But Nelson had now tracked the French to their goal, and was preparing to annihilate their fleet. Admiral Brueys, unable to enter the harbour of Alexandria, had anchored his ships in the Bay of Aboukir, in a semicircular form, so close in shore that he deemed it impossible for ships of war to thrust themselves between him and the land. He had altogether thirteen ships of war, including his own flagship of one hundred and twenty guns, three of eighty, and nine of seventy-four, flanked by four frigates and a number of gunboats, with a battery of guns and mortars on an island in the van. Nelson had also thirteen men-of-war and one five-gun ship, but the French exceeded his by about forty-six guns, three thousand pounds' weight of metal, considerably more tonnage, and nearly five thousand men. No sooner did Nelson observe the position of the French fleet than he determined to push his ships between it and the shore. No sooner was this plan settled than Nelson ordered dinner to be served, and on rising from table said, "Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey." It was half-past five o'clock on the afternoon of the 1st of August, 1798, when this celebrated battle was commenced. As the British vessels rounded a shoal, to take up their position, the battery of the island played upon them; but this ceased as they came near the French line of vessels, lest they should damage their own countrymen. Unfortunately, Nelson lost the use of the Culloden, a seventy-four, commanded by Captain Trowbridge, which struck on a ledge of rocks, and could not be got off in time for the engagement. Nelson's own vessel was the first that anchored within half pistol-shot of the Spartiate, the third ship of the French line. The conflict immediately became murderous, and Nelson received a severe wound on the head, which compelled him to go below. The battle continued with a terrible fury till it was so dark that the only light the combatants had to direct their operations was the flashes of their own broadsides. At ten o'clock the Orient, Admiral Brueys' own great ship, was discovered to be on fire. He himself had fallen, killed by a cannon-shot. The stupendous ship continued to burn furiously, lighting up the whole scene of action. At eleven it blew up, with an explosion which shook the contending fleets like the shock of an earthquake, and with a stunning noise that caused the conflict instantly to cease. A profound silence and a pitchy darkness succeeded for about ten minutes. Nelson, wounded as he was, had rushed upon deck before the explosion, to order every possible succour to be given to the shrieking sufferers in the burning ship, and many of the crew had been got into boats and saved. The cannonade was slowly resumed, but when morning dawned two French ships and two frigates only had their colours flying and were able to get away, none of the British vessels except the Zealous being in a condition to give chase. The two ships of the line and one of the frigates were afterwards intercepted by our Mediterranean fleet, so that of all this fine fleet only one frigate escaped. Had Nelson not been wounded, and had Captain Trowbridge been able to bring up his ship, probably not even that frigate would have got away. The British took eight vessels of the line; the rest were destroyed in one way or other. The loss of the British, in killed and wounded, was eight hundred and ninety-five; of the French, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, was nine thousand eight hundred and thirty. Brave Brueys, as has been stated already, was slain. Captain Westcott, of the Majestic, was the only commander of a ship who fell. Such was the victory of Aboukir; but "victory," said Nelson, "is not a name strong enough for such a scene—it is a conquest!" Fortunately for the French, Admiral Brueys had secured the transports and store-ships in shallow water in the port of Alexandria, where Nelson could not come at them for want of small craft. Half-a-dozen bomb ships would have destroyed them all, and have left Buonaparte totally dependent on the Egyptians for supplies. And these he must have collected by force, for now the news of the destruction of his fleet was spread over all Egypt by bonfires, kindled by the Arabs, along the coast and far inland. He was cut off from communication with France. On the 22nd of October the people of Cairo rose on the French, and endeavoured to massacre them; but the French took a bloody vengeance, sweeping them down with grape-shot, pursuing them into their very mosques, and slaughtering in one day five thousand of them.
He waited on Sir Spencer Compton with the royal command. This gentleman was confounded at the proposal to draw up the declaration to the Privy Council, and begged Walpole to do it for him. Walpole instantly recovered his spirits. He saw that such a man could never be his rival, and he advised his colleagues, if they went out of office, not to engage in any violent opposition, as they would soon be wanted again. He knew, too, that he had the queen in his favour, who was too clear-headed not to see that Walpole was alone the man for the time. To complete his favour with her he offered to procure her a jointure from Parliament of one hundred thousand pounds a year, whilst the impolitic Compton had proposed only sixty thousand pounds. The queen did not oppose the king's attempt to change the Ministry, but she impressed him with the danger of disturbing an already powerful and prosperous Cabinet, and she made him aware of the fact that Compton had been compelled to get Walpole to draw up the Declaration. Besides the liberal jointure which he promised she added that he intended to add one hundred thousand pounds to the Civil List. Horace Walpole, arriving from Paris, threw his whole weight into the scale, representing difficulties which must beset foreign negotiations in new hands. These combined circumstances told strongly on George; but the finish was put to Compton's government by his feeling overwhelmed by his own incompetence, and resigning the charge. The king had, therefore, nothing for it but to reappoint the old Ministry again. Some slight modifications took place. Lord Berkeley, who had joined the opposition of Carteret and Roxburgh, was replaced by Lord Torrington, and Compton received the title of Lord Wilmington, the Order of the Garter, and the Presidency of the Council. The coronation took place on the 11th of October, 1727.
And there I met another man,The result of the Duke's deliberations upon the crisis and the duty of Government respecting it was stated at length in an unpublished manuscript, left in his own handwriting, and is probably a copy of the memorandum sent to the king. The following is the substance of the Duke's reflections as given in Mr. Gleig's "Life of Wellington":—
"To propose to Parliament no other measure than that during the sitting before Christmas. To declare an intention of submitting to Parliament immediately after the recess a modification of the existing law, but to decline entering into any details in Parliament with regard to such modification.Whilst the latter scenes of this great tragedy were passing, in Britain a new Parliament assembled on the 24th of November, and amongst its first acts were, before Christmas, to vote one hundred thousand pounds to the Marquis of Wellington, and two hundred thousand pounds for the relief of sufferers in Russia. And thus closed the remarkable year of 1812.The first measure of importance after the appearance of Pitt in the House of Commons as Prime Minister was the annual motion of Wilberforce for leave to bring in a Bill for the abolition of the Slave Trade. Pitt and Fox both supported it, and it was carried by seventy-five against forty-nine. The second reading was carried by a still larger majority—one hundred against forty-two—but on going into committee upon it, it was postponed to the next Session. War and preparations for war were the all-absorbing business of those times.
From Boulogne, Buonaparte proceeded to Brussels, Ostend, Antwerp, and so through Belgium, where Josephine met him, to the Rhine. Wherever he appeared, the authorities of the towns, both then and on his return through France, presented him with the most adulatory addresses. One would no longer believe it the same people who had, for ten years, committed such unexampled horrors to destroy the royalty they were now again adoring. The Mayor of Arras, Robespierre's own town, put the climax to all this civic incense by declaring, in his address, that "God made Napoleon, and then rested!"Lord Wellington did not give the retreating enemy much time for repose; within the week he was approaching Valladolid and Clausel was quitting it in all haste. On the 30th of July Wellington entered that city amid the enthusiastic acclamations of the people. In his haste, Clausel abandoned seventeen pieces of artillery, considerable stores, and eight hundred sick and wounded. The priests were preparing to make grand processions and sing a Te Deum in honour of Wellington's victories, as they had done at Salamanca; but he was much too intent on following up his blows to stay. He was on his march the very next day. He re-crossed the Douro to advance against King Joseph Buonaparte, who had set out from Madrid to make a junction with Marmont, but on arriving at Arevalo Joseph had learnt with amazement of the French defeat, and diverted his march, with twenty thousand men, on Segovia, in order to reinforce Clausel. Wellington left a division to guard against Clausel's return from Burgos, whither the latter had fled, and, collecting provisions with difficulty, he marched forward towards Madrid. Joseph fell back as the British advanced. Wellington was at San Ildefonso on the 9th of August, and on the 11th issued from the defiles of the mountains into the plain on which Madrid stands. On the 12th he entered the capital amid the most enthusiastic cheers—Joseph having merely reached his palace to flee out of it again towards Toledo. He had, however, left a garrison in the palace of Buon Retiro; but this surrendered almost as soon as invested, and twenty thousand stand of arms, one hundred and eighty pieces of ordnance, and military stores of various kinds were found in it. These were particularly acceptable; for it can scarcely be credited in what circumstances Wellington had been pursuing his victorious career. We learn this, however, from his dispatch to Lord Bathurst, dated July 28th—that is, very shortly before his arrival at Madrid. After declaring that he was in need of almost everything, he particularises emphatically: "I likewise request your lordship not to forget horses for the cavalry, and money. We are absolutely bankrupt. The troops are now five months in arrears, instead of being one month in advance. The staff have not been paid since February, the muleteers not since July, 1811; and we are in debt in all parts of the country. I am obliged to take the money sent to me by my brother for the Spaniards, in order to give a fortnight's pay to my own troops, who are really suffering from want of money."
There was another point, besides the seizure of unsuspecting British travellers, on which Buonaparte could deeply wound the honour of the British monarch, and at the same time furnish himself with considerable materials of war—the seizure of Hanover. George III. held this hereditary territory distinct from his Crown of Britain, as a State of the German federation. It was impossible to defend this against France with the forces kept there, and Napoleon ordered General Mortier to cross the Dutch frontier, and march into the Electorate with twenty thousand men. The Duke of Cambridge, who was Viceroy there, and General Walmoden, at first, put themselves in an attitude of resistance; they called on the chief Powers of Germany to protest against this invasion of the German Empire, and to come to their aid, if this remonstrance was disregarded. The Duke of Cambridge, seeing himself totally deserted by Germany, thought it best to surrender Hanover to France, by agreement that the troops should retire behind the Elbe, and not serve again till exchanged. This was done at the end of May; the different towns made their submission on the 3rd of June, and on the 5th Mortier entered Hanover; the Duke of Cambridge had quitted the country; and the British Cabinet refusing to ratify the Convention previously made with him, he called on the Hanoverian army to surrender as prisoners of war. Walmoden would have resisted with anything like equal forces, but as that was impossible, he made the best terms he could, which were that his army should give up their arms and disband themselves.Nothing could exceed the indignation of the public at the attempt that was being made by the Court, in league with an intriguing faction, to resist the national will. All classes, high and low, rich and poor, nobles and commoners, Churchmen and Dissenters, were roused into a state of wild excitement and fierce determination. Indignation meetings were everywhere held and threatening resolutions passed. The House of Commons was called upon to stop the supplies; placards were put up in the windows of shops expressing the determination of the inhabitants to pay no taxes. This determination was not confined to the middle classes; men of the highest rank and largest property, such as Lord Milton, told the tax-collector not to call again. A complete and active organisation existed in London for the purpose of stimulating and directing public feeling in the provinces, and obtaining from the people vehement petitions, which poured in to both Houses rapidly, especially to the House of Commons. The political unions were everywhere preparing for actual insurrection. In London meetings were held by day and by night, at which the most violent language was used even by persons of property and rank. The Common Council of London met, and passed resolutions denouncing those who had advised the king not to create peers as enemies of their Sovereign, who had put to imminent hazard the stability of the Throne and the security of the country. A standing committee was appointed to watch the course of events. The feeling excited by these extraordinary proceedings proved, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the whole mercantile and trading classes in the metropolis were prepared to adopt revolutionary measures, if such were necessary, for the attainment of the Reform Bill. Immense numbers of persons who had hitherto considered the proceedings of the National Political union in London too violent, were now, says the Times of the 11th of May, at their own solicitation, admitted members. Similar excitement prevailed throughout the provinces.
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INTERIOR OF THE JERUSALEM CHAMBER, WESTMINSTER ABBEY.SURPRISE OF THE CATO STREET CONSPIRATORS. (See p. 155.)
This definition of the House of Commons at this time, and for long afterwards, was too happy a definition to escape the wrath of that body. Accordingly, on the 27th of March, Mr. Lethbridge, member for Somersetshire, moved that Sir Francis Burdett should be committed to the Tower for his attack on the House. After some discussion, the question was adjourned to the 5th of April, when, by a majority of thirty-eight, Sir Francis was ordered to be committed as guilty of a libel against the House. But Sir Francis, justly regarding the House as altogether illegally constituted, and as a usurpation by the aristocracy of the functions of the people, determined not to submit to its order. The next day he addressed a letter to the Speaker of the House, declaring his contempt for it as then constituted; that he held its order to be, on that ground, illegal; and that he would resist it to the utmost. He ordered the doors and windows of his house in Piccadilly to be closed, and prepared to yield only to force.CHAPTER II. THE REIGN OF GEORGE III. (continued).详情
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