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The mechanical invention, however, destined to produce the most extraordinary revolution in social life was that of railways, which during this reign were progressing towards the point where, combined with the steam-engine, they were to burst forth into an activity and strength astonishing to the whole world. Tram-roadsthat is, roads with lines of smooth timber for the wheels of waggons to run uponhad been in use in the Newcastle collieries for a century before. In 1767, at the Coalbrook Dale Iron Works, iron plates were substituted for wood, and by this simple scheme one horse could, with ease, draw as much as ten on an ordinary road. In 1776 iron flanges, or upright edges, were used at the collieries of the Duke of Norfolk, near Sheffield, and after this time they became common at all collieries, both above and below ground. In 1801 an iron railway, by a joint-stock company, was opened from Wandsworth to Croydon. Three years before iron railways had been introduced to convey the slates from Lord Penrhyn's quarries, in Carnarvonshire, to the Menai Strait for shipment, and they were attached to canals for the conveyance of goods to and from them. At the end of this reign there were two hundred and twenty-five miles of iron railroads in the neighbourhood of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and upwards of three hundred miles in the single county of Glamorgan.

Choiseul made, undoubtedly, a large offer for peace. It was that each power should retain all such of its conquests as should be in its hands, subject to exchanges and equivalents, in Europe, on the 1st of May next; in America, the West Indies, and Africa, on the 1st of July; and in the East Indies on the 1st of September. But Pitt had declared that he would never make another peace of Utrecht. He considered that we had France down, and he determined to retain everything of value. He therefore replied that the proper period for the principle of the treaty to take place was that on which the treaty was really signed, that it might so happen that it would not be signed at the dates named, and he did this in order to complete a scheme, which he had already nearly accomplished, that of seizing on Belleisle, an island on the coast of France. It surrendered in July, and the news of this loss was speedily followed in Paris by that of the loss of Dominica in the West, and of Pondicherry in the East Indies. So soon as the House of Commons assembled, and before the Speaker read the Speech which had been delivered from the Throne, Mr. Brougham made the first significant move in the game that was about to be played, by announcing[322] that he would that day fortnight submit to the House a proposition on the great question of Parliamentary Reform. Having determined to give notice of his intention when there was a question before the House, he was enabled to accompany his notice with an explanation. This was his explanation:"He had," he said, "by one party been described as intending to bring forward a very limited, and therefore useless and insignificant, plan; by another, he was said to be the friend of a radical, sweeping, and innovating, and, I may add, for I conscientiously believe it would prove so, a revolutionary reform." Both these imputed schemes he disavowed. "I stand on the ancient way of the Constitution." To explain at that moment what the details of this plan were to be would have then been inconvenientwas, indeed, impossible. "But," said Mr. Brougham, "my object in bringing forward this question is not revolution, but restorationto repair the Constitution, not to pull it down." This notice was a master-stroke of policy.

LORD ELDON. (After the Portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence.)

Sir John Warren put the two thousand four hundred Chouans on shore near Lorient, and left them to return to their own predatory mode of warfare. He then located himself on two small neighbouring islands, and waited for a fresh squadron carrying four thousand British troops, which arriving in September, he bore away with them for La Vende, and thus terminated the miserable descent on the coast of Brittany. The descent on the coast of La Vende was still more unsatisfactory. On arriving there, it was found that fifteen thousand Republicans were in possession of the Isle Noirmoutier, formerly the stronghold of Charette. The British, therefore, disembarked on the little desolate Isle Dieu, about five leagues from Noirmoutier, and there awaited the arrival of Count d'Artois, who did not come till the 10th of October, and then, alarmed at the fusillading of the officers at Quiberon, declined to land. On hearing this, Charette exclaimed"We are lost! To-day I have fifteen thousand men about me; to-morrow I shall not have five hundred!" And, in fact, chagrined at the pusillanimous conduct of the prince, and the approach of Hoche with his victorious troops from Brittany, his followers rapidly dispersed, and at the end of the year the British armament returned home, having done nothing. From this day may be dated the extinction of the war in La Vende. Stofflet, in January, 1796, was defeated, and in February was betrayed to the enemy, and on the 26th of that month was executed at Angers with four of his companions. Charette was captured a month afterwards, and was shot at Nantes on the 29th of March. With him died the last Vendan general of mark. By this time, the spring of 1796, not a fifth part of the male population of La Vende remained alive; and Hoche himself calculated that the Vendan war had cost France a hundred thousand men.

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When Washington arrived at Boston, on the 15th of June, he found the English army augmented to ten thousand by fresh forces, under Generals Burgoyne, William Howe, the brother of Lord Howe, and Henry Clinton. The American troops consisted of twenty thousand militia and volunteers, still in a most confused condition, extended over a line of twenty miles in length, that only required an attack of five thousand men, led by a general of courage and ability, to be thoroughly beaten. They were, moreover, greatly deficient in powder and other necessaries. But the English generals lay as if there were no urgent need of action. Had a sudden movement on the Neck been made from Boston, five hundred men could have broken and dispersed the Americans nearest to that position before the other ill-trained troops, some of them at great distances, could have come up; and they might have been easily defeated in detail by the simultaneous efforts of four spirited generals and ten thousand efficient soldiers. But lethargy seemed to have seized on Gage, and to have also infected his coadjutors.