Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

The king is scared, the soldier will not fight.
The little boys begin to shoot and stab,

A kingdom topples over with a shriek

Like an old woman, and down rolls the world

In mock-heroics -

Revolts, republics, revolutions, most

No graver than a schoolboy's barring out;

Too comic for the solemn things they are,

Too solemn for the comic touches in them."

In this wild year 1848, which saw Revolution running riot on the Continent, England too had its share of
troubles not less painfully ridiculous; the insurrection headed by Smith O'Brien, a chief of the "Young

Ireland" party, coming to an inglorious end in the affray that took place at "the widow McCormick's

cabbage-garden, Ballingarry," in the month of July; the greatly dreaded Chartist demonstration at

Kennington Common on April 10th by its conspicuous failure having done much to damp the hopes and

spirits of the party of disorder generally.

It would be easy now to laugh at the frustrated designs of the Chartist leaders and at the sort of panic they
aroused in London: the vast procession, which was to have marched in military order to overawe

Parliament, resolving itself into a confused rabble easily dispersed by the police, and the monster

petition, that should have numbered six million signatures, transported piecemeal to the House, and there

found to have but two million names appended, many fictitious; the Chartist leader, completely cowed,

thanking the Home Office for its lenient treatment; or, on the other hand, London and its peaceful

inhabitants, distracted with wild rumours of combat and bloodshed, apprehending a repetition of Parisian

madnesses, and unaware how thoroughly the Duke of Wellington, entrusted with the defence of the

capital and its important buildings, had carried out all needful arrangements. The two hundred thousand

special constables sworn in to aid in maintaining law and order on that day were visible enough, and had

their utility in conveying a certain impression of safety; the troops whom the veteran commander held in

readiness were kept out of sight till wanted. These rebellious spirits imagining themselves formidable

and free, when caught in an invisible iron network - these terrified citizens, protected all unconsciously to

themselves against the impotent foe whom they dreaded - might furnish food for mirth if we did not

remember the real, deep, and widespread misery which found inarticulate but piteous expression in the

movement now coming to confusion under the firm assertion of necessary authority. The disturbances

must needs be quieted; but hitherto it has been the glory of our Victorian statesmen to have understood

that the grievances which caused them must also be dealt with. Now that all which could be deemed wise

and good in Chartist demands has been conceded, orderly and quietly, the name "Chartism" has utterly

lost its dread significance.

No cruelly vindictive measures of reprisal followed the collapse of the agitation; none indeed were
needed. The revolutionary epidemic, which had spread hitherward from France, found our body politic in

too sound a condition, and could not fasten on it; and the subsequent convulsions which shook our great

neighbour hardly called forth an answering thrill in England. The strange transactions of December 1851,

by means of which Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, Prince-President of the new French republic, succeeded

in overthrowing that republic and replacing it by an empire of which he was the head, did indeed excite

displeasure and distrust in many minds; and though it was believed that his high-handed proceedings had

averted much disorder, the English Government was not prepared at once to accept all the proffered

explanations of French diplomacy; but the then foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, by the rash

 

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