Very important events had during this time been taking place in Europe. In the north, Russia, checked in its encroachments on Turkey for the present, turned its eyes on the inviting region of Poland. Poland, after neglecting its own internal improvement, and the raising of the condition of its people, so as to give them a real interest in the defence of the country, had suddenly set about establishing a new Constitution, very much on the model of the French Revolutionary one. The Diet declared the throne hereditary, and not elective, as hitherto; and Stanislaus Augustus, the king—that is, Poniatowski, the former lover and favourite of Catherine of Russia—was wholly agreeable to this. The Diet proposed the Elector of Saxony as Poniatowski's successor, the king having no children. It also admitted the burgher class into its body. As there was a strong party, however, in opposition to the popular party, the patriots met secretly, and not only pledged themselves to the new Constitution, but to pass it en masse and at once, without canvassing the particular articles of it. The king, being privy to this, on the 3rd of May, 1791, entered the hall of the Diet. The new Constitution was read, passed by a majority, and signed by the king. Stanislaus then led the way to the cathedral, where he was followed by all the nuncios except twelve, and there both he and they swore to maintain this new Constitution. An unexpected difficulty was found in persuading the Elector of Saxony to accept the Crown; for, though both Russia and Prussia still professed friendship for Poland, he was too well aware of the designs of Russia on Poland to accept the dangerous post without much hesitation. At length, in the month of April, 1792, the Elector gave his reluctant consent, but not without stipulating that they should give more power to the sovereign, and limit more that of the Diet; that the right of determining peace and war should belong to the king, as well as the authority over the army. He objected to a number of things, evidently borrowed from the revolutionary French, such as the oath taken to the nation, and the education of the heir by the Diet, just as the National Assembly had claimed the right to educate the Dauphin.
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The purport of these Cabinet Councils was generally understood by the country; but as yet only the most sanguine anticipated the proposal of Sir Robert Peel, when the Times newspaper on the 4th of December announced, apparently from secret information, that it was the intention of the Government to repeal the Corn Laws, and to call Parliament together in January for that purpose. The assertion was received with incredulity, not only by the Opposition, but by the Ministerial journals. One organ of the Tory party placarded its office with a bill, headed "Atrocious fabrication of the Times!" But the latter journal, on the following day, declared that it "adhered to its original announcement." Day by day the controversy raged in the newspapers; but the news was too probable not to gain credence. The result was a conviction throughout the country that the Times had really obtained information of the Government's intentions; but as a matter of fact its information was incorrect, as the Cabinet, far from intending to repeal the Corn Laws, had made up its mind to retire.
The Irish corporations were included in the inquiry, which commenced in 1833. The Irish Commissioners took for their local investigations the one hundred and seventeen places which had sent representatives to the Irish Parliament. They found everywhere the grossest abuses. By an Act of George II., residence had been dispensed with as a qualification for corporate offices. The effect of this was to deprive a large number of them of a resident governing body. In some cases a few, very rarely a majority, of the municipal council were inhabitants of the town. In others, the whole chartered body of burgesses were non-resident, and they attended as a mere matter of form, to go through the farce of electing members of Parliament, or for the purpose of disposing of the corporate property. In some boroughs the charter gave the nomination of a member of Parliament to the lord of the manor or some local proprietor. In others the power of returning the Parliamentary representative was vested in a small self-elected body of freemen; almost invariably the power of nomination was actually possessed by the gentleman known as the "patron" or "proprietor," who could dispose of the seat as he thought proper, and if not reserved for himself or some member of his family, it was sold for the highest price it would bring in the market—treated in every respect as absolute property, which was transmitted, like the family estate, from father to son. This property was fully recognised at the union, and it was by buying it up at an exceedingly liberal price that Lord Castlereagh was enabled to carry that measure. By the Act of union a large number of those rotten corporations, some of which had not even a hamlet to represent, were swept away. But a considerable number remained, and of these the Commissioners of inquiry remarked:—"This system deserves peculiar notice in reference to your Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. In the close boroughs they are almost universally excluded from all corporate privileges. In the more considerable towns they have rarely been admitted even as freemen, and, with few exceptions, they are altogether excluded from the governing bodies. In some—and among these is the most important corporation in Ireland, that of Dublin—their admission is still resisted on avowed principles of sectarian distinction. The exclusive spirit operates far more widely and more mischievously than by the mere denial of equal privileges to persons possessing perfect equality of civil worth; for in places where the great mass of the population is Roman Catholic—and persons of that persuasion are for all efficient purposes excluded from corporate privileges—the necessary result is that the municipal magistracy belongs entirely to the other religious persuasions; and the dispensation of local justice, and the selection of juries being committed to the members of one class exclusively, it is not surprising that such administration of the law should be regarded with distrust and suspicion by the other and more numerous body."Fielding (b. 1707; d. 1754) began his career by an attempt, in "Joseph Andrews," to caricature the "Pamela" of Richardson. He represented Joseph as Pamela's brother; but he had not proceeded far when he became too much interested in his own creation to make a mere parody of him. This novel he produced in 1742, the year after the completion of "Pamela." The following year he gave to the world "Jonathan Wild;" in 1749, "Tom Jones;" and in 1751, but three years before his death, at the age of only forty-seven, "Amelia." But, besides a novelist, Fielding was a dramatic writer, a political writer, and the editor of four successive periodicals—The Champion, The True Patriot, The Jacobite Journal, and The Covent Garden Journal. Fielding, unlike Richardson, was educated at Eton, and afterwards at Leyden. He had fortune, but he dissipated it; and had the opportunity of seeing both high and low life, by his rank as a gentleman and his office as a police-magistrate. His novels are masterly productions. His squire Western and parson Adams, and his other characters are genuine originals; and they are made to act and talk with a raciness of humour and a flow of wit that might even yet render them popular, if their occasional grossness did not repel the reader of this age. It is, indeed, the misfortune of Fielding, Sterne, and Smollett, that they lived in so coarse and debauched an epoch; their very fidelity now renders them repulsive. Richardson and Fielding were the Dickens and Thackeray of their day. In Fielding, the colder nature and the more satiric tone make the resemblance to Thackeray the more striking.
Could this treaty have been carried out, Buonaparte would at once have obtained his one hundred thousand veterans from Spain, and completely paralysed the army of Lord Wellington. The Duke de San Carlos conveyed the treaty to Spain. He was instructed to inquire into the state of the Regency and the Cortes, whether they were really so infected with infidelity and Jacobinism as Napoleon had represented; but, whether so or not, he was to procure the ratification of the treaty by these bodies, and Ferdinand undertook to deal with them himself when once safe upon the throne. San Carlos travelled eastward into Spain, and visited the camp of Suchet, who very soon communicated to General Capons, who was co-operating with General Clinton, that there was peace concluded between Spain and France, and that there was no longer any use for the British. Capons was very ready to act on this information and enter into a separate armistice with Suchet; but fortunately for both Spain and the British, neither the Regency nor the Cortes would sign the treaty so long as the king was in durance in France.LORD COLLINGWOOD.
Charles landed in Lochnanuagh on the 25th of July, and was conducted to a farm-house belonging to Clanranald. He then despatched letters to the Highland chiefs who were in his interest. Principal amongst these were Cameron of Lochiel, Sir Alexander Macdonald, and Macleod. Lochiel was as much confounded at the proposal to commence a rebellion without foreign support as the Macdonalds. For a long time Lochiel stood out, and gave the strongest reasons for his decision; but Charles exclaimed, "I am resolved to put all to the hazard. I will erect the Royal Standard, and tell the people of Britain that Charles Stuart is come over to claim the crown of his ancestors, or to perish in the attempt. Lochiel, who, my father has always told me, was our firmest friend, may stay at home, and learn from the newspapers the fate of his prince." "Not so!" instantly replied the impulsive Highlander. "I will share the fate of my prince, whatever it may be, and so shall every man over whom nature or fortune has given me any power." The decision of Lochiel determined the whole Highlands. The Macdonalds of Skye held back when sent for, but numbers of others were immediately influenced by the example of Lochiel. Macdonald of Keppoch, Macdonald of Glengarry, and numbers of others, sent in their adhesion. Charles then removed to Kinloch Moidart, the residence of the chief of that name, where he was joined by Murray of Broughton, who brought with him from the south the manifestoes of Charles ready printed. Charles appointed him his secretary, which post he continued to hold during the expedition.Accordingly, on the 5th of June, the queen proceeded to the House of Lords, and stated in a long speech the terms on which it was proposed to make the peace with France—namely, that Louis XIV. should acknowledge the Protestant succession and remove the Pretender out of France; that Philip should renounce the Crown of Spain, should that of France devolve on him; and that the kings of both France and Spain should make solemn engagements for themselves and their heirs that the two kingdoms should never be united under one crown; that Newfoundland, with Placentia, Hudson's Bay, Nova Scotia, or Acadia, as it was then termed by the French, as well as Gibraltar, Port Mahon, and the whole island of Minorca, should be ceded to England; that the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Sardinia, the Duchy of Milan, and the places on the Tuscan coast, formerly belonging to Spain, should be yielded to Austria, the appropriation of Sicily being not so far determined; that France would make the Rhine the barrier of the Empire, yielding up all places beyond it, and razing the fortresses on the German side as well as in the river; that the barriers of Savoy, the Netherlands, and Prussia, should be made satisfactory to the Allies. The Electoral dignity was to be acknowledged in the House of Hanover.[See larger version]
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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."
The crisis of extreme difficulty to which Peel referred was occasioned by the power acquired by the Catholic Association, which had originated in the following manner. Early in 1823 Mr. O'Connell proposed to his brother barrister, Mr. Sheil, and a party of friends who were dining with Mr. O'Mara, at Glancullen, the plan of an association for the management of the Catholic cause. At a general meeting of the Roman Catholics, which took place in April, a resolution with the same design was carried, and on Monday, the 12th of May, the first meeting of the Catholic Association was held in Dempsey's Rooms, in Sackville Street, Dublin. Subsequently it met at the house of a Catholic bookseller named Coyne, and before a month had passed it was in active working order. From these small beginnings it became, in the course of the year, one of the most extensive, compact, and powerful popular organisations the world had ever seen. Its influence ramified into every parish in Ireland. It found a place and work for almost every member of the Roman Catholic body; the peer, the lawyer, the merchant, the country gentleman, the peasant, and, above all, the priest, had each his task assigned him: getting up petitions, forming deputations to the Government and to Parliament, conducting electioneering business, watching over the administration of justice, collecting "the Catholic rent," preparing resolutions, and making speeches at the meetings of the Association, which were held every Monday at the Corn Exchange, when everything in the remotest degree connected with the interests of Roman Catholics or of Ireland was the subject of animating and exciting discussion, conducted in the form of popular harangues, by barristers, priests, merchants, and others. Voluminous correspondence was read by the secretary, large sums of rent were handed in, fresh members were enrolled, and speeches were made to a crowd of excited and applauding people, generally composed of Dublin operatives and idlers. But as the proceedings were fully reported in the public journals, the audience may be said to have been the Irish nation. And over all, "the voice of O'Connell, like some mighty minster bell, was heard through Ireland, and the empire, and the world."The Budget did not retrieve the popularity of Ministers. Sir Francis Baring proposed to make up for an estimated deficit of ￡2,421,000 by an alteration of the timber duties producing ￡600,000 a year, and an alteration of the sugar duties producing ￡700,000. Both these changes were in the direction of free trade, and a still more significant proposal was the repeal of the existing corn law, and the substitution of a low fixed duty of 8s. a quarter on wheat. The House, however, would not accept such a budget from a Government whose Premier had in the previous year declared that "the responsible advisers of the Crown would not propose any change in the Corn Laws." After a debate of eight nights the Ministry were defeated on the sugar duties by 317 votes to 281. Still they did not resign, and the Opposition in consequence had recourse to a direct vote of censure.详情
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