类型:奇幻地区:ʯׯ发布:2020-10-23 04:55:12


The indisposition of Parliament to attend to the ordinary business of the legislature, however important and pressing any portion of it might be considered in other circumstances, may be easily accounted for. One subject engrossed the minds of all men at this time, and agitated the nation to a depth and extent altogether unprecedented in our history. The story of Caroline of Brunswick is one of the saddest and most romantic in the annals of the Queens of England. When the Prince Regent became king, his wife, as a matter of course, became the rightful Queen of[206] England. But her husband had resolved that she should not be queen; and, rather than not have his way in this, he was ready to imperil his throne. She was as fully entitled to enjoy the well-defined rank and position that devolved upon her by the laws of the country, as he was to wear his crown, without regard to personal character. He would break the marriage tie, if he could; but, failing that, he was determined to degrade the queen by bringing against her the foulest charges of immorality. She might, indeed, have escaped a trial on these charges if she had consented to remain abroad, and had agreed to forego any title that would have connected her with the Royal Family of England. Till the death of George III., who had always been her steady friend, she had been prayed for in the liturgy as the Princess of Wales. There was now no Princess of Wales, and the king insisted that she should not be prayed for at all. His Ministers, against their own convictionsagainst what they well knew to be the almost unanimous feeling of the nationweakly yielded to the arbitrary will of their licentious Sovereign. They and their apologists attempted to uphold this conduct by alleging that she was prayed for under the words, "the rest of the Royal Family." But Mr. Denman, who defended her, afterwards observed with more truth that the general prayer in which she was embraced was, "For all that are desolate and oppressed." The moment the news of this outrage reached the queen, she resolved, with characteristic spirit and determination, to come at once to England and assert her rights in person. The Ministers flattered themselves that this was a vain boast, and that, conscious of guilt, her courage would fail her.

But far different was the issue of the troubles with his Flemish subjects, which, with an unaccountable folly and absence of good faith, he had excited. He sent into the Netherlands Count Trautmansdorff as Governor, and General Dalton, a brutal Irishman, as commander. The latter ordered the professors of theology at Louvain to give way to the Emperor's reforms, and, as they refused, Dalton turned them out by force, shut up the colleges, and Joseph sent back again the German professors, who had been before recalled, to appease the popular indignation. But the colleges remained empty; not a student would attend the classes of the Germans. As the volunteer corps had disbanded themselves, in reliance on the Emperor's wish, Trautmansdorff calculated on an easy compulsion of the people, and he called on the Grand Council at Brussels to enforce the decrees of the Emperor. The Council paid no regard to the order.

Meanwhile Lord Howe had been on the look-out some time for the French fleet, which, it was understood, was about to leave Brest, in order to meet a convoy of merchant ships from the West Indies, and aid it in bringing that trade fleet into port. On reaching Brest, however, he discovered that the French fleet had sailed, and it was not till the 28th of May that he caught sight of it out at sea, opposite the coast of Brittany. The French fleet, commanded by Admiral Villaret Joyeuse, was greatly superior to Howe's in ships, number of seamen, and weight of metal. Howe had twenty-five sail of the line and five frigates, carrying two thousand and ninety-eight guns, in weight of metal twenty-one thousand five hundred and nineteen pounds, and sixteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven men. Joyeuse, now joined by Admiral Neilly, had twenty-six line-of-battle ships and smaller vessels, carrying two thousand one hundred and fifty-eight guns, in weight of metal twenty-five thousand five hundred and twenty-one pounds, and nineteen thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight men. After some skirmishing, on the 1st of June"the glorious first"Howe came to close quarters with the enemy, who was compelled to fight by the presence of the Conventional Commissioner Bon St. Andr. He ordered his fleet to follow his ship, the Charlotte, in cutting right through the enemy's line. Only five ships, however, accomplished this so as to engage the French to the leeward, and prevent them from escaping. Howe afterwards complained that some of his captains had not obeyed his orders, and threatened them with a court-martial; but some replied that their ships were in such bad sailing condition that they could not effect this movement, and others that they did not understand the signal. Thus, five vessels fighting to the leeward, and the rest to the windward, the battle raged furiously from nine in the morning till three in the afternoon, when the French admiral sheered off for Brest, leaving behind seven of his finest vessels in the hands of the British. The British lost in the action two hundred and seventy-nine men, and had eight hundred and seventy-seven wounded. The French lost in six of the captured ships alone six hundred and ninety men, and had five hundred and eighty wounded. The seventh, the Vengeur, went down almost as soon as the British flag was hoisted on her, with, it is supposed, three hundred men in her. Altogether, it is likely that the French did not lose less than fifteen hundred men, besides wounded, and two thousand three hundred prisoners. The British lost a number of officers, who were either killed in the battle or died afterwards of their injuries Amongst these were Sir Andrew Douglas, second captain of Howe's own ship; Captains Montagu of the Montagu, Hutt of the Queen, and Harvey of the Brunswick; Rear-Admirals Pasley of the Bellerophon, and Bowyer of the Barfleur. Admiral Graves and Captain Berkeley were severely wounded. Howe made every effort to pursue and bring the French admiral again to action; but, owing to the bad sailing qualities of English ships at that time, and the shattered state of many of them, he could not overtake Villaret, who made the best of his way to Brest. During the remainder of the year there were various engagements between small squadrons in different quarters, in which the advantage generally remained with the British, besides the training thus afforded to the officers and sailors for the mighty victories which awaited them.

On the 27th of January Colonel Wardle, a militia officer, rose in his place in the House of Commons and made some startling charges against the Duke of York, as Commander-in-Chief of the army. Wardle had been a zealous Conservative, but had now changed his politics, and was acting with the party of extreme Reformers headed by Sir Francis Burdett, Lord Folkestone, and others. His charge was that the Duke of York was keeping a mistress, named Mary Ann Clarke, a married woman, to the great scandal of the nation, and was allowing her to traffic in commissions and promotions in the army. Nor was this all; he asserted that, not in the army alone, but in the Church, this public adulteress was conferring promotions, through her influence with the Duke, and that she had quite a levee of clergy, who were soliciting and bribing her to procure livings and even bishoprics. These were sufficiently exciting statements, and the Colonel demanded a Committee of Inquiry to enable him to prove his assertions. Sir Francis Burdett seconded the motion; and the proposal was not metas it should have been by Ministers or the Duke's friendsby a denial, but, in general, by a eulogium on the Duke's excellent discharge of his duties as Commander-in-Chief. The House determined that, wherever the infamy was to fall, it should have the full airing of a committee of the whole House, which was appointed to commence its inquiries on Wednesday, the 1st of February, the Duke intimating, through his friends, that he was, on his part, desirous of the fullest investigation of the matter. From the evidence of Mrs. Clarke it appeared very clear that the Duke had permitted her to traffic in the sale of commissions, and both Mrs. Clarke and Mary Ann Taylor, whose brother was married to Mrs. Clarke's sister, asserted that the Duke had received part of the money for some of these bargains. Sums of one thousand pounds, of five hundred pounds, and two hundred pounds had been paid to her for such services.Before the proclamation of the new king the Council had met, and, according to the Regency Act, and an instrument signed by the king and produced by Herr Kreyenberg, the Hanoverian resident, nominated the persons who were to act till the king's arrival. They consisted of the seven great officers of State and a number of the peers. The whole was found to include eighteen of the principal noblemen, nearly all of the Whig party, as the Dukes of Shrewsbury, Somerset, and Argyll; the Lords Cowper, Halifax,[25] and Townshend. It was noticed, however, that neither Marlborough, Sunderland, nor Somers was of the number; nor ought this to have excited any surprise, when it was recollected that the list was drawn out in 1705, though only signed just before the queen's death. These noblemen belonged to that junto under whose thraldom Anne had so long groaned. The omission, however, greatly incensed Marlborough and Sunderland.

The success of the Waverley Novels turned the main force of the genius and literary resources of the country into the ever widening channel of prose fiction. Many names of note appeared before the public as novel writers about that time. In Scotland, under the immediate shadow of the author of "Waverley," came John Galt, Mrs. Johnstone, Miss Ferrier, the Ettrick Shepherd, Allan Cunningham, Gibson Lockhart, Picken, Moir. In Ireland, and of Irish birth, there were Colley, Grattan, Crofton Croker, Banim, Gerald Griffin, Samuel Lover, and last, though not least, William Carleton. In England, and chiefly of English birth, were Mrs. Shelley, Peacock, Thomas Hope, Theodore and James Hook, Morier, Lister, Ward, Gleig, Horace Smith, Miss Mitford, Mrs. Gore, Mrs. Trollope, Captain Marryat, and Mr. James.These enactments, unaccompanied by any others the object of which was to relieve the distress of the people, only tended still more to exasperate the feelings of the working classes. In fact, nothing had been so obvious as the effect of the proceedings of Government of late in disturbing that peace which they professed themselves so desirous to preserve. They, in truth, were the real agitators. The passing of the Six Acts only made the popular resentment the deeper, and whilst this tended to render the more prudent Reformers cautious, it stimulated the lowest and most unprincipled of them to actual and deadly conspiracy. The general conspiracy believed in by Ministers never existed, but a conspiracy was actually on foot in London, which again was found to have been, if not originally excited, yet actively stimulated, by the agents of Government. The details of this transaction, and of the concluding scene of the Manchester outrage, namely, the trial of Hunt and his associates, necessarily lead us about two months beyond the death of George III., which took place on the 29th of January, 1820. In November, 1819, whilst Government were framing their Six Acts, the more completely to coerce the people, they were again sending amongst them incendiaries to urge them to an open breach of the laws in order to furnish justifications for their despotic policy. The leading miscreant of this class was a man named Edwards, who kept a small shop at Eton for the sale of plaster casts. Some of the emissaries appeared at Middleton, the place of Bamford's abode, but he was in prison awaiting his trial with Hunt and the rest, and the people tempted were too cautious to listen to these agents of Government. But in London these agents found more combustible materials, and succeeded in leading into the snare some who had been long ready for any folly or crime. Chief amongst these was Thistlewood, who had been a lieutenant in the army, a man who had, or conceived that he had, suffered injustice at the hands[154] of Ministers, and who had wrought up his temper to the perpetration of some desperate deed. Bamford when in London, in 1816, had found Thistlewood mixed up with the Spenceans, and to be met with any day at their places of resortthe "Cock," in Grafton Street, the "Mulberry Tree," in Moorfields, the "Nag's Head," Carnaby Market, No. 8, Lumber Street, Borough, and a public-house in Spa Fields, called "Merlin's Cave." At these places they might be found, amidst clouds of tobacco-smoke and the fumes of beer, discussing remedies for the miserable condition of the people. At the latter place Thistlewood was often to be found with the Watsons, Preston, and Castles, who was employed to betray them. From this spot they issued for their mad attempt on the Tower on the 2nd of December of that year. Thistlewood was one of those seized on that occasion, but was acquitted on his trial. Not warned by this, he no sooner got abroad than he sent a challenge to Lord Sidmouth, for which he was arrested, and sentenced to a year's imprisonment. He issued from gaol still more embittered against Sidmouth and his colleagues, and resolved on striking some mortal blow at them. He did not lack comrades of a like fiery and abandoned stamp, and they determined on a scheme for cutting off the whole Cabinet together. The detestable deed was to be perpetrated in the autumn of 1819, a time when the public mind, especially that of the working classes, was so embittered against the Government. They did not, however, succeed in their intentions, and it was at this crisis of unwilling delay that the man Edwards became privy to their plans. In November he carried the important, and, as he hoped, to him profitable secret to Sir Herbert Taylor, who was attached to the establishment of the king at Windsor, and by him he was introduced to Lord Sidmouth. This minister and his colleagues, with that fondness for the employment of spies, and for fomenting sedition instead of nipping it in the bud, immediately engaged Edwards, on good pay, to lead forward the conspirators into overt action. It was not enough for them that, by adding another witness or two to Edwards, they would be able to produce the most complete proof of the treason of these menthey rather luxuriated in the nursing of this plot, and thus ripening it into something bloody and horrible; and in this they succeeded.



"The Clare election supplied the manifest proof of an abnormal and unhealthy condition of the public mind in Irelandthe manifest proof that the sense of a common grievance and the sympathies of a common interest were beginning to loosen the ties which connect different classes of men in friendly relations to each other, to weaken the force of local and personal attachments, and to unite the scattered elements of society into a homogeneous and disciplined mass, yielding willing obedience to the assumed authority of superior intelligence hostile to the law and to the Government which administered it. There is a wide distinction (though it is not willingly recognised by a heated party) between the hasty concession to unprincipled agitation and provident precaution against the explosion of public feeling gradually acquiring the strength which makes it irresistible. 'Concede nothing to agitation,' is the ready cry of those who are not responsiblethe vigour of whose decisions is often proportionate to their own personal immunity from danger, and imperfect knowledge of the true state of affairs. A prudent Minister, before he determines against all concessionagainst any yielding or compromise of former opinionsmust well consider what it is that he has to resist, and what are his powers of resistance. His task would be an easy one if it were sufficient to resolve that he would yield nothing to violence or to the menace of physical force. In this case of the Clare election, and of its natural consequences, what was the evil to be apprehended? Not force, not violence, not any act of which law could take cognisance. The real danger was in the peaceable and legitimate exercise of a franchise according to the will and conscience of the holder. In such an exercise of that franchise, not merely permitted, but encouraged and approved by constitutional law, was involved a revolution of the electoral system in Irelandthe transfer of political power, so far as it was connected with representation, from one party to another. The actual transfer was the least of the evil; the process by which it was to be effectedthe repetition in each county of the scenes of the Clare electionthe fifty-pound free-holders, the gentry to a man polling one way, their alienated tenantry anotherall the great interests of the county broken down'the universal desertion' (I am quoting the expressions of Mr. Fitzgerald)the agitator and the priest laughing to scorn the baffled landlordthe local heaving and throes of society on every casual vacancy in a countythe universal convulsion at a general electionthis was the danger to be apprehended; those were the evils to be resisted. What was the power of resistance? 'Alter the law, and remodel the franchise,' was the ready, the improvident response. If it had been desired to increase the strength of a formidable confederacy, and, by rallying round it the sympathies of good men and of powerful parties in Great Britain, to insure for it a signal triumph, to extinguish the hope of effecting an amicable adjustment of the Catholic question, and of applying a corrective to the real evils and abuses of elective franchise, the best way to attain these pernicious ends would have been to propose to Parliament, on the part of the Government, the abrupt extinction of the forty-shilling franchise in Ireland, together with the continued maintenance of civil disability."[269][269]

At the period at which we have now arrived France was in a state of the wildest and most awful convulsion. A revolution had broken out, more terrible and furious than had ever yet appeared in the history of nations. The French people, so long trodden down by their princes, their aristocracy, and their clergy, and reduced to a condition of wretchedness and of ignorant brutality, almost unparalleled, seizing the opportunity of the distresses of the impoverished Government, and encouraged by a new race of philosophers who preached up the equality of the human race, had broken through their ancient subserviency, and were pulling down all the old constituted powers, ranks, and distinctions, with a rapidity which electrified the whole world.When the subsidy to Hesse-Cassel was sent home to receive the signatures of the Cabinet, it was found to amount to an annual payment by England of one hundred and fifty thousand crowns, besides eighty crowns to every horseman, and thirty crowns to every foot soldier, when they were really called out to service. That to Russia was immensely greater; then came in prospective that to Saxony, to Bavaria, etc. These latter States had been fed all through the last few years for doing nothing, and now demanded vastly higher terms. Yet when the Hessian Treaty was laid on the Council table by the compliant Newcastle, Ministers signed it without reading it. Pitt and Fox, however, protested against it; and when the Treasury warrants for carrying the treaty into execution were sent down to Legge, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he refused to sign them.



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