IV. ENGLAND MARKS TIME: 1806–12

The scope of our canvas will not allow us to describe in detail the four ministries that succeeded Pitt’s. Barring a year of Fox, their energies went to personal and party problems rather than to statesmanship and policy, and their sum total, internationally, was more of the same to the same result: the descent from prosperity to destitution, and from enterprise into procrastination.

The brief “Ministry of All the Talents” (1806–07) was brightened by the efforts of Charles James Fox, as secretary for foreign affairs, to arrange peace with France. His unsteady career had been marked by a patient liberalism and his capacity to accept the French Revolution, and even Napoleon, into the tolerable eccentricities of history. Unfortunately he came to power when his strength of body and mind had suffered from his reckless enjoyment of food and drink. He made a handsome approach to negotiations by sending word to Talleyrand (February 16, 1806) that a British patriot had come to the Foreign Office with a plan for assassinating Napoleon, and adding assurances that the zany was being carefully watched. The Emperor appreciated the gesture, but he was so elated with his triumph over Austria, and Britain was so exalted by Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar, that neither would make the concessions required as preparatory to peace. Fox succeeded better with his proposal to Parliament for ending the traffic in slaves; after a generation of effort by Wilberforce and a hundred others, the measure became law (March, 1807). By that time Fox had died (September 13, 1806), aged fifty-seven, and British politics fell into a treadmill of hopeful inertia.

This, however, would hardly be the just word for the dominant figures in the ministry (1807–09) of William Cavendish Bentinck, Duke of Portland. George Canning, secretary for foreign affairs, sent a fleet to bombard Copenhagen (1807); and Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh, secretary for war, sent a disastrous expedition to Walcheren in an attempt to capture Antwerp (1809). The two secretaries, matched in ability and passion, quarreled over each other’s enterprises, and fought a duel, which scratched Canning. Doubly tarnished by internal comedy and external tragedy, the Portland ministry resigned.

Spencer Perceval, as minister (1809–12), had the double misfortune of seeing Britain reach its nineteenth-century nadir, and of being assassinated for his pains. By the fall of 1810 Napoleon’s Continental Blockade had so injured British industry and commerce that thousands of Britons were unemployed, and millions were on the edge of destitution. Unrest had come to revolutionary violence; the Luddite weavers began to smash machines in 1811. In 1810 British exports to northern Europe had brought in £7,700,000; in 1811 they brought in £1,500,000.23 In 1811 England was slipping into a second war with America; as part of the cost her exports to the United States fell from £11,300,000 in 1810 to, £1,870,000 in 1811. Meanwhile taxes were rising for every Briton, until, by 1814, their burden threatened the collapse of Britain’s financial system, and the credit of her currency abroad. Hungry Britons cried out for a lowering of import duties on foreign grain; agricultural Britons opposed such a move lest it reduce the price of their product; Napoleon eased the crisis for England (1810–11) by selling export licenses to French grain producers; he needed cash for his campaigns. When the Grand Army set out for Russia in 1812 England knew that victory for Napoleon would mean the more rigid closing of all Continental ports against British goods, and Napoleon’s fuller control of Continental shipments to Britain. All England watched and worried.

Except George III. He was spared awareness of these events by his final lapse into deafness, blindness, and insanity. The death of his best beloved daughter Amelia (November 1810) was the last blow, snapping all connection between his mind and reality; now he was privileged to live in a world of his own, in which there were no rebel colonies, no ministerial Foxes, no unmannerly, murderous Napoleons. He must have found some satisfaction in this condition, for otherwise his health improved; he lived on for ten years more, talking cheerfully, without bond or burden of logic or grammar, amid every comfort and service, and through a postwar depression worse than that of 1810–12. His popularity grew with his disease. His starving people pitied him, and wondered, with old myths, had he not been touched and taken by God.

On May 11, 1812, in the lobby of the House of Commons, Prime Minister Perceval was shot dead by a bankrupt broker, John Bellingham, who felt that his commercial enterprises had been ruined by the policies of the government. In June, under the Earl of Liverpool, a new cabinet was formed, which, by miracles of tact and circumstance, endured till 1827. In that same June the United States declared war upon England, and Napoleon’s 500,000 men crossed the Niemen into Russia.

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FIG. 47—SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Wellington Museum, Apsley House, London.

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FIG. 48—GEORGE ROMNEY: William Pitt the Younger. The Tate Gallery, London.

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FIG. 49—SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE: George IV as Prince Regent (1814). The National Portrait Gallery, London.

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FIG. 50—GEORGE ROMNEY: Lady Hamilton as Ariadne. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees, the National Maritime Museum, London.

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FIG. 51—L. F. ABBOTT: Nelson after Losing His Arm at Teneriffe. Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees, the National Maritime Museum, London.

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FIG. 52—HENRY SCHEFFER: Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, Viceroy. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 53—Portrait of Pauline Bonaparte. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 54—JACQUES- LOUIS DAVID: Pope Pius VII Louvre, Paris. (Cliché des Musées Nationaux)

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FIG. 55—ENGRAVING AFTER A PAINTING BY SIR THOMAS LAWRENCE: Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich. (The New York Society Library)

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FIG. 56—PAINTING AFTER A PORTRAIT BY DROUAIS: Emperor Joseph II. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 57—ENGRAVING: Queen Louise of Prussia. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 58—Karl Friedrich Gauss. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 59—Statue of Alessandro Volta at Como, Italy. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 60—The Brandenburg Gate, DESIGNED BY KARL GOTTHARD LANGHANS, WITH THE Quadriga BY JOHANN GOTTFRIED SCHADOW. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 61—WOODCUT AFTER A DRAWING BY JOHANNES VEIT: Friedrich von Schlegel. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 62—ENGRAVING BY F. HUMPHREY: August Wilhelm von Schlegel. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 63—PORTRAIT AFTER AN 1808 PAINTING BY DAHLING: Johann Gottlieb Fichte. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 64—DRAWING: Johann Christian Friedrich von Schiller. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 65—CHARCOAL DRAWING BY GEBBERS: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, age 77. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 66—WOODCUT: Ludwig van Beethoven. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 67—JOHN CAWSE: Carl Maria von Weber (1826). Reproduced by permission of the Royal College of Music, London.

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FIG. 68—ENGRAVING BY H. P. HANSEN AFTER A PAINTING BY RIEPENHAUSEN: Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 69—SKETCH: Esaias Tegnér. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 70—EGRAVING BY X. A. VON R. CREMER AFTER A PAINTING BY GEBBERS: Hegel in His Study. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 71—EGRAVING: The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 72—FRANÇOIS GÉRARD: Czar Alexander I. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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FIG. 73—ENGRAVING: Marshal Michel Ney. (The New York Society Library)

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FIG. 74—PAINTING AFTER AN EYEWITNESS SKETCH BY J. A. KLEIN: The Retreat from Moscow. (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 75—DRAWING BY ALFRED CROQUIS: Talleyrand, author of “Palmerston, une Comédie de Deux Ans:’ (The Bettmann Archive)

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FIG. 76—JEAN- BAPTISTE ISABEY: Louis XVIII, Sepia drawing. louvre, paris. (Cliché des musées Nationaux)

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FIG. 77—GEORGE DAWE: Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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FIG. 78—J. JACKSON: Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (c. 1827). The National Portrait Gallery, London.

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FIG. 79—MARCHAND: View of Longwood, WATERCOLOR. Musée de Malmaison, Paris. (Cliché des Musées Nationaux)

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FIG. 80—LITHOGRAPH BY JOSEF KRIEHUBER AFTER A PAINTING BY MORITZ MICHAEL DAFFINGER: Napoleon II, the Duke of Reichstadt. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.

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FIG. 81—Napoleon at St. Helena. (The New York Society Library)

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FIG. 82—Napoleone’s Tomb in the Hôtel des Invalides, paris. (Photo Hachette)

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