One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic. — Joseph Stalin

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

The South Sea Bubble

When the English saw that George I. was more attached to his German friends than to any one else, they were not pleased. The Tories, many of whom had been satisfied as long as a Stuart reigned, were indignant at being turned out of their offices to make room for Whigs. They began to side with the Jacobites, and said that the crown ought to be given to the Pretender.

This party in favour of the Pretender even went so far as to proclaim him James III. of England, and to invite him to come over and join them. Provided with a small army by the French king, the Pretender started out; but he was of so timid a disposition that he inspired his followers with no confidence. The Jacobites were already disheartened by the battle of Sheriffmuir, and James soon gave up the contest and returned to France.

The Scotch, ever faithful to the Stuarts, had been the first to fight for the Pretender, and it was they who suffered most sorely. A few of the nobles were beheaded, although their friends tried to save them; but many were merely banished to America, where the colonies were steadily growing in importance.

As there was not much to amuse him in England, George made long and frequent visits to Hanover, leaving the government in the hands of his ministers, who did all they could to make Great Britain a great and free country. Little by little, through the king's neglect of his duty and through his absence from the meetings of his ministers, his power grew less while theirs grew greater. The ministers came to be very important officers of the government, and the king having let slip his control over them, his successors could never fully recover it.

For several years England was greatly excited over the South Sea Company's plan for trading with Spanish America. People were eager to get rich without working, so they gave all their money to speculators, who promised them ten pounds for every one they invested. A great many of the English foolishly believed this, and rashly gave their savings, although Walpole constantly warned them that the plan could not succeed. At that time there was no end to the wild schemes in which money was invested, for companies were even formed for making salt water fresh, and for changing all metals to gold! As Walpole had predicted, the South Sea scheme swelled like a bubble and burst. Many people lost all they had, and complained bitterly, but ever since then the English have not been by any means so ready to rush into wild speculation.

The reign of George I. was short and uneventful. He was king for thirteen years, and died of apoplexy in his carriage, on his way to Hanover, whither he was hastening back, as usual, after a short sojourn in England. His eldest son, who had been named Prince of Wales at his coronation, now became king, under the title of George II.

George II. had the simple tastes of his father, but was less clever and of a violent temper. He, too, preferred Hanover to England, and therefore left the government to Walpole.

The French and the Spaniards, meantime, had made a secret or "family compact "to help each other. The Spanish now boarded English ships under pretext of searching for their countrymen or goods, and acted very insolently. This, added to a quarrel about the boundaries of Georgia and Florida, made bad feeling between the two nations. One day a Spanish captain roughly tore off the ear of an Englishman named Jenkins. Then, flinging the fragment in the man's face, he bade him carry it to King George and tell the latter that the Spaniards would treat him in the same way if they caught him.

This rude message proved the "last straw," and started the "War of Jenkins's Ear," as it is sometimes called. But although the fighting began between England and Spain, a quarrel about the crown of Austria soon involved all Europe in the "War of the Austrian Succession." Great Britain, Holland, and Austria were on one side, France, Spain, Prussia, and Bavaria on the other, and the war spread even to the colonies. You can read in your United States histories how it was conducted in America, where it was called "King George's War." In Europe it was carried on by George II., who took part in and won the battle of Dettingen. But the British did not win any very great advantage, and after eight years the War of the Austrian Succession was ended by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748).


Front Matter

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee