Here, had the Government been wise, they would have stopped; but they were not contented without experiencing a third defeat. The next morning, the 20th of December, they returned to the charge with an indictment against Mr. Hone for publishing a parody on the Athanasian Creed, called "The Sinecurist's Creed." The old Chief Justice was again on the bench, apparently as resolved as ever, and this time the defendant, on entering the court, appeared pale and exhausted, as he well might, for he had put forth exertions and powers of mind which had astonished the whole country and excited the deepest interest. The Attorney-General humanely offered to postpone the trial, but the defendant preferred to go on. He only begged for a few minutes' delay to enable him to put down a few notes on the Attorney-General's address after that was delivered; but the Chief Justice would not allow him this trifling favour, but said, if the defendant would make a formal request for the purpose, he would put off the trial for a day. This would have injured the cause of the defendant, by making it appear that he was in some degree worsted, and, fatigued as he was, he replied, promptly, "No! I make no such request." William Hone, on this third trial, once more seemed to forget his past fatigues, and rose with a strength that completely cowed the old and fiery judge. He did not desist till he had converted his dictatorial manner into a suppliant one. After quoting many eminent Churchmen as dissentients from the Athanasian Creed, and amongst them Warburton and Tillotson, he added, "Even his lordship's father, the Bishop of Carlisle, he believed, took a similar view of this creed." This was coming too near; and the judge said, "Whatever that opinion was, he has gone, many years ago, where he has had to account for his belief and his opinions. For common delicacy, forbear." "O, my lord," replied the satisfied defendant, "I shall certainly forbear." The judge had profited by the lesson to-day: he gave a much more temperate charge to the jury, and they required only twenty minutes to return the third and final victory of Not Guilty. Never had this arbitrary Government suffered so withering a defeat. The sensation throughout the country was immense. The very next day Lord Ellenborough sent in his announcement of retiring from[131] the bench, and in a very short time he retired from this world altogether (December 13, 1818), it being a settled conviction of the public mind that the mortification of such a putting-down, by a man whom he rose from his sick-bed to extinguish, tended materially to hasten that departure.

The year 1804 opened by an announcement that his Majesty was suffering under a return of his old malady. On the 14th of February an official bulletin was issued at St. James's Palace, informing the public of the royal indisposition; and the repetition of it from day to day, without specifying the nature of the illness, left no doubt of its real character. Still, on the 29th, Addington assured the House that there was no necessary suspension of the royal functions, and the bulletins grew more favourable; but it was well known that he was not really in a condition to transact business till the following September, though at times, as on the 9th, 10th, and 11th of May, he drove about in public, in company with the queen and princesses. Probably his advisers thought that the hearty cheers with which he was received might have a bracing effect on his mind, which had been cruelly harassed by the separation of the Prince of Wales from his wife, the king's niece, amid grave public scandals. Such a circumstance was exactly calculated to throw the royal mind off the balance; but besides this, the unsatisfactory state of his Cabinet and of parties in Parliament was such as greatly to aggravate his anxiety.

The Duke earnestly recommended the utmost[89] promptness and liberality as the only means to settle the matter effectually and at once. He said that to give only moderate assistance was sure to enable Buonaparte to protract the contest, and would cost Britain more in the end; that, on the contrary, if Britain found the means of maintaining a great army, he was confident that "the contest would be a very short one, and decidedly successful." And this, in the circumstances, was clearly the best advice. Great Britain, having been no party to the silly arrangement for setting up Buonaparte as a burlesque emperor at the very doors of France, might very well have said to the Allied sovereigns"This is your work; we have no further concern in it; you may finish it as you please." But Britain was sure not to do this; as both the Government and nation had set their mind on hunting down the slippery and mischievous adventurer, they were sure to follow up the pursuit.

The London Chartists contrived to hold their meetings and to march in procession; and as this sometimes occurred at night, accompanied by the firing of shots, it was a source of alarm to the public. There were confederate clubs established, consisting chiefly of Irishmen, who fraternised with the English Chartists. On the 31st of May they held a great meeting on Clerkenwell Green. There, after hearing some violent speeches, the men got the word of command to fall in and march, and the crowd formed rapidly into columns four abreast. In this order they marched to Finsbury Square, where they met another large body, with which they united, both forming into new columns twelve abreast, and thus they paced the square with measured military tread for about an hour. Thence they marched to Stepney, where they received further accessions, from that to Smithfield, up Holborn, Queen Street, and Long Acre, and on through Leicester Square to Trafalgar Square. Here the police interfered, and they were gradually dispersed. This occurred on Monday. On Tuesday night they assembled again at Clerkenwell Green, but were dispersed by a large body of horse and foot police. There was to be another great demonstration on Wednesday, but the police authorities issued a cautionary notice, and made effectual arrangements for the dispersion of the meeting. Squadrons of Horse Guards were posted in Clerkenwell and Finsbury, and precautions were taken to prevent the threatened breaking of the gas and water mains. The special constables were again partially put in requisition, and 5,000 of the police force were ready to be concentrated upon any point, while the whole of the fire brigade were placed on duty. These measures had the effect of preventing the assembly. Similar attempts were made in several of the manufacturing towns, but they were easily suppressed. In June, however, the disturbances were again renewed in London. On Whit Monday, the 4th, there was to be a great gathering of Chartists in Bonner's Fields, but the ground was occupied early in the morning by 1,600 policemen, 500 pensioners, and 100 constables mounted. There was also a body of Horse Guards in the neighbourhood. Up to the hour of two o'clock the leaders of the movement did not appear, and soon after a tremendous thunderstorm accompanied by drenching rain, caused the dispersion of all the idlers who came to witness the display. Ten persons were arrested on the ground, and tried and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.

This result was due to important negotiations behind the scenes. For many months the more extreme section of the Cabinet had urged Lord Grey to recommend the king to swamp the hostile majority by a creation of peers. Both he and Althorp objected to this course, and fresh overtures were made to the waverers, while the king undertook to convert the Bishops. Both attempts[348] failed, and then the Cabinet was nearly rent in twain. Lord Durham attacked his father-in-law in language which Althorp declared to be "brutal," and for which, said Lord Melbourne, he deserved to be knocked down. At last the king resolved to agree to a creation of peers on condition that the new creations should not exceed the number of 24. This alarmed the waverers, and with the aid of Charles Greville they came to terms with the Government. Lord Harrowby and Lord Wharncliffe secured a majority on the second reading, on condition that no new peers should be created. Lord Shannon, for his patronage in the Commons 45,000 ATTACK ON THE ROYAL CARRIAGE. (See p. 448.)

The examination of the witnesses for the defence continued till the 24th of October, and then powerful speeches were delivered by the Attorney-General, Sir Robert Gifford, and by the Solicitor-General, Mr. Copley. The speech of the former was considered so effective, that William Cobbett threw off one hundred thousand copies of an answer to it. Sir Archibald Alison, the Tory historian, admits that it was not the evidence for the prosecution that told against the queen, "for it was of so suspicious a kind that little reliance could be placed on it, but what was elicited on cross-examination from the English officers on board the vessel which conveyed her Majesty to the Levantmen of integrity and honour, of whose testimony there was not a shadow of suspicion. Without asserting that any of them proved actual guilt against her Majesty, it cannot be disputed that they established against her an amount of levity of manner and laxity of habits, which rendered her unfit to be at the head of English society, and amply justified the measures taken to exclude her from it."

The elections were now carried on with all the fire and zeal of the two parties. The Tories boasted of their successful efforts to stem the tide of expenditure for the war, to staunch the flow of blood, and restore all the blessings of peace. The Whigs, on the contrary, made the most of their opposition to the Treaty of Commerce, which they represented as designed to sacrifice our trade to the insane regard now shown to the French. To show their interest in trade, they wore locks of wool in their hats; and the Tories, to show their attachment to the Restoration and the Crown, wore green twigs of oak. Never was shown more completely the want of logical reason in the populace, for whilst they were declaring their zeal for the Protestant succession, and whilst burning in effigy on the 18th of NovemberQueen Bess's daythe Pope, the Devil, and the Pretender, they sent up a powerful majority of the men who were secretly growing more and more favourable to the Pretender's return. Never, indeed, had the chances of his restoration appeared so great. General Stanhope, on the close of the elections, told the Hanoverian minister that the majority was against them, and that if things continued ever so short a time on the present footing, the Elector would not come to the Crown unless he came with an army.

The distress which had pressed so severely on the people, and which had set them thinking about the most perilous political changes, was intimately connected with the state of the country. Throughout the troubled period of almost incessant war and lavish expenditure between 1797 and 1815, the business of the nation was carried on with an inconvertible paper currency, the precious metals having nearly all departed from the country. Bank notes were issued in such quantities, to meet the exigencies of the Government, that the prices of all commodities were nearly doubled. The Bill which was passed in 1819 providing for the resumption of cash payments had reduced the currency from 48,278,070, which was its amount in 1819, to 26,588,000, in 1822. The consequence was the reduction of prices in the meantime, at the rate of fifty per cent., in all the articles of production and commerce. With this tremendous fall of prices, the amount of liabilities remained unchanged; rents, taxes, and encumbrances were to be paid according to the letter of the contract, while the produce and commoditiesthe sale of which was relied upon to pay themdid not produce more than half the amount that they would have brought at the time of the contracts. The evil of this sudden change was aggravated by the South American Revolution, in consequence of which the annual supply of the precious metals was reduced to a third of its former amount. It was peculiarly unfortunate that this stoppage in the supply of gold and silver occurred at the very time that the Legislature had adopted the principle that paper currency should be regarded as strictly representing gold, and should be at any moment convertible into sovereigns. A paper currency should never be allowed[238] to exceed the available property which it represents, but it is not necessary that its equivalent in gold should be lying idle in the coffers of the Bank, ready to be paid out at any moment the public should be seized with a foolish panic. It is enough that the credit of the State should be pledged for the value of the notes, and that credit should not be strained beyond the resources at its command. The close of 1822 formed the turning-point in the industrial condition of the country. The extreme cheapness of provisions, after three years of comparative privation, enabled those engaged in manufacturing pursuits to purchase many commodities which they had hitherto not been able to afford. This caused a gradual revival of trade, which was greatly stimulated by the opening of new markets for our goods, especially in South America, to which our exports were nearly trebled in value between 1818 and 1823, when the independence of the South American Republics had been established. The confidence of the commercial world was reassured by the conviction that South America would prove an unfailing Dorado for the supply of the precious metals. The bankers, therefore, became more accommodating; the spirit of enterprise again took possession of the national mind, and there was a general expansion of industry by means of a freer use of capital, which gave employment and contentment to the people. This effect was materially promoted by the Small Note Bill which was passed in July, 1822, extending for ten years longer the period during which small notes were to be issued; its termination having been fixed by Peel's Bill for 1823. The average of bank-notes in circulation in 1822 was 17,862,890. In November of the following year it had increased by nearly two millions. The effect of this extension of the small note circulation upon prices was remarkable. Wheat rose from 38s. to 52s., and in 1824 it mounted up to 64s. In the meantime the bullion in the Bank of England increased so much that whereas in 1819 it had been only 3,595,360, in January, 1824, it amounted to 14,200,000. The effect of all these causes combined was the commencement of a reign of national prosperity, which burst upon the country like a brilliant morning sun, chasing away the chilling fogs of despondency, and dissipating the gloom in the popular mind.

Five days after this, February 10th, the matter was made public by Lord Darnley rising in the Upper House, and moving for an inquiry into the conduct of the Ministry. This roused up Lord Grenville, who candidly avowed that, in consequence of their failure to introduce the question of Catholic emancipation, the Ministers had resigned and only held office till a new Cabinet was formed. On this, Lord Darnley postponed his motion. On the same day, in the Commons, a letter from Addington, the Speaker, was read, announcing his resignation of the Speakership in consequence of the king's proposal to nominate him to a situation incompatible with that post. Pitt then rose and confirmed this, and proposed an adjournment till the next day in order to prepare for the nomination of the new Speaker. The House adjourned accordingly, and next day, the 11th of February, elected Sir John Mitford, the Attorney-General, as Speaker. Before the House could resume business, it was announced that the king was illconfined to the house by a severe cold; but it was soon known that it was a return of his old malady, lunacy, in consequence of his extreme agitation on the proposal of the Catholic question and the resignation of Pitt. The report was soon augmented into the startling rumour that the king was dangerously ill, and that a regency must take placeif not superseded by his death. At this news Fox, who had for some time absented himself from Parliament, on the plea that all endeavours to carry sound and prudent measures were hopeless with Pitt's great martial majority, hastened up to town from St. Anne's Hill; and the Whig body was in a flutter of expectation that he would soon be the Minister of the prince regent, or of George IV. But all these hopes were speedily overthrown by the news of the rapid improvement of the king, and on the 12th of March the royal physicians announced him perfectly recovered. He attributed his illness to Pitt's conduct, and the ex-Premier thereupon wrote and promised never to re-open the question again.

The passing of these Acts was marked by attacks on Lord Clive. Burgoyne brought up a strong report from his Committee, and, on the 17th of May, moved a resolution charging Clive with having, when in command of the army in Bengal, received as presents two hundred and thirty-four thousand pounds. This was carried; but he then followed it by another, "That Lord Clive did, in so doing, abuse the power with which he was entrusted, to the evil example of the servants of the public." As it was well understood that Burgoyne's resolutions altogether went to strip Clive of the whole of his property, a great stand was here made. Clive was not friendless. He had his vast wealth to win over to him some, as it inflamed the envy of others. He had taken care to spend a large sum in purchasing small boroughs, and had six or seven of his friends and kinsmen sitting for these places in Parliament. He had need of all his friends. Throughout the whole of this inquiry the most persistent and envenomed attacks were made upon him. He was repeatedly questioned and cross-questioned, till he exclaimed, "I, your humble servant, the Baron of Plassey, have been examined by the select Committee more like a sheep-stealer than a member of Parliament." Then the House thought he had suffered enough, for nothing was clearer than that justice required the country which was in possession of the splendid empire he had won to acknowledge his services, whilst it noted the means of this acquisition. Burgoyne's second resolution was rejected, and another proposed by Wedderburn, the Solicitor-General, adopted, "That Robert, Lord Clive, did, at the same time, render great and meritorious services to this country." This terminated the attack on this gifted though faulty man. His enemies made him pay the full penalty of his wealth. They had struck him to the heart with their poisoned javelins. From a boy he had been subject to fits of hypochondriacal depression; as a boy, he had attempted his own life in one of these paroxysms. They now came upon him with tenfold force, and in a few months he died by his own hand (November 22, 1774).