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Nelson, having blockaded the port of Alexandria, sailed to Naples to repair. There he received the news of the intense rejoicing his victory had spread through England, and that he was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Nelson of the Nile. He found Ferdinand of Naples already collecting an army to drive the French from Rome and Tuscany. Austria, Switzerland, and other countries were again in arms. The Treaty of Campo Formio was at an end by the French violation of it everywhere, and as it was supposed that Buonaparte would never be allowed to get back again, the spirit of Europe had revived. Nelson, allowing himself as little repose as possible, in November had made himself master of the Island of Gozo, separated only by a narrow channel from Malta. He had blockaded Malta itself, and it must soon surrender. Pitt, elated by Nelson's success, and in consequence of the death of the old czarina, Catherine, some two years earlier, now entered into a treaty with her successor, Paul, who was subsidised by a hundred and twelve thousand pounds a month, and great expectations were raised of the effect of his victorious general, Suvaroff, leading an army into Italy. The other members of the second grand coalition were Austria, the Princes of Germany, and the Ottoman Empire. Prussia weakly held aloof. When the British Parliament met on the 20th of November, the late victory and this new alliance with Russia were the themes of congratulation from the throne. Twenty-nine million two hundred and seventy-two thousand pounds were granted with alacrity for the ensuing year, and the nation willingly submitted to the imposition of a new impostthe income tax. Of course, the commercial changes introduced by Mr. Huskisson and Mr. Robinson excited loud murmurs of dissatisfaction from the interests affected, especially the shipping interest. But the best answer to objectors was the continuously flourishing state of the country. At the opening of the Session in 1825, Lord Dudley and Ward, in moving the Address in answer to the King's Speech in the Upper House, observed:"Our present prosperity is a prosperity extending to all orders, all professions, and all districts, enhanced and invigorated by the flourishing state of all those arts which minister to human comfort, and those inventions by which man obtains a mastery over nature by the application of her own powers, and which, if one had ventured to foretell a few years ago, it would have appeared almost incredible." This happy state of things was the result of a legitimate expansion of trade. Manufacturers and merchants were at first guided by a spirit of sober calculation. The steady advance in the public securities, and in the value of property of all sorts, showed that the national wealth rested upon a solid basis. The extension of the currency kept pace with the development of trade and commerce, and the circulation of bankers' paper was enormously increased. But out of the national prosperity there arose a spirit of rash speculation and adventure, resulting in a monetary crisis. The issue of notes by country banks was under no restriction; no measures were taken to secure that their paper represented property, and could be redeemed if necessary. There were hundreds of bankers in the provinces who could issue any quantity of notes they pleased, and these passed as cash from hand to hand. The spirit of speculation and enterprise was stimulated to a feverish degree of excitement by the recognition of the states of Colombia, Mexico, and Buenos Ayres, formally announced in the King's Speech on the 3rd of February, which said that treaties of commerce had been made with those new states. The rich districts of South America being thus thrown open, there was a rush of capitalists and adventurers to work its inexhaustible mines. A number of companies was formed for the purpose, and the gains of some of them in a few months amounted to fifteen hundred per cent. The result was a mania of speculation, which seized upon all classes, pervaded all ranks, and threw the most sober and quiet members of society into a state of tumultuous excitement. Joint-stock companies almost innumerable were established, to accomplish all sorts of undertakings. There were thirty-three companies for making canals and docks, forty-eight for making railroads, forty-two for gas, twenty insurance companies, twenty-three banking companies, twelve navigation packet companies, five indigo and sugar companies, thirty-four metal companies, and many others. The amount of capital subscribed in these various companies, which numbered two hundred and seventy-six, was upwards of 174,000,000. In connection with South America there was the Anglo-Mexican Company, the Brazilian, the Colombian, Real de Monte, and the United Mexican. On the South American shares only ten pounds each had been paid, except the Real de Monte, on which 70 had been paid. We may judge of the extent to which gambling speculation was carried from the following statement of the market prices of the shares, in five of the principal mining companies[243], at two periods, December 10th, 1824, and January 11th, 1825: (From a Drawing by Gravelot engraved by W. J. White.)

While the landed interest were thus showing their determination to maintain, at all hazards, the laws for preventing the importation of foreign corn, a spirit of opposition had been growing up in the large manufacturing towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, which, though only partially shared in by the working classes, was already significant of the approaching downfall of the system of monopoly. The first use made by Manchester of its constitution as a political borough by the Reform Act was to send to Parliament Mr. Poulett Thomson and Mr. Mark Philips, two members long conspicuous in the House for the zeal and ability with which they supported the principles of Free Trade. The Manchester newspapers generally advocated the same views; and Manchester became regarded as the centre of the Anti-Corn Law agitation. No organised movement, however, had yet been attempted. A series of good harvests from 1832 to 1835 rendered it extremely difficult to arouse public attention to the injustice which the bread law invariably inflicted in less favourable circumstances. Nevertheless, the effort was made. In January, 1834, a meeting of merchants and manufacturers was held in the Manchester Exchange Committee-room, to consider how the cause of Corn Law Repeal was to be forwarded, at which some powerful speeches were delivered by the members for the borough and other speakers of influence. A committee was appointed, which timidly endeavoured to avoid the appearance of a political agitation and finally ended by doing nothing. But soon the desultory opposition to the bread tax of the Manchester Chamber of Commercea body which had only presented one petition on the subject in seven yearswas no longer sufficient to represent the feeling of that great centre of industry. Seven men united themselves in the month of October, 1838, to advocate the freedom of trade. The names of those seven members are now scarcely remembered out of Manchester, with the exception of Mr. Archibald Prentice, the historian of the League, whose newspaper, the Manchester Times, had fought with considerable talent, and with inexhaustible energy on the side of all the great reforms of this important period in our history. In that newspaper for the 13th of October a list of the Provisional Committee of a new Anti-Corn Law Association was for the first time published. It comprised thirty-seven names, chiefly of Manchester manufacturers, and ended with the modest[482] note that "Subscriptions, 5s. each, would be received by the members of that committee." Such was the simple origin of that vast movement which, a few years later, compelled the very chiefs of the landowners' party in Parliament to become the instruments for carrying out measures more sweeping than even the most ardent Free Traders had regarded as possible. But men of influence were beginning to join the movement. The list of the Provisional Committee contained at least one name which afterwards became famousthat of Mr. John Bright. Three of them became members of Parliament at a later date, and another, Mr. George Wilson, was afterwards known as the permanent chairman of the League.

The statement of the Ministerial measure on the Corn Laws was fixed for the 9th of February. At five o'clock the Ministers moved that the paragraph in the Queen's Speech relating to the Corn Laws be read by the Clerk. This having been done, and the House having resolved itself into a committee to consider the laws relating to corn, Sir Robert Peel proceeded to explain the measure which he was about to introduce for their modification. The reception of the Premier's statement was not flattering. Listened to in watchful silence till he unfolded the details of the new sliding scale, he was then hailed from the Opposition benches with shouts of triumphant derision. The Whigs were relieved at finding that at least his measure was not calculated to be more popular[487] out of doors than the fixed duty which they had proposed; but from his own side Sir Robert received little support. His customary cheerers were mute, and round him were black faces when he spoke of not wishing corn prices to range higher than 54s. to 58s. Towards the close of his speech there was a painful inattention, to which he could not refrain from alluding. The dead silence which prevailed while he was reading the proposed scale was followed, when he had concluded, by a great deal of laughter along the line of the Opposition benches, and a loud buzz of conversation on both sides of the House ensued, which did not quite subside during the remainder of the speech. The details of the measure were recapitulated by the Minister as follow: