百年前的"天上人间":还原最真实的八大胡同

Whilst Dumouriez had thus overrun the Netherlands, other French generals had been equally pushing on aggressions. Custine, with about twenty thousand men, had marched upon the German towns on the Rhine; had taken Spires, Worms, and Mayence by the 21st of October. These towns abounded with Democrats, who had imbibed the grand doctrine of the Rights of Man, and laboured, to their cost, under the same delusion as the Belgiansthat the French were coming solely for their liberation and advantage. Custine advanced to Frankfort-on-the-Main, which he plundered without mercy. Custine called loudly for co-operation from Kellermann; but Kellermann not complying, he was superseded by Beurnonville, who was ordered to take Trves. He attempted it, but too late in the season, and failed. Custine, who had advanced too far from the main army to support his position, still, however, garrisoned Frankfort with two thousand men, and took up his own quarters at Ober-Ursel and Homburg, a little below Frankfort, in the commencement of December.

At the same unfortunate juncture, the king[196] insisted on Lord North demanding from Parliament half a million for the liquidation of his debts, though he possessed a civil list of eight hundred thousand a-year. Simple as were the habits of George and his queen, the most reckless disregard of economy was practised in his household. No means were taken to check the rapacity of his tradesmen, and it was shown that even for the one item of the royal coach, in 1762, there had been charged seven thousand five hundred and sixty-two pounds! The Commons voted the half million, the public grumbled, and the popularity of Wilkes, the great champion of reform, rose higher than ever. A fourth time the freeholders of Middlesex nominated him as their candidate; and on this occasion a fresh Government nominee presented himself. This was Colonel Henry Lawes Luttrell. Two other candidates, encouraged by Luttrell's appearance, came forward; and on the 13th of April the list of the poll, which had gone off quietly, showed Wilkes one thousand one hundred and forty-three; Luttrell, two hundred and ninety-six; Whitaker, five; and Roach, none. The landowners, headed by the Duke of Richmond, had established an Anti-League League, for counteracting the Manchester men with their own weaponsan association which the satirists of the day represented by a slightly modified picture[515] from the fable of the frog and the bull. To those, however, who read only the tracts of the Anti-League League, it doubtless appeared that the torrent was to some degree arrested. It began to be asserted that the League was extinct, that the country was sick of its incessant agitation, and that Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright were about to "back out." These, however, were not the views of the League men. The lists of voters, the freehold land scheme, and the gathering in of that 100,000 fund which was now fast approaching completion, furnished them with abundant employment, and their campaign was carried on with a success which gave sure promise of the final capture of the stronghold of the enemy.

Having thus accomplished their mission, the two armies returned in triumph to India. Lord Ellenborough was delighted, though he only thwarted his generals. He was now at Simla, in the very house whence his predecessor had issued his proclamation for the restoration of Shah Sujah, which had been the cause of all our disasters. On the 1st of October, the anniversary of the day when, two years before, he had reversed the policy of Lord Auckland, he issued a proclamation from the same room. It is a well-written State paper, ably reviewing the situation of Indian affairs and clearly announcing the future policy of our Indian Government. It is historically important, and deserves to be permanently recorded in the history of England:"The Government of India directed its army to pass the Indus, in order to expel from Afghanistan a chief believed to be hostile to British interests, and to replace upon his throne a Sovereign represented to be friendly to those interests and popular with his former subjects. The chief believed to be hostile became a prisoner, and the Sovereign represented to be popular was replaced upon his throne; but after events which brought into question his fidelity to the Government by which he was restored, he lost by the hands of an assassin the throne he had only held[504] amidst insurrections, and his death was preceded and followed by still existing anarchy.[4] Disasters unparalleled in their extent, unless by the errors in which they originated, and by the treachery by which they were completed, have in one short campaign been avenged upon every scene of past misfortune; and repeated victories in the field, and the capture of the cities and citadels of Ghuznee and Cabul, have again attached the opinion of invincibility to the British arms. The British armies in possession of Afghanistan will now be withdrawn to the Sutlej. The Governor-General will leave it to the Afghans themselves to create a government, amidst the anarchy which is the consequence of their crimes. To force the Sovereign upon a reluctant people would be as inconsistent with the policy as it is with the principles of the British Government, tending to place the arms and resources of that people at the disposal of the first invader, and to impose the burden of supporting a Sovereign without the prospect of benefit from his alliance. The Governor-General will willingly recognise any Government approved by the Afghans themselves, which shall appear desirous and capable of maintaining friendly relations with neighbouring States. Content with the limits Nature appears to have assigned to its empire, the Government of India will devote all its efforts to the establishment and maintenance of general peace, to the protection of the sovereigns and chiefs, its allies, and to the prosperity and happiness of its own faithful subjects."

Cleaves the dark air, and asks no star but thee!