第一章 中国共产党的创立和投身大革命的洪流 (4)

THE ADMIRALTY, LONDON.

It was no wonder that Spain, feeling the serious effects of this state of things, should resist it; and when she did so, and exerted an unusual degree of vigilance, then the most terrible outcries were raised, and wonderful stories were circulated of Spanish cruelties to our people beyond the Atlantic. At this time the Opposition got hold of one of these, and made the House of Commons and the nation resound with it. It was, that one Captain Robert Jenkins, who had been master of a sloop trading from Jamaica, had been boarded and searched by a Coastguard, and treated in a most barbarous manner, though they could detect no proof of smuggling in his vessel. He said that the Spanish captain had cut off one of his ears, bidding him carry it to his king, and tell his Majesty that if he were present he would treat him in the same manner. This story was now seven years old, but it was not the less warmly received on that account. It excited the utmost horror, and Jenkins was ordered to appear at the bar of the House of Commons on the 16th of March, to give an account of the outrage himself; and it would appear that both he and other witnesses were examined the same day. Jenkins carried his ear about with him wrapped in cotton, to show to those to whom he related the fact, and the indignation was intense. He was asked by a member how he felt when he found himself in the hands of such barbarians, and he replied, "I recommended my soul to God, and my cause to my country." The worthy skipper had probably been crammed with this dramatic sentiment by some of his clever Parliamentary introducers; but its effect was all the same as if it had been a genuine and involuntary expression of his own mind. Researches made at the Admiralty in 1889 proved that he really had lost an ear. It was time, if they were to avoid a battle. Cumberland was already on the march from Edinburgh. He quitted Holyrood on the 31st of January, and the insurgents only commenced their retreat the next morning, the 1st of February, after spiking their guns. With this force the prince continued his march towards Inverness, a fleet accompanying him along the coast with supplies and ammunition. On nearing Inverness, he found it rudely fortified by a ditch and palisade, and held by Lord Loudon with two thousand men. Charles took up his residence at Moray Castle, the seat of the chief of the Macintoshes. The chief was in the king's army with Lord Loudon, but Lady Macintosh espoused the cause of the prince zealously, raised the clan, and led them out as their commander, riding at their head with a man's bonnet on her head, and pistols at her saddle-bow. Charles, the next morning, the 17th of February, called together his men, and on the 18th marched on Inverness. Lord Loudon did not wait for his arrival, but got across the Moray Firth with his soldiers, and accompanied by the Lord-President Forbes, into Cromarty. He was hotly pursued by the Earl of Cromarty and several Highland regiments, and was compelled to retreat into Sutherland. Charles entered Inverness, and began to attack the British forts. Fort George surrendered in a few days, and in it they obtained sixteen pieces of cannon and a considerable stock of ammunition and provisions.

On the 24th of June Lord John Russell proposed his second edition of the Reform Bill, which did not substantially differ from the first. His speech on this occasion was a perfect contrast to the one with which he had introduced the measure at first. There was no longer any hesitation or timidity. He was no longer feeling his way doubtfully on an untried path, or navigating without compass along a dangerous coast. He boldly launched out to sea, with his eye steadily fixed on the north star, certain of his course and confident of the issue. The discussions of the previous Session had thrown a flood of light upon the whole question. Sustained by the enthusiasm of the people, and animated by the sympathy of the majority around him on the Ministerial benches, he spoke as if a greater and more vigorous mind had taken possession of his frame. He was strong in argument, cutting in sarcasm, defiant in tone, powerful in declamation. Borne by the power of[337] public opinion to a higher and more commanding position, and proudly conscious of the elevation, he seemed ashamed of the petty proposals of former years, and felt his heart as well as his intellect expanding to the greatness of the new position. The Bill was read a first time without opposition, the discussion being expressly reserved by Sir Robert Peel for the second reading, which was fixed for the 4th of July. In the meantime the Irish Bill was brought in by Mr. Stanley on the 30th of June, Messrs. O'Connell and Sheil complaining bitterly of the difference existing, to the disadvantage of Ireland, between the proposed plans of Reform for the two countries. On the following day the Lord Advocate brought in the Bill relating to Scotland. On the 4th of July Lord John Russell moved the second reading of the English Reform Bill. A debate of three nights followed, containing little or no novelty in the argument, nothing but a wearisome repetition of points that had been discussed all over the country, hundreds of times, during the last few months. The most interesting feature was the attitude of Sir Robert Peel, who unfortunately placed himself in the front of the battle against Reform, in which he proved himself so able a general that all enlightened friends of the country lamented his false position. It was remarked, however, that he confined himself to a criticism of details. The House of Commons received the speech with enthusiasm, and carried up an address of thanks in a body. Very different, however, was the reception of the speech in the House of Lords. Lord Wharton proposed that in the address they should declare themselves against a separate peace, and the Duke of Marlborough supported that view. He said that for a year past the measures pursued were directly opposed to her Majesty's engagement with the Allies, had sullied the glories of her reign, and would render our name odious to all nations. Lord Strafford, who had come over from the Hague purposely to defend the Government policy, and his own share in it at Utrecht, asserted that the opposition of the[6] Allies would not have been so obstinate had they not been encouraged by a certain member of that House who corresponded with them, and stimulated them by assurances that they would be supported by a large party in England. This blow aimed at Marlborough called up Lord Cowper, who directed his sarcasm against Strafford on the ground of his well-known illiterate character, observing that the noble lord had been so long abroad that he had forgotten not only the language but the constitution of his country; that according to our laws it could never be a crime in an individual to correspond with its allies, but that it was a crime to correspond, as certain persons did, with the common enemy, unknown to the allies, and to their manifest prejudice. The amendment of Lord Wharton, however, was rejected, and the protest, entered against its rejection by twenty peers and bishops, was voted violent and indecorous, and erased from the journal.

The South Sea Company had immediately on the passing of the Bill proposed a subscription of one million, and this was so eagerly seized on that, instead of one, two millions were subscribed. To stimulate this already too feverish spirit in the public, the Company adopted the most false and unjustifiable means. They had eight millions and a half to pay over to Government as a douceur for granting them the management of the Funds; and, therefore, to bring this in rapidly, they propagated the most lying rumours. It was industriously circulated that Lord Stanhope had received overtures at Paris to exchange Gibraltar and Port Mahon for invaluable gold lands in Peru! The South Sea trade was vaunted as a source of boundless wealth in itself. In August the stock had risen from the one hundred and thirty of the last winter to one thousand! Men sold houses and land to become shareholders; merchants of eminence neglected their affairs and crippled their resources to reap imaginary profits. The Company flattered the delusion to the utmost. They opened a third, and even a fourth subscription, larger than the former, and passed a resolution that from next Christmas their yearly dividend should not be less than fifty per cent.! In labouring to increase the public delusion they seem to have caught the contagion themselves, for they began to act, not like men who were blowing a bubble which they knew must speedily burst, but like persons who had mounted permanently into the very highest seat of prosperous power. They assumed the most arrogant and overbearing manner, even towards men of the highest station and influence. "We have made them kings," said a member of Parliament, "and they deal with everybody as such."