The crossing of the Beresina, in the circumstances, was a desperate design, but there was no alternative but surrender. Tchitchagoff was posted with his army on the opposite or left bank; Wittgenstein and Platoff were pressing down to join them; and Kutusoff, with the grand army of Russia, was in the rear, able, if he could have been induced to do it, to drive Buonaparte and his twelve thousand men into the Beresina, and destroy them. After reconnoitring the river Napoleon determined to deceive Tchitchagoff by a feint at passing at Borissov, but really to make the attempt at Studienka, above Borissov. He therefore kept up a show of preparations to cross at Borissov, but got ready two bridges at Studienka, one for the artillery and baggage, the other for the troops and miscellaneous multitude. At this juncture he was joined by Victor and Oudinot with their fifty thousand men well provided with everything. Thus he was now possessed of sixty-two thousand men besides stragglers; and his design of deceiving Tchitchagoff succeeding so completely that the latter withdrew his whole force from opposite to Studienka and concentrated it at Borissov, he began on the 26th of November to cross the river, and had a strong force already over before Tchitchagoff discovered his error and came back to attack him. So far all went so well that Buonaparte again boasted of his star.

The Christmas holidays necessarily postponed the plans of the conspirators by the Ministers going out of town, and the deaths of the king and of the Duke of Kent produced further impediments by preventing the regular Cabinet meetings. At one moment the plan appeared to be in jeopardy from the Ministers being in danger of dismissal for their refusal to procure the new king a divorce; but all these hindrances only the more enabled Edwards to ply his arts, and stimulate his victims to their destruction. So thoroughly had he brought them to this point, that, on the 19th of February, they came to the resolution to assassinate the Ministers each at his own house, as they could not get them all together; but at this moment Edwards brought them word that the Ministers were going to have a Cabinet dinner the next day. To make sure, they sent out for a newspaper, and finding that it was so, Thistlewood remarked that as there had not been a Cabinet dinner for a long time, there would be fourteen or sixteen there, and it would be a fine haul to murder them all together. The dinner was to be at the house of Lord Harrowby, and it was planned that one of the conspirators should call with a note, and then the rest should rush in and put the Ministers all to death, and bring away the heads of Sidmouth and Castlereagh in bags provided for that purpose. They were then to fire the cavalry barracks by throwing fire-balls into the straw-sheds, and the people rising, as they hoped, on the spread of the news, they were to take the Bank and the Tower. [77]

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Lord North soon found himself briskly assailed in both Lords and Commons. In the former, Chatham was not so happy in amalgamating the parties of Rockingham and Grenville as he hoped; but he had staunch friends and oppositionists in Lords Camden, Shelburne, and Stanhope, and in the Commons he was as warmly supported by Barr, Beckford, Calcraft, and Dunning. On the 2nd of March a motion was also made in the Lords for an Address to the king, praying him to increase the number of seamen in the navy; and it was made to introduce strong censures on the dismissal of able officers for their votes in Parliament. On this occasion Chatham loudly reiterated the old charge of the royal councils being influenced by favourites. "A long train of these practices," he said, "has convinced me that there is something behind the throne greater than the throne itself." He referred to Mazarin, of France; and as Bute was just at this period gone to Turin, he added, "Mazarin abroad is Mazarin still!" It is not to be supposed that Bute had any secret influence whatever at this period; but the people still believed that he had, and that two men especially were his agents with the kingBradshaw, commonly called "the cream-coloured parasite," and Dyson, both placemen and members of the Commons. Probably, Chatham had a secondary objectto punish these men, who with Rigby, the parasite of the Duke of Bedford, were continually running about endeavouring to depreciate the efforts of the more competent, to whom they were pigmies, saying, "Only another mad motion by the mad Earl of Chatham." Grafton, though now out of office, repelled the insinuation of secret influence with indignation. This charge of Chatham's was followed up, four days after, by a most outspoken[200] remonstrance from the Corporation of London. It was carried up to St. James's on the 14th of March by Beckford, the Lord Mayor, and two hundred and twenty Common Councilmen and other officers. Beckford read the Address, which charged secret counsellors, and a corrupt majority of the House of Commons, with depriving the people of their rights. It declared that the House of Commons did not represent the people, and called upon the king to dissolve it. His Majesty received the Address with manifest signs of displeasure, and the courtiers, who stood round, with actual murmurs and gesticulations of anger.

The enthusiasm which now pervaded the whole Italian peninsula was unbounded, and broke forth in frantic expressions of joy and triumph. The days of Continental despotism seemed numbered at last. Everything promised well for the cause of Italian freedom and unity. The Italian troops stationed at Bergamo, Cremona, Brescia, and Rovigo joined the insurgents. The Grand Duke of Tuscany set his troops in motion; the Pope blessed the volunteers; even Naples sent a contingent. The Austrian garrisons had to abandon Padua and several other places, while the great fortress of Verona was held with difficulty. In the south of Italy the cause of despotism seemed to be going down rapidly. Deceived by the promises[583] of the King of Naples, the people of Sicily determined to trust him no longer. In January, 1848, an address to the Sicilians was issued from Palermo, which stated that prayers, pacific protestations and demonstrations had all been treated by Ferdinand with contempt. Palermo would receive with transport every Sicilian who should come armed to sustain the common cause, and establish reformed institutions, "in conformity with the progress and will of Italy and of Pius IX." Property was to be respected, robbery was to be punished as high treason, and whoever was in want would be supplied at the common charge. The king's birthday was kept by unfurling the banner of revolution, and calling the citizens to arms. The royal troops retired into the barracks, the forts, and the palace, leaving the streets and squares in possession of the insurgents. The determination of the Sicilians caused the weak and wavering king, Ferdinand II., to yield; and on the 28th of January a royal decree appeared upon the walls of Naples, granting a Constitution for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Orders were sent the same day to Palermo for the withdrawal of the Neapolitan troops, and an amnesty for political offences soon was published. The troops remained in the garrison, however, and occasional conflicts took place between them and the citizens till the 2nd of May, when an armistice was agreed to, which lasted to the 2nd of August. In the meantime the elections had taken place under the new Constitution, which the king had promulgated; but the Neapolitan Chamber proceeded to modify it, to which the king objected. The people, led on by the National Guard, which had been established, determined to support the Assembly. On the 15th of May, therefore, barricades were erected in the streets, the royal palace was occupied by troops, and artillerymen stood by their guns with lighted matches in their hands. The accidental firing of a gun led to a collision with the Swiss troops; thereupon, a tremendous battle ensued, lasting for eight hours, in which the royal troops were completely victorious.

Bearing his prizes with him, Rodney proceeded to Gibraltar, carrying great exultation to the besieged rock by the news of such victory and the timely supplies. He sent on some ships to carry similar relief to our garrison at Port Mahon, and, after lying some weeks at Gibraltar, he dispatched Admiral Digby home with a portion of the fleet, and then with the rest made sail for the West Indies. Digby, on his homeward route, also captured a French ship of the line, and two merchant vessels laden with military stores. This blow to the Spanish maritime power was never altogether recovered during the war.

Owing to these circumstances, occasion was taken, on the presentation to the Privy Council of the petition of the people of Boston for the removal of the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts, to animadvert on Franklin's conduct. This took place on the 29th of January, 1774, when Dunning and Lee were retained on the part of the petition, and Wedderburn, the Solicitor-General, appeared for the Crown. There were no less than thirty-five Privy Councillors present, amongst them Lord North, and Lord Gower at their head, as Lord President. Neither Dunning nor Lee spoke effectively, but as if they by no means relished the cause in which they were engaged; while Wedderburn seemed animated by extraordinary life and bitterness. He was the friend of Whately, who was now lying in a dangerous state from his wound. After speaking of the Charter and the insubordinate temper of the people of Massachusetts, he fell with withering sarcasm on Franklin, who was present. Hitherto, he said, private correspondence had been held sacred, even in times of the most rancorous party fury. But here was a gentleman who had a high rank amongst philosophers, and should be the last to sanction such infamous breaches of honour, openly avowing his concern in them. He asked where, henceforth, Dr. Franklin could show his face; and said that henceforth he must deem it a libel to be termed "a man of letters," he was "a man of three letters, f u r, a thief." Wedderburn could compare him only to Zanga, in Dr. Young's "Revenge:"

The number of Catholics in Britain at the time of passing the Relief Bill was estimated by themselves at nearly 1,000,000, scattered, in various proportions, through England, Scotland, and Wales. Of these, 200,000 were resident in London. The most Catholic counties in England were Lancashire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Cheshire, Northumberland, Durham, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Kent. In Ireland the Roman Catholics were estimated at five millions and a half; and the Protestants, of all denominations, at one million and three-quarters. By the removal of the disabilities eight English Catholic peers were enabled to take their seats by right in the House of Lords. The Catholic baronets in England were then sixteen in number. In Ireland there were eight Roman Catholic peers; in Scotland, two. The system of religious exclusion had lasted 271 years, from the passing of the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity in 1559.

The consequence of the ill-advised despatch of a miserable force of British and Russians to Naples was equally as abortive and as mischievous to the King of Naples as the Northern expedition had proved to the King of Sweden. On the 27th of September of this year, only, a convention had been entered into in Paris between Napoleon and Ferdinand IV., King of Naples, which was ratified by Ferdinand on the 8th of October. By this the French engaged to withdraw their forces from the kingdom of Naples, and Ferdinand to preserve a strict neutrality. The French did, indeed, withdraw, under St. Cyr, to assist Massena in the north of Italy against Austria; and no sooner was this the case than Ferdinand raised his army to the war strength, and the British and Russians came to his support with their united army of twenty thousand men. But the news of the decisive victory of Buonaparte at Austerlitz, which had squandered the Northern coalition, had the same effect here. The Russians and British withdrew, and St. Cyr was ordered by Napoleon to march back into Naples, and punish severely the perfidy of the Court of Naples. He was particularly bitter against the Queen of Naples, to whom he attributed the movement and the total guidance of the king. He declared that she should be precipitated from the throne, should it cost another Thirty Years' War. He sent his brother, Joseph Buonaparte, to take the command of the army, and to assume the government of the country. The king and queen fled, abdicating in favour of their son, the prince royal; but this did not stop the march of the French, who were only too glad of such a plea for possessing themselves of the kingdom of Naples. Pescara, Naples itself, rapidly surrendered to the French. Ga?ta alone, which the governor, the Prince of Hesse Philippsthal, refused to surrender, stood out till the[508] following July. When summoned by the French to yield the fortress, he replied that Ga?ta was not Ulm, nor was he General Mack. But the defence of Ga?ta had no influence on the general fate of Naples, and only precipitated that of its brave defender, who died suddenly, as was asserted, of poison.

T. Lingray, junior, 1,500, and made usher at the Castle.