At the approach of the new French levies, Eugene Beauharnais retreated from Magdeburg, and joined them on the Saale. The Allies and Napoleon now lay face to face, the Allies cutting off his advance towards Leipsic and thence to Dresden. He resolved to make a determined attack upon them, and demoralise them by a blow which should make him master of Leipsic, Dresden, and Berlin at once, and give its impression to the whole campaign. In the skirmishes which took place previous to the general engagement at Weissenfels and Poserna on the 29th of April and the 1st of May, Buonaparte gained some advantages; but in the latter action his old commander of the Imperial Guard, Marshal Bessires, was killed. His death was deeply lamented, both by his men, who had served under him from the very commencement of Buonaparte's career, and by Buonaparte himself. The trumpet's silvery sound is still,

Marriage is one of the fundamental principles of the social system. The law of marriage, therefore, ought to be plain and simple, intelligible to all, and guarded in every possible way against fraud and abuse. Yet the marriage laws of the United Kingdom were long in the most confused, unintelligible, and unsettled state, leading often to ruinous and almost endless litigation. A new Marriage Act was passed in the Session now under review, which, like many Acts of the kind, originated in personal interests affecting the aristocracy. It was said to have mainly arisen out of the marriage of the Marquis of Donegal with Miss May, who was the daughter of a gentleman celebrated for assisting persons of fashion with loans of money. The brother of the marquis sought to set this marriage aside, and to render the children illegitimate, in order that he might himself, should the marquis die without lawful issue, be heir to his title and estates. In law the marriage was invalid; but it was now protected by a retrospective clause in the new Act. By the Marriage Act of 1754 all marriages of minors certified without the assent of certain specified persons were declared null. A Bill was passed by the Commons giving validity to marriages which, according to the existing law, were null, and providing that the marriages of minors, celebrated without due notice, should not be void, but merely voidable, and liable to be annulled only during the minority[226] of the parties, and at the suit of the parents or guardians.

The consequences were an intense excitement in favour of Wilkes, and execration against the Commons. Wilkes was reported to be delirious, and crowds collected in the streets before his house, calling for vengeance on his murderers. Sandwich was especially denounced; in return for his dragging forth the obscenity of Wilkes, his own private life was ransacked for scandalous anecdotes, and they were only too plentiful. Horace Walpole says that Sandwich's conduct to Wilkes had brought forth such a catalogue of his[182] own impurities as was incredible. The "Beggar's Opera" being just then acted at Covent Garden, when Macheath uttered the words, "That Jemmy Twitcher should peach, I own surprises me!" the whole audience burst into most tumultuous applause at the obvious application; and thenceforth Jemmy Twitcher was the name by which Sandwich was more commonly known.

But Lord Castlereagh called on Parliament to maintain the same scale of expenditure and exertion till the great drama was completed. He estimated that there would still be wanted for 1814 four million pounds for the Peninsula, and six million pounds for Germany. He stated that our army in all quarters of the world amounted to two hundred and thirty thousand men, and that it was probable that we should have occasion to send from fifteen thousand to twenty thousand men to Holland, which, he recommended, should be raised by drafts from the militia. Of seamen, one hundred and forty thousand, and thirty-one thousand marines were voted, as it was resolved to chase the flag of the troublesome Americans from the seas. All these proposals were assented to without hesitation, and with the warmest encomiums on the achievements of Lord Wellington in Spain and the south of France, Parliament adjourned on the 26th of December till the 1st of March, 1814.


The select committee of the Commons appointed at the instance of Lord Castlereagh, to inquire into the state of the national income and expenditure, now presented its report on the 3rd of June, and it was agreed to. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated on its authority that, since 1815, taxation had been reduced eighteen million pounds per annum; that in 1816 the revenue of Great Britain and Ireland had been consolidated, and that, at that time, the interest of the Debt of Ireland, including the Sinking Fund provided for its reduction, exceeded the entire revenue of that part of the United Kingdom by one million nine hundred thousand pounds. He then announced that supplies for the present year would be required to the amount of twenty million five hundred thousand pounds; that the existing revenue would only furnish seven million pounds towards this; and that it would be necessary to have recourse to the Sinking Fund to make up the deficiency of thirteen million five hundred thousand pounds. This Sinking Fund was fifteen million five hundred thousand pounds, so that it would leave only two million pounds; but as it was necessary to have a tolerable surplus in hand to meet exigencies, it was proposed to raise this reserve fund to five million pounds by fresh taxes to the amount of three million pounds.

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This conviction of all Europe that the ambition of Buonaparte would swell till it burst in ruin, quickly received fresh confirmation. The trans-Rhenish provinces of Holland did not form a proper frontier for him. He immediately gave orders to form Oldenburg, Bremen, and all the line of coast between Hamburg and Lübeck, into additional Departments of France, which was completed by a Senatus Consultum of the 13th of December of this year. Thus the French empire now extended from Denmark to Sicily; for Naples, though it was the kingdom of Joachim Murat, was only nominally so; for the fate of the kingdom of Holland had dissipated the last delusion regarding the reality of any separate kingdom of Napoleon's erection. Italy, Jerome's kingdom of Westphalia, the Grand Duchy of Bergnow given to the infant son of Louisall the territories of the Confederation of the Rhine, and Austria itself were really subject to Buonaparte, and any day he could assert that dominion. More than eighty millions of people in Europe owned this quondam lieutenant of artillery as their lord and master, whose will disdained all control. No such empire had existed under one autocrat, or under one single sceptre, since the palmiest days of the Roman supremacy. Denmark retained its nominal independence only by humbly following the intimations of the great man's will. And now Sweden appeared to add another realm to his vast dominions; but, in reality, the surprising change which took place there created a final barrier to[6] his progress in the North, and became an immediate cause of his utter overthrow. The story is one of the most singular and romantic in all the wonderful events of the Napoleonic career.

The workhouse test, then, operated powerfully in keeping down pauperism; but another cause came into operation still more influential, namely, the Law of Settlement. By the Act 13 and 14 Charles II. a legal settlement in a parish was declared to be gained by birth, or by inhabitancy, apprenticeship, or service for forty days; but within that period any two justices were authorised, upon complaint being made to them by the churchwardens or overseers, if they thought a new entrant likely to become chargeable, to remove him, unless he either occupied a tenement of the annual value of ten pounds, or gave sufficient security that he would indemnify the parish for whatever loss it might incur on his account. And by a subsequent Act, 3 William III., every newcomer was obliged to give notice to the churchwarden of his arrival. This notice should be read in church after divine service, and then commenced the forty days during which objection might be made to his settlement. In case of objection, if he remained it was by sufferance, and he could be removed the moment he married, or was likely to become chargeable. A settlement might also be obtained by being hired for a year when unmarried or childless, and remaining the whole of that time in the service of one master; or being bound an apprentice to a person who had obtained a settlement. The effect of this system was actually to depopulate many parishes. The author of a valuable pamphlet on the subject, Mr. Alcock, stated that gentlemen were led by this system to adopt all sorts of expedients to hinder the poor from marrying, to discharge servants in their last quarter, to evict small tenants, and pull down cottages; so that several parishes were in a manner depopulated, while[363] England complained of want of useful hands for agriculture, for manufactures, and for the land and sea services.

Although announced with the Budget, the proposed change in the sugar duties formed a separate and more momentous question. At that time, strictly foreign sugar was virtually prohibited by the excessive differential dutiesBritish plantation sugar paying a duty of 25s. 3d. per cwt., foreign, of 66s. 2d. When the Whig Administration had proposed to diminish this enormous difference, the Tories had pleaded the injustice to the West India landlords of taking away their slaves, and then exposing them to competition with countries still possessing slave labour. The question had thus become one of party. The Whigs were pledged to consult the interests of the British consumer; the Tories to protect the West Indies; and beating the Whigs on this very point, the Tories had turned them out of office. The British consumer had, however, happily some voice in the elections, and the problem was now to conciliate him without a glaring breach of consistency. Accordingly, the tax on our colonial sugar was to be left untouched, as was the tax on foreign sugar, the growth of slave countries; but henceforth it was proposed that the duty on foreign sugar, the produce of free labour, should pay only 10s. more than colonial. Thus was the first great blow struck at the protective sugar duties, and at that West Indian party which had so long prevailed in Parliament over the interests of the people. But the battle had yet to be fought.

Leinster 1,973,731 4,624,542 450,606 308,068

"I have for several years endeavoured to obtain a compromise on this subject. The result of resistance to qualified concession must be the same in the present instance as in those I have mentioned. It is no longer worth while to contend for a fixed duty. In 1841 the Free Trade party would have agreed to a duty of 8s. a quarter on wheat, and after a lapse of years this duty might have been further reduced, and ultimately abolished. But the imposition of any duty, at present, without a provision for its extinction within a short period, would but prolong a contest already sufficiently fruitful of animosity and discontent. The struggle to make bread scarce and dear, when it is clear that part, at least, of the additional price goes to increase rent, is a struggle deeply injurious to an aristocracy which (this quarrel once removed) is strong in property, strong in the construction of our Legislature, strong in opinion, strong in ancient associations and the memory of immortal services."