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Chapter IX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 3


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The imperial crown of Mexico was offered, as we have seen, to the Archduke Maximilian, in the autumn of 1863. Pressed by the Emperor Napoleon, and confident in his own upright intentions, Maximilian in an evil hour suffered himself to be persuaded to accept the fatal gift. Money was before all things necessary in order to carry out the fair programme of beneficent reforms which the new Empire was to introduce, and also to reimburse the French treasury, which had the fear of the biting eloquence of Thiers always before its eyes, in a portion of the enormous expense of the Mexican expedition. The capitalists of Vienna, Paris, and London were consulted, and a Mexican loan of some 15,000,000 was set afloat, but under conditions onerous in the extreme, so that Maximilian was able to take a very small portion of this sum with him, when he sailed for Mexico. With regard to the future, the Austrian Court must have deemed that its hazards were sufficiently guarded against by means of the convention which Maximilian entered into with France. Under this convention (April 10, 1864), it was agreed that a French corps of 25,000 men should remain in Mexico, and should only quit it when the Emperor should have organised his own army. In any case, even after the recall of her troops, it was agreed that France should, during a further term of six years, leave in Mexico a force of 8,000 men, composing the foreign legion in the service of that country. The Emperor of Austria also gave permission for officers of the Austrian army to volunteer into the Mexican foreign legion, retaining for six years their Austrian military rank. The Archduke formally accepted the crown on the 10th April, and a few days afterwards he and his Empress left Miramar, and embarked for Mexico, taking Rome on their way. They arrived at Vera Cruz at the end of May, and entered the city of Mexico, amid the acclamations of the people, on the 12th June. The rest of the year was spent in endeavours to crush the partisans of Juarez and the Republic, who were now called " insurgents." On the whole, considerable progress was made in pacifying the country, and in putting down the Juarists, who were defeated in a pitched battle at Durango towards the end of September. Unfortunately for Maximilian he had incurred the anger of the powerful ecclesiastical interest in the country. Juarez some years before had secularised the immense landed property of the Mexican Church, and had been excommunicated by the bishops.

The Regency, after the French capture of the capital, and afterwards Maximilian, determined to uphold the law of secularisation; against the former the bishops launched an excommunication, and if they refrained from that extreme measure against the new Emperor, their disaffection and covert hostility must have been seriously detrimental to his interests. Hence must be explained the singular fact, that, in the autumn, while the Emperor was absent on a tour through several provinces, Miramon, the native general most attached to the Church party, supported by the Archbishop of Mexico, rose in rebellion, and got possession of a portion of the city. But his success was only ephemeral, and before the end of the year the French had taken Matamoras on the eastern, and Acapulco on the western coast, and armed resistance to the Empire in the field was well nigh at an end.

An appalling calamity befell the capital of our Indian empire in the autumn of this year. On the morning of the 5th October, a heavy gale set in from the north-east at Calcutta; gradually it veered round to the eastward, increasing in fury all the time, then to the southward, and finally to the south-west, so as to leave no doubt that it was a true cyclone, or revolving storm, to which the site of Calcutta is peculiarly exposed. But such a hurricane as this had never been known within the memory of man. With a noise like distant thunder the nucleus, or most violent portion of the storm came on, tearing up trees by their roots, carrying off the roofs of houses, overturning walls and buildings, and heaping up masses of ruin in the streets and roads, where neither foot nor carriage passengers could make their way. Nearly all the churches and chapels in Calcutta were unroofed or otherwise seriously damaged, and scarcely a house in the city escaped without some injury. The native huts, especially in the suburbs, were nearly all blown down. Except the cocoa-nut and other palms, scarcely a tree was anywhere left standing after the storm had passed away. The beautiful avenues in Fort William were entirely destroyed, and the Eden Gardens turned into a wilderness. But it was on the river that the storm was attended with the most disastrous consequences. So long as the wind blew from the eastward, and therefore across the Hooghly, no great damage was done; but after it had gone round to the south, the force of the hurricane, aided by a high tide, raised such a sea that no moorings could hold out against it. Tier after tier of vessels broke adrift, in most cases taking moorings, buoys, and tackle with them, and drove about in clusters of four, six, and eight, entangled together, and carrying with them ships at anchor in the stream, and everything else with which they came in contact. Of more than two hundred ships in the Hooghly, it was said that only ten were left at their moorings after the storm, the rest having been stranded or sunk. The Bengal, one of the Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamers, another British steamer, and a French ship were fairly lifted up and deposited on shore. The total loss of life was very considerable, but does not appear to have been accurately ascertained. In the city and suburbs of Calcutta it was reported at forty-one natives, and two Europeans, besides some twenty seriously wounded by the fall of their houses. On the river some hundreds of lives were supposed to have been lost with the European vessels that went down, besides those drowned in the multitude of small native boats, which were overwhelmed with sudden destruction. Great distress was soon caused by the rise in the price of all articles of food, which compelled great numbers of the people to feed on all kinds of garbage, and particularly on rice damaged by the heavy rains which succeeded the gale - a food said to be extremely injurious to health. Subscriptions to a Cyclone Relief Fund were quickly opened in all the three Presidencies, and also in England; in one day the opulent native community of Bombay subscribed 10,000 to the fund.

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Pictures for Chapter IX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 3

Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico
Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico >>>>
French troops in Mexico
French troops in Mexico >>>>
Cathedral of Mexico
Cathedral of Mexico >>>>

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