The other charges having been voted, on the 25th of April Burke brought up the articles of impeachment. There was a long debate, in which Wilkes, who had completely changed his politics, and had cultivated a friendship with Warren Hastings and his wife, made a very effective speech in his defence. He tried to shift the blame from Hastings to the Company. Pitt again pointed out the fact that honourable members had not been showing the innocence of Hastings, but raising all manner of set-offs for his crimesa course which he had before said he had hoped would have been abandoned; that for his part,[339] without going to the length of all the charges brought forward, he saw sufficient grounds for an impeachment. He could conceive a State compelled by sudden invasion and an unprovided army, to lay violent hands on the property of its subjects, but then such a State must be infamous if it did not, on the first opportunity, make ample satisfaction. But was this the principle on which Mr. Hastings had acted? No; he neither avowed the necessity nor the exaction. He made criminal charges, and, under colour of them, levied immoderate penalties, which, if he had a right to take them at all, he would be highly criminal in taking in such a shape; but which, having no right to take, the mode of taking rendered much more heinous and culpable. Early in this year Admiral Sir John Jervis fell in with the great Spanish fleet, which was intended to co-operate with the French in the invasion of Ireland, and defeated it. Nelson had predicted that the Spanish fleet would not take much destroying. Admiral de Langara had had a fortunate escape in the Mediterranean, in venturing to Corsica. He had now been superseded by Don Juan de Cordova, and Jervis, on the 14th of February, met with him off Cape St. Vincent. Cordova had twenty-seven sail of the line, Jervis only fifteen; but he had Nelson in his fleet, which more than counterbalanced the inequality of numbers; and the discipline on board the Spanish ships was far below that of the British. Nelson broke through the Spanish line, and chiefly by his exertions and man?uvres four of the largest vessels were taken, including one of one hundred and twelve guns. The rest escaped into Cadiz, and there the British blockaded them. The news of this brilliant victory arrived in London when the public was greatly dispirited by the exhausted state of the Bank of England, and helped to revive confidence. Sir John Jervis was made Earl of St. Vincent, and Nelson, the real hero, a Knight of the Bath.

The Girondists were, at the opening of the year 1792, vehemently urging on war against the Emigrants and the Emperor of Germany. Just at this crisis, as we have seen, Leopold of Austria died, and was succeeded by his nephew, Francis II.; and war became more inevitable, for Francis had not the same pacific disposition as Leopold, and the Gironde was bent on war. The internal condition of France also seemed to indicate that there must soon be war abroad or civil war at home. The Ministers were at variance; the Jacobins and Girondists were coming to an open and desperate feud; the people, both in Paris and throughout the country, were excited by the Jacobin publications to the utmost pitch of fury against the Royalists and the priests.


As soon as the Ministry had been restored, the House reassembled for the election of a new Speaker in the room of Mr. Abercromby, who had declared his intention of resigning, having no longer sufficient strength to perform the arduous duties imposed on him by his office. When his intention was announced, he received, through Sir Robert Peel and Lord John Russell, the highest testimony of the esteem in which he was held by the two great parties, not only for his conduct in the Chair, but also for his strenuous exertions to improve the mode of conducting the private business of the House. This was in accordance with precedent, but as a matter of fact Mr. Abercromby was a very weak Speaker, and his ruling had been repeatedly questioned by the House. He was chosen Speaker in 1835. On his resignation of that office he was raised to the peerage as Lord Dunfermline. Mr. Handley nominated Mr. Shaw Lefevre, member for North Hants, as a person eminently qualified to succeed to the vacant chair. Mr. Williams Wynn, a member of great experience and reputation in the House, proposed Mr. Goulburn, member for the University of Cambridge. The motion was seconded by Mr. Wilson Patten. It was a party contest, and tested the strength of the Ministry and the Opposition. The House divided on the motion that Mr. Shaw Lefevre do take the Chair, which was carried by a majority of eighteen, the numbers being 317 and 299.

[257] It was in these peculiar circumstances that the extraordinary measure was adopted of sending out a commission. The king, however, was furious at what he regarded as a breach of his prerogative. He told Sir George Grey, one of the Commission, in the presence of his Ministers, that he was to assert the prerogative of the Crown, which persons who ought to have known better had dared to deny, and that he was to recollect that Lower Canada had been conquered by the sword. A week later he favoured Lord Gosford with this[399] outburst"By God I will never consent to alienate the Crown lands, nor to make the Council elective. Mind, my lord, the Cabinet is not my Cabinet. They had better take all, or by God I will have them impeached." As Lord Glenelg, the Colonial Secretary, was the person alluded to in the first sally, the Ministry drew up a strongly worded remonstrance which was read to the king by Lord Melbourne. But Lord Glenelg's instructions to Lord Gosford were toned down, and his mission was therefore foredoomed to failure. It was found that the sense of grievance and the complaints of bad government prevailed in both provinces, though of a different character in each. The habitants of the Lower Province complained of the preference shown by the Government to the British settlers and to the English language over the French. Englishmen, they said, monopolised the public offices, which they administered with the partiality and injustice of a dominant race. They complained also of the interference of the Government in elections, and of its unreasonable delay in considering or sanctioning the Bills passed by the Assembly. They insisted, moreover, that the Upper House, corresponding to the House of Peers, should be elective, instead of being appointed by the Crown and subject to its will. In the Upper Province the chief grounds of discontent arose from the want of due control over the public money and its expenditure. Many of the electors had gone out from Great Britain and Ireland during the Reform agitation, bearing with them strong convictions and excited feelings on the subject of popular rights, and they were not at all disposed to submit to monopoly in the colony of their adoption, after assisting to overthrow it in the mother country. Lord Gosford opened the Assembly in November, 1835, and in the course of his speech he said, "I have received the commands of our most gracious Sovereign to acquaint you that his Majesty is disposed to place under the control of the representatives of the people all public moneys payable to his Majesty or to his officers in this province, whether arising from taxes or from any other source. The accounts which will be submitted to your examination show the large arrears due as salaries to public officers and for the ordinary expenditure of the Government; and I earnestly request of you to pass such votes as may effect the liquidation of these arrears, and provide for the maintenance of the public servants, pending the inquiry by the Commissioners." One of the pioneers of the science of political economy at this time was Dr. Davenant, the son of Sir William Davenant, the poet. He had no genius for drawing principles and theories from accumulated facts, but he was a diligent collector of them, and his porings amongst State documents and accounts have served essentially the historians and political economists of our day.