From the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle for several years little of striking interest occurred in the affairs of Britain. The public at first was rejoiced at the return of peace; but the more it looked into the results of so costly a war the more dissatisfied it grew, and the complaints were loud and general that Ministers had sacrificed the honour and interests of the nation. The Opposition, however, was at so low an ebb, that little was heard of the public discontent in Parliament; and Pitt, formerly so vociferous to denounce the war, now as boldly vindicated both it and the peace, and silenced all criticisms by his overmastering eloquence. The Government still went on granting subsidies to the German princes, though the war was at an end.
On the 8th of February was fought the great and decisive battle of Sobraon, the name of the tête du pont, at the entrenched camp of the Sikhs, where all the forces of the enemy were now concentrated. The camps extended along both sides of the river, and were defended by 130 pieces of artillery, of which nearly half were of heavy calibre, and which were all served by excellent gunners. The British troops formed a vast semicircle, each end of which touched the river, the village of Sobraon being in the centre, where the enemy were defended by a triple line of works, one within another, flanked by the most formidable redoubts. The battle commenced by the discharge of artillery on both sides, which played with terrific force for three hours. After this the British guns went up at a gallop till they came within 300 yards of the works, where it was intended the assault should be delivered. Halting there, they poured a concentrated fire upon the position for some time. After this the assault was made by the infantry, running. The regiment which led the way was the 10th, supported by the 53rd Queen's and the 43rd and 59th Native Infantry. They were repulsed with dreadful slaughter. The post of honour and of danger was now taken by the Ghoorkas. A desperate struggle with the bayonet ensued; the Sikhs were overpowered by the brigades of Stacey and Wilkinson; but, as the fire of the enemy was now concentrated upon this point, the brave assailants were in danger of being overwhelmed and destroyed. The British Commander-in-Chief seeing this, sent forward the brigades of Ashburnham, as well as Smith's division, against the right of the enemy, while his artillery played furiously upon their whole line. The Sikhs fought with no less valour and determination than the British. Not one of their gunners flinched till he was struck down at his post. Into every gap opened by the artillery they rushed with desperate resolution, repelling the assaulting columns of the British. At length the cavalry, which has so often decided the fate of the day in great battles, were instrumental in achieving the victory. The Sappers and Miners having succeeded in opening a passage through which the horses could enter in single file, the 3rd Queen's Dragoons, under Sir Joseph Thackwell, got inside the works, quickly formed, and galloping along in the rear of the batteries, cut down the gunners as they passed. General Gough promptly followed up this advantage by ordering forward the whole three divisions of the centre and the right. It was then that the fighting may be said to have commenced in earnest. The struggle was long, bloody, and relentless. No quarter was given or asked; the Sikhs fighting like men for whom death had no terrors, and for whom death in battle was the happiest as well as the most glorious exit from life. But they encountered men with hearts as stout and stronger muscle, and they were at length gradually forced back upon the river by the irresistible British bayonet. The bridge at length gave way under the enormous weight, and thousands were precipitated into the water and drowned. But even in the midst of this catastrophe the drowning fanatics would accept no mercy from the Feringhees. Our losses amounted to 320 killed and 2,063 wounded. Of the European officers, thirteen were killed and 101 wounded. The loss of the Sikhs in the battle of Sobraon was estimated at from 10,000 to 13,000 men, the greater number being shot down or drowned in the attempt to cross the bridge. They left in the hands of the victors sixty-seven guns, 200 camel swivels, nineteen standards, and a great quantity of ammunition.
[See larger version]This point settled, the preliminaries of peace were signed at Fontainebleau on the 3rd of November. To console Spain for her losses by her unlucky alliance with France, Louis XV. ceded Louisiana to that country by a private convention.
Great Britain, which had made some show of restoring the legitimate prince, soon became satisfied that Bernadotte would lean to its alliance. Meanwhile Alexander of Russia displayed more and more decided symptoms of an intention to break with France. He hastened to make peace with the Turks, and to pour his sentimental assurances into the ear of Count Stadingk, the Swedish ambassador. As he called God to witness, in 1807, that he had no wish to touch a single Swedish village, so now he professed to be greatly troubled that he had been obliged to seize all Finland. "Let us forget the past," said the Czar. "I find myself in terrible circumstances, and I swear, upon my honour, that I never wished evil to Sweden. But now that unhappy affair of Finland is over, and I wish to show my respect to your king, and my regard for the Crown Prince. Great misfortunes are frequently succeeded by great prosperities. A Gustavus Adolphus issued from Sweden for the salvation of Germany, and who knows what may happen again?" And he began to unveil his disgust at the encroachments of Buonaparte. "What does he mean," he said, "by his attempt to add the north of Germany to his empire, and all its mercantile towns? He might grasp a dozen cities of Germany, but Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen—'our Holy Trinity,' as Romanoff says—I am weary of his perpetual vexations!" The result was the offer of Norway to Sweden as the price of Bernadotte's adhesion to the proposed alliance. Great Britain also offered to Sweden as a colony, Surinam, Demerara, or Porto Rico.
The majority obtained on their Irish policy was about the number the Ministry could count upon on every vital question. It was not sufficiently large to exempt them from the imputation of holding office on sufferance; but if they were defeated, and were succeeded by the Conservatives, the new Government, it was plain, could not hope to exist even on those terms; while Lord Melbourne had this advantage over Sir Robert Peel, that he was cordially supported by the Sovereign. Having escaped the Irish ordeal, it might be supposed that he was safe for a considerable time. But another question arose very soon after, on which the Cabinet sustained a virtual defeat. The Assembly in Jamaica had proved very refractory, and, in order to avoid the evil consequences of its perversity, Mr. Labouchere, on the 9th of April, brought forward a measure which was a virtual suspension of the constitution of the island for five years, vesting the government in the Governor and Council, with three commissioners sent from England to assist in ameliorating the condition of the negroes, improving prison discipline, and establishing a system of poor laws. This measure was denounced by the whole strength of the Opposition. The question may be thus briefly stated. Before the Act of Emancipation in 1833, all punishments were inflicted on slaves by the domestics of the master, who was unwilling to lose the benefit of their services by sending them to prison. But when emancipation took place, that domestic power was terminated, and new prison regulations became necessary. The Colonial Legislature, however, persistently refused to adopt any, and continued a course of systematic resistance to the will of the supreme Government, whose earnest and repeated recommendations had been utterly disregarded. Under the apprenticeship system negroes were treated worse than they were under the old condition of slavery, because the planters knew that the time of enfranchisement was at hand. But though, when the hour of liberty, August 1st, 1840, was seen to be very near, the Jamaica Assembly voluntarily brought the apprenticeship system to a termination, they accompanied the measure with an angry protest against any interference by the British Parliament. It was contended, on the part of the Government, that if such a state of things were permitted to exist, the authority of Great Britain over its colonies would speedily be lost, and every little island that owed its political existence to the protection afforded by the Imperial Government, would, without scruple, set its power at defiance. Such being the state of the case, it might be supposed that no serious objection would be raised to the course adopted, in the interests of humanity and good government. But the Conservatives seized the opportunity for another party contest, and became quite vehement in their defence of the constitutional rights of the Jamaica planters. The debate was protracted for several nights, and counsel against the Bill were heard at great length. Eventually the division took place at five in the morning on the 6th of May, when the numbers were 294 to 289, giving the Government a majority of only five, which was regarded as tantamount to a defeat. On the 7th of May, therefore, Lord John Russell announced that Ministers had tendered their resignation, which was accepted by the Queen. He assigned as the reason for this step that the vote which had passed must weaken the authority of the Crown in the colonies, by giving support to the contumacy of Jamaica, and encouraging other colonies to follow its bad example. This obvious consideration rendered more painfully apparent the weakness of the Government, arising from division among its supporters; for if anything could have induced the different sections of the Liberal party to suppress their differences, it would have been the necessity of interposing, in the manner proposed by the Government, to shield the unhappy negroes from the oppression of their exasperated taskmasters. Indeed, in spite of various attempts to patch up the Cabinet, its members were at hopeless cross-purposes.Regardless of all advice, Buonaparte hastened to precipitate matters with Russia. He seized and confiscated fifty Swedish merchantmen, and further to express his determination to punish Bernadotte for his refusal to be his slave—he boasted before his courtiers that he would have him seized in Sweden, and brought to the castle of Vincennes, and he is said to have planned doing it—in January of this year he ordered Davoust to enter Swedish Pomerania and take possession of it. Buonaparte followed up this act of war by marching vast bodies of troops northwards, overrunning Prussia, Pomerania, and the Duchy of Warsaw with them. They were now on the very frontiers of Russia, and Alexander was in the utmost terror. He saw already four hundred thousand men ready to burst into his dominions, and as many more following. He had only one hundred and forty thousand to oppose them; he had no generals of mark or experience; confusion reigned everywhere. In the utmost consternation he demanded an interview with Bernadotte, now the sole hope of Europe, at Abo; and Bernadotte, who had his objects to gain, took his time. When the Russian Ambassador, in great trepidation, said to him that the Emperor waited for him, he rose, laid his hand on his sword, and said, theatrically, "The Emperor waits! Good! He who knows how to win battles may regard himself as the equal of kings!"
By a still greater fatality, Louis was persuaded to comply with the solicitations of the American colonists, to assist them in throwing off their allegiance to Britain. To rend these colonies from Britain, which had deprived France of Canada and Nova Scotia, was too flattering to French vanity and French desire of revenge. Turgot in vain protested that the first cannon that was fired would insure revolution; Louis consented to the American alliance, and thus set the seal to his own destruction. Bitterly did he rue this afterwards, still more bitterly was it rued by his queen when they both saw the fatal infection of Republicanism brought back from America by the army. When Turgot saw that this fatal war was determined upon, he retired before the wild rage of the noblesse and clergy, and from the ruinous weakness of the king. Minister after minister rapidly succeeded each other in the vain endeavour to keep up the old partial laws and privileges, the old extravagance and encumbrances, at the command of the king, and yet avert revolution. In turn Clugny, Necker, and Calonne withdrew discomfited.
Such was the condition into which an army and navy, once illustrious through the victories of Marlborough and Blake, were reduced by the aristocratic imbecility of the Newcastles, Bedfords, and Cumberlands. This last princely general had, in fact, put the climax to his career. He had placed himself at the head of fifty thousand confederate troops, in which there were no English, except the officers of his own staff, to defend his father's Electorate of Hanover. But this ruthless general, who never won a battle except the solitary one of Culloden, against a handful of famished men, was found totally incompetent to cope with the French general, d'Estrées. He allowed the French to cross the deep and rapid Weser, and continued to fall back before them as they entered the Electorate, until he was driven to the village of Hastenbeck, near Hameln, where the enemy overtook and defeated him. He then continued his retreat across the desolate Lüneburg Heath, to cover Stade, near the mouth of the Elbe, where the archives and other valuable effects of Hanover had been deposited for safety. At this time Richelieu succeeded to the command of d'Estrées in this quarter, and he continued to drive Cumberland before him, taking Hameln, G?ttingen, and Hanover itself, and soon after Bremen and Verden. Thus were Hanover and Verden, which had cost England such millions to defend, seized by France; nor did the disgrace end here. Cumberland was cooped up in Stade, and compelled, on the 8th of December, to sign a convention at Closter-Seven, by which he engaged to send home the Hesse and Brunswick troops, and to disperse the Hanoverians into different quarters, not to serve again during the war.Periodical writing grew in this reign into a leading organ of opinion and intelligence. The two chief periodicals, according to our present idea of them, were the Gentleman's Magazine and the Monthly Review. These were both started prior to the accession of George III. The Gentleman's Magazine was started by Cave, the publisher, in 1731; and the Monthly Review commenced in 1749. The former was a depository of a great variety of matters, antiquarian, topographical, critical, and miscellaneous, and has retained that character to the present hour. The Monthly Review was exclusively devoted to criticism. But in the early portion of the reign a periodical literature of a totally different character prevailed—the periodical essayist—formed on the model of the Spectator, Guardian, and Tatler of a prior period. Chief amongst these figured Ambrose Philips's Freethinker; the Museum, supported by Walpole, the Wartons, Akenside, etc.; the Rambler, by Dr. Johnson; the Adventurer, by Hawkesworth; the World, in which wrote chiefly aristocrats, as Lords Lyttelton, Chesterfield, Bath, Cork, Horace Walpole, etc.; the Connoisseur, chiefly supplied by George Colman and Bonnel Thornton; the Old Maid, conducted by Mrs. Frances Brooke; the Idler, by Johnson; the Babbler, by Hugh Kelly; the Citizen of the World, by Goldsmith; the Mirror, chiefly written by Mackenzie, the author of the "Man of Feeling;" and the Lounger, also chiefly conducted by Mackenzie. This class of productions, appearing each once or twice a week, afforded the public the amusement and instruction now furnished by the daily newspapers, weekly reviews, and monthly magazines. Towards the end of the reign arose a new species of review, the object of which was, under the guise of literature, to serve opposing parties in politics. The first of these was the Edinburgh Review, the organ of the Whigs, started in 1802, in which Brougham, Jeffrey, and Sydney Smith were the chief writers. This, professing to be liberal, launched forth the most illiberal criticisms imaginable. There was scarcely a great poet of the time—Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Byron, James Montgomery, Leigh Hunt, Shelley, Keats—whom it did not, but vainly, endeavour to crush. To combat the influence of this Whig organ, in 1809 came forth the Quarterly Review, the great organ of the Tories, to which Scott, Southey, Wilson Croker, Gifford, etc., were the chief contributors. In 1817 this was followed by another Conservative journal, not quarterly, but monthly in its issue, conducted chiefly by Professor Wilson and Lockhart, namely, Blackwood's Magazine, in which the monthly magazines of to-day find their prototype, but with a more decided political bias than these generally possess.
A strong garrison was left in Malta, under General Vaubois, and on the 16th the fleet was again under sail. As they were off the coast of Crete, and the savants were gazing on the birthplace of Jupiter, and speculating on the existence of the remains of the celebrated labyrinth, Nelson, who had missed the French fleet, and had sailed in quest of it, was near enough to be perceived by some of the frigates on the look-out, and created a terrible panic. But Nelson, not having frigates to send out as scouts, did not observe them, and suspecting that Egypt was their destination he made all sail for Alexandria. Finding no traces of them there, in his impatience he returned towards Malta. If he had but waited a while they would have come to him; but on reaching Malta and finding that they had taken and manned it, he again put about and made for Alexandria. He had actually been seen by some of the French frigates as he was crossing their track on his return from Alexandria, and Napoleon was impatient to reach land before he could overtake them again. On the 1st of July the French fleet came in sight of Alexandria, and saw before them the city of the Ptolemies and Cleopatra with its pharos and obelisks. The landing was effected at Marabout, about a league and a half from Alexandria.
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When these infamous doings were known in England, a feeling of horror and indignation ran through the country. The East India Company was compelled to send out Lord Pigot to Madras to do what Clive had so vigorously done in Bengal—control and reverse the acts of the Council. Pigot most honourably acquitted himself; liberated the outraged Nabob of Tanjore and his family, and restored them. But Pigot had not the same overawing name as Clive. The Council of Madras seized him and imprisoned him, expelling every member of the Council that had supported him. This most daring proceeding once more astonished and aroused the public feeling of England. An order was sent out to reinstate Lord Pigot, but, before it arrived, his grief and mortification had killed him. Sir Thomas Rumbold, a most avaricious man, was appointed to succeed him, and arrived in Madras in February, 1778, Major-General Hector Munro being Commander-in-Chief, and the army of Hyder, one hundred thousand in number, already again menacing the frontiers."Child, is thy father dead?"详情
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