It was resolved to make the first attack only on the trade in slaves, not on the whole gigantic subject, with all its widely-ramified interests. Nay, it was deemed prudent by the committees, seeing well that the abolition of the monstrous practice of slave-holding must be a work of many years, in the first place to limit their exertions to the ameliorating of the sufferings of the negroes, in their passage from Africa to the scenes of their servitude. Numerous petitions had now reached the Houses of Parliament on the subject of the trade in and the sufferings of slaves, and a Committee of the Privy Council was procured to hear evidence on the subject. This commenced its sittings on the 11th of February, 1788. Before this committee were first heard the statements of the slave merchants of Liverpool. According to these gentlemen, all the horrors attributed to the slave trade were so many fables; so far from instigating African sovereigns to make war upon their neighbours and sell them for slaves, the oppressions of these despots were so horrible that it was a real blessing to bring away their unfortunate victims. But very different facts were advanced on the other side. On the part of the Liverpool merchants was the most palpable self-interest to colour their statements; on the other, was disinterested humanity. Amongst the gentlemen brought forward to unfold the real nature of the African traffic was Dr. Andrew Sparrman, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Stockholm, who had, with Mr. Wadstr?m, been engaged in botanical researches in Africa. This information put to flight the pleasant myths of the Liverpool traders, and produced a profound impression.
No sooner had the tribunate sent up its decision to the Senate, signed by all except Carnot, than the Senate hastened at once to adopt it, and to sign the answer to the message of the First Consul, which had been drawn up by Fouché for the Committee of Ten appointed by the Senate. In July Napoleon went to Boulogne to review the grand army of England, on the heights above the town, overlooking the English Channel, and from which the white cliffs of England were conspicuous. Everything had been elaborately got up for this occasion, on which the enthusiasm of the soldiers was to be raised to the highest pitch. The common people believed that he was going to lead the army at once across the Channel, and return loaded with the enormous wealth of London, and with the king, queen, royal family, William Pitt, and the leading members of the aristocracy as prisoners in his train. Buonaparte had no such wild idea; but since the Duke d'Enghien's murder the Powers of almost all Europe had manifested unequivocally their abhorrence of the act, and of the man who perpetrated it, and he now designed, by the display of enthusiasm in his army, at once to awe his own people and the sovereigns of other nations.
On the 9th of June, when the House of Commons went into committee on the Bill, a large number of merchants desired to be heard against it. For several days their statements were heard, and the Portuguese Ambassador also presented a memorial declaring that should the duties on French wines be lowered to those of Portugal, his master would renew the woollen and other duties on the products of Great Britain. This seemed to enforce the mercantile opinions; the sense of the whole country was against the treaty, and the speech of Sir Thomas Hanmer, a Tory, made a deep impression. There was, however, a growing rumour, during the latter days of the debate, that Oxford had given the treaty up—a rumour probably not without foundation, for Oxford and Bolingbroke were no longer in unity. The latter, ambitious and unprincipled, was intriguing to oust his more slow and dilatory colleague; and, as the Bill was ostensibly the work of Bolingbroke, probably Oxford was by no means unwilling that it should be thrown out to damage him. When the question, therefore, was put on the 18th of June, that the Bill be engrossed, it was negatived by a majority of one hundred and ninety-four to one hundred and eighty-five. Thus the commercial treaty was lost, much to the joy of the nation, and certainly to its immediate benefit.
ABBOTSFORD AND THE EILDON HILLS. (From a Photograph by Valentine & Sons, Dundee.)
The approaching coronation of the Queen became, as the season advanced, the prevailing topic of conversation in all circles. The feeling excited by it was so strong, so deep, and so widespread, that a Radical journal pronounced the people to be "coronation mad." The enthusiasm was not confined to the United Kingdom. The contagion was carried to the Continent, and foreigners of various ranks, from all nations, flocked into the metropolis to behold the inauguration of the maiden monarch of the British Empire. There were, however, some dissentients, whose objections disturbed the current of public feeling. As soon as it was understood that, on the score of economy, the time-honoured custom of having the coronation banquet in Westminster Hall would not be observed, the Marquis of Londonderry and others zealously exerted themselves to avert the innovation, but their efforts were fruitless. The coronation took place on the 28th of June. The only novel feature of importance consisted in the substitution of a procession through the streets for a banquet in Westminster Hall. It was certainly an improvement, for it afforded the people an opportunity of enjoying the ceremony. Persons of all ages, ranks, and conditions, embodied visibly in one animated and exalted whole, exultant and joyful, came forth to greet the youthful Sovereign. All the houses in the line of march poured forth their occupants to the windows and balconies. The behaviour of the enormous multitude which lined the streets, and afterwards spread over the metropolis, was admirable. The utmost eagerness was shown to furnish all the accommodation for spectators that the space would allow, and there was scarcely a house or a vacant spot along the whole line, from Hyde Park Corner to the Abbey, that was not occupied with galleries or scaffolding. At dawn the population were astir, roused by a salvo of artillery from the Tower, and towards six o'clock chains of vehicles, of all sorts and sizes, stretched along the leading thoroughfares; while streams of pedestrians, in holiday attire, poured in continuously, so that the suburbs seemed to empty themselves of all their inhabitants at once. At ten o'clock the head of the procession moved from the palace. When the Queen stepped into the State coach a salute was fired from the guns ranged in the enclosure, the bands struck up the National Anthem, a new royal standard was hoisted on the Marble Arch, and the multitude broke forth in loud and hearty cheers. The foreign ambassadors extraordinary looked superb in their new carriages and splendid uniforms. Among them shone conspicuous the state coach of Marshal Soult, and the old hero was received with vast enthusiasm by the populace.
Fox did not suffer the Session to close without another powerful effort to avoid war with France. A petition had been handed to him for presentation to the Commons, drawn up by Mr. Gurney of Norwich, and signed by the Friends and other inhabitants of that city, praying that peace with France might be concluded. Fox not only agreed to present it and support its prayer, but he earnestly exhorted Mr. Gurney and his friends to promote the sending of petitions from other places for this object, as the only means of influencing the House, bent determinedly on war. On the 17th of June, only four days before the close of the Session, Fox moved an Address to the Crown, praying that, as the French had been driven out of Holland, peace should be made. In pursuance of his object—a great one, if attainable—he did not spare his former favourite, the Empress of Russia, and the other royal robbers of Poland. Burke replied that Fox knew very well that the defence of Holland was but a very partial motive for the war. The real obstacles to peace were the avowed principles of the French—those of universal conquest, of annexation of the kingdoms conquered, as already Alsace, Savoy, and Belgium; their attempts on the Constitution of Great Britain by insidious means; the murder of their own monarch held up as an example to all other nations. To make peace with France, he said truly, was to declare war against the rest of Europe, which was threatened by France; and he asked with whom in France should we negotiate for peace, if so disposed? Should it be with Lebrun, already in a dungeon, or with Clavière, who was hiding from those who were anxious to take his head? or with Egalité, who had been consigned to a dungeon at Marseilles? Burke declared that you might as well attempt to negotiate with a quicksand or a whirlwind as with the present ever-shifting and truculent factions which ruled in France.
Amongst the provinces employing themselves to carry out the recommendation of the Congress, by framing new constitutions, that of New York was emboldened by the presence of Washington and his army to disregard the Royalists, and to frame a perfectly independent system. Gouverneur Morris took the lead in the ultra party, and declared that the time was now come for asserting entire independence. On the 27th of May a resolution to that effect was passed. The delegates of the Assembly were instructed to support these principles in Congress.Every engine of the English Court was put in motion to prevent the Electoral Prince from coming. Oxford had an interview with Schutz, in which he repeated that it was his applying for the writ to the Lord Chancellor instead of to the queen that had done all the mischief; that her Majesty, had it not been for this untoward incident, would have invited the Prince to come over and spend the summer in England—forgetting, as Schutz observed, that the minute before he had assured him that the queen was too much afraid of seeing any of that family here. He advised Schutz—who could not be convinced that he had done anything irregular in his application, quoting numerous proofs to show that it was the accustomed mode of applying for writs—to avoid appearing again at Court; but Schutz, not seeming disposed to follow that advice, immediately received a positive order to the same effect from the queen through another channel. Schutz, therefore, lost no time in returning to Hanover to justify himself. At the same time, Lord Strafford was instructed to write from the Hague, blaming the conduct of Schutz in applying for the writ in the manner he did, as disrespectful to the queen; for, though strictly legal for an absent peer to make such application, the etiquette was that he should defer it till he could do it personally. Strafford ridiculed the idea of any movement being afoot in favour of the Pretender, and observed that, as to sending him out of the Duke of Lorraine's territory, it was not practicable, because the French king maintained that he had fulfilled the treaty, Lorraine not being any part of France. On the other hand, there were striking signs that the cause of Hanover was in the ascendant. Men who watched the course of events decided accordingly. Marlborough, who so lately had been making court to the Pretender, now wrote from Antwerp, urging the House of Hanover to send over the prince without delay to England; that the state of the queen's health made prompt action necessary; and that the presence of the prince in London would secure the succession without risk, without expense, and without war, and was the likeliest measure of inducing France to abandon its design of assisting the Pretender.Austria professed great friendliness to Napoleon, and he thought that she would not like to break with him on account of the Empress. But Austria, on the 27th of June, signed an engagement with Russia and Prussia, at Reichenbach, in Silesia, binding herself to break with him if he did not concede the terms which they demanded. These were to restore Illyria and the whole of Austrian Italy; to reinstate the Pope; to leave Poland to the three Powers who had formerly possessed themselves of it, and to renounce Spain, Holland, Switzerland, and the Confederation of the Rhine. Buonaparte treated these demands as sheer madness; but he was nearly mad himself when Talleyrand and Fouché, and still more, his best military counsellors, advised him at least to fall back to the left bank of the Rhine, and make that the boundary of France. He offered to annihilate the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, giving up the whole of Poland to Russia—such was his gratitude to the Poles!—to restore Illyria to Austria, but to cut down Prussia still more by pushing the Rhenish Confederation to the Oder.
During the Session, however, a Bill was passed sanctioning the establishment of a company which had been formed several years before, for trading to the new settlement of Sierra Leone, on the coast of Africa. In 1787 this settlement was begun by philanthropists, to show that colonial productions could be obtained without the labour of slaves, and to introduce civilisation into that continent through the means of commerce carried on by educated blacks. In that year four hundred and seventy negroes, then living in a state of destitution in London, were removed to it. In 1790 their number was increased by one thousand one hundred and ninety-eight other negroes from Nova Scotia, who could not flourish in so severe a climate. Ten years after the introduction of the blacks from Nova Scotia, five hundred and fifty maroons were brought from Jamaica, and in 1819 a black regiment, disbanded in the West Indies, was added. The capability of this settlement for the production of cotton, coffee, sugar, etc., was fully demonstrated; but no spot could have been selected more fatal to the health of Europeans. It is a region of deep-sunk rivers and morasses, which, in that sultry climate, are pregnant with death to the white man.The Scottish rebellion had been an auspicious circumstance for the arms of France. Marshal Saxe had taken the field, to the surprise of the Allies, in the very middle of winter, invested Brussels, and compelled it to surrender on the 20th of February, 1746. One town fell after another; Mons, Antwerp, Charleroi, and finally, Namur capitulated on the 19th of September, after a siege of only six days. As soon as Cumberland could leave Scotland after the battle of Culloden, he returned to London, in the hope that he should be appointed, covered, as he was, with his bloody laurels, to the supreme command of the Allied forces in Flanders, where he flattered himself he could arrest the progress of the French. But that command had been conferred on Prince Charles of Lorraine, the Emperor's brother, much to the disgust of both Cumberland and the king. On the 11th of October the Prince of Lorraine engaged the French at Raucoux, on the Jaar, and was signally defeated; the English cavalry, under General Ligonier, managing to save his army from total destruction, but not being able to stem the overthrow. At the close of the campaign the French remained almost entire masters of the Austrian Netherlands.
We must now step back a little to observe the war on the Continent from the opening of the present campaign. Frederick of Prussia lay encamped during the winter in Silesia, surrounded by difficulties and enemies. His resources both in money and men appeared well nigh exhausted. The end of autumn, 1760, brought him the news of the death of George II., and, from what he could learn of the disposition of his successor and his chief advisers, it was certain that peace would be attempted by England. This depressing intelligence was confirmed in December by the British Parliament indeed voting again his usual subsidy, but reluctantly, and he found it paid with still more reluctance and delay. Whilst thus menaced with the total loss of the funds by which he carried on the war, he saw, as the spring approached, the Russians and Austrians advancing against him with more than double his own forces. Disasters soon overtook him. The capture of Schweidnitz enabled the Austrians to winter in Silesia, which they had never yet done during the war; and the Russians also found, to their great satisfaction, on arriving in Pomerania, that they could winter in Colberg. The Russian division under Romanzow had besieged Colberg both by land and sea, and, despite the attempts of the Prussians sent by Frederick to relieve it, it had been compelled to surrender. In these discouraging circumstances Frederick took up his winter quarters at Breslau. His affairs never wore a darker aspect. He was out-generaled and more discomfited this campaign than by a great battle. His enemies lay near in augmented strength of position, and his resources had ominously decreased.
CHAPTER VII. REIGN OF GEORGE III.The memorable 17th of August arrived, and the curtain was raised on a new act in the great drama, on which the whole nation gazed with the deepest interest, and with feverish anxiety. The queen left her residence in St. James's Square, and proceeded to the House of Lords in her new state carriage, which the people were with difficulty dissuaded from unyoking, that they might draw it themselves. As she passed Carlton House, the crowd gave three cheers, and also at the Treasury. The soldiers on guard at the former place, and at the House of Lords, presented arms when she arrived. The queen's carriage was preceded by Alderman Wood's, and followed by one of her Majesty's travelling carriages, in which were the Hon. Keppel Craven and Sir William Gell, her chamberlains. The way from Charing Cross to Westminster Abbey was crowded, and all the windows of the houses on each side were filled with people, particularly with ladies. Such was the enthusiasm of the people, that the barrier erected at St. Margaret's Church was insufficient to keep them back, and the dense mass forced their way through, and reached Palace Yard shortly after the queen. Sir T. Tyrwhitt, as Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, attended by the officers of the House, received the queen at the private entrance which had been prepared for her. She entered at the door near the throne, supported by Lord A. Hamilton, and attended by Lady A. Hamilton. She was dressed in white, but wore a black lace shawl. Her demeanour was in the highest degree dignified. On her entrance the peers all rose, and she was pleased to salute them in return.详情
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