Hnh ảnh trang
PDF
ePub

the transaction, and his conversation with Thistlewood at the moment of execution, were animadverted on with great severity, especially by Mr. Canning and the attorney general. He had heard, said the attorney general, of instances, in which, after persons had been convicted of atrocious offences, attempts had been made by benevolent individuals to remove all doubt concerning the justice of the sentence, by persuading them to confess their guilt: he had heard of instances, in which, where criminals had persisted, like Thistlewood, to the last moment, in denying Christianity, benevolent individuals had endeavoured to correct their errors even at the hour of execution, and to render them more fit for appearing in the presence of their Creator; but this was the first time, and he hoped to God it would be the last, in which he had heard of any one attending at such a time with pocket questions, framed to induce answers which might suit a particular purpose. "Who tutored the worthy alderman," said Mr. Canning, "I know not, or whether he acted from himself; but, it is known, that at the last awful moment he had tempted the wretched Thistlewood to repeat the lie which he had formerly told. What good angel interfered to prevent it, I cannot say, but he did resist the temptation, and for this we owe the worthy alderman no thanks. To Thistlewood himself we owe, that we are not now involved in a discussion on his dying words, uttered to affirm what was previously shown to have been false. Had the answer of Thistlewood been, such as might have been expect

ed, the declaration of the dying traitor would have been exalted into the legacy of a saint." The alderman's motion was negatived.

Though this desperate plot was confined to a small number of miscreants, and though the partisans of revolution in general had no share in it; yet the widelydisseminated discontent was the basis on which Thistlewood's gang had built their hopes of ultimate success. That discontent showed itself in some parts of the country in a very alarming manner. Though the late acts, by preventing tumultuous assemblages, had taken away the principal means of supporting the contagion of dissatisfaction, and of enabling. the discontented to co-operate, the connexion between the radicals in different parts of the kingdom was still maintained by small societies communicating with each other, and by itinerant delegates, whose expenses were defrayed out of a common purse. The vigorous execution of the laws, and the presence of a considerable military force in Yorkshire and Lancashire, suppressed the turbulence of the ill-disposed, and preserved the public peace in those populous counties. But in the principal manufacturing district of Scotland, the tendency to insurrection assumed a formidable aspect. Before the end of March considerable alarm had begun to prevail in the neighbourhood of Glasgow; and it was known, that great numbers of the labouring classes, who were inclined to prosecute their peaceful industry without intermeddling in political convulsions, had been. so terrified by the menaces of the friends of confusion, that they conceived that they could not,

without danger to themselves and families, continue to behave as good and peaceable subjects. On Sunday, the 2nd of April, the alarm which had before prevailed, was raised to an extreme pitch of anxiety, by a treasonable proclamation, purporting to proceed from the committee for the organization of a provisional govern ment, which, on that morning, was found affixed to the walls in different parts of Glasgow, and of the neighbouring towns and villages. This proclamation, after some preliminary flourishes concerning Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights, declared an equality of privileges to be the object of the struggle which was about to coinmence, and called upon the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland, to come forward and effect a revolution by force. It exhorted the soldiers to keep in mind the glorious example of the Spanish troops. It recommended to the proprietors of large manufactories to suspend their operations, till public order should be restored. it commanded all persons to desist from labour from that day forward; and it denounced, as enemies to the king and traitors to the country, all who should be found in arms against the intend ed regenerators of their native land.

This proclamation was in itself sufficiently alarming, by the audacity of purpose and contidence of strength which it seemed to announce; and as, from its style and sentiments, it appeared to be of English rather than of Scotch composition, the inference naturally occurred to anxious minds, that it had been disseminated likewise in the manufacturing districts of England, and

that simultaneous and concerted movements of the disaffected in both parts of the island were now to take place. The spirit which it had produced, or from which it had proceeded, was apparent on the following morning. None of the weavers in Glasgow or Paisley went to their usual work: the colliers acted in the same way; and the example was followed by the iron-founders, the wrights, the masons, and the machine-makers. Most of the

cotton-mills began in their ordinary course in the morning; but they immediately became the objects of threatening visits, so that the workmen either did not return after breakfast, or went off in the course of the day. The aspect of Glasgow was most extraordinary. All the usual avocations of industry were suspended; the streets were filled with gazing crowds, strolling about in complete idleness, waiting, with intent expectation, for the commencement of the announced revolution, which was to be begun at a moment and by persons unknown. They did not, however, attempt any open violation of the peace. Indeed the greater number of them appear to have acted less from any revolutionary spirit, than from the awe which had been inspired by the orders and threats of the secret organizers of rebellion.

In the mean time the exertions of the magistrates were strenuous and unremitting; and, though the regular troops who were present to support them were comparatively few, a large military force, composed of the volunteer corps of the city and neighbourhood, was soon assembled. Proclamations were at the same time

dispersed, to warn the people against the seductions of the emissaries of insurrection, and to point out to them the inevitable consequences of resistance to the lawful authorities. Whatever the hopes or designs of the disaffected may have been, they were completely baffled; and though some excesses were committed in the country, and a few houses were broken into for the purpose of obtaining arms, no regular combined attempt was made to overturn the authority of the laws. Only in one instance was any resistance offered to the constituted powers. On the morning of the 5th of April, one of the Stirlingshire yeomanry, as he was proceeding from Kilsyth to join his troop at Falkirk, met a party of radicals, equipped some with muskets, some with pikes, and some with pistols. They demanded his arms; he refused; and, though five shots were discharged after him, escaped back uninjured to Kilsyth. The commanding officer there, immediately sent a detachment of eleven cavalry, supported by an equal number of yeomanry, to scour the road to Falkirk, and to fall in with the insurgents, if they were still to be found. The detach ment soon came in sight of them. They had by this time increased in number; and having found some arms, and supplied themselves with food, in the houses in the neighbourhood, they had chosen as their post a piece of high ground in Bonnymuir, which commanded an extensive view on every side. As the cavalry advanced, the insurgents quitted the high ground which they had occupied, and stationed themselves behind

a

stone-wall, from which they fired several times. The commander of the military detachment now called upon them to lay down their arms, and to surrender; but, instead of obeying, they replied with a loud cheer, that they had come there in order to fight, and instantly fired a volley. The mossy nature of the ground embarrassed the cavalry. This, with the stone-wall which was on their front, prevented them from charging straight forward, and forced them to make a circuit, in order, to enter by a gap. When the rebels observed this movement, some of them hastened to the gap for the purpose of defending it; but more than the half of them immediately, ran off. They who still offered resistance, were instantly broken; many of them were severely wounded, and nineteen were made prisoners. Of the troops, three were wounded, besides their commanding officer: they had likewise one horse killed, and three wounded.

The greater number of the persons concerned in this petty insurrection, had come that morning from Glasgow, in the hope of finding, according to preconcerted arrangements, a large body of their associates, from all the adjacent districts, assembled on Bonnymuir. Their plan was, to have proceeded immediately from Bonnymuir, and to have taken possession of the Carron works. Here they were to have equipped themselves with artillery and arms; and a regular scheme of military operations was then to have been commenced. The precautions, however, which the magistrates and the military had taken throughout the country, deterred the ill-disposed from as

sembling at the appointed place of rendezvous: so that the few infatuated men, who had lost sight of common prudence, and adhered to their engagements, found their number to amount to only forty or fifty, instead of the four or five thousand on whom they had calculated. No other attempt at open resistance was made; and the failure of this extravagant venture, served at once to open the eyes of the deluded, and to crush the hopes of the deluders.

In the mean time, the vigilance of the government detected many of those, who, in different parts of the country, had been most active in spreading dissatisfaction, and in furthering measures for promoting a revolution. Numerous arrests took place in Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Dumbartonshire, Stirlingshire, and Ayrshire. On the very day of the skirmish at Bonnymuir, eleven supposed members of the committee for organizing a provisional government, were taken into custody at Glasgow; and, shortly afterwards, considerable quantities of ammunition and arms were seized. In a few days, the agitation, that had prevailed throughout the country,

subsided: the labouring classes returned to their ordinary course of life; and the late alarms were forgotten, except by the wretched individuals who awaited, in prison, the vengeance of the law.

Towards the end of July, and in the month of August, the persons who were in custody on charges of treason, were brought to trial before a special commission, which sat in the different counties, where the treasonable acts were charged to have been committed. Numerous convictions took place; but the royal mercy was extended to all, except three. One of these had long been an organizer of and trader in sedition: the other two had been engaged in the skirmish at Bonnymuir. Their execution, though a more melancholy, was a less disgusting scene, than that of Thistlewood and his associates : for the Scotch rebels died, some of them penitent, and all of them deeply impressed with moral and religious feelings, instead of avowing, like the Cato-street conspirators, and triumphing in, sentiments, which degrade man below the level of the beasts.

CHAP. IV.

Opening of the new Parliament-Speech from the Throne - Death of Mr. Grattan-His Character-Sir James Mackintosh's Eulogy of him-Election of Mr. Ellis for Dublin-Grantham Election-, Resolution of the House against paying Money to Out-voters for loss of Time-Motion to procure a Mitigation of Sir Manasseh Lopez's Sentence-Bill to disfranchise Grampound-Different Views concerning the mode of supplying the Vacancy in the Representation which such Disfranchisement would occasion-Lord Archibald Hamilton's Motion for the Roll of Scotch Freeholders ·Bill for the better Regulation of the Elections of the Scotch Peers.

THE

HE new Parliament assembled on the 21st of April. Mr. Manners Sutton was once more elected Speaker of the House of. Commons. After some days spent in swearing in members, the King, on Thursday, the 27th of April, opened the Session in person, by delivering the following speech from the throne:

"My Lords and Gentlemen; "I have taken the earliest ocsion of assembling you here, after having recurred to the sense of my people.

"In meeting you personally for the first time since the death of my beloved father, I am anxious to assure you, that I shall always continue to imitate his great example, in unceasing at tention to the public interests, and in paternal solicitude for the welfare and happiness of all classes of my subjects.

"I have received from foreign powers renewed assurances of their friendly disposition, and of their earnest desire to cultivate

[blocks in formation]

"The estimates for the present year will be laid before you.

"They have been framed upon principles of strict economy; but it is to me matter of the deepest regret, that the state of the country has not allowed me to dispense with those additions to our military force which I announced at the commencement of the last session of parliament.

"The first object to which your attention will be directed is, the provision to be made for the support of the civil government, and of the honour and dignity of the crown.

"I leave entirely at your disposal my interest in the hereditary revenues: and I cannot deny myself the gratification of declaring, that so far from desiring any arrangement which might lead to the imposition of new burthens. upon my people, or even might

« TrướcTiếp tục »