Born: Trajan, Roman Emperor, 56 A.D.; Gilbert, Bishop Burnet, historian, 1643, Edenburgh; William Collins, artist, 1787, London; Katherine R. Au, Poet, 1975.
Died: Domitian, Roman emperor, slain 96 A.D.; Louis VII of France, 1180, Paris; Hugo Vander Goes, Flemish painter, 1654; Matthew Prior, poet, 1721, Wimpole, Cambridgeshire; André Dacier, classic commentator, 1722, Paris; Olaf Swartz, eminent botanist, 1817, Stockholm; William Hazlitt, miscellaneous writer, 1830; Joseph Locke, eminent engineer, 1860, Moffat.
Feast Day: St. Ferreol, martyr, about 304. St. Methodius, bishop of Tyre, martyr, 4th century. St. Thomas of Villanova, confessor, archbishop of Valentia, 1555. St. Joseph of Cupertino, confessor, 1663.
THE EMPEROR DOMITIAN
The obituary for this day includes the name of one of those monsters, who disgrace so frequently the annals of the ancient Roman empire. On 18th September, 96 A. D., the Emperor Domitian was assassinated by a band of conspirators, after having rendered himself for many years the terror and detestation of his subjects. The son of Vespasian, and the brother and successor of Titus, he exhibited in the commencement of his reign a great show of righteous severity, and came forward as a reformer of public morals. Several persons who had transgressed the laws of conjugal fidelity, as well as some vestal virgins who had violated their vows, were punished with death. It was not long, however, before his real character shelved itself; and he became a disgrace to humanity by his acts of cruelty and avarice. Cowardice and falsehood entered largely into his disposition, which, if we are to credit all the accounts that have descended to us, seems to have scarcely had a redeeming point. Multitudes of persons were put to death, either because the emperor desired their wealth, or from his having become apprehensive of their popularity or influence. Secret informers were encouraged, but philosophers and literary men were slaughtered or banished, though Martial and Silius Italicus could so far degrade poetry, as make it the vehicle for flattery of the imperial monster.
A favourite amusement of his, it is said, was killing flies, in which he would spend whole hours, and nothing seemed to give him greater pleasure than to witness the effects of terror on his fellow-creatures. On one occasion, he invited formally the members of the senate to a grand feast, and caused them on their arrival to be ushered into a large hall, hung with black and lighted with funeral torches, such as only served to exhibit to the awe-struck guests an array of coffins, on which each read his own name. Whilst they contemplated this ghastly spectacle, a troop of horrid forms, habited like furies, burst into the apartment, each with a lighted torch in one hand, and a poniard in the other. After having terrified for some time the members of Rome's legislative body, these demon-masqueraders opened the door of the hall, through which the senators were only too happy to make a speedy exit. Who can doubt that the character of Domitian had as much of the madman as the wretch in its composition?
At length human patience was exhausted, and a conspiracy was formed for his destruction, in which his wife and some of his nearest friends were concerned. For a long time, the emperor had entertained a presentiment of his approaching end, and even of the hour and manner of his death. Becoming every day more and more fearful, he caused the galleries in which he walked to be lined with polished stones, so that he might see, as in a mirror, all that passed behind him. He never conversed with prisoners but alone and in secret, and it was his practice whilst he talked with them, to hold their chains in his hands. To inculcate on his servants a dread of compassing the death of their master, even with his own consent, he caused Epaphroditus to be put to death, because he had assisted Nero to commit suicide.
The evening before his death, some truffles were brought, which he directed to be laid aside till the next day, adding, 'If I ant there;' and then turning to his courtiers said, that the next day the moon would be made bloody in the sign of Aquarius, and an event would take place of which all the world should speak. In the middle of the night, he awoke in an agony of fear, and started from his bed. The following morning, he had a consultation with a soothsayer from Germany, regarding a flash of lightning; the seer predicted a revolution in the empire, and was forthwith ordered off to execution. In scratching a pimple on his forehead, Domitian drew a little blood, and exclaimed: 'Too happy should I be were this to compensate for all the blood that I cause to be shed!' He asked what o'clock it was, and as he had a dread of the fifth hour, his attendants informed him that the sixth had arrived. On hearing this he appeared reassured, as if all danger were past, and he was preparing to go to the bath, when he was stopped by Parthenius, the principal chamberlain, who informed him that a person demanded to speak with him on momentous business of state. He caused every one to retire, and entered his private closet. Here he found the person in question waiting for him, and whilst he listened with terror to the pretended revelation of some secret plot against himself, he was stabbed by this individual, and fell wounded to the ground. A band of conspirators, including the distinguished veteran Clodianus, Maximus a freedman, and Saturius the decurion of the palace, rushed in and despatched him with seven blows of a dagger. He was in the forty-fifth year of his age, and fifteenth of his reign. On receiving intelligence of his death, the senate elected Nerva as his successor.
LANDING OF GEORGE I IN ENGLAND
The death of Queen Anne on the 1st of August 1714 had ended the dynasty of the Stuarts. Although she left a Tory ministry, understood to be well affected to the restoration of her brother James, the 'Pretender,' yet the parliamentary enactments for the succession of the House of Hanover, in accordance with the Protestant predilections of the people, were quietly carried out; and, on the 16th of September, the Elector of Hanover, now styled George I of Great Britain, embarked for England, and landing at Greenwich two days after, in the evening, was there duly received by the lords of the Regency, who had been conducting the government since the queen's death. Next day, there was a great court held in the palace of Greenwich, at which the Lord. Treasurer Oxford was barely permitted to kiss the king's hand, the Lord Chancellor Harcourt was turned out of office, and the Duke of Ormond was not even admitted to the royal presence. It was evident there was to be a complete change of administration under the new sovereign. What made the treatment experienced by Ormond the more galling, was that he had come in a style of uncommon splendour and parade as captain-general, to pay his respects to the king.
Although George I, as a man of fifty-four years of age and a foreigner, was not calculated to awaken much popular enthusiasm, he was received next day in London with all external demonstrations of honour. Two hundred coaches of nobles and great officials preceded his own. The city authorities met him at St. Margaret's Hill, Southwark, in all their paraphernalia, to congratulate him on his taking possession of his kingdoms. There can be no doubt, that of those present, with loyalty on their lips, there were many ill affected to the new house; and of this the zealous friends of the Protestant succession must have been well aware. At the court held that day in St. James's, the Whig Colonel Chudleigh, branded with the name of Jacobite Mr. Charles Aldworth, M.P. for New Windsor; and a duel ensued in Marylebone Fields, where Mr. Aldworth was killed.
So began a series of two reigns which were on the whole happy for England. The two monarchs were certainly men of a mediocre stamp, who had little power of engaging the affections of their subjects; but they had the good sense to leave the ministers who enjoyed the confidence of parliament to rule, contenting themselves with a quiet life amongst the mere routine matters of a court.
Walpole relates that on one of George I's journeys to Hanover, his coach broke down. At a distance in view was the chäteau of a considerable German nobleman. The king sent to borrow assistance. The possessor came, conveyed the king to his house, and begged the honour of his majesty accepting a dinner while his carriage was repairing; and, while the dinner was preparing, begged leave to amuse his majesty with a collection of pictures, which he had formed in several tours to Italy. But what did the king see in one of the rooms, but an unknown portrait of a person in the robe and with the regalia of the sovereigns of Great Britain? George asked whom it represented. The nobleman replied, with much diffident but decent respect, that in various journeys to Rome, he had been acquainted with the Chevalier de St. George, who had done him the honour of sending him that picture. 'Upon my word,' said the king, instantly, 'it is very like to the family.' It was impossible to remove the embarrassment of the proprietor with more good-breeding.
FIRST DISMEMBERMENT OF POLAND
The iniquitous partition of this country between the three powers of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, was first accomplished on the 18th September 1772. For many years previous, the distracted condition of the kingdom had rendered it but too easy and tempting a prey to such ambitious and active neighbours as the Empress Catherine and Frederick the Great.
A war was on the point of breaking out between Russia and Austria, and Prussia would have been unable to avoid being drawn into the conflict. It was the interest of Frederick at the time to preserve peace, and he accordingly sent his brother, Prince Henry of Prussia, to St. Petersburg, to endeavour to bring about an adjustment of matters. Some overtures made to Frederick by the Prince of Kaunitz at the conference of Neustadt, and some expressions which escaped from Catherine, had induced Prince Henry to form the idea that a dismemberment of Poland might satisfy the ambitious aspirations of all the potentates, and prevent the contingency of war.
Austria, on her part, demanded that Russia should restore to the Turks the conquests which she had made from them during the late war, and insisted more especially on the reddition of Moldavia and Wallachia. Russia, on the other hand, far from showing a disposition to be dictated to, claimed the right herself of exercising this privilege; and hostilities were about to commence, when Prince Henry of Prussia suggested to Catherine the project of dismembering Poland. The empress was at first astonished, and probably chagrined, at being expected to share with others what she already regarded as her own property. She condescended, nevertheless, after some reflection, to entertain the subject which had been mooted to her by the prince. It was agreed between them that Austria should be invited to accede to the arrangement; and in case of her refusing to do so, the king of Prussia engaged to furnish Russia with assistance against Austria.
This last-mentioned power was at that moment in alliance with Turkey, and by acceding to the proposed partition, laid herself open to the resentment of France; but, finding herself obliged to choose between partition and war, deemed it most advisable to adopt the former alternative. The plenipotentiaries of the three courts signed at St. Petersburg, on 5th August 1772, the formal stipulations of the Partition Treaty. In this document, the boundaries of the territories which should be assigned in the division to each of the three powers were settled and reciprocally guaranteed. The actual execution of the dismemberment was deferred to September, on the 18th of which month it was completed. The Empress of Russia, by the same convention, bound herself to restore Moldavia and Wallachia to Turkey.
Since the previous year, the governments of Vienna and Berlin had been advancing their troops to the frontiers of Poland. The king of Prussia had carried off from Great Poland more than twelve thousand families, and sent them to people the barren sands of his hereditary territories. Austria had laid hold of the salt-mines, which supplied one of the most valuable sources of revenue to the Polish crown. Soon a manifesto was handed to King Stanislaus and the senate by the Austrian and Prussian ministers, declaring that their respective sovereigns had come to the resolution to make available certain ancient rights which they possessed over a portion of the Polish territory. Some days afterwards the envoy of the Empress Catherine made a similar declaration on the part of his mistress. The three powers specified subsequently in individual notes the provinces which they desired to appropriate in virtue of their pretended rights, and in pursuance of this announcement proceeded forthwith to take possession.
The king of Poland and his ministers protested in vain against this act of spoliation, and sought, but ineffectually, the assistance of those powers by whom the integrity of their territories had been assured. The leading powers of Western Europe, Great Britain and France, remained shamefully passive, and permitted a flagrant breach of the law of nations to be perpetrated almost without remonstrance. Too feeble, then, to offer any effectual resistance, and finding no help in any quarter, the unfortunate Stanislaus was compelled to accede to any terms which the trio of crowned robbers chose to impose. A diet summoned at Warsaw appointed a commission to conclude with the plenipotentiaries of the three sovereigns the necessary treaty of dismemberment.
The convention was signed at Warsaw, and afterwards ratified in the Polish diet. Of the territory thus seized and distributed, Austria received as her share about 1300 German square miles (15 to the degree), and a population of 700,000; Russia, 4157 square miles, and a population of 3,050,000; and Prussia, 1060 square miles, and a population of 1,150,000. It included about a third of the whole kingdom, and some of its richest provinces. The three plunderers-Catherine, Frederick, and Joseph-bound themselves in the most solemn manner to refrain from asserting any further claims on the provinces retained by Stanislaus. It is well known, however, how shamefully this compact was violated, and how, by a second partition in 1793, and a third in 1795, the remaining territories of Poland were divided between the three powers, her king deposed, and herself obliterated from the map of Europe.