The distress was greatly aggravated, and spread over the whole country, by the extraordinary drought which prevailed in the summer of 1826. The richest meadows were burnt up. The stunted grain crops were only a few inches in height. The cattle, and even the deer in noblemen's parks, died from thirst. The people sat up all night to watch the springs, waiting for their turn to be supplied. Water was retailed in small quantities, and sold like beer. Those who occupied the more favoured districts sent jars of fresh water to their friends in other places, as most acceptable presents. In the midst of all this scarcity and suffering the Corn Laws stopped the supplies of provisions from abroad, which were ready to be poured in in any quantities. Bills had been passed with great difficulty through Parliament, to enable Government to relax the restrictions of the Corn Laws, in order to meet the emergency. But so clogged were those enactments with conditions, that in autumn Ministers were obliged to anticipate their operation by opening the ports, trusting to the legislature for an indemnity. It is melancholy to reflect upon the perplexities and miseries in which the country was involved through the mistaken views of the landed interest, then predominant in Parliament.
One of the first acts of the Parliament, which met on November 12th, was to punish the peculations and abuses of the Lord Chancellor, Parker, Earl of Macclesfield. The Court of Chancery, in former ages a sink of corruption, was at this time in its worst condition. The offices of Masters were regularly sold, and the Masters as regularly took care to recoup themselves by all manner of peculation. The estates of widows and orphans and the money of suitors were unscrupulously plundered. There was a loud outcry against these robberies, and especially against the Lord Chancellor, for his not only tolerating but partaking in them. He endeavoured to escape the storm of public indignation by resigning in January, but this did not avail him. He was impeached by Sir George Oxenden in the Commons, and tried in the Lords, and fined thirty thousand pounds. A motion for disabling him from ever again sitting in Parliament or holding any office was lost only by a very few votes. The king struck his name out of the list of Privy Councillors, and in 1725 Sir Peter King was made Chancellor in his stead, with the title of baron.
FRANKFORT. (From a Photograph by Frith & Co., Reigate.) On the 10th of May the second Congress met at Philadelphia. The delegates had everywhere been easily elected, and Franklin, having arrived on the 5th of May in Philadelphia, was in time to be added to the number already chosen there. The battle of Lexington had heated the blood of the delegates, and they assembled in no very pacific mood. They assumed the name of the Congress of the United Colonies, and rejected with contempt the poor conciliatory Bill of Lord North, as it had already been deservedly treated by the provincial Assemblies. They immediately issued a proclamation prohibiting the export of provisions to any British colony or fishery still continuing in obedience to Great Britain; or any supply to the British army in Massachusetts Bay, or the negotiation of any bill drawn by a British officer. Congress ordered the military force of the colonies to be placed on an efficient footing. They called into existence a body of men, besides the provincial militia, to be maintained by the United Colonies, and to be called continental troops, which distinction must be kept in mind during the whole war. They then made a most admirable choice of a commander-in-chief in the person of Colonel George Washington. But Hastings had scarcely terminated these proceedings, when the new members of Council, appointed under the Regulating Act, arrived. On the 19th of October, 1774, landed the three Councillors, Clavering, Monson, and Francis; Barwell had been some time in India. The presence of the three just arrived was eminently unwelcome to Hastings. He knew that they came with no friendly disposition towards him, and that Philip Francis, in particular, was most hostile. The letter of the Court of Directors recommended unanimity of counsels, but nothing was further from the views of the new members from Europe. As they were three, and Hastings and Barwell only two, they constituted a majority, and from the first moment commenced to undo almost everything that he had done, and carried their object. They denounced, and certainly with justice, the Rohilla war; they demanded that the whole correspondence of Middleton, the agent sent to the court of Oude by Hastings, should be laid before them. Hastings refused to produce much of it, as entirely of a private and personal nature; and they asserted that this was because these letters would not bear the light, and that the whole of Hastings' connection with Sujah Dowlah was the result of mercenary motives. In this they did the Governor-General injustice, for, though he drew money sternly and by every means from the India chiefs and people, it was rather for the Company than for himself. They ordered the recall of Middleton from Oude, deaf to the protests of Hastings that this was stamping his conduct with public odium, and weakening the hands of government in the eyes of the natives. Still, Middleton was recalled, and Mr. Bristow sent in his place. Hastings wrote home in the utmost alarm both to the Directors and to Lord North, prognosticating the greatest confusion and calamity from this state of anarchy; and Sujah Dowlah, regarding the proceedings of the new members of Council as directed against himself, and seeing in astonishment the authority of Hastings apparently at an end, was so greatly terrified that he sickened and died.
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