The General Congress met at Philadelphia on the 4th of September, when all the delegates, except those of North Carolina, who did not arrive till the 14th, were found to represent twelve States, namely, the four New England States, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and the two Carolinas. It was settled, however, that, whatever the number of delegates, each colony should have one vote. The next day they assembled in Carpenters' Hall for business, and elected Peyton Randolph, late Speaker of the Virginian House of Burgesses, president. It was soon found that so much diversity of opinion prevailed, it was deemed prudent, in order to preserve the air of unanimity, to deliberate with closed doors. It was clear that Massachusetts and Virginia were ready for war; but it became equally clear that other States yet[213] clung with all the attachment of blood and old connection to the fatherland. Strong and long-continued, according to Mr. Joseph Galloway, one of their own members, were the debates; and though they finally, and, from their system of secrecy, with an air of unanimity, drew up strong resolutions, they were more moderately expressed than the instructions of many of the delegates. They agreed to a Declaration of Rights, in which they asserted that they had neither lost the rights of nature, nor the privileges of Englishmen, by emigration; consequently, that the late Acts of Parliament had been gross violations of those rights, especially as affecting Massachusetts. They therefore passed resolutions to suspend all imports, or use of imported goods, until harmony was restored between Great Britain and her colonies. An association was formed to carry these resolutions out, to which every member subscribed. Having adjourned till the 10th of May of the next year, the Congress dissolved itself on the 26th of October, and the delegates then hastened home to keep alive the flame of their revived zeal in every quarter of the continent. But amid the discouragements of monetary legislation, which showed that it would require a determined contest to compel Ministers to retrench, there were symptoms of a spirit of legal and social reform amongst Parliamentary men generally which augured the approach of better times. Mr. Sturges Bourne obtained the passing of his long-advocated Poor Law Bill; but Bills for regulating settlements, and for preventing the misapplication of the poor rates, were thrown out. A Bill was passed to regulate the treatment of children in cotton factories, and to limit the hours of their employment. Mr. Brougham's Act for inquiry into the charitable foundations of England was extended, with the support of Government, so as to apply to educational as well as to all kinds of charities, except such as had special visitors, or were maintained by private subscriptions. Sir James Mackintosh also took up the humane track of labour occupied so nobly by the late Sir Samuel Romilly. On the 2nd of March he moved for the appointment of a select committee to take into consideration the subject of capital punishment as regarded felonies. This was eminently needed, for the penal laws during the reign of George III. were truly Draconian. Notwithstanding a strong opposition by Ministers, the motion was carried, amid much cheering, and on the 6th of July Sir James Mackintosh introduced the report, which[146] was ordered to be printed. Government, as if to wipe out their disgrace in resisting so humane a measure, now proposed an inquiry into the condition of gaols and other places of confinement, and into the best method of employing and reforming delinquents during their imprisonment. Some reforms were made in Scottish law. The old rights of trial by battle, and of appeals of murder, felony, or mayhem, were abolished as rendered unnecessary by the full exercise of the institution of jury, and as belonging only to a barbarous age. The severity of the Scottish law against duels was mitigated, that law pronouncing forfeiture of all movable property, and banishment against all persons sending, or even carrying, a challenge to fight a duel. The principle of that law was sound, but its severity was its own defeat. A more questionable Bill was one carried, after much opposition, called the Foreign Enlistment Bill, which was intended to check the aid of Englishmen in assisting the Spanish South American colonists in throwing off the oppressive government of the mother country. Numbers of Englishmen were engaged on the side of independence, and this Bill was vainly intended to put an end to that generous aid. THE CONQUERORS OF THE BASTILLE. (After the Picture by Fran?ois Flameng.)

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For a few weeks the cottiers and small farmers managed to eke out a subsistence by the sale of their pigs, and any little effects they had. But pigs, fowls, furniture, and clothing soon went, one after another, to satisfy the cravings of hunger. The better class of farmers lived upon their corn and cattle; but they were obliged to dismiss their servants, and this numerous class became the first victims of starvation; for when they were turned off, they were refused admission by their relations, who had not the means of feeding them. Tailors, shoemakers, and other artisans who worked for the lower classes, lost their employment and became destitute also. While the means of support failed upon every side, and food rose to such enormous prices that everything that could possibly be eaten was economised, so that the starving dogs were drowned from compassion, the famine steadily advanced from the west and south to the east and north, till it involved the whole population in its crushing grasp. It was painfully interesting to mark the progress of the visitation, even in those parts of the country where its ravages were least felt. The small farmer had only his corn, designed for rent and seed. He was obliged to take it to the mill, to ward off starvation. The children of the poor, placed on short allowance, were suffering fearfully from hunger. Mothers, heart-broken and worn down to skeletons, were seen on certain days proceeding in groups to some distant dep?t, where Indian meal was to be had at reduced prices, but still double that of the ordinary market. As they returned to their children with their little bags on their heads, a faint joy lit up their famine-stricken features. Those children, who had lived for two days and two nights on a dole of raw turnips, would now be relieved by a morsel of nourishing food. The fathers, who had absented themselves from home in order to avoid the agony of listening to their heart-piercing cries, might now sit down and look their little ones in the face. But, if the mother failed to obtain the relief for which she had travelled so far, what then? Yesterday no breakfast, no dinner, no supper; the same to-day; no prospect of better to-morrow. The destitute rushed to the workhouses, which soon became crowded to excess by those who had been able-bodied men and women, while the aged, the sickly, and the children were left to starve. Overpowered by hunger, they lay down helpless, the ready victims of the pestilence that walked close upon the footsteps of famine, and died in thousands. Let us consider the state of a population such as has been described. Scattered over remote districts, with no gentry resident within many miles, none to whom a complaint could be made but the clergyman, whose energies were overtaxed, how utterly helpless must have been the condition of those doomed people! MOB BURNING A FARM IN KENT. (See p. 325.)

The passing of these Acts was marked by attacks on Lord Clive. Burgoyne brought up a strong report from his Committee, and, on the 17th of May, moved a resolution charging Clive with having, when in command of the army in Bengal, received as presents two hundred and thirty-four thousand pounds. This was carried; but he then followed it by another, "That Lord Clive did, in so doing, abuse the power with which he was entrusted, to the evil example of the servants of the public." As it was well understood that Burgoyne's resolutions altogether went to strip Clive of the whole of his property, a great stand was here made. Clive was not friendless. He had his vast wealth to win over to him some, as it inflamed the envy of others. He had taken care to spend a large sum in purchasing small boroughs, and had six or seven of his friends and kinsmen sitting for these places in Parliament. He had need of all his friends. Throughout the whole of this inquiry the most persistent and envenomed attacks were made upon him. He was repeatedly questioned and cross-questioned, till he exclaimed, "I, your humble servant, the Baron of Plassey, have been examined by the select Committee more like a sheep-stealer than a member of Parliament." Then the House thought he had suffered enough, for nothing was clearer than that justice required the country which was in possession of the splendid empire he had won to acknowledge his services, whilst it noted the means of this acquisition. Burgoyne's second resolution was rejected, and another proposed by Wedderburn, the Solicitor-General, adopted, "That Robert, Lord Clive, did, at the same time, render great and meritorious services to this country." This terminated the attack on this gifted though faulty man. His enemies made him pay the full penalty of his wealth. They had struck him to the heart with their poisoned javelins. From a boy he had been subject to fits of hypochondriacal depression; as a boy, he had attempted his own life in one of these paroxysms. They now came upon him with tenfold force, and in a few months he died by his own hand (November 22, 1774).

In spite of Lord Melbourne's declaration that he would regard the success of the motion as a pure vote of censure, it was carried by a majority of five. In consequence of this result, Lord John Russell announced his intention, next day, of taking the opinion of the House of Commons on the recent government of Ireland, in the first week after the Easter recess. Accordingly, on the 15th of April, he moved"That it is the opinion of this House that it is expedient to persevere in those principles which have guided the Executive[460] Government of late years, and which have tended to the effectual administration of the laws, and the general improvement of that part of the United Kingdom." The debate emphasised the discontent of the Radicals. Mr. Leader was particularly severe on the Government. "In what position is the Government?" he asked. "Why, the right hon. member for Tamworth governs England, the hon. and learned member for Dublin governs Irelandthe Whigs govern nothing but Downing Street. Sir Robert Peel is content with power without place or patronage, and the Whigs are contented with place and patronage without power. Let any honourable man say which is the more honourable position." On a division, the numbers werefor Sir Robert Peel's amendment, 296; against it, 318. Majority for the Ministry, 22.


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This announcement drew from the Opposition a torrent of abuse of Ministers, who, in reality, had only been carrying out the very measure which they had long recommended, and which Fox, in particular, had been seriously endeavouring to accomplish whilst in office. Their censures appeared to arise rather from the fact that the war was ended without their mediation than from anything else. Fox upbraided Lord Shelburne with having once said that, when the independence of America should be admitted, the sun of England would have set. Yet this had been the opinion not of Lord Shelburne merely, but of numbers who now saw reason to doubt that gloomy view of things, and there was the less reason for Fox to throw this in the face of the Prime Minister, as he had been himself, whilst his colleague, earnestly labouring with him for that end. Still he was naturally sore[299] from Shelburne's successful intrigues against his diplomacy. On the 18th of December he moved for copies of such parts of the provisional treaty as related to American independence; but in this he was supported by only forty-six members.

Meanwhile, Florida Blanca had planned the capture of Minorca. He prevailed on France, though with difficulty, to assist. The Duke de Crillon, a Frenchman, was made commander of the expedition, and on the 22nd of July the united fleets of France and Spain sailed out of Cadiz Bay, and stretched out into the ocean, as if intending to make a descent on England. The main part of the fleet did, in fact, sail into the English Channel. But they did not venture to attack Admiral Darby, and contented themselves with picking up a number of merchant vessels; and again dissensions and disease breaking out, this great fleet separated, and each nation returned to its respective ports, without effecting anything worthy of such an armament. But a lesser portion of this fleet, on coming out of harbour, carrying eight thousand troops, stores, and ordnance, had passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, and[285] appeared suddenly before Port Mahon. On the 19th of August the troops were landed near Port Mahon, and, being favoured by the inhabitants, once under the sway of Spain, and good Catholics, they soon invested the fort, and compelled General Murray, who formerly so bravely defended Quebec, to retire to Fort St. Philip, leaving the town of Port Mahon in their possession. Despite the resolute defence of his men, Murray was forced to surrender the island.