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Notwithstanding his careless manner, however, there was much sincerity in the nature of Lord Melbourne; and there is no doubt that he laboured with an honest purpose to make his Administration useful to the country, though not with so much activity and energy, or with such constant solicitude to secure success, as his predecessor had brought to the task. As it was now advancing towards the end of the Session, he confined his attention to two great measures of reformthe Irish Tithe question (of which we have already disposed) and the question of Municipal Reform. It is scarcely necessary to remark that abuses in corporations had been a matter of constant and general complaint for two centuries. But it was hopeless to expect a remedy so long as the Parliamentary representation was so inadequate and corrupt. The rotten and venal boroughs, of which the franchise was abolished or amended by the Reform Act, were the chief seats of abuse. The correction of the local evil would have been the destruction of the system by which the ruling party in the State sustained its political power. There were, therefore, the most powerful interests at work, restraining each from attempting the work of reform; but by the Parliamentary Reform Act these interests were abolished, and those local fountains of corruption could no longer pour their fetid contents into the legislature. Statesmen now felt at liberty to abate those nuisances. Yet the work was not as speedily accomplished as might have been expected. It is true that Lord Grey advised the king to issue a commission of inquiry in July, 1833, but it was not until the 5th of June, 1835, that any measure was brought forward upon the subject. Even then Lord Melbourne had to overcome the dislike of the king, who distrusted the measure, and thought that, if the corporations were to be reformed at all, they had best be reformed by granting them new charters. The commission consisted of twenty gentlemen, who were to proceed with the utmost despatch to inquire as to the existing state of the municipal corporations in England and Wales, and to collect information respecting the defects in their constitution, to make inquiry into their jurisdiction and powers as to the administration of justice, and in all other[388] respects; and also into the mode of electing and appointing the members and officers of such corporations, into the privileges of the freemen and other members thereof, and into the nature and management of the income, revenues, and funds of the said corporations. They divided the whole of England and Wales into districts, each of which was assigned to two commissioners. Their reports on individual corporations occupied five folio volumes. The whole was presented in a general report, signed by sixteen of the Commissioners.

At length, on the 22nd of September, Lord John Russell, attended by Lord Althorp, and a great body of the most distinguished Reformers, appeared at the bar of the House of Lords, and handed the English Reform Bill to the Lord Chancellor, praying the concurrence of their Lordships. This scene has been made the subject of a great historical painting. The Bill, without any opposition or remark from any Conservative peer, was read a first time on the motion of Earl Grey, and ordered to be read a second time on Monday week. The debate on the second reading commenced on the 3rd of October, with a speech from Lord Greygrave, elaborate, earnest, and impressive; simple, yet dignified. He described his own efforts in regard to Parliamentary Reform, spoke of the changes which had of necessity attended his opinions on the subject, and of the circumstances which, at the close of his long career, when the conservative spirit is naturally strongest in every man, had led him to endeavour to put in practice the theories and speculations of his youth and manhood. Lord Eldon described the progress of the debate from day to day in letters to members of his family. Lord Dudley and Lord Haddington quite surprised and delighted the zealous old manthey spoke so admirably against the Bill. Lord Carnarvon delivered a most excellent speech; but Lord Plunket's speaking[339] disappointed him. The fifth night of the debate was occupied by the lawyers. Lord Eldonfollowing Lord Wynford and Lord Plunketsolemnly delivered his conscience on this momentous occasion. He was ill and weak, and being an octogenarian, he might be said to be speaking on the edge of the grave. He expressed his horror of the new doctrines which had been laid down with respect to the law of the country and its institutions. He could not consent to have all rights arising out of Charters, and all the rights of close boroughs, swept away. Boroughs, he contended, were both property and trust. Close corporations had as good a right to hold their charters under the Great Seal as any of their lordships had to their titles and their peerages. He said that he was a freeman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; he had received his education in the corporation school of that town on cheap terms, as the son of a freeman; he had a right to it; and he had hoped that, when his ashes were laid in the grave, he might have given some memorandum that the boys there, situated as he was, might rise to be Lord Chancellors of England, if, having the advantage of that education, they were honest, faithful, and industrious. The closing night of the debate brought out the two most illustrious law lords in the House, who had long been rivals and competitors in the arenas of professional and political lifeLord Brougham and Lord Lyndhurst. Each was holding back in order to have the opportunity of replying to the other; but Lord Lyndhurst managed to have the last word, the more excitable Lord Chancellor having lost patience, and flung himself into the debate. He implored the House on his knees to pass the Bill. But the coup de thatre miscarried, owing to the obvious anxiety of his friends lest he should be thought to be suffering from too much mulled port.

This most bloody of battles took place on the 7th of September. There were about one hundred and twenty thousand men engaged on each side, and the guns on each side are said to have amounted to one thousand. Before the battle, the priests passed along the ranks of the Russians, reminding them of the wrongs they had suffered, and promising paradise to all that fell. Buonaparte, on his side, issued this proclamation:"Soldiers! here is the battle you have longed for! It is necessary, for it brings us plenty, good winter-quarters, and a safe return to France. Behave yourselves so that posterity may say of you'He was in that great battle under the walls of Moscow.'" It was rather a damping circumstance that the day before the battle Buonaparte received the news of Wellington's victory at Salamanca. The battle commenced at seven o'clock in the morning, and continued the greater part of the day, the Russians, even to the newest levies, fighting with the most immovable courage. Buonaparte demanded of Caulaincourt whether the Russians were determined to conquer or die? He replied that they had been fanaticised by their leaders, and would be killed rather than surrender. Buonaparte then ordered up every possible gun, on his plan of battering an army as he would batter a fortress. Still the Russians fought on furiously, and Berthier urged him to call up his "young Guard." But he replied, "And if there is another battle to-morrow, where is my army?" But the public attention was now freely withdrawn from Warren Hastings to much more exalted personages. On the 11th of July the king in person prorogued Parliament. He then appeared in his usual health, but soon afterwards it was whispered about that he was far from well, and had gone to Cheltenham by the advice of his physicians. When he returned in the autumn, the opinion of his derangement had gained ground, and, to remove this, a Drawing-room was held at St. James's on the 24th of October. Every means had been taken to secure the impression of his Majesty's saneness, but they failed, and the contrary impression was confirmed. Still, the king returned to Windsor, and the endeavours were strenuously maintained by the queen to conceal the melancholy fact from the public; but this was too positive to be long suppressed. On the 5th of November he met his son, the Duke of York, after he had been riding about Windsor Forest for five hours in a state of frenzy, and, bursting into tears, wished that he was dead, for that he felt he should go mad. No doubt he remembered his old sensations when he had a short but sharp fit of lunacy in 1764. The time was hurrying on which must reveal the whole truth; the prorogation of Parliament terminated on the 20th of November; the House would meet, and the king would not be able to attend and open the Session. Pitt was in a state of indescribable anxiety, having no precedents to guide him.

(After the Picture by Laslett J. Pott, by permission of Ephraim Hallam, Esq.) A succession of battles now took place with varying success, but still leaving the Allies nearer to Paris than before. If Buonaparte turned against Blucher, Schwarzenberg made an advance towards the capital; if against Schwarzenberg, Blucher progressed a stage. To check Schwarzenberg whilst he attacked Blucher, Napoleon sent Oudinot, Macdonald, and Gerard against Schwarzenberg; but they were defeated, and Napoleon himself was repulsed with severe loss from Craonne and the heights of Laon. But Buonaparte getting between the two Allied armies, and occupying Rheims, the Austrians were so discouraged that Schwarzenberg gave orders to retreat. The Emperor Alexander strenuously opposed retreat; but the effectual argument was advanced by Lord Castlereagh, who declared that the moment the retreat commenced the British subsidies should cease. A sharp battle was fought on the 20th of March, between Schwarzenberg and Napoleon, at Arcis-sur-Aube, and Napoleon was compelled to retreat. Blucher, who had received the order to retreat from Schwarzenberg, had treated it with contempt, and replied to it by his favourite word, "Forwards!" Napoleon had now to weigh the anxious question, whether it was better to push on, and stand a battle under the walls of Paris, with his small, much-reduced force, against the Allies, and with the capital in a state of uncertainty towards himor to follow and harass the rear of the enemy. He seems to have shrunk from the chance of a defeat under the eyes of his metropolis, and he therefore, finding a Prussian force in Vitry, crossed the Marne on the 22nd of March, and held away towards his eastern frontiers, as if with some faint, fond hope that the peasantry of Franche Comt and Alsace might rise and fly to his support. But no such movement was likely; all parts of France were mortally sick of his interminable wars, and glad to see an end put to them. The Allies had now taken the bold resolve to march on Paris and summon it to surrender.

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In 1823 we behold the starting-point of the liberal system of commercial policy, for which not only England, but all the world, is so much indebtedthe rivulet which gradually expanded into a mighty river bearing incalculable blessings upon its bosom to every nation under heaven. The appointment of Mr. Huskisson as a member of the Government was an immense advantage to the nation. He was a man of great abilities, which he had perseveringly devoted to the study of political economy. He was a complete master of all subjects in which statistics were involved, and was universally looked up to as the highest authority on all financial and commercial questions. As President of the Board of Trade he had ample opportunities of turning his knowledge to account, and to him is mainly due the initiation and direction of the course of commercial policy which a quarter of a century later issued in the complete triumph of Free Trade. Mr. Huskisson was not only intimately acquainted with the whole range of economic, financial, and mercantile subjects, in their details as well as in their principles, he was also a powerful debater, a sound reasoner, and was animated in all he did by a spirit of generous philanthropy. At the same time it is only just to point out that he did but carry out the policy of Mr. Wallace, the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, a statesman whose name is almost forgotten.

In Europe, Pitt was still bent on those attacks on the coast of France which long experience had shown were of little use as means of successful war, but highly objectionable, as fraught with excessive inhumanity to the innocent people of the seaboard. This, his second expedition, was aimed at St. Malo. A fleet of eighteen ships of the line, thirteen frigates, with sloops, fire-ships, and bomb-ketches, was put under the command of Lord Howe; but as Sir Edward Hawke, his senior, struck his flag, and refused to serve as second, Lord Anson, to get rid of the difficulty, put himself nominally at the head of the squadron. The command of the troops was given to the Duke of Marlborough, a brave man, but destitute of the genius of his father, and Lord George Sackville and Lord Granby were under him. There were fourteen thousand troops of the line and six thousand marines. With these went a number of aristocratic volunteers, amongst them Lord Downe, Sir John Armitage, and Sir John Lowther, the possessor of fourteen thousand pounds a-year. On the 5th of June, 1758, the transports anchored in Cancale Bay, and next day the troops were landed and led against St. Malo. This town, built on one of a cluster of granite rocks which rise out of the sea on that iron-bound coast, they found too strongly fortified to storm, but they burnt a hundred and thirty privateers and a great quantity of small craft in the harbour, and then returned to their ships. They then sailed for Le Havre, but were prevented by the wind from doing the same damage, and so continued their voyage to Granville and Cherbourg, whence they were driven by storm; and thereupon coasting a considerable way farther, but to no purpose, the fleet returned to Portsmouth, the main result being a heavy expense. Fox and the Opposition in the Commons called it breaking windows with guineas; and the old king, who had expressed his dislike of this sort of warfare, said we should brag of having burnt the French ships, and the French of having driven us away.

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Immediately on the rising of Parliament O'Connell published a violent attack in the form of a letter to Lord Duncannon. This was taken up by Lord Brougham in the course of an oratorical tour which he was making through Scotland, and a mutual exchange of compliments ensued. Unfortunately the Chancellor's eccentricity did not stop there. Earl Grey was not permitted to retire into private life without some popular recognition of his great public services. On the 15th of September a grand banquet was given in Edinburgh in honour of this illustrious statesman. "Probably," says a contemporary chronicle, "no Minister in the zenith of his power ever before received so gratifying a tribute of national respect as was paid on this occasion to one who had not only retired from office, but retired from it for ever. The popular enthusiasm, both in the capital and other parts of Scotland, was extreme, which the noble earl sensibly felt, and gratefully acknowledged as among the proudest circumstances of his life. The dinner took place in a large pavilion, erected for the occasion in the area of the High School, and was provided for upwards of 1,500 persons, more than 600 having been admitted after the removal of the cloth. The principal speakers were Earl Grey, the Lord Chancellor, and the Earl of Durham. Earl Grey and the Lord Chancellor, in their speeches, said they considered that the Reform in Parliament afforded the means by which all useful improvements might be obtained without violence. Both advocated a deliberate and careful, but steady course of amelioration and reform, and both derided the idea of a reaction in favour of Tory principles of government. The Earl of Durham avowed his opinions in favour of the ballot and household suffrage, and declared that he should regret every hour which left ancient and recognised abuses unreformed." This involved the Lord Chancellor in a new controversy in which more personalities were exchanged.

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