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Matthew Prior had a high reputation in his day as a poet, but his poetry has little to recommend it now. He was the more popular as a poet, no doubt, because he was much employed as a diplomatist in Queen Anne's reign by the Tory party. His "City and Country Mouse," written in conjunction with Lord Halifax, in ridicule of Dryden's "Hind and Panther," may be considered as one of his happiest efforts.

The conclusion of the Afghan war did not end the difficulties with the countries bordering on India. In the treaty with the Ameers of Scinde it was provided that Britain should have liberty to navigate the Indus for mercantile purposes, but that she should not bring into it any armed vessels or munitions of war, and that no British merchant should, on any account, settle in the country. Permission, however, was given to a British agent to reside at Kurrachee, and in 1836, when the country was threatened by Runjeet Singh, the British Government took advantage of the occasion to secure a footing in the country, one of the most fertile in the East. Kurrachee was only at the mouth of the river, but in 1838 a great step in advance was gained by getting a British agent to reside at Hyderabad, the capital, in order that he might be at hand to negotiate with Runjeet Singh. But the agent undertook to negotiate without consulting the Ameers, and awarded the payment of a large sum claimed by the Prince whom they dreaded, for which sum they produced a full discharge. This discharge was ignored by the British Government in India, acting in the interests of[590] Shah Sujah, its royal protg in Afghanistan. This was not all. A British army of 10,000 men, under Sir John Keane, marched, without permission, through Scinde, in order to support the same Prince against his competitors. Bolder encroachments were now made. The British Government determined on establishing a military force at Yatah, contrary to the wishes of the people, and compelled the Ameers to contribute to its support, in consideration of the advantages which it was alleged it would confer upon them. When the draft of a treaty to this effect was presented to the Ameers, one of them took the former treaties out of a box, and said, "What is to become of all these? Since the day that Scinde has been covenanted with the English there has been always something new. Your Government is never satisfied. We are anxious for your friendship; but we cannot be continually persecuted. We have given you and your troops a passage through our territories, and now you wish to remain." But remonstrance was in vain. The treaty must be signed; and the great Christian Power, which had its headquarters at Calcutta, insisted that the British force might be located anywhere in the country west of the Indus, and that the Ameers must pay for its support three lacs of rupees.[See larger version]

The General Election of 1784 secured for Pitt a prolonged tenure of power. The king, in opening the Session, could not repress the air of triumph, and congratulated the Houses on the declared sense of his people, not forgetting to designate Fox's India Bill as a most unconstitutional measure. In fact, no one was so delighted as the king. He had contemplated the victory of Fox and his friends over Pitt with actual horror. He had never liked Fox, and the violent and overbearing manner in which he had endeavoured to compel the king to dismiss his Ministers had increased his aversion into dread and repugnance. In his letters to Pitt he had said, "If these desperate and factious men succeed, my line is a clear one, to which I have fortitude to submit." Again: "Should not the Lords stand boldly forth, this Constitution must soon be changed; for if the two remaining privileges of the Crown are infringed, that of negativing the Bills which have passed both Houses of Parliament, and that of naming the Ministers to be employed, I cannot but feel, as far as regards my person, that I can be no longer of utility to this country, nor can with honour, remain in the island." In fact, George was menacing, a second time, a retreat to Hanover; a step, however, which he was not very likely to adopt. The sentiment which the words really express is his horror of the heavy yoke of the great Whig Houses. The Addresses from both Houses of Parliament expressed equal satisfaction in the change, Pitt's triumphant majority having now rejected the amendments of the Opposition.

And he celebrates the compass in equally imposing heroicsThe most interesting of all the debates that occurred in the House of Commons during the Session of 1850 was that which took place on the foreign policy of Great Britain, particularly with reference to Greece. The House of Lords had passed a vote of censure upon the Government, by a majority of thirty-seven, on a motion brought forward by Lord Stanley, and folk were anxious to see how the House of Commons would deal with that fact. On the 20th of June Lord John Russell read the resolution, and said, "We are not going in any respect to alter the course of conduct we have thought it right to pursue in respect of foreign Powers, in consequence of that resolution." He concluded his speech with the following bold defiance, which elicited general and protracted cheering:"So long as we continue the Government of this country, I can answer for my noble friend [Lord Palmerston] that he will act not as a Minister of Austria, or of Russia, or of France, or of any other country, but as the Minister of England. The honour of England and the interests of Englandsuch are the matters that are within our keeping; and it is to that honour and to those interests that our conduct will in future be, as it has hitherto been, directed."

General Evans had taken the command of the Spanish Legion, which throughout the whole of the campaign was encompassed with difficulties and pursued by disasters, without any military success sufficiently brilliant to gild the clouds with glory. Within a fortnight after the debate on Lord Mahon's motion came the news of its utter defeat before Hernani. This defeat encouraged the opponents of Lord Palmerston's policy to renew their attacks. Accordingly, immediately after the recess, Sir Henry Hardinge brought forward a motion on the subject. He complained that no adequate provision was made for the support of those who were in the Legion. At Vittoria they were placed for four months in uninhabited convents, without bedding, fuel, or supplies of any kind. Not less than 40 officers and 700 men fell victims to their privations. The worst consequence was, however, the total demoralisation of the troops. Theirs was not honourable war, it was butchery. They were massacring a fine and independent people, who had committed no offence against Britain. Ill treatment, want of food and of clothing, habits of insubordination and mutiny, and want of confidence in their officers, had produced their natural effects. Let them palliate the disaster as they would, there was no doubt, he said, of the fact that a large body of Britons had suffered a defeat such as he believed no British soldiers had undergone in the course of the last five or six hundred years. The motion was defeated by 70 votes to 62, but as the Legion was dissolved in the following year, 1838, the object of the Opposition was gained.We must open the year 1790 by reverting to the affairs of Britain, and of other countries having an influence on British interests. The Parliament met on the 21st of January; and, in the course of the debate on the Address in the Commons, Fox took the opportunity to laud the French Revolution, and especially the soldiers for destroying the Government which had raised them, and which they had sworn to obey. Burke, in reply, whilst paying the highest compliments to the genius of Fox, and expressing the value which he placed on his friendship, endeavoured to guard the House and country against the pernicious consequences of such an admiration as had been expressed by Fox. He declared the conduct of the troops disgraceful; for instead of betraying the Government, they ought to have defended it so far as to allow of its yielding the necessary reforms. But the so-called reforms in France, he said, were a disgrace to the nation. They had, instead of limiting each branch of the Government for the general good and for rational liberty, destroyed all the balances and counterpoises which gave the State steadiness and security. They had pulled down all things into an incongruous and ill-digested mass; they had concocted a digest of anarchy called the Rights of Man, which would disgrace a schoolboy; and had laid the axe to the root of all property by confiscating[371] that of the Church. To compare that revolution with our glorious one of 1688, he said, was next to blasphemy. They were diametrically opposed. Ours preserved the Constitution and got rid of an arbitrary monarch; theirs destroyed the Constitution and kept a monarch who was willing to concede reforms, but who was left helpless. Fox replied that he had been mistaken by his most venerated and estimable friend; that he was no friend to anarchy and lamented the cruelties that had been practised in France, but he considered them the natural result of the long and terrible despotism which had produced the convulsion, and that he had the firmest hopes that the French would yet complete their Constitution with wisdom and moderation. Here the matter might have ended, but Sheridan rose and uttered a grand but ill-considered eulogium on the French Revolution, and charged Burke with being an advocate of despotism. Burke highly resented this; he made a severe reply to Sheridan; and instead of the benefits which he prognosticated, Burke, with a deeper sagacity, declared that the issue of that revolution would be not only civil war but many other wars.

In America, such was the state of things, that a British commander there, of the slightest pretence to activity and observation, would have concluded the war by suddenly issuing from his winter quarters, and dispersing the shoeless, shirtless, blanketless, and often almost foodless, army of Washington. His soldiers, amounting to about eleven thousand, were living in huts at Valley Forge, arranged in streets like a town, each hut containing fourteen men. Such was the destitution of shoes, that all the late marches had been tracked in bloodan evil which Washington had endeavoured to mitigate by offering a premium for the best pattern of shoes made of untanned hides. For want of blankets, many of the men were obliged to sit up all night before the camp fires. More than a quarter of the troops were reported unfit for duty, because they were barefoot and otherwise naked. Provisions failed, and on more than one occasion there was an absolute famine in the camp. It was in vain that Washington sent repeated and earnest remonstrances to Congress; its credit was at the lowest ebb. The system of establishing fixed prices for everything had totally failed, as it was certain to do; and Washington, to prevent the total dispersion of his army, was obliged to send out foraging parties, and seize provisions wherever they could be found. He gave certificates for these seizures, but their payment was long delayed, and, when it came,[248] it was only in the Continental bills, which were fearfully depreciated, and contrasted most disadvantageously with the gold in which the British paid for their supplies.Of water-colour painters who extended the fame of the school were Payne, Cozens, Glover, Girtin, and Turner; but Turner soon deserted water for oil. In 1804 the Water-Colour Society was established, and Turner was not amongst its numbers, having already gone over to oil-painting; but there were Varley, Barrett, Hills, Rigaud, and Pocock. Wild and Pugin were exhibitors of architectural drawings at its exhibitions. Afterwards came Francia, Westall, Uwins, De Wint, Mackenzie, Copley Fielding, Robson, Prout, Gandy, and Bonington. In their rear, but extending beyond the reign, appeared a brilliant host.

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FREE TRADE HALL, MANCHESTER. (From a Photograph by Frith and Co., Reigate.)

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