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Parliament again met for a few days, but only to vote Addresses of condolence and congratulation, as a dissolution had been determined on. The Marquis of Lansdowne pointed out that there was not the usual reason for a dissolution which occurred upon a demise of the Crown; but Lord Eldon explained that, at common law, the Parliament died with the Sovereign in whose name it was called; and although, by the statute of William III., it could sit six months longer, it was liable to be dissolved sooner; and constitutionally it ought to be dissolved as soon as public business would allow; so that noble lords who started any business to delay the dissolution would be obstructing the due exercise of the Royal Prerogative. He, as Lord Commissioner, therefore, concluded the Session by delivering the Royal Speech, which deplored the loss of a Sovereign, the common father of all his people, and praised the prudence and firmness with which the Lords and Commons had counteracted the designs of the disaffected.The conclusion of the Afghan war did not end the difficulties with the countries bordering on India. In the treaty with the Ameers of Scinde it was provided that Britain should have liberty to navigate the Indus for mercantile purposes, but that she should not bring into it any armed vessels or munitions of war, and that no British merchant should, on any account, settle in the country. Permission, however, was given to a British agent to reside at Kurrachee, and in 1836, when the country was threatened by Runjeet Singh, the British Government took advantage of the occasion to secure a footing in the country, one of the most fertile in the East. Kurrachee was only at the mouth of the river, but in 1838 a great step in advance was gained by getting a British agent to reside at Hyderabad, the capital, in order that he might be at hand to negotiate with Runjeet Singh. But the agent undertook to negotiate without consulting the Ameers, and awarded the payment of a large sum claimed by the Prince whom they dreaded, for which sum they produced a full discharge. This discharge was ignored by the British Government in India, acting in the interests of[590] Shah Sujah, its royal protégé in Afghanistan. This was not all. A British army of 10,000 men, under Sir John Keane, marched, without permission, through Scinde, in order to support the same Prince against his competitors. Bolder encroachments were now made. The British Government determined on establishing a military force at Yatah, contrary to the wishes of the people, and compelled the Ameers to contribute to its support, in consideration of the advantages which it was alleged it would confer upon them. When the draft of a treaty to this effect was presented to the Ameers, one of them took the former treaties out of a box, and said, "What is to become of all these? Since the day that Scinde has been covenanted with the English there has been always something new. Your Government is never satisfied. We are anxious for your friendship; but we cannot be continually persecuted. We have given you and your troops a passage through our territories, and now you wish to remain." But remonstrance was in vain. The treaty must be signed; and the great Christian Power, which had its headquarters at Calcutta, insisted that the British force might be located anywhere in the country west of the Indus, and that the Ameers must pay for its support three lacs of rupees.CHAPTER VII. THE REIGN OF GEORGE IV. (concluded).

Defeated in this object, the Patriots united all their force to embroil us with Spain. There were many causes in our commercial relations with Spain which led to violent discontent amongst our merchants. They found the trade with the Spanish settlements in America exceedingly profitable, but they had no right, beyond a very limited extent, to trade there. The Spaniards, though they winked at many encroachments, repressed others which exceeded these with considerable vigour. Their Coastguard insisted on boarding and searching our vessels which intruded into their waters, to discover whether they were bringing merchandise or were prepared to carry away colonial produce. By the treaty of 1670 Spain had recognised the British colonies in North America, and England had agreed that her ships should not enter the ports of the Spanish colonies except from stress of weather, or with an especial licence from the Spanish Government to trade. By the treaty of 1729 we had agreed to the old regulations regarding trading to the Spanish Main, namely, that we should have the Assiento, or right of supplying these colonies with slaves, and that, besides this, we should only send one ship annually to the Spanish West Indies and South America. As fast as that authorised ship discharged its cargo in a Spanish port, she received fresh supplies of goods over her larboard side from other vessels which had followed in her wake, and thus poured unlimited quantities of English goods into the place. Other English traders did not approach too near the Spanish coasts, but were met in certain latitudes by South American smugglers, who there received their goods and carried them into port. In short, such a system of contraband trade was carried on in these waters by our merchants, that English goods in abundance found their way all over the Spanish American regions, and the great annual fair for goods imported from or by Spain dwindled into insignificance.On the 20th of October, 1848, Chuttur Singh and his son, Shere Singh, raised the standard of revolt in the Punjab, and soon appeared at the head of 30,000 men. In November Lord Gough encountered them with 20,000. At Ramnuggur, in attacking the position of the enemy, his men were led into an ambuscade, and were repulsed with tremendous loss. The contest was again renewed on the 13th of January, 1849, when the Sikhs were also very strongly posted in a jungle with 40,000 men and sixty-two guns. Near the village of Chillianwallah a desperate battle was fought, and had lasted for some time when the 14th Light Dragoons, on being ordered to charge, turned and fled through our Horse Artillery, upsetting several guns, and causing such confusion that the Sikh cavalry, promptly availing themselves of the advantage, made a charge, and cut down seventy of our gunners, capturing six guns and five colours. The result was a drawn battle, but the loss on our side was fearful—twenty-seven officers and 731 men killed, and sixty-six officers and 1,446 men wounded. This terrible reverse produced a profound sensation at home. It was ascribed to bad generalship, and there were loud cries for the recall of Lord Gough. The Duke of[601] Wellington felt that the case was so desperate that he called upon Sir Charles Napier to go out and take the command, though suffering under a mortal disease, using the memorable expression, "If you don't go, I must." Sir Charles went immediately. But before he arrived, Lord Gough, on the 21st of February, had retrieved his reputation, and covered the British arms with fresh glory by winning, in magnificent style, the great battle of Goojerat, with the loss of only ninety-two killed and 682 wounded. Mooltan had been besieged again in December. During the bombardment the principal magazine was blown up. It contained 16,000 lbs. of powder: 800 persons were killed or wounded by the explosion, and many buildings destroyed. But Moolraj, though he saw ruined in a moment a work which it cost him five years to construct, still held out. On the 2nd of January the city was stormed, but the citadel remained. Though of immense strength, it yielded to artillery, and Moolraj, with his garrison of nearly 4,000 men, surrendered at discretion.When the resolutions of the Committee were reported two days afterwards, the debate was renewed with all its vehemence, and Pulteney unveiled another view of the case, which had much real truth and warning in it. "It is well known," he said, "that every one of the public officers have already so many boroughs or corporations which they look on as their properties. There are some boroughs which are called Treasury boroughs; there are others which may be called Admiralty boroughs; in short, it may be said that nearly all the towns upon the sea-coast are already seized upon, and in a manner taken prisoners by the officers of the Crown. In most of them they have so great an influence that none can be chosen members of Parliament but such as they are pleased to recommend. But, as the Customs are confined to our seaports, as they cannot travel far from the coast, therefore this scheme seems to be contrived in order to extend the laws of Excise, and thereby to extend the influence of the Crown over all the inland towns and corporations of England."

Whilst Clive had been reducing our enemies in Bengal and Oude, a more powerful antagonist than any whom we had yet encountered in India was every day growing more formidable in Mysore, and combining several of the petty chiefs of the different States of Madras as his allies against us. He was now far more considerable than when he had appeared against us as the ally of the French general, Lally, in the neighbourhood of Pondicherry. Hyder Ali was a self-made man. He was originally the grandson of a wandering fakir; then the captain of banditti; then at the head of an army composed of freebooters; continually growing in the number of his followers, and in the wealth procured by plunder, he at length became Commander-in-Chief of the Rajah of Mysore. Soon rising in his ambition, he seized the Rajah, his master, pensioned him off with three lacs of rupees, and declared himself the real Rajah. In 1761 he was become firmly established on the throne of Mysore, but this distinction did not satisfy him. He determined to be the founder of Mysore as a great kingdom, and extended his power to near the banks of the Kistnah. There he was met and repulsed by the Peishwa of the Mahrattas, who crossed the Kistnah, defeated him repeatedly, seized some of his newly-acquired territory, and levied on him thirty-two lacs of rupees. Hyder returned to Seringapatam, which he had made his capital, and had strongly fortified, and he thence conducted an expedition against Malabar, which he conquered, and put the chiefs to death to make his hold of it the more secure. It is unnecessary to go minutely into the history of the next few years. Hyder organised an army of 100,000 men, officered by Frenchmen, and sometimes in confederation with the Nizam of the Deccan, sometimes in conjunction with the Mahrattas of the Western Ghauts, waged perpetual war on the English. In 1769 Indian Stock fell sixty per cent. The resources of the Company were fast becoming exhausted, when Hyder Ali, by an artful feint, drew the English army, in the spring of 1769, a hundred and forty miles to the south of Madras. Then, by a rapid march, he suddenly appeared, with a body of five thousand horse, on the heights of St. Thomas, overlooking Madras. The whole of the city and vicinity, except the port of St. George itself, lay at his mercy. The terrified Council, in all haste, offered most advantageous terms of peace, which it was the very object of Hyder to accept, and that, too, before the English commander,[321] Colonel Smith, could arrive and intercept his retreat. Hyder gladly consented to the terms, which were those of mutual restitution, and of alliance and mutual defence: the last, a condition which, with Hyder's disposition to aggrandisement, was sure to bring the English into fresh trouble.Notwithstanding his careless manner, however, there was much sincerity in the nature of Lord Melbourne; and there is no doubt that he laboured with an honest purpose to make his Administration useful to the country, though not with so much activity and energy, or with such constant solicitude to secure success, as his predecessor had brought to the task. As it was now advancing towards the end of the Session, he confined his attention to two great measures of reform—the Irish Tithe question (of which we have already disposed) and the question of Municipal Reform. It is scarcely necessary to remark that abuses in corporations had been a matter of constant and general complaint for two centuries. But it was hopeless to expect a remedy so long as the Parliamentary representation was so inadequate and corrupt. The rotten and venal boroughs, of which the franchise was abolished or amended by the Reform Act, were the chief seats of abuse. The correction of the local evil would have been the destruction of the system by which the ruling party in the State sustained its political power. There were, therefore, the most powerful interests at work, restraining each from attempting the work of reform; but by the Parliamentary Reform Act these interests were abolished, and those local fountains of corruption could no longer pour their fetid contents into the legislature. Statesmen now felt at liberty to abate those nuisances. Yet the work was not as speedily accomplished as might have been expected. It is true that Lord Grey advised the king to issue a commission of inquiry in July, 1833, but it was not until the 5th of June, 1835, that any measure was brought forward upon the subject. Even then Lord Melbourne had to overcome the dislike of the king, who distrusted the measure, and thought that, if the corporations were to be reformed at all, they had best be reformed by granting them new charters. The commission consisted of twenty gentlemen, who were to proceed with the utmost despatch to inquire as to the existing state of the municipal corporations in England and Wales, and to collect information respecting the defects in their constitution, to make inquiry into their jurisdiction and powers as to the administration of justice, and in all other[388] respects; and also into the mode of electing and appointing the members and officers of such corporations, into the privileges of the freemen and other members thereof, and into the nature and management of the income, revenues, and funds of the said corporations. They divided the whole of England and Wales into districts, each of which was assigned to two commissioners. Their reports on individual corporations occupied five folio volumes. The whole was presented in a general report, signed by sixteen of the Commissioners.

Mr. Fyshe Palmer was not tried till the 12th of September. He was then brought before the Circuit Court of Justiciary at Perth, and charged with writing and publishing an "Address to the People," which had been issued by the Society of the Friends of Liberty, at Dundee. Palmer was an Englishman of good family, in Bedfordshire. He had taken his degree at Cambridge, and obtained a fellowship at Queen's College; but he had afterwards joined the Unitarians, and had resided and preached some time at Montrose and Dundee, and had delivered lectures on Unitarianism in Edinburgh and Forfar. It appeared that Palmer was not the author of the Address, but had only been asked to correct the proof of it, and that he had, whilst so doing, struck out some of the strongest passages. One Mealmaker, a weaver, acknowledged himself the author of the Address; but Palmer was a Unitarian, and this, to the bigoted Presbyterianism of his judges, was rank poison. His advocate pleaded that he was not quite sane, but neither did this avail; the jury brought in an instant and unanimous verdict of guilty, and the judges condemned him to be transported for seven years. This was a still more outrageous sentence than that of Muir, for Palmer had corresponded with no French or Reforming societies whatever; he had simply corrected a proof!

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But the Government had to receive another lesson this year on the folly of endeavouring, in the nineteenth century, to crush the liberties of Britons. There was an organ called the Press, which, partaking neither of the Governmental fears of a natural complaint by the public of the evils which preyed upon it, nor the Governmental hopes of silencing the sufferers without any attempt to mitigate their calamities, reported freely the mingled folly and cruelty of Ministers, and called for the only remedy of the country's misfortunes—Reform. On moving the second reading of the Bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, Lord Sidmouth observed that some noble lords had complained that the authors and publishers of infamous libels on the Government were not prosecuted. He assured them that the Government were quite as anxious as these noble lords to punish the offenders, but that the law officers of the Crown were greatly puzzled in their attempts to deal with them; that authors had now become so skilful from experience, that the difficulties of convicting them immeasurably exceeded those of any former time.On the day before her Majesty had desired to see Sir Robert Peel, to bid him farewell; but before he had set out for Windsor he had learnt the circumstances of the failure of the Whig leader to form a Cabinet; and as the result of his interview with the Queen he returned to London to resume the reins of Government. His position was greatly strengthened. Of his late Cabinet, Lord Stanley alone insisted on retiring, his place at the Board of Trade being filled by Mr. Gladstone. The baffled Whigs and the discontented monopolist party threatened a formidable combination; but, as regarded the Ministry itself, the change of policy was effected with far less sacrifice than might have been expected, considering all the circumstances of the case.[See larger version]

But our military achievements in the East Indies were on a scale to throw even these successes far into the shade. Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General, was entreated by the Peishwa of Poonah to assist him against the other Mahratta chiefs, Scindiah and Holkar. The Peishwa had been driven out of his territory by these chiefs, aided principally by the military talents of M. Perron, a Frenchman, who had for many years entered, with several other French officers, on the fall of the Mysore power, into the service of Scindiah. He had been extremely successful, and had been rewarded with a wide territory on the Jumna; and when, in 1793, Shah Allum, the Mogul, had been made prisoner, he had been consigned to the custody of M. Perron. The Frenchman had now given his aid to expel the Peishwa, and Lord Wellesley, in sending General Lake to restore the Peishwa, authorised him to attempt to win over M. Perron to the British interest by very brilliant offers of property and distinction, for Perron was deemed avaricious. The temptation, however, failed, both with Perron and his French officers. He took the field in support of Scindiah, with seventeen thousand infantry, from fifteen to twenty thousand Mahratta horse, and a numerous train of artillery.

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On the 1st of December, 1837, shortly after the opening of Parliament, Lord John Russell introduced a question of great urgency—the relief of the Irish poor. After going through, and commenting on, the several recommendations of the Inquiry Commissioners, and noticing the objections to which they were all more or less open, he explained, by way of contrast, the principles on which the present Bill was founded, much in the same manner that he had done on the first introduction of the measure. The statement was generally well received, although there were some marked exceptions in this respect; and the Bill was read a first time without a division. It was, in like manner, read a second time on the 5th of February, 1838; but, on the motion for going into committee, on the 9th, Mr. O'Connell strongly opposed it, and moved that it be committed that day six months. The amendment was, however, negatived by 277 to 25, a majority which made the passing of the measure in some form pretty certain. On the 23rd of February the question of settlement was again very fully discussed, and its introduction opposed by 103 to 31, the latter number comprising all that could be brought to vote for a settlement law of any kind. The vagrancy clauses were for the present withdrawn from the Bill, on the understanding that there would hereafter be a separate measure for the suppression of mendicancy. The Bill continued to be considered in successive committees until the 23rd of March, when, all the clauses having been gone through and settled, it was ordered to be reported, which was done on the 9th of April. On the 30th of April the Bill was read a third time and passed by the Commons, and on the day following was introduced and read a first time in the Lords. Many of the peers, whose estates were heavily encumbered, were alarmed at the threatened imposition of a poor-rate, which might swallow up a large portion of their incomes. Those who were opposed to a poor law on economic principles,[449] appealed to their lordships' fears, and excited a determined opposition against the measure. On the 21st of May there was a stormy debate of nine hours' duration. Lord Melbourne moved the second reading in a judicious speech, in which he skilfully employed the best arguments in favour of a legal provision for the poor, stating that this measure was, in fact, but the extension to Ireland of the English Act of 1834, with such alterations as were adapted to the peculiar circumstances of that country. It would suppress mendicancy, and would abate agrarian violence, while relieving the destitute in a way that would not paralyse the feeling of energy and self-reliance. Among the most violent opponents of the measure was Lord Lyndhurst, who declared that it would lead to a dissolution of the union. The Duke of Wellington, on the contrary, contended that the Bill, if amended in committee, would improve the social relations of the people of Ireland, and would induce the gentry to pay some attention to their properties, and to the occupiers and labourers on their estates. He objected, however, to a law of settlement as leading to unbounded litigation and expense. Owing chiefly to the support of the Duke, the second reading was carried by a majority of 149 to 20. On the motion that the Bill be committed, on the 28th of May, a scene of confusion and violence was presented, surpassing anything that could have been expected in such a dignified assembly. The Irish peers especially were in a state of extreme excitement. The discussion was adjourned to the 31st, and, after a debate of eight hours, the clause embodying the principle of the Bill was adopted by a majority of 107 to 41. The Bill was considered in committee on the 7th, 21st, 22nd, and 26th of June, and was read a third time on the 6th of July. It had now passed the Lords, altered, and in some respects improved; although, in the opinion of its author, the charge upon electoral divisions approximated too nearly to settlement to be quite satisfactory. The Royal Assent was given to the measure on the 31st of July, and thus a law was at length established making provision for the systematic and efficient relief of destitution in Ireland.

Whilst Clive had been reducing our enemies in Bengal and Oude, a more powerful antagonist than any whom we had yet encountered in India was every day growing more formidable in Mysore, and combining several of the petty chiefs of the different States of Madras as his allies against us. He was now far more considerable than when he had appeared against us as the ally of the French general, Lally, in the neighbourhood of Pondicherry. Hyder Ali was a self-made man. He was originally the grandson of a wandering fakir; then the captain of banditti; then at the head of an army composed of freebooters; continually growing in the number of his followers, and in the wealth procured by plunder, he at length became Commander-in-Chief of the Rajah of Mysore. Soon rising in his ambition, he seized the Rajah, his master, pensioned him off with three lacs of rupees, and declared himself the real Rajah. In 1761 he was become firmly established on the throne of Mysore, but this distinction did not satisfy him. He determined to be the founder of Mysore as a great kingdom, and extended his power to near the banks of the Kistnah. There he was met and repulsed by the Peishwa of the Mahrattas, who crossed the Kistnah, defeated him repeatedly, seized some of his newly-acquired territory, and levied on him thirty-two lacs of rupees. Hyder returned to Seringapatam, which he had made his capital, and had strongly fortified, and he thence conducted an expedition against Malabar, which he conquered, and put the chiefs to death to make his hold of it the more secure. It is unnecessary to go minutely into the history of the next few years. Hyder organised an army of 100,000 men, officered by Frenchmen, and sometimes in confederation with the Nizam of the Deccan, sometimes in conjunction with the Mahrattas of the Western Ghauts, waged perpetual war on the English. In 1769 Indian Stock fell sixty per cent. The resources of the Company were fast becoming exhausted, when Hyder Ali, by an artful feint, drew the English army, in the spring of 1769, a hundred and forty miles to the south of Madras. Then, by a rapid march, he suddenly appeared, with a body of five thousand horse, on the heights of St. Thomas, overlooking Madras. The whole of the city and vicinity, except the port of St. George itself, lay at his mercy. The terrified Council, in all haste, offered most advantageous terms of peace, which it was the very object of Hyder to accept, and that, too, before the English commander,[321] Colonel Smith, could arrive and intercept his retreat. Hyder gladly consented to the terms, which were those of mutual restitution, and of alliance and mutual defence: the last, a condition which, with Hyder's disposition to aggrandisement, was sure to bring the English into fresh trouble.This, though it was a severe blow to our trade, was but a small part of the damage which the active spirit of Florida Blanca did us. He promoted with all his energies the system of armed neutrality which had long been projected on the Continent to cripple our power. England knew that if she permitted this process, there was little chance of her bringing any of her antagonists to terms; she therefore insisted rigidly on the right of search, and on the seizure of all such contraband articles under whatever flag they were conveyed. Not only did Holland supply France and Spain in Europe, but she allowed the American privateers to carry their English prizes into their West Indian ports for sale. All this time Holland was not only bound by the most immense obligations to Great Britain for the millions of money and the tens of thousands of men whom we had sacrificed for the security of her independence against France, but she was also bound by treaty to furnish us certain aids when we were attacked by France. From the year 1778 Sir Joseph Yorke, our Ambassador at the Hague, had made continual remonstrances against this clandestine trade with our enemies; and France, on the other hand, had, by alternate menaces and persuasions, exerted herself to induce the Dutch to set England at defiance. In this she succeeded to a great extent. Much correspondence ensued, the Dutch maintaining a specious neutrality, but still continuing to carry timber and naval stores to France. Sir Joseph Yorke was therefore instructed to demand from the States the succours stipulated by treaties, and which might have been demanded the moment that France declared war against England. On the 26th of November, 1779, he received not only a positive refusal, but a fresh complaint of the interruption of their trade by English men-of-war.

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