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The year 1756 opened with menaces to England of the most serious nature. The imbecility of the Ministry was beginning to tell in the neglect of its colonies and its defences. France threatened to invade us, and a navy of fifty thousand men was suddenly voted, and an army of thirty-four thousand two hundred and sixty-three of native troops; but as these were not ready, it was agreed to bring over eight thousand Hessians and Hanoverians. To pay for all this it was necessary to grant excessive supplies, and lay on new duties and taxes. In presenting the money bills in the month of May, Speaker Onslow could not avoid remarking that there were two circumstances which tended to create alarmforeign subsidies and foreign troops introduced, and nothing but their confidence in his Majesty could allay their fears, or give them confidence that their burdens would be soon reduced. There was, in fact, no chance for any such reduction, for wars, troubles, and disgraces were gathering around from various quarters. The first reverse came from the Mediterranean."Didn't you, then? You did, though, and you can[Pg 213] go back with me till we find out why. Give me your firearms. Lively!"
This most bloody of battles took place on the 7th of September. There were about one hundred and twenty thousand men engaged on each side, and the guns on each side are said to have amounted to one thousand. Before the battle, the priests passed along the ranks of the Russians, reminding them of the wrongs they had suffered, and promising paradise to all that fell. Buonaparte, on his side, issued this proclamation:"Soldiers! here is the battle you have longed for! It is necessary, for it brings us plenty, good winter-quarters, and a safe return to France. Behave yourselves so that posterity may say of you'He was in that great battle under the walls of Moscow.'" It was rather a damping circumstance that the day before the battle Buonaparte received the news of Wellington's victory at Salamanca. The battle commenced at seven o'clock in the morning, and continued the greater part of the day, the Russians, even to the newest levies, fighting with the most immovable courage. Buonaparte demanded of Caulaincourt whether the Russians were determined to conquer or die? He replied that they had been fanaticised by their leaders, and would be killed rather than surrender. Buonaparte then ordered up every possible gun, on his plan of battering an army as he would batter a fortress. Still the Russians fought on furiously, and Berthier urged him to call up his "young Guard." But he replied, "And if there is another battle to-morrow, where is my army?"
Lawton moved ahead a few steps; then he began to cry, loudly, blubbering, his nerves gone all to shreds. He implored and pleaded and wailed. He hadn't known what he was doing. He had been drunk. They had treated him badly about the beef contract. Stone had gone back on him. The oaths that he sobbed forth were not new to Cairness, but they were very ugly."THE POLLING."
The history of Hume was much over-estimated in his own time, in spite of the despotic notions which abound in it. It was held up as a marvel of eloquence and acuteness. But after times always correct the enthusiasm of contemporaries, and Hume's history has been found not in every case trustworthy. When we now, indeed, take up Hume, we are surprised to find it a very plain, clear narrative of events, with many oversights and perversions, and nothing more. We wonder where are the transcendent beauties which threw our readers of the eighteenth century into raptures for which language scarcely gave expression. Whoever will read the correspondence of contemporaries with Hume, will find him eulogised rather as a demi-god than a man, and his works described in extravagant strains of praise.
As Ministers did not resign on being placed in a minority the third time, rumours were industriously circulated by their opponents that they meant to rule the country despotically; that they were about to dissolve Parliament the second time, and had resolved to maintain the army on their own responsibility, without the Mutiny Act. On the 2nd of March Lord John Russell, referring to these rumours, gave notice that he intended to bring forward the Irish Appropriation question, and the question of Municipal Reform. It was for a test of this kind that Sir Robert Peel waited. In the meantime he denied that he had any such intentions as those ascribed to him, and compelled Mr. Hume to withdraw his proposal to limit the supplies to three months. He promised that Government would bring in a Bill on the Irish Church; but it would adhere strictly to the principle that ecclesiastical property should be reserved for ecclesiastical purposes. He declared they would be prepared to remedy all real abuses when the report of the Commissioners appointed for their investigation was received.
Whilst Walpole was thus labouring to secure the peace of Europe, Bolingbroke was as industriously at work to undermine him. He had cultivated his intimacy with the Duchess of Kendal still more diligently, and by liberal bribes, and more liberal promises if he succeeded in once more regaining power, he had brought her to exert her influence with the king in his favour. This most sordid and rapacious of mistresses, who looked on England only as a country to be managed for her benefit, ventured at length to put into the king's hand a memorial drawn up for her by Bolingbroke, demonstrating that the country must be absolutely ruined if Walpole continued in office. The stratagem was too palpable. Whilst she talked only, her suggestions might pass for her own, but the style of the document must have at once caused the king's suspicion of its true source. He put the paper into Walpole's hand. Walpole, after interrogating the two Turks, who were always in attendance on the king, and on their denying all knowledge of the means by which the missive reached the royal person, went directly to the Duchess and charged her with the fact. She did not deny it. Walpole advised the king to admit Bolingbroke to the audience which he solicited in the memorial, trusting that the king's dislike of him would prevail in the interview. The result appeared to be of that kind; nevertheless, Walpole was far from being secure in his own mind. He knew that the mistress would be continually returning to the charge in favour of her friend and paymaster, though she enjoyed a pension from Government of seven thousand five hundred pounds; and he even contemplated retiring with a peerage, but was dissuaded from this by the Princess of Wales and the Duke of Devonshire. On the other hand, Bolingbroke was in the highest expectation of his speedy restoration not only to rank but to office.