网连中国——穿连各地,纵览全国

Strong as was the majority of Ministers, however, the king did not wait for their resigning. The day after this debate (Thursday, December 18th), the king sent, at twelve o'clock at night, to Fox and Lord North an order to surrender their seals of office to their Under-Secretaries, as a personal interview, in the circumstances, would be disagreeable. Fox instantly delivered up his; but Lord North was already in bed, and had entrusted his seal to his son, Colonel North, who could not be found for some time. The Seals were then delivered to Lord Temple, who, on the following day, sent letters of dismissal to all the other members of the coalition Cabinet. Pitt, though in his twenty-fifth year only, was appointed first Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and on him devolved the duty of forming a new Administration. Earl Gower was nominated President of the Council, and Lord Temple one of the Secretaries of State. When the House of Commons met in the afternoon, Fox imagined, from a motion of Dundas to proceed to business without the usual adjournment on Saturday, that it was the object of the new party to pass certain money Bills, and then resort to a dissolution. Fox opposed the motion, declaring that a dissolution at this moment would produce infinite damage to[304] the service of the nation, and that, should it take place in order to suit the convenience of an ambitious young man (meaning Pitt), he would, immediately on the meeting of the new House, move for an inquiry into the authors and advisers of it, in order to bring them to punishment. This caused Lord Temple, who had occasioned the breaking up of the Coalition, to resign again immediately, declaring that he preferred meeting any aspersions upon him in his private and individual capacity. This certainly removed a great danger from his colleagues, although it rendered the task of his friend and relative, Pitt, still more difficult, in having to form an Administration alone. The Ministry was then filled up thus:Lord Sydney, Secretary of State for the Home Department; the Marquis of Carmarthen for the Foreign; the Duke of Rutland, Lord Privy Seal; Lord Gower became President of the Council; the Duke of Richmond, Master-General of the Ordnance; Lord Thurlow again Chancellor; Lord Howe, First Lord of the Admiralty. With the exception of Pitt, the whole of the Cabinet was drawn from the House of Lords. When the Commons met, on the 22nd, Mr. Bankes said he was authorised by Mr. Pitt, who was not in the House, a new writ for Appleby being moved for on his appointment to office, to say that he had no intention to advise a dissolution. His Majesty, on the 24th of December, having also assured the House that he would not interrupt their meeting after the recess by either prorogation or dissolution, the House adjourned till the 12th of January, 1784.

The Government at once sent Dr. Lindley and Dr. Playfair, two men of science, to Ireland, in the hope that they might be able to suggest remedies for staying the progress of the disease, or preserve that portion of the crop which was still untainted; and the consular agents in different parts of Europe and of America were directed to make inquiries and endeavour to obtain a supply of sound potatoes for seed; indeed, the seed question was even more important than that more immediately pressing one, of how the people were to be fed. In addition to this, early in October, they secretly gave orders for the purchase abroad of 100,000 worth of Indian corn, to be conveyed to Irish ports for distribution among the people. These measures, however, proved of little avail, and meanwhile it grew evident that in a great portion of the United Kingdom a famine was inevitable, which could not fail to influence the price of provisions of all kinds elsewhere. During this time it became known that the harvest, about which opinions had fluctuated so much, would be[518] everywhere deficient. The friends of Sir Robert Peel in the Cabinet who shared his Free Trade tendencies knew then how impossible it was that the already tottering system of the Corn Laws could be any longer maintained. The Ministers had scarcely reached the country seats in which they looked for repose after the labours of the Session, ere the cry of "Open the ports!" was raised throughout the kingdom; but except three, none of them took his view of the gravity of the crisis. All knew that the ports once open, public opinion would probably for ever prevent the reimposition of the duties, and the majority of the Cabinet for a time still adhered to their Protectionist principles.

In the Royal Speech his Majesty recommended that, when this special object was accomplished, Parliament should take into their deliberate consideration the whole condition of Ireland, and that they should review the laws which imposed disabilities upon Roman Catholics, to see whether their removal could be effected "consistently with the full and permanent security of our establishments in Church and State, with the maintenance of the Reformed religion established by law, and of the rights and privileges of the bishops and of the clergy of this realm, and of the churches committed to their charge."

The farmers were not so discontented with this allowance system as might be supposed, because a great part of the burden was cast upon other shoulders. The tax was laid indiscriminately upon all fixed property; so that the occupiers of villas, shopkeepers, merchants, and others who did not employ labourers, had to pay a portion of the wages for those that did. The farmers were in this way led to encourage a system which fraudulently imposed a heavy burden upon others, and which, by degrading the labourers, and multiplying their numbers beyond the real demand for them, must, if allowed to run its full course, have ultimately overspread the whole country with the most abject poverty and wretchedness. There was another interest created which tended to increase the evil. In the counties of Suffolk, Sussex, Kent, and generally through all the south of England, relief was given in the shape of house accommodation, or free dwellings for the poor. The parish officers were in the habit of paying the rent of the cottages; the rent was therefore high and sure, and consequently persons who had small pieces of ground were induced to cover them with those buildings.

C'est le sort le plus beau, le plus digne d'envie!"

CHAPTER V. REIGN OF GEORGE II.(concluded).

THE "VICTORY" AT PORTSMOUTH.

During the winter the Americans had been preparing for war, fabricating and repairing arms, drilling militia, and calling on one another, by proclamations, to be ready. On the 26th of February, 1775, Gage sent a detachment to take possession of some brass cannon and field-pieces collected at Salem. A hundred and fifty regulars landed at Salem for this purpose, but, finding no cannon there, they proceeded to the adjoining town of Danvers. They were stopped at a bridge by a party of militia, under Colonel Pickering, who claimed the bridge as private property, and refused a passage. There was likely to be bloodshed on the bridge, but it was Sunday, and some ministers of Salem pleaded the sacredness of the day, and prevailed on Colonel Pickering to let the soldiers pass. They found nothing, and soon returned.

{ 20 single parishes 20