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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 13

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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.

The reformers made repeated and strenuous efforts to obtain a parliamentary expression of the desirableness of this country refraining from interfering with the internal affairs of France, and of making pacific arrangements with that country. Earl Stanhope made such a motion in the lords on the 6th of January, and the duke of Bedford made a similar one on the 27th of February. Lord Grey had moved the same thing on the day before, but all these endeavours were rendered abortive by Pitt's standing majority- It was replied that France had no government that could properly be treated with, and lord Mansfield boldly asserted that we had a right to interfere in the internal affairs of any country which acted on principles dangerous to its neighbour. Fox, on the 24th of March, moved for a committee of the whole house to inquire into the state of the nation, but this was rejected on the ground that the times were too critical, and Canning actually adduced the disturbed condition of Ireland, just on the verge of rebellion, as a sufficient cause for not ascertaining our actual condition.

The only attempts at reform were in the commissariat and discipline of the army. The soldiers were allowed an extra quantity of bread and meat, and the militia regiments were permitted to have artillery, and to increase their force and improve their staffs. But even these reforms were made unconstitutionally by the dictum of the ministers, without seeking the authority of parliament, and occasioned smart but ineffectual remonstrances from the house. Every motion for inquiry or censure was borne down by the ministerial majority.

The remainder of the parliamentary session was occupied with royal marriages and Settlements. George HI. and his queen, though pious and decorous in their own lives, had the misfortune to have amongst their sons some of the most dissolute and debauched men that ever figured in the corrupt atmosphere of courts. " The histories of all courts and all princes," says an author, too well acquainted with that of the regency of England, " show them full of corruption and vices;" but this corruption and these vices never were ranker than amongst some of the sons of George and Charlotte. The prince of Wales was become a very by-word for his profligacy and wild expenditure. No woman, of however high rank, was safe from his attempts on her honour. The duke of York, the next brother, was but little better, so far as his means allowed him, and he was the Willing panderer and procurer for the prince of Wales, as is but too fully recorded in the memoir of the poetess and actress - Mary Robinson. The duke of York had no children by the princess of Prussia, whom he had married; and the duke of Sussex, wishing to marry a woman to whom he was really attached, found his father's royal marriage act standing in his way. This unnatural act, the political purposes of which could have been just as well attained by an act excluding the issue of all marriages with subjects from any claim on the throne, was prolific, as it was predicted to be, of vast licence, and open violation of it by George's own sons. The duke of Sussex fell in love with lady Augusta Murray, a daughter of the earl of Dunmore, and married her in Italy, where he went with her in 1792. The lady soon proving enciente, on their return to England they were again married, on the 15th of December, 1793, at St. George's, Hanover-square. The duke of Sussex had not quite reached his majority on his second marriage in London; but, independent of this, the king immediately brought the parties before the ecclesiastical court, and, by its dictum, declared the marriage null and void. The young couple, nevertheless, continued to live together till after the birth of a second child.

The marriage of the prince of Wales with Mrs. Fitzherbert was equally notorious; but, as it was not openly avowed by the prince, no steps were taken to dissolve it. But, in 1794, the prince had got a new favourite, the lady Jersey, already a grandmother, but a young one. For her Mrs. Fitzherbert was dismissed, showing how little the prince thought of the reality of the marriage with that fair lady, and he now lived openly and ostentatiously with lady Jersey, lord Jersey being well contented with the arrangement for the sake of the good things he hoped to gain by it, being at once appointed master of the horse to the prince. But the prince's extravagance and gambling, by the practice of which, notwithstanding his own losses, he reduced his friends, one after another, as the earl of Moira, Sir Wallace Porter, and others, to beggary, had now brought him into extreme difficulties. His debts, after having been more than once paid off by parliament, now again amounted to six hundred and thirty thousand pounds! Another appeal to parliament was absolutely necessary, for his creditors were grown excessively clamorous. The king seized the opportunity to induce the prince to marry a foreign princess, representing it as the only plan on which they could apply to parliament for such an increase of means as would enable him to liquidate his debts. But here, instead of allowing the prince to go abroad and make his own selection, so that there might be, possibly, some degree of nature and choice in the connection, the queen was anxious to have her own niece, the Princess Louisa Augusta Amelia of Mecklenburg selected for him. This princess, after ward? the popular queen of Prussia, was a good creature, an(; might, possibly, have wrought some favourable change even in so depraved a nature as that of the prince of Wales. But the king was equally determined to secure the unenviable post for Ms own niece, Caroline Amelia Elizabeth, the second daughter of the duke of Brunswick, who was one of the petty princes of Germany, whom we were subsidising at a high rate for the use of a few indifferent soldiers. To effect this arrangement, an attachment betwixt the crown prince of Prussia and this princess Caroline had to be rent asunder. Such outrages, however, seldom form any obstacles in royal eyes; and they seem to have formed none in the eyes of George III. The prince was ready to fall in with any such bargain, on condition that he was liberated from his debts. It was certain, from his past career, that he would please himself as to the lady or ladies with whom he would really live. All obstacles of nature or of nearness of consanguinity - one of the worst sources of misery to the issue of such marriages - or of private attachments by the parties, were soon overborne by diplomacy, and by the promise of the discharge of the prince's debts. The princess Caroline of Brunswick was selected - a young lady of not unpleasing person in her youth, according to the descriptions of the time, but of defective education, and coming to this country with the repugnance of a prior and rudely-disrupted attachment. She landed at Greenwich on Sunday, the 5th of April, 1795, and the marriage ceremony was performed at St. James's, by the archbishop of Canterbury, on the 8th. The princess had not been ignorant of the dissolute character of her appointed husband, and his mode of receiving her was not calculated to inspire any brilliant hopes of his improvement. He had sent his mistress, the lady Jersey, to meet her on landing, and he made no disguise of his connection with her before or after the marriage. The memoirs of the time assert that lady Jersey omitted no arts to render the princess ridiculous and even disgusting to the prince; but what chagrined him far more deeply was the breach of the promises held out to him of the discharge of his debts by a parliamentary grant or grants.

On the 27th of April Pitt introduced a message from the king, recommending the settlement of a suitable provision on the prince of Wales, on his marriage. The prince expected that Pitt would propose and carry, by means of his compliant majority, which had facilely voted away millions to foreign monarchs, a vote for the immediate discharge of his debts. His astonishment may therefore be imagined, when he now proposed that parliament should grant him such an income as should enable him, by decent economy, to defray these debts by instalments through a course of years. Having stated these debts at six hundred and thirty thousand pounds, he proposed to increase the prince's allowance from seventy-five thousand pounds to one hundred and forty thousand pounds, by an augmentation of sixty-five thousand pounds. He proposed that twenty-five thousand pounds of this should be set apart for the liquidation of the debts in the course of twenty-seven years. This was, in fact, only giving him an increase on his marriage of forty thousand pounds per annum; and no one at all acquainted with the prince's character could believe that any such sum would prevent a far greater accumulation of debt in the course of those twenty-seven years, rather than any diminution of it. The question was warmly debated during two mouths, and it was not till the 27th of June that it was finally settled in still worse terms for the prince, namely, that his allowance should be one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds per annum, with the income of the duchy of Cornwall, about fifteen thousand pounds more, thus making up the one hundred and forty thousand pounds; but out of this appropriating seventy-five thousand pounds per annum to the payment of his debts, leaving him only sixty-seven thousand pounds per annum clear for his own expenditure, or eight thousand pounds per annum less than his previous allowance. The duke of Clarence, who, like the prince his brother, was living in open adultery, was, during the debate, extremely violent on this parsimony of the nation; and there were not wanting plenty of courtiers, and other members of parliament, to represent the breach of all moral obligations in princes as most venial offences, as if in princes these defiances of all the Christian virtues are not the most prolific means of spreading moral corruption throughout society. With the grant to the prince this session closed, namely, on the 27th of June.

The first transactions of the campaign of 1795, which demand our attention, are those of Holland. To the English army these were most disastrous, and came to an end before the winter dosed. The duke of York bad re- turned to England early in December, 1794, leaving the chief command to general Walmoden, a Hanoverian, second to whom was general Dundas. Walmoden had gone quietly into winter quarters in the isle of Bommel, forgetting that the firmness of the ice would soon leave him exposed with his small force to the overwhelming swarms of the French, under Pichegru, who, in the middle of December, crossed the Waal with two hundred thousand men, and drove in his lines. General Dundas advanced against him with eight thousand men, and, for the time, drove the French back, on the 30th of December, across the Waal. But this could not last with such disproportioned forces, especially as our troops were left with the most wretched commissariat, and an equally wretched medical staff; in fact, there were neither surgeons to attend the greater part of the wounded, nor medicines for the sick. On the 4th of January, 1795, the French came back with their overpowering numbers, and, on the 6th, the English were compelled to retire across the Leck, and continue their retreat, suffering indescribable miseries from the want of food, tents, and proper clothes, in the horrors of a Dutch winter. Notwithstanding this, the English repeatedly turned, and drove back the enemy with heavy slaughter. But, on the 11th of January, Pichegru attacked them in a defile betwixt Arnheim and Nimeguen, with a Condensed force of seventy thousand men, and made himself sure of destroying or compelling the surrender of the whole British army. They, however, fought their way through, and continued their march for the Elbe, the only quarter open to them. During this retreat they were less harassed by the French, who fell off to occupy Utrecht and Rotterdam, than by the fury of the winter and the hostility of the jacobinised Dutch, who cursed them as the cause of all the sufferings of their country. Nothing, besides the French retreat from Moscow, or the calamities of our soldiers in the Crimean winter, bears any resemblance to the horrors of a two months' march of these English troops ere they reached the port of Bremen, where they embarked for England. An eye-witness, whose account is quoted in the "Annual Register," describes the sufferings of the army in frightful terms: - "During the 16th and 17th of January they were struggling through the sandy deserts betwixt Utrecht and the towns of Deventer and Zutphen, amid bewildering hurricanes of wind and snow. Many famished soldiers fell down and perished. The sick and wounded were carried in open wagons, without proper clothing, and numbers were frozen to death." On the 21st of January, after this terrible time, the writer describes the scene as follows: - "Removing the sick in wagons without clothing sufficient to keep them warm in this rigorous season, has sent some hundreds to their eternal home; and the shameful neglect that prevails throughout all the departments makes our hospitals mere slaughtering-houses. Without covering, without attendance, and even without clean straw, and sufficient shelter from the weather, they are thrown together in heaps, unpitied, unprotected, to perish by contagion, while legions of vultures, down to the stewards, nurses, and numberless dependents, pamper their bodies and fill their coffers with the nation's treasure, and, like beasts of prey, feed on the blood and carcases of their unhappy fellow- creatures, of whom not one in a hundred survives, but perishes under the infernal claws of those harpies, still thirsting for more blood, and rioting in the jaws of death." Numbers of these harpies, thus enriching themselves by the miseries of the poor soldiers, were Germans, and emigrant French, who had become commissary agents, and surgeons to the forces, but many more were their own unnatural fellow- countrymen. Such was the finale of our campaign for the defence of our Dutch allies. It is the general tale of the treatment of the English soldier from ministers ready to send them to fight for foreigners, and to commit them to the tender mercies of ruthless, grasping contractors and commissary officers. It required all the stern energies and high principle of Wellington to create an exception to this State of things in the armies under his command.

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