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    But whilst England had been thus preparing for the augmentation of the navy, America had been aiming a blow at the efficiency of that navy, which must for years, if successful, have prostrated our whole maritime forces, and exposed our shores to the easiest invasion. This intended blow was nothing less than the destruction of our great naval dockyards and arsenals, and military storehouses, at Portsmouth and Plymouth. The chief agent in this infamous design, if the evidence of a miscreant can be believed, was Silas Deane. On the 7th of December the rope-house of the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth was found to be on fire. By active exertions it was got under, after it had destroyed that building, and was imagined to be an accident. But on the 15th of January, 1777, one of the officers of the dockyard found a machine and combustibles concealed in the hemp in the hemp-house of the same dockyard. Suspicion now fell on a moody, silent artisan, who, on the day of the fire, had been looking about the dockyard, and who, by some chance, had got locked up in the rope-house the night before. His name was not known, but the[234] fact only that he was a painter, and had been called John the Painter. Government immediately offered a reward of fifty pounds for his apprehension; the same sum, with a strange simplicity, being offered to him if he would surrender himself for examination. Nothing, however, could be learned of him in Portsmouth or the country round; but fresh fires were now breaking out at Plymouth Dockyard and on the quays of Bristol. At Plymouth the fire was instantly checked, and the perpetrator was nearly seized. At Bristol the fire was laid near a narrow, deep creek, crowded with shipping, which was nearly dry at low water, so that it was impossible to get the shipping out. Six or seven warehouses were destroyed, but the shipping escaped. In another house at Bristol combustibles were discovered, and the alarm became general that the American incendiaries, having failed to burn New York, were come to England to burn our dockyards and maritime houses. Fortunately, in the beginning of February, a man was apprehended for the perpetration of a burglary at Odiham, in Hampshire; and, by the activity of Sir John Fielding, the London magistrate, he was identified as John the Painter. When brought before Sir John and other magistrates in town, the man conducted himself with tact and address. Though closely examined and cross-questioned by some of the members of the Privy Council, by Lords of the Admiralty, and other officers of the board, he maintained the scrutiny without betraying any embarrassment, or letting anything escape him that could in any degree incriminate him. A confession was, however, wormed out of him by another painter, named Baldwin. Silas Deane, John the Painter declared, according to Baldwin's evidence, had encouraged him to set fire to the dockyards of Plymouth and Portsmouth, Woolwich and Chatham, as the most effectual means of disabling Great Britain; that he gave him bills to the amount of three hundred pounds on a merchant in London, and promised to reward him according to the amount of service he should do to the American cause. Before his execution he freely admitted the truth of the charges against him. He confessed to having twice attempted to fire the dockyard at Plymouth, and to burning the warehouses at Bristol, having in vain endeavoured to deposit his combustibles on board the ships. He, moreover, stated that he had a recommendation from Silas Deane to Dr. Bancroft, in London, to whom he had declared that he would do all the harm he could to England; that the doctor did not approve of his conduct, but had, at his request, promised not to betray him.[See larger version]These motions were defeated, and Lord North, on the 21st of June, moved for the introduction of a Bill to double the militia and raise volunteer corps. The proposal to double the militia was rejected, that to raise volunteer corps accepted. To man the Navy a Bill was brought in to suspend for six months all exemptions from impressment into the Royal Navy. The measure was passed through two stages before rising, and carried the next morning, and sent up to the Lords. There it met with strong opposition, and did not receive the Royal Assent till the last day of the Session. This was the 3rd of July, and was followed, on the 9th, by a Royal Proclamation ordering all horses and provisions, in case of invasion, to be driven into the interior. The batteries of Plymouth were manned, and a boom was drawn across the harbour at Portsmouth. A large camp of militia was established at Cox Heath, in front of Maidstone, and, in truth, this demonstration of a patriotic spirit was very popular.WILLIAM PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM.

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    When the new Parliament met, on the 18th of May, it was seen how completely Fox and North had destroyed their prestige by their late factious conduct, and how entirely Pitt had made himself master of the situation. His patience and cool policy under the tempestuous assaults of the Opposition had given the country a wonderful confidence in him. One party extolled him as the staunch defender of the prerogative, another as the champion of reform and enemy of aristocratic influence. Not less than one hundred and sixty of the supporters of the late Coalition Ministry had been rejected at the elections, and they were held up to ridicule as "Fox's Martyrs."

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    Whilst this war was raging in Europe, and carrying its ramifications to the most distant regions of the world, Clive and Eyre Coote were extending the British Empire in India, and, in the case of Clive, with as much ability as Frederick of Prussia showed in enlarging his kingdom in Europe. Clive, in 1757, put down Surajah Dowlah, the Nabob of Bengal, and in June of that year defeated him at Plassey with a mere handful of men against his enormous host. He set up Surajah Dowlah's General-in-chief, Meer Jaffier, and hailed him Nabob of Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar. We claimed from Meer Jaffier two million seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds as the share of the Company, the fleet, and the army. Clive's own share was two hundred and fifty-four thousand pounds, and the shares of the members of the committee ran from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand pounds each. Besides this, it was stipulated that the French factories and effects should be given up to the English, and the French[177] never again allowed to enter Bengal. The territory surrounding Calcutta, within a given distance of the town, was to be granted them on zemindary tenure, the company paying the rent, like the other zemindars or landholders. Thus the British, who were before merely the tenants of a factory, became in reality the rulers of Bengal.

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    There were not wanting, however, those who strove to disturb the joy of Ireland, and the peace of England thus acquired, by sowing suspicions of the sincerity of England, and representing that the independence granted was spurious rather than real. Amongst these, Flood, the rival of Grattan in political and Parliamentary life, took the lead. He seized on every little circumstance to create doubts of the English carrying out the concession faithfully. He caught at an imprudent motion of the Earl of Abingdon, in the Peers, and still more vivaciously at the decision of an appeal from Ireland, in the Court of King's Bench, by Lord Mansfield. The case had remained over, and it was deemed impracticable to send it back to Ireland, though nearly finished before the Act of Repeal. Fox explained the case, and made the most explicit declaration of the "full, complete, absolute, and perpetual surrender of the British legislative and judicial supremacy over Ireland." But the suspicions had been too adroitly infused to be removed without a fresh and still more positive Act, which was passed in the next Session.

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    Charles, wrought up to the highest pitch of agony at the prospect of being compelled to abandon the splendid design of entering London in triumph, continued to expostulate and entreat the whole day. The Duke of Perth and some of the Irish officers, moved by his distress, gave way, and called on the other chiefs to yield; but they remained immovable, and the prince, seeing the case hopeless, at length gave up the contest, and, in deep dejection, assented to the retreat. But, as if he deemed the relinquishment of the march on the metropolis the ruin of the whole enterprise, he declared that henceforth he would summon no more councilsbeing accountable only to God and his father, he would not again either seek or accept their advice.

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