These dispiriting losses, combined with the fall of Minorca, stimulated the public and the mercantile bodies to petition earnestly for the termination of the American war; and Parliament met at the appointed time amid numbers of such demands. Petitions came from the cities of London and Westminster, and many other towns and counties, bearing rather the features of remonstrances. No sooner did the House meet than Fox moved for an inquiry into the causes of the constant failure of our fleets in these enterprises, on which so much had depended. The object was to crush Lord Sandwich, the head of the Admiralty. Fox's motion was rejected, but only by a majority of twenty-two. The strength of Ministers was fast ebbing.


Sanguine though the Dissenters had been respecting the growth of the principles of civil and religious liberty, of which the seeds had been sown in tears by the early Puritan confessors, they did not anticipate that the harvest was at hand. As their claims were not embarrassed by any question of divided allegiance or party politics, many members of Parliament who had not supported the relief of the Roman Catholics found themselves at liberty to advocate the cause of the Protestant Nonconformists; while almost all who had supported the greater measure of Emancipation felt themselves bound by consistency to vote for the abolition of the sacramental test. Yet the victory was not achieved without a struggle. Lord John Russell said:"The Government took a clear, open, and decided part against us. They summoned their followers from every part of the empire. Nay, they issued a sort of 'hatti-sheriff' for the purpose; they called upon every one within their influence who possessed the faith of a true Mussulman to follow them in opposing the measure. But, notwithstanding their opposition in the debate, their arguments were found so weak, and in the division their numbers were found so deficient, that nothing could be more decided than our triumph."

In a little time the Americans, recovering their spirits, returned to their guns, and plied them so well that they soon knocked the breastworks of sugar and treacle casks to pieces. As nothing[112] would tempt the Americans to show themselves from behind their cotton bales and embankments, after maintaining this murderous position for two whole nights and days, Pakenham drew back his men, sacrificing some of his guns, and formed a scheme of sending a detachment across the river to turn the batteries and then play them upon the enemy. But for this purpose it was necessary to cut a canal across the tongue of land on which the army stood, in order to bring up the boats required to carry the troops over the river. Major-General Lambert had arrived with reinforcements, so that against the American twenty thousand Pakenham had now about eight thousand men. All worked at the canal, and it was finished on the 6th of January. Colonel Thornton was to carry across the river one thousand four hundred men, and surprise the great flanking battery of eighteen or twenty guns, whilst Sir Edward Pakenham advanced against the lines in front. A rocket was to be thrown up by Pakenham when he commenced his assault, and Thornton was at that instant to make a rush on the battery and turn it on the enemy. But they had not sufficiently calculated on the treacherous soil through which they cut their canal. Thornton found it already so sludged up that he could only get boats through it sufficient to carry over three hundred and fifty men, and this with so much delay that, when Pakenham's rocket went up, he was still three miles from the batteryand that in broad daylightwhich he ought already to have taken. Unaware of this, Pakenham advanced against the chain of forts and ramparts. He had ordered ladders and fascines to be in readiness for crossing the canal, but by some gross neglect it was found that they were not there, and thus the whole of the British troops were exposed to the deadly fire of the American batteries and musketry. No valour was of any use in such circumstances; but Sir Edward cheered on the few but brave-hearted troops till the ladders and fascines could arrive; but ere this happened, Pakenham was killed. Generals Gibbs and Keane took the place of the fallen commander, and still cheered on their men; but it was only to unavailing slaughter: the American marksmen, under cover, and with their rifles on rest, picked off the British soldiers at their pleasure. Gibbs was soon killed and Keane disabled by a wound. In such circumstances the troops gave way and retired, a strong reserve protecting the rear; but out of gun-shot there was no further danger, for the Americans were much too cunning to show their heads beyond the protection of their defences.

Scotland, before the Reform Bill, was ruled by an oligarchy. The population was two millions and a half, the constituency was only 2,500. The power was to be taken from this small junto, and extended to the great middle class of that intelligent and loyal people. In Ireland, a host of rotten boroughs, some without any constituency at all, was to be swept away. The general result would be an increase for the United Kingdom of half a million electors, making the whole number enjoying the franchise 900,000. Of these 50,000 would be found in the new towns, created into Parliamentary boroughs in England, 110,000 additional electors in boroughs already returning members. For instance, London would have[331] 95,000; the English counties, 100,000; Scotland, 60,000; Ireland, 40,000. The House would consist in all of 596 members, being a reduction of sixty-two on the existing number of 658. The number of seats abolished was 168, which reduced the House to 490. Five additional members were given to Scotland, three to Ireland, one to Wales, eight to London, thirty-four to large English towns, and fifty-five to English counties.


On the 18th of April Lord John Russell moved that the House should go into committee on the Bill, stating that he proposed to make certain alterations in the details of the measure, but none affecting its principles. General Gascoigne then moved that it should be an instruction to the committee that the number of members composing the House of Commons ought not to be reduced. The motion was seconded by Mr. Sadler, and resisted by Lord Althorp, who declared that the object of the motion was to destroy the Bill. It was nevertheless carried, after an animated debate, by a majority of eight against the Government. Ministers had been placed in a position of peculiar difficultythey had to humour the king's vanity and love of popular applause, in order to prevent his becoming sulky, and refusing to consent to a dissolution, which they felt to be inevitable. They had also to proceed with great caution in dealing with the Opposition, lest, irritated by the threat of dissolution, they should resolve to stop the supplies, it being impossible to dissolve Parliament in the present state of the estimates. They had been fortunate enough, however, to guard against this danger. On the 23rd of March supply had been moved, and a large portion of the army estimates voted. On the 25th Sir James Graham moved portions of the navy estimates, and on the same night the Civil List was provided for. Further supplies of various kinds having luckily been granted, on the 30th the House was adjourned for the Easter holidays, till the 12th of April.

God's will be done!

Insecurity of the Orleanist Monarchythe Spanish Marriageslord Palmerston's Foreign Policymeeting of the French Chambersprohibition of the Reform Banquetthe Multitude in ArmsVacillation of Louis PhilippeHe Abdicates in favour of His GrandsonFlight of the Royal FamilyProclamation of the Provisional GovernmentLamartine quells the PopulaceThe UnemployedInvasion of the AssemblyPrince Louis NapoleonThe Ateliers NationauxParis in a State of SiegeThe Rebellion quelled by CavaignacA New ConstitutionLouis Napoleon Elected President of the French RepublicEffect of the French Revolution in EnglandThe ChartistsOutbreak at GlasgowThe Monster PetitionNotice by the Police CommissionersThe 10th of AprilThe Special ConstablesThe Duke of Wellington's PreparationsThe Convention on Kennington CommonFeargus O'Connor and Commissioner MayneCollapse of the DemonstrationIncendiary Placards at GlasgowHistory of the Chartist PetitionRenewed Gatherings of ChartistsArrestsTrial of the Chartist LeadersEvidence of SpiesThe Sentences.