The News in 1861
Victoria in mourning
Prince Albert has died
of typhoid fever on the 15 December 1861. Queen Victoria, who was
deeply attached to her husband seems inconsolable. She has sunk into
depression and is gone into seclusion.
Throughout their marriage Prince Albert acted as Victoria's private
secretary and she did nothing without her husband's approval. His
interests in art, science and industry spurred him to organize the
Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851, which turned out to be a highly
profitable industrial convention. As an alien prince he was
initially unpopular, but in time the English came to admire him for
his irreproachable character, his devotion to the queen and their
children, and his deep concern with public affairs. His influence
was particularly strong in diplomacy. His last contribution in that
field was to intervene in the Trent Affair (see below) where he
helped to diffuse the tension between the United States and Great
| Disunited States of America
On the 6th of November 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected
president of the United States of America. His anti-slavery
agenda was judged unacceptable by many Southern States whose
economy would be badly hurt by the abolition of slavery. The
Confederate States of America was formed on the 8th of February
1861 and Jefferson Davis was selected as its first president the
next day. The Civil War began when Confederates under General
Pierre Beauregard opened fire with 50 cannons upon Fort Sumter
in Charleston, South Carolina (April 12 - 4:30 a.m). By May, an
eleven state Confederacy has been formed with a population of 9
million, including nearly 4 million slaves. The Union, which
comprise 21 states, has a population of over 20 million.
The Trent Affair: On the 8th of November
1861, two Confederate officials sailing toward England are
seized by the U.S. Navy. The British government has been
demanding their release, threatening war. Lincoln eventually
gave in and ordered their release in December.
States that seceded:
South Carolina (December 20, 1860), Mississippi (January 9, 1861),
Florida (January 10,1861), Alabama (January 11, 1861), Georgia
(January 19, 1861), Louisiana (January 26, 1861), Texas (February 1,
1861), Virginia (April 17, 1861), Arkansas (May 6, 1861), Tennessee
(May 7, 1861), North Carolina (May 21, 1861)
Natural History Review goes
journal, Natural History Review, has been bought by Thomas Huxley
and other naturalists partial to evolutionary thinking.
The first issue had an article by Huxley which
described man's relationship to the apes. He sent a complementary
copy to Archbishop Wilberforce, whom, in a celebrated debate, asked
Huxley on which side of his family he was descended from apes.
Huxley responded by saying that he was not ashamed to be descended
from apes on either side. Huxley has also been giving lectures to
the poor working classes on the evolution of man from lowly apes.
Such sermons seem to appeal to the working class, as the idea of man
being a nobel creature makes their existence seem less harsh.
Walker, who commissioned the building of HMS Warrior, resigned in
The government thought that HMS Warrior and HMS Black Prince, the
first ironclad battleships built for the Royal Navy, were too expensive,
and the navy was ordered to construct four smaller iron warships.
The construction of HMS Defence, HMS Resistance, HMS Hector and
HMS Valiant was started in 1859, and finished in 1861. They are
smaller than HMS Warrior, do not have her speed or carry her superior
firepower, and are not very sea-worthy. Their only advantage is
their manoeuvrability, and the absence of Warrior’s archaic
bow. The first two of the smaller ships cost £237,291, and
the second two also cost £237,291. Compared to HMS Warrior's
cost of £357,291, they only offer about a quarter of the military
value for two-thirds of Warrior’s price.
| Train introduce
the horse-drawn street tram
Francis Train, an American, introduced the horse-drawn street tram
into Europe, opening the first stretch of line in 1860 in Birkenhead.
This was followed in 1861 by the first tram line in London, which
is running down the south side of Bayswater Road from Marble Arch
to Porchester Terrace, and by two further short stretches of line.
Although metal wheels running on smooth tracks in the road are much
easier to pull than carriages running on uneven road surfaces, objections
have already been raised about Train's choice of rail which consists
of a flat plate with a step at one side. If badly laid, the step protrudes
above the road surface, thus presenting an unacceptable obstacle to
Swan - The Genie of the Lamp
Wilson Swan, a physicist and chemist, born in Sunderland, is currently
working on the development a carbon-filament incandescent lamp.
It uses a filament of carbonized paper in an evacuated glass bulb.
Made from an arc-lamp element, Swan's carbon rod gives off light
but doesn't not last very long. Gasses trapped in the rod are released
when the lamp is activated, and a dark deposit of soot quickly build
up on the inner surface of the glass.
Whilst there is still room for improvement, this new invention is
undoubtedly a major scientific discovery and a giant step towards
a brighter future.