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      At the commencement of the Session a notice of a motion of want of confidence in the Ministry was given by Sir John Yarde Buller. He assigned as reasons for bringing forward the motion the disturbed and unsatisfactory state of the country, which he ascribed to the system of popular agitation, "nurtured and fostered," as he alleged, by the Ministers during the preceding two years. After a debate of four consecutive nights the motion was rejected by 308 votes to 287. The division was fairly satisfactory, and another source of gratification to the Ministry was the passing of the Irish Municipal Bill, which became law in spite of a characteristic protest from Bishop Phillpotts, who regarded the measure "as a deliberate and wilful abandonment of the cause of true religion which had provoked the justice of Almighty God and given too much reason to apprehend the visitation of Divine vengeance for this presumptuous act of national disobedience." In this Session Sir Robert Peel at last terminated the scandals connected with election committees by a plan which authorised the Speaker to appoint a general committee of elections, with the duty of selecting election committees to try each particular[471] case. Sir Francis Baring's Budget was a considerable improvement upon those of his indifferent predecessor, Mr. Spring-Rice, whose careless finance had produced no less than four successive deficits. He acknowledged a deficit of 850,000, and asked for a vote of credit. He further imposed an additional tax of 4d. a gallon on spirits, increased the customs and excise by 5 per cent., and the assessed taxes by 10 per cent.As for the poems of Ossian, he made a violent attack upon them in his "Tour to the Western Isles."

      All being ready, on the 6th of January Wellington suddenly pushed forward to Gallegos, and[26] on the 8th invested Ciudad Rodrigo. Nothing could be more unexpected by Marshal Marmont, who had never suspected any attack in winter, and had placed his army in cantonments, and had, moreover, sent several divisions to distant points. On the very first evening Wellington stormed an external redoubt called the Great Teson, and established his first parallel. On the 13th he also carried the convent of Santa Cruz, and on the 14th that of San Francisco. He then established his second parallel, and planted fresh batteries. On the 19th he made two breaches, and, hearing that Marmont was advancing hastily to the relief of the place, he determined to storm at once, though it would be at a more serious exposure of life. The assault was rapid and successful, but the slaughter on both sides was very severe. A thousand killed and wounded were reckoned on each side, and one thousand seven hundred prisoners were taken by the British. What made the British loss the heavier was that General Mackinnon and many of his brigade were killed by the explosion of a powder magazine on the walls. General Craufurd of the Light Division, was killed, and General Vandeleur, Colonel Colborne, and Major Napier were wounded. Much ammunition and a battering train were found in Ciudad Rodrigo. Marmont was astounded at the fall of the place. The Spanish Cortes, who had been so continually hampering and criticising Wellington, now created him Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo. He was also, in England, advanced to the dignity of an earl, and an annuity of two thousand pounds was voted him by Parliament.

      Having, for the third time, expelled the French from Portugal, with the exception of the single fortress of Almeida, Wellington proceeded to reconnoitre the situation of affairs in Spain. Whilst on his march after Massena he had sent word to General Menacho to maintain possession of Badajoz, promising him early assistance. Unfortunately, Menacho was killed, and was succeeded in his command by General Imaz, who appears to have been a regular traitor. Wellington, on the 9th of March, had managed to convey to him the intelligence that Massena was in full retreat, and that he should himself very soon be able to send or bring him ample assistance. Imaz had a force of nine thousand Spaniards, and the place was strong. He was besieged by about the same number of French infantry and two thousand cavalry, yet the very next day he informed Soult of Wellington's news, and offered to capitulate. Soult must have been astonished at this proceeding, if he had not himself prepaid it in French moneythe surrender of Badajoz, under the imminent approach of Wellington, being of the very highest importance. On the 11th the Spaniards were allowed to march out with what were called the "honours of war," but which, in this case, were the infamies of treachery, and Soult marched in. He then gave up the command of the garrison to Mortier, and himself marched towards Seville.


      The chief items are the brewery and a house of some value onDuring the year 1796 strong forces were sent to the West Indies, and the Island of Grenada was recovered by General Nichols; St. Lucia, by General Abercromby, whilst General Whyte conquered the Dutch settlements of Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo; but some of these possessions were dearly purchased by the number of the troops who perished from the unhealthiness of their climate. The Dutch made an effort to recover the Cape of Good Hope. They were to have been assisted by the French in this enterprise, but their allies not keeping their engagement, they sailed alone, and reached Saldanha Bay on the 3rd of August, when Rear-Admiral Sir George Elphinstone surprised and captured the whole of their vessels, consisting of two sixty-four-gun ships, one fifty-four, five frigates and sloops, and a store-ship. A squadron then proceeded from the Cape to Madagascar, and destroyed a French settlement there, seizing five merchant vessels.

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      The enthusiasm which now pervaded the whole Italian peninsula was unbounded, and broke forth in frantic expressions of joy and triumph. The days of Continental despotism seemed numbered at last. Everything promised well for the cause of Italian freedom and unity. The Italian troops stationed at Bergamo, Cremona, Brescia, and Rovigo joined the insurgents. The Grand Duke of Tuscany set his troops in motion; the Pope blessed the volunteers; even Naples sent a contingent. The Austrian garrisons had to abandon Padua and several other places, while the great fortress of Verona was held with difficulty. In the south of Italy the cause of despotism seemed to be going down rapidly. Deceived by the promises[583] of the King of Naples, the people of Sicily determined to trust him no longer. In January, 1848, an address to the Sicilians was issued from Palermo, which stated that prayers, pacific protestations and demonstrations had all been treated by Ferdinand with contempt. Palermo would receive with transport every Sicilian who should come armed to sustain the common cause, and establish reformed institutions, "in conformity with the progress and will of Italy and of Pius IX." Property was to be respected, robbery was to be punished as high treason, and whoever was in want would be supplied at the common charge. The king's birthday was kept by unfurling the banner of revolution, and calling the citizens to arms. The royal troops retired into the barracks, the forts, and the palace, leaving the streets and squares in possession of the insurgents. The determination of the Sicilians caused the weak and wavering king, Ferdinand II., to yield; and on the 28th of January a royal decree appeared upon the walls of Naples, granting a Constitution for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Orders were sent the same day to Palermo for the withdrawal of the Neapolitan troops, and an amnesty for political offences soon was published. The troops remained in the garrison, however, and occasional conflicts took place between them and the citizens till the 2nd of May, when an armistice was agreed to, which lasted to the 2nd of August. In the meantime the elections had taken place under the new Constitution, which the king had promulgated; but the Neapolitan Chamber proceeded to modify it, to which the king objected. The people, led on by the National Guard, which had been established, determined to support the Assembly. On the 15th of May, therefore, barricades were erected in the streets, the royal palace was occupied by troops, and artillerymen stood by their guns with lighted matches in their hands. The accidental firing of a gun led to a collision with the Swiss troops; thereupon, a tremendous battle ensued, lasting for eight hours, in which the royal troops were completely victorious.

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      1684.

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      The large majorities in the House of Lords were to be ascribed chiefly to the unparalleled influence of the Duke of Wellington. But the public at the time were little aware of the difficulties that great man had to deal with in overcoming the opposition of the king, who was much under the influence of the Duke of Cumberland. When the storm of Conservative violence reached its height, after the rejection of Peel in Oxford, and his return, not without a struggle, for Westbury; and when, on the 3rd of March, he gave notice that he would draw the attention of the House to the clause of the Royal Speech referring to Ireland, the king, greatly excited and alarmed, sent the same evening to desire that the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, and the Chancellor should wait upon him next day. He had already seen the Chancellor once, and the Duke twice separately. The king received his three Ministers, when they presented themselves at the palace, kindly but gravely; he looked anxious and embarrassed while he requested them to make him acquainted with the details of their Bill. It was explained to him that it would relieve Roman Catholics from the necessity of making a declaration against the doctrine of transubstantiation; whilst it so far modified in their case the oath of supremacy, as to omit all notice of the king's authority in things spiritual. "What!" he exclaimed, "do you mean to alter the ancient law of supremacy?" It was to no purpose he was shown that the alteration applied only to Roman Catholics, who would be dispensed from swearing what they could not believe; but he appealed to his own coronation oath, in reference to which he could not recognise the dispensing power of his Ministers. The king was condescending in the extreme. He seemed deeply grieved at the dilemma to which they had been brought. He acknowledged that possibly he had gone too far on former occasions, though he had acted entirely through misapprehension. But now he trusted that they would see, with him, that it had become a point of conscience, and that there was no alternative left him except to withdraw his assent. In the most respectful manner they acquiesced in his Majesty's determination, allowing, without a murmur, that he had a perfect right to act as he proposed. But when he went on further to ask what they intended to do, the Duke's answer was explicit: they must retire from his Majesty's service, and explain to Parliament that unexpected obstacles had arisen to the accomplishment of the policy which they were engaged to pursue. To this Mr. Peel added, that as the Bill for the suppression of the Catholic Association had been carried on the understanding that other and more comprehensive measures would follow, it would be necessary to make Parliament generally aware of the causes which operated to prevent the bringing forward of those measures. The king heard all this to an end, without attempting to interrupt, or argue with, his Ministers. He admitted, on the contrary, that it was impossible for them to take any other course, and then bade them farewell, kissing each of them on both cheeks. They set off from Windsor immediately, and arrived at Lord Bathurst's, where their colleagues were waiting dinner for them. They made a full report of all that had occurred, and announced that the Government was at an end. The party broke up, believing themselves to be out of office; but early next morning, before any decisive steps had been taken, a special messenger arrived at Apsley House with a letter from the king. It was guardedly expressed, for it went no further than to state that his Majesty had found greater difficulties than he expected in forming a new Cabinet, and was therefore desirous that the present Ministry should go on. The moment was critical, and the position of the Government delicate and in some sense insecure. No doubt, his Majesty's letter might be read as[299] implying an abandonment of the objections which he had taken to the policy of his Ministers overnight, but it was certainly capable of a different interpretation. It appeared, therefore, to the Duke, that before proceeding further it would be necessary to come to a clear understanding with the king as to his Majesty's real intentions, and Mr. Peel concurring in this opinion, the Duke was requested to write to the king on the subject. He did so, with all the candour and loyalty which were natural to him; and the result was an unequivocal declaration from the Sovereign that he would accept the measures of his Ministers as his own.


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