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Notwithstanding the real outbreak of the war, Congress yet professed to entertain hopes of ultimate reconciliation. When the reinforcements had arrived from England, and it was supposed that part of them were destined for New York, it issued orders that, so long as the forces remained quiet in their barracks, they should not be molested; but if they attempted to raise fortifications, or to cut off the town from the country, they should be stoutly opposed. When the news of the surprise of the forts on the Lake Champlain arrived, Congress endeavoured to excuse so direct a breach of the peace by feigning a belief in a design of an invasion of the colonies from Canada, of which there was notoriously no intention, and they gave orders that an exact inventory of the cannon and military stores there captured should be made, in order to their restoration, "when the former harmony between Great Britain and her colonies, so ardently wished for by the latter, should render it consistent with the overruling law of self-preservation." After the battle of Bunker's Hill, Congress still maintained this tone. On the 8th of July they signed a petition to the king, drawn up by John Dickinson, in the mildest terms, who, when to his own surprise the petition was adopted by the Congress, rose, and said that there was not a word in the whole petition that he did not approve of, except the word "Congress." This, however, was far from the feeling of many members; and Benjamin Harrison immediately rose and declared that there was but one word in the whole petition that he did approve of, and that was the word "Congress." The petition to the king expressed an earnest desire for a speedy and permanent reconciliation, declaring that, notwithstanding their sufferings, they retained in their hearts "too tender a regard for the kingdom from which they derived their origin to request such a reconciliation as might be inconsistent with her dignity or welfare." At the same time, they resolved that this appeal, which they called "The Olive Branch," should, if unsuccessful, be their last. They could hardly have expected it to be successful.
From the Painting by J. Trumbull.
In Germany, Frederick of Prussia was hard put to it. A fresh army of Russians, under General Soltikow, advanced to the Oder, and another army of Austrians, under Laudohn, advanced to form a junction with them. To prevent this, Frederick sent General Wedel to encounter the Russians, but he was defeated by them on the 23rd of July, with heavy loss. Frederick himself then hastened against them, but, before his arrival, the Austrians had joined Soltikow, making a united force of sixty thousand, which Frederick attacked, on the 12th of August, with forty-eight thousand, at the village of Kunersdorf, close to Frankfort-on-the-Oder. At first he was successful; but, attempting to push his advantages, he was completely beaten, the whole of his army being killed or scattered to three thousand men. So completely did his ruin now seem accomplished, that, expecting the Russians, Austrians, Poles, Swedes, and Saxons to come down on him on all sides, he once more contemplated taking the poison that he still carried about him; wrote a letter to that effect to his Prime Minister, and directed the oath of allegiance to be taken to his nephew, and that his brother, Prince Henry, should be regent; but finding that the Russians, who had lost twenty thousand men, were actually drawing off, he again took courage, was soon at the head of thirty thousand men, and with these was hastening to the relief of Dresden, when he was paralysed by the news that General Finck, with twelve thousand men, had suffered himself to be surrounded at Maxen, and compelled to surrender. Despairing of relieving Dresden during this campaign, Frederick eventually took up his winter quarters at Freiberg, in Saxony, and employed himself in raising and drilling fresh soldiers; compelled, however, to pay his way by debasing both the Prussian coin, and the English gold which he received in subsidy, by a very large alloy.
On the 9th of August, 1834, a fire broke out in part of the Dublin Custom House, one of the finest buildings in the United Kingdom. Owing to the immense quantity of combustible materials, the fierceness of the conflagration was something terrific. By great exertion the building was saved. This fire naturally produced a great sensation throughout the United Kingdom, but it was nothing in comparison to the interest excited by the burning of the two Houses of Parliament, which occurred on the 16th of October, 1834. According to the report of the Lords of the Privy Council, who inquired into the cause of the fire, the tally-room of the exchequer had been required for the temporary accommodation of the Court of Bankruptcy, and it was necessary to get rid of a quantity of the old exchequer tallies, which had accumulated till they would have made about two cartloads. These tallies had been used for kindling the fires. On one occasion a quantity of them was burned in Tothill Fields. There had been a question as to the best mode of getting rid of them, and it was ultimately resolved that they should be carefully and gradually consumed in the stoves of the House of Lords. But the work had been committed to workmen who were the reverse of careful. They heaped on the fuel, nearly filling the furnaces, and causing a blaze which overheated the flues. The housekeeper of the Lords' chamber sent to them several times during the day, complaining of the smoke and heat, but they assured her there was no danger. About four o'clock in the afternoon two strangers were admitted to see the House of Lords, and found the heat and smoke so stifling, that they were led to examine the floor, when they perceived that the floor-cloth was "sweating." At six o'clock the pent-up flames broke forth through the windows, and immediately the alarm was spread in all directions. The Ministers, the king's sons, Mr. Hume, and others, were presently on the spot, and did all they could in the consternation and confusion. The law courts were saved by having their roofs stripped off, and causing the engines to play on the interior. The greatest efforts were made to save Westminster Hall, which was happily preserved; but the two Houses of Parliament were completely destroyed, together with the Commons' library, the Lords' painted chamber, many of the committee rooms, part of the Speaker's house, the rooms of the Lord Chancellor and other law officers, as well as the kitchen and eating-rooms. The king promptly offered Parliament the use of Buckingham Palace; but it was thought best to fit up temporary rooms on the old site, and to have them ready for next Session. The committee of the Privy Council sat for several days, and during the whole of that time the fire continued to smoulder among the dbris, and in the coal vaults, while the engines were heard to play from day to day within the boarded avenues. As soon as possible the temporary halls were prepared. The House of Lords was fitted up for the Commons, and the painted chamber for the Lords, at an expense of 30,000.
But unfortunately for the Pretender, at the moment that the Swedish hero should prepare his armament for the earliest spring, the conspiracy exploded. Whilst the leaders of it had been flattering themselves that it was conducted with the profoundest secrecy, the English Ministry were in possession of its clue. As early as October they had found reason to induce them to intercept the correspondence of Gyllenborg, and had come at once on the letters of Gortz. The matter was kept close, and as nothing was apprehended in winter, Ministers used the time to improve their knowledge of the scheme from the inspected letters passing between Gortz and Gyllenborg. On the king's return it was resolved to act, and accordingly Stanhope laid the information regarding this formidable conspiracy before the Council, and proposed that the Swedish Minister, who had clearly, by conspiring against the Government to which he was accredited, violated the law of nations, and deprived himself of its protection, should be arrested. The Cabinet at once assented to the proposal, and General Wade, a man of firm and resolute military habits, was ordered to make the arrest of the Ambassador. The general found Count Gyllenborg busy making up his despatches, which, after announcing laconically his errand, Wade took possession of, and then demanded the contents of his escritoire. The Dutch Government acted in the same manner to Gortz, and the evidence thus obtained was most conclusive.