【操弄“污名化”骗不了人类良知!】

On the 19th of August the new Parliament assembled. The Session was opened by commission; the Royal Speech, which was read by the Lord Chancellor, contained a paragraph referring to the duties affecting the productions of foreign countries, and suggesting for consideration the question whether the principle of protection was not carried to an extent injurious alike to the income of the State and the interests of the people; whether the Corn Laws did not aggravate the natural fluctuations of supply; and whether they did not embarrass trade, derange the currency, and by their operation diminish the comfort and increase the privations of the great body of the community. Here was a distinct enunciation of the principles of Free Trade in the Speech from the Throne, for which, of course, the Ministers were responsible. The Address in the House of Lords was moved by Earl Spencer, a decided Free Trader, and seconded by the Marquis of Clanricarde. The debate was relieved from nullity by the Duke of Wellington's testimony to the conduct of Lord Melbourne towards the Queen. The Duke said"He was willing to admit that the noble viscount had rendered the greatest possible service to her Majesty, in making her acquainted with the mode and policy of the government of this country, initiating her into the laws and spirit of the Constitution, independently of the performance of his duty as the servant of her Majesty's Crown; teaching her, in short, to preside over the destiny of this great country." The House divided, when it was found that there was a majority of 72 against the Government.

A strong party, not satisfied with having destroyed Lord Mansfield's town house, set off to burn that at Caen Wood, near Highgate. They were met and turned back by a detachment of cavalry. They were equally disappointed in their intended sack of the Bank of England. They found this mine of wealth guarded by infantry, who had here orders to fire, and did it without scruple, killing and wounding a great many. They were more successful against the prisons. They broke open the King's Bench, the Fleet, the Marshalsea, and all the other prisons except the Poultry Compter, and set at liberty all the prisoners. Before the day had dawned, the whole sky was glaring with the light of conflagrations. The number of separate fires burning at the same time was counted up to thirty-six. Had the weather been stormy, the whole of London must have been laid in ashes; but, providentially, the weather was perfectly calm. The scene of the greatest catastrophe was at the distillery of a Mr. Langdale, on Holborn Bridge. This gentleman was a Catholic, and his stores of spirits were a violent temptation. They broke open his premises in the evening, and destroyed everything. They staved in his hogsheads of spirits, and others collected them in pails and in their hats, and drank voraciously. The kennel ran a mingled river of gin, brandy, and pure alcohol, and men, women, and children were seen on their knees sucking up the stream as it flowed! Fire was set to the premises, and catching the spirits which flooded the floors, the flames shot up to the sky like a volcano. The unhappy wretches, who had stupefied themselves with the fiery fluid, perished like flies in the raging element. No such scene of horror had been seen in all these spectacles of violence and crime. The loss of Mr. Langdale alone was estimated at one hundred thousand pounds.

Before this great measure had passed, Pitt had introduced his Budget. On the 30th of June he made his financial statement. He said that the resources of the country were in a very burthened and disordered state; but that was not his work, but the work of his predecessors. The outstanding arrears, owing to the late war, were already ascertained to amount at least to fourteen million pounds. These operated very injuriously on the public credit, being at a discount of from fifteen to twenty per cent.; and that without greatly[308] affecting the public securities, he should not be able to find more than six million six hundred thousand six hundred pounds of them at once. To meet the interest, he proposed to raise taxes to the amount of nine hundred thousand pounds a year. The impostssome entirely new, and some augmentedwere on hats, ribbons, gauzes, coals, saddle and pleasure horses, printed linens and calicoes, candles, paper, and hackney coaches; licences to deal in excisable commodities, bricks, and tiles; licences for shooting game. The Parliament was punctually opened on the 16th of February, 1714, by the queen, as she had promised at Windsor, though she was obliged to be carried there; for during last autumn she had been obliged, by her gout and obesity, to be raised into her chamber by pulleys, and so let down again, like Henry VIII. After congratulating the two Houses on the peace with Spain, she turned to the subject of the Press, and the rumours spread by it regarding the danger of the Protestant succession. Bolingbroke had been active enough in prosecuting the Press because it was dangerous to the designs which he was cherishing, notwithstanding the affected warmth which he and Oxford had put into the queen's mouth. They had taxed the penny sheets and pamphlets which agitated these questions; but this, according to Swift, had only done their own side mischief. Bolingbroke had, further, arrested eleven printers and publishers in one day. But now the war was opened in Parliament, Lord Wharton, in the House of Peers, called for the prosecution of "The Public Spirit of the Whigs," and the printer and publisher were brought to the bar. These were John Morphew, the publisher, and one John Bache, the printer. But Lord Wharton, who was aiming at higher quarry, said, "We have nothing to do with the printer and publisher, but it highly concerns the honour of this august assembly to find out the villain who is the author of that false and scandalous libel." Oxford denied all knowledge of the author, yet, on retiring from the debate, he sent one hundred pounds to Swift, and promised to do more. Lord Wharton then turned upon the printer, whom he had first affected to disregard, and demanded that he should be closely examined; but the next day the Earl of Mar, one of the secretaries of State, declared that her Majesty had ordered his prosecution. This was to shield him from the Parliamentary inquiry. Here the matter dropped, for Swift was too well screened by his patrons, who had lately rewarded him by Church preferment, and shortly afterwards made him Dean of St. Patrick's, in Dublin.

Before the proclamation of the new king the Council had met, and, according to the Regency Act, and an instrument signed by the king and produced by Herr Kreyenberg, the Hanoverian resident, nominated the persons who were to act till the king's arrival. They consisted of the seven great officers of State and a number of the peers. The whole was found to include eighteen of the principal noblemen, nearly all of the Whig party, as the Dukes of Shrewsbury, Somerset, and Argyll; the Lords Cowper, Halifax,[25] and Townshend. It was noticed, however, that neither Marlborough, Sunderland, nor Somers was of the number; nor ought this to have excited any surprise, when it was recollected that the list was drawn out in 1705, though only signed just before the queen's death. These noblemen belonged to that junto under whose thraldom Anne had so long groaned. The omission, however, greatly incensed Marlborough and Sunderland.

The French hastened to comply with this condition, on the understanding that Ormonde would immediately draw off his troops from Quesnoy; and the duke was obliged to announce to Prince Eugene that he was under this necessity, in consequence of the terms agreed upon between France and England; in fact, that he must cease all opposition to the French. Ormonde, therefore, not only gave the command for the retirement of the English troops, but also of all those belonging to the German princes which were in British pay. Eugene and the Dutch field deputies protested most indignantly against this proceeding, and the mercenary troops themselves refused to follow Ormonde. In vain did he endeavour to move the officers of those troops; they despised the conduct of England in abandoning the advantageous position at which they had arrived for terminating the war gloriously, and releasing the common enemy of Europe from his just punishment to gratify party spirit in England.

The news of Wellington's defeat of Marmont, and his occupation of the capital, caused Soult to call Victor from the blockade of Cadiz; and uniting his forces, he retired into Granada. The French, after destroying their works,the creation of so much toil and expenditure,retreated with such precipitation from before Cadiz that they left behind a vast quantity of their stores, several hundred pieces of ordnancesome of which, of extraordinary length, had been cast for this very siegeand thirty gunboats. They were not allowed to retire unmolested. The British and Spanish troops pursued them from Tarifa, harassed them on the march, drove them out of San Lucar, and carried Seville by storm, notwithstanding eight battalions being still there to defend it. The peasantry rushed out from woods and mountains to attack the rear of Soult on his march by Carmona to Granada, and the sufferings of his soldiers were most severe from excessive fatigue, heat, want of food, and these perpetual attacks. General Hill meanwhile advanced from the Guadiana against King Joseph, who fell back to Toledo, hoping to keep up a communication with Soult and Suchet, the latter of whom lay on the borders of Valencia and Catalonia. But General Hill soon compelled him to retreat from Toledo, and the British general then occupied that city, Ypez, and Aranjuez, thus placing himself in connection with Lord Wellington, and cutting off the French in the south from all approach to Madrid.

Whilst Louis lay ill at Metz, France received an unexpected relief. Prince Charles was hastily recalled to cope with Frederick of Prussia, who had now joined France in the counter-league of Frankfort, and burst into the territories of Maria Theresa. He found in Prague a garrison of fifteen thousand men, yet by the 15th of September he had reduced the place, after a ten days' siege. At the same time Marshal Seckendorf, the Imperial general, entered Bavaria, which was defended only by a small force, and quickly reinstated[88] Charles on the throne of Munich. Vienna itself was in the greatest alarm, lest the enemies uniting should pay it a visit. But this danger was averted by the rapid return of Prince Charles of Lorraine from before Strasburg. He had to pass the very front of the French army; nevertheless, he conducted his forces safely and expeditiously to the frontiers of Bohemia, himself hastening to Vienna to consult on the best plan of operations. Maria Theresa again betook herself to her heroic Hungarians, who, at her appeal, once more rushed to her standard; and Frederick, in his turn alarmed, called loudly on the French for their promises of assistance, but called in vain. The French had no desire for another campaign in the heart of Austria. The Prussian invader, therefore, soon found himself menaced on all sides by Austrians, Croatians, and Hungarian troops, who harassed him day and night, cut off his supplies and his forages, and made him glad to retrace his steps in haste.

Some of the most eminent land-owners were clear-sighted and disinterested enough to oppose these views with all their power. The Dukes of Buckinghamshire and Devonshire, the Lords Carlisle, Spencer, Grey, Grenville, Wellesley, and many members of the Commons, voted and protested energetically against them; and the additional restrictions were not carried. But enough had been done to originate the most frightful[120] sufferings and convulsions. We shall see these agitations every remaining year of this reign. The Prince Regent, in his opening speech, in 1816, declared "manufactures and commerce to be in a flourishing condition." But Mr. Brougham at once exposed this fallacy. He admitted that there had been an active manufacturing and an unusual amount of exportation in expectation of the ports of the world being thrown open by the peace; but he declared that the people of the Continent were too much exhausted by the war to be able to purchase, and that the bulk of these exported goods would have to be sold at a ruinous reductionat almost nominal prices; and then would immediately follow a stoppage of mills, a vast population thrown out of employment, and bread and all provisions made exorbitantly dear when there was the least power to purchase. All this was speedily realised. British goods were soon selling in Holland and the north of Europe for less than their cost price in London and Manchester. Abundant harvests defeated in some degree the expectations of the agriculturists, and thus both farmers and manufacturers were ruined together; for, the check being given to commerce, the manufacturing population could purchase at no price, and, in spite of the harvest, the price of wheat was still one hundred and three shillings per quarter. Many farmers, as well as manufacturers, failed; country banks were broken, and paper-money was reduced in value twenty-five per cent.; and a circumstance greatly augmenting the public distress was the reduction of its issues by the Bank of England from thirty-one millions to twenty-six millions.

The English Opposition now began to comment with great vigour on the conduct of affairs. The spirit of that body rose higher, as the imminence of war became greater. Charles James Fox made a motion for a committee to inquire into the causes of the inefficiency of his Majesty's arms in North America, and of the defection of the people in the province of Quebec. He took a searching review of the whole proceedings since 1774, and contended that there was a great lack of ability and management somewhere, either in the Government which planned, or the generals who had to execute the Ministerial orders. His motion, however, was useless, for it was rejected by two hundred and forty to one hundred and four votes.

The relief committees were also authorised to adopt measures to avert or mitigate the famine fever, which had prevailed to an awful extent. They were to provide temporary hospitals, to ventilate and cleanse cabins, to remove nuisances, and procure the proper burial of the dead, the funds necessary for these objects being advanced by the Government in the same way as for furnishing food. Upwards of 300 hospitals and dispensaries were provided under the Act, with accommodation for at least 23,000 patients, and the sanitary powers which it conferred were extensively acted upon. The expense incurred for these objects amounted to 119,000, the whole of which was made a free gift to the unions in aid of the rates. The entire amount advanced by the Government in 1846 and 1847 towards the relief of the Irish people under the fearful calamity to which they were exposed was 7,132,286, of which one half was to be repaid within ten years, and the rest was a free grant.