Page images


GEORGE THE FOURTH, the eldest son of the late venerable monarch, had exercised sovereign power as regent during his royal father's mental incapacity, and was immediately proclaimed king. The new reign commenced without any expectation of official changes. At the very moment of his accession, and for some time before, a most atrocious conspiracy existed, having for its object the assassination of the whole of his majesty's ministers of State. The sanguinary intentions of the conspirators, though their plans were crude and their means despicable, render a detail of their scheme necessary.

Several wretched individuals, headed by Arthur Thistlewood -a man who had formerly been a lieutenant in the army, but who had subsequently suffered fine and imprisonment for challenging Lord Sidmouth to fight a duel, and was now reduced to poverty-hired a stable in Cato Street, Edgeware road, for the express purpose of assembling there and consulting on the best plan of putting the design into execution. The time chosen for the commission of the bloody deed was on the occasion of a cabinet-dinner at Lord Harrowby's, in Grosvenor Square; when they intended to proceed, in a body, to his lordship's house armed, and, having gained admission by stratagem, to murder all the company present. Acting on information given by one of the conspirators, who had associated with them for the purpose of betraying them, Mr. Birnie, a Bow Street magistrate, with twelve of the patrol, went to Cato Street, and there, in a hayloft, found the conspirators assembled. The entrance was by a ladder, which some of the police officers ascended, and on the door being opened, twenty-five or thirty men appeared armed. A desperate struggle ensued in the dark, the lights having been extinguished, and Smithers, one of the police, was run through the body by Thistlewood: meantime, a company of the footguards, commanded by Captain Fitzclarence, arrived at the place of rendezvous, which they surrounded, and succeeded in capturing nine of the desperadoes. Thistlewood and the rest escaped; but he was afterwards taken in an obscure lodging at Finsbury, while in bed. They were all found guilty; and five of them, namely, Thistlewood, Ings, Brunt, Tidd, and Davidson, were hanged and then decapitated at the Old Bailey; the other five had their sentences commuted for transportation.—About

the same time the trial of Henry Hunt and others took place at York, for their conduct at Manchester on the 16th of August, when Hunt was sentenced to be imprisoned in Ilchester gaol for two years and six months, and Healy, Johnson, and Bamford to one year's imprisonment in Lincoln gaol.—Maunder's 'Treasury of History.'


A MODERN writer has said that "in the year 1769 two little cradles were rocked in two very different parts of the world. One in an old castellated mansion in a wild part of Ireland, the other in a small dwelling in an obscure island in the Italian sea. What possibility could bring these two districts of the earth into connexion, the Castle Dangan, in the County of Meath, and the dwelling house in Ajaccio, in Corsica?" In other words, what could be supposed likely to bring these two persons together? In the one cradle lay Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington; in the other Napoleon Buonaparte, the future Emperor of the French. Yet a revolution and a war which followed it were the means of making them opponents of each other, and their names famous in every portion of the habitable globe.

In 1789, when Louis XVI. and his wife Marie Antoinette were on the throne of France, the French revolution began. Younger sons of French families who had joined the republican Americans in their struggle with England, returning to France, spread abroad American ideas of freedom and equality. There were evils in France which required correction, but few persons believed that bad men would upset all established order in that country, and proceed to commit the deeds of cruelty which afterwards became so common. Blood flowed in the streets, in the prisons, and on the scaffold. Nobles, bishops, priests, men and women of all ranks, were beheaded by the guillotine, king and queen were put to death, the churches were plundered and closed, and the sacred rites of religion abolished. A republican form of government, or rather misgovernment, was set up, and when the infuriated revolutionists proclaimed that they would assist other nations who would imitate them to

overthrow their governments and depose their kings, England felt that the peace of Europe and the world was threatened, and that it was time for her to wage war with the French regicides in behalf of religion, kingly authority, and order. The English statesman, Fox, made excuses for what the French had done, but Pitt was not disposed to remain inactive, and declared at once in favour of fitting out expeditions and increasing the army and navy. `In the six years between 1793 and 1799 large loans of money were contracted by England. She did not want men to fight her battles at sea. During the war a series of great naval captains rose up; as, for example, Howe, Jarvis, Duncan, Nelson, Collingwood, Trowbridge, and Saumarez. These names are glorious in the annals of the English navy. So early as 1793 Napoleon Buonaparte showed his talent at the siege of Toulon, in France, where he was serving as an artillery officer, and became the chief means of driving the English commander, Lord Hood, from that fort and harbour of which he had taken possession in behalf of the Bourbon king. Napoleon, during his Italian campaign in 1796, overthrew the Austrian empire. In Egypt his victories were great, but he received a severe check when Nelson gained the battle of the Nile. In 1799 he became first consul of France; soon after Russia, Denmark, and Sweden became unfriendly to England, and it was not until Nelson, by the terrible battle of Copenhagen, had shattered the navy of Denmark, that the confederacy of these three great powers was shaken. By land Napoleon's power was supreme, and he even crowded his armies towards the coast to prepare for an invasion of England, but suddenly turned aside from his intention when he saw that England was aroused and waiting to oppose him. In 1802 a pause ensued in the struggle, for the hollow peace of Amiens was signed. In thirteen months afterwards, however, Napoleon neglected the terms of that peace, and picked a quarrel with England for retaining Malta as a set-off to what he was retaining in other quarters. The struggle began again, and Napoleon was guilty of the unmanly act of taking vengeance by treating, the unoffending English travellers in France as prisoners of war. Addington went out of office, and Pitt once more became prime minister of England; but Napoleon's victories on the continent still increased, and although Nelson, at Trafalgar, where he died of a bullet wound, crushed the navy of France and Spain, yet the French triumphs at Ulm and Austerlitz seemed to throw English naval successes far into the shade. Pitt, broken down in spirit and constitution, died of gout at

Putney, in January, 1806, in the forty-seventh year of his age, leaving a name behind as a statesman above all meanness, trickery, and self-seeking. Pitt's great rival, Charles James Fox, after a brief period of office as prime minister, died of dropsy at Chiswick, aged fifty-eight, in September in the same year, and was buried by his side in the north transept of Westminster Abbey. Edmund Burke was already dead.

Lord Grenville became prime minister, but Napoleon still fought battles with success. We now, passing over several events of minor importance, come to the rise of the Peninsular War. Napoleon sent his troops under Junot right through Spain into Portugal, and the Regent and others of that country set sail for Brazil. Napoleon then fomented strife among the royal family of Spain and their minister, Godoy. Murat entered Spain with a French army. The king of Spain, Charles IV., abdicated, and his son Ferdinand succeeded. Napoleon invited father and son to Bayonne, and extracted from them a transfer of the Spanish kingdom to himself. He then removed his own brother, Joseph Buonaparte, from the throne of Naples and Sicily, and made him king of Spain, and Murat was made king of Naples. The proud Spanish nation, incensed by this act, appealed to England for assistance, and thus the English nation entered on the Peninsular War. George Canning, the eminent statesman who guided the foreign policy of England, wisely chose Sir Arthur Wellesley as the commander of the English forces which were sent to the Peninsula. Sir Arthur had distinguished himself already on the battle-fields of India; he had directed the "dusky faced" and English regiments in that eastern land; he had crushed the power of the Mahrattas; in five months he had conquered at Delhi, Assaye, and Arghaum. Was there any soldier therefore who was better deserving the confidence of Canning and the English people? We need say little of the gallant Sir John Moore's landing in Spain. Compelled to retreat, notwithstanding his own bravery and that of his army, he triumphed but fell at Corunna. Sir Arthur Wellesley's difficulties were very great in the Peninsula. He was often not sufficiently supported by the Government at home; he was left many times destitute of money and other necessary supplies for his army, and the lazy Portuguese and proud Spaniards indifferently co-operated with and indifferently aided him. Nevertheless, as has been well said, "in five of the most glorious campaigns recorded in history, he rolled back the hosts of France from province to province, and at last drove them,

confused and broken, across the Pyrenees." Napoleon, however, had not yet faced him with an army in the field; hitherto Sir Arthur had opposed only the emperor's greatest generals. But Napoleon's sun of success was setting; he conceived the mad idea of marching a vast army of well-tried veterans and raw recruits through the snowy wastes of Russia. He reached Moscow, looking forward to rest and comfort for his soldiers, but not long had that city been occupied when it was in a blaze, fired as some say intentionally by the Russians. Winter-a northern winter-the winter of 1812, came on icy cold, freezing his men, and blinding them with snow-flakes, and he was obliged to commence his retreat. It ought to have been noticed that two years before this he had divorced his wife Josephine to marry Maria Louisa, daughter of the Emperor of Austria, and a son who was born to him was styled King of Rome. The retreat from Moscow was frightful; the Cossacks continually attacked the army, the horses sank by thousands, the waggons and guns were left blocking up the roads, and wherever the soldiers halted to sleep they lay frozen to death in hundreds by their watchfires; wolves annoyed the men; the blood of the horses was drunk by the famishing troops, of whom, on reaching France, only 50,000 were left out of 500,000 who had set out on the perilous expedition. Yet, strange to say, he was able by the conscription to raise 350,000 more soldiers, and to fight the battles of Lutzen, Bautzen, Dresden, Culm, Leipsic, &c. But Russia, Prussia, Austria, and other kingdoms, and even Murat, his brother-in-law, united against him, and while at Troyes he heard that the allies had entered Paris. He abdicated, and solemnly renounced the crown, bade farewell to his army, and left France for the Isle of Elba, which he was allowed to have as a sovereignty, with the title of emperor and a suitable allowance of money. The empress was allowed the Duchy of Parma, and it was agreed that all the Buonaparte family should receive pensions.

But on the 1st of March, 1815, he landed again on the coast of France. This was the Day of Violets, it being secretly understood that he would come back in the violet season. His march to Paris was a triumph; the soldiers sent to oppose him rallied around him; the sight of the little, well-known, flat cocked hat, the grey surtout coat, and Napoleon's person, drew them from their duty to Louis XVIII., and they marched with Napoleon to the capital, which he re-entered on the 20th of March, 1815. But he soon saw that if he was to hold power he must hold it

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »