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ART. XVI. Retrospect of Public Affairs..

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Tur first quarter of the year closed with an extraordinary interest excited in the public by the events passing in Portugal, from which country the French, under the command of Massena, were making a hasty retreat. We shall therefore begin by pursuing the narrative of these transactions. After a brisk action on the 3d of April, upon the banks of the Coa, in which the French en. deavoured, without success, to check their pursuers, they quit. ted Portugal and entered the Spanish frontier on the 4th, and continued their retreat across the Agueda. Lord Wellington, in the mean time, invested the fortress of Almeida ; suffering the French to retire unmolested, their superiority in cavalry render. ing further pursuit too hazardous. Massena employed himself in collecting all the force within the neighbouring provinces, and in the beginning of May re-crossed the Agueda at Ciudad Rodrigo, for the purpose of making an effort for the relief of Almeida. The allied troops'stationed on the Spanish frontier fell back as the enemy advanced, and on May 3d, the French, with their usual impetuosity, made an attack on the village of Fuentes d'Honor, which, after a temporary success, was repulsed.' On the 5th they again, with their whole force, attacked the posts of the allies, especially the village above-mentioned, but after a long and severe action, were repulsed with great loss, and finally withdrew to some woods at a small distance. They soon after broke up, re-crossed the Agueda, and left Almeida to its fate. This fortress was evacuated on the 11th, after blowing up some of the works, by the French garrison, which made its escape almost unobserved through the English blockade, but suffered some loss in its further retreat.

About this time the French, under Marshal Soult, advanced in force from Seville to relieve Badajos, besieged by the allied army under the command of Marshal Beresford. That general found it expedient to raise the siege on their approach, and take a po. sition, with all his force, between Badajos and the enemy, at Albuera. He was there attacked, on May 16th, by the whole of the French army, and a most sanguinary contest ensued, which lasted five hours, when the French were repelled in every point, and driven back over the rivulet of Albuera.

The loss of the English on this occasion was greater than in any other action of the present war, amounting, in killed, wound. ed, and missing, to more than 3,500 men. That of the allies. was also very considerable. The French appear to have been still greater sufferers. When the intelligence of these events arrived in England, the

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nation was justly elated with the additional honour acquired by the British arms in such severe encounters, in which uniform va. lour and steadiness had been displayed. The commanders were publicly thanked, and the actions were spoken of, especially by those of the ministerial party, as splendid victories. The san. guine predicted a speedy and total expulsion of the French from the peninsula, and with it the downfal of the Corsican Tyrant. Consequences, however (from which alone military success is to be estimated), have unfortunately proved that these expectations were, at least, premature. The siege of Badajos, which was resumed by Lord Wellington, who took the command in this quarter, after costing a number of men in two unsuccessful attempts to gain possession of an important fort, was again abandoned in June on the advance of a French army: and we have the morti. fication of concluding this part of our retrospect with the view of the allied troops defensively posted within the frontier of Por. tugal. A relation of the further occurrences in the Peninsula would anticipate the matter of our ensuing Number.

The British nary has lately had few opportunities of distin. guishing itself for want of an enemy. One gallant and success. ful action, however, was added to its long list of honours, in the month of March. A squadron of four English frigates, un der the command of Captain Hoste, fell in with a combined French and Italian squadron, consisting of five frigates, three of them much superior in size to any of the English, with several smaller armed vessels, off the island of Lissa in the Adriatic; and after a severe action, captured two of the frigates, and de. stroyed another, th: • of the commodore, who was killed in the engagement; a fourth, which had struck her colours, took an opportunity of escaping.

Of domestic affairs, the first demanding notice is the state of the King's health. The bulletins in April made uniformly favour. able reports; and that of the Queen's Council, published, according to the Regency Act, on April 6th, after stating that his Majesty is still unable to resume the Royal functions, affirms, " that his Majesty appears to have made material progress to. wards recovery, and that all his physicians continue to express their expectations of such recovery." But these hopes, whatever were their foundation, proved in the event wholly illusory. At the approach of his birth day it was not to be concealed that his mental malady had so much augmented, that he could no longer be permitted to appear in public; and since that time he has been entirely committed to the care of Dr. Willis and his assistants. Of the state of his bodily health different accounts are propagated, but it seems at length universally, however reluctantly, admitted, that his mind is irreparably deranged. Without using Mr.

Burko's

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Burke's indecent language on his Majesty's first attack, that he

was hurled from the throne;" it may now, with due respect for fallen grandeur, and commiseration for human calamity, be affirmed, that the reign of George III. is concluded.

In what light the Regent has continued to regard his delegated authority it is not easy to conjecture, as it is uncertain what men or measures he would countenance were he to act without any reference to the wishes or prepossessions of his father. The ministers remain unchanged, and no alteration has appeared in the sýstem of government. The only important spontaneous exertion of his authority has been one to which neither his Majesty nor the ministers would have objected. In the Gazette of May 25, the following article appeared :-" His Royal Highness the Prince Regent has been pleased to constitute and appoint his Royal Highness Frel derick Duke of York to be Commander-in-Chief of all his Majesty's land forces in Great Britain and Ireland.” As there had been for many years no point in which all parties seemed so much agreed, as in the impropriety of his Royal Highness's continuance in that station after the facts proved against him relative to the infamous woman with whom he was so closely connected, and as his royal brother was thought by no means partial to his character and conduct, this reinstatement occasioned general surprize, mixed, in the minds of a great part of the community, with no small dissa. tisfaction. " What (it was said) shall the Regent's first act of power be something implying total disregard to the opinion and wish of the people he is hereafter to govern? If he is praised for an attention to the feelings of his parent, can he be commended for open contempt of that popular feeling which every wise and well-disposed sovereign respects ?" Such were the sentiments of a considerable number of those who were the best disposed to augur favourably of the Regent's government, when he should be freed from all restrictions; at the same time, it must be confessed, that the nation in general manifested more indulgence to this instance of fraternal partiality than might have been expected. In the House of Commons, when Lord Milton made a motion to censure the ministers of the Prince Regent for advising this re-appointa ment, not only the ministers voluntarily took upon themselves the full responsibility of the measure, and were supported by all their habitual partisans, but many of the members who had taken a de. cided part against the Duke of York at the time of the inquiry in. to his conduct, now thought proper to pronounce their recantation --30 that only forty-seven gave their votes in favour of the mo. tion.

The magnificent festival given by the Regent at Carleton-house would scarcely require notice as a public event, were it not re. garded as in some degree indicatory of the character of the future

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reign. What was the particular occasion of this entertainment it is difficult to say. It was professedly connected with the King's birth-day; but while his Majesty was lying in a state that would be pitied in his meanest subject, it cannot be supposed that any who really felt for him would find a cause of festivity in the rem turn of that anniversary. An attention to the interests of the court-tradesmen who were sufferers by the non-celebration of two royal birthdays, and a desire of exercising hospitality towards the first people of the kingdom without any party distinctions, have been suggested as the motives. Let them have been any thing rather than a propensity to splendid profusion, which would be peculiarly unfortunate at the present period of general distress, aggravated by gloomy prospects for futurity. Mean. time his Royal Highness may be respectfully told, that the public esteem (if that is an object of his regard) is not to be obtained by gaudy shews, the taste displayed in which will be imputed to the upholsterer and confectioner, while any thing petty and puerile in them will reflect discredit on their employer. The nation, serious by temper, and now, from circumstances, rendered peculiarly thoughtful, will be contented with nothing less than solid proofs of attention to the general welfare in the person whom the lot of birth has placed at its head.

The subject of the high price of bullion, or, in other words, the comparative depreciation of paper-currency, which had long agitated the public, and produced a vast mass of contradictory as. sertion and reasoning, was brought to discussion in the House of Commons, on May 6th, by a string of resolutions moved by Mr, Horner, as resulting from the report of the Bullion Committee. Of these the most essential was, that the Bank should be obliged to resume its cash payments at a period not exceeding two years hence. These resolutions were strenuously opposed by the unit. ed efforts of the ministry and the Bank Directors, and were nega. tived by a great majority.

On May 9th, Lord Sidmouth introduced into the House of Lords a Bill for making alterations in the Toleration Act, the real pur. pose of which was to throw difficulties in the way of obtaining licenses to preach among the dissenters. As the class of preachers against whom it was aimed have, especially of late years, proved a great annoyance to the Established Clergy, by spreading sectarian principles in their flocks, it is supposed that his lord. ship was strongly urged by many of that order to the present attempt. As soon, however, as the alarm was sounded, a more ge.. neral union of all classes of dissenters than was ever known upon any other occasion, took place for the purpose of opposing the Bill; and on the day fixed for its second reading, such a deluge of petitions poured in from all quarters against it, that its friends, if it had any, were intimidated from appearing, and the Noble mover was left singly to withstand the storm. The Ministers disclaimed it; the Archbishop of Canterbury declared himself con., vinced that more mischief than good would arise from it; other lords buffetted it; and the second reading was negatived with. out a division. The result will, it is to be hoped, prevent any other inconsiderate attempt to tamper with an Act, which is the sole legal protection against that persecuting spirit which will al. ways, in some degree, accompany interested zeal in alliance with power.

The budget was opened by Mr. Perceval on May 20th. If the gradual augmentation of the public expenditure had not rendered the nation callous, alarm would doubtless be excited by the idea that we are in the midst of an apparently interminable war, in which we are obliged to maintain a navy at a charge of twenty millions, and an army at twenty-one; and that in addition to the prodigious revenue derived from taxation, the product of which is ostentatiously brought forwards as a proof of the great nation. al prosperity, a loan of twelve millions for Great Britain, and four and a half for Ireland, was requisite. Can any one seriously think it possible that such a system can last, under an obstruction in the sources of foreign commerce which has shaken private crea dit to its center? “ One cannot (says the Chancellor of the Ex. chequer) go through the country, in any direction, without see, ing proofs of its increasing prosperity.” No doubt, a, view from the window of a post-chaise will present abundance of new houses and ornamented grounds; but what says the detail of private life in the middle ranks of society? what is to be inferred from the countless lists of bankrupts in the gazette? Men from the elevation of rank and station overlook all this; but those upon the level both see and severely feel it.

On May 31st Mr. Grattan moved, in the House of Commons, " That the Petition of the Catholics of Ireland should be taken into consideration by a Committee of the whole House.” He was supported by several able speakers, but opposed by the will of the Minister, and his motion was negatived. A similar motion was afterwards made in the House of Lords, with the like success. It was probably in contemplation of such a cause of disaffection offered to the great body of the Irish, that the plan of an interchange between the British and Irish militias was devised, and which has been in part carried into execution.

The disparity between paper and cash or bullion, at length became so notorious, that some remedy for the effects it produced was obviously necessary. Legislative interference was hastened by the circumstance of a notice issued by a Nobleman (Lord King) to kis tenants, that he should insist upon receiving his rents in

gold,

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