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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.)


Instalment of the Prince Regent - Duke of York re-appointed Commander-in- Chief of the Forces - Bill to prevent the Depreciation of Paper Money - Buonaparte imagines that his Continental System is producing the Ruin of England - Progress of the War in Portugal - Retreat of Massena from Santarem, pursued by Wellington - French expelled from Portugal - Surrender of Badajoz by the Spaniards - Defeat of the French at Barossa - The Battle of Fuentes de Onoro, and Fall of Almeida - Massena recalled by Buonaparte - Ney, Junot, and other Generals, return to Paris - Battle of Albuera - Reduction of Tarragona by Soult - Surrender of Blake, and the last Spanish Army at Valencia - Reduction of Java by the English - The King of Rome born - Buonaparte attempts to divide France from the Roman See - Attack in the Commons on Sinecure Offices - The Whigs desert the Prince Regent - Perceval, the Prime Minister, shot by Belling- ham - Grants and Pensions to his Family - The Liverpool Ministry - Riots in the Cotton Districts - The War in Spain - Storming of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz by Wellington - Defeat of Victor at Tarifa - Battle of Salamanca - Wellington in Madrid - Maitland's Reinforcement for Sicily - Wellington retreats to Salamanca; to Ciudad Rodrigo - Sicilian Affairs - Plot against the English Army - Lord William Bentinck's Re- forms - Abdication of the King in Favour of his Son - A New Constitution - Queen Caroline sent out of the Country - Naval Actions - Differences with America - British Ships seized - Influence of the French - The Affairs of the " Chesapeake " and the " Little Belt " - Capture of some small English Vessels by huge American ones - Buonaparte prepares for War with Russia and Sweden - Seizes Pomerania and Rugen - Bernadotte's Interview with Alexander of Russia - Buonaparte proposes Peace with England - Crosses the Niemen with nearly Half a Million of Men - Retreat of the Russians to Smolensk; thence to Moscow - Battle of Borodino - Moscow burnt by the Russians - Retreat of the Grand Army, amid unexampled Horrors - Buonaparte's Escape back to Paris, with the Loss of the greater part of his Army.
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The business of the regency was so important, that parliament - without adjourning, as usual, for the Christmas holidays - opened the year 1811, on the very first of January, by proceeding with it. An alteration in the fifth resolution, somewhat reducing the expense of the royal household, and also limiting more strictly the authority of the queen, was proposed, and carried against ministers, by two hundred and twenty-six votes against two hundred and thirteen. Perceval in the commons, and lord Liverpool in the lords, moved amendments on this change but without effect. Another alteration was proposed by lord Grenville, that the regent should be allowed to elevate lawyers, and other civilians, to the peerage, as well as military men; and this was readily agreed to. The remaining restrictions were to terminate in February, 1812, if the house had been sitting then six weeks, or otherwise, after the sitting of the house for six weeks after its next assembling. Deputations were appointed by both houses to announce these resolutions to the regent and the queen. The regent complained of the restrictions, but the queen expressed herself quite satisfied. The great seal was then affixed to a commission for opening the parliament under the regent, after some opposition by lord Grey. The house then adjourned till the 15th of January.

It was now expected by the whigs, and by a great part of the public, that they should come into office. At first the conduct of the prince regent favoured this supposition. He applied to Grey and Grenville to draw up the answer that he should return to the two houses on their addresses on his appointment. But he did not quite like this answer, and got Sheridan to make some alteration in it. He then returned the paper to Grey and Grenville, as in the form that he approved. But these noblemen declared that they would have nothing more to do with the paper so altered; and Sheridan, on his part, suggested to the prince that he would find such men as ministers very domineering and impracticable. Nor was this all - lord Grenville and his family held enormous patronage. Like all the whigs, the Grenvilles, however they might study the interests of the country, studied emphatically their own. Grenville had long held, by a patent for life, the office of auditor to the exchequer; and, in accepting office in " All the Talents " ministry, he managed to obtain also the office of first lord of the treasury. The auditorship of the exchequer was instituted as a check on the treasury, but neither lord Grenville nor his friends saw any impropriety in destroying this check by putting both offices into the same hands. They declared this union was very safe and compatible, and a bill was brought in for the purpose. But when the king had become both blind and insane, and no regent was yet appointed, lord Grenville, being no longer first lord of the treasury, but Perceval, he suddenly discovered that he could not obey the order of the treasury for the issues of money to the different services. It was strictly necessary that the great seal, or the privy seal, or the sign-manual, should be attached to the treasury orders, or, failing these, that they should be sanctioned by an express act of parliament. As neither great nor privy seal, nor sign-manual were possible until a regent was appointed, lord Grenville's conscience would not let him pass the orders of the treasury, and all payment of army, navy, and civil service were brought to a stand. Perceval, after in vain striving hard to overcome the scruples, or rather the party obstinacy of Grenville, was compelled to go to the house of parliament, and get the obstacle removed by a resolution of both houses. The notice of the public being thus turned by Grenville to his holding of this office, and his readiness to unite the two offices in his own person, which his pretended scruples of conscience now invested with so much danger, produced a prejudice against him and his party, which was hostile to their coming into office. Besides this, the whigs were greatly divided in their notions of foreign policy. Grey and his immediate section of the party felt bound, by their advocacy of Fox's principles, to oppose the war; Grenville and his friends were for a merely defensive war, and for leaving Portugal and Spain, and the other continental nations, to fight their own battles; whilst lord Holland, who had travelled in Spain, and was deeply interested in its language and literature, was enthusiastic for the cause of the Peninsula, and in the progress which Wellington was making there. It was utterly impossible that, with such divided views, they could make an energetic ministry at this moment, and it was equally certain that they could not again form an " All the Talents " by coalition with the conservatives. And, beyond all this, it does not appear that the regent was at all anxious to try them. Like all heirs-apparent of the house of Hanover, he had united with the opposition during his youth, but his friendship appeared now anything but ardent. Sheridan still possessed something of his favour, and the earl of Moira was high in it; but for the rest, the prince appeared quite as much disposed to take the conservatives into his favour; and he, as well as the royal dukes, his brothers, generally, was as much bent on the vigorous prosecution of the war as the conservatives themselves. No ministry which would have carried that on languidly, still less who would have opposed it, would have suited him any more than it had done his father. The old king, too, was not so deeply sunk in his unhappy condition but that he had intervals lucid enough to leave him alive to these questions, and he showed so much anxiety regarding the possible change of the ministry, and of fresh measures regarding the war, that his physicians declared that such a change would plunge him into hopeless madness, and probably end his life. The queen wrote to the prince, saying how much satisfaction his conduct in regard to these matters had given to his father, and he wrote to Mr. Perceval, declaring that this consideration determined him not to change the ministry at all. At the same time he expressed to the minister his dissatisfaction with the restrictions which had been imposed upon him. Perceval, even at the risk of offending the prince, justified the conduct of ministers and parliament. In this he might be the more bold, as it was clear that there was no longer any danger of a whig instalment in office.

The ceremonies of investing the prince in his office of regent were performed at Carlton House on the 6th of February. The prince delivered in a certificate of having taken the Lord's Supper, and swore to maintain a due allegiance to the king, and to execute the office of regent according to the act of parliament, &c. He signed these oaths, as well as the declaration against popery, which were then signed by the privy counsellors as witnesses, and the documents were delivered to the keeper of the records.

On the 12th of February parliament was opened by a speech, not from the prince regent in person, but by commission, the commissioners being the archbishop of Canterbury, the lord chancellor, the duke of Montrose, and the earls Camden and Westmoreland. The speech was of the most belligerent character, recounting the success of our arms in the Indian seas, in repelling the attack of the Neapolitans on Sicily, and, above all, in the Peninsula. Lord Grenville opposed the address, considering the war as hopeless, and as mischievous to our interests. It was carried in both houses without a division. Perceval, on the 21st, announced that the prince was desirous not to add any fresh burdens to the country under existing circumstances, and therefore declined any addition to his establishment as regent.

One of the first things which the regent did was to reappoint the duke of York to the post of commander-in-chief of the forces. Old Sir David Dundas, as thoroughly aware of his unfitness for the office as the army itself was, had requested leave to retire, and on the 25th of May the appointment of the duke was gazetted. There was a considerable expression of disapproval in the house of commons of this measure. Lord Milton moved that it was highly improper and indecorous, and he was supported by lord Althorpe, and Messrs. Wynn, Elliot, Whitbread, and others; but the facts which had come to light through Mrs. Clarke's trials, both regarding her and her champion, colonel Wardle, had mitigated the public feeling towards the duke so far, that the motion was rejected by a majority of two hundred and ninety-six against forty-seven. It is certain that the change from the duke to Sir David Dundas, so far as the affairs of the army were concerned, was much for the worse. The duke was highly popular in that office with the soldiers, and he rendered himself more so by immediately establishing regimental schools for their children on Dr. Bell's system.

The supplies for the year voted were £56,021,869; of which £21,269,940 were for the army; £20,276,144 for the navy; and £5,012,378 for the ordnance. There were subsidies to Portugal and Sicily - to the latter, £400,000.

The unnatural state of things induced by the war had now brought about a great change in our currency. As we could manage to get in our goods to the continent by one opening or another, but could not get the produce of the continent in return, it would have appeared that we must be paid in cash, and that the balance of specie must be in our favour; but this was not the case. By our enormous payments to our troops in Spain, Portugal, and Sicily, as well as in the East and West Indies, and by our heavy subsidies, gold had flowed out of the country so steadily, that there appeared very little left in it, and bank paper had taken its place. On the continent, impoverished as they were, the people clung to their gold tenaciously, and Buonaparte alone could draw it from them in taxes. He always carried a heavy military chest with him on his expeditions, and his officers also carried the money necessary for themselves in their belts, or otherwise about their immediate persons. The gold being enormously diminished in quantity in England, was carefully hoarded on all hands, thus again increasing the scarcity, and raising the value of it. The price of bullion had risen from twenty to thirty per cent., and here was a further strong temptation to hoard or send guineas to the melting-pot. This state of things led a certain class of political economists to call for a repeal of the act for suspension of cash payments, and Francis Horner obtained a committee of inquiry into the causes of the decrease of gold and the increase of paper: and this committee came to the conclusion that the true cause of the evil lay in the excess of paper, and that the way to restrain it would be to allow the demand for gold at the bank. But the truth was, that the cause of the evil was not the excess of paper, but the enormous diminution of gold; and to have opened a legal demand for gold which could not be had, would only have produced a panic, and a complete and horrible assassination of all credit and all business. But there were clearer-sighted men in parliament, who declared that, though bullion had risen in price, bank-notes would still procure twenty shillings worth of goods in the market, and that they were not, therefore, really depreciated in value. That was true, but guineas had, notwithstanding, risen to a value of five or six-and- twenty shillings, and might be sold for that. Gold had risen, but paper had not fallen; and gold could not take the place of paper, because it did not, to any great extent, exist in the country; if it had, paper must have fallen ruinously. Mr. Vansittart and his party, therefore, moved resolutions that the resumption of cash payments being already provided for six months after the conclusion of peace, was an arrangement which answered all purposes, and ought not to be disturbed; that this would keep all real excess of paper in check, and leave gold to resume its circulation when, by the natural influence of peace, it flowed again into the country. These were, accordingly, carried.

But the bullionists were still bent on forwarding their scheme, or on throwing the country into convulsions. Lord King announced to his tenants, in a circular letter, that he would receive his rents in specie or in bank-notes to an amount equalling the advanced value of gold. This raised a loud outcry against the injustice of the act, which would have raised the rents of his farms twenty or more per cent.; and lord Stanhope brought in a bill to prevent the passing of guineas at a higher value than twenty-one shillings, and one-pound bank-notes at a less value than twenty shillings. There was a strenuous debate on the subject in both houses. In the lords, lord chancellor Eldon demonstrated the enormity of people demanding their rents in gold when it did not exist, and when, if the person who could pay in notes carried these notes to the bank of England, he could not procure gold for them. He denominated such a demand from landlords as an attempt at robbery. Yet the bill was strongly opposed in both houses - in the commons by Sir Francis Burdett, Sir Samuel Romilly, Brougham, and others. It underwent many modifications, but it passed, maintaining its fundamental principles, and landlords were obliged to go on taking their rents in paper.

But the agitation of this question produced a strong sensation on the continent. Buonaparte, who watched every movement of the English parliament and government with the deepest anxiety, immediately seized on the discussion as a proof that England was fast sinking under his continental system. That system, indeed, was rapidity prostrating the continent. From all sides had long been pouring in upon him complaints that the suppression of commerce was ruining all the great mercantile cities - Hamburg, Bremen, all the Hanse Towns; in fact, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Naples, Genoa, and the other parts of Italy; and that it was diffusing universal poverty and distress. The breach which the emperor Alexander had made in it, and the determined résistance which the Swedes made to it, had caused him to feel the necessity of relaxing the rigour of his system. But now he took fresh courage, He believed that England was at her last gasp; that there would speedily be universal rebellion within her from starving Citizens; and he held on in his plan, and this proved his ultimate destruction; for it made him ail the more determined to coerce Russia, and thus precipitated his fatal campaign against that country.

After violent debates on the subject of catholic emancipation, but with the usual negative result, parliament was prorogued on the 24th of July. Ministers proceeded to prosecute the war in the Peninsula with increased vigour. Lord Wellington needed ail the support they could give him. Notwithstanding his successes and the millions of money that England was sending to and spending in Portugal, that government continued to annoy him, and showed itself as ignorant, as meddling, and as unthankful as the Spaniards had done. Iiis letter to the prince regent desiring the removal of principal Souza from the government had not been complied with; and that gentleman and the bishop of Oporto seemed determined to liarass him to the utmost from petty spite. Though he and his army were the sole defence of the country, which would at once have been overrun by the French were he not there, and though he was fighting their battles and defending their persons at the expense of England, they appeared to have not the slightest sense of these obligations, but continued to pester him on every possible occasion. They endeavoured to compel him to maintain the Portuguese army, too, by themselves neglecting to furnish it with pay and provisions. They demanded to have the expenditure of the very money remitted for the needs of the English forces. They raised a vast clamour because the soldiers cut down timber for firewood. To ail these disgraceful annoyances, lord Wellington replied with a wonderful command of temper, but with firmness and plain-spokenness. His dispatches abound with complaints of the scurvy treatment of the Portuguese authorities. The aspect of things in Spain was worse. There the Spaniards continued to lose every force that they raised; but nevertheless to criticise all the movements of Wellington as if they knew, or had shown, that they understood the management of campaigns better than he did. In fact, if the interests of Spain and Portugal alone had been concerned, the best thing would have been to have quietly withdrawn, and have left the French to trample on them, as a proper punishment for their stupid and ignorant pride. But the attention which Wellington compelled Buonaparte to give to the Peninsula, and the constant drain which this war was to him of men and money, were enabling Russia, and Sweden, and the north of Germany to prepare for another and decisive struggle with the oppressor.

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

Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales >>>>
Travelling in Catalonia
Travelling in Catalonia >>>>
City of Murcia
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The Battle of Albuera
The Battle of Albuera >>>>
Lucca
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Venta
Venta >>>>
Cathedral of Tarragona
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Marshal Ney
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Storming of the Fortress Ciudad Rodrigo
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Palermo
Palermo >>>>
Arsenal
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Emperor Alexander I
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View of the city of Moscow.
View of the city of Moscow. >>>>
Destruction of Moscow
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Travelling in Russia.
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Grille of the Kremlin
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Grand Square of the Kremlin
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Return of the French army
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