[356] On the arrival of this news the French Court complained bitterly of the violation of the peace, to which the Court of St. James's replied that the French had too prominently set the example, and the ambassadors on both sides were recalledan equivalent to a declaration of war, though none on either side yet followed. We had soon a severe reverse instead of a victory to record. General Braddock had been despatched against Fort Duquesne, and had reached Great Meadows, the scene of Washington's defeat in the preceding summer. Braddock was a general of the Hawley schoolbrave enough, but, like him, brutal and careless. His soldiers hated him for his severity. The Indians resented so much the haughtiness with which he treated them, that they had most of them deserted him; and, as was the fatal habit of English commanders then and long afterwards, he had the utmost contempt for what were called "Provincials" (that is, Colonists), supposing that all sense and knowledge existed in England, and that the English, just arrived, knew more about America than natives who had spent their lives in it. He therefore marched on into the woods, utterly despising all warnings against the Indians in alliance with the French. At Great Meadows he found it necessary, from the nature of the woods and the want of roads, to leave behind him all his heavy baggage, and part of his troops to guard it, and he proceeded with only one thousand two hundred men and ten pieces of artillery. On the 9th of July, 1755, having arrived within ten miles of Fort Duqnesne, he still neglected to send out scouts, and thus rashly entering the mouth of a deep woody defile, he found himself assaulted by a murderous fire in front and on both flanks. His enemies were Indians assisted by a few French, who, accustomed to that mode of fighting, aimed from the thickets and behind trees, and picked off his officers, whom they recognised by their dress, without themselves being visible. Without attempting to draw out of the ambush, and advance with proper precautions, Braddock rushed deeper into it, and displayed a desperate but useless courage. Now was the time for his Indians to have encountered his enemies in their own mode of battle, had his pride not driven them away. After having three horses killed under him, in the vain endeavour to come at his foes, he was shot, and his troops retreated in all haste, leaving behind them their artillery and seven hundred of their comrades on the ground. Their retreat was protected by the "provincial" George Washingtonwhose advice had been unheededor the slaughter would have been greater.

The Repeal Agitation in Ireland, which had been thoroughly organised in 1842 by "Repeal Missionaries" who had visited every parish in the country, reached its culminating point in 1843. Early in February that year Mr. O'Connell, who had filled the civic chair the previous year, and was then an alderman of the Dublin Corporation, gave notice that, on the 21st of that month, he would move a resolution, affirming the right of Ireland to a resident Parliament, and the necessity of repealing the union. Alderman Butt expressed his determination of opposing the motion. Mr. Butt was one of the ablest members of the Irish bar, and a leader of the Conservative party. The debate was therefore anticipated with the greatest interest, as it promised to be a very exciting political duel. The old Assembly House, since abandoned for the more commodious City Hall, was densely crowded by the principal citizens, while the street was thronged by the populace during the debate. Mr. O'Connell marshalled his arguments under many heads: Ireland's capacity for independenceher right to have a Parliament of her ownthe establishment of that right in 1782the prosperity that followedthe incompetence of the Irish Parliament to destroy the Constitutionthe corrupt means by which the union was carriedits disastrous results, and the national benefits that would follow its repeal. The speech, which lasted four hours, was mainly argumentative and statistical. It was accepted by his followers as an elaborate and masterly statement of the case. Mr. Butt replied with equal ability and more fervid eloquence. The debate was adjourned. Next day other members took part in it. It was again adjourned, and as the contest proceeded the public excitement rose to fever heat. At two o'clock on the third day Mr. O'Connell rose to reply. "No report," says Mr. O'Neil Daunt, "could possibly do justice to that magnificent reply. The consciousness of a great moral triumph seemed to animate his voice, his[526] glance, and his gestures. Never had I heard him so eloquent, never had I witnessed so noble a display of his transcendent powers." The division showed that 41 were in favour of a domestic legislature and 15 were opposed to it.

Sir Robert Wilson, the British Commissioner, urged Kutusoff, indeed, to make one general and determined attack on Buonaparte and this small body before the other divisions could come up; and there can be no doubt that, had he done so, he would have destroyed the division utterly, and made himself master of Napoleon's person. But though Kutusoff had fought the battle of Borodino, he had now grown over-cautious, and did not do that which it was the plan of Barclay de Tolly, whom he superseded, to do when the right moment came. Whilst Kutusoff was thus timidly cannonading, the division of Davoust came up, and he retired, allowing both Buonaparte and Davoust to secure themselves in Krasnoi. As for Ney, he was left behind wholly surrounded by the Russians who had harassed the rear of Davoust, and were thus interposed between Davoust and himself, as well as swarming on his own flanks and rear. Napoleon could not wait for him, even at Krasnoi. He learned that the Russians were drawing fast towards his crossing-places at the Dnieper and the Beresina; that Prince Galitzin with a strong force was about to occupy Krasnoi; that the Dnieper at Liady would be immediately in the hands of the enemy. He therefore called Mortier, and squeezing his hand sorrowfully told him that he had not a moment to lose; that the enemy were overwhelming him in all directions; that Kutusoff might have already reached Liady, perhaps Orcha, and the last winding of the Dnieper was yet before him. Then, with his heart full of Ney's misfortunes, he withdrew, in despair at being forced to abandon him, towards Liady. He marched on foot at the head of his Guard, and often talked of Ney. He called to mind his coup-d'?il, so accurate and true, his courage, proof against everythingin short, all the qualities which made him so brilliant on the field of battle. "He is lost! Well! I have three hundred millions in the Tuileries; I would give them all were he restored to me!"

From a Drawing by BIRKET FOSTER, R.W.S.

Yet, in that blind and defiant spirit, which he continued to show till he had lost the colonies, George created Bernard a baronet on his reaching home, for having, in effect, brought Massachusetts to the verge of rebellion; and, to show his emphatic sense of these services, he himself paid all the expenses of the patent.

But the Government had to receive another lesson this year on the folly of endeavouring, in the nineteenth century, to crush the liberties of Britons. There was an organ called the Press, which, partaking neither of the Governmental fears of a natural complaint by the public of the evils which preyed upon it, nor the Governmental hopes of silencing the sufferers without any attempt to mitigate their calamities, reported freely the mingled folly and cruelty of Ministers, and called for the only remedy of the country's misfortunesReform. On moving the second reading of the Bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, Lord Sidmouth observed that some noble lords had complained that the authors and publishers of infamous libels on the Government were not prosecuted. He assured them that the Government were quite as anxious as these noble lords to punish the offenders, but that the law officers of the Crown were greatly puzzled in their attempts to deal with them; that authors had now become so skilful from experience, that the difficulties of convicting them immeasurably exceeded those of any former time.


This alarming event produced an instant and zealous union of the Court and the nobles. The heads of the aristocracy and of the dignified clergy threw themselves at the feet of the king, declaring the monarchy lost if he did not at once dismiss the States. The utmost confusion reigned in the palace. The unhappy Louis, never able to form a resolution of his own, was made to sway to and fro like a pendulum between opposite recommendations. The Assembly had adjourned on the 19th to the next day, and Bailly, on reaching the door of the hall, attended by many other deputies found it not only closed, but surrounded by soldiers of the French Guard, who had orders to refuse admittance to every one. Some of the fiercer young spirits amongst the deputies proposed to force their way in; but the officer in command ordered his men to stand to their arms, and showed that he would make use of them. Bailly induced the young men to be patient, and obtained leave from the officer to enter a court and write a protest. A brisk conference was then held, while standing in the Avenue de Paris, in the midst of pouring rain, as to whither they should betake themselves. The deputy Guillotin recommended that they should go to Old Versailles, to the Jeu de Paume, or Tennis Court, and this plan was adopted.

The Scottish burgh question was brought forward again this Session. The magistrates of the burgh of Aberdeen having been elected, in 1817, in the same corrupt manner as those of Montrose had been in 1816, the Court of Session had declared the election illegal. The burgh of Montrose was found to have been disfranchised; but this was not the case with Aberdeen, and the magistrates applied to Government to grant a warrant for a new election, or rather a re-election of themselves. This the Government, in the face of the decision of the Court of Session, as well as of a numerously signed petition from the burgesses praying that the election should be by open poll, issued. On the 1st of April Lord Archibald Hamilton moved an address to the Prince Regent, praying for a copy of this warrant. It was strenuously resisted by Ministers, but the motion was lost by only a small majority. On the 6th of May Lord Archibald Hamilton renewed his motion in another formnamely, that the petitions which had been presented from Scottish burghs on the subject of Reform should be submitted to a committee of inquiry. He showed that out of sixty-six royal burghs thirty-nine had voted for Reform; that these thirty-nine contained a population of four hundred and twenty thousand souls, whilst the remaining twenty-seven contained only sixty thousand. The preponderance was so great that, in spite of the opposition of Ministers, the House took another view of the matter, and Lord Archibald's motion was carried, though only by one hundred and forty-nine votes against one hundred and forty-four.

But the matter was not to be thus peacefully ended. Before Lord Exmouth had cleared out of the Mediterranean, the Algerinesnot in any concert with their Government but in an impulse of pure fanaticismhad rushed down from their castle at Bona on the Christian inhabitants of the town, where a coral fishery was carried on chiefly by Italians and Sicilians, under protection of a treaty made by Britain, and under that of her flag, and committed a brutal massacre on the fishermen, and also pulled down and trampled on the British flag, and pillaged the house of the British vice-consul.