Modern English Reform: From Individualism to Socialism

506 119 5MB

English Pages [232] Year 1931

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Modern English Reform: From Individualism to Socialism

Citation preview

MODERN ENGLISH REFORM

MODERN ENGLISH REFORM F r o m Individualism t o Socialism A COURSE OF LOH ELL

LECTURES

Bv

E D W A R D P. C H E Y N E Y Professor of History University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

PRESS

LONDON: HUMPHREY MILFORD : OXFORD UNIVERSITY

1931

PRESS

Copyright 1931 UNIVERSITY

OF P E N N S Y L V A N I A

PRESS

Printed in the United States of America

CONTENTS PAGB

Introduction I. II. III.

vii

The Wealth and Poverty of England in 1800 . . . The Reformers and Methods, 1796-1846

Their . .

1 37

Reform by Liberation, 18061860

70

IV.

The Rise of the Working Classes, 1796-1929 . . .120

V.

Constructive Reforms, 18601914 162

VI.

British Socialism, 1817-1930 . 197

INTRODUCTION P R E A D upon the British statute book of the last century and a quarter are some scores, indeed hundreds, of laws of a certain characteristic type. They are laws intended each to remove some particular abuse or to introduce some general improvement in the condition of the people. They are the record of modern English social and political reform. It is the peculiar pride of E n g l a n d that this record is to be found on the statute book, not in the annals of revolution. The process has nevertheless not been an easy one. Back of the p a s s a g e of each of these laws has been a popular agitation, often a long and bitter contest. Yet the work of reform has gone steadily on. There have been few steps backw a r d ; progress has on the whole been constant and stable. In the mass of detailed occurrences there is therefore discoverable a continuous development, the gradual unfolding of a drama, the logical working out of forces inherent in the time. T o discover the plot of this drama, to trace this development through the successive stages of British nineteenth and early twentieth century reform is the object of these chapters.

S

vii

I THE WEALTH AND POVERTY E N G L A N D I N 1800 Τ

OF

the beginning of t h e nineteenth century E n g l a n d was reputed to be, and p r o b a b l y was the wealthiest country of E u r o p e . I t s wealth was, in t h e main, at t h a t time, l a n d e d wealth. A favorite form of publication in E n g l a n d is a series of illust r a t e d volumes, "Views of t h e E s t a t e s of Noblemen and Gentlemen," or "Ancient H a l l s of E n g l a n d and W a l e s , " or "Stately Homes of E n g l a n d . " I n these handsome volumes are pictured scores, in some series, hundreds of mediaeval or T u d o r or S t u a r t or Georgian " H a l l s " or " G r a n g e s " or " C a s t l e s " or " C o u r t s " or "Abbeys" or " L o d g e s . " T h e y a r e b a t tlemented or pillared or g a b l e d ; they crown hilltops, or are built against g e n t l y rising slopes, or nestle in valleys. A little river runs through the foreground, or a lake or a p o n d breaks the smooth extent of lawn stretching a w a y to t h e p a r k or woods. T r e e s of inimitable grace and v e r d u r e dot the lawns or extend in long avenues or f o r m solid banks of woodland. Cattle, sheep, and deer graze u p to the outposts of the g a r d e n s ; swans float on the w a t e r ; long-skirted ladies with their children

1

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

and dogs ramble about, and it is all a scene of beauty, peace, and long established wealth, ease, and refinement. They are indeed the stately homes of England. These castles and country houses of the nobility and gentry, with their outhouses and stables and greenhouses and gardens and parks, were of course of varying degrees of grandeur, but they were all the abodes of comparative wealth. Supporting them, sometimes in the neighborhood, sometimes at a distance, were broad stretches of farming and forest land. The ownership of the country houses and cultivated lands and profitable forests of England by her nobility and gentry was partly the bequest of the middle ages, partly the plunder of the church during the Reformation, partly the result of three centuries of enclosures of the old open lands of the community. The improvements in agriculture that were in progress were further enriching England and especially this favored class, for their income came, in the main, from the rents paid by their tenant farmers. The high prices of grain in the wars of the French Revolution increased the profitableness of the farms and consequently the rents. It was estimated that between 1790 and 1820 income from rents in England doubled, and agricultural production, according to the census of 1811, amounted in value to about one hundred million pounds or half a billion dollars a year. This produce of the land must, it is true, support a rather numerous body of reasonably well-to-do 2

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

t e n a n t f a r m e r s a n d a mass of a g r i c u l t u r a l laborers, as well as the wealthy l a n d e d a r i s t o c r a c y , but t h e visible, accumulated, and disposable wealth of t h e countryside was in its country houses a n d cultivated lands, forests, a n d meadows connected with them. I t was these t h a t gave its special c h a r a c t e r a n d a p p e a r a n c e to r u r a l E n g l a n d a n d t h a t were the wonder a n d admiration of foreign a n d city visitors. I t was in them t h a t dwelt t h a t leisurely class t h a t still lives in the books of J a n e A u s t e n , t h e B r o n t ë s , Miss E d g e w o r t h , Miss B u r n e y a n d other novelists of the early century. L a r g e l y parasitic as they were, living on the labors of the classes below t h e m , except for a few who paid for their c o m f o r t by estate m a n agement, public service, or p r i v a t e p h i l a n t h r o p y , and u n p r o f i t a b l e as was generally the life of routine and r a t h e r vapid social intercourse they lived, they were nevertheless the recipients of a vast income and the possessors of an unrivalled h e r i t a g e of r u r a l wealth. T h e y were the ancient a n d solid f o u n d a tion of t h e wealth of E n g l a n d . T h e i r income was momentarily t h r e a t e n e d by the f a l l of t h e price of grain a t t h e close of the Napoleonic w a r s , but l a n d holders were still supreme in P a r l i a m e n t as t h e y were in t h e c o u n t r y , so t h e corn laws were p a s s e d , t h e price of wheat stabilized a t something n e a r $2.50 a bushel, a n d their w e a l t h remained u n s h a t tered. Some l a n d o w n e r s had recently been still f u r t h e r enriched by the discovery a n d development of coal mines below the s u r f a c e of their l a n d s . Such f a m i 8

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

lies as the Lowthers in Westmoreland the Curwens in Cumberland, the Percys in Northumberland, the Bridgewaters in Lancashire, had found in the new demand for an old product, often lying under lands otherwise of relatively small value, enormous additions to their own wealth and that of England. The product of other mines—iron, lead, copper, tin— added some millions to the national income, though it did not usually pass through the hands of so high a social class. Nor was the wealth drawn from the land all preserved in the country. Many of the nobility and gentry had in London or in the county towns, either in their own possession or in the hands of other members of their families, town houses containing furnishings and other accompaniments of luxurious living that compared favorably with the great country houses. The close connection between rural and town wealth is one of the characteristics of England. The sea has its harvests as well as the land and for more than four centuries importing and exporting merchants of England had been amassing wealth in the form of ships and warehouses and goods in transit and personal property and actual money in use. The time had not yet come, though it was well on its way, when Kipling could write : Oh, where are you going to, all you Big Steamers, With England's own coal up and down the salt seas ? We are going to fetch you your bread and your butter, Your beef, pork and mutton, eggs, apples and cheese. 4

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

Andl where will you fetch it from, all you Big Steamers, Andl where shall I write you when you are away? We fetch it from Melbourne, Quebec, and Vancouver, Address us at Hobart, Hong-Kong, and Bombay. The middle ages had created but little mercantile wealth, but with the overseas urge of the sixteenth century and the formation of the great commercial companies—the Muscovy, the Levant, the East India, the Hudson Bay-—and the appearance of enterprising, individual merchants and partnerships, a group of rich commercial families was formed which rivalled in their wealth the older landed families. The commercial wars of the eighteenth century and the growth of the colonies gave them more than equal advantages in the acquisition of wealth with the increased rents of the landholders. They lived in houses as extensive, as luxurious, and filled with even more handsome furniture and richer plate than all but the very greatest of the landowners. They were able to go beyond them in expenditure, and had at the same time their more mobile wealth, government loans, stock in trade, and money in the bank for further adventuring. The population of London passed the million mark in 1801 and there were whole streets and suburbs of wealthy or well-to-do city men. Other towns had their successful merchant population. Sir John Gladstone, father of the statesman, was a typical importing merchant of Liverpool. The merchants of that 6

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

city in the year 1800 imported a quarter of a million pounds of raw cotton, and this was relatively a new trade. E x p o r t s of woolen goods and iron m a n u f a c tures and imports of f u r s , tobacco, timber, w h e a t , and a score of other products were older a n d scarcely less profitable objects of commerce. Liverpool's unenviable primacy in the slave t r a d e added greatly to her wealth. In the decade 1783-1793, her merchants carried something over 300,000 slaves from A f r i c a to the West Indies, and one of them, Mayor Thomas Leyland, was said to have earned some $200 per head on those carried on his vessels. Liverpool was scarcely an exceptional commercial town. Of Bristol, Hull, Plymouth, and a score of other ports the same story could be told. Commerce had created approximately as much wealth for E n g land as agriculture, and the towns were together probably as rich as the country. A by-product of commerce was the group of "nabobs," men who had acquired wealth in the colonies through the exploitation of the natives or native resources and had brought that wealth home with them to utilize and e n j o y in either town or country life. Nor was wealth acquired by t r a d i n g restricted to merchant princes. A substantial amount was distributed among smaller merchants and dealers, down to the shopkeepers of London and the provincial towns. E n g l a n d was also a capitalist country. T h e r e were rich banking as well as landed and m e r c h a n t families. T h i s saved-up and disposable wealth had come 6

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

originally largely f r o m t r a d e , but it was now possessed, handled, a n d increased by b a n k e r s . M a n y of these were or h a d been Q u a k e r s , such as Sir J o h n B a r n a r d a n d Samuel G u r n e y of Norwich, f o u n d e r of t h e house of Overend a n d G u r n e y , or they were Scotchmen, such as Coutts a n d Company, originally g r a i n dealers of E d i n b u r g h , a n d H e n r y H o p e , who died a millionaire in 1811. O r they were J e w s , like Ricardo and Meyer Rothschild, who came f r o m G e r m a n y to E n g l a n d in 1800. T h e r e were also n u m b e r less wholesale m e r c h a n t - c a p i t a l i s t s who increased the numbers of the well-to-do, and whose f o r t u n e s , large a n d small, helped make u p t h e total of E n g land's wealth. B u t p e r h a p s the most significant f o r m of wealth in E n g l a n d at the beginning of the c e n t u r y , certainly t h e f o r m increasing most r a p i d l y , was t h a t which arose from m a n u f a c t u r e s . A new a n d more productive industrial l i f e was then in t h e h e y d a y of its growth. Regions not b e f o r e thickly p o p u l a t e d or highly cultivated or suitable f o r commerce were now coming to be dotted with f a c t o r y chimneys a n d crowded with m a n u f a c t u r i n g towns. T h e f o r m e r l y less permeable and populous N o r t h of E n g l a n d was being rapidly seamed with canals a n d t u r n p i k e roads and was soon to be t r a v e r s e d in all directions by railroads. Newly invented machinery, a new organization of industry, new application of capital, a new opportunity for e n t e r p r i s e a n d new methods of t r a n s p o r t a t i o n were r a p i d l y t r a n s f o r m i n g masses of r a w material into valuable products. T h e I n d u s t r i a l

7

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

Revolution was in full progress. A chance r e p o r t of the year 1788 speaks of one hundred and fifty-lthree factories recently built near Manchester. Arrthur Young mentions a new mill costing a sum equial to $500,000, another twice as much, and still another three times as much. T h e first canal, built fon· the Duke of Bridge water, cost $1,000,000; the canals in existence at the beginning of the century were estimated to have increased the wealth of E n g l a n d by $25,000,000. This new industrial equipment was in the hands largely of a new group of men. The Arkwrights, Dales, Peels, Brights, Ashtons, S t r u t t s , Owens, Wedgwoods, and hundreds of others were fast becoming a new and wealthy aristocracy, destined to power, political recognition, and eventually to social equality with the older wealthy classes. Statistics are seldom accurate and there are special difficulties in calculating total v e a l t h and income. But a careful estimate places the total wealth of England at this time at about a billion and a half pounds or seven and a half billion dollars, and her total income at an amount equalling about one and a half billion dollars. The government had been able to borrow as much as one and a quarter billion dollars, through loans for war purposes between 1793 and 1800. Less formal methods of gaining an impression of the wealth of the country and of the well-to-do classes are at hand. Miss Burney's Cecilia was left a fortune of ¿£10,000 a year by her father though he was a mere private country gentleman. Shirley, though a plain little Yorkshire heiress, has 8

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

£ 1 0 0 0 a y e a r , a fine old house and a dozen servants. C o n t e m p o r a r y mention of money, whether as investm e n t s in business, subscriptions to charities, or g a m b l i n g gains and losses, is always in l a r g e sums. C o n t e m p o r a r y pictures of men and women of the u p p e r classes w h e t h e r at meetings of P a r l i a m e n t , public assemblies, Ranelagh G a r d e n s , t h e D e r b y , city clubs, or r u r a l inns, show handsomely dressed g r o u p s , s p e n d i n g freely, eating luxuriously and living a leisurely life. T h e expenditure of one of the newest of the rich men of E n g l a n d may be guessed f r o m t h e following c o n t e m p o r a r y description. "On S u n d a y last Sir Rich. A r k w r i g h t , K n t . H i g h Sheriff of t h e county, arrived a t D e r b y accompanied by a g r e a t number of gentlemen on horseback; his javelin men, t h i r t y in n u m b e r , dressed in the richest liveries ever seen t h e r e on such an occasion, all rode on black horses. T h e t r u m p e t e r s were mounted on gray horses a n d elegantly dressed in scarlet and gold. T h e H i g h Sheriff's coach was very elegant a n d fashionable, with p l a t e d furnishings, etc." Such was the wealthy E n g l a n d of 1800; endowed with her g r e a t accumulations from the p a s t , rich in native resources, her factories p o u r i n g out valuable products, her harbors filled with ships, her roads and canals crowded with goods, her f a r m s a n d mines productive, her people enterprising a n d industrious. Wliat a wealthy country is E n g l a n d ! Such is the irresistible exclamation of the onlooker. T h e r e must be plenty for all. So rich a country must be able to 9

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

give to all her people comfort, if not luxury. W e have enumerated class after class of the population who were holders of property and receivers o f a liberal income. I f

there are other classes not

so

fortunate, the national income will certainly hold out to give them sustenance and provide their fundamental needs. T o test the adequacy of this judgment an e f f o r t may be made to estimate the proportionate numbers of the classes of the British people a century ago. N o exactitude is of course possible and these numbers may be little more than guesswork. T h e y may serve nevertheless to illustrate a point which is in itself indubitable. I n a recent topographical work four chance counties disclose respectively seventyfive, something over a hundred, a hundred and

fifty,

and two hundred and twenty gentlemen's seats with names of some antiquity. I f therefore an average of two hundred landed estates in each county may be taken as a fair estimate we would have some 10,000 families of the landed nobility and gentry. T h e r e may have been some 8000 substantial merchants in L o n d o n and 2000 in other towns. T h e r e were perhaps

2000

financial

personages

of

weight

and

wealth. T h e new cotton manufacturers, ironmasters and others manufacturing on a large enough scale to j o i n in a national organization numbered about 5000. Successful professional men, lawyers, physicians, officers in the army and navy, and holders of lucrative offices under the national government or the governments of towns, perhaps added

10

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

u p to 3000 more. Of churchmen, the twenty-five b i s h o p s , one h u n d r e d and fifty canons and others on a list of holders of the b e t t e r church offices made up, p e r h a p s , more t h a n 1000. T h i s makes some 30,000 individuals or, with their families, about 150,000 persons. T h e population of E n g l a n d in 1801 was 8,750,000. T h a t is, the enume r a t e d classes of the actually wealthy were about one-sixtieth of t h e population. W e have discussed this one-sixtieth, w h a t was the position of the other f i f t y - n i n e sixtieths? Of the seven and a half billions of p r o p e r t y or t h e one a n d a half billions of income t h a t made E n g l a n d so wealthy a country, w h a t p r o p o r t i o n went t o the h u n d r e d a n d fifty thousand, w h a t p r o p o r t i o n to the eight million six h u n d r e d t h o u s a n d ? I t is t r u e t h a t there must have been large n u m b e r s h a r d l y to be included in the w e a l t h y — the f a r m e r s , t h e lower clergy, small shopkeepers, p e t t y office-holders, teachers, clerks, persons living on small savings, who formed a not u n p r o s p e r ous middle class. T h e s e must be considered as modest possessors of some humble share of E n g l a n d ' s wealth. B u t how m a n y they were we have no statistics to f u r n i s h even a basis f o r guessing. T h e rich were f e w , the middle classes may have been m a n y . Let us however give u p t h e almost futile effort to estimate relative numbers a n d wealth and t u r n to look a t E n g l i s h society f r o m the bottom instead of f r o m t h e top. A suggestive anecdote of the p r i m e minister is given by a diarist of 1795. " M r . P i t t , being on a visit in E s s e x descanted with g r e a t satis11

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

faction on the prosperous state of the country. H i s host let the discourse drop, but contrived that on the following day Mr. Pitt should valle in the adjoining town of Halsted. It presented a state of the utmost poverty and wretchedness. H e surveyed it in wonder and silence, and then declared that he had no conception that England presented in any part of it such a scene." I n 1812 Lord Byron, j u s t returned from the Orient and speaking for the first time in the House of Lords, declared, doubtless with some exaggeration, but with sincere feeling, " I have been in some of the most oppressed provinces of Turkey, but never under the most despotic infidel governments did I behold such squalid wretchedness as I have seen since my return in the very heart of a Christian country. I have seen men meagre with famine, sullen with despair, careless of life." I n the same year a government official, speaking in Parliament in favor of a bill for training poor boys for the navy says he can readily secure 90,000 boys of the proper age for the purpose from the poorhouses of the country. Another official writes, somewhat later, concerning Manchester, " T h e streets of this town are horrible. The poor starving people go about in twenties and forties begging." As such testimony piles up it becomes evident that there is much in England besides wealth and besides even the comfort of the middle classes. Not only the amount of property but the contrast between the wealth and the poverty of the country impressed contemporaries. Greville in his journal, 12

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

describing the first outbreak of cholera, in the third decade of the century, remarks, " T h e awful thing is the vast estent of misery and distress which prevails and the evidence of the rotten foundation on which the whole fabric of this gorgeous society rests ; for I call that rotten which exhibits thousands upon thousands of human beings reduced to the lowest stage of moral and physical degradation, with no more of the necessaries of life than serve to keep body and soul together, whole classes of artisans without the means of subsistence— Extremes prevail of the most unbounded luxury and enjoyment and the most dreadful privation and suffering." Or, again, describing a trial at the Old Bailey, " T h e case exhibited a shocking scene of wretchedness and poverty such as ought not to exist in any community, especially in one which pretends to be so flourishing and happy as this." Baroness Lieven, the observant wife of the Russian ambassador, remarks, " T h e aristocracy rolls in wealth and luxury, while the streets of London and the highways of the country swarm with miserable creatures covered with rags, barefooted, having neither food nor shelter." General Sir Charles Napier, destined always to sympathize with the poor but to command the troops who protected the rich, writes bitterly to his mother in 1816, "There are two million of people in England starving to enable Lord Camden to receive £38,000 a year and to spend it on game and other amusements." And, again, " T h e English poor may speak with bated breath of the wealth of their coun13

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

try, but they are not to get the smallest taste of it." And, "the Irish laborer looks at the rasher of bacon suspended above his table but eats only his potatoes." An American visitor points out that "the condition of the lower classes at the present moment is a mournful comment on English institutions and civilization. The multitude are depressed in that country to a degree of ignorance, want and misery which must touch every heart not made of stone. In the civilized world there are few sadder spectacles than the present contrast in Great Britain of unbounded wealth and luxury with the starvation of thousands and tens of thousands, crowded into cellars and dens, without ventilation or light, compared with which the wigwam of the Indian is a palace. Misery, famine, brutal degradation, in the presence of stately mansions which ring with gaiety and dazzle with pomp and unbounded profusion." "The distress of the people" is one of the most familiar expressions in parliamentary debate. It might well be so. In 1801 about one and a quarter million of the eight and three quarter millions of the population, one in seven, are receiving poor relief ; in Birmingham this rises to one in three. In Drury Lane district in London 3000 of the 5000 families live in one room. In another London district, "It is a fortunate family which has one room to itself." "Orchard Place is less than 45 yards long and 8 broad and contains 27 homes. Residents in the court in 1845 were no less than 217 families, consist14

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

i n g oí 882 persons." I n Liverpool t h e cellar houses, of which t h e r e a r e 6284, a r e 10 or 12 feet s q u a r e generally flagged, but f r e q u e n t l y having only t h e b a r e earth for a floor a n d sometimes less t h a n 6 f e e t in height. T h e r e is f r e q u e n t l y no window, so t h a t light and air can gain access to t h e cellar only by the door, the top of which is o f t e n not higher t h a n the level of the street. T h e r e a r e few cellars where at least two families do not h e r d t o g e t h e r . " T h i s is in the town. According to a long series of reports the country is worse. I n one county " T h e m a j o r i t y of the cottages a r e w r e t c h e d l y built, o f t e n in very unhealthy sites ; they are miserably small a n d are crowded to excess, t h e y are very low, seldom drained, and badly r o o f e d ; and they scarcely ever have a n y cellar or space u n d e r t h e floor of the lower rooms. T h e floors a r e f o r m e d either of flags, which rest upon t h e cold, u n d r a i n e d ground, or, as is o f t e n the case, of nothing but a mixture of clay a n d lime." S t a t e m e n t s f r o m c o u n t r y clergymen, s a n i t a r y authorities, agents of l a n d l o r d s , a n d other observers describe in village a f t e r village, in shire a f t e r shire, the miserable dwellings of the p e a s a n t r y , whole families a n d groups of both sexes, " p i g g i n g " together in the same room, o f t e n in t h e same bed, filthy, immoral, illiterate, debased beyond modern realization, almost beyond belief. B a s t a r d y is so common as to seem, as it doubtless was, a n o r m a l accompaniment of the way of living of t h e f a r m laborers of E n g l a n d . And a g a i n t h e same c o n t r a s t between riches a n d poverty. T h e s e miserable dwell15

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

ing places of the mass of t h e r u r a l population l a y o f t e n on the very confines of t h e p a r k s of t h e g e n t r y . E v e n in fiction a p p e a r s as a background to t h e life of the fashionable and well-to-do, ever and a n o n , the misery of the poor. I t is t r u e t h a t the c o u n t r y swains a n d their lasses and the lavender-sellers a n d the working men and women and their children in the contemporary paintings of M o r l a n d a n d B o n ington, Crome and Gainsborough a n d even Constable are well dressed and comfortable looking, but this is due to the exigencies of the p a l e t t e or the dictates of romance. T h e moment realism asserts itself we have the barbarities of H o g a r t h and t h e sordid descriptions of Crabbe. W h e r e v e r in c o n t e m p o r a r y record, w h e t h e r statistics, diaries, speeches, literature, or a r t , the decent veil of romance, convention or complacence is d r a w n aside, we see masses of the English people spending their lives in t h e deepest poverty, privation, ignorance a n d neglect. W h a t a poverty-stricken country is E n g l a n d ! Such is now the exclamation of the observer. T h e evidence for her poverty is as overwhelming as is t h a t for her wealth. T h e r e a r e two E n g l a n d s . One is the E n g l a n d of the u p p e r classes, the f o r t u n a t e , the rich a n d c o m f o r t a b l e ; t h e other is t h e E n g l a n d of the masses. Only by s h u t t i n g eyes a n d ears to t h e testimony for t h e one c a n we accept t h e other as the real E n g l a n d . Both a r e real. " T h e riches a n d t h e poverty of the l a n d " is t h e biblical formula. I t is an ancient contrast. For some reason it was especially t r u e t h a t in E n g l a n d dire poverty coexisted 16

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

with great wealth. I t is not an illusion or a mistake, but a plain historical fact that England was at the beginning of the nineteenth century a marvellously rich country, in which, due to some fatal maladjustment, poverty was rampant and need the general condition of the mass of the people. T h e causes for this contrast might be inquired into, but it is not they but the action to which the contrast led that is the subject of this book. One may be justified, in the interests of optimism, in interrupting the narrative for a moment to call attention to the disappearance of many of these conditions from modern England. P o v e r t y still exists, problems remain to be solved, there is much that is unsatisfactor}·, even deplorable, in modern English society, but there is no longer starvation, raggedness, cellar-living, except by some tragic and occasional mischance. Sad enough sights and exigencies there are now, as any inquirer may learn, but the worst sights noticeable at every turn a century ago and testified to by innumerable witnesses, are no longer to be found in England by any student of social conditions, native or foreign. There is just one other consideration which might m o d i f y our judgment upon that time. W e r e the conditions of distress general or were they merely local or casual or restricted to the thriftless and drunken? This question can be tested with some accuracy. I n the year 1801 there were food riots in Sheffield in the north, N o r w i c h in the east, Brighton in the south, Worcester in the west and Coventry and N o t 17

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

tingham in the midlands. Destitution in that year was evidently not local. Again, restriction and even privation might exist, yet without actual distress except in certain contingencies. T h a t is a m a t t e r of the s t a n d a r d of life, of wages compared with prices, and of regularity of employment. Were ordinary wages adequate for comfort and health? Lists of wages and prices are abundant. For instance, according to a government accounting in the year 1800, daily wages of mechanics at Greenwich were, for plumbers 3s 3d, c a r p e n t e r s 3s 2d, bricklayers 3s, masons 2s lOd. These, reduced to more familiar units, amount to about $5 a week for the highest, $4.10 for the lowest. I n the same year A r t h u r Young reports agricultural laborers in a large p a r t of E n g l a n d as receiving 9s per week as wages and 6s from the poor rates, equalling together about $3.75 a week. Millworkers in Glasgow at the same time were receiving about $5 a week, miners from $4 to $5.10. J o u r n e y m e n tailors, about the highest paid operatives, when regularly at work could earn 24s, equalling about $6.00 weekly. A great number of other instances, though showing much variation do not reach higher nor, under normal circumstances, fall appreciably lower t h a n this. Wages of men, therefore, might be considered to extend from about $3.50 to $5 a week. Women's wages were from $1.25 to $3 per week. These of course were nominal not real wages. W h a t about prices ? A list of food prices in the Annual Register for 1801, transformed into Ameri18

WEALTH AND POVERTY can figures, is as follows: meat 18ff per lb., cheese 8φ per lb., butter 35^ per lb., tea 60¿ per lb., sugar 35{f per lb., bread from to 8φ per lb. according to changes in the price of grain. Of these it is obvious that meat, butter and cheese are lower than present English or American prices, tea and sugar are higher, bread is on the average about the same. It is evident that bread could not be cheap with wheat rising frequently to $2.50, $3.00 or even $4.00 a bushel, though there was a quicker response in the food market to its fall then than now. Rent, clothing, leather and some metal goods were cheaper than in modern times, but not very much cheaper. From these and a large number of other calculations one reaches the conclusion that the cost of living was lower but not greatly lower than in modern times, whereas wages were very much lower. Recent authoritative calculations have placed the real value of present prevailing English wages at four times their value at the beginning of last century. To the present writer that seems unduly favorable to modern wages. But in any case the standard of life of the whole working class was in 1800 a very low one. Distress was not only in times of disaster, and poverty was the lot not of the unfortunate and incompetent only. There was an immeasurable hiatus between the usual habits of living of the upper and the lower classes and but a narrow margin between the usual wages of the latter and actual suffering. Then, as now, it was the irregularity of employ19

MODERN ENGLISH

REFORM

ment that was the greatest source of distress. Any fall from a standard that barely supported life, a crisis in trade and consequent discharge or cutting down of wages, a bad harvest and consequent rise of the price of food, brought a great part o f the population into utter misery. T h e depression in business of the early years of the century threw great numbers out of work and caused a cut in wages. I n 1806 weavers at Broughton were getting only $ 2 . 6 0 a week, in 1819 ironworkers in Wales were getting only $ 1 . 5 0 a week and factory workers in Glasgow $ 1 . 3 0 . T h e poor law of England, hard worked as it was, had been intended for the support of a relatively small class of permanent paupers ; it was not adjusted to.the requirements of an increasingly industrialized population with frequent temporary loss of occupation. So bad times and business failures were reflected immediately in an increase of deplorable poverty. At any one time some hundreds of thousands of the artisans and working classes of E n g l a n d occupied at their usual wages were living on a level of bare subsistence; down below them were a mass of men, women and children, permanently or temporarily underpaid, underfed, ill clothed, living in congested quarters, ignorant, miserable, and drunken. Prevailing

wages,

prices, and irregularity of occupation taken into consideration therefore, it is a fact that a great part of the English people were a sodden and unhappy and restless mass, compared with whose condition

20

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

the wealth of England seems as we look back on it an absurd anomaly or a cruel j e s t of fate. This is a sombre story, too sombre perhaps as here told, for actuality. There were doubtless cases of comfort and content; there must have been groups and individuals not in the specially privileged classes who were nevertheless more favorably situated than others. Too many men rose from the lower classes to permit the belief that the case of those classes was hopeless; many who made the best of a bad job evidently found it endurable. Humanity has great capacity for survival. Yet a careful judgment, no matter how forbearing, based upon contemporary testimony, must be a harsh one. The description of England a century or more ago, as so f a r given, has been of her material condition. It is conceivable that her political, religious, and intellectual wealth was better distributed. Let us see ! Englishmen were inheritors of a great constitutional tradition of freedom and self-government. England was apparently as wealthy a nation politically as materially. Montesquieu, perhaps not too well informed, had set her government before the Continent as a model. Burke, the greatest of her own political philosophers, treated the English constitution as something sacred, hallowed by age, its authority justified by its internal excellence. The Duke of Wellington in a famous speech in Parliament declared that if he were asked to make a form of government for any country he would copy that 21

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

of England as closely as possible. Even yet there are writers who look back to her government at this period as a particularly excellent government. At first sight there seems some justification for such a contemporary and modern estimate. The English people were in a certain sense a free people. Parliament, the national assembly, was supreme. I t was Parliament, not a king, that controlled taxation, made statutes, even to a considerable degree directed diplomatic relations and decided upon war and peace. England was "a republic with a crown in its 'scutcheon." I t might seem that the English people ruled themselves, and there were some who declared that they ruled themselves well. Yet in the realm of government as in more material fields, there is other testimony. Shelley was not a careful observer, but there were others more moderate and more competent who yet agreed with his bitter description of the government written in the second decade of the century. "An old, mad, blind, despised and dying king, Princes, the dregs of their dull race— Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know, But leech-like to their fainting country cling. A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field, Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay— A senate—Time's worst statute unrepealed." It is the government, not economic society that Place described as "this old rotten system." Indeed contemporary criticism meets us at every turn. The incapacity and corruption of government are 22

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

the constant o b j e c t s of complaint and the familiar b u t t of the wit of the time. Moreover we have the same contrast between the political as between the economic wealth of the few and poverty of t h e m a n y . All t h e self government, all the parliam e n t a r y control, all office, was the monopoly of an extremely small p a r t of the people. All political power and most political advantage was in the possession of but one hundred or two h u n d r e d or p e r h a p s three hundred thousand of the eight and three q u a r t e r s millions of the people. T h e u p p e r classes were politically privileged, the lower classes h a d neither p a r t nor lot in the m a t t e r . All members of P a r l i a m e n t and voters for them, all j u d g e s and m a g i s t r a t e s a n d those who influenced their selection, all officers in the a r m y and navy, all ambassadors a n d other foreign representatives, all administrative officials, were selected f r o m the few h u n d r e d thousands of the ruling class. If not more than one out of sixty belonged to the well-to-do classes, scarcely more belonged to the politically ruling classes. I t was in the year 1800 t h a t as mode r a t e a s t a t e s m a n as P i t t expressed the aristocratic ideal of government when he said, " T h e r e may be occasions, but they will ever be few, when an a p p e a l to the people is the j u s t mode of proceeding on imp o r t a n t s u b j e c t s . " T h i s political condition is described as follows by a modern English historian f a r from lacking in admiration for the institutions of his native c o u n t r y : " I n the generation following 1792 B r i t a i n was not a f r e e country. T h e island was 23

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

governed by a certain number of privileged persons, and the bulk of the inhabitants not only had no share of any sort in the government, but they were debarred from demanding a share by laws especially enacted for this purpose and savagely administered." Modern admiration for the old aristocratic government of England is misapplied. It is a suggestive thought that the views on political policy expressed by Burke, Fox, Pitt, Grey, Wilberforce, and other parliamentary leaders are not differences of ideas among the English people but only personal opinions of one very small section of the English people. They were at best disputes among the members of a political clique. To find the opinions of the English nation it would be necessary to go much further afield. Contemporary criticism was however not only of the narrowness but of the incompetence of the government of the time. Was the political wealth of England real wealth, like her material possessions, even though in the hands of a few, or was it sham wealth? Horace Walpole called the House of Lords "a mob of nobility." In the sixty years from 1760 to 1820, three hundred and eighty-eight new peerages had been created in a House of Lords of about six hundred. These were mostly "new men," and, due to the exigencies of politics, were almost all Tories. These in turn controlled the election of more than one half of the House of Commons, which was consequently almost solidly Tory. As a result a great many incapable men were in24

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

eluded, a g r e a t m a n y able men, members by b i r t h a n d position of the r u l i n g class, were excluded f r o m P a r l i a m e n t because of their political views. Sidney Smith said " I t was an a w f u l time f o r those who h a d the misfortune to e n t e r t a i n liberal opinions." T h e same p a r t y spirit a n d favoritism extended t o appointments, which were but seldom based on ability. T h e T o r y government was but a poor embodiment of its own ideal of government by a class t r a i n e d to power a n d responsibility. I t was under constant and s h a r p criticism by the W h i g p a r t y , which was not f u n d a m e n t a l l y less aristocratic. I t was inefficient, faced periodically with h a l f - m u t i n y in the a r m y and navy, and constantly with what P i t t described in a letter to A d d i n g t o n as t h e " p r o g r e s s of discontent and internal mischief." Legislation was largely class legislation. Game laws to g r a t i f y landowners, penal laws to protect each special form of p r o p e r t y , combination acts to s t r e n g t h e n employers against t h e nascent t r a d e unions, gave testimony to t h e class cdnsciousness of P a r l i a m e n t and its preoccupation with the defense of the interests of its own members. Above all was t h e constant s t r u g g l e of the ministers to gain or retain office. E n g l i s h political life o f t e n reminds one of boys p l a y i n g a game. I t is all so personal, so earnest, directed so single-mindedly to success, either of t h e individual or of his side, so r e s p e c t f u l of precedent. I t is t r u e the game they p l a y is the game of empire. T h e questions they debate, the problems t h e y endeavor to settle are in 25

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

many cases so serious that they must needs use high argument. This is, as it -were, in spite of themselves ; the natural attitude of English statesmen in contending for ministerial office is none the less that of contestants on the ball field. England during this period fought a victorious war against France and Napoleon, but it was in the midst of bitter criticism of the government, disunion among classes and individuals, and at an enormous economic, financial, and moral cost. Such an incompetent and ill-supported government in the crisis of a century later would have invited and suffered early defeat. Thus, not only was the political wealth of England monopolized by a few, but that wealth itself was of doubtful value. No phase of existing society in England at the beginning of our period was more vulnerable to criticism and attack than its political phase. England had a wealthy established church; rich in endowments, privileges, and prestige. Its bishops were members of the House of Lords and thus participated in government; its lower clergy were frequently magistrates and always influential in affairs of the civil parish, and therefore participants in local administration. The piety of past ages had provided a vast number of foundations for education, charity, and religion, and far the greater number of these were in charge of the established church. The clergy were usually well-educated and refined and some of them realized their duties and utilized their opportunities. But all material favors 26

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

of the church were for a small minority of the people. The body of the clergy were drawn almost entirely from the group of families which monopolized landed and commercial wealth and political power. It would be an exaggeration to deny to the established church a modicum of influence over the people of England, especially over the more backward and stolid elements. I t is also true that there are saints in all countries and times. A goodly number of learned and pious churchmen can be named as living in 1800, and many devoted souls whose names are forgotten were doubtless giving to their parishioners such comfort and help as the church offered and their own good sense dictated. Nevertheless it is in the main true that the church of England at the beginning of the nineteenth century, however well-endowed and firmly established, was quite undevout and largely sterile. I t s endowments were looked upon primarily as a source of support for the younger sons of the nobility and gentry. T h a t the oldest son should inherit the land, the second go into the army and the third into the church was well established custom. When the hero of Sense and Sensibility, presumptive heir to lands worth ¿ 1 0 0 0 a year, is cut off from his inheritance, he immediately decides to be ordained and accepts the offer of a friendly neighboring landlord of a rectory worth £ 2 0 0 a year. His scapegrace brother, who now becomes heir of the land, laughs loudly at the idea of his brother in a surplice publishing banns, while another neighbor 27

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

wonders t h a t the p a t r o n should have given a w a y a living which he could have sold f o r Χ14Ό0. I t is no wonder a pious c h a r a c t e r in Shirley exclaims, " G o d save the c h u r c h — a n d God r e f o r m it." I n d e e d the p a r t the church p l a y s in contemporary fiction is its most effective if unconscious condemnation. T h e devotion of the masses to t h e church was r e s t r i c t e d largely to "church a n d k i n g , " and "no p o p e r y " p r o p a g a n d a . F r o m t h e religious a n d moral point of view its influence over the common people a n d its service to them were practically nil. T h e i r religious life, so f a r as it showed any vitality, g a t h e r e d around D i s s e n t or Methodism. Deism was widespread in the u p p e r classes, plain religious ignorance in the lowest. T h e Methodist and E v a n gelical revival had aroused much religious f e r v o r in certain restricted g r o u p s , a n d the Q u a k e r s a n d U n i t a r i a n s were i n t e r e s t i n g themselves in works of practical piety. A p a r t f r o m these E n g l a n d , f r o m a religious point of view, was not wealthy but poor. I n t h e field of t h e intellect an age and a n a t i o n which offered to t h e world so large a number of men a n d women productive in fiction, p o e t r y , hist o r y , science, criticism, a n d all other f o r m s of m e n t a l activity, a land where culture was so w i d e s p r e a d a n d the mind of m a n so f r e e , can with difficulty be s u b j e c t e d to an adverse j u d g m e n t , or even to question. Yet it is astonishing on what a background of p o p u l a r ignorance all this was p r o j e c t e d . O p p o r tunities for education, a p a r t f r o m individual effort, were incredibly r e s t r i c t e d . T h e old universities 28

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

with their rich colleges, the public schools and larger endowed schools were utilized for the education, such as it was, of the same small section of the people we have already so often met in the seats of privilege. In the smaller endowed and grammar schools, a few schools carried on for profit, and in still fewer cathedral and denominational schools a larger representation of the middle classes found their few opportunities for education. Some of the rich had private tutors. For the lower classes there were practically no provisions. "The poor of England are . . . very much worse educated than the poor of any other European nation, solely excepting Russia, Turkey, South Italy, Portugal and Spain. . . . About one half of our poor can neither read nor write. . . . It is a very common thing for even farmers to sign their names with a cross from being unable to write. You cannot address one of them without being at once painfully struck with the intellectual darkness that enshrouds him." Such are the concluding sentences of a Master of Arts of Cambridge sent out by his university to examine popular education in England and on the Continent. The type of education given at the various institutions was as unsatisfactory as their number was inadequate. This was one of the periods of ebbtide in the intellectual life of the universities. The bitter reminiscences of Gibbon in his Autobiography may be unfair to his university, but his general indictment of the professors and fellows can hardly be untrue. They are "decent, easy men who 29

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

supinely e n j o y e d t h e g i f t s of the f o u n d e r . " . . . " F r o m t h e toil of r e a d i n g or t h i n k i n g or w o r k i n g t h e y h a d absolved their consciences." " T h e i r conversation s t a g n a t e d in a r o u n d of college business, T o r y politics, p e r s o n a l anecdote and p r i v a t e scandal." I n the public a n d l a r g e endowed schools, the boys went through t h e f o r m s but seldom secured t h e actuality of a classical education, t h o u g h one of t h e m testifies: " B y t h e common methods of discipline, at t h e expense of m a n y t e a r s a n d some blood, I p u r c h a s e d the knowledge of the L a t i n synt a x . " T h e y k e p t up the t r a d i t i o n of a certain rude a n d liberty-loving a n d in some sense a democratic l i f e , but it extended f o r the most p a r t only to their own class. T h e y were sons of the aristocracy a n d h a d no interest, little fellow-feeling a n d in fact little knowledge of a n y one outside their own social class. Moreover, their s t a n d a r d s were b r u t a l , a n d by all testimony, to t h e g i f t e d or intellectually inclined, public-school life was little less t h a n tort u r e . T h e endowments of the smaller schools h a d been largely d i v e r t e d to o t h e r p u r p o s e s a n d the a c t u a l p r i v a t e schools were g e n e r a l l y poor. Of course m e n t a l h u n g e r will s a t i s f y itself if t h e r e is a n y possibility of finding food, a n d m a n y a n a l e r t - m i n d e d boy gained f o r himself an education f r o m books loaned him by some kindly clergyman, l a w y e r , or student. R o b e r t Owen a n d F r a n c i s P l a c e emerged l a r g e l y because of such o p p o r t u nities, a n d one who h a d much more b u t scarcely 30

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

better schooling testifies with a sudden accession of w a r m t h to his own " e a r l y a n d invincible love of reading, which I would not exchange for the t r e a s ures of I n d i a . " I t is one of the g r e a t glories of t h e English intellect t h a t it has survived its educational system. So it was with the army a n d navy. T h e r e was a high s t a n d a r d of personal honor a n d courage a n d patriotism, even if there was but little professional t r a i n i n g and but mediocre n a t u r a l capacity among the officers. B u t there was an immeasurable chasm between the officers and the common men of either service. Old custom a n d the system of p u r c h a s e of commissions p u t officerships in t h e h a n d s of t h e well-to-do a n d the aristocratic. T h e n a t u r a l and no doubt necessary distinction between officers a n d privates was intensified by the social difference between their respective classes. One officer quite casuali}' indicates this difference. H e is describing their q u a r t e r s in Kent. " O u r men have got t h e opthalmia very badly and a r e d y i n g f a s t f r o m inflammation of the lungs, caused by coldness of t h e weather and bad b a r r a c k s , — t h e men die t h r e e or four a day ; no officer suffers, they a r e w a r m e r . " A r m y discipline was not only h a r d but p e r m e a t e d with class favoritism. Sir R o b e r t Wilson tells t h a t in the campaign in F l a n d e r s in 1794 it was a common sight to see a court-martial sitting in the morning, the members of which were not yet sober a f t e r the debauch of the previous night, condemning p r i vate soldiers to 900 lashes f o r t h e crime of d r u n k 31

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

enness. An officer in 1809 speaks of "the ferocity of a discipline which is a disgrace to civilization," and acknowledges that it was largely for the purpose of securing the subserviency of the men to the officers. I t was the outspoken criticism by Cobbett of the flogging of some militia men at Ely in 1809 that led to his fine and imprisonment for two years. An army is, a f t e r all, an instrument adjusted to a special purpose, and such tyranny of officers over men might be justified as a necessity if it had been efficacious in producing a satisfactory military system. It was not so. As one reads in the contemporary records of the gross favoritism in promotions and assignments, the grave imperfections of the army in organization and morale, its terrible failures and sufferings during the Napoleonic wars, no justification can be found in its excellence for its class basis and savage code. I t is a military, not a civilian historian who declares in a modern work, " I t is difficult to read with patience in the diaries and letters of the subordinate officers the state of military mismanagement that existed at this time.—If men care to know what happened to our army when the press was gagged, when authority strutted its way from blunder to blunder, unchecked by the fear of public censure, they should study the military history of the early years of the century from the rupture of the Peace of Amiens to the campaign of Crimea." There were some differences between the army and navy. The social prestige of the latter was less. 32

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

Men of little birth often rose to high naval command ; this seldom if ever occurred in military life. On the other hand, whipping survived in the navy after it had disappeared from the army, and the still greater supremacy of the officers over the men probably more than compensated for any social defect in the naval officers' position. For the men there was the press gang. Common workmen going about their business in or near seaports were apt to be seized by the King's men and forced on shipboard for sea service. This was constantly done notwithstanding the traditions of English liberty. An extract from a Newcastle newspaper of 1812 is characteristic. "Monday near thirty riotous seamen were taken on the Tyne at Shields and lodged safe in his Majesty's ship Transit. The peace of the port has frequently been disturbed under pretense of demanding more wages, but now positive orders are given by the Admiralty to the commanding officer here to impress such lawless hands." Re-enlistment in a condition of drunkenness or desperation was scarcely distinguishable from force and this whole body of debased material was kept under by a savage use of the whip, the irons and, at a pinch, the pistol. The familiar modern poster appealing to young men to enlist in the navy on the grounds of education, opportunity to see the world, smart appearance, and pleasant companionship is about as complete an antithesis between the old and the new as social history affords. Is it necessary to apply the same analysis to the 33

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

j u d i c i a r y ? T h e j u d g e s at Westminister and on circuit, the attorney and solicitor general, the officials of the Chancery and of the courts of common law, the sheriffs and j u r i e s , the justices of the peace individually and in petty and q u a r t e r sessions made u p a famous judicial system which plays a large p a r t in contemporary description and in fiction, as it played in real life. But it is famous for its delays, for the harshness and narrowness of its j u d g ments, r a t h e r than for its enlightenment or justice. T h e traditional conservatism of the law, like the severity in the army and navy, was strengthened by the class feeling and, in local j ustice, by the personal interests of its administrators. Fear of the lower classes led to strained justice and harsh punishment for any approach to sedition or any criticism of the government. This f e a r extended to industrial as well as political unrest. The u p p e r classes were in a constant panic for f e a r of revolution or some kind of violent change, and the courts were their first line of defense. We shall later have occasion to speak of some of the deficiencies of the courts and the savagery of criminal law administered by them. I t is enough here to point out that they were the object of severe criticism by philosophical writers of the time and of distrust and hatred on the p a r t of the lower classes. Next to the parliamentary system, the judicial system seemed most to demand reorganization. So f r o m a f a r broader than the mere material point of view we have a s h a r p contrast between the 34

WEALTH

AND

POVERTY

wealth a n d the poverty of E n g l a n d . T o say t h a t E n g l a n d was rich in material possessions a n d in her p r i n c i p a l institutions was t r u e ; to say t h a t she was poor in the same respects was equally t r u e . T h e r e a r e two traditions of E n g l a n d . T h e one is the E n g l a n d of romance, politics, fashion, society, the f a v o r e d u p p e r classes, commerce, the new m a n u f a c t u r e s ; the other is the E n g l a n d of statistics, of t h e writings of realistic observers, of H o g a r t h , of overwhelming c o n t e m p o r a r y evidence, of t h e miserable masses. If any c o u n t r y ever needed and challenged r e f o r m , f r o m the f o u n d a t i o n u p w a r d , t h r o u g h its whole structure, it was E n g l a n d a t t h e beginning of the nineteenth c e n t u r y . A t first sight society seemed s t e r e o t y p e d in its old f o r m . T h e limited, self-centered, d i s t r u s t f u l g r o u p of t h e ruling classes, ensconced in wealth, office, political and economic power, a n d social prestige, seemed content to allow the most shocking abuses a n d grave i n j u s t i c e s to remain in existence. T h e i r instincts and their immediate i n t e r ests were all against change. T h e D u k e of Clarence once r e m a r k e d t h a t change of a n y kind b r o u g h t about by a n y means f o r a n y p u r p o s e was a b a d thing. T h i s royal nonentity would h a r d l y have been acknowledged as their spokesman by any considerable n u m b e r of the people of E n g l a n d , but his attitude was only too p r e v a l e n t ; t h i n g s had best remain as they were. Yet it is obvious t h a t such a condition of a f f a i r s , subjected to the attrition of a critical age, affected by new economic forces a n d acted 35

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

upon perhaps by still deeper influences, could not remain unchanged. T h a t the change was in the direction of improvement was doubtless due to that sum of human influences that usually works toward progress. As a matter of fact the reforms that were so badly needed were in the course of time measurably achieved, and they were achieved, as reforms must always be, from within, and by effort. Who the reformers were, what obstacles they met, and what methods they adopted to overcome them will be the subject of the next chapter.

36

II T H E REFORMERS AND T H E I R M E T H O D S , 1796-1846

I

F England at the beginning of the nineteenth century needed reform, its germs were already there ; if she needed reformers they were not lacking. Imbedded in the apparently static society of the time were many centers of infection, as they must have been considered by conservatives wedded to things as they were. Even in the midst of high aristocratic society were individuals and groups thoroughly dissatisfied with existing conditions and desirous of more or less extensive changes. There was, for instance, the so-called "Clapham Sect." Between 1790 and 1820 or later, one might frequently have found gathered around the dinner table or in the drawing room or library of one or other of their number a group of friends, most of whom lived or had town houses or rooms in the suburb of Clapham, southwest of London. It was an interesting and distinguished circle. The one whose dining room or library was perhaps their most frequent gathering place was Henry Thornton, son of a London banker, without profession except for his literary, social, and philanthropic interests and 37

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

his membership f o r m a n y y e a r s in the H o u s e of Commons. William W i l b e r f o r c e , a Y o r k s h i r e l a n d owner, w e a l t h y a n d aristocratic a n d also a member of P a r l i a m e n t , who s p e n t much of his time a t a dwelling bequeathed to him by an uncle in C l a p ham, was destined to the widest a n d most e n d u r i n g fame. Charles G r a n t , one of the " n a b o b s , " f o r m e r l y an official in I n d i a a n d now chairman of the Court of D i r e c t o r s of t h e E a s t I n d i a C o m p a n y in L o n d o n , also rich a n d f r o m 1802 to 1818 a member of P a r liament, was a f r e q u e n t p a r t i c i p a n t in t h e society a n d discussions of the group. I n 1802 a n o t h e r A n g l o - I n d i a n , J o h n Shore, f o r m e r l y governorgeneral of I n d i a a n d a f r i e n d of W a r r e n H a s t i n g s , lately m a d e L o r d T e i g n m o u t h a n d thus a member of the H o u s e of L o r d s , came to C l a p h a m to live. O t h e r s were socially less p r o m i n e n t . T h o m a s C l a r k son, a well-to-do country gentleman, was a f r e q u e n t visitor to W i l b e r f o r c e ; Granville S h a r p , a lawyer ; J o h n B o w d l e r , the e x p u r g a t o r of S h a k e s p e a r e ; Zachary M a c a u l a y , t h e f a t h e r ; a n d T h o m a s B a b ington, t h e uncle, of the historian ; J o h n V e n n , t h e rector of t h e p a r i s h whose church most of them a t t e n d e d ; a n d more occasional visitors m a d e u p an interesting a n d influential group. T h e y evidently sought a n d e n j o y e d one a n o t h e r ' s company. T h e y were all cultured, widely read a n d interested in l i t e r a t u r e , almost all rich, several of them members of P a r l i a m e n t , a n d all but two or t h r e e T o r i e s in politics. T h a t which seems most to 38

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

have held them t o g e t h e r was t h e f a c t t h a t they were all " E v a n g e l i c a l s , " devout a n d strict churchmen though not especially interested in the church as a s a c r a m e n t a l organization. T h e y were r a t h e r ridiculed by f r i e n d s not closely connected with their g r o u p a n d called " t h e S a i n t s " or, as already i n t i m a t e d , the " C l a p h a m S e c t . " An equally s t r o n g bond among them and t h a t which gives them special interest here is their s y m p a t h e t i c a t t i t u d e a n d in some cases their wholeh e a r t e d devotion to good works. T h e y were generous givers of time and money to philanthropic obj e c t s . I t is recorded of T h o r n t o n t h a t he gave six-sevenths of his income before his m a r r i a g e a n d one-third of it a f t e r w a r d to charities a n d philanthropies. T h e y were all interested in the reform of P a r l i a m e n t , the extension of public education, the improvement of public morals, the alleviation of p o v e r t y , a n d p e r h a p s most generally a n d actively, at the beginning of the c e n t u r y , in the abolition of the slave t r a d e . T h e names of Wilberforce, Clarkson, Zachary M a c a u l a y , a n d Granville S h a r p are almost synonymous with t h a t famous agitation of which something more in detail will be said l a t e r . B u t all these men might be counted on to respond f a v o r a b l y to h u m a n i t a r i a n proposals a n d as a matter of f a c t these engaged most of their interest and efforts. I t must of course be remembered t h a t they were of aristocratic position a n d t r a i n i n g , t h a t not too much t r u s t in the lower classes or lower-class 39

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

movements must be expected from them, and that some of them in political fields were reactionaries rather than reformers. Across the Thames, and in a somewhat more modest region socially, in Queen's Square, Westminster, lived Jeremy Bentham. Under his influence at this period was a group of men similar in many of their interests, yet strangely contrasted in their religion and politics, with those who have j u s t been named. Jeremy Bentham was a man of independent means, learned, philosophical, fertile of new ideas, and industrious, but hopelessly obscure as a writer. His Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation was written in 1775, published in 1788, translated into French and republished in 1802. But in none of these forms did it secure readers. During these twenty-five and more years of obscurity he wrote and published also many lesser essays, in which he formulated a complete philosophy of human society, a science of human nature. Expressions that later became familiar coin of conversational intercourse or watchwords of party, and ideas that have become common property are to be found imbedded in the writing and thinking of Bentham, such as "general utility," "the greatest happiness of the greatest number," "the search for pleasure and the avoidance of pain," "emancipation from the past," "the exclusive test of right and wrong,—the tendency of actions to produce pleasure or pain," and "the perfectibility of the world." All this philosophy however re40

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

mained u n k n o w n a n d u n r e a d u n t i l , a f t e r about 1808, the f r i e n d s h i p a n d assistance of J a m e s Mill, a clear-thinking a n d c l e a r - w r i t i n g y o u n g Scotchman, and t h e g r a d u a l a g g r e g a t i o n of a g r o u p of f r i e n d s , visitors, a n d c o r r e s p o n d e n t s , r e i n t e r p r e t e d and applied t h e fertile ideas of B e n t h a m to t h e times. Sir J a m e s Romilly, t h e b a n k e r a n d economist Ricardo, F r a n c i s Place, t h e t a i l o r , a n d J a m e s H u m e , the Radical, met a n d conversed a n d s p e n t days and sometimes weeks a t B e n t h a m ' s t o w n house or his c o u n t r y place, F o r d A b b e y , D e v o n s h i r e , a n d p o u r e d out a flood of books a n d p a m p h l e t s a n d articles, mostly in t h e E d i n b u r g h Review, all filled with ideas derived f r o m or suggested b y or developed in conflict with t h e head of t h e g r o u p , — " t h e M a s t e r " as they called him. B e n t h a m a n d P l a c e read t h e " F e d e r a l i s t " t o g e t h e r ; B e n t h a m a n d H u m e r e a d and discussed t h e " W e a l t h of N a tions." Y o u n g J o h n S t u a r t Mill with his f a t h e r a n d mother, visiting B e n t h a m , studied a l g e b r a , logic, philosophy, L a t i n , a n d G r e e k at eight y e a r s old. I n these long visits to F o r d A b b e y , t h e Mills, F r a n c i s Place and some o t h e r s all r e a d a n d w r o t e a n d worked and q u a r r e l e d with amiable i n f o r m a l i t y . T h e influence of the " B e n t h a m i t e s " or " U t i l i t a r i a n s " or "Philosophic R a d i c a l s , " as they came to be called, s p r e a d a n d s t r e n g t h e n e d . T h e i r philosop h y was antagonistic to most of t h e established institutions of the time. I t was provocative. I t was essentially an a p p e a l f r o m t r a d i t i o n , f r o m religion, f r o m vested rights, f r o m t h e claims of c a s t e , t o 41

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

utility, to reasonableness. Unless any practice can show t h a t it is reasonable, conducive to the general h a p p i n e s s , u s e f u l to society, it should be done a w a y with. N o length of existence or respectability of origin or s t r e n g t h of legal claim can j u s t i f y a n y custom not to t h e benefit of humanity at large. B e n t h a m , Mill, G r o t e , Place, and Brougham t h e r e fore f a v o r e d political r e f o r m almost to d e m o c r a c y ; they advocated universal education, in the belief t h a t enlightenment alone could enable men to choose w h a t was b e s t ; they sought the w e l f a r e of the masses ; they demanded individual freedom of action f o r all, convinced t h a t if the individual were set f r e e f r o m all t r a m m e l s his actions would be f o r the a d v a n t a g e and h a p p i n e s s of all. Such ideas were s p r e a d not only in such p a m p h l e t s as t h e " T a b l e of t h e S p r i n g s of Action," " D e f e n c e of U s u r y , " " R a t i o n a l e of J u d i c i a l Evidence," and the " P l a n of P a r l i a m e n t a r y R e f o r m , " but somewhat later were p o p u l a r i z e d by t h e clergyman J a m e s M a r tineau, and scattered still more widely by his d a u g h t e r , H a r r i e t M a r t i n e a u , in her t h i r t y - f o u r " T a l e s I l l u s t r a t i n g Political Economy and T a x a t i o n . " T h e C l a p h a m g r o u p a n d the Utilitarians were as f a r a p a r t as the t w o poles in religion and in m a n y other respects. T h e l a t t e r were anti-religious to the verge of a t h e i s m ; and held the church a n d indeed all m y s t i c a l religion responsible for m a n y of t h e evils of society—the identification of sin with crime, the severities of the penal code, t h e sacrosanct c h a r a c t e r of government, the persistence 42

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

of m a n y old-world abuses. Y e t t h e devout and t h e agnostic groups were alike in their interest in ref o r m . T h e w a r m s y m p a t h y of t h e one, as will be seen, r a n parallel with the sinewy criticism of the other in advocacy of the r e f o r m of the p e n a l code, the abolition of the slave t r a d e , t h e emancipation of the lower classes from their ignorance, the ref o r m of P a r l i a m e n t a n d m a n y other f u n d a m e n t a l changes. A focus of early r e f o r m which would h a r d l y have been looked for was t h e back room of a certain tailor shop at 16 C h a r i n g Cross, L o n d o n . I t was the living room and l i b r a r y of F r a n c i s Place, the retired tailor, where he s p e n t most of his time a n d met his f r i e n d s and visitors. Place h a d s p r u n g f r o m t h e very lowest d e p t h s of London, h a d worked u p f r o m a p p r e n t i c e to master tailor a n d then retired on $5000 a year. H e h a d educated himself, amassed a considerable body of knowledge a n d the f o u n d a tions of a l i b r a r y a n d h a d f o r m e d t h e nucleus of an influential body of f r i e n d s by t h e beginning of t h e c e n t u r y . H e remained for t h i r t y - t w o y e a r s t h e center of a notable circle of p e r p e t u a l discussion, a n d w h a t in modern times would be called radical p r o p a g a n d a . H e collected books, p a m p h l e t s , gove r n m e n t r e p o r t s , cuttings f r o m n e w s p a p e r s , a n d k e p t u p a voluminous correspondence of which he retained copies. Some of the ablest men of t h e time s t o p p e d in to chat with him on their way to and f r o m sessions of P a r l i a m e n t , or s p e n t longer periods looking u p p r i n t e d a n d w r i t t e n material or dis43

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

cassing plans with the shrewd old ex-workingman. H e n r y Brougham, later Lord Brougham; Robert Owen, the cotton manufacturer and socialist ; Grote, the historian and member of Parliament; McCullough, James and J o h n Stuart Mill, the economists ; Hume, the radical ; Sir Samuel Romilly ; William Cobbett; Sir Francis B u r d e t t ; J . C. Hobhouse, later Lord Broughton, and others were habitués of Place's conference room. H e had, besides, frequent meetings with the leaders of the working-class movement. There was some lapping over with the Benthamites, though not very much, none with the Clapham group, at least personally. The working-class affiliations and sentiments of Place were not shared, at least until long after the beginning of the century, by the Philosophic Radicals, and Wilberforce and his friends generally feared and disliked the working-class leaders. The whole interest of Place, however, was in the practical efforts in which all reformers were interested. Therefore as time went on and popular education, reform of Parliament, repeal of the combination acts, Chartism, successively appeared above the horizon of radical interest, Place served as a mine of information, a running spring of practical proposals, and a constant inciter to action. His room and its collections were at the same time a reference library, a conference room, a center of correspondence, and sometimes of plotting, and a publishing office. Place himself calls it "a sort of gossiping shop for such persons as were in any way 44

THE EARLY

REFORMERS

engaged in public matters haying the benefit of the people for their object." Hundreds of pounds were collected and spent and thousands of copies of pamphlets and reprints of speeches sent out. A certain place on a mantel was the traditional spot for posting a notice or hanging the material for a proposed pamphlet. Every visitor who approved of the project laid what money he cared to subscribe, usually a sovereign, on the mantel, and Place generally attended to the printing and distribution of the pamphlet. There is no lack of proof of the interest of the men of the time in the measures they advocated. Among pamphlets thus printed or reprinted were Mills' "Essay on Government," and review article on the ballot, McCullough's "Essay on Wages" of 1826, and Place's work, " T h e Law of Libel." Place because of his origin was in a position to feel for and represent a lower stratum of the population than either the "Saints" or the Benthamites knew anything about, and his fiery temperament made him little short of a revolutionist. H e was, however, so deeply imbued with the individualist doctrines of the age that he acted more often as a bridle than as a spur to the actions of the masses. Yet if the Clapham reformers were moved primarily by what they felt to be their moral duty, if Bentham and his followers were guided by their philosophical principles, Place and others, so far as they were influenced by him, were moved primarily by pure human sympathy. 46

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

Neither the Clapham coterie nor the Benthamites nor Place and his friends had any appreciable connection with, or indeed much respect for another body of men who were nevertheless at that time potentially the most important of all reformers. This was the little group of surviving Whig members of Parliament. Their reforming ideas were, in the political sphere at least, the most deeply rooted in the past and the most closely related to the actual life of the present. They had been deeply influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution, and represented that section of their party which had not gone over to conservatism with Burke and Portland. One of their number, in a speech in Parliament, referring to Paine's Rights of Man, had said, " I am not a friend to Paine's doctrines, but I am not to be deterred by a name from acknowledging t h a t I consider the rights of man as the foundation of every government, and those who stand against them as conspirators against the people." A speaker who held these opinions had little to learn from Bentham or Place as to the claims of the people for the suffrage. Right througli the period of reaction and persecution, before and a f t e r war with France had broken out, Fox, until his death in 1807, and Holland, Grenville, Grey, Whitbread, Sheridan, Russell, Horner, Erskine, and others a f t e r w a r d , continued steadily to oppose the overwhelming Tory majority in Parliament and to declare their support, however hopelessly for the time, of parliamentary reform, the 46

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

g r a n t of religious and civil equality to Catholics and Dissenters, of self-government to I r e l a n d , a n d of a negotiated peace with France. Although but a little group and politically powerless, they were the nucleus of p a r l i a m e n t a r y Liberalism. T h e y k e p t open the channel t h r o u g h which more liberal ideas might later flow. If t h e more thorough-going r e f o r m e r s found p a r l i a m e n t a r y methods r e a d y to their hand when public opinion at last s u p p o r t e d their demands, it was largely due to this little group of liberal-minded Whigs who h a d held together and asserted their liberalism t h r o u g h t h e evil days of reaction. I t has been possible so f a r to g r o u p men of reforming tendencies a r o u n d either their f r i e n d s h i p s , their intellectual interests, or their politics, a n d no doubt still other circles could be distinguished, such as the Gurney f a m i l y and their Q u a k e r a n d other connections. B u t t h e r e were at t h e same time many individuals who either from native t e m p e r a ment or personal interest m u s t be counted as actual or potential r e f o r m e r s , a n d yet h a r d l y came u n d e r any general denomination. J o h n H o w a r d and t h e prisons, Sir Robert Peel a n d the bound children, " H u m a n i t y M a r t i n , " j e e r e d at for his crusade against cruelty to animals, Robert O w e n with his model factory village, T h o m a s Spence a n d M a j o r C a r t w r i g h t with their p r o j e c t s for the nationalization of l a n d — a l l these a n d m a n y more were genuine reformers, some of them even before the o p e n i n g of t h e new century. 47

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

Other men were rather critics of existing conditions than proponents of special reforms, but were evidently the stuff from which reformers or sympathizers with reform might be made. They did much to create a reforming spirit. A good example of men of this type was Sir Charles Napier. Born of an aristocratic and military family, but of no great means, he and his two brothers were noted soldiers. His outspoken criticism of government and neglect to cultivate influence made his promotion slow, yet he served in the Peninsular War, of which his brother was the historian, was in sole command of the troops called out when the Chartists were threatening an uprising, and ultimately became commander-in-chief of the British armies in India. H i s attitude toward social questions may be judged from such aphorisms as this, in his little book on colonization. "As to government, all discontent springs from u n j u s t treatment. Idiots talk of agitators ; there is but one in existence and that is injustice. The cure for discontent is to find out where the shoe pinches and ease it. If you hang an agitator and leave the injustice, instead of punishing a villain, you murder a patriot." In the very midst of the disorders he was engaged in putting down, he wrote in his diary "Poor fellows ! They only want fair play, and they would then be quiet enough." And again, he declares that the Chartist troubles have been produced "by Tory injustice and Whig imbecility." Writing a f t e r reform had already begun, he pays his respects to the particu48

THE EARLY

REFORMERS

lar improvement then in progress as follows. " T h e doctrine of slowly reforming while men are famishing is of all silly things the most silly,—starving men cannot wait, and that the people of England have been and are ill-treated and ill-governed is my fixed opinion." After attending one of the workingmen's meetings he wrote to a friend that the opinions expressed were "pretty much—don't tell this—very like my own." Numerous popular writers satirized or criticized or fulminated against existing abuses and thus weakened the support of existing conditions. Adverse criticism existed from an early period but it became more vigorous and more specific as the first half of the century wore on. Such was Carlyle's from 1820 onward, with his complaints of the miserable condition of the people, his "two million industrial soldiers already sitting in Bastilles and five millions pining on potatoes," his thunders against conservatism and conventionality, and his appeals for attention to "the condition of the people question." Ruskin, Dickens, Kingsley, Mrs. Gaskell, Disraeli, came later, in the forties and fifties, when the tide of reform was already in full flow and their writings merely strengthened its force or directed it into special channels. The reformers and the sympathizers with reform here enumerated were all of the relatively well-todo, leisured, educated classes, many of them of the aristocracy, members of the ruling class or on the edge of it. They had no personal advantage to ob49

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

t a i n f r o m t h e causes t h e y advocated, they would not gain a p e n n y or obtain any social prestige f r o m t h e success of their e f f o r t s — r a t h e r the c o n t r a r y . T h e y were t h e t y p i c a l upper-class r e f o r m e r s of t h e first half of t h e century. B u t it must not be f o r g o t t e n t h a t t h e r e was in existence a g r e a t mass of discontent a n d distress to which r e f o r m of some kind m e a n t personal relief f r o m suffering and f r o m w h a t t h e y , even more universally t h a n the u p p e r class r e f o r m e r s , considered oppression a n d inj u s t i c e . M a n y members of the lower classes at t h e o p e n i n g of the c e n t u r y were i g n o r a n t , h u n g r y , restless, f r o m time to time riotous, t h r e a t e n i n g to cut t h e G o r d i a n knot of t h e i r distress by violence. T h e y h a d their leaders, sometimes f r o m among the working classes themselves, sometimes from t h a t twilight zone of restless spirits h a r d to classify socially f r o m which so m a n y p o p u l a r leaders have s p r u n g , occasionally f r o m t h e u p p e r classes. Shelley's appeal Rise like lions a f t e r slumber I n unconquerable n u m b e r . S h a k e your chains to e a r t h like dew, Which in sleep had fallen on you, Ye a r e m a n y — t h e y a r e f e w . was h a r d l y known to t h e w o r k i n g classes. Yet popul a r discontent and r e c u r r i n g turbulence were factors of immense influence in t h e history of t h e time. T o t h e conservative t h e y were w a r n i n g s not to allow t h e lower classes t o get an inch f o r f e a r they would 50

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

take an ell, a challenge to keep d o w n t h e populace with a s t r o n g hand ; to the liberal they were a n a p p e a l for j u s t i c e , a w a r n i n g t h a t unless r e f o r m was given, it might be taken ; to a s y m p a t h i z e r like N a p i e r violence was an intolerable way to reach the desired r e s u l t , however desirable it m i g h t be. I f the great proportion of the u p p e r classes were a n obstinate r i g h t wing, if t h e r e f o r m e r s who have been enumerated were a progressive center or moderate l e f t , the turbulent element among t h e lower classes were an extreme l e f t , t h r e a t e n i n g to fight f o r their own o b j e c t s — b u t h a r d l y to be counted a m o n g reformers. I n the early years of F r e n c h revolutiona r y influence, from 1791 t o 1795, in t h e s u f f e r i n g years j u s t a t the opening of the c e n t u r y , a n d again f r o m 1806 to 1812, in the twenties, a n d again under Chartism in the thirties, t h e b r e a k i n g of machinery, b u r n i n g of crops, food riots, mass meetings, processions, a n d p o p u l a r d e m a n d s f o r p a r liamentary r e f o r m k e p t a m u t t e r i n g a n d t h r e a t of turbulence. B u t violence, so f a r as it existed, was sterile ; it was not the route by which r e f o r m s were actually reached in E n g l a n d . N o r is it t h e s u b j e c t of this book, which is the p r o g r e s s of r e f o r m by act of P a r l i a m e n t . All those who have been described as i n t e r e s t e d in r e f o r m , however varied t h e i r o b j e c t s , a n d however detached their efforts, were really engaged in one general campaign, an a t t a c k on t h e citadel of things as t h e y were. I t is not a m a t t e r of s u r p r i s e , t h e r e f o r e , t h a t they all met similar obstacles. O u r 51

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

next task therefore is to examine into the conditions prevailing at the beginning of the century that made the path of abolition of abuses and introduction of improvements a long and rugged one. The first and greatest difficulty was, perhaps always is, ignorance. The instance already given of Pitt's complete ignorance of the poverty of the common people does not stand alone among anecdotes of that thoroughly English statesman. Clarkson tells that when he described the slave trade to him he was utterly amazed at Pitt's ignorance not only of that branch of commerce but of the geography, productions, needs, and methods on which it was based. Yet Pitt was an unusually intelligent and well informed man. When Howard described in Parliament the condition of the county jails of England his hearers were astonished and at first incredulous, though they were themselves country gentry. Many of them had been magistrates, and even sheriffs, whose principal function was to look a f t e r the county jails. They did not know what was under their own eyes. When Sir Robert Peel in 1802 brought up the matter of the apprentice children in the new cotton factories, he confessed that he had not until lately known about them even in his own mills, and ignorance of conditions in the factories and mines withstood the disclosures of successive investigations and reports of inspectors through more than a generation. The statement in the House of Commons by the Society of the Friends of the People 52

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

in 1793 that out of the whole 513 members, 300 owed their appointment to only 162 electors, astonishing and almost incredible as it was to those who listened to it, has never yet been controverted. The fact is that men know very little about what goes on around them. Each man's circle of knowledge is small. The proverbial statement that "one half the world does not know how the other half lives" is weak. No appreciable proportion of the world knows how any other portion lives. The first difficulty in initiating any reform is to induce people to listen long enough to learn the principal facts of the case. The complacent ignorance of facts so often displayed by opponents of change goes far to excuse or at least to explain the traditional bad manners of its advocates. Another common obstacle was, naturally, selfinterest. The first movement in the direction of change regularly touches some vested interest. When it was proposed to abolish the slave trade, Liverpool and Bristol immediately saw their prosperity threatened, and the West Indian planters rose in defense of their endangered labor supply. I t was natural that borough owners should resent being deprived of property for which they had spent large sums. For the site of Westbury, which had the privilege of returning two members to Parliament, £10,000 had been p a i d ; £ 6 0 0 0 had been paid for one borough seat, £ 5 0 0 0 f o r another. Reform of Parliament meant to the borough owners the loss of these values. Factory owners resisted 53

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

t h e legislative restriction of the age and hours of their workers ; l a n d o w n e r s opposed the removal of the duties t h a t k e p t u p t h e price of g r a i n and gave them high rents. I t is t r u e t h a t this kind of resistance could be overcome. Self-interest was not so insurmountable a difficulty as might a t first sight a p p e a r , nor did it as a m a t t e r of fact prove in the long r u n so serious an obstacle as some others. I n a society of varied i n t e r e s t s , such as t h a t of E n g land, no one person or class could p e r m a n e n t l y prevent action being t a k e n by those who did not feel t h a t p a r t i c u l a r pinch. A n d among those pecuniarily interested t h e r e were a l w a y s some who f r o m difference of opinion as to what was their t r u e interest, or f r o m good feeling, or p a r t y allegiance, broke the solidarity of opposition. Nevertheless t h e opposition of these materially interested made many a struggle long t h a t might otherwise have been a short one. Almost insuperable conservative influences were found by the early r e f o r m e r s in the established church a n d in the j u d i c i a r y . T h e bishops in t h e House of Lords fought as an almost solid p h a l a n x against a n y reform of the game laws, the penal laws, Catholic emancipation, abolition of the slave t r a d e , and even such h u m a n i t a r i a n legislation as protection of the chimney sweeps. T h e y voted t w e n t y one to two against t h e first p a r l i a m e n t a r y r e f o r m bill. T h e g r e a t body of t h e r u r a l clergy could be counted on to use w h a t influence they possessed in opposition to any change in t h e customs of t h e 54

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

c o u n t r y , good or bad. I t was p e r h a p s not u n n a t u r a l t h a t an established and endowed church, in close connection with the state, its clergy e n j o y i n g many privileges, the s u p p o r t e r s of religious tradition a n d t h e embodiment of moral a u t h o r i t y , should be an institution as insusceptible to change as could be imagined. Certainly a t the beginning of the century the Anglican clergy were t h e most conservative element in a stereotyped system. T h e higher courts and their j u d g e s were scarcely less so. L o r d Eldon, Lord Ellenborough a n d Lord L y n d h u r s t , the three chief justices d u r i n g the first decade of the century, in t h e House of Lords as well as on the bench, in both legislative a n d judicial capacities opposed changes in the penal code and r e f u s e d any action looking t o w a r d the r e f o r m of the courts. This a t t i t u d e also was n a t u r a l . T h e courts enforce the law as it is, not as it should be. T h e large p a r t played by precedent in English common law keeps t h e eyes of j u d g e s and practitioners on the past r a t h e r than on the f u t u r e . I t would be h a r d to find in the whole history of the courts any judicial decision t h a t has carried human liberty f u r t h e r forw a r d , removed any old abuse, or been conducive to social p r o g r e s s . I t is t r u e t h a t Chief Justice M a n s field in 1772 by declaring t h e negro Somerset f r e e h a d established the rule t h a t there can be no slave r y in E n g l a n d ; but he made t h e decision reluctantly, accepted grudingly the reasoning suggested t o him and his decision was at best but an echo of the cry of the London mob, "no p r o p e r t y in 55

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

men." The most that could be expected of the courts was the protection of individual rights under the law, neither an improvement of the law nor general enlightenment. Certainly no bishop or judge was to be found among the prominent reformers of the early nineteenth century, and there are abundant instances of resistance to reform on the part of both the church and the courts. Back of much of the early opposition to reform was plain fear. Employers were afraid of their workmen, the upper classes were afraid of the lower classes, Protestants were afraid of Catholics, men opposed change for fear it might set free unknown and destructive forces. Such mistrust was for the most part unacknowledged, and by those who felt it unrecognized as such, but it led them nevertheless to instinctive opposition to progressive movements. Proofs of its existence are to be found not so much in explicit statements as in the credulity and the cruelty that are well-known concomitants of fear. I n the last decade of the eighteenth century and the first two of the nineteenth the ministry, Parliament and many people of the upper classes lived under a genuine belief that an overthrow of the government was being planned. Measures were taken to nip such an effort in the bud, or, if that proved impracticable, to put it down by force. The press was restrained, habeas corpus suspended, coercion laws passed by Parliament, a spy-system instituted, and individuals prosecuted by the crown lawyers. Yet all modern historical scholars agree 56

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

that the government was taking measures against conspiracies t h a t did not exist, anticipating risings that were never p r o j e c t e d . F e a r disabled men from discriminating between the real and the unreal. I n the same way casual disorders were punished with a severity explicable only by panic. As late as 1830 and under a Whig ministry a series of riots in the southern counties was followed by special assizes and sentences of a harshness comparable with those of Justice J e f f r e y s . T h e r e had long been suffering and consequent discontent among the agricultural laborers of that region, the crops were poor, wages low, and prices high. The men tried to obtain two shillings six pence a day, which would have amounted to $3.75 a week. T h e r e were processions, rioting, burning of hayricks and outhouses. No one was killed or h u r t , yet a f t e r the turmoil six men and boys were hung for arson and three for rioting. Four hundred and fifty-seven were t r a n s p o r t e d to Australia for their share in the disorders. T h e r e are miserable records of the grief and f r e n z y of a whole countryside, and the next year, naturally, saw not order but renewed turbulence. Such judicial murder and its approval by as liberal a statesman as Lord Melbourne were the results not of reason but of fear. I t would Ls as u n f a i r as it would be erroneous to attribute all antagonism to change to weak or unworthy causes or to prejudice. Opposition was due, In many cases, to honest and reasonable difference of opinion. " M a n y men of many minds." Differences 67

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

of j u d g m e n t as to what is best will doubtless a l w a y s occur. Cases where men opposed one or another proposed r e f o r m , although they were familiar with the facts, without p e r s o n a l interest, as f r e e f r o m p r e j u d i c e as f r a i l human n a t u r e is likely to be, a n d not dominated by f e a r of results are not u n f a m i l i a r . Settled difference of opinion must at any time be counted among the obstacles to change to be overcome by t h e advance p a r t y . T h i s was the more n a t u r a l at this time since the prevailing a t t i t u d e t o w a r d all g o v e r n m e n t a l action was negative. L a i s s e z - f a i r e , the doctrine t h a t government must restrict its activity to the smallest possible measure, especially in the economic a n d social s p h e r e , p e r m e a t e d all minds. E v e n the most liberal hoped to reach their ends by leaving men largely alone, though t h e r e was room for much dispute as to what exceptions to this g e n e r a l a t t i t u d e should be made. T h u s ignorance of actual conditions, t h e selfinterest of influential classes, church and s t a t e , the conservatism of f e a r , a n d honest difference of opinion made a body of opposition t h a t seemed to set at defiance any advocacy of change. No p r o j e c t for any p a r t i c u l a r or general r e f o r m could proceed f a r on its w a y without colliding with some one or other of these o p p o s i n g influences. T h e spirit of antagonism to change was p e r h a p s at its strongest as the c e n t u r y opened. T h e hostile reaction to t h e ideas of t h e F r e n c h Revolution h a d been confirmed in the minds of most influential E n g l i s h m e n by the course of events in F r a n c e , and it h a d been 58

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

s t r e n g t h e n e d in practically all by w a r psychology. R e f o r m e r s found it necessary at t h a t time to point out specifically t h a t their p r o p o s a l s did not emanate f r o m F r a n c e . T h e force of some, p e r h a p s of all forms of opposition diminished as the c e n t u r y progressed. T h e F r e n c h Revolution receded into the background, reactionary individuals in high places died and l e f t more broadminded successors, the critical spirit of the century waged w a r against some of the strongholds of the conservative spirit, reasonable o p p o n e n t s were occasionally convinced. Yet the road of r e f o r m in the first half of the nineteenth c e n t u r y remained an uphill and difficult one and the successes the r e f o r m e r s won were won f r o m a hostile world. I t must be r e m e m b e r e d t h a t those who were controlled by reactionary influence were the rilling classes of the c o u n t r y , the g r e a t m a j o r i t y in P a r l i a m e n t , the g u a r d i a n s of t h e channels of public opinion. T h e r e f o r m e r s were a small and, to all a p p e a r a n c e at least, an ineffective minority. And yet the fact remains t h a t r e f o r m was achieved. T h e whole t r a n s f o r m a t i o n of English society f r o m what it was in t h e e a r l y nineteenth to what it is in the early twentieth c e n t u r y belongs to the realm of reality not merely of aspiration. I t was the task of t h e r e f o r m e r s , coercion being excluded from their policy, to p e r s u a d e enough men to their way of thinking to get the successive measures in which they were interested through P a r l i a m e n t . I n this t h e y were in t h e long run successful, but it was a slow and laborious process. All 59

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

the general obstacles above enumerated had to be overcome, besides others peculiar to each proposal, and unbounded faith, enthusiasm, labor, and pertinacity on their own part had to be forthcoming. A study of the processes of persuasion utilized by various advocates of various reforms discloses the fact that a common plan of operations was followed. It is obvious that this plan was not agreed upon, for however clearly we can now see, in looking backward, that the reformers were engaged in a common task, this was all unknown to them ; indeed they were frequently unknown to one another, and sometimes not even sympathetic with one another's interests. Nor was any plan deliberately formed. Nevertheless by force of circumstances, by following the lines of least resistance, by adapting the means at hand to the ends to be reached, by overcoming similar obstacles, reformers worked out a sort of common technique of reform. Earliest of all comes the individual reformer, the "agitator," the man so deeply impressed with some abuse needing to be corrected or some good end to be reached that it becomes an obsession with him. It bulks larger than anything else in his thoughts, he sacrifices himself, his means, sometimes his family and friends to the cause. Some such men have been already named and the list might be made a long one. Howard and the prisons, Clarkson and the slave trade, Romilly and penal reform, Bennett and flogging in the army and navy, Ashley and the factory acts, Brougham and popular education, Cobden and the 60

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

corn laws, Cowper in The Task, and a score of others might be named even in the h a l f - c e n t u r y we are discussing. I t is not of course t r u e t h a t this individual brought about the r e f o r m ; but he was t h e man who kept it before the people, who was chosen by others because of his initiative, devotion, or ability to r e p r e s e n t the cause, or who provided motive force, persistency, a n d leadership in the struggle. T h e next s t e p was to form an organization. T h e English people a r e commonly stated to be noncoöperative. This is only measurably s o ; their non-cooperation is usually only a measure of their indifference to the m a t t e r in hand. W h e n they hold aloof it is because they do not care. Like others they readily combine for practical ends in which they a r e really interested. T h e r e are a b u n d a n t instances of organization for philanthropic or r e f o r m i n g obj e c t s . T o begin with a minor if a real cause, as early as 1788 a g r o u p of gentlemen was organized to secure better t r e a t m e n t of chimney sweeps, a n d induced P a r l i a m e n t to pass an act providing t h a t a sweep be washed of his soot and dirt at least once a week, sent to church a n d t r e a t e d in other respects with "as much humanity and care as the n a t u r e of the employment of a chimney sweeper will admit o f . " W h e n t h e evils of the slave t r a d e impressed not only Clarkson but a whole group of Q u a k e r s a n d Evangelicals, there was formed in 1787 t h e influential " S o c i e t y " or "Committee for the Abolition of t h e Slave T r a d e . " W h e n their first o b j e c t h a d been 61

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

a t t a i n e d they were reorganized in 1823 as the "AntiSlavery Society." T h e spirit of the F r e n c h Revolution, as it d r i f t e d across into E n g l a n d not only revivified old political organizations but led to the formation of the " L o n d o n C o r r e s p o n d i n g Society" in 1791, and the " F r i e n d s of the P e o p l e " in 1792, both devoted to t h e r e f o r m of P a r l i a m e n t . T h i s was a perennial custom. A list of the dates of foundation of some t y p i c a l r e f o r m i n g or philanthropic societies will show how common was the practice in the first half of the c e n t u r y , a n d some instances may be a d d e d f r o m later times to indicate its continuance. 1796 Society for B e t t e r i n g the Condition of t h e Poor 1802 Society for the Suppression of Vice 1803 British and Foreign Bible Society 1804 Society to I m p r o v e the Condition of Climbing Boys 1810 Royal L a n c a s t r i a n Society 1812 Society f o r the I m p r o v e m e n t of Prison Discipline 1812 T h e H a m p d e n Clubs 1813 Society for t h e Diffusion of U s e f u l Knowledge 1824 Society f o r the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 1835 Labourers' F r i e n d Society 1838 Anti-Corn L a w League 1839 H e a l t h of T o w n s Association 62

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

1841 Association for Improving the Dwellings of the I n d u s t r i a l Classes 1850 Society for Promoting W o r k i n g m e n ' s Associations F a c t o r y Act Reform Association 1865 Commons Preservation Society Civil Service R e f o r m Association 1870 L a n d T e n u r e R e f o r m Association 1885 Allotments a n d Small Holdings Association 1892 Anti-Sweating League I t should be observed t h a t these were not organizations for self-help, such as cooperative societies, savings banks, mutual insurance societies or t r a d e unions, nor for sociability or amusement, such as athletic or similar clubs, nor political org a n i z a t i o n s ; but t r u e p r o p a g a n d i s t societies, engaged in awakening public interest in some hum a n i t a r i a n p r o j e c t in which they were interested, giving it the united s u p p o r t of influential persons a n d organized for g r e a t e r s t r e n g t h . So organized, collecting f u n d s , holding meetings, issuing p a m p h l e t s a n d periodicals, g a t h e r i n g a n d publishing information, keeping u p correspondence, utilizing the services of members g i f t e d as speakers or writers or possessing social or political influence, t h e objects of the society obtained a degree of public attention a n d interest t h a t would have been quite impossible to an individual advocate, no m a t t e r how devoted. fi3

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

The ultimate object of such propaganda in popularly governed England was to get the matter before Parliament and, if possible, secure favorable action upon it. Parliament was the general clearing house of ideas and schemes. Numberless bills on all sorts of subjects were introduced, sometimes with but little preparation, sometimes after some such long appeal to the public as just described. Pitt introduced a bill for parliamentary reform in 1782, Wilberforce one for abolition of the slave trade in 1787, bills were introduced in 1802 for the prohibition of bull-baiting and for protecting children in the factories, in 1809 for preventing cruelty to animals, in 1814 for private mad-houses, in 1816 to inquire into the education of the lower classes in London, in 1817 to regulate the work of chimney sweepers. Almost every year saw the introduction of one or more humanitarian reform bills. I t is obvious that the introduction of a bill into Parliament was by no means equivalent to its passage. On the contrary, years might intervene before success was attained. The first bill for parliamentary reform, as just stated, was introduced in 1782, the first statute actually adopted was in 1832, fifty years later. The first bill for the abolition of the slave trade was introduced in 1787, the act for its abolition was passed in 1807, twenty years afterward. Romilly's first bill for an alleviation of the penal code was in 1808, the Penal Law Reform Act was passed in 1823, fifteen years later. 64

THE EARLY

REFORMERS

Getting a bill before Parliament was nevertheless the regular third step in securing a reform. If its entry upon a parliamentary career was the third step, its emergence into actual law might be considered a fourth. The course of events was apt to be something like this. The first time the bill was introduced it was contumeliously rejected. The matter was new, objectionable, not to be considered; after a second or third similar experience its authors might succeed in having a committee appointed to investigate the question. Ultimately after the taking of much testimony, successive partial reports and the passage of considerable time, a final report with favorable recommendations was made by the committee and the House was faced with a bill. If it were at all a strong measure and lacked the vigorous support of the ministry it was probably again rejected. But eventually, after repeated introductions and long efforts, it might be that the House of Commons passed it and it went to the House of Lords. Normally and usually the House of Lords rejected it. They considered themselves the protectors of the nation against innovation. The long course of opposition of the House of Lords to the liberal proposals of the House of Commons that resulted in their loss of power in the twentieth century had already begun early in the nineteenth, indeed in the eighteenth. The first victory for the abolition of the slave trade was gained in the House of Commons in 1792, but was lost in the House 65

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

of Lords. In 1818 the House of Commons passed a bill limiting the work of children in factories to eleven hours; it was rejected by the House of Lords. Jews would have been admitted to Parliament when the Test Act was repealed by the House of Commons in 1828, except that an amendment excluding them was carried in the House of Lords. Between 1833 and 1853 six bills providing for the admission of Jews to Parliament were passed by the House of Commons and successively defeated by the House of Lords. In 1834 a bill for the admission of Roman Catholics to all degrees in the universities except that of divinity was passed in the House of Commons and rejected in the House of Lords. In the same year two bills for the punishment of corruption at elections and one for the settlement of Irish titles suffered the same fate. In the next year a bill allowing persons accused of felony to be defended by counsel was passed twice by the House of Commons but defeated each time by the House of Lords. So a catalogue of almost indefinite length might be made. But the House of Commons was now pledged and at some favorable time, when that House was in a position to bring some special pressure to bear on the other, the House of Lords yielded and the proposal became law. So ended the fourth step of the series. Even yet however, Parliament is not through with it. I n the light of experience or in the view of the executive the law needs amendment. Administrators of the law have 66

THE EARLY

REFORMERS

p l a y e d a l a r g e p a r t in E n g l a n d in p r e s s i n g f o r its extension. U l t i m a t e l y , a f t e r t e n or t w e n t y or p e r h a p s f o r t y y e a r s ' experience, all early legislation in the field is superseded by a consolidating act or a general law. So what was at first an insignificant p r o p o s a l made by some individual or small g r o u p of individuals becomes, first, the o b j e c t of e a r n e s t e f f o r t on the p a r t of an association or g r o u p , then the basis of a bill in P a r l i a m e n t , then of continued legislation, a n d finally by its adoption in t h e f o r m of a code becomes p a r t of the general f r a m e w o r k of society, as unnoticed as it was at the beginning, but now because it is so familiar. Some f o r m of i n j u s t i c e has d i s a p p e a r e d f r o m t h e world or some kind of s u f f e r i n g has been alleviated, or some opp o r t u n i t y for g e n e r a l well-being a n d h a p p i n e s s has been crcatcd. As a score or more such movements a r e studied it becomes evident t h a t their advocates have followed with s t r i k i n g u n i f o r m i t y this general method of overcoming t h e obstacles which were so n e a r l y t h e same for all of them. N o t every stage has always been gone t h r o u g h with, not every step is clear. Y e t w h a t was said a t t h e beginning of this work is t r u e , t h a t the history of r e f o r m has been a n a t u r a l evolution, an undesigned conformity of individuals to t h e w o r k i n g out of a g e n e r a l development. W i t h o u t p r e a r r a n g e d p l a n , it may be r e p e a t e d , a n individual advocate or small g r o u p of convinced souls has p r o p o s e d some r e f o r m ; next a n organization for e x t e n d i n g public i n t e r e s t has been f o r m e d , f u n d s 67

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

have been subscribed, pamphlets issued, meetings called, appeals made through speeches, sermons, books and newspapers, and the election of sympathetic members of parliament has been secured. Next has come the introduction of the proposal into parliament, and after much debate, investigation, and struggle, success has been attained in the more representative and liberal house. Then, backed by outside opinion, the House of Commons coerces the House of Lords and the measure becomes law. After much supplementary legislation and adaptation to the needs of the country the reform is accepted as part of the system of society into which the next generation is born. It is a striking fact that no considerable reforming movement was initiated in England in the nineteenth century that was not sooner or later carried to success. It is equally impressive that in the whole course of English reforming legislation there has been practically no instance of reversal of principle or repeal of a law, except for purposes of its extension. As a method of securing reform, legislation secured in this way stands midway between the weakness of mere persuasion to individual right action and the violence of revolution. It is an appeal to the strong arm of the law, but it is a reasoned appeal. It has sought the embodiment of increased enlightenment and good feeling in specific law governing one field after another. It is a method in which England has excelled, and it is perhaps her greatest strength. 68

THE

EARLY

REFORMERS

So far reforms have been discussed somewhat in the abstract, or at least r e f o r m has been treated as a general movement. I t will be the o b j e c t of the next chapter to describe some of those important reforms of the first half of the century, as they were actually carried into law ; to point out the fact that by the middle of the century the current was running more slowly, and to discuss the reasons for this. I t will be a still later task to describe the rejuvenation of reform and its changed foundations in the latter half of the century.

69

III REFORM BY L I B E R A T I O N , 1807-1860 HE beginnings of the English reforming movements referred to in this book are now so remote—more than a century in the past—and reform has been so much discussed, here and elsewhere, as a general and continuing process, that it may be forgotten that it was at the time no abstract matter or mere expression of opinion. Each reform was a separate struggle, with its advocates and individual and class opponents, its arguments for and against, its position in party history, its successive advances and reverses and its final victory. It would require a volume to give the detailed history of each, but four important reform movements may be taken as typical and described, at least in outline. A rapid study of the abolition of the slave trade and subsequently of slavery, of the reform of the penal code, of the passage of the first parliamentary reform bill, and of the repeal of the corn laws, can hardly fail to bring out the main characteristics of the process. Around each of these a violent storm of controversy raged, and each succeeded only after long delay. On the other hand, for three or four 70

T

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

generations now t h e r e h a s been universal a g r e e m e n t t h a t each of these was a change of the g r e a t e s t beneficence. W e do not have to decide whether t h e advocates or o p p o n e n t s were r i g h t ; t h a t has long been decided in f a v o r of t h e f o r m e r ; our task is to trace the course of advocacy and opposition. So m a n y incidents in t h e abolition of the slave t r a d e have airead} 7 been mentioned for purposes of illustration t h a t its history might well be omitted or another r e f o r m chosen except t h a t it holds a unique position as the first g r e a t struggle of its kind, which to a certain degree set the example for all others since. T h e English slave t r a d e had an old a n d d a r k history. I t goes back to t h e exploit of J o h n H a w k i n s in 1562 when a f t e r c a p t u r i n g three hundred negroes in S i e r r a Leone, " p a r t l y by the sword, p a r t l y b y other m e a n s , " as he said, he succeeded, in defiance of the colonial restrictions of Spain, in landing a n d selling them to the S p a n i s h colonists of Hispaniola. A c e n t u r y later the R o y a l A f r i c a n Company, along with its other lines of t r a d e , was c a r r y i n g some 3000 slaves yearly to the continent of America a n d t h e West Indies. I n 1713 by t r e a t y with S p a i n t h e English government obtained the "Asiento" or p e r mission to g r a n t to an E n g l i s h company or to individual m e r c h a n t s t h e monopoly of providing t h e S p a n i s h colonies with 10,000 to 15,000 A f r i c a n natives a y e a r . T o t h e S p a n i s h , English, and other slave-using colonies E n g l i s h merchants carried increasing numbers u n t i l about 1770, j u s t before t h e American w a r , the t r a d e reached its maximum of 71

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

some 50,000 natives t a k e n by E n g l i s h t r a d e r s y e a r l y f r o m A f r i c a to America. Some statistics f r o m Liverpool have been already given; to these may be a d d e d the statement t h a t d u r i n g the y e a r 1771 there sailed f r o m t h a t port 107 slave ships, which t r a n s p o r t e d 29,250 negroes, an average of about 260 per ship. I n the eleven years f r o m 1783 to 1793, 878 round t r i p s were made by Liverpool ships, c a r r y i n g 203,737 slaves to the W e s t Indies. T h e s e were sold f o r something over ¿£15,000,000. I t may be estimated t h a t the net profits to Liverpool m e r c h a n t s f r o m this t r a d e equalled $1,500,000 a year. T h e modern wealth of Liverpool was built up largely on the eighteenth century slave t r a d e . I n the year 1771, London sent out fifty-eight ships t h a t carried cargoes of 8,136, a n d Bristol, which evidently used larger vessels, t w e n t y - t h r e e ships c a r r y i n g 8,810. A f t e r the American war the number decreased somewhat a n d by 1790 the average total y e a r l y t r a d e to all slave using countries was about 35,000. T h e s e statistics, however incomplete, will not have failed of their purpose if they show how r e a l was the plunder of the black race, how profitable this plunder was to the white. T h e c a p t u r e or purchase every y e a r of these thousands of blacks in A f r i c a , their t r a n s p o r t across the broad Atlantic a n d the h a r d s h i p s of their life a f t e r their sale in America, do not belong in the annals of malevolence or p e r h a p s even of crime, but they certainly exhibit a h a r d - h e a r t e d n e s s and a willingness to gain profit f r o m others' sufferings of 72

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

which white men may still be ashamed. I n all the vast sum of misery t h a t has resulted f r o m m a n ' s inhumanity to man, t h a t contributed by the A f r i c a n slave t r a d e is no mean p a r t ; but the sufferings of its poor victims have no p a r t in this narrative except in as f a r as they awakened pity and ultimately revolt in s y m p a t h e t i c souls. T h e slave t r a d e a n d slavery, however clearly distinguishable in legislation, were scarcely separable in the t h o u g h t s of ordinary men, a n d the voices of opposition to the practice t h a t were raised f r o m time to time a p p l i e d indiscriminately to both. George Fox, the early Q u a k e r , bore his testimony against them, the P e n n s y l v a n i a Yearly Meeting a n d the London Y e a r l y Meeting of the Q u a k e r s t h r e a t e n e d to disown members t a k i n g p a r t in the t r a d e . I t was criticized by Adam Smith as early as 1760 and more severely in t h e Wealth of Nations, in 1776. I t was satirized in Pope's Essay on Man, grieved over in C o w p e r ' s Task a n d condemned in T h o m p s o n ' s Seasons a n d D e f o e ' s Reformation of Manners. T h e p l e a s i n g picture of F r i d a y in Robinson Crusoe was a contribution to the protests. J o h n son described J a m a i c a , because of its prominence as a slave colony, as " a place of great wealth a n d d r e a d f u l wickedness, a den of t y r a n t s a n d a dungeon of slaves." I n t h e decade f r o m 1770 to 1780 interest in the slave t r a d e a n d objection to it were evidently increasing. J o h n Wesley in his Thoughts on Slavery, w r i t t e n in 1774, s p e a k i n g of the W e s t Indies says 73

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

" I t were better that all those islands should remain uncultivated forever; yea, it were more desirable that they were altogether sunk in the depths of the sea than that they should be cultivated at so high a price as the violation of justice, mercy and t r u t h ; and it would be better that none should labor there, that the work should be left undone than that myriads of innocent men should be murdered, and myriads more dragged into the basest slavery." He appeals to the captain of a slave ship : "immediately quit the horrid trade ; at all events be an honest man." Harvard students debated its rightfulness in 1773. Jefferson in his first d r a f t of the Declaration of Independence, among the many derelictions fathered on George I I I , charges him with "waging cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither." Various southern members of Congress who favored slavery and various northern members who valued the slave trade objected and the clause was stricken out. Jeremy Bentham, as might have been expected, was bitterly opposed to slavery, especially because of the harsh laws considered necessary to keep the slaves in order. In his Principles of Penal Law, he says of these colonial laws " I f such a code be necessary these laws are a disgrace and an outrage upon humanity, if not necessary, these laws are a disgrace 74,

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

to t h e colonists themselves. A l a d y sends to B n r n s " a n excellent poem on t h e S l a v e - T r a d e . " T h e poet praises it and p a y s her t h e compliment of suggesting some improvements in its form. Men as f a r a p a r t in all other respects as Paine and Paley, the f o r m e r in an essay especially directed against slave r y , the latter in his Moral Philosophy, write in its condemnation. T h e case of the negro Somerset in 1772 was a t once an indication of t h e rising opposition to slave r y and a s t e p in the increase of t h a t opposition. T h e r e were m a n y negro slaves in E n g l a n d itself, 15,000, it was asserted at the time, for the most p a r t such as h a d been b r o u g h t home f r o m the slaveu s i n g colonies, a n d were used as personal or household a t t e n d a n t s . T h e boy r e f e r r e d to in the following advertisement in the Birmingham Advertiser, November 11, 1771, was probably brought up in one of the colonies, since he could speak English, and was evidently valued f o r his color. " T o be sold by auction, S a t u r d a y , t h e 30th day of November ins t a n t , at t h e house of M r s . W e b b in the city of Litchfield, known by t h e sign of the B a k e r ' s Arms, between the H o u r s of 3 and 5 in the evening of the said day, a N e g r o Boy f r o m A f r i c a , supposed to be about 10 or 11 y e a r s of age. H e is r e m a r k a b l y s t r a i t , well-proportioned, speaks tolerably good E n g l i s h , of a mild Disposition, friendly, officious, sound, h e a l t h y , f o n d of L a b o u r a n d for Colour an excellent fine B l a c k . " T h e slave J a m e s Somerset, who h a d been b r o u g h t to E n g l a n d f r o m Virginia 75

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

by his owner, Charles Stewart, escaped from his master but was recaptured, and as punishment sent on shipboard to be taken to Jamaica and sold. A gentleman, Granville Sharp, who had long been interested in the question of slavery and had studied the law on the subject and recently published a book On the Injustice and Dangerous Tendency of Tolerating Slavery in England, learned of Somerset's position and applied to the court for a writ of habeas corpus against the shipmaster. With some difficulty the case was ultimately brought before Chief Justice Mansfield. I t was thoroughly debated by interested and eminent lawyers on both sides in three successive sessions of court. The Chief Justice, though apparently with some reluctance, finally gave his famous decision: men are naturally f r e e ; if they are in slavery it must be by statute law ; there is no such law on the English statute book, therefore there is no such thing as slavery in England. Somerset and all other so-called servants in slavery in England were therefore free. Six years later a similar decision was given in Scotland in the case of the negro, Joseph Knight. Thus slavery disappeared from Great Britain. There was evidently widespread disapproval, in the later decades of the eighteenth century, of the slave trade and of slavery, but there was, so f a r , no single determined opponent or group of opponents. The typical "agitator" had not yet appeared on the scene. The honor of this position belongs properly to Thomas Clarkson. In 1785, while a stu76

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

dent at Cambridge, he wrote in competition for the L a t i n essay prize of the year. T h e s u b j e c t , arine liceat homines invitos in servitutem dare, " W h e t h e r men can j u s t l y be reduced to servitude," itself indicates the interest in the s u b j e c t of the Vice Chancellor, D r . P a c k a r d , who had appointed it and had preached a sermon against slavery the y e a r before. Clarkson not only won the prize but became obsessed with the question. H e directed his attention specifically to the slave t r a d e , and began immediately those investigations which extended over a whole lifetime, which carried him to every English seaport f r o m which slaving ships went out, to the A f r i c a n coast a n d to the continent of E u r o p e , a n d brought f o r t h p a m p h l e t a f t e r p a m p h l e t , report a f t e r r e p o r t , memorial a f t e r memorial, a n d finally his history of his long a n d ultimately successful campaign. T h e time was already ripe for what we have so o f t e n found to be the second stage of agitation, t h e formation of a p r o p a g a n d i s t society. I n 1783 A n t h o n y Benezet, a P h i l a d e l p h i a Q u a k e r , long an outspoken opponent of slavery, arrived in London on a mission to t e s t i f y to London Yearly Meeting a g a i n s t the trade. As a result the meeting presented a petition to P a r l i a m e n t to abolish the slave t r a d e , a n d issued in explanation of their action a p a m p h l e t of which 12,000 copies were circulated. I n 1784 Rev. J a m e s Ramsay, a clergyman from St. Kitts, ret u r n e d to E n g l a n d and published a book about W e s t I n d i a n slavery, of which he was in a position to s p e a k f r o m long p e r s o n a l knowledge. T h e sym-

77

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

pathies of Granville S h a r p a n d of more than one of t h e C l a p h a m group have a l r e a d y been mentioned. T h e interest in the Somerset case h a d never died down a n d other men in t h e meantime h a d become interested. I t only remained to d r a w these together into an organization. T h i s was done in May 1787. T h e "Society for effecting the Abolition of the Slave T r a d e , " formed at t h a t time, had twelve c h a r t e r members, nine of whom were Q u a k e r s , two of the other three being C l a r k s o n a n d Granville S h a r p . Clarkson was its first P r e s i d e n t . I t was intentionally a small society a n d is o f t e n spoken of as t h e "Committee." T h e y opened a n office a t No. 18 Old Jewry. As their title indicated, they determined f r o m the beginning to restrict their activities to the abolition of the slave t r a d e , without i n t e r f e r i n g with t h e institution of slavery itself. Although the beliefs of most of the members a n d the logic of t h e situation made it difficult always to preserve the distinction, nevertheless it was on this basis t h a t they carried on their agitation. T h e y c o r r e s p o n d e d with t h e Philadelphia Society f o u n d e d by B e n j a m i n R u s h , P e m b e r t o n , F r a n k l i n , a n d o t h e r s in 1775, with the more recently f o u n d e d " P e n n s y l v a n i a Society for P r o m o t i n g the Abolition of Slavery, for the Relief of F r e e Negroes u n l a w f u l l y held in Bondage, a n d for I m p r o v i n g t h e Condition of t h e A f r i c a n Race," and with the F r e n c h society of "Amis des N o i r s . " T h e y f o r m e d branches t h r o u g h E n g l a n d a n d Scotl a n d , held meetings, and within their first year h a d 78

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

subscribed about £ 1 5 , 0 0 0 a n d issued six p a m p h l e t s , of which 56,000 copies were p r i n t e d a n d distributed. Petitions for the regulation or abolition of the slave trade soon began to pour into P a r l i a m e n t , more than a hundred having been presented from various localities and groups in the session of 1787—8. T h e interest of the k i n g was secured a n d he agreed to order the P r i v y Council to investigate the m a t t e r . Their report was presented two years later, in A p r i l 1789. Meanwhile, t h e prime minister, Mr. P i t t , a sincere friend of abolition of the t r a d e , but head of a cabinet of divided opinfon and t h e r e f o r e unable to b r i n g in a government bill, promised the appointment of a p a r l i a m e n t a r y committee for t h e next year. I n the meantime a bill was introduced a n d carried for the p a r t i a l regulation of the t r a d e , requiring head room of four feet one inch between decks in slaving ships, allowing no more t h a n five negroes to be carried for each ton register of the vessel, restricting t h e p a y m e n t of insurance in case of violent d e a t h s of slaves during the "middle p a s s a g e , " f o r their protection f r o m ill t r e a t m e n t by shipmasters, a n d making other provisions for c a r r y i n g on t h e t r a d e in as humane a m a n n e r as might be. B u t what t h e r e f o r m e r s w a n t e d was abolition, not regulation, a n d w h a t they needed was a leader in P a r l i a m e n t who would devote himself effectively, p e r h a p s exclusively, to t h a t supreme object. William Wilberforce was an ideal advocate for such a cause. W e a l t h y , influential in society a n d in the 79

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

Tory p a r t y , long a member of Parliament, eloquent, with a high sense of duty, and, perhaps above all, a personal friend of Pitt, the prime minister, it is no wonder that the reformers turned to him and urged upon him this charge. They were successful. He was already one of the number of those troubled in their consciences by the slave trade and was moreover desirous of devoting himself to some mission. In his private diary for the year 1787 he wrote, "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners." Whatever success he may have had in his second object, he devoted most of his time for the next two years to serious preparation for the first. He familiarized himself thoroughly with the facts of the trade and with the prevailing arguments for and against it. H e succeeded in obtaining a promise of the support of Pitt as an individual though not as head of the ministry. May 12th, 1789, the subject was presented to the House of Commons by Wilberforce in the form of twelve resolutions to be the basis of a bill. His speech required three and a half hours, and by general agreement was clear, informative, and persuasive. Burke declared that "the House, the nation and Europe are under great and serious obligations to the honorable gentleman for having brought forward the subject in a manner the most masterly, impressive and eloquent. The principles were so well laid down and supported with so much force and order that 80

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

it equalled a n y t h i n g I have ever h e a r d in modern times, a n d is p e r h a p s not to be s u r p a s s e d in t h e remains of Grecian eloquence." B u t n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g this approximation to classic eloquence, f u l l debate, a n d the s u p p o r t of Pitt, Burke, and Fox, a resolution was put and carried to postpone the whole m a t t e r till the next year. T h e next y e a r saw no o p p o r t u n i t y f o r its introduction and by 1791, when VVilberforce brought it up for the second time, t h e opposition h a d g a t h e r e d its forces, a n d the bill was r e j e c t e d on its first reading by a vote of 163 to 88. T h e a r g u m e n t s for abolition, in a n d out of P a r liament, were p a r t l y h u m a n i t a r i a n , p a r t l y economic. Of the f o r m e r class was testimony t h a t t h e negroes were either k i d n a p p e d or prisoners t a k e n in w a r s brought about by the knowledge t h a t t h e r e was sale for captives. I t doomed innocent people to t h e h o r r o r s of the long voyage through t r o p i c a l seas, crowded in close holds, chained together, o f t e n t r o d den over and neglected, to lifelong l a b o r , t h e distress of separation of families a n d t h e misery of life on W e s t I n d i a n plantations. I t was irreligious, wicked, cruel, and shameful, u n w o r t h y of a Christian nation. T h e slave t r a d e was destructive to those who took p a r t in it ; it was h a r s h and b a r b a r o u s ; a l a r g e r p r o p o r t i o n of sailors lost their lives on the A f r i c a n coast and at sea in slavers t h a n in a n y other f o r m of sea service. O t h e r a r g u m e n t s were more m a t e r i a l in character. T h e A f r i c a n coast a n d interior l a n d s were k e p t in a turmoil ; t h e slave t r a d e 81

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

destroyed native industries a n d p r e v e n t e d t h e growth of t r a d e in native A f r i c a n products, it diverted c a p i t a l f r o m more u s e f u l investments. I n the negative there was of course much denial or minimizing of the degree of inhumanity ; the negroes p u r c h a s e d by the t r a d e r s were airead}' slaves, captives, or criminals, they would in m a n y cases be s l a u g h t e r e d unless they were bought by t h e E u r o p e a n t r a d e r s ; the periodic a p p e a r a n c e of slave ships on t h e coast made the A f r i c a n chiefs less savage a n d murderous. Another g r o u p of arguments p l a y e d a large p a r t in the d e f e n s e of t h e t r a d e . B r i n g i n g the negroes to the W e s t Indies or to the American continent brought them into better physical s u r r o u n d i n g s , p u t them u n d e r civilized protection, a n d m a n y were converted to Christianity. I t was a r g u e d , curiously enough, by those who showed little enthusiasm for m a k i n g t h i n g s better a t home t h a t W e s t I n d i a n slaves were as well off as British sailors, soldiers, f a r m laborers, a n d p a u p e r s , a n d t h e r e f o r e it was doing them no ill t u r n to b r i n g t h e m into this condition. On broader if not deeper g r o u n d s it was argued t h a t the nation w a s already in this t r a d e a n d could not abandon it without overwhelming loss. S h i p p i n g now occupied in this service would be unemployed, the s a f e t y of £ 7 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 invested in West I n d i a n sugar plantations would be e n d a n g e r e d if their constant s u p p l y of new l a b o r e r s was cut off. Slavery was inseparable f r o m t h e slave t r a d e and its i n j u r y would impoverish not only the p l a n t e r s a n d t h e m e r c h a n t s 82

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

trading with the West Indies but the bankers who had loaned them money, causing catastrophe at home as well as in the colonies. "The impossibility of doing without slaves in the West Indies will a l w a y s prevent this traffic being dropped." The slave trade was one of the nurseries of British seamen as well as one of the sources of British wealth and any interference with it would diminish the prosperity of the Empire. If it was abandoned by the English, it would be taken over by other nations. It was supported by religion and had the moral standing of a vested interest. This was after all the fundamental basis of opposition to interference. The slave trade was a vested interest. As a member of Parliament said in debate, "The property of the West Indians is at stake ; and though men may be generous with their own property they should not be so with the property of others." It occupied and gave rich reward to millions of capital, forming the basis of the whole economic and social systems of the West Indies and essential to the continued prosperity of Liverpool, Bristol, and other ports from which vessels engaged in the slave trade were sent out. Against such economic fatalism the eloquence and the moral and humanitarian appeals of advocates of the abolition of the trade beat in vain. Knowledge of the facts, moral fervor, debating power, high-minded appeal, even calm reasoning were all on the side of the reformers ; the solid voting power in Parliament was on the other side. 83

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

In the long run, however, the effective force for the settlement of the question was to come from outside of Parliament. As always, therefore, in such movements, two threads must be followed, the course of attempted legislation in Parliament and the course of appeal to the people. It was such arguments as have been enumerated above that made the stock material not only for debates in Parliament but for books and pamphlets, sermons, poetry, and public and private discussion. Some one has counted the pamphlets that appeared for and against abolition during this early period, with the following result, 1788, 43 for, 19 against; 1789, 21 for, 9 against; 1790, 9 for, 3 against; 1791, 12 for, 4 against; and 1792, 24 for, 12 against. In the year 1792 there were 499 petitions for abolition sent to Parliament from towns, counties, and mass meetings ; there were five petitions against it. This activity of protest was of course largely the work of the Abolition Society and its members. Their expenditure and labors seemed limitless ; as a result the subject passed from the few to the many, the English people as a whole became interested in it, and Parliament was subjected to the steady and somewhat unwelcome pressure of public opinion. I n the meantime, the third introduction of the measure, in April 1792, seemed to promise more success. A bill providing for abolition at the end of five years was carried through the House of Commons, but it was defeated by postponement in the 84

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

H o u s e of Lords. Indeed it was only t h e c e r t a i n t y of delay and the anticipation of probable d e f e a t in t h e H o u s e of Lords that had given it its initial success. Circumstances were, as a m a t t e r of f a c t , becoming more difficult. I n 1791 t h e San Domingo revolt of t h e blacks occurred, in which 2000 whites were massacred a n d 1000 p l a n t a t i o n houses b u r n e d , the p l a n t e r s impoverished a n d m a n y of t h e m forced to emigrate. Though this might well have been interp r e t e d as showing the unwisdom of p o u r i n g a cons t a n t stream of savagery f r o m A f r i c a into the W e s t Indies, as a m a t t e r of fact it roused a n a t u r a l antagonism to any favor to negroes. I n 1793 G r e a t B r i t a i n entered the Continental w a r a n d for m a n y y e a r s the abolition of the slave t r a d e , like all ref o r m s , suffered from the reaction of a w a r period. T h e influence of W i l b e r f o r c e as a r e f o r m e r was diminished by his s u p p o r t of P i t t in his coercive policy r e g a r d i n g all p o p u l a r agitation. P a r l i a m e n t resented the constant fire of petitions. As the w a r progressed a n d British command of t h e seas increased, her slave t r a d e r s , like those in o t h e r lines of commerce, obtained a monopoly of all m a r k e t s where their goods were in demand, a n d as F r e n c h a n d D u t c h W e s t I n d i a islands were conquered a n d annexed they were able to pour a new flood of slaves into them. T h e p r o s p e r i t y of the i n d u s t r y t h e r e f o r e increased enormously and t h e p r e s s u r e f o r its p r o tection increased p r o p o r t i o n a t e l y . T h e r e f o r e although bills for abolition were i n t r o d u c e d in 1793 85

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

a n d in each of the six y e a r s following, they were a l w a y s r e j e c t e d or postponed. I n the succeeding five years no p a r l i a m e n t a r y efforts were made. Yet d u r i n g all this time p o p u l a r support was g r o w i n g ; the people were being converted to the abolition of the slave t r a d e , and opposition was n a r r o w i n g more and more to those pecuniarily int e r e s t e d in t h e t r a d e or in t h e W e s t Indies. E v e n these were losing their solidarity. T h e p l a n t e r s of t h e older British West I n d i e s , contemplating the p r o s p e r i t y of their rivals in the newly acquired islands, a success based on a p l e n t i f u l supply of slaves w o r k i n g on a more fertile soil than their own, might doubt the desirability of the continuance of a n absolutely unrestricted slave t r a d e . I t was a period of b a c k w a t e r in the agitation. T h e ups a n d downs of p a r l i a m e n t a r y action are t h e r e f o r e of less significance. T h e next bill, for instance, introduced in 1804, was carried in the House of Commons by a vote of 102 to 44 but postponed by the House of L o r d s , a n d the next year t h e bill was defeated even in the Commons, by a vote of 70 to 77. These numbers were so small as to be quite unrepresentative of opinion, and it was obvious to all t h a t opposition was d y i n g out. W h a t was required was only a favorable o p p o r t u n i t y a n d renewed effort on t h e p a r t of t h e r e f o r m e r s . T h e climax came in 1806. I n J a n u a r y of t h a t y e a r , P i t t died, and it was at once recognized t h a t a new ministry of which Fox a n d Grenville, old advocates of abolition, were members would b r i n g 86

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

t h e long continued conflict to a close by t r e a t i n g abolition of the slave t r a d e as a ministerial measure. I n f a c t , restrictions were immediately placed upon slave t r a d i n g by an O r d e r in Council a n d by t h e p a s s a g e of a bill f o r b i d d i n g r e g i s t r y to a n y ship newly e n t e r i n g t h e t r a d e . Fox died b e f o r e f u r t h e r action could be t a k e n but later in the y e a r L o r d Grenville introduced into the H o u s e of L o r d s a n d G r e y into the H o u s e of Commons a bill f o r total abolition. W i l b e r f o r c e was r e f e r r e d to by every s p e a k e r as the protagonist of the r e f o r m ; he himself spoke later in the debate. T h e bill was carried by large m a j o r i t i e s in both houses, and M a r c h 25, 1807, signed by t h e king. T h e t w e n t y - y e a r conflict was at an end. No, it was not at an end, for much rem a i n e d to be done in definition, extension, a n d enf o r c e m e n t of abolition. T h i s was t h e work of t h e next few years. I t was carried on by the passage of successive laws increasing the severity of p u n i s h ment of i n f r a c t i o n , by the f o r m a t i o n of t h e " A f r i c a n I n s t i t u t i o n , " the establishment of a p a t r o l of t h e A f r i c a n coast, the foundation of the colony of S i e r r a Leone, a n d efforts to obtain i n t e r n a t i o n a l action in P a r i s , M a d r i d , Lisbon, a n d at Vienna. I t was by 1815 a favorite o b j e c t of p o p u l a r i n t e r e s t in E n g l a n d . Wellington wrote to Castlereagh, J u l y 1814, a f t e r his long absence on t h e Continent, " I was not a w a r e till I had been some time a t home, of t h e degree of f r e n z y existing here about t h e slave t r a d e " ; a n d Castlereagh wrote in A u g u s t , concerning t h e effort to induce other countries also to p r o 87

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

hibit it, " T h e nation is bent u p o n this o b j e c t . I believe there is h a r d l y a village t h a t has not met a n d petitioned upon it; both houses of p a r l i a m e n t a r e pledged to press it." S t a t i s t i c s seem to j u s t i f y this statement. I n J u n e a n d J u l y , 1814, 772 petitions were presented to t h e H o u s e of Commons with n e a r l y a million signatures. I f it be questioned w h y the long and vigorous opposition to the abolition of the slave t r a d e yielded so suddenly and so easily in 1807, it can only be said t h a t t h a t has been the way of r e f o r m . F a miliarity has reconciled men to a proposal t h a t at first seemed shocking. All f o r m s of opposition have gradually n a r r o w e d d o w n to the one of selfinterest, a n d this h a s not been s t r o n g enough to make effective opposition t o a g r e a t moral movem e n t ; for a f t e r all a n d in t h e long run t h e great mass of men are influenced by moral considerations. I n this particular case t h e r e h a d been a long, devoted, and skilful campaign by a g r o u p of unusually able and influential men ; t h e relative importance of the slave t r a d e to the commerce of t h e country was declining, a n d the slave owners themselves became divided in their i n t e r e s t ; opposition to the slave t r a d e was becoming world-wide a n d it seemed only a m a t t e r of time till it should be abolished by all nations. A f t e r this long time of p r e p a r a t i o n a sudden change in the m i n i s t r y , although due p r i m a r i l y to other causes, brought men more favorable to reform to the f r o n t and made the passage of the longdelayed measure easy. 88

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

T o complete the story of this, the first g r e a t ref o r m of t h e nineteenth century, it would seem p r o p e r to c a r r y it down to its logical fulfilment in the abolition of slavery itself in the British empire in 1833. T h i s must be done briefly. T h e intervening link between p a r l i a m e n t a r y i n t e r f e r e n c e with t h e t r a d e a n d with slavery itself is to be found in the system of registration of slaves in the Islands imposed upon them by the home government. This was in its origin a plan to prevent the d e f e a t of the law against the t r a d e by smuggling; in its outcome it was the first s t e p in a process of p a r l i a m e n t a r y or ministerial i n t e r f e r e n c e t h a t culminated in emancipation. I n 1812 t h e ministry, at the request of old abolitionists, established by O r d e r in Council in t h e crown colony of T r i n i d a d a registry in which should be inscribed the name, description, a n d o w n e r s h i p of each slave in the island. No title could a f t e r w a r d be pleaded or ownership t r a n s f e r r e d except by change of the record in this register. T h i s would effectually prevent the introduction of new slaves f r o m A f r i c a or elsewhere. I n 1815 a bill was introduced into P a r l i a m e n t to extend this system to all t h e slave-holding colonies. This proposal roused much anger in the I s l a n d s ; it was intrusive, it was unconstitutional, it was calculated to cause restiveness a m o n g the slaves. P a r l i a m e n t t h e r e f o r e w i t h h e l d its h a n d until the colonial legislatures themselves should introduce a system of registration. I n 1819, however, these were superseded by a general r e g i s t r y regulation imposed by P a r l i a m e n t . 89

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

T h i s was the first s t e p in actual control f r o m home of t h e conditions of slavery in the colonies. T h e second was the issue, f r o m 1823 o n w a r d , to the g r e a t irritation of the W e s t I n d i a n s of successive O r d e r s in Council providing f o r the amelioration of t h e t r e a t m e n t of the slaves a n d for modification of the I s l a n d slave codes. T h i s action was forced u p o n t h e government by p o p u l a r reaction to accounts of shocking barbarities p r a c t i s e d upon slaves in the I s l a n d s by their m a s t e r s a n d connived a t by the local governments. Sir Samuel Romilly, J a m e s S t e p h e n , a n d other members of the A f r i c a n I n s t i tution published reports on the s u b j e c t a n d called to the a t t e n t i o n of P a r l i a m e n t what they considered gross violations of j u s t i c e a n d humanity. M a n y of these stories were doubtless exaggerated or entirely f a l s e , but t h e residuum were enough to convince g r e a t n u m b e r s of E n g l i s h m e n t h a t the complete abolition of slavery was the only cure for its evils. E v e n t h e ministry hinted a t g r a d u a l emancipation, although u n d e r W e s t Indies opposition it continually p o s t p o n e d any such drastic action. Feeling in E n g l a n d was exacerbated by what seemed the obstinate r e f u s a l of the p l a n t e r s to introduce reforms t h a t h a d been urged upon them. T h e whole body of D i s s e n t e r s was stirred against slavery and t h e slave holders by the persecution in D e m e r a r a of a M e t h o d i s t missionary n a m e d Smith, whose death as a result of court-martial was investigated and severely a n i m a d v e r t e d upon in P a r l i a m e n t . T h i s rise of popular feeling in E n g l a n d against 90

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

the continuance of slavery in the colonies was reflected in t h e organization in 1823 of t h e " A n t i slavery Society"—which in t u r n did much t o int e n s i f y that feeling. I t was largely a r e o r g a n i z a t i o n of the old Society for the Abolition of the Slave T r a d e , though m a n y of the original members of t h a t body were dead a n d new men had come on the scene. I t was still c h a r a c t e r i z e d , however, as t h e older society had been, by w e a l t h , legal knowledge a n d an almost religious fervor. T h e place of W i l b e r force was taken, by his nomination, by T h o m a s Fowell Buxton, who had entered P a r l i a m e n t in 1818, was a s t u r d y , p e r s i s t e n t d e b a t e r , a n d belonged to a wealthy a n d influential Q u a k e r f a m i l y . T h e old campaign was now renewed against slavery itself instead of merely against the slave t r a d e . Petitions to P a r l i a m e n t , addresses to the people of G r e a t Britain, t r a c t s , r e p r i n t i n g of official testimony, correspondence, meetings, speeches, assertions and denials made u p an energetic campaign. T h u s by 1830, when r e f o r m was again in the air, English p o p u l a r feeling was strongly in favor of action against slavery. An influential o r g a n i z a t i o n h a d declared for complete emancipation a n d t h e government had become h a b i t u a t e d to i n t e r f e r e n c e with slavery in t h e colonies, n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g t h e protests of the colonists. T h e years between 1830 a n d 1833 were a period of intensification of all these influences, culminating in the introduction into P a r liament in M a y 1833 of a government bill f o r emancipation. T h e debate was a long one, but it 91

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

concerned itself with details, not with principles. T h e s e were a l r e a d y established. Bv August of t h a t y e a r t h e bill had been passed by both houses, signed by the k i n g a n d become law. T h e terras of the law a r e f a m i l i a r a n d need not be r e p e a t e d ; what is significant is t h a t t h e emancipation of the 800,000 slaves in t h e British dominions had now been secured, t h a t it h a d been done by p a r l i a m e n t a r y action and under pressure of the h u m a n i t a r i a n sentiment of t h e people. I t long stood as the classic exa m p l e of a f u n d a m e n t a l , difficult, a n d beneficent r e f o r m a t t a i n e d by agitation, organization, and act of P a r l i a m e n t . I t was of no slight value to E n g l a n d t h a t it was carried through by so high-minded, devoted, well-informed, and patriotic a group of men. T h e evils of t h e slave t r a d e a n d of slavery l a y largely outside of E n g l a n d . A g r o u p of somewhat similar abuses existed within her own boundaries. T h e n u m b e r of offenses punishable by the death penalty had g r o w n through the sixteenth, seventeenth, a n d much of t h e eighteenth century with increasing r a p i d i t y , until by 1800 there were in existence some t w o h u n d r e d c a p i t a l offenses. T h e y were largely the residuum of "crime waves," t h a t had risen a n d then subsided, leaving on t h e statute book the laws made to check them. O t h e r s were laws of increasing severity p a s s e d f r o m time to time in the hope of p u t t i n g a n end to inveterate ill-doing. M a n y were directed to t h e punishment of crimes or misdemeanors connected with the increasing wealth of the country. Some of these offenses were absurdly in92

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

significant as objects of the death p e n a l t y : picking pockets of articles of ten shillings or more in value, stealing g a r m e n t s from bleaching or d r y i n g g r o u n d s , n e t t i n g fish f r o m fishponds, t r a p p i n g rabbits in rabbit w a r r e n s , cutting down trees on a r e n t e d place. Some were ranked as grave f r o m a p r o p e r t y point of view, such as c o u n t e r f e i t i n g b a n k notes, others f r o m a political point of view, such as a p p e a r i n g at night disguised and armed, or giving a n d t a k i n g secret oaths. All these were punishable, if the law took its course, by death. T r i a l s , convictions, a n d executions under them actually took place. Certain j u d g e s were known as " h a n g i n g j u d g e s " because of the harshness with which t h e y e n f o r c e d t h e l a w ; t h e r e were waves of severity as t h e r e were waves of crime, a n d t h e r e are miserable stories of the h a n g i n g of mere boys and girls f o r offenses of ignorance or bravado, such as in T e n n y s o n ' s " R i z p a h . " I n 1783 at each of two successive assizes t w e n t y persons were hanged. I n 1785 nine persons were h a n g e d a t each of t h e prisons of Lincoln, Gloucester, and Kingston, a n d it was t h e n only a decade since a woman h a d been s t r a n g l e d a n d t h e n b u r n t at T y b u r n . B u t the penal code was more severe t h a n common sense or the sense of justice of the time j u s t i fied. M o r e s t r i k i n g p e r h a p s than t h e h a r s h n e s s of the law was its i r r e g u l a r i t y of a p p l i c a t i o n . One j u d g e said of it " T h e law exists indeed in theory, but has been almost a b r o g a t e d in p r a c t i c e by the astuteness of j u d g e s , the h u m a n i t y of j u r i e s a n d t h e 93

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

clemency of the crown." T h i s was too favorable a j u d g m e n t , but it is nevertheless true t h a t when the crime was a p e t t y one or the offender young or u n d e r much temptation sufferers hesitated to prosecute, j u r i e s were reluctant to convict, j u d g e s postponed sentence and if sentence was actually imposed the culprit was o f t e n pardoned. I n 1805, of 2783 persons convicted of crime, but 350 were sentenced to death and only sixty-eight executed. T h e r e was much pious p e r j u r y . A story is told of an old woman who under much stress stole a twop o u n d note; since t h e f t of as much as f o r t y shillings was punishable by death, the amount of her t h e f t was assessed by the indicting j u r y a t only t h i r t y nine shillings. T h e r e were at one time seventyt h r e e persons, one a child of ten years, lying in N e w g a t e prison under sentence of death, awaiting decision of the H o m e S e c r e t a r y whether they should be executed or pardoned. I t was a question whether t h e severity, the u n c e r t a i n t y or the indiscriminateness of the p e n a l code was its most conspicuous feature. P u n i s h m e n t less t h a n t h e death penalty was scarcely more merciful. T r a n s p o r t a t i o n to the penal colonies in a convict ship was a bad dream of confinement, privation, a n d d a n g e r , with an awakening to almost unendurable brutality a t the other end of the voyage. T h e hulks in harbors, which were t h e p r i n c i p a l alternatives, have l e f t a record of b a r b a r i t y which needs no repetition. T h e county a n d city prisons, n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g the work of How94

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

a r d and his followers, were inadequate, i n s a n i t a r y and o f t e n foul. An effort to induce P a r l i a m e n t to change this condition of the law became t h e lifework of Sir Samuel Romilly. H e was a London lawyer, a man of learning and fine feeling. H e h a d read Beccaria and was a friend of B e n t h a m . H i s crusade f o r the improvement of the penal law is an illustration of Sir H e n r y Maine's s t a t e m e n t : " I do not know a single law r e f o r m effected since B e n t h a m ' s day which cannot be t r a c e d to his influence." Romilly, however, had a b u r n i n g sense of i n j u s t i c e and s y m p a t h y with suffering of which B e n t h a m knew little. Bentham's motives were of t h e intellect, Romilly's of the intellect w a r m e d at one time, depressed at others, by the emotions. I t was in one of the last phases that his life later found its tragic close. I n 1785 he went as a practitioner with the j u d g e s on circuit and in t h e next y e a r wrote his first work on penal r e f o r m . T w e n t y y e a r s l a t e r , in 1808, he entered P a r l i a m e n t a n d immediately introduced a bill reducing t h e punishment f o r pocket-picking from death to t r a n s p o r t a t i o n . T h i s had the good f o r t u n e sometimes sustained by enlightened p r o posals to which opposition has not yet f u l l y developed; a f t e r not u n f r i e n d l y debate and amendment on the motion of the law officers of the crown, it was carried t h r o u g h both houses and became law. I t was t h e last victory for Romilly a n d his cause for m a n y years. H i s three p r o p o s a l s of 1810, f o r t h e removal of 95

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

the death penalty from three forms of petty theft, were argued against with sufficient vigor to bring about the defeat of two in the House of Commons, the third in the House of Lords. England had lived happily under the old law; why change it? It was really a merciful system, for its severity intimidated people so that they did not commit crime and therefore did not need to be punished. England was a rich country, and capital punishment was needed as the only adequate protection for property. The law might be adjusted to mercy, either by juries which need not indict or by judges who might exercise discretion in punishment. It was unwise to begin change, for no one knew where it would stop. To these and similar arguments Romilly and his supporters had to listen heartsick and to realize that even if a bare majority could be obtained for a partial measure in the Commons, the solid conservatism of the House of Lords would stand firmly against its passage into law. Such was their experience in 1816 and again in 1818. The debates of 1818 were enriched by a new argument provided by the Quaker philanthropist, Mrs. Fry, whose wide and kindly experience in the prisons had convinced her that the deterrent effect of severe punishment was nil. Prisoners while acknowledging their theft declared they were better men than their judges, for they only stole property while the judges by condemning them to be hung took away life. Instead of fearing punishment a f t e r death, they considered the heavy penalties inflicted upon them were an 96

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

expiation for their e a r t h l y sins a n d t h e y would be correspondingly consoled in t h e l i f e t o come. T h e r e was a n a r r o w s t r e a m of success in m o d i f y ing t h e law. I n 1813 the p e n a l t y of d e a t h was removed f r o m the offense of b r e a k i n g m a c h i n e r y in mills; in 181-1 h a n g i n g alone was o r d e r e d substituted for hanging, disemboweling, a n d q u a r t e r i n g in the almost obsolete offense of t r e a s o n ; a n d in the same y e a r , twenty-seven y e a r s a f t e r it h a d been p r o hibited by the constitution of the U n i t e d S t a t e s , " c o r r u p t i o n of blood," t h a t is to say, h e r e d i t a r y loss of civil rights, was removed f r o m p u n i s h m e n t f o r treason and felony. Some e n c o u r a g e m e n t may have been found in t h e passage t h r o u g h t h e H o u s e of Commons three successive times of a bill removing the d e a t h p e n a l t y from s t e a l i n g f r o m a shop, though each time it was d e f e a t e d in the House of L o r d s . On the other h a n d , in 1815 a bill in a slightly d i f f e r e n t field, to prohibit flogging in t h e a r m y a n d n a v y , was d e f e a t e d without a division even in t h e H o u s e of Commons. I t is possible t h a t Romilly, before his death in 1818 m a y have f e l t t h a t p r o g r e s s had been made in his c a m p a i g n , f o r P a r l i a m e n t had been induced to order t h e collection of statistics of crime and punishment, a n d t h e r e was an evident interest in the s u b j e c t a n d readiness f o r f u r t h e r argument. T h i s was shown when Sir J a m e s M a c k i n t o s h , who had been on t h e bench in I n d i a , a n d w a s now in P a r l i a m e n t , took u p the work w h e r e Romilly h a d l e f t it. H e h a d been interested in i n t r o d u c i n g re-

97

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

f o r m s into government in I n d i a , n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g his judicial position, a n d was, like Romilly, a disciple of B e n t h a m . H e succeeded in obtaining f r o m the House of Commons in 1819 the a p p o i n t m e n t of a new and liberally constituted committee to investigate the whole m a t t e r . T h e committee made its r e p o r t the next year recommending sweeping reductions in the severity of the law a n d establishing a new classification of offenses. T h e result was t h e passage of the great p e n a l r e f o r m act of 1821, in which only three offenses remained punishable by the death penalty a n d t h e basis was laid for a rational penal code. Again agitation had b r o u g h t familiarity, argument h a d brought conviction, and a f t e r the passage of some y e a r s , a f a r - r e a c h i n g ref o r m measure had been c a r r i e d by almost general consent. E v e n at the last, however, so s t r o n g was conservatism, Lord Chancellor E l d o n voted against the measure. T h e r e f o r m of P a r l i a m e n t , the t h i r d of our typical reforms, belonged in the political, not in t h e legal or h u m a n i t a r i a n sphere a n d , as might be anticipated, existing political powers were even more s h a r p l y opposed to any change which would lessen their control. T h e ruling classes could not afford to have the structure of their a u t h o r i t y undermined. On the other hand when a member of t h e House of Commons defined t h a t body as " a group of E n g l i s h men brought together in ways about which the less said the b e t t e r , " t h e r e was no answer to be made except to order his t e m p o r a r y imprisonment for 98

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

disrespect to the House. A detailed statement of the method by which the}· were selected could only s u b j e c t the House of Commons to ridicule. As a result of changes in t h e distribution of population, the decay of some towns and the growth of others, the enclosure of lands a n d the rise of new industries, in progress through five centuries and all without any c o r r e s p o n d i n g alteration in the franchise or in geographical or class representation, P a r l i a m e n t was about as preposterous a body as could be imagined. I t was neither a body of local advisers of the sovereign, a group of estates, or a national assembly ; it was the residuum of the political changes of centuries. I t was kept alive by its possession of practically all the powers of government and could j u s t i f y its existence, if at all, only by the w a y in which it used these powers. I t was a p o w e r f u l body because it ruled the British E m p i r e , not because it was organized with a n y degree of wisdom or adequacy. T h e House of L o r d s was hereditary or a p pointive by the k i n g with the advice of the ministry. T h e constitution of the House of Commons was unrepresentative, a n t i q u a t e d and illogical to the verge of absurdity. T h e number of voters was small, p e r h a p s 100,000, 200,000, or at most 300,000, in a population of more t h a n 8,000,000. M a n y , probably a m a j o r i t y of these, were controlled in their voting by t h e ministry of the time, or by persons with overwhelming influence over them. A member chosen by a considerable number of freely acting voters was an exception. Approximately half the 99

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

members of the House of Commons were directly appointed to their seats by individual patrons. T h e first serious suggestion of a change in this condition was made by the elder Pitt in 1765, the first a t t e m p t to pass a parliamentary r e f o r m act was by the younger Pitt when he became prime minister, in 1785. Two or three years of struggle showed him that he could not overcome the objection of members to the virtual political suicide involved in any serious reform of parliament, and he gave up his efforts. Soon the French Revolution and the E u ropean war supervened, reaction set in, and so f a r as the ministry and the dominant p a r t y in Parliament were concerned, any change in its constitution d r o p p e d out of the field of practical politics. I t remained a f t e r 1792 a p a r t , though an inconspicuous p a r t of the program of the liberal Whigs. I n the country at large, however, r e f o r m of P a r l i a m e n t became a p a r t of t h a t almost undifferentiated mass of dissatisfaction, desire for r e f o r m a n d constantly recurring threat of the use of force among the unrepresented classes that marked the later years of the eighteenth and the early years of the nineteenth century. F r o m time to time it emerged as a specific popular demand. T h e "rotten boroughs" should be disfranchised, Parliament should be elected every year, there should be universal suffrage, and other changes were urged. But it lacked a foothold that would give it entrance upon the road to success. I t was only men of unusual vision among the Tories or of especially liberal 100

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

political traditions among the Whigs who did not dread and oppose any change in the make-up of Parliament. Accordingly such few proposals as were made were overwhelmingly rejected. The early decades of the century p a s s e d till in 1830 parliamentary reform was almost suddenly transformed from a visionary project of a few liberals and radicals and a vague demand of the dissatisfied masses to a matter of practical possibility. This arose from a combination of occurrences. I t was necessary, on account of the death of George I V in May 1830, to hold a new election for Parliament. A serious split had developed in recent years in the T o r y party, and a popular revolution had broken out in France which heartened liberals all through Europe. The Whigs therefore entered the elections with special vigor and hope of success, and when it proved that a Parliament had been chosen with many new elements and a new spirit, the old question of parliamentary reform was immediately brought forward by the more advanced members of the party. The Duke of Wellington, who was then prime minister and had not been averse to a liberal treatment of the Catholic claims and to some social reforms, could not bring himself to consider any political change, and made in the debate on the king's speech his famous avowal: " H e had never read or heard of any measure up to the present moment which could in any degree s a t i s f y his mind that the state of the representation could be improved or be made more s a t i s f a c t o r y to the 101

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

country at large than at the present moment. H e was fully convinced that the country possessed at the present moment a legislature which answered all the good purposes of legislation, and this to a greater degree than any legislature ever had answered in any country whatever." But the new Parliament was restive and critical of the ministry, so after a few days of debate, Wellington resigned, and Lord Grey, the "Lord Grey of the Reform Bill," a lifelong advocate of reform of Parliament, became prime minister and constructed a ministry on that basis. A comparatively thoroughgoing reform bill was drawn up and introduced by the ministry. Lord John Russell in his speech of introduction pictured the proverbial visitor from a distant planet smitten with astonishment at the vagaries and absurdities of the English representative system, and Wellington reiterated his argument that all such criticism was insignificant in view of the excellent performances of the English government. Ministers read the long list of small towns whose separate representation they proposed to abolish or decrease and members broke into incredulous laughter at what they considered the radicalism of the proposals. It was obvious that inside of Parliament reform was looked upon with much hesitation and dislike. Outside, however, the proposals of the ministry were hailed with delight. Multitudes who had no vote and indeed under the new proposals would have no vote, yet welcomed the break in the old 102

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

deadlock, a n d in s u p p o r t of the ministry raised the cry, "the bill, the whole bill a n d nothing but t h e bill." Nevertheless the bill was d e f e a t e d by the House of Commons. I t was p e r h a p s too much to expect enough members to vote in favor of their own removal from prominence a n d power. I t is r a t h e r a m a t t e r of s u r p r i s e t h a t so many voted with the ministry, although success of the bill would vacate the seats f o r which they or their s u p p o r t e r s had in m a n y cases paid large sums, and deprive of their p a t r o n a g e those to whom they owed their a p pointment. I t was a h a r d struggle between the old and t h e new. But it was a l r e a d y a changed world since the beginning of the century, a world in which reform came constantly more easily. T h e m i n i s t r y , pledged t o their bill, dissolved P a r l i a m e n t a n d , s u p p o r t e d by their influence, t h e new elections justified their action. W h e n the bill, slightly changed, was again introduced in the new Parliament it was passed by t h e House of Commons, September 1831. B u t the House of Lords had still to be reckoned with. N o t w i t h s t a n d i n g t h a t the bill affected the H o u s e of Commons alone, the L o r d s gave it short s h r i f t a n d d e f e a t e d it by a large vote in October 1831. T h e ministry were now at the end of their t e t h e r , at least so f a r as common practice extends, a n d not being able to carry out their pledge they resigned. T h e King called the D u k e of Wellington to become again p r i m e minister. Now ensued one of the most serious crises in English h i s t o r y . Revolution was near. A king and 103

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

an u n p o p u l a r ministry h a d j u s t been overthrown in F r a n c e ; if t h e k i n g a n d his self-chosen minister set themselves up against the general wish what was to prevent a conflict in E n g l a n d ? As soon as the ref o r m of P a r l i a m e n t rose to the s u r f a c e as a definite possibility the old p o p u l a r desire for a more r e p r e sentative form of government had r e a s s e r t e d itself as a formal demand. I t had been an element in all agitation since 1780; now with the s u p p o r t of one house of P a r l i a m e n t a n d a prospect of success, organized g r o u p s of men drew together in various p a r t s of the country with the old cry. Such was the " B i r m i n g h a m Political Union for t h e Protection of Public R i g h t s , " under the leadership of T h o m a s Attwood, a man of unusual organizing power, some wealth and position. F r a n c i s Place reorganized the old N a t i o n a l Political Unions in London. On their model others were formed and entered into correspondence, forming a loose league f o r t h e advocacy of immediate p a r l i a m e n t a r y reform. T h r o u g h the early stages of the bill they k e p t up an outside agitation parallel with the steps of its progress in the House. W h e n t h e House of L o r d s d e f e a t e d it a n d the D u k e of Wellington took office in opposition to L o r d G r e y the clubs showed a sinister f r o n t . D r i l l i n g was reported, arms were secreted, a few soldiers deserted, t h e r e were reports t h a t General Charles N a p i e r , the last m a n in the kingdom, as a m a t t e r of f a c t , to condone rebellion, however much he might sympathize with popular sufferings, was to be asked to form and lead a N a t i o n a l G u a r d , as L a 104

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

fayette had done in France. "Low political unions," as they were called, in contrast with the older and more moderate unions, were formed under newer and more reckless leaders. There was some rioting. In London the windows in the house of the Duke of Wellington were broken ; in Nottingham the town house of the Duke of Newcastle was burnt; in Bristol the city hall, the bishop's residence and some forty other houses were burnt; on the fifth of November, Guy Fawkes' day, in many places figures of bishops, most of whom had voted in the House of Lords against the reform bill, were substituted for the usual "Guy." Even so conservative an authority as the London Times believed that the unions would fight if troops were sent to dissolve them. But the more moderate lower class leaders such as Place, Grote, Hobhouse, Attwood and others busied themselves in urging restraint upon the more extreme. Place had a plan for substituting financial for physical violence by displaying in windows cards with the words "Run on the Bank and stop the Duke," "To stop the Duke, go for gold," believing that a sudden withdrawal of funds from the Bank would cause such a crisis in the affairs of the city that pressure would be brought to bear by business men to force the return of Lord Grey to office. What would have been the outcome of this dangerous crisis if it had continued long cannot be known, for after a few days the Duke gave up his task of trying to form a ministry in opposition to the ma105

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

j o r i t y in t h e H o u s e of Commons a n d advised t h e king to recall G r e y . T h e price the ministers asked f o r r e t u r n i n g to office was the king's agreement to use his power of creating nobles to a p p o i n t enough new peers pledged to the r e f o r m bill to change the m a j o r i t y in the House of Lords f r o m an u n f a v o r a b l e to a favorable one. T h e r e was ancient a n d obscure precedent f o r such action, but it was d i s t a s t e f u l even to those who utilized it to secure the victory which by this time seemed indispensable. I t is a curious chance t h a t this humiliation of the House of L o r d s should have been brought about by one of their own n u m b e r , a representative of the semi-feudal nobility, s u p p o r t e d by a ministry, half of whom were members of the old aristocracy, and by a H o u s e of Commons so largely their appointees. H o w e v e r , it g u a r a n t e e d the passage of the r e f o r m bill, w a r d e d off the danger of serious disorder a n d changed p o p u l a r feeling from t h r e a t s to rejoicing. I t was not even necessary to create the new peers, f o r when t h e ministry presented the bill f o r the t h i r d time to t h e H o u s e of Commons, a n d it was carried f o r the second time by a still g r e a t e r m a j o r i t y t h a n before, by common agreement the peers who were still opposed remained away a n d it passed the H o u s e of L o r d s by a vote of 106 to 27. I t was signed, though reluctantly, by the king, and became t h e R e f o r m Act of 1832, the first of the four p a r l i a m e n t a r y r e f o r m acts which have effected the political p r o g r e s s of G r e a t Britain within a century f r o m aristocracy to democracy. 106

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

T h e passage of the Reform Bill of 1832 was one of the most important events in British history. I f succeeding acts of political self-sacrifice have been secured from Parliament in 1867, 1884 and 1918; if the history of modern England has, so far, been free from revolution; if those who are bent upon change have usually been willing to await the slow processes of persuasion; if, to return to the thesis of this work, the history of reform in England has been reform by statute, this is largely the result of the precedent set by the reform bill struggle of 1830— 1832. Its passage was secured by steady pressure; pressure of Parliament upon the king; pressure of the House of Commons upon the House of L o r d s ; pressure of the electorate upon the House of Commons and, in the last resort, pressure of a crude and poorly organized and inadequately expressed but clearly

existent

public

opinion upon

those

who

could alone transform popular wish into law. T h e fullest credit and recognition is due to the aristocratic leaders such as Earl Grey and L o r d John Russell who were the interpreters and firm protagonists of this inchoate public opinion. For if the people could obtain what they wished by sufficient peaceful pressure on Parliament why should they resort to force ? Such was the lesson well learned in 1832. T o discover the evils needing reform and to trace the beginnings of the effort to correct those evils, it has usually been necessary to dig into the somewhat arid decades lying at the close of the eighteenth and 107

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

at the opening of the nineteenth century. The repeal of the corn laws, the remaining reform measure we have chosen to typify the first half of the century, comes much later. I t is true that the high tariff placed upon the importation of wheat and other grains dates from 1815. I t was clearly a class provision and it was carried against the bitter protests of the lower classes and their representatives. I t belongs to the period of reaction. I t was intended to keep the price of wheat as near as might be at $2.50 a bushel and of other grains in proportion, for the encouragement of home production of food, and redounded of course primarily, in a country of tenant farmers, to the advantage of the land-owning classes by keeping up rents. Popular opposition never entirely died down. Ebenezer Elliott's bitter "Corn Law Rhymes" were published in 1831 England ! What for mine and me, What hath bread-tax done for thee ? It hath shown what kinglings are Stripped the hideous idols bare, Sold thy greatness, stained thy name, Struck thee from the rolls of fame. The corn laws are constantly mentioned along with the unrepresentative Parliament, taxes, low wages, high prices, unemployment, the game laws, and the new poor law, in the complaints of radicals and other critics of the times. I t was not until 1838, however, that a clear-cut agitation for their repeal was begun. September twenty-fourth of that year, seven gentlemen met 108

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

at the York Hotel, Manchester, and formed the "Anti-Corn Law Association." They appointed an executive committee and a treasurer, and three months later opened their campaign by issuing a public statement of their objects and appealing for members and subscriptions. Their object was a plain one, to remove the import duties of 1815 on grain. There had been modifications but no serious change in the intervening quarter of a century. The price of the principal food stuffs used by the English people was still much higher than it might be if the tariff were repealed. The founders of the "Association," or the "League" as it soon came to be called, were a group of wealthy men, as the size of the contributions to the cause indicated, and many substantial men soon rallied to its support. At one of the early meetings, which lasted but an hour and a half, ¿£60,000 was subscribed. At the first anniversary dinner six hundred prominent men were present. The leaders were mostly manufacturers to whose interests the existing corn laws were obviously opposed, since they both made food high and limited exports. But the arguments used were not in the main class arguments. From full conviction the advocates of repeal pleaded that it would be for the general advantage—lower prices for the necessities of life, larger sales abroad for England's special products, more employment, and a greater increase of wealth for all. On the other hand these arguments had to be used in a Parliament the great majority 109

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

of which found its apparent or real interest in a retention of the law as it was. A t w o f o l d campaign was therefore kept up, as in the other cases described: an effort to convince Parliament and an effort to bring an overwhelming popular pressure to bear on Parliament. T h e League was fortunate in its leading orators. F e w speakers for a cause have been more vigorous in reasoning and more skilful in persuasion than Richard Cobden, and to these qualities John Bright added an eloquence scarcely surpassed in the century. These powers were used both inside and outside of Parliament. T h e L e a g u e trained lecturers, established newspapers, published pamphlets, and held meetings, quite in the w a y of the old anti-slave trade agitation, with the added wealth, activity, and experience of a later generation. T h e r e was much difficulty in gaining the support of the lower classes, interested as they were in the contemporaneous agitation f o r the Charter, and the to

over-

come considerable suspicion on the part of

employing manufacturers had naturally

their

employees. A t an early public meeting called by the League, a group of workingmen's leaders present interrupted proceedings and secured the passage of the f o l l o w i n g opposition resolution: " T h a t it is the opinion of this meeting that though the Corn L a w is an injurious tax, yet the present House of Commons w i l l never repeal that law so as to be beneficial to the working classes, and this meeting is of the opinion that the present Corn L a w agitation is 110

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

made up for the purpose of diverting the minds of the people from the only remedy of all political grievances. T h e r e f o r e it is necessary that the people should first be in possession of their political rights to effect the repeal of the Corn L a w . " Eventually, however, the movement captured the great body of the workingmen, at least in the manufacturing regions, and in great numbers they attended the meetings, took part in processions, and signed petitions for repeal. Y e t f e w of these men had votes, and although the little group of free-trade members of

Parliament

gradually grew in the years from 1840 to 1845, introduced frequent motions and kept up almost continuous debate, the great Conservative m a j o r i t y and the overwhelming agricultural interest of the house seemed impregnable. H o w long a campaign would have been necessary to secure victory, had not nature herself intervened, is now undiscoverable. I n 1845 the potato-blight

f e l l on Ireland

and, to a less

destructive degree, on England. T h e principal reliance of the Irish people and a large part of the food of

the lower

classes

in England

suddenly

f a i l e d ; a veritable famine ensued. T o meet the needs and diminish the sufferings of the people grain had to be imported f r o m foreign countries in far larger amounts than in ordinary years, as contributions or in the regular w a y of trade, and of course under the law all this had to pay import duties. T h e unreasonableness of such a system, by which to the necessary cost of relief this vast additional expense 111

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

had to be added, was obvious. The government had to buy in the open market provisions the cost of which it had largely increased by its own collection of import duties upon them. Prices were artificially kept high just when they should be low. The prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, and some other members of the ministry were already shaken by the continuous pressure of the free-trade argument, and now, to the extreme disapproval of a great part of their party, they used all the prestige of the government to carry through Parliament a virtual repeal of the corn laws. The statute passed in 1846, making the importation of food practically free, has ever since been a fundamental part of English policy. This is but a brief outline of the history of four emancipation movements, extending through the first half of the nineteenth century. They would in themselves be sufficient to j u s t i f y the name "Epoch of Reform," often given to this period. The justification would be still clearer if we could give a similar account of the removal of the disabilities of Roman Catholics and Dissenters, of the repeal of the old poor law and the statute of apprentices, of the truck acts, of the long series of factory and mining acts for the relief of children and women workers, of the laws for the prevention of cruelty to children and animals, of the parliamentary grants for elementary education, of the repeal of the navigation acts, and of many other laws enriching the statute book. A partial list of such acts may somewhat serve the purpose. 112

REFORM 1802 1807 1808 1812 1812 1812 1813 1814 1814 1815 1816 1817 1817 1817

BY

LIBERATION

First factory act Abolition of the slave trade Beginning of amelioration of the penal code Protection of chimney sweeps Repeal of death penalty for soldiers begging without a pass Non-conformist relief act Repeal of act of apprentices Hanging substituted for disemboweling and quartering for treason Flogging of adults in alms-houses forbidden Abolition of jail fees Abolition of the pillory Abolition of public whipping of women Beginning of amelioration of the game laws First truck act

1 8 1 9 First f a c t o r y act for free children

1819 1820 1820 1822 1824 1828 1829 1831 1832 1833 1833 1833

Friendly societies act Act for reform of the penal code First education act Cruelty to animals act Repeal of the combination acts Repeal of the test and corporations acts Roman Catholic relief act Bill permitting those not landowners to shoot game First parliamentary reform act First parliamentary grant for education First general factory act Quakers and Moravians allowed to affirm instead of swear 113

MODERN 1833 1834 1835 1835 1835 1836 1842

ENGLISH

REFORM

Abolition of slavery R e p e a l of t h e old poor law R e f o r m of municipal corporations Repeal of monopoly of E a s t I n d i a t r a d e F i r s t m a r r i a g e act Removal of s t a m p duties on n e w s p a p e r s Act for r e g u l a t i n g work of women and child r e n in mines 1844 C h i l d r e n ' s h a l f - t i m e act 1844 N o n - c o n f o r m i s t chapel act 1846 R e p e a l of t h e corn laws 1847 T e n hours act T h i s is a noble record. T h e work of the r e f o r m ers of t h e first half of t h e nineteenth century was well done ; much relief f r o m suffering was given, much t h a t was b a r b a r o u s in the legal system, much t h a t was n a r r o w a n d intolerant in religion, much t h a t was h a r s h a n d i n j u r i o u s to women a n d children in factories a n d mines, much that was unnecessarily h a r d in life was swept a w a y ; a beginning was made of loosening t h e bonds of ignorance. I n examining this list, however, incomplete as it is, a n d in considering t h e history of the time, it will be observed t h a t t h e timepiece of r e f o r m seems to r u n more slowly as t h e middle of the century is app r o a c h e d , and as it is passed f u r t h e r study would indicate t h a t it seems about to stop altogether. Ref o r m s follow one a n o t h e r less rapidly a n d they are less significant. T h e wave of r e f o r m was evidently subsiding. T h e abolition of t r a n s p o r t a t i o n to the 114

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

p e n a l colonies in 1857 a n d the removal of J e w i s h disabilities in 1858 a r e exceptional. T h e later f o r ties a n d the fifties are not rich in r e f o r m . T r o u b l e with I r e l a n d , trouble with I n d i a , small w a r s , diplomatic disputes, religious controversy, fill the national annals, but they a r e almost b a r r e n of movements of r e f o r m . P a l m e r s t o n , the most influential minister of the period, was as little interested in r e f o r m in his day as E l d o n and Liverpool a n d Wellington were in theirs. I t might seem, f o r a while it does seem, as if the history of n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y r e f o r m was over. A clue to the reason for this may be found by a somewhat closer examination of the n a t u r e of these r e f o r m s . I t will be observed t h a t they were almost all negative, not positive. T h e y strove to remove abuses, not to introduce constructive practiccs. T h e y liberated men f r o m disabilities, they did not create for them new o p p o r t u n i t i e s . T h e y were almost all dominated by the spirit of laissez-faire. I t was ref o r m by liberation. I t s work was done by abolition, repeal, removal. S l a v e r y a n d t h e slave t r a d e a r e abolished, the corn laws a r e repealed, Catholic disabilities are removed, b a r b a r o u s p u n i s h m e n t s are suspended, monopolies a r e w i t h d r a w n . Back of the r e f o r m s of the e a r l y nineteenth c e n t u r y is a philosophy of p u r e individualism. H a m p e r i n g bonds are removed a n d t h a t is all ; recognized abuses are abolished and t h e work is considered done. T h e r e f o r m e r s of t h e early p a r t of the cen115

MODERN ENGLISH

REFORM

tury were usually hostile to constructive movements, to any form of association except for temporary and liberating purposes. They were enthusiastic as long as some abuse was to be removed, some enfranchisement to be accomplished; then their interest ceased. Since soil bearing only such crops must in the nature of things eventually become unproductive, by the middle of the century the work of reform by liberation was approaching completion. There were no more such worlds to conquer. Unless the germs of a more constructive type of reform were in existence, awaiting the fulness of time for their development, as indeed was the case, the story of English reform would end somewhere about 1860. I t would be an interesting and amiable record but it would be merely an episode in English social and political history. I t may be observed, again, that all the reforms so far introduced had been the work of the upper classes. They had been given to those who were to benefit from them, not chosen or won by them, except in a purely secondary and indirect way. They were reforms for, not by the people. Slaves were granted their freedom because of the humane feelings of the English upper and middle classes ; the penal code was reformed by the kindly sympathy and good reasoning of lawyers and philanthropists ; the repeal of the combination acts was due to the sense of fairness of the landowners and more enlightened manufacturers in parliament; the poor law was intended by the rich and pedantic to disci116

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

pline the poor for their own good. The early reformers did not take counsel ordinarily with the beneficiaries of their reforms. It involves no impugning of the motives of the devoted men who carried through these early reforms, rather the contrary, to recognize that they were not themselves personally interested in the improved conditions they were advocating. But it may be questioned whether men of one class did then or ever can legislate satisfactorily for men of another class, in any other sense than by the removal of existing abuses. Have aristocrats, no matter how thoughtful and well intentioned, ever legislated in favor of the great mass of the people ? Their limitation of outlook, as much as their class interest, restricts their choice of subjects for reform and narrows the extent to which they are willing to go. Lord Grey, Lord John Russell, and Lord Durham, who carried the bill for the reform of Parliament, had not the least intention of putting England into the hands of a democracy. Wellington and Peel, who grunted Catholic Emancipation, had no expectation of weakening the position of the established church. Cobden and Bright, who with the help of the mill workers carried the repeal of the corn laws, had no idea of allowing the workmen to share in the control of the factories, or, except in the form of ordinary wages, in the profits from them. No matter how enlightened the autocracy or the aristocracy it cannot enter sufficiently into the interests, needs, ambitions, and abilities of men far below 117

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

them economically a n d socially to legislate e f fectively f o r them. Certainly it was so at this time. Looked at f r o m the point of view of the m a t e r i a l condition of the mass of the people but little seemed to have been accomplished by the r e f o r m s thus f a r described. E n g l a n d was more w e a l t h y than ever, a n d the population was much g r e a t e r , but the c o n t r a s t between its wealth and its p o v e r t y , in m a t e r i a l respects, seemed, p e r h a p s really was, as great as a t t h e beginning of the century. I n d e e d "the h u n g r y f o r t i e s " has come down as t h e traditional description of the last decade of active r e f o r m s of the old type. T h e novels of Dickens, t h e lectures of Ruskin, a n d the essays of Carlyle give no encouragement to the belief t h a t what the last called the "condition of the people question" h a d been to any degree satisfactorily answered. M u c h suffering of certain kinds had been removed, but extremely little h a d been accomplished in l i f t i n g t h e dead weight of t h e poverty and f r e q u e n t distress of the mass of the population. T h e r e was not much in these early r e f o r m s f o r the ordinary w o r k i n g m a n . Slaves, criminals, poachers, untried d e f e n d a n t s , soldiers a n d sailors, f a c t o r y children, d i s s e n t i n g sects, animals, were all a d v a n t a g e d , and t h e E n g l i s h as a nation were f r e e d from t h e responsibility for much inj u s t i c e ; but which of all t h e r e f o r m s of the early nineteenth century did a n y t h i n g of appreciable value f o r the man making his living, or t r y i n g to, in the fields or on shipboard or on the railroads or in the mills or in the mines ? N e i t h e r the laissez-faire 118

REFORM

BY

LIBERATION

attitude of the time nor the class limitations of the legislators favored constructive legislation for the a d v a n t a g e of the ordinary workingman, that is to s a y for the g r e a t mass of the nation. The strongest a n d most effective of human instincts and powers, that of association for a common purpose, was disr e g a r d e d . Men were individually freed, it is true, from many hampering bonds and restrictions, but remained unsupported by common action and unprotected from the harsh forces of a competitive and acquisitive society. It is not a matter of surprise therefore that the "bread and butter problem" for the great part of the English people remained unsolved.

lie

IV T H E RISE OF T H E WORKING 1796-1929

CLASSES,

F R E N C H writer remarks, " T h e English nation is saved by its want of logic." I t is natural to expect therefore that among the reforms of the first half of the century, negative and definitive as they prevailingly were, and dominated by laissez-faire, some should be constructive and continuous. The "Health and Morals of Apprentices A c t " of 1802 was restricted to a few and simple provisions for the protection of bound children in cotton factories, yet it was the fountainhead of a great river of statutory regulation of the conditions of employment of the great majority of the population. The Gladstone act of 1845, giving the Board of Trade some degree of control of the railroads, was an abandonment of laissez-faire in the field of transportation, leading on eventually to a great body of regulation of the public services. Parliamentary reform could hardly be expected to stop at the arbitrary point at which the act of 1832 left it. Germs of further reform evidently existed in mach of the early legislation. Moreover the officials who were entrusted with the administration of these 120

THE

WORKING

CLASSES

laws became advocates of further reform. Impressed by their practical experience with the inadequacy of existing legislation and the possibility of improvement they urged more constructive measures. Bureaucracy itself was a force for more advanced legislation. New ideals and new motives, as necessarily occurs in a vigorous society, asserted themselves, and demanded social progress, which in many cases could be secured only by law. But the principal incentive to a new and more advanced series of reforms came from altogether outside the field of early reform and the aristocratic Parliament that enacted it. This was the rise of the ordinary workingman, the self-assertion of the lower classes. This force rejuvenated reform, gave it a new lease of life, a new direction, set it on a long career of progress; it opened the eyes of the upper classes to the needs and desires of the lower; it exercised enough pressure upon them to secure much popular legislation, and ultimately put the mass of the population in a position to direct the course of reform for themselves. To trace the growth of the influence of the working classes, it is necessary to go back to that welter of dissatisfaction with economic and political conditions, visionary ideas of improvement, and recurring turbulence that characterized the mass of the people at the beginning of the century, and to recognize in it certain constructive forces. The most important of these was the growth of trade unions. Among the craftsmen in towns, millworkers 121

MODERN

ENGLISH

REFORM

in t h e new m a n u f a c t u r i n g villages, miners, a g r i c u l t u r a l w o r k e r s , a n d workmen in t r a n s p o r t a t i o n on r a i l r o a d s a n d canals, here and t h e r e were centers of organization. M e n employed in the same establishment, the same industry or the same place f o r m e d a union or utilized a society a l r e a d y formed to improve their w o r k i n g conditions. T h e earlier unions were usually in the old skilled t r a d e s — t a i l o r s , p r i n t e r s , h a t t e r s , c a r p e n t e r s a n d other building t r a d e s . T h e y grew u p most o f t e n about social or beneficiary groups, e x t e n d i n g their common interests f r o m sociability, drinking, a n d crude insurance p l a n s to m a t t e r s of wages, hours, a n d working conditions, a n d e n t e r i n g into disputes on these subj e c t s with their employers. I n 1790 F r a n c i s Place, t h e n a j o u r n e y m a n leather-breeches maker, j o i n e d the "breechesm a k e r s ' benefit society for the s u p p o r t of the members who were sick a n d to b u r y them when d e a d , " a n d paid his subscriptions r e g u l a r l y , although he seldom a t t e n d e d at t h e public house where the meetings were held. T h o u g h p r i m a r i l y a benefit society it w a s also " i n t e n d e d for the p u r p o s e of s u p p o r t i n g t h e members in a strike f o r wages." T h e r e were about 250 members, a n d in 1793 when they h a d