The Session of 1850 was creditably distinguished by the establishment of a policy of self-government for our colonies. They had become so numerous and so large as to be utterly unmanageable by the centralised system of the Colonial Office; while the liberal spirit that pervaded the Home Government, leading to the abolition of great monopolies, naturally reacted upon our fellow-subjects settled abroad, and made them discontented without constitutional rights. It was now felt that the time was come for a comprehensive measure of constitutional government for our American and Australian Colonies; and on the 8th of February, Lord John Russell, then Prime Minister, brought the subject before the House of Commons. It was very fully discussed, Sir William Molesworth, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Labouchere, and others who had taken an active part in colonial affairs, being the principal speakers. With regard to Canada, great progress had already been made in constitutional government. The same might be said of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, in which the practice of administration approximated to that observed in Great Britain. It was determined to introduce representative institutions of a similar kind in Cape Colony. In Australia it was proposed that there should be but one Council, two-thirds elected by the people and one-third nominated by the Governor. Mr. Roebuck objected strongly to the Government measure, because it left the colonists free, to a great extent, to gratify the strong desire almost universally felt among them to have power to choose a Constitution for themselves, instead of having a Constitution sent out to them, cut and dry. He wanted the House to plant at once liberal institutions there, which would spare the colonists the agony of working out a scheme of government for themselves. He declared that "of all the abortions of an incompetent Administration, this was the greatest." A ready-made Constitution had been sent out by the Government to South Africa; why, then, could not Parliament send out a ready-made Constitution to Australia? Lord John Russell replied to Mr. Roebuck's arguments, and after a lengthened debate the Bill was read a second time. There was a strong division of opinion in committee as to whether there should be two Chambers or one. Sir William Molesworth moved an amendment to the effect that there should be two, which was rejected by a majority of 218 against 150. The Bill passed the House of Commons on the 18th of May, and on the 31st was brought into the Lords, where also it was subjected to lengthened discussions and various amendments, which caused it to be sent back to the Commons for consideration on the 1st of August. On the motion of Lord John Russell the amendments were agreed to, and the Bill was passed. This was the principal legislative work of the Session and possessed undoubted merits.Both Pitt and Fox died in 1806, and a circumstance occurred in the following year which showed the inveterate obstinacy of the king regarding the Catholics. Lord Howick, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, obtained leave to bring in a Bill to enable Catholics to hold the higher offices in the army and navy; but the king soon let him know that he should not ratify any such Bill, and he agreed to withdraw it. But this did not satisfy George; he demanded from the Ministers a written engagement to propose no further concessions to the Catholics, and as they declined to do this, he dismissed them, and placed the Duke of Portland at the head of a new Cabinet.Tobias Smollett (b. 1721; d. 1771), before he appeared as a novelist, following in the track of Fielding rather than in that of Richardson, had figured as poet, dramatist, and satirist. Originally a surgeon from Dumbartonshire, and afterwards surgeon's mate on board of a man-of-war, he had then lived as an author in London. Thus he had seen great variety of life and character, and, having a model given him, he threw his productions forth in rapid succession. His first novel was "Roderick Random," which appeared in 1748, the same year as Richardson's "Clarissa," and a year preceding perhaps the greatest of Fielding's works, "Tom Jones." Then came, in rapid sequence, "Peregrine Pickle," "Count Fathom," "Sir Launcelot Greaves," and "Humphrey Clinker." Whilst writing these he was busy translating "Don Quixote"—a work after his own heart—travelling and writing travels, editing The Briton, and continuing Hume's "History of England." In his novels Smollett displayed a deep knowledge of character, and a humour still broader and coarser than that of Fielding. In Smollett the infusion of indecency may be said to have reached its height. In fact, there is no more striking evidence of the vast progress made in England since the commencement of the reign of George III., in refinement of manners and delicacy of sentiment, than the contrast between the coarseness and obscenity of those early writers and the novelists of the present day. The picture which they offer of the rude vice, the low tastes, the debauched habits, the general drunkenness, and the ribaldry and profanity of language in those holding the position of gentlemen and even of ladies, strikes us now with amazement and almost with loathing.
Mélas, who had been besieging Genoa, had left part of his army to reduce that city, defended by a strong French division under Massena and Soult, and advanced to Nice, which he had entered, and was contemplating his descent on Provence, when the news of Buonaparte's entrance of Piedmont reached him. He directed his march now to meet him. In the meantime, Massena and Soult, worn out by famine, the fort being blockaded by Admiral Lord Keith, had surrendered Genoa to General Otto, whom Mélas had ordered to raise the siege and join him. Mélas summoned his scattered forces to make head against Buonaparte, and was himself pursued from the neighbourhood of Nice by Suchet. Buonaparte deceived Mélas by false movements, making him imagine that his object was Turin, and so entered Milan in triumph on the 2nd of June. After various encounters and man?uvres between Buonaparte and Mélas, the First Consul crossed the Po at Piacenza, drove back the advanced guard of the Austrians, and took up a position on the plains of Marengo, on the right bank of the little stream, the Bormida, and opposite to Alessandria, where Mélas was lying. The next day—the 14th of June—Mélas drew out his forces, and attacked the French with great spirit. The Austrians amounted to about forty thousand, including a fine body of cavalry, for which the ground was highly favourable; the French were not more than thirty thousand, posted strongly in and around the village of Marengo, in three divisions, each stationed about a quarter of a mile behind the other. After two or three attempts the Austrians drove the French out of the village of Marengo, threw the second division, commanded by Lannes, into confusion, and put to rout the left wing of Buonaparte's own division, threw his centre into disorder, and compelled him to retreat as far as St. Juliano. The whole tide of battle was running against Buonaparte, and a short time must have completed his rout, when the strength of the old general, Mélas—more than eighty years of age—gave way, for he had been many hours on horseback. He retired from the field quite secure of the victory, and left General Zach to finish it. But, at this moment, General Desaix, who had lately arrived from Egypt, and had been sent by Buonaparte to make a diversion at Rivolta, came back with his detachment of twenty thousand men. Kellermann, also, who was posted in the rear with a body of reserve, marched up at the same time. A new and desperate charge was made on the fatigued Austrians, and they were broken and put to the rout. They retreated across the Bormida, towards Alessandria, in a panic, the horse galloping over the infantry. Mélas, dispirited by his defeat, but more by his age, gave up the struggle and on the 16th of June concluded an armistice, resigning not only Alessandria, where he might have stood a longer siege, but Genoa, which had just surrendered to the Austrians, and all the Genoese territory, agreeing to retire behind the line of Mantua and the Mincio, and leaving to the French all Lombardy as far as the Oglio. The French themselves could scarcely believe the reality of such a surrender.For many years the king had been scarcely ever free from gout, but its attacks had been resisted by the uncommon strength of his constitution. Partly in consequence of the state of his health, and partly from his habits of self-indulgence, he had for some time led a life of great seclusion. He became growingly averse from all public displays and ceremonials, and was impatient of any intrusions upon his privacy. During the spring of 1829 he resided at St. James's Palace, where he gave a ball to the juvenile branches of the nobility, to which the Princess Victoria and the young Queen of Portugal were invited. His time was mostly spent within the royal domain at Windsor, where his outdoor amusements were sailing and fishing on Virginia Water, or driving rapidly in a pony phaeton through the forest. He was occasionally afflicted with pains in the eyes and defective vision. The gout attacked him in the hands as well as in the feet, and towards the end, dropsy—a disease which had been fatal to the Duke of York, and to his sister, the Queen of Würtemberg—was added to his other maladies. In April the disease assumed a decisive character; and bulletins began to be issued. The Duke of Clarence was at Windsor, and warmly expressed his sympathy with the royal sufferer. The Duke of Cumberland, and nearly all the Royal Family, expressed to Sir William Knighton their anxiety and fears as to the issue. This devoted servant was constantly by the side of his master. On the 27th of May Sir William wrote to Lady Knighton: "The king is particularly affectionate to me. His Majesty is gradually breaking down; but the time required, if it does not happen suddenly, to destroy his originally fine constitution, no one can calculate upon." We are assured that Sir William took every opportunity of calling his Majesty's attention to religious subjects, and had even placed unordered a quarto Bible, of large type, on the dressing-table, with which act of attention the king was much pleased, and frequently referred to the sacred volume. A prayer was appointed for public use during his Majesty's indisposition, which the Bishop of Chichester read to him. "With the king's permission," wrote this learned prelate, "I repeated it on my knees at his bedside. At the close, his Majesty having listened to it with the utmost attention, three times repeated 'Amen,' with the greatest fervour and devotion. He expressed himself highly gratified with it, and desired me to convey his approbation of it to the Archbishop of Canterbury."
So prejudiced were the Allied Sovereigns against England, that they were ready to believe any tale to her disadvantage. One story which was circulated amongst them at the time was that Great Britain had bound herself to support Spain against France in return for certain stipulated commercial advantages. Another was that she had entered into a secret treaty to defend Portugal against France, even though Portugal should join Spain in the war. After all the Duke's arguments, explanations, and remonstrances, the French plenipotentiary was about to set off for Paris, representing all the Powers as being perfectly unanimous on the policy adopted towards Spain, and the Duke was obliged to threaten him with a public contradiction if he did not alter that statement and except Great Britain.On the 18th of June a public dinner, to commemorate the abolition of the Sacramental Test, was given at Freemasons' Hall, when the Duke of Sussex occupied the chair. The friends of the cause felt that to secure a meeting of the most opulent, talented, and influential Dissenters from all parts of the empire was a measure of no common policy, and it was evident that the illustrious and noble guests felt at once surprised and gratified to witness the high respectability and generous enthusiasm of that great company. Mr. William Smith, as deputy chairman, proposed, in an interesting and appropriate speech, "the health of the Duke of Sussex, and the universal prevalence of those principles which placed his family upon the throne." The health of the archbishops, bishops, and other members of the Established Church who had advocated the rights of the Dissenters was proposed by a Baptist minister, the Rev. Dr. Cox. The health of "the Protestant Dissenting ministers, the worthy successors of the ever memorable two thousand who sacrificed interest to conscience," having been proposed by the royal chairman, the Rev. Robert Aspland returned thanks. Another commemoration of the full admission of Nonconformists to the privileges of the Constitution was a medal struck by order of the united committee. The obverse side exhibits Britannia, seated on the right, presenting to a graceful figure of Liberty the Act of Repeal, while Religion in the centre raises her eyes to heaven with the expression of thankfulness for the boon. The inscription on this side is "Sacramental Test Abolished, May 9th, 1828." The reverse side presents an open wreath, enclosing the words, "Truth, Freedom, Peace, and Charity."
On the arrival of peace the fall of agricultural prices ruined great numbers who had pushed their speculations and land purchases beyond their legitimate means; but the Corn Laws again buoyed up both farmers and landlords, and the progress of improvement continued. Draining strong lands, manuring light ones with lime and marl, and the introduction of artificial grasses, added incalculably to the produce of the country. Turnips enabled the farmer to maintain his cattle and sheep in high condition during the winter, and the introduction of the Swedish turnip and mangel-wurzel extended this advantage till rye, rye-grass, sainfoin, and clover became plentiful. Before the end of the reign rentals had doubled, and lands, even in hilly districts, where it had been supposed that nothing but oats would grow, and where the reapers were often obliged to shake the snow from the corn as they cut it, were seen producing good wheat, and, from the better system of husbandry, at a much earlier period of autumn.
On the 21st of September the Convention had met in the Tuileries. The first act of the Convention was to send to the Legislative Assembly the notification of its formation, and that the existence of that body was, as a matter of course, at an end. They then marched in a body to the Salle de Manege, and took possession of it. The Girondists now appeared on the Right, the Jacobins on the Left, under the name of the Mountain, and the Centre, or Moderates, took the name of the Plain. The first speech and motion was made by Manuel, proposing that the President of the Convention and of France should be lodged in the Tuileries, attended by all the state which had accompanied the king, and that, whenever he appeared in the House, all the members should receive him standing. The motion was received with a storm of reprobation, and dismissed. The second motion, made by Collot d'Herbois, was for the immediate abolition of royalty. He was seconded by the Abbé Gregoire, and it was unanimously abolished accordingly. No time was lost in communicating this fact to the royal family in the Temple.But the loss of the Allies had also been perfectly awful. The Prussians, besides the great slaughter at Ligny, had been engaged in a bloody struggle at Planchenoit, and the British and their Allies had lost in the battle of Waterloo two thousand four hundred and thirty-two killed, and nine thousand five hundred and twenty-eight wounded; these, added to the numbers killed and wounded at Quatre Bras, raised the total to fifteen thousand. Of British and Hanoverian officers alone six hundred were killed or wounded at Waterloo. The Duke of Brunswick fell at the head of his troops at Quatre Bras, without having the satisfaction of witnessing the final ruin of Buonaparte. So many of Wellington's staff were disabled that he had at one time no officer to dispatch with a pressing order. A young Piedmontese, of the family of De Salis, offered himself. "Were you ever in a battle before?" asked the Duke. "No, sir," he replied. "Then," said the Duke, "you are a lucky man, for you will never see such another." When the Duke, who had witnessed so many bloody battles, saw the carnage of Waterloo, and heard, one after another, the losses of so many companions in arms, he was quite overcome. In his despatches he says: "I cannot express the regret and sorrow with which I look round me, and contemplate the losses that we have sustained." And again, "The losses I have sustained have quite broken me down, and I have no feeling for the advantages we have gained."
BELL'S "COMET." (See p. 421.)The English now began to contemplate taking the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch. General Johnstone was dispatched in April with five ships of the line, some frigates, and smaller vessels, having on board General Medows and three regiments for this purpose; but encountering Admiral Suffren in the way, after an indecisive action, Johnstone fell in with and took a Dutch East Indiaman of great value, and learned through it that Suffren had managed to reach the Cape and give the alarm, and that the Cape was put into strong defence. Johnstone, therefore, made for Saldanha Bay, where he learned that a number of other Dutch East Indiamen were lying. Four of these he secured; the rest were run ashore by their commanders and burnt. During the autumn both Dutch and French suffered much from the British on the coasts of Coromandel and the island of Sumatra. They also took from the Dutch Negapatam, Penang, and other places.
Thus argued the Conservatives, and not without effect, for the clause against disfranchising the freemen was carried only by a majority of twenty-eight; and in the passage through the Lords several important amendments were carried against the Government, owing chiefly to the vigorous opposition of Lord Lyndhurst. He proceeded to convert the Bill into what was called a Conservative arrangement, and when Peel's moderation was brought up against him, is said to have remarked, "Peel! What is Peel to me? D—— Peel!" On an amendment which he proposed—to omit the clause disfranchising the freemen—he defeated the Government by a majority of 93; the numbers being 130 to 37. He followed up this victory by a motion to secure to the freemen their Parliamentary franchise, which was carried without a division. The Commons thought it better to adopt some of these alterations, however repugnant to their feelings, rather than lose the measure. The Bill, as amended, was accordingly passed on the 7th of September. London, with its numerous and wealthy incorporated guilds, was reserved for future legislation, which the lavish hospitalities of the Mansion House and Guildhall postponed to a later date than municipal reformers then thought of.
On the 8th of May, 1777, Ministers moved for more money for the insatiable Landgrave of Hesse, whose troops were at this very time exhibiting the most scandalous state of defiance of discipline, of consequent inefficiency, and of plunder of the inhabitants of America. This grant, though violently opposed, was carried, but only by a majority of eight. All parties now began to denounce the shameless rapacity of these German princes. Nor did Chatham, ill as he was, allow the Session to pass without making one more energetic protest against the continuance of the war with America. On the 30th of May he moved an address to his Majesty for the immediate cessation of hostilities. Notwithstanding all that had been said on our successes over the Americans, Chatham contended as positively as ever that we could never conquer them. "You have," he said, "ransacked every corner of Lower Saxony, but forty thousand German boors never can conquer ten times the number of British freemen. You may ravage, you cannot conquer—it is impossible—you cannot conquer America. You talk of your numerous funds to annihilate the Congress, and your powerful forces to disperse their army; I might as well talk of driving them before me with my crutch! But what would you conquer? The map of America? I am ready to meet any general officer on the subject" (looking at Lord Amherst)—"What will you do out of the protection of your fleet? In the winter, if together, they are starved; and if dispersed, they are taken off in detail. I am experienced in spring hopes and vernal promises. I know what Ministers throw out; but at last will come your equinoctial disappointment. You have got nothing in America but stations. You have been three years teaching them the art of war. They are apt scholars; and I will venture to tell your lordships that the American gentry will make officers enough fit to command the troops of all the European Powers." Chatham's motion was rejected by ninety-nine votes against twenty-eight. Parliament was prorogued by the king on the 6th of June, in a speech in which he indulged the fallacious hope that the American insurrection would be terminated in the present campaign. But Chatham's prophecies were at the very time realising themselves. Had the Howes had the necessary qualities of commanders in such an important cause—had they pursued and dispersed the American army, as they ought to have done on defeating it, and as they might readily have done; and had the British Government instantly, whilst in this favourable position, repealed all the obnoxious statutes, they would have thrown Congress and Washington so completely into the wrong, that it would have been impossible for them to have made head again. But neither the Generals nor the Government of that day had the capacity for such strategic and statesmanlike policy. The Generals went comfortably into winter quarters, leaving the embers of war to rekindle and spread; and Government, deaf to the warnings of Chatham, still stolidly refused justice whilst rigorously enforcing their injustice. And, indeed, when Chatham gave his last Cassandra-like remonstrance, it was already too late. We had indeed taught the Americans the art of war. Washington was no longer contented to stand on the defensive, happy if he could preserve his soldiers from running off without fighting at all. His circumstances were desperate, and the energy which springs from despair now urged him to measures of daring and wakefulness just as the English Generals, like northern bears, were entering on their winter's sleep. Benedict Arnold had paid him a visit in his wretched camp beyond the Delaware, and probably from their united counsels sprang a new style of movement, which confounded his unsuspecting enemies.
After the Painting by SEYMOUR LUCAS, R.A., in the National Gallery of British ArtThe king had a stormy and rather perilous passage across the Channel. Mr. Freemantle sarcastically alludes to the feelings of the royal passenger in connection with this voyage:—"The king in his journey home overtook Lord and Lady Harcourt, now the bosom friends of Lady Conyngham, stopped them, got out of his carriage, and sat with them for a quarter of an hour on the public road, recounting all his perilous adventures at sea, and flattering reception in Ireland. Lady Harcourt told me his pious acknowledgment for his great escape of being shipwrecked was quite edifying, and the very great change in his moral habits and religious feelings was quite astonishing, and all owing to Lady Conyngham." On his return to London, after a visit to Hanover, the king devoted himself to a life of seclusion for a considerable time, during which it appears that the Marchioness of Conyngham maintained an ascendency over him most damaging to his character and Government. She had not only made the royal favour tributary to the advancement of her own family, but she meddled in political affairs with mischievous effect. "Had it been confined to mere family connections," writes Robert Huish, "no voice, perhaps, would have been raised against it; but when the highest offices in the Church were bestowed on persons scarcely previously heard of—when political parties rose and fell, and Ministers were created and deposed to gratify the ambition of a female—then the palace of the king appeared as if surrounded by some pestilential air. The old hereditary counsellors of the king avoided the Court, as alike fatal to private probity and public honour. The entrance to Windsor Castle was, as it were, hermetically sealed by the enchantress within to all but the favoured few. The privilege of the entrée was curtailed to the very old friends of the king, and even the commonest domestics in the castle were constrained to submit to the control of the marchioness. The Court of George IV. certainly differed widely from that of Charles II., although the number and reputation of their several mistresses were nearly the same in favour and character; but George IV. had no confiscations to confer on the instruments of his pleasures."详情
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