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It was resolved to make the first attack only on the trade in slaves, not on the whole gigantic subject, with all its widely-ramified interests. Nay, it was deemed prudent by the committees, seeing well that the abolition of the monstrous practice of slave-holding must be a work of many years, in the first place to limit their exertions to the ameliorating of the sufferings of the negroes, in their passage from Africa to the scenes of their servitude. Numerous petitions had now reached the Houses of Parliament on the subject of the trade in and the sufferings of slaves, and a Committee of the Privy Council was procured to hear evidence on the subject. This commenced its sittings on the 11th of February, 1788. Before this committee were first heard the statements of the slave merchants of Liverpool. According to these gentlemen, all the horrors attributed to the slave trade were so many fables; so far from instigating African sovereigns to make war upon their neighbours and sell them for slaves, the oppressions of these despots were so horrible that it was a real blessing to bring away their unfortunate victims. But very different facts were advanced on the other side. On the part of the Liverpool merchants was the most palpable self-interest to colour their statements; on the other, was disinterested humanity. Amongst the gentlemen brought forward to unfold the real nature of the African traffic was Dr. Andrew Sparrman, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Stockholm, who had, with Mr. Wadstr?m, been engaged in botanical researches in Africa. This information put to flight the pleasant myths of the Liverpool traders, and produced a profound impression.

On the 28th of February Lord John Russell proposed and carried a resolution that the House of Commons should go into committee to inquire into the operation of the Test and Corporation Acts, with a view to their repeal. From the very foundation of the Established Church at the Reformation the most stringent measures were adopted to put down Nonconformity, to render the Church and State identical in their constituent elements, and to preserve the uniformity and secure the perpetuity of the faith which had been established. The Dissenters, however, maintained that the Act of Uniformity had utterly failed to accomplish its object. They observed that at first the Reformed Church was Calvinistic in its articles, its clergy, and its preaching; that it then became Arminian and overcharged with ceremony under Laud; that it was latitudinarian in the days of William and Anne; that in more modern times it had been divided into "High Church," and "Low Church," and "Broad Church;" that subscription did not prevent the greatest variety and even the most positive contrariety of doctrine and religious opinion, referring, for illustration, to the rise and progress of the "Evangelical" and the "Anglican" parties. They further contended that the Act had failed in one of its main objectsnamely, in keeping all Protestants within the pale of the Church, as, so far as actual membership or communicants were concerned, the adherents to the Establishment were now in a minority. In vain, then, were 2,000 clergymen ejected from their parishes, followed by 60,000 earnest Protestants, who, by fines, imprisonment, or voluntary exile, suffered on account of their Nonconformity. This persecution had an effect the opposite of what had been anticipated. If, as Hume remarked, every martyrdom in the Marian persecution was worth to Protestantism and liberty a hundred sermons against Popery, so every act of persecution against the Nonconformists was of value to the religious life of the nation. In consequence of the development of that life, the Toleration Act became a necessity; and from the accession of George II. an annual Indemnity Act was passed.

Wellington acquitted himself as well as could be expected in the circumstances. Austria was induced to acknowledge an old debt to Britain, and to pay an instalment. The utmost which she could obtain from the Allies on the slave trade was a reissue of the joint condemnation of the traffic which had been pronounced in 1815 at Vienna, and a special assurance from France that as soon as public feeling would admit, steps would be taken to carry out the treaty with Great Britain. In the discussion of the affairs of Italy the Duke took no part; but the peace which he had urged upon Russia and Turkey was happily concluded, on terms honourable to both. With regard to the struggles for freedom in Spain and other countries, the Duke found the Allied Sovereigns in the worst possible temper. They had no patience with Britain on account of her dissent, however mild, from their policy. "Hence, though England never expressed her approval of the military revolts in Spain and Italy, or even in South America, still, because she declined to be a party to the suppression of the free institutions in which they issued, Austria, Prussia, and Russia spoke of her as the champion of revolutionary principles all over the world."

In May the gingham-weavers of Carlisle and that neighbourhood held a similar gathering, and in June meetings were held on Hunslet Common, near Leeds, at Glasgow, Ashton-under-Lyne, and other places. The meeting at Glasgow, on the 16th of June, was held on the Green, and amounted to thirty or forty thousand people. They complained of the low wages for cotton-weaving, and proposed a petition to the Prince Regent, praying that he would enable them to get over to Canada, promising that all such as received that favour should repay the outlay by yearly instalments. But the bulk of the assembly protested against emigration, asserting that the remedy for their distresses lay in annual parliaments, universal suffrage, and the consequent reduction of taxation; and they proposed that they should march up to London in a body, and present their petition to the Prince Regent in person. At Ashton the chair was taken by the Rev. Joseph Harrison, and the strange creature called Dr. Healey, of whom Bamford gives an extraordinary account in his "Life of a Radical," made a most wild and seditious harangue. At a great meeting at Stockport, on the 28th of the same month, a very different personage presided. This was Sir Charles Wolseley, of Wolseley Park, in Staffordshire. Sir Charles said that he had been engaged in the outbreak of the French Revolution, and had assisted in the taking of the Bastille, and that he would spend his last drop of blood, if it were necessary, in destroying the Bastilles of his own country. The acquisition of such an advocate of Reform was not likely to be received with apathy. Sir Charles was invited to preside at a similar meeting at New Hall, near Birmingham, on the 12th of July. At this meeting he was elected "legislatorial attorney and representative" for that town. This was a circumstance that excited the alarm of Government. They immediately issued warrants for the apprehension both of Sir Charles and of Dr. Harrison for seditious expressions used at the Stockport meeting. Sir Charles was arrested at his own house, at Wolseley Park; and Harrison was taken on the platform of a public meeting, at Smithfield, in London, on the 21st of July, at which Hunt was presiding. On conveying Harrison to Stockport, the constable who arrested him was attacked by the mob, and a pistol was fired at him, the ball of which lodged in his body. Chemistry also received valuable extensions of its field. Dr. John Mayow published new facts respecting nitre, and on the phenomena of respiration and combustion, as revealed by experiments on this and other substances. At the commencement of the eighteenth century Stahl, a German chemist, propounded his theory of phlogiston as the principle of combustion, which was only exploded by the further discoveries of Dr. Black, Cavendish, and Priestley. Soon after, Dr. Hales threw new light on a?riform bodies, or, as they are now termed, gases; and finally, Dr. Black demonstrated the presence of a gas in magnesia, lime, and the alkalies, which had long before been noticed by Van Helmont, but had been forgotten. This was then termed fixed air, but has now acquired the name of carbonic acid gas, or carbon dioxide. At the end of this period chemistry was extensively studied, and was rapidly revealing its secrets. Apprehensions of this kind were not lessened by the memorable speech of Mr. Canning, delivered on the 15th of February, in which he gave a narrative of his labours and sacrifices in the Catholic cause, and complained of the exactions and ingratitude of its leaders. Having shown how he stood by the cause in the worst of times, he proceeded:"Sir, I have always refused to act in obedience to the dictates of the Catholic leaders; I would never put myself into their hands, and I never will.... Much as I have wished to serve the Catholic cause, I have seen that the service of the Catholic leaders is no easy service. They are hard taskmasters, and the advocate who would satisfy them must deliver himself up to them bound hand and foot.... But to be taunted with a want of feeling for the Catholics, to be accused of compromising their interests, conscious as I amas I cannot but beof being entitled to their gratitude for a long course of active services, and for the sacrifice to their cause of interests of my ownthis is a sort of treatment which would rouse even tameness itself to assert its honour and vindicate its claims."

Yet, looking at Spain from a mere momentary point of view, its condition was sad enough. Saragossa had undergone a second siege, in which the inhabitants had again made a brilliant stand, and caused the French much loss and suffering, though compelled at length to surrender. The battle of Oca?a, in November of 1809, had been lost by Areizaga, and left Spain without a single considerable army. During the latter part of the same year, General Reding, the patriotic Swiss general, had been defeated at Valls. Blake had sustained two heavy defeats near Saragossa and Belchite, with the loss of the greater part of his artillery and men. Gerona had withstood a desperate siege, but was compelled to capitulate on the 10th of December. Tarragona and Tortosa had suffered the same fate. In some of these towns the Spaniards had not yielded till they had killed and eaten their horses and mules.

The next day the Great Mogul went over to the stronger party. He had no further hope of assistance from Sujah Dowlah, and so he rode, with a few followers, to the British camp. He was received most willingly, for, though the British had shown no disposition to recognise his authority, now he was in their hands they acknowledged him as the rightful sovereign of Hindostan, and lost no time in concluding a treaty with him; and, on condition of his yielding certain territories to them, they agreed to put him in possession of Allahabad and the other states of the Nabob of Oude. After this, Munro continuing the war against Sujah Dowlah, endeavoured to take the hill fort of Chunar, in which all the treasures of Cossim were said to be deposited, but failed. On his part, Sujah Dowlah had obtained the assistance of Holkar, a powerful Mahratta chief, and, with this advantage, endeavoured to make a better peace with Munro; but that officer declined treating, unless Cossim and the assassin, Sombre, were first given up to[318] him. Dowlah proposed, instead of this surrender of those who had sought his protection, the usually triumphant argument with the English, a large sum of money. But Munro replied that all the lacs of rupees in Dowlah's treasury would not satisfy him without the surrender of the murderers of his countrymen at Patna. Dowlah, though he would not surrender the fugitives, had no objection to give a secret order for the assassination of Sombre; but Munro equally spurned this base proposal, and the war went on. Munro was victorious, and early in 1765, having reduced the fort of Chunar and scattered Dowlah's army, he entered Allahabad in triumph, and put the Mogul in possession of it.

ARRIVAL OF THE MAIL COACH. (See p. 420.)

The King of Spain hoped, by the dismissal of Alberoni, to obtain more advantageous terms of peace from France and England; but they still stood firmly to the conditions of the Quadruple Alliance. On the 19th of January, 1720, the plenipotentiaries of England, France, and Holland signed an engagement at Paris not to admit of any conditions of peace from Spain contrary to those of the alliance. Stanhope despatched his secretary, Schaub, to Madrid, to endeavour to bring over the queen to this agreement, and Dubois sent instructions to the Marquis Scotti, Father d'Aubenton, and others in the French interest to press the same point. She stood out firmly for some time, but eventually gave way, and the mind of the king was soon influenced by her. Some difficulties which could not be overcome were referred to a congress to be held at Cambray. On the 26th of January Philip announced his accession to the Quadruple Alliance, declaring that he gave up his rights and possessions to secure the peace of Europe. He renewed his renunciation of the French Crown, and promised to evacuate Sicily and Sardinia within six months, which he faithfully performed.

After thus settling the form and powers of the constitution, Congress voted eight million dollars to be raised as a loan, and ordered a fresh issue of paper money. But, above all, it laboured to acquire aid from abroad, without which it was clear they must yield to the superior military force of the mother country, and return to their obedience on humiliating terms. For this purpose, in addition to Silas Deane, who was already in Paris, Franklin and Arthur Lee were dispatched to that capital to obtain aid with all possible speed. These gentlemen set sail in the beginning of November, though in much apprehension of being intercepted by the British cruisers; but managed to reach Quibron Bay in safety, and Paris before the end of the year. So successful was Franklin in Paris, that he obtained a gift of two millions of livres from the French king in aid of America, and the assurance that[233] this should be annually augmented, as her finances allowed. The only stipulation for the present was profound secrecy. Franklin had also found the cause of America so popular, that many officers were anxious to engage in her service; and the enthusiastic young Marquis Lafayette, notwithstanding the ill news from the United States, engaged to embark his life and fortune with Washington and his compatriots.

Indeed, the perusal of the debates, in connection with the Royal Speech, threw the whole United Kingdom into a ferment of agitation. Public meetings were held to express indignation at the anti-Reform declaration of the Duke of Wellington. Petitions were presented, pamphlets were published, harangues were delivered, defiances were hurled from every part of the country. It was[323] in these circumstances that the king was invited to honour the City with his presence at the Lord Mayor's banquet, which was to be held on the 9th of November, the day on which the new Lord Mayor enters upon his office. It had been the custom for a new Sovereign to pay this compliment to the City, and William IV. was advised by his Ministers to accept the invitation. The Metropolitan Police force had been recently established. It was a vast improvement upon the old body of watchmen, in whose time thieves and vagabonds pursued their avocations with comparative impunity. The new force, as may be supposed, was the object of intense hatred to all the dangerous classes of society, who had organised a formidable demonstration against the police, and the Government by which the force was established, on Lord Mayor's Day. Inflammatory placards had been posted, and handbills circulated, of the most exciting and seditious character, of which the following is a specimen:"To arms! Liberty or death! London meets on Tuesday next an opportunity not to be lost for revenging the wrongs we have suffered so long. Come armed; be firm, and victory must be ours.... We assure you, from ocular demonstration, 6,000 cutlasses have been removed from the Tower for the immediate use of Peel's bloody gang. Remember the cursed Speech from the Thronethesepolice are to be armed. Englishmen! will you put up with this?" Appeals of this kind, and sinister rumours of all sorts, industriously circulated, created the greatest alarm throughout London. It was reported that a conspiracy of vast extent had been discoveredthat society was on the eve of a terrible convulsionthat the barricades would immediately be up in the Strand, and that there would be a bloody revolution in the streets. The inhabitants prepared as well as they could for self-defence. They put up iron blinds and shutters to their windows, got strong bolts to their doors, supplied themselves with arms, and resolutely waited for the attack. So great was the public consternation that the Funds fell three-and-a-half per cent. in two hours. This panic is not a matter of so much astonishment when we consider that the three days' fighting in the streets of Paris was fresh in the recollection of the people of London. The Lord Mayor Elect, Alderman Key, had received so many anonymous letters, warning him of confusion and riot if his Majesty's Ministers should appear in the procession, that he became alarmed, and wrote to the Duke of Wellington, pointing out the terrible consequences of a nocturnal attack by armed and organised desperadoes in such a crowded city as London. The Duke, thinking the danger not to be despised, advised the king to postpone his visit. Accordingly, a letter from Sir Robert Peel, as Home Secretary, appeared posted on the Exchange on the morning of the 9th. The multitude of sightseers, disappointed of their pageant, were excited beyond all precedent, and execrations against the Government were heard on every side. In fact, this incident, concerning which no blame whatever attached to the Ministers, exposed the Duke of Wellington and his colleagues to a hailstorm of popular fury. The two Houses of Parliament hastily met, in a state of anxiety, if not alarm. Unable to restrain their feelings until the arrival of Ministers to give explanations, they broke forth into vehement expressions of censure and regret. Lord Wellesley more justly described it as "the boldest act of cowardice of which he had ever heard."