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Universal regret throughout the British Empire at the death of the Prince Consort—Effect of this sentiment on political events and party operations. The Session is opened, on the 6th of February, by Commission—The Lord Chancellor delivers the Royal Speech—Debates on the Address to the Throne—Allusions to the recent national affliction are made in almost all the speeches in both Houses—The Address is moved in the House of Lords by Lord Dufferin, who pays an eloquent tribute to Prince Albert's memory, and is seconded by the Earl of Shelburne—The Earl of Derby pronounces a brilliant eulogium on the illustrious deceased, and enters at some length on the American contest, and the Trent affair, approving the policy of neutralitg avowed by our Government—He refers also to the affairs of Mexico and of Morocco, and to the Revised Code of Education—Earl Granville, on behalf of the Government, acknowledges the candour and fairness of Lord Derby's remarks—He announces an early day for the discussion of the Revised Code, and responds to the panegyric on the Prince Consort—Earl Russell concurs in the general expressions upon the latter subject, and enters at some length upon American affairs. After a few words from Lord Kingsdown, the Address is agreed to mem. con.—In the House of Commons, the Address is moved by Mr. Portman and seconded by Mr. Western Wood—The loss of the Prince Consort, the Trent affair and American war, and the Revised Code of Education form the chief topics of remark—Speech of Mr. Disraeli–Declaration of Lord Palmerston in regard to our policy towards the United States—Mr. Maguire introWoL. CIV. [B]
duces the topic of distress in Ireland—Sir Robert Peel, Secretary for Ireland, controverts his statement, and an animated discussion ensues —The Address is agreed to without a division. PROCEDURE OF THE House of CoMMONs—Mr. White proposes a resolution in favour of a more methodical regulation of public business in the House—Sir George Grey, Mr. Walpole, Mr. Disraeli, Sir George Lewis, and Lord Palmerston take part in the discussion, which terminates without result. NATIONAL EDUCATION. THE REVISED Code. In the House of Lords. Earl Granville, on the 13th of February, makes a full statement of the grounds on which the recent Minutes had been founded—His speech—Remarks of the Earl of Derby—Further discussion on the subject deferred—On the same day, Mr. Lowe gives a similar ea planation of the New Code in the House of Commons and rindicates the measures of the Committee of Council—Speeches of Mr. Disraeli, Sir John Pakington and other members—The Bishop of Oxford, on the 4th of March, makes a severe assault upon the Revised Code in the House of Lords—He is answered by Earl Granville— Remarks of the Duke of Marlborough, the Earl of Derby, the Duke of Argyll, and other peers—A few days later, Lord Lyttelton moves a series of resolutions, inculpatory of the new system—Earl Granille vindicates the course taken by the Government—Lord St. Leonards also censures the Amended Minutes in some respects—
Remarks of the Bishop of London and of Earl Granville.
UST before the close of 1860, a great public affliction fell upon the nation, which cast a deep gloom over the prospects of the succeeding year. The sudden removal of the Prince Consort from the sphere of exalted dignity and usefulness, which he had so admirably filled, aroused a feeling of sorrow, which, in the universality of its extent and in its genuine sincerity, has scarcely ever been surpassed. The grief which a preceding generation had evinced at the death of the lamented Princess Charlotte, though perhaps in an equal degree national, was somewhat different in its character, blended as it was with those sentiments of sympathy and compassion, which were excited by the fate of a young and beautiful Princess, snatched away at the most interesting
crisis of a woman's life. The tribute which the British people paid to Prince Albert, though not less cordial, was different in its character. Gratitude for the great services which he had rendered to the nation, for the noble example he had held forth, and the salutary influence he had exercised in his exalted station, admiration of the remarkable talents and accomplishments which he had displayed, and respect for the wise abstinence with which he had kept clear of party conflicts and of undue interference with the affairs of State— these sentiments were deeply felt, and cordially acknowledged at public meetings, and in addresses of condolence from every part of the United Kingdom. But mingled with and enhancing the universal regret for the deceased Prince, a loyal and
affectionate sympathy with their bereaved Queen, a deep sorrow for the wreck of domestic happiness, and for the loss of that support which had lightened the cares and divided the burthens of Sovereignty, were felt with the weight of a private calamity by all classes of the community. Not only the inhabitants of these islands, but the distant Colonies and dependencies of the Crown, as well as the citizens of the Great Republic on the other side of the Atlantic, who at this moment felt the sympathy of a common origin with her own subjects, were alike penetrated with a sense of the irreparable bereavement which had reduced the occupant of a Throne to the deepest affliction. Among her subjects at home, all other interests were for a time overshadowed by this great calamity. The pursuits of pleasure and gaiety were suspended, the anticipations of the great event of the ensuing year—the International Exhibition—were chilled and clouded. Even the interest of political controversies, and of those party struggles into which Englishmen usually enter with so keen a zest, was now disregarded, and a general desire was expressed, that the forthcoming Session of Parliament should be a short and quiet one, and that all parties should abstain from any operations calculated to afford disquiet to the Queen's mind, or to disturb the mournful privacy of her seclusion. Previously to this sad event, there were two subjects which had caused considerable excitement in the public mind, and upon which much discussion
was anticipated in Parliament. The progress of the Civil War in America was regarded in this country with the most anxious interest, which was further increased towards the close of the year 1860, by the prospect, which at one time seemed imminent, of a rupture in the friendly relations of the two Powers, in consequence of the seizure of the Southern envoys, Messrs. Mason and Slidell, on board the British steamboat the Trent, of which an account has been given in another part of this work. Happily the counsels of moderation and justice prevailed at Washington, the concession which our Ministers demanded was made, and the immediate danger of war passed away. Still, in various ways, and especially in its paralysing influence on our cotton-manufactures, the effects of this lamentable civil war were painfully felt on this side of the Atlantic ; and an earnest desire was felt to see it terminated by any endeavours on our part, consistent with diplomatic usage and international law. Happily, much confidence was reposed in the discretion of Lord Palmerston's Cabinet, and in their competency to deal with the delicate questions in which the progress of the American contest had involved us. At the same time, the discussions which these affairs were likely to occasion, on the assembling of Parliament, were anticipated with much interest. The only domestic subject on which any excitement prevailed was, that of National Education : the alterations recently introduced in the conditions of the public grants in aid of schools by the Minutes of the Committee of the Privy Council, having given riseto much difference of opinion. An agitation of someweight had been raised by the opponents of the new Code, and its principles underwent a keen discussion at various public meetings, in the course of the autumn and winter. It was understood that a strong appeal would be made to Parliament against the decision of the Executive on this important subject. With the exception of the cotton-manufacture, which had begun to be seriously affected by the want of the raw material, consequent on the American war, the commercial, as well as agricultural interests of the country were for the most part in a sound and prosperous condition, when the proceedings of the Legislature were opened by Commission, on the 6th of February. The melancholy event before referred to cast a painful gloom over the ceremonial. The loss which the Sovereign and the nation had so lately sustained was uppermost in the thoughts of all, and imputed to the proceedings a tinge of sadness, in sympathy, with the universal feelings of the people. The first debate of the Session gave evidence of the engrossing topic which filled all men's thoughts; nearly all the speeches that were made containing some references to it. The Royal Speech commenced with the same subject; the Lord Chancellor addressing the two Houses in Her Majesty's name, in the following terms : — “My Lords and Gentlemen, “We are commanded by Her Majesty to assure you that Her
Majesty is persuaded that you will deeply participate in the affliction by which Her Majesty has been overwhelmed by the calamitous, untimely, and irreparable loss of her beloved Consort, who has been her comfort and support. “It has been, however, soothing to Her Majesty, while suffering most acutely under this awful dispensation of Providence, to receive from all classes of her subjects the most cordial assurances of their sympathy with her sorrow, as well as of their appreciation of the noble character of him, the greatness of whose loss to Her Majesty and to the nation is sojustly and so universally felt and lamented. “We are commanded by Her Majesty to assure you that she recurs with confidence to your assistance and advice. “Her Majesty's relations with all the European Powers continue to be friendly and satisfactory; and her Majesty trusts there is no reason to apprehend any disturbance of the peace of Europe. “A question of great importance, and which might have led to very serious consequences, arose between Her Majesty and the Government of the United States of North America, owing to the seizure and forcible removal of fourpassengers from on board a British mail-packet, by the commander of a ship of war of the United States; but that question has been satisfactorily settled by the restoration of the passengers to British protection, and by the disavowal by the United States’ Government of the act of violence committed by their naval officer.