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CONDITION OF ENGLAND-PLANS FOR THE NATIONAL DEFENCES—THE
AUGMENTATION OF THE MILITIA-VOLUNTARY SUBSCRIPTIONS-A REBELLION BREAKS OUT IN IRELAND-LORD CORNWALLIS SUCCEEDS LORD CAMDEN AS LORD-LIEUTENANT-LORD BUCKINGHAM VOLUNTEERS FOR IRELAND-DIFFERENCES WITH LORD CORNWALLIS-MR. THOMAS GRENVILLE IS APPOINTED ON A MISSION TO VIENNA AND BERLIN.
A REBELLION in Ireland, and a threat of invasion from France, for which active preparations were making on the coast and in the Channel, almost exclusively absorbed the attention of Government at the beginning of the year 1798, and demanded all the resources which the devotion of the people could contribute to the protection of the country. The extremity of the public danger had the effect of uniting all classes in a combined effort for selfpreservation ; and the national enthusiasm was pronounced so strongly and unanimously on this point, that the heads of the Opposition, shattered and enfe the fruitless contest they had been so long waging against the Administration, and left Mr. Pitt and his colleagues in almost undisturbed possession of both Houses of Parliament.
But security was not to be purchased without great sacrifices. The expenditure of the past year had amounted to the enormous sum of twenty-five millions and a half ; and Mr. Pitt found it necessary, in order to provide a supply equal to the emergencies of the future, to introduce an entirely new system of finance. He proposed to triple the amount of the existing assessed taxes, with a limitation, restraining the maximum of taxation to the tenth of each person's income ; and to borrow the remainder of what was required without creating any additional debt, by appropriating the produce of the sinking fund.
There was a violent resistance in both Houses to this plan; Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, and others, who had previously seceded, re-appearing in their places for the express purpose of opposing it; but it was carried, nevertheless, by large majorities. Several other measures, to provide means for carrying on the war, and strengthening the national defences, were also introduced; and at no period, since the commencement of hostilities, was public opinion declared so energetically in favour of the ministerial policy. Numerous circumstances contributed to feed the popular ardour as the year advanced. Splendid naval victories inspired the highest confidence in the ultimate issues of the war ; commerce once more resumed its former activity ; the harvest was unusually abundant; and all branches of trade and industry reached a height of prosperity that completely relieved the depression under which they had suffered during the preceding year. VOL. II.
The most active measures were set on foot to promote the common object of protecting the empire against foreign invasion and domestic treason. The most prominent of them was a plan for augmenting the Militia, afterwards matured and introduced by Mr. Dundas ; and the collection of subscriptions towards the formation of a national defence fund. No greater proof could be given of the zeal of the people, at a period when their burthens were already so excessive, than the munificence and promptitude of their contributions on this occasion. At a meeting of bankers and merchants held in the open square of the Royal Exchange, upwards of forty-six thousand pounds were collected on the spot; the King subscribed £20,000; the Queen £5,000; numerous mercantile firms and private individuals contributed large sums, varying from £3,000 to £10,000; and the Bank of England, the noble tribute of £200,000. That this urgent necessity should have pressed heavily upon those public men whose position made a heavy demand upon their patriotism, was to be expected, and in some instances, sacrifices were made to an extent which rendered unavoidable the reduction of their domestic establishments; but no considerations of personal inconvenience were suffered to interfere with the paramount claims of duty. The subjoined letters throw considerable light on these transactions, and are of especial interest from the minute details they present respecting the measures that were adopted in this great emergency for augmenting and organizing the Militia force of the kingdom.
LORD GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Cleveland Row, Feb. 2nd, 1798. MY DEAREST BROTHER,
I saw yesterday in Pitt's hands your letter to him. The sacrifice you make is certainly very great, and such as I could not have thought myself at liberty to advise, though I am glad on the whole that your determination is such as it is; not that I am very much attached (but quite the contrary) to the idea of raising public supplies by voluntary contributions, and still less by contributions soi-disant voluntary, but in reality extorted by popular clamour and prejudice. But after that business has been carried as far as it has, it would have been too invidious for you to have put yourself in a breach which I think ought never to have been made. I am much concerned at what you say in your letter to Pitt respecting the personal inconvenience to which this step will subject you, and particularly as to the idea of your doing anything that can look like an avowed intention of suspending your residence at Stowe. It seems to me that nothing is more natural than that this state of things should lead to reduction of your establishments ; and I believe in so doing you will only follow a very general example, though I appear to be selected as a much more strking instance of it than I have yet been able, with my best endeavours, to make myself. It will also be very easy for you, quartered in Essex, to be as much or as little as you please at Stowe in the course of the year ; but any avowal of quitting that residence would, I think, do you a needless injury.
You will receive in a day or two the circular letter for calling out the supplementary Militia, with the explanation of the manner in which this is intended to be executed, so as to make it a muster of the whole, but an embodying only of a part.
War with America and Portugal seems quite determined on at Paris ; nor do I see how Denmark can keep herself out of the scrape, though she will most certainly do her best. The general opinion is that Mulin has established his superiority over Barras and Buonaparte. There can be no doubt of the intention to invade us here or in Ireland, or both.
The capture of the packet leaves us still without official or direct accounts from the West Indies, but all the accounts we get are favourable.
I enclose you, in confidence, a paper, which I think will be interesting to you. You will be so good as not to have seen it, and to return it to me. It is of course to be kept under lock and key. It is unpublished, and meant to remain so.
Ever most affectionately yours,
MR. T. GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Charles Street, April 27th, 1798. MY DEAREST BROTHER,
It is only from your letter to William that I have learnt what is the actual state of the discussion which you had begun upon the subject of the flank companies of the Militia, and very sorry I am to find that it is likely to take any shape which can be unpleasant or disagreeable to you. The measure itself is one which I have understood to be one of the few measures upon which, in point of necessary military preparation, all our officers are agreed, and which, if I recollect right, you yourself are as strongly inclined to as anybody, though not precisely in the mode recommended by the Commander-in-chief; if the objections which you felt on the point of Militia establishment had been equally felt and adopted by the generality of the commanding officers of Militia, some way or other must, I suppose, have been found to accommodate the difficulties of such a representation; but in the present instance (as far as I could collect from Fortescue, who was at a pretty numerous meeting of all the Militia commanders who were in town), there was