Sir John Blaquiere, created Lord de Blaquiere, with offices and pensions.

Yet, during this winter, while Massena's army was in a constant state of semi-starvation, badly clothed and badly lodged, and thus wasting away by sickness and desertion, that of Wellington increased in numbers, in physical condition, and in discipline. Whilst Massena's army, originally seventy-one thousand men, was ere long reduced by the battle of Busaco and the miserable quarters in the wet country near Torres Vedras to fifty-five thousand, the forces of Wellington had been augmented, by reinforcements from England, and by the addition of Portuguese and Spanish troops, to fifty-eight thousand. When Massena retreated to Santarem, Wellington followed him to Cartaxo,[607] and there fixed his headquarters, and ordered General Hill to post his division opposite to Santarem, so as to check the enemy's foraging parties in that direction. At the same time, Colonel Trant, who had surprised the French rear as Massena's army was leaving Coimbra on his march after Wellington to Torres Vedras, and had secured the sick and wounded in the hospitals there to the amount of five thousand men, and who retained possession of Coimbra, now joined Sir Robert Wilson and Colonel Millar, who commanded the Portuguese militia, and their united force appeared in Massena's rear, cutting off his communication with the north and also with the Spanish frontier.

The Grenville Ministry was approaching its extinction. It had done a great work in the abolition of the Slave Trade, but there was another species of abolition which they were disposed to further which was not quite so acceptable. They had supported Wilberforce and his party in their measure for the negroes, but Wilberforce and his friends were by no means willing to support them in liberating the Catholics from their disabilities. Grenville and Fox had made no particular stipulation, on taking office, to prosecute the Catholic claims, but they were deeply pledged to this by their speeches of many years. It was, therefore, highly honourable of them, though very impolitic, to endeavour to do something, at least, to show their sincerity. Though the king was obstinately opposed to any relaxation of the restraints on this class of his subjects, yet the Fox and Grenville Ministry had introduced a milder and more generous treatment of the Catholics in Ireland. The Duke of Bedford, as Lord-Lieutenant, had discouraged the rampant spirit of Orangeism, and admitted Catholics to peace and patronage. He had abandoned the dragooning system, and had managed to settle some disturbances which broke out in the autumn of 1806, without even proclaiming martial law. These measures had won the cordial attachment of the Catholics both in Ireland and England, but, in the same proportion, had exasperated the Church and War party against them in both countries. Their adding another three-and-a-half per cent. to the income and property taxes had still further embittered these parties, and the antagonism to them was every day becoming stronger. Yet they resolved, in spite of all this, to make an attempt to do some justice to the Catholics. They managed to carry an additional grant to the College of Maynooth, and on the 4th of March, when this grant was debated, Wilberforce, though[533] wanting the support of Ministers for his Slave Trade Bill, made a violent speech against all concessions to the Catholics. He declared the Protestant Church the only true one, and, therefore, the only one which ought to be supported. "He did not profess," he said, "to entertain large and liberal views on religious subjects; he was not, like Buonaparte, an honorary member of all religions." Undeterred by these tokens of resistance, Lord Howick, the very next day, moved for leave to bring in a Bill to enable Catholics to hold commissions in the army and navy on taking a particular oath. He said that it was a strange anomaly that Catholics in Ireland could hold such commissions since 1793, and attain to any rank except that of Commander-in-Chief, of Master-General of the Ordnance, or of General of the Staff, yet, should these regiments be ordered to this country, they were, by law, disqualified for service. A clause had already been added to the Mutiny Bill to remove the anomaly. He proposed to do away with this extraordinary state of things, and enable his Majesty, at his pleasurefor it only amounted to that, after allto open the ranks of the army and navy to all subjects, without distinction, in Great Britain as well as Ireland. Having now kidnapped and disposed of the whole dynasty of Spain, Buonaparte had to inaugurate the new one by the appointment of a king. For this purpose he pitched on his brother Lucien, who, next to himself, was the ablest of the family, and who had rendered him signal services in the expulsion of the Council of Five Hundred from St. Cloud. But Lucien was of too independent a character to become a mere puppet of the great man, like the rest of his brothers. As Napoleon grew haughty and imperious in the progress of his success, Lucien had dared to express disapprobation of his conduct. He declared that Napoleon's every word and action proceeded, not from principle, but from mere political considerations, and that the foundation of his whole system and career was egotism. He had married a private person to please himself, and would not abandon his wife to receive a princess and a crown, like Jerome. Lucien had, moreover, literary tastes, was fond of collecting works of art, and had a fortune ample enough for these purposes. When, therefore, Napoleon sent for him to assume the crown of Spain, he declined the honour. Napoleon then resolved to take Joseph from Naples, and confer on him the throne of Spain and the Indies. Joseph, who was indolent and self-indulgent, and who at Naples could not exempt himself from continual fears of daggers and assassination, received with consternation the summons to assume the crown of Spain, as ominous of no ordinary troubles. He declared that it was too weighty for his head, and showed no alacrity in setting out. Napoleon was obliged to summon him several times, and at length to dispatch one of his most active and trusted aides-de-camp to hasten his movements.

Marriage is one of the fundamental principles of the social system. The law of marriage, therefore, ought to be plain and simple, intelligible to all, and guarded in every possible way against fraud and abuse. Yet the marriage laws of the United Kingdom were long in the most confused, unintelligible, and unsettled state, leading often to ruinous and almost endless litigation. A new Marriage Act was passed in the Session now under review, which, like many Acts of the kind, originated in personal interests affecting the aristocracy. It was said to have mainly arisen out of the marriage of the Marquis of Donegal with Miss May, who was the daughter of a gentleman celebrated for assisting persons of fashion with loans of money. The brother of the marquis sought to set this marriage aside, and to render the children illegitimate, in order that he might himself, should the marquis die without lawful issue, be heir to his title and estates. In law the marriage was invalid; but it was now protected by a retrospective clause in the new Act. By the Marriage Act of 1754 all marriages of minors certified without the assent of certain specified persons were declared null. A Bill was passed by the Commons giving validity to marriages which, according to the existing law, were null, and providing that the marriages of minors, celebrated without due notice, should not be void, but merely voidable, and liable to be annulled only during the minority[226] of the parties, and at the suit of the parents or guardians. A great portion of the present Session was[143] occupied with discussing the return to cash payments, which, by the Act of Parliament, ought to take place on the 5th of July of this year. It appears that no less than fifty debates and conversations in both Houses took place on this important subject during the Session. Very soon after the meeting of Parliament a secret committee of each House was appointed to inquire into the state of the Bank. These committees were, however, so managed, by delivering to the members lists of suitable persons for such committees, that scarcely any but Ministerial men were voted, though these votes were given by ballot. In the Commons this result was so evident that the Opposition declined to vote at all. The first reports of the committees went rather to close more strictly than to open the issue of gold by the Bank. It had been paying in gold its notes issued previous to January, 1817. This payment it was proposed to stop, as, at present, evidently injurious to the interests of the country. Mr. Peel, on moving for a Bill for this purpose, stated that the gold at the present price was fast finding its way abroad, and was as rapidly absorbed in re-minting a gold coinage for France. It appeared that during the first half of 1818 gold to the value of no less than one hundred and twenty-eight million francs had been coined at the French mint, of which three-fourths were derived from the gold coinage of England. A Bill was accordingly passed to stop payment altogether in gold till the necessary preparations were made by a fresh Bill. Still, the condition of the Bank was represented as flourishing. Its liabilities were stated in January, 1819, as amounting to thirty-three million eight hundred and ninety-four thousand five hundred and eighty pounds; its assets, including the debt due from Government, fifty-three million seven hundred and eighty-three thousand seven hundred pounds. The total Bank surplus appeared to be nineteen million eight hundred and eighty-nine thousand one hundred and twenty pounds; and its surplus, independent of the Government debt, and therefore available for current use, was five million two hundred and two thousand three hundred and twenty pounds. The committees adopted the scheme broached by Mr. Ricardo in his "Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency," published in 1816. This was that the Bank, in the first instance, should not pay for its notes in gold coin, but in ingots of a certain weight, its fineness being attested by a stamp; and this degree of purity should be regulated from time to time till the gold descended to the Mint price of three pounds seventeen shillings and tenpence-halfpenny per ounce. When the Mint gold at length reached this rate of value, then the payment in coin was to be begun. Resolutions to this effect were moved by the Earl of Harrowby on the 21st of May, and they received the approval, not only of the Ministerial side, but of the leading Opposition members, Lords Grenville, Lansdowne, and King.