The most respectable witnesses testified in his favour, that he had always argued that the monarchy of the country was good; the government far superior to that of France; that many opinions of Paine were unsound and untenable; that an equal division of property was a chimera, and that we here wanted no revolution, but only moderate reform. The chief witness against him was a woman-servant, who had lived in his father's family, who deposed to his telling people to read the "Rights of Man;" to giving an organ-man something to play "?a ira!" and the like. It is clear that Mr. Muir was what would now be considered a very moderate reformer indeed. But the Lord Advocate treated him with the most scurrilous indignity, calling him "that unfortunate wretch at the bar;" "that demon of mischief;" "that pest of Scotland." The very proofs of Muir's moderation were turned by the Lord Justice Clerk into crimes; it was only "policy;" and he proceeded to pass on him the monstrous sentence of transportation for fourteen years!

The town, the castle, the arms, horses, and military stores being surrendered to the prince, and the militia and invalids having marched out, a council of war was called to determine future proceedings. Some proposed to march against Wade and bring him to action, others to return to Scotland, but Charles still insisted on marching forward. Lord George Murray was the only one who at all seconded him, and he did not recommend marching far into England without more encouragement than there yet appeared; but as the prince was anxious to ascertain that point, he said he was sure his army, small as it was, would follow him. Charles expressed his conviction that his friends in Lancashire waited only for their arrival; and the Marquis D'Eguilles declaring his expectation of a speedy landing of a French army, under this assurance the council consented to the advance.

Delay was demanded, to hear what was the feeling of merchants and manufacturers in England, and these soon poured in petitions against these concessions, from Liverpool, Manchester, and other places; one of them, from the Lancashire manufacturers, being signed by eighty thousand persons. After two months had been spent in receiving these petitions, hearing evidence and counsel, Mr. Pitt introduced his propositions on the 12th of May. It was then found that British interests, as usual, had triumphed over the Ministerial intentions of benefiting Ireland. Not only was Ireland to be bound to furnish, in return for these concessions, a fixed contribution out of the surplus of the hereditary revenue towards defraying the expenses of protecting the general commerce, but to adopt whatever navigation laws the British Parliament might hereafter enact. Lord North and Fox opposed these propositions, on the ground that the cheapness of labour in Ireland would give that country an advantage over the manufacturers in this. The[312] resolutions were at length carried both in the Committee and in the House at large on the 25th of July.

The distress which had pressed so severely on the people, and which had set them thinking about the most perilous political changes, was intimately connected with the state of the country. Throughout the troubled period of almost incessant war and lavish expenditure between 1797 and 1815, the business of the nation was carried on with an inconvertible paper currency, the precious metals having nearly all departed from the country. Bank notes were issued in such quantities, to meet the exigencies of the Government, that the prices of all commodities were nearly doubled. The Bill which was passed in 1819 providing for the resumption of cash payments had reduced the currency from 48,278,070, which was its amount in 1819, to 26,588,000, in 1822. The consequence was the reduction of prices in the meantime, at the rate of fifty per cent., in all the articles of production and commerce. With this tremendous fall of prices, the amount of liabilities remained unchanged; rents, taxes, and encumbrances were to be paid according to the letter of the contract, while the produce and commoditiesthe sale of which was relied upon to pay themdid not produce more than half the amount that they would have brought at the time of the contracts. The evil of this sudden change was aggravated by the South American Revolution, in consequence of which the annual supply of the precious metals was reduced to a third of its former amount. It was peculiarly unfortunate that this stoppage in the supply of gold and silver occurred at the very time that the Legislature had adopted the principle that paper currency should be regarded as strictly representing gold, and should be at any moment convertible into sovereigns. A paper currency should never be allowed[238] to exceed the available property which it represents, but it is not necessary that its equivalent in gold should be lying idle in the coffers of the Bank, ready to be paid out at any moment the public should be seized with a foolish panic. It is enough that the credit of the State should be pledged for the value of the notes, and that credit should not be strained beyond the resources at its command. The close of 1822 formed the turning-point in the industrial condition of the country. The extreme cheapness of provisions, after three years of comparative privation, enabled those engaged in manufacturing pursuits to purchase many commodities which they had hitherto not been able to afford. This caused a gradual revival of trade, which was greatly stimulated by the opening of new markets for our goods, especially in South America, to which our exports were nearly trebled in value between 1818 and 1823, when the independence of the South American Republics had been established. The confidence of the commercial world was reassured by the conviction that South America would prove an unfailing Dorado for the supply of the precious metals. The bankers, therefore, became more accommodating; the spirit of enterprise again took possession of the national mind, and there was a general expansion of industry by means of a freer use of capital, which gave employment and contentment to the people. This effect was materially promoted by the Small Note Bill which was passed in July, 1822, extending for ten years longer the period during which small notes were to be issued; its termination having been fixed by Peel's Bill for 1823. The average of bank-notes in circulation in 1822 was 17,862,890. In November of the following year it had increased by nearly two millions. The effect of this extension of the small note circulation upon prices was remarkable. Wheat rose from 38s. to 52s., and in 1824 it mounted up to 64s. In the meantime the bullion in the Bank of England increased so much that whereas in 1819 it had been only 3,595,360, in January, 1824, it amounted to 14,200,000. The effect of all these causes combined was the commencement of a reign of national prosperity, which burst upon the country like a brilliant morning sun, chasing away the chilling fogs of despondency, and dissipating the gloom in the popular mind. [See larger version]

[See larger version] On his return Lord Cochrane received the honour of the red riband of the Bath; but he could not conceal his dissatisfaction at Lord Gambier's conduct, and declared that he would oppose any vote of thanks to him in Parliament. On this, Gambier demanded a court-martial, which was held, and acquitted him of all blame. Cochrane complained that the court was strongly biassed in favour of Gambier, and against himself, and the public was very much of his opinion. [58]

Even this example was not sufficient to protect her Majesty from the criminal attempts of miscreants of this class. Another was made on the 3rd of July following, as the Queen was going from Buckingham Palace to the Chapel Royal, accompanied by Prince Albert and the King of the Belgians. In the Mall, about half way between the palace and the stable-yard gate, a deformed youth was seen by a person named Bassett to present a pistol at the Queen's carriage. Bassett seized him and brought him to the police; but they refused to take him in charge, treating the matter as a hoax. Bassett himself was subsequently arrested, and examined by the Privy Council. When the facts of the case were ascertained, the police hastened to repair the error of the morning, and sent to all the police-stations a description of the real offender. This led to the apprehension of a boy called Bean, who was identified, examined, and committed to prison. His trial took place on the 25th of August, at the Central Criminal Court. The Attorney-General briefly related the facts of the case, and Lord Abinger, the presiding judge, having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of "Guilty," convicting the prisoner of presenting a pistol, loaded with powder and wadding, "in contempt of the Queen, and to the terror of divers liege subjects." The sentence of the court was"Imprisonment in Millbank Penitentiary for eighteen calendar months."