CHAPTER XVII. REIGN OF GEORGE III. (continued).

The fire raged with unabated fury from the 14th till the 19thfive days. Then the city lay a heap of burning ashes. All the wealth which was left behind was burnt or melted down. But there could be no stay at Moscow, for all their provisions had to be brought from distant districts by water carriage in summer, and on sledges in winter. But, as the Russian population had fled, the Russians were only too glad to starve out the French. Not a single article of food came near the place. Alexander returned no answer to Buonaparte's letter. The pledge which he might have made some concessions to redeem had been destroyed by his own orders, and Buonaparte had now nothing to offer worthy of his attention. He and his army were awaiting the attack of the wintry elements to join them in the extermination of the invaders. Buonaparte dispatched General Lauriston to Alexander with fresh offers; but Alexander refused to see him, and turned him over to Kutusoff, who flattered him with hopes and professions of desire for peace, in order to put off the time, for every day nearer to winter was a[48] day gained of incalculable importance. But he said that he must send Napoleon's letter to St. Petersburg, to the Czar, and await his reply. This was on the 6th of October, and the reply could not be received before the 26th; there was nothing for it but to wait, and Lauriston waiteda fatal delay for the French!

It was not long before the Third Estate was discovered to be in hopeless antagonism with the Court and privileged Orders, and they resolved to act separately. They must act for themselves and for the people at large, or, by further delays, lose all the advantages of the moment. They resolved to assume the character of the representatives of the entire nation. Siys declared that the Commons had waited on the other Orders long enough. They had given in to all the conciliations proposed; their condescensions had been unavailing; they could delay no longer, without abandoning their duty to the country. A great debate arose regarding the name that the body of deputies which resolved to become the real legislative power should choose. Mirabeau proposed, the "Representatives of the People;" Mounier, "The Deliberative Majority in the absence of the Minority;" and Legrand, "The National Assembly." The proposal of Mounier was soon disposed of; but there was a strong inclination in favour of "The National Assembly," and Mirabeau vehemently opposed it. The name of "National Assembly" had, it is said, been recommended to Lafayette by Jefferson, the American Minister, and as Lafayette had not yet ventured to move before his Order, and join the Tiers tat, Legrand, an obscure member, and lately a provincial advocate, was employed to propose it. But Siys had, in his famous brochure on the "Rights of Man," long before thrown out these words:"The Tiers tat alone, it will be said, cannot form a States General. So much the better; it will constitute a National Assembly!" On the 15th of June, Siys proposed that the title should be "The National Assembly of Representatives, known and verified by the French Nation." Mirabeau indignantly repelled the title in any shape. He declared that such a title, by denying the rights and existence of the other two Orders, would plunge the nation into civil war. Legrand proposed to modify the name by making it "The General Assembly." Siys then came back to his original title of simply "The National Assembly," as devoid of all ambiguity, and Mirabeau still more violently opposed it. But it was soon seen that this name carried the opinion of the mob with it; the deputies cried out loudly for it; the galleries joined as loudly in the cries. Mirabeau in a fierce rage read his speech, said to have been written by his friend Dumont, before the president Bailly, and withdrew, using violent language against the people who had hooted him down, declaring that they would soon be compelled to seek his aid. He had protested in his speech that the veto, which some of the deputies wished to refuse to the king, must be given to him; that without the royal veto he would rather live in Constantinople than in France; that he could conceive nothing more dreadful than the sovereignty of six hundred persons; that they would very soon declare themselves hereditary, and would[360] finish, like all other aristocracies that the world had ever seen, by usurping everything. These words, only too prophetic, had brought down upon him a tempest of execration; and writhing under it he had hastened to the Court and had an interview with Necker, warning him of the danger of the crisis, and offering to use his influence in favour of the king's authority. Necker received him coldly, and thus Mirabeau was thrown back on the people. Siys's motion was carried by a majority of four hundred and ninety-one against ninety; and the National Assembly was proclaimed amid loud acclamations, mingled with cries of "Vive le Roi!"

Lord Anglesey had expressed himself so strongly in his communications with the Government, that he was afraid of being regarded by them as a partisan. He deprecated giving the executive any additional powers, though not without apprehensions of a rebellion, which he believed he had sufficient force to quell, even in the improbable event of foreign aid, upon which some of the Irish people might, however rashly, rely for success. On the 20th of July he wrote: "It appears not improbable there may be an attempt to introduce arms, and finally insurrection. I am quite sure the disaffected are amply organised for the undertaking. They are partially, but ill, armed. Pikes, however, to any amount, and at very short notice, would be easily manufactured, if they are not already made and secreted. Still, I cannot bring myself to believe that the ruling characters are at all inclined to put their cause to the test of arms; and if they do, I cannot imagine how, without foreign aidof which there appears no fearthey can calculate upon success." The priests had become all silent and reserved, even towards those with whom they had hitherto maintained confidential intercourse. No money would tempt them to make a single disclosure, and there was a general impression among them that some great event was at hand. The law officers of the Crown had been consulted as to the expediency of prosecuting some of the agitators for the most violent of their speeches; but their advice was, that it could not be done with any prospect of success, because their most exciting stimulants were accompanied by declarations that they wished only to guard the Government against insurrection, which only concession could prevent. Such being the condition of Ireland, the position of the Government was in the highest degree perplexing. The House of Commons was for Emancipation; the Lords were opposed to it; the king was opposed to it. The strength of political parties was nicely balanced in Parliament, and strong political excitement prevailed on both sides of the Irish Sea. Peel, in view of this state of affairs, says: "I maturely and anxiously considered every point which required consideration, and I formed a decision as to the obligation of public duty, of which I may say with truth that it was wholly at variance with that which the regard for my own personal interests or private feelings would have dictated." His intention was to relinquish office; but he resolved not to do so without placing on record his opinion that a complete change of policy was necessary, that the Catholic question should no longer be an open question, and that the whole condition of Ireland, political and social, should be taken into consideration by the Cabinet, precisely in the same manner in which every other question of grave importance was considered, and with the same power to offer advice upon it to the Sovereign. He also gave it as his decided opinion that there was less evil and less danger in conceding the Catholic claims than in persevering in the policy of resistance. He left London for Brighton soon after the close of the Session, having made a previous arrangement with the Duke of Wellington that he should send him a memorandum explanatory of his views on the state of Ireland and on the Catholic question, and that he should write to the Duke fully in reply. On the 9th of August the Duke wrote to him as follows:"I now send you the memorandum which I sent to the king on the state of Ireland, a letter which I sent to him at the same time, his answer, a memorandum upon the Roman Catholic[281] question which I have since drawn up, and a letter which I wrote yesterday to the Lord Chancellor."

About this time two publications occurred, which produced long and violent controversiesthose of the pretended "Poems of Rowley," by Chatterton, and "Ossian's Poems," by Macpherson. Chatterton, who was the articled clerk of an attorney at Bristol, a mere youth, pretended[183] that he had discovered Rowley's poems in the muniment room of the Church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. These poems, written on yellow parchment, and in a most antiquated style, by a boy of sixteen, were palmed upon the world as the genuine productions of one Thomas Rowley, and took in many well-known authors and literary antiquaries, very wise in their own conceit. As the productions of a boy of that age these poems are marvellous, and nothing besides which Chatterton, in his short, neglected life, produced approached them in merit. This, too, was the case with Macpherson, who professed to have collected the poems of Ossian, an old bard of Morven, in the Highlands, and simply translated them into English. He was warmly accused of having written them himself; but as Chatterton, so Macpherson, steadily denied the authorship of the poems thus introduced, and as in Chatterton's case, so in Macpherson's, no other compositions of the professed collector ever bore any relation to these in merit. There can now be very little doubt that Macpherson founded his Ossianic poems on real originals to some extent; but that Chatterton, if he received Rowley's poems from Rowley, did so by inspiration.

In fact, the chief scene of the war during this year continued to be south. In September, D'Estaing arrived off Savannah, to co-operate with the American forces in recovering that important place. He brought with him twenty-four ships of the line and fourteen frigates, and was moreover attended by a numerous squadron of French and American privateers, besides carrying a considerable body of troops. On learning D'Estaing's approach, General Lincoln and Governor Rutledge began to march their troops towards Savannah, and sent a number of small vessels to enable the French to carry their troops up the river, and land them near the town. General Prevost, commander of the English garrison, made the most active preparations to receive them. D'Estaing had agreed to wait for the arrival of General Lincoln, with the South Carolina force, but, with the want of faith characteristic of the man, on the 12th of September he landed three thousand men, and summoned General Prevost to surrender in the name of the French king. Prevost claimed twenty-four hours to decide, and this time he employed in strengthening his defences. Before the expiration of this time Colonel Maitland, who was on the march for Beaufort with eight hundred veterans, came in, and Prevost returned for answer that he would defend the place to the utmost. On the 16th, General Lincoln arrived, and was greatly incensed to find that D'Estaing had broken the agreement to wait for him, and still worse, had summoned the place in the name of France instead of the Congress.

The Girondists were, at the opening of the year 1792, vehemently urging on war against the Emigrants and the Emperor of Germany. Just at this crisis, as we have seen, Leopold of Austria died, and was succeeded by his nephew, Francis II.; and war became more inevitable, for Francis had not the same pacific disposition as Leopold, and the Gironde was bent on war. The internal condition of France also seemed to indicate that there must soon be war abroad or civil war at home. The Ministers were at variance; the Jacobins and Girondists were coming to an open and desperate feud; the people, both in Paris and throughout the country, were excited by the Jacobin publications to the utmost pitch of fury against the Royalists and the priests.

At first the course of affairs was not eventful. On the 7th of May Pitt moved a series of resolutions as the basis of a Bill for reform of Parliament. The main features of this scheme were those of taking measures against bribery and corruption; the disfranchisement of boroughs when a majority of the electors was proved corrupt; and the addition of a hundred new members to the House of Commons, nearly all of them from the counties, except an additional member or two from the metropolis.

MARSHAL BLUCHER. (From the Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A.)

SIR ROBERT WALPOLE.