But on the 29th of February, 1776, the treaties lately entered into by the British Government with a number of German princes to furnish troops to fight in America, were laid on the table of the Commons; and intense indignation was raised against this most odious and impolitic measure. There had been negotiations with Russia for the purpose of procuring her savages to put down our kinsmen in America; but this barbarous attempt had failed. It was more successful with the petty princes of Germany. The Duke of Brunswick, the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, and other little despots, now greedily seized on the necessity of England, to drive the most extravagant terms with her. Under the name of levy-money, they were to receive seven pounds ten shillings for every man; and besides maintaining them, we were to pay to the Duke of Brunswick, who supplied four thousand and eighty-four men, a subsidy of fifteen thousand five hundred and nineteen pounds; the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, who furnished twelve thousand men, did not get such good terms as Brunswickhe had ten thousand pounds; the hereditary Prince of Hesse received six thousand pounds a-year, for only six hundred and eighty-eight men. Besides this, the men were to begin to receive pay before they began to march. Brunswick was also to get double his sum, or thirty-one thousand and thirty-eight pounds a-year, for two years after they had ceased to serve; and the Landgrave of Hesse was to receive twelve months' notice of the discontinuance of the payment after his troops had returned to his dominions. The payment for 1776 was to be four hundred and fifty thousand crowns, or nearly one hundred thousand pounds. The Prince of Waldeck soon after engaged to furnish six hundred and seventy men on equally good terms. Beyond all these conditions, England was bound to defend the dominions of those princes in the absence of their troops. The independent members of both Houses nobly discharged their duty in condemnation of this engagement of German mercenaries, but without effect, and the king prorogued Parliament, under the pleasing delusion that his foreign troops would soon bring his rebellious subjects to reason; and the Ministers apparently as firmly shared in this fallacious idea.

The greater part of the House, as well as the public out of doors, were captivated with the scheme, which promised thus easily to relieve them of the monster debt; but Sir Grey Cooper was the first to disturb these fairy fancies. He declared that the whole was based on a fallacious statement; that it was doubtful whether the actual surplus was as described; but even were it so, that it was but the surplus of a particular year, and that it was like the proprietor of a hop-ground endeavouring to borrow money on the guarantee of its proceeds in a particularly favourable year. Fox, Burke, and Sheridan followed in the same strain. They argued that, supposing the assumed surplus actually to exist, which they doubted, it would immediately vanish in case of war, and a fresh mass of debt be laid on.[315] Sheridan said, the only mode of paying off a million a year would be to make a loan of a million a year, for the Minister reminded him of the person in the comedy who said, "If you won't lend me the money, how can I pay you?" On the 14th of May he moved a string of fourteen resolutions unfavourable to the report of the Committee, which he said contained facts which could not be negatived; but the House did negative them all without a division, and on the 15th of May passed the Bill. In the Lords it met with some proposals from Earl Stanhope, which were to render the violation of the Act equivalent to an act of bankruptcy, but these were negatived, and the Bill was passed there on the 26th. It was not until 1828 that the fallacy on which the Bill rested was finally exposed by Lord Grenville, who, curiously enough, had been chairman of the Committee which recommended its adoption.

On assembling his remnant of an army in Brelowa, Buonaparte beheld a state of general disorganisation prevailing. Perishing with cold and hunger, every man was only mindful of himself. In a short time the whole village was pulled down to make camp-fires of the timber, for the weather was fiercely cold. He could scarcely prevent them from stripping off the roof under which he had taken shelter. He set out on his march for Wilna on the 29th of November. The army hurried along without order or discipline, their only care being to outstrip the Russians, who were, like famished wolves, at their heels; the Cossacks continually cutting down numbers of their benumbed and ragged comrades, who went along more like spectres than actual men. The thermometer was at twenty degrees below zero. Scarcely had Parliament ceased to sit, and the king was gone to spend the summer months in Germany, when the vigilance of the Ministry was demanded to ward off a fresh invasion. Alberoni, defeated in his schemes on France, and his hopes of the invasion of England by Charles XII. crushed by that monarch's death, determined now to make a grand effort to support the Pretender himself. For this purpose, he invited him to Spain, and at the same time began the equipment of a formidable fleet to carry over a Spanish force, under the command of the Duke of Ormonde, to the shores of Britain. The Pretender was not intended to accompany the expedition, but to be in readiness to follow on the first news of its[43] successful landing. But it was no more destined to reach these shores than the Grand Armada. It has always been the fate of invading squadrons to encounter providential tempests in coming hitherward, and the usual hurricane was ready to burst. Scarcely, indeed, had the fleet lost sight of Cape Finisterre before the storm swooped down upon it. For twelve days the terrible Bay of Biscay was swept by a frightful wind, which drove the vessels in all directions, and rendered it impossible to manage them. Fortunate would it have been if every vessel had failed to reach the shores at which they aimed; but two vessels, on board of which were the Earls Marshal and Seaforth, and the Marquis of Tullibardine, accompanied by about three hundred Spanish soldiers, reached Scotland, and landed, on the 16th of April, at Kintail, in Ross-shire. In the hope that Ormonde would still reach England, this small force lay quiet for some time, and so little did they excite notice, that the Government imagined that they had re-embarked. Their presence there, however, had the mischievous effect of exciting some few of the Highlanders to join them. They seized Donan Castle, and thus attracted the attention of the English. Some vessels of war arrived upon the coast. The castle was speedily retaken, and Lord Carpenter, the commander of the forces in Scotland, sent some troops from Inverness against them. General Wightman, the officer thus despatched, was attended by about a thousand men, and found the enemy, now swollen to about two thousand, strongly posted at Glenshiel. He immediately attacked them, and the miscellaneous force speedily dispersed. The Highlanders, who knew the country, rapidly disappeared amongst the hills, and the Spaniards had no other resource than to lay down their arms.