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P R E F A C E.
ONE of the most remarkable occurrences in the domestic history of the year 1817 was the double renewal of the bill for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, moved first in the two Houses near the close of February, and afterwards, upon a fresh alarm, in the month of June. The majorities by which these measures were carried sufficiently indicated the affright which was spread through the most opulent, and the most timorous, class of the nation; at the same time the number was not inconsiderable of those who held firmly to the maintenance of laws which were regarded as the palladium of English liberty. The termination of these disputes threw a degree of discredit upon the ministry, who, by the employment of spies, seemed to aggravate the discontents which were already too prevalent among the inferior ranks of the people.
The preceding year had afforded a happy augury to the nation, in the union of the daughter of the Prince Regent to Prince Leopold of Saxe Cobourg, which promised a lasting source of domestic felicity. The connexion was blest with a hope of progeny, which was brought to maturity early in November ; but, to the unspeakable disappointment of the general expec. tation, the Princess sunk under the effort, and after having been the mother of a dead child, became herself the victim. The public feeling was scarcely ever
marked by a more universal mourning; and the year concluded with every expression of regret and commiseration from a people actuated by a congenial sentiment.
In the rest of Europe little has occurred to disturb the general tranquillity. By an official note from the allied courts presented to the Duke de Richelieu, notice was given of their intention considerably to re. duce the army by which France was occupied, reckoning from the first of April of the current year; and there is reason to expect that a similar diminution will take place, till the French nation is entirely relieved from the load under which it has long laboured.
Spain has partaken in some degree of the disorders which, from the time of the king's return, has kept her in agitation. In January, the cry of the constitution was raised in the city of Valencia, said to have been in consequence of a tax on coals. The vigour of General Elio, however, soon brought it to a close. In Barcelona a much more dangerous conspiracy was planned in the beginning of April, of which the Generals Lacy and Milans were the leaders. The captain general of the province, having obtained timely notice of the plot, put the troops in motion, and a few hours were sufficient to restore tranquillity. Lacy, who was taken prisoner, was condemned by a court-martial, and was sent as a captive to Majorca, where an attempt to escape from his guard was the cause of his death.
The Brazilian government, now identified with that of Portugal, during the course of the last year had sent an army to take possession of the Spanish terri
tory of Montevideo. The courts of Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, Russia, and France, on being informed of this singular transaction, addressed a strong memorial to the government of Portugal and Brazil, in which they informed his most Faithful Majesty that it was impossible for them to look upon the aggression committed against Spain in any other light than as an act of hostility. In the mean time an insurrection broke out at Pernambuco, a province of Brazil, which assumed a serious aspect, being chiefly encouraged among the officers of Olinda and Recife. A battle, however, in which the royal forces entirely defeated the insurgents, soon put an end to the insurrection ; and the result of the application of the European courts has not yet been given to the public.
Some time after, Portugal itself was threatened with a revolution, the purpose of which was to estab. lish a government for that country, independent of South America. Its principal promoters were the Lieutenant-general Gomez Freres de Andrade, and the Baron d’Eben ; but before all the preparations had been made, the whole plot was discovered, and an arrest trok place of the persons concerned. The very slow procedure of the German states, and the apparent reluctance of several of the members to jo'n in establishing the principles of free government, has thrown back to another year the general result of their deliberations ; nor does it yet appear how soon a desirable conclusion can be brought to effect. Financial difficulties occur in several of the states; and till they are settled, it seems in vain to expect a satisfactory solution of their embroiled affairs. Prussia,
in particular, is said to be much incensed against the excuses and tergiversations of France; and where the stronger power is reduced to plead an impossibility of fulfilling her engagements, the weaker power can scarcely avoid a forced submission.
The King of Wurtemburgh has found it necessary to dissolve the assembly of his states, in consequence of their refusal to confirm a constitution proposed to them by his Majesty; and he took into his own hands the administration of the finances for the
years 1817 and 1818.
The duchy of Saxe Weimar seems to have been the only German state which has hitherto declared its adhesion to the true principles of a free constitution; and a proposition moved by the reigning Duke to the diet of the empire sitting at Frankfort was formally placed under the guaranty of the German Confederation by a vote given by Austria, and afterwards concurred in by the other powers.
A speech delivered by the president Mr. Monroe to the American Congress, on the second of December, announced tliat the revenue arising from imports and tonnage, with that from the sale of the public lands, would be fully adequate to the support of the civil government, of the military and naval establishment, and of the payment of the public debt, without the aid of internal taxes; for which reason the President recommended their repeal to the Congress. It was perhaps scarcely expected, that so soon after a war, the national balance would appear in a condition which would admit of so favourable a statement.