Page images

against Austria, Russia, Prussia, and England. By May, 1815, he had raised an army of 473,000 men, including 40,000 choice veterans, and set off for the Netherlands, exclaiming, it is said, as he entered his carriage, “I go to measure myself against Wellington.” Wellington was at Brussels on the afternoon of the 15th of June when he heard that Napoleon's army was approaching; he made arrangements for taking up a position at Quatre Bras (or “Four Roads," because the roads from Brussels, Charleroi, Nivelles, and Namur meet there), and then went to a ball given by the Duchess of Richmond, in the Hotel de Ville, at Brussels. On the 16th two battles took place, Quatre Bras and Ligny. On the 17th Blucher, the Prussian general, retreated from Ligny to Wavre, and Wellington from Quatre Bras to the plain of Waterloo. Here the Duke fixed his army of 75,000 men on a ridge, having the village of Waterloo, the Forest Soignes, and Brussels about twelve miles off behind him. In front of the English lines was a hollow, and across this hollow, on an opposite ridge, near La Belle Alliance, was stationed the French army. A gentleman's chateau, called Hougoumont, now a farm house, was the key of the English position on the right. A driving rain ushered in the morning of the 18th, and both armies were waiting to contend. It is not necessary to follow the course of the terrible battle. The French fought all day, and made charge after charge against the solid squares of England's red-coated infantry, which stood like walls, even when mowed down by the French artillery. By six o'clock in the evening Wellington had

. lost 10,000 of his army, and Napoleon 15,000. Napoleon determined to strike a last blow. He brought to the slope of the ridge his Old Guard, his veterans whom he had kept in reserve, and sent them to the charge. They were received with a dreadful fire, the whole English line advanced, Wellington shut up his field-glass or telescope, the French were panic stricken, all was over, and Napoleon, setting spurs to his horse, galloped off towards Charleroi, on the road to Paris, where he arrived on the 20th. On the 22nd he abdicated. Unable to escape to America he gave himself up to England, on board the Bellerophon, an English man-of-war, at Rochefort, and was sent as an exile to St. Helena, where he died of cancer in the stomach on the 5th of May, 1821. In December, 1840, his ashes were disinterred and brought to Paris. In the Hotel des Invalides they were re-interred in great pomp.-Adapted from Dr. Collier's History of England.'


[ocr errors]

next year.

The fatal project of taxing America had many years before been proposed to Sir R. Walpole, but that cautious statesman replied, " that it was a measure too hazardous for him to venture upon, he should therefore leave it to some more daring successor." For Mr. Grenville, therefore, the experiment was reserved, 1764. His resolution imported that it would be proper to impose certain stamp duties in the colonies and plantations of America, for the purpose of raising an American revenue, payable into the British exchequer. The prospect of being relieved by the taxation of America from a portion of the national burdens was so agreeable to the interest, and unlimited authority so flattering to the pride of the Commons, that the resolution passed the House with no violent or unusual opposition. The ministers deeming the measure of importance, reserved the execution of it till the

The result is well known : the Stamp Act was abandoned, but other duties equally oppressive were imposed to supply its place. Great was the ferment on the other side of the Atlantic. The leaders of the people met in Congress; flags were hoisted on masts and steeples, as on occasions of mourning; and it was decreed, as if by the will of one man, that no commercial nor legal intercourse could be maintained with Great Britain while the obnoxious laws should continue in force.

It happened that at this period there existed a bitter feud between the inhabitants of Boston and their governors; the former were therefore ripe for almost any extravagances, and as the first cargoes subject to duties chanced to be conveyed to their harbour, a body of young men, disguised as Mohawk Indians, suddenly boarded the ships. They soon overcame the opposition of the crews, and bursting open the holds, seized the tea with which the vessels were loaded, and in spite of a fire of artillery from the batteries cast it into the sea. A prodigious sensation was created both at home and abroad by this daring act. In America public opinion ran strongly in its favour, and in every colony there were leaders ready and willing to prompt even to more daring exploits. The British Government resolved to reduce the colonists by force; the Americans met that resolution with defiance, and taking up arms prepared to assert their independence. War was now proclaimed, and on the 4th July, 1776, the Congress issued their famous declaration of independence, abjuring their allegiance to the crown of Britain. Their declaration began with an assertion of the general rights of man, of the purposes for which governments were instituted, and of the right of changing them when they no longer answered those purposes. It enumerated the wrongs alleged to have been received from the mother country, and concluded with asserting in the name of the people, that the thirteen colonies—"are and of right ought to be free and independent states." After a disastrous struggle of eight years' duration the treaty of peace signed at Versailles, on the 3rd September, 1783, confirmed the declaration of the States, and America was for ever severed from Britain, to become in scarcely two-thirds of a century one of the greatest and most formidable nations in the world.Kings of England.




THE aggressions of France were not confined to our American possessions, but stretched also to our rising establishments in India. War in fact had raged for a long time between the French and English factories on the Coromandel coast, at first in the character of allies to the contending native princes, but now in the avowed capacity of national enemies. The genius of Clive, who was originally a clerk in a merchant's office, found the true field for its display in the organization of armies and military operations. In all quarters he had proved successful over our rivals in trade and influence, and laid the foundation of our Indian empire in the skill with which he embodied the natives in our service, and turned the strength and numbers of the Hindoos and Mahometans into elements of our power over their country. A temporary check was placed on our career by the frightful incident of the imprisonment of many of our countrymen in the Black Hole of Calcutta, 1756. A native prince, the Suba of Bengal, kept a hundred and forty-six human beings in a dungeon eighteen feet square, without light or air, except what could find entrance at two small apertures closely barred. By thirst and suffocation a hundred and twenty-three persons, including several women and children, perished in one night,

[ocr errors]

and the wretched survivors were subjected to torture of various kinds. But it was not long before the levies of Clive and Lawrence poured forth a righteous judgment on the guilty. The tyrant was dethroned and executed, Calcutta confided to a native ruler in strict dependence upon the English,

-great privileges were secured to British trade, and an enormous amount of money exacted as compensation for our sufferings and exertions. These were the results of the unparalleled victory of Plassy, where Clive, with a small force of 900 Europeans and 1600 Sepoys, overthrew 50,000 of the enemy, though their discipline had been improved by French instruction, and their artillery was served by French gunners. Our struggles were for commercial advantages and safety to our establishments on the coast. At this moment we see a territory nearly half the size of Europe, and a population of a hundred and thirty millions, submissive, and improving under the just and benevolent sceptre of our sovereign. There is nothing equal to the rapid progress of this dominion, except, perhaps, the eastern empire of Alexander the Great. But the kings who shared his conquests, instead of carrying on the glories of the Grecian name, sank into oriental despots like those they had displaced. Not so will end, we devoutly pray, the British dominion in Hindostan. It will leave imperishable records of its existence in the amelioration of the laws, and the condition of the people; and above all, in the introduction and spread of the saving doctrines of Christianity.

The same period that saw our great successes in India produced the first great contest for our supremacy in America. At that time the thirteen colonies of English origin were exposed to the commercial jealousy and national enmity of the French in Canada. In the south also the same influences were at work, and as New England had to dread French assaults from Quebec and Montreal, the Virginians had to resist the aggressions of our French rivals on the river Ohio. The disputes of the settlers could not be settled by negotiation, and at last France and England entered into the quarrel, and once more war was let loose all over the world. Our operations were at first unsuccessful. In the Mediterranean the French attacked and took the island of Minorca, owing to the weakness or cowardice of Admiral Byng, who hauled off and failed to relieve it, for which error he was afterwards shot in Portsmouth Harbour.

In 1758, a year of universal war, when a strong hand was needed to hold the helm, the nation looked for safety to one



man, and Pitt was appointed minister. Parliament voted larger supplies than had ever been known. Expeditions were fitted out, and landings effected on various parts of the French coast, and the harbour and basin of Cherbourg destroyed. A repulse was experienced in a landing at St. Cas, and the enemy were irritated rather than weakened by our attempts, but victory resumed her old adherence to the British flag at sea, and shed glory, not yet past away, on the names of Hawke, and Howe, and Boscawen. When our power had been manifested by these exertions near home, and while we made several acquisitions on the coast of Africa, and the gallant Admiral Pococke maintained our reputation in the Indian seas, Pitt directed his attention to our colonies in America, and resolved to strike a blow at the French influence in those regions from which it should never

An officer of the name of Wolfe, who had raised himself at an early age to the rank of brigadier-general, had shown great energy and skill at the reduction of Louisberg, and the other operations in Cape Breton, in 1758. The minister had his eye upon talent wherever it made its appearance, and confided to the youthful general his plan for the subjugation of the whole of Canada. This was to reduce the fortress of Quebec, which was the strongest in America, and the soldier, in reliance on the courage of his troops and the co-operation of the navy, undertook the task which the statesman proposed. With an army of 8000 men, which was to be reinforced by the concentration of two expeditions under General Amherst and General Prideaux, engaged in operations not far from the St. Lawrence, he took post near the falls of Montmorenci, and prepared for the principal attack. A part of the fleet forced its passage above Quebec, and was enabled to aid in the military operations. A direct attempt on the citadel, commanded as it was by a famous officer of the name of Montcalm, and garrisoned by forces more numerous than the besieging army, was thought too hazardous. A repulse in one of the first movements added to the danger of the British if they remained inactive, and it was determined to put everything to the risk of a dashing assault, of which success is the only thing which saves it from the imputation of rashness. Crossing the river at night, and clambering up the steep face of a nearly precipitous elevation, the soldiers achieved a footing on the celebrated heights of Abraham. These heights were on the level of Quebec, and offered a comm

manding position for the attack. The gallant Montcalm advanced with all his forces, and a regular engagement took place. Wolfe was three times

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »