James M'Cleland, made Baron of Exchequer.
On the 9th of August, 1834, a fire broke out in part of the Dublin Custom House, one of the finest buildings in the United Kingdom. Owing to the immense quantity of combustible materials, the fierceness of the conflagration was something terrific. By great exertion the building was saved. This fire naturally produced a great sensation throughout the United Kingdom, but it was nothing in comparison to the interest excited by the burning of the two Houses of Parliament, which occurred on the 16th of October, 1834. According to the report of the Lords of the Privy Council, who inquired into the cause of the fire, the tally-room of the exchequer had been required for the temporary accommodation of the Court of Bankruptcy, and it was necessary to get rid of a quantity of the old exchequer tallies, which had accumulated till they would have made about two cartloads. These tallies had been used for kindling the fires. On one occasion a quantity of them was burned in Tothill Fields. There had been a question as to the best mode of getting rid of them, and it was ultimately resolved that they should be carefully and gradually consumed in the stoves of the House of Lords. But the work had been committed to workmen who were the reverse of careful. They heaped on the fuel, nearly filling the furnaces, and causing a blaze which overheated the flues. The housekeeper of the Lords' chamber sent to them several times during the day, complaining of the smoke and heat, but they assured her there was no danger. About four o'clock in the afternoon two strangers were admitted to see the House of Lords, and found the heat and smoke so stifling, that they were led to examine the floor, when they perceived that the floor-cloth was "sweating." At six o'clock the pent-up flames broke forth through the windows, and immediately the alarm was spread in all directions. The Ministers, the king's sons, Mr. Hume, and others, were presently on the spot, and did all they could in the consternation and confusion. The law courts were saved by having their roofs stripped off, and causing the engines to play on the interior. The greatest efforts were made to save Westminster Hall, which was happily preserved; but the two Houses of Parliament were completely destroyed, together with the Commons' library, the Lords' painted chamber, many of the committee rooms, part of the Speaker's house, the rooms of the Lord Chancellor and other law officers, as well as the kitchen and eating-rooms. The king promptly offered Parliament the use of Buckingham Palace; but it was thought best to fit up temporary rooms on the old site, and to have them ready for next Session. The committee of the Privy Council sat for several days, and during the whole of that time the fire continued to smoulder among the débris, and in the coal vaults, while the engines were heard to play from day to day within the boarded avenues. As soon as possible the temporary halls were prepared. The House of Lords was fitted up for the Commons, and the painted chamber for the Lords, at an expense of ￡30,000.In the latest period scarcely any acting dramas were produced. Amongst the unacted tragedies, or such as were acted with no great success—being better fitted for private study—were Coleridge's "Remorse" and "Zapolya;" Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound" and "The Cenci;" Byron's "Cain," "Manfred," "Sardanapalus," etc.; Maturin's "Bertram," "Manuel," and "Fredolpho;" Joanna Baillie's "Plays on the Passions," "The Family Legend"—the last acted with some success at Edinburgh, through the influence of Sir Walter Scott, in 1810—Charles Lamb's "John Woodvill," Milman's "Fazio," and Walter Savage Landor's "Count Julian," "Andrea of Hungary," "Giovanni of Naples," "Fra Rupert," "The Siege of Ancona," etc., all masterly dramas, constituting a blaze of dramatic genius which, had it been adapted to the stage, would have given it a new grandeur at the close of this reign.
In connection with this reform an Act was passed which supplied a great want—namely, the uniform registration of marriages, births, and deaths. The state of the law on these matters had been very unsatisfactory, notwithstanding a long series of enactments upon the subject. Although the law required the registration of births and deaths, it made no provision for recording the date at which either occurred, and so it was essentially defective. It only provided records of the performance of the religious ceremonies of baptism, marriage, and burial, according to the rites of the Established Church, affording, therefore, an insufficient register even for the members of that Church; while for those who dissented from it, and consequently did not avail themselves of its services for baptism and burial, it afforded no register at all. Even this inadequate system was not fully and regularly carried out, and the loud and long-continued complaints on the subject led to an inquiry by a select Committee of the House of Commons in 1833. In order, therefore, to secure a complete and trustworthy record of vital statistics, the committee recommended "a national civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths, including all ranks of society, and religionists of every class." In pursuance of these recommendations, a General Registration Bill was brought into Parliament; and in August, 1836, the Act for registering marriages, births, and deaths in England became law, as a companion to the Marriage Act, which passed at the same time. Their operation, however, was suspended for a limited time by the Act of 7 William IV., c. 1, and they were amended by the Act of 1 Victoria, c. 22, and came into operation on the 1st of July, 1837. One of the most important and useful provisions of this measure was that which required the cause of death to be recorded, with the time, locality, sex, age, and occupation, thus affording data of the highest importance to medical science, and to all who were charged with the preservation of the public health. In order that fatal diseases might be recorded in a uniform manner, the Registrar-General furnished qualified medical practitioners with books of printed forms—"certificates of cause of death"—to be filled up and given to registrars of births and deaths; and he caused to be circulated a nosological table of diseases, for the purpose of securing, as far as possible, uniformity of nomenclature in the medical certificates. In order to carry out this measure, a central office was established at Somerset House, London, presided over by an officer named the Registrar-General, appointed under the Great Seal, under whom was a chief clerk, who acted as his secretary and assistant registrar-general, six superintendents, and a staff of clerks, who were appointed by the Lords of the Treasury. From this office emanated instructions to all the local officers charged with the duties of registration under the Act—superintendent registrars, registrars of births and deaths, and registrars of marriages, any of whom might be dismissed by the Registrar-General, on whom devolved the entire control and responsibility of the operations.The platform for the chairman and speakers consisted of a couple of waggons boarded over, and Hunt and his friends had some difficulty in reaching it through the dense crowd, the attendant bands continuing to play "God Save the King," and "Rule Britannia," till they were safely placed on the platform, when the music ceased, and Hunt, having been called to the chair, took off his white hat, and was commencing his address, when there was a strange movement in the throng, and a cry, "The soldiers are upon us!" and this was the fact. The magistrates had met in great numbers on the previous Saturday, and had determined to seize the ringleaders; but instead of doing this as they might have done, at their several localities when drilling, or on their way to the town, they left this to be done after these vast numbers were assembled, and by the aid of the soldiers, which was certain to produce serious consequences. We have the statements of these magistrates themselves, as laid before Parliament, and of Sir William Jolliffe, M.P., lieutenant of the 15th Hussars, and personally engaged on the occasion. The reason assigned by them was, that they waited to see "what the complexion of the meeting might be;" but, if this was the case, they might as well have waited till some disorder took place, which they did not, but sent the soldiers into the crowd, whilst peacefully and in an orderly manner standing to listen to the chairman. Had they waited to the end, they would undoubtedly have seen the immense crowd disappear as quietly as it had come. But the magistrates were clearly excited by their fears. They had assembled a great constabulary and military force. Two hundred special constables had been sworn in; six troops of the 15th Hussars lying in the barracks were held in readiness; a troop of Horse Artillery with two guns; the greater part of the 31st Regiment of Infantry; several companies of the 88th Regiment; the Cheshire Yeomanry, nearly four hundred men, who had ridden in that very morning; and about forty Manchester Yeomanry, chiefly master manufacturers. These were troops enough to storm a town, much more to defend it from an unarmed multitude. The whole of this force, except the Manchester Yeomanry, was put under the command of Colonel L'Estrange, of the 31st Regiment, in the absence of Sir John Byng, the general of the district, but who had his headquarters at Pontefract, and who, it appeared, had received no information of these military preparations, or of the imagined need of them.On the 17th of March a proclamation was placarded at the gates of the palace, announcing that the king was resolved to remain and share the fate of his people. Great were the acclamations and rejoicings; but, towards evening, the crowds that still lingered around the royal residence saw unmistakable signs of departure: there was an active movement amongst the Guards; carriages and baggage were becoming apparent, and the agitation of the people grew intense. The Prince of Asturias and his brother protested against the departure; bodies of soldiers, in open revolt, began to assemble, and the people cried that they would have the head of the traitor, Godoy. From angry words the populace and revolted soldiers came to blows with the Household Troops. Godoy's brother led up a regiment against the rioters, but the men seized him, and joined the people. Whilst one crowd surrounded the Palace of Aranjuez, another rushed to the house of Godoy to seize and kill him. They ran all over his house, but could not discover him. The tumult continued all night, but was somewhat appeased the next morning by a Royal proclamation, which announced that the king had dismissed him from his offices. This did not, however, prevent the people continuing the search for Godoy, who was at length discovered by a Life-Guardsman in a garret of his own house, where he had been concealed between two mattresses. Compelled to come forth by heat and thirst, he was dragged into the street, soundly beaten, and would soon have been put to death, had not the Prince of Asturias, at the urgent entreaty of the king and queen, interceded, declaring that he should be tried for his crimes, and duly punished. Godoy was committed to custody, in the Castle of Villaviciosa: his property was confiscated; and, on the 19th, the king, terrified at the still hostile aspect of the people, proclaimed his own resignation in favour of Ferdinand, their favourite; in truth, as little deserving of their favour, by any moral or intellectual quality, as the king himself. The abdication was formally communicated by letter to Napoleon, whose troops, under Murat, were, during these tumults, now rapidly advancing on Madrid.
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On the 13th of May came down a message, announcing the approaching marriage of the Duke of Kent with the daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Victoria Maria Louisa, sister of Prince Leopold, and widow of Emich Charles, the Prince of Leiningen. The princess was already the mother of a son and daughter. The nation was extremely favourable to this match. The Duke of Kent was popular, and the more so that he had always been treated with unnatural harshness by his father. He had been put under the care of an old martinet general in Hanover, who had received a large annual allowance with him, and kept him so sparely that the poor youth ran away. He had been then sent to Gibraltar, where the severe discipline which he had been taught to consider necessary in the army brought him into disgrace with the garrison. But towards the public at large his conduct had been marked by much liberality of principle.
On the 15th of March he took a more decided position of hostility to the Cabinet, by moving for an inquiry into the state of the navy. The Earl St. Vincent was now First Lord of the Admiralty, and he proved quite incompetent. Many gunboats had been broken up from motives of economy, and naval stores sold, for the most part, to the French. Pitt declared that only twenty-three gunboats had been built since January, 1803, and that the whole management of the navy was inert.On the 25th of November Parliament was opened, and the king, in his speech, made a strong appeal to the country for support against the unprovoked war on the part of France and Spain. The Marquis of Rockingham, in proposing an amendment on the Address in the Lords, was extremely severe. He concluded by moving that every part of the Address, except the title, should be expunged, and that, instead of what then stood, a prayer should be inserted that his Majesty would reflect on the extent of territory which marked the opening of his reign, the opulence and power, the reputation abroad, the concord at home, to which he had succeeded, and now on the endangered, impoverished, enfeebled, distracted, and even dismembered, state of the whole, after the enormous grants of his successive Parliaments, and calling on him, as the only remedy of impending ruin, to dismiss his present evil councillors, and summon new and more auspicious ones. The language was crushing, but it derived its force from its undeniable truth. Lord John Cavendish moved a similar amendment in the Commons; and the Opposition declared that it was well that his Majesty's speech expressed trust in Divine Providence, for Providence was the only friend that his Government had now left; and that our arms, both on sea and land, were paralysed by the scandalous practice of putting at the head of the army and navy mere Court favourites, and by the want of all vigour and sagacity of planning and following up our campaigns. Fox went further, and asserted that weakness and stupidity could not effect the wholesale shame and ruin that surrounded us; that there must be treachery somewhere; and that, if this were driven a little further, the people would seize on arms, and chase the miserable Cabinet from its abused seat. Lord North made the best reply that the circumstances admitted; but there were no symptoms of the Ministers resigning, or being removed by the infatuated monarch, and the amendments were rejected in both Houses, as a matter of course.
Happily, the prevalence as well as the acerbity of party spirit was restrained by the prosperous state of the country in the winter of 1835-36. There were, indeed, unusual indications of general contentment among the people. Allowing for partial depression in agriculture, all the great branches of national industry were flourishing. The great clothing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, both woollen and cotton, were all in a thriving condition. Even in the silk trade of Macclesfield, Coventry, and Spitalfields, there were no complaints, nor yet in the hosiery and lace trades of Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester, while the potteries of Staffordshire, and the iron trade in all its branches, were unusually flourishing. Of course, the shipping interest profited by the internal activity of the various manufactures and trades. Money was cheap, and speculation was rife. The farmers, it is true, complained, but their agricultural distress to a certain extent was felt to be chronic. Farming was considered a poor trade, its profits, on the average, ranging below those of commerce. Most of the farmers being tenants at will, and their rents being liable to increase with their profits, they were not encouraged to invest much in permanent improvements.The king and his war cabinet were now compelled to sue to France for the peace which was so freely offered the year before. Newcastle wrote to Sandwich in April, that the impossibility of arresting the progress of the French army, the discordant pretensions of the Allies, and their gross neglect of their engagements, rendered it absolutely necessary to make peace. Sandwich was to communicate this necessity to the Plenipotentiaries of the Allies, and if they declined to assent to it, to sign the preliminaries without them. The Ministers of the Allies still refused to join; it suited them very well to receive vast subsidies to fight their own battles, and yet to leave England to fight them. On the other hand, Count St. Severin, the Plenipotentiary of France, now felt his vantage-ground, and offered far worse terms than before, and, to force their acceptance, threatened that if they were not agreed to without delay, the French would leave the fortifications of Ypres, Namur, and Bergen-op-Zoom, and march directly into Holland. The treaty was signed by England, France, and Holland on the 18th of April. The general conditions were a mutual restoration of conquests. All the nations were placed very much in statu quo, except that Prussia had got Silesia, and Sardinia had lost Placentia and Finale. As for England, she firmly established her maritime supremacy, which from that date has remained unchallenged. The Young Pretender was compelled to leave France, and thenceforward ceased to be of any political importance.
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 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 Cloth—in 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 Barré. 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.Murray, afterwards Lord Mansfield, as we have said, of a decided Jacobite house, was a rising young lawyer, who had won great fame for his speech in a case of appeal before the House of Lords, was now Solicitor-General—accomplished and learned in the law, a man of pleasing person, and a fine orator, bold, persevering in his profession, yet, with all the caution of a Scotsman, plodding his way towards the bench—the real and almost the only object of his ambition. Murray, indeed, let Newcastle know that such was his ambition; and therefore, as Pitt was passed over from the royal dislike and Newcastle's own jealousy, and Murray, too, for this reason, Henry Fox alone was the man for the leadership of the Commons. Newcastle told him that he proposed him for that post; but when they met, Fox soon found that he was expected to play the r?le without the essential power. Fox, of course, demanded to be informed of the disposal of the secret-service money, but Newcastle replied that his brother never disclosed that to any one, nor would he. Fox reminded him that Pelham was at once First Lord of the Treasury and leader of the Commons, and asked how he was to "talk to members when he did not know who was in pay and who was not?" And next he wished to know who was to have the nomination to places? Newcastle replied, Himself. Who was to recommend the proper objects?—Still himself. Who to fill up the ministerial boroughs at the coming elections?—Still Newcastle himself. Fox withdrew in disgust, and Newcastle gave the seals of the Secretaryship to a mere tool—Sir Thomas Robinson, a dull, uncouth man, who had been some years ambassador at Vienna, and had won the favour of the king by his compliance with all his German desires. Robinson, according to Lord Waldegrave, was ignorant even of the language of the House of Commons, and when he attempted to play the orator, threw the members into fits of merriment. Newcastle, says Lord Stanhope, had succeeded in a very difficult attempt—he "had found a Secretary of State with abilities inferior to his own."
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The safety of the prisoners diffused universal joy throughout the camps of the two generals; but there was one thing necessary, in their opinion, in which the Government concurred, in order to give the crowning proof of our complete triumph, and to restore the unquestionable supremacy of our power, and compel the respect and fidelity of the neighbouring provinces. This was the signal punishment of Cabul for the atrocities that had been perpetrated there. The hostile chiefs were now as eager to conciliate, as submissive in their tone as they had been cruel and arrogant. Even Akbar Khan professed the greatest friendship for the British, and repudiated the acts that had been done in his name, at the same time restoring to his friends Captain Bygrave, the last prisoner he had in his possession. The Afghans had a maiden fortress in the town of Istalif, which is built upon two ridges of the spur of Hindoo Koosh, which forms the western boundary of the beautiful valley of Kohistan. There, in its fortified streets and squares, as in a safe asylum, they had collected their treasures and their women. The sagacious Havelock suggested that the capture of this place, believed to be impregnable, would be a great stroke of policy. General M'Caskill, therefore, made a rapid march upon it, and after a desperate struggle, in which Havelock greatly distinguished himself, the place was stormed in gallant style, the Afghans in every direction giving way before our attacking columns.详情
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