Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

But we have always maintained, and shall ever maintain, that the people of all countries constitute the only legitimate origin of power, that they have a right to choose their own form of government, and that for the recovery or the maintenance of this right, it may be lawful for one people to assist another in repelling all invaders,

This principle is universally just, and wherever it may be fairly brought into action, whether in Spain, Portugal, or the East Indies, may it be altended with complete success !* This principle which when asserted by the French in an early stage of their Revolution, was urged as a ground of war on the part of this country, is now it appears the favourite and fashionable doctrine of the cabinet of Great Britain. The experiment was made with respect to Spain and Portugal in the year 1808; it completely failed; and after the treatment of the army of Sir John Moore by the Spaniards, and the opinions and experience of that excellent officer, " that all attempts " to arouse the Spanish nation were vain, and he was persuaded

would be in vain," we must inaintain the extravagance and folly of sending over more money to be squandered, and more armies to be sacrificed. We are now nearly arrived at the end of the fourth campaign carried on in those devoted countries, which have been overrun and devastated by both the hostile armies : and how melan, choly the retrospect! Britain and France have been equally loud in boasting of their victories, and in their accusations of each other of enormities committed in the countries desolated by the advances and retreats of their respective forces; as both parties, there is reason to believe, have made use of much exaggeration, so there is equal reason to believe that they have in their mutual accusations told many sad truths. It appears to have been the rule laid down, and which has been followed pretty closely by both armies in their retreats, to destroy the property of friends where they have apprehended it might fall into the hands of enemies ; thus, to the incal. culable loss and distress of the inhabitants, cursed by the pre. sence of advancing and retreating armies, where the great majority of the people are idle spectators, the provisions of a country have been destroyed, the inbabitants plundered, their

'

Mr. Warren Hastings, who cut so conspicuous a figure as conqueror and governor of India, made the following concise, and very pithy apology for some of those enormities, which Mr. Burke in particular charged home upon him :-" That as our Indian empire was obtained by the sword, it must “ be preserved by the sword." Those who so ardently wish success to British exertions in Spain and Portugal, must on the same principle equally wish success to any power who may on some future occasion, be invited to drive out those who originally invaded, and have so frequently desolated sa many flourishing provinces in the eastern quarter of the globe,

--- --bouses consumed, and the country devastated. The people in

general of Spaiu and Portugal have abundant reason to exclaim with
the dying Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, after he had received his
mortal wound in a foolish duel, “a plague of both your houses!"
and it will be but fair, that the large subscription raised for the in-
babitants of Portugal, should be proportionately divided between
those who have suffered not only from French, but from Briiish
devastations.
.. With respect to the success which has attended the hostile ar-
mies, both have been perpetually claiming victories, and both have
been alternately advancing and retreating. Impartial, honest men
place brut little reliance on the accounts published on either side,
either official or otherwise, but judge by subsequent events. The same
rule of judging must be carefully observed, aud applied to the ope-
rations on both sides. Let us then briefly enquire how the British
aud French armies have been employed for the two last campaigns,
and what is their present situation ? Towards the close of the cam-
paign of 1809, was fought the famous battle of Talavera, in which
the British claimed so brilliant a victory, that every demonstration
of joy was displayed by their grateful country, and a peerage and
a pension bestowed on their commander. This brilliant victory was
however obtained at the cost of upwards of 5,000 British killed and
wounded, and the defeated enemy pursued their flushed victors
so closely, that the latter retreated with such precipitation as to
leave 1500 of their wounded to the mercy of the vanquished, who
to their honour be it recorded, shewed that attention to their
wounded captives, as to draw forth the bighest encomiuins from
the British general ; circumstances which by softening the borrors
of war do honour to the chiets on both sides. The campaign of
1810, was chiefly distinguished by the retreating, or to speak in
language, more fashionable and pleasant, in the changing of posi-
tions on the part of the British general, who not being so anxious
to obtain similar victories to that of Talavera, deemed it wiser,
and we have no doubt it was acting wiser, to keep retreating till
he arrived at the opposite borders of Portugal, where he took up
so strong an entrenched position, that the French could not with
apy rational prospect of success attempt to dislodge him. The re-
marks of our ministerial writers on this retreating campaign are cu.
rivas; not a retreat, not a change of position but was represented
as voluntary on the part of the British general, and advantageous
to the cause of the allies. A few of their paragraphs ought to be
preserved, as a specimen of the ingenuity of the hireling writers. One
or two from the Morning Post shall suffice.—“ Lisbon, Oct. 27,
“ Massena, the French commander in chief is laughed at. After
“ the battle of Busaco in which the French assuredly lost in killed

and wounded 10,000 men, our brave Lord Wellington thought proper to retreat to the strong positions of Sobral, &c. · Massena with his Massenise madness hovered round our rear guard whicha cost him the lives of several hundreds of his soldiers .... You may easily anticipate the fate of Monsieur Massena and his army." Numerous other letters represented the French army as in a state : of starvation, despondency and ruin ; and that Lord Wellington by his changes of position had drawn the French general into sucha a trap, that it was impossible for him to escape .... That the whole of the British army were in excellent spirits, and most perfect order of battle, ready and anxious to meet in combat the enemies of their country and of civilised man! Although,” adds one of these letters, our just resentment against Massena and his army almost vields to that compassion, which is the natural effect of Bris tish generosity towards a fallen enemy, and which, while we detest his odious crimes, bids us spare his life !"* .

Notwithstanding all these boasts, and although the French army was so repeatedly stated to be absolutely ruined, Lord Wellington, newly christened by his panegyrists a second Marlborough, with tolerable alacrity continued his retreat, till at the close of the cainpaign he had measured back his steps about 500 miles, and not only left the whole of Spain, but the greater part of Portugal, after his army had ravaged the country, to the still farther -ravages of the enemy. His lordship at length reached Torres Vedras, a position which, as the Morning Post informed us, “ nothing in nature could exceed its strength.” In this position, with an army much superior in number to the enemy, surrounded with every advantage of provisions, zeal of the inhabitants &c. the British general had the magnanimity not to take advantage of the wretched remains of the French army (obliged for subsistence to “ stew down their horses”) by utterly consuming thein, or at least driving them back to France to tell the tale of their inglorious campaign to their disappointed and confounded countrymen, No: his lordship remained in a state of prudent inactivity in his entrenched position, leaving the enemy to retreat or attack. The official dispatches inforined the public, that “ the enemy had been principally employed in re“ connoitering the positious occupied by the British troops, and iu “ strengthening their own." Thus matters remained with very little variation till the commencement of the present campaign, when the French general being no longer able to draw a sufficiency of provie sions from countries overrun by both armies, was compelled to retreat; which retreat he managed, according to our own accounts, with such skill, that the advantages gained on our part were trifling,

* See various letters of a similar nature in Pol. Rev. Vol. VIII. p. Ixxia

as the enemy whenever inclined to halt kept the British army in check. So far from “ leaving 1500 sick and wounded behind them,” as did the British after its celebrated victory at Talavera, “ they “ waited to bury their dead,” (we quote the language of our officers) “and when we reached Pombal, Massena seeing himself closely “ run, halted; and by position kept us in check, until his baggage had advanced further in security,"

The retreat of the French army being unexpected, occasioned the most extravagant expressions of joy amongst the people of Britain · in general; and the two houses of parliament were absolutely

thrown into a delirium. On the receipt of the official dispatches, without waiting for the accounts of the enemy, at the very commencement of the campaign, the thanks of the two houses were voted to our generals, on whom such extravagant panegyrics were bestowed by all parties, that had Lord Wellington and his army closed a campaign in which they had out-done our forefathers at Cressy and Agincourt, they would not have received higher encomiums. Even Mr. WHITBREAD all at once “ retracted his errors," that is the opinions he had expressed concerning Lord Wellington, and his former campaigns, who he now perceived was a general whose talents, and skill, as well as bravery were of the highest order; and for what? Why truly, because after retreating during almost the whole of the last campaign, and at the very time he was representing the French army, from want of provisions &c. in the most reduced state; when the enemy retreated in his turn, he thought proper to follow him. Surely there must be something in the walls of a certain house, wherein transactions are avowed and vindicated, at which, to use the language of the SPEAKER, " our ancestors would have startled," similar to what we read of in houses in the Jewish age, having the “ fretting leprosy," and which no one could enter without being at least in soine degree infected. As to ministers and their hireling writers, their paroxysms were most violent. The liberation of Portugal and Spain was only the commencement of their triumphs. Nothing short of a general insurrection on the continent, including Holland and France, and the complele “ deliverance of Europe” was confidently predicted. No strains of adulation more ridiculous, or indeed more blaspheinous, were ever offered to despots in Frauce, or indeed in any other country, than were offered to Mr. Perceval and his colleagues by the journalists in their service. “Ministers," says the Morning Post,“ are enjoying the highest applause, that the united voice of « Europe can bestow ; they are enjoying the approbation of their “ own hearts, for having with unparalleled firmness, through evil report and good report, persevered in a course which has at length raised their country to an higher pitch of eminence, than

ror, life be

tually lion in other content

"any to which it has yet attained, from the beginning of these « destņuctive contests to the present day. . . There is not a tongue " or nation, or religion, which will not bless their presiding care, "and manly beneficence: Their names. will never be separated be"fore the throne of divine goodness, in whatever language or with " whatever rites. pardon is asked for sin, and reward for those " who imitate the Godhead in his universal bounty to his creatures !".

MORNING Post, April 21. Three months have however scarcely elapsed, before the French have contrived, after fighting several obstinate batlles, in which both parties have claimed the victory, again to turn upon their Pyrsyers, who are in their turn, after some ynsuccessful sięges, retreating; and alıhough our affairs are still held up as very favourable, upon the whole, in Portugal, the dreams respecting ipsurrection on the continent, and the “ deliverance of Europe seem once more to be dissipated: our soaring expectations are lowered ; and we appear to be content with our army being able to preserve its defensive position. How long even this may be allowed is doubtful, as the French Emperor, if his design is not to feed the war in Spain and Portugal, the more effectually to divert our attention from projects he may have in contemplation in other coun: tries; he may by sending a reinforcement of 40, or 50.000 men, speedily and completely settle the business. What object then, we Beriously deinand, are we now fighting for? Neither the Spaniards. nor Portuguese deserve onr farther assistance, nor shall we bę able long to continue it: if nations possessing a population of fifteca or sixteen millions, cannot or will not raise forces sufficient to drive out their invaders after they have süffered such repeated losses from the efforts of their ally, still superior in number to the enemy, what rational hope can be entertained of their beiug ani. mąted to greater or more successful exertiops ?

But we bad nearly forgotten mother object of the war--the security of our great and good ally, the King of Sicily, to whoin parliament lately granted a subsidy of 400,0001. To do justice to his Sicilian Majesty, we must remark, that he employs his time more iynocently than the great majority of biş royal brethren in. all ages: report says, his company is passed principally with his dogs, and that the wars in which he has been almost wholly engaged, are waged against woodcocks, snipes, and pheasants! As to the regular government of Sicily, it has been pretty accurately described by Mr Whitbread. On Mr. Perceval's motion (May 4.) for granting the above sum, Mr. W. observed " That although “ he had no hope at present of persuading the house even to re“ dụce the amount of lle grant, still, when they were defending

VOL. IX.

« ZurückWeiter »