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The state of parties in the House of Commons at the opening of the Session of 1837 was so evenly balanced, that Government had a very narrow majority. The number of Whigs was calculated at 150, of Liberals 100, and of Radicals 80, making the total number of Ministerialists 330. On the other side, the Tories counted 139, the Ultra-Tories 100, and the Conservatives, belonging to the new school which Sir[414] Robert Peel had constituted, 80. Parliament was opened by commission on the last day of January. The Royal Speech announced the continuance of friendly relations with Foreign Powers, alluded to the affairs of Spain and Portugal, and directed the attention of Parliament to the state of Lower Canada. It recommended a renewal of the inquiry into the operation of joint-stock banks; also measures for the improvement of civil and criminal jurisprudence, and for giving increased stability to the Established Church. Special attention was directed to the state of Ireland, with reference to its municipal corporations and the collection of tithes, and to "the difficult and pressing question of a legal provision for the poor." Animated debates on the Address took place in both Houses. The Radicals, led on by Mr. Roebuck, strongly condemned the want of earnest purpose on the part of Ministers, whom he represented as "worse than the Tories." He accused them of pandering to popular passions on one side, and to patrician feelings on the other. But, situated as they were, what could they do? Their majority was small and uncertain in the Commons, while the Opposition in the Lords was powerful and determined. Lord Lyndhurst mutilated measure after measure, and then at the end of each Session taunted Ministers with their failure. They were trying to get on with a House of Commons elected under the influence of a Conservative Administration. Of course, Lord Melbourne could have dissolved Parliament and appealed to the country, in the hope of getting a working majority; but the king was decidedly averse from a dissolution; and it would have been an exceedingly unwise course to adopt, at a time when the precarious state of his health plainly indicated that the reign was fast drawing to a close, and its termination would necessitate another general election. It was unreasonable to expect that in consequence of weakness proceeding from such causes a Liberal Cabinet should surrender the reins of power to the Tory party, on the eve of a new reign, and with all the bright prospects that would be opened by the accession of a youthful queen to the Throne. At the close of the Session of 1836 they had, indeed, contemplated resignation, but eventually determined to go on.Another action was brought by Stockdale; the printers were directed to plead the privilege of the House. The Court gave judgment against the plea, and damages were afterwards assessed, which the House of Commons ordered the Messrs. Hansard to pay. On the 31st of July those gentlemen again communicated to the House that similar legal proceedings were threatened by Mr. Polac, on account of alleged defamatory matter in a Parliamentary Report on the state of New Zealand. The House of Commons passed another resolution, reaffirming its privilege, and directing Hansard not to take any defence to the threatened action, which, however, was not proceeded with. But Stockdale, on the 26th of August, 1839, commenced a third action for the publication of the report, which continued to be sold. The printers then served him with formal notice of the resolutions of the House and of their intention not to plead. Stockdale, notwithstanding, on the 26th of October filed a declaration in the said action, wherein the damages were laid at £50,000; and on the 1st of November interlocutory judgment was signed for want of a plea. On the 2nd of November notice was served that a writ of inquiry of damages would be executed before the Sheriff of Middlesex on the 12th of the same month. The writ of inquiry was accordingly executed, when the sheriff's jury assessed the damages at £600; the consequence of which was that the sheriff took possession of the printing-office, premises, and stock-in-trade of the printers of the House of Commons. But he was placed in a dilemma with regard to the sale, which was ultimately prevented by the amount of damages being paid into the sheriff's office on the night previous. On the 16th of January following, Lord John Russell presented a petition from the Messrs. Hansard, which recited the facts of the case, and prayed for such relief as, in the circumstances, the House might think fit. The course which Lord John recommended was, that the persons who had violated the privileges of the House should be summoned to their bar. He therefore moved that Stockdale, with Burton Howard, his attorney, William Evans, the sheriff, the under-sheriff, and the deputy-under-sheriff, be summoned to the bar of the House. There was a long discussion on the legality of the course to be pursued. The motion was carried by a majority of 119. On the 17th of January, therefore, Stockdale was called to the bar, and interrogated by the Attorney-General as to the facts of the different actions. The House then resolved that Stockdale should be committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms. It was also resolved that the sheriffs should be called to the bar. They were accordingly brought in by the Serjeant-at-Arms, dressed in their scarlet robes. On the 21st of January they petitioned the House, expressing their sorrow for having incurred its displeasure, and stated that they believed that they had only done their duty towards their Sovereign and the Queen's Bench, whose sworn officers they were. They prayed, therefore, that they might not be amerced or imprisoned. Lord John Russell moved that the sheriffs, having been guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House, should be committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, which was carried by a majority of 101. The same course was adopted with regard to Mr. Howard, the attorney, who was called in and reprimanded by the Speaker.

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"To propose to Parliament no other measure than that during the sitting before Christmas. To declare an intention of submitting to Parliament immediately after the recess a modification of the existing law, but to decline entering into any details in Parliament with regard to such modification.Undaunted by this display of prelatical bigotry, Lord Stanhope immediately gave notice of a Bill to prevent a tyrannical exercise of severity towards Quakers, whose principles did not permit them to pay tithes, church-rates, or Easter offerings; this he did on the 3rd of July of the same year. By the 7 and 8 William III. two justices of peace could order a distress on a Quaker for tithes under the value of ten pounds; and by 1 George I. this power was extended to the non-payment of Easter and other dues; but his Lordship showed that of late the clergy had preferred to resort to an Act of Henry VIII., a time when Quakers did not exist, which empowered the clergy, by warrant from two justices of peace, to seize the persons of the defaulters and throw them into prison, where, unless they paid the uttermost farthing, they might remain for life. Thus the clergy of the eighteenth century in England were not satisfied with the humane enactments of William III. or George I., by which they could easily and fully obtain their demands, but they thirsted for a little vengeance, a little of the old enjoyment of imprisoning and tormenting their neighbours, and therefore went back to the days of the brutal Henry VIII. for the means. They had, two months before, thrown a Quaker of Worcester into gaol for the non-payment of dues, so called, amounting to five shillings, and there was every prospect that he might lie there for life. At Coventry six Quakers had lately been prosecuted by the clergyman for Easter offerings of the amount of fourpence each; and this sum of two shillings amongst them had, in the ecclesiastical court, been swelled to three hundred pounds. For this three hundred pounds they were cast into prison, and might have lain there for life, but being highly respected by their townsmen, these had subscribed the money and let them out. But this, his Lordship observed, would prove a ruinous kindness to the Quakers, for it would whet the avarice of the clergy and proctors to such a degree that the people of that persuasion would everywhere be hunted down without mercy for small sums, which might be recovered at once by the simple process of distraint. He declared that he would have all clerical demands satisfied to the utmost, but not by such means, worthy only of the dark ages; and he therefore, in this Bill, proposed the repeal of the obnoxious Act of 27 Henry VIII. But the glutting of their vengeance was too precious to the clergy of this period, and the Bill was rejected without a division.

The confederacy of Spain, Austria, and Sweden against England greatly encouraged the Pretender and his party. His agents were active on almost every coast in Europe, under the able direction of Atterbury. But there were two new allies whom James acquired at this time who did him little service; these were Lord North and the Duke of Wharton. They went over to the Continent, and not only openly avowed themselves as friends of the Pretender, but renounced Protestantism and embraced Popery. Lord North, however, found himself so little trusted at the Pretender's Court, notwithstanding his apostasy, that he went to Spain, entered its service, and there continued till his death, in 1734. Wharton also arrived at Madrid, where he fell in with a congenial spirit. This was Ripperda, the renegade Dutchman, now created a Duke and made Prime Minister of Spain. He had lately returned from a mission to Vienna, and was as full of foolish boastings as Wharton himself. He told the officers of the garrison at Barcelona on landing, that the Emperor would bring one hundred and fifty thousand men into the field; that Prince Eugene had engaged for as many more within six months of the commencement of a war; that in that case France would be pillaged on all sides, the King of Prussia, whom he was pleased to call the Grand Grenadier, would be chased from his country in a single campaign, and King George out of both Hanover by the Emperor, and Great Britain by the Pretender; that so long as he was in authority there should never be peace between France and Spain. Yet to Mr. Stanhope he declared that though he had talked both in Vienna and Spain in favour of the Pretender, he was, nevertheless, as sincerely attached to the interests of his Britannic Majesty as one of his own subjects; that he would prove this on the first opportunity, and that he only talked as he did to please their Catholic majesties,[55] and to avoid being suspected as a traitor, and falling into the hands of the Inquisition, which he knew kept a sharp eye on him as a recent convert.On the 9th of June a bulletin was published, which fixed public attention on the precarious state of the king's health. It announced that his Majesty had suffered for some time from an affection of the chest, which had produced considerable[415] weakness. The burden of regal state, assumed at so late a period of life, seemed to have been too much for his strength, and to have caused too great a change in his habits. In the preceding month of April his eldest natural daughter, Lady De Lisle, died, and also the queen's mother, the Dowager Duchess of Meiningen. These events made a deep impression upon his mind, which acted upon his enfeebled constitution and aggravated the symptoms of his disease. From the 9th of June, when the first bulletin was issued, he grew daily worse; the circulation became more languid, and the general decay more apparent. On the 20th of June he expired, in the seventy-third year of his age, having reigned nearly seven years. His kindness of heart and simplicity of character, which had endeared him greatly to all classes of his subjects, caused him to be generally and sincerely lamented. In the House of Peers Lord Melbourne referred to his death as a loss which had deprived the nation of a monarch always anxious for the interest and welfare of his subjects; and added, "which has deprived me of a most generous master, and the world of a man—I would say one of the best of men—a monarch of the strictest integrity that it has ever pleased Divine Providence to place over these realms. The knowledge which he had acquired in the course of his professional education of the colonial service and of civil matters, was found by him exceedingly valuable, and he dealt with the details of practical business in the most familiar and most advantageous manner. A more fair or more just man I have never met with in my intercourse with the world. He gave the most patient attention, even when his own opinion was opposed to what was stated, being most willing to hear what could be urged in opposition to it. These were great and striking qualities in any man, but more striking in a monarch." The declaration doubtless came from the heart, and was the more creditable, because the king's opposition to the Ministry had been most pronounced. He looked upon the second Melbourne Cabinet as forced upon him, and, though he had regard for one or two of them—particularly Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston—he made no secret of his dislike to the whole, and never invited them to Windsor. We have already given an instance of one of his discreditable outbursts, and his conduct during his later years was in other respects eccentric in the extreme. Besides, his zeal for reform had long passed away; and he was in complete sympathy with the factious proceedings of the majority of the House of Lords when each Ministerial measure was proposed—for instance, the Church Rates Bill he met with a long and ably argued list of objections which it required all Lord Melbourne's tact and firmness to overcome. But, with all his oddities and faults, William IV. was a thoroughly honourable man, and his opposition to his Ministers entirely aboveboard.

Whilst these combined efforts were being made to unseat him, Walpole saw his Cabinet every day becoming more untrustworthy, more divided against him. The Duke of Newcastle was eagerly pressing forward to supplant him. He had entered into secret engagements with the Duke of Argyll, and Lord Chancellor Hardwicke threw himself into that clique. To these were added the Earl of Wilmington, formerly Sir Spencer Compton, who, forgetting his alarm at the idea of succeeding Walpole as Prime Minister, now was anxious for that honour. To add to these depressing circumstances, the king arrived from Hanover in a humour ready to lay his disgrace and failure at anybody's door. On the 4th of December he opened the new Parliament, and, conscious of his own contemptible figure after the submission to French dictation in Hanover, he took care to remind it that he had commenced the war only at the urgent desire and advice of both Houses, and that he had been particularly counselled to direct our naval efforts towards Spanish America.

On the 15th of August Parliament was prorogued by the king in person. The Speech referred to the postponement of a final settlement between Holland and Belgium, which his Majesty regretted. He expressed lively satisfaction at the termination of the civil war in Portugal, and disappointment at the recurrence of disorders in Spain. He alluded with satisfaction to the numerous and important questions that had engaged the attention of Parliament, more especially the amendment of the Poor Laws, and the establishment of a central court for the trial of offenders in the metropolis and its vicinity. The important subjects of jurisprudence and the reform of municipal corporations remained to be considered in the next Session.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.

In much the same way the silk industry had been protected by prohibitory legislation, of which the only effect was to convert smuggling into an important trade. Again, the manufacturers petitioned for the removal of the duties upon spun silk, but were eager to exclude foreign manufactured silks. On the other hand, the silk spinners were opposed to the introduction of spun silk, but desired the removal of duties upon raw silk, while the journeymen believed that ruin stared them in the face if foreign manufactured silks were introduced. Robinson, with Huskisson's assistance, decided to admit foreign silk on an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent. At the same time he largely reduced the duties on the raw material. The duty on Indian silk was reduced from 4s. to 3d., that on Chinese and Italian silks from 5s. 6d. to 6d., that on organzine from 14s. 10d. to 7s. 6d. a pound. The manufacturers vowed and protested that they were ruined; in ten years' time they were exporting to France, their former rival, £60,000 worth of manufactured silk.[See larger version]Why did they tax his bread?

The foreign expeditions planned by the Grenville Ministry were, this year, attended by disgraceful results, and the news of their failure arrived in time to enable the new Ministry to throw additional odium upon their foes. The news of the seizure of Buenos Ayres by Sir Home Popham and General Beresford had induced the late Cabinet to overlook the irregular manner in which their enterprise had been undertaken. They sent out Admiral Sir C. Stirling to supersede Sir Home Popham, who was to be brought before a court-martial, but he took out with him a fresh body of troops, under General Auchmuty. These troops landed at Monte Video on the 18th of January, and, after a sharp contest against six thousand Spaniards, and the loss of five hundred and sixty British killed and wounded, the place was taken on the 2nd of February. Soon afterwards General Whitelocke arrived with orders to assume supreme command and to recapture Buenos Ayres, which the inhabitants had succeeded in recovering. Whitelocke reached Monte Video towards the end of May, and found the British army, with what he brought, amounting to nearly twelve thousand men, in fine condition. With such a force Buenos Ayres would have soon been reduced by a man of tolerable military ability. But Whitelocke seems to have taken no measures to enable his troops to carry the place by a sudden and brilliant assault. It was not till the 3rd of July that he managed to join Major-General Gore, who had taken possession of a commanding elevation[536] overlooking the city. The hope of success lay in the rapidity with which the assault was made: all this was now lost. The rain poured in torrents, and the men had no shelter, and were half starved. All this time the Spaniards had been putting the city into a state of defence. Still, on the morning of the 5th of July the order was issued to storm. The troops advanced in three columns from different sides of the town, headed severally by Generals Auchmuty, Lumley, and Craufurd. Whitelocke said that it could be of no use to delay the advance towards the centre of the town by attacking the enemy under cover of their houses; it could only occasion the greater slaughter. The command, therefore, was to dash forward with unloaded muskets, trusting alone to the bayonet. Much blame was cast on Whitelocke for this order, but there seems strong reason in it, considering the wholly uncovered condition of the troops against a covered enemy, and that the only chance was for each division to force its way as rapidly as possible to certain buildings where they could ensconce themselves, and from whence they could direct an attack of shot and shells on the Spaniards. General Auchmuty, accordingly, rushed on against every obstacle to the great square—Plaza de Toros, or Square of Bulls—took thirty-two cannon, a large quantity of ammunition, and six hundred prisoners. Other regiments of his division succeeded in getting possession of the church and convent of Santa Catalina, and of the residencia, a commanding post; Lumley and Craufurd were not so fortunate. The 88th was compelled to yield; and the 36th, greatly reduced, and joined by the 5th—which had taken the convent of Santa Catalina—made their way to Sir Samuel Auchmuty's position in the Plaza de Toros, dispersing a body of eight hundred Spaniards on their way and taking two guns. Craufurd's division capitulated at four o'clock in the afternoon. In the evening Whitelocke resolved to come to terms. The conditions of the treaty were—that General Whitelocke's army, with its arms, equipage, and stores, was to be conveyed across the La Plata to Monte Video; his troops were to be supplied with food; and that at the end of two months the British were to surrender Monte Video, and retire from the country. Such was the humiliating result of the attempt on Buenos Ayres. Nothing could exceed the fury of all classes at home against Whitelocke on the arrival of the news of this disgraceful defeat. It was reported that he had made the men take their flints out of their guns before sending them into the murderous streets of Buenos Ayres; and had he arrived with his despatches, his life would not have been safe for an hour. There was a general belief that the Court was protecting him from punishment; and, in truth, the delays interposed between him and a court-martial appeared to warrant this. It was not till the 28th of January, 1808, that he was brought before such a court at Chelsea Hospital, when he was condemned to be cashiered, as wholly unfit and unworthy to serve his Majesty in any military capacity whatever.To insure a powerful diversion, the Sultan had engaged the military co-operation of Sweden. Sweden had been forcibly deprived of Finland by Peter the Great, and she longed to recover it. She had a brave army, but no money. The Grand Turk, to enable her to commence the enterprise, had sent her a present of about four hundred thousand pounds sterling. Sweden put her fleet in preparation in all haste, and had Pitt merely allowed the Russian fleet to quit the Baltic, there was nothing to prevent the execution of the Swedish design on Finland, nor, indeed, of marching directly on St. Petersburg in the absence of the army.

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[See larger version]Buonaparte allowed his army, now reunited in Smolensk, five days' rest and enjoyment of the stores there, and on the 14th of November he again marched out to force his way into Poland. The second division, under Davoust, followed on the 16th, and the rear, still under Ney, on the 17th. The worn-down Italians of Prince Eugene could not move till the 15th, and did not overtake Buonaparte and assume their proper position till the 17th. The road which Buonaparte was taking was by Wilna, Krasnoi, and Borissov to Minsk; at the last two places he had his stores. But his way was now hemmed in on all sides by Russian armies. Wittgenstein was already at Vitebsk, and thence advanced on Borissov on the Beresina, where Buonaparte hoped to cross; whilst Tchitchagoff, who had joined Tormasoff, and thus raised their force to sixty thousand men, had driven the Austrians, under Schwarzenberg, back on the Bug, and had taken Minsk on the very day that Napoleon marched out of Smolensk. At the same time Kutusoff, with the grand army of Russia, was marching in a parallel line on the left flank of the Emperor, ready to fall on him whenever he was reduced to extremities by the other converging Russian forces. Now was coming the grand crisis. The elements were fighting fearfully against him; his men were wearied, half-starved, and disheartened; his enemies on all sides were alert with hope and revenge. Had Kutusoff used more alertness, and secured the passage of the Beresina as it ought to have been secured, the event which Bernadotte had planned must have taken place, and Buonaparte, with the remainder of his army, must have remained a prisoner there.

On the following morning, being Monday, the Ministers came to the resolution of entering the baronet's house by force; and, as he sat at breakfast with a considerable company of friends, an attempt was made by a man to enter by the window, which he broke in trying to raise the sash. This man was secured; but a more successful party of officers below dashed in a window on the ground floor, and soon appeared in the drawing-room. Sir Francis was seized and, still struggling and protesting, was conveyed to a carriage. Then, escorted by the military, he was taken to the Tower, amid tremendous crowds, crying "Burdett for ever!" A strong force had occupied the passage through the City, and had drawn up before the Tower before the arrival of the party with the prisoner, whom they had taken round by Pentonville and Islington. The scene during the conveyance of Sir Francis into the old fortress was indescribable for tumult and yelling. As the soldiers were returning they were hooted and pelted with stones, and at last they lost patience and fired, killing two persons and wounding several others.

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