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Reign of George III. (continued.) page 7


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Her fleet, now conducted by our countrymen, kindly endeavouring to promote this ambition, which was to become their own scourge, on the 5th of July, 1770, came to action with that of the Turks off Scio. In the action, the ships of the two admirals, Capudan Pacha, and Spiritow, the Russian, blew up. The English admirals, Elphinstone and Greig, continued to fight. The Turks fled into the Bay of Tscheme, when Elphinstone blockaded it; and captains Dugdale and Mackenzie, in the darkness of the night, sailed up to the Turkish fleet with fire-ships, which spread their flames in spite of all attempts to extinguish them, and reduced the whole fleet to ashes. The spectacle was terrible; the successive explosions of their powder magazines were heard in Athens. The earth at Smyrna shook as with an earthquake. The Russian ships were tossed and daslied against each other as by a storm. The Turkish sailors escaped many of them by swimming to land, and by boats, and, in their rage, murdered all the Greeks they could meet with, and set their towns and villages on fire. Smyrna and Constantinople itself were in a fearful panic. Elphinstone had promised the czarina to break through the Dardanelles and attack the Turkish capital; but Alexis Orloff, who had shown the utmost imbecility in the war both on land and on sea, dared not attempt it. The English insisted, and led the way to the mouth of the Dardanelles, but the cowardly Russian would not follow, and the English officers quitted the fleet in disgust, and without receiving any reward for their signal services. When they were gone, Orloff ordered four pictures to be painted of the different phases of the destruction of the Turkish fleet, by Hackert, and then returned to St. Petersburg, where he was received with the highest honours, and named by the empress thenceforward, Orloff Tscliemekoff.

In order to divide and reduce Turkey, the Russians made an alliance with Ali Bey, the viceroy of Egypt, and engaged, in return for his refusal of all assistance to the Porte, to aid him in his designs on Syria. They besieged, in conjunction with him, Jaffa and Damietta, but with little effect. They then invested Lemnos, but were driven thence by the bold enterprise of Gazi Hassan, who was born in Persia, and sold as a slave to a Turk in Rodosto. For his successful assault on the Russians, and their utter rout, he was made lord high admiral. From that time the Russians could effect little against the Turks, except that they, in 1771, had managed to rend the Crimea from Turkey under pretence of acknowledging its independence. This was the last event of any importance in the war which was terminated in 1774, by the peace of Cainardgi, when the Crimea was pronounced an independent state.

Such were the lawless aggressions and sanguinary deeds of the Russian demi-savages, which the English Government, stoneblind to the future, had been aiding to the best of their ability; and now they saw enough of their mistake in bringing the Muscovites into the Mediterranean to make it necessary to increase their own fleet. The mischief, however, was not to end here. Europe expected to see Turkey at this time absorbed into Russia; but the jealousy of Austria and Prussia saved it; but they, at the same time, turned the greedy eye of the czarina on another prey - Poland, and the three powers becoming joint robbers of nations, soon after consummated their crime of the first partition of that country.

The domestic business of the session commencing with this year, was chiefly of an ecclesiastical character. Sir William Meredith presented a petition from two hundred and fifty of the established clergy, including many professors of civil law and physic, who prayed relief from subscription to the thirty-nine articles of the Church of England, without which no degree could be obtained at either of our great universities, and no student even could be admitted at Oxford. The subject had been warmly discussed in the newspapers and pamphlets, and in public meetings. Sir William contended that enforcement of these articles only propagated perjury; and the petition itself stood upon the right of all Englishmen to enjoy the benefits of these institutions, founded, many of them, by grants of kings and I queens for these subjects. It prayed for an acknowledgment of the scriptures as sufficient ground for admission and for the attainment of honours. Sir Roger Newdegate, owner of a name down to our time expressive of the strictest conservatism, opposed the petition, and was followed by Mr. Stanley, Mr. Fitzmorris, and Mr. Jenkinson, who contended that no attention should be paid to any such petitions, considering all the mischief which had been done to the church by fifth-monarchy men and other fanatics. Charles Fox was amongst these narrow spirits, and had, says Gibbon, " prepared himself for this holy war by passing twenty-two hours in the pious exercise of hazard, his devotion costing him only about five hundred pounds an hour - in all, eleven thousand pounds!"

But far more remarkable was it to see Burke ranged on his side, for Fox had not found sufficient reasons for turning patriot. Burke, in reply to the prayer, that acknowledgment of the sacred scriptures should be sufficient, asked " what were the scriptures to which they were content to subscribe? They do not think that a book becomes of divine authority because it is bound in blue morocco, and is printed by John Baskett and his assigns? The Bible is a vast collection of different treatises; a man who holds the divine authority of one, may consider the other as merely human. What is his canon? The Jewish; St. James's; or that of the thirty- nine articles? There are some who reject the Canticles; others, six of the epistles; the Apocalypse has been suspected even as heretical, and was doubted for many ages, and by many great men. As these narrow the canon, others have enlarged it by admitting St. Barnabas's, the apostolic constitutions, to say nothing of many other gospels. Therefore, to ascertain scripture, you must have one argument more, to define what that scripture is which you design to teach."

All this sounded very plausible, but was just so much sophistry, for the words "the authorised version" would have settled the whole matter as it regarded the universities, and the church might have been left to impose what doctrines it pleased on its clergy before admitting them to its pulpits. But the day was far off when such advantages as those of studying at the national universities on equal terms for all subjects could be obtained; when those who dared to dissent from the state church should be dignified with the same honours as those who held with it. The motion was rejected by two hundred and seventeen votes against seventy-one.

Mr. Henry Seymour, a few weeks after, moved for leave to bring in a bill, called afterwards the Church Nullum Tempus Bill, to secure the estates originally derived from the church for the exercise of any dormant claims of that body, which was also rejected.

In the midst of these debates, Dr. Nowell, chaplain to the house of commons, preached before it on the 30th of January, the anniversary of the execution of Charles I. As usual, his audience was very small, consisting only of the speaker and four members. Whether these five were awake or not would seem doubtful, for they carried a vote of thanks for the sermon, and another for printing it; and when the sermon came to be put into the hands of the members at large the consternation was tremendous. It was found to contain the most unmitigated doctrines of the Filmer and Sacheverel stamp, namely, of passive obedience, and the divine right of kings. Mr. Thomas Townshend, afterwards lord Sydney, rose in his place, and moved that the sermon should be burnt by the common hangman; but the house luckily remembered that thanks had been voted for it in its name, and got rid of the motion by moving the order of the day. This was carried, and another motion to expunge the vote of thanks from the journals of the house.

These debates called forth many remarks on the blessed martyr, Charles Stuart. Lord Folkstone said that part of the liturgy was composed by father Petre, the Jesuit confessor of James II., and alderman Sawbridge asked whether Dr. Nowell meant to recommend Charles I. as a model to the present king. Frederick Montagu moved the repeal of the act for the observance of the anniversary of king Charles's death; but this motion was zealously opposed by Sir Roger Newdegate, and rejected by a hundred and twenty-five votes to ninety-seven.

The dissenters, encouraged by expressions let fall by different members during the debates, and especially from those of the ministerial party, who were desirous of uniting them with the church, so far as to act in a body on any occasion against the Roman catholics, now procured the introduction of a motion for the abolition of the test and corporation acts. On the 3rd of April, Sir Henry Houghton, a member for the county of Lancaster, moved this, and Sir George Saville seconded it. The churchmen opposed' it on the ground that these acts were perfectly inert; that since the accession of the princes of Hanover no one had been interfered with on account of his religious views, and therefore there was no need to repeal these acts. Had this been true, the same argument made the repeal a matter of indifference to the church; but it was far from being true. Dissenters could have shown abundant proofs of their unjust and invidious operation, and the animus of the bishops, when the bill went into the upper house, was a convincing proof that they knew it. The bill passed the commons by an overwhelming majority, but was thrown out of the lords by an almost equal preponderance. Lords Camden, Shelburne, Chatham, and even Mansfield, supported it; but the archbishop of York, the bishops of London, Oxford, Peterborough, and Llandaff, and the lords Bruce and Gower, opposed it. On this occasion lord Chatham introduced the phrase, " the college of fishermen," for the apostles, in contradistinction to the college of cardinals, and gave that strikingly analytical description of the church of England, as popish in her liturgy, calvinistic in her creed, and arminian in her clergy.

In the month of March, before these religious debates were at an end, in consequence of remarks of lord North, Mr. Sullivan, the deputy-chairman of the India House, brought in a bill to regulate the affairs of the company, which was daily rising into greater importance. During the discussion, many disgraceful revelations were made of the tyrannies, extortions, and peculations of the company's servants, who were continually coming home loaded with wealth, and finding their way into the house of commons. A committee was appointed to inquire into the administration of the company; and it appeared, from a communication of lord George Germaine to colonel Barre, that ministers entertained an idea of buying up the violent opposition of that gentleman, by offering him the presidency of the board of control; but it came to nothing.

The only other proceeding of this session was one of a very remarkable character. The boasted morals of George III. and of his queen had not defended his family from the crimes and corruptions which are inherent in courts. Amongst both his brothers, as afterwards amongst his sons, the vices of luxury and libertinism had flourished freely. As we have related, his brother, the duke of York, had died in Italy, from a fever induced by his excesses. But far more notorious was the life of his brother, the duke of Cumberland. Amongst his licentious intrigues was one with Henrietta Vernon, lady Grosvenor, a young and beautiful woman, whom he seduced, following her into Cheshire, when her husband took her from town, and meeting her in various disguises. In 1770 lord Grosvenor brought an action against him for criminal conversation, and obtained a verdict of ten thousand pounds. This was the first time that a prince of the blood had stood defendant in such a trial. In the coarse of the trial the royal duke's love letters were produced, and exhibited the defective education which he had received from the princess dowager, in common with the king and the rest of his brothers. He could not spell, much less punctuate his writing. It was a scandalous exhibition altogether.

Immediately after the royal libertine abandoned the beautiful woman whom he had thus made an outcast from her family and virtuous society, and was seen publicly parading an actress of Covent Garden Theatre. With a rapidity of fickleness almost unexampled, he was immediately afterwards paying suit to Mrs. Horton, the widow of Christopher Horton, Esq., of Cotton Hall, in the county of Derby, and daughter of that notorious Luttrel, lord Irnham, and sister to the colonel Luttrel who had been forced by government into the seat of Wilkes for Middlesex.

So long as the royal dukes only prowled amongst the fair sex, and degraded and ruined them at pleasure, the moral George and Charlotte remained passive; but the gay widow Horton, not consenting to Cumberland's suit, except through wedlock, the offence to royalty became intolerable. Cumberland went over to Calais with Mrs. Horton, and there married her according to the rites of the church of England. The consternation at court on the realisation of this fact was unexampled. That the princes should habitually dishonour private families was little; but that they should contract a marriage with any one but of blood royal was unpardonable. The offence to queen Charlotte was more mortal than to the king. She prided herself on the unsullied antiquity of the blood of the house of Brunswick, and on her common descent from the Guelphs and Estes. She looked down on her husband as of far inferior lineage to her own - one of his ancestors having married a woman of plebeian blood, named mademoiselle D'Olbreuse. On one occasion, when she gave a dinner to the royal family at Frogmore, some one remarked that every guest at table was descended from the electress Sophia, but queen Charlotte indignantly exclaimed, " No, madame, there is nothing of D'Olbreuse here!" pointing to herself.

To crown the calamity of pollution, the duke of Gloucester now confessed to a secret marriage with the countess dowager Waldegrave, who to being merely a countess added the misfortune of being the illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole, brother of the great minister. Both royal dukes were instantly forbidden the court; and so deep was the offence given by these acts - really amongst the most decent of their lives - to the king and queen, that for two years neither of the dukes were received there again. But it was not enough to denounce so vehemently this crime of marriage with a commoner, though once committed by George himself- - a preventive to the like acts for the future must be found, and a bill was immediately brought into parliament, since well known as the Royal Marriage Act, by which every prince or princess, the descendants of George IL, except only the issue of princes married abroad, was prohibited from marrying until the age of twenty-five without the king's consent. After that age they might apply to the privy council, and if within a year of such announcement both houses of parliament should not express disapprobation of the intended marriage, it might then be lawfully solemnised. The bill did not pass without violent opposition. Both within doors and out there was much bitter comment on the bill which our princes for eight hundred years had done without, and it was styled " a bill to encourage fornication and adultery in the descendants of George II." It has ever since remained in force.

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