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O'CONNELL RETURNING HOME FROM PRISON. (See p. 532.)Another attempt of the French to draw the attention of Wellington from Massena was made by Mortier, who marched from Badajoz, of which Soult had given him the command, entered Portugal, and invested Campo Mayor, a place of little strength, and with a very weak garrison. Marshal Beresford hastened to its relief at the head of twenty thousand men, and the Portuguese commandant did his best to hold out till he arrived; but he found this was not possible, and he surrendered on condition of marching out with all the honours of war. Scarcely, however, was this done when Beresford appeared, and Mortier abruptly quitted the town, and made all haste back again to Badajoz, pursued by the British cavalry. Mortier managed to get across the Guadiana, and Beresford found himself stopped there by a sudden rising of the water and want of boats. He had to construct a temporary bridge before he could cross, so that the French escaped into Badajoz. Mortier then resigned his command to Latour Maubourg, and the British employed themselves in reducing Oliven?a, and some other strong places on the Valverde river, in the month of April. Lord Wellington made a hasty visit to the headquarters of Marshal Beresford, to direct the operations against Badajoz, but he was quickly recalled by the news that Massena had received reinforcements, and was in full march again to relieve the garrison in Almeida. Wellington, on the other hand, had reduced his army by sending reinforcements to Beresford, so that while Massena entered Portugal with forty thousand foot and five thousand cavalry, Wellington had, of British and Portuguese, only thirty-two thousand foot and about one thousand two hundred horse. This force, too, he had been obliged to extend over a line of seven miles in length, so as to guard the avenues of access to Almeida. The country, too, about Almeida was particularly well adapted for cavalry, in which the French had greatly the superiority. Notwithstanding, Wellington determined to dispute his passage. He had no choice of ground; he must fight on a flat plain, and with the Coa flowing in his rear. His centre was opposite to Almeida, his right on the village of Fuentes d'Onoro, and his left on fort Concepcion.
There was a radical difference in spirit between the Viceroy and the Premier. The former sympathised warmly with the Roman Catholics in their struggles for civil equality, feeling deeply the justice of their cause. The Duke, on the other hand, yielded only to necessity, and thought of concession not as a matter of principle, but of expediency; he yielded, not because it was right to do so, but because it was preferable to having a civil war. The feeling of Mr. Peel was somewhat similar; it was with him, also, a choice of evils, and he chose the least.The year 1839 will be always memorable for the establishment of the system of a uniform penny postage, one of those great reforms distinguishing the age in which we live, which are fraught with vast social changes, and are destined to fructify throughout all time with social benefits to the human race. To one mind pre-eminently the British Empire is indebted for the penny postage. We are now so familiar with its advantages, and its reasonableness seems so obvious, that it is not easy to comprehend the difficulties with which Sir Rowland Hill had to contend in convincing the authorities and the public of the wisdom and feasibility of his plan. Mr. Rowland Hill had written a pamphlet on Post Office Reform in 1837. It took for its starting-point the fact that whereas the postal revenue showed for the past twenty years a positive though slight diminution, it ought to have shown an increase of ￡507,700 a year, in order to have simply kept pace with the growth of population, and an increase of nearly four times that amount in order to have kept pace with the growth of the analogous though far less exorbitant duties imposed on stage coaches. The population in 1815 was 19,552,000; in 1835 it had increased to 25,605,000. The net revenue arising from the Post Office in 1815 was ￡1,557,291; in 1835 it had decreased to ￡1,540,300. At this period the rate of postage actually imposed (beyond the limits of the London District Office) varied from fourpence to one and eightpence for a single letter, which was interpreted to mean a single piece of paper, not exceeding an ounce in weight. A second piece of paper or any other enclosure, however small, constituted a double letter. A single sheet of paper, if it at all exceeded an ounce in weight, was charged with fourfold postage. The average charge on inland general post letters was nearly ninepence for each letter. In London the letter-boxes were only open from eight in the morning to seven p.m., and a letter written after that hour on Friday did not reach Uxbridge earlier than Tuesday morning.
It was at this crisis, when Hastings was just recovering his authority in the Council, that the news arrived in India, and spread amongst the native chiefs, that in Yenghi Dunia, or the New World, the Company Sahib—for the East Indians could never separate the ideas of the East India Company and England itself—there had been a great revolution, and the English driven out. This, as might be expected, wonderfully elated the native chiefs, and especially those in the south. There the French of Pondicherry and Chandernagore boasted of the destruction of the British power, and that it was by their own hands. Hastings, who was as able and far-seeing as he was unprincipled in carrying out his plans for the maintenance of the British dominion in India, immediately set himself to counteract the mischievous effects of these diligently-disseminated rumours, and of the cabals which the French excited. These were most to be feared amongst the vast and martial family of the Mahrattas. The Mahrattas had risen on the ruins of the great Mogul empire. They now extended their tribes over a vast space of India from Mysore to the Ganges. The Peishwa, as head of these nations, held his residence at Poonah. Besides his, there were the great houses of Holkar and Scindia; the Guicowar, who ruled in Guzerat; the Bonslah, or Rajah of Berar, a descendant of Sivaji. The Mahrattas were, for the most part, a rude, warlike race, rapacious and ambitious, and living in the most primitive style. To destroy the confidence of these fierce warriors in the French, Hastings gave immediate orders, on receiving the news of the proclamation of war in Europe, for the seizure of the French settlements. This was on the 7th of July, 1778; on the 10th he had taken Chandernagore, and ordered Sir Hector Munro to invest Pondicherry. That was soon accomplished, and the only remaining possession of France, the small one of Mahé, on the coast of Malabar, was seized the next spring.But Sir John Duckworth was to play a leading part in a still more abortive enterprise. There was a rumour that Buonaparte had promised the Grand Turk to aid him in recovering the provinces which Russia had reft from Turkey on the Danube, in the Crimea, and around the Black Sea, on condition that Egypt was given up to him. To prevent this, an expedition was fitted out to seize on this country. Between four and five thousand men were sent from our army in Sicily, under Major-General Mackenzie Frazer. They embarked on the 5th of May, and anchored off Alexandria on the 16th. The following morning General Frazer summoned the town to surrender, but the governor of the Viceroy Mehemet Ali replied that he would defend the place to the last man. On that day and the following a thousand soldiers and about sixty sailors were landed, and, moving forward, carried the advanced works with trifling loss. Some of the transports which had parted company on the voyage now arrived, the rest of the troops were landed; and, having secured the castle of Aboukir, Frazer marched on Alexandria, taking the forts of Caffarelli and Cretin on the way. On the 22nd Sir John Duckworth arrived with his squadron; the British army expected to hear that he had taken Constantinople, and his ill news created a just gloom amongst both officers and men. The people of Alexandria appeared friendly; but the place was, or seemed to be, destitute of provisions; and the transports had been so badly supplied that the men were nearly starved before they got there. The Alexandrians assured General Frazer that, in order to obtain provisions, he must take possession of Rosetta and Rahmanieh. Frazer, therefore, with the concurrence of Sir John Duckworth, dispatched Major-General Wauchope and Brigadier-General Mead to Rosetta, with one thousand two hundred men. The troops were entangled in the streets and shot down. A subsequent effort was made to besiege Rosetta in form. The troops reached Rosetta on the 9th of April, and posted themselves on the heights above it. They summoned the town formally to surrender, and received an answer of defiance. Instead of proceeding to bombard the town at once, Major-General Stewart waited for the arrival of a body of Mamelukes. The Mamelukes had been in deadly civil strife with Mehemet Ali, and had promised to co-operate with the British; and this was one of the causes which led the British Government to imagine that they could make themselves masters of Egypt with so minute a force. But the Mamelukes did not appear. Whilst waiting for them, Colonel Macleod was sent to occupy the village of El Hammed, to keep open the way for the expected succour; but Mehemet Ali had mustered a great force at Cairo, which kept back the Mamelukes; and, at the same time, he was reinforcing both Rosetta, and Rahmanieh. Instead of the Mamelukes, therefore, on the morning of the 22nd of April a fleet of vessels was seen descending the Nile, carrying a strong Egyptian force. Orders were sent to recall Colonel Macleod from El Hammed; but too late; his detachment was surrounded and completely cut off. The besieging force—scattered over a wide area, instead of being in a compact body—were attacked by overwhelming numbers; and, having no entrenched camp, were compelled to fight their way back to Alexandria as well as they could. When Stewart arrived there he had lost one half of his men. Mehemet Ali, in proportion as he saw the British force diminished, augmented his own. He collected and posted a vast army between Cairo and Alexandria, and then the Alexandrians threw off the mask and joined their countrymen in cutting off the supplies of the British, and murdering them on every possible occasion at their outposts. Frazer held out, in the vain hope of aid from the Mamelukes or from home, till the 22nd of August, when, surrounded by the swarming hosts of Mehemet Ali, and his supplies all exhausted, he sent out a flag of truce, offering to retire on condition that all the British prisoners taken at Rosetta, at El Hammed, and elsewhere, should be delivered up to him. This was accepted, and on the 23rd of September the ill-fated remains of this army were re-embarked and returned to Sicily.
[See larger version]Pitt dead, there remained a difficulty of no ordinary kind in the construction of a new Cabinet. Various persons were applied to to fill the arduous post of prime minister, who all declined, knowing the powerful opposition which would be arrayed against them by coalescing parties. Amongst these were Lord Hawkesbury, Sidmouth, and the Marquis Wellesley, who had just returned from India. There was nothing for it, then, but to endeavour to diminish the opposition of all parties by bringing in some of all parties, and hence the construction of the Ministry of "All the Talents." Grenville assumed the helm as First Lord of the Treasury, and, of course, brought in Fox, notwithstanding the repugnance of the king. Fox became Secretary for Foreign Affairs—Fox, who had so long and so vehemently condemned the whole of Pitt's foreign policy. Sidmouth, though refusing the responsibility of the Premiership, accepted the office of Privy Seal; Lord Fitzwilliam became Lord President of the Council; Grey, now Lord Howick, First Lord of the Admiralty; Lord Moira, Master-General of the Ordnance; Lord Spencer, Secretary of State for the Home Department; Windham, Secretary for the Colonies; Lord Henry Petty, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Erskine, Lord Chancellor; and Sir Gilbert Elliot, now made Lord Minto, President of the Board of Control. Sheridan was not placed in the Cabinet, because he had not been found staunch to any party, and because, in his daily drunken fits, he was likely to disclose State secrets—as if, said he, there were any secrets to be disclosed. Lord Auckland was made President of the Board of Trade, and Lord Temple Vice-President. Temple, also, was made joint Paymaster of the Forces with Lord John Townshend, and General Fitzpatrick Secretary at War. In the law departments, Lord Ellenborough, the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, had, though quite out of rule, a seat in the Cabinet; Pigott became Attorney-General, Sir Samuel Romilly Solicitor-General. The Duke of Bedford was enabled to gratify his dependents by being appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. Such was the Ministry of "All the Talents," amongst whom, however, did not appear Canning, who had more talent than three-fourths of them. It was clear that such a Ministry could not long hold together. There were scarcely two of them who did not cherish the most irreconcilable views. Fox, at the instigation of Francis, was desirous to call in question the proceedings of Lord Wellesley in India, and Lord Grenville was as resolute against it. Windham, Grenville, Fox, and Sidmouth held, every one of them, different notions of foreign policy. Fox and some others were advocates of Catholic emancipation; Sidmouth was utterly averse from it. Then, how were so many heads to find comfortable berths for their followers?
The Sovereigns of the Holy Alliance, however, acted on principles and with designs very different. Their general principle was not to tolerate any change in the European Governments that did not emanate from themselves. The Greek Revolution they denounced as a rebellion against the legitimate authority of the Sultan. The actual Government of Spain they regarded as incompatible with the safety of monarchical power, and France called upon the Sovereigns to re-establish the despotism of Ferdinand. Russia, Austria, and Prussia took the same view of the Spanish Revolution, but were unwilling to interfere by force of arms. France was not so scrupulous upon that point. Chateaubriand and other votaries of absolutism in Church and State were busy fomenting conspiracies in Spain, and secretly supplying arms and ammunition to the priest-ridden enemies of constitutional government in that country. An army which during the previous year had been assembled on the frontier, under the ridiculous pretence of preventing the fever at Barcelona from spreading into France, changed its name from that of a sanitary cordon to an army of observation. M. de Villele, the new French Prime Minister, threw off the mask, and in a circular note stated that unless Spain altered her political constitution, France would use force to convert her from her revolutionary theories.On the 23rd of December the committee met again in Fishamble Street, and resolved to address the Prince Regent on the invasion of their right to petition, appointing a general committee to meet again in Dublin on the 28th of February, 1812. In January, and at the commencement of February, Earl Fitzwilliam introduced the consideration of the state of Ireland, and Lord Morpeth proposed the same subject to the Commons, but both motions were rejected.
The two rival Ministers of England became every day more embittered against each other; and Bolingbroke grew more daring in his advances towards the Pretender, and towards measures only befitting a Stuart's reign. In order to please the High Church, whilst he was taking the surest measures to ruin it by introducing a popish prince, he consulted with Atterbury, and they agreed to bring in a Bill which should prevent Dissenters from educating their own children. This measure was sure to please the Hanoverian Tories, who were as averse from the Dissenters as the Whigs. Thus it would conciliate them and obtain their support at the very moment that the chief authors of it were planning the ruin of their party. This Bill was called the Schism Bill, and enjoined that no person in Great Britain should keep any school, or act as tutor, who had not first subscribed the declaration to conform to the Church of England, and obtained a licence of the diocesan. Upon failure of so doing, the party might be committed to prison without bail; and no such licence was to be granted before the party produced a certificate of his having received the Sacrament according to the communion of the English Church within the last year, and of his having also subscribed the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy.Sir Samuel Garth, author of "The Dispensary," a mock-heroic poem in six cantos, and Sir Richard Blackmore, another physician, and author of a whole heap of epics in ten or twelve books each—as "King Arthur," "King Alfred," "Eliza," "The Redeemer," etc.—may still be found in our collections of verse, but are rarely read. Dr. Young's "Night Thoughts" yet maintain their place, and are greatly admired by many, notwithstanding his stilted style and violent antithesis, for amid these there are many fine and striking ideas.In return for this favour, Clive obtained one of infinitely more importance. It was the transfer of the sole right of dominion throughout the provinces of Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar. All that vast territory was thus made the legal and valid property of the East India Company. The conveyance was ratified by public deed, which was delivered by the Great Mogul to Clive in presence of his court, the throne on which he was elevated during this most important ceremony being an English dining-table, covered with a showy cloth. And of this prince—who was entirely their own puppet—the British still continued to style themselves the vassals, to strike his coins at their mint, and to bear his titles on their public seal! Clive saw the immense importance of maintaining the aspect of subjects to the highest native authority, and of avoiding alarming the minds of the native forces by an open assumption of proprietorship. By this single treaty, at the same time that he had freed the Company from all dependence on the heirs of Meer Jaffier, he derived the Company's title to those states from the supreme native power in India; and he could boast of having secured to his countrymen an annual revenue of two millions of money. Thus began a system which has played a leading part in our Indian history.
At length the fated 1st of March arrived, when the Paymaster of the Forces arose amidst profound silence, to state the Bill. Lord John Russell's speech was remarkable for research, accuracy, and knowledge of constitutional law, but not for oratory. He showed that the grievances of which the people complained, in connection with the Parliamentary representation, were three—first, the nomination of members by individuals; secondly, elections by close corporations; and thirdly, the enormous expenses of elections. Sixty nomination boroughs, not having a population of 2,000 each, were to be totally disfranchised; 46 boroughs, having a population of not more than 4,000, and returning two members each, would be deprived of one. The seats thus obtained were to be given to large towns and populous counties. In boroughs, the elective franchise was to be extended to householders paying ￡10 rent; in counties, to copyholders of ￡10 a year, and leaseholders of ￡50. Persons already in possession of the right of voting were not to be deprived of it, if actually resident. Non-resident electors were to be disfranchised, and the duration of elections was to be shortened by increasing the facilities for taking the poll. No compensation was to be given to the proprietors of the disfranchised boroughs, which was justified under the precedent of the forty-shilling freeholders of Ireland, who had received no compensation for the loss of their votes. The question of the duration of Parliaments was reserved for future consideration.
Better to die than wed:Meanwhile Lord Ashley, a staunch upholder of the Corn Laws, in a letter to his constituents of Dorsetshire declared his opinion "that the destiny of the Corn Laws was fixed," and that it would be wise to consider "how best to break the force of an inevitable blow." Mr. Bickham and Captain Estcott, also strong defenders of the landlords' monopoly, published their conviction that the Corn Laws were no longer tenable; and on the 22nd of November Lord John Russell, who was at Edinburgh, addressed a letter to the electors of the City of London, which was duly circulated throughout the kingdom, and which contained the following remarkable passages:—详情
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