A new Ministry was appointed with Prince Schwarzenberg at its head, and on the 2nd of December the Emperor Ferdinand abdicated in favour of his nephew, Francis Joseph, whose father Francis Charles, next in succession, renounced his claim to the throne. The retiring emperor stated that the pressure of events, and the immediate want of a comprehensive reformation[580] in the forms of State, convinced him that more youthful powers were necessary to complete the grand work which he had commenced. The real reason was that Lord Palmerston, who in his private correspondence held the Emperor to be "next thing to an idiot," had been constantly advising him to resign his sceptre into firmer hands. The young Emperor, in his proclamation, expressed his conviction of the value of free institutions, and said that he entered with confidence on the path of a prosperous reformation of the monarchy.

Macklin was the author of "The Man of the World," a most successful comedy, as well as others of much merit. He remained on the stage till he was a hundred years old, and lived to a hundred and seven. George Colman had distinguished himself by the translation of Terence's plays and Horace's "Art of Poetry" before he commenced as a dramatist. His vein was comic, and his comedies and farces amount to nearly thirty, the best being "The Clandestine Marriage," already mentioned, "Polly Honeycomb," and "The Jealous Wife." Arthur Murphy was a native of Cork, and was brought up a merchant, but his bent was to the drama, and he quitted his business and went to London, where he wrote two successful farces, "The Apprentice" and "The Upholsterer." He next wrote "The Orphan of China," a tragedy. He then studied for the bar, but had not much practice, and returned to writing for the stage. "The Grecian Daughter," "All in the Wrong," "The Way to keep Him," and "The Citizen," were very successful, and raised him to wealth and distinction. Not satisfied with being a popular writer, he desired to act as well as write, like Garrick and Macklin, but failed. Besides his dramatic productions, he translated Tacitus and Sallust, and wrote the life of Garrick. Richard Cumberland, also an Irishman, was a very voluminous as well as miscellaneous writer. His comedy of "The West Indian" made him at once popular, and he wrote a great number of productions for the stage, amongst the best of which were "The Fashionable Lover," "The Jew," "The Wheel of Fortune," etc. He was employed by Government as an envoy to Lisbon and Madrid, and by it refused the payment of his expenses. This reduced him to sell his hereditary property, but he retired to Tunbridge Wells, and continued to write plays, novels, essays, criticisms, etc., till nearly eighty years of age.

But the Allies had only fallen back behind the Elbe, and taken up a strong position at Bautzen, on the Spree, about twelve leagues from Dresden, whilst an army under Bülow covered Berlin. No sooner did the Allies fall back to the right bank of the Elbe than Davoust attacked Hamburg on the 9th of May with five thousand men, and vowed vengeance on the city for having admitted the Allies. To their surprise the citizens found themselves defended by a body of Danes, from Altona, who were the allies of France, but had been just then thinking of abandoning Napoleon. But the fate of the battle of Lützen changed their views, and they retired in the evening of that day, leaving Hamburg to the attacks of the French. Bernadotte, not having received the promised reinforcements, did not venture to cover Hamburg. Davoust entered the place like a devil. He shot twelve of the principal citizens, and drove twenty-five thousand of the inhabitants out of the city, pulled down their houses, compelling the most distinguished men of the town to work at this demolition and at raising the materials into fortifications. The people had long been subjected by the French to every possible kind of pillage and indignity; no women, however distinguished, had been allowed to pass the gate without being subjected to the most indecent examinations. But now the fury of the French commander passed all bounds. He levied a contribution of eighteen millions of dollars: and not satisfied with that, he robbed the great Hamburg bank, and declared all his doings to be by orders of the Emperor. His terms were rejected with disdain. Yet he had a last interview with Metternich, in which he hoped to terrify him by a dread of the future preponderance of Russia; but, seeing that it made no impression, he became incensed, and adopted a very insolent tone towards the Austrian Minister. "Well, Metternich," he demanded, "how much has England given you to induce you to play this part towards me?" Metternich received the insult in haughty silence. Buonaparte, to try how far the diplomatist still would preserve his deference towards him, let his hat fall: Metternich let it lie. This was a sign that the Austrian had taken his part; it was, in fact, the signal of war. Yet, at the last moment, Napoleon suddenly assumed a tone of conciliation, and offered very large concessions. He had heard the news of the defeat of Vittoria. But it was too late. The Congress terminated on the 10th of August, and the Allies refused to re-open it. On the 12th of August, two days after the termination of the armistice, Austria declared herself on the side of the Allies, and brought two hundred thousand men to swell their ranks. This redoubtable force was commanded by her general, Prince von Schwarzenberg.

Whilst the latter scenes of this great tragedy were passing, in Britain a new Parliament assembled on the 24th of November, and amongst its first acts were, before Christmas, to vote one hundred thousand pounds to the Marquis of Wellington, and two hundred thousand pounds for the relief of sufferers in Russia. And thus closed the remarkable year of 1812.

The greater part of the House, as well as the public out of doors, were captivated with the scheme, which promised thus easily to relieve them of the monster debt; but Sir Grey Cooper was the first to disturb these fairy fancies. He declared that the whole was based on a fallacious statement; that it was doubtful whether the actual surplus was as described; but even were it so, that it was but the surplus of a particular year, and that it was like the proprietor of a hop-ground endeavouring to borrow money on the guarantee of its proceeds in a particularly favourable year. Fox, Burke, and Sheridan followed in the same strain. They argued that, supposing the assumed surplus actually to exist, which they doubted, it would immediately vanish in case of war, and a fresh mass of debt be laid on.[315] Sheridan said, the only mode of paying off a million a year would be to make a loan of a million a year, for the Minister reminded him of the person in the comedy who said, "If you won't lend me the money, how can I pay you?" On the 14th of May he moved a string of fourteen resolutions unfavourable to the report of the Committee, which he said contained facts which could not be negatived; but the House did negative them all without a division, and on the 15th of May passed the Bill. In the Lords it met with some proposals from Earl Stanhope, which were to render the violation of the Act equivalent to an act of bankruptcy, but these were negatived, and the Bill was passed there on the 26th. It was not until 1828 that the fallacy on which the Bill rested was finally exposed by Lord Grenville, who, curiously enough, had been chairman of the Committee which recommended its adoption.

Though the genius and services of Pitt to his country have been overrated, he was a man of great and persevering energies, of remarkable talent and conspicuous oratory; but his temperament was cold, proud, self-glorifying, and imperious, without either the deep insight or the comprehensive grasp of genius.

After this complete surrender the House resumed its labours in committee on the Bill on the 1st of June. Few alterations were made, and the thinned ranks of the Opposition ceased to throw obstacles in the way. The third reading was carried by a majority of 84, the numbers being 106 and 22. The Lords' amendments having been acquiesced in by the Commons, the Bill was referred to the Upper House, and on the 7th of June it received the Royal Assent by commission, the Commissioners being Lords Grey, Brougham, Lansdowne, Wellesley, Holland, and Durham. The king was so hurt by the coercion to which he had been subjected, and by the insults heaped upon himself, the queen, and all belonging to him, that nothing could persuade him to go to the House and give his assent in person. "The question," he said, "was one of feeling, not of duty; and as a Sovereign and a gentleman he was bound to refuse."

Alexander of Russia, having obtained all that he hoped for from the peace of Tilsit and the alliance with Napoleon by the conquest of Finland, was looking about for a new ally to aid him in freeing himself from the insolent domination of Buonaparte, who was ruining Russia as well as the rest of Europe by his Continental system, when these unexpected events in Sweden opened up to him a sudden and most marvellous ally. The Swedes had chosen the Duke of Sudermania, the uncle of the deposed king. Charles XIII., the brother of Gustavus III. (assassinated by Count Anckarstr?m in 1792), was old, imbecile, and childless. A successor was named for him in the Duke of Augustenburg, who was extremely popular in Norway, and who had no very distant expectations of the succession in Denmark. This princea member of an unlucky househad scarcely arrived in Sweden when he died suddenly, not without suspicion of having been poisoned; in fact, various rumours of such a fate awaiting him preceded his arrival. Russia, as well as a powerful party in Sweden, was bent on restoring the line of Vasa. Alexander was uncle to the young prince, who, by no fault of his own, was excluded from the throne. Whatever was the real cause, Augustenburg died, as had been predicted; and while the public mind in Sweden was agitated about the succession, the aged king, Charles XIII., applied to Napoleon for his advice. But Napoleon had bound himself at Tilsit to leave the affairs of the North in the hands of Alexander, and especially not to interfere in those of Sweden. He therefore haughtily replied:"Address yourself to Alexander; he is great and generous"ominous words, which were, ere long, applied, to his astonishment and destruction.