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Whilst these elements of a new convulsion were in active operation, the Allies had settled to some extent the affairs of Europe, and had returned home. On the 30th of May a treaty had been signed at Paris, between Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, with France. The boundaries of France were settled as they existed in 1792; it was decreed that Holland and Belgium should be united to form a strong barrier against France; the independence of Switzerland was restored; the north of Italy was again made over to Austria, including[86] Venice, but not including Sardinia, which was enlarged by the addition of Genoa, out of which Lord William Bentinck, with a British army, had driven the French. Murat had assisted the Austrians to conquer Eugene Beauharnais, and hoped to be allowed to retain Naples, yet having many fears of his new allies, the Austrians, and of the Allies generally. The Pope was again in peaceful possession of his States; the arms and the money of Great Britain had triumphed over Buonaparte, and had restored the monarchs of Europe to their thrones; but it was not to be denied that in restoring them they had restored so many detestable despotisms.

Earl Grey had lived to witness the triumphant realisation of all the great objects for which throughout his public life he had contended, sometimes almost without hope. Catholic Emancipation had been yielded by his opponents as a tardy concession to the imperative demand of the nation. In the debates on that question in the House of Lords, Lord Grey was said to have excelled all others, and even himself. The long dormant question of Parliamentary Reform was quickened into life by the electric shock of the French Revolution of 1830, when the Duke of Wellington, with equal honesty and rashness, affirmed that the existing system of representation enjoyed the full and entire confidence of the country. This declaration raised a storm before which he was compelled to retire, in order to make way for a statesman with keener eye and firmer hand, to hold the helm and steer the vessel in that perilous crisis of the nation's destiny. Throughout the whole of that trying time Earl Grey's wisdom, his steadfastness, the moral greatness of his character, and the responsibility of his position, made him the centre of universal interest, and won for him the respect and admiration of all parties in the nation. Baffled again and again in the struggle for Reform, undismayed by the most formidable opposition, not deterred or disheartened by repeated repulses, he renewed his attacks on the citadel of monopoly and corruption, till at last his efforts were crowned with victory. And well did he use the great power for good which the Reform Parliament put into his hands. The emancipation of the slaves, the reform of the Irish Church, and the abolition of the gigantic abuses of the Poor Law system, were among the legislative achievements which he effected. His foreign policy, in the able hands of Lord Palmerston, was in harmony with his own domestic policybold, just, moderate, true to the cause of freedom abroad, while vigilantly guarding the national honour of his own country. By his vigorous diplomacy he had saved Belgium from being overwhelmed by the Dutch, and at the same time kept her independent of France. A capable Sovereign had been provided for her in Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, the widowed husband of Charlotte of England. Finally, when the Dutch declined to give way to the remonstrances of the Western Powers, a joint Anglo-French expedition was dispatched, which compelled the citadel of Antwerp to capitulate on December 23rd, 1832. Nevertheless, such was the obstinacy of the Dutch that the question remained unsettled on the fall of the Grey Ministry. Lord Palmerston's foreign policy was equally noteworthy in other quarters of the globe. If he could do little for the revolution in Poland, he could at least preserve constitutionalism in the Peninsula, where it was threatened by Dom Miguel in Portugal, and, after the death of Ferdinand in 1833, by Don Carlos in Spain. On the 22nd of April, 1834, Palmerston, in concert with Talleyrand, now French Minister in London, drew up the Quadruple Treaty, by which the two Powers undertook to deliver the Peninsula from the Absolutist pretenders. Its effect for the time being was remarkable; they both fled from the country, and constitutionalism was restored.

In order to induce the people to attend to their ordinary spring work, and put in the crops, it was found necessary to adopt the plan of distributing free rations. On the 20th of March, therefore, a reduction of twenty per cent. of the numbers employed on the works took place, and the process of reduction went on until the new system of gratuitous relief was brought into full operation. The authority under which this was administered was called the "Temporary Relief Act," which came into full operation in the month of July, when the destitution was at its height, and three millions of people received their daily rations. Sir John Burgoyne truly described this as "the grandest attempt ever made to grapple with famine over a whole country." Never in the history of the world were so many persons fed in such a manner by the public bounty. It was a most anxious timea time of tremendous labour and responsibility to those who had the direction of this vast machinery. This great multitude was, however, rapidly lessened at the approach of harvest, which happily was not affected by the disease. Food became comparatively abundant, and labour in demand. By the middle of August relief was discontinued in nearly one half of the unions, and ceased altogether on September 12th. It was limited by the Act to the 1st of October. This was the second year in which upwards of 3,000,000 of people had been fed out of the hands of the magistrates in Ireland; but it was now done more effectually than at first. Organised armies, it was said, had been rationed before; but neither ancient nor modern history can furnish a parallel to the fact that upwards of three millions of persons were fed every day in the neighbourhood of their own homes, by administrative arrangements emanating from, and controlled by, one central office. The expense of this great undertaking amounted to 1,559,212a moderate sum in comparison with the extent of the service performed, and in which performance the machinery of the Poor Law unions was found to afford most important aid. Indeed, without such aid the service could hardly have been performed at all; and the anticipations of the advantages to be derived from the Poor Law organisation in such emergencies were fully verified. The Ministerial statement was anticipated with great interest. It was delivered by the new Premier, on the evening of the 22nd, Brougham presiding as Lord Chancellor. Foremost and most conspicuous in his programme was the question of Parliamentary Reform; next, economy and peace. Having gone in detail through the principles of[325] his policy, and the reforms he proposed to introduce, the noble lord summed up all in the following words:"The principles on which I now stand, and upon which the Administration is prepared to act, arethe amelioration of existing abuses; the promotion of the most rigid economy in every branch of the public expenditure; and lastly, every endeavour that can be made by Government to preserve peace, consistent with the honour and character of the country. Upon these principles I have undertaken an office to which I have neither the affectation nor presumption to state that I am equal. I have arrived at a period of life when retirement is more to be desired than active employment; and I can assure your lordships that I should not have emerged from it had I not foundmay I be permitted to say thus much without incurring the charge of vanity or arrogance?had I not found myself, owing to accidental circumstances, certainly not to any merit of my own, placed in a situation in which, if I had declined the task, I had every reason to believe that any attempt to form a new Government on principles which I could support would have been unsuccessful. Urged by these considerations, being at the same time aware of my own inability, but acting in accordance with my sense of public duty, I have undertaken the Government of the country at the present momentous crisis."

It was found that the potato was almost the only food of the Irish millions, and that it formed their chief means of obtaining the other necessaries of life. A large portion of this crop was grown under the conacre system, to which the poorest of the peasantry were obliged to have recourse, notwithstanding the minute subdivision of land. In 1841 there were 691,000 farms in Ireland exceeding one acre in extent. Nearly one-half of these were under five acres each. The number of proprietors in fee was estimated at 8,000a smaller number in proportion to the extent of territory than in any other country of Western[536] Europe except Spain. In Connaught, several proprietors had 100,000 acres each, the proportion of small farms being greater there than in the rest of Ireland. The total number of farms in the province was 155,842, and of these 100,254 consisted of from one to five acres. If all the proprietors had resided among their tenantry, and been in a position to encourage their industry and care for their welfare, matters would not have been so bad; but most of the large landowners were absentees. It frequently happened that the large estates were held in strict limitation, and they were nearly all heavily encumbered. The owners preferred living in England or on the Continent, having let their lands on long leases or in perpetuity to "middlemen," who sublet them for as high rents as they could get. Their tenants again sublet, so that it frequently happened that two, three, or four landlords intervened between the proprietors and the occupying tenant, each deriving an interest from the land. The head landlord therefore, though ever so well-disposed, had no power whatever to help the occupying tenants generally, and of those who had the power, very few felt disposed. There were extensive districts without a single resident proprietor, and when the absentees were appealed to by the local relief committees during the famine to assist the perishing people, they seldom took the trouble of answering the application.

SIGNATURES TO THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.