[See larger version] A new and vigorous campaign was this year carried on in India by General, now Lord, Lake, against the Mahrattas. Holkar had refused to enter into amicable arrangements with the British at the same time as Scindiah and the Rajah of Berar, but had continued to strengthen his army, and now assumed so menacing an attitude, that Lord Lake and General Frazer were sent to bring him to terms or to action. They found him strongly posted near the fortress of Deeg, in the midst of bogs, tanks, and topes, and formidably defended by artillery. On the 13th of November, 1804, General Frazer attacked them, notwithstanding, and defeated them, but was killed himself in the action, and had six hundred and forty-three men killed and wounded; for the fire of round, grape, and chain shot by the Mahrattas was tremendous. On the 17th Lord Lake fell on Holkar's cavalry near Ferruckabad, commanded by Holkar himself, and thoroughly routed it, very nearly making capture of Holkar. He retreated into the Bhurtpore territory, the Rajah of that district having joined him. Lord Lake determined to follow him, and drove him thence, reducing the forts in that country. He had first, however, to make himself master of the fortress of Deeg, and this proved a desperate affair. Still the garrison, consisting of troops partly belonging to Holkar and partly to the Rajah of Bhurtpore, evacuated it on Christmas Day, leaving behind them a great quantity of cannon and ammunition. On the 1st of January, 1805, Lord Lake, accompanied by Colonel Monson, marched into the territory of Bhurtpore, and on the 3rd sat down before its fortress, one of the strongest places in India. On the 18th of January Major-General Smith arrived from Agra with three battalions of Sepoys and a hundred Europeans. But these advantages were counterbalanced by Meer Khan arriving with a strong force from Bundelcund to assist Holkar.

Now he is with the blest! Such was the position of affairs when Parliament was prorogued on the 9th of August. The Peel Ministry appeared to be as firmly seated as any combination then possible was likely to be, and the agriculturists' monopoly seemed safe at least for another year; but the Government had already received warnings of a coming storm. The weather had been for some time wet and cold, but as yet a general failure of the wheat crop was not anticipated. The trouble approached from a quarter in which no one had looked for it. Early in the month of August Sir Robert Peel had received an account of an extraordinary appearance in the potato crop in the Isle of Wight. On the 11th of August Sir James Graham received a letter from a great potato salesman, indicating that the same mysterious signs were observable throughout the south-eastern counties, and he hastened to communicate the facts to his colleague. These isolated[517] observations soon became confirmed from numerous quarters, and the account was everywhere the same. First a brown spot was observable on the skin of the potato; then the spot became black, the leaves and flowers of whole fields grew shrivelled, black, and putrid; and the crops, wherever the plague appeared, were almost entirely destroyed. From Ireland the most alarming accounts were received, and the newspapers were quickly filled with details of the progress of the "potato disease." It began to be asked what would be done with the unemployed multitudes in that country, whose stock of provisions for the next ten months was gone?

The regathering of Parliament, on the 11th of November, was distinguished by two circumstances of very unequal interest. The Prince of Wales, having arrived at his majority, took his seat as Duke of Cornwall, as it was well known, intending to vote for a great measure which Fox was introducing regarding India. We shall now almost immediately enter on the narration of the[302] important events which had been transpiring in India during the American war. It is sufficient here to observe that these were of a nature to give the most serious concern and alarm to all well-wishers of the country, and of the unfortunate natives of that magnificent peninsula. Fox's measure for the reform and restraint of the East India Company was comprehended in two Bills, the first proposing to vest the affairs of the Company in the hands of sixteen directors, seven of them to be appointed by Parliament, and afterwards sanctioned by the Crown, and nine of them to be elected by the holders of stock. These were to remain in office four years; the seven Parliament nominees to be invested with the management of the territorial possessions and revenues of the Company; the nine additional to conduct the commercial affairs of the Company under the seven chief directors; and both classes of directors to be subject to removal at the option of the king, on an address for the purpose from either House of Parliament. The second Bill related principally to the powers to be vested in the Governor-General and Council, and their treatment of the natives. [360]

These resolutions may be taken as expressing the feelings of the landed gentry as a body against the Melbourne Administration and the agitators. But the latter were not idle. O'Connell had then his "Precursor Association" in full operation. It received its name from the idea that it was to be the precursor of the repeal of the union. On the 22nd of January a public dinner was given in honour of the "Liberator" in a building then called the Circus, in Dublin, for which one thousand tickets were issued. Two days later a similar banquet was given to him in Drogheda, and there he made a significant allusion to the murder of Lord Norbury, insinuating that he had met his death at the hands of one who was bound to him by the nearest of natural ties, and had the strongest interest in his removal. Mr. O'Connell volunteered the assertion that the assassin of Lord Norbury had left on the soil where he had posted himself, "not the impress of a rustic brogue [a coarse rough shoe, usually made of half-dressed leather], but the impress of a well-made Dublin boot." There was no ground whatever for the malignant assertion, which was one of those errors of judgment and of taste that too often disfigured the great "Liberator's" leadership.

"Oh! rescue the countrysave the people of whom you are the ornaments, but severed from whom you can no more live than the blossom that is severed from the root and tree on which it grows. Save the country, therefore, that you may continue to adorn it; save the Crown, which is threatened with irreparable injury; save the aristocracy, which is surrounded with danger; save the[212] altar, which is no longer safe when its kindred throne is shaken. You see that when the Church and the Throne would allow of no church solemnity in behalf of the queen, the heartfelt prayers of the people rose to Heaven for her protection. I pray Heaven for her; and here I pour forth my fervent supplications at the Throne of Mercy, that mercies may descend on the people of the country, higher than their rulers have deserved, and that your hearts may be turned to justice."

DEVONSHIRE VILLA, CHISWICK.

During these proceedings, the National Assembly was sitting at Versailles in the utmost agitation. On the morning of the 13th, Mounier had risen and censured the dismissal of the Ministers, and had been seconded by Lally Tollendal, who had pronounced a splendid panegyric on Necker, and recommended an address to the king for his recall. M. de Virieu, a deputy of the noblesse, proposed to confirm by oath the proceedings of the 17th of June; but Clermont Tonnerre declared that unnecessary, as the Assembly had sworn to establish a constitution, and he exclaimed, "The Constitution we will have, or we will perish!" In the midst of this discussion came the news of the rising of the people of Paris, on the morning of the 13th, and an address was immediately voted to the king, beseeching him to withdraw the foreign troops, and authorise the organisation of the Civic Guards. The Duke de la Rochefoucauld said, the foreign troops in the hands of despotism were most perilous to the people, who were not in any one's hands. The address was sent, and the king returned a curt answer, that Paris was not in a condition to take care of itself. The Assembly then assumed a higher tone, asserted that the present counsellors of the king would be responsible for all the calamities which might take place, and declared itself in permanent session, that is, that it would sit day and night till the crisis was over. It appointed M. de Lafayette vice-president, in the place of the aged Bishop of Vienne, who was not capable of much exertion.

During this time Britain was suffering severely from the effects of the war. The nation was indignant under the disgrace of the complete defeat of its army on the Continent, at the defection of those very Allies who had been so profusely subsidised, at the perfidy by which these despot Powers had made Britain the efficient party in the dismemberment of Poland, and at the heavy taxes imposed in consequence. Political meetings were held in most large towns and in the metropolis, expressing the most decided disapprobation of the policy of Ministers and at the refusal of all reforms. At the end of June a monster meeting had been held in St. George's Fields, and on the 26th of October, another, of fifty thousand people, near Copenhagen House, at which the lately prosecuted but acquitted agitators, Thelwall, Gale Jones, and others, were the speakers. The numbers and tone of these meetings, which were accompanied with loud cries of "Bread! Bread!" and "Down with Pitt!" greatly alarmed Government, and there was a summons of Parliament at the unusually early date of October 29th, only three days after the meeting in Copenhagen Fields. On going to the House to open the session, the kingwho had become very unpopular from his eager support of the war, and his going about saying, "The French won't leave a single crowned head in Europe!"was shot at with an air-gun in Margaret Street, opposite to the Ordnance Office, the ball from which passed through the windows of the carriage, between his Majesty and the Earl of Westmoreland. The king on entering the House, exclaimed to the Lord Chancellor, "My lord, I have been shot at!" As the king returned, he was again furiously hissed; there was the same vociferous shouting of "Bread! Bread!" and "No Pitt!" Stones were thrown at the royal carriage; and, in the haste and confusion to escape into the palace of St. James's, one of the royal grooms was thrown to the ground, and had his thigh broken. The king got into a private coach to regain Buckingham House, where his family was; but he was recognised, and pursued by the same cries of "Bread! Bread!" and "Peace!" That evening the king, who had[449] behaved throughout with great courage, accompanied the queen and three of his daughters to Covent Garden Theatre, where he was received with zealous acclamations; the actors sang "God save the king!" three times over. Some of the people in the gallery were, however, pretty vehement in their hisses, but were attacked and turned out.