Louis was succeeded for the time by the Duke of Orleans as Regent, who had other views, and was surrounded by other influences than the old king. He had secured the Regency in opposition to Madame Maintenon and the royal bastards. He changed all the ministers, and was not inclined to risk his government by making enemies of the English abroad, having sufficient of these at home. He had been for some time cultivating the good offices of the present English Government, which had offered to assist him with troops and money, if necessary, to secure the Regency. He had seen a good deal of the new Secretary of State, Stanhope, in Spain, and still maintained a correspondence with him. Lord Stair, the British Ambassador, therefore, was placed in a more influential position with the Regent, and the Pretender and his ministers were but coldly looked on. [See larger version] Deserted by the Prussians, the French retired with precipitation to Prague, where they were followed by the Austrian army under Prince Charles of Lorraine and Prince Lobkowitz. Soon after the Grand Duke of Tuscany took the principal command, and the French offered to capitulate on condition that they might march away with their arms and baggage. This was refused; but Marshal Belleisle stole out of Prague in December, and, giving Lobkowitz the slip, made for the mountains with fourteen thousand men and thirty pieces of artillery. Belleisle[82] displayed unwearied activity in protecting his men and baggage from the harassing pursuit of Lobkowitz. Notwithstanding this his men perished in great numbers from famine and the severity of the season. They had been reduced to eat horseflesh before leaving Prague, and now they fell exhausted in the deep snows, and were mercilessly butchered by the Austrian irregulars and peasantry. On the 29th of December he reached Eger, and from that point marched into Alsace without further molestation; but he then found that of the thirty-five thousand troops which he took into Germany, only eight thousand remained. Though this retreat was celebrated as one of the most remarkable in history, the Marshal, on reaching Versailles, was received with great coldness.

On the reassembling of Parliament on the 3rd of February, 1842, Sir Robert Peel was confronted by a rapidly increasing demand for freedom of trade. Among the earliest of the Parliamentary champions of the people's right to cheap food was Mr. Villiers, afterwards President of the Poor Law Board. He became a pupil of Mr. M'Culloch, the author of the "Commercial Dictionary," who was also one of the soundest and most consistent advocates of commercial and fiscal reforms. The bold attacks of Mr. Huskisson and Mr. Canning upon commercial monopolies naturally excited his admiration, and as a supporter of those statesmen he offered himself as a candidate for Hull at the general election in 1826. The election was lost by a small majority, and Mr. Villiers was afterwards called to the bar, became Secretary to the Master of the Rolls, and subsequently one of the Examiners in Chancery. At the general election in 1835 he presented himself as a candidate for Wolverhampton, avowing the same Free Trade principles which he had professed nine years before at Hull. It is said to have been at a meeting at Sir William Molesworth's, in 1837, that Mr. Villiers was strongly urged to take the opposition to the Corn Laws as his peculiar field of Parliamentary duty; and in that year he pledged himself at the hustings to move for their total repeal, an object at that time generally regarded as too wild and hopeless to be undertaken seriously by a practical statesman. On the 15th of March, 1838, Mr. Villiers rose in Parliament to make the first of those motions on the Corn Laws with which he afterwards became associated in the public mind. Scarcely any excitement was caused by this discussion. It seems, indeed, to have been regarded rather as an exercise in political speaking by some who viewed the matter in a philosophic, rather than in a practical light, and who had no real expectation of success. Only one of the ministers[480] was present during a debate which was destined, in its annual reappearance, to become so formidable to the party of monopoly; and this Minister, it was remarked by one speaker, appeared to be taking "his evening siesta," doubtless "owing to weariness induced by his close attention to official duties"a remark which elicited loud laughter. It must be confessed, however, that the slumber of the Minister was no unfit representation of the want of faith in Corn Law Repeal which existed out of doors. It was certain that nothing but pressure from without could obtain even a modification of those laws in the teeth of the all-powerful aristocracy and their representatives in the Commons; but as yet the country took little part in the great question of the final emancipation of British industry. For a repeal of the Poor Laws there had been presented to the House not less than 235 petitions, with 190,000 signatures. The agitationchiefly supported by the Times newspaper and a few Socialistic reformers, like Mr. Fielden, against the law which, harsh as it seemed, was at bottom a really wise and humane measure for raising the people from that condition of acquiescence in misery and degradation to which the bad legislation of past years had so powerfully contributed to reduce themhad assumed formidable dimensions, and stirred the country in every part; but for a repeal of the law which in every way depressed the energies of the people, only a few petitions, bearing at most about 24,000 signatures, had been presented.

Austria also furnished thirty thousand men, under Prince Schwarzenberg, but with secret orders to do no more than just keep up appearances, as Alexander had done during the campaign of Wagram. It was of the utmost consequence that Turkey should have been conciliated by Napoleon. Russia had long been ravaging the outlying provinces of that empire, and nothing could have been more plain than the policy of engaging Turkey against Russia at this crisis, to divide the latter's attention by menacing its eastern boundaries. But Buonaparte ever since the Treaty of Tilsit had been neglecting the Turks, to allow his ally, Alexander, to make his aggressions on them, and now he altered his plan too late. When he made overtures, so late as March of this year, not only to put them in possession of Moldavia and Wallachia, but to recover the[40] Crimea for the Turks, on condition that they should invade Russia from the east with a hundred thousand men, his offer was rejected, the Porte having already been persuaded by the British to make peace with Russia at Bucharest. Thus France, entering on this great enterprise, left Spain and Sweden in open hostility, and carried with her Austria and Prussia as very dubious allies. At the same time the news arrived of the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo, in Spain, and, with this, the certainty that Great Britain would do all in her power to arouse and support the enemies of Napoleon in every quarter.

Palliser, incensed at these marked censures on himself, vacated his seat in Parliament, and resigned his Governorship of Scarborough Castle, his seat at the Board of Admiralty, his colonelcy of marines, retaining only his post of Vice-Admiral, and demanding a court-martial. This was held on board the Sandwich, in Portsmouth harbour, and lasted twenty-one days, resulting finally in a verdict of acquittal, though with some censure for his not having acquainted his Commander-in-Chief instantly that the disabled state of his ship had prevented him from obeying the signal to join for the renewal of the fight. This sentence pleased neither party. Keppel thought Palliser too easily let offPalliser that he was sacrificed to party feeling against Government.

Vigilant Stair had discovered the ships that had been prepared at Havre, by the connivance and aid of the late king, and he insisted that they should be stopped. Admiral Byng also appeared off Havre with a squadron, and Lord Stair demanded that the ships should be given up to him. With this the Regent declined to comply, but he ordered them to be unloaded, and the arms to be deposited in the royal arsenal. One ship, however, escaped the search, containing, according to Bolingbroke, one thousand three hundred arms, and four thousand pounds of powder, which he proposed to send to Lord Mar, in Scotland.

During the recess of Parliament, a dispute occurred with Spain regarding the Falkland Islands, which led to the very verge of war. In 1764 the French, under Bougainville, made a settlement on Falkland Sound; but Spain putting in a claim that these isles were part of her South American territory, Choiseul, the French Minister, abandoned the settlement, and the Spaniards changed its name from Port Louis to Port Soledad. The very next year, 1765, Commodore Byron was sent to form a settlement on another of the islands, which he named Port Egmont, in honour of Lord Egmont, First Lord of the Admiralty. Such were the distant islets to which, in 1769, Spain began to assert her claim. The Governor of Port Soledad sent repeated messages to Captain Hunt, of the Tamar, stationed at Port Egmont, requiring the abandonment of the place. When the notices were succeeded by threats, Captain Hunt sailed home to lay the matter before his Government. He landed at Portsmouth in June, 1770, and made known the Spanish interference to the Cabinet. Meanwhile, the Spaniards, taking advantage of Hunt's absence, had, about the time that he arrived in England, dispatched to the Falklands Buccarelli, the Governor of Buenos Ayres, with five frigates and one thousand six hundred men. Having entered the port on pretence of wanting water, and finding the Tamar absent, and only two armed sloops there, and a mere handful of soldiers, Buccarelli landed his force, and, after the firing of a few shots for form's sake, the English surrendered, and were permitted to depart with all the honours of war.

The invasion of Scotland was again brought under his notice, and strongly recommended by his chief confidant and minister, Baron Gortz. Charles now listened with all his native spirit of resentment, and Gortz immediately set out on a tour of instigation and arrangement of the invasion. He hastened to Holland, where he corresponded with Count Gyllenborg, the Swedish Ambassador at London, and Baron Spaar, the Swedish Minister at Paris. He put himself also into communication with the Pretender and the Duke of Ormonde. The scheme of Gortz was able and comprehensive. A peace was to be established between Charles and his great enemy and rival, Peter of Russia. They both hated George of Hanover and England, and by this union might inflict the severest injuries on him. Next a conspiracy was to be excited against the Regent of France, so as to prevent him aiding England according to the recent Treaty, and all being thus prepared, Charles XII. was himself to conduct the army of twelve thousand veterans destined to invade Scotland, and, if supported by the Jacobites, England.

The growth of our commerce during these seventy-two years is shown by the amount of our exports. In 1697that is, nine years after the Revolutionthe amount of exports was only 3,525,907; but in the three next years of peace they rose to 6,709,881. War reduced these again to little more than 5,000,000, and at the end of the reign of Anne, during peace, they rose to 8,000,000. At the end of the reign of George I. the war had so much checked our commerce, that the exports scarcely amounted to that sum, the average of the three years1726, 1727, and 1728being only 7,891,739. By the end of the reign of George II., however (1760), they had risen to 14,693,270. Having by this period driven the fleets of France and Spain from the ocean, we rather extended our commerce than injured it. Thus, during these seventy-two years, our exports had increased from about three millions and a half annually to more than fourteen millions and a half annually, or a yearly difference of upwards of eleven millionsa most substantial growth.

The Duke of Wellington wrote to the British Government to inform them of this event, and that the Allied sovereigns were this time resolved to make sure of the fugitive; that the Emperor of Austria had agreed to bring into the field three hundred thousand men; the Czar, two hundred and twenty-five thousand; Prussia, two hundred and thirty-six thousand; the other States of Germany, one hundred and fifty thousand; and that it was expected Holland would furnish fifty thousand. Thus nine hundred and sixty thousand men were promised, independently of Sweden and Great Britain; so that a million of men might be calculated upon to crush Buonaparte, provided that the latter Power were ready to furnish the necessary millions of money to put this mighty host in motion.