In 1817 the number of power-looms in Lancashire was estimated at 2,000, of which only about 1,000 were then in employment, and the wages had fallen below the rate at which goods could be produced by machinery. To the power-loom, therefore, the hand-loom weavers gradually gave way. In 1832 there were 80,000 power-looms in Lancashire, employing persons of both sexes and of all ages from nine years upwards, at rates of wages varying from half-a-crown to ten shillings a week. In 1817 the estimated number of persons employed in the spinning of cotton in Great Britain was 110,763, and the quantity of yarn produced was under 100,000,000 lbs.; in 1853 the yarn spun was nearly 700,000,000 lbs. In 1838 the total number of cotton factories in Great Britain and Ireland was 1,815, of which there were in England and Wales, 1,599; in Scotland, 192; in Ireland, 24. The total number of persons employed in these factories was 206,000, of whom 145,934 were females.

The animosity against the soldiers at Boston was actively kept up. The sentinel could not stand at his post without insult. Every day menaced a conflict. A fictitious account of an affray between the soldiers and the people of New York was circulated at Boston, in which the soldiers were represented as beaten. This gave impetus to the aggressive temper of the Bostonians. On the 2nd of March, a soldier, insulted by the men at Gray's rope-walk, resented it; they came to blows, and the soldier was overpowered. He fetched up some of his comrades, who, in their turn, beat and chased the rope-makers through the town. The passions of the mob were inflamed, and they began to arm themselves for an attack on the soldiery. In a few days the crowd assembled and assaulted a party of them in Dock Square. The officer prudently withdrew them to the barracks. As the evening advanced, the mob increased. They cried, "Turn out, and do for the soldiers!" They attacked and insulted a sentinel at the Custom House. A party of soldiers was sent by Captain Preston to the officers on duty to protect the man. The mob pelted them with pieces of wood, lumps of ice, etc., and denounced them as "cowards," "red-lobster rascals," and the like. The soldiers stood to defend the Custom House till they were fiercely attacked, and at length they fired in self-defence, killed three persons, and wounded several othersone mortally. The prospects of the European war at this juncture, as observed from England, were gloomy in the extreme. The dispersion of the armies of Spain, the retreat and death of Sir John Moore, leaving the whole of the Spanish and Portuguese Peninsula under the feet of Buonaparte, disposed many to believe the power of the conqueror unassailable. The Whig Opposition made every use of this feeling to damage and, if possible, drive their rivals from office. That the Whigs, in power, would have refrained from Continental war any more than the Tories is not to be believed. They had always, when in officeexcept, in the case of Fox, for a short intervalbeen as ready to fight; but they had generally conducted their campaigns with much less ability. Now, their great organ, the Edinburgh Review, indulged in the most vehement censures on the Cabinet; charged all the adverse circumstances of the Spanish and Portuguese war to its bad management; and intimated that it was the most wicked and idiotic folly to hope to contend with Buonaparte at all. But if ever there was a time when the continuance of the war was excusable, and perhaps necessary, it was now. Great Britain had gone fully and freely into the conflict to assist the Continental nations. She had pledged herself[571] solemnly to Spain and Portugal, and to have withdrawn at this crisis would have been equally treacherous to our allies and pusillanimous as regarded the enemy. It would have been, in fact, to proclaim to the world that we had been completely beaten out of the field, that we could not do what we had promised to our allies, and that Napoleon must be left the master of Europe, and the dictator to Britain. Such a confession would have destroyed for ever the prestige of Great Britain, and justly. Ministers felt this, and never were more resolved to persevere to the end. To show that they did not for a moment despair, they signed a treaty of peace and amity with Spain only five days after the arrival of the news of the retreat and death of Sir John Moore, binding themselves never to acknowledge the authority of Buonaparte over Spain, or of any family but of Ferdinand VII. and his lineal successors. That they were supported in their views by Parliament was soon made evident by the rejection, by a majority of two hundred and eight against one hundred and fifty-eight, of a motion of Lord Henry Petty censuring the Convention of Cintra, and, by a majority of two hundred and twenty against one hundred and twenty-seven, of a motion of Mr. Ponsonby for inquiry into the conduct of the late campaign in Spain. Ministers had at length satisfied themselves that they had in Sir Arthur Wellesley a man capable of contending against the haughty tyrant of Europe. The most liberal votes were made for the prosecution of the war. The total of supplies for the year amounted to fifty-three million eight hundred and sixty-two thousand pounds, including a loan of eleven million pounds. For the army twenty-seven million pounds was voted, and for the navy nineteen million pounds. Between twenty and thirty thousand men were drafted from the militia into the regulars, and thus the army was augmented to that amount by soldiers already well trained. The loan was freely taken at a lower interest than any hitherto borrowedthe Opposition asserted, because trade was deranged, and capitalists were at a loss how to invest their money; but the Ministers contended, on the other hand, that it was solely because the war was popular with the nation. Before, however, entering into its arduous and bloody details, we must narrate some disgraceful affairs at home.

A very different man was patriotic Daniel Defoe (b. 1663; d. 1731). Defoe, who was engaged in trade, and was the introducer of pantiles, was a thorough Whig, or, as we should now call him, a Radical in politics. He was one of those rare men who look only at the question before them, and who are, therefore, found almost as often calling to account the party to which they nominally belong, as rebuking the faction to which they are opposed. His principle was essentially "measures, not men," and thus[150] he was one of the zealous supporters of Godolphin and his ministry in accomplishing the union with Scotland; and equally so of Harley and Bolingbroke, for establishing a commercial treaty with France. He was much more useful to reform than liked by so-called reformers, and was continually getting into trouble for his honest speaking. From the age of twenty-three to that of fifty-eight, his pen had scarcely a moment's rest from advocating important political and social subjects, and there was a force of reason, a feeling of reality, a keenness of wit and satire, in his compositions that gave them interest and extensive attention.

The Austrians and Russians by this time were in full march for Italy. Leaving the Archduke Charles to cope with Jourdain, who had made himself master of the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein in January, and menaced a march on the Danube, an army of Austrians, under Generals Bellegarde and Hotze, entered Switzerland, re-occupied the Grisons country, drove the French from the St. Gothard, and menaced Massena at Zurich. Another army of Austrians, under old General Mlas, issued from the Tyrol and drove the French General, Scherer, from post to post in Upper Italy, till he took refuge behind the Mincio. Moreau was then sent to supersede Scherer, but found himself in April confronted not only by Mlas, but by Suvaroff, with an addition of fifty thousand men. On the 27th of that month he was attacked by this combined force and beaten. Brescia and Peschiera surrendered, Mantua was invested, and Suvaroff entered Milan. Moreau was compelled to retreat upon Genoa, and await the arrival of Macdonald, who was rapidly marching from Naples to his aid. But Macdonald was confronted on the banks of the Trebia, and after a fierce battle of three days he was routed, and escaped only to Moreau with the remnant of his army. Moreau now stationed himself in the entrance of the Bochetta Pass, in the Apennines, behind the town of Novi; but there he was superseded by General Joubert, the Directory having lost faith in him. Joubert, however, had no better success than Moreau. Suvaroff attacked him on the 16th of August, routed his army and killed him; the French abandoning nearly all their artillery on the field, and flying in disorder towards Genoa.

The opening of the year 1840 saw no flagging in the efforts of the Manchester men to bring forward the question, which the Annual Register had just regarded as finally set at rest. It had[484] been determined that a great meeting of delegates should be held in that city. There was no hall large enough to hold half of the then members even of the local association, and it was therefore resolved to construct one. Mr. Cobden owned nearly all of the land then unbuilt on in St. Peter's Fieldthe very site of the Peterloo massacre of 1819. In eleven days one hundred men constructed on this spot a temporary pavilion, which afterwards gave place to the permanent Free Trade Hall, which long continued to be the favourite scene of great political meetings. The Manchester Times described the pavilion as comprising an area of nearly 16,000 square feet. It contained seats for dining 3,800 persons, and 500 more were admitted after the dinner. Among the most conspicuous speakers at the banquet were Daniel O'Connell, Mr. Cobden, and Mr. Milner Gibson; but perhaps the most interesting feature in the proceedings was the operatives' banquet, which took place on the following day. Five thousand working men, overlooked by their wives, sisters, and daughters in the galleries, sat down on that occasion. It was evident from this that the people were emancipating themselves from the advice of evil counsellors, and were beginning to see the importance to their interests of the movement of the League.