信息网络传播视听节目许可证(许可证号3110483)

Nothing could be more just or more excellent than the sentiments and arguments of this letter; but, unfortunately, circumstances on both sides were such as really precluded any hope of making peace. Great Britain foresaw Italy under the foot of France; Holland and Belgium in the same condition; Bavaria, Baden, Würtemberg, and other smaller German States, allied with France against the other German States. It was impossible for her to conclude a peace without stipulating for the return of these States to the status quo; and was Buonaparte likely to accede to such terms? On the contrary, at this very moment, besides being in possession of Hanover, George III.'s patrimony, he had been exercising the grossest violence towards our Ambassadors in various German States, was contemplating making himself king of Italy, and was forcibly annexing Genoa, contrary to the Treaty of Lunville, to the Cisalpine Republicthat is, to the French State in Italy. Whilst he was thus perpetuating want of confidence in him, on the other hand a league for resistance to his encroachments was already formed between Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, and Austria. Peace, therefore, on diplomatic principles was impossible, and Napoleon must have known it well. True, we had no longer any right to complain of the expulsion of the Bourbons from France, seeing that the nation had ostensibly chosen a new government and a new royal family, any more than France had a right to attack us because we had expelled the Stuarts and adopted the line of Brunswick. But the very nature of Napoleon was incompatible with rest; for, as Lord Byron says, "quiet to quick bosoms is hell." Buonaparte had repeatedly avowed that he must be warlike. "My power," he said, "depends upon my glory; my glory on my victories. My power would fall if I did not support it by fresh glory and new victories. Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest alone can maintain me. A newly-born government, like mine, must dazzle and astonish. When it ceases to do that, it falls." With such an avowal as that, in entire keeping with his character, there must be constant aggressions by him on the Continent which intimately concerned us. Accordingly, the British Government replied to Buonaparte by a polite evasion. As Britain had not recognised Napoleon's new title, the king could not answer his letter himself. It was answered by Lord Mulgrave, the Secretary[500] for Foreign Affairs, addressed to M. Talleyrand, as the Foreign Secretary of France, and simply stated that Britain could not make any proposals regarding peace till she had consulted her Allies, and particularly the Emperor of Russia. The letter of Buonaparte and this curt reply were published in the Moniteur, accompanied with remarks tending to convince the French that the most heartfelt desires of peace by the Emperor were repelled by Great Britain, and that a storm was brewing in the North which would necessitate the Emperor's reappearance in the field.

Amid this melancholy manifestation of a convicted, yet dogged, treason against the people on the part of their rulers, many motions for reform and improvements in our laws were brought forward. On the part of Mr. Sturges Bourne, a committee brought in a report recommending three Bills for the improvement of the Poor Law: one for the establishment of select vestries, one for a general reform of the Poor Law, and one for revising the Law of Settlement. On the part of Henry Brougham, a Bill was introduced for appointment of commissioners to inquire into the condition of the charities in England for the education of the poor. There were many attempts to reform the Criminal Law, in which Sir Samuel Romilly especially exerted himself. One of these was to take away the penalty of death from the offence of stealing from a shop to the value of five shillings, another was to prevent arrests for libel before indictment was found, and another, by Sir James Mackintosh, to inquire into the forgery of Bank of England notes. There was a Bill brought in by Mr. Wynn to amend the Election Laws; and one for alterations in the Law of Tithes, by Mr. Curwen; another by Sir Robert Peel, father of the great statesman, for limiting the hours of labour in cotton and other factories; a Bill to amend the Law of Bankruptcy, and a Bill to amend the Copyright Act, by Sir Egerton Brydges; and finally a Bill for Parliamentary Reform, introduced by Sir Francis Burdett, and supported by Lord Cochrane, subsequently the Earl of Dundonald. All of these were thrown out, except the select Vestries Bill, Brougham's Bill to inquire into the public charities, a Bill for rewarding apprehenders of highway robbers and other offenders, and a Bill granting a million of money to build new churches. The cause of Reform found little encouragement from the Parliamentary majorities of the Sidmouths, Liverpools, and Castlereaghs. This list of rejections of projects of reform was far from complete; a long succession followed. The Scots came with a vigorous demand, made on their behalf by Lord Archibald Hamilton, for a sweeping reform of their burghs. Municipal reform was equally needed, both in Scotland and England. The whole system was flagrantly corrupt. Many boroughs were sinking into bankruptcy; and the elections of their officers were conducted on the most arbitrary and exclusive principles. The Scots had agitated this question before the outbreak of the French Revolution, but that and the great war issuing out of it had swamped the agitation altogether. It was now revived, but only to meet with a defeat like a score of other measures quite as needful. Lord Archibald Hamilton asked for the abolition of the Scottish Commissary Courts in conformity with the recommendation of a commission of inquiry in 1808; General Thornton called for the repeal of certain religious declarations to be made on taking office; and Dr. Phillimore for amendment of the Marriage Act of 1753; and numerous demands for the repeal of taxes of one kind or another all met the same fate of refusal.

THE FLIGHT OF LAWLESS. (See p. 283.)

One of the most appalling of the narratives sent to the Central Committee of the Society of Friends was Mr. William Bennet's account of his journey in Ireland. He left Dublin on the 12th of January, and proceeded by coach to Longford, and thence to Ballina, from which he penetrated into remote districts of the county Mayo. In the neighbourhood of Belmullet he and his companion visited a district which may serve as a representation of the condition of the labouring class generally in the mountainous and boggy districts, where they burrowed and multiplied, more like a race of inferior animals than human beings. "Many of the cabins," wrote Mr. Bennet, "were holes in the bog, covered with a layer of turf, and not distinguishable as human habitations from the surrounding moors, until close down upon them. The bare sod was about the best material of which any of them were constructed. Doorways, not doors, were provided at both sides of the latter, mostly back and front, to take advantage of the way of the wind. Windows and chimneys, I think, had no existence. A second apartment or partition of any kind was exceedingly rare. Furniture properly so called, I believe, may be stated at nil. I cannot speak with certainty, and wish not to speak with exaggeration, we were too much overcome to note specifically; but as far as memory serves, we saw neither bed, chair, nor table at all. A chest, a few iron or earthen vessels, a stool or two, the dirty rags and night coverings, formed about the sum total of the best-furnished. Outside many were all but unapproachable from the mud and filth surrounding them; the scene inside is worse, if possible, from the added closeness, darkness, and smoke.... And now language utterly fails me in attempting to depict the state of the wretched inmates.... We entered a cabin. Stretched in one dark corner, scarcely visible from the smoke and rags that covered them, were three children huddled together, lying there because they were too weak to rise, pale and ghastly; their little limbs, on removing a portion of the covering, perfectly emaciated; eyes sunk, voice gone, and evidently in the last stage of actual starvation. Crouched over the turf embers was another form, wild and all but naked, scarcely human in appearance. It stirred not nor noticed us. On some straw, soddened upon the ground, moaning piteously, was a shrivelled old woman, imploring us to give her something, baring her limbs partly to show how the skin hung loose from her bones, as soon as she attracted our attention. Above her, on something like a ledge, was a young woman with sunken cheeks, a mother, I have no doubt, who scarcely raised her eyes in answer to our inquiries; but pressed her hand upon her forehead, with a look of unutterable anguish and despair.... Every infantile expression had entirely departed; and, in some, reason and intelligence had evidently flown. Many were remnants of families, crowded together in one cabin; orphaned little relatives taken in by the equally destitute, and even strangersfor these poor people are kind to each other, even to the end. In one cabin was a sister, just dying, lying beside her little brother, just dead. I have worse than this to relate; but it is useless to multiply details, and they are, in fact, unfit."

On the Rhine, the war was carried on quite into the winter. The King of Prussia did not stay longer than to witness the surrender of Mayence; he then hurried away to look after his new Polish territory, and left the army under the command of the Duke of Brunswick. Brunswick, in concert with Wurmser and his Austrians, attacked and drove the French from their lines at Weissenburg, took from them Lauter, and laid siege to Landau. Wurmser then advanced into Alsace, which the Germans claimed as their old rightful territory, and invested Strasburg. But the Convention Commissioners, St. Just and Lebas, defended the place vigorously. They called forces from all quarters; they terrified the people into obedience by the guillotine, Lebas saying that with a little guillotine and plenty of terror he could do anything. But he did not neglect to send for the gallant young Hoche, and put him at the head of the army. Wurmser was compelled to fall back; Hoche marched through the defiles of the Vosges, and, taking Wurmser by surprise, defeated him, made many prisoners, and captured a great part of Wurmser's cannon. In conjunction with Pichegru, Dessaix, and Michaud, he made a desperate attack, on the 26th of December, on the Austrians in the fortified lines of Weissenburg, whence they had so lately driven the French; but the Duke of Brunswick came to their aid, and enabled the Austrians to retire in order. Hoche again took possession of Weissenburg; the Austrians retreated across the Rhine, and the Duke of Brunswick and his Prussians fell back on Mayence. Once there, dissatisfied with the Prussian officers, he resigned his command, he and Wurmser parting with much mutual recrimination. Wurmser was not able long to retain Mayence; and the French not only regained all their old positions, before they retired to winter quarters, but Hoche crossed the lines and wintered in the Palatinate, the scene of so many French devastations in past wars. The French also repulsed the enemy on the Spanish and Sardinian frontiers.

The persons now indicted were Thomas Muir and the Rev. Thomas Fyshe Palmer. Muir was a young advocate, only eight-and-twenty years of age. He was brought to trial at Edinburgh, on the 30th of August, 1793. He was charged with inciting people to read the works of Paine, and "A Dialogue between the Governors and the Governed," and with having caused to be received and answered, by the Convention of Delegates, a seditious address from the Society of United Irishmen in Dublin, to the Delegates for promoting Reform in Scotland. He was also charged with having absconded from the pursuit of justice, and with having been over to France, and with having returned in a clandestine manner by way of Ireland. To these charges Muir replied that he had gone to France after publicly avowing his object, both in Edinburgh and London, that object being to endeavour to persuade the French Convention not to execute Louis XVI.; that when in Paris he urged this both on the ground of humanity and good policy, as tending to make constitutional reform easier, as well as the keeping of peace with England; that the sudden declaration of hostilities whilst there had warned him to return, but had closed up the direct way; that that was the reason of his taking a vessel from Havre to Ireland; that he had, however, returned publicly, and surrendered himself for trial at the earliest opportunity.

Holland rose in exultation on the news of the overthrow of Buonaparte at Leipsic. His dominion over that country had been a bitter thraldom. Its sons had been dragged yearly, by conscription, to his great slaughter-houses called battle-fields in distant regions. Their trade had been crushed by his Continental system; their colonies seized by Great Britain; their mercantile sources thus dried upin fact, he had squeezed the wealth and the life out of Holland as out of a sponge, and hordes of French officials maintained an insolent dominance all over the country. At news of the Russian disasters, the Dutch had risen to throw off this hateful and ruinous yoke; but the French forces in Holland had then been sufficient to put them down, and to severely punish them for the attempt. But the necessities in Germany had nearly drained Holland of French troops, and they now rose once more joyfully at Amsterdam, on the 15th of November, and at the Hague on the 16th. They received the most prompt assurances of assistance from Great Britain. A man-of-war was immediately put at the service of the Prince of Orange, and after a nineteen years' exile he embarked on the 25th, and entered Amsterdam on the 1st of December as King of Holland, amid the most enthusiastic acclamations. An army of twenty-five thousand men was soon enrolled; the Allies were at hand; the French authorities fled, after laying hands on all the booty they could carry off; and with the exception of the fortress of[73] Bergen-op-Zoom, the country was speedily cleared of them.

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A Bill for Parliamentary Reform was introduced by Mr. Brand, and debated with unusual interest, owing to the events connected with Sir Francis Burdett, but was, of course, rejected by a large majority. The day for such a measure was yet far off. There was a motion made by Mr. Parnell regarding tithes in Ireland; another by Grattan and Lord Donoughmore for Catholic emancipation; and a third by Sir Samuel Romilly for reform of our criminal codeall necessary, but yet long-to-be-deferred measures. Lord Melville also introduced a plan of great importance into the House of Peers, namely, to substitute Government war vessels for the conveyance of troops to their destinations abroad. He showed that not only was there immense and flagrant jobbing going on between the Government Transport Board and the merchants from whom they hired ships on such occasions, but that these all tended to the misery and mortality of the soldiers; that the transport vessels hired were often not only inconveniently small, necessitating very uncomfortable and unhealthy crowding, but they were also frequently crazy, unseaworthy craft, badly manned, and ignorantly commanded by very ordinary skippers. He showed that a great amount of the mortality attending the transport of our troops to distant shores was owing to this cause, and that all might be avoided, and a considerable pecuniary saving effected, by employing none but Government vessels, roomy and clean, and commanded by officers duly qualified. But no such necessary and humane scheme was likely to be cordially supported by an unreformed Parliament. Mr. George Rose also obtained leave to bring in a Bill for a more questionable object. It was to augment our navy by bringing up the children of such people as became chargeable to parishes at Government naval schools, and thus regularly appropriating them as sailors. He estimated these children at ninety thousand, and calculated that these schools would furnish seven thousand sailor-boys per annum. It was a scheme for a press-gang system commencing with the cradle.

The people might have dragged on a considerable time still in their misery; but the Government was in its death-throes for want of revenue, and Louis XVI., who ascended the throne in 1774, had but little political sagacity. The administration groaned beneath a mountain of debts; the mass of the people were exhausted in their resources; trade was ruined by these causes; and the nobility and clergy clung convulsively to their prescriptive exemptions from taxation. Long before the American war the State was in reality bankrupt. The Prime Minister of Louis XVI., the Count de Maurepas, was never of a genius to extricate the nation from such enormous difficulties; but now he was upwards of eighty years[357] of age; and, besides that, steeped in aristocratic prejudices. Still, he had the sense to catch at the wise propositions of Turgot, who was made Comptroller-General, and had he been permitted to have his way, might have effected much. Turgot insisted that there must be a rigid and inflexible economy introduced into all departments of the State, in order gradually to discharge the debts. The excellent Malesherbes being also appointed Minister of Justice, these two able and good men recommended a series of reforms which must have struck the old and incorrigible courtiers and nobility with consternation. They prevailed in having the Parliament restored, and they recommended that the king should himself initiate the business of reform, thus preventing it from falling into less scrupulous hands, and so attaching the body of the people to him by the most encouraging expectations. Turgot presented his calculations and his enlightened economic plans, and Malesherbes drew up his two memoirs "On the Calamities of France, and the Means of Repairing them;" but they had not a monarch with the mind and the nerve to carry out the only reforms which could save the monarchy. Turgot, who was of the modern school of philosophy himself, and well knew the heads of the school, recommended that they should be employed by Government. Had this been done, the voices that were raised so fatally against the king and Crown might have been raised for them, and the grand catastrophe averted. But Louis could not be brought to listen to any measures so politic; indeed, he was listening, instead, to the cries of fierce indignation which the privileged classes were raising against all reform. Turgot succeeded in abolishing the corves, the interior custom-houses between one province and another, and some other abuses, but there the great plan was stopped. Both Louis and his Minister, Maurepas, shrank from the wrath of the noblesse and the clergy, and desisted from all further reform.