Графични страници
PDF файл

B. R ITIs H AND F O RE I GN

H IS TO R Y

For the Year 1803.

CHAPTER I.

Gentral State of Politics at the Commencement of the Year 1803—Melancholy Consequences of the French Revolution—Conduct of France after the Peace of Amiens–Improbability of the Continuance of Peace—Character of the British Ministry–Despard's Conspiracy—detected—Despard . and his Accomplices brought to Trial—Constitutional Conduct of the Ministry–Trial, Conviction, and Erecution of Despard and his Accomplices—State of Parties at the opening of the Session—Mr. Pitt— Meeting of Parliament–Election of a Speaker—Speech from the Throne—Debates on the Address—in the House of Lords—in the House of Commons—Debate on the Report in the House of Commons.

To: year 1803 will be less .* interesting to posterity for the immediate events which it produced, than as connected with those which will probably succeed; as the date of a contest which involves in it the fate of the civilised world and the liberties of man. There has been, in the course and progress of the French revolution, something singularly capricious and whimsical. It ori

inated in the apparent but fallacious design of ameliorating the condition of mankind. It was to demolish tyranny, to establish not only the theory but the practice of a pure representative government,

equal laws and equal rights at least among the citizens of a vast empire, and institutions which for economy as well as utility were to serve as models for the rest of the world. Our wishes rather than our hopes, we must confess, accompanied the first revolutionists in these benevolent designs; designs not to be accomplished perhaps by human nature, even in its purest state, but certainly, much too great to be attempted in a community depraved and corrupted beyond the common standard of European morals. , Almost the first rays of hope which dawned upon us were clouded and over

A 2 cast

cast by the atrocities which blackened even the early stages of this revolution; and the French nation was speedily involved in such a vortex of calamity without, and of cruelty and injustice within, that the philanthropist could no longer fix any rational expectation of extensive good upon their illconcerted ... Yet it was not unreasonable to hope that after a great convulsion, in an enlightened age and in a civilised community, the situation of the pcople would not be rendered worse than before. It was fair to hope that some good might have emanated out of such a mass of evil; that some advances towards liberty would have been made; that some few steps might have been gained in the promotion of public and social happiness. • It is just to acknowledge that even this expectation, moderate as it was, has been completely disappointed. A tyranny far more extensive and severe than that which was destroyed, has been established in France; and even the conquests of the pretended republicans have served only to widen the scene of human misery, and to extend an iron slavery over countries which before were comparatively free. The friend of liberty, and even the republican, must therefore be no longer the advocate of France: he may, without a violation of principle, wish to see restored that milder form of despotism which existed under an ancient and on the whole illustrious dynasty, and under a government which if not practically the best, was at least legitimated by time and precedent.

In our preceding volume, we assigned some reasons why the peace, concluded at Amiens was not likely to be permanent. On

the one side ambition was predominant, on the other apprehension and distrust. Little hope of tranquillity could be expected for Eu

rope from a military chieftain,

whose renown and character had been acquired by war; who had manifested such striking proofs of an unbounded ambition; and little faith could be placed on the professions of one who had bent every principle to his personal views; who had usurped, equally at the expense of monarchy and democracy, a mighty empire; and who in every treaty which he framed had evinced the most anxious soli

citude to extend his territories and enlarge his power. England alone, of f the Civilised world, presented a barrier to his vast and aspiring views; and to remove that barrier, either by conquest or by fraud, was naturally the object nearest to the heart of the usurper. Happily the British nation was at this very critical period under the guidance of a wise, cautious, and temperate administration, which, while it was vigilant in guarding the country against every danger from without, was earnest in conciliating the affections, and assuring the esteem of the people. Unconnected with faction, and studying only the true interest of the nation, this upright ministry gained the hearts of all parties. The hydra of jacobinism, which had withstood the gigantic efforts of the hourse of Grenville, which appeared to acquire strength by prosecution, melted into air before that polished and constitutional shield which was now opposed to it, and ceased even to be a phantom. The people of England, characteristically homest, placed unbounded confidence in a minister, whose integrity was con- genial

ial to their own ; while his financial arrangements were so judicious, that instead of feeling an increase of burdens, they anticipated the time when they should look for a diminution of them. Yet in this view the task of the minister was Herculean; and it will hereafter be barely credited even on the stubborn evidence of figures, that the first year after the war Mr. Addington funded no less a sum than ninety-seven millions sterling—a mass of arrears bequeathed him by the blunders and extravagance of his predecessors. The vast additional lead was, however, by the excellent and equal distribution of the public imposts, not a matter of complaint, and scarcely of observation.

Hence that spirit of unanimity,

hence those willing sacrifices on the altar of patriotism, which we shall have hereafter to relate. The nation for the first time during an extended series of years, had a perfect confidence in its government: it felt that the men who were entrusted with this sacred charge had a common interest with themselves; that they were directed by no partial views; that they were influenced by no little, no factious motives; and that the general welfare of the commonwealth was their only concern. They were not only pure but moderate, and their moderation and constitutional conduct conciliated the minds even of those who had been adverse to the government. Faction and

party subsided throughout the na-. tion: it was only seen in parlia

ment, where the object is well known and understood. r

The British ministry were well informed of the intentions of the tyrant of France: they penetrated

through the cloud of professions

[blocks in formation]

Fields. On his liberation in 1802, he seems to have been industrious to justify his detention in that prison; for he was scarcely released before he entered into a conspiracy bolder and more violent than any that had been attempted in the course of the present reign. We have been well assured from what we have always considered as unquestionable authority, that a direct communication existed between the French government and this unfortunate man”. We think the assertion highly probable : the proofs we have not yet been able to procure ; but at some future season we expect to be able to lay them before our readers. The plan concerted by Despard was perhaps more feasible than might have been expected from a person of his desperate character; and seems, from the nature of it, to carry with it the refutation of the apology which was offered in his favour, that his intellects were

deranged. The plan was to in

gratiate himself with the lowest and most profligate of the soldiery, particularly of the guards; and by o a strong and compact party in this body, to have at his disposal a select corps, accustomed and trained to discipline and command, whom he could bring into immediate action, and prepared for any desperate undertaking.— The active operations of the conspirators commenced as early as the spring of 1802. About the month o March a society was established, professedly for what they most absurdly termed “the extension of liberty;” and at the head of this society two soldiers in

the guards were ostensibly placed, of the names of Wood and Francis. They began by administering an oath to every person who was admitted a member of the association; and it was chiefly among the soldiery that they sought for proselytes. Their success appears not to have borne any proportion to their diligence; for the association.seems never to have extended beyond the number of thirty or forty obscure individuals, and even some of these became speedily disaffected to the cause. Among the first converts to the new conspiracy were two soldiers in the guards, of the names of Blaine and Windsor. These men had some knowledge of a Mr. Bonus, an army agent; and to him they very early imparted the plan of the association, and of the oath which had been tendered to them. Mr. Bonus advised them to continue to frequent the association, and to gain a more perfect knowledge .# the plans of the conspirators. Through this medium, government was made milutely acquainted with all the proceedings of the conspirators, who were however not interrupted till the evidence which charged them with overt acts of treason was judged to be complete; and on the 16th of November, 1802, at a grand meeting, about thirty of the conspirators were arrested at the Oakley Arms, in South Lambeth, and committed to prison. The plan was altogether conceived upon military principles, and was not i. The conspirators were divided into companies of ten men each, to whom

* It was proved in evidence that colonel Despard himself avowed this connexion, and deferred one of his projects because “he waited for news and money from

France."

Was

« ПредишнаНапред »