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The regathering of Parliament, on the 11th of November, was distinguished by two circumstances of very unequal interest. The Prince of Wales, having arrived at his majority, took his seat as Duke of Cornwall, as it was well known, intending to vote for a great measure which Fox was introducing regarding India. We shall now almost immediately enter on the narration of the[302] important events which had been transpiring in India during the American war. It is sufficient here to observe that these were of a nature to give the most serious concern and alarm to all well-wishers of the country, and of the unfortunate natives of that magnificent peninsula. Fox's measure for the reform and restraint of the East India Company was comprehended in two Bills, the first proposing to vest the affairs of the Company in the hands of sixteen directors, seven of them to be appointed by Parliament, and afterwards sanctioned by the Crown, and nine of them to be elected by the holders of stock. These were to remain in office four years; the seven Parliament nominees to be invested with the management of the territorial possessions and revenues of the Company; the nine additional to conduct the commercial affairs of the Company under the seven chief directors; and both classes of directors to be subject to removal at the option of the king, on an address for the purpose from either House of Parliament. The second Bill related principally to the powers to be vested in the Governor-General and Council, and their treatment of the natives.

In all those arts which increase the prosperity of a nation England made the most remarkable progress during this reign. A number of men, springing chiefly from its working or manufacturing orders, arose, who introduced inventions and improvements in practical science, which added, in a most wonderful degree, to the industrial resources of the country. Agriculture at the commencement of the reign was in a sluggish and slovenly condition, but the increase of population, and the augmented price of corn and cattle, led to numerous enclosures of waste lands, and to improvements both in agricultural implements and in the breeds of sheep and cattle. During the thirty-three years of the reign of George II. the number of enclosures averaged only seven per annum, but in the first twenty-five years of the reign of George III. they amounted to forty-seven per annum. During that period the number of enclosures was one thousand one hundred and eighty-six, the number each year rapidly increasing. The value of the produce also stimulated the spirit of improvement in tillage as well as enclosure. Many gentlemen, especially in Northumberland, Kent, Norfolk, and Suffolk, devoted themselves to agricultural science. They introduced rotation of crops instead of fallows, and better manuring, and also cultivated various vegetables on a large scale in the fields which before had generally been confined to the garden, as turnips, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, parsnips, etc. Their example began to be followed by the ordinary class of farmers, and the raising of rents greatly quickened this imitation. At the opening of the reign the rental of land did not exceed ten shillings per acre on an[188] average; the rental of the whole kingdom in 1769 being sixteen million pounds, according to Arthur Young, but in a few years it was nearly doubled. This gentleman, who has left us so much knowledge of the agricultural state of the kingdom in his "Tours of Survey," tells us that, northward especially, the old lumbering ploughs and other clumsy instruments were still in use, instead of the improved ones, and that there was, therefore, a great waste of labour, both of man and beast, in consequence. But still improvement was slowly spreading, and already Bakewell was engaged in those experiments which introduced, instead of the old large-headed and ill-shaped sheep, a breed of superior symmetry, which at once consumed less food and yielded a heavier carcase. It was at first contemptuously said by the old race of farmers and graziers, that Bakewell's new herd of sheep was too dear for any one to purchase and too fat for any one to eat. As he was pursuing his improvements in Leicestershire, Culley prosecuted similar ones in Northumberland in both sheep and cattle.[520]A strong party, not satisfied with having destroyed Lord Mansfield's town house, set off to burn that at Caen Wood, near Highgate. They were met and turned back by a detachment of cavalry. They were equally disappointed in their intended sack of the Bank of England. They found this mine of wealth guarded by infantry, who had here orders to fire, and did it without scruple, killing and wounding a great many. They were more successful against the prisons. They broke open the King's Bench, the Fleet, the Marshalsea, and all the other prisons except the Poultry Compter, and set at liberty all the prisoners. Before the day had dawned, the whole sky was glaring with the light of conflagrations. The number of separate fires burning at the same time was counted up to thirty-six. Had the weather been stormy, the whole of London must have been laid in ashes; but, providentially, the weather was perfectly calm. The scene of the greatest catastrophe was at the distillery of a Mr. Langdale, on Holborn Bridge. This gentleman was a Catholic, and his stores of spirits were a violent temptation. They broke open his premises in the evening, and destroyed everything. They staved in his hogsheads of spirits, and others collected them in pails and in their hats, and drank voraciously. The kennel ran a mingled river of gin, brandy, and pure alcohol, and men, women, and children were seen on their knees sucking up the stream as it flowed! Fire was set to the premises, and catching the spirits which flooded the floors, the flames shot up to the sky like a volcano. The unhappy wretches, who had stupefied themselves with the fiery fluid, perished like flies in the raging element. No such scene of horror had been seen in all these spectacles of violence and crime. The loss of Mr. Langdale alone was estimated at one hundred thousand pounds.

But far more remarkable were the effects of the championship of French principles in the celebrated Dr. Joseph Priestley. Priestley was now nearly sixty years of age—a time of life when men rarely become great enthusiasts in any cause. He was a Unitarian minister, and was now the pastor of a congregation at Birmingham. He was well known for various theological writings, in which he had announced his doubts of the immateriality of the sentient principle in man, especially in his "Disquisition on Matter and Spirit." He had been tutor to Lord Shelburne, first Lord Lansdowne; but had quitted that post, as supposed, in consequence of the objection of Lord Shelburne to these principles, retaining, however, an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds a-year. But Priestley was far more known and esteemed for his researches and discoveries in natural philosophy, especially in electricity, chemistry, and pneumatics. Orthodoxy and Toryism were extremely rampant in Birmingham, and Priestley was regarded as the very patriarch and champion of Socinianism and Republicanism. There wanted only a spark to fire trains of fierce intolerance against Priestley and his party, and, unfortunately, this was furnished by themselves. They resolved to celebrate, by a dinner, the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille, on the 14th of July. Before the dinner took place, such were the rumours of impending riots that the party proposed to defer the celebration to a future day; but the landlord had prepared the dinner, and declared his opinion that there would be no danger if the party dispersed early, without stopping to drink many toasts. Darbley, the innkeeper, curiously enough, was a Churchman, and in good odour with the Tory party. Satisfied by his representations, about eighty persons determined to hold the dinner on the appointed day, though a considerable number stayed away, and amongst those Priestley himself. The company were hooted as they entered the inn, but chiefly by a crowd of dirty lads, who cried "Church and King!" On the table were ranged three figures: a medallion of the king encircled with a glory, an emblematical figure of British Liberty, and another of French Slavery bursting its chains. In the evening a fierce riot broke out, instigated—according to Priestley's account—by some prominent magistrates, though the statement was never proved. The mob rushed to Darbley's hotel after the dinner was over and most of the people were gone. There they raised the cry of "Church and King!" and began to throw stones. Some one cried out, "Don't break Darbley's windows; he is a Churchman!" But the Church-and-King people and their set, now flushed with wine and loyalty, waved their handkerchiefs from the windows of the opposite inn, and hurrahed the mob on. With this encouragement, which seemed to the crowd to legalise their proceedings, the mob rushed into the house, declaring that they wanted to knock the powder out of Dr. Priestley's wig. They did not find the doctor, so they smashed most of the furniture in the house, and dashed in the windows, notwithstanding the host's orthodoxy. Some one then cried, "You have done mischief enough here; go to the meetings!" and the mob rolled away, first to the new meeting-house, where Priestley preached, which they soon demolished and set fire to. They then proceeded to the old meeting-house, and destroyed that too, being hounded on by people of decent station in the place, and made furious by the beer which was distributed among them.But there was no rest for Frederick. Daun was overrunning Saxony; had reduced Leipsic, Wittenberg, and Torgau. Frederick marched against him, retook Leipsic, and came up with Daun at Torgau on the 3rd of November. There a most sanguinary battle took place, which lasted all day and late into the night. Within half an hour five thousand of Frederick's grenadiers, the pride of his army, were killed by Daun's batteries of four hundred cannon. Frederick was himself disabled and carried into the rear, and altogether fourteen thousand Prussians were killed or wounded, and twenty thousand of the Austrians. This scene of savage slaughter closed the campaign. The Austrians evacuated Saxony, with the exception of Dresden; the Russians re-passed the Oder, and Frederick took up his winter quarters at Leipsic.

[See larger version]During the Easter recess, popular meetings were held condemning the conduct of Ministers and calling for Parliamentary Reform. On the meeting of the House again, a very strong petition, bearing rather the character of a remonstrance, was presented from the electors of Middlesex by Mr. George Byng, on the 2nd of May. The Ministerial party declared that the petition was an insult to the House; but the Reformers maintained that not only the language of the petition, but the whole of the unhappy events which had taken place, were the direct consequences of the corrupt character of the representation, and of the House screening from due punishment such culprits as the Duke of York, Lord Castlereagh, etc. The petition was rejected; but the very next day a petition of equal vigour and plainness was voted by the Livery of London, and was presented on the 8th, and rejected too. The House had grown so old in corruption, that it felt itself strong enough to reject the petitions of the people. A memorial was presented also on the same subject from Major Cartwright, one of the most indefatigable apostles of Reform, by Whitbread, and this was rejected too, for the major pronounced the committal of Sir Francis a flagrantly illegal act.

A succession of battles now took place with varying success, but still leaving the Allies nearer to Paris than before. If Buonaparte turned against Blucher, Schwarzenberg made an advance towards the capital; if against Schwarzenberg, Blucher progressed a stage. To check Schwarzenberg whilst he attacked Blucher, Napoleon sent Oudinot, Macdonald, and Gerard against Schwarzenberg; but they were defeated, and Napoleon himself was repulsed with severe loss from Craonne and the heights of Laon. But Buonaparte getting between the two Allied armies, and occupying Rheims, the Austrians were so discouraged that Schwarzenberg gave orders to retreat. The Emperor Alexander strenuously opposed retreat; but the effectual argument was advanced by Lord Castlereagh, who declared that the moment the retreat commenced the British subsidies should cease. A sharp battle was fought on the 20th of March, between Schwarzenberg and Napoleon, at Arcis-sur-Aube, and Napoleon was compelled to retreat. Blucher, who had received the order to retreat from Schwarzenberg, had treated it with contempt, and replied to it by his favourite word, "Forwards!" Napoleon had now to weigh the anxious question, whether it was better to push on, and stand a battle under the walls of Paris, with his small, much-reduced force, against the Allies, and with the capital in a state of uncertainty towards him—or to follow and harass the rear of the enemy. He seems to have shrunk from the chance of a defeat under the eyes of his metropolis, and he therefore, finding a Prussian force in Vitry, crossed the Marne on the 22nd of March, and held away towards his eastern frontiers, as if with some faint, fond hope that the peasantry of Franche Comté and Alsace might rise and fly to his support. But no such movement was likely; all parts of France were mortally sick of his interminable wars, and glad to see an end put to them. The Allies had now taken the bold resolve to march on Paris and summon it to surrender.The indisposition of Parliament to attend to the ordinary business of the legislature, however important and pressing any portion of it might be considered in other circumstances, may be easily accounted for. One subject engrossed the minds of all men at this time, and agitated the nation to a depth and extent altogether unprecedented in our history. The story of Caroline of Brunswick is one of the saddest and most romantic in the annals of the Queens of England. When the Prince Regent became king, his wife, as a matter of course, became the rightful Queen of[206] England. But her husband had resolved that she should not be queen; and, rather than not have his way in this, he was ready to imperil his throne. She was as fully entitled to enjoy the well-defined rank and position that devolved upon her by the laws of the country, as he was to wear his crown, without regard to personal character. He would break the marriage tie, if he could; but, failing that, he was determined to degrade the queen by bringing against her the foulest charges of immorality. She might, indeed, have escaped a trial on these charges if she had consented to remain abroad, and had agreed to forego any title that would have connected her with the Royal Family of England. Till the death of George III., who had always been her steady friend, she had been prayed for in the liturgy as the Princess of Wales. There was now no Princess of Wales, and the king insisted that she should not be prayed for at all. His Ministers, against their own convictions—against what they well knew to be the almost unanimous feeling of the nation—weakly yielded to the arbitrary will of their licentious Sovereign. They and their apologists attempted to uphold this conduct by alleging that she was prayed for under the words, "the rest of the Royal Family." But Mr. Denman, who defended her, afterwards observed with more truth that the general prayer in which she was embraced was, "For all that are desolate and oppressed." The moment the news of this outrage reached the queen, she resolved, with characteristic spirit and determination, to come at once to England and assert her rights in person. The Ministers flattered themselves that this was a vain boast, and that, conscious of guilt, her courage would fail her.By these violent and arbitrary means was passed on the 4th July, 1776, the famous Declaration of Independence. The original motion for such a Declaration, on the 8th of June, had been supported by a bare majority of seven States to six; and now the whole thirteen States were said to have assented, though it is perfectly well known that several signatures were not supplied till months afterwards by newly chosen delegates. The Declaration contained the following assertions of freedom:—1. That all men are born equally free, possessing certain natural rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive their posterity; 2. That all power is vested in the people, from whom it is derived [but it was voted in Congress that the blacks made no part of the people]; 3. That they have an inalienable, indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish their form of government at pleasure; 4. That the idea of an hereditary first magistrate is unnatural and absurd.

The king, in his speech on opening Parliament, mentioned the fleets which we had dispatched to the West Indies and South America, and his determination to continue those armaments so as to bring Spain to reason. He professed to rely with confidence on our allies, although we had scarcely one left, whilst in the same breath he admitted the no longer doubtful hostility of France[74] at the very moment that our only ally—namely, Austria—was calling on us for assistance, instead of being able to yield us any, should we need it. On the proposal of the address, the Opposition proceeded to condemn the whole management of the war. The Duke of Argyll led the way, and was followed by Chesterfield, Carteret, Bathurst, and others, in a strain of extreme virulence against Walpole, calling him a Minister who for almost twenty years had been demonstrating that he had neither wisdom nor conduct. In the Commons Wyndham was no longer living to carry on the Opposition warfare, but Pitt and Lyttelton more than supplied his place.On the 20th, at three o'clock in the morning, the voting on this point terminated, and the President declared that there was a majority of three hundred and eighty votes against three hundred and ten, and that there could be no reprieve; the execution must take place without delay. Louis[410] met his death with dignity on the 21st of January, 1793.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.

[226]Up to this point, the whole Government and magistracy seemed as much stupefied as the poor wretches who had perished in the flames of the distillery. The king was the first to awake from this fatal lethargy. He summoned a Council on the morning of the 7th of June, at which he presided, and demanded what they had to propose for the suppression of these disorders. At the king's question the Cabinet appeared dumb-foundered. It was the general opinion that no officer could proceed to extremities against a mob, however it might be breaking the law, until an hour after the Riot Act had been read by a magistrate. This was a monstrous perversion of the meaning of that Act; but, had even this been zealously followed out, the riots must have been promptly suppressed. Luckily, at this moment Wedderburn, the Attorney-General, answered the king's interrogation boldly, that the Riot Act bore no such construction as was put upon it. In his opinion, no single hour was required for the dispersion of a mob after the reading of the Riot Act; and not even the reading of the Act at all was necessary for the authorisation of military force where a mob was found actually committing a felony by firing a dwelling-house, and could not be restrained by other means. Encouraged by Wedderburn's contention, the king declared that that had always been his own opinion, and that now he would act upon it. There should be, at least, one magistrate in the kingdom who would do his duty. The Council, gathering courage, then concurred, and a proclamation was issued, warning all householders to keep within doors with their families, the king's officers being now ordered to put down the riots by military execution, without waiting for any further reading of the Riot Act.

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Blucher's headquarters were at Namur, his right extending to Charleroi, near the left of Wellington, and his left and reserves covering Gevil and Liége. His force amounted to eighty thousand men, supplied with two hundred cannon. On the 15th Buonaparte addressed his army, telling them that the enemies arrayed against them were the same that they had so often beaten, and whom they must beat again if they were the men they had been. "Madmen!" he exclaimed, "the moment of prosperity has blinded them. The oppression and humiliation of the French people are beyond their power. If they enter France they will there find their tomb!" This address had such an effect that the French advanced with all the spirit of their former days. They swept the western bank of the Sambre of the Prussian outposts; they advanced to Charleroi, drove out the Prussians under Ziethen, and compelled them to fall back on the village of Gosselies, and thence to Ligny and St. Amand. It was now seen that the object of Buonaparte was to cut off the communication between the Prussians and British, and defeat the Prussians first, instead of having to fight the two armies at once. To complete this Ney had been dispatched to attack and drive back the British advance at Quatre Bras and Frasnes; but, hearing firing in the direction of Charleroi, which was the engagement with Ziethen, he sent a division to support the French there, and thus found his main body too weak to move the British at Quatre Bras. For doing this without orders, Buonaparte reprimanded Ney, as he afterwards did Grouchy for too implicitly following his orders in pursuit of Blucher.[336]SIR JAMES GRAHAM.

"Believe me, ever yours most sincerely,God's will be done!

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