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[See larger version] Robert Pollok was a young Scottish minister, who rose suddenly to popularity by the publication of a poem in blank verse, entitled "The Course of Time." It was long and discursive, extending to ten books. The style was very unequal, sometimes rising to a high level, and often sinking to tame prose. The author had a wonderful command of words for one so young, and time would, no doubt, have mellowed what was crude and refined what was coarse, if he had not been prematurely cut off, just when his genius and his goodness had gathered round him a host of warm friends. He died of consumption, on the 15th of September, 1827. His early death contributed to the popularity of the poem, which ran through many editions.

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The military transactions of the Continent this year had been of the most remarkable kind. Buonaparte, after his repulse at Pultusk, had retired to Warsaw, which he entered on the first day of the year 1807. He calculated on remaining there till the return of spring. But Benningsen, the Russian general, was determined to interrupt this pleasant sojourn. He had an army of eighty thousand or ninety thousand men, with a very bad commissariat, and equally badly defended from the severity of the winter. The King of Prussia was cooped up in K?nigsberg, with an army of a very few thousand men, and his situation was every day rendered more critical by the approach of the divisions of Ney and Bernadotte, whom the treacherous surrender of the Prussian fortresses by their commanders had set at liberty. But Benningsen hastened to relieve the King of Prussia at K?nigsberg; his Cossacks spread themselves over the country with great adroitness, surprising the French convoys of provisions. More Cossacks were streaming down to their support out of the wintry wilds of Russia, and the French were forced from their pleasant quarters[543] in Warsaw, to preserve the means of their existence. Buonaparte, alarmed at these advances, determined to turn out and force the Russians eastward, towards the Vistula, as he had forced the Prussians at Jena with their rear turned to the Rhine. To take the Russians thus in the rear, he ordered Bernadotte to engage the attention of Benningsen on the right whilst he made this man?uvre on the left. But Benningsen, fortunately, learned their stratagem, by the seizure of the young French officer who was carrying Buonaparte's dispatches to Bernadotte. Benningsen was therefore enabled to defeat Buonaparte's object. He concentrated his troops on Preuss-Eylau, where he determined to risk a battle. But he was not allowed to occupy this position without several brisk encounters, in which the Russians lost upwards of three thousand men. The battle of Eylau took place on the 7th of February. It was such a check as Buonaparte had never yet experienced. He had been beaten at every point; Augereau's division was nearly destroyed; that of Davoust, nearly twenty thousand in number, had been repulsed by a much inferior body of Prussians. Fifty thousand men are said to have been killed and wounded, of whom thirty thousand were French. Twelve eagles had been captured, and remained trophies in the hands of the Russians. But whilst England had been thus preparing for the augmentation of the navy, America had been aiming a blow at the efficiency of that navy, which must for years, if successful, have prostrated our whole maritime forces, and exposed our shores to the easiest invasion. This intended blow was nothing less than the destruction of our great naval dockyards and arsenals, and military storehouses, at Portsmouth and Plymouth. The chief agent in this infamous design, if the evidence of a miscreant can be believed, was Silas Deane. On the 7th of December the rope-house of the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth was found to be on fire. By active exertions it was got under, after it had destroyed that building, and was imagined to be an accident. But on the 15th of January, 1777, one of the officers of the dockyard found a machine and combustibles concealed in the hemp in the hemp-house of the same dockyard. Suspicion now fell on a moody, silent artisan, who, on the day of the fire, had been looking about the dockyard, and who, by some chance, had got locked up in the rope-house the night before. His name was not known, but the[234] fact only that he was a painter, and had been called John the Painter. Government immediately offered a reward of fifty pounds for his apprehension; the same sum, with a strange simplicity, being offered to him if he would surrender himself for examination. Nothing, however, could be learned of him in Portsmouth or the country round; but fresh fires were now breaking out at Plymouth Dockyard and on the quays of Bristol. At Plymouth the fire was instantly checked, and the perpetrator was nearly seized. At Bristol the fire was laid near a narrow, deep creek, crowded with shipping, which was nearly dry at low water, so that it was impossible to get the shipping out. Six or seven warehouses were destroyed, but the shipping escaped. In another house at Bristol combustibles were discovered, and the alarm became general that the American incendiaries, having failed to burn New York, were come to England to burn our dockyards and maritime houses. Fortunately, in the beginning of February, a man was apprehended for the perpetration of a burglary at Odiham, in Hampshire; and, by the activity of Sir John Fielding, the London magistrate, he was identified as John the Painter. When brought before Sir John and other magistrates in town, the man conducted himself with tact and address. Though closely examined and cross-questioned by some of the members of the Privy Council, by Lords of the Admiralty, and other officers of the board, he maintained the scrutiny without betraying any embarrassment, or letting anything escape him that could in any degree incriminate him. A confession was, however, wormed out of him by another painter, named Baldwin. Silas Deane, John the Painter declared, according to Baldwin's evidence, had encouraged him to set fire to the dockyards of Plymouth and Portsmouth, Woolwich and Chatham, as the most effectual means of disabling Great Britain; that he gave him bills to the amount of three hundred pounds on a merchant in London, and promised to reward him according to the amount of service he should do to the American cause. Before his execution he freely admitted the truth of the charges against him. He confessed to having twice attempted to fire the dockyard at Plymouth, and to burning the warehouses at Bristol, having in vain endeavoured to deposit his combustibles on board the ships. He, moreover, stated that he had a recommendation from Silas Deane to Dr. Bancroft, in London, to whom he had declared that he would do all the harm he could to England; that the doctor did not approve of his conduct, but had, at his request, promised not to betray him.

Accession of George III.His ConductAscendency of ButeMeeting of ParliamentEnthusiastic Reception of the King's SpeechBute's CabalsHostility to PittMinisterial ChangesMarriage of the KingQueen CharlotteMisfortunes of FrederickFerdinand of Brunswick's CampaignDefeat of the French in the East and West IndiesNegotiations for PeacePitt's large DemandsObstinacy of ChoiseulThe Family Compact suspectedResignation of PittBute's MinistryWar with SpainAbandonment of FrederickPolicy of the new CzarResignation of NewcastleBute at the head of the TreasurySuccesses in the West IndiesCapture of ManilaBute's Eagerness for PeaceThe TermsBute's UnpopularityClose of the Seven Years' WarSuccesses of CliveDefeat of the Dutch in IndiaFinal Overthrow of the French in IndiaFate of the Count de LallyBute and the Princess of WalesThe Cider TaxBute's VengeanceHis ResignationGeorge Grenville in OfficeNo. 45 of the North BritonArrest of WilkesHis AcquittalVengeance against himThe King negotiates with PittWilkes's Affairs in ParliamentThe Wilkes RiotsThe Question of PrivilegeThe Illegality of General Warrants declaredWilkes expelled the HouseDebates on General WarrantsRejoicing in the City of London.

The workhouse test, then, operated powerfully in keeping down pauperism; but another cause came into operation still more influential, namely, the Law of Settlement. By the Act 13 and 14 Charles II. a legal settlement in a parish was declared to be gained by birth, or by inhabitancy, apprenticeship, or service for forty days; but within that period any two justices were authorised, upon complaint being made to them by the churchwardens or overseers, if they thought a new entrant likely to become chargeable, to remove him, unless he either occupied a tenement of the annual value of ten pounds, or gave sufficient security that he would indemnify the parish for whatever loss it might incur on his account. And by a subsequent Act, 3 William III., every newcomer was obliged to give notice to the churchwarden of his arrival. This notice should be read in church after divine service, and then commenced the forty days during which objection might be made to his settlement. In case of objection, if he remained it was by sufferance, and he could be removed the moment he married, or was likely to become chargeable. A settlement might also be obtained by being hired for a year when unmarried or childless, and remaining the whole of that time in the service of one master; or being bound an apprentice to a person who had obtained a settlement. The effect of this system was actually to depopulate many parishes. The author of a valuable pamphlet on the subject, Mr. Alcock, stated that gentlemen were led by this system to adopt all sorts of expedients to hinder the poor from marrying, to discharge servants in their last quarter, to evict small tenants, and pull down cottages; so that several parishes were in a manner depopulated, while[363] England complained of want of useful hands for agriculture, for manufactures, and for the land and sea services.


Sir Robert Walpole was not a man, with his huge standing majority, to be readily frightened from his purpose. On the 14th of March, 1733, he brought forward his project in a speech in which he put forth all his ability, and that under a well-maintained air of moderation. He took advantage of the alarm that the tax was to be general, by representing the falsity of that declaration, and the very slight and limited nature of his real proposal. Adverting to what he called the common slander of his having intended to propose a general excise, he said: "I do most unequivocally assert that no such scheme ever entered my head, or, for what I know, the head of any man I am acquainted with. My thoughts have been confined solely to the duties on wine and tobacco; and it was the frequent advices I had of the shameful frauds committed in these two branches that turned my attention to a remedy for this growing evil. I shall for the present confine myself to the tobacco trade." He then detailed the various frauds on the revenue in tobacco, which he stated were of such extent and frequency, that the gross average produce of the tax was seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds.[63] but the nett average only a hundred and sixty thousand pounds. The remedy which he proposed was to transfer this revenue from the Customs to the Excise. That the same might afterwards be applied to wine, a system of warehousing for re-exportation or placing in bond was proposed, which, he said, "would tend to make London a free port, and, by consequence, the market of the world." He held out the expectation that the success of this plan would render the land tax unnecessary, and thus enable the Government to dispense with it entirely.

With the same want of sagacity which was driving Ministers and Parliament to the loss of America, they were still persecuting Wilkes into popularity. On the 14th of November, 1768, Sir Joseph Mawby, member for Southwark, presented a petition from Wilkes, reciting all the proceedings of Government against him, and praying for his being heard at the bar of the House. Wilkes appeared before the House on the 31st of January, where he took exception to the word "blasphemous" as applied to the "Essay on Woman." Thurlow, afterwards Lord Chancellor, a most swearing, blaspheming man, protested that if the House did not declare it blasphemous, it would be a disgrace to it. However, the words "impious" and "obscene" were substituted. On the 1st of February the House determined that his petition was frivolous. The next day the House went into another charge against Wilkes. In the preceding April Lord Weymouth, previous to the riots in St. George's Fields, had issued a letter, as Secretary of State, to the magistrates of Lambeth, warning them of the danger of riots taking place in the endeavour to free Wilkes from prison, and offering them the aid of the military. Wilkes, while in the King's Bench, had obtained a copy of this letter, and sent it to the St. James's Chronicle with his own comments, styling it a "hellish project," and as the direct cause of that "horrid massacre." Weymouth complained to the House of Lords that this was a breach of privilege. A conference was had with the Commons; Wilkes was brought to the Bar, where Baldwin, the printer, had acknowledged the letter to be his, and then, so far from denying it, claimed the thanks of the country for having exposed that "bloody scroll." The Commons decided that he was guilty of an insolent and seditious libel, and on the following day, February 3rd, on the motion of Lord Barrington, he was expelled the House, by a majority of two hundred and nineteen to one hundred and thirty-seven. The king had directly asked for such a verdict by a letter to Lord North, declaring that Wilkes's expulsion was "highly expedient and must be effected."