On the 14th of January, 1766, the king opened Parliament with a speech, rendered necessary by the change of Ministry and the affairs of America. A great debate followed, in which Burke made his maiden speech, and was followed by Pitt, who said in his loftiest tone of eloquence: "This kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies. On this point I could not be silent, nor repress the ardour of my soul, smote as it is with indignation at the very thought of taxing America internally without a requisite voice of consent. Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power. Taxes are the voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone. At the same time, on every real point of legislation, I believe the authority to be fixed as the pole-starfixed for the reciprocal benefit of the mother country and her infant colonies. They are the subjects of this kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all the rights of mankind and the peculiar privileges of Englishmen, and equally bound by its laws. The Americans are the sons, not the bastards of England. The distinction between legislation and taxation is essential to liberty. The Crown, the Peers, are equally legislative powers with the Commons. If taxation be a part of simple legislation, the Crown, the Peers, have rights in taxation as well as yourselvesrights which they will claim whenever the principle can be supported by might."

On the 23rd of March the Allied sovereigns, including that of the United Kingdom, signed, by their plenipotentiaries, a new treaty of alliance offensive and defensive, on the same principles as the Treaty of Chaumont, entered into in March, 1814. The Duke of Wellington then hastened away to Belgium to muster his forces therefor Belgium, as it had been so often before, was sure to become the battle-ground on this occasion. So early as the 5th of April he announced that he had placed thirteen thousand four hundred men in the fortresses of Belgium, and had besides twenty-three thousand British and Hanoverian troops, twenty thousand Dutch and Belgian, and sixty pieces of artillery. Unfortunately, the bulk of his victorious army of the Peninsula had been sent to the inglorious contest with America, where a good naval blockade would have been the most effectual kind of warfare. But he observed that Buonaparte would require some time to assemble a strong force, and this time must be employed by Britain to collect a correspondingly powerful army. The Duke, with accustomed energy, not only applied himself with all his strength to this object, but to stimulating, by letters, the Allied sovereigns to hasten up their quotas, some of them notoriously the slowest nations in the world.

Sir Robert Peel then rose. He said that the immediate cause which had led to the dissolution of the Government was "that great and mysterious calamity which caused a lamentable failure in an article of food on which great numbers of the people in this part of the United Kingdom and still larger numbers in the sister kingdom depended mainly for their subsistence." But he added, "I will not assign to that cause too much weight. I will not withhold the homage which is due to the progress of reason, and to truth, by denying that my opinions on the subject of Protection have undergone a change." This announcement was received in profound silence from the Ministerial benches, but with triumphant cheering from the Opposition. Protection, he said, was not a labourer's question. High prices did not produce high wages, nor vice versa. In the last three years, with low prices and abundance of food, wages were comparatively high, and labour was in demand. In the three years preceding, with high[522] prices and scarcity, wages were low and employment was scarce. Experience thus proved that wages were ruled by abundance of capital and demand for labour, and did not vary with the price of provisions. Again, increased freedom of trade was favourable to the prosperity of our commerce. In three scarce and dear years, namely, from 1839 to 1841, our foreign exports fell off from 53,000,000 in value to 47,000,000. But in three years of reduction of duties and low prices, namely, from 1842 to 1844, the value of our exports rose from 47,000,000 to 58,000,000. Even deducting the amount of the China trade, a similar result was shown. Nor was the reduction in the customs duties unfavourable to the revenue. In 1842 there was an estimated loss of 1,500,000; in 1843 a smaller one of 273,000; but in 1845 there was a reduction at an estimated loss to the revenue of no less than 2,500,000. The total amount of the various reductions effected in three years exceeded 4,000,000; and many of the duties were totally abolished; the loss, therefore, not being compensated by any increased consumption. Had 4,000,000 been lost to the revenue? He believed that on the 5th of April next the revenue would be found to be more buoyant than ever. Sir Robert Peel referred to other proofs of prosperity resulting from reduced import duties, and then adverted to his own position, and declared that "he would not hold office on a servile tenure." [557]

Whilst the debate was proceeding, great crowds gathered round the House, and became even more numerous and more agitated. Walpole, irritated by the persuasion that these throngs were collected by the arts of the Opposition, threw out a remark which he afterwards deeply repented. He said gentlemen might call themselves what they liked, but he knew whom the law called "Sturdy Beggars." This phrase, carried out of doors, highly incensed the crowd, who considered that it was meant to cast contempt on the people at large. At two o'clock in the morning, and after thirteen hours' debate, on division there appeared two hundred and sixty-six for the measure, and two hundred and five against. The great increase of the minority struck Walpole with surprise and alarm.

The war of faction still went on furiously. In the Lords there was a violent debate on an address, recommended by Wharton, Cowper, Halifax, and others, on the old subject of removing the Pretender from Lorraine; and they went so far as to recommend that a reward should be offered to any person who should bring the Pretender, dead or alive, to her Majesty. This was so atrocious, considering the relation of the Pretender to the queen, that it was negatived, and another clause, substituting a reward for bringing him to justice should he attempt to land in Great Britain or Ireland. Though in the Commons, as well as in the Lords, it was decided that the Protestant succession was in no danger, an address insisting on the removal of the Pretender from Lorraine was carried. Anne received these addresses in anything but a gratified humour. She observed, in reply, that "it really would be a strengthening to the succession of the House of Hanover, if an end were put to these groundless fears and jealousies which had been so industriously promoted. I do not," she said, "at this time see any necessity for such a proclamation. Whenever I judge it necessary, I shall give my orders to have it issued."

What immediately follows shows that Oliver had planned and brought to a crisis, by his personal exertions, this unhappy rising. On Sunday, the 8th of June, Jeremiah Brandreth, a framework-knitter of Nottingham, appeared with some others at a public-house called the "White Horse," in the village of Pentrich, in Derbyshire. This village is about fourteen miles from Nottingham, and about a mile from the small market town of Ripley. It is in a district of coal and iron mines, and is near the large iron foundry of Butterley. The working people of the village, and of the neighbouring village of South Wingfield, were chiefly colliers, workers in the iron mines or iron foundry, or agricultural labourersa race little informed at that day, and therefore capable of being readily imposed on. This Brandreth had been known for years as a fiery agitator. He was a little, dark-haired man, of perhaps thirty years of age. He had been much with Oliver, and was one of his most thorough dupes, ready for the commission of any desperate deed. He had acquired the cognomen of the "Nottingham Captain," and now appeared in an old brown great-coat, with a gun in his hand, and a pistol thrust into an apron, which was rolled round his waist as a belt.


Addresses were agreed to in both Houses without a division. The only discussion of interest that took place in connection with them referred to the dissolution, and the circumstances in which it occurred. The Opposition denounced it as an impolitic proceeding, bearing the appearance of a revolutionary coup d'tat. They charged the Lord Chancellor with making a false statement, in alleging that the Commons had stopped the supplies, which, if true, was not the real cause of the dissolution, the Cabinet having previously resolved upon that measure. Some of the Ministers also, in their addresses to their constituenciesSir James Graham, for exampleconveyed the same injurious impression, stating that "the last division, which had the effect of delaying the supplies, left no alternative but that of abandoning the Bill or of appealing to the people." With this "factious" conduct the Tory candidates were taunted at the elections, and they complained that they suffered in consequence much unmerited odium. The Chancellor denied the imputation. Not only had the Ministers decided upon the measure of dissolution, but the requisite commission had been actually prepared; and Lord Brougham said, "Knowing this, I must have been the veriest dolt and idiot in the creation, if I had said what has been attributed to me. I stated a factthat the dissolution being resolved upon, if there were wanting any justification for the step, the conduct of the House of Commons the night before furnished ample justification for that proceeding." But the truth is, the Opposition were smarting under the sense of defeat; they had been out-man?uvred by Lord Grey, and defeated by the use of their own tactics.

Meanwhile difficulties thickened daily about the king. His Cabinets resigned in rapid succession; there were no less than five of them between March and October; till at last he got a man of nerve for Prime Minister, in the person of Count von Brandenburg. The Ministry addressed a document to the king for the purpose of disclaiming on his behalf the desire to become German Emperor, stating that his assuming the German colours, and putting himself at the head of the movement for German unity, and proposing to summon a meeting of the Sovereigns and States did not justify the interpretation it had received; that it was not his intention to anticipate the unbiassed decision of the sovereign princes and the people of Germany by offering to undertake the temporary direction of German affairs. Thus the king was obliged to back quietly out of a position which he had rashly assumed. The United Diet acted as being itself only a temporary institution, having established the electoral law on the basis of universal suffrage in order to prepare the way for a constituent Assembly, by which means the revolutionary spirit penetrated to the very extremities of Prussian society.