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The literature of this period is more distinguished for learning and cleverness than for genius. There are a few names that rise above the smartness and mere accomplishment of the time into the regions of pure genius; but, with very few exceptions, even they bear the stamp of the period. We have here no Milton, no Shakespeare, no Herbert, no Herrick even, to produce; but De Foe, Addison, Steele, Thomson, and Pope, if they do not lift us to the highest creative plane, give us glimpses and traits of what is found there. For the rest, however full of power, there hangs a tone of "town," of a vicious and sordid era, about them, of an artificial and by no means refined life, a flavour of the grovelling of the politics which distinguished the period, and of the low views and feelings which occupied and surrounded the throne during the greater portion of this term. In this utter desertion, the king prevailed on Lord North, who was already Chancellor of the Exchequer, to accept Grafton's post of First Lord of the Treasury, with the Premiership. Lord North, eldest son of the Earl of Guildford, was a man of a remarkably mild and pleasant temper, of sound sense, and highly honourable character. He was ungainly in his person and plain of countenance, but he was well versed in the business of Parliament, and particularly dexterous in tagging to motions of the Opposition some paragraph or other which neutralised the whole, or turned it even against them. He was exceedingly near-sighted, so much so, that he once carried off the wig of the old Secretary of the Navy, who sat near him in the House. For the rest, he was of so somnolent a nature that he was frequently seen nodding in the House when Opposition members were pouring out all the vials of their wrath on his head. He thought himself a Whig, but if we are to class him by his principles and his acts of administration, we must pronounce him a Tory.

The House, meanwhile, seemed to have been getting still more involved in the meshes of these difficulties. Stockdale commenced a fourth and fifth action against Hansard; an order was issued for the arrest of his attorney for contempt, and he was ultimately lodged in Newgate. But he afterwards brought actions against all the officers of the House that had been concerned in his arrest and had searched his premises. On the 17th of February Lord John Russell informed the House that he had a petition to present from Messrs. Hansard to the effect that a fifth action had been commenced against them by Stockdale for the same course as before. It was then moved that Stockdale, and the son of Howard, his attorney, a lad of nineteen, and his clerk, by commencing this action had been guilty of a contempt of the House. This was carried by a majority of 71, and they, too, were imprisoned.

On the declaration of war, Buonaparte resorted to a proceeding that had never been practised before, and which excited the most violent indignation in England. He ordered the detention of British subjects then in France, as prisoners of war. Talleyrand previously assured some British travellers, who applied to him for information, that they had nothing to fear; that their persons would be safe under the protection of a Government which, unlike that of Britain, observed the laws of nations, and Buonaparte caused his well-known agent, Louis Goldsmith, the editor of a French paper, the Argus, published in London, to insert the same assurance in that journal. Thus thrown off their guard, all the British in France were seized by authority of a proclamation of the 22nd of May. Numbers of these were families and individuals not resident in France, but merely hurrying home from Italy, Switzerland, etc. They numbered some 12,000, and were kept confined till the close of the wars. The pretext was the capture of two ships before war was declared, but they were not captured until the Ambassadors had withdrawn, or until an embargo had been laid by Napoleon on British shipping.

[See larger version] Ministers were soon compelled to pursue the policy which Pitt had so successfully inaugurated. With all the determination of Lord Bute and his colleagues to make a speedy peace, they found it impossible. The Family Compact between France and Spain was already signed; and in various quarters of the world Pitt's plans were so far in progress that they must go on. In East and West, his plans for the conquest of Havana, of the Philippine Isles, and for other objects, were not to be abruptly abandoned; and Ministers were compelled to carry out his objects, in many particulars, in spite of themselves. And now the unpleasant truth was forced on the attention of Ministers, that the war which Pitt declared to be inevitable was so, and that he had recommended the only wise measure. The country was now destined to pay the penalty of their folly and stupidity in rejecting Pitt's proposal to declare war against Spain at once, and strip her of the means of offence, her treasure ships. Lord Bristol, our ambassador at Madrid, announced to Lord Bute, in a despatch of the 2nd of November, that these ships had arrived, and that all the wealth which Spain expected from her American colonies for the next year was safe at home. And he had to add that with this, Wall, the Minister, had thrown off the mask, and had assumed the most haughty and insolent language towards Great Britain. This was a confession on the part of Lord Bristol that he had suffered Wall to throw dust in his eyes till his object was accomplished, and it made patent the fact that Pitt had been too sagacious to be deceived; but that the new Ministers, whilst insulting Pitt and forcing him to resign, had been themselves completely duped. Spain now, in the most peremptory terms, demanded redress for all her grievances; and, before the year had closed, the Bute Cabinet was compelled to recall Lord Bristol from Madrid, and to order Fuentes, the Spanish ambassador in London, to quit the kingdom. On the 4th of January, 1762, declaration of war was issued against Spain. Neither king nor Ministers, seeing the wisdom of Pitt's policy and the folly of their own, were prevented from committing another such absurdity. They abandoned Frederick of Prussia at his greatest need. They refused to vote his usual subsidy. By this execrable proceedingfor we not only abandoned Frederick, but made overtures to Austria, with which he was engaged in a mortal strugglewe thus threw him into the arms and close alliance of Russia, and were, by this, the indirect means of that guilty confederation by which Poland was afterwards rent in pieces by these powers. On the 5th of January, 1762, died the Czarina Elizabeth. She was succeeded by her nephew, the Duke of Holstein, under the title of Peter III. Peter was an enthusiastic admirer of the Prussian king; he was extravagant and incessant in his praises of him. He accepted the commission of a colonel in the Prussian service, wore its uniform, and was bent on clothing his own troops in it. It was clear that he was not quite sane, for he immediately recalled the Russian army which was acting against Frederick, hastened to make peace with him, and offered to restore all that had been won from him in the war, even to Prussia proper, which the Russians had possession of. His example was eagerly seized upon by Sweden, which was tired of the war. Both Russia and Sweden signed treaties of peace with Frederick in May, and Peter went farther: he dispatched an army into Silesia, where it had so lately been fighting against him, to fight against Austria. Elated by this extraordinary turn of affairs, the Prussian ambassador renewed his applications for money, urging that, now Russia had joined Frederick, it would be easy to subdue Austria and terminate the war. This was an opportunity for Bute to retrace with credit his steps; but he argued, on the contrary, that, having the aid of Russia, Frederick did not want that of England; and he[173] is even accused of endeavouring to persuade Russia to continue its hostilities against Prussia; and thus he totally alienated a power which might have hereafter rendered us essential service, without gaining a single point. The Duke of Newcastle, man of mediocre merit as he was, saw farther than Bute into the disgraceful nature of thus abandoning a powerful ally at an extremity, as well as the impolicy of converting such a man into a mortal enemy; and, finding all remonstrances vain, resigned. Bute was glad to be rid of him; and Newcastle, finding both his remonstrance and resignation taken very coolly, had the meanness to seek to regain a situation in the Cabinet, but without effect, and threw himself into the Opposition. Louis Philippe, King of the French, had been the subject of constant eulogy for the consummate ability and exquisite tact with which he had governed France for seventeen years. It was supposed that the "Citizen King" had at length taught his restless and impulsive subjects the blessings of constitutional government, and that they were perfectly contented with the free institutions under which it was now their happiness to live. Guizot, regarded as one of the greatest statesmen on the Continent, was at the head of affairs in 1847, and it was hoped that his profound wisdom and keen sagacity would enable him to guard the state against any dangers with which it might be threatened by the Legitimists on one side or the Democrats on the other. But the whole aspect of public affairs in France was deceptive, and the unconscious monarch occupied a throne which rested on a volcano. The representative government of which he boasted was nothing but a shama gross fraud upon the nation. The basis of the electoral constituency was extremely narrow, and majorities were secured in the Chambers by the gross abuse of enormous government patronage. The people, however, saw through the delusion, and were indignant at the artifices by which they were deceived. The king, who interfered with his Ministers in everything, and really directed the Government, was proud of his skill in "managing" his Ministry, his Parliament, and the nation. But the conviction gained ground everywhere, and with it arose a feeling of deep resentment, that he had broken faith with the nation, that he had utterly failed to fulfil his pledges to the people, who had erected the barricades, and placed him upon the throne in 1830. The friends of the monarchy were convinced that it could only be saved by speedy and effectual reform. But the very name of Reform was hateful to the king, and his aide-de-camp took care to make known to the members of the Chambers his opinions and feelings upon the subject. M. Odillon Barrot, however, originated a series of Reform banquets, which commenced in Paris, and were held in the principal provincial cities, at which the most eminent men in the country delivered strong speeches against political corruption and corrupters, and especially against the Minister who was regarded as their chief defenderGuizot.