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The French had always beheld with jealousy our possession of the island of Minorca, which had been won by General Stanhope in 1708, and secured to us by the Peace of Utrecht. That England should possess the finest port in the Mediterranean, and that so near their own shores, was a subject of unceasing chagrin. The miserable administration of British affairs, the constant attention to the interests of Hanover instead of our own, now inspired France with the resolve to snatch the prize from us. Great preparations were made for this object, and the report of these as duly conveyed to the English Ministers by the consuls in both Spain and Italy, but in vain. At length the certainty that the French were about to sail for Minorca burst on the miserable Ministers; but it was too latethey had nothing in readiness. The port of Mahon was almost destitute of a garrison; the governor, Lord Tyrawley, was in England; and the deputy-governor, General Blakeney, though brave, as he had shown himself at the siege of Stirling, was old, nearly disabled by his infirmities, and deficient in troops. What was still worse, all the colonels were absent from the regiments stationed there, and other officers alsoaltogether thirty-five!
In the preamble to the new Bill the object of that extended Bill was candidly avowed, namely, that when "a restless and popish faction are designing and endeavouring to renew the rebellion in this kingdom and an invasion from abroad, it might be destructive to the peace and security of the Government." The Septennial Bill was, in fact, intended as a purely temporary measure, and, though originated by party spirit, it was really of great advantage in days when every general election meant a fresh exercise of the influence of the Crown and the Lords.On the evening of the 11th he had the satisfaction to find himself close to the enemy, and at daybreak of the 12th the battle began. At first there was so little wind that Rodney was unable to put into execution his long-cherished scheme of breaking right through the centre of the enemy's line, and beating one half before the other could come to the rescue. About noon a breeze sprang up, and afforded the long-desired opportunity. Rodney was now in the van, and after Captain Gardiner, in the Duke, had made the first attempt and fallen back disabled, Rodney's own ship, the Formidable, broke through, followed by the Namur and the Canada. The great end of Rodney was gained. He had cut in two the vast fleet, and his ships doubling on one half threw the whole into confusion. The half to the windward were terribly raked, whilst the half to the leeward were unable to come up to their aid. The battle, however, continued without respite from noon till evening, the leeward half endeavouring to join and return to the charge, but without being able. The most striking part of the action was the attack on the great ship of De Grasse, the Ville de Paris. That huge vessel, the pride of the French navy, towering over all far and near, attracted the ambition of Captain Cornwallis, of the Canada, the brother of Lord Cornwallis, to whose surrender De Grasse had so largely contributed. Captain Cornwallis, as if determined on a noble revenge, attacked the Ville de Paris with fury, hugely as it towered above him, and so well did he ply his guns that he soon reduced the monster almost to a wreck. De Grasse fought desperately, but Hood coming up in the Barfleur, about sunset, to the assistance of Cornwallis, De Grasse was compelled to strike his flag. On board the Ville de Paris were found thirty-six chests of money, intended to pay the conquerors of Jamaica, and on the other ships nearly all the battering trains for that purpose. The remainder of the fleet made all sail, and Rodney pursued, but was stopped by a calm of three days under Guadeloupe, and they escaped. Rodney sailed to Jamaica, which he had thus saved, and was received with acclamations of honour and gratitude. There, however, he received the order for his recall, and returned home. To the eternal dishonour of the Rockingham Administration, on receiving the news of this superb and most important victorya victory which at once restored the drooping glories of Great Britainthey had not the pluck to cancel his recall, though the feeling of the country compelled the Crown to grant him a pension, and to raise him to the peerage by the title of Baron Rodney.
But the Peace of Vienna was now concluded, and, on the 30th of October, Baron Lichtenthurm appeared in the camp of the Tyrolese, and delivered a letter to the leaders from the Archduke John, requesting them peaceably to disperse, and surrender the country to the Bavarians. This was a terrible blow to these brave men. They appeared prostrated by the news, and Hofer announced to Spechbacher, who was still fighting with the Bavarians, that peace was made with France, and that the Tyrol was forgotten! Hofer returned to his native vale of Passeyr, and still held out against the French, and the Italian mercenaries under Rusca, whom he defeated with great slaughter. But traitors were amongst them, who guided the French to their rear. Hofer escaped into the higher Alps, but thirty of the other leaders were taken and shot without mercy. Another traitor guided the French to Hofer's retreat in the high wintry Alps. He had been earnestly implored to quit the country, but he refused. As the French surrounded his hut, on the 17th of February, 1810, he came out calmly and submitted. He was carried to the fortress of Mantua, and Napoleon sent an order that he should be shot within four-and-twenty hours. He would not suffer himself to be blindfolded, nor would he kneel, but exclaimed"I stand before my Creator, and, standing, I will restore to Him the spirit He gave!" Thus died, on the 20th of February, 1810, the brave Hoferanother murdered man, another victim of the sanguinary vengeance of Buonaparte against whatever was patriotic and independent.
"That's the straight bill. Ask him. He isn't fit to be spoken to."
It was plain, even to Felipa, how thoroughly he enjoyed being with one who could talk of the past and of the present, from his own point of view. His Coventry had been almost complete since the day that the entire army, impersonated in Crook, had turned disapproving eyes upon him once, and had then looked away from him for good and all. It had been too bitter[Pg 310] a humiliation for him ever to subject himself to the chance of it again.These were measures which must have greatly irritated the American colonists. They exhibited a disposition to curb and repress their growing energies between the interests of British merchants and British West Indian planters. The prospect was far from encouraging; whilst, at the same time, the English Ministers, crushing these energies with one hand, were contemplating drawing a revenue by taxation from them on the other. Britain argued that she sacrificed large amounts in building up colonies, and therefore had a right to expect a return for this expenditure. Such a return, had they had the sagacity to let them alone, was inevitable from the trade of the colonies in an ever-increasing ratio.
In 1765 Clive embarked for India for the third and last time. He went out with the firm determination to curb and crush the monster abuses that everywhere prevailed in our Indian territories. He had made a fortune of forty thousand pounds a year, and he was, therefore, prepared to quash the system by which thousands of others were endeavouring to do the same. No man was sharper than Clive in perceiving, where his own interest was not concerned, the evils which were consuming the very vitals of our power, and making our name odious in Hindostan. The first and most glaring abuse of power which arrested his attention was as regarded his old puppet, Meer Jaffier. He had lately died, and his own court had proposed to set up his legitimate grandson; but the Council preferred his natural son, Nujeem-ul-Dowlah, a poor spiritless youth, who agreed that the English should take the military defence of the country, and also appoint a Prime Minister to manage the revenue and other matters of government. The Council agreed to this, and received a present from the nabob of their creation of one hundred and forty thousand pounds, which they divided amongst themselves. This was directly in opposition to the recent order of the Court of Directors, not to accept any presents from the native princes; but, as Clive states, he found them totally disregarding everything but their own avarice.The buck fell back before her fury, but she followed him thrusting and slashing. Yet it might not, even then, have ended well for her, had there not come from somewhere overhead the sound most dreaded as an omen of harm by all Apachesthe hoot of an owl. The Indian gave a low cry of dismay and turned and darted in among the bushes.