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The growth of material wealth during this reign had in no degree improved the condition of the working class in any proportion to that of other classes. Landlords had greatly raised their rents, and farmers, by the high price of corn and other provisions, had grown comparatively rich, many very rich. The merchants and master manufacturers had shared liberally in the benefits of a vastly increased commerce, and the wonderful spread of manufactures; but the working manufacturers, between the high price of corn and meat, and the lowness of their wages, were in a miserable condition, and frequently, as we have seen, were driven to riot and insurrection. The handloom weavers were swamped by machinery, and those working the machinery were living in wretched houses, and in a most neglected and insanitary condition. Before the first Sir Robert Peel introduced his Bill for reforming the hours and other regulations of cotton mills, many of these worked night and day, one gang, as it was called, succeeding another at the spinning-jenny, in hot, ill-ventilated rooms. Apprentices were purchased of parishes, either children of paupers, or orphans of such, and these were kept by mill-owners, and worked long hours, one gang having to quit their beds in the morning for another gang of these poor unfortunates to turn into them. The agricultural labourers were little better off. Their habitations were of the worst description, though squires' kennels on the same estates were equal, in all sanitary conditions, to tolerable mansions. Their wages remained only some eight or ten shillings a weekwhen the wheat which they had raised was one hundred and thirty shillings per quarter, and a stone of flour of fourteen pounds cost a gold seven-shilling piece. This drove them in shoals to the workhouse, and produced a state of things that is hardly credible. Their mental and moral condition was equally deplorable. Education, either in town or country, was scarcely known. There was not a school in all the swarming region[158] of Whitechapel, and many another equally poor and populous region of London, much less in country towns and agricultural parishes. It was a settled maxim amongst the landed gentry, that education, even of the most elementary kind, would totally destroy the supply of servants; and it was gravely stated in Parliament that the plot of Thistlewood was owing to the working classes being able to read.

Whilst these proceedings were in agitation, the Tory and Jacobite party, which had at the king's accession appeared stunned, now recovering spirit, began to foment discontent and sedition in the public mind. They got the pulpits to work, and the High Church clergy lent themselves heartily to it. The mobs were soon set to pull down the meeting-houses of the Dissenters. Many buildings were destroyed, and many Dissenters insulted. They did not pause there, but they blackened the character of the king, and denied his right to the Crown, whilst the most fascinating pictures were drawn of the youth, and grace, and graciousness of the rightful English prince, who was wandering in exile to make way for the usurper. To such a length did matters go, that the Riot Act, which had been passed in the reign of Mary, and limited to her own reign, which was again revived by Elizabeth, and had never since been called into action, was now made perpetual, and armed with increased power. It provided that if twelve persons should unlawfully assemble to disturb the peace, and any one Justice should think proper to command them by proclamation to disperse, and should they, in contempt of his orders, continue together for one hour, their assembling should be felony without benefit of clergy. A subsequent clause was added, by which pulling down chapels or houses, even before proclamation, was made subject to the same penalties. Such is the Act in force at this day.REVENUE CUTTERS CAPTURING AN AMERICAN SMUGGLING VESSEL. (See p. 184.)

Stood waiting too, for whom? Lord Chatham."[481]Addresses were agreed to in both Houses without a division. The only discussion of interest that took place in connection with them referred to the dissolution, and the circumstances in which it occurred. The Opposition denounced it as an impolitic proceeding, bearing the appearance of a revolutionary coup d'tat. They charged the Lord Chancellor with making a false statement, in alleging that the Commons had stopped the supplies, which, if true, was not the real cause of the dissolution, the Cabinet having previously resolved upon that measure. Some of the Ministers also, in their addresses to their constituenciesSir James Graham, for exampleconveyed the same injurious impression, stating that "the last division, which had the effect of delaying the supplies, left no alternative but that of abandoning the Bill or of appealing to the people." With this "factious" conduct the Tory candidates were taunted at the elections, and they complained that they suffered in consequence much unmerited odium. The Chancellor denied the imputation. Not only had the Ministers decided upon the measure of dissolution, but the requisite commission had been actually prepared; and Lord Brougham said, "Knowing this, I must have been the veriest dolt and idiot in the creation, if I had said what has been attributed to me. I stated a factthat the dissolution being resolved upon, if there were wanting any justification for the step, the conduct of the House of Commons the night before furnished ample justification for that proceeding." But the truth is, the Opposition were smarting under the sense of defeat; they had been out-man?uvred by Lord Grey, and defeated by the use of their own tactics.

[See larger version]CHAPTER II. THE REIGN OF GEORGE I.

The confederates endeavoured to keep their plans profoundly secret till they were ready to burst at once on the devoted King of Prussia; but Frederick was the last man alive to be taken by surprise. The secret was soon betrayed to him, and, at once waiving his dislike of the King of England, he concluded a convention with him in January, 1756, and bound himself, during the disturbances in America, not to allow any foreign troops to pass through any part of Germany to those colonies, where he could prevent it. Having his treasury well supplied, he put his army in order, and in August of that year sent a peremptory demand to Vienna as to the designs of Austria, stating, at the same time, that he would not accept any evasive reply; but the reply being evasive, he at once rushed into Saxony at the head of sixty thousand men, blockaded the King of Saxony in Pirna, and secured the queen in Dresden. By this decisive action Frederick commenced what the Germans style "The Seven Years' War." In the palace of Dresden Frederick made himself master of the secret correspondence and treaties with France, Russia, and Austria, detailing all their designs, which he immediately published, and thus fully justified his proceedings to the world.

The condition of Washington was inconceivably depressing. The time for the serving of the greater part of the troops was fast expiring; and numbers of them, despite the circumstances of the country, went off. Whilst Washington was, therefore, exerting himself to prevail on them to continue, he was compelled to weaken his persuasions by enforcing the strictest restraint on both soldiers and officers, who would plunder the inhabitants around them on the plea that they were Tories. Sickness was in his camp; and his suffering men, for want of hospitals, were obliged to lie about in barns, stables, sheds, and even under the fences and bushes. He wrote again to Congress in a condition of despair. He called on them to place their army on a permanent footing; to give the officers such pay as should enable them to live as gentlemen, and not as mean plunderers. He recommended that not only a good bounty should be given to every non-commissioned officer and soldier, but also the reward of a hundred or a hundred and fifty acres of land, a suit of clothes, and a blanket. Though Congress was loth to comply with these terms, it soon found that it must do so, or soldiers would go over to the royal army.[See larger version]

On the 3rd of December Parliament was dissolved, and the first elections under the Reform Bill promptly followed. Though they were anticipated not without alarm, everything went off peacefully, and it was discovered that the new House of Commons was composed of much the same materials as the old. The two most singular choices were those of Oldham which retained Cobbett, and of Pontefract which selected the ex-prizefighter Gully. But the state of parties was considerably changed. The old Tory party was practically extinct; the Moderates began to call themselves Conservatives; and Whig and Radical, bitterly as they disagreed on many points, proceeded to range themselves under the Liberal banner. The Radicals promptly proved their independence by proposing Mr. Littleton for the Speakership against the old Speaker, Mr. Manners Sutton, but the Whigs voted against them, and they were in a minority of 31 against 241. It was clear from the Royal Speech that the Session was to be devoted to Irish affairs, and the Cabinet was much divided over the measures in contemplation. These were a Coercion Bill, much favoured by Mr. Stanley, and a Church Temporalities Bill, the pet project of Lord Althorp. After many evenings had been wasted in bitter denunciations of the Irish Secretary by O'Connell and his following, Lord Althorp, on the 12th of February, 1833, introduced the Church Temporalities Bill, and three days afterwards Earl Grey introduced the Coercion Bill in the House of Lords. It had an easy course through that House, and was then brought forward by Althorp in the Commons. Speaking against his convictions, he made a singularly tame and ineffective defence of the measure. Then Stanley took the papers which he had given to his leader, mastered their details in a couple of hours, and in a magnificent speech completely turned the current of debate, and utterly silenced O'Connell. Before the end of March the Bill had passed through all its stages in the House of Commons.The Parliamentary Session for 1845 was opened by the Queen in person on the 4th of February. At a meeting a few days earlier, Mr. Cobden had warned his hearers that no change in the Corn Laws could be expected from Sir Robert Peel so long as the Ministry could avail themselves of the old excuse, the revived prosperity of manufactures and commerce. "Ours," he had said, "is a very simple proposition. We say to the right honourable baronet, 'Abolish the monopolies which go to enrich that majority which placed you in power and keeps you there.' We know he will not attempt it; but we are quite certain he will make great professions of being a Free Trader, notwithstanding."

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The Nabob of Oude zealously embraced the cause of Meer Cossim. He possessed not only great resources in his own province, but he possessed additional authority with the natives from having received also at his court the titular emperor of Delhi, Shah Allum, who, though driven from his throne and territory by the Mahrattas, was still in the eyes of the people the Great Mogul. With the Great Mogul in his camp, and appointed vizier by him, Sujah Dowlah advanced at the head of fifty thousand men against Major Adams and his little army, now numbering about one thousand two hundred Europeans and eight thousand Sepoys. Before the two armies came in sight of each other Adams died, and the command was assumed by Major, afterwards Sir Hector Munro. Munro led his army to Buxar, more than a hundred miles higher up the Ganges. There, in the month of October, 1764, he came into conflict with the army of Oude, and put it thoroughly to the rout, killing four thousand men and taking one hundred and thirty pieces of cannon and much spoil.These party tactics were continued with unwonted heat by the Opposition on all occasions, till the House adjourned for three days, to meet again on the 29th, the Opposition revelling in large majorities, though they were aware that both the king and the House of Lords were adverse to them. But the country was also growing weary of this unsatisfactory position of things, and began to sympathise with the great patience of Pitt rather than the tumultuous conduct of Fox and his friends. Pitt, however, was strong in the assurance of the adhesion of the Crown and the peerage, and saw unmistakable signs of revulsion in the feeling of the public. The majorities of the Commons were becoming every time less, and on the 16th of February the Corporation of London had presented a strongly expressed address to the king, declaring its approval of the late dismissal of Ministers, and its opinion that the India Bill of Fox was an encroachment on the[306] prerogative of the Crown. Dr. Johnson also regarded it as a contest whether the nation should be ruled by the sceptre of George III. or by the tongue of Mr. Fox.



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