Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

"most accursed assassination," which seemed at the moment to brand the losing cause, whose partisan
was guilty of it, with the very mark of Cain. Expressions of sympathy with the outraged country and of

admiring regret for its murdered head were lavished by every respectable organ of opinion; while the

Queen, by writing in personal sympathy, as one widow to another, to the bereaved wife of Lincoln, made

herself, as she has often done, the mouthpiece of her people's best feeling. Again and again has it been

manifested that America and England are in more cordial relations with each other since the tremendous

civil war than before it. It is no matter of statecraft, but a better understanding between two great

English-speaking peoples, drawn into closer fellowship by far more easy communication than of old.

A little war with Ashantee, not too successful, a difficulty with Japan, some more serious troubles with
New Zealand, exhaust the list of the warlike enterprises of England in the last years of Palmerston. In a

year or two after his death we were engaged in a brief and entirely successful campaign against the

barbaric King Theodore of Abyssinia, "a compound of savage virtue and more than savage ambition and

cruelty," who, imagining himself wronged and slighted by England, had seized a number of British

subjects, held them in hard captivity, and treated them with such capricious cruelty as made it very

manifest that their lives were not worth an hour's purchase. It fell to the Ministry of Mr. Disraeli, Premier

on the resignation of his colleague Lord Derby, who had displaced Earl Russell in that office, to bring

this strange potentate to reason by force of arms. Under Sir Robert Napier's management the work was

done with remarkable precision; no English life was lost; and but few of our soldiers were wounded;

Magdala, the mountain eyrie of King Theodore, was stormed and destroyed, and the captives, having

been surrendered under dread of the British arms, were restored to freedom and safety. The honour of our

land, imperilled by the oppression of our subjects was triumphantly vindicated; other good was not

achieved. Theodore, unwilling to survive defeat, was found dead by his own hand when Magdala was

carried, and he was afterwards succeeded on the Abyssinian throne by a chief who had more than all his

predecessor's vices and none of his virtues. For this well-managed campaign Sir Robert Napier was

raised to the peerage as Lord Napier of Magdala. The swift success, the brilliant promptitude, of his

achievement are almost painful to recall to-day, in face of another enterprise for the rescue of a British

subject, conducted by a commander not less able and resolute, at the head of troops as daring and as

enthusiastic, which was turned into a conspicuous failure by unhappy delayings on the part of the civil

authorities, in the fatal winter of 1884-5.

Turning our eyes from foreign matters to the internal affairs of the United Kingdom, we see two great
leaders, Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Gladstone - whose "long Parliamentary duel" had begun early in the fifties

of this century - outbidding each other by turns for the public favour, and each in his different way

ministering to the popular craving for reform. With Mr. Disraeli's first appearance as leader of the house

of Commons, this rivalry entered on its most noticeable stage; it only really ceased with the life of the

brilliant, versatile, and daring litterateur and statesman who died as Earl Beaconsfield, not very

long after his last tenure of office expired in 1880. In 1867 Mr. Disraeli, as Leader of the Lower House,

carried a measure for the reform of the franchise in England, and the year following similar measures

with regard to Ireland and Scotland. In 1869 it was Mr. Gladstone's turn, and he introduced and carried

two remarkable Bills - one for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, and one for the amendment of

land tenure in Ireland, the latter passing into law in August, 1870. It had long been felt as a bitter

grievance by the mass of Irishmen that the Church established in their country should be one which did

not command the allegiance of one-sixth of its people and though opinion in England was sharply

divided as to the question of Irish disestablishment, the majority of Englishmen undoubtedly considered

the grievance to be something more than a sentimental one, and deserving of removal. Another startling

 

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