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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 4

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On the 3rd of May Mr. Leycester delivered a message from the commons to the peers, requesting that lord Melville might attend the commons for examination on the tenth report of the naval commissioners. The house took time to consider the message, and came to the conclusion that such an attendance was contrary to the solemn resolution of the house of lords of 1673, and also to the dignity of the house.

On the 6th of May Whitbread was about to move a resolution that his majesty should be requested to erase the name of lord Melville from the list of the privy council, but Pitt rose and said that the motion was unnecessary, as his majesty had already done it. On the 16th, Pitt, in compliance with a resolution of the house, named the commissioners for inquiry into the State of the war-office, and the administration of the army. Mr. Giles moved that they should have retrospective authority, like the naval commission. On this George Rose, who had taken care to warmly feather his nest by such abuses, said that might be inconvenient, as they might stumble on lord Holland'« grand defalcation. Fox rose as if stung by a serpent, and declared for himself that he never had received a shilling of the profits thus made, neither, he felt sure, had his brother, general Fox; and that, when he found so large an arrear due to government, he had refused to act as executor under his father's will. But it was well known that the other executors had not been so nice, and that the present lord Holland had the benefit of it.

On the 23rd of May Mr. Serjeant Best moved for a select committee of inquiry into the eleventh report of the naval commissioners, by which, he said, it appeared that large sums had been raised, by both Melville and Pitt, on their own authority, without any application to parliament, and that by loans for the navy, as alleged for secret services - transactions totally contrary to the constitution of the country. The chancellor of the exchequer, that is, Pitt himself, stepped in to bar this dangerous inquiry. He said bills issued for secret service could only be inquired into by a secret committee, and he especially exempted from inquiry one hundred thousand pounds which had been so raised at a critical moment. But Pitt's obstruction to the inquiry could not shut out from the public the now acknowledged fact, that money to almost any amount could be, and very extensively was, thus raised and spent by ministers without the public having any knowledge of how or why, under this convenient phrase of secret service. With such a defence against inquiry, the most dreadful temptation to embezzlement of the public property was kept open.

Melville was now permitted by the house of peers to go down to the house of commons, notwithstanding their conclusion on the subject, to make his defence, and he made a very long speech, contending that he had not embezzled a farthing of the public money, and exalting his services to the country, especially in his India administration. But, on this head of secret service money, he was as close as the grave. He declared that, " if he had disclosed any of these transactions, he should have felt himself guilty, not only of a breach of public duty, but of a most unwarrantable breach of private honour." There were twenty thousand pounds which he never did, and never could, account for, on this ground; and there were forty thousand pounds drawn at once by Pitt from the navy fund. He said he knew very well for what purposes these sums had been paid, but that nothing would compel him to disclose it. When it was asked him whether Mr. Trotter had not kept large sums belonging to the navy fund in Coutts's bank, and speculated with them to his own great enrichment, he admitted that Trotter had had such sums, for considerable times, in Coutts's bank, but that they were always forthcoming when wanted, and that no single payment had been delayed on that account; and that, out of one hundred and thirty-four millions, which had passed through his hands, nothing had been lost. He praised Trotter in the highest manner, but was silent as to the private use that he had so long, and to such advantage to himself, made of the public money. He admitted that he had himself held considerable sums of this money, at different times, in his own hands, but had repaid the whole before quitting office, and that this was all that the act of 1785 required. He seemed to admit that he had paid money out of the navy fund for other than naval purposes and for these secret service purposes. Some of these were in Scotland, of which, also, he had the administration to a certain degree. And here the public called to mind that Watt, the spy and informer against the Scotch reformers, had acknowledged to have been employed and paid by Dundas, so that it was clear whither some of the navy funds had gone. Melville entered into long explanations regarding a written release which had passed reciprocally betwixt him and Trotter on winding up their affairs, in which they agreed to destroy all their vouchers for the sums paid away. This looked very black, but Melville contended that it was only a matter of course - a thing constantly done by officials under the circumstances, which, if true, made the matter all the worse for the country. But Melville contended that this clause in the release was merely a form; that it did not mean that they should literally destroy the vouchers, but only that they should be rendered invalid, as evidence, in any prosecution, which very little mended the matter. Melville declared that he had not, in consequence of the clause, destroyed a single paper.

On the withdrawal of Melville, Whitbread moved for his impeachment, and Mr. Bond for his prosecution in the ordinary courts of law, and this amendment was carried. But Melville preferred impeachment to a trial at common law; for he had more hope in the sympathies of his own order, many of whom were more or less in the habit of holding office, and enjoying similar play with the public money, to the plain convictions of a jury, whose sympathies lay the other way. And we shall find that he was wise in his generation. Mr. Bond was induced to withhold any further procedure, in consequence of his motion, and Mr. Leycester, one of Melville's friends, made a fresh motion for impeachment, which was carried; and, on the 26tli of June, Whitbread, accompanied by a great number of members, impeached him at the bar of the house of lords. A bill was also passed through both houses, regulating the course of his impeachment. The impeachment itself, owing to very important events, including the death of Pitt, was not proceeded with till April of the following year.

But at the termination of the debates on lord Melville's affair, the Roman catholics of Ireland had petitioned again for the removal of their disabilities, and, on the 12th of May, motions were made by Fox, in the commons, and lord Grenville, in the peers, for this object, but both were rejected by large majorities, on the plea that the moment was inauspicious. On the 10th of July lord Sidmouth and the earl of Buckingham resigned. It was supposed that differences of opinion regarding lord Melville's case was the cause; but, in fact, it was found that Addington could no longer serve under Pitt, having himself been at the head of the state. Lord Camden succeeded Sidmouth, and lord Harrowby, lord Buckingham. Castlereagh obtained Camden's post of secretary of foreign affairs. This secession weakened Pitt's ministry considerably.

On the 12th of July parliament was prorogued, but a message was sent down to the house to enable his majesty to carry out some arrangements in the north of Europe, which were necessary for the security and independence of Europe; and a sum, in addition to the large supplies already granted, was voted, which was not to exceed three millions and a half. This meant that so much money was wanted to subsidise Russia, Sweden, and Austria, with the two former of which powers a league was already entered into for the resistance of French aggression. It was not yet deemed prudent, however, to State this fact to parliament. Great exertions had been made to draw Prussia into this confederation, notwithstanding the shameful perfidy of her former conduct, and the shameful use which she had made of our money. But the king of Prussia was, at the same time, listening to the offers of Buonaparte, who was encouraging him to expect the annexation of Hanover, his English cousin's patrimony, and also further territory at the cost of Prussia's late ally and fellow-robber of Poland, Austria. Under these circumstances, Prussia kept a dubious position, but continued to strengthen her armies for an emergency, holding herself ready to close with the best offer. Austria herself was afraid of another war with Buonaparte, and strongly urged that negotiations should be opened with him before proceeding to extremities. For this purpose a Russian envoy set off for France; but, stopping at Berlin to endeavour to draw the king of Prussia into some intelligible position, he was there met by the news that Buonaparte had annexed Genoa to France. This was so gross a violation of the treaty of Luneville, that Novosiltzoff, the Russian ambassador, was brought to a pause. Not only the Italian, but the Helvetian and Batavian republics had had their independence guaranteed by the treaty of Luneville; but what was now the fact? They were all overrun by Napoleon's troops. This news made the king of Prussia retire into himself more cautiously. In October of the last autumn Alexander of Russia had made a visit to Berlin, and both the king and his beautiful and patriotic queen had manifested their personal feelings regarding France freely. It is said that Alexander and Frederick William had sworn at the tomb of Frederick, called the Great, to liberate Europe. But of this no more was now said. The Russian envoy was recalled, and Austria hastened to join the league with Russia, England, and Sweden, without Prussia.

But the annexation of Genoa was but a small part of the aggressions of Buonaparte on Italy. On the very same journey he made himself king of Italy. He had been coutemptating this simultaneously with his assumption of the imperial crown of France. He had taken care to invite the chief authorities of the Cisalpine republic to his coronation in Paris. Melzi, the vice-president, Mareschalchi, the ambassador, and a number of councillors of state, as well as deputies from the Colleges, municipalities, &c., attended. He then made them pretty clearly understand that he meant to make himself king of Italy, and what he expected from them. Accordingly, on the 17th of March, 1805, Melzi appeared at the head of a splendid deputation, to inform the emperor that they were become convinced that a republic could not be maintained in Italy; it would always be exposed to the cupidity of Austria, and the factions she would excite; that the form of government established at Lyons must be changed; it must become monarchical, and they desired to put themselves under the powerful protection of his imperial majesty. They begged him to assume the Italian crown. They produced the act of the consulta, which prescribed that he should be king, with the title of Napoleon I. of Italy; but the two kingdoms of France and Italy were only to be united under him. Under his successor, the crown of Italy was to be placed on the head of such person as Buonaparte should name, only that it should not be the same who wore the crown of France. Buonaparte affected to feel the justice of their scruples. He said he was quite of their opinion, that the union of the two countries was necessary for them, but not for their descendants; that he had, even while fighting in the east, been engaged in plans to liberate Italy from her embarrassments and oppressions; whilst covered with the blood and dust of Marengo, he was pondering on her reorganisation and happiness. He meant to sacrifice his own ease and convenience to the good of Italy, till he could safely place the Italian crown on the head of a younger person, who would be ever ready to sacrifice his life for the people over whom he should be called to rule by the constitution of the country, and by his, the emperor's, appointment. This looked very like Buonaparte even then contemplating the divorce of Josephine, and a fresh marriage, from which issue might be expected. He added to these observations, so characteristic, another equally so, that "the power and majesty of the French empire were surpassed by the moderation which presided over her political transactions! "

This hollow farce being terminated, and arrangements made for his journey into Italy to be crowned, Buonaparte went over to the senate, and, in a set speech, expatiated on the aggrandisements of surrounding states; the usurpation of Poland by Austria, Russia, and Prussia; the conquests of Russia in Turkey; and of England in India. As for France, he observed, in her magnanimous moderation, she had extended her protection over Holland, Switzerland, and a great part of Germany, but had left them independent, states, although she had conquered them. It was necessary that France should add some weight of additional territory to herself, to counterbalance the expansions of the other powers. Thus the Italians had offered to him the crown of Italy, and he had loaded himself with the responsibility for the good of both countries. The senators applauded his acceptance of this royal duty vociferously; and, on the 14th of April, attended by his empress, Napoleon set out on his journey to his new kingdom. He was followed by a most numerous and gorgeous retinue, and, on Sunday, the 26th of May, he was crowned in the cathedral of Milan. Though the pope had returned to Italy, and was in Turin when Buonaparte arrived there, he did not go forward to crown him. Some persons imagined that Napoleon felt a scruple in asking the pope to crown him king of Italy, as it seemed to imply a superiority over the papal dominions themselves; but Buonaparte was not a man to be troubled with such scruples; and it is rather more probable that the pope, little satisfied with his journey to France, excused himself from the labour on the score of indisposition. Be that as it may, the archbishop of Milan performed the ceremony, blessing the old iron crown of the ancient kings of Lombardy, and Buonaparte putting it himself on his head, as he had done that of France. Whilst he did so, he pronounced aloud the haughty motto which was attached to it by its ancient possessors, " Dieu me Va donné: gare qui la touche " (" God has given it me: let him beware who touches it.") After the ceremony, the emperor went in procession to the Italian senate, where he invested prince Eugene Beauharnais, the son of Josephine, with the vice-royalty of Italy. He then instituted an order of the iron crown, on the same basis as the legion of honour; and he modelled the kingdom of Italy on the plan of the French empire.

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