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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 5.djvu/579

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THE AGE OF BRONZE. 539 Thither came the sovereigns of Europe, great and small, accompanied by their chancellors and ministers. The Czar Alexander was attended by Count Nesseirode and Count Pozzo di Borg° ; the Emperor Francis of Austria, by Metter-nich and Prince Esterhazy ; the King of Prussia (Frederic William III.), by Count Bernstorff and Baron Humboldt. George IV. of Great Britain, and Louis XVIII. of France, being elderly and gouty, sent as their plenipotentiaries the Duke of Wellington and the Vicomte de Montmorenci, accompanied, and., finally, superseded by, the French ambas-sador, M. de Chateaubriand. Thither, too, came the smaller fry, Kings of the Two Sicilies and of Sardinia ; and last, but not least, Marie Louise of Austria, Archduchess of Parma, ci-devant widow of Napoleon, and wife sub rosd of her one-eyed chamberlain, Count de Neipperg. They met, they debated, they went to the theatre in state, and finally decided to send monitory despatches to Spain, and to leave to France a free hand to look after her own interests, and to go to war or not, as she was pleased to determine. There was one dis-sentient, the Duke of Wellington, who refused to sign the prods verbaux. His Britannic Majesty had been advised to let the Spaniards alone, and not to meddle with their internal affairs. The final outcome of the Congress, the French in-vasion of Spain, could not be foreseen ; and, apparently, all that the Congress had accomplished was to refuse to pro-hibit the exportation of negroes from Africa to America, and to decline to receive the Greek deputies. As the Morning Chronicle (November 7, 1822) was pleased to put it, " the Royal vultures have been deprived of their anticipated meal." From the Holy Alliance and its antagonist, "the revolu-tionary stork," Byron turns to the landed and agricultural " interest " of Great Britain. With the cessation of war and the resumption of cash payments in 7819, prices had fallen some so per cent., and rents were beginning to fall. Wheat, which in 1818 had fetched 8os. a quarter, in December, 1822, was quoted at 39s.1 rd. ; consols were at 80. Poor rates had risen from 42,00o,000 in 2792 to £8,000,000 in 1822. How was the distress which these changes involved to be met? By retrenchment and reform, by the repeal of taxes, the reduction of salaries, by the landlords and farmers, who had profited by war prices, submitting to the inevitable reaction ; or by sliding scales, by a return to an inflated currency, perhaps by a repudiation of a portion of the funded debt ? The point of Byron's diatribe is that Squire Dives had enjoyed good things during the war, and, now that the war was over, he had no intention to let Lazarus have his turn ;