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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 12


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But this could not save Poland: its three mighty oppressors were pouring down their multitudinous legions on every portion of the doomed country. The emperor of Austria marched an army into Little Poland, at the end of June, and an army of fifty thousand Russians and Prussians were in full march on Warsaw. For a time, Kosciusko repulsed them, and committed great havoc upon them on the 27th of July; again, on the 1st and 3rd of August. At the same time, generals Dombrowski, prince Joseph Poniatowski, and other Polish generals, were victorious in different quarters, and the king of Prussia was compelled to draw off his army, forty thousand strong, from Warsaw, in order to recover Great Poland. This gleam of success on the part of the Poles, however, was but momentary. Their army in Lithuania, commanded by corrupt gambling and gormandising nobles, was beaten at all points by the Russians, and driven out of Wilna on the 12th of August. At the same time, the savage Suvaroff, the man who had cried " Glory to God and the empress! " over the ruthless massacre, of Ismail, was marching down on Warsaw. Kosciusko had unwisely weakened his army by sending a strong detachment under Dombrowski into Great Poland, and attacking a Russian force under count Fersen, at Macziewice, about fifty miles from Warsaw, on the 17th of September, he was utterly routed. He had only about twenty thousand men, whilst Fersen had at least sixty thousand. But Kosciusko was anxious to prevent the arrival of Suvaroff before the engagement, and thus rushed into battle with this fatal inequality of strength. He was left for dead on the field, but was discovered to be alive, and was sent prisoner to St. Petersburg, where he was confined till the accession of the Emperor Paul, who set him at liberty. He afterwards retired to America, and returned to France in 1798, when Buonaparte repeatedly endeavoured to engage him in his scheme of conquering Poland; but he refused the insidious offers, and died in Switzerland, in 1817.

The fall of Kosciusko was the fall of Poland. Not even Kosciusko could have saved it; but this catastrophe made the fatal end obvious and speedy. Still the Poles struggled on bravely against such overwhelming forces for some months. On the 26th of October they attacked the advanced division of Fersen, but were defeated, and driven back into Praga, the suburb of Warsaw, which is separated from the main city by the Vistula. This they had strongly fortified, and planted on its batteries a hundred cannon, and the very Úlite of the Polish army was collected there for its defence. When Suvaroff arrived, and sate down before it, they made a stout resistance. But immediately that Suvaroff heard that the king of Prussia had defeated the insurgents in Great Poland, and was in full march for Warsaw, he determined to carry the place at whatever cost. If the king of Prussia should arrive and carry Warsaw before him, he might claim that capital for himself, instead of its becoming the Polish head-quarters of Russia. On the 4th of November, therefore, he determined to storm Praga. He called out all his force, and commenced a general attack. The Poles stood gallantly to their guns, and mowed down his assaulting troops in thousands. But Suvaroff, on such occasions, did not care for any amount of destruction of his men; he continued to precipitate his dense masses of soldiery on the walls from one end to the other, and, after four hours of a most desperate and sanguinary struggle, he forced his way, and put all who fell in his path to the sword. The inhabitants were butchered without regard to age or sex, and no quarter was given to the brave defenders. Twelve thousand of the people were murdered by the ruthless Russians, and eight thousand soldiers, many of them after they had lain down their arms. The Russians were enabled to perpetrate this monstrous carnage the more effectually, because they had seized the bridge leading over the Vistula into Prague, and burnt it during the battle, so that many of the Poles while attempting to swim across it were drowned. Warsaw, horrified at this inhuman brutality, and seeing the whole suburb of Praga set fire to, and consuming in the flames (for it was chiefly built of wood), capitulated that very day; and Suvaroff and his barbarous hordes entered Warsaw in triumph on the 6th. At the news of this catastrophe the Poles everywhere laid down their arms, and then the three robber powers commenced a ruthless persecution and destruction of those who had been in arms, and especially of the leaders. In this base work Prussia showed the most implacable severity, exceeding even the empress Catherine, who sent some of the Polish nobles into Siberia. There then remained only for these three powers finally to complete the division of the spoil amongst them, which was not effected without considerable difficulties and differences amongst them. The ultimate partition treaty was at length signed on the 24th of October, 1795; some particulars regarding Cracow, however, not being settled between Prussia and Austria till the 21st of October, 1796. Stanislaus Augustus was compelled to abdicate, and he retired, after the death of Catherine, to Petersburg, with a pension of two hundred thousand ducats a-year. He died there in the month of February, 1798, only about fifteen months after his former mistress, the czarina. And thus Poland was blotted out of the map of nations.

In England there had been a coalition of what was called the Portland section of the whigs, with Pitt's ministry. These whigs had not only separated from Fox and his friends, but they had, from the first outbreak of the French revolution, followed the lead of Burke, and supported all Pitt's measures. The duke of Portland, therefore, was, in July, made third secretary of state; lord Fitzwilliam, president of the council, and, in December, lord-lieutenant of Ireland; earl Spencer was made, at the same time, lord privy seal, and, in December, first lord of the admiralty -, Pitt's elder brother, lord Chatham, being removed for him, and made privy seal; and Windham became secretary of war in place of Sir George Yonge.

But this large infusion of whiggery did not render the administration any the more liberal. It was determined to bring the politically accused, now out on bail, to trial. On the 6th of October true bills were found by the grand jury of Middlesex against Thomas Hardy, the secretary of the corresponding society, John Home Tooke, John Augustus Bonney, Stewart Kyd, the Rev. Jeremiah Joyce, Thomas Wardle, Thomas Holcroft, John Richter, Matthew Moore, John Thelwall, Richard Hodgson, and John Baxter, for high treason.

Hardy was put upon his trial first at the Old Bailey, October 29th, before chief-justice Eyre, a judge of noted severity, chief-baron Macdonald, baron Hotham, Mr. Justice Buller, and Mr. Justice Grose, with other judges. John Scott, afterwards lord Eldon, as attorney-general, opened the case against him in a speech of nine hours. In this he laboured to represent the corresponding society, and Hardy as its secretary, as guilty of a treasonable intercourse with the French revolutionists, and read numbers of documents expressing great admiration of the French institutions. But these were merely the documents which had long and openly been published by the society, and were well known through insertion in the newspapers. There was nothing clandestine, nothing looking like a concealed and dangerous conspiracy. The great gist and burthen, then, was a thorough reform of parliament, and the utter disfranchisement of the rotten boroughs, by which the whole representation of the country was transferred to the aristocracy. There was next a strong attempt made to connect the secretary of the society with the men lately condemned in Scotland, especially Margarott, with whom, as all undoubtedly engaged in the same object, reform, Hardy, as secretary, had considerable correspondence. The whole failed to impress an English jury, and Hardy was acquitted after a trial of eight days.

The next who took his trial was Home Tooke. The evidence was much the same, but the man was different. Tooke was one of the keenest intellects of the time, full of wit and causticity, by which he had worsted even Junius. He summoned as witnesses the prime minister himself, the duke of Richmond, master-general of the ordnance, and others of the cabinet, who had all, in their time, been ardent reformers, and cross-questioned them in a style which, if he were guilty, showed that they had once been as much so. Tooke's trial was very damaging to the government, and lie was also acquitted after a trial of six days, during the whole of which the jury had not been allowed to separate, that they might not receive any popular impressions from without - a course which was not calculated to put them in a particularly good humour with the prosecutors.

On the 1st of December Bonney, Joyce, Kyd, and Holcroft were brought up, but the evidence was precisely the same against them as against Tooke; they were discharged without trial. Holcroft would have made a speech condemnatory of these prosecutions, but was not allowed. As these gentlemen were removed from the bar, John Thelwall, the well-known elocutionist and political lecturer, was brought up. As the government thought there were some other charges against him, the trial went on, and lasted four days, but with the same result; and, as it was found that it was hopeless to expect verdicts of guilty from English juries for mere demands of reform, the rest of the accused were discharged. To the honour of the nation, people of all parties appeared to rejoice at the independent conduct of; the juries. This noble independence was, in truth, in bright contrast to that of Scotch juries. In this very autumn, fresh trials of accused seditionists had taken place at Edinburgh, in which the conduct of government and the servility of the Scotch juries were equally reprehensible. One Robert Watt, a ruined tradesman of that city, was put upon his trial, on the 14th of August, charged with eighteen overt acts of high treason - in exciting many individuals to arm themselves, and to meet in convention to concoct plans for the over- throw of the government. But it appeared on the trial that Watt had long been a government spy, employed to instigate people to these courses, by direct orders from Mr. Secretary Dundas and the lord advocate of Scotland. Letters from these gentlemen, containing these orders, and proofs of Watt being in the pay of government for these purposes, were produced by Mr. Henry Erskine, the prisoner's counsel. It was shown unanswerably that he had been encouraged to have arms made and distributed, and to tempt the soldiers in Edinburgh. -He had been thus employed to mislead and ensnare unsuspecting persons from August, 1792, to October, 1793 - more than twelve months; and it was shown that after this the government had abandoned him, and that he had then joined the reformers in earnest. Notwithstanding this display of the infamous conduct of the government, Watt was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.

One Samuel Downie was next arraigned on the same charges, on the 5th of September, as an accomplice of Watt, But it appeared that he had been rather the dupe of Watt and the spy-employing government than anything else; and, though the jury pronounced him guilty, they recommended him to mercy. He was respited, and, eventually, pardoned; but Watt underwent his sentence, so far as being hanged and beheaded - a warning to spies how they trusted a government equally faithless to the people and to the tools by which they sought to betray them.

The last act of this year, 1794, was the opening of parliament, on the 30th of December. The king, in his speech, was compelled to confess the deplorable defeat of our allies, and of our own army under the duke of York. He had to admit that, Robespierre having fallen, there might possibly be a more pacific spirit in France; that Holland, the only ally for whom we were verbally bound to take up arms, was negotiating a peace with the French; that the United States of America had refused to coalesce with the French against us, and had, on the contrary, made a treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation with us. Here, then, was an end of all real causes for anything more than a mere defensive war on our part. Yet the speech breathed a most warlike spirit, and made a great deal of the secession of the island of Corsica from France, and its adhesion to England. In the same spirit were the addresses from both houses carried by overwhelming ministerial majorities.

Canning, now rising into note, and Windham, declared that there were no motives for peace, but everything to necessitate the active prosecution of the war; and Windham could not help severely condemning the acquittal of Horne Tooke, Hardy, Thelwall, and the rest of the accused reformers. He was called to order for thus impugning the conduct of independent juries, and reminded that no legal proofs of the guilt of the prisoners had been produced - on which he replied that they ought to have been condemned, then, on moral proofs.

Sheridan marked the opening of the year 1795 by moving, on the 5th of January, for the repeal of the suspension of the habeas corpus act. He showed that the very grounds on which this suspension had been based had miserably given way on the trials of Tooke, Hardy, and the rest; that the whole amount of arms and money on which the so-called " formidable " conspiracy had rested, had been shown to be one pike, nine rusty muskets, and a fund of nine pounds and one bad shilling! He said that the great thing proved was the shameful conspiracy of the government against the people, and their infamous employment of spies for that end; that eight thousand pounds had been spent on the crown lawyers, and a hundred witnesses examined, only to expose the guilt of the ministry. Windham defended the measures of government, and charged the juries with ignorance and incapacity, for which Erskine severely reprimanded him. But the standing majorities of Pitt were inaccessible to argument, and the continuance of the suspension was voted by a majority of two hundred and thirty- nine against fifty-three. There was a similar debate, with a similar result, in the lords, where, however, the dukes of Norfolk and Bedford, the marquis of Lansdowne, and the earls of Lauderdale and Guildford strongly opposed it.

These debates were immediately followed by the opening of the budget on the 23rd of February - an opening which was enough to have made any men but such as were then at the head of English affairs pause in their ruinous career. There was a call for one hundred thousand seamen, for one hundred and sixty thousand regulars, and fifty-six thousand militia - total, two hundred and sixteen thousand soldiers, besides volunteers, fencibles, and foreign troops in British pay, amounting, by land and sea, to at least four hundred thousand men! For their support there was demanded sixteen millions and twenty-seven thousand pounds, with other taxes and deficiencies, including interest on debt; the whole revenue demanded was twenty-seven millions five hundred thousand pounds. Besides this there was an annual subsidy to the king of Sardinia of two hundred thousand pounds, although there was no prospect whatever of saving him. To raise all this, new duties had to be laid on tea, coffee, raisins, foreign groceries and fruits, foreign timber, insurances, writs, affidavits, hair-powder, licences, &c., and to increase the revenue from the post-office, the privilege of franking was somewhat abridged. The only tax that the compliant aristocracy protested against was that on the powdered pates of their menials; but the country cried lustily, but in vain, against the increase of taxation, which, gross as it was, was but the beginning of their burdens, and of the burden of all posterity.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 12

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