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Reign of George I page 20


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This great event put in train, the English admiral sailed to Cagliari, conveying the Savoyard troops thither, and actively exerting himself for the complete surrender of the island to the new king of Sardinia; and he did not quit the port till he had seen the Spanish troops all embarked, and the island put completely into the hands of the authorities of Savoy. Throughout all these transactions, by which the attempts of Alberoni on Sardinia and Sicily were completely defeated, the conduct of admiral Byng had been most meritorious. " This," says the historian of u The Expedition of the British Fleet to Sicily," " ended the war wherein the fleet of Great Britain bore so illustrious a part that the fate of the island was wholly governed by its operations, both competitors agreeing that the one could not have conquered nor the other have been subdued without it. Never was any service conducted in all its parts with greater zeal, activity, and judgment, nor was ever the British flag in so high reputation and respect in those distant parts of Europe."

By the firmness of the allies a peace which continued twelve years was given to Europe, and the storm which Alberoni had so fondly expected out of the north was as completely dissipated. The new queen of Sweden had consented to yield absolutely to George I., as king of Hanover, the disputed possession of Bremen and Verden. Poland was induced to acknowledge Augustus of Saxony as king, and Prussia to be satisfied with the acquisition of Stettin and some other Swedish territory. But the czar and Denmark, seeing Sweden deprived of its military monarch, and exhausted by his wild campaigns, contemplated nothing less than the actual dismemberment of Sweden. The queen of Sweden threw herself for protection on the good offices of the king of England, and both England and France agreed to compel the czar and the king of Denmark to desist from their attacks on Sweden if they would not listen to friendly mediation. Lord Carteret, a promising young statesman, was sent ambassador to Stockholm, and Sir John Norris, with eleven sail of the line, was ordered to the Baltic. Russia and Denmark, however, continued to disregard the pacific overtures of England, trusting to there being no war with that power. They ravaged the whole coast of Sweden, burning above a thousand villages, and the town of Nykoping, the third place in the kingdom. Seeing this, lord Stanhope, who was still at Hanover with the king, sent orders to admiral Norris to pay no regard to the fact of there being no declaration of war, but to treat the Russian and Danish fleet as Byng had treated the Spanish one, Norris accordingly joined his squadron to the Swedish fleet at Carlscrona, and went in pursuit of the fleet of the czar. Peter, seeing that the English were now in earnest, recalled his fleet with precipitation, and thereby, no doubt, saved it from complete destruction; but he still continued to refuse to make peace, and determined on the first opportunity to have a further slice of Swedish territory. Denmark, which was extremely poor, agreed to accept a sum of money in lieu of Marstrand, which they had seized; and thus all Europe, except the czar, was brought to a condition of peace. England had, in fact, saved Sweden from annihilation, though the motives of her monarch had not been of the most sublime or generous kind. They were Bremen and Verden which had been the influencing motive, and in other particulars the Hanoverian transactions of George were not very creditable. In exchange for the services of Byng in the Mediterranean, according to lord Chesterfield, George had obtained from the emperor the administration of the affairs of the duchy of Mecklenburg. The duke of that state had been suspended by a decree of the Aulic council for tyranny and maladministration; and George, thus invested with the protection, was strongly suspected of an attempt at annexing it permanently to Hanover. The suspended duke declared that Hanover had constantly fomented the quarrels betwixt himself and subjects. In fact, the corruption and rapacity of George's Hanoverian court and ministers were of the most extraordinary kind, and were severely commented on in England. Mr. secretary Craggs, in a letter, draws the most revolting picture of the domineering spirit and selfishness of George's favourite minister, Bernsdorf, and of aril the Germans at the English court. He says the sales of offices were of the most scandalous nature, and threw the utmost discredit on the king's service. Everything was set to sale in church and state, by land and sea; and that, provided a man had money, he might buy anything of the favorites and mistresses, however sacred or important. Lord Chesterfield ironically remarked, according to Horace Walpole, that " if we had a mind effectually to prevent the pretender ever obtaining this crown, we should make him elector of Hanover, for the people of England would never fetch another king thence."

George arrived in England from his German states on the 11th of November of the preceding year, 1719, and opened parliament on the 23rd. He laid sufficient stress on the success of his government in promoting the evacuation of Sicily and Sardinia by Spain, in protecting Sweden, and laying the foundation of a union amongst the great protestant powers of Europe. He then recurred to the subject of the bill for limiting the peerage, which had been rejected in the previous session. George was animated by the vehement desire to curtail the prerogative of his son, and declared that the bill was necessary to secure that part of the constitution which was most liable to abuse. Lord Cowper declared, on the other hand, that besides the reasons which had induced him to oppose the measure before, another was now added in the earnestness with which it was recommended. But Cowper was not supported with any zeal by the rest of the house, and the bill passed on the 30th of November, and was sent down to the house of commons on the 1st of December. There it was destined to meet with a very different! reception. During the recess Walpole had endeavoured to rouse a resistance to it in both houses. He had obtained a meeting of the opposition whigs at Devonshire House, and called upon them to oppose the measure; but he found that some of the whig peers were favourable to it, from the perception that it would increase the importance of their order; others declared that it would be inconsistent in them to oppose a principle which they had so strenuously maintained against a tory ministry - that of discountenancing the; sudden creation of peers for party purposes; and others, though hostile to the bill, declared that they should only expose themselves to defeat by resisting it. But Walpole persisted in his opposition, and declared that, if his party deserted him, he would contend against the bill single- handed. He asserted that it would meet with strong resistance from the country gentlemen who hoped some time or other to reach the peerage - a hope which the bill, if carried, would extinguish for ever.

By these endeavours Walpole managed to array a considerable body of the commons against it. It was introduced on the 8th of December, and Sir John Packington, Sir Richard Steele, Smith, Methuen, and others joined him in attacking it. Steele made a very powerful speech against it, but the grand assault was that of Walpole. He put out all his strength, and delivered an harangue such as he had never achieved till that day. He did not spare the motives of the king, though handling them with much tact, and was unsparingly severe on the Scotch clauses, and on the notorious subserviency of the Scotch representative peers. He declared that the sixteen elective Scotch peers were already a dead weight on the country; and he asked what they would be when made twenty-five, and hereditary? He declared that such a bill would make the lords masters of the king, and shut up the door of honour to the rest of the nation. Amongst the Romans, he said, the way to the Temple of Fame was through the temple of Virtue; but if this bill passed, this would never be the case in this country. There would be no arriving at honours but through the winding-sheet of an old, decrepit lord, or the tomb of an extinct noble family. Craggs, Lechmere, Aislabie, Hampton, and other ministerial whigs supported the bill; but, in the words of Speaker Onslow, the declamation of Walpole had borne down everything before it, and the measure was defeated by a majority of two hundred and sixty-nine to one hundred and seventy- seven.

In our time this defeat would, as a matter of course, have turned out the ministry, but in that day it had no such effect. They continued to hold office, and to command undiminished majorities on other questions. Still more singular was its effect, for it induced them to offer office to their triumphant opponent Walpole, who not only accepted a subordinate post amongst- them - the paymaster of the forces - but consented to support the very clauses regarding the Scotch peers which he had so firmly denounced, should they be inclined to bring forward the bill a third time - a sufficient proof, if any were wanting, that Walpole did not expect to make his way through the temple of virtue, but through the easy abandonment of any principle which lay in the way of his ambition.

The spring of 1720 was a period of remarkable national prosperity. By the able management of Stanhope, all the schemes of Alberoni were defeated, and that minister driven from Spain. The Spaniards were driven from Sicily, the regent of France was confirmed in his power, Holland and Austria were brought again into alliance with us, and the hostility of the Prussians, Danes, and Poles allayed. The czar still held aloof from treaty, but his alliances were weakened, and the attempts of the pretender were rendered nugatory. At home he had strengthened his ministry by the accession of Walpole, Townshend, and Methuen. By the mediation of Walpole, a reconciliation betwixt the king and prince of Wales was effected, and the hopes of the Jacobites proportionably reduced. Bishop Atterbury, the most industrious and steadfast of Jacobites, wrote to the pretender to express his alarm at the aspect of affairs; that though the seeming reconciliation was far from sincere, there was a probability that time would make it so; that the common necessity of affairs would drive these new allies into measures of mutual interest, and the grand money schemes projected of late, would settle and fix them in such a manner, that it would not be easy to shake them. Under the flattering influence of these auspicious appearances, George departed for Hanover on the 14th of June, attended by Stanhope, and adding before his departure lord Townshend and the duke of Devonshire to the council of regency.

But "the grand money schemes projected of late," which appeared to Atterbury and others calculated to cement the royal peace and strengthen the foundation of the government and nation, were destined to produce a very different effect. They were pregnant with the most unparalleled delusions and ruin. The whole public were smiling in the most golden hopes on the bosom of a volcano. One John Law, a Scotchman, had a few years previous broached a grand scheme for paying off the national debt. It had not taken in England, and he proceeded to France to try to introduce it there. He established a bank in Paris, which became successful, and he there unfolded his ulterior views. These were to embody the public debt as stock in an "Indian Company," which, by being endowed with the exclusive privilege of trading to the Mississippi, was to make enormous profits, and by this means to speedily liquidate the debt. This project gradually seized on the public imagination, and in December, 1719, had grown into a popular mania. The "actions" or shares, or as we should now call it, the scrip of the new company, sold for more than twenty times their real value. The Rue Quincampoix was the place where this scrip was sold, and it became thronged all day like a fair. The smallest room in the street let for incredible sums, the clerks could not register fast enough the purchase of stocks, and a little hunchback was said to have made fifty thousand francs by letting out his back for a desk! The arrogance of Law, the grand adventurer, became prodigious. Voltaire says that he had seen him at court followed humbly by dukes, marshals, and bishops; and even Dubois, the prime minister, and Orleans, the regent, were treated with the utmost freedom by him. He attempted to mortify the English, by saying that there was but one great kingdom in Europe and one great town, and these were France and Paris. His haughtiness had the effect of rousing the resentment of lord Stair, who had so long and brilliantly conducted our diplomatic business at the French capital; and the feud betwixt him and Law became so violent, that Stanhope was compelled to make a visit to Paris on that account, and when there, to displace Stair and send Sir Robert Sutton in his stead. The success of this adventurer deprived England of the eminent services of Stair for twenty years.

So far as the French government was concerned, the scheme of Law answered very well, for it contrived to throw fifteen millions of debt from its own shoulders to those of Law; but the public had to pay for it. Before the end of 1720 the bubble had burst - several arbitrary decrees of the government had in vain been issued to bolster it up, and Law flew for his life out of the kingdom. Unfortunately, the contagion of speculation originating in Law's French experiment had taken deep hold in this country before this explosion occurred. In 1711, Harley, being at his wit's end to maintain the public credit, established a fund to provide for the national debt, which amounted to ten millions of pounds. To defray the interest he made permanent the duties on wine, vinegar, and tobacco, &c. To induce the purchase of the government stock, he gave to the shareholders the exclusive privilege of trading to the Spanish settlements in South America, and procured them an act of parliament and a royal charter, under the name of the South Sea Company. The idea, hollow and groundless as it was, seized on the imagination of the most staid and experienced traders. All the dreams of boundless gold which haunted the heads of the followers of Drake and Raleigh were revived. The mania spread through the nation, and was industriously encouraged by the partisans of Harley. But this stupendous dream of wealth was based on the promises of ministers, who at the peace of Utrecht were to secure from the government of Spain this right to trade to its colonies. The right was never granted by that haughty and jealous power, further than for the settlement of some few factories, and the sending of one small ship annually of less than five hundred tons. This, and the shameful Assiento, or privilege of supplying those colonies with African slaves, were the sole advantages obtained, and these were soon disturbed by the war with Spain, which broke out under Alberoni. The South Sea Company, however, from its general resources, remained a flourishing corporation, and was deemed the rival of the Bank of England.

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Pictures for Reign of George I page 20

Proclamation of George I.
Proclamation of George I. >>>>
George I.
George I. >>>>
Chevalier De St. George
Chevalier De St. George >>>>
Great seal of George I.
Great seal of George I. >>>>
Arrest of Sir William Wyndham
Arrest of Sir William Wyndham >>>>
Glengarrys charge.
Glengarrys charge. >>>>
The pretender entering Dundee
The pretender entering Dundee >>>>
Perth
Perth >>>>
The Countess of Derwentwater
The Countess of Derwentwater >>>>
The Chevalier De S. George and his council.
The Chevalier De S. George and his council. >>>>
Execution of Lord Derwentwater on Tower Hill
Execution of Lord Derwentwater on Tower Hill >>>>
Arrest of the Swedish ambassador
Arrest of the Swedish ambassador >>>>
Joseph Addison
Joseph Addison >>>>
The Earl of Oxford
The Earl of Oxford >>>>
Cardinal Alberoni and colonel Stanhope
Cardinal Alberoni and colonel Stanhope >>>>
Messina, in Sicily
Messina, in Sicily >>>>
Arrest of the princess Clementina
Arrest of the princess Clementina >>>>
Change alley
Change alley >>>>
South sea house
South sea house >>>>
Kelly, the non-juring clergyman, destroying the treasonable papers
Kelly, the non-juring clergyman, destroying the treasonable papers >>>>
Insurrection at Glasgow
Insurrection at Glasgow >>>>
Horace Walpole and George I
Horace Walpole and George I >>>>
King George attacked by a fit of apoplexy
King George attacked by a fit of apoplexy >>>>
George II
George II >>>>

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