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On the 25th of November Parliament was opened, and the king, in his speech, made a strong appeal to the country for support against the unprovoked war on the part of France and Spain. The Marquis of Rockingham, in proposing an amendment on the Address in the Lords, was extremely severe. He concluded by moving that every part of the Address, except the title, should be expunged, and that, instead of what then stood, a prayer should be inserted that his Majesty would reflect on the extent of territory which marked the opening of his reign, the opulence and power, the reputation abroad, the concord at home, to which he had succeeded, and now on the endangered, impoverished, enfeebled, distracted, and even dismembered, state of the whole, after the enormous grants of his successive Parliaments, and calling on him, as the only[262] remedy of impending ruin, to dismiss his present evil councillors, and summon new and more auspicious ones. The language was crushing, but it derived its force from its undeniable truth. Lord John Cavendish moved a similar amendment in the Commons; and the Opposition declared that it was well that his Majesty's speech expressed trust in Divine Providence, for Providence was the only friend that his Government had now left; and that our arms, both on sea and land, were paralysed by the scandalous practice of putting at the head of the army and navy mere Court favourites, and by the want of all vigour and sagacity of planning and following up our campaigns. Fox went further, and asserted that weakness and stupidity could not effect the wholesale shame and ruin that surrounded us; that there must be treachery somewhere; and that, if this were driven a little further, the people would seize on arms, and chase the miserable Cabinet from its abused seat. Lord North made the best reply that the circumstances admitted; but there were no symptoms of the Ministers resigning, or being removed by the infatuated monarch, and the amendments were rejected in both Houses, as a matter of course.

The audacity of Buonaparte still further excited the indignation of the British Government. Under the name of consuls, he sent over to England and Ireland a number of military officers, whose real business was to act as privileged spies, to prepare plans of all the chief ports, with soundings, and an exact account of the winds with which vessels could go out or come in with most ease, and also at what draught of water the harbours might be entered by large vessels. These agents had been instructed to maintain the utmost secrecy as to their real objects, but they became known, and Ministers announced that any person coming in such a character to this country should be ordered instantly to quit it. Neither was the temper of the nation at all improved by the irritating proceedings of the French authorities on the coasts of France. A law had been passed by the Jacobins, in the most rabid time of the Revolution, condemning any vessel under a hundred tons burden found within four leagues of the French shores, having on board British merchandise. It was taken for granted that this decree was virtually annulled by the Peace of Amiens; but repeated seizures were now made of British merchant vessels driven by stress of weather on the French coasts, and the mere fact of having plates, knives, and forks for the crew, of British make, was used as a plea for confiscation of ships. It was in vain that remonstrances were made to the First Consul: they passed without notice. Such a peace it was evident could not last long. Napoleon was in a mood to brook no control from any quarter; he at this time showed how completely he would crush any creature who offended him when he had the power. [See larger version]

The western extremity of Lake Erie was the scene of a most unequal contest at the commencement of 1813. Colonel Procter lay near Frenchtown, about twenty miles from Detroit, with about five hundred troops, partly regulars, partly militia and sailors. In addition, he was supported by about the same number of Red Indians. The Americans, under General Winchesteran old officer of the War of Independenceamounted to one thousand two hundred men. With these Winchester had scoured the Michigan country, and, at the end of January, advanced to attack Procter. Sir George Prevost had commanded Procter to act on the defensive; but scorning this cowardly advice, he suddenly advanced by night, as the Americans had quartered themselves in Frenchtown, surprised, and captured or destroyed the whole of them, except about thirty who escaped into the woods. Winchester himself was seized by Round Head, the Indian chief, who arrayed himself in his uniform, and then delivered him up to Colonel Procter. From this point Colonel Procter hastened to cross the lake in a flotilla, and attack General Harrison at Fort Meigs. He knew that Harrison was expecting strong reinforcements, and he was anxious to dislodge him before they arrived. Procter had with him one thousand men, half regulars, half militia, and one thousand two hundred Indians; but Harrison's force was much stronger, and defended by a well-entrenched camp. Procter erected batteries, and fired across the river Miami, endeavouring to destroy the American block-houses with red-hot shot, but they were of wood too green to take fire. On the 5th of May Harrison's expected reinforcements came down the river in boats, one thousand three hundred strong. Harrison now commenced acting on the offensive, to aid the disembarkation of the troops; but he was defeated by Procter, who routed the whole of the new forces, under General Clay, took five hundred and fifty prisoners, and killed as many more. But his success had its disadvantage. His Indian allies, loaded with booty, returned to the Detroit frontier, and the Canadian militia to their farms. Procter was[107] compelled, therefore, to leave Harrison in his camp, and return also to Detroit, for Sir George Prevost had provided him with no new militia, or other force, to supply the place of those gone. Still worse, Prevost could not even be prevailed on to send sailors to man the few British vessels on Lake Erie, where the American flotilla was now far superior to the British one. In vain did Captain Barclay, who commanded the little squadron, urge Prevost to send him sailors, or the few vessels must be captured or destroyed; in vain did Colonel Procter urge, too, the necessity of this measure. Sir George, who took care to keep out of harm's way himself, sent taunting messages to Captain Barclay, telling him that the quality of his men made up for the inferiority of numbers, and that he ought to fight. Barclay, who was as brave a man as ever commanded a vessel, and had lost an arm in the service, but who did not pretend to do impossibilities, was now, however, stung to give battle. He had three hundred and fifty-six menfew of whom were experienced seamenand forty-six guns of very inferior description. The American commodore, Percy, had five hundred and eighty men, and fifty-four guns, with picked crews on all his vessels. Barclay fought till he had taken Percy's ship, and lost his remaining arm. In the end the British vessels were compelled to strike, but not till they had lost, in killed and wounded, one hundred and thirty-five men, and had killed and wounded one hundred and twenty-three of the Americans. This success enormously elated the Americans, and they now confidently calculated on defeating Procter, and annexing Upper Canada. Harrison made haste to interpose nearly six thousand men between Procterwho had now only five hundred, and as many Indiansand the country on which he was endeavouring to retreat. The forces of Procter were compelled to give ground, and Harrison inflicted a severe revenge on the Indians, for their slaughter of the Americans at Meigs. The chief, Tecumseh, being killed, they flayed him, and cut up his skin into razor-straps, as presents to the chief men of the Congress, and Mr. Clay is said to have boasted the possession of one of these. The American armies now put themselves on the track for Kingston and Montreal. Harrison marched along the shore of Lake Erie with upwards of five thousand men, and General Wilkinson, with ten thousand more, crossed Lake Ontario, towards Kingston, to join him. General Hampton, at the same time also, was marching on Montreal. Sir George Prevost was in the utmost alarm, and sent orders to General Vincent to fall down to Kingston, leaving exposed all Upper Canada. But as General Rottenburg was moving on Kingston, Vincent, who was now joined by the remainder of Procter's force, determined to disobey these orders; and several general officers confirmed him in this resolution, and offered to share the responsibility. This was the salvation of Upper Canada. The three American generals were attacked and routed. The Canadian militia did good service, and the Americans were completely driven out of both Upper and Lower Canada before winter. In their retreat they grew brutal, and committed savage cruelties on the unarmed population. They burnt down the town of Newark, near Fort George, driving about four hundred women and children out of it into the snow. They destroyed various villages in their route. This ferocity excited the British and Canadians to retaliation. Colonel Murray crossed the water, and pursued them in their own territories. He attacked and carried Fort Niagara, killed or made prisoners of the whole garrison, and captured the arms and stores. General Hull came up, with two thousand men, to check the march of Murray, who with one thousand regulars and militia, and between three and four hundred Indians, on the 30th of December, repulsed him with great slaughter, pursued him, andto avenge the poor Canadiansset fire to Buffalo and the village of Black Rock. The whole of that frontier was thus left defenceless.

The preparations for invasion turned the attention of the British Government to ports where it was supposed the troops would be embarked. Ostend was regarded with particular suspicion, and Sir Home Popham was sent in May with a small squadron, conveying a thousand men, under Colonel Coote, to destroy the ships and sluices of the Bruges canal there. The troops were landed, and did their work, but found themselves unable to regain the ships from the violence of the wind and the surf, and were surrounded and compelled to surrender. In the autumn of this year Admiral Duckworth sailed for Minorca, and landed eight hundred men, under Sir Charles Stuart, who readily made themselves masters of the island.