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It was natural that this mighty turn in affairs[74] on the Continent should be watched in Great Britain with an interest beyond the power of words. Though this happy country had never felt the foot of the haughty invader, no nation in Europe had put forth such energies for the overthrow of the usurper; none had poured forth such a continual flood of wealth to arm, to clothe, to feed the struggling nations, and hold them up against the universal aggressor. Parliament met on the 4th of November, and, in the speech of the Prince Regent and in the speeches in both Houses, one strain of exultation and congratulation on the certain prospect of a close to this unexampled war prevailed. At that very moment the "Corsican upstart" was on his way to Paris, his lost army nearly destroyed, the remains of it chased across the Rhine, and himself advancing to meet a people at length weary of his sanguinary ambition, and sternly demanding peace.[210]At this crisis, when an able diplomatist at Paris might have avoided a great war, the Earl of Albemarle, who never had been an able or attentive ambassador, but a mere man of pleasure, died; and though George II. was so well aware of the gathering storm that he sent a message to the House of Commons announcing the necessity for increased forces, and, consequently, increased supplies, nothing could induce him to forego his usual summer journey to Hanover. The Commons readily voted a million and a half, but made an energetic protest against the king quitting the country in the circumstances. Besides the state of affairs in France and Spain, those of Ireland were very disturbed. The Duke of Dorset, the Lord-Lieutenant, was recalled, and Lord Harrington sent in his place to endeavour to restore order. Lord Poulett, therefore, moved a resolution against George's journey; but it was overruled, and the infatuated king set out in April, attended by Lord Holderness.

Whilst all the countries which Buonaparte, at such an incalculable cost of life and human suffering, had compelled to the dominion of France were thus re-asserting their freedom, Buonaparte, in Paris, presented the miserable phantom of a vanished greatness. He called on the Senate to vote new conscriptions, telling them that theirs had been made by him the first throne of the universe, and they must maintain it as such; that without him they would become nothing. But the Allies were now entering France at one end, and Wellington was firmly fixed in the other; ere long the insulted nations would be at the gates of Paris, and the Senate and people demanded peace. Buonaparte refused to listen, and the Senate voted the conscription of three hundred thousand men, knowing that there was no longer any authority in the country to raise them. La Vende, and all the Catholic South, were on the verge of insurrection; Murat, in Naples, was ready to throw off his last link of adhesion to Buonaparte; and the defeated usurper stood paralysed at the approach of his doom.

5At this crisis, when an able diplomatist at Paris might have avoided a great war, the Earl of Albemarle, who never had been an able or attentive ambassador, but a mere man of pleasure, died; and though George II. was so well aware of the gathering storm that he sent a message to the House of Commons announcing the necessity for increased forces, and, consequently, increased supplies, nothing could induce him to forego his usual summer journey to Hanover. The Commons readily voted a million and a half, but made an energetic protest against the king quitting the country in the circumstances. Besides the state of affairs in France and Spain, those of Ireland were very disturbed. The Duke of Dorset, the Lord-Lieutenant, was recalled, and Lord Harrington sent in his place to endeavour to restore order. Lord Poulett, therefore, moved a resolution against George's journey; but it was overruled, and the infatuated king set out in April, attended by Lord Holderness.Such was the condition into which an army and navy, once illustrious through the victories of Marlborough and Blake, were reduced by the aristocratic imbecility of the Newcastles, Bedfords, and Cumberlands. This last princely general had, in fact, put the climax to his career. He had placed himself at the head of fifty thousand confederate troops, in which there were no English, except the officers of his own staff, to defend his father's Electorate of Hanover. But this ruthless general, who never won a battle except the solitary one of Culloden, against a handful of famished men, was found totally incompetent to cope with the French general, d'Estres. He allowed the French to cross the deep and rapid Weser, and continued to fall back before them as they entered the Electorate, until he was driven to the village of Hastenbeck, near Hameln, where the enemy overtook and defeated him. He then continued his retreat across the desolate Lüneburg Heath, to cover Stade, near the mouth of the Elbe, where the archives and other valuable effects of Hanover had been deposited for safety. At this time Richelieu succeeded to the command of d'Estres in this quarter, and he continued to drive Cumberland before him, taking Hameln, G?ttingen, and Hanover itself, and soon after Bremen and Verden. Thus were Hanover and Verden, which had cost England such millions to defend, seized by France; nor did the disgrace end here. Cumberland was cooped up in Stade, and compelled, on the 8th of December, to sign a convention at Closter-Seven, by which he engaged to send home the Hesse and Brunswick troops, and to disperse the Hanoverians into different quarters, not to serve again during the war.

We have now to turn from the feeble and ill-directed efforts of Britain to counteract the plans of Napoleon on land to the successful ones on her really protecting elementthe sea. All Napoleon's endeavours to cross the Channel with his Grand Army he had seen to be impossible. Nelson was riding there in his glory, and the French fleets were only safe while they were in port. The impatience of this restraint caused Napoleon to urge on his admirals a greater daring; and these incitements to a rash hazard brought, eventually, that which must have occurred sooner, had the admirals listened to his suggestions rather than their own knowledge of the truththe utter destruction of the French navy. Under such stimulants from the Emperor, Villeneuve seized the opportunity, when the weather had driven back the blockading British fleet, to steal out of Toulon on the 18th of January, 1805, and another fleet of ten vessels escaped out of Rochefort on the 11th of the same month. These squadrons stood away for the West Indies, and managed to get home again without meeting with a British fleet. Thus encouraged, Villeneuve made another venture. Nelson, who was watching Villeneuve off Toulon, in order to tempt him out, bore away along the Spanish coast as far as Barcelona. Villeneuve put out to sea on the 31st of March, with ten ships of the line, seven frigates, and two brigs. Nelson had gone a little too far, and it was not till the 7th of April that he heard of their issue from port. Before he could prevent it, they had passed the Strait of Gibraltar, and struck once more across the Atlantic. He was joined by the Spanish admiral, Gravina, from Cadiz, with six Spanish ships of the line, and two other French ships of the line. This combined fleet now amounted to eighteen sail of the line, six forty-four gun ships, and a number of smaller craft. Nelson did not hesitate to pursue them with his ten ships of the line and three frigates; but contrary winds withheld him, and it was the 7th of May before he could get out of the Strait of Gibraltar. His ships were, most of them, in very bad condition, one of them, the Superb, not having been in a home port for four years. Villeneuve had upwards of a month's start of Nelson, and his orders were to bear away to Martinique with five thousand one hundred troops, which he had on board, to capture St. Lucia, and strengthen the garrisons of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Dominica. He was afterwards to wait and see if Gautheaume could get out of Brest and join him with twenty-one more sail of the line, when they were to do all possible mischief amongst our islands and merchantmen. But the chief scheme was, by this means, to draw the British fleet after them, and then, hurrying back, enable Buonaparte to cross the Channel for England. Villeneuve did nothing but take the Diamond Rock, a fortification of the British, lying opposite to Fort Royal Bay, into which he had entered. He then sailed to Guadeloupe, where he was joined by two seventy-four gun ships; and an American having apprised him of a homeward-bound British convoy, he went after it, and succeeded, off Antigua, in capturing fifteen merchantmen. His success was, however, spoiled in the possession of it, for one of the prisoners informed him that Nelson was already in the West Indies in quest of him. Terrified at this news, he burnt all his prizes, and made all sail homewards. Nelson, in the meantime, was misled by some of the Yankee skippers abounding in those seas, and sent on a false scent after Villeneuve towards Venezuela and the mouth of the Orinoco. Not finding him, he was satisfied that he had sailed for Europe, and he made after him. Nelson sighted Cape St. Vincent on the 17th of July, after a run of more than three thousand two hundred miles. The next day he fell in with Admiral Collingwood, who was watching Cadiz, but who had no news of Villeneuve, but informed him that Sir Robert Calder was blockading Ferrol. On the 19th he anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar, and went on shore for the first time for two years, short only of two days. Hearing that Villeneuve was still out in the Atlantic, he bore away westward again to intercept him, but in vain; and, on returning to Ushant, where Collingwood was cruising, he learned that Sir Robert Calder had met with and attacked him at the very time Nelson was off Gibraltar, namely, on the 22nd of July.[509]LORD ANGLESEY LEAVING IRELAND: SCENE AT KINGSTOWN. (See p. 292.)

The treaty between Russia, Prussia, and Austria for the first division of Poland was signed at St. Petersburg on the 5th of August, 1772. The three robber powers now promised to rest satisfied with their booty; to respect the rights and remaining territories of Polandwords hollow and worthless as they who used them. The invaders divided at this time about one-third of Poland between them. Prussia appropriated the whole of Pomerania, part of Great Poland, the bishopric of Warmia, and the palatinates of Marienburg and Culm; with complete command of the lower part of the Vistula. The whole of this territory did not exceed eight hundred square miles, but it was a territory of vast importance to Prussia, as it united Pomerania with the rest of that kingdom. Russia and Austria acquired immensely more in extent. Russia took nearly the whole of Lithuania, with the vast country between the rivers Dwina and Dniester. Austria secured the country along the left bank of the Vistula from Wieliczka to the confluence of the Vistula and the Viroz. But Russia had Galicia, the palatinate of Belz, and a part of Volhynia. Unsupported by France, England had no course but to acquiesce in the arrangement.

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Before entering Washington, General Ross sent in a flag of truceor, rather, he carried one himself, for he accompanied itto see that all was done that could be done to arrange terms, without further mischief or bloodshed. He demanded that all military stores should be delivered up, and that the other public property should be ransomed at a certain sum. But scarcely had they entered the place, with the flag of truce displayed, whenwith total disregard of all such customs established by civilised nations in warthe party was fired upon, and the horse of General Ross killed under him. There was nothing for it but to order the troops forward. The city was taken possession of, under strict orders to respect private property, and to destroy only that of the State. Under these orders, the Capitol, the President's house, the Senate-house, the House of Representatives, the Treasury, the War-office, the arsenal, the dockyard, and the ropewalk were given to the flames; the bridge over the Potomac, and some other public works, were blown up; a frigate on the stocks and some smaller craft were burnt. All was done that could be done by General Ross, and the officers under him, to protect private property; but the soldiers were so incensed at the treachery by which the Americans had sought to blow up the seamen, by the firing on the flag of truce, and the unprincipled manner in which the Americans had carried on the war in Canada, as well as by the insults and gasconading of the Americans on all occasions, that they could not be restrained from committing some excesses. Yet it may be said that never was the capital of a nation so easily taken, and never did the capital of a nation which had given so much irritating provocation escape with so little scathe. The following evening it was evacuated in perfect order, and without any enemy appearing to molest the retreat. On the 30th the troops were safely re-embarked.

The very first act was to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act for a year. To punish the Catholics and Non-jurors, who were all regarded as implicated in this conspiracy, Walpole proposed to raise one hundred thousand pounds by a tax on their estates. A Bill of Pains and Penalties was passed against Atterbury, and he was compelled to go into banishment. On the 18th of June Atterbury was put on board a man-of-war and conducted to Calais. As he landed there, he was told that Bolingbroke had received the king's pardon, and was just quitting Calais for England; and the Bishop said, with a smile, "Then I am exchanged."THE CORONATION OF NAPOLEON IN NOTRE DAME. (See p. 499.)The Lords Justices having met, appointed Joseph Addison, afterwards so celebrated as a writer, and even now very popular, as their secretary, and ordered all despatches addressed to Bolingbroke to be brought to him. This was an intimation that Bolingbroke would be dismissed; and that proud Minister, instead of giving orders, was obliged to receive them, and to wait at the door of the Council-chamber with his bags and papers. As the Lords Justices were apprehending that there might be some disturbances in Ireland, they were about to send over Sunderland as Lord-Lieutenant, and General Stanhope as Commander-in-Chief; but they were speedily relieved of their fears by the intelligence that all had passed off quietly there; that the Lords Justices of Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh, and Sir Constantine Phipps, who had been more than suspected of Jacobitism, had proclaimed the king on the 6th of August, and, to give evidence of their new zeal, had issued a proclamation for disarming Papists and seizing their horses. The proclamation of George passed with the same quietness in Scotland, and no king, had he been born a native, in the quietest times, could have succeeded to the throne more smoothly. Eighteen lords, chiefly Whigs, were nominated by the new king to act as a Council of Regency, pending his arrival, and the Civil List was voted by Parliament.

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