The Irish Reform Bill, which had been introduced by Mr. Stanley, then Irish Secretary, became the subject of debate on the 26th of May, when the second reading was moved by him in a speech of great ability. His main object was to prove that the passing of the measure would not endanger the Established Church in Ireland; and that it would not increase the power of O'Connell, whom, instead of conciliating, he exasperated by the contemptuous and defiant tone of his remarks. As the great question of Reform had been conceded in the English Bill, it was only with regard to matters of detail, and to the extent and nature of the franchise, that the Tories maintained their opposition. The second reading was carried by a majority of 116, the numbers being, for the Bill, 246; against it, 130. O'Connell contended that the Bill was not calculated to benefit Ireland, and he said he was sure it was framed with no good feeling to the country; but, on the contrary, was dictated by narrow and bigoted feeling. He complained that certain classes of the forty-shilling freeholders were not restored by the Reform Bill. He was supported by a moderate and greatly respected Irish statesman, the venerable Sir John Newport, who complained of defects in the measure, especially in the mode of registration, which would go far to neutralise all its benefits. O'Connell's proposal was made on the 13th of June, and was rejected by a majority of forty-nine. The Irish Reform Bill, instead of being the means of conciliation, tending to consolidate the union, and taking away the arguments for Repeal, really furnished O'Connell with fresh fuel for agitation. In a series of letters which he addressed to the Reformers of England, he pointed out the defects of the Irish Bill. He objected to it on the ground that it diminished the elective franchise instead of extending it; that the qualification for a voter was too high; that the registration of voters was complicated; and that the number of Irish representatives was inadequate. The substitution in counties of the ten-pound beneficial interest franchise for the forty-shilling freehold caused the disfranchisement of 200,000 voters. He referred to population to prove the unfairness towards Ireland: thus the county of Cumberland, with a population of 169,681, got two additional members, and returned four to Parliament; while the county of Cork, with a population of 807,366, got no additional member, and sent only two to the Reformed Parliament. A similar contrast was presented between other English and Irish counties.The English now began to contemplate taking the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch. General Johnstone was dispatched in April with five ships of the line, some frigates, and smaller vessels, having on board General Medows and three regiments for this purpose; but encountering Admiral Suffren in the way, after an indecisive action, Johnstone fell in with and took a Dutch East Indiaman of great value, and learned through it that Suffren had managed to reach the Cape and give the alarm, and that the Cape was put into strong defence. Johnstone, therefore, made for Saldanha Bay, where he learned that a number of other Dutch East Indiamen were lying. Four of these he secured; the rest were run ashore by their commanders and burnt. During the autumn both Dutch and French suffered much from the British on the coasts of Coromandel and the island of Sumatra. They also took from the Dutch Negapatam, Penang, and other places.
Before the conclusion of this treaty Pitt had made another effort to obtain peace with France. The fact that one ally, Austria, was engaged in separate negotiations gave him a fair excuse, and Lord Malmesbury was once more sent to negotiate. He went to Lille, presented his plan of a treaty, and at first all went well. Britain promised to restore all her conquests with the exception of Ceylon, the Cape of Good Hope, and Trinidad. But the Directory suffered the negotiations to drag on, and when intestine struggles in France had been terminated in the triumph of the Republican party on the 18th Fructidor (September 4), the negotiations were suddenly broken off on the ground that Malmesbury had not full authority. Once more the war party in France had gained the day, and the weary contest was resumed.But we come now to a new phase in the Poor-Law system, rather a complete revolution, by which the flood-gates of pauperism were opened, and all those barriers that had restrained the increase of population were swept away. The old system had been somewhat relaxed in 1782 by Mr. Gilbert's Act, which, by incorporating parishes into unions, prevented grasping landlords and tenants from feeling that intense interest in the extinction of population and pauperism which they did when the sphere was limited to a single parish. But in the year 1795 the price of corn rising from 54s. to 74s., and wages continuing stationary, the distress of the poor was very great and many of the able-bodied were obliged to become claimants for parish relief. But instead of meeting this emergency by temporary expedients and extra grants suited to the occasion, the magistrates of Berks and some other southern counties issued tables showing the wages which they affirmed every labouring man ought to receive, not according to the value of his labour to his employer, but according to the variations in the number of his family and the price of bread; and they accompanied these tables with an order directing the parish officers to make up the deficit to the labourer, in the event of the wages paid him by his employer falling short of the tabulated allowance. This was the small beginning of a gigantic evil. The practice originating in a passing emergency grew into a custom, and ultimately assumed the force of an established right, which prevailed almost universally, and was productive of an amount of evil beyond anything that could have been conceived possible. The allowance scales issued from time to time were framed on the principle that every labourer should have a gallon loaf of standard wheaten bread weekly for every member of his family, and one over. The effect of this was, that a man with six children, who got 9s. a week wages, required nine gallon loaves, or 13s. 6d. a week, so that he had a pension of 4s. 6d. over his wages. Another man with a wife and five children, so idle and disorderly that no one would employ him, was entitled to eight gallon loaves for their maintenance, so that he had 12s. a week to support him. The increase of allowance according to the number of children acted as a direct bounty upon early marriage.
Lord Anglesey replied to these sharp rebukes with great spirit. "Up to this moment," he said, "I have been left entirely in ignorance, not only as to your intentions with regard to this country, but also as to your sentiments regarding my policy. They are now developed, and I shall know how to act." He then entered into details of all the occurrences alluded to, in order to show "how entirely his Majesty had been misinformed." Having done so, he added, "If those who arraign my conduct will obtain information from an uninterested source, I feel the most perfect confidence that I shall obtain the applause of my Sovereign, and the goodwill and good opinion of his Majesty's Ministers with whom I serve." He denied that the Government had lost its power, that the Association had usurped its functions, or that the laws were set at defiance. He asserted, on the contrary, that the law was in full vigour; and if it authorised, or expediency demanded, the suppression of the Catholic Association and of the Brunswick Clubs, and the disarming of the yeomanry at the same time, he would undertake to effect it almost without the loss of a life. But he did not think such a course expedient, and he deprecated the teasing system of attacking every minor offence, of which the issue upon trial would be doubtful, and which would produce irritation without effecting a salutary lesson and permanent good. He had no object, he said, in holding his post but that of pleasing his king and serving his country; and if, in his zealous and unwearied efforts to effect the latter object, he had incurred the displeasure of the king and lost his Majesty's confidence, he ought not to remain in Ireland. He was therefore ready to depart whenever they found it convenient to recall him. The Duke became testy under this resistance and antagonism. In replying to the last letter he becomes more personal in his accusations. "I might," said the Premier, "at an earlier period have expressed the pain I felt at the attendance of gentlemen of your household, and even of your family, at the Roman Catholic Association. I could not but feel that such attendance must expose your Government to misconstruction. I was silent because it was painful to mention such things; but I have always felt that if these impressions upon the king's mind should remain—and I must say that recent transactions have given fresh cause for them—I could not avoid mentioning them to you in a private communication, and to let you know the embarrassment which they occasion."It might have been imagined that this magnificent and destructive repulse would have convinced the allies that the siege was hopeless, but they were pretty well informed that General Elliot had well nigh exhausted his ammunition in this prodigal death-shower, and they had still their great combined fleet, snug in the narrow bay, with scouts in the Strait to prevent the carrying in of supplies. But on the 24th of September news arrived at Madrid that the fleet of Lord Howe was under weigh for Gibraltar. Howe's fleet of thirty-four sail-of-the-line, six frigates, and three fire-ships, though in the neighbourhood of one of fifty sail-of-the-line, besides a number of frigates and smaller vessels, managed to get into the bay of Gibraltar all safe, amid the wildest acclamations of soldiers and inhabitants. By the 18th of October all the store-ships had discharged their cargoes, and had passed through the Strait, and on the 19th Lord Howe followed them with his fleet. The enemy's fleet then came out after him, and the next day they were in the open ocean, and Howe proceeded to their leeward to receive them. Some of their vessels had suffered in the late gales, but they had still at least forty-four sail to Howe's thirty-four, and, having the weather-gauge, had every advantage. But after a partial firing, in which they received great damage from Howe, they hauled off and got into Cadiz bay. Howe, then dispatching part of his fleet to the West Indies and a second squadron to the Irish coast, returned home himself. The news of the grand defence of Gibraltar produced a wonderful rejoicing in England; thanks were voted by Parliament to the officers and privates of the brave garrison; General Elliot was invested with the Order of the Bath on the king's bastion in sight of the works which he had preserved, and on his return, in 1787, at the age of seventy, he was created a Peer as Lord Heathfield of Gibraltar.
All this time, too, the brave Tyrolese were in open revolt, so that the success of Austria would have instantly produced a universal rising of the country. But for six weeks the Austrians continued to allow Napoleon to keep open his communication with Vienna, whence he procured every material for building, not one bridge, but three; timber, cordage, iron, and forty engines to drive the piles, were procured from its ample magazines. Besides building the bridges, Buonaparte had quickly fortified the island, and placed batteries so as to prevent any successful attack upon him, whilst he was now furnished with the means of issuing from the island almost at pleasure. Since their being cooped up on Lobau, the French had received numerous reinforcements; and though the Archduke John was marching to join the Archduke Charles, Eugene Beauharnais was close at his heels, continually harassing him and compelling him to fight. On the frontiers of Hungary, the town of Raab ought to have enabled John to resist and retard Beauharnais, and have allowed the Archduke Regnier, who was organising another army in Hungary, to come up; but Raab only stood out eight days, and John was obliged to cross the Danube at Pressburg, to endeavour to advance and make a junction with the Archduke Charles. But Eugene Beauharnais managed to join Buonaparte still earlier, and the Emperor did not then allow John to unite with Charles; for, on the night of the 5th of July, he began to fire on the Austrians, on the left bank of the Danube, from gunboats; and whilst they were replying to this, he quietly put his forces across the river. At daylight the next morning the Archduke Charles was astonished to find the French army on the open land; they had turned his whole position, had taken the villages of Esslingen and Enzersdorf, and were already assailing him in flank and rear. The archduke retired upon Wagram, which was lost and taken several times during the day. Buonaparte attempted to break the centre of the Austrian line by a concentrated fire of grape-shot, but the Austrians replied vigorously with their artillery. The French were held in check, if not repulsed. The Saxons and other German troops displayed a disposition to break, and go over to the Austrians. Buonaparte spoke sharply to Bernadotte of the conduct of the Saxons, and the marshal replied that they had no longer such soldiers as they brought from the camp of Boulogne. When night closed the French were in confusion, and, in reality, worsted. The next morning, the 6th of July, the archduke renewed the attack on all the French lines, but is said to have left his centre too weak. Buonaparte again endeavoured to break it, but failed. Bernadotte, Massena, and Davoust were all in turn driven from their positions. Buonaparte, in a state of desperation, cried, "The Austrian centre must be battered with artillery like a fortress." He ordered Davoust to make a desperate charge on the left wing, and called on Drouet, the general of his artillery, to bring up all the artillery of the Guard, and support Davoust. Davoust directed the whole of his force on the left wing, which was broken, and then Buonaparte, forming a dense and deep column of all his best troops, old and new Guards, and his celebrated Grenadiers à cheval, under Macdonald and Beauharnais, drove against the centre with a fury that shattered it, and the battle was decided. But at what a price! The Austrians had twenty-six or twenty-seven thousand killed and wounded, and the French upwards of thirty thousand. Buonaparte lost three generals, and had twenty-one wounded. The Austrians had thirteen generals killed or wounded; but they had taken many more prisoners than they had lost. Whilst the battle was raging, the Archduke John was approaching from Pressburg; but Austrian slowness, or, as it is said, conflicting orders from his brother and the Aulic Council, did not permit him to come up in time, or he would assuredly have turned the day.Hardly had they arrived, when a discharge of cannon was heard. The Assembly was horror-struck; and the king exclaimed, "I assure you I have forbidden the Swiss to fire!" But he was interrupted by fresh reports of cannon, showing that a fierce conflict was taking place at the Tuileries. No sooner was the royal family gone than the gensdarmes and the National Guard fraternised with the people, and breaking open the chief gate with hatchets rushed into the court. They then formed in column, and turning the guns which had been left in the court on the palace, they called out to the Swiss within to give up the place to them, and they would be friends. The Swiss, to show their amicable disposition, threw cartridges out of the windows, but remained firm to their duty. Some of the mob, with long poles and hooks at the end, then dragged some of the Swiss out of the vestibule and murdered them. They next fired three of the cannon right into the palace, and the Swiss thereupon returned a smart fire of musketry. Those of the servants and courtiers that still remained in the palace now made haste to escape, if possible. Cléry, one of the king's valets-de-chambre, who has left a vivid narrative of these events, escaped by dropping from a window upon the terrace. At the same moment the mob was breaking in at the grand entrance. They found a stout piece of timber placed as a barrier across the staircase, and the Swiss and some of the National Guard entrenched behind it; then commenced a fierce struggle; the barrier was forced, and the throng pushed back the Swiss up the staircase. These now fired a sharp volley, and the crowd fled, crying that they were betrayed. They were struck by another volley in their retreat, and the Swiss then descended into the court, made themselves masters of the cannon, and, firing, killed a great number. Had the Swiss followed their advantage and scoured the streets of the city, they would have completely trodden out this insurrection, releasing the royal family, and, had there been any one in command capable of it, he would have ended the Revolution as promptly as Buonaparte did afterwards. Buonaparte, then a poor lieutenant of artillery, was himself a spectator of the scene; and it was his opinion that the Swiss only wanted an adequate commander to crush the whole rebellion. But, by that fatality which attended all Louis XVI.'s affairs, at this moment arrived M. d'Hervilly from the Assembly with the king's order not to fire on the people, but to follow d'Hervilly to the Assembly. This was, in fact, to leave the palace at the mercy of the mob. Such as were in the court did follow d'Hervilly to the Assembly, where he promised them their lives and security under the protection of that body. At this sight the populace recovered their courage. The palace was attacked on both sides; the crowds every moment became greater, and the Swiss poured successive volleys upon them from the windows. Numbers fell dead before they forced an entrance; but this once effected, the crowd not only rushed in a dense mass up the great staircase, but dragged up cannon by main force to blow open the interior doors. For some time the Swiss made a stout stand against this raging mob; but being few against tens of thousands, and having exhausted their cartridges, they grounded their arms and called for quarter. They called in vain; the bloodthirsty sansculottes commenced a relentless massacre of them; women and children, armed with knives, assisted in their slaughter. The unhappy men, fixing their bayonets, drove the furious mass before them, resolving to cut their way through the Champs Elysées to Courbevoie, where was another detachment of their countrymen in barracks; but no sooner were they outside than they were surrounded and shot and cut down without mercy. Vainly did they cry for quarter; none was given. They then broke and fled in small parties, one of them seeking to gain the Assembly for protection; but they were butchered, nearly to a man, their heads stuck on pikes and paraded through the city.The ships being got afloat again, on the 12th of April Parker sailed away with the main body of the fleet, leaving the St. George (with Nelson) and a few other ships to repair their damages. Sir Hyde Parker went in quest of the Swedish fleet, which consisted only of six ships, and which had taken refuge behind the forts of Karlskrona. Parker sent in a flag of truce, informing them of the armistice with Denmark, and demanding an answer as to the intentions of Sweden. Gustavus, the King of Sweden, hastened to Karlskrona, and on the 22nd informed the English admiral that he was ready to treat with an envoy accredited to the Northern Powers. Admiral Parker then proceeded towards the Gulf of Finland to attack the Russian fleet, but was soon overtaken by a dispatch boat from the Russian ambassador at Copenhagen, announcing that the Emperor Paul had been murdered by his courtiers, and that his son, Alexander, had accepted the proposals of Britain to treat. Parker considered the news of Paul's death as tantamount to the conclusion of peace, and proposed sailing down the Baltic again; but Nelson, who had joined him at Karlskrona, thought very differently. He had blamed Parker's slowness and easiness all through the affair of Copenhagen, and he now wanted to push on to Revel, and destroy the Russian fleet before the ice allowed it to retire into Cronstadt. Sir Hyde Parker refused; and the fleet was on its way down the Baltic when an order came recalling Parker and giving the command to Nelson. He immediately put about and proceeded to Revel, but the thaw had allowed the Russian fleet to get into Cronstadt. Nelson, however, opened communications with the Emperor Alexander, and proposed to land and terminate a convention with him at once. Alexander, not liking to have Nelson's fleet too near, declined the proposal in terms of courtesy, and Nelson took his leave in no complimentary mood. The emperor thought it best to send after him Admiral Tchitchagoff, to assure him that Alexander regretted that any misunderstanding had ever taken place between Russia and Britain; that all the British subjects seized by Paul should be immediately liberated, all their property restored, and that the Czar would be glad to see Nelson at St. Petersburg in any style which he liked to assume. But Nelson had now resolved to return at once to Britain, his shattered health ill bearing the severity of the northern climate; nor was his presence necessary, for on the 17th of June, two days before Nelson went on board the brig which took him to Britain, Lord St. Helens, who had proceeded to St. Petersburg as ambassador, had signed a convention, by which all subjects of dispute between the two countries were ended. Denmark and Sweden came into the convention as a matter of course.
CHAPTER V. THE REIGN OF GEORGE IV.
Fox saw the growing change with alarm. He saw that all their resolutions and addresses produced no effect on the Ministerial party; and he did not dare to go further and pass a Bill, either legislative or declaratory, for he felt that the Lords would throw it out; and to stop the supplies, or delay the Mutiny Bill would probably disgust and annihilate the very majority on which he depended. In these circumstances, he probably saw with satisfaction an attempt at coalition. Mr. Grosvenor, the member for Chester, during the three days of the adjournment, called a meeting of members of both parties for the purpose of seeing whether a coalition could not be formed, and thus put an end to this violent contest. About seventy members met, and an address to the Duke of Portland and Mr. Pitt was signed by fifty-four. Pitt expressed his readiness to co-operate in such a plan, but the Duke of Portland declared that the first indispensable step towards such a measure must be the resignation of Ministers. This put an end to all hope of success.
The French having now formally declared war with England, entered on the campaign with Flanders in the middle of May with eighty thousand men, the king taking the nominal command, in imitation of Louis XIV. Marshal Saxe was the real commander, and with this able general Louis went on for some time reaping fictitious laurels. The King of England expected to see the Allies muster seventy-five thousand men—a force nearly equal to that of the French; but the Dutch and Austrians had grievously failed in their stipulated quotas, and the whole army did not exceed fifty thousand. General Wade, the English commander, was a general of considerable experience, but no Marlborough, either in military genius or that self-command which enabled him to bear up against tardy movements and antagonistic tempers of the foreign officers. Consequently, whilst he had to contend with a very superior force, he was hampered by his coadjutors, lost his temper, and, what was worse, lost battles too. The French went on taking town after town and fortress after fortress. But this career of victory was destined to receive a check. Prince Charles of Lorraine, at the head of sixty thousand men, burst into Alsace, and marched without any serious obstacle to the very walls of Strasburg; while the French king was stricken with fever at Metz.Before leaving, the courteous officer permitted Bailly and about half-a-dozen deputies to enter and bring out their papers. The carpenters were already at work making preparations for the royal séance, which was intended for a counter-manifestation, and as the body of the deputies, now nearly completing their six hundred, marched through the streets, they heard the heralds proclaiming it for Monday, the 22nd. Bailly felt that there was more indignity intended than even that of turning them so unceremoniously out of their house, for a message had been sent to him from the king, announcing the séance, but it had not been delivered to him, as etiquette required, at the hall, but at his private house, and not by a written dispatch, but verbally by De Brézé, the master of ceremonies. When the deputies, with their president at their head, reached the Tennis Court, they found it a very spacious apartment, but naked, unfurnished, and desolate. There were no seats for the deputies, and a chair being offered to Bailly he declined it, saying he would not sit whilst the other members were standing. A wooden bench was brought, and served for a desk, two deputies were stationed as doorkeepers, and the keeper of the Court appeared and offered them his services. Great numbers of the populace crowded in, and the deliberations commenced. There were loud complaints of the interruption of their sitting, and many proposals to prevent such accidents in future. It was proposed to adjourn to Paris, where they would have the support of the people, and this project was received with enthusiasm; but Bailly feared that they might be attacked on the way, and, moreover, that such a measure would give an advantage to their enemies, looking like a desertion of their ground. Mounier then proposed that the deputies should bind themselves by an oath never to separate till they had completed the Constitution. This was hailed with enthusiasm. The oath was drawn up, and Bailly, standing on the bench, read it aloud:—"You solemnly swear never to separate, and to re-assemble whenever circumstances shall require it, until the Constitution of the kingdom is founded and established on a solid basis." As he read this all the deputies held up their right hands, and repeated after him the words, "We swear!" The formula was read so loud that not only the spectators within but numbers without heard it, and all joined in the cry, "We swear!" Then followed loud acclaims of "Vive l'Assemblée!" "Vive le Roi!"
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It was on this occasion that Mr. Disraeli, rising from the benches filled with the ordinary supporters of the Government, delivered one of those bitter and sarcastic diatribes which thenceforward proved so effective in arousing the revengeful feelings of those of the party who believed their interests to have been betrayed in deference to the League. "I remember," he said, "in 1841 the right hon. baronet used these words: he said, 'I have never joined in the anti-slavery cry, and now I will not join in the cry of cheap sugar.' Two years have elapsed, and the right hon. gentleman has joined in the anti-slavery cry, and has adopted the cry of cheap sugar. But," he continued, appealing to the rebellious supporters of the Government, whom the Minister had just defied, "it seems that the right hon. baronet's horror of slavery extends to every place except the benches behind him. There the gang is still assembled, and there the thong of the whip still resounds. The right hon. gentleman," he added, "came into power upon the strength of our votes, but he would rely for the permanence of his Ministry upon his political opponents. He may be right—he may even be to a certain degree successful in pursuing the line of conduct which he has adopted, menacing his friends, and cringing to his opponents; but I, for one, am disposed to look upon it as a success neither tending to the honour of the House nor to his own credit. I therefore must be excused if I declare my determination to give my vote upon this occasion as I did in the former instance; and as I do not follow the example of the hon. and gallant member near me (Sir H. Douglas), it will not subject me to the imputation of having voted on the former occasion without thought or purpose." The appeal of the Ministers, however, was, fortunately for the Free Trade movement, for a time successful. The Government were reinstated by a vote of 255 to 233, in a House in which both parties had evidently done their utmost.The next morning, Wednesday, the 7th of June, the consternation was universal. The shops continued closed, and people barricaded their houses as well as they could, many of them chalking "No Popery!" on their doors, or hanging blue silk, the Protestant Association colour, from their windows. Dr. Johnson, in a walk from Fleet Street to see the ruins of the Old Bailey, describes the coolness and composure with which "the Protestants," men and boys, were employed in plundering and stripping houses, unmolested by soldiers, constables, or any one. Great numbers of the mob were going about, armed with iron bars torn from the railings in front of Lord Mansfield's, to levy contributions on the householders. Some went singly; three mere boys were observed thus engaged in company; and one man, mounted on horseback, refused to receive anything less than gold.详情
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