In the early part of January, 1829, the Duke of Wellington had an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and the Bishop of Durham, for the purpose of laying before them the state of affairs in Ireland, in the hope of convincing them that the interests of the Church required the settlement of the Catholic question. It was thought that a favourable opinion expressed by them would have had great influence on the mind of the king; but the Duke's arguments utterly failed to convince them. They informed him that they could not lend their sanction to the proposed course of proceeding, but must offer a decided opposition to the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities. On New Year's Day the Bishop of Oxford wrote to Mr. Peel, that he had just returned from Addington, and that he found the three bishops decidedly hostile to all concessions, refusing to consent to them in any form. He considered that matter, therefore, as settled. Mr. Peel now began to feel that the difficulties in the way of Emancipation were almost insuperable. There was the declared opinion of the king, of the House of Lords, and of the Church, all decidedly hostile to the proposed measure. What the Home Secretary chiefly apprehended at that moment was, that the king, hearing the result of the Duke's conference with the bishops, would make some public and formal declaration of his resolution to maintain, as a matter of conscience and religious obligation, the existing laws; and would then take a position in reference to the Catholic question similar to that in which his father had stood, and which it might be almost impossible for him, however urgent the necessity, afterwards to abandon.
The workhouse test, then, operated powerfully in keeping down pauperism; but another cause came into operation still more influential, namely, the Law of Settlement. By the Act 13 and 14 Charles II. a legal settlement in a parish was declared to be gained by birth, or by inhabitancy, apprenticeship, or service for forty days; but within that period any two justices were authorised, upon complaint being made to them by the churchwardens or overseers, if they thought a new entrant likely to become chargeable, to remove him, unless he either occupied a tenement of the annual value of ten pounds, or gave sufficient security that he would indemnify the parish for whatever loss it might incur on his account. And by a subsequent Act, 3 William III., every newcomer was obliged to give notice to the churchwarden of his arrival. This notice should be read in church after divine service, and then commenced the forty days during which objection might be made to his settlement. In case of objection, if he remained it was by sufferance, and he could be removed the moment he married, or was likely to become chargeable. A settlement might also be obtained by being hired for a year when unmarried or childless, and remaining the whole of that time in the service of one master; or being bound an apprentice to a person who had obtained a settlement. The effect of this system was actually to depopulate many parishes. The author of a valuable pamphlet on the subject, Mr. Alcock, stated that gentlemen were led by this system to adopt all sorts of expedients to hinder the poor from marrying, to discharge servants in their last quarter, to evict small tenants, and pull down cottages; so that several parishes were in a manner depopulated, while England complained of want of useful hands for agriculture, for manufactures, and for the land and sea services.On the 3rd of December Buonaparte announced to his officers his intention to leave them and make the best of his way to Paris. He pleaded the state of affairs there, and especially the conspiracy of Mallet; but he was now approaching the frontiers of Prussia, and as he knew that he had declared that, if he returned successful, he would deprive Frederick William altogether of his crown, he was as apprehensive of that monarch as of the Russians themselves.
This majority of the Coalition compelled Lord Shelburne to resign; but the rest of the Administration remained in their places, in the hope that Pitt would now take the Premiership. In fact, the king, on the 24th of February, sent for Pitt and proposed this to him; but Pitt was too sensible of the impossibility of maintaining himself against the present combination of parties. The next day Dundas moved and carried an adjournment for three days, to give time for the arrangement of a new Cabinet. Pitt continued to persist in declining to take the Premiership, and on the 2nd or 3rd of March the king sent for Lord North. His proposal was that North should resume the management of affairs; but North insisted on bringing in his new friends, and to that the king objected. Matters remained in this impracticable condition till the 12th, when the king sent for North, and proposed that the Duke of Portland should be asked to form an Administration; but this did not at all advance matters, for Portland was equally determined with North to maintain the Coalition, and the king was resolved to have nothing to do with Fox, whilst Fox was equally determined not to admit the king's friend, Lord Stormont, to any Cabinet of which he was a member. On the 31st the announcement was made that Pitt had resigned, and that the king was prepared to submit to the terms of the Coalition. George, with deep and inward groans, submitted himself once more to the slavery of the great Whig houses, and, as some small recompense, the Coalition admitted Lord Stormont to a place in the Cabinet.Immediately on the rising of Parliament O'Connell published a violent attack in the form of a letter to Lord Duncannon. This was taken up by Lord Brougham in the course of an oratorical tour which he was making through Scotland, and a mutual exchange of compliments ensued. Unfortunately the Chancellor's eccentricity did not stop there. Earl Grey was not permitted to retire into private life without some popular recognition of his great public services. On the 15th of September a grand banquet was given in Edinburgh in honour of this illustrious statesman. "Probably," says a contemporary chronicle, "no Minister in the zenith of his power ever before received so gratifying a tribute of national respect as was paid on this occasion to one who had not only retired from office, but retired from it for ever. The popular enthusiasm, both in the capital and other parts of Scotland, was extreme, which the noble earl sensibly felt, and gratefully acknowledged as among the proudest circumstances of his life. The dinner took place in a large pavilion, erected for the occasion in the area of the High School, and was provided for upwards of 1,500 persons, more than 600 having been admitted after the removal of the cloth. The principal speakers were Earl Grey, the Lord Chancellor, and the Earl of Durham. Earl Grey and the Lord Chancellor, in their speeches, said they considered that the Reform in Parliament afforded the means by which all useful improvements might be obtained without violence. Both advocated a deliberate and careful, but steady course of amelioration and reform, and both derided the idea of a reaction in favour of Tory principles of government. The Earl of Durham avowed his opinions in favour of the ballot and household suffrage, and declared that he should regret every hour which left ancient and recognised abuses unreformed." This involved the Lord Chancellor in a new controversy in which more personalities were exchanged.
These words, indiscreet as they were, and calculated to embarrass the Ministers, were regarded as in the highest degree precious by the bishops and clergy, and the whole Tory party. With the utmost despatch they were circulated far and wide, with the design of bringing public feeling to bear against Mr. Ward's motion. In the meantime, great efforts were made by the Government to be able to evade the motion. Its position at this time appeared far from enviable, and there was a general impression that it could not long survive. The new appointments did not give satisfaction. The Cabinet was said to be only patched up in order to wear through the Session. It was in these discouraging circumstances that Lord Althorp had to meet Mr. Ward's motion on Monday, the 2nd of June. In order to avoid a dissolution and a general election, the results of which might turn upon the existence of the Irish Church, it was necessary that Mr. Ward's motion should be defeated. He refused to withdraw it, because he apprehended the speedy dissolution of the Ministry, and he wished the decision of the House of Commons on the Irish Church question to be recorded, that it might stand in the way of a less liberal Administration. The anticipated contest in the Commons that evening excited extraordinary interest. The House was surrounded by a crowd anxious to obtain admittance or to hear the result, while within it was so thronged with members that the Ministers found it difficult to get to their seats. Rarely has there been so full a House, the number of members being 516. When Mr. Ward had spoken in favour of his motion, Lord Althorp rose to reply. He announced that a special commission of inquiry had been already issued, composed of laymen, who were to visit every parish in Ireland, and were to report on the means of religious instruction for the people; and that, pending this inquiry, he saw no necessity for the House being called upon to affirm the principles of Mr. Ward's motion. He would, therefore, content himself by moving the previous question. This was carried by an overwhelming majority, the numbers being 396 to 120.
It was not till between eleven and twelve o'clock on the morning of Sunday, the 18th of June, that this terrible conflict commenced; for the troops of Napoleon had not yet all reached the ground, having suffered from the tempests of wind and rain equally with the Allies. The rain had now ceased, but the morning was gloomy and lowering. The action opened by a brisk cannonade on the house and wood of Hougomont, which were held by the troops of Nassau. These were driven out; but their place was immediately taken by the British Guards under General Byng and Colonels Home and Macdonald. A tremendous cannonade was kept up on Hougomont by Jerome's batteries from the slopes above; and under cover of this fire the French advanced through the wood in front of Hougomont, but were met by a terrible fire from the British, who had the orchard wall as a breastwork from which to assail the enemy. The contest here was continued through the day with dreadful fury, but the British held their ground with bull-dog tenacity. The buildings of the farmyard and an old chapel were set fire to by the French shells; but the British maintained their post amid the flames, and filled the wood in front and a lane running under the orchard wall with mountains of dead.[See larger version]
In the House of Commons, on the same evening (the 30th of June), Sir Robert Peel moved an answer to the Address to the same effect. Lord Althorp, acting in concert with Lord Grey, moved the adjournment of the House for twenty-four hours to allow time for consideration. The discussion in the Commons, however, was not without interest, as it touched upon constitutional questions of vital importance. Mr. Brougham did his part with admirable tact. He dwelt upon the danger of allowing the people to learn that Government could go on, and every exigency of the common weal be provided for, without a king. The Act which had appointed the late Prince Regent had been passed without the Royal sanction, the king being insane, and no provision having been made to meet the calamity that occurred. The Act of Parliament was called a law, but it was no law; it had not even the semblance of a law; and the power which it conveyed was in those days called the phantom of royal authority. The fact, indeed, was that the tendency of that Act of Parliament, more than any other Act that had ever been passed by the legislature, was to inflict a blow on the royal authority; to diminish its influence and weight; to bring it into disrepute with, and to lessen it in the estimation of, the people at large; and that fact was in itself a sufficient comment upon the propriety of doing an act of legislation without having the Crown to sanction it. That, he said, was his first great and principal reason for proceeding with this question at once. He showed that one of the greatest advantages connected with the monarchical form of government was the certainty of the succession, and the facile and quiet transmission of power from one hand to another, thus avoiding the inconveniences and dangers of an interregnum. The question was rendered more difficult and delicate by the fact that the Duke of Cumberland, the most unpopular man in the country, was the eldest of the remaining brothers of the king, in the event of whose death he would be Heir Apparent to the Throne of Great Britain, and King of Hanover. In the case supposed, the question would arise whether the next heir to the Throne was of right regent, should the Sovereign be incompetent, from infancy, insanity, or any other cause. If that right were established, then the regent, during the minority of the Princess Victoria, would be a foreign monarch, and one who was utterly detested by the mass of the people of Britain. Such a question, arising at a moment when the spirit of revolution was abroad, might agitate the public mind to a degree that would be perilous to the Constitution. The contingencies were sufficiently serious, therefore, to justify the efforts of Lord Grey and Mr. Brougham to have the regency question settled before the dissolution. They may not have been sorry to have a good popular case against the Government, but their conduct was not fairly liable to the imputation of faction or mere personal ambition. "Can we," asked Mr. Brougham, "promise ourselves a calm discussion of the subject when there should be an actual accession of the Duke of Cumberland to the Throne of Hanover, and Parliament is suddenly called upon to decide upon his election to the regency, to the supreme rule in this country, to which, according to the principle of Mr. Pitt, he has a paramount claim, although he has not a strict legal right?" The motion for adjournment was lost by a majority of 46—the numbers being, for it, 139; against it, 185. After this debate, on the motion for adjournment, Lord Althorp moved the amendment to the Address, almost in the words of Lord Grey in the other House. Sir Robert Peel stated that he meant no disrespect by abstaining from further discussion, which would be wasting the time of the House, by repeating the arguments he had already employed. Mr. Brougham, however, took the opportunity of launching out against the Ministry in a strain of bitter invective, of sarcasm vehement even to fierceness.
The direct consequence was that he was immediately nominated again by the freeholders of Middlesex. Mr. Dingley, a mercantile speculator of London, offered himself as the Government candidate, but withdrew in a fright, and Wilkes was returned, without opposition, on the 16th of February, only thirteen days after his expulsion. The next day Lord Strange moved in the Commons, that John Wilkes, after having been expelled, was incapable of serving again in the present Parliament, and the case of Sir Robert Walpole was quoted in justification. Wilkes was a second time declared incapable of sitting, the election was declared void, and the public indignation rose higher than ever. The freeholders of Middlesex instantly met at the "London" Tavern, and subscribed on the spot two thousand pounds towards defraying the expenses of Wilkes's election. They then formed themselves into a "Society for Supporting the Bill of Rights," and a third time proposed Wilkes as their candidate. He was immediately returned for Middlesex, Dingley not finding any one who dared to nominate him. The next day, the 17th of March, the Commons again voted the election void.
The year 1756 opened with menaces to England of the most serious nature. The imbecility of the Ministry was beginning to tell in the neglect of its colonies and its defences. France threatened to invade us, and a navy of fifty thousand men was suddenly voted, and an army of thirty-four thousand two hundred and sixty-three of native troops; but as these were not ready, it was agreed to bring over eight thousand Hessians and Hanoverians. To pay for all this it was necessary to grant excessive supplies, and lay on new duties and taxes. In presenting the money bills in the month of May, Speaker Onslow could not avoid remarking that there were two circumstances which tended to create alarm—foreign subsidies and foreign troops introduced, and nothing but their confidence in his Majesty could allay their fears, or give them confidence that their burdens would be soon reduced. There was, in fact, no chance for any such reduction, for wars, troubles, and disgraces were gathering around from various quarters. The first reverse came from the Mediterranean.The Marquis of Lansdowne, the President of the Council in the Whig Ministry which had replaced that of Sir Robert Peel, in a speech delivered in the House of Lords on the 25th of January, 1847, gave an estimate, as accurate as the best calculation could make it, of the loss in money value that had been occasioned by the failure of the crops in Ireland. "Taking a valuation of ￡10 per acre for potatoes, and ￡3 10s. for oats, the deficiency on the potato crop alone amounted to ￡11,350,000, while on the crop of oats it amounted to ￡4,660,000, or to a total value of ￡16,010,000 for the whole of a country which, if it could not be said to be the poorest, was certainty not one of the richest in the world. In weight the loss was 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 tons of potatoes. The whole loss had been equivalent to the absolute destruction of 1,500,000 arable acres." On the same day, Lord John Russell, who had succeeded Peel as Prime Minister, gave a statement of what the Government had done during the recess for the relief of the Irish population, in pursuance of Acts passed in the previous Session. He stated that an immense staff of servants had been employed by the Board of Public Works—upwards of 11,000 persons—giving employment to half a million of labourers, representing 2,000,000 of souls; the expense for the month of January being estimated at from ￡700,000 to ￡800,000.
The foreign relations of England at this period were, on the whole, satisfactory—as might be expected from the fact that our foreign policy was committed to the able management of Lord Palmerston, who, while sympathising with oppressed nationalities, acted steadily upon the principle of non-intervention. Considering, however, the comparative smallness o￡ our naval and military forces, the formidable military powers of Russia and France created a good deal of uneasiness, which the king expressed in one of his odd impromptu speeches at Windsor. On the 19th of February there was a debate in the House of Commons on Eastern affairs, in which the vast resources and aggressive policy Of Russia were placed in a strong light. On that occasion Lord Dudley Stuart said, "Russia has 50,000,000 subjects in Europe alone, exclusive of Asia; an army of 700,000 men, and a navy of eighty line-of-battle ships and frigates, guided by the energy of a Government of unmitigated despotism, at whose absolute and unlimited disposal stand persons and property of every description. These formidable means are constantly applied to purposes of territorial aggrandisement, and every new acquisition becomes the means of gaining others. Who can tell that the Hellespont may not be subject to Russia at any moment? She has a large fleet in the Black Sea, full command of the mouths of the Danube, and of the commercial marine cities of Odessa and Trebizond. In three days she may be at Constantinople from Sebastopol; and if once there, the Dardanelles will be so fortified by Russian engineers that she can never be expelled except by a general war. She could be in entire possession of these important straits before any expedition could be sent from this country, even if such a thing could be thought of against the enormous military force at the command of Russia. That Russia is determined to have the Dardanelles is evident from the treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi, by which she began by excluding the ships of all other nations. The effect of this treaty was to exclude any ship of war from these straits, except with the permission of Russia. Russia might at any moment insist on the exclusion of our ships of war from the Dardanelles—nay, she has already done so; for when Lord Durham, going on his late embassy to the Court of St. Petersburg, arrived at the Dardanelles in a frigate, he was obliged to go on board the Pluto, an armed vessel without her guns, before he could pass the straits; and when he arrived at Sebastopol no salute was fired, and the excuse given was that they did not know the Pluto from a merchant vessel. But both before and since Lord Durham went, Russian ships of war, with their guns out and their streamers flying, passed through the Black Sea to the Dardanelles, and again through the Dardanelles to the Black Sea. Russia has now fifteen ships of the line and seven frigates in the Black Sea. Sebastopol is only three days' sail from the Hellespont. Turkey has no force capable of resisting such an armament; the forts of the Hellespont are incapable of defence against a land force, for they are open in the rear. Russia might any day have 100,000 men in Constantinople before England or France could even fit out expeditions to defend it."
WEDDING IN THE FLEET. (From a Print of the Eighteenth Century.)详情
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