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NAPOLEON ABANDONING HIS ARMY. (See p. 54.) [422]

In connection with this reform an Act was passed which supplied a great wantnamely, the uniform registration of marriages, births, and deaths. The state of the law on these matters had been very unsatisfactory, notwithstanding a long series of enactments upon the subject. Although the law required the registration of births and deaths, it made no provision for recording the date at which either occurred, and so it was essentially defective. It only provided records of the performance of the religious ceremonies of baptism, marriage, and burial, according to the rites of the Established Church, affording, therefore, an insufficient register even for the members of that Church; while for those who dissented from it, and consequently did not avail themselves of its services for baptism and burial, it afforded no register at all. Even this inadequate system was not fully and regularly carried out, and the loud and long-continued complaints on the subject led to an inquiry by a select Committee of the House of Commons in 1833. In order, therefore, to secure a complete and trustworthy record of vital statistics, the committee recommended "a national civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths, including all ranks of society, and religionists of every class." In pursuance of these recommendations, a General Registration Bill was brought into Parliament; and in August, 1836, the Act for registering marriages, births, and deaths in England became law, as a companion to the Marriage Act, which passed at the same time. Their operation, however, was suspended for a limited time by the Act of 7 William IV., c. 1, and they were amended by the Act of 1 Victoria, c. 22, and came into operation on the 1st of July, 1837. One of the most important and useful provisions of this measure was that which required the cause of death to be recorded, with the time, locality, sex, age, and occupation, thus affording data of the highest importance to medical science, and to all who were charged with the preservation of the public health. In order that fatal diseases might be recorded in a uniform manner, the Registrar-General furnished qualified medical practitioners with books of printed forms"certificates of cause of death"to be filled up and given to registrars of births and deaths; and he caused to be circulated a nosological table of diseases, for the purpose of securing, as far as possible, uniformity of nomenclature in the medical certificates. In order to carry out this measure, a central office was established at Somerset House, London, presided over by an officer named the Registrar-General, appointed under the Great Seal, under whom was a chief clerk, who acted as his secretary and assistant registrar-general, six superintendents, and a staff of clerks, who were appointed by the Lords of the Treasury. From this office emanated instructions to all the local officers charged with the duties of registration under the Actsuperintendent registrars, registrars of births and deaths, and registrars of marriages, any of whom might be dismissed by the Registrar-General, on whom devolved the entire control and responsibility of the operations.

Such was the state of things with which the Duke of Wellington had to deal as British plenipotentiary when he left London on his mission early in September, taking Paris on his way. There he had some interesting conferences with the king and his Minister. The latter could hold out no hope that France would fulfil her engagements as to the slave trade. He spoke, indeed, of their African settlements as useless to the French people, and proposed to make them over to Britain in exchange for the Isle of France; but farther than this he declined to go, because there were too many interests, both public and private, engaged to thwart his efforts, should he be so unwise as to make any. His language with regard to South America was not less vague and unsatisfactory. He stated that France had not entered into relations with those provinces in any form, and did not intend to do so till they should have settled their differences with Spain one way or another. M. de Villele did not add, as he might have done, that France was feeling her way towards the severance of Spain from her colonies, and towards the establishment in the New World of one or two monarchies, with younger branches of the House of Bourbon at their head. This armament, with which Sir John Falstaff certainly would not have marched through Coventry, arrived off Tosa, on the coast of Catalonia, on the 1st of August. The brave Catalans, who had given the French more trouble than all the[30] Spaniards besides, were rejoiced at the idea of a British army coming to aid them in rooting out the French; but Maitland received discouraging information from some Spaniards as to the forces and capabilities of Suchet, and refused to land there. Admiral Sir Edward Pellew and Captain Codrington in vain urged him to land, declaring that the Spaniards with whom he had conferred were traitors. Maitland called a council of war, and it agreed with him in opinion. This was precisely what Lord Wellington had complained of to Lord William Bentinck, who had propagated the most discouraging opinions amongst the officers regarding the service in Spain. He had assured him that a discouraged army was as good as no army whatever. The fleet then, much to the disappointment of the Catalans, conveyed the force to the bay of Alicante, and there landed it on the 9th of August. Suchet, who was lying within sight of that port, immediately retired, and Maitland, so long as he withdrew, marched after him, and occupied the country; but soon hearing that King Joseph was marching to reinforce Suchet, and that Soult was likely to join them, he again evacuated the country, cooped himself up in Alicante, and lay there, of no use whatever as a diversion in favour of Wellington, who was liable at Madrid to be gradually surrounded by a hundred thousand men. Wellington must proceed against one of the French armies, north or south. Had a proper force, with a bold commander, been sent to the south, he could soon have dealt with the northern enemies. A more dubious necessity now lay before him; but it required no long deliberation as to which way he should move. Clausel was expecting reinforcements from France, and he proposed to attack him before they could arrive.

Mr. Smith O'Brien returned to London, took his seat in the House of Commons, and spoke on the Crown and Government Securities Bill, the design of which was to facilitate prosecutions for political offences. He spoke openly of the military strength of the Republican party in Ireland, and the probable issue of an appeal to arms. But his[567] address produced a scene of indescribable commotion and violence, and he was overwhelmed in a torrent of jeers, groans, and hisses, while Sir George Grey, in replying to him, was cheered with the utmost enthusiasm. The king rejoiced too soon. The announcement to the public of the queen's death was the knell of the popularity which he had recently acquired. There was an immediate and powerful reaction in the public mind against the king, which was strengthened by the ungracious measures adopted in connection with her funeral. There was a clause in her will to this effect:"I desire and direct that my body be not opened, and that three days after my death it be carried to Brunswick for interment; and that the inscription on my coffin be, 'Here lies Caroline of Brunswick, the injured Queen of England.'" The Government were very anxious to have the corpse sent out of the kingdom immediately, in order that its presence might not interfere with the festivities in Ireland; they therefore wished to have the remains dispatched at once to Harwich for embarkation. Lady Hood appealed in vain to Lord Liverpool for some delay on the ground that the queen's ladies were not prepared to depart so soon, at the same time protesting against any military escort. The military guard was an ostensible honour; but its real object was to prevent popular manifestations detrimental to the Government in connection with the funeral. The friends of the queen could not even learn by what route the body would be conveyed. It should have gone through the City, where the Lord Mayor and Corporation announced their intention of following the hearse; but to prevent that honour, it was ordered that the corpse should be sent round by the New Road[218] to Romford. The funeral passed from Hammersmith to Kensington Church without obstruction; there the conductors were turning off from the way to the City, in order to get into the Bayswater Road, when they were met by a loud cry of wrath and execration from the multitude. In a few minutes the road was dug up, barricaded, and rendered impassable. The Life Guards and the chief magistrate of Bow Street appeared, and seeing the impossibility of forcing a passage, they ordered the cortge to proceed on the direct route through the City, amidst thundering shouts of victory that might have appalled the king had he heard them. In the meantime the multitude had been rushing through the parks in mighty surging masses, now in one direction and now in another, according to the varying reports as to the course the procession was to take. Orders had been issued from the Government that it should go through the Kensington gate of Hyde Park, but the people closed the gates, and assumed such a fierce and determined attitude of resistance that the authorities were again compelled to give way, and again the popular shouts of victory sounded far and wide. Peremptory orders were given by the Government to pass up the Park into the Edgware Road, either by the east side or through Park Lane. In the effort to do this the line of procession was broken, the hearse was got into the Park, and hurried onwards to Cumberland Gate; but the people had outrun the military, and again blocked up the way in a dense mass. Here a collision ensued: the populace had used missiles; the military were irritated, and having had peremptory orders, they fired on the people, wounding many and killing two. But the people, baffled for the moment, made another attempt. At Tottenham Court Road the Guards found every way closely blocked up, except the way to the City. In this way, therefore, they were compelled to move, amidst the exulting shouts of the multitude. Seeking an outlet to the suburbs at every turn in vain, the procession was forced down Drury Lane into the Strand. The passage under Temple Bar was accompanied by the wildest possible excitement and shouts of exultation. The Corporation functionaries assembled in haste and accompanied the funeral to Whitechapel. On the whole way to Romford, we read, that not only the direct, but the cross roads, were lined with anxious spectators. The shops were closed, the bells were tolling, mourning dresses were generally worn, and in every direction symptoms abounded of the deep feeling excited by the death of the queen. The funeral cortge rested for the night at Colchester, the remains being placed in St. Peter's Church. There the plate with the inscription "injured Queen" was taken off, and another substituted. At Harwich the coffin was unceremoniously conveyed to the Glasgow frigate. At length the remains arrived at their last resting-place in a vault beneath the cathedral at Brunswick. The events that followed form part of the general history of that time. The Government well knew that they were more popular in the country than their opponents. In the few days that succeeded, during which men were doubtful if they would resign, the Minister had had time to feel the power of that popularity, and the value of the support of the Free Trade party. To satisfy the selfish expectations of the more bigoted of his own supporters must have seemed to him more and more helpless. To break with them, and to look elsewhere for the support which their vindictiveness would inevitably render necessaryto become less a leader of a class, and more a statesman seeking the true foundations of power in a steady regard to the welfare of the great bulk of the communitywere ideas naturally present to the Minister's mind. When he met Parliament again to announce the determination of the Government to ask the House to reconsider its decision, his tone was observed to be more bitter than before. His allusions to the defections of his own followers were significant; but they plainly indicated that his course was taken. "We cannot conceal from ourselves," he said, "that in respect to some of the measures we have proposed, and which have been supported, they have not met with that cordial assent and agreement from those for whose character and opinions we entertain the[514] highest and sincerest respect. But I am bound to say, speaking here of them with perfect respect, that we cannot invite their co-operation and support upon the present occasion by holding out expectations that we shall take a middle or other course with regard to those measures which we believe to be best for the interests of the country, and consistent with justice." This modest but firm defiance of the ultra-Protectionist party was not lost upon the Free Traders in the House; neither were the Minister's further remarks"We have thought it desirable to relax the system of Protection, and admit into competition with articles of the domestic produce of this country articles from foreign lands. We have attempted to counsel the enforcement of principles which we believe to be founded in truth, and with every regard for existing institutions, and with every precaution to prevent embarrassment and undue alarm."

From the Painting by Andrew C. Gow, R.A.