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Lord John Russell was immediately summoned from Scotland, and on the 11th arrived at Osborne, where he received her Majesty's commands to form a Government. On the ground that his party were in a minority in the House of Commons, Lord John Russell at first declined the honour presented to him; but on a paper being placed in his hands by the Queen, in which Sir Robert Peel promised, in his private capacity, to aid and give every support to the new Ministry in settling the question of the Corn Laws, he undertook the task. There was no amicable feeling between the new and the retiring Minister. Lord John Russell's letter, published a few days before, had excited as much attention for its bitter sarcasm against Sir Robert Peel as for the important change in the Whig policy which it announced. Lord John Russell held communication with the late Government, but through Sir James Graham. It was of importance to him to know more clearly the nature of that support which Sir Robert Peel's memorandum seemed to promise; and he was, therefore, anxious to know what the latter would consider a satisfactory settlement. This proposal, however, to the late Minister to become responsible for the measures of his successors was declined. Sir James Graham communicated to Lord John Russell the information as to the state of the country on which they acted; but Sir Robert Peel, through his colleague, declined to state the details of the measures which had lately been contemplated. Lord John Russell then gave, in writing, an outline of the measures which the new Cabinet would propose, and invited the opinion of the late Minister. Sir Robert Peel, however, still declined to take part in the plans of his opponents; and in a letter to the Queen, on the 17th of December, he stated the constitutional grounds on which he considered it improper that any one, not an adviser of the Crown, should take a part in the preparation of Ministerial measures. Lord John Russell thereupon immediately proceeded with his negotiations with his own party. It soon, however, appeared that the task he had proposed to himself was beyond his power. Earl Grey, who had agreed to take the Secretaryship of the Colonies in the new Ministry, suddenly declared that he would not join any Administration in which Lord Palmerston should hold the office of Secretary for Foreign Affairs. This unexpected accident was regarded by Lord John Russell as decisive. On the 20th of December he communicated the facts to the Queen, and begged to be relieved from the task he had undertaken. Meanwhile the French generals, though they saw insurrections rising in every quarter, and though they themselves were located in different parts of the country, distant from each other, entertained no fear but that the steady discipline of their troops, and their own experience, would easily put them down. Murat had quitted Spain to proceed to his kingdom of Naples, which he had received on the 15th of July, and Savary was left at Madrid as Commander-in-Chief, and he found himself in a most arduous and embarrassing post, with so many points to watch and to strengthen for the suppression of the insurrection. The Spanish junta recommended their country, very prudently, to avoid regular engagements, with their yet raw forces, against the veteran armies of France, but to carry on a guerilla warfare, waylaying the enemy in mountains and defiles, cutting off their supplies, and harassing their rear, their outposts, and their foraging parties. The ardour and pride of the Spaniards only too much tempted the men to despise this advice, and whenever they did they severely paid for it. The relentless spirit of the people against the lawless invaders, on the other hand, incited the French to equal ferocity. They treated the Spaniards as rebels in arms against their king; the villages were given up to the plunder and licentiousness of the soldiers. This again fired the Spaniards to retaliation, and they put to death sick and wounded when they fell into their hands. The war thus commenced with features of peculiar horror. The character of the country rendered the conflict the more desperate to the invaders; the fertile regions were separated from each other[555] by vast desert heaths and barren mountains, so that Henry IV. had said truly, if a general invaded Spain with a small army he would be defeated; if with a large one, he would be starved. To collect provisions, the French had to disperse themselves over wide tracts, and thus exposed themselves to the ambuscades and surprises of the Spaniards, every peasant carrying his gun.

The farmers were not so discontented with this allowance system as might be supposed, because a great part of the burden was cast upon other shoulders. The tax was laid indiscriminately upon all fixed property; so that the occupiers of villas, shopkeepers, merchants, and others who did not employ labourers, had to pay a portion of the wages for those that did. The farmers were in this way led to encourage a system which fraudulently imposed a heavy burden upon others, and which, by degrading the labourers, and multiplying their numbers beyond the real demand for them, must, if allowed to run its full course, have ultimately overspread the whole country with the most abject poverty and wretchedness. There was another interest created which tended to increase the evil. In the counties of Suffolk, Sussex, Kent, and generally through all the south of England, relief was given in the shape of house accommodation, or free dwellings for the poor. The parish officers were in the habit of paying the rent of the cottages; the rent was therefore high and sure, and consequently persons who had small pieces of ground were induced to cover them with those buildings.

From the manufacturing districts the movement was spreading to the metropolis, where usually there had been but little attention paid to this important subject. The various trades of London began to take part in the preparation of petitions, and to hold meetings. At some of these the working men carried resolutions against the petitions; and they made similar, though unsuccessful, attempts in various towns. But it was remarked that even while refusing to take preliminary measures for procuring relief from the bread-tax, they declared its injustice; in fact, the savage mood to which the prevalent distress was bringing the labouring classes began to manifest itself in a determination to postpone every question save that of their claim to a share of political power. They were not friendly to the middle class; but their ill-will could not be cited even as a proof of their indifference to the continuance of the Corn Law system. THE ROYAL PALACE, MADRID. (From a Photograph by Frith & Co.)

but that with the pageantry of the hour their importance faded away?that as their distinction vanished their humiliation returned?and that he who headed the procession of peers to-day could not sit among them as their equal on the morrow?"

At length the Sikhs moved on to meet the British on the 18th of December. When they came in sight, the British bugles sounded, and the wearied soldiers, who had been lying on the ground, started up and stood to their arms. The Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief rode from regiment to regiment, cheering the spirits of their men, and rousing them to the needful pitch of valour by encouraging exhortations. About two miles from Moodkee, Gough, at the head of the advanced guard, found the enemy encamped behind sandy hillocks and jungle, 20,000 strong, with forty guns, which immediately opened fire as he approached. The battlefield was a sandy plain, on which the view was obstructed by small hills, which prevented the belligerents from seeing one another till they were quite near. For some time the contest was maintained on both sides by the artillery. Then General Gough ordered the advance of a column of cavalrythe 3rd Light Dragoons, the 5th Light Cavalry, and the 4th Lancers. The column was launched like an immense thunderbolt against a mass of Sikh cavalry, and proved so irresistible in its terrific onset that it broke them up into fragments, scattered them about, and swept along the whole line of the enemy, cutting down the gunners, and suspending for a time the roar of their artillery. Soon afterwards the infantry came into action, led on by Sir Harry Smith, General Gilbert, and Sir John M'Caskill. The Sikhs fought bravely and obstinately at every point; but when the steady incessant fire of the artillery had done its work, a general charge was made, with loud, exultant cheers, and the enemy were driven from their ground with tremendous loss. The day had closed upon the battlefield, but the routed enemy were pursued for a mile and a half by the light of the stars. Nor did these terms contain anything like the extent of tyranny imposed on the conscience of the nation by these monarchs. By the 29 Elizabeth it was provided that what right or property any person might dispose of, or settle on any of his[162] family, should still be liable to these penalties if the proprietor and disposer of them neglected to go to church. So that a son might be deprived of lands or other property settled upon him at his marriage, or at any other time, if his father ceased to attend church, though he himself went punctually; and by the 21 James I. the informers were stimulated by great rewards to lay complaints against all whom they could discover offending. And, moreover, any person was to be considered an absentee from church, and liable to all the penalties, who did not remain in church during the whole time of the service; and, also, not only on Sundays, "but upon all the other days ordained and used to be kept as holidays." All these odious enactments were left in force by the Toleration Act, except that they did not compel every one to go to church, but to some licensed place of worship.

In Europe, Pitt was still bent on those attacks on the coast of France which long experience had shown were of little use as means of successful war, but highly objectionable, as fraught with excessive inhumanity to the innocent people of the seaboard. This, his second expedition, was aimed at St. Malo. A fleet of eighteen ships of the line, thirteen frigates, with sloops, fire-ships, and bomb-ketches, was put under the command of Lord Howe; but as Sir Edward Hawke, his senior, struck his flag, and refused to serve as second, Lord Anson, to get rid of the difficulty, put himself nominally at the head of the squadron. The command of the troops was given to the Duke of Marlborough, a brave man, but destitute of the genius of his father, and Lord George Sackville and Lord Granby were under him. There were fourteen thousand troops of the line and six thousand marines. With these went a number of aristocratic volunteers, amongst them Lord Downe, Sir John Armitage, and Sir John Lowther, the possessor of fourteen thousand pounds a-year. On the 5th of June, 1758, the transports anchored in Cancale Bay, and next day the troops were landed and led against St. Malo. This town, built on one of a cluster of granite rocks which rise out of the sea on that iron-bound coast, they found too strongly fortified to storm, but they burnt a hundred and thirty privateers and a great quantity of small craft in the harbour, and then returned to their ships. They then sailed for Le Havre, but were prevented by the wind from doing the same damage, and so continued their voyage to Granville and Cherbourg, whence they were driven by storm; and thereupon coasting a considerable way farther, but to no purpose, the fleet returned to Portsmouth, the main result being a heavy expense. Fox and the Opposition in the Commons called it breaking windows with guineas; and the old king, who had expressed his dislike of this sort of warfare, said we should brag of having burnt the French ships, and the French of having driven us away.