The most important change in the Settlement Law was the repeal of the settlement by hiring and service, which prevented the free circulation of labour, interfered with the liberty of the subject, and fixed an intolerable burden upon the parish. This law was repealed by the 64th and 65th sections of the Act; the settlement by occupation of a tenement, without payment of rates, by the 66th; while other sections effected various improvements in the law of removal. The old law made it more prudent for a woman to have a number of children without a husband than with a husband, as she could throw the burden of their support upon the parish, or through the parish force the putative father to support them; and if he could not give security to pay, he was liable to imprisonment. By this means marriages were often forced. These evils were remedied by rendering the unmarried mother liable for the maintenance of her children, by rendering it unlawful to pay to her any sums which the putative father might be compelled to contribute for the reimbursement of the parish, and by rendering it necessary that evidence additional to that of the mother should be required to corroborate her charge against the person accused of being the father. The law worked fairly well, though it was discovered that many mothers shrank from prosecuting the fathers of their babies at the price of disclosing their shame, and thus illegitimate children were brought up in the utmost squalor.
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Buonaparte had not a sufficient French force in Germany under Davoust and Oudinot, but he called on the Confederacy of the Rhine to furnish their stipulated quotas to fight for the subjugation of their common fatherland. Bavaria, Würtemberg, Saxony, and the smaller States were summoned to this unholy work. His numbers, after all, were far inferior to those of the enemy, and, besides the renegade Germans, consisted of a medley of other tributary nations—Italians, Poles, Dutch, Belgians, and others. It is amazing how, in all his later wars, he used the nations he had conquered to put down the rest. Even in his fatal campaign in Russia—yet to come—a vast part of his army consisted of the troops of these subjugated nations.[See larger version]
By this dispersion of the Spaniards the British battalions were wholly exposed, and the whole might of Soult's force was thrown upon them. A tremendous fire from the hills, where the Spaniards ought to have stood, was opened on the British ranks, and several regiments were almost annihilated in a little time. But the 31st regiment, belonging to Colborne's brigade, supported by Horton's brigade, stood their ground under a murderous fire of artillery, and the fiery charge of both horse and foot. They must soon have fallen to a man, but Beresford quickly sent up a Portuguese brigade, under General Harvey, to round the hill on the right, and other troops, under Abercrombie, to compass it on the left; while, at the suggestion of Colonel (afterwards Lord) Hardinge, he pushed forward General Cole with his brigade of fusiliers up the face of the hill. These three divisions appeared on the summit simultaneously. The advance of these troops through the tempest of death has always been described as something actually sublime. Moving onward, unshaken, undisturbed, though opposed by the furious onslaught of Soult's densest centre, they cleared the hill-top with the most deadly and unerring fire; they swept away a troop of Polish lancers that were murderously riding about goring our wounded men, as they lay on the ground, with their long lances.
Lord Melbourne on announcing the completion of his arrangements made a general statement of his policy. In forming his Cabinet he had had to contend with difficulties "peculiarly great and arduous, and some of them of a severe and mortifying nature." He had no change of policy to declare. "His Government would be based upon the principles of a safe, prudent, and truly efficient reform—principles the tendency of which was not to subvert or endanger, but, on the contrary, to improve, strengthen, and establish the institutions of the country; and in regard to ecclesiastical government, every measure contemplated in reference to that subject would have for its end the increase of true piety and religion through the whole of his Majesty's dominions." From the disposition and character popularly ascribed to Lord Melbourne, it could not be expected that he should prove an energetic Reformer. The Earl of Derby mentions a saying of his which often escaped him as a member of Lord Grey's Cabinet. When they had to encounter a difficulty, he would say, "Can't you let it alone?" This accords with the portrait of him presented by Sydney Smith, in his second letter to Archdeacon Singleton.
Napoleon's saying about French revolutions was verified in 1830. The shock of the political earthquake was felt throughout the Continent, and severed Belgium from Holland. The inhabitants of Brussels began their revolt by resistance to local taxes, and ended by driving the Dutch garrison out of the city, and proclaiming the independence of Belgium. The Duke of Wellington had no difficulty about the prompt recognition of the de facto Government of France. The change of dynasty had not been officially communicated to him many hours when he sent instructions to the British ambassador to enter into friendly relations with the new Government. He had not, however, the same facility in recognising the independence of Belgium. He had been instrumental in establishing the kingdom of the Netherlands; and he regarded the union as being a portion of the great European settlement of 1815, which ought not to be disturbed without the concurrence of the Great Powers by which it was effected. This hesitation on his part to hail the results of successful revolution added to his unpopularity. In the meantime a dangerous spirit of disaffection and disorder began to manifest itself in the south of England. Incendiary fires had preceded the Revolution in France, especially in Normandy, and they were supposed to have had a political object. Similar preludes of menaced revolution occurred during the autumn in some of the English counties nearest the French coast, in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire. Night after night, in the most fertile districts, the sky was reddened with the blaze of burning stack-yards. Crowds of the working classes, complaining of want of employment, went about throughout the country, breaking the threshing-machines, which had then come into extensive use. The Government were compelled to employ force to put down these disturbances—a fact which supplied inflammatory arguments to agitators, who denounced the Duke of Wellington as the chief cause of the distress of the working classes. Such was the state of things when the new Parliament met on the 26th of October.
But this improvement produced no sensible effect upon the mass of labouring people. However brightly the sun of prosperity might gild the eminences of society, the darkness of misery and despair settled upon the masses below. The Commissioners proceed:—"A reference to the evidence of most of the witnesses will show that the agricultural labourer of Ireland continues to suffer the greatest privations and hardships; that he continues to depend upon casual and precarious employment for subsistence; that he is still badly housed, badly fed, badly clothed, and badly paid for his labour. Our personal experience and observation during our inquiry have afforded us a melancholy confirmation of these statements; and we cannot forbear expressing our strong sense of the patient endurance which the labouring classes have generally exhibited under sufferings greater, we believe, than the people of any other country in Europe have to sustain."In March, 1796, Mr. Wickham, the British envoy to Switzerland, asked of M. Barthélemy, by direction of Pitt, whether the French Directory were desirous of entertaining the question of peace. Barthélemy replied that the Directory would enter into negotiations on the basis of France retaining all the Netherlands won from Austria, which were now annexed to the Republic, and which France would never restore. The reply was certainly insincere. France was as busy as ever by her emissaries undermining the loyalty of all the populations around her on pretence of liberating them. She had worked upon the Swiss, so that it was evident that they would soon fall into her net. She had entered into a treaty with the disaffected in Ireland, namely, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Wolfe Tone, Arthur O'Connor, and their fellow-conspirators, and the treaty was already signed, and a large fleet and force preparing for the invasion of Ireland. Not only was France on the very eve of invading Ireland, but she had issued a decree prohibiting the introduction of all British manufactures into Holland, Belgium, and the German states on the Rhine, as well as into any of the French colonies, on the severest penalties. Yet, in the face of all these hostile demonstrations, did Pitt send over Lord Malmesbury to endeavour to negotiate a peace. Lord Malmesbury arrived in Paris, on the 22nd of October, with a splendid retinue. The Directory received him haughtily, and commissioned M. Delacroix to discuss the matter with him. Lord Malmesbury insisted on the restoration of the Netherlands to Austria, a point on which the French Government had declared there could be no treaty, and which rendered the embassy, from the first moment, utterly absurd. Delacroix communicated the proposal to the Directory, and the Directory immediately published it, contrary to all the rules of diplomacy, in the Moniteur, Instead of proceeding further with Britain, the Directory immediately dispatched General Clarke, an officer of Irish extraction, and afterwards made Duke of Feltre, under Buonaparte, to Vienna, to treat separately with Austria. This failed, and, of course, with it all failed; though there was much talk between Malmesbury and the Directory on the subject of Britain restoring the French colonies in the East and West Indies, since the restoration of Belgium and Holland was a sine qua non. Thus, as might have been seen from the first, the negotiation was at a deadlock. The King of Sardinia was already in negotiation for peace for himself; and therefore British Ministers did not add to his difficulties by demanding the restoration of Savoy and Nice.
The Spaniards had so crowded their ships with soldiers, and made such wretched provision for their accommodation, that the most destructive and contagious fever was raging amongst them. This was quickly communicated to the French vessels; the mortality was more than that of a great battle, and the combined fleet hastened to Martinique, where they landed their soldiers and part of their seamen to recruit. They remained at Fort Royal till the 5th of July, only to disagree and quarrel more and more. Proceeding thence to St. Domingo, they parted, De Guichen returning to Europe, as convoy of the French homebound merchantmen; and Solano sailing to Havana, to co-operate with his countrymen in their designs on Florida.No small curiosity was experienced to see the man that had maintained a defence, obstinate and protracted beyond any related in the annals of modern war. Gorgeously attired in silks and splendid arms, he rode a magnificent Arab steed, with a rich saddle-cloth of scarlet. He but little exceeded the middle size, was powerfully but elegantly formed; his keen, dark, piercing, restless eyes surveyed at a glance everything around. He neither wore the face of defiance nor dejection; but moved along under the general gaze as one conscious of having bravely done his duty.The Americans did not make their Declaration of Independence till they had communicated with France. The British Government, as Lord North publicly declared in Parliament, had long heard of American emissaries at Paris seeking aid there. A secret committee, which had Thomas Paine for its secretary, was appointed to correspond with the friends of America in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world. Encouraged by the assurances of France, the secret committee was soon converted into a public one, and agents were sent off to almost every court of Europe to invite aid of one kind or another against the mother country, not omitting even Spain, Naples, Holland and Russia. Silas Deane was dispatched to Paris in March of this year, to announce the growing certainty of a total separation of the colonies from Great Britain, and to solicit the promised co-operation.
"Yes, ye have one!"At the same time, our seamen—who were the real and proper defenders of the country but were so miserably paid and so abominably treated in many ways, that they could only be compelled into the service by the odious operation of pressgangs—now burst forth into mutiny. Their complaints and resistance compelled a small advance and improvement. None since then had taken place. This advance of wages did not amount to more than eightpence-halfpenny a day to able seamen and sevenpence to ordinary seamen. And the low pay was but the smallest part of the complaint of these brave men. They complained that a most unfair system of prize-money had prevailed, by which the admirals and chief officers swept off most of the money and left little or nothing to the petty officers and the men; that their treatment on board was barbarous, unfeeling, and degrading; that their provisions were of the vilest description, being the direct consequence of the contracts with villainous purveyors, through equally rascally Navy Commissioners, so that, in fact, they were served with such salt beef, salt pork, and biscuit as no dog would touch. Nor did their list of grievances only too real end here. Instead of Government paying the pursers direct salaries, they were paid by deducting two ounces from every pound of provisions served out to the men. Thus, instead of sixteen ounces to the pound, they received only fourteen ounces; and the same rule applied to the measurement of liquids—beer and grog—served out to them. Things had come to such a pass from these causes, and the neglect of their complaint was so persevering, that the whole fleet determined on a mutiny.详情
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