《清风劲雨——漫说正风肃纪》出版发行

These enactments, unaccompanied by any others the object of which was to relieve the distress of the people, only tended still more to exasperate the feelings of the working classes. In fact, nothing had been so obvious as the effect of the proceedings of Government of late in disturbing that peace which they professed themselves so desirous to preserve. They, in truth, were the real agitators. The passing of the Six Acts only made the popular resentment the deeper, and whilst this tended to render the more prudent Reformers cautious, it stimulated the lowest and most unprincipled of them to actual and deadly conspiracy. The general conspiracy believed in by Ministers never existed, but a conspiracy was actually on foot in London, which again was found to have been, if not originally excited, yet actively stimulated, by the agents of Government. The details of this transaction, and of the concluding scene of the Manchester outrage, namely, the trial of Hunt and his associates, necessarily lead us about two months beyond the death of George III., which took place on the 29th of January, 1820. In November, 1819, whilst Government were framing their Six Acts, the more completely to coerce the people, they were again sending amongst them incendiaries to urge them to an open breach of the laws in order to furnish justifications for their despotic policy. The leading miscreant of this class was a man named Edwards, who kept a small shop at Eton for the sale of plaster casts. Some of the emissaries appeared at Middleton, the place of Bamford's abode, but he was in prison awaiting his trial with Hunt and the rest, and the people tempted were too cautious to listen to these agents of Government. But in London these agents found more combustible materials, and succeeded in leading into the snare some who had been long ready for any folly or crime. Chief amongst these was Thistlewood, who had been a lieutenant in the army, a man who had, or conceived that he had, suffered injustice at the hands[154] of Ministers, and who had wrought up his temper to the perpetration of some desperate deed. Bamford when in London, in 1816, had found Thistlewood mixed up with the Spenceans, and to be met with any day at their places of resortthe "Cock," in Grafton Street, the "Mulberry Tree," in Moorfields, the "Nag's Head," Carnaby Market, No. 8, Lumber Street, Borough, and a public-house in Spa Fields, called "Merlin's Cave." At these places they might be found, amidst clouds of tobacco-smoke and the fumes of beer, discussing remedies for the miserable condition of the people. At the latter place Thistlewood was often to be found with the Watsons, Preston, and Castles, who was employed to betray them. From this spot they issued for their mad attempt on the Tower on the 2nd of December of that year. Thistlewood was one of those seized on that occasion, but was acquitted on his trial. Not warned by this, he no sooner got abroad than he sent a challenge to Lord Sidmouth, for which he was arrested, and sentenced to a year's imprisonment. He issued from gaol still more embittered against Sidmouth and his colleagues, and resolved on striking some mortal blow at them. He did not lack comrades of a like fiery and abandoned stamp, and they determined on a scheme for cutting off the whole Cabinet together. The detestable deed was to be perpetrated in the autumn of 1819, a time when the public mind, especially that of the working classes, was so embittered against the Government. They did not, however, succeed in their intentions, and it was at this crisis of unwilling delay that the man Edwards became privy to their plans. In November he carried the important, and, as he hoped, to him profitable secret to Sir Herbert Taylor, who was attached to the establishment of the king at Windsor, and by him he was introduced to Lord Sidmouth. This minister and his colleagues, with that fondness for the employment of spies, and for fomenting sedition instead of nipping it in the bud, immediately engaged Edwards, on good pay, to lead forward the conspirators into overt action. It was not enough for them that, by adding another witness or two to Edwards, they would be able to produce the most complete proof of the treason of these menthey rather luxuriated in the nursing of this plot, and thus ripening it into something bloody and horrible; and in this they succeeded.

When day dawned, Cornwallis saw that the ground he occupied was so favourable that it rendered his inferiority of numbers of little consequence. He therefore drew out his forces for immediate action. Swamps to the right and left narrowed the ground by which the Americans could approach him, and forming his troops into two lines, commanded by Lord Rawdon and General Webster, he attacked the Americans under Gates and quickly put them to the rout. The Virginian militia ran most nimbly, and sought refuge in the woods. Gates himself galloped away believing all was lost, and never halted till he reached Charlotte, about eighty miles off. The only men who fought well were two brigades of regulars under the command of the German, Von Kalb, who kept his ground against the troops of Lord Rawdon for three-quarters of an hour, sustaining repeated charges of the bayonet unmoved; but Von Kalb fell mortally wounded, and the last of the Americans then gave way and fled for their lives in all directions. Among the other causes which contributed to the unpopularity of the Duke of Wellington and the weakness of his Administration was the prosecution by the Attorney-General of Mr. Alexander, the editor of the Morning Journal. A series of articles had appeared in that paper, which were considered so virulent and libellous, so far surpassing the bounds of fair discussion, that the Duke felt under the same necessity of ordering a prosecution that he had felt to fight the duel with Lord Winchilsea. It was regarded as an inevitable incident of his position, one of the things required to enable him to carry on the king's Government. He obtained a victory, but it cost him dear: a sentence of fine and imprisonment was inflicted upon his opponent, and the Morning Journal was extinguished; but, in the temper of the times, the public were by no means disposed to sympathise with the victor in such a contest. On the contrary, the victory covered him with odium, and placed upon the head of the convicted the crown of martyrdom. Mr. Alexander was visited daily in the King's Bench prison by leading politicians, and a motion was made in the House of Commons with a view to incriminate the Government who ordered the prosecution. In another instance also, but of a nature less damaging, the Government received a warning of its approaching downfall. Mr. Peel, anxious to mitigate the severity of the criminal code, and to render it less bloody, proposed to inflict the penalty of death only on persons committing such forgeries as could not by proper precautions be guarded against. It was a step in the right direction, but one too hesitating, and stopping short of the firm ground of sound policy. Sir James Mackintosh, therefore, on the third reading of the Bill, moved a clause for the abolition of the penalty of death in all cases of forgery, which was carried by a majority of 151 against 138. Thus the Session wore on, in a sort of tantalising Parliamentary warfare, with no decisive advantages on either side till the attention and interest of Parliament and the nation were absorbed by the approaching dissolution of George IV. and the dawning light of a new reign.

Here all further progress became impossible. The Spaniards having reduced their debt to less than one half the original sum, were fighting stoutly to reduce it to nothing. There appeared no chance but for arms to decide it. Cardinal Fleury, with his usual pacific disposition, made an effort to avert the war by guaranteeing to undertake the payment of the ninety-five thousand pounds by Spain, provided that the British fleet was withdrawn from the Mediterranean. But English spirit, even in Walpole, had now reached its limit of patience. The king and the nation were equally in a mood for war. Walpole, therefore, ceased to listen any longer to the Spanish objections, but took his stand on the true British ground of resistance to the right of search, and on that of an acknowledgment of all British rights and claims in North America. Instead of withdrawing the Mediterranean fleet, he ordered its reinforcement, sent Sir Chaloner Ogle with fresh ships to the West Indies, and Sir John Norris was ordered to put to sea with a third squadron. The above demands being peremptorily made from the Court of Madrid, and being rejected, war was proclaimed in London on the 19th of October. Walpole, who had reluctantly resorted to this master evil, as he heard the rejoicings, exclaimed, "They may ring the bells now, but they will soon be wringing their hands!" The first symptoms of the consequences which the war was likely to produce were seen in the new hopes which it awoke in the ranks of the Jacobites. Large numbers of them met at Edinburgh, and drew up a bond of association, pledging one another to take arms and venture life and fortune for the restoration of the Stuart. On the other hand, those nations on which England calculated for aid hung back and remained neutral. The Dutch were bound to furnish certain troops in case of war, and, before the declaration of it, Horace Walpole was despatched by his brother to demand their production; but they pleaded the menaces of France, which threatened them with invasion by fifty thousand men if they assisted the English, and which held out to them the prospect of their obtaining that trade to the Spanish colonies which England had enjoyed. As for France herself, she assumed an air rather ominous of war than of peace, and thus Britain was left alone in the contest.

Colonel B. Heneker, a regiment, and 3,500 a-year for his seat.

[270]

SIR DAVID BAIRD.

Mr. St. John Daly, ditto 3,300

The Bill was prepared by the judges, and afterwards remodelled and conducted through the Lords by Lord Chancellor Hardwicke. It provided that banns should be published for every marriage in the parish church for three successive Sundays; that no license to waive these banns should be granted to any minor without consent of the parent or guardian; and that special licenses, empowering the marriage to be celebrated at any time or place, should only be granted by the archbishop, and for a heavy sum. The Bill was opposed in the Lords by the Duke of Bedford, and in the Commons by Henry Fox, Mr. Nugent, Mr. Charles Townshend, and others. It was declared to be a scheme for keeping together the wealth of the country in the hands of a few grasping and ambitious families. Townshend denounced it as intended to shut younger sons out of all chance of raising themselves by marriage. Henry Fox had benefited especially by the looseness of the old marriage law, for he had run away with Lady Caroline Lennox, the eldest daughter of the Duke of Richmond. He was especially severe on Lord Hardwicke, accusing him of seeking by the Bill to throw more power into the hands of the Lord Chancellor, and Hardwicke retorted with still greater acrimony. The Bill passed, and there was a strong inclination to extend its operation to Scotland, but the Scottish lawyers and representative peers defeated this attempt.

The Americans had marched on the evening of the 16th with orders to make themselves masters of Bunker's Hill. By some mistake, they had planted themselves on Breed's Hill, and instantly began to throw up a formidable redoubt and entrenchments, and to place their guns in battery. Gage then ordered a detachment of troops, under the command of General Howe and Brigadier Pigott, to drive the Americans, at all costs, from that position. It was noon before Howe crossed the river and landed on the Charlestown peninsula; but then Howe perceived the strength of the Americans to be greater than had been supposed, and, halting, he sent for reinforcements. They advanced up the hill, formed in two lines, the right headed by General Howe, the left by Brigadier Pigott. The left was immediately severely galled by the riflemen posted in the houses and on the roofs of Charlestown, and Howe instantly halted and ordered the left wing to advance and set fire to the town. This was soon executed, and the wooden buildings of Charlestown were speedily in a blaze, and the whole place burnt to the ground. The Americans reserved their fire till the English were nearly at the entrenchments, when they opened with such a deadly discharge of cannon and musketry as astonished and perplexed the British. Most of the men and the staff standing around General Howe were killed, and he stood for a moment almost alone. Some of the newer troops never stopped till they reached the bottom of the hill. The officers, however, speedily rallied the broken lines, and led them a second time against the murderous batteries. A second time they gave way. But General Clinton, seeing the unequal strife, without waiting for orders, and attended by a number of resolute officers, hastened across the water in boats, and, rallying the fugitives, led them a third time up the hill. By this time the fire of the Americans began to slacken, for their powder was failing, and the English, wearied as they were, rushed up the hill, and carried the entrenchments at the point of the bayonet. Had Gage had a proper reserve ready to rush upon the flying rout on the Neck, few of them would have remained to join their fellows. The battle was called the Battle of Bunker's Hill, though really fought on the lower, or Breed's Hill.