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Such were the means employed by the British Government in 1817 to quiet the country under its distressa distress the inevitable result of the long and stupendous war. The only idea was to tighten the reins of Governmentto stimulate the sufferers into overt acts, and then crush them. Fortunately, with the exception of the Derby juries, the juries in general saw through the miserable farce of rebellion, and discharged the greater part of Oliver's and Lord Sidmouth's victims. Watson was acquitted of high treason in London on the 16th of June, less than a week after the Derbyshire insurrection. His son had eluded the pursuit of the police. Seventeen prisoners on the like charges were liberated in July in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and were paid seven shillings each to carry them home. On the 22nd of August, of the twenty-four persons that Oliver had entrapped in Yorkshire, twenty-two were dischargedagainst eleven of them no bills being found by the grand juryand the two left in prison were detained there because, under the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, they were not brought up for trial. The Manchester Blanketeers were, in like manner, all discharged, though the Duke of Northumberland did his utmost to stimulate Lord Sidmouth to get them punished. On the country at large the impression was that the Government had propagated a most needless alarm, and that those who had fallen on the scaffold had been exalted by them from poor, ignorant labourers into burlesque traitors, through the execrable agency of their incendiaries, Oliver, Castles, Mitchell, and others.

Meanwhile the French generals, though they saw insurrections rising in every quarter, and though they themselves were located in different parts of the country, distant from each other, entertained no fear but that the steady discipline of their troops, and their own experience, would easily put them down. Murat had quitted Spain to proceed to his kingdom of Naples, which he had received on the 15th of July, and Savary was left at Madrid as Commander-in-Chief, and he found himself in a most arduous and embarrassing post, with so many points to watch and to strengthen for the suppression of the insurrection. The Spanish junta recommended their country, very prudently, to avoid regular engagements, with their yet raw forces, against the veteran armies of France, but to carry on a guerilla warfare, waylaying the enemy in mountains and defiles, cutting off their supplies, and harassing their rear, their outposts, and their foraging parties. The ardour and pride of the Spaniards only too much tempted the men to despise this advice, and whenever they did they severely paid for it. The relentless spirit of the people against the lawless invaders, on the other hand, incited the French to equal ferocity. They treated the Spaniards as rebels in arms against their king; the villages were given up to the plunder and licentiousness of the soldiers. This again fired the Spaniards to retaliation, and they put to death sick and wounded when they fell into their hands. The war thus commenced with features of peculiar horror. The character of the country rendered the conflict the more desperate to the invaders; the fertile regions were separated from each other[555] by vast desert heaths and barren mountains, so that Henry IV. had said truly, if a general invaded Spain with a small army he would be defeated; if with a large one, he would be starved. To collect provisions, the French had to disperse themselves over wide tracts, and thus exposed themselves to the ambuscades and surprises of the Spaniards, every peasant carrying his gun.

On the 8th of April the dissolution of the Peel Administration took place, and on the 18th Lord Melbourne announced the completion of his arrangements. On that occasion Lord Alvanley asked the Premier if he had secured the assistance of Mr. O'Connell and his friends, and if so, upon what terms. Lord Melbourne answered that he did not coincide in opinion with Mr. O'Connell; that he had taken no means to secure his support; that he gave the most decided negative to Lord Alvanley's question; adding, "And if he has been told anything to the contrary, he has been told what is false, and without foundation." In the House of Commons, a few days after, Colonel Sibthorpe spoke of O'Connell as the prompter and adviser of the new Ministry, and said: "I do not like the countenances of the honourable gentlemen opposite, for I believe them to be the index of their minds, and I will oppose them on every point, from the conviction that they could not bring forward anything that would tend to benefit the country. I earnestly hope that we shall have a safe and speedy riddance from such a band." This escapade roused the ire of O'Connell, who instantly rose and said that he thought the gallant colonel's countenance was, at all events, as remarkable as any upon the Ministerial benches. He would not abate him a single hair in point of good-humour. "Elsewhere," he said, "these things may be treated in a different style. There is no creaturenot even a half-maniac or a half-idiotthat may not take upon himself to use that language there which he would know better than to make use of elsewhere; and the bloated buffoon ought to learn the distinction between independent men and those whose votes are not worth purchasing, even if they were in the market." But whilst some little freedom from restrictions for Dissenters was thus forced from the Church, a stout battle was going on, and continued to go on through the whole reign, for giving to the Roman Catholics the common privileges of citizens. On account of their faith they were excluded from all civil offices, including seats in Parliament. We shall see that some slight concessions of both civil and military privilege were, in the course of this contest, made to them; but to the end of this reign, and, indeed, until 1829, the full claims of the Catholics continued to be resisted. We can only cursorily note the main facts of this long-protracted struggle. In the early part of the reign a degree of relief was afforded which promised well for the cause of the Catholics; but these promises were not fulfilled. In May, 1778, Sir George Savile brought in a Bill to relieve the Catholics from the provisions of the Act of 1699 for preventing the growth of Popery. By this Act Catholic priests were not allowed to enter England, and, if found there, were at the mercy of informers; Roman Catholics were forbidden to educate their own children, or to have them educated by Papists, under penalty of perpetual imprisonment; and they were not allowed to purchase land, or hold it by descent or bequest; but the next of kin who was a Protestant might take it. Sir George's Act passed both Houses, and by it all Roman Catholics were restored to the privileges of performing divine service, if priests, and of holding land, and educating children, on taking an oath of allegiance, of abjuration of the Pretender, and rejection of the doctrine that it was lawful to murder heretics, was right to keep no faith with them, and that the Pope or any foreign prince had any temporal or civil jurisdiction within these realms. The consequence of this degree of indulgence to the Catholics was the famous Gordon Riots in London and similar ones in Edinburgh, which had the effect of frightening[166] the Government out of further concessions. A similar Bill was passed in Ireland in 1782. The Bill of 1778, however, was confirmed and considerably extended by a Bill brought in by Mr. Mitford, afterwards Lord Redesdale, in 1791, and, after a long discussion, was passed by both Houses in June of that year. This Bill legalised Roman Catholic places of worship, provided they were registered and the doors were not locked during service; it recognised the right of Catholics to keep schools, except in Oxford and Cambridge, and provided that no Protestant children were admitted. It permitted Catholic barristers and attorneys to practise on taking the new oath; and it removed the penalties on peers for coming into the presence of the king; in fact, it left little disability upon Catholics except that of not being eligible for places in Parliament, or any other places under Government, unless they took the old oaths.

The opening of the year 1840 saw no flagging in the efforts of the Manchester men to bring forward the question, which the Annual Register had just regarded as finally set at rest. It had[484] been determined that a great meeting of delegates should be held in that city. There was no hall large enough to hold half of the then members even of the local association, and it was therefore resolved to construct one. Mr. Cobden owned nearly all of the land then unbuilt on in St. Peter's Fieldthe very site of the Peterloo massacre of 1819. In eleven days one hundred men constructed on this spot a temporary pavilion, which afterwards gave place to the permanent Free Trade Hall, which long continued to be the favourite scene of great political meetings. The Manchester Times described the pavilion as comprising an area of nearly 16,000 square feet. It contained seats for dining 3,800 persons, and 500 more were admitted after the dinner. Among the most conspicuous speakers at the banquet were Daniel O'Connell, Mr. Cobden, and Mr. Milner Gibson; but perhaps the most interesting feature in the proceedings was the operatives' banquet, which took place on the following day. Five thousand working men, overlooked by their wives, sisters, and daughters in the galleries, sat down on that occasion. It was evident from this that the people were emancipating themselves from the advice of evil counsellors, and were beginning to see the importance to their interests of the movement of the League.

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The Christmas holidays necessarily postponed the plans of the conspirators by the Ministers going out of town, and the deaths of the king and of the Duke of Kent produced further impediments by preventing the regular Cabinet meetings. At one moment the plan appeared to be in jeopardy from the Ministers being in danger of dismissal for their refusal to procure the new king a divorce; but all these hindrances only the more enabled Edwards to ply his arts, and stimulate his victims to their destruction. So thoroughly had he brought them to this point, that, on the 19th of February, they came to the resolution to assassinate the Ministers each at his own house, as they could not get them all together; but at this moment Edwards brought them word that the Ministers were going to have a Cabinet dinner the next day. To make sure, they sent out for a newspaper, and finding that it was so, Thistlewood remarked that as there had not been a Cabinet dinner for a long time, there would be fourteen or sixteen there, and it would be a fine haul to murder them all together. The dinner was to be at the house of Lord Harrowby, and it was planned that one of the conspirators should call with a note, and then the rest should rush in and put the Ministers all to death, and bring away the heads of Sidmouth and Castlereagh in bags provided for that purpose. They were then to fire the cavalry barracks by throwing fire-balls into the straw-sheds, and the people rising, as they hoped, on the spread of the news, they were to take the Bank and the Tower.

Sir Robert Peel hoped that by earnestly promoting practical reforms, and improving the institutions of the country in the spirit of his manifesto, he would gradually conciliate a number of members of independent position and moderate views, so that he might be able to secure a working majority. He therefore did not resign when defeated in the first trial of strength on the election of a Speaker; and the same consideration induced him to hold his ground when he was defeated on the amendment to the Address. The House of Commons met for the despatch of business on the 24th of February. The Speech from the Throne, after lamenting the destruction of the Houses of Parliament, congratulated the country on the prevalent commercial prosperity, which, however, was accompanied by a general depression of the agricultural interest. The king, therefore, recommended to the consideration of Parliament whether it might not be in their power, after providing for the exigencies of the public service, and consistently with the steadfast maintenance of the public credit, to devise a method for mitigating the pressure of those local charges which bore heavily on the owners and occupiers of land, and for distributing the burden of them more equally over other descriptions of property. When the Address was moved, an amendment was proposed by Lord Morpeth, which was designed to strike at the very existence of the new Ministry. It was not a direct censure upon their policy, or a formal declaration of want of confidence; but it affirmed a policy materially differing from that which had been announced by Sir Robert Peel. It expressed a hope that municipal corporations would be placed under vigilant popular control; that the undoubted grievances of the Dissenters would be considered; that abuses in the Church of England and Ireland would be removed; and it lamented the dissolution of Parliament as an unnecessary measure, by which the progress of these and other reforms had been interrupted and endangered. This hostile motion gave rise to a debate of intense earnestness, which lasted four nights. It was not easy to predict, during the course of the conflict, which side would be victorious. Even the whippers-in were doubtful of the issue; but the contest ended in the triumph of the Liberals, who had a majority of seven, the numbers being 309 to 302. Of the English members, the Government had a majority of 32; and of the English and Scottish together, of 16; but in Ireland Sir Robert Peel's supporters were only 36, while the Liberals mustered 59.

The Duke of Wellington had some difficulty in producing due subordination among the members of his Government at the outset. At Liverpool, Mr. Huskisson, in addressing his constituents, by way of apology for serving under a Tory chief, said that in taking office he had obtained guarantees for the future Liberal course of the Government. The Duke resented this assertion, and in the House of Lords, on the 11th of February, with some warmth, contradicted the statement, and declared that pledges had neither been asked nor given, and that if they had been asked, they would have been indignantly refused. Mr. Huskisson explained, in the Commons, that by guarantees he had meant only that the past conduct and character of his colleagues furnished pledges for the future course of the Ministry. Another cause of misunderstanding arose, on the 19th of the same month, with reference to the disfranchisement of East Retford. A Bill had been brought in for that purpose. A portion of the Cabinet were for the enlargement of the constituency by taking in the neighbouring hundred of Bassetlaw; but the constituency had obtained permission to be heard by counsel before the Lords, and they produced such an impression that the Duke of Wellington hesitated about the propriety of the measure. Another party were for transferring the members to Birmingham. The course Mr. Huskisson is represented to have taken on this question seems so tortuous that it is not easy to account for it. The Duke of Wellington and Mr. Peel were understood to have advocated in the Cabinet the disfranchisement of East Retford, and the transference of its members to Birmingham. Mr. Huskisson, conceiving that he was in honour bound to adhere to an arrangement that Mr. Canning had made, voted for throwing open the franchise, and carried his point. They produced their Bill accordingly, and were met, as in the kindred case of Penryn, with a counter-proposal for transferring the members to Birmingham. Against this Mr. Huskisson argued, as tending to weaken too much and too suddenly the agricultural interest. The second reading was proposed on the 19th of May, and an animated debate ensued, in which the chief speakers on the Ministerial side were Mr. Peel and Mr. Huskisson. Nobody appeared to suspect that Mr. Huskisson did not intend to support with his vote the measure which as a speaker he had recommended. Such, however, proved to be the fact. A division took place, and Mr. Huskisson and Lord Palmerston, very much to the astonishment of all parties, went into the lobby against the Ministerial proposal. At two o'clock that night Mr. Huskisson wrote a letter to the Duke, which his Grace received at ten in the morning, in which he said, "I owe it to you, as the head of the Administration, and to Mr. Peel, as leader of the House of Commons, to lose no time in affording you an opportunity of placing my office in other hands." The Duke very naturally took this as a resignation, but Mr. Huskisson denied that it was so meant. An irritating correspondence ensued, and Mr. Huskisson left the Cabinet, as he affirmed, against his will. All the followers of Mr. Canning went with himnamely, Lord Dudley from the Foreign Office, Lord Palmerston from the War Office, and Mr. C. Grant from the Board of Control. They were succeeded by Lord Aberdeen as Foreign Secretary, Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald at the Board of Control, and Sir Henry Hardinge as Secretary at War. Such was the constitution of the Government, with all its Liberalism thus expurgated,[264] which repealed the Test and Corporation Acts, and carried Catholic Emancipation. The king was particularly anxious to have a strong Government. He was still firm in his resistance to Catholic Emancipation. The very mention of the subject by his Ministers produced a degree of excitement and irritation which made their intercourse with him occasionally unpleasant. The Duke of Wellington seemed, of all men, the least likely to give way on the subject. In the debate on the Test and Corporation Acts, he said, "There is no person in this House whose feelings and sentiments, after long consideration, are more decided than mine are with respect to the Roman Catholic claims; and I must say that, until I see a great change in that question, I must oppose it."

FIGHTING AT THE BARRICADES IN PARIS. (See p. 551.)