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Fox was very indignant, and made no scruple of attributing the conduct of the king, not to mere report, but to fact. "There is," he said, "a written record to be produced. This letter is not to be put in the balance with the lie of the day;" whereupon he pulled from his pocket a copy of the note said to have been written by the king to Lord Temple. When he sat down, Mr. Grenville rose and stated that he had taken down the words read as the king's note, and had shown them to his relative, Lord Temple, who had authorised him to say that such words had never been made use of by him. But Fox demanded whether Lord Temple had not used words to that effect, and Grenville was silent. Fox continued in a very fierce strain, denouncing back-stairs lords and bedchamber politicians, and declared that the best-meant and best-concerted plans of Ministers were subject to the blasting influence of a villainous whisper. He added that he could not continue in office any longer consistently either with his own honour or the interests of the nation. He felt that he was goaded to it, and upbraided for not resigning instantly; but a very honourable majority of that House stood pledged to a great measure, and Ministers were equally bound not to abandon the affairs of State in the midst of so much anarchy. These last words, and the division, which was nearly two to one in favour of Ministers, left it doubtful, after all, whether Fox and his colleagues would resign. As such language, however, could not be used by Ministers with impunity, and a dissolution of the Cabinet was probable, Erskine moved a resolution, pledging the House to persevere in the endeavour to remedy the abuses in the government of India, and declaring "that this House will consider as an enemy to this country any person who shall presume to advise his Majesty to prevent, or in any manner interrupt, the discharge of this important duty." All strangers were excluded, but it was ascertained that the motion was severely censured as an invasion of the king's prerogative; yet the resolution was carried by one hundred and forty-seven votes against seventy-three.

Meanwhile these disturbances elsewhere were having a disastrous effect upon the fortunes of the war in Lombardy. At first, indeed, everything pointed to the success of the Italian cause. In May Peschiera fell, and Radetzky, venturing beyond the Quadrilateral, was defeated by Charles Albert at Goito. Already the Italians had rejected the help which Lamartine offered them from France, and Austria in despair appealed to Lord Palmerston for the mediation of Britain. Well would it have been for the Italians if terms could have been arranged. Lord Palmerston, indeed, who had already sent off a private note to the British Minister at Vienna, advising the Austrians to give up their Italian possessions at once, now consented to propose an armistice, while asserting that "things had gone too far to admit of any future connection between Austria and the Italians." But nothing came of the proposal; the Sardinians declined to consent to the armistice, which would only be for the benefit of Radetzky, who was at this moment somewhat hardly pressed; and the maximum of the concessions offered by the Austrian envoy, Baron Hummelauer, was that Lombardy should be freed from its connection with Austria while Venice should be retained. Palmerston considered the surrender insufficient, and the war went on.

Tobias Smollett (b. 1721; d. 1771), before he appeared as a novelist, following in the track of Fielding rather than in that of Richardson, had figured as poet, dramatist, and satirist. Originally a surgeon from Dumbartonshire, and afterwards surgeon's mate on board of a man-of-war, he had then lived as an author in London. Thus he had seen great variety of life and character, and, having a model given him, he threw his productions forth in rapid succession. His first novel was "Roderick Random," which appeared in 1748, the same year as Richardson's "Clarissa," and a year preceding perhaps the greatest of Fielding's works, "Tom Jones." Then came, in rapid sequence, "Peregrine Pickle," "Count Fathom," "Sir Launcelot Greaves," and "Humphrey Clinker." Whilst writing these he was busy translating "Don Quixote"a work after his own hearttravelling and writing travels, editing The Briton, and continuing Hume's "History of England." In his novels Smollett displayed a deep knowledge of character, and a humour still broader and coarser than that of Fielding. In Smollett the infusion of indecency may be said to have reached its height. In fact, there is no more striking evidence of the vast progress made in England since the commencement of the reign of George III., in refinement of manners and delicacy of sentiment, than the contrast between the coarseness and obscenity of those early writers and the novelists of the present day. The picture which they offer of the rude vice, the low tastes, the debauched habits, the general drunkenness, and the ribaldry and profanity of language in those holding the position of gentlemen and even of ladies, strikes us now with amazement and almost with loathing.

But Napoleon would not listen to the transfer of Norway; that was the territory of his firm ally, Denmark: Finland he might have, but not Norway. In October of the same year an English agent landed at Gothenburg, eluded the French spies, traversed, by night, woods, bogs, and hills, and, in a small village of the interior of Sweden, met a Swedish agent, where the terms of a treaty were settled, in which Russia and Turkey, Britain and Sweden, were the contracting powers;[8] by which Sweden was to receive Norway, and renounce for ever Finland; and Alexander and Bernadotte were to unite all their talents, powers, and experience against France. In the following January the sudden invasion of Swedish Pomerania by the French showed that the crisis was come, and that henceforth Napoleon and Bernadotte were irreconcilable opponents. From that time offers of alliance and aid poured in from all quarters. Prussia sent secret messages, and concerted common measures with Russia. The insurgents of Spain and Portugal, where Wellington was in active operationeven the old Bourbon dynastypaid court to him. Moreau returned from America to fight under his banners, and emigrants flocked from all quarters to combine their efforts against the universal foeNapoleon.

The minute subdivision of land which placed the population in a state of such complete dependence upon the potato was first encouraged by the landlords, in order to multiply the number of voters, and increase their Parliamentary interest; but subsequently, as the population increased, it became in a great measure the work of the people themselves. The possession of land afforded the only certain means of subsistence, and a farm was therefore divided among the sons of the family, each one, as he was marriedwhich happened earlyreceiving some share, and each daughter also often getting a slice as her marriage-portion. In vain were clauses against subletting inserted in leases; in vain was the erection of new houses prohibited; in vain did the landlord threaten the tenant. The latter relied upon the sympathy of his class to prevent ejectment, and on his own ingenuity to defeat the other impediments to his favourite mode of providing for his family. This process was at length carried to an extreme that became perfectly ludicrous. Instead of each sub-tenant or assignee of a portion of the farm receiving his holding in one compact lot, he obtained a part of each particular quality of land, so that his tenement consisted of a number of scattered patches, each too small to be separately fenced, and exposed to the constant depredations of his neighbours' cattle, thus affording a fruitful source of quarrels, and utterly preventing the possibility of any improved system of husbandry. These small patches, however, were not numerous enough to afford "potato gardens" for the still increasing population, and hence arose the conacre system, by which those who occupied no land were enabled to grow potatoes for themselves. Tempted by the high rent, which varied from 8 to 14 an acre without manure, the farmers gave to the cottiers in their neighbourhood the use of their land merely for the potato crop, generally a quarter of an Irish acre to each. On this the cottier put all the manure he could make by his pig, or the children could scrape off the road during the year, and "planted" his crop of potatoes, which he relied upon as almost the sole support of his family. On it he also fed the pig, which paid the rent, or procured clothes and other necessaries if he had been permitted to pay the rent with his own labour. The labourer thus became a commercial speculator in potatoes. He mortgaged his labour for part of the ensuing year for the rent of his field. If his speculation proved successful, he was able to replace his capital, to fatten his pig, and to support himself and his family, while he cleared off his debt to the farmer. If it failed, his former savings were gone, his heap of manure had been expended to no purpose, and he had lost the means of rendering his pig fit for the market. But his debt to the farmer still remained, and the scanty wages which he could earn at some periods of the year were reduced, not only by the increased number of persons looking for work, but also by the diminished ability of the farmers to employ them. Speculation in potatoes, whether on a large or small scale, had always been hazardous in the southern and westerly portions of Ireland. There had been famines from the failure of that crop at various times, and a remarkably severe one in 1822, when Parliament voted 300,000 for public works and other relief purposes, and subscriptions were raised to the amount of 310,000, of which 44,000 was collected in Ireland. In 1831 violent storms and continual rain brought on another failure of the potato crop in the west of Ireland, particularly along the coast of Galway, Mayo, and Donegal. On this occasion the English public, with ready sympathy, again came forward, and subscriptions were raised, amounting to about[537] 75,000. On several other occasions subsequently, the Government found it necessary to advance money for the relief of Irish misery, invariably occasioned by the failure of the potatoes, and followed by distress and disease. The public and the Legislature had therefore repeated warnings of the danger of having millions of people dependent for existence upon so precarious a crop.

The majority obtained on their Irish policy was about the number the Ministry could count upon on every vital question. It was not sufficiently large to exempt them from the imputation of holding office on sufferance; but if they were defeated, and were succeeded by the Conservatives, the new Government, it was plain, could not hope to exist even on those terms; while Lord Melbourne had this advantage over Sir Robert Peel, that he was cordially supported by the Sovereign. Having escaped the Irish ordeal, it might be supposed that he was safe for a considerable time. But another question arose very soon after, on which the Cabinet sustained a virtual defeat. The Assembly in Jamaica had proved very refractory, and, in order to avoid the evil consequences of its perversity, Mr. Labouchere, on the 9th of April, brought forward a measure which was a virtual suspension of the constitution of the island for five years, vesting the government in the Governor and Council, with three commissioners sent from England to assist in ameliorating the condition of the negroes, improving prison discipline, and establishing a system of poor laws. This measure was denounced by the whole strength of the Opposition. The question may be thus briefly stated. Before the Act of Emancipation in 1833, all punishments were inflicted on slaves by the domestics of the master, who was unwilling to lose the benefit of their services by sending them to prison. But when emancipation took place, that domestic power was terminated, and new prison regulations became necessary. The Colonial Legislature, however, persistently refused to adopt any, and continued a course of systematic resistance to the will of the supreme Government, whose earnest and repeated recommendations had been utterly disregarded. Under the apprenticeship system negroes were treated worse than they were under the old condition of slavery, because the planters knew that the time of enfranchisement was at hand. But though, when the hour of liberty, August 1st, 1840, was seen to be very near, the Jamaica Assembly voluntarily brought the apprenticeship system to a termination, they accompanied the measure with an angry protest against any interference by the British Parliament. It was contended, on the part of the Government, that if such a state of things were permitted to exist, the authority of Great Britain over its colonies would speedily be lost, and every little island that owed its political existence to the protection afforded by the Imperial Government, would, without scruple, set its power at defiance. Such being the state of the case, it might be supposed that no serious objection would be raised to the course adopted, in the interests of humanity and good government. But the Conservatives seized the opportunity for another party contest, and became quite vehement in their defence of the constitutional rights of the Jamaica planters. The debate was protracted for several nights, and counsel against the Bill were heard at great length. Eventually the division took place at five in the morning on the 6th of May, when the numbers were 294 to 289, giving the Government a majority of only five, which was regarded as tantamount to a defeat. On the 7th of May, therefore, Lord John Russell announced that Ministers had tendered their resignation, which was accepted by the Queen. He assigned as the reason for this step that the vote which had passed must weaken the authority of the Crown in the colonies, by giving support to the contumacy of Jamaica, and encouraging other colonies to follow its bad example. This obvious consideration rendered more painfully apparent the weakness of the Government, arising from division among its supporters; for if anything could have induced the different sections of the Liberal party to suppress their differences, it would have been the necessity of interposing, in the manner proposed by the Government, to shield the unhappy negroes from the oppression of their exasperated taskmasters. Indeed, in spite of various attempts to patch up the Cabinet, its members were at hopeless cross-purposes.

King of the prow, the ploughshare, and the sword!