The Life and Times of Sir George Grey, K.C.B.
Chapter II. — First Commission and Early Services in Scotland and Ireland
First Commission and Early Services in Scotland and Ireland.
"Poor houseless wretches, wheresoc'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm.
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your Iboped and windowed raggedness. defend you
From seasons such is these?"
In the year 1830, George Grey, then aged eighteen, was gazetted ensign of the 83rd Regiment of Foot. Entering upon active service, he was quartered with his regiment, first at Glasgow, and afterwards at Dublin. In the latter city he was again brought into close contact with Dr. Whately, now Provost of Trinity College. Endeared by old associations, and in a remote degree connected by marriage, the young soldier was a great favourite with the Archbishop, and had every opportunity of profiting by the wise counsels of his illustrious friend.
During four years' service in Ireland, his duty called him to various parts of the country, and brought him into contact with all classes of the people. At that time Ireland was in a most disturbed condition. The struggle for Catholic emancipation was indeed over, but the victory gained in the previous year had left a desire in the minds of the Irish for still greater freedom. After Daniel O'Connell had succeeded in forcing the Catholic Relief Bill through both Houses of Parliament, he began to clamour for the repeal of the Union. Discontent, riots, murders perpetrated in the broad light of day, and crimes committed under cover of the darkness, were rife.page 13
The spirit of the age, displayed on the Continent by the second French Revolution, and the rebellion of the people of Belgium against the union with Holland, led in Great Britain to a widely spread desire for Parliamentary Reform. Lord John Russell introduced a bill with this object. Being defeated in Committee, the Ministry appealed to the country. The elections throughout the United Kingdom were attended with serious riots and great tumult. The horrors of cholera added to the general misery and disorder.
The scenes of wretchedness which the young officer witnessed were never forgotten by him. Fifty years later, in reviewing the changing scenes and the many great affairs in which the active years of his life have been spent, Sir George Grey thus speaks of the influence which this first experience—the opening of his public life—exerted upon his future destiny: —
"I saw enough there to give a bias to my mind for ever as to the necessity for change and reform. It was really from a desire to find relief for that misery that I went to Australia. In all my walks on deck, on my first voyage, my mind was filled with the thought of what misery there was in the world, the hope there was in the new lands, and the greatness of the work of attempting to do something for the hopeless poor. The effort to get lands, made by single individuals, seemed to me a wrong to humanity. To prevent such a monopoly in the new countries has been my task ever since. Even in the case of the missionaries I found the same desire for selfish gain. Sent out by the contributions of many whose gifts involved self-denial, I found them living in good houses, enjoying a competence and an assured position, with pensions for their wives and children. ft seemed to me a dreadful thing that they should have come out on purpose to gain great estates for themselves and their families, and to use their influence over the natives—and the influence which a missionary has over a converted native can scarcely be imagined—to make them agree to all this; and my heart sank still more when I found the missionaries, as a class, opposing with all their power, and with bitter persecution, all those who dared to make a stand for fair dealing—to uphold those principles of eternal justice which the missionaries themselves were sent to teach."page 14
The condition of the majority of the Irish people, and the terrible distress apparent in so many parts of Great Britain, made an indelible impression upon young Grey's mind. The desire of childhood to travel and explore distant lands had never weakened. The charm which imagination had thrown long since over the far-off countries beyond the sea still dwelt upon his mind and influenced his hopes. To this desire for travel and discovery was now added a motive power which never abated in its force throughout his life.
"He started in the race with a definite purpose—that of opening a new future and a new hope for Anglo-Saxondom and humanity in the boundless colonies of England. In those vast territories, washed by the waves of every sea, and canopied by every constellation, he trusted to see communities arise, untrammelled by the ancient prejudices, unhampered by the hoary superstitions and yrannies of the past, free in the fullest sense; communities in which the facilities for success in life should be vastly increased, and where all talent, virtue, and worth, should have free play, and a fair field in every condition of life.
"Beholding, with sincere sympathy, the hopeless condition of the increasing multitudes of the poorer classes at home, he saw, on the other hand, a vast world, spreading its arms, and unfolding its boundless wealth for their acceptance. Food for the million mouthed hungry, equal freedom and liberty for the down-trodden myriads were thus easily to be obtained. From the crowded hives of the United Kingdom—from the fields of Norfolk and Devonshire, from the bills of Scotland, and from the Green Isle of the West—a. continual exodus of nations could wander forth to till the mighty solitudes, and gather the harvests of the world. And each nation, so planted on the fair bosom of the silent wastes, would be a home of liberty, where freedom would reign secure. With prophetic eye he saw the continents and islands of distant seas so rich and prosperous, so virtuous and free, so great and powerful, that no future Alexander or Napoleon could threaten the liberties of humanity.
"Thus, as it were, the master of a new school, he taught that from the giant oak of England, trained and hardened into strength and beauty by the toils and storms, the prayers and sufferings of a thousand years, there should be carried out into every region where page 15man could dwell young seedlings to grow up for the protection and comfort of mankind. It may be that in youth he hud heard that theory argued which traces the Anglo-Saxon race back to the loins of Abraham, and proves it heir of those glorious promises which God himself made to the far-off descendants of the Chaldæan Seer. Perchance in this way he formed the lofty ideas which filled him of the future dominance of his kindred, and which revealed to him their destiny as one of solitary grandeur and of unapproachable greatness. As the years rolled on he saw them anchoring deeper and deeper in every quarter of the earth, claiming and holding nearly all the habitable globe, every sea whitened by the sails of their commerce every land ringing with their glorious tongue; and at the last, as if preparing in the providence of God for the final consummation of all things, he beheld that day dawn which shall herald the advent of peace from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. For, even judging by moral arguments and human logic, he believed that the united Anglo-Saxon powers would be so strong as to quell, by their mere existence, all "warlike opposition, and constrain the families of mankind to decide their quarrels, not by the arbitrament of war, but by a congress of the nations.
"In the future of the race which he fondly loved he saw the possibility of a golden, a wonderful prosperity—a prosperity not merely material, but intellectual, scientific, moral, and religious. He looked forward to times and states in which free and happy nations should govern themselves by the most perfect and equal laws; and he hoped also to behold the young children of the mother of nations calmly solving many of the vexed questions of all time, and showing to the world bow communities of free men could, without violence and without hate, become wise, and great, and good beyond all the examples of history."*
* "The Great Pro-Consul." Appendix to "Sir Gilbert Leigh. pp. 234, 235, By W. L. Rees. Sampson Low. 1878. Note.—This extract is taken from a short sketch of Sir George Grey, written as an appendix to a novel, in 1878. The twelve years which have passed between that time and the penning of the present work have only shown Sir George Grey's actions to be consistently influenced by the same hopes and ambitions which inspired him in early youth.