And truly the prospects of the reign before him were such as might have daunted a much bolder and wiser man than Joseph. The people of Madrid had watched with increasing resentment the spiriting away of the different members of the royal family to Bayonne. They were wrathful that Godoy had been carried beyond the reach of their vengeance, and every day they were on the look-out for news from Bayonne as to the cause of Ferdinand, and this news grew even more unfavourable. On the evening of the 30th of April the populace had retired in gloomy discontent, because no courier had arrived bringing intelligence of Buonaparte's intentions towards Ferdinand. On the morning of the 1st of May numbers of men assembled about the gate of the inn and the post-office, with dark looks, and having, as was supposed, arms under their long cloaks. The French mustered strongly in the streets, and the day passed over quietly. But the next morning, the 2nd of May, the same ominous-looking crowds, as they assembled, were agitated by reports that the only remaining members of the royal family, the widowed Queen of Etruria and her children, and the youngest son of King Charles, Don Francisco, were about to be sent off also to Bayonne. They presently saw these royal personages conducted to their carriages; Don Francisco, a youth of only fourteen, weeping bitterly, and the sight roused the people to instant fury. They fell on the French, chiefly with their long knives, massacred seven hundred soldiers of the line, and wounded upwards of twenty of the Imperial Guard. The French, in return, fired on the people, and killed a hundred and twenty of them. Murat poured in troops to suppress the riot, but could not disperse them till after several volleys of grape-shot and repeated charges of cavalry. Unprepared as the country was, the people felt by no means daunted. The Alcalde of Mostoles, about ten miles south of Madrid, hearing the firing, and understanding the cause, sent a bulletin to the south in these words, "The country is in danger: Madrid is perishing through the perfidy of the French: all Spaniards come to deliver it!" That was all that was necessary. The fact of being in possession of Madrid was a very different thing to being in possession of Paris, Spain consisting of various provinces, having their separate capitals, and everywhere was a martial people, just as ready and able to maintain a struggle against an invader as if Madrid were free. At Valencia, the populace, headed by a priest, fell on the French, and massacred two hundred of them. Solano, the governor of Cadiz, suspected of favouring the French, was dragged out of his house and murdered. Even before the insurrection at Madrid there had been one at Toledo, and the French had been menaced with destruction.A question was opened in the House of Commons, on a motion of Mr. Western, which often subsequently occupied its attention. It referred to the effect on prices of Mr. Peel's Act of 1819 for the resumption of cash payments. According to the views of Mr. Western and Mr. Attwood, the value of money had been enormously increased by the resumption of payments in specie by the Bank, and its necessary preliminary, a diminution of the circulation. Prices had in consequence fallen; rents, taxes, annuities, and all fixed payments become more onerous. These views were opposed by Huskisson, Peel, and Ricardo, and, on the motion of the first-named, a resolution was carried, by one hundred and ninety-four to thirty, "That this House will not alter the standard of gold or silver in fineness, weight, or denomination."
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.(From the Painting by Sir M. A. Shee, P.R.A.)
During that evening and night there were serious contentions between the mob and the soldiers still posted in front of Sir Francis's house, and one man was shot by the military. Scarcely had the sheriffs quitted the house of the besieged baronet on the Sunday morning, supposing no attempt at capture would take place that day, when the serjeant-at-arms presented himself with a party of police, and demanded entrance, but in vain. All that day, and late into the night, the mob continued to insult the soldiers who kept guard on the baronet's house, and an order being given at night to clear the streets around, the mob broke the lamps, and threw all into darkness. They then carried away the scaffolding from a house under repair, and made a barricade across Piccadilly, which was, however, removed by the soldiers; and the rain falling in torrents, the mob dispersed.Delay was demanded, to hear what was the feeling of merchants and manufacturers in England, and these soon poured in petitions against these concessions, from Liverpool, Manchester, and other places; one of them, from the Lancashire manufacturers, being signed by eighty thousand persons. After two months had been spent in receiving these petitions, hearing evidence and counsel, Mr. Pitt introduced his propositions on the 12th of May. It was then found that British interests, as usual, had triumphed over the Ministerial intentions of benefiting Ireland. Not only was Ireland to be bound to furnish, in return for these concessions, a fixed contribution out of the surplus of the hereditary revenue towards defraying the expenses of protecting the general commerce, but to adopt whatever navigation laws the British Parliament might hereafter enact. Lord North and Fox opposed these propositions, on the ground that the cheapness of labour in Ireland would give that country an advantage over the manufacturers in this. The resolutions were at length carried both in the Committee and in the House at large on the 25th of July.Nor were the fears of Cobbett imaginary. The Ministry at this time were such fanatics in tyranny, that they would have rejoiced to have thus caged the great political lion, and kept him in silence. At this very moment they had pounced upon one who was equally clever in his way, and who had, perhaps, annoyed them still more, but whom they did not so much fear to bring into a court of justice. This was William Hone, who had for some time been making them the laughing-stock of the whole nation by his famous parodies. Hone was a poor bookseller in the Old Bailey, who had spent his life in the quest after curious books, and in the accumulation of more knowledge than wealth. His parodies had first brought him into notice, and it did not appear a very formidable thing for the Government to try a secluded bookworm not even able to fee counsel for his defence. His trial did not come on at the Guildhall till the 18th of December, and then it was evident that the man of satirical fun meant to make a stout fight. The judge, Mr. Justice Abbott, and the Attorney-General, Sir Samuel Shepherd, from their manner of surveying the accused, did not apprehend much difficulty in obtaining a verdict against him. But they very soon discovered their mistake. The charge against Hone was for having published a profane and impious libel upon the Catechism, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, thereby bringing into contempt the Christian religion. The special indictment was for the publication of John Wilkes's catechism. The Attorney-General did not very judiciously commence his charge, for he admitted that he did not believe that Hone meant to ridicule religion, but to produce a telling political squib. This let out the whole gist of the prosecution, though that was very well perceived by most people before; and it was in vain that he went on to argue that the mischief was just the same. Hone opened his own defence with the awkwardness and timidity natural to a man who had passed his life amid books, and not in courts; but he managed to complain of his imprisonment, his harsh treatment, of his poverty in not being able to fee counsel, of the expense of copies of the informations against him, and of the haste, at last, with which he had been called to plead. The judge repeatedly interrupted him, with a mild sort of severity, and the spectators were expecting him to make a short and ineffective defence. Hone, on the contrary, began to show more boldness and pertinacity. He began to open his books, and to read parody after parody of former times. In vain Mr. Justice Abbott and the Attorney-General stopped him, and told him that he was not to be allowed to add to his offence by producing other instances of the crime in other persons. But Hone told them that he was accused of putting parodies on sacred things into his books, and it was out of his books he must defend himself. The poor, pale, threadbare retailer of old books was now warmed into eloquence, and stood in the most unquestionable ascendency on the floor of the court, reading and commenting as though he would go on for ever; and he did go on for six hours. He declared that the editor of Blackwood's Magazine was a parodist—he parodied a chapter of Ezekiel; Martin Luther was a parodist—he parodied the first Psalm; Bishop Latimer was a parodist; so was Dr. Boys, Dean of Canterbury; so was the author of the "Rolliad;" so was Mr. Canning. He proved all that he said by reading passages from the authors, and he concluded by saying that he did not believe that any of these writers meant to ridicule the Scriptures, and that he could not, therefore, see why he should be supposed to do so more than they. Nay, he had done what they never did: as soon as he was aware that his parodies had given offence he suppressed them—and that long ago, not waiting till he was prosecuted. They, in fact, were prosecuting him for what he had voluntarily and long ago suppressed. The Attorney-General, in reply, asserted that it would not save the defendant that he had quoted Martin Luther and Dr. Boys, for he must pronounce them both libellous. The judge charged the jury as if it were their sacred duty to find the defendant guilty; but, after only a quarter of an hour's deliberation, they acquitted him.
The spirit of the country appeared to be running in a strong current for the return of Lord Chatham to the helm, as the only man who could save the sinking state, and bring the American difficulty to a happy issue. But the great obstacle to this was the still continued assertion of Lord Chatham—that the full independence of America could not be for a moment listened to, whilst to almost every other man of the Opposition that independence was already an accomplished fact. Lord Rockingham, who was looked up to as a necessary part of any Cabinet at the head of which Chatham should be placed, had, in the previous Session, asserted his opinion that the time had now passed for hoping to preserve the dependence of these colonies; and, now he saw France coming into the field against us, he was the more confirmed in this view. This was a fatal circumstance in the way of the establishment of a strong co-operative Cabinet, formed out of the present Opposition. But a still greater obstacle was the iron determination of the king. In vain did Lord North express his desire to resign and declare the necessity of conciliatory measures. George reproached him with intending to desert him. On further pressure he gave him leave to apply to Chatham and the Whigs, but only on the absurd condition that they should join the present Ministry, serve under Lord North, and carry on the policy of the existing Government. As usual, Lord North gave way, and consented to stay in office, and to bring in a plan of conciliation opposed to his former declarations.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.
On the retirement of Townshend, Walpole reigned supreme and without a rival in the Cabinet. Henry Pelham was made Secretary at War; Compton Earl of Wilmington Privy Seal. He left foreign affairs chiefly to Stanhope, now Lord Harrington, and to the Duke of Newcastle, impressing on them by all means to avoid quarrels with foreign Powers, and maintain the blessings of peace. With all the faults of Walpole, this was the praise of his political system, which system, on the meeting of Parliament in the spring of 1731, was violently attacked by Wyndham and Pulteney, on the plea that we were making ruinous treaties, and sacrificing British interests, in order to benefit Hanover, the eternal millstone round the neck of England. Pulteney and Bolingbroke carried the same attack into the pages of The Craftsman, but they failed to move Walpole, or to shake his power.
MRS. ARABELLA HUNT SINGING TO QUEEN MARY. (See p. 155.)With the war the manufacture of guns and arms of all kinds was greatly increased, and several important improvements were made in the construction of gun-barrels and their breeches. All kinds of cutlery were improved, but, at the same time, both Government, by contractors, and foreign countries, by merchants, were imposed on by articles that had more show than use, to the serious injury of the British reputation. Knives and razors were sent out of mere iron, and our pioneers and sappers and miners were often supplied with axes, picks, and shovels more resembling lead than iron.
From the Painting by Seymour Lucas, R.A.
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