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Grattan had given notice that on the 16th of April he would move for the utter repeal of the Acts destructive of the independent legislative[289] rights of Ireland. On the appointed day, the House of Commons having been expressly summoned by the Speaker, Grattan rose, and, assuming the question already as carried, began, "I am now to address a free people. Ages have passed away, and this is the first moment in which you could be distinguished by that appellation. I have found Ireland on her knees; I have watched over her with an eternal solicitude; I have traced her progress from injury to arms, from arms to liberty. Spirit of Swift! spirit of Molyneux! your genius has prevailed! Ireland is now a nation. In that new character I hail her, and, bowing to her august presence, I say, Esto Perpetua!" The speech was received with thunders of applause. It concluded with an Address to the Crown, declaring in the plainest, boldest language, that no body of men, except the Irish Parliament, had a right to make laws by which that nation could be bound. The Address was carried by acclamation; it was carried with nearly equal enthusiasm by the Lords, and then both Houses adjourned to await the decision of the Parliament and Ministry of Great Britain.It was high time that some measures were taken for preventing clandestine marriages. Nothing could be so loose as the marriage laws, or so scandalous as the practice regarding marriages at this date. No previous public notice or publication of banns was hitherto required, nor was any license requisite. Any clergyman, though of the most infamous character, could perform the ceremony at any time or place, without consent of parents or guardians. The consequence was, that the strangest and most scandalous unions took place, for which there was no remedy, and the results of which were lives of misery and disgrace. The merest children were inveigled into such connections, and the heirs of noble estates were thus entrapped into the most repulsive alliances, and made the victims of the most rapacious and unprincipled of mankind. The Fleet Prison, where were many ruined parsons—ruined by their crimes and low habits—was a grand mart for such marriages. A fellow of the name of Keith had[116] acquired great pre-eminence in this line. He used to marry, on an average, six thousand couples every year; and on the news of this Bill, which would stop his trade, he vowed vengeance on the bishops, declaring that he would buy a piece of ground and out-bury them all!

To procure peace, Madison now sought the good offices of the Emperor Alexander of Russia with Great Britain, and these offices were readily accepted, for the latter had never willingly gone into or continued this unnatural war. A Congress was appointed at Gothenburg, and thence transferred to Ghent. There, on the 24th of December, 1814, a loose and indefinite peace was concluded, in which every principle on which the war had been begun was left to be settled by commissioners; and some of which—such was the difficulty of negotiating with the Americans—were not settled for many years. On these points alone were the two Powers agreed—that all hostilities between the contracting parties and the Indians should be put an end to, and that both parties should continue their efforts for the suppression of the slave-trade. Such was the joy of the north-eastern States of America at the peace that the citizens of New York carried the British envoy, sent to ratify the treaty, in triumph through the streets.

A strong garrison was left in Malta, under General Vaubois, and on the 16th the fleet was again under sail. As they were off the coast of Crete, and the savants were gazing on the birthplace of Jupiter, and speculating on the existence of the remains of the celebrated labyrinth, Nelson, who had missed the French fleet, and had sailed in quest of it, was near enough to be perceived by some of the frigates on the look-out, and created a terrible panic. But Nelson, not having frigates to send out as scouts, did not observe them, and suspecting that Egypt was their destination he made all sail for Alexandria. Finding no traces of them there, in his impatience he returned towards Malta. If he had but waited a while they would have come to him; but on reaching Malta and finding that they had taken and manned it, he again put about and made for Alexandria. He had actually been seen by some of the French frigates as he was crossing their track on his return from Alexandria, and Napoleon was impatient to reach land before he could overtake them again. On the 1st of July the French fleet came in sight of Alexandria, and saw before them the city of the Ptolemies and Cleopatra with its pharos and obelisks. The landing was effected at Marabout, about a league and a half from Alexandria.During the summer, meetings of a similar character were held at Cork, Longford, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Mallow, Dundalk, Baltinglass, Tara, and other places. At Tara, in the county Meath, on the 15th of August, an immense multitude was assembled—250,000, at the lowest estimate, but represented by the Repeal journals as four times that number. The place was selected because of its association with the old nationality of the country, where its ancient kings were elected and crowned. O'Connell's speech on this occasion was defiant in tone, and in the highest degree inflammatory. Referring to a speech of the Duke of Wellington, he said, "The Duke of Wellington is now talking of attacking us, and I am glad of it. The Queen's army is the bravest army in the world, but I feel it to be a fact that Ireland, roused as she is at the present moment, would, if they made war upon us, furnish women enough to beat the whole of the Queen's forces." The Lord Chancellor Sugden having recently deprived of the commission of the peace all magistrates who were members of the Repeal Association, Mr. O'Connell announced that the dismissed magistrates would be appointed by the Repeal Association as arbitrators to settle all disputes among the people, who were not again to go to the petty sessions. He pronounced the union to be null, to be obeyed as an injustice supported by law, until they had the royal authority to set the matter right and substitute their own Parliament. In his speech after dinner to a more select audience, he said that the statesman was a driveller who did not recollect the might that slumbers in a peasant's arm, and who expected that 700,000 such men would endure oppression for ever. An outbreak would surely come, though not in his time, and then the Government and gentry would weep, in tears of blood, their want of consideration and kindness to the country whose people could reward them amply by the devotion of their hearts and the vigour of their arms. What were the gentry afraid of? It could not be of the people, for they were under the strictest discipline. No army was ever more submissive to its general than the[527] people of Ireland were to the wishes of a single individual.

Napoleon's saying about French revolutions was verified in 1830. The shock of the political earthquake was felt throughout the Continent, and severed Belgium from Holland. The inhabitants of Brussels began their revolt by resistance to local taxes, and ended by driving the[320] Dutch garrison out of the city, and proclaiming the independence of Belgium. The Duke of Wellington had no difficulty about the prompt recognition of the de facto Government of France. The change of dynasty had not been officially communicated to him many hours when he sent instructions to the British ambassador to enter into friendly relations with the new Government. He had not, however, the same facility in recognising the independence of Belgium. He had been instrumental in establishing the kingdom of the Netherlands; and he regarded the union as being a portion of the great European settlement of 1815, which ought not to be disturbed without the concurrence of the Great Powers by which it was effected. This hesitation on his part to hail the results of successful revolution added to his unpopularity. In the meantime a dangerous spirit of disaffection and disorder began to manifest itself in the south of England. Incendiary fires had preceded the Revolution in France, especially in Normandy, and they were supposed to have had a political object. Similar preludes of menaced revolution occurred during the autumn in some of the English counties nearest the French coast, in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Hampshire. Night after night, in the most fertile districts, the sky was reddened with the blaze of burning stack-yards. Crowds of the working classes, complaining of want of employment, went about throughout the country, breaking the threshing-machines, which had then come into extensive use. The Government were compelled to employ force to put down these disturbances—a fact which supplied inflammatory arguments to agitators, who denounced the Duke of Wellington as the chief cause of the distress of the working classes. Such was the state of things when the new Parliament met on the 26th of October.

This branch of the rebel force was thus completely removed from the field, and on the same day a far more sanguinary conflict had taken place between the chief commanders on the two sides, Argyll and Mar, at Sheriffmuir.[See larger version]

With this debate terminated the friendship of Fox and Burke. Fox disclaimed any premeditated attack on Burke, but the severe things which he himself had said of his old friend, the contempt which he expressed for Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution," and the private conversations which he invariably dragged into these public debates, give us less confidence in this assertion; whilst the co-operation of his party with him bore all the marks of a systematic assault. On the one side stood Fox, expressing much feeling and regret, but uttering the most cutting things, taunting Burke with his age and his enthusiastic temperament, and backed by a violent and insulting crew; on the other side stood Burke, deserted by those, and they were numerous, who thought entirely with him. Not a few expressed to Burke, in private, their agreement of opinion and admiration of his conduct; but to make this expression of any value it should have been open and bold. As it was, the great master who had taught the whole generation of politicians their principles, was left to stand alone in the conflict. He sustained his part nobly, and time was not long in justifying his accuracy of calculation and his prescience. All the results, however, which he declared inevitable, were already rushing into open day, and the enamoured lovers of the French Revolution were forced to hang their heads. In the meantime, the newspapers had poured on the head of Burke their vials of abuse. On the very day on which the Quebec debates terminated, the Morning Chronicle, the organ of the Whigs, published this paragraph:—"The great and firm body of the Whigs of England, true to their principles, have decided on the dispute between Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke; and the former is declared to have maintained the pure doctrines by which they are bound together, and upon which they have invariably acted. The consequence is that Mr. Burke retires from Parliament." They were not contented with this premature announcement; they charged him with corruption and apostacy, and described his life, one of honour and generosity, as a long series of basenesses.Dumouriez, the new Foreign Minister, advised the king to communicate this note to the Assembly without a moment's delay. There was immediate dissension in the royal council. This was the commencement of the division in the Gironde Ministry, which quickly destroyed it. Dumouriez proceeded, in the presence of the king, the rest of the Ministers, and a number of courtiers, on the 20th of April, to make that announcement which was to decide the fate of France and of Europe. Roland and the more determined Girondists had recommended that the king should himself make the declaration of war; but as the war itself was most repugnant to the king, Dumouriez had advised that he should only consult with the Assembly on the necessity of this declaration, and thus throw the responsibility on that body. There had been division of opinion amongst Ministers, and now Dumouriez read a detailed account of the negotiations with Austria, and then Louis, who looked jaded and anxious, stated that he had followed the recommendations of the Assembly, and of many of his subjects in various parts of France, in these negotiations, and, as they had heard the results, he put it to the Assembly whether they could any longer submit to see the dignity of the French people insulted, and the national security threatened. The speech was received with loud acclamations and cries of "Vive le Roi!" The President said they would deliberate, and the result was that a decree was passed resolving upon war. This resolve the Assembly justified by the declaration that the Emperor of Austria had concerted with the Emigrants and foreign princes to threaten the peace and the constitution of France; that he had refused to abandon these views and proceedings, and reduce his army to a peace establishment, as demanded of him by a vote of the 11th of March of this year; that he had declared his intention to restore the German princes by force to the possessions they had held[400] in Alsace, although the French nation had never ceased to offer them compensation; and that, finally, he had closed the door to all accommodation by refusing to reply to the dispatches of the king.On the 3rd of February the Commons attended to hear the commission read at the bar of the Lords, which was done by Earl Bathurst, in the absence of Thurlow. On returning to their House now as an authorised Parliament, the Commons read the Bill for the first time without a division, but on the second reading, on the 6th of February, Burke attacked it with unabated ferocity. He wanted to know how they were to determine when the king was sane again. Who was to inform them of it? Who was to certify it? He asserted the utter impossibility of adducing proof whether a person who had been insane were perfectly recovered or not. If this doctrine had been established, the regency must have become permanent. But this mode of reasoning was too metaphysical for the House of Commons; the debate passed on, and the Bill was committed. The clause providing against the non-residence of the prince, and against his marrying a papist, again brought up Mr. Rolle. He said that he had given his assent to the appointment of the prince regent on the assurance of his friends, that he was not married to a certain lady, either in law or in fact; but that he had since read a famous pamphlet, which affirmed that the facts were in opposition to those avowals. This was a brochure of Horne Tooke's, in the shape of a letter to a friend, in which he declared his positive knowledge of the prince's marriage with "the late Mrs. Fitzherbert," who, he contended, in spite of the Marriage Act, was his lawful wife. Rolle was answered by Lord North, who declared that the object of the pamphleteer was simply to make mischief by throwing out assertions that he never meant to prove, and Welbore Ellis called for the reading of the Royal Marriage Act, and showed that no royal marriage could be valid without the king's consent, and that, therefore, whatever was the case, all those objections were a mere waste of words. Rolle did not press the question to a division. The other clauses of the Bill raised much debate, but were all passed, and on the 10th of February the council was appointed to assist the queen in her charge, and Pitt named as members of it[347] the four principal officers of the household, the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward, the Master of the Horse, and the Groom of the Stole, with the addition of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Chancellor Thurlow, the Archbishop of York, and Lord Kenyon. The names of the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, several of the other princes, the Lord Mayor of London, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, were all strongly urged upon Parliament as persons who ought to be members of this council, but they were, to a man, rejected by a majority of about fifty.

The result produced intense excitement, and led to rioting and outrage in the metropolis, and in some of the provincial towns. In London, the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Cumberland, and the Marquis of Londonderry, were assaulted in the street, and rescued with difficulty from the fury of the mob. Lord Londonderry, who had signalised himself during the debate by the violence of his opposition, was struck senseless from his horse by a shower of stones at the gate of the palace, amidst cries of "Murder him! Cut his throat!" Persons respectably dressed, and wearing ribbons round their arms, took the lead on these occasions, giving orders, and rushing from the crowd. The houses of the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Bristol, and all other anti-Reform peers, had been visited by the mob, and left without glass in their windows. All the shops in town were shut. "The accounts from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and other places," wrote Lord Eldon, "are very uncomfortable. I heard last night that the king was frightened by the appearance of the people outside of St. James's."Such were the advantages now possessed by the British over the French commander, that both the Portuguese and people at home were impatient that Wellington should at once attack and annihilate Massena's army. But Wellington knew better. He knew that a great battle, or battles, must vastly reduce his own as well as Massena's army. He knew that France could readily march down eighty or a hundred thousand fresh men into Portugal at extremity, but that Great Britain could not so readily do that; and, should the Whigs come into power, as was probable, he could not calculate on any support at all. The king now hopelessly insane, the Prince of Wales must be soon appointed Regent, and then, perhaps, would come in his friends the Whigs. There were many other considerations which made Wellington refuse to accede to a general attack on the French at present. He had, as it was, trouble enough with the Junta; but, should any reverse occur, his situation then would be intolerable. Just now the Portuguese troops were in good spirits for fighting, but defeat would ruin all the progress yet made with them. He knew that the winter would do for the French army all that he expected without any cost to himself, and he waited for that, ready then to follow up the advantages it would give him. It was his great plan of operations which already reduced them to the dilemma in which they were, and now came winter and did the rest, fully showing his superior sagacity. In November the weather became and continued wretched in the extreme. The country was flooded, cutting off the precarious supplies of the French, but adding strength to the encampment of Torres Vedras. The cross roads were impassable for artillery, and all but impassable for waggons bringing provisions, which had to be hunted for far and wide, with incredible hardships and little success. Leaving the hostile armies in this position till the spring, we must notice other important matters.

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In wood engraving, Thomas Bewick, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, revived the art, and threw such fascination into it by the exquisite tail-pieces in his "Natural History," that his name will always be associated with this style of engraving.There arose a second school of mezzotint engravers, the chief of whom were Earlom, Reynolds, Daniell, Sutherland, and Westall. The strange but intellectual Blake was both painter and his own engraver, in a style of his own. Towards the end of the reign flourished, chiefly in architectural illustrations, Le Keux, John and Henry, pupils of Bazire, Roffe, Ransom, and Scott; in landscape, William and George Cooke, William and Edward Finden, Byrne, and Pye; in portrait, Charles and James Heath, John Taylor, Skelton, Burnet, Bromley, Robinson, Warren, and Lewis.

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