Warren Hastings had saved Madras and the Carnatic, but only at the cost of extortion. To obtain the necessary money, he began a system of robbery and coercion on the different princes of Bengal and Oude. The first experiment was made on Cheyte Sing, the Rajah of Benares, who had been allowed to remain as a tributary prince when that province was made over to the British by the Nabob of Oude. The tribute had been paid with a regularity unexampled in the history of India; but when the war broke out with France, Hastings suddenly demanded an extraordinary addition of fifty thousand pounds a year, and as it was not immediately paid, the Rajah was heavily fined into the bargain. This was rendered still more stringent in 1780, when the difficulties in Madras began. Cheyte Sing sent a confidential agent to Calcutta, to assure Hastings that it was not in his power to pay so heavy a sum, and he sent him two lacs of rupees (twenty thousand pounds), as a private present to conciliate him. Hastings accepted the money, but no doubt feeling the absolute need of large sums for the public purse, he, after awhile, paid this into the treasury, and then said to Cheyte Sing that he must pay the contribution all the same. He compelled the Rajah to pay the annual sum of fifty thousand pounds, and ten thousand pounds more as a fine, and then demanded two thousand cavalry. After some bargaining and protesting, Cheyte Sing sent five hundred horsemen and five hundred foot. Hastings made no acknowledgment of these, but began to muster troops, threatening to take vengeance on the Rajah. In terror, Cheyte Sing then sent, in one round sum, twenty lacs of rupees (two hundred thousand pounds) for the service of the State; but the only answer he obtained for the munificent offering was, that he must send thirty lacs more, that is, altogether, half a million.
After a rough passage the squadron arrived, at three in the morning, in Carrickfergus Road, about seven miles from Belfast. The water in the Channel was not deep enough for the Victoria and Albert, and the royal party went on board the Fairy tender, in which they rapidly glided up the lough, and anchored at the quay, where they landed in order to see the town. Loyal mottoes told, in every form of expression, the welcome of the inhabitants of the capital of Ulster. An arch of grand architectural proportions, richly decorated with floral ornaments and waving banners, spanned the High Street. Her Majesty visited the Queen's College and the Linen Hall. Although a flourishing city, Belfast had not then much to boast of architecturally, and therefore there was not much to be seen. The numerous mills about the town would remind the Queen more of Lancashire than of Ireland, giving her assurance by that same token that Ulster was the most industrious and most prosperous province of the Emerald Isle. If, in Cork, where O'Connell had been obeyed almost as Sovereign of the country, the Queen was hailed with such enthusiastic devotion, how intense must have been the loyal demonstrations in a town out of which the Repeal chief was obliged to fly secretly, to avoid being stoned to death.
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But the most remarkable growth of religion was through the instrumentality of the Wesleyan Methodists. These spread over all the country, through town and village, into places where the ministers of the Establishment had fallen into a spiritual sleep from want of rivalry. In Wales they found a great and almost unoccupied field. In Cornwall, where Wesley had been abused and pelted with stones, they became universal, and still continue to astonish the visitor to that county by their extraordinary numbers, almost every Cornish miner being of that sect. Throughout England the spread of Methodism has been a most influential cause of the revival of activity and discipline in the Established Church itself; for it soon became evident that the Church must exert itself, or the body of the people, especially in the country and in manufacturing districts, would be absorbed by the Wesleyan interest.
On the 24th of April, accordingly, the king proposed, in a speech from the throne, the measure to the Houses in these words. Both Houses sent addresses of affection, and the bill was introduced into the House of Lords; and it was there contended that it was too vague, no person being directly named, except the queen. To remedy this the king sent a new message, naming the five princes of the royal house, with the power of nominating others in the case of the deaths of any of them. Still, on the second reading, Lord Lyttelton declared that this left it perfectly uncertain who would become regent; and he moved an address to the king to name which one of the persons specified he would nominate as regent. But here the Duke of Richmond asked, whether the queen were naturalised; and if not, whether she were capable of acting as regent. He asked, also, who were, strictly speaking, the royal family? The Earl of Denbigh replied, "All who were prayed for;" but the Duke of Bedford contended that those only in the order of succession constituted the royal family. This went at once to exclude the Princess Dowager of Wales, the king's mother; and Halifax, Bedford's colleague, agreed with him. Amidst all this confusion, Lord Halifax hastened away to the king, and advised him to have the name of his mother omitted, lest the Lords should strike it out, and thus make it appear a public insult. The poor bewildered king, taken by surprise, said, "I will consent, if it will satisfy my people."
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Accordingly, Charles could do nothing but maintain his position for the present in Scotland, and send off a messenger to France to announce his wonderful success, and to urge that now was the moment to hasten over troops and supplies, and secure the Crown and friendship of England for ever. He sent over Mr. Kelly to the French Court and to his father, and for a moment there was a lively disposition at Versailles to strike the blow. The king immediately despatched some supplies of money and arms, some of which were seized by English cruisers, and some of which arrived safely. There was also a talk of sending over Charles's brother, Henry, Duke of York, at the head of the Irish regiments and of others, and active preparations were made for the purpose at Dunkirk. But again this flash of enthusiasm died out, and Charles, three weeks after Kelly, sent over Sir James Stewart to aid him in his solicitations. But all was in vain. The French again seemed to weigh the peril of the expedition, and on their part complained that the Jacobites showed no zeal in England, without which the invasion would be madness. Thus the time went by, till the Dutch and English troops landed in England, and the opportunity was lost.
On the 16th of June, just as the House was growing impatient for prorogation, Lord North, who earlier in the Session had made some unsuccessful negotiations with the Whigs, announced intelligence which put such prorogation out of the question. He informed the House that the Spanish Ambassador had delivered a hostile manifesto and had thereupon quitted London. On the 17th a Royal Message was delivered, asserting his Majesty's surprise at this act of Spain, and declaring that nothing on his part had provoked it. But it by no means took anybody else by surprise, and the Opposition strongly reproached Government for not giving credit to their warnings on this head. In the Commons, Lord John Cavendish, and, in the Lords, the Earl of Abingdon and the Duke of Richmond, moved that the fleet and army should be immediately withdrawn from America, that peace be made with those States, and all our forces be concentrated in chastising France and Spain, as they deserved, for their treachery and unprovoked interference. They called for a total change of Ministers and measures.