On the opening of Parliament, in January, 1738, a desperate effort was made by the Opposition at once to reduce the army and to kindle a war with Spain. Walpole proposed to place the army on a footing of seventeen thousand men. The "Patriots," as they were called, voted to reduce the number to twelve thousand. Walpole, exasperated at their factious conduct, launched an indignant sarcasm at them, which produced so much effect that they did not venture to divide on the motion. "No man of common sense," said Walpole, "will now profess himself openly a Jacobite; by so doing he not only may injure his private fortune, but must render himself less able to do any effectual service to the cause he has embraced; therefore there are but few such men in the kingdom. Your right Jacobite, sir, disguises his true sentiments. He roars out for revolutionary principles; he pretends to be a great friend to liberty and a great admirer of our ancient Constitution; and under this pretence there are numbers who every day endeavour to sow discontent among the people."

He immediately made use of the opportunity with great skill. In his reply he urged that Fox was announcing a doctrine destructive of the Constitution; that he was denying the right by which Parliament had placed the present family on the throne, and he asserted that the Prince of Wales had no more natural right to assume the regency than any other individual. This led to the severest censures of the Premier by Burke, who declared that Pitt was making himself a dictator, and changing the succession to the regal power in England from hereditary to elective. The same doctrine was announced and combated in the Lords; but there, though Thurlow was silent, waiting to see how matters would go before he hazarded an opinion, Loughborough boldly supported Fox's doctrine, and declared that had the derangement of the king taken place during the non-existence of Parliament, the prince undoubtedly would have been warranted in issuing writs and summoning one. On the 15th of December the Duke of York and his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, both spoke on the question, expressing their sense of the inexpediency of pressing the delicate question of right, and stating that Parliament could proceed to invest the Prince of Wales with the powers of the regency without waiting, as they certainly could not appoint any one else. Thurlow had by this time found that he had no chance with the Whigs, and he now, with unblushing assurance, took the part of Pitt, though every one knew why he had been hanging back till this moment. He declared that he could not see how Parliament could avoid coming to some conclusion on the question of right, seeing that it had been raised. At the same time, he made a most pretendedly pious defence of the rights of the king against the prince and the Whigs, exclaiming"When I forget my king, may God forget me!" John Wilkes, who was standing in a knot of spectators near the throne, and within a few feet of Thurlow, expressed his disgust at this duplicity in his characteristically vigorous fashion.

The first Session of the National Assembly was opened by the king in person on the 22nd of[577] May, but it did not conduct itself in a manner to recommend universal suffrage, or to make the friends of orderly government enamoured of revolution. Eventually it was dispersed by force. The new Chambers were opened on the 26th of February by the king in person, Count Brandenburg having led him to the throne. He stated that circumstances having obliged him to dissolve the National Assembly, he had granted to the nation a Constitution which by its provisions fulfilled all his promises made in the month of March. This Constitution was modelled after that of Belgium. The House was to consist of two Chambers, both electivethe former by persons paying 24s. a year of direct taxes, and the latter by a process of double election: that is, the deputies were chosen by delegates, who had themselves been elected by universal suffrage, there being one deputy for every 750 inhabitants. All Prussians were declared equal in the eye of the law, freedom of the press was established, and all exclusive class privileges were abolished. The judges were made independent of the Crown, and no ordinance was to have the force of law without the sanction of the Assembly.

These were measures which must have greatly irritated the American colonists. They exhibited a disposition to curb and repress their growing energies between the interests of British merchants and British West Indian planters. The prospect was far from encouraging; whilst, at the same time, the English Ministers, crushing these energies with one hand, were contemplating drawing a revenue by taxation from them on the other. Britain argued that she sacrificed large amounts in building up colonies, and therefore had a right to expect a return for this expenditure. Such a return, had they had the sagacity to let them alone, was inevitable from the trade of the colonies in an ever-increasing ratio. FROM THE PAINTING BY J. M. W. TURNER, R.A., IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY.

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On the 28th of March the Ministry, as completed, was announced in the House, and the writs for the re-elections having been issued, the House adjourned for the Easter holidays, and on the 8th of April met for business. The first affairs which engaged the attention of the new Administration were those of Ireland. We have already seen that, in 1778, the Irish, encouraged by the events in North America, and by Lord North's conciliatory proposals to Congress, appealed to the British Government for the removal of unjust restrictions from themselves, and how free trade was granted them in 1780. These concessions were received in Ireland with testimonies of loud approbation and professions of loyalty; but they only encouraged the patriot party to fresh demands. These were for the repeal of the two obnoxious Acts which conferred the legislative supremacy regarding Irish affairs on England. These Acts werefirst, Poynings' Act, so called from Sir Edward Poynings, and passed in the reign of Henry VII., which gave to the English Privy Council the right to see, alter, or suppress any Bill before the Irish Parliament, money Bills excepted; the second was an Act of George I., which asserted in the strongest terms the right of the king, Lords, and Commons of England to legislate for Ireland.

On such utterly unsubstantial ground did the English ministers continue this negotiation. They assured De Torcy that the Queen of England insisted on Philip's renunciation of one throne or the other, and he at length renounced that of France, everybody seeing that the sense in which he renounced it was no renunciation at all, but a pretence to get the peace effected; and thus the[4] English ministers, with their eyes open to the fraud, went on urging the Allies to come into these most delusive and unsatisfactory terms. But as the renunciation of Philip did not arrive till after midsummer, the negotiators at Utrecht continued to talk without advancing, and the armies in the field continued to look at each other without fighting.

This proclamation was speedily followed by the steady march of soldiers to various quarters. At one moment was heard the loud roar of innumerable voices in the full commission of outrage, and at the next the rattle of musketry and the shrieks of the wounded and dying, followed by a strange silence. The first troops who commenced the bloody duty of repression were the Northumberland militia, who had come that day by a forced march of twenty-five miles, and who were led by Colonel Holroyd against the rioters at Langdale's distillery in Holborn. A detachment of the Guards at the same time drove the mob from the possession of Blackfriars Bridge. Numbers were there killed, or were forced by the soldiers or their own fears over the parapet of the bridge, and perished in the Thames. Where the mob would not disperse, the officers now firmly gave the word of command, and the soldiers fired in platoons. Little resistance was offered; in many quarters the inhabitants, recovering their presence of mind, armed themselves, and came forth in bodies to assist the soldiers. The number of troops now assembled in and around London amounted to twenty-five thousand, and before night the whole city was as quietfar quieter, indeedthan on ordinary occasions, for a sorrowful silence seemed to pervade it; and besides two hundred men shot in the streets, two hundred and fifty were carried to the hospitals wounded, of whom nearly one hundred soon expired. But these bore no proportion to the numbers who had fallen victims to their own excesses, or who had been buried under the ruins of falling buildings, or consumed in the flames in the stupor of intoxication. The king's decision had saved London.