Though the Duke of Wellington defended him-self against the persevering attacks of the financial reformers, he was busy making retrenchments in every department of the Public Service. So effectually did he employ the pruning-hook, that although the income of the previous year had fallen short of the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer by ￡560,000, he was able to present to the House this year a surplus of ￡3,400,000 available for the reduction of taxation, still leaving an excess of income over expenditure of ￡2,667,000 applicable to the reduction of debt. There was, consequently, a large remission of taxation, the principal item of which was the beer duty, estimated at ￡3,000,000. At the same time, in order to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet these reductions, an addition of one shilling a gallon was made to the duty on English spirits and of twopence on Irish and Scottish spirits. This Budget helped to clear the political atmosphere and brought a brief gleam of popularity to the Government. The Duke got full credit for an earnest desire to economise, and it was acknowledged by the Liberal party that he had given the most important financial relief that the nation had experienced since the establishment of peace. Notwithstanding, however, the general satisfaction, and the loud popular applause, the pressure of distress was not sensibly alleviated. The burden indeed was somewhat lightened, but what the nation wanted was greater strength to bear financial burdens, a revival of its industrial energies, and facilities for putting them forth with profit to themselves and to the country. Remissions of taxation were but the weight of a feather, compared to the losses sustained by the action of the currency. For while the reductions only relieved the nation to the extent of three or four millions, it was estimated that the monetary laws, by cutting off at least fifty per cent. from the remuneration of all branches of industry, commercial and agricultural, had reduced the incomes of the industrial classes to the extent of a hundred and fifty millions yearly.LORD BUTE AND THE LONDONERS. (See p. 175.)
[See larger version]In all these transactions Carteret showed the most facile disposition to gratify all the Hanoverian tendencies of the king, in order to ingratiate himself and secure the Premiership at home. But in this he did not succeed; he was much trusted by George in foreign affairs, and in them he remained. Lord Wilmington, Prime Minister, had died two months before the signing of the treaty at Worms, and the competitors for his office were Pelham, brother of the Duke of Newcastle, and Pulteney. Pelham was supported by Newcastle, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, and still more powerfully by the old Minister under whom he had been trained—Lord Orford, who, though out of office, was consulted in everything relating to it. Pulteney and Pelham had both, according to their friends, neglected the necessary steps for succeeding Wilmington. Pulteney had declined any office, vainly hoping that his great popularity would enable him to guide public affairs. His friends reminded him that had he taken the Treasury on Walpole's resignation, he would now have been still at the helm. Pelham's great adviser, Lord Orford, said to him, "If you had taken my advice, and held the Exchequer under Wilmington, the whole had dropped into your mouth." Pelham, however, received the appointment from the king, and this was communicated in a letter from Carteret, who candidly told him that, as the old friend and colleague of Pulteney, Lord Bath, he had done all in his power to secure the office for him, but now he would support Pelham cordially, notwithstanding. Pelham was at this period forty-seven years of age, of far inferior talent to Orford, but pursued his cautious principles and acted under his advice.In 1817 the number of power-looms in Lancashire was estimated at 2,000, of which only about 1,000 were then in employment, and the wages had fallen below the rate at which goods could be produced by machinery. To the power-loom, therefore, the hand-loom weavers gradually gave way. In 1832 there were 80,000 power-looms in Lancashire, employing persons of both sexes and of all ages from nine years upwards, at rates of wages varying from half-a-crown to ten shillings a week. In 1817 the estimated number of persons employed in the spinning of cotton in Great Britain was 110,763, and the quantity of yarn produced was under 100,000,000 lbs.; in 1853 the yarn spun was nearly 700,000,000 lbs. In 1838 the total number of cotton factories in Great Britain and Ireland was 1,815, of which there were in England and Wales, 1,599; in Scotland, 192; in Ireland, 24. The total number of persons employed in these factories was 206,000, of whom 145,934 were females.
If there wanted anything to prove the truth of Lord Wellington's warnings to the Spanish authorities of the undisciplined condition of their armies, and the incompetency of their generals, it came quickly. Whilst they continued to treat him more like an enemy than a friend, and had issued orders throughout the province where he lay, forbidding the sale of provisions and forage for his army, their own armies were again annihilated. The army of Venegas, which had retreated, on the advance of Sebastiani towards Madrid, into the Sierra Morena, had been taken from him, and given to a young, inexperienced man, General Areizaga. Cuesta, also, had been set aside for one still more incapable, a General Eguia, of whom Lord Wellington had already pronounced that he was a fool. Areizaga, instead of maintaining his strong post in the hills, being joined by the greater part of the army of Estremadura, now commanded by Eguia, imagined that he could beat the united forces of Mortier and Sebastiani, and drive them out of Madrid. With fifty thousand men and sixty pieces of artillery he descended from his hills into the open plains of Oca?a, where he was beaten on the 20th of November, with the loss of all his artillery but five guns, his baggage, military chest, provisions, and everything. There was immense slaughter of his soldiers, and the rest fled into the mountains. The Duke del Parque, who was placed for the protection of the line of the Tagus with another large army, was marching to support this intended conquest of Madrid, when, in the month of October, being strongly posted on the heights of Tamames, he encountered General Marchand, and defeated him. Elated by this success, he no longer trusted to hills and strong positions, but, like Areizaga, advanced boldly into the plains, and on the 28th of November he encountered Kellermann at Alba de Tormes, and received a most thorough defeat. His men, both cavalry and infantry, scarcely stayed to cross swords or bayonets with the French, but, flinging down their arms, and leaving all their baggage and artillery behind them, they fled in every direction. Kellerman pursued and cut them down without mercy—according to his own account, killing three thousand men and making three hundred prisoners.JEDBURGH ABBEY. (After the Painting by Sir George Reid, P.R.S.A.)
Continuing southwards, Mackintosh joined the English insurgents at Kelso on the 22nd. This united force now amounted altogether to about two thousand men—one thousand four hundred foot commanded by Mackintosh, and six hundred horse under Lord Kenmure and Mr. Forster. This force might, in the paucity of troops in the service of the king, have produced a great effect had they marched unitedly southward and engaged General Carpenter, who was advancing from Newcastle, with only about nine hundred cavalry, to attack them; or had they gone at once north, taken Argyll in the rear, and then combined with Mar. But after marching to Jedburgh and then to Hawick, the Scots and English formed two different opinions. The Scots would not enter England, being persuaded by the Earl of Wintoun that, if they went into England, they would be all cut to pieces, or be sold for slaves. Mackintosh was willing to enter England, but they would listen to no one but Wintoun. Several hundred Highlanders deserted, and the remainder of the army, under the inefficient command of Forster, marched into England and reached Preston without molestation.
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In the meantime rumours were in circulation, said to have emanated from Dublin Castle, to the effect that a conspiracy existed to massacre the members of the Government and the loyal citizens. However these rumours may have originated, they spread a panic through the city. People expected that when they woke some morning they would find the barricades up in the leading streets, and behold an imitation of the bloody scenes lately enacted in Paris. The Government seemed to share the alarm. Strong bodies of soldiers were posted in different parts of the city. Trinity College, the buildings of the Royal Dublin Society, the Linen Hall, and the Custom House were occupied as temporary barracks. The Bank of Ireland was put in a state of defence, and cannon were placed on the roof in such a way as to command the streets. Bullet-proof shutters were furnished for the front of Trinity College. The Viceroy evidently apprehended some serious work, for he ordered the troops in all these extemporised fortresses to be furnished with rations for several days. These preparations for a siege continued throughout the months of March and April. For more than three months the chambers of the College were turned into barracks; the troops were paraded in the quadrangles every morning. In all the fortified positions the soldiers were kept under arms at unreasonable hours. In fact the whole community was in a state of painful suspense, hourly anticipating the attacks of an imaginary enemy. During all this time there was not a single dep?t of arms seized nor a single rebellious leader arrested. The clubs, indeed, were meeting and plotting, and the Government spies were amongst them, but they had made no preparations for insurrection that should have excited alarm. There was much talk of the manufacture of pikes, but the only instance made public was one in which a blacksmith had been asked to make one by a detective policeman.On the morning of the 14th the transports, to their great relief, hove in sight, and Sir John hastened to get on board the sick, the horses, and the dismounted cavalry, and to prepare for a fight, for Soult was now close upon the town; the hills were crowded with his troops, and they were already skirmishing with his outposts. In these skirmishes Colonel Mackenzie was killed in endeavouring to seize some of the French cannon, planted on the same spot where the powder had just been blown up. The morning of the 16th passed without any attack from Soult, and Sir John proceeded with his arrangements for embarkation; but about noon the battle began. Soult had erected a powerful battery on some rocks at the extremity of his left, and commanding the village of Elvina, occupied by our troops. Sir David Baird was posted on the British right, opposite to the battery, and at no great distance from the village. The French made a dash at the village, under cover of the battery, and drove our men from it. The fight then became general. Soult had twenty thousand men, Sir John about fourteen thousand five hundred; but Soult had far more and heavier cannon, for Sir John had shipped all his artillery except twelve light guns. It was soon seen that the French cannon did vastly more execution than ours; and as the whole line was engaged, Sir John sent Sir E. Paget, with the whole of his reserve, to turn the left of a column that was outflanking Baird on the right, and to silence the battery, if possible. Another division, under General Frazer, was sent to support Paget, and the battle now raged furiously on the right, and about the village of Elvina, which was lost and taken once or twice. In this conflict Sir David Baird had his arm shattered by a cannon-ball, and was taken off the field. Major Stanhope was killed, and Major, afterwards General Sir Charles, Napier was wounded. But Paget drew back on the British right, and Sir John, seeing the 42nd Highlanders engaged, rode up to them and shouted, "Highlanders! remember Egypt!" and they rushed forward, driving all before them, till they were stopped by a stone wall. The battle, however, still raging, and the French bringing up reserves, the furious contest was renewed around the village of Elvina. Sir John then dispatched Captain, afterwards Lord, Hardinge, to bring up the Guards to support the 42nd Highlanders. Whilst awaiting their arrival, a cannon-ball, which had struck the ground, glanced forward again, and wounded Sir John on the right shoulder and breast. He was dashed from his horse, and was supposed to be killed; but the force of the ball having been partly spent, before Captain Hardinge could reach him he had raised himself, and was gazing earnestly after the 42nd and the other troops engaged. When he had seen his soldiers driving the French before them, he consented to be borne to the rear. He was carried away by a Highland sergeant and three soldiers, in a blanket, his wound bleeding very much, and himself satisfied that his hurt was mortal. As he went, however, he repeatedly made the soldiers halt, that he might have another view of the battle. By night the French were beaten back in every direction; but the British general was dead, having lived only to receive the tidings of victory. During the night the troops were, most of them, got on board, and at midnight Sir John's remains were committed to the ground—as he had always wished them to be, should he be killed in battle—on the ramparts in the old citadel of Corunna. No coffin was to be procured, for coffins were not a Spanish fashion; but he was buried dressed as he was, and wrapt in his military cloak, literally as described in Wolfe's popular poem on his death. The chaplain read the burial service, and there his officers "left him alone with his glory," to make their own embarkation.
This was a serious position of affairs for the consideration of the new Whig Ministry. They were called on to declare, either that Ireland was part of the empire, and subject to the same laws, as regarded the empire, as Great Britain, or that it was distinctly a separate empire under the same king, just as Hanover was. The Ministry of Rockingham have been severely blamed by one political party, and highly lauded by another, for conceding the claims of Ireland on that head so readily; for they came to the conclusion to yield them fully. They were by no means blind to the difficulties of the case, and to the evils that might arise from a decision either way. But the case with the present Ministry was one of simple necessity. England had committed the great error of refusing all concession to demanded rights in the case of America, and now lay apparently too exhausted by the fight to compel submission, with all Europe in arms against her. Ireland, aware of this, was in arms, and determined to profit by the crisis. Fox, therefore, on the 17th of May, announced the intention of Ministers at once to acknowledge the independence of Ireland by repealing the Act of the 6th of George I. Fox, in his speech, declared that it was far better to have the Irish willing subjects to the Crown than bitter enemies. The Bill repealing the 6th of George I. accordingly passed both Houses as a matter of course, and the effect upon Ireland was such, that in the first ebullition of the national joy the Irish House of Commons voted one hundred thousand pounds to raise twenty thousand seamen. The Irish Commons, moreover, offered to grant Grattan, for his patriotic and successful exertions in this cause, a similar sum, to purchase him an estate. Grattan—though a poor man, his income at that time scarcely exceeding five hundred pounds a year—disinterestedly refused such a sum, and was only with difficulty induced ultimately to accept half of it.Such being the state of our relations with America, Sir Robert Peel's Government determined to send to Washington a special ambassador who should be clothed with full powers to effect an amicable adjustment of all the causes of dispute. The gentleman selected for this purpose was Lord Ashburton. A more judicious selection could not possibly have been made. Mr. Alexander Baring, who had been raised to the peerage in 1835, having been previously President of the Board of Trade and Master of the Mint, was known throughout the world as one of our merchant princes, and was the husband of an American lady, the daughter of Mr. William Bingham, of Philadelphia, a senator of the United States. The hopes which his mission excited were not disappointed. He sailed from England in February, 1842, and after a tedious and stormy passage, arrived at New York on the 1st of April. He immediately entered upon negotiations with Mr. Webster. They continued till the month of August, when a treaty was agreed upon and signed at Washington by the two plenipotentiaries, the mutual exchange of ratifications to take place in London within six months of that date. By that treaty the line of the north-eastern boundary was settled, concession on the St. John being purchased by the surrender of a strip of land to the States of New York and Vermont. It was stipulated that Great Britain and America should each maintain a sufficient squadron or naval force, carrying not less than eighty guns, for the purpose of enforcing, separately and respectively, the laws, rights, and obligations of each of the two countries for the suppression of the slave trade, and should use their joint influence for suppressing the slave markets. It also provided for the mutual delivery to justice of all persons charged with murder, or assault with intent to murder, or with piracy, robbery, forgery, and arson committed within the jurisdiction of either country, should they be found within the territories of the other; but the evidence of criminality should be sufficient to warrant the committal for trial of the fugitive according to the laws of the country in which he was apprehended. This was a distinct withdrawal of Lord Palmerston's pretensions with regard to the McLeod affair. The mission was thus eminently successful, but Lord Palmerston was of another opinion, and declaimed in the House of Commons against the "Ashburton surrender." But the Commons were unprepared to condemn the work, and the debate ended in a count-out. The House of Lords, on the motion of Brougham, passed a vote of thanks to Lord Ashburton.
Parliament opened gloomily on the 21st of January, 1806. The total failure of Pitt's new Continental coalition, the surrender of Ulm, the battle of Austerlitz, the retreat of Austria into peace with Napoleon, and of Russia into her northern snows, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium nearly all prostrate at the feet of Buonaparte, were killing Pitt. He had sought for renovation in the autumn at Bath; but its salutary waters and atmosphere had failed to restore his spirit, or to remove what Fox called the "Austerlitz look" from his face. He was dying at Putney as the House met, and the king was not in a condition to open the Session personally. The Royal Speech, read by a Commissioner, referred, with just pride, to the great victory of Trafalgar, and had but little to say on the defeat of all our endeavours on the Continent. The Opposition determined to move an amendment to the Address; but this was prevented by the announcement of the death of Pitt on the 23rd, two days after the opening of Parliament. Mr. Lascelles gave notice of a motion for a public funeral in Westminster Abbey. Fox moved that this question should be postponed till after the discussion on the Address, which was considered by Pitt's friends as a great want of generosity in Fox. The amendment was, of course, overruled, and it was voted, on the 27th of January, by a majority of two hundred and fifty-eight against eighty-nine, that Pitt should be buried in Westminster Abbey; which accordingly took place, the royal dukes, the Archbishop of Canterbury, eight bishops, a great number of peers, and about a hundred members of the House of Commons attending.Whilst this war was raging in Europe, and carrying its ramifications to the most distant regions of the world, Clive and Eyre Coote were extending the British Empire in India, and, in the case of Clive, with as much ability as Frederick of Prussia showed in enlarging his kingdom in Europe. Clive, in 1757, put down Surajah Dowlah, the Nabob of Bengal, and in June of that year defeated him at Plassey with a mere handful of men against his enormous host. He set up Surajah Dowlah's General-in-chief, Meer Jaffier, and hailed him Nabob of Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar. We claimed from Meer Jaffier two million seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds as the share of the Company, the fleet, and the army. Clive's own share was two hundred and fifty-four thousand pounds, and the shares of the members of the committee ran from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand pounds each. Besides this, it was stipulated that the French factories and effects should be given up to the English, and the French never again allowed to enter Bengal. The territory surrounding Calcutta, within a given distance of the town, was to be granted them on zemindary tenure, the company paying the rent, like the other zemindars or landholders. Thus the British, who were before merely the tenants of a factory, became in reality the rulers of Bengal.
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