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It is said that Sir Robert had, some time before, addressed a letter to the Pretender with the object of softening the asperity of his partisans in England, and that this had so raised the hopes of James, that Walpole was actually intending to come round, that he had ordered his followers to avoid anything which should shake his power. Whatever the cause, the fact was striking, and the Opposition having concluded its onslaught upon him, he rose to make his reply. It was an occasion which demanded the utmost exertion of his powers, and he put them forth. Walpole's speech on this day has justly been deemed his masterpiece. It was four o'clock in the morning when he concluded his masterly defence, and the motion was instantly rejected by two hundred and ninety votes against one hundred and six. The immediate effect of the attack appeared to be to strengthen the Minister, and that considerably; his leve the next morning was more crowded than had ever been known, and he seemed to sway the Cabinet with uncontrolled power. But thinking men predicted that the blow would tell in the end, when the momentary enthusiasm had gone off; and Walpole himself seemed to be of the same opinion. The attack, in truth, was but the first outbreak of the storm which, kept up by the implacable spirit of a powerful Opposition, was sure to bear him down at last.

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Under Sir Joshua Reynolds a perfect revolution in the art of painting, as practised in England, was effected. He threw aside past traditional fashions, and returned to nature; and his portraits at once excited the consternation of the painters of the day, and placed him in the very first rank of artists. In 1768 was established the Royal Academy, and amongst its foreign members were Benjamin West and Angelica Kauffmann. West produced all his great works in England, and, however much they may now be criticised, they showed an advance on past art in England, and had the merit of introducing modern costume for modern heroes, as in the "Death of General Wolfe," contrary to the advice of even Reynolds himself. Barry made a spasmodic attempt to lead the public back to what he deemed the classical, but in vain; and the successive appearance of Wilson, Gainsborough, and Opie, in different styles, but all genuinely English, established the public in its attachment to the true English school. Wilson, during his lifetime, indeed, was neglected, and died in poverty; but the next generation made the amende to his fame, though too late for his own enjoyment of it. To[202] Paul Sandby we owe the origin of the water-colour school, which afterwards grew so extensive and so rich in production. Amongst eminent painters of this portion of the reign we must mention Wright of Derby, Mortimer, Stubbs and Sawrey, animal painters, and Copley, who, though an American by birth, produced most of his works in England.

But the loss of the Allies had also been perfectly awful. The Prussians, besides the great slaughter at Ligny, had been engaged in a bloody struggle at Planchenoit, and the British and their Allies had lost in the battle of Waterloo two thousand four hundred and thirty-two killed, and nine thousand five hundred and twenty-eight wounded; these, added to the numbers killed and wounded at Quatre Bras, raised the total to fifteen thousand. Of British and Hanoverian officers alone six hundred were killed or wounded at Waterloo. The Duke of Brunswick fell at the head of his troops at Quatre Bras, without having the satisfaction of witnessing the final ruin of Buonaparte. So many of Wellington's staff were disabled that he had at one time no officer to dispatch with a pressing order. A young Piedmontese, of the family of De Salis, offered himself. "Were you ever in a battle before?" asked the Duke. "No, sir," he replied. "Then," said the Duke, "you are a lucky man, for you will never see such another." When the Duke, who had witnessed so many bloody battles, saw the carnage of Waterloo, and heard, one after another, the losses of so many companions in arms, he was quite overcome. In his despatches he says: "I cannot express the regret and sorrow with which I look round me, and contemplate the losses that we have sustained." And again, "The losses I have sustained have quite broken me down, and I have no feeling for the advantages we have gained."

A still more important proposition was laid before Parliament by royal message, on the 22nd of Januarythe union of Ireland with Great Britain. It was argued that the late attempts to bring in a French army, and to alienate Ireland from Great Britain altogether, showed the necessity of drawing closer the bonds between the two countries. On the 31st of January a series of resolutions was agreed to as the basis of this union, but for the present year the matter ended in a joint address on the subject from both Houses being presented to the king. On the 3rd of May George received addresses at Carlton House, and on the 10th he held his first levee since his accession to the Throne, at which nearly eighteen hundred persons of distinction were present, who testified their attachment to his person in the most gratifying manner. The families of the great political party that formed and supported his Government affected to treat the queen's pretensions with a quiet disdain that evinced their confidence in the unbounded loyalty of the nation. But their eyes were soon opened; and in a few weeks Ministers sat abashed upon the Treasury benches as if conscious that they were driving the vessel of the Constitution upon a rock, subservient to the tyranny of their master. The Liberal party were vehement in their denunciations, and the leading Whigs, whether from policy or a sense of duty, came forward as the champions of the queen's rights. The people were all enthusiastic in her favour, and wild with excitement.

By these endeavours Walpole managed to array a considerable body of the Commons against it. It was introduced on the 8th of December, and Sir John Pakington, Sir Richard Steele, Smith, Methuen, and others joined him in attacking it. Steele made a very powerful speech against it, but the grand assault was that of Walpole. He put out all his strength, and delivered a harangue such as he had never achieved till that day. He did not spare the motives of the king, though handling them with much tact, and was unsparingly severe on the Scottish clauses, and on the notorious subserviency of the Scottish representative peers. He declared that the sixteen elective Scottish peers were already a dead weight on the country; and he asked what they would be when made twenty-five, and hereditary? He declared that such a Bill would make the lords masters of the king, and shut up the door of honour to the rest of the nation. Amongst the Romans, he said, the way to the Temple of Fame was through the Temple of Virtue; but if this Bill passed, such would never be the case in this country. There would be no arriving at honours but through the winding-sheet of an old, decrepit lord, or the tomb of an extinct noble family. Craggs, Lechmere, Aislabie, Hampton, and other Ministerial Whigs supported the Bill; but, in the words of Speaker Onslow, the declamation of Walpole had borne down everything before it, and the measure was defeated by a majority of two hundred and sixty-nine to one hundred and seventy-seven.