The Parliamentary Session of 1791 was opened, after the Christmas recess, by Sir Philip Francis denouncing the war against Tippoo Sahib in India, and eulogising that prince. He moved thirteen resolutions condemnatory of the war; but they were all rejected, and Dundas, as head of the Board of Control, moved three counter-resolutions declaring that Tippoo had voluntarily broken the treaty made with him in 1784, and that faith must be kept with the Rajah of Travancore, whom he had attacked, as well as with the Nizam and the Mahrattas, and these resolutions were carried without a division.
Amongst the foremost of the promoters of science, and the most eloquent of its expounders, was Sir David Brewster, who died full of years and of honours in 1868. Arrived at manhood at the opening of the present century, having been born in 1781, he continued his brilliant course during fifty years, pursuing his investigations into the laws of polarisation by crystals, and by the reflection, refraction, and absorption of light, in which he made important discoveries. The attention of the British public was forcibly arrested by an able treatise on "Light," contributed by Sir John Herschel, in 1827, to the "Encyclop?dia Metropolitana." Its excellent method and lucid explanations attracted to the theory of Young and Fresnel men of science who had been deterred by the fragmentary and abstruse style of the former. This was followed four years later by a most able and precise mathematical exposition of the theory, and its application to optical problems, by Professor Airy, who became Astronomer-Royal in 1835.The Irish peasantry very soon learnt that whatever Emancipation had done or might do for barristers and other persons qualified to hold situations under Government, from which Roman Catholics had previously been almost entirely excluded, it had done nothing to remove or even to mitigate their practical grievances. They found that the rackrents of their holdings were not reduced; that the tax-collector went round as usual, and did not abate his demands; that the tithe-proctor did not fail in his visits, and that, in default of payment, he seized upon the cow or the pig, the pot or the blanket. Through the machinery of the Catholic Association, and the other associations which O'Connell had established, they became readers of newspapers. They had read that a single tithe-proctor had on one occasion processed 1,100 persons for tithes, nearly all of the lower order of farmers or peasants, the expense of each process being about eight shillings. It would be scarcely possible to devise any mode of levying an impost more exasperating, which came home to the bosoms of men with more irritating, humiliating, and maddening power, and which violated more recklessly men's natural sense of justice. If a plan were invented for the purpose of driving men into insurrection, nothing could be more effectual than the tithe-proctor system. Besides, it tended directly to the impoverishment of the country, retarding agricultural improvement and limiting production. If a man kept all his land in pasture, he escaped the impost; but the moment he tilled it, he was subjected to a tax of ten per cent, on the gross produce. The valuation being made by the tithe-proctor—a man whose interest it was to defraud both the tenant and the parson,—the consequence was that the gentry and the large farmers, to a great extent, evaded the tax, and left the small occupiers to bear nearly the whole burden; they even avoided mowing their meadows in some cases, because then they should pay tithe for the hay.There was a number of lady dramatists of this period. Mrs. Cowley wrote "The Runaway," "The Belle's Stratagem," "More Ways than One," etc.; Mrs. Brooke, Miss Marshall, Mrs. Lennox, and Miss Sophia Lee, all wrote successful plays; Mrs. Sheridan, the author of the Eastern story, "Nourjahad," was the writer of the successful comedies of "The Discovery" and "The Dupe." But the chief dramatist of this period was Richard Brinsley Sheridan, her son (b. 1751; d. 1816). He was equally distinguished as a politician, an orator, and a critic. Like Murphy, Macklin, and Cumberland, he was an Irishman. His dramas placed him at the head of all the writers for the stage of his time. They abounded with humour, wit, the smartest action, and knowledge of life and human nature. His splendid comedy of "The Rivals," written when he was not twenty-five, did not at first augur much success; but "The Duenna," which appeared the same year, carried with it at once the highest public favour; and his "School for Scandal," acted in 1777, raised his reputation to the utmost. He also wrote the farces of "The Critic," "The Trip to Scarborough," and "St. Patrick's Day." All these were issued before 1780, and after that he was too much involved in political affairs to renew this style of writing. Amongst his other labours for the theatre was the adaptation of "Pizarro," one of Kotzebue's numerous plays. Sheridan first appeared before the world as the translator of "Arist?netus."
When Washington arrived at Boston, on the 15th of June, he found the English army augmented to ten thousand by fresh forces, under Generals Burgoyne, William Howe, the brother of Lord Howe, and Henry Clinton. The American troops consisted of twenty thousand militia and volunteers, still in a most confused condition, extended over a line of twenty miles in length, that only required an attack of five thousand men, led by a general of courage and ability, to be thoroughly beaten. They were, moreover, greatly deficient in powder and other necessaries. But the English generals lay as if there were no urgent need of action. Had a sudden movement on the Neck been made from Boston, five hundred men could have broken and dispersed the Americans nearest to that position before the other ill-trained troops, some of them at great distances, could have come up; and they might have been easily defeated in detail by the simultaneous efforts of four spirited generals and ten thousand efficient soldiers. But lethargy seemed to have seized on Gage, and to have also infected his coadjutors.
Parliament was suddenly dissolved by the All the Talents Ministry, in the hope of acquiring a better majority, but this hope was not brilliantly realised. The new Parliament assembled on the 19th of December, and, as all now saw that war must go on, both Houses prepared themselves for large votes of supply. According to Windham's statement, we had 125,631 regulars in the army, of whom 79,158 were employed in defending our West India Islands, 25,000 in India, and upwards of 21,000 foreigners in our pay. Besides this, for home defence we had 94,000 militia and fencibles, and 200,000 volunteers; so that altogether we had 419,000 men under arms. It was, therefore, contended, and with reason, that as we had so deeply engaged ourselves in fighting for our Allies on the Continent, with such a force we might have sent 20,000, with good effect, to unite with Alexander of Russia against Buonaparte, and not have let him be repulsed for want of both men and money. This, indeed, was the disgrace of All the Talents, that they put the country to the expense of an enormous war establishment, and did no real service with it. The supplies, however, were freely voted. There were granted, for the navy, ￡17,400,337; for the regular army, ￡11,305,387; for militia, fencibles, volunteers, etc., ￡4,203,327; ordnance, ￡3,321,216. The number of sailors, including 32,000 marines, was fixed at 130,000.The changes in, and uncertainty about, the Ministry gave great uneasiness to Lord Wellington, whose operations in Spain depended so much on earnest support at home. During the latter part of the autumn and the commencement of winter, whilst his army was in cantonments, he was actively preparing to surprise the French, and make himself master of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. With much activity, but without bustle, he made his preparations at Almeida. Pretending to be only repairing the damages to its fortifications, he got together there ample stores and a good battering train. He prepared also a portable bridge on trestles, and regulated the commissariat department of his army; he also had a great number of light, yet strong waggons constructed for the conveyance of his provisions and ammunition, to supersede the clumsy and ponderous carts of the Portuguese.
Before another attempt was made to open the portals of the Legislature the question was brought to a practical issue by an event similar to the Clare election, by which O'Connell forced on the decision with regard to Catholic Emancipation. The City of London had returned Baron Rothschild as one of its members; and at the morning sitting on the 26th of July, 1850, he presented himself at the table to take the oaths. When the clerk presented the New Testament, he said, "I desire to be sworn on the Old Testament." Sir Robert Inglis, in a voice tremulous with emotion, exclaimed—"I protest against that." The Speaker then ordered Baron Rothschild to withdraw. An animated debate followed as to whether the Baron could be sworn in that way, although he declared that that was the form of oath most binding upon his conscience. He presented himself a second time, when there was another long debate. Ultimately, on the 6th of August, to which the matter was adjourned, the Attorney-General moved two resolutions—first, that Baron Rothschild was not entitled to vote in the House till he took the oath in the form prescribed by law; and, second, that the House would take the earliest opportunity in the next Session to consider the oath of abjuration, with a view to the relief of the Jews. These resolutions were carried—the first, by a majority of 92 to 66; the second, by 142 to 106.
John Stewart, made Attorney-General and a baronet.
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In the following Session Fox introduced a Bill to grant some further privileges to the Catholics, but it was rejected; but in 1793 the Catholics of Scotland were admitted, by an Act introduced by Mr. Robert Dundas, the Lord Advocate, to the same privileges as the Irish and English Catholics. The question appeared to rest till 1799, when there seems to have been a proposition on the part of the English Government to make an independent provision for the Catholic clergy of Ireland, on condition that they, on their part, should enter into certain engagements. There was a meeting of Roman Catholic prelates in Dublin at the commencement of that year on the subject, at which they agreed to accept the proposal. Pitt was favourable to the Catholic claims, though the Irish Parliament previous to the union would not hear of them. He had caused promises of Catholic Emancipation to be circulated in Ireland in order to induce the Irish to accept the union; and when he found that the king's immovable resistance to this measure would not allow him to make good his word, he resigned office. Nothing was done in it during the time that he continued out, chiefly, it is said, through his influence; and when he returned to office in May, 1804, he did so without any mention of the Catholics. In truth, he appears to have given them up for the sake of enjoying power again; for, when, on the 9th of March, 1805, the question was raised by Lord Grenville in the House of Peers, and, on the 13th, by Fox in the Commons, Pitt opposed the motion on the ground that the reasons which had occasioned him to quit office still operated against this measure, and that it was impossible for him to support it. It was negatived by three hundred and thirty-six against one hundred and twenty-four.During the passage of the Bill through committee three important proposals were made—the first by Lord Chandos, that tenants paying fifty pounds per annum for their holdings should have a vote in the counties. This was known as "the Chandos clause" of the Reform Bill, which was carried on the 18th of August by a majority of 84, the numbers being 232 and 148. Mr. Hume proposed that the colonies should be represented in the House of Commons; but the motion was negatived without a division. Mr. Hunt, the celebrated Radical Reformer, moved that all house-holders paying rates and taxes should have votes; but, strange to say, household suffrage had in the committee but a single supporter, Mr. Hunt himself, who upon a division constituted the minority. Mr. Hume asked only nineteen members to represent 100,000,000 of inhabitants, including our Indian empire, to which he would give four representatives. It was certainly a small demand, but as a representation of our colonies and dependencies it was ludicrously inadequate.详情
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