ART. I. Affaires d’Espagne, Nos. 1 to 5.—Confédération des Royaumes et Provinces d'Espagne contre Buonaparte, Nos. 1 to 6, &c.

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ART. I. Affaires d’Espagne, Nos. 1 to 5.—Confédération des Royaumes et Provinces d'Espagne contre Buonaparte, Nos. 1 to 6, &c.

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  1. THIS is a collection of all the papers which have yet been published by the several Provincial Juntas of Spain, or by the Central Junta of the Government, together with extracts from our Gazettes, translated into French for the purpose of dissemination on the Continent; where such official documents are received with an avidity proportioned to the difficulty of obtaining authentic information. In such a collection there can be nothing which is not already familiar to the English reader; but there is much which appears to be forgotten, or very imperfectly remembered; and, as the intelligence from Spain is daily increasing in volume, as well as in importance, we are glad to avail ourselves of these materials whilst they are of a manageable bulk, and whilst facts are too recent and notorious to be disputed, for the purpose of giving a slight and general sketch of a most interesting subject, of recording our own opinions, and of examining some statements and reasonings published by other writers respecting the conduct of the Spanish and English Governments, which we believe to be incorrect.

  2. In surveying the transactions recorded or referred to in these papers, we are almost tempted to doubt whether we are reading the events of real history. A King surreptitiously removed from the centre of his dominions ; transferred, with his family and court, to a foreign city, and there directed to abdicate his throne in favour of an alien upstart; presents a spectacle, certainly, not less improbable than the wildest fictions of romance.[1] Even those who were most familiarised with the singular caprices of Buonaparte's despotism, had by no means expected, from his austere and sullen policy, such a theatrical and fanciful display of his unbounded power. But any serious resistance to that power appeared impossible. It was at a moment when the plan, for the subjugation of Spain, was thought to be complete in all its parts; when her treasury was quite exhausted; when she was without arms, ammunition, clothing, or even horses; when the flower of her army, enrolled under the banners of Napoleon, were transported to the North of Europe; when the many strong and almost impregnable fortresses on her eastern frontier were surrendered to French garrisons; when the metropolis, together with all the principal cities of the interior, and the adjoining kingdom of Portugal, were occupied by 100,000 veterans, commanded by experienced and able generals; that the Spanish nation proudly threw down the gage of defiance, and declared eternal war against their perfidious and insolent oppressor.

  3. The actor who claims our first attention in this strange drama, is Napoleon, whose most ardent admirers are of opinion, that he was, in this instance, actuated by childish vanity and blind impetuosity. To the master of the French empire it was, evidently, a matter of indifference, whether Charles IV. or Ferdinand VII. or Joseph Buonaparte, were intrusted with office of Tax-gatherer in Spain for the benefit of France; except that a Prince of the house of Bourbon might have been expected to collect, at least for some years longer, the contributions of America: whereas a change of dynasty could not fail to endanger that great source of supply, by affording to those extensive provinces, against which, during the present maritime war, neither Spain nor France were able to employ any means of coercion, an excuse for asserting their independence. But, even if it were admitted, that the establishment of Joseph on the throne of Spain was a reasonable object of ambition, the impetuous haste with which, after a long scene of successful treachery, Napoleon threw off the mask of friendship, renounced every semblance and pretence of moral or honourable motives, and seized the persons of the royal family, was indefensible on any ground of policy. In his former conduct he had displayed much address and prudence. Not content with directing, through the medium of the Prince of the Peace, every motion of the royal puppet, whom he professed to treat as his august ally, he had cautiously avoided a too implicit reliance on the fidelity of [2] the Favourite, and by secretly encouraging the hopes of the heir to the throne, had gained, if not his affection and confidence, at least a complete and unlimited ascendancy over his mind and conduct. This is fully proved by every act of Ferdinand when raised to the throne, and particularly by his journey to Bayonne; and although the predominant influence of his party, evinced by the abdication of Charles IV. might naturally give considerable umbrage to France, it is plain that the monarch must have remained in a state of vassalage. Napoleon, in his character of ally and mediator, was nearly omnipotent. It depended on himself to occupy the important ports of Cadiz, Carthagena, and Ferrol, and thus to cut off the possibility of a communication with England. By bestowing on Ferdinand, as a gift, the throne of his ancestors, he might have degraded that unhappy prince in the eyes of his subjects, compelled him to become, like his father, the miserable instrument of French rapacity, and ultimately, like him, to abdicate dignity as the price of safety. In a word, he might have pursued, with impunity, any conduct but that which mortally wounded the pride of every Spaniard, and which was felt by each as a personal insult. Still, however, we must confess, that if, by the bold and decisive measure, from which he anticipated the utter dismay and confusion of his opponents, he only excited their indignation, and animated their courage, his failure was not more contrary to his own expectation, than to that of all the surrounding nations.

  4. Indeed the explosion of indignant patriotism, which burst out at the same moment in all the provinces of Spain, seems to have astonished even the Spaniards themselves, insomuch that the Junta of Seville have boldly appealed to it as to a manifest proof of the miraculous inspiration of Heaven. But much more surprising, in our opinion, was the equally universal confidence of success, which was evinced in Spain, under circumstances the most discouraging and hopeless. This was not confined to those assemblies of delegates, who, possessing sovereign power with a divided responsibility, might be supposed to derive firmness in danger from their political constitution. It equally prevailed amongst those who from their sex, their age, their education, their habits, their duties, were most liable to despondency and intimidation; amongst women, and monks, and prelates: and our readers will probably recollect an early and curious example of this spirit, in a public letter from the Bishop of Orense, containing his reasons for refusing to attend the convocation at Bayonne. It was not a blind and arrogant [3] presumption; it was the confidence of men who had calmly and attentively surveyed the gigantic power opposed to them; who had prepared themselves to encounter privations, and defeats, and disasters; and who foresaw that by bringing successively into action all their means of annoyance, they must ultimately exhaust and wear out the mighty enemy, whom they were unable to subdue by a direct encounter. Animated by this spirit, the Spaniards became, for a time, a nation of statesmen and of heroes. The temperate, yet firm and energetic Government of the Juntas, whilst acting as confederated Republics, astonished all Europe. That of Seville in particular displayed, in the first moments of its formation, all the energy of the best organized senate; with a happy audacity it assumed, and exercised, for a time, all the functions of a sovereign; seized the French fleet at Cadiz; opened a communication with Spanish America; created and organized an army; and employing with great ability the powerful influence of a free press, dispersed throughout Spain a series of state-papers and manifestoes, distinguished by sound argument and persuasive eloquence, and equally calculated to instruct, to excite, and to encourage their countrymen. The brilliant success of Castanos at Baylen; the still more brilliant and even romantic exploits of Palafox in the defence of Zaragoza; and the unexpected flight of Joseph Buonaparte from Madrid, seemed to be the earnest of new and prodigious victories; and the expectations of those who were distant from the scene of action, and particularly of the British public, could no longer be confined within the bounds of reason or probability. All seemed to tread on fairy ground; and those who should have hesitated to believe in the complete and early triumph of the Patriots, would have been considered as disaffected to the cause of freedom.

  5. If those sanguine hopes were very unreasonable, if they were never entertained by the Spaniards themselves, if their completion was incompatible with the state of the country; perhaps the gloom and despondency occasioned by their failure, may be, if not groundless, at least disproportioned to the occasion; perhaps too the misconduct of our Government in its relations with Spain may not be very evident; and it is because such is in fact our opinion, that we have sought to support it by the testimony of the papers now before us. But as that opinion is founded on the supposition that the Spaniards have been, and are acting in conformity to their own peculiar character, from motives, and with objects of their own, and that to view their [4] conduct through the medium of our opinions, and feelings, and prejudices, is to pervert and distort it; we shall request the indulgence of the reader, whilst we examine two very different representations of the case, both of which we consider as erroneous.

  6. It has been contended, by one class of writers, that the Spaniards have forfeited their whole claim to the sympathy of free nations, by making the restoration of a foolish prince, the ultimate object of all their efforts; that having felt and deplored the vices of their old Government, they ought to have profited by the vacancy of the throne, and to have reformed all abuses; that, fighting in such a cause, they would have been invincible; but that now they will be totally subdued, and trampled on by Buonaparte, and will deserve their fate, because they have substituted an ill-timed and unmeaning loyalty, in the room of a rational and ardent patriotism. Now this is to require that Spaniards should argue and feel like Englishmen, which is not quite reasonable; and it is also, as we think, a very incorrect representation of the fact. We do not suppose that the clear-sighted clergy of Spain, or the nobles, or the magistrates, ever felt, or now feel that enthusiastic affection for the person of Ferdinand VII. which they have expressed, and still express to the world; but he had long been an object of hatred to the Favourite, and this hatred rendered him the natural patron of all the disaffected, that is to say of nearly the whole nation. The clergy saw in him the protector of their property, against that confiscation which they naturally apprehended to be the grand object of Buonaparte's avarice; the magistrates and nobles hoped from him the preservation of their ancient laws, their dignities, and their privileges. He was also the immediate victim of Napoleon; his degradation was that specific violation of the national independence which became the universal signal of revolt. It is therefore strangely incorrect to represent the Spaniards as having changed their ground, or to consider them at present as a royalist party, or faction. Besides, nothing can be much more harmless than the proclamation of an absent and imprisoned sovereign. Of what importance can it be whether the war cry is 'Ferdinand VII.' or 'Hereditary succession according to the fundamental laws of the monarchy?' The question at issue is whether the King of Spain, receiving his crown by hereditary descent, according to a certain line of succession, established by the fundamental laws of the monarchy, can by his sole act reverse those laws, and transfer the allegiance of his subjects to an alien?[5] Consequently the meaning of both exclamations is the same. Besides, the authority of a common Sovereign is the great bond of union between the Spaniards of Europe and those of America; and as Spain is, far more than any European nation, dependant on her trans-atlantic colonies, it was of no small importance to procure the co-operation of the islands, of Mexico, and of the southern continent. The enthusiasm with which the cause of Ferdinand has been adopted, and the mass of pecuniary assistance which has been voted by those distant Governments, furnish some proof that the Patriots judged wisely in employing a name which, whatever ideas we may attach to it, has acted like a talisman on the heart of every Spaniard in both hemispheres. Whether it would have been quite consistent with common prudence to proclaim, throughout their extensive empire, an immediate reform of all abuses, and the blessings of a regenerated government is, at least, doubtful. Lastly, we submit that it would be difficult to point out to a Spaniard any abuse of prerogative of which, at such a moment as this, he would very ardently wish the reform. Whilst the whole armed frontier of Spain, her capital, and almost half of her territory are occupied by French troops, it is childish to suppose that his patriotism will require any other stimulus to exertion. Common sense will tell him that national independence must, under such circumstances, be preparatory to civil freedom. Spain, we think, has already made no small progress towards liberty, since it is notorious that she possesses an elective Government, acting under a phantom; and no man, we conceive, can seriously apprehend that if she be ultimately rescued from the grasp of France, her heroic defenders will voluntarily resume the chains of civil despotism and of religious intolerance.

  7. Other writers have given us a directly opposite statement. Far from imputing to Spanish patriotism an undue leaven of loyalty, they affirm that the events of last May are to be considered as a complete revolution, in the French sense of the term, that this revolution was effected solely by the energies of the middling and lower classes of the people, and very principally by those who had no interest in the state; no stake, no consideration, no property. It is predicted that the vigour of the revolutionary Juntas will procure for the nation, not indeed ultimate success and independence, but at least an honourable capitulation, a state of most dignified submission to France. And this example will be productive of marvellous good effects in this country, exciting us to effect that radical reform from the [6] completion of which we were unhappily scared by Mr. Pitt's reign of terror. Now, we cannot consent to accept, without some hesitation, either the matter of fact or the matter of prophecy here presented to us. The very first proclamation of the Junta of Seville formally asserts that Spain has not been the theatre of a revolution; indeed the word itself seems to be odious in Spain, and the beautiful course of experiments on government instituted by the French republicans is stigmatised as sanguinary and fantastic and ridiculous. In General Spencer's letter of the 21st June, it is said, 'The Council of Seville, one of the principal provincial jurisdictions in Spain, have laid hold of some statutes in their constitution which authorise their rejecting the orders of the Supreme Council of Madrid when that capital shall be in the hands of foreign troops. They have therefore assumed an independent authority in the name of Ferdinand VII. whom they have proclaimed king, and after some previous steps they have formally declared war against France.' The Junta of Seville tell us that, on the 27th May, 'the magistrates, the constituted authorities, and the most respectable of the inhabitants of all ranks and classes convened at Seville, and, by common consent, elected a supreme provincial Junta.' A similar form of election was generally, if not universally adopted; though in some cases the sovereign executive power was delegated to a prelate, or to a magistrate, and in Arragon to a governor and captain-general. To the decrees of the Juntas are sometimes appended the signatures of their respective members, all of whom appear to be principal dignitaries of the church, or nobles, or magistrates. Where therefore shall we find a proof that the multitude was abandoned and deserted by the higher orders, and left to produce alone the regeneration of their country? Although, in some few instances, the populace, incensed by accidental provocations, were betrayed into acts of headstrong fury, they were never in a state of insurrection against the constituted authorities, but have shewn themselves in every instance the docile and submissive, though prompt and ardent, instruments of their leaders. Indeed, if the uniform tenour of every paper addressed to the Spanish nation be admitted as fair testimony of the motives professed by the patriots, these persons, when originally united as a party round the heir to the crown in opposition to the Favourite and to the French faction, and when they took up arms, and in every subsequent act, have been associated for the defence of 'Church and state' against all innovation on their constitution. Their principles are very analogous to those [7] of our exploded alarmists, of persons who could pertinaciously sleep without disturbance, and could wake without seeing visionary informers, during the English reign of terror. Such then being the fact, we cannot feel much confidence in the prophecy. The halcyon days of radical reform may perhaps be much nearer than we suppose; a time may come when we also, who profess a warm affection for the good things of this world, may expect, by preaching the pious doctrine of permanent insurrection against abuses, to obtain greater dignity and emolument than we yet venture to hope from our literary labours; but such is the obstinate attachment of our countrymen to hereditary slavery, that they have refused to be inoculated with the purest kind of republican liberty from France, and we much doubt whether they will submit to be vaccinated, by newer empirics, with the very doubtful species of freedom which it is proposed to import from Spain. The situation of the Spaniards when finally subjugated and reduced to accept of terms from the clemency or policy of Napoleon would not, we think, be an object of envy to Englishmen; but how far that final subjugation is ensured by the events which have, lately taken place, is, as we have already observed, the principal subject of this inquiry, in which we shall now proceed.

  8. The form of goverment [sic] assumed by the Spanish patriots, though perhaps rather dictated to them by the urgency of the moment than the result of much deliberation, was, in the first instance, admirably suited to their situation. It was elective through all its branches and gradations, from the committees, chosen by the smallest corporations to the supreme Junta of the province; and it may fairly be presumed that, at such a crisis, few men would become candidates for power, or at least that few would be elected, but those who, to the necessary qualities of zeal, activity and courage, added those of genius, influence, or experience. There was little difficulty in assigning to each his proper department, because, within so small a circle, the character of every man was known. No time was lost in visionary theories, or in new schemes of artificial society, because they met to confirm and preserve the written statutes and customary laws of their ancestors. Their discussions were on practical subjects only; the moment was critical; the danger pressing; their resources at hand. The executive power of a state thus vested, may be fairly expected to operate with very considerable energy. It did so. Fortunately the population of Spain is very principally spread along its sea coasts, and particularly along the [8] shores of the Mediterranean; so that the provinces of Andalusia, Grenada, Murcia, Valentia, and Catalonia possessed separately some means of defence against an enemy who, being compelled to station a large army in the neighbourhood of Madrid, could only attack them with detachments. At the same time the presence of a small but regular army at the camp of St. Roch, and the possession of the national foundery, and of a great naval arsenal in the wealthy city of Cadiz, where a French squadron was then blockaded by the English, offered to the Junta of Seville no inconsiderable resources for offensive hostility. That the Spaniards seized and employed every advantage with a degree of spirit and ability which astonished the world, we are most ready to bear testimony ; but it is necessary to take these advantages into our account, when we are estimating the relative situation of the two contending parties at the commencement and during the progress of the contest, because they were in a great measure local or temporary, and lost their value when the seat of war was transferred to a distance.

  9. In fact, immediately after the victory of Baylen, it became a speculative question of some intricacy, by what legal means the conquering army could become available for general purposes. The several provincial Juntas were, as we have seen, independent municipal republics; and as such did those of Andalusia and Grenada enter into a federal convention respecting certain questions of general policy. In all of them the phantom Ferdinand was separately acknowledged, but no one of them was superior to the rest, or the peculiar and exclusive organ of his authority. The monarchy was, to use the expression of the Spaniards, in a state of widowhood. Consequently the Junta of Seville could not legally authorise their General, Castanos, to cross their frontier; nor could any other authority command him to do so; and though this difficulty of punctilio was not in this instance attended with any practical inconvenience, yet the differences between Blake and Cuesta at Rio Seco afforded full proof of the bad consequences which were likely to ensue from such a confusion of authorities, in the execution of any combined operations. So striking indeed were the inconveniences of the interregnum, that complaints were heard from every part of Spain, and their Juntas adjured each other to agree on some means of executing whatever relates to the higher branches of administration. These prerogatives of the sovereign which it was impossible to exercise were—the right of declaring peace and war—of directing the operations of the fleet and [9] army—of levying the funds required for the equipment and pay of these force—of appointing the principal officers in both—of corresponding with foreign courts—of naming ambassadors and other diplomatic agents—and of transmitting orders to the Spanish colonies in Asia and America. We give this list in the words of the Junta of Valentia.

  10. This total want of unity in the monarchy, arising from the absence of the sovereign, though strictly speaking co-eval with the separate insurrections of the provinces, had been rendered harmless by the seasonable though irregular energy of the Council of Seville; but the difficulty recurred at the moment when success had been followed by a general spirit of jealousy and disunion, and when its discussion could not fail of occasioning the loss of much valuable time. It must be remembered that the provinces of Spain are not, like the counties of Great Britain, merely artificial divisions, by means of which the internal government of a great country is facilitated; they are separate states which have successively coalesced into one monarchy; and whose inhabitants still retain, together with many laws and usages, a peculiar and distinct character. This is so strongly marked, as to attract the notice of the most cursory and superficial observer. In fact, in a country which has been degraded from its natural rank among nations, through the long continued action of despotism and superstition, national vanity can only find a refuge in antiquity. Tradition, far more vivacious than written history, preserves from age to age, and communicates from mouth to mouth, numberless names which have long since mouldered from paper and from parchment. As Wales glories in its Arthur, and as every Welchman can trace his pedigree to Adam, every Spanish province has it ancient heroes, and every individual in each his noble genealogy. Our readers will probably have smiled at observing that the Juntas, in their public addresses to the people, appeal to the battles of Pavia and of St. Quintin as familiarly as we should quote the actions of the Nile and of Trafalgar. These features of national character are not indifferent. 'To the just enthusiasm which now inspires us (say the Junta of Valentia) may soon succeed jealousy, envy, and a total want of concert; and the distinctive peculiarities of character observable in the inhabitants of our different provinces must contribute to their disunion. This truth is obvious to all our countrymen.' In these circumstances, all concurred in declaring that a regency was absolutely necessary; but beyond this, every step was a source of dispute. Should the regency be [10] vested in a single person? This, it seems, was the wish of the capital, of the Castilles, and of Arragon. If so, in whom? The Archbishop of Toledo was supported by a considerable party, and the courts of Sicily and of the Brazils brought forward their respective candidates. If a council of regency was preferred, by whom was it to be nominated? On this point the Juntas of Seville and Valentia were at variance, and such unprofitable debates appear to have engrossed the whole attention of the Spaniards during the two important months of August and September.

  11. In the mean time the war assumed the appearance of a crusade. The combined Spanish armies do not appear to have exceeded, at any moment, 120,000 men, that is to say about two-thirds of the number of troops for whom arms and ammunition and pay had been furnished by Great Britain alone; and these, divided into at least three separate armies, were entrusted to an equal number of commanders, independent of each other, unprovided with any general plan of a campaign, not amenable to any tribunal, and only instructed to march towards the frontiers, to supply as well as they could the numerous necessaries in which their men were deficient, and to co-operate with each other for the purpose of driving the enemy as expeditiously as possible from the Spanish territory.

  12. Such, our readers will recollect, was the state of things when the Supreme Junta first met, on the 25th September, at Aranjuez. That the integrity, the abilities, and the energy of its members fitted them for their situation we must believe, since nothing but a high opinion of their merit could have dictated the free choice of their constituents. But they were, in general, strangers to each other; were perplexed by the multiplicity of objects which at once solicited their attention, and embarrassed by the forms of office to which even genius is condemned to adapt itself, and which can only be learned by experience. In popular revolutions there is such a surplus of power, that the quantity of it expended in giving the first impulse to the complicated machine of government is scarcely felt; but in the present case the resistance of prejudice and obstinacy and punctilio was not easily overcome. The Junta, though recognised by all, seem to have been thwarted on every side, and obeyed with sullen reluctance. Perhaps they wanted firmness to resist popular clamour; perhaps, in their wish to punish or repress the want of discipline which was said to prevail in the camps, they adopted towards the generals an impolitic and mischievous severity.[11] But whatever conduct they might have pursued, whatever energy they might have displayed, it is very doubtful whether they could have materially delayed the subjugation of the Castilles, a country only defensible by cavalry, or prevented the loss of Madrid. The duration of the interregnum had, we think, insured the success of the invasion which the French had been so long preparing; and we see nothing in the military operations of November which can excite surprise, except the patient valour which the Spanish soldiers opposed to every kind of distress, as well as to the artillery and swords of the enemy.

  13. Having thus far considered the obstacles which disabled the Spaniards, at a most critical juncture, from availing themselves of their internal resources, we will now take a view of their relations to Great Britain. It cannot have escaped the recollection of our readers that, at the moment when the Junta of Seville, having thrown off the yoke of France, sent deputies to solicit an armistice, as a step towards peace and future alliance, and to request a supply of arms and ammunition, they disclaimed any wish of receiving further assistance: and that, to every offer of co-operation on the part of our fleet and army at Cadiz, the government of that city opposed a civil but firm and determined refusal. With equal firmness have the Junta of Gallicia on more recent occasions, repeatedly declined our assistance in the defence of Ferrol. Neither are these to be considered as instances of a local or temporary jealousy; for it is evident from the whole public conduct of the Spaniards that they came to their great conflict resolved to work out their own emancipation by their own efforts; not from a romantic disdain of foreign aid, but from a deep conviction that their situation precluded them from any such reliance. 'We must not (say the Junta of Valencia) indulge a hope which cannot be realised. Which of our constituted authorities can maintain a correspondence with foreign powers? None of those powers can regularly treat with a single province.' Besides, it is evident that the mutual jealousy of the provinces would have been increased, in a ten-fold degree, by the introduction of foreign troops; and that the partizans of the different candidates for the regency, two of whom were proposed by powers in the closest alliance with Great Britain, would have endeavoured to attach as friends, or to render odious as enemies, the generals whom we had sent out for merely military purposes. It has been asserted, and perhaps with truth, that there were moments in the course of the summer, when even small detachments of our excellent cavalry and [12] artillery might have turned the tide of success; and it would have been a most gratifying event if, by their intervention, the disaster of Rio Seco had been converted into a victory. But we entertain some doubt whether this hope would have been considered as a sufficient exculpation of our cabinet, had they confided to the very dubious talents of a Blake or a Cuesta the safety of such a valuable detachment; whether any British officer would have willingly incurred the responsibility attached to such a subordinate command; whether, with the utmost possible discretion, he could have escaped being involved in the well-known dissentions of the two rival generals; and whether the mischief attending such an intervention would not have overbalanced all the advantage of his military exertions. Since therefore our cavalry, the most costly but least numerous part of our military establishment, could not be confided in small detachments to the precarious support of the independent bodies of Spanish infantry; since a regular British army could only be applied for by the legal organ of the Spanish government; since that government was not formed till late in the month of September; and since after all, our expedition arrived at Corunna before the time when those to whom it was sent were prepared to receive it, or would permit its debarkation; we cannot think it fair to impute the unsatisfactory conduct of the campaign during the summer to the inactivity of Great Britain.

  14. As we feel ourselves by no means competent to the discussion of objects purely military, we would willingly have avoided the proverbial rebuke ne sutor, &c. but, cobblers as we are, we cannot refrain from answering, with due humility, a question or two which some brother cobblers have propounded in a style, which we think rather too arrogant and authoritative, for professors of our gentle craft. 'We demand (say they) the reason of locking up our army in the south-west corner of Portugal, when the great battle was fighting in the north-east extremity of Spain? We ask why so silly a measure was thought of, as turning away our force to conquer an army necessarily in our power, should our allies be successful, and the conquest of which was worth nothing should our allies be beaten.'

  15. Now we apprehend that, to these questions, our readers will have anticipated some very obvious answers. 1st. The Portuguese government were the victims of their fidelity to us; and we were bound in honour, though not under any direct engagement, to re-conquer Portugal if possible; and we did so.  2d.  It was [13] the opinion of the Spaniards that, by the expulsion of Junôt from Portugal we should render them the most essential service in our power. 3d. When the expedition was sent out, no battle great or small was fighting in the north-eastern extremity of Spain. 4th. Lisbon was of infinite value, whether our allies (who were not our allies) were beaten or not. The mere cessation of the blockade was an object of great importance, and well worth insuring at the moment, even if the contingency of complete final success on the part of the Spaniards could have been rationally anticipated. Why our army was, for a time, so strangely locked up in Portugal; why our commander in chief withheld from government the armistice of Vimeira, till he had modelled it into the final, irremediable, incomprehensible convention of Cintra; or whence arises that proneness to pen and ink, in preference to more professional weapons, of which our generals have lately exhibited more than one unlucky specimen, we cannot presume to say; the Court of Inquiry having left the rules and principles of military diplomacy to be inquired into by any other court (not martial) that shall think itself competent to the investigation. But to proceed. The questions to which we have offered some replies are immediately connected with a military plan which, it seems, ought to have been pursued, and which is thus briefly stated. 'Had such an army as England could raise—had an army of 60 or 70,000 men, the best equipped and best hearted in the world, been ready to land in Spain at the moment when Dupont surrendered, and when Joseph fled in confusion from Madrid,—who shall say that the whole remains of the French army would not most probably have been overpowered, and the peninsula swept clean of its invaders?' Far be it from us to deny that 70,000 British troops would be fully adequate to the intire destruction of 50,000 French when opposed to them in the field: but it is necessary to examine the whole proposition. Our readers will remember that the insurrection at Cadiz was first made known in England, by Lord Castlereagh's letter to the Lord Mayor, on the 1st of July. Dupont's surrender took place about the 20th of that month; and Joseph quitted Madrid on the 1st of August. Admitting, therefore, that the latter events ought to have been foreseen as the necessary consequence of the former, and that England could well spare 70,000 men, the previous question comes to this. If these men had been fitted for foreign service, and marched to proper points on the sea-coast; if a fleet of transports not very much exceeding in tonnage the old [14] Invincible Armada had been contracted for, properly fitted and victualled, and sent to such places of rendezvous as should have been appointed for the embarkation; and if this fleet, when united, had been able to reach its destination at the south-eastern extremity of the bay of Biscay, at an appointed moment; which moment supposes a whole month to be allowed for the equipment of the expedition and the subsequent voyage, then, &c. But though our army had been then ready to land, the rocky shores of the province of Biscay have not the character of being very favourable to such a purpose. The simultaneous landing of 70,000 men is not generally supposed to be practicable on any shore; and a succession of such operations, conducted in the face of a powerful and vigilant enemy, might, if at all interrupted by variations of weather, require considerable time. The subsistence of so large an army, in a province so long occupied by the French, might have been subject to some difficulty; and lastly, when we should have driven the enemy, (whom we will suppose to receive during this time no reinforcements from the neighbouring provinces of France) through a succession of well-chosen positions to the very foot of the Pyrenees, the formidable fortress of Pampeluna might have opposed no inconsiderable obstacle to the proposed cleansing of the peninsula. It is true that, after so many exhausting efforts, we might have hoped to attain the valuable object of meeting 'the main body' of the enemy, and 'the hazardous part of the contest;' but this advantage is, we think, very much over-rated; because nearly equal peril might perhaps be encountered, with much less trouble and expense, by landing on the nearest part of the French coast and attempting the conquest of Paris.

  16. We confess that, far from blaming our government for abstaining from such extravagant attempts, we rather feel disposed to question the wisdom of employing in Spain, at so early a period, the large portion of our military strength which is now serving there. We think it was, from the first, highly improbable, that such a contest as the present could be decided, in favour of the Spaniards, by the efforts of a single campaign; because the resources of the French empire could not be so soon exhausted. Perhaps it was not less improbable, if the Spanish spirit remained unbroken, that Spain should be effectually subdued within the same period. Her strength did not, nor does it now consist in her regular armies, which, however brave, were never equal in discipline, nor even in numbers, to those of the invader; but in the undaunted spirit of the universal nation, which, [15] when called into action by an elective government, may, in the first instance harass and annoy, and, when marshalled into large masses, and enabled to act with unanimity on a preconcerted plan, may finally overwhelm and bear down the exhausted and less numerous forces of the enemy. Such was the object to which, at the outset of the contest, the Spanish leaders directed the attention of their countrymen, in the justly celebrated paper of Precautions published by the Junta of Seville. In that excellent document our readers will find, not a plan of a campaign, but a well-digested military system, adapted to a protracted state of war; a system to which we think that Spain must ultimately owe her salvation. We conceive therefore that, in discussing any plans of co-operation with Spain, it would be reasonable to prefer those which should be recommended—by facility of execution—by promising the attainment of some immediate and definite advantage—and by a tendency to promote a unity of force in Spain, by rendering available for general purposes any portion of her armed or unarmed population. Such was, we think, the character of the expedition to Portugal, which procured for our fleets, the possession of the mouth of the Tagus; for the Portuguese, freedom from French tyranny; and for Spain the liberation of 3000 prisoners, together with an additional security to the connection between its northern and southern provinces, and the power of employing elsewhere that portion of the Andalusian troops which had been occupied in watching the motions of Junôt. Perhaps the same British army might have obtained permission, by a provisional arrangement with the Junta of the province, to attempt the reduction of the citadel of Barcelona; and if competent to such an attack, would have obtained for the Spanish patriots a valuable place of arms; would have rendered available nearly the whole population of Catalonia; would have connected all those southern provinces whose inhabitants are most distinguished by their zeal and enthusiasm ; and would have secured, for our fleets in the Mediterranean, a most important naval station. Had the attempt unfortunately failed, the means of retreat were easy. Had it succeeded, the troops might have been sent, without loss of time, wherever assistance might be necessary; they might have checked the predatory excursions of the French garrisons in the eastern parts of Catalonia; they might have acted in Arragon; or might have marched to Madrid, if the state of the campaign had justified such a measure. [16]

  17. In the combined expeditions which have been sent to Spain under Sir John Moore and Sir David Baird, we confess ourselves unable to discover any practicable and determinate object. These expeditions certainly prove the anxiety of our government, to gratify, at the earliest possible moment, the wishes of the Spaniards, by sending to their assistance a very large portion of our disposable force; and we admit that, to give them this effectual proof of our zeal in their cause, was a duty imposed upon our cabinet by the general feelings of the nation. Whatever aids this country was able to supply, were confided by British generosity to Spanish honour; and it would have been no less invidious to limit too narrowly the service of our troops, than to interfere in the destination of the money or arms so liberally furnished. But it is not with any view either to blame or exculpation that we question the wisdom or policy of the measure; it is for the purpose of examining what consequences might be reasonably expected from its adoption, under the supposition that our armies had been able to form a junction at the expected time and place, and to proceed to their original destination. Now it was known at the time that the provinces to which they were invited afforded no opportunity for active enterprise. No moral advantage could be hoped from their presence in a part of the country where languor and apathy had succeeded to enthusiasm, and where the protection which they were likely to afford might serve as a plausible excuse to those who were unwilling to enlist under the national standard. That such a British corps, had it reached Burgos, would have opposed a far more formidable barrier to the invading enemy than he had yet encountered, we are ready to admit. But Napoleon, who well knows the spirit and discipline of our troops, knows also that there is a time when the stoutest arm must faint through fatigue; and when the stoutest heart will struggle in vain to exert the means of defence. He knows that incessant assaults are irresistible; and, sure of success through the superiority of numbers, he would have delayed his blow till his daily accession of fresh troops had enabled him to purchase victory, by devoting the necessary portion of his men to previous slaughter. Such has been his invariable policy ; and from this policy every man would have anticipated the ultimate destruction of our army, had it been possible to foresee the extreme insufficiency of the force on which the supreme government of Spain thought fit to rely for the salvation of the monarchy. We trust, however, that the persevering confidence and generosity of Great Britain will henceforth be met by equal sincerity, [17] and that the valour of our countrymen will be exerted on a theatre rather more distant from the immediate resources of the enemy, where success may promise more advantage, and where failure may be less fatal. The victories of Buonaparte have been great and rapid, and he will and must pursue his blow. He must strike terror into the most distant parts of Spain; he must there rivet the chains of Europe, or his throne may shortly totter under him; because all his tributary kingdoms in Germany, and his equally tributary allies in the north, will never indemnify him for the loss of the Spanish peninsula.

  18. We will now take our leave of the subject; at least for the present. Our readers have seen that the changes which have taken place in the political state of Spain will, in a great measure, account for all those alternations of success and defeat, of vigour and indecision, which have produced, in the minds of the British public such extravagant hopes and such gloomy despondency. Whether the long interregnum, during which Napoleon had full time and leisure to make his formidable preparations, has left the seeds of disunion amongst the subordinate Juntas, or whether that supreme elective government which has been so tardily recognized, and so suddenly driven into banishment, will retain its authority, it is as yet impossible to foresee; but until the nation shall disown its delegates we shall not despair of Spanish emancipation. Not that we under-rate either the means of conquest or the means of corruption which are at the disposal of the greatest general and subtlest politician in the world. We are aware that sending from the center of Spain his legions in every direction, he is likely, in every direction, to overcome for a time all the obstacles opposed to him. But it is far easier to over-run a country than to secure the conquest. There is, we think, a considerable analogy between the present history of Spain and that of Scotland about the close of the 13th century. Edward I. was, like Napoleon, the boldest, the most politic, and the wealthiest monarch of his time. Like him, he condescended to interfere, as an ally and mediator, between two candidates for a disputed crown. Like him, he seized the object of the dispute. Like him, he was hailed as a saviour by a corrupt and venal party. Like him, he garrisoned with his troops all the fortresses of the country to which he granted his protection; like him formed a new constitution for his intended subjects; and, when resisted, punished by all the horrors of war their delinquency and rebellion. He more than once conquered or at least over-ran the whole country, yet—we trust that the [18] parallel will continue to the end ; and that national vengeance has in store some future Bannockburn. All the provincial Juntas may be dispersed; but their boldest deputies will carry with them the affection and confidence of the nation, and, even when driven under the walls of Cadiz or of Gibraltar, may yet effect the salvation of their country. Armies may be defeated by superior discipline or by superior numbers; generals may be corrupted; but that the whole active population of a great country, in which the strongest passions of the human heart have been excited almost to madness, can be terrified into quiet and permanent submission is, we think, extremely improbable and contrary to all experience.

Published @ RC

September 2006

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