On the 1st of December Bonney, Joyce, Kyd, and Holcroft were brought up, but the evidence was precisely the same against them as against Tooke; they were discharged without trial. Holcroft would have made a speech condemnatory of these prosecutions, but was not allowed. As these gentlemen were removed from the bar, John Thelwall, the well-known elocutionist and political lecturer, was brought up. As the Government thought there were some other charges against him, the trial went on, and lasted four days, but with the same result; and as it was found that it was hopeless to expect verdicts of guilty from English juries for mere demands of Reform, the rest of the accused were discharged. To the honour of the nation, people of all parties appeared to rejoice at the independent conduct of the juries.
News arrived that the king, by proclamation, had prohibited the export of arms and military stores to America. This news was received with a burst of rage. The people of Rhode Island, who had burnt the king's schooner, The Gaspee, seized forty pieces of cannon on the batteries defending the harbour, and carried them into the country. The people of New Hampshire surprised a small fort called William and Mary, garrisoned only by one officer and five men, and carried off the ordnance, arms, ammunition and military stores. Everywhere orders were issued for the purchase of arms and ammunition; for training the militia; for erecting powder mills, and manufactories of arms and shot, as well as for making saltpetre. So far as it depended on the people of Massachusetts, it was already rebellion. Still, however, the other colonies, except, perhaps, Virginia, were far from this bellicose temper. The colonies, in general, thought the measures of the late Congress too strong; and the State of New York, in spite of the impetuosity of such men as Jay, carried a vote rejecting the resolutions of the Congress. Cumberland was now appointed to command the troops in Hanover intended to co-operate with Prussia against France and Austria; but he had an intuitive dread of Pitt, and was very unwilling to quit the kingdom whilst that formidable man was Paymaster of the Forces. He therefore never rested till the king dismissed him from office. George himself required little urging. He had always hated Pitt for his anti-Hanoverian spirit; nor had his conduct in office, however respectful, done away with his dislike. George, therefore, was desirous to get rid of the able Pitt and recall the imbecile Newcastle. He complained that Pitt made harangues, even in the simplest matters of business, which he could not comprehend; and as for Lord Temple, his brother-in-law, he declared him to be pert and insolent. George therefore sent Lord Waldegrave to Newcastle to invite him to return to office, saying, "Tell him I do not look upon myself as king whilst I am in the hands of these scoundrels, and am determined to be rid of them at any rate." Newcastle longed to regain his favour, but he was afraid of a notice made in the House of Commons for an inquiry into the causes of the loss of Minorca. The king, nevertheless, dismissed Temple and Pitt, and Legge and others resigned. Cumberland, in great delight, then embarked for Hanover, thinking the main difficulty over; but, in fact, it had only just begun. The inquiry into the Minorca affair was, indeed, so managed that it did not absolutely condemn the Ministry of Newcastle, neither did it fully acquit them; whilst, at the same time, the public were highly incensed at the dismissal of Pitt, whom they rightly deemed the only man in the two Houses with abilities capable of conducting the affairs of the nation successfully. Addresses and presentations of the freedom of their cities came pouring in on Pitt from all the great towns of the kingdom. Horace Walpole said it literally rained gold boxes. Legge, as the firm ally of Pitt, received also his share of these honours. The 21st of January arrived, and Pulteney entered on his great question. There was nothing new to bring forward, but the old charges were dressed up with new force. Walpole defended himself with an ability worthy of his best days. He boldly reminded the Opposition of the long twenty years of defeats in their endeavours to turn him out; he declared their accusations were just as false and groundless as ever; and he proceeded to anatomise the characters of Bubb Doddington and Pulteney in a manner which must have made men of any feeling wince. He was ably supported by Sir William Yonge, by Pelham, and Winnington, but the division showed a majority for the Minister of only three.
In Ireland the magistrates acted on the circular, and on the 23rd of February, 1811, two magistrates proceeded to disperse the Catholic committee in Dublin. They were told by the committee that they were sitting simply for the purpose of petitioning Parliament, and they did not venture to interrupt it. The movement went on all over Ireland, the committees were numerously attended, and, notwithstanding a proclamation from Dublin Castle commanding the magistrates everywhere to disperse all such gatherings, in Dublin the general committee, numbering nearly three hundred persons, met in Fishamble Street on the 19th of October. Police were sent to disperse them, but on arriving they had already signed the petition, and were coming away amid a vast concourse of spectators. Several persons were arrested and tried, but the juries returned verdicts of "Not Guilty."
On the 11th of March, 1768, the Parliament, having nearly lived its term of seven years, was dissolved, and the most unprecedented corruption, bribery, and buying and selling of the people's right to their own House, came into play. The system originated by Walpole was now grown gigantic, and the sale and purchase of rotten boroughs was carried on in the most unblushing manner by candidates for Parliament, particularly aristocrats, who had managed to secure the old boroughs as their property, or to control them by their property. The Mayor and Aldermen of Oxford wrote to their members, long before the dissolution, to offer them the renewal of their seats for the sum of seven thousand five hundred pounds, which they meant to apply to the discharge of the debts of the corporation. The House arrested the Mayor and Aldermen, and clapped them in Newgate for five days; but on their humbly begging pardon at the bar of the House, they released them again to continue their base contract. Nay, whilst in prison, these corporation officials had sold their borough to the Duke of Marlborough and the Earl of Abingdon. Well might Chatham say this rotten part of the constitution wanted amputating. Where the people of corporations had votes, they were corrupted beyond all hope of resistance by the lavish bribes of the wealthy. The Earl Spencer spent seventy thousand pounds to secure the borough of Northampton for his nominee. There were attorneys acting then as now for such boroughs and such corrupt constituents, and they went about offering them to the highest bidders. One Hickey was notorious amongst this tribe; and above all, the borough of Shoreham distinguished itself by its venality, which assumed an aspect almost of blasphemy. The burgesses united in a club to share the proceeds of bribery equally amongst themselves, and styled themselves "the Christian Club," in imitation of the first Christians, who had all things in common! In the train of all this unprincipled corruption followed riots and tumults amongst the people, who were at once starving from the scarcity and dearness of bread, and infuriated with the drink with which they had been plied to serve the views of these base candidates. From the centre of this unholy chaos again rose the figure of John Wilkes, as the reputed champion of liberty.