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Reign of George III. (Continued.)


The King attacked by a Mad Woman - Dissipations of the Prince of Wales- Offers of Money to him from France - Arrangements for the Younger Princes - Death of Frederick, of Prussia - Impending Troubles betwixt Prussia and Holland - Proposed Commercial Treaty with France - Question regarding Scotch Peers - Beaufoy's Motion for the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Act rejected - Prince of Wales' Debts and Marriage with Mrs. Fitzherbert - Transportation to New South Wales - Abuses in the Post Office - Lord Elcho unseated as the Eldest Son of a Scotch Peer - Burke proceeds with his Impeachment of Hastings - Various Charges admitted - A Committee appointed to conduct the Impeachment - Hastings impeached at the Bar of the Lords - Hastings taken into Custody - Admitted by the Lords to Bail - Parliament adjourned - Troubles in Holland - Insurrection in Belgium - Lord Rawdon on Naval Promotion- Pitt's Declaratory Indian Bill - Impeachment of Sir Elijah Impey - Trial of Hastings in Westminster Hall - Parliament prorogued - Insanity of the King - Debates on a Regency - Irish Address - King's sudden Recovery - Congratulations, &c. - Report on the Slave trade - Pitt's Schemes of Finance - Hastings' Trial resumed - Differences betwixt the King and Prince of Wales - Death of Charles Edward, the Pretender - War betwixt Russia and Turkey - Ditto, betwixt Russia and Sweden - Ditto, betwixt Austria and Turkey - Affairs of Sweden - Austrian Troubles in Hungary and the Netherlands - Death of Joseph II. of Austria.
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On the 2nd of August, 1786, as the king descended from his carriage at the door of the garden leading from St. James's Park into the palace, a woman struck him on the chest with a knife, which fortunately was so much weakened by frequent grinding that it doubled, and did not penetrate. The woman made a second thrust, but her arm was arrested by one of the king's footmen, and the knife wrenched from her grasp. The king humanely cried out, " I am not hurt! take care of the poor woman! don't hurt her!" Being conveyed before the privy council, she was discovered to be a very mad woman, of the name of Margaret Nicholson, from Stockton- on-Tees. She was a needle-woman, who had the insane fancy that the throne belonged rightfully to her, and that unless she asserted her right, it would lead to a deluge of bloodshed in England for a thousand generations. She was then examined by the royal physicians, and her insanity being by them confirmed, she was consigned to Bedlam, where she lived forty years without recovering in any degree her soundness of mind.

The king on this occasion displayed equal courage and humanity. He had come up from Windsor to hold a levee, and he appeared there in the best spirits. The opposition displayed a spirit quite the reverse. They treated the whole affair as ridiculous, though, had the knife been stronger, the king would in all probability have been a dead man. When deputations came up from different towns with addresses of congratulation, and the king knighted some of the mayors, they styled them as "knights of St. Margaret." George, with much better sense and feeling, only laughed at their spiteful jests. But not so lightly to be passed over was their determined encouragement of the heir-apparent in his wild course of disregard both of parental authority and common decency.

The two great friends of the prince of Wales were Fox and Sheridan. If the intellectual qualities of these two remarkable men had been equalled by their moral ones, no fitter companions for a young prince could have been found. But, unfortunately, they were as distinguished for their drinking and dissipation, and Fox for his reckless gambling, as for their talents. Pitt and they were in violent opposition, and as Pitt, with his cold, unimpulsive nature, stood firmly by the king, Fox and Sheridan were, as matters of party, as warmly the advocates of the prince. Hence the king and his son, sufficiently at strife on the ground of the prince's extravagance and debauchery, were rendered doubly so by the faction fire of their respective adherents. Pitt, who might have softened greatly the hostile feeling betwixt the royal father and son, by recommending less parsimony on the part of the king, and kindly endeavouring to induce the prince to maintain more respect for his father, never displayed the slightest disposition to act so generous and truly politic a part. On this account the prince hated him, and piqued himself on talking of him in the strongest terms. On the other hand, the king had always had an unconquerable aversion to Fox since he carried so high a hand towards his majesty when in office, and Fox and Sheridan, as well as their followers, returning the feeling, incited the prince to more open defiance of the parental counsels. This was precisely the position which the king of England and his successor had occupied ever since the Hanoverian family came to the throne; and every good subject must have regarded it with pain.

But Fox and Sheridan were far from the worst companions of the prince of Wales. The duke of Chartres, now become, by the death of his father, duke of Orleans, and who was afterwards too notorious as Philip Egalite, had made a very familiar acquaintance with the prince. He had come over in 1784, and now he returned again in 1786, and the prince and he ran a wild career of gambling, betting, and every species of debauchery. At Epsom, Newmarket, and the prince's favourite abode, Brighton, they ran into a perfect abyss of debt and riot. The artful Frenchman then proposed to the prince that the best way to get rid of his embarrassments was to receive a loan, and a pension from France, which he undertook to manage for him. This was what Charles II. and James II. had, and for a time they had rendered themselves independent of parliament by it. The prince appears to have jumped at the tempting bait, which would leave him free to pursue his wild career in spite of parliament, of Pitt, and of his pious and penurious father. He did not seem to have troubled himself to reflect what was the end of the Stuart kings who had made themselves pensioners of France. But, fortunately for the honour of both England and the prince, the thing got wind. The duke of Portland heard of it, and immediately mentioned it to Sheridan. Not contented with this, the duke wrote to Sheridan, impressing the necessity of avoiding this fatal snare. He assured him that he had received confirmation of the truth of the report. "The particulars," he wrote, " varied in no respect from those I related to you, except in the addition of a pension, which is to take place immediately on the event which entitles the creditors to payment, and is to be granted for life to a nominee of the D- of O-s. The loan was mentioned in a mixed company by two of the Frenchwomen and a Frenchman, none of whose names I know, in Calonne's presence, who interrupted them by asking how they came to know anything of the matter; then set them right in two or three particulars which they had misstated, and afterwards begged them for God's sake not to talk of it, because it might be their complete ruin." Portland adds, " I am going to Bulstrode, but will return at a moment's notice, if I can be of the least use in getting rid of this odious engagement, or preventing its being entered into, if it should not yet be completed." The matter being thus necessarily crushed, great pains were taken by the prince's friends to make it appear that he rejected the offer the moment it was made, and there were many exclamations on their part of " how great! " " how noble!"

Thus, at the very moment that Sheridan was in parliament more than hinting that the king was capable of being bribed by Warren Hastings' diamond, he was the confidant of the king's son in an attempt at far more fatal bribery. It does not appear that even this danger relaxed the king's purse-strings, and, in truth, such relaxation, with the prince's habits, could only have been an additional curse to him. But it seems to have hastened arrangements for getting the rest of the royal sons out of the Circean corruptions of London. The duke of York and the duke of Kent were sent to Germany, and put under officers there to study the Prussian military system; and the dukes of Cambridge, Sussex, and Cumberland were sent to Germany too, as students at the university of Göttingen. William, duke of Clarence, was sent to sea as midshipman. The last was the only popular arrangement. All the German ones were regarded as the dictations of the queen, and calculated to inspire the princes with despotic and anti-English notions.

Sheridali, and some others of the whig party, once more mentioned the prince's debts, and urged the propriety of something being done to save the honour of the heir apparent; but Pitt turned a deaf ear, and the king informed the prince that he could not sanction the payment of his debts by parliament, nor was he disposed to increase his allowance from the civil list. On this, the prince determined to break up his household, which had been appointed by the king, and cost the prince twenty thousand pounds, to sell his horses and carriages, and to live in a few rooms like a private gentleman. This he did; his fine horses were paraded through the streets on their way to Tattersall's to be sold, and he stopped the building of Carlton House. All this would have been admirable, had it proceeded from a real desire to economise on the part of the prince, in order to satisfy his clamorous creditors, and to commence a real reform of his habits; but the whole was only a mode of mortifying the king and court party by thus exhibiting the heir-apparent as compelled, by the refusal of a proper allowance, to abandon the style befitting his rank, and sink himself into that of a mere lodger of scanty means. If this grand manoeuvre did not accomplish its object at court, it, however, told on his own party, who resolved in the next session to make a grand effort for the liquidation of his debts.

Public attention, during the recess, was much occupied with the affairs of Holland. Frederick of Prussia, known as The Great, died on the 17th of August of this year. He had attained his seventy-fifth year, but was said to have shortened his days by his habitual gluttony, and was grown as carping and cynical as Diogenes. His successor was his nephew, Frederick William, who determined to restore the expelled stadtholder, the prince of Orange, who bad married his sister. Holland, as we have seen, had long been rent by two factions - the aristocratic one, which favoured the house of Orange, and the far more numerous democratic one, which was courted by France. France, indeed, now fast rushing into the vortex of revolution, seemed to have a fatal propensity to foster democracy. It had secured its triumph in America, it was seeking the same object in Holland.

Frederick William of Prussia proposed that the king of England should become arbitrator betwixt the prince of Orange and the democratic party; but this was refused on the ground that George III. was partial to the house of Orange. They managed to have the king of France appointed, and M. de Rayneval, the French minister, met baron von Goertz, the Prussian minister, at the Hague. But so far from settling anything, these ministers only quarrelled violently and parted. Before the end of the year, the French keeping up their agitation amongst the people, the prince of Orange took up arms, and posting himself in Guelderland with his spirited princess, held that province and the adjoining one of Utrecht. The towns of Hattem and Elburg made a show of resistance, but were soon reduced by the prince; and, at the end of the year, he was master of five provinces, and of forces equal or superior to those states opposed to him; and it was clear that he could soon master the whole of Holland without Prussian aid, if France were out of the question; and no power but England could prevent her. Serious complications, therefore, showed themselves a-head from this quarter when the British parliament met on the 23rd of January, 1789.

No mention of the disturbances in the Netherlands, however, appeared in the royal speech; but the chief topic was a treaty of commerce and navigation which had been concluded with France, and for which the parliamentary sanction was anticipated. The debates on this subject occupied the two houses of parliament till the 8th of March. In these debates all the advantages of the cheap introduction of French wines and French manufactures were duly set forth by Pitt and the government party, and the mischiefs of French alliance were equally advanced by Fox and the opposition. It is curious to observe how completely reversed were the positions and arguments of these two leaders to what they became afterwards; Pitt developing into the most determined opponent of everything French, and Fox into the ardent advocate of French alliance. Pitt here stood forth as the champion of reduced duties, and Fox of the highest manufacturing interests; Lancashire, and Yorkshire, and Norwich pouring in mountains of petitions against the treaty. Fox contended that this treaty was a direct breach of the Methuen treaty with Portugal, and claimed that the duties on Portuguese wines should be lowered one-third. This was refused. Philip Francis, who was now a prominent opposition member, declared that the treaty was meant, by encouraging the French cause, to degrade and enslave England. Mr. Grey, afterwards lord Grey of Howiek, contended that as France had plucked America from us, and established a treaty of commerce with the United States, she was only seeking by this treaty to obtain our goods, and supply America with them, thus engrossing the carrying trade of the world. The folly of many of these arguments is too palpable to need a notice here, and some of the manufacturers of Manchester had the sense to see that the advantage would be on their side, and they petitioned for the treaty. The question was carried by ministers.

Amongst other measures carried were, the decision that Scotch peers, becoming English ones, ceased to sit as Scotch elective peers, or to have votes for electing the Scotch peers to parliament; that the eldest sons of Scotch peers could not sit in the English commons; and Pitt's bill for the consolidation of various duties on articles the customs and excise and reducing them to one single duty on each article: again the real author of the scheme being Dr. Price. Mr. Beaufoy, on the other hand, moved for the repeal of the test and corporation act, without success.

The great question of the prince of Wales's debts was brought on by alderman Newnham, who had been selected by the prince's party for that purpose, to give it more an air of independence. - Newnham, on the 20th April, demanded to know of the chancellor of the exchequer whether his majesty's ministers proposed to make any arrangement for this purpose. He praised the prince for his generous conduct in breaking up his establishment to facilitate the payment of his debts; but declared it disgraceful to the nation that he should remain in that condition. Not receiving any satisfactory answer, the alderman gave notice of a motion on the subject for the 4th of May. Pitt then endeavoured to deter the alderman from bringing in the motion, by a menace of revealing certain private circumstances, which must be very painful to the royal family. This, however, which was felt to relate to the rumoured private marriage of the prince with Mrs. Fitzherbert, a catholic, did not deter the opposition, and Newnham, on the 27th of April, stated the nature of his motion, which would be for an address to his majesty, praying him to recommend to the house the grant of a sufficient sum for the discharge of the prince's debts. Mr. Rolle, afterwards lord Rolle, member for Devonshire, then attempted to deter the alderman from bringing forward his motion, by declaring that there were matters connected with that question which, in such a case, must come out, and which affected the constitution in both church and state. This, again, was clearly an insinuation of the prince's marriage to a catholic, by which, according to the bill of right and the bill of settlement, the prince had forfeited the crown, if the fact were proved. But the friends of the prince knew very well that, though such a marriage had taken place, it was utterly invalid through the provisions of the royal marriage act, and therefore both the prince and they were determined to brave the inquiry.

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