In balancing accounts at the Congress at Paris, there was a resignation on the part of Great Britain of the colonies which she had won with so much cost of money and men. Our statesmen never thought of placing some of the enormous sums we had bestowed on the Powers we helped against the islands we had conquered. We had dearly purchased them. But Great Britain gave back to France all the colonies possessed by her in 1792, except Tobago, St. Lucia, and the Isle of France. Still more absurdly, we returned Pondicherry, in the East Indies, as a focus for fresh annoyances there from the French, whom we had expelled at such cost for their meddling and exciting the natives against us. We restored to the French, under certain conditions, the right of fishing on the bank of Newfoundland, as they had enjoyed it in 1783; conditions which they boldly violated, and which the British Ministry did not venture to insist on being observed. We gave back also to Spain several islands and colonies; and the same to Holland—namely, Demerara, Essequibo, Berbice, the immense island of Java, and the rich one of Sumatra, retaining only the Cape of Good Hope and the settlements in Ceylon.
The success of the Scottish courts in sentencing Reformers encouraged the Ministers to try the experiment in England; but there it did not succeed so well. First, one Eaton, a bookseller, of Bishopgate, was indicted for selling a seditious libel, called "Politics for the People; or, Hog's-wash." On the 2nd of April, Thomas Walker, a merchant of Manchester—was, with six others, indicted at the Lancaster assizes; but Eaton, in London, and these Manchester men, were acquitted. Rather irritated than discouraged by these failures, Pitt and Dundas made a swoop at the leaders of the Corresponding Society, and the Society for Constitutional Information in London; and, in the month of May, Horne Tooke, John Thelwall—a celebrated political lecturer—Thomas Hardy, Daniel Adams, and the Rev. Jeremiah Joyce—private secretary to the Earl of Stanhope, and tutor to his son, Lord Mahon—were arrested and committed to the Tower on a charge of high treason. No sooner was this done, than, on the 12th of May, Dundas announced to the House of Commons that, in consequence of the Government having been informed of seditious practices being carried on by the above-named societies, they had seized their papers, and he now demanded that a committee of secrecy should be appointed to examine these papers. This was agreed to; and on the 16th Pitt brought up the report of this committee, which was so absurd in its results that nothing but the most blind political desperation could have induced the Government to make it known. The committee found nothing amongst these papers but the reports of the societies since the year 1791, which had been annually published and made known to every one. Yet on this miserable evidence Pitt called for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and it was accordingly granted, Burke—who now seems to have grown quite politically mad by dwelling on the horrors of the French Revolution—believing it the only measure to insure the safety of the country. Windham and others asserted that the mere suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was hardly sufficient: there required yet more stringent measures. Similar language was held in the Lords, but did not pass without some severe comments from the Duke of Bedford, and the Lords Stanhope, Lauderdale, and Albemarle, who declared that Ministers, instead of suppressing, were creating a veritable reign of terror. The Bill was, notwithstanding, readily passed; and on the 13th of June an Address was carried to his Majesty, expressing the determination of their lordships to punish the men who had been concerned in the so-called conspiracy. Fox and Lambton condemned this course energetically in the Commons, declaring that, if there were any conspiracy, the ordinary laws and tribunals were amply sufficient for their punishment. Fox moved that all that part of the Address which expressed a conviction of the existence of a conspiracy should be struck out, but it was carried entire; and such was the alarm of the country at the reverses of the Allies on the Continent and the successes of France, that far more violent measures would have been readily assented to.The news from Boston could not have arrived at a moment when the public mind was more ill-disposed towards the Americans. The affair of the abstraction of Mr. Whately's private letters from his house or office, and their publication, contrary to custom and to its own engagement, by the Massachusetts Assembly, had produced a deep conviction in all classes in England of the utter disregard of honour both in the American colonists and their agent, Franklin. This disgraceful violation of the sacred security of private papers roused the indignation of Mr. William Whately, banker, in Lombard Street, and brother to the late Mr. Thomas Whately. He conceived strong suspicions of John Temple, afterwards Sir John Temple, Lieutenant-Governor of New Hampshire, and, though one of the Commissioners of Customs at Boston, really hostile to the Commission, and a strong partisan of Franklin. Whately challenged Temple, and was severely wounded in the rencontre. At this, Franklin came forward with an avowal that neither the late Mr. Whately nor Mr. Temple had anything to do with the carrying off of the letters; that he alone was responsible for this act.
Much inconvenience and misery were caused during the year by the trades unions and their strikes. In several places the workmen combined in order to enforce a rise of wages, and a more equitable distribution of the profits derived from their labour. The striking commenced on the 8th of March, when the men employed by the London gas companies demanded that their wages should be increased from twenty-eight shillings to thirty-five shillings a week, with two pots of porter daily for each man. On the refusal of this demand they all stopped working; but before much inconvenience could be experienced their places were supplied by workmen from the country. On the 17th of March an event occurred which caused general and violent excitement among the working classes. At the Dorchester Assizes six agricultural labourers were tried and convicted for being members of an illegal society, and administering illegal oaths, the persons initiated being admitted blindfold into a room where there was the picture of a skeleton and a skull. They were sentenced to transportation for seven years. Their case excited the greatest sympathy among the working population throughout the kingdom. In London, Birmingham, and several other large manufacturing towns immense meetings were held to petition the king in favour of the convicts. In the midst of this excitement the manufacturers of Leeds declared their determination not to employ any persons in their factories who were members of trades unions. The consequence was that in that town three thousand workmen struck in one day. On the 15th of April there was a riot at Oldham, where, in consequence of the arrest of two members of a trade union, a factory was nearly destroyed, and one person killed, the mob having been dispersed by a troop of lancers. Several of the rioters were arrested and sentenced to terms of imprisonment varying from six to eighteen months. On the 21st of April a meeting of the trades unions took place at Copenhagen Fields, to adopt a petition to the Home Secretary praying for a remission of the sentence on the Dorchester convicts. They marched to the Home Office through the leading thoroughfares, numbering about 25,000, in order to back up their deputation, which, however, Lord Melbourne refused to receive, though he intimated to them that their petition should be laid before the king if presented in a proper manner. The multitude then went in procession to Kennington Common. On the 28th 13,000 London journeymen tailors struck for higher wages. The masters, instead of yielding, resolved not to employ any persons connected with trades unions, and after a few weeks the men submitted and returned to their work.
The defeated party, however, did not give up the idea of the Treaty of Commerce. Another Bill was introduced to modify, or, as it was called, to render the commercial treaty more effectual; but such a host of petitions was presented against it, that it was abandoned. Sir Thomas Hanmer, however, proposed and carried an address to the queen, which was intended to cover, in some degree, the defeat of the Ministers; and, as he had got rid of the Bill itself, he did not hesitate to move for what appeared inconsistent with his proceedings, namely, thanks to her Majesty for the care she had taken of the security and honour of the kingdom by the Treaty of Peace, and also by her anxiety for a Treaty of Commerce; and, further, recommending her to appoint Commissioners to meet those of France, and endeavour to arrange such terms of commerce as should be for the good and welfare of her people. This was laid hold of, as was no doubt intended, in the queen's reply, which assumed this to be a declaration of a full approbation of the Treaty of Commerce, as well as that of Peace; and she thanked them in the warmest terms for their address.GEORGE II. AT DETTINGEN, 1743.
In 1792 a measure of relief was passed for the Episcopalians of Scotland. These had fallen into disgrace for their refusal to swear allegiance to the House of Hanover. The conduct of many of them during the rebellion of 1745 had increased the rigour of Government against them, and an Act was passed, the 19 George II., ordering the shutting up of all Episcopalian chapels where the minister had not taken the oath of allegiance, and where he did not pray for the king and royal family. Any clergyman of that church violating these regulations was liable to six months' imprisonment for the first offence, and transportation to one of the American plantations for the second, with perpetual imprisonment did he dare to return thence. No minister was to be held qualified to officiate except he had received letters of orders from an English or Irish bishop of the Protestant Episcopalian Church. All persons frequenting the chapels of such unqualified persons were liable to a penalty of five pounds for the first offence, and two years' imprisonment for the second. But now, the Pretender being dead, and his brother, Cardinal York, being held on account of his clerical character to have forfeited his claim to the Crown, the Scottish Episcopalians came and took the necessary oaths; this Bill was passed removing their disabilities, and the aristocracy of Scotland soon, for the most part, became members of the church when it ceased to be in disgrace.
The Budget was brought forward on the 13th of February. It proposed to continue the income tax, which experience had shown to afford a means of supplying the place of taxes repealed, until such time as the revenue should recover itself. The Minister then unfolded his scheme, which formed no unworthy complement to his great Budget of 1842. It proposed a reduction in the sugar duties, which could not be calculated at less than ￡1,300,000, and was expected to lower the price to the consumer by about 1-1/4d. a pound. The Minister then proceeded to refer to a list of articles, 430 in number, which yielded but trifling amounts of revenue, and many of which were raw materials used in the various manufactures of the country, including silk, hemp, flax, and yarn or thread (except worsted yarn), all woods used in cabinet-making, animal and vegetable oils, iron and zinc in the first stages, ores and minerals (except copper ore, to which the last Act was still to apply), dye stuffs of all kinds, and all drugs, with very few exceptions; on the whole of these articles he proposed to repeal the duties altogether, not even leaving a nominal rate for registration, but retaining the power of examination. The timber duties generally he proposed to continue as they were, with the one exception of staves, which, as the raw material of the extensive manufacture of casks, he proposed to include with the 430 articles, and to take off the duty altogether. On these articles the loss amounted to ￡320,000. The next and most important relief in the whole proposition was the article of cotton wool, on which the Minister proposed also to reduce the duty altogether, and on which he estimated the loss at ￡680,000; and these constituted the whole of the proposed reductions of the import duties—that is, sugar, cotton wool, and the numerous small articles in the tariff. The next items of reduction proposed were the few remaining duties on our exports, such as china-stone, and other trifling things, but including the most important article of coals, on which the duty had been placed by the Government, and at the result of which Sir Robert Peel candidly avowed his disappointment. The duties he estimated at ￡118,000. He then passed on to the excise duties, among which he had selected two items of great importance for entire repeal—the auction duty and the glass duties. By a repeal of the auction duty he estimated a loss of ￡300,000; but as he proposed, at the same time, to increase the auctioneer's licence uniformly from ￡5 to ￡15 (making one licence answer for all purposes, whereas, at that time, several licences were often necessary to the same party) he expected from 4,000 auctioneers an increased income, so as to reduce this loss to ￡250,000. On the important article of glass he gave up ￡642,000. These constituted the whole of his proposals; and the surplus of ￡2,409,000 was thus proposed to be disposed of:—Estimated loss on sugar, ￡1,300,000; duty on cotton repealed, ￡680,000; ditto on 430 articles in tariff, ￡320,000; export duty on coal, ￡118,000; auction duty, ￡250,000; glass, ￡642,000. Total, ￡3,310,000.
The way having been thus prepared, Mr. O'Connell proceeded to the scene of the contest. On the day of his departure his carriage, with four horses, drove into the yard of the Four Courts, where he had been engaged on an important trial. Having concluded his address to the judges, he put off his wig and gown, and proceeded through the hall, where he was followed by the lawyers and the persons from the different courts, so that the judges were deserted. Stepping into his open barouche, accompanied by Mr. P. O'Gorman, secretary of the Association, Mr. R. Scott, solicitor, and Father Murphy, the celebrated parish priest of Corrofin, he drove off amidst the cheers of all present. The greatest possible excitement prevailed along the whole route, and he enjoyed an ovation at every town he passed through. At Ennis, though he entered the town by daybreak, the traders and the inhabitants turned out in procession to meet him. Priests swarmed in all the streets, and in every face there was an unconcealed expression of joyous and exulting triumph.Sir Hercules Langrishe " " 45,000The triumph of the Whigs was complete. Whilst Oxford, who had been making great efforts at the last to retrieve himself with his party by assisting them to seize the reins of power on the queen's illness, was admitted in absolute silence to kiss the king's hand, and that not without many difficulties, Marlborough, Somers, Halifax, and the rest were received with the most cordial welcome. Yet, on appointing the new cabinet, the king showed that he did not forget the double-dealing of Marlborough. He smiled on him, but did not place him where he hoped to be, at the head of affairs. He made Lord Townshend Secretary of State and Prime Minister; Stanhope, the second Secretary; the Earl of Mar was removed from the Secretaryship of Scotland to make way for the Duke of Montrose; Lord Halifax was made First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, and was raised to an earldom, and was allowed to confer on his nephew the sinecure of Auditor of the Exchequer; Lord Cowper became Lord Chancellor; Lord Wharton was made Privy Seal, and created a marquis; the Earl of Nottingham became President of the Council; Mr. Pulteney was appointed Secretary-at-War; the Duke of Argyll, Commander-in-Chief for Scotland; Shrewsbury, Lord Chamberlain and Groom of the Stole; the Duke of Devonshire became Lord Steward of the Household; the Duke of Somerset, Master of the Horse; Sunderland, Lord-lieutenant of Ireland; Walpole was at first made simply Paymaster of the Forces, without a place in the cabinet, but his ability in debate and as a financier soon raised him to higher employment; Lord Orford was made First Lord of the Admiralty; and Marlborough, Commander-in-Chief and Master of the Ordnance. His power, however, was gone. In the whole new cabinet Nottingham was the only member who belonged to the Tory party, and of late he had been acting more in common with the Whigs. The Tories complained vehemently of their exclusion, as if their dealings with the Pretender had been a recommendation to the House of Hanover. They contended that the king should have shown himself the king of the whole people, and aimed at a junction of the two parties.
Austria professed great friendliness to Napoleon, and he thought that she would not like to break with him on account of the Empress. But Austria, on the 27th of June, signed an engagement with Russia and Prussia, at Reichenbach, in Silesia, binding herself to break with him if he did not concede the terms which they demanded. These were to restore Illyria and the whole of Austrian Italy; to reinstate the Pope; to leave Poland to the three Powers who had formerly possessed themselves of it, and to renounce Spain, Holland, Switzerland, and the Confederation of the Rhine. Buonaparte treated these demands as sheer madness; but he was nearly mad himself when Talleyrand and Fouché, and still more, his best military counsellors, advised him at least to fall back to the left bank of the Rhine, and make that the boundary of France. He offered to annihilate the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, giving up the whole of Poland to Russia—such was his gratitude to the Poles!—to restore Illyria to Austria, but to cut down Prussia still more by pushing the Rhenish Confederation to the Oder.Great meetings were held in various towns and counties to condemn the whole proceedings, and addresses were sent up and presented to the Prince Regent which were, in fact, censures of his own conduct, and were not, therefore, received in a becoming manner. To one from the Common Council of London he replied that he received it with regret, and that those who drew it up knew little or nothing of the circumstances which preceded or attended the Manchester meeting. The fact was, that they knew these a great deal better than he did. Similar addresses were sent up from Westminster, York, Norwich, Bristol, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, and many other towns. A meeting of the county of York was calculated at twenty thousand persons, and amongst them was the Earl Fitzwilliam, Lord-Lieutenant of the West Riding, who had also signed the requisition to the high-sheriff. For this conduct he was summarily dismissed from his lord-lieutenancy. Scarcely less offence was given by the Duke of Hamilton, Lord-Lieutenant of the county of Lanark, who sent a subscription of fifty pounds to the committee for the relief of the Manchester sufferers, expressing, at the same time, his severe censure of the outrage committed on the 16th of August. Of course, the Ministerial party in town and country did all in their power to counteract this strong and general expression of disapprobation. In Scotland and the North of England the squirearchy got up associations for raising troops of yeomanry, as in direct approval of the savage conduct of the Manchester Yeomanry. In the immediate neighbourhood of the scene of outrage the conflict of opinion between the two parties ran high. Numbers of the Manchester Yeomanry were indicted for cutting and maiming in St. Peter's Field, with intent to kill; but these bills were thrown out by the grand jury at the Lancaster assizes. An inquest at Oldham, on the body of one of the men killed, was also the scene of a fierce and regular conflict for nine days, that was put an end to by an order from the Court of King's Bench. But even men who were accustomed to support Ministers generally were startled by their conduct on this occasion. Mr. Ward, afterwards Lord Dudley and Ward, in one of his letters written from Paris at the time, but not published till a later date, says:—"What do reasonable people think of the Manchester business? I am inclined to suspect that the magistrates were in too great a hurry, and that their loyal zeal, and the nova gloria in armis tempted the yeomanry to too liberal a use of the sabre—in short, that their conduct has given some colour of reason to the complaints and anger of the Jacobins. The approbation of Government was probably given as the supposed price of support from the Tories in that part of the country."
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