The reading of this French note aroused at once the old feeling of enmity between France and England. If there was a strong resentment against the Americans before, it now grew tenfold. The war became popular with all, except the extreme Opposition. Lord North moved an appropriate address to the king; the Opposition moved as an amendment to it that his Majesty should dismiss the Ministers. Loyal addresses from both Houses were, however, carried by large majorities. In consequence of the French note, the king ordered Lord Stormont to quit Paris, and the Marquis de Noailles took his departure from London, where, in spite of his official character, he was no longer safe from popular insult. Orders were also sent to the Lord-Lieutenants of the several counties to call out the militia."No words," says Sir Archibald Alison, "can convey an adequate idea of the astonishment which the announcement of this project of Reform created in the House of Commons and the country. Nothing approaching to it had ever been witnessed before, or has been since. Men's minds were prepared for a change, perhaps a very considerable one, especially in the enfranchising of new cities and towns which were unrepresented; but it never entered into the imagination of any human being out of the Cabinet that so sweeping and entire a change would be proposed, especially by the king's Ministers. The Tories had never dreaded such a revolution; the Radicals had never hoped for it. Astonishment was the universal feeling. Many laughed outright; none thought the Bill could pass. It was supposed by many that Ministers neither intended nor desired it, but wished only to establish a thorn in the side of their adversaries, which should prevent them from holding power if they succeeded in displacing them. So universal was this feeling, that it is now generally admitted that had Sir Robert Peel, instead of permitting the debate to go on, instantly divided the House, on the plea that the proposed measure was too revolutionary to be for a moment entertained, leave to bring in the Bill would have been refused by a large majority. The Cabinet Ministers themselves are known to have thought at the time that their official existence then hung upon a thread." Such a result, however, was most unlikely, as Sir Robert Inglis and other Tory orators were eager to speak, having collected precedents, arguments, and quotations against the Bill. These they proceeded to impart to the House. After a debate of seven nights, the Bill was read a first time, without a division, and the second reading was set down for the 21st of March.Still, Fox took the opportunity to sound the French Government as to the possibility of peace. In a correspondence with Talleyrand he said that Britain would be willing to treat on reasonable terms, the first condition of which was that the Emperor Alexander should be admitted to the treaty. This was at once refused; yet Fox did not give up the attempt, and at length the French Government proposed that a British ambassador should go to Paris, to endeavour to arrange the principles of an agreement. Fox complied. Before a British plenipotentiary was permitted to proceed to Paris, the great points of the negotiation should have been brought forward, and it should have been seen whether there was a probability of agreeing. It should have been understood whether Buonaparte was disposed to surrender Naples again, which Britain demanded; to require the retirement of the Prussians from Hanover, even if nothing was said of Holland and Switzerland. To send a plenipotentiary without having ascertained these points was simply to enable Buonaparte to boast that he had sought to conciliate, and that British rapacity and ambition rendered all his overtures useless. This was exactly what occurred. Lord Yarmouth, late Marquis of Hertford, who had been residing for years in France as one of Buonaparte's détenus at the Peace of Amiens, was first sent. Lord Yarmouth arrived in Paris towards the end of May, and though it had been settled that the negotiations should, for the present, remain secret, the French had taken care to make every Court in Europe well acquainted with the fact. Then one of the very first demands—having got the ambassador there—was for the recognition, not only of Buonaparte as emperor, but also of all his family as princes and princesses of the blood. Next they came to the surrender of Naples, but Talleyrand assured Lord Yarmouth that the Emperor, so far from giving up Naples, or any part of Italy, must have Sicily, which was in possession of the British, because Joseph Buonaparte, now made King of Naples, declared that it could not be held without Sicily. France, Talleyrand said, would consent to Britain holding Malta, the Cape of Good Hope, which we had taken again, and would not only restore Hanover to us, but also allow us to seize on the Hanse Towns and Hamburg! We were in fact, to be permitted to set up for marauders, like themselves, and invade neutral States, and appropriate them; but, as for Naples or Sicily being restored, that was impossible. Lord Yarmouth also demanded that Dalmatia, Istria, and Albania should be restored, the last to the Turks, whose empire should regain its entirety. These points were equally resisted. Meanwhile, Prussia had taken the alarm about Hanover, and Russia, fearful of our treating without her, sent to Paris Count d'Oubril. Talleyrand managed to excite jealousies between the British and Russian envoys, to such a degree, that d'Oubril quitted Paris hastily, and returned to St. Petersburg. Instead of peace, the elements of new heartburnings and wars every day developed themselves. Finding that Lord Yarmouth did not succeed. Fox sent over the Earl of Lauderdale, but he got on no better. Buonaparte insisted that Sicily should be given up to Naples, and a little mock monarchy should be created for Ferdinand, the ex-king, in the Balearic Isles, which were to be taken unceremoniously from Spain. Lord Lauderdale, after a month's waste of words, demanded his passports, and returned; and Fox had now had ample proof that no peace was to be effected with Napoleon, except upon the terms of leaving the Continent to his dictation.
[See larger version]On the 18th of January, 1815, commenced the final retreat of the British to their ships. They were allowed to march away without molestation, taking all their guns and stores with them, except ten old ship guns of no value, which they rendered useless before they abandoned them. Andrew Jackson, afterwards President of the United States, commanded in this defence of New Orleans, and loud were the boastings of his prowess all over the States, when, in fact, he had not risked a man. His merit was to have shown what excellent shots his countrymen were, and how careful they were to keep out of the reach of shot themselves. So far as the British were concerned, they had shown not only their unparalleled bravery, but also, as on many such occasions, their great want of prudence. This sacrifice of life would have been spared by a single and much more effectual blockade, and the most lamentable part of the business was, that all the time peace had been made, though the news of it had not reached them.
De Crillon, seeing that his bombardment from shore produced little effect, determined to make the attack also from the sea. Amongst the multiplicity of inventions which the offered rewards had produced, the Chevalier D'Arcon, a French engineer, had produced a scheme which excited the most confident expectations. The plan was to construct ten monster floating batteries of such capacity that they should carry the heaviest artillery, and so made and defended that they could be neither sunk nor burnt. Loud was the clangour of hammer and saw, and, as the secret could not be long preserved, equally busy was the garrison within, preparing furnaces, and laying ready huge piles of balls, to be discharged red-hot at these machines as soon as they arrived. To constitute the intended batteries, ten large ships of from six hundred to one thousand four hundred tons burden were cut down, and made bombproof on the top. They were to be prevented from sinking by the enormous thickness of the timber in their bottoms, and their sides, which were to be six or seven feet thick, bolted, and covered with raw hides. They were to be rendered more buoyant by thicknesses of cork, and the interstices were to be filled with wet sand to prevent combustion. There were to be plentiful supplies, by means of pumps, pipes, and cisterns, of water, everywhere, to put out fire, for they seem to have been aware of the burning balls that were being prepared for them.One Samuel Downie was next arraigned on the same charges, on the 5th of September, as an accomplice of Watt. But it appeared that he had been rather the dupe of Watt and the spy-employing Government than anything else; and though the jury pronounced him guilty, they recommended him to mercy. He was respited and eventually pardoned; but Watt underwent his sentence, so far as being hanged and beheaded,—a warning to spies how they trusted a Government equally faithless to the people and to the tools by which they sought to betray them.
Robespierre believed that there was a majority of the Republicans who thought they had gone too far in abolishing the Deity and setting up the Goddess of Reason. He declared that the people needed festivals, and immediately it was decreed that every decade should be celebrated as a festival. A festival in honour of the Supreme Being inaugurated this series of special holidays, and it was to be followed by festivals to the Human Race, the French People, the Love of Country, Agriculture, Necessity, Misfortune, Posterity, and various other qualities and sentiments, each having one decade in the year. The first festival to the Supreme Being was fixed for the 20th of Prairial, or 8th of June. The painter David was commissioned to prepare the scenes and ceremonies of the festival, which was enacted in the gardens of the Tuileries. Robespierre, in his sky-blue coat and most showy waistcoat, and carrying in his hand a grand bouquet of flowers mixed with ears of wheat, led the procession and officiated as high priest. But though Robespierre had proclaimed the reign of the Supreme Being, he had not the least intention that it should on that account be any the more a reign of mercy. In his speech at the festival of the Supreme Being, he declared that the Republic must be still further purged—that they must remain inexorable. On this point he and all his colleagues were agreed, but they were agreed in nothing else. They immediately broke into fresh schisms, as would necessarily be the case with such men, who must go on exterminating one another to the last. Robespierre, St. Just, and Couthon still hung together; but Barrère, Collot d'Herbois, Billaud-Varennes, and most of the other members of the Committees of Public Welfare and Public Safety, were in the very act of rushing into opposition, and beginning a struggle with the triumvirate—Robespierre, Couthon, and St. Just—to the death. St. Just advised Robespierre to anticipate them, but he, relying on his authority with the Convention, remained inactive. It was a fatal mistake. Barrère and his faction determined to strike a decisive blow at Robespierre; and Tallien volunteered to commence the attack on Robespierre in the Convention. To Robespierre's utter astonishment, his friends were outnumbered, and decrees were immediately passed for the arrest of Couthon, Lebas, St. Just, Robespierre and his brother. He escaped and fled to the Commune. For a moment it seemed as if a revolution would have restored him to power. But the Parisians were weary of their tyrant, and on the following day Robespierre with twenty members of the Commune perished on the scaffold (July 28th, 1794).
But they were not then in the position of a beleaguered garrison. Before relief came, they had won a victory that covered them with glory. The troops had been in the highest pluck, and never seemed so happy as when they could encounter any portion of the enemy. In this state of feeling an idea began to take possession of the officers that they were able to capture Mahomed Akbar's camp. A false report had come to the Sirdar, that General Pollock had been beaten back with great slaughter in the Khyber Pass; and in honour of this event his guns fired a royal salute. A rumour also reached the garrison that there had been a revolution at Cabul, and that the enemy was obliged to break up his camp and hasten back to the capital. Whether either or both these reports should prove true, the time seemed to have come for General Sale to strike a blow. A council of war was held; the general would have shrunk from the responsibility of an attack upon the camp; but he was dissuaded by Havelock. Akbar Khan, at the head of 6,000 men, was aware of their approach and ready to receive them. On issuing from the gate, General Sale had ordered Colonel Dennie forward, to attack a small fort, from which the enemy had often molested the garrison. The colonel, at the head of the brave 13th, rushed to the fort; but having entered the outer wall, they found themselves exposed to a murderous fire from the defences of the inner keep. There Colonel Dennie received a mortal wound, a ball passing through his sword-belt. Sale now gave orders for a general attack on the enemy's camp, and in his despatch he thus describes the result:—"The artillery advanced at a gallop, and directed a heavy fire upon the Afghan centre, whilst two of the columns of infantry penetrated the line near the same point, and the third forced back its left from its support on the river, into the stream of which some of his horse and foot were driven. The Afghans made repeated attempts to check our advance by a smart fire of musketry, by throwing forward heavy bodies of horse, which twice threatened the detachments of foot under Captain Havelock, and by opening upon us three guns from a battery screened by a garden wall, and said to have been served under the personal superintendence of the Sirdar. But in a short time they were dislodged from every point of their position, their cannon taken, and their camp involved in a general conflagration. The battle was over, and the enemy in full retreat, by about seven a.m. We have made ourselves masters of two cavalry standards, re-captured four guns lost by the Cabul and Gundamuk forces—the restoration of which to our Government is matter of much honest exultation among the troops—seized and destroyed a great quantity of material and ordnance stores, and burnt the whole of the enemy's tents. In short, the defeat of Mahomed Akbar, in open field, by the troops whom he had boasted of blockading, has been complete and signal. The field of battle was strewed with the bodies of men and horses, and the richness of the trappings of some of the latter seemed to attest that persons of distinction were among the fallen. The loss on our side was remarkably small—seven privates killed, and three officers and fifty men wounded."
Indeed, the perusal of the debates, in connection with the Royal Speech, threw the whole United Kingdom into a ferment of agitation. Public meetings were held to express indignation at the anti-Reform declaration of the Duke of Wellington. Petitions were presented, pamphlets were published, harangues were delivered, defiances were hurled from every part of the country. It was in these circumstances that the king was invited to honour the City with his presence at the Lord Mayor's banquet, which was to be held on the 9th of November, the day on which the new Lord Mayor enters upon his office. It had been the custom for a new Sovereign to pay this compliment to the City, and William IV. was advised by his Ministers to accept the invitation. The Metropolitan Police force had been recently established. It was a vast improvement upon the old body of watchmen, in whose time thieves and vagabonds pursued their avocations with comparative impunity. The new force, as may be supposed, was the object of intense hatred to all the dangerous classes of society, who had organised a formidable demonstration against the police, and the Government by which the force was established, on Lord Mayor's Day. Inflammatory placards had been posted, and handbills circulated, of the most exciting and seditious character, of which the following is a specimen:—"To arms! Liberty or death! London meets on Tuesday next an opportunity not to be lost for revenging the wrongs we have suffered so long. Come armed; be firm, and victory must be ours.... We assure you, from ocular demonstration, 6,000 cutlasses have been removed from the Tower for the immediate use of Peel's bloody gang. Remember the cursed Speech from the Throne—these——police are to be armed. Englishmen! will you put up with this?" Appeals of this kind, and sinister rumours of all sorts, industriously circulated, created the greatest alarm throughout London. It was reported that a conspiracy of vast extent had been discovered—that society was on the eve of a terrible convulsion—that the barricades would immediately be up in the Strand, and that there would be a bloody revolution in the streets. The inhabitants prepared as well as they could for self-defence. They put up iron blinds and shutters to their windows, got strong bolts to their doors, supplied themselves with arms, and resolutely waited for the attack. So great was the public consternation that the Funds fell three-and-a-half per cent. in two hours. This panic is not a matter of so much astonishment when we consider that the three days' fighting in the streets of Paris was fresh in the recollection of the people of London. The Lord Mayor Elect, Alderman Key, had received so many anonymous letters, warning him of confusion and riot if his Majesty's Ministers should appear in the procession, that he became alarmed, and wrote to the Duke of Wellington, pointing out the terrible consequences of a nocturnal attack by armed and organised desperadoes in such a crowded city as London. The Duke, thinking the danger not to be despised, advised the king to postpone his visit. Accordingly, a letter from Sir Robert Peel, as Home Secretary, appeared posted on the Exchange on the morning of the 9th. The multitude of sightseers, disappointed of their pageant, were excited beyond all precedent, and execrations against the Government were heard on every side. In fact, this incident, concerning which no blame whatever attached to the Ministers, exposed the Duke of Wellington and his colleagues to a hailstorm of popular fury. The two Houses of Parliament hastily met, in a state of anxiety, if not alarm. Unable to restrain their feelings until the arrival of Ministers to give explanations, they broke forth into vehement expressions of censure and regret. Lord Wellesley more justly described it as "the boldest act of cowardice of which he had ever heard."In answer to some queries submitted to the Attorney-General, Mr. Joy, he stated that when the old Association was suppressed, the balance of Catholic rent in the treasury was ￡14,000. He showed how the existing Act had been evaded, and how useless it was to attempt to prevent the agitation by any coercive measure. They held "fourteen days' meetings," and it was amusing to read the notices convening those meetings, which always ran thus:—"A fourteen days' meeting will be held, pursuant to Act of Parliament"—as if the Act had enjoined and required such meetings. Then there were aggregate meetings, and other "separate meetings," which were manifestly a continuation of the Association. The same members attended, and the same routine was observed. They also held simultaneous parochial meetings, by which the people were gathered into a solid and perilous confederacy.
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The Budget excited extraordinary interest throughout the country; but the proposed sugar duties were, in the eyes of the Free Traders, objectionable, as maintaining the differential rates in favour of the West Indian landlords. Though well received on the whole, it was impossible not to see in the Budget traces of the anomalous position of the Minister. One newspaper described his measures as combining the most glaring inconsistencies that ever disfigured the policy of any Minister, and arranged in parallel columns illustrations of its assertion. Sir Robert Peel was charged with proposing at the same time a tariff whose express object was declared to be to cheapen the necessaries of life and corn, and provision laws whose sole object was to make the chief necessaries of life dear; with professing great concern to relieve trade and commerce, for the sake of which a property tax was proposed, combined with a still greater concern to uphold the rent of land, for the sake of which trade and commerce were loaded with a bread tax; with devising taxes for the mere purpose of revenue; with levying taxes for the mere purpose of protection; with repealing the duty on slave-grown cotton, while imposing prohibitory duties on slave-grown sugar; with encouraging Brazilian coffee and cotton, while refusing Brazilian sugar; and with admitting cheap slave-grown sugar to be refined in Britain, and sold to Continental nations, while forbidding the selfsame cheap sugar to our own working people. Still, there was progress. The Corn Law was untouched, but statesmen of all parties had spoken despairingly of its continuance.
GENERAL ELECTION OF 1784: MASTER BILLY'S PROCESSION TO GROCERS' HALL—PITT PRESENTED WITH THE FREEDOM OF THE CITY OF LONDON. (Reduced facsimile of the Caricature by T. Rowlandson.)详情
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