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The success of the revolt against the French in Spain was certain to become contagious in Portugal. Junot was holding the country with an army of thirty thousand men, amongst whom there was a considerable number of Spanish troops, who were sure to desert on the first opportunity after the news from Spain. What Buonaparte intended really to do with Portugal did not yet appear. The conditions of the Treaty of Fontainebleau remained a dead letter. He had established neither the Queen of Etruria nor the Prince of the Peace in their kingdoms there. The likelihood was that, as soon as Spain was secure, he would incorporate Portugal with it. This seemed very probably his intention, from words that he let fall at an Assembly of Portuguese Notables, whom he had summoned to meet him at Bayonne. The Count de Lima, the president of the Assembly, opened it with an address to Napoleon, who listened with great nonchalance, and then said, "I hardly know what to make of you, gentlemen; it must depend on the events in Spain. And, then, are you of consequence sufficient to constitute a separate people? Have you enough of size to do so? What is the population of Portugal? Two millions, is it?" "More than three, sire," replied the Count. "Ah, I did not know that. And Lisbonare there a hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants?" "More than double that number, sire." "Ah, I was not aware of that. Now, what do you wish to be, you Portuguese? Do you desire to become Spaniards?" "No!" said the Count de Lima, bluntly, and drawing himself up to his full height. Then Buonaparte broke up the conference."Hereditary bondsmen! know ye not,
control. Recherches sur les Finances, cited by Clement,Whilst Napoleon was thus advancing towards Paris, the besotted Bourbons rather rejoiced in it, for they said it would compel the two chambers to invest the king with despotic powerthat was what they were still longing for; and Louis himself, addressing the foreign ambassadors, bade them assure their sovereigns that he was well, and that the foolish enterprise of "that man" should as little disturb Europe as it had disturbed him.
fifty-two.We must open the year 1790 by reverting to the affairs of Britain, and of other countries having an influence on British interests. The Parliament met on the 21st of January; and, in the course of the debate on the Address in the Commons, Fox took the opportunity to laud the French Revolution, and especially the soldiers for destroying the Government which had raised them, and which they had sworn to obey. Burke, in reply, whilst paying the highest compliments to the genius of Fox, and expressing the value which he placed on his friendship, endeavoured to guard the House and country against the pernicious consequences of such an admiration as had been expressed by Fox. He declared the conduct of the troops disgraceful; for instead of betraying the Government, they ought to have defended it so far as to allow of its yielding the necessary reforms. But the so-called reforms in France, he said, were a disgrace to the nation. They had, instead of limiting each branch of the Government for the general good and for rational liberty, destroyed all the balances and counterpoises which gave the State steadiness and security. They had pulled down all things into an incongruous and ill-digested mass; they had concocted a digest of anarchy called the Rights of Man, which would disgrace a schoolboy; and had laid the axe to the root of all property by confiscating that of the Church. To compare that revolution with our glorious one of 1688, he said, was next to blasphemy. They were diametrically opposed. Ours preserved the Constitution and got rid of an arbitrary monarch; theirs destroyed the Constitution and kept a monarch who was willing to concede reforms, but who was left helpless. Fox replied that he had been mistaken by his most venerated and estimable friend; that he was no friend to anarchy and lamented the cruelties that had been practised in France, but he considered them the natural result of the long and terrible despotism which had produced the convulsion, and that he had the firmest hopes that the French would yet complete their Constitution with wisdom and moderation. Here the matter might have ended, but Sheridan rose and uttered a grand but ill-considered eulogium on the French Revolution, and charged Burke with being an advocate of despotism. Burke highly resented this; he made a severe reply to Sheridan; and instead of the benefits which he prognosticated, Burke, with a deeper sagacity, declared that the issue of that revolution would be not only civil war but many other wars.
(Registre du Conseil Suprieur.)
At the opening of 1841 the country might be said to be free from all excitement on the subject of politics. There was no great question at issue, no struggle between rival parties seemed impending. Many of the principal topics which in former years had agitated the public mind had been settled or laid to rest. The Chartist riots seemed to have abated the desire of the leading Reformers to extend the suffrage to the working classes. Still the Government was lamentably weak, and only existed on sufferance. Nor did the conduct of affairs in the House of Commons tend to strengthen their position. The reintroduction by Lord Stanley of his Bill to regulate the registration of voters in Ireland led to much angry discussion with damaging results to the Government, who had already suffered grievous defeats in attempting to arrest the progress of the measure during the previous Session. Two days later Lord Morpeth brought in a Government Bill for the same object. The main features of the plan were to abolish certificates; to make the register conclusive of the right to vote, except where disqualification afterwards appeared; to establish an annual revision of the registers, and to give a right of appeal equally to the claimant and the objector. The main point of difference between this and Lord Stanley's Bill consisted in the tribunal to which the appeal was to be made. The Government proposed for this purpose the creation of a new court, consisting of three barristers of a certain standing. An additional feature of the Government Bill was a proposal to settle the question of the basis of the franchise by fixing upon the Poor Law valuation as the standard; and the Bill proposed to enact that every occupier of a tenement under a holding of not less than fourteen years, of the annual value of 5, should have the right of voting previously enjoyed by persons who had a beneficial interest of 10. The Conservatives complained of the unfairness of thus introducing by surprise a fundamental alteration in the elective franchise of Ireland, founded upon principles unknown both in England and Scotland. It was represented as a new Reform Bill for Ireland, tacked on as a postscript to a Bill for amending the registration. The 5 franchise, it was argued, would in effect be little short of the introduction of universal suffrage. The House divided on the respective merits of the rival Bills, when the Government measure was carried by a majority of five. The result was hailed with cheers from both sides of the House, the Opposition regarding the victory as little better than a defeat. Lord John Russell at first announced that he would proceed immediately with the measure, but he afterwards moved its postponement till the 23rd of April. During the interval Lord Morpeth announced the conversion of the Ministry to the principle of an 8 rating. When the question was introduced again, on the 26th of April, it gave rise to a party debate. While the House was in committee on Lord Morpeth's Bill, Lord Howick proposed an amendment to the effect that the tenant, in order to entitle him to the franchise, should have a beneficial interest in his holding of 5 a year over and above the rent. Lord Morpeth proposed as a qualification for the franchise a lease of fourteen years, and a low rating of 8. Lord Howick proposed that the yearly tenant should be entitled to vote as well as the leaseholder if he had an annual interest of 5 in it; but Lord Morpeth contended, and showed from statistics, that this principle would disfranchise more than three-fourths of the 10 tenant voters in several of the counties. In short, it would have the effect of almost entirely disfranchising the existing occupying constituency of Ireland. On a division, Lord Howick's amendment was carried by 291 to 270. Finally the Bill was reduced to such a jumble of contradictory amendments that it was impossible to proceed with it. Thus ended the great struggle of the Session. Much time had been wasted in party debates and fruitless discussions, and the proposal to give the Irish people the benefit of the Reform Act by putting its perishing constituencies on a proper basis, simple as it may seem, utterly failed. Lord Stanley also abandoned his measure, and there the matter ended. The whole of the proceedings plainly indicated that the doom of Lord Melbourne's feeble Cabinet was at hand.