[See larger version] About four months passed happily away, when another event occurred which was very near furnishing a startling illustration of the truth that there is no certain tenure of human happiness. On the night of Wednesday, the 10th of June, London was agitated by a report of an attempt upon the life of the Queen. Next day an investigation took place at the Home Office, from which the public and the reporters of the daily press were excluded. The following are the facts:At a quarter past six on Wednesday evening, the Queen, accompanied by Prince Albert, left Buckingham Palace, in a very low, open phaeton, to take her customary drive in Hyde Park before dinner. The carriage had proceeded a short distance up the road when a young man, who had been standing with his back to the Green Park fence, advanced to within a few yards of the carriage, and deliberately fired at the Queen. The postilions paused for an instant. The Prince ordered them, in a loud voice, to drive on. "I have got another!" exclaimed the assassin, who discharged a second pistol, aimed at the carriage, which also proved harmless. The Queen and the Prince went as far as Hyde Park Corner, and then turned to the Duchess of Kent's mansion, in Belgrave Square. Meanwhile, the assassin remained near the spot, leaning against the park fence, with the weapons in his hand. Several persons laid hold of him, and he was conveyed by two policemen to the Gardener's Lane station-house. After staying a short time with the Duchess of Kent, in Belgrave Square, the Queen and her husband proceeded to Hyde Park, where an immense concourse of persons, of all ranks and both sexes, had congregated. The reception of the royal pair was so enthusiastic as almost to overpower the self-possession of the Queen. They soon returned to Buckingham Palace, attended by a vast number of the nobility and gentry, in carriages and on horseback. A multitude of persons collected at the entrance to the palace, and vehemently cheered the Queen, who, though pale and agitated, repeatedly bowed and smiled in return.

The prisoners were at once sent to Richmond[532] Bridewell, on the South Circular Road, where the Governor did all in his power to make them comfortable. Good apartments were assigned to them. They dined together every day, and they were permitted to receive, without restriction, the visits of their friends and admirers. The Government was the less disposed to interfere with these indulgences, as their object was not so much punishment as prevention, and besides, the traversers had appealed against the sentence. A majority of the twelve English judges affirmed the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, while condemning the counts on which the Irish court relied. An appeal was then made to the House of Lords. The decision was left to the five law lordsLyndhurst, Brougham, Cottenham, Denman, and Campbell. The first two were for a confirmation of the judgment, the last three for reversal. Lord Denman, in pronouncing judgment, said, referring to the tampering with the panel, "If such practices as had taken place in the present instance in Ireland should continue, the trial by jury would become a mockery, a delusion, and a snare," a sentence which was hackneyed by repetition for years afterwards. The news of the reversal reached Dublin on the afternoon of the 5th of September. Great crowds had assembled on the pier at Kingstown, and tremendous cheers broke forth from the multitude when the Holyhead packet approached, and they saw held up a white flag, with the inscription, "Judgment reversed by the House of Lords. O'Connell is free!" The news was everywhere received by the Roman Catholics with wild excitement. In the following Session Fox introduced a Bill to grant some further privileges to the Catholics, but it was rejected; but in 1793 the Catholics of Scotland were admitted, by an Act introduced by Mr. Robert Dundas, the Lord Advocate, to the same privileges as the Irish and English Catholics. The question appeared to rest till 1799, when there seems to have been a proposition on the part of the English Government to make an independent provision for the Catholic clergy of Ireland, on condition that they, on their part, should enter into certain engagements. There was a meeting of Roman Catholic prelates in Dublin at the commencement of that year on the subject, at which they agreed to accept the proposal. Pitt was favourable to the Catholic claims, though the Irish Parliament previous to the union would not hear of them. He had caused promises of Catholic Emancipation to be circulated in Ireland in order to induce the Irish to accept the union; and when he found that the king's immovable resistance to this measure would not allow him to make good his word, he resigned office. Nothing was done in it during the time that he continued out, chiefly, it is said, through his influence; and when he returned to office in May, 1804, he did so without any mention of the Catholics. In truth, he appears to have given them up for the sake of enjoying power again; for, when, on the 9th of March, 1805, the question was raised by Lord Grenville in the House of Peers, and, on the 13th, by Fox in the Commons, Pitt opposed the motion on the ground that the reasons which had occasioned him to quit office still operated against this measure, and that it was impossible for him to support it. It was negatived by three hundred and thirty-six against one hundred and twenty-four. Another favourable circumstance would have been found in the fact that in Hutchinson, Massachusetts had a native Governor, a man of courteous manners and moderate counsels. But even out of Hutchinson's position arose offence. His brothers-in-law, Andrew and Peter Oliver, were appointed Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Justice of the province. Lord North thought that the payment of these officers should be in the hands of Government, to render them independent of the colonists; but this the colonists resented as an attempt to destroy the Charter and establish arbitrary power. The Massachusetts House of Assembly declared on this occasion, in their address to the Crown:"We know of no commissioners of his Majesty's Customs, nor of any revenue that his Majesty has a right to establish in North America." They denounced the Declaratory Act passed at the suggestion of Chatham, and the attempt to make the governors and judges independent of the people, and the arbitrary instruments of the Crown. In Virginia the same spirit was conspicuous.

Among the other causes which contributed to the unpopularity of the Duke of Wellington and the weakness of his Administration was the prosecution by the Attorney-General of Mr. Alexander, the editor of the Morning Journal. A series of articles had appeared in that paper, which were considered so virulent and libellous, so far surpassing the bounds of fair discussion, that the Duke felt under the same necessity of ordering a prosecution that he had felt to fight the duel with Lord Winchilsea. It was regarded as an inevitable incident of his position, one of the things required to enable him to carry on the king's Government. He obtained a victory, but it cost him dear: a sentence of fine and imprisonment was inflicted upon his opponent, and the Morning Journal was extinguished; but, in the temper of the times, the public were by no means disposed to sympathise with the victor in such a contest. On the contrary, the victory covered him with odium, and placed upon the head of the convicted the crown of martyrdom. Mr. Alexander was visited daily in the King's Bench prison by leading politicians, and a motion was made in the House of Commons with a view to incriminate the Government who ordered the prosecution. In another instance also, but of a nature less damaging, the Government received a warning of its approaching downfall. Mr. Peel, anxious to mitigate the severity of the criminal code, and to render it less bloody, proposed to inflict the penalty of death only on persons committing such forgeries as could not by proper precautions be guarded against. It was a step in the right direction, but one too hesitating, and stopping short of the firm ground of sound policy. Sir James Mackintosh, therefore, on the third reading of the Bill, moved a clause for the abolition of the penalty of death in all cases of forgery, which was carried by a majority of 151 against 138. Thus the Session wore on, in a sort of tantalising Parliamentary warfare, with no decisive advantages on either side till the attention and interest of Parliament and the nation were absorbed by the approaching dissolution of George IV. and the dawning light of a new reign.

But this declaration did not issue without a violent debate in Congress, where the moderate party stated that the interests of the country were sacrificed to a mischievous war-spirit, and in the east and north of the States there was raised a loud cry for severance, as there had been in the south when Jefferson laid his embargo on American vessels. They complained that if, as was now alleged, the French Emperor had abrogated his Berlin and Milan Decrees in favour of America as early as the 2nd of March, 1811, why was this not communicated to England before the 20th of May, 1812? And when England had long ago declared that she would rescind her Orders in Council when such a notification could be made to her, accompanied by a repeal of the American non-Intercourse Act; and when she did immediately rescind her Orders in Council on this condition, why should there be all this haste to rush into war with Great Britain? They complained bitterly that though Buonaparte was professed to have abrogated his Decrees as early as November, 1810, he had gone on till just lately in seizing American ships, both in the ports of France and by his cruisers at sea. The State of Massachusetts addressed a strong remonstrance to the Federal Government, in which they represented the infamy of the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers cooperating with the common enemy of civil liberty to bind other nations in chains, and this at the very moment that the European peoples were uniting for their violated liberties.

Napoleon was at Vervins, on the 12th of June, with his Guard, and on the 14th he had joined five divisions of infantry and four of cavalry at Beaumont. The triple line of strong fortresses on the Belgian frontiers enabled him to assemble his forces unobserved by the Allies, whilst he was perfectly informed by spies of their arrangements. Wellington had arrived at Brussels, and had thrown strong garrisons into Ostend, Antwerp, Nieuwport, Ypres, Tournay, Mons, and Ath. He had about thirty thousand British, but not his famous Peninsular troops, who had been sent to America. Yet he had the celebrated German legion, eight thousand strong, which had won so many laurels in Spain; fifteen thousand Hanoverians; five thousand Brunswickers, under their brave duke, the hereditary mortal foe of Napoleon; and seventeen thousand men, Belgians, Dutch, and troops of Nassau, under the Prince of Orange. Doubts were entertained of the trustworthiness of the Belgians, who had fought under Napoleon, and who had shown much discontent of late; and Napoleon confidently calculated on them, and had Belgian officers with him to lead them when they should come over to him. But, on the whole, the Belgians behaved well; for, like all others, their country had felt severely the tyranny of Napoleon. Altogether, Wellington's army amounted to about seventy-five thousand men. He occupied with his advanced division, under the Prince of Orange, Enghien, Braine-le-Comte, and Nivelles; with his second, under Lord Hill, Hal, Oudenarde, and Grammont; and with his reserve, under Picton, Brussels and Ghent. What he had most to complain of was the very defective manner in which he had been supplied with cannon on so momentous an occasion, being able to muster only eighty-four pieces of artillery, though he had applied for a hundred and fifty, and though there were cannons enough at Woolwich to have supplied the whole of the Allied armies.

The Court was soon alarmed by the report that the National Guard intended to march from Paris to Versailles, and, after removing the Bodyguard, to do duty at the palace themselves, in order to prevent the royal family from escaping abroad. Lafayette, now head of the National Guard, on the 17th of September wrote to St. Priest, one[367] of the Ministers, to assure him that there was no truth in the report, and therefore no danger. D'Estaing, the commander of the Bodyguard, however, to whom Lafayette's letter was communicated by St. Priest, did not feel satisfied, and proposed to bring the regiment of Flanders to Versailles, and the Assembly being applied to for its sanction, declared it was no business of theirs; and thus, neither encouraging nor discouraging the measure, the regiment was sent for. It arrived on the 23rd of September; and, at the sight of the long train of waggons that followed, alarm seized both the people of Versailles and the Assembly. Mirabeau, who, by a word, could have prevented the coming of the regiment, now denounced it as dangerous. News flew to Paris that a counter-revolution was preparing, and that the foreigners would be marched on the city. All this terror of one single regiment showed a disposition to feign alarm, rather than the real existence of it; but the Court committed the great folly of creating fresh reasons for jealousy. The officers of the Life Guard showed a most lively desire to fraternise with those of the Flanders regiment, and the courtiers were equally attentive to them. The officers of the Flanders regiment were not only presented at the king's levee, but invited to the queen's drawing-room, and treated in the most flattering manner. The Gardes du Corps gave a grand dinner to welcome them; and, what was extraordinary, they were allowed to give it in the theatre of the palace. This took place on the 2nd of October. The boxes were filled by people belonging to the Court. The officers of the National Guard were amongst the guests. After the wine had circulated some time amongst the three hundred guests, the soldiers, both of the Flanders regiment and of the other corps, the company, with drawn swords, and heated by champagne, drank the health of the royal family; the toast of the nation was rejected or omitted. The grenadiers in the pit demanded to be allowed to drink the royal healths, and goblets of wine were handed to them, and they drank the health of the king, the queen, the dauphin, and the rest of the royal family amid mutual shaking of hands and loud shouts of "Vive le Roi! Vive la Reine!" The band of the Flanders regiment then struck up the very expressive and celebrated song of Blondel when seeking his captive king, C?ur de Lion

Mr. Vansittart introduced some financial measures which effected a material saving. He proposed a plan for reducing the interest of the Navy Five per Cents. to four per cent. Holders not signifying their dissent were to have one hundred and five pounds in a New Four per Cent. stock, and persons dissenting were to be paid off in numerical order. By this scheme an annual saving to the public of one million one hundred and forty thousand pounds would be effected; besides a further saving of upwards of ninety thousand pounds of annual charge, which would be gained by similar reduction of the Irish Five per Cents. The high prices of the public funds obviated all difficulty in the execution of this financial operation, and the holders of the Five per Cent. stock found it expedient to acquiesce in the Minister's terms. The dissentients were in number only one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, and the stock held by them amounted to two million six hundred and fifteen thousand nine hundred and seventy-eight pounds, not a fifteenth part of the Five per Cent. capital. Another operation related to what was called "The Dead Weight Annuity." The amount of military and naval pensions and civil supernumeraries was about five millions annually. Accordingly Mr. Vansittart brought forward an amended scheme for relieving the immediate pressure of this dead weight by extending it over a longer term of years than the natural lives of the annuitants. For this purpose an annuity of two million eight hundred thousand pounds was appropriated out of the existing revenue for forty-five years, invested in trustees for the discharge of the then payments, which for that year were estimated at four million nine hundred thousand pounds, subject to a yearly diminution by deaths. It was computed that, according to the ordinary duration of human life, the annuities for the lives of the then holders would be equal to the annuity of two million eight hundred thousand pounds for forty-five years. The trustees were therefore empowered to sell from time to time such portions of this annuity as would provide the funds required for the payment of the dead weight, according to a computation made of the amount which would probably be due in each year. The Bank of England became the contractor for a portion of the annuity. There was no novelty of principle in the project; it was only the old one of anticipating distant resources by throwing the burden of the existing generation on the next. It had the further disadvantage of incurring a useless expense for management; whereas the Sinking Fund, amounting at the time to about five millions, might have been applied to existing exigencies, and a real saving effected.

The Ministerial arrangements being completed, the coronation took place on the 31st of October, and was fully attended by the chief nobles and statesmen, even by Oxford and Bolingbroke, and was celebrated in most parts of the kingdom with many demonstrations of joy. Parliament was then dissolved, and the elections went vastly in favour of the Whigs, though there were serious riots at Manchester, and throughout the Midlands. The hopes of advantage from a new monarch made their usual conversions. In the House of Commons of 1710 there was a very large majority of Whigs; in that of 1713 as great a one of Tories; and now again there was as large a one of Whigs. In the Lords the spectacle was the same. Bolingbroke says, "I saw several Lords concur to condemn, in one general vote, all that they had approved of in a former Parliament by many particular resolutions."