From skirmishing at sea the British had now come to direct war with the people of North America. From the period of the American colonists obtaining their independence of Great Britain, they retained a peculiar animus against the mother country. In the war by which that independence was achieved by the aid of France, Holland, and Spain, which all combined to attack Britain on sea and land, the Americans displayed no traces of the magnanimity that usually accompanies bravery. They resorted to many dishonourable practices, amongst which was the breach of contract in retaining prisoners from the army of General Burgoyne. The same spirit continued to animate them afterwards. It was natural to suppose that their success would have the usual effect of making them forget enmity when the cause of it was gone by; but this was not the case. In all contests of Great Britain with revolutionary France, they rejoiced over any disasters which befel her, and were silent in the hour of her victories. Though they were bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and our population was pouring over to swell their numbers, they displayed towards us a hostility that no other nation, France excepted, had ever shown.The army of Joseph dispersed at full speed, and as our cavalry could not pursue them across the hedges and ditches, they managed to escape, and made their way to Pampeluna in one wild, chaotic herd. On the field they profess to have left eight thousand men in killed and wounded, but their loss was far greater. They left, also, one hundred and fifty-one pieces of brass ordnance, four hundred and fifteen caissons, more than forty thousand rounds of ammunition, nearly two million musketball cartridges, forty thousand six hundred and sixty-eight pounds of gunpowder, fifty-six forage waggons, and forty-four forge waggons. The allied army had killed, British, five hundred and one; Portuguese, one hundred and fifty; Spaniards, only eighty-nine: wounded, British, two thousand eight hundred and seven; Portuguese, eight hundred and ninety-nine; Spanish, four hundred and sixty-four. Lord Wellington reported the conduct of almost every officer engaged as admirable. King Joseph did not stop till he was safe, for a time, within the strong walls of Pampeluna, but the garrison there would not admit the rabble herd of fugitives, but sent them off like enemies; and they were forced to continue their flight into the Pyrenees.
In October of this year Chatham at length resigned, and Parliament assembled on the 8th of November. The two great objects which engrossed the attention of Government in these days were North America and John Wilkes. The news of the Act imposing import duties had reawakened all the indignation of the people of Massachusetts. The Bostonians took immediate steps to realise their doctrines. In October, 1767, the chief men there met, and entered into a bond to purchase or wear no English manufacture, but to encourage domestic manufacture till these obnoxious import duties were withdrawn. The Massachusetts Assembly passed strong resolutions to the same effect, and Mr. James Otis, who had been most active in contending for them, exerted himself, through the press, to circulate them all over America. Causes were not long wanting for testing the resolution of the people of Massachusetts. The governor of that colony, Francis Bernard, was precisely the man to bring the matter to a crisis. He was able, determined, and of a hot temper. The people hated him, because they knew that he was writing home despatches full of the most unfavourable representations of their proceedings and designs. He refused to confirm the nomination of such members of the council as he knew were opposed to the new regulation; and Lord Shelburne supported him in his act. In consequence, the Assembly addressed a circular letter to all the other colonies, calling on them to unite in defeating the new duties. Bernard in vain opposed the resolution authorising this circular letter; and, on his report, Lord Hillsborough instructed him to demand from the Assembly the rescinding of the resolution. The Assembly refused, declaring that if a British Minister could control the votes of provincial Assemblies, liberty was but a mere show. Lord Hillsborough had instructed Bernard to dissolve the Assembly in case it refused to rescind the resolution. In the meantime, events took place which might have caused a more judicious man to pause ere he fulfilled these instructions.
On the 19th of February Lord Wellesley resigned his office of Secretary of Foreign affairs, because he did not approve of the employment of some of his colleagues. The Prince Regent now showed that he had no intention of dismissing the present administration. He proposed to Lords Grey and Grenville to join it, but they absolutely declined, knowing that, with the difference of the views of the two parties on many essential questions, especially on those of the Catholic claims, of the prosecution of the war, and of our relations with America, it was impossible for any coalition Cabinet to go on. Lord Castlereagh succeeded the Marquis of Wellesley in the Foreign Office, but on the 11th of May a fatal event put an end to the Ministry and the life of Spencer Perceval.Buonaparte determined to overwhelm both Spanish and British by numbers. He had poured above a hundred thousand men across the Pyrenees, and had supplied their places in France by two enormous conscriptions of eighty thousand men each. He now followed them with the rapidity of lightning. From Bayonne to Vittoria he made the journey on horseback in two days. He was already at Vittoria a week before the British army, under Sir John Moore, had commenced its march from Lisbon. It was his aim to destroy the Spanish armies before the British could come up—and he accomplished it. The Spanish generals had no concert between themselves, yet they had all been advancing northward to attack the French on different parts of the Ebro, or in the country beyond it. It was the first object of Napoleon to annihilate the army of Blake, which occupied the right of the French army in the provinces of Biscay and Guipuzcoa. Blake was attacked by General Lefebvre on the last of October, on ground very favourable to the Spaniards, being mountainous, and thus not allowing the French to use much artillery; but, after a short fight of three hours, he was compelled to fall back, and for nine days he continued his retreat through the rugged mountains of Biscay, with his army suffering incredibly from cold, hunger, drenching rains, and fatigue. There was said to be scarcely a shoe or a greatcoat in the whole force. Having reached Espinosa de los Monteros, he hoped to rest and recruit his troops, but Lefebvre was upon him, and he was again defeated. He next made for Reynosa, a strong position, where he hoped to recollect his scattered army; but there he received the news of the defeat of Belvedere, from whom he hoped for support. The French were again upon and surrounding him, and he was compelled to order his army to save themselves by dispersing amongst the mountains of Asturias, whilst himself and some of his officers escaped, and got on board a British vessel.
Accordingly, Benningsen communicated Alexander's willingness for peace, on the 21st of June, and the armistice was ratified on the 23rd. Buonaparte determined then, as on most occasions, to settle the treaty, not by diplomatists, but personally, with the Czar. A raft was prepared and anchored in the middle of the Niemen, and on the morning of the 25th of June, 1807, the two Emperors met on that raft, and embraced, amid the shouts of the two armies arranged on each bank. The two Emperors retired to a seat placed for them on the raft, and remained in conversation two hours, during which time their attendants remained at a distance. The town of Tilsit was declared neutral ground, and became a scene of festivities, in which the Russian, French, and even Prussian officers, who had been so long drenching the northern snows with each other's blood, vied in courtesies towards each other. Amongst them the two Emperors appeared as sworn brothers, relaxing into gaiety and airs of gallantry, like two young fashionables. On the 28th the King of Prussia arrived, and was treated with a marked difference. He was bluntly informed, that whatever part of his territories were restored would be solely at the solicitation of the Emperor of Russia.Then came the Lake school, so called because the poets lived more or less amongst the lakes of Westmoreland and Cumberland; but which would have been more correctly called the natural school, in contradistinction to the artificial school which they superseded. The chief of these were Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey. Wordsworth and Coleridge had travelled in Germany, when few Englishmen travelled there, and all of them had more or less imbibed that spirit of intense love of natural beauty and of mental philosophy which prevails in Germany. In Southey this evaporated in ballads of the wild and wonderful, with a strong tinge of Teutonic diablerie. In Wordsworth and Coleridge these elements sank deeper, and brought forth more lasting fruits. But there was another cause which went greatly to the formation of Wordsworth's poetic system. He was thoroughly indoctrinated by his early friends, Charles Lloyd and Thomas Wilkinson, members of the Society of Friends, with their theory of worship and psychology. They taught him that the spirit of God breathes through all nature, and that we have only to listen and receive. This system was enunciated in some of his lyrical poems, but it is the entire foundation of his great work, the "Excursion." In his earliest poems William Wordsworth (b. 1770; d. 1850) wrote according to the manner of the time, and there is nothing remarkable in them; but in his "Lyrical Ballads," the first of which appeared in 1798, there was an entire change. They were of the utmost simplicity of language, and some of them on subjects so homely that they excited the most unmeasured ridicule of the critics. In particular, the Edinburgh Review distinguished itself by its excessive contempt of them. The same fate awaited his successive publications, including his great work, the "Excursion;" and the tide of scorn was only turned by a series of laudatory criticisms by Professor Wilson, in Blackwood's Magazine, after which the same critics became very eulogistic.
At length, on the 22nd of September, Lord John Russell, attended by Lord Althorp, and a great body of the most distinguished Reformers, appeared at the bar of the House of Lords, and handed the English Reform Bill to the Lord Chancellor, praying the concurrence of their Lordships. This scene has been made the subject of a great historical painting. The Bill, without any opposition or remark from any Conservative peer, was read a first time on the motion of Earl Grey, and ordered to be read a second time on Monday week. The debate on the second reading commenced on the 3rd of October, with a speech from Lord Grey—grave, elaborate, earnest, and impressive; simple, yet dignified. He described his own efforts in regard to Parliamentary Reform, spoke of the changes which had of necessity attended his opinions on the subject, and of the circumstances which, at the close of his long career, when the conservative spirit is naturally strongest in every man, had led him to endeavour to put in practice the theories and speculations of his youth and manhood. Lord Eldon described the progress of the debate from day to day in letters to members of his family. Lord Dudley and Lord Haddington quite surprised and delighted the zealous old man—they spoke so admirably against the Bill. Lord Carnarvon delivered a most excellent speech; but Lord Plunket's speaking disappointed him. The fifth night of the debate was occupied by the lawyers. Lord Eldon—following Lord Wynford and Lord Plunket—solemnly delivered his conscience on this momentous occasion. He was ill and weak, and being an octogenarian, he might be said to be speaking on the edge of the grave. He expressed his horror of the new doctrines which had been laid down with respect to the law of the country and its institutions. He could not consent to have all rights arising out of Charters, and all the rights of close boroughs, swept away. Boroughs, he contended, were both property and trust. Close corporations had as good a right to hold their charters under the Great Seal as any of their lordships had to their titles and their peerages. He said that he was a freeman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; he had received his education in the corporation school of that town on cheap terms, as the son of a freeman; he had a right to it; and he had hoped that, when his ashes were laid in the grave, he might have given some memorandum that the boys there, situated as he was, might rise to be Lord Chancellors of England, if, having the advantage of that education, they were honest, faithful, and industrious. The closing night of the debate brought out the two most illustrious law lords in the House, who had long been rivals and competitors in the arenas of professional and political life—Lord Brougham and Lord Lyndhurst. Each was holding back in order to have the opportunity of replying to the other; but Lord Lyndhurst managed to have the last word, the more excitable Lord Chancellor having lost patience, and flung himself into the debate. He implored the House on his knees to pass the Bill. But the coup de théatre miscarried, owing to the obvious anxiety of his friends lest he should be thought to be suffering from too much mulled port.At the same time that we were thus dragged into hostilities with Sweden, we were brought into hostilities with the Czar too in defence of Hanover. Peter had married his niece to the Duke of Mecklenburg, who was on bad terms with his subjects, and the Czar was only too glad to get a footing in Germany by sending a large body of troops into the Duchy. Denmark became immediately alarmed at such a dangerous and unscrupulous neighbour, and remonstrated; whereupon the Czar informed the Danish king that if he murmured he would enter Denmark with his army too. Of course the King of Denmark called on his ally, George of Hanover, for the stipulated aid; and George, who hated the Czar mortally, and was hated by the Czar as intensely in return, at once sent his favourite, Bernsdorff, to Stanhope, who had accompanied him to Hanover, with a demand that "the Czar should be instantly crushed, his ships secured, his person seized, and kept till he should have caused his troops to evacuate both Denmark and Germany."
The noble marquis was regarded by Mr. Peel with the most sincere respect and esteem, which were cordially reciprocated. In a letter dated January 30th, 1828, Lord Wellesley wrote to him thus:—"Your most acceptable letter of the 29th instant enables me to offer to you now those assurances of gratitude, respect, and esteem which, to my sincere concern, have been so long delayed. Although these sentiments have not before reached you in the manner which would have been most suitable to the subject, I trust that you have not been unacquainted with the real impressions which your kindness and high character have fixed in my mind, and which it is always a matter of the most genuine satisfaction to me to declare. I am very anxious to communicate with you in the same unreserved confidence so long subsisting between us on the state of Ireland."
A law in force since the time of Cromwell had provided that no merchandise from Asia, Africa, or America should be imported into Great Britain in any foreign ships; and not only the commander, but three-fourths of the crew, were required to be English. In addition to this restriction of our foreign commerce to English-built and English-manned ships, discriminating duties were imposed upon foreign ships from Europe, which had to pay more heavily than if the goods were imported under the British flag. The object of this system, which prevailed for one hundred and fifty years, was to maintain the ascendency of Britain as a Maritime Power. Adam Smith remarks that the Navigation Act may have proceeded from national rivalry and animosity towards Holland; but he held that its provisions were as beneficial as if they had been dictated by the most consummate wisdom. He admits, however, that they were not favourable to foreign commerce, or to the growth of that opulence that can arise from it, remarking, "As defence is of more value than opulence, the Act of Navigation is perhaps the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England." But had Adam Smith lived later on, he would have seen that the utmost freedom of commerce with foreign nations, and the most boundless opulence arising from it, are quite compatible with a perfect system of national defence; and whatever were the advantages of the restrictive system, other nations could act upon it as well as England. America did so, and thus commenced a war of tariffs equally injurious to herself and the mother country, causing the people of each to pay much more for most of the commodities they needed than they would have done if the markets of the world were open to them. The consequence was that both parties saw the folly of sending their ships across the Atlantic in ballast, and a commercial treaty was concluded in 1815, which put the shipping of both America and England upon an equal footing, and relieved them from the necessity of paying double freight. The reciprocity system was also partially adopted in our commerce with other countries. In 1822 Mr. Wallace had brought in four Bills, which made other important alterations. The 3 George IV., cap. 41, repealed certain statutes relating to foreign commerce which were passed before the Navigation Act. Another Act (cap. 42) repealed that part of the Navigation Act itself which required that goods of the growth or manufacture of Asia, Africa, and America should only be imported in British ships; and that no goods of foreign growth or manufacture should be brought from Europe, except from the place of their production, and in the ships of the country producing them. The next enactment prescribed certain specified goods to be brought to Great Britain from any port in Europe, in ships belonging to the ports of shipment. Two other Acts further extended freedom of commerce, and removed the vexatious restrictions that had hampered our colonial and coasting trade. In 1823 Prussia retaliated, as the United States had done, which led Mr. Huskisson to propose what are called the Reciprocity Acts, 4 George IV., cap. 77, and 5 George IV., cap. 1, which empowered the king, by Order in Council, to authorise the importation and exportation of goods in foreign ships from the United Kingdom, or from any other of his Majesty's dominions, on the same terms as in British ships, provided it should first be proved to his Majesty and the Privy Council that the foreign country in whose favour the order was made had placed British ships in its ports on the same footing as its own ships. These enactments proved an immense advantage to the people of the nations affected by them, and satisfied all parties but the ship-owners, who cried out loudly that their interest was ruined. But their complaints were altogether unfounded, as will appear from the following figures. Under the restrictive system, from 1804 to 1823, the tonnage of British shipping had increased only ten per cent. Under the Reciprocity Acts and the Free Trade system, from 1823 to 1845, the increase rose to forty-five per cent. This result fully bore out the calculations and anticipations of Mr. Huskisson, in his answer to the arguments of the Protectionists.TWOPENNY PIECE OF GEORGE III.
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