The next day tempest scattered the approaching transports. Sir John thought the storm sufficient excuse for not pursuing; but the winds followed the invaders, and blowing directly from London towards Dunkirk, dispersed the French transports, sank some of the largest of them with all their men, wrecked others on the coast, and made the rest glad to recover their port. Charles waited impatiently for the cessation of the tempest to put to sea again, but the French ministers were discouraged by the disaster, and by the discovery of so powerful a British fleet in the Channel. The army was withdrawn from Dunkirk, Marshal Saxe was appointed to the command in Flanders, and the expedition for the present was relinquished.
The army set out in successive divisions, and by different routes, in consequence of the exhausted state of the country, which had been stripped by the French as by an army of locusts. The roads were intolerable, and the weather was vile. Wading through mud, and dragging their artillery through bogs and sloughs, they struggled on to Castello Branco, which the first division reached on the 4th of December. By the 11th Sir John had crossed the Portuguese frontier, and entered Ciudad Rodrigo. There he was received with great demonstrations of joy; and on the 13th he arrived at Salamanca. Here he had to remain for the coming up of his artillery, which, under a guard of three thousand foot and one thousand horse, had been conducted, by Sir John Hope, round by Elvas, as the only road, according to the Portuguese, by which heavy cannon could be conveyed. This was a proof of the great need of those arrangements so strongly urged by Sir Arthur Wellesley. Proper inquiries, through proper officers, would have ascertained beforehand the actual state of the roads and passes. Here Sir John, too, had to wait for Sir David Baird's detachment, which had arrived at Corunna on the 13th of October, but had found the greatest difficulty in being allowed to land and proceed. This was refused by the junta of Galicia, out of that ignorant and inflated pride of the Spaniards, which persuaded them that, because they had compelled Dupont to surrender, they could drive the French out of their country without any assistance of the British, whom they regarded not as saviours, but as intruders. Whilst application was made to the Central Junta, at Madrid, for the troops to land, they had to remain for a fortnight cooped up in the transports. There was still another hindrance, which the sound sense and foresight of Wellesley would not have permitted. Though the British Government had forwarded to Spain two hundred thousand muskets, with all requisite ammunition, and sixteen millions of hard dollars, Sir John Moore was entrusted with only twenty-five thousand pounds of it, and Sir David Baird with none at all. When, therefore, permission was obtained, from Madrid, for the Allies, who were bringing them all the arms and all the material of war, to land, Baird had no money to pay his way on the march with ten thousand men, and Sir John Moore had to remit him eight thousand pounds. This was sufficiently bad management, but this was far from the worst. Sir John Moore, in the most critical circumstances, was left without the necessary information regarding the real strength of the enemy, and without the influence which the British Ambassador should have exerted to have the army supplied with the necessary means of conveyance for its baggage, ammunition, and artillery. The Spaniards obstructed rather than helped the British army. They did not know themselves that the French were pouring reinforcements through the Pyrenees to the amount of seventy thousand men, soon to be followed by Buonaparte himself. The British Ambassador, at such a time, ought to have taken measures for knowing the truth; but the Ambassador was, just at this moment, the most unfit person that could possibly have been pitched upon. Sir Charles Stewart, who had been for some time Ambassador at Madrid, was well acquainted with the Spaniards, and had energy and intelligence enough to have operated upon them. But as, with new changes of Ministry, everything must be changed by the British Government, even if it be for the worse, so here, not only had the generals been changed three times in four-and-twenty hours, but the active and well-informed Minister was withdrawn, and a most indolent and useless man sent in his place. This was Mr. John Hookham Frere, great in the Quarterly Review, and connected with Canning and his party. He either sent Sir John no information as to the state and position of the Spanish armies or of the advance and numbers of the French, or he sent him erroneous intelligence. Lord William Bentinck, who was in Spain, exerted himself to rouse the Spanish Junta to a proper sense of their real position, and of the necessity for affording the British army, which had come to assist them, all the information and support that they could; and he himself sent word that the French were crossing not merely the Pyrenees, but the Ebro. At length, a dispatch to Marshal Jourdain, being accidentally intercepted by a guerilla party on the frontiers, startled the Junta with the news that immense bodies of French were advancing into Spain; and they began to appreciate the value of their British allies, but would do nothing to facilitate their march, or to direct them to the quarter where they would be most useful; and Frere, who should have stimulated them to a sense of their duty, did just nothing at all.
In order to enable the revenue to furnish the required million surplus for the Sinking Fund, Pitt found it necessary to propose to extend the excise laws to foreign wine, which had hitherto been under the jurisdiction of the Custom House. He contended that, on a moderate calculation, the sum lost to the revenue by the frauds in the trade in wine amounted to upwards of two hundred and eighty thousand pounds per annum. To remedy this, and to prevent at once smuggling and the adulteration of wine, the excise officers were to have free access to the cellars of all who sold wine, but not into private ones. To abate that repugnance to the law which excise laws awaken in the public mind, Pitt stated that the change would not amount to more than thirteen thousand pounds a year, and that not more than one hundred and seventy additional officers would be required, who could add little to the influence of the Crown, as they were by law incapable of voting at elections. He carried his Bill with little difficulty through the Commons; but in the Lords, Lord Loughborough made a decided set against it, and pointed out one most shameful provision in it—namely, that in case of any suit against an exciseman for improper seizure, a jury was prohibited giving more damages than twopence, or any costs of suit, or inflicting a fine of more than one shilling if the exciseman could show a probable cause for such a seizure. Lord Loughborough declared justly that this was a total denial of justice to the complaint against illegal conduct on the part of excisemen, for nothing would be so easy as for the excise to plead false information as a probable cause. It was a disgraceful infringement of the powers of juries, and Lord Loughborough called on Lord Camden to defend the sacred right of juries as he had formerly done. Camden was compelled to confess that the clause was objectionable; but that to attempt an alteration would destroy the Bill for the present Session, and so it was suffered to pass with this monstrous provision.
The attempt of the Whigs in the Lords to unearth the vituperative dean, though it had failed, stimulated the Tories in the Commons to retaliation. Richard Steele, author of "The Tatler," an eloquent and able writer, had not sought to screen himself from the responsibility of the honest truths in "The Crisis," as Swift had screened himself from the consequences of his untruths, and a whole host of Tories assailed him in the Commons, of which he was a member. Amongst these were Thomas Harley, the brother of Oxford, Foley, the auditor, a relative of Oxford's, and Sir William Wyndham, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They flattered themselves with an easy triumph over him, for Steele, though popular as a writer, was new to the House of Commons, and had broken down in his first essay at speaking there; but he now astonished them by the vigour, wit, and sarcasm of his defence. He was ably supported, too, by Robert Walpole, who had obtained a seat in this new Parliament. Nothing, however, could shield Steele, as Swift's being anonymous had shielded him. Steele was pronounced by the votes of a majority of two hundred and forty-five to one hundred and fifty-two to be guilty of a scandalous libel, and was expelled the House. During the debate Addison had sat by the side of Steele, and, though he was no orator to champion him in person, had suggested continual telling arguments.Whilst these events had been passing in Austria and Bavaria, the King of England had endeavoured to make a powerful diversion in the Netherlands. Under the plea of this movement sixteen thousand British troops were embarked in April for the Netherlands; but they were first employed to overawe Prussia, which was in contention with Hanover regarding the Duchy of Mecklenburg. There were other causes of dispute between Prussia and the Elector of Hanover. George having now this strong British force, besides sixteen thousand Hanoverian troops and six thousand auxiliary Hessians, Frederick thought proper to come to terms with him, and, in consequence of mutual arrangements, the Hanoverian troops quitted Mecklenburg, and George, feeling Hanover safe, marched this united force to the Netherlands to join the British ones. He expected the Dutch to co-operate with him and the Austrians, and strike a decided blow at France. But the Earl of Stair, who was to command these forces, and who was at the same time ambassador to the States, found it impossible to induce the Dutch to act. They had increased their forces both by sea and land, but they were afraid of the vicinity of the French, and were, with their usual jealousy, by no means pleased to see the English assuming power in the Netherlands. Therefore, after making a great demonstration of an attempt on the French frontier with the united army, the project was suddenly abandoned, and the troops retired into winter quarters. But little was accomplished during this year by the British fleet.
The Grenville Ministry was approaching its extinction. It had done a great work in the abolition of the Slave Trade, but there was another species of abolition which they were disposed to further which was not quite so acceptable. They had supported Wilberforce and his party in their measure for the negroes, but Wilberforce and his friends were by no means willing to support them in liberating the Catholics from their disabilities. Grenville and Fox had made no particular stipulation, on taking office, to prosecute the Catholic claims, but they were deeply pledged to this by their speeches of many years. It was, therefore, highly honourable of them, though very impolitic, to endeavour to do something, at least, to show their sincerity. Though the king was obstinately opposed to any relaxation of the restraints on this class of his subjects, yet the Fox and Grenville Ministry had introduced a milder and more generous treatment of the Catholics in Ireland. The Duke of Bedford, as Lord-Lieutenant, had discouraged the rampant spirit of Orangeism, and admitted Catholics to peace and patronage. He had abandoned the dragooning system, and had managed to settle some disturbances which broke out in the autumn of 1806, without even proclaiming martial law. These measures had won the cordial attachment of the Catholics both in Ireland and England, but, in the same proportion, had exasperated the Church and War party against them in both countries. Their adding another three-and-a-half per cent. to the income and property taxes had still further embittered these parties, and the antagonism to them was every day becoming stronger. Yet they resolved, in spite of all this, to make an attempt to do some justice to the Catholics. They managed to carry an additional grant to the College of Maynooth, and on the 4th of March, when this grant was debated, Wilberforce, though wanting the support of Ministers for his Slave Trade Bill, made a violent speech against all concessions to the Catholics. He declared the Protestant Church the only true one, and, therefore, the only one which ought to be supported. "He did not profess," he said, "to entertain large and liberal views on religious subjects; he was not, like Buonaparte, an honorary member of all religions." Undeterred by these tokens of resistance, Lord Howick, the very next day, moved for leave to bring in a Bill to enable Catholics to hold commissions in the army and navy on taking a particular oath. He said that it was a strange anomaly that Catholics in Ireland could hold such commissions since 1793, and attain to any rank except that of Commander-in-Chief, of Master-General of the Ordnance, or of General of the Staff, yet, should these regiments be ordered to this country, they were, by law, disqualified for service. A clause had already been added to the Mutiny Bill to remove the anomaly. He proposed to do away with this extraordinary state of things, and enable his Majesty, at his pleasure—for it only amounted to that, after all—to open the ranks of the army and navy to all subjects, without distinction, in Great Britain as well as Ireland.
Parliament was opened by commission on the 5th of February, 1829. The state of Ireland was the chief topic of the Royal Speech. The existence of the Catholic Association was referred to as inimical to the public peace; and its suppression was recommended, as a necessary preliminary to the consideration of the disabilities affecting the Roman Catholics. This part of the Speech excited much interest, as preluding the great contest of the Session. On the 4th Mr. Peel had written to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, resigning his seat for the University, which he had won from Canning on the strength of his anti-Catholic principles. He need not have resigned, but he acted the more honourable part. Having offered himself for re-election, he was opposed by Sir Robert Inglis, who, after a contest which lasted three days, during which 1,364 votes were polled, was elected by a majority of 146. As one of the most numerous convocations ever held in Oxford had, in the previous year, by a majority of three to one, voted against concession to the Roman Catholics, it was a matter of surprise that the Home Secretary was not defeated by a larger majority. He secured a seat with some difficulty at Westbury. On the 10th, Mr. Peel, while still member for Oxford, introduced the first of the three measures intended for the pacification of Ireland—a Bill for the suppression of the Catholic Association. As it was known to be an essential condition of granting Emancipation, there was little opposition to it either in Parliament or in Ireland. By it the Lord-Lieutenant was empowered to disperse the meetings of any association he thought dangerous to the public peace. The Bill quickly passed both Houses, and in a few days received the Royal Assent. Anticipating the action of the executive, the Association, on the 12th of February, dissolved itself, with the unanimous concurrence of the bishops, Mr. Sheil stating at the meeting that he was authorised to throw twenty-two mitres into the scale.We have no place of rest."The Girondists were, at the opening of the year 1792, vehemently urging on war against the Emigrants and the Emperor of Germany. Just at this crisis, as we have seen, Leopold of Austria died, and was succeeded by his nephew, Francis II.; and war became more inevitable, for Francis had not the same pacific disposition as Leopold, and the Gironde was bent on war. The internal condition of France also seemed to indicate that there must soon be war abroad or civil war at home. The Ministers were at variance; the Jacobins and Girondists were coming to an open and desperate feud; the people, both in Paris and throughout the country, were excited by the Jacobin publications to the utmost pitch of fury against the Royalists and the priests.
Copyright © 2020