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When he was removed, it was evident that the temporising system would do no longer. The head of the Cabinet must take one side or the other. The Prime Minister must be a friend or an enemy of progress鈥攁 Reformer or an anti-Reformer. In these circumstances the king had great difficulty in forming an Administration. The prostration of Lord Liverpool had come upon the political world "with the force of an earthquake," convulsing parties in the most violent and singular manner, and completely changing the aspect of affairs at Court and in the State. The Sovereign had before him, on one hand, Mr. Canning, the leader of the House of Commons, the most popular Minister, the most brilliant statesman in England since the days of Pitt. How could he put aside his claims to be Prime Minister? On the Tory side there was no statesman to whom the post could be safely entrusted. If Eldon could be kept in his place as Lord Chancellor, it was as much as could be expected at his time of life. The Duke of Wellington's military character, as well as his anti-Catholic feeling, prevented his being placed at the head of an Administration. Mr. Peel was considered too young to occupy so great a position. The latter was consulted, and gave it as his opinion that an anti-Catholic Ministry could not be formed. The issue was, that, after a fortnight's anxious suspense and difficulty, the king entrusted Mr. Canning with the formation of a Ministry. The task which he undertook was extremely delicate and difficult. He was greatly disliked by the chiefs of both parties. He belonged to no old aristocratic house. He had risen to the first position in the State by his genius and industry, by the wise and beneficent application of the most brilliant and commanding talents. These excited intense jealousy among those whose principal merit consisted in hereditary rank. When he had received the king's orders, though aware of their feelings towards him, he dealt with them in a frank and generous spirit. He wrote to his colleagues individually, courteously expressing his desire that the public service might still enjoy the advantages to be derived from the exercise of their administrative talents. Most of them answered evasively, pretending that they did not know who was to be Prime Minister, and postponing their decision till they had received that information. As soon as they learnt that they were to serve under Mr. Canning, the entire Administration, with very few exceptions, resigned. Mr. Peel did not share the antipathies of his aristocratic colleagues. Mr. Canning declared that[258] he was the only seceding member of the Government that behaved well to him at this time; and so high was his opinion of that gentleman that he considered him to be his only rightful political heir and successor. He was not deceived on either of those points. Mr Peel, writing confidentially to Lord Eldon, on the 9th of April, expressed his feelings frankly, and they did him honour. His earnest wish was to see the Government retained on the footing on which it stood at the time of Lord Liverpool's misfortune. He was content with his own position as Home Secretary. Though differing from every one of his colleagues in the House of Commons on the Catholic question, he esteemed and respected them, and would consider it a great misfortune were his Majesty to lose the services of any of them, "but particularly of Canning." He was willing to retire alone if the rest of his colleagues, who did not feel the same difficulty, would consent to hold office with Canning. He advised the king that an exclusive Protestant Government could not be formed. He also said that he was out of the question as the head of a Government under the arrangement that he considered the best that could be made, namely, the reconstruction of the late Administration, "because it was quite impossible for Canning to acquiesce in his appointment." He was, however, ready to give Canning's Government his general support.

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The French, exasperated beyond further endurance, on the 22nd of November entered on the question of war in the Assembly in earnest. Koch, of Strasburg, the well-known historian, declared that no time was to be lost; that the German nations were every day violating the frontiers of France, and that the Minister for Foreign Affairs was not to be trusted. Three armies were formed. Rochambeau, who was now ailing, and out of humour, was appointed to that stationed in Flanders, and called the army of the north; Lafayette was put in command of the central division stationed at Metz, and Luckner of the one stationed in Alsace. Narbonne, the new Minister, made a rapid journey, and returning, announced to the Assembly that the different fortresses were fast assuming a creditable condition, and that the army, from Dunkirk to Besan?on, presented a mass of two hundred and forty battalions, one hundred and sixty squadrons, with artillery requisite for two hundred thousand men, and supplies for six months. This report was received with acclamations. So closed the year 1791.?
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Though the Duke of Wellington defended him-self against the persevering attacks of the financial reformers, he was busy making retrenchments in every department of the Public Service. So effectually did he employ the pruning-hook, that although the income of the previous year had fallen short of the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer by 锟560,000, he was able to present to the House this year a surplus of 锟3,400,000 available for the reduction of taxation, still leaving an excess of income over expenditure of 锟2,667,000 applicable to the reduction of debt. There was, consequently, a large remission of taxation, the principal item of which was the beer duty, estimated[310] at 锟3,000,000. At the same time, in order to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet these reductions, an addition of one shilling a gallon was made to the duty on English spirits and of twopence on Irish and Scottish spirits. This Budget helped to clear the political atmosphere and brought a brief gleam of popularity to the Government. The Duke got full credit for an earnest desire to economise, and it was acknowledged by the Liberal party that he had given the most important financial relief that the nation had experienced since the establishment of peace. Notwithstanding, however, the general satisfaction, and the loud popular applause, the pressure of distress was not sensibly alleviated. The burden indeed was somewhat lightened, but what the nation wanted was greater strength to bear financial burdens, a revival of its industrial energies, and facilities for putting them forth with profit to themselves and to the country. Remissions of taxation were but the weight of a feather, compared to the losses sustained by the action of the currency. For while the reductions only relieved the nation to the extent of three or four millions, it was estimated that the monetary laws, by cutting off at least fifty per cent. from the remuneration of all branches of industry, commercial and agricultural, had reduced the incomes of the industrial classes to the extent of a hundred and fifty millions yearly.!
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But though the 21st of January was to be the day of the grand attack on the Ministry, the battle was not deferred till then. Every day was a field-day, and the sinking Minister was dogged step by step, his influence weakened by repeated divisions, and his strength worn out by the display of the inevitable approach of the catastrophe. The first decided defeat that he suffered was in the election of the Chairman of Committees. The Ministerial candidate, Giles Earle, was thrown out by a majority of two hundred and forty-two to two hundred and thirty-eight, and the Opposition candidate, Dr. Lee, was hailed by a shout that rent the House. Other close divisions followed. The fall of Walpole was now certain, and he would have consulted both his dignity and comfort in resigning at once. This was the earnest advice of his friends, but he had been too long accustomed to power to yield willingly. He was oppressed with a sense of his defeats, and the insolence of enemies whom he had so long calmly looked down upon without fear. He was growing old and wanted repose, but he still clung convulsively to his authority, though he had ceased to enjoy it..
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In balancing accounts at the Congress at Paris, there was a resignation on the part of Great Britain of the colonies which she had won with so much cost of money and men. Our statesmen never thought of placing some of the enormous sums we had bestowed on the Powers we helped against the islands we had conquered. We had dearly purchased them. But Great Britain gave back to France all the colonies possessed by her in 1792, except Tobago, St. Lucia, and the Isle of France. Still more absurdly, we returned Pondicherry, in the East Indies, as a focus for fresh annoyances there from the French, whom we had expelled at such cost for their meddling and exciting the natives against us. We restored to the French, under certain conditions, the right of fishing on the bank of Newfoundland, as they had enjoyed it in 1783; conditions which they boldly violated, and which the British Ministry did not venture to insist on being observed. We gave back also to Spain several islands and colonies; and the same to Holland鈥攏amely, Demerara, Essequibo, Berbice, the immense island of Java, and the rich one of Sumatra, retaining only the Cape of Good Hope and the settlements in Ceylon.
21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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21 August, 2019 - 13:08
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