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Reign of George II. (Continued.) page 4

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To remove this obstacle, lord Limerick, the chairman of the committee, then moved that a bill of indemnity should be passed, to exempt witnesses from all penalties in consequence of their disclosures. This passed the commons by a majority of twelve, but was rejected in the house of lords by a large majority. It was there supported by Chesterfield, Argyll, and Bathurst, and opposed by Carteret and Hardwicke, who, as lord chancellor, designated it as an outrage on every principle of our constitution, and, if passed, destructive of all personal security. Enraged by this defeat, lord Strange, the son of the earl of Derby, moved, on the part of the committee, that the opposition of the lords in this matter was an obstruction to justice. It was supported by lord Quarndon, son of the earl of Lichfield, and led to a violent debate, and sharp recrimination betwixt Sandys and the rejected lord of the admiralty, Sir John Hynd Cotton, but was defeated by a majority of fifty-two. The temper of the secret committee was now exasperated to fury; they again called before them the octogenarian Scrope, and handled him with an insolent barbarity disgraceful to any body of men. But the old man who had fought for Monmouth, remained as stanch as he was on Sedgemoor in the days of youth. He said, "I am fourscore years of age, and I care not whether I spend the few months I have to live in the Tower or out of it, but the last thing I will do is to betray the king, and, next to the king, the earl of Orford." The committee had sense enough to dismiss the sturdy old whig, and give him no further trouble.

After contending with such difficulties - for the committee was, in truth, combating with all the powers of the crown - it was not likely that it would produce a very effective report. In fact, desirable as it was that a deep and searching inquiry should have been made, and the mysteries of that long reign of corruption thrown open, the fact that the monarch and the minister had gone hand in hand through the whole of it, was, on the very surface, fatal to any hope of a successful issue; and what rendered this fatality greater was, that the committee too obviously went into the question hotly to crush an old antagonist who had defeated and humiliated them for a long course of years, rather than to serve the nation. When, therefore, on the 30th of June, they presented their report, the feeling, on its perusal, was one of intense disappointment. It alleged that, during an election at Weymouth, a place had been promised to the mayor if he would use his influence in obtaining the nomination of a retiring officer, and that a church living had been promised to the mayor's brother-in-law for the same purpose; that some revenue officers, who refused to vote for the ministerial nominees, were dismissed; that a fraudulent contract had been given to Peter Burrell and John Bristow, two members of the house of commons, for furnishing money in Jamaica for the payment of the troops, by which they had pocketed upwards of fourteen per cent.

But what were these few trifling and isolated cases to that great system of corruption which the whole public were satisfied had spread through the whole administration of Walpole, and which abounded with far more wonderful instances than these? These cases might have been extracted from the most virtuous administration that had ever existed. The very mention of them, and them alone, was a proclamation of defeat. The sole fact which they brought forward, which bore any proportion to the expectation of the public, was that, under Walpole, the amount of secret service money was greater than in any preceding period. The committee selected ten years from the end of the reign of queen Anne, and the commencement of the reign of George I., that is, from 1707 to 1717, and showed that the secret service money during that period amounted to three hundred and thirty-seven thousand nine hundred and sixty pounds, whilst, during the last ten years of Walpole's ministry, it amounted to one million four hundred and fifty- three thousand pounds. That was a striking and palpable fact; but the committee totally failed to discover how this money had been spent. That a large sum had gone to bribe members and electors, there could be no rational doubt; only fifty thousand pounds, however, could be traced as paid to writers of pamphlets and in newspapers, as well as to the proprietors of newspapers, in favour of government; whilst an enormous proportion must have gone to secure foreign alliances, and to keep poor and mercenary courts from swelling the host of our enemies. The result of this inquiry, began with parade, and pursued with much animosity, had the effect of injuring the committee instead of the ex-minister. He had been charged with so much, and convicted of so little, that the resentment of the public was diverted from him to the committee which had so egregiously failed.

It was extremely unfortunate for Pulteney that just at this time Sir Robert Godschall, lord mayor of London, moved for the repeal of the septennial act. This act had been the subject of some of Pulteney's most eloquent and impassioned attacks from year to year, whilst it was defended by Walpole; and now he was compelled by his party to put himself exactly in Walpole's position, and support, by a recreant oratory, what he had so often and so energetically condemned; for he had not yet taken his seat in the lords.

The committee of inquiry, stimulated by the disappointment of the public, began preparations for a fresh report; but their labours were cut short by the termination of the session. In order to conciliate in some degree public opinion, ministers hastened to allow the passing of a bill to exclude certain officers from the house of commons; they passed another to encourage the linen manufacture; a third, to regulate the trade of the colonies; and a fourth, to prevent the marriage of lunatics. They voted forty thousand seamen and sixty-two thousand landsmen for the service of the current year. The whole expenditure of the year amounted to nearly six million pounds, which was raised by a land-tax of four shillings in the pound; by a malt-tax; by a million from the sinking fund; and other resources. They provided for the subsidies to Denmark and Hesse- Cassel, and voted another five hundred thousand pounds to the queen of Hungary.

In the month of July lord Gower was appointed keeper of the privy seal; lord Bathurst, captain of the band of pensioners; and Pulteney took his seat in the peers as the earl of Bath. On the 15th the king prorogued parliament; at the same time assuring the two houses that a peace was concluded betwixt the queen of Hungary and the king of Prussia, through his mediation; and that the late successes of the Austrian arms were in a great measure owing to the generous assistance of the British nation.

In fact, the brave Austrian general, Khevenhöller, had severely chastised the elector of Bavaria, now emperor of Germany, for his assistance of the French and Prussians. He invaded and ravaged Bavaria itself, made himself master of Munich, the capital, and then entered the palatinate and laid it under contributions, in revenge of the prince Palatine sending a body of troops to reinforce the imperial army. The Austrians were soon after obliged, by count Saxe, at the head of Bavarian and French troops, to evacuate Bavaria, but they soon returned. In June the king of Prussia, as George assured parliament, had come to terms with the queen of Hungary, who consented to resign Upper and Lower Silesia, and Glatz, in Bohemia. Frederick engaged to pay the sum lent by the merchants of London to the late emperor on the Silesian revenues; and he was obliged to maintain a strict neutrality during the war, the kings of England, Poland, and Denmark, the czarina, the states- general, and some smaller potentates, being parties to the treaty.

Deserted by the Prussians, the French retired with precipitation to Prague, where they were followed by the Austrian army under prince Charles of Lorraine and prince Lobkowitz. Soon after the grand duke of Tuscany came and took the principal command; and the French offered to capitulate, on condition that they might march away with their arms and baggage. This was refused; but after some time, amid various marchings and counter-marchings of the Austrians under Khevenhöller and general Festilitz, the French under Maillebois, and the Bavarians under Seckendorf and Saxe, marshal Belleisle stole out of Prague in December, and, giving Lobkowitz the slip, made for the mountains with fourteen thousand men and thirty pieces of artillery. Broglie had escaped some time before, and was gone to command the army of Maillebois, who was recalled in disgrace. Belleisle, who, during his retreat, was undergoing tortures from rheumatism of the hip-joint, was carried in a sedan, and displayed unwearied activity in protecting his men and baggage from the harassing pursuit of Lobkowitz. Notwithstanding this, his men perished in great numbers from famine and the severity of the season. They had been reduced to eat horse-flesh before leaving Prague, and now they fell exhausted in the deep snows, and were mercilessly butchered by the Austrian irregulars and peasantry. On the 29th of December he reached Egra, and from that point marched into Alsace without further molestation; but he then found that of the thirty-five thousand troops which he took into Germany, only eight thousand remained. Though this retreat was celebrated as one of the most remarkable in history, the marshal, on reaching Versailles, was received with great coldness. Lobkowitz returned to Prague, and took possession of it.

Whilst these events had been passing in Austria and Bavaria, the king of England had endeavoured to make a powerful diversion in the Netherlands. Under the plea of this movement, sixteen thousand British troops were embarked in April for the Netherlands; but they were first employed to overawe Prussia, which was in contention with Hanover regarding the duchy of Mecklenburg. There were other causes of dispute betwixt Prussia and the elector of Hanover. George having now this strong British force, besides sixteen thousand Hanoverian troops and six thousand auxiliary Hessians, Frederick thought proper to come to terms with him, and, in consequence of mutual arrangements, the Hanoverian troops quitted Mecklenburg, and George, feeling Hanover safe, marched this united force to the Netherlands to join the British ones. He expected the Dutch to co-operate with him and the Austrians, and strike a decided blow at France. But the earl of Stair, who was to command these forces, and who was at the same time ambassador to the States, found it impossible to induce the Dutch to act. They had increased their forces both by sea and land, but they were afraid of the vicinity of the French, and were, with their usual jealousy, by no means pleased to see the English assuming power in the Netherlands. Therefore, after making a great demonstration of an attempt on the French frontier with the united army, the project was suddenly abandoned, and the troops retired into winter quarters.

In the north, the succession of the czarina Elizabeth only caused the war against Sweden to be carried on with more vigour, but the French court was not able to bring over the czarina to join them against the queen of Hungary. Elizabeth sympathised with her sister monarch. She sent her a considerable sum of money; yet, not to appear too much a partisan, she at the same time congratulated the elector of Bavaria on his elevation to the imperial throne. Elizabeth ordered the counts Osterman, Munich, and the other adherents of the deposed czar, to be tried, and they were condemned, but their lives were spared, their sentence being commuted to banishment to Siberia. She was crowned in May, and then prosecuted the war against Sweden with augmented vigour. The-Swedes, who had till then carried all before them, and refused to make peace unless all the conquests of Peter were restored to them, now were driven by general Lasci to surrender at Helsingfors. The Swedish generals, Lewenhaupt and Bodenhock, were condemned to death by a court-martial on their return home.

In Italy, the ambition of the queen of Spain had produced fresh commotions. As she had established her son Don Carlos as king of Naples and Sicily, she now endeavoured to carve out a kingdom in northern Italy for her son Don Philip. The Spaniards had already a large army in northern Italy under the duke of Montemar, and Philip was to march a second army into Savoy. On learning these intentions, the king of Sardinia, who had greatly aided the Spaniards in the conquest of Naples, now suddenly made peace with Austria, and marching against Montemar, drove him to take shelter in the kingdom of Naples. But whilst he was doing this, Don Philip appeared in Savoy with his army, and the king left Montemar and marched against Philip. At his approach Philip retreated into Dauphine. Then the marquis de Minas, an able general, arrived from Madrid to take the command of Philip's army, who compelled the king of Sardinia to retreat into Piedmont, and he himself marched his Spaniards into Savoy. The army of Montemar, now commanded by count Gages, again advanced into Italy as far as the Bolognese and Romagna, where it went into winter quarters, whilst the king of Sardinia and the Austrians took up theirs in Modena and Parma. Thus there was a prospect of sharp fighting in Italy in the spring.

The incursion of Spaniards would have been much greater this summer in Upper Italy had it not been for the spirited conduct of commodore Martin, with five ships of the British line. Don Carlos was mustering a large army to follow that of Montemar under Gages, when Martin suddenly appeared before Naples, and sent in a message to say that the king of England, as the ally of Austria, and at war with Spain, proposed that Naples should maintain a strict neutrality in this war. As Naples was utterly defenceless, and possessed of the meagerest garrison, Don Carlos and his court were thunderstruck. In order, however, to gain time, they sent on board to the British commodore a man of high rank, to enter into a discussion, and put off any decided action. But the commodore was not the man to be played with. He pulled out his watch, laid it on the table, and laconically informed the envoy, that if he did not within two hours receive a satisfactory answer to his proposal, he should bombard the city. This produced its effect: the king at once gave the required promise, and wrote, at the desire of the commodore's emissary, an order to the duke of Castropignano, to quit the Spanish army in Italy, and march home with the Neapolitan troops. The commodore's emissary insisted on reading this letter himself before it was dispatched, and he then returned on board, and the fleet sailed away. After the departure of the fleet, Don Carlos, warned by this startling visit, erected some defences of the city and port, and began to build some ships of war; but he was careful not to violate the neutrality till the Austrians attacked him in his own kingdom.

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