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FOR THE YEAR
HISTORY OF EUROPE.
State of the Country-Illness and Death of the Duke of York-Succeeded by the Duke of Wellington in the Command of the Army— Meeting of Parliament-Address of Condolence to the King-Bill for granting an inercased Allowance to the Duke of Clarence-The Irish Catholics-Debate on Sir Francis Burdett's Motion to take their Claims into Consideration-Consequences of the loss of the Motion.
HE internal state of the country, at the opening of 1827, was much more cheering than that which the preceding year had presented. The apprehensions of a deficient harvest, which were entertained at one period of the autumn, had fortunately proved groundless; and the state of the markets was such as to promise that the discussion of the Cornlaws, forming as they did the leading question of domestic policy, VOL. LXIX.
and set apart, as they had been, for the great topic of inquiry in the ensuing session of parliament, might be entered on without exciting the clamours and alarms which are so naturally produced in one party by losing prices, or, in the other, by the threatened approach of scarcity. The different monied and manufacturing interests of the kingdom, likewise, were rallying from the confusion of the preceding eighteen months, by a [B]
progress, which, though slow, was sensible and sure, and which, perhaps, by its very slowness, justified the belief, that it did not proceed from over-strained exertions or factitious scheming, but was the result of the natural return of general mercantile health. There were no longer any failures of banks; there was no call for extraordinary measures to maintain or to relieve mercantile credit; mercantile confidence was restored; and the restoration was not the worse for being accompanied by a greater degree of caution in mercantile speculations. The improvement in the labouring and manufacturing classes was equally observable: our manufactures, indeed, were not in that "high and palmy state," which is commonly denoted by the terms "flourishing and prosperous;" but they were probably less distant from that point, than from the point of extreme stagnation at which they had been standing still during the preceding winter and spring. Employment was now furnished to the artizan in his ordinary calling, so generally as to be almost universal; and, although wages were still low, they enabled him to gain a livelihood. Labour was sufficiently abundant to prevent idleness, and its gains were such as to remove beggary. The associations, which had been formed in all the manufacturing districts, to collect and distribute charitable contributions among the unemployed, were now enabled to put an end to their humane occupation. In the foreign relations of the country, too, there were no symptoms to excite alarm. However much Spain might be displeased at the recognition of the independ
ence of her former colonies in South America, she was too impotent to express that displeasure by any manifestation of actual hostility. We had been compelled to present an armed front towards her in Portugal: but the mere display of power had instantly produced its effect; and the good faith with which France abstained from giving countenance to the conspiracies against Portuguese liberty, removed every suspicion that Ferdinand would be tempted to try the fortune of open war. The arms of Russia and Persia were encountering each other on the banks of the Araxes, but the sound was too distant to disturb the repose of Europe. Apprehensions
had been at one time entertained, that Great Britain, by her existing treaties with Persia, might be involved in a necessity for acting in her defence similar to that which had called our troops to Portugal. But, however our duty or our interest might have required us to aid the Schah against the unprovoked ambition of Russia, we were under no obligation to assist him when he allowed himself to be hurried into rash and unjust aggressions upon his powerful neighbour.
The earliest public event of the year, was the death of the duke of York, the heir presumptive of the crown. The health of his royal highness had been, for more than half a year, in a state of unequal, but of alarming, danger. The disease had assumed the decided character of dropsy, so far back as the month of July; and its progress had rendered it necessary that an operation should be performed in the beginning of September. The result of the operation, aided by the effects of medicine, removed
the constitutional complaint; but its partial influence on the limbs was followed by a mortification of a considerable portion of the shin of both legs, which, assuming sometimes a more favourable, and sometimes a more alarming appearance, gradually weakened the frame and constitution; as strength decayed, appetite and sleep departed, and the increasing evil was therefore to be met by impaired resources. Amid weakness and agonizing pain, he displayed the highest fortitude and equanimity, attending to the more important parts of his official duty, even till within a few days of his death. He forgot all bodily sufferings, and the danger, which it was not concealed from him attended his state, to draw up with his own hand the heads of the arrangement for the unexpected armament which was despatched to Portugal in the beginning of December, 1826; and the last act of his official life was obtaining, when his majesty visited him on the 27th, the royal approbation of a proposed arrangement for the promotion of the old subalterns of the army. On the 28th, the sacrament was administered to him, along with his sister the princess Sophia, by the hands of the bishop of London, and, on the following day, he received the parting visit of his royal brother. Hope was now gone; the constitution had sunk beneath the power of art to revive it; nervous fits, occasional attacks of faintness, spasms, and delirium, succeeded each other with increasing rapidity, till nature gave up the struggle, and he expired on the 5th of January, 1827, being then in the sixty fourth year of his age.
Never was the death of a prince accompanied by more sincere and
universal regret; and seldom have the public services of one so near the throne bequeathed to the country so much solid and lasting good, as resulted from his long administration of the British army. His private character, frank, honourable, and sincere, was formed to conciliate personal attachments; a personal enemy he had never made, and a friend once gained, he had never lost. Failings there were: he was improvident in pecuniary matters; his love of pleasure, though it observed the decencies, did not always respect the moralities of private life; and his errors, in that respect, had been paraded in the public view by the labours of unwearying malice, and shameless unblushing profligacy. But, in the failings of the duke of York, there was nothing that was un-English, nothing that was unprincely; and those, whose own reflections, while they enjoy the tranquillity of conscious virtue, tell them likewise, through what difficulties that tranquillity must be pursued, even in the more uniform paths, and under the more sober lights of private life, will most easily forgive the aberrations into which the less fortunate are seduced amid the devious paths and false and dazzling glare of courtly temptation. Never was man more easy of access, more fair and upright in his dealings, more affable, and even simple, in his manners. Every one who had intercourse with him was impressed with the openness, sincerity, and kindness, which appeared in all his actions; and it was truly said of him, that he never broke a promise, and never deserted a friend. Beloved by those who enjoyed the honour of his private intercourse, his administration of a high public office
had excited one universal sentiment of respect and esteem. In his youth, he had been tried as a general in the field; the campaigns in Flanders terminated in a retreat; but the duke-unexperienced as he was, at the head of an army which, abounding in valour, had yet much to learn in tactics, and compelled to act in concert with allies who were not always either unanimous or decided displayed many of the qualities of an able general, and nobly supported that high character for daring and dauntless courage which is the patrimony of his house. He was subsequently raised to the office of commanderin-chief of all his majesty's forces; that office he held for upwards of thirty-two years, and his administration of it did not merely improve, it literally created, an army. During his campaigns, he had felt keenly the abuses which disgraced its internal organization, and rendered its bravery ineffectual; he applied himself, with a soldier's devotion, to the task of removing them; he identified himself with the welfare and the fame of the service; he possessed great readiness and clearness of comprehension in discovering means, and great steadiness and honesty of purpose in applying them. By unceasing diligence, he gave to the common soldier comfort and respectability; the army ceased to be considered as a sort of pesthouse for the reception of moral lepers; discipline and regularity were exacted with unyielding with unyielding strictness; the officers were raised by a gradual and well ordered system of promotion, which gave merit a chance of not being pushed aside to make way for mere ignorant rank and wealth. The head
as well as the heart of the soldier took a higher pitch; the best man in the field was the most welcome at the Horse Guards; there was no longer even a suspicion that unjust partiality disposed of commissions, or that peculation was allowed to fatten upon the spoils of the men; the officer knew that one path was open to all, and the private felt that his recompense was secure. The spirit thus produced soon showed its effects in the field. Before the present century, the military exertions of Britain on the continent, had been confined to the furnishing of small contingents, and even many of the expeditions in the earlier part of the revolutionary war had possessed perhaps by far too much of that character: we had never placed an army in the field which was not merely an auxiliary, and sometimes no very important one, of some military potentate in whose legions it swallowed up.
But, from 1808, we assumed a more independent and imposing position; our success was miraculous; the British armies appeared in Spain as perfect in all matters of discipline and equipment, as full of confidence in themselves and in their leaders, as if the means of military success had for centuries been cultivated by the country equally with naval power; and, in every field, the accumulated laurels of twenty years of victory over all the other nations of Europe were wrested triumphantly from the armies of France. With this immortal story the name of the duke of York is as inseparably. connected as is the fame of any captain who led our squadrons to battle: it was he, whose ever-vigilant attention had formed the armies that tram
pled down the military opposition every hostile country into which they had marched, while their discipline gained the good-will even of invaded provinces.
The duke of York possessed the further merit, that, while he wielded this powerful arm, and all the patronage which the command of it bestowed, he neither allowed the distribution of that patronage to be affected by political party spirit, nor exposed himself to the jealousy which might have been excited, in minds very sensitive to theoretical danger to the constitution, by the frequent interference of the head of the army in matters of mere political discussion. At no period since the revolution, has party spirit run higher than during the greater period of his career: his own opinions upon general politics were neither fickle nor concealed, but they never interfered with the strict impartiality of his office; men of all parties allowed, that the differences of their political sentiments neither favoured nor impeded the progress of themselves or of their relations in the army. The rank of his royal highness, which brought him so near the throne, saved him from the necessity of supporting himself by too intimate an union with the ministers of the day: he kept himself and his office separate from the discussions of the cabinet. Possessing very fair talents, a clear straight-forward understanding, carefully cultivated by education, and equally free from subtlety and pedantry, his own political opinions were those of a sensible, moderate-minded, constitutional, man; and he did not shrink, when the occasion seemed to call for it, from avowing them with manliness and sincerity. Undoubtedly, a royal
personage ought to mix himself up as little as possible in parliamentary debate; for he must expect to have his sentiments canvassed like those of any other parliamentary orator, and the gloss of dignity may be partly marred in the encounter; but, on the other hand, it is only vulgar prejudice that can decry a prince because he publicly declares his sentiments on great questions which concern no less the rights of the people than the prerogative of the Crown. In the debate on the Catholic question in 1825, he had declared his reasonable and conscientious hostility to the Catholic claims, with a sincerity which no man questioned, and a plainness which was worthy of all respect. Yet for this manly expression of his sentiments as a British peer, on a matter which touched, more vitally than any other, the constitution of the people over whom he might one day be called to rule, the trashy orators of the associated Irish agitators had lavished upon him all the abuse in which the dictionary of vulgar malevolence is so rich, and had even expressed a fiendish exultation at the progress of the wasting and painful disease which was leading him to the grave. With ill-assumed lugubriousness they now pretended to join the voice of universal regret which arose from every quarter of the British islands. The soldier, indeed, followed his bier as that of the benefactor to whom he had been indebted for comfort, security, and respectability; but scarcely less did all other ranks of the community mourn with affectionate sorrow over the loss of a prince whose personal qualities had always been popular, and to whom, in his public capacity, they