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The year 1771 opened in circumstances which greatly diminished the interest in Parliamentary proceedings. As all reporting was excluded from the House of Lords, the chief speakers there felt that they were no longer addressing the nation, but merely a little knot of persons in a corner, and consequently the stimulus of both fame and real usefulness was at an end. In the Commons, the desire of the Ministry to reduce that popular arena to the same condition of insignificance produced a contest with the City as foolish and mischievous in its degree as the contests then going on with Wilkes and America. George Onslow, nephew of the late Speaker, and member for Guildford, moved that several printers, who had dared to report the debates of the House of Commons, should be summoned to the bar to answer for their conduct. Accordingly, these mediums of communication between the people and their representatives were summoned and reprimanded on their knees. One of their number, named Miller, however, declared that he was a liveryman of London, and that any attempt to arrest him would be a breach of the privileges of the City. The Serjeant-at-Arms dispatched a messenger to apprehend this sturdy citizen, and bring him before the House; but, instead of succeeding, the Parliamentary messenger was taken by a City constable, and carried before Brass Crosby, the Lord Mayor. With the Lord Mayor sat Alderman Wilkes and Alderman Oliver. It was delightful work to Wilkes thus to set at defiance the House of Commons, which had made such fierce war on him. The Lord Mayor, accordingly, was fully confirmed in his view that the messenger of the Commons had committed a flagrant violation of the City charter, in endeavouring to lay hands on one of its liverymen within its own precincts, and they held the messenger accordingly to bail. The House of Commons was fired with indignation at this contemptuous disregard of their dignity. They passed a resolution, by a large majority, ordering the Lord Mayor and the two aldermen to appear at their bar. Wilkes bluntly refused to attend the House in any shape but as a recognised member of it. Crosby pleaded a severe fit of the gout; and Oliver, though he appeared in his place, refused to make any submission whatever, but told them he defied them. The House, in its blind anger, resolved that Oliver should be committed to the Tower, and Crosby to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms. But Crosby declared that he would not accept this indulgence at the hands of the House, but would share the incarceration of his honourable friend; and he was accordingly sent also to the Tower. The people out of doors were in the highest state of fury. They greeted the City members on their way to and from the House, but they hooted and pelted the Ministerial supporters. Charles James Fox, still a Government man, as all his family had been, was very roughly handled; Lord North's carriage was dashed in, and himself wounded; and had he not been rescued by a popular member, Sir William Meredith, he would probably have lost his life. The Commons had engaged in a strife with the City, in which they were signally beaten, and no further notice being taken of the printers, from this time forward the practice of reporting the debates of Parliament became recognised as an established privilege of the people, though formally at the option of the House; and so far now from members or Ministers fearing any evil from it, the most conservative of them would be deeply mortified by the omission of their speeches in the reports. The termination of the Session also opened the doors of the Tower, and liberated the Lord Mayor and Alderman Oliver. They were attended from the Tower to the Mansion House by the Corporation in their robes, where a banquet celebrated their restoration to freedom, and the populace displayed their sympathy by bonfires and illuminations.Slowly, with no undue haste whatever, the Reverend Taylor produced from beneath the skirts of his clerical garb another revolver. There was a derisive and hilarious howl. When it had subsided, he turned to the barkeeper. "Got my lemon pop ready?" he asked. The[Pg 44] man pushed it over to him, and he took it up in his left hand.
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On the 17th of July the new Premier, Lord Melbourne, who, declining, on the king's suggestion, to form a coalition with the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Stanley, had made few alterations in the Ministry, announced a less offensive Coercion Bill for Ireland, which led to an animated debate, in which Lords Wicklow and Wharncliffe, the Duke of Wellington, and other peers strongly censured the conduct of the Government for its alleged inconsistency, vacillation, and tergiversation. The new Coercion Bill passed quickly through both Houses, and became the law of the land before the end of the month. The Tithes Bill was rejected in the House of Lords, on the motion of Lord Ellenborough, by 189 votes to 122.
It gave cause for reflection; but an officer was obviously at liberty to talk to whomsoever he might choose around his own premises, at any hour of the day or night. So the officer of the day went on, treading quietly. But he had something to think about now that kept off drowsiness for the rest of the rounds. Brewster's fondness for the society of dubious civilians was certainly unfortunate. And the conjunction of the aspiring beef contractor and the commissary officer was also unfortunate, not to say curious. Because of this. The beef contract was about to expire, and the commandant had advertised for bids. A number of ranchers had already turned their papers in. Furnishing the government's soldiers with meat is never an empty honor.