The battle of Falkirk, which in itself appeared so brilliant an affair for Prince Charles, was really one of his most serious disasters. The Highlanders, according to their regular custom when loaded with plunder, went off in great numbers to their homes with their booty. His chief officers became furious against each other in discussing their respective merits in the battle. Lord George Murray, who had himself behaved most bravely in the field, complained that Lord John Drummond had not exerted himself, or pursuit might have been made and the royal army been utterly annihilated. This spirit of discontent was greatly aggravated by the siege of the castle of Stirling. Old General Blakeney, who commanded the garrison, declared he would hold out to the last man, in spite of the terrible threats of Lord George Murray if he did not surrender. The Highlanders grew disgusted with work so contrary to their habits; and, indeed, the French engineer, the so-called Marquis de Mirabelle, was so utterly ignorant of his profession, that the batteries which he constructed were commanded by the castle, and the men were so much exposed that they were in danger of being destroyed before they took the fortress. Accordingly, on the 24th of January they struck to a man, and refused to go any more into the trenches.

Another dishonourable characteristic of the Ministers of Queen Anne at this period was that they were in secret zealous partisans of the Pretender, and whilst openly professing a sacred maintenance of the Protestant succession, were doing all in their power to undermine it. They had given mortal offence to the Elector George of Hanover, the heir to the Throne, by their treachery to the Allies; and, as the health of the queen was most precarious from her excessive corpulence and gout, which was continually menacing a retreat to her stomach, this was equally a cause for their hastening the peace, however disgracefully, and for paving the way, if possible, for the return of the Pretender at the queen's death. Bolingbroke was the great correspondent with St. Germains, as his letters in the Stuart Papers abundantly show. But Oxford, although always more cunning and mysterious, was equally concerned in it; nor was the queen, if we may believe these remarkable papers, by any means averse from the succession of the Pretender, in spite of his stubborn adhesion to Popery. The Jacobite party was numerous, powerful, and indefatigable. They were in the Ministry and in both Houses of Parliament. At this moment a public appointment was made which filled the Whigs with consternation and rage. This was no other than that of the Duke of Hamiltona supposed partisan of the Pretenderto be Ambassador to the Court of Versailles. Prior was still there, and had all the requisites of a clever and painstaking Envoy; but, being only a commoner and a poet, it did not suit the aristocratic notions of England that he should be accredited Ambassador. Hamilton was appointed, and would thus have had the amplest opportunity of concerting the return of the Stuarts with the base ministers at home. But he was not destined to see Versailles,[9] for, as readers of Thackeray's "Esmond" will remember, he was killed in a duel by Lord Mohun.

The next step in the increase of means of traffic was the construction of canals. The rivers had previously been rendered more navigable by removing obstructions, deepening channels, and making good towing-paths along their banks; but now it was projected to make artificial rivers. In this scheme, Richard Brindley, under the patronage of the Duke of Bridgewater, was the great engineer; and his intrepid genius dictated to him to carry these canals over hills by locks, over rivers by aqueducts, and through the heart of hills by tunnels. These enterprises at that moment appeared, to the ordinary run of civil engineers, as rash experiments, which were sure to prove abortive. As all new ideas are, these ideas, now so commonplace, were ridiculed by the wise ones as little short of madness. Mr. Brindley's first great work was the formation of the Duke of Bridgewater's canal, from Worsley to Manchester. In this he at once proved all his plans of locks, tunnels, and aqueducts. He conducted his canal by an aqueduct over the river Irwell, at an elevation of thirty-nine feet; and those learned engineers who had laughed at the scheme as "a castle in the air," might now see boats passing over the river at that height with the greatest ease, while other boats were being drawn up the Irwell against the stream and under the aqueduct with five times the labour. At Worsley the canal was conducted into the very heart of the coal-mine by a tunnel, with branches, which conducted the boats up to the different parts of the[191] mine, so that the coal could be loaded on the spot where it was dug. The immediate effect of this canal was to reduce coals in Manchester to half the former price; and the canal being extended so as to connect it with the Mersey, at Runcorn, it reduced the freight of goods from Manchester to Liverpool to the same extent, from twelve shillings to six shillings per ton, the land carriage having been forty shillings. Brindley was next engaged to execute the Grand Trunk Canal, which united the Trent and Mersey, carrying it through Birmingham, Chesterfield, and to Nottingham. This was commenced in 1766, and exhibited further examples of his undaunted skill, and, as he had been laughed at by the pedants of the profession, he now in his turn laughed at their puny mediocrity. One of his tunnels, at Harecastle Hill, in Staffordshire, was two thousand eight hundred and eighty yards long, twelve feet wide, nine high, and in some parts seventy yards below the surface of the ground. This tunnel, after half a century's use, was found too confined for the traffic, and a new one, much wider, was made by Telford. By this time the art of tunnelling had made great progress, and whilst Brindley required eleven years to complete his tunnel, Telford made his much larger one in three. Many causes intervened to check for a time the progress of canals, so that from 1760 to 1774 only nineteen Acts were passed for them; but in the two years of 1793 and 1794 no fewer than thirty-six new Bills were introduced to Parliament, with others for extending and amending rivers, making altogether forty-seven Acts, the expenditure on the canals of these two years' projection amounting to five million three hundred thousand pounds. The work now went on rapidly, and investments in canal shares exhibited at that day, in miniature, the great fever of railway speculation at a later period. Lines of canals were made to connect the Thames, the Tweed, the Severn, and the Mersey; so that the great ports of London, Liverpool, Hull, and Bristol were connected by them, and put into communication with nearly all the great inland manufacturing towns. In 1779 a ship-canal was completed from the Forth to the Clydea work proposed as early as the reign of Charles II. This canal, thirty-five miles in length, had thirty-nine locks, which carried the canal to a height of one hundred and fifty-six feet above the sea, and it crossed the river Kelvin by an aqueduct eighty-three feet from the bed of the river to the top of the masonry. A few years later a much larger ship-canal united Gloucester to the Severn, and wonderfully increased the trade and growth of that city. FROM THE PAINTING BY P. JAZET. Some of the most eminent land-owners were clear-sighted and disinterested enough to oppose these views with all their power. The Dukes of Buckinghamshire and Devonshire, the Lords Carlisle, Spencer, Grey, Grenville, Wellesley, and many members of the Commons, voted and protested energetically against them; and the additional restrictions were not carried. But enough had been done to originate the most frightful[120] sufferings and convulsions. We shall see these agitations every remaining year of this reign. The Prince Regent, in his opening speech, in 1816, declared "manufactures and commerce to be in a flourishing condition." But Mr. Brougham at once exposed this fallacy. He admitted that there had been an active manufacturing and an unusual amount of exportation in expectation of the ports of the world being thrown open by the peace; but he declared that the people of the Continent were too much exhausted by the war to be able to purchase, and that the bulk of these exported goods would have to be sold at a ruinous reductionat almost nominal prices; and then would immediately follow a stoppage of mills, a vast population thrown out of employment, and bread and all provisions made exorbitantly dear when there was the least power to purchase. All this was speedily realised. British goods were soon selling in Holland and the north of Europe for less than their cost price in London and Manchester. Abundant harvests defeated in some degree the expectations of the agriculturists, and thus both farmers and manufacturers were ruined together; for, the check being given to commerce, the manufacturing population could purchase at no price, and, in spite of the harvest, the price of wheat was still one hundred and three shillings per quarter. Many farmers, as well as manufacturers, failed; country banks were broken, and paper-money was reduced in value twenty-five per cent.; and a circumstance greatly augmenting the public distress was the reduction of its issues by the Bank of England from thirty-one millions to twenty-six millions.

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. From Boulogne, Buonaparte proceeded to Brussels, Ostend, Antwerp, and so through Belgium, where Josephine met him, to the Rhine. Wherever he appeared, the authorities of the towns, both then and on his return through France, presented him with the most adulatory addresses. One would no longer believe it the same people who had, for[499] ten years, committed such unexampled horrors to destroy the royalty they were now again adoring. The Mayor of Arras, Robespierre's own town, put the climax to all this civic incense by declaring, in his address, that "God made Napoleon, and then rested!"

In the meantime, petitions, memorials, and remonstrances were presented from New York and other places, and from the British inhabitants of Canada, but all were rejected. On the 26th of May George III. prorogued Parliament, and expressed his perfect satisfaction in its proceedings; so utterly unconscious was this king that he was alienating a great empire, and which, indeed, was already virtually gone from him; for during the very time that Parliament had been protesting against even the contemptible crumbs of concession offered by Ministers, war had broken out, blood had flowed, and the Americans had triumphed! On the 16th of June, just as the House was growing impatient for prorogation, Lord North, who earlier in the Session had made some unsuccessful negotiations with the Whigs, announced intelligence which put such prorogation out of the question. He informed the House that the Spanish Ambassador had delivered a hostile manifesto and had thereupon quitted London. On the 17th a Royal Message was delivered, asserting his Majesty's surprise at this act of Spain, and declaring that nothing on his part had provoked it. But it by no means took anybody else by surprise, and the Opposition strongly reproached Government for not giving credit to their warnings on this head. In the Commons, Lord John Cavendish, and, in the Lords, the Earl of Abingdon and the Duke of Richmond, moved that the fleet and army should be immediately withdrawn from America, that peace be made with those States, and all our forces be concentrated in chastising France and Spain, as they deserved, for their treachery and unprovoked interference. They called for a total change of Ministers and measures.

The next day the war against France was proclaimed, and for the righteous cause of restoring the independence of the nations. Prussia, and indeed all Germany, had now been trampled on sufficiently to crush the effeminacy out of all classesto rouse the true soul of liberty in them. Men of every rank offered themselves as the defenders and avengers of their country; the students at this moment not only sung, but aided freedom. The volunteers were formed into Black Bands, and others assumed the dress and arms of the Cossacks, who had won much admiration. They were disciplined in the system of Scharnhorst, and soon became effective soldiers. A leader was found for them after their own heartthe brave and patriotic Blucher, who had been reserving himself for this day, and Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, better tacticians than himself, were appointed to assist him, and carry out all the strategic movements; whilst Blucher, never depressed by difficulties, never daunted by defeat, led them on with the cheer from which he derived his most common appellation of Marshal Forwards"Forwards! my children, forwards!" All classes hastened to contribute the utmost amount possible to the necessary funds for this sacred war. The ladies gave in their gold chains and bracelets, their diamonds and rubies, and wore as ornaments chains and bracelets of beautifully wrought iron.

In this year the Spanish Legion, which had been sent to help the Constitutionalists in Spain was dissolved, after an inglorious career. It had been constantly attacked by the Conservatives in Parliament. Thus, in the Session of 1837, Lord Mahon, who had been Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Sir Robert Peel's Government, reviewed the line of policy pursued by Lord Palmerston. He complained that the public had been kept in a[454] state of ignorance whether they were at peace or at war, and in his opinion it was a peace without tranquillity and a war without honour. The object of the Quadruple Alliance had been to appease the civil dissensions in Portugal, and not to sanction the intervention of France and Britain in Spain. He lamented the policy that led to the additional articles signed in 1834, which stipulated for a certain degree of interference. But Lord Palmerston had thought proper to proceed still further, in suspending the Foreign Enlistment Act, and allowing 12,000 Englishmen to enlist under the banners of the Queen of Spain. More than 540,000 had been already expended in the war; and in Lord Mahon's opinion the influence of Great Britain in Spain had not been augmented by these measures, in proof of which he alleged that British merchants got less fair play there than French merchants. Lord Palmerston defended his policy against the attacks of Lord Mahon and other speakers. The Quadruple Treaty, he contended, contemplated assistance to the Constitutional party in Spain as well as in Portugal. It was concluded because there was a civil war in Portugal; and when the civil war was transferred to Spain, the same parties who took part with Portugal by treaty were bound at an early period to extend its provisions to Spain, its object being expressly "the pacification of the Peninsula by the expulsion of the two Infants from it." He differed widely from Lord Mahon in thinking the suspension of the Foreign Enlistment Act was disgraceful to the Government. Examples of the same kind were to be found in the most brilliant periods of the history of England.


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The House then adjourned for the Easter holidays, till the 7th of May. The interval was one of the greatest possible public excitement. The narrowness of the majority made the Reformers tremble for the fate of the Bill in committee. The awful silence was now broken, and the voice of the nation was heard like peals of thunder. The political unions which had been resting on their arms, as if watching intently the movements of armies at a distance, now started to their feet, and prepared themselves for battle. At Leeds, at Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, meetings were held, strong resolutions passed, and imperative petitions adopted. At Birmingham an aggregate meeting of the political unions of the surrounding districts was held on the 7th of May at the foot of New Hall Hill. Of this vast and formidable assembly, the northern division alone was estimated at 100,000 men, who marched with 150 banners and eleven bands of music, their processions extending over four miles. The total number of bands in attendance at the meeting was 200, and the number of banners 700. The commencement of the proceedings was announced by sound of bugle. A number of energetic and determined speeches was delivered, and a petition to the Lords was adopted, imploring them not to drive to despair a high-minded, generous, and fearless people, nor to urge them on by a rejection of their claims to demands of a much more extensive nature; but rather to pass the Reform Bill into law, unimpaired in any of its great parts and provisions, more especially uninjured in the clauses relating to the ten-pound franchise. The council of the Birmingham union declared its sitting permanent, and the vast organisation throughout the United Kingdom assumed an attitude of resolution and menace truly alarming.

Monsieur and the Duke of Orleans hastened to Lyons, and the Duke of Angoulme to Nìmes. Corps of volunteers were called out, and an address[90] to the people was composed by Benjamin Constant, calling on them to defend their liberties against Buonaparte; and a woman on the staircase of the Tuileries exclaimed, "If Louis has not men enough to fight, let him call out the widows and childless mothers who have been rendered such by Napoleon!" Meanwhile the conspiracy of General l'Allemand and his brother at Lille, to carry over the garrison of eight thousand men to Napoleon, was discovered by General Mortier, and defeated. Had this plot succeeded, Louis and his family must have been made prisoners. But that was the extent of the adhesion to the Bourbon cause.