1810

Good harvest—Thanksgiving for same—List of poor Livings—Another Jubilee—Illness and death of the Princess Amelia—Effect on the King—Prayers for his restoration to health—Funeral of the Princess—Curious position of the Houses of Parliament—Proposition for a Regency—Close of the first decade of the XIX th Century.

IT GIVES great pleasure to record that the Harvest this year was plentiful, so bountiful, indeed, as to stir up feelings of gratitude in the national breast, and induce the manufacture of a “Form of prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God, for His mercy in having vouchsafed to bestow on this Nation an abundant crop, and favourable harvest.” The farmers and laics benefited thereby, but the position of the Clergy at that time was far from being very high, at least with regard to worldly remuneration—vide  the following:

Account of Livings in England and Wales under £150 a year.

Not exceeding £10 a year 12
From £10 to £20 inclusive 72
From £20 to £30 191
From £30 to £40 353
From £40 to £50 433
From £50 to £60 407
From £60 to £70 376
From £70 to £80 319
From £80 to £90 309
From £90 to £100 315
From £100 to £110 283
From £110 to £120 307
From £120 to £130 246
From £130 to £140 205
From £140 to £150 170
——
Total 3998
——

“Of these very small livings three are in the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, three in that of Norwich, two in that of St. David's, one in that of Llandaff, one in that of London, one in that of Peterborough, and one in that of Winchester.”

This does not show a very flourishing state of things, although money could be spent freely in support of foreign clergy as we see by the accounts for this year: “Emigrant clergy and laity of France, £161,542 2s.”

One would think that two Jubilees in one twelvemonth was almost too much of a good thing, but our great-grandfathers thought differently. There had already been one, to celebrate the fact of the King entering on the fiftieth year of his reign, they must now have one to chronicle its close. But, although there was somewhat of the “poor debtor” element introduced, it was by no means as enthusiastically received as it had been twelve months previously.

This time we hear more of festive meetings: a Jubilee Ball at the Argyle Rooms—then very decorous and proper—another at the New Rooms, Kennington, and a grand dinner at Montpelier House, whilst Camberwell, Vauxhall, Kennington, and Lambeth all furnished materials for festivity. Needless to say, there were new Jubilee medals.

But the poor old King was getting ill, and troubled about his daughter, the Princess Amelia, who lay a-dying. Poor girl! she knew she had not long to live, and she wished to give the King some personal souvenir. She had a very valuable and choice stone, which she wished to have made into a ring for him. As her great thought and most earnest wish was to give this to her father before her death, a jeweller was sent for express from London, and it was soon made, and she had her desire gratified. On His Majesty going to the bedside of the Princess, as was his daily wont, she put the ring upon his finger without saying a word. The ring told its own tale: it bore as an inscription her name, and “Remember me when I am gone.” A lock of her hair was also worked into the ring.

The mental anguish caused by this event, and by the knowledge that death was soon to claim the Princess, was too much for the King to bear. Almost blind, and with enfeebled intellect, he had not strength to bear up against the terrible blow.

At first the papers said he had a slight cold, but the next day it was found to be of no use concealing his illness. The Morning Post  of the 31st of October says: “It is with hearfelt sorrow we announce that His Majesty's indisposition still continues. It commenced with the effect produced upon his tender parental feelings on receiving the ring from the hand of his afflicted, beloved daughter, the affecting inscription upon which caused him, blessed and most amiable of men, to burst into tears, with the most heart-touching lamentations on the present state, and approaching dissolution, of the afflicted, and interesting Princess. His Majesty is attended by Drs. Halford, Heberden, and Baillie, who issue daily bulletins of the state of the virtuous and revered monarch, for whose speedy recovery the prayers of all good men will not fail to be offered up.” And there was public prayer made “for the restoration of His Majesty's health.”

The Princess Amelia died on the 2nd of November, and was buried with due state. In her coffin were “8,000 nails—6000 small and 2,000 large; eight large plates and handles resembling the Tuscan Order; a crown at the top, of the same description as issued from the Heralds' Office; two palm branches in a cross saltier, under the crown, with P. A. (the initials of her Royal Highness). They are very massy, and have the grandest effect, being executed in the most highly-finished style, and neat manner possible. Forty-eight plates, with a crown, two palm branches in cross saltier, with the Princess Royal's coronet at top; eight bevil double corner plates, with the same ornaments inscribed, and one at each corner of the cover.”

The King's illness placed Parliament in a very awkward position. It stood prorogued till the 1st of November, on which day both Houses met, but sorely puzzled how to proceed, because there was no commission, nor was the King in a fit state to sign one. The Speaker took his seat, and said, “The House is now met, this being the last day to which Parliament was prorogued; but I am informed, that notwithstanding His Majesty's proclamation upon the subject of a farther prorogation, no message is to be expected from His Majesty's commissioners upon that subject, no commission for prorogation being made out. Under such circumstances I feel it my duty to take the chair, in order that the House may be able to adjourn itself.” And both Houses were left to their own devices. The head was there, but utterly incompetent to direct.

So they kept on, doing no public work, but examining the King's physicians as to his state. They held out hopes of his recovery—perhaps in five or six months, perhaps in twelve or eighteen; but, in the meantime, really energetic steps must be taken to meet the emergency. On the 20th of November the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved three resolutions embodying the facts that His Majesty was incapacitated by illness from attending to business, and that the personal exercise of the royal authority is thereby suspended, therefore Parliament must supply the defect. It was then that the Regency of the Prince of Wales was proposed, and in January, 1811, an Act was passed, entitled, “An Act to provide for the Administration of the Royal Authority, and for the Care of the Royal Person during the Continuance of His Majesty's illness, and for the Resumption of the Exercise of the Royal Authority.” The Prince of Wales was to exercise kingly powers, which, however, were much shorn in the matters of granting peerages, and granting offices and pensions; whilst the Queen, assisted by a Council, was to have the care of His Majesty's person, and the direction of his household.

As a proof of the sympathy evinced by the people with the King in his illness, all pageantry was omitted on the 9th of November, when the Lord Mayor went to Westminster to be sworn in.

At the close of 1810 the National Debt amounted to the grand total of £811,898,083 12s. 3¾d. Three per Cent. Consols began at 70¾, touched in July 71½, and left off in December 66¼. Wheat averaged 95s. per quarter, and the quartern loaf was, in January, 1s. 4¼d.; June, 1s. 5d.; December, 1s. 3d.

Here ends the chronicle of the First Decade of the Nineteenth Century.

Warrant served on Sir Francis Burdett—He agrees to go to prison—Subsequently he declares the warrant illegal—His arrest—His journey to the Tower—The mob—His incarceration—The mob attack the military—Collision—Killed and wounded—Sir Francis's letter to the Speaker—His release—Conduct of the mob.

UP TO this time the proceedings had been grave and dignified, but Sir Francis imported a ludicrous element into his capture.

Never was any arrest attempted in so gentlemanlike, and obliging a manner.[35] At half-past seven o'clock in the morning, as soon as the division in the House of Commons was known, Mr. Jones Burdett, accompanied by Mr. O'Connor, who had remained all night at the House of Commons, set off in a post chaise to Wimbledon, and informed Sir Francis Burdett of the result. Sir Francis immediately mounted his horse, and rode to town. He found a letter on his table from Mr. Colman, the Serjeant-at-Arms, acquainting him that he had received a warrant, signed by the Speaker, to arrest and convey him to the Tower, and he begged to know when he might wait on him; that it was his wish to show him the utmost respect, and, therefore, if he preferred to take his horse, and ride to the Tower, he would meet him there.

To this very courteous and considerate letter, Sir Francis replied that he should be happy to receive him at noon next day. However, before this letter could reach the Serjeant-at-Arms, he called on Sir Francis, and verbally informed him that he had a warrant against him. Sir Francis told him he should be ready for him at twelve next day, and Mr. Colman bowed, and retired. Indeed it was so evidently the intention of the baronet to go to his place of durance quietly, that, in the evening, he sent a friend to the Tower to see if preparations had been made to receive him, and it was found that every consideration for his comfort had been taken.

But the urbane Serjeant-at-Arms, when he made his report to the Speaker, was mightily scolded by him for not executing his warrant, and at 8 p.m. he called, with a messenger, on Sir Francis, and told him that he had received a severe reprimand from the Speaker for not executing his warrant in the morning, and remaining with his prisoner.

Sir Francis replied that he should not have allowed him to have remained, and that he would not yield a voluntary assent to the warrant, but would only give in, in presence of an overwhelming force. The Serjeant-at-Arms then withdrew, having refused to be the bearer of a letter to the Speaker, which was afterwards conveyed to that dignitary by private hands. In this letter he asserted he would only submit to superior force, and insultingly said, “Your warrant, sir, I believe you know to be illegal. I know it to be so.”

On the morning of the 7th of April another attempt was made by a messenger of the House to serve him with the warrant and arrest him; but, although Sir Francis read it and put it in his pocket, he told the messenger that he might return and inform the Speaker that he would not obey it. The poor man said his orders were to remain there; but he was commanded to retire, and had to go.

Later in the day, between twelve and one, came a troop of Life Guards, who pranced up and down the road and pavement and dispersed the people, who heartily hissed them. A magistrate read the Riot Act; the troops cleared the road, and formed two lines across Piccadilly, where Sir Francis lived; and so strictly was this cordon kept, that they refused to allow his brother to pass to his dinner, until he was accompanied by a constable. Sir Francis wrote to the Sheriffs complaining of his house being beset by a military force.

No further attempt to execute the warrant was made that day, nor on the following day, which was Sunday.

But the majesty of Parliament would brook no further trifling, and on the Monday morning (April 9th), after breakfast, when “Sir Francis was employed in hearing his son (who had just come from Eton school) read and translate Magna Charta,” a man's head was observed looking in at the window, the same man advertising his advent by smashing a pane or two of glass. Great credit was taken that no one threw this man off his ladder, but, probably, the sight of the troops in front of the house, acted as a deterrent. The civil authorities, however, had effected an entrance by the basement, and entered the drawing-room, where a pretty little farce was acted.

“The Serjeant-at-Arms  said: ‘Sir Francis, you are my prisoner.'

Sir Francis. By what authority do you act, Mr. Serjeant? By what power, sir, have you broken into my house, in violation of the laws of the land?

Serjeant. Sir Francis, I am authorized by the warrant of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Sir Francis. I contest the authority of such a warrant. Exhibit to me the legal warrant by which you have dared to violate my house. Where is the Sheriff? Where is the Magistrate?

“At this time there was no magistrate, but he soon afterwards appeared.

Serjeant. Sir Francis, my authority is in my hand: I will read it to you: it is the warrant of the Right Honourable the Speaker of the House of Commons.

“And here Mr. Colman attempted to read the warrant, but which he did with great trepidation.

Sir Francis. I repeat to you, that it is no sufficient warrant. No—not to arrest my person in the open street, much less to break open my house in violation of all law. If you have a warrant from His Majesty, or from a proper officer of the King, I will pay instant obedience to it; but I will not yield to an illegal order.

Serjeant. Sir Francis, I demand you to yield in the name of the Commons House of Parliament, and I trust you will not compel me to use force. I entreat you to believe that I wish to show you every respect.

Sir Francis. I tell you distinctly that I will not voluntarily submit to an unlawful order; and I demand, in the King's name, and in the name of the law, that you forthwith retire from my house.

Serjeant. Then, sir, I must call in assistance, and force you to yield.

“Upon which the constables laid hold of Sir Francis. Mr. Jones Burdett and Mr. O'Connor immediately stepped up, and each took him under an arm. The constables closed in on all three, and drew them downstairs.

Sir Francis  then said: ‘I protest in the King's name against this violation of my person and my house. It is superior force only that hurries me out of it, and you do it at your peril.'”

A coach was ready, surrounded by Cavalry, and Sir Francis and his friends entered it. The possibility of a popular demonstration, or attempt at rescue, was evidently feared, for the escort consisted of two squadrons of the 15th Light Dragoons, two troops of Life Guards, with a magistrate at their head; then came the coach, followed by two more troops of Life Guards, another troop of the 15th Light Dragoons, two battalions of Foot Guards, the rear being formed by another party of the 15th Light Dragoons. After escorting through Piccadilly, the Foot Guards left, and marched straight through the City, to await the prisoner at the Tower.

His escort went a very circuitous route, ending in Moorfields, the result of an arrangement between the authorities and the Lord Mayor, by which, if the one did not go through Temple Bar and the heart of the City, the Lord Mayor would exert all his authority within his bounds, as indeed he did, meeting, and heading, the cavalcade.

During his ride, Sir Francis, as might have been expected, posed, sitting well forward so that he might be well seen. It could hardly be from apathy, for the lower orders considered him as their champion; but, either from the body of accompanying troops, or the curious route taken, the journey to the Tower passed off almost without incident, except a little crying out, until the Minories was reached, when the East End—and it was a hundred times rougher than now—poured forth its lambs to welcome their shepherd. The over-awing force on Tower Hill prevented any absolute outbreak. There were shouts of “Burdett for ever!” and a few of the mob got tumbled into the shallow water of the Tower ditch, whence they emerged, probably all the better for the unwonted wash. No attempt at rescue seems to have been made, and the Tower gates were safely reached. The coach drew up; the Serjeant-at-Arms entered the little wicket to confer with the military authorities; the great gates swung open; the cannon boomed forth their welcome to the prisoner, and Sir Francis was safely caged.

Up to this time the roughs had had no fun; it had been tame work, and, if the military got away unharmed, it would have been a day lost; so brickbats, stones, and sticks were thrown at them without mercy. The soldiers' tempers had been sorely tried; orders were given to fire, and some of the mob fell. The riot was kept up until the troops had left Fenchurch Street, and then the cost thereof was counted in the shape of one killed and eight wounded. A contemporary account says: “The confusion was dreadful, but the effect was the almost immediate dispersion of the mob in every direction. A great part of them seemed in a very advanced state of intoxication and otherwise infuriated to madness, for some time braving danger in every shape. In all the route of the military the streets were crowded beyond all possibility of description; all the shops were shut up, and the most dreadful alarm for some time prevailed.”

There were fears of another riot taking place when night fell, but preparations were made. The Coldstream Guards were under orders, and each man was furnished with thirty rounds of ball cartridge. Several military parties paraded the streets till a late hour, and the cannon in St. James's Park were loaded with ball. Happily, however, all was quiet, and these precautions, although not unnecessary, were un-needed.

Next day the Metropolis was quiet, showing that the sympathy with the frothy hero of the hour, however loud it might be, was not deep. Even at the Tower, which contained all that there was of the origin of this mischief, the extra Guards were withdrawn, and ingress and egress to the fortress were as ordinarily—the prisoner's friends being allowed to visit him freely. This episode may be closed with the consolatory feeling that the one man who was killed had been exceedingly active in attacking the military, and, at the moment when the shot was fired which deprived him of existence, he was in the act of throwing a brickbat at the soldiers. History does not record whether he was accompanied to his grave by weeping brother bricklayers.

We have seen that Sir Francis Burdett proffered a letter, addressed to the Speaker to the Serjeant-at-Arms, which the latter very properly refused to deliver, and, on the 9th of April, this letter formed the subject of a debate in the House of Commons. The Serjeant-at-Arms was examined by the House as to the particulars of the recalcitrant baronet's arrest, and the Speaker added his testimony to the fact of his reproving the Serjeant for not obeying orders. The debate was adjourned until the next day, and it ended, according to Hansard, thus:

“It appearing to be the general sentiment that the Letter should not be inserted on the Journals, the Speaker said he would give directions accordingly. It being also understood that the Amendments moved should not appear on the Journals, the Speaker said he would give directions accordingly, and the question was put as an original motion, ‘That it is the opinion of this House, that the said Letter is a high and flagrant breach of the privileges of the House; but it appearing from the report of the Serjeant-at-Arms attending this House, that the warrant of the Speaker for the commitment of Sir Francis Burdett to the Tower has been executed, this House will not, at this time, proceed further on the said letter.' Agreed nem con.

Then followed a scene that has its parallel in our days, with another demagogue. Sir Francis Burdett commenced actions against the Speaker, the Serjeant-at-Arms, and the Earl of Moira, who was then Governor of the Tower. We know how easily petitions are got up, and this case was no exception; but Sir Francis was kept in well-merited incarceration, until the Prorogation of Parliament on the 21st of June, which set him free. The scene on his liberation is very graphically described by a contemporary:

“The crowd for some time continued but slowly to increase, but towards three o'clock, their numbers were rapidly augmented; and, shortly after three, as fitting a rabble as ever were ‘raked together' appeared on Tower Hill. The bands in the neighbourhood frequently struck up a tune; and the assembled rabble as frequently huzzaed (they knew not why ), and thus between them, for an hour or two, they kept up a scene of continual jollity and uproar.

“The Moorfields Cavalry [36] had by this time arrived at the scene of action. Everything was prepared to carry Sir Francis (like the effigy of Guy Fawkes on the 5th of November) through the City. The air was rent by repeated shouts of ‘Burdett for ever!' ‘Magna Charta!' and ‘Trial by Jury!' The blessings of the last, many of these patriots had doubtless experienced, and were, therefore, justified in expressing themselves with warmth. While these shouts burst spontaneously from the elated rabble, and every eye was turned towards the Tower, with the eagerness of hope, and the anxiety of expectation—on a sudden, intelligence was received that they had all been made fools of by Sir Francis, who, ashamed, probably, of being escorted through the City by such a band of ‘ragged rumped' vagabonds, had left the Tower, crossed the water, and proceeded to Wimbledon.

“To describe the scene which followed—the vexation of the Westminster electors, the mortification of the Moorfields Cavalry, and the despair of ‘The Hope,' in adequate colours, is impossible. Petrified by the news, for some time they remained on the spot undetermined how to act, and affecting to disbelieve the report. Unwilling, however, to be disappointed of their fondest hope—that of showing themselves —they determined on going through the streets in procession, though they could not accompany Sir Francis. The pageant accordingly commenced, the empty  vehicle intended for Sir Francis took that part in the procession which he was to have taken, and the rational part of the mob consoled themselves by reflecting that, as they had originally set out to accompany emptiness  they were not altogether disappointed.

“It was now proposed by some of the mob, that as they could not have the honour of escorting Sir Francis Burdett from the Tower, they should conclude the day by conducting Mr. Gale Jones  from Newgate, and he, shortly after, fell into the procession in a hackney coach.

“On the arrival of the procession in Piccadilly, it went off to the northward, and the vehicles returned by a different route from that which they went. The whole of the streets and windows were crowded, from Tower Hill, to Piccadilly.

“About one o'clock a party of Burdettites from Soho, with blue cockades and colours flying, proceeded down Catherine Street, and the Strand, for the City. They marched two and two. At Catherine Street they were met by the 12th Light Dragoons on their way to Hyde Park Corner. The music of the former was playing St. Patrick's Day. The Band of the Dragoons immediately struck up God save the King. The 14th Light Dragoons followed the 12th; both regiments mustering very strong. All the Volunteers were under orders; and the Firemen belonging to the several Insurance Offices paraded the streets, with music, acting as constables.”

[35]

The account of Sir F. Burdett's arrest, &c., is mainly taken from the Annual Register, vol. lii.

[36]A number of persons on horseback, who met at Moorfields.

1810.

The Scheldt Expedition—The Earl of Chatham and Sir Richard Strachan—The citizens of London and the King—General Fast—Financial disorganization—Issue of stamped dollars—How they were smuggled out of the country—John Gale Jones and John Dean before the House of Commons—Sir Francis Burdett interferes—Publishes libel in Cobbett's Weekly Political Register —Debate in the House—Sir Francis Burdett committed to the Tower.

ALTHOUGH the Walcheren Expedition was undertaken, and failed, in 1809, it was criticized by the country, both in and out of Parliament, in this year.

It started in all its pride, and glory, on the 28th of July, 1809, a beautiful fleet of thirty-nine sail of the line, thirty-six frigates, besides accompanying gunboats and transports. These were under the command of Sir Richard Strachan, Admiral Otway, and Lord Gardner; whilst the land force of forty thousand men was under the chief command of the Earl of Chatham, who was somewhat notorious for his indolence and inefficiency.

At first, the destination of the fleet was kept a profound secret, but it soon leaked out that Vlissing, or Flushing, in the Island of Walcheren, which lies at the mouth of the Scheldt, was the point aimed at. Middleburgh surrendered to the English on the 2nd of August, and on the 15th after a fearful bombardment, the town of Flushing surrendered. General Monnet, the commander, and over five thousand men were taken prisoners of war.

Nothing was done to take advantage of this success, and, on the 27th of August, when Sir Richard Strachan waited upon the Earl of Chatham to learn the steps he intended to take, he found, to his great disgust, that the latter had come to the conclusion not to advance.

About the middle of September, the Earl, finding that a large army was collecting at Antwerp, thought it would be more prudent to leave with a portion of his army for England, and accordingly did so. He resolved to keep Flushing, and the Island of Walcheren, to guard the mouth of the Scheldt, and keep it open for British commerce; but it was a swampy, pestilential place, and the men sickened, and died of fever, until, at last, the wretched remnant of this fine army was obliged to return, and, on the 23rd of December, 1809, Flushing was evacuated.

Popular indignation was very fierce with regard to the Earl of Chatham, and a scathing epigram was made on him, of which there are scarce two versions alike.

“Lord Chatham, with his sword undrawn,
Stood, waiting for Sir Richard Strachan;
Sir Richard, longing to be at ‘em,
Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham.”[33]

The Caricaturists, of course, could not leave such a subject alone, and Rowlandson drew two (September 14, 1809). “A design for a Monument to be erected in commemoration of the glorious and never to be forgotten Grand Expedition, so ably planned and executed in the year 1809.” There is nothing particularly witty about this print. Amongst other things it has a shield on which is William, the great Earl of Chatham, obscured by clouds; and the supporters are on one side a “British seaman in the dumps,” and on the other “John Bull, somewhat gloomy, but for what, it is difficult to guess after so glorious an achievement.” The motto is—

“Great Chatham, with one hundred thousand men,
To Flushing sailed, and then sailed back again.”

And ten days later—on the 24th of September—he published “General Chatham's marvellous return from his Exhibition of Fireworks.”

The citizens of London were highly indignant at the incapacity displayed by the Earl of Chatham, and in December, they, through the Lord Mayor, memorialized the King, begging him to cause inquiry to be made as to the cause of the failure of the expedition; but George the Third did not brook interference, and he gave them a right royal snubbing. His answer was as follows:

“I thank you for your expressions of duty and attachment to me and to my family.

The recent Expedition to the Scheldt was directed to several objects of great importance to the interest of my Allies, and to the security of my dominions.

I regret that, of these objects, a part, only, has been accomplished. I have not judged it necessary to direct any Military Inquiry into the conduct of my Commanders by Sea or Land, in this conjoint service.

It will be for my Parliament, in their wisdom, to ask for such information, or to take such measures upon this subject as they shall judge most conducive to the public good.”

But the citizens, who bore their share of the war right nobly, would not stand this, and they held a Common Hall on the 9th of January, 1810, and instructed their representatives to move, or support, an Address to His Majesty, praying for an inquiry into the failures of the late expeditions to Spain, Portugal, and Holland. They drew up a similar address, and asserted a right to deliver such address, or petition, to the King upon his throne.

Nothing, however, came of it, and when Parliament was opened, by Commission, on the 23rd of January, 1810, that part of His Majesty's speech relating to the Walcheren Expedition was extremely brief and unsatisfactory: “These considerations determined His Majesty to employ his forces on an expedition to the Scheldt. Although the principal ends of this expedition had not been attained, His Majesty confidently hopes that advantages, materially affecting the security of His Majesty's dominions in the further prosecution of the war, will be found to result from the demolition of the docks, and arsenals, at Flushing. This important object His Majesty was enabled to accomplish, in consequence of the reduction of the Island of Walcheren by the valour of his fleets and armies. His Majesty has given directions that such documents and papers should be laid before you, as he trusts will afford satisfactory information upon the subject of this expedition.”

And Parliament had those papers, and fought over them many nights; held, also, a Select Committee on the Scheldt Expedition, and examined many officers thereon; and, finally, on the 30th of March, they divided on what was virtually a vote of censure on the Government, if not carried—a motion declaratory of the approbation of the House in the retention of Walcheren until its evacuation; when the numbers were—

Ayes 255
Noes 232
——
Majority for the Ministry 23
——

John, Earl of Chatham, had, however, to bow to the storm, and resign his post of Master General of the Ordnance; but his Court favour soon befriended him again. Three years afterwards, he was made full General, and on the death of the Duke of York he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar.

The 28th of February was set apart for the Annual Day of Fasting and Humiliation, and in its routine it resembled all others. The Lords went to Westminster Abbey, the Commons to St. Margaret's Church, and the Volunteers had Church Parades.

On the 1st of February, Mr. Francis Horner, M.P. for Wendover, moved for a variety of accounts, and returns, respecting the present state of the circulating medium, and the bullion trade. The price of gold was abnormally high, and paper proportionately depreciated. His conjecture to account for this—and it seems a highly probable one—was that the high price of gold might be produced partly by a larger circulation of Bank of England paper than was necessary, and partly by the new circumstances in which the foreign trade of this country was placed, by which a continual demand for bullion was produced, not merely to discharge the balance of trade, as in the ordinary state of things, but for the purpose of carrying on some of the most important branches of our commerce; such as the purchase of naval stores from the Baltic, and grain from countries under the control and dominion of the enemy.

Recourse was had to an issue of Dollars in order to relieve the monetary pressure; and we read in the Morning Post  of February 22nd, “A large boat full of dollars is now on its way by the canal, from Birmingham. The dollars have all been re-stamped at Messrs. Bolton and Watts, and will be issued on their arrival at the Bank.” These must not be confounded with the old Spanish dollars which were stamped earlier in the century, and about which there was such an outcry as to the Bank refusing to retake them; but from the same handsome die as those struck in 1804 to guard against forgery—having on the Obverse, the King's head, with the legend, “Georgius III. Dei Gratia ”; and on the Reverse, the Royal Arms, within the garter, crowned, and the legend, “Britanniarum Rex. Fidei Defensor ,” and the date.[34]

But these were snapped up, and smuggled out of the country, as we see by a paragraph in the same paper (March 9th): “Thirty thousand of the re-stamped dollars were seized on board a Dutch Schuyt in the river, a few days since. The public are, perhaps, little aware that the Dutch fishermen, who bring us plaice and eels, will receive nothing in return but gold and silver.” This doubtless was so, but no cargo of fish could have been worth 30,000 dollars.

Gold was scarce, as will be seen by the following note: (April 3rd): “Several ships were last week paid at Plymouth all in new gold coin; and, on Saturday last, the artificers belonging to the Dockyard, were paid their wages in new half-guineas. It was pleasing to see the smiles on the men's countenances at the sight of these strangers. The Jews and slop merchants are busily employed in purchasing this desirable coin, and substituting provincial and other bank paper in its room.”

That a large, and profitable, trade was done in smuggling the gold coinage out of the country is evident. Morning Post, 28th of July: “Two fresh seizures have lately been made of guineas, which have for some time been so scarce that it is difficult to conceive whence the supply can have been drawn. A deposit of 9,000 guineas, was on Thursday discovered in a snug  recess, at the head of the mast of a small vessel in the Thames, which had just discharged a cargo of French wheat; another seizure of 4,500 guineas was made at Deal on the preceding day.”

Morning Post, December 10, 1810: “The tide surveyor at Harwich seized, a few days since, on board a vessel at that port, twenty-two bars of gold, weighing 2,870 ounces. He found the gold concealed between the timbers of the vessel, under about thirty tons of shingle ballast.”

In writing the social history of this year, it would be impossible to keep silence as to the episode of Sir Francis Burdett's behaviour, and subsequent treatment.

Curiously enough, it arose out of the Scheldt Expedition. On the 19th of February the Right Hon. Charles Yorke, M.P. for Cambridgeshire, rose, and complained of a breach of privilege in a placard printed by a certain John Dean—which was as follows: “Windham and Yorke, British Forum, 33, Bedford Street, Covent Garden, Monday, Feb. 19, 1810. Question:—Which was the greater outrage upon the public feeling, Mr. Yorke's enforcement of the standing order to exclude strangers from the House of Commons, or Mr. Windham's recent attack upon the liberty of the press? The great anxiety manifested by the public at this critical period to become acquainted with the proceedings of the House of Commons, and to ascertain who were the authors and promoters of the late calamitous expedition to the Scheldt, together with the violent attacks made by Mr. Windham on the newspaper reporters (whom he described as ‘bankrupts, lottery office keepers, footmen, and decayed tradesmen') have stirred up the public feeling, and excited universal attention. The present question is therefore brought forward as a comparative inquiry, and may be justly expected to furnish a contested and interesting debate. Printed by J. Dean, 57, Wardour Street.” It was ordered that the said John Dean do attend at the bar of the house the next day.

He did so, and pleaded that he was employed to print the placard by John Gale Jones—and the interview ended with John Dean being committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms—and John Gale Jones, was ordered to attend the House next day.

When he appeared at the bar, he acknowledged that he was the author of the placard, and regretted that the printer should have been inconvenienced. That he had always considered it the privilege of every Englishman to animadvert on public measures, and the conduct of public men; but that, on looking over the paper again, he found he had erred, and, begging to express his contrition, he threw himself on the mercy of the House.

John Dean, meanwhile, had presented a petition, acknowledging printing the bill, but that it was done by his workmen without his personal attention. He was ordered to be brought to the bar, reprimanded, and discharged—all which came to pass. Gale, however, was committed to Newgate, where he remained until the 21st of June, when Parliament rose, in spite of a motion of Sir Samuel Romilly (April 16th) that he be discharged from his confinement; the House divided—Ayes 112; Noes 160; majority for his further imprisonment, 48.

On a previous occasion (March 12th), Sir Francis Burdett had moved his discharge, but, on a division, fourteen only were for it, and 153 against it. In his speech he denied the legal right of the House to commit any one to prison for such an offence—and he published in Cobbett's Weekly Political Register  of Saturday, March 24, 1810, a long address: “Sir Francis Burdett to his Constituents; denying the power of the House of Commons to imprison the People of England.” It is too long to reproduce, but its tone may be judged of, by the following extract: “At this moment, it is true, we see but one man actually in jail for having displeased those Gentlemen; but the fate of this one man (as is the effect of punishments) will deter others from expressing their opinions of the conduct of those who have had the power, to punish him. And, moreover, it is in the nature of all power, and especially of assumed and undefined power, to increase as it advances in age; and, as Magna Charta and the law of the land have not been sufficient to protect Mr. Jones; as we have seen him sent to jail for having described the conduct of one of the members, as an outrage upon public feeling, what security have we, unless this power of imprisonment be given up, that we shall not see other men sent to jail for stating their opinion respecting Rotten Boroughs, respecting Placemen, and Pensioners, sitting in the House; or, in short, for making any declaration, giving any opinion, stating any fact, betraying any feeling, whether by writing, by word of mouth, or by gesture, which may displease any of the Gentlemen assembled in St. Stephen's Chapel?” This was supplemented by a most elaborate “Argument,” and on the 27th of March the attention of Parliament was called thereto by Mr. Lethbridge, M.P. for Somerset.

The alleged breach of privilege was read by a clerk, and Sir Francis was called upon to say whatever he could, in answer to the charge preferred against him. He admitted the authorship both of the Address and Argument and would stand the issue of them. Mr. Lethbridge then moved the following resolutions: “1st. Resolved that the Letter signed Francis Burdett, and the further Argument, which was published in the paper called Cobbett's Weekly Register, on the 24th of this instant, is a libellous and scandalous paper, reflecting upon the just rights and privileges of this House. 2nd. Resolved, That Sir Francis Burdett, who suffered the above articles to be printed with his name, and by his authority, has been guilty of a violation of the privileges of this House.”

The debate was the fiercest of the session. It was adjourned to the 28th, and the 5th of April, when Mr. Lethbridge's resolutions were agreed to without a division, and Sir Robert Salusbury, M.P. for Brecon, moved that Sir Francis Burdett be committed to the Tower. An amendment was proposed that he be reprimanded in his place; but, on being put, it was lost by 190 to 152—38, and at seven o'clock in the morning of the 6th of April, Sir Francis's doom was decreed.

[33]This version is taken from “The Life of the Right Hon. George Canning,” by Robert Bell, London, 1846. The first line, however, is generally rendered, “The Earl of Chatham, with his sword drawn.”

[34]The number of dollars issued by the Bank of England to February 8, 1810, inclusive, was:

Dollars stamped in 1797 and issued 2,325,099
1804 1,419,484
1809 and 1810 1,073,051
————
Total 4,817,634
————