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The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 17

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William Hone, on this third trial, once more seemed to forget his past fatigues, and rose with a strength that completely cowed the old and fiery judge. He did not desist till he had converted his dictatorial manner into a suppliant one. After quoting many eminent churchmen as dissentients from the Athanasian Creed, and amongst them Warburton and Tillotson, he added, " Even his lordship's father, the bishop of Carlisle, he believed, took a similar view of this creed." This was coming too near; and the fudge said, " Whatever that opinion was, he has gone, many years ago, where he has had to account for his belief and his opinions. For common delicacy, forbear." " O, my lord," replied the satisfied defendant, " I shall certainly forbear." The judge had profited by the lesson to-day: he gave a much more temperate charge to the jury, and they required only twenty minutes to return the third and final victory of Not Guilty.

Never had this arbitrary government suffered so withering a defeat. The sensation throughout the country was immense. The very next day lord Ellenborough sent in his announcement of retiring from the bench, and in a very short time he retired from this world altogether, it being a settled conviction of the public mind that the mortification of such a putting down, by a man whom he rose from his sick-bed to extinguish, tended materially to hasten that departure.

The acquittal of Hone was the more unexpected because a printer in the country, who had republished one of Hone's parodies, was tried and readily found guilty. The government, therefore, could scarcely entertain a doubt that a jury of respectable London merchants would quickly decide against publications ridiculing the established church. But these merchants were shrewd men of the world, and could not be blinded to the fact that the real offence was kept in the background, and that Hone might have written parodies on creeds and catechisms with as much impunity as George Canning, had he not stung ministers by satire, only too just, on their despotism, nepotism, and extravagance. Ministers had not even now done with Hone. They had conferred on him immense popularity; they had made him formidable; and he went on attacking them and the prince regent in a succession of stinging squibs - "The Political House that York Built" (1819); "The Queen's Matrimonial Ladder" (1820); " The Political Showman " (1821), in which lord Sidmouth figured as the Doctor - his father having been one - and Nicholas Vansittart, the chancellor of the exchequer, as Old Bags. A large sum was raised for him . by public subscription, to indemnify him for the expenses of the trials, and to establish him as a bookseller.

The only matters of interest debated in parliament during this year, except that of the discontent in the country, were a long debate on catholic emancipation, in the month of May, which was negatived by a majority of only twenty- four, showing that that question was progressing towards its goal; and a motion of lord Castlereagh for the gradual abolition of sinecures. This intimated some slight impression of the necessity to do something to abate the public dissatisfaction, but it was an impression only on the surface. This ministry was too much determined to maintain the scale of war expenditure to which they had been accustomed to make any real retrenchment. A committee appointed to consider the scheme, recommended the abolition of sinecures to the amount of fifty-four thousand pounds per annum, but neutralised the benefit by recommending instead, a pension-list of forty-two thousand pounds per annum. The country received the amendment with disgust and derision.

The year, gloomy in itself from the dislocation of trade and the discontent of the people, terminated still more gloomily from another cause - the death of the princess Charlotte. This event, wholly unexpected, was a startling shock to the whole nation. This amiable and accomplished princess was not yet twenty-two. She had been married only fn May, 1816, to prince Leopold of Coburg, and died on the 5th of November of this year, a few hours after being delivered of a still-born child. What rendered the event the more painful was, that her death was attributed to neglect by her accoucheur, Sir Richard Croft. Dr. Baillie, who saw her soon after her confinement, refused to join in the issue of a bulletin which the other medical men had prepared, stating that she was going on well, and a few hours proved the fatal correctness of his opinion. Sir Richard Croft, overwhelmed by the public indignation and his own feelings, soon after destroyed himself.

No prince or princess for a long time had excited so many hopes, and won so strongly on the affections of the nation. She showed great talent in the acquisition of the branches of education and accomplishment usually conferred on ladies of her rank. She excelled in music and dancing, and spoke with fluency the chief languages of Europe; but she was not contented with these acquisitions, but pursued on system those branches of information, history, statistics, &c., which were particularly calculated to enable her to discharge ably and justly the duties of that illustrious throne to which she stood the heiress. Her disposition was frank and amiable; she had chosen her husband, not from state policy, but pure affection; and the general excellence of his character, his prudence and liberality of sentiment, which have been amply displayed on the throne of Belgium, justified the very highest hopes of the nation. The people saw in her a future queen, with the vigour, unaccompanied by the vices and tyrannies, of Elizabeth. She had taken the part of her mother against the treatment of her father, and this was another cause which drew towards her the affections of the people. All these hopes were extinguished in a moment, and the whole nation was plunged into sorrow and consternation, the more so that, notwithstanding the twelve children of George III., there had only been this single grandchild, and several of his sons remained unmarried.

The year 1818 commenced gloomily. On the 27th of January. parliament was opened by a speech, drawn up for the prince regent, but read by the lord chancellor. The first topic was, of course, the severe loss which the country and the prince had sustained in the death of the princess Charlotte. It was only too well known that the prince and his daughter had not for some time been on very cordial terms, the princess having taken the part of her mother; and the vicious and voluptuous life of the regent did not probably leave much depth of paternal affection in his nature, which had originally been generous and capable of better things. It was remarked by Mr. Ward, afterwards lord Dudley and Ward, that the mention of the princess " was rather dry - sulky, rather than sad." But the death of his only legitimate issue, and that at the moment that she might have been expected to give a continued succession to the throne, was a severe blow to him. There was an end of all succession in his line. He stood now unsupported by the hopeful connection with his daughter's affectionate regard in the country, and he was ill able to bear the loss of any causes of popularity. He received a severe shock; and it was only by copious bleeding that he was saved from dangerous consequences; yet, so little was the depth of his trouble, that within three months of his loss he attended a dinner given by the Prussian ambassador, and entertained the company with a song.

The rest of the speech consisted of endeavours to represent the country as in a prosperous condition; to have escaped from insurrection by the vigilance and wisdom of ministers, and to have recovered the elasticity of commerce. No amendment was moved to the address in either house, but not the less did the conduct of ministers escape some animadversion. In the peers, lord Lansdowne ridiculed the alarms which had been raised regarding the movements in Derbyshire, which, he said, had not been at all participated in by the working population at large, and had been put down by eighteen dragoons. He contended that there was no evidence of any correspondence with these conspirators in other quarters; but this was notoriously incorrect, for there bad been a correspondence in Lancashire and Yorkshire, a correspondence especially disgraceful to the ministers, for it was on the part of their own incendiary agents. Ha observed truly, however, that the insurrection, as it was called, had by no means justified the suspension of the habeas corpus act, for it could have been most readily put

down without it by the regular course of law. In the commons, Sir Samuel Romilly thought that the Derbyshire insurrectionists had been very properly brought to trial; for . Brandreth had committed a murder, and, therefore, those who acted with him were, in the eye of the law, equally guilty. But if they were properly brought to trial, there were others who ought still more properly to have been brought to trial too - the very men whom government had sent out, and who had aroused these poor people into insurrection by false and treacherous statements. There was no justice in trying and punishing the victims, and Screening their own agents; and tliis was what government had done, and was still doing. It is in vain, therefore, that their defenders contend that they gave no authority to Oliver and the other spies to excite the people to outbreak: these spies having notoriously done it, they still protected and rewarded them, and thus made themselves responsible for their whole guilt. If they had not authorised the worst part of the conduct of the spies, they now acted as though they had, and thus morally assumed the onus of these detestable proceedings.

One thing immediately resulted from the paeans of ministers on the flourishing State of the country - the repeal of the suspension bill. The opposition at once declared that if the condition of the country was as ministers described it, there could be no occasion for the continuance of this suppression of the constitution; and accordingly a bill for the repeal of the suspension act was at once brought in and passed by the lords on the 28th, and by the commons on the 29th of January.

In seconding the address in the commons, Mr. Wyndham Quin had drawn a very flattering picture of the State of the nation. He said, " The country felt an increased circulation in every artery, in every Channel of its commerce. Last year the fires were extinguished in most of the iron-works; now they are in full activity, and the price of iron has risen from eight or nine to about fourteen pounds a ton. The demand for linen - the staple of the north of Ireland - is unprecedented, both as to quality and price. The funds are now eighty; last year they were about sixty-three. Money is most abundant, and when lent on mortgage at good security, lowering in rate of interest, and to be had at four and a half per cent; at the same time that sales of land are effected at better prices than last year."

Now, much of this at the moment was true; the manufacturers were naturally anxious to resume their business, and a fall in the price of corn, after the plentiful harvest of 1817, to seventy-four shillings und sixpence, relieved a little the pressure on the working classes. Could cheap bread have been secured, the condition of the people might soon have become easy; but the fatal Corn Law came immediately into operation. By the end of 1817 corn had risen in price again to eighty-five shillings and fourpence; and then the ports were opened, but the supplies did not bring down the markets. The spring of 1818 proved wet, and then about the middle of May a drought set in, and continued till September, so that the apprehensions of a deficient harvest kept up the price of all articles of life, notwithstanding a million and a half quarters of wheat being imported during the year. So long as bread was tolerably cheap, and work more abundant, political agitations in the manufacturing districts subsided; but it was soon proved that the apparent increase of activity in manufacturing and commercial exports was but a feverish desire on the part of manufacturers and merchants to force a trade for which the exhausted continent was not yet prepared. Nothing but a free importation of corn could have carried the country tolerably through this crisis; and this was denied by the measures of government, except at a rate of price that put the proper consumption of bread beyond the means of the working classes.

Meantime ministers, anxious to exonerate themselves from the odium so fully their due for fomenting insurrection, commenced parliamentary inquiries, which only the more clearly demonstrated their guilt. On the 2nd of February the celebrated green bag was sent down by the prince regent to the lords, and another green bag on the following day to the commons. These green bags - or, rather, this green bag, for they were classed as one by the public, their contents being one - make a great figure in the newspaper comments of the time. They were stuffed with documents regarding the late extraordinary powers assumed by ministers, and the occurrences in the Midland Counties which had been held to justify them. No doubt the papers had been carefully selected, and they were now submitted to a secret committee of each house, which, being named by ministers, was pretty sure to bring in reports accordingly. On the 23rd the committee of the lords brought up its report, and on the 27th the commons produced theirs. As might have been expected from their parentage, there was a striking likeness in the offspring of the committees; they were veritable twins. Both travelled over the same ground; the statements made by the secret committee of 1816 averring that schemes of conspiracy were in agitation, and the events of 1817, particularly in Derbyshire and Yorkshire, as fully confirming these averments. They were compelled, however, to confess that the insurrections, though clearly connected in différent counties, in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire, were not very formidable, and that the mass of the population in those counties did not at all sanction, much less second, such proceedings. Yet, notwithstanding this confession, the fact stood before the public, that under the arbitrary measures of ministers a great number of persons had been arrested and thrown into prison, against whom no charge could be established; and that at Derby three had been executed, and twenty others transported or imprisoned for long terms, and those, every one of them, through the acts and incitements of the emissaries of the ministers themselves. On the motion for printing the report of the commons, which, of course, justified the ministers, Mr. Tierney said that it was scarcely worth while to oppose the printing of " a document so absurd, contemptible, and ludicrous."

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 17

Elba >>>>
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Battle of Waterloo
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Attack on the Chateau Hougomont
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Death of George III
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