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类型:奇幻地区:发布:2020-10-28 05:01:47

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RETREAT OF THE FRENCH FROM RUSSIA. (See p. 50.)Melville was now permitted by the House of Peers to go down to the House of Commons, notwithstanding their conclusion on the subject, to make his defence, and he made a very long speech, contending that he had not embezzled a farthing of the public money, and exalting his services to the country, especially in his India administration. But on the head of Secret Service Money he was as close as the grave. He declared that "if he had disclosed any of these transactions he should have felt himself guilty not only of a breach of public duty, but of a most unwarrantable breach of private honour." There were twenty thousand pounds which he never did, and never could, account for on this ground, and there were forty thousand pounds drawn at once by Pitt from the Navy Fund. He said he knew very well for what purposes these sums had been paid, but that nothing would compel him to disclose it. When it was asked him whether Mr. Trotter had not kept large sums belonging to the Navy Fund in Coutts's Bank, and speculated with them to his own great enrichment, he admitted that Trotter had had such sums for considerable times in Coutts's Bank, but that they were always forthcoming when wanted, and that no single payment had been delayed on that account; and that out of the one hundred and thirty-four millions which had passed through his hands, nothing had been lost. He praised Trotter in the highest manner, but was silent as to the private use that he had so long, and to such advantage to himself, made of the public money. He admitted that he had himself held considerable sums of this money at different times in his own hands, but had repaid the whole before quitting[503] office, and this was all that the Act of 1785 required. He seemed to admit that he had paid money out of the Navy Fund for other than naval objects, and for these secret service purposes. Some of these were in Scotland, of which, also, he had the administration to a certain degree. And here the public called to mind that Watt, the spy and informer against the Scottish Reformers, had acknowledged to have been employed and paid by Dundas, so that it was clear whither some of the Navy Fund had gone. Melville entered into long explanations regarding a written release which had passed reciprocally between him and Trotter on winding up their affairs, in which they agreed to destroy all their vouchers for the sums paid away. This looked very black, but Melville contended that it was only a matter of coursea thing constantly done by officials in like circumstances, which, if true, made the matter all the worse for the country. But Melville contended that this clause in the release was merely a form; that it did not mean that they should literally destroy the vouchers, but only that they should be rendered invalid as evidence in any prosecution, which very little mended the matter. Melville declared that he had not, in consequence of the clause, destroyed a single paper.

Parliament was opened by commission on the 29th of January, four days after the formation of the Wellington Ministry. The Royal Speech referred chiefly to the affairs of the East, to the rights of neutral nations violated by the revolting excesses of the Greeks and Turks, to the battle of Navarino with the fleet of an ancient ally, which was lamented as an "untoward event;" but hopes were expressed that it might not lead to further hostilities. The Speech alluded to the increase of exports and the more general employment of the people as indications of returning prosperity. The phrase "untoward" was objected to by Lords Lansdowne and Goderich. Lord Holland denied that our relations with Turkey were those of an alliance; but the Duke of Wellington contended that the Ottoman empire was an ancient ally of Great Britain, that it formed an essential part of the balance of power, and that the maintenance of its independent existence was more than ever necessary as an object of European policy.In Italy the French had been as unfortunate as they had been fortunate in Flanders. In November of 1746 the Austrians and Sardinians, assisted by a British fleet, had entered Provence and bombarded Antibes. They were recalled, however, by the news that the Genoese had revolted, and thrown off the Austrian yoke. In their retreat they were harassed by Marshal de Belleisle, laid siege to Genoa in vain, and began to quarrel amongst themselves. The French, to complete their own[113] discomfiture, marched another army into Italy under the brother of Belleisle; but they were stopped in the Pass of Exilles, and defeated, with the loss of four thousand men and of their commander, the Chevalier de Belleisle.

The Frankfort Parliament had spent a year doing nothing but talking. They came, however, to the important resolution of offering the Imperial Crown of Germany to the King of Prussia. As soon as the Prussian Assembly heard this, they adopted an address to the king, earnestly recommending him to accept the proffered dignity. They were deeply interested by seeing the house of Hohenzollern called to the direction of the Fatherland and they hoped he would take into his strong hands the guidance of the destinies of the German nation. On the 3rd of April, 1849, the king received the Frankfort deputation commissioned[578] to present to him the Imperial Crown. He declined the honour unless the several Governments of the German States should approve of the new Imperial Constitution, and concur in the choice of the Assembly. As soon as this reply was made known, the second Prussian Chamber adopted a motion of "urgency," and prepared an address to the king, entreating him to accept the glorious mission of taking into firm hands the guidance of the destiny of regenerated Germany, in order to rescue it from the incalculable dangers that might arise from the conflicting agitations of the time. The address was carried only by a small majority. The king had good reason for refusing the imperial diadem; first, because Austria, Würtemberg, Bavaria, and Hanover decidedly objected; and secondly because the king required changes in the Frankfort Constitution which the Parliament refused to make. These facts enabled his Majesty to discover that the imperial supremacy was "an unreal dignity, and the Constitution only a means gradually, and under legal pretences, to set aside authority, and to introduce the republic." In July the state of siege was terminated in Berlin, and the new elections went in favour of the Government.

In the meantime the nation began to form itself rapidly into two partiesReformers and Anti-Reformers. The Tories were all reunited, driven together by the sense of a common danger; divisions occasioned by the currency and agricultural distress were all forgottenall merged in one mighty current of Conservative feeling. The whole strength of that party rallied under the leadership of Sir Robert Peel. His bitterest opponents, such as Lord Winchilsea and Sir Edward Knatchbull, were among the most ardent and cordial of his allies. On the other hand, the Reformers were in transports of joy and exultation. "I honestly confess," said Mr. John Smith, "that when I first heard the Ministerial proposal, it had the effect of taking away my breath, so surprised and delighted was I to find the Ministers so much in earnest." This was the almost universal feeling among Reformers, who comprised the mass of the middle and working classes. No Bill in the Parliamentary annals of Britain was ever honoured like this. It was accepted by universal suffrage as the Charter of Reform. Every clause, every sentence, every word in it was held sacred; and the watchword at every meeting was, "The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." Petitions were got up in every town, and almost every parish, some of them bearing twenty thousand or thirty thousand signatures, demanding the passing of the Bill untouched and unimpaired.

The Budget excited extraordinary interest throughout the country; but the proposed sugar duties were, in the eyes of the Free Traders, objectionable, as maintaining the differential rates in favour of the West Indian landlords. Though well received on the whole, it was impossible not to see in the Budget traces of the anomalous position of the Minister. One newspaper described his measures as combining the most glaring inconsistencies that ever disfigured the policy of any Minister, and arranged in parallel columns illustrations of its assertion. Sir Robert Peel was charged with proposing at the same time a tariff whose[516] express object was declared to be to cheapen the necessaries of life and corn, and provision laws whose sole object was to make the chief necessaries of life dear; with professing great concern to relieve trade and commerce, for the sake of which a property tax was proposed, combined with a still greater concern to uphold the rent of land, for the sake of which trade and commerce were loaded with a bread tax; with devising taxes for the mere purpose of revenue; with levying taxes for the mere purpose of protection; with repealing the duty on slave-grown cotton, while imposing prohibitory duties on slave-grown sugar; with encouraging Brazilian coffee and cotton, while refusing Brazilian sugar; and with admitting cheap slave-grown sugar to be refined in Britain, and sold to Continental nations, while forbidding the selfsame cheap sugar to our own working people. Still, there was progress. The Corn Law was untouched, but statesmen of all parties had spoken despairingly of its continuance.[See larger version]

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RESCUE OF THE BRITISH PRISONERS FROM AKBAR KHAN. (See p. 503.)

But the event which, far more than the battle of Baylen, showed Buonaparte and the world the sort of war he had provoked, was the siege of Saragossa. This ancient city, the capital of Aragon, stands on the right bank of the Ebro, with a suburb on the left bank connected with it by a bridge. Another river, a small one, called the Cozo, flowed into the Ebro, close under the city walls. The immediate neighbourhood of Saragossa is flat, and, on one side of the river, marshy; its walls were of brick, about ten feet high, old and ruinous, but in places they were only of mud. It might seem that no strong defence of such a place could be made against an army of thirteen thousand menveterans who had served in Germany and Poland, and who were furnished with battering trains and every means of assault. But the streets of the city were narrow and crooked, the houses strong and lofty, the rooms being almost all vaulted, and therefore almost impervious to shell. The inhabitants were sixty thousand. Saragossa raised the flag of resistance the moment that Murat issued his proclamation on the 20th of May, informing the Spanish people of the abdication of Charles and Ferdinand, and calling on the Spaniards to submit to the new government. On the 16th of June General Lefebvre commenced the attack by driving in the outposts of Palafox, the Spanish General, and establishing strong guards before the gates, but the Spaniards fought him street by street. As fast as they knocked down the walls and scattered the sandbags, they were repaired again by the Spaniards. At this stage of the siege, Augustina, "the Maid of Saragossa," a handsome woman of the lower class, of about twenty-two years of age, arrived on one of the batteries with refreshments, and found every man who had defended it lying slain. The fire was so tremendous that the citizens hesitated to re-man the guns. Augustina sprang forward over the bodies of the dead and dying, snatched a match from the hand of a dead artilleryman, and fired off a six-and-twenty-pounder. She then jumped upon the gun, and vowed never to quit it alive during the siege. Such an example added new courage to the defenders; and the siege proceeded with incessant fury. At this juncture Buonaparte withdrew a part of the troops, ordering Lefebvre to join Bessires with them, and Verdier was left to continue the siege with about ten thousand men. The Saragossans, encouraged by this, and assisted by some regular troops, not only defended the town more vigorously than ever, but sent out detachments to cut off Verdier's supplies. After several determined assaults he raised the siege on the 13th of August.The funeral was but poorly attended. Few members of either House were there, except those of the Opposition. Gibbon says that "the Government ingeniously contrived to secure the double odium of suffering the thing to be done, and of doing it with an ill grace." Burke and Savile, Thomas Townshend, and Dunning, were pall-bearers; Colonel Barr carried the banner of the barony of Chatham, supported by the Marquis of Rockingham and the Dukes of Richmond, Northumberland, and Manchester; William Pitt, in the place of his elder brother, who was gone to Gibraltar, was the chief mourner, followed by eight Peers, as assistant mourners, amongst whom were Lord Shelburne and Lord Camden. The tomb of Chatham is in the north transept of the Abbey, distinguished by the monument soon afterwards erected to his honour.

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