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

Reign of William III. (Continued.) page 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5> 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

The commons thanked William for his address, professed great gratitude to him for so promptly complying with their desire, and declared that they would defend his sacred person and the kingdom from all enemies with their lives and fortunes. Imagining that the commons were at length touched with a degree of compunction, William made one more effort to retain his Dutch guards - a circumstance at which we cannot wonder when we recollect the attempts there had been to assassinate him, and the fidelity with which these his countrymen had served him. He sent lord Ranelagh with a written message to the commons, informing them that he was taking active measures to reduce the army, as they desired, to seven thousand, but would take it as a great personal kindness if they would allow his Dutch guards to remain. But the commons, so far from consenting, seemed to revive all their bitterness. They resolved, by a majority of one hundred and seventy-five to one hundred and fifty-six, that the foreign troops should go, and sent to William a fresh address, expressing "their unspeakable grief that the king should be advised to propose anything to which they could not consent." This was final, and the guards were embarked, and the Huguenots too. A Cromwell would have felt deep sympathy for these brave troops; but though at this moment, Louis having obtained influence again in Savoy, the Waldenses were once more driven from their valleys, not a symptom of pity marked this ungracious parliament. Though they did not care for the persecutions of the papists abroad, they were not, however, quite so indifferent to their prevalence at home. Since the peace of Ryswick the catholic priests had swarmed over, and appeared in all public places in London and Westminster with wonderful assurance. The people began to whisper that there must be some secret article in their favour in the treaty, and the commons requested William to put the laws in force against the papists and non-jurors, and remove them by proclamation from London and its neighbourhood.

The mischief which the whigs had done themselves by granting a charter to the new East India Company, in violation of the existing charter of the old company, merely because the former company had offered them a large money bait, encouraged the tories greatly in their endeavours to regain power. They encouraged the old company to petition that means should be taken to enable it to maintain its trade and property against the new company for the remaining portion of the twenty-one years of its charter; and there were not wanting some in the house who declared that the new charter, granted in violation of an existing one, and from such corrupt motives, should be abolished. Montague, however, who had passed the act for this charter, was able to protect it, but not to prevent fresh onslaughts on the unpopular whigs. They were charged with gross corruption, and with embezzlement of the public revenue, for the purchase of great estates for themselves, and the grievous burthen of the people by taxation. Russell, earl of Orford, was especially singled out by the commons. He was both first lord of the admiralty and treasurer of the navy, as well as admiral, and assumed an authority, forgetful of the humble station from which he had risen. He was charged with keeping in hand large sums of public money for his own private use, instead of paying the officers and seamen when their pay was due. They called for his accounts, and there appeared to be four hundred and sixty thousand pounds in his hands. In his defence he represented that this was actually in course of payment, and that part of the sum was yet in tallies, which must be converted into cash before it could be distributed. But this did not satisfy the commons. They voted an address to the king, complaining of the impropriety of one and the same person being lord high admiral, chief commissioner of the board of admiralty, and treasurer; of gross misapplication of the public money; of many unnecessary changes introduced into the navy; of delays in granting convoys, and favoritism to particular officers. Orford was prudent enough to retire from his offices before the storm which was gathering burst in all its fury upon him. The tories, elated by this success, endeavoured to get Sir George Rooke put into Orford's place; but the whigs were yet strong enough and imprudent enough to get the earl of Bridge- water named first lord of the admiralty - a man almost wholly unacquainted with naval affairs, and lord Haversham, another of the "land-admirals," as the sailors called these unprofessional men, succeeded to Priestman, one of the junior lords, who retired.

Those matters being settled the house voted fifteen thousand pounds for sailors for the year, and that this should include none but sailors, lest the king should include some land forces under the name of marines. They also granted one million four hundred and eighty-four thousand pounds for the service of the year, to be raised by a land and income tax of three shillings in the pound. In this act they also inserted a clause appointing commissioners to take an account of the estates forfeited in Ireland by the last rebellion, in order to their being applied in ease of the subjects of England. This was another sharp reminder of the king's proceedings. It had been promised by him that he would not bestow the forfeited estates without the sanction of the house, but in disregard of this he had given large estates to his favourites. William was deeply mortified by this clause, and some of the lords entered a protest against it, on the ground that the clause was foreign to the contents of the bill, and was contrary to the practice of parliament. The king, however, did not venture to refuse his signature to the act, which he passed on the 4th of May, and at the same time prorogued the parliament.

Before the close of this session, however, in March, that dissipated Lord Mohun was again arraigned before the peers for being concerned in another murder, committed in a midnight brawl, along with the Earl of Warwick. Mohun, with singular good fortune, was again acquitted. Warwick was found guilty of manslaughter.

Before quitting England, William was obliged to almost entirely remodel his ministry. The duke of Leeds retired from the presidency of the council; his influence had expired with the discovery of his bribe from the East India Company. The earl of Pembroke, the Long Tom Pembroke, whom Sunderland was for chopping into a king, was put in his place. Villiers, earl of Jersey, having returned from his embassy to France, was made secretary of state in place of the duke of Shrewsbury, who became lord chamberlain. The earl of Manchester went as ambassador to France in place of Jersey, and lord Lonsdale, another tory, obtained the privy seal. On the 2nd of June, William, having appointed a regency, embarked for Holland, where he retired to Loo, but not to peace of mind, for he saw events marching to an ominous result. The forces of England and of the continent were disbanded, except those of Louis, which were rapidly increased; and not only the Spanish monarchy but all Europe appeared at his mercy. But before following these movements, we must trace some nearer home.

Ireland was quiet. The parliament of that kingdom had voted one hundred and twenty thousand pounds for the maintenance of the twelve thousand troops ordered by the English parliament to be quartered in that country, and the duke of Bolton and the earls of Berkeley and Galway were appointed lords-justices. In Scotland far different was the state of things. There a spirit of the warmest excitement raged against the ministry of England, and not the less against the king, who disowned their company, organised to carry out the act granted for trading to Africa and the Indies. The charter for this company was granted by the Scottish parliament and ratified by William in 1695. Its professed object was to trade with the East and West Indies and Africa; but there was a plan for carrying out these objects, which does not seem to have been made known to the government or public generally till after the acquisition of the charter. This was to seize on the isthmus of Darien, to establish a strong colony there, and not only to grow rich through possession of the gold mines, but to found ports both on the Atlantic and on the Pacific, so that a great carrying trade might be prosecuted betwixt Europe and China and the East Indies by that route.

William Paterson, the projector of this scheme, was the same man who had projected and carried into being, through the influence of Montague, the Bank of England. He has been generally represented as a visionary speculator and schemer, and has not unfrequently been confounded with John Law of Lauriston, the author of the famous South Sea Bubble and Mississippi Scheme, which spread such ruin through both France and England. Paterson, however, was a very different man. Undoubtedly he was a most speculative genius, but in his speculations there was something grand, substantial, and based for the most part on the purest moral principles. The Bank of England is the proud memorial of his real sagacity and acute talents. It was well devised, and immediately rose to entire success. Through some disagreement in the mode of management Paterson sold out his stock, and proposed the erection of an Orphan Bank connected with the Orphan Fund established by the corporation of London already mentioned. This was not entertained, and he then projected his grand scheme for the Scotch company to trade to the Indies. This scheme, so far from being visionary, had all the elements of a great and far-seeing reality. It was a perception by Paterson of the advantages of that route to the Pacific and the East which is now more than ever acknowledged, but which to this hour is encumbered by the antagonist jealousies of different powers. Though England and the United States have agreed to a free passage across the isthmus of Panama, and have by the Clayton-Bulwer treaty guaranteed the neutrality of this very region - Central America, the ambition of America to annex this important territory at this very moment is impeding and endangering that great scheme of transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific which Paterson was the first to propose.

The very same obstacles existed in Paterson's days, though in the hands of other powers, and this it was which defeated his magnificent object. The unsound portion of Paterson's project was the not sufficiently taking into account these political obstacles. Spain possessed, or rather claimed to possess, the isthmus of Darien. Louis of France was contemplating the seizure of Spain and all its American territories. William was under treaty of peace to both Spain and Louis. It was impossible, therefore, to obtain possession of the isthmus of Darien without producing a fresh European war. To attempt it by treaty was useless, for Spain would never consent to permit England, of which she was in the highest degree jealous, thus to establish a great mercantile colony in the midst of her most valuable Transatlantic colonies, from which she was annually drawing her cargoes of gold and other valuable products. Louis of France, who was resolved to succeed to the Spanish empire, was as little likely to permit such a thing. To obtain possession of Darien, then, could only be done by invasion, and that invasion must produce immediate war, for which William was not prepared.

But the scheme was got up ostensibly to trade to the East and West Indies. There was no mention of Panama; and its prospects were so fair and unobjectionable that they immediately seized on the imaginations of both the English and Scotch public. Paterson was a London merchant, in high repute for his origination of the Bank of England. He had spent ten years in the West Indies, and, as it is supposed, in Panama. At all events he had the reputation of being intimately acquainted with those regions and their resources. His proposals of the company were eagerly accepted both in London and Edinburgh. Though it was originally proposed to raise only three hundred and sixty thousand pounds as the original stock for both countries, three hundred thousand pounds were subscribed in London alone in a few days. But this remarkable success raised all the vindictive feelings of companies whose interests this new league appeared likely to affect. The East India Companies, new and old, immediately were on the alert, and raised such a feeling in the house of commons, that it resolved to impeach Paterson, and the bankers Coutts and Cohen, for the commission of an illegal act in daring to levy money in England without the sanction of the English legislature. In the meantime a subscription list had been opened at Hamburg, and by this the Dutch East India Company was equally alarmed, and both the influence of the Dutch and of the English companies was made to bear on the king. William, who had been too much absorbed by his warfare with Louis to perceive the hostile feelings which he was exciting by passing the Scottish act, now made haste to condemn his own precipitancy. He complained that he had been deceived by the Scottish government, and at once gave orders to prohibit the scheme, and sent similar orders to his consul at Hamburg to forbid the subscription there. The senate of the city of Hamburg was induced to prohibit the canvassing of the company's agents; and the English subscribers, alarmed at the menaces of the king and commons, immediately withdrew their names. Nor were these all the enemies of this scheme - enemies, the numbers, importance, and virulence of which of themselves testified sufficiently the real substance and weight of it. There were Scottish traders united for commerce with India by the ordinary route, and these joined vehemently in the cry. One of these, a Mr. Robert Douglas, attacked the scheme, in a very able letter. In this letter we are first let into the secret that the real destination is not so much the West Indies as Darien, on the mainland. It is not, however, from Paterson having mentioned expressly Darien that Douglas declares it to be that place, but he infers it from the fact that the locality darkly hinted at by Paterson is at once near the Carribee isles, and at the same time so situated " that it will alter the whole method of trade in Europe, and effectually ruin both the English and Dutch East Indian Companies, because it opens a shorter, safer, and more convenient way to the East Indies by the Pacific from England and Holland."

Douglas then points out that it is not nearer or more convenient than the old way to the western or Bombay coast of the Indian peninsula; that it was then a very dangerous route, because our merchant vessels on that track would have to pass the Dutch, Batavian, and Spice Island settlements, who would show the utmost hostility to such a traffic; but still more, that it was impossible, because this isthmus of Panama was the track by which Spain conveyed all her treasure from Peru to Portobello; that as to the rightful possession of the country by Spain, the city of Darien, called Santa Maria, was one of the first cities built by them on the mainland of America, as the province was the first province possessed by them.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5> 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Pictures for Reign of William III. (Continued.) page 5

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About