These vexatious proceedings, including a great number of debates and divisions, led to the passing of an Act for more clearly defining the privileges of the House of Commons, which had made itself unpopular by its course of proceeding towards the sheriffs, who had only discharged duties which they could not have evaded without exposing themselves to the process of attachment. On the 5th of March, accordingly, Lord John Russell moved for leave to bring in a Bill relative to the publication of Parliamentary papers. He said, in the course of his speech, that at all periods of our history, whatever might have been the subject—whether it regarded the privileges of Parliament or the rights of the Crown or any of the constituted authorities—whenever any great public difficulty had arisen, the Parliament in its collective sense, meaning the Crown, Lords, and Commons, had been called in to solve those difficulties. With regard to the measure he was about to propose, he would take care to state in the preamble of the Bill that the privilege of the House was known only by interpretation of the House itself. He proposed that publications authorised by either House of Parliament should be protected, and should not be liable to prosecution in any court of common law. Leave was given to introduce the Bill by a majority of 149, in spite of the opposition of the Solicitor-General, Sir Thomas Wilde; the House went into committee on the Bill on the 13th of March, and it passed the third reading on the 20th of the same month. It was read a second time in the Lords on the 6th of April; and the Royal Assent was given to it by commission on the 14th of the same month.In the report prepared by the League it was stated that during a very considerable portion of the year there were employed in the printing, and making up of the electoral packets of tracts, upwards of 300 persons, while more than 500 other persons were employed in distributing them from house to house among the constituencies. To the Parliamentary electors alone of England and Scotland there had been distributed in this manner, of tracts and stamped publications, five millions. Besides these, there had been a large general distribution among the working classes and others, who are not electors, to the number of 3,600,000. In addition, 426,000 tracts had been stitched up with the monthly magazines and other periodicals, thus making altogether the whole number of tracts and stamped publications issued by the council during the year to amount to upwards of nine millions, or in weight more than one hundred tons. The distribution had been made in twenty-four counties containing about 237,000 electors, and in 187 boroughs containing 259,226 electors, making in boroughs and counties together the whole number of electors supplied 496,226. The labours of the lecturers employed during the year had been spread over fifty-nine counties in England, Wales, and Scotland, and they had delivered about 650 lectures during the year. A large number of meetings had been held during the year in the cities and boroughs, which had been attended by deputations of members of the council, exclusive of the metropolis. One hundred and forty towns had been thus visited, many of them twice and three times; and the report further stated that such had been the feeling existing in all parts of the kingdom that there was scarcely a town which had not urged its claim to be visited by a deputation from the council of the League.Among the historians of the time there are three or four names that deserve to be specially mentioned. The first is that of Sir James Mackintosh, who, notwithstanding the pressure of Parliamentary duties and the attractions of London society, so far conquered his constitutional indolence, increased by his residence in India, as to produce some literary works so valuable that it has been a source of regret that he could not find time to give to the world something more than fragments. His dissertation on "The Progress of Ethical Philosophy" shows what he could have accomplished in that field; while his three volumes of "The History of England" caused a general feeling of disappointment that he was not spared to complete the work. He was engaged on a history of the Revolution of 1688 when he died, rather suddenly, in May, 1832.
The next morning, the 6th of December, the retreat commenced; but the soldiers and the inferior officers little dreamed that it was a retreat. They imagined that they were going to fight the Duke of Cumberland, and marched out in high spirits. The morning was foggy, and for some time the delusion was kept up; but when the fog cleared away, and they perceived that they were retracing their former route, their disappointment and rage became excessive. The retreat was rapidly continued through Preston, and on to Lancaster, which they reached on the 13th. On the 18th Oglethorpe and Cumberland, accompanied by a mob of country squires and mounted farmers, attacked Lord George Murray's rear near Penrith; but the countrymen were speedily put to flight by a charge of the Glengarry clan, and Oglethorpe fell back to the main body. They came up again, however, in the evening near the village of Clifton, and Lord George perceived, by the fitful light of the moon, the enemy forming behind the stone walls, and lining every hedge, orchard, and outhouse. Just as the royal troops commenced their charge they were stopped by a cross-fire of the concealed Highlanders, and, whilst affected by this surprise, Lord George cried, "Claymore! claymore!" and rushing down upon them with the Macphersons of Cluny, attacked them sword in hand. Being supported by the Stuarts of Appin, they compelled the English to retreat.The progress of Great Britain in commerce during the reign of George III. had been extraordinary. At the beginning of the reign the number of British vessels of all kinds amounted to only 7,075, with a tonnage of 457,316 tons; but at the end of the reign the vessels amounted to 30,000, with a tonnage of upwards of 3,000,000 tons. At the commencement of the reign the exports were ￡14,500,000, and the imports ￡9,579,159. At the end of the reign the exports had risen to ￡43,438,989; and the imports to ￡30,776,810.
This Session is memorable for the introduction of the subject of Parliamentary Reform by Lord John Russell. His plan was to add one hundred members to the House—sixty for counties and forty for large towns. He argued that this enlargement of the representation was rendered just and politic by increasing intelligence among the people, especially the middle classes, of whom large numbers were unrepresented in Parliament. His motion was negatived, on the 29th of April, by two hundred and sixty-nine to one hundred and sixty-four, Mr. Canning having led the opposition of the Conservatives, and defended the Constitution as it stood. The motion, in fact, was premature, though in the previous Session he had procured the disfranchisement of the corrupt borough of Grampound—a victory which the Lords sought to neutralise by transferring the seat to the county of York, instead of to one of the great unrepresented cities.J. Longfield, made Lord Longville.
SIR DAVID BAIRD.
Hon. J. Hutchinson, made Lord Hutchinson, and a general.
On the 13th of May came down a message, announcing the approaching marriage of the Duke of Kent with the daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Victoria Maria Louisa, sister of Prince Leopold, and widow of Emich Charles, the Prince of Leiningen. The princess was already the mother of a son and daughter. The nation was extremely favourable to this match. The Duke of Kent was popular, and the more so that he had always been treated with unnatural harshness by his father. He had been put under the care of an old martinet general in Hanover, who had received a large annual allowance with him, and kept him so sparely that the poor youth ran away. He had been then sent to Gibraltar, where the severe discipline which he had been taught to consider necessary in the army brought him into disgrace with the garrison. But towards the public at large his conduct had been marked by much liberality of principle.This Act, as disgraceful as any which ever dishonoured the statute-book in the reigns of the Tudors or Stuarts, was introduced into the Commons, on the 12th of May, by Sir William Wyndham, and was resolutely opposed by the Whigs, amongst whom Sir Peter King, Sir Joseph Jekyll, Mr. Hampden, Robert Walpole, and General Stanhope distinguished themselves. They did not convince the majority, which amounted to no less than two hundred and thirty-seven to one hundred and twenty-six. In the Lords, Bolingbroke himself moved the second reading, and it was ably opposed by the Lords Cowper, Wharton, Halifax, Townshend, Nottingham, and others. The greatest curiosity was displayed regarding the part which Oxford would take, as it was known that in the Council he had endeavoured to soften the rigorous clauses; but in the House he followed his usual shuffling habit, declaring that he had not yet considered the question; and, having induced the Opposition to let the second reading pass without a division, he absented himself from the final voting, and thus disgusted both parties and hastened his own fall.
For more than four months the invincible Massena continued to watch the lines of Torres Vedras without striking a single effective blow. In fact, instead of attacking Wellington, Wellington attacked his advanced posts near Sobral on the 14th, and drove them in with the bayonet. The French then showed themselves in some force near Villa Franca, close to the Tagus; but there the gunboats reached them, causing them rapidly to retreat, and killing General St. Croix. After this, the French made no further attempt on those mountain lines which struck Massena with despair. After occupying his position for a month he fell back to the town of Santarem, and there and in the neighbouring villages quartered his troops for the winter. His great business was to collect provisions, for he had brought none with him; and had the people obeyed strictly the proclamation of Wellington and the Junta, he would have found none at all, and must have instantly retreated. But the Portuguese thought it hard to quit their homesteads and carry all their provisions to Lisbon or into the mountains, and the miserable Junta threw all the blame of the order on the British general. Not only, therefore, was a considerable amount of provisions left in the country, but boats were left at Santarem, on the Tagus, contrary to Wellington's orders, by which provisions were brought over by the French from Spain.
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