[See larger version]

At the opening of the year 1814 Buonaparte was busy endeavouring to make good some of his false steps, so as to meet the approaching Allies with all possible strength. He made haste to liberate the captive Pope, and thus remove one of the causes of the hostility of the Italians to him, for in Italy the Austrians were bearing hard on his Viceroy, Eugene, who had but about forty-five thousand men there, whilst Murat, at Naples, so far from supporting the claims of Napoleon, was endeavouring to bargain with the Allies for the kingdom of Naples. Buonaparte, at the commencement of the year, sent Cardinal Maury and the Bishops of Evreux and Plaisance to Pius VII. at Fontainebleau. But even in such pressing circumstances Buonaparte could not make a generous offer. He endeavoured to bargain for the cession of a part of the Papal territories, on condition of the surrender of the rest. But Pius, who had always shown great spirit, replied that the estates of the Church were not his to give, and he would not give his consent to their alienation. Foiled on this point, Buonaparte then sent word that the Pope should be unconditionally liberated. "Then," said Pius, "so must all my cardinals." This was refused, but he was permitted to go alone, and a carriage and guard of honour were given him. Before departing, Pius called together the cardinals, seventeen in number, and commanded them to wear no decoration received from the French Government, and to assist at no festival to which they should be invited. He then took his leave, on the 24th of January, and reached Rome on the 18th of May. Thus ended the most foolish of all the arbitrary actions of Napoleon. The folly of it was so obvious that he disclaimed having ordered the seizure of the Pope, but he showed that this was false by keeping him prisoner more than five years.

As it was necessary that some doctors of note and experience should be sent over to examine the nature of the illness and the condition of the men, the Surgeon-General was ordered to proceed to the spot and make the necessary inquiries; but he replied that it was not in his department, but in that of the Physician-General, Sir Lucas Pepys. Sir Lucas excused himself on account of his age, and recommended some other physicians to be sent out. Both gentlemen were content to receive the country's money easily at home, but although a whole army was perishing, they would not risk their own precious lives. They were dismissed, and their conduct showed the necessity of a thorough reform of the medical establishment of the army. Sir Richard Strachan, though he saw the continuous destruction of the soldiers, strongly recommended Government to retain possession of Walcheren, as a very important naval station, and the Ministry were besotted enough to contemplate fortifying it on an extensive scale, and more men and materials were sent over for that purpose. But, fortunately for the remains of our army there, the Emperor of Austria had now made peace with Buonaparte, and our diversion in his favour here was useless, so, on the 13th of November, orders were sent to Lieutenant-General Don, who had succeeded Sir Eyre Coote, to destroy the docks and fortifications of Flushing,[583] and come away. Thus ended this most fatal expedition, which cost Great Britain twenty millions of money, and many thousands of lives. Of those who survived, thousands had their constitutions broken for ever; and even such as appeared to get over the lingering and insidious Walcheren fever, on being sent to the war in the Peninsula, proved so liable to its return on exposure to wet or cold, that often one-third of these troops were not fit for service. So far from wishing to remove us from Walcheren, Buonaparte wrote to the Minister of War, saying: "We are rejoiced to see that the English have packed themselves in the morasses of Zealand. Let them be only kept in check, and the bad air and fevers peculiar to the country will soon destroy their army." The fatal results of this expedition introduced dissensions into the Cabinet, and soon after occasioned the resignation of Canning.

Ireland continued, during 1831 and 1832, in a very unsettled state. The restraint imposed by the Catholic Association during the Emancipation struggle was relaxed when the object was attained, and when Mr. O'Connell was absent from the country, attending his Parliamentary duties. The consequence was that the people, suffering destitution in some cases and in others irritated by local grievances, gave vent to their passions in vindictive and barbarous outrages. O'Connell himself was not in a mood to exert himself much in order to produce a more submissive spirit in the peasantry, even if he had the power. He was exasperated by his collisions with Mr. Stanley, by whom he was treated in a spirit of defiance, not unmingled with scorn; so that the great agitator was determined to make him and the Government feel his power. Had Mr. Stanley when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland possessed the experience that he afterwards acquired when he became Earl of Derby, he would have adopted a more diplomatic tone in Parliament, and a more conciliatory spirit in his Irish administration. His character as it appeared to the Irish Roman Catholics, sketched by O'Connell, was a hideous caricature. A more moderate and discriminating Irish sketch of him by Mr. Fitzpatrick represented the Chief Secretary as possessing a judgment of powerful penetration and a facility in mastering details, with a temper somewhat reserved and dictatorial. Popularity was not his idol; instead of the theatrical smile and plastic posture of his predecessors, there was a knitted brow and a cold manner. Mr. Stanley left much undone in Ireland. But this candid Catholic writer gives him credit for having accomplished much, not only in correcting what was evil, but in establishing what was good. He is praised for putting down Orange processions, and for "the moral courage with which he grappled with the hydra of the Church Establishment." He created as well as destroyed, and "his creations were marked with peculiar efficiency." "The Irish Board of Works sprang up under his auspices. The Shannon navigation scheme at last became a reality, and the proselytism of the Kildare Place Society received a fatal check by the establishment of the national system of education. The political philippics which Baron Smith had been in the habit of enunciating from the Bench were put a stop to by Mr. Stanley. He viewed the practice with indignation, and trenchantly reprobated it in the House of Commons. It ought to be added that Mr. Stanley built a house in Tipperary, chiefly with the object of giving employment to the poor." It has been often remarked that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, on his arrival in Dublin, is always surrounded by men each of whom has his peculiar specific for the evils of the country. But Mr. Sheil said that Mr. Stanley, instead of listening to such counsel with the usual "sad civility, invariably intimated with some abrupt jeer, bordering on mockery, his utter disregard of the advice, and his very slender estimate of the adviser." Mr. Stanley made an[355] exception, however, in favour of the then celebrated "J. K. L." He acknowledged a letter from Dr. Doyle, on the education question, with warm expressions of thanks for the suggestions contained in it, and a wish to see him on his arrival in Dublin. Towards O'Connell, however, Mr. Stanley seems to have cherished a strong antipathy. They exercised mutual repulsion upon one another, and they never came into contact without violent irritation.