British History - The Crown after the Reform Bill - Peel, Cobden and the Anti-Corn-Law League - Disraeli and the Peeiites - Beginning of Victorian prosperity - New Model' Trade Unions - The Co-operative movement - Chadwick and Public Health.
( Originally Published 1922 )
DURING the reigns of George III and George IV the position of the Crown had been very strong in dealing with Parliamentary Ministers who represented the borough-owners rather than the nation. George III retained, on the threshold of the madhouse, enough power to prevent Pitt from emancipating the Catholics, and to dismiss the Ministry of All-the-Talents. Without the accident of the death of their enemy George IV, the Whigs could not have taken office or introduced their Reform Bill.
That Bill, by identifying the House of Commons more closely with the nation, indirectly reduced the power of the Crown as well as the power of the peerage. William IV's attempt to dismiss the Whigs and bring in the Tories on his own account, was felt to be an anachronism. At his request Wellington and Peel held office for their ' Hundred Days,' but could do nothing more than advertise the liberal character of Peel's new Conservative programme, and then retire. Al-though the unity and prestige of the Whigs had suffered many serious shocks in 1834, and although they were declining in popular favour, the result of William's attempted coup de grâce was to give them a majority at the next General Election, and a lease of office for another half-dozen years. They used their restored power to pass the radical Municipal Reform Act, and then sank into their long lethargy, employing their time mainly in a useful reform of the Church revenues.1
The gradual retirement of the sovereign from the arena of party politics, coinciding with the accession to the throne of a virtuous and attractive young lady, obliterated the memory of George IV and a generation of princes most of whom had won disapproval either for private vice and meanness, or for public espousal of anti-popular causes, or on both counts at once. The Crown, on the head of Queen Victoria, associated W itself in the public mind with a new set of ideas. Contrary to expectation, Republicanism waned as popular power grew.
For some years after her accession Queen Victoria was a heroine with the Liberals, and in much disfavour with the Conservatives.2 In rows about Church rates, Dissenters would indignantly accuse the rector of disloyal expressions about the beautiful young Queen ! This inversion of parts was accentuated by the curious episode that goes by the name of ` the bedchamber question.'
Melbourne, the Whig Premier, if he did little else as a statesman, indoctrinated his royal pupil in sound constitutional precepts adapted to the new age, which carried her successfully through her long reign. She liked the good-natured, fatherly old gentleman, and he exerted the charm and wit that had made him famous under the Regency, to captivate the mind of a girl fresh from the schoolroom. Her personal friendships were in Whig circles. When therefore in 1839 the Whigs were at last sufficiently aware of their own incompetence to resign after a bad division, the Queen looked forward with apprehension to changing her old friends for the solemn Peel. He indeed, being in a small minority in the Commons, was not at all anxious to take office. A difficulty soon arose between these two unwilling parties to a transaction forced on them by Melbourne's resignation. Peel demanded and the Queen refused the dismissal of two Whig ladies of her household. Peel might perhaps have been wiser to indulge a mistress whose favour he had yet to win. But, justly fearful of Melbourne's backstairs influence, he preferred to stand out for what he regarded as his constitutional rights. The young Queen grew excited and unexpectedly obstinate. Melbourne and the outgoing Cabinet, moved by the distress of so kind a mistress, consented to resume office, though not power, for two more uneasy years. The public, with human weakness, tended to sympathise with the Queen on the ' bedchamber question,' but even so could not much longer endure the dregs of Whig rule. In 1841 a General Election brought Peel unequivocally into power, and Queen Victoria was not long in discovering how fortunate she was in such a servant.
The electors of 1841, in showing that they were weary of the Whigs, did but reflect the opinion of the unenfranchised masses. For five years past the Whigs had done nothing but produce an annual deficit, and confess that they knew no help either for the deficit or for the stagnation of trade which was its cause.' What Carlyle called the condition of the people problem was chronic and acute, and the Whigs had exhausted their list of remedies. It really lay with them, as the representatives of Liberalism in Parliament, to repeal the Corn Laws. But although they were not like the Conservatives returned by the squires and farmers to protect those laws, the Whig personnel was too closely connected with landlord ideas and interests. A man like Palmerston was essentially opposed to Free Trade in corn. For fear of breaking up their party the Whigs refused to touch the question, as they had refused to touch Parliamentary Reform twenty years before. And so the popular lead once more passed over to the Radicals and the Liberal-Conservatives, in the days of Peel no less than in the days of Canning.
Peel, who had skilfully built up his party's fortunes from their first abject condition after the Reform Bill, was now supported in office by Stanley's vigour in debate and Sir James Graham's high talents as Minister, these two having seven years before crossed over from the Whigs in defence of Irish Church interests. William Ewart Gladstone, a young man of thirty-two, labelled, now somewhat to his own discomfort, with Macaulay's sentence about those ' stern and unbending Tories,' brought his genius to the common stock of the great administration, and learnt to his own astonishment, in the apprenticeship which Peel made him serve in the Board of Trade, that finance and commerce would absorb him no less than poetry and religion.
The country, which these men were in a fortunate hour called upon to govern, was sunk very low. Bad trade in a rapidly increasing population meant multitudes ' sitting en-chanted' in the workhouse, millions more starving, ' clemming ' was the word of only too common usage in the industrial north, in horrible sanitary and housing conditions, presenting a sum total of wretchedness that rendered ' the hungry 'forties ' a memory and a byword in years to come.
Peel's budgets from 1842–5 proved the first step out of the morass.2 An unscientific revenue tariff still impeded trade by its duties on exported manufactures and on imported raw material. Huskisson had reduced it. Peel now swept away most of what was left. The loss to the treasury he made good by reviving the incometax, Pitt's war measure which had been withdrawn at the peace,3 owing to what Castlereagh more justly than wisely called people's ' ignorant impatience of taxation.' Peel, more clear-sighted on this point than the anti-Corn-Law manufacturers of the north, saw in the income-tax the key that would unlock the Free Trade cupboard. It is doubtful whether Peel would have been able to introduce it in time of peace, if Pitt had not first introduced it in time of war.
The budgets of 1842–5 were great steps in the direction of Free Trade. But since they only very slightly reduced the Corn Duty, they met with no serious opposition from the Protectionist party, of which Peel was head. For the Protection that the county members had been returned to support was not the protection of manufactures. For that matter the tariffs which Peel swept away were revenue tariffs that protected nothing at all. Out of twenty millions raised by Customs Duties in 1840, only one million had been raised on the plea of protection to industry. No one argued that any class in the urban community was benefited by the Protective system of the day. And the question of the Corn Laws was this how far could the industry of the town population rightly be handicapped in order to keep land in cultivation and to maintain the ' agricultural interest' ?
The battle between town and country would have been more equal and more prolonged if the peasantry had felt their interest to coincide with that of the landlords. But the rural changes of the last century had abolished the yeoman and the small farmer, who had had a direct interest in high prices. The poverty and starvation of the agricultural labourer inclined him to see his interest in cheap bread, and although he had no direct political weight, his miserable condition was an effective argument ad misericordiam for the anti-Corn-Law champions, who pointed in triumphant pity to the hollow-cheeked serf of the fields, and produced him on platforms in his smock frock to say ' I be protected, and I be starving.' 1 In the last years of the controversy Cobden persuaded a large proportion even of the farmers that their advantage lay in Free Trade. The ' agricultural interest ' was not solid. As a Protectionist party, it came dangerously near to being the ' interest ' only of those who consumed rent and tithe. But it possessed the majority in both Houses of Parliament.
By his budgets of 1842 - 5 Peel had done all he could without attacking the principle of the Corn Laws. During those years he was gradually converted to Free Trade in corn, by his conscientious study of the facts, and by the economic arguments which Cobden poured at him across the floor of the House, in lucid streams of reasoning, until the day came when the Prime Minister crumpled up the notes he was taking and whispered to a colleague ' You must answer this, I cannot.'
But it was not by the economic facts and arguments alone that Cobden converted Peel. In the anti-Corn Law League he had created a political force the mere existence of which was an argument to those Whig and Tory statesmen who had learnt the lesson of the Reform Bill and had adapted themselves to the spirit of the age. Among these Peel was the foremost. Though so long a Tory and never even a Canningite, he was now in fact a Liberal-Conservative, instinctively the foe of corruption in any form, seeking to preserve British institutions by respect for public opinion and by careful thought for the general interest. He and his school of ' Peelite ' statesmen, of whom Gladstone was the greatest, introduced into the public offices a more conscientious and more liberal tone, which was neither Tory nor Whig, and which still survives in Whitehall.
Peel, who had once denounced the Reform Bill as revolutionary, now saw that it had not gone far enough, that the Commons House was still too much a house of landlords. He began to be afraid that if the Corn Laws were defended to the last moment possible under the existing forms of the Constitution, the Queen's Government would come into conflict with the nation. And after 1832 Peel had had enough of conflicts with the nation. When the French constitutional monarchy fell in 1848, his comment was ' This comes of trying to govern the country through a narrow representation in Parliament, without regarding the wishes of those outside. It is what this party behind me wanted to do in the matter of the Corn Laws, and I would not do it.'
This was perfectly true. Nevertheless, the reason why ' this party ' had been ` behind ' him at all was because he had undertaken to defend the Corn Laws. It is possible, while feeling gratitude to Peel, to understand the indignation of his followers at his volte face, the more so as he refused to take the Conservative rank and file into his confidence, eschewed ` party meetings,' and seemed, with his shy, secretive manner, to hold them all in more contempt than perhaps he did. As yet they could only murmur. But if ever they got a spokes-man - l There was fine combustible stuff among the squires on the back benches, if someone were to apply Promethean fire.
The wrath of the gentlemen of England was increased by the low and democratic character of the organisation to which their chief was about to submit his judgment and their interests. The anti-Corn-Law League, though financed by ' leading firms,' was teaching politics to the million. It gave a powerful organisation to classes which had hitherto been left outside the national counsels, except during those months when the Political Unions had lined up behind the Reform Bill. But the Political Unions had been no more than a regimentation of the inhabitants of certain towns, ready to act together in a crisis. The League, on the other hand, undertook the education of each section of English society, in town and village, up to the point of uniting all in a common enthusiasm for a proposition in economics.
There had been Chartism, but Chartism had failed, and the League was not failing. It accomplished the miracle of uniting capital and labour. It combined argument and emotion, bringing both to perfection in meetings that began with Cobden and ended with Bright. It appealed equally to self-interest and to humanity. In an age when political literature was limited in quantity and inferior in quality, the League, in 1843 alone, distributed nine million carefully argued tracts by means of a staff of eight hundred persons. In an age when public meetings were rare, when finance and government were regarded as mysteries appertaining to the political families and to well-born civil servants, the League lecturers taught political economy, and criticised the year's budget, to vast audiences of merchants and clerks, artisans and navvies, farmers and agricultural labourers. The League not only invented modern methods of political education, but applied them to coerce both the official parties. The Whig with his proposal for a ' fixed duty ' and the Conservative with his ' sliding scale ' were both given notice to quit at the next General Election, and surrendered rather than try the event against the League candidates.1
No wonder the League was denounced as ' extra-constitutional ' by parties in possession of the recognised organs of political life. Protectionists talked of putting it down by law. Half-hearted Free Traders, like the Whigs and The Times newspaper the latest comer in the hierarchy of accepted political institutions were jealous of it as a rival and ashamed of it as an ally. When in 1841 the League, characteristically enough, assembled seven hundred Nonconformist clergy to bear witness, from the evidence of their daily ministrations in the slums, to the material conditions unfavourable to the religious life of the mass of the population, The Times coupled this ' drollery' with ' The British Association for the Advancement of Science,' and promised to ' put an extinguisher on humbugs ' in both cases.
Nevertheless two years later The Times itself, while still denouncing ' gregarious congregations of cant and cotton men,' wrote ' the League is a great fact.' That confession, appearing in the daily bulletin of the ultra-respectable and official classes, caused rage and exultation now very barely imaginable. Perhaps the British Association also was another ` great fact,' borne forward on the tide of time, in spite of an able editor's sense of the unfitting.
In the spring of 1845 Peel was at heart a convert to Free Trade in corn, as all the world knew. His plan was at the next General Election to announce his change of policy, and so put himself in a position gradually to abolish the Corn Laws without a betrayal of the election pledges of 1841. But his hand was forced by a combination of two accidents, which had no causal connection with each other, the Irish potato blight and the English harvest weather. When it was first whispered that Ireland would soon be in the grip of famine, the Protectionists could still hope that a particularly good harvest in England would enable the British Islands to feed themselves. But a month of rain when the corn was in the ear ' rained away the corn laws.'
It was now clear that it would be physically impossible to feed the Irish from England, and it was morally impossible to allow them to perish wholesale with foreign corn waiting to enter. The ports of the United Kingdom must be opened for the emergency, and if once they were opened no statesman could ever hope to close them again in face of English and Scottish opinion. Peel's Free Trade budgets of 1842 - 5 and the accompanying revival of trade had considerably relieved the situation in Britain, but people who had tasted prosperity were not prepared to be thrown back into the depths from which they had escaped, by a sudden scarcity of bread. The demand for ' total and immediate ' repeal rose as a cry of terror.
The League that winter entered on its last, irresistible campaign. The Whigs swung round to ' total and immediate,' led by Lord John Russell, who had the strength of mind to write his famous ' Edinburgh letter ' voicing the national demand, without consulting his more weak-kneed colleagues. They dared not challenge his fait accompli. It was now a choice between Peel and the Whigs, which of them would undertake to pass a necessary measure through a disorganised House of Commons and a hostile House of Lords.
Peel was prepared to abolish the Corn Laws, and The Times prematurely announced that he was to meet Parliament with this programme.' But Stanley refused to agree, and Peel, not being able to carry his whole Cabinet, resigned. The task of abolishing the Corn Laws fell to the Whigs, to whom it properly belonged. Russell began the formation of a Ministry, and then suddenly threw it up, ostensibly on the ground that Grey, a son of the Reform Bill Premier, would not serve if Palmerston was allowed to go back to the Foreign Office to the danger of European peace. But Russell could perfectly well have formed his Ministry without Grey or without Palmerston. And Grey next year took office with Palmerston as Foreign Minister after all !
The real reason why the Whigs refused to form a Ministry was that they lacked nerve for the crisis. They shrank from the task of passing Repeal through the Lords. They had indeed Peel's promise of support, but since Peel out of office might have little influence with the Protectionist peers, the Whigs might have to call in Crown and people to pass the Bill as in 1832. Now the Whigs were no longer inspired by the spirit of that time. Though pretending to be the popular party, they were afraid of the people. They had no wish to lead a democratic attack on the Lords, and hoped that Peel would be able to pass the Bill with the least possible disturbance.
The ' grand refusal ' has gone far to discredit the later Whigs with posterity, but it gave them twenty years unchallenged possession of power. For it broke up the Conservative party.
When Lord John ' handed back with courtesy the poisoned chalice to Sir Robert,' Peel did not know that it was poisoned. He came back cheerfully to the place behind the red box where he was so well fitted to stand. By the refusal of the Whigs to take office, his desire to repeal the Corn Laws himself had become a duty that he could no longer avoid. Strong in the affection of the people, he saw before him many years of public service such as he alone could render.
Peel and Wellington remembered only that they were the servants of the Crown and country, and forgot that they had become so as representatives of agricultural Protection and the great county families. Wellington's loyalty to Peel and his belief that Peel alone was fit to govern, are the more remark-able because the Duke was not himself convinced of the necessity of abolishing the Corn Laws. ' Rotten potatoes have done it,' he said; ' they put Peel in his d - d fright.' But it never occurred to him to desert his Queen and his colleague in the interest of his party and his class. ' I did think,' he told the Lords, ' that the formation of a Government in which Her Majesty would have confidence was of greater importance than any opinion of any individual upon the Corn Law or any other law.' So he pulled his hat over his eyes, stretched out his legs, and reclined there silent and fortunately very deaf, while Noble Lords raved against the treachery of their chiefs. This attitude sufficed to secure the passage of the Corn Bill.
The Corn Laws were abolished in June; but contrary to what had been the general expectation when the session opened in January, the Conservative party was blown in two by the explosion. The combustible squirearchy on the back benches of the Commons had been ignited by the hand of irresponsible genius. Disraeli's philippics broke Peel's prestige and destroyed his hold over the House. When he tried to answer, he was howled down by his former followers, maddened with the new wine of magnificent invective. With his ablest colleagues all save Stanley devoted to him, with the people in an ecstasy of affection and gratitude, Peel was an outcast in the House that had been elected to support him. The very evening that his Corn Bill passed the Lords, his Government was defeated in the Commons by a coalition between the Whigs seeking office and the Protectionists seeking revenge.
Disraeli had an unanswerable case against Peel from the point of view of the betrayed Protectionists, and it was easy for him to share with genuine passion the indignation of his party. He seems to have regarded agricultural Protection rather as the battle-flag of the great county families, than as a policy in economics. He was on the side of the landed interest, and believed in England's ' territorial constitution.' He was a foreigner of genius forcing his way to the front as the champion of a proud and ancient aristocracy which he sincerely admired from the outside. Twenty-one years later, when he enfranchised the working-man, he acted as Peel was now acting on the great question of the day, only he carried the operation through without destroying his party, because he had not a young Disraeli to reckon with.
Owing to the intrusion into British politics of an alien element so potent and so incalculable as this man, the Conservative party was broken up in 1846 and kept out of office for twenty years. Owing to the same personal force it was compelled in 1867 to accept democracy and was launched on a new career of influence and power.
Peel lived until his riding accident in 1850, the most honoured figure in England after the Duke of Wellington, but he was never again in office. The feud between the Peelites and the rank and file of the party was too personal ever to be healed. The troops held that their officers had sold the fort; and the officers held that the troops, led by a White-chapel drummer boy, had shot the colonel in the back. Graham, Aberdeen, Sidney Herbert and Gladstone could never forgive the treatment to which Peel had been subjected, and had conceived on that ground the strongest aversion for Disraeli, who now, as Stanley's second in command, carried the fortunes of the Conservative party. Besides, the Peelites were Free-Traders, while Stanley and Disraeli continued to threaten the country with a return to agricultural Protection, until in 1852 they abandoned it during a brief attempt to hold office. By that time Peel was dead, Whigs and Peelites were no longer very easily distinguishable, and Gladstone had begun to travel by way of the Neapolitan prisons towards the Liberalism of his later years.
By the events of 1845–6 the Ten Pound voter had at length asserted his power, to the extent of insisting that the economic and financial policy of the State should no longer flout his interests. But the Cabinets still continued to be drawn exclusively from the landowning and higher professional classes. Cobden and Bright remained in perpetual opposition ; there were few of their class and fewer of their opinions in the House.
The world indeed was changing, but not yet changed. The Universities were reformed by Parliament in 1854, but without their emoluments and offices being opened to Dissenters. The middle class, which is often said to have ruled Victorian England, never had a party or a policy of its own outside commercial questions, and even in that sphere its success was due to the peculiar genius of Cobden. The English bourgeoisie never developed ' class-consciousness.' Many of the beneficiaries of Free Trade became Conservative, and inter-married with the landed wealth against which they had recently been tilting. Others, of more democratic tendency, worked with Bright to extend the franchise once more and to take the working-man into political partnership, rather on general Liberal principles than to carry out any special programme. To this invitation the working-man responded. There was indeed very little ` class war ' in England for a generation after the repeal of the Corn Laws.
Agriculture had now to take the second place in the economic policy of the Empire. But the ' agricultural interest' of landlords and farmers was still as far as possible from being ruined. Those who had been most angry at Repeal found many compensations. For another generation the landlords still drew great rents, and could afford to entertain regiments of guests in their country houses. They were still piling up on an ever vaster scale structures which survive too often as an embarrassment to their descendants of to-day. It was still the golden age of hunting and shooting, in the cheery social atmosphere immortalised by Leech's pictures in Punch and Surtees' sporting novels. In county government there was still no element of popular election. The squires still administered the affairs of each neighbourhood in their capacity of Justices of the Peace. There were Radicals who murmured, but they came from and returned to the towns. Old England still survived in the rural parts.
British agriculture continued to flourish, and since it no longer depended on a monopoly, it once more took to improved methods as in the eighteenth century. Corn was indeed being poured into the island from overseas, but prices and rents kept up very fairly, for there were more people than ever to feed, and as they were drawing better wages they were eating much more meat and corn per head. It was no longer necessary for two millions in England to live on potatoes and other food-stuffs inferior to corn. So during the rest of Cobden's lifetime, his agreeable prophecy that town and country would flourish side by side was amply fulfilled. Only in the late 'seventies, when the full development of America had at length taken place, when cheap iron had cheapened sea and land transport for all the world, food came pouring into England in such quantities that Disraeli's ancient prophecies of agricultural distress took effect in his old age.1
When the Corn Laws had gone, all motive for further resistance to Free Trade had gone too, so far as England was concerned. No one troubled to fight for the relics of the Navigation Laws, for West Indian sugar or for the remaining duties on raw material. The idea of Colonial Preference still lay buried in the grave of Huskisson. In the course of the next fifteen years, the Whigs and Gladstone completed the logical edifice of Free Trade, without meeting any serious opposition.
Partly on account of the free exchange encouraged by the abolition of the Corn Laws and the revenue tariff, partly on account of more general world movements, a great development of trade and prosperity set in. Railways and ocean steamers created a world-market on a vast scale, of which England alone was prepared to take the first advantage. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that in the middle of the century the five continents consisted of a number of countries, all chiefly and some entirely agricultural, grouped for commercial purposes round the manufacturing centre of England. The volume of our exports, which had risen from about forty millions a year in the first decade of the century, to nearly sixty millions a year during Peel's Ministry, rose to two hundred millions a year by 1876. At home, the railway mania, though it led to overspeculation and the panic of 1846, left the island linked up with an effective railway system. The surplus population of town and country, recently crowding the workhouses, were drawn off not only as colonial emigrants, but as miners and navvies at home.
Parallel with this expansion of trade and enterprise, the conditions of life for the working class at length underwent rapid and general improvement. Real wages rose and employment became more regular. Conditions improved most of all in the great organised trades, where capitalism was replacing the pettifogging ' semi-capitalism ' with its mean shifts and tyrannies, and where highly organised Trade Unionism was growing as the concomitant of big capital. In 1852 the Amalgamated Society of Engineers came to be regarded as the ' new model' for the aristocracy of labour. It was the union of a single craft, eminently practical in its aims and spirit, as opposed to the vague idealism of Owen's defunct ' Grand National ' for all working-men. Various movements of self-help in the working class, such as Friendly Societies, were closely connected with ' new model ' Trade Unionism, which combined the function and finance of a trade organisation with those of an insurance and benefit Club. The Friendly benefits were administered by the local branches, and the strike pay and policy by the Central Executive. An expert salaried executive was one of the most important features of the 'new model.'
The Co-operative movement, which has done so much all over the world to stop the exploitation of the consumer by the retail dealer, and to train the working classes in self-government and business management, originated from the enterprise of two dozen Chartist and Owenite workmen of Rochdale, who in 1844 opened in Toad (T'owd) Lane the store of the Rochdale Pioneers. It was a humble affair, and many larger attempts at co-operation had failed. But these men chanced to have hit on the right plan for realising Owen's dream. Their rules were the sale of goods at market prices, followed by division of surplus profit among members in proportion to their purchases. This secured democratic interest in the management of the business, while eliminating profit at the expense of the consumer. It was on these lines that the Co-operative movement reached such enormous development before the century closed.
The practical success of the movement was helped in the 'fifties by the zeal with which its idealist aspect was preached both by the Secularists led by Holyoake, the pupil of Owen, and by the Christian Socialists whom Maurice had inspired, especially Tom Hughes, the author of Tom Brown's Schooldays. The attempts of the shopkeepers to establish a boycott of the movement only increased its strength. In the 'seventies the Co-operative Societies added production on a considerable scale to their original activities.
The Cooperative movement was of more than financial importance. It gave many working people a sense that they also had ' a stake in the country.' It taught them business habits and mutual self-help, and drew them together in societies that encouraged the desire for education and self-improvement. ' It is,' writes one of its historians, ' in its intellectual and moral influence upon its members, even more than the financial savings that it effects and encourages, that the Co-operative movement has wrought a beneficent revolution among tens of thousands of working-class families, and has contributed so largely to the social transformation of Great Britain.'
The movements by which the new Britain was striving to remedy the evils attendant on the Industrial Revolution Co-operation, Factory Laws, Trade Unionism, Free Trade were all, like the Industrial Revolution itself, British in conception and origin.
The reformed legislature, and the reformed organs of administration which it had created, were helping on the general social improvement. The State no longer sat by with folded hands. Contemporaneously with the realisation of Free Trade, a strong reaction against the wrong sort of laissez faire went forward, not only in the Factory Acts, but in Truck Acts, Mine Acts and sanitary legislation.
Truck is payment of wages in goods, or cash payments subject to conditions as to the expenditure of the wages. It had been made illegal by Littleton's Act of 1831. But the Whigs, though they have the credit of laying down the principle, had not provided for its enforcement, as they provided for the enforcement of the Factory Act of 1833 by the appointment of inspectors. Truck payments had only been put on their defence by an Act too general in its scope. Many employers continued to swindle their men by paying them in the goods they produced, or by forcing them to purchase at the ' tommy-shop,' where rotten goods were dealt out at extravagant prices. Truck was fought and beaten in a long struggle, chiefly by the Trade Unions; partly by the growth of larger capitalism that dispensed with middlemen and had no need to turn to such mean shifts for its profit; and partly by an elaborate code of anti-truck legislation for particular trades. Anti-truck clauses were inserted in the series of Acts that protected the life and health of the mining population, beginning with Shaftesbury's Mines Act of 1842.
The principle of State interference found another expression in the Sanitary Code which began in the 'forties as a result of the personal efforts of Chadwick of the Poor Law Commission.1 His experience on that unpopular but conscientious tribunal had revealed to him the horrors of housing and sanitation, and the close connection of bad public health with the spread of pauperism. His energetic exposure of these evils compelled the Government to act.
The absence of sanitary control which had been characteristic of the nation's remoter past, had been continued during the first seventy years of the Industrial Revolution, with appalling results, which have been by no means altogether removed in our own day. The jerry-builder and the thrifty manufacturer in a hurry, had covered England with slums ; trout streams had become sewers ; rubbish-heaps festered unregarded till cholera or some milder epidemic threatened the well-to-do. The cottages of the rural labourer were no less disgraceful.
After ten years of agitation and collection of evidence, Chadwick secured the Public Health Act of 1848. This was the first compulsory measure of the kind imposed on the local authorities by the central government. A General Board of Health was set up for the whole country. It had power to establish local Boards of Health wherever there was not a municipal body to carry out the provisions of the law.
The Public Health Act was the late beginning of a great series of sanitary reforms. It was also an important step in the direction of control of Local Government by specialist departments at Whitehall, of which the Educational Committee of the Privy Council and the Poor Law Board were other early examples. A system of constant and delicate interaction between central and local authorities grew up after the middle years of the nineteenth century, in many cases through the characteristic English device of central " grants in aid of local rates. This system has never been proclaimed as a discovery in political science, but it became one of the most important elements of our State machinery. We thus managed to save from our own past what was good in the spirit of local initiative and independence, while compelling all to come up to a minimum standard insisted on by the State.