Disarmament and retrenchment—Cheaper provisions—King applied to Parliament to pay his debts—The Prince of Wales claimed the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall—Parliament pays the King's debts—Abolition of the Income Tax—Signature of the Treaty of Amiens—Conditions of the Treaty—Rush of the English to France—Visit of C. J. Fox to Napoleon—Liberation of the French prisoners of war.

THE year 1802 opened somewhat dully, or, rather, with a want of sensational news. Disarmament, and retrenchment, were being carried out with a swiftness that seemed somewhat incautious, and premature. But the people had been sorely taxed, and it was but fitting that the burden should be removed at the earliest opportunity.

Provisions fell to something like a normal price, directly the Preliminaries of Peace were signed, and a large trade in all sorts of eatables was soon organized with France, where prices ruled much lower than at home. All kinds of poultry and pigs, although neither were in prime condition, could be imported at a much lower rate than they could be obtained from the country.

Woodward gives an amusing sketch of John Bull enjoying the good things of this life, on a scale, and at a cost, to which he had long been a stranger.


On the 10th of February the Right Hon. Charles Abbot, afterwards Lord Colchester, was elected Speaker to the House of Commons, in the room of the Right Hon. John Nutford, who had accepted the position of Chancellor of Ireland; and, on the 15th of February, Mr. Chancellor Addington presented the following message from the King:

George R.

“His Majesty feels great concern in acquainting the House of Commons that the provision made by Parliament for defraying the expenses of his household, and civil government, has been found inadequate to their support. A considerable debt has, in consequence, been unavoidably incurred, an account of which he has ordered to be laid before this House. His Majesty relies with confidence on the zeal and affection of his faithful Commons, that they will take the same into their early consideration, and adopt such measures as the circumstances may appear to them to require.

“G. R.”

This message was referred to a Committee of Supply, and, at the same time, the Prince of Wales, not to be behind his father, made a claim for the amount of the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall received during his minority, and applied to the use of the Civil List. The King had “overrun the constable” at an alarming rate. He only wanted about a million sterling, and this state of indebtedness was attributed to many causes. The dearness of provisions, &c., during the last three years; the extra expenses caused by the younger princes and princesses growing up, which ran the Queen into debt; the marriage of the Prince of Wales, the support of the Princess Charlotte, pensions to late ministers to foreign courts, &c. In the long run John Bull put his hands in his pockets, and paid the bill, £990,053—all which had been contracted since the passing of Burke's Bill on the subject, and exclusive of the sums paid in 1784 and 1786. The Prince of Wales was not so lucky with his application at this time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not stand two heavy pulls upon his purse.

Well, as a sop, John got rid of the Income Tax. Like the “Old Man of the Sea,” which we have to carry on our shoulders, it was originally proposed as a war tax; but, unlike ours, faith was kept with the people, and, with the cessation of the war, the tax died. A very amusing satirical print, given here, is by Woodward, and shows the departure of the Income Tax, who is flying away, saying, “Farewell, Johnny—remember me!” John Bull, relieved of his presence, growls out: “Yes, d—n thee; I have reason to remember thee; but good-bye. So thou'rt off; I don't care; go where thou wilt, thou'lt be a plague in the land thou lightest on.”


The negotiations for peace hung fire for a long time. Preliminaries were ratified, as we have seen, in October, but the old year died, and the new year was born, and still no sign to the public that the peace was a real fact; they could only see that a large French armament had been sent to the West Indies; nor was it until the 29th of March, that the citizens of London heard the joyful news, from the following letter to the Lord Mayor:

Downing Street, March 29, 1802.

My Lord ,

“Mr. Moore, assistant secretary to Marquis Cornwallis, has just arrived with the definite treaty of peace, which was signed at Amiens, on the 27th of this month, by His Majesty's plenipotentiary, and the plenipotentiaries of France, Spain, and the Batavian Republic.[14]

“I have the honour, &c.,


It must have been a great relief to the public mind, as the armistice was a somewhat expensive arrangement, costing, it is said, a million sterling per week! One of the causes, said to be the principal, of the delay in coming to an understanding, was the question respecting the payment of the expenses, incurred by our Government, for the maintenance of the French prisoners of war. They amounted to upwards of two millions sterling, and a proposal was made by England, but rejected on the part of the French, to accept the island of Tobago as an equivalent. It was afterwards left to be paid as quickly as convenient. There were no regular illuminations on the arrival of this news, but of course many patriotic individuals vented their feelings in oil lamps, candles, and transparencies.

But what were the conditions of this Peace? The English restored “to the French Republic and its Allies, viz., His Catholic Majesty, and the Batavian Republic, all the possessions, and colonies, which respectively belonged to them, and which have been either occupied, or conquered, by the British forces during the course of the present war, with the exception of the island of Trinidad, and of the Dutch possessions in the island of Ceylon.”

“The Port of the Cape of Good Hope remains to the Batavian Republic in full sovereignty, in the same manner as it did previous to the war. The ships of every kind belonging to the other contracting parties, shall be allowed to enter the said port, and there to purchase what provisions they may stand in need of, as heretofore, withoutbeing liable to pay any other imports than such as the Batavian Republic compels the ships of its own nation to pay.”

A portion of Portuguese Guiana was ceded to the French in order to rectify the boundaries; the territories, possessions, and rights of the Sublime Porte were to be maintained as formerly.

The islands of Malta, Goza, and Comino were to be restored to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and the forces of His Britannic Majesty were to evacuate Malta, and its dependencies, within three months of the exchange of the ratifications, or sooner, if possible. Half the garrison should be Maltese, and the other half (2,000 men) should be furnished, for a time, by the King of Naples; and France, Great Britain, Austria, Spain, Russia, and Prussia were the guarantors of its independence.

The French troops were to evacuate the kingdom of Naples, and the Roman States, and the English troops were to evacuate Porto Ferrajo, and all the ports, and islands they occupied in the Mediterranean, and the Adriatic.

The Prince of Orange was to have adequate compensation for the losses suffered by him in Holland, in consequence of the revolution; and persons accused of murder, forgery, or fraudulent bankruptcy, were to be given up to their respective Powers, on demand, accompanied by proof.

This, then, was the Treaty of Amiens, in which France certainly came best off; and so the popular voice seemed to think, although thankful for any cessation of the constant drain of men and treasure, combined with privations at home, and loss of trade.

A satirical print by Ansell, clearly shows this feeling.

Peace greets John Bull with—“Here I am, Johnny, arrived at last! Like to have been lost at sea; poles of the chaise broke at Dover, springs of the next chaise gave way at Canterbury, and one of the horses fell, and overturned the other chaise at Dartford. Ah, Johnny! I wonder we have ever arrived at all.” John Bull replies, “Odds niggins!!! Why, is that you? have I been waiting all this time to be blessed with such a poor ugly crippled piece ? and all you have with you is a quid of tobacco and some allspice.” Mrs. Bull asks her husband, “Why, John, be this she you have been talking so much about?”


There was a wild rush of English over to France, and the French returned the compliment, but not in the same ratio; the Continental stomach having then, the same antipathy to the passage of the Channel, as now. Still there was an attempt at an entente cordiale, which was well exemplified by a contemporary artist (unknown), in a picture called “A Peaceable Pipe, or a Consular Visit to John Bull.” Napoleon is having a pleasant chat with his old foe, smoking, and drinking beer with him. John Bull toasts his guest. “Here's to you, Master Boney Party. Come, take another whiff, my hearty.” Napoleon accepts the invitation with, “Je vous remercie, John Bull; I think I'll take another pull.” Whilst the gentlemen are thus pleasantly engaged, Mrs. Bull works hard mending John's too well-worn breeches; and as she works, she says, “Now we are at peace, if my husband does take a drop extraordinary, I don't much mind; but when he was at war, he was always grumbling. Bless me, how tiresome these old breeches are to mend; no wonder he wore them out, for he had always his hands in his pockets for something or other.”

Among the other Englishmen who took advantage of the peace to go over to France, was Charles James Fox, who, immediately after his election for Westminster, on July 15, 1802, started off for Paris, professedly to search the archives there, for material for his introductory chapter to “A History of the Early Part of the Reign of James the Second.” A history of this trip was afterwards written by his private secretary, Mr. Trotter.[15] He and Mrs. Fox, who was now first publicly acknowledged as his wife, were introduced to Napoleon; a subject most humorously treated by Gillray, in his “Introduction of Citizen Volpone and his Suite at Paris.” Napoleon, in full Court costume, and wearing an enormous cocked hat and feathers, is seated on a chair, which is emblematical of his sovereignty of the world, and is surrounded by a Mameluke guard. Fox and his wife, both enormously fat, yet bowing and curtseying respectively, with infinite grace, are being introduced by O'Connor, who had, aforetime, been in treaty with the French Government for the invasion of Ireland. Erskine, in full forensic costume, bows, with his hand on his heart; and Lord and Lady Holland help to fill the picture. But the real account of his reception was very different (teste  Mr. Trotter). “We reached the interior apartment, where Bonaparte, First Consul, surrounded by his generals, ministers, senators, and officers, stood between the secondand third Consuls, Le Brun and Cambacérès, in the centre of a semicircle, at the head of the room! The numerous assemblage from the Salle des Ambassadeurs, formed into another semicircle, joined themselves to that, at the head of which stood the First Consul.... The moment the circle was formed, Bonaparte began with the Spanish Ambassador, then went to the American, with whom he spoke some time, and so on, performing his part with ease, and very agreeably, until he came to the English Ambassador, who, after the presentation of some English noblemen, announced to him Mr. Fox. He was a great deal flurried, and, after indicating considerable emotion, very rapidly said, ‘Ah, Mr. Fox! I have heard with pleasure of your arrival, I have desired much to see you; I have long admired in you the orator and friend of his country, who, in constantly raising his voice for peace, consulted that country's best interests, those of Europe, and of the human race. The two great nations of Europe require peace; they have nothing to fear; they ought to understand and value one another. In you, Mr. Fox, I see, with much satisfaction, that great statesman who recommended peace, because there was no just object of war; who saw Europe desolated to no purpose, and who struggled for its relief.' Mr. Fox said little, or rather nothing, in reply—to a complimentary address to himself, he always found invincible repugnance to answer—nor did he bestow one word of admiration or applause upon the extraordinary and elevated character who addressed him. A few questions and answers relative to Mr. Fox's tour, terminated the interview.”

According to Article II. of the Treaty of Amiens, “All the prisoners made on one side and the other, as well by land as by sea, and the hostages carried off, or delivered up, during the war, and up to the present day, shall be restored, without ransom, in six weeks at the latest, to be reckoned from the day on which the ratifications of the present treaty are exchanged, and on paying the debts which they shall have contracted during their captivity.”

The invaluable M. Otto wrote the detenus  a letter, in which, whilst congratulating them, he exhorted them to subdue all spirit of party, if, indeed, it had not already been effected by their years of suffering, and captivity, and cautioned them as to their behaviour on their return, telling them of the change for the better which they would not fail to observe. Glad, indeed, must these poor captives have been at the prospect of once more setting foot on La belle France ; and that the English Government made no unnecessary delay in helping them to the consummation of their wishes, is evident, for, on the 10th of April, upwards of 1,000 of them were liberated from the depôt at Norman Cross, preparatory to their being conveyed to Dunkirk. The others—at least, all those who were willing and able to go—soon left England.

“Several of the French prisoners who embarked at Plymouth on Thursday, on board the coasters and trawl boats, having liberty to come on shore until morning, thought the indulgence so sweet, that they stayed up the whole night. This morning, at three o'clock, they sung in very good style through the different streets, the ‘Marseillais Hymn,' the ‘Austrian Retreat,' with several other popular French songs, and concluded with the popular British song of ‘God save the King,' in very good English.”—Morning Herald, April 19, 1802.

[14]Signed by the Marquis Cornwallis for England, Joseph Bonaparte for France, Azara for Spain, and Schimmelpenninck for Holland.

[15]“Memoirs of the Later Years of the Right Hon. Charles James Fox.” By John Bernard Trotter, Esq., late private secretary to Mr. Fox. London. 1811.

Proclamation of Peace—Manner of the procession, &c.—Illuminations—Day of General Thanksgiving—General Election—A dishonoured Government bill—Cloth riots in Wiltshire—Plot to assassinate the King—Arrest of Colonel Despard—Trial and sentence of the conspirators—Their fate.

ON THE 21st of April, a proclamation was issued, ordering a public thanksgiving for Peace, to be solemnized on 1st of June. On the 26th of April, the King proclaimed Peace, in the following terms:

“By the KING. A Proclamation.

“G. R.,

“Whereas a definitive treaty of peace, and friendship, between us, the French Republic, His Catholic Majesty, and the Batavian Republic, hath been concluded at Amiens on the 27th day of March last, and the ratifications thereof have been duly exchanged; in conformity thereunto, We have thought fit, hereby, to command that the same be published throughout all our dominions; and we do declare to all our loving subjects our will and pleasure, that the said treaty of peace, and friendship, be observed inviolably, as well by sea as by land, and in all places whatsoever; strictly charging, and commanding, all our loving subjects to take notice hereof, and to conform themselves thereunto, accordingly.

“Given at our Court at Windsor, the 26th day of April,
1802, in the forty-second year of our reign.
“God save the King.”

On the 29th of April, a public proclamation of the same was made, and it must have been a far more imposing spectacle than the very shabby scene displayed in 1856. All mustered in the Stable-yard, St. James's. The Heralds and Pursuivants were in their proper habits, and, preceded by the Sergeant Trumpeter with his trumpets, the Drum Major with his drums, and escorted on either side by Horse Guards, they sallied forth, and read aloud the Proclamation in front of the Palace. We can picture the roar of shouting, and the waving of hats, after the Deputy Garter's sonorous “God save the King!” A procession was then formed, and moved solemnly towards Charing Cross, where another halt was made, and the Proclamation was read, the Herald looking towards Whitehall. The following is the order of the procession:

Two Dragoons.
Two Pioneers, with axes in their hands.
Two Trumpeters.
Horse Guards, six abreast.
Beadles of Westminster, two and two, with staves.
Constables of Westminster.
High Constable, with his staff, on horseback.
Officers of the High Bailiff of Westminster, with white wands, on horseback.
Clerk of the High Bailiff.
High Bailiff and Deputy Steward.
Horse Guards.
Knight Marshal's men, two and two.
Knight Marshal.
Drum Major.
Sergeant Trumpeters.
Horse Guards.

Thence to Temple Bar, which, according to precedent, was shut—with the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, and civic officials on the other side. The minor Officer of Arms stepped out of the procession between two trumpeters, and, preceded by two Horse Guards, rode up to the gates, and after the trumpeters had sounded thrice, he knocked thereat with a cane. From the other side the City Marshal asked, “Who comes there?” and the Herald replied: “The Officers of Arms, who demand entrance into the City, to publish His Majesty's Proclamation of Peace.” The gates being opened, he was admitted alone, and the gates were shut behind him. The City Marshal, preceded by his officers, conducted him to the Lord Mayor, to whom he showed His Majesty's Warrant, which his lordship having read, returned, and gave directions to the City Marshal to open the gates, who duly performed his mission, and notified the same to the Herald in the words—“Sir, the gates are opened.” The Herald returned to his place, the procession entered the Bar, and, having halted, the Proclamation was again read.

The Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, &c., then joined the procession in the following order:

The Volunteer Corps of the City.
The King's Procession, as before stated.
Four Constables together.
Six Marshal's men, three and three, on foot.
Six Trumpeters, three and three.
Band of Music.
on foot.
{Two Marshals on horseback.
Two Sheriffs on horseback.
Sword and Mace on horseback.
on foot.
Porter in a black
gown and staff.
{Lord Mayor , mounted on a
beautiful bay horse.
Household on foot.
Six Footmen in rich liveries, three and three.
State Coach with six horses, with ribands, &c.
Aldermen in seniority, in their coaches.
Carriages of the two Sheriffs.
Officers of the City, in carriages, in seniority.
Horse Guards.

The line of procession was kept by different Volunteer Corps.

The Proclamation having been read a fourth time, at Wood Street, they went on to the Exchange, read it there, and yet once again, at Aldgate pump, after which they returned, and, halting at the Mansion House, broke up, the Heralds going to their College, at Doctor's Commons, the various troops to their proper destinations; and so ended a very beautiful sight, which was witnessed by crowds of people, both in the streets, and in the houses, along the route.

The illuminations, at night, eclipsed all previous occasions, Smirk, the Royal Academician, painting a transparency for the Bank of England, very large, and very allegorical. M. Otto's house, in Portman Square, was particularly beautiful, and kept the square full of gazers all the night through. There were several accidents during the day, one of which was somewhat singular. One of the outside ornaments of St. Mary le Strand, then called the New Church, fell down, killing one man on the spot, and seriously damaging three others.

The day of General Thanksgiving was very sober, comparatively. Both Houses of Parliament attended Divine service, as did the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs, who went in state to St. Paul's. Most of the churches were well filled, and flags flew, and bells rung, all day.

In July came a General Election, which evoked a lawless saturnalia throughout the length and breadth of the land. An election in our own times—before the ballot brought peace—was bad enough, but then the duration of the polling was nothing like it was in the days of which I write. The County polling lasted fourteen days; Boroughs, seven days.

The Morning Herald, July 14, 1802, thus speaks of the Middlesex election: “During the business of polling, the populace amused themselves in varieties of whimsicalities, one of which was the exhibition of a man on the shoulders of another, handcuffed and heavily ironed, while a third was employed in flogging him with a tremendous cat-o'-nine-tails, and the man who received the punishment, by his contortions of countenance, seemed to experience all the misery which such a mode of punishment inflicts. The shops were all shut in Brentford, and the road leading to London was lined on each side with crowds of idle spectators. It is impossible for any but those who have witnessed a Middlesex election to conceive the picture it exhibits; it is one continual scene of riot, disorder, and tumult.”

And, whilst on the subject of Politics, although they have no proper place in this history, as it deals more especially with the social aspect of this portion of the Century, yet it is interesting to be acquainted with the living aspect of some of the politicians of the time, and, thanks to Gillray, they are forthcoming in two of his pictures I have here given.

This is founded on a serio-comic incident which occurred in a debate on Supply, on March 4, 1802.[16] “The report of the Committee of Supply, to whom the Army estimates were referred, being brought up, Mr. Robson proceeded to point out various heads of expenditure, which, he said, were highly improper, such as the barracks, the expenses of corn and hay for the horses of the cavalry, the coals and candles for the men, the expenses of which he contended to be enormous. The sum charged for beer to the troops at the Isle of Wight, he said, was also beyond his comprehension. He maintained that this mode of voting expenditure, by months, was dangerous; the sum, coming thus by driblets, did not strike the imagination in the same manner as they would do, if the whole service of the year came before the public at once, and that the more particularly, as money was raised by Exchequer bills, to be hereafter provided for, instead of bringing out at once the budget of taxes for the year. He alleged that those things were most alarming, and the country was beginning to feel the effects of them. Gentlemen might fence themselves round with majorities; but the time would come when there must be an account given of the public money. The finances of the country were in so desperate a situation, that Government was unable to discharge its bills; for a fact had come within his knowledge, of a bill, accepted by Government, having been dishonoured. (A general exclamation of hear! hear!)


“Mr. Robson, however, stuck to it as a fact, saying that ‘it was true that a banker, a member of that House, did take an acceptance to a public office—the sum was small. The answer at that public office was “that they had not money to pay it.“‘ On being pressed to name the office, he said it was the Sick and Hurt Office.


“Later on in the evening Addington said, ‘I find that the amount of the bill accepted by Government, and non-payment of which was to denote the insolvency of Government, is—£19 7s. Whether or not the bill was paid, remains to be proved; but my information comes from the same source as the hon. member derives his accusation. At all events, the instance of the hon. member of the insolvency of the Government is a bill of £19 7s.'

“Mr. Robson said that was so much the worse, as the bill was in the hands of a poor man who wanted the money.”

In August some riots occurred in Wiltshire, caused by the introduction of machinery into cloth-working. What Hargreaves, Arkwright, and Crompton, had done for the cotton trade, was bound, sooner or later, to be followed by other textile industries. In this case a shearing machine had been introduced into a large factory, some three years back, and, like the silversmiths at Ephesus, the cloth-workers thought that “thus our craft is in danger of being set atnought;” and they did what most poor ignorant men have done under like circumstances, they thought they could retard the march of intellect, by breaking the objectionable machines. Not only so, but, in their senseless folly, they cut, and destroyed, much valuable property in the cloth-racks—altogether the damage done was computed at over £100,000. For this, one man was tried at Gloucester Assizes, and hanged—a fate which seems to have acted as a warning to his brother craftsmen, for there was no repetition of the outrage. In this case, the machinery, being very expensive, could only be introduced into large mills, the owners of which did not discharge a man on its account, and the smaller masters were left to plod on in the old way, in which their soul delighted, and to go quietly to decay, whilst their more go-ahead neighbours were laying the foundation of a business which, in time, supplied the markets of the world. But there was the same opposition to the Spinning Jenny, and we have seen, in our time, the stolid resistance offered by agricultural labourers to every kind of novel machine used in farming, so that we can more pity, than blame, these deluded, and ignorant, cloth-workers, because they were not so far-seeing as the manufacturers.

It was mysteriously whispered about on the evening of the 18th of November, that a plot had been discovered, having for its object the assassination of the King; and next day the news was confirmed—Colonel Despard, of whom I have before spoken (see p. 37), was at the head of this plot. He was an Irishman, and had seen military service in the West Indies, on the Spanish Main, and in the Bay of Honduras, where he acted as Superintendent of the English Colony; but, owing to their complaints, he was recalled, and an inquiry into his conduct was refused. This, no doubt, soured him, and made him disaffected, causing him to espouse the doctrines of the French Revolution. On account of his seditious behaviour, he was arrested under the “Suspension of the Habeas Corpus” Act (1794), and passed some years in prison; and, as we have seen, preferred continuing there, to having a conditional pardon. On his liberation, this misguided man could not keep quiet, but must needs plot, in a most insane manner, not for any good to be done to his country, to redress no grievances, but simply to assassinate the King, forgetting that another was ready to take the place of the slaughtered monarch.

Of course, among a concourse of petty rogues, one was traitor, a discharged sergeant of the Guards; and, in consequence of his revelations to Sir Richard Ford, the chief magistrate at Bow Street, a raid, at night, was made upon the Oakley Arms, Oakley Street, Lambeth (still in existence at No. 72), and there they found Colonel Despard and thirty-two labouring men and soldiers—English, Irish, and Scotch—all of whom they took into custody, and, after being examined for eight hours, the Colonel was committed to the County Gaol, twelve of his companions (six being soldiers) to Tothill Fields Bridewell, and twenty others to the New Prison, Clerkenwell.

Next day he was brought up, heavily ironed, before the Privy Council, and committed to Newgate for trial, the charge against him being, that he administered a secret oath to divers persons, binding them to an active cooperation in the performance of certain treasonable, and murderous, practices. As a matter of history, his fate belongs to the next year, but 1803 was so full of incident that it is better to finish off this pitiful rogue (for he was no patriot) at once.

On the 20th of January, 1803, the Grand Jury brought in a true bill against him and twelve others, on the charge of high treason; and on the 5th of February their trial, by Special Commission, commenced, at the Sessions House, Clerkenwell, before four judges. They were tried on eight counts, the fifth and sixth of which charged them with“intending to lie in wait, and attack the King, and treating of the time, means, and place, for effecting the same;” also “with a conspiracy to attack and seize upon the Bank, Tower, &c., to possess themselves of arms, in order to kill and destroy the soldiers and others, His Majesty's liege subjects,” &c. The trial lasted until 8 a.m. on the 10th of February, when Despard, who was found guilty on the 8th, and nine others, were sentenced to be hanged, disembowelled, beheaded, and quartered. But the day before they were executed, it was “thought fit to remit part of the sentence, viz., taking out and burning their bowels before their faces, and dividing the bodies into four parts.” They were to be hanged, and afterwards beheaded; and this sentence was fully carried out on Despard, and six of his accomplices, on the 21st of February, 1803.

And so the year came to an end, but not quietly; clouds were distinctly visible in the horizon to those who watched the political weather. England hesitated to fulfil her portion of the treaty, with regard to the evacuation of Malta; and the relations of Lord Whitworth, our Ambassador, and the French Court, became somewhat strained.

Still the Three per Cents. kept up—in January 68, July 70, December 69; and bread stuffs were decidedly cheaper than in the preceding year—wheat averaging 68s. per. quarter, barley 33s., oats 20s., whilst the average quartern loaf was 1s.

[16]“Parliamentary History,” vol. xxxvi. p. 346, &c.