[See larger version] The Girondists were, at the opening of the year 1792, vehemently urging on war against the Emigrants and the Emperor of Germany. Just at this crisis, as we have seen, Leopold of Austria died, and was succeeded by his nephew, Francis II.; and war became more inevitable, for Francis had not the same pacific disposition as Leopold, and the Gironde was bent on war. The internal condition of France also seemed to indicate that there must soon be war abroad or civil war at home. The Ministers were at variance; the Jacobins and Girondists were coming to an open and desperate feud; the people, both in Paris and throughout the country, were excited by the Jacobin publications to the utmost pitch of fury against the Royalists and the priests.

Progress was again shown in a speech of Lord John Russell in the debate on the condition of the people on the 26th of May. Still clinging to his idea of a fixed duty, he said, "If I had a proposition to make, it would not be the 8s. duty which was proposed in 1841." An exclamation of "How much, then?" from Sir James Graham drew forth the further remark"No one, I suppose, would propose any duty that would be less than 4s.; and 4s., 5s., or 6s., if I had a proposition to make, would be the duty that I should propose." The awkward anomalies of Sir Robert Peel's position were the frequent subject of the attacks of his enemies at this time; but the country felt that there was a littleness in the Whig leader's paltry and vacillating style of dealing with a great question, beside which, at least, the position of the Minister exhibited a favourable contrast.

The Swiss acted a more cautious part. Fearful that Napoleon might yet, by some other wonderful chance, regain his power, they summoned a Diet, passed an order for the neutrality of the cantons, and issued an order calling on the Allies to respect this, and not attempt to march troops through their country. This would have suited Buonaparte extremely well, as it would have closed his eastern frontiers to the Austrians, who were marching that way under Count Bubna; but the Austrians informed the Swiss authorities that they should certainly march through; and the Allied sovereigns dispatched Count Capo d'Istria and Herr Lebzeltern to Zurich to state that the power of France over Switzerland was at an end, and to desire them to send deputies to meet them, and to establish an independent government for Switzerland. Thus assured, the greater part of the cantons sent their deputies to Zurich, who proclaimed the restoration of national independence, and gave free consent for the armies of the Allies to march through the country.

In committee the Opposition endeavoured to introduce some modifying clause. They proposed that the Dissenters should have schools for their own persuasion; and, had the object of the Bill been to prevent them from endangering the Church by educating the children of Churchmen, this would have served the purpose. But this was not the real object; the motive of the Bill was the old tyrannic spirit of the Church, and this most reasonable clause was rejected. They allowed, however, dames or schoolmistresses to teach the children to read; and they removed the conviction of offenders from the justices of peace to the courts of law, and granted a right of appeal to a higher court. Finally, they exempted tutors in noblemen's families, noblemen being supposed incapable of countenancing any other than teachers of Court principles. Stanhope seized on this to extend the privilege to the members of the House of Commons, arguing that, as many members of the Commons were connected with noble families, they must have an equal claim for the education of their children in sound principles. This was an exquisite bit of satire, but it was unavailing. The Hanoverian Tories, headed by Lord Anglesey, moved that the Act should extend to Ireland, where, as the native population was almost wholly Catholic, and therefore schismatic in the eye of the Established Church, the Bill would have almost entirely extinguished education. The Bill was carried on the 10th of June by a majority only of seventy-seven against seventy-two, and would not have been carried at all except for the late creation of Tory peers.

By permission, from the Picture in the Corporation of Leicester Art Gallery. The deaths of monarchs, however, were peculiarly fatal to this ambitious man; that of Queen Anne had precipitated him from power, and rescued his country from the ruin he prepared for it; that of George now came as opportunely to prevent the national calamity of his ministry. George set out for Hanover on the 3rd of June, accompanied, as usual, by Townshend and the Duchess of Kendal. Just before his departure the youthful Horace Walpole saw him for the first and last time. When the king was come down to supper, Lady Walsingham took Walpole into the Duchess's ante-room, where George and his favourite were alone. Walpole knelt and[57] kissed the king's hand. George appeared in his usual health.

But it was not to Great Britain only that this want of generosity was shown. No people rejoiced more vehemently than they didnone, indeed, so muchover the fall and execution of Louis XVI. of France, the one monarch of Europe who had been their chief benefactor, without whose powerful aid they would have fought and struggled in vain, and who had, in fact, lost his crown and his head, and his empire to his family, by sending his soldiers to learn Republicanism amongst them. There were feasts and public rejoicings in the United States to commemorate the death of Louis, who was, in fact, the martyr of America. What was equally extraordinary, whilst they exulted in the French Republic, they followed with an equal admiration the career of Buonaparte, who crushed that Republic, and raised up a despotism opposed in its principles to all the political professions of Americans. But it was the idea that he was born to humble and, perhaps, blot out Great Britain from the list of nations, which served to render Napoleon so especially the object of their unbounded eulogies. His victories were celebrated nowhere so vociferously as in the United States, through the press, the pulpit, and in general oratory. With them he was the Man of Destiny, who was to overthrow all kings but himself, and drive Great Britain from her dominion of the seas.

On the 6th of April Whitbread brought forward these charges against Melville in the House of Commons, as detailed in the tenth report of the Naval Commissioners. In doing so, he paid a high compliment to the manner in which the naval affairs had been conducted since Lord St. Vincent became head of that Department; but he charged Lord Melville with having applied the public money to other uses than those of the Naval Department, in contempt of the Act of 1785an Act which Melville himself, then Dundas, had supported: that he had connived at a system of peculation in the Treasurer of the Navy, Mr. Trotter, an individual for whom he was responsible. The salary of this Mr. Trotter had been fixed by the Act of 1785 at four thousand pounds a year, but he contended that Dundas had allowed Trotter to draw large sums from the Bank of England out of the navy deposit, pay them into Coutts's Bank, and use them for his own benefit; and that, moreover, he had participated in the profits of this system. This charge called forth a vehement contest of parties. Tierney, who had been Treasurer of the Navy under Addington, declared that he had found no inconvenience in complying with the Act of 1785, whilst holding that office. Fox, Grey, Ponsonby, Windham, Wilberforce, Lord Henry Petty, afterwards Lord Lansdowne, supported Whitbread's charges, and Pitt, Canning, and Lord Castlereagh defended Melville. On putting the resolutions moved by Whitbread, after a debate till quite late in the morning, they were carried by the casting vote of the Speaker. The scene, which is one of the most striking in our Parliamentary annals, has frequently been described, notably by Lord Fitzharris:"I sat edged close to Pitt himself," he wrote, "the night when we were two hundred and sixteen, and the Speaker, Abbot, after looking as white as a sheet, and pausing for ten minutes, gave the casting vote against us. Pitt immediately put on the little cocked hat that he was in the habit of wearing when dressed for the evening, and jammed it down deeply over his forehead, and I distinctly saw the tears trickling down his cheeks. We heard one or two, such as Colonel Wardle, say they would see 'how Billy looked after it'! A few young ardent followers of Pitt, with myself, locked their arms together and formed a circle, in which he moved, I believe unconsciously, out of the House, and neither the colonel nor his friends could approach him." But the Opposition were not content with the vote of censure. Whitbread moved that an Address should be presented to his Majesty, praying him to remove Lord Melville for ever from his councils and presence, but the motion was withdrawn as soon as Melville's resignation was known. On the 6th of May Whitbread was about to move a resolution that his Majesty should be requested to erase the name of Lord Melville from the list of the Privy Council, but Pitt rose and said that the motion was unnecessary, as his Majesty had already done it.

On the 9th of October the King of Prussia issued a manifesto from his headquarters at Erfurt, calling attention to the continual aggressions of Francethose aggressions which Prussia had so long watched in profound apathy, and which, by timely union with Austria and Russia, might have been checked. But Prussia had, by her mean conduct, now stripped herself of all sympathy and all co-operation. She would have been very glad indeed of the money of Great Britain, but she had so far favoured the very aggressions of Buonaparte of which she now complained as to receive Hanover from him, and could not even now find it in her heart to surrender it, and make a powerful friend by that act of justice. The Emperor of Russia was willing to co-operate, but Prussia had made her hostile manifestations before Alexander could approach with his army. In reply to the intimations of Prussia, that she would be glad of the support of Britain, Lord Morpeth was sent to Berlin; but the language of the Prussian Ministry was still of the most selfish and impolitic character, and Lucchesini told Lord Morpeth that the fate of[526] Hanover must depend on the event of the coming war. With such a Power no union could take place, and in this isolated and pitiable condition Prussia was left to try her strength with Napoleon. As for that ambitious soldier, he desired nothing so much as this encounter with Prussia; he saw in it the only obstacle to his complete dominion over Germany, and he was confident that he should scatter her armies at the first shock.


As the 1st of November approached, the day on which the Stamp Act was to take effect, the excitement became intense. Furious crowds assembled in the ports to prevent the landing of the stamped paper from the ships which brought it. The appointed distributors were compelled to resign their posts. At New York the stamped paper was landed, but such was the commotion that it had to be put into the custody of the city magistrates, and be kept under guard in the city hall. It was utterly impossible to put the paper into use, and, after some interruption, business and the courts of law were allowed to proceed without it, on the plea that the stamps could not be obtained.

Such being the state of our relations with America, Sir Robert Peel's Government determined to send to Washington a special ambassador who should be clothed with full powers to effect an amicable adjustment of all the causes of dispute. The gentleman selected for this purpose was Lord Ashburton. A more judicious selection could not possibly have been made. Mr. Alexander Baring, who had been raised to the peerage in 1835, having been previously President of the Board of Trade and Master of the Mint, was known throughout the world as one of our merchant princes, and was the husband of an American lady, the daughter of Mr. William Bingham, of Philadelphia, a senator of the United States. The hopes which his mission excited were not disappointed. He sailed from England in February, 1842, and after a tedious and stormy passage, arrived at New York on the 1st of April. He immediately entered upon negotiations with Mr. Webster. They continued till the month of August, when a treaty was agreed upon and signed at Washington by the two plenipotentiaries, the mutual exchange of ratifications to take place[493] in London within six months of that date. By that treaty the line of the north-eastern boundary was settled, concession on the St. John being purchased by the surrender of a strip of land to the States of New York and Vermont. It was stipulated that Great Britain and America should each maintain a sufficient squadron or naval force, carrying not less than eighty guns, for the purpose of enforcing, separately and respectively, the laws, rights, and obligations of each of the two countries for the suppression of the slave trade, and should use their joint influence for suppressing the slave markets. It also provided for the mutual delivery to justice of all persons charged with murder, or assault with intent to murder, or with piracy, robbery, forgery, and arson committed within the jurisdiction of either country, should they be found within the territories of the other; but the evidence of criminality should be sufficient to warrant the committal for trial of the fugitive according to the laws of the country in which he was apprehended. This was a distinct withdrawal of Lord Palmerston's pretensions with regard to the McLeod affair. The mission was thus eminently successful, but Lord Palmerston was of another opinion, and declaimed in the House of Commons against the "Ashburton surrender." But the Commons were unprepared to condemn the work, and the debate ended in a count-out. The House of Lords, on the motion of Brougham, passed a vote of thanks to Lord Ashburton.