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The year 1829 was distinguished by disturbances in Ireland, as well as distress in England. The 12th of July, the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne, was celebrated with unusual manifestations of defiance by the Orangemen. The country seemed armed for civil war. In the county Clare there was a conflict between the Protestants and Catholics, in which one man was killed, and seven or eight wounded on each side. In Armagh there was a fight, in which ten men lost their lives. In the county Fermanagh 800 Roman Catholics, armed with scythes and pitchforks, turned out and attacked the Protestants, killing four persons and wounding seven. The same party rose in Cavan, Monaghan, and Leitrim, threatening something like civil war. In Tipperary society was so convulsed that the magistrates met, and called upon the Government for a renewal of the Insurrection Act, and for the passing of a law rendering the possession of fire-arms a transportable offence.Immediately after this debate the Government took active steps to crush that spirit of free discussion in books, pamphlets and associations, which no doubt had been greatly stimulated by the excitement of the French Revolution, and which they professed to believe was aiming at the same objectthe destruction of the monarchy. But in attempting to check this spirit, they adopted the un-English plan of fettering the press and individual opinion. Pitt's Government issued a proclamation against seditious books, and societies corresponding with the Republicans across the water; and magistrates were desired to make diligent inquiries as to the authors of seditious books and pamphlets, to put down all mischievous associations, and to take the promptest means of suppressing and preventing riots and disturbances. An Address in approbation of this proclamation was moved by Mr. Pepper Arden, the Master of the Rolls, in the Commons, and a short debate was the consequence. In this Grey and Fox declared that the proclamation was unconstitutional, mischievous, and oppressive; that it was a stimulus given to hot-headed and bigoted magistrates all over the country to invade the freedom of the press and of private life, on pretence of preventing disturbance; that the true constitutional remedy for any wrong opinions promulgated by the press was their regulation by right and sound opinions; that the blow was aimed against the Society of the Friends of the People, and intended to crush Reform, and divide the Whig party; that, in truth, the riots and instigations to anarchy came not from the Reformers, but from the Church, the magistracy, and the Tories; and they appealed for the truth of this to the disgraceful scenes which had occurred at Birmingham. They reminded Government that in 1782 Pitt had joined the Duke of Richmond, Major Cartwright, and Horne Tooke, in a meeting, at the Thatched House Tavern, for Reform; that they, the Whigs, had never gone to the length of Cartwright and Horne Tooke in their principles of Reform, as Pitt had done; and they reproached the Minister with his shameful inconsistency. Lord John Russell, Francis, Lambton, and others, supported Grey and Fox; and Windham, Lord North, Dundas, etc., supported Pitt. The Address was carried; and when sent up to the Lords produced another striking exhibition of the change going on in the Whig party; for the Prince of Wales, who had hitherto been in such close union with them, and had been so zealously supported by them, now rose and gave his decided approbation to the Address, declaring that he had been educated in admiration of the established Constitution, and was determined, so far as in him lay, to support it. These words were received with triumph by the Government party, the Address was carried almost unanimously, and was followed by an immediate prosecution of the "Rights of Man," by the Attorney-General, which caused it to be far more generally read than it otherwise would have been.

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The Duke had little to console him in connection with the general election. In passing the Emancipation Act he had made great sacrifices, and had converted many of his most devoted friends into bitter enemies. The least that he could expect was that the great boon which it cost him so much to procure for the Roman Catholics of Ireland would have brought him some return of gratitude and some amount of political support in that country. But hitherto the Emancipation Act had failed in tranquillising the country. On the contrary, its distracted state pointed the arguments of the Tories on the hustings during the Irish elections. O'Connell, instead of returning to the quiet pursuit of his profession, was agitating for Repeal of the union, and reviling the British Government as bitterly as ever. He got up new associations with different names as fast as the Lord-Lieutenant could proclaim them, and he appealed to the example of the French and Belgian revolutions as encouraging Ireland to agitate for national independence. In consequence of his agitation many Ministerial seats in Ireland were transferred to the most violent of his followers. During these conflicts with the Government Mr. O'Connell was challenged by Sir Henry Hardinge, in consequence of offensive language used by him about that gentleman, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland. Mr. O'Connell declined the combat, on the ground that he had a "vow registered in heaven" never again to fight a duel, in consequence of his having shot Mr. D'Esterre. This "affair of honour" drew upon him from some quarters very severe censure.Lord Anglesey had expressed himself so strongly in his communications with the Government, that he was afraid of being regarded by them as a partisan. He deprecated giving the executive any additional powers, though not without apprehensions of a rebellion, which he believed he had sufficient force to quell, even in the improbable event of foreign aid, upon which some of the Irish people might, however rashly, rely for success. On the 20th of July he wrote: "It appears not improbable there may be an attempt to introduce arms, and finally insurrection. I am quite sure the disaffected are amply organised for the undertaking. They are partially, but ill, armed. Pikes, however, to any amount, and at very short notice, would be easily manufactured, if they are not already made and secreted. Still, I cannot bring myself to believe that the ruling characters are at all inclined to put their cause to the test of arms; and if they do, I cannot imagine how, without foreign aidof which there appears no fearthey can calculate upon success." The priests had become all silent and reserved, even towards those with whom they had hitherto maintained confidential intercourse. No money would tempt them to make a single disclosure, and there was a general impression among them that some great event was at hand. The law officers of the Crown had been consulted as to the expediency of prosecuting some of the agitators for the most violent of their speeches; but their advice was, that it could not be done with any prospect of success, because their most exciting stimulants were accompanied by declarations that they wished only to guard the Government against insurrection, which only concession could prevent. Such being the condition of Ireland, the position of the Government was in the highest degree perplexing. The House of Commons was for Emancipation; the Lords were opposed to it; the king was opposed to it. The strength of political parties was nicely balanced in Parliament, and strong political excitement prevailed on both sides of the Irish Sea. Peel, in view of this state of affairs, says: "I maturely and anxiously considered every point which required consideration, and I formed a decision as to the obligation of public duty, of which I may say with truth that it was wholly at variance with that which the regard for my own personal interests or private feelings would have dictated." His intention was to relinquish office; but he resolved not to do so without placing on record his opinion that a complete change of policy was necessary, that the Catholic question should no longer be an open question, and that the whole condition of Ireland, political and social, should be taken into consideration by the Cabinet, precisely in the same manner in which every other question of grave importance was considered, and with the same power to offer advice upon it to the Sovereign. He also gave it as his decided opinion that there was less evil and less danger in conceding the Catholic claims than in persevering in the policy of resistance. He left London for Brighton soon after the close of the Session, having made a previous arrangement with the Duke of Wellington that he should send him a memorandum explanatory of his views on the state of Ireland and on the Catholic question, and that he should write to the Duke fully in reply. On the 9th of August the Duke wrote to him as follows:"I now send you the memorandum which I sent to the king on the state of Ireland, a letter which I sent to him at the same time, his answer, a memorandum upon the Roman Catholic[281] question which I have since drawn up, and a letter which I wrote yesterday to the Lord Chancellor."The terms which Junot required were that the French should not be considered as prisoners of war, but should be conveyed to France by sea, with all their baggage; that nothing should be detained. These would, in fact, have allowed[561] them to carry off all the plunder of churches and houses, and to this Sir Arthur objected. He said that some means must be found to make the French disgorge the church plate. But the Convention was signed, subject to the consent of the British admiral, Sir Charles Cotton, a condition of importance, seeing that Junot had stipulated that the Russian fleet in the Tagus, commanded by Admiral Siniavin, should not be molested or stopped when it wished to go away. Admiral Cotton objected to these terms, and it was agreed that the Russian fleet should be made over to Britain till six months after the conclusion of a general peace. Commissioners were appointed to examine the French spoil, who recovered the property of the Museum and Royal Library, and some of the church plate; but the French were allowed to carry off far too much of their booty. The definitive treaty was signed at Cintra on the 30th of August, much to the disgust of Sir Arthur Wellesley, who, however, signed it as a matter of form. He then wrote to Lord Castlereagh, to say that he desired to quit the army; that matters were not prospering, and that he had been too successful to allow him to serve in it in any subordinate situation. Indeed, he saw that, left to himself, he could carry victory with the British standard, but that it was impossible to do any good under incompetent men.

Two courses were now open to the Duke of Wellington and to Peelto resign, in order that Emancipation might be carried by the statesmen who had always been its advocates, and who might therefore carry it without any violation of consistency or of their own political principles. It was for not adopting this course that they were exposed to all the odium which they so long endured. But the question was, whether Lord Grey or Lord Lansdowne could have carried Catholic Emancipation even with the aid of the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Peel in oppositioncould have overcome the repugnance of the Sovereign and the resistance of the House of Lords. It was their decided conviction that they could not, especially with due regard to the safety of the Established Church. But being convinced that the time had come when the question ought to be settled, the Duke examined the second course that was open to him, and embraced it. It was this: that postponing all other considerations to what he believed to be a great public duty, he should himself, as Prime Minister, endeavour to settle the question.But these assumptions of new territories and new honours had, as we have seen, alarmed the Northern Powers and Austria. They saw that they could have no peace with such a man, except it were a peace of continual encroachment, humiliation, and slavery, and Russia went so far as to recall her Ambassador, though without a declaration of war.[504] There was the utmost necessity for union, caution, and the exertion of every ability. But the folly and incapacity of those nations appeared to rise in intensity in proportion to the actual need of wisdom, and to the genius of their enemy. Britain, could give them money, but she could not give them talent and sagacity. Before Russia could march down to unite with Austria, Austria, which had so long hung back, and thus delayed the operations of Alexander, now showed as fatal a temerity, and commenced the campaign alone. She rushed into Bavaria, whose Elector, Maximilian Joseph, had entered into league with Buonaparte, in common with Würtemberg and other German States. The Emperor Francis had despatched Schwarzenberg to Munich, to endeavour to prevail on him to unite with Austria against the common enemy of Germany. Maximilian Joseph pleaded that he was quite resolved on doing that, but that his son was travelling in France, and he prayed time to recall him, or Buonaparte would wreak his vengeance upon him. This should have induced Francis of Austria to delay at least a sufficient time for this purpose, especially as it gave another chance for the decision of Prussia in their favour, when it saw the Russians already on the march. Whether the Elector of Bavaria would eventually have kept his promise is doubtful, for Napoleon was, on the other hand, pressing him close, through his Ambassador, M. Otto, to proclaim openly the secret alliance concluded with France.No sooner was this motion made than Spencer Perceval rose to oppose it. Sidmouth worked upon the king's feelings by sending in his resignation, and the Duke of Portland had offered to form a Ministry in accordance with the king's feelings. The Bill was, notwithstanding, brought in, read a first time, and the second reading fixed for the 12th of March. But now it was found that the king, who had previously received the Ministerial proposal without any comment, seeing his way clear with another Ministry, refused even his qualified consent to the prosecution of the measure. The Ministers postponed the second reading to the 18th, promising an after-statement of their reasons. But their reasons were already well known in both Houses of Parliament through the private communications of the embryo Cabinet. On the 25th of March there were motions made in both Houses for an adjournment: this was to allow the new Ministry to be announced in the interval. In the Lords, Earl Grenville seized the opportunity to make some observations in defence of the conduct of his Cabinet during its possession[534] of office. He said they had entered it with the determination to carry these important measures, if possible: the Sinking Fund, the abolition of the Slave Trade, and the relief of the Catholics. He was happy to say that they had carried two of them; and though they had found the resistance in a certain quarter too strong for them to carry the third, they conceived that never did the circumstances of the times point out more clearly the sound policy of granting it. France had wonderfully extended her power on the Continent; peace between her and the nations she had subdued would probably lead Buonaparte to concentrate his warlike efforts on this country. What so wise, then, as to have Ireland attached to us by benefits? With these views, the king, he said, had been induced to allow Ministers to make communications to the Catholics of Ireland through the Lord-Lieutenant, which he had seemed to approve; yet when these communications as to the intended concessions had been made, his Majesty had been induced to retract his assent to them. Ministers had then endeavoured to modify the Bill so as to meet his Majesty's views; but, not succeeding, they had dropped the Bill altogether, reserving only, in self-justification, a right to make a minute on the private proceedings of the Cabinet, expressing their liberty to bring this subject again to the royal notice, as circumstances might seem to require; but now his Majesty had called upon them to enter into a written obligation never again to introduce the subject to his notice, or to bring forward a measure of that kind. This, he said, was more than could be expected of any Ministers of any independence whatever. The point was, of course, of some constitutional importance, but there was much truth in Sheridan's remark: "I have often heard of people knocking out their brains against a wall, but never before knew of anyone building a wall expressly for the purpose."

The Home Secretary thus refers to a letter of Lord Eldon, written to his daughter soon after the event, as follows:"After observing, 'Nothing is talked of now which interests anybody the least in the world, except the election of Mr. O'Connell,' he makes these memorable remarks:'As Mr. O'Connell will not, though elected, be allowed to take his seat in the House of Commons unless he will take the oaths, etc. (and that he won't do unless he can get absolution), his rejection from the Commons may excite rebellion in Ireland. At all events, this business must bring the Roman Catholic question, which has been so often discussed, to a crisis and a conclusion. The nature of that conclusion I do not think likely to be favourable to Protestantism.' It is clear, therefore," continues Mr. Peel, "that Lord Eldon was fully alive to the real character and magnitude of the event."Meanwhile the Whigs were anxious to add fresh security to their own lease of office. At the last election they had procured the return of a powerful majority; but two years out of the triennial term had expired, and they looked with apprehension to the end of the next year, when a dissolution must take place. They were aware that there were still strong plottings and secret agitations for the restoration of the banished dynasty. By both the king and his Ministers all Tories were regarded as Jacobites, and it was resolved to keep them out of office, and, as much as possible, out of Parliament. They had the power in their own hands in this Parliament, and, in order to keep it, they did not hesitate to destroy that Triennial Act for which their own party had claimed so much credit in 1694, and substitute a Septennial Act in its place. They would thereby give to their own party in Parliament more than a double term of the present legal possession of their seats. Instead of one year, they would be able to look forward four years without any fear of[33] Tory increase of power through a new election. On the 10th of April, Devonshire, Lord Steward of the Household, moved the repeal of the Triennial Act, long lauded as one of the bulwarks of our liberties, under the now convenient plea that it had been "found very grievous and burthensome, by occasioning much greater and more continued expenses in order to elections of members to serve in Parliament, and more lasting heats and animosities amongst the subjects of this realm than ever were known before the said clause was enacted."

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Meanwhile, the fleet which was to bear Buonaparte to Egypt was lying in various squadrons in the ports of Genoa, Civita Vecchia, and Bastia, ready, when any adverse wind should drive the British fleet from the coast, where it blockaded them, to drop down to Toulon and join the main body. On board of these vessels were thirty thousand men, chiefly from the army of Italy. Nelson, with a numerous fleet, was maintaining the blockade, though the secret of the fleet's destination had been so well kept that it was only surmised that Egypt might be its destination. Buonaparte himself had been recalled to Paris. A sudden message sent him back to Toulon. A gale had driven Nelson's fleet from the coast, and so much damaged it that he was obliged to make for Sardinia to repair. The moment was come; the different squadrons joined from the Italian ports, and the Egyptian armament issued on the 19th of May from Toulon. Napoleon was on the mission destined, he believed, to conquer Egypt, and thus to place not only a powerful barrier between us and our Indian possessions, but, having established a strong empire in Egypt and Syria, to enable France to maintain a large fleet in the Persian Gulf, and to accomplish the invasion and conquest of British India by land or sea, with the aid of Tippoo Sahib, who was once more at war with[466] Britain. Nay, like another Alexander, the boundless ambition of Buonapartean ambition which was his final ruincontemplated the conquest of all Asia and the founding of a giant empire there. "If St. Jean d'Acre," he said to Las Cases, "had yielded to the French arms, a great revolution would have been accomplished in the East. The general-in-chief would have founded an empire there, and the destinies of France would have undergone different combinations from those to which they were subjected." He would have come back and proceeded to the conquest of Europe.

[See larger version]Buonaparte saw his opportunity, and, making a movement by a body of troops on Bar-sur-Seine, he alarmed Schwarzenberg, who thought he was intending to attack him in full force, and therefore changed his route, separating farther from Blucher. This point gained, Buonaparte marched after Blucher. That general had driven Macdonald from Chateau Thierry, and had established his headquarters at Vertus. Sacken was in advance as far as Fert-sous-Jouarre, and Yorck at Meaux, much nearer Paris than Buonaparte himself. Paris was in great alarm. But Napoleon, taking a cross-country road, and dragging his artillery by enormous exertions over hedges, ditches, and marshes, came upon Blucher's rear, to his astonishment, at Champaubert. Driving in the Russians, Napoleon defeated him, taking two thousand prisoners, and most of his artillery; and being thus posted between Sacken and Blucher, he first attacked and defeated Sacken, destroying or squandering five thousand menabout one-fourth of his divisionand then turned to attack Blucher himself, who was marching rapidly up to support Sacken. Blucher, finding himself suddenly in face of the whole army of Buonaparte, in an open country, fell back, but conducted his retreat so admirably that he cut his way through two strong bodies of French, who had posted themselves on the line of his march, and[79] brought off his troops and artillery safe to Chalons. Napoleon then turned against Schwarzenberg, and on the 17th of February he met and defeated him at Nangis. Such were the immediate consequences of the folly of dividing the Allied forces. In these movements Napoleon displayed a military ability equal to that of any part of his career.But unfortunately for the Pretender, at the moment that the Swedish hero should prepare his armament for the earliest spring, the conspiracy exploded. Whilst the leaders of it had been flattering themselves that it was conducted with the profoundest secrecy, the English Ministry were in possession of its clue. As early as October they had found reason to induce them to intercept the correspondence of Gyllenborg, and had come at once on the letters of Gortz. The matter was kept close, and as nothing was apprehended in winter, Ministers used the time to improve their knowledge of the scheme from the inspected letters passing between Gortz and Gyllenborg. On the king's return it was resolved to act, and accordingly Stanhope laid the information regarding this formidable conspiracy before the Council, and proposed that the Swedish Minister, who had clearly, by conspiring against the Government to which he was accredited, violated the law of nations, and deprived himself of its protection, should be arrested. The Cabinet at once assented to the proposal, and General Wade, a man of firm and resolute military habits, was ordered to make the arrest of the Ambassador. The general found[37] Count Gyllenborg busy making up his despatches, which, after announcing laconically his errand, Wade took possession of, and then demanded the contents of his escritoire. The Dutch Government acted in the same manner to Gortz, and the evidence thus obtained was most conclusive.



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