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But the most discouraging feature of this war was the incurable pride of the Spaniards, which no reverses, and no example of the successes of their allies could abate sufficiently to show them that, unless they would condescend to be taught discipline, as the Portuguese had done, they must still suffer ignominy and annihilation. Blake, who had been so thoroughly routed on every occasion, was not content, like the British and Portuguese, to go into quarters, and prepare, by good drilling, for a more auspicious campaign. On the contrary, he led his rabble of an army away to the eastern borders of Spain, encountered Suchet in the open field on the 25th of October, was desperately beaten, and then took refuge in Valencia, where he was closely invested, and compelled to surrender in the early part of January next year, with eighteen thousand men, twenty-three officers, and nearly four hundred guns. Such, for the time, was the end of the generalship of this wrong-headed man. Suchet had, before his encounter with Blake, been making a most successful campaign in the difficult country of Catalonia, which had foiled so many French generals. He had captured one fortress after another, and in June he had taken Tarragona, after a siege of three months, and gave it up to the lust and plunder of his soldiery.FROM THE PAINTING BY F. X. WINTERHALTER IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY.
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A third Bill yet remained to be carried, in order to complete the Ministerial scheme of Emancipation, and supply the security necessary for its satisfactory working. This was the Bill for disfranchising the forty-shilling freeholders, by whose instrumentality, it may be said, Emancipation was effected. It was they that returned Mr. O'Connell for Clare; it was they that would have returned the members for twenty-three other counties, pledged to support his policy. It is true that this class of voters was generally dependent upon the landlords, unless under the influence of violent excitement, when they were wrested like weapons from their hands by the priests, and used with a vengeance for the punishment of those by whom they had been created. In neither case did they exercise the franchise in fulfilment of the purpose for which it was given. In both cases those voters were the instruments of a power which availed itself of the forms of the Constitution, but was directly opposed to its spirit. Disfranchisement, however, in any circumstances, was distasteful to both Conservative and Liberal statesmen. Mr. Brougham said he consented to it in this case "as the pricealmost the extravagant price"of Emancipation; and Sir James Mackintosh remarked that it was one of those "tough morsels" which he had been scarcely able to swallow. The measure was opposed by Mr. Huskisson, Lord Palmerston, and Lord Duncannon, as not requisite, and not calculated to accomplish its object. But although Mr. O'Connell had repeatedly declared that he would not accept Emancipation if the faithful "forties" were to be sacrificed, that he would rather die on the scaffold than submit to any such measure, though Mr. Sheil had denounced it in language the most vehement, yet the measure was allowed to pass through both Houses of Parliament without any opposition worth naming; only seventeen members voting against the second reading in the Commons, and there being no division against it in the Lords. Ireland beheld the sacrifice in silence. Mr. O'Connell forgot his solemn vows, so recently registered, and, what was more strange, the priests did not remind him of his obligation. Perhaps they were not sorry to witness the annihilation of a power which landlords might use against them and which agitators might wield in a way that they could not at all times control. There had been always an uneasy feeling among the prelates and the higher clergy at the influence which Mr. O'Connell and the other lay agitators had acquired, because it tended to raise in the people a spirit of independence which rendered them sometimes refractory as members of the Church, and suggested the idea of combination against their own pastors, if they declined to become their leaders in any popular movement. The popular leaders in Ireland, however, consoling themselves with the assurance that many of the class of "bold peasantry" which they had glorified would still enjoy the franchise as ten-pound freeholders, consented, reluctantly of course, to the extinction of 300,000 "forties." They considered the danger of delay, and the probability that if this opportunity were missed, another might not occur for years of striking off the shackles which the upper classes of Roman Catholics especially felt to be so galling.
In the House of Lords the second reading was carried on the 28th of May by a majority of 47, and the Bill was finally passed on the 25th of June. The attitude of the House was due entirely to the Duke of Wellington, and his conduct constitutes his best claim to the title of statesman. But the downfall of the Peel Ministry was inevitable. In a letter to the Duke, of the 18th of February, Lord Stanley had said that, whatever might be the result of the Corn Bill, the days of the existing Government were numbered, and that the confidence of his party in Sir Robert Peel had been so shaken, "that, in spite of his pre-eminent abilities and great services, he could never reunite it under his guidance." The Protectionist party found its opportunity in the Irish Coercion Bill, which, introduced by Earl St. Germans into the House of Lords, had slowly passed through its various stages, and appeared in the Commons in March. At first the Bill was obstructed in order to delay the Corn Bill, but when that measure became law, Whigs and Protectionistswho had voted for the second reading of the Protection of Life Billresolved to use it as an instrument for the overthrow of Peel. They combined, therefore, with the Radicals and Irish members, and, on the very night on which Free Trade was passed by the Lords, the Minister was finally defeated in the Commons. He might have dissolved, but his preference was for retirement. The concluding words of his speech will long be remembered. He said: "With reference to honourable gentlemen opposite, I must say, as I say with reference to ourselves, neither of us is the party which is justly entitled to the credit of those measures. There has been a combination of parties, and that combination, and the influence of Government, have led to their ultimate success; but the name which ought to be, and will be, associated with the success of those measures, is the name of the man who, acting, I believe, from pure and disinterested motives, has, with untiring energy, by appeals to reason, enforced their necessity with an eloquence the more to be admired because it was unaffected and unadornedthe name which ought to be associated with the success of those measures is the name of Richard Cobden. Sir, I now close the address which it has been my duty to make to the House, thanking them sincerely for the favour with which they have listened to me in performing the last act of my official career. Within a few hours, probably, that favour which I have held for the period of five years will be surrendered into the hands of anotherwithout repiningI can say without complaintwith a more lively recollection of the support and confidence I have received than of the opposition which, during a recent period, I have met with. I shall leave office with a name severely censured, I fear, by many who, on public grounds, deeply regret the severance of party tiesdeeply regret that severance, not from interest or personal motives, but from the firm conviction that fidelity to party engagementsthe existence and maintenance of a great partyconstitutes a powerful instrument of government. I shall surrender power severely censured also by others who, from no interested motives, adhere to the principle of Protection, considering the maintenance of it to be essential to the welfare and interests of the country. I shall leave a name execrated by every monopolist who, from less honourable motives, clamours for Protection because it conduces to his own individual benefit; but it may be that I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of good-will in the abodes of those whose lot it is to labour, and to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, when they shall recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because it is no longer leavened by the sense of injustice."