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floored, and roofed building. There is no like great assemblage of persons recorded in either ancient or modern annals as being present, it may be said, in one room. “ After it had been determined,” says a writer, “to hold a great exhibition of the industrial commodities of the world, various plans for the building were proposed and discussed. Joseph (afterwards Sir Joseph) Paxton, the Duke of Devonshire's gardener, designed a temple of glass and iron, which was accordingly erected in Hyde Park, climbing above the elms of Knightsbridge, with its sparkling transept, and stretching its colonnaded wings of airy crystal far over the turf. Opened on the ist of May, 1851, by the Queen, and consecrated by anthem and by prayer, this splendid building, like a mighty palpitating heart, received for five long months living streams from almost every land on earth, mingled them within its glittering walls, and sent them forth again to bear a wider knowledge and a kindlier feeling into every region of the world. The example thus set has been followed by several capitals, Paris and New York among the number, and in 1862 London repeated the experiment, though with less success and on a reduced scale, under the title of the International Exhibition.”— Adapted from Haydn's · Dictionary of Dates,' and Dr. Collier's ‘History of England.'
FREE TRADE IN CORN, A.D. 1846.
So far back as 1837, out of a public dinner given at Manchester, there grew an association called the Anti-Corn-Law League, of which Mr. Richard Cobden became a member. Mr. Cobden was born on his father's own farm, at Durnford, near Midhurst, in Sussex, and after a business training in London, and serving as a commercial traveller, he became a partner in a calico-printing firm in Manchester. In the year 1841 he became member of Parliament for Stockport. In his efforts to get the duty abolished on foreign corn which was admitted into this country he was joined by several friends. Lecturers were employed by the League to visit the various towns in England, and to distribute papers and tracts on the subject of the corn duty. In the summer of 1845 excessive rains damaged the corn crops, while in Ireland the potato crop, on which the people of that country largely depended for food, rotted away in a rapid and mysterious manner. These calamities did much to draw the attention of the nation to the duties levied on foreign corn imported into England, and it began to be seen that the best way to secure a sufficient supply of food from abroad was to take off the duties or tax which kept it out. At this time Lord John Russell, who was staying in Edinburgh, addressed a letter to the electors in the city of London, for which he was member of the House of Commons, saying that he at last believed that free trade in corn was necessary. The prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, also began to be of the same opinion, but as some of the ministers of the Government who served under him did not agree with him on the subject he resigned office. The Queen then sent for Lord John Russell, and requested him to form a ministry, but he having tried and failed, Sir Robert Peel again became prime minister, and Mr. Gladstone became his colonial secretary. The cabinet now began to consider carefully the best mode of reducing and finally taking off the duty on corn brought into our ports. On the 27th of January, 1846, Sir Robert Peel, in a speech in the House of Commons, explained his plan. First, there were to be imported free of duty or tax buckwheat and Indian corn, the former being serviceable as food for cattle, the latter as food for the people in the place of the diseased, half rotten potatoes. Grain grown in our colonies might be imported with a very small tax on it. On other grain there was to be during three years a reduced " sliding scale” duty. Thus :
Wheat under 48s. per quarter* should pay 10s. duty.
4s. After 54s. the duty was not to change, and when three years had passed all duty on corn was to cease; in other words, it was to be brought into this country from abroad free from tax. The third reading of the bill, which authorised free trade, was carried at four o'clock in the morning of the 16th May, 1846, in the House of Commons, by a majority of 98 members, in a house of 556 members. In the House of Lords the bill passed its third reading on the 22nd of June, and became law on the 26th of the same month. Strange to say, on this very same day
* A measure of eight bushels.
Sir Robert Peel's Government was overthrown, having been outvoted on a question respecting Ireland.
It is saddening to have to add that about four years afterwards Sir Robert Peel, while riding up Constitution Hill, near Buckingham Palace, had a fall from his horse, which proved fatal. He died July 2nd, 1850. About fteen months afterwards another noted man of England passed away, namely, Arthur Duke of Wellington, soldier and statesman. He died at Walmer Castle, on the 14th September, 1852, and was buried, like Lord Nelson, in the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral.— Adapted from Dr. Collier's ‘History of England.'
THE MONMOUTHSHIRE RIOTS IN A.D. 1839.
THE country had been much disturbed during the year by large and tumultuous assemblages of the people, of a revolutionary character, under the name of Chartists; and many excesses were committed by them in the large manufacturing towns of Manchester, Bolton, Birmingham, Stockport, &c., which required the strong arm of the law to curb. This was alluded to in Her Majesty's speech, at the close of the session of Parliament, as the first attempt at insubordination, which happily had been checked by the fearless administration of the law.
But present appearances were not to be trusted. The insurrectionary movements and outrages in the manufacturing districts of the north had for a time, it is true, been quelled; and ministers boasted that chartism had received its death-blow, or was now but an idle word. But though the flames of sedition were not seen to blaze as before, the embers were still burning, and a mass of inflammable materials was spread abroad, ready to become ignited in a moment. That the friends of order might be lulled into security, there had been none of those public meetings lately, nor anything to lead the superficial observer to believe but that with the breaking up of the “convention,” the charter cause was dead. Secret organization was, however, all the time going on, and a general rising was in contemplation. It was arranged that active operations should commence in the remote and unguarded districts of South Wales, where the emissaries of “the charter” had obtained considerable influence; and while the country was in a state of alarm and confusion at what was going on in that quarter, other branches of the widespread conspiracy were to assemble and make a display of physical force sufficient to overawe the local authorities and alarm the government. Thus prepared, on the 2nd of November, the men began their march from the "hills” in the neighbourhood of Merthyr, &c., armed with muskets, pikes, swords, crowbars, pickaxes, and whatever other implements they could muster, and proceeded in the direction of Newport in Monmouthshire, marching through the villages and compelling many to join them, till the whole' number amounted to nearly 20,000 men. It was their intention to enter Newport in the dead of night, and thus obtain possession of it unresisted; but the rain had continued to descend in torrents, which greatly impeded their progress, and thus happily that part of the design was frustrated. At about four o'clock in the morning of the 4th, the main body of this lawless mob halted at Tredegar park, the seat of Sir Charles Morgan. The magistrates of Newport having received private information of the intentions of the rioters, were at this time assembled at the Westgate Arms, where a small party of the 45th foot was stationed; one company of that regiment being all the military force at that time in the town.
The several gatherings of the rioters had been under the guidance of certain leaders, the general-in-chief of whom was John Frost, a man respectably situated in life as a tradesman, and who for his zealous advocacy of the “liberal” measures of the day (for he was a noted patriot of the new school) had found favour in the eyes of Lord John Russell, who flattered and rewarded him with a magisterial appointment. His son, a mere boy of sixteen, was also the leader of a party. One Jones, a watchmaker at Pontypool, was another of the redoubtable chartist generals, and Zephaniah Williams was a fourth. Such was the state of terrorism inspired by the chartist bands, that many of the peaceable inhabitants of Tredegar, Blackwood, &c., fled from their homes on Sunday, and passed the night in the woods, lest the chartists should kill them. At length they reached Newport, and proceeded at once to the rendezvous of the magistrates at the Westgate Arms, which they assailed and endeavoured to take possession of; but by the excellent arrangement of Mr. T. Phillips, the mayor, and the steady resolution of the soldiers, who were posted in an upper room of the inn, from which they could take good aim, the rioters were successfully resisted, several were killed or wounded, others were made prisoners, and the multitude, with their cowardly instigators, fled from the scene of danger with all imaginable speed.
The conduct of the mayor and his brother magistrates on this trying occasion was above all praise; and it was a source of general regret throughout the country that, in the performance of his perilous duty, the worthy mayor was severely wounded by two musket balls. Fortunately, neither wound proved dangerous, and he subsequently received the honour of knighthood for his zeal, skill, and bravery. The whole of the military stationed at the Westgate Arms amounted to only one officer (Lieutenant Gray), two non-commissioned officers, and twenty-eight privates ! - Maunder's Treasury of History'
THE REFORM BILL, A.D. 1832.
The chief event in the reign of King William the Fourth-the sailor king, as he was called, inasmuch as he had been a midshipman, and had passed through several grades in the Royal Navy-was the passing of the Reform Bill, in 1832. To understand the meaning of reform in Parliament we must bear in mind that two questions had to be settled. First, it had to be determined what persons had the right to vote for the election of members to represent them in the House of Commons, and secondly, what places should have the right to be represented. To begin with the question of places, it was found that in course of time many boroughs and cities which had the right to send members to Parliament had declined in population, while huge populous centres of manufacture, as Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, &c., which had rapidly increased in population and wealth, were not considered to be sufficiently represented. Then as to persons, voting was confined almost entirely to those who paid high house rent, while many who were perhaps equally intelligent were excluded from the privilege. Then came the question how were these matters to be set right, and it was one which
gave rise to a great deal of excitement among the public, and in some places even to riots.
One night the Duke of Wellington let fall some rash remarks against the popular wish for reform, which had the effect of shaking his cabinet to pieces. His ministry was overthrown on November 15th, 1830. A Whig ministry was then formed, and Lord Grey became prime minister, Mr. Brougham, Viscount