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not to have taken anything at all, because an English soldier should not accept rewards, excepting from his own king and country.
VICTORIES AT SEA.—ANSON.—DEATH OF GEORGE II., OCTOBER, 1760.— GENERAL CORRUPTION OF MORALS.—THE METHODISTS.—THE CHANGE OF STYLE.-CANALS FIRST CONSTRUCTED IN ENGLAND. TRAVELLING IN THOSE DAYS.
WE must not leave the reign of George the Second without saying something of its naval glories. It would be too long to relate the many actions at sea in which the British flag was victorious, but one must be mentioned, because it was looked upon both by friends and foes as an instance of extraordinary daring.
In November 1759, the French fleet had just left the harbour of Brest, when it was overtaken by an English squadron under command of Admiral Hawke. The night was closing in black and stormy, and the French fleet endeavoured to escape the encounter by running close under the shore, which is there exceedingly rocky and dangerous. Hawke could not be deterred from pursuing them, although his pilot warned him that he was running a terrible risk of shipwreck; and in spite of the rocks, the storm, and the darkness, he gained a complete victory. Six of the enemy's ships were taken or destroyed, the rest fled into the rivers, where the English fleet could not follow them. But of all the brave seamen of this reign, Anson has left the most famous name
behind him, owing to his voyage round the world. He and his crew met with innumerable dangers, and endured much hardship and misery; but after nearly four years' absence, he returned at last in triumph, bringing with him a great Spanish treasure-ship which he had captured, and which contained such a quantity of money, that thirty-two waggons were needed to convey it from Portsmouth to London.
On the 25th of October, 1760, George the Second, now seventy-six years of age, rose in his usual health, but an hour afterwards he fell to the ground, and expired almost immediately. He had reigned more than thirty-three years. His wife, Queen Caroline, had died twenty-three years before. His eldest son also, Frederic, Prince of Wales, had been dead some time. Prince Frederic had been on very unfriendly terms with his father, and his death was not much regretted by any one. His eldest living son now succeeded to the throne by the title of George the Third.
The people of England had not improved in morals during the reigns of George the First and Second, nor did those kings set a good example to their subjects. Among the upper classes of society, it had become quite a common thing to hear men deride the Word of God, and speak of the Gospel as if it were a fable The ministers of state bribed men to vote for them and support their government, by giving them the public money; and members of parliament were not ashamed to be bribed. But Pitt had no hand in these shameful doings: he could neither be bribed himself, nor would he bribe other men. Unhappily, there were few men in power who resembled Pitt. And among the clergy there were not many men who
took much pains to instruct the people. The consequence of all this was, that the nation had gone back, instead of advancing, in piety and virtue.
A few young clergymen of Oxford, whose companions called them Methodists, because of their strict and devout life, were deeply grieved at the ignorance and vice which prevailed amongst the people. They went forth and preached in the churches, the streets, the barns, wherever they could find hearers; and their labours were wonderfully successful. John Wesley is the most noted of these earnest men: he endeavoured, at first, to keep the multitude of persons whom he and his friends had won to a life of piety, in close union with the church; but afterwards separated; and the sect which bears his name is now the most numerous body of dissenters in England.
During the reign of George the Second, a change took place in the way of reckoning the year. (It is generally called the Change of Style-the old way of reckoning is called the Old Style, and the new way, the New Style.) For a great many hundred years it was reckoned that the year contained exactly 365 days, 6 hours. But astronomers found out that this was eleven minutes too much; and in the year 1752, the eleven minutes too much which had been given to this great number of years amounted to eleven days. In several countries of Europe the error had been corrected long before, but not .in England; so the same day which Frenchmen, Germans, and Italians called the 13th of September, Englishmen called the 2d. But it was now settled by parliament that the English reckoning should be made right by leaving out eleven days; so in the year 1752, the
CHANGE OF STYLE.
day after the 2d of September was called the 14th, which it really was. A great many people, however, did not understand this, and they conceived a strange notion that eleven days of life had been taken from them by an Act of Parliament, and ran after the ministers calling out angrily, "Give us back our eleven days!" Another change was made at this time: the year had been reckoned to begin on the 25th of March, but now it was settled that the 1st of January should be New Year's day.
It was in the reign of George the Second that Englishmen first began to construct canals. We who live in days when there is a good road to every town and village in England, and almost every part of the country is intersected by canals or railways, can hardly picture to ourselves what it was to travel a hundred years ago. For a coach to go fifty miles in one day was thought very good travelling indeed, and there were very few roads in England on which it was possible to make so much speed. There were hardly any turnpike roads, and the other principal highways consisted of a narrow paved causeway in the middle, with a breadth of soft mire at each side. The cross roads had not even a causeway, and were so full of holes and quagmires as to be impassable either for man or beast during many weeks of the winter. Where there was a navigable river, goods were conveyed by water; elsewhere, by slow heavy waggons, and still more frequently by pack-horses, which travelled in long strings, forty or fifty in a file.
A little canal was begun in Lancashire, in 1755, but the first great work of this kind was the Bridgewater canal, begun in 1759. It was constructed by a
very clever man named Brindley, the wisest engineer of his time, at the desire of the Duke of Bridgewater; and it runs from Manchester to Leigh and Worsley. The tunnels by which the canal was conveyed underground, and the aqueduct which carried it over the river Irwell, caused great astonishment and admiration; for such works were quite new in England. But these served as models for many others. The Bridgewater Canal was so very useful, that within forty years, fifty more canals were constructed in England and Wales.
GEORGE II., 1760.-END OF THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR-ATTEMPT TO TAX THE AMERICAN COLONIES FOLLOWED BY WAR.-THE COLONIES DECLARE THEMSELVES INDEPENDENT, IN 1776; AND ARE GIVEN UP BY ENGLAND AT THE PEACE OF 1783.-DEFENCE OF GIBRALTAR, 1779.
(From 1760 to 1783.)
GEORGE THE THIRD was twenty-two years old when he became king. At the time of his accession, England seemed to have reached the height of honour and prosperity; for the British arms had been successful in every quarter of the world, and the young king succeeded to a much larger empire than any of his predecessors. He was welcomed with the most affectionate loyalty by the people, who rejoiced that they had at last a sovereign who was their own countryman. All his tastes and habits were English: he loved the country with all his heart, and made it his boast that he had been born a Briton. England has had monarchs of greater ability, but never one who was more truly a good man than George the Third