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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Who commanded the besieging force


A

small Franco-Spanish army was at the same time besieging Minorca. The fleet was considerable, the English were ill-prepared; they were soon obliged to shut themselves up in Fort St. Philip. The ramparts were as solid, the position was as impregnable, as in the time of Marshal Richelieu. The admirals were tardy in bringing up the fleet; their irresolution caused the failure of operations that had been ill-combined; the squadrons entered port again. The Duke of Crillon, who commanded the besieging force, weary of investing the fortress, made a proposal to the commandant to give the place up to him: the offers were magnificent, but Colonel Murray answered indignantly: "Sir, when the king his master ordered your brave ancestor to assassinate the Duke of Guise, he replied to Henry III., Honor forbids! You ought to have made the same answer to the king of Spain when he ordered you to assassinate the honor of a man as well born as the Duke of Guise or yourself. I desire to have no communication with you but by way of arms." And he kept up the defence of his fortress, continually battered by the besiegers' cannonballs. Assault succeeded assault: the Duke of Crillon himself escaladed the ramparts to capture the English flag which floated on the top of a tower: he was slightly wounded. "How long have generals done grenadiers' work?" said the officers to one another. The general heard them. "I wanted to make my Spaniards thorough French," he said, "that nobody might any longer perceive
that there are two nationalities here." Murray at last capitulated on the 4th of February, 1782: the fortress contained but a handful of soldiers exhausted with fatigue and privation.

Great was the joy at Madrid as well as in France, and deep the dismay in London: the ministry of Lord North could not stand against this last blow. So many efforts and so many sacrifices ending in so many disasters were irritating and wearing out the nation. "Great God!" exclaimed Burke, "is it still a time to talk to us of the rights we are upholding in this war! Oh! excellent rights! Precious they should be, for they have cost us dear. Oh! precious rights, which have cost Great Britain thirteen provinces, four islands, a hundred thousand men, and more than ten millions sterling! Oh! wonderful rights, which have cost Great Britain her empire upon the ocean and that boasted superiority which made all nations bend before her! Oh! inestimable rights, which have taken from us our rank amongst the nations, our importance abroad and our happiness at home, which have destroyed our commerce and our manufactures, which have reduced us from the most flourishing empire in the world to a kingdom circumscribed and grandeur-less! Precious rights, which will, no doubt, cost us all that we have left!" The debate was growing more and more bitter. Lord North entered the House with his usual serenity. "This discussion is a loss of valuable time to the House," said he: "His Majesty has just accepted the resignation of his ministers." The Whigs came into power; Lord Rockingham, the Duke of Richmond, Mr. Fox; the era of concessions was at hand.


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