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Hunt, who was afterwards tried along with some others, and convicted of sedition.
An event of a very different and criminal character, called the Thistlewood Conspiracy, occurred at this time. Arthur Thistlewood, a gentleman who had once served as a subaltern in the West Indies, contrived to get together a band of desperadoes, who entered into the mad and wicked design of murdering the ministers of the Crown while seated at the dinner-table of Lord Harrowby, and of then raising an insurrection in the city. Intelligence of their manœuvres being brought to the Government by a spy, the whole gang, who had assembled in a stable in Cato Street, were surrounded on the night of the 23d February. A policeofficer was killed by Thistlewood, and another wounded. Nine conspirators were arrested, the rest having escaped. Thistlewood, taken the same night, was tried soon after, and executed as a traitor.
Immediately after this event the queen arrived in England. For twenty-three years Caroline of Brunswick had lived apart from her husband. Very soon after her marriage with George, then Prince of Wales, differences arose, which were so strongly marked, that a separation was resolved upon. For six years before the king's accession, Caroline had lived on the Continent, and being of a heedless lively turn of mind, and destitute of discretion, her conduct left her open to censure. As soon, therefore, as she announced her intention of claiming her rightful position at the king's side on the throne, it was resolved, at the royal instigation, to bring her to trial for criminal breach of her marriage vows. On the 5th July 1820, a bill was brought into the House of Lords for the dissolution of the marriage. The witnesses chiefly examined were Italians, whose credibility was shaken to pieces by the cross-examination of the queen's counsel, and their powerful commentaries on the evidence. The bill passed, nevertheless, by a majority of twenty-eight; but on the third reading it fell to nine, which was considered so small that further proceedings were abandoned. The feelings of the people at large, whom the profligate
DEATH OF QUEEN CAROLINE.
character of George had disgusted, ran strongly in favour of the queen, on whom Parliament, at the express instance of the ministry, settled an annuity of £50,000. Still determined, however, to assert her rights, the impetuous Caroline presented herself at the door of Westminster Abbey upon the day of the Coronation, but was refused admission. This indignity preyed on her mind, and her death followed soon after (7th August 1821). Her funeral revived the public excitement, and in one place a collision occurred, in which two of the mob were shot dead, and Sir Robert Wilson, for having interfered, on behalf of the people, with the officer on duty, was deprived of his commission and rank of General. A public subscription was afterwards raised on behalf of that distinguished soldier, as a mark of respect and sympathy.
A great deal of disturbance had broken out in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, in consequence of the dissatisfaction of the people with their monarchical institutions. On the 1st January 1820, four Spanish battalions, headed by Riego, proclaimed the liberal constitution of 1812, and they were joined by the liberals in all quarters. The army refused to act against them, and the king accordingly thought it prudent to yield. From Spain the liberal spirit spread to Naples, where the people rose in favour of a constitution similar to that conceded by Ferdinand, and as the army went over with their commander Pepe and joined the people, the king and his two sons took the oath to the constitution. A movement was next made in Portugal, and with like success. The continental sovereigns beginning to take alarm, caused a Congress to be held at Vienna for the pacification of the Continent. As Spain was said to be the quarter from which the evil example chiefly came, the French king, Louis XVIII., much to the annoyance of England, marched an army across the Pyrenees to put down revolution and restore Ferdinand VII. A reaction followed, and the countries of Europe found themselves almost where they were before the attempt at reform.
About this time the South American States having thrown off the yoke of Spain, that truly British minister Canning resolved
that no foreign country should be allowed to interfere with them, and boldly recognised the independence of the Republics which arose in that part of the world. As Portugal was threatened by Spain, which had an eye to the incorporation of that country, Mr. Canning despatched an expedition to the Tagus, the mere presence of which served to preserve the independence of our ancient ally.
In the East the Burmese having wantonly assailed the British Indian Empire, were in turn invaded by Sir Archibald Campbell, who brought the court of Ava to reason. By a treaty of peace signed at Yandaboo (24th February 1826), the Burmese sovereign ceded to the East India Company the conquered provinces of Aracan, Yeh, Tavoy, Mergui, and Tenasserim, at the same time granting free trade to all British subjects.
The Duke of York, second son of George III., died 5th January 1827, and on the 8th August of the same year, the brilliant minister, George Canning, breathed his last.
Although Canning had been throughout the king's reign a leading member of administration, yet he had attained to the premiership only a little while before his death. The Cabinets of George IV. were divided on some most important questions, which, owing to the balanced state of public opinion upon them, were allowed to lie open for consideration. Thus, on the death of Lord Londonderry in 1822, Canning was called to take the vacant place of Foreign Secretary, and he, the friend of Roman Catholic emancipation, found himself seated at the council table with Mr. Peel, Home Minister, who was at the time violently opposed to the Roman Catholic claims. Mr. Huskisson, again, the president of the Board of Trade, was an energetic free trader, and in his laudable efforts to advance liberal commercial measures, was warmly sustained by Mr. Canning. At that time Mr. Peel's views seemed to have been limited to the currency question, in which sphere he effected a salutary reform, by substituting solid specie for fictitious paper notes. In fact, Peel, destined as he was to take the lead subsequently in the settlement of the two great questions of Catholic
Emancipation and Free Trade, arrived slowly at sound conclusions; but such was the judicial structure of his mind, that, while defending a cause, he left himself open to the reasons of the opposite party; when he could no longer answer them he not only yielded, but lent the whole weight of his character and position to give practical effect to the doctrines. So long as Lord Liverpool, the prime minister, lived, he was able, by his conciliatory disposition, rather than any ascendency of mind, to keep together members of his ministry opposed in many respects to one another. On Lord Liverpool becoming incapacitated for public business by a paralytic stroke, Canning, as the man of the highest genius, was naturally called to take his place. Personal animosities and jealousies then broke forth, and his colleagues, with the exception of Huskisson and two others, abandoned him. It was expected that the liberals would have come to his aid, but, unfortunately for himself, Canning had committed himself to a declaration against parliamentary reform, and had estranged the dissenters by his want of sympathy with their cause. The generous support of such eminent men as Henry Brougham and Sir James Mackintosh failed to heal the mortification he felt at the desertion of his colleagues on the one side, and the denunciations of such leading reformers as Earl Grey on the other, and there is good reason to believe that his sensitive nature at last gave way to pain and annoyance.
Had Canning lived, he would have seen the liberal questions he supported, as well as those he opposed, alike carried. So strong was the rising spirit of Reform, that Brougham, although in opposition, was able, after a speech of six hours' duration, and one of the most luminous that ever fell from the lips of man, to induce the House of Commons to agree to his views regarding a thorough investigation of our whole legal administration. Sir James Mackintosh succeeded in mitigating the odious severity of criminal law. Slavery was solemnly condemned as piracy. In the meantime many restrictions on commerce having been removed, free trade was making progress, and justifying its principle, by advancing commerce. The revenue was improving from year to year.
were the arts and sciences neglected. Mechanics' institutes began to be formed. A new University for London, the idea of which originated with Thomas Campbell, was founded. Cheap publications for the diffusion of useful knowledge were disseminated. The National Gallery arose. The Royal Society of Literature was endowed, and a commission sent to Portici to unrol the manuscripts of Herculaneum. Encouragement was given to architecture, by the erection of palaces and buildings, costly and large, but not always marked by good taste.
Of all the struggles for national independence during the years of which we are speaking, not one excited such general interest as the effort made by Greece to throw off the Ottoman yoke. A treaty was agreed to between England, France, and Russia, in accordance with which a fleet was sent to stop the ravages committed by the Turks. As the promises of the Turkish commander, Ibrahim Pasha, were not observed, Sir Edward Codrington, along with the French and Russian admirals, entered the Bay of Navarino, where the Turkish fleet lay, having received orders not to fire a shot unless he was first attacked. An English boat having been unfortunately fired upon, a battle ensued (October 20, 1827), which ended in the destruction of the Turkish navy. Greece was liberated, and its independence recognised (1829); but as Turkey was now left exposed to the rapacious designs of Russia, the victory of Navarino was regarded by the British Government as an “untoward event." The Czar Nicholas, indeed, lost no time in taking advantage of the opportunity, and before Turkey could recover the blow, he declared war against her. In the campaign which followed, the Russians gained little glory, for the Turks fought with a resolution which prevented their enemy obtaining much ground. Varna, which fell into Russian hands, was obtained through the treachery of the Turkish governor. Peace was signed the following year.
The Test and Corporation Acts were repealed in 1828, on the motion of Lord John Russell. By these Acts, passed in the reign of Charles II., dissenters were excluded from all civil offices.