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In the debate on this subject, George Canning, who on many occasions had shown himself capable of better things, breathed the very language of Toryism. He declared the representation of Parliament perfect, and treated the most moderate proposals for Reform as only emanations from the mad theories of the Spenceans. The message of the Prince Regent came down on the 3rd of February, ordering certain papers to be laid before the House, "concerning certain practices, meetings, and combinations in the metropolis, and in different parts of the kingdom, evidently calculated to endanger the public tranquillity, to alienate the affections of his Majesty's subjects from his Majesty's person and Government, and to bring into hatred and contempt the whole system of our laws and institutions." Lord Sidmouth endeavoured to guard the House of Peers against the belief that the insult to the Regent had any share in the origination of this message, but the House of Lords, in its Address, directly charged this event as an additional proof of the public disaffection. Unfortunately, the Regent had two Houses of Parliament only too much disposed to make themselves the instruments of such vengeance. The message was referred to a secret committee in each House, and on the 18th and 19th of February they respectively made their reports. Both went at great length into the affair of the Spa Fields meeting, and the proceedings and designs of the Spenceans were made to represent the designs of the working classes all over the kingdom; that such men as Thistlewood, who not long after suffered for his justly odious conduct, were conspicuous among the Spenceans, and that there had been an affray in Spa Fields, were circumstances to give ample colouring to the reports of these committees. The Lords' report stated"It appears clear that the object is, by means of societies, or clubs, established, or to be established, in all parts of Great Britain, under pretence of Parliamentary reform, to infect the minds of all classes of the community, and particularly of those whose[124] situation most exposes them to such impressions, with a spirit of discontent and disaffection, of insubordination, and contempt of all law, religion, and morality; and to hold out to them the plunder of all property as the main object of their efforts, and the restoration of their natural rights; and no endeavours are omitted to prepare them to take up arms, on the first signal, for accomplishing their designs."

These vexatious proceedings, including a great number of debates and divisions, led to the passing of an Act for more clearly defining the privileges of the House of Commons, which had made itself unpopular by its course of proceeding towards the sheriffs, who had only discharged duties which they could not have evaded without exposing themselves to the process of attachment. On the 5th of March, accordingly, Lord John Russell moved for leave to bring in a Bill relative to the publication of Parliamentary papers. He said, in the course of his speech, that at all periods of our history, whatever might have been the subjectwhether it regarded the privileges of Parliament or the rights of the Crown or any of the constituted authoritieswhenever any great public difficulty had arisen, the Parliament in its collective sense, meaning the Crown, Lords, and Commons, had been called in to solve those difficulties. With regard to the measure he was about to propose, he would take care to state in the preamble of the Bill that the privilege of the House was known only by interpretation of the House itself. He proposed that publications authorised by either House of Parliament should be protected, and should not be liable to prosecution in any court of common law. Leave was given to introduce the Bill by a majority of 149, in spite of the opposition of the Solicitor-General, Sir Thomas Wilde; the House went into committee on the Bill on the 13th of March, and it passed the third reading on the 20th of the same month. It was read a second time in the Lords on the 6th of April; and the Royal Assent was given to it by commission on the 14th of the same month. But De Tolly was only remaining to defend the town whilst the inhabitants carried off with them their movable property. Whilst on the side of Smolensk, when Buonaparte arrived, all was silent, and the fields were empty, on the other side it was one vast crowd of people moving away with their effects. Buonaparte hoped that the Russians would deploy before the gates, and give him battle; but they did nothing of the sort, and he determined to storm the place. Its walls were old but very thick, and it might hold out some time, and the assault must cost many lives; but Buonaparte determined to make it. The French, however, learned that the Russians were already in retreat; and Murat observed that to waste these lives was worse than useless, as the city would be theirs without a blow immediately. Buonaparte replied in an insulting manner to Murat, and ordered the assault the next morning. On this, Murat, driven to fury, spurred his horse to the banks of the Dnieper, in the face of the enemy, between batteries, and stood there as voluntarily courting death. Belliard called out to him not to sacrifice himselfhe only pushed on still nearer to the fire of the Russian guns, and was forced from the scene by the soldiers. The storming commenced, and Tolly defended the place vigorously, killing four or five thousand of the French as they advanced to the attack.

THE MOB OF SPENCEANS SUMMONING THE TOWER OF LONDON. (See p. 121.)