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On the 21st of October the British fleet sailed from Copenhagen Roads; at Helsingfors the fleet was saluted by the King of Sweden, who invited the admirals to breakfast; and, by the end of the month, was anchored in Yarmouth Roads safely, with all its captives. Fresh offers of alliance with Denmark were made before leaving, accompanied with promises of restoration, but were indignantly refused by the Crown Prince; and no sooner were the British gone, than the Danes converted their trading-vessels into armed ones, and commenced a raid amongst the British merchants, now in the Baltic, for the protection of which some men-of-war ought to have been left. The Crown Prince, now thrown completely into the arms of the French, made a declaration of war against Britain, and the British Government issued an order for reprisals on the ships, colonies, and property of the Danes. They also seized on the island of Heligoland, a mere desolate rock, but, lying at the mouth of the Elbe, and only twenty-five miles from the mouths of the Weser and the Eider, it was of the greatest importance, during the war, as a safe rendezvous for our men-of-war, and as a dep?t for our merchandise, ready to slip into any of the neighbouring rivers, and thus, by smugglers, to be circulated all over the Continent, in spite of Buonaparte's embargo. It served also to remind the people of those regions, that, though Buonaparte ruled paramount on land, there was a power on the sea that yet set him and all his endeavours at defiance.Wilberforce, on the 27th of January, had obtained a committee of inquiry into the slave trade. He, Clarkson, and the anti-slavery committees, both in London and the provinces, were labouring with indefatigable industry in collecting and diffusing information on this subject. The Committee of the Commons found strong opposition even in the House, and, on the 23rd of April, Lord Penrhyn moved that no further evidence should be heard by the Committee; but this was overruled, and the hearing of evidence continued through the Session, though no further debate took place on the question.


"To propose to Parliament no other measure than that during the sitting before Christmas. To declare an intention of submitting to Parliament immediately after the recess a modification of the existing law, but to decline entering into any details in Parliament with regard to such modification.

MR. HUSKISSON.But no such easy rendering of the contract was contemplated by Buonaparte. He did not even adhere to the letter of it. French officers were to be placed in all the Dutch garrisons, and eighteen thousand troops were to be maintained, of whom six thousand were to be French. Instead of six thousand soldiers, General Oudinot appeared at the head of twenty thousand at Utrecht. These, Buonaparte informed Louis, were to occupy all the strong posts of the country, and to have their headquarters at Amsterdam, his capital. Louis determined to be no party to this utter subjugation of the country, nor any longer to play the part of a puppet sovereign. On the 1st of July he executed a deed of abdication in favour of his son, Napoleon Louis, expressing a hope that, though he had been so unfortunate as to offend the Emperor, he trusted he would not visit his displeasure on his innocent family. He then drew up a vindication of his conduct, saying that he was placed in an impossible situation, and that he had long foreseen this termination of it. He sent this to be published in England, the only place in which it could appear; and he then gave an entertainment to a number of his friends at his palace at Haarlem, and at midnight entered a private carriage and drove away. He proceeded to Graz, in Styria, where he devoted his leisure to the instruction of his children, and to literature, and wrote "Documens Hìstoriques et Réflexions sur le Gouvernement de la Holland"—being an account of his administration of the government of that country—and also a novel, called "Marie, ou les Hollandaises." His wife, Hortense, went to Paris, where she became a great leader in the world of fashion. On the 9th of July, only eight days after the abdication of Louis, Buonaparte issued a decree declaring Holland "re-united to France!" Oudinot marched into Amsterdam, and took possession of it in the name of his master. It was declared the third city of the French empire. The French Ministers issued reports to vindicate this annexation, which was a disgraceful breach of Napoleon's[5] pledge to the Senate—that the Rhine should be the boundary of France—and also of his repeated assurances that Holland should remain an independent kingdom.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.

Vol. V CHAPTER I. REIGN OF GEORGE III. (continued).The opposition, however, was powerful. When Mr. Goulburn brought forward his resolution by which sugar certified to be the growth of China, Manila, Java, or other countries where no slave labour was employed, should be admitted at a duty of 34s., the colonial duty being 24s., the danger of the position of the Ministers was soon perceived. Lord John Russell proposed an amendment in favour of admitting all foreign sugars at 34s., a proposal which, though calculated to maintain the price of sugar at a higher point than the Government proposition, was less distasteful to the Free Traders, as abolishing the differential principle. This amendment was rejected by a majority of only 69. On the 14th of June the Government Bill came on for a third reading, and[513] the contest then began in earnest. Mr. Miles, the representative of the West India party, moved an amendment proposing a reduction of the duty on colonial sugar to 20s., instead of 24s., and the raising of the duties on foreign to 30s. and 34s. The Free Trade party were not entrapped by this offer of a reduction of 4s. on colonial sugar. They saw that Mr. Miles's amendment would only establish a differential duty of 14s. instead of 10s., the difference going to the West India planters. They now, moreover, at least hoped more from Sir Robert Peel than from any Minister likely to succeed him. Mr. Cobden and the League party therefore supported the Government; but so powerful was the combination against them that the division, which took place on the 14th of June, left Ministers in a minority of 20.

The Session promised for some weeks to be very dull; no subjects more stirring being brought forward or announced than the settlement of the Civil List, the discharge of insolvent debtors, the suppression of Sunday newspapers, and the reading of the Athanasian Creed. To one of those subjects, the Civil List, Lord Eldon thus jocosely alluded in a letter to his daughter:—"Our royal master seems to have got into temper again, as far as I could judge from his conversation with me this morning. He has been pretty well disposed to part with us all, because we would not make additions to his revenue. This we thought conscientiously we could not do in the present state of the country, and of the distresses of the middle and lower orders of the people. To which we might add, too, that of the higher orders."The Opposition was in ecstasies: it was the first defeat of Ministers on a financial question since the days of Walpole, and in our time the Chancellor would have resigned. The blow seemed to rouse Chatham. Three days after this event, on the 2nd of March, he arrived in town, though swathed in flannel, and scarcely able to move hand or foot. He declared that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and himself could not hold office together. A few days, and Townshend would have been dismissed from office, and the country might have escaped one of its greatest shocks; but, unfortunately, the malady of Chatham returned with redoubled violence, and in a new and more terrible form. He was obliged to refuse seeing any one on State affairs.

Mr. Peel publishes the letters that passed between him and Mr. Fitzgerald while the election was pending, and from these it would appear that the latter thought the contest would be violent and exasperated. After the fight was over, he said he had polled the gentry to a man, and all the fifty-pound freeholders. The organisation which had been shown was so complete and formidable that no man could contemplate without alarm what was to follow in that wretched country. Mr. Peel observes:—"The last letter of Mr. Fitzgerald is especially worthy of remark. Can there be a doubt that the example of the county would have been all-powerful in the case of every future election in Ireland for those counties in which a Roman Catholic constituency preponderated? It is true that Mr. O'Connell was the most formidable competitor whom Mr. Fitzgerald could have encountered; it is possible that that which took place in Clare would not have taken place had[276] any other man than Mr. O'Connell been the candidate; but he must be blind, indeed, to the natural progress of events, and to the influence of example, in times of public excitement, on the feelings and passions of men, who could cherish the delusive hope that the instrument of political power, shivered to atoms in the county of Clare, would still be wielded with effect in Cork or Galway.[See larger version]But the great glory of this session was not the exposure of Davison and his fellow thieves, but the stop put to the operations of a much larger class of rascals. The death of Fox had been a sad blow to Wilberforce and the abolitionists, who had calculated on his carrying the prohibition of the slave trade; but Lord Grenville and his Cabinet seemed to have made up their minds to have the fame of achieving the grand object of so many years' exertion for the suppression of the African slave trade. Wilberforce, to his inconceivable joy, discovered that Spencer Perceval, the leader of the Opposition, and his party were willing to co-operate for this purpose. The king and royal family alone remained as adverse to the abolition of slavery as they were to the emancipation of the Catholics. The abolitionists, however, had so imbued the country with the sense of the barbarity and iniquity of the traffic, that royal prejudice could no longer swamp the measure, nor aristocratic apathy delay it. Lord Grenville brought in a Bill for the purpose into[532] the Peers on the 2nd of January, 1807: the 12th was fixed for the second reading. Before this took place, counsel was heard at the bar of the House against the measure, who repeated all the terrible prognostics of ruin to the West Indies and to Britain from the abolition, with which the planters and proprietors of the West Indies, the merchants and slave captains of Liverpool and Bristol, had so often endeavoured to alarm the nation. The emptiness of these bugbears had, however, been now too fully exposed to the people by the lectures, speeches, and pamphlets of the Abolition Society, and Wilberforce had all along merely to use the arguments in Parliament with which they had abundantly furnished him. Lord Grenville now introduced the second reading by an elaborate speech, in which he condensed and summed up these arguments. He was warmly supported by the Duke of Gloucester—a liberal exception to his family—by Lords King, Selkirk, Rosslyn, Northesk, Holland, Suffolk, Moira, and the Bishops of Durham, London, and others. The Dukes of Clarence and Sussex as zealously opposed him, as well as Lords Sidmouth, Eldon, Ellenborough, Hawkesbury, St. Vincent, and many others. The second reading was carried, after a debate which continued till five o'clock in the morning, by one hundred against thirty-six. The third reading was also carried with equal ease, and the Bill was brought down to the Commons on the 10th of February. Lord Howick proposed its reading in an eloquent speech, and it was opposed, with the usual prediction of ruin, by Mr. George Hibbert, Captain Herbert, and General Gascoyne, who said the nation was carried away by sentimental cant, the result of an enormous agitation by the Quakers and Saints. The first reading, however, passed without a division, and the second on the 24th of February, by two hundred and eighty-three against sixteen. The House gave three cheers. Seeing the large majority, and that the Bill was safe, Lord Grenville recommended Wilberforce to strengthen it by inserting the penalties, which he did; but they left a great advantage to the slave merchants by allowing them to clear out their vessels from Great Britain by the 1st of May, and gave them time to deliver their human cargoes in the West Indies till the 1st of January, 1808—a liberty which was sure to create a great sending out of vessels for the last occasion, and a fearful crowding of them. However, the accursed trade was now doomed, as far as British merchants could go, though it was soon found that it was not so easy to suppress it. When it was seen that the Bill must pass, Lords Eldon, Hawkesbury, and Castlereagh, who had hitherto opposed it, declared themselves in favour of it. It was carried in both Houses by large majorities, and received the royal sanction on the 25th of March. So easily was the Bill passed, at last, that Lord Percy, the day after it had left the Commons, moved in that House for leave to bring in a Bill for the gradual emancipation of the slaves; but this being deemed premature, and calculated to injure the operation of the Bill for the abolition of the trade, and to create dangerous excitement in the West Indies, the motion was discouraged, and so was dropped.

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Immediately after this, Fox encouraged the formation of a Society of Friends of the Liberty of the Press, of which Erskine and Horne Tooke were members. As several French emissaries were traversing the country disseminating their opinions, Lord Grenville, on the 19th of December, 1792, introduced a bill into the House of Lords, subjecting aliens to certain regulations not included in the ordinary Alien Bill. All foreigners were to announce themselves on their arrival, and surrender any arms brought with them; they were to take out passports, and to have them viséd on every fresh removal through the country, so that their movements might be known to the authorities; those who had arrived during the year 1792 to be particularly observed, and the motives for their coming ascertained; all such foreigners as received allowances from the British Government to be distributed into particular districts, under the eye of the authorities. With some opposition, this Bill was carried. The Marquis of Lansdowne forthwith moved that a negotiation should be immediately opened with the French Government, requiring it to receive back the numerous Frenchmen driven into exile, or to provide for their support, and at the same time to endeavour to save Louis XVI. from the terrible fate which threatened him. This was negatived on the declaration of other lords, who said that both propositions would be useless; the latter one would in all probability hasten, rather than avert, the fate of the French king. In the Commons, Fox and Sheridan strenuously resisted the new Alien Bill, and Burke as vehemently supported it. He declared that no measures of precaution could be too strict; that thousands of daggers had been manufactured in Birmingham for France, and intending to produce a startling effect he drew an actual dagger from his bosom, and flinging it on the floor of the House exclaimed, "That is what you are to obtain[412] from an alliance with France. You must equally proscribe their tenets and their persons; you must keep their principles from your minds, and their daggers from your hearts!" In the French Convention such an action would have created a sensation, but in the matter-of-fact British Parliament it produced only surprise followed by laughter. Fox endeavoured as much as possible to weaken the sense of danger of French principles, though he expressed his abhorrence of the September massacres. The Bill was passed, and was succeeded by one prohibiting the circulation of French assignats, bonds, promissory notes, etc., and another, prohibiting the exportation of naval stores, saltpetre, arms, and ammunition.That the spirit of the Bostonians had ripened into actual rebellion was unequivocally shown in the course of the year 1773. The Gaspee Government schooner, commanded by Lieutenant Dudingston, had been singularly active in putting down smuggling about Rhode Island. The Rhode Island packet coming in one evening from Newport to Providence, instigated by the general anger against the Gaspee—for the Rhode Islanders were great smugglers—refused to pay the usual compliment of lowering the flag to the schooner. Dudingston fired a shot across her bows, and, on her paying no regard to that, gave chase. The packet, however, ran close in shore, and the Gaspee following too eagerly, ran aground. It was on a sandy bottom, and the return of the tide would have lifted her off undamaged; but the smuggling population of Providence put off to her in the night, whilst she lay in a position so as to be incapable of using her guns, surprised, boarded, and set fire to her, carrying the lieutenant and the crew triumphantly on shore. Government offered a reward of five hundred pounds for the discovery of the perpetrators of this daring outrage; but though it was well known who the perpetrators were, no one would give any information. On the contrary, the most violent threats were uttered against any one who should do so.On the 27th of November, only two days after the receipt of the news of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, Parliament met. The king adverted to the unhappy event, but still declared that he should be betraying his trust, as sovereign of a free people, if he did not refuse to give up the contest; that he still trusted in Divine Providence, and he called for fresh, animated, and united exertions. He turned with more satisfaction to the successes in the East Indies, and the safe arrival of our principal mercantile fleets. In the Lords, the Earl of Shelburne attacked the Address, supported by the Duke of Richmond and the Lords Camden and Rockingham; but the most tempestuous burst of indignant eloquence from the Opposition took place in the Commons. Fox asserted that he had listened to the Address with horror and amazement. He declared himself confounded at the hardihood of Ministers, after such a consummation of their imbecile management, who dared to look the House of Commons in the face. He would not say that they were paid by France, for it was not possible for him to prove the fact; but, if they were not, he avowed that they deserved to be, for they had served the French monarch more faithfully and successfully than ever Ministers served a master. He especially singled out Lord Sandwich for reprobation, as the author of the wretched condition of our fleets, which were inferior in number of ships and their appointments to those of the enemy all over the globe. He called on the House to insist on the total and immediate change of Ministers, and urged the adoption of measures which should, if possible, repair the incalculable injuries they had inflicted on the nation. The Ministers, however, had strength enough to carry the Address by two hundred and eighteen votes against one hundred and twenty-nine; but the debate was resumed on the Address being reported, and then William Pitt delivered a most scathing speech, declaring that so far from our being warranted in pressing this ruinous war, he was satisfied that, if he went from one end of the Treasury bench to the other, such was the condition of the Ministry, he should find that there was not one man who could trust his neighbour; and the truth of this was becoming strikingly evident. Dundas, the Lord Advocate, hitherto one of the staunchest supporters of Lord North, spoke now as in astonishment at the language of the Ministers, declaring that some of them in Council clearly did not give their honest opinions. There were other like symptoms of defection; the sensitive placemen saw that the end of the North Administration was at hand. Lord North, perceiving the ground failing beneath him, lowered his tone, and, on Sir James Lowther, seconded by Mr. Powys, proposing a resolution that the war against America had been an utter failure, he explained that he did not advocate, in future, a continental warfare there, a marching of troops through the provinces, from north to south, but only the retention of ports on the coast, for the protection of our fleets in those seas, and the repulse of the French and Spaniards. Parliament was adjourned on the 20th of December till the 21st of January, and thus closed the year 1781.

To the Anti-Corn-Law Leaguers there was at least the consolation of finding that scarcely a speech was delivered by the Prime Minister which did not contain some distinct recognition of the great principles of political economy, showing how completely he had, in reality, embraced those doctrines. On one occasion he remarked, "We have reserved many articles from immediate reduction, in the hope that ere long we may attain that which we consider just and beneficial to all—namely, increased facilities for our exports in return. At the same time, I am bound to say[508] that it is for our interest to buy cheap, whether other countries will buy cheap or no. We have a right to exhaust all means to induce them to do justice; but if they persevere in refusing, the penalty is on us if we do not buy in the cheapest market." Several of the most conspicuous followers of Sir Robert Peel also in their speeches recognised the abstract principles of Free Trade in a way which was ominous for the continuance of the landlords' monopoly. Among the most interesting instances of this was that of Mr. Gladstone, the young statesman who was destined afterwards to play so great a part in carrying forward the reforms of his chief.



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