1807

1807.

Passing of the Slave Trade Bill—Downfall of the “Ministry of all the Talents”—General Fast—Election for Westminster—Death of Cardinal York—Arrival in England of Louis XVIII.—Copenhagen bombarded, and the Danish Fleet captured—Napoleon again proclaimed England as blockaded.

THE YEAR 1807 began, socially, with the Abolition of the Slave Trade, the debate on which was opened, in the Lords, on January 2nd, and many were the nights spent in its discussion. On February 10th, it was read a third time in the Upper House, and sent down to the Commons, who, on March 15th, read it a third time, and passed it without a division. On the 18th, it was sent again to the Lords, with some amendments. It was printed, and these amendments were taken into consideration on the 23rd, and the alterations agreed to on the same date; and exactly at noon on March 25th, the bill received the Royal Assent by Commission, and became Law. This Act, be it remembered, did not abolish Slavery, but only prohibited the Traffic in Slaves; so that no ship should clear out from any port within the British dominions after May 1, 1807, with slaves on board, and that no slave should be landed in the Colonies after March 1, 1808.

This Act was somewhat hurried through, owing to the downfall of the Coalition Ministry, which will ever be known in the political history of England as the “Ministry of all the talents,” or the “Broad-bottomed” Cabinet. While this Ministry was in existence, it afforded the Caricaturists plenty of food for their pencils. One of the last of them is by Gillray (April 18, 1807), and it is called “The Pigs Possessed, or, The Broad-bottomed Litter rushing headlong in the Sea of Perdition.” Though the subject is hackneyed, the treatment is excellent. “Farmer George,” as the King was familiarly termed, has knocked down a portion of his fence, which stands on the edge of a cliff, and, with brandished dung-fork, and ready heel, he speeds the swine to their destruction, thus apostrophizing them: “O, you cursed ungrateful Grunters! what! after devouring more in a twelve month, than the good old Litters did in twelve years, you turn round to kick and bite your old Master? but, if the Devil or the Pope has got possession of you all—pray get out of my Farm Yard! out with you all; no hanger-behind! you're all of a cursed bad breed; so out with you all together!!!”

Of course there was the Annual Fast, which was fixed, for February 25th. This time “the shops were all shut, and the utmost solemnity prevailed throughout the day.” Their repetition, evidently, was educating the people as to their implied meaning.

Sir Francis Burdett wished to retrieve his former defeat, and we consequently find him, at the General Election in this year, putting up for Westminster. Paull, who had contested the seat with Sheridan, was one candidate, Lord Cochrane, and Elliott the brewer, at Pimlico, were the others. This election is chiefly remarkable in illustrating the manners of the times, by a duel which took place between two of the candidates, Paull and Burdett, the latter of whom had squabbled over his name having been advertised as intending to appear at a meeting, without his consent having been first obtained. They met at Combe Wood near Wimbledon, and both were wounded. SirFrancis was successful, and a short account of his “chairing”—a custom long since consigned to limbo —may not be uninteresting. Originally, as the name implies, the successful candidate was seated in a chair, and carried about on the shoulders of his enthusiastic supporters, as the winner of the Queen's prize at Wimbledon is now honoured. But Sir Francis's admirers had improved upon this. The procession and triumphal car started from Covent Garden, and worked its way to the baronet's house in Piccadilly, where he mounted the car. How he did so, the contemporary account does not state, but it does say that “the car was as high as the one pair of stairs windows,” and “the seat upon which the Baronet was placed, stood upon a lofty Corinthian pillar.” On this uncomfortable elevation, he rode from Piccadilly, down the Haymarket, up St. Martin's Lane, and so into Covent Garden, where a dinner was provided.

On the 31st of August died, at Rome, Henry Benedict Maria Clement Stuart, Cardinal York—the last of the Stuarts. The feeble little attempt he made to assert his right to the throne of England, would be amusing if it had been serious; the coining of one medal, in which he styled himself Henry IX., was his sole affectation of royalty. With him died all hope, if any such existed, of disturbing the Hanoverian Succession. Curiously enough, events made him a pensioner on George the Third's bounty, and the annuity was granted by the one, and received by the other, not as an act of charity, but as of brotherly friendship; and this annuity of £4,000 he duly received for seven years before he died.

In this year, too, England gave shelter to another unfortunate scion of royalty—Louis XVIII.—who came from Sweden in the Swedish Frigate the Freya. He travelled under the name of the Comte de Lille, and landed at Yarmouth. He rather ungraciously declined the Palace of Holyrood, which was placed at his disposal, on the ground that he had not come to England as an asylum, or for safety, but on political business as King of France. Wisely, he was allowed to have his own way, and he settled down at Hartwell, in Buckinghamshire, a seat of the Marquis of Buckingham, and here he abode until the fall of Napoleon, when, of course, he went to Paris.

The year ends stormily. After having bombarded Copenhagen and captured all the Danish fleet, war was proclaimed against Denmark on the 4th of November. On the 8th of the month, Portugal was compelled by Napoleon to confiscate British property, and shut her ports against England.

Nor was he content with this. Probably he thought the effect of his former proclamation of blockading England, was wearing out, so he fulminated a fresh one on the 11th of November from Hamburgh, and another from Milan on the 27th of December; in both of which he reiterated his intention of prohibiting intercourse between all subjects under his control, and contumacious England, and that this should be properly carried out he appointed commercial residents, at different ports, to attend strictly to the matter.

This, of course, was met promptly by an Order in Council, allowing neutral Powers to trade with the enemies of Great Britain, provided they touched at British ports, and paid custom dues to the British Government.

Consols this year began at 61⅜, and left off 62⅞.

Wheat varied during the year, from 84s. to 73s., the highest price being 90s.; and the quartern loaf varied in proportion from 1s. 1¼d. to 10¾d.