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Reign of George II. (Continued.) page 5


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Parliament met on the 16th of November, when the king told them that he had augmented the British forces in the Low Countries with sixteen thousand Hanoverians and six thousand Hessians. In fact, it had been his design, accompanied by his son, the duke of Cumberland, to go over and take the command of the combined army of English, Hanoverians, Austrians, and Dutch; but the arrival of the earl of Stair, who had been the nominal commander of these troops, and the return of lord Carteret from the Hague, with the news that the Dutch could not be moved, had caused him to give up the idea, and order his baggage on shore again. He assured parliament, however, that the spirit and magnanimity of the queen of Hungary, and the resolute conduct of the king of Sardinia in Italy, had produced the most beneficial effect. He maintained that Sweden had implored his good offices in procuring peace with Russia, and that the defensive alliances which he had made with the king of Prussia and the czarina were events which could not have been expected if Great Britain had not manifested a seasonable spirit in the assistance of her ancient allies, and in maintaining the liberties of Europe. He added that the honour and interest of his crown and kingdom, the success of the war with Spain, the re-establishment of the balance and tranquillity of Europe, would greatly depend on the prudence and vigour of their resolutions.

The usual address, proposed by the marquis of Tweeddale, met with considerable opposition, especially in the upper house, from the earl of Chesterfield. Lyttleton again introduced the place-bill, but it was rejected by the very men who had formerly advocated it. There was another motion made for inquiry into the administration of Walpole, on the plea that inquiry had been shamefully stifled on the former occasion; but it met with the same fate. But on the 10th of December the opposition mustered all its strength on the motion of Sir William Yonge, the new secretary-at-war, that we should pay for the sixteen thousand Hanoverians and the six thousand Hessians, and that a grant of six hundred and fifty-seven thousand pounds should be made for their maintenance from August, 1742, to December, 1743. It was the hard task of Sandys, as the new chancellor of the exchequer, to defend this monstrous grant and the interests of Hanover, after so many years of attack on these topics in opposition. Pitt answered Sandys in the most caustic style of his eloquence, and Sir John Aubyn and others followed as indignantly; but the ministers carried the motion by two hundred and sixty votes against one hundred and ninety-three. Their ablest supporter on this occasion was Murray, afterwards lord Mansfield, who made his first parliamentary speech on the occasion, and showed the delighted cabinet that the man whom they had just made their solicitor-general was capable of contending with that "terrible cornet of horse," Pitt.

But in the house of lords the motion and the millstone of Hanover were dealt with still more rigorously. The earl of Stanhope, the son of the late respected minister of that name, moved an address to beseech and advise his majesty, that, in compassion to his people, loaded already with numerous and heavy taxes, such large and growing debts and greater annual expenses than the nation had before borne, he would exonerate his subjects from the burden of mercenaries engaged without the consent of parliament. The earl of Sandwich followed in terms of great contempt for Hanover, and the duke of Bedford was still more severe. He said that it was a public conviction that the measures of the English ministry were directed to the benefit of the electorate of Hanover instead of that of their own country. That, little as Hanover was, it was a gulf which swallowed up all the wealth of Great Britain. That by it we were involved in all the quarrels of the continent, with which we had no real concern whatever. That the state of Hanover had been changed without any visible cause, since the accession of its princes to the throne of England; affluence had begun to wanton in their towns, and gold to glitter in their cottages, without the discovery of mines, or the increase of their commerce; and new dominions had been purchased, of which the value had never been paid from the revenues of Hanover.

The ministry, the patriot lord Bathurst, and the new earl of Bath, were obliged to defend the measures they had for so many years unsparingly condemned; and the earl of Bath, adopting the very language of Walpole against himself as Mr. Pulteney, declared that it was an act of cowardice and meanness to fall passively down the stream of popularity, and to suffer reason and integrity to be overborne by the noise of vulgar clamour! So pitiable are the exhibitions which men are compelled to make who sacrifice their honour and patriotism for the bare ambition of rank and place! Lord Chesterfield replied in a trenchant exposure of these flimsy sophisms. He condemned the assembling* of troops in Flanders without the consent of parliament, and the payment of Hanoverian soldiers to fight their own battles. Hanover, he said, did not appear to contribute anything to the cause of Austria, but was to be paid by Great Britain at an exorbitant rate for every man it sent into the field; and this we were to pay whilst we had a great army lying idle at home, adding to our burdens. These arguments would have made a still deeper impression on the nation than they did had they not proceeded from the mouths of known Jacobites, who were anxious for succour from France and Spain, which these subsidised troops rendered vain. The nation now felt that there was only too much truth in them, and the sight of the men who had held this same language, now forcing this expense on the nation, for the sake of the king's Hanoverian predilections, did the ministers much damage. They carried the motion by ninety to thirty-five, but they lost weight by their very victory, and it was observed that two members of the cabinet, lords Cobham and Go wer, voted against these measures, at the risk of dismissal, which, however, did not take place.

The year 1743 opened with a mighty struggle on the subject of gin. In 1736 the awful increase of drunkenness, which was attributed to the cheapness of gin, induced a majority of the house of commons to pass an act levying twenty shillings a gallon duty upon the liquor, and charging every vendor of it fifty pounds per annum for a licence. Walpole at the time declared that such an attempt to place gin beyond the reach of the poor consumers would fail; that it would fail equally as a source of revenue, for it would lead to wholesale smuggling and every possible evasion of the law. The event had proved Walpole only too correct in his prognostications. So far from checking the use of gin, the act had stimulated it enormously. The licences, so preposterously high, were wholly neglected; no duty was paid, yet the destructive liquid was sold at every street corner. Neither informers nor magistrates dared to attempt to put the law into force, for the vice was the darling vice of the whole populace, and their lives would have certainly been sacrificed had they opposed themselves to the practice. "To such an extent," says Smollett, who was living at the time, "had this shameful profligacy prevailed, that the retailers of this poisonous compound set up painted boards inviting people to be drunk for the small expense of one penny; assuring them that they might be dead drunk for twopence, and have straw for nothing! They accordingly provided cellars and places strewed with straw, to which they conveyed those wretches who were overwhelmed with intoxication. In these dismal caverns they lay until they had recovered some use of their faculties, and then they had recourse to the same mischievous potion; thus consuming their health and ruining their families in hideous receptacles of the most filthy vice, resounding with riot, execration, and blasphemy."

Ministers now saw that, by attempting too much, everything in this case had been lost. They were sacrificing the revenues only to sacrifice the morals and well-being of the people. They determined, therefore, to reduce the licenses from fifty pounds to one pound per annum, and at the same time to retain a moderate duty on the liquor. By this means the fatal compound would remain much at the same price, but the vendors would be induced to take out licenses, and the revenues would be greatly improved, whilst the whole sale of the article would be more under the restraints of law and police. A bill was framed on these principles, and passed rapidly through the commons, but in the lords it encountered a determined opposition. The whole bench of bishops, untaught by what had been so frightfully open to the public notice, contended that ministers, for the sake of revenue, were about to let loose on the poor the most terrible of vices, as if it could possibly reach a greater height than it had raged at for a long time past. Lords Hervey, Gower, and Chesterfield painted the consequences of the measure in the most frightful colours, yet, when the last nobleman saw the whole bench of bishops voting with the opposition on this occasion, he could not help sarcastically exclaiming, "I am in doubt whether I have not got on the other side of the question, for I have not had- the honour to divide with so many lawn sleeves for several years. "The bill was carried entire," and Smollett adds, "We cannot help averring that it has not been attended with those dismal consequences which the lords in the opposition foretold."

There was another attempt to prosecute the inquiry into the administration of Walpole, but it resulted in showing that the time for this had entirely gone by. Mr. Waller moved for this inquiry, and Sir Watkin Wynn seconded it; but it was rejected by an overwhelming majority. It. was next sought to condemn the conduct of Walpole, by bringing in a bill to secure the independence of corporations, on the ground that Walpole had, according to the secret committee, prosecuted and done all that he could to injure mayors of such as had resisted his measures; but this also was rejected.

The business of the session now hastened to its close. Votes were given for forty thousand seamen and. eleven thousand marines; for. sixteen thousand British troops in Flanders, and twenty-three thousand for guards and garrisons at home. For the year's supplies six millions of pounds were voted, and then parliament was prorogued od the 21st of April. In doing this, George told the houses that he had ordered his army to pass the Rhine to support the queen of Hungary. No sooner had parliament closed, than George, accompanied by his son, the duke of Cumberland, and lord Carteret, hastened off to Germany. The pacific cardinal Fleury had died the preceding January, and that check which he had so long imposed on the martial spirit of France was withdrawn. The young king, absorbed by his own pleasures, left public affairs to his ministers, who were now count D'Argenson, as minister of war, and cardinal Tencin, an ambitious priest of an indifferent character, and who was strongly devoted to the interests of the Stuart family. His sister, Madame de Tencin, who had been a nun, but had soon found conventual restraints totally opposed to her tastes, led a gay and dissipated life, having generally more than one paramour. Chief in her favour had for a long time been Bolingbroke, who was strongly asserted to be, by her, the father of the celebrated revolutionary philosopher, D'Alembert. Bolingbroke had now quitted France and returned to England, where he located himself near Battersea, and still drew round him, and secretly pointed, the efforts of the opposition; but he had long abandoned in disgust the party of the pretender.

Under D'Argenson and Tencin a new stimulus was given to the war. The rebuff which the French arms had met with in Germany, roused them to make fresh efforts. The army of De Broglie, in the command of which he had superseded Maillebois, had retreated to the banks of the Neckar, and their unfortunate ally, the old elector of Bavaria, but now emperor of Germany, a sovereign deprived of his only territory of Bavaria, and destitute of revenue, had taken refuge in the free city of Frankfort-on- Maine. Voltaire, in his "Twelfth Night Verses" for this year, ridiculed the position of the various exiled kings. "The Epiphany; or, Twelfth day," is, in French, called Le Jour de Rois, the Day of Kings; and the witty infidel seized on this idea to laugh at the pretender, rejected by England, telling his beads in Italy; Stanislaus, ex-king of Poland, smoking pipes in Austrasia; the emperor beloved of the French living at an inn in Franconia; and the beautiful queen of Hungary laughing at this epiphany.

The forces which France sent under marshal de Noailles to support Broglie, only arrived just in time. Broglie, keenly pursued by the brave Hungarian cavalry, was still in anxious retreat, when a detachment of the troops of Noailles, twelve thousand in number, came up. He then faced about and endeavoured to keep in check the Austrians under prince Charles of Lorraine. The British army, which the king had ordered to march from Flanders into Germany, to aid the Austrians, had set out at the end of February. They were commanded by lord Stair, and on their route were joined by several Austrian regiments under the duke of Aremberg and the sixteen thousand Hanoverians in British pay, which had wintered at Liege. They marched so slowly that they only crossed the Rhine in the middle of May. They halted at Hochst, betwixt Mayence and Frankfort, awaiting the six thousand Hanoverians in electoral pay, and by an equal number of Hessians, who had been garrisoning the fortresses of Flanders, but who were now relieved by Dutch troops. Stair had now forty thousand men, and might easily have seized the emperor at Frankfort. All parties had respected, however, the neutrality of Frankfort, and Stair did the same, probably because the emperor, having no subjects to ransom him, might have proved rather a burden on his hands, than of any advantages in prosecuting the war.

De Noailles, on his part, had sixty thousand men, independent of the twelve thousand furnished to Broglie. He kept an active eye on the motions of the allied army, and as Stair encamped on the northern bank of the Maine, he also passed the Rhine and encamped on the southern bank of the Maine. The two camps lay only four leagues from each other, presenting a most anomalous aspect. There was still no declaration of war. France had still its ambassador at London, and England at Paris, yet they were fighting against each other as auxiliaries. A ridiculous situation, as Horace Walpole truly styled it, saying, "We had the name of war with Spain without the thing, and war with France without the name!"

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Pictures for Reign of George II. (Continued.) page 5

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Medal in commemoration of the battle of Dettingen.
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