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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 29


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Immediately after this debate the government took active steps to crush that spirit of free discussion in books and pamphlets, and in associations, which, no doubt, had been greatly stimulated by the excitement of the French revolution, and which they professed to believe were aiming at the same object - the destruction of the monarchy. But, in attempting to check this spirit, they adopted the un- English plan of fettering the press and individual opinion, which never can be effected in this country. In combating anconstitutional measures, they became unconstitutional themselves; for the freedom of the press and of private opinion are essential rights of Englishmen, and never can be assailed by any government without its incurring the deepest odium, and, ultimately, the most signal defeat. The present course adopted by Pitt's government produced years of turbulence and bitterness in England, in which ministers endeavoured to tread out the last sparks of freedom, but which ended finally in the great reform bill. Ministers at this moment issued a proclamation against seditious books, and societies corresponding with the republicans across the water; and magistrates were desired to make diligent inquiries as to the authors of seditious books and pamphlets, to put down all mischievous associations, and to take the promptest means of suppressing and preventing all riots and disturbances. An address in approbation of this proclamation was moved by Mr. Pepper Arden, the master of the rolls, in the commons, and a short debate was the consequence. In this, Grey and Fox declared that the proclamation was unconstitutional, mischievous, and oppressive; that it was a stimulus given to the hot-headed and bigoted magistrates all over the country to invade the freedom of the press and of private life, on pretence of preventing disturbance; that the true constitutional remedies for any wrong opinions promulgated by the press was their regulation by right and sound opinions; that the blow was aimed against the society of the friends of the people, and intended to crush reform, and divide the whig party; that, in truth, the riots and instigations to anarchy came not from the reformers, but from the church, the magistracy, and the tories; and they appealed for the truth of this to the disgraceful scenes which had occurred at Birmingham. They reminded government that in 1782 Pitt had joined the duke of Richmond, major Cartwright, and Home Tooke, in a meeting, at the Thatched House Tavern, for reform; that they, the whigs, had never gone to the length of Cartwright and Home Tooke in their principles of reform, as Pitt had done; and they upbraided the minister with his shameful inconsistency. Lord John Russell, Francis, Lambton, and others, supported Grey and Fox; and Wyndham, lord North, Dundas, &c, supported Pitt. The address was carried; and, when sent up to the lords,, produced another striking exhibition of the changes going on in the whig party; for the prince of Wales, who had hitherto been in such close union with them, and had been so zealously supported by them, now rose, and gave his decided approbation to the address, declared that he had been educated in admiration of the established constitution, and was determined, so far as in him lay, to support it. These words were received with triumph by the government party, the address was carried almost unanimously, and was followed by an immediate prosecution by the attorney-general of the " Rights of Man," which caused it to be far more generally read than it otherwise would have been.

It appeared to be the design of the whigs to agitate this session a series of questions connected with freedom of opinion, which, from the spirit of the times, they could not have the slightest chance of carrying, but merely to maintain the cause of liberty and liberality against the spirit of alarm and the spirit of tyranny that dogged its steps. On the 11th of May, Fox moved for leave to bring in a bill to repeal certain old statutes affecting the dissenters, but his principal remarks were directed against the outrages perpetrated on Dr. Priestley and the unitarians at Birmingham, his tone being taken from a petition from that body, presented a few days before. Burke replied to him, and asserted that this body of so-called religionists were rather a body of political agitators. He noticed, in proof, the close connection of Drs. Price and Priestley, and their adherents, with the French revolutionists. He quoted Priestley's own writings to show that they avowed the design to destroy the national church. He expressed his conviction that, from the intolerance shown by this party in the prosecution of their views, they would, did they succeed in destroying the church and the constitution, prove worse masters than those whom the English nation then had. He had no desire to see the king and parliament dragged after a national assembly, as they had been by the admired reforms of Priestley, Price, and that party, and much preferred to live under George III. or George IV. than under Dr. Priestley or Dr. Kippis. Pitt expressed his unwillingness to give more power to a party that avowed its desire to overturn both church and constitution; and Fox, in reply, attacked Burke's " Reflections on the French Revolution," saying that Paine's " Age of Reason " was a libel on the constitution of Great Britain, but that Burke's book was a libel on every free constitution in the world. The motion was rejected by one hundred and forty-two votes against sixty-three.

Fox was more successful in re-introducing his bill to enable juries to decide on the law of a case as well as on the facts, which was carried through both houses. Lord Rawdon again attempted to mitigate the condition of debtors im- prisoned by their creditors, but did not succeed; and, after Dundas had drawn a very flattering picture of the condition of India in presenting his annual statement of Indian finance, and had procured some regulations for insuring the payment of seamen's wages to themselves or their families, the king prorogued parliament on the 15th of June, still congratulating the country on the prospect of peace, and of reducing substantially the national debt.

During the recess of parliament there was an active contest betwixt the new French opinions and the old constitutional ones. One called forth and provoked the other. Clubs and societies for reform were more after the model of the wholesale proceedings of France than the old and sober ones of England. The society of the friends of the people was compelled to disclaim all connection with the society for constitutional information in London, which was in open correspondence with the jacobins of Paris. It was compelled to disown societies in the country of the same stamp, and especially to check a branch of the society for constitutional information in Sheffield, which, in May of the present year, called on the society of the friends of the people to establish a convention in London. To allow of no mistake as to their principles, the society of the friends of the people held a great meeting on the 5th of May, in which they announced that they had no other object but to obtain parliamentary reform by strictly legal and constitutional means, and that this end once secured they should dissolve themselves. Yet, notwithstanding this, there were those in the society who deemed that they were in connection with persons and associations whose views went farther than their own, and, on this ground, on the 9th of June, Mr. Baker, who had been the chairman at the late meeting at the Freemasons' tavern, lord John Russell, who had been deputy-chairman, Dudley North, Mr. Curwen, and Mr. Courtney, withdrew from it.

On the other hand, the corresponding society and the society for constitutional information kept up an open correspondence with the national convention of France, even after the bloody massacres of September of this year, which we have yet to relate. Unwarned by these facts, they professed to see, in the example of Frenchmen, the only chance of the liberation of the English nation from the oppressions of the crown and of an overgrown aristocracy. They made no secret of their desire to establish a republic in this country; and the society for constitutional information included amongst its members a number of red-hot Americans. These societies and the revolutionary society in London continued to send over glowing addresses to the French convention, declaring their desire to fraternise with them for liberty and equality, and their determination never again to fight with Frenchmen at the command of despots.

These proceedings called forth an opposite class of associations, in which the clergy of the establishment took the lead. The bishop and clergy of Worcester, and Dr. Watson, the bishop, and the clergy of Llandaff, met and presented addresses to the king, expressing their abhorrence of the doctrines of these associations, which made no secret of their demand for " the rights of man - liberty and equality, no king, no parliament;" and they expressed their conviction that this country already possessed more genuine liberty than any other nation whatever. They asserted that the constitution, the church, and state had received more improvements since the revolution of 1688 than in all previous ages; that the dissenters and catholics had been greatly relieved, the judges had been rendered independent, and the laws in various ways more liberalised since the accession of his present majesty than for several reigns previously. They asserted boldly that in no country could men rise from the lowest positions to affluence and honour, by trade, by the practice of the law, by other arts and professions, so well as in this; that the general wealth everywhere visible, the general and increasing prosperity testified to this fact, in happy contrast to the miserable condition of France. As for the French, they said, and said truly, " The excesses of these ruffian demagogues have no bounds; they have already surpassed the wildest frenzies of fanaticism, superstition, and enthusiasm - plundering and murdering at home, and propagating their opinions by the sword in foreign countries. They deal in imposture, fallacy, falsehood, and bloodshed. Their philosophy is the talk of schoolboys; their actions are the savage ferociousness of wild beasts. Such are the new lights and the false philosophy of our pretended reformers, and such the effects they have produced where alone they have unfortunately been tried!"

They concluded by recommending the formation of counter associations in all parts of the country to diffuse sound constitutional sentiments, and to expose the mischievous fallacies of the democratic societies. This advice was speedily followed, and every neighbourhood became the arena of conflicting politics. The democrats, inoculated by the wild views of French licence, injured the cause of real liberty and progress by their advocacy of the mob dominion of Paris; and the constitutionalists, urged by the alarm and the zeal inspired by opposition, grew intolerant and persecuting. The eyes of thousands, who had at first hailed the French revolution as the happy dawn of a new era of liberty and brotherhood, were now opened by the horrors of the massacres of the French clergy in September of this year, and by the sight of swarms of them, who had fled for security to London, and were everywhere to be seen in the streets, destitute and dejected. A public meeting was called at the London Tavern towards the close of this year, and a subscription entered into for their relief.

Some important changes in the ministry took place during the recess. Thurlow, the lord chancellor, who had continued - in consequence of Pitt's coldness to him, on account of his double-dealing at the time of the king's lunacy, and the agitation of the regency question - to thwart and abuse ministerial measures, was now dismissed, and the great seal was put into commission, in the hands of chief baron Eyre, Mr. Justice Ashurst, and Mr. Justice Wilson. Lord Loughborough, some time after, was appointed to succeed Thurlow. On the 5th of August, also, died lord Guildford, the lord North of the unfortunate American war; and the king conferred the wardership of the Cinque Ports, worth about three thousand pounds a-year, which he had held, on Pitt.

In March of this year lord Cornwallis had brought a war in India with the implacable enemy of the English to a very successful close. Early in the preceding year, 1791, he had reinstated our ally, the rajah of Travancore, in his dominions, and had further seized nearly all Tippoo's territories on the Malabar coast. He then determined to strike a decisive blow, by marching upon Tippoo's capital, Seringapatam. In February he took the city of Bangalore, and early in May he was on his route for Seringapatam. Tippoo was in the deepest consternation. In his fierce hatred of the British, he had adorned his city walls with paintings, representing the English in a variety of degrading positions. The Mysoreans were defeating and killing them, and they were exhibited as subjected to all kinds of indignities. Tippoo now made haste to cover all these with whitewash, and to prepare for a retreat with his women and treasures. He had trained a number of English boys as dancers and singers, in order to insult the nation. These he had privately assassinated; and the prisoners of the former war, who ought to have been long ago liberated, were treated the same, carried out of the city, and buried with the greatest secrecy, in order that they might tell no tales of his cruel treatment. Proofs of these murders were afterwards obtained by the English, who took up some of the bodies from the places where they were informed they were buried. Lord Cornwallis arrived in the neighbourhood of Seringapatam on the 13th of May, and immediately attacked Tippoo, who was drawn up with a large force. The Mysoreans broke and fled before the British bayonets. The English army was in full view of the capital, and expected a rich booty, when Cornwallis was compelled to order a retreat. The forces of general Abercrombie, who had to make his way from another quarter through the mountains, had not come up; neither had the Mahrattas, who were to join with twenty thousand men. The rains had set in, and the army was without provisions, for Tippoo had laid all the country waste. Under these circumstances, Cornwallis, somewhat precipitately, destroyed his battering guns, and retired from before Seringapatam. He sent word to Abercrombie, who was now approaching, to retire also. On the 26th of May, the very first day of his retreat, the Mahrattas arrived; but, as the rains continued, and his soldiers were suffering from illness, he determined to retreat to Bangalore, where he procured four battering trains; and, having laid in plentiful stores, and obtained strong reinforcements, as soon as the season was favourable, he again set out for Seringapatam. After taking different forts on his way, he appeared before that wealthy city on the 5th of February, 1792, in company with general Abercrombie and a native force belonging to our ally, the nizam. Tippoo was drawn up before the city, having the rapid river Cavery betwixt himself and it, and the place extremely well fortified and defended by batteries. He had forty thousand infantry and five thousand horse; but he was speedily defeated, and driven across the river into the city. There the English followed him, and, under the guidance of the brave generals, Meadows and Abercrombie, they soon penetrated so deeply into the place, that Tippoo was compelled to capitulate. In these actions the English were said to have lost about six hundred men, Tippoo four thousand.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 29

Russian sledge driver
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Russian peasants
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Montreal
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St. Jons
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East India House
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Taking the civic Oath
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Death of Mirabeau
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Porte St. Denis
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View of Notre Dame
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Robespierre
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Arrest of the Royal family
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Royal family of France
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St. Jacques De La Boucherie
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Forest of the Gironde
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Danton
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National Assembly
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Lighthouse of Cordovan
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Madame Roland
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Plan of Seringapatam
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Marriage of Duke of York
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William Wilberforce
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Assassination of Gustavus III
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Sans Culottes
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