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Civil War In America








We now continue our summary of public affairs. The Crimean War had been
finished, and the mutiny had broken out, whilst Lord Palmerston was
prime-minister. In 1858 he was obliged to resign his post; but he returned
to office next year, and this he held till his death in 1865. Under him
there was quiet both in home and in foreign affairs, and we managed to
keep from being mixed up with the great wars which raged abroad.

Seldom has a premier been better liked than Lord Palmerston. Nominally a
Whig, but at heart an old-fashioned Tory, he was first and foremost an
Englishman, ever jealous for Britain's credit and security. He was not
gifted with burning eloquence or biting sarcasm; but his vigour,
straightforwardness, good sense, and kindliness endeared him even to his
adversaries. Honestly indifferent to domestic reform, but a finished
master of foreign politics, he was of all men the man to guide the nation
through the ten coming years, which at home were a season of calm and
reaction, but troubled and threatening abroad.

Besides the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, we had another war with
China, as unjust as the opium war of sixteen years before, and quite as
successful. In 1856, the Canton authorities seized the crew of a Chinese
pirate which carried a British flag. Under strong pressure from British
officials, Commissioner Yeh surrendered the crew, but refused all apology,
whereupon Canton was bombarded. A twelvemonth later, it was stormed by the
British and French allied forces; Yeh was captured, and sent off to die at
Calcutta; and in June 1858 a treaty was signed, throwing open all China to
British subjects. In a third war (1859-60), to enforce the terms of that
treaty, Pekin surrendered, and its vast Summer Palace was sacked and
destroyed.

In January 1858, an attempt on the life of the Emperor Napoleon was made
by Orsini, an Italian refugee, who had hatched his plot and procured his
bomb-shells in England. Lord Palmerston therefore introduced a bill,
removing conspiracy to murder from the class of misdemeanour to that of
felony. The defeat of that bill, as a truckling to France, brought in the
second Derby administration, which lasted sixteen months, and in which a
professed Jew was first admitted to parliament, in the person of Baron
Rothschild. Another Jew, by race but not by creed, Mr Disraeli, was at the
time the leader of the House of Commons. His new Reform Bill satisfied
nobody; its rejection was followed by a dissolution; and Lord Palmerston
returned to office, June 1859.

Sardinia had aided France against Russia, and France was now aiding
Sardinia to expel the Austrians from Italy. The campaign was short and
successful; but rejoice as we might for the cause of Italian unity, the
French emperor's activity suggested his future invasion of Britain; and to
this period belongs the development, if not the beginning, of our
Volunteer army, which, from 150,000 in 1860, increased to upwards of
200,000 in twenty-five years. Still, a commercial treaty with France, on
free-trade lines, was negotiated between Louis Napoleon and Mr Cobden; and
Mr Gladstone carried it through parliament in the face of strong
opposition. Lord John Russell again introduced a Reform Bill, but the
apathy of Lord Palmerston, and the pressure of other business, led to its
quiet withdrawal. The rejection by the Lords of a bill to abolish the duty
on paper seemed likely at one time to lead to a collision between the two
Houses. Ultimately the Commons contented themselves with a protest against
this unwonted stretch of authority, and the paper-duty was removed in
1861.

From 1861 to 1865, a civil war raged in America, between the slave-holding
Southern States (the Confederates) and the abolitionist Northern States
(the Federals). At first, British feeling was strongly in favour of the
Northerners; but it changed before long, partly in consequence of their
seizure of two Confederate envoys on a British mail-steamer, the
Trent, and of the interruption of our cotton trade, which caused a
cotton famine and great distress in Lancashire. With the war itself, and
the final hard-won triumph of the North, we had no immediate connection;
but the Southern cause was promoted by five privateers being built in
England. These armed cruisers were not professedly built for the
Southerners, but under false pretences were actually equipped for war
against Northern commerce. One of them, the Alabama, was not merely
built in a British dockyard, but manned for the most part by a British
crew. In her two years' cruise she burned sixty-five Federal merchantmen.
The Federal government protested at the time; but it was not till 1872
that the Alabama question was peacefully settled by arbitration in a
conference at Geneva, and we had to pay three millions sterling in
satisfaction of the American claims.

Other events during the Palmerston administration were a tedious native
rebellion in New Zealand (1860-65); the marriage of the Prince of Wales to
the Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1863); the cession of the Ionian Isles
to Greece (1864); and on the Continent there was the Schleswig-Holstein
War (1864), in which, beset by both Prussia and Austria, Denmark looked,
but looked vainly, for succour from Britain.

As the Reform Bill of 1832 excluded the great bulk of the working classes
from the franchise, it was felt by many that it could not be a final
measure; and no long time had passed before agitation for further reform
had commenced.

In the year 1854 the veteran Lord John Russell once more brought the
subject before the House of Commons; but the attention of the country was
fixed on the war with Russia, and it was not thought a good time to deal
with the question of reform. Again, in 1859, the cabinet of Earl Derby
brought forward a scheme; but it also failed. In the year 1866, Earl
Russell was once more at the head of affairs; and it seemed at one time
that the aged statesman would succeed in giving the country a second
Reform Bill. After many debates, however, Lord Russell's scheme was
rejected, and he resigned.

The Earl of Derby next became premier, with Mr Disraeli as leader of the
House of Commons. These statesmen succeeded at length in finding a way for
settling the vexed question; and the result was a measure which greatly
extended the franchise. The new bill gave the privilege of voting to all
householders in boroughs who paid poor-rates, without regard to the amount
of rent. A lodger qualification of £10 a year was also introduced. In the
counties all who paid a rent of not less than £12 were entitled to a vote.
Generally speaking, it may be said that previous to 1832 the upper classes
controlled the representation; the first Reform Bill gave the franchise to
the middle classes; while the second conferred it on a large section of
the working classes.

Such was the Reform Bill of 1867, which made important changes in our
system of election. One of the most pleasing features of this and other
reforms which we have effected, is the fact that they have been brought
about in a peaceful way. While in France and most other European
countries, changes in government have frequently been accompanied by
revolution and civil war, we have been able to improve our laws without
disturbance and without bloodshed.

After the passing of this important act, Mr Gladstone came into power with
a large Liberal majority. He had long been one of the foremost orators and
debaters of the party. Originally a Conservative, he had become a
freetrader with Sir Robert Peel, and for the next few years was a
prominent member of the Peelite party. During Lord Palmerston's second
administration, he made a most successful Chancellor of the Exchequer. For
some years he had represented Oxford University as a Conservative; but at
the general election of 1865, he lost his seat owing to the liberal
tendencies he had lately shown. Henceforward he became one of the most
decided Liberals; and after the retirement of Earl Russell in 1866, he
became the leader of that party.


Thomas.)]

Under him many reforms were carried. The Protestant Episcopal Church of
Ireland, whose adherents formed only a small minority of the population,
was disestablished. Thus at one blow a very important element of the
religious difficulty, which had caused so much trouble in Ireland, was
removed. A measure was also passed, giving the Irish tenant a greater
interest in the soil which he cultivated.

Of all the great measures for the benefit of the working classes which
have been passed during the present century, none deserves a higher place
than the Education Bill of 1870. A great change for the better had been
made in the condition of the people. Their food had been cheapened; the
conditions under which they performed their daily toil in the factory or
the mine had been improved; and their comforts greatly increased. In all
these respects their lot compared favourably with that of other nations.
But in education the English were still far behind some of their
neighbours, and especially the Germans.

For thirty or forty years before the passing of the Education Act, a great
deal had been done by voluntary effort towards supplying the educational
needs of the people in England. The National Society, and the British and
Foreign Society, by building schools and training teachers, had done much
for the children of our native land. Parliament also had lent its aid, by
voting an annual grant towards the expenses of the existing schools.

But the population was increasing so rapidly that, in spite of these
efforts, there was still a great lack of schools. After all that had been
done, it was calculated that there yet remained two-thirds of the juvenile
population of the country for whom no provision had been made. An inquiry
into the condition of education in some of the large towns showed sad
results. In Birmingham, out of a population of 83,000 children of school
age, only 26,000 were under instruction; Leeds showed a proportion of
58,000 to 19,000; and so on with other towns.

These figures startled men of all parties; and it was felt that not a
moment more ought to be lost in providing for the educational needs which
had been shown to exist. Accordingly, Mr Forster, the Vice-president of
the Council, a statesman whose name will be honourably handed down in
connection with this great question, brought in his famous scheme for
grappling with the difficulty. Like all great measures, it was noted for
its simplicity.

It laid down, in the first place, the great principle that 'there should
be efficient school provision in every district of England where it was
wanted; and that every child in the country should have the means of
education placed within its reach.' To carry this principle into effect,
it appointed boards of management, or school boards, to be elected at
intervals of three years by the ratepayers themselves.

The chief duties of these boards were defined to be, the erection of
schools in all places where sufficient provision did not already exist;
and the framing of bylaws, by which they might compel attendance at school
in cases where the parents showed themselves indifferent to the welfare of
their children. These were the main features of the bill, which passed
through parliament, and speedily became the law of the land.

Since the passing of the Education Act, the results achieved by it in
England have been most gratifying. The number of children attending school
has largely increased; the quality of the instruction has been greatly
improved; and in districts which were formerly neglected, excellent school
buildings have been erected and fitted up.

By means of the excellent education provided in her parish schools
Scotland had long held a foremost place among the nations of the world.
Yet it was felt that even there the system of education needed
improvement. Accordingly, in 1872, school boards were established and
other changes in education were made in Scotland.

There were other minor but still important changes in other departments.
It was provided that the right to hold the position of commissioned or
higher officers in the army should be given by open examination, and not
be bought as hitherto. All students, without distinction as to religious
creed, were admitted to the privileges of the universities of Oxford and
Cambridge. Voters were protected in the exercise of their rights by the
introduction of the Ballot, or system of secret voting. The country now
seemed to be tired of reform for a time, and the Gladstone ministry was
overthrown.

During the period of which we treat, though we had no great war, we had a
number of small conflicts. The series of quarrels with China may be said
to have terminated with our conquest of Pekin in 1860. In 1869 the conduct
of King John of Abyssinia, in unlawfully imprisoning English subjects,
compelled us to send an expedition to rescue them, which it successfully
accomplished; and in 1873 we were obliged to send another expedition
against King Koffee of Ashanti, on the West African coast, who attacked
our allies. This expedition was also a complete success, as we forced our
foes to agree to a peace advantageous for us.

In addition may be recorded the successful laying of the Atlantic cable
(1866), after nine years of vain endeavour; the passing of an act (1867),
under which British North America is all, except Newfoundland, now
federally united in the vast Dominion of Canada, with a constitution like
that of the mother-country; and the purchase by government of the
telegraph system (1868).

On the fall of the Gladstone ministry in 1874, a Conservative one, under
Mr Disraeli (afterwards Lord Beaconsfield), came into power, and for some
years managed the national affairs.

During these years, several important measures affecting the foreign
affairs of our empire were carried out. We purchased a large number of
shares in the French company which owns the Suez Canal. British ships
going to India pass through that canal, and therefore it was considered by
our rulers that it would be for our advantage to have a good deal to do
with the management of the company. In India, since the suppression of the
Mutiny, and abolition of the East India Company, the Queen had the direct
rule. She was in 1876 declared Empress of that country.

In 1877, Russia went to war with Turkey on questions connected with the
treatment of the Christian subjects of the Sultan. Our government was
opposed to many things in the conduct of the Russians in the matter, and
at one time it seemed very likely that a war between us and them would
take place. All matters in dispute, however, were arranged in a
satisfactory manner at a Congress held at Berlin in 1878.

Then came another Afghan war, its object being the exclusion of Russian
influence from Cabul, and such an extension of our Indian frontier as
should henceforth render impossible the exclusion of British influence. In
September 1878 the Ameer, Shere Ali, Dost Mohammed's son and successor,
refused admission to a British envoy: his refusal was treated as an
insolent challenge, and our peaceful mission became a hostile invasion.
There was some sharp fighting in the passes; but Jellalabad was ours by
the end of December, and Candahar very soon afterwards. Shere Ali died
early in 1879; and his son, Yakoob Khan, the new Ameer, in May signed the
treaty of Gandamak, conceding the 'scientific frontier' and all our other
demands. Every one was saying how well and easily the affair had been
managed, when tidings reached us of a great calamity--the murder, on 3d
September, at Cabul, of our envoy, Sir Louis Cavagnari, with almost all
his small escort. The treaty, of course, became so much wastepaper; but no
time was lost in avenging the outrage, for after more fighting, Cabul was
occupied by General Roberts in the second week of October. The war went on
in a desultory fashion, till in July 1880 we recognised a new Ameer in
Abdurrahman, heretofore a Russian pensioner, and a grandson of Dost
Mohammed. That same month a British brigade was cut to pieces near
Candahar; but, starting from Cabul at the head of 10,000 picked troops,
General Roberts in twenty-three days marched 318 miles, relieved
Candahar's garrison, and won the battle of Mazra. Already our forces had
begun to withdraw from the country, and Candahar was evacuated in 1881. A
peaceful British mission was undertaken in the autumn of 1893, when
various matters regarding the frontier of Afghanistan were dealt with.



In 1877 we annexed the Dutch Transvaal Republic; the republic was restored
under British suzerainty. In 1879 we invaded the Zulus' territory. On 11th
January Lord Chelmsford crossed the Natal frontier; on the 22d the Zulus
surrounded his camp, and all but annihilated its garrison. The heroic
defence of Rorke's Drift, by 80 against 4000, saved Natal from a Zulu
invasion; but it was not till July that the campaign was ended by the
victory of Ulundi. The saddest event in all the war was the death of the
French Prince Imperial, who was serving with the British forces. He was
out with a small reconnoitring party, which was surprised by a band of
Zulus; his escort mounted and fled; and he was found next morning dead,
his body gashed with eighteen assegai wounds. The Zulu king, Cetewayo, was
captured in August, and sent a prisoner to Cape Town. Zululand was divided
amongst twelve chieftains; but in 1883, after a visit to England, Cetewayo
was reinstated in the central part of his kingdom. It was not so easy to
set him up again; in 1884 he died a fugitive, overthrown by one of his
rivals.

Two very notable men passed away in 1881--Thomas Carlyle, author of The
French Revolution, and Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Born in
1804, Disraeli entered parliament in 1837, the year of the Queen's
accession. His first speech, though clever enough, was greeted with shouts
of laughter, till, losing patience, he cried, almost shouted: 'I have
begun several things many times, and have often succeeded at last; ay, and
though I sit down now, the time will come when you will hear me.' In nine
years that time did come. From the hour of his onslaught on Sir Robert
Peel in the Corn-Law debate of 22d January 1846, be became the leader of
the Tory party.

Since the making of the Suez Canal opened a new route to India, we have
had a fresh interest in Egypt. In 1882, Egypt was disturbed by troubles
which attracted great attention in this country. Through a rising under
Arabi Pasha the government was upset, and at Alexandria riots took place,
in which Europeans were murdered. Then followed the bombardment of
Alexandria by the British fleet. Our forces under Sir Garnet Wolseley
defeated the Egyptian army at Tel-el-Kebir, and occupied Cairo, the
capital of the country.

Arabi Pasha was banished for life, and the authority of the Khedive was
restored under British control. We thus maintained peace and order in
Egypt; but a great revolt took place in the provinces of the Soudan, which
had been conquered by Egypt. An Egyptian army commanded by General Hicks
was almost entirely destroyed by the natives under a religious leader
called the Mahdi.

In these circumstances it was decided to send General Gordon to withdraw
the Egyptian garrisons from the Soudan, and to give up that vast country
to its native rulers. Gordon made his way to Khartoum, but he found the
native revolt more formidable than he expected. He was besieged in that
city, and refusing to leave the people to their fate, heroically defended
it against great odds for nearly a year. An expedition sent under Wolseley
to release him did not arrive till Khartoum had fallen and Gordon was
slain (1885).

After being defeated in several battles, the forces of the Mahdi were
taught that, however brave, they were no match for our troops. When it was
determined to reconquer the Soudan the duty was entrusted to Sir Herbert
Kitchener, who routed the Khalifa at Omdurman in 1898.

During recent years there have also been troubles on our Indian frontier.
In 1886 we annexed Burma, which had suffered much misery under a cruel
tyrant. But the greatest danger to India lies on the north-western border,
where Russia has been making rapid progress. The conquest of Merv by the
Russians brought their dominion close to that of our allies, the Afghans,
and it became necessary to establish a fixed boundary between them.

While this was being done, the Russians came into collision with the
Afghans at Penjdeh, and in 1885 inflicted a defeat upon them. As a result
of this quarrel, it seemed possible at one time that we might go to war
with Russia. We came, however, to an agreement with that power, and as we
now have a more settled boundary, we may hope to avoid further conflict on
the question. But for many years we have been busy in fortifying our
north-western frontier, that we may be ready to defend India against
invasion.

We have lately seen a vast extension of our empire in Africa. And though
the love of gold has been the great motive in our advance into the Dark
Continent, our rule is sure to prove a benefit to the native peoples. Vast
tracts of land rich in mineral wealth, and well adapted both for pasture
and cultivation, have been brought under the sway of Britain. Commerce has
been stimulated, and mission stations have been established on almost
every lake and river. From Dr Livingstone's advent in Africa in 1841 dates
the modern interest in South Africa. He passed away in 1873. But the
explorations of Stanley, Baker, Burton, and the operations of the
chartered companies in Uganda and Mashonaland have all helped to make the
Dark Continent more familiar to the public.

At the general election in the spring of 1880, the Liberals had a large
majority, and Mr Gladstone again became prime-minister. In accordance with
the expectation of the country, he proceeded to make some important
changes.

It was complained by many that the agricultural labourers had no share in
electing members of parliament. A bill was therefore introduced in 1884 to
extend to the counties the privilege of voting, which, in 1867, had been
granted to householders and lodgers in towns. This bill passed the House
of Commons, but the House of Lords refused to pass it, because it was not
accompanied by a measure for the better distribution of seats.


Photograph by Dorrett & Martin.)]

Parliament again met in the autumn; and as the bill was a second time
carried through the House of Commons, there was for a time the prospect of
a contest between the two Houses. To prevent such a result, the leaders of
both parties met in consultation, and it was agreed that the bill should
be allowed to pass on condition that there should be a better distribution
of seats. The main provision of the Redistribution Act, as it was called,
was to take the right of electing members from all towns with a population
under 15,000, and to merge them in the country districts in which they
were situated.

In home affairs the Irish question has, during many years, claimed more
attention than any other. For some time there had been a great fall in the
prices of agricultural produce, and consequently the farmers in Ireland
had a difficulty in finding the money to pay their rents. Then followed
evictions, which the peasantry resisted by violence. Parliament passed
several measures, partly to give relief to the peasantry under the hard
times which had fallen upon them, partly with a view to making the law
stronger for the suppression of outrages. As these laws did not always
meet the approval of the Irish and their leaders in parliament, scenes of
violence frequently occurred. The worst act in the unhappy struggle--the
murder of Lord Frederick Cavendish and of Mr Burke, in the Phoenix Park,
Dublin, in 1882--was the work of a secret society, and received the
condemnation of the Irish leaders. For many years there had been growing
in Ireland a party which demanded Home Rule--that is, that Ireland should
manage her domestic affairs by a parliament of her own at Dublin. At the
general election in 1885, 86 members out of 103 returned for Ireland were
in favour of Home Rule. In 1886 Mr Gladstone introduced a bill to grant
Home Rule to Ireland; but, as many of the Liberals refused to follow him
in this change of policy, he was defeated in the House of Commons.

In an appeal to the country, he was likewise defeated, and the Marquis of
Salisbury became prime-minister, with the support of a combination of
Conservatives and Liberal Unionists. The government of Lord Salisbury
lasted for six years. It carried several useful measures, among which may
be mentioned free education, and the act for establishing county councils
both in England and Scotland. At the general election of 1892, Mr
Gladstone had a majority; for the fourth time he undertook the duties of
premiership, and in 1893 for the second time brought a Home Rule Bill into
parliament, which was rejected by the House of Lords on September 8th.

Owing to increasing infirmities of age, Mr Gladstone resigned early in
1894, and was succeeded by Lord Rosebery, who carried on the government of
the country until defeated in July 1895. Lord Salisbury now formed his

third administration, and had to deal with embarrassing situations in
connection with the Armenian massacres; the Jameson raid on the Transvaal
(1896), which led to a prolonged inquiry in London; a boundary line
dispute with Venezuela, which led up to a proposed arbitration treaty with
the United States; the Cretan insurrection, and the Greco-Turkish war.
There were native wars in West Africa and Rhodesia, while a railway was
commenced from Mombasa on the coast, inland to the British Protectorate of
Uganda. At the general election in 1900 Lord Salisbury was again returned
to power by a large majority.

Meanwhile, Britain had lost one of its greatest men. Early in the year
1898 it became known that Mr Gladstone was stricken by a mortal disease.
Party feeling was at once laid aside, and the whole nation, as it were,
watched with deepest sympathy by the bedside of the dying statesman. After
a lingering and painful illness, borne with heroic fortitude and gentle
patience, he passed away on the 19th of May. Nine days later he was buried
in Westminster Abbey, the last resting-place of so many of England's
illustrious dead.

The government had to deal with the long and troublesome Boer war in South
Africa, 1899-1901. To save it from trouble at the hands of the natives,
the Transvaal had been annexed by Britain in 1877. In 1880, however, the
Boers rose in revolt, and defeated a number of British troops at Majuba
Hill. After this the country was granted independence in internal affairs.

Owing to the discovery of gold, thousands of settlers were attracted to
the Transvaal, and the injustice done to these Uitlanders, as the
new-comers were called, led in time to serious trouble. The Uitlanders
complained that though they were the majority in the country, and were
made to pay by far the greater part of the taxes, they were denied nearly
all political rights. At the close of the year 1895 Dr Jameson made a most
unwise raid into the Transvaal, in support of a proposed rising of the
Uitlanders to obtain political rights. He was surrounded by the Boers and
obliged to surrender.

British settlers in the Transvaal were now treated worse than before.
Negotiations were carried on between the British government and the Boers,
but were suddenly broken off by the latter, who demanded that no more
British soldiers should be sent to South Africa. This demand being
refused, the Boers, supported by their brethren of the Orange Free State,
declared war against Britain, and invaded Natal and Cape Colony in October
1899.

Ladysmith, in the north of Natal, was invested by the Boers, the British
army there being under the command of General Sir George White. The Boers
also besieged Kimberley, an important town, containing valuable
diamond-mines, in the north-west of Cape Colony. Farther north a small
British garrison was hemmed in at Mafeking, a little town near the
Transvaal border.

Lord Methuen, with a British column, was sent to the relief of Kimberley,
and Sir Redvers Buller, with a strong army, set out to relieve Ladysmith;
but both these generals sustained reverses, the former at Magersfontein,
and the latter at the Tugela River.

Towards the end of December, Lord Roberts, with Lord Kitchener as chief of
his staff, was sent out to the Cape as Commander-in-Chief. On the 15th of
February, Kimberley was relieved; and shortly afterwards the Boer general
Cronje, with his entire army of upwards of four thousand men, surrendered
to Lord Roberts at Paardeberg.

After several gallant attempts, General Buller finally succeeded in
relieving Ladysmith, which had been besieged by the Boers for four mouths.
Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State, was next captured by Lord
Roberts; and on the 17th of May, Mafeking was relieved. The brave little
garrison of this town, under their able and dauntless leader,
Baden-Powell, had endured the greatest privations, and during a siege of
seven months had maintained the most marvellously gallant defence of
modern times.

Before the end of May, Johannesburg surrendered to Lord Roberts; and on
the 5th of June he hoisted the British flag in Pretoria, the capital of
the Transvaal. About the same time the Orange Free State was annexed to
Great Britain under the name of the Orange River Colony; and on the 1st of
September the Transvaal was declared British territory.

The most striking feature of this war was the loyalty and enthusiasm
displayed by the colonies in the cause of the mother-country. Canada,
Australia, and New Zealand vied with each other in sending volunteers to
fight for and uphold the rights of their fellow-colonists in South Africa,
thus giving to the world such an evidence of the unity of the British
Empire as it had never before seen. Volunteers from the mother-country,
too, rallied round their nation's flag in great numbers, and nobly went
forth to maintain her cause on the field of battle.

The progress of the nation during the reign of Queen Victoria was
marvellous. At the commencement of that period the railway system was only
in its infancy. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the country is
covered from end to end with a complete network of railways; a journey
which, in the old times of stagecoaches, took two or three weeks, being
now accomplished in a few hours. The perfection of the railway system has
afforded facilities for a wonderfully complete system of postage--the
mails being carried to all parts of the kingdom in one night. The rapidity
of conveyance is only rivalled by the cheapness to the public.

The penny postage scheme adopted in 1839, and since further improved, has
conferred untold benefits upon the people. Even more wonderful than the
railway is the electric telegraph system, which has, so to speak,
annihilated distance. By its means a short message can be sent from one
end of the kingdom to the other in a few minutes, at the cost of sixpence.
Even the ocean forms no barrier to the operations of this marvellous
agency. By means of submarine cables Britain is linked with far-distant
lands, and is at once made acquainted with everything that happens there.

Owing to the wonderful progress of invention, and the general use of
steam-power, enormous strides have been made in all branches of industry.
By means of the improvements introduced into our agricultural operations,
the farmer is enabled to get through his sowing and reaping more quickly;
by the employment of machinery, all branches of our manufactures have been
brought to a wonderful state of perfection, and much of the labour
formerly done by hand is now executed by steam-power. In commerce, the old
system of navigation by means of sailing-vessels is rapidly giving place
to the marine engine, and magnificent steamers now traverse the ocean in
all directions with the greatest regularity. Amongst great engineering
triumphs have been the erection of the Forth Bridge, which was formally
declared open for passenger traffic, on 4th March 1890, by the Prince of
Wales; the cutting of the Manchester Ship Canal, and the building of such
greyhounds of the Atlantic as the Majestic and Teutonic, the
Campania and Lucania, which have crossed the Atlantic in about
five and a half days.

It is to be deeply lamented that the art of war has, with the aid of
invention, flourished not less than the arts of peace. Modern invention
has made a total change in military and naval warfare. The artillery and
small-arms of to-day are as superior, both in range and precision, to
those used on the field of Waterloo, as the 'brown Bess' of that time was
superior to the 'bows and bills' of the middle ages. The old
line-of-battle ships 'which Nelson led to victory' have given place to
huge iron-plated monsters, moved by steam, and carrying such heavy guns,
that one such ship would have proved a match for the united fleets of
Britain and France at Trafalgar.

In matters which are more directly concerned with the welfare of the
people, the country made remarkable advances during the reign of Queen
Victoria. Political freedom was given to the masses, and many wise laws
were passed for improving their social condition. Education became more
widely diffused, and a cheap press brought information on all subjects
within the reach of the humblest. Our literature was enriched by the
contributions of a host of brilliant writers--Macaulay and Carlyle, the
historians; Dickens, Thackeray, Lytton, and George Eliot, the novelists,
and the poets Tennyson and Browning. But if we have no names of quite
equal eminence now living amongst us, we have still a splendid array of
talent in all departments of literature, and the production of books,
periodicals, and newspapers never was more abundant.

The blessings of progress were not confined to Britain alone. The
magnificent colonies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa
abundantly shared in them.

The population of the country had more than doubled during that period.
The chief increase took place in the metropolis, the manufacturing towns
of the north, the great mining districts, the chief seaports, and
fashionable watering-places. London had increased enormously in size, and
at the close of the reign contained as many inhabitants, perhaps, as the
whole of England in the time of Elizabeth.





Next: Antecedents

Previous: The Queen As An Artist And Author



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