Maria's Diary 24
Yet another election
Earth’s transitory things decay,
Its pomps, its pleasures pass away;
But the sweet memory of the good
Survives in the vicissitude.
I have lost interest in keeping a diary. But Moma thinks it is a good idea to do a summary of things once in awhile so that it helps us remember what happened when. So this is my summary of most of this decade.
Again Papa decided to try to become an MP, this time for Bolton and he won by a few votes. His term of office was long this time, and he was reelected after four years, but he felt that he needed to produce more money to support the family. MP’s were not paid, and the expenses were great.
I think I have to add something in here. I clip newspaper articles about Papa and keep them in a folder. One from the Morning Post, May, 1840, claims that Papa made over £12,000 in the years 1831-1839 from the government, by claiming his expenses twice over, with slightly different wording. And they say that when he went on tours to various countries, he claimed expenses from Britain, and from the country he went to.
I don’t know whether it is true or not, but our lifestyle since we have lived in Mr. Bentham’s house has been very nice yet Papa constantly says he doesn’t have enough money.
There are lots of newspaper clippings about his work.
The MP for Bolton, Dr John Bowring, described in the Commons the case of a poor man who had been found dead upon his loom, surrounded by his family in a state of starvation. Peel claimed that "the very first thing" he did on accession to office was to write to the Home Secretary about this.
Free trade took on the dimensions of faith to Papa who quipped, "Jesus Christ is free trade and free trade is Jesus Christ", adding, in response to consternation at the proposition, that it was "intimately associated with religious truth and the exercise of religious principles."
Here is the reaction from the newspapers.
"The awful and impious declaration was loudly cheered by a batch of Unitarian heathens upon the stage, who manifestly delighted in the opportunity of applauding such audacious irreverence." In reply, Papa denied that he had spoken irreverently. “Born of religious parents and religiously educated,” he said, ‘in the question of free trade I feel deeply interested.”
In the House, Papa campaigned for free trade, adoption of the Charter, repeal of the Corn Laws, improved administration of the Poor Law, open borders, abolition of the death penalty, and an end to flogging in the Army and payments to Church of England prelates.
When Papa made his annual visit to his Bolton constituency, they met at Temperance Hall and the place was crowded with loud cheering. He said, “You are here to exercise your right. I am here to fulfil a requirement. But I come to open to you my whole heart, to ask for your approval if you think my public conduct is deserving of it and to submit your condemnation if you feel it isn't.” He also said, “I have to get from Robert Peel as much as I can for the people.”
Papa’s job as an MP curtailed the sort of work he did before that did pay – like writing reports on the finances of other countries. So he decided to invest heavily in the South Wales iron industry.
He led a small group of wealthy London merchants and bankers as Chairman of the Llynvi Iron Company and established a large integrated ironworks at Maesteg in Glamorgan. He installed his brother, Charles, as Resident Director and lost no time in naming the district around his ironworks, Bowrington. He gained a reputation in the Maesteg district as an enlightened employer, one contemporary commenting that 'he gave the poor their rights and carried away their blessing'.
He also became Chairman of the London and Blackwall Railway, the world's first steam-powered urban passenger railway.
Papa always had an interest in financial matters. He distinguished himself as an advocate of decimal currency. On 27 April 1847, he addressed the House of Commons on the merits of decimalisation. He agreed to a compromise that directly led to the issue of the florin (one-tenth of a pound sterling), introduced as a first step in 1848 and more generally in 1849. He was supported by Prince Albert in his ideas. “Every man who looks at his 10 fingers can see an argument for its use, and evidence of its practicability.”
My brother John Charles had had several jobs but now decided that he would look for a position in China. Papa was able to use his influence, partly due to his friendship with John Able Smith, chief partner in the bank Papa used. He had been one who helped raise funds to help Papa out of his earlier financial problems. Mr. Smith, who was a Liberal MP, assisted the Jardine Company in bringing pressure on the Whig government to act resolutely at Canton. In those days Papa opposed the opium trade, but always acted circumspectly in his dealings with Jardine who were the big opium dealers.
John Charles went there working for the Jardine-Matheson company in 1845. He mainly was interested in entomology and Hong Kong offered him the opportunity of finding and identifying a whole huge number of species, which was probably more important to him than the money.
Lewin accompanied Papa on a trip to Prussia as he had been the best German scholar in his school. When he returned from his trip to Germany, he was granted a writership (administrator post) in the Indian Civil Service by Mr. Hobhouse who was President of the Board of Control. This was preceded by a period of training at the East Indian College at Hileybury, which is about 14 miles north of London. He did very well there and carried off several prizes, and was set to sail for Bengal. However Papa launched an attack in the Houses of Parliament on the East India Company for their alleged ill treatment of a deposed rajah. Mr. Hobhouse, wrote to Mr. Ellis, who had provided the writership, and was furious about what Papa had written and said “perhaps you will ask him to put off his Motion for a reasonable day when I can attend and make my defence. I really believe money is given and received - nothing else can account for such preposterous conduct. I would write to Bowring myself but I do not think it safe to trust pen to paper with him.” Mr. Ellis, an MP and very good friend of Papa’s, agreed that Papa had acted like a fool. He had allowed his reforming zeal to overcome his tact.
Regarding Lewin’s leaving for India, Papa said, “I tremble for the moment when we must break away. The lad is my father’s pride and joy and they will never meet again.” Lewin returned from India once in October 1844, but our grandfather was waning. He did last for two more years, and Fredrerick who also was very fond of him, helped him through those difficult times.
Frederick at this time was just starting at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was very nervous about and for the first period was anxious and lonely. But he did overcome that, and it was partly his great interest in walking that helped him make friends.
Edgar and Charles went to the College School at London University. Then Charlie, who excelled in French, was due to go to Trinity College , following Frederick.
The girls are still at school, but Edith has her eye on a trip to Germany, as I had mine to France.
Frederick got his degree at Cambridge, in Mathematics, and he was given a five year fellowship, and he decided to become a barrister.
Edgar in the meantime, back in 1841 had a place on the Board of Trade, £80 a year.
But things are never happy and settled with us for very long.
In their roles as owners of the iron mine, in 1847, Papa, was being driven by his brother, Charles in a gig from Bridgetown, in Glamorganshire, to his residence at Bowrington, in the mountains by Llynfi.
Going along peacefully, tthey were startled to see that they were being stopped by two Irish footpads, who presented loaded pistols to their breasts, and, as they were wholly unarmed, robbed them of a leathern bag in which was a sum of £1000 intended for the payment of the workmen at the Bowrington Ironworks.
Papa said he and Charles feared for their lives.
The brigands shot the horse through the brain, the poor animal falling instantaneously dead.
The men confessed afterwards that they had made up their minds to murder, had there been the slightest resistance. We learned that they had been practising at a target for several days before, while one of them had been seen sharpening a large knife, which he acknowledged was to have been used if the shot had failed.
They were both captured before night, a large part of the money being found on them. The robbery took place at midday, on a public road, and close to a house, from which a boy saw all that occurred. When brought to trial, they pleaded "guilty," and were sentenced to transportation for life.
My sisters and I spend as much time as we can in doing things for the poor. Emily is being trained as a teacher, and I am skilled in many things, so we are hoping we can get teaching jobs.
Then the depression came, and the mine failed, and everything was going wrong. Papa was again in huge debt and had no idea how to get out ot it. Luckily three of my brothers were earning money, and they did their best to sort things out. But we had to move out of our beautiful house in London, and go again to live with Grandpa Bowring and our two aunts in Exeter.
With John Charles and Lewin abroad, the main ways of dealing with the problems were borne by Frederick. Moma was not happy with moving to Exeter as she did not get along well with the aunts. She was used to ordering her own household, and suddenly she was made to have to accept them being in charge.
On March 17 of this year, there were notices in the papers for the auction of most of our personal goods for the Queen Square house. Mostly there were Papa's books, and also six pairs of skates. The paper queries as to what he needed them all for, but of course, they belonged to us children.
Papa was worried about our brother Charles. He told Frederick, “He has in him a strange mingling of attention and indifference, present knowledge, absent habits. He forgets nothing and everything. His head is always busy so it might fall off his shoulder without his knowing it. Happily for him it is fastened on for hats etc. depart from him daily.”
In 1843, another worry for Papa, was that first me and then Frederick became members of the Church of England. I had accompanied my aunts, who had already converted, to Exeter Cathedral, the services at which I enjoyed so much more than those in the Unitarian Church.
Frederick wrote to our parents, “Loth as I was to give either of you pain, I thought it better to apply to you at once than delay any longer. I was baptised by Mr. Shalatter a lay vicar at the cathedral. He is, I believe, the one who baptised Maria and he promised himself the pleasure of calling at Queens Square next as he is going to stay near London for a week or two. He is the composer of some of the anthems used in the cathedral and a very good musician. Hope Moma has recovered from her illness.”
Papa wrote back to Frederick, “I could not dream of denying to my children the right and duty of that private judgement which I have always struggled to obtain for everybody. I hope you will always remember that the best and truest part of any religion must be candour and charity to others.”
By October 1848, when offered the vacant post of consul in Canton at a salary of £1,800 a year, Papa was in no position to refuse. It was a huge move for a man of his age and experience, but he was bankrupt, having to borrow from his sons and friends. He owed the job to Lord Palmerston, who disliked his politics but recognized his energy and free-trade zeal. Papa wrote to us, “My head is somewhat giddy & my heart troubled but my anxieties about the future of all of you will be wholly removed when I have a decent salary again.”
But then my brother Charles, who up till this time seemed to be happy at Cambridge dropped a bomb shell. A newspaper May 26, 1849 said It is rumoured that Charles Bowring has been received into the bosom of the Roman Catholic church and baptised by the Rev. Oliver. Intends to become a priest of that church !
Papa didn’t give up on Charles. He had sorted out a place for him to come with him to Canton as his assistant, which he thought Charles would jump at. But Charles rejected the offer, and instead decided to become a Jesuit priest and entered the novitiate at Stonyhurst, the leading Jesuit college in England. Papa saw this as a personal betrayal, believing that the jobless Charles had previously agreed to accept an offer if one could be secured. Papa had thought it was a handsome one, with a salary of £750, and that Charles could live with him, save most of the salary and learn Chinese. He even felt the post took account of Charles’s “religious feelings”, as “persons of his own communion were more agreeable than any other similar body - for the Catholic missionaries are the only ones who can be said to have had any success in this country” - a frank recognition of reality, given Papa’s antipathy towards the Roman church. In his frustration with Charles’s joining the Jesuits, Papa claimed that Charles “is now a puppet moved by the strings which he calls conscience. These strings have been pulled by dexterous intrigues of plotting priests”. However, he calmed down: “There is no advantage in any future controversy. I can never feel towards him but as one of my beloved children.”
Papa acknowledged the support he had received from his family: “In the days of difficulty they have acted so well that they have every claim which paternal affection could have desired.” John Charles and Edgar supported our family in Exeter while Papa paid off his debts.