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In Ireland Roman Catholicism was represented by Archbishop Murray and Dr. Doyle, the eloquent Bishop of Kildare. The majority of the Irish Churchmen were Evangelical, and hence came often into collision with Archbishop Whately, who was a powerful supporter of the system of mixed education. The Scottish Churches at that time possessed a number of ministers of great power and eminence, each exerting in his own denomination extensive influence. Dr. Andrew Thomson, a mighty spirit, had reached the meridian of his great popularity. Dr. Chalmers was rising fast to the commanding position he so long occupied. Among the Baptists the most important names were those of two laymen, James and Robert Haldane, who not only preached throughout Scotland, but organised a vast missionary scheme for India. In the United Presbyterian Church the ablest man was Dr. John Brown, of Edinburgh, wielding great influence as a theological professor, and as the pastor of a large congregation in that city. In Glasgow the Rev. Greville Ewing had founded the Independent Church, then new to Scotland. Associated with him was a man not less gentle in spirit, but with intellectual power much more[429] commanding, and of the highest cultivation as a theologianDr. Wardlaw, who during his life continued the foremost man among the Scottish Congregationalists. Dr. Russell, of Dundee, possessing an intellect of great force, with an energetic temperament, contributed his share to the great controversy which continued for a number of years to agitate the whole Scottish nation, till it issued in the disruption, and in the establishment of the Free Church. That movement had already begun, and the decision of the House of Lords in the Auchterarder case had made the schism inevitable. Among English Nonconformists the greatest names of the Independents were those of Dr. Fletcher, of Finsbury Chapel, John Burnet, of Camberwell, John Angell James, of Birmingham, and William Jay, of Bath. John Williams was preaching the Gospel to the Melanesians, and Dr. Moffat in South Africa. The Baptists could boast Robert Hall, and the essayist John Foster; their greatest missionary was perhaps Dr. Carey. Of the leading Wesleyans we may notice the names of Dr. Bunting and Dr. Adam Clarke. The two chief events which affected that body during the period werethe secession in 1834, when Dr Warren and his followers, called "Warrenites," separated from the Conference, and the last secession, when 100,000 broke off, forming a new community. All the seceding bodiesthe Kilhamites, or New Connexion Methodists; the Bible Christians, or Bryanites; the Wesleyan Methodist Association, formed in 1835; and last, the Wesleyan Methodist Reformersseparated on the alleged ground of the tyrannical powers exercised by the Conference, and the exclusion of the laity[430] from their due share in the management of the body. Great improvements were made during this reign in the harbours, especially by Telford and Rennie. Telford's harbour work in Scotland we have already mentioned; Rennie's formations or improvements of harbours were at Ramsgate, London, Hull, and Sheerness; he also built the Bell Rock Lighthouse, on the same principle as the Eddystone Lighthouse, built by Smeaton,[194] a self-taught engineer, just before the accession of George III.

Before passing to the momentous history of the Irish famine we must notice some isolated facts connected with the Peel Administration, which our connected view of the triumph of Free Trade has prevented our mentioning under their proper dates. Among the many measures of the time which were fiercely discussed, the most complicated were the Bank Charter Act of 1844, and the Act dealing with the Irish and Scottish Banks of 1845, whereby the Premier placed the whole banking system of the kingdom upon an entirely new basis, in particular by the separation of the issue and banking business of the Bank of England, and by the determination of the issues by the amount of bullion in reserve. Under the Act the Bank was at liberty to issue 14,000,000 of notes on the security of Exchequer Bills and the debt due to it from the Government, but all issues above this amount were to be based on bullion. Still hotter were the passions roused by the Maynooth Bill, by which 30,000 were devoted to the improvement of the college founded at Maynooth for the education of Roman Catholic priests. The language used during the debates by the Protestant party has few parallels in the history of the British Parliament, and Sir Robert Peel's difficulties were increased by the resignation of Mr. Gladstone, who found his present support of the Bill incompatible with the opinions expressed in his famous essay on Church and State. Lord Aberdeen's foreign policy was completely the reverse of the bold, if hazardous, line adopted by Lord Palmerston. We have seen how the Ashburton mission composed the critical questions at issue with the United States, and in similar fashion a dispute about the Oregon boundary, which had been pending for thirty years, was terminated on sound principles of give-and-take by fixing the line at the 49th parallel, while Vancouver Island was reserved for Britain, and the commerce of the Columbia was made free. With France our relations were of the most pacific character; so close, indeed, was the entente cordiale that it was a commonplace of Tory oratory that M. Guizot was Foreign Minister of England. This was certainly not the case; on the contrary, when the Society Islands, over which Pomare was queen, were forcibly annexed by a roving French admiral, Lord Aberdeen behaved with very proper spirit, and obtained an indemnity for the missionary Pritchard, who had been forcibly placed under arrest. In other respects the friendship of Great Britain with France continued unimpaired, and there was an interchange of visits between the Queen and King Louis Philippe. It was a sign of a harmony of views between the two nations. Unfortunately, owing to a variety of causes, it was not to be of long continuance. Lord John Russell, who introduced the measure, Lord Althorp, Mr. Smith of Norwich, and Mr. Ferguson pleaded the cause of the Dissenters with unanswerable arguments. They showed that the Church was not now in danger; that there was no existing party bent on subverting the Constitution; that in the cases where the tests were not exacted during the last half century there was no instance of a Dissenter holding office who had abused his trust; that though the Test Act had been practically in abeyance during all that time, the Church had suffered no harm. Why, then, preserve an offensive and discreditable Act upon the Statute Book? Why keep up invidious distinctions when there was no pretence of necessity for retaining them? Why, without the shadow of proof, presume disaffection against any class of the community? Even the members of the Established Church of Scotland might be, by those tests and[266] penalties, debarred from serving their Sovereign unless they renounced their religion. A whole nation was thus proscribed upon the idle pretext that it was necessary to defend the church of another nation. It was asked, Did the Church of England aspire, like the Mussulmans of Turkey, to be exclusively charged with the defence of the empire? If so, let the Presbyterians and Dissenters withdraw, and it would be seen what sort of defence it would have. Take from the field of Waterloo the Scottish regiments; take away, too, the sons of Ireland: what then would have been the chance of victory? If they sought the aid of Scottish and Irish soldiers in the hour of peril, why deny them equal rights and privileges in times of peace? Besides, the Church could derive no real strength from exclusion and coercion, which only generated ill-will and a rankling feeling of injustice. The Established Church of Scotland had been safe without any Test and Corporation Acts. They had been abolished in Ireland half a century ago without any evil accruing to the Church in that country. It was contrary to the spirit of the age to keep up irritating yet inefficient and impracticable restrictions, which were a disgrace to the Statute Book.

In pursuance of this plan of the campaign, Prideaux and Johnson arrived before the fort of Niagara in the middle of July, which they found very strong, and garrisoned by six hundred men. Prideaux was soon killed by the bursting of a shell, but Johnson continued the siege with great ability, having to invest the fort on one hand, whilst he was menaced on the other by a mixed body of French and Indians, one thousand seven hundred in number, who came to relieve the fort. The attack upon him commenced with a terrible war-whoop of the Indians, which, mingling with the roar of the great cataract near, made the most horrible din imaginable. But this did not disconcert the English and their savage allies, who received them with such steady courage, that in less than an hour they were put to the rout in sight of their own garrison, and pursued for five miles with dreadful slaughter. The garrison thereupon capitulated, remaining prisoners of war. There, however, Sir William Johnson's career stopped. From various causes, not foreseen, he was not able to advance beyond the Ontario to unite with Amherst. That general had fully succeeded in taking Ticonderoga and Crown Point, but he found the French so strongly posted on an island at the upper end of Lake Champlain, that he was compelled to stop and build[134] boats to enable his army to reach and dislodge them; and it was not till October that he was ready to proceed, when he was driven back repeatedly by tempests, and compelled to go into winter quarters.

Happily, the prevalence as well as the acerbity of party spirit was restrained by the prosperous state of the country in the winter of 1835-36. There were, indeed, unusual indications of general contentment among the people. Allowing for partial depression in agriculture, all the great branches of national industry were flourishing. The great clothing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, both woollen and cotton, were all in a thriving condition. Even in the silk trade of Macclesfield, Coventry, and Spitalfields, there were no complaints, nor yet in the hosiery and lace trades of Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester, while the potteries of Staffordshire, and the iron trade in all its branches, were unusually flourishing. Of course, the shipping interest profited by the internal activity of the various manufactures and trades. Money was cheap, and speculation was rife. The farmers, it is true, complained, but their agricultural distress to a certain extent was felt to be chronic. Farming was considered a poor trade, its profits, on the average, ranging below those of commerce. Most of the farmers being tenants at will, and their rents being liable to increase with their profits, they were not encouraged to invest much in permanent improvements.