时永明:花钱搞对抗,安倍不撞南墙不回头

Still the affairs of Wilkes continued to occupy almost the sole thought and interest of the Session. On the 23rd of November the question of privilege came up; and though he was absent, having been wounded in a duel, it was actively pushed by the Ministers. Mr. Wilbraham protested against the discussion without the presence of Wilkes, and his being heard at the bar in his defence. Pitt attended, though suffering awfully from the gout, propped on crutches, and his very hands wrapped in flannel. He maintained the question of privilege, but took care to separate himself from Wilkes in it. The rest of the debate was violent and personal, and ended in voting, by two hundred and fifty-eight against one hundred and thirty-three, that the privilege of Parliament did not extend to the publication of seditious libels; the resolution ordering the North Briton to be burnt by the hangman was confirmed. These votes being sent up to the Lords, on the 25th they also debated the question, and the Duke of Cumberland, Lord Shelburne, and the Duke of Newcastle, defended the privilege of Parliament as violated in the person of Wilkes. In the end, however, the Ministers obtained a majority of a hundred and fourteen against thirty-eight. Seventeen peers entered a strong protest against the decision. On the 1st of December there was a conference of the two Houses, when they agreed to a loyal address to the king, expressing their detestation of the libels against him.

Meanwhile, Florida Blanca had planned the capture of Minorca. He prevailed on France, though with difficulty, to assist. The Duke de Crillon, a Frenchman, was made commander of the expedition, and on the 22nd of July the united fleets of France and Spain sailed out of Cadiz Bay, and stretched out into the ocean, as if intending to make a descent on England. The main part of the fleet did, in fact, sail into the English Channel. But they did not venture to attack Admiral Darby, and contented themselves with picking up a number of merchant vessels; and again dissensions and disease breaking out, this great fleet separated, and each nation returned to its respective ports, without effecting anything worthy of such an armament. But a lesser portion of this fleet, on coming out of harbour, carrying eight thousand troops, stores, and ordnance, had passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, and[285] appeared suddenly before Port Mahon. On the 19th of August the troops were landed near Port Mahon, and, being favoured by the inhabitants, once under the sway of Spain, and good Catholics, they soon invested the fort, and compelled General Murray, who formerly so bravely defended Quebec, to retire to Fort St. Philip, leaving the town of Port Mahon in their possession. Despite the resolute defence of his men, Murray was forced to surrender the island. Sir Robert Peel then rose. He said that the immediate cause which had led to the dissolution of the Government was "that great and mysterious calamity which caused a lamentable failure in an article of food on which great numbers of the people in this part of the United Kingdom and still larger numbers in the sister kingdom depended mainly for their subsistence." But he added, "I will not assign to that cause too much weight. I will not withhold the homage which is due to the progress of reason, and to truth, by denying that my opinions on the subject of Protection have undergone a change." This announcement was received in profound silence from the Ministerial benches, but with triumphant cheering from the Opposition. Protection, he said, was not a labourer's question. High prices did not produce high wages, nor vice versa. In the last three years, with low prices and abundance of food, wages were comparatively high, and labour was in demand. In the three years preceding, with high[522] prices and scarcity, wages were low and employment was scarce. Experience thus proved that wages were ruled by abundance of capital and demand for labour, and did not vary with the price of provisions. Again, increased freedom of trade was favourable to the prosperity of our commerce. In three scarce and dear years, namely, from 1839 to 1841, our foreign exports fell off from 53,000,000 in value to 47,000,000. But in three years of reduction of duties and low prices, namely, from 1842 to 1844, the value of our exports rose from 47,000,000 to 58,000,000. Even deducting the amount of the China trade, a similar result was shown. Nor was the reduction in the customs duties unfavourable to the revenue. In 1842 there was an estimated loss of 1,500,000; in 1843 a smaller one of 273,000; but in 1845 there was a reduction at an estimated loss to the revenue of no less than 2,500,000. The total amount of the various reductions effected in three years exceeded 4,000,000; and many of the duties were totally abolished; the loss, therefore, not being compensated by any increased consumption. Had 4,000,000 been lost to the revenue? He believed that on the 5th of April next the revenue would be found to be more buoyant than ever. Sir Robert Peel referred to other proofs of prosperity resulting from reduced import duties, and then adverted to his own position, and declared that "he would not hold office on a servile tenure."

The session of Parliament closing on the 26th of May, George took his annual trip to Hanover, leaving, as usual, the queen to act as Regent. She found her duties this year by no means light. Everyone is acquainted with the Porteous Riots, as they are described by the inimitable pen of Sir Walter Scott in "The Heart of Midlothian." The simple historic facts are these:Two noted smugglers from Fife, Wilson and Robertson, were condemned to death for a robbery, and were confined in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. They made a determined effort to effect their escape before the day of execution. Wilson, who would go first, being a man of a corpulent though very powerful build, wedged himself fast in the window, and could neither get out nor draw back again. He was found thus in the morning, and the two prisoners were again secured. Wilson lamented that by his own eagerness he had prevented Robertson from going first, who, from his slenderer person, could easily have escaped. Before execution it was the custom at that period in Scotland to conduct the prisoners about to suffer, under a strong guard, to church. This being done in the case of these two men, just as the service was concluded, Wilson suddenly laid hold of two of the four soldiers who guarded them, called out to Robertson to run for his life, and detained the third soldier by seizing him by the collar with his teeth. He escaped, and was never seen in Edinburgh again. This daring scheme, so cleverly executed, raised the admiration of the bravery and magnanimity of Wilson to the highest pitch. At his execution the soldiers were attacked with stones. Porteous, who commanded the guard, fired upon the mob. For this he was condemned to death, but was reprieved by Queen Caroline after full inquiry. The people in fury attacked the Tolbooth, the magistrates and the[67] commander of the troops were afraid to act, the prison was broken open, and Porteous hanged on a barber's pole. All attempts to discover the perpetrators of the outrage failed. THE PORTEOUS MOB. (See p. 67.) [After the Painting by James Drummond, R.S.A.]

Whilst Louis lay ill at Metz, France received an unexpected relief. Prince Charles was hastily recalled to cope with Frederick of Prussia, who had now joined France in the counter-league of Frankfort, and burst into the territories of Maria Theresa. He found in Prague a garrison of fifteen thousand men, yet by the 15th of September he had reduced the place, after a ten days' siege. At the same time Marshal Seckendorf, the Imperial general, entered Bavaria, which was defended only by a small force, and quickly reinstated[88] Charles on the throne of Munich. Vienna itself was in the greatest alarm, lest the enemies uniting should pay it a visit. But this danger was averted by the rapid return of Prince Charles of Lorraine from before Strasburg. He had to pass the very front of the French army; nevertheless, he conducted his forces safely and expeditiously to the frontiers of Bohemia, himself hastening to Vienna to consult on the best plan of operations. Maria Theresa again betook herself to her heroic Hungarians, who, at her appeal, once more rushed to her standard; and Frederick, in his turn alarmed, called loudly on the French for their promises of assistance, but called in vain. The French had no desire for another campaign in the heart of Austria. The Prussian invader, therefore, soon found himself menaced on all sides by Austrians, Croatians, and Hungarian troops, who harassed him day and night, cut off his supplies and his forages, and made him glad to retrace his steps in haste. The French had always beheld with jealousy our possession of the island of Minorca, which had been won by General Stanhope in 1708, and secured to us by the Peace of Utrecht. That England should possess the finest port in the Mediterranean, and that so near their own shores, was a subject of unceasing chagrin. The miserable administration of British affairs, the constant attention to the interests of Hanover instead of our own, now inspired France with the resolve to snatch the prize from us. Great preparations were made for this object, and the report of these as duly conveyed to the English Ministers by the consuls in both Spain and Italy, but in vain. At length the certainty that the French were about to sail for Minorca burst on the miserable Ministers; but it was too latethey had nothing in readiness. The port of Mahon was almost destitute of a garrison; the governor, Lord Tyrawley, was in England; and the deputy-governor, General Blakeney, though brave, as he had shown himself at the siege of Stirling, was old, nearly disabled by his infirmities, and deficient in troops. What was still worse, all the colonels were absent from the regiments stationed there, and other officers alsoaltogether thirty-five! The spirit of the country appeared to be running in a strong current for the return of Lord Chatham to the helm, as the only man who could save the sinking state, and bring the American difficulty to a happy issue. But the great obstacle to this was the still continued assertion of Lord Chathamthat the full independence of America could not be for a moment listened to, whilst to almost every other man of the Opposition that independence was already an accomplished fact. Lord Rockingham, who was looked up to as a necessary part of any Cabinet at the head of which Chatham should be placed, had, in the previous Session, asserted his opinion that the time had now passed for hoping to preserve the dependence of these colonies; and, now he saw France coming into the field against us, he was the more confirmed in this view. This was a fatal circumstance in the way of the establishment of a strong co-operative Cabinet, formed out of the present Opposition. But a still greater obstacle was the iron determination of the king. In vain did Lord North express his desire to resign and declare the necessity of conciliatory measures. George reproached him with intending to desert him. On further pressure he gave him leave to apply to Chatham and the Whigs, but only on the absurd condition that[250] they should join the present Ministry, serve under Lord North, and carry on the policy of the existing Government. As usual, Lord North gave way, and consented to stay in office, and to bring in a plan of conciliation opposed to his former declarations.