APSLEY HOUSE, HYDE PARK CORNER, LONDON.
Meanwhile, the publication of Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution" had caused an immense sensation. It went through edition after edition, and elicited a warm and wide response in hearts already convinced of, or beginning to see, the real tendency of the French outbreak. On the other hand, it greatly exasperated the ultra-admirers of French republicanism, and produced a number of vindications of it by men who, for the most part, were exceedingly bitter against Burke, and denounced him as an apostate, a renegade, and a traitor to liberty. Amongst the most conspicuous of those who took the field against Burke in books were Sir James Mackintosh, Thomas Paine, Dr. Price, and Dr. Priestley, the two latter of whom also made free use of the pulpit for the propagation of their political ideas. Ladies also distinguished themselves in this contest, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, and Mrs. Macaulay, the historian.JOSEPH HUME.Trautmansdorff now hastened to conciliate in earnest. He issued two-and-twenty separate proclamations, made all kinds of fair promises, restored the arms of the citizens, and liberated the imprisoned patriots. But it was too late. The insurgents, under Van der Mersch, were fast advancing towards Brussels, and Dalton marched out to meet them; but he was confounded by the appearance of their numbers, and entered into an armistice of ten days. But this did not stop the progress of insurrection in Brussels. There the people rose, and resolved to open the gates to their compatriots. Women and children tore up the palisades, and levelled the entrenchments. The population assumed the national cockade, and the streets resounded with cries of "Long live the Patriots!" "Long live Van der Noot!" Dalton retreated into Brussels, but found no security there. The soldiers began to desert. The people attacked those who stood to their colours, and Dalton was glad to secure his retreat by a capitulation. In a few days the insurgents from Breda entered, Trautmansdorff having withdrawn at their approach, and the new federal union of the Netherlands was completely established. The State of Luxembourg was the only one remaining to Joseph, and thither Dalton retired with his forces, five thousand in number.
The American Congress, which had imagined Gates a greater officer even than Washington, because he had captured Burgoyne through the ability of Arnold, though Washington—from envy, as they supposed—had always held a more correct opinion, now saw their error. No sooner was this victory at Camden achieved, than Cornwallis dispatched Tarleton after General Sumter, who was marching on the other side of the Wateree on his way into South Carolina. Tarleton started after him with a couple of hundred of cavalry, and rode so sharply that he had left half his little force behind him, when he came up with him near Catawba Ford, and fell upon his far superior force without a moment's hesitation, killing and wounding one hundred, and taking captive upwards of two hundred, with all Sumter's baggage, artillery, and one thousand stand of arms.
Sir John Moore entered Spain under the impression that several brave and victorious Spanish armies were to co-operate with him; but he looked in vain for any such armies. Nay, on the very day of his arrival at Salamanca he heard of the defeat of the Count de Belvedere, near Burgos; and only two days afterwards that general had also been defeated at Espinosa, on the frontiers of the province of Biscay. He demanded from the Junta to know with whom he was to co-operate for the conduct of the campaign, and he was referred to Casta?os. But Casta?os had already lost the confidence of the proud and ignorant Junta, and had little information to give. On the 15th of November the governor of the province announced to him that the French had taken possession of Valladolid, only twenty leagues from Salamanca; from the dormant Mr. Frere he heard nothing. This was startling intelligence; for he had only a small portion of his army yet with him. Sir David Baird was still struggling with the obstructive junta at Corunna, and Sir John Hope was wandering near Madrid with the artillery. Moore began to have a very gloomy idea of the situation, not only of Spain, but of his situation in it. He wrote that there was no unity of action; no care of the juntas to promote it, or to furnish arms and clothing to the soldiers; that he was in no correspondence with the generals of the other armies, and knew neither their plans nor those of the Government. He declared that the provinces around him were not armed; and as for the national enthusiasm of which so much had been said, that he saw not a trace of it; that, in short, the British had no business there; but he would still try to do something, if possible, for the country, since he was there.With such chimerical fancies, the young Corsican saw the fleet, on a splendid morning, stand out into the Mediterranean, the line-of-battle ships extending for a league, and the semicircle formed by the convoy six leagues in extent. On their way to Malta, the first object of their enterprise, they were joined by a large fleet of transports, bringing the division of General Desaix. On the 10th they were before Valetta, a fortress which, properly defended, would have set the French at defiance for months, before which time the British Admiral would have been upon them, and destroyed the whole scheme of the expedition, and probably its commander and projector with it; but the surrender of the place had been bargained for with the Grand Master, Hompesch, before starting. The once formidable Knights of Malta were now sunk in indolence and sensual sloth, and the French agent had agreed for the surrender for a bribe of six hundred thousand francs to the Grand Master. As General Caffarelli passed through the most formidable defences with Napoleon on their way to the house of the Grand Master, he said to him, "It is well, General, that there was some one within to open the gates for us. We should have had more trouble in entering if the place had been altogether empty."
These certainly were large concessions, but it was to be remembered that we had not received them for nothing; they had cost vast sums, and the national debt had been doubled by this war, and now amounted to one hundred and twenty-two million six hundred thousand pounds. These territories had, in fact, cost us upwards of sixty million pounds; and it is certain that Pitt would have exacted a more complete renunciation from France of the conquered countries. There was a clause inserted which Pitt would never have permitted—namely, that any conquests that should be made after the signing of these articles, should be restored by all parties. Now, Bute and the Ministry knew that we had expeditions out against Cuba and the Philippines, and that the only conquests likely to be made were in those quarters. To throw away without equivalent the blood and money expended in these important enterprises was a most unpatriotic act. Still, there was opportunity for more rational terms, for Grimaldi, the Spanish ambassador at Paris, held back from signing, in hope that we should be defeated at Havana, and that then he could raise his terms. When the news of the loss of both Havana and Manila arrived, Grimaldi was in great haste to sign, and Mr. Grenville and Lord Egremont very properly insisted that we should demand an equivalent for the conquest in Cuba. Pitt would have stood firm for the retention of that conquest as by far the most important, and as justly secured to us by the refusal of the Spanish ambassador to sign at the proper time. But Bute would have signed without any equivalent at all. Fortunately, there was too strong an opposition to this in the Cabinet, and the Duke of Bedford was instructed to demand Florida or Porto Rico in lieu of Havana. Florida was yielded—a fatal, though at the moment it appeared a valuable concession, for it only added to the compactness of the American colonies, hastening the day of independence, whilst Cuba would have remained under the protection of the fleet, one of the most valuable possessions of the British empire.WASHINGTON AND HIS MEN AT VALLEY FORGE. (See p. 239.)
Before the close of 1792 the French resolved to send an ambassador to the United States to demand a return of the aid given to the Americans in their revolution, by declaration of war against Great Britain. M. Genet was dispatched for this purpose at the beginning of 1793. Still neutrality was maintained, though our ambassador was withdrawn from Paris, and M. Chauvelin was no longer recognised in an official capacity by the British Court. This gentleman, however, continued in London, ignoring the loss of his official character, and officiously pressing himself on the attention of Ministers as still French plenipotentiary. Lord Grenville was repeatedly obliged to remind him that he had no power to correspond with him officially. He, however, informed him privately that, if the French Government wished to be duly recognised in Great Britain, they must give up their assumed right of aggression on neighbouring countries and of interference with established Governments. The French Girondist Ministers took advantage of this letter which Chauvelin transmitted to them to send a reply, in which, however, having now invaded Holland, they gave no intimation of any intention of retiring. They even declared that it was their intention to go to war with Britain; and if the British Government did not comply with their desires, and enter into regular communication with them, they would prepare for war. Lord Grenville returned this letter, informing Chauvelin again that he could receive no official correspondence from him in a private capacity. This was on the 7th of January, 1793; Chauvelin continued to press his communications on Lord Grenville, complaining of the Alien Bill, and on the 18th presented letters of credence. Lord Grenville informed him, in reply, that his Majesty in the present circumstances could not receive them. These circumstances were the trial and conviction of Louis XVI. On the 24th arrived the news of Louis's execution, and Chauvelin immediately received passports for himself and suite, and an order to quit the kingdom within eight days. This order created the utmost exultation in the French Convention, for the Jacobins were rabid for war with all the world, and on the 1st of February the Convention declared war against Britain, and the news reached London on the 4th. Such was the Ministerial explanation.As in the whole history of the world, perhaps, so great a calamity as the Irish famine never called for sympathy and relief, so never was a more generous response elicited by any appeal to humanity. The Government and the Legislature did all that was possible with the means at their disposal, and the machinery that already existed, or could be hastily constructed, to meet the overwhelming emergency. The newly established Poor Law system, though useful as far as it went, was quite inadequate to meet such great distress. It had been passed while the country was comparatively prosperous, and contained no provision for such a social disorganisation as this famine. By the Acts of 1 and 2 Victoria, c. 56, no outdoor relief whatever could be given in any circumstances. The size of the unions was also a great impediment to the working of the Poor Law. They were three times the extent of the corresponding divisions in England. In Munster and Connaught, where there was the greatest amount of destitution and the least amount of local agency available for its relief, the unions were much larger than in the more favoured provinces of Ulster and Leinster. The union of Ballina comprised a region of upwards of half a million acres, and within its desert tracts the famine assumed its most appalling form, the workhouse being more than forty miles distant from some of the sufferers. As a measure of precaution, the Government had secretly imported and stored a large quantity of Indian corn, as a cheap substitute for the potato, which would have served the purpose much better had the people been instructed in the best modes of cooking it. It was placed in commissariat dep?ts along the western coast of the island, where the people were not likely to be supplied on reasonable terms through the ordinary channels of trade. The public works consisted principally of roads, on which the people were employed as a sort of supplement to the Poor Law. Half the cost was a free grant from the Treasury, and the other half was charged upon the barony in which the works were undertaken. The expense incurred under the Labour Rate Act, 9 and 10 Victoria, c. 107," amounted to ￡4,766,789. It was almost universally admitted, when the pressure was over, that the system of public works adopted was a great mistake; and it seems wonderful that such grievous blunders could have been made with so many able statesmen and political economists at the head of affairs and in the service of the Government. The public works undertaken consisted in the breaking up of good roads to level hills and fill hollows, and the opening of new roads in places where they were not required—work which the people felt to be useless, and which they performed only under strong compulsion, being obliged to walk to them in all weathers for miles, in order to earn the price of a breakfast of Indian meal. Had the labour thus comparatively wasted been devoted to the draining, subsoiling, and fencing of the farms, connected with a comprehensive system of arterial drainage, immense and lasting benefit to the country would have been the result, especially as works so well calculated to ameliorate the soil and guard against the moisture of the climate might have been connected with a system of instruction in agricultural matters of which the peasantry stood so much in need, and to the removal of the gross ignorance which had so largely contributed to bring about the famine. As it was, enormous sums were wasted. Much needless hardship was inflicted on the starving people in compelling them to work in frost and rain when they were scarcely able to walk, and, after all the vast outlay, very few traces of it remained in permanent improvements on the face of the country. The system of Government relief works failed chiefly through the same difficulty which impedes every mode of relief, whether public or private—namely, the want of machinery to work it. It was impossible suddenly to procure an efficient staff of officers for an undertaking of such enormous magnitude—the employment of a whole people. The overseers were necessarily selected in haste; many of them were corrupt, and encouraged the misconduct of the labourers. In many cases the relief committees, unable to prevent maladministration, yielded to the torrent of corruption, and individual members only sought to benefit their own dependents. The people everywhere flocked to the public works; labourers, cottiers, artisans, fishermen, farmers, men, women, and children—all, whether destitute or not, sought for a share of the public money. In such a crowd it was almost impossible to discriminate properly. They congregated in masses on the roads, idling under the name of work, the really destitute often unheeded and unrelieved because they had no friend to recommend them. All the ordinary employments were neglected; there was no fishing, no gathering of seaweed, no collecting of manure. The men who had employment feared to lose it by absenting themselves for any other object; those unemployed spent their time in seeking to obtain it. The whole industry of the country seemed to be engaged in road-making. It became absolutely necessary to put an end to it, or the cultivation of the land would be neglected. Works undertaken on the spur of the moment—not because they were needful, but merely to employ the people—were in many cases ill-chosen, and the execution equally defective. The workers, desirous to protect their employment, were only anxious to give as little labour as possible, in which their overlookers or gangers in many cases heartily agreed. The favouritism, the intimidation, the wholesale jobbing practised in many cases were shockingly demoralising. The problem was to support 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of destitute persons, and this was in a great measure effected, though at an enormous cost to the empire.
Whilst things were in this position, Parliament met on the 13th of November. The great question on which the fate of the Ministry depended was that of the subsidies to Hesse and Russia. It was something new to see not merely an ordinary opposition, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Paymaster of the Forces—Legge and Pitt—ranging themselves against the king and their colleagues on this question. In the House of Lords the Address in reply to the royal speech, which implied approbation of these subsidies, was supported by Newcastle, Hardwicke, and the Duke of Bedford, who hitherto, since quitting office, had opposed everything, and was opposed by Lords Temple and Halifax. But the great struggle was in the Commons. The debate began at two in the afternoon, and continued till five the next morning—the longest hitherto recorded, except the one on the Westminster election in 1741. On this occasion William Gerard Hamilton made his first and almost last speech, which acquired him promotion in the Government of Ireland, and the cognomen of "Single-speech Hamilton." Murray spoke splendidly in defence of the subsidies; but Pitt, rising at one o'clock in the morning, after sitting eleven hours in that heated atmosphere, burst out upon the whole system of German subsidies with a tempest of eloquence which held the House in astonished awe. He denounced the whole practice of feeing the little German potentates as monstrous, useless, absurd, and desperate: an eternal drain on England for no single atom of benefit. He compared the union of Newcastle and Fox to the union of the Rh?ne and Sa?ne—a boisterous and impetuous torrent, with a shallow, languid, and muddy stream. But though Pitt's eloquence dismayed and confounded Ministers, it could not prevent their majority. The Address was carried by three hundred and eleven votes against one hundred and five; and it was now clear that Pitt must quit the Cabinet. In fact, in a very few days, not only he, but Legge and George Grenville, were summarily dismissed, and James Grenville, the other brother, resigned his seat at the Board of Trade.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 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—
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