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For a moment Walpole appeared about to fall from his altitude, and the Jacobite faction was in ecstasies. The dispatch of Townshend, announcing the king's death in Germany, arrived in London on the 14th of June, and was soon followed by himself. Walpole instantly hastened to the palace of Richmond, where the Prince of Wales resided, and was told that the prince was taking his usual afternoon siesta. He desired that he might be awoke, in consequence of important intelligence. George, suddenly aroused, rushed forth half dressed to learn the urgent business, when Walpole knelt down and kissed his hand, informing him of his father's decease, and that he was king. George was at first incredulous, but Walpole produced Townshend's dispatch, and inquired whom his majesty would be pleased to appoint to draw up the necessary declaration to the Privy Council, trusting that it would be himself. To his consternation and chagrin the king said abruptly, "Compton;" and Walpole withdrew in deep vexation, imagining his own reign was at an end.Sir John Warren put the two thousand four hundred Chouans on shore near Lorient, and left them to return to their own predatory mode of warfare. He then located himself on two small neighbouring islands, and waited for a fresh squadron carrying four thousand British troops, which arriving in September, he bore away with them for La Vendée, and thus terminated the miserable descent on the coast of Brittany. The descent on the coast of La Vendée was still more unsatisfactory. On arriving there, it was found that fifteen thousand Republicans were in possession of the Isle Noirmoutier, formerly the stronghold of Charette. The British, therefore, disembarked on the little desolate Isle Dieu, about five leagues from Noirmoutier, and there awaited the arrival of Count d'Artois, who did not come till the 10th of October, and then, alarmed at the fusillading of the officers at Quiberon, declined to land. On hearing this, Charette exclaimed—"We are lost! To-day I have fifteen thousand men about me; to-morrow I shall not have five hundred!" And, in fact, chagrined at the pusillanimous conduct of the prince, and the approach of Hoche with his victorious troops from Brittany, his followers rapidly dispersed, and at the end of the year the British armament returned home, having done nothing. From this day may be dated the extinction of the war in La Vendée. Stofflet, in January, 1796, was defeated, and in February was betrayed to the enemy, and on the 26th of that month was executed at Angers with four of his companions. Charette was captured a month afterwards, and was shot at Nantes on the 29th of March. With him died the last Vendéan general of mark. By this time, the spring of 1796, not a fifth part of the male population of La Vendée remained alive; and Hoche himself calculated that the Vendéan war had cost France a hundred thousand men.

At length Argyll, whose movements had been hastened by the arrival of General Cadogan, prepared to march northwards through deep snow and villages burnt by the Pretender's order. On the 30th of January the rebel army retreated from Perth, the Highland soldiers, some in sullen silence, others in loud curses, expressing their anger and mortification at this proceeding. The inhabitants looked on in terror, and bade adieu to the troops in tears, expecting only a heavy visitation for having so long harboured them. Early the next morning they crossed the deep and rapid Tay, now, however, a sheet of solid ice, and directed their march along the Carse of Gowrie towards Dundee."It was always," said Mr. Brougham, "the queen's sad fate to lose her best stay, her strongest and surest protection, when danger threatened her; and by a coincidence most miraculous in her eventful history, not one of her intrepid defenders was ever withdrawn from her without that loss being the immediate signal for the renewal of momentous attacks upon her honour and her life. Mr. Pitt, who had been her constant friend and protector, died in 1806. A few weeks after that event took place, the first attack was levelled at her. Mr. Pitt left her as a legacy to Mr. Perceval, who became her best, her most undaunted, her firmest protector. But no sooner had the hand of an assassin laid prostrate that Minister, than her Royal Highness felt the force of the blow by the commencement of a renewed attack, though she had but just been borne through the last by Mr. Perceval's skilful and powerful defence of her character. Mr. Whitbread then undertook her protection; but soon that melancholy catastrophe happened which all good men of every political party in the State, he believed, sincerely and universally lamented. Then came with Mr. Whitbread's dreadful loss the murmuring of that storm which was so soon to burst with all its tempestuous fury upon her hapless and devoted head. Her child still lived, and was her friend; her enemies were afraid to strike, for they, in the wisdom of the world, worshipped the rising sun. But when she lost that amiable and beloved daughter, she had no protector; her enemies had nothing to dread; innocent or guilty, there was no hope, and she yielded to the entreaty of those who advised her residence out of this country. Who, indeed, could love persecution so steadfastly as to stay and brave its renewal and continuance, and harass the feelings of the only one she loved so dearly by combating such repeated attacks, which were still reiterated after the echo of the fullest acquittal? It was, however, reserved for the Milan Commission to concentrate and condense all the threatening clouds which were prepared to burst over her ill-fated head; and as if it were utterly impossible that the queen could lose a single protector without the loss being instantaneously followed by the commencement of some important step against her, the same day which saw the remains of her venerable Sovereign entombed—of that beloved Sovereign who was, from the outset, her constant father and friend—that same sun which shone upon the monarch's tomb ushered into the palace of his illustrious son and successor one of the perjured witnesses who were brought over to depose against her Majesty's life.Sir E. Bulwer Lytton (afterwards Lord Lytton) is chiefly known as a most successful novelist, but he won fame also as a dramatic author, his chief productions in this line being The Lady of Lyons and Richelieu. He was born in 1805, and was the youngest son of General Bulwer, of Haydon Hall. He commenced the career of authorship very early, having written "Weeds and Wild Flowers," "O'Neil, the Rebel," and "Falkland," before the appearance of "Pelham" in 1828. Then in rapid succession appeared "The Disowned," "Devereux," "Paul Clifford," "Eugene Aram," "The Last Days of Pompeii," "Rienzi," "Ernest Maltravers," "Alice, or the Mysteries," "The Last of the Barons," "Harold, or the Last of the Saxon Kings," and several others. In 1831 he entered the House of Commons, and represented Lincoln till 1841. His political career, however, belongs to the reign of Queen Victoria.

But that there should be a majority at all on such a question brought the Opposition to try an experiment which they had been for some time planning. This was the absurd scheme of seceding in a body from the House of Commons, on the plea that a paid and standing majority rendered all reason and argument nugatory. In the course of his farewell speech, Wyndham made use of such violent language, that Mr. Pelham jumped up to move the commitment of the honourable member to the Tower; but Walpole was too well aware that such a proceeding would only have served the ends of the Opposition, rendering them martyrs to their country's cause, and raising a vivid interest in their behalf. He therefore stopped him, and said that the measures which that gentleman and his friends might pursue gave him no uneasiness; on the contrary, the House was much obliged to them for pulling off the mask. Relieved of their presence, he now carried his measures in unopposed quiet.

The Wesleyan Methodists were next in number to the members of the Established Church. The progress of this society was very rapid after 1820. In that year the number of its ministers was 718, and of its members or communicants in Great Britain, 191,000. In 1830 the numbers were respectively 824 and 248,000; and so largely did they increase in the next ten years, that in 1840 the ministers were 1,167, and the members 323,000. The 1851 census returns showed 6,579 chapels belonging to this connexion in England and Wales, containing accommodation for 1,447,580 persons. The Society of Friends, on the other hand, was declining. The Roman Catholics made considerable progress in England during the last two reigns. In 1829 they had 394 chapels, which[428] in 1840 had increased to 463, and in 1852 they reached 600. They had at the same time 11 colleges, 88 religious houses, and 875 priests. Their chapels at the time of the census furnished accommodation for 186,000, and the number of attendants on the morning of census Sunday of 1851 was 252,983.ANDREW HOFER APPOINTED GOVERNOR OF THE TYROL. (See p. 591.)The feeling of humanity that gained ground among the masses powerfully affected the middle classes. The consequence was that the state of public feeling produced by the practical inculcation of Christianity and the diffusion of knowledge compelled our legislature to change its system, despite the obstinate resistance of Lords Eldon and Ellenborough, hardened by a long official familiarity with the destructive operation of legal cruelty. How fearful the amount of that destruction was we may infer from the calculation of Mr. Redgrave, of the Home Office, who stated that had the offences tried in 1841 been tried under the laws of 1831, the eighty capital sentences would have been increased to 2,172. Mr. Redgrave gave the following succinct history of the mitigation of the criminal code during the reigns of George IV. and William IV., in a series of enactments which were extorted from a reluctant Legislature by society, humanised through the education of the masses:—In 1826, 1827, and 1828 Sir Robert Peel carried several very important Bills for the consolidation and amendment of the criminal laws, but these Bills did not abolish capital punishments. That statesman, indeed, made it a matter of boast that he did not constitute any new capital felonies, and pointed out an instance in which he had abated the capital punishment by increasing from 40s. to £5, the sum of which the theft in a dwelling-house constituted a capital offence, and by widening the technical description of a dwelling. In 1830 Sir Robert Peel brought in his Forgery Bill, and petitions were poured into the House from all quarters against the re-enactment of the severe penalties for this offence. Sir James Mackintosh again took up the subject, and moved that the capital punishment be struck out from the Bill. He was unsuccessful; but in the last stage of the measure Mr. Spring-Rice was enabled to defeat the Ministry by a majority of 151 to 138, and to remove the sentence of death from the Bill. It was, however, restored by the Lords, and the Bill, as altered, was suffered to pass the House of Commons at the end of the Session. In 1832 two most important Bills for abolishing capital punishments were passed. Mr. Ewart, assisted by the Government, was able to carry a Bill abolishing the punishment of death in cases of horse, sheep, and cattle stealing, and larceny in a dwelling-house. He was opposed by Sir Robert Peel, and an amendment was made in the Lords, subjecting these offences to the fixed penalty of transportation for life. At the same time, Ministers brought in a Bill for abolishing capital punishment in cases of forgery. The Bill was introduced into the Commons by the Attorney-General, and into the House of Lords by the Lord Chancellor. It passed into law, but an amendment was made in the House of Lords, under protest of the Lord Chancellor, exempting the forgery of wills and powers of attorney to transfer stock, which offences were left capital. In 1833 Mr. Leonard carried his Bill for abolishing capital punishment for housebreaking, executions for which offence were continued down to 1830. In 1834 Mr. Ewart carried a Bill for abolishing capital punishment for returning from transportation, and in the following year for sacrilege and letter-stealing. This was the state of the criminal law when Lord John Russell brought in Bills for its mitigation, founded on the report of a committee which Government had appointed. The little progress which Sir S. Romilly and Sir J. Mackintosh had made in opposition to the Governments of their day will be seen by the foregoing sketch, as well as the extensive and salutary changes which followed. Lord John Russell's Bills effected an extensive abolition of the sentence of death, and a mitigation of the secondary punishments. He was enabled to abolish capital punishments in all cases but murder and attempts to murder where dangerous bodily injuries were effected; burglary and robbery when attended with violence or wounds; arson of dwelling-houses where life was endangered; and six other offences of[427] very rare occurrence. The number of capital convictions in 1829 was 1,385; and in 1834, three years after the extensive abolition of capital punishments, the number was reduced to 480.

Sheridan introduced the subject on the 18th of April, and Fox ably supported him; but the motion was negatived. But this defeat only appeared to stimulate the reformers to higher exertions. On the 28th of April a new Reform society, entitled the Society of the Friends of the People, was formally inaugurated by the issue of an address, which was signed by no less than twenty-eight members of the House of Commons, and a considerable number of Lords, amongst them the Lords Lauderdale, John Russell, Stanhope, and Fitzgerald. Their title was unfortunate, for, though they were united only for Parliamentary reform, this cognomen was so much in the French style as to create suspicion and alarm. Many of the members were known to be admirers of the French Revolution, and about the same time another and decidedly French-admiring society was started, calling itself the Corresponding Society, and prosecuting a zealous intercourse with the Girondists and Jacobins. The admiration of French political principles rendered the conservative portion of the population quite determined to resist all innovations; and as this Society of the Friends of the People was regarded as a direct imitation of the Jacobin Club, it was violently opposed and stigmatised. On the 30th of April Mr. Grey, as representative of this Society, rose to announce that in the next Session he meant to introduce a regular measure for the reform of Parliament; that it was necessary, he said, had long been asserted by the two leading men of the House—Pitt and Fox. Pitt rose on this, and declared himself still the friend of Reform; but he contended that this was not the time to attempt it. He had only, he said, to point to[392] the state of things in France, and to the effervescence which those principles of anarchy had produced in Britain, to show the necessity of remaining quiet for the present; neither did he believe that the mass of the English people would support any change in our Constitution. Fox upbraided Pitt with the abandonment of his former sentiments, and contended that we had only to look at the money spent lately in the armament against Russia, money thus spent without any consent of the people, to perceive the necessity of reform in our representation. He referred to Pitt's remarks on revolutionary books and pamphlets recently published, and declared that he had read very few of them. He had only read one of the two books of Thomas Paine, the "Rights of Man," and did not like it. Burke replied to him, and drew a most dismal picture of the condition of France under her Revolutionists. He said that the French Assembly was composed of seven hundred persons, of whom four hundred were lawyers, and three hundred of no description; that he could not name a dozen out of the whole, he believed, with one hundred pounds a-year; and he asked whether we should like a Parliament in Great Britain resembling it. In this debate, the further dissolution of the Whig party became obvious when Windham and others took the side of Burke.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.

CHAPTER IX. REIGN OF WILLIAM IV. (continued).The secession of the Duke of Savoy only the more roused the indignation of the Allies. The Dutch breathed a hotter spirit of war just as their power of carrying it on failed; and even the experienced Heinsius made an energetic oration in the States General, declaring that all the fruits of the war would be lost if they consented to the peace proposed. But to avoid it was no longer possible. The English plenipotentiaries pressed the Allies more and more zealously to come in, so much so that they were scarcely safe from the fury of the Dutch populace, who insulted the Earl of Strafford and the Marquis del Borgo, the Minister of the Duke of Savoy, when the news came that the duke had consented to the peace. Every endeavour was made to detach the different Allies one by one. Mr. Thomas Harley was sent to the Elector of Hanover to persuade him to co-operate with her Majesty; but, notwithstanding all risk of injuring his succession to the English Crown, he declined. Similar attempts were made[8] on the King of Prussia and other princes, and with similar results. The English Ministers now began to see the obstacles they had created to the conclusion of a general peace by their base desertion of the Allies. The French, rendered more than ever haughty in their demands by the successes of Villars, raised their terms as fast as any of the Allies appeared disposed to close with those already offered. The Dutch, convinced at length that England would make peace without them, and was bending every energy to draw away their confederates, in October expressed themselves ready to treat, and to yield all pretensions to Douay, Valenciennes, and Mauberg, on condition that Condé and Tournay were included in their barrier; that the commercial tariffs with France should be restored to what they were in 1664; that Sicily should be yielded to Austria, and Strasburg to the Empire. But the French treated these concessions with contempt, and Bolingbroke was forced to admit to Prior that they treated like pedlars, or, what was worse, like attorneys. He conjured Prior "to hide the nakedness of his country" in his intercourse with the French Ministers, and to make the best of the blunders of his countrymen, admitting that they were not much better politicians than the French were poets. But the fault of Bolingbroke and his colleagues was not want of talent, it was want of honesty; and, by their selfish desire to damage their political rivals, they had brought their country into this deplorable dilemma of sacrificing all faith with their allies, of encouraging the unprincipled disposition of the French, who were certain to profit by the division of the Allies, and of abandoning the glory and position of England, or confessing that the Whigs, however much they had erred in entering on such enormous wars, had in truth brought them to the near prospect of a far more satisfactory conclusion than what they were taking up with.

[See larger version]When he entered Portugal Massena issued a proclamation, informing the Portuguese that the British were the troublers and mischief-makers of Europe, and that they were there only for their own objects of ambition, and calling on the inhabitants to receive the French as their friends and saviours. Lord Wellington issued a counter-proclamation, remarking that the Portuguese had had too much occasion to learn what sort of friends the French were; that they had learned it by the robbery of their property, their brutality towards the women, and oppression of all classes. He called on them, as the sole means of rescue, to resist to the death; and he ordered them, as the British army retired from Lisbon, to withdraw from their towns and villages, carrying whatever they could with them, so that the enemy might find no means of support. This was part of his great plan; and he assured the Portuguese that those who stayed behind after their magistrates had ordered them to withdraw should receive no assistance from him; and that whoever was found holding any communication with the enemy should be deemed a traitor, and treated accordingly.

For this Keppel was much blamed, as it was considered that the papers might have been made out in order to deceive him. The number of the French fleet, however, soon proved to be correct, for, during Keppel's absence, it sailed out of Brest, under the command of Admiral D'Orvilliers. Keppel, returning with his squadron augmented to thirty vessels of the line, found D'Orvilliers out at sea, and the Lively, twenty-gun brig, which he had left to watch the motions of the French, surprised by them in a fog, and captured. On the 27th of July Keppel came up with D'Orvilliers off Ushant, and instantly gave battle. The two fleets passed each other on different tacks, keeping up a furious cannonade for two hours. Keppel then signalled his second in command, Sir Hugh Palliser, to wear round and renew the attack; but Palliser had received so much injury, that he could not or did not obey the signal. Keppel, therefore, bore down to join Palliser's division, and formed afresh for the fight. But by this time D'Orvilliers was making for Brest as fast as he could, claiming a victory. Night came down, and the next morning the French fleet was nearly out of sight. On this, Keppel returned to England to refit, much out of humour with Palliser.

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[See larger version]But whilst Tchitchagoff attacked the French on the right bank, Wittgenstein attacked them on the left. The Russians then threw a bridge of pontoons over the river at Borissov, and, being in communication, attacked the French vehemently on both sides of the river at once. Buonaparte and the troops who were over the river forced their way across some marshes over wooden bridges, which the Russians had neglected to destroy, and reached Brelowa, a little above Borissov on the other side. But terrible now was the condition of the forces and the camp-followers who had not crossed. Wittgenstein, Victor, and Oudinot were engaged in mortal combat on the left bank at the approach of the bridge, the French generals endeavouring to beat off the Russians as the troops and people pressed in a confused crowd over the bridges. Every moment the Russians drove the French nearer to the bridges, and the scene of horror became indescribable. The throngs rushed to make their way over the bridge; the soldiers, forgetting their discipline, added to the confusion. The weak and helpless were trampled down; thousands were forced over the sides of the bridge, and perished in the freezing waters. In the midst of the struggle a fierce tempest arose, and deluges of rain fell; and to carry the horror to the highest pitch,[53] the bridge over which the baggage was passing broke down, plunging numbers of sick, and women and children, into the flood, amid the most fearful cries and screams. But all night the distracted multitude continued to press over the sole remaining bridge under the fire of the Russian artillery, and amongst them passed the troops of Victor, who gave up the contest on the left bank, and left those who had not crossed to their fate. Thousands of poor wretches were seen, as morning dawned, huddled on the bank of the river, amid baggage-waggons and artillery, surrounded by the infuriated Russians, and in dumb despair awaiting their fate. To prevent the crossing of the Russians, the French set fire to the bridge, and left those behind to the mercy of the enemy.

On the death of Stanhope, Sir Robert Walpole was left without a rival, and he received his commission of First Lord of the Treasury on the 2nd of April, and from this period down to 1742 he continued to direct the government of Great Britain. His chief anxiety now was to restore the public credit. He drew up, as Chairman of the Committee of the Commons, a report of all that had been lost in the late excitements, and of the measures that had been adopted to remedy the costs incurred. Amongst these were the resolutions of the House respecting the seven and a half millions the directors of the South Sea Company had agreed to pay to Government; more than five had been remitted, and we may add that on the clamorous complaints of the Company the remainder was afterwards remitted too. The forfeited estates had been made to clear off a large amount of encumbrance, the credit of the Company's bonds had been maintained, and thirty-three per cent. of the capital paid to the proprietors. Such were the[49] measures adopted by the Commons, and these being stated in the report to the king, a Bill was brought in embodying them all. Many of the proprietors, however, were not satisfied. They were very willing to forget their own folly and greediness, and charge the blame on the Government. On the second reading of Walpole's Bill they thronged the lobby of the House of Commons. The next day the Bill was carried, and gradually produced quiet; but Walpole himself did not escape without severe animadversions. He was accused of having framed his measures in collusion with the Bank, and with a clear eye to his own interest; but he had been strenuously vindicated from the charge, and on the whole the vigour and boldness with which he encountered the storm and quelled it deserve the highest praise, and may well cover a certain amount of self-interest, from which few Ministers are free.

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