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In the autumn the great Congress of Sovereigns assembled at Aix-la-Chapelle. We have already anticipated their chief object—the final evacuation of France by the Allied troops, and the settlement of compensations. They assembled about the middle of September, and remained together till the middle of November. Their business conferences, however, did not commence till the 30th of September. With regard to the evacuation of France, we need only state that it was greatly promoted by the exertions of the Duke of Wellington. Robert Owen was there to endeavour to enlist the Sovereigns in his schemes of social reform, but did not make any proselytes amongst the crowned heads, though the Czar Alexander told him he fully entered into his views, as he was generally accustomed to tell all reformers and religious professors, leaving them in the pleasing delusion that they had won him to their opinions. Clarkson was there to engage them to sanction the suppression of the slave trade, but with as indifferent a result. This was the closing scene of the great European drama, which opened with the French Revolution and terminated with the capture of Buonaparte. The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle may be regarded as the recital of the epilogue.

The Commissioners recommended the appointment of a central board to control the administration of the Poor Laws, with such assistant Commissioners as might be found requisite, the Commissioners being empowered and directed to frame and enforce regulations for the government of workhouses, and as to the nature and amount of the relief to be given and the labour to be exacted; the regulations to be uniform throughout the country. The necessity of a living, central, permanent authority had been rendered obvious by the disastrous working of the old system, arising partly from the absence of such control—an authority accumulating experience in itself, independent of local control, uninterested in favour of local abuse, and responsible to the Government. A Board of three Commissioners was therefore appointed under the Act, themselves appointing assistant Commissioners, capable of receiving the powers of the Commission by delegation. The anomalous state of things with regard to districts was removed by the formation of unions.Sir Robert Peel began by saying, "Sir, the honourable gentleman has stated here very emphatically, what he has more than once stated at the conferences of the Anti-Corn-Law League, that he holds me individually responsible for the distress and suffering of the country; that he holds me personally responsible." This was pronounced with great solemnity of manner, and at the word "individually" the Premier was interrupted by a loud cheer from the Ministerial benches of a very peculiar and emphatic kind. Sir Robert then continued, "Be the consequences of those insinuations what they may, never will I be influenced by menaces to adopt a course which I consider——" But the rest of the sentence was lost in renewed shouts from the Ministerial benches. Mr. Cobden immediately rose and said, "I did not say that I held the right honourable gentleman personally responsible;" but he was interrupted by shouts from the Ministerial benches of, "You did, you did!" mingled with cries of "Order!" and "Chair!" The further remark from Mr. Cobden, "I have said that I hold the right honourable gentleman responsible by virtue of his office, as the whole context of what I said was sufficient to explain," brought renewed shouts from the same quarter of "No, no," accompanied by great confusion. When Sir Robert, says a newspaper of the day, gave the signal for this new light, then, and not till then, the sense so obtained burst forth with a frantic yell, which would better have befitted a company of savages who first saw and scented their victim, than a grave and dignified assembly insulted by conduct deemed deserving of condemnation. Sir Robert afterwards so far recovered from his excitement as to say, "I will not overstate anything. Therefore I will not say I am certain the honourable gentleman used the word 'personally';" but the debate created a painful impression, which was increased by an article in the Times of the following day, deliberately attempting to connect Mr. Cobden with the doctrine of assassination. The friends of the Anti-Corn-Law movement, however, immediately held meetings throughout the country, at which they expressed their indignation at the attempt to fix a calumny upon the man whose arguments in favour of Free Trade in food were unanswered and unanswerable.

During these proceedings, the National Assembly was sitting at Versailles in the utmost agitation. On the morning of the 13th, Mounier had risen and censured the dismissal of the Ministers, and had been seconded by Lally Tollendal, who had pronounced a splendid panegyric on Necker, and recommended an address to the king for his recall. M. de Virieu, a deputy of the noblesse, proposed to confirm by oath the proceedings of the 17th of June; but Clermont Tonnerre declared that unnecessary, as the Assembly had sworn to establish a constitution, and he exclaimed, "The Constitution we will have, or we will perish!" In the midst of this discussion came the news of the rising of the people of Paris, on the morning of the 13th, and an address was immediately voted to the king, beseeching him to withdraw the foreign troops, and authorise the organisation of the Civic Guards. The Duke de la Rochefoucauld said, the foreign troops in the hands of despotism were most perilous to the people, who were not in any one's hands. The address was sent, and the king returned a curt answer, that Paris was not in a condition to take care of itself. The Assembly then assumed a higher tone, asserted that the present counsellors of the king would be responsible for all the calamities which might take place, and declared itself in permanent session, that is, that it would sit day and night till the crisis was over. It appointed M. de Lafayette vice-president, in the place of the aged Bishop of Vienne, who was not capable of much exertion.But it was not till the days of Telford and Macadam that the system of road-making received its chief improvements. The reform in roads commenced in Scotland. Those which had been cut through the Highlands after the Rebellions of 1715 and 1745, chiefly under the management of General Wade, set the example, and showed the advantage of promoting communication, as well as of enabling the military to scour the mountains. In 1790 Lord Dare introduced the practice of laying out roads by the spirit-level, and they were conducted round hills instead of being carried over them. In 1802 a Board of Commissioners for Roads and Bridges in Scotland was established, and Thomas Telford was appointed the engineer. This able man had now a full opportunity for showing his knowledge of road-making. He laid out the new routes on easy inclines, shortened and improved the old routes by new and better cuttings, and threw bridges of an excellent construction over the streams. Where the bottom was soft or boggy he made it firm by a substratum of solid stones, and levelled the surface with stones broken small. Attention was paid to side-drains for carrying away the water, and little was left for the after-plans of Macadam. Yet Macadam has monopolised the fame of road-making, and little has been heard of Telford's improvements, although he was occasionally called in where Macadam could not succeed, because the latter refused to make the same solid bottom. This was the case in the Archway Road at Highgate. Macadam's main principle of road-making was in breaking his material small, and his second principle might be called the care which he exercised in seeing his work well done. For these services he received two grants from Parliament, amounting to ten thousand pounds, and the offer of knighthood, the latter of which he would not accept for himself, but accepted it for his eldest son.Mr. Villiers renewed his motion on the 26th of May, 1840, after the presentation of petitions in support of his views bearing a quarter of a million of signatures. These signs of the growth of public opinion had no effect upon the House. There was a fixed determination to give neither Mr. Villiers nor the petitioners a fair hearing. He was assailed with a volley of every kind of uncouth sounds. The Speaker's calls to order were utterly disregarded, and it was not until, losing patience, he commanded the bar to be cleared, and members to take their seats, that the advocate of Free Trade could be heard by the reporters. It was useless to carry on the discussion amid this deafening clamour. Lord John Russell weakly demanded what the Government could do when a majority of the House was against any alteration in the law, and said he would vote for the motion, but not with a view to total repeal, as his own opinion was in favour of a moderate fixed duty. The House again divided, when 300 members voted for the landlords' monopoly, against only 177 in favour of inquiry.

THE CATHEDRAL, TUAM.[See larger version]

The new British Parliament met on November 26, and Ministers were seen to have a powerful majority. The king announced, in his speech from the throne, that hostilities had broken out in India with Tippoo, and that a peace had been effected between Russia and Sweden, and he mentioned the endeavours that were in progress for restoring amity between the Emperor of Austria and his subjects in the Netherlands. In the debate on the Address in the Commons, Fox appeared inclined still to laud France, and to condemn our interference in the Netherlands. His eyes were not yet opened to the real danger from France, whose example was indeed exciting popular disturbances in the Netherlands and in Poland. Already the doctrines of Liberty and Equality had reached the ears of the negroes in St. Domingo, who had risen to claim the rights of man so amiably proclaimed by France, and the troops of France were on their way thither to endeavour to put them down, in direct contradiction of their own boasted political philosophy. In the Lords, Earl Grey—the father of the Whig statesman—on the 13th of December, called for the production of papers relating to Nootka Sound. The motion was negatived by two hundred and fifty-eight against one hundred and thirty-four votes. But the Marquis of Lansdowne contended that Spain had a right to the whole of the North American coast on which Nootka Sound is situated, and had had it since the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He asserted that we had insulted the weakness of Spain; and that Mr. Mears and the other projectors of the trading settlement of Nootka Sound were a set of young men of letters, seeking for novelties. He completely overlooked the provocations which[376] Spain had lately given us, and her endeavours to enter into a conjunction with France against us. He condemned Ministers for having alienated France, Spain, Russia, Denmark, and Sweden, overlooking the fact that they had made alliances with Prussia, Austria, Holland, and the Netherlands. Pitt's cousin, Lord Grenville, replied to this one-sided view of things, and proudly contrasted the position of Britain at this moment to what it was at the conclusion of the American War, when Lord Lansdowne himself, as Lord Shelburne, had been in the Ministry. Pitt, on the 15th of December, stated that the expenses of the late armament, and the sums necessary to keep up the increased number of soldiers and sailors for another year, before which they could not be well disbanded, owing to certain aspects of things abroad, would amount to something more than three millions, which he proposed to raise by increasing the taxes on sugar, on British and foreign spirits, malt, and game licences, as well as raising the assessed taxes, except the commutation and land taxes. He stated that there was a standing balance of six hundred thousand pounds to the credit of the Government in the Bank of England, which he proposed to appropriate to the discharge of part of the amount. He, moreover, introduced a variety of regulations to check the frauds practised in the taxes upon receipts and bills of exchange, which he calculated at three hundred thousand pounds per annum. With this, Parliament adjourned for the Christmas recess, and thus closed the eventful year of 1790.He despatched a squadron of ten ships of the line to the Mediterranean, under Admiral Haddock; another strong squadron sailed for the West Indies; letters of marque and reprisal were issued to the merchants; and troops and stores were forwarded to Georgia, which the Spaniards had threatened to invade. He gave directions to all merchants in Spanish ports to register their goods with a public notary in case of a rupture. These measures produced a rapid change of tone at the Spanish Court. On comparing the demands on both sides for damages sustained in commerce, there appeared a balance in favour of England of two hundred thousand pounds. Against this, the Spaniards demanded sixty thousand pounds in compensation for the ships taken by Admiral Byng in 1718—a claim which Stanhope would never allow, but which had been recognised in the Treaty of Seville, and was now, therefore, acknowledged. This reduced the sum to a hundred and forty thousand pounds, which the Spanish Court proposed should be paid by assignments on the American revenues. This, the Ministers were well aware, might involve the most endless delays and uncertainties, and they certainly showed a most conceding spirit by allowing a deduction of forty-five thousand pounds for prompt payment at Madrid. The sum was now reduced to ninety-five thousand pounds; and this being agreed to, a convention was signed on the 14th of January, 1739.The Parisians were now afforded proofs that Napoleon was once more victorious. The prisoners, banners, and cannon which he had taken were sent forward rapidly to the capital, and ostentatiously paraded through the streets. Meanwhile, the Allies were so alarmed, that the sovereigns wrote to Buonaparte, expressing their surprise at his attacks, as they had ordered their Plenipotentiaries to accept the terms offered by his ambassador, Caulaincourt. These terms had indeed been offered by Caulaincourt, Duke of Vicenza, at a Congress held at Chatillon-sur-Seine on the 5th of February, and which was still sitting; but the Allies had never, in fact, accepted them, and now, as he was again in the ascendant, Napoleon was not likely to listen to them. He therefore left the letter unanswered till he should have thoroughly defeated the Allies, and then he would dictate his reply.

All Europe was astonished by the news of the French Revolution. The successful insurrection of the working classes in Paris—the flight of the king—the abolition of monarchy—the establishment of a Republic, all the work of two or three days, were events so startling that the occupants of thrones might well stand aghast at their recital, and tremble for their own possessions. It would not have been surprising if the revolutionary spirit emanating from Paris had, to a large extent, invaded Great Britain and Ireland. The country had just passed through a fearful crisis; heavy sacrifices had been made by all classes to save the people from starvation; many families had been utterly ruined by gigantic failures, and there was still very general privation prevailing in all parts of the United Kingdom. In such circumstances the masses are peculiarly liable to be excited against the Government by ignorant or unprincipled agitators, who could easily persuade[555] them that their sufferings arose from misgovernment, and that matters could never go right till the people established their own sovereignty—till they abolished monarchy and aristocracy, and proclaimed a republic. The Chartist agitation, though not formally proposing any such issue of the movement, had, nevertheless, familiarised the minds of the working classes with the idea of such a revolution. The points of their charter comprised vote by ballot, universal suffrage, annual parliaments, payment of the members, and the abolition of the property qualification. Besides, the Chartist leaders had been in the habit of holding what was called a National Convention, which was a kind of parliament of their own, in which the leaders practised the art of government. The train was thus laid, and it seemed to require only a spark to ignite it; but a thick shower of sparks came from Paris, as if a furnace had been emptied by a hurricane. It would have been almost miraculous if there had been no explosions of disaffection in Great Britain in such circumstances as these.[See larger version]

On the 18th of October the Americans crossed the frontier opposite to the village of Queenstown with three thousand men, and found only three hundred British to oppose them. But Brock was with them, and cheered them so gallantly that they made a desperate resistance. Unfortunately, Brock was killed, and then the brave three hundred retreated, and the American general, Wadsworth, posted himself, with one thousand six hundred men, on the heights behind Queenstown. But the same afternoon he was attacked by a fresh body of about one thousand British and Canadians, and had nearly his whole force killed or taken prisoners. Himself and nine hundred of his men were captured, and four hundred remained on the field slain or severely wounded. The rest, a mere remnant, escaped into the woods, or were drowned in endeavouring to swim back to their own shore. Thus ended Madison's first attempt to conquer Canada.

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In Massachusetts the colonists were more exasperated against Governor Bernard, on account of his letters reflecting on the Bostonians in the matter of the late riots, these letters having been laid before Parliament, and copies of them by some means procured and sent on by their agents. They declared that it was beneath their dignity to deliberate in the midst of an armed force, and requested Bernard to withdraw the troops, but he refused; and they, on their part, declined to vote supplies, on which he adjourned them to Cambridge. There, however, as Cambridge was only separated from Boston by an arm of the sea, they continued to protest against an armed force, as an invasion of the national rights of the colonists, and highly dangerous. Bernard soon announced to them his intention to sail for England, to lay the state of the colony before the king, and the house immediately voted a petition to his Majesty, praying him to keep him from coming back again. Bernard then called upon them to refund the money expended for the quartering of the troops; but that they pronounced quite as unreasonable as the Stamp Act, and finding them utterly intractable, Bernard prorogued the Assembly, and quitted the colony, leaving the administration in the hands of Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson.On the 12th of October General Howe, who would have been better employed in driving the enemy before him than in waiting for his brother's useless negotiations, sent a considerable part of his forces, with flat-bottomed boats, through Hell Gate into the Sound, and landed them at Frog's Neck, about nine miles in the rear of Washington's position, thus cutting off all his supplies from the country. The ships ascended higher up the North River, cutting off the retreat into the Jerseys. Had Howe, instead of landing at Frog's Neck, done so at Pell's Point, he would have rendered Washington's retreat nearly impossible. But this was neglected till the 18th of October, by which time Washington, finding that he was getting gradually hemmed in, and Lee, who had now joined him from Sullivan's Island and the Carolinas, insisting that nothing but instant retreat could save them, they therefore made a rapid retreat into the open country called the White Plains. They had much difficulty in carrying away their artillery; and the whole of it must have been taken, had Howe shown any ordinary activity. Between this date and the 21st there was considerable skirmishing, which compelled Washington to retire farther into the White Plains, and from thence towards the Delaware.

Wellington acquitted himself as well as could be expected in the circumstances. Austria was induced to acknowledge an old debt to Britain, and to pay an instalment. The utmost which she could obtain from the Allies on the slave trade was a reissue of the joint condemnation of the traffic which had been pronounced in 1815 at Vienna, and a special assurance from France that as soon as public feeling would admit, steps would be taken to carry out the treaty with Great Britain. In the discussion of the affairs of Italy the Duke took no part; but the peace which he had urged upon Russia and Turkey was happily concluded, on terms honourable to both. With regard to the struggles for freedom in Spain and other countries, the Duke found the Allied Sovereigns in the worst possible temper. They had no patience with Britain on account of her dissent, however mild, from their policy. "Hence, though England never expressed her approval of the military revolts in Spain and Italy, or even in South America, still, because she declined to be a party to the suppression of the free institutions in which they issued, Austria, Prussia, and Russia spoke of her as the champion of revolutionary principles all over the world."

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