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[414] During this period Richard Bentley, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and archdeacon of Ely, figures prominently as one of the most profound classical scholars that Great Britain has produced, and, at the same time, as one of the most quarrelsome, arrogant, and grasping of men. The circumstance which made the most noise in his career was his controversy with the Hon. Charles Boyle regarding the authenticity of the Epistles of Phalaris and the Fables of ?sop. In this dispute he had to contend with Drs. Atterbury, French, King, and Smallridge, who made the reply to him in their "Examination of Bentley's Dissertation on the Epistles," in the name of Boyle. Swift also attacked him in "The Battle of the Books." The controversy made an immense noise at the time, and Bentley completely proved his assertion, that both the Epistles of Phalaris and the Fables of ?sop, in their present form, are spurious. The services of Bentley in publishing corrected editions of various classical works are of no ordinary kind. Amongst the authors who have received the benefit of his critical touches are Aristophanes, Cicero, Menander, Philemon, Horace, Nicander, Ph?drus, and Homer. In his editions of Horace and Homer, however, he laid himself open to severe criticism by his rash and arbitrary emendations of the text, and still more so by his edition of Milton's "Paradise Lost," from the same cause. In this case he showed that he was as deficient in the Italian and romantic learning, which Milton had made himself master of, as he was great in his own classical field. Bentley displayed himself as a theologian of great distinction by his refutation of Collins's "Discourse of Freethinking," and his lectures at Oxford in defence of the Christian religion.

Two British columns advancing by nightone by the shore road and the other over the hillsmanaged to capture the patrols and approach the outposts of the Americans. Washington having been all day engaged in strengthening his lines, had returned to New York. Putnam was posted on the left; and General Stirling was posted on the right on the seashore, near the part called the Narrows. On the hills Sullivan occupied one of the passes towards the left. The column on the British right, consisting of Hessians, under General Von Heister, seized on the village of Flat Bush, nearly opposite to Sullivan. At the same time, Sir Henry Clinton and Sir William Erskine reconnoitred Sullivan's position and the rest of the line of hills, and sent word to General Howe that it would not be difficult to turn Sullivan's position where the hills were low, near the village of Bedford. Howe immediately ordered Lord Percy to support Clinton with his brigades, in the direction of Bedford, and General Grant to endeavour to turn the position of General Stirling, whilst the Hessians were ready to attack Sullivan in front. At a signal, Howe himself marched along with one of the divisions. In order to draw the enemy's attention from the movements of General Clinton, Grant made a direct attack upon Stirling's position, which brought to his aid a great part of Sullivan's forces, thus deserting their own ground. Grant maintained his attack till daylight, by which time Clinton had, by a slight skirmish, crossed the line on his side. The attention from his march was diverted by Von Heister attacking Putnam's position on the direct way to Brooklyn, and Lord Howe, from his ships, opening a cannonade on Governor's Island and Red Hook, in the rear of that town. About eight o'clock came a fire from Clinton's column, which had now forced its way into the rear of Putnam and between the Americans and Brooklyn. On this discovery they endeavoured to make a way to their lines before that town, but were driven back by Clinton only to find themselves assailed in the rear by Von Heister. Thus hemmed in, they fled in confusion. This action in their rear alarmed both Sullivan and Stirling, yet they maintained their ground against Grant till they learned the total rout of their comrades opposed to Clinton and Heister, when they laid down their arms and ran for it. Knowing the ground better than the British, many of them managed to escape to Brooklyn; but one thousand and ninety-seven prisoners were taken, and from one thousand two hundred to one thousand five hundred Americans were killed or wounded. The English lost only about four hundred killed and wounded.

The South Sea Company, with a folly of which extreme greed only is capable, endeavoured to put down these rival schemes and obtained an order from the Lords Justices and writs of scire facias against several of these new bubbles. It was like raising a wind to blow away the bubbles, forgetting that their own was a bubble too, and would go with them. The moment that the people began to distrust one they distrusted all. The panic became as great as the mania had been. The South Sea stock dropped in less than a month from one thousand to below six hundred. There was a simultaneous rush to sell out, and the shares must have sunk instantly to nil but for the gigantic exertions of the Company to raise money and buy in. The relief, however, was but temporary. The bankers and pawnbrokers who had advanced money on scrip broke and fled; merchants, goldsmiths, and speculators rushed away after them. Walpole was summoned in haste from Haughton to devise some means of staying the panic. He endeavoured to get the Bank of England to circulate three millions of South Sea bonds for a year; but the Bank, seeing that the case was desperate, declined it. This was decisive. The rage and despair of the swarming dupes were indescribable. They heaped[48] execrations not only on the South Sea Company, but on Ministers, the king, his mistresses, and the Royal Family, who had all been deep in the affair, and who had taken good care of themselves. George landed at Margate on the 9th of November, soon after which the South Sea stock fell to one hundred and thirty-five. On the 8th of December Parliament met, and promptly began to investigate the scandal. The corruptionists in Parliament were deaf to eloquence or remonstrance; the base contractors sitting there, and the other vile absorbers of the money voted by the country for the most sacred purposes, for the preservation of the integrity and existence of the empire, sat still in impudent hardihood; but the sound of these stirring words was already out of doors. The City of London voted thanks to the Duke of Richmond and the Earl of Shelburne for their motions, and for their promised resumption of the subject on the 8th of February. A great meeting was called at York to induce that county to prepare a petition for reform in Parliament. Many efforts were made by persuasion and by menace to prevent these freeholders from meeting. But the Marquis of Rockingham and Sir George Savile stood forward, attended the meeting, and encouraged the freeholders. The meeting was held on the 30th of December, and, besides these distinguished men, was attended by peers, gentlemen, clergymenthe richest and noblest in the county. A petition was adopted to the House of Commons in the strongest terms. Before separating, this most important meeting appointed a committee of correspondence, consisting of sixty-one gentlemen, to carry out the objects of the petition, and still further to prepare the plan of a national association for the promotion of the great business of reform. The contagion spread rapidly; in numbers of other counties, and in many of the leading cities, similar petitions were got up, and committees of correspondence formed. The result was that very soon, in the counties of Middlesex, Chester, Hants, Hertford, Sussex, Huntingdon, Surrey, Cumberland, Bedford, Essex, Gloucester, Somerset, Wilts, Dorset, Devon, Norfolk, Berks, Bucks, Nottingham, Kent, Northumberland, Suffolk, Hereford, Cambridge, Derby, Northampton, and the towns of York and Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham, Newcastle, Reading, and Bridgewater, petitions were prepared, and in most of them corresponding committees organised.

This armament, with which Sir John Falstaff certainly would not have marched through Coventry, arrived off Tosa, on the coast of Catalonia, on the 1st of August. The brave Catalans, who had given the French more trouble than all the[30] Spaniards besides, were rejoiced at the idea of a British army coming to aid them in rooting out the French; but Maitland received discouraging information from some Spaniards as to the forces and capabilities of Suchet, and refused to land there. Admiral Sir Edward Pellew and Captain Codrington in vain urged him to land, declaring that the Spaniards with whom he had conferred were traitors. Maitland called a council of war, and it agreed with him in opinion. This was precisely what Lord Wellington had complained of to Lord William Bentinck, who had propagated the most discouraging opinions amongst the officers regarding the service in Spain. He had assured him that a discouraged army was as good as no army whatever. The fleet then, much to the disappointment of the Catalans, conveyed the force to the bay of Alicante, and there landed it on the 9th of August. Suchet, who was lying within sight of that port, immediately retired, and Maitland, so long as he withdrew, marched after him, and occupied the country; but soon hearing that King Joseph was marching to reinforce Suchet, and that Soult was likely to join them, he again evacuated the country, cooped himself up in Alicante, and lay there, of no use whatever as a diversion in favour of Wellington, who was liable at Madrid to be gradually surrounded by a hundred thousand men. Wellington must proceed against one of the French armies, north or south. Had a proper force, with a bold commander, been sent to the south, he could soon have dealt with the northern enemies. A more dubious necessity now lay before him; but it required no long deliberation as to which way he should move. Clausel was expecting reinforcements from France, and he proposed to attack him before they could arrive. St. Clair had marched with such celerity that he reached, before the next night, Castleton, thirty miles from Ticonderoga. But the rear division under Colonel Warner halted at Hubberton, six miles short of Castleton. Early next morning, General Fraser found them on a hill. No sooner did they descry him, than one of the regiments turned and fled, leaving most of their officers to be taken prisoners. But the other two regiments, commanded by Warner and Francis, stood their ground stoutly. Fraser had with him only about eight hundred men, and the Americans were from one thousand two hundred to one thousand five hundred strong. But Fraser advanced up the hill and attacked them briskly. The Americans were protected by a sort of breastwork formed of logs and trees, and they gave Fraser a smart reception. But, calculating on the approach of Reisedel and the Germans, he fought on; and Reisedel soon after marching up with a full band of music, the Americans imagined that the whole body of the Germans was there, and fled on to Castleton as fast as they could. While stirring events were in progress on the Continent, public attention was naturally distracted from home politics; nor were these in themselves of a nature to command enthusiasm. The Russell Government was weak, but the Opposition was weaker. Sir Robert Peel with his little band gave, on the whole, his support to the Ministry, and Mr. Disraeli, on the retirement of Lord George Bentinck, had only just begun to rally the Conservatives, who had been utterly dispirited and crushed by the carrying of Free Trade. Finance was always a weak point with the Whigs, and that of 1848 was no exception to the rule. Urged by the Duke of Wellington's letter to Sir John Burgoyne on the state of the defences, the Chancellor of the Exchequer determined on increasing the naval and military establishments. The result was a deficit of three millions, and no less than three withdrawals and alterations of the Budget had to be made before his proposals could be so shaped as to be acceptable to the House. The next Session was mainly devoted to Irish affairs, the Rate in Aid producing a collision between the two Houses, which was decided in favour of the Lords. In the same year, however, the most important measure of the Russell Ministry became law; the repeal, namely, of the Navigation Act, by which the carrying monopoly was abolished after the retaliation of foreign nations had reduced the principle of reciprocity, upon which Mr. Huskisson's Act had been framed, to a dead letter. Supported by the Canadian demand for liberation from the restrictions of the Navigation Act, Ministers courageously faced the clamour raised by the Protectionists, and carried their Bill through the Commons by large majorities. In the Upper House, however, they snatched a bare majority of ten through the circumstance that they had more proxies than their opponents.

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