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    • WASHINGTON AND HIS MEN AT VALLEY FORGE. (See p. 239.)
    • But Ministers were too sensible of the unconstitutional character of their deeds to rest satisfied with the mere justification of an accepted report. A Bill of Indemnity was introduced to cover "all persons who had in 1817 taken any part in apprehending, imprisoning, or detaining in custody persons suspected of high treason, or treasonable practices, and in the suppression of tumultuous and unlawful assemblies." Thus Ministers were shielded under general terms, and to avoid all appearance of personal movement in this matter by those in the Cabinet the most immediately active, the Bill was introduced by the Duke of Montrose, the Master of the Horse.
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    In the year 1845 marked symptoms appeared of the approaching total failure of the national food. The early crop had been saved, but throughout the whole country the late crop was lost. As, however, the grain crop was abundant, the loss was not so severely felt. But the Government were so alarmed that they appointed a commission, consisting of Professors Kane, Lindley, and Playfair, eminent chemists, to inquire into the cause of the failure; but all their skill was unavailing to discover the nature of the mysterious agency by which the destruction was effected. The farmers and peasantry were not deterred from putting in an abundant crop of potatoes next year. In the beginning of the season the crops seemed in excellent condition, and there was every prospect of a plentiful harvest; but suddenly the blight came, as if the crop had been everywhere smitten with lightning, or a withering blast had swept over the whole country. "On the 27th of July," said Father Mathew, "I passed from Cork to Dublin, and this doomed plant bloomed in all the luxuriance of an abundant harvest. Returning on the 3rd of August, I beheld one wide waste of putrefying vegetation. In many places the wretched people were seated on the fences of their decaying gardens, wringing their hands and bewailing bitterly the destruction that had left them foodless." First a brown spot appeared on the leaf; the spots gradually increased in number and size until the foliage withered, the stem became brittle, and snapped off immediately when touched. In less than a week the whole process of destruction was accomplished. The fields assumed a blackened appearance; the roots were like pigeons' eggs, which gradually rotted away, and were wholly unfit for food. In one week the chief support of the masses was utterly lost.

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    The Attorney-General defied the enemies of the administration to point out a single instance in which the Viceroy had deviated from the line of strict impartiality, yet he was the object of most virulent attacks by the fanatical members of the Orange societies in Dublin, and by the Orange press. Their animosity was excited to the utmost by a proceeding which he adopted with reference to the statue of King William III. in College Green. For some years a set of low persons, connected with the Orange lodges, had been in the habit of bedaubing the statue with ridiculous painting and tawdry orange colours, with a fantastic drapery of orange scarves. The Catholics believed that this was done with the avowed purpose of insulting them, and they thought that they had as much right to undress as others had to dress a public statue. On one occasion, therefore, they painted King William with lampblack. Consequently, on the 12th of July, 1822, a serious riot occurred, in the course of which lives were endangered, the tranquillity of the metropolis was disturbed, and evil passions of the most furious kind were engendered in the minds of the parties. As the peace must be preserved, the only course was to put an end to those senseless brawls by ordering that no unauthorised parties should presume to put their hands on a public monument, either for the purpose of decorating or defiling it. But this judicious order the Orangemen felt to be a wrong, which should be resented and avenged by driving Lord Wellesley out of the country. Accordingly, certain members of the Orange Society, amounting to nearly one hundred, entered into a conspiracy to mob him in the theatre. They were supplied with pit-tickets, and assembling early at the door, they rushed in, and took possession of the seat immediately under the Viceregal box. Other parties of them went to the galleries. They agreed upon the watchword, "Look out." They had previously printed handbills, which were freely distributed in and about the theatre, containing insulting expressions, such as "Down with the Popish Government!" Before the Viceroy arrived, they had been crying for groans for the "Popish Lord-Lieutenant," for the house of Wellesley, for the Duke of Wellington. When the marquis arrived he was received with general cheering, that overbore the Orange hisses; but during the playing of the National Anthem the offensive noise became so alarming that some of the audience[248] left the theatre. At this moment a bottle was flung from one of the galleries, which was supposed to be aimed at the head of the Lord-Lieutenant, and which fell near his box.

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