of Mr. Hume’s, for one line of it gives us his estimate of the man :

” Hayling Island, Hants, 16th September, 1848.

“My dear Walmsley,

” I have to-day received the enclosed from Hume, for you. I suppose he is impatient to get to work again. What a granite body and soul the old boy must have. We are enjoying fine weather here. It is out of the world, five miles away from a shop, and not a politician to be found in a long day’s ramble.

” Believe me, faithfully yours,

“Richard Cobden.”

One more quotation from Sir Joshua’s note-book, and we close this sketch of the friend he valued above all others. It bears upon Mr. Hume’s friendship with the Duke of Kent, which proved to have some influence on the history of our present Queen.

” It is so much a matter of history, that it is not indelicate to allude to the fact of the Duke’s pecuniary difficulties. Hume became the Duke’s trustee, and for many years managed his estate, and cleared it of every claim. The Duke of Kent lived abroad, and had it not been that Mr. Hume guaranteed five thousand pounds, the Duchess could not have come over to England, and the Queen’s birth would have taken place on foreign soil. After the death of the Duke, Mr. Hume became one of the confidential advisers of the Duchess of Kent, taking an active part in the arrangements for the education of the young Princess. I have often heard him speak of the great maternal solicitude of the Duchess. She was indefatigable in her efforts to train aright her daughter’s mind She never left her, kept a minute of every day’s employment, striving incessantly to guide her infant mind far from guile or pride. “

” Mr. Hume also often spoke to me of the fears she entertained lest the machinations of George IV. should be successful in obtaining the control of her child’s education. At these discussions the youthful Princess was sometimes present, listening attentively to the conversations of her mother and Mr. Hume. George IV. at last was deterred from his object, by Mr. Hume declaring his determination to bring the whole subject before the House of Commons. “

It seems to us that we cannot do better than give here a letter of Mr. Hume’s to Sir Joshua, which contains a retrospective view of his long, laborious life, and is a confession of faith. It somewhat forestalls our narrative; but it aptly closes this slight summary of his work. The letter was addressed to Sir Joshua when the latter, ill in health and harassed by the heavy responsibilities entailed by his presidency of the National Freehold Society, had written to Mr. Hume in weariness of spirit, that he wished to retire from the post.

Enclosed in his letter we find a prescription, and some direction as to diet and exercise, signed ” Joseph Hume, M.D., without a fee. “ This explains the allusion contained in the first paragraph. It is dated from his seat in Norfolk, December 27th, 1851.

” My dear Sir Joshua,

” I thank you for your letter, as it will enable me to give you some simple directions for your own health, without which your labours will be a trouble instead of a pleasure. I enclose a few plain and simple suggestions, which, if attended to, may keep you in working trim, and thus enable you to be useful in your day. “

” You say, why should I work and toil to effect reform at so great a sacrifice of health, time, and money ? You are a beginner, I am an old stager in reform. You confine, perhaps properly, your energies to one subject, ‘Reform of Parliament,’ whilst I have gone through every department of Church and State, civil and military, which has engrossed my time, attention, and finances, for the last forty consecutive years — often against enormous odds and under very discouraging circumstances ; always against the mass of the public servants of the ministry for the time being. But I had laid down to myself this rule, that whilst I was independent in circumstances and fortunate in my progress to a seat in Parliament, I should do my best to improve the condition of my less fortunate fellow- countrymen by reforming and improving the institutions of the country in which we lived. “

” Although a  ‘Radical’— by-the-by, a phrase first used by myself — and at one time a very ill-received character by the higher classes, I have never been anxious to destroy our institutions, but zealous to improve them. I have considered the theory of a limited monarchy, with representative institutions and freedom of the press, as the best form of government that I could suggest ; and all my efforts have been directed only to amend where defective, or to change where circumstances had altered the operation and effects of some of the branches or departments of our public institutions ; but always keeping in view that a government was a convention in society, by which the laws and regulations of the State should secure the greatest amount of happiness to the greatest number of the people. In fact, I consider the government made for the benefit of the people at large, and not for the advantage of the few, and on that I have ever acted. I found class interests and the benefits of our institutions to exist to a great extent to the injury of the many, and the cause (by misrule) of misery to the mass of the people ; and my whole efforts, during a long political struggle under most unfavourable circumstances (at times), have been devoted to effect such reforms as should secure the advantages which the struggles of our ancestors had endeavoured by liberal institutions to give to the nation. “

” I wanted nothing for myself, and therefore could always take that course which, in my judgment, appeared best calculated to secure the happiness of the mass of the people, for whom few seemed to care; and with these objects in view, my labours have been, though very severe and sometimes to the risk of my health, a source of satisfaction — often of real pleasure — by the successes that have at times attended, though sometimes very tardily, those labours. I hope I shall be able to conclude my political career (now approaching to its termination), without sacrificing any of the great principles of civil and religious liberty that I have uniformly advanced and advocated, and that I shall not have to regret (as many of my fellow-labourers must have done) the relinquishment of public advocacy for private advantage. I hope when I lay my head on my pillow, never again to raise it, that I may be able conscientiously to be satisfied with my public and private acts, and further, to think that I have not lived in vain, but have acted for the benefit of my fellow-creatures everywhere. Follow my advice and put the same questions to yourself, so that they may regulate your conduct. Wishing you success, “

” I remain, yours sincerely, “

” Joseph Hume, ”

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XVI.

CHAPTER XVI. This chapter is taking us back into politics. The frame-work knitters referred to in the chapter were producing knitted cloth, and lace. It was very much a cottage industry working from home doing piece-work. Basically they had a pretty appalling life. The tiny stitches in the fabric they were producing ruined people’s eyesight quite quickly. The frames used were rented from middlemen, so were expensive to use, and the knitters were working for poverty wages. Sir Henry Halford was the Tory M.P. for Southern Leicestershire, so Josh supporting his Bill to reduce the influence of middlemen was a cross-party effort. Petitioning against the elected M.P.’s was an almost standard procedure at the time, and was sometimes successful, sometimes not. Finally to the briefest mention of family – ” Death had been busy, too, in his own family. ” This one sentence covers the deaths of probably two daughters.  Adeline – Josh’s fourth child, born in 1824 had died at Ranton Abbey in 1842 aged 18, and another daughter Mary born in 1832 died the same year. It’s a curiously cold sentence from Hugh about two younger sisters. There is even the intriguing possibility that it could refer to Josh’s mother as well; she gets the briefest of mentions in chapter one ” Mrs. Walmsley is described as a woman of energy and ability.” and ” but trouble…….. the husband and wife separated. ” It is entirely possible that she could have died in her late seventies around this time. But almost nothing is known about her, and she doesn’t seem to have been part of his life since his very early childhood.

  

Some time previous to Mr. Stephenson’s death, Sir Joshua had left Ranton Abbey. Death had been busy, too, in his own family. Country pursuits began to pall on him, and so when in the spring of 1847 a numerously-signed requisition was forwarded to him from the inhabitants of Leicester, he finally made up his mind to contest that borough. He was no stranger to the town, for the extensive collieries of Snibstone and Whitwick adjoined and supplied it. In June, 1847, Parliament died a natural death. The condition of the frame-work knitters had long excited his warm interest. These people worked from twelve to sixteen hours a day, not un-frequently losing their eyesight after some years of this labour, after earning on an average about six shillings a week, all charges deducted. Sir Henry Halford had brought this state of things before Parliament, but with no result. The words of one of these poor fellows, before a Parliamentary committee, will sum up their case better than any description that we can give of it : “ There is no race of people under the sun,” he said, “ so oppressed as we are, who work the hours we do for the pay we get.” During Sir Joshua’s connection with Leicester he was continually battling against their wrongs. The extortions of the middlemen, who hired out the frames at arbitrary prices, and who had the giving out of the work, ground the unfortunate labourers to the dust. These middlemen had virtually become their masters, and it was asserted loudly that, besides charging a percentage on the work they gave, they actually paid a lower price for it than that which they themselves received from the manufacturers.

Bell Hotel, Leicester. It was originally a Georgian coaching inn.

Sir Joshua’s address to the electors was in substance, much the same as that issued to the electors of Liverpool years before. The two candidates were introduced to the constituency. A crowd had assembled before Bell’s Hotel, from the balcony of which the candidates spoke. Somewhat apart hung a group of careworn-looking men, gathered around a cart, in which stood one man, evidently the leader of the opposition. These were the frame-workers, and their leader was George Buckby, who had stated his determination to contest the borough, should he not be satisfied with the Liberal candidates. At the close of Sir Joshua’s speech he rose, and drew a vivid picture of the frame-workers’ wrongs, to which the knitters listened eagerly.

Referring to Sir Henry Halford’s Bill, Mr. Buckby asked Sir Joshua if he could pledge himself to vote for a similar bill, should one be brought forward in the next Parliament. Sir Joshua’s answer was direct and to the point. He would not pledge himself to vote for any bill before he knew whether its provisions would be really beneficial. ” I tell you,” he said, ” that we never can either directly or indirectly legislate on the question of the rate of wages. “ As the crowd cheered this sentiment the knitters muttered “Shame ! ” “The rights of labour, “ continued Sir Joshua, ” are sacred to the poor man, and I shall be the last to interfere with those rights. But if it is shown to me that injustice is done to you, I shall receive any information you are willing to give me, and then see what can be done to remove the injustice. But you must first make your minds up clearly upon the subject, discuss it fairly and calmly, and let us know the result. I shall not pledge myself to any particular measure ; but this I assure you, that not this measure alone, but every bill that comes before me which promises really to benefit the working classes, that is my bill, and that shall have my support. In benefiting the working-man I benefit the whole community, for I know the rich and powerful are able to take care of themselves.”

Mr. Buckby declared that the drift of Sir Joshua’s answer was that no legislative interference would be of any use to the frame-work knitters, and accordingly he announced his intention of going to the poll and opening houses in different parts of the town.

Two nights after, Sir Joshua again met the electors at the New Hall. The building was crowded ; several knitters had succeeded in securing places. ” The quietness of their demeanour, “ he says, ” and the attention with which they followed my speech were noticeable throughout, and contrasted with the aggressiveness with which they had met me on the previous evening. ”

The day following this meeting there appeared a handbill, signed by a number of frame-work knitters, amongst which figured conspicuously the signature of Mr. Buckby, calling upon the working classes to vote for Sir Joshua Walmsley and Mr. Gardiner; Mr. Buckby, satisfied with the Liberal candidates’ views, had renounced his intention of endeavouring to enter Parliament.

The election took place on the 31st July. Before five o’clock in the morning, the streets were full of bustle. It was an anxious day for the knitters, who crowded the market-place before the polling hour. Sir Joshua’s name headed the first return, Mr. Gardiner came after him, and to the end of the contest the two Liberals kept their places. At four o’clock the mayor proclaimed their election.

Sir Joshua now set himself to inquire into the cause of the great misery of the frame- work knitters.

” Before the opening of Parliament, “ he says, ” I spent much time in Leicester, personally visiting and receiving visits from the workmen. It was with the determination to advocate their cause, and if possible to obtain some amelioration of their lot, that I took my seat in the House. ”

When Sir Henry Halford again brought forward his bill. Sir Joshua strenuously supported the proposed inquiry. ” In the midland counties,” he said, in the course of his speech, ” there are thirty-six thousand frames, each supporting on an average three or four individuals, so that the population employed in frame- work knitting amounts to one hundred and twenty or one hundred and thirty thousand souls.”  He drew a vivid picture of the destitution which he had himself witnessed.

On the occasion of Sir Joshua’s first speech in Parliament, Mr. Hume and he took opposite views of the question at issue. The former, opposing all interference between workmen and masters, voted against Sir Henry Halford’s Bill. It is one of the few instances in which, during the period they worked together in Parliament, Sir Joshua’s and Mr. Hume’s votes were opposed.

” The career which I was now eagerly entering upon, “ says Sir Joshua, ” was suddenly cut short.  A petition against the member for Leicester, on the plea of bribery, was sent up to Parliament by the Tories. No sooner was the petition presented, than the leading Liberals in Leicester subscribed a fund more than sufficient at the very outset to cover all expenses, and engaged the services of eminent counsel to defend their representatives. “

” It was some time before a Parliamentary inquiry was granted. Most of the frivolous charges against Mr. Gardiner and myself melted before the cross examination of our counsel. One charge, however, our opponents were able to substantiate. Some bills at two public-houses that were wont to hang out the Liberal colours had been left unsettled at a previous election by the Liberal candidates. These bills our agents had paid. The committee, clearing us of all connivance in the matter, reported the result of the inquiry to the Houses, and towards the end of August a new writ was issued for the borough of Leicester. “

” I was deeply hurt by the slur cast upon my election. I was disheartened also at being interrupted in the work I had so far gone into connected with the cause of the frame-work knitters. On the news reaching Leicester of the issuing of a new writ, a meeting was called in the town. Its purpose was, first, to deplore the loss of their representatives; secondly, to clear the borough from the charge of corruption, by determinedly acting upon the principle of purity of election. Mr. Ellis and Mr. Harris, who had been our zealous supporters, came forward as candidates, and their nomination and election were uncontested. ”

Sir Joshua pledged himself to his late constituents to stand for Leicester the first opportunity that presented itself. He was to redeem his pledge a few years later, and that also of calling the attention of Parliament to the condition of the knitters.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XV.

CHAPTER XV. This is mostly 1845. George Hudson (1800-1871) was an English railway financier and politician who, because he controlled a significant part of the railway network in the 1840s, became known as “The Railway King”. Eventually in 1849, a series of enquiries launched by the railways he was chairman of, exposed his methods, and it was established that he was essentially running a Ponzi scheme paying dividends from capital. He had been elected M.P for Sunderland in 1845, and so was immune from arrest for debts. He become bankrupt in 1853, and after losing his Sunderland seat in 1859, he fled abroad to avoid arrest for debt, returning only when imprisonment for debt was abolished in 1870.  General Narvaez was the Prime Minister of Spain. Sir Joseph Paxton was the head gardener at Chatsworth House, so close to Stephenson at Tapton House; he also designed the Crystal Palace, and was the M.P for Coventry for eleven years.

George Hudson (1800-1871)

At this time the railway mania was at its height, and a company was formed to construct a line from Madrid to the Bay of Biscay. George Hudson was to be chairman. Sir Joshua travelled to Spain to inquire personally into details, and his report was unfavourable. This occasioned great discontent ; but it was only when George Stephenson offered to accompany him on a second voyage, and gratuitously give two months of his time, in order to survey the most difficult parts of the line, that Sir Joshua consented to a second journey. [This was the early autumn of 1845]

” Stephenson,” he writes, ” was a wonderful travelling companion. We travelled in an open barouche, and his keen eye was ever on the alert. Though abounding with difficulties, Stephenson asserted that they could be overcome, while at the same time he fully justified my refusal to deposit the caution- money. On reaching Madrid, Stephenson dictated one of those lucid reports he excelled in, setting forth the obstacles and consequent heavy cost, at the same time showing the importance of the line, and making stipulations in favour of the Anglo-Spanish Company. “

” Several interviews took place with General Narvaez, but all ended in a great show of politeness, great speeches, and nothing else. A bull-fight was organised in our honour ; but at last, to bring matters to a point, I notified that Mr. Stephenson and I would wait a week longer for the reply of the Government, and in the name of the English company refused to enter further into the scheme until our terms were agreed to. “

Eastern Pyrenees

The week elapsed and still no answer came, so the travellers set their faces homewards. They took the more easterly direction and crossed the higher range of the Pyrenees, travelling, as they came, in the open barouche. ” The old man,” says Sir Joshua, ” usually sat with a map spread over his knees, and a pencil in his hand with which he marked down very accurately the villages as we passed. He enjoyed pointing out on the map the exact spot on which we were standing. “

” One day, after a weary ascent of several hours, during which Stephenson had marked out our route with pencil dots, he looked up and said : ‘ Walmsley, we’ll reach the summit in ten minutes now.’ ‘Nay, we’ve passed it already, we’re going down,’ I answered. “

” This reply was almost too much for the old man’s equanimity, always easily ruffled at contradiction. ‘You know nothing about it; it will take us ten minutes to reach the summit, I tell you,’ he said testily. After a short silence he threw down the map. ‘The map is all wrong,’ he growled. ‘ Nay, it was I who was wrong,’ he added, correcting himself a minute after. ‘ How did you know we were going down that time ? ‘ ‘While you were buried in your map I caught sight of a stream, and we were going down with it,’ I answered, laughing ; the old man joined in the laugh. ‘ Better look at nature than all the maps. You’ve beaten the old engineer for once,’ quoth he. “

” Another day the Spanish muleteers were urging their mules to a tremendous pace. ‘ No machinery could stand this pull,’ said Stephenson, and turning to our interpreter requested him to tell the driver to moderate his speed. The muleteers grinned in answer ; they evidently enjoyed what they took to be a token of the fright of the Englishmen, they therefore lashed and urged on their mules to go faster still. ‘ Another can play at the same game,’ said Stephenson, with the sense of fun that often made him seem but a boy in years ; and standing up he clapped his hands and he hallooed, evidently bent upon making the mules go faster and yet faster still. The muleteers were astonished ; the Englishmen after all were not frightened, and so they abated the speed and performed the rest of their journey at a reasonable trot.”

Les Gorges de la Dordogne

The travellers’ way now lay across France, and in this part of their journey occurred the two following incidents. ” We crossed on foot, “ says Sir Joshua, ” the chain-bridge suspended over the Dordogne. ‘Let us go over it again,’ said Stephenson, when we had reached the other side. Accordingly over it again we went, the ‘ old man ‘ walking very slowly with head bent down, as if he were listening to and pondering over every step he took. ‘ The bridge is unsafe, it will give way at the first heavy trial it meets with,’ he said, decisively, at last ‘We had better warn the authorities, your name will carry weight,’ I replied. We went to the mayor, we were politely received, and we related the object of our visit. The mayor shrugged his shoulders with polite incredulity ; he assured us that the engineer who had built the bridge was an able man. Stephenson urged his warning, supporting the interpreter’s words with gestures and rough diagrams drawn on the spot. Still the French official shrugged his shoulders, looked incredulous, and finally bowed us out. “

Only a few months later Stephenson’s warning came true. A regiment of soldiers crossed the bridge without breaking step, the faulty structure gave way, and scores of men in heavy marching order were hurled down into the eddies of the rapid river below, where many were drowned before means of rescue could reach them.

” Another day we passed by a French line in process of construction ; the navvies were digging and removing the soil in wheelbarrows. Stephenson remarked that they were doing their work slowly and untidily. ‘ Their posture is all wrong,’ he cried; jumping out of the carriage with the natural instinct that impelled him to be always giving or receiving instruction, he took up a spade, excavated the soil and filled a wheelbarrow in half the time it took any one of the men to do it. Then further to illustrate that in the posture of the body lies half the secret of its power, he laid hold of a hammer and mallet, and poising his figure, he threw it at an immense distance before him; challenging by gestures the workmen, who had now gathered round him, and were curiously watching him, to do the same, but they one and all failed to equal the feat. The interpreter explained the lesson to the navvies, and told them who their teacher was. ‘ Ste-vim-son ! ‘ the name went from mouth to mouth. The intelligent appreciative Frenchmen gathered close around him and broke into vociferous cheers, such as I thought could only proceed from British lungs, until the echoes rang around us on every side. “

” Pressing engagements were calling us home, and we journeyed continually day and night. The fatigue and irregular hours began to tell upon the old man’s health ; by the time we reached Paris, symptoms of severe indisposition had set in. I was anxious to get him home as soon as possible, but Stephenson consented to remain a day in Paris, to avail himself of the invitation of Mr. Brassey, Mr. Mackenzie, and others to a dinner given in his honour. The next morning a special train was ready to convey us to Havre ; Stephenson was very ill, but he persisted in travelling onwards. By the time we had reached Havre, unmistakable symptoms of pleurisy had declared themselves. I got him on board, and sent for a surgeon, who bled him profusely. There is little doubt this prompt action saved his life. On reaching London, next morning, I took him to the Arundel Hotel, Haymarket, where for six weeks he remained confined to his bed. I now became his nurse and sole attendant. “

Haymarket, London

” During the first part of the time, no one else was allowed near the sick man. Stephenson’s active temperament could ill brook the inaction to which he was now condemned, and he fretted against the precautions enjoined upon him. The activity of his mind remained wholly unimpaired by the sufferings of his body, and he kept pondering over his schemes. As soon as he was able, he insisted upon dictating aloud. I was his amanuensis, and was amazed at the clearness and vigour of his intellect, at the just views he entertained, not only on railway matters, but of the characters of public men. Remembering his lack of learning, the happy illustrations he used often surprised me, as well as the correctness of his style, that seldom needed alteration in word or phrase. “

” What became of these papers I never could make out. Stephenson took possession of them, but they have not been given to the public. One treatise was devoted to the elaboration of a favourite scheme of his, for constructing a mineral or a goods train line of rail from the Derbyshire coal-fields to London. Coals and heavy goods alone were to be carried on this line. The idea originated with Mr. Charles Binns, secretary to Mr. Stephenson, and the present able manager of the Clay Cross Colliery.[Hugh neglects to mention that he was also Josh’s son-in-law, and his own brother-in-law] He had written a book upon the subject, that attracted much attention at the time. Stephenson had taken up the idea ; his arguments in its favour were strong, and in this treatise he enforced them with some eloquence. He pointed out how collisions would necessarily be avoided by the separation of the passenger and goods trains at the outset. That such an arrangement must ultimately be adopted, Stephenson was convinced ; and he advised that the construction of the goods train should go on simultaneously with that of the passenger line. I entered heartily into the plan, but in an evil hour it all fell to the ground. “

” Another paper, “ says Sir Joshua, ” dictated by Stephenson during his illness was devoted to the arguing out of his original proposal, that Government should construct and hold the Grand Trunk lines of rail through the country. He pointed out all the jobbery that would have been avoided had this plan been adopted from the first, and he fearlessly showed up the deplorable mismanagement that had occurred in railway direction. He painted George Hudson’s portrait with such keen discriminating touches, that I was amazed at the fidelity and delicacy of the delineation. At this time the railway king was at the zenith of his power, courted and toadied by the aristocracy. Stephenson predicted his speedy downfall No one appreciated more than he did the pluck, the strong will, and business capacity of Mr. Hudson ; qualities that had lifted him from his small draper’s shop in York to the place of arbiter of the fortunes of millions in England ; but that no eminence can long be held by unprincipled means, was a tenet too firmly held by the ‘ old man ‘ to allow him to be swayed or blinded by the railway king’s position. Another treatise he dictated to me was in vehement opposition to the proposed atmospheric railway. He was very positive in his condemnation of the scheme. It is told that one day, when a nobleman, a zealous advocate of atmospheric railways, said to him : ‘ Mr. Stephenson, you are a very able man, but you are not strong enough for the atmospheric system.’ With characteristic fierceness, the ‘ old man ‘ seized him by the collar and expelled him from the house. Those papers also contained some valuable observations on the steam-plough, and the heaving up of coal by machinery, in both of which experiments Stephenson believed. “

” When Stephenson’s report was laid before the board of directors, the scheme for an Anglo-Spanish railway was abandoned, and the line of conduct I had adopted in the first instance was justified. The subscribed capital, minus incurred expenses, was ultimately returned to the shareholders. So persuaded however, was Mr. Stephenson that the railway was practicable, and that when achieved it would prove of the highest importance to the Spanish nation, that he again tendered his services gratuitously as consulting engineer to the Spanish Government, should it resolve upon constructing the line during his lifetime. ”

A few more details, gathered from the notes before us, and the record of Sir Joshua’s and Mr. Stephenson’s friendship closes for ever. In them we see the latter at Tapton House, surrounded by his dogs, his horses, and his cows. His enjoyment of country life remained to the end, keen as in his boyhood. ” He was very proud of his vines, melons, and pine-apples,” says Sir Joshua, ” in the cultivation of which he would only admit Sir Joseph Paxton for rival.” Before this hale and vigorous old age many years seemed still to be stretching.

In January, 1848, Mr. Stephenson married for the third time. The marriage was contracted without Mr. Robert Stephenson’s knowledge, and it caused some ill-feeling between him and his father. Sir Joshua Walmsley became the mediator between the two. Letters before us, of a nature too delicate and private for publication, show the tact and zeal with which he pursued his self-imposed task.  No one understood better than he the strong affection that bound the father and son. Mr. Robert Stephenson has said that he never had but two loves in his life, his wife and his father; and this only son was the chief pride of the old man’s heart

Suddenly, on the 10th of August of this same year [1848], Stephenson died. A chest complaint carried him off at the age of sixty-eight, before any of the many sources of interest and enjoyment of life had begun to fail him. His son was with him— his faithful and tender nurse to the last during this illness.

Two days before the great engineer’s death came the news that the House of Lords had passed the bill for the railway from Ambergate to Manchester. Stephenson gave a feeble cheer at the tidings. He had long struggled to obtain the passing of this Act.

On Thursday, the 15th, Mr. Stephenson was buried in Trinity churchyard, Chesterfield. Mr. Robert Stephenson wrote to Sir Joshua : ” I am desirous that the funeral should be as private as possible, attended only by a few of his pupils, who like myself have been dependent upon him for our professional success. “ There was, therefore, no large gathering of mourners at the house, but the mayor and corporation of Chesterfield met the cortege on its way. A file of carriages and a train of three hundred persons followed the hearse, that was bearing to its last resting- place the body of one revered by all for the greatness of his services, and very dear to those who had known him intimately. ” He ought to be lying in Westminster Abbey, and not in a country churchyard, “ Sir Joshua often said.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XIV

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.

 

The ruins of Ranton Abbey

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. Cobden  remonstrated 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. ”

James Muspratt

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.

George Stephenson by William Daniel © Victoria and Albert Museum.

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.

Shooting Party at Ranton Abbey 1840

” 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 and  devoting 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. “

Wolseley Hall, Staffordshire.

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.

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XIII. – The 1841 Liverpool election

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.

 

Wavertree Hall, 1829

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.