Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

to our national Volunteer movement, which were not remotely connected with the War of Italian
Independence, and for a short time overthrew the popular Ministry of Lord Palmerston, who was

replaced in office by Lord Derby. The futile plot of Felice Orsini, an Italian exile and patriot, against the

life of Louis Napoleon, provoked great anger among the Imperialists of France against England, the

former asylum of Orsini. A series of violent addresses from the French army, denouncing Great Britain

as a mere harbour of assassins, did but give a more exaggerated form to the representations of French

diplomacy, urging the amendment of our law, which appeared incompetent to touch murderous

conspirators within our borders so long as their plots regarded only foreign Powers. The tone of France

was deemed insolent and threatening; Lord Palmerston, who, in apparent deference to it, introduced a

rather inefficient measure against conspiracy to murder, fell at once to the nadir of unpopularity, and

soon had no choice but to resign; and the Volunteer movement in England - which had been begun in

1852, owing to the sinister changes that then took place in the French Government - now at once

assumed the much more important character it has never since lost. The immense popularity of this

movement and its rapid spread formed a significant reply to the insensate calls for vengeance on England

which had risen from the French army, and which seemed worthy of attention in view of the vast

increase now made in the naval strength of France, and of other preparations indicating that the Emperor

meditated a great military enterprise. That enterprise proved to be the war with Austria which did so

much for Italy, and which some observers were disposed to connect with the plot of Orsini - a rough

reminder to the Emperor, they said, that he was trifling with the cause of Italian unity, to which he was

secretly pledged. But Englishmen were slow to believe in such designs on the part of the French ruler.

"How should a despot set men free?" was their thought, interpreted for them vigorously enough by an

anonymous poet of the day; and they enrolled themselves in great numbers for national defence. With

this movement there might be some evils mixed, but its purely defensive and manly character entitles it

on the whole to be reckoned among the better influences of the day.

Palmerston's discredit with his countrymen was of short duration, as was his exile from office; he was
Premier again in the June of 1859, and was thenceforth "Prime Minister for life." His popularity, which

had been for some time increasing, remained now quite unshaken until his death in 1865. Before Lord

Derby's Government fell, however, a reform had been carried which could not but have been extremely

grateful to Mr. Disraeli, then the Ministerial leader of the House of Commons. The last trace of the

disabilities under which the Jews in England had laboured for many generations was now removed, and

the Baron Lionel de Rothschild was able quietly to take his seat as one of the members for the City of

London. The disabilities in question had never interfered with the ambition or the success of Mr.

Disraeli, who at a very early age had become a member of the Christian Church. But his sympathies had

never been alienated from the own people, with whom indeed he had always proudly identified himself

by bold assertion of their manifold superiority. There are still, undoubtedly, persons in this country

whose convictions lead them to think it anything but a wholesome change which has admitted among our

legislators men, however able and worthy, who disclaim the name of Christian. But the change

was brought about by the conviction, which has steadily deepened among us, that oppression of those of

a different faith from our own, either by direct severities or by the withholding of civil rights, is a

singularly poor weapon of conversion, and that the adversaries of Christianity are more likely to be

conciliated by being dealt with in a Christlike spirit; further, that religious opinion may not be treated as

a crime, without violation of God's justice. On the point as to the claim of irreligious opinion to

similar consideration, the national feeling cannot be called equally unanimous. In the case of the English

Jews, it may be said that the tolerant and equal conduct adopted towards them has been well requited; the

ancient people of God are not here, as in lands where they are trampled and trodden down, an offence

 

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