Almost every other manufacture shared in this surprising impulse from machinery and the spirit of invention. It was an age of new creations and of unprecedented energies. In 1763 Josiah Wedgwood, of the Staffordshire Potteries, commenced that career of improvement in the biscuit, form, and printing of porcelain which constituted a new era in the art. At that time the French fine pottery was so much superior to the English that it was extensively imported. In fact, it was a period when taste in every department of art was at the lowest ebb. Wedgwood, being a good chemist, not only improved the body of his earthenware, but, being a man of classical taste, introduced a grace and elegance of form before unknown to British pottery. He invented a new kind of composition so hard and marble-like that it resisted both fire and acids; and in this he moulded statuettes, cameos, and medallions from the Greek originals, of great beauty. Sir William Hamilton having brought over from Italy a quantity of antique vases, etc., Wedgwood benefited by them to introduce fresh forms and colouring in his wares, and probably on this account called his pottery-works Etruria. He had the aid of Mr. Chisholm, a practical chemist, in his researches into the best composition and colours for his porcelain, and his improvements laid the foundation of the great pottery trade of Staffordshire.
The motion of Mr. Yorke, afterwards First Lord of the Admiralty, for the exclusion of strangers during the debate on the Walcheren Expedition, gave great offence to the Reformers, who were now beginning to co-operate in societies, and to keep a keen watch on the Ministerial tendency to curb the liberty of the Press and carry things with a high hand. At a debating society, called the British Forum, the president, Mr. Gale Jones, delivered a strong oration against it, and proposed for the discussion of the following evening the question, "Which was the greater outrage upon public feeling: Mr. Yorke's enforcement of the standing order, or Mr. Windham's attack on the liberty of the press on the same occasion?" This proposal being agreed to, the intended debate was made known by placards posted in the streets. Yorke complained of this as a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons, and the printer was immediately summoned before the House, when he gave the name of the author, Mr. Gale Jones, who was thereupon, on the morrow, the 21st of February, brought before the House, and committed to Newgate.
This conviction of all Europe that the ambition of Buonaparte would swell till it burst in ruin, quickly received fresh confirmation. The trans-Rhenish provinces of Holland did not form a proper frontier for him. He immediately gave orders to form Oldenburg, Bremen, and all the line of coast between Hamburg and Lübeck, into additional Departments of France, which was completed by a Senatus Consultum of the 13th of December of this year. Thus the French empire now extended from Denmark to Sicily; for Naples, though it was the kingdom of Joachim Murat, was only nominally so; for the fate of the kingdom of Holland had dissipated the last delusion regarding the reality of any separate kingdom of Napoleon's erection. Italy, Jerome's kingdom of Westphalia, the Grand Duchy of Berg—now given to the infant son of Louis—all the territories of the Confederation of the Rhine, and Austria itself were really subject to Buonaparte, and any day he could assert that dominion. More than eighty millions of people in Europe owned this quondam lieutenant of artillery as their lord and master, whose will disdained all control. No such empire had existed under one autocrat, or under one single sceptre, since the palmiest days of the Roman supremacy. Denmark retained its nominal independence only by humbly following the intimations of the great man's will. And now Sweden appeared to add another realm to his vast dominions; but, in reality, the surprising change which took place there created a final barrier to his progress in the North, and became an immediate cause of his utter overthrow. The story is one of the most singular and romantic in all the wonderful events of the Napoleonic career.
The peace with Spain was also ratified in London on the 1st of March. By this, Spain, so far as diplomatic contracts could effect it, was for ever separated from France. Philip acknowledged the Protestant succession, and renounced the Pretender. He confirmed the Assiento, or exclusive privilege of the English supplying the Spanish West Indies and South American colonies with slaves, one-fourth of the profit of which the queen reserved to herself—a strange proof of the small idea of the infamy of this traffic which prevailed then in England, whilst so truly benevolent a woman could calmly appropriate money so earned to her own use. Gibraltar and Minorca were also confirmed to England, on condition that the Spanish inhabitants should enjoy their own property and their religion. There was a guarantee given by Philip for the pardon and security of the Catalans. They were to be left in possession of their lives, estates, and honours, with certain exceptions, and even these were at liberty to quit the country and remove to Italy with their effects. But the Catalans, who had taken up arms for Charles of Austria at our suggestion, were greatly incensed at the dishonourable manner in which we had abandoned them and the cause, and, putting no faith in the word of Philip, they still remained in arms, and soon found themselves overrun with French troops, which deluged their country with blood, and compelled them to submit. Amid all the disgraceful circumstances which attended the peace of Utrecht, none reflected more infamy on England than its treatment of the people of Catalonia.[See larger version]By permission, from the Picture in the Corporation of Leicester Art Gallery.
Government, not content with expelling Wilkes from the House of Commons, had commenced an action against him in the Court of King's Bench, where they succeeded in obtaining a verdict against him for a libel in the North Briton. Temple paid the costs, and the City of London turned this defeat into a triumph, by presenting its freedom to the Lord Chief Justice Pratt, for his bold and independent conduct in declaring against the general warrants. They ordered his portrait to be placed in Guildhall; and the example of London was followed by Dublin and many other towns, who presented their freedom and gold snuff-boxes to Pratt. The City of London also gave its thanks to its members for their patriotic conduct.
Whilst blood was thus flowing by the guillotine, not only in Paris, but, under the management of Jacobin Commissioners, in nearly all the large towns of France, especially Lyons, Bordeaux, and Nantes, a terrible work of extermination was going on against the royalists of La Vendée. The simple people of that province, primitive in their habits and sincere in their faith, desired no Republic. Their aristocracy, for the most part of only moderate possessions, lived amongst them rather like a race of kindly country squires than great lords, and the people were accordingly cordially attached to them. In March of the year 1793 the Convention called for a conscription of three hundred thousand, and the Vendéans, to a man, refused to serve under a Government that had persecuted both their priests and their seigneurs. This was the certain signal of civil war. Troops were ordered to march into La Vendée, and compel obedience. Then the peasants flew to arms, and called on the nobles and priests to join them. At first they were entirely successful, but matters changed when Kleber was put in practical command.
The South Sea Company, with a folly of which extreme greed only is capable, endeavoured to put down these rival schemes and obtained an order from the Lords Justices and writs of scire facias against several of these new bubbles. It was like raising a wind to blow away the bubbles, forgetting that their own was a bubble too, and would go with them. The moment that the people began to distrust one they distrusted all. The panic became as great as the mania had been. The South Sea stock dropped in less than a month from one thousand to below six hundred. There was a simultaneous rush to sell out, and the shares must have sunk instantly to nil but for the gigantic exertions of the Company to raise money and buy in. The relief, however, was but temporary. The bankers and pawnbrokers who had advanced money on scrip broke and fled; merchants, goldsmiths, and speculators rushed away after them. Walpole was summoned in haste from Haughton to devise some means of staying the panic. He endeavoured to get the Bank of England to circulate three millions of South Sea bonds for a year; but the Bank, seeing that the case was desperate, declined it. This was decisive. The rage and despair of the swarming dupes were indescribable. They heaped execrations not only on the South Sea Company, but on Ministers, the king, his mistresses, and the Royal Family, who had all been deep in the affair, and who had taken good care of themselves. George landed at Margate on the 9th of November, soon after which the South Sea stock fell to one hundred and thirty-five. On the 8th of December Parliament met, and promptly began to investigate the scandal.
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