Abbildungen der Seite

of the agents employed at Paris. To this gentleman, Mr. Perregaux applied for co-operation; and, after some deliberation between them, it was determined to construe the bond into a treasonable practice against the French nation, for which De Beaume and his coadjutors should be apprehended, and for which it was also determined THEY SHOULD SUFFER DEATH.

De Beaume and his associates were accordingly apprehended and imprisoned. The tribunal did not at first consider it expedient to treat the charge of borrowing money as criminal; and without great exertions on that occasion by Mr Perregaux and his confederates, they would have been acquitted. But this gentleman succeeded in impressing the tribunal with a belief in the criminal nature of the loan, by inflaming them against the prisoners, whom he represented as being in connection with the British Princes, for the purpose of raising money to assist the French Princes in anti-revolutionary measures, and in treasonable attempts against the republic. The very bond negotiated by the prisoners was denounced as treasonable in the face of it, for declaring George III. to be King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, the prisoners were tried, condemned, and executed within twentyfour hours !

Thus in one day perished Richard, Chandos, Mestriren, Nutte, De Beaume, and Abert, either for negotiating the Princes' securities, or for purchasing shares of them, as was also the case with Viette, a rich jeweller, who had purchased a hundred shares of the bond of De Beaume. The murderous principle thus laid down and the precedent thus established, were adopted on subsequent instances, and from that time, every foreign creditor under De Beaumes bond who was sent out of England, and landed on the continent, was executed in the same merciless mode upon the same pretence, which was extended even to the creditors who had invested their money in purchasing shares of the bonds.

Would that we could here close this black catalogue of

crime. The next victim who bled on the scaffold, for having been the purchaser of twenty shares of the Princes' bond, was Charles Vaucher, a banker in Paris, who quitted France with a large fortune in 1792. He fixed his residence in England, where he married an English lady. Having demanded payment of the interest on his shares of the Princes' bond, he was referred to the bank of Ransom and Co., when he was advised, if he wished to remain in England, never again to apply for his money; for, if he did, he would be sent out of the country, as many in his situation had already been. This threat did not deter him, he repeated bis application, and was equally unsuccessful. He laid his case before Mr. Shepherd, afterwards Sir S. Shepherd, Solicitor General, who decided that his claim upon the Prince was just and legal ; and at the close of the opinion which that eminent lawyer gave are the following remarkable words : “If any action be brought with this case, it will require the clearest proof of the facts, and that there is no collusion between De Beaume and Vaucher, because as a bill has been passed for the payment of his Royal Highness's debts, subjecting them to the examinatien of commissioners, it will be a strong argument against the justice of a demand that has been withheld from such examination : however, there is nothing in the bill which prevents a creditor of his Royal Highness from suing, if he choose, in preference to going before commissioners.'

In this opinion, the learned counsel seems to have anticipated the very objection that was raised by the commissioners, and the grounds on which they contested the validity of the claim. The Prince inserted it not in his schedule of debts, he disclaimed it in toto, and, therefore, as the Prince disavowed it, the commissioners could not be called upon to allow it; and the only redress which Vaucher could hope to obtain, was by an appeal to the laws of the country. A copy of the opinion of Mr. Shepherd was sent, with a polite note, to the Prince of Wales, hoping his Royal Highness would render all legal ineasures unnecessary, by ordering the interest to be paid. The interest was not paid : the application was renewed to

his Royal Highness, adding, that if no satisfactory answer were returned, such measures would be adopted as would compel his Royal Highness to pay the amount. This threat sealed the destiny of Vaucher, for on the 6th of October, an official order was given for him to quit England in four days. Having other pecuniary matters to arrange, he petitioned the Duke of Portland to allow him to remain until the issue of his claims had been determined. His petition was refused; for on the 11th of October, a warrant was signed by the Duke of Portland, directing William Ross and George Higgins, two of the King's messengers, to take Mr. Vaucher into custody, till he should be sent out of the country. On the 15th, he was taken into custody, and on the 20th he was carried to Harwicb, to be sent from thence to Rotterdam, where he arrived on the 23rd of the same month. Not long after his arrival on the continent, he was apprehended, taken to Paris, and thrown into prison, where he remained until the 22nd of December, 1798, on which day he was tried on the same charges as De Beaume, was found guilty, and guillotined !!!

Our limits will not allow us to enter at full into the cases of Mr. D. Lovell, the editor of the Statesman, and that of Mr. Auriol; but proof is on record that, with the diamonds remitted by De Beaume, and the money advanced by Auriol, the sum received by the Prince amounted to between £60,000 and £70,000. sterling.

Our comments shall be short. The pages of history present a melancholy picture of the turpitude of the human heart. If we investigate the character of our kings, from the conquest to the reign of George IV., and we were to write a catalogue of the vices inherent in our nature, and the crimes which have resulted from those vices, there is not one against which we could not select some individual king to affix his name, as having been the perpetrator of it. The country has already determined, against what vices the name of George IV. ought to be affixed, and the history which we have now given of these bond transactions, will invest him with an indisputable claim to one, which must be too obvious to require any notifica

tion from ourselves. We may, and we expect to be told, that we are deserving of censure for having now given publicity to a transaction, the principal agents of which are in their graves, and the particulars of which are only to be found amongst the musty records of the antiquary: we answer, that we pretend not to draw a portion of a picture, but the whole of it, the black shades of which will force tkemselves upon our attention, but to which we give no deeper colouring than is required to preserve the truth of the object. The facts of the case have slept, but they are not forgotten; nor can they be forgotten while the claims of justice are unsatisfied, and while atonement and reparation are withheld from the widows and orphans of the guillotined creditors.

Perhaps there never came into any Court a debt so,incurred, so unjustly opposed, or of so extraordinary a nature, both in the transaction that preceded, and in those that following it, in its whole history—its rise and progress, as well as its litigation. The British Princes, by their proceedings in the business, appear as if the law of England had no security over them; as if they could, at their pleasure, contract debts, or commit their names to paper, to bind themselves with every legal solemnity; and, then, in defiance of all law and justice, discharge them by a command to their own servant, to destroy what they had so signed. But the servant of the Prince so acting, was a high official functionary of the people, he was also their servant, and although he might not hesitate to compromise his character, as the servant of the Prince, he should have paused before he compromised it, as the servant of the people.

It should be here stated, out of a proper respect for the character of the Duke of Clarence, that he appears to have been drawn into these transactions, not from any very pressing pecuniary exigencies of his own, but from a laudable and generous disposition to assist his elder brothers in extricating them from their embarrassments, by offering himself as a collateral security for the due payment of the bonds. And this opinion is in a great measure confirmed by the circumstance,

that when George III. was informed of the negotiations which were going on for the loan, he expressed the high sense of his indignation in no measured terms at the Duke of Clarence being drawn in to sign the bonds, and thereby rendering himself liable to the payment of an enormous sum of money, with all its accumulating interest, which might eventually reduce him to the condition of abject pauperism. The evil was, however, committed before the transaction became known to George III., and the only question nuw under cousideration was the remedy to be applied, in order to avert the ruin which impended over the three elder branches of his family. A compromise was at first projected with all the bona fide holders of the bonds, and that the option should be given to them of receiving at once half the amount which had been advanced in full liquidation of the obligations, or to receive the whole at such stated periods, and in such sums, as the finances of the borrowers could afford. It is most probable that the latter proposal would have been immediately accepted by the majority of the holders, who had now discovered that the security given was not so solid as had been represented; but the legal advisers of the crown again stepped in, and recommended a total denial of the validity of the bonds, and, consequently, of the responsibility of the grantors. In order, however, to try the latter question, an applicafion was made to the Court of Chancery by a Mr. Martignac one of the principal bondholders, who offered, as such, to verify the security, and the matter came on regularly to be heard by way of motion, when Sir Arthur Pigott, who was then Attorney-General to the Duchy of Cornwall, stated in answer, that he had never heard of the existence of such bonds, and that if such obligations had been contracted, the court must be aware of the difficulties, after the occurrences which had taken place in France and Holland, attending the identification of the bona fide holders, as well as the liability of the grantors, provided such securities should be discharged. The immediate impression on his mind, said Sir Arthur, negatived the existence of such bonds, although he should feel it to be his duty to make the necessary inquiries in the proper

« ZurückWeiter »