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A History of the Four Georges, Volume I

The next town in population to London was Bristol


The

next town in population to London was Bristol, and Bristol had then only one-seventeenth of London's population. The growth of the manufacturing industry, which has created such a cluster of great towns in the North of England, had hardly begun to show itself when {79} George the First came to the throne. Bristol was not only the most populous place after London at this time, but it was the great English seaport. It had held this rank for centuries. Even at the time when "Tom Jones" was written, many years after the accession of George the First, the Bristol Alderman filled the same place in popular imagination that is now assigned to the Alderman of London. Fielding attributes to the Bristol Alderman that fine appreciation of the qualities of turtle soup with which more modern humorists have endowed his metropolitan fellow.

Liverpool was hardly thought of in the early Georgian days. It was only made into a separate parish a few years before George came to the throne, and its first dock was opened in 1709. Manchester was comparatively obscure and unimportant, and had not yet made its first export of cotton goods. At this time Norwich, famous for its worsted and woollen works and its fuller's earth, surpassed it in business importance. By the middle of the century the population of Bristol is said to have exceeded ninety thousand; Norwich, to have had more than fifty-six thousand; Manchester, about forty-five thousand; Newcastle, forty

thousand; and Birmingham, about thirty thousand; while Liverpool had swelled to about thirty thousand, and ranked as the third port in the country. York was the chief city of the Northern Counties; Exeter, the capital of the West. Shrewsbury was of some account in the region towards the Welsh frontier. Worcester, Derby, Nottingham, and Canterbury were places of note. Bath had not come into its fashion and its fame as yet. Its first pump-room had been built only a few years before George entered England. The strength of England now, if we leave London out of consideration, lies in the north, and goes no farther southward than a line which would include Birmingham. In the early days of the Georges this was just the part of England which was of least importance, whether as regards manufacturing energy or political power.

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Ireland just then was quiet. It had sunk into a quietude something like that of the grave. Civil war had swept over the country; a succession of civil wars indeed had plagued it. There was a time just before the outbreak of the parliamentary struggle against Charles the First when, according to Clarendon, Ireland was becoming a highly prosperous country, growing vigorously in trade, manufacture, letters, and arts, and beginning to be, as he puts it, "a jewel of great lustre in the royal diadem." But civil war and religious persecution had blighted this rising prosperity, and for the evils coming from political proscription and religious persecution the statesmen of the time could think of no remedy but new proscription and fresh persecution. Roman Catholics were excluded from the legislature, from municipal corporations, and from the liberal professions; they were not allowed to teach or be taught by Catholics; they were not permitted to keep arms; the trade and navigation of Ireland were put under ruinous restrictions and disabilities. In the reign of Anne new acts had been passed by the Irish Parliament, and sanctioned by the Crown "to prevent the further growth of Popery." Some of these later measures introduced not a few of the very harshest conditions of the penal code against Catholics. The Irish Parliament at that time was merely in fact what has since been called the British garrison; it consisted of the conquerors and the settlers. The Irish people had no more to do with it, except in the way of suffering under it, than the slaves in Georgia thirty years ago had to do with the Congress at Washington.


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