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On the 15th of April a message was sent down to both Houses from the king, in conformity with his pledge to the new Ministry, with regard to Mr. Burke's plan of economical reform, which it proposed should be a measure of effectual retrenchment, and to include his Majesty's own Civil List. Lord Shelburne, in communicating it to the Lords, assured the House that this was no mere ministerial message, but was the genuine language of the king himself, proceeding from the heart. Burke, in the Commons, used more exuberant terms of eulogy, declaring that "it was the best of messages to the best of people from the best of kings!" Early in May he moved for leave to bring in his Bill on the subject, and then most of the promised wonders of reform and retrenchment vanished. The duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster and the principality of Wales were at once cut out of his scheme of reform. The plan of supplying the Royal Household by contract was abandoned; the Ordnance Office, in the hands of the Duke of Richmond, was not to be touched, nor the Treasurer of the Household's office; and some[291] other of the royal establishments, which were mere sinecures, were left. But he succeeded in lopping off the third Secretaryship of State, which had been created for the American colonies, and was useless now they were gone; the Lords of Trade and Plantations; the Lords of Police in Scotland; the principal officers of the Great Wardrobe, Jewel Office, Treasurer of the Chamber, Cofferer of the Household, six Clerks of the Board of Green Clothin all, about a dozen offices were swept away. The Pension List was vigorously revised. No pension was to exceed three hundred pounds a year, and not more than six hundred pounds was to be granted in pensions in any one year; the names of the persons to whom they were granted were to be laid before Parliament within twenty days after the beginning of each session, until the amount in the Pension List should reach ninety thousand pounds. The Secret Service money was, at the same time, limited; and a solemn oath was to be administered to the Secretaries of State regarding its proper employment. It may be imagined what were the consternation and the disgust of the large class which had been revelling on these misappropriated funds of the nation. Burke, in a letter, describes feelingly the gauntlet he had to run in proceeding with his reform. "I was loaded," he says, "with hatred for everything withheld, and with obloquy for everything given." What, however, brought unjust odium on him, but just reproach on the Cabinet, was, that Lord Rockingham made haste, before the Bill was passed, to grant enormous pensions to his supporters and colleagues, Lord Ashburton and Colonel Barr. The latter ardent patriot, who, whilst Burke's Bill was in consideration, said it did not go far enough in reform, now willingly pocketed three thousand two hundred pounds a year, as a pension, besides the salary of his office. In the House of Lords, Thurlow again attacked the Bill, supported by Lords Mansfield and Loughborough; but it passed, and Burke immediately gave an illustrious proof of his disinterestedness, by bringing in a Bill for regulating and reducing the enormous emoluments of his own office, the Paymastership of the Forces.Amid these popular outbursts the great body of the Spaniards were calmly organising the country for defence. A junta or select committee was elected in each district, and these juntas established communications with each other all over the land. They called on the inhabitants to furnish contributions, the clergy to send in their church plate to the mint, and the common people to enrol themselves as soldiers and to labour at the fortifications. The Spanish soldiers, to a man, went over to the popular side, and in a few days the whole nation was in arms. The crisis of which Buonaparte had warned Murat was come at once, and the fight in Madrid on the 2nd of May was but the beginning of a war which was to topple the invader from his now dizzy height. This made Buonaparte convene a mock national junta, or Assembly of Notables, to sanction the abdication, and the appointment of Joseph Buonaparte as the new monarch. Joseph entered Madrid on the 6th of June, and proclaimed a new constitution.

Some remarkable commercial reforms were introduced by Robinson and Huskisson in 1824. In the previous year the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to boast of a very large surplus, and this year he had a surplus of 1,050,000. Part of it was devoted to the repair and embellishment of Windsor Castle; 40,000 were devoted towards the erection of rooms for the reception of the library of George III., which was presented to the British Museum by his successor, whose gift, however, was somewhat discounted by the fact that he was with difficulty dissuaded from selling the collection. With 57,000 Government purchased Angerstein's collection of pictures, which became the nucleus of the National Gallery. But the main object of the Budget was not expenditure but economy. The Four per Cents. were redeemed or exchanged for Three-and-a-Half per Cent. Stock, and a death-blow was given to the old system of bounties by a reduction of that on the herring fishery and the immediate cessation of that on inferior kinds of linen, while that on the higher class of linen was annually decreased ten per cent. There was further a reduction of the duties on rum and coals, with the result, as Robinson prophesied, that lower prices considerably increased the consumption. His greatest innovations, however, concerned the wool and silk trades. In the former there prevailed a great conflict of interests. The agriculturists[241] wished for the prohibition of foreign wool; the manufacturers desired the retention of an export duty, together with free importation. The judicious Chancellor effected a compromise by which the duty on foreign wool was reduced from 6d. to 1d. per pound, while the exportation of English wool was sanctioned on a similar duty. The fear of a large exportation of English wool proved so groundless that by 1826 only 100,000 pounds in weight had been exported, while 40,000,000 pounds of foreign wool had been introduced.The main subject for consideration at that moment was the policy of continuing the Act for the suppression of the Catholic Association, which was to expire at the end of the Session of 1828. In connection with this subject a letter from Lord Anglesey came under the Ministry's consideration. "Do keep matters quiet in Parliament," he said, "if possible. The less that is said of Catholic and Protestant the better. It would be presumptuous to form an opinion, or even a sanguine hope, in so short a time, yet I cannot but think there is much reciprocal inclination to get rid of the bugbear, and soften down asperities. I am by no means sure that even the most violent would not be glad of an excuse for being less violent. Even at the Association they are at a loss to keep up the extreme irritation they had accomplished; and if they find they are not violently opposed, and that there is no disposition on the part of Government to coercion, I do believe they will dwindle into moderation. If, however, we have a mind to have a good blaze again, we may at once command it by re-enacting the expiring Bill, and when we have improved it and rendered it perfect, we shall find that it will not be acted upon. In short, I shall back Messrs. O'Connell's and Sheil's, and others' evasions against the Crown lawyers' laws."Grenville, chagrined as he was, still clung to the Government, and called in the Duke of Bedford as President of the Council, Lord Sandwich as Secretary of State. Lord Hillsborough succeeded Lord Shelburne at the Board of Trade. Such was the Government which was to supersede the necessity of Pitt; Lord Chesterfield declaring that they could not meet the Parliament, for that they had not a man in the Commons who had either abilities or words enough to call a coach.


The Ministry had, as a matter of course, been much weakened by the retirement of Lord Grey; but, having got through the Session, it might have survived to the next meeting of Parliament but for the death of Earl Spencer, which occurred on the 10th of Novemberan event which removed Lord Althorp to the House of Peers. It was supposed that this would lead only to a fresh modification of the Cabinet, by a redistribution of places. For example, Lord John Russell was to succeed Lord Althorp as the leader of the House of Commons. Lord Melbourne's Administration seemed to be quietly acquiesced in, as sufficient for a time; the nation evidently assuming that, in any case, a Liberal Government was the necessary consequence of a reformed Parliament. The public were therefore startled when it was announced on the 15th that the king had dismissed his Ministers. It appeared that Lord Melbourne had waited upon his Majesty at Brighton, on the 14th, to take his commands as to the new arrangements he was about to make. But the king said he considered that Government dissolved by the removal of Lord Althorp; that he did not approve of the intended construction of the Cabinet; that Lord John Russell would make "a wretched figure" as leader of the House, and that Abercromby and Spring-Rice were worse than Russell; that he[378] did not approve of their intended measure with regard to the Irish Church; and concluded by informing Lord Melbourne that he would not impose upon him the task of completing the Ministerial arrangements, but would send for the Duke of Wellington.

Attention was now turned to a matter of the highest importance in a commercial, an intellectual, and a moral point of view. The stamp duty on newspapers had been the subject of keen agitation for some months, and newspaper vendors had incurred repeated penalties for the sale of unstamped newspapers; some of them having been not only fined, but imprisoned. A general impression prevailed that such an impost was impolitic, if not unjust, and that the time had come when the diffusion of knowledge must be freed from the trammels by which it had been so long restrained. A deputation, consisting of Dr. Birkbeck, Mr. Hume, Colonel Thompson, Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Grote, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Brotherton, Mr. Wallace, and Mr. Buckingham, having, on the 11th of February, waited upon Lord Melbourne, to ask for an entire abolition of the stamp on newspapers, he promised to give his most serious attention to the matter; and he kept his word, for on the 15th of the next month the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought the subject before Parliament, and announced the intentions of Government with regard to it. He stated that it was proposed to revise the whole of the existing law respecting stamp duties, first by consolidating into one statute the 150 Acts of Parliament over which the law was at present distributed; secondly,[402] by the apportionment of the various rates on a new principlenamely, by the simple and uniform rule of making the price of the stamp in every case correspond to the pecuniary value involved in the transaction for which it is required. The effect of this change would be to reduce the stamp duty upon indentures of apprenticeship, bills of lading, and many others of the more common instruments, and to increase it upon mortgages and conveyances of large amounts of property. It was intimated that the proposed Consolidation Act would contain no less than 330 sections. With regard to the stamp on newspapers, then fourpence with discount, it was proposed to reduce it to one penny without discount. This would be a remission of a proportion, varying according to the price of the newspaper, of between two-thirds and three-fourths of the tax. To this remission Parliament assented, and the illicit circulation of unstamped papers was in consequence abandoned. Some of the members very reasonably objected to any stamp whatever on newspapers; but the time was not yet come when Government would venture entirely to remove it, although the advantages which must necessarily arise from such a proceeding could not but have been foreseen. It was considered unfair that the public at large should pay for the carriage of newspapers by post; and it does not seem to have been remembered that, as only a portion of them would be transmitted in this way, an injustice would be committed by demanding payment for all. The difficulty of the case was, however, in due time, easily surmounted; and political knowledge was, by the change even then made, in a great degree exempted from taxationa good preparation for the time, which was not very far off, when a newspaper of a high order might be obtained, even for the reduced price of the stamp.SIR SAMUEL ROMILLY.

During the winter of 1812 and the spring of[63] 1813 Buonaparte was making the most energetic exertions to renew the campaign against Russia and the German nations that were now uniting with the Czar. He called out new conscriptions, and enforced them with the utmost rigour; the militia were drafted extensively into the regular army, and the sailors, whose service had been annihilated by the victorious seamen of Great Britain, were modelled into regiments, and turned into soldiers. He sent for part of his forces from Spain; and in the spring he was enabled to present himself in Germany at the head of three hundred and fifty thousand men. But this was a very different army from that which he had led into and lost in Russiaan army of practised veterans, familiar with victory through a hundred fights. It was necessarily but ill-disciplined, and much more full of the sense of wrong in having been dragged from home and its ties than of any thirst of glory. The cavalry was especially defective, and had lost the commander who gave it such spirit by his own example. Disgusted by the insolence and sarcasms of Buonaparte, and believing that his career was about to end, Murat quitted his command on the 16th of January, 1813, and hastened to Naples, where he was not long in opening negotiations with Great Britain and the other Powers for the acknowledgment of his kingdom as one independent of France, and ranking with the other established Powers of Europe. Nor was this the only alarming circumstance. Bernadotte was at the head of an army of Swedes against himBernadotte whom he had driven by the same insolent and unbearable domination into the arms of his enemies, and whom he now denounced as a renegade Frenchman who had renounced his country. The truth, however, was that Bernadotte had been adopted by a new country, and was bound to defend it.The day before George embarked, Admiral Boscawen set sail, with eleven ships of the line and two regiments of soldiers, to intercept the French fleet, which had sailed from Rochefort and Brest to carry reinforcements to the Canadians. Boscawen was to attack and destroy the French, if possible. Boscawen came up with the French fleet on the banks of Newfoundland, but a thick fog hid them from each other. Captain Howe, afterwards Lord Howe, and Captain Andrews, however, descried and captured two of the French men-of-war, containing eight thousand pounds in money, and many officers and engineers; but the rest of the fleet, under Admiral Bois de la Motte,[119] warned by the firing, got safe into the harbour of Louisburg.

These preparations on the part of Spain were in one particular favourable to the King of Englandthey rendered the Emperor much more conceding. The English envoy at that Courtrather singularly a Swiss of the canton of Bernthe General de St. Saphorin, had found Stahremberg, the Emperor's Minister, very high, and disinclined to listen to the proposals of the King of England regarding Bremen and Verden; but the news of the Spanish armament, and still more of its having sailed from Cadiz to Barcelona, produced a wonderful change. The Imperial Court not only consented to the demands of England, but accepted its mediation with the Turks, by which a considerable force was liberated for the service in Italy. The Emperor acceded to the alliance proposed between England, France, and Germany in order to drive Spain to terms, and which afterwards, when joined by the Dutch, was called the Quadruple Alliance. In France, however, all obstacles to this Treaty were not yet overcome. There was a strong party, headed by the Marshal d'Huxelles, chief of the Council for Foreign Affairs, which strongly opposed this plan of coercing the grandson of Louis XIV. To overcome these obstacles Stanhope went over to Paris, and had several conferences with King Philip; and, supported by Lord Stair and Nancr, all difficulties were removed, and the Alliance was signed in the succeeding August.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 Silesiathe territory which he had rent from Austriainto Posen, and Austria, not to be behind, had marched another army into the Carpathian Mountains.


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Sir John Blaquiere, created Lord de Blaquiere, with offices and pensions.

There was no man in the colonies, nevertheless, who contributed so much to bring the open Declaration of Independence to a crisis as Thomas Paine, the celebrated author of "The Rights of Man" and of "The Age of Reason." Paine was originally a Quaker and staymaker at Thetford, in Norfolk. He renounced his Quakerism and his staymaking, became an exciseman, and then an usher in a school, reverting again to the gauging of ale firkins. In 1772 he wrote a pamphlet on the mischiefs arising from the inadequate payment of the excise officers, laying them open to bribes, etc. This pamphlet having been sent to Franklin, induced him to recommend the poor author to emigrate to America. Paine adopted the advice, and settled at Philadelphia in 1774. He there devoted himself to political literature, wrote for the papers and journals, finally edited the Philadelphia Magazine, and, imbibing all the ardour of revolution, wrote, in January of the year 1776, a pamphlet called "Common Sense." This pamphlet was the spark that was needed to fire the train of independence. It at once seized on the imagination of the public, cast other writers into the shade, and flew, in thousands and tens of thousands of copies, throughout the colonies. It ridiculed the idea of a small island, three thousand miles off, ruling that immense continent, and threatening, by its insolent assumption, the expanding energies of three millions of men, more vigorous, virtuous, and free, than those who sought to enslave them.


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