Sir Francis Burdett once wrote a letter of a single sentence to his friend Lord Cloncurry, as follows:—"Dear Lord Cloncurry, I should like to know what you think would allay Irish agitation? Yours truly, F. B." It would have taken a volume to answer this question, and perhaps, after all, Sir Francis Burdett would not have been satisfied. George IV. thought that his visit would have had that effect, and appearances for a time seemed to justify his sanguine anticipations. The visit had been long meditated. He set out on a yachting excursion soon after the coronation, and arrived at Plymouth on the 1st of August amidst the huzzas of an immense concourse of people. On the following day the royal squadron departed for Ireland, and anchored in the bay at Holyhead on the 7th. The news of his approach threw the people of Dublin into a paroxysm of joy, to which the newspapers of the day gave expression in the most extravagant terms. The blessing that awaited them seemed too great to be realised. Never had they comforted their hours of despondency or flattered themselves in seasons of imagined felicity, with anything approaching to the reality which fortune was about to shower upon them. The king's name, they declared, was more to them than a tower of strength; it had effected what neither patriots, philosophers, nor moralists could ever accomplish.
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Parliament met on the 16th of November, when the king told them that he had augmented the British forces in the Low Countries with sixteen thousand Hanoverians and six thousand Hessians. In fact, it had been his design, accompanied by his son, the Duke of Cumberland, to go over and take the command of the combined army of English, Hanoverians, Austrians, and Dutch; but the arrival of the Earl of Stair, who had been the nominal commander of these troops, and the return of Lord Carteret from the Hague, with the news that the Dutch could not be moved, had caused him to give up the idea and order his baggage on shore again. He assured Parliament, however, that the spirit and magnanimity of the Queen of Hungary, and the resolute conduct of the King of Sardinia in Italy, had produced the most beneficial effect. The usual address, proposed by the Marquis of Tweeddale, met with considerable opposition, especially in the Upper House, from the Earl of Chesterfield. Lyttelton again introduced the Place Bill, but it was rejected by the very men who had formerly advocated it. There was another motion made for inquiry into the administration of Walpole, on the plea that inquiry had been shamefully stifled on the former occasion; but it met with the same fate. But on the 10th of December the Opposition mustered all its strength on the motion of Sir William Yonge, the new Secretary at War, that we should pay for the sixteen thousand Hanoverians and the six thousand Hessians, and that a grant of six hundred and fifty-seven thousand pounds should be made for their maintenance from August, 1742, to December, 1743. It was the hard task of Sandys, as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, to defend this monstrous grant and the interests of Hanover, after so many years of attack on these topics in opposition. Pitt answered Sandys in the most caustic style of his eloquence, and Sir John Aubyn and others followed as indignantly; but the Ministers carried the motion by two hundred and sixty votes against one hundred and ninety-three. Their ablest supporter on this occasion was Murray, afterwards Lord Mansfield, who made his first parliamentary speech on the occasion, and showed the delighted Cabinet that the man whom they had just made their Solicitor-General was capable of contending with that "terrible comet of horse," Pitt.Whilst Chatham was heading the Opposition in a determined onslaught on the Government, the latter were also compelled to face the awkward American question. Great hopes had been entertained that the people of Boston would be much calmer after the departure of Governor Bernard. Hutchinson, the Deputy-Governor, was not only an American, but a man of a mild temper. But the temper of the Bostonians was now so much excited, that the leaders of the non-importation Act were more vehement than ever. The English merchants presented a petition to Parliament showing that, in consequence of the import duties and the combinations of the colonists to resist them, the exports from England to these colonies had fallen off in 1769 by the amount of seven hundred and forty thousand pounds; that the revenue received from duties paid in America had fallen off from one hundred and ten thousand pounds per annum to thirty thousand pounds.
As the French approached Madrid, whither Buonaparte was coming in person, the Junta, which had taken no measures to render it defensible while they had time, were now all hurry and confusion. They began to collect provisions; the stones were torn up to form barricades. A desperate resistance might have been made, as there had been at Saragossa, but there was treachery in the city. The wealthy inhabitants, merchants and shopkeepers, as well as the aristocracy, were far more anxious to save their property than their country; the cowardly Junta having issued orders, lost heart, and fled for Badajos. On the 2nd of December, the anniversary of his coronation, Buonaparte arrived before Madrid, and summoned it to surrender; and this being unheeded, he prepared to storm it the next morning. Had Palafox been there, there would have been, probably, a brave defence. The next morning the storming commenced, and the French forced their way as far as the palace of the Duke de Medina Celi, the key of the whole city. The place was then summoned afresh, and the governor now proposed a surrender. The fact was, that he had already settled in his mind to go over to the French, as the strongest party, and he gave no encouragement or assistance to the citizens, who still continued from behind their walls and barricades to fire on the French. On the 4th he declared that the city must surrender; and the French marched in. Many of the people fled and the rest were disarmed; but Buonaparte, who wanted to keep Madrid uninjured and in good temper for King Joseph, gave strict orders that the city should not be plundered, nor the people treated with rudeness. He fixed his residence about four miles from Madrid, and issued thence imperial decrees and a proclamation, informing the Spaniards that all further resistance was useless; that he wanted his brother to reign in quiet, but that if this were not permitted, he would come and reign there himself, and compel submission; for God had given him the power and inclination to surmount all obstacles. He then set out to drive the "English leopards" from the Peninsula—a task that was to try him to the uttermost.From the Painting by Seymour Lucas, R.A.Accordingly, Benningsen communicated Alexander's willingness for peace, on the 21st of June, and the armistice was ratified on the 23rd. Buonaparte determined then, as on most occasions, to settle the treaty, not by diplomatists, but personally, with the Czar. A raft was prepared and anchored in the middle of the Niemen, and on the morning of the 25th of June, 1807, the two Emperors met on that raft, and embraced, amid the shouts of the two armies arranged on each bank. The two Emperors retired to a seat placed for them on the raft, and remained in conversation two hours, during which time their attendants remained at a distance. The town of Tilsit was declared neutral ground, and became a scene of festivities, in which the Russian, French, and even Prussian officers, who had been so long drenching the northern snows with each other's blood, vied in courtesies towards each other. Amongst them the two Emperors appeared as sworn brothers, relaxing into gaiety and airs of gallantry, like two young fashionables. On the 28th the King of Prussia arrived, and was treated with a marked difference. He was bluntly informed, that whatever part of his territories were restored would be solely at the solicitation of the Emperor of Russia.
Mr. Lamb, the Chief Secretary, wrote to Mr. Peel to the same effect. The Act, he said, had failed in fulfilling its main object, as well as every other advantageous purpose. To re-enact it would irritate all parties, and expose the Ministry to odium. He alluded to sources of dissension that were springing up in the Roman Catholic body, particularly the jealousy excited in the Roman Catholic prelates by the power which the Association had assumed over the parochial clergy. On the whole, his advice was against renewing the Statute. On the 12th of April Lord Anglesey wrote a memorandum on the subject, in which he pointed out the impolicy of any coercive measure, which, to be effective, must interfere with the right of public meeting, and make a dangerous inroad on the Constitution, at the same time displaying the weakness of the Government, which is shown in nothing more than passing strong measures which there was not vigour to enforce. His information led him to believe that the higher orders of the Roman Catholic clergy had long felt great jealousy of the ascendency that the leaders of the Association had assumed over the lower priesthood. Besides, many of the most respectable of the Catholic landlords were irritated at their tenantry for continuing to pay the Catholic rent, contrary to their injunctions; and sooner or later he believed the poorer contributors must consider the impost as onerous, arbitrary, and oppressive. These matters he regarded as seeds of dissolution, which would be more than neutralised by any coercive attempt to put down the Association. He felt confident that no material mischief could result from allowing the Act quietly to expire, supported as the Government was by "the powerful aid of that excellent establishment, the constabulary force, already working the greatest benefit, and capable of still further improvement, and protected as this force was by an efficient army, ably commanded."
Sanguine though the Dissenters had been respecting the growth of the principles of civil and religious liberty, of which the seeds had been sown in tears by the early Puritan confessors, they did not anticipate that the harvest was at hand. As their claims were not embarrassed by any question of divided allegiance or party politics, many members of Parliament who had not supported the relief of the Roman Catholics found themselves at liberty to advocate the cause of the Protestant Nonconformists; while almost all who had supported the greater measure of Emancipation felt themselves bound by consistency to vote for the abolition of the sacramental test. Yet the victory was not achieved without a struggle. Lord John Russell said:—"The Government took a clear, open, and decided part against us. They summoned their followers from every part of the empire. Nay, they issued a sort of 'hatti-sheriff' for the purpose; they called upon every one within their influence who possessed the faith of a true Mussulman to follow them in opposing the measure. But, notwithstanding their opposition in the debate, their arguments were found so weak, and in the division their numbers were found so deficient, that nothing could be more decided than our triumph."
On the 24th of June Parliament was prorogued by commission. The Royal Speech expressed thanks for the attention that had been given to the affairs of Ireland, and the settlement of the Catholic question, which the king hoped would tend to the permanent tranquillity of that country, and to draw closer the bonds of union between it and the rest of the empire. It was announced that diplomatic relations had been renewed with the Porte, for which ambassadors from England and France had taken their departure. But it was with increased regret that his Majesty again adverted to the condition of the Portuguese monarchy. He repeated his determination to use every effort to reconcile conflicting interests, and to remove the evils which pressed so heavily on a country the prosperity of which must ever be an object of his solicitude. The condition of that country was, indeed, most deplorable under the lawless despotism of Dom Miguel, who, on the abdication of his brother Dom Pedro in favour of Do?a Maria da Gloria, had been appointed regent, but had subsequently assumed the royal title, and driven his niece from the country. He overruled the decisions of the courts of justice regarding political prisoners, and inflicted the punishment of death by his own mere arbitrary order, when only transportation had been decreed by the judges. He crowded the prisons with the most distinguished supporters of constitutional government, confiscated their property, and appropriated it to his own use. Yet this monster would have been acknowledged by the Duke of Wellington. Had the Duke been free to follow the dictates of his own judgment, he would have at once resumed the diplomatic relations which had been broken off between the two states. But Britain was committed to the young queen by the policy of the preceding Administration; and the Duke, though he believed that policy to be unwise, could not break through it in a moment. It was not without difficulty, however, that Britain maintained her neutrality between the contending parties. The Portuguese refugees endeavoured, under various false pretences, to avail themselves of British hospitality, for the purpose of conveying arms and ammunition, and bodies of troops into Portugal, to restore the queen. They asserted that they were sending them to Brazil, but really conveyed them to Terceira, one of the Azores, where Do?a Maria had been proclaimed. The consequence was that 4,000 Portuguese troops, which were lying at Plymouth, were ordered to disband, and Captain Walpole, with a squadron, was sent to watch the Portuguese ships in the Atlantic, in order to avoid the imputation of violating the neutrality. His orders were to proceed to the Azores, to intercept any vessels arriving at those islands, and "should they persist, notwithstanding, in hovering about or making any attempt to effect a landing, you are then to use force to drive them away from the neighbourhood." Walpole intercepted four vessels, containing a force of 650 men under the command of the Duke of Saldanha. They declined to bring-to, whereupon he fired a shot which killed one man and wounded another. Saldanha thereupon declared that he considered himself Walpole's prisoner, and turned his vessels towards Europe. Walpole, in great perplexity, followed him, until he was within 500 miles of Scilly, when they parted company and Saldanha went to Havre. These proceedings were regarded with indignation in Great Britain, the enemies of the Government asserting that, in spite of their declarations of neutrality, they had proved themselves partisans of Dom Miguel. Debates were raised in both Houses, Lord Palmerston in the Commons making his first great speech in condemnation of the Duke's foreign policy. It is significant that Wellington should have written to Lord Aberdeen in a private letter: "In respect to Portugal you may tell Prince Polignac that we are determined that there shall be no revolutionary movement from England or any part of the world."Whilst Walpole was thus labouring to secure the peace of Europe, Bolingbroke was as industriously at work to undermine him. He had cultivated his intimacy with the Duchess of Kendal still more diligently, and by liberal bribes, and more liberal promises if he succeeded in once more regaining power, he had brought her to exert her influence with the king in his favour. This most sordid and rapacious of mistresses, who looked on England only as a country to be managed for her benefit, ventured at length to put into the king's hand a memorial drawn up for her by Bolingbroke, demonstrating that the country must be absolutely ruined if Walpole continued in office. The stratagem was too palpable. Whilst she talked only, her suggestions might pass for her own, but the style of the document must have at once caused the king's suspicion of its true source. He put the paper into Walpole's hand. Walpole, after interrogating the two Turks, who were always in attendance on the king, and on their denying all knowledge of the means by which the missive reached the royal person, went directly to the Duchess and charged her with the fact. She did not deny it. Walpole advised the king to admit Bolingbroke to the audience which he solicited in the memorial, trusting that the king's dislike of him would prevail in the interview. The result appeared to be of that kind; nevertheless, Walpole was far from being secure in his own mind. He knew that the mistress would be continually returning to the charge in favour of her friend and paymaster, though she enjoyed a pension from Government of seven thousand five hundred pounds; and he even contemplated retiring with a peerage, but was dissuaded from this by the Princess of Wales and the Duke of Devonshire. On the other hand, Bolingbroke was in the highest expectation of his speedy restoration not only to rank but to office.
With the military he had a far more violent contest. After the battle of Plassey, Meer Jaffier had conferred on the officers of the army what was called double batta, meaning an additional allowance of pay. Clive had always told the officers that it was not likely that the Company would continue this; and, now that the territories of Jaffier were become virtually their own, he announced that this must be discontinued. The Governor and Council issued the orders for this abolition of the double batta; he received in reply nothing but remonstrances. The officers, according to Burke's phrase, in his speech of December 1st, 1783, "could not behold, without a virtuous emulation, the moderate gains of the civil service." Clive was peremptory, and found his orders openly set at defiance by nearly two hundred officers, headed by no less a person than his second in command, Sir Robert Fletcher. These gentlemen had privately entered into a bond of five hundred pounds to resign on the enforcement of the order, and not to resume their commissions unless the double batta was restored. To support such as might be cashiered, a subscription was entered into, to which the angry civilians of Calcutta are said to have added sixteen thousand pounds. The conspirators flattered themselves that, in a country like India, held wholly by the sword, Clive could not dispense with their services for a single day. They were mistaken. On receiving the news of this military strike, Clive immediately set off for the camp at Monghyr. He was informed that two of the officers vowed that if he came to enforce the order, they would shoot or stab him. Undaunted by any such threats, although in failing health, and amid drenching rains, he pursued his journey, and, on arriving, summoned the officers of the army, and, treating the threats of assassination as those of murderers, and not of Englishmen, he reasoned with them on the unpatriotic nature of their conduct. His words produced the desired effect on many; the privates showed no disposition to support their officers in their demand, and the sepoys all shouted with enthusiasm for Sabut Jung, their ideal of a hero. The younger officers, who had been menaced with death if they did not support the conspiracy, now begged to recall their resignation, and Clive allowed it. He ordered Sir Robert Fletcher and all who stood out into arrest, and sent them down the Ganges to take their trial at Calcutta. Many are said to have departed with tears in their eyes. By this spirited conduct Clive crushed this formidable resistance, and averted the shame which he avowed not all the waters of the Ganges could wash out—that of a successful mutiny.
The opposition, however, was powerful. When Mr. Goulburn brought forward his resolution by which sugar certified to be the growth of China, Manila, Java, or other countries where no slave labour was employed, should be admitted at a duty of 34s., the colonial duty being 24s., the danger of the position of the Ministers was soon perceived. Lord John Russell proposed an amendment in favour of admitting all foreign sugars at 34s., a proposal which, though calculated to maintain the price of sugar at a higher point than the Government proposition, was less distasteful to the Free Traders, as abolishing the differential principle. This amendment was rejected by a majority of only 69. On the 14th of June the Government Bill came on for a third reading, and the contest then began in earnest. Mr. Miles, the representative of the West India party, moved an amendment proposing a reduction of the duty on colonial sugar to 20s., instead of 24s., and the raising of the duties on foreign to 30s. and 34s. The Free Trade party were not entrapped by this offer of a reduction of 4s. on colonial sugar. They saw that Mr. Miles's amendment would only establish a differential duty of 14s. instead of 10s., the difference going to the West India planters. They now, moreover, at least hoped more from Sir Robert Peel than from any Minister likely to succeed him. Mr. Cobden and the League party therefore supported the Government; but so powerful was the combination against them that the division, which took place on the 14th of June, left Ministers in a minority of 20.
Some faint endeavours were made to shake off the yoke. Encouraged by France, they summoned the Turks to their aid and cut to pieces several detachments of the Russians. They proclaimed Poniatowski deposed, and called on the people to aid them to drive out the invaders. But the people, long used to oppression from their own lords, did not answer to the call. In France, Choiseul had been hurled from power, and France left the Poles to their fate. It was now that Frederick of Prussia proposed to Austria to combine with Russia and share Poland between them. At this robber proposition, so in character with Frederick, who had all his life been creating a kingdom by plundering his neighbours, Maria Theresa at first exclaimed in horror. But she was now old and failing, and she gave way, declaring that, long after she was dead and gone, people would see what would happen from their having broken through everything which had, till then, been deemed just and holy. Frederick of Prussia took the surest way to compel the Austrians to come in for a share of the spoils of Poland. He marched a body of soldiers out of Silesia—the territory which he had rent from Austria—into Posen, and Austria, not to be behind, had marched another army into the Carpathian Mountains.It would seem that the law officers of the Crown despaired of proceeding in the old way, but they, or the Ministers themselves, hit on a new and more daring one. On the 27th of March the Secretary of State addressed a circular letter to the lords-lieutenant of counties, informing them that the Law Officers were of opinion that a justice of the peace may issue warrants to apprehend persons charged with the publication of political libels, and compel them to give bail; and he required the lords-lieutenant to communicate this opinion to the ensuing Quarter Sessions, that all magistrates might act upon it. This was the most daring attack on the liberty of the subject which had been made in England since the days of the Stuarts. Lord Grey, on the 12th of May, made a most zealous and able speech in the House of Lords against this proceeding, denouncing the investment of justices of the peace with the power to decide beforehand questions which might puzzle the acutest juries, and to arrest and imprison for what might turn out to be no offence at all. He said:—"If such be the power of the magistrate, and if this be the law, where, I ask, are all the boasted securities of our independence and freedom?" But it appears from the correspondence of Lord Sidmouth, that he was at this moment glorying in this expedient and triumphing in its imagined success. He said the charge of having put such power into the hands of magistrates, he would do his best and most constant endeavour to deserve; and that already the activity of the dealers in libellous matter was much diminished. He had, in truth, struck a deadly terror to the hearts of the stoutest patriots, who saw no prospect but ruin and incarceration if they dared to speak the truth. Cobbett then fled, and got over to America. In taking leave of his readers, in his Register of March 28th, he gave his reasons for escaping from the storm:—"Lord Sidmouth was 'sorry to say' that I had not written anything that the Law Officers could prosecute with any chance of success. I do not remove," he continued, "for the purpose of writing libels, but for the purpose of being able to write what is not libellous. I do not retire from the combat with the Attorney-General, but from a combat with a dungeon, deprived of pen, ink, and paper. A combat with the Attorney-General is quite unequal enough; that, however, I would have encountered. I know too well what a trial by special jury is; yet that, or any sort of trial, I would stand to face. So that I could be sure of a trial of whatever sort, I would have run the risk; but against the absolute power of imprisonment, without even a hearing, for time unlimited, in any gaol in the kingdom, without the use of pen, ink, and paper, and without communication with any soul but the keepers—against such a power it would have been worse than madness to attempt to strive."ARREST OF THE RAJAH OF BENARES. (See p. 334.)详情
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