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Napoleon dispatched Murat with his cavalry, Junot, Ney, and Davoust, in pursuit of the Russians, whom they overtook at a place called Valoutina, where a desperate battle was fought, and many men were killed on both sides; but the Russians moved off again without the loss of guns, prisoners, or baggage. Buonaparte, on proceeding to the spot, blamed Junot, imputing to him want of activity in the action, and threatening to deprive him of his command. The whole road between Smolensk and Valoutina was strewn with the dead and wounded; and as he entered the city on his return, he met whole tumbrils of amputated limbs going to be thrown away at a distance. The scene is said to have overcome even his senses, so long hardened to human suffering. On the 24th of August he marched forward to Gjatsk, where his advanced guard had halted. There he learned, to his great satisfaction, from a Frenchman long resident in Russia, that the people and the new levies, impatient of continual retreat and the ravage of their country, had demanded that Barclay de Tolly, a German, whom they imagined not sufficiently careful of Russian property and interests, should be superseded by the old general, Kutusoff, and that they should stand and fight. This was precisely what Buonaparte wanted, and the prudent De Tolly knew to be little better than madness, as it must cause a fearful loss of life, and would not rid the country of the invader, who was better left to starvation and the elements. But Alexander, though of De Tolly's opinion, gave way, and the Russians entrenched themselves on the heights of Borodino, De Tolly most magnanimously continuing to serve under Kutusoff. There, after a march of two hundred and eighty versts in seventeen days, the French came up with them; and, after a halt of two days, they attacked the Russian lines.

During this first Session of the new Parliament Ministers had carried matters with a high hand, imagining that they had a majority which would enable them to resist popular opinion, as they had done since the conclusion of the war. But the progress of the Session did not warrant this conclusion. They were defeated in several very important contests, and before the Session came to an end were made to feel that they had greatly declined in public confidence. In the severe debate of the 18th of May, on the motion of Mr. Tierney for a Committee of Inquiry into the state of the nation, they had a majority of more than two to one. But this was very different on the 3rd of June, when they only carried their Foreign Enlistment Bill by a majority of thirteen. On the question of the resumption of cash payments, the conversion of Mr. Peel to the principles of Horner was a rude shock to the Cabinet, and shrewd men prognosticated that, the entire system of Mr. Vansittart being thus overturned, he must retire. Then came not merely partial conversions, or near approaches to defeat, but actual defeats. Such were those on Sir James Mackintosh's motion for inquiry into the criminal laws, and on Lord Archibald[147] Hamilton's for Scottish burgh Reform. The question of Catholic Emancipation had approached to a crisis, and a majority of only two against it was, in truth, a real defeat. The consequence was that the conviction of the insecurity of Ministers was not only shared by men of impartial judgment, but by themselves. Towards the end of the Session Lord Liverpool himself was found writing to a friend, that unless the measure for the return to cash payments raised the confidence of the public in them, they must soon go out:"I am quite satisfied that, if we cannot carry what has been proposed, it is far better for the country that we should cease to be a government. After the defeats we have already experienced during this Session, our remaining in office is a positive evil. It confounds all ideas of government in the minds of men. It disgraces us personally, and renders us less capable every day of being of any real service to the country, either now or hereafter. If, therefore, things are to remain as they are, I am quite sure that there is no advantage, in any way, in our being the persons to carry on the public service. A strong and decisive effort can alone redeem our character and credit, and is as necessary for the country as it is for ourselves." [See larger version] During that evening and night there were serious contentions between the mob and the soldiers still posted in front of Sir Francis's house, and one man was shot by the military. Scarcely had the sheriffs quitted the house of the besieged baronet on the Sunday morning, supposing no attempt at capture would take place that day, when the serjeant-at-arms presented himself with a party of police, and demanded entrance, but in vain. All that day, and late into the night, the mob continued to insult the soldiers who kept guard on the baronet's house, and an order being given at night to clear the streets around, the mob broke the lamps, and threw all into darkness. They then carried away the scaffolding from a house under repair, and made a barricade across[597] Piccadilly, which was, however, removed by the soldiers; and the rain falling in torrents, the mob dispersed.

Earlier than this, in July, Colonel Pilkington took all the islands in the Bay of Passamaquoddy; and in another expedition, in September, the British took the fort of Castine, on the Penobscot river, defeated double their number of Americans, pursued up the river the John Adams, a fine frigate, and compelled the commander to burn it. They took the town of Bangor, and reduced the whole district of Maine, from Passamaquoddy Bay to the Penobscot. In fact, these ravages and inroads, which rendered the whole seaboard of America unsafe, made the Americans, and especially President Madison, exclaim loudly against the barbarous and wanton destruction of their capital and ports.

Muir and Palmer, on the 19th of December, 1793, had been conveyed on board the hulks at Woolwich, before being shipped off to the Antipodes, and were put in irons; but before they were sent off, the matter was brought before Parliament. It was introduced by Mr. Adams, on the 14th of February, 1794, moving for leave to bring in a bill to alter the enactment for allowing appeals from the Scottish Court of Justiciary in matters of law. This was refused, and he then gave notice of a motion for the revision of the trials of Muir and Palmer. Sheridan, on the 24th, presented a petition from Palmer, complaining of his sentence as unwarranted by law. Pitt protested against the reception of the petition, and Dundas declared that all such motions were too late; the warrant for Palmer's transportation was already signed and issued. Wilberforce moved that Palmer's being sent off should be delayed till the case was reconsidered, but this was also rejected by a large majority. Such was the determined spirit of Pitt and his parliamentary majority against all Reform, or justice to Reformers. On the 10th of March Mr. Adams again moved for a revision of the trials of Muir and Palmer, declaring that "leasing-making" (verbal sedition), their crime by the law of Scotland, was punishable by fine, imprisonment, or banishment, but not by transportation, and that their sentence was illegal. Fox exposed the rancorous spirit with which the trials had been conducted, and to which the judges had most indecently lent themselves; that the Lord Justice Clerk, during Muir's trial, had said, "A government in every country should be just like a corporation; and, in this country, it is made up of the landed interest, which alone has a right to be represented. As for the rabble, who have nothing but personal property, what hold has the nation on them? They may pack up all their property on their backs, and leave the country in the twinkling of an eye!" Lord Swinton said, "If punishment adequate to the crime of sedition were to be sought for, it could not be found in our law, now that torture is happily abolished." The Lord Advocate was in his place to defend his conduct and doctrine, but Pitt and Dundas supported these odious opinions. The House also sanctioned them by a large majority, and Adams's motion was rejected. In the Upper House, similar motions, introduced by Lords Lansdowne and Stanhope, were similarly treated. When the insurgents, about 8,000 strong, drew up in front of the Westgate Hotel, the principal point of attack, Frost commanded the special constables to surrender. On their refusal the word was given to fire, and a volley was discharged against the bow window of the room where the military were located, and at the same moment the rioters, with their pikes and other instruments, drove in the door and rushed into the passage. It was a critical moment, but the mayor and the magistrates were equal to the emergency. The Riot Act having been read by the mayor amidst a shower of bullets, the soldiers charged their muskets, the shutters were opened, and the fighting began. A shower of slugs immediately poured in from the street, which wounded Mr. Philips and several other persons. But the soldiers opened a raking discharge upon the crowd without, and after a few rounds, by which a great many persons fell dead on the spot, the assailants broke and fled in all directions. Frost, Williams, and Jones were tried by a special commission at Monmouth, and found guilty of high treason. Sentence of death was pronounced upon them on the 16th of January, 1840, but on the 1st of February the sentence was commuted to transportation for life. A free pardon was granted to them on the 3rd of May, 1856, and they returned to England in the September following. Mayor Philips was knighted for his gallantry.

Sir John Blaquiere, created Lord de Blaquiere, with offices and pensions.

This was not the only bitter pill that poor Lord Eldon was compelled to swallow. Without one word of intimation from the king or the Prime Minister, he learnt for the first time from the Courier that Mr. Huskisson had been introduced into the Cabinet. Mr. Huskisson was made President of the Board of Trade, and in his stead Mr. Arbuthnot became First Commissioner of the Land Revenues. Mr. Vansittart, who had proved a very inefficient Chancellor of the Exchequer,[231] was raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Bexley, and got the quiet office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was succeeded in the more important office by a much abler financier, Mr. Robinson.


Further correspondence on the subject did not heal the wound that had been inflicted on the pride of the Spanish Government, but rather inflamed it; and on the 19th of May the British ambassador received a peremptory order to quit the kingdom within forty-eight hours. In dismissing him, the Duke de Sotomayor administered to him a very sharp rebuke. "Your conduct," he said, "in the execution of your important mission has been reprobated by public opinion in England, censured by the British press, and condemned in the British Parliament. Her Catholic Majesty's Government cannot defend it when that of her Britannic Majesty has not done so." Sir Henry Bulwer accordingly departed, Mr. Otway, the principal attach, remaining to transact any necessary business connected with the embassy. Diplomatic relations were not renewed for some time, and, it must be admitted, that the insult that had been offered to England was in a great measure provoked.

Such were the difficulties which Ministers had to contend with for commencing the war at sea. In one particular, however, there was more liberality; money was ungrudgingly voted; the land-tax was raised from two to four shillings in the pound, and the Sinking Fund was so freely resorted to, that the supplies altogether amounted to upwards of four millions. During these discussions, news came on the 13th of March, that on the 21st of November, 1739, Admiral Vernon had taken Porto Bello from the Spaniards. This was good news for the Opposition, for Vernon was one of their party, and a personal enemy of Walpole. There were great rejoicings and the Lords sent down an address of congratulation to the king, for the concurrence of the Commons. Yet in this they could not avoid making a party matter of it, the address stating that this glorious action had been performed with only six ships, and thus to mark[73] the contrast with the doings of Admiral Hosier in those seas, and so to blacken his memory. The address was carried in a thin House, but only by thirty-six against thirty-one, so that along with the news went the comment to Vernon, that the Ministry begrudged him his glory. Parliament was prorogued on the 29th of April, 1740, and the king set off on his summer visit to Hanover.

We need not follow the track of the deserted army with much minuteness. The moment Buonaparte was gone, all discipline and command ceased. The chief officers quarrelled vehemently; and Murat denounced his Imperial brother-in-law in the bitterest terms, and escaped away into Italy on the first opportunity. The Austrians and Prussians marched off, and the French, pursued by the Russians till they crossed the Niemen, were continually assailed, and dispersed or killed; so that Macdonald at length reached K?nigsberg with nine thousand men, the body of French presenting anything but the appearance of an army! In this fatal campaign, Boutourlin states that, of this splendid army, one hundred and twenty-five thousand were killed; one hundred and thirty-two thousand died from fatigue, hunger, and the severity of the climate; and one hundred and ninety-three thousand, including forty-eight generals and three thousand officers, were taken prisonersan awful comment on the assertions of Buonaparte that he had beaten the Russians everywhere. The nine thousand soldiers who returned with Macdonald leave only eleven thousand to be accounted for of the whole four hundred and seventy thousand, besides women, children, and camp servitors, who entered Russia. These eleven thousand were, no doubt, dispersed fugitives, some of whom might eventually reach France. Such a destruction of human life in one campaign, so utterly unfelt for by the man who[55] occasioned it, stands alone in the history of this world's miserable wars. The crime of it, as it rests on the head of that guilty soul, is beyond mortal calculation.

Parliament was prorogued on the 31st of May, 1826, and two days afterwards dissolved. It had nearly run its course. It was the sixth Session, which had been abridged with a view of getting through the general election at a convenient season. But though short, the Session had much work to show of one kind or another, including some useful legislation. The Parliamentary papers printed occupied twenty-nine folio volumes, exclusive of the journals and votes. The Parliament whose existence was now terminated had, indeed, effected the most important changes in the policy of Great Britain, foreign and domestic. Mr. Canning had severed the connection, unnatural as it was damaging, between England and the Holy Alliance. The Government of the freest country in the world, presenting almost the only example of a constitution in which the power of the people was represented, was no longer to be associated in the councils of a conclave of despots; and this change of direction in its foreign policy was cordially adopted by the House of Commons and by the nation. Another great and vital change in national policy was the partial admission of the principles of Free Trade, which the Tories regarded, not without reason, as effecting a complete revolution, which extended its influence to the whole legislation and government.