类型:奇幻地区:发布:2020-09-30 04:39:47


During this first Session of the new Parliament Ministers had carried matters with a high hand, imagining that they had a majority which would enable them to resist popular opinion, as they had done since the conclusion of the war. But the progress of the Session did not warrant this conclusion. They were defeated in several very important contests, and before the Session came to an end were made to feel that they had greatly declined in public confidence. In the severe debate of the 18th of May, on the motion of Mr. Tierney for a Committee of Inquiry into the state of the nation, they had a majority of more than two to one. But this was very different on the 3rd of June, when they only carried their Foreign Enlistment Bill by a majority of thirteen. On the question of the resumption of cash payments, the conversion of Mr. Peel to the principles of Horner was a rude shock to the Cabinet, and shrewd men prognosticated that, the entire system of Mr. Vansittart being thus overturned, he must retire. Then came not merely partial conversions, or near approaches to defeat, but actual defeats. Such were those on Sir James Mackintosh's motion for inquiry into the criminal laws, and on Lord Archibald[147] Hamilton's for Scottish burgh Reform. The question of Catholic Emancipation had approached to a crisis, and a majority of only two against it was, in truth, a real defeat. The consequence was that the conviction of the insecurity of Ministers was not only shared by men of impartial judgment, but by themselves. Towards the end of the Session Lord Liverpool himself was found writing to a friend, that unless the measure for the return to cash payments raised the confidence of the public in them, they must soon go out:"I am quite satisfied that, if we cannot carry what has been proposed, it is far better for the country that we should cease to be a government. After the defeats we have already experienced during this Session, our remaining in office is a positive evil. It confounds all ideas of government in the minds of men. It disgraces us personally, and renders us less capable every day of being of any real service to the country, either now or hereafter. If, therefore, things are to remain as they are, I am quite sure that there is no advantage, in any way, in our being the persons to carry on the public service. A strong and decisive effort can alone redeem our character and credit, and is as necessary for the country as it is for ourselves."

At the ensuing assizes in August, those rioters who had been apprehended were tried; some at Worcester for participating in the outrages, but there only one prisoner was committed. Of those tried at Warwick, on the 25th of the month, four received sentence of death. Of these five rioters condemned, only three actually suffered, while two received his Majesty's gracious pardon. The victims of this riot thought the penalty much too trivial! Such, indeed, was the perverted state of public feeling in and around Birmingham, that[386] the sufferers were regarded as men seeking the lives of innocent men who had only shown their loyalty to Church and King. They were declared to be no better than selfish murderers. Whilst they attended at the assizes, their lives scarcely seemed safe. They were publicly abused in the streets, or menaced and cursed wherever they appeared. In the very assize-hall there were persons who, on seeing Priestley, cried, "Damn him! there is the cause of all the mischief!" He was followed in the streets, especially by an attorney, who cursed him furiously, and wished he had been burned with his house and books. The favourite toast of the Church-and-King party was, "May every Revolutionary dinner be followed by a hot supper!" The damages awarded to the sufferers were, in most cases, ludicrously inadequate. Hutton was a heavy loser; Priestley received three thousand and ninety-eight pounds, but he complained that this was two thousand pounds short of the extent of his loss. But this deficiency was made up by sympathising friends.Still the affairs of Wilkes continued to occupy almost the sole thought and interest of the Session. On the 23rd of November the question of privilege came up; and though he was absent, having been wounded in a duel, it was actively pushed by the Ministers. Mr. Wilbraham protested against the discussion without the presence of Wilkes, and his being heard at the bar in his defence. Pitt attended, though suffering awfully from the gout, propped on crutches, and his very hands wrapped in flannel. He maintained the question of privilege, but took care to separate himself from Wilkes in it. The rest of the debate was violent and personal, and ended in voting, by two hundred and fifty-eight against one hundred and thirty-three, that the privilege of Parliament did not extend to the publication of seditious libels; the resolution ordering the North Briton to be burnt by the hangman was confirmed. These votes being sent up to the Lords, on the 25th they also debated the question, and the Duke of Cumberland, Lord Shelburne, and the Duke of Newcastle, defended the privilege of Parliament as violated in the person of Wilkes. In the end, however, the Ministers obtained a majority of a hundred and fourteen against thirty-eight. Seventeen peers entered a strong protest against the decision. On the 1st of December there was a conference of the two Houses, when they agreed to a loyal address to the king, expressing their detestation of the libels against him.

It was seldom that his name was missed from the leaders of Conservative journals, and he was the great object of attack at the meetings of the Brunswick Clubs, which were called into existence to resist the Catholic Association. But of all his assailants, none dealt him more terrible blows than the venerable Henry Grattan, the hero of 1782. "Examine their leader," he exclaimed, "Mr. O'Connell. He assumes a right to direct the Catholics of Ireland. He advises, he harangues, and he excites; he does not attempt to allay the passions of a warm and jealous people. Full of inflammatory matter, his declamations breathe everything but harmony; venting against Great Britain the most disgusting calumny, falsehood, and treachery, equalled only by his impudence, describing her as the most stupid, the most dishonest nation that ever existed. A man that could make the speeches he has made, utter the sentiments he has uttered, abuse the characters he has abused, praise the characters he has praised, violate the promises he has violated, propose such votes and such censures as he has proposed, can have little regard for private honour or for public character; he cannot comprehend the spirit of liberty, and he is unfitted to receive it."As it was, the extreme caution of Kutusoff saved Buonaparte and the little remnant of his army that ever reached France again. Buonaparte left Smolensk with only forty thousand, instead of four hundred and seventy thousand men, which he had on entering Russia, and a great part of the Italian division of Eugene was cut off by the Russians before the Viceroy could come up with Buonaparte. Napoleon, therefore, halted at Krasnoi, to allow of the two succeeding divisions coming up; but Kutusoff took this opportunity to fall on Buonaparte's division, consisting of only fifteen thousand men, and attacked it in the rear by cannon placed on sledges, which could be brought rapidly up and as rapidly made to fall back.

The Archduke John, whilst advancing victoriously into Italy, driving the viceroy, Eugene Beauharnais, before him, when he had reached almost to Venice was recalled by the news of the unfortunate battle of Eckmühl, and the orders of the Aulic Council. The Italians had received him with unconcealed joy; for, harsh as the rule of Austria in Italy had been, it was found to be easy in comparison with the yoke of Buonaparte. In common with other peoples, the Italians found that Buonaparte's domination, introduced with lofty pretences of restoring liberty and crushing all old tyrannies, was infinitely more intolerable than the worst of these old tyrannies. It was one enormous drain of military demand. The lifeblood of the nation was drawn as by some infernal and insatiable vampire, to be poured out in all the other lands of Europe for their oppression and curse. Trade vanished, agriculture declined under the baleful incubus; public robbery was added to private wrong; the works of artthe national pridewere stripped from their ancient places, without any regard to public or individual right, and there remained only an incessant pressure of taxation, enforced with insult, and often with violence.All attempts at negotiation having failed, sealed green bags were laid upon the table of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons, with a message from the king to the effect that in consequence of the arrival of the queen he had communicated certain papers respecting her conduct, which he recommended to their immediate and serious attention. The bags contained documents and evidence connected with a commission sent in 1818 to Milan and other places to investigate chargesor rather to collect evidence to sustain charges which had been made against the Princess of Wales. The principal of these charges was that she had been guilty of adultery with a person named Bergami, whom she had employed as a courier, and afterwards raised to the position of her chamberlain and companion. The commission was under the direction of Sir John Leach, afterwards Vice-Chancellor.

In 1820 our imports of foreign and colonial merchandise were valued at 32,000,000; our exports of foreign and colonial merchandise at 10,000,000; and our exports of British and Irish produce and manufactures at 38,000,000. In 1840 these sums had respectively increased to 67,000,000, 13,000,000, and 102,000,000, setting aside odd numbers. From 1831 to 1840 the average annual export of British produce and manufactures was 45,000,000, while in the nine subsequent years it was nearly 56,000,000. From[423] 1830 onwards the value of our exports to France increased sixfold, notwithstanding the jealous system of protection that prevails in that country. The sphere of our commercial operations was being continually enlarged from year to year, and the enterprise of our merchants was continually opening up fresh markets in distant parts of the world. The value of the exports of British and Irish produce in 1820 was as follows:To Northern Europe, 11,000,000; to Southern Europe, 7,000,000; to Africa, 393,000; to Asia, nearly 4,000,000; to the United States of America, nearly 4,000,000; to the British North American Colonies and the West Indies, 5,750,000; to Central and South America, including Brazil, 3,000,000. The total value of our exports to foreign countries, and to our colonies in that year, was 36,000,000. In 1840 we exported the following quantities, which, it will be seen, show a large increase:To Northern Europe, about 12,000,000; to Southern Europe, 9,000,000; to Africa, 1,500,000; to Asia, 9,000,000; to the United States, 5,250,000; to the British North American Colonies, 6,500,000; to the foreign West Indies, 1,000,000; to Central and Southern America, including Brazil, 6,000,000; total, 51,000,000: showing an increase of 15,000,000 in the annual value of our exports to foreign countries during twenty years.

Mr. Canning had now attained the highest summit to which the ambition of a British subject can aspire. With the acclamation of the country and of the House of Commons, he had taken the first place in the Government of the empire, to which he had raised himself by his talents and his merit alone, surmounting as he rose the most formidable impediments, aristocratic antipathies, class interests, and royal dislike. He was the idol of the nation, and not only in Great Britain, but throughout the world, his fame shone brightest of all the public men of his age. His name was associated with the triumph of Liberal principles throughout Europe and America; he was at the head of a strong Government, and he had conciliated the good-will of his Sovereign. Such a combination of what are usually regarded as the elements of human happiness has rarely, if ever, been known in the history of England, where alone such a phenomenon could occur. As a man of genius, as an orator, as a political leader, he enjoyed a reputation and a degree of success which in any one of these capacities would be regarded by the majority of men as the acme of human felicity. But in addition to these he enjoyed a position and wielded a power with which many great men have been content, without the brilliant halo of glory with which, in Canning's case, they were surrounded. But it is a singular and humbling illustration of the vanity of human wishes and human glory, that this great man was, after all, unhappy, and that the political enemies he had vanquished had the power of bringing him to an early grave. The Whig and Tory lords studied in every way to wound the proud spirit, which they knew to be extremely sensitive. They scowled upon him with looks of resentment and vengeance. Old friends averted their eyes from the affectionate companion[260] of earlier days; the cordial pressure of his hand was not returned; his associates and supporters in office and in Parliament were, for the most part, his former opponents in many a political battlefield. The odium of being a convert to Liberal principles settled upon his noble spirit like a fatal blight, the animosity with which intolerance pursues the honest and generous lover of truth and right pierced his susceptible nervous system like a keen, pitiless, persistent east wind. This was more than his delicate organism could long bear. The state of his mind affected his bodily health. The charm of his conversation made him the delight of his friends in private society, in which he found a solace and a welcome relaxation from the toils of office. It was natural, though to be regretted, that with such a susceptible, enjoying, and genial temperament, delighting in wit and humour, and diffusing pleasure around him by the coruscations of his own genius, he should have lingered longer in convivial parties than was prudent for his health. The consequence was an inflamed and irritable state of the system. Thus predisposed to disease, he caught cold by sitting under a tree, after being heated with walking, while on a visit with Lord Lyndhurst at Wimbledon. Attacked with inflammation of the kidneys, he went to Chiswick, on the advice of his doctors, and there, on the 8th of August, after a brief period of intense suffering, he died in the villa of the Duke of Devonshire, and in the same room in which a man of kindred genius, the illustrious Charles James Fox, breathed his last.

But the surprise of Antwerp and the destruction of the docks of Flushing were determined upon; and Lord Chatham, rather for his name than for any military talent that he possessed, was appointed the commander of the forces. Lord Chatham was so notorious for his sluggish and procrastinating nature, that he had long been nicknamed the late Lord Chatham; the justice of this epithet had been too obvious in all the offices that he had hitherto held; and yet this expedition which demanded the utmost promptness and active skill, was entrusted to him. At the head of the fleet was placed Sir Richard Strachan, a man of no energy. The commander of the ships on such an occasion should have been Lord Cochrane, for Sir Sidney Smith was already engaged on the coast of Italy. The orders for each commander were extremely loose and indefinite thereby leaving every chance of disputes and consequent delays and mishaps; and, to complete the disgraceful management of the Government, no inquiries had been made as to the healthiness or unhealthiness of the district where the army would have to encamp. Though the island of Walcheren had been occupied by our troops under William III., no record was to be found, or, indeed, was sought for, as to the cost of life to our men on that occasion from the climate. The whole plan was laid in ignorance and carried out with carelessness, and it was no wonder, therefore, that it ended in misery and disgrace.

The congress had opened at Aix-la-Chapelle early in the spring, but it did not begin its sittings till the 11th of March, 1748, Sandwich being sent thither as our Plenipotentiary. The campaign, however, opened simultaneously, and, could Cumberland and the king have managed it, war would soon have overturned the hopes of peace; but circumstances were too much for them. The Prince of Nassau, ambitious as he was of military renown, failed to bring into the field his Dutch levies; the thirty thousand Prussians, as Pelham had expected, did not appear. The Dutch, so far from furnishing the sums they had engaged for, sent to London to raise the loan of a million sterling; but London itself had ceased to be a money-lending place. The war had drained the resources even of the British capital. To complete the deadlock, Marshal Saxe advanced into the field, and showed to the world that, though Cumberland might beat an army of famine-exhausted Highlanders, he was no match for him. He completely out-generalled him, made false demonstrations against Breda, where the Allied army lay, and then suddenly concentrated his forces before Maestricht, which, it was evident, must soon fall into his hands. Maestricht secured, the highway into Holland was open.






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