On the 1st of December, 1837, shortly after the opening of Parliament, Lord John Russell introduced a question of great urgency—the relief of the Irish poor. After going through, and commenting on, the several recommendations of the Inquiry Commissioners, and noticing the objections to which they were all more or less open, he explained, by way of contrast, the principles on which the present Bill was founded, much in the same manner that he had done on the first introduction of the measure. The statement was generally well received, although there were some marked exceptions in this respect; and the Bill was read a first time without a division. It was, in like manner, read a second time on the 5th of February, 1838; but, on the motion for going into committee, on the 9th, Mr. O'Connell strongly opposed it, and moved that it be committed that day six months. The amendment was, however, negatived by 277 to 25, a majority which made the passing of the measure in some form pretty certain. On the 23rd of February the question of settlement was again very fully discussed, and its introduction opposed by 103 to 31, the latter number comprising all that could be brought to vote for a settlement law of any kind. The vagrancy clauses were for the present withdrawn from the Bill, on the understanding that there would hereafter be a separate measure for the suppression of mendicancy. The Bill continued to be considered in successive committees until the 23rd of March, when, all the clauses having been gone through and settled, it was ordered to be reported, which was done on the 9th of April. On the 30th of April the Bill was read a third time and passed by the Commons, and on the day following was introduced and read a first time in the Lords. Many of the peers, whose estates were heavily encumbered, were alarmed at the threatened imposition of a poor-rate, which might swallow up a large portion of their incomes. Those who were opposed to a poor law on economic principles, appealed to their lordships' fears, and excited a determined opposition against the measure. On the 21st of May there was a stormy debate of nine hours' duration. Lord Melbourne moved the second reading in a judicious speech, in which he skilfully employed the best arguments in favour of a legal provision for the poor, stating that this measure was, in fact, but the extension to Ireland of the English Act of 1834, with such alterations as were adapted to the peculiar circumstances of that country. It would suppress mendicancy, and would abate agrarian violence, while relieving the destitute in a way that would not paralyse the feeling of energy and self-reliance. Among the most violent opponents of the measure was Lord Lyndhurst, who declared that it would lead to a dissolution of the union. The Duke of Wellington, on the contrary, contended that the Bill, if amended in committee, would improve the social relations of the people of Ireland, and would induce the gentry to pay some attention to their properties, and to the occupiers and labourers on their estates. He objected, however, to a law of settlement as leading to unbounded litigation and expense. Owing chiefly to the support of the Duke, the second reading was carried by a majority of 149 to 20. On the motion that the Bill be committed, on the 28th of May, a scene of confusion and violence was presented, surpassing anything that could have been expected in such a dignified assembly. The Irish peers especially were in a state of extreme excitement. The discussion was adjourned to the 31st, and, after a debate of eight hours, the clause embodying the principle of the Bill was adopted by a majority of 107 to 41. The Bill was considered in committee on the 7th, 21st, 22nd, and 26th of June, and was read a third time on the 6th of July. It had now passed the Lords, altered, and in some respects improved; although, in the opinion of its author, the charge upon electoral divisions approximated too nearly to settlement to be quite satisfactory. The Royal Assent was given to the measure on the 31st of July, and thus a law was at length established making provision for the systematic and efficient relief of destitution in Ireland.[See larger version]
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[See larger version]But the great glory of this session was not the exposure of Davison and his fellow thieves, but the stop put to the operations of a much larger class of rascals. The death of Fox had been a sad blow to Wilberforce and the abolitionists, who had calculated on his carrying the prohibition of the slave trade; but Lord Grenville and his Cabinet seemed to have made up their minds to have the fame of achieving the grand object of so many years' exertion for the suppression of the African slave trade. Wilberforce, to his inconceivable joy, discovered that Spencer Perceval, the leader of the Opposition, and his party were willing to co-operate for this purpose. The king and royal family alone remained as adverse to the abolition of slavery as they were to the emancipation of the Catholics. The abolitionists, however, had so imbued the country with the sense of the barbarity and iniquity of the traffic, that royal prejudice could no longer swamp the measure, nor aristocratic apathy delay it. Lord Grenville brought in a Bill for the purpose into the Peers on the 2nd of January, 1807: the 12th was fixed for the second reading. Before this took place, counsel was heard at the bar of the House against the measure, who repeated all the terrible prognostics of ruin to the West Indies and to Britain from the abolition, with which the planters and proprietors of the West Indies, the merchants and slave captains of Liverpool and Bristol, had so often endeavoured to alarm the nation. The emptiness of these bugbears had, however, been now too fully exposed to the people by the lectures, speeches, and pamphlets of the Abolition Society, and Wilberforce had all along merely to use the arguments in Parliament with which they had abundantly furnished him. Lord Grenville now introduced the second reading by an elaborate speech, in which he condensed and summed up these arguments. He was warmly supported by the Duke of Gloucester—a liberal exception to his family—by Lords King, Selkirk, Rosslyn, Northesk, Holland, Suffolk, Moira, and the Bishops of Durham, London, and others. The Dukes of Clarence and Sussex as zealously opposed him, as well as Lords Sidmouth, Eldon, Ellenborough, Hawkesbury, St. Vincent, and many others. The second reading was carried, after a debate which continued till five o'clock in the morning, by one hundred against thirty-six. The third reading was also carried with equal ease, and the Bill was brought down to the Commons on the 10th of February. Lord Howick proposed its reading in an eloquent speech, and it was opposed, with the usual prediction of ruin, by Mr. George Hibbert, Captain Herbert, and General Gascoyne, who said the nation was carried away by sentimental cant, the result of an enormous agitation by the Quakers and Saints. The first reading, however, passed without a division, and the second on the 24th of February, by two hundred and eighty-three against sixteen. The House gave three cheers. Seeing the large majority, and that the Bill was safe, Lord Grenville recommended Wilberforce to strengthen it by inserting the penalties, which he did; but they left a great advantage to the slave merchants by allowing them to clear out their vessels from Great Britain by the 1st of May, and gave them time to deliver their human cargoes in the West Indies till the 1st of January, 1808—a liberty which was sure to create a great sending out of vessels for the last occasion, and a fearful crowding of them. However, the accursed trade was now doomed, as far as British merchants could go, though it was soon found that it was not so easy to suppress it. When it was seen that the Bill must pass, Lords Eldon, Hawkesbury, and Castlereagh, who had hitherto opposed it, declared themselves in favour of it. It was carried in both Houses by large majorities, and received the royal sanction on the 25th of March. So easily was the Bill passed, at last, that Lord Percy, the day after it had left the Commons, moved in that House for leave to bring in a Bill for the gradual emancipation of the slaves; but this being deemed premature, and calculated to injure the operation of the Bill for the abolition of the trade, and to create dangerous excitement in the West Indies, the motion was discouraged, and so was dropped.
[See larger version]In America Lord Amherst took the chief command, with Wolfe as his second; Abercrombie being despatched to reduce the French forts on Lakes George and Champlain, and thus open the way into Canada. On the 2nd of June the British fleet, commanded by Admiral Boscawen, and carrying Lord Amherst and twelve thousand men, anchored before Louisburg, the capital of Cape Breton. The French had six thousand men, soldiers and marines, and five ships of the line were drawn up in the harbour. The landing was therefore effected with difficulty; but Wolfe, who led the way in person, showed such spirit and activity, and the Admiral and General, unlike the usual conduct on such occasions, acted together with such unanimity and zeal, that the French were compelled, towards the end of July, to capitulate, and the soldiers of the garrison were sent to England, prisoners of war. The whole island of Cape Breton submitted to the conquerors, and the island of St. John was also reduced by Colonel Lord Rollo. St. John's was afterwards named Prince Edward's Island, in compliment to the royal family.
These dispiriting losses, combined with the fall of Minorca, stimulated the public and the mercantile bodies to petition earnestly for the termination of the American war; and Parliament met at the appointed time amid numbers of such demands. Petitions came from the cities of London and Westminster, and many other towns and counties, bearing rather the features of remonstrances. No sooner did the House meet than Fox moved for an inquiry into the causes of the constant failure of our fleets in these enterprises, on which so much had depended. The object was to crush Lord Sandwich, the head of the Admiralty. Fox's motion was rejected, but only by a majority of twenty-two. The strength of Ministers was fast ebbing.The Ministers and the Prince Regent, indeed, fully approved of the conduct of these magistrates, and that was to be expected, for neither of these parties ever evinced much sympathy for the people, and consequently received very little regard in return. There was a disposition to rule by the high hand in both the Prince and the Cabinet, which eventually brought them into extreme odium, and warned them that very different times were approaching. On the reassembling of Parliament Lord Sidmouth made the most candid statement of the full and entire approbation of himself and his colleagues of this cruel and dastardly transaction. He said that the news of the event reached town on the Tuesday night; and that it was followed on the Wednesday by two gentlemen from Manchester, one of them a magistrate, to give the Government the most minute particulars regarding it; that a Cabinet Council was immediately summoned, at which the two Manchester gentlemen attended, and entered into the fullest details of all that had taken place; and that the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, then present, gave it as their opinion that the proceedings were perfectly justified by the necessity of the case. The statement of all particulars was then dispatched to the Prince Regent, who was yachting off Christchurch, and, on the 19th, the Prince replied, by the hand of Sir Benjamin Bloomfield, expressing his "high approbation and commendation of the conduct of the magistrates and civil authorities at Manchester, as well as of the officers and troops, both regular and yeoman cavalry, whose firmness and effectual support of the civil power preserved the peace of the town on that most critical occasion." To most people this appeared to be giving commendation, not for preserving, but for disturbing the peace of the town; but Lord Sidmouth, having received this sanction, addressed letters, on the 21st, to the Lords-Lieutenant of Lancashire and Cheshire, the Earls of Derby and Stamford, requesting them to convey to the magistrates of the two counties, who were present at Manchester on the 16th, "the great satisfaction derived by his Royal Highness from their prompt, decisive, and efficient measures for the preservation of the public tranquillity." Hunt and his confederates were charged with high treason; but, on the circumstances being examined, they were found not to bear out this charge, and Hunt and his friends were indicted only for a treasonable conspiracy; and true bills to the extent of this mitigated charge were proved against Hunt and nine others at the summer assizes for the county of Lancaster.
The House then adjourned for the Easter holidays, till the 7th of May. The interval was one of the greatest possible public excitement. The narrowness of the majority made the Reformers tremble for the fate of the Bill in committee. The awful silence was now broken, and the voice of the nation was heard like peals of thunder. The political unions which had been resting on their arms, as if watching intently the movements of armies at a distance, now started to their feet, and prepared themselves for battle. At Leeds, at Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, meetings were held, strong resolutions passed, and imperative petitions adopted. At Birmingham an aggregate meeting of the political unions of the surrounding districts was held on the 7th of May at the foot of New Hall Hill. Of this vast and formidable assembly, the northern division alone was estimated at 100,000 men, who marched with 150 banners and eleven bands of music, their processions extending over four miles. The total number of bands in attendance at the meeting was 200, and the number of banners 700. The commencement of the proceedings was announced by sound of bugle. A number of energetic and determined speeches was delivered, and a petition to the Lords was adopted, imploring them not to drive to despair a high-minded, generous, and fearless people, nor to urge them on by a rejection of their claims to demands of a much more extensive nature; but rather to pass the Reform Bill into law, unimpaired in any of its great parts and provisions, more especially uninjured in the clauses relating to the ten-pound franchise. The council of the Birmingham union declared its sitting permanent, and the vast organisation throughout the United Kingdom assumed an attitude of resolution and menace truly alarming.
But a month only elapsed when fresh differences arose in the Cabinet leading to further resignations, and ending in the retirement of Lord Grey from public life. Again Ireland was the rock on which the Cabinet struck and went to pieces. The Irish Coercion Act, which had been passed for one year only, was to be renewed, with modifications, for which purpose a Bill was introduced into the Lords about the middle of June. A large number of the Liberal members of England and Scotland, as well as Ireland, required the omission of the clauses enabling the Lord-Lieutenant to suppress public meetings by proclamation—a power which Lord Wellesley was induced by his meddlesome advisers, Mr. Littleton and Lord Brougham, to declare he did not require. His opinion, however, was overruled in the Cabinet, and they agreed to support the Bill as it stood. Lord Althorp had very reluctantly yielded the point, more especially as the necessity for the extra-constitutional powers was denied by the Irish executive and by the Lord Chancellor. Mr. Littleton, the Irish Secretary, having indiscreetly made O'Connell aware of the division in the Cabinet, and of the fact that several of its members were supporting the clause contrary to their convictions, the Irish leader used the knowledge thus obtained with tremendous effect. While sitting under the fierce invectives of his opponent, Lord Althorp felt his position to be intolerable. On quitting the House, after a long and harassing discussion, on the 7th of July, he wrote to the Prime Minister, announcing this fact. Next morning there was a conference, after which Lord Grey transmitted to the king his resignation, with that of Lord Althorp; and on the recommendation of Lord Grey, Lord Melbourne was appointed to the office of Prime Minister, being succeeded in the Home Office by Lord Duncannon; while Lord Althorp, relieved from his obligation with regard to the Coercion Bill, consented to resume the post he had just resigned.
When Ney and Caulaincourt saw Marmont at Essonnes, he informed them that he had entered into a convention with the Allied sovereigns on his own account. They begged him to suspend it and accompany them, and he consented. Whilst the three commissioners were with the Emperor Alexander, news was brought that Count Souham, with whom Marmont had left the command of his troops, had gone over, and marched the division into the lines of the Allies. On this the Emperor said they had better return to Napoleon, and assure him that the Allies would accept nothing short of an absolute and unqualified abdication. When they announced this to him, to their surprise, he exclaimed, "But what provisions are made for me? How am I to be disposed of?" They replied that it was proposed by the Emperor Alexander that he should retain the title of Emperor; should have the island of Elba, a guard, a small fleet, and all the attributes of royalty, with a suitable income. With a mood of mind incomprehensible in any other person, he immediately called for maps and books about Elba, and began contemplating his future position, as though he had only been changing one France for another; but there can be no doubt that he, in reality, was weighing the facilities of the place for that effort to regain the empire of France, which he certainly never renounced for a moment. On the 11th of April he drew up a form of unconditional abdication, signed, and dispatched it. Ney, Macdonald, and Caulaincourt arrived with the treaty to which the Allied sovereigns had agreed. Elba was assigned to him—an island twenty leagues in extent, with twelve thousand inhabitants—and he was to have an income of six millions of francs, besides the little revenue of the island. Two millions and a half more were assigned as annuities to Josephine, and the other members of his family. The Empress was to be created Duchess of Parma, Placentia, and Guastella, in full sovereignty. The marshals and other officers of his army were received into the same ranks and dignities in the army of the Bourbon sovereign. Lord Castlereagh, who had arrived after the conclusion of this treaty, pointed out the folly of it, which must have been apparent to every man of the slightest reflection; for, to a certainty, Napoleon would not for a day longer than he was compelled observe it in a place like Elba, in the very vicinity of France. He declined, on the part of Great Britain, any concern in it; but to avoid a renewal of the war, he offered no formal opposition. Napoleon arrived at Elba on the 4th of May.详情
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