Wellington 40: T is for Topography

And so we have reached the letter T in our W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N series of blogs and for this we are going to look at T for Topography.

As a soldier the Duke would have understood the necessity of accurate maps and plans when undertaking a military campaign. But this extended to the civil sphere as well and there is material in the Wellington Archive relating to work of the Ordnance Survey, which represented the most comprehensive topographic mapping of the country. 

Wellington’s appreciation of the value and maps and map-making is also shown in his purchase on behalf of the government, whilst Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1808, of maps produced by Neville Bath of various Irish counties. Ordnance Survey work had at this time not commenced in Ireland so Wellington took the opportunity to acquire what was then available instead.

Wellington acquired early Ordnance Survey maps of England and the Wellington Archive includes a letter from 1820 [MS61/WP1/649/9] in which he is thanked for presenting a set of Ordnance maps of England to the Royal Institution in London.

`The road at Irelands Eye shewing the situation of the proposed harbour for the accommodation of His Majesty’s ships of war’ at Howth, c.1807-9: the period when Wellington was Chief Secretary for Ireland [MS61/WP15/23]

When Wellington and the British army arrived in Spain and Portugal at the start of the Peninsular War they were greatly hampered by a lack of up-to-date maps. As Richard H. P. Smith has noted in his article on Peninsular War Cartography “Spain had not yet embarked on mapping the nation according to modern scientific principles, and although Portugal had begun such a survey, no maps were available.” The most recent were a series of maps by Tomas Lopez published in the latter part of the eighteenth century, a set of which can be found in the Wellington Archive.

Map of the province of Guipuzcoa by Tomas Lopez [MS61/15/31/22]

Responsibility for rectifying this dearth of adequate cartographic coverage was vested in the Quartermaster General Department, led in the Peninsula by Colonel George Murray. The focus of this map-making, which was only one of the numerous supply and logistical duties undertaken by Quartermasters, was military purposes, and their maps were not designed, as Murray noted in a letter to Lord Fitzroy Somerset in 1825, as a general survey of the Iberian peninsula [MS61/WP1/812/3].

Considerable material relating to cartography can be found in the Murray Papers at the National Library of Scotland.  Southampton has the research papers of S. G. P. Ward, the author of the study of the administration of Wellington’s army Wellington’s Headquarters, which contains extensive notes from his research on the Murray papers.

The Wellington Archive contains a number of examples of topographical maps dating from the Peninsular War.

`Sketch of the heights near Arruda’, c.1809-13 [MS61/WP15/37]
Sketch map of the area close to Burgos, c.1809-13 [MS61/WP15/38]

Section MS61/WP15 within the Wellington Archive contains a series of maps, plans and drawings which had become separated from their context within the collection. They have been arranged by region and cover France, India and Burma, Ireland, Jamaica, Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), Russia and Scandinavia. Further maps and plans can be found scattered throughout the Wellington Archive. To find out the range and scope of these search for “map” in the Archive catalogue.

We hope that you will join us again next week when we have the penultimate blog in this series, which will be O for Oxford and Wellington’s appointment as Chancellor of the University there.

Wellington 40: G is for Grumbling

And so to the seventh blog in our W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N series; if you’ve been following our posts, you’ll know we have reached G. As we already have an excellent blog on Gurwood – perhaps the most obvious choice for this letter — we decided to have some fun and spent this week talking about the Duke and his love of grumbling!

Rory Muir, author of Wellington comments that “habitual grumbling…was one of Wellington’s most characteristic pleasures” and it was nothing new for him “to grumble in the most exaggerated language”. This is supported by Norman Gash who also remarks on “the customary vehemence he employed on matters important to him”.

We feel anyone who has spent time reading the Duke’s correspondence will reach the same conclusion. The Duke did seem to take pleasure in having something to grumble about. To start us off, there are some fine examples in a bundle of letters from Wellington to his close friend William Booth, a officer in the British Army Commissary. In November 1832, Wellington writes that has been contacted by a Mr Edward Taylor although does not know why:

“However one of the diseases of the day is a perpetual interference by everybody in the affairs of his neighbours”: Wellington to William Booth, 2 Nov 1832 [MS414/A4198/10]

Another source of irritation to the Duke was the constant stream of packages and parcels he received. His views are clearly laid out in a letter sent in 1824 to Mr Anstey from Barrow, near Bristol. Mr Anstey wished to send the Duke a volume of his musical work; for this to be received by the porter at Apsley House he requires “an order in His Grace’s handwriting.” Wellington replies:

The Duke is very much concerned for the trouble Mr Anstey has had abut his work; and he begs he will send it to him by the post or by any mode which he made think proper.

The Duke must observe however in apology for himself that a public man is this county, particularly one of any note, stands in a very disagreeable situation. Every person who thinks proper to publish anything calls upon him for what is called his patronage; and with or without consent sends him a copy or copies of work. His table is loaded, as the Duke’s is, with every description of publication, and his time is occupied in giving complimentary answers to those who think proper thus to honour him.

It is not astonishing that a man who has really other matters to attend to, should be anxious to avoid this troublesome intrusion and should give orders to his servants not to receive packages containing works of this description without his directions.

And he concludes the letter:

“The Duke is very sorry if Mr Anstey has suffered any inconvenience from the state of things, but he assures him that any inconvenience he may have experienced does not equal one tenth of that to which the Duke is daily exposed from this description of enthusiasm” [MS61/WP1/798/2]

A few years later, in 1837, Wellington was still feeling bombarded by packages and parcels. He writes to Booth to confirm he has received the plans [which related to his Belgium property]. Fortunately Sir John sent these plans to the porter for which the Duke comments he was much obliged.

“The truth is that my home is made a sort of depot of works of every description whether in manuscript or in print; or otherwise. I have been under the necessity therefore of giving orders to my porter to receive nothing that he has not orders to receive” [MS414/A4198/25]

As editor of his Dispatches, Colonel Gurwood worked closely with Wellington for many years. There were endless difficulties which proved to be an excessive drain on the Duke’s time. At this point of proceedings, Gurwood had sent to Lord Clarendon (through Lord Fiztroy Somerset) the “slips with Your Grace’s corrections.” Gurwood had hoped this would prevent further trouble by showing the pains Wellington took in his corrections but it appears the matter was not resolved:

“My Dear Colonel, Everybody feels an interest in everything, till it will put him to the most trifling inconvenience. The truth of history and everything else must disappear to prevent that evil. There is no end to these little trifling difficulties. I have not time to enter into them” [MS61/WP2/40/17]

Our research for this blog has brought to our attention some wonderful words, now mostly obsolete: we really must make the effort to add them to our vocabulary. So, do you ever find you have a case of “the grumbles” (ill-humour, vented in grumbling, used jocularly, as if the name of a malady)? At times, do you find yourself “grumblous”, “grumbly” or “grumblesome”? If this is the case, it may be having a negative impact on your health. When we complain – says weorganizeu.com – we release the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels rise, our immune system is compromised, blood pressure goes up, we gain weight and there is an increased risk of heart disease. Serious stuff! The Duke of Wellington, of course, lived to the ripe old age of 83…but maybe he’s the exception that proves the rule?

There’s only three posts in our W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N series left – don’t miss next week’s. I wonder what we will be inspired to talk about for ‘T’…?!

Wellington 40: N is for Newspapers

This week, we are on the first of the letter Ns of Wellington, and for this N we are going to focus on Newspapers. Wellington had interesting views on the press, an example being the following:

“I have frequently lamented the influence of the Press; and particularly of those parts of it to which you refer. Their system is one of entire falsehood or of exaggeration and misrepresentation for the purpose of a particular political object.” [Letter from Wellington to Thomas Baker, 21 Oct 1831, MS61/WP1/1199/9]

The relationship between Wellington and the press has been a restless one; from the press publishing content from his despatches during the Peninsular Wars before they had even reached England, to the Morning Journal attacking him for consenting to Catholic emancipation.

Let’s first take a look at the reform of newspapers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and then move on to the sources we hold that reflect the relationship between Wellington and the press.

The reform of the press in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

Newspapers were subject to government control as a result of The Stamp Acts of 1712 and 1725. This legislation imposed taxes on paper and advertisements. In 1735, the prime minister Sir Robert Walpole was active in terminating several government-backed newspapers, including the Daily Courant, and replacing them with the Daily Gazetteer (1735-1746). The Stamp Acts affected both the format and the content of newspapers, with many adopting the four page format, complete with an essay on the front page, followed by the news on pages two and three and utilising the back page for advertisements.

The tax on newspapers was increased to three pence and then four pence in 1802 and 1815. This sparked a mass of untaxed newspapers to appear, with editors unable or unwilling to pay such taxes. Understandably, the tone of such newspapers was severely radical. Despite the publishers of these newspapers being prosecuted, the untaxed newspapers remained not to be suppressed.

Things did not get much better for newspapers following the infamous ‘Six Acts’ or ‘Gagging Acts’ of 1819, which was an attempt by the government to control the internal security of the country following the Peterloo Massacre. Aiming to suppress any attempts at radical form, the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act worsened the punishment for authors publishing blasphemous and seditious texts, and the Newspapers and Stamp Duties Act increased the expense of the taxes and expanded the taxes to cover publications that published opinion and not news. This Act also committed publishers to a contract for their behaviour. The result of this tax was 29,400,000 tax stamps being issued the year after it was instigated. In 1828 The Times had to pay nearly £70,000 in taxes.

In 1836 and 1855, Milner Gibson and Richard Cobden championed the reduction and removal of newspaper taxes in parliament. After the reduction of the stamp tax in 1836 from four pence to one penny, the circulation of English newspapers increased from 39,000,000 to 122,000,000 by 1854. The eventual abolition of the taxes on periodicals and the establishment of a cheap postal system made newspapers more accessible to a larger part of the population by being made more affordable.

The end of the newspaper tax meant that newspapers became economically independent. They could begin to be in a position to challenge the government and to hold them accountable for their actions as well as those in position of power. Newspapers could also provide the public information needed to make informed opinions. The end of the newspaper tax also meant that newspapers had money to use new typefaces, better print types and to reproduce drawn visual images to increase their interest to citizens.

The end of the newspaper tax led to the existence of 52 London papers by the early nineteenth century. There were even a number of press directories published at this time, including Deacon’s Newspaper Handbook and Mitchell’s Press Directories.

Successful newspapers that emerged from the eighteenth and nineteenth century included the Morning Chronicle, which was making £12,000 per annum by 1820; The Times, which began publication in 1785; and the Daily Mail, which was established in 1896 and aimed towards the lower middle classes.

It was The Times however, that paved the way for newspapers in the early nineteenth century. It was created with a loan from the Treasury, and in 1803 developed its own system of gathering news because of its owner, John Walter II, gaining success in attracting advertising to free the paper from being funded by government and political parties. It even introduced its Koenig steam press, which used a new form of printing technology that increased the number of copies that could be printed. The paper used its economic liberation to establish a status as Britain’s leading newspaper, claiming to speak on behalf of the country at times of catastrophe. The newspaper was firmly committed to the interests of the middle class and advocated reform against revolution. Its devotion to the 1832 Reform Act led to its nickname the ‘Thunderer’, following its staunch motivation to inspire people to petition or “thunder” for reform.

The relationship between Wellington and the Press

As a result of having lies reported about him, Wellington was not a great supporter of the press. Such lies include being described as a gambler in the Morning Chronicle in 1823:

“From these circumstances Mr. Adolphus will see that there is no ground for making use of the Duke’s name as an example of a person known sometimes to play at hazard who might be committed as a rogue and vagabond.”

Letter from Wellington to John Adolphus, denying that there are any grounds for his description of the Duke as a gambler in the Morning Chronicle, 17 Sep 1823 [MS61/WP1/772/12]

Other examples include The Times and The Englishman claiming that the Duke had sold gunpowder to the Emperor of Russia:

“I inclose two newspapers, The Times of the 14th and The Englishman of the 19th October, in each of which you will see a libel against me accusing me of selling gunpowder to the Emperor of Russia.

I have taken Mr. Gurney’s opinion upon these paragraphs which I likewise inclose, in which you will see that he recommends that the papers should be prosecuted officially by the Attorney and Solicitor Generals. I have no objection to this mode of proceeding [f.1v] though I don’t desire it if there should be any difficulty or objection in any quarter. I am determined to prosecute on my own account if it is not done on account of the government.”

In response, George Maule, the Treasury Solicitor, replied that he would forward the articles to the law officers.

Copy of a letter from Wellington to G. Maule on libellous articles in The Times and The Englishman claiming that the Duke had sold gunpowder to the Emperor of Russia, 29 Oct 1828 [MS61/WP1/964/30]

Wellington’s opinions on the press were therefore not altogether positive. He also didn’t appreciate the Morning Journal attacking him for consenting to Catholic emancipation, or the newspapers’ reports of the war against Napoleon, which Wellington claimed undermined the position of Britain.

In a letter dating 1829 to Thomas Scott of Wiltshire, Wellington exclaims “There has never been a period when the press has taken such liberties with the truth. They invent stories vilifying the government or some other party in the state.”

Copy of a letter from Wellington to T. Scott on the popular press and tithes in Ireland, 16 Nov 1829 [MS61/WP1/1059/43]

The relationship between Wellington and the newspaper The Times, was particularly tumultuous. Although the newspaper gave Wellington strong support during the cause of Catholic emancipation, they soon turned against the Duke when he spoke against parliamentary reform. 

In a letter to George Canning, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the time, Wellington writes in reference to setting out British opposition to French intervention in Spanish America, in which he later references The Times:

“We must not get into a war of notes, at least with our neighbours, peace being our object, only because the editors of newspapers and their Jacobin patrons are desirous of enlisting us in the cause of revolution.”

Copy of a letter from Wellington to George Canning, concerning the draft of the proposed note to Prince Polignac, setting out British opposition to French intervention in Spanish America, 23 Sep 1823 [MS61/WP1/772/15]

As you can tell in the quote and letter above, Wellington wished to avoid interference with the press at all costs, given the results that ensued when his predecessors did, as he remarks in the following letter referring to the prevention of British ships offering asylum:

“I hate meddling with the press. The perpetual interference with the press was one of the rocks on which my predecessors struck. But, I am afraid we do meddle, that is to say [f.1v] the secretary of the Treasury does, but he does not attend to it, nor does he meddle with that degree of intelligence with might be expected from him. I must put this to rights.”

Copy of a letter from Wellington to J. W. Croker stating that British ships cannot be prevented from offering asylum and on the Duke’s wish to avoid interference with the press, 14 Sep 1828 [MS61/WP1/958/4]

When it came to the reform bills in the 1830s, Wellington did lament how he dealt with the press however, revealing that he should have utilised their power rather than express contempt for it:

“I have received your letter of the 4th instant. I acknowledge that I allowed my contempt for the newspapers, a contempt founded upon the experience of a long life of their utter inefficiency to do an individual any mischief, even when directed by such men as Cobbett, Walters, Brougham, Jeffery, Perry, Alexander, etc., to influence my conduct in respect to the press when I was in office. The press is an engine of a very different description when it attacks individuals and when it attacks the institutions of the country. It is powerful in respect to the latter and no man can blame my own neglect more than I do. But I must say this. The fault is not entirely mine. I succeeded to a period of total disorganization. There were neither funds nor men at my disposition to do even the little which I wished to do upon this subject when I was in office. In the meantime the French revolution and its consequences and the press destroyed the government; and here we are in a real crisis.”

Copy of a letter from Wellington to Reverend G. R. Gleig discussing the role of the press in encouraging the reform bill, 6 Apr 1831 [MS61/WP1/1183/6]

Wellington’s hostility towards the press did not stop individuals writing to him to suggest ways of raising money to influence newspapers, as well as how the press could be reformed.

Philip Henry Stanhope, Viscount Mahon of Deal Castle in Kent suggests to the Duke that money could be used to influence the press, starting by asking 200 people to donate towards Holmes and Fitzgerald. He claims that “concern about the influence of the radical press will encourage subscriptions”.

Although Wellington doubted that individuals would donate to individuals without an explanation, he suggests to Lord Mahon that the plan be explained to a few influential men and that others will follow their experiment.

Letter from Lord Mahon to Wellington sending a plan to raise money to influence the press, 25 October 1831 [MS61/WP1/1199/15]

S. O’Sullivan of Phoenix Park, Dublin, wrote to Wellington in 1831 with the suggestion that the press could be reformed in the way of forcing editors to write in the first person singular and sign their names to all articles. He explains that in doing this, editors will be deprived of their importance “as the personification of public opinion”. O’Sullivan further explains that editors will be reluctant to become personally responsible for libellous or seditious paragraphs, and that in implementing these rules, respectable writers will be encouraged to use the press instead.

Letter from S. O’Sullivan to Wellington, suggesting a reform of the press, 12 Dec 1832 [MS61/WP1/1239/24]

Look out for our next blog post, where we will reach the letter ‘G’ of Wellington, and therefore reflect on his “Grumblings”!

Wellington Papers 40 – Behind the scenes tour, talk and tea

In order to mark the fortieth anniversary of the arrival of the Wellington Papers at the Hartley Library in Southampton, we are hosting a free behind the scenes day on Friday 7th July 2023: ‘Wellington Papers 40 – Behind the scenes at the Archives’. To book in for this event please go to the Eventbrite page.

There will be a chance to meet the curators, see a selection of gems from the collection and to find out about aspects of curation, including conservation work. An exhibition outlining work undertaken on the collection over forty years will be on show in the Level 4 Gallery of the Hartley Library and there will be a talk by Dr Zack White as well as tea in the Library Conference Room.

There will be two sessions that day – one at 10am and another at 2pm.

Scrimshaw nautilus shell, engraved by C.H. Wood, depicting the Duke of Wellington on one side and St George slaying a dragon on the other [MS351/6/A4170/28]

For those unfamiliar with the Hartley Library it can be found on University Road on the Highfield Campus in Southampton and there are good bus connections to the campus; the library is marked as building number 36 on our campus map.

 The event will be held on Level 4 of the Hartley Library, our library floorplans are available here.

Dr Zack White is a historian, doctoral researcher and holder of the Archival scholarship at the University of Southampton, specialising in crime and punishment in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. He is also a battlefield guide and hosts The Napoleonic Wars Podcast.

Zack is also the Chair and a Trustee of the Napoleonic and Revolutionary War Graves Charity.

In Zack’s own words: “I’m a historian and podcaster fascinated with the Napoleonic era, legal history, and particularly how people are affected by conflict. I specialise in nineteenth century history, and especially the period 1789-1815. As a former secondary school teacher turned historian, sharing my passion for the past, and infecting people with that same enthusiasm, has been my life’s work. When I’m not presenting ‘The Napoleonic Wars podcast’, you can find me exploring Napoleonic era battlefields, building and painting scale models of aircraft, searching a graveyard for the resting places of veterans, or taking a flying lesson.”

We very much hope that you can join us for this event – it is free to attend but booking is essential.

We hope to record Zack White’s talk and make it available on YouTube after the event.

We also have plans to record and share some short videos about some of the archival material we’ll have on display, for anyone unable to attend in person that day.

Wellington 40: I is for India

The fifth instalment in our W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N series is ‘I for India’.

Special Collections are home to many archives with connections to the sub-continent and the Wellington Papers are no exception.

Wellington served in India between 1797 and 1805, largely in Mysore and nearby places. He fought in the campaign against Tipu Sultan, also known as ‘The Tiger of Mysore’, during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1798-9), the fourth and final conflict of the Anglo-Mysore Wars. This war was fought in South India between the Kingdom of Mysore against the British East India Company and the Hyderabad Deccan and culminated in the British capture of the capital of Mysore, Srirangapatna, when Tipu Sultan was killed in the battle. Britain then took indirect control of Mysore, restoring the Wadiyar dynasty to the Mysore throne (with a British commissioner to ‘advise’ him on all issues). Tipu Sultan’s young heir, Fateh Ali, was sent into exile. The Kingdom of Mysore became a princely state in a subsidiary alliance with British India covering parts of present Kerala–Karnataka and ceded Coimbatore, Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada to the British.

The immediate context of this conflict was the emerging alliance between Tipu Sultan of Mysore and Napoleon Bonaparte, who promised the Sultan freedom from ‘the iron yoke of England’ and whose armies had reached Egypt, potentially threatening British power in India.

Wellington later recounted his actions at Seringapatam and the significance that his promotion as its governor had for him:

“[…] I have often heard of Sir D. Baird’s dissatisfaction on my appointment to take the command at Seringapatam when he had commanded the successful storm of the town, on which I was not even employed having been appointed to command the reserve in the trenches. Of course I had nothing, I could have nothing to say to the selection of myself as I was in the trenches, or rather in the town, when I received the order to take the command of it and instructions to endeavour to restore order.

Baird was a gallant, hard headed, lion hearted officer, but he had no talent, no tact, had strong prejudices against the natives and he was peculiarly disqualified from his manners, habits, etc., and it was supposed his temper, for the management of them. He had been Tippoo’s [Tipu Sultan] prisoner for years. He had a strong feeling of the bad usage which he had received during his captivity and it is not impossible that the knowledge of this feeling might have induced Lord Harris and those who advised his lordship to lay him aside.

However, of course I never enquired the reason for my appointment or of Baird’s being laid aside. There were many other candidates besides Baird and myself, all senior to me, some to Baird. But I must say that I was the fit person to be selected. I had commanded the Nizam’s army during the campaign and had given universal satisfaction. I was liked by the natives.

It is certainly true that this command afforded me the opportunities for distinction and thus opened the road to fame, which poor Baird always thought was by the same act closed upon him. Notwithstanding this he and I were always on the best terms and I don’t believe that there was any man who rejoiced more sincerely than he did in my success.”

Copy of a letter from Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, to J.W. Croker, explaining his appointment in 1799 as Governor of Seringapatam, 24 January 1831: contemporary copy [MS61/WP1/1174/7]

A few years later Wellington was involved in the Second Anglo-Maratha War of 1803-5, where he won notable victories at Assaye and Argaum, bringing about the submission of Sindhia and of the Raja of Berar.

Wellington may have later described his victory at Assaye, fought on 23rd September 1803 and his first major victory in war, as his finest achievement on the battlefield. A combined British and Indian force, commanded by then Major General Arthur Wellesley, defeated a larger Maratha force, the casualties ran into the thousands. The day after the battle Wellington issued a General Order congratulating his troops.

“Camp, Assay, 24th September 1803

G.O. [General Order] by the Hon’ble Major General Wellesley

Major General Wellesley returned his thanks to the troops for their conduct in the action of yesterday, the result of which is so honourable to them and likely to be so advantageous to the British interests, he requests that Lieut. Colonel Harness & Lieut. Colonel Wallace, in Parliament, will accept his acknowledgements for the manner in which they conducted their respective Brigades.

Major General Wellesley also has every reason to applaud the conduct of the Cavalry, particularly that of the 19th Dragoons, and to express the deep regret he feels at the loss of Lieut. Colonel Maxwell who lead them.

A Royal Salute to be fired in camp this afternoon upon the occasion of the victory gained over the enemy’s army yesterday, and a Royal Salute to be fired on the same occasion on the receipt of this order in each of the Detachments, and in each of the garrisons under the commands of Major General Wellesley in the territories of the Company, the Subah of the Dechan [Deccan], the Peishwah [Peshwah], and the Rajah lands, Gwalior.

Signed R.S. Barclay [Major Robert Barclay (1774-1811)]

D.A.G. [Deputy Adjutant General] in Mysore

A true copy”

Copy of Arthur Wellesley’s General Order, Camp, at Assaye, thanking his troops for the victory there the previous day, 24 Sep 1803:, copy c.1804 [MS308/A1066/26]
Detail of a pen and ink sketch of Assaye, from a letter by Lieutenant J.E. Alexander to the Duke of Wellington on a snuff box made from the tree found on the battlefield of Assaye, 3 May 1829 [MS61/WP1/1015/17]

Wellington’s military career in India was inextricably linked with the expansion of British power in that sub-continent, the legacy of which is highly contested to this day. Wellington’s own brother, Richard Wellesley, first Marquis Wellesley, was in fact the Governor-General. He had sailed for India in November 1797 and his time as the Governor-General (1798-1805) was a decisive phase in the consolidation of British control over the Indian subcontinent.

Wellington’s relations with his brother were not always warm, however, as explored by historians Iris Butler and Rory Muir*. Although Wellington had apparently been delighted at his brother’s appointment to Governor-General, when he met with his older brother in Bengal, he took several hours to come aboard his ship; this was deemed disrespectful by his older brother who later wrote that it had ‘caused a coldness to come between us which I am afraid will last all our lives’.

If you are interested in the history of the Indian sub-continent, beyond the Wellington Papers, please check out the following collections: Watercolours of architecture in India, Early to mid-nineteenth century; Papers of Lieutenant Colonel Nawab Sir Malik K.H. Tiwana, 1936-1969; Papers of Sir John Malcolm, 1801-16; Carver manuscripts, 1797-1983; and of course the Mountbatten Papers as well as the Papers of Alan Campbell-Johnson.

Detail from an illustration depicting the interior of Akbar’s tomb, Sikandra [MS288]

* Wellington – The Path to Victory, 1769-1814 by Rory Muir, Yale University Press, 2013

The Eldest Brother: The Marquess Wellesley by Iris Butler, Hodder and Stoughton, 1973

Wellington 40: L is for Legislation

And so we reach the second letter L in our W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N series of blogs, which is L for legislation.

Throughout his long career in politics, which stretched back to the 1790s when he held the seat of Member of Parliament for Trim, the Duke of Wellington had witnessed the passing of a range of legislative measures as well as acting as the advocate of important legislation.

Volume of parliamentary bills from the Wellington Deposit of parliamentary papers formerly owned by the first Duke

His first government of 1828-30 was to be the advocate of important measures that would begin the process of transforming the Anglican settlement, a settlement that dated back to the Restoration of Charles II in 1660.

The first of these two pieces of legislation was the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828, which Rory Muir in his biography of Wellington suggests could claim to be one of the more important events in the first months of the Duke’s government. The Corporation Act of 1661 excluded membership of town corporations to those who would not take the sacrament according to the rites of the Anglican church. The Test Act of 1673 imposed the same test on those who held civil or military office. This is effect excluded Catholics, Jews and Protestants who were not members of the Church of England (such as Unitarians, Methodists or Society of Friends) from holding public office. Lord John Russell had introduced the bill to repeal this act in 1827 but withdrew it June vowing to introduce it again in 1828 which he did in February. Robert Peel supported it on the government’s behalf in the House of Commons, whilst Wellington acted in the House of Lords.

Part of Wellington’s speech in the House of Lords at the second reading of the act 17 April 1828:

Can you suppose, my Lords, that the repeal of laws so inoperative as these can afford any serious obstacle to the perfect security of the Church, and the permanent union of that establishment with the State? The fact is, the existing laws have not only failed completely in answering their intended purpose, but are anomalous and absurd; anomalous in their origin, absurd in their operation. If a man were asked the question, at his election to any corporate office, whether he had received the sacrament of the Church of England, and if he said ‘No,’ he lost every vote that had been tendered on his behalf, and there was an end of his election; but if, on the contrary, by accident or design, he got in without the question relative to the sacrament being put to him, then the votes tendered for him were held good, and his election valid, so that no power could remove him from the office which he held.

[The Speeches of the Duke of Wellington in Parliament collected and arranged by the late Colonel Gurwood (London, 1854)]

Wellington Pamphlet 946/7

There is relatively little material in the Wellington Archive on this subject, which is something that cannot be said for the other piece of major legislation that Peel and Wellington introduced the following year – the Roman Catholic Relief Act, also known as the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. Passing this act was a hard-won victory achieved in the face of considerable opposition, not least from George IV who only acceded with reluctance as a last option. Both Peel and Wellington were criticised by those most vehemently opposed to the bill, none more so than Lord Winchilsea, whose criticisms so stung the Duke that he challenged him to a duel.

Alongside considerable correspondence relating to the issue of Catholic emancipation, as politicians and others shared their opinion with Wellington, are the drafts of the bill drawn up by Wellington and Peel as they steered the measure through Parliament.

First page of a draft of a memorandum by the Duke of Wellington on the arrangements proposed for the introduction of Roman Catholic emancipation, 7 August 1828 [MS61/WP1/983/4/3]

Amongst the Duke’s collections of pamphlets, there are over two hundred on the subject of Catholic emancipation. Pamphlets were one of the important print media sources that shaped public opinion. And the historian Peter Jupp noted that Catholic emancipation was one of “five topics that generated significant pamphlet skirmishes”.

Handwritten list at the front of a volume of 20 pamphlets sent to the Duke of Wellington and bound together into the volume relating to Catholic emancipation [Wellington Pamphlet 946]

Parliamentary reform was another issue that created a great deal of debate and discussion and for which there is considerable material both within the Wellington Archive and the Duke’s pamphlet collection. By the end of 1830 Wellington was out of government and was in opposition both in parliament and to the measure of reform being put forward by Lord Grey’s government.

Wellington Pamphlet 992/3 relating to the reform debate and presented to Wellington by the author

The Representation of the People Act 1832, also known as the first Reform Act, was given royal assent in June 1832. It had first been introduced into the House of Commons in March 1831 where it passed, but then failed to pass in the House of Lords. This happened again when an amended version was passed from the Commons to the House of Lords in October 1831. Wellington was one of the resolute opponents of reform, which he felt would “destroy the country”. Certainly Wellington’s stance led to the destruction of windows at Apsley House as angry mobs attacking his London home.

First page of MS61/WP1/1207/15/1 a draft paper setting out Wellington’s opposition to parliamentary reform

The Wellington Archive and the Duke’s pamphlet collection contain material on a range of other legislation, including correspondence about a Licence Amendment Bill in 1807, combating smoke nuisance and the Smoke Prohibition Bill, 1849, the preparation of the Slave Abolition Act 1833 and the Corn Laws. To explore the Wellington Archive further go to the Archive Catalogue.

Join us next week when we look at I for India.

Wellington 40: L is for Literature

And so to L; the first of two in our W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N series of blogs. This week we’ll be looking at literature. But were works of prose and poetry significant in the life of the victor of Waterloo?

Christopher Hibbert comments that the young Arthur had a serious side and “read a great deal.” This view is supported by the fact that when the young Colonel Arthur Wellesley travelled to India in 1796 he took with him a trunk­-load of volumes including Voltaire, Rousseau and Jonathan Swift. Elizabeth Longford, in her 1967 article “The Duke of Wellington’s Books”, comments that the 27 year old Colonel had spent £50 – not an insignificant amount at that time – on books. Longford also notes, however that Wellington knew little Latin and less Greek. He revealed this information when he was ask to be Chancellor for Oxford University in 1833 and suggested they should try and find someone suitable with a university education.

Whether or not the Duke enjoyed literature, many people wrote to him unsolicited, sending their poems, or asking to dedicate their works to him. They include some well-known names including Sir Walter Scott who sent a copy of his Life of Bonaparte in 1827. Not literature – Scott was a historian as well as novelist, poet and playwright – but it was still an influential biography for the period.

Letter from Sir Walter Scott to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, sending a copy of his life of Bonaparte, 24 June 1827 [MS61/WP1/891/14]

Another familiar name will be Benjamin Disraeli, at this point more author than politician, who wished to dedicate his epic poem The Revolutionary Epick to the Duke in 1834.

Letter from B.Disraeli to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, asking if he can dedicate his epic poem to Wellington, 3 March 1834 [MS61/WP2/9/7]

The Duke replied, as he always did, that he was very flattered by Disraeli’s request but had decided many years ago that he would never give formal permission for any work to be dedicated to him.

It’s hard to know for certain how much the Duke appreciated the varied literary efforts that were sent to him. Sir Gilbert Flesher, a song writer and artist of Towcester, Northamptonshire, claimed to have distributed 800,00 “loyal songs” in his life including “Of Triumph” to celebrate the Battle of Waterloo. Flesher had complained he’d had to pay the postal charge to receive his most recent reply; the Duke’s response implies he did not hold poetry in high regard:

He has the power of franking only a limited number of letters. He franks what it is necessary that he should write.
Those upon poetry, and which it necessary that he should write only from motives of courtesy, he does not frank.


But maybe the Duke was having an off-day. At the time of their correspondence, August 1831, he was likely distracted by the state if near-insurrection in Britain following Tory opposition to the Reform Act, the windows of Aspley House smashed just a couple of months later.

And not all works Wellington received were complimentary! William Augustus Kentish, for example, sends his efforts in 1831 stating that the Duke’s position makes him the legitimate subject of criticism. He appears to be slighted by the fact that when he approached the Duke for employment he chose instead to appoint those known to him.

Wellington’s horsemanship

Our mighty Captain on the ground!

The ridicule of all around!

How humbled thy high vanity, & pride

Was it a drunken freak, or worse?

Or had thou not yet learn’d to sit a horse?

A Jackass-boy could greatly better ride.

What! The great conqueror at Waterloo,

The laugh + crack-a-joke at a review!…

For god’s sake, never get again astraddle,

Or else get strapped securely in the saddle!


The Duke docketed this letter “More impudence.”

On a related theme, the English novelist and historical writer George Payne Rainsford James, The Shubbery, Walmer: draws attention to foreign piracy of English literature, and the largescale import of pirated editions into England.

Docket in the hand of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington [MS61/WP1/1193/12]

He had served for a short period in the army and was wounded in a small action following the Battle of Waterloo. He also lived, at the time of writing at “The Shrubbery”, Walmer, and was a sometime guest of the Duke’s.

But a system of Foreign piracy has been organised against which we have no defence. Within three days or four at the most after the work of a popular author has reached Paris, it is printed verbatim and sold at one sixth of the price… The loss to British authors in enourmous.


The letter is docketed with another stock reply: Duke is not in office and so declines to help.

And so we conclude our little jaunt spotlighting literature in the life of the Duke of Wellington. While the jury is still out on the significance of literature in his life we’ve had fun looking at the examples. Do join us next week when our second ‘L’ will focus on legislature.

Wellington 40: E is for Elections

This week, we are on the letter E of Wellington, and for this we are going to focus on elections.

The Wellington Papers hold a variety of papers in relation to elections, such as poll results, updates on the state of general elections, and congratulatory letters on general election progress like the one below. We will begin this blog by taking you through Wellington’s elections journey as a political figure, and will then discuss the types of sources we hold on elections within the Wellington Papers.

Letter from the Duke of Rutland to Wellington congratulating him on the progress of the general election, 2 Jul 1841 [MS61/WP2/77/63]

As a result of Wellington’s political positions as Chief Secretary of Ireland, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Foreign Secretary under Robert Peel, minister without portfolio, and Tory Leader in the House of Lords, Wellington had seen significant election events take place, such as the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Bill, opposition to the Reform Bill in the 1830s, and elections that signified the last flicker of Wellington’s previous unpopularity.

Wellington becomes an MP

Shortly before the 1789 general election, Wellington was set on his first political task. He was asked to make a political speech in support of Henry Grattan to avoid him being made a freeman. Following the election of 30 April 1790, Wellington was duly elected, even though he was underage at the time. He spoke in parliament sending the address from the throne, criticising the imprisonment of Louis XVI and the French Invasion of the Netherlands and congratulating the government on its liberal attitude to Catholics. He continued to represent the constituency until 1797 when he left to go to India.

In 1807 Wellington found himself elected as MP for Mitchell in Cornwall, Newport on the Isle of Wight and for Tralee in County Kerry. He chose Newport. Concurrently he was appointed as Chief Secretary for Ireland by the Duke of Portland and worked with Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond, who was the Lord-Lieutenant.

Wellington becomes Prime Minister

After Lord Liverpool became seriously ill in 1827; Canning’s death; and Goderich being forced to resign after, amongst many disasters, the failing to steer reform of the Corn Laws through the Lords in the face of opposition; Wellington was invited to form a government in January 1828. This invitation by King George IV was accompanied by the strict instruction that Catholic emancipation be excluded from his programme. Given that Daniel O’Connell, founder of the Catholic Association, was inevitably going to stand for election, and that Ireland was on the brink of war, Wellington had no choice but to guide the emancipation bill into the Commons with Home Secretary, Robert Peel. The passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Act on 13 April 1829 meant that Catholics were able to take a seat in the Parliament at Westminster, and that Daniel O’Connell, who had won the by-election in Clare in 1828, was now able to take his seat as MP. Wellington had therefore helped create a monumental change in the elections process for Members of Parliament as Prime Minister.

Wellington’s opposition towards the 1832 Reform Bill

Despite changing his opinion on Catholic emancipation, Wellington’s views on the 1832 Reform Bill remained heavily opposed. This bill included significant changes to the electoral system of England and Wales, such as giving representation to cities and abolishing small districts; giving the vote to small landowners, shopkeepers, tenant farmers and householders who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more, and some lodgers.

Wellington reveals his thoughts on the 1832 Reform Bill in a letter to Ernest Augustus, first Duke of Cumberland, dated 24 September 1832 [MS61/WP1/1234/7]:

“I believe that from Scotland and Ireland principally, in proportion to the amount of representation, and from England, there will be on the whole so many radicals returned to the next Parliament as to render the government of the country nearly impracticable. This, and the enormous expense of the elections, which will very soon drive the [f.1v] gentry of the country out of Parliament, are the principal changes effected at present by the reform acts.”

Copy of a letter from Wellington to the Duke of Cumberland discussing the effect of the reform act on the parliamentary elections, 24 September 1832 [MS61/WP1/1234/7]

Wellington’s anti-reform position led to a high degree of personal and political unpopularity. The same year saw the Swing Riots, centred in many areas on the economic difficulties of agricultural labourers, with machine-breaking and rural unrest. The fictitious Captain Swing also expressed general discontent with the Wellington government and lack of progress with the popular cause of reform. The Wellington papers contain a series of letters attributed to Swing in which the Duke is threatened.

On 15 November 1830, Wellington was forced to resign after he was defeated in a motion of no confidence. He was replaced by Earl Grey, leading a Whig government, and continued to fight reform in opposition before finally consenting to the Great Reform Bill in 1832.

Although it took time for Wellington’s role in the resistance to the 1832 Act to be forgiven, in 1834 he was summoned by King William IV to form an administration. The government only last 23 days, but it contributed to the restoration of the Duke’s authority.

Elections correspondence

Perusing Wellington’s correspondence that relates to elections reveals how Wellington often received updates about the progress of general elections. In one letter from the Earl of Roden, Wellington is updated on the 1837 election results in Ireland, of which the Earl comments “our defeat in Belfast was very unexpected but I am told that we shall recover it by petition”.

Letter from Earl of Roden, Glenarm Castle to Wellington, commenting on election results in Ireland. 12 Aug 1837 [MS61/WP2/47/40]

Wellington even received details of polls in some cases:

State of polls for the 1830 general election as part of letter from J.Planta to Wellington, reporting on the general election, 12 August 1830 [MS61/WP1/1134/6]

Wellington also received letters from correspondents reassuring him that they would support his government, as well as proposals for schemes of voting, such as by proportional representation in Irish Municipal Elections:

“The object of my proposition is to secure to the municipal constituencies about to be formed in Ireland, a positive and certain means of preventing an exclusive election of the Town Council by one party. The mode by which I propose to do this, recommends itself by being a most liberal extension of the Franchise as it is at present proposed to be conceded. I propose to relieve them from the obligation of voting for so many persons [list of 12-16/20 candidates] and to confer upon them the privilege of distributing their 12 – 16 – or -20 votes to 6 – 3 – or 4 of the candidates – or all their votes to the candidate”

Letter from Lord Burghersh: a proposed scheme of voting by proportional representation in Irish Municipal Elections, n.d. [endorsed May 1840] [MS61/WP2/68/135-6]

Letter from Lord Burghersh: a proposed scheme of voting by proportional representation in Irish Municipal Elections, n.d. [endorsed May 1840] MS61/WP2/68/135

As well as sending lists of candidates for the Scottish representative peerage as one of his duties, Wellington was also requested to provide military assistance to address threats of violence in parliamentary elections:

Mr. Hawthorne called on Major Swan and asked him why he came to town, or something to this effect. Swan said, not to interfere in the election, but to preserve peace. Mr. Hawthorne then said, did Swan intend to patrol the town with the military force ? Swan replied, by no means, unless outrages should require that interference, and that the force would then be used indiscriminately for public protection…On the whole, this appears to Croker the most dangerous bullying he ever saw, but it will fail with him. But he owns that he thinks the government should enquire into this circumstance, where a placeman dares to tell a magistrate, especially sent to preserve the peace, that he will call out the King’s volunteers against the King’s soldiers… He supposes that Major Swan will have written, but at all events he begs that either extraordinary powers or a troop of dragoons be immediately ordered to Swan…The violence of the disappointed and, he hopes, defeated party would surprise Wellesley”

Letter from J.W.Croker to Wellington, reporting the threat of violence in the parliamentary election in Downpatrick, and requesting military assistance, 18 May 1807 [MS61/WP1/168/5]

Letter from J.W.Croker to Wellington, reporting the threat of violence in the parliamentary election in Downpatrick, and requesting military assistance, 18 May 1807 [MS61/WP1/168/5]

Look out for next Wellington 40 blog post, where we will be on the first letter L in Wellington!

Wellington 40: W is for Waterloo

The first in our new series of blogs on ‘W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N’ begins with ‘W’ for ‘Waterloo’. But what exactly happened at the Battle of Waterloo and why is it regarded as so important?

Waterloo marked the culmination of more than twenty years of intense warfare between the major powers of Europe. The French Revolutionary Wars were fought from 1792-1802 in the wake of the French Revolution and France’s ambitions beyond its borders. The Napoleonic Wars followed on from this; they were fought from 1803-1815, their namesake being Napoleon Bonaparte, who had become Emperor of the French. After many years of successful conquest, Napoleon’s armies suffered significant losses after its failed invasion of Russia in 1812. By April 1814 the tide had turned so drastically against Napoleon that he abdicated and France surrendered to the coalition forces led by Austria, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom in May of that year.

The Congress of Vienna commenced in September 1814 in order to settle the future balance of power in Europe. In March 1815, however, Napoleon escaped from his exile on the island of Elba to reach Paris and reclaim his imperial title; there then followed a period known as ‘The Hundred Days’ when Napoleon gathered around him a new French army and the Seventh Coalition was formed to oppose him yet again. Meanwhile, deliberations at the Congress of Vienna continued and its final act was signed, with Napoleon still at large, on 9th June 1815.

This was the context within which the Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18th June 1815. The first Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte faced each other on the battlefield for the first and only time.

A French army under Napoleon’s command was defeated by two of the armies of the Seventh Coalition: a British-led coalition consisting of units from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Hanover, Brunswick, and Nassau, commanded by the Duke of Wellington (referred to as the Anglo-allied army or Wellington’s army). The other army fighting Napoleon was composed of three corps of the Prussian army, commanded by Field Marshal von Blücher.

There were a few smaller battles or skirmishes subsequent to Waterloo, but the French fighting forces were not able to keep the allies from moving towards Paris, which was surrendered in early July 1815. Meanwhile, Napoleon abdicated for the second and final time on 24th June 1815.

The Battle of Waterloo, therefore, effectively marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars and brought to a close more than twenty years of high-stakes warfare amongst the European powers.

The Battle of Waterloo was contemporaneously known as the Battle of Mont Saint-Jean (by the French) or La Belle Alliance, “the Beautiful Alliance”, (by the Prussians).

Detail from a print of “The Duke of Wellington returning from inspecting the field of Waterloo”, printed by Thomas Kelly, London, n.d. [MS351/6/6]

Wellington’s papers, as one might expect, include key documents from this momentous moment in European history.

Wellington’s own thoughts and feelings on the battle were expressed in the correspondence written immediately after the battle had been fought, as demonstrated by this letter from Wellington to the Earl of Aberdeen, informing him of the death of his brother the day before:

“You will readily give credit to the existence of the extreme grief with which I announce to you the death of your gallant brother, in consequence of a wound received in our great battle of yesterday.

He had served me most zealously and usefully for many years, and on many trying occasions; but he had never rendered himself more useful, and had never distinguished himself more, than in our late actions.

He received the wound which occasioned his death, when rallying one of the Brunswick battalions which was shaking a little; and he lived long enough to be informed by myself, of the glorious result of our actions, to which he had so much contributed by his active and zealous assistance.

I cannot express to you the regret and sorrow with which I look round me, and contemplate the loss which I have sustained, particularly in your brother. The glory resulting from such actions, so dearly bought, is no consolation to me; and I cannot suggest it as any to you and his friends; but I hope that it may be expected that this last one has been so decisive, as that no doubt remains, that our exertions and our individual losses will be rewarded by the early attainment of our just object. It is then that the glory of the actions in which our friends and relations have fallen will be some consolation for their loss.”


In a copy of another letter written to Lady Frances W. Webster the day after the battle, Wellington wrote the following lines:

“[…] I yesterday after a most severe and bloody contest gained a complete victory, and pursued the French till after dark. They are in complete confusion and I have, I believe, 150 pieces of cannon; and Blucher who continued to the pursuit all night, my soldiers being tired to death, sent me word this morning that he had got 60 more. My loss is immense. Lord Uxbridge, Lord FitzRoy Somerset, General Cooke, General Barnes, and Colonel Berkeley are wounded: Colonel De Lancey, Canning, Gordon, General Picton killed. The finger of Providence was upon me and I escaped unhurt.”


The significance of Waterloo was understood immediately, as demonstrated in a letter sent to Wellington from the Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, on 23rd June 1815:

“My official acknowledgement of your dispatch will be conveyed to you by the return of L[ieutenan]t Col[onel] Percy; but I cannot allow the mail of this evening to go without privately expressing my hearty congratulations upon your brilliant and most important achievement. The victory of the 18th is an event, which in itself and its probable consequences, assumes an importance equal, if not beyond any thing in European history, and tho[ugh] the firmness of the troops is beyond all praise, yet the success must even be, in justice, acknowledged to proceed from your own personal conduct and presence of mind.”


In his correspondence with the Duke of York, Wellington requested that new honours for the Order of the Bath ought to be granted to lower ranks of officers and on a wider basis than originally suggested by the Duke of York. Wellington also supported the issue of the Waterloo Medal to soldiers of all ranks in the British Army who’d fought at Waterloo, as seen in his letter of 28th June 1815 to the Duke of York:

“I would likewise beg leave to suggest to your Royal Highness the expediency of giving to the non-commissioned officers and soldiers engaged in the battle of Waterloo a medal. I am convinced it would have the best effect in the army; and if that battle should settle our concerns they will well deserve it.”


It wasn’t just the Duke of York who thought that Waterloo’s importance was ‘equal to or beyond anything in European history’. In a previous blog-post we explored the influence that the Battle of Waterloo had and the way in which it captured the public imagination in Britain:

“The battle was to exert a powerful influence on the public imagination and commemorations and celebrations ranged from the worthy, such as providing support for those wounded or the families of those killed at the battle, to the frivolous, such as souvenir engravings and maps.”


Especially popular with the public were exhibitions of paintings and artefacts connected with the battle. Fascination with Napoleon became even more intense after Waterloo and he was to feature in a number of exhibitions around London: an estimated 10,000 people daily visited a display of his battlefield carriage.

The Waterloo Museum was based at 97 Pall Mall, London in the former Star and Garter Tavern and it opened in November 1815. It was one of a number of establishments set up to meet the insatiable public demand for Waterloo related memorabilia. Staffed by retired soldiers or those ‘gallant young men who were actually deprived of their limbs in that ever-memorable conflict’, this created a sense of authenticity for the Museum and its collection. The Museum housed an assortment of armour and weaponry and other military items collected from the battlefield, together with paintings, objects and mementoes of the Bonaparte family.

Catalogue of the Waterloo Museum, London, 1816 [Rare Books DC241 CAT]

Waterloo became synonymous with Wellington of course, whose legacy became intimately tied to the battle fought on 18th June 1815. Wellington appeared in many caricatures (up to 5% of the collection at the British Museum in London) 300 paintings and drawings and 180 published engravings. He also appeared on a range of merchandise, everything from tea sets to snuff boxes.

The influence and fame of the Battle of Waterloo is also seen in the frequency with which the name appears throughout the street and place names of Britain today, including a certain London train station. Its entrance into the popular imagination is even demonstrated in the namesake song by Swedish pop quartet Abba!

The Wellington Arms Free House, Southampton

Beyond the immediate mania for all things Waterloo amongst the British public of the early nineteenth century, many historians also regard the Congress of Vienna (and the Battle of Waterloo that reinforced it), as the beginning of the relatively peaceful international system known as the ‘Concert of Europe’; a balance of power was maintained with recognised spheres of influence for the great powers of the day. The European powers would not engage each other in a major war until the Crimean War of 1853-6. The balance of power in Europe was, however, largely founded upon Russia, Austria, and Prussia (the so-called ‘Holy Alliance’) crushing liberal political dissent within their respective nations.

Waterloo and its conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars also symbolised the emergence of Britain as the world’s preeminent colonial power, above France. The remainder of the nineteenth century and the period until the First World War (1914-18) is sometimes referred to as the ‘Pax Britannica’; a balance of power in Europe and imperial ambitions abroad enabled Britain to construct the largest empire in history, the legacy of which is still highly contested today.

Two-hundred years later the legacy of Waterloo endures. The Wellington Papers (MS61) are the obvious place to start but Waterloo’s significance is reflected in two other archives held here in Special Collections: the Papers of the Waterloo Association (MS 436) and the David Miller Waterloo research papers (MS 431).

Poster for a 200th anniversary concert for the Battle of Waterloo held at the University of Southampton in 2015

‘Waterloo’ emerges in a few unexpected places in our archives, in entirely unrelated collections including a river data archive; postcards of Romsey; ‘The Waterloo Dance’ in one of our musical collections; as well as A Story of Waterloo, by A. Conan Doyle, and Madame Sans-Gene, performed at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in July 1897.

Wellington 40: Wellington Pamphlets (48)

In 1975, eight years before the arrival of the Wellington Papers, the eighth Duke of Wellington deposited the Wellington Pamphlets at the University Library. Consisting of over 3,000 pamphlets collected by or presented to the first Duke, the collection reflects the key issues of public debate during the first forty years of the 19th century.

Bookplate of the Duke of Wellington

Throughout this period, pamphlets were used by individuals, organisations and campaigners to publicise their views and to attract support for their causes. Prominent figures would circulate texts of speeches or engage in debate with other pamphleteers, but many writers were little-known outside their immediate circle and others chose to remain anonymous. Often printed in small numbers and on poor quality paper, pamphlets might be a few pages long or at over a hundred pages, difficult to distinguish from books. To ensure a wide circulation many were distributed freely but others were published for sale, sometimes as a means of raising funds. 

Wellington Pamphlets

Given Wellington’s stature as a military commander and a politician, it is not surprising that so many people sought his support or to influence his views by presenting him with with copies of their pamphlets – in some cases these were simply folded and sent to him. Once added to the collection the pamphlets were bound, individually at first but later in groups of ten or twelve. Although some pamphlets were grouped by subject this was not generally the case and two indexes, neither of which survive, were used to locate material.

A Short Letter from a Friend to the Agricultural Electors of North Northamptonshire [1832] addressed to Wellington
Rare Books Well. Pamph. 924

Many of the Wellington Pamphlets were written by people of a High Church, Tory outlook who wanted to preserve the existing institutions and ways of life, although on most of the subjects covered in the collection differing opinions are included. The issues of Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform loom large. Most of the pamphlets on Catholic Emancipation date from Daniel O’Connell’s election at County Clare in 1828 to the passing of the Act in 1829 and although some are supportive, others show the fears of papal supremacy and subversion of rights which Wellington had to overcome. More than half of the pamphlets on political issues deal with Parliamentary Reform and were published after Wellington’s declaration against it in November 1830 and before the Reform Act was passed in 1832. There are pamphlets by proponents of moderate reform, who feared the effects of too extreme a change in the voting system, others suggesting removing the worst abuses but with no extension of the vote, and many pamphlets opposing it altogether.

John Wilson Croker Objections to the Reform (England) Bill (1832)
Rare Books Well. Pamph. 986/9

The causes of the many social and economic problems facing the country were a popular subject for pamphlet writers, as was suggesting solutions to the problems. The agricultural depression of the 1820 brought calls for reform of the currency, taxation and the poor law and a series of pamphlets from the 1820s to the 1840s discusses the Corn Laws and the differing opinions on free trade and protectionism. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, generated further controversy and many pamphlets.  

John Symmons The Causes of the Present Distressful State of the Country Investigated (1822)
Rare Books Well. Pamph. 942/3

On international affairs, Wellington’s role as Commander in Chief and Ambassador to France from 1814 to 1818 accounts for the French pamphlets on the restoration of the monarchy, the Assembly, French finances, the freedom of the press and, more surprisingly, mineral teeth. Slavery was the main topic of debate in the pamphlets on colonial affairs, and these include discussion of its economic aspects and attempts to improve the conditions of slaves. On the question of abolition, some pamphleteers demanded that this should happen immediately, some called for gradual emancipation and others defended the system.

Joseph Phillips West India Question (1833)
Rare Books Well. Pamph. 934/6

As well as the pamphlets on well-known aspects of 19th-century life, others on a variety of subjects found their way to Wellington. There are reports from various charities, including several hospitals, pamphlets concerned with the adulteration of bread and biscuits, the quality of London’s water supply, the improvement of public clocks, the use of cast-iron pipes to heat the Houses of Parliament and Marc Brunel’s proposal for a tunnel under the Thames.

From: Marc Isambard Brunel A New Plan of Tunnelling, Calculated for Opening a Roadway under the Thames [1824]
Rare Books Well. Pamph. 1094

Although pamphlets were intended to have an immediate impact and not necessarily to be of long term interest, they were collected by societies and prominent individuals, especially politicians. The pamphlet collections of Arthur Mills (1816-1898), M.P. for Taunton and Exeter and Lord Bolton of Hackwood, are also to be found in Special Collections.

A number of pamphlet collections have been donated to university libraries, including the Earl Grey Pamphlets at Durham, the Hume Tracts at University College London and the Earls of Derby‘s Knowsley Pamphlets at Liverpool. A JISC project saw the contents of over 49 pamphlet collections in university libraries (including the Wellington Pamphlets) catalogued on Library Hub Discover and digitised copies of 26,000 titles are available online.