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"Know, then, 'twas I;
In the opening of the reign the gentlemen retained the full-skirted coat, with huge cuffs, the cocked-hats and knee-breeches of the former period. Pigtails were universal, and the more foppish set up their hair in a high peak, like the women. The ladies had their hair turned up on frames half a yard high, and this hairy mountain was ornamented with strings of pearls or diamonds, or surmounted with a huge cap edged with lace. They wore their waists as long as possible, with a peaked stomacher, and hanging sleeves of Mecklenburg lace. Their gowns were of the richest silks, satins, and brocades, their skirts flowing; and the fan was an indispensable article.During this period a vast empire was beginning to unfold itself in the East Indies, destined to produce a vast trade, and pour a perfect mine of wealth into Great Britain. The victories of Clive, Eyre Coote, and others, were telling on our commerce. During the early part of this period this effect was slow, and our exports to India and China up to 1741 did not average more than 148,000 per annum in value. Bullion, however, was exported to pay expenses and to purchase tea to an annual amount of upwards of half a million. Towards the end of this period, however, our exports to India and China amounted annually to more than half a million; and the necessity for the export of bullion had sunk to an annual demand for less than 100,000. The amount of tea imported from China during this period rose from about 140,000 pounds annually to nearly 3,000,000 pounds annuallyan enormous increase.
But if Great Britain was prosperous, the affairs of Canada got into a very disturbed state, and became a source of trouble for some time to the Government in the mother country. To the conflicting elements of race and religion were added the discontents arising from misgovernment by a distant Power not always sufficiently mindful of the interests of the colony. For many years after Lower Canada, a French province, had come into the possession of Britain, a large portion of the country westwardlying along the great lakesnow known as Upper Canada, nearly double the extent of England, was one vast forest, constituting the Indian hunting-ground. In 1791, when by an Act of the Imperial Parliament the colony received a constitution, and was divided into Upper and Lower Canada, with separate legislatures, the amount of the white population in Upper Canada was estimated at 50,000. Twenty years later it had increased to 77,000, and in 1825 emigration had swelled its numbers to 158,000, which in 1830 was increased to 210,000, and in 1834 the population exceeded 320,000, the emigration for the last five years having proceeded at the rate of 12,000 a year. The disturbances which arose in 1834 caused a check to emigration; but when tranquillity was restored it went on rapidly increasing, till, in 1852, it was nearly a million. The increase of wealth was not less remarkable. The total amount of assessable property, in 1830, was 1,854,965; 1835, 3,407,618; 1840, 4,608,843; 1845, 6,393,630.
This majority of the Coalition compelled Lord Shelburne to resign; but the rest of the Administration remained in their places, in the hope that Pitt would now take the Premiership. In fact, the king, on the 24th of February, sent for Pitt and proposed this to him; but Pitt was too sensible of the impossibility of maintaining himself against the present combination of parties. The next day Dundas moved and carried an adjournment for three days, to give time for the arrangement of a new Cabinet. Pitt continued to persist in declining to take the Premiership, and on the 2nd or 3rd of March the king sent for Lord North. His proposal was that North should resume the management of affairs; but North insisted on bringing in his new friends, and to that the king objected. Matters remained in this impracticable condition till the 12th, when the king sent for North, and proposed that the Duke of Portland should be asked to form an Administration; but this did not at all advance matters, for Portland was equally determined with North to maintain the Coalition, and the king was resolved to have nothing to do with Fox, whilst Fox was equally determined not to admit the king's friend, Lord Stormont, to any Cabinet of which he was a member. On the 31st the announcement was made that Pitt had resigned, and that the king was prepared to submit to the terms of the Coalition. George, with deep and inward groans, submitted himself once more to the slavery of the great Whig houses, and, as some small recompense, the Coalition admitted Lord Stormont to a place in the Cabinet.
Not only in Parliament, but everywhere the cry for Reform rose with the distress. Hampden Clubs were founded in every town and village almost throughout the kingdom, the central one being held at the "Crown and Anchor" in the Strand, London, its president being Sir Francis Burdett, and its leading members being William Cobbett, Major Cartwright, Lord Cochrane, Henry Hunt, and others. The object of these clubs was to prosecute the cause of Parliamentary reform, and to unite the Reformers in one system of action. With the spirit of Reform arose, too, that of cheap publications, which has now acquired such a vast power. William Cobbett's Political Register, on the 18th of November, 1816, was reduced from a shilling and a halfpenny to twopence, and thence-forward became a stupendous engine of Reform, being read everywhere by the Reformers, and especially by the working-classes in town and country, by the artisan in the workshop, and the shepherd on the mountain. The great endeavour of Cobbett was to show the people the folly of breaking machinery, and the wisdom of moral union.On the 12th of February Sir James Graham moved for the reduction of the salaries of all persons holding offices under Government, in proportion to the enhanced value of money produced by the Bank Restriction Act, which added to the weight of all fixed payments while it lowered wages and the price of provisions. "Hence," he said, "the miserable state to which the people of this country were now reduced, and the necessity for rigid, unsparing economy; and in that system of economy one great source of retrenchment must be the reduction of the salaries of those who had their hands in the public purse. Justice requires, necessity demands it." Ministers did not dare to resist this motion openly. They evaded it by an amendment, which was unanimously adopted, for an Address to the king, requesting him to order an inquiry to be made into all the departments of the Civil Government, with a view of reducing the number of persons employed in the various Services, and the amount of their salaries. On the 15th Mr. Hume attempted to carry retrenchment into the Army and Navy, moving a resolution to the effect that the former should be reduced by 20,000 men, and the latter by the sum of a million and a half. All the reductions he proposed would have effected a saving of eight millions annually. But neither the Whigs nor the Canning party were disposed to go such lengths. The motion was, therefore, defeated, the minority consisting solely of Radical reformers, who mustered fifty-seven on the division. Another assault on the Government was led on by Mr. Poulett Thompson, who moved for the appointment of a Committee for a Revision of the system of Taxation with a view to saving expense in the mode of collecting the revenue. The motion was resisted by Mr Peel on the ground that such important duties should not be delegated to a fraction of the members of the House. The motion was rejected by a large majority. A few days later, however, Ministers sustained a damaging defeat in the Committee of Supply on the Navy estimates. Two young men, who had been public servants for a few months only, Mr. R. Dundas and Mr. W. S. Bathurst, Junior Commissioners of the Navy, had been pensioned off on the reduction of their offices, the one with 400 and the other with 500 a year. The arrangement was attacked as a gross job and defended upon principle, and Ministers after mustering all their strength were beaten by a majority of 139 to 121, on the motion that those pensions should be struck off. Several other motions, brought forward with a view of effecting retrenchments, were rejected by the House. This movement in the direction of financial reform, no doubt, received an impulse from the resentment of the leading Whigs, whose claims to take part in the Government were ignored by the Duke. But this remark does not apply to the efforts of Mr. Attwood and Mr. Baring, who moved that instead of a gold standard there should be a gold and silver standard, and that the Act for prohibiting the issue of small notes should be repealed. They strengthened their case by an appeal to the facts of the existing distress and commercial depression arising from a restricted currency. On the part of the Government, however, it was argued that a double standard of gold and silver would cause a loss of five per cent, to creditors if debtors were to pay in the silver standardthat the whole country would be a scene of confusion and ruinthat silver never was in practice the standard of the country, and that it never had been actually in a state to be used as a legal tender. Latterly the law had enacted that it should not be a legal tender beyond twenty-five pounds. By weight, indeed, it was a legal tender to any amount, but practically it had become so depreciated that there was no such thing as a standard by weight. Mr. Attwood's resolutions on the currency were negatived without a division.