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This was the case with Sir James Thornhill, of Thornhill, near Weymouth. His father, however, had spent his fortune and sold the estate, and Sir James, being fond of art, determined to make it his profession to regain his property. His uncle, the celebrated Dr. Sydenham, assisted him in the scheme. He studied in London, and then travelled through Flanders, Holland, and France. On his return he was appointed by Queen Anne to paint the history of St. Paul in the dome of the new cathedral of St. Paul, in eight pictures in chiaroscuro, with the lights hatched in gold. So much was the work approved, that he was made historical painter to the queen. The chief works of the kind by Sir James were the Princess's apartment at Hampton Court, the gallery and several ceilings in Kensington Palace, a hall at Blenheim, a chapel at Lord Oxford's, at Wimpole, a saloon of Mr. Styles's, at Moorpark, and the ceilings of the great hall at Greenwich Hospital. On the ceiling of the lower hall appear, amid much allegorical scenery, the portraits of William and Mary, of Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, Newton, and others; on that of the upper hall appear the portraits of Queen Anne and her husband, the Prince of Denmark; and paintings of the landing of William at Torbay, and the arrival of George I. There are, in addition, portraits of George I., and two generations of his family. Sir James also painted the altar-piece of All Souls', Oxford, and one presented to his native town, Weymouth.

As in the whole history of the world, perhaps, so great a calamity as the Irish famine never called for sympathy and relief, so never was a more generous response elicited by any appeal to humanity. The Government and the Legislature did all that was possible with the means at their disposal, and the machinery that already existed, or could be hastily constructed, to meet the overwhelming emergency. The newly established Poor Law system, though useful as far as it went, was quite inadequate to meet such great distress. It had been passed while the country was comparatively prosperous, and contained no provision for such a social disorganisation as this famine. By the Acts of 1 and 2 Victoria, c. 56, no outdoor relief whatever could be given in any circumstances. The size of the unions was also a great impediment to the working of the Poor Law. They were three times the extent of the corresponding divisions in England. In Munster and[544] Connaught, where there was the greatest amount of destitution and the least amount of local agency available for its relief, the unions were much larger than in the more favoured provinces of Ulster and Leinster. The union of Ballina comprised a region of upwards of half a million acres, and within its desert tracts the famine assumed its most appalling form, the workhouse being more than forty miles distant from some of the sufferers. As a measure of precaution, the Government had secretly imported and stored a large quantity of Indian corn, as a cheap substitute for the potato, which would have served the purpose much better had the people been instructed in the best modes of cooking it. It was placed in commissariat dep?ts along the western coast of the island, where the people were not likely to be supplied on reasonable terms through the ordinary channels of trade. The public works consisted principally of roads, on which the people were employed as a sort of supplement to the Poor Law. Half the cost was a free grant from the Treasury, and the other half was charged upon the barony in which the works were undertaken. The expense incurred under the Labour Rate Act, 9 and 10 Victoria, c. 107," amounted to £4,766,789. It was almost universally admitted, when the pressure was over, that the system of public works adopted was a great mistake; and it seems wonderful that such grievous blunders could have been made with so many able statesmen and political economists at the head of affairs and in the service of the Government. The public works undertaken consisted in the breaking up of good roads to level hills and fill hollows, and the opening of new roads in places where they were not required—work which the people felt to be useless, and which they performed only under strong compulsion, being obliged to walk to them in all weathers for miles, in order to earn the price of a breakfast of Indian meal. Had the labour thus comparatively wasted been devoted to the draining, subsoiling, and fencing of the farms, connected with a comprehensive system of arterial drainage, immense and lasting benefit to the country would have been the result, especially as works so well calculated to ameliorate the soil and guard against the moisture of the climate might have been connected with a system of instruction in agricultural matters of which the peasantry stood so much in need, and to the removal of the gross ignorance which had so largely contributed to bring about the famine. As it was, enormous sums were wasted. Much needless hardship was inflicted on the starving people in compelling them to work in frost and rain when they were scarcely able to walk, and, after all the vast outlay, very few traces of it remained in permanent improvements on the face of the country. The system of Government relief works failed chiefly through the same difficulty which impedes every mode of relief, whether public or private—namely, the want of machinery to work it. It was impossible suddenly to procure an efficient staff of officers for an undertaking of such enormous magnitude—the employment of a whole people. The overseers were necessarily selected in haste; many of them were corrupt, and encouraged the misconduct of the labourers. In many cases the relief committees, unable to prevent maladministration, yielded to the torrent of corruption, and individual members only sought to benefit their own dependents. The people everywhere flocked to the public works; labourers, cottiers, artisans, fishermen, farmers, men, women, and children—all, whether destitute or not, sought for a share of the public money. In such a crowd it was almost impossible to discriminate properly. They congregated in masses on the roads, idling under the name of work, the really destitute often unheeded and unrelieved because they had no friend to recommend them. All the ordinary employments were neglected; there was no fishing, no gathering of seaweed, no collecting of manure. The men who had employment feared to lose it by absenting themselves for any other object; those unemployed spent their time in seeking to obtain it. The whole industry of the country seemed to be engaged in road-making. It became absolutely necessary to put an end to it, or the cultivation of the land would be neglected. Works undertaken on the spur of the moment—not because they were needful, but merely to employ the people—were in many cases ill-chosen, and the execution equally defective. The workers, desirous to protect their employment, were only anxious to give as little labour as possible, in which their overlookers or gangers in many cases heartily agreed. The favouritism, the intimidation, the wholesale jobbing practised in many cases were shockingly demoralising. The problem was to support 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of destitute persons, and this was in a great measure effected, though at an enormous cost to the empire.

WASHINGTON AND HIS MEN AT VALLEY FORGE. (See p. 239.)There was also a vast deal of decorations of ceilings and staircases still going on, and foreign artists flocked over to execute it. Laguerre, a Frenchman, succeeded Verrio in this department, and his works yet remain at Hampton Court, Burleigh, Blenheim, and other places. Laguerre was appointed to paint the cupola of St. Paul's, designs having been offered also by Antonio Pellegrini, who had thus embellished Castle Howard; but their claims were overruled in favour of Sir James Thornhill. Besides these, there were Lafosse, who had decorated Montagu House, Amiconi, a Venetian, and others, who executed many hundred square yards of such work in England. Such was the fashion for these foreign decorators, that when a native artist appeared equal to any one of them in skill and talent, and superior to most, he found himself paid at a very inferior and invidious rate.

The statement of the Ministerial measure on the Corn Laws was fixed for the 9th of February. At five o'clock the Ministers moved that the paragraph in the Queen's Speech relating to the Corn Laws be read by the Clerk. This having been done, and the House having resolved itself into a committee to consider the laws relating to corn, Sir Robert Peel proceeded to explain the measure which he was about to introduce for their modification. The reception of the Premier's statement was not flattering. Listened to in watchful silence till he unfolded the details of the new sliding scale, he was then hailed from the Opposition benches with shouts of triumphant derision. The Whigs were relieved at finding that at least his measure was not calculated to be more popular[487] out of doors than the fixed duty which they had proposed; but from his own side Sir Robert received little support. His customary cheerers were mute, and round him were black faces when he spoke of not wishing corn prices to range higher than 54s. to 58s. Towards the close of his speech there was a painful inattention, to which he could not refrain from alluding. The dead silence which prevailed while he was reading the proposed scale was followed, when he had concluded, by a great deal of laughter along the line of the Opposition benches, and a loud buzz of conversation on both sides of the House ensued, which did not quite subside during the remainder of the speech. The details of the measure were recapitulated by the Minister as follow:—

Howe, who, with seven thousand soldiers and more than one thousand sailors, did not feel himself safe at New York till the new reinforcements should arrive, sailed away to Halifax—a circumstance which gave the appearance of a retreat to his change of locality, and had thus a bad effect in more ways than one. Washington, who was informed of his final destination, immediately marched with the greater part of his army to New York, and thence went himself to Philadelphia to concert future measures with the Congress. This body, in commemoration of the surrender of Boston, ordered a medal to be struck in honour of it, and that it should bear the effigy of Washington, with the title of the Asserter of the Liberties of his Country. The medal was cast in France.Lord Londonderry, wearied with the labours of the Session, had retired to his country seat at North Cray Farm, near Bexley, in Kent, to recruit his strength, and prepare to take his part as the representative of England at the forthcoming Congress of Verona, which was to be held in October. There, on the 12th of August, he committed suicide by cutting the carotid artery with a penknife. Lord Eldon, in a letter on the subject, says:—"I learn, upon the best authority, that for two or three days he was perfectly insane; and the medical men attribute that fact to the operation upon his head of the unceasing attention to business which the last harassing Session (to him) called for." The disease would appear to have been coming on some time before; he had got the idea that he was beset by secret enemies—that he was the object of conspiracies. He was full of apprehension of being waylaid in the Park, and he felt that his life was every hour in danger. His mind gave way under the pressure of these morbid fears, and he put an end to his existence in the fifty-third year of his age. Impartial history, we think, will come to the conclusion that, with intellectual abilities not much above mediocrity, he owed his success as a statesman, in a great measure, to his fixity of purpose, and to his audacity, courage, and perseverance in adhering to his line of action in the midst of the most formidable difficulties; while the strength of his will was aided by a commanding person, an imperturbable temper, extreme affability, and winning frankness of manner. Of the policy of the Government in which he bore so long a leading part, it must be said that it was narrow, exclusive, jealous of popular rights, favourable to despotism abroad and at home, devoted to the interests of the Throne and the aristocracy, at the expense of social order and national progress. Such, at all events, was the impression of the majority of the nation, and the detestation in which the London populace held his character as a statesman was painfully evinced by the shouts of exultation which followed his coffin into Westminster Abbey, where it was deposited between the remains of Fox and Pitt. This conduct greatly shocked Lord Eldon. "This morning," he writes, "I have been much affected by attending Lord Londonderry to his grave. The concourse of people between St. James's Square and the Abbey was very great; the great bulk of them behaving decorously, some behaving otherwise; but I protest I am almost sorry to have lived till I have seen in England a collection of persons so brutalised as, upon the taking the coffin at the Abbey door out of the hearse, to have received it with cheering for joy that L. was no more. Cobbett and the paper called the[227] Statesman have, by the diabolical publications he and that paper have issued, thus demoralised these wretches."

On the 9th of July Earl Grey made a statement in the Lords, when the Duke of Wellington disclaimed all personal hostility in the opposition he had been obliged to give to his Government. The Lord Chancellor pronounced an affecting eulogium on the great statesman who was finally retiring from his work, and expressed his own determination to remain in office. Lord Grey's popular[374] Administration had lasted three years, seven months, and twenty-two days, which exceeded the term of his predecessor, the Duke of Wellington, by nearly a year and a half. Lord Grey, from the infirmities of age, declining health, and weariness of official life, had wished to retire at the close of the previous Session, but was prevailed upon by his colleagues to remain in office. In delivering his farewell speech he was listened to with profound attention, and at one moment was so overpowered by his feelings that he was compelled to sit down, the Duke of Wellington considerately filling up the interval by presenting some petitions.It was at this crisis, when Hastings was just recovering his authority in the Council, that the news arrived in India, and spread amongst the native chiefs, that in Yenghi Dunia, or the New World, the Company Sahib—for the East Indians could never separate the ideas of the East India Company and England itself—there had been a great revolution, and the English driven out. This, as might be expected, wonderfully elated the native chiefs, and especially those in the south. There the French of Pondicherry and Chandernagore boasted of the destruction of the British power, and that it was by their own hands. Hastings, who was as able and far-seeing as he was unprincipled in carrying out his plans for the maintenance of the British dominion in India, immediately set himself to counteract the mischievous effects of these diligently-disseminated rumours, and of the cabals which the French excited. These were most to be feared amongst the vast and martial family of the Mahrattas. The Mahrattas had risen on the ruins of the great Mogul empire. They now extended their tribes over a vast space of India from Mysore to the Ganges. The Peishwa, as head of these nations, held his residence at Poonah. Besides his, there were the great houses of Holkar and Scindia; the Guicowar, who ruled in Guzerat; the Bonslah, or Rajah of Berar, a descendant of Sivaji. The Mahrattas were, for the most part, a rude, warlike race, rapacious and ambitious, and living in the most primitive style. To destroy the confidence of these fierce warriors in the French, Hastings gave immediate orders, on receiving the news of the proclamation of war in Europe, for the seizure of the French settlements. This was on the 7th of July, 1778; on the 10th he had taken Chandernagore, and ordered Sir Hector[329] Munro to invest Pondicherry. That was soon accomplished, and the only remaining possession of France, the small one of Mahé, on the coast of Malabar, was seized the next spring.Least of all did the ambitious designs of the Czarina Catherine against Turkey seem menacing to us; yet these designs speedily drew into their current the whole power of Austria, endangered our relations with the countries on the Baltic, and attracted the revolutionary torrent over the fertile plains of the Netherlands, opposite to our own shores, menacing the stability of our allies, the Dutch. Catherine had found the Turks not so easily to be overcome as she imagined, feeble and tottering as she considered their empire. The absorption of the Ottoman kingdom and the establishment of the Muscovite throne at Constantinople had been her confident dream. But the Turks, though in a condition of decline and disorganisation which promised an easy subjugation[350] of them, had still their spirit of fanatic fatalism, which could rouse them to deeds of impetuous valour. The whole organisation and regulations of their army were in the worst condition. The janissaries, which had been amongst the finest infantry in the world, were now thoroughly demoralised and in insolent insubordination towards their own government. Their cavalry was numerous, but wretchedly disciplined. The commissariat was in the worst state conceivable, and their artillery, though it had received the energetic attentions of the French Baron De Toff, was contemptible. It might have appeared that nothing was necessary but to enter Turkey and drive the army, as a disorganised rabble, before the foe. But Catherine had not found it so. Her favourite, Potemkin, had been repeatedly defeated in his attempts to advance into Turkey from the Crimea, and Catherine had been glad to engage Joseph II. of Austria in the enterprise by a promise of an ample share of the spoil. In fact, the pair contemplated something like a partition of Europe. In their meeting at Cherson in 1787, Joseph had engaged to send one hundred thousand men to the campaign against Turkey. He had no quarrel with the Sultan, and though a zealous advocate for national reforms, he paid very little regard to national or international justice. In all his reforms, Joseph, with true Austrian spirit, showed the despot still. He did not attempt to carry such reforms as his subjects desired, but such as he thought proper for them; and he was always ready to force what he deemed liberalism and improvement upon them at the point of the bayonet. In attacking Turkey, he did not wait to proclaim war, much less to have a pretence for it, but he suddenly made a rush upon the neighbouring city and frontier fortress of Belgrade. The Turks, though taken by surprise, defended the place victoriously; and Joseph's subsequent assault on the fortress of Gradiska was equally unsuccessful and equally disgraceful.

Hearing that General Cope—who had seen his blunder in leaving open the highway to the Scottish capital—after having reached Inverness, had begun a rapid march on Aberdeen, trusting to embark his army there, and reach Edinburgh in[95] time to defend it from the rebel army, Charles marched out of Perth on the 11th of September. He reached Dunblane that evening, and on the 13th he passed the fords of Frew, about eight miles above Stirling, knowing that several king's ships were lying at the head of the Firth. On their approach, Gardiner retired with his dragoons from the opposite bank. Stirling, being deserted by the troops, was ready to open its gates; but Charles was in too much haste to reach Edinburgh. Hearing that Gardiner, with his dragoons, intended to dispute the passage of Linlithgow Bridge, Charles sent on one thousand Highlanders, before break of day, under Lord George Murray, in the hope of surprising them; but they found that they had decamped the evening before, and they took peaceable possession of Falkirk and the old palace. The prince himself came up on the evening of that day, Sunday, the 15th, where the whole army passed the night, except the vanguard, which pushed on to Kirkliston, only eight miles from Edinburgh.

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SCENE IN IRELAND: VISIT OF THE TITHE-PROCTOR. (See p. 355.)For a time, Bute and his colleagues appeared to brave the load of hatred and ignominy which was now piled everywhere upon them, but it was telling; and suddenly, on the 7th of April, it was announced that the obnoxious Minister had resigned. Many were the speculations on this abrupt act, some attributing it to the influence of Wilkes, and his remorseless attacks in the North Briton; others to the king and queen having at length become sensitive on the assumed relations of Bute and the king's mother; but Bute himself clearly stated the real and obvious cause—want of support, either in or out of Parliament. "The ground," he wrote to a friend, "on which I tread is so hollow, that I am afraid not only of falling myself, but of involving my royal master in my ruin. It is time for me to retire."THE MANSION HOUSE, LONDON, IN 1760.

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