« ForrigeFortsett »
Chap. Parliament met on the 23d November, and of course X' there was special allusion in the Speech from the Throne 1819- to the seditious practices which had unfortunately become Meeting of SO prevalent in the country. There were no congratulafnimTM"'' tions on the prosperity of the country, or the general *eramLt°" wellbeing of the working classes. On the contrary, the Nov. 23. Speech contained an emphatic admission of deep distress in several branches of industry.* It is not surprising that Ministers alluded to the distress which pervaded several branches of manufacturing industry, for from the papers laid before Parliament, to justify the measures of repression which were proposed, it appeared that wages in the cotton manufacture had sunk a half within the last eight months, and in most other trades in the same proportion,—a fact speaking volumes both as to the real cause which at this particular period had rendered the efforts of the demagogues so successful in disturbing the population, and the futility of the ideas of those who iPa[1-J)eb- ascribe the distress which prevailed to the excess of 422; Ann. importations, which could have had no other effect ill' 'but a beneficial one on the manufactures for the export sale,1 by diminishing the price at which the raw mate
order that the law shall be carried into execution, you will not bo under the necessity of using them ; and the good effect of this will be felt not only in these towns, but over all England. Observe also, that if training is continued after the passing of the law, which it will be unless you send a force to prevent it, the insurgents will gain a very important victory."—Wellington to Lord Sidmouth, Dec. 11, 1819; SidmoutA't Life, iii. 293.
* "The seditious practices so long prevalent in several parts of the manufacturing districts of the country, have been continued with increased activity since you were last assembled. They have led to proceedings incompatible with the public tranquillity, and with the peaceful habits of the industrious classes of the community; and a spirit is now fully manifested utterly hostile to the constitution of this kingdom, and aiming not only at the change of those political institutions which have hitherto constituted the pride and security of the country, but at the subversion of the rights of property, and of all order
in society Some depression still continues to exist in certain branches
of our manufactures, and I deeply lament the distress felt by those who more immediately depend upon them; but this depression is in a great measure to be ascribed to the embarrassed situation of other countries, and I earnestly hope it wiU be found to be of a temporary nature."— Pkince-kjso.ent's Speech, 23d Nov. 1819; Ann. Reg. for 1819, 116, 117.
rial and the subsistence for the 'workmen would be pur- Chap. chased.* x' As soon as the debates on the Address, -which were 1819
unusually long and stormy, but which terminated in large Lords'idministerial majorities in both houses, were over, Lord Sid- "cu of" mouth in the House of Lords, and Lord Castlereagh in the Commons, introduced the new measures which the Cabinet had deemed essential to meet the exigencies of the times. They were four in number, and, with the addition of two others not immediately connected with the public disturbances, were long famous in England under the name of the Six Acts. By the first, all training or practising Nov. 29. military exercises, by persons not authorised by Government, was prohibited, and persons engaged in it were declared liable to punishment by fine, or imprisonment not exceeding two years. By the second, justices of the peace were authorised to issue warrants in certain counties of England and Scotland, to search for arms or other weapons dangerous to the public peace, on a sworn information. By the third, the court was authorised, in the event of the accused allowing judgment to go by default, to order the seizure of all copies of a seditious or blasphemous libel, to be restored if the person accused was afterwards acquitted; and for the second offence banishment might be inflicted. By the fourth, no more than fifty persons were to be allowed to assemble, except in borough or county meetings called by the magistrate ; and the carrying of flags or attending such meetings armed was prohibited, and extensive powers given to justices of peace or magistrates for dispersing them. In addition to this, a bill was introduced by the Lord-Chancellor, to prevent traversing or postponing of the trial, in cases of misdemeanour, to subsequent assizes; and another in the
* "In all the great stations of the cotton manufacture, as Manchester, Glasgow, Paisley, the rate of wages had fallen on an average more than one half. This depression might be traced through the last twenty years to measures of political economy."—Lord Lahsdowne's Speech, Dec. 1, 1819; Pari. Deb. xiii. 422.
Chap. Commons by Lord Castlercagh, subjecting newspapers to certain stamps, and to prevent the abuses arising from the publication of blasphemous and seditious libels. The first and third of the first four acts alone were permanent; the second and third were temporary only in their endurance, and have long since expired. The bills were all strenuously resisted, with the exception of the first, in both houses, but were passed by large majorities,—that in the Commons, on the Seditious Meetings Bill, being 223, the numbers 351 to 128 ; in the Lords, on the same bill, 97, the numbers being 135 to 38. In regard to the Training Act, however, which is still in force, a much greater degree of unanimity prevailed. Several members of both xiu575feb' houses usually opposed to Government, but officially An7n.Rel: acquainted with the state of the country, added their is^'wd testimony to its necessity; and that the practice of sjdmouth'a training was then generally prevalent has since been
Memoirs ° o J r
iii. 302,303. admitted by the Radical leaders, and their ablest historical advocates.1 * 3g A curious but instructive circumstance took place impreiion when the Radical leaders were brought up for examinamouth Ld tion before the Privy Council, into the presence of those tiere^h*" whom they had been taught to regard as of a cruel and ?hodiudi- unrelenting disposition, and the bitterest enemies of the people. "The simple-minded men who had followed Hunt were surprised," says Miss Martineau, "when brought into the presence of the Privy Council, at the actual appearance of the rulers of the land, whom they had regarded as their cruel enemies. They found no »Martme«i, cruelty or ferocity in the faces of the tyrants2—Lord
Castlereagh, the good-looking person in a plum-coloured
* "There is, and can be, no dispute about the fact of military training; the only question ia in regard to the design or object of the practice. Numerous informations were token by the Lancashire magistrates, and transmitted to Government in the beginning of August." Bamford, the Radical annalist, assures us it was done solely with a view to tho great meeting on the 16th August at Manchester.—See Miss Martineau, i. 227; Bamfoed's Life of a Radical, i. 177, 180.
coat, with a gold ring on the little finger of his left hand, Chap.
ou which he sometimes looked while addressing them: '__
Lord Sidmouth, a tall, square, and bony figure, with thin 1820and grey hairs, broad and prominent forehead, whose mild and intelligent eyes looked forth from their cavernous orbits; his manners affable, and much more encouraging to freedom of speech than had been expected."1 "How ^Word-a often," says Thiers, " would factions the most opposite be Radi^i*;. reconciled, if they could meet and read each other's hearts." On the other hand, Hunt was far from exhibiting the constancy in adversity which, in every age, has animated the patriot and the hero. He was alternately querulous and depressed—elated by popular applause, but sadly cast down when the intoxicating draught was taken from his lips. In this there is nothing surprising; rectitude of intention is the principle which animates the patriot, who is sustained by its consciousness when aiding the people often against their will. Vanity is the prevailing passion of the demagogue, and his spirits sink the i. moment the exciting influence is withdrawn.2
The beginning of the year 1820 was marked by two events which strongly riveted the attention of the nation, Death of the and had a beneficial general effect in reviving those feelings K^*.°f of loyalty, which, though sometimes forgotten, are never ex-Jan'13, tinct in the breast of the English people. The Duke of Kent, the father of our present gracious Sovereign, had accompanied the Duchess and his infant daughter, the future Sovereign of Great Britain, to Sidmouth in Devonshire, for the benefit of change of air. There he was unfortunately exposed to wet and cold on the 13th January, which brought on a cough and inflammation of the lungs, which, notwithstanding the most active treatment, terminated fatally on the 23d of the same month. He was interred, with the usual solemnities, at Windsor on 7th February. This prince took little share in public life; and the rigorous discipline which he had found it necessary to enforce in the army, in his earlier years, when in
VOL. II. 2 D
Chap, command, had at the time given rise to considerable disx* cussion. But he had survived this temporary unpopu
1820- larity, as really estimable characters seldom fail to do; and in his latter years he possessed alike the respect of the nation and the warm affection of his personal friends. Personally intrepid, as his race have ever been, he possessed at the same time the kindness of heart and charm of manner, which in all, but in none so much as those of exalted station, are the main foundation of lasting affection. In politics he inclined to the Liberal side, as his brother the Prince-Regent and the Duke of Sussex had so long done; but he had little turn for political contentions, and shrouded himself in preference in the seclusion and enjoyments of private life. Deeds of beneficence, or the support of institutions of charity, of which he was a i Ann Re munu<icent patron, alone brought him before the eye of 1820,6; the public ; but in private, no one was more kindly in his vi. 403.' disposition, or had secured by acts of generosity a wider or more attached circle of friends.1
The death of the Duke of Kent was speedily followed Death of by that of his father, who had so long swayed the ?anT^8.111- sceptre of the realm. Towards the end of January, the health of George III., which had hitherto been surprisingly preserved during his long and melancholy mental alienation, rapidly sunk. His strength failed, his appetite left him, and it became evident that the powers of nature were exhausted. At length, at half-past eight on the 28th January, he breathed his last; and the PrinceRegent, as George IV., formally ascended the throne, of which, during ten years, he had discharged the duties. On Monday the 31st, the new sovereign was proclaimed »Ann. Reg. the usual formalities at the Palace, Temple Bar, HugheV vi Charing Cross, and other places; the members of Parliament were sworn in, and both houses immediately adjourned to the 17th February.2
Although he had lived nearly ten years in retirement, and the practical discharge of the functions of royalty by