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1804, and, under his leadership, France became mistress of the continent. Nelson, however, destroyed his fleets at Trafalgar, in 1805, where Nelson was killed, and the French fleet was of no importance afterwards in the war. After a time, the Spaniards rose against the French, and were aided in their struggle by the English, who sent Sir John Moore and Sir Arthur Wellesley, afterwards Duke of Wellington, to their assistance. Moore gained a victory at Corunna, but was slain in the engagement. Wellington, however, maintained his ground in the Peninsula, and exhibited consummate skill in his campaigns. He gained victory after victory, and at length, after about five years of warfare, he drove the French across the Pyrenees into their own country, following them into France, and defeating them there. Napoleon had been forced to retreat with immense loss from Russia, in 1812, and in the next year from Germany; and in 1814, being hemmed in on all sides, he agreed to abdicate, and peace was made with France. But he re-appeared in France soon after, and the war re-commenced, 1815. Then occurred the tremendous battle of Waterloo, when he was finally defeated, and which was followed after a time by a lasting peace.
King George was insane during much of the latter part of his reign, and his son, afterwards George IV., acted as regent. The poor king was a well-intentioned and sincerely pious man, and very affecting stories are told of his piety, his patriotism, and his affection for his family.
George IV. became king in 1820. He was spoken of as “the first Gentleman in Europe," but his moral character was quite unlike that of his father. He became very unpopular, on account of his attempt to divorce his queen.
The close of his reign is remarkable for the repeal of the laws against dissenters, and by legislation in favour of the Roman Catholics.
William IV. succeeded his brother in 1830. The
great event of this reign was the passing the “Reform Bill,” by which the elective franchise was more equally distributed. The measure was violently opposed, but it became law in 1832. Slavery was abolished next year, by the first reformed parliament. William died in in 1837, and was succeeded by our present queen.
Victoria was then a young lady of eighteen years of age. Her reign has been important in many ways. The “ Chartists” planned to secure certain privileges, which many looked on as revolutionary; and as there was an attempt at insurrection, the Chartists were forcibly suppressed. The Irish too, whose parliament has been united with that of England since 1801, endeavoured to restore matters to the condition they were in before, and to “Repeal the Union." between the countries. This agitation still continues, though O'Connell and others were tried in 1844 for sedition.
The principles of Free Trade were adopted by the legislature by the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, and the result has been a great increase in the commerce of the country. The elective franchise has been re-distributed by later legislation, and an attempt has been made to popularize education as far as possible by the “Education Act.”
Our country has also been engaged in war with China on two occasions, with Affghanistan, with the Sikhs and other Indian tribes, and with Russia. In the latter war, we had the French, and later on, the Sardinians, for allies. A force landed in the Crimea, and gained the battle of the Alma, and the fortress of Sebastopol was taken after a long siege, during which the victories of Balaclava and Inkerman were gained. The English fleet kept the Russians in their harbours, and destroyed Bomarsund in the Baltic, and took or destroyed some minor fortresses in the Baltic and Black Seas. Peace was made in 1856. Next year, the dreadful Indian Mutiny broke out. This threatened us with the loss of our Indian empire; but by the vigorous measures of our
generals, and the valour of our troops, the mutineers were everywhere speedily subdued. The mutiny has led to the establishment of better government in India, and we hope that in future more attention will be paid to this large and important dependency. There was also a short war with Abyssinia, brought about by the detention of Englishmen as captives by King Theodore.
The reign of Victoria is noted too for the astonishing development of our manufactures, by the application of steam
to multitudinous purposes, by the invention of the electric telegraph, by the adoption of the penny postage, and by the general spread of knowledge among the people.
LESSON 17.-THE CHIEF EPOCHS IN ENGLISH
HISTORY. Epoch-a fixed time or period.
Individual—a single one. Subjugation—bringing under control Subsequent—following (Lat. subsequor, (Lat. sub, under, jugum, a yoke).
I follow after). Permanent-lasting (Lat. per, through, Legislation-law making (Lat. lex legis, maneo, I stay),
In tracing the history of a country throughout, it will be found that there are certain special points or epochs, around which a number of events arrange themselves, and with which they are connected. It is therefore a good plan to pay great attention to these landmarks, if we can have them mapped out for us, when
we are reading English history. Different people would most likely arrange the epochs in different ways, but it seems to us, that the events in our history cluster around the following leading points—all of which have exercised a most important influence on our country—an influence which is felt to this day.
55. B.C. - Roman Invasion, followed after a time by the subjugation of Britain to the Roman power.
450-600 A.D. (about).- Establishment of the Saxons, the race which forms the bulk of the English nation. (The Danes were so like the Saxons, that their influence was not permanently felt as distinct.)
1066.- Norman Conquest, introducing a large French element into the country, and most strongly affecting its government, language, and institutions generally.
1215.—Magna Charta, the foundation on which our liberties have been raised, the dawn of better times for the people.
1455-1485.- Wars of Roses, destruction of the old nobility, and temporary increase of power in the sovereign.
(N.B.—Two other important points call for notice at this time : 1st, Feudalism was rapidly declining in England and throughout Europe. 2nd, The loss of our French possessions in the reign of Henry VI. was permanent. No serious attempt was afterwards made to conquer any considerable part of France. The long series of French wars, and the victories of Edward III. and Henry V., thus had no other effect than raising the martial courage of the people and the renown of England.).
1532-4.—Conimencement of the Reformation, substitution of protestantism for catholicism as the predominant religion of the country. Both before and after this time,
it was the constant aim of the government to secure uniformity in religious observance and belief, and many years passed before we learnt the wrong and folly of so doing
1642-1649.-Civil Wars, brought about by the persistent attempts of the Stuarts to govern as they pleased, and by the determination of the people to be free. Ended by the execution of Charles I.,
and the temporary establishment of a republic.
1660.-Restoration of Monarchy, as a refuge from anarchy, and perhaps in obedience to the national instinct.
1688.-Glorious Revolution, by which the Roman Catholic Stuarts were driven from the throne, and the government of England was finally settled as a constitutional monarchy.
In the lessons that have gone before, we have dwelt a little more fully on the periods here mentioned, but in order to obtain a really satisfactory knowledge, attention must be paid to matters of detail, as well as to general principles. We must therefore go to complete histories where we may read full accounts, to obtain this knowledge; and there are few subjects of study more interesting or instructive, or really useful, than the history of our country.
We have given a brief sketch of the progress of our nation from the barbarism of the Ancient Britons, to the establishment of a firm and settled government, supported by the good-will of the nation. Since the Revolution of 1688, there have been many changes in individual laws, some of them being highly important; but the general principles of the constitution were settled then, and subsequent legislation has, in the main, been but the development of these principles.