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Marshal Villars, like the French plenipotentiaries, had made a great display of forces, pretty certain, from private information, that there was little fear of being attacked. The Allies had a fine army of one hundred and twenty thousand men opposed to him; but so far as the English were concerned, their commander had his hands tied. The Duke of Ormonde was sent to take the place of the Duke of Marlborougha certain indication that he was meant only for a mere show general. He was a staunch Jacobite, but no general of talents or experience fit to succeed a man like Marlborough. On arriving at the Hague he assured the States General that his instructions were to act zealously with the Allies, and especially the Dutch, and from his letters it would appear that such were his orders. But before his arrival, Mr. Thomas Harley, a relative of Oxford's, and the Abb Gualtier, had reached the Hague, and had assured the plenipotentiaries that the Government had determined on peace, and would not allow the army to fight. They also brought over with them the scheme of the Treaty, which was not yet to be made known to the Dutch. But the States General were too well aware of the hollow proceedings of the English Court, and, disgusted at the withdrawal of Marlborough and the substitution of Ormonde, they would not entrust their troops to him, but appointed Eugene as their own general. Thus, instead of one generalissimo of consummate genius, the army was divided under two chiefs, the abler chief, the Prince Eugene, having the utmost contempt for the martial talents of his colleague. All on the part of England, both in the conference and in the army, was hollow, treacherous, and disgraceful. Yet, though there was to be no fighting, the pretence of it was kept up. The Earl of Albemarle marched with a detachment of the army to Arras, where he burnt and destroyed some magazines of the French. Ormonde, too, joined Prince Eugene on the 26th of May, and the united army passed the Scheldt, and encamped between Haspres and Solennes. Eugene proposed to attack Villars in his lines, and Ormonde consented to it, but he immediately received a peremptory order from Mr. Secretary St. John against engaging in any siege or battle, and he was directed to keep this order profoundly secret from the Allies. Ormonde was also instructed that if Villars should intimate that he was aware of these secret proceedings, he was to take no notice of them; nor was Villars long in letting him know that they might now consider each other as friends. The situation of Ormonde thus became one of extreme embarrassment. On the one hand, Eugene urged him to prepare for an engagement; on the other, the Dutch were impatient to see some stroke which should humble the French and make negotiation more easy; but Ormonde was as unable to move, notwithstanding previous assurances, as if he had been a mere image of wood. He wrote to St. John, expressing in strong terms the embarrassing nature of his situation, assuring him that the Dutch were exclaiming that they were betrayed; but St. John encouraged him to hold out as well as he could, and Ormonde condescended to play this false and degrading part, equally disgraceful to him as a general and a man of any pretences to honour. The prince urged forward the necessity of laying siege to Quesnoy, and Ormonde was allowed, for the sake of keeping up appearances, to furnish a considerable detachment for the purpose. But there was so evident a backwardness in the duke's movements, that the Dutch deputies complained vehemently to the English plenipotentiaries at Utrecht of his refusal to act in earnest against the enemy. Thereupon Robinson, the bishop, took high ground, and retorted that the States General had met the queen's proposals for peace so strangely, that her Majesty now felt herself released from any further obligation to maintain the treaties and engagements between herself and them. This roused the States to great and indignant activity. They entered into communication with the Electors of Hanover, of Hesse-Cassel, and other princes of the Empire, regarding the effective service of their troops in the pay of Great Britain. They sent off warm remonstrances to the Queen of England, and Anne was obliged to summon a council, in which it was agreed that Ormonde should appear as much as possible to concur with Eugene in the siege.
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Frederick of Prussia, meanwhile, had been beset by Austrians, Russians, and French, and had never been able to retire to winter quarters. He had continued to blockade Schweidnitz amid frost and snow, and having reduced it, at the very first symptoms of spring he suddenly burst into Moravia, and invested Olmütz, its capital. There he had to contend with the able and cautious Marshal Daun and General Laudohn, nearly as efficient. Laudohn managed to seize three thousand waggons, bringing from Silesia supplies for Frederick; and whilst the king was in this state of destitution for food even for his army, a hundred thousand Russians, under General Fermor, were marching steadily on Berlin. They had taken K?nigsberg, laid waste the whole country beyond the Vistula, and then pushed on for the Oder. They had arrived before Küstrin, only a few marches from Berlin, when Frederick, leaving his brother, Prince Henry, to keep Daun and Laudohn in check before Olmütz, marched against them. A terrible battle took place on the plain of Z?rndorf, near Custrin, in which neither Prussians nor Russians gave quarter, and which lasted from nine in the morning till seven at night. Twenty thousand Russians were left killed or wounded on the field, and eleven thousand Prussians. The Russians retired with reluctance, and did not wholly evacuate the Prussian territory till the end of October. But Frederick himself, long before that time, had been compelled to hurry back to the support of his brother Henry, whom Daun had driven back into Saxony. He fixed his camp at Hochkirch, near Bautzen, and close to the Bohemian lines. But a few mornings after, before daybreak, Daun and Laudohn burst into his camp by a combined movement, and threw the whole into confusion before the troops could muster. When Frederick awoke at the uproar and rushed from his tent, all around was one fearful scene of slaughter and flight. The news of this defeat of the generally victorious Prussians threw the court of Vienna into ecstacies, for they thought that Frederick was ruined; and so he might have been had Daun been as alert to follow him up as he had been successful in surprising him. But Daun was naturally slow; a very few days sufficed for Frederick to collect fresh forces around him, and he suddenly darted away into Silesia. There he raised the siege of Neisse, which was invested by another division of the Austrian army; then, falling back on Dresden, threatened by Daun, he drove him back, and, marching to Breslau, fixed there his winter quarters.
A remarkable conflict took place this year between the jurisdiction of the House of Commons and that of the Court of Queen's Bench, which excited great interest at the time, and has important bearings upon the constitutional history of the country. The following is a brief narrative of the facts out of which it arose:In the year 1835 a Bill was proposed in the House of Lords by the Duke of Richmond for the purpose of appointing inspectors of prisons. The inspectors were appointed, and, in the discharge of their duty, reported on the state of Newgate. The House ordered the report to be printed and sold by the Messrs. Hansard. In this report it was stated that the inspectors of that gaol found amongst the books used by the prisoners one printed by John Joseph Stockdale in 1827, which they said was "a book of the most disgusting nature, and the plates are obscene and indecent in the extreme." On the 7th of November, 1836, Stockdale brought an action for libel against the Messrs. Hansard for the sale of this report, which was alleged to be false. Sir John Campbell, who was counsel for the defendants, argued that the report was a privileged publication, being printed by the authority of the House of Commons, and on that ground they were entitled to a verdict. But Lord Denman, in his charge to the jury, said: "I entirely disagree from the law laid down by the learned counsel for the defendants. My direction to you, subject to a question hereafter, is, that the fact of the House of Commons having directed Messrs. Hansard to publish all the Parliamentary Reports is no justification for them, or for any bookseller who publishes a Parliamentary Report containing a libel against any man." In addition, however, to the plea of "Not Guilty," there was a plea of justification, on the ground that the allegations were true, and on this the jury found a verdict for the defendants. On the 16th of February, 1837, the Messrs. Hansard communicated the facts to the House of Commons. A select Committee was consequently appointed to examine precedents, and report upon the question of its privileges in regard to the publication of its reports and other matters. They reported in favour of the privilege which would protect any publication ordered by the House of Commons, and resolutions based upon the report were adopted.