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On the 9th of June, when the House of Commons went into committee on the Bill, a large number of merchants desired to be heard against it. For several days their statements were heard, and the Portuguese Ambassador also presented a memorial declaring that should the duties on French wines be lowered to those of Portugal, his master would renew the woollen and other duties on the products of Great Britain. This seemed to enforce the mercantile opinions; the sense of the whole country was against the treaty, and the speech of Sir Thomas Hanmer, a Tory, made a deep impression. There was, however, a growing rumour, during the latter days of the debate, that Oxford had given the treaty upa rumour probably not without foundation, for Oxford and Bolingbroke were no longer in unity. The latter, ambitious and unprincipled, was intriguing to oust his more slow and dilatory colleague; and, as the Bill was ostensibly the work of Bolingbroke, probably Oxford was by no means unwilling that it should be thrown out to damage him. When the question, therefore, was put on the 18th of June, that the Bill be engrossed, it was negatived by a majority of one hundred and ninety-four to one hundred and eighty-five. Thus the commercial treaty was lost, much to the joy of the nation, and certainly to its immediate benefit.DEATH OF THE EARL OF CHATHAM. (From the Painting by J. S. Copley, R.A., in the National Gallery, London.)
The story of her origin was an open secret now. Landor had never been able to discover who had spread it. The probabilities were, however, that it had been Brewster. He had been suspended for a year after Landor's trial, and driven forth with contempt, but he was back again, with a bold front, and insinuating and toadying himself into public favor, destined by that Providence which sometimes arouses itself to reward and punish before the sight of all men, to be short-lived.
It was high time that some measures were taken for preventing clandestine marriages. Nothing could be so loose as the marriage laws, or so scandalous as the practice regarding marriages at this date. No previous public notice or publication of banns was hitherto required, nor was any license requisite. Any clergyman, though of the most infamous character, could perform the ceremony at any time or place, without consent of parents or guardians. The consequence was, that the strangest and most scandalous unions took place, for which there was no remedy, and the results of which were lives of misery and disgrace. The merest children were inveigled into such connections, and the heirs of noble estates were thus entrapped into the most repulsive alliances, and made the victims of the most rapacious and unprincipled of mankind. The Fleet Prison, where were many ruined parsonsruined by their crimes and low habitswas a grand mart for such marriages. A fellow of the name of Keith had acquired great pre-eminence in this line. He used to marry, on an average, six thousand couples every year; and on the news of this Bill, which would stop his trade, he vowed vengeance on the bishops, declaring that he would buy a piece of ground and out-bury them all!They were now only one hundred and twenty-seven miles from the capital, both Wade and Cumberland behind them, and Charles, notwithstanding the conditions on which they had come on from Macclesfield, still confidently and enthusiastically dwelt on the onward march to London, and his certain success. In the morning a council was held, when Lord George Murray appealed to the prince whether they had received the least accession of strength, or the smallest sign of encouragement? Such being the case, what hope was there for them in proceeding? They had barely five thousand men to contend against three armies, amounting at least altogether to thirty thousand. If they got to London before Cumberland, and if they managed to elude the army at Finchley, they had scarcely numbers to take quiet possession of London. But were they forced to fight the king and his army under the walls of the metropolis, they could not do it without loss; and then, supposing Wade and Cumberland to unite behind them, as they certainly would do, how could they hope to contend against them? Assistance from France, as they had pointed out, was hopeless whilst the English had such a force in the Channel. Charles listened to these arguments with undisguised impatience, and the probability is that, had his officers been willing to follow him, and live or die in the enterprise, he would have seized London, and accomplished one of the most brilliant exploits in history.
At this crisis George Grenville brought in and carried through a measure, which showed how useful he might have been, had he never been raised out of his proper element to rule and alienate colonies. He was now fast sinking into the grave, though but fifty-eight years of age. This measure was a bill to transfer the trial of controverted elections from the whole House of Commons to a select Committee of it. Ever since the famous Aylesbury case, the whole House had taken the charge of examining all petitions against the return of candidates and deciding them. This was a great obstruction of business; and Grenville now proposed to leave the inquiry and decision to the select Committee, which was to be composed of fifteen members of the House, thirteen of whom were to be chosen by the contesting claimants for the seat, out of a list of forty-five, elected by ballot from the whole House. The other two were to be named, one each, by the contesting candidates. The Committee was empowered to examine papers, call and swear witnesses, and, in fact, to exercise all the authority previously wielded by the whole House. It was opposed by Welbore Ellis, Rigby, Dyson, and Charles James Fox, not yet broken from his office shell into a full-fledged patriot. It was, however, carried, and being supported in the Lords by Lord Mansfield, who on this occasion manifested an unusual disregard of his party principles, it was passed there too.