The Duke advanced along the platform to meet Mr. Huskisson, who was approaching him, and held out his hand in cordial greeting. Before Huskisson had well time to take the proffered hand some alarm was caused by the reported approach of a locomotive, and a cry was raised to those who were standing outside admonishing them to get into the carriages again. Huskisson was standing by the open door of one of the carriages, and was not quick in getting in, probably because of his physical weakness. The open door at which he stood was struck by the locomotive, and Huskisson received injuries so severe that he died almost immediately after being removed to a neighbouring parsonage. The fatal event, of course, cast the deepest gloom over the whole party; the Ministers were only induced not to break up the ceremonial at once by the fear that some terrible alarm might be spread over Manchester. This was again a season of alarms, and no one could tell what exaggerated form bewildered rumour might not take if none of the members were to arrive at the place of their destination. Nothing seemed more probable than that an affrighted tale might be spread about the assassination of the Ministers of the Crown in a body, and might lead to the widest disturbances. In any case it was earnestly urged upon the Ministers that the death of Mr. Huskisson might be set down as one of the inevitable consequences of venturing on a railway journey, and that the prospects of the whole railway system might be severely damaged for some time to come. The Ministers, therefore, went to Manchester, but the public celebration of the event was put off. In Huskisson England lost one who might almost be called a great statesman. The stranger who visits Liverpool to-day will find Hus-kisson's name maintained in streets and squares, and docks and public institutions.
We have said that this particular time was a season of alarm once again. There was great distress and, of course, consequent discontent throughout many parts of the country. The fierce passion for destruction which had formerly broken out in and around the towns, and had led to the breaking of machinery, now showed itself in the country places, and in the destruction of corn-ricks and farmhouses. One of the favourite arguments of Tories and Reactionaries when the Revolution of 1830 broke out in France was founded on the actions of some of the agricultural populations of that country. A sudden mania had set in there for the destruction of farmhouses and stores of corn. "What could you do with such a people," it was indignantly asked, "but to keep them down by force, to shoot them down, to crush them by any and every means? What was the wrongdoing of Charles X. but that he had been too slow to use the weapons in his possession for the wholesale putting down of such acts of crime?" And now, behold, the very same phenomenon was visible in many parts of England. The passion spread from county to county. The cant name of "Swing" was used as typical of the rick-burning outlaw; and swing indeed a great many men did for their share or their supposed share in the business. At that time there was no idea of putting down violence but by greater violence. The gallows was in full use almost everywhere, and even boys were remorselessly hanged for their share or their supposed share in the doings of "Swing." No one, of course, could possibly justify or excuse this rage for wanton destruction.
Such a rage, however, is a common outcome of popular and social discontent, and when it does break out it ought to be regarded as a subject to be discussed as well as a crime to be punished. As usually happens in such cases, an impression got abroad that many of the acts of destruction were prepared and instigated by paid emissaries of the authorities, who were glad to commend themselves to their masters by promoting outrages which might tend to cast discredit upon all popular movements in favour of reform. The Funds went down, and alarmists began to predict that if the Government did not show a firm front the revolution in France would be followed by a revolution in England. Even in the minds of many who did not carry their feelings of alarm quite so far as this, an impression began to prevail that a serious crisis was again approaching, that the Sailor King or Patriot King was already losing his popularity, and that a great division was again taking place between the Sovereign and his people. Some even of the strongest Tories began to think that the Duke of Wellington would have to go out of office before long. According to their ideas he had not been explicit enough and decided enough in his condemnation of the Reform movement, and the disturbed state of the country was mainly owing to his lack of firmness in dealing with the whole crisis.
In the meantime the new Parliament met, and the King's speech was made public. The speech disappointed all popular expectation. The King recommended, indeed, that steps should be taken to provide for a Regency in case of his death, but otherwise there was nothing said which could tend to conciliate the people. The Royal speech expressed the determination of the King to maintain all the treaties by which the political systems of the Continent had been forcibly reconstructed, condemned with stern emphasis and frequent repetition the disturbances in Great Britain and Ireland, pledged all the powers of the State to put down and properly punish such disturbances, and, indirectly at least, associated these disturbances with the popular movement in favour of Constitutional Reform by an inflated passage about the inestimable blessings of living amid such political institutions as those which then existed in these countries. In the midst of all the prevailing commotion Mr. Brougham gave notice in the House of Commons that it was his intention to bring forward on a day which he named - a day then only a fortnight off - the whole question of Parliamentary Reform. Brougham was then probably the most popular man in England, the recognised leader of the Reform movement.