Imágenes de páginas

on their weakness of

practicable in a free state, the doctrines of absolutism. But victories and glory crowned their efforts, and increased their strength; while the Whigs, by condemning their foreign and military policy, exposed themselves to the reproach of unpatriotic sentiments, which went far to impair their popularity.

But notwithstanding the power of ministers, the great force of the Tory party was being gradually Growing undermined. The king, indeed, was

the Tory par side: the House of Lords was theirs, by connec- ty: its causes. tion and creations: the House of Commons was theirs, by nomination and influence: the church was wholly theirs, by sentiment, interest, and gratitude. But the fidelity of their followers could not always be relied on ;1 and great changes of sentiment and social conditions were being developed in the country. The old squires were, perhaps, as faithful as ever; but their estates were being rapidly bought by wealthy capitalists, whom the war, commerce, manufactures, and the stock exchange had enriched. The rising generation of country gentlemen were, at the same time, more open to the convictions and sympathies of an age which was gradually emancipating itself from the narrow political creed of their fathers.

Meanwhile commercial and manufacturing industry was rapidly accumulating large populations, drawn from the agricultural counties. Towns were continually encroaching upon the country; and everywhere the same uniform law prevailed, which associates activity and enterprise with a spirit of political progress, and social inertness with senti

1 See Letter of Duke of Wellington to the Duke of Buckingham, March 6th, 1822. — Court and Cabinets of Geo. IV., i, 292.

2 Lord Redesdale, writing to Lord Sidmouth, Dec. 11th, 1816, said: "Many of the old country gentlemen's families are gone, and I have no doubt that the destruction of their hereditary influence has greatly contributed to the present insubordination. ... We are rapidly becoming - if we are not already - a nation of shopkeepers.” Lord Sidmouth's Life, iii. 162



ments opposed to political change. The great industrial communities were forcing the latent seeds of democracy: the counties were still the congenial soil of Toryism. But the former were ever growing and multiplying: the latter were stationary or retrograde. Hence liberal opinions were constantly gaining ground among the people."

A Tory government was slow to understand the spirit of Democratic

the times, and to adapt its policy to the temper

and condition of the people. The heavy bur provoked by

dens of the war, and the sudden cessation of the war expenditure, caused serious distress and discontent, re1817-1820. sulting in clamors against the government, and the revival of a democratic spirit among the people. These symptoms were harshly checked by severe repressive measures, which still further alienated the people from the gorernment; while the Whigs, by opposing the coercive policy of ministers, associated themselves with the popular cause. There had generally been distrust and alienation between the democrats, or Radicals, and the aristocratic Whigs. The latter had steadily maintained the principles of constitutional liberty: but bad shown no favor to demagogues and visionaries." But the events of 1817 and 1819 served to unite the Whigs with the democratic party, — if not in general sympathy, yet in a common cause ; and they gained in weight and influence by the accession of a more popular following. Colbett, Ilunt, and other demagogues denounced them for their moderation, and scoffed at them

Depuis que les travaux de l'intelligence furent devenus des sources de force et de richesses, on dut considérer chaque développement de la science, chaque connaisance nouvelle, chaque idée neuve, comme un germe de puissance, mis a la portée du peuple." De Tocqueville, Democratie en Amer., i. 4.

2 See infra, p. 195.

8 In 1819, Hunt and his followers, for the first time, assumed the name of Radical Reformers. — Lord Sidmouth's Life, üi. 217; Cooke's Hist. of Party, iii. 511.

4 Earl Grey's Life and Opinions, 212-254.


as aristocratic place-hunters :1 mobs scouted their pretensions to liberality ; ? but the middle classes, and large numbers of reflecting people, not led by mob-orators or democratic newspapers, perceived that the position of the Whigs was favorable to the advancement of constitutional liberty, and supported them. In leaning to the popular

Separation of cause, however, they were again separated from the GrenLord Grenville and his friends, who renewed the Whigs, their ancient connection with the Tories.8 Meanwhile, on the death of Mr. Ponsonby, the leadership of the opposition had at length fallen upon Mr. Tierney."

The popular sentiments which were aroused by the proceedings against Queen Caroline again brought the

The Whigs Whigs into united action with the Radicals and and Queen the great body of the people. The leading Whigs espoused her cause ; and their parliamentary eminence and conspicuous talents placed them in the front of the popular movement.

While the Whigs were thus becoming more closely associated with popular sentiments, a permanent change Increasing in the condition of the people was gradually in- enlightenin creasing their influence in public affairs. Edu- people. cation was being rapidly extended, and all classes were growing more enlightened. The severities of successive governments had wholly failed in repressing the activity of


1 See Cobbett's Register, 1818, 1819, 1820, passim; Edinburgh Review, June 1818, p. 198. Mr. Tierney said, Nov. 231, 1819: “It was impossible to conceive any set of men under less obligations to the Radicals than the Whigs were.

True it was that ministers came in for a share of abuse and disapprobation : but it was mild and merciful compared with the castigation which their opponents received." Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xli. 74; Remains of Mrs. Trench, 44.

2 See Canning's Speech on the State of the Nation. — Hans. Deb., 1st Ser., xxxvi. 1423.

8 Court and Cabinets of the Regency, ii. 347–366; Lord Sidmouth's Life, iii., 297; Life and Opinions of Earl Grey, 125, 351-384; Lord Col. chester's Diary, iii. 94, 99, &c.

• Lord Colchester's Diary, iii. 69, &c



press : : the fear of democracy had died out: the opposition speakers and writers had widely disseminated liberal principles; and public opinion was again beginning to assert its right to be heard in the councils of the state.

The Tory party could not fail to respond, in some measure, to this spirit; and the last few years of Lord Liverpool's administration were signalized by many wise and liberal measures, which marked the commencement of a new era in the annals of legislation. In domestic policy, Mr. Peel and Mr Huskisson were far in advance of their party : in foreign policy, Mr. Canning burst the strait bands of an effete die plomacy, and recognized the just claims of nations, as well as the rights of sovereigns. But the political creed of the dominant party was daily becoming less in harmony with the sentiments of an enlightened people, whom the Constitution was supposed to invest with the privileges of self-government. Men like Lord Eldon were out of date ; but they still ruled the country. Sentiments which, in the time of Mr. Perceval, had been accepted as wise and statesmanlike, were beginning to be ridiculed by younger men, as the drivellings of dotards ; but they prevailed over the arguments of the ablest debaters and public writers of the day. And looking beyond the immediate causes which contrib

uted to the growth of democratic sentiment in kprend of

England, we must embrace in our more distant

view the general upheaving of society throughout Europe and America, during the last fifty years. The people of the United States had established a great republic. The revolutionary spirit of France - itself, again, the result of deeper causes had spread with epidemic subtlety over the civilized world. Ancient monarchies had been overthrown, and kings discrowned, as in a drama. The traditional reverence of the people for authority had been shaken: their idols had been cast down. Men were now taught to respect their rulers less, and themselves more: to assert their

1 See Chap. XVIII.



own rights and to feel their own power. In every country, — whatever its form of government,- democracy was gaining strength in society, in the press, and in the sentiments of the people. Wise governments responded to its expansive spirit: blind and bigoted rulers endeavored to repress it as sedition. Sometimes trampled down by despotism, it lay smouldering in dangerous discontent: sometimes confronted with fear and hesitation, it burst forth in revolution. But in England, harmonizing with free institutions, it merely gave strength to the popular cause, and ultimately secured the triumph of constitutional liberty. Society was at the same time acquiring a degree of freedom hitherto unknown in England. Every class had felt the weight of authority. Parents had exercised a severe discipline over their children: masters a hard rule over their workpeople: every one armed with power, from the magistrate to the beadle, had wielded it sternly. But society was gradually asserting its claims to gentler usage and higher consideration. And this social change gave a further impulse to the political sentiments of the people.

While these changes were silently at work, the illness and death of Lord Liverpool suddenly dissolved the union of the great Tory party. He had repre- the Tories on sented the policy and political system of the late Lord Liver

pool. king and of a past generation ; and his adherents in the cabinet outnumbered the advocates of more advanced principles. Mr. Canning, the member of the cabinet most eminent for his talents, and long the foremost champion of the Catholics, was now called to the head of affairs. The king did not intrust him with the power of carrying the Catholic question ;? but his promotion was the signal for the immediate retirement of the Duke of Wellington, Lord Eldon, Mr. Peel, Lord Bathurst, Lord Melville, and their

Disunion of

1 Stapleton's Canning and his Times, 582. 2 Lord Melville concurred with Mr. Canning upon the Catholic question. Lord Bexley also resigned, but withdrew his resignation.

« AnteriorContinuar »