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The year 1800 opened in the British Parliament by a debate on an Address to the king, approving of the reply to an overture for peace by Buonaparte, as First Consul of France. The letter addressed directly to the king was a grave breach of diplomatic etiquette, and was answered by Lord Grenville, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in a caustic but dignified tone. A correspondence ensued between Lord Grenville and M. Talleyrand, as French Minister for Foreign Affairs; but it ended in nothing, as the British Minister distinctly declined to treat. If Buonaparte had been sincerely desirous of peace, he must have withdrawn the French army from Egypt, as it was there with the open declaration of an intention to make that country a stepping-stone to India. But, so far from this, Buonaparte was, at the same moment, preparing to make fresh and still more overwhelming invasions of Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, and the proposal was simply made to gain time. When the Peers assembled on the 7th it became quite evident that in allowing the Bill to go into committee they were only practising a man?uvre. In the first place they wished to prevent the creation of peers, and in the second they were resolved to mutilate the Bill in committee. They were aware that they had the sympathy of the king in this plot, and that he would have been glad of their success, irritated as he was by the coercion and pressure put upon him by his Ministers. The first step was taken by Lord Lyndhurst, who proposed in committee to defer the consideration of the disfranchising clauses till the enfranchising clauses had been considered. "Begin," he said, "by conferring rights and privileges, by granting boons and favours, and not by depriving a portion of the community of the privileges which they at present enjoy." This ostentatious preference of boons and favours for the people, postponing disfranchisement to enfranchisement, ringing changes on the words, was a mere artifice, but it was at once seen through by the indignant people. Lord Grey and Lord Brougham promptly exposed the attempted imposition; the former hoped the noble lords would not deceive themselves. He would not say that the proposal was insidious, but its object was utterly to defeat the Bill. He declared that if the motion were successful it would be fatal to the whole measure. It would then be necessary for him to consider what course he should take. He dreaded the effect of the House of Lords opposing itself, as an insurmountable barrier, to what the people thought necessary for the good government of the country. The noble earl's warning was on this occasion disregarded. The House being in committee proxies could not be counted, and the amendment of Lord Lyndhurst was carried after an angry debatecontents, 151; non-contents, 116; majority, 35. This division put a sudden stop to the proceedings in committee. Lord Grey at once proposed that the chairman should report progress, and asked leave to sit again on the 10th. Lord Ellenborough endeavoured to dissuade him from this course, and proceeded to give a description of the measure which he was prepared to substitute for the Ministerial Bill, and which he presumed to hope would be satisfactory to the country. This was a critical moment in the destiny of England, and the awful nature of the crisis seemed to be felt by all present, except those who were blinded by faction. Lord Grey had now but one alternative, a large creation of peers or resignation. With a majority against him in the Lords so refractory, nothing could be done; but the king declined to create the fifty peerages which the Ministry demanded. Accordingly, on Wednesday,[350] the 9th of May, the resignation of the Ministers (and the king's acceptance of it) was formally announced by Lord Grey in the House of Lords, and by Lord Althorp in the House of Commons. Lord Ebrington immediately rose, and gave notice that he would next day move a call of the House, and then an Address to his Majesty on the present state of public affairs. In the course of the debate which ensued, attempts were made by Mr. Baring and Sir Robert Peel to excite sympathy for the Lords, as taking a noble stand against the unconstitutional pressure upon the king for the creation of peers, but in vain. Neither the House of Commons nor the country could be got to give them credit for any but the most selfish motives. They considered their obstinacy to be nothing better than the tenacity of the monopolists in power. Mr. Macaulay indignantly denounced their inconsistency in pretending that they wished to carry a measure of Reform. The influence of the Crown, always powerful, was visible in the division on Lord Ebrington's motion. The "ayes" were only 288 instead of the 355 that carried the third reading of the Reform Bill. There were evidently many defaulters; but woe to them at the next general election! Rigid scrutiny was instituted, and a black list made out of those who had deserted their constituents on this momentous question. In the meantime the most angry remonstrances came to absent members from their constituents. The motion, however, was carried by a majority of 80. It was evidently a relief to the king to get rid of the Whigs; and he knew so little of the state of public feeling as to suppose that a modified Reform measure, a mere pretence of Reform, would satisfy the country. He therefore sent for Lord Lyndhurst in order to consult him, assigning the reason, that being now Chief Baron, he was removed from the vortex of politics, although he had led the Opposition in their successful attack upon the Ministerial measure. The first thing Lord Lyndhurst did was to wait upon the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, to both of whom he stated the views of the king. His Majesty insisted that some extensive measures of Reform should be carried. "My advice to the king," said the Duke, "was not to reappoint his late Ministry, nor was it to appoint myself. I did not look to any objects of ambition. I advised him to seek the assistance of other persons well qualified to fill the high situations of the State, expressing myself willing to give his Majesty every assistance, whether in office or out, to enable him to resist the advice which had been given him." The Premiership was offered to Sir Robert Peel, but he peremptorily declined to take such a perilous position, declaring that "no authority nor example of any man, nor any number of men, could shake his determination not to accept office, under existing circumstances, upon such conditions." On the 12th of May the Duke undertook to form an Administration, taking the post of Prime Minister himself. Mr. Manners Sutton was to be leader of the Commons, Lord Lyndhurst Chancellor, and Mr. Baring Chancellor of the Exchequer. For five days the courageous Duke was engaged in a desperate effort to form a Cabinet. But no sooner was it known throughout the country than a terrific storm of popular fury burst forth, which threatened to blow down the House of Peers and sweep away the Throne. The king, from being the popular idol, became suddenly an object of popular execration. The queen, who had also been a great favourite with the people, attracted a large share of the odium excited against the Court. It was understood that her influence had much to do in causing the king to desert Lord Grey, and to break faith with him with regard to the creation of peers. The king and queen were groaned at and hissed, and pursued with tremendous noises by the people, while passing through the town of Brentford. Dirt was hurled at the royal carriage; and if the military escort had not kept close to the windows, it is probable their majesties would have sustained personal injury. Along the road to London the people expressed their feeling in a similar manner; and when the carriage entered the Park the mob saluted their majesties with yells and execrations of every description.

He waited on Sir Spencer Compton with the royal command. This gentleman was confounded at the proposal to draw up the declaration to the Privy Council, and begged Walpole to do it for him. Walpole instantly recovered his spirits. He saw that such a man could never be his rival, and he advised his colleagues, if they went out of office, not to engage in any violent opposition, as they would soon be wanted again. He knew, too, that he had the queen in his favour, who was too clear-headed not to see that Walpole was alone the man for the time. To complete his favour with her he offered to procure her a jointure from Parliament of one hundred thousand pounds a year, whilst the impolitic Compton had proposed only sixty thousand pounds. The queen did not oppose the king's attempt to change the Ministry, but she impressed him with the danger of disturbing an already powerful and prosperous Cabinet, and she made him aware of the fact that Compton had been compelled to get Walpole to draw up the Declaration. Besides the liberal jointure which he promised she added that he intended to add one hundred thousand pounds to the Civil List. Horace Walpole, arriving from Paris, threw his whole weight into the scale, representing difficulties which must beset foreign negotiations in new hands. These combined circumstances told strongly on George; but the finish was put to Compton's government by his feeling overwhelmed by his own incompetence, and resigning the charge. The king had, therefore, nothing for it but to reappoint the old Ministry again. Some slight modifications took place. Lord Berkeley, who had joined the opposition of Carteret and Roxburgh, was replaced by Lord Torrington, and Compton received the title of Lord Wilmington, the Order of the Garter, and the Presidency of the Council. The coronation took place on the 11th of October, 1727.

[See larger version] LORD ELDON. (After the Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence.) Lord Redesdale in a letter to Lord Eldon, written in 1821, soon after the king's visit, gave expression to some important truths about the Government of Ireland. "Ministers," he said, "have fancied that Ireland would do better without a Lord-Lieutenant, and some of them have called his office a useless pageant, but under the present circumstances they would govern the colonies as well without governors as they can govern Ireland without that pageant. If the pageant is useless, it is because they make it useless, because they give him a Secretary to thwart him, or to be a viceroy over him. The office of Lord-Lieutenant requires, in my opinion, a considerable portion of ability, sound judgment, discretion, firmness, good temper, and conciliating[246] manners. Such a Lord-Lieutenant ought to be supreme. If Ministers think fit to appoint to such an office a man wholly unqualified for it, they must put him in leading-strings, and give him a Secretary with all the qualities the Lord-Lieutenant ought to have; and, moreover, with a disposition to conceal rather than display his power over his superiorto lead, and not to command, the Lord-Lieutenant. In England the machine goes on almost of itself, and therefore a bad driver may manage it tolerably well. It is not so in Ireland. The country requires great exertion to bring it into a state of order and submission to law. The whole populationhigh and low, rich and poor, Catholic and Protestantmust all be brought to obedience to law; all must be taught to look up to the law for protection. The gentry are ready enough to attend grand juries, to obtain presentments for their own benefit, but they desert the quarter-sessions of the peace. The first act of a constable in arrest must not be to knock down the prisoner; and many, many reforms must be made, which only can be effected by a judicious and able Government on the spot. Ireland, in its present state, cannot be governed in England. If insubordination compels you to give, how are you to retain by law what you propose to maintain while insubordination remains? It can only be by establishing completely the empire of the law."

The year 1773 opened with an inquiry in Parliament into the abuses of the administration of affairs in India. There were great complaints of the wholesale rapacity and oppression perpetrated on the natives by the Company's servants. Before the close of the preceding year, a secret committee had been appointed to inquire into these abuses, and to take the matter out of the hands of Government, the Company proposed to appoint a number of supervisors to go out to India and settle the causes of complaint. The secret committee proposed a Bill to prevent this, as a scheme for merely evading a thorough inquiry and continuing the atrocities. Burke, who was a holder of India stock, defended the Company, and declared that such a Bill would annihilate the Company, and make the House of Commons the Company itself and the Speaker its chairman. He reminded them that the Company paid to Government four hundred thousand pounds a year, and that Government had connived at the maladministration which had been carried on. This certainly was, so far from a reason against the Bill, a reason why they should connive no longer; and the Bill was carried by a large majority.

Marshal Villars, like the French plenipotentiaries, had made a great display of forces, pretty certain, from private information, that there was little fear of being attacked. The Allies had a fine army of one hundred and twenty thousand men opposed to him; but so far as the English were concerned, their commander had his hands tied. The Duke of Ormonde was sent to take the place of the Duke of Marlborougha certain indication that he was meant only for a mere show general. He was a staunch Jacobite, but no general of talents or experience fit to succeed a man like Marlborough. On arriving at the Hague he assured the States General that his instructions were to act zealously with the Allies, and especially the Dutch, and from his letters it would appear that such were his orders. But before his arrival, Mr. Thomas Harley, a relative of Oxford's, and the Abb Gualtier, had reached the Hague, and had assured the plenipotentiaries that the Government had determined on peace, and would not allow the army to fight. They also brought over with them the scheme of the Treaty, which was not yet to be made known to the Dutch. But the States General were too well aware of the hollow proceedings of the English Court, and, disgusted at the withdrawal of Marlborough and the substitution of Ormonde, they would not entrust their troops to him, but appointed Eugene as their own general. Thus, instead of one generalissimo of consummate genius, the army was divided under two chiefs, the abler chief, the Prince Eugene, having the utmost contempt for the martial talents of his colleague. All on the part of England, both in the conference and in the army, was hollow, treacherous, and disgraceful. Yet, though there was to be no fighting, the pretence of it was kept up. The Earl of Albemarle marched with a detachment of the army to Arras, where he burnt and destroyed some magazines of the French. Ormonde, too, joined Prince Eugene on the 26th of May, and the united army passed the Scheldt, and encamped between Haspres and Solennes. Eugene proposed to attack Villars in his lines, and Ormonde consented to it, but he immediately received a peremptory order from Mr. Secretary St. John against engaging in any siege or battle, and he was directed to keep this order profoundly secret from the Allies. Ormonde was also instructed that if Villars should intimate that he was aware of these secret proceedings, he was to take no notice of them; nor was Villars long in letting him know that they might now consider each other as friends. The situation of Ormonde thus became one of extreme embarrassment. On the one hand, Eugene urged him to prepare for an engagement; on the other, the Dutch were impatient to see some stroke which should humble the French and make negotiation more easy; but Ormonde was as unable to move, notwithstanding previous assurances, as if he had been a mere image of wood. He wrote to St. John, expressing in strong terms the embarrassing nature of his situation, assuring him that the Dutch were exclaiming that they were betrayed; but St. John encouraged him to hold out as well as he could, and Ormonde condescended to play this false and degrading part, equally disgraceful to him as a general and a man of any pretences to honour. The prince urged forward the necessity of laying siege to Quesnoy, and Ormonde was allowed, for the sake of keeping up appearances, to furnish a considerable detachment for the purpose. But there was so evident a backwardness in the duke's movements, that the Dutch deputies complained vehemently to the English plenipotentiaries at Utrecht of his refusal to act in earnest against the enemy. Thereupon Robinson, the bishop, took high ground, and retorted that the States General had met the queen's proposals for peace so strangely, that her Majesty now felt herself released from any further obligation to maintain the treaties and engagements between herself and them. This roused the States to great and indignant activity. They entered into communication with the Electors of Hanover, of Hesse-Cassel, and other princes of the Empire, regarding the effective service of their troops in the pay of Great Britain. They sent off warm remonstrances to the Queen of England, and Anne was obliged to summon a council, in which it was agreed that Ormonde should appear as much as possible to concur with Eugene in the siege.

When Ney and Caulaincourt saw Marmont at Essonnes, he informed them that he had entered into a convention with the Allied sovereigns on his own account. They begged him to suspend it and accompany them, and he consented. Whilst the three commissioners were with the Emperor Alexander, news was brought that Count Souham, with whom Marmont had left the command of his troops, had gone over, and marched the division into the lines of the Allies. On this the Emperor said they had better return to Napoleon, and assure him that the Allies would accept nothing short of an absolute and unqualified abdication. When they announced this to him, to their surprise, he exclaimed, "But what provisions are made for me? How am I to be disposed of?" They replied that it was proposed by the Emperor Alexander that he should retain the title of Emperor; should have the island of Elba, a guard, a small fleet, and all the attributes of royalty, with a suitable income. With a mood of mind incomprehensible in any other person, he immediately called for maps and books about Elba, and began contemplating his future position, as though he had only been changing one France for another; but there can be no doubt that he, in reality, was weighing the facilities of the place for that effort to regain the empire of France, which he certainly never renounced for a moment. On the 11th of April he drew up a form of unconditional abdication, signed, and dispatched it. Ney, Macdonald, and Caulaincourt arrived with the treaty to which the Allied sovereigns had agreed. Elba was assigned to himan island twenty leagues in extent, with twelve thousand inhabitantsand he was to have an income of six millions of francs, besides the little revenue of the island. Two millions and a half more were assigned as annuities to Josephine, and the other members of his family. The Empress was to be created Duchess of Parma, Placentia, and Guastella, in full sovereignty. The marshals and other officers of his army were received into the same ranks and dignities in the army of the Bourbon sovereign. Lord Castlereagh, who had arrived after the conclusion of this treaty, pointed out the folly of it, which must have been apparent to every man of the slightest reflection; for, to a certainty, Napoleon would not for a day longer than he was compelled observe it in a place like Elba, in the very vicinity of France. He declined, on the part of Great Britain, any concern in it; but to avoid a renewal of the war, he offered no formal opposition. Napoleon arrived at Elba on the 4th of May.

On the 20th of May Fox moved for a Grand Committee on courts of justice, to inquire into some late decisions of the courts in cases of libel. Thomas Erskine, the eloquent advocate, had lately, in the case of the Dean of St. Asaph, delivered a most brilliant and effective speech on the right of juries to decide both on fact and on law in such cases, the duty of the judge being only to explain the law. Fox adopted this doctrine of Erskine, and framed his speech in the most glowing terms. He complained, however, that such was not the practice of the courts, and he particularly animadverted on the custom and the doctrine of Lord Mansfield on this subject. He observed that in murder, in felony, in high treason, and in every other criminal indictment, it was the admitted province of the jury to decide both on law and fact. The practice in the case of libel was an anomaly, and clearly ought not to be so. He said that the doctrine which he recommended was no innovation; it had been asserted by John Lilburne, who, when prosecuted for a libel under the Commonwealth, declared that the jury were the real judges, and the judges themselves mere cyphers, so far as the verdict was concerned; and Lilburne had been acquitted, in spite of the judge and of the influence of Cromwell. He reviewed the doctrines of the Stuarts regarding libel, and observed that these could not be wrong then and right now. He contended that the late practice had been a serious inroad on the liberty of the press, and noted the case of the printer of the Morning Herald, who had been tried for merely commenting strongly on the sending of an armament to Nootka Sound, and on the conduct of Parliament in granting supplies for this purpose. He had been condemned to a year's imprisonment and to stand in the pillory. Pitt observed that he had always, since he had had a place in the Ministry, condemned the use of the pillory, and that there could be no difficulty in remitting that part of the sentence in this particular case. He supported Fox's view of the law, and recommended him to bring in two short Bills, instead of going into committee on the subject. Fox followed this advice, and brought in two Billsone to remove doubts respecting the rights and functions of juries in criminal cases; and the other to amend the Act of the 9th of Queen Anne for rendering the proceedings upon writs of Mandamus and informations in the nature of a Quo Warranto more speedy and effectual. The first Bill passed the Commons on the 2nd of June, but was thrown out in the Lords, through the influence of Chancellor Thurlow, who had never forgiven Pitt his contempt of his conduct on the Regency question during the king's malady. This defeated the object of Fox during this Session, but it was carried in the next, and Lord Thurlow's opposition lost him his position. The Great Seal was put into commission.

The Court and the nobles were greatly alarmed, and secretly preparing for war. The nobles had joined the Assembly with the utmost repugnance, and many only on the assurance that the union would not continue. The members of that Order continued to protest against the proceedings of the Assembly, rather than join in its deliberations. The king himself had consented to the union, in the hope that the nobles would be able to put a check on the Tiers tat. King and nobles saw now that all such hopes were vain. And whilst Necker was retained to satisfy the people for the present, and whilst Mounier, Lally Tollendal, and Clermont Tonnerre were consulting with him on establishing a Constitution resembling that of Britain, the Court was preparing to put down the insurrection and the Assembly by force. Marshal Broglie was placed at the head of the troops which surrounded both Paris and Versailles. He judged of both soldiers and citizens by the recollections of the Seven Years' War, and assured the king that a little grape-shot would soon disperse the rioters. Fifteen regiments, chiefly foreign, had been gradually drawn round the capital. The headquarters of Broglie were at Versailles, where he had a brilliant staff and a formidable train of artillery, some of which commanded the very hall in which the Assembly sat. There was a battery at the bridge of Svres, commanding the road to Paris, and in Paris itself there were strong batteries on Montmartre, which overlooked the city, and which, moreover, were carefully entrenched. Besides these preparations, there were French regiments quartered at St. Germain, Charenton, St. Cloud, and other places. Altogether, fifty thousand troops were calculated to be collected. The old noblesse were impatient for the king to give the order to disperse the people both in Paris and Versailles; to surround the Assembly, seize the chief members, put them in prison, and send the rest adrift; to treat the ringleaders of the electors in the same manner; to dissolve formally the States General, and restore the old order of things. Had the reins of government been in the hands of a Bonaparte, the whole plan would have been executed, and would for the time, without doubt, have succeeded. But Louis XVI. was not the man for a coup-d'tat of that rigorous nature. He shuddered at the idea of shedding his subjects' blood; and instead of doing that for which the troops had been assembled, he now listened to Necker, who reminded him that when the people were put down or shot down, and the States General dispersed, the old debts and difficulties would remain, and without States General or Parliament there would be no authority to impose or collect taxes. To Necker's arguments, the more timid and liberal nobles added that the excitement would soon wear itself out; that nothing serious could be done in the presence of such forces, and that the Constitution, once completed, all would right itself, and that he would have to congratulate himself on his bloodless patience in a new and happier reign. This was humane but fatal advice in the circumstances. The soldiers, allowed to remain inactive in the very midst of the hotbed of sedition, were sure to become infected with the spirit of revolution. The debates in the National Assembly were actively distributed in print, and the soldiers read them eagerly.

CHAPTER XIII. REIGN OF GEORGE III.(continued).