FROM WATERLOO TO SEVASTOPOL
1. AFTER WATERLOO
 WHEN the long conflict with Napoleon ended, England expected, not unreasonably, a time of prosperity and peace.
Yet the twenty years after Waterloo, more than all others in her recent history, were full of trouble,
disorder, and distress. And for this the Napoleonic struggle itself was largely responsible.
The war was over, indeed, but the bill had still to be paid. The National Debt had risen from under
£240,000,000 to over £860,000,000, and millions a year had to be levied in taxes simply to pay the interest on
And the peace itself ruined many people. In agriculture it threatened to lower the high price of corn, which
had hitherto enabled the farmers to pay large rents and yet make a profit. For now, not being liable to
capture at sea, foreign corn could come more freely, and with farmers instead of soldiers tramping through the
fields of Europe there was more to come. Parliament met the danger by the Corn Law of 1815, which shut out
foreign grain except when wheat was very dear. This, however, failed to save the farmers, but terribly injured
the poor, especially in crowded manufacturing towns. For though wages were falling the price of food was kept
up by law.
Trade and manufactures also suffered from the peace. Foreign manufacturers, like foreign farmers, could again
compete with Englishmen, and so the foreign demand for English goods fell, especially as the Corn Law
 England from taking in exchange the wheat which Europe would have sent her. Particular industries, too, such
as gun-making, which had flourished during the trade war, found nearly all their business suddenly gone. And
farmers and manufacturers alike, having less money and less work, began to dismiss their men, till the land
teemed with unemployed, whose ranks were further swelled by thousands of soldiers and sailors whom the nation
no longer needed.
GOVERNMENT WORKERS AT THE STAMP OFFICE, LONDON.
Meanwhile village life suffered from the effects of a well-meant but disastrous system of poor relief. For
twenty years the magistrates of England—since wages were low and corn was dear—had made
"allowances" to labourers out of the rates, raising their weekly income to an amount varying according to the
size of their families. The results were appalling. Farmers, knowing that the rates would make good the
difference, paid ever lower wages, or even dismissed their men and hired them again as cheap "pauper
labourers" from the parish. Labourers, relying on large allowances, married early. The idle, since allowances
were paid without regard to merit, were encouraged in idleness. And the clergy, small freeholders, and other
ratepayers were half ruined by the ever-increasing rates.
In such conditions riots and conspiracies were to be expected. All saw that something was wrong: few
understood either the causes or the cure. Some traced all the mischief to the machines which displaced human
labour and thus caused unemployment. So, even during the war, machines were smashed by riotous gangs. Others
blamed the system
 which gave no representation in Parliament to the poorer classes, especially in towns. So there was a constant
clamouring for Parliamentary reform. A few held the reigning ministers themselves responsible. So the "Cato
Street Conspirators," in 1820, plotted to murder the whole Cabinet at dinner, but were discovered and
FASHIONS OF THE YEAR 1830.
Meanwhile the Government did little, except to pass the famous "Six Acts" of 1819—stern measures of
repression which left the grievances untouched. It was itself in a difficult position. The fight with France
had destroyed the old party divisions. It had made the Whigs a small body, discredited by Fox's violent
support of the French Revolution. It had made the Tories a huge, unwieldy body, without common beliefs or
aims, except resistance to Napoleon abroad and popular movements at home. For some years after Waterloo the
Cabinet was divided against itself on half the questions of the day—Catholic Emancipation, Free Trade,
even foreign policy.
The character of George IV—Prince Regent
from 1810 to 1820, and then king till 1830—was a further trouble. It made the Crown detested. It made the
worthless ministers still more unpopular, especially when they supported a Bill for divorcing George's
much-wronged wife. And, so far as he possessed political power, it hindered all reforms.
In all the story of England under his rule there were, perhaps, only four bright spots. One was her refusal to
let the Spanish colonies in America be forced back under
 the despotic monarchy of Spain. Another was her tardy assistance to the Greeks in their revolt against Turkish
tyranny. The third was the reform of the Criminal Law, especially the abolition of the death penalty for
scores of small offences, and the establishment of an excellent police force instead of the useless old
night-watchmen. This was largely due to Robert Peel, whose name is still preserved in the
nicknames—"Bobby "and "Peeler"—of the police whom he created.
The last was the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and all laws against Roman Catholics, who were now
excluded only from the throne and from three or four high political offices. This was the work of George IV's
last ministry, in which Wellington was Prime Minister and Peel Home Secretary. Both really disliked Catholic
Emancipation, but through fear of war in Ireland they yielded at last themselves and forced the king to yield
also. A year later George IV died.
2. THE WHIGS AND REFORM
THE FAMOUS REFORM BILL OF 1832 RECEIVING THE KING'S ASSENT BY ROYAL COMMISSION.
The short reign of William IV (1830–1837) contrasted strongly with his brother's dismal days. William himself,
if rather undignified and eccentric, was kindly and well-meaning. And the reign was full of reforms made by
the Whigs, who quickly overthrew Wellington and ruled England once more, after nearly fifty years of exile
First came the famous Reform Bill of 1832, stoutly resisted by Wellington and the other Tory peers, till, to
prevent a revolution, the king agreed to create, if necessary,
 enough peers to carry it through the House of Lords. And then the Whigs—nearly three to one in the first
reformed Parliament—abolished abuse after abuse which had lived so long only because the French
Revolution, as we have seen, had frightened away all reform.
They abolished slavery throughout the Empire, freeing existing slaves, but binding them to work a certain
number of years for their old masters, who received £20,000,000 as partial compensation for their enormous
losses by the change.
They made a first effort towards national education by granting money to various societies engaged in building
schools. They passed a Factory Act, abolishing some of the hardships suffered by children. And then, by the
Poor Law of 1834, they rearranged the whole system of poor relief.
A Poor Law Board in London was created to watch over all the local authorities, and see that the Poor Law
worked in the same way throughout the kingdom. The mischievous "allowances" vanished. The practice of
maintaining idle able-bodied men at the expense of their neighbours was ended. Henceforth only the aged and
infirm might receive "relief" in their own homes. Able-bodied men in poverty might indeed still get
assistance, but only by labouring in workhouses; and life in workhouses, though healthy, was intentionally
made so unattractive that no sober man would prefer it to honest
 paid work. Lastly, the Whigs abolished many abuses in the government of towns.
But the country was growing weary of reforms. It had no great affection for the Whig leaders. It was coming
more and more to admire their great opponent, Sir Robert Peel. He was actually Prime Minister for a few months
in 1834-35. But, failing to secure a majority in the Commons, he soon resigned. Hence, when William IV died in
1837, and his niece Princess Victoria
succeeded, it was a Whig Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, that gave her fatherly instruction in her duties.
Melbourne presently resigned of his own accord, and Peel was offered the Premiership. But as he could not
induce the Queen to dismiss the Whig ladies at the Court and appoint instead the wives and daughters of
Tories, so that her attendants might not prejudice her against her new ministers, he retired. And once more
the Whigs ruled till, in 1841, a General Election gave Peel a large majority. Then, becoming Prime Minister,
he quickly gained the respect, even the affection, of the Queen.
3. SIR ROBERT PEEL
SIR ROBERT PEEL.
Peel belonged by birth not to the aristocracy which had so long ruled England, but to those commercial classes
which were now daily becoming more important in politics. His father—another Sir Robert—a wealthy
manufacturer, secured the passing of the first Factory Act in 1802. He was a staunch Tory,
 and the younger Robert, trained in the Tory principles of Pitt, held office in three Tory ministries before
forming a Government of his own.
But more than once Peel found himself forced by circumstances to examine his inherited opinions carefully,
and, having examined them, to give them up.
These changes, which really showed his broad-mindedness and honesty, were declared by his enemies to prove his
dishonesty and want of principle. And even his own followers often thought the same. His acceptance of
Catholic Emancipation after years of opposition had already disgusted many: his acceptance of Free Trade was
presently to disgust many more.
But meanwhile, under William IV, Peel had been turning the "Tory" into the "Conservative" party. Owing to the
French Revolution a Tory had come to mean a man opposed to all changes, good or bad—a man whose only
argument was that what had been good enough for his father was good enough for him. But this was not at all
like the Toryism of Pitt in his early days, or of Peel himself, the reformer of the criminal law.
So Peel—accepting the Reform Act of 1832, and supporting the Poor Law Act of 1834—called himself
not a Tory but a Conservative. And by a Conservative he meant not a man who denied the need of reform, but one
who insisted that reformers must be cautious, and preserve uninjured the great national institutions in Church
and State. The Conservative must differ from the Whig—now called a Liberal—because the Liberal
 thought first of reform and only afterwards of preservation. And he must differ still more from the extreme
Liberal or Radical, whose very name announced his eagerness to pull evil things up by the roots.
Peel was supported not only by the old Tory classes—the squires and clergy—but by the shrewd and
cautious middle class, which had received the vote in 1832. In some ways he held a stronger position than any
Prime Minister before or since. He was undisputed master in his own Cabinet. He was free from all danger of
such interference by the Crown as had baffled Pitt. And he firmly refused to be dictated to by his own party.
Parties, he said, were led too much by their tails, rather than their heads. But "heads see and tails are
blind," and—conscious of his own superior knowledge and ability—he claimed the right to act always
as he himself thought best for the country, whether or not his action agreed with old Conservative traditions.
This claim to independence eventually destroyed his power, but first it enabled him to do great service to his
Peel's ministry was a time of peace in Europe. In the East a Chinese war secured Hong Kong; an Indian war
secured the Punjab; and an Afghan war led only to disaster. At home something was done for factory workers and
something for Ireland. But by far the most famous of Peel's measures were his great Free Trade Budgets. He
found the nation's income less than its expenditure. He determined to put this right by immensely reducing the
taxes on exports and imports,
 relying, like Pitt before him, on such a growth of trade in consequence as would make the lower duties far
more profit-able than the old. And to supply the deficiency, meanwhile, he revived Pitt's plan of an income
tax, though he fixed it at a lower rate, charged it only on incomes over £150, and hoped eventually to abolish
The result more than fulfilled his expectations. Every year trade grew and the revenue increased. So in 1845
he abolished, with great success, all export duties on British goods, and import duties on over four hundred
articles. But he was preparing trouble for himself in his own party. The country gentlemen who sat behind him
in the Commons were growing ever more uneasy. Deriving their wealth from agricultural rents, they resented the
lowering of duties on foreign cattle and dairy produce; for it threatened their tenants—the
farmers—with foreign competition and a fall in prices, which would mean in time a fall of rents.
Already, for several years, Richard Cobden of Manchester, and the Quaker orator and manufacturer, John Bright
of Birmingham, had been leading the Anti-Corn Law League in its demand for the repeal of the corn duties. And
Peel, declaring that he wished "to make England a cheap place to live in," seemed dangerously like a Corn Law
repealer. So a mutiny began.
The rebels were urged on by Benjamin Disraeli, who, though himself neither a country gentleman nor an
Englishman by birth, was better able than any English squire to give effective voice to their feeling. He was
a master of scorn and mockery, and no attacks on Peel were more damaging than the bitter taunts
 of this rebellious follower. 'The Prime Minister's Conservatism,' he declared, 'was a hypocrisy; he had
betrayed alike his party and his nation; a thief in political life—he had "caught the Whig statesmen
bathing, and walked away with their clothes"—for, though in name a Conservative, he was in policy a
And presently the starvation of Irish peasants drove Peel to advance even faster than he wished along the
course which he had chosen. He had indeed long known that sooner or later the Corn Laws must go, but he
naturally shrank from once again leading the attack on an institution which he had long defended, as he had
led it in the case of Catholic Emancipation. But the Irish famine of 1845 forced him to act at once. His
colleagues resisted him, and he resigned. But the Liberals could not form a Government, so Peel became Prime
Minister again, pledged to "Repeal," and, backed by the Opposition, carried it through Parliament.
But this triumph of his policy was the death-knell of his power. It was won by the help of opponents and in
the teeth of many friends. And in the very hour of victory he fell. For the angry country gentlemen took a
prompt revenge. The same night that his Repeal Act passed the Lords in 1846 his "Coercion Bill" for Ireland
was thrown out in the Commons. The country gentlemen, in their turn, had voted with the Liberals. Three days
later he resigned, never to return to office, and, after generously supporting his successors for some years
as a private member of Parliament, he died in 1850 from the effects of a riding accident in Hyde Park.
4. RUSSELL AND PALMERSTON
 For the next twenty years the Liberals ruled England almost continuously. Their chiefs were Lord John Russell,
a member of the old Whig House of Bedford, and Lord Palmerston, an Irish peer famous mainly for his spirited
defence of the rights—perhaps, occasionally, even of the wrongdoings—of English subjects abroad.
Each in turn was Foreign Secretary while the other was Prime Minister. Neither wholly approved the other's
policy. Russell, as Premier, backed by the Queen, condemned Palmerston's habit of acting independently in
foreign affairs, and once, for so doing, even compelled him to resign. Palmerston, when he was supreme,
refused the reforms at home which Russell wanted. Once a different Liberal leader had to be chosen because
neither of these two would serve under the other. And three times, owing to Liberal quarrels, a Conservative
ministry, headed by Lord Derby but guided by Disraeli, held office for a short space, though never possessing
a majority in the Commons.
These twenty years were a stirring time in Europe. In France a Kingdom was overthrown in favour of a Republic,
which presently became an Empire. In Germany Prussia fought her way to the headship of the German nation, her
king soon after being elected German Emperor. In Italy the brilliant statesman Cavour and the heroic soldier
Garibaldi overthrew the Bourbon tyrant in the south and the Austrian foreigner in the north, and built up an
Italian nation. In the Austrian Empire, Hungary—in the Russian
 Empire, Poland—struggled like Italy, though vainly, for freedom and independence as a nation. And beyond
the Atlantic—in the United States—North and South waged a terrible civil war over the question of
slavery and the rights of individual States.
But for England it was at home almost a time of barrenness. National feeling in Ireland was partly responsible
for a little Irish rising at the beginning of the period and the Fenian outrages at the end, but that was all.
And, when in 1848, the champions of liberty set every throne on the Continent rocking, England saw only the
absurd conclusion of the "Chartist Movement." For ten years Radicals had demanded a "People's Charter,"
intended to secure to all men equal representation in Parliament. And now a great army of London "Chartists"
was to carry to Parliament a petition said to bear five million signatures.
But the zeal of the demonstrators was fatally damped, partly by Wellington, who guarded London with armed
troops backed by two hundred thousand "special constables," and partly by the weather, which was miserably
wet. And the great petition, taken to Westminster in three cabs, proved to contain not five but less than two
million names, many even of these being fictitious. Thus "the People's Charter" died of ridicule, and later
and more sober attempts at Parliamentary Reform failed also, though in time almost all the proposals of the
Chartists became law.
Nor did England share actively in any of the many movements for national freedom abroad. Indeed, the only war
she waged in Europe—the Crimean War with
 Russia in 1854-56—was fought to aid the tyrannical Sultan of Turkey. England feared that Russia would
seize Constantinople and so control the eastern Mediterranean. She foolishly believed that Turkey would agree,
without coercion, to rule her Christian subjects better. And so, allied with France, she joined the Sultan,
and attacked Russia in the Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea.
The war, however, was thoroughly mismanaged. Three great battles were fought—at the Alma, Balaclava, and
Inkerman. Each proved the bulldog courage of the English soldier, but none had any great results. Only, at
Balaclava, three incidents occurred which rank among the most glorious memories of the British Army. First the
93rd Highlanders—an infantry regiment—standing alone in line, repelled, simply by their fire, a
charge of Russian cavalry. Then the Heavy Brigade of cavalry, only three hundred strong, hurled itself against
two or three thousand Russian horse, and cut its way triumphantly through. Lastly, the "gallant Six Hundred"
of the Light Brigade made their magnificent charge into the "jaws of death," against a whole army.
Down a valley two miles long they galloped, under the double fire of enemies on either side, right on to the
Russian batteries, whose shot and shell had torn their ranks as they came, and then they turned and galloped
back again, leaving more than half their number dead or wounded on the ground. The famous comment of a French
general summed up at once the moral splendour and the practical
 uselessness of the deed: "It is magnificent; but it is not war!"
For the rest, the siege of Sevastopol, the great Crimean fortress, taxed heavily the resources of both French
and English. Throughout it was mismanaged. The Russians were allowed time to fortify a place originally very
weak. The positions of the Allies were badly chosen. And the English troops, even more than the French,
suffered frightful hardships.
The War Office, not expecting a winter campaign, had made no provision for it; and besides it had forgotten,
in forty years of peace, how to clothe and feed an army. So, frozen and starved, the soldiers perished by
hundreds in the trenches, or crowded the hospitals with the sick and dying. And the hospitals themselves were
only scenes of misery and disorder till the heroic Florence Nightingale brought out her band of nurses, and
began that work which opened a new chapter in the care of the sick and wounded in war.
And when at last Sevastopol fell, and peace was made, France and England gained nothing, and Russia accepted
limitations on her power only till a good opportunity came to cast them off.
A VIEW AT THE GREAT EXHIBITION OF 1851
For English commerce and English colonies, however, this was a prosperous time. Gladstone, as Chancellor of
the Exchequer in Liberal ministries, continued the Free Trade policy of Peel,
 reducing the number of imports still paying duty from 419 to 48. A wise commercial treaty was made with
France. And meanwhile railways, steamships, and telegraphs had made communication between distant places ever
easier. So England's trade and wealth increased by leaps and bounds, the more rapidly because other countries,
especially America, were distracted from commerce by war.
In 1851 Queen Victoria's husband—the Prince Consort, her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, whom she
had married in 1840—arranged a great Exhibition in London. The "Crystal Palace"—a huge building of
glass and iron—was erected in Hyde Park, and there were shown specimens of natural products and
manufactures from every quarter of the globe. All the nations were represented, and the Prince
 dreamed that now, perhaps, they would cease from war, and give themselves instead to friendly rivalry in
industry and trade.
His hopes of peace were, indeed, dismally disappointed, for even before his death, only ten years later, three
wars were waged in Europe. Yet the Exhibition did good work in fostering trade and showing its ever-increasing
importance in national and international affairs. It showed, too, how fast the colonies were developing, for
half the treasures in the Exhibition came from British lands. Canada and Australia were indeed gaining
enormously in wealth, population, and liberty. More than three million emigrants left the Mother Country in
some twenty years, and most of them settled in her colonies.
Again, the period was remarkable in the history of science. The great inventions by which, in the eighteenth
century, the forces of nature were harnessed for the service of man, were continued. But further, men like
Charles Lyell and Adam Sedgwick in geology, William Hooker in botany, Michael Faraday and John Tyndall in
chemistry and physics, and many others in other branches of science, now earned fame by revealing much that
had hitherto been Nature's secret as to the history of the earth and of the plants and animals upon it. Above
all, in 1859, after many years of patient study, Charles Darwin published his famous Origin of Species,
which, more than any other book ever written, changed the opinions of the scientific world on such subjects.
And in the footsteps of Darwin followed an ever-growing band of disciples, who built on the foundations which
he had laid.