Under the operation of the Corn Laws the price of wheat rose to one hundred and fifty-six shillings a quarter in 1801, and the enclosure of waste lands kept pace accordingly; and upwards of a million of acres were enclosed every ten years. From 1800 the amount of enclosure in ten years was a million and a half of acres. The rapid increase of population, through the growth of manufactures, and the introduction of canals, as well as the fact that the people at large began to abandon the use of oats and rye in bread, and to use wheat, promoted the growth of that grain immensely. In 1793 Sir John Sinclair established the Board of Agriculture, which was incorporated, and received an annual grant from Parliament. The indefatigable Arthur Young was elected its secretary, and agricultural surveys of the kingdom were made. The reports of these were published, adding greatly to a comprehension of the real state of cultivation. In 1784 Young had commenced the publication of the "Annals of Agriculture," by which invaluable information was diffused, and new prizes were offered by the Board for improvements, and great annual sheep-shearings were held at Woburn and Holkham, by the Duke of Bedford and Mr. Coke, afterwards Lord Leicester, which tended to stimulate the breed of better sheep. The king himself had his model farms, and introduced merino sheep from Spain. It was long, however, before the better modes of ploughing could be introduced amongst the farmers. The Scots were the first to reduce the number of the horses which drew the plough, using only two, whilst in England might still be seen a heavy, clumsy machine drawn by from four to six horses, doing less work, and that work less perfectly. [593]


The course of business was suddenly interrupted by the unexpected death of Pelham, the Prime Minister, in 1754. Pelham was but sixty years of age, of a florid and apparently healthy appearance, but at once indolent and too fond of the table. He had been compelled to seek sea-bathing at Scarborough, and on the 7th of January wrote to his brother, the Duke of Newcastle, saying that he never was better; but on the 3rd of March he was taken ill, and on the 6th was a corpse. The king was startled at his death, for his moderation and quiet management had long held together very jarring elements in the Ministry. "Now I shall have no more peace!" exclaimed George, on hearing the news of his decease, and he was only too correct in his prognostic. Pelham was a respectable rather than a great minister. His abilities were by no means shining, but experience had made him a good man of business. Waldegrave gave him credit for being "a frugal steward of the public, averse to Continental extravagances and useless subsidies;" and yet never were more of each perpetrated than during his administration. He had the merit, which he had acquired in the school of Walpole, of preferring peace to war; and Horace Walpole admits that "he lived without abusing his power, and died poor." But Catherine's ally, Joseph, was fast sinking, and his mortal sun was going down amid storm clouds, all collected by his reckless disregard of the rights of his subjects, great reformer as he desired to be. He had wantonly invaded the ancient constitution of Hungary; and on this the high-spirited and martial Hungarians had expressed their determination not to submit to it. They insisted that he should restore the regalia of their ancient kingdom, which he had carried off from Buda, the old capital, and where the Austrian emperors, as kings of Hungary, were always expected to be crowned, and to take the oath to observe the constitution. The Turks, already in possession of the banat of Temeswar, invited their alliance, offering to assist them in driving out the Austrians, and establishing their independence. Joseph, alarmed at this prospect, made haste to avert the danger by conceding the restoration of the Hungarian constitution and of the regalia, and the generous Hungarians were at once appeased.

The Home Secretary once more submitted his views to the Duke, in a memorandum dated January 12th, that was written with a view to being submitted to the king, in which he put the inevitable alternative of a Cabinet united in the determination to carry Catholic Emancipation, or a Cabinet constructed on exclusively Protestant principles; and he came to the conclusion that no Cabinet so constructed could possibly carry on the general administration of the country. The state of the House of Commons appeared to him to be an insuperable obstacle to the successful issue of that experiment. Since the year 1807 there had been five Parliaments, and in the course of each of these, with one exception, the House of Commons had come to a decision in favour of the consideration of the Catholic question. The present Parliament had decided in the same manner. A dissolution, were it practicable, would not result in an election more favourable to the Protestant interest, if an exclusively Protestant Government were formed. Even should there be an increase of anti-Catholic members in England, it would not compensate for the increased excitement in Ireland, and the violent and vexatious opposition that would be given by fifty or sixty Irish members, returned by the Catholic Association and the priests. Then there would be the difficulty about preserving the peace in Ireland. During the last autumn, out of the regular infantry force in the United Kingdom, amounting to about 30,000 men, 25,000 men were stationed either in Ireland or on the west coast of England, with a view to the maintenance of tranquillity in Ireland, Great Britain being then at peace with all the world. What would be the consequence should England be involved in a war with some foreign Power? Various other considerations were urged, upon which Mr. Peel founded his advice to the king, which wasthat he should not grant the Catholic claims, or any part of them, precipitately and unadvisedly, but that he should, in the first instance, remove the barrier which prevented the consideration of the Catholic question by the Cabinet, and permit his confidential servants to consider it in all its relations, on the same principles on which they considered any other question of public policy, in the hope that some plan of adjustment could be proposed, on the authority and responsibility of a Government likely to command the assent of Parliament and to unite in its support a powerful weight of Protestant opinion, from a conviction that it was a settlement equitable towards Roman Catholics and safe as it concerned the Protestant Establishment. TRINITY COLLEGE, DUBLIN. (From a Photograph by Poulton and Son, Lee.) These reverses were calculated to make France more compliant; yet Pitt was astonished to find,[171] instead of compliance, a great spirit of resistance. Choiseul would by no means admit that Belleisle was an equivalent for Minorca. He demanded Guadeloupe and Belleisle too, simply in lieu of the French conquests in Germany. He now demurred to the surrender of Cape Breton, or in any case to forego the right of fishing along its coasts. He was not content with Amaboo or Acra; he demanded Senegal or Goree. He declined also to destroy the fortifications of Dunkirk, raised in contempt of the treaty of Utrecht. All captures made at sea previous to the declaration of war must be restored; and in Germany, though he was willing to withdraw the French troops, it was only on condition that the troops commanded by Prince Ferdinand should not reinforce the Prussian army.