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On the 17th of February he introduced this plan in two Bills. He declared that his policy had always been pacific; that he had never proposed any tax on the Americanswhen he came into office he had found them taxed already; that he had tried conciliatory means before the sword was drawn, and would still gladly try them. He had thought the former propositions to the Americans very reasonable, and he thought so still. Forgetful of the hopes that he had held out, of assisting the revenues of Great Britain by the taxation of Americans, he now surprised his auditors by asserting that he had never expected to derive much revenue from America, and that, in reality, the taxes imposed had not paid the expenses of the attempt to collect them. The first of his Bills, therefore, he entitled one "For removing all doubts and apprehensions concerning taxation by the Parliament of Great Britain in any of the colonies." It repealed entirely the tea duty in America, and declared "that from and after the passing of this Act, the king and Parliament of Great Britain will not impose any duty, tax, or assessment whatever, in any of his Majesty's colonies, except only such duties as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce, the nett produce of such duty to be always paid and applied to and for the use of the colony in which the same shall be levied." The second Bill removed some otherwise insuperable obstacles to a treaty. The Commissionersfive in numberwere to raise no difficulties as to the legal ranks or titles of those with whom they would have to negotiate. They were empowered to proclaim a cessation of hostilities on the part of the king's forces by sea or land for any necessary term and on any necessary conditions. They might suspend all the Acts of Parliament respecting America passed since 1763, yet the Bill excepted the repeal of the Massachusetts Charter, and introduced that into a separate Actanother weak measure, for on such an occasion the only wisdom was to wipe away all Acts, or repeal of Acts, which had arisen out of these unhappy differences. The effect of this statement has been well described in the Annual Register of that year, in an article supposed to be from the hand of Burke:"A dull, melancholy silence for some time succeeded this speech. It had been heard with profound attention, but without a single mark of approbation of any part, from any description of men, or any particular man in the House. Astonishment, dejection, and fear overclouded the whole assembly. Although the Minister had declared that the sentiments he had expressed that day had been those which he always entertained, it is certain that few or none had understood him in that manner, and he had been represented to the nation at large as the person in it the most tenacious of those Parliamentary rights which he now proposed to resign, and the most adverse to the submissions which he now proposed to make." 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.

In order to get, if possible, more trustworthy information and a clue out of the labyrinth, they gave directions to Mr. Nicholls to proceed to Ireland, taking with him the reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry, and there to examine how far it might be judicious or practicable to offer relief to whole classes of the poor; whether of the sick, the infirm, or orphan children; whether such relief might not have the effect of promoting imposture without suppressing mendicity; whether the condition of the great bulk of the poorer classes would be improved by such a measure; whether any kind of workhouse could be established which should not give its inmates a superior degree of comfort to the common lot of the independent labourer; whether the restraint of a workhouse would be an effectual check to applicants for admission; and whether, if the system were once established, the inmates would not resist by force the restraints which would be necessary. He was further to inquire by what machinery the funds for carrying out a Poor Law system could be best raised and expended. He was dispensed from inquiring as to the extent and the occasional severity of the destitution, though he properly questioned the estimate of 2,385,000 as being excessive, and it was no doubt a great exaggeration. On this point, Mr. Nicholls thought it enough to state at the end of his mission that the misery prevalent among the labouring classes in Ireland appeared to be "of a nature and intensity calculated to produce great demoralisation and danger." His first report was delivered on the 15th of November, 1836. His attention had been particularly directed to the south and west, "everywhere examining and inquiring as to the condition of the people, their character and wants; and endeavouring to ascertain whether, and how far, the system of relief established in England was applicable to the present state of Ireland." The route from Cork round by the western coast, and ending at Armagh, was deemed most eligible, because the inhabitants of the manufacturing and commercial districts of the north and east more nearly resembled the English than those of the southern and western parts of Ireland; and if the English system should be found applicable to the latter, there could be no doubt of its applicability to the others. It was impossible, he said, to pass through the country without being struck with the evidence of increasing wealth everywhere apparent. Great as had been the improvement in England during the same period, he believed that in Ireland it had been equal. The increase of capital was steadily progressive. The great obstacles to its more general application to the improvement of the country were the excessive subdivision of land, and the dependence of the people for subsistence upon the possession of a plot of potato-ground. One of the most striking[405] circumstances resulting from the want of employment was the prevalence of mendicancy, with the falsehood and fraud which formed part of the profession, and which spread its contagion among the lower orders.

It was found that the potato was almost the only food of the Irish millions, and that it formed their chief means of obtaining the other necessaries of life. A large portion of this crop was grown under the conacre system, to which the poorest of the peasantry were obliged to have recourse, notwithstanding the minute subdivision of land. In 1841 there were 691,000 farms in Ireland exceeding one acre in extent. Nearly one-half of these were under five acres each. The number of proprietors in fee was estimated at 8,000a smaller number in proportion to the extent of territory than in any other country of Western[536] Europe except Spain. In Connaught, several proprietors had 100,000 acres each, the proportion of small farms being greater there than in the rest of Ireland. The total number of farms in the province was 155,842, and of these 100,254 consisted of from one to five acres. If all the proprietors had resided among their tenantry, and been in a position to encourage their industry and care for their welfare, matters would not have been so bad; but most of the large landowners were absentees. It frequently happened that the large estates were held in strict limitation, and they were nearly all heavily encumbered. The owners preferred living in England or on the Continent, having let their lands on long leases or in perpetuity to "middlemen," who sublet them for as high rents as they could get. Their tenants again sublet, so that it frequently happened that two, three, or four landlords intervened between the proprietors and the occupying tenant, each deriving an interest from the land. The head landlord therefore, though ever so well-disposed, had no power whatever to help the occupying tenants generally, and of those who had the power, very few felt disposed. There were extensive districts without a single resident proprietor, and when the absentees were appealed to by the local relief committees during the famine to assist the perishing people, they seldom took the trouble of answering the application. The news of this great victory, which at once freed from the French armies the rich province of Andalusia and the cities of Cadiz and Seville, spread joy and exultation over Spain, and filled Buonaparte, who received it at Bordeaux, with the deepest anxiety, but the Spaniards were led into a confidence which brought its subsequent chastisement. The news no sooner reached Madrid than the king ceased to feel himself safe there. He determined to retire to Vittoria, which was at a convenient distance from the French frontier. On the 3rd of July he quitted the city by night, and, guarded by French troops, took the road to Vittoria, leaving Grouchy and Marshal Bessires to cut off any pursuit of the Spaniards. Grouchy then despatched a letter requiring Casta?os to send an officer to take charge of the city, and to protect the French invalids in the hospitals. He sent General Moreno, and himself arrived to hold the city on the 23rd of August. Such of the Spanish grandees as had encouraged the French fled, with Joseph, for safety, and obtained the name of "Josepinos," or "Infrancsados;" the rest joined the Spanish cause.

Only a week after Sir Robert Peel delivered his memorable speech on the foreign policy of the country, his career was suddenly terminated. On the 22nd of June her Majesty's third son, Arthur William Patrick Albert, had been baptised with the usual ceremonial pomp at Buckingham Palace, and on the 29th Sir Robert Peel had called there and entered his name in her Majesty's visiting-book. Proceeding thence up Constitution Hill, he had arrived nearly opposite the wicket gate leading into the Green Park, when he met Miss Ellis, one of Lady Dover's daughters, on horseback, attended by a groom. Sir Robert had scarcely exchanged salutes with this young lady when his horse became restive, swerved towards the railing of the Green Park, and threw him sideways on his left shoulder. He became unconscious, and remained so till he was placed in a carriage, when he revived and said, "I feel better." On being lifted out of the carriage at Whitehall Gardens, he walked with assistance into the house. The effect of meeting his family, however, caused a reaction. He swooned in the arms of Dr. Foucart, and was placed upon a sofa in the nearest apartment, the dining-room, from which he was never removed till his death. Sir Benjamin Brodie, Mr. C?sar Hawkins, Dr. Seymour, and Mr. Hodgson held a consultation, and attempted to reduce the visible injury, but this caused such agony that, at the patient's earnest request, the attempt was abandoned. He passed a restless night on Saturday, and continued in a very precarious state on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday morning he fell into a sound sleep, after which he felt easier, his mind being quite composed. But at two o'clock on that day symptoms appeared which caused the physicians to abandon all hope. The last rites of the Church were administered by the Bishop of Gibraltar, Dr. Tomlinson, a very old friend. Lady Peel and the members of the family joined in this melancholy communion, Sir Robert being scarcely able to recognise them. Lord Hardinge and Sir James Graham also joined the group of mourners; but the painfully excited feelings of Lady Peel rendered it absolutely necessary to remove her from the apartment. He ceased to breathe about midnight, his great spirit departing peacefully from the earthly tabernacle that had been so suddenly crushed (July 2, 1850). A post-mortem examination showed that the cause of death was a broken rib on the left side pressing upon the lung.

In Britain there were terrible outcries in consequence of the scarcity of bread. There were rioting and plundering of corn-factors' and bakers' shops, and Government passed a number of Acts giving premiums on the importation of grain, and forbidding the making of any but mixed and coarse breads. Had not large subscriptions been raised, and private benevolence been called forth to an immense extent for the relief of the distress, the consequences would have been more terrible. Pitt was in favour of remedial legislation, but Grenville was against interfering with the laws of supply and demand.

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