新时代,聆听政府心里话

INTERIOR OF THE JERUSALEM CHAMBER, WESTMINSTER ABBEY. [422]

The employment of children in factories also occupied the attention of Parliament at this time. A Bill had been framed in 1833 with the most benevolent intentions for the protection of factory children. The law excluded from factory labour all children under nine years of age, except in silk factories, and prohibited those under thirteen from working more than thirteen hours any one day; the maximum in silk mills alone being ten hours. The provisions of the law were, however, evaded by fraud. Children were represented as being much older than they really were, and abuses prevailed that induced Lord Ashley to bring in a Bill upon the subject. Accordingly, on the 22nd of June the noble lord moved, by way of amendment to the order of the day, the second reading of his Bill for the Better Regulation of Factories. The order of the day was carried by a majority of 119 to 111. The Bill was therefore lost by a majority of eight. On the 20th of July Lord Ashley again brought the whole matter under the consideration of the House in a speech full of painful details, and concluded by moving a resolution to the effect that the House deeply regretted that the imperfect and ineffective law for the regulation of labour in factories had been suffered to continue so long without any amendment. He was answered by the usual arguments of the Manchester school about the evils of interfering with free contract. Lord John Russell argued that, in the present condition of the manufacturing world, we could not, with restricted hours of labour, compete with other nations. A ten hours' Bill would drive the manufacturers abroad; and it would no longer be a question as to an hour or two more or less work to be performed by the children, but as to how their starvation was to be averted. On a division, the motion was lost by a majority of 121 to 106. On[455] the 16th of August the Queen proceeded to Westminster for the purpose of proroguing Parliament.

"The Government, if it should determine under existing circumstances to maintain the statutes excluding Roman Catholics from power, must ask for new laws, the old having quite broken down. They must bring in a Bill requiring candidates for seats in Parliament to take at the hustings the oaths of supremacy and allegiance; otherwise they could not prevent Roman Catholics from contesting every vacant county and borough in the United Kingdom, and from becoming ipso facto members of Parliament, should constituencies see fit to elect them. Practically speaking, there might be small risk that either in England or Scotland this result would followat least, to any extent. But what was to be expected in Ireland? That every constituency, with the exception, perhaps, of the university and city of Dublin, and of the counties and boroughs of the north, would, whenever the opportunity offered, return Roman Catholics; and that the members so returned being prevented from taking their seats, three-fourths, at least, of the Irish people must remain permanently unrepresented in Parliament. Was it possible, looking to the state of parties in the House of Commons, that such a measure, if proposed, could be carried? For many years back the majorities in favour of repeal had gone on increasing, Session after Session. Even the present Parliament, elected as it had been under a strong Protestant pressure, had swerved from its faithfulness. The small majority which threw out Lord John Russell's Bill in 1827 had been converted, in 1828, into a minority; and among those who voted on that occasion with Mr. Peel, many gave him warning that hereafter they should consider themselves free to follow a different course.

GENOA.

At this juncture, when the eyes of all Europe were turned on the new Republic of America, Congress gave a proof of its utter contempt of those principles of honour which are regarded as the distinguishing characteristics of civilised nations. The convention on which General Burgoyne's army had surrendered was deliberately violated. It had been stipulated that his troops should be conveyed to Boston, and there suffered to embark for England in British transports to be admitted to the port for that purpose. But no sooner did Congress learn this stipulation than it showed the utmost reluctance to comply with it. It was contended that these five thousand men would liberate other five thousand in England to proceed to America. It was therefore determined to find some plea for evading the convention. An article of the convention provided that the English officers should be quartered according to their rank; but they complained that six or seven of them were crowded into one small room, without regard either to rank or comfort. But Burgoyne, finding remonstrance useless at Boston, wrote to Gates reminding him of his engagements in the convention, and declaring such treatment a breach of public faith. This was just one of those expressions that Congress was watching for, and they seized upon it with avidity. "Here," they said, "is a deep and crafty schemea previous notice put in by the British General to justify his future conduct; for, beyond all doubt, he will think himself absolved from his obligation whenever released from his captivity, and go with all his troops to reinforce the army of Howe." Burgoyne offered at once to give Congress any security against such imagined perfidy. But this did not suit Congressits only object was to fasten some imputation on the English as an excuse for detaining them contrary to the convention, and they went on to raise fresh obstacles.

At length General Pollock found himself in a position to advance for the relief of the garrison, and marched his force to Jumrood. On the 4th of April he issued orders for the guidance of his officers. The army started at twilight, without sound of bugle or beat of drum. The heights on each side of the Khyber Pass were covered with the enemy, but so completely were they taken by surprise that our flankers had achieved a considerable ascent before the Khyberese were aware of their approach. The enemy had thrown across the mouth of the Pass a formidable barrier, composed of large stones, mud, and heavy branches of trees. In the meantime the light infantry were stealing round the hills, climbing up precipitous cliffs, and getting possession of commanding peaks, from which they poured down a destructive fire upon the Khyberese, who were confounded by the unexpected nature of the attack. The confidence which arose from their intimate knowledge of the nature of the ground now forsook them, and they were seen in their white dresses flying in every direction across the hills. The centre column, which had quietly awaited the result of the outflanking movements by the brave and active light infantry, now moved on, determined to enter the Pass, at the mouth of which a large number of the enemy had been posted; but finding themselves outflanked, these gradually retreated. The way was cleared, and the long train of baggage, containing ammunition and provisions for the relief of Jelalabad, entered the formidable defile. The heat being intense, the troops suffered greatly from thirst; but the sepoys behaved admirably, were in excellent spirits, and had a thorough contempt for the enemy. It was now discovered that their mutinous spirit arose from the conviction that they had been sacrificed by bad generalship. Ali Musjid, from which the British garrison had made such a disastrous and ignominious retreat, was soon triumphantly reoccupied. Leaving a Sikh force to occupy the Pass, General Pollock pushed on to Jelalabad. Writing to a friend, he said, "We found the fort strong, the garrison healthy, and, except for wine and beer, better off than we are. They were, of course, delighted to see us; we gave three cheers as we passed the colours, and the band of each regiment played as it came up. It was a sight worth seeing; all appeared happy. The band of the 13th had gone out to play them in, and the relieving force marched the last few miles to the tune, 'Oh, but you've been long a-coming!'"

Another favourable circumstance would have been found in the fact that in Hutchinson, Massachusetts had a native Governor, a man of courteous manners and moderate counsels. But even out of Hutchinson's position arose offence. His brothers-in-law, Andrew and Peter Oliver, were appointed Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Justice of the province. Lord North thought that the payment of these officers should be in the hands of Government, to render them independent of the colonists; but this the colonists resented as an attempt to destroy the Charter and establish arbitrary power. The Massachusetts House of Assembly declared on this occasion, in their address to the Crown:"We know of no commissioners of his Majesty's Customs, nor of any revenue that his Majesty has a right to establish in North America." They denounced the Declaratory Act passed at the suggestion of Chatham, and the attempt to make the governors and judges independent of the people, and the arbitrary instruments of the Crown. In Virginia the same spirit was conspicuous.

It was deemed necessary, before the end of the Session, which would close the term of Parliament, to renew the Alien Act. It had been renewed in 1814, and again in 1816, each time for two years. On the last occasion it had been vehemently opposed, and as determined an opposition was now manifested against its renewal. From the 5th of May to the 29th the fight was continued, every opportunity and advantage which the forms of Parliament afforded being resorted to to delay and defeat it; but on the 29th it passed the Commons by ninety-four votes against twenty-nine. It was introduced into the Lords on the 1st of June by Lord Sidmouth. But it had been discovered that, by an Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1685, all foreigners holding shares in the Bank of Scotland to a certain amount became thereby naturalised; and, by the Act of union, all subjects of Scotland became naturalised subjects of England. A clause, therefore, was introduced by the Lords to obviate this, and passed; but on the Bill being sent down to the Commons it was struck out; and Ministers were compelled to allow the Bill without this clause to pass, and to introduce their separate Bill, which was passed on the 9th of June.

It was seldom that his name was missed from the leaders of Conservative journals, and he was the great object of attack at the meetings of the Brunswick Clubs, which were called into existence to resist the Catholic Association. But of all his assailants, none dealt him more terrible blows than the venerable Henry Grattan, the hero of 1782. "Examine their leader," he exclaimed, "Mr. O'Connell. He assumes a right to direct the Catholics of Ireland. He advises, he harangues, and he excites; he does not attempt to allay the passions of a warm and jealous people. Full of inflammatory matter, his declamations breathe everything but harmony; venting against Great Britain the most disgusting calumny, falsehood, and treachery, equalled only by his impudence, describing her as the most stupid, the most dishonest nation that ever existed. A man that could make the speeches he has made, utter the sentiments he has uttered, abuse the characters he has abused, praise the characters he has praised, violate the promises he has violated, propose such votes and such censures as he has proposed, can have little regard for private honour or for public character; he cannot comprehend the spirit of liberty, and he is unfitted to receive it."

The king, in his speech on opening Parliament, mentioned the fleets which we had dispatched to the West Indies and South America, and his determination to continue those armaments so as to bring Spain to reason. He professed to rely with confidence on our allies, although we had scarcely one left, whilst in the same breath he admitted the no longer doubtful hostility of France[74] at the very moment that our only allynamely, Austriawas calling on us for assistance, instead of being able to yield us any, should we need it. On the proposal of the address, the Opposition proceeded to condemn the whole management of the war. The Duke of Argyll led the way, and was followed by Chesterfield, Carteret, Bathurst, and others, in a strain of extreme virulence against Walpole, calling him a Minister who for almost twenty years had been demonstrating that he had neither wisdom nor conduct. In the Commons Wyndham was no longer living to carry on the Opposition warfare, but Pitt and Lyttelton more than supplied his place.