During the winter of 1812 and the spring of[63] 1813 Buonaparte was making the most energetic exertions to renew the campaign against Russia and the German nations that were now uniting with the Czar. He called out new conscriptions, and enforced them with the utmost rigour; the militia were drafted extensively into the regular army, and the sailors, whose service had been annihilated by the victorious seamen of Great Britain, were modelled into regiments, and turned into soldiers. He sent for part of his forces from Spain; and in the spring he was enabled to present himself in Germany at the head of three hundred and fifty thousand men. But this was a very different army from that which he had led into and lost in Russiaan army of practised veterans, familiar with victory through a hundred fights. It was necessarily but ill-disciplined, and much more full of the sense of wrong in having been dragged from home and its ties than of any thirst of glory. The cavalry was especially defective, and had lost the commander who gave it such spirit by his own example. Disgusted by the insolence and sarcasms of Buonaparte, and believing that his career was about to end, Murat quitted his command on the 16th of January, 1813, and hastened to Naples, where he was not long in opening negotiations with Great Britain and the other Powers for the acknowledgment of his kingdom as one independent of France, and ranking with the other established Powers of Europe. Nor was this the only alarming circumstance. Bernadotte was at the head of an army of Swedes against himBernadotte whom he had driven by the same insolent and unbearable domination into the arms of his enemies, and whom he now denounced as a renegade Frenchman who had renounced his country. The truth, however, was that Bernadotte had been adopted by a new country, and was bound to defend it.

The Company was then compelled to reduce its dividends to six per cent. and apply to Parliament for a loan of a million and a half to meet its pecuniary difficulties. This, Ministers and Parliament complied with, and proceeding to relieve the Company of its embarrassments, Lord North[208] proposed and carried a measure, by which the Company, which had no less than seventeen million pounds of tea in its warehouses, should, without limit of time, be authorised to export its teas to the British colonies of America duty free. This was thought a great and conciliatory boon to the Americans, but it proved otherwise. The import duty of threepence in the pound was still stubbornly retained, and the Americans, looking at the principle of taxation, and not at a mere temptation of a cheapened article, saw through the snare, and indignantly rejected it. The principal tea merchants declared that this would be the case, and that the whole Government scheme was wild and visionary.

The Duke had little to console him in connection with the general election. In passing the Emancipation Act he had made great sacrifices, and had converted many of his most devoted friends into bitter enemies. The least that he could expect was that the great boon which it cost him so much to procure for the Roman Catholics of Ireland would have brought him some return of gratitude and some amount of political support in that country. But hitherto the Emancipation Act had failed in tranquillising the country. On the contrary, its distracted state pointed the arguments of the Tories on the hustings during the Irish elections. O'Connell, instead of returning to the quiet pursuit of his profession, was agitating for Repeal of the union, and reviling the British Government as bitterly as ever. He got up new associations with different names as fast as the Lord-Lieutenant could proclaim them, and he appealed to the example of the French and Belgian revolutions as encouraging Ireland to agitate for national independence. In consequence of his agitation many Ministerial seats in Ireland were transferred to the most violent of his followers. During these conflicts with the Government Mr. O'Connell was challenged by Sir Henry Hardinge, in consequence of offensive language used by him about that gentleman, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland. Mr. O'Connell declined the combat, on the ground that he had a "vow registered in heaven" never again to fight a duel, in consequence of his having shot Mr. D'Esterre. This "affair of honour" drew upon him from some quarters very severe censure. DUBLIN CASTLE. (From a Photograph by W. Lawrence, Dublin.) [See larger version]

From the Picture by T. R. HARDY.

[See larger version]

If we were to believe figures, and the returns of exports and imports, and of duties paid, we must set down the opening of the year 1819 as considerably prosperous. This was the view which Ministers took of the condition of Great Britain when they met the new Parliament on the 14th of January. The speculations that had been carried on during 1818 had swelled the revenue, and given an impression of growing commerce, which unfortunately did not exist. The results of these speculations in imports of raw material, especially of cotton, and in extensive exports of manufactures to countries not yet sufficiently reinvigorated to purchase, had produced numerous and heavy failures during the latter part of the past year, and these still continued, in strange contrast to the self-congratulating language of Ministers. In nothing was the fall of price so great as in cotton, and those who had bought[142] largely suffered in proportion. These bankruptcies were not confined to Great Britain; they extended to New York, and to southern ports of the United States, where the same speculation had been going on largely.