NEWS OF THE WEEK.
I T is not easy to frighten the House of Commons, but on Monday Sir Cornewall Lewis almost succeeded. He was asked by Sir F. Smith, in the form of a regular motion, why if the Monitor proved so efficient, we should spend millions on fortifications of stone ? Not seeing exactly how to get rid of his contracts, the Secretary at War sought relief from his dilemma by denying the value of the recent experiment. The fight in the James River taught us, he said, no more than we knew before. He might as well have denied its occur- rence, and for some days the public were left under an im- pression that the Government intended to remain unpre- pared. On Thursday, however, the Duke of Somerset, who, whenever he can be persuaded that the occasion warrants the intervention of such a Deus ex ma-chintz as himself, speaks to the point, set matters partially straight. We have four huge plated steamers afloat, and a fifth will be finished in August, and five more by next year. We have twenty "frames," of various sizes, ready for plates, which can be put on very rapidly. A cupolaed ship has been ordered, and cupolas will be placed upon certain wooden ships. Twenty men of war also can be cut down, and plated so as to become extremely efficient vessels for harbour defence. Finally, the Duke of Somerset thinks the meaning of the battle in the James River simply this. *We must henceforth send ironsides wherever fighting is to be done, and keep them on foreign stations as well as in the Channel. The public is therefore soothed, though it is as well to remark that neither Sir C. Lewis who doubts, nor the Duke of Somerset who confides, has given the order which will realize all these magnificent words.
A reaction is going on against both Monitor and Merrimac. Neither it would seem are exceedingly safe at sea. The Moni- tor going to Hampton Roads met "half a gale," and shipped seas down her smoke stack. The water put out the fires, and the gas struck the engineers down. The concussion too, when the shots struck was almost as bad as a wound ; the crew bled from noses and eyes, and several fainted away. The roof of the Merrimac, again, is made of open bars, and though they resist the shot they do not keep out the water, which in a heavy sea would probably sink her at once.
On Thursday night Mr. Gladstone introduced his Budget. The HOuse was crammed to the roof, and strangers attended from seven o'clock in the morning ; but there was, after all, but little to hear. The deficit of last year-is to be paid out of the balances. The expenditure of this year is estimated at 70,040,000/., and the revenue at '70,190,0001. . With this trifling resource the Chancellor proposed to alter the wine duties, reducing the rates to two, is. a gallon on natural wines (below 26 deg.), and 2s. 6d. a gallon on brandied wines. He also proposed to place a tax of 12a. 6d. a year upon all houses whose occupants brew at home, modify the brewery license duty so as to make it come up to 3d. per barrel, and remit the duty on hops. This was the substance of his proposal, but he pointed out that the China war had cost upwards of seven millions, that England almost alone in Europe had positively reduced her debt since 1816, and that retrenchment was exceedingly necessary. Nobody had much to say, the Budget conciliates wine-merchants and hop-growers, two important interests, and the public gene- rally are probably content to consider that the times are ex- ceptional, and that in exceptional times we must live from hand to mouth. The wisdom of establishing such a .prece- dent for happy-go-lucky finance is a very different point.
The Italian Cabinet is at length reconstructed. Mancini and Cordova, whose presence was an offence to every re- spectable politician, make room for the Tuscan Matteucci (the new Minister of Public Instruction), and the Neapo- litan Conforti (the new Minister for Grace and Justice). General Durando takes Foreign Affairs, and M. Rattazzi the Home Office, while keeping his position as Prime Minister. Durand° is an upright politician, but weak and rather used up—certainly incompetent to succeed Cavour or Ricasoli in the Foreign Office at such a moment. Matteucci is a man of science, but unpopulai• with the Liberals, and especially with the Tuscans ; for, at the time of the annexation of Tuscany, he urged strongly on the Piedmantese Govern- ment to make the ex-Duchess of Parma Queen of Tuscany. In other words, he was then an anti-Unionist. Conforti is a very able criminal lawyer, but has always failed in adminis- tration. He was Home Minister at Naples in the Radical Ministry of 1848, and by his blunders smoothed the way for anarchy and the coup d'etat of the 15th May. In exile till 1860, he was for a time Garibaldi's Home Minister, without any public success. The Turin Parliament, we believe, do little more than tolerate the new Ministry to avoid a breach with the King. Rattazzi falls in personal credit. We believe that he disowned (in a letter to General Solaroli, in- tended to be forwarded to Lord Clarendon), all responsibility for the very unscrupulous publication of Cavour's letters, and stated that Berti had betrayed his confidence. But his conduct contradicts his disavowal. One of the first steps of the Rattazzi Ministry has been to appoint Berti Under- Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Villamarina (the other party to the publication), Governor of Milan. This is not a Minister to gain the public confidence of Italy. Ricasoli must return ere long to the helm.
,A. respected correspondent reproaches us, we think justly, with hasty and unjust criticism on the introduction to Mr. Peabody's letter concerning his magnificent gift to the poor of London. Our correspondent urges that the reference to Mr. Peabody's previous gifts to Danvers and Baltimore, and to the nature of the early resolve which he had formed, was almost essential to remove from the minds of his own fellow- countrymen any false notion that he was lavishing on Eng- land a bounty on which the United States had greater claims. We had overlooked this obvious explanation of the letter, which seems to us entirely satisfactory, and regret the undue. haste with which a first impression was set down.
The reactionary Prussian Ministry has, it is said, been strengthened by the accession to its ranks of a new Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs, Herr Miihler (or Miichler), hitherto famous for his interest in the re: publica, only so far as that term includes the frequenters of the public-house. He is the author of a really humorous song, supposed to be sung by a student issuing from his inn only to find the street dancing about, the moon making faces at him, and the lamp- posts so decidedly intoxicated that he shrinks from the ex- ceptional position of personal sobriety:
• "How all things are heaving, both great ones and small ! Can I remain sober alone of them all ?
That is surely a question—a risk—or a sin,— So perhaps I had better—getaback to the inn."
No doubt the iintssisn wortil-wilkseena squally topsy-turry to this gentleman II heeeentuees forth into it from the in- verted world of the nevetC.abimet; „mei km will quiekly take refuge with his reactionary Tabak's Parlament till, one may hope, their host, at the instance of the really sober part of his people, turns them all out into the street together.
The Gowernment has sustained a defeat. On Tuesday night Mr. Sheridan requested leave to bring in a bill for the gradual reduction of the duty on Fire Insurance from 3s. per cent. to /s. The Government resisted, partly on the merits, and partly because the bill was in anficipation of the Budget. The Irish, however, whose cue, received from Rome a few weeks ago, is to overthrow the liberal Ministry, placed Govern- ment in a minority of eleven, and the bill was brought in. The only real objection to this tax is, that it is exorbitantly heavy, more than two hundred per cent., and therefore checks in- surance. Mr. Gladstone tried to prove it did not, but he will modify that view whenever he is in a position to remit the tax. For the rest, it is in practice an addition to the house and property taxes, and paid by classes who can tole- rably well afford to pay.
On the same day Mr. liennessey introduced his annual motion for introducing competitive examination in every branch of the Civil Service. Mr. Cochrane Moved as an amendment that as many qualities valuable to the public service could not be tested by examination the motion was injudicious. The House rejected motion and amendment together, holding apparently that the present system, a pass examination, is the best available compromise. Competition proves nothing but knowledge. Patronage means nothing but interest, and the examination which allows the Minister to help a supporter provided his nominee is efficient, jut meets the habits and wants of Englishmen without impair- Mg the public service.
Our American correspondent sends a budget of political gossip, some of which will be new to our readers. Its drift seems to be this. The American people has as yet no leader in whom it confides, unless it be Mr. Stanton. Mr. Lincoln is sagacious and honest, but without any creative power; Mr. Seward is discredited by his diplomacy ; Mr. Chase is the mouthpiece of the anti-slavery men ; General McClellan is doubted ; the other generals have only sectional reputations, and the people wait for their chief. it in they who conduct the war, and not this or that man ; and they will probably discover a leader at last able to embody their floating pur- poses.
The American tax bill, perhaps the most futile effort ever devised for taxation on a grand scale, is considered safe in the House. It has not yet passed, but motions to increase the duties on spirits, beer, and tobacco, and abolish some less productive imposts have been rejected, and the oppo- nents have transferred their resistance to the Senate. In that body a rival hill, prepared by Mr. Chase, will be brought forward ; its principle is to levy the revenue by a few heavy taxes, but members seem afraid to tax any single article heavily. One journal openly says that the only chance of improving the bill rests in the fact that the Senators being elected for longer terms are tolerably independent. The bill as it stands is estimated to produce 35,000,0001. sterling, but the expenses of collection do not appear to be taken into account, although the single tax of three per cent. on all manufactures will require an army of excisemen.
A. rumour is current in Rome that the Pope intends to canonize Begum Sumroo, the mother of Dyes Sombre, and that the first step iji the process has been taken. Some of the Begum's wealth did go to Italy, but the rumour is to us simply incredible. There never was a more evil old lady. It is of her that the story is told how an Indian lady found her lover flirting with one of her slaves, and buried the girl alive under her chair. She lived with half a dozen paramours, and then in after life tried to hedge for heaven, writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope for spiritual advice while still remaining a Mosleni, and practis- ing small idolatries. If she is to be a Saint, Antonelli will have a sympathising intercessor. A great case, involving many professional questions, has this week excited much interest. To Patience Swinfen her father-in-law bequeathed a considerable estate, but the will was disputed. Dissatisfied with her counsel, Sir F. Thesigex,she selected. !dr. C. R. Kennedy, who, chiefly by his own perseverance and zeal, won her cause. During the two or three years fffer which the litigation extended, Mr. Kennedy devoted himself entirely to the conduct of this cause : he abandoned his local practice in Bir- mingham worth some 800/. a year; he wrote pamphlets setting forth Mrs. Swbafen's wrongs, and sonnets in celebration of her victory : and was content to wait for his remuneration until success enabled her to pay him without difficulty. Naturally during thesatrensactions the closest intimacy existed between them, and large promises were made to him. 20,000/. was frequently named by Mrs. Swinfen as the amount she destined for him. Finally he obtained a deed conveying to him the reversion of the whole estate at Mrs. Swinfen's death, subject to a charge of 20,0001. for legacies and debts. Then came the action against Sir Frederick Thesiger, founded on the monstrous charge of collusion between him and Mr. Justice Cresswe]l, which failed. Whether this first shook Mrs..Swinfen's confidence in her adviser we are not informed, but her second marriage with a Mr. Broun which took place not long after, effectually derived him of it. An attempt was made to set aside the died, by which the re- version of the estate was secured to him ; he has retaliated by bringing an action on the lady's express promise to pay him 20,000/. for his services, and has obtained a verdict for that amount. The reward seems enormous, and Mr. Ken- nedy's conduct in the affair has been universally condemned. He had, he admitted, attacked Mrs. Swinfen, had pleaded that she was too intimate with himself and finally reiterated on oath a charge always more discreditable to him who makes than to her who endures it. The whole affair only proves how little attainments and reputation avail to preserve aman from himself.
The news of the American war is important, but not in- teresting. General Burnside has defeated the enemy at Newberne, taking some fifty pieces of cannon. The reports from Island No. 10, which commands the navigation of the Mississippi, are as yet favourable ; and the victory of Pea Ridge (Arkansas), in which General Curtis defeated Generals Price and Dorn, with the loss of 1400 Federals, is confirmed. A second Monitor is nearly ready, and Congress has ordered twenty more, besides a 6000 ton man-of-war, and the machine known as Steven's battery. On the other band, the Con- federates have retreated behind the Rappahannock, and will, it is believed, throw up earthworks, and endeavour to bar the passage to Richmond. They have, it is said, nine iron vessels now nearly ready, but none so powerful as the Mer- rimac. Another month ought to decide the fate of Virginia.
This Mexican mess does not seem to improve. On 19th February, General Prim, Commander-in-Chief of the allied forces, signed a Convention with Michael Doblado, arrang- ing certain preliminaries to a definitive treaty. The terms offered were satisfactory, the British troops re-embarked, and the Freneh reinforcements would, it was said, return witheut landing at all. This arrangement, however, did not at all please the Emperor, and it is briefly but clearly condemned in the lifoniteur. France and Spain will make new arrange- ments, and insist to begin with, on an advance to the capital. This resolution implies coercion which may be very bene- ficial for Mexicans, but by destroying the principle of non- intervention is very injurious to much more important races. The withdrawal of British troops gives some rea,son to hope that we are fairly out of the scrape, but even this is denied, and it seems still not impossible that England while giving up all real control may lend her sanction to measures of which she heartily disapproves.
Some dim ray of an uncertain glimmering of truth at last reaches us from Greece. Nauplia has not fallen, nor is it likely to fall. The town has been occupied by royal troops, but the citadel can hold out for four months, and the dis- content seems almost universal. The insurgents demand a full amnesty, the dissolution of the Chambers, a National Guard, and the appointment of a successor to the throne. Their real end is a Government which shall be strictly national, and which shall play among the Greeks of the Turkish Empire the part Piedmont has recently played in Italy. Athens is quiet, but the arrests continue.