PARISHES. After the Picture by Clarkson Stanfield, R.A.

The question of Catholic Emancipation was brought forward on the 3rd of May, by Grattan: it was the last time that he did so, but he had the satisfaction of seeing that the question was rapidly advancing, for it was lost by only two votes. A fortnight afterwards Lord Donoughmore introduced a similar motion, in the hope of surmounting this small difference, but, after a long debate, he found the majority increased against it by thirty-nine votes. The closing contest of the Session was for Parliamentary Reform. Sir Francis Burdett brought on his annual motion, on the 1st of July, for the eighteenth time, but was defeated by one hundred and fifty-three votes against fifty-eight. He was seconded by Mr. George Lamb, younger brother of Lord Melbourne, who, however, did not go the length of annual parliaments and universal suffrage. Even at that day, Joseph Hume was for moderate reform, and Lord John Russell was alarmed at anything further than Triennial Parliaments, and the transferring the franchise from certain corrupt boroughs to others not yet represented. Such were the feeble ideas of Reform amongst its self-constituted leaders. Parliament was prorogued, on the 13th of July, by the Prince Regent in person. The Diet issued a counter-proclamation rebutting[398] Catherine's long catalogue of charges seriatim, and denying the right of any nation, under any pretence whatever, to interfere with the internal changes of another nation executed by the proper authorities and representatives of the people. Stanislaus Augustus issued an address to the Polish army, calling upon it to defend the national rights from the domination of Russia. But, unfortunately, Poland was in no condition to cope with the might of Russia. No pains had been taken to organise the army in years past on any scale capable of defending the nation; the new rights conferred on the people were too new to have given them yet any interest in them. Poland, therefore, in all haste, made solicitations for help to Prussia, Austria, Britain, Sweden, and Denmark; but in vain. Sweden and Denmark had, now that Gustavus was dead, determined to have no concern in wars resulting in any way from the French Revolution. Frederick William of Prussia pretended to have foreseen this offence to Russia in the alarming measures of the Diet, and protested that had it not been for these, Russia would never have taken the decided step which she had now done. He, however, coldly professed himself ready to unite with Russia and Austria to restore the former state of things in Poland. As for Austria, she lay cold and neutral in appearance; but though Poland was not aware of it, both Prussia and Austria were in the secret league for the dismemberment of that unfortunate country.

The real fact was, that exertions equally strenuous were all this time being made on the part of the Pretender. As the state of Anne's health became more and more precarious, both parties increased their efforts to secure their ground, and there was a most active and incessant struggle going on round the throne to enable the head of either party to step into it the moment it became vacant. It was considered essential for the claimant to be on the spot, and, therefore, every means was used to induce the queen to admit the Pretender as well as a member of the Electoral House to Court. It was a scheme of the Duke of Berwick, which he communicated to Oxford through the Abb Gualtier, that the queen should be induced to consent to do her brother justice; that he should go to St. James's, and that on the understanding that he consented to allow liberty of the subject and of religion, the queen should pass such Acts as were necessary for the public security on these heads, and that then she should suddenly introduce him in full Parliament.

Before the close of April a great commercial crisis had taken place in England, and Ministers were compelled to make a new issue, by consent of Parliament, of five millions of Exchequer Bills, to assist merchants and manufacturers, under proper security. The sudden expansion of industry which was met by an undue increase of the paper currency rather than bullion, combined[417] with reckless banking, produced the crisis. It was calculated that out of the 350 provincial banks 100 failed. In the circumstances the issue of Exchange Bills was a most successful makeshift. From the Picture by T. R. HARDY.

Both Houses adjourned, by successive motions, to the 10th of March; they then met, and were informed by the Lord Chancellor that, by the blessing of Providence, his Majesty being recovered from his severe indisposition, and able to attend to the public affairs of his kingdom, had issued a commission authorising the holding and continuing of Parliament; and the commission having been read, the Chancellor declared himself commanded to convey to them his Majesty's warmest acknowledgments for the additional proofs they had given of their attachment to his person. Addresses were then moved, as at the commencement of a Session, by both Houses, and also addresses of congratulation to her Majesty the queen; and the same evening the capital was illuminated, and the most sincere joy was evidenced in the happy event of the royal convalescence. On the 8th of April Pitt informed the House that the king had appointed Thursday, the 23rd of that month, as a day of public thanksgiving for his recovery, and that it was his Majesty's intention to go in procession to St. Paul's Cathedral on that day, to return thanks to Almighty God. The House voted thanks for his Majesty's having taken measures for their accommodation on the occasion, and passed a resolution to attend.

A number of satires and other poems appeared at this time which deserve only a mere mention. These are "The Pursuits of Literature," by Thomas James Mathias; "Anticipation," by Richard Tickell, being an anticipation of the king's Speech, and the debates of Parliament; "An Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers," by Mason, under the assumed name of Malcolm Macgregor; "The Rolliad," also a political satire, in 1785. To this succeeded "Probationary Odes," from the same party. These were eclipsed by the publications of Dr. John Wolcot, under the name of Peter Pindar, who for twenty years kept the public laughing by his witty and reckless effusions, in which the king especially was most unmercifully ridiculed. Wolcot had the merit of discovering Opie, the painter, as a sawyer in the neighbourhood of Truro, and pushing him forward by his praises. Of the Royal Academicians he was a relentless enemy, and to them addressed several odes, of the most caustic and damaging kind. Later on came the inimitable poems of the "Anti-Jacobin," written by Canning, Hookham Frere, and others, among which it is sufficient to recall the "Needy Knife-grinder," and the satires on the Addington Administration. But now there came a voice from Scotland that filled with envy the crowd of second-rate poets of London, and marked the dawn of a new era. A simple but sturdy peasantwith no education but such as is extended to every child in every rural parish of Scotland; "following the plough along the mountain side," laboriously sowing and reaping and foddering neat; instead of haunting drawing-rooms in bob-tailed coat and kid gloves, dancing on the barn-floor, or hob-nobbing with his rustic chums at the next pot-houseset up a song of youth, of passion, of liberty and equality, so clear, so sonorous, so ringing with the clarion tones of genius and truth, that all Britain, north and south, stood still in wonder, and the most brazen vendor of empty words and impudent pretensions to intellectual power owned the voice of the master, and was for a moment still. This master of song was Robert Burns (b. 1759; d. 1796). Need we say more? Need we speak of the exquisite beauty of the "Cotter's Saturday Night"?of the fun of "Tam o' Shanter"?of the satiric drollery of his laughter at antiquarian and other pretenders?of the scathing sarcasms on sectarian cant in "Holy Willie's Prayer," and a dozen other things?of the spirit of love and the spirit of liberty welling[186] up in his heart in a hundred living songs?of the law of man's independence and dignity stamped on the page of eternal memory in the few words"A man's a man for a' that"? Are not these things written in the book of human consciousness, all the world over? Do not his fellow-countrymen sing them and shout them in every climate under heaven? At the time when they appeared the poems of Robert Burns clearly showed that true poetry was not altogether extinct, and effectually put an end to that fatal rage of imitation of the artificial school of Johnson and Pope which then prevailed.

Bearing his prizes with him, Rodney proceeded to Gibraltar, carrying great exultation to the besieged rock by the news of such victory and the timely supplies. He sent on some ships to carry similar relief to our garrison at Port Mahon, and, after lying some weeks at Gibraltar, he dispatched Admiral Digby home with a portion of the fleet, and then with the rest made sail for the West Indies. Digby, on his homeward route, also captured a French ship of the line, and two merchant vessels laden with military stores. This blow to the Spanish maritime power was never altogether recovered during the war.

The Irish Bill was read a second time in the House of Lords on the 23rd of July. It was strongly opposed by the Duke of Wellington, as transferring the electoral power of the country from the Protestants to the Roman Catholics. Lord Plunket, in reply, said, "One fact, I think, ought to satisfy every man, not determined against conviction, of its wisdom and necessity. What will the House think when I inform them that the representatives of seventeen of those boroughs, containing a population of 170,000 souls, are nominated by precisely seventeen persons? Yet, by putting an end to this iniquitous and disgraceful system, we are, forsooth, violating the articles of the union, and overturning the Protestant institutions of the country! This is ratiocination and statesmanlike loftiness of vision with a vengeance! Then it seems that besides violating the union Act we are departing from the principles of the measure of 1829. I deny that. I also deny the assumption of the noble Duke, that the forty-shilling freeholders were disfranchised on that occasion merely for the purpose of maintaining the Protestant interests in Ireland. The forty-shilling freeholders were disfranchised, not because they were what are called 'Popish electors,' but because they were in such indigent circumstances as precluded their exercising their[353] suffrage right independently and as free agentsbecause they were an incapable constituency." The Bill, after being considered in committee, where it encountered violent opposition, was passed by the Lords on the 30th of July, and received the Royal Assent by commission on the 7th of August.

He next attacked and took Montereau from the Allies, but at a terrible cost of life. Finding then that the Austrians and Prussians were once more contemplating a junction, he sent an answer to the letter of the Allied sovereigns, but it was addressed only to the Emperor of Austria, and its tenor was to persuade the Emperor to make a separate peace. "Only gain the Austrians," he had said to Caulaincourt, on sending him to Chatillon, "and the mischief is at an end." The Emperor sent Prince Wenceslaus of Liechtenstein to Napoleon's headquarters, and it was agreed that a conference should be held at Lusigny, between him and Count Flahault, on the 24th of February. But Buonaparte did not cease for a moment his offensive movements. On the night of the 23rd he bombarded Troyes, and entered the place the next day. The Congress at Chatillon still continued to sit, Caulaincourt amusing the sovereigns and the ambassador of Great Britain, Lord Aberdeen, with one discussion after another, but having secret instructions from Buonaparte to sign nothing. At length he wrote to him, on the 17th of February, saying, "that when he gave him his carte-blanche it was for the purpose of saving Paris, but that Paris was now saved, and he revoked the powers which he had given him." The Allies, however, continued till the 15th of March their offer of leaving France its ancient limits, and then, the time being expired, they broke up the conference. It is said that as Caulaincourt left Chatillon he met the secretary of Buonaparte bringing fresh powers for treating, but it was now too late. On the 1st of March the Allies had signed a treaty at the town of Chaumont, pledging themselves to combined action against Napoleon, should he still prove to be obstinate.

The repetition of these infamous outrages excited great public indignation, and led to a general demand that something effectual should be done to put a stop to them by rendering the law more prompt and effective, and the punishment more disgraceful. In compliance with this demand, Sir Robert Peel brought in a Bill upon the subject, which was unanimously accepted by both Houses, and rapidly passed into law. Sir Robert Peel in his Bill proposed to extend the provisions of the Act of the year 1800, passed after the attempt of Hatfield on the life of George III., to cases where the object was not compassing the life, but "compassing the wounding of the Sovereign." "I propose," he said, "that, after the passing of this Act, if any person or persons shall wilfully discharge or attempt to discharge, or point, aim, or present at or near the person of the Queen any gun, pistol, or other description of firearms whatsoever, although the same shall not contain explosive or destructive substance or material, or shall discharge or attempt to discharge any explosive or destructive substance or material, or if any person shall strike, or attempt to strike the person of the Queen, with any offensive weapons, or in any manner whatever; or, if any persons shall throw or attempt to throw any substance whatever at or on the person of the Queen, with intent in any of the cases aforesaid to break the public peace, or to excite the alarm of the Queen, etc., that the punishment in all such cases shall be the same as that in cases of larcenynamely, transportation for a term not exceeding seven years." But a more effective punishment was added, namely, public whipping, concerning which Sir Robert Peel remarked, "I think this punishment will make known to the miscreants capable of harbouring such designs, that, instead of exciting misplaced and stupid sympathy, their base and malignant motives in depriving her Majesty of that relaxation which she must naturally need after the cares and public anxieties of her station, will lead to a punishment proportioned to their detestable acts."