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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 27


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The year 1800 opened in the British parliament by a debate on an address to the king, approving of his reply to an overture for peace by Buonaparte, as first consul of France. As in this proposition there were no conditions stated, a correspondence ensued betwixt lord Grenville, as secretary at war, and M. Talleyrand, as French minister for foreign affairs but it ended in nothing. If Buonaparte had been sincerely desirous of peace, he must have withdrawn the French army from Egypt, as it was there with the open declaration of an intention to make that country a stepping- stone to India. But, so far from this, Buonaparte was, at the same moment, preparing to make fresh and still more overwhelming invasions of Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. As England was yet far from having learned the great and necessary lesson of non-intervention, its ministers were not likely to accept a peace which left Belgium and Holland parts of France. Pitt, in his speech on the address, set himself elaborately to answer Mr. Erskine, who not only declared in his place in parliament, but had published a pamphlet, to prove that we were the first aggressors in this dreadful and expensive war with France. If the case could have been argued at that time on the basis on which we now admit that it ought to have been, Erskine would have succeeded. "We were the first to take up arms to defend our allies, the Dutch; but then, in the eyes of Pitt and of his majority, to attack our allies was to attack us; and Pitt argued triumphantly to a large public of that time, when he recapitulated the dates of the aggressions of France on Belgium and Holland, stating truly that we did not take up arms till after the battle of Jemappe, in 1792. Could the English government and its borough-purchased majority in parliament of that day have been able to comprehend the great doctrine of non-intervention, there would have been a fair ground of peace, had Buonaparte been prepared to evacuate Egypt, and renounce all designs on our Indian territory. We had certainly done enough, and more than enough, on account of our allies; for we had for them accumulated a vast burden on the shoulders of our posterity, whose consent could not be obtained, who had no representatives living and elected by them, and could not, therefore, be justly charged with the costs of war for the benefit of foreign nations. But such doctrines then were so much empty wind against the theory of Pitt, who was destined by his wild ideas of universal quixotism to cost this country more, as one man, than all its kings together had cost it from this conquest. The address in the commons was carried by a majority of two hundred and sixty to sixty-four; and it was immediately followed by a message from the crown, announcing new complications with the continental powers, and making the most enormous demands for the prosecution of the war. On the 17th of February it was distinctly stated that the king was making fresh arrangements with the emperor of Germany, the elector of Bavaria, and other continental princes, to enable them to defend their own territories, and of which defence they had already amply shown that they were utterly incapable. Pitt demanded half-a-million of money to be paid over to these princes as an instalment; and he called for no less than forty-seven millions four hundred and ninety thousand seven hundred and thirty-nine pounds for the expenditure of the year.

Mr. Tierney, who now began to distinguish himself in opposition, objected to the whole of these propositions, as most uncalled for and unjust to the people of this country, and defied Pitt to state the real aim and object of the war, Pitt replied, as in astonishment, "The honourable gentleman defies me to state what is the object of the war. I will state it, not in one sentence, but in one word: it is Security - security against the greatest danger that ever threatened the world. It is security against a danger which threatens all the nations of the earth! "

If this was the real motive for the war - " security against a danger that threatened all the nations of the earth" - then the answer was plain: - Let us insure our own security, and let all the nations of the earth do the same. We have surely done enough to show a real sympathy with those nations, and it bas been useless. Some of them have made peace with the enemy, and spent our money to destroy other nations. We are not justified in preserving Austria and Prussia, that they may destroy Poland. We cannot answer it to our posterity, whose money it is that we are spending, and not our own. Behold our national debt; that is at once the monument of our sympathy for other nations, and of our useless endeavour to save nations far more numerous than ourselves.

Had this language been used, no nation could have any- thing to say against it, for no other nation came to our aid; no other nation was quixotic enough to make itself the champion of the whole world, when it had, moreover, to borrow the money to do it with, or, rather, to take it from those who could not protest against the act - namely, posterity. We could at comparatively little cost have defended our coasts and our colonies, and have been prepared at any time to perform offices of sympathy towards suffering nations, and of peace-making betwixt hostile ones; but Pitt was insane on the point of fighting for all the world, and not only proceeded to expend nearly fifty millions that year, but to raise a new loan of twenty million five hundred thousand pounds more by annuities, and he imposed still more taxes. all inquiry into the necessity of such expenditure was quashed. An inquiry into the causes of our disgraceful expulsion from Holland was negatived, also, by an immense majority. The same fate attended the attempt to defeat the renewal of the suspension of the habeas corpus act.

On the 15th of May the king was twice in danger of his life. In the morning, as he was witnessing the exercises of a battalion of grenadier guards, one of them fired a bail cartridge, which hit a Mr. Ongley, a clerk in the navy office, who stood only eight paces from the king. An immediate examination of the cartouche-boxes of the soldiers was made, but nothing was discovered to lead to the detection of the shooter, and probably it was a mere accident; but it made a great- sensation at court; and, as the king had publicly announced that he should pay a visit to Drury Lane Theatre that evening, ever y endeavour was made to induce him to keep away. The king would not listen to any suspicion of danger; he went, accompanied by the queen and some of the princesses. As, however, he entered the box, and was bowing to the audience, a shot was fired at him. He stood for a moment, and then, turning to the queen and princesses, who were just entering the box, he said, "Keep back! - Keep back! They are firing squibs for diversion, and perhaps there may be more! " He then went forward to the front of the box, and bowed again to the audience, which rose en masse, and cheered vehemently. An impromptu stanza was said to be written by Sheridan to " God save the King," and sung with rapturous applause. It was found that the man who had fired was a Chelsea pensioner of the name of Hatfield, who had become insane from no less than eight sabre wounds in the campaigns in Holland and Belgium. He had fired a horse-pistol at the king; but his arm having been struck up by a person near him, the bail hit the top of the box. The man was tried, and committed to Bethlehem Hospital for life. To reduce the chances of these insane attempts at the monarch's life, two new clauses were introduced into the insanity bill, considerably abridging the privilege of bail allowed to alleged lunatics.

Meantime, the country was feeling the pressure of the war severely in the scarcity of corn. Commerce being deranged by the disturbed state of the continent and the dangers at sea, grain and flour were very high, and, in answer to public complaints, resolutions were passed through both houses, recommending the diminished use of bread, the substitution of brown bread for white, of stale bread for new, and the total disuse of pastry. To such paltry resources was the nation reduced through its fatal indulgence in war! The more rational measures were, to offer bounties on importation of grain, and on the stoppage of the distilleries. The opposition did not fail to upbraid the government with these difficulties as the direct result of their war mania; and Pitt received these remonstrances, charging him with some- thing little short of treason.

In July of the present year the Union of Ireland with Great Britain was carried - an admirable measure, effected by the most detestable means on record. A resolution had passed the British parliament in 1799, recommending this union, and the news of this created a tempest of indignation in Ireland. In January, 1799, the speech on the address to the throne in the Irish parliament was, on this account, vehemently opposed, and only carried by a majority of one; yet, in January, 1800, a motion was carried, at the instigation of lord Castlereagh, in favour of the union, by a majority of forty-two. Whence this magical change in twelve months? On the 5th of February the whole plan of the union was detailed by lord Castlereagh, the principal secretary of state for Ireland, in the Irish commons. He stated that it was intended to give to Ireland in the parliament of the United Kingdom four lords spiritual, by rotation of sessions, and twenty-eight lords temporal, elected for life as peers of Ireland, and that the Irish representatives in the united house of commons should be a hundred. The motion for this plan was carried in the Irish commons by a hundred and fifty-eight against a hundred and fifteen, and by a great majority in the house of lords; but this was in the face of the most unmitigated amazement on the part of the opposition, and of the people, who were not in the secret. The rage and indignation were beyond description. On the 13th of March Sir John Parnell declared that this measure had been effected by the most unexampled corruption, and moved for an address to his majesty, imploring him to dissolve this parliament, and present the question to be decided by a new one. But the solicitor-general, who had taken his own ample bribe, declared that this motion was " unfurling the bloody flag of rebellion; " and Mr. Egan replied that the solicitor-general and other members of the administration had already " unfurled the flag of prostitution and corruption." But the measure was now passed, and that by the same parliament which, only a year before, had rejected the proposition in toto. But what were the means employed by the English government to produce this change? O'Connell, in his speech before the Dublin corporation in 1843, declared that he had it on the authority of Burke and Plunket, and on that of the report of the committee of the Irish house of commons in 1798, to inquire into the causes of that event, that not only had the great Irish rebellion been fomented by the English government, as preparatory to their plan of urging a union, but the parliamentary papers published since then, he added, " disclosed the astounding fact, that one million two hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds had been paid in purchase of Irish boroughs, and more than a million pounds expended in mere bribes. Bribery was unconcealed. The terms of the purchase were quite familiar in those days. The price of a single vote was eight thousand pounds in money, or an appointment to an office of two thousand pounds a-year, if the parties did not choose to take ready money. Some got both for their votes; and no less than twenty peerages, ten bishoprics, one chief justiceships, and six puisne judgeships were the price of votes for the union. Add to this, officers who were appointed to the revenue, the army, and the navy, in recompense of union votes. At first, Castlereagh failed, but he then bought up the seats in parliament, and so achieved - a majority."

In a word, Ireland was forced into the union by the same means by which the liberties of England had been undermined - by the public money, and the bribes of elevation to the peerage. Grattan, the great Irish patriot, said lord Castlereagh openly avowed the application of bribery: - " The peerage was sold; the caitiffs of corruption were everywhere - in the lobby, in the streets, on the steps, and at the doors of every parliamentary leader - offering titles to some, offices to others, corruption to all! " It was on this disgraceful occasion that the name of lord Castlereagh first became familiar to English ears.

The names and prices of all the purchased members of the Irish parliament were preserved in the Irish Black and Red lists. A selection of a few of them may be edifying: -

J. Bingham, created lord Clanmorris; 8,000 for two seats, and 15,000 compensation for Tuam. Had first offered himself for sale to the anti-unionists.
Joseph H. Blake, created lord Wallscourt.
Sir J. G. Blackwood, created lord Dufferin.
Sir John Blaquiere, created lord de Blaquiere, with offices and pensions.
Lord Boyle, son of lord Shannon, father and son received each 15,000 for their boroughs.
Charles H. Coote, created lord Castlecoote, with a regiment, patronage in Queen's County, and 7,500 in cash.
James Cuffe; his father made lord Tyrawley.
Lord Fitzgerald, a pension and peerage.
Luke Fox, made judge of Common Pleas.
William Fortescue, a pension of 3,000 a-year.
J. Galbraith, a baronetage.
Richard Hare, made lord Ennismore, with patronage.
Colonel B. Heneker, a regiment, and 3,500 a-year for his seat.
Hon. J. Hutchinson, made lord Hutchinson, and a general.
Hugh Howard, made postmaster-general.
William Handcock, an extraordinary instance. He made and sang songs against the union, in 1799, at a public dinner, and made and sang songs for it in 1800; for which he was made lord Castlemaine - a title of peculiar infamy, having been given by Charles IL to one Palmer, for the debauching of his wife.
"W. G. Joscelyn, promotion in the army, and his brother made bishop of Lismore.
William Johnson, according to his own statement, "returned to parliament by lord Castlereagh, to put an end to it a judgeship.
Rt. Hon. H. Langrishe, 15,000 for his patronage of Knocktopher, and a commissionership of revenue. T. Lingray, 1,500, and a commissionership of stamps. T. Lingray, junior, 1,500, and made usher at the Castle. J. Longfield, made lord Longville.
Lord Loftus, 30,000 for boroughs, and made an English marquis.
H. D. Massey, 4,000 in cash.
Rt. Hon. Lodge Morris, made a peer.
Sir R. Musgrove, made receiver of customs, with 1,200 a-year.
James M'Cleland, made baron of exchequer.
Sir W. G. Newcomen, a peerage for his wife, &c.
H. F. Prittle, made lord Dunally.
Sir Richard Quin, made a peer.
The Hon. H. Skeffington, made clerk of Paper Office at the Castle, with 7,500 for his patronage. H. M. Sandford, made lord Mount Sandford. John Stewart, made attorney-general and a baronet. Hon. B. Stratford, 7,500, as half compensation for Baltinglass. Hon. J. Stratford, 7,500 for the other half of Baltinglass, and paymaster of foreign troops, with 1,300 a-year. Rt. Hon. J. Toler, a peerage and chief justiceship. Hon. R. Trench, made a peer and ambassador.

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