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WILLIAM HOGARTH. (After the Portrait begun by Weltdon and finished by himself.)Various causes, in fact, were operating to produce a great schism in the Ministry of George I. Townshend, as we have seen, had very unguardedly expressed his disgust with the measures of the king at and concerning Hanover. George's dislike was, of course, fomented by his courtiers and mistresses, and they found a powerful ally in Sunderland, who, tired of his subordinate position in the Ministry, had joined the king in Hanover. A letter from Townshend, in which, in order to allow the longer absence of the king, he recommended that additional powers should be conferred on the Prince of Wales, brought George's indignation to a head. This letter, which arrived about the middle of December, seemed to cause his anger to burst all bounds, and he vowed that he would dismiss Townshend at once from his service.But Catherine's ally, Joseph, was fast sinking, and his mortal sun was going down amid storm clouds, all collected by his reckless disregard of the rights of his subjects, great reformer as he desired to be. He had wantonly invaded the ancient constitution of Hungary; and on this the high-spirited and martial Hungarians had expressed their determination not to submit to it. They insisted that he should restore the regalia of their ancient kingdom, which he had carried off from Buda, the old capital, and where the Austrian emperors, as kings of Hungary, were always expected to be crowned, and to take the oath to observe the constitution. The Turks, already in possession of the banat of Temeswar, invited their alliance, offering to assist them in driving out the Austrians, and establishing their independence. Joseph, alarmed at this prospect, made haste to avert the danger by conceding the restoration of the Hungarian constitution and of the regalia, and the generous Hungarians were at once appeased.

The French had always beheld with jealousy our possession of the island of Minorca, which had been won by General Stanhope in 1708, and secured to us by the Peace of Utrecht. That England should possess the finest port in the Mediterranean, and that so near their own shores, was a subject of unceasing chagrin. The miserable administration of British affairs, the constant attention to the interests of Hanover instead of our own, now inspired France with the resolve to snatch the prize from us. Great preparations were made for this object, and the report of these as duly conveyed to the English Ministers by the consuls in both Spain and Italy, but in vain. At length the certainty that the French were about to sail for Minorca burst on the miserable Ministers; but it was too late—they had nothing in readiness. The port of Mahon was almost destitute of a garrison; the governor, Lord Tyrawley, was in England; and the deputy-governor, General Blakeney, though brave, as he had shown himself at the siege of Stirling, was old, nearly disabled by his infirmities, and deficient in troops. What was still worse, all the colonels were absent from the regiments stationed there, and other officers also—altogether thirty-five!English cookery, even in the greatest houses, had not yet been much affected by French art. The dinners were remarkably solid, hot, and stimulating. Mulligatawny and turtle soups came first, then at one end of the table was uncovered the familiar salmon, and at the other the turbot surrounded by smelts. Next came a saddle of mutton, or a joint of roast beef, and for the fourth course came fowls, tongue, and ham. French dishes were placed on the sideboard, but for a long time such weak culinary preparations were treated with contemptuous neglect. The boiled potato was then very popular, and vegetables generally were unaccompanied with sauce. The dessert, which was ordered from the confectioner's, was often very costly. The wines used at dinner were chiefly port, sherry, and hock. "A perpetual thirst seemed to come over people, both men and women," says Captain Gronow, "as soon as they had tasted their soup, as from that moment everybody was taking wine with everybody else till the close of the dinner, and such wine as produced that class of cordiality which frequently wanders into stupefaction. How this sort of eating and drinking ended was obvious from the prevalence of gout; and the necessity of every one making the pill-box a constant bedroom companion."

The Ministerial statement was anticipated with great interest. It was delivered by the new Premier, on the evening of the 22nd, Brougham presiding as Lord Chancellor. Foremost and most conspicuous in his programme was the question of Parliamentary Reform; next, economy and peace. Having gone in detail through the principles of[325] his policy, and the reforms he proposed to introduce, the noble lord summed up all in the following words:—"The principles on which I now stand, and upon which the Administration is prepared to act, are—the amelioration of existing abuses; the promotion of the most rigid economy in every branch of the public expenditure; and lastly, every endeavour that can be made by Government to preserve peace, consistent with the honour and character of the country. Upon these principles I have undertaken an office to which I have neither the affectation nor presumption to state that I am equal. I have arrived at a period of life when retirement is more to be desired than active employment; and I can assure your lordships that I should not have emerged from it had I not found—may I be permitted to say thus much without incurring the charge of vanity or arrogance?—had I not found myself, owing to accidental circumstances, certainly not to any merit of my own, placed in a situation in which, if I had declined the task, I had every reason to believe that any attempt to form a new Government on principles which I could support would have been unsuccessful. Urged by these considerations, being at the same time aware of my own inability, but acting in accordance with my sense of public duty, I have undertaken the Government of the country at the present momentous crisis."



On the 10th of September the Prussians began to examine the passes of the forest; and finding them defended, they attacked the French entrenchments but were everywhere repulsed. On the 11th, they concentrated their efforts on the pass of Grand-Pré, defended by Dumouriez himself, and were again repulsed by General Miranda at Mortaume, and by General Stengel at St. Jouvion. The Allies, thus unexpectedly brought to a check, for they had been led by the Emigrants to expect a disorganised or as yet undisciplined army, determined to skirt the forest and endeavour to turn it near Sedan. Whilst engaged in this plan, the Austrians discovered the weakness of the force in the defile of Croix-aux-Bois, where only two battalions and two squadrons of volunteers were posted, for Dumouriez had not examined the pass himself and was assured that this force was amply sufficient. Once aware of this mistake, the Austrians, under the Duke de Ligne, briskly attacked the position and drove the French before them. Dumouriez, informed of this disorder, ordered forward General Chasot with a strong force, who defeated the Austrians, killed De Ligne, and recovered the pass. But the advantage was but momentary; the Austrians returned to the charge with a far superior force, and again cleared the pass and remained in possession of it. Thus Dumouriez saw his grand plan of defence broken up; and finding that Chasot, who had fallen back on Vouziers, was cut off from him on his left along with Dubouquet, he saw the necessity of falling back himself into the rear of Dillon, on his right, who was yet master of the Islettes and the road to St. Menehould. He then sent messages to Chasot, Dubouquet, and to Kellermann, to direct their march so as to meet him at St. Menehould.In America, such was the state of things, that a British commander there, of the slightest pretence to activity and observation, would have concluded the war by suddenly issuing from his winter quarters, and dispersing the shoeless, shirtless, blanketless, and often almost foodless, army of Washington. His soldiers, amounting to about eleven thousand, were living in huts at Valley Forge, arranged in streets like a town, each hut containing fourteen men. Such was the destitution of shoes, that all the late marches had been tracked in blood—an evil which Washington had endeavoured to mitigate by offering a premium for the best pattern of shoes made of untanned hides. For want of blankets, many of the men were obliged to sit up all night before the camp fires. More than a quarter of the troops were reported unfit for duty, because they were barefoot and otherwise naked. Provisions failed, and on more than one occasion there was an absolute famine in the camp. It was in vain that Washington sent repeated and earnest remonstrances to Congress; its credit was at the lowest ebb. The system of establishing fixed prices for everything had totally failed, as it was certain to do; and Washington, to prevent the total dispersion of his army, was obliged to send out foraging parties, and seize provisions wherever they could be found. He gave certificates for these seizures, but their payment was long delayed, and, when it came,[248] it was only in the Continental bills, which were fearfully depreciated, and contrasted most disadvantageously with the gold in which the British paid for their supplies.

Nevertheless, the results actually attained in the first two years were briefly these: first, the[466] chargeable letters delivered in the United Kingdom, exclusive of that part of the Government's correspondence which formerly passed free, had already increased from the rate of about 75,000,000 a year to that of 208,000,000; secondly, the London district post letters had increased from about 13,000,000 to 23,000,000, or nearly in the ratio of the reduction of the rates; thirdly, the illicit conveyance of letters was substantially suppressed; fourthly, the gross revenue, exclusive of repayments, yielded about a million and a half per annum, which was sixty-three per cent. on the amount of the gross revenue of 1839, the largest income which the Post Office had ever afforded. These results, at so early a stage, and in the face of so many obstructions, amply vindicated the policy of the new system. But by its enemies that system was declared to be a failure, until the striking evidence of year after year silenced opposition by an exhaustive process.

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[See larger version]During this first Session of the new Parliament Ministers had carried matters with a high hand, imagining that they had a majority which would enable them to resist popular opinion, as they had done since the conclusion of the war. But the progress of the Session did not warrant this conclusion. They were defeated in several very important contests, and before the Session came to an end were made to feel that they had greatly declined in public confidence. In the severe debate of the 18th of May, on the motion of Mr. Tierney for a Committee of Inquiry into the state of the nation, they had a majority of more than two to one. But this was very different on the 3rd of June, when they only carried their Foreign Enlistment Bill by a majority of thirteen. On the question of the resumption of cash payments, the conversion of Mr. Peel to the principles of Horner was a rude shock to the Cabinet, and shrewd men prognosticated that, the entire system of Mr. Vansittart being thus overturned, he must retire. Then came not merely partial conversions, or near approaches to defeat, but actual defeats. Such were those on Sir James Mackintosh's motion for inquiry into the criminal laws, and on Lord Archibald[147] Hamilton's for Scottish burgh Reform. The question of Catholic Emancipation had approached to a crisis, and a majority of only two against it was, in truth, a real defeat. The consequence was that the conviction of the insecurity of Ministers was not only shared by men of impartial judgment, but by themselves. Towards the end of the Session Lord Liverpool himself was found writing to a friend, that unless the measure for the return to cash payments raised the confidence of the public in them, they must soon go out:—"I am quite satisfied that, if we cannot carry what has been proposed, it is far better for the country that we should cease to be a government. After the defeats we have already experienced during this Session, our remaining in office is a positive evil. It confounds all ideas of government in the minds of men. It disgraces us personally, and renders us less capable every day of being of any real service to the country, either now or hereafter. If, therefore, things are to remain as they are, I am quite sure that there is no advantage, in any way, in our being the persons to carry on the public service. A strong and decisive effort can alone redeem our character and credit, and is as necessary for the country as it is for ourselves."



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