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The members of the Government were scarcely less rejoiced at getting rid of the matter than the nation was at their defeat. The most thinking men of their party became greatly alarmed at the state of public feeling, and were in constant dread of a revolution. The most violent language was used by the democratic leaders, and the press abounded with libels against the Government, whose chief members were hooted and pelted as they passed through the streets. This alarming state of things had arrived at its height towards the end of September. The Duke of York, who was then at Brighton, was violent against the queen. He felt confident that the troops must be called out, and he thought he could trust them. On them alone he depended for the preservation of the Throne. The king, at this time, rarely showed himself to any of his subjects. His conduct was an excitement to popular hatred. Mr. W. H. Freemantle, who was well informed as to all that was going forward in the highest quarters, describes the condition of things in letters to the Duke of Buckingham. "You have no idea," he says, "of the state of the town. The funds fell to-day. As to the king forming a Government, after the resignation of all his present servants, with the avowed object of persecuting the queen, it would be impossible; it would be making her the popular object and throwing the country in a flame. Be assured that the king on this subject is no less than mad!" "In the months of October and November," observes the Duke of Buckingham, "it became evident that the frenzy outside the Houses of Parliament was exerting its influence within its walls. The aspect of affairs looked blacker every hour." "Matters here are in a critical state," writes Lord Sidmouth to Mr. Bathurst on the 27th of October. "Fear and faction are actively and not unsuccessfully at work; and it is possible that we may be in a minority, and that the fate of the Government may be decided." Plumer Ward, in his diary, has this entry under date of November 2nd:"Called upon (Wellesley) Pole. He was at breakfast, and we had a long chat. He thought everything very badMinisters, Opposition, king, queen, countryand, what was more, no prospect of getting right. All ties were loosened. Insolence and insubordination out of doors; weakness and wickedness within. 'The Whigs,' he said, 'were already half Radicals, and would be entirely so if we did not give way.' I said his brother, the Duke of Wellington, felt this too, but would not give way nevertheless. Meantime, the king was as merry as a grig. At first he had been annoyed, but was now enjoying himself at Brighton."
It appeared to be the design of the Whigs to agitate this Session a series of questions connected with freedom of opinion, which, from the spirit of the times, they could not have the slightest chance of carrying, but merely to maintain the cause of liberty and liberality against the spirit of alarm and the spirit of tyranny that dogged its steps. On the 11th of May Fox moved for leave to bring in a Bill to repeal certain old statutes affecting the Dissenters, but his principal remarks were directed against the outrages perpetrated on Dr. Priestley and the Unitarians at Birmingham, his tone being taken from a petition from that body presented a few days before. Burke replied to him, and asserted that this body of so-called Religionists was rather a body of political agitators. He noticed, in proof, the close connection of Drs. Price and Priestley, and their adherents, with the French Revolutionists. He quoted Priestley's own writings to show that they avowed a desire to destroy the National Church. He expressed his conviction that, from the intolerance shown by this party in the prosecution of their views, they would, did they succeed in destroying the Church and the Constitution, prove worse masters than those whom the English nation then had. He had no desire to see the king and Parliament dragged after a National Assembly, as they had been by the admired reforms of Priestley, Price, and that party, and much preferred to live under George III. or George IV. than under Dr. Priestley or Dr. Kippis. Pitt expressed his unwillingness to give more power to a party that declared its desire to overturn both Church and Constitution; and Fox, in reply, attacked Burke's "Reflections on the French Revolution," saying that Paine's "Age of Reason" was a libel on the Constitution of Great Britain, but that Burke's book was a libel on every free Constitution in the world. The motion was rejected by one hundred and forty-two votes against sixty-three.
But the Nabob of Oude held out new temptations of gain to Hastings. The Rohillas, a tribe of Afghans, had, earlier in the century, descended from their mountains and conquered the territory lying between the Ganges and the mountains to the west of Oude. They had given it the name of Rohilcund. These brave warriors would gladly have been allies of the British, and applied to Sujah Dowlah to bring about such an alliance. Dowlah made fair promises, but he had other views. He hoped, by the assistance of the British, to conquer Rohilcund and add it to Oude. He had no hope that his rabble of the plains could stand against this brave mountain race, and he now artfully stated to Hastings that the Mahrattas were at war with the Rohillas. If they conquered them, they would next attack Oude, and, succeeding there, would descend the Ganges and spread over all Bahar and Bengal. He therefore proposed that the British should assist him to conquer Rohilcund for himself, and add it to Oude. For this service he would pay all the expenses of the campaign, the British army would obtain a rich booty, and at the end he would pay the British Government besides the sum of forty lacs of rupees. Hastings had no cause of quarrel with the Rohillas, but for the proffered reward he at once acceded to the proposal. In April, 1774, an English brigade, under Colonel Champion, invaded Rohilcund, and in a hard-fought field defeated the Rohillas. In the whole of this campaign nothing could be more disgraceful in every way than the conduct of the troops of Oude. They took care to keep behind during the fighting, but to rush forward to the plunder. The Nabob and his troops committed such horrors in plundering and massacreing not only the Rohillas, but the native and peaceful Hindoos, that the British officers and soldiers denounced the proceedings with horror. It was now, however, in vain that Hastings called on the Nabob to restrain his soldiers, for, if he did not plunder, how was he to pay the stipulated forty lacs of rupees? and if he ruined and burnt out the natives, how were they, Hastings asked, to pay any taxes to him as his new subjects? All this was disgraceful enough, but this was not all. Shah Allum now appeared upon the scene, and produced a contract between himself and the Nabob, which had been made unknown to Hastings, by which the Nabob of Oude stipulated that, on condition of the Mogul advancing against the Rohillas from the south of Delhi, he should receive a large share of the conquered territory and the plunder. The Nabob now refused to fulfil the agreement, on the plea that the Mogul ought to have come and fought, and Hastings sanctioned that view of the case, and returned to Calcutta with his ill-gotten booty.The defeated party, however, did not give up the idea of the Treaty of Commerce. Another Bill was introduced to modify, or, as it was called, to render the commercial treaty more effectual; but such a host of petitions was presented against it, that it was abandoned. Sir Thomas Hanmer, however, proposed and carried an address to the queen, which was intended to cover, in some degree, the defeat of the Ministers; and, as he had got rid of the Bill itself, he did not hesitate to move for what appeared inconsistent with his proceedings, namely, thanks to her Majesty for the care she had taken of the security and honour of the kingdom by the Treaty of Peace, and also by her anxiety for a Treaty of Commerce; and, further, recommending her to appoint Commissioners to meet those of France, and endeavour to arrange such terms of commerce as should be for the good and welfare of her people. This was laid hold of, as was no doubt intended, in the queen's reply, which assumed this to be a declaration of a full approbation of the Treaty of Commerce, as well as that of Peace; and she thanked them in the warmest terms for their address.
There was the crunching of heavy feet up above, on the gravel. It came to them both, even to her, that for them to be seen there together would be final. There would be no explaining it away. Cairness thought of her. She thought of her husband. It would ruin him and his life.