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Buonaparte's army now occupied the city and the right bank of the Danube. The archduke arrived, and posted himself on the left bank. The river was swollen with the spring rains and the melting of the snow in the mountains. All the bridges had been broken down by which Buonaparte might cross to attack the Austrians before they were joined by their other armies. Buonaparte endeavoured to throw one over at Nussdorf, about a league above Vienna, but the Austrians drove away his men. He therefore made a fresh attempt at Ebersdorf, opposite to which the Danube was divided into five channels, flowing amongst islands, the largest of which was one called Lobau. Here he succeeded, the Archduke Charles seeming unaware of what he was doing, or taking no care to prevent it. On the 20th of May the French began to cross, and deployed on a plain between the villages of Aspern and Esslingen. Thirty thousand infantry had crossed before the next morning, and six thousand horse, and they were attacked by the Austrians, near the village of Aspern, about four in the afternoon. The battle was desperately contested on both sides. The villages of Aspern and Esslingen were taken and retaken several times. The struggle went on with great fury, amid farm-yards, gardens, and enclosures, and waggons, carts, harrows, and ploughs were collected and used as barricades. Night closed upon the scene, leaving the combatants on both sides in possession of some part or other of these villages. On the following morning, the 22nd, the fight was renewed, and, after a terrible carnage, the French were driven back on the river. At this moment news came that the bridge connecting the right bank with the islands was broken down, and the communication of the French army was in danger of being altogether cut off. Buonaparte, to prevent this, retreated into the island of Lobau with the whole of the combating force, and broke down the bridge which connected the islands with the left bank behind them. The Austrians followed keenly upon them in their retreat, and inflicted a dreadful slaughter upon them. Marshal Lannes had both his legs shattered by a cannon-ball, and was carried into the island in the midst of the mle; General St. Hilaire also was killed. The loss in killed and wounded on both sides amounted to upwards of forty thousand. For two days Napoleon remained on the island, with his defeated troops, without provisions, and expecting hourly to be cut to pieces. General Hiller earnestly pressed the Archduke Charles to allow him to pass the Danube, by open force, opposite to the isle of Enzersdorf, where it might be done under cover of cannon, pledging himself to compel the surrender of Buonaparte and his army. But the archduke appeared under a spell from the moment that the fighting was over. Having his enemy thus cooped up, it was in his power to cut off all his supplies. By crossing the river higher or lower, he could have kept possession of both banks, and at once have cut off Buonaparte's magazines at Ebersdorf, under Davoust, from which he was separated by the inundation. By any other general, the other armies under his brother would have been ordered up by express; every soldier and every cannon that Austria could muster within any tolerable distance would have been summoned to surround and secure the enemy, taken at such disadvantage. In no other country but Austria could Napoleon have ever left that island but as a prisoner with a surrendered army.

In the House of Lords the comments on the Ministerial measures were characterised by much bitterness, both against the Government and the League; and the Duke of Richmond asked why Mr. Cobden was not created a peer, and placed on the Treasury Bench in the House of Lords? In the Commons the excitement among the Protectionist party was no less manifest; but the crowded House waited impatiently for the Minister's explanations. Lord Francis Egerton moved the Address, giving the key-note of the Ministerial plans by declaring that his own opinions on the Corn Laws had undergone a complete alteration, and imploring the House to come to "a full, satisfactory, and final settlement of the question." Mr. Beckett Denison, who seconded the motion, declared that experience had "driven" him to the same conclusion.

Indeed, the perusal of the debates, in connection with the Royal Speech, threw the whole United Kingdom into a ferment of agitation. Public meetings were held to express indignation at the anti-Reform declaration of the Duke of Wellington. Petitions were presented, pamphlets were published, harangues were delivered, defiances were hurled from every part of the country. It was[323] in these circumstances that the king was invited to honour the City with his presence at the Lord Mayor's banquet, which was to be held on the 9th of November, the day on which the new Lord Mayor enters upon his office. It had been the custom for a new Sovereign to pay this compliment to the City, and William IV. was advised by his Ministers to accept the invitation. The Metropolitan Police force had been recently established. It was a vast improvement upon the old body of watchmen, in whose time thieves and vagabonds pursued their avocations with comparative impunity. The new force, as may be supposed, was the object of intense hatred to all the dangerous classes of society, who had organised a formidable demonstration against the police, and the Government by which the force was established, on Lord Mayor's Day. Inflammatory placards had been posted, and handbills circulated, of the most exciting and seditious character, of which the following is a specimen:"To arms! Liberty or death! London meets on Tuesday next an opportunity not to be lost for revenging the wrongs we have suffered so long. Come armed; be firm, and victory must be ours.... We assure you, from ocular demonstration, 6,000 cutlasses have been removed from the Tower for the immediate use of Peel's bloody gang. Remember the cursed Speech from the Thronethesepolice are to be armed. Englishmen! will you put up with this?" Appeals of this kind, and sinister rumours of all sorts, industriously circulated, created the greatest alarm throughout London. It was reported that a conspiracy of vast extent had been discoveredthat society was on the eve of a terrible convulsionthat the barricades would immediately be up in the Strand, and that there would be a bloody revolution in the streets. The inhabitants prepared as well as they could for self-defence. They put up iron blinds and shutters to their windows, got strong bolts to their doors, supplied themselves with arms, and resolutely waited for the attack. So great was the public consternation that the Funds fell three-and-a-half per cent. in two hours. This panic is not a matter of so much astonishment when we consider that the three days' fighting in the streets of Paris was fresh in the recollection of the people of London. The Lord Mayor Elect, Alderman Key, had received so many anonymous letters, warning him of confusion and riot if his Majesty's Ministers should appear in the procession, that he became alarmed, and wrote to the Duke of Wellington, pointing out the terrible consequences of a nocturnal attack by armed and organised desperadoes in such a crowded city as London. The Duke, thinking the danger not to be despised, advised the king to postpone his visit. Accordingly, a letter from Sir Robert Peel, as Home Secretary, appeared posted on the Exchange on the morning of the 9th. The multitude of sightseers, disappointed of their pageant, were excited beyond all precedent, and execrations against the Government were heard on every side. In fact, this incident, concerning which no blame whatever attached to the Ministers, exposed the Duke of Wellington and his colleagues to a hailstorm of popular fury. The two Houses of Parliament hastily met, in a state of anxiety, if not alarm. Unable to restrain their feelings until the arrival of Ministers to give explanations, they broke forth into vehement expressions of censure and regret. Lord Wellesley more justly described it as "the boldest act of cowardice of which he had ever heard." But the bullionists were still bent on forwarding their scheme, or on throwing the country into convulsions. Lord King announced to his tenants in a circular letter that he would receive his rents in specie or in bank-notes to an amount equalling the advanced value of gold. This raised a loud[12] outcry against the injustice of the act, which would have raised the rents of his farms twenty or more per cent.; and Lord Stanhope brought in a Bill to prevent the passing of guineas at a higher value than twenty-one shillings, and one-pound banknotes at a less value than twenty shillings. There was a strenuous debate on the subject in both Houses. In the Lords, Lord Chancellor Eldon demonstrated the enormity of people demanding their rents in gold when it did not exist, and when, if the person who could pay in notes carried these notes to the Bank of England, he could not procure gold for them. He denominated such a demand from landlords as an attempt at robbery. Yet the Bill was strongly opposed in both Housesin the Commons by Sir Francis Burdett, Sir Samuel Romilly, Brougham, and others. It underwent many modifications, but it passed, maintaining its fundamental principles, and landlords were obliged to go on taking their rents in paper.

THE DUKE OF BRUNSWICK AND HIS HUSSARS (THE BLACK BRUNSWICKERS). (See p. 590.) [121]

Lord North, however, was still sufficiently impressed by the solemn warnings of Chatham and others to attempt a conciliatory measure of his own. Accordingly, on the 20th of February, only ten days after his Bill restrictive of the American trade, and whilst it was progressing, he moved in a committee of the whole House, "That if the Legislature of any of the American provinces should propose to make some provision for the common defence, and also for the civil government of that province, and if such proposal shall be approved of by the king and Parliament, it would be proper to forbear, whilst such provision lasted, from levying or proposing any tax, duty, or assessment within the said province."

(From the Painting by Sir M. A. Shee, P.R.A.)

These disorders appealed with irresistible force to the Government and the legislature to put an end to a system fraught with so much evil, and threatening the utter disruption of society in Ireland. In the first place, something must be done to meet the wants of the destitute clergy and their families. Accordingly, Mr. Stanley brought in a Bill in May, 1832, authorising the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland to advance 60,000 as a fund for the payment of the clergy, who were unable to collect their tithes for the year 1831. This measure was designed to meet the existing necessity, and was only a preliminary to the promised settlement of the tithe question. It was therefore passed quickly through both Houses, and became law on the 1st of June. But the money thus advanced was not placed on the Consolidated Fund. The Government took upon itself the collection of the arrears of tithes and to reimburse itself for its advances out of the sum that it succeeded in recovering. It was a maxim with Mr. Stanley that the people should be made to respect the law; that they should not be allowed to trample upon it with impunity. The odious task thus assumed produced a state of unparalleled excitement. The people were driven to frenzy, instead of being frightened by the Chief Secretary becoming tithe-collector-general, and the army employed in its collection. The first proceeding of the Government to recover the tithes under the Act of the 1st of June was, therefore, the signal for general war. Bonfires blazed upon the hills, the rallying sounds of horns were heard along the valleys, and the mustering tread of thousands upon the roads, hurrying to the scene of a seizure or an auction. It was a bloody campaign; there was considerable loss of life, and the Church and the Government thus became more obnoxious to the people than ever. Mr. Stanley being the commander-in-chief on one side, and O'Connell on the other, the contest was embittered by their personal antipathies. It was found that the amount of the arrears for the year 1831 was 104,285, and that the whole amount which the Government was able to levy, after putting forward its strength in every possible way, was 12,000, the cost of collection being 15,000, so that the Government was not able to raise as much money as would pay the expenses of the campaign. This was how Mr. Stanley illustrated his favourite sentiment that the people should be made to respect the law. But the Liberal party among the Protestants fully sympathised with the anti-tithe recusants.

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At an early hour a crowd was assembled at the queen's residence in South Audley Street. Lady Anne Hamilton, "faithful found among the faithless, faithful only she," arrived a few minutes before five o'clock. Soon afterwards the gate was thrown open, and a shout was raised, "The queen! the queen!" She appeared in her state coach, drawn by six bays, attended by Lady Hood and Lady Anne Hamilton, Lord Hood following in his own carriage. Having arrived at Dean's Yard Gate, it was found that the entrance for persons of rank was Poet's Corner; thither the coachman went, but there he found there was no thoroughfare. After several stoppages she was conducted to the Poet's Corner, and arriving at the place where the tickets were received, Lord Hood demanded admission for the queen. The doorkeeper said that his instructions were to admit no person without a peer's ticket. Lord Hood asked, "Did you ever hear of a queen being asked for a ticket before? This is your queen. I present to you your queen. Do you refuse her admission?" She also said that she was his queen, and desired permission to pass. The doorkeeper answered that his orders were peremptory. Lord Hood then tendered one ticket which he had, and asked the queen whether she would enter alone. After a short consultation she declined, and it was resolved that, having been refused admission to the cathedral church of Westminster, she should return to her carriage. As she quitted the spot, some persons in the doorway laughed derisively, and were rebuked by Lord Hood for their unmannerly and unmanly conduct.