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The turn of affairs on the Continent justified Walpole's gravest apprehensions. France was discovered to have made a compact with Spain, and once having taken this step, she displayed her usual activity in every Court of Europe, to induce the allies to break with England and prevent her from making new leagues. Walpole did his best to counteract these French influences. He managed to secure the Russian Court, before in connection with France, and subsidised Sweden, Denmark, Hesse-Cassel, and some other of the German States. But at this crisis (1740) died the savage old Frederick William of Prussia, and his son Frederick now commenced that extraordinary military career which obtained him the name of the Great. Temptingly adjoining his own territory, the young king beheld that of an equally young female sovereign, Maria Theresa of Austria, and he determined to extend his kingdom at her expense. The mystery of Frederick's movements was dissipated by his crossing, on the 23rd of December, the Austrian frontiers into Silesia. It was seen that it was the favourable opportunity of overpowering a weak neighbour which had tempted the Prussian to break his engagement, and to endeavour to make himself master of the domains of a defenceless young princess. But Frederick brought out some antiquated claims on the province Of Silesia, and on these he justified his breach of treaties. Maria Theresa applied, in her alarm, to the Powers who had concurred in the Pragmatic Sanction, but all except George II. fell away instantly from her. They believed her incapable of defending her territories, and hoped to come in for a share of the spoil. The Elector of Bavaria joined Prussia; Saxony did the same; France was eager for the promised half of the winnings; and Spain and Sardinia assured Frederick of their secret support. George II., confounded by this universal defection, advised Maria Theresa to compromise the affair with Prussia by giving up half Silesia, or the whole, if necessary; but the high-spirited queen rejected the proposal with scorn, and called on George to furnish the troops guaranteed by England under the Pragmatic Sanction. George could, however, only assemble some few soldiers on the Hanoverian frontier, but this obliged Frederick to appropriate a considerable section of his army to guard against any attack from Hanover.

The consternation of the city may be imagined. The inhabitants, who had, at first, treated the rumour of the Young Pretender's landing with ridicule, now passed to the extreme of terror. On Sunday night the Highlanders lay between Linlithgow and the city, and on Monday morning Charles sent forward a detachment, which, on coming in sight of the pickets, discharged their pistols. The dragoon pickets did not wait to return the fire, but rode off towards Coltbridge, nearer to Edinburgh, where Gardiner lay with the main body of horse. No sooner, however, did this commander perceive the advancing Highlanders, than he also gave the order to retreat, and the order was so well obeyed, that from a foot's-pace the march quickened into a trot and presently into a gallop, and the inhabitants of Edinburgh saw the whole force going helter-skelter towards Leith, where they drew bit. The valiant troops mounted again, and galloped to Preston, six miles farther, some of them, it was said, not stopping till they reached Dunbar. This "Canter of Coltbridge," as it was called in derision, left the city at the mercy of the Highlanders, except for about six or seven hundred men mustered from the City Guard, the volunteer corps, and some armed gentlemen from Dalkeith and Musselburgh, who took post at the gates.

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"The consequence of letting loose the passions at present chained and confined would be to produce a scene of desolation which no man can contemplate without horror, and I would not sleep easy on my couch if I were conscious that I had contributed to accelerate it by a single moment. This is the reason why I dread the recurrence of hostilities in any part of Europe; why I would forbear long on any point which did not taint the national honour, ere I let slip the dogs of war, the leash of which we hold in our hands, not knowing whom they may reach, or how far their ravages may be carried. Such is the love of peace which the British Government acknowledges, and such the necessity for peace which the[256] circumstances of the world inculcate. Let us fly to the aid of Portugal, because it is our duty to do so; and let us cease our interference when that duty ends. We go to Portugal not to rule, not to dictate, not to prescribe constitutions, but to defend and preserve the independence of an ally. We go to plant the standard of England on the well-known heights of Lisbon. Where that standard is planted, foreign dominion shall not come." The House received this speech with tumultuous applause, and refused to listen to the objections that Mr. Hume and others wished to urge against the expedition on the score of economy. In the Upper House also the Government was sustained by an overwhelming majority. The expedition, consisting of six thousand men, received orders to march (as we have seen) on the 11th of December, and began to land in Lisbon on Christmas Day. The incursions from Spain immediately ceased, and France, which had instigated and secretly encouraged the movement, now found it prudent to disclaim all connection with it. Before eighteen months had elapsed the troops had returned.

MRS. ARABELLA HUNT SINGING TO QUEEN MARY. (See p. 155.)