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"It smells horribly," she exclaimed, dropping it on the floor, "it smells of hospitalsdisinfectants." But she stooped and picked it up again.Marlborough landed at Dover on the day of the queen's death, where he was received with the warmest acclamations and tokens of the highest popularity. He was met on his approach to London by a procession of two hundred gentlemen, headed by Sir Charles Coxe, member for Southwark. As he drew nearer this procession was joined by a long train of carriages. It was like a triumph; and Bothmar, the Hanoverian Minister, wrote home that it was as if he had gained another battle at H?chst?dt (Blenheim) that he would be of great service in case the Pretender should make any attempt, but that he was displeased that he was not in the regency, or that any man except the king should be higher in the country than he. He went straight to the House of Lords to take the oaths to the king; but at Temple Bar his carriage broke down, to the great delight of the people, because it compelled him to come out and enter another, by which they got a good view of him. Having taken the oaths, he retired into the country till the arrival of the king, disgusted at his not being in the regency.
"Think it over, in any case," urged Forbes; "I am going in, good night."
CHAPTER X. REIGN OF WILLIAM IV. (continued).Parliament was opened by commission on the 5th of February, 1829. The state of Ireland was the chief topic of the Royal Speech. The existence of the Catholic Association was referred to as inimical to the public peace; and its suppression was recommended, as a necessary preliminary to the consideration of the disabilities affecting the Roman Catholics. This part of the Speech excited much interest, as preluding the great contest of the Session. On the 4th Mr. Peel had written to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, resigning his seat for the University, which he had won from Canning on the strength of his anti-Catholic principles. He need not have resigned, but he acted the more honourable part. Having offered himself for re-election, he was opposed by Sir Robert Inglis, who, after a contest which lasted three days, during which 1,364 votes were polled, was elected by a majority of 146. As one of the most numerous convocations ever held in Oxford had, in the previous year, by a majority of three to one, voted against concession to the Roman Catholics, it was a matter of surprise that the Home Secretary was not defeated by a larger majority. He secured a seat with some difficulty at Westbury. On the 10th, Mr. Peel, while still member for Oxford, introduced the first of the three measures intended for the pacification of Irelanda Bill for the suppression of the Catholic Association. As it was known to be an essential condition of granting Emancipation, there was little opposition to it either in Parliament or in Ireland. By it the Lord-Lieutenant was empowered to disperse the meetings of any association he thought dangerous to the public peace. The Bill quickly passed both Houses, and in a few days received the Royal Assent. Anticipating the action of the executive, the Association, on the 12th of February, dissolved itself, with the unanimous concurrence of the bishops, Mr. Sheil stating at the meeting that he was authorised to throw twenty-two mitres into the scale.
A great raid of reform was made in the Opposition, and it fell first on the corruption of the boroughs, both in Scotland and England. The subject was brought on, as it were, incidentally. An Enclosure Bill, affecting some parts of the New Forest, Hampshire, was attacked, as a job intended to benefit Pitt's staunch supporter, George Rose, who had rapidly risen from an obscure origin to the post of Secretary to the Treasury. Rose had a house and small estate in the Forest, and there was a universal outcry, both in Parliament and in the public press, that, in addition to the many sinecures of the fortunate Rose, there was also a sop intended for him at the cost of the Crown lands. The reformers were successful in casting much blame on Ministers, and they followed it up by charging Rose with bribing one Thomas Smith, a publican in Westminster, to procure votes for the Ministerial candidate, Lord Hood. Though the motion for a committee of the House to inquire into the particulars of this case was defeated, yet the debates turned the attention of the country on the scandalous bribery going on in boroughs. The Scots, the countrymen of Rose, petitioned for an inquiry into the condition of their boroughs. Of the sixty-six boroughs, petitions for such inquiry came from fifty. They complained that the members and magistrates of those corporations were self-elected, and by these means the rights and property of the inhabitants were grievously invaded.
The statement of the Ministerial measure on the Corn Laws was fixed for the 9th of February. At five o'clock the Ministers moved that the paragraph in the Queen's Speech relating to the Corn Laws be read by the Clerk. This having been done, and the House having resolved itself into a committee to consider the laws relating to corn, Sir Robert Peel proceeded to explain the measure which he was about to introduce for their modification. The reception of the Premier's statement was not flattering. Listened to in watchful silence till he unfolded the details of the new sliding scale, he was then hailed from the Opposition benches with shouts of triumphant derision. The Whigs were relieved at finding that at least his measure was not calculated to be more popular out of doors than the fixed duty which they had proposed; but from his own side Sir Robert received little support. His customary cheerers were mute, and round him were black faces when he spoke of not wishing corn prices to range higher than 54s. to 58s. Towards the close of his speech there was a painful inattention, to which he could not refrain from alluding. The dead silence which prevailed while he was reading the proposed scale was followed, when he had concluded, by a great deal of laughter along the line of the Opposition benches, and a loud buzz of conversation on both sides of the House ensued, which did not quite subside during the remainder of the speech. The details of the measure were recapitulated by the Minister as follow:
That night Charles and his chief officers lay at Culloden House, the seat of the able and patriotic Lord-President, Duncan Forbes; but the troops were obliged to lie on the moor amid the heather, which served them both for beds and fuel, the cold being very severe. They were up early in the morning, and formed in order of battle on Drummossie Muir, the part of the heath of Culloden near to Culloden House. No enemy, however, appeared, and there the poor hungry men lay for most of the day with no other food than a biscuit per man. A council of war being called, Lochiel stated this fact as a plea for delay; Lord John Drummond, the Duke of Perth, and others, were of the same opinion; but Lord George Murray declared for making a night march, and surprising the duke's army whilst it would lie, as they supposed, asleep in a drunken debauch. Charles, who had the same idea, but had not yet broached it, embraced Lord George with ardour, declaring it of all things his own wish. The idea was adopted, yet the slightest military wisdom would have shown them the futility of the scheme. The men were in a general state, not only of famine, but of discontent, from the non-payment of their arrears. The night was dark, and the men soon began to stumble through bog and mire, making their march heavy, and causing them to curse and swear. It was soon found that they were so feeble and incapable of walking, even, to say nothing of fighting after a fourteen or fifteen miles' march, on empty stomachs, that it was impossible to make the rear keep up with the van. They had calculated on being at Nairn at two o'clock, but it was that hour before they had all passed Kilravock House, only four miles from the English camp. It was clear that it would be daylight long before they reached Nairn, and they could only get there to be slaughtered in helplessness, for they would be too tired either to fight or run away. It was therefore agreed to return.