William Francis Patrick Napier
History of the War in the Peninsula and in the South of France
Political State of Portugal.In that country national jealousy, long compressed by fear, had expanded with violence as danger receded, and Englands influence declined in an inverse proportion to her success in removing the peril of invasion. When Wellington crossed the Ebro the vile Souza faction became elate; and those members of government who had supported the British policy while it sustained them against court intrigues, now sought popularity by an opposite course. Noguera vexatiously resisted or suspended commercial and financial operations,principal Souza wrangled fiercely and insolently at the council-boardthe patriarch fomented ill-will at Lisbon and in the northern provincesForjas, ambitious to command the national troops, became the organ of discontent upon military matters. The return of the prince-regent, the treaty of commerce, the Oporto company, the privileges of the British factory merchants, the mode of paying the subsidy, and the military transport; the convention with Spain relative to the supply of the Portuguese troops in that country; the recruiting, the organization, the command of the national army and the honours due to it; all furnished grounds for factious proceedings, conducted with that ignoble subtlety which invariably characterized Peninsular politics. The expenditure of the British army had been immense, the trade and commerce dependent on it, now removed to the Spanish ports, enormous: Portugal had lived upon England. Her internal taxes, carelessly or partially enforced, were vexatious to the people without being profitable to the government. Nine-tenths of the revenue accrued from duties on British trade. The sudden cessation of markets and of employment, the absence of ready money, the loss of profit, public and private, occasioned by the departure of the army, while the contributions and other exactions remained the same, galled all classes, and the nation was quite ready to shake off the burthen of gratitude.
Emissaries promulgated tales, some true some false, of the disorders perpetrated by the military detachments on the lines of communication, adding that Wellington gave secret orders for this to satisfy his personal hatred of Portugal ! Discourses and writings against the British influence abounded in Lisbon and Rio Janeiro, and were re-echoed or surpassed by the London newspapers, whose statements, overflowing of falsehood, could be traced to the Portuguese embassy in that capital. It was asserted that England, designing to retain her power in Portugal, opposed the return of the prince-regent; that the war itself being removed was become wholly a Spanish cause; and it was not for Portugal to levy troops and exhaust her resources, to help a nation whose aggressions she must be called upon sooner or later to resist. Mr. Stuarts diplomatic intercourse, always difficult, became one of continual remonstrance and dispute; his complaints were met with insolence or subterfuge; and illegal violence against the persons and property of British subjects was pushed so far, that Mr. Sloane, an English gentleman upon whom no suspicion rested, was cast into prison for three months because he had come to Lisbon without a passport. The rights of the English factory were invaded, and the Oporto company, established as its rival in violation of treaty, was openly cherished. Irresponsible and rapacious this pernicious company robbed everybody, and the prince-regent, promising to reform or totally abolish it, ordered a preparatory investigation; but in Mr. Stuarts words, the regency acted no less unfairly by their sovereign than unjustly by their ally.
Especial privileges claimed by the factory merchants were another cause of disquiet. They pretended to exemption from certain taxes and from billets; and that a fixed number of their clerks, domestics and cattle should be exonerated of military service. These pretensions were disputed. The one touching servants and cattle, doubtful at best, had been grossly abused, and that relating to billets unfounded. The taxes were justly resisted, and the merchants offered a voluntary contribution to the same amount. The government rudely refused this offer, seized their property, imprisoned their persons, impressed their cattle to transport supplies that never reached the troops, and made soldiers of their clerks and servants without any intention of reinforcing the army: Mr. Stuart then deducted from the subsidy the amount of the property thus forcibly taken and repaid the sufferers. The regency also commenced a dispute upon the fourth article of the treaty of commerce; and the prince, though he openly ordered it to be executed, secretly permitted count Funchal, his prime minister, to remain in London as ambassador until the disputes arising upon this treaty were arranged: wherefore Funchal, who liked the English capital, took care to interpose many obstacles to a final decision, advising delay under pretence of rendering ultimate concession of value in other negotiations.
When the battle of Vitoria became known, the regency proposed to entreat the return of the prince from the Brazils, hoping thereby to excite the opposition of Mr. Stuart; but when he, contrary to their expectations, approved of the proposal they deferred the execution. The British cabinet, which had long neglected Wellingtons suggestions on this head, then pressed the matter at Rio Janeiro, and Funchal, at first averse, now urged it warmly, fearing if the prince remained at the Brazils he must go there. However few of the Portuguese nobles desired the return of the royal family, and when the thing was proposed to the regent he discovered no inclination for the voyage. But the most important subject of discord was the army. The absence of the sovereign and the intrigues at Rio Janeiro virtually rendered the government at Lisbon an oligarchy without a leader, in other words, a government formed for mischief; and it has been sufficiently shown, that Wellingtons energy and ability, aided by Mr. Stuarts sagacity and firmness and the influence of Englands power and riches, were scarcely able to dry up the evils flowing from this foul source. At the end of 1812 the native military force was for want of sustenance on the point of dissolving.
The strenuous interference of the English general and envoy, seconded by the great exertions of the British officers in the Portuguese service, restored indeed the efficiency of the army, and in the campaign of 1813 the spirit of the troops was surpassing; even the militia-men, deprived of their colours and drafted into the line to punish their bad conduct at Guarda under Trant, nobly regained their standards on the Pyrenees. But this state of affairs, acting upon the naturally sanguine temperament and vanity of the Portuguese, created a very exaggerated notion of their military prowess and importance, and withal a morbid sensitiveness to praise or neglect. Picton had thrown some slur upon the conduct of a regiment at Vitoria, and Beresford complained that justice had not been done to their merits. The eulogiums passed in the English parliament and in the despatches upon the conduct of the British and Spanish troops, but not extended to the Portuguese, galled the whole nation; and the remarks and omissions of the London newspapers were as wormwood.
Meanwhile the regency, under pretext of a dispute with Spain relative to a breach of the military convention of supply, neglected the subsistence of the army altogether; and so many obstacles to recruiting were raised, that the dépôts, which ought to have furnished twelve thousand men to replace the losses sustained in the campaign, only contained four thousand without the means of taking the field. This serious matter drew Beresford to Lisbon in October to propose a new regulation, which should disregard the exemptions claimed by the nobles the clergy and the English merchants for their servants and followers. On his arrival Forjas urged the public discontent as to the position of the Portuguese troops. They were, he said, generally incorporated with the British divisions, commanded by British officers, had no distinct recognised existence ; their services were unnoticed and the glory of the country sufferedthe world at large knew not how many men Portugal furnished for the war. It was known there were Portuguese soldiers as it was known there were Brunswickers and Hanoverians, but as a national army nothing was known of them; their exertions, their courage, only went to swell the general triumph of England, while the Spaniards, inferior in numbers and far inferior in all military qualities, were flattered, praised, thanked in the public despatches, in the English newspapers, and in the discourses and votes of the British parliament. He proposed therefore to have the Portuguese formed into a distinct army acting under Wellington.
It was objected that the brigades incorporated with the British divisions were fed by the British commissariat, the cost being deducted from the subsidy, and the loss of that advantage the Portuguese could not sustain. Forjas rejoined, that they could feed their own troops cheaper if the subsidy was paid in money, but Beresford referred him to the scanty means of transport; so scanty that the few stores they were then bound to furnish for the unattached brigades depending upon the Portuguese commissariat were not forwarded. Forjas then proposed to withdraw gradually the best brigades from the English divisions, to incorporate them with the unattached brigades and so form an auxiliary corps; the same objection of transport applied however to this matter and it dropped for the moment. The regency then agreed to reduce the legal age of men liable to the conscription for the army; but the islands, which ought to have given three hundred men yearly, were exempt from their control; and the governors, supported by the prince-regent, refused to permit levies and granted asylums to those who wished to avoid the levy in Portugal. In the islands also, the persons so unjustly and cruelly imprisoned in 1810 were still kept in durance, although the regency, yielding to the persevering remonstrances of Stuart and Wellington, had released those at Lisbon.
Soon after this Beresford desired to go to England, and the occasion was seized by Forjas to renew his proposition for a separate army, which he designed to command himself. Silveiras claim to that honour was however supported by the Souzas, to whose faction he belonged; and the only matter in which all agreed was the display of ill-will towards England. Wellington became indignant. The English newspapers, he said, did much mischief by their assertions, but he never suspected they could by their omissions alienate the Portuguese nation and government. The latter complained that their troops were not praised in parliament, nothing could be more different from a debate within the house than the representation of it in the newspapers;the latter seldom stated an event or transaction as it really occurred, unless when they absolutely copied what was written for them; and even then their observations branched out so far from the text that they appeared absolutely incapable of understanding much less of stating the truth upon any subject. The Portuguese people should therefore be cautious of taking English newspapers 1s a test of the estimation in which the Portuguese army was held in England, where its character stood high and was rising daily. Mr. Forjas is, said Wellington, the ablest man of business I have met with in the Peninsula, it is to be hoped he will not on such grounds have the folly to alter a successful military system. I understand something of the organization and feeding of troops, and I assure him that, separated from the British, the Portuguese army could not keep the field in a good state although their government were to incur ten times the expense under the actual system; and if they are not in a fitting state for the field they can gain no honour, they must suffer dishonour ! The vexatious disputes with Spain are increasing daily, and if the omissions or assertions of newspapers are to be the causes of disagreement with the Portuguese I will quit the Peninsula for ever !
This remonstrance being read to the regency, Forjas replied officially.
The Portuguese government demanded nothing unreasonable. The happy campaign of 1813 was not to make it heedless of sacrifices beyond its means. It bad a right to expect greater exertions from Spain, which was more interested than Portugal in the actual operations since the safety of the latter was obtained. Portugal only wanted a solid peace, she did not expect increase of territory; nor any advantage save the consideration and influence which the services and gallantry of her troops would give her amongst European nations, and which, unhappily, she would probably require in her future intercourse with Spain. The English prince-regent, his ministers and his generals, had rendered full justice to her military services in the official reports, but that did not suffice to give them weight in Europe. Official reports did not remove this inconvenience. It was only the public expressions of the English prince and his ministers that could do justice. The Portuguese army was commanded by marshal Beresford, marquis of Campo Mayor. It ought always to be so considered and thanked accordingly for its exploits, with as much form and solemnity by the English parliament and general as was used towards the Spanish army-the more so, that the Portuguese had sacrificed their national pride to the common good, whereas the Spanish pride had retarded the success of the cause and the liberty of Europe. It was necessary also to form good native generals to be of use after the war; but putting that question aside, it was only demanded to have the divisions separated by degrees and given to Portuguese officers: nevertheless such grave objections being advanced they were willing he said to drop the matter altogether.
The discontent however remained, for the argument had weight, and if any native officers reputation had been sufficient to make the proceeding plausible, the British officers would have been driven from the Portuguese service, the armies separated, and both ruined. As it was, the regency terminated the discussion from inability to succeed, from fear not from reason. The persons who pretended to the command were Forjas and Silveira. The English officers, who were well-liked by the troops, would not have served under the former and Wellington objected strongly to the latter; having by experience discovered that he was an incapable officer, seeking a base and pernicious popularity by encouraging the views of the soldiers. Beresford then relinquished his intention of going to England, and the justice of the complaint relative to the reputation of the Portuguese army being obvious, the general orders became more marked in favour of the troops. Yet the most effectual check to the project was Mr. Stuarts intimation, that England, bound by no conditions as to the subsidy, had a right to withdraw it altogether.
To have this subsidy in specie and supply their own troops was long the cry of the regency, but finally they gave the matter up. Forjas knew well the administration of Portugal was incapable of supporting an army five hundred miles from its own country; the real object was to shake off the British influence without losing the subsidy. Neither the regency nor the prince had any feelings for the honour of the army or the welfare of the men. The regency, while thus disputing for command, allowed its subordinates to ruin the only asylum in Portugal for mutilated soldiers, and turned the helpless veterans adrift; the prince, while lavishing honours on his intriguing courtiers, placed those officers whose fidelity and hard fighting had preserved his throne in Portugal at the bottom of the list, decorating the menials of the palace with the same ribands ! Honour, justice, humanity, were alike despised by the ruling men, and Wellington thus expressed his strong disgust.
The British army which I have the honour to command has met with nothing but ingratitude from the government and authorities in Portugal for their services; everything that could be done has been done by the civil authorities lately to oppress the officers and soldiers on every occasion in which it has by any accident been in their power. I hope however that we have seen the last of Portugal !
Towards Spain the Portuguese government was not more friendly, for the Portuguese regency dreaded the democratic doctrine promulgated in the Cortes; and the leaders of that assembly were intent to spread those doctrines throughout the Peninsula. Seven Spanish envoys had succeeded each other at Lisbon within three years, and the only bond of sympathy between the governments was hatred of the English who had saved both: on all other points they differed. The exiled bishop of Orense, from his asylum in Portugal, excited the Gallicians against the Cortes so vigorously that his expulsion from Portugal, or at least his removal from the northern frontier, was specially demanded by the Spanish minister; a long and angry discussion followed; yet the bishop was only civilly requested by the Portuguese government to abstain from acts disagreeable to the Spanish regency. The latter demanded him as a delinquent; the Portuguese quoted a decree of the Cortes which deprived the bishop of his rights as a Spanish citizen, and denaturalized him: finally he was removed twenty leagues from the frontier. Nor was the Portuguese government itself quite free from ecclesiastic troubles. The bishop of Braganza preached doctrines offensive to the patriarch and the government; he was confined, but soon released and an ecclesiastical sentence pronounced against him, which only increased his followers and extended the influence of his doctrines.
Another cause of uneasiness, at a later period, was the return of Ballesteros from his exile at Ceuta. He had been permitted towards the end of 1813, and, as Wellington thought with no good intent, to reside at Fregenal; the Portuguese regency, fearing he would gather discontented persons round him there set agents to watch his proceedings; and under pretence of putting down robbers, established a line of cavalry and called out the militiathus making it manifest that but a little was wanting to kindle a war between the two countries.
Political state of Spain.Wellingtons victories had put an end to Josephs intercourse with the French party in Spain, yet those people, not losing hope, formed a strong anti-English party, watching to profit of the disputes between the two factions at Cadiz; which were now rancorous. The serviles, bigoted in religion and politics, had the whole body of the clergy on their side; they were most numerous in the Cortes, and their views generally accorded with the feelings of the people beyond the Isla de Leon, their doctrines being comprised in two sentencesAn absolute kingAn intolerant church. The liberals, supported and instigated by all ardent innovators and the commercial body and populace of Cadiz, had also partisans beyond the Isla; and taking as guides the revolutionary writings of the French philosophers, were hastening onwards to a democracy without regard to ancient usages and without practical ability to carry their theories into execution. There was also a fourth faction in the Cortes, American deputies, who secretly laboured for the independence of the colonies; they sometimes joined the liberals, sometimes the serviles, and often produced anomalous results, because they were numerous enough to turn the scale in favour of the side which they espoused. Jealousy of England was however common to all, and Inglesismo was used as a term of contempt. Even when Wellington was commencing the campaign of 1813, the Cortes was with difficulty, and by threats rather than reason, prevented from passing a law forbidding foreign troops to enter a Spanish fortress ! Alicant, Tarifa, Cadiz itself had been preserved,Rodrigo, Badajos had been retaken by British valour,English money had restored their broken walls, replenished their magazinesEnglish and Portuguese blood still smoked from their ramparts,but the men from whose veins that blood flowed were to be denied entrance at gates they could not approach without treading on the bones of slaughtered comradescomrades who had sacrificed their lives to procure for this sordid ungrateful assembly the power to offer the insult.
To subdue the bishops and clergy, who in Gallicia openly opposed the abolition of the inquisition, was of prominent interest with a section of the liberals called the Jacobins. They generally ruled the Cortes, because the Americanos leaned towards their doctrines, and the Anti-English or French party, desiring dissension, supported the most violent public men. A fierce and obstinate faction they were, and they compelled the churchmen to submit for the time; yet not until the dispute became so serious that Wellington expected a civil war on his communications, and thought the clergy and the peasantry would take part with the French. This notion, which gives his measure for the patriotism of both parties, proved unfounded, his extreme discontent with the liberal doctrines somewhat warped his judgment; the people were less attached to the church than he imagined, the clergy of Gallicia finding no solid support submitted to the Cortes and the archbishop of Santiago fled to Portugal.
Deep unmitigated hatred of democracy was indeed the moving spring of the English Tories policy. Napoleon was warred against, not as they pretended because he was a tyrant and usurper, for he was neither; not because his invasion of Spain was unjust, but because he was the enemy of aristocratic privileges. The welfare and independence of the Peninsula were words of no meaning in their state-papers and speeches; and their anger and mortification were extreme when they found their success against the emperor fostering that democracy they sought to destroy. They were only prevented by the superior prudence and sagacity of their general from interfering with the internal government of Spain in so arrogant and injudicious a manner, that an open rupture, wherein the Spaniards would have had the appearance of justice, must have ensued. Wellington stifled this folly, he waited to give the blow with effect, and was quite willing to deal it himself; and the conduct of the Cortes and executive government was so injurious to Spain, and to his military operations, so unjust and ungrateful to him personally, that the warmest friends of freedom cannot blame his enmity. Rather should his moderation be admired, when we find his aristocratic hatred of the Spanish constitution exacerbated by a state of affairs thus described by Vegas, a considerable member of the Cortes.
Speaking of the Afrancesados or French party, more numerous than was supposed and active to increase their numbers, he says, The thing whichthey most enforced and which made most progress was the diminution of the English influence. Amongst the serviles they gained proselytes, by objecting the English religion and constitution which restricted the power of the sovereign. With the liberals, they said the same constitution gave the sovereign too much power; and the Spanish constitution having brought the kings authority under that of the Cortes was an object of jealousy to the English cabinet and aristocracy; who, fearing the example would encourage the reformers of England, were resolved the Spanish constitution should not stand. To the Americans they observed, that Wellington opposed them because he did not help them, and permitted expeditions to be sent from Spain; but to the Europeans who wished to retain the colonies and exclude foreign trade, they represented the English as fomenters and sustainers of the colonial rebellion, because they did not join Spain to put it down. To the honest patriots of all parties they said, that every concession to the English general was an offence against the dignity and independence of the nation. If he was active in the field, he was intent to subjugate Spain rather than defeat the enemy;if he was careful in preparation, his delay was to enable the French to conquerif he was vigorous in urging the government to useful measures, his design was to impose his own laws; if he neglected the Spanish armies he desired they should be beaten; if he meddled with them usefully, it was to gain the soldiers, turn the army against the country and thus render Spain dependent on England. And these perfidious insinuations flattered the national pride, as proving the Spaniards could do everything for themselves without the aid of foreigners. Nothing could stop the spread of such doctrines but new victories, which would bring the simple honesty and gratitude of the people at large into activity. Those victories came and did indeed stifle the French party in Spain, but many of their views were too well founded to be stifled with their party.
It was hoped the democratic violence of the Cortes would decline under the control of the cardinal Bourbon; but that prince, who was not of true royal blood in the estimation of the Spaniards, because his father had married without the consent of the king, was from age, infirmity, and ignorance, a nullity. The new regency became therefore more the slaves of the Cortes than their predecessors; and the Cadiz newspaper editors, pre-eminent in falsehood and wickedness even amongst their unprincipled European brotherhood, became the champions of the Jacobins and directed the city populace as they pleased. And always the serviles yielded under the dread of personal violence; their own crimes had become their punishment. They had taught the people at the commencement of the contest that murder was patriotism; and now their spirit sunk and quailed, because at every step, to use the terribly significant expression of Wellington, The ghost of Solano was staring them in the face.
In support of their crude constitution which they considered as perfect as an emanation from the Deity, the Jacobins sought 1°. To abolish the inquisition, to arrest and punish the Gallician bishops, and to war with the clergy. 2°. To put aside the claim of Carlotta to the regency. 3°. To appoint captain-generals and other officers to suit their factious purposes. 4°. To obtain money for their necessities, without including therein the nourishment of the armies. 5°. To control the elections for a new Cortes, and procure an assembly of their own way of thinking, or prevent its assembling at the legal period in October. In the matter of the bishops they nearly caused a war with Portugal and a civil war with Gallicia. Carlottas affair was less serious; but her pretensions, wisely opposed by the British authorities while the army was cooped up in Portugal, were, although she was a declared enemy to the English alliance, now rather favoured by sir Henry Wellesley as a mode of checking the spirit of democracy. Wellington held aloof, observing, that if appointed according to the constitution she would not be less a slave to the Cortes than her predecessors, and England would have the discredit of giving power to the worst woman in existence.
To remove the seat of government from the influence of the Cadiz populace was one mode of abating the power of the democratic party; and the yellow fever, coming immediately after the closing of the general Cortes in September, seemed to furnish an opportunity for the English ambassador to effect its removal; for the regency, dreading the epidemic, resolved to proceed to Madrid; telling sir Henry Wellesley, who joyfully hastened to offer pecuniary aid, that to avoid the sickness was their sole motive. Having secretly formed this resolution at night they designed to begin the journey next day; but a disturbance arose in the city; the regents then convoked the extraordinary Cortes, the ministers were called before it, and bending in fear declared with scandalous disregard of truth there was no intention to quit the Isla without consulting the Curtes. Certain deputies were thereupon appointed to inquire if there was any fever, and a few cases being discovered, the deputation, apparently to shield the regents, recommended they should remove to Port St. Mary.
This did not satisfy the assembly. The government was commanded to remain at Cadiz until the new general Cortes should be installed, and a committee was appointed to probe the whole affair; or rather to pacify the populace; who were so offended with the report of the first deputation, that Augustin Arguelles, on presenting it, was hissed from the galleries although the most popular member of the Cortes. The more moderate liberals thus discovered that they were equally with the serviles the slaves of the newspaper writers. Nevertheless the inherent excellence of freedom, though here presented in such fantastic and ignoble shapes, was involuntarily admitted by Wellington when he declared, that wherever the Cortes and government should fix themselves the press would follow to control, and the people of Seville, Granada, or Madrid would become as bad as the people of Cadiz.
The composition of the new Cortes was an object of hope and fear to all factions; and the result being uncertain, the existing assembly took such measures to prolong its own power, it was thought two Cortes would be established, one at Cadiz the other at Seville, each striving for mastery in the nation. However the new body after many delays was installed at Cadiz in November, and the Jacobins, strong in the violence of the populace, still swayed the assembly and kept the seat of government at Cadiz until the rapid spread of the fever brought a stronger fear into action. Then the resolution to repair to Madrid was adopted, and the sessions in the Isla closed on the 29th of November. Yet not without troubles. For the general belief being that no person could take the sickness twice, and almost every resident family had already suffered from former visitations, the merchants with infamous cupidity declared there was no fever, induced the authorities flagitiously to issue clean bills of health to ships, and endeavoured by intimidation to keep the regency and Cortes in the city. An exact and copious account of these factions and disputes, and of the permanent influence which these discussions of the principles of government this constant collision of opposite doctrines had upon the character of the people, would, if sagaciously traced, form a lesson of the highest interest for nations. But to treat the subject largely would be to write a political history of the Spanish revolution, and it is only the effect upon the military operations which properly appertains to a history of the war. That effect was one of unmitigated evil,but this did not necessarily spring from the democratic system, since precisely the same mischiefs were to be traced in Portugal, where arbitrary power, called legitimate government, was prevalent. In both cases the people and the soldiers suffered for the crimes of factious politicians.
It has been shown that one Spanish regency contracted an engagement with Wellington on the faith of which he took the command of their armies in 1813. Scrupulously adhered to by him, it was systematically violated by the new rengency and minister of war, almost as soon as it was concluded. His recommendations for promotion after Vitoria were disregarded, orders were sent direct to the subordinate generals, and changes were made in the commands and in the destinations of the troops without his concurrence, and without passing through him as generalissimo. Scarcely had he crossed the Ebro when Castanos, captain-general of Gallicia, Estremadura and Castille, was disgracefully removed from his government under pretence of calling him to assist in the council of state: his nephew, Giron, was at the same time deprived of the Gallician army, although both he and Castanos had been commended for their conduct by Wellington. Freyre, appointed captain-general of Castille and Estremadura, succeeded Giron, and the infamous Lacy replaced Castanos in Gallicia; chosen, it was believed, as a fitter tool to work out the measures of the Jacobins against the clergy in that kingdom: nor was their sagacity at fault, for Castanos would, according to Wellington, have turned his arms against the Cortes if an opportunity had offered. He and others were now menaced with death, and the Cortes contemplated an attack upon the tithes, upon the feudal and royal tenths, and upon the estates of the grandees; all except the last very fitting to do if times and circumstances had been favourable; but when the nation generally was averse, and there was an invader in the country to whom the discontented could turn, the attempt was insane. The clergy were at open warfare with the government, many generals were dissatisfied, and menaced the superior civil authorities; the soldiers were starving, the people, tired of their miseries, only desired to get rid of the invaders, and avoid the burthen of supplying the troops of either side. The English cabinet, after having gorged Spain with gold and flattery was totally without influence. A terrible convulsion was at band if the French could have maintained the war with any vigour in Spain itself; and the following passages from Wellingtons letters to the ministers, prove, that even he contemplated a forcible change in the government and constitution.
If the mob of Cadiz begin to remove heads from shoulders as the newspapers have threatened Castaños, and the assembly seize upon landed property to supply their necessities, I am afraid we must do something more than discountenance them. It is quite impossible such a system can last, and what I regret is that I am the person that maintains it. If I was out of the way there are plenty of generals who would over turn it. Ballesteros positively intended it, and I am much mistaken if ODonnel and even Castanos, and probably others, are not equally ready. If the king should return he also will overturn the whole fabric if he has any spirit.I wish you would let me know whether if I should find a fair opportunity of striking at the democracy the government would approve of my doing it. And in another letter he thus seriously treated the question of withdrawing from the contest altogether. The government are the best judges of whether they can or ought to withdraw, but Spain cannot be a useful ally, or at all in alliance with England if the republican system is not put down. Meanwhile he advised the English government and his brother to take no part either for or against the princess of Brazil, and to discountenance the democratical principles and measures of the Cortes; if their opinion was asked regarding the formation of a new regency, to recommend an alteration of that part of the constitution which lodged all power with the Cortes, and to give instead, some authority to the executive government, whether in the hands of king or regent. To fill the latter office one of royal blood, uniting the strongest claims of birth with the best capacity, should he thought be selected; but if capacity was wanting in the royal race, then to choose the Spaniard who was most deserving in the public estimation! Thus necessity teaches privilege to bend before merit.
Spain had at this period but one hundred and sixty thousand man in arms, fifty thousand only being available in the field; and those only because they were paid, clothed and armed, and kept together by the English general. He had proposed an arrangement for the civil and political government of the provinces rescued from the French, with a view to the supply of the armies, but his plan was rejected; and his repeated representations of the misery the army and the people endured were unheeded. Certain districts were allotted for the support of each army; yet, with a jealous fear of military domination, the government refused the captain-generals the necessary powers to draw forth the resources of the country, and thus rendered the system a nullity. Each branch of administration was conducted by chiefs independent in their attributes yet too restricted in authority, generally at variance with one another, and all of them neglectful of their duty. The evil effect was thus described by Wellington as early as August.
More than half of Spain has been cleared of the enemy above a year, and the whole of Spain, excepting Catalonia and a small part of Aragon, since themonths of May and June last. The most abundant harvest has been reaped in all parts of the country; millions of money spent by the contending armies are circulating everywhere, and yet your armies however weak in numbers are literally starving. The allied British and Portuguese armies under my command have been subsisted, particularly latterly, almost exclusively upon the magazines imported by sea; and I am concerned to inform your excellency, that besides money for the pay of all the armies, which has been given from the military chest of the British army and has been received from no other quarter; the British magazines have supplied quantities of provisions to all the Spanish armies in order to enable them to remain in the field at all. And notwithstanding this assistance I have had the mortification of seeing the Spanish troops on the outposts, obliged to plunder the nut and apple-trees for subsistence, and to know that the Spanish troops employed in the blockade of Pampeluna and Sautona, were starving upon half an allowance of bread, while the enemy whom they were blockading was at the same time receiving their full allowance. The system then is insufficient to procure supplies for the army, and at the same time I assure your excellency, it is the most oppressive and injurious to the country that could be devised. It cannot be pretended the country does not produce means of maintaining the men necessary for its defence; those means are undoubtedly superabundant; and the enemy has proved that armies can be maintained in Spain at the expense of the Spanish nation, infinitely larger than are necessary for its defence.
These evils he attributed to the incapacity of the public servants, and to their overwhelming numbers, that certain sign of an unprosperous stateto the disgraceful negligence and disregard of public dutiesand to there being no power in the country for enforcing the law: the collection of the revenue cost in several branches seventy and eighty per cent. No Spanish officers capable of commanding a large body of troops or keeping it in an efficient state had appeared, no efficient staff; no system of military administration had been formed, and no shame for these deficiencies, no exertions to amend were visible.
From this picture two conclusions are to be drawn, 1°. That the provinces, thus described as super-abounding in resources, having been for several years occupied by the French armies, the warfare of the latter could not have been so devastating and barbarous as it was represented. 2°. That Spain, being now as helpless as she had been at the beginning and all through the war, was quite unequal to her own deliverance either by arms or policythat it was English valour, English steel, directed by the genius of an English general, which rising superior to all obstacles, whether presented by his own or the Peninsular governments or by the perversity of national character, worked out her independence. So utterly inefficient were the Spaniards, that Wellington declared at this period thirty thousand of their troops could not be trusted to act separatelythey were only useful when mixed in the line with larger numbers of other nations ! And yet all men in authority, to the lowest alcalde, were as presumptuous as arrogant and as perverse as ever. Rendered callous to public misery by the desperate state of affairs, they were reckless of consequences, and never suffered prudential considerations or national honour to check the execution of any project. Repeated failure had rendered the generals insensible to misfortune ; and, without any remarkable personal daring, they were always urgent for battle as if that were a common matter instead of being the great event of war. The government agents were corrupt, and the government itself tyrannical, faithless, mean and equivocating to the lowest degree. In 1812 a Spaniard of known and active patriotism thus commenced an elaborate plan of defence for the provinces. Catalonia abhors France as her oppressor, but she abhors still more the despotism which has been carried on in all the branches of her administration since the beginning of the war. Everything was rotten except the hearts of the poorer people. Even at Cadiz Spanish writers compared the state to a vessel in a hurricane without captain, pilot, compass, chart, sails or rudder, and advised the crew to cry to heaven as their sole resource. But they only blasphemed.
When Wellington, indignant at the systematic breach of his engagement, remonstrated, he was answered that the actual regency did not hold itself bound by the contracts of the former government; no consideration for truth, for they had themselves also accepted the contract, nor of honest policy, nor the usages of civilized states with respect to national faith, had any influence on their conduct. Enraged at this scandalous subterfuge, he was yet conscious how essential it was he should retain his command; and seeing all Spanish generals more or less engaged in political intrigues, none capable of co-operating with him,conscious also that public opinion in Spain would, better than menaces from the English government, enable him to obtain a counterpoise to the democratic party,he tendered indeed his resignation if the government engagement was not fulfilled, but at the same time endeavoured with mild argument and reproof to induce reason. He told them however there were limits to his forbearance under injury, and he had been already most unworthily treated even as a gentleman by the Spanish government.
From the world these quarrels were covered by an appearance of the utmost respect and honour. He was made a grandee of the first class, and the estate of Soto de Roma in Grenada, of which the much-maligned miserable Godoy had been despoiled, was settled upon him. He accepted the gift, but, as he had before done with his Portuguese and Spanish pay, transferred the proceeds to the public treasury during the war. The regents however, under pressure of the Jacobins and apparently bearing some personal enmity, though one of them, Ciscar, had been instrumental in procuring him the command of the Spanish army, were now intent to drive him from it; and the excesses committed at San Sebastian served their factious writers as a topic for exciting the people not only to demand his resignation, but to commence a warfare of assassination against the British soldiers. Combining extreme folly with wickedness, they pretended amongst other absurdities that the nobility had offered, if he would change his religion, to make him king of Spain; this tale was eagerly adopted by the English newspapers, and three Spanish grandees thought it necessary to declare that they were not among the nobles who made the proposition. His resignation was accepted in the latter end of September, and he held the command only until the assembling of the new Cortes; but the attempt to render him odious failed even at Cadiz, owing chiefly to the personal ascendancy which all great minds so surely attain over the masses in troubled times. Both the people and the soldiers respected him more than they did their own government; and the Spanish officers had generally yielded as ready obedience to his wishes before he was appointed generalissimo, as they did to his orders when holding that high office. It was this ascendancy which enabled him to maintain the war with such troublesome allies; and yet so little were the English ministers capable of appreciating its importance, that after the battle of Vitoria they proposed as before noticed to remove him from Spain to Germany: his answer was short and modest, but full of wisdom. Many might be found to conduct matters as well as I can both here and in Germany; but nobody would enjoy the same advantages here and I should be no better than another in Germany.
This egregious folly was thus checked, and in December the new Cortes decided that he should retain the command of the armies, and the regency be bound to fulfil its predecessors engagements. Nevertheless, so deeply had he been offended by the libels relative to San Sebastian, that a private letter to his brother terminated thus: It will rest with the kings government to determine what they will do upon a consideration of all the circumstances of the case, but if I was to decide I would not keep the army in Spain for one hour. And to many other persons at different times he expressed his fears and conviction that the cause was lost and that he should fail at last. It was under these and other enormous difficulties he carried on his military operations; it was with an enemy at his back more to be dreaded than the foe in his front that he invaded the south of France. And this is the answer to those French writers who have described him as being at the head of more than two hundred thousand well-furnished soldiers, supported by a well-organized insurrection of the Spanish people, unembarrassed in his movements, and luxuriously rioting in all the resources of the Peninsula and of England.