In the meantime the Chartists had made their preparations. The members of the National Convention met early in the morning at its hall in John Street, Fitzroy Square, and after this the members took their places in a great car, which had been prepared to convey them to the Common. It was so large that the whole Convention and all the reporters who attended it found easy accommodationMr. Feargus O'Connor and Mr. Ernest Jones sitting in the front rank. It was drawn by six fine horses. Another car drawn by four horses contained the monster petition, with its enormous rolls of signatures. Banners with Chartist mottoes and devices floated over these imposing vehicles. The Convention thus driven in state passed down Holborn, over Blackfriars Bridge, and on to the Common, attended by 1,700 Chartists, marching in procession. This was only one detachment; others had started from Finsbury Square, Russell Square, Clerkenwell Green, and Whitechapel. The largest body had mustered in the East, and passed over London Bridge, numbering about 6,000. They all arrived at the Common about ten o'clock, where considerable numbers had previously assembled; so the Common appeared covered with human beings. In all monster meetings there are the widest possible differences in the estimates of the numbers. In this case they were set down variously at 15,000, 20,000, 50,000, and even 150,000. Perhaps 30,000 was the real number present. "When corn is at 59s., and under 60s., the duty at present is 27s. 8d. When corn is between those prices, the duty I propose is 13s. When the price of corn is at 50s. the existing duty is 36s. 8d., increasing as the price falls; instead of which I propose, when corn is at 50s. that the duty shall only be 20s., and that that duty shall in no case be exceeded. At 56s. the existing duty is 30s. 8d.; the duty I propose at that price is 16s. At 60s. the existing duty is 26s. 8d.; the duty I propose at that price is 12s. At 63s. the existing duty is 23s. 8d.; the duty I propose is 9s. At 64s. the existing duty is 22s. 8d.; the duty I propose is 8s. At 70s. the existing duty is 10s. 8d.; the duty I propose is 5s. Therefore it is impossible to deny, on comparing the duty which I propose with that which exists at present, that it will cause a very considerable decrease of the protection which the present duty affords to the home grower, a decrease, however, which in my opinion can be made consistently with justice to all the interests concerned."

In January, 1812, Government made another attempt to punish the Catholic delegates, and they obtained a verdict against one of them, Thomas Kirwan; but such was the public feeling, that they did no more than fine him one mark, and discharge him. They also abandoned other contemplated prosecutions. The Catholic committee met, according to appointment, on the 28th of February, addressed the Prince Regent, and then separated. The usual motions for Catholic Emancipation were introduced into both Houses of Parliament, and by both were rejected. It was the settled policy of this Ministry not to listen to the subject, though the Marquis Wellesley, Canning, and others now admitted that the matter must be conceded. The assassination of Mr. Perceval, on the 11th of May, it was hoped, would break up that Ministry, but it was continued, with Lord Liverpool at its head. Though Lord Wellesley this year brought forward the motion in the Lords, and Canning in the Commons, both Houses rejected it, but the Lords by a majority of only one. The question continued to be annually agitated in Parliament during this reign, from the year 1814, with less apparent success than before, Ireland was in a very dislocated state with the Orangemen and Ribbonmen, and other illegal associations and contentions between Catholics and Protestants, and this acted very detrimentally on the question in England. Only one little victory was obtained in favour of the Catholics. This was, in 1813, the granting to Catholics in England of the benefit of the Act passed in Ireland, the 33 George III., repealing the 21 Charles II. And thus the Catholics were left, after all their exertions, at the death of the old king.

Had Benningsen had a good commissariat, the doom of the French was certain. The army, famishing and in rags, was still eager to push their advantage the next day, and the French, if compelled to retreat, as there was every prospect, must have fallen into utter demoralisation, and the war would have been soon at an end. But Benningsen, sensible that there was an utter lack of provision for his army, and that his ammunition was nearly exhausted, hesitated to proceed to a second action with an army reduced twenty thousand in number, and thus to risk being cut off from K?nigsberg, endangering the person of the King of Prussia; and so the extreme caution, or rather, perhaps, the necessities of the Russian general, were the rescue of Buonaparte. Benningsen resolved to retreat upon K?nigsberg. THE TREATY OF TILSIT. (See p. 544.)

On the very next day took place what Burke had foreseen. A deputation from the two Irish Houses of Parliament arrived in London, with an address to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, requesting him to assume the regency as his right. Though the English Bill was now certain to be abandoned, this address was presented on the 26th of February, the day after the arrival, and was received by the prince in a manner likely to mark his sense of his treatment by Pitt and his party. The deputies were entertained at a splendid banquet; the walls of the dining-room at Carlton House were adorned with Irish harps, the shamrock, and other Irish emblems; the arms of Ireland, encircled by a glory, blazed in the centre of the table, and the richest wines flowed in torrents. But these banquetings had not been confined to this more auspicious day. Whilst the great contest had been going on in Parliament, dinners had been given on the Saturdays and Sundays of every week at Carlton House, to which about thirty of the members of both Houses had been invited, and at which the prince and the Duke of York had presided. Besides these, the attractions and persuasive powers of the great ladies on both sides had been enthusiastically called into play. The fascinating Duchess of Devonshire, who, in 1784, had so successfully canvassed for Charles James Fox in Westminster, had now thrown open her house, and employed all her amiabilities to win supporters to the prince's party. On the other hand, the more bold and vigorous Duchess of Gordon had feasted, entreated, and almost commanded adherence to Pitt, through whom it was said her husband had obtained the Great Seal of Scotland, and his brother, Lord William Gordon, the sinecure Rangerships of St. James's and Hyde Parks. The rivalries of these parties had been carried on in the most public manner, by[348] caricatures, lampoons, ballads, and popular jests. Westminster was pre-eminently Whig; but London, which had formerly been so democratic, had become essentially loyal. The Coalition had given the first shock to the popularity of the Whigs in the City, and the sympathy for the calamity of the king, combined with disgust at the prince's levity and heartlessness, had produced a wonderful degree of loyalty there.

As he left the hall he turned and said, "Farewell, my lords; we shall never meet again in the same place." And with this tragi-comedy closed the strange, romantic, and melancholy rebellion of 1745 and 1746, for in a few weeks an act of indemnity was passed, disfigured, however, with eighty omissions. It was followed by other measures for subduing the spirit of the vanquished Highlandersthe disarming act, the abolition of heritable jurisdiction, and the prohibition of the Highland costume.

As Ministers did not resign on being placed in a minority the third time, rumours were industriously circulated by their opponents that they meant to rule the country despotically; that they were about to dissolve Parliament the second time, and had resolved to maintain the army on their[381] own responsibility, without the Mutiny Act. On the 2nd of March Lord John Russell, referring to these rumours, gave notice that he intended to bring forward the Irish Appropriation question, and the question of Municipal Reform. It was for a test of this kind that Sir Robert Peel waited. In the meantime he denied that he had any such intentions as those ascribed to him, and compelled Mr. Hume to withdraw his proposal to limit the supplies to three months. He promised that Government would bring in a Bill on the Irish Church; but it would adhere strictly to the principle that ecclesiastical property should be reserved for ecclesiastical purposes. He declared they would be prepared to remedy all real abuses when the report of the Commissioners appointed for their investigation was received.

After a debate of four nights the second[251] reading was carried by the large majority of one hundred and fifty-five, the numbers being two hundred and seventy-eight to one hundred and twenty-three. In the House of Lords the numbers were nearly four to one in favour of the measure, which was quickly passed into law. As soon as this fact was made known in Ireland, Mr. O'Connell moved that the society be dissolved. This was no sooner done than a new society was formed; and when the Attorney-General returned to Ireland he found it in active operation. It was in reference to this proceeding O'Connell boasted that he could drive a coach-and-four through an Act of Parliament. It was declared that the new Catholic Association should not assume, or in any manner exercise, the power of acting for the purpose of obtaining redress of grievances in Church or State, or any alteration in the law, or for the purpose of carrying on or assisting in the prosecution or defence of causes civil or criminal. Nothing could be more inoffensive or agreeable than its objects, which were to promote peace, harmony, and tranquillity; to encourage a liberal and enlightened system of education; to ascertain the population of Ireland, and the comparative numbers of different persuasions; to devise means of erecting suitable Catholic places of worship; to encourage Irish agriculture and manufactures, and to publish refutations of the charges against the Catholics. Such was the new platform; but the speeches were of the same defiant and belligerent strain as before. The speakers still prayed that God Almighty would increase the dissensions and differences of the Government, and rejoiced in the inspiring prospect of a cloud bursting on England from the North, where Russia had 1,300,000 men in arms.

Of the coinage of this reign little is to be said. It was of the most contemptible character till Boulton and Watt, as already mentioned, struck the copper pence in 1797 in a superior style. In 1818 was issued a gold and silver coinage, which was entrusted to a foreign artist, Pistrucci, and which was turned out of very unequal merit. Flaxman would have produced admirable designs, and there was a medallist of high talent, Thomas Wyon, who would have executed these designs most ably. In fact, the best part of the silver coinage was produced by Wyon, from the designs of Pistrucci.

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