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    But, notwithstanding these partial advantages, and though the duke and his army were enduring all the severities of a Highland winter, exposed to the cutting east winds on that inclement coast, and compelled to keep quarters for some time, Cumberland was steadily seizing every opportunity to enclose the Highlanders in his toils. His ships cut off all supplies coming by sea. They captured two vessels sent from France to their aid, on board of one of which they took the brother of the Duke of Berwick. The Hazard, a sloop which the Highlanders had seized and sent several times to France, was now pursued by an English cruiser, and driven ashore on the coast of Sutherland: on board her were a hundred and fifty men and officers, and ten thousand pounds in gold, which the clan Mackay, headed by Lord Reay, got possession of. This last blow, in addition to other vessels sent out to succour him being compelled to return to France, reduced Charles to the utmost[105] extremities. He had only five hundred louis-d'ors left in his chest, and he was obliged to pay his troops in meal, to their great suffering and discontent. Cumberland was, in fact, already conquering them by reducing them to mere feeble skeletons of men. The dry winds of March rendered the rivers fordable, and, as soon as it grew milder, he availed himself of this to coop the unhappy Highlanders up still more narrowly in their barren wilds, and stop all the passes into the Lowlands, by which they might obtain provisions. He himself lay at Aberdeen with strong outposts in all directions; Mordaunt at Old Meldrum, and Bland at Strathbogie. As soon as he received an abundance of provisions by a fleet of transports, along with Bligh's regiment, hearing that the Spey was fordable, on the 7th of April he issued orders to march, and the next day set forward himself from Aberdeen with Lord Kerr's dragoons and six regiments of foot, having the fleet still following along the shore with a gentle and fair wind. On reaching the Spey Lord John Drummond disputed their passage, having raised a battery to sweep the ford, and ranged his best marksmen along the shore. But the heavier artillery of the duke soon drove Lord John from the ground; he set fire to his barracks and huts, and left the ford open to the enemy, who soon got across. On Sunday, the 13th of April, the English advanced to Alves, and on the 14th reached Nairn. As the van, consisting of the Argyllshire men, some companies of Grenadiers, and Kingston's Light Horse, entered Nairn, the rear of Lord John Drummond had not quitted it, and there was skirmishing at the bridge. The Highlanders still retreated to a place called the Lochs of the Clans, about five miles beyond Nairn, where the prince came up with reinforcements, and, turning the flight, pursued the English back again to the main body of their army, which was encamped on the plain to the west of Nairn.


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    Meanwhile the Whigs were anxious to add fresh security to their own lease of office. At the last election they had procured the return of a powerful majority; but two years out of the triennial term had expired, and they looked with apprehension to the end of the next year, when a dissolution must take place. They were aware that there were still strong plottings and secret agitations for the restoration of the banished dynasty. By both the king and his Ministers all Tories were regarded as Jacobites, and it was resolved to keep them out of office, and, as much as possible, out of Parliament. They had the power in their own hands in this Parliament, and, in order to keep it, they did not hesitate to destroy that Triennial Act for which their own party had claimed so much credit in 1694, and substitute a Septennial Act in its place. They would thereby give to their own party in Parliament more than a double term of the present legal possession of their seats. Instead of one year, they would be able to look forward four years without any fear of[33] Tory increase of power through a new election. On the 10th of April, Devonshire, Lord Steward of the Household, moved the repeal of the Triennial Act, long lauded as one of the bulwarks of our liberties, under the now convenient plea that it had been "found very grievous and burthensome, by occasioning much greater and more continued expenses in order to elections of members to serve in Parliament, and more lasting heats and animosities amongst the subjects of this realm than ever were known before the said clause was enacted."

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    The prisoners were at once sent to Richmond[532] Bridewell, on the South Circular Road, where the Governor did all in his power to make them comfortable. Good apartments were assigned to them. They dined together every day, and they were permitted to receive, without restriction, the visits of their friends and admirers. The Government was the less disposed to interfere with these indulgences, as their object was not so much punishment as prevention, and besides, the traversers had appealed against the sentence. A majority of the twelve English judges affirmed the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench, while condemning the counts on which the Irish court relied. An appeal was then made to the House of Lords. The decision was left to the five law lordsLyndhurst, Brougham, Cottenham, Denman, and Campbell. The first two were for a confirmation of the judgment, the last three for reversal. Lord Denman, in pronouncing judgment, said, referring to the tampering with the panel, "If such practices as had taken place in the present instance in Ireland should continue, the trial by jury would become a mockery, a delusion, and a snare," a sentence which was hackneyed by repetition for years afterwards. The news of the reversal reached Dublin on the afternoon of the 5th of September. Great crowds had assembled on the pier at Kingstown, and tremendous cheers broke forth from the multitude when the Holyhead packet approached, and they saw held up a white flag, with the inscription, "Judgment reversed by the House of Lords. O'Connell is free!" The news was everywhere received by the Roman Catholics with wild excitement.
    [265]
    Long quotations are then given from the several reports of the Assistant Commissioners, showing that the feelings of the suffering labourers in Ireland are also decidedly in favour of emigration. They do not desire workhouses, it is said, but they do desire a free passage to a colony where they may have the means of living by their own industry. The Commissioners then declare that, upon the best consideration they have been able to give to the whole subject, they think that a legal provision should be made and rates levied for the relief and support of curable as well as incurable lunatics, of idiots, epileptic persons, cripples, deaf and dumb, and blind poor, and all who labour under permanent bodily infirmities; such relief and support to be afforded within the walls of public institutions; also for the relief of the sick poor in hospitals and infirmaries, and convalescent establishments; or by external attendance, and a supply of food as well as medicine, where the persons to be relieved are not in a state to be removed from home; also for the purpose of emigration, for the support of penitentiariesto which vagrants may be sentand for the maintenance of deserted children; also towards the relief of aged and infirm persons, of orphans, of helpless widows, and young children, of the families of sick persons, and of casual destitution. This report was not signed by all the Commissioners. Three of them set forth their reasons, in thirteen propositions, for dissenting from the principle of the voluntary system, as recommended by the report.

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    While stirring events were in progress on the Continent, public attention was naturally distracted from home politics; nor were these in themselves of a nature to command enthusiasm. The Russell Government was weak, but the Opposition was weaker. Sir Robert Peel with his little band gave, on the whole, his support to the Ministry, and Mr. Disraeli, on the retirement of Lord George Bentinck, had only just begun to rally the Conservatives, who had been utterly dispirited and crushed by the carrying of Free Trade. Finance was always a weak point with the Whigs, and that of 1848 was no exception to the rule. Urged by the Duke of Wellington's letter to Sir John Burgoyne on the state of the defences, the Chancellor of the Exchequer determined on increasing the naval and military establishments. The result was a deficit of three millions, and no less than three withdrawals and alterations of the Budget had to be made before his proposals could be so shaped as to be acceptable to the House. The next Session was mainly devoted to Irish affairs, the Rate in Aid producing a collision between the two Houses, which was decided in favour of the Lords. In the same year, however, the most important measure of the Russell Ministry became law; the repeal, namely, of the Navigation Act, by which the carrying monopoly was abolished after the retaliation of foreign nations had reduced the principle of reciprocity, upon which Mr. Huskisson's Act had been framed, to a dead letter. Supported by the Canadian demand for liberation from the restrictions of the Navigation Act, Ministers courageously faced the clamour raised by the Protectionists, and carried their Bill through the Commons by large majorities. In the Upper House, however, they snatched a bare majority of ten through the circumstance that they had more proxies than their opponents.
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    The weary night at length passed. The dull sun of a December day (the 22nd) rose upon the ghastly scenes of that gory battlefield. The soldiers, many of whom were without food from the morning of the previous day, were again marshalled in order of battle. The artillery commenced the work, but with little effect. "But why waste time and ammunition thus?" said Gough. "We must try the bayonet once more." Then was made a tremendous charge for life. At first, part of the line reeled under the storm from the enemy's guns; but still the whole army pressed on with desperate shouts, the two wings closing in upon the village, driving everything before them, and still pressing onward till they captured the whole of the enemy's guns on the works. The two generals, waving the captured banners, rode in triumph before the victorious army, and were hailed with enthusiastic applause. The whole of the enemy's military stores and camp furniture, with seventy-three guns and seventeen standards, remained in possession of the British. One Sikh army was now defeated; but there was another to come on, 30,000 strong, most of whom were perfectly fresh. The spirit of the Commander-in-Chief seemed now to fail him, and he so despaired of the issue that he confessed in a letter to his friend, that for a moment he felt regret as each passing shot left him still on horseback. Most of our cavalry were hardly able to move from the exhaustion of the horses; our ammunition was nearly spent, while the fire from the enemy's guns was rapid. At this critical moment, owing to a misconception of orders, our cavalry and artillery moved off from the flanks, which they protected, taking the road towards Ferozepore. It was a blunder that seemed ordered by Providence to save our army from annihilation; for the Sikhsnot knowing our weakness, and conceiving that the design was to take possession of the fords, and prevent their crossing the riverimmediately began to retreat. Our infantry pursued; and such was the consternation and confusion of the enemy, that they never stopped running till they got to the other side of the Sutlej. In these terrible battles the British lost, in killed and wounded, 2,415 men, being a sixth of the whole number engaged. Among the killed were Major Broadfoot, political agent in the North-West Provinces, Colonel Wallace, and Major Somerset.

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    The winter of 1836-7 was marked by great commercial activity, and a strong tendency to over-trading, chiefly on the part of the banks. The result was a reaction, and considerable monetary embarrassment. In the reckless spirit of enterprise which led to these consequences, the American houses took the lead. The American speculators indulged an inordinate thirst for gain by land jobs, and over-trading in British produce. The most remarkable examples of this were afforded by three great American houses in London, called "the three W.'s." From an account of these firms, published in June, 1837, it appeared that the amount of bills payable by them from June to December, was as follows: Wilson and Co.,[411] 936,300; Wigan and Co., 674,700; Wildes and Co., 505,000; total acceptances, 2,116,000. This was upwards of one-sixth of the aggregate circulation of the private and joint-stock banks of England and Wales, and about one-eighth of the average circulation of the Bank of England. The shipments to America by Wigan and Co. amounted to 1,118,900. The number of joint-stock banks that started into existence at this time was remarkable. From 1825 to 1833 only thirty joint-stock banks had been established. In that year the Charter of the Bank of England being renewed, without many of the exclusive privileges it formerly enjoyed, and the spirit of commercial enterprise being active, joint-stock banks began to increase rapidly. There was an average of ten new companies annually, till 1836, when forty-five of these establishments came into existence in the course of ten months. In Ireland there were ten started in the course of two years. The consequence of this greatly increased banking accommodation produced a wild spirit of commercial adventure, which collapsed first in America, where the monetary confusion was unexampledbankers, importers, merchants, traders, and the Government having been all flung into a chaos of bankruptcy and insolvency. This state of things in America had an immediate effect in England. Discounts were abruptly refused to the largest and hitherto most respectable houses of Liverpool and London. Trade, in consequence, became paralysed; prices suddenly dropped from thirty to forty per cent.; and the numerous share bubblesthe railway projects, the insurance companies, the distillery companies, the cemetery companies, the sperm oil, the cotton twist, zoological gardens, and other speculationswhich had floated on the pecuniary tide, all suddenly collapsed, and there was an end to the career of unprincipled adventurers. It is satisfactory, however, to observe that the sound commerce of the country soon recovered the shock thus given; and in less than two years the pecuniary difficulties had passed away. Commerce had resumed its wonted activity, and flowed steadily in legitimate channels. The American banks resumed payment, and the three great American houses, which had involved themselves to such an enormous extent, were enabled to meet all their liabilities.

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