Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XIX.

CHAPTER XIX.  This chapter covers more of 1848, with a couple of letters taking us up to 1850.  The Corn Laws had been repealed in 1846, splitting the Tories. Sir Robert Peel largely did it to prevent a clamour for more radical reform, in particular from the Chartists. There were  revolutions all over Europe looking for electoral reform and greater participation in political life by the middle and working classes. So it was a heady time.

It is also quite clear that Josh, Cobden, and Joseph Hume are looking for bourgeois rather than radical reform – taking power from the aristocracy and landowners, and increasing the power of the industrialists and manufacturers. So Josh is Radical but not too radical. He’s still a year away from becoming an M.P, and a part-owner of the Daily News, because as said in chapter 18 ” It was owing in some degree to his friend Cobden’s expressed desire to see a new paper started to uphold the doctrine of non-intervention, that Sir Joshua became a part proprietor of the new Liberal organ, The Daily News. ” 

” Poor Bentinck ” referred to in Cobden’s letter is Lord George Bentinck (1802-1848), third son of the 4th Duke of Portland who was the leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons between 1846 and 1848 who had died of a heart attack four days before Cobden’s letter. 

 

Previous to starting the National Reform Association, Sir Joshua made a tour through the North of England. He had lost his seat for Leicester, but the fifty members of parliament who had formed themselves into a committee to advocate Reform principles passed a resolution, inviting him to continue honorary secretary to their body, and he had consented to do so. The result of this tour he gave in a letter to Mr. Cobden, which has unfortunately been lost, but the import of which may be gathered from the following answer :

” Hayling Island, Hants, 25th September, 1848.

“My dear Walmsley,

”I have been a good deal interested with the perusal of your letter, giving me a sort of political stock-taking of public opinion in the North.

Much depends for the future upon the course of events on the Continent. If the Germans fall into anarchy, or the Red Republicans get the upper hand in France, our middle classes will cower under the wings of the aristocracy for safety and protection, and you and I may close our accounts as agitators for awhile. In the meantime the economy and retrenchment cry is working and bringing people gradually to the ranks of the parliamentary reformers.

The Daily News is doing the part, and indeed, all parts, admirably, and it would be a pity indeed if, with such an efficient corps of writers, the paper cannot be not merely sustained but strengthened. By-the-way, I got a letter from Birmingham the other day, giving some details of the working of an association for buying county freehold votes. It is succeeding and extending its operations into the neighbourhood, and I feel quite convinced that this forty-shilling freehold scheme is the only certain though slow way of beating the aristocracy; and so I have said in a letter to the society, which will be read at the anniversary meeting on the 6th of October. Poor Bentinck ! what phantoms we are and what bubbles we pursue ! My wife joins me in kind regards to Lady W. and yourself.

“ Believe me, faithfully yours,

” Richard Cobden.”

An association had been started in Liverpool, under the name of the Financial Reform Association. The principal object of a visit paid by Sir Joshua to his native city was to see this body, and to attend a meeting to be held in the Portico, Newington, on the 29th September. The purpose of this association, as its name implies, was to enforce the principle of economy in public expenditure. It advocated also a system of direct taxation, levied upon property and income, instead of indirect taxation upon commodities.

The reform of the House of Commons, however, was not included in its programme, and in the estimation of Mr. Hume and his adherents, the reform of the House once effected, all other reforms would follow. On the appointed evening the meeting came off. It was crowded. This short extract from Sir Joshua Walmsley’s speech is a curious statement of the proportionate taxation of England relatively to other countries at that time :

” State taxation in the United States, in Russia, Prussia, and Austria, does not exceed nine shillings to twelve shillings per head, in France it is twenty-six shillings, whilst in our own it is fifty-two shillings and sixpence. In other countries the chief taxes are borne by the land, in this by the labouring classes. ”

In the following letter of Mr. Cobden’s relating to this meeting, one phrase in it, alluding to his own probable length of days, now reads like a mournful prophecy :

” Hayling Island, 4th October, 1848.

“My dear Walmsley,

” Many thanks for your letter and the newspaper, giving an account of the Liverpool meeting. You hit the nail right on the head. Don’t be afraid to repeat the blow again and again in the same place ; it is by such means only, that the arguments or the nail can be driven home. I was struck with the same impression as yourself, when reading Gladstone’s remarks, viz. that he gave proofs of being in earnest by his attacks on all sides — Peel, Lord Lansdowne, M’Neile, and the Tories ! I observe what you say about our friend Hume’s anxiety to send out an address ; this is the fit of weakness which has displayed itself in occasional attacks during the session. You and I may be well excused if we have not greater foibles before we reach his age, which you may, but I shall not. However, we must try to keep him quiet. The task before us will not be accomplished by proclamation, or even public meetings or petitions ; but by hard work, done in the same methodical way in which we conduct our private affairs. Yet public meetings and addresses and speeches must form a part of our operations. My first appearance must be in Yorkshire, but I do not yet know how or when. You will legitimately appear at Liverpool, because you are one of them ; but I think they had better not invite me to their meeting in the Amphitheatre, which ought to be a local affair to command attention.

I wish you were able to be present at the Birmingham freehold anniversary, on Friday evening next. That is a movement which, if rightly started and sustained, may accomplish anything ; but there should be an association in every division of a county in which there is a town population. For instance, Liverpool should undertake to wrest South Cheshire from the squires and parsons, and Manchester should do the same for North Cheshire. What say you to a trip up to Birmingham, to make the acquaintance of Mr. Taylor, and to inspect their plan of operation ? I shall remain here for three weeks more, if the weather be favourable; but it is my intention to run up to town for two days, to meet Mr, Bastiat from France, who has come over for a few days. ”

The following extract from a letter of Mr. Hume, dated Burnley Hall, 17th November, 1848, shows what the staunch old man, now failing in health, expected from Reform, and also his radical divergence of purpose from the one of the Liverpool Financial Reform Association.

Burnley Hall, Norfolk

” It has disappointed me greatly that I was not in town to have met you and Mr. Cobden as contemplated, and I regret that I shall not be in town this month. I have not yet made arrangements for December, though I feel inclined to remain quiet here, as I find the frame not equal to the spirit. “

” I observe with regret, that in the country there does not seem to be that desire for parliamentary reform which is at the root of all reforms. I observe further that the Liverpool association does not attack the army navy, ordnance, and colonies, the four chief sources of expense, but confine themselves to the personal salaries and some of the smaller establishments ; although I admit the proceedings abroad have been very unfavourable to any large reduction in these branches of the national expenditure. I agree with you, that reduction and equalisation of the taxes must be the object in view. But to be true to our principles we must look to a change in the House of Commons, as the best and only effectual means of effecting these objects. “

” I am surprised that such men as form the committee in Liverpool cannot see that, with half the House members of the aristocracy, quarter of naval, military, and officials, it is absurd to expect effectual reduction or relief until that proportion is changed. “

“I am now told that the experience of the Continent shows that general suffrage here would not improve your House much, and that the aristocracy and their connections will continue to rule and direct. If that be true, the more direct we can make the taxes, the sooner the burden will reach the aristocracy. “

” I believe that the course taken by the Birmingham association for the multiplication of freeholds is one of the best that can be adopted, and that I think we should consider how best to promote and extend over the counties in England and Scotland. I despair of anything good from Ireland, where everything appears so bad — hopeless I would say. I may observe that the proceedings in Yorkshire, in coquetting with Fitzwilliam, as all the towns have done, is but a poor example of what we may expect should be done. If the strong and rich Reformers in Yorkshire will not take the manly course of starting one of themselves for the seat, what have you to expect from the poverty-stricken, priest and aristocratic ridden population in other parts of the country ? Nothing ! “

“I hope Mr. Cobden has advised the union in some manufacturer, or well-known Liberal man of the people ; and let the result be for or against us, it must be an argument we may use. “

” I quite concur, if there be one or two able men with sound discretion, that can be employed to visit all the boroughs without distinction, to inquire and try what organisation can be made in each place for the purposes of making freeholds, promoting registrations, and keeping together all the Reformers to our extent of reform. But I think that should not be done by our committee, which should stand, as we have done, on our principles, and call on each community to take the best course to support us. “

“If that could be done by such a man as Mr. Wilson and originating in Manchester, so as to keep our committee free, I think we should be better able to keep our own in the House, and make our appeals to the spontaneous proceeding of the several constituencies as they came forward to support our motion.”

” I should hope that those who have hitherto as Chartists divided the Reformers, may now, from the experience they have had, be disposed cordially to act with us, though we may not be so forward as they could wish. “

“I see the good effects of Mr. Cobden’s moving in furtherance of those proceedings as every movement of his in Yorkshire has had a good result. But I think he should in that respect be as an individual. I have thrown out my views, at first thought, of what you have mentioned ; but I shall be ready to concur in what, after consulting our friends, you may think right to promote. I am grieved to see the state of France, Austria, Germany, Italy, all unsettled, and as yet productive of so much ill. I will not say unalloyed, as The Daily News of yesterday has very properly shown the progress of liberty already made ; and which will not, I think, be allowed to recede, however foolishly the King of Prussia and the Emperor may act ! ”

The following is an extract from a letter written to Sir Joshua a few days before :

” Burnley Hall, 24th October, 1848. “

”Until matters are more settled on the Continent, the British public will not give the attention to parliamentary reform that it deserves. But in the meantime, I am pleased to learn that the creation of freeholds in the counties, and of votes in the boroughs, is going on, and I really see the absolute necessity of that being done as speedily as possible ; and if any- thing could be done to make that general, the cause of Reform will of itself progress.

“ I hear of nothing whatever from the ministers, except an assurance, made with apparent sincerity, that they are resolved on economy and retrenchment to the utmost possible extent.

” If you have an opportunity, will you speak to the Secretary of the Financial Association at Liverpool, and remind him that when I sent him copies of all the papers they wanted, and some more, they promised to send me a copy of all their publications? They have not done so (to me here), and I have not been able to offer suggestions which I might have done.

” They have, I presume, some paper as their organ, and should send me a copy whenever any of their articles appear. I think, however, it must soon be apparent to them that the H. of C. is the root of the evil, and that the attention of all financial reformers must be directed to the reformation of that House !

“Belief by such course is direct and speedy, by the other circuitous and doubtful But I must subscribe myself

” Yours sincerely,

” Joseph Hume.”

The creation of forty-shilling freeholds, recommended in these letters of Mr. Cobden and Mr. Hume as a powerful means of securing reform, had been tried by Mr. Cobden in the days of the League.

James Taylor, of Birmingham, who had begun life as a hard-working artisan, and who was now secretary of the Birmingham Freehold Land Society, had been the first to start the movement. The Reform Bill had annihilated many of the franchises existing in boroughs, but it had left standing the forty-shilling freehold qualification, conferred by statute in the seventh year of the reign of Henry VI.

The Chandos clause had left the landlords the depositaries of political power in the counties. By the votes of two hundred thousand tenants at will they could virtually dispose of representation.

To wrest this power from the landlords, by creating a class of independent voters, was the object of the forty-shilling movement. The plan pursued by these associations was to buy up large properties, and divide them into lots. By the investment of from thirty to forty pounds, the subscriber was not only placed on the register of the county where his bit of land stood, but an annual return of ten per cent was secured to him.

The Whigs — nominally the party of Reform — sought to neutralise at every step the work of the party they called Radicals. In the following letter Mr. Cobden describes their animosity thus :

” 17th October, 1848.

” I observe what you say about the Whig animus. Depend upon it, that fraction of the aristocracy will join sooner or later with their brothers the Tories against us. In fact it is a virtual coalition, for wherever they can’t bring in a man of their own they will coalesce to keep one of us out. The Whigs have contrived to get hold of nearly all the influential press in Scotland ; and there are toadies of the party who, as ‘our London Correspondent,’ are continuously throwing dirt upon us. The enclosed I cut from The Scotsman Edinburgh paper, of last Saturday. It is a formidable task to fight against the aristocracy when it presents the front of a sham Liberalism, and especially so when we have to deal with a people of such strong aristocratic prejudices, that it would almost prefer to be ruined by lords than saved by commoners. In such a case we can only ultimately make progress by the use of great prudence and patience, and the application of much hard labour — a quality in which we can beat them hollow. I am every day confirmed in the opinion that great political changes will flow out of the repeal of the Corn Laws. The farmers, as a rule, are not devoted to the aristocracy or the Church. I see nothing to separate them henceforth from their own order in the House. ”

Divergence in aim now appeared among the Reformers themselves. At a meeting in the Free-Trade Hall, Manchester, in the beginning of January, 1849, Mr. Cobden denounced ” the horrid waste of ten millions sterling a year on fighting establishments, “ announcing his intention of submitting to the House, in the following session, a scheme of international arbitration. Writing to Sir Joshua about this meeting, he says in the course of the letter : ” We had a monster meeting, indeed, yesterday. I feel, more than ever, that we ought to have stuck exclusively to the ‘ Financial Reform,’ for the present. I assure you that, even with the ‘ Fustian Jackets,’ those sentiments which referred to a great reduction of armaments were far more enthusiastically responded to than the allusion to organic change. ”

The support of the survivors of the Anti-Corn-Law League, on which Sir Joshua had counted, also fell away from him, as will be seen by the following letter from Mr. Cobden, dated 20th October, 1850 :

” There is one point on which I wish you to be correctly informed : whatever may be done by Wilson, Bright, myself, and other prominent leaders of the League, in support of your four points, we must be reckoned only for what we are worth. We cannot bring the League force with us. I have been looking over my old League correspondence since I have been here. Sackfuls of letters have passed through my hands, and they have convinced me that the same men who did the work of the League cannot be depended on for any other agitation. It is thirteen years since we began the Anti-Corn-Law movement.

Many of the principal workers are grown old, and not a few are dead ; a very few of those who are still alive are in the mood for beginning such another labour. For myself, I have never disguised from the public that I could not do again, in any other cause, what I did in the League agitation. In the House, and in those localities where I can legitimately advocate the four points, you may reckon on my doing so. I have not the least idea that either the Whigs or Tories will give the ballot, or a fair redistribution of the electoral power ; and I quite agree with you that it would be well to have the Whigs in opposition again. But how is it to be done ? ”

Thus Sir Joshua was left with only a handful of followers, working in the same spirit as himself, putting aside every other end but that of parliamentary reform, considered solely for itself. In a note dated 1862, that refers to this period, Sir Joshua says :

” The Manchester school fell away from us after awhile. What motives or circumstances produced this lukewarm feeling I am unable now to determine. Although they voted with us in the House of Commons, they did little more. Cobden even seemed more anxious for financial reform and the ballot, than for an extension of the suffrage. Had the party acted together, with the energy and zeal that the members of the National Reform Association have evinced, we should not now be still looking for an extension of the suffrage. ”

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XIII. – The 1841 Liverpool election

CHAPTER XIII.  There is a bit more explanation of the 1841 election here, and there are quite a few recent posts about the Irish elections that year. This is Hugh and Josh’s take on the election, with almost nothing mentioned about family. Josh and Adeline had become grandparents the year before, with the birth of Charles and Elizabeth Binns daughter who was named Adeline after her grandmother. Richard Sheil was the first Catholic alderman elected to Liverpool council; Richard Cobden – the Anti-Corn Law campaigner became the M.P. for Stockport that year, and seven years later he and Josh were next door neighbours in the rather grand Westbourne Terrace, in London. Then there is Josh’s mention of the advowson of St Luke’s in Liverpool which he ” had presented to a good and pious man “. An advowson was the right to appoint a vicar, and Josh may well have presented it to a good and pious man, but within three years he had given it to his nephew William Mulleneux.

 

Wavertree Hall, 1829

Returning to his duties in the council, Sir Joshua now devoted himself to the Educational Committee. Shortly before his mayoralty, he had removed to Wavertree Hall, and there had drawn around him men whose names were well known in Liverpool. Locke, Dr. Shepherd, Cobden, the two Stephensons, Brassey, William Rathbone, and Colonel Williams were to be met here. This latter gentleman had been member for Ashton-under-Lyne, and was now justice of the peace. His upright, uncompromising principles were well known. Sir Joshua tells how, upon one occasion, he, as county magistrate, received an application for a summons from a servant, whose master had struck him. The master was an intimate friend of the colonel. On receiving the summons he treated the affair as a joke, failed to come, and a warrant was issued against him, ordering him to appear the following morning at six. It was seven when he came, and found the colonel working in his fields. Advancing, he held out his hand, laughing. ” Stand back, sir, this is our court,’‘ exclaimed the magistrate. ” Take off your hat.” The case was gone into, the defendant admitted the assault, paid the fine, and remained to breakfast with his judge.

Mr. Cobden, accompanied by some members of the League, visited Liverpool early in May, and a monster meeting assembled in the Amphitheatre to greet him.

Sir Joshua presided, and often said : ” It was I introduced Cobden to Liverpool “ The Corn-Law agitation had at this time entered on a new phase. The Whig ministry, beaten on the Jamaica, the Appropriation Clause, and other measures, still clung to office. When a deficit of two million pounds in the budget had to be announced, Lord John Russell made a bold effort to retrieve his popularity by bringing forward the following motion : ” That in a month hence, the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider the Acts relating to the trade in corn.”

With some show of reason, the Tories denounced this as a party move, intended by the Whigs as a means of keeping their hold of office. The Free-Traders, although convinced that the requisite change in the corn and import duties could only be effected by a strong and honest ministry, yet eagerly grasped at Lord John’s announcement, changing, as it did, the whole aspect of the repeal question. From being a theory advocated on platforms the Corn-Law agitation now advanced to the stage of a distinct official policy.

Ministerialists and Free-Traders united to convene meetings all over the country. ” In Liverpool,” says Sir Joshua, ” great excitement was caused by Mr. Cobden’s visit. The feelings of monopolists and anti-monopolists were strained to the utmost pitch. Upwards of thirteen thousand families in the town were dependent upon parish relief. Whatever, therefore, could affect the price of bread was of vital import. Notwithstanding the intensity of feeling aroused, the great Anti-Corn-Law meeting passed off quietly enough. Cobden’s eloquence, his earnest concentrated manner, produced a marked impression on his audience, amongst which were many antagonistic to his cause. ”

The 4th of June was the day fixed by Lord John Russell for bringing the corn question before Parliament, but before that day the Government added another to its long list of defeats. It was beaten on the Bill for the Reduction of Sugar Duties, As under this new check the Whigs still showed no indication of resigning office, Sir Robert Peel moved a vote of want of confidence in the ministry ; which vote being carried by a majority of one, the ministers dissolved Parliament and appealed to the country.

All over England, canvassing now began in right earnest. ” In Liverpool,” says Sir Joshua Walmsley, ” the first step of the Whig notabilities was to endeavour to bring me to a sense of my extraordinary presumption in presenting myself as candidate for the representation of the town. An eminently respectable group assembled in a house of business in Poole Lane, and there waited for me. Doubtless many of these gentlemen remembered my knocking at their office door, twenty-eight years ago. a friendless lad, seeking for employment. When I entered, portentous looks greeted me on all sides. No effort was left untried to shake my determination to contest Liverpool, and any amour propre I may have had was sorely punished ; yet these were the men that ought to have been my supporters. At last the storm broke fairly upon my head. Who was I, to dare to aspire to the position of representative of a town like Liverpool, when so many of higher standing had never dreamt of such a thing ? On what possible grounds could I base such pretensions ? Putting my hand into my pocket I drew out a paper. It was a requisition, presented to me that morning, bearing upwards of three thousand six hundred signatures — the most numerously- signed requisition that had ever emanated from the electors of Liverpool.”

” ‘ On this, gentlemen,’ I said, facing them, for my blood was up, ‘ On this requisition, signed by three thousand six hundred of my fellow-townsmen, I take my stand. And let me tell you, gentlemen, there is not a man here who will not forfeit his reputation for consistency if he does not vote for me. Nay, I go a step farther, and tell you there is not a man here who will not vote for me.’ ”

Thus ended the discussion. The next day in the Liberal papers, and on the walls of the town, appeared Sir Joshua’s address. It was a summary of the political views he had steadily advocated in public and private life. It declared for free trade, for national education, for “ enfranchisement steadily keeping pace with increasing intelligence,” and for the independence of the voter. ” The Legislature,” Sir Joshua said, ” that on the one hand fosters the desire for civil rights, and on the other affords protection to their conscientious exercise, adopts the only policy that can give stability to the Government and satisfaction to the people.”

“During six weeks,” says Sir Joshua, ” attended by Alderman Shiel, I visited personally from house to house, I attended public meetings nightly. That there should be a necessity for such canvassing I regretted, and the use and value of the ballot system urged itself strongly on my mind during this experience. I earnestly charged my supporters, although I should win thereby ten thousand votes, not to coerce anyone or use any undue influence in my favour. I could not but feel flattered at the reception I met with, during my canvass, from my fellow- townsmen of all shades of opinion. It proved to me that in my private capacity I had gained their respect and esteem ; but as a public man I had to encounter the opposition of the Tories, making common cause with the Abolitionists, the sugar-growers, the ship- owners, and agriculturists. The rallying cry of the Tory party, the ‘Church in Danger,’ was the more effectually used from the fact that the Dissenters had lately called for the separation of Church and State. “

” The pulpit lent its powerful aid against me; and in Liverpool, I, who had helped to throw open the Corporation schools to children of every sect and denomination, was emphatically and publicly denounced as an enemy of religion. On the other hand, I had the hearty co-operation of the advocates of free trade, the enthusiastic support of the members of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association.”

These were the active agencies for and against Sir Joshua Walmsley. A passive antagonistic element also remained to be overcome; one that had an influence on the cause of Liberalism all over England. The people had lost confidence in the Whig administration, but, not yet able to grasp the idea of free trade, identified the programme of the rising party with the antiquated Whig ministerial policy. A certain exhaustion likewise was perceptible throughout the country — a languor following the agitation that accompanied the passing of the Reform Bill.

Sir Joshua described himself as belonging to no party. He was simply an ” Anti-Monopolist ; “ in all sincerity he could thus describe himself, for with him, as with all genuine reformers, every political dogma he held was sanctified by a constant reference to the needs of the people. The repeal of the Corn Laws, the removal of all restrictions on commerce, was not a party question, but an aim some men had set themselves to attain for the better welfare of the whole nation.

Sir Joshua’s speeches during this period simply and broadly assert that his sole object in seeking to enter Parliament is to labour for the abolition of the Corn Laws and all monopolies, “ as unjust, and sanctioned by no law, moral or economic, and utterly adverse to the selfish ends of their promoters.”

The members of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association gathered loyally around him. The mass of non- electors, unconnected with the shipping interest, were in his favour. The Whigs no longer opposed him, but they preserved a sullen and passive attitude.

Lord Palmerston, in answer to a requisition to stand for Liverpool, had accepted to do so, on condition that the other Liberal candidate be returned with him.

When this answer was made known, the Tories bestirred themselves to ensure the return of Mr. Cresswell with that of Lord Sandon, whose seat was considered secure. Tuesday, the 28th June, was the nomination-day.

For days previous, preparations had been going on, especially directed to prevent the too close contact opposite the hustings of the friends of the contending parties, for the coming contest, it was anticipated, would be the keenest the old town had known for years. The Tory procession, preceded by a body of forty mounted policemen, was the first to march past. ” No Manchester dictation “ was the favourite device on its banners. Then came the procession of the friends of free trade, gay also with banners embroidered with mottoes : ” Walmsley, Free Trade, and National Education;” ” Walmsley, friend of the people.” Lord Palmerston was not present, but he was represented by Mr. Brocklebank.

Sir Joshua Walmsley was proposed by Colonel Williams. His speech was brief and to the purpose.

” Sir Joshua’s life,” he said, ” had been spent before his fellow-townsmen. He had served them through every grade of municipal offices. His political creed might be summed up in a few words. He believed ‘the object of all just and wise legislation should be the equal distribution of civil rights and privileges.’ He did not advocate sudden changes in the constitution, but he would support every measure, matured by enlightened men, and by them adapted to the altered circumstances of the time, and the increased intelligence of the people. “ To the badgering cries of ” Church ! Church !” he answered that at the sale of the advowson by the corporation, he had bought that of St. Luke, and although he was accused of injuring the Church, he had not sold that living, but had presented it to a good and pious man.

The next was the decisive day. Very early on that summer morning, groups began to form in the streets ; children, plucked by the clergy out of the tainted atmosphere of the Corporation schools, ran about carrying tiny scarlet flags, bearing the inscription : ” The Queen, the Church, and Scriptural Education.” Women, too, clustered together and discussed the issue of the coming struggle. They understood little of the import of the words Whig and Tory, but they knew but too well what hard times meant, and the sight of hungry children before empty cupboards.

” May the Lord send us those who will give us the big loaf, “ was the prayer that summed up their politics.

At eight o’clock the poll opened ; voting was backward ; a perceptible hesitation held back both parties. By noon came the news from London that three Conservatives had been returned for the city. The Tories hoisted a placard proclaiming the tidings.

As the day went on, and victory kept on the Conservative side, the town grew excited. To the cry of “Walmsley, friend of the people,” the Orangemen shouted, ” No Popery.” The shipbuilders began a riot to silence the cry : ” Walmsley and Free Trade.” Before the final state of the poll was declared, Liverpool was in an uproar, and Mr. Whitty and his police were striving vigorously but vainly to restore quiet. The Liberals were beaten ; the Tories had won the day.

Lord Sandon had polled 5,979 votes;

Mr. Cresswell, 5,792 ;

Sir Joshua Walmsley, 4,647,

and Viscount Palmerston, 4,431.

Mr. Whitty ‘s words fully described the effect produced by Sir Joshua’s defeat. ” The town that night was in a state of intense agitation. So soon as it became known that Sir Joshua was defeated, the lower classes broke loose, and the new police force became powerless to preserve order. They were forced to retire, and the mob remained in possession of the streets. Little damage was done, but the yells and shouts against the winners, the burning in effigy of the successful candidates, went on during the night. I never passed a more anxious time, and thought it would never come to an end.”

On the examination of the poll, it was found that several who had signed the requisition to Sir Joshua voted against him; but the influential Whigs, who had taunted him with presumption, had voted for him. There, however, they stopped. The powerful interest of the party had not been used in his favour.

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XII.

CHAPTER XII. 

When Mr. Walmsley returned from his mission to London [in early 1839], as representative of Liverpool in the little Parliament assembled at Brown’s Hotel, the experience it had given him of political life, its richer tone, its larger scope, its all-embracing interest, wrought its full effect upon him. Wider horizons opened before him than those which bound the sphere of local politics ; and before he was elected mayor of Liverpool he had already resolved he would one day enter Parliament. He was not without compeers who cavilled at the ambition of this self-made man.

Mr. Walmsley often related with gusto the effect produced upon one of the local magnates on hearing of his new resolve to enter Parliament :

“ Returning from my mission to London, as member of the Anti-Corn-Law Delegation,” said Mr. Walmsley, ” I received a message from this gentleman, asking me to call on him, explaining that he himself was confined to the house by illness. I found my host suffering, but, as was his wont, he came directly to the point. He disapproved of my ambition to occupy the civic chair — deemed it presumptuous. There was no ‘ suaviter in modo ‘ [pleasantly in manner] in the words with which he taxed me with undue pretensions, I bore with perfect equanimity the shower of sarcasms. The closing words of the conversation I well remember :  ‘ You persist, then, in your wish to fill the office of mayor ? ‘ said my interlocutor. ‘ I do,’ I replied. ‘ But what then ? ‘ said my host. ‘ As a step to the representation,’ I said, boldly looking him in the face.

The alderman bounded in his chair, and striking the table with his fist, ejaculated ‘Never ! ‘ ‘What is more,’ I replied, ‘ you will vote for me when the time comes. At present I have only determined to be mayor.’ ‘ Then I suppose you must be,’ said my host. And at the next election I was made chief magistrate.”

On accepting the office, Mr. Walmsley, in his address to the council, said : ” It is well known to all of you that I have decided political opinions, and that I have always maintained these with firmness and zeal. I trust, however, I shall be able to show that I feel it to be the duty of the mayor of Liverpool to steer his course without party bias.” A few days after, he wrote to the Tradesmen’s Reform Association, resigning, not only the presidency, but the rights and privileges of membership of its body.

” It was my object,” he says, ” to unite in social gatherings the various classes and the holders of different opinions. To carry this out, I abandoned the old practice of restricting the hospitality of the town- hall to only a select few of the leading merchants, and increased the number of dinners,gave evening parties to the ladies, asked merchants and tradesmen alike, and secured that the clergy of every denomination should be mixed.”

In this genial atmosphere, men who had not spoken to one another for years became friends again; political opponents discussed each other’s views temperately; and thus a kinder feeling between the different classes of the town dated from Mr. Walmsley’s installation in office.

Liverpool Town Hall

On the occasion of the Queen’s marriage [10 February 1840] he gave, at his own expense, a ball to one thousand two hundred persons. The ample entertainment, and the cordial welcome the chief magistrate extended alike to Radicals, Whigs, and Tories, elicited praise even from his adversaries. The most Ultra-Conservative organ testified approbation at the manner in which this thoroughgoing Radical performed his duties as mayor.

We cannot resist giving one or two of the anecdotes, scattered so brightly through the pages of notes devoted to this period. ” There lived,” writes Mr. Walmsley, ” in Liverpool a merchant, a corn-broker, a good honest-hearted fellow. He was the plainest man I ever saw — tall, ungainly, with an inveterate squint, a pair of long arms, and legs that were a match for those arms. Having a great sense of fun, he made others enjoy his ugliness ; by-the- way, he laughed at it. It happened that during my mayoralty a fancy ball was given, under the patronage of the neighbouring nobility, at the town-hall, to further the ends of charity and amusement. The ball was crowded with plebeians, and the patricians kept themselves aloof in a small room adjoining the great ball-room. The crowd did not dare cross the threshold of those sacred precincts. There were the Blundells of Crosby, the Grosvenors, the Seftons, the Derby family, and the Duchess of St. Albans.”

” This lady was of excessive embonpoint. She formed the centre of the patrician group; her brightness and gaiety, her evident enjoyment of the scene around, animated somewhat the frigid stateliness of the aristocratic party. She wore an old-fashioned costume, her skirt distended by a hoop of vast circumference, and it is no exaggeration to say that her grace’s figure did look enormous. In the course of the evening came our merchant, admirably got up as ‘Dominie Sampson.’ Nature seemed to have intended him for the part, and the manner in which he acted it excited much laughter and amusement. Presently, catching sight of the group round the Duchess of St. Albans, he strode up to it, crossed the barrier, and gazed with distended eyes at the duchess. Walking awkwardly round her, he flung his long arms aloft. ‘ Pro-di-gi-ous ! pro-di-gi-us ! ‘’  he exclaimed, shuffling away, amidst the silence of the astounded patricians. But the duchess loved a joke, and soon the mirth excited by the incident spread; the tale passed from mouth to mouth; her grace sent for ‘Dominie Sampson,’ and the ball turned out the merriest of the season.”

Dining Room, Liverpool Town Hall

That year, the Eisteddfod festival was held in Liverpool ” I decided,” says Mr. Walmsley, ” to give a grand entertainment to the descendants of the Cymric bards. I consulted Archdeacon Williams, a name well known to all students of the Welsh tongue, as to the style of entertainment likely to be most agreeable to the minstrels. The archdeacon suggested that at dinner the toasts should be given out in Welsh. A slight difficulty existed — I did not know one word of the language. It was a difficulty that might be conquered, however, and I resolved to surmount it. I wrote out the lists of toasts and the speeches I purposed delivering, and the archdeacon translated them into Welsh. For three weeks, I devoted every minute I could spare to mastering these, assisted by the archdeacon.”

” The promised evening came, the table was laid out in baronial style. Harpers and minstrels were gathered together from North and South Wales in the banqueting-hall. With a flourish of trumpets, and borne by men in the beefeater’s dress, a baron of beef was carried in. The minstrels played their national airs, and around sat the representatives of the old families of the Cymri. A pause of surprise followed the first toast, given in Welsh ; but a moment after burst out a shout of enthusiasm. The compliment paid to the Principality was appreciated, and I felt my three weeks’ study had not been labour in vain. Some time after, when to me the entertainment was but a pleasant memory in the past, I was agreeably surprised on being presented, at a dinner given by the Cymreigydden Society, with a beautiful silver- mounted Hirlas horn, and a congratulatory ode in Welsh.”

Sir Joshua Walmsley (1794-1871), Mayor of Liverpool by Thomas Henry Illidge ; Walker Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks

 

Another proof of the high estimation and respect he was held in was given to Mrs. Walmsley in the shape of the public presentation to her of his full-length portrait, painted by Illidge.Thomas Henry Illidge (1799–1851)]. This gift was especially gratifying from the fact that the subscribers to the testimonial were chiefly persons holding opposite political views to his own. [ Rather pleasingly the portrait is now in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool]

Lord Brougham had caused Mr. Walmsley’s name to be inserted in the Commission of the Peace for the county of Lancaster and on the occasion of the Queen’s marriage, accompanied by Mr. Alderman Sheil and Mr. Councillor Bushell, he went up to London and presented the address of congratulation from the town of Liverpool. Soon after, Lord Normanby communicated to Mr. Walmsley that it was the Queen’s pleasure to confer knighthood upon him, an honour which he accepted.

At this time, it was anticipated that ere long a vacancy would occur in the representation of Liverpool. The death of the Earl of Harrowby was expected, and in this eventuality his son Lord Sandon, would be raised to the Upper House. At Liberal meetings, Sir Joshua Walmsley’s name was now frequently forward as the man best suited to represent the borough in Parliament, there to assist in the work of ameliorating the condition of the people, extending the blessings of national education, promoting free trade, and helping to break Corn-Law monopoly. The Liberals all the more openly affirmed this, seeing that the influential Whigs opposed him on the plea that his experience of public life did not justify it. The Tories, as was natural, determined to contest his election tooth and nail. The battle of conflicting opinions upon the mayor’s fitness to represent the borough was fought in the columns of the different newspapers and at public meetings.

Soon the Whigs complained that the Liberal papers refused to publish a line that might discredit Sir Joshua Walmsley’s claims. A requisition was presented to him, signed by more than half the electors of the borough, asking him to come forward as their representative at the next election. This next election was to be brought about by events nearer at hand than the death of the Earl of Harrowby.

On the 31st of October, Sir Joshua’s year of office came to a close. A vote of cordial thanks to the mayor was moved and passed by the council, acknowledging the ability, kindness, and great impartiality which he uniformly maintained in presiding over the council during the last year.

The newspapers unanimously echoed the praise the town council had bestowed upon their chief magistrate. Even the Tory papers had a good word to say. ” We cannot take a better opportunity,” says The Mail, November 10th, ” than the present of bearing our testimony, that Sir Joshua Walmsley has conducted himself during his whole mayoralty with a fairness and impartiality which reflect upon him the highest credit. He was the first reformed mayor who drew around him at his civic entertainments men of all shades of opinions. His urbanity, his well-selected parties, his desire to render his guests happy, without one taint of party feeling or invidious bias, redound to his honour, deserve to be held in remembrance, and will not soon be forgotten.”

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XI.

CHAPTER XI. This chapter covers events in London in February 1839. The meetings at Westminster must have been rather odd. The old Palace of Westminster had been burned down five years earlier, and work on the new Houses of Parliament had yet to start. So large parts of the buildings pictured here were either in ruins, being demolished, or temporarily repaired awaiting the new Palace of Westminster.

Old Palace of Westminster

As ever with Hugh Walmsley, it is concerned with Josh’s political life, with no mention of family. 1839 was the year that Josh’s eldest daughter [Hugh’s older sister] got married in St Luke’s church in Liverpool; a church he had bought the advowson to [right to appoint the vicar] . It was also the year he became Mayor of Liverpool. 

 

The Anti-Corn-Law League owed its origin to seven men taking a vow in October, 1838, to deliver England from the thraldom of monopoly. A succession of good harvests had of late years brought down the price of wheat, and the people lived unmindful of laws whose operation did not press upon them in time of plenty. The sky now was darkening.

The harvest of 1837 had proved bad; the winter of 1838-39 was a singularly hard one. “That year,” says Sir Joshua, ” the condition of the poor in Liverpool was so pitiable that it was made a subject of discussion at the council board. Subscriptions were raised, soup-kitchens established, but famine carried off men, women, and children. The price of wheat in January had risen to eighty-one shillings and six- pence per quarter. It was time for a strong pressure to be brought to bear from without upon Parliament, to force it to take this state of things into consideration. Public meetings were convened all over the country.”

” In Liverpool, on the 18th of January, one was held at the Sessions House. On being called for, I addressed the assembly, endeavouring to show how fallacious was the landlords’ favourite and plausible argument, ‘ that the price of labour is dependent on the price of corn.’ There was plenty of evidence to show that for the previous ten years there had been no proportional rise between wages and the price of bread.”

“For years,” he goes on to say, ” I had seen clearly that the Corn Laws were vicious and ruinous. I knew the sliding scale must be abolished, and that with it would cease the continual fluctuations in the price of food, which made life so harassing to the millions, yet I thought it possible that in the present state of trade a small fixed duty upon corn might be necessary. However, on the 22nd January, at the public dinner given by the Manchester Association, at which Mr. Bolton and I assisted, as delegates from Liverpool, all hesitation vanished from my mind. As I listened to the arguments of the different speakers, I became convinced that total and immediate repeal was the one right and just claim to be advanced. From henceforth I joined my humble endeavours with those of the Anti-Corn-Law League, to procure such repeal, with the resolve to accept no compromise.”

On the 14th February, delegates of the different manufacturing towns through England met at Brown’s Hotel. With petitions signed by three millions of the Queen’s subjects, they asked to be heard at the bar of the House of Commons in order to tender their evidence on oath as to the suffering caused by the laws regulating the importation of corn. Mr. Walmsley and Mr. James Aiken represented Liverpool at this smaller Parliament of the nation. ” Only Palace Yard separated Brown’s Hotel from the House of Commons,” continues Sir Joshua, in his notes, ” and members sneeringly called the Assembly of Delegates ‘ the House over the way.’ John Benjamin Smith, of Manchester, was our president, and admirably he fulfilled his duty. Our first care was to resolve ourselves into a general committee, and to appoint two sub-committees, whose duties were to collect evidence, transact the correspondence, and manage the financial concerns of the delegation. Of these two sub-committees I was appointed member. When these primary transactions had been gone through, the delegates passed their first resolution, with a certain solemnity of proceeding. We formally resigned all claims of protection for home manufactures, thus casting from ourselves the imputation levelled at us by the landed interest, that we were zealous to remove the protection on our neighbours’ products, but that we were willing to keep it on our own. We declared we were working ‘ to establish the true and peaceful principles of free trade, that we were seeking to institute the unrestricted interchange of industry and capital between all nations.’ The mornings were spent by the delegates in waiting singly or in deputations upon Members of Parliament, or upon Cabinet ministers. Our evenings were generally employed in arranging the programme of the next day, or in receiving those who were unable or unwilling to meet us publicly. It not un-frequently happened that it was early morning ere we retired to rest.”

“ The general committee met daily at half-past two, in the large room in Brown’s Hotel. The meetings were public, and were attended by members of the House of Commons; Villiers, Hume, O’Connell, Wood, Brotherton, and several others, almost daily assisted and spoke. The sittings of The Anti-Corn- Law League attracted considerable attention. The large room in Brown’s Hotel was daily crowded with eager listeners. Enemies sought to sow division in our camp, declaring that the idea of unqualified repeal was an insanity, the advocacy of which could only be explained by the supposition that we, the delegates, were visionaries. Some said we were socialists, others that we were actuated by the sordid motives of manufacturers seeking to enrich ourselves by sacrificing the peasantry to our own ends. The prime minister called us ‘ madmen.’ “ I have heard many mad things in my life,”  Lord Melbourne said in the House of Lords “ but before God, the repeal of the Corn Laws is the maddest I ever heard of. “  Nor were these opponents our only antagonists. The Chartists opposed the League on the plea, that until the people were better represented it was time ill-spent to seek for the repeal of any law. The Whigs tried to win us over by proposing to make the Corn Laws a party question, promising to unite to abolish the sliding scale if the League would accept a small fixed duty instead of unqualified repeal. Under these combined influences, waverers began to appear in the camp. I sided with those who would accede to no half- measures, and would strive for nothing short of Mr. Villiers’ motion :

‘ That we should be allowed to give evidence at the bar of the House of Commons.’

” One evening, Lord Fitzwilliam, a Liberal member of the House of Lords, entered the room in Brown’s Hotel, where several of the delegates were assembled. Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, Mr. Sturge, Mr. Gregg, and I, besides some others, were present. With Lord Fitzwilliam came his son Lord Milton. A long and somewhat warm discussion ensued between the peers and the delegates. The object and plan of the League were naturally the subject of the discussion. The two lords admitted that the CornLaws, as they stood, were evil in their operation; but they argued that a small fixed duty was the only conceivable remedy for this evil.”

“Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright were our spokesmen. It interested me then, as it has often done since, to watch the vigour and earnestness with which Bright rushed into the debate, whilst Cobden listened attentively, cautiously abstaining from giving any opinion until he had heard all that could be said upon the subject, then gathering the various pros and cons, delivering his judgment with overwhelming clearness and conviction. Both held resolutely by our tenets, that total repeal was just, and that nothing short of it would they advocate ; that no other concession would satisfy the League. After a discussion that grew warmer as it went on, Lord Fitzwillam rising to go, exclaimed testily as he put on his hat:”

“ You might as well endeavour to overthrow the monarchy as to strive for total repeal “ William Rawson, one of the delegates for Manchester, replied, with flashing eyes : ” My lord, if the monarchy proves as injurious to the common interests of Great Britain, as the Corn Laws are recognised to be by all thinking men, the sooner it is overturned the better. “

“Not long after Lord Fitzwilliam became a convert to the League, and as ardent for total repeal as any of the men he had visited that February night.”

The Queen opened Parliament early in February, The royal speech made no allusion to the Corn Laws, but it was expected that both the mover and the seconder of the address would touch upon them in their speeches, Mr. Wood, member for Kendal, pledged to his constituents to advocate repeal; he was also president  of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, that had been the first to sanction the proceedings of the League;  Wood was appointed seconder of the address.

On the night Mr, Wood was to speak, the delegates assembled under the gallery. They looked eagerly forward to this speech as likely strongly to advance their cause throughout the country. To their consternation, the honourable gentleman soon involved himself in a web of contradictions. On the one hand, to redeem his pledge to his constituents, he stated that the Com Laws were most injurious to manufacturers and labourers ; on the other, he assured the ministers that the country was in a most prosperous state. Mr. Wood finished his speech amidst the laughter and applause of the whole landed interest in the House, for the picture of prosperity he had drawn struck at the very root of the argument for repeal.

Sir Robert Peel rose, and with courteous sarcasm thanked the honourable member for Kendal for the very able speech he had delivered in favour of the existing system. ” I was one of the deputation,” says Mr. Walmsley,   who a couple of days after waited upon Lord Melbourne to lay before him the true state of the country, so different to the picture Mr. Wood had painted, repeating our prayer to be allowed to tender evidence on oath to this effect at the bar of the House of Commons. Lord Melbourne listened attentively, but held out no hope that Mr. Villiers’ motion, embodying this request, should be attended to.”

No wonder that some of the members of the smaller Parliament assembled in Brown’s Hotel began to lose heart. A crowded meeting, at which many members of the House of Commons were present, assembled on the afternoon of the interview with Lord Melbourne. Some of the delegates expressed their discouragement. Mr. Walmsley was of those who refused to share this feeling. His speech, on this occasion was an exhaustive argument establishing the identity of interests of agriculturists and manufacturers.  The Morning Chronicle of the 9th February, noticing it, said: ” It must be the business of delegates to undeceive landowners with regard to the extent of the injury they suffer from the advantages given to foreign manufacturers by our Com Laws. The speech of Mr. Walmsley is exceedingly valuable on account of the information it affords with respect to the chimerical nature of the apprehensions from foreign importations of corn.”

Let us take one more anecdote from the notes before us belonging to this period, which we think will prove interesting.

“Mr. Sturge and I were the two delegates relied upon as authorities in matters relating to statistics. We were generally together, hunting in couples. Mr. Sturge had worked with Lord Brougham, in preparing the Anti-Slavery Bill for Parliament, and now, when he came as delegate to London, to agitate for the repeal of the Com Laws, he sought out his great fellow- worker. I accompanied him. We found Lord Brougham already convinced of the justice of our cause, and ready to advocate it in the House of Lords. On many details, however he required information, and he invited us to instruct him on these points.”

” Several mornings we met at an early breakfast,, and spent hours in discussion and examination of facts.  We passed in review the fluctuation of prices during a number of years, and under the different Com Laws ; the prices of wheat in the corn-growing countries of Europe ; tables of averages of profit and of loss ; the speculations on bonded wheat. Sturge and I got the information together, and Lord Brougham listened with concentrated attention, asking questions occasionally, but making no memoranda in writing of the facts related. No point that could throw light on the operation of the Corn Laws was left out in these morning conferences.  When all had been gone through, Lord Brougham declared himself master of the subject, and announced his intention of bringing forward the motion independently in the House of Lords. It was not this, exactly, that we had anticipated.”

Mr. Villiers had been chosen, by the ‘Smaller House, on the other side of Palace Yard,’ as the leader of the Corn-Law agitation, and his speech, it was considered, should take precedence of every other.

On the 18th February, Lord Brougham called upon ‘the High Senate of the nation to hear the prayer of the people at its bar.’ In a speech of unrivalled power he embodied the facts we had collected for him, and to which he had listened without taking a single note. He stated the various prices of corn in different countries of Europe ; he traced the many fluctuations in the price of wheat in England under the different Corn Laws; and he set out this dry information in all the pomp of imagery and the varied resources of rhetoric. The speech produced an immense sensation. It was so exhaustive that it somewhat lessened the effects of Mr. Villiers’ lucid and forcible statement, delivered in the Commons the following day.

“Some of the delegates felt aggrieved that Mr. Villiers should have been pre-stalled. Mr. John Bright, especially, expressed himself somewhat warmly on the subject. When, on the next morning, Mr. Sturge and I called upon Lord Brougham, to thank him for the great service he had rendered to our cause, he received us somewhat coldly. He was aware of the strictures passed upon him by Mr. Bright and others. ‘Do those men,’ he said, ‘ think they understand how to deal with the House of Lords better than I do ? Have you so many friends that you can afford to lose one ? “

On the day of separating, the delegates passed a vote of thanks to Lord Brougham and to Mr. Villiers. Two dissentient votes were still found recorded against the motion, regarding Lord Brougham. In acknowledging this vote of thanks. Lord Brougham reverted with some asperity to the two who had differed from him in the course he had pursued. To this origin I have always ascribed the marked coldness with which Lord Brougham treated Mr. Bright through the course of his noble political career.”

On the 20th February, the little Parliament met for the last time in Brown’s Hotel. Both the Houses of Lords and Commons had refused to hear the evidence of the delegates on the plea ” of want of time.” The members therefore separated ; one course lay clear before them — they must rouse public opinion.

To enlighten and convince it was now the aim and end of the labours of the most patriotic and practically- wise set of men that ever joined together for a public purpose. The work of the League now began. We know the result, and the name of Richard Cobden is inscribed in the heart of the nation too deeply not to impart a certain reflex interest on those men who were his fellow- workers. The friendship between him and Mr. Walmsley grew and strengthened from the day they first met in the large room in Brown’s Hotel, members of that smaller but more faithful Parliament.

” We were in almost daily communication for years,” he says, “and our friendship was never broken or suffered alteration. It was on that occasion also I met Joseph Hume.”

Before closing this chapter, we must notice an address issued to the Chartists by Mr. Walmsley, in his character of president of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association, which appeared in The Morning Chronicle September, 1838, and to which he alludes as ” having attracted some attention at the time.”

At the very outset of the work forced upon the League, of rousing and instructing public opinion, a class of antagonists amongst the wretched proved one of the greatest obstacles it had to encounter.

Chartism permeated the underlying strata of society, and welded them together. The physical-force Chartists treated as enemies all who sought to reform abuses or amend the laws by any other means than the Charter. This cry for the abolition of the Corn Laws they judged a stratagem to divert popular attention from their just demand formulated in the ” Five Points.”

With much that the Chartists demanded, Mr. Walmsley, in common with some of the noblest and purest minds in England, heartily sympathised ; and, because he sympathised, he deplored the means they adopted to obtain their end. In this spirit he issued an address. The press took it up ; it was copied and commented upon by most of the leading London and provincial papers of the day ; it was printed separately, copies circulated through the country by thousands ; and many wrote to the president of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association, thanking him for having so clearly and justly expressed the views of those who, sympathising with the Chartists, yet were compelled by the course of conduct they were pursuing to keep aloof from them.

In the November of that year [1839], Mr. Walmsley was elected mayor of Liverpool. The Tories at the council board made a faint protest against his election to the civic chair ; but no other candidate was even proposed to compete the honour with one who was felt by all to have established his title to it.

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter X.

CHAPTER X.  This chapter covers 1838 to 1838 and Josh’s re-election to the council as a Liberal, or Reformer. The terms Liberal/Reformer/Whig and Radical were all used to describe the rough alliance, though the Liberal party in its modernly accepted form wasn’t officially used until the 1860’s. Josh probably regarded himself as a Reformer, and the Tradesmen’s Reform Association was without doubt an attempt to build a power-base outside the Whig [aka. Aristocratic, and landed gentry] interest. He seems to be very much in the tradition of proud northern businessmen who thought ” extending the franchise so sensible male voters would prevent profligate governments spending too much.”

At this period the scheme for the foundation of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association was conceived by Mr. Walmsley, and thirty of the leading reformers of the town entering into his views, the new society drew up its declaration of principles. [1836] Its public career was inaugurated by a banquet given to the Liberal member, Mr. Ewart. Great enthusiasm prevailed, the guests exceeding by many hundreds any similar demonstration. The Association soon became recognised as an important political body, and its numbers increased until there were two thousand five hundred names on its muster-roll. Its committee, formed of three representatives from each of the sixteen wards of the town, met weekly, while some of the leading reformers of Liverpool became its sub-presidents.

As president, it was Mr. Walmsley’s custom to address the monthly meetings, in a speech wherein he handled the leading political questions of the day — the Ballot Bill, laid by Mr. Grote before Parliament, the Irish Municipal Bill, and especially the Repeal of the Corn Laws. This address was followed by public discussion. The Tradesmen’s Reform Association was destined to fail, however, in the first object for which it was formed, namely, to secure a Liberal representation for Liverpool. In June, 1838, [Hugh’s wrong it was 1837] William IV. died, and the country was plunged into the turmoil of a general election.

On the result of the forthcoming contest throughout the kingdom, Mr. Walmsley considered the fate of the Corn Laws depended. Empowered by the General and Tradesmen’s Reform Associations to select a second Liberal candidate to stand with Mr. Ewart for Liverpool, he singled out Mr. Elphinstone, an uncompromising advocate of free trade. A requisition with four or five thousand signatures appended was forwarded to Mr. Elphinstone. No candidate had ever been solicited by so many voices to stand for the borough. The public meetings at the Amphitheatre, addressed by Mr. Walmsley, were crowded. All the indications tended to confirm his anticipations that Liverpool would certainly send to Parliament two reformers ready to fight for the abolition of all monopolies.

The Tories, however, were equally zealous in their efforts to secure the representation of the town. They continued to play their part of Defenders of the Faith, generally winding up their public meetings with three cheers for the Bible ; while, on the other hand, a vague notion dominated the uneducated mind that popery or infidelity was a latent element in that heavily- laden word Liberalism. In the taverns, the country people, as they smoked their pipes and drank their beer, declared that the Liberals were enemies to the Word of God !

On the 24th July, the election took place. Conspicuous in this pageantry of ribbons and flags were the blue colours of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association. The Tories’ procession was headed by a wooden Bible, carried aloft in full view of the crowd. The Liberals adopted for their device a loaf, bounteous in size, as one manufactured in the land of Brobdingnag, and a Lilliputian loaf contrasting with it. The big loaf was dubbed the “Ewart and Elphinstone loaf,” the small loaf the “Sandon loaf.” Beer flowed freely, and in due course the streets of Liverpool became the scene of rioting and violence. Mr. Whitty brought out his men, who valiantly strove to restore order, he directing the movement of his troops like a general on a battlefield. The final state of the poll showed the defeat of the Liberal candidates, and the victory of Lord Sandon and Mr. Cresswell.

”The failure of the Liberals greatly discouraged me,” says Sir Joshua, ” but it also made me reserve to work all the more strenuously to disseminate education amongst my fellow-citizens.” ” We must, more than the Tories,” he said at the first meeting of the Association after the Parliamentary defeat, “work for the diffusion of knowledge; and by establishing reading-rooms on a scale commensurate with that of the Association, offer to the humblest member that which, while tending to strengthen conviction of the justice of our principles, will make him a wiser citizen and a better man.”

This plan of forming libraries, and of inviting down eminent lecturers, was carried out.

Notwithstanding its failure to return a Liberal representative for Liverpool, the Tradesmen’s Reform Association did not lose influence in the town. Its president had many friends and many enemies. We find his name loudly called for at all Liberal public meetings, and his words attentively followed. We also find him abused in the columns of the Tory papers. Under his leadership the Tradesmen’s Reform Association became a recognised central power, to which the inhabitants looked for the removal of any local oppression.

We must not overlook, the public duties Mr. Walmsley during this time performed as councillor. He continued to be chairman of the Watch Committee, he was appointed member of the Dock Trust and Pilot Committee, the Finance and Improvement Committees. He became president of the Educational Committee. Of his energy and fitness we have the following testimony from one who worked with him : “Mr. Walmsley’s prompt business-like determination never came out to better purpose, making him the leading member of whatever committee he attended. He neglected no detail, and no inquiry was too trifling or too irksome for him to enter into.”

The following anecdote, given to us by Mr. Tindal Atkinson, secretary to the Association, illustrates the integrity of spirit which ever actuated Mr. Walmsley :

“ The general monthly meeting of the Association was at hand; as secretary I received due notice to prepare the minutes and accounts to be laid before the members. Weighted with much occupation, the time slipped by unnoticed, and the appointed day came round before I had drawn up the required paper. I knew, however, I could rely upon my memory, and on the night in question I fearlessly occupied my place on the platform, by the president’s side. When my turn came to speak I rose, took a blank sheet of paper, and proceeding apparently to read from it, gave a detailed and very exact report of the doings and the expenditure of the Association, On resuming my seat, Mr. Walmsley, very quietly, in a low voice, said : ‘ Very clever, Atkinson, very clever indeed; but do not repeat it, or “never more be officer of mine.” ‘ I never forgot the impression those few words made upon me.”

In November, 1838, Mr. Walmsley’s turn for retiring from the council board came round. An address, signed by the majority of the burgesses, urgently requested him to allow himself to be renominated. The address thanked him for the services he had rendered in the establishment and reorganisation of the police, and the indefatigable manner in which he had discharged the various and important duties of the different committees in the council. Mr. Walmsley, accepting to stand, was re-elected to the Castle Street ward without opposition ; no Tory candidate ventured to put up for a ward so thoroughly devoted to one of the leading reformers of the town. ” Who is to occupy the civic chair for the ensuing year ? “ asks The Liverpool Mercury of the 9th November. “ We know not. If it goes by desert, if it is to be determined by real and substantial services rendered to the cause of reform, there is one man whose zeal, energy, and ability entitle him to such a compliment from the hands of his fellow-townsmen ; and, whatever may be thought of the matter in the council, we are quite sure that the great body of reformers out of doors will be very much disappointed if his claims are again passed over. To him the town is mainly indebted for the establishment of the new police, the formation and the organisation of the ‘ Tradesmen’s Reform Association.’ We need hardly say that we allude to Mr. Joshua Walmsley, or add that it is he whom a majority of reformers wish to see mayor of Liverpool.”

Owing to a combination of circumstances, unnecessary to enter into here, Mr. Walmsley was not on that occasion elected mayor.

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter IX.

CHAPTER IX.  This takes us from December 1836 to the middle of 1837. The major concern is religion and education. It’s a fairly toxic mix, combined with Catholic emancipation [the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829] and a huge increase of the Irish into Liverpool. Suffice to say, the Tories are less than welcoming……

On the eve of the termination of the reform council’s first year in office [December 1836], when, according to a clause of the Municipal Reform Bill, sixteen of its members were to go out. [Because it was a new council, with a third of the members up for re-election each year; the councillors who got the fewest votes in each ward in 1835 only served one year, the runners-up served two years, and those polling highest served for all three years of the first reformed council.]  Mr. Walmsley read a paper, entitled, “What has the new council done ?”  In it he passed in review the abuses that had been found prevalent, and the Acts that had been framed. Notwithstanding the difficulties with which it had to contend, the Council had effected a saving to the borough fund of ten thousand pounds per annum. In this paper he also expounded the system by which the Educational Committee had opened the Corporation schools to all sects and denominations.

William Rathbone V. (1787-1868) by William Smith, Walker Art Gallery; Liverpool.

Let us glance at this act of the council, one that raised a storm in Liverpool, the like of which had not been known. Mr. William Rathbone [- V. 1787 – 1868. His father William Rathbone IV [1757-1809], and grandfather William Rathbone III [1726-1789]  had been founding members of the Liverpool Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade] and Mr. [Thomas] Blackburn took the lead in the movement. Mr. Walmsley devoted to it what time he could spare from the arduous task of reforming the police.

The feeling that impelled the Educational Committee to advocate the adoption in the Corporation schools of the Irish system of education, was awakened by the spectacle of the multitude of children in Liverpool debarred from every chance of instruction. The report drawn up by the committee showed that besides numerous Dissenters, there were sixty thousand poor Irish Catholics in the town. The old corporation had quietly ignored this alien population, but threw open the doors of the Corporation schools to children of all sects, provided they attended the services of the Established Church, used the authorised edition of the Bible, and the Church Catechism. This virtually closed these schools against the Irish. The new council maintained that the State had the same responsibility as regards these children as it had towards others ; and the Educational Committee drew out a plan from that of the Honourable Mr. Stanley, Secretary for Ireland in 1831, Dr. Whately, and others, for the education of the Irish poor. Early in July, the committee laid its scheme before the council. The schools were to open at 9 A.M, with the singing of a hymn. The books of the Irish Commission were to be used. Clergymen of every denomination were invited to attend at the hour set apart for the religious instruction of the children of the various sects. The town council unanimously adopted the plan and made it public.

The storm now burst over Liverpool, and crowded meetings were held at the Amphitheatre and elsewhere, to protest against the Act, and to promote the erection and endowment of other schools, where the un-mutilated Bible would form a compulsory part of every child’s education. In vain the council invited its accusers to come and see for themselves, the un- mutilated Bible forming part of the daily education. The cry continued to be raised by the clergy, and to be loudly echoed by their agitated flocks.

” Dissenting and Roman Catholic clergymen came,” said Mr. Walmsley, ” eagerly, to teach the children of their respective flocks during the hour appointed for religious instruction ; but with the exception of the Rev. James Aspinall, the English clergy stood obstinately aloof. Soon, in addition to the meetings, the walls were placarded with great posters, signed by clergymen. These exhorted parents not to send their children to the Corporation schools, promising them the speedy opening of others, where the un-mutilated Word of God should be taught Some of the lower classes maltreated children on their way to the schools, pelted and hooted members of the committee as they passed. The characters of Mr. Blackburn, Mr. Rathbone, and my own were daily assailed in pulpits and social gatherings. Still we persevered, answering at public meetings the charges brought against us, and inviting our detractors to come and visit the schools. So particular was the Educational Committee that each child should be taught according to the creed of its parents, that every sect seemed represented. I remember one child, on being asked the invariable question on entering the schools, to what persuasion her parents belonged, answered, to the ‘ New Church.’ We were puzzled to know what the ‘ New Church ‘ was ; it proved to be Swedenborgian. She was the single lamb belonging to this fold, yet a teacher of her creed was found ready to undertake her education.”

To illustrate to what degree fanaticism blunts the moral sense of those who blindly surrender themselves to its influence, we quote the following fact :

” One day, when the hour of religious instruction had come, a clergyman of preponderating influence entered the schoolroom of the North School. The large room was divided into two compartments by a curtain drawn across it ; on one side were the Roman Catholics, on the other were the Protestants. The latter, divided into several groups, were gathered round different teachers. My wife, who seconded with all her heart this scheme of liberal education, was a daily visitor in the North School. She taught a class there — the Church Catechism and lessons from the authorised version of the Scriptures. The clergyman made the circuit of the room, passing near each group.”

” He at last approached my wife’s class and lingered near it. The lesson was taken from the Scriptures. It was no class-book of Biblical extracts she was using, but the Bible as it is used in the Protestant Church. The reverend visitor listened to the questions put and answers given, and to the children reciting their verses. The following Sunday my wife and I went to church. The preacher that day proved to be the clergyman who had a few days before visited the school. The sermon was eloquent, and, as usual, was directed against the spread of Liberalism and the ‘ Radical council.’ In the midst of the torrent of denunciation the preacher emphatically asserted that, some days before, he had visited the Corporation schools in the hour of religious instruction, and that no Bible was in use during that time.”

As the period drew nigh for the November election [1836] to replace the retiring third of the council, the religious zeal of the town burned higher. To the imagination of frightened Protestants, the Conservatives presented themselves in the reassuring role of ” Defenders of the Faith.” They played the part so well that seven Tories replaced seven of the sixteen Liberal councillors who had retired.

Matters had now reached such a pitch that, at the next meeting of the board, Mr. Birch moved that the schools be discontinued, the property sold, and the Corporation trouble itself no more with the question of education. The proposition was so unexpected that the debate upon the motion was adjourned for a fortnight.

When the day for the debate arrived, the Educational Committee were ready to meet their opponents. In long and able speeches, Mr. Rathbone and Mr. Blackburn met and refuted every objection. They sketched the history of the mixed system of education, showed its essential fitness to the requirements of Liverpool, where the number of Catholics and Dissenters rendered the question of education as knotty to solve as the Government had found it to be in Ireland. They described the difficulties they had already surmounted, and earnestly pleaded that no change should be introduced into the committee’s plans until fair time for trial had been allowed it. Mr. Walmsley also spoke. He made no attempt to refute the quibbling assertions advanced against the system, but he went straight to the heart of the subject, to the humanity and justice that were the very core of it. This was no political or party question, but one in the decision of which the moral training and future welfare of a number of children were involved. He showed that one thousand three hundred children were daily taught in the schools ; if the majority were Catholics, it proved only their greater need of schools. ” The result of giving them up,” he said, ” would be to give up to vice and ignorance children whose hopes we have raised towards better things. It has truly been said that ‘ he who retards the progress of intellect countenances crime, and is to the State the greatest criminal.’ ”

By a large majority of votes, the council decreed that the mixed system should be continued in the schools.

In the month of August, 1837, Mr. Wilderspin, to whom the committee had entrusted their arrangement and organisation, announced that his work was finished. Before retiring, he wished an examination to take place of all the scholars. Clergymen attended to put the little Protestants through a sifting and trying ordeal. The result of this trial will be best expressed in an extract from a letter of the Rev. J. Carruthers.

” The examination proves that the teaching given is not of a secular kind, but on the contrary embraces an amount of instruction far exceeding what is usual in either public or private seminaries. The Bible is not excluded, is not a sealed book. The amount and accuracy of Biblical knowledge possessed is astonishing.”

Thus the children silenced by their answers the cry raised against the mutilation of the Scriptures. The innocent replies proved better than could the ablest defence, in what spirit the Educational Committee had worked, and in what spirit their enemies had judged their efforts.

Before separating, the audience who had been present, and who for the most part had come to criticise, united in passing a vote of thanks and congratulation to the Educational Committee for the work they had done, and for the excellent state of the schools.

We have dwelt at some length on this attempt of the council to establish a free and religious scheme of education in Liverpool, for it was destined to prove the rock ahead on which Liberalism was to split.

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter VIII.

CHAPTER VIII. This chapter takes us through the council elections in 1835 up to the end of 1836. Again, no mention of family, even though by this stage there were five children. Three teenagers, a ten-year old, and a six-year old, with one more daughter to come. The Municipal Reform Bill had followed the 1832 Reform Bill which extended the franchise, and reformed constituencies, and had re-organised local government. In Liverpool’s case, it increased the electorate to all rate-payers changing the corporation from a self-selected group of freemen.

 

In December, 1835, municipal affairs were creating much stir in Liverpool. The Municipal Reform Bill had become law in the preceding September, sweeping away all close corporations and restoring to the citizens their ancient municipal rights. The Corporation of Liverpool, which had usurped these privileges since the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Elizabeth [1586 – two hundred and fifty years] , had been composed of forty-one self-elected members, altogether irresponsible in their management of local transactions. Freemen alone had the right of voting for the mayor and electing the member to represent the borough in Parliament. Accordingly, the Liverpool corporation strenuously opposed the passage of the Municipal Reform Bill. It petitioned Parliament to be heard in its defence against the report of the commissioners on the state of municipal bodies, but the Legislature paid no heed to its prayer and made no exemption in favour of the borough. Henceforth every ratepayer who had resided three years in the town was entitled to have a voice in its government.

The town itself was divided into sixteen wards, each ward to elect three councillors. Mr. Walmsley was invited to stand for Castle Street, and in his address to the electors he stated his tenets. ” The principles I shall advocate at the board will be based upon my earnest conviction that civil and religious liberty is most consistent with Christianity, and I hold that the interests of mankind are best advanced by the man whose conduct in social life shows him to be guided by the rule of doing unto others as he would they should do to him.” ” My support,” he continued, ” shall be given to measures having for object the distribution of equal privileges, the reduction of local burdens, the extension of education, and the employment of the corporation funds in a way that may best conduce to the improvement of the town.”

The election took place amid considerable excitement. The first return showed the Liberals at the head of the poll in Castle Street Ward, Mr. Walmsley heading the list. At half-past four, Mr. James Branker announced the result. Forty-three out of forty-eight councillors were Liberals. Henceforth Mr. Walmsley’s position was no longer merely that of the private citizen amassing wealth for himself and family — he was a member of a body on whom devolved the duty of legislating for the general good. As member of the watch committee, he noticed that though the ” Old Charlies “ had nominally disappeared, and had been replaced by one hundred and thirty watchmen with superintendents and inspectors, they were for the most part aged and inefficient, nor were they worked on the crime-preventive principle.

The plan laid before the council for the new police was modelled on Sir Robert Peel’s organisation of that of the metropolis. Let us leave Mr. Walmsley to speak for himself as to the manner in which he took the lead in this.

” I resolved to arouse public attention and stimulate public opinion to the pitch necessary for vigorous and decisive action. To do this I set about exploring through all their ramifications the dens of crime in the borough. My position enabled me to command the aid necessary for this purpose. It was a loathsome task to undertake, but I pursued it to the end, hunting vice through all its windings till I traced it to its nurseries, and it was often at the risk of personal danger that I made this survey. Many a time, too, have I felt a sickening recoil as the mournful and appalling spectacle unrolled itself before me. I saw for myself how gradual and easy was the descent to crime, how bright-faced boys became trained thieves in time. I saw with what facility stolen property could be converted into money. I entered mean obscure shops in by-streets and lanes, where rags and secondhand dresses were exhibited in the windows, and in the back rooms of which glittered the booty the receivers had bought from thieves. I went down into damp, dark cellars, unfit for human habitations, where men and women lived huddled together. These were necessarily the headquarters of disease and crime. Step by step, I collected my information, and accumulated proofs of my assertions ; then I embodied the whole in writing, and laid it before the municipal board. “

” When I read my report on the state of crime in Liverpool, the council refused to believe it. The amount of vice in the town, I calculated, cost society upwards of seven hundred thousand pounds to maintain. There were more than two thousand notorious male thieves, besides twelve hundred boys under fifteen. There were several hundred receivers of stolen goods. Some laughed at the report, deeming such a state of things impossible, others contended that it must be founded on mistaken statistics. The matter might have dropped here, but I demanded a committee of inquiry, and it was granted. The result was such as I had anticipated. I had understated rather than overstated my case. There was no over- colouring in the picture.”

” A discussion ensued in the town council as to whether the report should be published. Some feared that it would fix a stigma upon Liverpool ; others, on the contrary, maintained that it would redound to its credit, as being the first town that had boldly confronted the evil It was finally decided that five hundred copies should be printed. The subject was taken up and was much talked about, not only in Liverpool, but in other places, and the statements it contained appeared so incredible that again doubt was thrown upon its veracity.”

An eminent member of the British Association, taking a decided stand against it, afforded Mr. Walmsley the opportunity he sought. He wished to secure publicity to his report ; to show that crime is for the most part the result of wretchedness and ignorance, from whose taint many might be rescued if a proper system of police existed. At the following year’s meeting of the Association in Liverpool, he read a paper in which again he discussed the state of crime in the town. He dwelt upon the pernicious effects of cellars crowded with human beings, and called attention to the thousands of such cellars that existed in Liverpool. Evidence was there to support his statements. It is sufficient to chronicle as one result of his efforts in this direction, that an Act of Parliament was passed, and the cellars of Liverpool were condemned.

” I was now appointed,” says Mr. Walmsley, “ chairman of the Watch Committee. Fifty-three only of the old watchmen were retained. Two hundred and eighty new men were added to the force, under the orders of one head-constable, responsible for the conduct of the whole body, and having under him a staff of superintendents and inspectors. Mr. James Michael Whitty, late superintendent of the night watch, was appointed head-constable. His tact and experience greatly aided me in framing a code of rules and regulations that have stood the test of practice. To give the new force a sense of the dignity of its office was my first care. Superannuated and infirm men were no longer to fill its ranks. Each member of it was to be a picked man, bearing a high character before being enrolled. It was trained to be preventive so far as was involved in its being directed to watch closely all that had a tendency to corrupt morals. It took me three years to mature a code of regulations, and personally to inspect the carrying out of its details. Many hours of the day, and frequently large portions of the night, I devoted to the task.”

From Mr. Whitty’s own lips we have noted down the following testimony of Mr. Walmsley’s services in the organisation of the police. “ I had practically studied the question, and was thoroughly acquainted with what ought to be done. Mr. Walmsley knew this, and listened to me with great deference, soon mastering all details as thoroughly as I did ; so that when the new police was to be formed he became chairman of the watch committee. No abler man ever presided. He was indefatigable, and used to go his rounds with me night and day, taking great interest in the efficiency and discipline of the force. There was a strong opposition on the part of the mob, but gradually we overcame all difficulties. The police of Liverpool was established. It was regulated for the most part on the same principle as the London constabulary, but fewer men did the work better. Other towns sent down inspectors to obtain information, but very few succeeded in mastering its details. The Liverpool police force was the first established out of London, and Mr. Walmsley mainly contributed to this.”

One incident will show how Mr. Walmsley met the opposition of those hostile to the new system. No attempt to reform the morals and condition of the lower classes can ever be effectual, that does not include the surveillance of public-houses. The new police force was authorised to enforce very stringent regulations. The enemies of the reform council declared this an insult to the trade, and an infraction of justice by the municipality. The publicans announced their intention to convene a meeting to protest against the tyranny of the new police, and to censure the watch committee.

Before the day appointed for the meeting, at Mr. Walmsley’s invitation, a deputation of publicans waited upon him. He listened to the tale of their supposed grievances. In his answer he at once touched the right chord, appealing to their sense of right. In the words of the publican who related the interview : “Mr. Walmsley showed us that there ought to be no divided interests in a town, that each class of civilised society depends on the other. He pointed out the great injury done to morals by disorderly public- houses, making us ashamed of our opposition to the police, and changing it into a desire to co-operate with it, in putting down customs that were a disgrace to the trade.” The deputation left with a sense that they had been practised upon by those who persuaded them that publicans were specially oppressed.

When the day appointed for the meeting came round to publicly protest against the new police force, to censure its organiser, the purport of the assembly was changed. The few promoters who spoke only did so to withdraw their names. Hearty praise was given to Mr. Walmsley, and before separating, the meeting passed a resolution ” that all publicans would henceforth join to help the police in the fulfilment of its duties.”

The diminution of crime in Liverpool at the close of the first year was the best answer that could be made to the attacks on the police. The learned Recorder, on the occasion of the quarter sessions, October, 1836, congratulated the jury upon the present calendar not containing a moiety of the  cases set down for trial that did that of the previous year.

He ascribed this result to the new police force, organised in the town and trained on the principle of prevention. The grand jury made a presentment recording its high approval of the new system, of the way each man brought before the jury had given evidence, and the activity displayed in the detection and suppression of crime.