类型:奇幻地区:发布:2020-10-23 05:10:17


During the winter the Americans had been preparing for war, fabricating and repairing arms, drilling militia, and calling on one another, by proclamations, to be ready. On the 26th of February, 1775, Gage sent a detachment to take possession of some brass cannon and field-pieces collected at Salem. A hundred and fifty regulars landed at Salem for this purpose, but, finding no cannon there, they proceeded to the adjoining town of Danvers. They were stopped at a bridge by a party of militia, under Colonel Pickering, who claimed the bridge as private property, and refused a passage. There was likely to be bloodshed on the bridge, but it was Sunday, and some ministers of Salem pleaded the sacredness of the day, and prevailed on Colonel Pickering to let the soldiers pass. They found nothing, and soon returned.HEROISM OF THE MAID OF SARAGOSSA. (See p. 556.)


There were some circumstances, however, which came out that created considerable suspicion and displeasure in Ireland. Wood had given a bribe to the king's mistress, the Duchess of Kendal, to procure him the contract, and the Government had ordered the coinage without paying the Irish Privy Council and Lord-Lieutenant the compliment of consulting them on this occasion. Swift saw these errors, and seized on them for his own purposes. He did not stop to inquire whether, after all, the proposed coinage would not, in any circumstances, be much better than the present distressing scarcity of copper money, and whether the farthings and halfpence might not turn out as good, though they were contracted for. It was enough for him that there was a cause of discontent which he could fan into a flame against the British Government. He threw all his spiteful soul into it, and his "Drapier's Letters" inflamed the public mind to such a degree that Walpole was compelled to cancel the patent.Newcastle, a man older than his brother Pelham, and of inferior abilities, instead of strengthening himself by the promotion of Pitt and Henry Fox, was only anxious to grasp all the power of the Cabinet, and retain these far abler men as his obedient subordinates. He at once got himself placed at the head of the Treasury, and selected as Chancellor of the Exchequer Henry Legge, a son of the Earl of Dartmouth, a quiet but ordinary man of business, by no means fitted to take the leadership of the House of Commons. The three men calculated for that post were Pitt, Fox, and Murray; but Pitt was still extremely disliked by the king, who did not forget his many years' thunderings against Hanoverian measures, and both George and Newcastle were no little[117] afraid of his towering ambition. Henry Fox was a man of amiable character in private life, but in politics an adventurer.On the 24th of June Lord John Russell proposed his second edition of the Reform Bill, which did not substantially differ from the first. His speech on this occasion was a perfect contrast to the one with which he had introduced the measure at first. There was no longer any hesitation or timidity. He was no longer feeling his way doubtfully on an untried path, or navigating without compass along a dangerous coast. He boldly launched out to sea, with his eye steadily fixed on the north star, certain of his course and confident of the issue. The discussions of the previous Session had thrown a flood of light upon the whole question. Sustained by the enthusiasm of the people, and animated by the sympathy of the majority around him on the Ministerial benches, he spoke as if a greater and more vigorous mind had taken possession of his frame. He was strong in argument, cutting in sarcasm, defiant in tone, powerful in declamation. Borne by the power of[337] public opinion to a higher and more commanding position, and proudly conscious of the elevation, he seemed ashamed of the petty proposals of former years, and felt his heart as well as his intellect expanding to the greatness of the new position. The Bill was read a first time without opposition, the discussion being expressly reserved by Sir Robert Peel for the second reading, which was fixed for the 4th of July. In the meantime the Irish Bill was brought in by Mr. Stanley on the 30th of June, Messrs. O'Connell and Sheil complaining bitterly of the difference existing, to the disadvantage of Ireland, between the proposed plans of Reform for the two countries. On the following day the Lord Advocate brought in the Bill relating to Scotland. On the 4th of July Lord John Russell moved the second reading of the English Reform Bill. A debate of three nights followed, containing little or no novelty in the argument, nothing but a wearisome repetition of points that had been discussed all over the country, hundreds of times, during the last few months. The most interesting feature was the attitude of Sir Robert Peel, who unfortunately placed himself in the front of the battle against Reform, in which he proved himself so able a general that all enlightened friends of the country lamented his false position. It was remarked, however, that he confined himself to a criticism of details.

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As it was, the extreme caution of Kutusoff saved Buonaparte and the little remnant of his army that ever reached France again. Buonaparte left Smolensk with only forty thousand, instead of four hundred and seventy thousand men, which he had on entering Russia, and a great part of the Italian division of Eugene was cut off by the Russians before the Viceroy could come up with Buonaparte. Napoleon, therefore, halted at Krasnoi, to allow of the two succeeding divisions coming up; but Kutusoff took this opportunity to fall on Buonaparte's division, consisting of only fifteen thousand men, and attacked it in the rear by cannon placed on sledges, which could be brought rapidly up and as rapidly made to fall back.On the 1st of June according to the arrangements of General Gage, as the clock struck twelve, all the public offices were closed, and the whole official business was transferred to Salem. But the wide discontent of the people met him there as much as at Boston. When the Assembly met, which was in the following week, such was its spirit that General Gage felt that he must dissolve it. General Gage, seeing the lowering aspect of affairs, took the precaution to throw more troops into the neighbourhood, so that he had some six regiments, with a train of artillery, when he encamped on the common near Boston. Active emissaries were immediately sent amongst these troops, who, by presents of ardent spirits and fine promises, seduced a considerable number from their duty. To prevent this, he stationed a strong guard at Boston Neck, a narrow isthmus connecting the town with the common and open country. On this a vehement cry was raised, that he was going to cut off all communication with the country, blockade the town, and reduce it to submission by famine. The inhabitants of the county of Worcester sent a deputation to inquire Gage's intentions, and they did not omit to hint that, if necessary, they would drive in the guard with arms; for, in fact, besides the arms which most Americans then had, others had been supplied to such as were too poor to purchase them. Gordon, their historian, tells us that the people were preparing to defend their rights by the sword; that they were supplying themselves from Boston with guns, knapsacks, etc. According to the Militia Law, most men were well furnished with muskets and powder, and were now busily employed in exercising themselves; thus all was bustle, casting of balls, and making ready for a struggle. Gage, seeing all this, removed the gunpowder and the military stores from Charlestown, Cambridge, and other localities, to his own quarters. This, again, excited a deep rage in the people, who threatened to attack his troops. To prevent this, he went on briskly with his defences on the Neck; but what he did by day the mob endeavoured to undo by night. They set fire to his supplies of straw; they sank the boats that were bringing bricks, and overturned his waggons conveying timber. Nothing but the greatest patience and forbearance prevented an instant collision.

Nor were the fears of Cobbett imaginary. The Ministry at this time were such fanatics in tyranny, that they would have rejoiced to have thus caged the great political lion, and kept him in silence. At this very moment they had pounced upon one who was equally clever in his way, and who had, perhaps, annoyed them still more, but whom they did not so much fear to bring into a court of justice. This was William Hone, who had for some time been making them the laughing-stock of the whole nation by his famous parodies. Hone was a poor bookseller in the Old Bailey, who had spent his life in the quest after curious books, and in the accumulation of more knowledge than wealth. His parodies had first brought him into notice, and it did not appear a very formidable thing for the Government to try a secluded bookworm not even able to fee counsel for his defence. His trial did not come on at the Guildhall till the 18th of December, and then it was evident that the man of satirical fun meant to make a stout fight. The judge, Mr. Justice Abbott, and the Attorney-General, Sir Samuel Shepherd, from their manner of surveying the accused, did not apprehend much difficulty in obtaining a verdict against him. But they very soon discovered their mistake. The charge against Hone was for having published a profane and impious libel upon the Catechism, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, thereby bringing into contempt the Christian religion. The special indictment was for the publication of John Wilkes's catechism. The Attorney-General did not very judiciously commence his charge, for he admitted that he did not believe that Hone meant to ridicule religion, but to produce a telling political squib. This let out the whole gist of the prosecution, though that was very well perceived by most people before; and it was in vain that he went on to argue that the mischief was just the same. Hone opened his own defence with the awkwardness and timidity natural to a man who had passed his life amid books, and not in courts; but he managed to complain of his imprisonment, his harsh treatment, of his poverty in not being able to fee counsel, of the expense of copies of the informations against him, and of the haste, at last, with which he had been[129] called to plead. The judge repeatedly interrupted him, with a mild sort of severity, and the spectators were expecting him to make a short and ineffective defence. Hone, on the contrary, began to show more boldness and pertinacity. He began to open his books, and to read parody after parody of former times. In vain Mr. Justice Abbott and the Attorney-General stopped him, and told him that he was not to be allowed to add to his offence by producing other instances of the crime in other persons. But Hone told them that he was accused of putting parodies on sacred things into his books, and it was out of his books he must defend himself. The poor, pale, threadbare retailer of old books was now warmed into eloquence, and stood in the most unquestionable ascendency on the floor of the court, reading and commenting as though he would go on for ever; and he did go on for six hours. He declared that the editor of Blackwood's Magazine was a parodisthe parodied a chapter of Ezekiel; Martin Luther was a parodisthe parodied the first Psalm; Bishop Latimer was a parodist; so was Dr. Boys, Dean of Canterbury; so was the author of the "Rolliad;" so was Mr. Canning. He proved all that he said by reading passages from the authors, and he concluded by saying that he did not believe that any of these writers meant to ridicule the Scriptures, and that he could not, therefore, see why he should be supposed to do so more than they. Nay, he had done what they never did: as soon as he was aware that his parodies had given offence he suppressed themand that long ago, not waiting till he was prosecuted. They, in fact, were prosecuting him for what he had voluntarily and long ago suppressed. The Attorney-General, in reply, asserted that it would not save the defendant that he had quoted Martin Luther and Dr. Boys, for he must pronounce them both libellous. The judge charged the jury as if it were their sacred duty to find the defendant guilty; but, after only a quarter of an hour's deliberation, they acquitted him.



"When corn is at 59s., and under 60s., the duty at present is 27s. 8d. When corn is between those prices, the duty I propose is 13s. When the price of corn is at 50s. the existing duty is 36s. 8d., increasing as the price falls; instead of which I propose, when corn is at 50s. that the duty shall only be 20s., and that that duty shall in no case be exceeded. At 56s. the existing duty is 30s. 8d.; the duty I propose at that price is 16s. At 60s. the existing duty is 26s. 8d.; the duty I propose at that price is 12s. At 63s. the existing duty is 23s. 8d.; the duty I propose is 9s. At 64s. the existing duty is 22s. 8d.; the duty I propose is 8s. At 70s. the existing duty is 10s. 8d.; the duty I propose is 5s. Therefore it is impossible to deny, on comparing the duty which I propose with that which exists at present, that it will cause a very considerable decrease of the protection which the present duty affords to the home grower, a decrease, however, which in my opinion can be made consistently with justice to all the interests concerned."

This definition of the House of Commons at this time, and for long afterwards, was too happy a definition to escape the wrath of that body. Accordingly, on the 27th of March, Mr. Lethbridge, member for Somersetshire, moved that Sir Francis Burdett should be committed to the Tower for his attack on the House. After some discussion, the question was adjourned to the 5th of April, when, by a majority of thirty-eight, Sir Francis was ordered to be committed as guilty of a libel against the House. But Sir Francis, justly regarding the House as altogether illegally constituted, and as a usurpation by the aristocracy of the functions of the people, determined not to submit to its order. The next day he addressed a letter to the Speaker of the House, declaring his contempt for it as then constituted; that he held its order to be, on that ground, illegal; and that he would resist it to the utmost. He ordered the doors and windows of his house in Piccadilly to be closed, and prepared to yield only to force.[See larger version]



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