Amongst the many daring acts witnessed on the bloody day of Fuentes d'Onore, that of the Spanish guerilla chief, Julian Sanchez, deserves notice. At the head of his ragged and ill-disciplined band, he had the temerity to charge a crack French regiment, and, as might be expected, was sent back with a sore head. Whilst on the subject of guerillas, Mr Grattan combats an opinion which he believes many persons in this country entertain, "that the Spaniards and Portuguese did as much, if not more, during the Peninsular contest, than the British." Here he is certainly mistaken. Very few persons, out of the Peninsula, have any such notion. The French know well enough by whom they were beaten. Loth as they are to acknowledge a thrashing at the hands of their old antagonists, they do not dream of attributing their defeats to the "brigands," of whom they declare they would have had a very cheap bargain, but for the intervention of the troublesome English. And certainly, if the Spaniards and Portuguese had been left to themselves, although, favoured by the mountainous configuration of the country, they might long have kept up a desultory contest, they would never have succeeded in expelling the invaders; for the simple reason that they were wholly unable to meet them in the plain. Most true it is that, during the war of independence, the people of the Peninsula gave numerous examples of bravery and devotion, and still more of long suffering and patient endurance for their country's sake. The irregular mode of warfare adopted by the peasantry, the great activity and constant skirmishings, stratagems, and ambuscades of Mina, the Empecinado, Sanchez, and many other patriotic and valiant men, greatly harassed and annoyed the French; and, by compelling them to employ large bodies of troops in garrison and escort duty, prevented their opposing an overwhelming force to the comparatively small army under Wellington. But all that sort of thing, however useful and efficacious as a general system, and as weakening the enemy, was very petty work when examined in detail. The great victories, the mighty feats of war that figure in history's page, were due to British discipline, pluck, and generalship. And whatever merit remains with the Spaniards, is to be attributed to their guerillas and irregular partisans. As to their regular troops, after they had overthrown Dupont at Baylen, they seemed to think they might doze upon their laurels, which were very soon wrenched from them. Baylen was their grand triumph, and subsequently to it they did little in the field. Behind stone walls they still fought well: Spaniards are brave and tenacious in a fortress, and Saragossa is a proud name in their annals. Nothing could be better than old General Herrasti's valiant defence of Cuidad Rodrigo against Ney and his thirty thousand Frenchmen. The garrison, six thousand strong, lost seven hundred men by the first day's fire. Only when their guns were silenced, when the town was on fire in various places, and when several yards of wall were thrown down by a mine, did the brave governor hoist the white flag. Other instances of the kind might be cited, when Spanish soldiers fought as well as mortal men could do. But with respect to pitched battles, another tale must be told. At Ocana, Almonacid, and on a dozen other disastrous fields, Baylen was amply revenged. The loss at Ocana alone is rated by Spanish accounts at thirty thousand men, chiefly prisoners. Mr Grattan estimates it at twenty-five thousand men, and thirteen thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven guitars. Of these latter, he tells us twelve thousand seven hundred and fifty-two were in cases, and the remainder without; Indeed he is so exceedingly circumstantial that we presume he counted them himself. Otherwise, although well aware of the Spaniard's predilection for the fascinating tinkle of his national instrument, we could hardly credit the accuracy of the figures. Even a Spanish general, we should think, would hardly allow his men thus to encumber themselves with harmony. The march of such an army of Orpheuses, in which every third soldier shouldered a fiddle-case as a pendant to his musket, must have been curious to behold; suggesting the idea that the melodious warriors designed subduing their foes by the soothing strains of jotas and cachuchas, rather than by the more cogent arguments of sharp steel and ball-cartridge. Great must have been the tinkling at eventide, exceeding that of the most extensive flock of merinos that ever cropped Castilian herbage. Was it because they were certain of a dance that these barrack-yard minstrels came provided with music, sure, in any case, to have the piper to pay? If the instruments were provided to celebrate a triumph, they might as well have been left at home. In Spain, however, time has effaced, or greatly weakened, the remembrance of many reverses, whilst slight and dubious successes, carefully treasured up, have swollen by the keeping into mighty victories; and at the present day, foreigners who should be so uncourteous and impolitic as to express, in the hearing of Spaniards, a doubt that Spanish valour was the main agent in driving the French from the Peninsula, might reckon, not on a stab—knifeing being less in vogue beyond the Bay of Biscay than is often imagined—but certainly on a scowl, and probably on an angry contradiction. And in every province, almost in every town, in Spain the traveller may, if he so pleaseth, be regaled with marvellous narratives of signal victories, gained over the gavachos, in that immediate neighbourhood, by valiant generals whose names, so partial is fame, have never transpired beyond the scenes of their problematical exploits. Under the constitutional system, and owing to the long civil war, Spanish troops have improved in discipline and in various other respects; and with good generals, there is no manifest reason why they should not successfully cope with Frenchmen, although we doubt whether they could. But in Napoleon's day matters were very different, and in the open field their chance was desperate. The Portuguese were doubtless of a better quality; and in the pages of Napier and other historians, we find them spoken of in terms of praise. They had British officers to head them, and there is much in good leading; they had British troops to emulate, and national pride spurred them on. At the same period, Italians—certainly very poor soldiers when left to themselves—fought gallantly under French generals, and with French example before them. Of the general bearing of the Portuguese, however, we have heard few Peninsular men speak very highly. They appear to have been extremely inconsistent; brave one day, dastards the next.
At, Ciudad Rodrigo, Mr Grattan greatly lauds their gallantry, which struck him the more as being unexpected. At Salamanca, on the other hand, he records their weakness, and the easy repulse of Pack's brigade, two thousand strong, by four hundred Frenchmen. "Notwithstanding all that has been said and written of the Portuguese troops, I still hold the opinion that they are utterly incompetent to stand unsupported and countenanced by British troops, with any chance of success, against even half their own numbers of Frenchmen." Again, after Salamanca, when Wellington and his victorious army advanced on Madrid, the Portuguese dragoons fled, without striking a blow, before the French lancers, exposing the reserve of German cavalry to severe loss, abandoning the artillery to its fate, and tarnishing the triumphal entry of the British into the capital—within a march of which this disgraceful affair occurred. Still, to encourage these wavering heroes, it was necessary to speak civilly of them in despatches; to pat them on the back, and tell them they were fine fellows. And this has sometimes been misunderstood by simple persons, who believe all they see in print, and look upon despatches and bulletins as essentially veracious documents. "I remember once," says Mr Grattan, "upon my return home in 1813, getting myself closely cross-examined by an old lawyer, because I said I thought the Portuguese troops inferior to the French, still more to the British. 'Inferior to the British, sir! I have read Lord Wellington's last despatch, and he says the Portuguese fought as well as the British; and I suppose you won't contradict him?' I saw it was vain to convince this pugnacious old man of the necessity of saying these civil things, and we parted mutually dissatisfied with each other; he taking me, no doubt, for a forward young puppy, and I looking upon him as a monstrous old bore."
The Eighty-eighth, we gather from Mr Grattan's narrative, whilst respected by all as a first-rate battle regiment, was, when the stirring and serious events of that busy time left a moment for trifling, a fertile source of amusement to the whole third division. This is not wonderful. Many of the officers, and all the men, with the exception of three or four, were Irish, not Anglicised Irishmen, tamed by long residence amongst the Saxon, but raw, roaring Patlanders, who had grown and thriven on praties and potheen, and had carried with them to Spain their rich brogue, their bulls, and an exhaustless stock of gaiety. The amount of fun and blunders furnished by such a corps was naturally immense. But if in quarters they were made the subject of much good-humoured quizzing, in the field their steady valour was justly appreciated. No regiment in the service contained a larger proportion of "lads that weren't aisy," which metaphorical phrase, current among the Rangers, is translated by Mr Grattan as signifying fellows who would walk into a cannon's month, and think the operation rather a pleasant one. Whenever a desperate service was to be done, "the boys," as they, more Hibernico, familiarly termed themselves, were foremost in the ranks of volunteers. The contempt of danger, or non-comprehension of it, manifested by some of these gentlemen, was perfect. "My fine fellow," said an engineer officer, during the unsuccessful siege of Badajoz in May 1811, to a man under Lieutenant Grattan's orders, who sat outside a battery, hammering at a fascine; "my fine fellow, you are too much exposed; get inside the embrasure, and you will do your work nearly as well." "I'm almost finished, colonel," was the reply, "and it isn't worth while to move now. Those fellows can't hit me, for they've been trying it these fifteen minutes." Just then, a round-shot gave the lie to his prediction by cutting him in two; and, according to their custom, the French gunners set up a shout of triumph at their successful practice. Some of the Connaughters, who had never lost sight of their native bogs till exported to the Peninsula, understood little or no English beyond the words of command. On an inspection parade, one of this class was asked by General Mackinnon, to whose squad he belonged. Bewildered and puzzled, Darby Rooney applied to his sergeant for a translation of the general's question—thus conveying to the latter an idea that this was the first time he had heard such a thing as a squad spoken of. The story got abroad—was, of course, much embellished—and an hour afterwards the third division was enjoying a prodigious chuckle at the notion that not one of the Connaughters knew what a squad meant. The young men laughed, the old officers shook their heads and deplored the benighted state of the Irishmen; whilst all the time, Mr Grattan assures us, "the Eighty-eighth was a more really efficient regiment than almost any two corps in the third division." As efficient as any they undoubtedly were, when fighting was to be done; but in some other respects their conduct was less irreproachable. According to their historian and advocate's own showing, their knapsacks were often too light and their havresacks too heavy. "A watchcoat, a piece of pipe-clay, and a button-brush," compose rather a scanty kit: yet those three articles formed—with the exception of the clothes he stood in—the entire wardrobe and means of personal adornment of the Rooney above-named; and many of his comrades were scarce better provided. But if the back was neglected and left bare, the belly, on the contrary, was cared for with vigilant affection. On occasion, the Eighty-eighth could do their work on meagre diet as well, or better than any other corps. They would march two days on a pipe of tobacco; or for a week, with the addition of a biscuit and a dram. But when they did such things, it was no sign of any abstract love of temperance, or wish to mortify the flesh; it was simply a token of the extreme poverty of the district in which they found themselves. For the article provend they always kept a bright look-out. A greasy havresack, especially on the line of march, is the soldier's first desideratum; and it was rare that a very respectable workhouse soup could not have been produced by infusing that of a Connaughter in a proper quantity of water. When rations were scanty, or commissaries lagged in the rear, none understood better than the Eighty-eighth how to forage for themselves. "Every man his own quartermaster" was then their motto. Nothing came amiss to them; sweet or savoury, from a pig to a bee-hive, they sacked every thing; and their "taking ways" were often cast in their teeth. The natives were compelled to mount guard over their sheepfolds; but the utmost force they could muster was of small avail against the resolute onslaught of the half-famished Irishmen. Even the exertions of the Provost-marshal, and the liberal application of the cat, proved ineffectual to check these depredations; whilst the whimsical arguments used by the fellows in their defence sometimes disarmed the severity of Picton himself.
It would have been quite out of character for an Irish regiment to march without ladies in their train, and accordingly the female following of the Rangers was organised on the most liberal scale. Motley as it was numerous, it included, besides English and Irish women, a fair sprinkling of tender-hearted Spaniards and Portuguese, who had been unable to resist the fascinations of the insinuating Connaughters. The sufferings of these poor creatures, on long marches, over bad roads and in wet and cold seasons, were of course terrible, and only to be equalled by their fidelity to those to whom they had attached themselves. Their endurance of fatigue was wonderful; their services were often great; and many a soldier, stretched disabled on the field of some bloody battle, and suffering from the terrible thirst attendant on wounds, owed his life to their gentle ministry. In circumstances of danger, they showed remarkable courage. At the assault of Ciudad Rodrigo, the baggage-guard, eager to share in the fight, deserted their post and rushed to the trenches. Immediately a host of miscreants—fellows who hung on the skirts of the army, watching opportunities to plunder—made a dash at the camp, but the women defended it valiantly, and fairly beat them off. Of course feminine sensibility got a little blunted by a life of this kind, and it was rarely with very violent emotion that the ladies saw their husbands go into action. Persuaded of their invincibility, they looked upon success as certain, and if, unfortunately, the victory left them widows, they deemed a very short mourning necessary before contracting a new alliance. Now and then a damsel of birth and breeding would desert the paternal mansion to follow the drum; and Mr Grattan tells a romantic history of a certain Jacinta Cherito, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy judge, who blacked her face and tramped off as a cymbal boy under the protection of the drum-major of the Eighty-eighth—a magnificent fellow, whose gorgeous uniform and imposing cocked hat caused him to be taken by the Portuguese for nothing less than a general of division. The young lady had not forgotten to take her jewels with her, and the old judge made a great fuss, and appealed to the colonel, who requested him to inspect the regiment as it left the town. But the sooty visage and uniform jacket baffled his penetration, and at the first halt, the drummer and the lady were made one flesh. Thorp, the lucky bridegroom, was a fine dashing fellow, bent upon distinguishing himself. He was often wounded, but never missed an engagement, even when his hurts were unhealed. He fell gloriously at Toulouse, and the next day came the gazette with his promotion to an ensigncy, which, if it was then of little value to him, was at any rate "a great consolation to his poor afflicted widow, and the means of reconciling her father to the choice she had made; and her return once more to her home was a scene of great rejoicing." When the British troops embarked at Bordeaux, for America and England, a crowd of poor Spanish and Portuguese women, who had long followed their fortunes and were now forbidden to accompany their husbands and lovers, watched their departure with tearful eyes. "They were fond and attached creatures, and had been useful in many ways, and under many circumstances, not only to their husbands, but to the corps they belonged to generally. Many of them, the Portuguese in particular, had lived with our men for years, and had borne them children." But the stern rules of the service prevailed. The battalions bound for America were allowed but a limited number of soldiers' wives, and the surplus were of necessity left to their fate. Some had money; more were penniless, and nearly naked. Men and officers were then greatly in arrear, but nevertheless a subscription was got up, and its amount divided amongst the unfortunates, thus abandoned upon a foreign shore, and at many hundreds of miles from their homes.
General Picton was a man of action, not of words. There was no palaver about him, nothing superfluous in the way of orations, but he spoke strongly and to the point. Long harangues, as Mr Grattan justly observes, are not necessary to British soldiers. Metaphor and flowers of rhetoric are thrown away upon them. Something plain, pithy, and appropriate is what they like; the shorter the better. "Rangers of Connaught!" said Picton, as he passed the Eighty-eighth, drawn up for the assault of Ciudad Rodrigo, "it is not my intention to expend any powder this evening. We'll do this business with the cold iron." This was a very unpretending speech; nothing of the clap-trap or melodramatic about it; a mere declaration in the fewest possible words, of the speaker's intentions, implying what he expected from those he addressed. That it was just what was wanted, was proved by the hearty respondent cheer of the brave Irishmen. The result of the attack is well known; the Rangers took a gallant share in it. The next morning the troops were ordered out of the captured town, which they had ransacked to some purpose, and the Eighty-eighth, drawn up on their bivouac ground, were about to march away to the village of Atalaya, when Picton again rode past. "Some of the soldiers, who were more than usually elevated in spirits," (they had passed the night in bursting open doors and drinking brandy,) "called out, 'Well, General, we gave you a cheer last night: it's your turn now!' The general smiled, took off his hat, and said, 'Here, then, you drunken set of brave rascals—hurrah! we'll soon be at Badajoz.'" A prophecy which was not long unaccomplished. With all deference to Mr Grattan, we cannot but think that the Eighty-eighth were very appropriately placed under Picton's orders. Excellent fighting men though they were, they certainly, according to their champion's own showing, needed a strict hand over them. We should like to know how they would have got on under such an officer as Mr Grattan tells us of, who, when in command of a regiment, came to mess one day in very low spirits, because, having sent his adjutant to inquire of an ensign why he did not attend parade, the ensign returned no answer, and, on subsequently meeting his commanding officer, cut him dead. The colonel told the story at the mess-table, and concluded by saying, "I thought nothing of his not answering my message, but I cannot express how much I am hurt at the idea of his cutting me as he did when I wished to speak to him!" Field-officers of such susceptible feelings, and such very loose ideas on the subject of discipline, were not plentiful in the Peninsula, and this one, we are given to understand, did not long retain his regiment. He would hardly have done at the head of the high-spirited Connaughters. But if Picton's severity to the men of the Eighty-eighth may be justified, his neglect of the officers is far more difficult to excuse. "Not one of them was ever promoted through his recommendation." The conduct of Lieutenant Mackie at Ciudad Rodrigo was chivalrous in the extreme. General Mackinnon—who commanded the brigade and was blown to pieces at its head by the explosion of a mine—wished to confer a mark of distinction on the gallant Eighty-eighth, and ordered that one of its subalterns should lead the forlorn-hope. The moment this was announced to the assembled officers, "Mackie stepped forward, and lowering his sword, said, 'Major Thompson, I am ready for that service.'" Mackinnon had promised a company to the forlorn-hope leader, if he survived. But it must be observed that Mackie was senior lieutenant, and consequently sure of early promotion. The Eighty-eighth was to be in the van at the assault, and the probabilities were that at least one captain would be knocked off. Or, if not that day, it would happen the next. So that Mackie, in volunteering on the most desperate of all services, could have little to actuate him beyond an honourable desire for glory. How was he repaid? Gurwood, who led the forlorn-hope at the lesser breach, got his company; Mackie remained a lieutenant—no captain of the Eighty-eighth having been killed, and General Mackinnon not being alive to fulfil his promise. And whilst all the other officers who had been forward in the attack, had their names recorded in Picton's division-order, poor Mackie was denied even the word of barren praise so gratifying to a soldier's heart.
The loss of Ciudad Rodrigo was a stunning blow to the French. They could not understand it at all. Herrasti and his Spaniards had held out the place a month against Ney and Massena, with thirty or forty thousand veterans, and that in fine weather, a great advantage to the besiegers—in eleven days, and in the depth of winter, Wellington reduced it, with twenty thousand men and opposed by a French garrison. The contrast was great, and quite inexplicable to the French. "On the 16th," wrote Marmont to Berthier, "the English batteries opened their fire at a great distance. On the 19th the place was taken by storm, and fell into the power of the enemy. There is something so incomprehensible in this event, that I allow myself no observation. I am not provided with the requisite information." No testimony could be more complimentary to the brave captors of Rodrigo. That great success, however, was only a forerunner of greater ones. Badajoz was the next place to be taken, preparatory to marching into the interior of Spain. To conceal his intentions from the enemy, Wellington had recourse to an elaborate stratagem. A powerful battering train, supplied by the men of war in the Tagus, was shipped at Lisbon, on board vessels of large size, which put out to sea, and, when out of sight of land, transhipped their cargo into smaller craft. These carried them up the Tagus into the heart of the country. At the same time the necessary magazines were formed; and at Elvas, only three leagues from Badajoz, a large quantity of fascines and gabions were prepared. All this, however, was done so quietly, Wellington appeared so supine, and Badajoz was so well provided, that Soult was lulled into security; and when at last he took the alarm, and marched from Seville at the head of twenty-five thousand men, it was too late. Philippon, and his brave garrison, did all that skill and courage could; but in vain. When Soult reached Villafranca, two days' march from Badajoz, the fortress had already been two days in the power of the English. This, to the French, was another unaccountable business; they, even yet, had not learned fully to appreciate the sovereign virtues of British bayonets. "I think the capture of Badajoz a very extraordinary event," Lery, Soult's chief engineer, wrote to General Kellerman, "and I am much at a loss to account for it in a clear and distinct manner." This comes at the end of a mysterious sort of epistle, in which the engineer general talks of fatality, and seems to think that the British had no right to take Badajoz, defended as it was. But Wellington and his army were great despisers of that sort of right, and, in spite of the really glorious defence, in spite of the strategy of the governor and the valour of the garrison, of chevaux de frise of sword-blades, and of the deadly accuracy of the French artillery and musketeers, Badajoz was taken. The triumph was fearfully costly. Nearly four thousand five hundred men fell on the side of the besiegers;—Picton's division was reduced to a skeleton, and the Connaught Rangers lost more than half their numbers.
Shot through the body at Badajoz, Mr Grattan was left there when his division marched away. He gives a terrible account of the sacking of the town; but on such details, even had they not been many times recapitulated, it is not pleasant to dwell. The frightful crimes perpetrated during those two days of unbridled excess and violence, rest at the door of the man whose boundless ambition occasioned that most desolating war. From an ignorant and sensual soldiery, excited to madness by a prolonged resistance, and by one of the most sanguinary conflicts recorded in the history of sieges, forbearance could hardly be expected. The horrible saturnalia, in which murder and rape, pillage and intoxication, are pushed to their utmost limits, are the necessary condition of a successful assault on a desperately defended fortress; and supposing them prohibited, and that such prohibition could be enforced, we agree with Mr Grattan in believing that many a town that has been victoriously carried, might have been found impregnable. But one must ever deplore the disgraceful scenes enacted in the streets and houses of Badajoz, Ciudad Rodrigo, and St Sebastian. Unsurpassed in atrocity, they remain everlasting blots upon the bright laurels gathered by the British in the Peninsula. And it is small palliation, that under similar circumstances, the armies of all nations have acted in like manner. Here the sufferers were not enemies. To the garrison, when their resistance ceased, quarter was given; they were marched away scatheless, and treated with that humanity which England, notwithstanding the lying assertions of foreign historians, has ever used towards her prisoners. No, the victims were friends and allies. The very nation in whose behalf our soldiers had fought, saw their houses ransacked, their property wasted, their wives and daughters brutally outraged, by those whose mission was to protect and defend. Let us hope they have forgotten, or at least forgiven, such gloomy episodes in the struggle for their liberation.
The advocates of universal peace might adduce many potent and practical arguments in favour of their doctrine from the pages of Mr Grattan's book. He is unsparing in his details of the inevitable horrors of war; and some of his descriptions, persons of tender hearts and sensitive nerves will do well to pass over. They may be read with profit by those who, accustomed to behold but the sunny side of military life, think too lightly of the miseries war entails. Let such accompany Mr Grattan though the streets of Badajoz, on the morning of the 7th April, 1812, and into the temporary hospital of Villa Formosa, after the fierce conflict of Fuentes d'Onore, where two hundred soldiers still awaited, twenty-four hours after the action, the surgeons' leisure, for the amputation of their limbs. Let them view with him the piles of unsuccoured wounded on the breach of Badajoz, and hear the shrieks and groans of men dying in helpless agony, without a friendly hand to prop their head, or a drop of water to cool their fevered lips. From such harrowing scenes it is pleasant to turn to the more humane and redeeming features of civilised warfare, and to note the courteous and amicable relations that existed between the contending armies when, as sometimes happened, they lay near together without coming to blows. This occurred previously to the battle of Salamanca. From the 3d to the 12th of July, the French and British were in presence of each other, encamped on either side the Douro, at that season little more than a rivulet. Of course all were on the alert; there was no laxity or negligence that could tempt to surprise; but neither was there any useless skirmishing or picket firing; every thing was conducted in the most gentlemanly and correct manner. The soldiers bathed together and exchanged their rations, and the officers were on equally good terms. "The part of the river of which I speak was occupied, on our side, by the Third division; on the French side by the Seventh division. The French officers said to us at parting, 'We have met, and have been for some time friends. We are about to separate, and may meet as enemies. As friends we received each other warmly; as enemies we shall do the same.' Ten days afterwards the British Third and the French Seventh division were opposed to each other at Salamanca, and the Seventh French was destroyed by the British Third." Mr Grattan's wound was healed in ample time for him to assist at the battle of Salamanca; a glorious victory, which would have been even more complete had the British been properly seconded by their Portuguese allies. The behaviour of these was any thing but creditable to their nation. One detachment of cacadores actually threw themselves on their faces to avoid the enemy's fire, and not all the blows showered on them by their commander, Major Haddock, could induce them to exchange their recumbent attitude for one more dignified. Notwithstanding this, and the more fatal feebleness of Pack's brigade, the French were totally beaten, and their loss was nearly four times that of the British. Lord Wellington's opinion of the battle—a particularly honourable one to our troops, inasmuch as they not only fought better, but (which was not always the case) moved and manoeuvred better, than the picked veterans of the French army—is sufficiently shown by the fact that "he selected it in preference to all his other victories, as the most fitting to be fought over in sham-fight on the plains of St Denis, in the presence of the three crowned heads who occupied Paris after the second abdication of the Emperor Napoleon, in 1815."
At Salamanca, the right brigade of the Third division, including the Connaught Rangers, charged the entire division of the French General Thomiere. So awful was the volley that welcomed them, that more than half the officers, and nearly the whole front rank, were swept away. Doubtless the French thought this would prove a sickener, for great was their consternation when, before the smoke had well cleared away, they saw the shattered but dauntless brigade advancing fiercely and steadily upon them. Panic-stricken, they wavered; "the three regiments ran onward, and the mighty phalanx, which a moment before was so formidable, loosened and fell in pieces before fifteen hundred invincible British soldiers fighting in a line of only two deep." In this memorable charge, the standard-pole of the Eighty-eighth was struck by a bullet, the same that killed Major Murphy, who commanded the battalion. New colours have since been presented to the regiment, but the wounded pole is still preserved, and on it is engraved, on a plate of silver, the day and the manner of its mutilation.
An advance on Madrid was consequent on the triumph at Salamanca, and on the 12th of August, Wellington and his army reached the Spanish capital. Their entrance has often been described, but in default of novelty, Mr Grattan's account of it possesses spirit and interest. It was one of those scenes that repay soldiers for months of fatigue and danger. The troops were almost carried into the city in the arms of the delighted populace. The steady, soldier-like bearing of the men, the appearance of the officers, nearly all mounted, inspired respect and increased the general enthusiasm. For miles from Madrid, the road was thronged; when the army got into the streets, it was no longer possible to preserve the order of march. The ranks were broken by the pressure of the crowd, and the officers (lucky dogs!) were half-smothered in the embraces of the charming Madrilenas. Young and old, ugly and handsome, all came in for their share of hugs and kisses. Still, although patriotism impelled the Spanish fair to look with favour upon the scarlet-coated Britons, the painful confession must be made that as individuals they gave the preference to the lively, light-hearted Frenchmen. Napoleon was the fiend himself, incarnate in the form of an under-sized Corsican, and the gavachos were his imps, whom it was praise-worthy to shoot at from behind every hedge, and to poniard whenever the opportunity offered. Such was the creed inculcated by the priests, and devoutly entertained by their petticoated penitents—that is to say, by every Christian woman in the Peninsula. But somehow or other, when French regiments were quartered in Spanish towns, the female part of the population forgot the anathemas of their spiritual consolers, and looked complacently upon those they were enjoined to abhor. It was a case of "nos amis les ennemis," and the French, beaten every where in the field, obtained facile and frequent triumphs in the boudoir. "It is a singular fact, and I look upon it as a degrading one," says Mr Grattan with diverting seriousness, "that the French officers, whilst at Madrid, made in the ratio of five to one more conquests than we did." The dignity of the admission might be questioned; the degree of degradation is matter of opinion; the singularity is explained away by Mr Grattan himself. He blames his comrades for their stiff, unbending manners, and for their non-conformance to the customs of the country. They were nearly three months at Madrid, and yet he declares that, at the end of that time, they knew little more of the inhabitants than of the citizens of Pekin. And he opines that the impression left in Spain by the Peninsular army was rather one of respect for their courage, than of admiration of their social graces and general affability. If Mr Grattan, whilst reposing at ease upon his well-earned bays, would devise and promulgate an antidote to the mixture of shyness, reserve, and hauteur, which renders Englishmen, wherever they travel, the least popular of the European family, he would have a claim on his country's gratitude stronger even than the one he established whilst defending her with his sword in the well-contested fields of the Peninsula. Notwithstanding, however, the unamiability with which he reproaches his companions in arms, there was much fun and feasting, and sauntering in the Prado, and bull-fighting and theatre-going, whilst the British were at Madrid. But it was too pleasant to last long. The best a soldier can expect in war-time, is an alternation of good quarters and severe hardship. The "quart-d'heure de Rabelais" was at hand, when all the dancing, drinking, masking, and other pleasant things should be paid for, and the brief enjoyment forgotten, amidst the sufferings of the most painful retreat—excepting, of course, that of Corunna—effected by a British army during the whole war. We refer to the retrograde movement that followed the unsuccessful siege of Burgos.
The high reputation of the British soldier rests far more upon his arms than upon his legs; in other words, he is a fighting rather than a marching man. Slowness of movement, in the field as on the route, is the fault that has most frequently been imputed to him. One thing is pretty generally admitted; that, to work well, he must be well fed. And even then he will hardly get over the ground as rapidly, or endure fatigue as long, as the lean lathy Frenchman, who has never known the liberal rations and fat diet the other is accustomed to. When a certain period of active service and long marches has given the English soldier his campaigning legs, he must still have his regular grog, or he soon flags, if he does not grumble and become insubordinate. Rations were bad, and hard to be got, on the retreat from Burgos. Then, Mr Grattan tells us, the superior marching qualities of the Irish were manifest. There had been very little beef-steak and bacon expended in their bringing up; scanty fare was nothing new to them, and by no means affected their gaiety and good-humour. And when shoes were scarce, what cared they? The stones in Connaught are not a bit softer than those in Spain; and nine-tenths of the boys had trotted about, from infancy upwards, with "divel a brogue, save the one on their tongues." Some of the English regiments—the Forty-fifth for instance, chiefly composed of Nottingham weavers—would, under ordinary circumstances, march as well as any Irishman of them all: "But if it came to a hard tug, and that we had neither rations nor shoes, then, indeed, the Connaught Rangers would be in their element, and out-march almost any battalion in the service." On the retreat from Burgos to Portugal, they gave proof of their toughness and endurance; for whilst other regiments were decimated by fatigue and sickness, the Eighty-eighth scarcely lost a man, except by the enemy's fire. It was a time when the good qualities of all were severely tested. The movement began in a most unfavourable season. The roads were nearly impassable from heavy rains, and for days together there was not a dry jacket in the army. At night they lay in the open country, often in a swamp, without a tent to shelter them; the baggage was detached, and they never saw it till they reached Ciudad Rodrigo. It was share and share alike amongst men and officers, and many of the latter were mere striplings, who had but lately left the comforts of their English homes. When they halted from their weary day's march, the ill-conditioned beasts collected for rations had to be slaughtered; sometimes they came too late to be of any use, or the camp-kettles did not arrive in time to cook them; and the famished soldiers had to set out again, with a few pieces of dry biscuit rattling in their neglected stomachs, and driven to satisfy the cravings of hunger with the acorns that strewed the forests. There was little money afloat, for pay was four months in arrear, but millions would have been useless where there was nothing to buy. The country was deserted; every where the inhabitants fled on the approach of the two armies. Disease was the natural consequence of so many privations; ague and dysentery undermined the men's strength, and many poor fellows, unable to proceed, were left upon the road. Horses died by hundreds, and those which held out were for the most part sore-backed, one of the greatest calamities that can happen to cavalry and artillery on the march. Fortunately Soult, who, with ninety thousand men, followed the harassed army, had some experience of British troops. And what he had seen of them, especially at Albuera and on the Corunna retreat, had inspired him with a salutary respect for their prowess. They might retreat, but he knew what they could and would do when driven to stand at bay. And therefore, although Wellington was by no means averse to fight, and actually offered his antagonist battle on the very ground where, four months previously, that of Salamanca had occurred, the wary Duke of Dalmatia declined the contest. He played a safe game: without risking a defeat by a general action, or attempting to drive the British before him with the bayonet, he hovered about their rear, disquieted them by a flank movement of part of his force, and had the satisfaction of knowing that their loss by the casualties and fatigues of the march and inclemency of the weather, was as great as it would probably have been had he engaged them. For, besides those who perished on the road, when the army got into winter quarters, a vast number of men and officers went into hospital, and months elapsed before the troops were fully reorganised and fit for the field. At a day's march from Ciudad Rodrigo, Wellington's rear-guard had a smart skirmish, and then Soult desisted from his pursuit, and the Anglo-Portuguese were allowed to proceed without further molestation. Although disastrous, and in some respects ill managed, the retreat was in no way disgraceful. The French, very superior in numbers, had, whenever they pressed forward, been bravely met, and invariably repulsed.
With this retreat, Mr Grattan's Peninsular campaigns closed. He returned to Ireland, and in the summer of 1814, embarked for Canada. He rather refers to, than records the service he saw there; taking occasion, however, for a strong censure on Sir George Prevost, who, after forcing our ill-appointed fleet on Lake Champlain into action, refused to allow Brisbane and his brigade of "Peninsulars" to take the fort of Platsburgh, an enterprise easy of achievement, and which would have placed the captured ships, and the victorious but disabled American flotilla, at the mercy of the British. But we have not space to follow the Ranger across the Atlantic, nor is it essential so to do; for, although he gives some amusing sketches of Canada and the Canadians, the earlier portion of his book is by far the most interesting, and certainly the most carefully written. We could almost quarrel with him for defacing his second volume with perpetual and not very successful attempts at wit. We have rarely met with more outrageous specimens of punning run mad, than are to be found in its pages. Barring that fault, we have nothing but what is favourable to say of the book. Its tone is manly, and soldier-like, and it is creditable both to the writer and to the service, by which, during the last thirty years, our stores of military and historical literature have been so largely and agreeably increased.
 Adventures of the Connaught Rangers, from 1808 to 1814. By W. GRATTAN, Esq. London. 1847.
LORD SIDMOUTH'S LIFE AND TIME.
To read a memoir of the late Lord Sidmouth, is like taking a walk through Westminster Abbey. All the literature, is inscriptions; all the figures are monumental; and all the names are those of men whose characters and distinctions have been echoing in our ears since we had the power to understand national renown. The period between 1798, when the subject of this memoir made his first step in parliamentary life as Speaker, and 1815, when the close of the war so triumphantly finished the long struggle between liberty and jacobinism, was beyond all comparison the most memorable portion of British history.
In this estimate, we fully acknowledge the imperishable fame of Marlborough in the field, and the high ability of Bolingbroke in the senate. The gallantry of Wolfe still throws its lustre over the concluding years of the second George; and the brilliant declamation of Chatham will exact the tribute due to daring thought, and classic language, so long as oratory is honoured among men. But the age which followed was an age of realities, stern, stirring, and fearful. There was scarcely a trial of national fortitude, or national Vigour, through which the sinews of England were not then forced to give proof of their highest power of endurance. All was a struggle of the elements; in which every shroud and tackle of the royal ship of England was strained; and the tempest lasted through nearly a quarter of a century. England, the defender of all, was the sufferer for all. Every principle of her financial prosperity, every material of her military prowess, every branch of her constitutional system, every capacity of her political existence, her Church, her State, and her Legislature, were successively compelled into the most perilous yet most powerful display; and the close of the most furious hostility which Europe had ever seen, only exhibited in a loftier point of view the victorious strength which principle confers upon a people.
Compared with this tremendous scene, the political conflicts of the preceding age were a battle on the stage, compared with the terrors of the field. The spectators came to enjoy a Spectacle, and sit tranquilly admiring the brilliancy of the caparisons and the dexterity of the charge; but perfectly convinced that all would end without harm to the champions, and that the fall of the curtain would extinguish the war. But, in the trials of the later time, there were moments when we seemed to be throwing our last stake; when the trumpets of Europe, leagued against us, seemed to be less challenging us to the field, than preceding us to the tomb; and when the last hope of the wise and good might be, to give the last manifestation of a life of patriotic virtue.
In language like this, we are not abasing the national courage. We are paying the fullest homage to the substantial claims of the English heart. It is only by the severest national struggles that the superiority of national powers can be developed; and without doubting the qualities of the Marlboroughs and Chathams—or even without doubting, that if thrown into the battle of the last fifty years, they would have exhibited the same intellectual stature and powerful adroitness which distinguished their actual displays—yet they wanted the strong necessities of a time like ours, to place them on a similar height of renown. Still their time continues in admirable study. But it is like the story of the Volscian and Samnite combats, read in the day when the consul, flying through the streets of Rome, brought the news of Cannae.
The wars and politics of the eighteenth century were the manoeuvres of a garde du corps, and the intrigues of a boudoir. Our fathers saw no nation of thirty millions rushing to the field; frantic with the passion for overthrow, no Napoleon thundering at the head of vassal Europe against England; no conspiracy of peoples against thrones; no train of crouching sovereignties, half in terror and half in servility, ready to do the wildest will of the wildest despot of the world; no army of five hundred thousand men ready to spring upon our shores, and turning off only to the overthrow of empires. All was on a smaller scale; the passions feebler, the means narrower, the objects more trivial, the triumphs more temporary, the catastrophe more powerless, and the glory more vanishing.
All has since subsided; and the mind of man is turned to efforts in directions totally new. All now is the rigid struggle with the physical difficulties of society. The grand problems are, how to level the mountain, and to drain the sea: or, if we must leave the Alps to be still the throne of the thunder, and suffer even the Zuyder-zee to roll its sullen waves over its incorrigible shallows; yet to tunnel the mountain and pass the sea with a rapidity, which makes us regardless of the interposition of obstacles that once stopped the march of armies, and made the impregnable fortresses of kingdoms. But the still severer trials of human intelligence are, how to clothe, feed, educate, and discipline the millions which every passing year pours into the world. The mind may well be bewildered with a prospect so vast, so vivid, and yet so perplexing. Every man sees that old things are done away, that physical force is resuming its primitive power over the world, and that we are approaching a time when Mechanism will have the control of nature, and Multitude the command of society.
* * * * *
There are many families in England which, without any change of circumstances, without any increase of fortune, or any discoverable vicissitudes, have existed for centuries, in possession of the same property, generally a small one, and handed down from father to son as if by a law of nature. The family of Lord Sidmouth is found to have held the proprietorship of the small estate of Fringford, in Oxfordshire, from the year 1600, and to have had a residence in Bannebury about a century and a half before;—the first descendant of this quiet race who became known beyond the churchyard where "his village fathers sleep," being Dr Addington, who died in 1799. Genealogies like those give a striking view of the general security of landed possession, which the habits of national integrity, and the influence of law, must alone have effected, during the turbulent times which so often changed the succession to the throne of England.
Dr Addington, who had been educated at Winchester school, and Trinity College, Oxford, having adopted medicine as his profession, commenced his practice at Reading, where he married the daughter of the Rev. Dr Niley, head-master of the grammar-school. The well-known trial of the wretched parricide, Miss Blandy, for poisoning, in which he was a principal witness, brought him into considerable notice; and probably on the strength of this notice, he removed to London, and took a house in Bedford Row, where the late Lord Sidmouth, his fourth child, but eldest son, was born. He next removed to Clifford Street, a more fashionable quarter, which brought him into intercourse with many persons of distinction. Among these were Louth, Bishop of London, the Duke of Montagu, Earl Rivers, and, first of the first, the great Earl of Chatham. With this distinguished man, Dr Addington seems to have been on terms of familiar friendship, as the following extracts show:—Chatham writes from Burton Pynsent, in 1771.
"All your friends here, the flock of your care, are truly sensible of the kind attentions of the good shepherd. My last fit of the gout left me as it had visited me, very kindly. I am many hours every day in the field, and, as I live like a farmer abroad, I return home and eat like one. * *
"Ale goes on admirably, and agrees perfectly. My reverence for it, too, is increased, having just read in the manners of our remotest Celtic ancestors much of its antiquity and invigorating qualities. The boys all long for ale, seeing papa drink it, but we do not try such an experiment. Such is the force of example, that I find I must watch myself in all I do, for fear of misleading. If your friend William saw me smoke, he would certainly call for a pipe."
Lord Chatham died May 11th, 1788, which event was thus notified by Dr Addington to his son Henry.
"You will be grieved to hear that Lord Chatham is no more. It pleased Providence to take him away this morning, as if it were in mercy that he might not be a spectator of the total ruin of a country which he was not permitted to save."
The doctor was a croaker, as was the fashion of the time, with all who pretended to peculiar political sagacity. Of course the family physician of the ex-minister was in duty bound to echo the ex-minister's discontent. It is clear that, whatever professional gifts the doctor inherited from Apollo, he did not share the gift of prophecy. The doctor, after realising enough by his profession to purchase an estate in Devonshire, retired to Reading, where, in 1790, he died, having had, in the year before, the enviable gratification of seeing his son elected to the Speakership of the House of Commons.
Henry Viscount Sidmouth was born in 1757, on the 30th of May. At the age of five years, he was placed under the care of the Rev. William Gilpin, author of the Essays on the Picturesque, who for many years kept a school at Cheam, in Surrey.
Lord Sidmouth had but one brother, Hiley, who subsequently figured so often in the caustic rhymes of Canning, and who, under his brother's auspices, was successively secretary of the treasury, paymaster of the forces, and under-secretary of state. In his twelfth year, Henry, followed by Hiley, was sent to Winchester, then under the government of the well-known Dr Joseph Wharton, with George Isaac Huntingford as one of the assistants.
The author of the biography gives Huntingford credit for the singular degree of attachment exhibited in his occasional letters to his pupil. It certainly seems singular; when we know the slenderness, if not sternness of the connexion generally subsisting between the teachers at a great English seminary, and the pupils. In one of those epistles Huntingford says to this boy of fifteen.
"For my own part, to you I lay open my whole heart without reserve. I divest myself of the little superiority which age may have given me. With you I can enter into conversation with all the familiarity of an intimate companion. The few hours of intercourse which we thus enjoy with each other give more relief to my wearied body and mind than any other amusement on earth. What I am to do when you leave school, a melancholy thought, I cannot foresee. May the evil hour be postponed as late as possible. Yet let me add, whenever it shall be most for your advantage to leave me, I will not doubt to sacrifice my own peace and comfort for your interest. I love myself, but you better."
We hope that this style is not much in fashion in our public schools. Dean Pellew tells us that numerous letters of this kind were written by this tutor to his pupil in after life, and adds with a ludicrous solemnity, "It will readily be imagined how efficacious they must have proved, in forming the character of the future statesman, and erecting Spartan and Roman virtues on the noble foundation of Christianity."
For our part, we know not what to make of such communications: they seem to us intolerably silly, and we think ought not to have been published. In later life, their writer was made Bishop of Hereford and Warden of Winchester. He seems to have been a fellow of foresight!
In 1773, Henry and Hiley were both removed from Winchester, and put under the tuition of Dr Goodenough, who took private pupils at Ealing, and who was afterwards Bishop of Carlisle. In the next year, Henry entered as commoner in Brazen-Nose College under the tuition of Radcliffe, then a tutor of some celebrity. In this college he became acquainted with Abbot, afterwards Lord Colchester, and William Scott, afterwards Lord Stowell. He took his degree in 1778, and in this year had the misfortune to lose his mother, who seems to have been an amiable and sensible person. In the next year, he obtained the Chancellor's prize for an English essay on "the affinity between painting and writing in point of composition;" and at the recital of this essay in the theatre he first became acquainted with Lord Mornington, afterwards Marquis Wellesley, an intimacy which lasted for sixty-two years. He now adopted law as his profession, took chambers in Paper Buildings, and kept his terms regularly at Lincoln's Inn. In 1781, he married Ursula Mary, eldest daughter and co-heiress of Leonard Hammond, Esq. of Cheam, in Surrey, and took a house in Southampton Street, Bloomsbury, where he determined to follow the profession of the law. But this determination was speedily over-ruled by the success of the celebrated son of Chatham. On the 26th of February, 1781, William Pitt, then only in his twenty-second year, made his first speech in the House of Commons, in support of Burke's bill for the regulation of the civil list. This epoch in parliamentary annals is noticed in a brief letter from Dr Goodenough to Pitt's early tutor, Wilson, who sent it to Mr Addington, among whose papers it was found:—
"Dear Sir,—I cannot resist the natural impulse of giving pleasure, by telling you that the famous William Pitt, who made so capital a figure in the last reign, is happily restored to his country. He made his first public re-appearance in the senate last night. All the old members recognised him instantly, and most of the young ones said he appeared the very man they had so often heard described: the language, the manner, the gesture, the action were the same; and there wanted only a few wrinkles in the face, and some marks of age, to identify the absolute person of the late Earl of Chatham."
Addington, at this period, had a good deal of intercourse with Pitt, who became Chancellor of the Exchequer at the age of twenty-three, and whose brilliant success in parliament evidently stimulated his friend to political pursuits. But the infamous coalition broke in, and Pitt was dismissed from the ministry. Its existence, however, was brief: it not merely fell, but was crushed amidst a universal uproar of national scorn; and Pitt, not yet twenty-five, was appointed prime minister. In the course of the month, an interview took place between Pitt and Addington, which gave his friends strong hopes of seeing him in immediate office. His friend Bragge thus writes to him:
"I give you joy of the effects of the interview of last Sunday, of which I am impatient to hear the particulars. Secretary, either official or confidential, I should wish you, and indeed all the boards are already filled."
Still, he remained unappointed, though his intimacy with the minister grew more confidential from day to day. Pitt was at this time engaged in a desperate struggle with the Opposition, who, ruined as they were in character, yet retained an overwhelming majority in parliament. On this occasion, the young statesman gave perhaps the most triumphant evidence of his remarkable sagacity. Every one was astonished, that he had not at once dissolved a parliament which it seemed impossible for him either to convince or conquer. But, with the House of Lords strongly disposed towards him, and the King for his firm friend, Pitt fought the House night after night, until he found the national feeling wholly on his side. Then, on the 25th of March, 1784, he dissolved the parliament, and by that act extinguished the whole power of Whiggism for twenty years. There never was a defeat more ruinous; more than a hundred and sixty members, who had generally been of the Foxite party, were driven ignominiously from their seats, and the party was thenceforth condemned to linger in an opposition equally bitter, fruitless, and unpopular. In the new parliament, Addington was returned for the borough of Devizes in place of Sutton, his brother-in-law, who, being advanced in life, made over his interest to his young relative. On this occasion, he received a letter from his old master, Joseph Wharton:—
"I cannot possibly forbear expressing to you the sincere pleasure I feel, in giving you joy of being elected into a parliament that I hope and trust will save this country from destruction, by crushing the most shameful and the most pernicious coalition that I think ever disgraced the annals of any kingdom, ancient or modern. I am, dear sir, with true regard, yours, &c.—JOSEPH WHARTON."
There are few more remarkable instances of contrasted character and circumstance than Addington's ultimate rise to power. The anecdote is mentioned, that on one occasion, when they were riding together to Holl Wood, then Mr Pitt's seat near Bromley in Kent, that on Pitt's urging him to follow up politics with vigour, and the latter alleging in excuse the distaste and disqualification for public life created by early habits and natural disposition, Pitt burst forth in the following quotation from Waller:—
"The lark that shuns on lofty boughs to build Her humble nest, lies silent in the field: But should the promise of a brighter day, Aurora smiling, bid her rise and play; Quickly she'll show 'twas not for want of voice, Or power to climb, she made so low a choice: Singing she mounts, her airy notes are stretch'd Towards heav'n, as if from heav'n alone her notes she fetch'd."
With these words, he set spurs to his horse, and left his companion to ponder on the moral of the poetry.
But neither poetry nor prose could inspire Addington's mind with the ardour of his glowing friend. Parliament was indeed open to him, but the true gate to parliamentary distinction would never have been opened by his own hand. There are two kinds of speaking, and but two, which ever make distinguished way in the House. The first is, that superior order which alone deserves the name of eloquence, and which must carry distinction with it wherever men are gathered together. The next is, that adroit and practical style of speaking by which the details of public business are carried forward; a style which requires briskness of capacity, united to extent of information, and in which the briskness must not be suffered to become flippant, and the detail to become dull. We are perfectly confident, that, beyond those two classes, no speaker can ever expect to retain the ear of the House. Our theory, however, is not the favourite one with that crowd, whose diatribes nightly fill the columns of the newspapers; where bitterness is perpetually mistaken for pungency, and petulance for power, dryness for business and commonplace for conviction. But failure is the inevitable consequence; the archer showers his shafts in vain; they are pointed with lead, and they always fall blunt on the ground. Some of the noisiest haranguers of our time utterly "waste their sweetness on the desert air," their hearers drop away with fatal rapidity, and the orator is reminded of his triumph only by the general flight of his auditory. Then comes some favourite of the House: the coffee-room is thinned in its turn; the benches are crowded once more; and some statesmanlike display consoles the House for its lost time. Addington's habits were those of a student, and he brought them with him into parliament. In the House of Commons, there are nearly as many classes of character, as there are in life outside the walls. There are the men made for the operations of public life, bold, active, and with an original sense of superiority. Another class is made for under-secretaries and subordinates, sharp, and ingenious men, the real business-men of the House. Another class, perfectly distinct, is that of the matter-of-fact men, largely recruited from among opulent merchants, bankers sent from country constituencies, and others of that calibre, who are formidable on every question of figures, are terrible on tariffs, and evidently think, that there is no book of wisdom on earth but a ledger. Then come the country gentlemen, generally an excellent and honest race, but to whom a life in London, in the majority of instances, has a strong resemblance to a life in the Millbank Penitentiary; driven into parliament, by what is called a "sense of their position in the country," which generally means the commands of their wives, &c., &c., their sojourn within the circuit of the metropolis is a purgatory. They sicken of the life of lounging through London, where they are nothing, and long to get back to the country where they are "magistrates;" generally too old to dance, the fashionable season has no charms for them: even the clubs seem to them a sort of condemned cell, where the crowd, guilty of unpardonable idleness, cluster together with no earthly resource but gazing into the street, or poring over a newspaper. If this service is severe enough to shake their philosophy during the sleety showers of February, and the withering blasts of March; the first break of sunshine, and the first streak of blue sky, makes their impatience amount to agony. The rest of the season only renders their suffering more inveterate; until at last the discharge of cannon from the Park, and the sound of trumpets at the doors of the House of Lords, a gracious speech from the throne, and a still more gracious smile from the sitter on it, let them loose from their task, and they are free, facetious, and foxhunters once more. There are still half-a-dozen other classes, "fine by degrees, and beautifully less," which may be left to the imagination of the reader, and the experience of the well-bred world.
Addington soon made himself useful on committees. The strong necessities of the case, much more than the Reform Bill, have remarkably shortened the longevity of election committees. The committee, in general, was fortunate, which could accomplish its business within three months. Some took twice the number, some even crossed over from session to session. The first committee on which Addington was engaged had this unfortunate duration, and he was re-appointed to it in the second session of the parliament of 1785.
At this period, whether from a sense of disappointment, or from the silent dulness of this drudgery, his health appears to have been in a feeble state. In a letter to his father, he apologises for listlessness and stupidity by illness, and says, "that he does not come up to the definition of man as a risible animal." Yet the man who could live to eighty-seven, and retain his health in a retirement of nearly a quarter of a century, could not complain of his constitution.
In 1786 Pitt availed himself of the opening of the session to induce his friend to break ground. He proposed that he should second the address; and almost condescended to coax him into further exertion of his abilities.—"I will not disguise," says his letter, "that, in asking this favour of you, (the speech,) I look beyond the immediate object of the first day's debate; from a persuasion that whatever induces you to take a part in public, will equally contribute to your personal credit, and that of the system to which I have the pleasure of thinking you are so warmly attached. Believe me to be, with great truth and regard, my dear sir, faithfully and sincerely yours,—W. PITT." Addington complied with a part of the proposal, seconded the Address, and was considered to have performed his task with effect. But the effort went no farther. His ability lay in another direction; and though a clear, well-informed, and influential debater in his more public days, and when the urgency of office compelled the exertion, he left for four years the honours of debate to the multitude of his competitors.
In the course of the memoir, there is a letter of Addington's, speaking of Sheridan's famous speech on the Begum question. Addington voted in the majority against Hastings; but, though he does not exactly say that Sheridan's famous speech was the cause of his vote, he yet joins in the general acclamation.
It has been the habit of late critics to decry the merits of this famous oration, and even to charge it with being frivolous, outrageous, and bombastic, an immense accumulation of calumny and clap-trap, which the craft of Sheridan would not submit to the public ordeal, and which he has therefore left to its chance of a fantastic and visionary fame. But this we find it impossible to believe. That in a speech of five hours and a half, there may have been—nay, there must have been, passages of extravagance, and even errors of taste, is perfectly probable; but they must have been overcome by countless passages of lustre and beauty,—by powerful conceptions and brilliant examples of language; at once resistless and refined,—by living descriptions, and thoughts of daring and dazzling energy, sufficient to have made it one of the most memorable triumphs of senatorial eloquence in the world. How, on any other supposition, is it possible to account for the effects which we know it to have produced?
Addington's letter, alluding to this subject, says "The papers will convey but a faint idea of a speech, which I heard Fox declare to be the most wonderful effort of the human mind that perhaps had ever been made. Mr Pitt, and indeed the whole House, spoke of it in terms of admiration and astonishment, scarcely inferior to those of Mr Fox."
The papers, indeed, convey a worse than inadequate idea of this wonderful oration, for they give merely a few fragments, in which they have contrived either to select their examples with the most curious infelicity, or to blunder them into bombast. But nothing can be more childish than to suppose, that Pitt would have given his praise to tawdry metaphor, that Burke would have done honour to feeble truisms, that Fox should have been unable to distinguish between logic and looseness of reasoning, or that the whole assembly, who had been in the habit of hearing those pre-eminent orators, should have been tricked by theatric dexterity or charlatan rhetoric into homage. The oration must have been a most magnificent performance, and we have only to deplore the loss of a great work of genius.
Another young phenomenon shot across the parliamentary horizon within the same month. It was the late Earl Grey. A letter of Addington to his father thus describes the debut of this young Liberal.
"Feb. 22, 1787.—We had a glorious debate last night, upon the motion for an address of thanks to the King, for having negotiated the commercial treaty. A new speaker presented himself to the House, and went through his first performance with an eclat that has not been equalled within my recollection. His name is Grey; he is not more than twenty-two years of age, and he took his seat, which is for Northumberland, only in the present session. I do not go too far in declaring, that in the advantages of figure, elocution, voice, and manner, he is not surpassed by any one member of the House; and I grieve to say, that he was last night in the ranks of Opposition, from which there is no prospect of his being detached."
It is curious to see, how easily the exigencies of party mould men, and how readily under that pressure they unsay their maxims, and retract their principles. The object of the commercial treaty was, to put our commerce in some degree on a fair footing with that of France. The object of Mr Grey's rhetoric was, to show that the commercial treaty was altogether a blunder, which, as being a Tory and ministerial performance, it must be in the eyes of a Whig and an oppositionist. But the maxim on which he chiefly relied, was the wisdom of that established system of our policy, in which France had always been regarded with the most suspicious jealousy at least—if not as our natural foe. Of course this Whig maxim lasted just so long as the Whigs were out of office, and could use it as a weapon against the Minister. But, from the moment when France became actually dangerous, when her councils became demoniac, and her factions frenzied, Whiggism, despairing of turning out the Minister by argument, resolved to make the attempt by menace. Hopeless in the House, it appealed to the rabble, and France was extolled to the skies. We then heard nothing of the "natural enmity," but a vast deal of the instinctive friendship. England and France were no longer to be two hostile powers sitting on their respective shores, with flashing eyes and levelled spears, but like a pair of citizen's wives loaded with presents and provisions for each other, and performing their awkward courtesies across the Channel.
It must be acknowledged, however, that the Whig maxim, though a watchword of faction, was no blunder of fact. A commercial treaty with the French in that day, or in any other day before or since, was a dream. To bring the Frenchman to any rational agreement on the subject of trade, or to keep him steady to any agreement whatever, has been a problem, which no British statesman has been able to solve. No commercial treaty, even with all the genius of Pitt, has ever produced to England the value of the paper on which it is written. Whether, if they were two Englands in the world, they might not establish commercial treaties with each other, may be a question. But we regard it as an absolute waste of time, to think of trading on fair terms with any of the slippery tariffs of foreign countries. In fact, this is now so perfectly understood, that England has nearly given up the notion of commercial treaties. She trades now, where the necessities of the foreigner demand her trade. The foreigner hates John Bull, Just as the Athenian peasant hated Aristides, and for the same reason. He hates him for being honest, manly, and sincere; he hates him for the integrity of his principles, for the purity of his faith, and for the reality of his freedom; he hates him for his prosperity, for his progress, and for his power. And while the Frenchman capers in his fetters, and takes his promenade under the shadow of the fortifications of Paris; while the German talks of constitutions in the moon; and while the Holy Alliance amuses itself with remodelling kingdoms, John Bull may be well content to remain as he is, and leave them to such enjoyment as they can find in sulkiness and sneering.
Grey's brilliant debut appears not to have been sustained: he spoke little during the session, but talked much—a fatal distinction to a parliamentary aspirant. Ambitious of figuring, he attempted to figure on all occasions; and, once or twice, unluckily daring the great champion of the treasury bench to the field, he was driven from it with wounds which, if they did not teach him a sense of his weakness, at least taught him a sense of his danger. Mr Grey's credit, says Addington in a letter, "as a man of discretion and temper, remains to be established. His reputation for abilities has not increased within the last two months, while he has in all respects enhanced that of the person (Pitt) to whom he ventured to oppose himself."
In alluding to the intercourse of Addington with Wilberforce, the biographer, we think very justly, complains of the sillinesses which have transpired in the latter's diary. Addington took higher views on ecclesiastical subjects; and was less rapid in his movements for the abolition of the slave-trade; being of opinion that precipitate measures would only increase the traffic to an enormous extent, deprive England of all power of restraining the frightful atrocities of the middle passage; and, by throwing the whole trade into the hands of foreigners, leave it open to all the reckless abominations of mankind.
The result was, unfortunately, all that rational men anticipated. The trade carried on by the foreigner has been tripled, or even quadrupled; the horrors of the middle passage are without restraint; and the sufferings of the victims, on their march to the coast, by fatigue, want of food, and the cruelty of their treatment, are estimated to destroy nearly twice the number of those who ever cross the Atlantic. The very powers with whom we have already made treaties for the purpose of extinguishing this infernal traffic, are deepest in its commerce; and its extinction now seems hopeless, except through some of those tremendous visitations, by which Providence scourges crimes which have grown too large for the jurisdiction of man.
Lord Sidmouth, then far advanced in life, when he saw those remarks in the diary, naturally felt offended, but he bore the offence with dignity, merely saying, as he closed the volume, "Well, Wilberforce does not speak of me as he spoke to me, I am sorry to say." Of Wilberforce, no one can desire to doubt the general honesty; but that he was singularly trifling and inconstant, was evidently the opinion of his contemporaries in the House. The following anecdote is given from the author's notes on this point. "Lord Sidmouth told us, that one morning, at a cabinet meeting, after an important debate in the House of Commons, some one said, 'I wonder how Wilberforce voted last night:' on which Lord Liverpool observed, 'I do not know how he voted, but of this I am pretty sure, that in whatever way he voted, he repents of his vote this morning.' Lord Sidmouth added, 'It was odd enough, that I had no sooner returned to my office, than Wilberforce was announced, who said,—Lord Sidmouth, you will be surprised at the vote I gave last night, and, indeed, I am not myself altogether satisfied with it;'—to which I replied, My dear Wilberforce, I shall never be surprised at any vote you give.'"
During this session the abolition of Negro slavery first seriously attracted the notice of parliament. The conduct of it, in the House of Commons, was intrusted to Wilberforce; but, in his absence, in consequence of indisposition, Pitt, on the 9th of May 1798, moved the resolution, "that the House would, early in the next session, proceed to take into consideration the circumstances of the slave trade." In a cause like this, the humane and magnanimous mind of Burke naturally enlisted at once. But he was by no means of that school of humanity which gains the race, only by riding over every thing in its way. Red-hot humanity had no charms for the great philosopher; and, philanthropist as he was, he could discover no wisdom in measures which changed only one violence for another, pauperised the whites without liberating the blacks; and, while it cost twenty millions sterling to repair about third of the injury, left the unhappy African at the mercy of avarice round the circumference of the globe.
A letter from Huntingford says:—"Dr Lawrence, our Winchester acquaintance, called on me lately. He talked much on Mr Burke's ideas respecting the slave-trade. I found by him that Mr Burke foresaw the total ruin of the West-India colonies, if the trade were at once prohibited. He is for a better regulation of the ships which carry on that infamous commerce: he would lay the captains under restrictions, and punish them with rigour for wanton severity or brutal inhumanity to the slaves; and, when the poor creatures are purchased at the West-India islands, he would have them instructed in religion; and be permitted to purchase their own freedom, when by industry they should acquire a sufficient sum for that purpose. For their religious instruction he would erect more churches; and, to enable them in time to accumulate the price of their ransom, he would enact that the property of a slave should be as sacred as that of a freeman." Burke went further than opinions, for he embodied his sentiments in a paper entitled, "Sketch of a Negro Code," all outline of a bill in parliament, which is to be found in the collection of his works.
In August of this year, Addington mentioned that Lord Grenville passed a month with him at Lyme, and that one day visiting Lord Rolle, a party were speculating on the probable successor to the Speaker (Cornwall)—Grenville and Addington giving it as their opinion, that neither of them had any chance. He adds, "within twelve months, we were both Speakers ourselves."
An important and melancholy event, however, threw the cabinet and the country alike into confusion. Early in November, it was ascertained that the King was taken dangerously ill. Three successive notes from Grenville represented the illness as most alarming, and giving room for apprehening of incurable disorder. As Dr Addington was known to have paid particular attention to cases of insanity, Pitt proposed his being summoned to visit the royal patient. In consequence, he visited his Majesty for several days, and on examination with the other physicians before the Privy Council, expressed a strong expectation of the royal recovery, founded on the circumstance that this illness had not, for its forerunner, any of the symptoms which usually precede a serious attack of this nature. The debates on the Regency Bill now brought out all the vigour of the House. The Whigs thundered at the gate of the cabinet; but there was a strong hand within, and it was still kept shut. The Prince of Wales, then under all the captivations of Whig balls and banquets, and worshiping at the feet of Fox, was no sooner to be master of the state by an unlimited Regency Bill, than Fox was to be master of every thing. Pitt still fought the battle with all the cool determination of one determined never to capitulate. Fox became in succession fierce, factious, and half frantic; still his great adversary stood on the vantage ground of law, and was imperturbable. But the contest now began to spread beyond the walls of parliament. The spirit of the nation, always siding with the brave defence, daily felt an increasing interest in the gallantry with which Pitt almost alone fought the ablest Opposition that had ever been ranged within the walls of Westminster, and inflamed by the sight of power almost within their grasp.
But the announcement of a sudden change in his Majesty's indisposition abated the contest at once. From the 8th to the 20th of February, the progress to health was palpable. On the 19th, the discussions on the Regency Bill were suspended in the House of Lords; and on the 6th of March, the Speaker and several members of the administration were admitted to present their congratulations to the King, at Kew, on his recovery.
We cannot resist the temptation of exhibiting Lord Sidmouth in the unsuspected character of a poet. As several millions of verses were poured out as the offerings of the Muse on the joyful occasion, as Parnassus was rifled by the Universities, and as every village school in the kingdom hung a pen-and-ink garland on the altar of AEsculapius or Hygeia; it was felt to be the bounden duty of every candidate for cabinet honours, to put his desk "in order," and rhyme, to the best of his power. Addington, in consequence, produced the following—
ON THE KINGS RECOVERY.
"When sinks the orb of day, a borrow'd light The moon displays, pale Regent of the night. Vain are her beams to bid the golden grain Spread plenty's blessings o'er the smiling plain; No power has she, except from shore to shore To bid the ocean's troubled billows roar. With hungry cries the wolf her coming greets; Then Rapine stalks triumphant through the streets; Avarice and Fraud in secret ambush lurk, And Treason's sons their desperate purpose work. But, lo! the Sun with orient splendour shines,"—— &c. &c. &c.
We cannot indulge ourselves with any more of this loyal lucubration—we think that the slur at the Regency was not quite fair; we were by no means aware that the moon was so mischievous; and, as our general conclusion, we must admit that, if his lordship did not gain the Laureateship, he amply deserved it. However, better times were at hand. Pitt, like all other eminent men, had a keen insight into character, and he had long known the especial qualities of Addington. This solves the difficulty of accounting at once for his continued personal intercourse, and yet his apparent official neglect. He knew him to be well-informed, intelligent, and honest; although his retiring habits had already given full evidence of his indisposition to face the storms of party.