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The corruptionists in Parliament were deaf to eloquence or remonstrance; the base contractors sitting there, and the other vile absorbers of the money voted by the country for the most sacred purposes, for the preservation of the integrity and existence of the empire, sat still in impudent hardihood; but the sound of these stirring words was already out of doors. The City of London voted thanks to the Duke of Richmond and the Earl of Shelburne for their motions, and for their promised resumption of the subject on the 8th of February. A great meeting was called at York to induce that county to prepare a petition for reform in Parliament. Many efforts were made by persuasion and by menace to prevent these freeholders from meeting. But the Marquis of Rockingham and Sir George Savile stood forward, attended the meeting, and encouraged the freeholders. The meeting was held on the 30th of December, and, besides these distinguished men, was attended by peers, gentlemen, clergymenthe richest and noblest in the county. A petition was adopted to the House of Commons in the strongest terms. Before separating, this most important meeting appointed a committee of correspondence, consisting of sixty-one gentlemen, to carry out the objects of the petition, and still further to prepare the plan of a national association for the promotion of the great business of reform. The contagion spread rapidly; in numbers of other counties, and in many of the leading cities, similar petitions were got up, and committees of correspondence formed. The result was that very soon, in the counties of Middlesex, Chester, Hants, Hertford, Sussex, Huntingdon, Surrey, Cumberland, Bedford, Essex, Gloucester, Somerset, Wilts, Dorset, Devon, Norfolk, Berks, Bucks, Nottingham, Kent, Northumberland, Suffolk, Hereford, Cambridge, Derby, Northampton, and the towns of York and Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham, Newcastle, Reading, and Bridgewater, petitions were prepared, and in most of them corresponding committees organised.

When these letters were published in America, their real character was concealed, and every means taken to represent them as official despatches to the officers of Government in England. The public rage was uncontrollable. A committee was formed to wait on Governor Hutchinson, and demand whether he owned the handwriting. Hutchinson freely owned to that, but contended very justly that the letters were of a thoroughly private character, and to an unofficial person. Notwithstanding, the House of Assembly drew up a strong remonstrance to the British Government, charging the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor with giving false and malicious information respecting the colony, and demanding their dismissal. This remonstrance, accompanied by copies of the letters themselves, was immediately dispatched over the colonies, and everywhere produced, as was intended, the most violent inflammation of the public mind against us. The Bostonians had for some time established what was called a Corresponding Committee, whose business it was to prepare and circulate through the whole of the colonies papers calculated to keep alive the indignation against the British Government. This Committee quickly was responded to by other committees in different places, and soon this plan became an organisation extending to every part of the colonies, even the most remote, by which intelligence and arguments were circulated through all America with wonderful celerity.

Some of the offenders in this "Bottle Riot," as it was called, were prosecuted. Bills against them were sent up to the grand jury of the city of Dublin. But as this body had a strong Orange animus, the bills were thrown out. Mr. Plunket then proceeded by ex-officio informations, which raised a great outcry against the Government, as having violated the Constitution, and a resolution to that effect was moved by Mr. Brownlow in the House of Commons. It turned out, however, that his predecessor, Mr. Saurin, one of his most vehement accusers, who alleged that the course was altogether unprecedented, had himself established the precedent ten or twelve years before. Forgetting this fact, he denounced the conduct of Mr. Plunket as "the most flagrant violation of constitutional principle that had ever been attempted." The trial in the Court of Queen's Bench, which commenced on February 3rd, 1823, produced the greatest possible excitement. The ordinary occupations of life appeared to be laid aside in the agitating expectation of the event. As soon as the doors were opened, one tremendous rush of the waiting multitude filled in an instant the galleries, and every avenue of the court. The result of the trial was, that the jury disagreed, the traversers were let out on bail, the Attorney-General threatening to prosecute again; but the proceedings were never revived.

The Queen's marriage has been referred to in connection with the proceedings in Parliament. The details of that interesting event, and other incidents affecting her Majesty's happiness which occurred during the year, will now be recorded. The royal party assembled in the morning of the 10th of February at Buckingham Palace, whence it had been arranged that the members of her Majesty's family and those of Prince Albert's, accompanied by the officers of State, should proceed to St. James's Palace. The entire route along which the royal cortge was to pass was lined by the Horse Guards, while the trumpeters, in their State uniforms, were stationed at intervals to announce the approach of the royal bride and bridegroom. First, the Ladies and Gentlemen of her Majesty's Household, in seven royal carriages, arrived at the garden entrance of St. James's Palace; and then followed the splendid State coach containing her Majesty, her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, and the Mistress of the Robes. The closet behind the Throne Room had been draped with silk and prepared for the reception of the Queen. There her Majesty, attended by her maids of honour, train-bearers, and bridesmaids, remained until the Lord Chamberlain of her Household marshalled the procession to the Chapel Royal. Soon after her Majesty had entered the closet, the clash of "presented arms," the roll of drums and flourish of trumpets outside, told that the bridegroom had arrived. At a quarter to one o'clock the ring was placed upon her Majesty's finger; outside, the guns thundered forth the intelligence; but their loud booming was nearly drowned by the long-continued shouts of acclamation which arose from the thousands who thronged the park. At the conclusion of the service the Queen Dowager cordially embraced and kissed the bride, and the Prince acknowledged Queen Adelaide's congratulations by kissing her hand. The bride and her royal consort drove at once to Buckingham Palace, and the noble assembly that had witnessed the ceremony retired. After a splendid breakfast at Buckingham Palace the bride and bridegroom took their departure for Windsor Castle. The sun shone out in cloudless lustre just at the moment of their leaving the gateway; the vast concourse of people assembled outside the palace hailed this as a happy omen, and as the carriage containing the royal pair drove off, the air was rent with the most enthusiastic cheering.

The British, apprised of the views of France, determined to send a fleet and troops to protect[258] the West Indies; but, instead of sending the requisite force from home, the Ministers ordered Clinton to send five thousand men from New York. This was another example of the feeble and penurious manner in which they carried on this war. Clinton had recently sent three thousand five hundred men to Georgia, and now this detachment of five thousand diminished his already insufficient army by eight thousand five hundred men. It was, therefore, utterly impossible that he could take another decisive step in America during this year, and thus Congress was left to strengthen its army and to await fresh reinforcements from France. Mr. Canning, who had been on terms of intimacy with her Majesty, declined to take any part in the proceedings, declaring that nothing would induce him to do anything calculated to reflect upon the honour and virtue of the queen. The queen intimated to the Lord Chancellor that she meant to come in person to the House of Lords when her case should next be discussed there. He answered that he would not permit her to enter without the authority of the House, for which she must previously apply. She then desired that he would deliver a message to the House in her name, which he declined, stating that "the House did not receive messages from anybody but the king, unless they were sent as answers to Addresses from the House." The petition was presented by Lord Dacre, on which occasion the Lord Chancellor declared that he had no objection to its being submitted to the consideration of the House, adding that "he would sooner suffer death than admit any abatement of the principle that a person accused is not therefore to be considered guilty." Mr. Brougham and Mr. Denman were then called in to support the petition, which prayed that their lordships would not prosecute a secret inquiry against her. The powerful pleading of these two orators had an immense effect upon the public mind. On the following day Lord Grey moved that the order for the appointment of a secret committee should be discharged. His motion was negatived by a majority of one hundred and two to forty-seven. This was the first division on the proceedings against the queen, and so large a majority naturally gave great confidence to the Government. The secret committee accordingly set to work, opened the green bag, and examined the charges. On the 4th of July they brought in their report, which stated "that allegations supported by the concurrent testimony of a great number of persons in various situations of life, and residing in different parts of Europe, appeared to be calculated so deeply to affect the character of the queen, the dignity of the Crown, and the moral feeling and honour of the country, that it was indispensable that they should become the subject of a solemn inquiry, which would best be effected in the course of a legislative proceeding." On the 5th Lord Liverpool introduced the Bill of Pains and Penalties against her Majesty, which, having recited in the preamble that she carried on an adulterous intercourse with Bergami, her menial servant, enacted "that she should be degraded from her station and title of queen, and that her marriage with the king should be dissolved." Counsel were again heard against that mode of proceeding, a second reading was set down for the 17th of August, when the preamble was to be proved, and the trial to begin. On his return Lord Cochrane received the honour of the red riband of the Bath; but he could not conceal his dissatisfaction at Lord Gambier's conduct, and declared that he would oppose any vote of thanks to him in Parliament. On this, Gambier demanded a court-martial, which was held, and acquitted him of all blame. Cochrane complained that the court was strongly biassed in favour of Gambier, and against himself, and the public was very much of his opinion.

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.

But the King of France did not share in the feeling of Choiseul. He wrote to the King of Spain about this time, "My Minister wishes for war, but I do not!" In fact, changes had taken place in the Court of France which were about to precipitate Choiseul from his long-enjoyed favour. Madame de Pompadour was dead, and the king had become deeply enamoured of Madame du Barry. Choiseul was impolitic enough to despise her influence, and treated her with undisguised hauteur. He soon felt the consequence in an order from the king to resign his office and retire[203] to his estate at Chanteloupe, in Touraine. The shock to the insolent Minister, who had so long ruled absolutely in the French Court, was the more unlooked for, because he thought himself now all the more safe from having secured the marriage of the king's heir, his eldest grandson, with the Austrian archduchess, Marie Antoinette. Choiseul was succeeded by the triumvirate d'Aiguillon, as Foreign Minister; Terray, as Minister of Finance; and Maupeou, as Minister of Jurisprudence; but all subject to the supreme influence of Madame du Barry. Louis XV. thenceforth became a cipher.

Buonaparte took up his residence at a palace in the suburbs. In the night there was an alarm of fire; it broke out in the quarter full of bazaars and coachmakers' factories. Napoleon rushed to the spot, and the flames were extinguished by the exertions of the soldiers. The next day all was quiet, and such French as lived in Moscow came out of their hiding-places and joined their countrymen. The following night the fires burst forth again. At first the conflagration had been attributed to accident; now it was felt to be the result of design, and Russians were seen fanatically hurrying from place to place with combustibles in their handsthe preparations of Rostopschin. Buonaparte during the day had taken possession of the Kremlin, and it was in imminent danger. When the fire was discovered near it, it came with the wind; it was extinguished, but the wind changed, and fire rose on that side, and again blew towards the palace. This occurred several times during the night; it was clear that there was a determined resolve to burn down the Kremlin. The flames defied all the efforts of the soldiers; they hunted down, according to Napoleon's twenty-first bulletin, no less than three hundred incendiaries, and shot them on the spot. These were armed with fusees six inches long, and inflammables, which they threw on the roofs. Buonaparte, who that day had dispatched a letter to Alexander proposing peace, was in the utmost agitation. He walked to and fro in distraction. "These are indeed Scythians!" he exclaimed. The equinoctial gales rose in all their wild fury. Providence commenced its Nemesis. The Kremlin was on fire, and all was raging fire around it; churches, palaces, streets, mostly of wood, were roaring in the storm. It was with difficulty that Buonaparte could be induced to leave the Kremlin, and as he did so he said gloomily, "This bodes us great misfortunes." He began to foresee all the horrors which followed.

On the 15th of April, notwithstanding Luttrell's signal defeat, the House of Commons, on the motion of Onslow, son of the late Speaker, voted, after a violent debate, by a majority of fifty-four, that "Henry Lawes Luttrell, Esq., ought to have been returned for Middlesex." The debate was very obstinate. The whole of the Grenville interest, including Lord Temple, was employed against Government, and the decision was not made till three o'clock on Sunday morning.