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Condition and prospects of the United Kingdom at the commencement of the year
General prosperity of the country qualified by some drawbacks—Progress of the cattle plague-Apprehensions of the cholera- The Fenian conspiracy and unsettled state of Ireland.— Incipient monetary difficulties arising from the speculations of the past year-Uncertainty felt as to the stability of Earl Russell's Administration-Difficulties arising from their announced undertaking of a Reform Bill - Meeting of the newly-elected Parliament on the 1st of February-The Queen announces her intention of opening Parliament in person-Great satisfaction felt by the public at this event-Re-election of Mr. Evelyn Denison as Speaker-Appearance of Her Majesty in the House of Lords - The Royal Speech-Debates in both Houses on the Address
- The cattle disease, the Jamaica insurrection, and the disturbed state of Ireland form the prominent topics— The Addresses are carried in both Houses, amendments being rejected— The Government brings in a Bill to prevent the spreading of the cattle plague-After much discussion and amendment, the Bill is carried through both Houses-Mr. Ward Hunt brings in another Bill to regulate the movements of cattle-It is much controverted and largely altered in the House of Lords, and is finally withdrawn-Bill for the alteration of the oaths taken by Members of Parliament-Proceedings of the last session on this subject--- Alterations now proposed by Sir George Grey-Opposition offered by some members of the Conservative partyThe majority accede to the Bill, amendments being moved by Mr. Disraeli, and in part adopted-In the House of Lords the Earl of Derby renounces opposition to the Bill
, which receives some amendments and is passed-Provisions proposed in the House of Cominons for the Princess Helena on her marriage with Prince Christian, and for Prince Alfred on his coming of age, which are adopted nem diss.
The aspect of public affairs at the commencement of the year 1866 was chequered with some features of anxiety. Though enjoying the blessing of peace with its neighbours, and exhibiting the outward symptoms of prosperity in an extended trade and a buoyant revenue, the nation was not without some causes of trouble and disquietude. Of these the cattle disease, which in the last month of 1865 was carrying off from six to eight thousand animals per
week, was among the most prominent. Serious anticipations were entertained in many quarters as to the inroads which this formidable malady was likely to make upon the sustenance of the nation; and the experience of its former visitations seemed to discourage the hope that, after once gaining a footing on our shores, the disease could, except after a considerable lapse of time, be extirpated. The progress of the cholera, which seemed to be advancing upon us in a westerly course from the Continent of Europe, was another source of anxiety to many. But a worse malady and more difficult to cope with than any physical disorder, was that chronic disaffection in Ireland, which at the present time, under the form of Fenianism, kept the Government in a state of constant vigilance and solicitude. The Special Commission which had been appointed in the latter part of 1865 for the trial of the persons charged with being concerned in this conspiracy, was still carrying on its proceedings at the opening of the new year, and seemed likely to find occupation for some time further in dealing with the long list of cases awaiting adjudication. And although few well-informed persons anticipated that any open outbreak or actual collision with the Queen's forces would take place, the symptoms of deep-rooted and wide-spread hostility to English rule which were manifested in various parts of the country caused serious disappointment to those who had hoped that a tolerant and conciliatory policy had at last made some favourable impression on the Irish mind, and was gradually healing the wounds of past misgovernment. Such flattering hopes the disclosures now made of the state of feeling prevalent in Ireland were but too well calculated to dispel. The only solid ground of satisfaction now afforded was the firmness and vigilance of those to whose hands the Government of the Sister Kingdom was committed. Extraordinary powers, it will be hereafter seen, were found necessary to be vested in them for the preservation of the peace and security of the loyal portion of the community.
The state of monetary affairs at the commencement of the year was not such as could be contemplated without some forebodings. The Bank rate of discount had undergone many and great fluctuations throughout the preceding year, and, when it closed, stood at the high amount of 7 per cent. The year 1865 had witnessed an extraordinary development of the “limited liability” principle in the creation of nearly three hundred new joint-stock trading companies, many of which were formed by the transfer of the undertakings of private firms, having very extensive liabilities or engagements, to limited associations. That many of these schemes originated in the efforts of speculative promoters, having no other object than their own immediate profit in view, no doubt could be entertained; and those who remembered the results of a similar delusion on the part of the investing public at former periods, could not but anticipate the consequent stages of reaction and collapse which inevitably follow upon a speculative mania. Probably few persons, however, at the end of 1865 could have imagined how