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In April De Crillon arrived, and was followed by the Spanish and French troops from Minorca. From eighteen to twenty thousand men were added to the army already encamped before the place, and the most able engineers were engaged from almost all countries of Europe, at extravagant salaries, and great rewards were offered for inventions which might demolish the formidable works of the English on the rock. Nearly forty thousand troops were now congregated against the old fortress. One hundred and seventy pieces of heavy artillery were directed against it, and immense stores of ammunition were accumulated for this final and triumphant achievement. On the other hand, General Elliot had now repaired and strengthened his defences more than ever. His garrison was augmented to seven thousand men, including a marine brigade; eighty pieces of cannon frowned from the walls, and the bulk of his men were of the best and most seasoned kind.

On the 26th of March the Marquis of Chandos made an attempt to obtain some relief for the agricultural interest, which was then in a very depressed state, and the measure he proposed was the abolition of the malt tax, which brought in the sum of 4,812,000. Sir Robert Peel prophesied that if this tax were abolished they would be in for a property tax. He said: "My prophecy is, that if you repeal this tax you will make an income tax necessary; to that, be assured, you must come at last, if you repeal the malt tax. You will lay your taxes on articles of general consumptionon tobacco, on spirits, on wineand you will meet with such a storm that will make you hastily recede from your first advances towards a substitute. To a property tax, then, you must come; and I congratulate you, gentlemen of the landed interest, on finding yourselves relieved from the pressure of the malt tax, and[382] falling on a good, comfortable property tax, with a proposal, probably, for a graduated scale. And you who represent the heavy land of this country, the clay soilsthe soils unfit for barleyI felicitate you on the prospect that lies before you. If you think that the substitute will be advantageous to your interests, be it so; but do notwhen hereafter you discover your mistakedo not lay the blame upon those who offered you a timely warning, and cautioned you against exchanging the light pressure of a malt duty for the scourge of a property tax." The motion was rejected by a majority of 350 to 192.

NAPOLEON SIGNING HIS ABDICATION. (See p. 83.)

The prospects of the European war at this juncture, as observed from England, were gloomy in the extreme. The dispersion of the armies of Spain, the retreat and death of Sir John Moore, leaving the whole of the Spanish and Portuguese Peninsula under the feet of Buonaparte, disposed many to believe the power of the conqueror unassailable. The Whig Opposition made every use of this feeling to damage and, if possible, drive their rivals from office. That the Whigs, in power, would have refrained from Continental war any more than the Tories is not to be believed. They had always, when in officeexcept, in the case of Fox, for a short intervalbeen as ready to fight; but they had generally conducted their campaigns with much less ability. Now, their great organ, the Edinburgh Review, indulged in the most vehement censures on the Cabinet; charged all the adverse circumstances of the Spanish and Portuguese war to its bad management; and intimated that it was the most wicked and idiotic folly to hope to contend with Buonaparte at all. But if ever there was a time when the continuance of the war was excusable, and perhaps necessary, it was now. Great Britain had gone fully and freely into the conflict to assist the Continental nations. She had pledged herself[571] solemnly to Spain and Portugal, and to have withdrawn at this crisis would have been equally treacherous to our allies and pusillanimous as regarded the enemy. It would have been, in fact, to proclaim to the world that we had been completely beaten out of the field, that we could not do what we had promised to our allies, and that Napoleon must be left the master of Europe, and the dictator to Britain. Such a confession would have destroyed for ever the prestige of Great Britain, and justly. Ministers felt this, and never were more resolved to persevere to the end. To show that they did not for a moment despair, they signed a treaty of peace and amity with Spain only five days after the arrival of the news of the retreat and death of Sir John Moore, binding themselves never to acknowledge the authority of Buonaparte over Spain, or of any family but of Ferdinand VII. and his lineal successors. That they were supported in their views by Parliament was soon made evident by the rejection, by a majority of two hundred and eight against one hundred and fifty-eight, of a motion of Lord Henry Petty censuring the Convention of Cintra, and, by a majority of two hundred and twenty against one hundred and twenty-seven, of a motion of Mr. Ponsonby for inquiry into the conduct of the late campaign in Spain. Ministers had at length satisfied themselves that they had in Sir Arthur Wellesley a man capable of contending against the haughty tyrant of Europe. The most liberal votes were made for the prosecution of the war. The total of supplies for the year amounted to fifty-three million eight hundred and sixty-two thousand pounds, including a loan of eleven million pounds. For the army twenty-seven million pounds was voted, and for the navy nineteen million pounds. Between twenty and thirty thousand men were drafted from the militia into the regulars, and thus the army was augmented to that amount by soldiers already well trained. The loan was freely taken at a lower interest than any hitherto borrowedthe Opposition asserted, because trade was deranged, and capitalists were at a loss how to invest their money; but the Ministers contended, on the other hand, that it was solely because the war was popular with the nation. Before, however, entering into its arduous and bloody details, we must narrate some disgraceful affairs at home.

THE MOB RELEASING MR. WILKES ON HIS WAY TO PRISON. (See p. 193.)

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On the 30th of August they reached Blair Castle. The Duke of Athol, the proprietor, fled at their approach, and old Tullibardine resumed his ancestral mansion, and gave a splendid banquet there to Charles and his officers. On the third day they resumed their march, and reached Perth on the 4th of September, which the prince entered on horseback, amid loud acclamations. Whilst at Perth he received two valuable accessions to his partythe titular Duke of Perth, who brought with him two hundred men, and Lord George Murray, the brother of the Duke of Athol, and a man of considerable military experience.

On the 29th of January, 1823, the King of France opened the Chambers with a speech of decidedly warlike tone. It spoke of 100,000 French soldiers prepared to march under a prince of the blood for the deliverance of Ferdinand VII. and his loyal people from the tyranny of a portion. A few weeks afterwards the march commenced, and from the Bidassoa to Madrid it was a continued triumph. The king was set at liberty, and the gates of Cadiz were opened. The Spaniards were not true to themselves, the mass of the people being unable to appreciate liberal institutions. There was also a counter-revolution in Portugal, aided by foreign bayonets, restoring the despotic system. These events produced great dissatisfaction in England, and the Duke was strongly censured for the timidity of his tone in the Congress. Replying to attacks made in the Upper House by Lords Ellenborough, Holland, and Grey, he asked whether it would be becoming in one who appeared in the character of a mediator to employ threats, especially if he had no power to carry them into effect:"Were they for a policy of peace or a policy of war? If for the former, could he go farther than to declare that to any violent attack on the independence of Spain the king his master would be no party? If for the latter, all he had to say was that he entirely differed from them, and he believed that his views would be supported by all the intelligent portion of the community."

ASSASSINATION OF SPENCER PERCEVAL. (See p. 23.)