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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

By the death of William Cobbett


On

February 19, Parliament reassembled. It was found that a working majority of Tories had been returned, but the first vote on the King's speech revealed a junction of the Whigs with O'Connell's Irish party, which foreboded disaster to the government. For the first time in Parliamentary history the Irish members held the balance of power. In vain did Sir Robert Peel attempt to stave off his downfall by the introduction of welcome measures of reform. Once more it was on a question affecting Ireland that the government was defeated. This was Peel's high commutation bill. Lord Russell in reply moved that the surplus revenues of the Irish Church be used for non-ecclesiastical purposes. In the debate that followed, Gladstone spoke strongly against the measure. For this early speech, embodying as it did views so radically different from those of his later life, he was constantly reproached during his career. It ended with the words, "I hope I shall never live to see the day when such a system shall be adopted in this country; for the consequences of it to public men will be lamentable beyond all description." O'Connell said in reply: "I shall content myself with laying down the broad principle that the emoluments of a church ought not to be raised from a people who do not belong to it.... All that the Catholics of Ireland require is justice--equal and even-handed justice."

[Sidenote: Fall of Peel's Ministry]

[Sidenote:

Melbourne's second Administration]

When the matter came to a vote the government was defeated by a majority of thirty-three. On April 8, the resignation of the Ministry was announced to Parliament. The King sent for Earl Grey, and, on his refusal to form a Ministry, was driven to the humiliating expedient of recalling Lord Melbourne. On April 18, a new Cabinet was formed, composed largely of the men who had been so summarily dismissed by the King a few months before. Lord Melbourne's second Administration was marked by the elevation of the settlements of South Australia to a Crown colony. The city of Melbourne, which was founded that year, was named in his honor.

[Sidenote: Death of William Cobbett]

An extraordinary career was ended, on June 18, by the death of William Cobbett, from overwork in Parliament. With but little school education, this remarkable man succeeded in becoming not only one of the foremost prose writers of English, but the leader of a great popular party.

[Sidenote: The Orange Lodges]

[Sidenote: Duke of Cumberland implicated]

During the early part of Lord Melbourne's Administration, the discontent and irritation prevailing in Ireland were heightened by the agitation against the Orange lodges. The original purpose of these lodges had been to defend, against the Stuarts and their supporters, the Protestant ascendancy which had begun with the reign of William of Orange. The lodges had grown in strength until, in 1835, it was estimated that they numbered 140,000 members in Ireland, and as many as 40,000 in London alone. The Grand Master of all the Orange Lodges was no less a personage than the Duke of Cumberland, the King's brother. It was believed in Ireland that a conspiracy existed on the part of the Orangemen to set aside the Princess Victoria, the next heir to the throne, in favor of the Duke of Cumberland. The subject was brought to the notice of Parliament by Hume and O'Connell, who drew special attention to the illegal introduction of Orangemen into the British army, under warrants signed by the Duke of Cumberland. The scandal grew to such an extent that the Duke of Cumberland hastened to dissolve the order before a resolution condemning his conduct could pass through the Commons.


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