Here is a compilation of term papers on the ‘History of Britain’ for class 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short term papers on the ‘History of Britain’ especially written for school and college students.
Term Paper # 1. History of Britain (1815-1832):
In 1811, when King George III finally went mad, his eldest son, a sophisticated bigamist, became Prince Regent. In the following year the Earl of Liverpool, a very experienced and thoroughly respectable administrator, was chosen Prime Minister of the Tory Government. His principal colleague was Viscount Castlereagh, who led the House of Commons and conducted foreign policy, with much ability but without panache.
Viscount Sidmouth, formerly, as Henry Addington, Prime Minister from 1801 to 1804, was Home Secretary. These were the chief Ministers in office at the time of Waterloo, and it was Castlereagh who represented Britain at the peace Congress. He secured that by the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 Britain retained several of the territories which she had seized from France or from France’s satellites during the war, including Malta, the Ionian Islands and, ultimately much more important, the Cape of Good Hope.
On the Continent, the defeat of Napoleon’s attempt at European domination had reestablished Russia, Prussia and Austria as effective rivals to France. Britain was now a thoroughly satisfied Power, with everything to gain from peace. At first Castlereagh promoted the novel idea of holding regular international Congresses of the Great Powers, which he hoped would help to prevent war in Europe. Britain took part in the Congress of 1818.
But in 1820, when revolutions occurred in Spain, Portugal and Naples, the other Powers tried to use a Congress to co-ordinate action against the rebels, with whom on the whole Britain sympathized. She therefore ceased to participate fully.
In internal affairs two major issues of principle divided politicians:
1. Parliamentary reform, and
2. Roman Catholic Emancipation.
People had been advocating Parliamentary reform for over 150 years—and with good reason, as will appear. In the late eighteenth century the two Pitts took up the cause; and Pitt the younger, when he was Prime Minister, in 1785 actually introduced a Bill to transfer 72 seats from small boroughs to large towns and -populous counties, though without success.
The question was not much discussed during the war, but, of the two national parties, most of the Whigs of 1815 had at some time publicly supported some measure of Parliamentary reform, while most of the Tories were known to be opposed to any.
There were, of course, many different schemes of reform, ranging from proposals more moderate than Pitt’s to the extremist programme of manhood suffrage, the secret ballot, annual Parliaments and the redistribution of seats in strict accordance with population.
After the war the first Whig motion in favour of Reform was brought forward in 1819 by Lord John Russell, one of the most promising younger representatives of the great aristocratic families; but not until 1822 did he go beyond Pitt, by asking for the transfer of 100 seats.
When the Act of Union with Ireland in 1800 joined Ireland to the existing United Kingdom and made Parliament at Westminster supreme over four million Irish Roman Catholics, Emancipation, that is, the concession of political rights to them and to their co-religionists in Britain, became a serious issue.
Pitt the younger resigned the Premiership because George III would not allow him to propose it. By 1815 most of the statesmen of the day were sympathetic; and so, generally, by a small majority, were the House of Commons. But the Regent, the House of Lords and, probably, a large proportion of British Protestants were opposed to it.
Fiscal questions were also important after the war. In 1815 Parliament passed a Corn Law prohibiting the importation of foreign corn into Britain until the price on the home market reached 80 shillings a quarter. In 1816 the House of Commons revolted against the Government and refused to continue the income tax, first levied in 1798. As a result, tariff rates had to be increased in the Budget of 1819. In that year also it was decided to return to a gold currency, abandoned in 1797.
In 1816 there appeared all over the country a network of societies, the Hampden Clubs, appealing to working-men by a low subscription of Id. a week, and advocating radical Parliamentary reform. Supporting the same cause, William Cobbett’s Political Register, by an evasion of stamp duty, sold from the middle of November, 40,000 a week at 2d.
Mass meetings were held at Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Paisley, Glasgow and in London, where a petition to the Regent was approved and signed. In varying degrees the movement was patronized by the City of London and by radical aristocrats like Sir Francis Burdett.
But in January 1817, alarmed by an attempt on the life of the Regent, the Government carried through Parliament, with very little opposition, a Habeas Corpus Suspension Act and an Act banning most public meetings. Cobbett left for the United States. However, the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act soon lapsed, and a new agitation arose in 1819. A series of mass meetings culminated at St. Peter’s Fields, Manchester, on August 16.
The magistrates ordered the yeomanry to arrest the speaker, Henry Hunt. The yeomanry failed, and had to be rescued by regular cavalry. Eleven people were killed and 400 wounded. This was ‘the Peterloo massacre’.
The Government’s reaction was to congratulate the magistrates, to increase the size of the army and to obtain from Parliament ‘the Six Acts’, the chief provisions of which were a still severer limitation of the right of public meeting and a further restriction of the freedom of the Press. On this occasion many of the Whigs opposed the Government.
George III died in January 1820, and the Prince Regent succeeded as George IV. The new King forced the Government to proceed against his Queen, Caroline, from whom he had long been separated, for a divorce.
The hearing lasted for some months in the House of Lords. His case against her was strong, but not as strong as hers against him. She became a popular heroine, and the Whigs took her side. In the end, though there was a majority against her in the Lords, it was too small for the Government to be able to pursue the matter in the Commons. But she was not acknowledged as Queen, was turned away from the doors of Westminster Abbey on Coronation day, and died later in 1821.
Castlereagh (Marquis of Londonderry in the last year of his life) died in 1822, and his place was taken by George Canning, an abler and much livelier man; with great oratorical gifts and a flair for publicity. ‘A poet,’ wrote Halevy ‘had succeeded the man of prose.’ His foreign policy seemed very different from Castlereagh’s. He not only refused to assist the suppression of a Liberal movement in Spain.
In 1825 he recognized the new republics of Buenos Aires, Mexico and Colombia—all former Spanish colonies; he helped to establish Brazil, a former Portuguese colony, as an independent state; in 1826 he sent troops to aid the constitutionalist party in Portugal; and in 1827 he concluded a treaty with Russia and France under which Turkey was to be forced to grant a measure of independence to the Greeks, who had rebelled in 1821.
The result of this treaty was the battle of Navarino Bay (fought in October 1827, two months after Canning’s death) in which the allied fleet altogether destroyed the Turkish fleet. Greece became fully independent in 1830.
From about the time when Canning succeeded Castlereagh, the Tories became domestic reformers. Early in 1822 Lord Sidmouth had been replaced as Home Secretary by Robert Peel, the very able heir to a fortune made in the Lancashire cotton industry; in the following year F. J. Robinson became Chancellor of the Exchequer, and William Huskisson President of the Board of Trade.
All these men, like Lord Liverpool himself, were moderate Free Traders; and in the next few years, particularly in the Budget of 1825, the Government somewhat reduced tariff rates and greatly simplified the exceedingly complicated tariff system. It was a time for removing restrictions and anomalies of all sorts.
The customs barrier between Britain and Ireland was abolished in 1825. The Navigation Acts, designed in the seventeenth century to protect English shipping against Dutch competition, were modified, and the colonies were allowed to trade more freely with foreign countries.
In 1820 Sir James Mackintosh, an Opposition leader, had carried Bills abolishing the death penalty for a number of preposterous offences, such as being disguised within the Mint, injuring Westminster Bridge, and personating out-pensioners of Greenwich Hospital.
In 1823 Peel took up the cause, and abolished the death penalty for a further 100 offences. He also reformed the system of paying judges, and began the work of consolidating the criminal law into relatively few statutes. These were the years of ‘Liberal Toryism’.
Early in 1827 Lord Liverpool had a stroke, and resigned. For the next three years politics were confused. Canning became Prime Minister. Peel and many other Tories refused to serve under him, but he obtained the assistance of some Whigs. When he died in August, Robinson, now Viscount Goderich, succeeded him.
But by January 1828 he found it impossible to go on, and the King resorted to the Duke of Wellington, who had commanded the British troops at the battle of Waterloo and served in Liverpool’s Cabinets from 1818 onwards, a man of conservative prejudices controlled by massive realism.
Wellington gave office to Peel and his sympathizers, but lacked the support of the Whigs and, after a brief period of cooperation, of the ‘Canningites’. In the confusion Parliament passed in March the repeal of the seventeenth-century Test and Corporation Acts which, in theory at least, had debarred Dissenters from public office.
The Government modified the Corn Law, so that corn would be imported when the home price reached 52 shillings, but only at a high rate of duty, which fell as the home price rose. The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829, Peel’s work, founded the modern police force.
In April 1829 Wellington carried Catholic emancipation. This was an astonishing reversal of form, since Peel had been the most prominent opponent of the measure and the Government was the nearest approach possible to a ‘Protestant’ Ministry. Emancipation had been forced on the Government by the campaign of the Catholic Association in Ireland, under the leadership of Daniel O’Connell.
This organization, closely associated with the Catholic priesthood, obtained large revenue from the Irish peasantry by a subscription of 1d. a month. It had been founded in 1823, suppressed by statute in 1825, but re-formed. At the General Election of 1826 it showed its strength by winning two constituencies normally in the control of Protestant landlords.
In 1828, when Vesey Fitzgerald, one of that classes, newly appointed by Wellington President of the Board of Trade, stood for re-election in County Clare, O’Connell, though disqualified as a Catholic from sitting in the House, put up against him and won.
It was plain that only O’Connell’s present moderation was preserving order in Ireland and that the Association would win other seats at the next General Election; 25,000 of the 30,000 troops in the United Kingdom were engaged in watching the situation in Ireland.
Wellington decided that Emancipation must be granted; and he prevailed on Peel not to resign, on the King not to obstruct the measure, and on the House of Lords not to reject it.
There were certain safeguards in the Act: a Catholic had to swear an elaborate oath before taking office; he could not aspire to be Regent, Lord Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, or—save the mark! — High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; he could not make church appointments; and there were provisions for the gradual suppression and final prohibition of’ male religious orders. At the same time, to preserve ‘the Protestant ascendancy’ in Ireland, the Parliamentary franchise there was greatly restricted.
George IV died in June 1830, and was succeeded by his eldest surviving brother, an undignified, jovial sailor, as William IV. In December 1829 Thomas Attwood, a fanatical currency reformer, had founded the Birmingham Political Union to agitate for Parliamentary reform, which he thought was the essential preliminary to other desirable changes.
The Union soon had imitators all over the country. Not only Whigs and popular societies, but Tory gentry, disgusted at the concessions of Wellington’s Government, were advocating Parliamentary reform. ‘For two years,’ wrote G. M. Young, ‘beginning with the Paris Revolution of July 1830, England lived in a sustained intensity of excitement unknown since 1641.’
A serious laborers’ revolt broke out in the southern agricultural counties in August. In November Wellington declared himself totally opposed to any reform of Parliament, and found that he had aroused general indignation. He resigned, and Earl Grey, an elderly, respected Whig who had entered Parliament before the Revolution of 1789 and had last held office in 1807, became Prime Minister. He formed a Cabinet pledged to propose a Reform Bill.
It included several Canningites, among them Goderich as Colonial Secretary, Viscount Palmerston, hitherto best known as a ‘man about town’, as Foreign Secretary, and the cynical and indolent Viscount Melbourne as Home Secretary. A Tory reformer, the Duke of Richmond, also entered the Cabinet.
Of the Whigs Viscount Althorp, a man of solid integrity whose main interest was in the family estates became leader of the House of Commons; the Earl of Durham, virtually a Radical, was made Lord Privy Seal; and Henry Brougham, a fine orator and a great legal reformer, Lord Chancellor.
The Government introduced its Reform Bill for England and Wales on 1 March 1831. In charge of it in the Commons was Lord John Russell, who became a member of the Cabinet in June. It transferred 168 seats from small boroughs to large towns and counties; and standardized the franchise in the boroughs and extended it in the counties, so that it was calculated that the total electorate would be doubled.
On 23 March the Bill was read a second time by 302 to 301 in the largest vote or ‘division’ ever recorded in the unreformed House of Commons. In April, however, the Government was defeated on a clause reducing the number of English Members, and after some hesitation the King agreed to dissolve Parliament, coming to the Lords in person just in time to prevent the House from passing a resolution deploring his action.
A very rapid General Election took place, purely and simply on the question of the Reform Bill, and the Government won a majority of over 100. In September a second Bill, much like the first, passed the Commons. On October 8 the Lords rejected the second reading by a majority of 41.
An extra-ordinary manifestation of popular feeling followed, with monster petitions, mass meetings, the foundation of a National Political Union in London and serious riots in several cities. Nottingham Castle and the Bishop’s palace in Bristol were burned down. The Lords passed the second reading of a third Reform Bill in April 1832.
But they were still determined to alter it in committee. Grey asked the King to create enough peers (about fifty) to force the Bill through as it stood. The King refused, Grey resigned, and another storm broke in the country. Petitions urged the Commons not to grant supplies, and there was a threat of a run on the Bank of England. Wellington considered it his duty to agree to take office, with the idea of bringing in a more moderate Bill.
But Peel refused to help him, being unwilling again to bring forward a measure which was opposed to principles long maintained by himself and his party. The King was forced to recall the Whigs and to promise to create as many peers as might be needed to coerce the Lords. The Lords then yielded, Wellington giving the lead by announcing his intention of abstaining, and the Bill passed into law on June 7.
Term Paper # 2. History of Britain (1832-1850):
In the midst of the domestic crisis over Parliamentary reform, Grey’s Government had to deal also with a difficult international situation. The Treaty of Vienna had united the southern provinces of the Netherlands, formerly Austrian, with the Old Dutch Republic, under a King of the Dutch House of Orange.
This arrangement proved very unpopular in the South, and a revolution there in 1830 made it seem necessary to divide the State again. Palmerston played a great part in maintaining the independence of the area, considered a vital British interest. The new State of the southern provinces, Belgium, was securely established by the end of 1832, although the treaty settlement was not finally concluded until 1839.
In the question of the disputed successions to the thrones of Spain and Portugal, Palmerston collaborated with France. The ‘Quadruple Alliance’ of 1834 was in effect an agreement between Britain and France to support the more liberal claimant in each country.
After, the passage of the Reform Act Parliament was dissolved, and the Reformers obtained a huge majority at the General Election. The work of reforming other institutions now began. The Irish Church Temporalities Act of 1833 abolished ‘church cess’, the Irish equivalent of church rates, and suppressed ten Irish bishoprics.
In the same year slavery was abolished in British colonies; the first effective Factory Act was passed, regulating hours and conditions of work for children in textile mills; and the State made its first, tiny, grant in aid of primary education. In 1834 the Poor Law was drastically amended.
During 1834, however, the Cabinet and its majority broke up. Four Ministers resigned in May, in order to dissociate themselves from any idea of appropriating Church property or revenues to purposes other than those of the Established Church: Richmond, the representative of the ultra-Tories of 1830; Sir James Graham, known as a good administrator; the Earl of Ripon, alias Goderich, alias Robinson; and Stanley, often described as ‘dashing’, who had been the Ministry’s principal and very effective spokesman on Irish matters in the Commons, and had seemed destined to become their next Leader of the House.
In July Grey retired, and was replaced as Prime Minister by Melbourne. Then in November Althorp succeeded to the peerage as Earl Spencer, and the King, refusing to allow Melbourne to reconstruct the Cabinet with Russell as Leader of the House of Commons, dismissed the Administration.
Peel was summoned from Rome, where he was on holiday, to form a Government. Meanwhile, for nearly a month, the Duke of Wellington transacted the necessary business of all the important departments. Peel tried to persuade Stanley and other former colleagues of Grey to join his Ministry, but he failed. In his purely Tory Cabinet Wellington was Foreign Secretary.
The most important act of this Administration was to set up a body which became in 1836 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. A General Election much increased the number of the Government’s supporters in the Commons, but did not give it a majority, and in April 1835 Peel resigned.
Melbourne formed his second Government, in which Palmerston was again Foreign Secretary and Russell led the House of Commons, at first as Home Secretary. This Ministry survived until 1841. Its largest measure was the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, which swept away the old system of government in the boroughs.
The new corporations were required to create a police force for their boroughs, and in 1839 Quarter Sessions were permitted to do the same for their counties. Otherwise, this Government’s main reforms were ecclesiastical.
Palmerston’s chief concern during his second period at the Foreign Office was to maintain the Sultan of Turkey against a rival, Mehemet Ali, who ruled Egypt. The French were inclined to sympathize with Mehemet Ali, but Palmerston worked with the other Powers to defeat him and ‘maintain the integrity of the Ottoman Empire’.
In 1841 the treaty embodying the settlement of this dispute included the first international recognition that warships other than those of Turkey should not pass through the Bosporus in peacetime.
In colonial affairs the Ministry took the important step of sending the Earl of Durham in 1838 to report on the tension in and between the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. He recommended in his Report of 1839 the union of the provinces, which was carried through in 1840, and the grant of responsible government, which was effectively conceded in 1847. In 1840 New Zealand was annexed.
William IV died in 1837, and his niece, Victoria, became Queen at the age of 18. In 1840 she married the earnest Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg.
The years 1837 to 1842 were years of serious depression, and so of working-class unrest. In 1838 working-class societies all over the country associated themselves with the demand for ‘the People’s Charter’, whose six points were: annual parliaments, universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts, and the removal of the property qualification for M.P.s, the secret ballot, and payment of M.P.s. Its supporters were called ‘Chartists’.
In the next year a General Convention of the Industrious Classes was elected and met first in London and then in Birmingham, some of its promoters and delegates regarding it as a superior representative assembly to Parliament; the Chartist newspaper, the Northern Star, achieved a circulation of almost 50,000 a week; a petition to the House of Commons for the Charter had 1,200,000 signatures; and there was an attempt at armed rebellion at Newport, Monmouthshire, in which 14 people were killed.
The movement died down until 1842, when a petition for universal male suffrage and many other reforms was presented to the Commons, with over 3,000,000 signatures. Parliament took no action on any of the six points. Thereafter, until 1846, less was heard of Chartist agitation than of the campaign of the middle-class Anti-Corn Law League, founded in 1839.
A defeat by one vote on a motion of no-confidence in June 1841 forced the Whigs to dissolve Parliament, and after the General Election they were found to be in a minority by 91. Peel now formed a strong Conservative Government, including three of the four Ministers who had left Grey on the Church question in 1834: Wellington was again in the Cabinet, the Earl of Aberdeen became Foreign Secretary, Ripon President of the Board of Trade, Stanley Colonial Secretary and Graham Home Secretary.
In 1843 began the Cabinet career of W. E. Gladstone, son of a prosperous Liverpool merchant, and a brilliant student in his Oxford days, who had so far been chiefly associated with defending the Established Church against the reformers; he succeeded Ripon, who became President of the Board of Control (for India).
This Ministry lasted until 1846. Its most important measures were financial. In his Budget of 1842 Peel re-imposed the income tax, thus making it possible to reduce the level and number of import and export duties. The Budget of 1845 carried the process further. The Bank Charter Act of 1844 restricted the note-issues of provincial banks to existing levels, and tied the Bank of England’s own issue to its gold stock.
The first general Act to regulate the railways was passed in the same year. Two important reforms protecting industrial workers became law, the Mines Act of 1842, and the Factory Act of 1844, which strengthened and extended the provisions of the Act of 1833. In foreign affairs the main achievement of the Administration was to settle the dispute with the United States over the Canadian border.
Threat of famine in Ireland persuaded Peel in 1845 that the Corn Law must be suspended. The Cabinet would not at first follow him, and he resigned in December. But Russell, who in his Edinburgh Letter had just come out in favour of total repeal, failed to form a Whig Government.
Peel resumed office before the end of the year, only Stanley of the old cabinet refusing to serve. The bulk of the Conservatives revolted against their leaders, under the inspiration of Benjamin Disraeli, novelist as well as M.P.
The measure, which is generally referred to as the Repeal of the Corn Law, passed in 1846, but only 112 Conservative M.P.s voted for it. Peel’s Government was then brought down by a combination of Whigs and Protectionists.
Russell now formed a Whig Government dependent on the support of Peel’s followers, known as the ‘Peelites’. Its reforming record was remarkable, including the Act of 1846 establishing County Courts, the Education ‘Minutes’ of the same year, the Ten Hours Act of 1847 further restricting the working day of women and children in textile factories, the Public Health Act of 1848 and the repeal of the Navigation Acts in 1849. While revolutions were proceeding in almost every other European country, the last great Chartist demonstration passed off peacefully in 1848.
Palmerston, again Foreign Secretary, made himself progressively more conspicuous. He protested in 1846 against the marriage of the Queen of Spain’s sister to a French prince, because it might lead to French rule in Spain. In the European upheaval of 1848-49 he deployed the influence of Britain to maintain peace, while expressing sympathy with some of the revolts.
In 1850 he had to defend himself against a concerted attempt by his critics to censure him for his manner of conducting foreign policy, both in general and in the particular case of ‘Don Pacifico’, a Portuguese Jew who happened to be a British subject, whose claims on the Government of Greece for compensation Palmerston supported indiscriminately. The House of Commons, however, upheld him.
This debate, elevating Palmerston’s position in his party, in Parliament and in the country, was followed by two other developments which helped to transform the political scene. The first was the death of Peel, the second Russell’s Durham Letter, aligning himself with the feeling of Protestants against the Pope’s re-establishment of a Roman Catholic hierarchy in Britain.
Term Paper # 3. History of Britain (1850-1868):
Both the death of Peel and Russell’s Protestant stand weakened the Whig Government: Peel had been its steady supporter; the Durham Letter alienated Irish Roman Catholic M.P.s. In February 1851 the Ministry took an opportunity to resign, but had to carry on because no alternative Administration could be found. In December Palmerston was dismissed.
He had repeatedly angered the Queen and Prince by failing to follow the accepted practice of submitting dispatches for royal approval before sending them off. Russell felt strong enough to drop his Foreign Secretary on this occasion, because his particular offence was to welcome, without consulting the Cabinet, the coup d’etat by which Louis Napoleon, the future Napoleon III, established his position as ruler of France. Earl Granville, notoriously deferential, became Foreign Secretary. In February 1852 Palmerston joined with the Protectionists to defeat the Government in the Commons.
This time the Earl of Derby (formerly Lord Stanley) agreed to form a Ministry, though he was unable to induce any but Protectionists to join it. Disraeli became Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. There followed an inconclusive General Election. The Government was brought down in December after a devastating assault on Disraeli’s Budget by Gladstone.
Lord Aberdeen, after Peel’s death the recognized leader of the Peelites, an ageing and rather gloomy man, succeeded in forming an Administration of Whigs and Peelites. On paper it was very powerful. Russell was Leader of the Commons; he was also at first Foreign Secretary, then ‘Minister without Portfolio’, then Lord President of the Council.
The courtly Earl of Clarendon succeeded him as Foreign Secretary in 1853. Gladstone was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Palmerston Home Secretary, and Graham First Lord of the Admiralty. Gladstone vindicated his attitude to Disraeli’s Budget by producing the first of his own masterpieces in 1853.
In the next year the Ministry became involved in the Crimean War, fought in alliance with France to defend the Ottoman Empire against Russia. An army was sent to the Crimea, arriving in September.
The allied forces failed to take the fortress of Sebastopol, and spent the bitter winter out-side it, lacking adequate clothing, supplies and medical services. The Times publicized the facts, and in January 1855 the Commons carried by 305 to 148 a motion to set up a committee to enquire into the situation. Russell had resigned to support the motion. After it had been passed, the Ministry left office.
Derby refused to form a Government without assistance from other parties than his own, and so Palmerston constructed an Administration which was at first very like Aberdeen’s, but soon lost Russell and the Peelites. Sebastopol did not fall until September 1855. The Government and British opinion wished to continue the war, but Napoleon III wanted an early settlement. Peace was made at Paris in March 1856.
Palmerston’s Ministry was defeated in the Commons in February 1857 over the conduct of hostilities with China. Parliament was dissolved, and the Government won a large majority. Soon afterwards the first news arrived of the Indian ‘Mutiny’.
By the end of the year it was under control. In February 1858 Palmerston was defeated again in the Commons, and this time resigned. The question at issue was a Conspiracy to Murder Bill, brought in by the Ministry to meet Napoleon’s protests that under the existing law of England preparations such as those recently made there to assassinate him could not be restrained.
Derby formed his second Ministry, with Disraeli in the same offices as before. It maintained itself long enough to carry the measure to transfer the powers of the East India Company to the Crown, but was defeated in the Commons on its Parliamentary Reform Bill in March 1859. A General Election failed to give it a clear majority, and in June a vote of no-confidence was passed against it by 323 to 310.
Palmerston returned to power, and formed a strong Administration, which lasted for over six years, until his death. Throughout, Russell was Foreign Secretary and Gladstone Chancellor of the Exchequer. The main problems the Government had to face were in foreign affairs.
War had broken out in April 1859 between France, as the ally of Piedmont-Sardinia, and Austria. Britain remained neutral while Lombardy was conquered by Napoleon. When peace was made in July, she campaigned against Austria’s legitimist claims in Central Italy and in favour of the self-determination of the area.
This policy was a compromise between the strongly pro-‘Italian’ views of Palmerston, Russell and Gladstone on the one hand, and the pro-Austrian attitude of the Queen and some of the Cabinet on the other. Chiefly by pressure on France, Britain helped to make possible between May and October 1860 the success of Garibaldi’s expedition to Sicily and Naples, which enabled Cavour, the Piedmontese Prime Minister, to unite almost the whole Italian peninsula into one Kingdom.
From 1861 to 1865 the Ministry had to deal with the dangerous situation created by the American Civil War. In the early stages of the war Britain nearly became involved on the side of the South, first by reacting too violently to the seizure by the North of the British ship Trent, carrying envoys from the South to Britain, secondly by allowing the Florida and the Alabama to be built on Mersey-side for service as privateers on behalf of the South.
But the Cabinet succeeded in its intention to remain neutral. Attempts to assist by diplomatic action the Poles’ revolt against the Russians in 1863, and Denmark against Austria and Prussia in the war of 1864, failed completely.
In 1861 Prince Albert died, and the Queen became for some years a recluse. She remained, however, a shrewd, persistent and opinionated adviser and critic of her Governments, especially on foreign questions.
At the age of 80 Palmerston won an increased majority at the General Election of 1865, but before meeting the new Parliament he died. He was succeeded by Russell, since 1861 an Earl. Gladstone became Leader in the Commons, Clarendon Foreign Secretary. The Government proposed a Parliamentary Reform Bill, was defeated in June 1866 and resigned. Derby formed his third Ministry, in which Disraeli again held his old offices.
The great achievement of this Administration was to pass the Second Reform Act in 1867. In February 1868 Derby retired, and Disraeli became Prime Minister. A General Election increased the Liberal majority, and in December Disraeli gave way to Gladstone as Prime Minister.
Term Paper # 4. History of Britain (1868-1885):
In Gladstone’s Administration Clarendon was Foreign Secretary until 1870, Granville thereafter; Lowe was Chancellor of the Exchequer until 1873; and Bright was President of the Board of Trade until 1870, the first Nonconformist to sit in a Cabinet. The Government has a well-deserved reputation for the scope of its reforming legislation.
The Prime Minister himself was mainly interested in Irish questions, and displayed his phenomenal skill both in drafting measures intended to solve them and in carrying the Bills through Parliament. In 1869 the Irish Church was disestablished and to some extent dis-endowed.
Derby just lived to condemn the change, which he had left the Whig party in order to oppose in 1834; but the Lords acquiesced, since the electorate seemed to have given approval. In the following year Gladstone put through his first Irish Land Act.
1870 also saw the passage of the Education Act, under the direction of W.E. Forster, which provided for almost universal elementary education. In the same year the majority of appointments to the Civil Service were made subject to competitive examination. The Universities Tests Act of 1871 opened most of the posts at Oxford and Cambridge to Nonconformists.
This Government tackled army reform more boldly than any other Administration of the nineteenth century. Edward Cardwell as Secretary for War in 1868 abolished flogging in peace-time; then secured the subordination of the Commander-in-Chief to the political head, and that of all land forces, including the militia, to the Commander-in-Chief; the introduction of short-service engagements; the abolition of purchase of commissions; and the regrouping of infantry regiments on a county basis.
All these changes were bitterly opposed by most officers, including a group of M.P.s. The House of Lords was overridden only by inducing the Queen to use her prerogative and revoke the royal warrant which authorized purchase of commissions. These reforms were a delayed attempt to remedy some of the defects revealed in the Crimean War.
In 1872 the Ballot Act was passed; and a Licensing Act, restricting drinking hours in public houses. In 1873 Gladstone attempted to endow an Irish national University, was defeated in the Commons, and resigned. But Disraeli refused to take office without a regular majority.
The Liberal Government in the remaining months of the session carried the most comprehensive measure of Law Reform of the century, the Judicature Act. This statute provided that the rift between common law and equity should be bridged, all judges in all courts administering both. Further, seven out of the eight central courts were brought together, and a court of appeal established above them.
The main concerns of foreign policy between 1868 and 1874 were these. In 1870-71 the European balance was disturbed, more dramatically than by any other event between 1815 and 1917, by the Franco-Prussian War, from which a unified Germany resulted. The British Government confined its intervention to attempting, successfully, to preserve Belgium from invasion and, unsuccessfully, to persuade Count Bismarck, the German Chancellor, not to annex Alsace-Lorraine from France.
Russia took the opportunity of the War to denounce the ‘Black Sea clauses’ of the Treaty of 1856. Granville saved face to the extent of obtaining the ratification of this step by all the Powers. In 1871-72 the Government accepted responsibility and paid compensation for the damage done to the United States by the Alabama during the Civil War.
Gladstone dissolved Parliament early in 1874. He had been trying to persuade the Cabinet to accept a Budget involving the repeal of the income tax, but the defence departments were too strong for him. He put the issue to the electorate, and was defeated.
Disraeli became Prime Minister with an overall majority of about 50. He went to the Lords as Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876. The 15th Earl of Derby, son of the Derby who had been Prime Minister, was Foreign Secretary until 1878, when the Marquess of Salisbury succeeded him.
Sir Stafford Northcote was Chancellor of the Exchequer, R. A. Cross Home Secretary. In domestic affairs the Government is chiefly remembered for its social legislation, in 1875 on Trade Unions, Public Health and housing, and in 1878 on Factories.
Foreign and imperial questions, however, overshadowed domestic. In 1875 revolts of a nationalist character occurred in the Turkish provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later in Bulgaria. In June 1876 Serbia and Montenegro attacked Turkey in support of the revolts, but were soon defeated.
So far Britain maintained her old policy of upholding the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. In attempting to restore order in the rebellious areas, however, the Turks massacred many thousands of civilians in what became known as ‘the Bulgarian atrocities’, which evoked an outcry in Britain.
At a Conference of the Powers at the end of 1876 Britain agreed that, despite the Turks’ victory, an independent Bulgaria should be carved out of their Empire. But the Turks refused to accept any such proposal. In April 1877, therefore, having secured the support of Austria-Hungary, by promising her Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia declared war on Turkey.
Russia’s main object was to recover from Romania southern Bessarabia, ceded in 1856. She also intended to promote the establishment of an independent Bulgaria, though not always the ‘big’ Bulgaria she had originally proposed to the Conference. The Turks resisted quite effectively, and, though Russian troops reached the outskirts of Constantinople in the New Year, the Tsar had then to conclude an armistice.
But the Treaty of San Stefano of March 1878 satisfied all Russia’s demands, establishing a ‘big’ Bulgaria and shelving Austrian claims. The other Powers now worked to set aside the results of the war. Beaconsfield carried the Cabinet in favour of calling up the reserves.
A European Congress, the grandest since 1815, met at Berlin in June-July 1878. Largely because they had taken care to make previous agreements with the states concerned, Beaconsfield and Salisbury (now Foreign Secretary) achieved what they wanted at the Congress.
‘Big’ Bulgaria, which had by this time become a symbol of Russian imperialism, was divided into three: one part, the northern, independent; the second, named ‘Eastern Rumelia’, under Turkish protection; and Macedonia, within the Ottoman Empire. Austria-Hungary occupied, without annexing, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Russia took southern Bessarabia and also some hitherto Turkish territory on the eastern shores of the Black Sea. Britain guaranteed Turkey-in-Asia, asserted a new right to send her navy into the Black Sea, and annexed Cyprus from Turkey.
This was a large step towards the partition of the whole Ottoman Empire. From the British point of view, what seemed to be achieved was that it was a partition rather than a Russian conquest. It was regarded as a great triumph for Beaconsfield, and the peak of his career.
Outside Europe, Disraeli had in 1875 arranged for the British Government to buy nearly half the shares in the Suez Canal Company. In 1876 Queen Victoria was made Empress of India. In the following year the Transvaal was annexed.
As soon as the Congress of Berlin was over, the Government began to lose ground. Depression in agriculture now became severe. During 1879 Britain was humiliated in the course of imperial adventures on two occasions, in January against the Zulus, in September in Afghanistan.
Gladstone, in his ‘Midlothian campaign’, attacked the whole foreign and imperial policy of the Government. When Beaconsfield dissolved Parliament, early in 1880, the Liberals won an overall majority of about 70.
Gladstone again became Prime Minister, and Granville Foreign Secretary. Bright was joined in the Gabinet by another Nonconformist, Joseph Chamberlain, a Birmingham manufacturer of Radical views, ruthless in his methods, who had already proved a notable Mayor and a great party organizer.
Gladstone appeared to have committed himself to reversing the annexation of the Transvaal, but at first decided against it. The white inhabitants revolted, and defeated a British force at Majuba Hill in 1881. The Government now conceded the Transvaal independence under British suzerainty.
In the case of Afghanistan, Gladstone and his advisers tried withdrawal first, but then found it necessary to assert control again. In 1882 they took the most far-reaching decision in the imperial history of the whole period, to invade Egypt. Britain thus became involved in the Sudan, where a force under General Gordon was besieged by a native army in Khartoum in the winter of 1884-85. The city fell, and Gordon was killed, in January 1885. Relief arrived two days later.
The principal achievement of the Ministry in internal affairs was the passing of the Third Reform Act in 1884 and the Redistribution of Seats Act in 1885. Much of its time, however, was devoted to Ireland.
At the General Election of 1874 a Home Rule party under Isaac Butt had won 60 seats. The early efforts of the group to convert the House of Commons to their programme by constitutional means failed. Soon the more radical of the Home Rulers adopted the weapon of obstructing Parliamentary proceedings, which was easily done under the lax rules of the day.
The leader of this faction was Charles Stewart Parnell, a young Protestant landlord from a Roman Catholic area, embittered against British domination. As the condition of Irish agriculture worsened in the late ‘seventies, violent attacks on landlords became frequent. In 1879 Parnell helped to form the Irish National Land League, which linked the activities of the Home Rulers at Westminster with the agrarian revolt in Ireland.
After the Election of 1880 Parnell was elected leader of the Home Rulers in the Commons, but did not at first command their united support. The Government tried to meet the agrarian situation by a Compensation for Disturbance Bill, which the Lords rejected. Parnell then summoned Irishmen to a campaign of ‘boycotting’ landlords.
Forster, Chief Secretary for Ireland, imposed a Coercion Act, against massive obstruction, early in 1881, but it was coupled with a new Land Act, Gladstone’s personal draft again, which the Lords were frightened enough to pass and which went so far towards solving the problem that Parnell felt his leadership threatened by moderates.
He retaliated by calling for renewed violence in Ireland, and was imprisoned in October 1881 in Kilmainham jail. In April 1882 he negotiated with the Government a ‘treaty’ in which he abandoned the Land League, accepted the Land Act and promised the Liberal party cooperation. Coercion was dropped in return for an Arrears Act.
Forster resigned. His successor, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was assassinated immediately, when he visited Ireland. In the upshot, coercion was re-imposed, but the whole party and the whole national movement in Ireland was united behind Parnell in a renewal of the moderation of Butt. Even the Irish Roman Catholic Church, in defiance of the Pope, came to support him.
Until the passage of the Redistribution of Seats Act, Parnell’s party generally backed the Liberals. Then it took advantage of Liberal disunity and Conservative overtures of friendship, and helped defeat the Government in June 1885. Lord Salisbury agreed to become Prime Minister.
His willingness sprang partly from the uncertainty of his position of leadership. On Beaconsfield’s death in 1881 Salisbury had become leader in the Lords, Northcote had remained leader in the Commons. But a group of dissidents in the Commons, ‘the fourth party’, led by Lord Randolph Churchill, had escaped Northcote’s control and threatened Salisbury’s. The latter’s position was strengthened when he became Prime Minister.
After the General Election held later in the year, Parnell’s supporters numbered 86, exactly enough to enable them to decide which of the British parties should form the Government. During the election campaign, the most prominent Liberal speaker had been Chamberlain, pressing what was called his ‘unauthorized’ programme.
At the end of the year it was suspected, but still not confirmed, that Gladstone had become a supporter of Home Rule, and the Conservatives hastened to dissociate themselves from it. Politics were poised for the greatest upheaval since 1832.