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We must return from victory abroad to discontent at home. On the 28th of January, 1817, the Prince Regent opened the fifth Session of Parliament. In his speech he expressed indignation at "the attempts which had been made to take advantage of the distresses of the country for the purpose of exciting a spirit of sedition and violence;" and he declared himself determined to put down these attempts by stern measures. The seconder of the Address in the Commons had the good sense to believe that the demagogues and their acts would die of themselves. Certainly, if the demagogues had no cause on which to base their efforts, those efforts must have proved fruitless; and the wisdom of Government consisted in seriously inquiring whether there were such causes. To attempt to insure peace by smothering distress is the old remedy of tyrants, and is like heaping fuel on fire to put it out. Whilst this debate was proceeding, a message arrived from the Lords to announce that the Regent, on his return from the House, had been insulted, and some missile thrown through the windows of his carriage. The House agreed upon an Address to the Regent on this event, and then adjourned.The Court was soon alarmed by the report that the National Guard intended to march from Paris to Versailles, and, after removing the Bodyguard, to do duty at the palace themselves, in order to prevent the royal family from escaping abroad. Lafayette, now head of the National Guard, on the 17th of September wrote to St. Priest, one[367] of the Ministers, to assure him that there was no truth in the report, and therefore no danger. D'Estaing, the commander of the Bodyguard, however, to whom Lafayette's letter was communicated by St. Priest, did not feel satisfied, and proposed to bring the regiment of Flanders to Versailles, and the Assembly being applied to for its sanction, declared it was no business of theirs; and thus, neither encouraging nor discouraging the measure, the regiment was sent for. It arrived on the 23rd of September; and, at the sight of the long train of waggons that followed, alarm seized both the people of Versailles and the Assembly. Mirabeau, who, by a word, could have prevented the coming of the regiment, now denounced it as dangerous. News flew to Paris that a counter-revolution was preparing, and that the foreigners would be marched on the city. All this terror of one single regiment showed a disposition to feign alarm, rather than the real existence of it; but the Court committed the great folly of creating fresh reasons for jealousy. The officers of the Life Guard showed a most lively desire to fraternise with those of the Flanders regiment, and the courtiers were equally attentive to them. The officers of the Flanders regiment were not only presented at the king's levee, but invited to the queen's drawing-room, and treated in the most flattering manner. The Gardes du Corps gave a grand dinner to welcome them; and, what was extraordinary, they were allowed to give it in the theatre of the palace. This took place on the 2nd of October. The boxes were filled by people belonging to the Court. The officers of the National Guard were amongst the guests. After the wine had circulated some time amongst the three hundred guests, the soldiers, both of the Flanders regiment and of the other corps, the company, with drawn swords, and heated by champagne, drank the health of the royal family; the toast of the nation was rejected or omitted. The grenadiers in the pit demanded to be allowed to drink the royal healths, and goblets of wine were handed to them, and they drank the health of the king, the queen, the dauphin, and the rest of the royal family amid mutual shaking of hands and loud shouts of "Vive le Roi! Vive la Reine!" The band of the Flanders regiment then struck up the very expressive and celebrated song of Blondel when seeking his captive king, C?ur de Lion—ASSASSINATION OF SPENCER PERCEVAL. (See p. 23.)

No sooner, therefore, had the Parliament closed and the king set out to Hanover, than Ministers sent off William Stanhope to Madrid to procure a treaty of peace without any mention of Gibraltar. On arriving at Madrid he found that the Court had removed to Seville, in Andalusia. This had been done by the influence of the queen, in order to draw Philip from the Council of Castile, which was doing all it could to prevail on him again to abdicate. Stanhope followed the Court to Seville, and laboured with such effect that he obtained the signing of a treaty of defensive alliance between England, Spain, and France, to which Holland afterwards acceded (November 9, 1729). By this treaty Spain revoked all the privileges granted to Austria by the treaties of Vienna, and re-established the British trade with her American colonies on its former footing, restored all captures, and made compensation for losses. The Assiento was confirmed to the South Sea Company. Commissioners were appointed to adjust all claims of Spaniards for ships taken in 1718, and to settle the limits of the American trade. The succession of Don Carlos to Parma and Tuscany was recognised, with the right to garrison the ports of Leghorn, Porto Ferrajo, Parma, and Placentia with six thousand Spanish troops. Not a word was said of Gibraltar—a silence amounting to a renunciation of its demand by Spain; and that Philip regarded it as such was evidenced by his[60] beginning to construct the strong lines of San Roque, and thus to cut off all communication with the obnoxious fortress by land.This all-important question was adjourned to the next day, the 8th of June, when it was debated in a committee of the whole House. As the discussion, however, took place with closed doors, as all great debates of Congress did, to hide the real state of opinion, and to give to the ultimate decision an air of unanimity, the reports of it are meagre and unsatisfactory. We know, however, that Lee, the original mover, was supported by his colleague Wythe, and most energetically by John Adams; that it was as vigorously opposed by John Dickinson and his colleagues, Wilson, of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingstone, of New York, and John Rutledge, of South Carolina. Moreover, a considerable number of members from different States opposed the motion, on the ground, not of its being improper in itself, but, as yet, premature. Six colonies declared for it, including Virginia. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland were at present against it. New York, Delaware, and South Carolina, were not decided to move yet; and it was proposed to give them time to make up their minds. Dr. Zubly, of Georgia, protested against it, and quitted the Congress. To give time for greater unanimity, the subject was postponed till the 1st of July; but, meanwhile, a committee was appointed to draw up a Declaration of Independence. The members of this committee were only five, namely, Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia; John Adams, of Massachusetts; Roger Sherman, of Connecticut; Richard R. Livingstone, of New York; and Benjamin Franklin, of Pennsylvania.

By a still greater fatality, Louis was persuaded to comply with the solicitations of the American colonists, to assist them in throwing off their allegiance to Britain. To rend these colonies from Britain, which had deprived France of Canada and Nova Scotia, was too flattering to French vanity and French desire of revenge. Turgot in vain protested that the first cannon that was fired would insure revolution; Louis consented to the American alliance, and thus set the seal to his own destruction. Bitterly did he rue this afterwards, still more bitterly was it rued by his queen when they both saw the fatal infection of Republicanism brought back from America by the army. When Turgot saw that this fatal war was determined upon, he retired before the wild rage of the noblesse and clergy, and from the ruinous weakness of the king. Minister after minister rapidly succeeded each other in the vain endeavour to keep up the old partial laws and privileges, the old extravagance and encumbrances, at the command of the king, and yet avert revolution. In turn Clugny, Necker, and Calonne withdrew discomfited.

[576][See larger version]GREENWICH HOSPITAL

The new spring in poetry broke forth as brilliantly in this reign as that in prose. In the earlier portion of it, indeed, this was not so visible. The school of Pope seemed still to retain its influence. This school had produced a host of imitators, but little real genius since Pope's time. Almost the only exception to this mediocrity was Collins, whose odes were full of fire and genius. He died just before this period, and Gray,[182] Shenstone, and Goldsmith opened it with many of the exterior characteristics of that school. But, in truth, notwithstanding the mere fashion of their compositions, there were in them unmistakable evidences of new life. Shenstone was the least vigorous and original of the three, but his "Schoolmistress" possessed a natural charm that still gains it admirers. He belongs, however, rather to the past period than this, for he died but three years after the accession of George III., and had ceased to write some time before. Gray's "Elegy in a Country Churchyard" showed that he had deep feeling and a nice observation of nature; and his "Long Story" that he possessed real humour—a quality abounding in his prose, but, except in this piece, little visible in his poetry. His odes are extremely vigorous, but somewhat formal. His "Bard," his "Ode on Eton College," and his "Fatal Sisters," are all full of beauty, but somewhat stilted. In the "Fatal Sisters" he introduced a subject from the "Scandinavian Edda" to the English reader, but in a most un-Scandinavian dress.On the 18th of November Lord Cornwallis crossed the North River with six thousand men, and, landing on the Jersey side, began to attack Fort Lee, standing nearly opposite Fort Washington. The garrison fled, leaving behind all its tents standing, all its provisions and artillery. Washington was compelled by this to fall back from his position on the Croton, thence to Brunswick, Princeton, Trenton, and finally to the Pennsylvanian side of the Delaware. Lord Cornwallis followed at his heels. Cornwallis penetrated to the remotest parts of east and west Jersey, and everywhere the inhabitants received him as a friend and deliverer. On the 24th of November Lord Cornwallis was approaching Brunswick, when he received orders to halt. By this means, Washington was allowed to escape across the Delaware. It was not till the evening of the 16th of December that Cornwallis received[232] orders to proceed, and, though he made all haste, he was too late. The rear of the American army quitted Princeton as the van of the English army entered it. Washington, in headlong haste, fled to Trenton, and began ferrying his troops over the Delaware. When Cornwallis reached Trenton, at nine o'clock the next morning, he beheld the last boats of Washington crossing the river. Once over the water, the remains of the American troops lost all appearance of an army. They were a mere dirty, worn-out, ragged, and dispirited mob. Washington had taken the advantage of the halt of Cornwallis to collect all the boats from Delaware for the distance of seventy miles, so that the English could not cross after them. Cornwallis, being thus brought to a stand, put his army into winter quarters between the Delaware and the Hackensack.After accepting an offer from the Irish militia serving in England during the war, and agreeing that ten thousand should be the number, and that this number should be reinstated in Ireland by a new levy, the House adjourned on the 29th of March for the Easter recess. But during the recess Pitt was planning fresh measures of opposition, and in fact driving out Addington and taking his place. On the re-assembling of the House on the 23rd of April, Fox moved that it should resolve itself into a committee of inquiry regarding the measures of defence necessary for the country. Addington opposed the inquiry as unnecessary, but Pitt declared that it was never more necessary; that though there were a hundred and eighty-four thousand troops of the line, and four hundred thousand volunteers, the measures of Government were not of that vigorous character which the times demanded. Yorke, the Secretary-at-War, and Spencer Perceval defended Addington, who asserted that great exertions had been made to bring up members to vote for Mr. Pitt's views, and that he did not see how the present Ministry could remain in office if this measure was carried against them. It was not carried; but Addington's majority had sunk to only fifty-two, the numbers being for Fox's motion two hundred and four, against it two hundred and fifty-six. Wilberforce, who had much respect for Addington, as he had a great admiration for Pitt, exerted himself to reconcile the two and to get Pitt into the Cabinet with Addington. He consulted with Lord Chancellor Eldon on the plan for bringing in Pitt to join Addington.

Long quotations are then given from the several reports of the Assistant Commissioners, showing that the feelings of the suffering labourers in Ireland are also decidedly in favour of emigration. They do not desire workhouses, it is said, but they do desire a free passage to a colony where they may have the means of living by their own industry. The Commissioners then declare that, upon the best consideration they have been able to give to the whole subject, they think that a legal provision should be made and rates levied for the relief and support of curable as well as incurable lunatics, of idiots, epileptic persons, cripples, deaf and dumb, and blind poor, and all who labour under permanent bodily infirmities; such relief and support to be afforded within the walls of public institutions; also for the relief of the sick poor in hospitals and infirmaries, and convalescent establishments; or by external attendance, and a supply of food as well as medicine, where the persons to be relieved are not in a state to be removed from home; also for the purpose of emigration, for the support of penitentiaries—to which vagrants may be sent—and for the maintenance of deserted children; also towards the relief of aged and infirm persons, of orphans, of helpless widows, and young children, of the families of sick persons, and of casual destitution. This report was not signed by all the Commissioners. Three of them set forth their reasons, in thirteen propositions, for dissenting from the principle of the voluntary system, as recommended by the report.

The employment of children in factories also occupied the attention of Parliament at this time. A Bill had been framed in 1833 with the most benevolent intentions for the protection of factory children. The law excluded from factory labour all children under nine years of age, except in silk factories, and prohibited those under thirteen from working more than thirteen hours any one day; the maximum in silk mills alone being ten hours. The provisions of the law were, however, evaded by fraud. Children were represented as being much older than they really were, and abuses prevailed that induced Lord Ashley to bring in a Bill upon the subject. Accordingly, on the 22nd of June the noble lord moved, by way of amendment to the order of the day, the second reading of his Bill for the Better Regulation of Factories. The order of the day was carried by a majority of 119 to 111. The Bill was therefore lost by a majority of eight. On the 20th of July Lord Ashley again brought the whole matter under the consideration of the House in a speech full of painful details, and concluded by moving a resolution to the effect that the House deeply regretted that the imperfect and ineffective law for the regulation of labour in factories had been suffered to continue so long without any amendment. He was answered by the usual arguments of the Manchester school about the evils of interfering with free contract. Lord John Russell argued that, in the present condition of the manufacturing world, we could not, with restricted hours of labour, compete with other nations. A ten hours' Bill would drive the manufacturers abroad; and it would no longer be a question as to an hour or two more or less work to be performed by the children, but as to how their starvation was to be averted. On a division, the motion was lost by a majority of 121 to 106. On[455] the 16th of August the Queen proceeded to Westminster for the purpose of proroguing Parliament.[See larger version]

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Previous to this, however, Chatham had thought over several decisive measures, and sketched out a scheme of foreign and domestic policy, which marked how far above the intellectual grasp of most of his contemporaries was that of his mind. He determined, if possible, to form an alliance of European states against the Family Compact of the Bourbons in France and Spain; to reform the Government of Ireland, which greatly needed it, and that of India.Mr. Manners Sutton was again chosen Speaker of the House of Commons, having already presided over four successive Parliaments, occupying a period of fourteen years, during which he performed the onerous duties of his high position to the satisfaction of all parties. A week was occupied in the swearing-in of members. All the preliminary formalities having been gone through, the Parliament was opened by the king in person on the 2nd of November. The Royal Speech, which was of unusual length, excited the deepest interest, and was listened to with breathless attention and intense anxiety. The concluding paragraph of the Speech, while expressing the strongest confidence in the loyalty of the people, intimated the determination of the Government to resist Parliamentary Reform. This attitude was regarded as a defiance to the Opposition; and it roused into excitement the spirit of hostility, which might have been disarmed by a tone of conciliation, and by a disposition to make moderate concessions. Nothing, therefore, could have been more favourable to the aims of the Whig leaders than the course taken by the Administration; and if they wanted an excuse for breaking forth into open war, it was supplied by the imprudent speech of the Duke of Wellington. The Royal Speech, indeed, suggested revolutionary topics to the Reformers, by its allusion to Continental politics. The king observed that the elder branch of the House of Bourbon no longer reigned in France, and that the Duke of Orleans had been called to the throne. The state of affairs in the Low Countries—namely, the separation of Belgium from Holland—was viewed with deep regret; and "his Majesty lamented that the enlightened administration of the King of the Netherlands" should not have preserved his dominions from revolt; stating that he was endeavouring, in concert with his allies, to devise such means of restoring tranquillity as might be compatible with the welfare and good government of the Netherlands, and with the future security of other States.

The English Government, instead of treating Wilkes with a dignified indifference, was weak enough to show how deeply it was touched by him, dismissed him from his commission of Colonel of the Buckinghamshire Militia, and treated Lord Temple as an abettor of his, by depriving him of the Lord-Lieutenancy of the same county, and striking his name from the list of Privy Councillors, giving the Lord-Lieutenancy to Dashwood, now Lord Le Despencer.



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