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Another dishonourable characteristic of the Ministers of Queen Anne at this period was that they were in secret zealous partisans of the Pretender, and whilst openly professing a sacred maintenance of the Protestant succession, were doing all in their power to undermine it. They had given mortal offence to the Elector George of Hanover, the heir to the Throne, by their treachery to the Allies; and, as the health of the queen was most precarious from her excessive corpulence and gout, which was continually menacing a retreat to her stomach, this was equally a cause for their hastening the peace, however disgracefully, and for paving the way, if possible, for the return of the Pretender at the queen's death. Bolingbroke was the great correspondent with St. Germains, as his letters in the Stuart Papers abundantly show. But Oxford, although always more cunning and mysterious, was equally concerned in it; nor was the queen, if we may believe these remarkable papers, by any means averse from the succession of the Pretender, in spite of his stubborn adhesion to Popery. The Jacobite party was numerous, powerful, and indefatigable. They were in the Ministry and in both Houses of Parliament. At this moment a public appointment was made which filled the Whigs with consternation and rage. This was no other than that of the Duke of Hamiltona supposed partisan of the Pretenderto be Ambassador to the Court of Versailles. Prior was still there, and had all the requisites of a clever and painstaking Envoy; but, being only a commoner and a poet, it did not suit the aristocratic notions of England that he should be accredited Ambassador. Hamilton was appointed, and would thus have had the amplest opportunity of concerting the return of the Stuarts with the base ministers at home. But he was not destined to see Versailles,[9] for, as readers of Thackeray's "Esmond" will remember, he was killed in a duel by Lord Mohun.

No sooner was the conquest of Scinde completed than the Governor-General began to discern another cloud looming in the distance. In the Punjab, Runjeet Singh had organised a regular[594] and well-disciplined army of 73,000 men. He died in 1839. His heir died the next year, it was supposed of poison. The next heir was killed a few days afterwards by accident. The third, who succeeded, was an effeminate prince, who left the government in the hands of his Minister, a wicked man, who, conspiring with others, caused to be murdered several members of the Royal Family. They were, in their turn, punished by having their heads cut off, and the only surviving son of Runjeet Singh, a boy only ten years of age, was proclaimed Maharajah. This was the work of the Sikh army, now virtually masters of the country. Lord Ellenborough and his Council suspected that this army, still 40,000 strong, and very brave, was unfriendly to the British, and might some day give trouble to the Indian Governmentpossibly invade its territories and cut off its communications. In order to guard against such contingencies, it was necessary, they thought, to take possession of Gwalior, a powerful Mahratta State in Central India. This country lay on the flank of our line of communications with Allahabad, Benares, and Calcutta. In this country also there were, fortunately for the British, a disputed succession, royal murders, civil dissensions, and military disorganisation. A boy, adopted by the queen, was proclaimed Sovereign by the chiefs, with a regency, over which the British Government extended its protecting wing. The young Sovereign died in 1843, leaving no child; but his widow, then thirteen years of age, adopted a boy of eight, who became king under another regency. The regent Nana Sahib was deposed, notwithstanding the support of the British Government. This was an offence which Lord Ellenborough would not allow to go unpunished; and besides, the disorganised army of Gwalior was said to be committing depredations along the British frontier. Here, then, in the estimation of the Governor-General, was a clear case for military intervention, to put down disorder, and secure a good position for future defence against the possible aggressions of the warlike Sikhs of the Punjab. Lord Ellenborough explained his policy to the Company, stating that the Indian Government could not descend from its high position as the paramount authority in India. The first indictment was preferred against James Tytler, a chemist, of Edinburgh, for having published an address to the people, complaining of the mass of the people being wholly unrepresented, and, in consequence, being robbed and enslaved; demanding universal suffrage, and advising folk to refuse to pay taxes till this reform was granted. However strange such a charge would appear now, when the truth of it has long been admitted, it was then held by Government and the magistracy as next to high treason. Tytler did not venture to appear, and his bail, two booksellers, were compelled to pay the amount of his bond and penalty, six hundred merks Scots. He himself was outlawed, and his goods were sold. Three days afterwards, namely, on the 8th of January, 1793, John Morton, a printer's apprentice, and John Anderson and Malcolm Craig, journeymen printers, were put upon their trial for more questionable conduct. They were charged with endeavouring to seduce the soldiers in the castle of Edinburgh from their duty, urging them to drink, as a toast, "George the Third and Last, and Damnation to all Crowned Heads;" and with attempting to persuade them to join the "Society of the Friends of the People," or a "Club of Equality and Freedom." They were condemned to nine months' imprisonment, and to give security in one thousand merks Scots for their good behaviour for three years. Next came the trials of William Stewart, merchant, and John Elder, bookseller, of Edinburgh, for writing and publishing a pamphlet on the "Rights of Man and the Origin of Government." Stewart absconded, and the proceedings were dropped against the bookseller. To these succeeded a number of similar trials, amongst them those of James Smith, John Mennings, James Callender, Walter Berry, and James Robinson, of Edinburgh, tradesmen of various descriptions, on the charges of corresponding with Reform societies, or advocating the representation of the people, full and equal rights, and declaring the then Constitution a conspiracy of the rich against the poor. One or two absented themselves, and were outlawed; the rest were imprisoned in different towns. These violent proceedings against poor men, merely for demanding reforms only too[427] much needed, excited but little attention; but now a more conspicuous class was aimed at, and the outrageously arbitrary proceedings at once excited public attention, and, on the part of reformers, intense indignation. The safety of the prisoners diffused universal joy throughout the camps of the two generals; but there was one thing necessary, in their opinion, in which the Government concurred, in order to give the crowning proof of our complete triumph, and to restore the unquestionable supremacy of our power, and compel the respect and fidelity of the neighbouring provinces. This was the signal punishment of Cabul for the atrocities that had been perpetrated there. The hostile chiefs were now as eager to conciliate, as submissive in their tone as they had been cruel and arrogant. Even Akbar Khan professed the greatest friendship for the British, and repudiated the acts that had been done in his name, at the same time restoring to his friends Captain Bygrave, the last prisoner he had in his possession. The Afghans had a maiden fortress in the town of Istalif, which is built upon two ridges of the spur of Hindoo Koosh, which forms the western boundary of the beautiful valley of Kohistan. There, in its fortified streets and squares, as in a safe asylum, they had collected their treasures and their women. The sagacious Havelock suggested that the capture of this place, believed to be impregnable, would be a great stroke of policy. General M'Caskill, therefore, made a rapid march upon it, and after a desperate struggle, in which Havelock greatly distinguished himself, the place was stormed in gallant style, the Afghans in every direction giving way before our attacking columns.

In Ireland there was severe distress prevailing over an extensive district along the western coastno unusual visitation, for the peasantry depended altogether on the potato, a precarious crop, which sometimes failed wholly, and was hardly ever sufficient to last till the new crop came in. The old potatoes generally disappeared or became unfit for human food in June, and from that time till September the destitution was very great, sometimes amounting to actual famine. There was a partial failure of the crop in 1830, which, coupled with the rack-rents extorted by middlemen, gave to agitators topics which they used with effect in disquieting the minds of the peasantry.

On the 6th of May Burke had brought forward a measure for the benefit of his long-oppressed country, to the effect that Ireland should enjoy the privilege of exporting its manufactures, woollen cloths and woollens excepted, and of importing from the coast of Africa and other foreign settlements all goods that it required, except indigo and tobacco. The Irish were to have the additional privilege of sending to England duty-free, cotton-yarns, sail-cloth, and cordage. Parliament, for once, looked on these demands with favour. They recollected that the Americans had endeavoured to excite disaffection amongst the Irish by reference to the unjust restrictions on their commerce by the selfishness of England, and they felt the loss of the American trade, and were willing to encourage commerce in some other direction. Lord Nugent co-operated with Burke in this endeavour. But the lynx-eyed avarice of the English merchants was instantly up in arms. During the Easter recess, a host of petitions was[254] got up against this just concession. The city of Bristol, which was represented by Burke, threatened to dismiss him at the next election, if he persisted in this attempt to extend commercial justice to Ireland; but Burke told them that he must leave that to them; for himself, he must advocate free trade, which, if they once tried it, they would find far more advantageous than monopoly. They kept their word, and threw him out for his independence. At the same time, the English merchants, as they had always done before by Ireland, triumphed to a great extent. They demanded to be heard in Committee by counsel, and the Bills were shorn down to the least possible degree of benefit.

The Council now recalled the English troops from Rohilcund; and Bristow demanded, in the name of the Council, from Asaph-ul-Dowlah, the young Nabob, a full payment of all arrears; and announced that, Sujah Dowlah being dead, the treaty with him was at an end. Under pressure of these demands, Bristow, by instructions from the new regnant members of the Council, compelled the young Nabob to enter into a fresh treaty with them; and in this treaty they introduced a clause to the full as infamous as anything which Hastings had done. In return for renewing the possession of the provinces of Corah and Allahabad, they compelled him to cede to them the territory of Cheyte Sing, the Rajah of Benares, though this did not at all belong to the Nabob of Oude, and was, moreover, guaranteed to Cheyte Sing by Hastings, in solemn treaty. The revenue of Cheyte Sing, thus lawlessly taken possession of, amounted to twenty-two millions of rupees; and the Nabob of Oude was also, on his own account, bound to discharge all his father's debts and engagements to the Company, and to raise greatly the pay to the Company's brigade. Hastings utterly refused to sanction these proceedings; but the Directors at home, who cared not how or whence money came, warmly approved of the transactions.

On the 26th of March the Marquis of Chandos made an attempt to obtain some relief for the agricultural interest, which was then in a very depressed state, and the measure he proposed was the abolition of the malt tax, which brought in the sum of 4,812,000. Sir Robert Peel prophesied that if this tax were abolished they would be in for a property tax. He said: "My prophecy is, that if you repeal this tax you will make an income tax necessary; to that, be assured, you must come at last, if you repeal the malt tax. You will lay your taxes on articles of general consumptionon tobacco, on spirits, on wineand you will meet with such a storm that will make you hastily recede from your first advances towards a substitute. To a property tax, then, you must come; and I congratulate you, gentlemen of the landed interest, on finding yourselves relieved from the pressure of the malt tax, and[382] falling on a good, comfortable property tax, with a proposal, probably, for a graduated scale. And you who represent the heavy land of this country, the clay soilsthe soils unfit for barleyI felicitate you on the prospect that lies before you. If you think that the substitute will be advantageous to your interests, be it so; but do notwhen hereafter you discover your mistakedo not lay the blame upon those who offered you a timely warning, and cautioned you against exchanging the light pressure of a malt duty for the scourge of a property tax." The motion was rejected by a majority of 350 to 192.

On the 3rd of May George received addresses at Carlton House, and on the 10th he held his first levee since his accession to the Throne, at which nearly eighteen hundred persons of distinction were present, who testified their attachment to his person in the most gratifying manner. The families of the great political party that formed and supported his Government affected to treat the queen's pretensions with a quiet disdain that evinced their confidence in the unbounded loyalty of the nation. But their eyes were soon opened; and in a few weeks Ministers sat abashed upon the Treasury benches as if conscious that they were driving the vessel of the Constitution upon a rock, subservient to the tyranny of their master. The Liberal party were vehement in their denunciations, and the leading Whigs, whether from policy or a sense of duty, came forward as the champions of the queen's rights. The people were all enthusiastic in her favour, and wild with excitement.

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In the course of 1810 the French were expelled completely from the East and West Indies, and the Indian Ocean. Guadeloupe, the last of their West India Islands, was captured in February, by an expedition conducted by General Beckford and Admiral Sir A. Cochrane. In July an armament, sent out by Lord Minto from India, and headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Keating, reduced the Isle of Bourbon; and, being reinforced by a body of troops from the Cape of Good Hope, under Major-General John Abercromby and Admiral Bertie, the Isle of France, much the more important, and generally called Mauritius, surrendered on the 3rd of December. Besides[608] a vast quantity of stores and merchandise, five frigates and about thirty merchantmen were taken; and Mauritius became a permanent British colony. From this place a squadron proceeded to destroy the French factories on the coast of Madagascar, and finished by completely expelling them from those seas.

Napoleon Buonaparte, who had appeared so anxious for peace with Britain, was, in truth, greatly rejoiced at the rejection of his proposals, for it furnished him with the pleas which he desired, for the still more extended schemes of military ambition that he entertained. He issued a proclamation complaining of the obstinate hostility of Britain, and called on the people to furnish men and arms to conquer peace by force. Having placed Moreau at the head of the army on the Rhine, Buonaparte prepared for his favourite project of reconquering Italy. He had judged right in sending Moreau to Germany, who took care to prevent the Austrians from sending reinforcements to Italy to increase Buonaparte's difficulties; and another circumstance, most auspicious to the Chief Consul, was the fact that Paul of Russia, offended at the Austrians for not better supporting his generals, Korsakoff and Suvaroff, had withdrawn his army from the campaign. The Austrians, under Mlas, in the north of Italy, amounted to one hundred and forty thousand men. They had spent the winter on the plains of Piedmont, and contemplated, in the spring, reducing Genoa, by assistance from the British fleet, and then, penetrating into Provence, to join the Royalists there, ready to take arms under Generals Willot and Pichegru. Massena, freed by the retreat of the Russians from his confinement at Zurich, lay, with an army of forty thousand, between Genoa and the Var; but his troops had suffered great distress from want of provisions, and whole regiments had abandoned their posts, and, with drums beating and colours flying, had marched back into France. Buonaparte first arrested their desertion by several stirring appeals to the soldiers, and then prepared to march with a strong army of reserve through the Alps, and to take Mlas unexpectedly in the rear. To effect this it was necessary to deceive the Austrians as to his intentions; and for this purpose he assembled a pretended army of reserve at Dijon, as if meaning to obstruct the march of the Austrians southward. To favour the delusion, Buonaparte went to Dijon, and reviewed the pretended army of reserve with much display, he then got quietly away to Lausanne, and pushed across the Great St. Bernard, amidst incredible difficulties.