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But on the 29th of February, 1776, the treaties lately entered into by the British Government with a number of German princes to furnish troops to fight in America, were laid on the table of the Commons; and intense indignation was raised against this most odious and impolitic measure. There had been negotiations with Russia for the purpose of procuring her savages to put down our kinsmen in America; but this barbarous attempt had failed. It was more successful with the petty princes of Germany. The Duke of Brunswick, the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, and other little despots, now greedily seized on the necessity of England, to drive the most extravagant terms with her. Under the name of levy-money, they were to receive seven pounds ten shillings for every man; and besides maintaining them, we were to pay to the Duke of Brunswick, who supplied four thousand and eighty-four men, a subsidy of fifteen thousand five hundred and nineteen pounds; the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, who furnished twelve thousand men, did not get such good terms as Brunswick—he had ten thousand pounds; the hereditary Prince of Hesse received six thousand pounds a-year, for only six hundred and eighty-eight men. Besides this, the men were to begin to receive pay before they began to march. Brunswick was also to get double his sum, or thirty-one thousand and thirty-eight pounds a-year, for two years after they had ceased to serve; and the Landgrave of Hesse was to receive twelve months' notice of the discontinuance of the payment after his troops had returned to his dominions. The payment for 1776 was to be four hundred and fifty thousand crowns, or nearly one hundred thousand pounds. The Prince of Waldeck soon after engaged to furnish six hundred and seventy men on equally good terms. Beyond all these conditions, England was bound to defend the dominions of those princes in the absence of their troops. The independent members of both Houses nobly discharged their duty in condemnation of this engagement of German mercenaries, but without effect, and the king prorogued Parliament, under the pleasing delusion that his foreign troops would soon bring his rebellious subjects to reason; and the Ministers apparently as firmly shared in this fallacious idea.In preparation for this movement James the Pretender was to sail secretly to Spain, in readiness to cross to England; and he had already quitted his house in Rome and removed to a villa, the more unobserved to steal away at the appointed moment. Ormonde also had left Madrid and gone to a country seat half way to Bilbao, when the secret of the impending expedition was suddenly revealed by the French Government to that of England. The conspirators had been mad enough to apply to the Regent for five thousand troops, trusting that, notwithstanding his peaceful relations with Britain, he would secretly enjoy creating it some embarrassment. But in this, as in all other views, they proved more sanguine than profound. Sir Luke Schaub, the British Ambassador, was immediately informed of it on condition, it was said, that no one should die for it.
In June Massena advanced, and laid siege to Ciudad Rodrigo. This was almost within sight of Wellington's lines. The town was defended by a Spanish garrison, and Wellington was called upon to co-operate by attacking the besiegers. This he offered to do if Romana would undertake to prevent the march of Regnier from Estremadura on his rear the while; but Romana would not undertake to maintain himself against Regnier if the British force under General Hill crossed the Tagus. Wellington, whose object was to defend Portugal and not Spain, therefore lay still; and the Spaniards, after a brave defence, were compelled to capitulate on the 10th of July. Then there was a wild cry of indignation raised against Wellington by the Spaniards, and even by his own officers, that he should see a place taken from our allies, under his very eyes, and not attempt to relieve it. The French taunted him with it in the Moniteur, and regarded it as a great sign of his weakness. But none of these things moved Wellington. He knew what he had to do—which was to defend Portugal—and he had made his plans for doing it; but this was not by exposing his small army in any situation to which the Spanish chose to call him, while, at the same time, they declined to co-operate with him. He soon had the division of Marshal Ney upon his outposts, where he fell in with our light division under General Craufurd. Wellington had ordered that, on attack, Craufurd should retire on the main body in order, because he did not wish to reduce his small numbers in skirmishes, but to reserve them for favourable occasions; but Craufurd, being hotly pursued, turned and gave the French a severe rebuff, killing and wounding above one thousand of Massena's men. Craufurd, having driven the French back three times, made a masterly passage, by a bridge, over the Coa, and joined the main army.The Irish peasantry very soon learnt that whatever Emancipation had done or might do for barristers and other persons qualified to hold situations under Government, from which Roman Catholics had previously been almost entirely excluded, it had done nothing to remove or even to mitigate their practical grievances. They found that the rackrents of their holdings were not reduced; that the tax-collector went round as usual, and did not abate his demands; that the tithe-proctor did not fail in his visits, and that, in default of payment, he seized upon the cow or the pig, the pot or the blanket. Through the machinery of the Catholic Association, and the other associations which O'Connell had established, they became readers of newspapers. They had read that a single tithe-proctor had on one occasion processed 1,100 persons for tithes, nearly all of the lower order of farmers or peasants, the expense of each process being about eight shillings. It would be scarcely possible to devise any mode of levying an impost more exasperating, which came home to the bosoms of men with more irritating, humiliating, and maddening power, and which violated more recklessly men's natural sense of justice. If a plan were invented for the purpose of driving men into insurrection, nothing could be more effectual than the tithe-proctor system. Besides, it tended directly to the impoverishment of the country, retarding agricultural improvement and limiting production. If a man kept all his land in pasture, he escaped the impost; but the moment he tilled it, he was subjected to a tax of ten per cent, on the gross produce. The valuation being made by the tithe-proctor—a man whose interest it was to defraud both the tenant and the parson,—the consequence was that the gentry and the large farmers, to a great extent, evaded the tax, and left the small occupiers to bear nearly the whole burden; they even avoided mowing their meadows in some cases, because then they should pay tithe for the hay.
In the early part of the reign the English operas of Augustine Arne, "Artaxerxes" and "Love in a Village"—the former principally a translation from Metastasio—were much admired. For the rest, there were numbers of lovers and professors of the art, both in sacred, operatic, and glee music. The Catch Club was formed in 1761, and zealously supported, as well as the Concerts of Ancient Music in 1776. Under the patronage of this society, and particularly of his Majesty, took place the celebrated Handel "Commemoration" in Westminster Abbey, in May and June of 1784. During the early part of the reign, too, appeared several distinguished works in this department. At the head of these stood the "Histories of Music," by Sir John Hawkins and Dr. Burney; Dibdin's "Musical Tour;" Dr. John Browne's "Dissertation on Poetry and Music;" the "Letters" of Jackson, of Exeter; and Mason's "Essays on Church Music." In the later portion of the reign there was much love of music, but little original composition, except for the stage, where Arnold, Shield, Storace, and Dibdin produced the most delightful compositions. Arnold's "Castle of Andalusia," "Inkle and Yarico," "The Surrender of Calais," and "The Mountaineers;" and Shield's "Rosina," "The Poor Soldier," "The Woodman," and "The Farmer," are universally admired. The sea songs of Charles Dibdin are as imperishable as the British navy, to which they have given a renown of its own. He wrote about one thousand four hundred songs, thirty dramatic pieces, "A Musical Tour," and a "History of the Stage," and was allowed, after all, to die in deep poverty, after charming the world for half a century. During the latter part of the reign music was in much esteem, and musical meetings in various parts of the country—in London, the opera, Ancient Concerts, and performances by foreign composers, such as Handel's "Messiah," Beethoven's "Mount of Olives," Mozart's opera of "Don Giovanni," etc.—were flocked to, but little native genius appeared.The prejudiced old man fought with desperation against the measure in the Lords. He was tremendously severe on the Government. He said, much as he had heard of the march of mind, he did not believe that the march could have been so rapid as to induce some of the changes of opinion which he had witnessed within the last year. His opinions are now among the curiosities of a bygone age. His idea of religious liberty may be seen from the following:—"The Sacramental Act, though often assailed, had remained ever since the reign of Charles II., and the Annual Indemnity took away all its harshness. The obnoxious Act did not interfere with the rights of conscience, as it did not compel any man to take the sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England, and only deprived him of office if he did not." He concluded by solemnly saying, "From his heart and soul, 'Not Content.'" He was effectually answered by the Duke of Wellington, and the Bill was read a second time, without a division, on the 17th of April. On the 21st he proposed an amendment to exclude Roman Catholics from the benefit of the measure by inserting in the declaration the words, "I am a Protestant." The amendment was negatived by 117 to 55; but so eager was he to have it adopted, that he renewed it on the third reading of the Bill, when the Contents were 52, Not Contents 154. Still he entered on the Journals a violent protest against the Bill, in which he was joined by the Duke of Cumberland and nine other peers. As soon as the measure was carried, all the world acknowledged the Duke of Wellington's sagacity in declining the offer of Lord Eldon to return to office; for if that sturdy adherent to ancient prejudices had been Lord Chancellor or President of the Council, the Government must either have been speedily dissolved by internal dissensions or overthrown by a vain resistance to the popular voice.
Sir Walter Scott was the master of the ceremonies on this memorable occasion. He was now in the height of his popularity as the "Great Unknown." His romances had revived or created the spirit of chivalry, and ministered to the intense nationality of the Scottish people in general, and the Highland clans in particular. In arranging the programme Sir Walter had as many parts to play as ever tasked the Protean genius of his friend Mathews. The bewildered local magistrates threw themselves on him for advice and direction. He had to arrange everything, from the ordering of a procession to the cut of a button and the embroidering of a cross. Provosts, bailies, and deacon-conveners of trades were followed, in hurried succession, by swelling chieftains wrangling about the relative positions their clans had occupied on the field of Bannockburn, which they considered as constituting the authentic precedent for determining their respective places in the procession from the pier of Leith to the Canongate.He had, however, lost something of his old self-confidence, and the opposition which he had met with from the State, and the alienation of the people, were not exhilarating. Napoleon saw that he must conciliate the French by concessions, but neither his temperament nor his necessities permitted him to do this liberally. He gave nominal freedom to the press, but he bought up the majority of the editors and proprietors; yet, not being able to do this wholly, the opposition spoke bitter things to him and of him, and damaged his cause seriously. He called on Siéyès, Carnot, and Fouché to assist in framing his constitution; and he gave peerages to Carnot and Siéyès, and those once stern Republicans accepted them. But, even with their aid, he could not bring himself to grant a free constitution. Nobody believed him to be sincere even in what he did give. The police were as strict as ever, and yet every night the walls of Paris were covered with proclamations of Louis XVIII., forbidding the payment of taxes, and announcing the approach of one million two hundred thousand men.CHAPTER II. THE REIGN OF GEORGE I.
Another attempt of the French to draw the attention of Wellington from Massena was made by Mortier, who marched from Badajoz, of which Soult had given him the command, entered Portugal, and invested Campo Mayor, a place of little strength, and with a very weak garrison. Marshal Beresford hastened to its relief at the head of twenty thousand men, and the Portuguese commandant did his best to hold out till he arrived; but he found this was not possible, and he surrendered on condition of marching out with all the honours of war. Scarcely, however, was this done when Beresford appeared, and Mortier abruptly quitted the town, and made all haste back again to Badajoz, pursued by the British cavalry. Mortier managed to get across the Guadiana, and Beresford found himself stopped there by a sudden rising of the water and want of boats. He had to construct a temporary bridge before he could cross, so that the French escaped into Badajoz. Mortier then resigned his command to Latour Maubourg, and the British employed themselves in reducing Oliven?a, and some other strong places on the Valverde river, in the month of April. Lord Wellington made a hasty visit to the headquarters of Marshal Beresford, to direct the operations against Badajoz, but he was quickly recalled by the news that Massena had received reinforcements, and was in full march again to relieve the garrison in Almeida. Wellington, on the other hand, had reduced his army by sending reinforcements to Beresford, so that while Massena entered Portugal with forty thousand foot and five thousand cavalry, Wellington had, of British and Portuguese, only thirty-two thousand foot and about one thousand two hundred horse. This force, too, he had been obliged to extend over a line of seven miles in length, so as to guard the avenues of access to Almeida. The country, too, about Almeida was particularly well adapted for cavalry, in which the French had greatly the superiority. Notwithstanding, Wellington determined to dispute his passage. He had no choice of ground; he must fight on a flat plain, and with the Coa flowing in his rear. His centre was opposite to Almeida, his right on the village of Fuentes d'Onoro, and his left on fort Concepcion.George had much difficulty in restraining his indignation, but he kept it down, and only bowed the duke silently out of his presence. No sooner had he departed than he flew to Cumberland, and declared he would bear this no longer. Again overtures were made to Pitt, again Pitt expressed himself willing to take office, but again declined, because Temple still refused. Foiled in these attempts to engage Pitt, and equally foiled in an endeavour to engage some of the heads of the leading Whig houses, who would enter no administration without Pitt, a heterogeneous cabinet was at length cobbled up, through the management of the old Duke of Newcastle, who was hankering after office. The Marquis of Rockingham was put forward as First Lord of the Treasury and Premier. Grafton and Conway were to be Secretaries of State; and the latter, lately dismissed with ignominy from the army, was to lead the Commons. The Earl of Northington was made Chancellor, the old Duke of Newcastle Privy Seal; another old and almost superannuated nobleman, Lord Winchelsea, President of the Council. Charles Townshend retained his post of Paymaster of the Forces. Such materials, it was clear, could never long hold together. "It is a mere lute-string administration," said Townshend himself; "it is pretty summer wear, but it will never stand the winter!"
At the same time, our seamen—who were the real and proper defenders of the country but were so miserably paid and so abominably treated in many ways, that they could only be compelled into the service by the odious operation of pressgangs—now burst forth into mutiny. Their complaints and resistance compelled a small advance and improvement. None since then had taken place. This advance of wages did not amount to more than eightpence-halfpenny a day to able seamen and sevenpence to ordinary seamen. And the low pay was but the smallest part of the complaint of these brave men. They complained that a most unfair system of prize-money had prevailed, by which the admirals and chief officers swept off most of the money and left little or nothing to the petty officers and the men; that their treatment on board was barbarous, unfeeling, and degrading; that their provisions were of the vilest description, being the direct consequence of the contracts with villainous purveyors, through equally rascally Navy Commissioners, so that, in fact, they were served with such salt beef, salt pork, and biscuit as no dog would touch. Nor did their list of grievances only too real end here. Instead of Government paying the pursers direct salaries, they were paid by deducting two ounces from every pound of provisions served out to the men. Thus, instead of sixteen ounces to the pound, they received only fourteen ounces; and the same rule applied to the measurement of liquids—beer and grog—served out to them. Things had come to such a pass from these causes, and the neglect of their complaint was so persevering, that the whole fleet determined on a mutiny.
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