A still more signal victory was won by Admiral Duncan in the autumn. On the 11th of October, the Admiral, who had been watching the Dutch fleet in the Texel, found that during a storm it had stolen out, and was on its way to join the French fleet at Brest. There were eleven sail of the line, and four fifty-six gun ships, commanded by Admiral de Winter. Duncan had sixteen sail of the line. Notwithstanding our superiority of numbers, the Dutch fought with their accustomed valour, but Duncan ran his ships between them and the dangerous coast, to prevent their regaining the Texel, and so battered them that they were compelled to strike. Eight sail of the line, two fifty-six gun ships, and two frigates remained in our hands; but the Dutch had stood it out so stoutly, that the vessels were few of them capable of being again made serviceable. The loss in killed and wounded on both sides was great. Duncan was elevated to the peerage for this victory of Camperdown, and the danger of immediate invasion was at an end.

The condition of Washington was inconceivably depressing. The time for the serving of the greater part of the troops was fast expiring; and numbers of them, despite the circumstances of the country, went off. Whilst Washington was, therefore, exerting himself to prevail on them to continue, he was compelled to weaken his persuasions by enforcing the strictest restraint on both soldiers and officers, who would plunder the inhabitants around them on the plea that they were Tories. Sickness was in his camp; and his suffering men, for want of hospitals, were obliged to lie about in barns, stables, sheds, and even under the fences and bushes. He wrote again to Congress in a condition of despair. He called on them to place their army on a permanent footing; to give the officers such pay as should enable them to live as gentlemen, and not as mean plunderers. He recommended that not only a good bounty should be given to every non-commissioned officer and soldier, but also the reward of a hundred or a hundred and fifty acres of land, a suit of clothes, and a blanket. Though Congress was loth to comply with these terms, it soon found that it must do so, or soldiers would go over to the royal army.

The general result of the elections was considered to have diminished by fifty the number of votes on which Ministers could depend, and the relation in which they now stood to the more popular part of the representation was stated to be as follows:Of the eighty-two members returned by the forty counties of England, only twenty-eight were steady adherents of the Ministry; forty-seven were avowed adherents of the Opposition, and seven of the neutral cast did not lean much to Government. Of the thirteen popular cities and boroughs (London, Westminster, Aylesbury, etc.), returning twenty-eight members, only three seats were held by decidedly Ministerial men, and twenty-four by men in avowed opposition. There were sixty other places, more or less open, returning 126 members. Of these only forty-seven were Ministerial; all the rest were avowed Opposition men, save eight, whose leaning was rather against the Government than for it. Of the 236 men then returned by elections more or less popular in England, only seventy-nine were Ministerial votes; 141 were in avowed opposition, and sixteen of a neutral cast. To acquire popularity, the Rockingham administration made a further restriction on the import of foreign silks; they made a modification of the Cider Bill, but this only extended to taking the duty off cider belonging to private persons, and was regarded as a bribe to the country gentlemen. They induced the House of Commons to pass a resolution on the 25th of April, declaring general warrants illegal, and, if for seizing any member of the House, a breach of privilege. But when they passed this in the form of a bill, the Lords threw it out; and a second bill for the same purpose failed in the Commons. Still, these conciliatory measures did not procure them confidence. Colonel Barr refused them his support; General Conway was sick of his post, and longed to be out of it; and Henley, Lord Northington, as Chancellor, was found actually intriguing against his colleagues. With the Court they grew into no favour, because the king thought them backward in procuring from Parliament suitable provision for his younger brother. It was clear that this could not last. To cap the climax of weakness, the Rockingham Cabinet came to open issue amongst themselves on the plan of government for Canada. Northington informed the king that they could not go on; and the king, on the 7th of July, gave the Chancellor a letter to Pitt, inviting him to form a new Ministry. The same day his Majesty also informed the existing Cabinet of the change which he contemplated. Conway[190] said frankly, it was the best thing the king could do; but Lord Rockingham and the Duke of Newcastle were deeply offended.

The minute subdivision of land which placed the population in a state of such complete dependence upon the potato was first encouraged by the landlords, in order to multiply the number of voters, and increase their Parliamentary interest; but subsequently, as the population increased, it became in a great measure the work of the people themselves. The possession of land afforded the only certain means of subsistence, and a farm was therefore divided among the sons of the family, each one, as he was marriedwhich happened earlyreceiving some share, and each daughter also often getting a slice as her marriage-portion. In vain were clauses against subletting inserted in leases; in vain was the erection of new houses prohibited; in vain did the landlord threaten the tenant. The latter relied upon the sympathy of his class to prevent ejectment, and on his own ingenuity to defeat the other impediments to his favourite mode of providing for his family. This process was at length carried to an extreme that became perfectly ludicrous. Instead of each sub-tenant or assignee of a portion of the farm receiving his holding in one compact lot, he obtained a part of each particular quality of land, so that his tenement consisted of a number of scattered patches, each too small to be separately fenced, and exposed to the constant depredations of his neighbours' cattle, thus affording a fruitful source of quarrels, and utterly preventing the possibility of any improved system of husbandry. These small patches, however, were not numerous enough to afford "potato gardens" for the still increasing population, and hence arose the conacre system, by which those who occupied no land were enabled to grow potatoes for themselves. Tempted by the high rent, which varied from 8 to 14 an acre without manure, the farmers gave to the cottiers in their neighbourhood the use of their land merely for the potato crop, generally a quarter of an Irish acre to each. On this the cottier put all the manure he could make by his pig, or the children could scrape off the road during the year, and "planted" his crop of potatoes, which he relied upon as almost the sole support of his family. On it he also fed the pig, which paid the rent, or procured clothes and other necessaries if he had been permitted to pay the rent with his own labour. The labourer thus became a commercial speculator in potatoes. He mortgaged his labour for part of the ensuing year for the rent of his field. If his speculation proved successful, he was able to replace his capital, to fatten his pig, and to support himself and his family, while he cleared off his debt to the farmer. If it failed, his former savings were gone, his heap of manure had been expended to no purpose, and he had lost the means of rendering his pig fit for the market. But his debt to the farmer still remained, and the scanty wages which he could earn at some periods of the year were reduced, not only by the increased number of persons looking for work, but also by the diminished ability of the farmers to employ them. Speculation in potatoes, whether on a large or small scale, had always been hazardous in the southern and westerly portions of Ireland. There had been famines from the failure of that crop at various times, and a remarkably severe one in 1822, when Parliament voted 300,000 for public works and other relief purposes, and subscriptions were raised to the amount of 310,000, of which 44,000 was collected in Ireland. In 1831 violent storms and continual rain brought on another failure of the potato crop in the west of Ireland, particularly along the coast of Galway, Mayo, and Donegal. On this occasion the English public, with ready sympathy, again came forward, and subscriptions were raised, amounting to about[537] 75,000. On several other occasions subsequently, the Government found it necessary to advance money for the relief of Irish misery, invariably occasioned by the failure of the potatoes, and followed by distress and disease. The public and the Legislature had therefore repeated warnings of the danger of having millions of people dependent for existence upon so precarious a crop.

On the 16th of August a party of English soldiers, sent by the Governor of Fort Augustus to reinforce the garrison at Fort William, were assailed by a number of Keppoch's Highlanders in the narrow pass of High Bridge. They attempted to retreat when they found they could not reach their antagonists in their ambush, but they were stopped by a fresh detachment of the followers of Lochiel, and compelled to lay down their arms. Five or six of them were killed, and their leader, Captain Scott, was wounded. They received the kindest treatment from the conquerors, and as the Governor of Fort Augustus refused to trust a surgeon amongst them to dress the wounds of Captain Scott, Lochiel immediately allowed Scott to return to the fort on his parole, and received the rest of the wounded into his house at Auchnacarrie. When Parliament opened on the 20th of January, 1778, the Opposition fell, as it were, in a mass upon the Ministry on this question. There was much dissatisfaction expressed at the Government allowing Liverpool, Manchester, and other places, to raise troops without consulting Parliament. It was declared to be a practice contrary to the Constitution and to the Coronation Oath. Sir Philip Jennings Clerke, on the 22nd of January, moved for an account of the numbers of troops so raised, with the names of the commanding officers. Lord North, whilst observing that this mode of raising troops showed the[249] popularity of the war, and that the country was by no means in that helpless condition which a jealous and impatient faction represented it to be, readily granted the return. In the House of Lords the Earl of Abingdon moved to consult the judges on the legality of raising troops without authority of Parliament; but this motion was not pressed to a division. But, on the 4th of February, Sir Philip Jennings Clerke returned to his charge in the Commons. Lord North replied that this now hotly-decried practice was one which had been not only adopted, but highly approved of, in 1745, and again in 1759, when Lord Chatham was Minister, and that he had then thanked publicly those who had raised the troops for the honour and glory of their country. A motion was negatived by the Lords on the same day, to declare this practice unconstitutional, and a similar one later in the Session, introduced by Wilkes and supported by Burke.


All this time it was raining heavily, and Brandreth, daunted by the weather, or by the courageous conduct of the manager, gave the word to march. The manager calculated that there were only about a hundred of them at this point; but they were soon after joined by another troop from Ripley, and they took two roads, which united about three miles farther on, collecting fresh men by the most direful threats. When they reached Eastwood, a village three or four miles farther on the road to Nottingham, they were said to amount to three hundred, but ragged, famished, drenched with the rain, and not half of them armed, even with rude pikes. Near Eastwood they were met by a troop of horse from Nottingham, which had been summoned by Mr. Rolleston, a magistrate, and at the sight they fled in confusion. About forty guns and a number of pikes were picked up, and a considerable number of prisoners were made, amongst them Brandreth. These prisoners were afterwards tried at a special assize at Derby. They were defended by Thomas (afterwards Lord) Denman, whose eloquence on the occasion raised him at once into notice, and whose generous, gratuitous, and indefatigable exertions on behalf of these simple, ignorant victims of Government instigation, showed him to be a man of the noblest nature. Notwithstanding his efforts, twenty of these unhappy dupes were transported for different terms, and threeBrandreth, Ludlam, and Turnerwere hanged and then beheaded as traitors.

Whilst these events had been passing in Austria and Bavaria, the King of England had endeavoured to make a powerful diversion in the Netherlands. Under the plea of this movement sixteen thousand British troops were embarked in April for the Netherlands; but they were first employed to overawe Prussia, which was in contention with Hanover regarding the Duchy of Mecklenburg. There were other causes of dispute between Prussia and the Elector of Hanover. George having now this strong British force, besides sixteen thousand Hanoverian troops and six thousand auxiliary Hessians, Frederick thought proper to come to terms with him, and, in consequence of mutual arrangements, the Hanoverian troops quitted Mecklenburg, and George, feeling Hanover safe, marched this united force to the Netherlands to join the British ones. He expected the Dutch to co-operate with him and the Austrians, and strike a decided blow at France. But the Earl of Stair, who was to command these forces, and who was at the same time ambassador to the States, found it impossible to induce the Dutch to act. They had increased their forces both by sea and land, but they were afraid of the vicinity of the French, and were, with their usual jealousy, by no means pleased to see the English assuming power in the Netherlands. Therefore, after making a great demonstration of an attempt on the French frontier with the united army, the project was suddenly abandoned, and the troops retired into winter quarters. But little was accomplished during this year by the British fleet.

Whilst these contentions were going on, Wren had entered fairly on his profession of architect. He built the Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford, begun in 1663, and completed in 1669; and the fine library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and the beautiful square, Neville's Court, to the same college. He also built the chapels of Pembroke and Emmanuel Colleges, in the same university. In the erection of these, he suffered, from the conceit and conflicting opinions of parties concerned, a foretaste of the squabbles and contradictions which rendered the whole period of the building of St. Paul's miserable. In 1665 he found leisure to visit Paris, and study the magnificent palaces and churches with which Louis XIV. was embellishing his capital. There he got a glimpse of the design for the Louvre, which Bernini, the architect, showed him, but only for a moment; and he was in communication with Mansard, Le Vau, and Le Pautre.