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Prussia having been introduced into the debate, on the 1st of March it was renewed by Mr. Martin, followed by Francis, Fox, and others, who argued that the secret was thus out; we were fighting again on account of the old mischiefGerman alliances. Pitt defended the policy of Ministers. He asked whether Russia was to be permitted to drive the Turks from Europe and plant herself in Constantinople, with Greece as part of her empire? In that case, Russia would become the first maritime power in the world, for her situation in the heart of the Mediterranean, and with Greeks for her sailorsthe best sailors in that seawould give her unrivalled advantages, and make her the most destructive opponent of British interests that had ever arisen. Pitt drew a dark character of the Czarinathe Messalina of the North; reminded the House of her endeavours to strike a mortal blow at us during the American war; of her arrogance and insolence on many occasions, and said that he did not envy Fox the honour of having his bust ordered by this notorious woman from Nollekens, the sculptor. Fox well deserved this hard blow, for he had shown a strange blindness to the grasping designs of Russia, and confessed that, whilst in office, he had refused to concur in remonstrances to Russia against the seizure of the Crimea. The motion of Whitbread was rejected by a majority of two hundred and forty-four against one hundred and sixteen.Under sharp fighting, Wellington crossed the Nivelle on the 10th of November, and proposed to go into cantonments at St. Jean de Luz, on the right bank of the Nivelle; but he did not find himself in a position to obtain supplies there, and he therefore crossed the Nive, and occupied the country between that river and the Adour. Soult made desperate efforts to drive the enemy back; but he was compelled to fall back on his entrenched camp in front of Bayonne; and Wellington went into winter-quarters about the middle of December, but quarters extremely uncomfortable. Their late conflicts, between the 9th and 13th of December, had been made in the worst of weather, and they had marched over the most terrible roads. During these conflicts they had lost six hundred and fifty killed, and upwards of one thousand wounded and five hundred missing. The French had lost three times that number. But the French were at home amid their own people; while the allies were in a hostile country, suffering every species of want. At this moment Britain was sending clothes, arms, and ammunition to the Germans, the Sclavonians, and Dutch; but her own gallant army, which had chased the French out of Spain, and which had to maintain the honour of Great Britain by advancing towards Paris, was suffered to want everything, especially great-coats and shoes, in that severe season. Wellington had earnestly implored a reinforcement of twenty thousand men, but it did not arrive.
"And if I were out of the way?" he suggested.They caught sight of Felipa, and both drew rein simultaneously. She was leaning against a post of the wire fence. The baby was carried on her hip, tucked under her arm, the sunbonnet was hanging by the strings around her neck, and her head, with its straight loose hair, was uncovered. The little girl stood beside her, clutching the white wrapper which had trailed in[Pg 314] the spring-house acequia, and from under which a muddy red slipper showed. That she was imposing still, said much for the quality of her beauty. She did not hear the tramp of the two horses, sharp as her ears were, for she was too intent upon watching a fight between two steers.
On the 23rd, only four days after the abdication of the king, Murat entered Madrid with a numerous body of infantry and cuirassiers, attended by a splendid train of artillery. Ferdinand entered the city the same day. He had formed an administration wholly opposed to Godoy and his policy. The Ambassadors of the other Powers presented themselves to offer their congratulations; but Beauharnais, the French Ambassador, preserved a profound silence. Murat, also, though he professed himself friendly to Ferdinand, said not a word implying recognition of his title. Still more ominous, the news arrived that Buonaparte himself was on the way with another powerful army. Murat took up his residence in the Palace of the Prince of the Peace, and greatly alarmed Ferdinand and his courtiers by addressing him, not as "your Majesty," but merely as "your Royal Highness." He counselled him to wait, and do nothing till he could advise with Napoleon, and, in the meantime, to send his brother, Don Carlos, to greet the Emperor on his entrance into Spain. To this Ferdinand consented; but when Murat recommended him also to go, and show this mark of respect to his ally, Ferdinand demurred, and by the advice of Cevallos, one of his wisest counsellors, he declined the suggestion. To complicate matters, Murat opened communication with the king and queen, and, not content with that, with Godoy also, assuring him that his only hope of safety lay in the friendship of the Emperor. By this means Murat learned all the accusations that each party could make against the other, so that these things might serve Buonaparte to base his measures, or, at least, his pretences upon. Encouraged by this, Charles wrote to Napoleon to declare his abdication entirely forced, and to leave everything to the decision of his good friend, the Emperor.But though Pitt protested against thanking the king for bringing over Hanoverian troops, he found it necessary to support the king's German treaties and alliances, which were avowedly for the defence of Hanover. Fox reminded him of his favourite phrase, that Hanover was a millstone round the neck of England; but it was not the first time that Pitt had had to stand the taunt of eating his own words, and he braved it out, especially voting two hundred thousand pounds to Frederick of Prussia. A wonderful revolution in Continental politics had now converted this long-hostile nephew of George II. into an ally, if not a friend.
Lord Eldon, who was by no means weary of political life, became uneasy about his position, and certain arrangements at which the king had mysteriously hinted. The Lord Chancellor religiously obeyed his injunction to abstain from speaking on politics to anybody. But he was revolving in his mind not less anxiously who was to be the new leader of the House of Commons, and how the Constitution in Church and State might be best protected against the spirit of innovation. On the king's return from his northern metropolis the Lord Chancellor was about to press upon him the promotion to the vacant leadership of the House of Commons of Mr. Peel, who had won high distinction in the late debate upon the Catholic peers, when he found, to his unspeakable chagrin, that Lord Liverpool himself had selected Mr. Canning, and overcome the royal objections to him on the ground of his having been formerly the champion of the queen. He had represented to the king that this was the only arrangement by which the Whigs could be effectually excluded, and he gave him an assurance that Catholic Emancipation, though left an open question, should be resolutely opposed. Great as Mr. Canning's talents for Parliament were, and great as was the want of talent on the Ministerial side of the House, it was not without the utmost reluctance that the Cabinet consented to receive him as an associate. They invited him to fill the place vacated by Lord Londonderry, because he was forced upon them by circumstances, and they felt that the Government could not go on without his aid. His only competitor was Mr. Peel, who had not yet had sufficient opportunity of evincing his great powers for the conduct and discussion of public affairs to command the station which many of his colleagues would have gladly seen assigned to him. Canning was unpopular with the anti-Catholic party in general, and particularly obnoxious to the Lord Chancellor; and, besides, there was the great objection of his having been the friend and adherent of the queen. But Lord Liverpool, the Premier, having been associated with him from early life, was so thoroughly convinced that he was the fittest man for the post, and so well acquainted with his transcendent powers of intellect, that he prevailed upon him to relinquish the Governor-Generalship of India, to which he had been appointed, and to accept the vacant Secretaryship for Foreign Affairs, together with the leadership of the Commons.