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The British, apprised of the views of France, determined to send a fleet and troops to protect[258] the West Indies; but, instead of sending the requisite force from home, the Ministers ordered Clinton to send five thousand men from New York. This was another example of the feeble and penurious manner in which they carried on this war. Clinton had recently sent three thousand five hundred men to Georgia, and now this detachment of five thousand diminished his already insufficient army by eight thousand five hundred men. It was, therefore, utterly impossible that he could take another decisive step in America during this year, and thus Congress was left to strengthen its army and to await fresh reinforcements from France.

The enemy, meanwhile, were on the alert, trying, by their fleets and armies, to assail us in almost every quarter. In the very opening days of the yearat the very commencement of January, 1781the French made an attack on the island of Jersey. They had sent across the Channel a fleet carrying nearly two thousand men; but their ships met the common fortune that has ever attended invaders of Britain: they were scattered by tempests, many of them dashed on the rocks of those iron-bound shores, and some driven back to port. They managed, however, to land eight hundred men by night, and surprised the town of St. Helier's, taking prisoner its Lieutenant-Governor, Major Corbet, who thereupon thinking all lost, agreed to capitulate. But the next officer in command, Major Pierson, a young man of only twenty-five, refused to comply with so pusillanimous an order. He rallied the troops and encouraged the inhabitants, who fired on the French from their windows. The invaders, surrounded in the market-place, were compelled to surrender, after their commander, the Baron de Rullecourt, and many of his soldiers, were killed.[279] The gallant young Pierson was himself killed by nearly the last shot.

W. G. Joscelyn, promotion in the army, and his brother made Bishop of Lismore.

So soon as the House of Commons assembled, and before the Speaker read the Speech which had been delivered from the Throne, Mr. Brougham made the first significant move in the game that was about to be played, by announcing[322] that he would that day fortnight submit to the House a proposition on the great question of Parliamentary Reform. Having determined to give notice of his intention when there was a question before the House, he was enabled to accompany his notice with an explanation. This was his explanation:"He had," he said, "by one party been described as intending to bring forward a very limited, and therefore useless and insignificant, plan; by another, he was said to be the friend of a radical, sweeping, and innovating, and, I may add, for I conscientiously believe it would prove so, a revolutionary reform." Both these imputed schemes he disavowed. "I stand on the ancient way of the Constitution." To explain at that moment what the details of this plan were to be would have then been inconvenientwas, indeed, impossible. "But," said Mr. Brougham, "my object in bringing forward this question is not revolution, but restorationto repair the Constitution, not to pull it down." This notice was a master-stroke of policy.