Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

Architecture had not recovered the check it had received at the Reformation, and the vitiated Græco-Italian style, which had been sanctioned by Sir Christopher Wren. It had even degenerated since his day, as the construction of public buildings of that date too plainly proves. The greatest literary name of the period is that of Dr. Samuel Johnson he lived till the 25th year of George III.

Blackfriars bridge was built during this reign, and various improvements were made in the arrangement of the streets of London.

It

The historical student should be apprised, that in the year 1751 an important alteration was sanctioned by Act of Parliament for regulating the commencement of the year, and for correcting the calendar as it was then in use. had been usual up to that time in England for the year to begin on the 25th of March; but this practice was attended with various inconveniences, one of which was the uncertainty which it introduced into chronology. Part of each year was thus made to belong to its predecessor; for instance, the death of Charles I., which took place Jan. 30th, 1649, was made to have occurred on Jan. 30th, 1648. Hence the date of that occurrence had to be expressed thus, Jan. 30th, 1648.

Besides this, England had hitherto adhered with great tenacity to what is generally called the Old Style of the calendar; that is, to the arrangement of the year as fixed by Julius Cæsar, and explained by Augustus. The greater part of the continent had adopted the New or Gregorian Style; and thus merchants and others experienced great difficulty in adjusting their commercial transactions to those of other nations. The difference in reckoning between the two Styles had now amounted to eleven days, so that the same day was at Rome or Paris the 13th of September, and at London the 2nd of that month, and so on. The cause of this variation was as follows. The Julian year was supposed to consist of 365 days 6 hours, and a day was thus formed every fourth year, which was inserted much in the same way as our 29th of February. In fact, however, six hours exceeded the real amount of surplus each year by 11′ 12′′, the accumulation of which excess was found by Pope Gregory XIII., in 1582, to have caused ten more days to have been inserted than were necessary.

He recommended, therefore, that, in future, every first, second, and third hundredth year, should have no intercalated day (i.e. no 29th of February), and that to balance ten days, which had been wrongly inserted in times past, ten days should be omitted between the 4th and the 15th of October, 1582. Thus the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not to be leap-years, but the years 1600 and 2000 were to be leap-years, as before, and the 5th of October, 1582, was to be the 15th of October. These amendments were adopted at once in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and very soon afterwards in France, and the parts of Switzerland, Germany, and the Low Countries which were connected with the Church of Rome. Other parts of Europe affected for some time to consider them as Romish innovations, and were slower in adopting them. England delayed doing so until 1751, when the difference amounted, as we have said, to eleven days. It now, 1851, amounts to twelve. Russia, and the parts of Europe connected with the Greek Church, still adhere to the Old Style.

To illustrate the difference at this moment, let us take a date. March 21st, 1851, New Style (N. S.), is, according to the Russian notation, March 9, 1850, Old Style (O. S). It seems, at first sight, curious that prejudice should have run so strongly against a mere astronomical arrangement, as if it involved submission to Rome. In England people fancied they were deprived of eleven days of life, or eleven days' profits of business; and it was not unfrequent for King George's ministers to be saluted on public occasions with the cry, "Give us back our eleven days!" For this, however, they cared very little. They carried a reform through, which in Queen Elizabeth's time could not be effected. In 1751 it was enacted that the eleven days should be struck out between the 2nd and the 14th of September of the year 1752, and that the year 1753 should commence on the 1st of January. The other Gregorian arrangements were sanctioned at the same time.

5 A Bill was read the first time in the House of Lords on the 16th of March, 158, and a second time on the 18th of that month, to "give Her Majesty authority to alter or new-make a Calendar according to the Calendar used in other countries." But no more was heard of it. On this and other curious points connected with the Calendar, the student is referred to Sir Harris Nicolas's "Chronology of History."

CHAPTER XXXIX.

GEORGE III.

PERIOD OF THE AMERICAN WAR.

1760-1789.

Born at Norfolk House, St. James's. Buried at Windsor. Reigned 60 years. From A.D. 1760 to A.D. 1820.

Archbishops of Canterbury.

Thomas Secker, A.D. 1758-1768. | John Moore, A.D. 1783-1805. Frederick Cornwallis, A.D. 1768- Charles Manners Sutton, A.D. 1805 1783. -1828.

FEw princes have ever succeeded to a crown under more favourable circumstances than those which marked the accession of George III. Born and educated in England, he had not to contend with that dislike of foreigners for which the English have generally been remarkable. He was a

man of sound moral and religious principles, and his sterling worth was appreciated by the great body of the intelligent people which he was called to govern. The hopes of the exiled family were now extinct. The influence of British character and power had at no time been more successfully exerted in all parts of the world. The history of England, instead of being (as formerly) the narrative of petty struggles between the feudal sovereign and his powerful vassals, now embraced the transactions of mighty empires in the East and West, with which the interests of British commerce and British ascendancy were closely interwoven.

The king was also happy in uniting himself to a princess of his own high character and principles. His marriage with the Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburgh Strelitz took place in 1761; and during his long reign (the longest in our annals) the nation had the unspeakable blessing of the example of a pure and virtuous court. The king had been educated in high notions of his royal prerogative, and was somewhat unbending in his opinions. He was kind of heart and courteous in manner; and as his personal character contributed in no small degree to preserve his kingdom from the revolutionary principles which overthrew all that was sacred in France, so his memory will ever be cherished by Englishmen with affection and veneration.

The war continued for three years after his accession; and as a treaty, called the "Family Compact," had been secretly arranged between the French and Spanish courts, it became necessary to widen the war by proceeding to hostile measures against Spain. This resolution not having been taken so soon as Mr. Pitt advised it, he resigned his situation as minister. He was again in office for a short time, when he was created Earl of Chatham. He was now succeeded by Lord Bute, a personal friend of the king.

The British arms were eminently successful in the West Indies, and an honourable peace (called the peace of Fontainebleau) was signed at Paris in 1763; by which England was to retain Canada, with many of the West Indian islands that had belonged to France and Spain. The Floridas also were ceded to Great Britain by Spain; and divers advantages were also secured to her in the East Indies.

As the growth of British power in the East was at this time rapidly advancing, it may be well in this place to describe its first origin. In the latter part of Elizabeth's reign a charter was granted to a company of merchants for the trade to India, which was then chiefly engrossed by the Portuguese. They established a settlement at Surat on the western coast of India, in 1612; and some years after, another at Madras, on the Coromandel coast; and one also at Calcutta, on the river Hooghly, in Bengal. Charles II. gave them the Island of Bombay, which he received in dower with his queen, and the isle of St. Helena in the Atlantic. The Portuguese by degrees lost much of the power which they had possessed in India, but the French and the Dutch established factories very similar to the English settlements. The vast continent of India was then governed by various native princes, who were often only nominally dependent on the emperor at Delhi, the successor to the Great Mogul.

These distant possessions of the several European states began, in process of time, to be involved in the wars which took place in Europe; and as the native princes were unavoidably engaged in these contests as allies of one party or the other, opportunities were gradually offered to the Europeans for territorial conquest and encroachment. The French were among the first to avail themselves of these

opportunities, and the English found it necessary to follow the same course, in order to maintain their own footing. The person who did more than any other to counteract the influence of the French, and to establish an Anglo-Indian empire, was Robert Clive, who afterwards became Lord Clive. The district in which Madras is situated was the scene of his first successes; but the capture of Calcutta by a native prince (1756) was the occasion of his being called to Bengal, which soon became the chief seat of British empire. At this capture of Calcutta the most horrible cruelties were practised on the English; of whom one hundred and forty-six persons were confined in a small room, twenty feet square, called the Black-hole; and after a night of unexampled horrors twenty three only were found alive in the morning. On Clive's arrival the face of affairs was changed; and after sundry transactions, an engagement took place at Plassey (1757) between the army of the nabob (which is a frequent title of the native princes) and the British troops, in which the latter were completely successful. This battle decided the fate of the British in India: and at the close of the seven years' war, it was plain that the British interests in the East were becoming too gigantic to be managed by a private company, without the control of the king's government. Some years, however, elapsed before any measure was taken to meet this emergency; and in the interval the Anglo-Indian empire had extended itself with rapid strides under Lord Clive and Warren Hastings, who became the first governor-general. Hastings was impeached by the House of Commons in 1788, on a charge of cruelty and oppression in his government of India. The trial was prolonged till 1795, when judgment was given in his favour.

Soon after the peace of Fontainebleau, Lord Bute resigned his office. For five or six years no ministry could be formed that enjoyed to any great degree the confidence of king or people, and the king's person and government were assailed by many scurrilous writers, especially by a demagogue named Wilkes, and by a person who wrote with much power under the name of Junius. Mr. Grenville, Lord Rockingham, and the Duke of Grafton, were successively prime ministers. At length Lord North was

« PředchozíPokračovat »