The safety of the prisoners diffused universal joy throughout the camps of the two generals; but there was one thing necessary, in their opinion, in which the Government concurred, in order to give the crowning proof of our complete triumph, and to restore the unquestionable supremacy of our power, and compel the respect and fidelity of the neighbouring provinces. This was the signal punishment of Cabul for the atrocities that had been perpetrated there. The hostile chiefs were now as eager to conciliate, as submissive in their tone as they had been cruel and arrogant. Even Akbar Khan professed the greatest friendship for the British, and repudiated the acts that had been done in his name, at the same time restoring to his friends Captain Bygrave, the last prisoner he had in his possession. The Afghans had a maiden fortress in the town of Istalif, which is built upon two ridges of the spur of Hindoo Koosh, which forms the western boundary of the beautiful valley of Kohistan. There, in its fortified streets and squares, as in a safe asylum, they had collected their treasures and their women. The sagacious Havelock suggested that the capture of this place, believed to be impregnable, would be a great stroke of policy. General M'Caskill, therefore, made a rapid march upon it, and after a desperate struggle, in which Havelock greatly distinguished himself, the place was stormed in gallant style, the Afghans in every direction giving way before our attacking columns.

The court-house on the day of nomination presented a striking scene. On the left hand of the sheriff stood a Cabinet Minister, attended by the whole body of the aristocracy and gentry, Protestant and Catholic, of the county Clare. On the right stood Mr. O'Connell, with scarcely a single gentleman by his side. But he was "the man of the people" and of the priests, and so he was master of the situation. Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald was proposed by Sir Edward O'Brien, and seconded by Sir A. Fitzgerald. The Ministerial candidate first addressed the freeholders. He was an accomplished gentleman and an excellent speaker. Mr. Sheil, who was present, remarked that he delivered one of the most effective and dexterous speeches it had ever been his fortune to hear. His venerable father, who had voted against the union in the Irish Parliament, was now on his death-bed, and the knowledge of the[274] contest had been kept from him, lest the excitement should hasten his departure. In alluding to him, and to his own services to the county, Mr. Fitzgerald's eyes filled with tears, and there were few amongst his opponents, excited as they were against him, who did not give the same evidence of emotion; and when he sat down, although the great majority of the audience were strongly opposed to him, and were enthusiasts in favour of the rival candidate, a loud and unanimous burst of acclamation shook the court-house.

The Bills were highly necessary, and, on the whole, well calculated to nip in the bud those ever-growing abuses of India and its hundred millions of people which, some seventy years later, compelled Government to take the control out of the hands of a mere trading company, whose only object was to coin as much money as possible out of the country and the folk. But it needed no sagacity to see that the means of defeat lay on the very surface of these Bills. Those whose sordid interests were attacked had only to point to the fact that Parliament, and not the Crown, was to be the governing party under these Bills, in order to secure their rejection. This was quickly done through a most ready agent. Thurlow had been removed by the Ministry from the Woolsack, where he had remained as a steady opponent of all the measures of his colleagues; and it required but a hint from the India House, and he was at the ear of the king. Nothing was easier than for Thurlow to inspire George III. with a deep jealousy of the measure, as aiming at putting the whole government of India into the hands of Parliament and of Ministers, and the effect was soon seen.


Whilst this war was raging in Europe, and carrying its ramifications to the most distant regions of the world, Clive and Eyre Coote were extending the British Empire in India, and, in the case of Clive, with as much ability as Frederick of Prussia showed in enlarging his kingdom in Europe. Clive, in 1757, put down Surajah Dowlah, the Nabob of Bengal, and in June of that year defeated him at Plassey with a mere handful of men against his enormous host. He set up Surajah Dowlah's General-in-chief, Meer Jaffier, and hailed him Nabob of Bengal, Orissa, and Bahar. We claimed from Meer Jaffier two million seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds as the share of the Company, the fleet, and the army. Clive's own share was two hundred and fifty-four thousand pounds, and the shares of the members of the committee ran from twenty thousand to one hundred thousand pounds each. Besides this, it was stipulated that the French factories and effects should be given up to the English, and the French[177] never again allowed to enter Bengal. The territory surrounding Calcutta, within a given distance of the town, was to be granted them on zemindary tenure, the company paying the rent, like the other zemindars or landholders. Thus the British, who were before merely the tenants of a factory, became in reality the rulers of Bengal. On the 12th of February, 1823, the President of the Board of Trade said, in his place in Parliament:"The general exports of the country in the four years from 1815 to 1819 had decreased 14,000,000 in official value; and he took the official value in preference to the declared, because it was from the quantity of goods produced that the best measure was derived of the employment afforded to the different classes of the community. In the year from the 5th of January, 1819, to the 5th of January, 1820, the exports of the country fell off no less than 11,000,000; and in looking at that part of it which more completely embraced British or Irish manufacture, he found that the difference in four years was 8,414,711; and that in the year from the 5th of January, 1820, to the 5th of January, 1821, there was a decrease of 8,929,629. Nobody, therefore, could be surprised that, at that period, the industry of the country appeared to be in a state of the utmost depression; that our manufacturers were most of them unemployed; that our agriculturists were many of them embarrassed; and that the country, to use the phrase of a friend of his in presenting a petition from the merchants of London, 'exhibited all the appearances of a dying nation.' Though the condition of the agricultural interest was not as favourable as he could wish, still it was most satisfactory for him to state that not only did the exports of last year [1822] exceed those of all the years to which he had been alluding, but also those of the most flourishing year which had occurred during the continuance of the war. In all material articles there had been a considerable increase. The export of cotton had increased ten per cent., and hardware seventeen per cent.; of linens twelve per cent., and of woollens thirteen per cent.; and the aggregate exports of 1822 exceeded those of 1820 by twenty per cent., and of 1821 by seven per cent., notwithstanding a deduction was to be made from the exports of one great article, sugar, owing to a prohibitory decree of Russia, amounting to thirty-five per cent." The result of this prosperous state of things was that, in 1823, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer was enabled to present the best and most popular Budget that had been laid before Parliament for many years, remitting a large amount of taxes that had pressed most heavily on the springs of industry, and inflicted the greatest amount of inconvenience and privation upon the people. The revenue of the nation in that year was 57,000,000, and the expenditure was estimated at 49,672,999, leaving a surplus of upwards of 7,000,000. Of this surplus, 5,000,000 was set aside for the reduction of the National Debt, and the remainder for the remission of taxes. As the assessed taxes were most oppressive, they were reduced fifty per[239] cent., a reduction which was estimated on the window tax alone at 1,205,000. On the whole, the assessed taxes were reduced by 2,200,000. This included 100,000, the total amount of assessed taxes in Ireland. In England the whole of the window tax was removed from the ground floors of shops and warehouses. The meeting of the Westminster electors the next day, held in Palace Yard, under the very walls of Parliament, was attended by vast crowds, and the tone of the speakers was most indignant. They justified the letter of their representative to themselves; denounced the conduct of the Commons as oppressive, arbitrary, and illegal, tending to destroy the popular liberties; and they approved highly of the baronet's spirited resistance to the forcing of his house. They called for his liberation, and for that of the unjustly incarcerated Mr. Gale Jones. They drew up a letter to Sir Francis to this effect, to be presented to him in the Tower by the high bailiff of Westminster; and they prepared a petition and remonstrance to the House of Commons in equally spirited terms, which was presented the same evening by Lord Cochrane. The Honourable J. W. Ward, afterwards Lord Dudley and Ward, opposed the reception of the petition as highly indecorous, and as violating the dignity of the House; but Whitbread defended it, and even Canning and Perceval excused, in some degree, the tone of the petition in the circumstances. It was ordered, therefore, to be laid on the table.