To be the victim of such bloody-mindedness is a doleful lot for a Nation; and the anguish must have been rendered still more poignant by the scoffs and insults, and by that heinous contempt of the most awful truths, with which the Perpetrator of those cruelties has proclaimed them.—Merciless ferocity is an evil familiar to our thoughts; but these combinations of malevolence historians have not yet been called upon to record; and writers of fiction, if they have ever ventured to create passions resembling them, have confined, out of reverence for the acknowledged constitution of human nature, those passions to reprobate Spirits. Such tyranny is, in the strictest sense, intolerable; not because it aims at the extinction of life, but of every thing which gives life its value—of virtue, of reason, of repose in God, or in truth. With what heart may we suppose that a genuine Spaniard would read the following impious address from the Deputation, as they were falsely called, of his apostate countrymen at Bayonne, seduced or compelled to assemble under the eye of the Tyrant, and speaking as he dictated? 'Dear Spaniards, Beloved Countrymen!—Your habitations, your cities, your power, and your property, are as dear to us as ourselves; and we wish to keep all of you in our eye, that we may be able to establish your security.—We, as well as yourselves, are bound in allegiance to the old dynasty—to her, to whom an end has been put by that God-like Providence which rules all thrones and sceptres. We have seen the greatest states fall under the guidance of this rule, and our land alone has hitherto escaped the same fate. An unavoidable destiny has now overtaken our country, and brought us under the protection of the invincible Emperor of France.—We know that you will regard our present situation with the utmost consideration; and we have accordingly, in this conviction, been uniformly conciliating the friendship to which we are tied by so many obligations. With what admiration must we see the benevolence and humanity of his imperial and royal Majesty outstep our wishes—qualities which are even more to be admired than his great power! He has desired nothing else, than that we should be indebted to him for our welfare. Whenever he gives us a sovereign to reign over us in the person of his magnanimous brother Joseph, he will consummate our prosperity.—As he has been pleased to change our old system of laws, it becomes us to obey, and to live in tranquillity: as he has also promised to re-organize our financial system, we may hope that then our naval and military power will become terrible to our enemies, &c.'—That the Castilians were horror-stricken by the above blasphemies, which are the habitual language of the French Senate and Ministers to their Emperor, is apparent from an address dated Valladolid,—'He (Bonaparte) carries his audacity the length of holding out to us offers of happiness and peace, while he is laying waste our country, pulling down our churches, and slaughtering our brethren. His pride, cherished by a band of villains who are constantly anxious to offer incense on his shrine, and tolerated by numberless victims who pine in his chains, has caused him to conceive the fantastical idea of proclaiming himself Lord and Ruler of the whole world. There is no atrocity which he does not commit to attain that end.... Shall these outrages, these iniquities, remain unpunished while Spaniards—and Castilian Spaniards—yet exist?'
Many passages might be adduced to prove that carnage and devastation spread over their land have not afflicted this noble people so deeply as this more searching warfare against the conscience and the reason. They groan less over the blood which has been shed, than over the arrogant assumptions of beneficence made by him from whose order that blood has flowed. Still to be talking of bestowing and conferring, and to be happy in the sight of nothing but what he thinks he has bestowed or conferred, this, in a man to whom the weakness of his fellows has given great power, is a madness of pride more hideous than cruelty itself. We have heard of Attila and Tamerlane who called themselves the scourges of God, and rejoiced in personating the terrors of Providence; but such monsters do less outrage to the reason than he who arrogates to himself the gentle and gracious attributes of the Deity: for the one acts professedly from the temperance of reason, the other avowedly in the gusts of passion. Through the terrors of the Supreme Ruler of things, as set forth by works of destruction and ruin, we see but darkly; we may reverence the chastisement, may fear it with awe, but it is not natural to incline towards it in love: moreover, devastation passes away—a perishing power among things that perish: whereas to found, and to build, to create and to institute, to bless through blessing, this has to do with objects where we trust we can see clearly,—it reminds us of what we love,—it aims at permanence,—and the sorrow is, (as in the present instance the people of Spain feel) that it may last; that, if the giddy and intoxicated Being who proclaims that he does these things with the eye and through the might of Providence be not overthrown, it will last; that it needs must last:—and therefore would they hate and abhor him and his pride, even if he were not cruel; if he were merely an image of mortal presumption thrust in between them and the piety which is natural to the heart of man; between them and that religious worship which, as authoritatively as his reason forbids idolatry, that same reason commands. Accordingly, labouring under these violations done to their moral nature, they describe themselves, in the anguish of their souls, treated as a people at once dastardly and insensible. In the same spirit they make it even matter of complaint, as comparatively a far greater evil, that they have not fallen by the brute violence of open war, but by deceit and perfidy, by a subtle undermining, or contemptuous overthrow of those principles of good faith, through prevalence of which, in some degree, or under some modification or other, families, communities, a people, or any frame of human society, even destroying armies themselves can exist.
But enough of their wrongs; let us now see what were their consolations, their resolves, and their hopes. First, they neither murmur nor repine; but with genuine religion and philosophy they recognize in these dreadful visitations the ways of a benign Providence, and find in them cause for thankfulness. The Council of Castile exhort the people of Madrid 'to cast off their lethargy, and purify their manners, and to acknowledge the calamities which the kingdom and that great capital had endured as a punishment necessary to their correction.' General Morla in his address to the citizens of Cadiz thus speaks to them:—'The commotion, more or less violent, which has taken place in the whole peninsula of Spain, has been of eminent service to rouse us from the state of lethargy in which we indulged, and to make us acquainted with our rights, our glory, and the inviolable duty which we owe to our holy religion and our monarch. We wanted some electric stroke to rouse us from our paralytic state of inactivity; we stood in need of a hurricane to clear the atmosphere of the insalubrious vapours with which it was loaded.'—The unanimity with which the whole people were affected they rightly deem, an indication of wisdom, an authority, and a sanction,—and they refer it to its highest source. 'The defence of our country and our king,' (says a manifesto of the Junta of Seville) 'that of our laws, our religion, and of all the rights of man, trodden down and violated in a manner which is without example, by the Emperor of the French, Napoleon I. and by his troops in Spain, compelled the whole nation to take up arms, and choose itself a form of government; and, in the difficulties and dangers into which the French had plunged it, all, or nearly all the provinces, as it were by the inspiration of heaven, and in a manner little short of miraculous, created Supreme Juntas, delivered themselves up to their guidance, and placed in their hands the rights and the ultimate fate of Spain. The effects have hitherto most happily corresponded with the designs of those who formed them.'
With this general confidence, that the highest good may be brought out of the worst calamities, they have combined a solace, which is vouchsafed only to such nations as can recall to memory the illustrious deeds of their ancestors. The names of Pelayo and The Cid are the watch-words of the address to the people of Leon; and they are told that to these two deliverers of their country, and to the sentiments of enthusiasm which they excited in every breast, Spain owes the glory and happiness which she has so long enjoyed. The Biscayans are called to cast their eyes upon the ages which are past, and they will see their ancestors at one time repulsing the Carthaginians, at another destroying the hordes of Rome; at one period was granted to them the distinction of serving in the van of the army; at another the privilege of citizens. 'Imitate,' says the address, 'the glorious example of your worthy progenitors.' The Asturians, the Gallicians, and the city of Cordova, are exhorted in the same manner. And surely to a people thus united in their minds with the heroism of years which have been long departed, and living under such obligation of gratitude to their ancestors, it is not difficult, nay it is natural, to take upon themselves the highest obligations of duty to their posterity; to enjoy in the holiness of imagination the happiness of unborn ages to which they shall have eminently contributed; and that each man, fortified by these thoughts, should welcome despair for himself, because it is the assured mother of hope for his country.—'Life or Death,' says a proclamation affixed in the most public places of Seville, 'is in this crisis indifferent;—ye who shall return shall receive the reward of gratitude in the embraces of your country, which shall proclaim you her deliverers;—ye whom heaven destines to seal with your blood the independence of your nation, the honour of your women, and the purity of the religion which ye profess, do not dread the anguish of the last moments; remember in these moments that there are in our hearts inexhaustible tears of tenderness to shed over your graves, and fervent prayers, to which the Almighty Father of mercies will lend an ear, to grant you a glory superior to that which they who survive you shall enjoy.' And in fact it ought never to be forgotten, that the Spaniards have not wilfully blinded themselves, but have steadily fixed their eyes not only upon danger and upon death, but upon a deplorable issue of the contest. They have contemplated their subjugation as a thing possible. The next extract, from the paper entitled Precautions, (and the same language is holden by many others) will show in what manner alone they reconcile themselves to it. 'Therefore, it is necessary to sacrifice our lives and property in defence of the king, and of the country; and, though our lot (which we hope will never come to pass) should destine us to become slaves, let us become so fighting and dying like gallant men, not giving ourselves up basely to the yoke like sheep, as the late infamous government would have done, and fixing upon Spain and her slavery eternal ignominy and disgrace.'
But let us now hear them, as becomes men with such feelings, express more cheering and bolder hopes rising from a confidence in the supremacy of justice,—hopes which, however the Tyrant from the iron fortresses of his policy may scoff at them and at those who entertained them, will render their memory dear to all good men, when his name will be pronounced with universal abhorrence.
'All Europe,' says the Junta of Seville, 'will applaud our efforts and hasten to our assistance: Italy, Germany, and the whole North, which suffer under the despotism of the French nation, will eagerly avail themselves of the favourable opportunity, held out to them by Spain, to shake off the yoke and recover their liberty, their laws, their monarchs, and all they have been robbed of by that nation. France herself will hasten to erase the stain of infamy, which must cover the tools and instruments of deeds so treacherous and heinous. She will not shed her blood in so vile a cause. She has already suffered too much under the idle pretext of peace and happiness, which never came, and can never be attained, but under the empire of reason, peace, religion, and laws, and in a state where the rights of other nations are respected and preserved.' To this may be added a hope, the fulfilment of which belongs more to themselves, and lies more within their own power, namely, a hope that they shall be able in their progress towards liberty, to inflict condign punishment on their cruel and perfidious enemies. The Junta of Seville, in an Address to the People of Madrid, express themselves thus: 'People of Madrid! Seville has learned, with consternation and surprize, your dreadful catastrophe of the second of May; the weakness of a government which did nothing in our favour,—which ordered arms to be directed against you; and your heroic sacrifices. Blessed be ye, and your memory shall shine immortal in the annals of our nation!—She has seen with horror that the author of all your misfortunes and of our's has published a proclamation, in which he distorted every fact, and pretended that you gave the first provocation, while it was he who provoked you. The government was weak enough to sanction and order that proclamation to be circulated; and saw, with perfect composure, numbers of you put to death for a pretended violation of laws which did not exist. The French were told in that proclamation, that French blood profusely shed was crying out for vengeance! And the Spanish blood, does not it cry out for vengeance? That Spanish blood, shed by an army which hesitated not to attack a disarmed and defenceless people, living under their laws and their king, and against whom cruelties were committed, which shake the human frame with horror. We, all Spain, exclaim—the Spanish blood shed in Madrid cries aloud for revenge! Comfort yourselves, we are your brethren: we will fight like you, until we perish in defending our king and country. Assist us with your good wishes, and your continual prayers offered up to the Most High, whom we adore, and who cannot forsake us, because he never forsakes a just cause.' Again, in the conclusion of their address to the People of Portugal, quoted before, 'The universal cry of Spain is, we will die in defence of our country, but we will take care that those infamous enemies shall die with us. Come then, ye generous Portugueze, and unite with us. You have among yourselves the objects of your vengeance—obey not the authors of your misfortunes—attack them—they are but a handful of miserable panic-struck men, humiliated and conquered already by the perfidy and cruelties which they have committed, and which have covered them with disgrace in the eyes of Europe and the world! Rise then in a body, but avoid staining your honourable hands with crimes, for your design is to resist them and to destroy them—our united efforts will do for this perfidious nation; and Portugal, Spain, nay, all Europe, shall breathe or die free like men.'—Such are their hopes; and again see, upon this subject, the paper entitled 'Precautions;' a contrast this to the impious mockery of Providence, exhibited by the Tyrant in some passages heretofore quoted! 'Care shall be taken to explain to the nation, and to convince them that, when free, as we trust to be, from this civil war, to which the French have forced us, and when placed in a state of tranquillity, our Lord and King, Ferdinand VII, being restored to the throne of Spain, under him and by him, the Cortes will be assembled, abuses reformed, and such laws shall be enacted, as the circumstances of the time and experience may dictate for the public good and happiness. Things which we Spaniards know how to do, which we have done as well as other nations, without any necessity that the vile French should come to instruct us, and, according to their custom, under the mask of friendship, should deprive us of our liberty, our laws, &c. &c.'
One extract more and I shall conclude. It is from a proclamation dated Oviedo, July 17th. 'Yes—Spain with the energies of Liberty has to contend with France debilitated by slavery. If she remain firm and constant, Spain will triumph. A whole people is more powerful than disciplined armies. Those, who unite to maintain the independence of their country, must triumph over tyranny. Spain will inevitably conquer, in a cause the most just that has ever raised the deadly weapon of war; for she fights, not for the concerns of a day, but for the security and happiness of ages; not for an insulated privilege, but for the rights of human nature; not for temporal blessings, but for eternal happiness; not for the benefit of one nation, but for all mankind, and even for France herself.'
I will now beg of my reader to pause a moment, and to review in his own mind the whole of what has been laid before him. He has seen of what kind, and how great have been the injuries endured by these two nations; what they have suffered, and what they have to fear; he has seen that they have felt with that unanimity which nothing but the light of truth spread over the inmost concerns of human nature can create; with that simultaneousness which has led Philosophers upon like occasions to assert, that the voice of the people is the voice of God. He has seen that they have submitted as far as human nature could bear; and that at last these millions of suffering people have risen almost like one man, with one hope; for whether they look to triumph or defeat, to victory or death, they are full of hope—despair comes not near them—they will die, they say—each individual knows the danger, and, strong in the magnitude of it, grasps eagerly at the thought that he himself is to perish; and more eagerly, and with higher confidence, does he lay to his heart the faith that the nation will survive and be victorious;—or, at the worst, let the contest terminate how it may as to superiority of outward strength, that the fortitude and the martyrdom, the justice and the blessing, are their's and cannot be relinquished. And not only are they moved by these exalted sentiments of universal morality, and of direct and universal concern to mankind, which have impelled them to resist evil and to endeavour to punish the evil-doer, but also they descend (for even this, great as in itself it is, may be here considered as a descent) to express a rational hope of reforming domestic abuses, and of re-constructing, out of the materials of their ancient institutions, customs, and laws, a better frame of civil government, the same in the great outlines of its architecture, but exhibiting the knowledge, and genius, and the needs of the present race, harmoniously blended with those of their forefathers. Woe, then, to the unworthy who intrude with their help to maintain this most sacred cause! It calls aloud, for the aid of intellect, knowledge, and love, and rejects every other. It is in vain to send forth armies if these do not inspire and direct them. The stream is as pure as it is mighty, fed by ten thousand springs in the bounty of untainted nature; any augmentation from the kennels and sewers of guilt and baseness may clog, but cannot strengthen it.—It is not from any thought that I am communicating new information, that I have dwelt thus long upon this subject, but to recall to the reader his own knowledge, and to re-infuse into that knowledge a breath and life of appropriate feeling; because the bare sense of wisdom is nothing without its powers, and it is only in these feelings that the powers of wisdom exist. If then we do not forget that the Spanish and Portugueze Nations stand upon the loftiest ground of principle and passion, and do not suffer on our part those sympathies to languish which a few months since were so strong, and do not negligently or timidly descend from those heights of magnanimity to which as a Nation we were raised, when they first represented to us their wrongs and entreated our assistance, and we devoted ourselves sincerely and earnestly to their service, making with them a common cause under a common hope; if we are true in all this to them and to ourselves, we shall not be at a loss to conceive what actions are entitled to our commendation as being in the spirit of a friendship so nobly begun, and tending assuredly to promote the common welfare; and what are abject, treacherous, and pernicious, and therefore to be condemned and abhorred. Is then, I may now ask, the Convention of Cintra an act of this latter kind? Have the Generals, who signed and ratified that agreement, thereby proved themselves unworthy associates in such a cause? And has the Ministry, by whose appointment these men were enabled to act in this manner, and which sanctioned the Convention by permitting them to carry it into execution, thereby taken to itself a weight of guilt, in which the Nation must feel that it participates, until the transaction shall be solemnly reprobated by the Government, and the remote and immediate authors of it brought to merited punishment? An answer to each of these questions will be implied in the proof which will be given that the condemnation, which the People did with one voice pronounce upon this Convention when it first became known, was just; that the nature of the offence of those who signed it was such, and established by evidence of such a kind, making so imperious an exception to the ordinary course of action, that there was no need to wait here for the decision of a Court of Judicature, but that the People were compelled by a necessity involved in the very constitution of man as a moral Being to pass sentence upon them. And this I shall prove by trying this act of their's by principles of justice which are of universal obligation, and by a reference to those moral sentiments which rise out of that retrospect of things which has been given.
I shall now proceed to facts. The dispatches of Sir Arthur Wellesley, containing an account of his having defeated the enemy in two several engagements, spread joy through the Nation. The latter action appeared to have been decisive, and the result may be thus briefly reported, in a never to be forgotten sentence of Sir Arthur's second letter. 'In this action,' says he, 'in which the whole of the French force in Portugal was employed, under the command of the DUC D'ABRANTES in person, in which the enemy was certainly superior in cavalry and artillery, and in which not more than half of the British army was actually engaged, he sustained a signal defeat, and has lost thirteen pieces of cannon, &c. &c.' In the official communication, made to the public of these dispatches, it was added, that 'a General officer had arrived at the British head-quarters to treat for terms.' This was joyful intelligence! First, an immediate, effectual, and honourable deliverance of Portugal was confidently expected: secondly, the humiliation and captivity of a large French army, and just punishment, from the hands of the Portugueze government, of the most atrocious offenders in that army and among those who, having held civil offices under it, (especially if Portugueze) had, in contempt of all law, civil and military, notoriously abused the power which they had treasonably accepted: thirdly, in this presumed surrender of the army, a diminution of the enemy's military force was looked to, which, after the losses he had already sustained in Spain, would most sensibly weaken it: and lastly, and far above this, there was an anticipation of a shock to his power, where that power is strongest, in the imaginations of men, which are sure to fall under the bondage of long-continued success. The judicious part of the Nation fixed their attention chiefly on these results, and they had good cause to rejoice. They also received with pleasure this additional proof (which indeed with the unthinking many, as after the victory of Maida, weighed too much,) of the superiority in courage and discipline of the British soldiery over the French, and of the certainty of success whenever our army was led on by men of even respectable military talents against any equal or not too greatly disproportionate number of the enemy. But the pleasure was damped in the minds of reflecting persons by several causes. It occasioned regret and perplexity, that they had not heard more of the Portugueze. They knew what that People had suffered, and how they had risen;—remembered the language of the proclamation addressed to them, dated August the 4th, and signed CHARLES COTTON and ARTHUR WELLESLEY, in which they (the Portugueze) were told, that 'The British Army had been sent in consequence of ardent supplications from all parts of Portugal; that the glorious struggle, in which they are engaged, is for all that is dear to man; that the noble struggle against the tyranny and usurpation of France will be jointly maintained by Portugal, Spain, and England.' Why then, it was asked, do we not hear more of those who are at least coequals with us, if not principals, in this contest? They appeared to have had little share in either engagement; (See Appendix A.) and, while the French were abundantly praised, no word of commendation was found for them. Had they deserved to be thus neglected? The body of the People by a general rising had proved their zeal and courage, their animosity towards their enemies, their hatred of them. It was therefore apprehended, from this silence respecting the Portugueze, that their Chiefs might either be distracted by factions, or blinded by selfish interests, or that they mistrusted their Allies. Situated as Portugal then was, it would argue gross ignorance of human nature to have expected that unanimity should prevail among all the several authorities or leading persons, as to the means to be employed: it was enough, that they looked with one feeling to the end, namely, an honourable deliverance of their country and security for its Independence in conjunction with the liberation and independence of Spain. It was therefore absolutely necessary to make allowance for some division in conduct from difference of opinion. Instead of acquiescing in the first feelings of disappointment, our Commanders ought to have used the best means to win the confidence of the Portugueze Chiefs, and to induce them to regard the British as dispassionate arbiters; they ought to have endeavoured to excite a genuine patriotic spirit where it appeared wanting, and to assist in creating for it an organ by which it might act. Were these things done? or, if such evils existed among the Portugueze, was any remedy or alleviation attempted? Sir Arthur Wellesley has told us, before the Board of Inquiry, that he made applications to the Portugueze General, FRERE, for assistance, which were acceded to by General FRERE upon such conditions only as made Sir Arthur deem it more advisable to refuse than accept his co-operation: and it is alleged that, in his general expectations of assistance, he was greatly disappointed. We are not disposed to deny, that such cause for complaint might exist; but that it did, and upon no provocation on our part, requires confirmation by other testimony. And surely, the Portugueze have a right to be heard in answer to this accusation, before they are condemned. For they have supplied no fact from their own hands, which tends to prove that they were languid in the cause, or that they had unreasonable jealousies of the British Army or Nation, or dispositions towards them which were other than friendly. Now there is a fact, furnished by Sir Arthur Wellesley himself, which may seem to render it in the highest degree probable that, previously to any recorded or palpable act of disregard or disrespect to the situation and feelings of the Portugueze, the general tenour of his bearing towards them might have been such that they could not look favourably upon him; that he was not a man framed to conciliate them, to compose their differences, or to awaken or strengthen their zeal. I allude to the passage in his letter above quoted, where, having occasion to speak of the French General, he has found no name by which to designate him but that of DUC D'ABRANTES—words necessarily implying, that Bonaparte, who had taken upon himself to confer upon General Junot this Portugueze title with Portugueze domains to support it, was lawful Sovereign of that Country, and that consequently the Portugueze Nation were rebels, and the British Army, and he himself at the head of it, aiders and abettors of that rebellion. It would be absurd to suppose, that Sir Arthur Wellesley, at the time when he used these words, was aware of the meaning really involved in them: let them be deemed an oversight. But the capability of such an oversight affords too strong suspicion of a deadness to the moral interests of the cause in which he was engaged, and of such a want of sympathy with the just feelings of his injured Ally as could exist only in a mind narrowed by exclusive and overweening attention to the military character, led astray by vanity, or hardened by general habits of contemptuousness. These words, 'DUKE OF ABRANTES in person,' were indeed words of bad omen: and thinking men trembled for the consequences. They saw plainly, that, in the opinion of the exalted Spaniards—of those assuredly who framed, and of all who had felt, that affecting Proclamation addressed by the Junta of Seville to the Portugueze people, he must appear utterly unworthy of the station in which he had been placed. He had been sent as a deliverer—as an assertor and avenger of the rights of human nature. But these words would carry with them every where the conviction, that Portugal and Spain, yea, all which was good in England, or iniquitous in France or in Frenchmen, was forgotten, and his head full only of himself, miserably conceiting that he swelled the importance of his conquered antagonist by sounding titles and phrases, come from what quarter they might; and that, in proportion as this was done, he magnified himself and his achievements. It was plain, then, that here was a man, who, having not any fellow-feeling with the people whom he had been commissioned to aid, could not know where their strength lay, and therefore could not turn it to account, nor by his example call it forth or cherish it; but that, if his future conduct should be in the same spirit, he must be a blighting wind wherever his influence was carried: for he had neither felt the wrongs of his Allies nor been induced by common worldly prudence to affect to feel them, or at least to disguise his insensibility; and therefore what could follow, but, in despite of victory and outward demonstrations of joy, inward disgust and depression? These reflections interrupted the satisfaction of many; but more from fear of future consequences than for the immediate enterprize, for here success seemed inevitable; and a happy and glorious termination was confidently expected, yet not without that intermixture of apprehension, which was at once an acknowledgment of the general condition of humanity, and a proof of the deep interest attached to the impending event.
Sir Arthur Wellesley's dispatches had appeared in the Gazette on the 2d of September, and on the 16th of the same month suspence was put an end to by the publication of Sir Hew Dalrymple's letter, accompanied with the Armistice and Convention. The night before, by order of ministers, an attempt had been made at rejoicing, and the Park and Tower guns had been fired in sign of good news.—Heaven grant that the ears of that great city may be preserved from such another outrage! As soon as the truth was known, never was there such a burst of rage and indignation—such an overwhelming of stupefaction and sorrow. But I will not, I cannot dwell upon it—it is enough to say, that Sir Hew Dalrymple and Sir Arthur Wellesley must he bold men if they can think of what must have been reported to them, without awe and trembling; the heart of their country was turned against them, and they were execrated in bitterness.
For they had changed all things into their contraries, hope into despair; triumph into defeat; confidence into treachery, which left no place to stand upon; justice into the keenest injury.—Whom had they delivered but the Tyrant in captivity? Whose hands had they bound but those of their Allies, who were able of themselves to have executed their own purposes? Whom had they punished but the innocent sufferer? Whom rewarded but the guiltiest of Oppressors? They had reversed every thing:—favour and honour for their enemies—insult for their friends—and robbery (they had both protected the person of the robber and secured to him his booty) and opprobrium for themselves;—to those over whom they had been masters, who had crouched to them by an open act of submission, they had made themselves servants, turning the British Lion into a beast of burthen, to carry a vanquished enemy, with his load of iniquities, when and whither it had pleased him.
Such issue would have been a heavy calamity at any time; but now, when we ought to have risen above ourselves, and if possible to have been foremost in the strife of honour and magnanimity; now, when a new-born power had been arrayed against the Tyrant, the only one which ever offered a glimpse of hope to a sane mind, the power of popular resistance rising out of universal reason, and from the heart of human nature,—and by a peculiar providence disembarrassed from the imbecility, the cowardice, and the intrigues of a worn-out government—that at this time we, the most favoured Nation upon earth, should have acted as if it had been our aim to level to the ground by one blow this long-wished-for spirit, whose birth we had so joyfully hailed, and by which even our own glory, our safety, our existence, were to be maintained; this was verily a surpassing affliction to every man who had a feeling of life beyond his meanest concerns!
As soon as men had recovered from the shock, and could bear to look somewhat steadily at these documents, it was found that the gross body of the transaction, considered as a military transaction, was this; that the Russian fleet, of nine sail of the line, which had been so long watched, and could not have escaped, was to be delivered up to us; the ships to be detained till six months after the end of the war, and the sailors sent home by us, and to be by us protected in their voyage through the Swedish fleet, and to be at liberty to fight immediately against our ally, the king of Sweden. Secondly, that a French army of more than twenty thousand men, already beaten, and no longer able to appear in the field, cut off from all possibility of receiving reinforcements or supplies, and in the midst of a hostile country loathing and abhorring it, was to be transported with its arms, ammunition, and plunder, at the expence of Great Britain, in British vessels, and landed within a few days march of the Spanish frontier,—there to be at liberty to commence hostilities immediately!
Omitting every characteristic which distinguishes the present contest from others, and looking at this issue merely as an affair between two armies, what stupidity of mind to provoke the accusation of not merely shrinking from future toils and dangers, but of basely shifting the burthen to the shoulders of an ally, already overpressed!—What infatuation, to convey the imprisoned foe to the very spot, whither, if he had had wings, he would have flown! This last was an absurdity as glaring as if, the French having landed on our own island, we had taken them from Yorkshire to be set on shore in Sussex; but ten thousand times worse! from a place where without our interference they had been virtually blockaded, where they were cut off, hopeless, useless, and disgraced, to become an efficient part of a mighty host, carrying the strength of their numbers, and alas! the strength of their glory, (not to mention the sight of their plunder) to animate that host; while the British army, more numerous in the proportion of three to two, with all the population and resources of the peninsula to aid it, within ten days sail of it's own country, and the sea covered with friendly shipping at it's back, was to make a long march to encounter this same enemy, (the British forfeiting instead of gaining by the treaty as to superiority of numbers, for that this would be the case was clearly foreseen) to encounter, in a new condition of strength and pride, those whom, by its deliberate act, it had exalted,—having taken from itself, meanwhile, all which it had conferred, and bearing into the presence of its noble ally an infection of despondency and disgrace. The motive assigned for all this, was the great importance of gaining time; fear of an open beach and of equinoctial gales for the shipping; fear that reinforcements could not be landed; fear of famine;—fear of every thing but dishonour! (See Appendix B.)
The nation had expected that the French would surrender immediately at discretion; and, supposing that Sir Arthur Wellesley had told them the whole truth, they had a right to form this expectation. It has since appeared, from the evidence given before the Board of Inquiry, that Sir Arthur Wellesley earnestly exhorted his successor in command (Sir Harry Burrard) to pursue the defeated enemy at the battle of Vimiera; and that, if this had been done, the affair, in Sir Arthur Wellesley's opinion, would have had a much more satisfactory termination. But, waiving any considerations of this advice, or of the fault which might be committed in not following it; and taking up the matter from the time when Sir Hew Dalrymple entered upon the command, and when the two adverse armies were in that condition, relatively to each other, that none of the Generals has pleaded any difference of opinion as to their ability to advance against the enemy, I will ask what confirmation has appeared before the Board of Inquiry, of the reasonableness of the causes, assigned by Sir Hew Dalrymple in his letter, for deeming a Convention adviseable. A want of cavalry, (for which they who occasioned it are heavily censurable,) has indeed been proved; and certain failures of duty in the Commissariat department with respect to horses, &c.; but these deficiencies, though furnishing reasons against advancing upon the enemy in the open field, had ceased to be of moment, when the business was to expel him from the forts to which he might have the power of retreating. It is proved, that, though there are difficulties in landing upon that coast, (and what military or marine operation can be carried on without difficulty?) there was not the slightest reason to apprehend that the army, which was then abundantly supplied, would suffer hereafter from want of provisions; proved also that heavy ordnance, for the purpose of attacking the forts, was ready on ship-board, to be landed when and where it might be needed. Therefore, so far from being exculpated by the facts which have been laid before the Board of Inquiry, Sir Hew Dalrymple and the other Generals, who deemed any Convention necessary or expedient upon the grounds stated in his letter, are more deeply criminated. But grant, (for the sake of looking at a different part of the subject,) grant a case infinitely stronger than Sir Hew Dalrymple has even hinted at;—why was not the taste of some of those evils, in apprehension so terrible, actually tried? It would not have been the first time that Britons had faced hunger and tempests, had endured the worst of such enmity, and upon a call, under an obligation, how faint and feeble, compared with that which the brave men of that army must have felt upon the present occasion! In the proclamation quoted before, addressed to the Portugueze, and signed Charles Cotton and Arthur Wellesley, they were told, that the objects, for which they contended, 'could only be attained by distinguished examples of fortitude and constancy.' Where were the fortitude and constancy of the teachers? When Sir Hew Dalrymple had been so busy in taking the measure of his own weakness, and feeding his own fears, how came it to escape him, that General Junot must also have had his weaknesses and his fears? Was it nothing to have been defeated in the open field, where he himself had been the assailant? Was it nothing that so proud a man, the servant of so proud a man, had stooped to send a General Officer to treat concerning the evacuation of the country? Was the hatred and abhorrence of the Portugueze and Spanish Nations nothing? the people of a large metropolis under his eye—detesting him, and stung almost to madness, nothing? The composition of his own army made up of men of different nations and languages, and forced into the service,—was there no cause of mistrust in this? And, finally, among the many unsound places which, had his mind been as active in this sort of inquiry as Sir Hew Dalrymple's was, he must have found in his constitution, could a bad cause have been missed—a worse cause than ever confounded the mind of a soldier when boldly pressed upon, or gave courage and animation to a righteous assailant? But alas! in Sir Hew Dalrymple and his brethren, we had Generals who had a power of sight only for the strength of their enemies and their own weakness.
Let me not be misunderstood. While I am thus forced to repeat things, which were uttered or thought of these men in reference to their military conduct, as heads of that army, it is needless to add, that their personal courage is in no wise implicated in the charge brought against them. But, in the name of my countrymen, I do repeat these accusations, and tax them with an utter want of intellectual courage—of that higher quality, which is never found without one or other of the three accompaniments, talents, genius, or principle;—talents matured by experience, without which it cannot exist at all; or the rapid insight of peculiar genius, by which the fitness of an act may be instantly determined, and which will supply higher motives than mere talents can furnish for encountering difficulty and danger, and will suggest better resources for diminishing or overcoming them. Thus, through the power of genius, this quality of intellectual courage may exist in an eminent degree, though the moral character be greatly perverted; as in those personages, who are so conspicuous in history, conquerors and usurpers, the Alexanders, the Caesars, and Cromwells; and in that other class still more perverted, remorseless and energetic minds, the Catilines and Borgias, whom poets have denominated 'bold, bad men.' But, though a course of depravity will neither preclude nor destroy this quality, nay, in certain circumstances will give it a peculiar promptness and hardihood of decision, it is not on this account the less true, that, to consummate this species of courage, and to render it equal to all occasions, (especially when a man is not acting for himself, but has an additional claim on his resolution from the circumstance of responsibility to a superior) Principle is indispensibly requisite. I mean that fixed and habitual principle, which implies the absence of all selfish anticipations, whether of hope or fear, and the inward disavowal of any tribunal higher and more dreaded than the mind's own judgment upon its own act. The existence of such principle cannot but elevate the most commanding genius, add rapidity to the quickest glance, a wider range to the most ample comprehension; but, without this principle, the man of ordinary powers must, in the trying hour, be found utterly wanting. Neither, without it, can the man of excelling powers be trustworthy, or have at all times a calm and confident repose in himself. But he, in whom talents, genius, and principle are united, will have a firm mind, in whatever embarrassment he may be placed; will look steadily at the most undefined shapes of difficulty and danger, of possible mistake or mischance; nor will they appear to him more formidable than they really are. For HIS attention is not distracted—he has but one business, and that is with the object before him. Neither in general conduct nor in particular emergencies, are HIS plans subservient to considerations of rewards, estate, or title: these are not to have precedence in his thoughts, to govern his actions, but to follow in the train of his duty. Such men, in ancient times, were Phocion, Epaminondas, and Philopoemen; and such a man was Sir Philip Sidney, of whom it has been said, that he first taught this country the majesty of honest dealing. With these may be named, the honour of our own age, Washington, the deliverer of the American Continent; with these, though in many things unlike, Lord Nelson, whom we have lately lost. Lord Peterborough, who fought in Spain a hundred years ago, had the same excellence; with a sense of exalted honour, and a tinge of romantic enthusiasm, well suited to the country which was the scene of his exploits. Would that we had a man, like Peterborough or Nelson, at the head of our army in Spain at this moment! I utter this wish with more earnestness, because it is rumoured, that some of those, who have already called forth such severe reprehension from their countrymen, are to resume a command, which must entrust to them a portion of those sacred hopes in which, not only we, and the people of Spain and Portugal, but the whole human race are so deeply interested. (See Appendix C.)
I maintain then that, merely from want of this intellectual courage, of courage as generals or chiefs, (for I will not speak at present of the want of other qualities equally needful upon this service,) grievous errors were committed by Sir Hew Dalrymple and his colleagues in estimating the relative state of the two armies. A precious moment, it is most probable, had been lost after the battle of Vimiera; yet still the inferiority of the enemy had been proved; they themselves had admitted it—not merely by withdrawing from the field, but by proposing terms:—monstrous terms! and how ought they to have been received? Repelled undoubtedly with scorn, as an insult. If our Generals had been men capable of taking the measure of their real strength, either as existing in their own army, or in those principles of liberty and justice which they were commissioned to defend, they must of necessity have acted in this manner;—if they had been men of common sagacity for business, they must have acted in this manner;—nay, if they had been upon a level with an ordinary bargain-maker in a Fair or a market, they could not have acted otherwise.—Strange that they should so far forget the nature of their calling! They were soldiers, and their business was to fight. Sir Arthur Wellesley had fought, and gallantly; it was not becoming his high situation, or that of his successors, to treat, that is, to beat down, to chaffer, or on their part to propose: it does not become any general at the head of a victorious army so to do.
 Those rare cases are of course excepted, in which the superiority on the one side is not only fairly to be presumed but positive—and so prominently obtrusive, that to propose terms is to inflict terms.
They were to accept,—and, if the terms offered were flagrantly presumptuous, our commanders ought to have rejected them with dignified scorn, and to have referred the proposer to the sword for a lesson of decorum and humility. This is the general rule of all high-minded men upon such occasions; and meaner minds copy them, doing in prudence what they do from principle. But it has been urged, before the Board of Inquiry, that the conduct of the French armies upon like occasions, and their known character, rendered it probable that a determined resistance would in the present instance be maintained. We need not fear to say that this conclusion, from reasons which have been adverted to, was erroneous. But, in the mind of him who had admitted it upon whatever ground, whether false or true, surely the first thought which followed, ought to have been, not that we should bend to the enemy, but that, if they were resolute in defence, we should learn from that example to be courageous in attack. The tender feelings, however, are pleaded against this determination; and it is said, that one of the motives for the cessation of hostilities was to prevent the further effusion of human blood.—When, or how? The enemy was delivered over to us; it was not to be hoped that, cut off from all assistance as they were, these, or an equal number of men, could ever be reduced to such straits as would ensure their destruction as an enemy, with so small a sacrifice of life on their part, or on ours. What then was to be gained by this tenderness? The shedding of a few drops of blood is not to be risked in Portugal to-day, and streams of blood must shortly flow from the same veins in the fields of Spain! And, even if this had not been the assured consequence, let not the consideration, though it be one which no humane man can ever lose sight of, have more than its due weight. For national independence and liberty, and that honour by which these and other blessings are to be preserved, honour—which is no other than the most elevated and pure conception of justice which can be formed, these are more precious than life: else why have we already lost so many brave men in this struggle?—Why not submit at once, and let the Tyrant mount upon his throne of universal dominion, while the world lies prostrate at his feet in indifference and apathy, which he will proclaim to it is peace and happiness? But peace and happiness can exist only by knowledge and virtue; slavery has no enduring connection with tranquillity or security—she cannot frame a league with any thing which is desirable—she has no charter even for her own ignoble ease and darling sloth. Yet to this abject condition, mankind, betrayed by an ill-judging tenderness, would surely be led; and in the face of an inevitable contradiction! For neither in this state of things would the shedding of blood be prevented, nor would warfare cease. The only difference would be, that, instead of wars like those which prevail at this moment, presenting a spectacle of such character that, upon one side at least, a superior Being might look down with favour and blessing, there would follow endless commotions and quarrels without the presence of justice any where,—in which the alternations of success would not excite a wish or regret; in which a prayer could not be uttered for a decision either this way or that;—wars from no impulse in either of the combatants, but rival instigations of demoniacal passion. If, therefore, by the faculty of reason we can prophecy concerning the shapes which the future may put on,—if we are under any bond of duty to succeeding generations, there is high cause to guard against a specious sensibility, which may encourage the hoarding up of life for its own sake, seducing us from those considerations by which we might learn when it ought to be resigned. Moreover, disregarding future ages, and confining ourselves to the present state of mankind, it may be safely affirmed that he, who is the most watchful of the honour of his country, most determined to preserve her fair name at all hazards, will be found, in any view of things which looks beyond the passing hour, the best steward of the lives of his countrymen. For, by proving that she is of a firm temper, that she will only submit or yield to a point of her own fixing, and that all beyond is immutable resolution, he will save her from being wantonly attacked; and, if attacked, will awe the aggressor into a speedier abandonment of an unjust and hopeless attempt. Thus will he preserve not only that which gives life its value, but life itself; and not for his own country merely, but for that of his enemies, to whom he will have offered an example of magnanimity, which will ensure to them like benefits; an example, the re-action of which will be felt by his own countrymen, and will prevent them from becoming assailants unjustly or rashly. Nations will thus be taught to respect each other, and mutually to abstain from injuries. And hence, by a benign ordinance of our nature, genuine honour is the hand-maid of humanity; the attendant and sustainer—both of the sterner qualities which constitute the appropriate excellence of the male character, and of the gentle and tender virtues which belong more especially to motherliness and womanhood. These general laws, by which mankind is purified and exalted, and by which Nations are preserved, suggest likewise the best rules for the preservation of individual armies, and for the accomplishment of all equitable service upon which they can be sent.
Not therefore rashly and unfeelingly, but from the dictates of thoughtful humanity, did I say that it was the business of our Generals to fight, and to persevere in fighting; and that they did not bear this duty sufficiently in mind; this, almost the sole duty which professional soldiers, till our time, (happily for mankind) used to think of. But the victories of the French have been attended every where by the subversion of Governments; and their generals have accordingly united political with military functions: and with what success this has been done by them, the present state of Europe affords melancholy proof. But have they, on this account, ever neglected to calculate upon the advantages which might fairly be anticipated from future warfare? Or, in a treaty of to-day, have they ever forgotten a victory of yesterday? Eager to grasp at the double honour of captain and negociator, have they ever sacrificed the one to the other; or, in the blind effort, lost both? Above all, in their readiness to flourish with the pen, have they ever overlooked the sword, the symbol of their power, and the appropriate instrument of their success and glory? I notice this assumption of a double character on the part of the French, not to lament over it and its consequences, but to render somewhat more intelligible the conduct of our own Generals; and to explain how far men, whom we have no reason to believe other than brave, have, through the influence of such example, lost sight of their primary duties, apeing instead of imitating, and following only to be misled.
It is indeed deplorable, that our Generals, from this infirmity, or from any other cause, did not assume that lofty deportment which the character and relative strength of the two armies authorized them, and the nature of the service upon which they were sent, enjoined them to assume;—that they were in such haste to treat—that, with such an enemy (let me say at once,) and in such circumstances, they should have treated at all. Is it possible that they could ever have asked themselves who that enemy was, how he came into that country, and what he had done there? From the manifesto of the Portugueze government, issued at Rio Janeiro, and from other official papers, they might have learned, what was notorious to all Europe, that this body of men commissioned by Bonaparte, in the time of profound peace, without a declaration of war, had invaded Portugal under the command of Junot, who had perfidiously entered the country, as the General of a friendly and allied Power, assuring the people, as he advanced, that he came to protect their Sovereign against an invasion of the English; and that, when in this manner he had entered a peaceable kingdom, which offered no resistance, and had expelled its lawful Sovereign, he wrung from it unheard-of contributions, ravaged it, cursed it with domestic pillage and open sacrilege; and that, when this unoffending people, unable to endure any longer, rose up against the tyrant, he had given their towns and villages to the flames, and put the whole country, thus resisting, under military execution.—Setting aside all natural sympathy with the Portugueze and Spanish nations, and all prudential considerations of regard or respect for their feelings towards these men, and for their expectations concerning the manner in which they ought to be dealt with, it is plain that the French had forfeited by their crimes all right to those privileges, or to those modes of intercourse, which one army may demand from another according to the laws of war. They were not soldiers in any thing but the power of soldiers, and the outward frame of an army. During their occupation of Portugal, the laws and customs of war had never been referred to by them, but as a plea for some enormity, to the aggravated oppression of that unhappy country! Pillage, sacrilege, and murder—sweeping murder and individual assassination, had been proved against them by voices from every quarter. They had outlawed themselves by their offences from membership in the community of war, and from every species of community acknowledged by reason. But even, should any one be so insensible as to question this, he will not at all events deny, that the French ought to have been dealt with as having put on a double character. For surely they never considered themselves merely as an army. They had dissolved the established authorities of Portugal, and had usurped the civil power of the government; and it was in this compound capacity, under this twofold monstrous shape, that they had exercised, over the religion and property of the country, the most grievous oppressions. What then remained to protect them but their power?—Right they had none,—and power! it is a mortifying consideration, but I will ask if Bonaparte, (nor do I mean in the question to imply any thing to his honour,) had been in the place of Sir Hew Dalrymple, what would he have thought of their power?—Yet before this shadow the solid substance of justice melted away.
And this leads me from the contemplation of their errors in the estimate and application of means, to the contemplation of their heavier errors and worse blindness in regard to ends. The British Generals acted as if they had no purpose but that the enemy should be removed from the country in which they were, upon any terms. Now the evacuation of Portugal was not the prime object, but the manner in which that event was to be brought about; this ought to have been deemed first both in order and importance;—the French were to be subdued, their ferocious warfare and heinous policy to be confounded; and in this way, and no other, was the deliverance of that country to be accomplished. It was not for the soil, or for the cities and forts, that Portugal was valued, but for the human feeling which was there; for the rights of human nature which might be there conspicuously asserted; for a triumph over injustice and oppression there to be achieved, which could neither be concealed nor disguised, and which should penetrate the darkest corner of the dark Continent of Europe by its splendour. We combated for victory in the empire of reason, for strongholds in the imagination. Lisbon and Portugal, as city and soil, were chiefly prized by us as a language; but our Generals mistook the counters of the game for the stake played for. The nation required that the French should surrender at discretion;—grant that the victory of Vimiera had excited some unreasonable impatience—we were not so overweening as to demand that the enemy should surrender within a given time, but that they should surrender. Every thing, short of this, was felt to be below the duties of the occasion; not only no service, but a grievous injury. Only as far as there was a prospect of forcing the enemy to an unconditional submission, did the British Nation deem that they had a right to interfere;—if that prospect failed, they expected that their army would know that it became it to retire, and take care of itself. But our Generals have told us, that the Convention would not have been admitted, if they had not judged it right to effect, even upon these terms, the evacuation of Portugal—as ministerial to their future services in Spain. If this had been a common war between two established governments measuring with each other their regular resources, there might have been some appearance of force in this plea. But who does not cry out at once, that the affections and opinions, that is, the souls of the people of Spain and Portugal, must be the inspiration and the power, if this labour is to be brought to a happy end? Therefore it was worse than folly to think of supporting Spain by physical strength, at the expence of moral. Besides, she was strong in men; she never earnestly solicited troops from us; some of the Provinces had even refused them when offered,—and all had been lukewarm in the acceptance of them. The Spaniards could not ultimately be benefited but by Allies acting under the same impulses of honour, roused by a sense of their wrongs, and sharing their loves and hatreds—above all, their passion for justice. They had themselves given an example, at Baylen, proclaiming to all the world what ought to be aimed at by those who would uphold their cause, and be associated in arms with them. And was the law of justice, which Spaniards, Spanish peasantry, I might almost say, would not relax in favour of Dupont, to be relaxed by a British army in favour of Junot? Had the French commander at Lisbon, or his army, proved themselves less perfidious, less cruel, or less rapacious than the other? Nay, did not the pride and crimes of Junot call for humiliation and punishment far more importunately, inasmuch as his power to do harm, and therefore his will, keeping pace with it, had been greater? Yet, in the noble letter of the Governor of Cadiz to Dupont, he expressly tells him, that his conduct, and that of his army, had been such, that they owed their lives only to that honour which forbad the Spanish army to become executioners. The Portugueze also, as appears from various letters produced before the Board of Inquiry, have shewn to our Generals, as boldly as their respect for the British Nation would permit them to do, what they expected. A Portugueze General, who was also a member of the regency appointed by the Prince Regent, says, in a protest addressed to Sir Hew Dalrymple, that he had been able to drive the French out of the provinces of Algarve and Alentejo; and therefore he could not be convinced, that such a Convention was necessary. What was this but implying that it was dishonourable, and that it would frustrate the efforts which his country was making, and destroy the hopes which it had built upon its own power? Another letter from a magistrate inveighs against the Convention, as leaving the crimes of the French in Portugal unpunished; as giving no indemnification for all the murders, robberies, and atrocities which had been committed by them. But I feel that I shall be wanting in respect to my countrymen if I pursue this argument further. I blush that it should be necessary to speak upon the subject at all. And these are men and things, which we have been reproved for condemning, because evidence was wanting both as to fact and person! If there ever was a case, which could not, in any rational sense of the word, be prejudged, this is one. As to the fact—it appears, and sheds from its own body, like the sun in heaven, the light by which it is seen; as to the person—each has written down with his own hand, I am the man. Condemnation of actions and men like these is not, in the minds of a people, (thanks to the divine Being and to human nature!) a matter of choice; it is like a physical necessity, as the hand must be burned which is thrust into the furnace—the body chilled which stands naked in the freezing north-wind. I am entitled to make this assertion here, when the moral depravity of the Convention, of which I shall have to speak hereafter, has not even been touched upon. Nor let it be blamed in any man, though his station be in private life, that upon this occasion he speaks publicly, and gives a decisive opinion concerning that part of this public event, and those measures, which are more especially military. All have a right to speak, and to make their voices heard, as far as they have power. For these are times, in which the conduct of military men concerns us, perhaps, more intimately than that of any other class; when the business of arms comes unhappily too near to the fire-side; when the character and duties of a soldier ought to be understood by every one who values his liberty, and bears in mind how soon he may have to fight for it. Men will and ought to speak upon things in which they are so deeply interested; how else are right notions to spread, or is error to be destroyed? These are times also in which, if we may judge from the proceedings and result of the Court of Inquiry, the heads of the army, more than at any other period, stand in need of being taught wisdom by the voice of the people. It is their own interest, both as men and as soldiers, that the people should speak fervently and fearlessly of their actions:—from no other quarter can they be so powerfully reminded of the duties which they owe to themselves, to their country, and to human nature. Let any one read the evidence given before that Court, and he will there see, how much the intellectual and moral constitution of many of our military officers, has suffered by a profession, which, if not counteracted by admonitions willingly listened to, and by habits of meditation, does, more than any other, denaturalize—and therefore degrade the human being;—he will note with sorrow, how faint are their sympathies with the best feelings, and how dim their apprehension of some of the most awful truths, relating to the happiness and dignity of man in society. But on this I do not mean to insist at present; it is too weighty a subject to be treated incidentally: and my purpose is—not to invalidate the authority of military men, positively considered, upon a military question, but comparatively;—to maintain that there are military transactions upon which the people have a right to be heard, and upon which their authority is entitled to far more respect than any man or number of men can lay claim to, who speak merely with the ordinary professional views of soldiership;—that there are such military transactions;—and that this is one of them.
The condemnation, which the people of these islands pronounced upon the Convention of Cintra considered as to its main military results, that is, as a treaty by which it was established that the Russian fleet should be surrendered on the terms specified; and by which, not only the obligation of forcing the French army to an unconditional surrender was abandoned, but its restoration in freedom and triumph to its own country was secured;—the condemnation, pronounced by the people upon a treaty, by virtue of which these things were to be done, I have recorded—accounted for—and thereby justified.—I will now proceed to another division of the subject, on which I feel a still more earnest wish to speak; because, though in itself of the highest importance, it has been comparatively neglected;—mean the political injustice and moral depravity which are stamped upon the front of this agreement, and pervade every regulation which it contains. I shall shew that our Generals (and with them our Ministers, as far as they might have either given directions to this effect, or have countenanced what has been done)—when it was their paramount duty to maintain at all hazards the noblest principles in unsuspected integrity; because, upon the summons of these, and in defence of them, their Allies had risen, and by these alone could stand—not only did not perform this duty, but descended as far below the level of ordinary principles as they ought to have mounted above it;—imitating not the majesty of the oak with which it lifts its branches towards the heavens, but the vigour with which, in the language of the poet, it strikes its roots downwards towards hell:—
Radice in Tartara tendit.
The Armistice is the basis of the Convention; and in the first article we find it agreed, 'That there shall be a suspension of hostilities between the forces of his Britannic Majesty, and those of his Imperial and Royal Majesty, Napoleon I.' I will ask if it be the practice of military officers, in instruments of this kind, to acknowledge, in the person of the head of the government with which they are at war, titles which their own government—for which they are acting—has not acknowledged. If this be the practice, which I will not stop to determine, it is grossly improper; and ought to be abolished. Our Generals, however, had entered Portugal as Allies of a Government by which this title had been acknowledged; and they might have pleaded this circumstance in mitigation of their offence; but surely not in an instrument, where we not only look in vain for the name of the Portugueze Sovereign, or of the Government which he appointed, or of any heads or representatives of the Portugueze armies or people as a party in the contract,—but where it is stipulated (in the 4th article) that the British General shall engage to include the Portugueze armies in this Convention. What an outrage!—We enter the Portugueze territory as Allies; and, without their consent—or even consulting them, we proceed to form the basis of an agreement, relating—- not to the safety or interests of our own army—but to Portugueze territory, Portugueze persons, liberties, and rights,—and engage, out of our own will and power, to include the Portugueze army, they or their Government willing or not, within the obligation of this agreement. I place these things in contrast, viz. the acknowledgement of Bonaparte as emperor and king, and the utter neglect of the Portugueze Sovereign and Portugueze authorities, to shew in what spirit and temper these agreements were entered upon. I will not here insist upon what was our duty, on this occasion, to the Portugueze—as dictated by those sublime precepts of justice which it has been proved that they and the Spaniards had risen to defend,—and without feeling the force and sanctity of which, they neither could have risen, nor can oppose to their enemy resistance which has any hope in it; but I will ask, of any man who is not dead to the common feelings of his social nature—and besotted in understanding, if this be not a cruel mockery, and which must have been felt, unless it were repelled with hatred and scorn, as a heart-breaking insult. Moreover, this conduct acknowledges, by implication, that principle which by his actions the enemy has for a long time covertly maintained, and now openly and insolently avows in his words—that power is the measure of right;—and it is in a steady adherence to this abominable doctrine that his strength mainly lies. I do maintain then that, as far as the conduct of our Generals in framing these instruments tends to reconcile men to this course of action, and to sanction this principle, they are virtually his Allies: their weapons may be against him, but he will laugh at their weapons,—for he knows, though they themselves do not, that their souls are for him. Look at the preamble to the Armistice! In what is omitted and what is inserted, the French Ruler could not have fashioned it more for his own purpose if he had traced it with his own hand. We have then trampled upon a fundamental principle of justice, and countenanced a prime maxim of iniquity; thus adding, in an unexampled degree, the foolishness of impolicy to the heinousness of guilt. A conduct thus grossly unjust and impolitic, without having the hatred which it inspires neutralised by the contempt, is made contemptible by utterly wanting that colour of right which authority and power, put forth in defence of our Allies—in asserting their just claims and avenging their injuries, might have given. But we, instead of triumphantly displaying our power towards our enemies, have ostentatiously exercised it upon our friends; reversing here, as every where, the practice of sense and reason;—conciliatory even to abject submission where we ought to have been haughty and commanding,—and repulsive and tyrannical where we ought to have been gracious and kind. Even a common law of good breeding would have served us here, had we known how to apply it. We ought to have endeavoured to raise the Portugueze in their own estimation by concealing our power in comparison with theirs; dealing with them in the spirit of those mild and humane delusions, which spread such a genial grace over the intercourse, and add so much to the influence of love in the concerns of private life. It is a common saying, presume that a man is dishonest, and that is the readiest way to make him so: in like manner it may be said, presume that a nation is weak, and that is the surest course to bring it to weakness,—if it be not rouzed to prove its strength by applying it to the humiliation of your pride. The Portugueze had been weak; and, in connection with their Allies the Spaniards, they were prepared to become strong. It was, therefore, doubly incumbent upon us to foster and encourage them—to look favourably upon their efforts—generously to give them credit upon their promises—to hope with them and for them; and, thus anticipating and foreseeing, we should, by a natural operation of love, have contributed to create the merits which were anticipated and foreseen. I apply these rules, taken from the intercourse between individuals, to the conduct of large bodies of men, or of nations towards each other, because these are nothing but aggregates of individuals; and because the maxims of all just law, and the measures of all sane practice, are only an enlarged or modified application of those dispositions of love and those principles of reason, by which the welfare of individuals, in their connection with each other, is promoted. There was also here a still more urgent call for these courteous and humane principles as guides of conduct; because, in exact proportion to the physical weakness of Governments, and to the distraction and confusion which cannot but prevail, when a people is struggling for independence and liberty, are the well-intentioned and the wise among them remitted for their support to those benign elementary feelings of society, for the preservation and cherishing of which, among other important objects, government was from the beginning ordained.
Therefore, by the strongest obligations, we were bound to be studious of a delicate and respectful bearing towards those ill-fated nations, our Allies: and consequently, if the government of the Portugueze, though weak in power, possessed their affections, and was strong in right, it was incumbent upon us to turn our first thoughts to that government,—to look for it if it were hidden—to call it forth,—and, by our power combined with that of the people, to assert its rights. Or, if the government were dissolved and had no existence, it was our duty, in such an emergency, to have resorted to the nation, expressing its will through the most respectable and conspicuous authority, through that which seemed to have the best right to stand forth as its representative. In whatever circumstances Portugal had been placed, the paramount right of the Portugueze nation, or government, to appear not merely as a party but a principal, ought to have been established as a primary position, without the admission of which, all proposals to treat would be peremptorily rejected. But the Portugueze had a government; they had a lawful prince in Brazil; and a regency, appointed by him, at home; and generals, at the head of considerable bodies of troops, appointed also by the regency or the prince. Well then might one of those generals enter a formal protest against the treaty, on account of its being 'totally void of that deference due to the prince regent, or the government that represents him; as being hostile to the sovereign authority and independence of that government; and as being against the honour, safety, and independence of the nation.' I have already reminded the reader, of the benign and happy influences which might have attended upon a different conduct; how much good we might have added to that already in existence; how far we might have assisted in strengthening, among our Allies, those powers, and in developing those virtues, which were producing themselves by a natural process, and to which these breathings of insult must have been a deadly check and interruption. Nor would the evil be merely negative; for the interference of professed friends, acting in this manner, must have superinduced dispositions and passions, which were alien to the condition of the Portugueze;—scattered weeds which could not have been found upon the soil, if our ignorant hands had not sown them. Of this I will not now speak, for I have already detained the reader too long at the threshold;—but I have put the master key into his possession; and every chamber which he opens will be found loathsome as the one which he last quitted. Let us then proceed.
By the first article of the Convention it is covenanted, that all the places and forts in the kingdom of Portugal, occupied by the French troops, shall be delivered to the British army. Articles IV. and XII. are to the same effect—determining the surrender of Portugueze fortified places, stores, and ships, to the English forces; but not a word of their being to be holden in trust for the prince regent, or his government, to whom they belonged! The same neglect or contempt of justice and decency is shewn here, as in the preamble to these instruments. It was further shewn afterwards, by the act of hoisting the British flag instead of the Portugueze upon these forts, when they were first taken possession of by the British forces. It is no excuse to say that this was not intended. Such inattentions are among the most grievous faults which can be committed; and are impossible, when the affections and understandings of men are of that quality, and in that state, which are required for a service in which there is any thing noble or virtuous. Again, suppose that it was the purpose of the generals, who signed and ratified a Convention containing the articles in question, that the forts and ships, &c. should be delivered immediately to the Portugueze government,—would the delivering up of them wipe away the affront? Would it not rather appear, after the omission to recognize the right, that we had ostentatiously taken upon us to bestow—as a boon—- that which they felt to be their own?
Passing by, as already deliberated and decided upon, those conditions, (Articles II. and III.) by which it is stipulated, that the French army shall not be considered as prisoners of war, shall be conveyed with arms, &c. to some port between Rochefort and L'Orient, and be at liberty to serve; I come to that memorable condition, (Article V.) 'that the French army shall carry with it all its equipments, that is to say, its military chests and carriages, attached to the field commissariat and field hospitals, or shall be allowed to dispose of such part, as the Commander in Chief may judge it unnecessary to embark. In like manner all individuals of the army shall be at liberty to dispose of their private property of every description, with full security hereafter for the purchasers.' This is expressed still more pointedly in the Armistice,—though the meaning, implied in the two articles, is precisely the same. For, in the fifth article of the Armistice, it is agreed provisionally, 'that all those, of whom the French army consists, shall be conveyed to France with arms and baggage, and all their private property of every description, no part of which shall be wrested from them.' In the Convention it is only expressed, that they shall be at liberty to depart, (Article II.) with arms and baggage, and (Article V.) to dispose of their private property of every description. But, if they had a right to dispose of it, this would include a right to carry it away—which was undoubtedly understood by the French general. And in the Armistice it is expressly said, that their private property of every description shall be conveyed to France along with their persons. What then are we to understand by the words, their private property of every description? Equipments of the army in general, and baggage of individuals, had been stipulated for before: now we all know that the lawful professional gains and earnings of a soldier must be small; that he is not in the habit of carrying about him, during actual warfare, any accumulation of these or other property; and that the ordinary private property, which he can be supposed to have a just title to, is included under the name of his baggage;—therefore this was something more; and what it was—is apparent. No part of their property, says the Armistice, shall be wrested from them. Who does not see in these words the consciousness of guilt, an indirect self-betraying admission that they had in their hands treasures which might be lawfully taken from them, and an anxiety to prevent that act of justice by a positive stipulation? Who does not see, on what sort of property the Frenchman had his eye; that it was not property by right, but their possessions—their plunder—every thing, by what means soever acquired, that the French army, or any individual in it, was possessed of? But it has been urged, that the monstrousness of such a supposition precludes this interpretation, renders it impossible that it could either be intended by the one party, or so understood by the other. What right they who signed, and he who ratified this Convention, have to shelter themselves under this plea—will appear from the 16th and 17th articles. In these it is stipulated, 'that all subjects of France, or of Powers in alliance with France, domiciliated in Portugal, or accidentally in the country, shall have their property of every kind—moveable and immoveable—guaranteed to them, with liberty of retaining or disposing of it, and passing the produce into France:' the same is stipulated, (Article XVII.) for such natives of Portugal as have sided with the French, or occupied situations under the French Government. Here then is a direct avowal, still more monstrous, that every Frenchman, or native of a country in alliance with France, however obnoxious his crimes may have made him, and every traitorous Portugueze, shall have his property guaranteed to him (both previously to and after the reinstatement of the Portugueze government) by the British army! Now let us ask, what sense the word property must have had fastened to it in these cases. Must it not necessarily have included all the rewards which the Frenchman had received for his iniquity, and the traitorous Portugueze for his treason? (for no man would bear a part in such oppressions, or would be a traitor for nothing; and, moreover, all the rewards, which the French could bestow, must have been taken from the Portugueze, extorted from the honest and loyal, to be given to the wicked and disloyal.) These rewards of iniquity must necessarily have been included; for, on our side, no attempt is made at a distinction; and, on the side of the French, the word immoveable is manifestly intended to preclude such a distinction, where alone it could have been effectual. Property, then, here means—possessions thus infamously acquired; and, in the instance of the Portugueze, the fundamental notion of the word is subverted; for a traitor can have no property, till the government of his own country has remitted the punishment due to his crimes. And these wages of guilt, which the master by such exactions was enabled to pay, and which the servant thus earned, are to be guaranteed to him by a British army! Where does there exist a power on earth that could confer this right? If the Portugueze government itself had acted in this manner, it would have been guilty of wilful suicide; and the nation, if it had acted so, of high treason against itself. Let it not, then, be said, that the monstrousness of covenanting to convey, along with the persons of the French, their plunder, secures the article from the interpretation which the people of Great Britain gave, and which, I have now proved, they were bound to give to it.—But, conceding for a moment, that it was not intended that the words should bear this sense, and that, neither in a fair grammatical construction, nor as illustrated by other passages or by the general tenour of the document, they actually did bear it, had not unquestionable voices proclaimed the cruelty and rapacity—the acts of sacrilege, assassination, and robbery, by which these treasures had been amassed? Was not the perfidy of the French army, and its contempt of moral obligation, both as a body and as to the individuals which composed it, infamous through Europe?—Therefore, the concession would signify nothing: for our Generals, by allowing an army of this character to depart with its equipments, waggons, military chest, and baggage, had provided abundant means to enable it to carry off whatsoever it desired, and thus to elude and frustrate any stipulations which might have been made for compelling it to restore that which had been so iniquitously seized. And here are we brought back to the fountain-head of all this baseness; to that apathy and deadness to the principle of justice, through the influence of which, this army, outlawed by its crimes, was suffered to depart from the Land, over which it had so long tyrannized—other than as a band of disarmed prisoners.—I maintain, therefore, that permission to carry off the booty was distinctly expressed; and, if it had not been so, that the principle of justice could not here be preserved; as a violation of it must necessarily have followed from other conditions of the treaty. Sir Hew Dalrymple himself, before the Court of Inquiry, has told us, in two letters (to Generals Beresford and Friere,) that 'such part of the plunder as was in money, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to identify;' and, consequently, the French could not be prevented from carrying it away with them. From the same letters we learn, that 'the French were intending to carry off a considerable part of their plunder, by calling it public money, and saying that it belonged to the military chest; and that their evasions of the article were most shameful, and evinced a want of probity and honour, which was most disgraceful to them.' If the French had given no other proofs of their want of such virtues, than those furnished by this occasion, neither the Portugueze, nor Spanish, nor British nations would condemn them, nor hate them as they now do; nor would this article of the Convention have excited such indignation. For the French, by so acting, could not deem themselves breaking an engagement; no doubt they looked upon themselves as injured,—that the failure in good faith was on the part of the British; and that it was in the lawlessness of power, and by a mere quibble, that this construction was afterwards put upon the article in question.
Widely different from the conduct of the British was that of the Spaniards in a like case:—with high feeling did they, abating not a jot or a tittle, enforce the principle of justice. 'How,' says the governor of Cadiz to General Dupont in the same noble letter before alluded to, 'how,' says he, after enumerating the afflictions which his army, and the tyrant who had sent it, had unjustly brought upon the Spanish nation, (for of these, in their dealings with the French, they never for a moment lost sight,) 'how,' asks he, 'could you expect, that your army should carry off from Spain the fruit of its rapacity, cruelty, and impiety? how could you conceive this possible, or that we should be so stupid or senseless?' And this conduct is as wise in reason as it is true to nature. The Spanish people could have had no confidence in their government, if it had not acted thus. These are the sympathies which, prove that a government is paternal,—that it makes one family with the people: besides, it is only by such adherence to justice, that, in times of like commotion, popular excesses can either be mitigated or prevented. If we would be efficient allies of Spain, nay, if we would not run the risk of doing infinite harm, these sentiments must not only be ours as a nation, but they must pervade the hearts of our ministers and our generals—our agents and our ambassadors. If it be not so, they, who are sent abroad, must either be conscious how unworthy they are, and with what unworthy commissions they appear, or not: if they do feel this, then they must hang their heads, and blush for their country and themselves; if they do not, the Spaniards must blush for them and revolt from them; or, what would be ten thousand times more deplorable, they must purchase a reconcilement and a communion by a sacrifice of all that is excellent in themselves. Spain must either break down her lofty spirit, her animation and fiery courage, to run side by side in the same trammels with Great Britain; or she must start off from her intended yoke-fellow with contempt and aversion. This is the alternative, and there is no avoiding it.
I have yet to speak of the influence of such concessions upon the French Ruler and his army. With what Satanic pride must he have contemplated the devotion of his servants and adherents to their law, the steadiness and zeal of their perverse loyalty, and the faithfulness with which they stand by him and each other! How must his heart have distended with false glory, while he contrasted these qualities of his subjects with the insensibility and slackness of his British enemies! This notice has, however, no especial propriety in this place; for, as far as concerns Bonaparte, his pride and depraved confidence may be equally fed by almost all the conditions of this instrument. But, as to his army, it is plain that the permission (whether it be considered as by an express article formally granted, or only involved in the general conditions of the treaty), to bear away in triumph the harvest of its crimes, must not only have emboldened and exalted it with arrogance, and whetted its rapacity; but that hereby every soldier, of which this army was composed, must, upon his arrival in his own country, have been a seed which would give back plenteously in its kind. The French are at present a needy people, without commerce or manufactures,—unsettled in their minds and debased in their morals by revolutionary practices and habits of warfare; and the youth of the country are rendered desperate by oppression, which, leaving no choice in their occupation, discharges them from all responsibility to their own consciences. How powerful then must have been the action of such incitements upon a people so circumstanced! The actual sight, and, far more, the imaginary sight and handling of these treasures, magnified by the romantic tales which must have been spread about them, would carry into every town and village an antidote for the terrors of conscription; and would rouze men, like the dreams imported from the new world when the first discoverers and adventurers returned, with their ingots and their gold dust—their stories and their promises, to inflame and madden the avarice of the old. 'What an effect,' says the Governor of Cadiz, 'must it have upon the people,' (he means the Spanish people,) 'to know that a single soldier was carrying away 2580 livres tournois!' What an effect, (he might have said also,) must it have upon the French!—I direct the reader's attention to this, because it seems to have been overlooked; and because some of the public journals, speaking of the Convention, (and, no doubt, uttering the sentiments of several of their readers,)—say 'that they are disgusted with the transaction, not because the French have been permitted to carry off a few diamonds, or some ingots of silver; but because we confessed, by consenting to the treaty, that an army of 35,000 British troops, aided by the Portugueze nation, was not able to compel 20,000 French to surrender at discretion.' This is indeed the root of the evil, as hath been shewn; and it is the curse of this treaty, that the several parts of it are of such enormity as singly to occupy the attention and to destroy comparison and coexistence. But the people of Great Britain are disgusted both with the one and the other. They bewail the violation of the principle: if the value of the things carried off had been in itself trifling, their grief and their indignation would have been scarcely less. But it is manifest, from what has been said, that it was not trifling; and that therefore, (upon that account as well as upon others,) this permission was no less impolitic than it was unjust and dishonourable.