OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 9


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

But the people soon beginning to manifest a deep sympathy with the head of the church thus stripped, abased, and kept in secret durance by gendarmes, he was removed, at the end of ten days, to the Italian side of the Alps, and located at Savona. Here the prefect of Savoy, M. de Chabral, presented him with a letter from Buonaparte, menacing him with being called before a council at Paris unless he gave up his obstinacy and signed his deposition; but he replied firmly, " I will lay his threats at the foot of the crucifix, and leave with God the care of avenging my cause, since it has become his own," Pius was detained at Savona three years, and was then removed to Fontainebleau. Amongst all the violent usurpations of Buonaparte, none were more impolitic than this towards the pope. It embittered the minds of the catholic world, both clerical and lay, against him, and the Spaniards and Portuguese, as well as the Austrians, on a future day, struck all the more vigorously at his power as they remembered his base and ungrateful treatment of the head of the church - of an old man worn down by troubles and sufferings - and whose amiable and pacific character merited very different treatment, even at the most indifferent hands. When himself a prisoner at St. Helena, Buonaparte, with singular meanness, denied that the deposition and abduction of Pius VII. were by his authority; that he only knew of them when too late. As if any man whatever in the French empire would have dared to attempt such a measure without his full knowledge and approbation!

Having sufficiently humiliated Austria as well as the pope - having mocked the Poles, by ending his fine promises in handing them over to Russia and Saxony - having had the German and Tyrolese patriots shot - having weakened every one of the Austrian frontiers, and levied three millions sterling on that country for the expenses of the war, thus making it pay for its own subjection - Buonaparte returned to Paris, and, on the 3rd of December, opened the session of the legislative chamber, telling them that, with the exception of Spain and Portugal, the whole continent was in the enjoyment of peace!

In England the ministry was thrown into the utmost chaos and discord by the disastrous progress of the war on the continent, and especially by the miserable result of the Walcheren expedition. One member of the cabinet endeavoured to throw the blame on another, and the feud betwixt Canning, the minister for foreign affairs, and lord Castlereagh, the minister at war, grew deadly. One accused the other of interfering and thwarting action, and so producing the lamentable consequences that ensued. A hot correspondence followed, in which Castlereagh accused Canning of privately insinuating to the other ministers that Castlereagh should be dismissed, and Canning denying it. Betwixt them, lord Camden came into difficulty; for, though Canning had told lord Camden, as lord Castlereagh's relative, that one or other of them must resign, he declared that he did not mean this communication as secret, but as one that he expected lord Camden would communicate to lord Castlereagh. Castlereagh resigned, and then challenged Canning. Canning also resigned; and the duel was fought on the 21st of September, on Putney Heath, and Canning was wounded. The duke of Portland, who was near his end - which was probably hastened by these agitations and embarrassments - also resigned, and died a few days afterwards.

The tory ministry was now in a most shattered condition, and it was believed that it could not repair itself. On the 23rd of September official letters were addressed to lords Grey and Grenville to endeavour to form a coalition with the tories, but they declined. The tory ministry was therefore readjusted by the introduction of the marquis of Wellesley, who had been replaced in his embassy in Spain by his brother Henry, afterwards lord Cowley, who took the place of Canning in the foreign office, and Perceval taking the premiership, which Portland had only nominally held, as well as the chancellorship of the. exchequer, which he held before. Lord Palmerston also made his first appearance in this cabinet us under-secretary of state for the war department, in place of Sir James Pulteney; so that lord Palmerston had been a minister, at intervals, through the long period of fifty-two years. Lord Liverpool took Castlereagh's place as minister of war and colonies; and the hon. R. Ryder succeeded lord Liverpool, as secretary of state for the home department.

The year 1810 opened with violent debates on the conduct of the late ministry, and the. miserable management of the Walcheren expedition. The king's speech, read by commission, passed over the disasters in Belgium entirely, and spoke only of Wellesley's glorious victory at Talavera. But the opposition did not pass over Walcheren; amendments were moved in both houses strongly condemning the whole business, which the ministry managed to get negatived by considerable majorities. Both Castlereagh and Canning defended their concern in the expedition. They declared that the orders were to push forward and secure Antwerp, and destroy the docks and shipping there, not to coop up the troops in an unhealthy island swamp; and that they were not responsible for the mismanagement of the affair. This threw the onus on lord Chatham, the commander, but did not exonerate ministers for choosing such a commander; and though they were able to defeat the amendments on the address, they were not able to prevent the appointment of a secret committee to inquire into the conduct and policy of the expedition. The committee was secret, because Buonaparte carefully read the English newspapers, and parliament was desirous of keeping from his knowledge the wretched blunders of our commanders. This object, however, was not achieved, for the evidence given before the committee oozed out and appeared in our newspapers, and was duly set forth in the Moniteur for the edification of France and the continent. Notwithstanding the frightful details laid before the committee, and the gross proofs of dilatoriness and neglect, ministers succeeded in negativing every condemnatory motion; and though general Craufurd actually carried resolutions affirming the propriety of taking and keeping the island of Walcheren, awfully fatal as it was, still lord Chatham, though exculpated by the court and parliament, was by no means acquitted by the country, and he found it necessary to surrender his post of master-general of the ordnance.

The motion of Mr. Yorke, afterwards first lord of the 'admiralty, for the exclusion of strangers during the debate on the Walcheren expedition, gave great offence to the reformers, who were now beginning to co-operate in societies, and to keep a keen watch on the ministerial tendency to curb the liberty of the press, and to carry things with a high hand. At a debating society, called the " British Forum," the president, Mr. Gale Jones, delivered a strong oration against it, and proposed for the discussion of the following evening the question, " Which was the greater outrage upon public feeling: Mr. Yorke's enforcement of the standing order, or Mr. Windham's attack on the liberty of the press on the same occasion?" This proposal being agreed to, the intended debate was made known by placards posted in the streets. Yorke complained of this as a breach of the privileges of the house of commons, and the printer was immediately summoned before the house, when he gave the name of the author, Mr. Gale Jones, who was thereupon, on the morrow, the 21st of February, brought before the house, and committed to Newgate.

This was carrying matters with a high hand. The true wisdom would have been to have taken no notice of such a discussion, in an obscure association, especially as the corruptions and false representation of that house were every day becoming the subject of more earnest public opinion. On the 13th of March Sir Francis Burdett, at this time in the heyday of his patriotism, moved that Mr. John Gale Jones should be discharged, questioning the legality of his commitment, and declaring that, if the proceedings of parliament were not to be criticised like everything else, there was an end of liberty of speech and of the press. This motion was rejected by one hundred and fifty-three against fourteen. The speech of Sir Francis was printed by Cobbett in his Weekly Register, a publication which for a time possessed high influence with the people. It was also accompanied by a letter of Sir Francis, commenting in strong language on this arbitrary act, and questioning the right of such a house to commit for breach of privilege, seeing that it consisted of " a part of our fellow-subjects, collected together by means which it is not necessary to describe."

This description of the house of commons, at this time, and for long afterwards, was too happy a definition to escape the wrath of that body, which was only too well known to be drawn together by any means rather than an honest and fair election - by pocket boroughs and the most shameful bribery. Such a house certainly had no right to sit as, the representatives of the nation, much less to commit any one to prison for commenting on its proceedings. Discussions on its character and acts were sure every day to be more common and more severe, and the determination was all the more evoked to crush this dangerous tendency, and extend, if possible, the reign of representative infamy. Accordingly, on the 27th of March, Mr. Lethbridge, member for Somersetshire, moved that Sir Francis Burdett should be committed to the Tower for his attack on the house. After some discussion, the question was adjourned to the 5th of April, when, by a majority of thirty-eight, Sir Francis was ordered to be committed as guilty of a libel against the house. But Sir Francis, justly regarding the house as altogether illegally constituted, and as a usurpation by the aristocracy of the functions of the people, determined not to submit to its order. The next day he addressed a letter to the speaker of the house, declaring his contempt for it as then constituted; that he held its order to be on that ground, illegal; and that he would resist it to the utmost. He ordered the doors and windows of his house in Piccadilly to be closed, and prepared to yield only to force.

The excitement in the public, as this resolution became known, was intense, and large crowds assembled in front of the baronet's house, applauding, and shouting " Burdett for ever! " In their enthusiasm, they compelled all passengers to take off their hats, and shout too. But they did not stop here." On all such occasions a rabble of the lowest kind unites itself to the real reformers - a fact far more common at that time of day, when education was almost unknown amongst the people - and they began to insult persons of opposite principles as they discovered them, and to break the windows of their houses. The earl of Westmoreland, lord privy seal, was recognised, and pelted with mud, as well as others of the same political faith. The windows of Mr. Yorke, as the originator of the acts of the commons, were quickly broken, and, in rapid succession, those of lord Chatham, amid loud shouts of " Walcheren! " of Sir Robert Peel, the duke of Montrose, lord Castlereagh, lord Westmoreland, the marquis of Wellesley, Mr. Wellesley Pole, Sir John Anstruther, and others. The Horse Guards were called out, and dispersed the rioters. The next day the serjeant-at-arms made his way into Sir Francis Burdett's house, and presented the speaker's warrant for his arrest; but Sir Francis put the warrant in his pocket without looking at it, and a Mr. O'Connor, who was present, led the serjeant-at-arms down stairs, and closed the door upon him. A troop of life-guards and a company of foot-guards were then ordered to post themselves in front of Sir Francis' house, and at night it was found necessary to read the riot act, and then the guards were ordered to clear the street, which they did. Whilst this was doing, Sir Francis watched the proceeding from the windows, and was repeatedly cheered by the mob. Whilst thus besieged, he was visited by lord Cochrane, the earl of Thanet, Whit- bread, Coke, of Norfolk, lord Folkstone, colonel Wardle, major Cartwright, and other radical reformers. Some of these gentlemen thought enough had been done to establish a case for a trial of the right of the house of commons, and advised Sir Francis to yield to the speaker's warrant. But Sir Francis addressed a letter to the sheriffs of London, informing them that an attack was made upon his liberty by an instrument which he held to be decidedly illegal, and calling upon them to protect both him and the other inhabitants of the bailiwick from such violence. In this dilemma, the premier, Mr. Perceval, advised that the serjeant-at-arms should lay the case before the attorney- general, Sir Vicary Gibbs, which he did; but the reply of Sir Vicary only created more embarrassment, for he was doubtful whether, should any person be killed in enforcing the speaker's warrant, it would not be held to be murder, and whether, if the serjeant-at-arms were killed, a charge of murder would be issued against the perpetrator. The sheriffs, who were themselves strong reformers, laid the letter of Sir Francis before the speaker and before Mr. Ryder, the new secretary of state, who counselled them to give their aid in enforcing the warrant. But these gentlemen proceeded to the house of Sir Francis Burdett, and passed the night with him for his protection.

During that evening and night there were serious contentions betwixt the mob and the soldiers still posted in front of Sir Francis' house, and one man was shot by the military. Scarcely had the sheriffs quitted the house of the besieged baronet on the Sunday morning, supposing no attempt at rapture would take place that day, when the serjeant-at-arms presented himself with a party of police, and demanded entrance, but in vain. All that day, and late into the night, the mob continued to insult the soldiers who kept guard on the baronet's house, and an order being given at night to clear the streets around, the mob broke the lamps, and threw all into darkness. They then carried away the scaffolding from a house under repair, and made a barricade across Piccadilly, which was, however, removed by the soldiers; and the rain falling in torrents, the mob dispersed.

On the following morning, being Monday, the ministers came to the resolution of entering the baronet's house by force; and, as he sate at breakfast with a considerable company of friends, an attempt was made by a man to enter by the window, which he broke in trying to raise the sash. This man was secured; but a more successful party of officers below dashed in a window on the ground floor, and soon appeared in the drawing-room. Sir Francis was seized, and, still struggling and protesting, was conveyed to a carriage, and, escorted by the military, was conveyed to the tower, amid tremendous crowds, crying " Burdett for ever! " A strong force had occupied the passage through the city, and had drawn up before the tower before the arrival of the party with the prisoner, whom they had taken round by Pentonville and Islington. The scene during the conveyance of Sir Francis into the old fortress was indescribable for tumult and yelling. As the soldiers were returning they were hooted and pelted with stones, and at last they lost patience, and fired, killing two persons and wounding a number more.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9> 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 9

The Battle of Talavera
The Battle of Talavera >>>>
Lord Collingwood
Lord Collingwood >>>>
Via Mala
Via Mala >>>>
Execution of Andrew Hofer
Execution of Andrew Hofer >>>>
Campo Vaccino
Campo Vaccino >>>>
Pope Pius VIII
Pope Pius VIII >>>>
Burdett riots
Burdett riots >>>>
Sir Francis Burdett
Sir Francis Burdett >>>>
Marriage of Napoleon
Marriage of Napoleon >>>>
The fire at the Austrian ambassadors ball
The fire at the Austrian ambassadors ball >>>>
Scene in the Peninsula
Scene in the Peninsula >>>>
Port of Rotterdam
Port of Rotterdam >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About