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Reign of George II. (Concluded)


A New Subsidy of One Hundred Thousand Pounds voted for Maria Theresa - The Allies beaten at Lauffeld - Bergen-op-Zoom taken by the French- French defeated at Exilles - Anson defeats the French Fleet off Cape Finisterre, and Hawke defeats them off Belleisle - Fox seizes forty of their ships in the West Indies - The Second Son of the Pretender is made Cardinal York - The New Parliament votes Fifteen Millions - Lord Chesterfield recommends Schools and Villages to civilise the Highlanders - The Young Pretender expelled from France - Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle - Treaty concluded there - The Army reduced - British Colony of Nova Scotia founded - The Prince of Wales dies - Prince George created Prince of Wales - Regency Bill passed - The Prince of Orange dies - The case of Mr. Murray - The Queen of Denmark dies - The Gregorian Calendar adopted - Forfeited Estates in Scotland settled on the Crown - Journals of Parliament ordered to be Printed - Disputes regarding the Establishment of the Princess-Dowager of Wales - Twenty Thousand Pounds voted to Mr. Harrison for his Improvement in Chronometers - Bill for the Naturalisation of Jews repealed - Death of Mr. Pelham - Newcastle made First Lord of the Treasury - French Encroachments in Canada - Fleets and Forces sent to America - Finance and England recall their Ambassadors - War in Canada and American Colonies - Fox made Secretary of State - Pitt and Legge recommend War - Operations in the Mediterranean - Admiral Byng arrested - Fox, Newcastle, and Hardwicke resign - The Duke of Devonshire Prime Minister - Calcutta taken by Sajah-u-Doulah - the Black Hole - Clive retakes Calcutta - War against Prussia by France, Sweden, and Russia - Byng tried and shot - Changes of Ministry - Expedition against Rochefort fails - The Duke of Cumberland defeated on the Rhine, and returns to England - Subsidy to Prussia - Riots in England - The English take Cherbourg - Operations in the West Indies, India, and America- War in Germany - Battle of Minden - Boscawen's Victory off Cape Lagos - Wolfe's Conquest of Canada - His Death-Coote's Conquest of Arcot - French land at Carrickfergus - Thurot, the Commander, killed - Lord George Sackville dismissed from the Army - Quebec attacked by the French, and relieved by Lord Colville - Austrians take Berlin, and destroy Breslau - Frederick recovers Berlin - Operations on the Rhine - Death of George II.
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The Scotch rebellion had been a most auspicious circumstance for the arms of France. Marshal Saxe had taken the field, to the surprise of the allies, in the very middle of winter, invested Brussels, and compelled it to surrender on the 20th of February, 1746. One town fell after another; Möns, Antwerp, Charleroi, and, finally, Namur capitulated on the 19th of September, after a siege of only six days. So soon as Cumberland could leave Scotland after the battle of Culloden, he returned to London, in the hope that he should be appointed, covered, as he was, with his bloody laurels, to the supreme command of the allied forces in Flanders, where he flattered himself he could arrest the progress of the French. But that command had been conferred on prince Charles of Lorraine, the emperor's brother, much to the disgust of both Cumberland and the king. On the 11th of October the prince of Lorraine engaged the French at Roucoux, on the Jaar, and was signally defeated; the English cavalry, under general Ligonier, managing to save his army from total destruction, but not being able to stem the overthrow. At the close of the campaign the French remained almost entire masters of the Austrian Netherlands.

In Italy, on the contrary, France sustained severe losses. The Austrians, liberated from their Prussian foe by the peace of Dresden, threw strong forces into Italy, and soon made themselves masters of Milan, Guastalla, Parma, and Placentia. On the 17th of June they gave the united French and Spaniards a heavy defeat near the last-named city, entered Genoa in September, and made preparations to pursue them into Provence.

Philip V. of Spain died on the 9th of July, and his son and successor, Ferdinand VI., showed himself far less anxious for the establishment of Don Philip in Italy - a circumstance unfavourable to France. On the contrary, he entered into some separate negotiations with England. A congress was opened at Breda, but the backwardness of Prussia to support the views of England, and the successes of the French in the Netherlands, caused the congress to prove abortive.

The only other foreign enterprise of this year was an expedition to the coast of Brittany, the object of which was to destroy the ships and stores of the French East India Company at Port L'Orient. The fleet was commanded by admiral Lestock, and the troops by general St. Clair. The whole undertaking was miserably mismanaged. Old Lestock carried along with him his mistress, who seems to have been the real commander on the occasion; and both soldiers and sailors were in a condition of the loosest discipline. The sole result was the burning of some villages, which was a disgrace rather than a glory to England.

In the domestic affairs of the country, the chief were a slight change in the ministry, and the continuance of repressive measures. Lord Harrington, though included in the restored cabinet, felt that he did not enjoy the confidence of the king, and resigned his office, and was succeeded by lord Chesterfield, and Harrington was allowed to take Chesterfield's place as lord-lieutenant of Ireland. The suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was continued for three months longer, though the Scotch rebellion was wholly extinguished, and the whole realm was quiet.

The year 1747 was opened, also, by measures of restriction. The house of lords, offended at the publication of the procedings of the trial of lord Lovat, summoned the parties to their bar, committed them to prison, and refused to liberate them till they had pledged themselves not to repeat the offence, and had paid very heavy fees. The consequence of this was that the transactions of the peers were almost entirely suppressed for nearly thirty years from this time, and we draw our knowledge of them chiefly from notes taken by Horace Walpole and lord chancellor Hardwicke. What is still more remarkable, the reports of the house of commons, being taken by stealth, and on the merest sufferance, are of the meagrest kind, sometimes altogether wanting, and the speeches are given uniformly under fictitious names; for to have attributed to Pitt, or Fox, or Pelham their speeches by name would have brought down on the printers the summary vengeance of the house. Many of the members complained bitterly of this breach of the privileges of parliament, and of "being put into print by low fellows;" but Pelham had the sense to tolerate them, saying, "Let them alone; they make better speeches for us than we can make for ourselves." Altogether, the house of commons exhibited the most deplorable aspect that can be conceived. Pitt and Fox being in office, there was no man of mark or commanding eloquence in the opposition. The ministry had pursued Walpole's system of buying up opponents by place, or pension, or secret service money, till there was no life left in the house. Ministers passed their measures without troubling themselves to say much in their behalf; and the opposition dwindled to Sir John Hynd Cotton, now dismissed from office, and a feeble remnant of Jacobites raised but miserable resistance. In vain the prince of Wales and the secret instigations of Bolingbroke and Doddington stimulated the spirit of discontent; both houses had dwindled into most silent and insignificant arenas of very commonplace business.

The campaign in Flanders commenced with the highest expectation on the part of England. Cumberland had now obtained the great object of his ambition - the command of the allied army; and the conqueror of Culloden was confidently expected to show himself the conqueror of marshal Saxe and of France. But Cumberland, who was no match for marshal Saxe, or any tolerable general under equal circumstances, found the Dutch and Austrians, as usual, vastly deficient in their stipulated quotas. He had all the difficulties of Marlborough, from defective troops and the thwarting tempers of the foreign generals, to contend with, and without Marlborough's genius. The French, hoping to intimidate the sluggish and wavering Dutch, threatened to send twenty thousand men into Dutch Flanders, if the states did not choose to negotiate for a separate peace. The menace, however, had the effect of rousing Holland to some degree of action. When the vanguard of Saxe's army, under count Lowendahl, burst into Dutch Flanders, and reduced the frontier forces of Sluys, Sas van Ghent, and Hülst, the Dutch rose against their dastardly governors, and once more placed a prince of the House of Nassau in the Stadtholdership. William of Nassau, who had married Anne, daughter of George II. of England, was, unfortunately, not only nominated stadtholder, but captain-general and lord high admiral; and, being equally desirous of martial glory with his brother-in-law, the duke of Cumberland, he headed the Dutch army, and immediately began to contend with Cumberland for dictation as to the movements of the army. Cumberland was hot-tempered, and Nassau was ignorant of tactics, conceited, and pertinacious, and the worst evils of disunion prevailed in the allied army. Under these disastrous circumstances, the allies came to blows with the French at the village of Lauffeld, before Maestricht. The Dutch in the centre gave way and fled; the Austrians on the right, under marshal Bathiany, would not advance out of their fortified position; the brunt of the whole onset, therefore, fell upon the English. Cumberland found himself engaged with the whole French army, directed by the masterly mind of Saxe, and animated by the presence of Louis himself. The dispositions of Cumberland were bad, but the bravery of the British troops was never more remarkable. Though it was impossible for them to prevail against such overwhelming numbers, they did not retreat before they had, according to Saxe's own acknowledgment, killed eight thousand French and wounded one thousand. By their own calculation they had destroyed not less than ten thousand of the enemy; but their own loss had been nearly as great before they retired behind the Meuse. They lost four standards and took six of the enemy's. The duke of Cumberland at one time was surrounded by the French and almost taken. The English cavalry showed an impetuous gallantry approaching to rashness. They carried everything before them, till they were outflanked by columns of foot, when they suffered terrible slaughter, and their commander, Sir John Ligonier, was taken prisoner. A French officer, addressing an English soldier who had been made prisoner, said, "If there had been fifty thousand such men as you, we should have found it difficult to conquer." "There were men enough like me," said the soldier, " but we wanted one like marshal Saxe."

Saxe followed up his advantage by dispatching Löwendahl against Bergen-op-Zoom, the key of Holland, and the masterpiece of the celebrated engineer, Cohorn. This was not only amazingly' strong in its fortifications, but had a powerful garrison, and was covered by an entrenched camp of twelve thousand men. The trenches were opened in the middle of July, and might have defied all the efforts of the French, had not baron Cronstrom, the commander, a man of eighty, suffered them to take it by surprise on the 15th of September. The French had led a vast number of men before this place, and its surrender ended the campaign. The English and Dutch took up their winter quarters at Breda, and Cumberland wrote home urgently for fresh reinforcements for the next spring. Pelham replied that it was easier to ask for them than to find them; that the king had engaged thirty thousand, but it was doubtful whether they would appear; that he had applied also to the Danes, but it yet remained to see with what effect. After all, if they got troops, how were they to get the money to pay for them?

Most unexpectedly, however, the French were as desirous of peace as the allies ought to have been. At sea and in Italy they had not been so successful as in Flanders. Admiral Anson had defeated them off Cape Finisterre, and taken six ships of the line, several frigates, and a great part of a numerous convoy; admiral Hawke, off Belleisle, had taken six other ships of the line; and commodore Fox took forty French merchantmen, richly laden, on their way from the West Indies. In fact, in all quarters of the world our fleet had the advantage, and had made such havoc with the French commerce, as reduced the mercantile community to great distress.

In Italy they had been as unfortunate as they had been fortunate in Flanders. In November of 1746 the Austrians and Sardinians, assisted by a British fleet, had entered Provence and bombarded Antibes. They were recalled, however, by the news that the Genoese had revolted, and thrown off the Austrian yoke. In their retreat they were harassed by marshal de Belleisle, laid siege to Genoa in vain, and began to quarrel amongst themselves. The French, to complete their discomfiture, attempted to march another army into Italy under the brother of Belleisle; but they were stopped in the Pass of Exilles, and defeated with the loss of four thousand men and of their commander, the chevalier de Belleisle.

There were great discontent and suffering in France, and marshal Saxe, through general Ligonier, made proposals for peace. He declared himself broken in health, and longing for repose; that the whole French people hated him, and that, if he suffered a single reverse, his very life was not safe; that the king was as desirous of peace as he was: he stated, therefore, that the king of France was ready to give up all his conquests in Flanders except Furnes, and that he would give up that on condition that England did not insist on the demolition of the fortifications of Dunkirk. He claimed nothing anywhere else except the restoration of Cape Breton, and this only in exchange for Madras, which the French had lately taken from the English. Genoa, he proposed, should be made independent, the duke of Modena restored to his dominions, and Spain be included in the treaty.

The news of these overtures gave great delight in England, but the king and Cumberland were bent on continuing the war. Pelham and Chesterfield advocated acceptance of the terms, but Newcastle sided with the king, to gain favour with him. As such terms, however, could not with decency be bluntly rejected, Cumberland solicited and obtained the post of negotiator in the matter for England; but the ministers, desirous of peace, foreseeing that the wishes or the hasty temper of Cumberland would soon ruin every chance of accomplishing a treaty, the earl of Sandwich was sent over to act as assistant to the duke, which meant, to overrule, if possible, the mischief he would be sure to make. Sandwich accordingly hastened over to Holland, and had a secret interview with the marquis de Puisieulx, the French minister for foreign affairs, and, after much dodging on the part of the marquis, he managed to have the discussion removed from military negotiators to a congress at Aix-la-Chapelle.

But the wishes of Cumberland and the king were only too well seconded by the continental powers. They had, for the most part, been making war through the money and blood of England, and, so long as they had an object to gain, cared nothing how much of both these were spent on their behalf. Austria, not satisfied with the restoration of Flanders, was averse to the idea of ceding anything to Don Philip in Italy. Sardinia was equally averse to admit the independence of Genoa, and however much the Dutch might long for peace, the prince of Nassau, like Cumberland, was anxious for martial fame. Russia would be no party to any treaty which did not guarantee to it Silesia, which England and Holland had formally pledged to it. Cumberland, and his interested backers, Maria Theresa, Sardinia, and the rest, contrived to protract the negotiations, whilst military preparations for another campaign were zealously pushed forwards.

Parliament opened on the 10th of November, soon after George's return from Hanover. Ministers had found great difficulty in coming to an agreement on the royal speech. Some were for the peace, some against it, and with the latter was the king. The prevalent feeling was obvious in the speech, when it did come to be spoken. It passed lightly over our defeats in Flanders, and dwelt on our naval victories. It referred to the negotiations for a peace, but at the same time demanded no less than thirteen millions - a war supply which a few years ago would have greatly astonished the nation. This vast sum was voted with scarcely any dissent. In the lords' address Chesterfield managed to introduce a clause which was most honourable to him, but found no response in the royal breast, and little in those of the peers at large. It was to establish schools and villages in the Highlands to civilise the inhabitants, declaring that "the diffusion of knowledge amongst the people would be the best safeguard of their loyalty and tranquillity," It was a sentiment far before the time – one of those little sparks of truth which kindle amid the darkness of a sordid age, and continue to smoulder in silence till they find the proper matter on which to feed and spread. War and party intrigue were the elements of that depressing time; the spark lay unnoticed, but has ßince found winds to fan it, and substance on which to grow.

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