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But it was full two hours, in the end, before they did start. Flasks had to be replenished, farewell drinks taken, wives and families parted from, the last behests made, of those going upon an errand of death. Citizens burning with ardor to protect their hearths and stock were routed out of saloons and dance halls, only to slip away again upon one pretext or another.
The Spanish junta sent an officer to Lisbon to consult with General Caraffa, the commander of the Spanish auxiliaries, on the best means of withdrawing the troops from that city. Caraffa, who was an Italian, did not seem to fall into the proposal; but this was of less consequence, for his men took the liberty of deserting, first in small numbers and secretly, but soon by a whole regiment at a time, and openly. Junot sent out six hundred men to stop them; but they attacked, killed, and wounded nearly half the detachment, and pursued their march. General Bellesta, who commanded the Spanish troops at Oporto, seized the French general, Quesnel, who had but a small number of men, and marched away for Corunna, carrying Quesnel and his few soldiers prisoners with him. No sooner were the Spaniards gone, however, than the cowardly governor of Oporto put down the rising and declared for the French. But the fire of revolt was flying too fast all over the kingdom for this to succeed. In a few days the people rose again, seized on the arsenal, and armed themselves. They were encouraged by the monks, who rang their bells to call the people out, and by the bishops, who blessed the banners, and offered up public prayers for the enfranchisement of the country in the cathedrals. There was a similarly successful outbreak at Braganza. From one end of the country to the other the rising was complete and enthusiastic. Deputies were dispatched to England to solicit assistance and arms. For a time Junot managed to keep down the population of Lisbon by collecting troops into it, seizing, altogether, four thousand five hundred of the Spaniards, and making them prisoners. Alarmed, however, at his position, and fearing to move any of his forces from the capital, he ordered Loison, who lay at the fortress of Almeida, on the frontiers, to march to Oporto, and suppress the revolt; but General Silviera, a Portuguese nobleman, put himself at the head of the armed population, and successfully defended Oporto. At Beja, Leiria, Evora, and other places, the French managed to put down the insurgents, but not without much bloodshed and severe military executions. But the hour of retribution was fast approaching. Spanish as well as Portuguese deputies appeared in London soliciting aid. They did not ask for men; for, in the pride of their temporary success, they imagined themselves amply able to drive out the French; but they asked for arms, clothes, and ammunition; and they prayed that an army might be sent to Portugal, which would act as a powerful diversion in their favour.At the commencement of the Session a notice of a motion of want of confidence in the Ministry was given by Sir John Yarde Buller. He assigned as reasons for bringing forward the motion the disturbed and unsatisfactory state of the country, which he ascribed to the system of popular agitation, "nurtured and fostered," as he alleged, by the Ministers during the preceding two years. After a debate of four consecutive nights the motion was rejected by 308 votes to 287. The division was fairly satisfactory, and another source of gratification to the Ministry was the passing of the Irish Municipal Bill, which became law in spite of a characteristic protest from Bishop Phillpotts, who regarded the measure "as a deliberate and wilful abandonment of the cause of true religion which had provoked the justice of Almighty God and given too much reason to apprehend the visitation of Divine vengeance for this presumptuous act of national disobedience." In this Session Sir Robert Peel at last terminated the scandals connected with election committees by a plan which authorised the Speaker to appoint a general committee of elections, with the duty of selecting election committees to try each particular case. Sir Francis Baring's Budget was a considerable improvement upon those of his indifferent predecessor, Mr. Spring-Rice, whose careless finance had produced no less than four successive deficits. He acknowledged a deficit of 850,000, and asked for a vote of credit. He further imposed an additional tax of 4d. a gallon on spirits, increased the customs and excise by 5 per cent., and the assessed taxes by 10 per cent.
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But, not contented with this superiority, the British were tempted to invest and endeavour to storm New Orleans. This was returning to the old blunders, and giving the American sharp-shooters the opportunity of picking off our men at pleasure in the open field from behind their walls and batteries. This ill-advised enterprise was conducted by Sir Edward Pakenham. Nothing was so easy as for our ships to blockade the mouth of the Mississippi, and thus destroy the trade, not only of New Orleans, but of all the towns on that river; but this common-sense plan was abandoned for the formidable and ruinous one of endeavouring to take the place by storm. The city of New Orleans lies at the distance of one hundred and ten miles from the sea, on a low, boggy promontory, defended on the river side by a chain of powerful forts, and on the other by morasses. Having landed as near New Orleans as they could, the British troops, on the 23rd of December, were met by an American army, and received a momentary repulse; but this was quickly reversed, and on Christmas day Sir Edward Pakenham encamped at the distance of six miles from New Orleans. But he found at least twenty thousand Americans posted between him and the city, behind a deep canal and extensive earthworks. There was no way of approaching them except across bogs, or through sugar plantations swarming with riflemen, who could pick off our men at pleasure. This was exactly one of those situations which the whole course of our former wars in that country had warned us to avoid, as it enabled the Americans, by their numerous and excellent riflemen, to destroy our soldiers, without their being in scarcely any danger themselves. In fair and open fight they knew too well that they had no chance with British troops, and the folly of giving them such opportunities of decimating those troops from behind walls and embankments is too palpable to require military knowledge or experience to point it out. Yet Sir Edward Pakenham, who had fought in the Peninsula, was imprudent enough to run himself into this old and often-exposed snare. On the 26th of December he commenced a fight on these unequal terms, the Americans firing red-hot balls from their batteries on the unscreened advancing columns, whilst from the thickets around the Kentucky riflemen picked off the soldiers on the flanks. Pakenham thus, however, advanced two or three miles. He then collected vast quantities of hogsheads of sugar and treacle, and made defences with them, from which he poured a sharp fire on the enemy. By this means he approached to within three or four hundred yards of the American lines, and there, during the very last night of the year, the soldiers worked intensely to cast up still more extensive breastworks of sugar and treacle casks, and earth.
"Landor again," she yawned, ignoring his meaning-fraught tone. But she watched his face from under her long lashes.
In England there had been a coalition of what was called the Portland section of the Whigs, with Pitt's Ministry. These Whigs had not only separated from Fox and his friends, but they had, from the first outbreak of the French Revolution, followed the lead of Burke and supported all Pitt's measures. The Duke of Portland, therefore, was, in July, made Third Secretary of State; Lord Fitzwilliam, President of the Council, and, in December, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland; Earl Spencer was made, at the same time, Lord Privy Seal, and, in December, First Lord of the Admiralty; Pitt's elder brother, Lord Chatham, being removed for him, and made Privy Seal; and Windham became Secretary of War in place of Sir George Yonge.