Before there was any declaration of war, the King of France, on the 18th of March, issued an order to seize all British ships in the ports of that kingdom; and, nine days afterwards, a similar order was issued by the British Government as to all French ships in their harbours. The first act of hostility was perpetrated by Admiral Keppel. He had been appointed first Admiral on the earliest news of the treaty of France with America; and, being now in the Channel with twenty ships of the line, he discovered two French frigates, La Licorne and La Belle Poule, reconnoitring his fleet. Not troubling himself that there had been no declaration of war, Keppel ordered some of his vessels to give chase; and, on coming up with the Licorne, a gun was fired over her, to call her to surrender; and the Frenchman struck his colours, but not before he had poured a broadside into the America, commanded by Lord Longford, and wounded four of his men. The "saucy" Arethusa, famed in song and story, in the meantime, had come up with the Belle Poule, and, after a desperate action, drove her in amongst the rocks, whilst the Arethusa herself was so disabled as to require towing back to the fleet. A schooner and a French frigate were soon afterwards taken; and, finding on board these vessels papers stating that the fleet in Brest harbour consisted of thirty-two sail of the line and ten or twelve frigates, Keppel returned to Portsmouth for reinforcements.Immediately on the rising of Parliament O'Connell published a violent attack in the form of a letter to Lord Duncannon. This was taken up by Lord Brougham in the course of an oratorical tour which he was making through Scotland, and a mutual exchange of compliments ensued. Unfortunately the Chancellor's eccentricity did not stop there. Earl Grey was not permitted to retire into private life without some popular recognition of his great public services. On the 15th of September a grand banquet was given in Edinburgh in honour of this illustrious statesman. "Probably," says a contemporary chronicle, "no Minister in the zenith of his power ever before received so gratifying a tribute of national respect as was paid on this occasion to one who had not only retired from office, but retired from it for ever. The popular enthusiasm, both in the capital and other parts of Scotland, was extreme, which the noble earl sensibly felt, and gratefully acknowledged as among the proudest circumstances of his life. The dinner took place in a large pavilion, erected for the occasion in the area of the High School, and was provided for upwards of 1,500 persons, more than 600 having been admitted after the removal of the cloth. The principal speakers were Earl Grey, the Lord Chancellor, and the Earl of Durham. Earl Grey and the Lord Chancellor, in their speeches, said they considered that the Reform in Parliament afforded the means by which all useful improvements might be obtained without violence. Both advocated a deliberate and careful, but steady course of amelioration and reform, and both derided the idea of a reaction in favour of Tory principles of government. The Earl of Durham avowed his opinions in favour of the ballot and household suffrage, and declared that he should regret every hour which left ancient and recognised abuses unreformed." This involved the Lord Chancellor in a new controversy in which more personalities were exchanged.The result of the Duke's deliberations upon the crisis and the duty of Government respecting it was stated at length in an unpublished manuscript, left in his own handwriting, and is probably a copy of the memorandum sent to the king. The following is the substance of the Duke's reflections as given in Mr. Gleig's "Life of Wellington":—
The minute subdivision of land which placed the population in a state of such complete dependence upon the potato was first encouraged by the landlords, in order to multiply the number of voters, and increase their Parliamentary interest; but subsequently, as the population increased, it became in a great measure the work of the people themselves. The possession of land afforded the only certain means of subsistence, and a farm was therefore divided among the sons of the family, each one, as he was married—which happened early—receiving some share, and each daughter also often getting a slice as her marriage-portion. In vain were clauses against subletting inserted in leases; in vain was the erection of new houses prohibited; in vain did the landlord threaten the tenant. The latter relied upon the sympathy of his class to prevent ejectment, and on his own ingenuity to defeat the other impediments to his favourite mode of providing for his family. This process was at length carried to an extreme that became perfectly ludicrous. Instead of each sub-tenant or assignee of a portion of the farm receiving his holding in one compact lot, he obtained a part of each particular quality of land, so that his tenement consisted of a number of scattered patches, each too small to be separately fenced, and exposed to the constant depredations of his neighbours' cattle, thus affording a fruitful source of quarrels, and utterly preventing the possibility of any improved system of husbandry. These small patches, however, were not numerous enough to afford "potato gardens" for the still increasing population, and hence arose the conacre system, by which those who occupied no land were enabled to grow potatoes for themselves. Tempted by the high rent, which varied from ￡8 to ￡14 an acre without manure, the farmers gave to the cottiers in their neighbourhood the use of their land merely for the potato crop, generally a quarter of an Irish acre to each. On this the cottier put all the manure he could make by his pig, or the children could scrape off the road during the year, and "planted" his crop of potatoes, which he relied upon as almost the sole support of his family. On it he also fed the pig, which paid the rent, or procured clothes and other necessaries if he had been permitted to pay the rent with his own labour. The labourer thus became a commercial speculator in potatoes. He mortgaged his labour for part of the ensuing year for the rent of his field. If his speculation proved successful, he was able to replace his capital, to fatten his pig, and to support himself and his family, while he cleared off his debt to the farmer. If it failed, his former savings were gone, his heap of manure had been expended to no purpose, and he had lost the means of rendering his pig fit for the market. But his debt to the farmer still remained, and the scanty wages which he could earn at some periods of the year were reduced, not only by the increased number of persons looking for work, but also by the diminished ability of the farmers to employ them. Speculation in potatoes, whether on a large or small scale, had always been hazardous in the southern and westerly portions of Ireland. There had been famines from the failure of that crop at various times, and a remarkably severe one in 1822, when Parliament voted ￡300,000 for public works and other relief purposes, and subscriptions were raised to the amount of ￡310,000, of which ￡44,000 was collected in Ireland. In 1831 violent storms and continual rain brought on another failure of the potato crop in the west of Ireland, particularly along the coast of Galway, Mayo, and Donegal. On this occasion the English public, with ready sympathy, again came forward, and subscriptions were raised, amounting to about ￡75,000. On several other occasions subsequently, the Government found it necessary to advance money for the relief of Irish misery, invariably occasioned by the failure of the potatoes, and followed by distress and disease. The public and the Legislature had therefore repeated warnings of the danger of having millions of people dependent for existence upon so precarious a crop.
FROM THE PAINTING BY D. O. HILL, R.S.A.This signal and unexpected defeat seemed to rouse the Government to a fresh effort for victory over the triumphant bookseller. The Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough, who was not accustomed to let juries and the accused off so easily, rose from his sick bed, where he was fast drifting towards the close of his career. The defendant was called into court the next morning, the 19th of December. There sat Ellenborough, with a severe and determined air. Abbott sat by his side. Hone this time was charged with having published an impious and profane libel, called "The Litany, or General Supplication." The Attorney-General again asserted that, whatever might be the intention of the defendant, the publication had the effect of bringing into contempt the service of the Church. Hone opened his books to recommence the reading of parallel productions of a former day, or by persons high in esteem in the Church, but this was precisely what the invalid Lord Chief Justice had left his bed to prevent. The judge told him all that was beside the mark, but Hone would not allow that it was so, opened his books, and read on in spite of all attempts to stop him. Never had Ellenborough, not even in his strongest and best days, been so stoutly encountered; scarcely ever had such a scene been witnessed in the memory of man. The spectators showed an intense interest in the combat, for such it was, and it was evident that the general sympathy went with the accused, who put forth such extraordinary and unlooked-for power. The exhausted Chief Justice was compelled to give way, and Hone went on reading one parody after another, and dwelt especially on the parodies of the Litany which the Cavaliers wrote to ridicule the Puritan Roundheads. When he had done, the Lord Chief Justice addressed the jury in a strain of strong direction to find a verdict for the Crown. He said "he would deliver the jury his solemn opinion, as he was required by the Act of Parliament to do; and under the authority of that Act, and still more in obedience to his conscience and his God, he pronounced this to be a most impious and profane libel. Believing and hoping that they, the jury, were Christians, he had no doubt but they would be of the same opinion." This time the solemn and severe energy of the Lord Chief Justice seemed to have made an impression on part of the jury, for they took an hour and a half to determine their verdict, but they again returned one of Not Guilty.
Mr. Bankes again introduced his Bill—which was about to expire—for prohibiting the grant of offices in reversion; and he endeavoured again to make it permanent, but, as before, he was defeated on the second reading in the Commons. He then brought in a Bill confined to two years only, and this, as before, was allowed to pass both Houses. Great discussion arose on the grant of the office of paymaster of widows' pensions to Colonel MacMahon, the confidential servant of the Prince Regent. This was a mere sinecure, which had been held by General Fox, the brother of Charles James Fox; and it had been recommended that, on the general's death, it should be abolished; but Ministers—more ready to please the Regent than to reduce expenditure—had, immediately on the general's decease, granted it to Colonel MacMahon. Ministers met the just complaints of the Opposition by praising the virtues and ability of MacMahon—as if it required any ability or any virtue to hold a good sinecure! But there was virtue enough in the Commons to refuse to grant the amount of the salary, Mr. Bankes carrying a resolution against it. But Ministers had their remedy. The prince immediately appointed MacMahon his private secretary, and a salary of two thousand pounds was moved for. But Mr. Wynne declared that any such office was unknown to the country—that no regent or king, down to George III., and he only when he became blind, had a private secretary; that the Secretary of State was the royal secretary. Ministers replied that there was now a great increase of public business, and that a private secretary for the Regent was not unreasonable; but they thought it most prudent not to press the salary, but to leave it to be paid out of the Regent's privy purse.But if Great Britain was prosperous, the affairs of Canada got into a very disturbed state, and became a source of trouble for some time to the Government in the mother country. To the conflicting elements of race and religion were added the discontents arising from misgovernment by a distant Power not always sufficiently mindful of the interests of the colony. For many years after Lower Canada, a French province, had come into the possession of Britain, a large portion of the country westward—lying along the great lakes—now known as Upper Canada, nearly double the extent of England, was one vast forest, constituting the Indian hunting-ground. In 1791, when by an Act of the Imperial Parliament the colony received a constitution, and was divided into Upper and Lower Canada, with separate legislatures, the amount of the white population in Upper Canada was estimated at 50,000. Twenty years later it had increased to 77,000, and in 1825 emigration had swelled its numbers to 158,000, which in 1830 was increased to 210,000, and in 1834 the population exceeded 320,000, the emigration for the last five years having proceeded at the rate of 12,000 a year. The disturbances which arose in 1834 caused a check to emigration; but when tranquillity was restored it went on rapidly increasing, till, in 1852, it was nearly a million. The increase of wealth was not less remarkable. The total amount of assessable property, in 1830, was ￡1,854,965; 1835, ￡3,407,618; 1840, ￡4,608,843; 1845, ￡6,393,630.
The court then adjourned to the 15th of April. The case of the Begums was opened by Mr. Adams, and concluded the next day by Mr. Pelham. Then sixteen days were occupied by the evidence, and at length, on the 3rd of June, Sheridan began to sum up the evidence, and, in a speech which lasted three days, he kept the court in the highest state of excitement. The place was crowded to suffocation during the whole time, and as much as fifty guineas is said to have been paid for a single seat. Greatly as this speech of Sheridan's was admired, it was felt to be too ornate and dramatic: there was not the deep and genuine feeling of Burke in it, and the effect was so evidently studied, that, on concluding, Sheridan fell back into the arms of Burke, as if overcome by his own sensations. The prorogation of Parliament was now at hand, and only two out of the twenty charges had been gone through: neither of them had yet been replied to, and yet other causes of engrossing interest arising, the trial was entirely suspended till the 20th of April of the following year! Then it was taken up languidly and at uncertain intervals, and rapidly became a mere exhibition of rhetoric. Further, Burke's unlawyer-like style and intemperance of language drew upon him the censure of the Lord Chancellor, and even of the House of Commons. A revulsion of public feeling took place, and was seen in the acquittal of Stockdale who was tried for libelling the promoters of the trial. Three years afterwards Burke himself renounced sixteen of his charges, and all popular interest in the trial gradually disappeared.Mélas, who had been besieging Genoa, had left part of his army to reduce that city, defended by a strong French division under Massena and Soult, and advanced to Nice, which he had entered, and was contemplating his descent on Provence, when the news of Buonaparte's entrance of Piedmont reached him. He directed his march now to meet him. In the meantime, Massena and Soult, worn out by famine, the fort being blockaded by Admiral Lord Keith, had surrendered Genoa to General Otto, whom Mélas had ordered to raise the siege and join him. Mélas summoned his scattered forces to make head against Buonaparte, and was himself pursued from the neighbourhood of Nice by Suchet. Buonaparte deceived Mélas by false movements, making him imagine that his object was Turin, and so entered Milan in triumph on the 2nd of June. After various encounters and man?uvres between Buonaparte and Mélas, the First Consul crossed the Po at Piacenza, drove back the advanced guard of the Austrians, and took up a position on the plains of Marengo, on the right bank of the little stream, the Bormida, and opposite to Alessandria, where Mélas was lying. The next day—the 14th of June—Mélas drew out his forces, and attacked the French with great spirit. The Austrians amounted to about forty thousand, including a fine body of cavalry, for which the ground was highly favourable; the French were not more than thirty thousand, posted strongly in and around the village of Marengo, in three divisions, each stationed about a quarter of a mile behind the other. After two or three attempts the Austrians drove the French out of the village of Marengo, threw the second division, commanded by Lannes, into confusion, and put to rout the left wing of Buonaparte's own division, threw his centre into disorder, and compelled him to retreat as far as St. Juliano. The whole tide of battle was running against Buonaparte, and a short time must have completed his rout, when the strength of the old general, Mélas—more than eighty years of age—gave way, for he had been many hours on horseback. He retired from the field quite secure of the victory, and left General Zach to finish it. But, at this moment, General Desaix, who had lately arrived from Egypt, and had been sent by Buonaparte to make a diversion at Rivolta, came back with his detachment of twenty thousand men. Kellermann, also, who was posted in the rear with a body of reserve, marched up at the same time. A new and desperate charge was made on the fatigued Austrians, and they were broken and put to the rout. They retreated across the Bormida, towards Alessandria, in a panic, the horse galloping over the infantry. Mélas, dispirited by his defeat, but more by his age, gave up the struggle and on the 16th of June concluded an armistice, resigning not only Alessandria, where he might have stood a longer siege, but Genoa, which had just surrendered to the Austrians, and all the Genoese territory, agreeing to retire behind the line of Mantua and the Mincio, and leaving to the French all Lombardy as far as the Oglio. The French themselves could scarcely believe the reality of such a surrender.
Before the report of the committee was presented, Mr. Hume, on the 4th of August, moved eleven resolutions declaring the facts connected with Orangeism, proposing an Address to the king, and calling his Majesty's attention to the Duke of Cumberland's share in those transactions. Lord John Russell, evidently regarding the business as being of extreme gravity, moved that the debate be adjourned to the 11th of August, plainly to allow the Duke of Cumberland an opportunity of retiring from so dangerous a connection; but instead of doing so, he published a letter to the chairman of the committee, stating that he had signed blank warrants, and did not know that they were intended for the army. Lord John Russell expressed his disappointment at this illogical course. If what he stated was true, that his confidence was abused by the members of the society in such a flagrant manner, he should have indignantly resigned his post of Grand Master, but he expressed no intention of doing so. Mr. Hume's last resolution, proposing an Address to the king, was adopted, and his answer, which was read to the House, promised the utmost vigilance and vigour. On the 19th the House was informed that Colonel Fairman had refused to produce to the committee a letter-book in his possession, which was necessary to throw light on the subject of their inquiry. He was called before the House, where he repeated his refusal, though admonished by the Speaker. The next day an order was given that he should be committed to Newgate for a breach of privilege, but it was then found that he had absconded.We must open the year 1790 by reverting to the affairs of Britain, and of other countries having an influence on British interests. The Parliament met on the 21st of January; and, in the course of the debate on the Address in the Commons, Fox took the opportunity to laud the French Revolution, and especially the soldiers for destroying the Government which had raised them, and which they had sworn to obey. Burke, in reply, whilst paying the highest compliments to the genius of Fox, and expressing the value which he placed on his friendship, endeavoured to guard the House and country against the pernicious consequences of such an admiration as had been expressed by Fox. He declared the conduct of the troops disgraceful; for instead of betraying the Government, they ought to have defended it so far as to allow of its yielding the necessary reforms. But the so-called reforms in France, he said, were a disgrace to the nation. They had, instead of limiting each branch of the Government for the general good and for rational liberty, destroyed all the balances and counterpoises which gave the State steadiness and security. They had pulled down all things into an incongruous and ill-digested mass; they had concocted a digest of anarchy called the Rights of Man, which would disgrace a schoolboy; and had laid the axe to the root of all property by confiscating that of the Church. To compare that revolution with our glorious one of 1688, he said, was next to blasphemy. They were diametrically opposed. Ours preserved the Constitution and got rid of an arbitrary monarch; theirs destroyed the Constitution and kept a monarch who was willing to concede reforms, but who was left helpless. Fox replied that he had been mistaken by his most venerated and estimable friend; that he was no friend to anarchy and lamented the cruelties that had been practised in France, but he considered them the natural result of the long and terrible despotism which had produced the convulsion, and that he had the firmest hopes that the French would yet complete their Constitution with wisdom and moderation. Here the matter might have ended, but Sheridan rose and uttered a grand but ill-considered eulogium on the French Revolution, and charged Burke with being an advocate of despotism. Burke highly resented this; he made a severe reply to Sheridan; and instead of the benefits which he prognosticated, Burke, with a deeper sagacity, declared that the issue of that revolution would be not only civil war but many other wars.
In concluding the remarkable events of this year, we must turn to India, and witness the termination of the career of Tippoo Sahib. This prince, for ever restless under the losses which he had suffered from the British, though nominally at peace with them, was seeking alliances to help him once more to contend with them. He sought to engage the Afghans in his favour, and to bring over the British ally, the Nizam of the Deccan. Failing in this, he made overtures to the French Republic through the Governor of the Isle of France. Buonaparte, as we have said, had Tippoo in his mind when he proposed to march to India and conquer it, but only a few hundreds of French of the lowest caste reached Seringapatam from the Isle of France. Lord Mornington, afterwards the Marquis of Wellesley, determined to anticipate the plans of Tippoo, and dispatched General Harris with twenty-four thousand men into Mysore, at the same time ordering another force of seven thousand, under General Stuart, from Bombay, to co-operate with him. To these also was added a strong reinforcement of British troops in the pay of the Nizam, and some regiments of sepoys, commanded by English officers. The united forces of Harris and the Nizam came into conflict with Tippoo's army on the 22nd of March, 1799, when within two days' march of Seringapatam. In this action, Colonel Wellesley, afterwards the Duke of Wellington, greatly distinguished himself, and the success of the action was ascribed to his regiment, the 34th. On the 5th of April General Harris invested Seringapatam, and on the 14th General Stuart arrived with the Bombay army. Tippoo soon made very humble overtures for peace, but the British, having no faith in him, continued the siege, and the city was carried by storm on the 4th of May, and Tippoo himself was found amongst the slain. Two of his sons fell into the hands of the victors; his territories were divided between the British and the Nizam. The former retained Seringapatam and the island on which it is situated, and the whole of his territory on the Malabar coast, with Coimbra, and all the rest of his possessions stretching to the Company's territories west and east, thus completing their dominion from sea to sea. The Nizam received equally valuable regions in the interior, and a province was bestowed on the descendant of the Hindoo rajah who had been dispossessed of it by Hyder Ali, Tippoo's father. Thus was the British empire of India freed from its most formidable enemy, and thus was it enabled, soon afterwards, to send an armament up the Red Sea to assist in driving the French from Egypt.The king, in the first instance, applied to Lord Shelburne to form a Ministry; but he was bound by engagements to Wentworth House, and honourably refused to take the lead. George then tried Lord Gower as ineffectually, and so was compelled to send for Lord Rockingham, who accepted office, on the condition that peace should be made with America, including the acknowledgment of its independence, if unavoidable; administrative reform, on the basis of Mr. Burke's three Bills; and the expulsion of contractors from Parliament, and revenue officers from the exercise of the elective franchise. The king stood strongly on the retention of Lord Chancellor Thurlow and Lord Stormont in their offices. Rockingham, with reluctance, conceded the retention of Thurlow, but refused that of Stormont. The choice of Lord Rockingham was such as could only have been made where family influence and party cliques had more weight than the proper object of a Minister—the able management of national affairs. Rockingham, though a very honourable man, was never a man of any ability, and though now only fifty-two, his health and faculties, such as they were, were fast failing. Besides this, there was a violent jealousy between him and Lord Shelburne, who became his colleague, and brought in half of the Cabinet. The shape which the Ministry eventually assumed was this:—Lord Rockingham became First Lord of the Treasury and Premier; the Earl of Shelburne and Charles Fox, Secretaries of State; Thurlow, Lord Chancellor; Camden, notwithstanding his age, President of the Council; Duke of Grafton, Privy Seal; Lord John Cavendish, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Keppel—made a viscount—First Lord of the Admiralty; General Conway, Commander of the Forces; the Duke of Richmond, Master-General of Ordnance; Dunning—as Lord Ashburton—Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Burke was not admitted to the Cabinet, for the Whigs were too great sticklers for birth and family; but his indispensable ability insured him the Paymastership of the Forces—by far the most lucrative office in the hands of Government, but the salary of which he was pledged to reduce by his Bill. Pitt was offered a place as Lord of the Treasury; but he had already declared, on the 8th of March, on the debate on Lord John Cavendish's motion, that he would never accept a subordinate situation. Dundas remained in office, as Lord Advocate, and John Lee was made Solicitor-General. Such was the new Administration: it embraced, as leaders, five Rockinghamites and five Shelburnites. The eleventh member of the Cabinet, Thurlow, belonged to neither side, but was the king's man. Fox saw himself in office with him with great repugnance, and Burke felt the slight put upon him in excluding him from the Cabinet.
Marriage is one of the fundamental principles of the social system. The law of marriage, therefore, ought to be plain and simple, intelligible to all, and guarded in every possible way against fraud and abuse. Yet the marriage laws of the United Kingdom were long in the most confused, unintelligible, and unsettled state, leading often to ruinous and almost endless litigation. A new Marriage Act was passed in the Session now under review, which, like many Acts of the kind, originated in personal interests affecting the aristocracy. It was said to have mainly arisen out of the marriage of the Marquis of Donegal with Miss May, who was the daughter of a gentleman celebrated for assisting persons of fashion with loans of money. The brother of the marquis sought to set this marriage aside, and to render the children illegitimate, in order that he might himself, should the marquis die without lawful issue, be heir to his title and estates. In law the marriage was invalid; but it was now protected by a retrospective clause in the new Act. By the Marriage Act of 1754 all marriages of minors certified without the assent of certain specified persons were declared null. A Bill was passed by the Commons giving validity to marriages which, according to the existing law, were null, and providing that the marriages of minors, celebrated without due notice, should not be void, but merely voidable, and liable to be annulled only during the minority of the parties, and at the suit of the parents or guardians.
As at Eylau, so at Friedland, Napoleon made no attempt to follow the Russians. But the battle, nevertheless, produced important consequences. The King of Prussia did not think himself safe at K?nigsberg, and he evacuated it; and the unhappy queen prepared, with her children, to fly to Riga. The Russians retreated to Tilsit, and there Alexander made up his mind to negotiate with Napoleon. He was far from being in a condition to despair; Gustavus, the King of Sweden, was at the head of a considerable army at Stralsund; a British expedition was daily expected in the Baltic; the spirit of resistance was reawakening in Prussia; Schill, the gallant partisan leader, was again on horseback, with a numerous body of men, gathered in various quarters; and Hesse, Hanover, Brunswick, and other German provinces were prompt for revolt on the least occasion of encouragement. Buonaparte felt the peril of crossing the Niemen, and advancing into the vast deserts of Russia, with these dangerous elements in his rear. Besides, his presence was necessary in France. He had been absent from it nearly a year; he had drawn heavily on its resources, and a too long-continued strain without his personal influence might produce fatal consequences. To leave his army in the North was to leave it to certain defeat, and with the danger of having all Germany again in arms. These circumstances, well weighed by a man of genius and determination, would have induced him to make a resolute stand, and to draw his enemy into those wilds where he afterwards ruined himself, or to wear him out by delay. Alexander, however, had not the necessary qualities for such a policy of procrastination. He was now depressed by the sufferings of his army, and indignant against Britain.From the Painting by Seymour Lucas, R.A.详情
Copyright © 2020