The French, exasperated beyond further endurance, on the 22nd of November entered on the question of war in the Assembly in earnest. Koch, of Strasburg, the well-known historian, declared that no time was to be lost; that the German nations were every day violating the frontiers of France, and that the Minister for Foreign Affairs was not to be trusted. Three armies were formed. Rochambeau, who was now ailing, and out of humour, was appointed to that stationed in Flanders, and called the army of the north; Lafayette was put in command of the central division stationed at Metz, and Luckner of the one stationed in Alsace. Narbonne, the new Minister, made a rapid journey, and returning, announced to the Assembly that the different fortresses were fast assuming a creditable condition, and that the army, from Dunkirk to Besan?on, presented a mass of two hundred and forty battalions, one hundred and sixty squadrons, with artillery requisite for two hundred thousand men, and supplies for six months. This report was received with acclamations. So closed the year 1791.

As it was, the extreme caution of Kutusoff saved Buonaparte and the little remnant of his army that ever reached France again. Buonaparte left Smolensk with only forty thousand, instead of four hundred and seventy thousand men, which he had on entering Russia, and a great part of the Italian division of Eugene was cut off by the Russians before the Viceroy could come up with Buonaparte. Napoleon, therefore, halted at Krasnoi, to allow of the two succeeding divisions coming up; but Kutusoff took this opportunity to fall on Buonaparte's division, consisting of only fifteen thousand men, and attacked it in the rear by cannon placed on sledges, which could be brought rapidly up and as rapidly made to fall back. Before he withdrew, the king, who retained his high opinion of his political wisdom, consulted him on the constitution of the new Cabinet. Walpole recommended that the post of First Lord of the Treasury, including the Premiership, should be offered to Pulteney, as the man of the most undoubted talent. If he should refuse it, then that it should be given to Lord Wilmington, who, though by no means capable of directing affairs by his own energy, was of a disposition which might allow them to be conducted by the joint counsel of his abler colleagues. The king consented that the Premiership should be offered to Pulteney, though he hated the man, but only on this condition, that he pledged himself to resist any prosecution of the ex-Minister. Pulteney declined the overture on such a condition, for though he said he had no desire to punish Walpole, he might not be able to defend him from the attacks of his colleagues, for, he observed, "the heads of parties, like those of snakes, are carried on by their tails." The king then sent Newcastle to Pulteney, and it was agreed to allow Wilmington to take the post of First Lord of the Treasury. Carteret thought that this office was more due to him, but Pulteney declared that if Wilmington were not permitted to take the Premiership he would occupy it himself, and Carteret gave way, accepting the place of Secretary of State, with the promise that he should manage in reality the foreign affairs. In[80] all these arrangements the king still took the advice of Walpole, and Newcastle was instructed to again endeavour to draw from Pulteney a promise that he would at least keep himself clear of any prosecution of the late Minister. Pulteney evaded the question by saying that he was not a bloody or revengeful man; that he had always aimed at the destruction of the power of Walpole, and not of his person, but that he still thought he ought not to escape without some censure, and could not engage himself without his party. The minute subdivision of land which placed the population in a state of such complete dependence upon the potato was first encouraged by the landlords, in order to multiply the number of voters, and increase their Parliamentary interest; but subsequently, as the population increased, it became in a great measure the work of the people themselves. The possession of land afforded the only certain means of subsistence, and a farm was therefore divided among the sons of the family, each one, as he was marriedwhich happened earlyreceiving some share, and each daughter also often getting a slice as her marriage-portion. In vain were clauses against subletting inserted in leases; in vain was the erection of new houses prohibited; in vain did the landlord threaten the tenant. The latter relied upon the sympathy of his class to prevent ejectment, and on his own ingenuity to defeat the other impediments to his favourite mode of providing for his family. This process was at length carried to an extreme that became perfectly ludicrous. Instead of each sub-tenant or assignee of a portion of the farm receiving his holding in one compact lot, he obtained a part of each particular quality of land, so that his tenement consisted of a number of scattered patches, each too small to be separately fenced, and exposed to the constant depredations of his neighbours' cattle, thus affording a fruitful source of quarrels, and utterly preventing the possibility of any improved system of husbandry. These small patches, however, were not numerous enough to afford "potato gardens" for the still increasing population, and hence arose the conacre system, by which those who occupied no land were enabled to grow potatoes for themselves. Tempted by the high rent, which varied from 8 to 14 an acre without manure, the farmers gave to the cottiers in their neighbourhood the use of their land merely for the potato crop, generally a quarter of an Irish acre to each. On this the cottier put all the manure he could make by his pig, or the children could scrape off the road during the year, and "planted" his crop of potatoes, which he relied upon as almost the sole support of his family. On it he also fed the pig, which paid the rent, or procured clothes and other necessaries if he had been permitted to pay the rent with his own labour. The labourer thus became a commercial speculator in potatoes. He mortgaged his labour for part of the ensuing year for the rent of his field. If his speculation proved successful, he was able to replace his capital, to fatten his pig, and to support himself and his family, while he cleared off his debt to the farmer. If it failed, his former savings were gone, his heap of manure had been expended to no purpose, and he had lost the means of rendering his pig fit for the market. But his debt to the farmer still remained, and the scanty wages which he could earn at some periods of the year were reduced, not only by the increased number of persons looking for work, but also by the diminished ability of the farmers to employ them. Speculation in potatoes, whether on a large or small scale, had always been hazardous in the southern and westerly portions of Ireland. There had been famines from the failure of that crop at various times, and a remarkably severe one in 1822, when Parliament voted 300,000 for public works and other relief purposes, and subscriptions were raised to the amount of 310,000, of which 44,000 was collected in Ireland. In 1831 violent storms and continual rain brought on another failure of the potato crop in the west of Ireland, particularly along the coast of Galway, Mayo, and Donegal. On this occasion the English public, with ready sympathy, again came forward, and subscriptions were raised, amounting to about[537] 75,000. On several other occasions subsequently, the Government found it necessary to advance money for the relief of Irish misery, invariably occasioned by the failure of the potatoes, and followed by distress and disease. The public and the Legislature had therefore repeated warnings of the danger of having millions of people dependent for existence upon so precarious a crop.

The next day the war against France was proclaimed, and for the righteous cause of restoring the independence of the nations. Prussia, and indeed all Germany, had now been trampled on sufficiently to crush the effeminacy out of all classesto rouse the true soul of liberty in them. Men of every rank offered themselves as the defenders and avengers of their country; the students at this moment not only sung, but aided freedom. The volunteers were formed into Black Bands, and others assumed the dress and arms of the Cossacks, who had won much admiration. They were disciplined in the system of Scharnhorst, and soon became effective soldiers. A leader was found for them after their own heartthe brave and patriotic Blucher, who had been reserving himself for this day, and Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, better tacticians than himself, were appointed to assist him, and carry out all the strategic movements; whilst Blucher, never depressed by difficulties, never daunted by defeat, led them on with the cheer from which he derived his most common appellation of Marshal Forwards"Forwards! my children, forwards!" All classes hastened to contribute the utmost amount possible to the necessary funds for this sacred war. The ladies gave in their gold chains and bracelets, their diamonds and rubies, and wore as ornaments chains and bracelets of beautifully wrought iron.

PARIS UNDER THE REIGN OF TERROR: A VAIN APPEAL. (After the Picture by Paul Svedomsky)

Not at all dismayed by this unrighteous severity, the Scottish Friends of the People met in convention, in Edinburgh, on the 9th of October. At this Convention delegates appeared, not only from most of the large towns of Scotland, but also from London, Sheffield, and Dublin. Letters were also received from the Societies in England. Mr. William Skirving, a friend of Muir and Palmer, as secretary to the Convention, read these letters, and other papers, demanding annual parliaments and universal suffrage. As the British Parliament was considered, and truly, merely a corrupt clique of the representatives of boroughmongers, they proposed to apply directly to the king, that he might urge those necessary reforms on the Legislature.[428] In Scottish fashion, the Reformers opened and closed their sittings with prayer, presenting a striking contrast to the French Revolutionists. On the 6th of November delegates appeared from the Society of United Irishmen, and Margarot and Gerald from the Society of the Friends of the People in London. Margarot stated that five hundred constables had beset the meeting in London, to prevent delegates from getting away to this Convention, but that the manufacturing towns of England were almost all in favour of Reform; that in Sheffield alone there were fifty thousand; that a general union of the Reformers of the United Kingdom would strike terror into their enemies, and compel them to grant annual parliaments and universal suffrage.

But this little episode of the war presented one bright spot amid the vast picture of miserable mismanagement, want of concert and of activity, amongst the Allies engaged against France. The campaign of 1794 was most disgraceful and discouraging. The plan still was for the different armies of the Allies to advance from the different frontiers, north, west, east, and south, and concentrate themselves on Paris; but all the activity and concentration were on the side of the French. In the very commencement of it, it was observed that Prussia was not bringing by any means the stipulated amount of forces into the field. The king, thinking much more of securing his Polish robberies than of co-operating against France, remained in Poland, and was even discovered to be secretly negotiating with the French Convention for peace. Britain was alarmed at this symptom of Prussian defection and made strong remonstrances. Frederick William coolly replied that it was impossible for him to go on without a large sum of money. The hint of Prussia was not lost; money was promised, and in April of this year a subsidy of two millions two hundred thousand pounds was paid to Prussia to secure her more active operation, and on condition that she brought into the field sixty thousand men. The bulk of this money was paid by Britain, a small fraction by Holland; and what was the result? The King of Prussia sent very few troops into the field, but employed the money in paying and[433] maintaining armies to keep down the invaded provinces of Poland, and to invade more! Thus Britain was duped into the disgraceful business of riveting the fetters of unhappy Poland; and it would have been well had this taught the British Government wisdom. But it was now intent on that astonishing career of subsidising almost all the nations of Europe against France; of purchasing useless German soldiers at astounding prices; of pouring out the wealth and blood of Britain like water to enable the Germans and Russians to defend their own hearths and homes, and in vain. The results of this subsidy ought to have satisfied Britain, and would have satisfied any other nation; for it did not long retain Prussia as an ally, even in name.

These dispiriting losses, combined with the fall of Minorca, stimulated the public and the mercantile bodies to petition earnestly for the termination of the American war; and Parliament met at the appointed time amid numbers of such demands. Petitions came from the cities of London and Westminster, and many other towns and counties, bearing rather the features of remonstrances. No sooner did the House meet than Fox moved for an inquiry into the causes of the constant failure of our fleets in these enterprises, on which so much had depended. The object was to crush Lord Sandwich, the head of the Admiralty. Fox's motion was rejected, but only by a majority of twenty-two. The strength of Ministers was fast ebbing.