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The rapid growth of the commerce of the American colonies excited an intense jealousy[166] in our West Indian Islands, which claimed a monopoly of supply of sugar, rum, molasses, and other articles to all the British possessions. The Americans trading with the French, Dutch, Spaniards, etc., took these articles in return; but the West Indian proprietors prevailed upon the British Government, in 1733, to impose a duty on the import of any produce of foreign plantations into the American colonies, besides granting a drawback on the re-exportation of West Indian sugar from Great Britain. This was one of the first pieces of legislation of which the American colonies had a just right to complain. At this period our West Indies produced about 85,000 hogsheads of sugar, or 1,200,000 cwts. About three hundred sail were employed in the trade with these islands, and some 4,500 sailors; the value of British manufactures exported thither being nearly 240,000 annually, but our imports from Jamaica alone averaged at that time 539,492. Besides rum, sugar, and molasses, we received from the West Indies cotton, indigo, ginger, pimento, cocoa, coffee, etc.

[See larger version] The Covent Garden meeting became thenceforth an annual feature in the political events of the metropolis, and the effects of this movement in the chief city of the kingdom were seen in the election of Mr. Pattison, the Free Trade candidate, for the City of London. Another sign of the times was the accession to the ranks of the Anti-Corn-Law League of Mr. Samuel Jones Loyd, the wealthy banker, a conspicuous City man, and a great[509] authority on financial matters. This gentleman addressed a letter to the council of the League in October, 1844, in which, after mentioning his reluctance to join a public body, for whose acts he could not be responsible, he said, "The time is now arrived when this must be overruled by other considerations of overwhelming importance. The great question of Free Trade is now fairly at issue, and the bold, manly, and effectual efforts which have been made by the League in its support command at once my admiration and my concurrence." Still more remarkable was the progress of the League in its scheme of converting the agriculturists themselves to their views. The truths which they had always maintainedthat the tenant farmer had no real interest in maintaining the Corn Laws, the agricultural labourer, if possible, less, and that even the landed proprietor, on a far-seeing view of his interest, would be on the same side as themselveswere based upon arguments easily understood by calm reasoners, and were even beginning to make way with these classes themselves. Not a few great landowners and noblemen had openly classed themselves among their supporters. Foremost among these was Earl Fitzwilliam, who was one of the most effective speakers at Anti-Corn-Law meetings by the side of Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright. Among the noblemen openly supporting their cause were the Marquis of Westminster, Lord Kinnaird, Earl Ducie, the Earl of Radnor, Lord Morpeth, and Earl Spencer.

[See larger version] O'Connell was promptly challenged by Alvanley, and declined the combat. But his second son, Morgan, was resolved not to let the matter rest. As soon as he heard of the proceedings, he wrote to Lord Alvanley a very spirited letter, in which he designated the challenge as a party man?uvre, with no other object than to cast a stigma upon his fatherupon the party to which he belonged, as well as upon the Government and its supporters. He denounced the proceeding as a wretched man?uvreas an utterly ungentlemanly and braggadocio mode of carrying on party warfare. He adopted his father's insulting language, not, he said, in the vain hope of inducing him to give satisfaction; but, lest he should be wrong in that surmise, he intimated that he was at his lordship's service. This letter was conveyed through Colonel Hodges. The result was that the parties met at Arlington Street, when they arranged to have a meeting at a short distance beyond the turnpike next the Regent's Park, on the Barnet[387] Road. The ground was measured at twelve paces; the parties took their positions; the word was given, "Readyfire." O'Connell fired, but Lord Alvanley did not, owing to a mistake, and claimed the right to fire, which was refused. Both parties fired two rounds more without effect, each satisfied that the other had acted with perfect fairness. There was no apology made on either side. [458]

The state of parties in the House of Commons at the opening of the Session of 1837 was so evenly balanced, that Government had a very narrow majority. The number of Whigs was calculated at 150, of Liberals 100, and of Radicals 80, making the total number of Ministerialists 330. On the other side, the Tories counted 139, the Ultra-Tories 100, and the Conservatives, belonging to the new school which Sir[414] Robert Peel had constituted, 80. Parliament was opened by commission on the last day of January. The Royal Speech announced the continuance of friendly relations with Foreign Powers, alluded to the affairs of Spain and Portugal, and directed the attention of Parliament to the state of Lower Canada. It recommended a renewal of the inquiry into the operation of joint-stock banks; also measures for the improvement of civil and criminal jurisprudence, and for giving increased stability to the Established Church. Special attention was directed to the state of Ireland, with reference to its municipal corporations and the collection of tithes, and to "the difficult and pressing question of a legal provision for the poor." Animated debates on the Address took place in both Houses. The Radicals, led on by Mr. Roebuck, strongly condemned the want of earnest purpose on the part of Ministers, whom he represented as "worse than the Tories." He accused them of pandering to popular passions on one side, and to patrician feelings on the other. But, situated as they were, what could they do? Their majority was small and uncertain in the Commons, while the Opposition in the Lords was powerful and determined. Lord Lyndhurst mutilated measure after measure, and then at the end of each Session taunted Ministers with their failure. They were trying to get on with a House of Commons elected under the influence of a Conservative Administration. Of course, Lord Melbourne could have dissolved Parliament and appealed to the country, in the hope of getting a working majority; but the king was decidedly averse from a dissolution; and it would have been an exceedingly unwise course to adopt, at a time when the precarious state of his health plainly indicated that the reign was fast drawing to a close, and its termination would necessitate another general election. It was unreasonable to expect that in consequence of weakness proceeding from such causes a Liberal Cabinet should surrender the reins of power to the Tory party, on the eve of a new reign, and with all the bright prospects that would be opened by the accession of a youthful queen to the Throne. At the close of the Session of 1836 they had, indeed, contemplated resignation, but eventually determined to go on.

One of the most appalling of the narratives sent to the Central Committee of the Society of Friends was Mr. William Bennet's account of his journey in Ireland. He left Dublin on the 12th of January, and proceeded by coach to Longford, and thence to Ballina, from which he penetrated into remote districts of the county Mayo. In the neighbourhood of Belmullet he and his companion visited a district which may serve as a representation of the condition of the labouring class generally in the mountainous and boggy districts, where they burrowed and multiplied, more like a race of inferior animals than human beings. "Many of the cabins," wrote Mr. Bennet, "were holes in the bog, covered with a layer of turf, and not distinguishable as human habitations from the surrounding moors, until close down upon them. The bare sod was about the best material of which any of them were constructed. Doorways, not doors, were provided at both sides of the latter, mostly back and front, to take advantage of the way of the wind. Windows and chimneys, I think, had no existence. A second apartment or partition of any kind was exceedingly rare. Furniture properly so called, I believe, may be stated at nil. I cannot speak with certainty, and wish not to speak with exaggeration, we were too much overcome to note specifically; but as far as memory serves, we saw neither bed, chair, nor table at all. A chest, a few iron or earthen vessels, a stool or two, the dirty rags and night coverings, formed about the sum total of the best-furnished. Outside many were all but unapproachable from the mud and filth surrounding them; the scene inside is worse, if possible, from the added closeness, darkness, and smoke.... And now language utterly fails me in attempting to depict the state of the wretched inmates.... We entered a cabin. Stretched in one dark corner, scarcely visible from the smoke and rags that covered them, were three children huddled together, lying there because they were too weak to rise, pale and ghastly; their little limbs, on removing a portion of the covering, perfectly emaciated; eyes sunk, voice gone, and evidently in the last stage of actual starvation. Crouched over the turf embers was another form, wild and all but naked, scarcely human in appearance. It stirred not nor noticed us. On some straw, soddened upon the ground, moaning piteously, was a shrivelled old woman, imploring us to give her something, baring her limbs partly to show how the skin hung loose from her bones, as soon as she attracted our attention. Above her, on something like a ledge, was a young woman with sunken cheeks, a mother, I have no doubt, who scarcely raised her eyes in answer to our inquiries; but pressed her hand upon her forehead, with a look of unutterable anguish and despair.... Every infantile expression had entirely departed; and, in some, reason and intelligence had evidently flown. Many were remnants of families, crowded together in one cabin; orphaned little relatives taken in by the equally destitute, and even strangersfor these poor people are kind to each other, even to the end. In one cabin was a sister, just dying, lying beside her little brother, just dead. I have worse than this to relate; but it is useless to multiply details, and they are, in fact, unfit."

It was not till between eleven and twelve o'clock on the morning of Sunday, the 18th of June, that this terrible conflict commenced; for the troops of Napoleon had not yet all reached the ground, having suffered from the tempests of wind and rain equally with the Allies. The rain had now ceased, but the morning was gloomy and lowering. The action opened by a brisk cannonade on the house and wood of Hougomont, which were held by the troops of Nassau. These were driven out;[99] but their place was immediately taken by the British Guards under General Byng and Colonels Home and Macdonald. A tremendous cannonade was kept up on Hougomont by Jerome's batteries from the slopes above; and under cover of this fire the French advanced through the wood in front of Hougomont, but were met by a terrible fire from the British, who had the orchard wall as a breastwork from which to assail the enemy. The contest here was continued through the day with dreadful fury, but the British held their ground with bull-dog tenacity. The buildings of the farmyard and an old chapel were set fire to by the French shells; but the British maintained their post amid the flames, and filled the wood in front and a lane running under the orchard wall with mountains of dead.

A very instructive point of comparison is the relative increase of different classes of occupations in the decennial period from 1831 to 1841. A comparative return of the Commissioners includes males only, ages twenty years and upwards, and exhibits the following results. The number of occupiers and labourers in agriculture had decreased in that period from 1,251,751 to 1,215,264; but the Commissioners explained this result by supposing that numerous farm servants had been returned in 1841 as domestic servants instead of as agricultural labourers. Persons engaged in commerce, trade, and manufactures had increased from 1,572,292 to 2,039,409 (or 29?7 per cent.); capitalists, bankers, professional, and other educated men, from 216,263 to 286,175 (or 32?3 per cent.); labourers employed in labour not agricultural had decreased from 611,744 to 610,157; other males, twenty years of age, except servants, had increased from 237,337 to 392,211; male servants, twenty years of age and upwards, had increased from 79,737 to 164,384; including, however, as already noticed, many farm servants. For the purpose of instituting a just comparison of the relative increase of particular employments, it must be understood that the total number of male persons, twenty years of age and upwards (exclusive of army, navy, and merchant seamen), had increased in this period of ten years from 3,969,124 to 4,707,600 (or 18?6 per cent.). These[417] people were better fed than their ancestors, and had more work to do. There are three kinds of raw material the consumption of which is particularly indicative of social advancement, as giving employment to the people, adding to their comforts, and increasing the national wealth. These are timber, cotton, and wool. Taking all the different kinds of imported timber, there was an increase during the ten years of 37 per cent.; in cotton there was an increase of 61 per cent.; and of sheep and lamb's wool, in addition to the home production, there was an increased importation of more than 78 per cent.

During this campaign Catherine had made great progress in her road to Constantinople. Suvaroff had reduced Ismail, a remarkably strong place, which was the key of the lower Danube and the only obstruction of any importance to the Russian advance to the Balkan mountains and to Constantinople. This city had been taken by storm, after a most desperate defence, on the 25th of December, and when, with a little more resistance, the Russians would have been compelled to quit the field by the severity of the season. The carnage on this occasion was of the most frightful kind. The Russians themselves lost nearly ten thousand men, and the Turks thirty thousand peoplemen, women, and children, who were indiscriminately butchered by the orders of Suvaroff, who said to his soldiers, "Brothers, no quarter to-day, for bread is scarce." Every horror possible[375] in war, especially between barbarians, was perpetrated by the Russian hordes in Ismail, who were guilty of the most diabolical atrocities, such as burning whole streets, mosques, and serais. Suvaroff sat down and wrote in Russian rhyme the words quoted by Lord Byron in "Don Juan," "Glory to God and the Empress, Ismail is ours." When Sir Charles Whitworth, the British ambassador, next saw Catherine, she said, in allusion to some strong remonstrances from Britain and Prussia, which took care not to go beyond remonstrances, which were cheap"Since the king, your master, wishes to drive me out of Petersburg I hope he will permit me to retire to Constantinople." The Czarina Catherine still continued her war on the Ottoman empire. The Turks gained several advantages over the Russians on the shores of the Black Sea, and near the Danube, but they were severely repulsed in an attempt to drive the Russians from their conquests between the Black and Caspian Seas, and suffered a terrible slaughter on the banks of the River Kuban. Then Britain, Prussia, Holland, and Austria, from the Congress of Reichenbach, announced to Catherine that they were resolved not to permit further encroachments on Turkey, but Catherine paid not the slightest attention to their remonstrances.

Instead of taking means to conciliate the public, Bute, stung by these testimonies of dislike, and by the pamphlets and lampoons which issued like swarms of wasps, revenged himself by others, which only intensified the hatred against him. Still worse for him, he had caused the Dukes of Newcastle and Grafton, and the Marquis of Rockingham, to be dismissed from the Lord-Lieutenancies of their respective counties, because they voted against the peace on Bute's terms. With a still more petty rancour he had visited the sins of these noblemen on the persons in small clerkships and other posts who had been recommended by them, turning them all out. Sir Henry Fox joined him relentlessly in these pitiful revenges, and would have carried them farther had he not been checked by others.