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However, the agitation of the working classes continued; and, when Parliament met in February, 1839, the concluding paragraph of the Speech referred to the disturbances and combinations among the working classes: "I have observed with pain the persevering efforts which have been made in some parts of the country to excite my subjects to disobedience and resistance to the law, and to recommend dangerous and illegal practices. For the counteraction of all such designs I depend upon the efficacy of the law, which it will be my duty to enforce, upon the good sense and right disposition of my people, upon their attachment to the principles of justice, and their abhorrence of violence and disorder." In the course of the debate in the Commons Sir Robert Peel adverted to the paragraph referring to illegal meetings. Having read several extracts from the speeches of Mr. Stephens, Dr. Wade, and Mr. Feargus O'Connor delivered at Chartist meetings, he quoted, for the purpose of reprehending, a speech delivered by Lord John Russell at Liverpool in the previous month of October, when, alluding to the Chartist meeting, the noble lord said, "There are some perhaps who would put down such meetings, but such was not his opinion, nor that of the Government with which he acted. He thought the people had a right to free discussion which elicited truth. They had a right to meet. If they had no grievances, common sense would speedily come to the rescue, and put an end to these meetings." These sentiments, remarked Sir Robert Peel, might be just, and even truisms; yet the unseasonable expression of truth in times of public excitement was often dangerous. The Reform Bill, he said, had failed to give permanent satisfaction as he had throughout predicted would be the case, and he well knew that a concession of further reform, in the expectation of producing satisfaction or finality, would be only aggravating the disappointment, and that in a few years they would be encountered by further demands.

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The Duke produced a paper of his own, in which the three hypothetical causes of war were considered separately. He showed, "First, that an attack by Spain upon France was an occurrence beyond the range of human probability; next, that though, according to the usages of civilised nations, the persons of monarchs were held to be sacred, to extend a character of sanctity to those of other members of the Royal Family was a thing never before heard of in the history of the world; and lastly, that, till the Allies should be informed on sufficient authority that a plan for dethroning Ferdinand or changing the succession in Spain was actually in progress, to assume that such crimes might be perpetrated was to insult the whole Spanish nation. For his own part, he must decline to have any share in the transaction, or to deliver an opinion upon purely hypothetical cases further than thisthat if the independence of Spain were assailed without just cause, Great Britain would be no party to the proceeding." Pitt, though he remained determined against our continuing to send soldiers to Germany, was so elated at the success of Frederick that, on the meeting of Parliament, on the 1st of December, he supported the vote of six hundred and seventy thousand pounds as a subsidy to Prussia, George having entered into a new convention with Frederick to defend his Electorate. Pitt, on the same occasion, pronounced a glowing eulogium on Clive's proceedings in India. This great Minister had, in fact, formed the most extensive designs for the colonial aggrandisement of England, and the repulse of France in those quarters. At his suggestion, Lord Loudon had been sent to North America, and as he had failed to render any service, General Abercrombie had gone out to supersede him. Pitt already, however, had his eye on a young officer, Wolfe, whom he deemed the true hero for that service; whilst, on the opposite side of the globe, he was watching the proceedings of another young officer with immense pleasurenamely, Clive. These two remarkable men, under the fostering genius of Pitt, were destined to destroy the ascendency of France in those regions, and to lay the foundations of British power on a scale of splendour beyond all previous conception.

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Meanwhile the country continued to suffer from a great wave of trade depression. Gloom and discontent were throughout the land; and the Home Secretary of the new Administration afterwards stated that there was hardly a day during this period when he had not found it necessary to have personal communication with the Horse Guards, as well as with the heads of the police in the metropolis, and in the manufacturing districts. There seemed, indeed, to be no limit to the distress of the people. In Carlisle a committee of inquiry into the state of the town reported that one-fourth of their population was living in a state bordering on absolute starvation. In a population of 22,000 they found 5,561 individuals reduced to such a state of suffering that immediate relief had become necessary to save them from actual famine. Terrible accounts from other and far distant neighbourhoods showed how widespread was the evil. The manufacturers of the West of England appointed a committee to consider the distressed state of that district. Taking the town of Bradford, in Wilts, as an example, the committee reported that of the nineteen manufacturers carrying on business there in 1820, nine had failed, five had declined business from want of success, one[486] had taken another trade, and two only remained. Of 462 looms, 316 were entirely out of work, and only 11 in full employment; and this distress, it must be remembered, could not be traced to one great overwhelming cause, like that of the failure of the cotton supplies of a later day. The blight that had spread over the field of British industry was to most men a puzzle; but the West of England committee, after reporting that the same condition of things existed at Chalford, Stroud, Ulley, Wotton, Dursley, Frome, Trowbridge, etc., did not hesitate to declare that the depression of trade that was destroying capital, and pauperising the working classes was attributable to the legislation on the principle of protection. A public meeting was held at Burnley in the summer of 1842 to memorialise the Queen on the prevailing distress. At a great public conference of ministers of religion, held in Manchester in the previous autumn, it had been resolved that the existing Corn Laws were "impolitic in principle, unjust in operation, and cruel in effect;" that they were "opposed to the benignity of the Creator, and at variance with the very spirit of Christianity." This conference, which extended over an entire week of meetings, held both morning and evening, was attended by nearly 700 ministers. Their proceedings filled an entire volume, and attracted considerable attention throughout the kingdom. Similar conferences were afterwards held in a great number of towns. Having reported to Mr. Canning the result of his diplomatic efforts at Paris, the Duke set out on his journey to Vienna, where he arrived on the 29th of September, and where he expected the Congress to be held. But there again England's plenipotentiary, the great conqueror of Napoleon, who had restored the legitimate despots to their thrones, was treated with as little consideration as at Paris. Not till his arrival did he learn that the Congress which he was invited to attend was not to be held at Vienna at all, but at Verona. Meanwhile, in the interval between the adjournment from one city to another, the Allied Sovereigns were paying a visit of friendship to the King of Bavaria, whose system of government no doubt met with their unqualified approval. As the Duke's instructions forbade him to meddle with Italian affairs, he tarried at Vienna till he should receive further instructions from his own Government. While awaiting an answer he had opportunities of conferring personally with the Czar, who had obtained an ascendency in the councils of the Holy Alliance which rendered him the virtual master of every situation. With regard to the affairs of Turkey, the Duke succeeded in obtaining from his Imperial Majesty an assurance that, unless driven to it by some unforeseen and irresistible necessity, he would not come to an open rupture with the Sultan. He was not so successful in his exertions with regard to the Spanish question, on which the Czar was in an irritable mood. He said that Spain was the very centre and focus of revolutionary principles, and he felt it to be the duty not less than the policy of the Allied Sovereigns to trample them out at their source, and for this purpose he had proposed to contribute 150,000 men, whom he intended to march into Spain through French territory. In reply to the Duke's earnest remonstrances against this course, the Czar put a question which betrays the aggressive policy of military despots. He asked what he was to do with his army. It insisted upon being led against Turkey, and was only restrained because he had expressed his determination of employing it in putting down what he called Jacobinism in the west.

Mlas, who had been besieging Genoa, had left part of his army to reduce that city, defended by a strong French division under Massena and Soult, and advanced to Nice, which he had entered, and was contemplating his descent on Provence, when the news of Buonaparte's entrance of Piedmont reached him. He directed his march now to meet him. In the meantime, Massena and Soult, worn out by famine, the fort being blockaded by Admiral Lord Keith, had surrendered Genoa to General Otto, whom Mlas had ordered to raise the siege and join him. Mlas summoned his scattered forces to make head against Buonaparte, and was himself pursued from the neighbourhood of Nice by Suchet. Buonaparte deceived Mlas by false movements, making him imagine that his object was Turin, and so entered Milan in triumph on the 2nd of June. After various encounters and man?uvres between Buonaparte and Mlas, the First Consul crossed the Po at Piacenza, drove back the advanced guard of the Austrians, and took up a position on the plains of Marengo, on the right bank of the little stream, the Bormida, and opposite to Alessandria, where Mlas was lying. The next daythe 14th of JuneMlas drew out his forces, and attacked the French with great spirit. The Austrians amounted to about forty thousand, including a fine body of cavalry, for which the ground was highly[477] favourable; the French were not more than thirty thousand, posted strongly in and around the village of Marengo, in three divisions, each stationed about a quarter of a mile behind the other. After two or three attempts the Austrians drove the French out of the village of Marengo, threw the second division, commanded by Lannes, into confusion, and put to rout the left wing of Buonaparte's own division, threw his centre into disorder, and compelled him to retreat as far as St. Juliano. The whole tide of battle was running against Buonaparte, and a short time must have completed his rout, when the strength of the old general, Mlasmore than eighty years of agegave way, for he had been many hours on horseback. He retired from the field quite secure of the victory, and left General Zach to finish it. But, at this moment, General Desaix, who had lately arrived from Egypt, and had been sent by Buonaparte to make a diversion at Rivolta, came back with his detachment of twenty thousand men. Kellermann, also, who was posted in the rear with a body of reserve, marched up at the same time. A new and desperate charge was made on the fatigued Austrians, and they were broken and put to the rout. They retreated across the Bormida, towards Alessandria, in a panic, the horse galloping over the infantry. Mlas, dispirited by his defeat, but more by his age, gave up the struggle and on the 16th of June concluded an armistice, resigning not only Alessandria, where he might have stood a longer siege, but Genoa, which had just surrendered to the Austrians, and all the Genoese territory, agreeing to retire behind the line of Mantua and the Mincio, and leaving to the French all Lombardy as far as the Oglio. The French themselves could scarcely believe the reality of such a surrender.

The complaints of agricultural distress prevalent in England, with the sudden reaction from war prices at the establishment of peace, had become so loud and general this year that Parliament undertook to find a remedy. An agricultural committee had been appointed to inquire into the subject, and had produced a report which was far from satisfactory. On the 29th of April the House of Commons resolved itself into a committee to consider the report. Three different schemes were proposed for the relief of the farmers and landlordsthe first by the Marquis of Londonderry, the second by Mr. Ricardo, and the third by Mr. Huskisson. There was no scarcity of produce in England; on the contrary, it was very abundant, and the evil that oppressed the farmers was excessive cheapness, by which they were disabled from paying the high rents and heavy taxation entailed by the war. Some of the remedies proposed were sufficiently radical in their character. The most natural was the reduction of taxation by means of retrenchment in the public expenditure. Some proposed that the tithes should be alienated from the Church, and used for the purpose of reducing the national burdens. The largest party insisted upon the reduction of the interest of the National Debt, which was defended as an equitable measure on the ground of the increased value of the currency since the passing of Peel's Bill for the resumption of cash payments. The plan of relief proposed by Lord Londonderry consisted of the repeal of the annual malt tax, and the loan of a million by Exchequer Bills to the landed interest upon the security of warehoused corn.

Immediately after this, Fox encouraged the formation of a Society of Friends of the Liberty of the Press, of which Erskine and Horne Tooke were members. As several French emissaries were traversing the country disseminating their opinions, Lord Grenville, on the 19th of December, 1792, introduced a bill into the House of Lords, subjecting aliens to certain regulations not included in the ordinary Alien Bill. All foreigners were to announce themselves on their arrival, and surrender any arms brought with them; they were to take out passports, and to have them visd on every fresh removal through the country, so that their movements might be known to the authorities; those who had arrived during the year 1792 to be particularly observed, and the motives for their coming ascertained; all such foreigners as received allowances from the British Government to be distributed into particular districts, under the eye of the authorities. With some opposition, this Bill was carried. The Marquis of Lansdowne forthwith moved that a negotiation should be immediately opened with the French Government, requiring it to receive back the numerous Frenchmen driven into exile, or to provide for their support, and at the same time to endeavour to save Louis XVI. from the terrible fate which threatened him. This was negatived on the declaration of other lords, who said that both propositions would be useless; the latter one would in all probability hasten, rather than avert, the fate of the French king. In the Commons, Fox and Sheridan strenuously resisted the new Alien Bill, and Burke as vehemently supported it. He declared that no measures of precaution could be too strict; that thousands of daggers had been manufactured in Birmingham for France, and intending to produce a startling effect he drew an actual dagger from his bosom, and flinging it on the floor of the House exclaimed, "That is what you are to obtain[412] from an alliance with France. You must equally proscribe their tenets and their persons; you must keep their principles from your minds, and their daggers from your hearts!" In the French Convention such an action would have created a sensation, but in the matter-of-fact British Parliament it produced only surprise followed by laughter. Fox endeavoured as much as possible to weaken the sense of danger of French principles, though he expressed his abhorrence of the September massacres. The Bill was passed, and was succeeded by one prohibiting the circulation of French assignats, bonds, promissory notes, etc., and another, prohibiting the exportation of naval stores, saltpetre, arms, and ammunition.

Not one of these monarchs, whose subjects had shed their blood and laid down their lives by hundreds of thousands to replace them in their power, had in return given these subjects a recompense by the institution of a more liberal form of government. The German kings and princes had openly promised such constitutions to induce them to expel Buonaparte; and, this accomplished, they shamefully broke their word. As Lord Byron well observed, we had put down one tyrant only to establish ten. In Spain, where we had made such stupendous exertions to restore Ferdinand, that monarch entered about the end of March; and his arrival was a signal for all the old royalists and priests to gather round him, and to insist on the annihilation of the Constitution made by the Cortes. He went to Gerona, where he was joined by General Elio and forty thousand men. Thence he marched to Saragossa and Valencia. At that city Te Deum was sung for his restoration, and, surrounded by soldiers and priests, he declared that the Cortes had never been legally convoked; that they had deprived him of the sovereignty, and the nobles and clergy of their status; and that he would not swear to the Constitution which they had prepared. On the 12th of May he entered his capital, amid the most frantic joy of the ignorant populace, and proceeded at once to seize all Liberal members of the Cortes, and throw them into prison. Wellington hastened to Madrid, and with his brother, Sir Henry Wellesley, the British Ambassador, and General Whittingham, in vain urged on Ferdinand to establish a liberal constitution, and govern on liberal principles. It was clear there was a time of terrible and bloody strife before Spain between the old tyrannies and superstitions and the new ideas.