一道开放性考题掀起“头脑风暴”

[See larger version] The great question of the Prince of Wales's debts was brought on by Alderman Newnham, who had been selected by the prince's set for that purpose, to give it more an air of independence. Newnham, on the 20th of April, asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his Majesty's Ministers proposed to make any arrangement for this purpose. He praised the prince for his generous conduct in breaking up his establishment to facilitate the payment of his debts; but declared it disgraceful to the nation that he should remain in that condition. Not[338] receiving any satisfactory answer, the alderman gave notice of a motion on the subject for the 4th of May. Pitt then endeavoured to deter the alderman from bringing in the motion, by saying that it was not his duty to do so except by command of the king. Newnham, however, persisted in his motion, and in the course of the debate Mr. Rolle, the member for Devonshire, pointedly alluded to the rumours that were afloat as to the marriage of the prince with Mrs. Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic lady. As a matter of fact, these rumours were true: the prince had been secretly united to her by a Protestant clergyman on December 21st, 1785, in the presence of several witnesses. The marriage placed the prince in this dilemma: by the Act of Settlement, marriage with a Roman Catholic invalidated all claims to the throne; but by the Royal Marriage Act, any marriage contracted without the royal consent was null. He could therefore annul the action of the first Act by pleading the second, but by so doing he would obviously take away the character of his wife. The prince saw a better way out of the difficultynamely, a denial that the marriage had taken place at all. Fox, completely duped by the mendacious assurances of his royal friend, was induced to get up and contradict the rumour, "by direct authority." The revulsion of feeling in the House was immediate. On the 23rd of May Pitt laid before the members a schedule of the prince's debts, amounting to one hundred and ninety-four thousand pounds. Of this sum a hundred and sixty-one thousand were voted, together with twenty thousand for the completion of Carlton House, and the king was induced to add ten thousand a year from the Civil List to the prince's income. He was thus placed for the time being in affluence, and only had to reckon with Mrs. Fitzherbert. This he did by disavowing Fox, whom he declared to have spoken without authority. But the lady appears to have urged some public explanation. The prince naturally avoided Fox, but sent for Grey, who, however, declined to have anything to do with the dirty business. "Then," said the prince, "Sheridan must say something." Accordingly, a few days later, Sheridan got up and paid a few vapid compliments to Mrs. Fitzherbert, which assuaged her wrath, without exposing the royal liar.

In the latest period scarcely any acting dramas were produced. Amongst the unacted tragedies, or such as were acted with no great successbeing better fitted for private studywere Coleridge's "Remorse" and "Zapolya;" Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound" and "The Cenci;" Byron's "Cain," "Manfred," "Sardanapalus," etc.; Maturin's "Bertram," "Manuel," and "Fredolpho;" Joanna Baillie's "Plays on the Passions," "The Family Legend"the last acted with some success at Edinburgh, through the influence of Sir Walter Scott, in 1810Charles Lamb's "John Woodvill," Milman's "Fazio," and Walter Savage Landor's "Count Julian," "Andrea of Hungary," "Giovanni of Naples," "Fra Rupert," "The Siege of Ancona," etc., all masterly dramas, constituting a blaze of dramatic genius which, had it been adapted to the stage, would have given it a new grandeur at the close of this reign.

O'Connell also wielded against the Government the fierce democracy of Roman Catholic Ireland. Sir Robert Peel had irritated him by some contemptuous remarks on his Repeal agitation, and he rose in his own defence, like a lion in his fury. He proceeded to give a description of the condition of Ireland, "which," said Mr. Brougham, "if not magnified in its proportions, if not painted in exaggerated colours, presents to my mind one of the most dismal, melancholy, and alarming conditions of society ever heard of or recorded in any State of the civilised world." Mr. O'Connell thus addressed the Treasury bench:"Tell the people of Ireland that you have no sympathy with their sufferings, that their advocate is greeted with sneers and laughter, that he is an outlaw in the land, and that he is taunted with want of courage, because he is afraid of offending his God. Tell them this, and let them hear also in what language the Secretary of State, who issued the proclamation to prevent meetings in Ireland, has spoken of Polignac." A powerful defence of his system of peaceful agitation, and a fierce defiance and denunciation of the existing Administration, closed this remarkable speech, whose effect upon the House, Mr. Roebuck said, was great and unexpected. Its effect upon the Roman Catholics of Ireland, it need not be added, was immense. Wolfe then held a council with his two next in command, the Brigadiers Monckton and Townshend, and they resolved, as a desperate attempt, to move up the river, and thus endeavour to draw Montcalm from his unassailable position. Accordingly, leaving detachments to defend the Isle of Orleans and Point Levi, the rest of the army ascended the St. Lawrence for some miles, and pitched their camp on the right bank. To attract still more attention, Admiral Holmes was ordered to put his vessels in active motion for some days, as if seeking a landing-place higher up the river.[135] This stratagem, however, produced no other result than that of Montcalm sending a detachment of one thousand five hundred men to watch their proceedings. He himself maintained his old ground. On the 23rd of December the committee met again in Fishamble Street, and resolved to address the Prince Regent on the invasion of their right to petition, appointing a general committee to meet again in Dublin on the 28th of February, 1812. In January, and at the commencement of February, Earl Fitzwilliam introduced the consideration of the state of Ireland, and Lord Morpeth proposed the same subject to the Commons, but both motions were rejected.

The secession of the Duke of Savoy only the more roused the indignation of the Allies. The Dutch breathed a hotter spirit of war just as their power of carrying it on failed; and even the experienced Heinsius made an energetic oration in the States General, declaring that all the fruits of the war would be lost if they consented to the peace proposed. But to avoid it was no longer possible. The English plenipotentiaries pressed the Allies more and more zealously to come in, so much so that they were scarcely safe from the fury of the Dutch populace, who insulted the Earl of Strafford and the Marquis del Borgo, the Minister of the Duke of Savoy, when the news came that the duke had consented to the peace. Every endeavour was made to detach the different Allies one by one. Mr. Thomas Harley was sent to the Elector of Hanover to persuade him to co-operate with her Majesty; but, notwithstanding all risk of injuring his succession to the English Crown, he declined. Similar attempts were made[8] on the King of Prussia and other princes, and with similar results. The English Ministers now began to see the obstacles they had created to the conclusion of a general peace by their base desertion of the Allies. The French, rendered more than ever haughty in their demands by the successes of Villars, raised their terms as fast as any of the Allies appeared disposed to close with those already offered. The Dutch, convinced at length that England would make peace without them, and was bending every energy to draw away their confederates, in October expressed themselves ready to treat, and to yield all pretensions to Douay, Valenciennes, and Mauberg, on condition that Cond and Tournay were included in their barrier; that the commercial tariffs with France should be restored to what they were in 1664; that Sicily should be yielded to Austria, and Strasburg to the Empire. But the French treated these concessions with contempt, and Bolingbroke was forced to admit to Prior that they treated like pedlars, or, what was worse, like attorneys. He conjured Prior "to hide the nakedness of his country" in his intercourse with the French Ministers, and to make the best of the blunders of his countrymen, admitting that they were not much better politicians than the French were poets. But the fault of Bolingbroke and his colleagues was not want of talent, it was want of honesty; and, by their selfish desire to damage their political rivals, they had brought their country into this deplorable dilemma of sacrificing all faith with their allies, of encouraging the unprincipled disposition of the French, who were certain to profit by the division of the Allies, and of abandoning the glory and position of England, or confessing that the Whigs, however much they had erred in entering on such enormous wars, had in truth brought them to the near prospect of a far more satisfactory conclusion than what they were taking up with.

The motion of Fox was negatived by a large majority, and on the 21st of June the king prorogued Parliament.

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