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Walpole, however, continued to oppose the South Sea Bill in the Commons, declaring that the terms were too extravagant ever to be fulfilled; that the experiment could result in nothing but a fearful increase of the costs of stockjobbing, and final confusion and ruin. He insisted that, before the proposals of the Company were accepted,[47] the rise of their stock should be limited, and every means taken to prevent the fever of infatuation that would ensue from the promise of dividends out of funds which could never be realised. He proposed for this purpose the introduction of a clause fixing the number of years' purchase to be granted to the annuitants of the South Sea Company; but to this it was objected that it was the interest of the Company to take up the annuities; and, as the annuitants had the power of coming in or not, as they pleased, the Company would, of course, offer advantageous terms, and, therefore, the whole affair might be safely left to private adjustment. Aislabie added that the South Sea Company would not submit to be controlled in an undertaking they were to pay so dear for. The Bill passed both Houses.The benevolent exertions of Lord Stanhope on behalf of the Society of Friends were, in 1796—that is, six years later—revived in the House of Commons by Mr. Serjeant Adair. He stated that seven of the people called Quakers were prisoners in the gaol at York for not paying tithes, and unless some alteration in the laws on that subject took place, they might lie there till they died. In fact, one of these Friends, named Joseph Brown, did die in the prison, and his death is the subject of a poem by James Montgomery. Mr. Serjeant Adair moved, on the 26th of April, for leave to bring in a Bill to extend the provisions of the Act 7 and 8 William III., by which tithes could be recovered by distraint when amounting to ten pounds, to tithes of any amount. Wilberforce, Pitt, Dolben, and others, usually opposed to concessions, spoke in favour of the Bill. Sir Philip Francis only opposed it on the ground that the petitioners probably did not entertain any serious objection to paying tithes, but only wanted to look like martyrs. The Bill went on swimmingly till it was about going into committee, on the 10th of May, when Francis rose again. A new light had burst upon him. He said that he had learnt that the Bill did not proceed from the suffering individuals, but from the yearly meeting of the Society itself—as if that were any solid objection, and as if a measure ought not to come with more weight from a whole suffering community than from a few individuals! The Bill readily passed the Commons, but no sooner did it appear in the Lords than the Bishops fell foul of it. The Archbishop of Canterbury saw danger to the Church in it, and moved that it be read that day three months, and this was carried. Thus the Bill was[164] lost for that Session. Adair brought in a fresh Bill for the same object, into the new Parliament, in October, but this was thrown out.

Then—by a process of argument so close, so logical, as to amount to a demonstration—Sir Robert Peel meets this objection, and shows that the proposals of the Conservative party afforded no solution of the real difficulty. Granted that the overwhelming sense of the people of Great Britain was against concession, what aid could they afford in the daily, practical administration of the law in Ireland? If seditious libels were to be punished, or illegal confederacies, dangerous to the public peace, to be suppressed, the offenders could only be corrected and checked through the intervention of an Irish jury, little disposed, if fairly selected, to defer in times of political excitement to the authority of English opinion. But the real difficulty to be surmounted was not the violation of the law; it lay, rather, in the novel exercise of constitutional franchises, in the application of powers recognised and protected by the law, the power of speech, the power of meeting in public assemblies, the systematic and not unlawful application of all these powers to one definite purpose—namely, the organisation of a force which professed to be a moral force, but had for its object to encroach, step by step, on the functions of regular government, to paralyse its authority, and to acquire a strength which might ultimately render irresistible the demand for civil equality. If, then, Irish agitation could not be repressed through the action of Irish juries, if the agitators kept strictly within the letter of the law, so that even a conviction by an Irish jury might be pronounced, by the highest legal authorities in England, an Act making trial by jury "a mockery, a delusion, and a snare," how was the public opinion of England and Scotland to be brought to bear in putting down the popular will in Ireland? It could be done only through the Imperial Parliament, by having a law passed to suspend or abolish the Constitution in Ireland. But the existing Parliament could not be got to pass any such measure, for the House of Commons had just voted that the proper way to put down agitation in Ireland was to grant Catholic Emancipation; and that the remedy of establishing civil equality ought to be tried without delay. Was[278] there any hope that a dissolution of Parliament would produce different results? No; for at the general election of 1826, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, and Devonshire sent representatives to Parliament, a majority of whom voted against the maintenance of Protestant ascendency in Ireland. The members for London, for Liverpool, for Norwich, for Coventry, for Leicester, were equally divided on the question; while the members for Westminster, Southwark, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Preston, Chester, and Derby voted unanimously for concession. Now, the Parliament which assumed this Liberal complexion had been elected in circumstances calculated to call forth the strongest manifestation of Protestant feeling; for it was only the previous year that, after long discussion and a severe contest, the Commons had sent up to the Lords, by a majority of twenty-one, a Bill for the repeal of Roman Catholic disabilities. Then, with regard to Ireland, what would have been the effect of a general election there? Would not the example of Clare have been imitated in every county and borough where the Roman Catholic electors were the majority? And what would have been the effect of such an attempt on the public peace? Probably, to involve the whole island in the horrors of a civil and religious war; to be followed by another penal code.The next step in the increase of means of traffic was the construction of canals. The rivers had previously been rendered more navigable by removing obstructions, deepening channels, and making good towing-paths along their banks; but now it was projected to make artificial rivers. In this scheme, Richard Brindley, under the patronage of the Duke of Bridgewater, was the great engineer; and his intrepid genius dictated to him to carry these canals over hills by locks, over rivers by aqueducts, and through the heart of hills by tunnels. These enterprises at that moment appeared, to the ordinary run of civil engineers, as rash experiments, which were sure to prove abortive. As all new ideas are, these ideas, now so commonplace, were ridiculed by the wise ones as little short of madness. Mr. Brindley's first great work was the formation of the Duke of Bridgewater's canal, from Worsley to Manchester. In this he at once proved all his plans of locks, tunnels, and aqueducts. He conducted his canal by an aqueduct over the river Irwell, at an elevation of thirty-nine feet; and those learned engineers who had laughed at the scheme as "a castle in the air," might now see boats passing over the river at that height with the greatest ease, while other boats were being drawn up the Irwell against the stream and under the aqueduct with five times the labour. At Worsley the canal was conducted into the very heart of the coal-mine by a tunnel, with branches, which conducted the boats up to the different parts of the[191] mine, so that the coal could be loaded on the spot where it was dug. The immediate effect of this canal was to reduce coals in Manchester to half the former price; and the canal being extended so as to connect it with the Mersey, at Runcorn, it reduced the freight of goods from Manchester to Liverpool to the same extent, from twelve shillings to six shillings per ton, the land carriage having been forty shillings. Brindley was next engaged to execute the Grand Trunk Canal, which united the Trent and Mersey, carrying it through Birmingham, Chesterfield, and to Nottingham. This was commenced in 1766, and exhibited further examples of his undaunted skill, and, as he had been laughed at by the pedants of the profession, he now in his turn laughed at their puny mediocrity. One of his tunnels, at Harecastle Hill, in Staffordshire, was two thousand eight hundred and eighty yards long, twelve feet wide, nine high, and in some parts seventy yards below the surface of the ground. This tunnel, after half a century's use, was found too confined for the traffic, and a new one, much wider, was made by Telford. By this time the art of tunnelling had made great progress, and whilst Brindley required eleven years to complete his tunnel, Telford made his much larger one in three. Many causes intervened to check for a time the progress of canals, so that from 1760 to 1774 only nineteen Acts were passed for them; but in the two years of 1793 and 1794 no fewer than thirty-six new Bills were introduced to Parliament, with others for extending and amending rivers, making altogether forty-seven Acts, the expenditure on the canals of these two years' projection amounting to five million three hundred thousand pounds. The work now went on rapidly, and investments in canal shares exhibited at that day, in miniature, the great fever of railway speculation at a later period. Lines of canals were made to connect the Thames, the Tweed, the Severn, and the Mersey; so that the great ports of London, Liverpool, Hull, and Bristol were connected by them, and put into communication with nearly all the great inland manufacturing towns. In 1779 a ship-canal was completed from the Forth to the Clyde—a work proposed as early as the reign of Charles II. This canal, thirty-five miles in length, had thirty-nine locks, which carried the canal to a height of one hundred and fifty-six feet above the sea, and it crossed the river Kelvin by an aqueduct eighty-three feet from the bed of the river to the top of the masonry. A few years later a much larger ship-canal united Gloucester to the Severn, and wonderfully increased the trade and growth of that city.

"Father is gone!On the 3rd of February Mr. Darby brought forward a motion that the sheriffs should be discharged from the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms. This gave rise to a long and animated debate. The Attorney-General opposed the motion, contending that until they made their submission the House could not dismiss them with due regard to its dignity. Sir William Follett replied to the arguments of the Attorney-General, and was answered by the Solicitor-General. The debate was adjourned, and was resumed on the 7th. At its conclusion the House divided on the question that the sheriffs be discharged, which was negatived by a majority of 71. On the 12th Mr. Sheriff Wheelton was discharged on account of ill-health, a motion for the release of the other sheriff having been rejected.

Immediately after this, Fox encouraged the formation of a Society of Friends of the Liberty of the Press, of which Erskine and Horne Tooke were members. As several French emissaries were traversing the country disseminating their opinions, Lord Grenville, on the 19th of December, 1792, introduced a bill into the House of Lords, subjecting aliens to certain regulations not included in the ordinary Alien Bill. All foreigners were to announce themselves on their arrival, and surrender any arms brought with them; they were to take out passports, and to have them viséd on every fresh removal through the country, so that their movements might be known to the authorities; those who had arrived during the year 1792 to be particularly observed, and the motives for their coming ascertained; all such foreigners as received allowances from the British Government to be distributed into particular districts, under the eye of the authorities. With some opposition, this Bill was carried. The Marquis of Lansdowne forthwith moved that a negotiation should be immediately opened with the French Government, requiring it to receive back the numerous Frenchmen driven into exile, or to provide for their support, and at the same time to endeavour to save Louis XVI. from the terrible fate which threatened him. This was negatived on the declaration of other lords, who said that both propositions would be useless; the latter one would in all probability hasten, rather than avert, the fate of the French king. In the Commons, Fox and Sheridan strenuously resisted the new Alien Bill, and Burke as vehemently supported it. He declared that no measures of precaution could be too strict; that thousands of daggers had been manufactured in Birmingham for France, and intending to produce a startling effect he drew an actual dagger from his bosom, and flinging it on the floor of the House exclaimed, "That is what you are to obtain[412] from an alliance with France. You must equally proscribe their tenets and their persons; you must keep their principles from your minds, and their daggers from your hearts!" In the French Convention such an action would have created a sensation, but in the matter-of-fact British Parliament it produced only surprise followed by laughter. Fox endeavoured as much as possible to weaken the sense of danger of French principles, though he expressed his abhorrence of the September massacres. The Bill was passed, and was succeeded by one prohibiting the circulation of French assignats, bonds, promissory notes, etc., and another, prohibiting the exportation of naval stores, saltpetre, arms, and ammunition.

Immediately on the rejection of his terms Frederick William concluded a treaty with Alexander on the 28th of February, and Austria was invited to join the league. Alexander had joined his army himself on the 22nd of December, and had marched along with it through that horrible winter. On the 1st of March Prussia concluded its alliance with Alexander, offensive and defensive. On the 15th Alexander arrived at Breslau, and there was an affecting meeting of the two sovereigns, who had been placed in outward hostility by the power of Buonaparte, but who had never ceased to be friends at heart. The King of Prussia was moved to tears. "Courage, my brother," said Alexander; "these are the last tears that Napoleon shall cause you."The cause of the Pretender sank in proportion to the peace throughout Europe and the prosperity at home. From 1728 to 1740 it was at a very low ebb, and lost the few marked men who had moved in it. Three of the chief leaders died about this time—Mar, Wharton, and Atterbury. So low was the Jacobite interest now fallen, that Sir Robert Walpole said that, if ever the Stuarts came again, it must be through the lowest people, for the chiefs were all dead or discouraged.Still, during all this time, though the Tory Ministers in the Council appeared paralysed, the Jacobite lords assembled in secret junto in the very palace where the Council was sitting and the queen dying. Lady Masham's apartments were the scene of the last convulsive agitation of Jacobitism. From her the distracted leaders of that faction received the accounts of the progress of the queen's illness. Amongst these were Buckingham, Ormonde, Atterbury, and, when he was not at Anne's bedside, Robinson, Bishop of London. This prelate, when he attended to administer the Sacrament to the dying woman, received a message from her, which he was bound by the Duchess of Ormonde to promise to deliver, though it cost him his head. Probably it was some last remembrance to her brother, the Pretender; though it was supposed by some to be an order to the Duke of Ormonde, the Commander-in-Chief, to hold the army for the Stuart. Nothing, however, of the nature of this message ever transpired; but the Duke of Buckingham, on the separation of the Council, which had just obtained the affixing of the Great Seal to a patent providing for the government of the country by four-and-twenty regents till the arrival of the successor, clapped his hand on Ormonde's shoulder, saying, "My lord, you have four-and-twenty hours to do our business in, and make yourself master of the country." It was a forlorn hope. That evening Lady Masham entered her apartments in great agitation, saying, "Oh, my lords, we are all undone—entirely ruined! The queen is a dead woman; all the world cannot save her!" Upon which one of the lords asked if the queen had her senses, and if Lady Masham thought she could speak to them. She replied, "Impossible; her pain deprives her of all sense, and in the interval she dozes and speaks to nobody." "That is hard indeed," said one of the lords. "If she could but speak to us, and give us orders, and sign them, we might do the business for all that." "Alas!" replied another lord, "who would act on such orders? We are all undone!" "Then we cannot be worse," said a third. "I assure you," remarked another of these conspirators, probably Ormonde, "that if her Majesty would give orders to proclaim her successor in her lifetime, I would do it at the head of the army. I'll answer for the soldiers." "Do it, then!" swore the Bishop Atterbury, for he did not stick at an oath. "Let us go out and proclaim the Chevalier at Charing Cross. Do you not see that we have no time to lose?" Lady Masham told them they might waive debate; there was nothing to be done; her Majesty was no longer capable of directing anything. On which the Duke of Ormonde exclaimed, "Lord, what an unhappy thing this is! What a cause is here lost at one blow!"

In pursuance of this plan of the campaign, Prideaux and Johnson arrived before the fort of Niagara in the middle of July, which they found very strong, and garrisoned by six hundred men. Prideaux was soon killed by the bursting of a shell, but Johnson continued the siege with great ability, having to invest the fort on one hand, whilst he was menaced on the other by a mixed body of French and Indians, one thousand seven hundred in number, who came to relieve the fort. The attack upon him commenced with a terrible war-whoop of the Indians, which, mingling with the roar of the great cataract near, made the most horrible din imaginable. But this did not disconcert the English and their savage allies, who received them with such steady courage, that in less than an hour they were put to the rout in sight of their own garrison, and pursued for five miles with dreadful slaughter. The garrison thereupon capitulated, remaining prisoners of war. There, however, Sir William Johnson's career stopped. From various causes, not foreseen, he was not able to advance beyond the Ontario to unite with Amherst. That general had fully succeeded in taking Ticonderoga and Crown Point, but he found the French so strongly posted on an island at the upper end of Lake Champlain, that he was compelled to stop and build[134] boats to enable his army to reach and dislodge them; and it was not till October that he was ready to proceed, when he was driven back repeatedly by tempests, and compelled to go into winter quarters.


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1It was the tremendous exertions of O'Connell and his followers that secured the triumph of the Liberal party in this memorable struggle. The first trial of strength was on the election of a Speaker. Parliament met on the 19th of February, 1835, and Lord Francis Egerton, one of the members for Lancashire, moved that Sir C. Manners Sutton, who for eighteen years had filled the chair with the unanimous approbation of all parties in the House, should be re-elected. Mr. Denison, one of the members for Surrey, proposed Mr. Abercromby, a gentleman of high position at[380] the bar, and member for the city of Edinburgh. The division, it was felt on both sides, would be decisive as to the fate of the Government, by showing whether or not it was supported by a majority of the new Parliament which was the response given to the Prime Minister's appeal to the country. The house was the fullest on record, there being 626 members present. Mr. Abercromby was elected by a majority of ten, the numbers being 316 to 306. Sir Charles Sutton was supported by a majority of the English members—23, but his opponent had a majority of ten of the Scottish. Still, had the decision been in the hands of the British representatives, Government would have had a majority of 13; but of the Irish members only 41 voted for Sutton, while 61 voted for Abercromby. From this memorable division two things were evident to the Tories, in which the future of England for the next half century was to them distinctly foreshadowed; the first was, that the Ministry was entirely, on party questions, at the mercy of the Irish Catholic members; the second, that the county members of the whole empire were outvoted by the borough members in the proportion of 35 to 20, and that a large majority of the former had declared for the Conservative side.

So soon as the House of Commons assembled, and before the Speaker read the Speech which had been delivered from the Throne, Mr. Brougham made the first significant move in the game that was about to be played, by announcing[322] that he would that day fortnight submit to the House a proposition on the great question of Parliamentary Reform. Having determined to give notice of his intention when there was a question before the House, he was enabled to accompany his notice with an explanation. This was his explanation:—"He had," he said, "by one party been described as intending to bring forward a very limited, and therefore useless and insignificant, plan; by another, he was said to be the friend of a radical, sweeping, and innovating, and, I may add, for I conscientiously believe it would prove so, a revolutionary reform." Both these imputed schemes he disavowed. "I stand on the ancient way of the Constitution." To explain at that moment what the details of this plan were to be would have then been inconvenient—was, indeed, impossible. "But," said Mr. Brougham, "my object in bringing forward this question is not revolution, but restoration—to repair the Constitution, not to pull it down." This notice was a master-stroke of policy.[584]JOSEPH HUME.



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