优环境、促服务、扩内需——首季中国经济观察之稳预期

[94]

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.

The year 1818 commenced gloomily. On the 27th of January Parliament was opened by a Speech, drawn up for the Prince Regent, but read by the Lord Chancellor. The first topic was, of course, the severe loss which the country and the prince had sustained in the death of the Princess Charlotte. It was only too well known that the prince and his daughter had not for some time been on very cordial terms, the princess having taken the part of her mother; and the vicious and voluptuous life of the Regent did not probably leave much depth of paternal affection in his nature, which had originally been generous and capable of better things. It was remarked by Mr. Ward, afterwards Lord Dudley and Ward, that the mention of the princess "was rather drysulky, rather than sad." But the death of his only issue, and that at the moment that she might have been expected to give a continued succession to the Throne, was a severe blow to him. There was an end of all succession in his line. He stood now without the hopeful support which his daughter's affectionate regard in the country had afforded him, and he was ill able to bear the loss of any causes of popularity. He received a serious shock; and it was only by copious bleeding that he was saved from dangerous consequences; yet, so little was the depth of his trouble, that within three months of his loss he attended a dinner given by the Prussian ambassador, and entertained the company with a song. The changes in the manners and morals of the age since the reign of George III. have been sufficiently indicated in the preceding pages. Corresponding changes were gradually introduced in the world of fashion, though the conservative instinct of the aristocracy and the spirit of exclusiveness resisted innovation as long as possible. What was called "good society" was wonderfully select. The temple of fashion at the beginning of the reign of George IV. was Almack's; and the divinities that under the name of lady patronesses presided there were the Ladies Castlereagh, Jersey, Cowper, and Sefton, the Princess Esterhazy and the Countess Lieven. These and their associates gave the tone to the beau monde. We can scarcely now conceive the importance that was then attached to the privilege of getting admission to Almack's. Of the 300 officers of the Foot Guards, not more than half a dozen were honoured with vouchers. The most popular and influential amongst the grandes dames was Lady Cowper, afterwards Lady Palmerston. Lady Jersey was not popular, being inconceivably rude and insolent[440] in her manner. Many diplomatic arts, much finesse, and a host of intrigues were set in motion to get an invitation to Almack's. Very often persons whose rank and fortune entitled them to the entre anywhere were excluded by the cliquism of the lady patronesses. Trousers had come into general use. They had been first worn by children, then adopted in the army, and from the army they came into fashion with civilians. But they were rigidly excluded from Almack's, as well as the black tie, which also came into use about this time. The female oligarchy who ruled the world of fashion, or tried to do so, issued a solemn proclamation that no gentleman should appear at the assemblies without being dressed in knee-breeches, white cravat, and chapeau bras. On one occasion, we are told, the Duke of Wellington was about to ascend the staircase of the ball-room, dressed in black trousers, when the vigilant Mr. Willis, the guardian of the establishment, stepped forward, and said, "Your Grace cannot be admitted in trousers." Whereupon the great captain quietly retreated, without daring to storm the citadel of fashion. The principal dances at Almack's had been Scottish reels, and the old English country dance. In 1815 Lady Jersey introduced from Paris the quadrille which has so long remained popular. The mazy waltz was also imported about the same time. Among the first who ventured to whirl round the salons of Almack's was Lord Palmerston, his favourite partner being Madame Lieven. This new dance was so diligently cultivated in the houses of the nobility and gentry that the upper classes were affected with a waltzing mania.

When peace was made in Europe, the United States became anxious for peace too. Madison had begun the war in the ungenerous hope of wresting Canada from Great Britain, because he thought her too deeply engaged in the gigantic war against Napoleon to be able to defend that colony. He believed that it would fall an easy prey; that the Canadians must so greatly admire the model republic that they would abandon monarchy at the first call, and that he should thus have the glory of absorbing that great world of the north into the American Republic. In all this, he and those who thought with him found themselves egregiously deceived. The Canadians showed they were staunchly attached to Great Britain, and the attempts at invasion were beaten back by the native militia and by our handful of troops with the greatest ease. Meanwhile, the blockade of the east, and the seizure of the merchant shipping, drove the New England and other eastern States to desperation. Throughout this war Great Britain made a uniform declaration of a preference for peace, but her offers were regularly rejected so long as Napoleon was triumphant. The United States, professing the utmost love of freedom, were the blind and enthusiastic worshippers of the man who was trampling the liberties of all Europe under his feet. It was not till the last momentnot till he had been defeated in Russia, driven by Britain out of Spain, routed and pursued out of Germany, and compelled to renounce the Imperial Crown of Francethat the American Government began to understand the formidable character of the Power which it had so long and so insolently provoked, and to fear the whole weight of its resentment directed against its shores. It is certain that, had Britain been animated by a spirit of vengeance, it had now the opportunity, by sending strong fleets and a powerful army to the coast of America, to ravage her seaboard towns, and so utterly annihilate her trade as to reduce her to the utmost misery, and to precipitate a most disastrous system of internal disintegration. The New England States, in 1814, not only threatened to secede, but stoutly declared that they would not furnish another shilling towards paying the expenses of the war. They even intimated an idea of making a separate peace with Britain. In Massachusetts especially these[114] menaces were vehement. Governor Strong spoke out plainly in the Legislative Chamber of that State. Madison endeavoured to mollify this spirit by abandoning his Embargo and Emancipation Acts, but this was now too late, for the strict blockade of the British, in 1814, rendered these Acts perfectly dead. Accordingly, Benningsen communicated Alexander's willingness for peace, on the 21st of June, and the armistice was ratified on the 23rd. Buonaparte determined then, as on most occasions, to settle the treaty, not by diplomatists, but personally, with the Czar. A raft was prepared and anchored in the middle of the Niemen, and on the morning of the 25th of June, 1807, the two Emperors met on that raft, and embraced, amid the shouts of the two armies arranged on each bank. The two Emperors retired to a seat placed for them on the raft, and remained in conversation two hours, during which time their attendants remained at a distance. The town of Tilsit was declared neutral ground, and became a scene of festivities, in which the Russian, French, and even Prussian officers, who had been so long drenching the northern snows with each other's blood, vied in courtesies towards each other. Amongst them the two Emperors appeared as sworn brothers, relaxing into gaiety and airs of gallantry, like two young fashionables. On the 28th the King of Prussia arrived, and was treated with a marked difference. He was bluntly informed, that whatever part of his territories were restored would be solely at the solicitation of the Emperor of Russia.

Under the management of these enlightened men the disproportionate mass of bone was reduced, and flesh increased, and the whole figure assumed a regular and handsome contour. The quality of the meat was as greatly improved.

For a time, Bute and his colleagues appeared to brave the load of hatred and ignominy which was now piled everywhere upon them, but it was telling; and suddenly, on the 7th of April, it was announced that the obnoxious Minister had resigned. Many were the speculations on this abrupt act, some attributing it to the influence of Wilkes, and his remorseless attacks in the North Briton; others to the king and queen having at length become sensitive on the assumed relations of Bute and the king's mother; but Bute himself clearly stated the real and obvious causewant of support, either in or out of Parliament. "The ground," he wrote to a friend, "on which I tread is so hollow, that I am afraid not only of falling myself, but of involving my royal master in my ruin. It is time for me to retire."

The secret of this wonderfully augmented boldness of tone on the part of France soon transpired. Choiseul had been endeavouring to secure the alliance of Spain, and saw himself about to succeed. Spain was smarting under many losses and humiliations from the English during the late war. Whilst General Wall, the Spanish minister at Madrid, urged these complaints on the Earl of Bristol, our ambassador there, Choiseul was dexterously inflaming the minds of the Spanish Court against Britain on these grounds. He represented it as the universal tyrant of the seas, and the sworn enemy of every other maritime state. He offered to assist in the recovery of Gibraltar, and to make over Minorca to Spain. By these means he induced Spain to go into what became the celebrated Family Compactthat is, a compact by which France and Spain bound themselves to mutually succour and support each other; and to admit the King of Naples, the son of the Spanish king, to this compact, but no prince or potentate whatever, except he were of the House of Bourbon.

DEFEAT OF GENERAL BRADDOCK IN THE INDIAN AMBUSH. (See p. 119.)

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