Billeder på siden

couring the Spaniards; but the public judgment was in favour of peace.

Every British feeling was revolted by the perfidy of France and the arrogance of Russia in the attack on the Spaniards : but war, at the moment, would have been a grievous interruption to public industry and to the current improvement of the public resources; and Spain was left to maintain unaided an unequal quarrel.

The session of parliament was prorogued by commission on the 19th of July. Mr. Canning, in the course of the autumn, greatly extended his po pularity, and rallied round him the opinion of great and enlightened masses by visiting some of the large manufacturing and maritime trading towns. The following passage of a speech spoken by him at Plymouth excited a powerful sensation, not only at home, but abroad : “Our ultimate object was,” said Mr. Canning,

“ the peace of the world : but let it not be said that we cultivate peace either because we fear, or because we are unprepared for, war ; on the contrary, if, eight months ago, the government did not hesitate to proclaim that the country was prepared for war, if war should unfortunately be necessary, every month of peace that has since passed has but made us so much the more capable of exertion. The resources created by peace are means of war. In cherishing those resources we but accumulate those means. Our present repose is no more a proof of inability to act, than the state of inertness and inactivity in which I have seen those mighty masses that float in the waters above your town is a proof they are devoid of strength, and incapable of being fitted for

action. You well know, gentlemen, how soon one of those stupendous masses, now reposing on their shadows in perfect stillness - how soon, upon any call of patriotism or of necessity, it would assume the likeness of an animated thing — instinct with life and motion ; how soon it would ruffle, as it were, its swelling plumage ; - how quickly it would put forth all its beauty and its bravery, collect its scattered elements of strength, and awaken its dormant thunder. Such as is one of these magnificent machines when springing from inaction into a display of its might — such is England herself: while apparently passive and motionless, she silently concentrates the power to be put forth on an adequate occasion.”

The year 1824 opened still more auspiciously than the preceding year. Manufacturing industry and commerce continued to advance, and agriculture was reviving. Complaint from the land-owners was either faint or unheard. The abundance of capital, the sanguine spirit which flattering prospects create in a people or an individual, gave a diseased activity to enterprise, and produced the memorable mania of joint-stock projects.

The holy alliance obtained its iniquitous triumph over Spain in the preceding year. The Spaniards unhappily proved untrue to themselves. Spain, however, was the victim of circumstances too various to be gone into ; and though the calamity fell upon the whole nation, the disgrace belongs to two or three individual traitors. Constitutional Spain attacked by France with the whole force of Europe were drawn up against her in reserve, was placed once more under the perfidious tyranny of Ferdinand ; and the French continued their occupation of Cadiz. The British government, however, neutralised in a great measure this occupation (it may be called) of Spain, by protecting the independence of Spanish America. 66 We will not," said Mr. Canning to the French government, “interfere with Spain in any attempt which she may make to re-conquer what were once her colonies ; but we will not permit any third power to attack or reconquer them for her." These potent words prevented the partition, and created the independence, of “ that new world;" which, to use Mr. Canning's expression at a subsequent period, “ he called into existence to redress the balance of the old.” British consuls were, at the same time, appointed to the chief commercial places in the new American republics.

George IV. now began to indulge those habits of secluded pomp which distinguished the latter years of his life. Fastidious indolence, and the satiety of popular shouts, public shows, and servile adulation, in Ireland, Hanover, and Scotland, combined with his increasing corpulency and infirm health to fix him in those habits. Parliament was opened, as it had been closed, by commission, on the 3d of February. The speech of the commissioners was in a tone of high but justifiable gratulation on the prosperity of the united kingdom, and the state of public affairs at home and abroad. The addresses produced speeches in both houses ; but no opposition in either. Lord Lansdowne deplored the fate of Spain ; regretted that the British cabinet had not remon


strated with more energy; and thought a greater advance should have been made towards recog. nising the independence of South America. Mr. Brougham, in the house of commons, went over the general tyranny and particular cruelties of the Austrians in Italy, and Ferdinand in Spain, with a sweeping hurricane of invective and declamation. It was on this occasion that he threw out one of those pointed and portable phrases, by which an unknown or neglected truth is circulated instantaneously, and graven on the minds and memories of

England,” he said, “ was bound over in recognizances of 800,000,000l. to keep the peace." The foreign policy of the country regarding Spain was subsequently discussed upon formal motions submitted by lords Nugent and John Russell. It was vindicated by Mr. Canning; and sanctioned by large majorities of the house of commons.

From the financial statement of the chancellor of the exchequer, it appeared that the public revenue continued to improve. There was a surplus of 5,000,0001., applicable to the reduction of the public debt. The chancellor was highly popular, not only from his prosperous administration and ability, but from his rare candour. Further steps were taken towards a more unshackled and liberal system in the trade of the country. The most important of these measures were, first, the repeal of what were called protecting duties between Ireland and Britain, at the request of the Irish themselves, who were taught by experience the futility or mischiefs of those pretended protections; next, the alterations in the laws

[ocr errors]

and carried by Mr. Huskisson. Partial and shortsighted interests were enlisted in bitter hostility against this able minister. The substitution of a duty of 80 per cent. for absolute prohibition on the importation of foreign silks, was violently opposed. But the wisdom of Mr. Huskisson's views, and the force of his clear and informed judgment, obtained an easy triumph. Commercial treaties were, at the same time, entered into with the Netherlands, Prussia, and Sweden.

The state of Ireland occupied a considerable portion of the attention of both houses.

There was a return, all but complete, to a state of order and tranquillity in the counties where outrages had prevailed. Committees of enquiry into the general condition of Ireland were appointed by the lords and commons. The catholic association, which subsequently became so powerful an engine in emancipating the catholics, was first formed in Dublin at this period. Its existence was denounced in parliament; but no proceedings were taken against it by the government.

The renewal of the Alien Bill was resisted in this session with unusual energy. Sir James Mackintosh took the lead in opposition, and distinguished himself by his eloquence as an orator, and his knowledge on the subject as a publicist. The bill was carried; but its powers were exercised only in one case, having no relation to politics. England was crowded with proscribed patriots from Italy and Spain, who were treated, especially those of Spain, with hospitality and kindness.

The abuses of the church of Ireland and the court of chancery in England gave rise to much

« ForrigeFortsæt »