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that fought with him was fighting for its life.

1803 Bent on peace as Addington was, he had therefore to
renew the war. To its conduct he and his colleagues
were unequal. There was a general call for Pitt, who
had at first loyally supported Addington, and being no
longer able to support him, yet debarred by their connec-
tion from opposing him, had ceased to appear in the
House. But Addington was satisfied with himself, and
George III. was more than satisfied with Addington.
The restless and aspiring genius of Canning, who now
comes upon the scene, conceived the scheme of dislodging
Addington by a round robin. Pitt, of course, put his
veto on a device which savoured of conspiracy. Adding-
ton at last yielded to gentle compulsion, and Pitt once

1804 more was head of the state. He came in pledged not to
revive the catholic question. This was bad; but what


was Pitt to do ? He could not convert the king, he could
not dethrone him, nor could the ship of state be left with-
out its helmsman in the stormy night on the ^lee shore.
Between monarchical and elective government there was
an awkward interval in which the court, having lost its
responsibility, retained its influence. In the human body
there is an intestine, the survival of a previous stage of
development, no longer serving any good purpose, but
still serving to generate disease.

Pitt tried to form a broad-bottom ministry of national
defence including Fox, another proof that the party
system was not his. But Fox the king abhorred, not
only as the opponent of the American and the French
war, but as the bad angel of the heir. Grenville, Pitt's
own Foreign Minister, and the other Whigs refused to
join without Fox, though Fox magnanimously left them
free. Thus, between the influences of royalty and that
of party, the country in its extremity had to put up
with a narrow Tory cabinet, in which Pitt and Dundas,
now Lord Melville, were the only men of mark. Further
to show what party was, Melville, who was doing well
at the admiralty, having been guilty of some financial
irregularity, was impeached by the opposition for corrup-
tion. Through him, faction struck at Pitt. He was
rightly acquitted by the Lords, but it was thought neces-
sary to put him out of office. When the motion for
impeachment passed the House of Commons by the cast- 1805
ing vote of a perplexed Speaker, which, in such a case,
ought to have been given in the negative, members of the
opposition pressed towards Pitt, down whose usually im-
passive face tears were flowing, to see how " Billy " would
take it ; and a circle of friends was formed to screen him


from their malignant gaze. This, when the country was
in hourly danger of invasion. As the result of the Mel-
ville affair shows, Pitt was no longer supreme master of
the House of Commons ; his majority was now compara-
tively small.

To cope with Napoleon, now emperor, and assembling
his army on the heights of Boulogne for the invasion of
England, Pitt's diplomacy, aided by his money, formed a
coalition with Austria and Russia which brought an army
fully equal in numbers to that of Napoleon into the field.
More he could hardly do. Nor was he to blame for the
disaster which followed. He did not sit in the Aulic
council. He did not put Mack instead of the Archduke
Charles in command, or direct the movement which lost

1805 the day at Austerlitz. Nor was it his fault that Prussia,
with mean and purblind selfishness, held aloof, and after-

1806 wards paid at Jena for her disloyalty to the cause of
nations. After Austerlitz, it is said, he folded up the

1806 map of Europe, and died. But despair would hardly
have killed him had not disease already brought him low.
For with the news of Austerlitz had come the news of
Trafalgar. The nation's joy at the great victory of her
sailors was mingled with deep grief. Nelson, the hero-
sailor, having fallen. The sentiment which inspired his
last signal was that which had saved the country, and the
best of all dying speeches was, *' Anchor, Hardy, anchor ! "
After Trafalgar the island kingdom was safe, and the
rage of the enemy beat against it as vainly as the billows
beat against its cliffs. Safe also was the trade from which
it largely drew the sinews of war. There was no more
fear of invasion ; the fortification of London might be
laid aside, nor were any more Martello towers needed



along the steep. The Danish navy, the last save that
of Russia left on the continent, was presently seized by
a daring yet well-warranted stroke when it was on the
point of being put into the enemy's hands. The British
tar had never failed to conquer. Villeneuve at Trafalgar
knew his fate when he saw Nelson's two columns bear-
ing down.

By sheer dearth of men, strange when the call for them
was so loud, the king was compelled to give way and
allow the detested Fox, with Grenville, to form a broad- 1806
bottomed administration, combining the Whig leaders
and Sheridan with Addington and Windham, which was
called the Ministry of all the Talents. Fox, now at the
end of his days, at last saw through the character and
designs of Bonaparte, reconciled himself to the war, and,
as Scott said of him, perhaps with a touch of satire, "a 1806
Briton died." This ministry approved its liberalism by
carrying the abolition of the slave-trade. But it was
soon thrown out by the king on a constitutional ques-
tion. The ministers proposed to complete the military
emancipation of the catholics by admitting them to the
higher grades in the army. The king's prejudice was
once more aroused, and was played upon, as before, by
intriguers. He refused his assent. The ministers put
their policy on record in a cabinet minute. The king
grasped the opportunity of getting rid of them, called on
them for a renunciation, and when they refused compli-
ance, taking their stand on the constitutional principle
that ministers could never be debarred from offering any
advice which they deemed expedient to the crown, he dis-
missed them from office. 1807

This stroke of prerogative was about the last piece of
VOL. II вАФ 20


mischief done the country by a strictly moral and pious

1810 king. The glimmering light which had more than once

1811 been eclipsed, now expired in final darkness. A regency
became inevitable. The Regent was a worthless sybarite;
yet the change, though socially much for the worse, was
politically rather for the better. Mistresses and mara-
schino did not much interfere with government, and the
reckoning for them, though large, was a drop in the
bucket of public expenditure. It is needless to say that
the bosom friend of the Whigs did not carry his " predi-
lections " into the regency ; he doffed the Liberal and
donned the monarch. His perfidy was chastised by the
satirical pen of the Whig poet laureate, Tom Moore.

The Duke of Portland had never been more than a
second-rate statesman. He was now decrepit and suffer-
ing from a painful disease which obliged him to be much
under the influence of opium. This man, at a moment of
extreme peril, was allowed to place himself at the head
1807 of the nation. In two years he resigned and died. Then
1809 came Perceval, an ultra-Tory and protestant lawyer, a
1809 staunch opponent of catholic emancipation, marching, as
Sydney Smith described him, punctually, at the head of
his tribe of well-washed children, to church, but of thor-
oughly second-rate capacity. Perceval, having been mur-

1812 dered by a maniac, was succeeded by Lord Liverpool,
whose strong point, besides his experience and knowledge
of business, was that his mediocrity, exciting no jealousy,
formed a headship under which rival ambitions might
unite. United under him were the ambitions, intensely
rival, of Castlereagh and Canning.

Pitt's successors do not seem to have improved much
1823 on his war administration. The seizure of the Danish


navy, when the government had proof that it was about
to be made over to Napoleon, was a laudable act of
vigour. But the force of England was expended in dis-
tant and ineffective operations, such as the unfortunate 1807
expedition to Buenos Ayres. The Walcheren expedition 1809
was more of a body-blow, and might have told on the
fortunes of the decisive field ; but it was put under the
incompetent command of the Earl of Chatham. A better
field was opened in Spain, and Providence at last
sent the government generals, Moore and Wellington,
the second of whom had been formed on the Indian field.
Moore was undervalued ; Wellington, after his victory
over Junot in Portugal, was superseded by cautious sen- 1808
iority and robbed of the fruits of his success. Nor, if
we may trust the tenor of his letters at the time, does
he seem to have been worthily supported or supplied.
By the Whig opposition he was persistently run down.
Trained officers he always lacked; but, as commissions
were obtained by favour or purchase, trained officers
the government had none to send.

Failing to invade the sea-girt realm. Napoleon thought
of killing its commerce and industry by a vast embargo
which he called his continental system. To his Decrees
the British Government responded with Orders in Council 1807
proclaiming a general blockade. The Americans, as neu-
tral traders and carriers, had been making no small profit
out of the war, and had been practically aiding the enemy
of England and of Europe. They resented the Orders in
Council, and at the same time the impressment of British
seamen found on board their vessels and carried off by
British captains, who roughly exercised an odious and
very disputable right. They, or the War-hawks, as the


war party among them was called, wished also to grasp
1812 the opportunity of conquering Canada. They declared
war against England, and anotlier formidable enemy was
added to the host against which she was about to enter
the last desperate conflict for her own independence and
that of all European nations. On land the British con-
18U quered, saved Canada and took Washington, though,
in rashly attacking impregnable defences, they suffered
a bloody repulse at New Orleans. On their own ele-
ment they were for some time worsted by an enemy of
the same race as themselves, whose seamanship and gun-
nery they at first despised, but found fully equal to their
own. A fratricidal and fruitless conflict was closed at
last by a treaty in which no mention was made of either
of the two ostensible causes of the war. American his-
torians fancy that this was a second war of independence.
Had Napoleon, by the help of the Americans, triumphed
over England and European freedom, would Louisiana
now be a State of the Union? Might not his insatiate
ambition have trampled on the Union itself ?

From victory to victory, from annexation to annexation.
Napoleon went on till he had almost made himself emperor
of the West. He formed for the members of his family a
set of satrapies, the corruption of which would have been
like that of the Second Empire or worse, since the Second
Empire was at least national. Over the kings, with their
senile councils, spiritless battalions, and routine command-
ers, he triumphed for the most part with ease. At last he
roused the nations ; first Spain, who, decrepit and almost
moribund as she was, astonished him by springing to arms
against his insolent rapine, and, miserably as her un-
trained peasantry were led, poor as was the stand which


under fatuous commanders they could make against the
veteran legions of the conqueror, showed him at least
what a national resistance was, and at Saragossa revived 1808
the memory of Numantia. Something like national re-
sistance he encountered in the campaign of Aspern and 1809
Wagram, when Austria, taught by dire experience the
value of the moral forces, appealed for the first time to
German sentiment and made a better stand against him
than she had ever made before. National resistance he
encountered, though on a small scale, in Tyrol, and was 1809
stung by its achievements to his dastardly murder of
Hofer. National resistance he encountered in deserted 1810
and burning Moscow and at last when he met uprisen 1812
Germany at Leipzig. At length he fell, and the civilized 1813
world was free from Corsican domination. Having 1814
staked his last conscript on the gambling table and
lost, the ruined gambler attempted suicide. Treated on
his capture with improvident confidence, and breaking
his word as he was sure to do, he was restored for 1814
a time to power by his soldiery, amid the general curses 1815
of the French people* who would have torn him in pieces
on his way to Elba had he not travelled in disguise.
He was thus enabled to offer one more holocaust of blood
and human suffering to his selfish ambition. Then the
world was rid of him, though not of the evil which he 1815
wrought. He had consumed in his game human lives
unnumbered, besides an enormous amount of the fruits of
human labour ; and far from conferring on humanity any
compensating benefit, had left it a legacy of curses. For
to him was due the Holy Alliance ; to him the revo-
lutionary violence with which, after that temporary
triumph of reaction, political progress resumed its march ;


to him the monstrous development of the military spirit,
and of the system of vast armaments under which Europe
now groans ; to him the rekindling in France of that
rapacious ambition which brought on the war of 1870 ;
to him the crimes, corruption, and villanies of the Second
Empire. For this the world worships him. Justice would
have dealt with the arch-enemy of his kind as he had
dealt with Toussaint-Louverture, Palm, or Hofer. Great
Britain was left with six hundred millions of debt con-
tracted in the service of European independence, for
which and for the vast sums expended in yearly taxation
no indemnity was received.

Europe had been lost by the kings and redeemed by the
nations, but the nations had been forced to fight for its
redemption under the leadership of the kings. Had the
interest of the nations dictated the settlement, France
would have been made then, as she was made by the
Germans in 1871, to pay for her course of rapine and
indemnify the nations which she had robbed, on such a
scale as would have sickened her for a time of the game.
She would then have been left to establish her own
government and regulate her own affairs. But the in-
terest of the kings dictated the restoration of the Bourbon
throne, which was raised by their bayonets only to fall
again, while nothing effectual was done to secure civili-
zation against French ambition. In a few years
French ambition was on its path again. The restora-
tion of the Bourbons, with their reactionary aristocracy
and priesthood, speedily provoked the fresh eruption of
the revolutionary volcano with all the convulsions which
followed, bringing a revival of the Napoleonic Empire
and its Corsican policy in their train.


Masters of the legions, the kings were in conclave,
resettling Europe after their own mind. Europe for an
hour was theirs. With their selfish and feeble policy
they had fallen before Napoleon, and most of them at last
had kissed his feet, nor when their people rose against his
tyranny had they very readily drawn the patriot sword.
But for the time they engrossed the fruits of vic-
tory. Their guiding principles, as they at first pro-
claimed, in regulating the world, were to be those of the
Gospel ; Christian charity, peace, and justice, not less
binding on the councils of princes than on private men.
This programme was the fancy of Alexander of Russia, 1815
at once Emperor of Cossacks and sentimental dupe of a
female mystic, Madame Krudener. When it was pro-
pounded to the Duke of Wellington, the duke replied
that the British parliament would require something more
precise. The religious mysticism of Alexander soon gave
place in those councils to practical reaction in the person
of Metternich, who undertook to make the world stand
still. The members of the conclave proceeded to dispose
of Europe as though it had been the personal property of
kings, cutting and carving as their own interests dictated,
handing over the north of Italy to the foreign and hated
domination of Austria, forcing alien communities, such as
Holland and Belgium, into uncongenial union, and re-
arranging territory everywhere without regard for the
sentiment of nationality or for the wishes of the people.
The establishment of a European settlement with a bal-
ance of power was the object ostensibly in view. The
next care was to extinguish the desire of freedom which
the struggle with Napoleon had kindled in the hearts of
nations, and to restore absolute monarchy with its con-


genial priesthood. Hopeless in the end the attempt
proved. The spirit of liberalism, once awakened, might
be repressed, but would not die. To re-enforce it pres-
ently came the spirit of reviving nationality, fostered by
historical studies and impatient of the stranger's yoke,
such as was that of Austria in Italy, and that of Russia
in Poland. We come to the opening of a new era.



George IV. Born 1762; Succeeded 1820; Died 1830
William IV. Born 1765; Succeeded 1830; Died 1837

THE Tories had conducted the struggle with Napoleon.
They had won Waterloo, at least Waterloo had been
won under them. They were left in possession of the glory
and the power. The Whigs were justly discredited by
their factious opposition to the war and their unpatriotic
sympathy with Napoleon, in whose fall they fell. The
prime minister still was Liverpool, the experienced and
sure-footed administrator, equal to the business of state
and not above it, whose respectable mediocrity was now
found useful as a centre of union not only for rival ambi-
tions but for divergent sentiments. For in his cabinet
there were both advocates and opponents of Catholic
Emancipation ; there were men who went thoroughly with
the absolutist* re-settlement of the continent; and there
were men who, though enemies to revolution, were British
and friends to the independence of nations.

Of the opponents of Catholic Emancipation and of change
of every kind the type and chief was the chancellor, Eldon,
a great technical lawyer who cherished the very cobwebs
of the old law, and whose hesitations and delays amounted
to a denial of justice. In politics Eldon clung not only
to catholic disabilities and the unreformed House of



Commons, but to every anomaly and abuse, as a stone
which could not be removed without shaking the sacred
edifice of the constitution. He clung even to the cruel
absurdities of the criminal law. He prided himself upon
being the special guardian of the protestant church estab-
lishment, on the plethoric revenues and the abuses of
which he would not let a profane hand be laid. Being
little of a church-goer, he was likened to a buttress
supporting the church from without. His orthodoxy was
refreshed by copious libations of port. He shared with
Addington the fond affection of George III., who, when
Eldon was made chancellor, buttoned up the seals in the
breast of his coat that he might give them, as he said,
from his heart. Addington, the " doctor," was now home
secretary under the title of Lord Sidmouth, which gilded,
without changing, his mediocrity. Like Eldon, he was
a thoroughgoing reactionist, and in all questions between
the government and the people a believer in prompt and
vigorous repression. Not that he was by nature other
than a kind and courteous gentleman, but his medicine
for the disease of popular discontent was legal grape-
shot administered in good time. With Eldon and Sid-
mouth at present, though destined memorably to break
with them and with reaction in the end, was the young
Robert Peel, whose father, a wealthy cotton-spinner, had
laid the promise of the youth, shown in Oxford honours,
on the altar of Toryism. Perceval had welcomed to
office the recruit, who thus gained the advantage of early
initiation into public affairs, while by swearing allegiance
to a party he forfeited the political independence which,
as his mind opened, it became the pathetic struggle of his
life to regain.


Castlereagh, foreign minister and leader of the House
of Commons, was in European affairs as much of an
absolutist as a man not devoid of British spirit could be,
and on that account an object of detestation to Liberals.
By the people, of whom he did not conceal his scorn, he
was so intensely hated that after his tragic death by his
own hand his corpse was hooted into its grave. His
oratory was almost a jest. But he was a high-bred
aristocrat, the pride as well as the type of his order, and
a man of undaunted courage. When he rose in the House
of Commons, with his lofty bearing and blue ribbon,
Tories, we can believe, would forgive broken sentences
and false metaphors. On the question of Catholic Eman-.
cipation Castlereagh was liberal. He was an Irishman,
had taken a leading part in carrying the Union, and
being a man of great sense was open to light on the
Irish question.

With Castlereagh, rather than with Tories like Eldon
or Sidmouth, may be ranked the great soldier whose
victory over Napoleon had given him an immense ascend-
ancy, not in his own country only, but in Europe. When
Wellington, a few years later, became premier, he was
reminded of his saying that if ever he accepted the
premiership he would be mad. He had, however, under-
gone political training, having been Irish secretary in
his youth, and in his management of men and affairs
in Spain, where he had to deal with the impracticable
Junta, he had shown, as his despatches prove, in a very
high degree some of the qualities of a statesman. In the
councils of Europe his authority was great. Nor was
there in him the slightest tendency to military usurpation
or sabre sway. Strict allegiance to duty fixed the boun-


dary of his ambition. But military command had been the
mould in which the political character of the Iron Duke
was cast. The part assigned him, he thought, was that
of upholding the king's government and the established
institutions in church and state. Beyond this he did not
look. The idea of parliamentary and cabinet govern-
ment had not fully dawned on his mind. To him the
government was still the king's government, and he
was the servant of the king. From the servility of the
courtier, however, he was absolutely free, and while he
guarded the crown he could mark and scorn the character
of its wearer.

. At the head of the more Liberal section of the cabinet
was Canning, a brilliant son of Eton and Christchurch,
the paragon of classical education, who, having in his
youth, it seems, shared the revolutionary fever, had been
cured of it partly, like many others, by the excesses of the
French revolutionists and completely by an introduction
to Pitt. To Pitt, who brought him into parliament and
office, he was thenceforth devoted. He was a brilliant
and effective speaker; but he had served the Tory
party hardly less by his wit as the writer of those pasqui-
nades in the Anti-Jacobin^ of which " The Needy Knife-
Grinder" was the most telling. Though bred at an
aristocratic school, adopted by a wealthy uncle, and
afterward married to a wealthy wife, he was called an
adventurer ; his parentage was unhappy and his mother
had been on the stage; but in those days every one was
an adventurer who went into public life without belong-
ing to the landed gentry, or at least to the class of
realized wealth. With more show of reason he was
regarded as an intriguer ; he was at least restlessly


ambitious and somewhat given to scheming. He had
also the faults of a smart political writer. On his
smartness in dealing with the Americans, whom, as a
young nation, policy bade him treat with studious courtesy,
rests partly the responsibility for the American war.
The restlessness of his ambition it was that, making him
an object of mistrust, had forced the brilliant orator and
man of genius to yield the Tory leadership first to the
mediocrity of Perceval and then to so lame a speaker as
Castlereagh. Having buried his political allegiance in
the grave of Pitt, he regarded himself as free to take his

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 69 of 84)