‘The Mid-Victorian Age: Britain in the 1850s and 60s’ #unravellingbritain 3: Dr Robert Saunders
‘The Age of Equipoise’?
Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke (1850, repr. 1862) 1862 Preface The book was written at a time of ‘hateful severance between the classes. … Then arose Luddite mobs, meal mobs, farm riots, riots everywhere; Captain Swing and his rickburners, Peterloo “massacres”, Bristol conflagrations, and all the ugly sights and rumours which made young lads … believe (and not so wrongly) that “the masses” were their natural enemies, and that they might have to fight, any year, or any day, for the safety of their property and the honour of their sisters. How changed, thank God! is all this now’
William Gladstone Gladstone in Lancashire, 1865 ‘It has been our privilege to see a process going forward in which the throne has acquired a broader and deeper foundation in the affections of the country; in which the laws have commended themselves more and more to the respect and attachment of the people; in which the various classes of the country have come into closer union with one another … [so that a man], looking out over the broad surface of society, may thank God and say, “Behold! How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”.
The Hustings The hustings at Hastings, 1865
Election Violence in England and Wales, General Elections 63 riots 77 serious disturbances 51 violent incidents Source: J. Wasserman and E. Jaggard, ‘Electoral Violence in England and Wales’, Historical Research 80:207 (2006), pp
Trade Unions and Strikes
The Preston Strike/Lock-Out, ‘amid the resources of our manufacturing system, has been developed the power of blockading a town with an invisible enemy, of drawing a charmed circle around it more effective than lines of [cannon], and of arriving slowly but surely at those results of starvation and destruction of property, which it costs the soldier so much clangour of arms to accomplish’. The Westminster Review, 1854
The Strikes and Class Relations ‘the Lancashire “strikes” remind us that our wealth and our prosperity … depend on the will of men too ignorant to understand their own interests, or to listen to any argument save that enforced by the wretchedness to which they are reduced by their own folly’. Statesman should remember the ‘danger of lowering the franchise, while its intended recipients are so ignorant’. The Times, December 1854
Ethnic Tensions: the Irish
‘The Irish Frankenstein’
Ireland after the Famine Irish Potato Famine, More than a million dead of hunger and disease More than a million emigrated to Britain, the USA and the colonies Population of Ireland halved, [Population of England and Wales doubled]
Attack on Clerkenwell Prison, killed, 40 injured
‘No Popery!’ Catholics and Protestants The Martyrs’ Memorial, Oxford (1843)
‘Anglicans’ and ‘Nonconformists’ The Church of England The Church ‘by law established’ The monarch its Supreme Governor Bishops appointed by the government Parliament is the legislative assembly of the Church of England Nonconformists/ ‘Dissenters’ Protestant churches that refused to ‘conform’ to the rites of the Church of England E.g. Methodists, Baptists, Quakers Usually believed in the separation of Church and State, and sought to dismantle the privileges of the Church of England
Peel’s Second Government, Reintroduction of income tax Free Trade in most foodstuffs and raw materials Repeal of the Corn Laws Goal: that ‘thoughts of the dissolution of our institutions should be forgotten in the midst of physical enjoyment’.
10 th April 1848
Disraeli, Sybil: or, the Two Nations (1845) ‘“Two nations: between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws”. “You speak of—”, said Egremont, hesitatingly. “THE RICH AND THE POOR”
The Illustrated London News (1848) ‘We must now consider seriously whether this despised Chartism have not, after all, some possible truth and some real vitality in it’, and ‘investigate what social fire it is which produces the ugly smoke of Chartism’.
The Great Exhibition, 1851
The Volunteer Movement,
G. Ludlow and L. Jones, The Progress of the Working Class, (1867) ‘[In 1832], Political discontent was widespread, and discontent in those days was always very near to rebellion. The writer … must confess to having his sharpened pike by him in 1832, ready for a march on London if the Reform Bill had not passed; and he was but one of thousands of Manchester working men who were alike prepared for the dread hazard of civil war’. ‘he has since had the honour of serving … in her Majesty’s Lanarkshire Volunteers’ ‘Among the most striking evidences of this altered change of feeling has been the participation of the working classes in the Volunteer movement’.
The US Civil War and the Cotton Famine, Gladstone: ‘There is in mankind at large a sense of right and wrong, a sense of justice, on which reliance may be placed’. Hoped that when the franchise was next discussed, ‘the conduct of the men of Lancashire may be favourably remembered’.
THE SECOND REFORM ACT, 1867
‘The Second Reform…zzzzz’
Robert Lowe, 1866 ‘If you want ignorance, if you want venality, if you want drunkenness and facility for being intimidated, where do you look for them in the constituencies? Do you go to the top, or to the bottom?’