CHAPTER V. REIGN OF GEORGE II.(concluded).

On the 8th of February Lord John Russell brought forward the paragraph of the Speech relating to agricultural distress, and moved for a select committee to inquire into the causes of the depression of the agricultural interest, although he confessed that he did not anticipate any satisfactory result from the investigation. In this the noble lord did not miscalculate, for after sitting for eight months the committee could not agree to any report, and all the benefit they conferred upon the public was an outline of the evidence which was laid before the House at the end of the Session. On the 9th and the 12th the same Minister submitted three measures to the House, which were passed into law this Sessionnamely, a Bill for the Commutation of Tithes in England; a Bill for a General Registration of Marriages, Births, and Deaths; and another for the amendment of the Law of Marriage. On the 16th of this month Mr. Hardy brought before the House of Commons the case of Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Raphael. The latter gentleman was one of the sheriffs of London, and he wished to represent an Irish constituency. Mr. O'Connell thought it was possible to get him in for the borough of Carlow; but he warned him that the expenses would be 2,000, and that this sum should be deposited in a bank as a preliminary, "say 2,000." It was alleged that this was a corrupt bargain, and Mr.[401] O'Connell was accused of selling a Parliamentary seat. Mr. Hardy, therefore, moved for a select committee to investigate the transaction. The committee was obtained, and the result was a complete acquittal of Mr. O'Connell. So strong, however, was the feeling against him that no less than sixty members of Brooks's Club resigned, having failed to procure his expulsion.

To such a pitch of folly and despotism had the Grafton Ministry been driven by the events of the Session of 1769, by their conduct towards the Americans and Wilkes. The Rockinghams and Grenvilles were combined against the Grafton Cabinet, and thus acquiring popularity at its expense. Lord Camden, though still retaining his place, utterly disapproved of their proceedings. The people everywhere held meetings to express their total loss of confidence in both the Ministers and Parliament, and to pray the king to dissolve the latter. In the autumn, the action of Wilkes against Lord Halifax, for the seizure of his papers, was tried, and the jury gave him four thousand pounds damages.

[94] The next person to attempt the impossible in the vain endeavour to keep the vessel of the old French monarchy afloat with all its leaks and rottenness, was the Archbishop of Toulouse, Lomnie de Brienne. He had vigorously opposed Calonne; but there was no way of raising the necessary revenue but to adopt some of the very proposals of Calonne, and tax the privileged classes, or to attempt to draw something still from the exhausted people. As the less difficult experiment of the two, he was compelled to cast his eyes towards the property of the nobles and the Church; but he found the nobles and the clergy as ready to sacrifice him as they had been to sacrifice Calonne. When one or two of the more pliant or more enlightened members of those classes ventured to remark on the vast amount of untaxed property, and particularly of tithes, there was an actual tempest of fury raised. Tithes were declared to be the voluntary offerings of the piety of the faithful, and therefore not to be touched. As further loans were out of the question, some one ventured to assert that the only means of solving the difficulty was to assemble the States General. "You would convoke the States General?" said the Minister in consternation. "Yes," replied Lafayette, who was bent on revolutionising France, as he had helped to revolutionise America"yes, and something more than that!" These words were taken down as most exceptionable and dangerous. All that the Assembly of Notables could be brought to do was to confirm the abolition of the corve, and to pass a stamp act. They would not move a step further, and they were dismissed by the king on the 25th of May, 1787. The Parliament, or Chief Court of Justice, adopted a similar course, and it also was dismissed. The king then promulgated a new constitution, but it fell hopelessly to the ground.

It is true that George II. was also a brave and staunch commander, prepared to die on the spot rather than yield, as he had shown at Dettingen. But the greater part of his forces at Finchley were raw levies, and might not have stood better than the troops had done in Scotland. There was a terror of the Highlanders, even in the army; and as for London itself, the panic, when it was heard that they had got between the duke's army and the capital, was, according to Fielding, who was then in London, incredible. There was a frantic rush upon the Bank of England, and it is said that it must have closed had it not gained time by paying in sixpences. The shops were shut, business was at a stand, the Ministers were in the utmost terror, and the Duke of Newcastle was said to have shut himself up for a day, pondering whether he should declare for the Pretender or not. The king himself was by no means confident of the result. He is said to have sent most of his precious effects on board a yacht at the Tower quay, ready to put off at a minute's warning. The day on which the news of the rebels being at Derby reached London was long renowned as Black Friday. In such a state of terror, and the army at Finchley inferior in numbers, and infinitely inferior in bravery, who can doubt that Charles would for a time have made himself master of the metropolis?