Classic History Books

Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

and distrust of the labouring population, whom they considered as seditious enemies of order and
property. The demon of class hatred was never more alive and busy than in the decade which terminated

in 1848.

"The Charter," which was the watchword of hope to so many, and the very war-note of discord to many
more, comprised six points, of which some at least were sufficiently absurd, while others have virtually

passed into law, quietly and naturally, in due course of time; and if the universal Age of Gold which

ignorant Chartists looked for has not ensued, at least the anarchy and ruin which their opponents

associated with the dreaded scheme are equally non-existent. So fast has the time moved that there is

now a little difficulty in understanding the passionate hopes with which the Charter was associated on the

one side, and the panic which it inspired on the other; and there is much to move wondering compassion

in the profound ignorance which those hopes betrayed, and the not inferior misery amid which they were

cherished. Few persons are now so credulous as to expect that annual Parliaments or stipendiary

members would insure the universal reign of peace and justice; the people have already found that vote

by ballot and suffrage all but universal have neither equalised wealth nor abrogated greed and iniquity;

and though there be some dreamers in our midst to-day who look for wonderful transformations of

society to follow on possible reforms, there is not even in these dreamy schemes the same amazing

disproportion of means to be employed and end to be attained as characterised the Chartist delusion.

In Ireland men were reposing unbounded faith in another sort of political panacea for every personal and
social evil - the Repeal of the Union with England, advocated by Daniel O'Connell, with all the power of

his passionate Celtic eloquence, and supported by all his extraordinary personal influence. Apparently he

hoped to carry this agitation to the same triumphant issue as that for Catholic emancipation, in which he

had taken a conspicuous part; but the new movement did not, like the old one, appeal immediately and

plausibly to the English sense of fair play and natural justice. A competent and not unfriendly observer

has remarked that O'Connell's "theory and policy were that Ireland was to be saved by a dictatorship

entrusted to himself." Whether any salvation for the unhappy land did lie in such a dictatorship was a

point on which opinion might well be divided. English opinion was massively hostile to it; but for years

all the political enthusiasm of Ireland centred in O'Connell and the cause he upheld. The country might

be on the brink of ruin and starvation, but the peril seemed forgotten while the dream lasted. The agitator

was wont to refer to the Queen in terms of extravagant loyalty, and it would seem that the feeling was

largely shared by his followers. However futile and vainglorious his scheme and methods may appear,

we must not deny to him a distinction, rare indeed among Irish agitators, of having steadily disclaimed

violence and advocated orderly and peaceable proceedings. He thought his cause would be injured, and

not advanced, by such outrages as before and since his day have too often disgraced party warfare in

Ireland. His favourite maxim was that "the man who commits a crime gives strength to the enemy." This

opinion was not heartily endorsed by all his followers. When it became clear that his dislike of physical

force was real, when he did not defy the Government, at last stirred into hostile action by the

demonstrations he organised, there was an end of his power over the fiercer spirits whom he had roused

against the rule of "the Saxon" - luckless phrase with which he had enriched the Anglo-Irish controversy,

and misleading as luckless. O'Connell died, a broken and disappointed man, on his way to Rome in 1847;

but the spirit he had raised and could not rule did not die with him, and the younger, more turbulent

leaders, who had outbid him for popular approval, continued their anti-English warfare with growing zeal

until the year of fate 1848.

Even the Principality of Wales had its own peculiar form of agitation, sometimes accompanied by
outrage, during these wild opening years. The farmers and labourers in Wales were unprosperous and


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