On the 21st of March Lord John Russell moved the second reading of this great Reform Bill. Sir Richard Vivian moved, as an amendment, that it be read a second time that day six months. There was nothing new in the debate that followed, though it lasted two nights. On the 22nd the division occurred. The second reading was carried by a majority of one. This was hailed with exultation by the Conservatives, as equivalent to a defeat. But there were prophets who saw something ominous in this majority of one. They remembered that the first triumph of the Tiers Etat in the National Assembly, in 1789, when they constituted themselves a separate Chamber, was carried by one. The House was the fullest on record up to that time, the numbers being 302 to 301, the Speaker and the four tellers not included. A remarkable circumstance connected with the division was, that about two to one of the county members in England and Ireland were in favour of the Bill. No less than sixty votes on the same side were for places to be disfranchised or reduced. Although in the House it was felt that the division was equivalent to a defeat, the Reformers out of doors were not in the least disheartened; on the contrary, they became, if possible, more determined. The political unions redoubled their exertions, and the country assumed an attitude of defiance to the oligarchical classes which excited serious alarm, from which the king himself was not exempt. The pressure from without accumulated in force till it became something terrific, and it was evident to all reflecting men that the only alternative was Reform or Revolution.
The next month Pitt despatched a smaller fleet and force to destroy the port of Cherbourg, which the French had constructed under Cardinal Fleury, and, as they stated by an inscription, "for all eternity." This time the command was given to General Bligh. Howe was admiral, and on board with him went Prince Edward, afterwards Duke of York. On the 8th of August the troops were landed at Cherbourg, which was deserted by the garrison, and they destroyed the forts and harbour, demolished a hundred and seventy pieces of iron cannon, and carried off twenty-two fine brass ones. After re-embarking and returning to Portsmouth, Bligh was ordered to pay another visit to St. Malo, but still found it too strong for him; yet he landed his men in the bay of St. Lunaire, about two leagues westward of St. Malo; and the weather immediately driving Howe to sea, the army was marched overland to St. Cast, some leagues off. The soldiers were allowed to rove about and plunder, till Bligh heard that the Duke of Aiguillon was advancing against them at the head of a strong force. Bligh then, but in no hurry, marched for the port of St. Cast, followed by Aiguillon, who waited till he had embarked all but one thousand five hundred men, when he fell upon them, and slaughtered a thousand of them in a hollow way amongst the rocks leading down to the shore.