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The conduct of the Government in reference to the Congress was the subject of an animated debate in the House of Commons, which began on April 28th and lasted three days. It was on a motion for a Vote of Censure for the feebleness of tone assumed by the Government in the negotiations with the Allies, an amendment having been proposed expressive of gratitude and approbation. In Mr. Canning's speech on the third day there was one remarkable passage, which clearly defined his foreign policy, and showed that it had a distinct purpose, and aimed at an object of the highest importance. He said:"I contend, sir, that whatever might grow out of a separate conflict between Spain and France (though matter for grave consideration) was less to be dreaded than that all the Great Powers of the Continent should have been arrayed together against Spain; and that although the first object, in point of importance, indeed, was to keep the peace altogether, to prevent any war against Spain, the first in point of time was to prevent a general war; to change the question from one affecting the Allies on the one side and Spain on the other, to a question between nation and nation. This, whatever the result might be, would reduce the quarrel to the size of ordinary events, and bring it within the scope of ordinary diplomacy. The immediate object of England, therefore, was to hinder the impress of a joint-character from being affixed to the war, if war there must be, with Spain; to take care that the war should not grow out of an assumed jurisdiction of the Congress; to keep within reasonable bounds that predominating areopagitical spirit which the memorandum of the British Cabinet of May, 1820, describes as beyond the sphere of the original conception and understood principles of the alliancean alliance never intended as a union for the government of the world, or for the superintendence of the internal affairs of other states; and this, I say, was accomplished."
Some remarkable commercial reforms were introduced by Robinson and Huskisson in 1824. In the previous year the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to boast of a very large surplus, and this year he had a surplus of 1,050,000. Part of it was devoted to the repair and embellishment of Windsor Castle; 40,000 were devoted towards the erection of rooms for the reception of the library of George III., which was presented to the British Museum by his successor, whose gift, however, was somewhat discounted by the fact that he was with difficulty dissuaded from selling the collection. With 57,000 Government purchased Angerstein's collection of pictures, which became the nucleus of the National Gallery. But the main object of the Budget was not expenditure but economy. The Four per Cents. were redeemed or exchanged for Three-and-a-Half per Cent. Stock, and a death-blow was given to the old system of bounties by a reduction of that on the herring fishery and the immediate cessation of that on inferior kinds of linen, while that on the higher class of linen was annually decreased ten per cent. There was further a reduction of the duties on rum and coals, with the result, as Robinson prophesied, that lower prices considerably increased the consumption. His greatest innovations, however, concerned the wool and silk trades. In the former there prevailed a great conflict of interests. The agriculturists wished for the prohibition of foreign wool; the manufacturers desired the retention of an export duty, together with free importation. The judicious Chancellor effected a compromise by which the duty on foreign wool was reduced from 6d. to 1d. per pound, while the exportation of English wool was sanctioned on a similar duty. The fear of a large exportation of English wool proved so groundless that by 1826 only 100,000 pounds in weight had been exported, while 40,000,000 pounds of foreign wool had been introduced.While these matters were going on in Ireland, Mr. Peel was applying his mind, in the most earnest manner, to the removal of the difficulties that stood in the way of Emancipation.
Prussia having been introduced into the debate, on the 1st of March it was renewed by Mr. Martin, followed by Francis, Fox, and others, who argued that the secret was thus out; we were fighting again on account of the old mischiefGerman alliances. Pitt defended the policy of Ministers. He asked whether Russia was to be permitted to drive the Turks from Europe and plant herself in Constantinople, with Greece as part of her empire? In that case, Russia would become the first maritime power in the world, for her situation in the heart of the Mediterranean, and with Greeks for her sailorsthe best sailors in that seawould give her unrivalled advantages, and make her the most destructive opponent of British interests that had ever arisen. Pitt drew a dark character of the Czarinathe Messalina of the North; reminded the House of her endeavours to strike a mortal blow at us during the American war; of her arrogance and insolence on many occasions, and said that he did not envy Fox the honour of having his bust ordered by this notorious woman from Nollekens, the sculptor. Fox well deserved this hard blow, for he had shown a strange blindness to the grasping designs of Russia, and confessed that, whilst in office, he had refused to concur in remonstrances to Russia against the seizure of the Crimea. The motion of Whitbread was rejected by a majority of two hundred and forty-four against one hundred and sixteen.
The major consented unwillingly. "It's your lookout. If you come out alive, I shall be surprised, that's all. Take some scouts, too," he added, as he lit a cigar and went on with his walk up and down among his men.
"Where?" the commandant asked.
OLD BAILEY, LONDON, 1814.