These were measures which must have greatly irritated the American colonists. They exhibited a disposition to curb and repress their growing energies between the interests of British merchants and British West Indian planters. The prospect was far from encouraging; whilst, at the same time, the English Ministers, crushing these energies with one hand, were contemplating drawing a revenue by taxation from them on the other. Britain argued that she sacrificed large amounts in building up colonies, and therefore had a right to expect a return for this expenditure. Such a return, had they had the sagacity to let them alone, was inevitable from the trade of the colonies in an ever-increasing ratio.On the 11th of February Lord Althorp brought forward the Budget. Basing his calculations on the revenue of the previous year, he estimated the national income at ￡50,000,000, and the expenditure at ￡46,850,000, leaving an anticipated surplus of more than ￡3,000,000; and it was proposed to take off taxes to the whole of that amount, and to replace it to some extent by other taxes, less burdensome to the people. The principal taxes to be taken off were those on tobacco, sea-borne coal, tallow candles, glass, printed calicoes, and newspapers. The new taxes consisted in an increase of the duties on wine, colonial timber, and raw cotton, a tax on steamboat passengers, and on the transfers of funded property. The proposed new taxes excited violent opposition, which obliged the Chancellor of the Exchequer to modify some of them, and abandon the last two; in fact, the financial scheme was a failure. Equally unsuccessful were his attempts to introduce retrenchments into the Civil and Pension Lists. But the Government was borne up by its great measure, the Reform Bill.Expenditure.
The large majorities in the House of Lords were to be ascribed chiefly to the unparalleled influence of the Duke of Wellington. But the public at the time were little aware of the difficulties that great man had to deal with in overcoming the opposition of the king, who was much under the influence of the Duke of Cumberland. When the storm of Conservative violence reached its height, after the rejection of Peel in Oxford, and his return, not without a struggle, for Westbury; and when, on the 3rd of March, he gave notice that he would draw the attention of the House to the clause of the Royal Speech referring to Ireland, the king, greatly excited and alarmed, sent the same evening to desire that the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, and the Chancellor should wait upon him next day. He had already seen the Chancellor once, and the Duke twice separately. The king received his three Ministers, when they presented themselves at the palace, kindly but gravely; he looked anxious and embarrassed while he requested them to make him acquainted with the details of their Bill. It was explained to him that it would relieve Roman Catholics from the necessity of making a declaration against the doctrine of transubstantiation; whilst it so far modified in their case the oath of supremacy, as to omit all notice of the king's authority in things spiritual. "What!" he exclaimed, "do you mean to alter the ancient law of supremacy?" It was to no purpose he was shown that the alteration applied only to Roman Catholics, who would be dispensed from swearing what they could not believe; but he appealed to his own coronation oath, in reference to which he could not recognise the dispensing power of his Ministers. The king was condescending in the extreme. He seemed deeply grieved at the dilemma to which they had been brought. He acknowledged that possibly he had gone too far on former occasions, though he had acted entirely through misapprehension. But now he trusted that they would see, with him, that it had become a point of conscience, and that there was no alternative left him except to withdraw his assent. In the most respectful manner they acquiesced in his Majesty's determination, allowing, without a murmur, that he had a perfect right to act as he proposed. But when he went on further to ask what they intended to do, the Duke's answer was explicit: they must retire from his Majesty's service, and explain to Parliament that unexpected obstacles had arisen to the accomplishment of the policy which they were engaged to pursue. To this Mr. Peel added, that as the Bill for the suppression of the Catholic Association had been carried on the understanding that other and more comprehensive measures would follow, it would be necessary to make Parliament generally aware of the causes which operated to prevent the bringing forward of those measures. The king heard all this to an end, without attempting to interrupt, or argue with, his Ministers. He admitted, on the contrary, that it was impossible for them to take any other course, and then bade them farewell, kissing each of them on both cheeks. They set off from Windsor immediately, and arrived at Lord Bathurst's, where their colleagues were waiting dinner for them. They made a full report of all that had occurred, and announced that the Government was at an end. The party broke up, believing themselves to be out of office; but early next morning, before any decisive steps had been taken, a special messenger arrived at Apsley House with a letter from the king. It was guardedly expressed, for it went no further than to state that his Majesty had found greater difficulties than he expected in forming a new Cabinet, and was therefore desirous that the present Ministry should go on. The moment was critical, and the position of the Government delicate and in some sense insecure. No doubt, his Majesty's letter might be read as implying an abandonment of the objections which he had taken to the policy of his Ministers overnight, but it was certainly capable of a different interpretation. It appeared, therefore, to the Duke, that before proceeding further it would be necessary to come to a clear understanding with the king as to his Majesty's real intentions, and Mr. Peel concurring in this opinion, the Duke was requested to write to the king on the subject. He did so, with all the candour and loyalty which were natural to him; and the result was an unequivocal declaration from the Sovereign that he would accept the measures of his Ministers as his own.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 great financial questions of 1786 were the Duke of Richmond's plan of fortifying Portsmouth and Plymouth, and Pitt's proposal of a sinking fund to pay off the national debt, an excise duty on wines, and Pitt's commercial treaty with France. During the previous Session the Duke of Richmond, Master-General of the Ordnance, had proposed a plan of fortifying these large arsenals, so that, in the supposed absence of our fleet on some great occasion, they would be left under the protection of regiments of militia, for whom enormous barracks were to be erected. A board of officers had been appointed to inquire into the advantages of the plan, and their report was now brought up on the 27th of February, and introduced by Mr. Pitt, who moved that the plan be adopted. This scheme was strongly opposed by General Burgoyne, Colonel Barré, and others. Mr. Bastard moved an amendment declaring the proposed fortifications inexpedient. He said the militia had been called the school of the army, but to shut them up in these strongholds, separate from their fellow-subjects, was the way to convert them into universities for pr?torian bands. He protested against taking the defence of the nation from our brave fleet and conferring it on military garrisons; tearing the ensign of British glory from the mast-head, and fixing a standard on the ramparts of a fort. The Bill was rejected, Fox, Sheridan, Windham, and all the leading Oppositionists declaiming against it.The evil of this state of things became so aggravated that all reasonable men on both sides felt it must be put a stop to somehow. In 1831 the organised resistance to the collection of tithes became so effective and so terrible that they were not paid, except where a composition had been made and agreements had been adopted. The terrified proctors gave up their dangerous occupation after some of their number had been victimised in the most barbarous manner; and although a portion of the clergy insisted on their rights, not merely for the sake of their incomes, but for the interest of the Church which they felt bound to defend, yet many had too much Christian spirit, too much regard for the interests of the Gospel, to persist in the collection of tithes at such a fearful cost. At Newtownbarry, in the county of Wexford, some cattle were impounded by a tithe-proctor. The peasantry assembled in large numbers to rescue them, when they came into collision with the yeomanry, who fired killing twelve persons. At Carrickshock there was a fearful tragedy. A number of writs against defaulters was issued by the Court of Exchequer, and entrusted to the care of process-servers, who, guarded by a strong body of police, proceeded on their mission with secrecy and despatch. Bonfires along the surrounding hills, however, and shrill whistles soon convinced them that the people were not unprepared for their visitors. But the yeomanry pushed boldly on; suddenly an immense assemblage of peasantry, armed with scythes and pitchforks, poured down upon them. A terrible hand-to-hand struggle ensued, and in the course of a few moments eighteen of the police, including the commanding officer, were slaughtered. The remainder consulted safety and fled, marking the course of their retreat by the blood that trickled from their wounds. A coroner's jury pronounced this deed of death as "wilful murder" against some persons unknown. A large Government reward was offered, but it failed to produce a single conviction. At Castle-pollard, in Westmeath, on the occasion of an attempted rescue, the chief constable was knocked down. The police fired, and nine or ten persons were killed. One of the most lamentable of these conflicts occurred at Gurtroe, near Rathcormack, in the county of Cork. Archdeacon Ryder brought a number of military to recover the tithes of a farm belonging to a widow named Ryan. The assembled people resisted, the military were ordered to fire, eight persons were killed and thirteen wounded; and among the killed was the widow's son.
THE PRIESTLEY RIOTS AT BIRMINGHAM (see p. 384)In the opening of the reign the gentlemen retained the full-skirted coat, with huge cuffs, the cocked-hats and knee-breeches of the former period. Pigtails were universal, and the more foppish set up their hair in a high peak, like the women. The ladies had their hair turned up on frames half a yard high, and this hairy mountain was ornamented with strings of pearls or diamonds, or surmounted with a huge cap edged with lace. They wore their waists as long as possible, with a peaked stomacher, and hanging sleeves of Mecklenburg lace. Their gowns were of the richest silks, satins, and brocades, their skirts flowing; and the fan was an indispensable article.This was to send a part of Lincoln's militia, under Colonel Brown, to endeavour to surprise Fort Ticonderoga, Mount Independence, and Fort George, to capture or destroy all the stores there, to hold them in strong force, and thus completely to cut off Burgoyne's retreat by the lakes to Canada. Brown, being joined by another body of militia under Colonel Johnson, invested Ticonderoga. Being repulsed there, he sailed through Lake George in the vessels he had taken; made a fresh attempt upon Diamond Island, and, being also repulsed there, he set fire to the captured vessels, and returned to the American camp in the rear of Burgoyne. Partial as his success had been, he had, however, opened the route, and whilst he and the rest of the militia were watching Burgoyne, other bodies of Americans were mustering in his track, and the retreat of Burgoyne became an impossibility. He could stay where he was no longer. His provisions were exhausted; his horses were dying for lack of forage, and his situation was most deplorable.
Dumouriez had no sooner come into office than he laid down a great military plan. He proposed that wherever France extended to what he called her natural limits—that is, to the Rhine, the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the sea—they should act only on the defensive; but in the Netherlands, where the territory did not extend to the Rhine, and in Savoy, where it did not extend to the Alps, there they should act on the offensive, and carry France to what he called its boundaries by the genuine laws of nature. This plan was adopted. The Austrians had only thirty thousand men in Belgium, and Lafayette was to make a dash on that division of the Netherlands. From Namur he was to push on for Liége, which would make him complete master of the country, and was to be strengthened by a reinforcement of thirty thousand infantry, so that he would be seventy-five thousand strong before the Emperor could advance to his attack. Further, while Lafayette was marching from Givet on Namur, a division of his army of ten thousand men, under General Biron, was to march upon Mons, where Beaulieu, the Austrian general, was posted with only two thousand five hundred men. On the same day Major-General Theobald Dillon was to advance with three thousand six hundred men from Lille, in Tournay, and to surprise that place. The French calculated on the support of the Belgians who had been strongly inoculated with the spirit of the Revolution. The two smaller divisions were punctual in their movements; but Lafayette, instead of marching simultaneously, remained strengthening himself in his position at Givet. General Biron set out from Valenciennes, and, on the 29th of April, crossed the Belgian frontiers, and the next day marched towards Mons. But no sooner did the French cavalry come in sight of some light troops, said only to amount to about five hundred men, than they fled, crying that they were betrayed. Beaulieu's horse pursued and captured Biron's baggage and military chest. On the very same day, Dillon's division, on their march from Lille to Tournay, fled with the very same cry from nine hundred Austrians who had issued from Tournay. The French officers in vain endeavoured, in both cases, to rally their forces, and Dillon was murdered by his own men on re-entering Lille with a lieutenant-colonel and an unsworn priest. Lafayette, hearing this strange news, did not venture to quit Givet.At sea he was somewhat more fortunate. He took care to have his war-ships, such as they were, in readiness for sea at the very instant that war was proclaimed. The declaration took place on the 18th of June, and on the 21st Commodore Rogers was already clear of the harbour of New York in his flag-ship, the President, which was called a frigate, but was equal to a seventy-four-gun ship, and attended by a thirty-six-gun frigate, a sloop of war, and a brig-sloop. His hope was to intercept the sugar fleet from the West Indies, which was only convoyed by a single frigate and a brig-sloop. Instead of the West India merchantmen, about one hundred sail in number, he fell in with the British frigate, the Belvedere, commanded by Captain Richard Byron. Though the two other vessels of war were in sight, Byron did not flinch. He commenced a vigorous fight with the President, and held on for two hours, pouring three hundred round shot into her from his two cabin guns alone. By the explosion of a gun, Commodore Rogers and fifteen of his men were severely wounded. About half-past six in the evening the President was joined by the Congress frigate, and then Captain Byron cut away several of his anchors, started fourteen tons of water, and otherwise lightening his ship, sailed away, and left the President to repair her damages. By thus detaining Rogers for fifteen hours the West India fleet was out of all danger. Rogers then continued a cruising sail towards Madeira and the Azores, and captured a few small merchantmen, and regained an American one, and he then returned home without having secured a single British armed vessel, but having been in great trepidation lest he should fall in with some of our ships of the line.
But Nelson had now tracked the French to their goal, and was preparing to annihilate their fleet. Admiral Brueys, unable to enter the harbour of Alexandria, had anchored his ships in the Bay of Aboukir, in a semicircular form, so close in shore that he deemed it impossible for ships of war to thrust themselves between him and the land. He had altogether thirteen ships of war, including his own flagship of one hundred and twenty guns, three of eighty, and nine of seventy-four, flanked by four frigates and a number of gunboats, with a battery of guns and mortars on an island in the van. Nelson had also thirteen men-of-war and one five-gun ship, but the French exceeded his by about forty-six guns, three thousand pounds' weight of metal, considerably more tonnage, and nearly five thousand men. No sooner did Nelson observe the position of the French fleet than he determined to push his ships between it and the shore. No sooner was this plan settled than Nelson ordered dinner to be served, and on rising from table said, "Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey." It was half-past five o'clock on the afternoon of the 1st of August, 1798, when this celebrated battle was commenced. As the British vessels rounded a shoal, to take up their position, the battery of the island played upon them; but this ceased as they came near the French line of vessels, lest they should damage their own countrymen. Unfortunately, Nelson lost the use of the Culloden, a seventy-four, commanded by Captain Trowbridge, which struck on a ledge of rocks, and could not be got off in time for the engagement. Nelson's own vessel was the first that anchored within half pistol-shot of the Spartiate, the third ship of the French line. The conflict immediately became murderous, and Nelson received a severe wound on the head, which compelled him to go below. The battle continued with a terrible fury till it was so dark that the only light the combatants had to direct their operations was the flashes of their own broadsides. At ten o'clock the Orient, Admiral Brueys' own great ship, was discovered to be on fire. He himself had fallen, killed by a cannon-shot. The stupendous ship continued to burn furiously, lighting up the whole scene of action. At eleven it blew up, with an explosion which shook the contending fleets like the shock of an earthquake, and with a stunning noise that caused the conflict instantly to cease. A profound silence and a pitchy darkness succeeded for about ten minutes. Nelson, wounded as he was, had rushed upon deck before the explosion, to order every possible succour to be given to the shrieking sufferers in the burning ship, and many of the crew had been got into boats and saved. The cannonade was slowly resumed, but when morning dawned two French ships and two frigates only had their colours flying and were able to get away, none of the British vessels except the Zealous being in a condition to give chase. The two ships of the line and one of the frigates were afterwards intercepted by our Mediterranean fleet, so that of all this fine fleet only one frigate escaped. Had Nelson not been wounded, and had Captain Trowbridge been able to bring up his ship, probably not even that frigate would have got away. The British took eight vessels of the line; the rest were destroyed in one way or other. The loss of the British, in killed and wounded, was eight hundred and ninety-five; of the French, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, was nine thousand eight hundred and thirty. Brave Brueys, as has been stated already, was slain. Captain Westcott, of the Majestic, was the only commander of a ship who fell. Such was the victory of Aboukir; but "victory," said Nelson, "is not a name strong enough for such a scene—it is a conquest!" Fortunately for the French, Admiral Brueys had secured the transports and store-ships in shallow water in the port of Alexandria, where Nelson could not come at them for want of small craft. Half-a-dozen bomb ships would have destroyed them all, and have left Buonaparte totally dependent on the Egyptians for supplies. And these he must have collected by force, for now the news of the destruction of his fleet was spread over all Egypt by bonfires, kindled by the Arabs, along the coast and far inland. He was cut off from communication with France. On the 22nd of October the people of Cairo rose on the French, and endeavoured to massacre them; but the French took a bloody vengeance, sweeping them down with grape-shot, pursuing them into their very mosques, and slaughtering in one day five thousand of them.THE "NOTTINGHAM CAPTAIN" AND THE AGITATORS AT THE "WHITE HORSE." (See p. 126.)ROTTEN ROW IN 1830. (See p. 442.)
Next day the victorious general sent a message to Hyderabad, threatening to storm the city if it was not immediately surrendered. The walls were very strong, and might have been defended successfully; but the Ameers had lost heart, and six of them came out to the British camp, and laid their swords at the feet of the conqueror. But though the city was in his possession, conquest seemed only to increase his difficulties. He had to keep possession of a large hostile city, and to defend his own entrenched camp against 20,000 Beloochees, who were still in the field under Shere Mahommed, and to accomplish all this he had but 2,000 effective men under his command. Reinforcements, however, were quickly dispatched by Lord Ellenborough. They arrived safely and gave him an army of 5,000 veteran troops. In the meantime, Shere Mahommed had come within five miles of the British camp, and sent Sir Charles Napier a summons to surrender; he had an army of 20,000 men in an extremely strong position. Nothing daunted, Sir Charles Napier attacked the enemy. His plan of action was altered, on account of an unauthorised attack made by Colonel Stark with his cavalry, in consequence of the giving way of the centre before an onset of the Irish regiment. The cavalry charge, the result of a sudden inspiration, was brilliantly successful. The cavalry swept everything before them, and carried confusion and dismay into the rear of the enemy's centre. The British general instantly took advantage of this success, and, changing his plan, he led on the Irish infantry to storm the first nullah. After a fierce resistance, the scarp was mounted, and Lieutenant Coote fell wounded while in the act of waving the Beloochee standard in triumph on the summit. The Sepoys were equally successful in storming the second nullah, which was bravely defended, but ultimately carried with great loss to the enemy, who were routed in all directions, their retreating ranks being mowed down by the artillery, and pursued by the cavalry for a distance of several miles. The loss of the British in this great victory was only 270 men. Although the heat was then 110° in the shade, Sir Charles Napier rapidly pursued the enemy, so that his cavalry arrived at Meerpoor, a distance of forty miles, before Shere Mahommed could reach it. It was his capital—strongly fortified, filled with stores of all kinds—and it fell without resistance into the hands of the British general. Shere Mahommed had retreated to the stronghold of Omerkote, in the desert. Thither he was pursued by Captain Whitlie, at the head of the Light Horse. The Ameer fled with some horsemen into the desert. The garrison that remained, after a few shots, pulled down their colours, and, on the 4th of April, the British standard waved on the towers of Omerkote.The prospects of the European war at this juncture, as observed from England, were gloomy in the extreme. The dispersion of the armies of Spain, the retreat and death of Sir John Moore, leaving the whole of the Spanish and Portuguese Peninsula under the feet of Buonaparte, disposed many to believe the power of the conqueror unassailable. The Whig Opposition made every use of this feeling to damage and, if possible, drive their rivals from office. That the Whigs, in power, would have refrained from Continental war any more than the Tories is not to be believed. They had always, when in office—except, in the case of Fox, for a short interval—been as ready to fight; but they had generally conducted their campaigns with much less ability. Now, their great organ, the Edinburgh Review, indulged in the most vehement censures on the Cabinet; charged all the adverse circumstances of the Spanish and Portuguese war to its bad management; and intimated that it was the most wicked and idiotic folly to hope to contend with Buonaparte at all. But if ever there was a time when the continuance of the war was excusable, and perhaps necessary, it was now. Great Britain had gone fully and freely into the conflict to assist the Continental nations. She had pledged herself solemnly to Spain and Portugal, and to have withdrawn at this crisis would have been equally treacherous to our allies and pusillanimous as regarded the enemy. It would have been, in fact, to proclaim to the world that we had been completely beaten out of the field, that we could not do what we had promised to our allies, and that Napoleon must be left the master of Europe, and the dictator to Britain. Such a confession would have destroyed for ever the prestige of Great Britain, and justly. Ministers felt this, and never were more resolved to persevere to the end. To show that they did not for a moment despair, they signed a treaty of peace and amity with Spain only five days after the arrival of the news of the retreat and death of Sir John Moore, binding themselves never to acknowledge the authority of Buonaparte over Spain, or of any family but of Ferdinand VII. and his lineal successors. That they were supported in their views by Parliament was soon made evident by the rejection, by a majority of two hundred and eight against one hundred and fifty-eight, of a motion of Lord Henry Petty censuring the Convention of Cintra, and, by a majority of two hundred and twenty against one hundred and twenty-seven, of a motion of Mr. Ponsonby for inquiry into the conduct of the late campaign in Spain. Ministers had at length satisfied themselves that they had in Sir Arthur Wellesley a man capable of contending against the haughty tyrant of Europe. The most liberal votes were made for the prosecution of the war. The total of supplies for the year amounted to fifty-three million eight hundred and sixty-two thousand pounds, including a loan of eleven million pounds. For the army twenty-seven million pounds was voted, and for the navy nineteen million pounds. Between twenty and thirty thousand men were drafted from the militia into the regulars, and thus the army was augmented to that amount by soldiers already well trained. The loan was freely taken at a lower interest than any hitherto borrowed—the Opposition asserted, because trade was deranged, and capitalists were at a loss how to invest their money; but the Ministers contended, on the other hand, that it was solely because the war was popular with the nation. Before, however, entering into its arduous and bloody details, we must narrate some disgraceful affairs at home.详情
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