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Parliament assembled on the 9th of January, 1770. People had been surprised at the unusual delay in summoning it, considering the critical state of America, but they were much more surprised when the subject put foremost in the king's speech was a lamentation over the murrain which had appeared amongst horned cattle during the recess, and which Ministers had taken some measures to stop without calling together Parliament. It was true that he afterwards alluded to the state of affairs in America, and trusted some means would be devised by Parliament to appease the irritation. But whilst war itself appeared imminent there, whilst the whole country at home was in a state of high discontent, and the Spitalfields weavers were at this moment in a state of open riot, the idea of giving the chief place in the royal speech to horned cattle caused a burst of universal ridicule. It was thenceforth called the "Horned Cattle Session." Junius launched one of his fierce missives at the Duke of Grafton, observing, "Whilst the whole kingdom was agitated with anxious expectation on one great point, you meanly evaded the question, and, instead of the explicit firmness and decision of a king, gave us nothing but the misery of a ruined grazier."
"Know, then, 'twas I;
Lord Palmerston and Mr. Poulett Thompson treated the apprehensions of Lord Dudley Stuart as visionary, and expressed their conviction that there was nothing in the conduct of the Czar to excite either alarm or hostility in Great Britain. Their real opinions were very different. A few days later an event occurred which showed how little Russia was to be relied upon; and that it was impossible to restrain her aggressive propensities, even by the most solemn treaty obligations, undertaken in the face of Europe, and guaranteed by the Great Powers. Cracow, which comprised a small territory about 490 square miles in extent, with a population of about 123,000, including the city, was at the general settlement in 1815 formed into a free State, whose independence was guaranteed by the Treaty of Vienna in the following terms:"The town of Cracow, with its territory, is declared to be for ever a free, independent, and strictly neutral city, under the protection of Russia, Austria, and Prussia." During the insurrection of Poland in 1830 the little State of Cracow could not repress its sympathies, and the news of the outbreak was received there with the greatest enthusiasm. After the destruction of the Polish army, persons who were compromised by the revolt sought an asylum in Cracow; and 2,000 political refugees were found settled there in 1836. This served as a pretext for the military occupation of the city in February of that year, notwithstanding the joint guarantee that it should never be entered by a foreign army. This was only a prelude to the ultimate extinction of its independence, which occurred ten years later. Lord Palmerston launched a vigorous protest, but it had no result.
While this was going on, the town of San Sebastian was stormed by the British. Sir Thomas Graham conducted the assault, which was led on by the brigade of General Robinson, bravely supported by a detachment of Portuguese under Major Snodgrass. The place was captured; the French were driven through it to the castle standing on a height, in which they found refuge. Seven hundred prisoners were taken. The British lost two thousand men in the assaulta loss which would have been far greater had a mine, containing one thousand two hundred pounds of gunpowder, exploded, but which was fortunately prevented by the falling in of a saucisson. Many less would have fallen, however, had General Graham allowed shells to be thrown into the town, which he would not, on account of the inhabitants. But the French had not only prepared this great mine, but exploded various other appliances for setting the town on fire. In fact they showed no care for the people or the town. When driven to the castle, after a murderous street fightin which they picked off our men from behind walls and windows, killing Sir Richard Fletcher, the commanding engineer, and wounding Generals Robinson, Leith, and Oswald, besides slaughtering heaps of our menthey continued to fire down the streets, killing great numbers of the inhabitants besides our soldiers. Yet, after all, they charged Lord Wellington with not only throwing shells into the town, but with setting it on fire, and plundering it. His lordship indignantly repelled these accusations in his letter to his brother, Sir Henry Wellesley. He declares that he himself had been obliged to hasten to his headquarters at Lezaco, on the morning of the 31st of August, but that he saw the town on fire in various places before our soldiers entered it; in fact, the French had set it on fire in six different places, and had their mine exploded scarcely a fragment of the town would have been left, or a single inhabitant alive. The lenity shown to the town by Wellington and Graham, who acted for him, was not used towards their calumniators in the castle. It was stoutly bombarded, and being soon almost battered to pieces about the ears of the defenders, the French surrendered on the 8th of September, two thousand five hundred in number; but the siege of both town and fort had cost the allies four thousand men in killed and wounded. Had the town been, as the French represented, bombarded like the castle, some thousands of English and Portuguese lives would have been spared, but at the expense of the inhabitants.But the Committee found itself opposed in these objects in the highest quarter. The king displayed the most firm disposition to protect his late Minister, and was in constant communication with Walpole and his friends for the purpose. Every means were used to protect from the scrutiny of the Committee those who were possessed of the most important information, and to induce them to remain obstinately silent. Mr. Edgecumbe, who had managed the Cornish boroughs for Walpole, and could have revealed things which would have filled the Committee with exultation, was raised to the Upper House, and thus removed from the power of the Commons. Paxton, the Solicitor to the Treasury, a most important witness, remained unshakably silent, and was committed to Newgate; nor was the Committee more successful with Scrope, the Secretary to the Treasury. This officer, who, no doubt, held most desirable knowledge in his bosom, firmly refused to make any disclosures, though he was now a very feeble old man. Other officials declined to make statements whose disclosure might incriminate themselves, and which they were excused from doing by the great principles of our judicature. To remove this obstacle Lord Limerick, the Chairman of the Committee, then moved that a Bill of Indemnity should be passed, to exempt witnesses from all penalties in consequence of their disclosures. This passed the Commons by a majority of twelve, but was rejected in the House of Lords by a large majority.