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It was at the close of 1719, when George I. returned from Hanover, that this Company proposed to Ministers to consolidate all the funds into one. It was strange that both Ministers and merchants could be deluded by the hope of enriching themselves by a share of the trade with the Spanish South American provinces, when Spain herself, in full enjoyment of them, was sunk into indigence and weakness, and presented the most determined resistance to the unfettered intercourse of any other nation with them. Yet Sir John Blunt, a leading director of the South Sea Company, persuaded the Ministers that by granting the Company power to deal with the public funds, and especially to buy up the unredeemable annuities which had been granted in the two preceding reigns, chiefly on terms of ninety-nine years, and which now amounted to about eight hundred thousand pounds a year, they could, in twenty-six years, pay off the entire National Debt. But, to enable them to do this, they must be empowered to reduce all the different public securities to one aggregate fund in their hands, to convert both redeemable and unredeemable debts into stock by such arrangements as they could make with the holders, and to have certain commercial privileges vested in them. Ministers accepted the proposals with great alacrity. Aislabie introduced the scheme to Parliament in the month of February, 1720, declaring that, if it was accepted by the House, the prosperity of the nation would be amazingly enhanced, and all its debts liquidated in a very few years. Craggs seconded the proposal in most sanguine terms, expressing his conviction that every member of the House must be ready to adopt so advantageous an offer. Ministers had already closed with the proposals of the Company, and they were themselves greatly disconcerted by the suggestion of Mr. Thomas Brodrick, the member for Stockbridge, who expressed his entire accordance with Ministers, but thought that the nation should endeavour to obtain the best terms for itself by opening the competition to every other company or association of men as well as that in question. Ministers were confounded by this proposal, and Aislabie endeavoured to get out of it by declaring that to do this would be like putting the nation up to auction, and that such things should be done with spirit. But Jekyll interposed, saying it was this spirit which had ruined the nation, and it was now requisite to consider seriously what was best for the public. A violent debate ensued, in which Walpole eloquently recommended open competition, and was sharply replied to by Lechmere. The question was carried in favour of competition; and then the Bank of England, which before had coolly declined to enter into the proposals, suddenly appeared in a new temper, and made liberal offers for the privilege of thus farming the public debts. But the South Sea Company was not to be outdone; it offered seven millions and a half, and the Bank gave way in despair.

But the Queen's Bench was by no means disposed to surrender its own privileges, even to the House of Commons. On the 24th of January Sir William Gossett, Serjeant-at-Arms, appeared at the bar of the House, and said that he had last[470] evening been served with a writ of Habeas Corpus, commanding him to bring up the bodies of the sheriffs, William Evans, Esq., and John Wheelton, Esq., then in his custody. The Attorney-General rose, and said he had no hesitation in advising the House to direct the Serjeant-at-Arms to return answer to the Court of Queen's Bench that he held these two individuals in custody by the warrant of the Speaker. He then moved a resolution to that effect, which was adopted, and the Court of Queen's Bench acquiesced.

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Meanwhile Lord Howe had been on the look-out some time for the French fleet, which, it was understood, was about to leave Brest, in order to meet a convoy of merchant ships from the West Indies, and aid it in bringing that trade fleet into port. On reaching Brest, however, he discovered that the French fleet had sailed, and it was not till the 28th of May that he caught sight of it out at sea, opposite the coast of Brittany. The French fleet, commanded by Admiral Villaret Joyeuse, was greatly superior to Howe's in ships, number of seamen, and weight of metal. Howe had twenty-five sail of the line and five frigates, carrying two thousand and ninety-eight guns, in weight of metal twenty-one thousand five hundred and nineteen pounds, and sixteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven men. Joyeuse, now joined by Admiral Neilly, had twenty-six line-of-battle ships and smaller vessels, carrying two thousand one hundred and fifty-eight guns, in weight of metal twenty-five thousand five hundred and twenty-one pounds, and nineteen thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight men. After some skirmishing, on the 1st of June"the glorious first"Howe came to close quarters with the enemy, who was compelled to fight by the presence of the Conventional Commissioner Bon St. Andr. He ordered his fleet to follow his ship, the Charlotte, in cutting right through the enemy's line. Only five ships, however, accomplished this so as to engage the French to the leeward, and prevent them from escaping. Howe afterwards complained that some of his captains had not obeyed his orders, and threatened them with a court-martial; but some replied that their ships were in such bad sailing condition that they could not effect this movement, and others that they did not understand the signal. Thus, five vessels fighting to the leeward, and the rest to the windward, the battle raged furiously from nine in the morning till three in the afternoon, when the French admiral sheered off for Brest, leaving behind seven of his finest vessels in the hands of the British. The British lost in the action two hundred and seventy-nine men, and had eight hundred and seventy-seven wounded. The French lost in six of the captured ships alone six hundred and ninety men, and had five hundred and eighty wounded. The seventh, the Vengeur, went down almost as soon as the British flag was hoisted on her, with, it is supposed, three hundred men in her. Altogether, it is likely that the French did not lose less than fifteen hundred men, besides wounded, and two thousand three hundred prisoners. The British lost a number of officers, who were either killed in the battle or died afterwards of their injuries Amongst these were Sir Andrew Douglas, second captain of Howe's own ship; Captains Montagu of the Montagu, Hutt of the Queen, and Harvey of the Brunswick; Rear-Admirals Pasley of the Bellerophon, and Bowyer of the Barfleur. Admiral Graves and Captain Berkeley were severely wounded. Howe made every effort to pursue and bring the French admiral again to action; but, owing to the bad sailing qualities of English ships at that time, and the shattered state of many of them, he could not overtake Villaret, who made the best of his way to Brest. During the remainder of the year there were various engagements between small squadrons in different quarters, in which the advantage generally remained with the British, besides the training thus afforded to the officers and sailors for the mighty victories which awaited them.

The Chartist trials took place at the September Sessions of the Central Criminal Court. The facts disclosed on the trial revealed, to a larger extent than is usual in such cases, how completely the men who are betrayed into such conspiracies are at the mercy of miscreants who incite them to crime for their own base purposes. The witnesses against Cuffey and others of the Chartists were all voluntary spiesthe chief of whom was a person named Powellwho joined the confederacy, aided in its organisation, and had themselves appointed "presidents" and "generals," with the sole purpose of betraying their dupes, in order that they might be rewarded as informers, or, at all events, well paid as witnesses. It was probably by those double traitors that the simultaneous meetings of the clubs were arranged, so that the police might seize them all at the same time. The trial lasted the entire week. On Saturday the jury returned a verdict of "Guilty" against all the prisoners. The sentence was transportation for life. Others were indicted for misdemeanour only, and were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, with fines. About a score of the minor offenders were allowed to plead not guilty, and let out on their own recognisances. And so ended Chartism.

Whilst these movements had been progressing, very different ones had been in development in the north. The British Government, with the fatality which distinguished nearly all its counsels in this war, had thought proper to take the command of the army destined to operate by way of Canada on the northern colonies, from Sir Guy Carleton, and to confer it on General Burgoyne. The campaign had been plannednot by experienced military men on the spot, capable of estimating the difficulties of the enterprise, but in the Cabinet at home, directed by defective maps, and still more defective information.

Great was the excitement when, in pursuance of this recommendation, Mr. Peel introduced the Emancipation Bill on the 5th of March. Everywhere the Protestant press teemed, and the Protestant pulpit rang, with denunciations of Wellington and Peel as arch-traitors. From the highest pinnacle of popularity the Duke fell to the lowest depth of infamy; the laurels won in so many glorious fields were withered by the furious breath of popular execration. Petitions were poured into the House of Commons from all parts of the United Kingdom, and "the pressure from without" was brought to bear against the two Ministers, who were considered the chief delinquents, with a force and vehemence that would have deterred a man of weaker nerves than the Duke of Wellington; but he felt that he had a duty to discharge, and he did not shrink from the consequences. Nor did Mr. Peel. His speech, in introducing the measure, went over the ground[296] he had often traversed in privately debating the question with his friends. Matters could not go on as they were. There must be a united Cabinet to carry on the king's Government effectually. It must be united either on the principle of Catholic Emancipation or Catholic exclusion. It must either concede the Catholic claims, or recall existing rights and privileges. This was impossibleno Government could stand that attempted it; and if it were done, civil war would be inevitable. The House of Commons, trembling in the nice balance of opinion, had at length inclined to concession. Ireland had been governed, since the union, almost invariably by coercive Acts. There was always some political organisation antagonistic to the British Government. The Catholic Association had just been suppressed; but another would soon spring out of its ashes if the Catholic question were not settled. Mr. O'Connell had boasted that he could drive a coach-and-six through the former Act for its suppression; and Lord Eldon had engaged to drive "the meanest conveyance, even a donkey cart, through the Act of 1829." The new member for Oxford (Sir Robert Inglis) also stated that twenty-three counties in Ireland were prepared to follow the example of Clare. "What will you do," asked Mr. Peel, "with that power, that tremendous power, which the elective franchise, exercised under the control of religion, at this moment confers upon the Roman Catholics? What will you do with the thirty or forty seats that will be claimed in Ireland by the persevering efforts of the agitators, directed by the Catholic Association, and carried out by the agency of every priest and bishop in Ireland?" Parliament began to recede; there could be no limit to the retrogression. Such a course would produce a reaction, violent in proportion to the hopes that had been excited. Fresh rigours would become necessary; the re-enactment of the penal code would not be sufficient. They must abolish trial by jury, or, at least, incapacitate Catholics from sitting on juries. Two millions of Protestants must have a complete monopoly of power and privilege in a country which contained five millions of Catholics, who were in most of the country four to onein some districts twenty to oneof the Protestants.

The Jacobites were in ecstasies at this new phase of their old enterprise. By Charles's adhesion, their scheme was stripped of all those prejudices which had insured its ruin with the English. It had no longer the unpopular aspect of a French invasion; it was no longer headed by a Popish but a Protestant leader; it was no longer consigned to an untried or doubtful general, but to one of the most victorious monarchs living, who came as a Protestant to call on a Protestant nation to receive their rightful king. Money was not wanting. Spain remitted to Baron Spaar a million of livres for the expedition, and the Court of the Pretender offered sixty thousand pounds.

Richard Hare, made Lord Ennismore, with patronage.