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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.[481]

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.

Scarcely were the elections over when a strike took place amongst the working cotton-spinners in Manchester. Food was dear, and the rate of wages was not in any proportion to the dearness. The men who turned out paraded the streets, and, as is generally too much the spirit of strikes, endeavoured forcibly to compel the workmen of other factories to cease working too. The magistrates, on the 1st of September, issued a proclamation, that they were determined to resist such attempts, and to punish the offenders. Sir John Byng, the same who had favoured the endeavours of Oliver in Yorkshire, commanded the forces there, and every precaution was taken to secure the factories still in work. On the very next day the spinners were joined by a great mob from Stockport, and they endeavoured to break into Gray's mill, in Ancoat's Lane, and force the men to cease. But there was a party of soldiers placed within in expectation of the attack, and they fired on the assailants, and killed one man and wounded two others. The troops then dispersed the mob, which was said to have amounted to at least thirty thousand men. This ended the strike and[138] the rioting for the time. The coroner's jury pronounced the death of the man justifiable homicide, and Ministers congratulated themselves on the speedy end of the disturbance. But the elements of fresh ones were rife in the same districts. The country was by no means in the prosperous condition that they had represented it.At sea, Sir Edward Hawke attacked the French fleet under Admiral Conflans at the mouth of the Vilaine in Quibron Bay. The situation, amid rocks and shoals, and with a sea running high, so late in the year as the 20th of November, was most perilous, but Hawke scorned all danger, attacked the French fleet close under their own shores, took two men-of-war, sank four more, including the admiral's ship, the Soleil Royal, and caused the rest, more or less damaged, to take refuge up the river. Two of our own vessels were stranded in the night, but their crews and stores were saved. For this brilliant action, which crippled the French navy for the remainder of the war, Hawke was thanked by Parliament, received from the king a pension of one thousand five hundred pounds a-year for his own and his son's life, and, in the next reign, was raised to the peerage. Thurot, meanwhile, had escaped out of Dunkirk, but with only five ships, which kept out of the way by seeking shelter in the ports of Sweden and Norway.The death of no English statesman had ever produced a deeper feeling of grief throughout the nation, or more general expressions of lamentation at the irreparable loss which the country had sustained. Mr. Hume had a motion on the paper for the day following his death; but instead of proceeding with it, he moved the adjournment of the House, which was agreed to unanimously. Mr. Gladstone paid an eloquent and touching tribute to his memory, concluding with the lines

At the close of the Session of 1837 an earnest desire was expressed by the leaders of both parties in the House for an amicable adjustment of two great Irish questions which had been pending for a long time, and had excited considerable ill-feeling, and wasted much of the time of the Legislaturenamely, the Irish Church question, and the question of Corporate Reform. The Conservatives were disposed to compromise the matter, and to get the Municipal Reform Bill passed through the Lords, provided the Ministry abandoned the celebrated Appropriation Clause, which would devote any surplus revenue of the Church Establishment, not required for the spiritual care of its members, to the moral and religious education of all classes of the people, without distinction of religious persuasion; providing for the resumption of such surplus, or any part of it, as might be required, by an increase in the numbers of the members of the Established Church. The result of this understanding was the passing of the Tithe Bill. But there were some little incidents of party warfare connected with these matters, which may be noticed here as illustrative of the temper of the times. On the 14th of May Sir Thomas Acland brought forward a resolution for rescinding the Appropriation Clause. This Lord John Russell regarded as a breach of faith. He said that the present motion was not in accordance with the Duke of Wellington's declared desire to see the Irish questions brought to a final settlement. Sir Robert Peel, however, made a statement to show that the complaint of Lord John Russell about being overreached, was without a shadow of foundation. The noble lord's conduct he declared to be without precedent. He called upon Parliament to come to the discussion of a great question, upon a motion which he intended should be the foundation of the final settlement of that question; and yet, so ambiguous was his language, that it was impossible to say what was[451] or was not the purport of his scheme. Sir Thomas Acland's motion for rescinding the Appropriation resolution was rejected by a majority of 19, the numbers being 317 and 298. On the following day Lord John Russell gave Sir Robert Peel distinctly to understand that the Tithe measure would consist solely of a proposition that the composition then existing should be converted into a rent charge. On the 29th of the same month, Lord John Russell having moved that the House should go into committee on the Irish Municipal Bill, Sir Robert Peel gave his views at length on the Irish questions, which were now taken up in earnest, with a view to their final settlement. The House of Commons having disposed of the Corporation Bill, proceeded on the 2nd of July to consider Lord John Russell's resolutions on the Church question. But Mr. Ward, who was strong on that question, attacked the Government for their abandonment of the Appropriation Clause. He concluded by moving a series of resolutions reaffirming the appropriation principle. His motion was rejected by a majority of 270 to 46. The House then went into committee, and in due course the Irish Tithe Bill passed into law, and the vexed Church question was settled for a quarter of a century. The Municipal Bill, however, was once more mutilated by Lord Lyndhurst, who substituted a 10 for a 5 valuation. The amendment was rejected by the Commons, but the Lords stood firmly by their decision, and a conference between the two Houses having failed to settle the question, the measure was abandoned. In these events the Ministry had incurred much disrepute.George and his soldiers, however, lost no atom of heart; they determined to cut a way through the enemy or die on the ground; and luckily at this moment the enemy committed almost as great an error as Stair had done. Noailles quitted his post in front of the king's army, and crossed the Main bridge to give some further orders on that side; and no sooner did he depart than his nephew, De Gramont, eager to seize the glory of defeating the English, and not aware that the whole British army was at that moment about to bear down upon him, ordered his troops to cross the ravine in their front, and assault the English on their own side. The order was executed, and had instantly the unforeseen effect of silencing their own batteries on the other side of the river, for, by this movement, the French came directly between their fire and the English, which it had been till that moment mercilessly mowing down.

THE DUKE OF BRUNSWICK AND HIS HUSSARS (THE BLACK BRUNSWICKERS). (See p. 590.)

John Gay, a contemporary of Pope, Swift, and Arbuthnot, is now best known by his "Fables" and his "Beggar's Opera." His "Fables" have been extremely popular, and still make him a general name; but, in his own time, his "Beggar's Opera" was his great success. Its wit, its charming music, its popular characters, gave it a universal favour; and it is the only English opera that even to this time has become permanent. Gay's "Trivia; or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London," is still amusing, and some of his ballads have a lightness and buoyancy about them which justify the esteem in which he was held.The Russians were seen to be falling back as they advanced, and Buonaparteimpatient to overtake and rout thempushed forward his troops rapidly. On reaching the river Wilna it was found to be swollen by the rain, and the bridges over it were demolished; but Buonaparte ordered a body of Polish lancers to cross it by swimming. They dashed into the torrent, and were swept away by it almost to a man, and drowned before the eyes of the whole army. On the 28th of June, however, Napoleon managed to reach Wilna, which Barclay de Tolly had evacuated at his approach, and there he remained till the 16th of July, for he had outmarched his supplies, few of his waggons having even reached the Niemen, owing to the state of the country through which they had to be dragged, and the Russians had taken care to carry off or destroy all provisions for man and horse as they retreated. His vast host began, therefore, at once to feel all the horrors of famine, and of those other scourges that were soon to destroy them by hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile, the mission of the Abb de Pradt to Poland had failed. The abb, believing in the reality of the promises of Buonaparte, had faithfully executed his mission. The Poles met in diet at Warsaw, and expressed their gratitude to the Emperor for his grand design of restoring their nation. The country was all enthusiasm, and a host of soldiers would soon have appeared to join his standard, when Napoleon returned them an evasive answer, saying that he could not do all that he wished, as he was under engagement to Austria not to deprive her of Galicia. As to the provinces held by Russia, he assured them thatprovided they showed themselves brave in his cause"Providence would crown their good cause with success." This positive information regarding Austriathis vague statement regarding Russia, at once showed the hollow hypocrisy of the man, and from that moment all faith was lost in him in Poland. To have restored Poland was in the power of Buonaparte, and would have been the act of a great man; but Buonaparte was not a great man, morally: he could not form a noble designhe could form only a selfish one. But he immediately felt the consequences of his base deceit. The Poles remained quiet; nor did the people of Lithuania respond to his calls on them to rise in insurrection against Russia. They saw that he had intended to deceive the Poles, and they felt that, should he make peace with Russia, he would at once sacrifice them. They were about to form a guard of honour for him, but they instantly abandoned the design; and thus his miserable policy destroyed all the effect which he contemplated from the action of the nations on the Russian frontiers.

[473]On the 20th of June, when the Bill was in committee of the Peers, the Lord Chancellor urged his objection to the retrospective clause, as unsettling the rights of property. The report being brought up on the 25th, he repeated his objections, and moved that the retrospective clause should be omitted. The motion was negatived. On the 2nd of July, the day fixed for the third reading, his brother, Lord Stowell, made a similar motion, which was also defeated. The Lord Chancellor moved the insertion of a clause for giving validity to deeds, assignments and settlements made by persons having claims on any property affected by the Bill. The Marquis of Lansdowne opposed this clause, which, he said, would give the Bill the effect of declaring children legitimate and yet disinheriting them"of peopling the House of Lords with titled beggars." This clause having been negatived on a division, the Lord Chancellor proposed another to the same effect, with the addition of the words, "for good and valuable consideration." This also was rejected by a majority. This was too much for the temper of Lord Eldon, so long accustomed to have his way in that House. Irritated at being repeatedly thwarted in his efforts, on declaring the numbers he exclaimed with vehemence, "My lords, ten days ago I believed this House possessed the good opinion of the public, as the mediator between them and the laws of the country; if this Bill pass to-night, I hope in God that this House may still have that good opinion ten days hence. But to say the best of this measure, I consider it neither more nor less than a legal robbery, so help me God! I have but a short time to remain with you, but I trust it will be hereafter known that I used every means in my power to prevent its passing into law." Thenceforth the Lord Chancellor became sulky with his colleagues, feeling himself dragged on by their too rapid progress. He was very reluctant to attend their Cabinet meetings, and absented himself whenever he could make any excuse. In reply to a summons from Mr. Peel, the Home Secretary, to attend a meeting on the Alien Act, he answered that he could not possibly attend, adding, "My absence, however, can be of little, and possibly of no consequence." The Session ended on the 6th of August; the Parliament being prorogued by the king in person.

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Another French fleet, under Admiral Willaumez, left Brest at the same time with that of Lessigues, bound for the Cape of Good Hope, to assist the Dutch troops in defending it. The British, however, having taken it before his arrival, he went cruising about and picking up such stray British merchantmen as he could meet with between the continents of Africa and South America. He then stood away for the West Indies, hoping to be able to destroy the British shipping in the ports of Barbadoes. Failing in that, he made for Martinique, which was still in the possession of the French. Willaumez had but six sail of the line, and the English admirals, Sir John Borlase Warren, who had the same number and a frigate, and Sir Richard Strachan, who had seven sail of the line and two frigates, were in eager quest of him. Meanwhile, Willaumez was attacked by a terrible tempest, and then chased by Strachan in the Chesapeake. Of his six ships of the line he took home only two, and was obliged to burn the British merchantmen that he had taken.

On the 27th of May Mr. Ward brought forward a motion upon this subject. In an able speech he reviewed the state of Ireland, and remarked that since 1819 it had been necessary to maintain there an army of 22,000 men, at a cost of a million sterling per annum, exclusive of a police[372] force that cost 300,000 a year. All this enormous expense and trouble in governing Ireland he ascribed to the existence of a religious establishment hostile to the majority of the people; he therefore moved that "the Protestant episcopal establishment in Ireland exceeds the spiritual wants of the Protestant population; and that, it being the right of the State to regulate the distribution of Church property in such a manner as Parliament may determine, it is the opinion of this House that the temporal possessions of the Church of Ireland, as now established by law, ought to be reduced."This was only interrupted by the cries of " bas Guizot!" " bas les Ministres!" These cries, everywhere received with electrical enthusiasm, were uttered with the greatest bitterness about Guizot's house, where an incident occurred that, whether intended or not, sealed the fate of the Orleans dynasty. The people were pressing on the military, and in the confusion a man named Lagrange stepped forward and shot the commanding officer. The troops then fired point blank into the dense mass, and many were killed. When the firing ceased, a funeral procession was rapidly formed, the bodies were collected and placed upon a large cart, their still bleeding wounds exposed under the glare of torchlight. The effect may be imagined: it thrilled the whole city with feelings of horror and revenge.

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