Increase in the National Debt – 1797

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Increase in the National Debt

Increase of the National Debt; Taxation.; Owing to these hundred years and more of war, the National Debt of Great Britain and Ireland (552), which in [1688] was much less than a million of pounds, had now reached the enormous amount of over nine hundred millions (or $4,500,000,000), bearing yearly interest at the rate of more than $160, 000,000.

So great had been the strain on the finances of the country, that the Bank of England suspended payment, and many heavy failures occurred.  In addition to this, a succession of bad harvests sent up the price of wheat to such a point that at one time an ordinary sized loaf of bread cost the farm laborer more than half a day’s wages.

Taxes had gone on increasing until it seemed as though the people could not endure the burden.  As Sydney Smith declared, with entire truth, there were duties on everything. They began, he said, in childhood with “the boy’s taxed top”; they followed to old age, until at last “the dying Englishman, pouring his taxed medicine into a taxed spoon, flung himself back on a taxed bed, and died in the arms of an apothecary who had paid a tax of a hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death.”

Excerpt from The Leading Facts of English History by David Henry Montgomery – 1904

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Further Reading and External Links

Historic Charts of UK National Debt

National Debt and Population

The Permanent National Debt – 1693

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The Permanent National Debt (1693); the Bank of England (1694): William had now gained, at least temporarily, the object that he had in view when he accepted the English crown.  He had succeeded in drawing the English into a close defensive alliance against Louis XIV,(3) who, as we have seen, was bent on destroying both the political and the religious liberty of the Dutch as a Protestant people.

The constant wars which followed William’s accession had compelled the King to borrow large sums from the London merchants.  Out of these loans sprang the permanent National Debt.  It was destined to grow from less than a million of pounds to so many hundred millions, that all thought of ever paying it is now given up.  The second result was the organization of a banking company for the management of this colossal debt; together the two were destined to become more widely known than any of William’s victories.

The building erected by that company stands on Threadneedle Street, in the very heart of London.  In one of its courts is a statue of the King set up [1734], bearing this inscription: “To the memory of the best of princes, William of Orange, founder of the Bank of England,” – by far the largest and most important banking institution in the world.

Footnotes:

1. Ryswick: a village of Holland, near The Hague.
2. The second (Protestant) daughter of James II. See 542.
3. See Guizot, History of Civilization, Chapter [13.]

Excerpt from The Leading Facts of English History by David Henry Montgomery – 1904

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Further Reading and External Links

William of Orange

History of Britains National Debt

Bank of England on Wikipedia

TRAFALGAR, NELSON AND NAPOLEON – 1805

Trafalgar, Nelson and Napoleon

NELSON MONUMENT – TRAFALGAR SQUARE, LONDON

Near the close of the Century [1789] the French Revolution broke out. It was a violent and successful attempt to destroy those feudal institutions which France had outgrown, and which had, as we have seen, disappeared gradually in England after the rebellion of Wat Tyler (304, 368, 534).

At first the revolutionists received the hearty sympathy of many of the Whig party, but after the execution of Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, England became alarmed not only at the horrible scenes of the Reign of Terror but at the establishment of that democratic republic which seemed to justify them, and joined an alliance of the principal European powers for the purpose of restoring the French monarchy. Napoleon had now become the real head of the French nation, and seemed bent on making himself master of all Europe.  He undertook an expedition against Egypt and the East which was intended as a stepping-stone toward the ultimate conquest of the English empire in India, but his plans were frustrated by Nelson’s victory over the French fleet at the battle of the Nile.

With the assistance of Spain, Napoleon next prepared to invade England, and was so confident of success that he caused a gold medal to be struck, bearing the inscription, “Descent upon England.” “Struck at London, [1804].”  But the combined French and Spanish fleets on whose cooperation Napoleon was depending were driven by the English into the harbor of Cadiz, and the great expedition was postponed for another year.

See Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution, “Death of Marie Antoinette.”

In [1801] Robert Fulton proposed to Napoleon that he should build war-ships to be propelled by steam. The proposal was submitted to a committee of French scientists, who reported that it was absurd.  Had Napoleon acted on Fulton’s suggestion, his descent on England might have been successful.

When, in the autumn of [1805], they left Cadiz harbor, Lord Nelson lay waiting for them off Cape Trafalgar, near by.  Two days later he descried the enemy at daybreak. The men on both sides felt that the decisive struggle was at hand.  With the exception of a long, heavy swell the sea was calm, with a light breeze, but sufficient to bring the two fleets gradually within range.

“As they drifted on their path
There was silence deep as death;
And the boldest held his breath
For a time.”

Just before the action Nelson ran up this signal to the masthead of his ship, where all might see it:

“ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN TO DO HIS DUTY.”

The answer to it was three ringing cheers from the entire fleet, and the fight began.  When it ended, Napoleon’s boasted navy was no more.

Trafalgar Square, in the heart of London, with its tall column bearing aloft a statue of Nelson, commemorates the decisive victory, which was dearly bought with the life of the great admiral.

The battle of Trafalgar snuffed out Napoleon’s projected invasion of England.  He had lost his ships, and their commander in his despair committed suicide.  The French emperor could no longer hope to bridge “the ditch,”  as he derisively called the boisterous Channel, whose waves rose like a wall between him and the island which he hated.  A few years later, Napoleon, who had taken possession of Spain, and placed his brother on the throne, was driven from that country by Sir Arthur Wellesley, destined to be better known as the Duke of Wellington, and the crown was restored to the Spanish nation.

Excerpt from The Leading Facts of English History by David Henry Montgomery – 1904

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Further Reading and External Links

Nelson at the National Archives

The Battle of Trafalgar

Nelsons Navy

The Impressions of a Careless Traveler – 1903

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Excerpt from the New Outlook Magazine – Saturday 14th February 1903 – The Impressions of a Careless Traveler – regarding  a trip to the Crimea aboard the ship Prinzessin organised through The Cook Company – Thomas Cook as we know them today.

The Impressions of a Careless Traveler – 1903

The next morning the problem how we were to get on board our steamer presented itself.  The wind, rattling the shutters and blowing open the French windows of our room, gave us no hope of a quiet sea, and I was not surprised to see the yacht moving up and down – in more ways than one – a half-mile or more from the shore.  I succeeded by signs in getting from the landlord of the lodging house a glass of tea and some bread and butter for the ladies, and then started out to reconnoiter. 

At seven o’clock I was at the chief hotel, but no one knew what was to be done, and every new passenger I met had a new rumor to repeat or a new plan to propose.  We must ride back to Sevastopol; the horses were exhausted and the drivers would not take us; we must wait here until the sea goes down; we are going to be taken to the steamer in launches, etc., etc.  At length it began to be reported, though still no official notice was given, that there was a Russian local steamer inside the breakwater, that we were all to go on board of her, that she was to take us back to Sevastopol, and that we were to embark on the Prinzessin in the harbor there.  This arrangement was in fact made, I believe by the captain of our steamer through the intermediary of the first officer.  We had nothing to pay on the steamer, except for luncheon if we chose to take it. 

So far as I know, not till all the arrangements were consummated and most of the passengers had gotten word and were on board, or preparing to go on board, did the agents of the Cook Company appear again.  Whether they kept out of sight because they did not know what to do, or because they wanted to avoid for Cook all responsibility for the predicament in which we were placed, I do not know. 

Generalisations from a single experience or a brief series of experiences are not very safe; but the results of our experiences on this trip confirmed Mr.–‘s advice to me; before I left New York he said: “Buy your circular tickets of Cook; occasionally you can use him to advantage in especial carriage trips-but avoid the personally conducted tour.”   In fact, we paid a good price at Sevastopol in order to have all care taken off, and when the crisis came it all tumbled back on us again; we paid for a third day’s excursion-to the garden of the Czar-which we never had, and had not only to pay our bills at Yalta, to which I do not especially object, but had to shift for ourselves under circumstances of no little perplexity, while our personal conductors disappeared from the scene, not to appear again until all the trouble and perplexity were passed. 

To our surprise, the Russian steamer, though primarily for freight, had very comfortable provision for passengers, and we, with unexpected steadiness, steamed back over the water which we had looked down upon the day before, our “yacht” accompanying us all the way.  Although we lost our promised view of the palaces and the splendours they contain, we gained a new view of the marvellous cliffs along which we had driven.  We are now at home again on the Prinzessin.  Our time on the yacht is growing short, and we begin to wonder whether after the exchange to land traveling we shall be as comfortable.  But there is a pleasant thought in the idea of longer time in our stopping places and larger space for manipulating our luggage to compensate for the luxuries we shall leave. 

L.A.

Excerpt from the New Outlook Magazine – Saturday 14th February 1903 – The Impressions of a Careless Traveler.  Coming soon – read the response to this article from Thomas Cook & Son.

The Times Office, London – 1853

TIMES OFFICE, LONDON – 1853

Times Office London

THE above is a view of the Times Office, taken in October, [1853].  It is situated at the end of rather an obscure court or lane, in the heart of London, in the vicinity of St. Paul’s Church; a small portion of the dome or spire appears above the roof of the building.  Viewed in its several aspects, this unpretending structure may be considered as the most important place in the world.  The power which emanates from this spot is “greater than the throne,” and controls, in a great degree, the destinies of a mighty empire, and even, to some extent, the world itself.  The principal entrance is at the door over which is a Tablet, on which is inscribed the following:-

“This Tablet was erected to commemorate the extraordinary exertions of the Times Newspaper, in the exposure of a remarkable fraud upon the mercantile public, which exposure subjected the proprietors to a most expensive lawsuit.  At a meeting of Merchants, Bankers, &c, at the Mansion House, on the 1st day of October, A.D. [1841], the most Honorable Lord Mayor in the chair, the following resolutions were agreed to.  Here follows the Resolves, &c

At the close of the meeting above mentioned, 2,700 pounds were subscribed.  The proprietors of the Times, refusing to be reimbursed their heavy costs incurred by them in the above-mentioned suit.  It was resolved, that 150 guineas be applied to the erection of this Tablet, and a similar one in the Royal Exchange, and that the surplus of the fund raised should be invested in the purchase of three per cent, consols, the dividends to be applied to the support of two scholarships, to be called the “Times Scholarships.”

The door over which “The Times Office” sign appears, is the advertising office.  The door at which the papers are delivered is on the other side of the building.  The Times was the first newspaper ever printed by steam.  This was in 1814.  The general speed at which the paper is now printed is ten thousand copies an hour. The daily circulation is about fifty-two thousand, and from eight to nine tons of paper are daily used.  Each sheet costs the publisher a penny and a-half, or three cents, before it is printed; upwards of three hundred thousand dollars are paid to the government for stamps, a penny, or two cents, being paid on each number issued.  Its advertising business is very great, all quack notices are excluded, and it is said, that the most extravagant sum would not procure the insertion of a line of an immoral tendency.  It has correspondents all over the civilized world, and during the sessions of Parliament, a large number of skillful reporters are employed who are relieved every half hour.

Excerpt from European Historical Collections by John Warner Barber 1855

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War in the East – 21 Nov

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A Smart Affair – 21st November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Tuesday – 21st November 1854

Last night a smart affair, in which three companies of the Rifle Brigade (1st battalion), under Captain Tryon, displayed great coolness, energy, and courage, took place with the enemy.  In the rocky ground between our first and second parallels, in the ravine towards the left of our left attack, about 300 Russian infantry had established themselves in some caverns and old stone huts used by shepherds in days gone by, and had for the last twenty or thirty hours annoyed the working and covering parties of the French right attack and of our left battery by an incessant fire of rifles.  

It was found expedient to dislodge them, and at seven o’clock this party of the Rifle Brigade was sent to drive the Russians out of the caves in which they had taken shelter.  These caves abound in all the ravines, and are formed by the decay of the softer portions of the rock between the layers in which it is stratified.  

The Rifles advanced, and very soon forced the enemy to retreat after a brisk tire, in which they killed and wounded a considerable number of the Russians with comparatively little loss to themselves.  The enemy fell back on their main body; and when the Rifles had established themselves for the night in the caves which the enemy had occupied, where they found blankets, great coats, etc., they were assailed by a strong column of Russians, who fired volleys of musketry and rifles against their small force continuously, and were only kept at bay by the deadly return of our Minies. The action ended in the complete repulse of the Russian columns, but we have to deplore the loss of that most promising and excellent officer, Captain Tryon, of the Rifle Brigade, who was killed by a shot in the head.  We had seven men killed and eighteen or nineteen men wounded in this affair.  

The draughts of the Guards and of the 19th Regiment, as well as of the various men belonging to other portions of the force out here, which arrived in the “Queen of the South,”  disembarked this morning.  Greatly astonished did they seem as they were invited to walk ankle-deep in the mud through arabas, Turks, camels, Frenchmen, Crim Tartars, Greeks, and Bulgarians, along the principal thoroughfare of Balaklava out to their camps.  Like young bears, they had their troubles all before them, and the brilliancy of their uniforms, which has just renewed our notions as to what a red coat ought to be; was fading fast when they were last seen before the coating of liquid filth which the natives of Balaklava seem to consider as the normal paving of their thoroughfares.  

Notwithstanding a northerly wind, the weather to-day was fine and mild, something like that which Londoners are apt to rejoice in occasionally in a genial February.  Carts are busily employed in conveying to the camp stores of provision and ammunition.  The French are hutting themselves, or rather they are burrowing holes for themselves, which they thatch over with twigs and branches all along their lines. 

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

 

Lack of Money

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Lack of Money

Roman CoinsLack of money was one of the great evils.  The empire did not have sufficient supplies of precious metals for the demands of business; and what money there was was steadily drained away to India and the distant Orient (p. 15).  By the fourth century this movement had carried away hundreds of millions of dollars of coined money.  Even the imperial officers were forced to take part of their salaries in produce, robes, horses, grain.  Trade began to go back to the primitive form of barter; and it became harder and harder to collect taxes.

In the third and fourth centuries there were no more great poets or men of letters.  Learning and patriotism both declined.  Society began to fall into rigid castes, the serf bound to his spot of land, the artisan to his trade, the curial to his office, Freedom of movement was lost.   Above all, there was dearth of money and dearth of men.  The Empire had become a shell.

For five hundred years, outside barbarians had been tossing wildly about the great natural walls of the civilized world.   Commonly they had shrunk in dread from any conflict with the mighty Roman legions, always on sleepless ward at the weaker gaps – along the Rhine, the Danube, the Euphrates.   Sometimes, it is true, the barbarians had broken through for a moment, but always to be destroyed promptly by some Roman Marius or Caesar.   In the fifth century they broke in to stay.

But meanwhile Christianity had come into the world.  The supreme service of the dying Empire was to foster this new force for human progress.

Excerpt from The Story of Modern Progress by Willis Mason West – 1920

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Further Reading and External Links

Why did the Roman Empire Fall

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Delay of the Mails

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Delay of the Mails – 19th November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Sunday 19th November 1854

THIS evening a courier arrived from Varna, with a despatch from the Duke of Newcastle to Lord Raglan, dated November 10, which he had conveyed from Bucharest to Varna on horseback.  The contents are not likely to be made known, but the fact itself is a cruel commentary on the text of the post-office “regulations.” 

When this courier arrived, the mail which should have gone on the 18th had just been sent on board the “Medway,” which will arrive in Constantinople about thirty hours after the French steamer of the 20th has sailed from that port for Marseilles.  As the “Arrow,” which took the mails of the 13th from the Crimea, was late for the mail steamer of the 16th from Constantinople, our friends in England will be favoured with two mails, each five days’ late, in succession.

Imagine sending “mails” at this crisis, when the heart of England is on the rack, by “gun-boats” and hospital ships!  Such “management” and such “regulations” are above or below all comment, but they certainly deserve public contempt and indignation.  The public money is freely given to carry out every end of this expedition, and to provide for the efficiency of every branch of the service, and it is intolerable that those who are charged with one of the most important portions of it should be so indifferent to the comfort and happiness of hundreds of thousands, whose hopes and fears are centred in the fate of this army.

Newspaper correspondents are placed in rather a difficult position out here at present.  In common with generals and chiefs, and men-at-arms, they write home accounts of all we were doing to take Sebastopol, and they joined in the prophetic cries of the leaders of the host that the fall of the city of the Czar – the centre and navel of his power in these remote regions – would not be deferred for many hours after our batteries had opened upon its defences.  In all the inspiration of this universal hope, these poor wretches, who cling to the mantles of the military and engineering Elijahs, did not hesitate to communicate to the world, through the columns of the English press, all they knew of the grand operations which were to eventuate in the speedy fall of this doomed city.  They cheered the heart of England with details of the vast armaments prepared against its towers and forts – of the position occupied by her troops – the imbecility of the enemy’s fire – of the range of the guns so soon to be silenced, of the stations of our troops on commanding sites, and they described with all their power the grandiose operations which were being taken for the reduction of such a formidable place of arms.

They believed in common with the leaders, whose inspiration and whose faith were breathed through the ranks of our soldiers, that the allied forces were to reduce Sebastopol long ere the lines they penned could meet the expectant gaze of our fellow-countrymen at home, and they stated under that faith and in accordance with those inspirations that the operations of war undertaken by our armies were undertaken with reference to certain points of position and with certain hope of results, the knowledge of which could not have proved of the smallest service to the enemy once they had been beaten out of their stronghold.

Contrary to these hopes and inspirations, in direct opposition to our prophecies and to our belief, Sebastopol still holds out against the Allies; and the intelligence conveyed in newspapers which we all thought we would have read in the clubrooms of Sebastopol has been conveyed to the generals of an army which still defends its walls, and has been given to the leaders of an enemy whom we had considered would be impuissant and defeated, where they have proved themselves to be, in reality, powerful and unconquered. The enemy know that we have lost many men from sickness; they know that we have so many guns here and so many guns there, that our head-quarters are in one place, our principal powder magazine is in another, that the camp of such a Division has been annoyed by their fire and that the tents of another had escaped injury from their shot, but it must he recollected that when these details were written it was confidently declared that, ere the news could reach England of the actual preliminaries of the siege, the Allies would have entered Sebastopol, that their batteries would have silenced the fire of the enemy, that the quarters of their generals would have been within the enceinte of the town, that our magazines would have been transferred to its storehouses, and that our divisions would have encamped within its walls.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

The Crimea War from the National Archives

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

Merging of Roman and Teuton

 

 

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Merging of Roman and Teuton

In the sixth century, after long decline, the Empire fell for a time to a capable ruler, Justinian the Great (527-565).  We remember him chiefly because he brought about a codification of the Roman law.  In the course of centuries, that law had become an intolerable maze.  Now a commission of able lawyers put the whole mass into a new form, marvelously compact, clear, and orderly.

 

Church of St Sophia

Church of St Sophia, Constantinople – built by Justinian upon the site of an earlier church of the same name by Constantine.  The whole interior is lined with costly, many-colored marbles.  This view shows only a part of the vast dome, with eighteen of the forty windows which run about its circumference of some 340 feet.  In 1463 the building became a Mohammedan mosque (p. 121). In 1919 it became again a Christian temple.

 

Justinian also reconquered Italy for the Empire, and so the code was established in that land. Thence, through the church, and some centuries later through a new class of lawyers, it spread over the West.

Justinian’s conquest of Italy had another result less happy.  His generals destroyed a promising kingdom of the East Goths in Italy.   Then (568), immediately after the great emperor’s death, a new German people, the savage Lombards, swarmed into the peninsula, and soon conquered much of it. Their chief kingdom was in the Po valley, which we still call Lombardy; but various Lombard “dukedoms” were scattered also in other parts.  The Empire kept (1) the “Exarchate of Ravenna” on the Adriatic; (2) Rome, with a little territory about it; and (3) the extreme south.  

Thus Italy, the middle land for which Roman and Teuton had struggled for centuries, was at last divided between them, and shattered into fragments in the process. No other country suffered so terribly in the centuries of invasion as this lovely peninsula which had so long been mistress of the world.

Excerpt from The Story of Modern Progress by Willis Mason West – 1920

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Further Reading and External Links

Justinian the Great on Wikipedia

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

More on Justinian the Great