Monster meetings, not unaccompanied by disturbance, were held in various places, the most serious of which occurred at Birmingham. The inhabitants of this town had been kept in a state of almost incessant alarm by the proceedings of disorderly persons calling themselves Chartists. Representations to this effect having been sent to the Home Office, sixty picked men of the metropolitan force were sent down to aid the civil authorities in the preservation of peace. They arrived at Birmingham by the railway on Thursday, July 4th, and speedily mustering, they marched two abreast into the Bull Ring, where about 2,000 Chartists were assembled, at nine o'clock in the evening. They endeavoured, at first, to induce the meeting quietly to disperse, but failed in the attempt. They then seized the flags with which Lord Nelson's monument in the centre of the square was decorated, and among which was one that bore a death's head; but the Chartists, who had at first been disconcerted, recaptured them, after a desperate struggle, and broke their staves into pieces, to be used as clubs. A conflict immediately ensued, in which the police, who were armed only with batons, were seriously injured; and the Chartists were retiring in triumph when the 4th Dragoons charged them, by concert, through all the streets leading to the Bull Ring, and they fled in every direction. Further riots ensued, and on the 15th an organised mob attacked the houses in the High Street and Spiral Street. They broke into the warehouses, flinging their contents into the streets. A large pile of bedding was set on fire in the Bull Ring. Windows and shop-fittings were remorselessly demolished by the infuriated multitude. A few minutes past nine o'clock the cry of "Fire!" was raised. Scarcely had the words been uttered when the rioters carried immense heaps of burning materials from the streets, forcing them into the houses of Mr. Bourne and Mr. Legatt. Within a quarter of an hour the flames burst out with awful violence from both houses, amidst the exulting shouts of the rioters. While this work of destruction was going on they had the streets to themselves. The general cry among the inhabitants was, "Where are the military? Where are the magistrates?" At length, about ten o'clock, sixty of the metropolitan police, with a posse of special constables, made their appearance, and rushed upon the rioters sword in hand, causing them to fly in all directions. The dragoons, under the command of Colonel Chatterton, were now discerned galloping down Moore Street, and another squadron at the same moment down High Street, and in five minutes about 300 of the Rifle Brigade marched to the Bull Ring. The inhabitants, feeling like people sore pressed by a long siege, clapped their hands with joy at the approach of their deliverers. The fire engines also came under escort, having been driven away before, and set about arresting the conflagration. In the meantime the cavalry were scouring and clearing the streets and suburbs, and the police were busily engaged bringing in prisoners. About midnight the roofs of the two houses fell in, and about one o'clock the fire was got under. Next day the shops were nearly all closed, the middle classes full of suspicion, and the populace vowing vengeance against the police and the soldiers. A piece of artillery placed at the head of High Street contributed materially to prevent further disturbance. About twenty prisoners were made, and the evidence produced before the magistrates showed the determined purpose of the rioters. When these outrages were the subject of discussion in the House of Lords, the Duke of Wellington said, "That he had seen as much of war as most men; but he had never seen a town carried by assault subjected to such violence as Birmingham had been during an hour by its own inhabitants."It was upon this very able report of Mr. Nicholls that the Irish Poor Law was based. After undergoing much consideration, it was finally adopted by the Government on the 13th of December, 1836, and on the following day he was directed to have a Bill prepared, embodying all his recommendations. This was accordingly done; and after being scrutinised, clause by clause, in a committee of the Cabinet specially appointed for the purpose, and receiving various emendations, the Bill was introduced on the 13th of February, 1837, by Lord John Russell, then Home Secretary, and Leader of the House of Commons. His speech on the occasion was able and comprehensive. "It appears," he said, "from the testimony both of theory and experience, that when a country is overrun by marauders and mendicants having no proper means of subsistence, but preying on the industry and relying on the charity of others, the introduction of a Poor Law serves several very important objects. In the first place, it acts as a measure of peace, enabling the country to prohibit vagrancy, which is so often connected with outrage, by offering a substitute to those who rely on vagrancy and outrage as a means of subsistence. When an individual or a family is unable to obtain subsistence, and is without the means of living from day to day, it would be unjust to say they shall not go about and endeavour to obtain from the charity of the affluent that which circumstances have denied to themselves. But when you can say to such persons, 'Here are the means of subsistence offered to you'—when you can say this on the one hand, you may, on the other hand, say, 'You are not entitled to beg, you shall no longer infest the country in a manner injurious to its peace, and liable to imposition and outrage.'" Another way, he observed, in which a Poor Law is beneficial is, that it is a great promoter of social concord, by showing a disposition in the State and in the community to attend to the welfare of all classes. It is of use also by interesting the landowners and persons of property in the welfare of their tenants and neighbours. A landowner who looks only to receiving the rent of his estate may be regardless of the numbers in his neighbourhood who are in a state of destitution, or who follow mendicancy and are ready to commit crime; but if he is compelled to furnish means for the subsistence of those persons so destitute, it then becomes his interest to see that those around him have the means of living, and are not in actual want. He considered that these objects, and several others collateral to them, were attained in England by the Act of Elizabeth. Almost the greatest benefit that could be conferred on a country was, he observed, a high standard of subsistence for the labouring classes; and such a benefit was secured for England chiefly by the Quest Act of Elizabeth. Lord John Russell then alluded to the abuses which subsequently arose, and to the correction of those abuses then in progress under the provisions of the Poor Law Amendment Act, and said that we ought to endeavour to obtain for Ireland all the good effects of the English system, and to guard against the evils which had arisen under it.
The coarse manners of the gentlemen were gradually yielding to refining influences, but the society of ladies amongst the upper classes was generally neglected. Husbands spent their days in hunting or other masculine occupations, and their evenings in dining and drinking; the dinner party, which commenced at seven, not breaking up before one in the morning. Four- or five-, or even six-bottle men were not uncommon among the nobility. Lord Eldon and his brother Lord Stowell used to say that they had drunk more bad port than any two men in England. The Italian Opera was then the greatest attraction. It became less exclusive in its arrangements when the Opera House was under the management of Mr. Waters; but the strictest etiquette was still kept up with regard to the dress of gentlemen, who were only admitted with knee-buckles, ruffles, and chapeaux bras. If there happened to be a Drawing Room, the ladies as well as the gentlemen would come to the opera in their Court dresses.From a Drawing by BIRKET FOSTER, R.W.S.
When Parliament opened on the 20th of January, 1778, the Opposition fell, as it were, in a mass upon the Ministry on this question. There was much dissatisfaction expressed at the Government allowing Liverpool, Manchester, and other places, to raise troops without consulting Parliament. It was declared to be a practice contrary to the Constitution and to the Coronation Oath. Sir Philip Jennings Clerke, on the 22nd of January, moved for an account of the numbers of troops so raised, with the names of the commanding officers. Lord North, whilst observing that this mode of raising troops showed the popularity of the war, and that the country was by no means in that helpless condition which a jealous and impatient faction represented it to be, readily granted the return. In the House of Lords the Earl of Abingdon moved to consult the judges on the legality of raising troops without authority of Parliament; but this motion was not pressed to a division. But, on the 4th of February, Sir Philip Jennings Clerke returned to his charge in the Commons. Lord North replied that this now hotly-decried practice was one which had been not only adopted, but highly approved of, in 1745, and again in 1759, when Lord Chatham was Minister, and that he had then thanked publicly those who had raised the troops for the honour and glory of their country. A motion was negatived by the Lords on the same day, to declare this practice unconstitutional, and a similar one later in the Session, introduced by Wilkes and supported by Burke.As for the queen, she was a far superior person. She had been well brought up on the second marriage of her mother after the death of her father, by the Queen of Prussia, Sophia Charlotte, the sister of George I. She had been handsome till she grew corpulent and suffered from the smallpox, and still she was much admired for her impressive countenance, her fine voice, penetrating eye, and the grace and sweetness of her manner. She was still more admired for the striking contrast which she presented to her husband in her love of literature and literary men, extending her interest and inquiries into philosophy, theology, and metaphysics. Those who are disposed to ridicule her pretence to such knowledge admit that she was equally distinguished by prudence and good sense. She combined in her manners royal dignity and unassuming grace, and was more popular with the nation than any one of the Hanover family had ever yet been. She delighted to engage theologians in discussing knotty points of doctrine, and in perplexing them with questions on the various articles of faith in different churches, and corresponded with them on these subjects through her bedchamber woman, Mrs. Clayton, afterwards Lady Sundon. But the best proofs of Queen Caroline's superiority were shown in her pure moral character, which was free from the slightest stain, and in her quick discernment and substantial promotion of the most able men in the Church.
Some remarkable commercial reforms were introduced by Robinson and Huskisson in 1824. In the previous year the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to boast of a very large surplus, and this year he had a surplus of ￡1,050,000. Part of it was devoted to the repair and embellishment of Windsor Castle; ￡40,000 were devoted towards the erection of rooms for the reception of the library of George III., which was presented to the British Museum by his successor, whose gift, however, was somewhat discounted by the fact that he was with difficulty dissuaded from selling the collection. With ￡57,000 Government purchased Angerstein's collection of pictures, which became the nucleus of the National Gallery. But the main object of the Budget was not expenditure but economy. The Four per Cents. were redeemed or exchanged for Three-and-a-Half per Cent. Stock, and a death-blow was given to the old system of bounties by a reduction of that on the herring fishery and the immediate cessation of that on inferior kinds of linen, while that on the higher class of linen was annually decreased ten per cent. There was further a reduction of the duties on rum and coals, with the result, as Robinson prophesied, that lower prices considerably increased the consumption. His greatest innovations, however, concerned the wool and silk trades. In the former there prevailed a great conflict of interests. The agriculturists wished for the prohibition of foreign wool; the manufacturers desired the retention of an export duty, together with free importation. The judicious Chancellor effected a compromise by which the duty on foreign wool was reduced from 6d. to 1d. per pound, while the exportation of English wool was sanctioned on a similar duty. The fear of a large exportation of English wool proved so groundless that by 1826 only 100,000 pounds in weight had been exported, while 40,000,000 pounds of foreign wool had been introduced.
When the new Parliament met, on the 18th of May, it was seen how completely Fox and North had destroyed their prestige by their late factious conduct, and how entirely Pitt had made himself master of the situation. His patience and cool policy under the tempestuous assaults of the Opposition had given the country a wonderful confidence in him. One party extolled him as the staunch defender of the prerogative, another as the champion of reform and enemy of aristocratic influence. Not less than one hundred and sixty of the supporters of the late Coalition Ministry had been rejected at the elections, and they were held up to ridicule as "Fox's Martyrs."But no such easy rendering of the contract was contemplated by Buonaparte. He did not even adhere to the letter of it. French officers were to be placed in all the Dutch garrisons, and eighteen thousand troops were to be maintained, of whom six thousand were to be French. Instead of six thousand soldiers, General Oudinot appeared at the head of twenty thousand at Utrecht. These, Buonaparte informed Louis, were to occupy all the strong posts of the country, and to have their headquarters at Amsterdam, his capital. Louis determined to be no party to this utter subjugation of the country, nor any longer to play the part of a puppet sovereign. On the 1st of July he executed a deed of abdication in favour of his son, Napoleon Louis, expressing a hope that, though he had been so unfortunate as to offend the Emperor, he trusted he would not visit his displeasure on his innocent family. He then drew up a vindication of his conduct, saying that he was placed in an impossible situation, and that he had long foreseen this termination of it. He sent this to be published in England, the only place in which it could appear; and he then gave an entertainment to a number of his friends at his palace at Haarlem, and at midnight entered a private carriage and drove away. He proceeded to Graz, in Styria, where he devoted his leisure to the instruction of his children, and to literature, and wrote "Documens Hìstoriques et Réflexions sur le Gouvernement de la Holland"—being an account of his administration of the government of that country—and also a novel, called "Marie, ou les Hollandaises." His wife, Hortense, went to Paris, where she became a great leader in the world of fashion. On the 9th of July, only eight days after the abdication of Louis, Buonaparte issued a decree declaring Holland "re-united to France!" Oudinot marched into Amsterdam, and took possession of it in the name of his master. It was declared the third city of the French empire. The French Ministers issued reports to vindicate this annexation, which was a disgraceful breach of Napoleon's pledge to the Senate—that the Rhine should be the boundary of France—and also of his repeated assurances that Holland should remain an independent kingdom.
CHARLES JAMES FOX. (After the portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds.)On the 28th of February Lord John Russell proposed and carried a resolution that the House of Commons should go into committee to inquire into the operation of the Test and Corporation Acts, with a view to their repeal. From the very foundation of the Established Church at the Reformation the most stringent measures were adopted to put down Nonconformity, to render the Church and State identical in their constituent elements, and to preserve the uniformity and secure the perpetuity of the faith which had been established. The Dissenters, however, maintained that the Act of Uniformity had utterly failed to accomplish its object. They observed that at first the Reformed Church was Calvinistic in its articles, its clergy, and its preaching; that it then became Arminian and overcharged with ceremony under Laud; that it was latitudinarian in the days of William and Anne; that in more modern times it had been divided into "High Church," and "Low Church," and "Broad Church;" that subscription did not prevent the greatest variety and even the most positive contrariety of doctrine and religious opinion, referring, for illustration, to the rise and progress of the "Evangelical" and the "Anglican" parties. They further contended that the Act had failed in one of its main objects—namely, in keeping all Protestants within the pale of the Church, as, so far as actual membership or communicants were concerned, the adherents to the Establishment were now in a minority. In vain, then, were 2,000 clergymen ejected from their parishes, followed by 60,000 earnest Protestants, who, by fines, imprisonment, or voluntary exile, suffered on account of their Nonconformity. This persecution had an effect the opposite of what had been anticipated. If, as Hume remarked, every martyrdom in the Marian persecution was worth to Protestantism and liberty a hundred sermons against Popery, so every act of persecution against the Nonconformists was of value to the religious life of the nation. In consequence of the development of that life, the Toleration Act became a necessity; and from the accession of George II. an annual Indemnity Act was passed.
At Vereiva, where Buonaparte halted on the 27th of October, Mortier arrived from Moscow, having blown up the Kremlin with gunpowder, and with it a crowd of Russians who had rushed in at the moment of his evacuation. Mortier on his march had also surprised and captured General Winzengerode. From this place Buonaparte issued a bulletin, announcing that not only Moscow but the Kremlin was destroyed; that the two hundred thousand inhabitants of Moscow were wandering in the woods existing on roots; and that the French army was advancing towards St. Petersburg with every means of success. Such was the audacity of lying by which he hoped to conceal the truth from Paris. At this moment he was exasperated almost to frenzy by his prospects, and since the defeat of Maloi-Jaroslavitz he had been gloomy and unapproachable from the violence of his temper. On the march the army passed with horror the field of Borodino. "The ground," says Segur, "was covered with fragments of helmets and cuirasses, broken drums, gun-stocks, tatters of uniforms, and standards steeped in blood. On this desolate spot lay thirty thousand half devoured corpses. A number of skeletons, left on the summit of one of the hills, overlooked the whole. It seemed as if here death had fixed his empire. The cry, 'It is the field of the great battle!' found a long and doleful murmur. Napoleon passed quickly; no one stopped; cold, hunger, and the enemy urged us on. We merely turned our faces as we proceeded to take a last melancholy look at our late companions in arms."In October of this year Chatham at length resigned, and Parliament assembled on the 8th of November. The two great objects which engrossed the attention of Government in these days were North America and John Wilkes. The news of the Act imposing import duties had reawakened all the indignation of the people of Massachusetts. The Bostonians took immediate steps to realise their doctrines. In October, 1767, the chief men there met, and entered into a bond to purchase or wear no English manufacture, but to encourage domestic manufacture till these obnoxious import duties were withdrawn. The Massachusetts Assembly passed strong resolutions to the same effect, and Mr. James Otis, who had been most active in contending for them, exerted himself, through the press, to circulate them all over America. Causes were not long wanting for testing the resolution of the people of Massachusetts. The governor of that colony, Francis Bernard, was precisely the man to bring the matter to a crisis. He was able, determined, and of a hot temper. The people hated him, because they knew that he was writing home despatches full of the most unfavourable representations of their proceedings and designs. He refused to confirm the nomination of such members of the council as he knew were opposed to the new regulation; and Lord Shelburne supported him in his act. In consequence, the Assembly addressed a circular letter to all the other colonies, calling on them to unite in defeating the new duties. Bernard in vain opposed the resolution authorising this circular letter; and, on his report, Lord Hillsborough instructed him to demand from the Assembly the rescinding of the resolution. The Assembly refused, declaring that if a British Minister could control the votes of provincial Assemblies, liberty was but a mere show. Lord Hillsborough had instructed Bernard to dissolve the Assembly in case it refused to rescind the resolution. In the meantime, events took place which might have caused a more judicious man to pause ere he fulfilled these instructions.The West India interest in the City held great meetings, and instructed their Parliamentary representatives for the coming contest. The Free Traders argued that the Government proposition was simply that the West India proprietors should receive 10s. per cwt. more for the sugar they sent here than the growers in any other part of the world could get. This was equivalent to a tax of ￡2,000,000 upon the people of Britain, because the West India landlords were alleged to be in distress, and could not cultivate their estates. It was, indeed, the old question of protection for the landed interest on the ground of peculiar burdens. The white population of the West Indies amounted only to about a tenth of the whole; and it was admitted that the free coloured people, forming the bulk of the community, had no interest in the proposed monopoly. Moreover, it had been shown by repeated experiment that these differential duties always defeated their own objects. The slave-grown sugar was simply exported first to the free country, and then to Britain—the British people paying in the enhanced cost of the article all the cost of this circuitous mode of supply.
It was at the close of 1719, when George I. returned from Hanover, that this Company proposed to Ministers to consolidate all the funds into one. It was strange that both Ministers and merchants could be deluded by the hope of enriching themselves by a share of the trade with the Spanish South American provinces, when Spain herself, in full enjoyment of them, was sunk into indigence and weakness, and presented the most determined resistance to the unfettered intercourse of any other nation with them. Yet Sir John Blunt, a leading director of the South Sea Company, persuaded the Ministers that by granting the Company power to deal with the public funds, and especially to buy up the unredeemable annuities which had been granted in the two preceding reigns, chiefly on terms of ninety-nine years, and which now amounted to about eight hundred thousand pounds a year, they could, in twenty-six years, pay off the entire National Debt. But, to enable them to do this, they must be empowered to reduce all the different public securities to one aggregate fund in their hands, to convert both redeemable and unredeemable debts into stock by such arrangements as they could make with the holders, and to have certain commercial privileges vested in them. Ministers accepted the proposals with great alacrity. Aislabie introduced the scheme to Parliament in the month of February, 1720, declaring that, if it was accepted by the House, the prosperity of the nation would be amazingly enhanced, and all its debts liquidated in a very few years. Craggs seconded the proposal in most sanguine terms, expressing his conviction that every member of the House must be ready to adopt so advantageous an offer. Ministers had already closed with the proposals of the Company, and they were themselves greatly disconcerted by the suggestion of Mr. Thomas Brodrick, the member for Stockbridge, who expressed his entire accordance with Ministers, but thought that the nation should endeavour to obtain the best terms for itself by opening the competition to every other company or association of men as well as that in question. Ministers were confounded by this proposal, and Aislabie endeavoured to get out of it by declaring that to do this would be like putting the nation up to auction, and that such things should be done with spirit. But Jekyll interposed, saying it was this spirit which had ruined the nation, and it was now requisite to consider seriously what was best for the public. A violent debate ensued, in which Walpole eloquently recommended open competition, and was sharply replied to by Lechmere. The question was carried in favour of competition; and then the Bank of England, which before had coolly declined to enter into the proposals, suddenly appeared in a new temper, and made liberal offers for the privilege of thus farming the public debts. But the South Sea Company was not to be outdone; it offered seven millions and a half, and the Bank gave way in despair.Amongst the novelists of the later period of the reign we may name Horace Smith, author of "Brambletye House," etc.; Leigh Hunt, the poet, author of "Sir Ralph Esher;" Peacock, author of "Headlong Hall;" Beckford, author of the wild Eastern tale of "Vathek;" Hamilton, author of "Cyril Thornton," etc.; Maturin, author of "Melmoth the Wanderer," etc.; Mrs. Brunton, author of "Discipline," "Self-Control," etc.; and Miss Ferrier, author of "Marriage" and other novels of a high order. Jane Austen (b. 1775; d. 1817), author of "Pride and Prejudice," "Mansfield Park," "Sense and Sensibility," etc., all distinguished by the nicest sense of character, was far above any of these, and ranks with the foremost of our writers of fiction.When, therefore, Lord Wellington pondered over matters in Madrid, he looked in vain for anything like a regular Spanish army, after all the lessons which had been given to them. The army of Galicia, commanded by Santocildes, considered the best Spanish force, had been defeated by Clausel, himself in the act of escaping from Wellington. Ballasteros had a certain force under him, but his pride would not allow him to co-operate with Lord Wellington, and he was soon afterwards dismissed by the Cortes from his command. O'Donnel had had an army in Murcia, but he, imagining that he could cope with the veteran troops of Suchet, had been most utterly routed, his men flinging away ten thousand muskets as they fled. Moreover, Wellington had been greatly disappointed in his hopes of a reinforcement from Sicily. He had urged on Ministers the great aid which an efficient detachment from the army maintained by us in Sicily might render by landing on the eastern coast of Spain, and clearing the French out of Catalonia, Valencia, and Murcia. This could now be readily complied with, because there was no longer any danger of invasion of Sicily from Naples, Murat being called away to assist in Buonaparte's campaign in Russia. But the plan found an unexpected opponent in our Commander-in-Chief in Sicily, Lord William Bentinck. Lord William at first appeared to coincide in the scheme, but soon changed his mind, having conceived an idea of making a descent on the continent of Italy during Murat's absence. Lord Wellington wrote earnestly to him, showing him that Suchet and Soult must be expelled from the south of Spain, which could be easily effected by a strong force under British command landing in the south-east and co-operating with him from the north, or he must himself again retire to Portugal, being exposed to superior forces from both north and south. The expedition was at length sent, under General Maitland, but such a force as was utterly useless. It did not exceed six thousand men; and such men! They were chiefly a rabble of Sicilian and other foreign vagabonds, who had been induced to enlist, and were, for the most part, undisciplined.
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The expedition against England was at this moment actually in motion. The squadrons of Brest and Rochefort were already united under the command of Admiral Roquefeuille, and sailing up the Channel to clear the way for the transports containing the soldiers. Sir John Norris had been appointed Admiral of our Channel fleet, consisting of twenty-one ships of the line. He had lain at Spithead, but had quitted that station and sailed into the Downs, where he was joined by other ships from Chatham; and thus was not only superior in number to the French, but had the advantage of being well acquainted with the coasts, he having long been Captain of Deal Castle. Roquefeuille sailed right up to the Isle of Wight, and, observing no vessels off Spithead, he, in his French egotism, concluded that the fleet had sought shelter in Portsmouth harbour. He therefore lost no time in despatching a small vessel to Dunkirk to hasten on his armament. Seven thousand men were instantly sent on board transports, and the prince and Marshal Saxe, who was to take command of the land force, accompanied them. Roquefeuille, meanwhile, proceeding on his voyage, came to anchor off Dungeness, which he had no sooner done than he beheld the British fleet bearing down upon him in much greater force than his own, for he had only fifteen ships of the line and five frigates. The destruction of the French fleet appeared inevitable, but Sir John Norris this time justly incurred the censure of lingering. He thought, from the state of the tide and the approach of night, it was better to defer the attack till morning; and, when morning came, no Frenchmen were to be seen. The French admiral, much more active than poor old Sir John, had slipped his cables and made the best of his way homewards.
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