Most ViewedThe First Christening The Season Of 1841
The Queen's First Visit To Scotland
The Queen's First Visit To Scotland
The Proroguing Of Parliament The Visit To Guildhall And The Coronation
Comments Upon The Young Queen By A Contemporaneous Writer In Blackwood
Reign Of Queen Victoria
The Princess Opens The Victoria Park At Bath
Birth Of The Prince Of Wales Visit Of The King Of Prussia
Nis! Nis! Nis! Hurrah!
Least ViewedMr Gladstone And Lord Beaconsfield
The Queen's Sympathy During The Illness Of President Garfield
First Meeting With Prince Albert Death Of William Iv
Failing Health Of Prince Albert
Sketch Of The Princess Charlotte
Second Attempt On The Queen's Life
Distribution Of Victoria Crosses By The Queen
Marriage Of The Princess Royal
The Emperor And Empress Of France Visit Windsor
Last Years Of The Prince Consort
Stress And Strain
Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
The greatest Revolutions are not always those which are accompanied
by riot and bloodshed. England's Revolution was peaceful, but it
worked vast and almost incredible changes.
We find, in the first place, that after the great Napoleonic Wars
and during the 'forty years' peace' a new class, the 'Middle Class,'
came into being. It had, of course, existed before this time, but
it had been unable to make its power felt. The astonishing increase
of trade and consequently of wealth, the application of steam power
with special influence upon land and sea transit, transformed
England into "the Workshop of the World."
By the year 1840 railways were no longer regarded as something in
the nature of an experiment, which might or might not prove
a success; they had, indeed, become an integral part of the social
life of the nation. In 1840 the Railway Regulation Act was passed,
followed in 1844 by the Cheap Trains Act, which required that
passengers must be carried in covered waggons at a charge of not more
than one penny a mile and at a speed of not less than twelve miles
From 1844 onward the construction of railways proceeded apace, until
by the year 1874 no less than 16,449 miles had been laid. Ocean
traffic under steam progressed equally rapidly; in 1812 the first
steamer appeared upon the Clyde, and in 1838 the famous Great
Western steamed from Bristol to New York.
The quickening and cheapening of transport called for new and
improved methods of manufacture; small business concerns grew into
great mercantile houses with interests all over the face of the globe.
Everywhere movement and expansion; everywhere change. A powerful
commercial class came into existence, and power--that is, voting
power--passed to this class and was held by it until the year 1865.
From this year, roughly speaking, the power passed into the hands
of the democracy.
Education, which had been to a great extent a class monopoly,
gradually penetrated to all ranks and grades of society. In 1867 the
second Reform Act was passed; a very large proportion of the urban
working classes were given the power of voting, and it was naturally
impossible to entrust such powers for long to an illiterate democracy.
Therefore, in 1870, Mr Forster's Education Act was passed, which
required that in every district where sufficient voluntary schools
did not exist a School Board should be formed to build and maintain
the necessary school accommodation at the cost of the rates. By a
later Act of 1876 school attendance was made compulsory. Every effort
was made in succeeding years to raise the level of intelligence among
present and future citizens. Education became national and
During the period 1865-85 the population of the kingdom increased,
and the emigration to the British colonial possessions reached its
maximum in the year 1883, when the figures were 183,236.
The rapid rise in population of the large towns drew attention more
and more urgently to the question of public health. Every city and
every town had its own problems to face, and the necessity for solving
these cultivated and strengthened the sense of civic pride and
responsibility. We find during this period an ever-growing interest
throughout the country in the welfare, both moral and mental, of the
great mass of the workers. Municipal life became the training-ground
where many a member of Parliament served his apprenticeship.
Municipalities took charge of baths and washhouses, organized and
built public markets, ensured a cheap and ample supply of pure water,
installed modern systems of drainage, provided housing
accommodation at low rents for the poorer classes, built hospitals
for infectious diseases, and, finally, carried on the great and
important work of educating its citizens.
The power of Labour began, at last, to make itself felt. The first
attempt at co-operation made by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844
stimulated others to follow their example, and in 1869 the
Co-operative Union was formed. The Trade Unions showed an increased
interest in education, in forming libraries and classes, and in
extending their somewhat narrow policy as their voting power
increased. Out of this movement sprang Working Men's Clubs attached
to the Unions and carrying on all branches of work, educational and
beneficial, amongst its members.
The standard of society was continually rising, and it was already
a far cry to the Early Victorian England described in an earlier
The world was growing smaller--that is to say, communications
between country and country, between continent and continent, were
growing more easy. The first insulated cable was laid in 1848, across
the Hudson River, from Jersey City to New York, and in 1857
an unsuccessful attempt was made to connect the New and the Old World.
In 1866 the Great Eastern, after two trials, succeeded in laying
a complete cable. The expansion of the powers of human invention led
to a great increase in the growth of comfort of all classes. To take
only a few striking examples: at the beginning of the century matches
were not yet invented, and only in 1827 were the 'Congreve' sulphur
matches put on the market; they were sold at the rate of one shilling
a box containing eighty-four matches! In the year 1821 gas was still
considered a luxury; soap and candles were both greatly improved and
cheapened. By the withdrawal of the window tax in 1851 obvious and
necessary advantages were gained in the building of houses.
In 1855 the stamp duty on newspapers was abolished. In these days
of cheap halfpenny papers with immense circulations it is difficult
to realize that at a date not very far distant from us, the poor
scarcely, if ever, saw a newspaper at all. Friends used to club
together to reduce the great expense of buying a single copy, and
agents hired out copies for the sum of one penny per hour. The only
effect of the stamp duty had been to cut off the poorer classes from
all sources of trustworthy information.
In 1834 not a single town in the kingdom with the exception of London
possessed a daily paper. The invention of steam printing, and the
introduction of shorthand reporting and the use of telegraph and
railways, revolutionized the whole world of journalism.
Charles Dickens, on the occasion of his presiding, in May 1865, at
the second annual dinner of the Newspaper Press Fund, gave his
hearers an idea of what newspaper reporters were and what they
suffered in the early days. "I have pursued the calling of a reporter
under circumstances of which many of my brethren here can form no
adequate conception. I have often transcribed for the printer, from
my shorthand notes, important public speeches in which the strictest
accuracy was required, and a mistake in which would have been to a
young man severely compromising, writing on the palm of my hand, by
the light of a dark lantern, in a post-chaise and four, galloping
through a wild country, and through the dead of the night, at the
then surprising rate of fifteen miles an hour. . . . I have worn my
knees by writing on them on the old back-row of the old gallery of
the old House of Commons; and I have worn my feet by standing to write
in a preposterous pen in the old House of Lords, where we used to
be huddled together like so many sheep--kept in waiting, say, until
the woolsack might want re-stuffing. Returning home from exciting
political meetings in the country to the waiting press in London,
I do verily believe I have been upset in almost every description
of vehicle known in this country. I have been, in my time, belated
on miry by-roads, towards the small hours, forty or fifty miles from
London, in a wheelless carriage, with exhausted horses and drunken
post-boys, and have got back in time for publication, to be received
with never-forgotten compliments by the late Mr Black, coming in the
broadest of Scotch from the broadest of hearts I ever knew."
During these later years England came to look upon her duties and
responsibilities toward her colonial possessions in quite a
different light. Imperialism became a factor in the political life
of the nation.
The builders of Empire in the time of Queen Elizabeth took a very
narrow view of their responsibilities; they were not in the least
degree concerned about the well-being of a colony or possession for
its own sake. The state of Ireland in those days spoke for itself.
The horrors of the Indian Mutiny in 1857 was the first lesson which
opened England's eyes to the fact that an Empire, if it is to be
anything more than a name, must be a united whole under wise and
The rebellion proved to be the end of the old East Indian Company.
England took over the administration of Indian affairs into her own
hands. An "Act for the better Government of India" was passed in 1858,
which provided that all the territories previously under the
government of the Company were to be vested in Her Majesty, and all
the Company's powers to be exercised in her name. The Viceroy, with
the assistance of a Council, was to be supreme in India.
In 1867 a great colonial reform was carried out, the Confederation
of the North American Provinces of the British Empire. By this Act
the names of Upper and Lower Canada were changed respectively to
Ontario and Quebec. The first Dominion Parliament met in the autumn
of the same year, and lost no time in passing an Act to construct
an Inter-Colonial Railway affording proper means of communication
between the maritime and central provinces.
In 1869 the Hudson Bay territory was acquired from the Company which
held it, and after the Red River Insurrection, headed by a half-breed,
Louis Riel, had been successfully crushed by the Wolseley Expedition,
the territory was made part of the Federation. In 1871 British
Columbia became part of the Dominion, on condition that a railway
was constructed within the following ten years which should extend
from the Pacific to the Rocky Mountains and connect with the existing
The great Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1885, opening
out the West to all-comers.
The rise and growth of the Imperialistic spirit has been greatly
influenced by the literature on the subject, which dated its
commencement from Professor Seeley's Expansion of England in 1883.
This was followed by an immense number of works by various writers,
the chief of whom, Rudyard Kipling, has popularized the conception
of Imperialism and extended its meaning:
Never was isle so little, never was sea so lone,
But over the scud and the palm-trees an English flag was flown.
The Empire was not, however, to be consolidated without war and
bloodshed, for relations with the two Boer Republics, the Transvaal
and the Orange River, became more and more strained as years went
on. The last years of the Queen's life were destined to be saddened
by the outbreak of war in South Africa.
The facts which led to the outbreak were briefly these, though it
is but fair to state that there are, even now, various theories
current as to the causes. The discovery and opening up of the gold
mines of the Transvaal had brought a stream of adventurous emigrants
into the country, and it was these 'Outlanders' of whom the Dutch
were suspicious. The Transvaal Government refused to admit them to
equal political rights with the Dutch inhabitants. It was certain,
however, that the Outlanders would never submit to be dependent on
the policy of President Kruger, although the Dutch declared that they
had only accepted the suzerainty of Great Britain under compulsion.
Negotiations between the two Governments led to nothing, as neither
side would give way, and at last, in 1899, following upon an ultimatum
demanding the withdrawal of British troops from the borders of the
Republic, war broke out. It had undoubtedly been hastened by the
ill-fated and ill-advised raid in 1896 of Dr Jameson, the
administrator of Rhodesia.
It is scarcely necessary to review the details of this war at any
length. It proved conclusively that the Government of this country
had vastly underrated the resisting powers of the Boers. For three
years the British army was forced to wage a guerilla warfare, and
adapt itself to entirely new methods of campaigning.
On May 28, 1900, the Orange Free State was annexed under the name
of the Orange River Colony. In June Lord Roberts entered Pretoria,
but the war dragged on until 1902, when a Peace Conference was held
and the Boer Republics became part of the British Empire. Very
liberal terms were offered to and accepted by the conquered Dutch.
But long before this event took place Queen Victoria had passed away.
She had followed the whole course of the war with the deepest interest
and anxiety, and when Lord Roberts returned to this country, leaving
Lord Kitchener in command in South Africa, the Queen was desirous
of hearing from his own lips the story of the campaign.
The public was already uneasy about the state of her health, and on
January 20th it was announced that her condition had become serious.
On Tuesday, January 22, she was conscious and recognized the members
of her family watching by her bedside, but on the afternoon of the
same day she peacefully passed away. One of the last wishes she
expressed was that her body should be borne to rest on a gun-carriage,
for she had never forgotten that she was a soldier's daughter.
On the day of the funeral the horses attached to the gun-carriage
became restive, and the sailors who formed the guard of honour took
their place, and drew the coffin, draped in the Union Jack, to its
Through the streets of London, which had witnessed two great Jubilee
processions, festivals of rejoicing and thanksgiving, the funeral
cortege passed, and a great reign and a great epoch in history had
come to an end.
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