In the Parliamentary session of 1733 Walpole produced another scheme for increasing the revenue and lessening the burdens upon land, which was an extension of the Excise. The Excise duties were first levied under the Commonwealth; they had now reached three millions two hundred thousand pounds annually. It was whilst the public were feeling the gradual increase of this item of taxation very sensibly, that they were alarmed by the news, which the Opposition sounded abroad with all diligence, that Ministers were about immediately to bring fresh articles under the operation of this tax, which was levied on articles of popular consumption. "A general crisis is coming!" was the cry. "A tax on all articles of consumption! a burthen to grind the country to powder! a plot to overthrow the Constitution and establish in its place a baleful tyranny!" The Opposition had now got a most popular subject of attack on the Ministry, and it prosecuted it vigorously.His steady helm amid the struggling tides;
In Italy, on the contrary, France sustained severe losses. The Austrians, liberated from their Prussian foe by the peace of Dresden, threw strong forces into Italy, and soon made themselves masters of Milan, Guastalla, Parma, and Piacenza. On the 17th of June they gave the united French and Spaniards a heavy defeat near the last-named city, entered Genoa in September, and made preparations to pursue them into Provence.THE ROYAL FAMILY OF FRANCE ON THEIR WAY TO THE ASSEMBLY. (See p. 403.)
In such very discouraging circumstances the American campaign began. Whilst insurrection was in their camp, Sir Henry Clinton dispatched General Arnold to make a descent upon the coast of Virginia. That general had been dispatched into that quarter, at the close of the year, with one thousand six hundred men, in ships so bad, that they were obliged to fling overboard some of their horses. Arnold, however, first sailed up the river James, and landed at Westover, only twenty-five miles from Richmond, the capital of Virginia. Jefferson, who was Governor of Virginia, was seized with great alarm; for, though the militia of the State were nominally fifty thousand, he could muster only a few hundreds. He therefore hastily collected what property he could, and fled up the country, dreading to fall into the hands of a man so embittered against the Americans as Arnold was, who was himself well aware that they had determined to hang him without mercy if they caught him. Arnold did not allow much time to elapse without action. The next day he was in Richmond, and sent word to Jefferson that, provided British vessels might come up the river to take away the tobacco, he would spare the town. Jefferson rejected the proposal, and Arnold burnt all the tobacco stores and the public buildings, both there and at Westham. After committing other ravages, he returned to Portsmouth, on Elizabeth River, where he entrenched himself. On the 26th of March, General Phillips, having assumed the command, in company with Arnold ascended James River with two thousand five hundred men, took and destroyed much property in Williamsburg and York Town, ravaged the country around, and then sailed to the mouth of the Appomattox, and burnt all the shipping and tobacco in Petersburg. After other depredations, and forcing the Americans to destroy their own flotilla between Warwick and Richmond, Phillips and Arnold descended the James River to Manchester, and proposed to cross over to Richmond. But Lafayette having just reached that place before them with upwards of two thousand men, they re-embarked, and, after destroying much other property, especially shipping and stores, at Warwick and other places, they fell down to Hog Island, where they awaited further orders.
Mr. Lamb had retired with Mr. Huskisson, sending in his resignation to the Duke of Wellington, and was succeeded as Chief Secretary by Lord Francis Gower, afterwards Lord Ellesmere. Among the offices vacated in consequence of the recent schism in the Government, was that of President of the Board of Trade, which was accepted by Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, one of the members for the county Clare. He was consequently obliged to offer himself for re-election to his constituents, and this led to the memorable contest which decided the question of Catholic Emancipation.
On the arrival of peace the fall of agricultural prices ruined great numbers who had pushed their speculations and land purchases beyond their legitimate means; but the Corn Laws again buoyed up both farmers and landlords, and the progress of improvement continued. Draining strong lands, manuring light ones with lime and marl, and the introduction of artificial grasses, added incalculably to the produce of the country. Turnips enabled the farmer to maintain his cattle and sheep in high condition during the winter, and the introduction of the Swedish turnip and mangel-wurzel extended this advantage till rye, rye-grass, sainfoin, and clover became plentiful. Before the end of the reign rentals had doubled, and lands, even in hilly districts, where it had been supposed that nothing but oats would grow, and where the reapers were often obliged to shake the snow from the corn as they cut it, were seen producing good wheat, and, from the better system of husbandry, at a much earlier period of autumn.
Mr. O'Connell rose to address the people in reply. It was manifest that he considered great exertion to be requisite in order to do away with the impression which his antagonist had produced. It was clear, to those who were acquainted with the workings of his physiognomy, that he was collecting all his might. Mr. O'Connell bore Mr. Fitzgerald no sort of personal aversion, but he determined, in this exigency, to have little mercy on his feelings, and to employ all the power of vituperation of which he was possessed against him. "This," remarks Mr. Sheil, "was absolutely necessary; for if more dexterous fencing had been resorted to by Mr. O'Connell, many might have gone away with the opinion that, after all, Mr. Fitzgerald had been thanklessly treated by the Catholic body. It was, therefore, disagreeably requisite to render him for the moment odious. Mr. O'Connell began by awakening the passions of the multitude in an attack on Mr. Fitzgerald's allies. Mr. Gore had lauded him highly. This Mr. Gore is of Cromwellian descent, and the people detest the memory of the Protector to this day. There is a tradition (I know not whether it has the least foundation) that the ancestor of this gentleman's family was a nailer by trade in the Puritan army. Mr. O'Connell, without any direct reference to the fact, used a set of metaphors, such as 'striking the nail on the head,' 'putting a nail into a coffin,' which at once recalled the associations which were attached to the name of Mr. Gore, and roars of laughter assailed that gentleman on every side. Mr. Gore has the character of being not only very opulent, but of bearing regard to his possessions proportionate to their extent. Nothing is so unpopular as prudence in Ireland; and Mr. O'Connell rallied Mr. Gore to such a point upon this head, and that of his supposed origin, that the latter completely sank under the attack. He next proceeded to Mr. Fitzgerald, and having thrown in a picture of the late Mr. Perceval, he turned round, and asked of the rival candidate with what face he could call himself their friend, when the first act of his political life was to enlist himself under the banners of 'the bloody Perceval'? This violent epithet was sent into the hearts of the people with a force of expression and a furious vehemence of will that created a great sensation amongst the crowd, and turned the tide against Mr. Fitzgerald."During the interval that elapsed between the opening of Parliament and the introduction of this measure, society was in a state of nervous anxiety and suspense, which became at length almost unbearable. Petitions poured into the House of Commons from every part of the United Kingdom, conveying the earnest desire of the people for a real representation, which would put an end to the influence of the aristocracy in returning its members. They recommended, as the best means of effecting these objects, that the duration of Parliament should be shortened, that the suffrage should be extended, and that elections should be by ballot. They expressed their conviction that a fair representation of the people would prevent manufacturing distress, commercial embarrassment, and violent fluctuations in the currency; that it would prevent unjust and unnecessary wars, and would restrain the profligate expenditure of the public money on placemen and pensioners. Itinerant orators were employed by the political unions to hold meetings for the discussion of all questions of this kind, while the press put forth its gigantic power with tremendous effect, in the provinces as well as in the metropolis.
At first victory seemed to attend the French. Lefebvre defeated the Spaniards in Aragon, on the 9th of June, and General Bessières beat the insurgents, in several partial actions, in Navarre and Biscay. But his great success was over the united forces of Generals Cuesta and Blake, on the 14th of June, at Medina de Rio Seco, a few leagues from the city of Valladolid. Duchesne thought he should be able to send reinforcements to assist in reducing Valencia and Aragon; but he soon found that he had enough to do in his own district. Marshal Moncey, all this time expecting the co-operation of Duchesne, had advanced into Valencia. For a time the country seemed deserted; but as he advanced he found the hills and rocks swarming with armed people, and he had to force his march by continual fighting. There were Swiss troops mingled amongst the Spanish ones opposed to him, and whilst they attacked him in front, the Spaniards assaulted his flanks and rear. When he arrived before the city of Valencia, on the 27th of June, he found the place well defended. On the 29th Moncey retired from before the walls, despairing of the arrival of Duchesne. Moncey, like Bessières, now found himself called to Madrid to defend the new king, who, it was clear, could not long remain there; and already the British were landing on the shores of the Peninsula, to bring formidable aid to the exasperated inhabitants.Joseph H. Blake, created Lord Wallscourt.
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Our forces on the Italian coast were met by the active spirit of the new King of Naples, Joachim Murat. Sir John Stuart, who had won the splendid victory of Maida, embarked, on the 13th of June, fifteen thousand British troops in Sicily, and proceeded to menace Naples, and create alarm in various quarters, so as to draw the French from Upper Italy, and thus relieve the Austrians. With part of these forces siege was laid to Scylla; with the other Sir John anchored off Cape Miseno, close to Bai? and Puzzuoli, and directly across the bay, about a dozen miles from Naples. The greatest alarm was excited, and nothing would have been easier for Sir John than to have battered the town about the ears of the intruder king; but this the interests of the old king did not permit, especially as Ferdinand's second son, Don Leopold, was present as nominal commander, but he was of no use really, being a most effeminate and incapable person. Sir John then sailed to the islands of Procida and Ischia, compelled the garrisons to capitulate, dismantled the fortifications, and then abandoned these islands. During all this time our warships were scouring the whole of the coasts of Southern Italy, capturing every vessel that ventured out, and keeping the French generals on shore in constant agitation. In the encounters with the enemy's vessels on these coasts many brilliant exploits were performed by our captains, and by none more than by Captain Staines, of the Cyane frigate, who, on the 27th of June, stood a stout but most unequal fight with a Neapolitan frigate and corvette, under the very batteries of Naples. The siege of Scylla was raised by a strong French force, and Sir John Stuart returned to Sicily. Scylla was, however, shortly after abandoned again by the French, and its guns and stores, which appeared to have been left in some panic, fell into the hands of the British.ARREST OF THE RAJAH OF BENARES. (See p. 334.)详情
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