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There are, we trust, among the present ministers, men of this description ; but that there are, amongst them, also, some of an opposite cast, it were folly to deny, and cowardice not to assert. Their actions, however, constitute the only fair criterion for the formation of a correct estimate of their knowledge and talents. We have given them honest praise for their past conduct; and we will judge of their future measures with the same impartiality.
The actual situation of the Spanish part of South America calls for the particular attention of government: the inhabitants of that country are extremely dissatisfied with the neglect of the Supreme Junta of Spain to ailord them the smallest relief from the severe oppression, and tyrannical restrictions, under which they have long laboured. And whatever may be the issue of the present contest in Europe, they are determined to throw off the yoke of the mother country, and to assert their own independence. Had our government acted wisely, when they sent out expeditions to the Rio de la Plata, they would have offered to guarantee the independence of the South Americans, and have required no other return than a treaty of commerce, equally beneficial to both countries, instead of being actuated by visionary notions of impracticable conquests. As it is, ministers have a dishcult part to play; for, by acknowledging the independence of South America, they may offend the patriots of Spain; and, on the other hand, by refusing the acknowledgement, they may lose an opportunity of the most important nature to the commercial and political interests of this country - an opportunity, which, once lost, may never return. They must have a better knowledge of the state of public affairs, and of the probability of success in any given quarter, than individuals can possibly possess. But the danger of hesitation is great, and the necessity of vigour and decision manifest..
We confess we have been disappointed at the conduct of our government, respecting the overtures which have been made to them by a public character from America. With the marked hostility displayed by the United States, what difficulty or besitation there could be in acting on a long established and universally recognised principle of the law of nations, we are at a loss to imagine. To be scrupulous about the personal characte the individual
vas surely no proof of political wisdom. The real points for consideration were, what good he proposed to do to this country, and what were his means of producing it. He is, unquestionably, a man of superior talents, and better acquainted with the disposition of the people of America, than any other person to whom ministers can possibly refer for information on that subject. If such scruples' as these were suffered to operate as impediments to arrangements of great national importance, we should have no hope of success in a contest with such an enemy as Buonaparte, who (wisely for the accomplishment of his own plans) accepts offers of assistance from foreigners, without requiring them to bring with them certificates of good behaviour. If the amount of only one year's produce of the office of first teller of the exchequer had been properly applied in America, we should have heard nothing of embargo acts, non-intercourse bills, or alliance with France. Integrity is a statesman cannot be too highly admired; but puritanism, either in politics or religion, cannot be too strongly censured. We shall quit this subject for the present, but shall take an early opportunity of recurring to it.
The Report of the Court of Inquiry, on the Convention of Cintra, has astonished us beyond measure. And we derive no better reasons than the inembers have themselves supplied, to justify an opposite conclusion to that which they have drawn; and to demonstrate the necessity of further proceedings; unless, indeed, it be contended that error in judgment, in military commanders, affords no subject for prosecution and no ground of complaint, let its consesequences be what they may. We do not believe that any one will be found so bold as to maintain a proposition so preposterous; and, therefore, we shall take it for granted, that error in judgment, when it has led to error in practice, is a culpable defect, as well in military as in naval commanders. Nobody ever presumed to question the courage of an admiral who was tried, not long since, for not engaging an enemy of superior force; and indeed it was proved that his misconduct, for such it was pronounced, was imputable solely to an error in judgment. In this case, too, it was not pretended that he acted in opposition to the opinion of his best officers. But in Portugal it has been demonstrated, that Sir Harry Burrard, in refusing to pursue the defeated French, after the battle of Vimiera, acted in direct pposition to the opinion and advice of Sir Arthur Wellesley and General Ferguson. The report
was woefully deficient in another respect, for ít wholly omitted to notice one important point which was an object of specific reference to the Court - we mean, the terms or conditions of the Convention. It is not easy to conceive how this could have been overlooked by them;- but so it was;--- and even when the members were reminded of the omission, and called upon to supply this extraordinary defect, they contented themselves with an expression of approbation or disapprobation of the Convention in the aggregate; and assigned no specific reasons, and entered into ño detail, respecting articles unparallelled in the history of military treaties! Fortunately, however, the disgrace attached to this part of the transaction will attach where alone it ought to attach; and we congratulate the nation on the formal disavowal of the principle on which the articles referred to were founded, as well as of the articles themselves, by the highest authority in the country. In the official communication to Sir Hew Dalrymple, that officer is told, that “HIS MAJESTY felt himself compelled, at once, to express his disapprobation of those articles, in which stipulations were made directly affecting the interests or feelings of the Spanish and Portuguese nations.” Again, after the Inquiry was closed, the king repeated his disapprobation, " deeming it necessary that his sentiments should be clearly understood, as to the impropriety and danger of the unauthorised admission, into Military Conventions, of articles of such a description, which, especially when incautiously framed, may lead to the most injurious consequences. We take some credit to ourselves for having been the first to point out the gross impropriety, and the dangerous tendency, of those articles, in our animadversions on the Convention immediately after it was received.
Another part of the same communication, however, has excited very different sensations in our minds, from the information which it conveys of the adoption, by the King, of the opinion of the Court of Inquiry--" that no further military proceeding is necessary to be had upon the transactions referred to their investigation.” This is to us, we confess, and will be, we are per .. suaded, to a great majority of the nation, most unwelcome intelligence. We repeat, that, from a most attentive perusal of the report, and a most serious consideration of the reasons assigned by the different members, we not only have found no ground for this opinion, but abundant proofs, to satisfy our minds, of
the necessity of instituting further proceedings. Stripped of all meretricious embellishments, and of all collateral and superfluous matter, let us see what is the plain fact. -A British
army as auxiliaries to the government of Portugal, to recover the possession of their country from the French; a general action takes place, soon after their arrival, in which the whole of the French force is defeated by a part of the British force; when the action has begun, a new British commander arrives, who, however, leaves the conduct of the battle to the officer who had planned it; that officer, and another officer who had commanded a division of the victorious army, propose immediately to improve the advantage obtained by a prompt and vigorous pursuit of the flying lines; the new commander rejects the proposal, and keeps the army on the ground; the next day another new commander arrives, and concludes an armistice with the enemy, to be followed up by a definitive convention; pending the negociation, a considerable reinforcement of British troops reaches the scene of action--no advantage, howerer, is taken of this favourable circumstance; the negociation continues, as if it never had occurred; and, after nine days terminates, by granting to the conquered army terms as favourable as they could have desired had they been victorious, and still thought their services would be more beneficial to their country in another quarter. The conditions of the Convention are uniVersally acknowledged to be dishonourable to this country, and advantageous only to the enemy. The officer wbo concluded the treaty exceeds his authority, by the admission of articles on subjects of which he could have no cognisance, and by invading the rights and the sovereignty of the ally whom he was sent to protect, by extending pardon and impunity to all his traitorous and rebellious subjects. The reason assigned as the motive of his conduct is proved to be insufficient, frivolous, and absurd. He was influenced, forsooth, by a conviction of the necessity of strengthening the Spanish army with all possible expedition. Yet he suffers the transports, by which alone the British army could be either expeditiously or conveniently conveyed to Spain, to be filled with the enemy's troops. The consequence is, that twenty thousand French troops with their commander reinforce the enemy's army in Spain before sixteen thousand British troops can reach that country from Portugal. And yet we are to be told, wben the nation is thus disgraced, and when the noble cause which
they are sustaining is thus injured, there is nobody to blame, that there is no ground for bringing any one of the commanders to trial!!! -- If indeed our military code be so dreadfully deficient as to provide no punishment for such misconduct, it is high time that it should undergo a legislative revision, and be rendered more effective for the purposes of enforcing an observance of mili. tary duty, and of protecting the nation, àgainst dishonour and injury, from the ignorance of military commanders.
As to courts of inquiry, the conduct of the late Court has altered our opinion respecting their utility; and unless the improvements which we lately suggested are adopted, we hope never to see another such court assembled. Indeed, some of the members of the late Court seem to have rendered the duties of the judge subser, vient to the feelings of the officer; while one at least appeared chiefly anxious to transfer the blame from the commanders to the ministers. But it would puzzle a wiser head, we conceive, and we say it without meaning any disrespect to the members, than any which that Court contained, to find out any ground of censure against ministers, for sending out commanders, to whom the Court themselves attach no blame; and against whom, in the opinion of the Court, no proceedings ought to be instituted. If the commanders be blameless, how can blame attach to those who appointed them? The supposition is ridiculous. We, however, think otherwise; and therefore, though it be grossly inconsistent on the part of the Court of Inquiry, it is perfectly consistent, on our part, to ayow our fixed opinion, that blame, and very great blame, attaches to the person or persons by whom Sir Harry Burrard and Sir Hevy Dalrymple were appointed. This is a subject which must, and no doubt will, experience the most ample investigation. Whether the appointment of these officers originated with the commanderin-chief or with the secretary for the war-department, some very satisfactory reasons indeed, of the existence of which we have not the smallest conception, must be assigned, before such appointment can be justified in the eyes of the country. And if no such reasons be assigned, whatever the decision of Parliament may be on the subject, the voice of the nation will proclaim these censures, whichi
every friend of his country must feel to be just, and must, of course, wish to hear strongly pronounced and properly applied. We must abolish the wretched system of favouritism and influence, in respect of military appointments, gr