ACTS AND DOCUMENTS
1763. The Peace of Paris concluded the Seven Years' War. The restoration of Havannah and the Philippines to Spain, with the equivalent of Florida only in return, and the restoration to France of Guada1oupe, Martinique, and St. Lucia, of Goree, and of the Newfoundland Fishery, were condemned generally as far too generous. Undoubtedly more might have been taken, and the specious argument of the Duke of Bedford that had we insisted on severer terms we should have caused all the naval powers ultimately to coalesce against us, as aiming at a monopoly of naval power "as dangerous to the liberties of Europe as that of Louis XIV.," loses its point when it is seen that our actual attitude did lead to such a combination.
Too much has been made of the alleged abandonment of Frederick of Prussia. The coalition against Prussia was broken up. Our really defenseless ally, Portugal, was well cared for. The unpopularity of the Ministry, especially of Bute, led to most of the outcry against the Treaty. The Treaties are in the Annual Register, vol. v. p. 233.
1764. George Grenville began to reform the revenue laws and administration of the North American colonies. It had always been the practice of European powers to try to regulate colonial trade with strict reference to the supposed advantage of the trade of the Mother Country. The English Navigation Act, 1651, formed the basis of our commercial policy in the colonies; it had been modified to a slight extent by Walpole, but the prosperity of the colonies, of New England in particular, had depended upon a systematic evasion of the revenue laws and upon smuggling. The retention by us of all our West Indian conquests, in 1763, would have had at least this beneficial result, that our Government would have been relieved of the difficulty of trying to regulate American trade with foreign powers.
The re-enactment of a law passed in 1733, and expiring in 1763, to prohibit in fact trade with the French and Spanish islands, increased the dissatisfaction in America.
Connected with the reform of the revenue laws was the design to keep a standing army in America, partly at the expense of the colonies. The great Indian war of 1763, and the prospect of a French attempt to recover Canada in the future, made it reasonable, but it was objected to in the colonies. The principal Acts are 4 Geo. III cc. 15, 26, 27, 29.
1765. The Stamp Act was passed, making it obligatory that Bills, Bonds, Leases, Policies of Insurance, Newspapers, Broadsides, and Legal Documents of all kinds should be written or printed on Stamped Paper ; to be sold by public officers at varying prices according to the Act. It was expected to produce about £100,000, to be expended in America upon the defence of the country. Overtures were made to several colonies for suggestions of some alternative way of raising the money by colonial action, but they were not responded to. The Act was accompanied by another modifying the trade restrictions. (5 Geo. III c.12; and 5 Geo. III. c. 45. )
The Stamp Act was repealed by 6 Geo. III. e. 11.
1767. Charles Townshend passed an Act raising about £40,000 by Customs in America. (7 Geo. III. c. 41.)
The duties, except that on tea, were repealed, (10 Geo. III. c.17.)
1771. The Reporting of Parliamentary debates practically allowed, after a contest with certain printers and with the Lord Mayor and Aldermen who bad refused to commit them " as not guilty of any crime." The House committed the Lord Mayor and one Alderman, who were Members, but on their release the practice was allowed, though still technically a breach of Privilege. (See Parl. Hist xvii. 59-163.)
1773. Lord North's Regulating Act revolutionized the government of India. A Governor-General of Bengal, with a Council of Four, was appointed by the Crown, and the Governor-General was made supreme over the Governors of Madras and Bombay. A High Court was also appointed by the Crown, consisting of a Chief Justice and Three Puisne Judges. Future appointments were to be in the hands of the Company, but subject to the approbation of the Crown. No person in the employ of the Crown or of the Company was to receive presents, and the Governor General, Councillors, and Judges were not to engage in any commercial pursuits. The whole civil and military correspondence of the Company was to be laid before the Government
The financial difficulties of the Company, who were obliged to resort to Parliament for aid, gave the opportunity for this Act The blow to the Company was to be softened by allowing them to export to America 17,000,000 lbs. of tea subject only to the 3d. duty in America, which produced the tea riots in Boston. (13 Geo. III. c. 63, 64.)
1774. The Quebec Act was passed, appointing a legislative Council in Canada, nominated by the Crown, open to men of all religions; preserving the old French law, except in criminal cases where trial by jury was introduced; and virtually establishing the Roman Catholic church among the French Canadians. (14 Geo. III. c. 83.)
This act had much to do with the loyal attitude of Canada during the War of American Independence, but increased the hostile feeling in the Puritan Colonies of New England.
1775. Lord North proposed a conciliatory Resolution towards America, to the effect that if any colony thought fit of its own accord to make such a contribution to the defence of the Empire, and such a fixed provision for the support of the civil government and administration of justice in the colonies as should meet with the approbation of Parliament, such colony should be relieved from all taxation by Parliament for the sake of revenue. (Annual Register, xviii. 95.)
1776, July 4th. The American Declaration of Independence voted by the delegates of 12 Colonies, New York at first abstaining. ( Bancroft , Hist. of the United States, chap. 70.)
1778. North carried a Conciliatory Act undertaking to impose no taxes for the sake of revenue in America, and while preserving the right of Parliament to regulate commerce undertaking that the customs so raised should be applied in the several colonies according to the vote of the colonial assemblies. The Tea duty and the act which had interfered with the old constitution of Massachusetts were repealed. Free pardons were offered to all persons. (18 Geo III cc. 11, 12, 13.)
These measures were rendered futile by the America alliance with France, by distrust in America of the source whence they came, and by the feebleness of the military operations of England. Congress was committed to the French alliance, which meant Independence, but a really vigorous English commander with a real army in America would probably have caused a separation from the Congress of many persons or even states when the original grievances of the colonists were so fully redressed.
1778. The Catholic Relief Act was passed, repealing the Act of William III. which imposed perpetual imprisonment upon Roman Catholic Bishops, Priests, Jesuits, and Schoolmasters, and which disabled all Roman Catholics from inheriting or purchasing land. The benefits of the law were extended to all who by oath abjured the Pretender, the temporal Jurisdiction and Deposing Power of the Pope. It applied only to England. (18 Gee. III. c. 60.)
The proposal next year to pass a similar measure for Scotland led to great riots in that country, and the excitement spread to England, culminating in the great "Gordon Riots" of May 29th to June 7th, 1780. The agitation had passed from the control of mere fanatics, and had resulted in a temporary triumph of anarchic and criminal violence, which was not without serious effect upon the subsequent attitude of the Government of Pitt towards the members of Revolutionary Societies, and more moderate sympathisers with the principles of the French Revolution. (See Annual Register, xxiii. 254.)
1779. The conditions in the Toleration Act of William III. by which Dissenting Ministers and Schoolmasters had to subscribe to 35 of the Articles were relaxed by the Toleration Act. (19 Geo. III. c. 44.)
1782. The Irish Parliament made Independent of Great Britain.
The war with France and Spain in 1778 - 79 found Ireland almost denuded of troops, with a large Catholic population vehemently hostile to the ruling Protestant minority, and Catholics and Protestants alike suffering under trade restrictions similar to those which bad been at the bottom of the American troubles.
A large Protestant Volunteer force was raised, nominally against invasion, but was used as a lever for demands which it was impossible to refuse.
In 1778 some of the restrictions upon Irish trade were modified. (18 Geo. III cc. 55, 56.)
In Feb., 1782, the delegates of 143 Volunteer corps, assembled at Dungannon, demanded independence and free trade.
The Act of 6 Geo. I. c. 5, making Ireland dependent upon the English Parliament and Poynings' Law, were repealed in consequence by 22 Geo. III. c. 53.
Henceforward the Crown was the only link between Great Britain and Ireland till the Union. The danger of the severing of that link at the time of the Regency Bill of 1788 - 89, the unrepresentative and corrupt character of the Irish Parliament, the religious hostility, and the progress of the principles of the Revolution led to the failure of the "Dual Monarchy," and after the rebellion of 1798 to the Union 1800. (39 & 40 George III c. 67.)
1780. Burke brought forward a Bill for Economical Reform, intended to cut down expenses and also to abolish many of the means of corruption enjoyed by the Government. It was defeated in Committee. A resume of it is printed in the Annual Register vol xxiii. p. 300.
1782. Burke, in office under the Marquis of Rockingham, carried a very much modified Act of Economical Reform. (22 Geo. III c. 82.)
1783. The Peace of Versailles concluded the American War. The separate treaties with Holland, France, Spain, and the United States are printed in the Annual Register, xxvi.
319, 322, 331, 339; and see Koch et Schoell, iii. 401, &c.
1784. Pitt carried the India Bill. By it the chartered rights of the Company and their patronage were left intact but the superintendence of all political affairs was transferred to a Board of Control nominated by the Crown and forming a Ministerial Department going out with the Ministry. The authority of the Governor - General over the subordinate Governors was increased. The Governor - General, Governors Council, and Commander-in-Chief, were to be nominated by the Directors subject to the approval of the Crown. (24 Geo. III. c. 25.)
This Act slightly modified, formed the basis of the system of Dual Government in India up to 1858, when after the Mutiny the direct control of the Government was assumed by the English Crown.
In Fox's Bill, which was thrown out in 1783, all power was given to a Board of Seven nominated in the Bill, the mercantile affairs of the Company were put under their control, and the whole of the patronage was taken from the Company also. (See Annual Register, xxvii. 58, &c )
1785. Pitt proposed measures for Free Trade between England and Ireland. Commercial jealousy in England led to their modification, and they were rejected in Ireland as interfering with the freedom of commercial legislation by the Irish Parliament. It was pointed out at the time that similar commercial equality had only been granted to Scotland on the condition of complete Parliamentary Union. The Resolutions are printed in the Annual Register, xxvii 359.
1785. Pitt introduced a Bill for Parliamentary Reform. Its distinguishing feature was that it provided not only for the immediate or not distant transfer of 72 seats from decayed places to large towns and counties, but provided means for the future spontaneous transference of members as need arose. It also enfranchised copyholders in the counties. It was thrown out by 248 to 174. (See Parl. Hist, xxv. 445.)
1786. Pitt negotiated a Commercial Treaty with France, which but for the Revolution might have been the beginning of a new era of friendship between the nations. ( Printed in the Annual Register, xxviii. 266.)
1787. Pitt carried an Act consolidating the different branches of Customs and Excise, and establishing the "Consolidated Fund." (27 Geo. III c.. 13.)
1791. The Canada Act introduced Representative Government into Canada, and divided it into two Provinces, Upper and Lower Canada, corresponding roughly to the English and French population. A Council nominated by the Governor for life, and an Assembly elected for seven years, was established in each province. Canada was governed under this Constitution till 1840. (31 Geo. III. c. 31.)
The debate upon the Bill was the occasion for the politic severance between Burke and Fox, who had taken different views of the French Revolution.
1792, Nov. 19th and Dec. 15th. Declarations published by tie French Convention against all existing Governments. The aristocratic republics of Holland, Venice, and the Swiss Cantons, the Constitutional Monarchy of England, were threatened equally with despotic monarchies. "All people who wish to recover their liberty" are to be assisted. In "all countries which are or shall be occupied by the French armies," "all existing imposts and contributions" are to be abolished.(Annual Register, xxxiv. 153, 155.)
The occupation of the Austrian Netherlands, followed by the invasion of Holland and the throwing open of the Scheldt, in addition to the above encouragement to Secret Societies in Great Britain and Ireland, gave the English Government what would at any time have been regarded as a casus belli but the actual declaration of war came from France.
The course of the war that ensued depended so much upon the action of Continental powers that the treaties by which they in turn terminated their stages of hostility with France belong almost equally to English History.
1794. By the Treaty at Bale Prussia retired from the contest
1796. Spain joined France against England.
1797. By the treaty of Campo Formio Austria agreed to exchange the Netherlands and other territories for the Venetian provinces.
1800. Russia withdrew from the war against France and entered into the "Armed
Neutrality" with Sweden, Denmark, and Prussia against England. (Annual Register, xlii. 266.)
1801. By the Treaty of Luneville Austria terminated her second war with France, the Empire being included in the pacification.
1802. The Treaty of Amiens between England and France. ( see Koch et Schoell, vi. 145, &c., and Annual Register, xliii 277.) The words of the clause concerning Malta, the dispute about which was the pretext for the rupture of the Treaty, were as follows in the preliminary treaty: "The island of Malta, with its dependencies shall be evacuated by the English troops, and restored to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. To secure the absolute independence of that isle from both the contracting parties, it shall be placed under the guarantee of a third power, to be named in the definitive treaty." By the definitive treaty the King of Sicily, Ferdinand I., was invited to occupy Malta with 2000 men. These were actually landed; but the action of Napoleon in Holland, Switzerland, and Italy, and the military mission of Genera1 Sebastiani to the Levant, caused us to refrain from the evacuation of Malta; without further guarantees which Napoleon refused to give
1805. Austria made the Treaty of Pressburg with Napoleon, by which the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved.1806.
The Berlin Decree - extended by the Milan Decree of 1807 - by which the British Islands were declared in a state of blockade, and all intercourse forbidden between them and the territories subject to or in alliance with the French Empire. (Annual Register, xlviii. 201.)
1807. In answer to the Berlin Decree, and before the Milan Decree, the British "Orders in Council" were issued, declaring all the ports of France and her allies and ports from which the British flag was excluded, to be in a state of blockade, so that vessels trading to them were lawful prize. Also vessels carrying "certificates of origin" to avoid the Berlin Decree were lawful prize. (Annual Register, xlix 779.)
The Berlin and Milan Decrees were intended to annihilate English commerce, They were in fact systematically evaded, even by Napoleon's own officials. The pressure of them alienated Russia from Napoleon in 1812. The Orders in Council and the Decrees between them did nearly annihilate the European mercantile marine in all the countries subject to or allied with Napoleon.
The Right of Search claimed in pursuance of the Orders in Council was the cause of the war of 1812 with the United States.
1807. Prussia and Russia made the Peace of Tilsit with Napoleon, whereby Russia acceded to the Continental System against England. (See Koch et Schoell, viii 434, Sac.)
1807. The Slave Trade was finally abolished. (47 Geo. III. c. 36.)
An Act of 1806 had prohibited British subjects trading in slaves to the colonies captured during the war or to foreign countries.
1809. Austria concluded her fourth disastrous war with France by the Peace of Vienna.
1814. The Treaty of Ghent concluded the war with the United States. The questions raised by the Orders in Council were passed over, and certain boundary disputes referred to arbitration. The Slave Trade was formally condemned by both Governments. (See Koch et .Schoell, vol. ix. chap. 40;and Annual Register, lvii. 352, 358.)
1814. The Preliminaries of peace were concluded at Paris; but the settlement of Europe was still under discussion at Vienna when Napoleon left Elba. (See Koch et Schoell, vol x. chap. 41, see. 4.)
1815, Nov. 20th. The Treaty of Paris concluded the war. The efforts of England
and Russia prevented a dismemberment of France, which must have been more immediately fatal to the restored dynasty
than the actual circumstances of their return were, and would probably have precipitated another European war before
long. The frontiers of France, though slightly curtailed of the proposed limits of 1814, were wider than they had
been before the Revolution. England restored several of her colonial conquests, Java to the Dutch, Guadaloupe and
Martinique to the French, but retained Malta, Heligoland, the Ionian Islands, Cape Colony, Ceylon, Mauritius, Trinidad,
and some smaller islands, and Malacca.
In Europe, a Germanic Confederation replaced the Holy Roman Empire; the Austrian Netherlands were united to Holland, Norway to Sweden, Lombardy and Venetia to Austria, half Saxony and part of Westphalia and the electorate of Cologne to Prussia; the partition of Poland was confirmed, Russia taking the largest share. (See Koch et Schoell, vol x. chap. 41, sec. 6.)
1815. The Corn Laws passed. The sudden throwing open of foreign corn supplies by the peace, and bad seasons in England, produced a violent fluctuation in the price of corn. With the idea of steadying the price of corn, to the supposed advantage of both farmers and consumers, importation was forbidden from foreign countries unless wheat stood at an average price of 80s. a quarter; rye, peas, and beans at 53s.; barley at 40s.; oats at 26s. Importation from the British North American Colonies was allowed when prices stood at 67s., 44s., 33s., 22s. respectively. (55 Geo. III. c. 26.)
The Act was of course inoperative to stop fluctuation of prices, though it ensured high prices generally; and later the principle of admitting imported corn with a high duty was adopted, with equally bad results.
1815-18. The Holy Alliance was formed between Russia, Prussia, and Austria, nominally binding the powers to govern and conduct themselves towards each other on purely Christian principles. France acceded to the Alliance in 1818. Practically it was a compact to combat the principles of the Revolution. (Koch et Schoell, vol xi. chap. 41, sec. 6.)
1819. The Six Acts were passed against riot and sedition, seditious libels and assemblies, against training persons in the use of arms, and also imposing restrictions on the press. They were passed in consequence of the troubles arising from distress in the country after the war, and mark the acme of the Tory reaction from the Revolution. (60 Geo. III. cc. 1, 2,4, 6, 8, 9.)
In the subsequent reign the Tory party began gradually to revert to the more liberal policy of Pitt, Canning and Huskisson taking the lead, and Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington bowing by degrees to the teaching of facts. The Whig party at the same time released from the suspicion of anti-patriotic aims, which had hampered them during the French war, were enabled to embark upon the course of Constitutional Reform which they pursued for the next fifty years.