These things did not pass without remark by the Opposition. Pulteney and Bolingbroke discussed them with much vigour and acrimony in The Craftsman. It was asserted in the House that the public burthens had increased instead of diminished since 1716; but Walpole contended that there had been a reduction of debt to the amount of two million five hundred thousand pounds; and his statement was supported by a large majority, and it was laid before the king. The Opposition then demanded an explanation of the expenditure of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds for secret service money. It was well understood that Walpole had used the greater part of it in buying up that triumphant majority which enabled him to carry the most obnoxious measures. The demands of the Opposition were so vehement, and the abuse was so glaring, that even Walpole was embarrassed how to get rid of the question. He could only recur to the old plea, that the money had been spent on services highly advantageous to the State, but which could not properly be made public. Suddenly events lifted him out of his difficulty. News arrived that the King of Spain, who declined to ratify the preliminaries of peace entered into at Vienna, on hearing of the death of George I., hoping for a revolution, had now given way, and had issued what was called the Act of Pardo, ratifying the preliminaries, and referring all remaining difficulties to be settled at a congress to be held at Soissons.
As a means of popularity, they insisted on the standing army being abolished in time of peace, on the strict limitation of placemen in Parliament, and on the return to triennial Parliaments. These were hard topics for the patriots now in power to digest. But the depression of trade continued, and no one could suggest a remedy but that of reducing taxation at the very time that all parties were zealous for the prosecution of the war. Finding no other solution to their difficulties, the public turned again to the demand of an inquiry into the administration of Walpole, hoping to lay bare in that the causes of their sufferings. Accordingly Lord Limerick, on the 23rd of March, rose and proposed a committee to inquire into the administration of Walpole, not for twenty, but for the last ten years. Pulteney not only voted, but spoke in favour of this motion, and it was carried by a majority of seven. Lord Limerick was chosen chairman, and such was the partial and vindictive spirit in which they went to work in examining papers and witnesses, that the honourable-minded Sir John Barnard, though so staunch an opponent of Walpole when in power, declared that he would no longer take part in the labours of a committee which displayed so little regard to the general inquiry, but concentrated all their efforts on the ruin of one individual.The Ministry being complete, Parliament met on the 2nd of December. It was found that the new Administration had not that influence in the boroughs that Newcastle, who had cultivated it, had; and several members of the Cabinet, Pitt amongst them, had difficulty in getting returned, as was the case with Charles Townshend. In the king's speech, his Majesty was made to speak of the militia, which he was known by everybody to hold in sovereign contempt, as the best and most constitutional means of national defence. He announced also that he had ordered the return of the Hanoverian troops to their own country; and the Duke of Devonshire inserted in the Address from the Lords an expression of thanks for having brought these troops over. Pitt had declared that he would quit the Cabinet if such a vote was passed, and Temple came hurrying down to the House—Pitt being absent from the Commons with the gout—and declared that he had quitted a sick bed to protest against it. This was an unlucky beginning. It was clear that there was want of unity in the Cabinet at its very birth, and out-of-doors the people were loudly complaining of the scarcity of food, and bread riots were frequent. The king himself could not help ridiculing the speech his new Ministers had composed for him; and a poor printer being arrested for putting another speech into his mouth, George said he hoped the man might receive very lenient punishment, for, as far as he could understand either of the speeches, he thought the printer's the best. To abate the ferment out-of-doors, the Commons passed two Bills: one prohibiting the export of grain, flour, or biscuit; the other prohibiting, for several months, distillation from wheat or barley.At the opening of the year 1814 Buonaparte was busy endeavouring to make good some of his false steps, so as to meet the approaching Allies with all possible strength. He made haste to liberate the captive Pope, and thus remove one of the causes of the hostility of the Italians to him, for in Italy the Austrians were bearing hard on his Viceroy, Eugene, who had but about forty-five thousand men there, whilst Murat, at Naples, so far from supporting the claims of Napoleon, was endeavouring to bargain with the Allies for the kingdom of Naples. Buonaparte, at the commencement of the year, sent Cardinal Maury and the Bishops of Evreux and Plaisance to Pius VII. at Fontainebleau. But even in such pressing circumstances Buonaparte could not make a generous offer. He endeavoured to bargain for the cession of a part of the Papal territories, on condition of the surrender of the rest. But Pius, who had always shown great spirit, replied that the estates of the Church were not his to give, and he would not give his consent to their alienation. Foiled on this point, Buonaparte then sent word that the Pope should be unconditionally liberated. "Then," said Pius, "so must all my cardinals." This was refused, but he was permitted to go alone, and a carriage and guard of honour were given him. Before departing, Pius called together the cardinals, seventeen in number, and commanded them to wear no decoration received from the French Government, and to assist at no festival to which they should be invited. He then took his leave, on the 24th of January, and reached Rome on the 18th of May. Thus ended the most foolish of all the arbitrary actions of Napoleon. The folly of it was so obvious that he disclaimed having ordered the seizure of the Pope, but he showed that this was false by keeping him prisoner more than five years.
THE SOUTH SEA BUBBLE. (After the Picture by E. M. Ward, R.A., in the National Gallery, London.)
The demoralisation appeared further in the abuses connected with the distribution of relief. The reports of the Commissioners have stated that, in those districts where the relief committees worked together with zeal and in good faith, the administration was excellent, checking fraud and imposture, while it relieved the really distressed. But in some districts this was unhappily not the case. Abuses existed, varying from apathy and neglect to connivance at frauds and misappropriation of the funds. Gross impositions were daily practised by the poor. The dead or absent were personated; children were lent for a few days in order to give the appearance of large families, and thus entitle the borrowers to a greater number of rations. Almost the whole population, in many cases, alleged poverty and looked for relief; and then, conceiving the receipt of cooked food a degradation, they endeavoured to compel the issue of raw meal. One universal spirit of mendicancy pervaded the people, to which in several places the committees offered no opposition. Yielding to intimidation, or seeking for popularity, they were willing to place the whole population indiscriminately on the lists to be supported by public charity.
On the 13th of May came down a message, announcing the approaching marriage of the Duke of Kent with the daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Victoria Maria Louisa, sister of Prince Leopold, and widow of Emich Charles, the Prince of Leiningen. The princess was already the mother of a son and daughter. The nation was extremely favourable to this match. The Duke of Kent was popular, and the more so that he had always been treated with unnatural harshness by his father. He had been put under the care of an old martinet general in Hanover, who had received a large annual allowance with him, and kept him so sparely that the poor youth ran away. He had been then sent to Gibraltar, where the severe discipline which he had been taught to consider necessary in the army brought him into disgrace with the garrison. But towards the public at large his conduct had been marked by much liberality of principle.
(After the Portrait by J. B. Greuze.)GEORGE II."I well know that there are those upon whom such considerations as these to which I have been adverting will make but a faint impression. Their answer to all such appeals is the short, in their opinion the conclusive, declaration—'The Protestant Constitution in Church and State must be maintained at all hazards, and by any means; the maintenance of it is a question of principle, and every concession or compromise is the sacrifice of principle to a low and vulgar expediency.' This is easily said; but how was Ireland to be governed? How was the Protestant Constitution in Church and State to be maintained in that part of the empire? Again I can anticipate the reply—'By the overwhelming sense of the people of Great Britain; by the application, if necessary, of physical force for the maintenance of authority; by the employment of the organised strength of Government, the police and the military, to enforce obedience to the law.'"
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The French left six hundred killed and wounded on the field; the British had four hundred and eighty killed or disabled. Laborde retreated amongst the hills to the village of Azambugueira, and thence to Torres Vedras, where he looked for the junction of Loison, and where that general really appeared. Still the British force was equal, if not superior, in numbers to the French, and Sir Arthur Wellesley advanced along the sea-coast to Vimiera, where he was joined by Generals Anstruther and Acland. Unfortunately, at this moment arrived Sir Harry Burrard, whom the Ministry had ordered to supersede Sir Arthur Wellesley in the chief command till the arrival of Sir Hew Dalrymple, who was to be the General-in-Chief; Burrard, second in command; and Wellesley, Sir John Moore, Lord Paget, Sir John Hope, and Macdonald Frazer, to command different divisions. Thus, by the old system of routine, the real military genius was reduced from the first to the fourth in command. Sir Arthur went on board Sir Harry Burrard's vessel on the evening of his arrival, the 20th of August, and explained to him the positions of the armies, and his plan of advancing along the coast to Mafra, thus turning the flank of Laborde and Loison, and compelling them to fight or retreat on Lisbon. This was clearly the view of every one of the officers, who were eager to press on; but Sir Harry, old and cautious, was of opinion that nothing more should be risked till Sir John Moore arrived with his reinforcements. Sir Arthur must have returned under a sense of deep disappointment, but, fortunately for him, the enemy did not allow of his waiting for Sir John Moore. At midnight he received a hasty message that the French were in motion, and coming in one dense mass of twenty thousand men to surprise and rout him. Sir Arthur was strongly posted in the village of Vimiera and on the hills around it. He sent out patrols, and ordered the pickets to be on the alert, and he then called out his troops, and had them in good fighting order by the dawn of day. At about seven o'clock the advance of the enemy was perceived by the clouds of dust that rose into the air, and soon they were seen coming on in columns of infantry, preceded by cavalry. By ten o'clock the French were close at hand, and made an impetuous attack on the British centre and left, to drive them into the sea, according to a favourite French phrase, the sea actually rolling close to their rear. The first troops which came into collision with them were the 50th regiment, commanded by Colonel Walker. Seeing that the intention of the French, who were led by Laborde himself, was to break his line by their old method of pushing on a dense column by a momentum from behind, which drove in the van like a wedge, in spite of itself, Colonel Walker instantly changed the position of his regiment so as, instead of a parallel line, to present an oblique one to the assailing column. This was, therefore, driven on by the immense rear, and, instead of breaking the British line, was actually taken in flank by it, and the musketry and grape-shot mowed down the French in a terrible manner. This was at once succeeded by a rapid charge with the bayonet; and so astonishing was the effect of this unexpected movement, that the French were thrown into irretrievable confusion, and broke on every side. Whilst this was the effect on the centre and left, General Sir Ronald Fergusson was attacked with equal impetuosity by Loison: bayonets were crossed, and the same result as took place at Maida occurred—the French fell back and fled. Nothing was wanted but a good body of cavalry to follow up the flying foe, and completely reduce them to surrender. The small body of horse, commanded by Colonel Taylor, fought with an ardour that led them too far into the centre of Margaron's powerful cavalry, and Colonel Taylor was killed, and half of his little troop with him. Kellermann, to stop the pursuit, posted a strong reserve in a pine wood, on the line of retreat, but they were driven out at the point of the bayonet. Had the orders of General Wellesley now been carried out, the French would have been cut off from much further retreat. General Hill was commanded to take a short cut, and interpose between the French and the strong position of Torres Vedras, and General Fergusson was directed to follow sharply in their rear. In all probability they must have capitulated at once; but here the evil genius of Sir Harry Burrard again interfered to save them. He appeared on the field and thought sufficient had been done till Sir John Moore arrived. It was not enough for him that the French had now been twice put to rout within a few days, and were in full flight, and that they were found not to be twenty thousand, but only eighteen thousand strong. He ordered the pursuit to cease, and the army to sit down at Vimiera till the arrival of Moore. To the great astonishment of the French, and the equal mortification of the British, the retreating enemy was thus allowed to collect their forces and take possession of the heights of Torres Vedras.[See larger version][See larger version]
On the 10th of February, 1797, the French made a descent on the Welsh coast, which created much alarm at the time, and no less speculation as to its meaning. Four armed vessels, containing about fourteen hundred men, had appeared in the Bristol Channel, off Ilfracombe, in north Devon. They did not attempt to land there, but stood over to the Welsh coast, and landed in a bay near Fishguard. They were commanded by General Tate, and commenced marching inland, and the whole country was in alarm. Lord Cawdor marched against them with three thousand men, including a considerable body of militia, and they at once laid down their arms and surrendered without a shot. Many were the conjectures as to the object of this descent, and historians have much puzzled themselves about a matter which appears plain enough. The men looked ragged and wild, more like felons than soldiers, and were apparently not unwilling to be made prisoners. They were, no doubt, a part of the great Brest fleet meant for Ireland, which had been driven about by the tempests ever since they quitted that port on the 17th of December, and were only too glad to set foot on any land at all, and probably were by this time so famished and bewildered that they did not know whether they were in England or Ireland. Many of their comrades of the same unfortunate expedition never did see land again.详情
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