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Very strong hopes were entertained by the Liberal party from the Administration of Lord Wellesley, but it was his misfortune to be obliged to commence it with coercive measures, always the ready resource of the Irish Government. The new Viceroy would have removed, if possible, the causes of public disturbance; but, in the meantime, the peace must be preserved and sanguinary outrages must be repressed, and he did not shrink from the discharge of his duty in this respect on account of the popular odium which it was sure to bring upon his Government. Mr. Plunket, as Attorney-General, was as firm in the administration of justice as Mr. Saurin, his high Tory predecessor, could be. The measures of repression adopted by the legislature were certainly not wanting in severity. The disorders were agrarian, arising out of insecurity of land tenure, rack rents, and tithes levied by proctors upon tillage, and falling chiefly upon the Roman Catholic population, who disowned the ministrations of the Established Church. The remedies which the Government provided for disturbances thus originating were the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act and the renewal of the Insurrection Act. By the provisions of the latter the Lord-Lieutenant was empowered, on the representation of justices in session that a district was disturbed, to proclaim it in a state of insurrection, to interdict the inhabitants from leaving their homes between sunset and sunrise, and to subject them to visits by night, to ascertain their presence in their own dwellings. If absent, they were considered idle and disorderly, and liable to transportation for seven years! These measures encountered considerable opposition, but they were rapidly passed through both Houses, and received the Royal Assent a week after Parliament met. Under these Acts a number of Whiteboys and other offenders were tried and convicted, several hanged, and many transported. Lord Wellesley must have felt his position very disagreeable between the two excited parties. To be impartial and just was to incur the hostility of both. Possibly he became disgusted with the factions that surrounded him. Whether from this cause, or from an indolent temper, or from the feeling that he was hampered and restrained, and could not do for the country what he felt that its well-being required, or from ill health, it is certain that he became very inactive. A member of the Cabinet writes about him thus:"I find the Orange party are loud in their abuse of Lord Wellesley, for shutting himself up at the Ph?nix Park, lying in bed all day, seeing nobody, and only communicating with Secretary Gregory by letter. Indeed, I believe that the latter is more than he often favours Secretaries Peel and Goulburn with." In another letter, the same Minister, Mr. Wynn, complains of his total neglect of his correspondence with England. This, he said, was inexcusable, because those on whom the chief responsibility rested had a right to know his views upon the state of Ireland, in order to be able to meet the Opposition during the sitting of Parliament. This was written towards the end of April, and at that time the Government had not for a month heard a syllable from him on the agitated questions of tithes, magistracy, and police. The state of Ireland, indeed, became every day more perplexing and alarming. A revolutionary spirit was abroad, and all other social evils were aggravated by famine, which prevailed in extensive districts in the south and west. The potato crop, always precarious, was then almost a total failure in many counties, and left the dense population, whose existence depended upon it, totally destitute. The cry of distress reached England, and was responded to in the most generous spirit. Half a million sterling was voted by Parliament, and placed at the disposal of Lord Wellesley, to be dispensed in charitable relief and expended on public works for the employment of the poor. In addition to this, the English people contributed from their private resources the sum of three hundred thousand pounds for the relief of Irish distress. On the 30th of May there was a ball given for the same object, in the King's Theatre, London, which produced three thousand five hundred pounds.
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Lord Clanmorris " " 45,000The Queen's marriage has been referred to in connection with the proceedings in Parliament. The details of that interesting event, and other incidents affecting her Majesty's happiness which occurred during the year, will now be recorded. The royal party assembled in the morning of the 10th of February at Buckingham Palace, whence it had been arranged that the members of her Majesty's family and those of Prince Albert's, accompanied by the officers of State, should proceed to St. James's Palace. The entire route along which the royal cortge was to pass was lined by the Horse Guards, while the trumpeters, in their State uniforms, were stationed at intervals to announce the approach of the royal bride and bridegroom. First, the Ladies and Gentlemen of her Majesty's Household, in seven royal carriages, arrived at the garden entrance of St. James's Palace; and then followed the splendid State coach containing her Majesty, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, and the Mistress of the Robes. The closet behind the Throne Room had been draped with silk and prepared for the reception of the Queen. There her Majesty, attended by her maids of honour, train-bearers, and bridesmaids, remained until the Lord Chamberlain of her Household marshalled the procession to the Chapel Royal. Soon after her Majesty had entered the closet, the clash of "presented arms," the roll of drums and flourish of trumpets outside, told that the bridegroom had arrived. At a quarter to one o'clock the ring was placed upon her Majesty's finger; outside, the guns thundered forth the intelligence; but their loud booming was nearly drowned by the long-continued shouts of acclamation which arose from the thousands who thronged the park. At the conclusion of the service the Queen Dowager cordially embraced and kissed the bride, and the Prince acknowledged Queen Adelaide's congratulations by kissing her hand. The bride and her royal consort drove at once to Buckingham Palace, and the noble assembly that had witnessed the ceremony retired. After a splendid breakfast at Buckingham Palace the bride and bridegroom took their departure for Windsor Castle. The sun shone out in cloudless lustre just at the moment of their leaving the gateway; the vast concourse of people assembled outside the palace hailed this as a happy omen, and as the carriage containing the royal pair drove off, the air was rent with the most enthusiastic cheering.
No sooner was this motion made than Spencer Perceval rose to oppose it. Sidmouth worked upon the king's feelings by sending in his resignation, and the Duke of Portland had offered to form a Ministry in accordance with the king's feelings. The Bill was, notwithstanding, brought in, read a first time, and the second reading fixed for the 12th of March. But now it was found that the king, who had previously received the Ministerial proposal without any comment, seeing his way clear with another Ministry, refused even his qualified consent to the prosecution of the measure. The Ministers postponed the second reading to the 18th, promising an after-statement of their reasons. But their reasons were already well known in both Houses of Parliament through the private communications of the embryo Cabinet. On the 25th of March there were motions made in both Houses for an adjournment: this was to allow the new Ministry to be announced in the interval. In the Lords, Earl Grenville seized the opportunity to make some observations in defence of the conduct of his Cabinet during its possession of office. He said they had entered it with the determination to carry these important measures, if possible: the Sinking Fund, the abolition of the Slave Trade, and the relief of the Catholics. He was happy to say that they had carried two of them; and though they had found the resistance in a certain quarter too strong for them to carry the third, they conceived that never did the circumstances of the times point out more clearly the sound policy of granting it. France had wonderfully extended her power on the Continent; peace between her and the nations she had subdued would probably lead Buonaparte to concentrate his warlike efforts on this country. What so wise, then, as to have Ireland attached to us by benefits? With these views, the king, he said, had been induced to allow Ministers to make communications to the Catholics of Ireland through the Lord-Lieutenant, which he had seemed to approve; yet when these communications as to the intended concessions had been made, his Majesty had been induced to retract his assent to them. Ministers had then endeavoured to modify the Bill so as to meet his Majesty's views; but, not succeeding, they had dropped the Bill altogether, reserving only, in self-justification, a right to make a minute on the private proceedings of the Cabinet, expressing their liberty to bring this subject again to the royal notice, as circumstances might seem to require; but now his Majesty had called upon them to enter into a written obligation never again to introduce the subject to his notice, or to bring forward a measure of that kind. This, he said, was more than could be expected of any Ministers of any independence whatever. The point was, of course, of some constitutional importance, but there was much truth in Sheridan's remark: "I have often heard of people knocking out their brains against a wall, but never before knew of anyone building a wall expressly for the purpose."It was the 10th of November when Mar, aware that Argyll was advancing against him, at length marched out of Perth with all his baggage and provisions for twelve days. On the 12th, when they arrived at Ardoch, Argyll was posted at Dunblane, and he advanced to give them battle. The wild, uneven ground of Sheriffmuir lay between them, and it was on this spot that Argyll on quitting Stirling had hoped to meet them. He therefore drew up his men on this moorland in battle array, and did not wait long for the coming of the Highland army. It was on a Sunday morning, the 13th of November, that the battle of Sheriffmuir was fought. Argyll commanded the right wing of his army, General Whitham the left, and General Wightman the centre. He calculated much on this open ground for the operations of his cavalry. On the other hand, Mar took the right wing of his army, and was thus opposed, not to Argyll, but to Whitham. The Highlanders, though called on to form in a moment, as it were, did so with a rapidity which astonished the enemy. They opened fire on Argyll so instantly and well, that it took the duke's forces by surprise. The left army retired on Stirling pursued by Mar. Argyll was compelled to be on the alert. He observed that Mar had drawn out his forces so as to outflank him; but, casting his eye on a morass on his right, he discovered that the frost had made it passable, and he ordered Major Cathcart to lead a squadron of horse across it, while with the rest of his cavalry he galloped round, and thus attacked the left wing of Mar both in front and flank. The Highlanders, thus taken by surprise, were thrown into confusion, but still fought with their wonted bravery. They were driven, however, by the momentum of the English horse, backwards; and between the spot whence the attack commenced and the river Allan, three miles distant, they rallied ten times, and fairly contested the field. Argyll, however, bore down upon them with all the force of his right wing, offering quarter to all who would surrender, and even parrying blows from his own dragoons which went to exterminate those already wounded. After an obstinate fight of three hours, he drove the Highlanders over the Allan, a great number of them being drowned in it. Mar at this crisis returned to learn the fate of the rest of his army. He found that he had been taking the office of a General of Division instead of that of the Commander-in-Chief, whose duty is to watch the movements of the whole field, and send aid to quarters which are giving way. Like Prince Rupert, in his ardour for victory over his enemies in front of him, he had totally forgotten the centre and left wing, and discovered now that the left wing was totally defeated. He was contented to draw off, and yet boast of victory.
Prussia, which had remained inactive whilst Buonaparte was winning over Bavaria and Würtemberg to his interests, and while he was crushing Austria, now that she stood alone took the alarm, and complained that the French troops on the Rhine and in the Hanse Towns, which, by the Treaty of Pressburg, ought to have been withdrawn from Germany, remained. The Queen of Prussia and Prince Louis, the king's cousin, were extremely anti-Gallic. They had long tried to arouse the king to resist the French influence in Germany, to coalesce with Austria while it was time, and to remove Haugwitz from the Ministry, who was greatly inclined towards France. The Emperor Alexander professed himself ready to unite in this resistance to France, and Frederick William began now to listen to these counsels. He withdrew his minister, Lucchesini, from Paris, and sent General Knobelsdorff in his place. On the 1st of October Knobelsdorff presented to Talleyrand a long memorial, demanding that the French troops should re-cross the Rhine immediately, in compliance with the Treaty of Pressburg; that France should desist from throwing obstacles in the way of the promotion of a league in North Germany, comprehending all the States not included in the Confederation of the Rhine; and that the fortress of Wesel and those abbeys which Murat, since becoming Grand Duke of Berg and Cleve, had seized and attached to his territory, should be restored.
Meanwhile, Bute was sedulously at work to clear the way for his own assumption, not merely of office, but of the whole power of the Government. He acted as already the only medium of communication with the king, and the depositary of his secrets. He opened his views cautiously to Bubb Dodington, who was a confidant of the Lichfield House party, and still hungering after a title. Dodington advised him to induce Lord Holderness to resign and take his place, which, at first, Bute affected to disapprove of, but eventually acted upon. The first object was to get rid of Pitt, who, by his talents and haughty independence of manner, was not more acceptable to the king and his counsellor, Bute, than by his policy, which they desired to abandon. Pamphlets were therefore assiduously circulated, endeavouring to represent Pitt as insatiable for war, and war as having been already too burdensome for the nation.From the moment that Russia was called in, under the pretext of maintaining order, she became, or aimed to become, the dominant power there. She pressed on the whole line of the Polish frontier with her armies, inundated the kingdom with her troops, and levied contributions for their support as if she had been in a conquered country. From that hour, too, the kings were elected rather by foreign armies than by the Poles themselves. Stanislaus Poniatowski, the present king, was the nominee of Catherine of Russia, whose lover he had been till superseded by Orloff. She had placed him on the throne by force of arms, and he was incapable of doing anything except through her power.