It would be happy if this delusion were confined to themselves; but, alas, the world is weak enough to grant the indulgence which they assume. Vice, which is forgiven in one character, will soon cease to meet with sternness of rebuke when found in others. Even at first she will entreat pardon with confidence, assured that ere long she will be charitably supposed to stand in no need of it.
But let me ask you seriously, from the mode in which those distinctions are originally conferred, is it not almost necessary that, far from being the rewards of services rendered to the State, they should usually be the recompense of an industrious sacrifice of the general welfare to the particular aggrandisement of that power by which they are bestowed? Let us even alter their source, and consider them as proceeding from the Nation itself, and deprived of that hereditary quality; even here I should proscribe them, and for the most evident reason—that a man's past services are no sufficient security for his future character; he who to-day merits the civic wreath may to-morrow deserve the Tarpeian rock. Besides, where respect is not perverted, where the world is not taught to reverence men without regarding their conduct, the esteem of mankind will have a very different value, and, when a proper independence is secured, will be regarded as a sufficient recompense for services however important, and will be a much surer guarantee of the continuance of such virtues as may deserve it.
I have another strong objection to nobility, which is that it has a necessary tendency to dishonour labour, a prejudice which extends far beyond its own circle; that it binds down whole ranks of men to idleness, while it gives the enjoyment of a reward which exceeds the hopes of the most active exertions of human industry. The languid tedium of this noble repose must be dissipated, and gaming, with the tricking manoeuvres of the horse-race, afford occupation to hours which it would be happy for mankind had they been totally unemployed.
Reflecting on the corruption of the public manners, does your Lordship shudder at the prostitution which miserably deluges our streets? You may find the cause in our aristocratical prejudices. Are you disgusted with the hypocrisy and sycophancy of our intercourse in private life? You may find the cause in the necessity of dissimulation which we have established by regulations which oblige us to address as our superiors, indeed as our masters, men whom we cannot but internally despise. Do you lament that such large portions of mankind should stoop to occupations unworthy the dignity of their nature? You may find in the pride and luxury thought necessary to nobility how such servile arts are encouraged. Besides, where the most honourable of the Land do not blush to accept such offices as groom of the bedchamber, master of the hounds, lords in waiting, captain of the honourable band of gentlemen-pensioners, is it astonishing that the bulk of the people should not ask of an occupation, what is it? but what may be gained by it?
If the long equestrian train of equipage should make your Lordship sigh for the poor who are pining in hunger, you will find that little is thought of snatching the bread from their mouths to eke out the 'necessary splendour' of nobility.
I have not time to pursue this subject further, but am so strongly impressed with the baleful influence of aristocracy and nobility upon human happiness and virtue, that if, as I am persuaded, monarchy cannot exist without such supporters, I think that reason sufficient for the preference I have given to the Republican system.
It is with reluctance that I quit the subjects I have just touched upon; but the nature of this Address does not permit me to continue the discussion. I proceed to what more immediately relates to this Kingdom at the present crisis.
You ask with triumphant confidence, to what other law are the people of England subject than the general will of the society to which they belong? Is your Lordship to be told that acquiescence is not choice, and that obedience is not freedom? If there is a single man in Great Britain who has no suffrage in the election of a representative, the will of the society of which he is a member is not generally expressed; he is a Helot in that society. You answer the question, so confidently put, in this singular manner: 'The King, we are all justly persuaded, has not the inclination—and we all know that, if he had the inclination, he has not the power—to substitute his will in the place of law. The House of Lords has no such power. The House of Commons has no such power.' This passage, so artfully and unconstitutionally framed to agree with the delusions of the moment, cannot deceive a thinking reader. The expression of your full persuasion of the upright intentions of the King can only be the language of flattery. You are not to be told that it is constitutionally a maxim not to attribute to the person of the King the measures and misconduct of government. Had you chosen to speak, as you ought to have done, openly and explicitly, you must have expressed your just persuasion and implicit confidence in the integrity, moderation, and wisdom of his Majesty's ministers. Have you forgot the avowed ministerial maxim of Sir Robert Walpole? Are you ignorant of the overwhelming corruption of the present day?
You seem unconscious of the absurdity of separating what is inseparable even in imagination. Would it have been any consolation to the miserable Romans under the second triumvirate to have been asked insultingly, Is it Octavius, is it Anthony, or is it Lepidus that has caused this bitterness of affliction? and when the answer could not be returned with certainty, to have been reproached that their sufferings were imaginary? The fact is that the King and Lords and Commons, by what is termed the omnipotence of Parliament, have constitutionally the right of enacting whatever laws they please, in defiance of the petitions or remonstrances of the nation. They have the power of doubling our enormous debt of 240 millions, and may pursue measures which could never be supposed the emanation of the general will without concluding the people stripped of reason, of sentiment, and even of that first instinct which prompts them to preserve their own existence.
I congratulate your Lordship upon your enthusiastic fondness for the judicial proceedings of this country. I am happy to find you have passed through life without having your fleece torn from your back in the thorny labyrinth of litigation. But you have not lived always in colleges, and must have passed by some victims, whom it cannot be supposed, without a reflection on your heart, that you have forgotten. Here I am reminded of what I have said on the subject of representation—to be qualified for the office of legislation you should have felt like the bulk of mankind; their sorrows should be familiar to you, of which, if you are ignorant, how can you redress them? As a member of the assembly which, from a confidence in its experience, sagacity, and wisdom, the constitution has invested with the supreme appellant jurisdiction to determine the most doubtful points of an intricate jurisprudence, your Lordship cannot, I presume, be ignorant of the consuming expense of our never-ending process, the verbosity of unintelligible statutes, and the perpetual contrariety in our judicial decisions.
'The greatest freedom that can be enjoyed by man in a state of civil society, the greatest security that can be given with respect to the protection of his character, property, personal liberty, limb, and life, is afforded to every individual by our present constitution.'
'Let it never be forgotten by ourselves, and let us impress the observation upon the hearts of our children, that we are in possession of both (liberty and equality), of as much of both as can be consistent with the end for which civil society was introduced among mankind.'
Many of my readers will hardly believe me when I inform them that these passages are copied verbatim from your Appendix. Mr. Burke roused the indignation of all ranks of men when, by a refinement in cruelty superior to that which in the East yokes the living to the dead, he strove to persuade us that we and our posterity to the end of time were riveted to a constitution by the indissoluble compact of—a dead parchment, and were bound to cherish a corpse at the bosom when reason might call aloud that it should be entombed. Your Lordship aims at the same detestable object by means more criminal, because more dangerous and insidious. Attempting to lull the people of England into a belief that any inquiries directed towards the nature of liberty and equality can in no other way lead to their happiness than by convincing them that they have already arrived at perfection in the science of government, what is your object but to exclude them for ever from the most fruitful field of human knowledge? Besides, it is another cause to execrate this doctrine that the consequence of such fatal delusion would be that they must entirely draw off their attention, not only from the government, but from their governors; that the stream of public vigilance, far from clearing and enriching the prospect of society, would by its stagnation consign it to barrenness, and by its putrefaction infect it with death. You have aimed an arrow at liberty and philosophy, the eyes of the human race; why, like the inveterate enemy of Philip, in putting your name to the shaft, did you not declare openly its destination?
As a teacher of religion, your Lordship cannot be ignorant of a class of breaches of duty which may be denominated faults of omission. You profess to give your opinions upon the present turbulent crisis, expressing a wish that they may have some effect in tranquillising the minds of the people. Whence comes it, then, that the two grand causes of this working of the popular mind are passed over in silence? Your Lordship's conduct may bring to mind the story of a company of strolling comedians, who gave out the play of Hamlet as the performance of the evening. The audience were not a little surprised to be told, on the drawing up of the curtain, that from circumstances of particular convenience it was hoped they would dispense with the omission of the character of—Hamlet! But to be serious—for the subject is serious in the extreme—from your silence respecting the general call for a PARLIAMENTARY REFORM, supported by your assertion that we at present enjoy as great a portion of liberty and equality as is consistent with civil society, what can be supposed but that you are a determined enemy to the redress of what the people of England call and feel to be grievances?
From your omitting to speak upon the war, and your general disapprobation of French measures and French principles, expressed particularly at this moment, we are necessarily led also to conclude that you have no wish to dispel an infatuation which is now giving up to the sword so large a portion of the poor, and consigning the rest to the more slow and more painful consumption of want. I could excuse your silence on this point, as it would ill become an English bishop at the close of the eighteenth century to make the pulpit the vehicle of exhortations which would have disgraced the incendiary of the Crusades, the hermit Peter. But you have deprived yourself of the plea of decorum by giving no opinion on the REFORM OF THE LEGISLATURE. As undoubtedly you have some secret reason for the reservation of your sentiments on this latter head, I cannot but apply the same reason to the former. Upon what principle is your conduct to be explained? In some parts of England it is quaintly said, when a drunken man is seen reeling towards his home, that he has business on both sides of the road. Observing your Lordship's tortuous path, the spectators will be far from insinuating that you have partaken of Mr. Burke's intoxicating bowl; they will content themselves, shaking their heads as you stagger along, with remarking that you have business on both sides of the road.
The friends of Liberty congratulate themselves upon the odium under which they are at present labouring, as the causes which have produced it have obliged so many of her false adherents to disclaim with officious earnestness any desire to promote her interests; nor are they disheartened by the diminution which their body is supposed already to have sustained. Conscious that an enemy lurking in our ranks is ten times more formidable than when drawn out against us, that the unblushing aristocracy of a Maury or a Cazales is far less dangerous than the insidious mask of patriotism assumed by a La Fayette or a Mirabeau, we thank you for your desertion. Political convulsions have been said particularly to call forth concealed abilities, but it has been seldom observed how vast is their consumption of them. Reflecting upon the fate of the greatest portion of the members of the constituent and legislative assemblies, we must necessarily be struck with a prodigious annihilation of human talents. Aware that this necessity is attached to a struggle for Liberty, we are the less sorry that we can expect no advantage from the mental endowments of your Lordship.
APPENDIX to Bishop Watson's Sermon.
[It is deemed expedient to reprint here the Appendix to Bishop Watson's Sermon, which is animadverted on in the preceding Apology. G.]
The Sermon which is now, for the first time, published, was written many years ago; it may, perhaps, on that account be more worthy of the attention of those for whose benefit it is designed. If it shall have any effect in calming the perturbation which has been lately excited, and which still subsists in the minds of the lower classes of the community, I shall not be ashamed of having given to the world a composition in every other light uninteresting. I will take this opportunity of adding, with the same intention, a few reflections on the present circumstances of our own and of a neighbouring country.
With regard to France—I have no hesitation in declaring, that the object which the French seemed to have in view at the commencement of their revolution had my hearty approbation. The object was to free themselves and their posterity from arbitrary power. I hope there is not a man in Great Britain so little sensible of the blessings of that free constitution under which he has the happiness to live, so entirely dead to the interests of general humanity, as not to wish that a constitution similar to our own might be established, not only in France, but in every despotic state in Europe; not only in Europe, but in every quarter of the globe.
It is one thing to approve of an end, another to approve of the means by which an end is accomplished. I did not approve of the means by which the first revolution was effected in France. I thought that it would have been a wiser measure to have abridged the oppressive privileges, and to have lessened the enormous number of the nobility, than to have abolished the order. I thought that the State ought not in justice to have seized any part of the property of the Church, till it had reverted, as it were, to the community, by the death of its immediate possessors. I thought that the king was not only treated with unmerited indignity, but that too little authority was left him to enable him, as the chief executive magistrate, to be useful to the State. These were some of my reasons for not approving the means by which the first revolution in France was brought about. As to other evils which took place on the occasion, I considered them certainly as evils of importance; but at the same time as evils inseparable from a state of civil commotion, and which I conceived would be more than compensated by the establishment of a limited monarchy.
The French have abandoned the constitution they had at first established, and have changed it for another. No one can reprobate with more truth than I do both the means and the end of this change. The end has been the establishment of a republic. Now a republic is a form of government which, of all others, I most dislike—and I dislike it for this reason; because of all forms of government, scarcely excepting the most despotic, I think a republic the most oppressive to the bulk of the people: they are deceived in it with the show of liberty; but they live in it under the most odious of all tyrannies, the tyranny of their equals. With respect to the means by which this new republic has been erected in France, they have been sanguinary, savage, more than brutal. They not merely fill the heart of every individual with commiseration for the unfortunate sufferers, but they exhibit to the eye of contemplation an humiliating picture of human nature, when its passions are not regulated by religion, or controlled by law. I fly with terror and abhorrence even from the altar of Liberty, when I see it stained with the blood of the aged, of the innocent, of the defenceless sex, of the ministers of religion, and of the faithful adherents of a fallen monarch. My heart sinks within me when I see it streaming with the blood of the monarch himself. Merciful God! strike speedily, we beseech Thee, with deep contrition and sincere remorse, the obdurate hearts of the relentless perpetrators and projectors of these horrid deeds, lest they should suddenly sink into eternal and extreme perdition, loaded with an unutterable weight of unrepented and, except through the blood of Him whose religion they reject, inexpiable sin.
The monarch, you will tell me, was guilty of perfidy and perjury. I know not that he was guilty of either; but admitting that he has been guilty of both, who, alas, of the sons of men is so confident in the strength of his own virtue, so assured of his own integrity and intrepidity of character, as to be certain that, under similar temptations, he would not have been guilty of similar offences? Surely it would have been no diminution of the sternness of new republican virtue, no disgrace to the magnanimity of a great nation, if it had pardoned the perfidy which its own oppression had occasioned, if it had remitted the punishment of the perjury of the king to the tribunal of Him by whom kings reign and princes decree justice.
And are there any men in this kingdom, except such as find their account in public confusion, who would hazard the introduction of such scenes of rapine, barbarity, and bloodshed, as have disgraced France and outraged humanity, for the sake of obtaining—what?—Liberty and Equality. I suspect that the meaning of these terms is not clearly and generally understood: it may be of use to explain them.
The liberty of a man in a state of nature consists in his being subject to no law but the law of nature; and the liberty of a man in a state of society consists in his being subject to no law but to the law enacted by the general will of the society to which he belongs. And to what other law is any man in Great Britain subject? The king, we are all justly persuaded, has not the inclination, and we all know that if he had the inclination, he has not the power, to substitute his will in the place of the law. The House of Lords has no such power; the House of Commons has no such power; the Church has no such power; the rich men of the country have no such power. The poorest man amongst us, the beggar at our door, is governed—not by the uncertain, passionate, arbitrary will of an individual—not by the selfish insolence of an aristocratic faction—not by the madness of democratic violence—but by the fixed, impartial, deliberate voice of law, enacted by the general suffrage of a free people. Is your property injured? Law, indeed, does not give you property; but it ascertains it. Property is acquired by industry and probity; by the exercise of talents and ingenuity; and the possession of it is secured by the laws of the community. Against whom think you is it secured? It is secured against thieves and robbers; against idle and profligate men, who, however low your condition may be, would be glad to deprive you of the little you possess. It is secured, not only against such disturbers of the public peace, but against the oppression of the noble, the rapacity of the powerful, and the avarice of the rich. The courts of British justice are impartial and incorrupt; they respect not the persons of men; the poor man's lamb is, in their estimation, as sacred as the monarch's crown; with inflexible integrity they adjudge to every man his own. Your property under their protection is secure. If your personal liberty be unjustly restrained, though but for an hour, and that by the highest servants of the crown, the crown cannot screen them; the throne cannot hide them; the law, with an undaunted arm, seizes them, and drags them with irresistible might to the judgment of whom?—of your equals—of twelve of your neighbours. In such a constitution as this, what is there to complain of on the score of liberty?
The greatest freedom that can be enjoyed by man in a state of civil society, the greatest security that can be given him with respect to the protection of his character, property, personal liberty, limb, and life, is afforded to every individual by our present constitution.
The equality of men in a state of nature does not consist in an equality of bodily strength or intellectual ability, but in their being equally free from the dominion of each other. The equality of men in a state of civil society does not consist in an equality of wisdom, honesty, ingenuity, industry, nor in an equality of property resulting from a due exertion of these talents; but in being equally subject to, equally protected by the same laws. And who knows not that every individual in this great nation is, in this respect, equal to every other? There is not one law for the nobles, another for the commons of the land—one for the clergy, another for the laity—one for the rich, another for the poor. The nobility, it is true, have some privileges annexed to their birth; the judges, and other magistrates, have some annexed to their office; and professional men have some annexed to their professions:—but these privileges are neither injurious to the liberty or property of other men. And you might as reasonably contend, that the bramble ought to be equal to the oak, the lamb to the lion, as that no distinctions should take place between the members of the same society. The burdens of the State are distributed through the whole community, with as much impartiality as the complex nature of taxation will admit; every man sustains a part in proportion to his strength; no order is exempted from the payment of taxes. Nor is any order of men exclusively entitled to the enjoyment of the lucrative offices of the State. All cannot enjoy them, but all enjoy a capacity of acquiring them. The son of the meanest man in the nation may become a general or an admiral, a lord chancellor or an archbishop. If any persons have been so simple as to suppose that even the French ever intended, by the term equality, an equality of property, they have been quite mistaken in their ideas. The French never understood by it anything materially different from what we and our ancestors have been in full possession of for many ages.
Other nations may deluge their land with blood in struggling for liberty and equality; but let it never be forgotten by ourselves, and let us impress the observation upon the hearts of our children, that we are in possession of both, of as much of both as can be consistent with the end for which civil society was introduced amongst mankind.
The provision which is made for the poor in this kingdom is so liberal, as, in the opinion of some, to discourage industry. The rental of the lands in England and Wales does not, I conjecture, amount to more than eighteen millions a year; and the poor rates amount to two millions. The poor then, at present, possess a ninth part of the landed rental of the country; and, reckoning ten pounds for the annual maintenance of each pauper, it may be inferred, that those who are maintained by the community do not constitute a fortieth part of the people. An equal division of land would be to the poor a great misfortune; they would possess far less than by the laws of the land they are at present entitled to. When we add to this consideration an account of the immense sums annually subscribed by the rich for the support of hospitals, infirmaries, dispensaries—for the relief of sufferers by fire, tempests, famine, loss of cattle, great sickness, and other misfortunes, all of which charities must cease were all men on a level, for all men would then be equally poor,—it cannot but excite one's astonishment that so foolish a system should have ever been so much as mentioned by any man of common sense. It is a system not practicable; and was it practicable, it would not be useful; and was it useful, it would not be just.
But some one may think, and, indeed, it has been studiously inculcated into the minds of the multitude, that a monarchy, even a limited one, is a far more expensive mode of civil government than a republic; that a civil-list of a million a year is an enormous sum, which might be saved to the nation. Supposing that every shilling of this sum could be saved, and that every shilling of it was expended in supporting the dignity of the crown—both which suppositions are entirely false—still should I think the liberty, the prosperity, the tranquillity, the happiness of this great nation cheaply purchased by such a sum; still should I think that he would be a madman in politics who would, by a change of the constitution, risk these blessings (and France supplies us with a proof that infinite risk would be run) for a paltry saving of expense. I am not, nor have ever been, the patron of corruption. So far as the civil-list has a tendency to corrupt the judgment of any member of either house of parliament, it has a bad tendency, which I wish it had not; but I cannot wish to see the splendour of the crown reduced to nothing, lest its proper weight in the scale of the constitution should be thereby destroyed. A great portion of this million is expended in paying the salaries of the judges, the interpreters of our law, the guardians of our lives and properties; another portion is expended in maintaining ambassadors at different courts, to protect the general concerns of the nation from foreign aggression; another portion is expended in pensions and donations to men of letters and ingenuity; to men who have, by naval, military, or civil services, just claims to the attention of their country; to persons of respectable families and connections, who have been humbled and broken down by misfortunes. I do not speak with accuracy, nor on such a subject is accuracy requisite; but I am not far wide of truth in saying, that a fifth part of the million is more than sufficient to defray the expenses of the royal household. What a mighty matter is it to complain of, that each individual contributes less than sixpence a year towards the support of the monarchy!
That the constitution of this country is so perfect as neither to require or admit of any improvement, is a proposition to which I never did or ever can assent; but I think it far too excellent to be amended by peasants and mechanics. I do not mean to speak of peasants and mechanics with any degree of disrespect; I am not so ignorant of the importance, either of the natural or social chain by which all the individuals of the human race are connected together, as to think disrespectfully of any link of it. Peasants and mechanics are as useful to the State as any other order of men; but their utility consists in their discharging well the duties of their respective stations; it ceases when they affect to become legislators; when they intrude themselves into concerns for which their education has not fitted them. The liberty of the press is a main support of the liberty of the nation; it is a blessing which it is our duty to transmit to posterity; but a bad use is sometimes made of it: and its use is never more pernicious than when it is employed to infuse into the minds of the lowest orders of the community disparaging ideas concerning the constitution of their country. No danger need be apprehended from a candid examination of our own constitution, or from a display of the advantages of any other; it will bear to be contrasted with the best: but all men are not qualified to make the comparison; and there are so many men, in every community, who wish to have no government at all, that an appeal to them on such a point ought never to be made.
There are, probably, in every government upon earth, circumstances which a man, accustomed to the abstract investigation of truth, may easily prove to be deviations from the rigid rule of strict political justice; but whilst these deviations are either generally not known, or, though known, generally acquiesced in as matters of little moment to the general felicity, I cannot think it to be the part, either of a good man or of a good citizen, to be zealous in recommending such matters to the discussion of ignorant and uneducated men.
I am far from insinuating, that the science of politics is involved in mystery; or that men of plain understandings should be debarred from examining the principles of the government to which they yield obedience. All that I contend for is this—that the foundations of our government ought not to be overturned, nor the edifice erected thereon tumbled into ruins, because an acute politician may pretend that he has discovered a flaw in the building, or that he could have laid the foundation after a better model.
What would you say to a stranger who should desire you to pull down your house, because, forsooth, he had built one in France or America, after what he thought a better plan? You would say to him: No, sir—my ancestors have lived in this mansion comfortably and honourably for many generations; all its walls are strong, and all its timbers sound: if I should observe a decay in any of its parts, I know how to make the reparation without the assistance of strangers; and I know too that the reparation, when made by myself, may be made without injury either to the strength or beauty of the building. It has been buffeted, in the course of ages, by a thousand storms; yet still it stands unshaken as a rock, the wonder of all my neighbours, each of whom sighs for one of a similar construction. Your house may be suited to your climate and temper, this is suited to mine. Permit me, however, to observe to you, that you have not yet lived long enough in your new house to be sensible of all the inconveniences to which it may be liable, nor have you yet had any experience of its strength; it has yet sustained no shocks; the first whirlwind may scatter its component members in the air; the first earthquake may shake its foundation; the first inundation may sweep the superstructure from the surface of the earth. I hope no accident will happen to your house, but I am satisfied with mine own.
Great calamities of every kind attend the breaking up of established governments:—yet there are some forms of government, especially when they happen to be badly administered, so exceedingly destructive of the happiness of mankind, that a change of them is not improvidently purchased at the expense of the mischief accompanying their subversion. Our government is not of that kind; look round the globe, and see if you can discover a single nation on all its surface so powerful, so rich, so beneficent, so free and happy as our own. May Heaven avert from the minds of my countrymen the slightest wish to abolish their constitution!
'Kingdoms,' observes Mr. Locke, 'have been overturned by the pride, ambition, and turbulency of private men; by the people's wantonness and desire to cast off the lawful authority of their rulers, as well as by the rulers' insolence, and endeavours to get and exercise an arbitrary power over the people.' The recent danger to our constitution was in my opinion small; for I considered its excellence to be so obvious to men even of the most unimproved understandings, that I looked upon it as an idle and fruitless effort, either in foreign or domestic incendiaries, to endeavour to persuade the bulk of the people to consent to an alteration of it in favour of a republic. I knew, indeed, that in every country the flagitious dregs of a nation were always ripe for revolutions; but I was sensible, at the same time, that it was the interest, not only of the opulent and powerful, not only of the mercantile and middle classes of life, but even of honest labourers and manufacturers, of every sober and industrious man, to resist the licentious principles of such pestilent members, shall I call them, or outcasts of society. Men better informed and wiser than myself thought that the constitution was in great danger. Whether in fact the danger was great or small, it is not necessary now to inquire; it may be more useful to declare that, in my humble opinion, the danger, of whatever magnitude it may have been, did not originate in any encroachments of either the legislative or executive power on the liberties or properties of the people; but in the wild fancies and turbulent tempers of discontented or ill-informed individuals. I sincerely rejoice that, through the vigilance of administration, this turbulency has received a check. The hopes of bad men have been disappointed, and the understandings of mistaken men have been enlightened, by the general and unequivocal judgment of a whole nation; a nation not more renowned for its bravery and its humanity, though justly celebrated for both, than for its loyalty to its princes, and, what is perfectly consistent with loyalty, for its love of liberty and attachment to the constitution. Wise men have formed it, brave men have bled for it; it is our part to preserve it.
London, Jan. 25, 1793.
II. THE CONVENTION OF CINTRA,
On the 'Convention of Cintra' see Preface in the present volume. G.
CONCERNING THE RELATIONS OF GREAT BRITAIN, SPAIN, AND PORTUGAL, TO EACH OTHER, AND TO THE COMMON ENEMY, AT THIS CRISIS; AND SPECIFICALLY AS AFFECTED BY THE CONVENTION OF CINTRA:
The whole brought to the test of those Principles, by which alone the Independence and Freedom of Nations can be Preserved or Recovered.
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Qui didicit patriae quid debeat;———— Quod sit conscripti, quod judicis officium; quae Partes in bellum missi ducis.
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BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.
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PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, AND ORME, PATERNOSTER-ROW.
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Bitter and earnest writing must not hastily be condemned; for men cannot contend coldly, and without affection, about things which they hold dear and precious. A politic man may write from his brain, without touch and sense of his heart; as in a speculation that appertaineth not unto him;—but a feeling Christian will express, in his words, a character of zeal or love. Lord Bacon.
The following pages originated in the opposition which was made by his Majesty's ministers to the expression, in public meetings and otherwise, of the opinions and feelings of the people concerning the Convention of Cintra. For the sake of immediate and general circulation, I determined (when I had made a considerable progress in the manuscript) to print it in different portions in one of the daily newspapers. Accordingly two portions of it (extending to page 25) were printed, in the months of December and January, in the Courier,—as being one of the most impartial and extensively circulated journals of the time. The reader is requested to bear in mind this previous publication: otherwise he will be at a loss to account for the arrangement of the matter in one instance in the earlier part of the work. An accidental loss of several sheets of the manuscript delayed the continuance of the publication in that manner, till the close of the Christmas holidays; and—the pressure of public business rendering it then improbable that room could be found, in the columns of the paper, regularly to insert matter extending to such a length—this plan of publication was given up.
It may be proper to state that, in the extracts which have been made from the Spanish Proclamations, I have been obliged to content myself with the translations which appeared in the public journals; having only in one instance had access to the original. This is, in some cases, to be regretted—where the language falls below the dignity of the matter: but in general it is not so; and the feeling has suggested correspondent expressions to the translators; hastily as, no doubt, they must have performed their work.
I must entreat the reader to bear in mind that I began to write upon this subject in November last; and have continued without bringing my work earlier to a conclusion, partly from accident, and partly from a wish to possess additional documents and facts. Passing occurrences have made changes in the situation of certain objects spoken of; but I have not thought it necessary to accommodate what I had previously written to these changes: the whole stands without alteration; except where additions have been made, or errors corrected.
As I have spoken without reserve of things (and of persons as far as it was necessary to illustrate things, but no further); and as this has been uniformly done according to the light of my conscience; I have deemed it right to prefix my name to these pages, in order that this last testimony of a sincere mind might not be wanting.
May 20th, 1809.
CONCERNING THE CONVENTION OF CINTRA.
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The Convention, recently concluded by the Generals at the head of the British army in Portugal, is one of the most important events of our time. It would be deemed so in France, if the Ruler of that country could dare to make it public with those merely of its known bearings and dependences with which the English people are acquainted; it has been deemed so in Spain and Portugal as far as the people of those countries have been permitted to gain, or have gained, a knowledge of it; and what this nation has felt and still feels upon the subject is sufficiently manifest. Wherever the tidings were communicated, they carried agitation along with them—a conflict of sensations in which, though sorrow was predominant, yet, through force of scorn, impatience, hope, and indignation, and through the universal participation in passions so complex, and the sense of power which this necessarily included—the whole partook of the energy and activity of congratulation and joy. Not a street, not a public room, not a fire-side in the island which was not disturbed as by a local or private trouble; men of all estates, conditions, and tempers were affected apparently in equal degrees. Yet was the event by none received as an open and measurable affliction: it had indeed features bold and intelligible to every one; but there was an under-expression which was strange, dark, and mysterious—and, accordingly as different notions prevailed, or the object was looked at in different points of view, we were astonished like men who are overwhelmed without forewarning—fearful like men who feel themselves to be helpless, and indignant and angry like men who are betrayed. In a word, it would not be too much to say that the tidings of this event did not spread with the commotion of a storm which sweeps visibly over our heads, but like an earthquake which rocks the ground under our feet.
How was it possible that it could be otherwise? For that army had been sent upon a service which appealed so strongly to all that was human in the heart of this nation—that there was scarcely a gallant father of a family who had not his moments of regret that he was not a soldier by profession, which might have made it his duty to accompany it; every high-minded youth grieved that his first impulses, which would have sent him upon the same errand, were not to be yielded to, and that after-thought did not sanction and confirm the instantaneous dictates or the reiterated persuasions of an heroic spirit. The army took its departure with prayers and blessings which were as widely spread as they were fervent and intense. For it was not doubted that, on this occasion, every person of which it was composed, from the General to the private soldier, would carry both into his conflicts with the enemy in the field, and into his relations of peaceful intercourse with the inhabitants, not only the virtues which might be expected from him as a soldier, but the antipathies and sympathies, the loves and hatreds of a citizen—of a human being—acting, in a manner hitherto unprecedented under the obligation of his human and social nature. If the conduct of the rapacious and merciless adversary rendered it neither easy nor wise—made it, I might say, impossible to give way to that unqualified admiration of courage and skill, made it impossible in relation to him to be exalted by those triumphs of the courteous affections, and to be purified by those refinements of civility which do, more than any thing, reconcile a man of thoughtful mind and humane dispositions to the horrors of ordinary war; it was felt that for such loss the benign and accomplished soldier would upon this mission be abundantly recompensed by the enthusiasm of fraternal love with which his Ally, the oppressed people whom he was going to aid in rescuing themselves, would receive him; and that this, and the virtues which he would witness in them, would furnish his heart with never-failing and far nobler objects of complacency and admiration. The discipline of the army was well known; and as a machine, or a vital organized body, the Nation was assured that it could not but be formidable; but thus to the standing excellence of mechanic or organic power seemed to be superadded, at this time, and for this service, the force of inspiration: could any thing therefore be looked for, but a glorious result? The army proved its prowess in the field; and what has been the result is attested, and long will be attested, by the downcast looks—the silence—the passionate exclamations—the sighs and shame of every man who is worthy to breathe the air or to look upon the green-fields of Liberty in this blessed and highly-favoured Island which we inhabit.
If I were speaking of things however weighty, that were long past and dwindled in the memory, I should scarcely venture to use this language; but the feelings are of yesterday—they are of to-day; the flower, a melancholy flower it is! is still in blow, nor will, I trust, its leaves be shed through months that are to come: for I repeat that the heart of the nation is in this struggle. This just and necessary war, as we have been accustomed to hear it styled from the beginning of the contest in the year 1793, had, some time before the Treaty of Amiens, viz. after the subjugation of Switzerland, and not till then, begun to be regarded by the body of the people, as indeed both just and necessary; and this justice and necessity were by none more clearly perceived, or more feelingly bewailed, than by those who had most eagerly opposed the war in its commencement, and who continued most bitterly to regret that this nation had ever borne a part in it. Their conduct was herein consistent: they proved that they kept their eyes steadily fixed upon principles; for, though there was a shifting or transfer of hostility in their minds as far as regarded persons, they only combated the same enemy opposed to them under a different shape; and that enemy was the spirit of selfish tyranny and lawless ambition. This spirit, the class of persons of whom I have been speaking, (and I would now be understood, as associating them with an immense majority of the people of Great Britain, whose affections, notwithstanding all the delusions which had been practised upon them, were, in the former part of the contest, for a long time on the side of their nominal enemies,) this spirit, when it became undeniably embodied in the French government, they wished, in spite of all dangers, should be opposed by war; because peace was not to be procured without submission, which could not but be followed by a communion, of which the word of greeting would be, on the one part, insult,—and, on the other, degradation. The people now wished for war, as their rulers had done before, because open war between nations is a defined and effectual partition, and the sword, in the hands of the good and the virtuous, is the most intelligible symbol of abhorrence. It was in order to be preserved from spirit-breaking submissions—from the guilt of seeming to approve that which they had not the power to prevent, and out of a consciousness of the danger that such guilt would otherwise actually steal upon them, and that thus, by evil communications and participations, would be weakened and finally destroyed, those moral sensibilities and energies, by virtue of which alone, their liberties, and even their lives, could be preserved,—that the people of Great Britain determined to encounter all perils which could follow in the train of open resistance.—There were some, and those deservedly of high character in the country, who exerted their utmost influence to counteract this resolution; nor did they give to it so gentle a name as want of prudence, but they boldly termed it blindness and obstinacy. Let them be judged with charity! But there are promptings of wisdom from the penetralia of human nature, which a people can hear, though the wisest of their practical Statesmen be deaf towards them. This authentic voice, the people of England had heard and obeyed: and, in opposition to French tyranny growing daily more insatiate and implacable, they ranged themselves zealously under their Government; though they neither forgot nor forgave its transgressions, in having first involved them in a war with a people then struggling for its own liberties under a twofold infliction—confounded by inbred faction, and beleagured by a cruel and imperious external foe. But these remembrances did not vent themselves in reproaches, nor hinder us from being reconciled to our Rulers, when a change or rather a revolution in circumstances had imposed new duties: and, in defiance of local and personal clamour, it may be safely said, that the nation united heart and hand with the Government in its resolve to meet the worst, rather than stoop its head to receive that which, it was felt, would not be the garland but the yoke of peace. Yet it was an afflicting alternative; and it is not to be denied, that the effort, if it had the determination, wanted the cheerfulness of duty. Our condition savoured too much of a grinding constraint—too much of the vassalage of necessity;—it had too much of fear, and therefore of selfishness, not to be contemplated in the main with rueful emotion. We desponded though we did not despair. In fact a deliberate and preparatory fortitude—a sedate and stern melancholy, which had no sunshine and was exhilarated only by the lightnings of indignation—this was the highest and best state of moral feeling to which the most noble-minded among us could attain.
But, from the moment of the rising of the people of the Pyrenean peninsula, there was a mighty change; we were instantaneously animated; and, from that moment, the contest assumed the dignity, which it is not in the power of any thing but hope to bestow: and, if I may dare to transfer language, prompted by a revelation of the state of being that admits not of decay or change, to the concerns and interests of our transitory planet, from that moment 'this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality.' This sudden elevation was on no account more welcome—was by nothing more endeared, than by the returning sense which accompanied it of inward liberty and choice, which gratified our moral yearnings, inasmuch as it would give henceforward to our actions as a people, an origination and direction unquestionably moral—as it was free—as it was manifestly in sympathy with the species—as it admitted therefore of fluctuations of generous feeling—of approbation and of complacency. We were intellectualized also in proportion; we looked backward upon the records of the human race with pride, and, instead of being afraid, we delighted to look forward into futurity. It was imagined that this new-born spirit of resistance, rising from the most sacred feelings of the human heart, would diffuse itself through many countries; and not merely for the distant future, but for the present, hopes were entertained as bold as they were disinterested and generous.
Never, indeed, was the fellowship of our sentient nature more intimately felt—never was the irresistible power of justice more gloriously displayed than when the British and Spanish Nations, with an impulse like that of two ancient heroes throwing down their weapons and reconciled in the field, cast off at once their aversions and enmities, and mutually embraced each other—to solemnize this conversion of love, not by the festivities of peace, but by combating side by side through danger and under affliction in the devotedness of perfect brotherhood. This was a conjunction which excited hope as fervent as it was rational. On the one side was a nation which brought with it sanction and authority, inasmuch as it had tried and approved the blessings for which the other had risen to contend: the one was a people which, by the help of the surrounding ocean and its own virtues, had preserved to itself through ages its liberty, pure and inviolated by a foreign invader; the other a high-minded nation, which a tyrant, presuming on its decrepitude, had, through the real decrepitude of its Government, perfidiously enslaved. What could be more delightful than to think of an intercourse beginning in this manner? On the part of the Spaniards their love towards us was enthusiasm and adoration; the faults of our national character were hidden from them by a veil of splendour; they saw nothing around us but glory and light; and, on our side, we estimated their character with partial and indulgent fondness;—thinking on their past greatness, not as the undermined foundation of a magnificent building, but as the root of a majestic tree recovered from a long disease, and beginning again to flourish with promise of wider branches and a deeper shade than it had boasted in the fulness of its strength. If in the sensations with which the Spaniards prostrated themselves before the religion of their country we did not keep pace with them—if even their loyalty was such as, from our mixed constitution of government and from other causes, we could not thoroughly sympathize with,—and if, lastly, their devotion to the person of their Sovereign appeared to us to have too much of the alloy of delusion,—in all these things we judged them gently: and, taught by the reverses of the French revolution, we looked upon these dispositions as more human—more social—and therefore as wiser, and of better omen, than if they had stood forth the zealots of abstract principles, drawn out of the laboratory of unfeeling philosophists. Finally, in this reverence for the past and present, we found an earnest that they were prepared to contend to the death for as much liberty as their habits and their knowledge enabled them to receive. To assist them and their neighbours the Portugueze in the attainment of this end, we sent to them in love and in friendship a powerful army to aid—to invigorate—and to chastise:—they landed; and the first proof they afforded of their being worthy to be sent on such a service—the first pledge of amity given by them was the victory of Vimiera; the second pledge (and this was from the hand of their Generals,) was the Convention of Cintra.
The reader will by this time have perceived, what thoughts were uppermost in my mind, when I began with asserting, that this Convention is among the most important events of our times:—an assertion, which was made deliberately, and after due allowance for that infirmity which inclines us to magnify things present and passing, at the expence of those which are past. It is my aim to prove, wherein the real importance of this event lies: and, as a necessary preparative for forming a right judgment upon it, I have already given a representation of the sentiments, with which the people of Great Britain and those of Spain looked upon each other. I have indeed spoken rather of the Spaniards than of the Portugueze; but what has been said, will be understood as applying in the main to the whole Peninsula. The wrongs of the two nations have been equal, and their cause is the same: they must stand or fall together. What their wrongs have been, in what degree they considered themselves united, and what their hopes and resolutions were, we have learned from public Papers issued by themselves and by their enemies. These were read by the people of this Country, at the time when they were severally published, with due impression.—- Pity, that those impressions could not have been as faithfully retained as they were at first received deeply! Doubtless, there is not a man in these Islands, who is not convinced that the cause of Spain is the most righteous cause in which, since the opposition of the Greek Republics to the Persian Invader at Thermopylae and Marathon, sword ever was drawn! But this is not enough. We are actors in the struggle; and, in order that we may have steady PRINCIPLES to controul and direct us, (without which we may do much harm, and can do no good,) we ought to make it a duty to revive in the memory those words and facts, which first carried the conviction to our hearts: that, as far as it is possible, we may see as we then saw, and feel as we then felt. Let me therefore entreat the Reader seriously to peruse once more such parts of those Declarations as I shall extract from them. I feel indeed with sorrow, that events are hurrying us forward, as down the Rapid of an American river, and that there is too much danger before, to permit the mind easily to turn back upon the course which is past. It is indeed difficult.—But I need not say, that to yield to the difficulty, would be degrading to rational beings. Besides, if from the retrospect, we can either gain strength by which we can overcome, or learn prudence by which we may avoid, such submission is not only degrading, but pernicious. I address these words to those who have feeling, but whose judgment is overpowered by their feelings:—such as have not, and who are mere slaves of curiosity, calling perpetually for something new, and being able to create nothing new for themselves out of old materials, may be left to wander about under the yoke of their own unprofitable appetite.—Yet not so! Even these I would include in my request: and conjure them, as they are men, not to be impatient, while I place before their eyes, a composition made out of fragments of those Declarations from various parts of the Peninsula, which, disposed as it were in a tesselated pavement, shall set forth a story which may be easily understood; which will move and teach, and be consolatory to him who looks upon it. I say, consolatory: and let not the Reader shrink from the word. I am well aware of the burthen which is to be supported, of the discountenance from recent calamity under which every thing, which speaks of hope for the Spanish people, and through them for mankind, will be received. But this, far from deterring, ought to be an encouragement; it makes the duty more imperious. Nevertheless, whatever confidence any individual of meditative mind may have in these representations of the principles and feelings of the people of Spain, both as to their sanctity and truth, and as to their competence in ordinary circumstances to make these acknowledged, it would be unjust to recall them to the public mind, stricken as it is by present disaster, without attempting to mitigate the bewildering terror which accompanies these events, and which is caused as much by their nearness to the eye, as by any thing in their own nature. I shall, however, at present confine myself to suggest a few considerations, some of which will be developed hereafter, when I resume the subject.
It appears then, that the Spanish armies have sustained great defeats, and have been compelled to abandon their positions, and that these reverses have been effected by an army greatly superior to the Spanish forces in number, and far excelling them in the art and practice of war. This is the sum of those tidings, which it was natural we should receive with sorrow, but which too many have received with dismay and despair, though surely no events could be more in the course of rational expectation. And what is the amount of the evil?—It is manifest that, though a great army may easily defeat or disperse another army, less or greater, yet it is not in a like degree formidable to a determined people, nor efficient in a like degree to subdue them, or to keep them in subjugation—much less if this people, like those of Spain in the present instance, be numerous, and, like them, inhabit a territory extensive and strong by nature. For a great army, and even several great armies, cannot accomplish this by marching about the country, unbroken, but each must split itself into many portions, and the several detachments become weak accordingly, not merely as they are small in size, but because the soldiery, acting thus, necessarily relinquish much of that part of their superiority, which lies in what may be called the enginery of war; and far more, because they lose, in proportion as they are broken, the power of profiting by the military skill of the Commanders, or by their own military habits. The experienced soldier is thus brought down nearer to the plain ground of the inexperienced, man to the level of man: and it is then, that the truly brave man rises, the man of good hopes and purposes; and superiority in moral brings with it superiority in physical power. Hence, if the Spanish armies have been defeated, or even dispersed, it not only argues a want of magnanimity, but of sense, to conclude that the cause therefore is lost. Supposing that the spirit of the people is not crushed, the war is now brought back to that plan of conducting it, which was recommended by the Junta of Seville in that inestimable paper entitled 'PRECAUTIONS,' which plan ought never to have been departed from, except by compulsion, or with a moral certainty of success; and which the Spaniards will now be constrained to re-adopt, with the advantage, that the lesson, which has been received, will preclude the possibility of their ever committing the same error. In this paper it is said, 'let the first object be to avoid all general actions, and to convince ourselves of the very great hazards without any advantage or the hope of it, to which they would expose us.' The paper then gives directions, how the war ought to be conducted as a war of partizans, and shews the peculiar fitness of the country for it. Yet, though relying solely on this unambitious mode of warfare, the framers of the paper, which is in every part of it distinguished by wisdom, speak with confident thoughts of success. To this mode of warfare, then, after experience of calamity from not having trusted in it; to this, and to the people in whom the contest originated, and who are its proper depository, that contest is now referred.
Secondly, if the spirits of the Spaniards be not broken by defeat, which is impossible, if the sentiments that have been publicly expressed be fairly characteristic of the nation, and do not belong only to particular spots or to a few individuals of superior mind,—a doubt, which the internal evidence of these publications, sanctioned by the resistance already made, and corroborated by the universal consent with which certain qualities have been attributed to the Spaniards in all ages, encourages us to repel;—then are there mighty resources in the country which have not yet been called forth. For all has hitherto been done by the spontaneous efforts of the people, acting under little or no compulsion of the Government, but with its advice and exhortation. It is an error to suppose, that, in proportion as a people are strong, and act largely for themselves, the Government must therefore be weak. This is not a necessary consequence even in the heat of Revolution, but only when the people are lawless from want of a steady and noble object among themselves for their love, or in the presence of a foreign enemy for their hatred. In the early part of the French Revolution, indeed as long as it was evident that the end was the common safety, the National Assembly had the power to turn the people into any course, to constrain them to any task, while their voluntary efforts, as far as these could be exercised, were not abated in consequence. That which the National Assembly did for France, the Spanish Sovereign's authority acting through those whom the people themselves have deputed to represent him, would, in their present enthusiasm of loyalty, and condition of their general feelings, render practicable and easy for Spain. The Spaniards, it is true, with a thoughtfulness most hopeful for the cause which they have undertaken, have been loth to depart from established laws, forms, and practices. This dignified feeling of self-restraint they would do well to cherish so far as never to depart from it without some reluctance;—but, when old and familiar means are not equal to the exigency, new ones must, without timidity, be resorted to, though by many they may be found harsh and ungracious. Nothing but good would result from such conduct. The well-disposed would rely more confidently upon a Government which thus proved that it had confidence in itself. Men, less zealous, and of less comprehensive minds, would soon be reconciled to measures from which at first they had revolted; the remiss and selfish might be made servants of their country, through the influence of the same passions which had prepared them to become slaves of the Invader; or, should this not be possible, they would appear in their true character, and the main danger to be feared from them would be prevented. The course which ought to be pursued is plain. Either the cause has lost the people's love, or it has not. If it has, let the struggle be abandoned. If it has not, let the Government, in whatever shape it may exist, and however great may be the calamities under which it may labour, act up to the full stretch of its rights, nor doubt that the people will support it to the full extent of their power. If, therefore, the Chiefs of the Spanish Nation be men of wise and strong minds, they will bring both the forces, those of the Government and of the people, into their utmost action; tempering them in such a manner that neither shall impair or obstruct the other, but rather that they shall strengthen and direct each other for all salutary purposes.
Thirdly, it was never dreamt by any thinking man, that the Spaniards were to succeed by their army; if by their army be meant any thing but the people. The whole people is their army, and their true army is the people, and nothing else. Five hundred men, who in the early part of the struggle had been taken prisoners,—I think it was at the battle of Rio Seco—were returned by the French General under the title of Galician Peasants, a title, which the Spanish General, Blake, rejected and maintained in his answer that they were genuine soldiers, meaning regular troops. The conduct of the Frenchman was politic, and that of the Spaniard would have been more in the spirit of his cause and of his own noble character, if, waiving on this occasion the plea of any subordinate and formal commission which these men might have, he had rested their claim to the title of soldiers on its true ground, and affirmed that this was no other than the rights of the cause which they maintained, by which rights every Spaniard was a soldier who could appear in arms, and was authorized to take that place, in which it was probable, to those under whom he acted, and on many occasions to himself, that he could most annoy the enemy. But these patriots of Galicia were not clothed alike, nor perhaps armed alike, nor had the outward appearance of those bodies, which are called regular troops; and the Frenchman availed himself of this pretext, to apply to them that insolent language, which might, I think, have been more nobly repelled on a more comprehensive principle. For thus are men of the gravest minds imposed upon by the presumptuous; and through these influences it comes, that the strength of a tyrant is in opinion—not merely in the opinion of those who support him, but alas! even of those who willingly resist, and who would resist effectually, if it were not that their own understandings betray them, being already half enslaved by shews and forms. The whole Spanish nation ought to be encouraged to deem themselves an army, embodied under the authority of their country and of human nature. A military spirit should be there, and a military action, not confined like an ordinary river in one channel, but spreading like the Nile over the whole face of the land. Is this possible? I believe it is: if there be minds among them worthy to lead, and if those leading minds cherish a civic spirit by all warrantable aids and appliances, and, above all other means, by combining a reverential memory of their elder ancestors with distinct hopes of solid advantage, from the privileges of freedom, for themselves and their posterity—to which the history and the past state of Spain furnish such enviable facilities; and if they provide for the sustenance of this spirit, by organizing it in its primary sources, not timidly jealous of a people, whose toils and sacrifices have approved them worthy of all love and confidence, and whose failing of excess, if such there exist, is assuredly on the side of loyalty to their Sovereign, and predilection for all established institutions. We affirm, then, that a universal military spirit may be produced; and not only this, but that a much more rare and more admirable phenomenon may be realized—the civic and military spirit united in one people, and in enduring harmony with each other. The people of Spain, with arms in their hands, are already in an elevated mood, to which they have been raised by the indignant passions, and the keen sense of insupportable wrong and insult from the enemy, and its infamous instruments. But they must be taught, not to trust too exclusively to the violent passions, which have already done much of their peculiar task and service. They must seek additional aid from affections, which less imperiously exclude all individual interests, while at the same time they consecrate them to the public good.—But the enemy is in the heart of their Land! We have not forgotten this. We would encourage their military zeal, and all qualities especially military, by all rewards of honourable ambition, and by rank and dignity conferred on the truly worthy, whatever may be their birth or condition, the elevating influence of which would extend from the individual possessor to the class from which he may have sprung. For the necessity of thus raising and upholding the military spirit, we plead: but yet the professional excellencies of the soldier must be contemplated according to their due place and relation. Nothing is done, or worse than nothing, unless something higher be taught, as higher, something more fundamental, as more fundamental. In the moral virtues and qualities of passion which belong to a people, must the ultimate salvation of a people be sought for. Moral qualities of a high order, and vehement passions, and virtuous as vehement, the Spaniards have already displayed; nor is it to be anticipated, that the conduct of their enemies will suffer the heat and glow to remit and languish. These may be trusted to themselves, and to the provocations of the merciless Invader. They must now be taught, that their strength chiefly lies in moral qualities, more silent in their operation, more permanent in their nature; in the virtues of perseverance, constancy, fortitude, and watchfulness, in a long memory and a quick feeling, to rise upon a favourable summons, a texture of life which, though cut through (as hath been feigned of the bodies of the Angels) unites again—these are the virtues and qualities on which the Spanish People must be taught mainly to depend. These it is not in the power of their Chiefs to create; but they may preserve and procure to them opportunities of unfolding themselves, by guarding the Nation against an intemperate reliance on other qualities and other modes of exertion, to which it could never have resorted in the degree in which it appears to have resorted to them without having been in contradiction to itself, paying at the same time an indirect homage to its enemy. Yet, in hazarding this conditional censure, we are still inclined to believe, that, in spite of our deductions on the score of exaggeration, we have still given too easy credit to the accounts furnished by the enemy, of the rashness with which the Spaniards engaged in pitched battles, and of their dismay after defeat. For the Spaniards have repeatedly proclaimed, and they have inwardly felt, that their strength was from their cause—of course, that it was moral. Why then should they abandon this, and endeavour to prevail by means in which their opponents are confessedly so much superior? Moral strength is their's; but physical power for the purposes of immediate or rapid destruction is on the side of their enemies. This is to them no disgrace, but, as soon as they understand themselves, they will see that they are disgraced by mistrusting their appropriate stay, and throwing themselves upon a power which for them must be weak. Nor will it then appear to them a sufficient excuse, that they were seduced into this by the splendid qualities of courage and enthusiasm, which, being the frequent companions, and, in given circumstances, the necessary agents of virtue, are too often themselves hailed as virtues by their own title. But courage and enthusiasm have equally characterized the best and the worst beings, a Satan, equally with an ABDIEL—a BONAPARTE equally with a LEONIDAS. They are indeed indispensible to the Spanish soldiery, in order that, man to man, they may not be inferior to their enemies in the field of battle. But inferior they are and long must be in warlike skill and coolness; inferior in assembled numbers, and in blind mobility to the preconceived purposes of their leader. If therefore the Spaniards are not superior in some superior quality, their fall may be predicted with the certainty of a mathematical calculation. Nay, it is right to acknowledge, however depressing to false hope the thought may be, that from a people prone and disposed to war, as the French are, through the very absence of those excellencies which give a contra-distinguishing dignity to the Spanish character; that, from an army of men presumptuous by nature, to whose presumption the experience of constant success has given the confidence and stubborn strength of reason, and who balance against the devotion of patriotism the superstition so naturally attached by the sensual and disordinate to the strange fortunes and continual felicity of their Emperor; that, from the armies of such a people a more manageable enthusiasm, a courage less under the influence of accidents, may be expected in the confusion of immediate conflict, than from forces like the Spaniards, united indeed by devotion to a common cause, but not equally united by an equal confidence in each other, resulting from long fellowship and brotherhood in all conceivable incidents of war and battle. Therefore, I do not hesitate to affirm, that even the occasional flight of the Spanish levies, from sudden panic under untried circumstances, would not be so injurious to the Spanish cause; no, nor so dishonourable to the Spanish character, nor so ominous of ultimate failure, as a paramount reliance on superior valour, instead of a principled reposal on superior constancy and immutable resolve. Rather let them have fled once and again, than direct their prime admiration to the blaze and explosion of animal courage, in slight of the vital and sustaining warmth of fortitude; in slight of that moral contempt of death and privation, which does not need the stir and shout of battle to call it forth or support it, which can smile in patience over the stiff and cold wound, as well as rush forward regardless, because half senseless of the fresh and bleeding one. Why did we give our hearts to the present cause of Spain with a fervour and elevation unknown to us in the commencement of the late Austrian or Prussian resistance to France? Because we attributed to the former an heroic temperament which would render their transfer to such domination an evil to human nature itself, and an affrightening perplexity in the dispensations of Providence. But if in oblivion of the prophetic wisdom of their own first leaders in the cause, they are surprised beyond the power of rallying, utterly cast down and manacled by fearful thoughts from the first thunder-storm of defeat in the field, wherein do they differ from the Prussians and Austrians? Wherein are they a People, and not a mere army or set of armies? If this be indeed so, what have we to mourn over but our own honourable impetuosity, in hoping where no just ground of hope existed? A nation, without the virtues necessary for the attainment of independence, have failed to attain it. This is all. For little has that man understood the majesty of true national freedom, who believes that a population, like that of Spain, in a country like that of Spain, may want the qualities needful to fight out their independence, and yet possess the excellencies which render men susceptible of true liberty. The Dutch, the Americans, did possess the former; but it is, I fear, more than doubtful whether the one ever did, or the other ever will, evince the nobler morality indispensible to the latter.
It was not my intention that the subject should at present have been pursued so far. But I have been carried forward by a strong wish to be of use in raising and steadying the minds of my countrymen, an end to which every thing that I shall say hereafter (provided it be true) will contribute. For all knowledge of human nature leads ultimately to repose; and I shall write to little purpose if I do not assist some portion of my readers to form an estimate of the grounds of hope and fear in the present effort of liberty against oppression, in the present or any future struggle which justice will have to maintain against might. In fact, this is my main object, 'the sea-mark of my utmost sail:' in order that, understanding the sources of strength and seats of weakness, both in the tyrant and in those who would save or rescue themselves from his grasp, we may act as becomes men who would guard their own liberties, and would draw a good use from the desire which they feel, and the efforts which they are making, to benefit the less favoured part of the family of mankind. With these as my ultimate objects, I have undertaken to examine the Convention of Cintra; and, as an indispensible preparative for forming a right judgment of this event, I have already faithfully exhibited the feelings of the people of Great Britain and of Spain towards each other, and have shewn by what sacred bonds they were united. With the same view, I shall next proceed to shew by what barrier of aversion, scarcely less sacred, the people of the Peninsula were divided from their enemies,—their feelings towards them, and their hopes for themselves; trusting, that I have already mitigated the deadening influences of recent calamity, and that the representation I shall frame, in the manner which has been promised, will speak in its true colours and life to the eye and heart of the spectator.
The government of Asturias, which was the first to rise against their oppressors, thus expresses itself in the opening of its Address to the People of that Province. 'Loyal Asturians! beloved Countrymen! your wishes are already fulfilled. The Principality, discharging those duties which are most sacred to men, has already declared war against France. You may perhaps dread this vigorous resolution. But what other measure could or ought we to adopt? Shall there be found one single man among us, who prefers the vile and ignominious death of slaves, to the glory of dying on the field of honour, with arms in his hand, defending our unfortunate monarch; our homes, our children, and our wives? If, in the very moment when those bands of banditti were receiving the kindest offices and favours from the inhabitants of our Capital, they murdered in cold blood upwards of two thousand people, for no other reason than their having defended their insulted brethren, what could we expect from them, had we submitted to their dominion? Their perfidious conduct towards our king and his whole family, whom they deceived and decoyed into France under the promise of an eternal armistice, in order to chain them all, has no precedent in history. Their conduct towards the whole nation is more iniquitous, than we had the right to expect from a horde of Hottentots. They have profaned our temples; they have insulted our religion; they have assailed our wives; in fine, they have broken all their promises, and there exists no right which they have not violated. To arms, Asturians! to arms!' The Supreme Junta of Government, sitting at Seville, introduces its declaration of war in words to the same effect. 'France, under the government of the emperor Napoleon the First, has violated towards Spain the most sacred compacts—has arrested her monarchs—obliged them to a forced and manifestly void abdication and renunciation; has behaved with the same violence towards the Spanish Nobles whom he keeps in his power—has declared that he will elect a king of Spain, the most horrible attempt that is recorded in history—has sent his troops into Spain, seized her fortresses and her Capital, and scattered his troops throughout the country—has committed against Spain all sorts of assassinations, robberies, and unheard-of cruelties; and this he has done with the most enormous ingratitude to the services which the Spanish nation has rendered France, to the friendship it has shewn her, thus treating it with the most dreadful perfidy, fraud, and treachery, such as was never committed against any nation or monarch by the most barbarous or ambitious king or people. He has in fine declared, that he will trample down our monarchy, our fundamental laws, and bring about the ruin of our holy catholic religion.—The only remedy therefore to such grievous ills, which are so manifest to all Europe, is in war, which we declare against him.' The injuries, done to the Portugueze Nation and Government, previous to its declaration of war against the Emperor of the French, are stated at length in the manifesto of the Court of Portugal, dated Rio Janeiro, May 1st, 1808; and to that the reader may he referred: but upon this subject I will beg leave to lay before him, the following extract from the Address of the supreme Junta of Seville to the Portugueze nation, dated May 30th, 1808. 'PORTUGUESE,—Your lot is, perhaps, the hardest ever endured by any people on the earth. Your princes were compelled to fly from you, and the events in Spain have furnished an irrefragable proof of the absolute necessity of that measure.—You were ordered not to defend yourselves, and you did not defend yourselves. Junot offered to make you happy, and your happiness has consisted in being treated with greater cruelty than the most ferocious conquerors inflict on the people whom they have subdued by force of arms and after the most obstinate resistance. You have been despoiled of your princes, your laws, your usages, your customs, your property, your liberty, even your lives, and your holy religion, which your enemies never have respected, however they may, according to their custom, have promised to protect it, and however they may affect and pretend to have any sense of it themselves. Your nobility has been annihilated,—its property confiscated in punishment of its fidelity and loyalty. You have been basely dragged to foreign countries, and compelled to prostrate yourselves at the feet of the man who is the author of all your calamities, and who, by the most horrible perfidy, has usurped your government, and rules you with a sceptre of iron. Even now your troops have left your borders, and are travelling in chains to die in the defence of him who has oppressed you; by which means his deep malignity may accomplish his purpose,—by destroying those who should constitute your strength, and by rendering their lives subservient to his triumphs, and to the savage glory to which he aspires.—Spain beheld your slavery, and the horrible evils which followed it, with mingled sensations of grief and despair. You are her brother, and she panted to fly to your assistance. But certain Chiefs, and a Government either weak or corrupt, kept her in chains, and were preparing the means by which the ruin of our king, our laws, our independence, our liberty, our lives, and even the holy religion in which we are united, might accompany your's,—by which a barbarous people might consummate their own triumph, and accomplish the slavery of every nation in Europe:—our loyalty, our honour, our justice, could not submit to such flagrant atrocity! We have broken our chains,—let us then to action.' But the story of Portugueze sufferings shall be told by Junot himself; who, in his proclamation to the people of Portugal (dated Palace of Lisbon, June 26,) thus speaks to them: 'You have earnestly entreated of him a king, who, aided by the omnipotence of that great monarch, might raise up again your unfortunate Country, and replace her in the rank which belongs to her. Doubtless at this moment your new monarch is on the point of visiting you.—He expects to find faithful Subjects—shall he find only rebels? I expected to have delivered over to him a peaceable kingdom and flourishing cities—shall I be obliged to shew him only ruins and heaps of ashes and dead bodies?—Merit pardon by prompt submission, and a prompt obedience to my orders; if not, think of the punishment which awaits you.—Every city, town, or village, which shall take up arms against my forces, and whose inhabitants shall rise upon the French troops, shall be delivered up to pillage and totally destroyed, and the inhabitants shall be put to the sword—every individual taken in arms shall be instantly shot.' That these were not empty threats, we learn from the bulletins published by authority of the same Junot, which at once shew his cruelty, and that of the persons whom he employed, and the noble resistance of the Portugueze. 'We entered Beia,' says one of those dismal chronicles, 'in the midst of great carnage. The rebels left 1200 dead on the field of battle; all those taken with arms in their hands were put to the sword, and all the houses from which we had been fired upon were burned.' Again in another, 'The spirit of insanity, which had led astray the inhabitants of Beia and rendered necessary the terrible chastisement which they have received, has likewise been exercised in the north of Portugal.' Describing another engagement, it is said, 'the lines endeavoured to make a stand, but they were forced; the massacre was terrible—more than a thousand dead bodies remained on the field of battle, and General Loison, pursuing the remainder of these wretches, entered Guerda with fixed bayonets.' On approaching Alpedrinha, they found the rebels posted in a kind of redoubt—'it was forced, the town of Alpedrinha taken, and delivered to the flames:' the whole of this tragedy is thus summed up—'In the engagements fought in these different marches, we lost twenty men killed, and 30 or 40 wounded. The insurgents have left at least 13000 dead in the field, the melancholy consequence of a frenzy which nothing can justify, which forces us to multiply victims, whom we lament and regret, but whom a terrible necessity obliges us to sacrifice.' 'It is thus,' continues the writer, 'that deluded men, ungrateful children as well as culpable citizens, exchange all their claims to the benevolence and protection of Government for misfortune and wretchedness; ruin their families; carry into their habitations desolation, conflagrations, and death; change flourishing cities into heaps of ashes—into vast tombs; and bring on their whole country calamities which they deserve, and from which (feeble victims!) they cannot escape. In fine, it is thus that, covering themselves with opprobrium and ridicule at the same time that they complete their destruction, they have no other resource but the pity of those they have wished to assassinate—a pity which they never have implored in vain, when acknowledging their crime, they have solicited pardon from Frenchmen, who, incapable of departing from their noble character, are ever as generous as they are brave.'—By order of Monseigneur le duc d'Abrantes, Commander in chief.'—Compare this with the Address of Massaredo to the Biscayans, in which there is the like avowal that the Spaniards are to be treated as Rebels. He tells them, that he is commanded by his master, Joseph Bonaparte, to assure them—'that, in case they disapprove of the insurrection in the City of Bilboa, his majesty will consign to oblivion the mistake and error of the Insurgents, and that he will punish only the heads and beginners of the insurrection, with regard to whom the law must take its course.'