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[54]Astounded by these repeated defections, Louis tried to gather some notion of the state of other bodies and troops about him. He attended a sitting of the Chamber of Deputies, and was received with acclamation; he reviewed twenty-five thousand of the National Guard, and there was the same display of loyalty; he inspected six thousand troops of the line, but there the reception was not encouraging. He finally summoned a council at the Tuileries, and there the generals declared frankly that he had no real means of resisting Buonaparte. This was on the 18th of March, and Louis felt that it was time for him to be making his retreat. At one o'clock in the morning of the 20th he was on his way towards Lille, escorted by a body of Household Troops. It was time, for that very day Buonaparte reached the camp of Mélun, where Macdonald had drawn up the troops to attack him; but Buonaparte threw himself amongst them, attended only by a slight escort of horse, and the soldiers all went over to him with a shout. Macdonald rode back to Paris, and, following the king, assumed the command of the Guard accompanying him. Louis hoped that the troops at Lille, under Mortier, would stand by him; but Mortier assured him of the contrary, and so, taking leave of Macdonald on the frontiers, Louis pursued his way to Ostend and thence to Ghent, where he established his Court. The Household Troops who had accompanied him were disbanded on the frontiers, and in attempting to regain their homes by different routes, most of them were killed, or plundered and abused.

[See larger version]Nevertheless, the results actually attained in the first two years were briefly these: first, the[466] chargeable letters delivered in the United Kingdom, exclusive of that part of the Government's correspondence which formerly passed free, had already increased from the rate of about 75,000,000 a year to that of 208,000,000; secondly, the London district post letters had increased from about 13,000,000 to 23,000,000, or nearly in the ratio of the reduction of the rates; thirdly, the illicit conveyance of letters was substantially suppressed; fourthly, the gross revenue, exclusive of repayments, yielded about a million and a half per annum, which was sixty-three per cent. on the amount of the gross revenue of 1839, the largest income which the Post Office had ever afforded. These results, at so early a stage, and in the face of so many obstructions, amply vindicated the policy of the new system. But by its enemies that system was declared to be a failure, until the striking evidence of year after year silenced opposition by an exhaustive process.Lord Eldon, who was by no means weary of political life, became uneasy about his position, and certain arrangements at which the king had mysteriously hinted. The Lord Chancellor religiously obeyed his injunction to abstain from speaking on politics to anybody. But he was revolving in his mind not less anxiously who was to be the new leader of the House of Commons, and how the Constitution in Church and State might be best protected against the spirit of innovation. On the king's return from his northern metropolis the Lord Chancellor was about to press upon him the promotion to the vacant leadership of the House of Commons of Mr. Peel, who had won high distinction in the late debate upon the Catholic peers, when he found, to his unspeakable chagrin, that Lord Liverpool himself had selected Mr. Canning, and overcome the royal objections to him on the ground of his having been formerly the champion of the queen. He had represented to the king that this was the only arrangement by which the Whigs could be effectually excluded, and he gave him an assurance that Catholic Emancipation, though left an open question, should be resolutely opposed. Great as Mr. Canning's talents for Parliament were, and great as was the want of talent on the Ministerial side of the House, it was not without the utmost reluctance that the Cabinet consented to receive him as an associate. They invited him to fill the place vacated by Lord Londonderry, because he was forced upon them by circumstances, and they felt that the Government could not go on without his aid. His only competitor was Mr. Peel, who had not yet had sufficient opportunity of evincing his great powers for the conduct and discussion of public affairs to command the station which many of his colleagues would have gladly seen assigned to him. Canning was unpopular with the anti-Catholic party in general, and particularly obnoxious to the Lord Chancellor; and, besides, there was the great objection of his having been the friend and adherent of the queen. But Lord Liverpool, the Premier, having been associated with him from early life, was so thoroughly convinced that he was the fittest man for the post, and so well acquainted with his transcendent powers of intellect, that he prevailed upon him to relinquish the Governor-Generalship of India, to which he had been appointed, and to accept the vacant Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs, together with the leadership of the Commons.

On the other hand, the kings whom he had set up amongst his brothers and brothers-in-law added nothing to his power. Joseph proved a mere lay figure of a king in Spain; Louis had rejected his domination in Holland, and abdicated; Lucien had refused to be kinged at all; Murat managed to control Naples, but not to conciliate the brave mountaineers of the country to French rule. The many outrages that Buonaparte had committed on the brave defenders of their countries and their rights were still remembered to be avenged. Prussia brooded resentfully over the injuries of its queen; the Tyrol over the murder of Hofer and his compatriots. Contemptible as was the royal family of Spain—the head of which, the old King Charles, with his queen, made a long journey to offer his felicitations on the birth of the king of Rome,—the Spaniards did not forget the kidnapping of their royal race, nor the monstrous treatment of the Queen of Etruria, the daughter of Charles IX. and the sister of Ferdinand. Buonaparte first conferred on her the kingdom of Etruria, and then took it away again, to settle Ferdinand in it instead of in Spain; but as he reduced Ferdinand to a prisoner, he reserved Etruria to himself, and kept the Queen of Etruria in durance at Nice. Indignant at her restraint, she endeavoured to fly to England, as her oppressor's brother, Lucien, had done. But her[22] two agents were betrayed, and one of them was shot on the plain of Grenelle, and the other only reprieved when the fear of death had done its work on him, and he only survived a few days. She herself was then shut up, with her daughter, in a convent.To the Czar it appeared most politic that the war with Napoleon, as it must come, should come whilst the British in Spain were harassing him and draining his resources; and, on his part, Buonaparte, resenting the hostile attitude of Alexander, and suspecting his secret understanding with Bernadotte, determined, notwithstanding the ominous character of the war in Spain, to summon an army utterly overwhelming and crush the Czar at once. It was in vain that such of his counsellors as dared urged him to abstain from the Russian invasion. They represented the vast extent of Russia; its enormous deserts, into which the army could retreat, and which must exhaust so large a host as he contemplated; the inhospitable climate; the difficult rivers; the unprofitableness of the conquest, if it succeeded; and the improbability that success there would put an end to the war in Spain, whilst any serious disaster would cause the nations to stand up behind him as one man. These were all arguments of mere policy; for as to the considerations suggested by morality or justice, these had long been abandoned by Buonaparte, and therefore were never even adverted to by his friends.

The evils of the social state of Ireland were bad enough without being aggravated by the virulence of faction. The result of numerous Parliamentary inquiries, and the observations of travellers from foreign countries, was to present a state of society the most deplorable that can well be imagined in any civilised country under a Christian Government. Many of the lower orders, especially in Munster and Connaught, as well as in mountainous districts of the other provinces, maintained a state of existence the most wretched that can be conceived. They lived in cabins built of mud, imperfectly covered with sods and straw, consisting generally of one room, without any window, with a chimney which admitted the rain, but did not carry off the smoke. They had little or nothing that deserved the name of furniture; their food consisted of potatoes and salt, with milk or a herring sometimes as a luxury; their wages, when they got work, were only sixpence or fourpence a day. They subsisted on small patches of land, which were continually subdivided as the children got married, the population at the same time multiplying with astonishing rapidity. When the potatoes and the turf failed, towards summer, the men went off to seek harvest work in the low lands and richer districts of the country, and in England and Scotland. The women, locking up the doors, set forth with the children to beg, the youngest of the lot being wrapped up in blankets, and carried on their backs. They passed on from parish to parish, getting a night's lodging, as they proceeded, in a chimney corner or in a barn, from the better part of the peasantry and farmers, who shared with them their potatoes, and gave them "a lock of straw" to sleep on. Thus they migrated from county to county, eastward and northward, towards the sea, lazily reposing in the sunshine by the wayside, their children enjoying a wild kind of gipsy freedom, but growing up in utter ignorance, uncared for by anybody, unrecognised by the clergy of any church. The great proprietors were for the most part absentees, who had let their lands, generally in large tracts, to "middlemen," a sort of small gentry, or "squireens," as they were called, who sublet at a rack-rent to the peasantry. Upon these rack-rented, ignorant cultivators of the soil fell a great portion of the burden of supporting the Established clergy, as well as their own priesthood. The tithes were levied exclusively off tillage, the[247] rector or vicar claiming by law a tenth of the crop, which was valued by his "tithe proctors," and unless compounded for in money, which was generally done by the "strong farmers," before the crop left the field, the tenth sheaf must have been set aside to be borne away on the carts of the Protestant clergyman, who was regarded by the people that thus supported him as the teacher of heresy.Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow?"

From the Painting by E. M. Ward. R.A.At the opening of the Session of 1836, as we have seen, the king stated in his Speech that a further report of the commission of inquiry into the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland would be speedily laid before Parliament. "You will approach this subject," he said, "with the[404] caution due to its importance and difficulty; and the experience of the salutary effect produced by the Act for the amendment of the laws relating to the poor in England and Wales may in many respects assist your deliberations." On the 9th of February Sir Richard Musgrave moved for leave to bring in a Bill for the relief of the poor in Ireland in certain cases, stating that he himself lived in an atmosphere of misery, and being compelled to witness it daily, he was determined to pursue the subject, to see whether any and what relief could be procured from Parliament. A few days later another motion was made by the member for Stroud for leave to introduce a Bill for the relief and employment of the poor of Ireland; and on the 3rd of March a Bill was submitted by Mr. Smith O'Brien, framed upon the principles of local administration by bodies representing the ratepayers, and a general central supervision and control on the part of a body named by the Government, and responsible to Parliament. On the 4th of May Mr. Poulett Scrope, a gentleman who had given great attention to questions connected with the poor and the working classes, moved a series of resolutions affirming the necessity for some provision for the relief of the Irish poor. Lord Morpeth was then Chief Secretary; and in commenting upon these resolutions in the House of Commons, he admitted "that the hideous nature of the evils which prevailed amongst the poorer classes in Ireland called earnestly for redress, and he thought no duty more urgent on the Government and on Parliament than to devise a remedy for them." On the 9th of June following, on the motion for postponing the consideration of Sir Richard Musgrave's Bill, Lord Morpeth again assured the House that the subject was under the immediate consideration of Government, and that he was not without hope of their being enabled to introduce some preparatory measure in the present Session; but, at all events, they would take the first opportunity in the next Session of introducing what he hoped to be a complete and satisfactory measure. Nothing, however, was done during the Session, Government seeming to be puzzled to know what to do with such conflicting testimony on a subject of enormous difficulty.

The American Colonies and their Trade—Growing Irritation in America—The Stamp Act—The American Protest—The Stamp Act passed—Its Reception in America—The King's Illness—The Regency Bill—The Princess Dowager omitted—Her Name inserted in the Commons—Negotiations for a Change of Ministry—The old Ministry returns—Fresh Negotiations with Pitt—The first Rockingham Ministry—Riots in America—The Stamped Paper destroyed—Pitt's Speech—The Stamp Act repealed—Weakness of the Government—Pitt and Temple disagree—Pitt forms a Ministry—And becomes Lord Chatham—His Comprehensive Policy—The Embargo on Wheat—Illness of Chatham—Townshend's Financial Schemes—Corruption of Parliament—Wilkes elected for Middlesex—Arrest of Wilkes—Dangerous Riots—Dissolution of the Boston Assembly—Seizure of the Liberty Sloop—Debates in Parliament—Continued Persecution of Wilkes—His Letter to Lord Weymouth—Again expelled the House—His Re-election—The Letters of Junius—Luttrell declared elected for Middlesex—Incapacity of the Ministry—Partial Concessions to the Americans—Bernard leaves Boston—He is made a Baronet—"The Horned Cattle Session"—Lord Chatham attacks the Ministry—Resignations of Granby and Camden—Yorke's Suicide—Dissolution of the Ministry.

In spite of Lord Melbourne's declaration that he would regard the success of the motion as a pure vote of censure, it was carried by a majority of five. In consequence of this result, Lord John Russell announced his intention, next day, of taking the opinion of the House of Commons on the recent government of Ireland, in the first week after the Easter recess. Accordingly, on the 15th of April, he moved—"That it is the opinion of this House that it is expedient to persevere in those principles which have guided the Executive[460] Government of late years, and which have tended to the effectual administration of the laws, and the general improvement of that part of the United Kingdom." The debate emphasised the discontent of the Radicals. Mr. Leader was particularly severe on the Government. "In what position is the Government?" he asked. "Why, the right hon. member for Tamworth governs England, the hon. and learned member for Dublin governs Ireland—the Whigs govern nothing but Downing Street. Sir Robert Peel is content with power without place or patronage, and the Whigs are contented with place and patronage without power. Let any honourable man say which is the more honourable position." On a division, the numbers were—for Sir Robert Peel's amendment, 296; against it, 318. Majority for the Ministry, 22.These disorders appealed with irresistible force to the Government and the legislature to put an end to a system fraught with so much evil, and threatening the utter disruption of society in Ireland. In the first place, something must be done to meet the wants of the destitute clergy and their families. Accordingly, Mr. Stanley brought in a Bill in May, 1832, authorising the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland to advance £60,000 as a fund for the payment of the clergy, who were unable to collect their tithes for the year 1831. This measure was designed to meet the existing necessity, and was only a preliminary to the promised settlement of the tithe question. It was therefore passed quickly through both Houses, and became law on the 1st of June. But the money thus advanced was not placed on the Consolidated Fund. The Government took upon itself the collection of the arrears of tithes and to reimburse itself for its advances out of the sum that it succeeded in recovering. It was a maxim with Mr. Stanley that the people should be made to respect the law; that they should not be allowed to trample upon it with impunity. The odious task thus assumed produced a state of unparalleled excitement. The people were driven to frenzy, instead of being frightened by the Chief Secretary becoming tithe-collector-general, and the army employed in its collection. The first proceeding of the Government to recover the tithes under the Act of the 1st of June was, therefore, the signal for general war. Bonfires blazed upon the hills, the rallying sounds of horns were heard along the valleys, and the mustering tread of thousands upon the roads, hurrying to the scene of a seizure or an auction. It was a bloody campaign; there was considerable loss of life, and the Church and the Government thus became more obnoxious to the people than ever. Mr. Stanley being the commander-in-chief on one side, and O'Connell on the other, the contest was embittered by their personal antipathies. It was found that the amount of the arrears for the year 1831 was £104,285, and that the whole amount which the Government was able to levy, after putting forward its strength in every possible way, was £12,000, the cost of collection being £15,000, so that the Government was not able to raise as much money as would pay the expenses of the campaign. This was how Mr. Stanley illustrated his favourite sentiment that the people should be made to respect the law. But the Liberal party among the Protestants fully sympathised with the anti-tithe recusants.

"I have for several years endeavoured to obtain a compromise on this subject. The result of resistance to qualified concession must be the same in the present instance as in those I have mentioned. It is no longer worth while to contend for a fixed duty. In 1841 the Free Trade party would have agreed to a duty of 8s. a quarter on wheat, and after a lapse of years this duty might have been further reduced, and ultimately abolished. But the imposition of any duty, at present, without a provision for its extinction within a short period, would but prolong a contest already sufficiently fruitful of animosity and discontent. The struggle to make bread scarce and dear, when it is clear that part, at least, of the additional price goes to increase rent, is a struggle deeply injurious to an aristocracy which (this quarrel once removed) is strong in property, strong in the construction of our Legislature, strong in opinion, strong in ancient associations and the memory of immortal services."[See larger version]

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