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CHAPTER XXI. REIGN OF VICTORIA (continued).

Another successful expedition this year was one against the Cape of Good Hope. This settlement, so desirable for Britain, with her Indian possessions, had been yielded up by the Addington Administration, at the Peace of Amiens, most[522] imprudently. A body of five thousand men was dispatched for its recovery, under Sir David Baird, in a fleet commanded by Sir Home Popham. They arrived in January, and the Dutch soldiers fled at the first attack. Retiring into the interior, General Beresford was dispatched after them, whereupon they surrendered, on condition that they should be sent to Holland without being deemed prisoners of war.

On the 12th of February Parliament was opened by a speech, not from the Prince Regent in person, but by commission, the commissioners being the[11] Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, the Duke of Montrose, and the Earls Camden and Westmoreland. The speech was of the most belligerent character, recounting the success of our arms in the Indian seas, in repelling the attack of the Neapolitans on Sicily, and, above all, in the Peninsula. Lord Grenville opposed the address, considering the war as hopeless, and as mischievous to our interests. It was carried in both Houses without a division. Perceval, on the 21st, announced that the prince was desirous not to add any fresh burdens to the country in existing circumstances, and therefore declined any addition to his establishment as Regent. On the 6th of April Whitbread brought forward these charges against Melville in the House of Commons, as detailed in the tenth report of the Naval Commissioners. In doing so, he paid a high compliment to the manner in which the naval affairs had been conducted since Lord St. Vincent became head of that Department; but he charged Lord Melville with having applied the public money to other uses than those of the Naval Department, in contempt of the Act of 1785an Act which Melville himself, then Dundas, had supported: that he had connived at a system of peculation in the Treasurer of the Navy, Mr. Trotter, an individual for whom he was responsible. The salary of this Mr. Trotter had been fixed by the Act of 1785 at four thousand pounds a year, but he contended that Dundas had allowed Trotter to draw large sums from the Bank of England out of the navy deposit, pay them into Coutts's Bank, and use them for his own benefit; and that, moreover, he had participated in the profits of this system. This charge called forth a vehement contest of parties. Tierney, who had been Treasurer of the Navy under Addington, declared that he had found no inconvenience in complying with the Act of 1785, whilst holding that office. Fox, Grey, Ponsonby, Windham, Wilberforce, Lord Henry Petty, afterwards Lord Lansdowne, supported Whitbread's charges, and Pitt, Canning, and Lord Castlereagh defended Melville. On putting the resolutions moved by Whitbread, after a debate till quite late in the morning, they were carried by the casting vote of the Speaker. The scene, which is one of the most striking in our Parliamentary annals, has frequently been described, notably by Lord Fitzharris:"I sat edged close to Pitt himself," he wrote, "the night when we were two hundred and sixteen, and the Speaker, Abbot, after looking as white as a sheet, and pausing for ten minutes, gave the casting vote against us. Pitt immediately put on the little cocked hat that he was in the habit of wearing when dressed for the evening, and jammed it down deeply over his forehead, and I distinctly saw the tears trickling down his cheeks. We heard one or two, such as Colonel Wardle, say they would see 'how Billy looked after it'! A few young ardent followers of Pitt, with myself, locked their arms together and formed a circle, in which he moved, I believe unconsciously, out of the House, and neither the colonel nor his friends could approach him." But the Opposition were not content with the vote of censure. Whitbread moved that an Address should be presented to his Majesty, praying him to remove Lord Melville for ever from his councils and presence, but the motion was withdrawn as soon as Melville's resignation was known. On the 6th of May Whitbread was about to move a resolution that his Majesty should be requested to erase the name of Lord Melville from the list of the Privy Council, but Pitt rose and said that the motion was unnecessary, as his Majesty had already done it.

ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL, LONDON, AND LUDGATE HILL, AS IT WAS.

The chief difficulty was the king. At the commencement of the month of January, 1829, his Majesty had not yet signified his consent that the whole subject of Ireland, including the Catholic question, should be taken into consideration by his confidential servants. In his interview with the Duke of Wellington in the course of the autumn the king had manifested much uneasiness and irritation, and had hitherto shown no disposition to relax the opposition which (of late years, at least) he had manifested to the consideration by his Government of the claims of the Roman Catholics. In all the communications which Mr. Peel had with the king on this subject, his determination to maintain the existing laws was most strongly expressed. In November, 1824, the king wrote, "The sentiments of the king upon Catholic Emancipation are those of his revered and excellent father; and from these sentiments the king never can, and never will, deviate." All subsequent declarations of opinion on his part were to the same effect; and the events which were passing in Ireland, "the systematic agitation, the intemperate conduct of some[293] of the Roman Catholic leaders, the violent and abusive speeches of others, the acts of the Association, assuming the functions of government, and, as it appeared to the king, the passiveness and want of energy in the Irish executive, irritated his Majesty, and indisposed him the more to recede from his declared resolution to maintain inviolate the existing law." It was not, however, till the 12th of August that they were ready with their batteries. The effect of the bombardment was almost instantaneous. Within six hours nearly all the enemy's guns were silenced, and the next day the Spaniards capitulated, agreeing to yield not only the place, and the vessels in the harbour, but the country for a hundred and eighty miles to the westward; in fact, all the best part of Cuba. The booty taken was valued at nearly three million pounds.

Meanwhile Buonaparte had taken the route for Troyes and Dijon, ignorant of the rapid advance of the Allies on Paris. Never in any of his campaigns does he seem to have been so ill-informed of the movements of the enemy as at this most momentous juncture. On the 26th of March he was attacked by the flying squadrons of Winzengerode. At Doulaincourt he was startled by learning that Paris was on the point of being assaulted by the Allies. From this place he dispatched one courier after another to command the forces in Paris to hold out, and, ordering the army to march with all speed, he himself entered his carriage and was driven in all haste to Fontainebleau. Thence he was driving to Paris, when, at an inn, called La Cour de France, he met General Belliard with his cavalry, who gave him the confounding information that the Empress, King Joseph, and the Court had fled; that the Allies were in Paris, and a convention was signed. At this news he began to rave like an insane man, blamed Marmont and Mortieras, during his defeats, he had often bitterly upbraided his generals,blamed Joseph, and everybody but himself, and insisted on going to Paris, and seeing the Allies himself, but was at length persuaded to return to Fontainebleau, and ordered his army to assemble, as it came up on the heights of Longjumeau, behind the little river Essonnes.