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[See larger version]On the 28th of October General Hill surprised a French force, under General Drouet, near Estremadura, and completely routed it, taking all the baggage, artillery, ammunition, and stores, with one thousand five hundred prisoners. By this[19] action the whole of that part of Estremadura except Badajoz was cleared of the French. This done, General Hill went into cantonments, and the British army received no further disturbance during the remainder of the year. Thus Wellington had completely maintained the defence of Portugal, and driven back the French from its frontiers. Wherever he had crossed the French in Spain, he had severely beaten them too.Whilst Napoleon was thus advancing towards Paris, the besotted Bourbons rather rejoiced in it, for they said it would compel the two chambers to invest the king with despotic powerthat was what they were still longing for; and Louis himself, addressing the foreign ambassadors, bade them assure their sovereigns that he was well, and that the foolish enterprise of "that man" should as little disturb Europe as it had disturbed him.

At the opening of 1810 a peace was contracted with Turkey; but not with the Sultan Selim, with whom we had been at war, nor with his successor, Mahmoud. Whilst the throne of Turkey was occupied by a mere boy, and whilst his regular troops were dispersed, Alexander of Russia, famed for his piety, thought it a fine opportunity to seize on his neighbour's lands. His Ministers, at the commencement of 1809, at the Congress of Jassy, demanded, as a condition of peace, the cession of the Turkish provinces on the left bank of the Danube. The Turks, of course, refused to thus dismember their empire for the aggrandisement of Russia; and Alexander, who was resolved to have those provinces by hook or by crook, immediately declared war on Turkey, on the shameless plea that it had made peace with Britain. The Russians were supported by the Greeks, and other inhabitants of Moldavia and Wallachia; but on crossing the Danube and pushing forward into Bulgaria they were beaten on every occasion. On the 22nd of October, 1809, a desperate conflict took place between them under the walls of Silistria, which continued from morning till night, in which the Russians were driven back, and, in a second engagement, routed with such slaughter that they retired from Bulgaria, and went into winter-quarters in Moldavia and Wallachia. In this campaign it was found that the guns were served by French officers, though Buonaparte professed to be willing that Alexander should possess himself of Constantinople. By the peace with Turkey, the trading ports of that empire were again opened to us, and our manufactures, entering there, spread over all the Continent, and were sold and worn in Hamburg, Bremen, and other towns where they were strictly excluded by sea.

Ulster 2,386,373 3,320,133 346,517 170,598[458]

Nujeem-ul-Dowlah, their new puppet, proposed to have one Nuncomar as his Prime Minister, but Nuncomar was too great a rogue even for them. He had alternately served and betrayed the English, and his master, Meer Jaffier, and the Council set him aside, and appointed to that office Mohammed Reza Khan, a Mussulman of far better character. Clive confirmed the appointment of Mohammed, but compelled Nujeem-ul-Dowlah to retire from the nominal office of Nabob, on a pension of thirty-two lacs of rupees.

From the affairs of the royal family, we turn to a more important subject, the partition of Poland. Poland, lying contiguous to Russia, had for ages been in a condition calculated to attract the cupidity of ambitious neighbours. Its nobles usurped all authority. They kept the whole mass of the people in hopeless serfdom; they usurped the whole of the land; they elected their own king, and were too fond of power themselves to leave him more than a puppet in their hands. To make the condition of the country worse, it was violently divided on the subject of religion. One part of the nobles consisted of Roman Catholics, another of what were called Dissidents, made up of members of the Greek Church, and Protestants, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Arians. Although by what was called the Pacta Conventa the Dissidents had been admitted to an equality of rights, this was totally disregarded by the overbearing Roman Catholics; and in 1736 the Pacta Conventa was formally abolished. Every Dissident was, by this measure, for ever excluded from government, and from all interest in it.

THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON. (After the Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence.)

"Let us suppose," said Wyndham, "a man abandoned to all notions of virtue and honour; of no great family, and but of a mean fortune, raised to be chief Minister of State by the concurrence of many whimsical events; afraid or unwilling to trust any but creatures of his own making, lost to all sense of shame and reputation, ignorant of his country's true interest, pursuing no aim but that of aggrandising himself and his favourites; in foreign affairs trusting none but those who, from the nature of their education, cannot possibly be qualified for the service of their country, or give weight and credit to their negotiations; let us suppose the true interest of the nation by such means neglected, or misunderstood, her honour tarnished, her importance lost, her trade insulted, her merchants plundered, and her sailors murdered; and all these circumstances overlooked, lest his administration should be endangered. Suppose him next possessed of immense wealth, the plunder of the nation, with a Parliament chiefly composed of members whose seats are purchased, and whose votes are bought at the expense of public treasure. In such a Parliament suppose attempts made to inquire into his conduct, or to relieve the nation from the distress which has been entailed upon it by his administration. Suppose him screened by a corrupt majority of his creatures, whom he retains in daily pay, or engages in his particular interest by distributing among them those posts and places which ought never to be bestowed upon any but for the good of the public. Let him plume himself upon his scandalous victory because he has obtained a Parliament like a packed jury, ready to acquit him at all adventures. Let us suppose him domineering with insolence over all the men of ancient families, over all the men of sense, figure, or fortune in the nation; as he has no virtue of his own, ridiculing it in others, and endeavouring to destroy or corrupt it in all. With such a Minister and such a Parliament, let us suppose a case which I hope will never happena prince upon the throne, uninformed, ignorant, and unacquainted with the inclinations and true interests of his people; weak, capricious, transported with unbounded ambition, and possessed with insatiable avarice. I hope such a case will never occur; but, as it possibly may, could any greater curse happen to a nation than such a prince on the throne, advised, and solely advised, by such a Minister, and that Minister supported by such a Parliament?" By those who have considered the extent to which Walpole carried the system of corrupting the representatives of the people, and thus ruling at his own will, and not by the sanction of the public opinion and feeling, this severe portrait of him can scarcely be considered as exaggerated. Walpole, no doubt, felt it deeply, but feeling, too, whence the attack really camenamely, from the armoury of Bolingbrokehe passed Wyndham lightly over, and emptied the burning vial of his indignation on the concealed foe, in a not less vigorous and graphic strain.[77]

So prejudiced were the Allied Sovereigns against England, that they were ready to believe any tale to her disadvantage. One story which was circulated amongst them at the time was that Great Britain had bound herself to support Spain against France in return for certain stipulated commercial advantages. Another was that she had entered into a secret treaty to defend Portugal against France, even though Portugal should join Spain in the war. After all the Duke's arguments, explanations, and remonstrances, the French plenipotentiary was about to set off for Paris, representing all the Powers as being perfectly unanimous on the policy adopted towards Spain, and the Duke was obliged to threaten him with a public contradiction if he did not alter that statement and except Great Britain.The poets who most retained the robes of the past, without disguising the divine form within, were the Rev. George Crabbe and Cowper. The poetry of Crabbe, all written in the metre of Pope, is, nevertheless, instinct with the very soul of nature. It chooses the simplest, and often the least apparently lofty or agreeable topics, but it diffuses through these, and at the same time draws from them, a spirit and life that are essentially poetry. Nothing at the time that it appeared could look less like poetry. The description of a library, the dirty alleys, the pothouses, the sailors, and monotonous sea-shores in and about a maritime borough, struck the readers of the assumed sublime with astonishment and dismay. "Can this be poetry?" they asked. But those who had poetry in themselvesthose in whom the heart of nature was strong, replied, "Yes, the truest poetry." Nature smiles as the rude torch flickers past, and shows its varied forms in its truest shape. In his "Tales of the Hall" Crabbe entered on scenes which are commonly deemed more elevated; he came forward into the rural village, the rectory,[184] and the manor-house; but everywhere he carried the same clear, faithful, analytical spirit, and read the most solemn lessons from the histories and the souls of men. Crabbe has been styled the Rembrandt of English poetic painting; but he is not merely a painter of the outward, he is the prober of the inward at the same time, who, with a hand that never trembles, depicts sternly the base nature, and drops soothing balm on the broken heart.[See larger version]

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At the very time that these measures were occupying the British Parliament, the Bostonians were driving affairs to a crisis. In nearly all the seaports committees were in active operation for examining all cargoes of ships, and reporting the result. These committees also kept a keen observation on each other, and visited publicly any that appeared lukewarm. Boston, as usual, distinguished itself most prominently in this business. Regular meetings were held in Faneuil Hall, and votes passed denouncing all who dared to import the prohibited goods. Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson exerted himself to form an[201] association amongst the traders in opposition to these anti-importers, but he tried in vain. They insisted that the merchants who had imported goods in their shops and warehouses should be compelled to ship them back to those who had sent them. One merchant, more stubborn than the rest, was immediately waited on by a deputation, headed by an axeman and a carpenter, as if prepared to behead and bury him; and he was told that a thousand men awaited his decision, and they could not be answerable for his safety if he refused to comply.Subscriptions began to pour in for the Association, and the work went on. The year 1839 opened with bright prospects for the Anti-Corn Law crusade. Times were, indeed, changed since pseudo-Liberals had been able to make the apathy of the country an excuse for withholding aid from those who had, on principle, continued to demand justice in the matter of the poor man's loaf. The movement was rapidly becoming general. Mr. Villiers had prophesied in the last Session of Parliament that the day was not far distant when the landed interest would be compelled to treat this question with respect, and abandon the practice of shouting down the advocates of Free Trade in the Legislature. That day had now arrived, and sooner, probably, than the prophet himself had expected it. There was scarcely a large town or thickly populated district in Great Britain which had not moved, or which was not about to petition Parliament against the bread-tax. In many cases political differences were not allowed to hinder the common fellowship of citizens having such an object as the overthrow of a system that threatened to convert the mercantile community into a mass of bankruptcy, and to involve all classes in deep distress.

In the report prepared by the League it was stated that during a very considerable portion of the year there were employed in the printing, and making up of the electoral packets of tracts, upwards of 300 persons, while more than 500 other persons were employed in distributing them from house to house among the constituencies. To the Parliamentary electors alone of England and Scotland there had been distributed in this manner, of tracts and stamped publications, five millions. Besides these, there had been a large general distribution among the working classes and others, who are not electors, to the number of 3,600,000. In addition, 426,000 tracts had been stitched up with the monthly magazines and other periodicals, thus making altogether the whole number of tracts and stamped publications issued by the council during the year to amount to upwards of nine millions, or in weight more than one hundred tons. The distribution had been made in twenty-four counties containing about 237,000 electors, and in 187 boroughs containing 259,226 electors, making in boroughs and counties together the whole number of electors supplied 496,226. The labours of the lecturers employed during the year had been spread over fifty-nine counties in England, Wales, and Scotland, and they had delivered about 650 lectures during the year. A large number of meetings had been held during the year in the cities and boroughs, which had been attended by deputations of members of the council, exclusive of the metropolis. One hundred and forty towns had been thus visited, many of them twice and three times; and the report further stated that such had been the feeling existing in all parts of the kingdom that there was scarcely a town which had not urged its claim to be visited by a deputation from the council of the League.


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