The Ministry had, as a matter of course, been much weakened by the retirement of Lord Grey; but, having got through the Session, it might have survived to the next meeting of Parliament but for the death of Earl Spencer, which occurred on the 10th of November—an event which removed Lord Althorp to the House of Peers. It was supposed that this would lead only to a fresh modification of the Cabinet, by a redistribution of places. For example, Lord John Russell was to succeed Lord Althorp as the leader of the House of Commons. Lord Melbourne's Administration seemed to be quietly acquiesced in, as sufficient for a time; the nation evidently assuming that, in any case, a Liberal Government was the necessary consequence of a reformed Parliament. The public were therefore startled when it was announced on the 15th that the king had dismissed his Ministers. It appeared that Lord Melbourne had waited upon his Majesty at Brighton, on the 14th, to take his commands as to the new arrangements he was about to make. But the king said he considered that Government dissolved by the removal of Lord Althorp; that he did not approve of the intended construction of the Cabinet; that Lord John Russell would make "a wretched figure" as leader of the House, and that Abercromby and Spring-Rice were worse than Russell; that he did not approve of their intended measure with regard to the Irish Church; and concluded by informing Lord Melbourne that he would not impose upon him the task of completing the Ministerial arrangements, but would send for the Duke of Wellington.The conduct of Vernon, though he had been the Idol of the Opposition, and not of the Ministry, as it became known, increased enormously the unpopularity of Walpole. Though he had literally been forced into the war by the Opposition, the whole of its disasters were charged, not on them, but on him; and they did not hesitate to throw from themselves upon him the odium of all its failures. The general election which now came on was seized upon to load Walpole with all the weight of the unsuccessful war. The Duchess of Marlborough, Pulteney, and the Prince of Wales raised funds to outbribe the master of corruption himself. They incurred heavy debts to complete his ruin, and as the news of the miserable issue of the expedition to the Spanish settlements came in, numbers of those who had been returned to Parliament as friends of the Ministry turned round and joined the Opposition in violent denunciations of the mismanagement of the war. Lord Chesterfield, whilst these transactions had been progressing, had hastened on to Avignon, and, taking up his quarters with the Duke of Ormonde, obtained from the Pretender letters to nearly a hundred Jacobites in England and Scotland, engaging them to put out all their power and influence against Walpole.
On the 5th of June, the day after the king's birthday, Pitt introduced his plan of military defence. It was to leave the militia what it was, but to increase the regular army by making it compulsory on parishes to furnish each a certain number of men to what was called the Army of Reserve—a body called out for five years, and only to be employed within the United Kingdom. He desired to break down the distinctions between this and the regular army by attaching the Reserve to the Regulars as second battalions, and encouraging volunteering thence into the Regulars. This was known as the Additional Force Bill, which was denounced by the Opposition as veiled conscription. In other ways, notably by the erection of his martello towers, Pitt set himself to rouse the spirit of the nation, in face of the very real danger of invasion.
(After the Portrait by A. E. Challon, R.A.)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.This appeal did something to strengthen them, but not permanently. The fact that Parliament might terminate any day from the death of the king did much to keep members in remembrance of their constituents; but the great cause of Ministerial decay of popularity was that the circumstance and spirit of the times demanded more liberal legislation than such men as Liverpool, Sidmouth, and Eldon could comprehend, much less originate. The manufacturing districts were especially in a depressed condition. The efforts which had been made to force a trade had failed. The excessive exportation of manufactured goods had resulted exactly as Brougham had prognosticated: the foreign markets had been glutted before the people were capable of buying, and the fall in prices had been ruinous. The equally great importation of raw material to continue the supply of fabrics for which the demand was inadequate, had made matters worse. The bankruptcies during the first half of this year were double the average number, credit was severely shaken, and numbers of workmen were thrown out of employment or reduced to very low wages. Wheat, though not so high as a year or two ago, averaged eighty shillings per quarter. The consequence was a renewed political action, and meetings were called by the workmen in various parts of the manufacturing districts to consider both their unsatisfactory position and the governmental as well as commercial causes of it. The Corn Laws were justly denounced as one potent cause of their sufferings, and the popular leaders of Reform were called upon to assist them in getting rid of it. So early as the 18th of January a meeting of this character was held at Manchester. Application had been made to the borough-reeve to summon a meeting to petition Parliament for this object, but he declined, the Manchester authorities of that day standing strangely aloof from the people in their endeavours for relief from this enactment, which was as inimical to their own interests as manufacturers, as it was to the comfort of their work-people.
THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON'S DUEL WITH LORD WINCHILSEA. (See p. 300.)
J. Longfield, made Lord Longville.MARIE ANTOINETTE (1783.)Whilst these things were happening, and but two days before the mail arrived bringing the news of the defeat at Closter-Campen, George II. died. He had, till within the last two years, enjoyed robust health. He had then a severe attack of gout, and from that time his eyes and hearing had failed. On the morning of the 25th of October he rose at his usual hour of six, drank his chocolate, inquired how the wind was, being anxious for the arrival of the mails, and then suddenly fell, uttered a groan, and expired. He was seventy-seven years of age.
Charles was, both in Scotland—on which his wild adventure had inflicted such miseries—and in France, a hero of romance; but his captured adherents had far other scenes to face than the lights and luxurious music of the opera. The prisons were crammed to such a degree with the unfortunate Gaels, that Government was compelled to stow numbers away on board of men-of-war and transports, till fever broke out and swept them off by hundreds, sparing the labours of judges, juries, and hangmen. In Carlisle prison alone four hundred Scots were jammed in a space not properly sufficient for forty! The poor prisoners had been brought out of Scotland in open defiance of the Act of union and of the recognised rights of the Scottish courts; and now they were called on to cast lots for one in twenty to take their trials, with a certainty of being hanged, and the rest shipped off to the Plantations in America without any trial at all.
After the departure of the British fleet, the Jacobin troops, townsmen, and galley convicts, were perpetrating the most horrible scenes on the unfortunate Toulonese. Even the poor workmen who had been employed by the English to strengthen the defences, were collected in hundreds, and cut down by discharges of grape-shot. Three Jacobin commissioners, the brother of Robespierre, Barras, and Freron, were sent to purge the place, and besides the grape-shot the guillotine was in daily activity exterminating the people. The very mention of the name of Toulon was forbidden, and it was henceforth to be called Port de la Montagne.This destruction accomplished, the mob marched away to the house of Priestley, which was at Fair Hill, where they utterly burned and destroyed all the invaluable library, philosophical instruments, and manuscripts, containing notes of the doctor's further chemical experiments and discoveries. Fire-engines were called out to prevent the flames of the meeting-houses from spreading to the adjoining houses, but they were not suffered to play on the meeting-houses themselves, nor does any effort appear to have been made to save Priestley's house. The doctor and his family had made a timely retreat. He himself passed the first two nights in a post-chaise, and the two succeeding on horseback, but less owing to his own apprehensions of danger than to those of others. An eye-witness said that the high road for fully half a mile from his house was strewed with books, and that, on entering the library, there were not a dozen volumes on the shelves; while the floor was covered several inches deep with torn manuscripts. This was the work of the night of the 14th of July, and the riots continued from Thursday to Sunday; among the buildings destroyed being the paper warehouse of William Hutton, the historian of the place, and the author of several antiquarian treatises. Hutton was a man who had raised himself from the deepest poverty, for his father was a poor stocking-weaver of Derby. He had found Birmingham without a paper warehouse; had opened one, and, by that shrewdness and carefulness in business, which are so conspicuous in his "Autobiography," and afford a valuable study for young men, had acquired a competence. He was not only an honour to the town by his upright character, and reputation as a self-taught author, but he had been an active benefactor to it. He had been the first to establish a circulating library in the town; was always an advocate and co-operator in works and institutions of improvement, and was the most active and able commissioner of the Court of Requests. His only crime was that of being a Nonconformist, and an advocate of advanced principles.George II. was born in 1683, and was, consequently, in his forty-fourth year when he ascended the throne. In 1705 he married the Princess Caroline Wilhelmina of Anspach, who was born in the year before himself, by whom he had now four children—Frederick Prince of Wales, born in 1707, William Duke of Cumberland, born in 1721, and two daughters.
Henry Hallam, who died in 1859, occupies a higher ground than Lingard, having no party interests to serve, and having a mind singularly free from prejudice, as well as a conscientious regard for truth in his records and judgments; while his clear, impressive, and graceful style invests dry details with interest. His "View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages," a work of great learning and value, was followed, in 1827, by his "Constitutional History of England;" and ten years later he published, in four volumes, an "Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Centuries." This is his greatest work, and in point of learning and utility and purity of style it may be regarded as one of the greatest in the English language. These works placed Mr. Hallam, by general consent, at the head of contemporary historians.During the recess of Parliament there was an active contest between the new French opinions and the old constitutional ones. One called forth and provoked the other. Clubs and societies for Reform were more after the model of the wholesale proceedings of France than the old and sober ones of England. The Society of the Friends of the People was compelled to disclaim all connection with the Society for Constitutional Information in London, which was in open correspondence with the Jacobins of Paris. It was forced to disown societies in the country of the same stamp, and especially to check a branch of the Society for Constitutional Information in Sheffield, which, in May of the present year, called on the Society of the Friends of the People to establish a Convention in London. To allow of no mistake as to their principles, the Society of the Friends of the People held a great meeting on the 5th of May, in which they announced that they had no other object but to obtain Parliamentary Reform by strictly legal and constitutional means, and that after this end had been secured they should dissolve themselves. Yet, notwithstanding this, there were those in the Society who deemed that they were in connection with persons and associations whose views went farther than their own, and, on this ground, on the 9th of June, Mr. Baker, who had been the chairman at the late meeting at the Freemasons' Tavern, Lord John Russell, who had been deputy-chairman, Dudley North, Mr. Curwen, and Mr. Courtney, withdrew from it.
Scotland, before the Reform Bill, was ruled by an oligarchy. The population was two millions and a half, the constituency was only 2,500. The power was to be taken from this small junto, and extended to the great middle class of that intelligent and loyal people. In Ireland, a host of rotten boroughs, some without any constituency at all, was to be swept away. The general result would be an increase for the United Kingdom of half a million electors, making the whole number enjoying the franchise 900,000. Of these 50,000 would be found in the new towns, created into Parliamentary boroughs in England, 110,000 additional electors in boroughs already returning members. For instance, London would have 95,000; the English counties, 100,000; Scotland, 60,000; Ireland, 40,000. The House would consist in all of 596 members, being a reduction of sixty-two on the existing number of 658. The number of seats abolished was 168, which reduced the House to 490. Five additional members were given to Scotland, three to Ireland, one to Wales, eight to London, thirty-four to large English towns, and fifty-five to English counties.详情
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