On the 17th of July the new Premier, Lord Melbourne, who, declining, on the king's suggestion, to form a coalition with the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Stanley, had made few alterations in the Ministry, announced a less offensive Coercion Bill for Ireland, which led to an animated debate, in which Lords Wicklow and Wharncliffe, the Duke of Wellington, and other peers strongly censured the conduct of the Government for its alleged inconsistency, vacillation, and tergiversation. The new Coercion Bill passed quickly through both Houses, and became the law of the land before the end of the month. The Tithes Bill was rejected in the House of Lords, on the motion of Lord Ellenborough, by 189 votes to 122.On the 6th of November the second reading of the Bill was carried by a majority of twenty-eight, the numbers being one hundred and twenty-three to ninety-five, which the Government considered equivalent to a finding of guilty. It appears from these numbers that a large proportion of their lordships abstained from voting. The Bishops had an insuperable objection to the divorce clause; but in committee it was sustained by a majority of one hundred and twenty-nine to sixty-two, the Opposition having nearly all voted for the clause, with a view of defeating the Bill in its last stage. Consequently, for the third reading, on the 10th of November, the majority was only nine, the numbers being one hundred and eight to ninety-nine. Upon this announcement Lord Liverpool rose and said, that upon so slender a majority he could not think of pressing the measure further, and so he begged leave to withdraw the Bill. The truth is, he had no option. It had not the slightest chance of passing through the Lower House, where ignominious defeat awaited the Government.The next day tempest scattered the approaching transports. Sir John thought the storm sufficient excuse for not pursuing; but the winds followed the invaders, and blowing directly from London towards Dunkirk, dispersed the French transports, sank some of the largest of them with all their men, wrecked others on the coast, and made the rest glad to recover their port. Charles waited impatiently for the cessation of the tempest to put to sea again, but the French ministers were discouraged by the disaster, and by the discovery of so powerful a British fleet in the Channel. The army was withdrawn from Dunkirk, Marshal Saxe was appointed to the command in Flanders, and the expedition for the present was relinquished.
The progress in the manufacture of hardware is strikingly exhibited by the increase of the population of Birmingham. According to the census of 1821, it was 106,722; in 1831 it was 146,986; in 1841 it was 181,116, showing an increase of 80 per cent. in twenty years. The number of houses during the same period was nearly doubled. Mr. Babbage has given a table, extracted from the books of a highly respectable house in Birmingham, showing the reduction in the price of various articles made of iron between 1812 and 1832, which varied from 40 to 80 per cent. The exportation of cutlery from England amounted in 1820 to about 7,000 tons; in 1839 it was 21,000 tons. Since 1820 the annual value of the exportations of hardware and cutlery increased about 50 per cent. The town of Sheffield is another remarkable instance of the growth of population in consequence of the manufacture of cutlery. In 1821 the population was 65,275; in 1841 it was 111,000. The various manufacturers of cutlery and plated goods, and the conversion of iron into steel, employed in 1835 upwards of 560 furnaces. The declared value of British-made plated ware, jewellery, and watches, exported from the United Kingdom in 1827 was ￡169,456; in 1839 it amounted to ￡258,076. The value of machinery shipped to foreign countries in 1831 was only ￡29,000; in 1836 it was ￡166,000; in 1837, ￡280,000; and in 1840, ￡374,000.HEROISM OF THE MAID OF SARAGOSSA. (See p. 556.)
But the surprise of Antwerp and the destruction of the docks of Flushing were determined upon; and Lord Chatham, rather for his name than for any military talent that he possessed, was appointed the commander of the forces. Lord Chatham was so notorious for his sluggish and procrastinating nature, that he had long been nicknamed the late Lord Chatham; the justice of this epithet had been too obvious in all the offices that he had hitherto held; and yet this expedition which demanded the utmost promptness and active skill, was entrusted to him. At the head of the fleet was placed Sir Richard Strachan, a man of no energy. The commander of the ships on such an occasion should have been Lord Cochrane, for Sir Sidney Smith was already engaged on the coast of Italy. The orders for each commander were extremely loose and indefinite thereby leaving every chance of disputes and consequent delays and mishaps; and, to complete the disgraceful management of the Government, no inquiries had been made as to the healthiness or unhealthiness of the district where the army would have to encamp. Though the island of Walcheren had been occupied by our troops under William III., no record was to be found, or, indeed, was sought for, as to the cost of life to our men on that occasion from the climate. The whole plan was laid in ignorance and carried out with carelessness, and it was no wonder, therefore, that it ended in misery and disgrace.
But Wellington was not intending to stop here. He immediately made preparations for the siege of Badajoz. He had artillery sent out to sea from Lisbon, as for some distant expedition, and then secretly carried, in small boats, up the Setubal, to Alcacer do Sal, and thence, by land, across Alemtejo to the Guadiana. On the 16th of March, after a rapid march, he reached, with a strong body of troops, the Guadiana, crossed, and at once invested Badajoz. By the 26th he had carried the Picurina and the advanced work separated from the city by the little river Rivillas, and made two breaches in the city walls. There was the same want of besieging tools and battering trains which had retarded his operations before; but the men worked well, and on the 6th of April, there being three breaches open, orders were given to storm, for Soult was collecting his forces at Seville to raise the siege. One of the breaches had been so strongly barricaded by General Philippon, the governor of Badajoz, by strong planks bristling with iron spikes, and with chevaux-de-frise of bayonets and broken swords, that no effect could be produced on the obstruction; whilst the French, from the ramparts and the houses overlooking them, poured down the most destructive volleys. But the parties at the other two breaches were more successful, and on their drawing away the French from this quarter, the spike-beams and chevaux-de-frise were knocked down, and the British were soon masters of the place. Philippon endeavoured to escape with a number of men, but he was obliged to throw himself into Fort San Christoval, on the other side the Guadiana, where he was compelled to surrender. The loss of the allies was nearly one thousand men killed, including seventy-two officers, and three hundred and six officers and three thousand four hundred and eighty men wounded. The French, though they fought under cover of batteries and houses, lost nearly one thousand five hundred men; they also delivered up upwards of five thousand prisoners of their own nation, and nearly four thousand Spaniards, British, and Portuguese, who had been kept at Badajoz as a safe fortress. The British soldiers fought with their usual undaunted bravery, but they disgraced themselves by getting drunk in the wine cellars during the night of the storming, and committed many excesses. Wellington, who was extremely rigorous in suppressing all such conduct, reduced them to discipline as quickly as possible, and on the 8th Badajoz was completely in his hands. Soult, who was at Villafranca when he received the news, immediately retreated again on Seville, briskly pursued by the British cavalry, who did much execution on his rear-guard at Villagarcia.These things did not pass without remark by the Opposition. Pulteney and Bolingbroke discussed them with much vigour and acrimony in The Craftsman. It was asserted in the House that the public burthens had increased instead of diminished since 1716; but Walpole contended that there had been a reduction of debt to the amount of two million five hundred thousand pounds; and his statement was supported by a large majority, and it was laid before the king. The Opposition then demanded an explanation of the expenditure of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds for secret service money. It was well understood that Walpole had used the greater part of it in buying up that triumphant majority which enabled him to carry the most obnoxious measures. The demands of the Opposition were so vehement, and the abuse was so glaring, that even Walpole was embarrassed how to get rid of the question. He could only recur to the old plea, that the money had been spent on services highly advantageous to the State, but which could not properly be made public. Suddenly events lifted him out of his difficulty. News arrived that the King of Spain, who declined to ratify the preliminaries of peace entered into at Vienna, on hearing of the death of George I., hoping for a revolution, had now given way, and had issued what was called the Act of Pardo, ratifying the preliminaries, and referring all remaining difficulties to be settled at a congress to be held at Soissons.SCENE IN DUBLIN: PAINTING KING WILLIAM BLACK. (See p. 247.)
To assist the Governor-General, the British Government had sent out Sir Eyre Coote in 1780 to the scene of his former fame, not only as Commander of the Forces in place of Clavering, but also as member of Council. Coote usually supported Hastings in the Council, but he greatly embarrassed him by the insatiable spirit of avarice which had grown upon him with years; and in making arrangements with the Nabob of Oude and others to supply the means of accommodation to the old commander, Hastings largely augmented the grounds of his future persecutions. The war with the Mahrattas and the announcement of the speedy arrival of a French armament on the coast of Coromandel induced the Company's old enemy, Hyder Ali, to think it a good opportunity to recover some of his territory from the Company. He saw that the present opportunity was most favourable for taking a signal revenge on the English. For years he had concerted with the French a grand plan for the destruction of the British power; and even whilst he remained quiet, he was preparing with all his energies for its accomplishment. He had squeezed his treasurers and collectors to the utmost for the accumulation of money, and mustered an army of nearly ninety thousand men, including twenty-eight thousand cavalry and two thousand artillery and rocketmen, besides four hundred engineers, chiefly French. Hyder suddenly poured down from his hills with this host into the plains of Madras. To the last moment the authorities there appear to have been wholly unconscious of their danger. Besides this, the army in the presidency did not exceed six thousand men, and these were principally sepoys. This force, too, was spread over a vast region, part at Pondicherry, part at Arcot, part in Madras, but everywhere scattered into cantonments widely distant from each other, and in forts capable of very little defence. As for the forces of their ally, the Nabob of Arcot, they ran at the first issue of Hyder's army through the ghauts. On came the army of Hyder like a wild hurricane. Porto Novo on the coast, and Conjeveram near Trichinopoli, were taken; and Hyder advanced laying all waste with fire and sword, till he could be seen—a dreadful apparition—with his host from Mount St. Thomas, his progress marked by the flames and smoke of burning villages.详情
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