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Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 14


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Whilst the people of England were awaiting, in gloomy anticipation, the news of our discomfiture in Canada, in three days after Wolfe's desponding letter came f the news of his victory and his death, with the assurance that the capital of Canada was in our hands, and, in effect, that that great colony was our own. The effect may be conceived. Astonishment, sorrow, and rejoicing were wonderfully mingled; mourning was worn by all classes for the fallen conqueror. His remains were soon after received with the highest honours, and laid by those of his father in the parish church of Greenwich. A monument in Westminster Abbey was proposed for him by Pitt, and unanimously voted by the commons. Since then, at the suggestion of lord Dalhousie, the people of Quebec, who are a mixture of French and English, have raised an obelisk in the government gardens of that city, bearing the names of both Wolfe and Montcalm. There also stands a small column on the Heights of Abraham, marking the spot where Wolfe fell.

Whilst this glorious news came from the west, from the east kept coming tidings equally stirring. In India colonel Coote, afterwards famous as Sir Eyre Coote, defeated the French under Lally, and made himself master of all Arcot. General Ford defeated the marquis de Conflans, and took Masulipatam, and afterwards defeated a detachment of Dutch, which had landed from Java to aid our enemies in Bengal. Ford completely routed them, and took the seven ships which had brought them over, and which lay in the Hooghley.

At sea, Sir Edward Hawke attacked the French fleet under admiral Conflans at the mouth of the Vilaine in Quiberon Bay. The situation, amid rocks and shoals, and with a sea running high, so late in the year as the 20th of November, was most perilous, but Hawke scorned all danger, attacked the French fleet close under their own shores, took two men-of-war, sunk four more, including the admiral's ship, the "Soleil Royal," and caused the rest, more or less damaged, to take refuge up the river. Two of our own vessels were stranded in the night, but their crews and stores were saved. For this brilliant action, which crippled the French navy for the remainder of the war, Hawke was thanked by parliament, received from the king a pension of one thousand five hundred pounds a-year for his own and his son's life, and, in the next reign, was raised to the peerage. Thurot, meantime, had escaped out of Dunkirk, but with only five ships, which kept out of the way by seeking shelter in the ports of Sweden and Norway.

In Germany, Frederick of Prussia was hard put to it. A fresh army of Russians, under general Soltikow, advanced to the Oder, and another army of Austrians, under Laudohn, advanced to form a junction with them. To prevent this, Frederick sent general Wedel to encounter the Russians, but he was defeated by them on the 23rd of July, with heavy loss. Frederick himself then hastened against them, but, before his arrival, the Austrians had joined Soltikow, making a united force of sixty thousand, which Frederick attacked, on the 12th of August, with forty-eight thousand, at the village of Kunersdorff, close to Frankfort- on-the-Oder. At first, he was successful; but, attempting to push his advantages, he was completely beaten, the whole of his army being killed or scattered to three thousand men. So completely did his ruin now seem accomplished, that, expecting the Russians, Austrians, Poles, Swedes, and Saxons, to come down on him on all sides, he once more contemplated taking the poison that he still carried about him; wrote a letter to that effect to his prime minister, and directed the oath of allegiance to be taken to his nephew, and that his brother, prince Henry, should be regent; but finding that the Russians, who had lost twenty thousand men, were actually drawing off, he again took courage, was soon at the head of thirty thousand men, and with these was hastening to the relief of Dresden, when he was paralysedĽ by the news that general Finck, with twelve thousand men, had suffered himself to be surrounded at Maxen, and compelled to surrender. Despairing of relieving Dresden during this campaign, Frederick eventually took up his winter quarters at Freyberg, in Saxony, and employed himself in raising and drilling fresh soldiers; compelled, however, to pay his way by debasing both the Prussian coin and the English gold, which he received in subsidy, by a very large alloy.

Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick was more successful. He was at the head of an army of fifty-five thousand men, including ten or twelve thousand English, under lord George Sackville. As the French had taken Frankfort-on-the-Maine, he left the British and Hanoverian troops, amounting to twenty-eight thousand men, to watch the French, under marshal de Coutades, upon the Lippe, and set out to drive back the other divisions of the French, under De Broglie. He found these amount to thirty-five thousand strong, but he did not hesitate to engage them at Bergen, on the Nidda, near Frankfort. After a hard-fought battle, he was defeated with a loss of two thousand men and five pieces of cannon. De Broglie pushed rapidly after him, formed a junction with Coutades, and speedily reduced Cassel, Munster, and Minden. There appeared every prospect of the whole electorate of Hanover being again overrun by them. The archives were once more sent off to Stade, ready for embarkation. But Ferdinand now displayed the superiority of his generalship. He left five thousand of his troops, with an air of carelessness, in the way of the French, who, unsuspicious of any stratagem, hastened forward to surprise them, when, to their astonishment, they found the whole of Ferdinand's army had been brought up in the night, and were drawn up behind a ridge near Minden. To approach Ferdinand's forces, they were obliged to pass a narrow ground betwixt a river and a marsh, and were so cramped that they committed the very error which cost them the battle of Blenheim. They placed the cavalry in the centre, and made wings of their infantry. The cavalry made a succession of furious charges on Ferdinand's centre, but this stood compact and immovable, till the French horse, being discouraged, the allies charged in their turn, and the centre of the army, the cavalry, being thus driven back, the whole line gave way.

At this moment, Ferdinand sent orders to lord George Sackville to charge with the cavalry, which had been kept in reserve, and thus complete the destruction of the flying French. But lord George, who had at St. Malo been charged with cowardice, and who had been constantly quarrelling with Ferdinand, as well as his own second in command, the marquis of Granby, now, like lord Lucan since at Balaklava, did not appear to comprehend the order, and sate still. Ferdinand had sent first captain Wintzingerode, whom he possibly did not fully understand; but he then dispatched to him captain Ligonier to order him to charge with the cavalry. Instead of obeying, he declared the orders contradictory, for colonel Fitzroy now rode up ordering him to advance with the British cavalry. Ligonier said, "They disagree in numbers only: the order is the same - to advance," and Fitzroy added, "My orders are positive; the French are in disorder! Here is a glorious opportunity for the English to distinguish themselves!" Colonel Sloper, who heard the words, said to Ligonier, "For God's sake, repeat your orders to that man, that he may not pretend not to understand them, for it is near half an hour ago that he has received orders to advance, and yet we are here still; but you see the condition he is in!" But all was in vain; lord George exclaimed, "Surely his highness does not mean me to break the line; I will ride to the prince himself." But Ferdinand, having lost patience, sent word to the marquis of Granby to advance, and he promptly obeyed, but it was now too late; the French had got half an hour's start. Thus the English cavalry was deprived of all share in the victory; but the English foot had borne the chief brunt of the attack, being in the centre. Six British regiments, in fact, for a time maintained the whole shock of the French.

On the same day Ferdinand's nephew, the hereditary prince of Brunswick, who was also nephew of Frederick of Prussia, defeated the duke de Brissac, who was posted to keep open the French communication with Hervorden, so that, the passes being closed, the French were compelled to retreat to Frankfort again, where they took up their winter quarters; but Cassel, Munster, and Marburg were again cleared of them, nor would they have remained in quiet at Frankfort, but that Ferdinand was obliged to send the hereditary prince with strong reinforcements to Frederick after the defeat of Kunersdorff, and the surrender at Maxen. The rejoicings in England over the victory of Minden were great. George sent prince Ferdinand twenty thousand pounds, which, however, he took care to charge to the house of commons, and settled on him a pension of two thousand pounds a year. Frederick repaid him in a cheaper manner - by an indifferent ode in French.

As for lord George Sackville, he was so indignant at the pointed manner in which prince Frederick noticed his disgraceful conduct in his general orders, thanking Granby for his prompt advance, adding the assurance that, had he been at the head of the cavalry, the result would have been very different, and warning all his generals to obey instantly all orders brought by his aides-de-camp, that he demanded leave from home to resign and return to England. These requests were immediately complied with, and on arrival he called for a court-martial, which was granted. On this occasion, like Byng, he was as haughty and overbearing as he had been backward in the battle. He browbeat the witnesses and insulted his judges, so that Horace Walpole observed, had he been for an instant as resolute at Minden, his character had been established for ever. After a patient hearing of evidence on both sides, the court-martial decided that lord George had been guilty of disobeying the orders of his commander-in-chief, and was unfit to serve his majesty in any capacity whatever. Fortunately for lord George, as for some aristocratic officers of our time, if he did not immediately become promoted for his bad conduct, he did in the next reign, for to have incurred the censure of George II. was the direct road to the regard of George III. On the 10th of August of this year died Ferdinand VI. of Spain. He was a well-meaning but weak monarch. The death of his queen, Barbara of Portugal, who had kept him firm to the English alliance in the preceding August, preyed on his mind and hastened his own. He was succeeded by his half-brother, the king of Naples, who ascended the throne as Charles III., and his third son, Don Ferdinand, succeeded him as king of Naples under a regency. Charles was a man, like his predecessor, of no striking abilities, but of much justice and mildness; and during his reign he kept down the inquisition, abolished torture, and was a friend to literature, art, and general improvement. He banished the late king's minion, the singer Farinelli, and retained as minister general Wall, an Irishman, who had been Spanish ambassador in London.

The parliament of England met on the 13th of October. Pitt, not without cause, assumed much merit from the successes of the year; and, in truth, so far as military matters went, rarely had this country reaped such fame. We had triumphed in every quarter of the world. In January came the news of the capture of Goree; in June, of Guadaloupe; in August, that of the victory of Minden; in September, of the victory off Lagos; in October, of the conquest of Quebec; in November, of Hawke's victory off Quiberon. Horace Walpole said, "victories came so thick, that every morning we were obliged to ask what victory there was, for fear of missing one." At the same time, the condition of our commerce warranted the inscription afterwards placed on Chatham's monument in Guildhall, that he caused commerce to flourish with war. The spirit of one man, risen strong and fresh from the people, had infused life, valour, and enterprise into every department of the public service - a sufficient warning to England to put its public business not into the hands of mere aristocracy unused to business, but into those of men who make no pretensions to ancestry, but have real ones to talent. Frederick of Prussia said that England had at length produced a man, and the splendour of this man so completely eclipsed his aristocratic colleagues, that even the duke of Newcastle seemed forgotten, except by people hunting after favours. Pitt, indeed, had been forced to act in the teeth of all his previous life; in other words, he professed to have unlearned his errors, and now contended that the cheapest policy in the end was to push on expense, and bring wars to an early and brilliant close. He declared at the same time that all was owing to Providence, which loves to reward virtue; and truly he seemed to put a wonderful trust in Providence, when we regard the boldness with which he proposed and carried a vote for fifteen millions of pounds for the year's expenditure, for eighteen thousand militia, and including them, for one hundred and seventy-five thousand troops altogether in the British pay. He said in private, that some time ago he should have been contented to bring France to her knees, but now he would not rest till he had laid her on her back.

Almost the only jar in his administration was occasioned by the ambition of his brother-in-law, lord Temple, for the order of the garter. Pitt solicited for him, and grumbled in no mild terms when he was refused, saying, when next his reluctant steps carried him to the stairs of Kensington palace, and mixed him with the dust of the antechamber, perhaps he might learn, once for all, whether the king would still inexorably persist in refusing to him and his that he granted to all others. The king, however, who had lately conferred the title of earl on Temple, whose squab and awkward figure promised no great grace to the order, still refused him, and Temple resigned, the day after the meeting of parliament, the privy seal. He was persuaded, nevertheless, to resume it, and in the following February, there being three vacancies, his wishes were complied with, the other garters being conferred on prince Ferdinand and lord Rockingham.

During this session a bill passed both houses to prevent the frauds committed by members of parliament under the Qualification Act of queen Anne, obliging every candidate for a seat in the commons to show that he was worth six hundred pounds a year in land if for a county, and three hundred pounds if for a borough. This had been evaded by mere sham transfers of property, which were destroyed as soon as the member obtained his seat. By this bill, every member presenting himself to take his seat, was obliged to produce a schedule of his lands to the speaker of the house, explain his qualifications, and swear to the truth of them. Time, however, showed that the only effect of this bill was to increase the crime of perjury.

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Pictures for Reign of George II. (Concluded) page 14

Attack on Bergen-op-Zoom
Attack on Bergen-op-Zoom >>>>
Arrest of the young pretender in Paris
Arrest of the young pretender in Paris >>>>
Death of the Prince of Wales
Death of the Prince of Wales >>>>
Horace Walpole
Horace Walpole >>>>
Fleet Marriages
Fleet Marriages >>>>
View of the river Ohio
View of the river Ohio >>>>
Death of Braddock
Death of Braddock >>>>
Plymouth
Plymouth >>>>
Frederick the Great of Prussia
Frederick the Great of Prussia >>>>
Execution of Admiral Byng
Execution of Admiral Byng >>>>
General Wolfe
General Wolfe >>>>
View of the city of Quebec
View of the city of Quebec >>>>

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