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He rolled another cigarette, and sat smoking it unmoved. And she went into the mess tent.The popular agitation became so alarming, however, that Mr. Stevens, one of its instigators, was indicted and held to bail on a charge of sedition. But this interference with liberty of speech served only to inflame the excitement, and to render the language of the orators more violent. In June, 1839, Mr. Attwood presented the Chartist petition to the House of Commons, bearing 1,200,000 signatures, and on the 15th of July he moved that it should be referred to a select committee, but the motion was rejected by a majority of 289 to 281. This gave a fresh impulse to the agitation. The most inflammatory speakers besides Mr. Stephens were Mr. Oastler and Mr. Feargus O'Connor. The use of arms began to be freely spoken of as a legitimate means of obtaining their rights. Pikes and guns were procured in great quantities; drilling was practised, and armed bands marched in nocturnal processions, to the terror of the peaceable inhabitants. At length, Lord John Russell, as Home Secretary, reluctant as he was to interfere with the free action of the people, issued a proclamation to the lieutenants of the disturbed counties, authorising them to accept the armed assistance of persons who might place themselves at their disposal for the preservation of the public peace. As a means of showing their numerical strength, the Chartists adopted the plan of going round from house to house with two books, demanding subscriptions for the support of the Charter, entering the names of subscribers in one book, and of non-subscribers in the other. Each subscriber received a ticket, which was to be his protection in case of insurrection, while the non-subscribers were given to understand that their names would be remembered. Another striking mode of demonstrating their power and producing an impression, though not the most agreeable one, was to go in procession to the churches on Sunday some time before Divine service began, and to take entire possession of the body of the edifice. They conducted themselves quietly, however, although some were guilty of the impropriety of wearing their hats and smoking pipes.
Whilst matters were in this discouraging condition, Lord Lexington was sent to Spain to receive the solemn renunciation of the Crown of France for Philip and his successors, in the presence of the Cortes, which accordingly took place on the 5th of November. Portugal, also, on the 7th of November, signed, at Utrecht, the suspension of arms, at the same time admitting to the Allies that she did it only as a matter of absolute necessity. The Portuguese had held out firmly till the English refused to give them any assistance, when the Marquis de Bay invaded the kingdom at the head of twenty thousand men, and laid siege to Campo-Major. The English troops in Spain were ordered to separate from those of the Allies under Count Stahremberg, and were marched into Catalonia to embark at Barcelona. The people of that province beheld the English depart with sentiments of indignant contempt. England had first incited them to take up arms and declare for King Charles under the most solemn engagements never to make peace without them. But now they had broken their faith in the most shameless manner, and left them to the vengeance of the French triumphant in Spain. Such on all sides were the facts which forced on the world the conviction of the perfidy of England, which had hitherto borne so fair a reputation.NAPOLEON AT ROSSBACH. (See p. 527.)
The year 1757 opened amid very gloomy auspices. War, of a wide and formidable character, was commencing in Europe, and the House of Commons was called on to vote no less than eight million three hundred thousand pounds for the supplies of the year, and to order fifty-five thousand men for the sea service, and forty-five thousand for the land. The National Debt had now reached seventy-two million pounds, and was destined to a heavy and rapid increase. Pitt commenced the admirable plan recommended years before by Duncan Forbes, of raising Highland regiments from the lately disaffected clans. The militia was remodelled, it was increased to thirty-four thousand, and it was proposed to exercise the men on Sunday afternoons, to facilitate their progress in discipline; but an outcry from the Dissenters put a stop to this. Serious riots, moreover, were the consequences of forcing such a number of men from their homes and occupations in the militia ranks; and the public discontent was raised to a crisis by the voting of two hundred thousand pounds, avowedly for the protection of Hanover. A measure which the nation beheld with astonishment Pitt himself introduced, notwithstanding his many thunderings against the Hanover millstone.
His terms were rejected with disdain. Yet he had a last interview with Metternich, in which he hoped to terrify him by a dread of the future preponderance of Russia; but, seeing that it made no impression, he became incensed, and adopted a very insolent tone towards the Austrian Minister. "Well, Metternich," he demanded, "how much has England given you to induce you to play this part towards me?" Metternich received the insult in haughty silence. Buonaparte, to try how far the diplomatist still would preserve his deference towards him, let his hat fall: Metternich let it lie. This was a sign that the Austrian had taken his part; it was, in fact, the signal of war. Yet, at the last moment, Napoleon suddenly assumed a tone of conciliation, and offered very large concessions. He had heard the news of the defeat of Vittoria. But it was too late. The Congress terminated on the 10th of August, and the Allies refused to re-open it. On the 12th of August, two days after the termination of the armistice, Austria declared herself on the side of the Allies, and brought two hundred thousand men to swell their ranks. This redoubtable force was commanded by her general, Prince von Schwarzenberg.Sir Robert Peel did all in his power to form out of the materials at his disposal a Ministry that should command the confidence of the country. On the 16th he issued an address to his constituents at Tamworth, in which he announced the policy that should guide the new Government. He declared his intention to correct all proved abuses and real grievances; to preserve peace at home and abroad; to resist the secularisation of Church property in any part of the United Kingdom; to fulfil existing engagements with Foreign Powers; to observe a strict economy in the public expenditure; and promised an impartial consideration of what was due to all interests, agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial. He said:"With regard to the Reform Bill itself, I accept it as a final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question; a settlement which no friend to the peace and welfare of the country would attempt to disturb either by direct or insidious means. I will carry out its intentions, supposing those to imply a careful review of old institutions, undertaken in a friendly spirit, and with a purpose of improvement."
THE END OF THE '45. (After the Painting by John Pettie, R.A., by permission of the late Captain Hill.)
Whilst the debate was proceeding, great crowds gathered round the House, and became even more numerous and more agitated. Walpole, irritated by the persuasion that these throngs were collected by the arts of the Opposition, threw out a remark which he afterwards deeply repented. He said gentlemen might call themselves what they liked, but he knew whom the law called "Sturdy Beggars." This phrase, carried out of doors, highly incensed the crowd, who considered that it was meant to cast contempt on the people at large. At two o'clock in the morning, and after thirteen hours' debate, on division there appeared two hundred and sixty-six for the measure, and two hundred and five against. The great increase of the minority struck Walpole with surprise and alarm.