No sooner was this motion made than Spencer Perceval rose to oppose it. Sidmouth worked upon the king's feelings by sending in his resignation, and the Duke of Portland had offered to form a Ministry in accordance with the king's feelings. The Bill was, notwithstanding, brought in, read a first time, and the second reading fixed for the 12th of March. But now it was found that the king, who had previously received the Ministerial proposal without any comment, seeing his way clear with another Ministry, refused even his qualified consent to the prosecution of the measure. The Ministers postponed the second reading to the 18th, promising an after-statement of their reasons. But their reasons were already well known in both Houses of Parliament through the private communications of the embryo Cabinet. On the 25th of March there were motions made in both Houses for an adjournment: this was to allow the new Ministry to be announced in the interval. In the Lords, Earl Grenville seized the opportunity to make some observations in defence of the conduct of his Cabinet during its possession of office. He said they had entered it with the determination to carry these important measures, if possible: the Sinking Fund, the abolition of the Slave Trade, and the relief of the Catholics. He was happy to say that they had carried two of them; and though they had found the resistance in a certain quarter too strong for them to carry the third, they conceived that never did the circumstances of the times point out more clearly the sound policy of granting it. France had wonderfully extended her power on the Continent; peace between her and the nations she had subdued would probably lead Buonaparte to concentrate his warlike efforts on this country. What so wise, then, as to have Ireland attached to us by benefits? With these views, the king, he said, had been induced to allow Ministers to make communications to the Catholics of Ireland through the Lord-Lieutenant, which he had seemed to approve; yet when these communications as to the intended concessions had been made, his Majesty had been induced to retract his assent to them. Ministers had then endeavoured to modify the Bill so as to meet his Majesty's views; but, not succeeding, they had dropped the Bill altogether, reserving only, in self-justification, a right to make a minute on the private proceedings of the Cabinet, expressing their liberty to bring this subject again to the royal notice, as circumstances might seem to require; but now his Majesty had called upon them to enter into a written obligation never again to introduce the subject to his notice, or to bring forward a measure of that kind. This, he said, was more than could be expected of any Ministers of any independence whatever. The point was, of course, of some constitutional importance, but there was much truth in Sheridan's remark: "I have often heard of people knocking out their brains against a wall, but never before knew of anyone building a wall expressly for the purpose."
One of the most important measures of the Session was the Marriage Act, a subject which had been taken up by Sir Robert Peel during his short-lived Ministry. By this Act Dissenters were relieved from a galling and degrading grievance, one which, of all others, most painfully oppressed their consciences. Notwithstanding their strong objection to the ceremonies of the Established Church, they were obliged, in order to be legally married, to comply with its ritual in the marriage service, the phraseology of which they considered not the least objectionable part of the liturgy. By this Act marriages were treated as a civil contract, to which the parties might add whatever religious ceremony they pleased, or they might be married without any religious ceremony at all, or without any other form, except that of making a declaration of the Act before a public officer, in any registered place of religious worship, or in the office of the superintendent registrar. This was a great step towards religious equality, and tended more than anything, since the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, to promote social harmony and peace between different denominations.In the House of Lords the comments on the Ministerial measures were characterised by much bitterness, both against the Government and the League; and the Duke of Richmond asked why Mr. Cobden was not created a peer, and placed on the Treasury Bench in the House of Lords? In the Commons the excitement among the Protectionist party was no less manifest; but the crowded House waited impatiently for the Minister's explanations. Lord Francis Egerton moved the Address, giving the key-note of the Ministerial plans by declaring that his own opinions on the Corn Laws had undergone a complete alteration, and imploring the House to come to "a full, satisfactory, and final settlement of the question." Mr. Beckett Denison, who seconded the motion, declared that experience had "driven" him to the same conclusion.
By these endeavours Walpole managed to array a considerable body of the Commons against it. It was introduced on the 8th of December, and Sir John Pakington, Sir Richard Steele, Smith, Methuen, and others joined him in attacking it. Steele made a very powerful speech against it, but the grand assault was that of Walpole. He put out all his strength, and delivered a harangue such as he had never achieved till that day. He did not spare the motives of the king, though handling them with much tact, and was unsparingly severe on the Scottish clauses, and on the notorious subserviency of the Scottish representative peers. He declared that the sixteen elective Scottish peers were already a dead weight on the country; and he asked what they would be when made twenty-five, and hereditary? He declared that such a Bill would make the lords masters of the king, and shut up the door of honour to the rest of the nation. Amongst the Romans, he said, the way to the Temple of Fame was through the Temple of Virtue; but if this Bill passed, such would never be the case in this country. There would be no arriving at honours but through the winding-sheet of an old, decrepit lord, or the tomb of an extinct noble family. Craggs, Lechmere, Aislabie, Hampton, and other Ministerial Whigs supported the Bill; but, in the words of Speaker Onslow, the declamation of Walpole had borne down everything before it, and the measure was defeated by a majority of two hundred and sixty-nine to one hundred and seventy-seven.
Nothing could be more just or more excellent than the sentiments and arguments of this letter; but, unfortunately, circumstances on both sides were such as really precluded any hope of making peace. Great Britain foresaw Italy under the foot of France; Holland and Belgium in the same condition; Bavaria, Baden, Würtemberg, and other smaller German States, allied with France against the other German States. It was impossible for her to conclude a peace without stipulating for the return of these States to the status quo; and was Buonaparte likely to accede to such terms? On the contrary, at this very moment, besides being in possession of Hanover, George III.'s patrimony, he had been exercising the grossest violence towards our Ambassadors in various German States, was contemplating making himself king of Italy, and was forcibly annexing Genoa, contrary to the Treaty of Lunéville, to the Cisalpine Republic—that is, to the French State in Italy. Whilst he was thus perpetuating want of confidence in him, on the other hand a league for resistance to his encroachments was already formed between Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, and Austria. Peace, therefore, on diplomatic principles was impossible, and Napoleon must have known it well. True, we had no longer any right to complain of the expulsion of the Bourbons from France, seeing that the nation had ostensibly chosen a new government and a new royal family, any more than France had a right to attack us because we had expelled the Stuarts and adopted the line of Brunswick. But the very nature of Napoleon was incompatible with rest; for, as Lord Byron says, "quiet to quick bosoms is hell." Buonaparte had repeatedly avowed that he must be warlike. "My power," he said, "depends upon my glory; my glory on my victories. My power would fall if I did not support it by fresh glory and new victories. Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest alone can maintain me. A newly-born government, like mine, must dazzle and astonish. When it ceases to do that, it falls." With such an avowal as that, in entire keeping with his character, there must be constant aggressions by him on the Continent which intimately concerned us. Accordingly, the British Government replied to Buonaparte by a polite evasion. As Britain had not recognised Napoleon's new title, the king could not answer his letter himself. It was answered by Lord Mulgrave, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, addressed to M. Talleyrand, as the Foreign Secretary of France, and simply stated that Britain could not make any proposals regarding peace till she had consulted her Allies, and particularly the Emperor of Russia. The letter of Buonaparte and this curt reply were published in the Moniteur, accompanied with remarks tending to convince the French that the most heartfelt desires of peace by the Emperor were repelled by Great Britain, and that a storm was brewing in the North which would necessitate the Emperor's reappearance in the field.
The manner in which Hastings had executed the orders of the Directors in this business showed that he was prepared to go all lengths in maintaining their interests in India. He immediately proceeded to give an equally striking proof of this. We have seen that when the Mogul Shah Allum applied to the British to assist him in recovering his territories, they promised to conduct him in triumph to Delhi, and place him firmly on the grand throne of all India; but when, in consequence of this engagement, he had made over to them by a public grant, Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, they found it inconvenient to fulfil their contract, and made over to him Allahabad and Corah instead, with an annual payment of twenty-six lacs of rupees—two hundred and sixty thousand pounds. The payment of this large sum, too, was regarded by the Company, now in the deepest debt, as unnecessary, and Hastings had orders to reduce it. It appears that the money was at no time duly paid, and had now been withheld altogether for more than two years. The Mogul, thus disappointed in the promises of restoration by the English, and now again in the payment of this stipulated tribute, turned to the Mahrattas, and offered to make over the little provinces of Allahabad and Corah, on condition that they restored him to the sovereignty of Delhi. The Mahrattas gladly caught at this offer, and by the end of the year 1771 they had borne the Mogul in triumph into his ancient capital of Delhi. This was precisely such a case as the Directors were on the watch for. In their letter to Bengal of the 11th of November, 1768, they had said: "If the Emperor flings himself into the hands of the Mahrattas, or any other Power, we are disengaged from him, and it may open a fair opportunity of withholding the twenty-six lacs of rupees we now pay him." The opportunity had now come, and was immediately seized on by Hastings to rescind the payment of the money altogether, and he prepared to annex the two provinces of Allahabad and Corah. These were sold to the Nabob of Oude for fifty lacs of rupees. This bargain was settled between the vizier and Hastings at Benares, in September, 1773.
DEPOSITION OF MEER JAFFIER. (See p. 316.)
Scarcely were the elections over when a strike took place amongst the working cotton-spinners in Manchester. Food was dear, and the rate of wages was not in any proportion to the dearness. The men who turned out paraded the streets, and, as is generally too much the spirit of strikes, endeavoured forcibly to compel the workmen of other factories to cease working too. The magistrates, on the 1st of September, issued a proclamation, that they were determined to resist such attempts, and to punish the offenders. Sir John Byng, the same who had favoured the endeavours of Oliver in Yorkshire, commanded the forces there, and every precaution was taken to secure the factories still in work. On the very next day the spinners were joined by a great mob from Stockport, and they endeavoured to break into Gray's mill, in Ancoat's Lane, and force the men to cease. But there was a party of soldiers placed within in expectation of the attack, and they fired on the assailants, and killed one man and wounded two others. The troops then dispersed the mob, which was said to have amounted to at least thirty thousand men. This ended the strike and the rioting for the time. The coroner's jury pronounced the death of the man justifiable homicide, and Ministers congratulated themselves on the speedy end of the disturbance. But the elements of fresh ones were rife in the same districts. The country was by no means in the prosperous condition that they had represented it.
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.
Whilst the English Court was distracted by these dissensions, the Emperor was endeavouring to carry on the war against France by himself. He trusted that the death of Queen Anne would throw out the Tories, and that the Whigs coming in would again support his claims, or that the death of Louis himself might produce a change as favourable to him in France; he trusted to the genius of Eugene to at least enable him to maintain the war till some such change took place. But he was deceived. The French, having him alone to deal with, made very light of it. They knew that he could neither bring into the field soldiers enough to cope with their arms, nor find means to maintain them. They soon overpowered Eugene on the Rhine, and the Emperor being glad to make peace, Eugene and Villars met at Rastadt to concert terms. They did not succeed, and separated till February; but met again at the latter end of the month, and, on the 3rd of March, 1714, the treaty was signed. By it the Emperor retained Freiburg, Old Briesach, Kehl, and the forts in the Breisgau and Black Forest; but the King of France kept Landau, Strasburg, and all Alsace. The Electors of Bavaria and Cologne were readmitted to their territories and dignities as princes of the Empire. The Emperor was put in possession of the Spanish Netherlands, and the King of Prussia was permitted to retain the high quarters of Guelders.详情
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