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At the opening of 1810 a peace was contracted with Turkey; but not with the Sultan Selim, with whom we had been at war, nor with his successor, Mahmoud. Whilst the throne of Turkey was occupied by a mere boy, and whilst his regular troops were dispersed, Alexander of Russia, famed for his piety, thought it a fine opportunity to seize on his neighbour's lands. His Ministers, at the commencement of 1809, at the Congress of Jassy, demanded, as a condition of peace, the cession of the Turkish provinces on the left bank of the Danube. The Turks, of course, refused to thus dismember their empire for the aggrandisement of Russia; and Alexander, who was resolved to have those provinces by hook or by crook, immediately declared war on Turkey, on the shameless plea that it had made peace with Britain. The Russians were supported by the Greeks, and other inhabitants of Moldavia and Wallachia; but on crossing the Danube and pushing forward into Bulgaria they were beaten on every occasion. On the 22nd of October, 1809, a desperate conflict took place between them under the walls of Silistria, which continued from morning till night, in which the Russians were driven back, and, in a second engagement, routed with such slaughter that they retired from Bulgaria, and went into winter-quarters in Moldavia and Wallachia. In this campaign it was found that the guns were served by French officers, though Buonaparte professed to be willing that Alexander should possess himself of Constantinople. By the peace with Turkey, the trading ports of that empire were again opened to us, and our manufactures, entering there, spread over all the Continent, and were sold and worn in Hamburg, Bremen, and other towns where they were strictly excluded by sea.

To all this his Lordship had to add various specimens of the Canons. By the 3rd, every one asserting that the Church of England was not a true apostolical church should be excommunicated. The 4th and 5th excommunicated all who declared that there was anything contrary to sound Scripture in the form of worship of the Church of England, or anything superstitious or erroneous in the Thirty-Nine Articles. The 65th enjoined all ordinaries to see that all offenders, under the different Acts here enumerated, should be cited and punished according to statute, or excommunicated. The 72nd forbade, under pain of excommunication, all ministers, without licence of the bishop, to attempt, upon any pretence whatever, to cast out any devil or devils, under pain of deposition from the ministry. The 73rd made it a subject of excommunication that any priest or minister should meet with other persons in any private house or elsewhere to consult upon any canon, etc., which may tend to impeach or deprave the doctrine, the Book of Common Prayer, or any part of the discipline and government of the Church of England; and by the 115th, all churchwardens are enjoined to make presentments of offenders in any of these particulars; and all judges, magistrates, etc., are bound to encourage, and not to discourage, all such presentments. Lord Stanhope observed that the Court of King's Bench, in 1737, had decided that these Canons, not having ever received the sanction of Parliament, were not binding on the laity; and he contended that the ratification of them by James I., not being authorised by the original statute, the 25th of Henry VIII., made them as little binding on the clergy. He had not, therefore, included the Canons in his Bill. He took care, too, to except Catholics from the benefit of the Bill; neither was the Bill to repeal any part of the Test and Corporation Acts, nor the 12th and 13th of William III., "for the better securing the rights and liberties of the subject." He finally showed that these fierce[163] and persecuting Acts were not become utterly obsolete; they were ever and anon revived, and might, any of them, be acted upon at any moment. It might reasonably have been supposed that the bishops would have supported the Bill unanimously; that they would have been glad to have all such evidences of the odious means by which their Church had been forced on the people, swept out of the Statute-book and forgotten. No such thing. The Archbishop of Canterbury declared, if Dissenters were allowed to defend their principles, the atheist and the theist might be allowed to defend theirs. But Bishop Horsley, then of St. David's, was the chief speaker against the repeal of these precious laws. He declared that this repeal would level every bulwark of the Church; that "the Christian religion would not remain in any shape, nor, indeed, natural religion!" It is needless to say that the Bill was rejected; it could not attain even to a second reading.

The last night's debate continued till between six and seven o'clock on the morning of Saturday, the 8th of October. It was a night of intense anxiety, both in the House and out of doors. The space about the throne was crowded with foreigners and members of the other House. There was a number of ladies, peeresses, and their daughters, sitting there the whole night, manifesting their excitement in every way consistent with decorum. Palace Yard and the space all round the House was thronged with people waiting to hear the result of the division. The night was wet, however, and the debate was so protracted that the crowd had dispersed before morning. This was a matter of consolation to the Opposition peers, who dreaded a mobbing. It was now broad daylight, and no sound was heard outside except the rolling of the carriages of the peers, who passed up Parliament Street as quietly as if they had come from disposing of a road Bill. The fate of the Bill was that day decided, for it, 158; against it, 199leaving a majority of 41. "The night was made interesting," wrote Lord Eldon, "by the anxieties of all present. Perhaps, fortunately, the mob on the outside would not wait so long." Some of the writers of the last period were still existing in this. Dryden was living, and wrote some of his most perfect works, as his "Fables," and his "Alexander's Feast," as well as translated Virgil after the Revolution. He was still hampered by his miserable but far more successful dramatic rivals, Shadwell and Elkanah Settle. Nathaniel Lee produced in William's time his tragedies, "The Princess of Cleves," and his "Massacre of Paris." Etherege was yet alive; Wycherley still poured out his licentious poems; and Southern wrote the greater part of his plays. His "Oronooko" and his "Fatal Marriage" were produced now, and he received such prices as astonished Dryden. Whilst "Glorious John" never obtained more than a hundred pounds for a play, Southern obtained his six or seven hundred.

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The purport of these Cabinet Councils was generally understood by the country; but as yet only the most sanguine anticipated the proposal of Sir Robert Peel, when the Times newspaper on the 4th of December announced, apparently from secret information, that it was the intention of the Government to repeal the Corn Laws, and to call Parliament together in January for that purpose. The assertion was received with incredulity, not only by the Opposition, but by the Ministerial journals. One organ of the Tory party placarded its office with a bill, headed "Atrocious fabrication of the Times!" But the latter journal, on the following day, declared that it "adhered to its original announcement." Day by day the controversy raged in the newspapers; but the news was too probable not to gain credence. The result was a conviction throughout the country that the Times had really obtained information of the Government's intentions; but as a matter of fact its information was incorrect, as the Cabinet, far from intending to repeal the Corn Laws, had made up its mind to retire.

Though a declaration of war had been issued both against France and Holland, there had been none against Spain. But Ministers hearing that a strong Spanish armament was being equipped in the port of Ferrol, and that French soldiers were expected to join and sail in it, despatched Captain Graham Moore, the brother of Sir John Moore, with four frigates to intercept four Spanish treasure-ships. The proceeding was certainly high-handed, but Ministers were justified by their knowledge that Spain paid subsidies to France. The Spaniards were furious in their indignation; an order was speedily issued to make reprisals on British ships and property, and on the 12th of December war was formally proclaimed against us.

In order to induce the people to attend to their ordinary spring work, and put in the crops, it was found necessary to adopt the plan of distributing free rations. On the 20th of March, therefore, a reduction of twenty per cent. of the numbers employed on the works took place, and the process of reduction went on until the new system of gratuitous relief was brought into full operation. The authority under which this was administered was called the "Temporary Relief Act," which came into full operation in the month of July, when the destitution was at its height, and three millions of people received their daily rations. Sir John Burgoyne truly described this as "the grandest attempt ever made to grapple with famine over a whole country." Never in the history of the world were so many persons fed in such a manner by the public bounty. It was a most anxious timea time of tremendous labour and responsibility to those who had the direction of this vast machinery. This great multitude was, however, rapidly lessened at the approach of harvest, which happily was not affected by the disease. Food became comparatively abundant, and labour in demand. By the middle of August relief was discontinued in nearly one half of the unions, and ceased altogether on September 12th. It was limited by the Act to the 1st of October. This was the second year in which upwards of 3,000,000 of people had been fed out of the hands of the magistrates in Ireland; but it was now done more effectually than at first. Organised armies, it was said, had been rationed before; but neither ancient nor modern history can furnish a parallel to the fact that upwards of three millions of persons were fed every day in the neighbourhood of their own homes, by administrative arrangements emanating from, and controlled by, one central office. The expense of this great undertaking amounted to 1,559,212a moderate sum in comparison with the extent of the service performed, and in which performance the machinery of the Poor Law unions was found to afford most important aid. Indeed, without such aid the service could hardly have been performed at all; and the anticipations of the advantages to be derived from the Poor Law organisation in such emergencies were fully verified.

George had arrived in England from his German States on the 11th of November of the preceding year, 1719, and opened Parliament on the 23rd. In his speech he laid stress on the success of his Government in promoting the evacuation of Sicily and Sardinia by Spain, in protecting Sweden, and laying the foundation of a union amongst the great Protestant Powers of Europe. He then recurred to the subject of the Bill for limiting the peerage, which had been rejected in the previous Session. George was animated by the vehement desire to curtail the prerogative of his son, and said that the Bill was necessary to secure that part of the Constitution which was most liable to abuse. Lord Cowper declared, on the other hand, that besides the reasons which had induced him to oppose the measure before, another was now added in the earnestness with which it was recommended. But Cowper was not supported with any zeal by the rest of the House, and the Bill passed on the 30th of November, and was sent down to the House of Commons on the 1st of December. There it was destined to meet with a very different reception. During the recess Walpole had endeavoured to rouse a resistance to it in both Houses. He had convened a meeting of the Opposition Whigs at Devonshire House, and called upon them to oppose the measure; but he found that some of the Whig peers were favourable to it, from the perception that it would increase the importance of their order; others declared that it would be inconsistent in them to oppose a principle which they had so strenuously maintained against a Tory Ministrythat of discountenancing the sudden creation of peers for party purposes; and others, though hostile to the Bill, declared that they should only expose themselves to defeat by resisting it. But Walpole persisted in his opposition, and declared that, if his party deserted him, he would contend against the Bill single-handed. He asserted that it would meet with strong resistance from the country gentlemen who hoped some time or other to reach the peeragea hope which the Bill, if carried, would extinguish for ever.

In the East Indies, immediately afterwards, another severe blow was inflicted on Spain. An expedition sailed from Madras, and Admiral Cornish conveyed in a small fleet a body of men amounting to two thousand three hundred, and consisting of one regiment of the line, in addition to marines and sepoys. Colonel William Draper, afterwards so well known for his spirited contest with the still undiscovered author of "Junius's Letters," was the commander. They landed near Manila, the capital of the Philippine Islands, on the 24th of September, the Spanish garrison there being taken completely by surprise. The whole of the Philippines submitted without further resistance; and Draper, besides being made a knight of the Bath, was, with the naval commanders, thanked by Parliament, as well they might be.

On the 15th the British squadron brought in the Emigrant troops from the Elbe, under the young and gallant Count de Sombreuil; but they amounted only to eleven thousand men. Puisaye now ordered the Count de Vauban to advance against Hoche with twelve thousand Chouans, and, whilst they attacked on the right, he himself attacked his lines in front. After some desperate fighting they were driven back, and lost most of their cannon in the deep sand of the isthmus. Their misfortunes were completed, on the 20th, by the garrison of the fort of Penthivre going over to the enemy, surrendering the fort to them, and helping to massacre such of their officers and comrades as refused to follow their example. The English admiral exerted himself to receive the remainder of the troops who remained true on board his ships; but the storminess of the weather and the impatience of the fugitives rendered this a most difficult task. About fourteen thousand regulars and two thousand four hundred Chouans were got on board; but Sombreuil, exposed to the murderous fire from the enemy whilst waiting on the beach, surrendered on promise of life. No sooner, however, were they in the hands of the Republicans than all the officers and gentlemen were led out and shot; and the common men enrolled in Hoche's regiments.

For many years the king had been scarcely ever free from gout, but its attacks had been resisted by the uncommon strength of his constitution. Partly in consequence of the state of his health, and partly from his habits of self-indulgence, he had for some time led a life of great seclusion. He became growingly averse from all public displays and ceremonials, and was impatient of any intrusions upon his privacy. During the spring of 1829 he resided at St. James's Palace, where he gave a ball to the juvenile branches of the nobility, to which the Princess Victoria and the young Queen of Portugal were invited. His time was mostly spent within the royal domain at Windsor, where his outdoor amusements were sailing and fishing on Virginia Water, or driving rapidly in a pony phaeton through the forest. He was occasionally afflicted with pains in the eyes and defective vision. The gout attacked him in the hands as well as in the feet, and towards the end, dropsya disease which had been fatal to the Duke of York, and to his sister, the Queen of Würtembergwas added to his other maladies. In April the disease assumed a decisive character; and bulletins began to be issued. The Duke of Clarence was at Windsor, and warmly expressed his sympathy with the royal sufferer. The Duke of Cumberland, and nearly all the Royal Family, expressed to Sir William Knighton their anxiety and fears as to the issue. This devoted servant was constantly by the side of his master. On the 27th of May Sir William wrote to Lady Knighton: "The king is particularly affectionate[311] to me. His Majesty is gradually breaking down; but the time required, if it does not happen suddenly, to destroy his originally fine constitution, no one can calculate upon." We are assured that Sir William took every opportunity of calling his Majesty's attention to religious subjects, and had even placed unordered a quarto Bible, of large type, on the dressing-table, with which act of attention the king was much pleased, and frequently referred to the sacred volume. A prayer was appointed for public use during his Majesty's indisposition, which the Bishop of Chichester read to him. "With the king's permission," wrote this learned prelate, "I repeated it on my knees at his bedside. At the close, his Majesty having listened to it with the utmost attention, three times repeated 'Amen,' with the greatest fervour and devotion. He expressed himself highly gratified with it, and desired me to convey his approbation of it to the Archbishop of Canterbury."