ON BOARD AN EMIGRANT SHIP AT THE TIME OF THE IRISH FAMINE. (See p. 542.)He had, however, lost something of his old self-confidence, and the opposition which he had met with from the State, and the alienation of the people, were not exhilarating. Napoleon saw that he must conciliate the French by concessions, but neither his temperament nor his necessities permitted him to do this liberally. He gave nominal freedom to the press, but he bought up the majority of the editors and proprietors; yet, not being able to do this wholly, the opposition spoke bitter things to him and of him, and damaged his cause seriously. He called on Siéyès, Carnot, and Fouché to assist in framing his constitution; and he gave peerages to Carnot and Siéyès, and those once stern Republicans accepted them. But, even with their aid, he could not bring himself to grant a free constitution. Nobody believed him to be sincere even in what he did give. The police were as strict as ever, and yet every night the walls of Paris were covered with proclamations of Louis XVIII., forbidding the payment of taxes, and announcing the approach of one million two hundred thousand men.
On the 13th of July Brougham delivered his speech on slavery, which produced such an impression upon the public mind that it mainly contributed, as he himself admitted, to his election a few weeks afterwards as one of the members for Yorkshire—the proudest position which a Parliamentary representative could occupy. He proposed "that this House do resolve, at the earliest practicable period next Session, to take into its serious consideration the state of the slaves in the colonies of Great Britain, in order to the mitigation and final abolition of slavery; and more especially to the amendment of the administration of justice within the same." Mr. Wilmot Horton brought forward a series of resolutions, by way of evading the difficulty. Sir George Murray, the Colonial Secretary, entreated Mr. Brougham to withdraw his motion, as the public would come to a wrong conclusion from seeing the small numbers that would vote upon it at that late period of the Session, and on the eve of a dissolution. Sir Robert Peel pressed the same consideration, but Mr. Brougham persisted, and in a very thin House the numbers on the division were—Aye., 27; noes, 56—majority against the motion, 29. This division ended the party struggles of the Session. On the 23rd of July Parliament was prorogued by the king in person, and next day it was dissolved by proclamation. The writs, returnable on the 14th of September, were immediately issued for a general election, which was expected, and proved to be, the most exciting and most important political contest at the hustings recorded in the history of England.[See larger version]
When the subsidy to Hesse-Cassel was sent home to receive the signatures of the Cabinet, it was found to amount to an annual payment by England of one hundred and fifty thousand crowns, besides eighty crowns to every horseman, and thirty crowns to every foot soldier, when they were really called out to service. That to Russia was immensely greater; then came in prospective that to Saxony, to Bavaria, etc. These latter States had been fed all through the last few years for doing nothing, and now demanded vastly higher terms. Yet when the Hessian Treaty was laid on the Council table by the compliant Newcastle, Ministers signed it without reading it. Pitt and Fox, however, protested against it; and when the Treasury warrants for carrying the treaty into execution were sent down to Legge, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he refused to sign them.
The prejudiced old man fought with desperation against the measure in the Lords. He was tremendously severe on the Government. He said, much as he had heard of the march of mind, he did not believe that the march could have been so rapid as to induce some of the changes of opinion which he had witnessed within the last year. His opinions are now among the curiosities of a bygone age. His idea of religious liberty may be seen from the following:—"The Sacramental Act, though often assailed, had remained ever since the reign of Charles II., and the Annual Indemnity took away all its harshness. The obnoxious Act did not interfere with the rights of conscience, as it did not compel any man to take the sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England, and only deprived him of office if he did not." He concluded by solemnly saying, "From his heart and soul, 'Not Content.'" He was effectually answered by the Duke of Wellington, and the Bill was read a second time, without a division, on the 17th of April. On the 21st he proposed an amendment to exclude Roman Catholics from the benefit of the measure by inserting in the declaration the words, "I am a Protestant." The amendment was negatived by 117 to 55; but so eager was he to have it adopted, that he renewed it on the third reading of the Bill, when the Contents were 52, Not Contents 154. Still he entered on the Journals a violent protest against the Bill, in which he was joined by the Duke of Cumberland and nine other peers. As soon as the measure was carried, all the world acknowledged the Duke of Wellington's sagacity in declining the offer of Lord Eldon to return to office; for if that sturdy adherent to ancient prejudices had been Lord Chancellor or President of the Council, the Government must either have been speedily dissolved by internal dissensions or overthrown by a vain resistance to the popular voice.Such was the condition into which an army and navy, once illustrious through the victories of Marlborough and Blake, were reduced by the aristocratic imbecility of the Newcastles, Bedfords, and Cumberlands. This last princely general had, in fact, put the climax to his career. He had placed himself at the head of fifty thousand confederate troops, in which there were no English, except the officers of his own staff, to defend his father's Electorate of Hanover. But this ruthless general, who never won a battle except the solitary one of Culloden, against a handful of famished men, was found totally incompetent to cope with the French general, d'Estrées. He allowed the French to cross the deep and rapid Weser, and continued to fall back before them as they entered the Electorate, until he was driven to the village of Hastenbeck, near Hameln, where the enemy overtook and defeated him. He then continued his retreat across the desolate Lüneburg Heath, to cover Stade, near the mouth of the Elbe, where the archives and other valuable effects of Hanover had been deposited for safety. At this time Richelieu succeeded to the command of d'Estrées in this quarter, and he continued to drive Cumberland before him, taking Hameln, G?ttingen, and Hanover itself, and soon after Bremen and Verden. Thus were Hanover and Verden, which had cost England such millions to defend, seized by France; nor did the disgrace end here. Cumberland was cooped up in Stade, and compelled, on the 8th of December, to sign a convention at Closter-Seven, by which he engaged to send home the Hesse and Brunswick troops, and to disperse the Hanoverians into different quarters, not to serve again during the war.
On the 5th of May, towards evening, Massena attacked the British right, posted in Fuentes d'Onoro, with great impetuosity, and the whole fury of the battle, from beginning to end, was concentrated on this quarter. At first the British were forced back from the lower part of the town, driven to the top, where they retained only a cluster of houses and an old chapel. But Wellington pushed fresh bodies of troops up the hill, and again drove down the French at the point of the bayonet, and over the river Das Casas. The next day the battle was renewed with the greatest desperation, and again the British, overwhelmed with heavy columns of men, and attacked by the powerful body of cavalry, seemed on the point of giving way. The cannonade of Massena was terrible, but the British replied with equal vigour, and a Highland regiment, under Colonel Mackinnon, rushed forward with its wild cries, carrying all before it. The battle was continued on the low grounds, or on the borders of the river, till it was dark, when the French withdrew across the Das Casas. The battle was at an end. Massena had been supported by Marshal Bessières, but the two marshals had found their match in a single English general, and an army as inferior to their own in numbers as it was superior in solid strength. Four hundred French lay dead in Fuentes d'Onoro itself, and the killed, wounded, and prisoners amounted, according to their own intercepted letters, to over three thousand. The British loss was two hundred and thirty-five killed—amongst whom was Colonel Cameron,—one thousand two hundred and thirty-four wounded, and three hundred and seventeen missing, or prisoners. Almeida was at once evacuated; the garrison blowing up some of the works, then crossing the Agueda, and joining the army of Massena, but not without heavy loss of men, besides all their baggage, artillery, and ammunition.
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God's will be done!
EDMUND BURKE. (After the portrait by George Romney.)详情
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