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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 5


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From economical and colonial, ministers proceeded to parliamentary reform. Sir Harbord had introduced, before their accession to office, a bill to disfranchise the rotten borough of Cricklade, in Wiltshire, as Shoreham had already been disfranchised. The new ministry supported it, with the exception of their strange colleague, Thurlow, whom they ought to have insisted on being dismissed. Cricklade was a thoroughly venal borough, regularly sold to some East Indian nabob; and Mr. Frederick Montagu, in the debate, quoted lord Chatham's remark on Shoreham, which had also been the purchased lair of Indian corruptionists, that he " was glad to find the borough of Shoreham likely to be removed from Bengal to its ancient situation in the county of Sussex."

The success with Cricklade encouraged William Pitt to bring forward a motion for a general reform of parliament. This he did on the 7th of May, and was seconded by Wilkes' old ally, Alderman Sawbridge. Pitt did not venture to talk of a bill, but only to propose a committee to consider the subject. This was granted; but it was soon apparent that nothing could be done. The ministers were wholly at variance on the subject - some went one length, and some another; many of them were as determined against all parliamentary reform as any tories - in fact, it would be difficult, with our notions of reformers, to class the leading so-called whigs as anything but conservative. Many of them, Rockingham, the prime minister, especially, held much borough influence. He was utterly opposed, in secret, to all such reforms. Burke, economical reformer, was impatiently hostile to reform of boroughs, for he had been ejected by an independent constituency, and was now the nominee of lord Rockingham. Thomas Pitt, Pitt's brother, and Thomas Townshend, secretary at war, were open opponents. Pitt himself would hear nothing of repealing the septennial act; but it is to us a curious sight to see this afterwards, and for so many years, determined tory minister battling for parliamentary reform against so- called whigs and reformers. He was for sweeping away all rotten boroughs, those tools with which he subsequently worked so at his will; he went for equalising the whole representation, for destroying the influence of the treasury, of the hereditary right assumed by the aristocracy, and, by disfranchising the rotten boroughs, sweeping the house of the creatures of the India House.

He was zealously supported by Fox, Sheridan, Sir George Saville; and the duke of Richmond, in the lords, warmly commended the movement; but the motion had the fate that might have been expected - it was negatived, but only by twenty votes. Burke and Townshend had been persuaded to absent themselves; but, on the subject soon after being incidentally introduced when Burke happened to be present, he sprang up, and attacked Pitt with a scream of passion, "swearing," according to a letter of Sheridan, "that parliament was, and always had been, what it ought to be, and that all people who wanted to reform it sought to overturn the constitution." There were other motions introduced on the subject of reform - one by Sawbridge, for the shortening of parliament, and by lord Mahon, to prevent bribery at elections; but their fate was the same a3 Pitt's motion, and, indeed, the repulse of that seemed to have damaged the ministers. Fox complained of the thinness of the attendance, the indifference of members to questions of reform, and the shameful conduct of the lords, where the duke of Richmond had been opposed and deserted on all sides.

But the matters most important, and in which the Rockingham ministry succeeded the best, were those of attempting to accomplish the peace with America, and with the continental nations on which they had so long and so loudly insisted. Fox first tried his diplomatic genius with the Dutch, whom he could, as he boasted, soon conciliate; but, to his infinite chagrin, that calculating people were so elated by the recent ill success of the English, and relied so completely on the powerful fleets of France and Spain to protect their trade and islands, that they returned a contemptuous answer, declaring that they could not treat without their allies.

Still more mortifying was his repulse by the Americans. His offers of negotiation for peace were received with a haughty indifference by congress, and he was again referred to France. It was a just punishment for the unmeasured encouragement and extravagant eulogies which he and his colleagues of the opposition had so long conferred on the Americans. They had spared no terms which could debase their native country and exalt America - which could represent England as exhausted and America as invincible; England as mean and tyrannical, America as noble and magnanimous. They had been feeding a vanity ready enough to kindle of itself, and had, in truth, as had been bitterly remarked by their predecessors in office, really fought for the congress in parliament much better than the English generals and admirals had fought against it. They had now procured a resolution of the house of commons, presented by the whole house in a body to the king, and therefore, by him assented to, although reluctantly, that England could not and would not continue the war. Under these circumstances, congress treated their old friends and advisers with the coolest contempt, at the very time that the American army was destitute of food, of clothing - of almost everything, and could no more fight than it could draw a do it from the empty treasury of congress. General Greene, as commander of the northern army, was writing, " For upwards of two months more than one-third of our men have been entirely naked, with nothing but a breech cloth about them, and never came out of their tents; and the rest were as ragged as wolves. Our condition was little better; our beef was perfect carrion, and frequently we had none," Washington described his men as exactly in the same condition, and added, " You may rely upon it, that the patience and long-suffering of this army are almost exhausted, and that there never was so great a spirit of discontent as at this instant. It is high time for a peace." Yet at this moment the congress, careless of its army, or whether it dispersed or not, because the whig ministers of England had determined to fight no more, behaved to their old friends and eulogists with the most supreme scorn. A minister of genius would, at this moment, have mustered fresh troops and ships, were it by a gigantic effort, have quelled those starved and trouserless troops, and have dispelled the prospects of a peace, which might never arrive, except by submission; for at this moment the spirit of England was rising again on the ocean, and there needed only a great mind at the helm to humble all her enemies.

But Fox and his colleagues had not yet tasted all the humiliation which they had been preparing for themselves, by their years of inconsiderate language. When they dreamt only of damaging their official opponents, they were in reality damaging and humbling themselves. Fox now had recourse to the mediations of Russia and Austria. The czarina and the emperor Joseph, equally with the Dutch, convinced of the fallen fortunes of England, insulted her whilst pretending to serve her. At the same time Fox dispatched to Paris Thomas Grenville, to propose, as the basis of a treaty, the concession of the independence of the United States, and the status quo ante bellum, for all other territories. Here again, however, the same haughty indifference encountered him; the French expected wonders from their mighty fleet in the West Indies, under De Grasse; nothing less than the capture of our few remaining islands; and the Spaniards were more than ever confident of the conquest of Gibraltar.

Whilst Fox was experiencing these unpleasant effects of the speeches of himself and co-oppositionists, which had so long extolled the enemies of England, and represented her so low and so completely on the brink of ruin, Rockingham, who was failing when he took office, died on the 1st of July. Fox, who was a violent anti-Shelburneite, instantly threw up office on the king sending for Shelburne, and upon that nobleman accepting the position of premier. Burke, lord John Cavendish, and John Townshend, did the same. Thomas Townshend took Fox's place as foreign secretary, lord Grantham succeeded lord Shelburne as home secretary, William Pitt now came in as chancellor of the exchequer, in the place of lord John Cavendish. Barre took Burke's post of paymaster of the forces, and Dundas stepped into Barre's as treasurer of the navy. Other changes took place; the duke of Portland, a firm Rockinghamite, resigned the lord-lieutenantcy of Ireland, which George Grenville, now lord Temple, the nephew of the late lord Temple, took. Mr. Pepper Arden became solicitor-general, and Sir George Yonge secretary of war, in place of Thomas Townshend, now secretary of state, in place of Fox.

The resigned Rockinghamites were by no means resigned in their tempers. Fox was gone out in the deepest poverty and embarrassment, and attacked his late colleagues bitterly. He declared that Shelburne could be base enough to coalesce even with lord North, the very thing Fox himself was so soon to do. Fox, on his part, came in for very severe censure, for being one of a ministry who, whilst professing to put an end to administrative corruption, and engaged in cutting down pensions, granted the enormous ones of colonel Barre and lord Ashburton; whilst they received with coldness the news of a most splendid victory of Rodney over De Grasse, which we have now to detail, and conferred on him only a pension of two thousand a-year, because he was a tory. In fact, whilst Fox had been vainly making overtures of peace to the European powers and to America, Rodney had been showing that there wanted only three or four really able men at the head of our ministry, our army and navy, to turn again the tide of victory toward England in all its greatness. To add to these mortifications of Fox, the king, disgusted at the humiliations which he considered the overtures made by Fox to the French, Dutch, Spaniards, and Americans brought with them, had, with evident satisfaction, accepted his resignation. The king prorogued parliament immediately on the formation of the new ministry, the session ending on the 11th of July.

Scarcely was the Rockingham administration formed when they determined to recall England's ablest admiral, Sir George Rodney, and they carried this into execution in May of this year, and appointed admiral Pigott in his stead. Lord Keppel, who had shown himself so sensitive in his own case, now he was at the head of the admiralty, not only recalled Rodney because he was of another party, but did it in the coldest and most direct manner, through his secretary, Mr. Stephen. Providence was, however, preparing a due punishment for this deed, which was sacrificing the interests of the country to party feeling, as is the general wont of party. At the very time this order of recall was issued - the 1st of May - Rodney had fought one of the greatest and most decisive battles which embellish the history of our navy. He had gone in all haste to the West Indies, with fourteen ships of the line, to join Sir Samuel Hood, who was vainly contending against the fleet of De Grasse and a strong land force at St. Christopher's. As we have seen, Hood had contended stoutly, with only twenty-two ships of the line, with De Grasse's thirty-three, off Basseterre, in St. Christopher's. He had skilfully dispossessed the French of their anchorage- ground, and repulsed, with terrible loss to the enemy, two attempts to regain it. But, as De Grasse had landed eight thousand men, under De Bouille, and Hood had no land troops, he could not save the island. After its capture Rodney fortunately fell in with him, and their united fleet now amounted to thirty-six ships of the line. It was well, for Hood informed Rodney that De Grasse was intending to join the Spanish general, Galvez, at St. Domingo, where they were to sail for a grand attack on the chief of the British West India Islands, Jamaica, almost the only island, with the exception of Barbadoes and Antigua, which England had left. So confident were the Spaniards of the conquest of Jamaica, that, before Galvez sailed from the Havannah, the council there had formally addressed him as governor of that island. But Rodney declared that nothing should prevent his saving that valuable possession, having now thirty-six sail of the line, though some of them were in very bad condition. He dispatched some swift sailers to watch Port Royal, whilst he lay ready for a start in St. Lucien.

On the 8th of April he was signalled that the French fleet was unmoored and proceeding to sea. Rodney instantly put out, and the next morning discovered this fleet under Dominica. The wind being in favour of De Grasse, he stood away for Guadaloupe; but Rodney gave chase, and Hood's squadron getting far in advance, De Grasse veered round in the hope of beating him before the rest of Rodney's fleet could come up. Hood received the fire of three men- of-war in the Barfleur, his ship, for some time; but he stood bravely to the enemy, and the wind now favouring Rodney, he came up and joined in the engagement. Several ships on each side were so much damaged that they were almost useless, and captain Bayne, of the Alfred, was killed. The next morning, the French were nearly out of sight; but Rodney pressed after them under all sail, for he knew that if they succeeded in joining the Spaniards, he should have sixty sail, instead of thirty-six, to contend with.

On the evening of the 11th he had the satisfaction to find himself close to the enemy, and at day-break of the 12th the battle began. At first, there was so little wind that Rodney was unable to put into execution his long-cherished scheme of breaking right through the centre of the enemy's line, and beating one half before the other could come to the rescue. There has been much dispute as to the first idea of this plan. It was certainly no new one, for it had been promulgated in a work on naval evolutions by Father Paul Hoste, a French Jesuit, so early as 1697; but Rodney had the merit of estimating its importance, and of first adopting it. About noon a breeze sprang up, and afforded the long- desired opportunity. Rodney was now in the van, and after captain Gardiner, in the Duke, had made the first attempt and fallen back disabled, Rodney's own ship, the Formidable, broke through, followed by the Namur and the Canada. Sir Gilbert Blane, who was on board Rodney's vessel, says: " We passed within pistol-shot of the Glorieux, of seventy-four guns, which was so roughly handled, that she was shorn of all her masts, bowsprit, and ensign-staff, but with the white flag nailed to the stump of one of her masts, and looking defiance, as it were, in her last moments. Thus become a motionless hulk, she presented a spectacle which struck our admiral's fancy as not unlike the remains of a fallen hero; for, being an indefatigable reader of Homer, he exclaimed, that now was the contest for the body of Patroclus."

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 5

Admiral Sir John Jervis
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View of Minden
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Surrender of the Garrison
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Shandon Steeple
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Washingtons house
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Jean Francois Galaup de la Perouse
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Comte de Grasse
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Gibraltar
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Siege if Gibraltar
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Washington in New York
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John Adams
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Thomas Erskine
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