[See larger version]The condition of the Irish poor, and the expediency of a State provision for their support, had long been a subject of anxious consideration with the Imperial Government and the legislature, and also with public men of every party who took an interest in the state of the country. It was at length resolved that something should be done for their regular relief. At the close of 1835 there had been a Poor Law Commission in existence for more than two years, consisting of men specially selected on account of their fitness for the task, and standing high in public estimation, including the Protestant and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Dublin. They were appointed, in September, 1833, "to inquire into the condition of the poorer classes in Ireland, and into the various institutions at present established by law for their relief, and also whether any and what further remedial measures appear to be requisite to ameliorate the condition of the Irish poor or any portion of them." In July, 1835, they made their first report, in which they refer to the various theories with which they were assailed in the course of their inquiries. "One party attributed all the poverty and wretchedness of the country to an asserted extreme use of ardent spirits, and proposed a system for repressing illicit distillation, for preventing smuggling, and for substituting beer and coffee. Another party found the cause in the combinations among workmen, and proposed rigorous laws against trades unions. Others, again, were equally confident that the reclamation of the bogs and waste lands was the only practical remedy. A fourth party declared the nature of the existing connection between landlord and tenant to be the root of all the evil. Pawn-broking, redundant population, absence of capital, peculiar religious tenets and religious differences, political excitement, want of education, the maladministration of justice, the state of prison discipline, want of manufactures and of inland navigation, with a variety of other circumstances, were each supported by their various advocates with earnestness and ability, as being either alone, or conjointly with some other, the primary cause of all the evils of society; and loan-funds, emigration, the repression of political excitement, the introduction of manufactures, and the extension of inland navigation, were accordingly proposed each as the principal means by which the improvement of the country could be promoted."
VIEW OF WASHINGTON FROM ARLINGTON HEIGHTS.
These resolutions may be taken as expressing the feelings of the landed gentry as a body against the Melbourne Administration and the agitators. But the latter were not idle. O'Connell had then his "Precursor Association" in full operation. It received its name from the idea that it was to be the precursor of the repeal of the union. On the 22nd of January a public dinner was given in honour of the "Liberator" in a building then called the Circus, in Dublin, for which one thousand tickets were issued. Two days later a similar banquet was given to him in Drogheda, and there he made a significant allusion to the murder of Lord Norbury, insinuating that he had met his death at the hands of one who was bound to him by the nearest of natural ties, and had the strongest interest in his removal. Mr. O'Connell volunteered the assertion that the assassin of Lord Norbury had left on the soil where he had posted himself, "not the impress of a rustic brogue [a coarse rough shoe, usually made of half-dressed leather], but the impress of a well-made Dublin boot." There was no ground whatever for the malignant assertion, which was one of those errors of judgment and of taste that too often disfigured the great "Liberator's" leadership.On the return of the king and Carteret, Parliament was opened on the 1st of December. The first trial of the Opposition was on the Address, on which occasion its real strength was not called forth, and this was carried by two hundred and seventy-eight votes against one hundred and forty-nine. But the subject of Hanoverian troops and Hanoverian measures soon displayed its extent and virulence. There was a vehement feeling against everything relating to Hanover, and Pitt lost no time in denouncing Carteret and his measures in the most bitter terms. Pitt's thunder was echoed by others, and the scene in the Commons was described by a spectator as like nothing but a tumultuous Polish Diet. Such was the ferment amid which opened the year 1744, and it soon became evident that the existence of the country was at stake. Preparations had been making for the invasion of England for some time. Cardinal Tencin, the new French Minister, sent Murray of Broughton to James in Rome, to desire him to send his eldest son, Prince Charles, to France to be in readiness for the campaign in England, and in due course the Young Pretender arrived at Gravelines."Hereditary bondsmen! know ye not,
JAMES EDWARD STUART, THE "OLD PRETENDER."
The distress which had pressed so severely on the people, and which had set them thinking about the most perilous political changes, was intimately connected with the state of the country. Throughout the troubled period of almost incessant war and lavish expenditure between 1797 and 1815, the business of the nation was carried on with an inconvertible paper currency, the precious metals having nearly all departed from the country. Bank notes were issued in such quantities, to meet the exigencies of the Government, that the prices of all commodities were nearly doubled. The Bill which was passed in 1819 providing for the resumption of cash payments had reduced the currency from ￡48,278,070, which was its amount in 1819, to ￡26,588,000, in 1822. The consequence was the reduction of prices in the meantime, at the rate of fifty per cent., in all the articles of production and commerce. With this tremendous fall of prices, the amount of liabilities remained unchanged; rents, taxes, and encumbrances were to be paid according to the letter of the contract, while the produce and commodities—the sale of which was relied upon to pay them—did not produce more than half the amount that they would have brought at the time of the contracts. The evil of this sudden change was aggravated by the South American Revolution, in consequence of which the annual supply of the precious metals was reduced to a third of its former amount. It was peculiarly unfortunate that this stoppage in the supply of gold and silver occurred at the very time that the Legislature had adopted the principle that paper currency should be regarded as strictly representing gold, and should be at any moment convertible into sovereigns. A paper currency should never be allowed to exceed the available property which it represents, but it is not necessary that its equivalent in gold should be lying idle in the coffers of the Bank, ready to be paid out at any moment the public should be seized with a foolish panic. It is enough that the credit of the State should be pledged for the value of the notes, and that credit should not be strained beyond the resources at its command. The close of 1822 formed the turning-point in the industrial condition of the country. The extreme cheapness of provisions, after three years of comparative privation, enabled those engaged in manufacturing pursuits to purchase many commodities which they had hitherto not been able to afford. This caused a gradual revival of trade, which was greatly stimulated by the opening of new markets for our goods, especially in South America, to which our exports were nearly trebled in value between 1818 and 1823, when the independence of the South American Republics had been established. The confidence of the commercial world was reassured by the conviction that South America would prove an unfailing Dorado for the supply of the precious metals. The bankers, therefore, became more accommodating; the spirit of enterprise again took possession of the national mind, and there was a general expansion of industry by means of a freer use of capital, which gave employment and contentment to the people. This effect was materially promoted by the Small Note Bill which was passed in July, 1822, extending for ten years longer the period during which small notes were to be issued; its termination having been fixed by Peel's Bill for 1823. The average of bank-notes in circulation in 1822 was ￡17,862,890. In November of the following year it had increased by nearly two millions. The effect of this extension of the small note circulation upon prices was remarkable. Wheat rose from 38s. to 52s., and in 1824 it mounted up to 64s. In the meantime the bullion in the Bank of England increased so much that whereas in 1819 it had been only ￡3,595,360, in January, 1824, it amounted to ￡14,200,000. The effect of all these causes combined was the commencement of a reign of national prosperity, which burst upon the country like a brilliant morning sun, chasing away the chilling fogs of despondency, and dissipating the gloom in the popular mind.J. Galbraith, a baronetage.
The members of the House of Commons had to run the gauntlet of these furies much like the Lords. They pulled many of them out of their carriages, tore their clothes from their backs, and maltreated them, crying continually, "Repeal the Bill! No Popery! Lord George Gordon!" The frantic multitude forced their way into the lobby of the House, and attempted to break into the House itself. They thundered at the doors, and there was imminent danger of their forcing their way in. Meanwhile, Lord George Gordon and Alderman Ball were presenting the petition, and moved that the House should consider it at once in committee. An amendment was moved, that it should be considered on Tuesday, the 6th; but there were not means of putting either motion or amendment, for the mob had possession of the lobby, and the Serjeant-at-Arms declared it was impossible to clear it. Whilst this confusion lasted, Lord George Gordon exerted himself to excite the mob to the highest possible pitch. So long as members were speaking, he continued to go to the top of the gallery stairs, ever and anon, to drop a word to the crowd below likely to exasperate them against the particular member speaking. "Burke, the member for Bristol, is up now," he cried; and then coming again, "Do you know that Lord North calls you a mob?" This he repeated till the crowd was worked up to a maddening frenzy, and made so desperate a battering at the door, that it was momentarily expected they would burst it open. Several of the members vowed to Lord George, that, if his rabid friends did violate the sanctity of the House, they would run him through as the first man stepped over the lintel. These determined proceedings daunted Lord George. He retired to the eating-room, and sank quietly into a chair. Meanwhile, Lord North had privately despatched a messenger for a party of the Guards. Till these could arrive, some of the more popular members went out, and used their endeavours to appease the rage of the multitude. Lord Mahon harangued them from the balcony of a coffee-house, and produced considerable effect. About nine o'clock, Mr. Addington, a Middlesex magistrate, came up with a party of Horse Guards. He spoke kindly to the people, and advised them to disperse quietly, which, the exasperator being absent, many of them did. Soon after came a party of foot soldiers, who were drawn up in the Court of Requests, and they soon cleared the lobby. The members then boldly proceeded with the debate, and, undeterred by the cries still heard from without, carried the amendment for deferring the consideration of the petition by a hundred and ninety-four votes, including the tellers, against only eight. The House then adjourned until the 6th of June.
The Irish Reform Bill, which had been introduced by Mr. Stanley, then Irish Secretary, became the subject of debate on the 26th of May, when the second reading was moved by him in a speech of great ability. His main object was to prove that the passing of the measure would not endanger the Established Church in Ireland; and that it would not increase the power of O'Connell, whom, instead of conciliating, he exasperated by the contemptuous and defiant tone of his remarks. As the great question of Reform had been conceded in the English Bill, it was only with regard to matters of detail, and to the extent and nature of the franchise, that the Tories maintained their opposition. The second reading was carried by a majority of 116, the numbers being, for the Bill, 246; against it, 130. O'Connell contended that the Bill was not calculated to benefit Ireland, and he said he was sure it was framed with no good feeling to the country; but, on the contrary, was dictated by narrow and bigoted feeling. He complained that certain classes of the forty-shilling freeholders were not restored by the Reform Bill. He was supported by a moderate and greatly respected Irish statesman, the venerable Sir John Newport, who complained of defects in the measure, especially in the mode of registration, which would go far to neutralise all its benefits. O'Connell's proposal was made on the 13th of June, and was rejected by a majority of forty-nine. The Irish Reform Bill, instead of being the means of conciliation, tending to consolidate the union, and taking away the arguments for Repeal, really furnished O'Connell with fresh fuel for agitation. In a series of letters which he addressed to the Reformers of England, he pointed out the defects of the Irish Bill. He objected to it on the ground that it diminished the elective franchise instead of extending it; that the qualification for a voter was too high; that the registration of voters was complicated; and that the number of Irish representatives was inadequate. The substitution in counties of the ten-pound beneficial interest franchise for the forty-shilling freehold caused the disfranchisement of 200,000 voters. He referred to population to prove the unfairness towards Ireland: thus the county of Cumberland, with a population of 169,681, got two additional members, and returned four to Parliament; while the county of Cork, with a population of 807,366, got no additional member, and sent only two to the Reformed Parliament. A similar contrast was presented between other English and Irish counties.The congress had opened at Aix-la-Chapelle early in the spring, but it did not begin its sittings till the 11th of March, 1748, Sandwich being sent thither as our Plenipotentiary. The campaign, however, opened simultaneously, and, could Cumberland and the king have managed it, war would soon have overturned the hopes of peace; but circumstances were too much for them. The Prince of Nassau, ambitious as he was of military renown, failed to bring into the field his Dutch levies; the thirty thousand Prussians, as Pelham had expected, did not appear. The Dutch, so far from furnishing the sums they had engaged for, sent to London to raise the loan of a million sterling; but London itself had ceased to be a money-lending place. The war had drained the resources even of the British capital. To complete the deadlock, Marshal Saxe advanced into the field, and showed to the world that, though Cumberland might beat an army of famine-exhausted Highlanders, he was no match for him. He completely out-generalled him, made false demonstrations against Breda, where the Allied army lay, and then suddenly concentrated his forces before Maestricht, which, it was evident, must soon fall into his hands. Maestricht secured, the highway into Holland was open.
But it was not till 1766 that the public became possessed of what may be called the first domestic novel, in the "Vicar of Wakefield" of Oliver Goldsmith (b. 1728; d. 1774). The works of Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett had been rather novels of general life than of the home life of England, but this work was a narrative of such every-day kind as might occur in any little nook in the country. It was a picture of those chequered scenes that the lowliest existence presents: the simple, pious pastor, in the midst of his family, easily imposed on and led into difficulties; the heartless rake, bringing disgrace and sorrow where all had been sunshine before; the struggles and the triumphs of worth, which had no wealth or high rank to emblazon it; and all mingled and quickened by a humour so genial and unstudied that it worked on the heart like the charms of nature herself. No work ever so deeply influenced the literary mind of England. The productions which it has originated are legion, and yet it stands sui generis amongst them all. The question may seem to lack sequence, yet we may ask whether there would have been a "Pickwick" if there had not been a "Vicar of Wakefield?"
[See larger version]When, therefore, Lord Wellington pondered over matters in Madrid, he looked in vain for anything like a regular Spanish army, after all the lessons which had been given to them. The army of Galicia, commanded by Santocildes, considered the best Spanish force, had been defeated by Clausel, himself in the act of escaping from Wellington. Ballasteros had a certain force under him, but his pride would not allow him to co-operate with Lord Wellington, and he was soon afterwards dismissed by the Cortes from his command. O'Donnel had had an army in Murcia, but he, imagining that he could cope with the veteran troops of Suchet, had been most utterly routed, his men flinging away ten thousand muskets as they fled. Moreover, Wellington had been greatly disappointed in his hopes of a reinforcement from Sicily. He had urged on Ministers the great aid which an efficient detachment from the army maintained by us in Sicily might render by landing on the eastern coast of Spain, and clearing the French out of Catalonia, Valencia, and Murcia. This could now be readily complied with, because there was no longer any danger of invasion of Sicily from Naples, Murat being called away to assist in Buonaparte's campaign in Russia. But the plan found an unexpected opponent in our Commander-in-Chief in Sicily, Lord William Bentinck. Lord William at first appeared to coincide in the scheme, but soon changed his mind, having conceived an idea of making a descent on the continent of Italy during Murat's absence. Lord Wellington wrote earnestly to him, showing him that Suchet and Soult must be expelled from the south of Spain, which could be easily effected by a strong force under British command landing in the south-east and co-operating with him from the north, or he must himself again retire to Portugal, being exposed to superior forces from both north and south. The expedition was at length sent, under General Maitland, but such a force as was utterly useless. It did not exceed six thousand men; and such men! They were chiefly a rabble of Sicilian and other foreign vagabonds, who had been induced to enlist, and were, for the most part, undisciplined.详情
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