In illustrating these articles of the Armistice and Convention, by which the French were both expressly permitted and indirectly enabled to carry off their booty, we have already seen, that a concession was made which is still more enormous; viz. that all subjects of France, or of powers in alliance with France, domiciliated in Portugal or resident there, and all natives of Portugal who have accepted situations under the French government, &c., shall have their property of every kind guaranteed to them by the British army. By articles 16th and 17th, their persons are placed under the like protection. 'The French' (Article XVI.) 'shall be at liberty either to accompany the French army, or to remain in Portugal;' 'And the Portugueze' (Article XVII.) 'shall not be rendered accountable for their political conduct during the period of the occupation of the country by the French army: they all are placed under the protection of the British commanders, and shall sustain no injury in their property or persons.'
I have animadverted, heretofore, upon the unprofessional eagerness of our Generals to appear in the character of negotiators when the sword would have done them more service than the pen. But, if they had confined themselves to mere military regulations, they might indeed with justice have been grievously censured as injudicious commanders, whose notion of the honour of armies was of a low pitch, and who had no conception of the peculiar nature of the service in which they were engaged: but the censure must have stopped here. Whereas, by these provisions, they have shewn that they have never reflected upon the nature of military authority as contra-distinguished from civil. French example had so far dazzled and blinded them, that the French army is suffered to denominate itself 'the French government;' and, from the whole tenour of these instruments, (from the preamble, and these articles especially,) it should seem that our Generals fancied themselves and their army to be the British government. For these regulations, emanating from a mere military authority, are purely civil; but of such a kind, that no power on earth could confer a right to establish them. And this trampling upon the most sacred rights—this sacrifice of the consciousness of a self-preserving principle, without which neither societies nor governments can exist, is not made by our generals in relation to subjects of their own sovereign, but to an independent nation, our ally, into whose territories we could not have entered but from its confidence in our friendship and good faith. Surely the persons, who (under the countenance of too high authority) have talked so loudly of prejudging this question, entirely overlooked or utterly forgot this part of it. What have these monstrous provisions to do with the relative strength of the two armies, or with any point admitting a doubt? What need here of a Court of Judicature to settle who were the persons (their names are subscribed by their own hands), and to determine the quality of the thing? Actions and agents like these, exhibited in this connection with each other, must of necessity be condemned the moment they are known: and to assert the contrary, is to maintain that man is a being without understanding, and that morality is an empty dream. And, if this condemnation must after this manner follow, to utter it is less a duty than a further inevitable consequence from the constitution of human nature. They, who hold that the formal sanction of a Court of Judicature is in this case required before a people has a right to pass sentence know not to what degree they are enemies to that people and to mankind; to what degree selfishness, whether arising from their peculiar situation or from other causes, has in them prevailed over those faculties which are our common inheritance, and cut them off from fellowship with the species. Most deplorable would be the result, if it were possible that the injunctions of these men could be obeyed, or their remonstrances acknowledged to be just. For, (not to mention that, if it were not for such prompt decisions of the public voice, misdemeanours of men high in office would rarely be accounted for at all,) we must bear in mind, at this crisis, that the adversary of all good is hourly and daily extending his ravages; and, according to such notions of fitness, our indignation, our sorrow, our shame, our sense of right and wrong, and all those moral affections, and powers of the understanding, by which alone he can be effectually opposed, are to enter upon a long vacation; their motion is to be suspended—a thing impossible; if it could, it would be destroyed.
Let us now see what language the Portugueze speak upon that part of the treaty which has incited me to give vent to these feelings, and to assert these truths. 'I protest,' says General Friere, 'against Article XVII., one of the two now under examination, because it attempts to tie down the government of this kingdom not to bring to justice and condign punishment those persons, who have been notoriously and scandalously disloyal to their prince and the country by joining and serving the French party: and, even if the English army should be allowed to screen them from the punishment they have deserved, still it should not prevent their expulsion—whereby this country would no longer have to fear being again betrayed by the same men.' Yet, while the partizans of the French are thus guarded, not a word is said to protect the loyal Portugueze, whose fidelity to their country and their prince must have rendered them obnoxious to the French army; and who in Lisbon and the environs, were left at its mercy from the day when the Convention was signed, till the departure of the French. Couple also with this the first additional article, by which it is agreed, 'that the individuals in the civil employment of the army,' (including all the agitators, spies, informers, all the jackals of the ravenous lion,) 'made prisoners either by the British troops or the Portugueze in any part of Portugal, will be restored (as is customary) without exchange.' That is, no stipulations being made for reciprocal conditions! In fact, through the whole course of this strange interference of a military power with the administration of civil justice in the country of an Ally, there is only one article (the 15th) which bears the least shew of attention to Portugueze interests. By this it is stipulated, 'That, from the date of the ratification of the Convention, all arrears of contributions, requisitions, or claims whatever of the French Government against subjects of Portugal, or any other individuals residing in this country, founded on the occupation of Portugal by the French troops in the month of December 1807, which may not have been paid up, are cancelled: and all sequestrations, laid upon their property moveable or immoveable, are removed; and the free disposal of the same is restored to the proper owners.' Which amounts to this. The French are called upon formally to relinquish, in favour of the Portugueze, that to which they never had any right; to abandon false claims, which they either had a power to enforce, or they had not: if they departed immediately and had not power, the article was nugatory; if they remained a day longer and had power, there was no security that they would abide by it. Accordingly, loud complaints were made that, after the date of the Convention, all kinds of ravages were committed by the French upon Lisbon and its neighbourhood: and what did it matter whether these were upon the plea of old debts and requisitions; or new debts were created more greedily than ever—from the consciousness that the time for collecting them was so short? This article, then, the only one which is even in shew favourable to the Portugueze, is, in substance, nothing: inasmuch as, in what it is silent upon, (viz. that the People of Lisbon and its neighbourhood shall not be vexed and oppressed by the French, during their stay, with new claims and robberies,) it is grossly cruel or negligent; and, in that for which it actually stipulates, wholly delusive. It is in fact insulting; for the very admission of a formal renunciation of these claims does to a certain degree acknowledge their justice. The only decent manner of introducing matter to this effect would have been by placing it as a bye clause of a provision that secured the Portugueze from further molestations, and merely alluding to it as a thing understood of course. Yet, from the place which this specious article occupies, (preceding immediately the 16th and 17th which we have been last considering,) it is clear that it must have been intended by the French General as honey smeared upon the edge of the cup—to make the poison, contained in those two, more palateable.
Thus much for the Portugueze, and their particular interests. In one instance, a concern of the Spanish Nation comes directly under notice; and that Nation also is treated without delicacy or feeling. For by the 18th article it is agreed, 'that the Spaniards, (4000 in number) who had been disarmed, and were confined on ship-board in the port of Lisbon by the French, should be liberated.' And upon what consideration? Not upon their right to be free, as having been treacherously and cruelly dealt with by men who were part of a Power that was labouring to subjugate their country, and in this attempt had committed inhuman crimes against it;—not even exchanged as soldiers against soldiers:—but the condition of their emancipation is, that the British General engages 'to obtain of the Spaniards to restore such French subjects, either military or civil, as have been detained in Spain, without having been taken in battle or in consequence of military operations, but on account of the occurrences of the 29th of last May and the days immediately following. 'Occurrences!' I know not what are exactly the features of the face for which this word serves as a veil: I have no register at hand to inform me what these events precisely were: but there can be no doubt that it was a time of triumph for liberty and humanity; and that the persons, for whom these noble-minded Spaniards were to be exchanged, were no other than a horde from among the most abject of the French Nation; probably those wretches, who, having never faced either the dangers or the fatigues of war, had been most busy in secret preparations or were most conspicuous in open acts of massacre, when the streets of Madrid, a few weeks before, had been drenched with the blood of two thousand of her bravest citizens. Yet the liberation of these Spaniards, upon these terms, is recorded (in the report of the Court of Enquiry) 'as one of the advantages which, in the contemplation of the Generals, would result from the Convention!'
Finally, 'If there shall be any doubt (Article XIV.) as to the meaning of any article, it shall be explained favourably to the French Army; and Hostages (Article XX.) of the rank of Field Officers, on the part of the British Army and Navy, shall be furnished for the guarantee of the present Convention.'
I have now gone through the painful task of examining the most material conditions of the CONVENTION of CINTRA:—the whole number of the articles is twenty-two, with three additional ones—a long ladder into a deep abyss of infamy!—
Need it be said that neglects—injuries—and insults—like these which we have been contemplating, come from what quarter they may, let them be exhibited towards whom they will, must produce not merely mistrust and jealousy, but alienation and hatred. The passions and feelings may be quieted or diverted for a short time; but, though out of sight or seemingly asleep, they must exist; and the life which they have received cannot, but by a long course of justice and kindness, be overcome and destroyed. But why talk of a long course of justice and kindness, when the immediate result must have been so deplorable? Relying upon our humanity, our fellow-feeling, and our justice, upon these instant and urgent claims, sanctioned by the more mild one of ancient alliance, the Portugueze People by voices from every part of their land entreated our succour; the arrival of a British Army upon their coasts was joyfully hailed; and the people of the country zealously assisted in landing the troops; without which help, as a British General has informed us, that landing could not have been effected. And it is in this manner that they are repaid! Scarcely have we set foot upon their country before we sting them into self-reproaches, and act in every thing as if it were our wish to make them ashamed of their generous confidence as of a foolish simplicity—proclaiming to them that they have escaped from one thraldom only to fall into another. If the French had any traitorous partizans in Portugal, (and we have seen that such there were; and that nothing was left undone on our part, which could be done, to keep them there, and to strengthen them) what answer could have been given to one of these, if (with this treaty in his hand) he had said, 'The French have dealt hardly with us, I allow; but we have gained nothing: the change is not for the better, but for the worse: for the appetite of their tyranny was palled; but this, being new to its food, is keen and vigorous. If you have only a choice between two masters, (such an advocate might have argued) chose always the stronger: for he, after his evil passions have had their first harvest, confident in his strength, will not torment you wantonly in order to prove it. Besides, the property which he has in you he can maintain; and there will be no risk of your being torn in pieces—the unsettled prey of two rival claimants. You will thus have the advantage of a fixed and assured object of your hatred: and your fear, being stripped of doubt, will lose its motion and its edge: both passions will relax and grow mild; and, though they may not turn into reconcilement and love, though you may not be independent nor be free, yet you will at least exist in tranquillity,—and possess, if not the activity of hope, the security of despair.' No effectual answer, I say, could have been given to a man pleading thus in such circumstances. So much for the choice of evils. But, for the hope of good!—what is to become of the efforts and high resolutions of the Portugueze and Spanish Nations, manifested by their own hand in the manner which we have seen? They may live indeed and prosper; but not by us, but in despite of us.
Whatever may be the character of the Portugueze Nation; be it true or not, that they had a becoming sense of the injuries which they had received from the French Invader, and were rouzed to throw off oppression by a universal effort, and to form a living barrier against it;—certain it is that, betrayed and trampled upon as they had been, they held unprecedented claims upon humanity to secure them from further outrages.—Moreover, our conduct towards them was grossly inconsistent. For we entered their country upon the supposition that they had such sensibility and virtue; we announced to them publickly and solemnly our belief in this: and indeed to have landed a force in the Peninsula upon any other inducement would have been the excess of folly and madness. But the Portugueze are a brave people—a people of great courage and worth! Conclusions, drawn from intercourse with certain classes of the depraved inhabitants of Lisbon only, and which are true only with respect to them, have been hastily extended to the whole Nation, which has thus unjustly suffered both in our esteem and in that of all Europe. In common with their neighbours the Spaniards, they were making a universal, zealous, and fearless effort; and, whatever may be the final issue, the very act of having risen under the pressure and in the face of the most tremendous military power which the earth has ever seen—is itself evidence in their favour, the strongest and most comprehensive which can be given; a transcendent glory! which, let it be remembered, no subsequent failures in duty on their part can forfeit. This they must have felt—that they had furnished an illustrious example; and that nothing can abolish their claim upon the good wishes and upon the gratitude of mankind, which is—and will be through all ages their due. At such a time, then, injuries and insults from any quarter would have been deplorable; but, proceeding from us, the evil must have been aggravated beyond calculation. For we have, throughout Europe, the character of a sage and meditative people. Our history has been read by the degraded Nations of the Continent with admiration, and some portions of it with awe; with a recognition of superiority and distance, which was honourable to us—salutary for those to whose hearts, in their depressed state, it could find entrance—and promising for the future condition of the human race. We have been looked up to as a people who have acted nobly; whom their constitution of government has enabled to speak and write freely, and who therefore have thought comprehensively; as a people among whom philosophers and poets, by their surpassing genius—their wisdom—and knowledge of human nature, have circulated—and made familiar—divinely-tempered sentiments and the purest notions concerning the duties and true dignity of individual and social man in all situations and under all trials. By so readily acceding to the prayers with which the Spaniards and Portugueze entreated our assistance, we had proved to them that we were not wanting in fellow-feeling. Therefore might we be admitted to be judges between them and their enemies—unexceptionable judges—more competent even than a dispassionate posterity, which, from the very want comparatively of interest and passion, might be in its examination remiss and negligent, and therefore in its decision erroneous. We, their contemporaries, were drawn towards them as suffering beings; but still their sufferings were not ours, nor could be; and we seemed to stand at that due point of distance from which right and wrong might be fairly looked at and seen in their just proportions. Every thing conspired to prepossess the Spaniards and Portugueze in our favour, and to give the judgment of the British Nation authority in their eyes. Strange, then, would be their first sensations, when, upon further trial, instead of a growing sympathy, they met with demonstrations of a state of sentiment and opinion abhorrent from their own. A shock must have followed upon this discovery, a shock to their confidence—not perhaps at first in us, but in themselves: for, like all men under the agitation of extreme passion, no doubt they had before experienced occasional misgivings that they were subject to error and distraction from afflictions pressing too violently upon them. These flying apprehensions would now take a fixed place; and that moment would be most painful. If they continued to respect our opinion, so far must they have mistrusted themselves: fatal mistrust at such a crisis! Their passion of just vengeance, their indignation, their aspiring hopes, everything that elevated and cheared, must have departed from them. But this bad influence, the excess of the outrage would mitigate or prevent; and we may be assured that they rather recoiled from Allies who had thus by their actions discountenanced and condemned efforts, which the most solemn testimony of conscience had avouched to them were just;—that they recoiled from us with that loathing and contempt which unexpected, determined, and absolute hostility, upon points of dearest interest will for ever create.
Again: independence and liberty were the blessings for which the people of the Peninsula were contending—immediate independence, which was not to be gained but by modes of exertion from which liberty must ensue. Now, liberty—healthy, matured, time-honoured liberty—this is the growth and peculiar boast of Britain; and Nature herself, by encircling with the ocean the country which we inhabit, has proclaimed that this mighty Nation is for ever to be her own ruler, and that the land is set apart for the home of immortal independence. Judging then from these first fruits of British Friendship, what bewildering and depressing and hollow thoughts must the Spaniards and Portugueze have entertained concerning the real value of these blessings, if the people who have possessed them longest, and who ought to understand them best, could send forth an army capable of enacting the oppression and baseness of the Convention of Cintra; if the government of that people could sanction this treaty; and if, lastly, this distinguished and favoured people themselves could suffer it to be held forth to the eyes of men as expressing the sense of their hearts—as an image of their understandings.
But it did not speak their sense—it was not endured—it was not submitted to in their hearts. Bitter was the sorrow of the people of Great Britain when the tidings first came to their ears, when they first fixed their eyes upon this covenant—overwhelming was their astonishment, tormenting their shame; their indignation was tumultuous; and the burthen of the past would have been insupportable, if it had not involved in its very nature a sustaining hope for the future. Among many alleviations, there was one, which, (not wisely, but overcome by circumstances) all were willing to admit;—that the event was so strange and uncouth, exhibiting such discordant characteristics of innocent fatuity and enormous guilt, that it could not without violence be thought of as indicative of a general constitution of things, either in the country or the government; but that it was a kind of lusus naturae, in the moral world—a solitary straggler out of the circumference of Nature's law—a monster which could not propagate, and had no birth-right in futurity. Accordingly, the first expectation was that the government would deem itself under the necessity of disanulling the Convention; a necessity which, though in itself a great evil, appeared small in the eyes of judicious men, compared with the consequences of admitting that such a contract could be binding. For they, who had signed and ratified it, had not only glaringly exceeded all power which could be supposed to be vested in them as holding a military office; but, in the exercise of political functions, they had framed ordinances which neither the government, nor the Nation, nor any Power on earth, could confer upon them a right to frame: therefore the contract was self-destroying from the beginning. It is a wretched oversight, or a wilful abuse of terms still more wretched, to speak of the good faith of a Nation as being pledged to an act which was not a shattering of the edifice of justice, but a subversion of its foundations. One man cannot sign away the faculty of reason in another; much less can one or two individuals do this for a whole people. Therefore the contract was void, both from its injustice and its absurdity; and the party, with whom it was made, must have known it to be so. It could not then but be expected by many that the government would reject it. Moreover, extraordinary outrages against reason and virtue demand that extraordinary sacrifices of atonement should be made upon their altars; and some were encouraged to think that a government might upon this impulse rise above itself, and turn an exceeding disgrace into true glory, by a public profession of shame and repentance for having appointed such unworthy instruments; that, this being acknowledged, it would clear itself from all imputation of having any further connection with what had been done, and would provide that the Nation should as speedily as possible, be purified from all suspicion of looking upon it with other feelings than those of abhorrence. The people knew what had been their own wishes when the army was sent in aid of their Allies; and they clung to the faith, that their wishes and the aims of the Government must have been in unison; and that the guilt would soon be judicially fastened upon those who stood forth as principals, and who (it was hoped) would be found to have fulfilled only their own will and pleasure,—to have had no explicit commission or implied encouragement for what they had done,—no accessaries in their crime. The punishment of these persons was anticipated, not to satisfy any cravings of vindictive justice (for these, if they could have existed in such a case, had been thoroughly appeased already: for what punishment could be greater than to have brought upon themselves the sentence passed upon them by the voice of their countrymen?); but for this reason—that a judicial condemnation of the men, who were openly the proximate cause, and who were forgetfully considered as the single and sole originating source, would make our detestation of the effect more signally manifest.
These thoughts, if not welcomed without scruple and relied upon without fear, were at least encouraged; till it was recollected that the persons at the head of government had ordered that the event should be communicated to the inhabitants of the metropolis with signs of national rejoicing. No wonder if, when these rejoicings were called to mind, it was impossible to entertain the faith which would have been most consolatory. The evil appeared no longer as the forlorn monster which I have described. It put on another shape and was endued with a more formidable life—with power to generate and transmit after its kind. A new and alarming import was added to the event by this open testimony of gladness and approbation; which intimated—which declared—that the spirit, which swayed the individuals who were the ostensible and immediate authors of the Convention, was not confined to them; but that it was widely prevalent: else it could not have been found in the very council-seat; there, where if wisdom and virtue have not some influence, what is to become of the Nation in these times of peril? rather say, into what an abyss is it already fallen!
His Majesty's ministers, by this mode of communicating the tidings, indiscreet as it was unfeeling, had committed themselves. Yet still they might have recovered from the lapse, have awakened after a little time. And accordingly, notwithstanding an annunciation so ominous, it was matter of surprise and sorrow to many, that the ministry appeared to deem the Convention binding, and that its terms were to be fulfilled. There had indeed been only a choice of evils: but, of the two the worse—ten thousand times the worse—was fixed upon. The ministers, having thus officially applauded the treaty,—and, by suffering it to be carried into execution, made themselves a party to the transaction,—drew upon themselves those suspicions which will ever pursue the steps of public men who abandon the direct road which leads to the welfare of their country. It was suspected that they had taken this part against the dictates of conscience, and from selfishness and cowardice; that, from the first, they reasoned thus within themselves:—'If the act be indeed so criminal as there is cause to believe that the public will pronounce it to be; and if it shall continue to be regarded as such; great odium must sooner or later fall upon those who have appointed the agents: and this odium, which will be from the first considerable, in spite of the astonishment and indignation of which the framers of the Convention may be the immediate object, will, when the astonishment has relaxed, and the angry passions have died away, settle (for many causes) more heavily upon those who, by placing such men in the command, are the original source of the guilt and the dishonour. How then is this most effectually to be prevented? By endeavouring to prevent or to destroy, as far as may be, the odium attached to the act itself.' For which purpose it was suspected that the rejoicings had been ordered; and that afterwards (when the people had declared themselves so loudly),—partly upon the plea of the good faith of the Nation being pledged, and partly from a false estimate of the comparative force of the two obligations,—the Convention, in the same selfish spirit, was carried into effect: and that the ministry took upon itself a final responsibility, with a vain hope that, by so doing and incorporating its own credit with the transaction, it might bear down the censures of the people, and overrule their judgment to the super-inducing of a belief, that the treaty was not so unjust and inexpedient: and thus would be included—in one sweeping exculpation—the misdeeds of the servant and the master.
But,—whether these suspicions were reasonable or not, whatever motives produced a determination that the Convention should be acted upon,—there can be no doubt of the manner in which the ministry wished that the people should appreciate it; when the same persons, who had ordered that it should at first be received with rejoicing, availed themselves of his Majesty's high authority to give a harsh reproof to the City of London for having prayed 'that an enquiry might be instituted into this dishonourable and unprecedented transaction.' In their petition they styled it also 'an afflicting event—humiliating and degrading to the country, and injurious to his Majesty's Allies.' And for this, to the astonishment and grief of all sound minds, the petitioners were severely reprimanded; and told, among other admonitions, 'that it was inconsistent with the principles of British jurisprudence to pronounce judgement without previous investigation.'
Upon this charge, as re-echoed in its general import by persons who have been over-awed or deceived, and by others who have been wilful deceivers, I have already incidentally animadverted; and repelled it, I trust, with becoming, indignation. I shall now meet the charge for the last time formally and directly; on account of considerations applicable to all times; and because the whole course of domestic proceedings relating to the Convention of Cintra, combined with menaces which have been recently thrown out in the lower House of Parliament, renders it too probable that a league has been framed for the purpose of laying further restraints upon freedom of speech and of the press; and that the reprimand to the City of London was devised by ministers as a preparatory overt act of this scheme; to the great abuse of the Sovereign's Authority, and in contempt of the rights of the Nation. In meeting this charge, I shall shew to what desperate issues men are brought, and in what woeful labyrinths they are entangled, when, under the pretext of defending instituted law, they violate the laws of reason and nature for their own unhallowed purposes.
If the persons, who signed this petition, acted inconsistently with the principles of British jurisprudence; the offence must have been committed by giving an answer, before adequate and lawful evidence had entitled them so to do, to one or other of these questions:—'What is the act? and who is the agent?'—or to both conjointly. Now the petition gives no opinion upon the agent; it pronounces only upon the act, and that some one must be guilty; but who—it does not take upon itself to say. It condemns the act; and calls for punishment upon the authors, whosoever they may be found to be; and does no more. After the analysis which has been made of the Convention, I may ask if there be any thing in this which deserves reproof; and reproof from an authority which ought to be most enlightened and most dispassionate,—as it is, next to the legislative, the most solemn authority in the Land.
It is known to every one that the privilege of complaint and petition, in cases where the Nation feels itself aggrieved, itself being the judge, (and who else ought to be, or can be?)—a privilege, the exercise of which implies condemnation of something complained of, followed by a prayer for its removal or correction—not only is established by the most grave and authentic charters of Englishmen, who have been taught by their wisest statesmen and legislators to be jealous over its preservation, and to call it into practice upon every reasonable occasion; but also that this privilege is an indispensable condition of all civil liberty. Nay, of such paramount interest is it to mankind, existing under any frame of Government whatsoever; that, either by law or custom, it has universally prevailed under all governments—from the Grecian and Swiss Democracies to the Despotisms of Imperial Rome, of Turkey, and of France under her present ruler. It must then be a high principle which could exact obeisance from governments at the two extremes of polity, and from all modes of government inclusively; from the best and from the worst; from magistrates acting under obedience to the stedfast law which expresses the general will; and from depraved and licentious tyrants, whose habit it is—to express, and to act upon, their own individual will. Tyrants have seemed to feel that, if this principle were acknowledged, the subject ought to be reconciled to any thing; that, by permitting the free exercise of this right alone, an adequate price was paid down for all abuses; that a standing pardon was included in it for the past, and a daily renewed indulgence for every future enormity. It is then melancholy to think that the time is come when an attempt has been made to tear, out of the venerable crown of the Sovereign of Great Britain, a gem which is in the very front of the turban of the Emperor of Morocco.—(See Appendix D.)
To enter upon this argument is indeed both astounding and humiliating: for the adversary in the present case is bound to contend that we cannot pronounce upon evil or good, either in the actions of our own or in past times, unless the decision of a Court of Judicature has empowered us so to do. Why then have historians written? and why do we yield to the impulses of our nature, hating or loving—approving or condemning according to the appearances which their records present to our eyes? But the doctrine is as nefarious as it is absurd. For those public events in which men are most interested, namely, the crimes of rulers and of persons in high authority, for the most part are such as either have never been brought before tribunals at all, or before unjust ones: for, though offenders may be in hostility with each other, yet the kingdom of guilt is not wholly divided against itself; its subjects are united by a general interest to elude or overcome that law which would bring them to condign punishment. Therefore to make a verdict of a Court of Judicature a necessary condition for enabling men to determine the quality of an act, when the 'head and front'—the life and soul of the offence may have been, that it eludes or rises above the reach of all judicature, is a contradiction which would be too gross to merit notice, were it not that men willingly suffer their understandings to stagnate. And hence this rotten bog, rotten and unstable as the crude consistence of Milton's Chaos, 'smitten' (for I will continue to use the language of the poet) 'by the petrific mace—and bound with Gorgonian rigour by the look'—of despotism, is transmuted; and becomes a high-way of adamant for the sorrowful steps of generation after generation.
Again: in cases where judicial inquiries can be and are instituted, and are equitably conducted, this suspension of judgment, with respect to act or agent, is only supposed necessarily to exist in the Court itself; not in the witnesses, the plaintiffs or accusers, or in the minds even of the people who may be present. If the contrary supposition were realized, how could the arraigned person ever have been brought into Court? What would become of the indignation, the hope, the sorrow, or the sense of justice, by which the prosecutors, or the people of the country who pursued or apprehended the presumed criminal, or they who appear in evidence against him, are actuated? If then this suspension of judgment, by a law of human nature and a requisite of society, is not supposed necessarily to exist—except in the minds of the Court; if this be undeniable in cases where the eye and ear-witnesses are few;—how much more so in a case like the present; where all, that constitutes the essence of the act, is avowed by the agents themselves, and lies bare to the notice of the whole world?—Now it was in the character of complainants and denunciators, that the petitioners of the City of London appeared before his Majesty's throne; and they have been reproached by his Majesty's ministers under the cover of a sophism, which, if our anxiety to interpret favourably words sanctioned by the First Magistrate—makes us unwilling to think it a deliberate artifice meant for the delusion of the people, must however (on the most charitable comment) be pronounced an evidence of no little heedlessness and self-delusion on the part of those who framed it.
To sum up the matter—the right of petition (which, we have shewn as a general proposition, supposes a right to condemn, and is in itself an act of qualified condemnation) may in too many instances take the ground of absolute condemnation, both with respect to the crime and the criminal. It was confined, in this case, to the crime; but, if the City of London had proceeded farther, they would have been justifiable; because the delinquents had set their hands to their own delinquency. The petitioners, then, are not only clear of all blame; but are entitled to high praise: and we have seen whither the doctrines lead, upon which they were condemned.—And now, mark the discord which will ever be found in the actions of men, where there is no inward harmony of reason or virtue to regulate the outward conduct.
Those ministers, who advised their Sovereign to reprove the City of London for uttering prematurely, upon a measure, an opinion in which they were supported by the unanimous voice of the nation, had themselves before publickly prejudged the question by ordering that the tidings should be communicated with rejoicings. One of their body has since attempted to wipe away this stigma by representing that these orders were given out of a just tenderness for the reputation of the generals, who would otherwise have appeared to be condemned without trial. But did these rejoicings leave the matter indifferent? Was not the positive fact of thus expressing an opinion (above all in a case like this, in which surely no man could ever dream that there were any features of splendour) far stronger language of approbation, than the negative fact could be of disapprobation? For these same ministers who had called upon the people of Great Britain to rejoice over the Armistice and Convention, and who reproved and discountenanced and suppressed to the utmost of their power every attempt at petitioning for redress of the injury caused by those treaties, have now made publick a document from which it appears that, 'when the instruments were first laid before his Majesty, the king felt himself compelled at once' (i.e. previously to all investigation) 'to express his disapprobation of those articles, in which stipulations were made directly affecting the interests or feelings of the Spanish and Portugueze nations.'
And was it possible that a Sovereign of a free country could be otherwise affected? It is indeed to be regretted that his Majesty's censure was not, upon this occasion, radical—and pronounced in a sterner tone; that a Council was not in existence sufficiently intelligent and virtuous to advise the king to give full expression to the sentiments of his own mind; which, we may reasonably conclude, were in sympathy with those of a brave and loyal people. Never surely was there a public event more fitted to reduce men, in all ranks of society, under the supremacy of their common nature; to impress upon them one belief; to infuse into them one spirit. For it was not done in a remote corner by persons of obscure rank; but in the eyes of Europe and of all mankind; by the leading authorities, military and civil, of a mighty empire. It did not relate to a petty immunity, or a local and insulated privilege—but to the highest feelings of honour to which a Nation may either be calmly and gradually raised by a long course of independence, liberty, and glory; or to the level of which it may be lifted up at once, from a fallen state, by a sudden and extreme pressure of violence and tyranny. It not only related to these high feelings of honour; but to the fundamental principles of justice, by which life and property, that is the means of living, are secured.
A people, whose government had been dissolved by foreign tyranny, and which had been left to work out its salvation by its own virtues, prayed for our help. And whence were we to learn how that help could be most effectually given, how they were even to be preserved from receiving injuries instead of benefits at our hands,—whence were we to learn this but from their language and from our own hearts? They had spoken of unrelenting and inhuman wrongs; of patience wearied out; of the agonizing yoke cast off; of the blessed service of freedom chosen; of heroic aspirations; of constancy, and fortitude, and perseverance; of resolution even to the death; of gladness in the embrace of death; of weeping over the graves of the slain, by those who had not been so happy as to die; of resignation under the worst final doom; of glory, and triumph, and punishment. This was the language which we heard—this was the devout hymn that was chaunted; and the responses, with which our country bore a part in the solemn service, were from her soul and from the depths of her soul.
O sorrow! O misery for England, the Land of liberty and courage and peace; the Land trustworthy and long approved; the home of lofty example and benign precept; the central orb to which, as to a fountain, the nations of the earth 'ought to repair, and in their golden urns draw light;'—O sorrow and shame for our country; for the grass which is upon her fields, and the dust which is in her graves;—for her good men who now look upon the day;—and her long train of deliverers and defenders, her Alfred, her Sidneys, and her Milton; whose voice yet speaketh for our reproach; and whose actions survive in memory to confound us, or to redeem!
For what hath been done? look at it: we have looked at it: we have handled it: we have pondered it steadily: we have tried it by the principles of absolute and eternal justice; by the sentiments of high-minded honour, both with reference to their general nature, and to their especial exaltation under present circumstances; by the rules of expedience; by the maxims of prudence, civil and military: we have weighed it in the balance of all these, and found it wanting; in that, which is most excellent, most wanting.
Our country placed herself by the side of Spain, and her fellow Nation; she sent an honourable portion of her sons to aid a suffering people to subjugate or destroy an army—but I degrade the word—a banded multitude of perfidious oppressors, of robbers and assassins, who had outlawed themselves from society in the wantonness of power; who were abominable for their own crimes, and on account of the crimes of him whom they served—to subjugate or destroy these; not exacting that it should be done within a limited time; admitting even that they might effect their purpose or not; she could have borne either issue, she was prepared for either; but she was not prepared for such a deliverance as hath been accomplished; not a deliverance of Portugal from French oppression, but of the oppressor from the anger and power (at least from the animating efforts) of the Peninsula: she was not prepared to stand between her Allies, and their worthiest hopes: that, when chastisement could not be inflicted, honour—as much as bad men could receive—should be conferred: that them, whom her own hands had humbled, the same hands and no other should exalt: that finally the sovereign of this horde of devastators, himself the destroyer of the hopes of good men, should have to say, through the mouth of his minister, and for the hearing of all Europe, that his army of Portugal had 'DICTATED THE TERMS OF ITS GLORIOUS RETREAT.'
I have to defend my countrymen: and, if their feelings deserve reverence, if there be any stirrings of wisdom in the motions of their souls, my task is accomplished. For here were no factions to blind; no dissolution of established authorities to confound; no ferments to distemper; no narrow selfish interests to delude. The object was at a distance; and it rebounded upon us, as with force collected from a mighty distance; we were calm till the very moment of transition; and all the people were moved—and felt as with one heart, and spake as with one voice. Every human being in these islands was unsettled; the most slavish broke loose as from fetters; and there was not an individual—it need not be said of heroic virtue, but of ingenuous life and sound discretion—who, if his father, his son, or his brother, or if the flower of his house had been in that army, would not rather that they had perished, and the whole body of their countrymen, their companions in arms, had perished to a man, than that a treaty should have been submitted to upon such conditions. This was the feeling of the people; an awful feeling: and it is from these oracles that rulers are to learn wisdom.
For, when the people speaks loudly, it is from being strongly possessed either by the Godhead or the Demon; and he, who cannot discover the true spirit from the false, hath no ear for profitable communion. But in all that regarded the destinies of Spain, and her own as connected with them, the voice of Britain had the unquestionable sound of inspiration. If the gentle passions of pity, love, and gratitude, be porches of the temple; if the sentiments of admiration and rivalry be pillars upon which the structure is sustained; if, lastly, hatred, and anger, and vengeance, be steps which, by a mystery of nature, lead to the House of Sanctity;—then was it manifest to what power the edifice was consecrated; and that the voice within was of Holiness and Truth.
Spain had risen not merely to be delivered and saved;—deliverance and safety were but intermediate objects;—regeneration and liberty were the end, and the means by which this end was to be attained; had their own high value; were determined and precious; and could no more admit of being departed from, than the end of being forgotten.—She had risen—not merely to be free; but, in the act and process of acquiring that freedom, to recompense herself, as it were in a moment, for all which she had suffered through ages; to levy, upon the false fame of a cruel Tyrant, large contributions of true glory; to lift herself, by the conflict, as high in honour—as the disgrace was deep to which her own weakness and vices, and the violence and perfidy of her enemies, had subjected her.
Let us suppose that our own Land had been so outraged; could we have been content that the enemy should be wafted from our shores as lightly as he came,—much less that he should depart illustrated in his own eyes and glorified, singing songs of savage triumph and wicked gaiety?—No.—Should we not have felt that a high trespass—a grievous offence had been committed; and that to demand satisfaction was our first and indispensable duty? Would we not have rendered their bodies back upon our guardian ocean which had borne them hither; or have insisted that their haughty weapons should submissively kiss the soil which they had polluted? We should have been resolute in a defence that would strike awe and terror: this for our dignity:—moreover, if safety and deliverance are to be so fondly prized for their own sakes, what security otherwise could they have? Would it not be certain that the work, which had been so ill done to-day, we should be called upon to execute still more imperfectly and ingloriously to-morrow; that we should be summoned to an attempt that would be vain?
In like manner were the wise and heroic Spaniards moved. If an Angel from heaven had come with power to take the enemy from their grasp (I do not fear to say this, in spite of the dominion which is now re-extended over so large a portion of their Land), they would have been sad; they would have looked round them; their souls would have turned inward; and they would have stood like men defrauded and betrayed.
For not presumptuously had they taken upon themselves the work of chastisement. They did not wander madly about the world—like the Tamerlanes, or the Chengiz Khans, or the present barbarian Ravager of Europe—under a mock title of Delegates of the Almighty, acting upon self-assumed authority. Their commission had been thrust upon them. They had been trampled upon, tormented, wronged—bitterly, wantonly wronged, if ever a people on the earth was wronged. And this it was which legitimately incorporated their law with the supreme conscience, and gave to them the deep faith which they have expressed—that their power was favoured and assisted by the Almighty.—These words are not uttered without a due sense of their awful import: but the Spirit of evil is strong: and the subject requires the highest mode of thinking and feeling of which human nature is capable.—Nor in this can they be deceived; for, whatever be the immediate issue for themselves, the final issue for their Country and Mankind must be good;—they are instruments of benefit and glory for the human race; and the Deity therefore is with them.
From these impulses, then, our brethren of the Peninsula had risen; they could have risen from no other. By these energies, and by such others as (under judicious encouragement) would naturally grow out of and unite with these, the multitudes, who have risen, stand; and, if they desert them, must fall.—Riddance, mere riddance—safety, mere safety—are objects far too defined, too inert and passive in their own nature, to have ability either to rouze or to sustain. They win not the mind by any attraction of grandeur or sublime delight, either in effort or in endurance: for the mind gains consciousness of its strength to undergo only by exercise among materials which admit the impression of its power,—which grow under it, which bend under it,—which resist,—which change under its influence,—which alter either through its might or in its presence, by it or before it. These, during times of tranquillity, are the objects with which, in the studious walks of sequestered life, Genius most loves to hold intercourse; by which it is reared and supported;—these are the qualities in action and in object, in image, in thought, and in feeling, from communion with which proceeds originally all that is creative in art and science, and all that is magnanimous in virtue.—Despair thinks of safety, and hath no purpose; fear thinks of safety; despondency looks the same way:—but these passions are far too selfish, and therefore too blind, to reach the thing at which they aim; even when there is in them sufficient dignity to have an aim.—All courage is a projection from ourselves; however short-lived, it is a motion of hope. But these thoughts bind too closely to something inward,—to the present and to the past,—that is, to the self which is or has been. Whereas the vigour of the human soul is from without and from futurity,—in breaking down limit, and losing and forgetting herself in the sensation and image of Country and of the human race; and, when she returns and is most restricted and confined, her dignity consists in the contemplation of a better and more exalted being, which, though proceeding from herself, she loves and is devoted to as to another.
In following the stream of these thoughts, I have not wandered from my course: I have drawn out to open day the truth from its recesses in the minds of my countrymen.—Something more perhaps may have been done: a shape hath perhaps been given to that which was before a stirring spirit. I have shewn in what manner it was their wish that the struggle with the adversary of all that is good should be maintained—by pure passions and high actions. They forbid that their noble aim should be frustrated by measuring against each other things which are incommensurate—mechanic against moral power—body against soul. They will not suffer, without expressing their sorrow, that purblind calculation should wither the purest hopes in the face of all-seeing justice. These are times of strong appeal—of deep-searching visitation; when the best abstractions of the prudential understanding give way, and are included and absorbed in a supreme comprehensiveness of intellect and passion; which is the perfection and the very being of humanity.
How base! how puny! how inefficient for all good purposes are the tools and implements of policy, compared with these mighty engines of Nature!—There is no middle course: two masters cannot be served:—Justice must either be enthroned above might, and the moral law take place of the edicts of selfish passion; or the heart of the people, which alone can sustain the efforts of the people, will languish: their desires will not spread beyond the plough and the loom, the field and the fire-side: the sword will appear to them an emblem of no promise; an instrument of no hope; an object of indifference, of disgust, or fear. Was there ever—since the earliest actions of men which have been transmitted by affectionate tradition or recorded by faithful history, or sung to the impassioned harp of poetry—was there ever a people who presented themselves to the reason and the imagination, as under more holy influences than the dwellers upon the Southern Peninsula; as rouzed more instantaneously from a deadly sleep to a more hopeful wakefulness; as a mass fluctuating with one motion under the breath of a mightier wind; as breaking themselves up, and settling into several bodies, in more harmonious order; as reunited and embattled under a standard which was reared to the sun with more authentic assurance of final victory?—The superstition (I do not dread the word), which prevailed in these nations, may have checked many of my countrymen who would otherwise have exultingly accompanied me in the challenge which, under the shape of a question, I have been confidently uttering; as I know that this stain (so the same persons termed it) did, from the beginning, discourage their hopes for the cause. Short-sighted despondency! Whatever mixture of superstition there might be in the religious faith or devotional practices of the Spaniards; this must have necessarily been transmuted by that triumphant power, wherever that power was felt, which grows out of intense moral suffering—from the moment in which it coalesces with fervent hope. The chains of bigotry, which enthralled the mind, must have been turned into armour to defend and weapons to annoy. Wherever the heaving and effort of freedom was spread, purification must have followed it. And the types and ancient instruments of error, where emancipated men shewed their foreheads to the day, must have become a language and a ceremony of imagination; expressing, consecrating, and invigorating, the most pure deductions of Reason and the holiest feelings of universal Nature.
When the Boy of Saragossa (as we have been told), too immature in growth and unconfirmed in strength to be admitted by his Fellow-citizens into their ranks, too tender of age for them to bear the sight of him in arms—when this Boy, forgetful or unmindful of the restrictions which had been put upon him, rushed into the field where his Countrymen were engaged in battle, and, fighting with the sinew and courage of an unripe Hero, won a standard from the enemy, and bore his acquisition to the Church, and laid it with his own hands upon the Altar of the Virgin;—surely there was not less to be hoped for his Country from this act, than if the banner, taken from his grasp, had, without any such intermediation, been hung up in the place of worship—a direct offering to the incorporeal and supreme Being. Surely there is here an object which the most meditative and most elevated minds may contemplate with absolute delight; a well-adapted outlet for the dearest sentiments; an organ by which they may act; a function by which they may be sustained.—Who does not recognise in this presentation a visible affinity with deliverance, with patriotism, with hatred of oppression, and with human means put forth to the height for accomplishing, under divine countenance, the worthiest ends?
Such is the burst and growth of power and virtue which may rise out of excessive national afflictions from tyranny and oppression;—such is the hallowing influence, and thus mighty is the sway, of the spirit of moral justice in the heart of the individual and over the wide world of humanity. Even the very faith in present miraculous interposition, which is so dire a weakness and cause of weakness in tranquil times when the listless Being turns to it as a cheap and ready substitute upon every occasion, where the man sleeps, and the Saint, or the image of the Saint, is to perform his work, and to give effect to his wishes;—even this infirm faith, in a state of incitement from extreme passion sanctioned by a paramount sense of moral justice; having for its object a power which is no longer sole nor principal, but secondary and ministerial; a power added to a power; a breeze which springs up unthought-of to assist the strenuous oarsman;—even this faith is subjugated in order to be exalted; and—instead of operating as a temptation to relax or to be remiss, as an encouragement to indolence or cowardice; instead of being a false stay, a necessary and definite dependence which may fail—it passes into a habit of obscure and infinite confidence of the mind in its own energies, in the cause from its own sanctity, and in the ever-present invisible aid or momentary conspicuous approbation of the supreme Disposer of things.
Let the fire, which is never wholly to be extinguished, break out afresh; let but the human creature be rouzed; whether he have lain heedless and torpid in religious or civil slavery—have languished under a thraldom, domestic or foreign, or under both these alternately—or have drifted about a helpless member of a clan of disjointed and feeble barbarians; let him rise and act;—and his domineering imagination, by which from childhood he has been betrayed, and the debasing affections, which it has imposed upon him, will from that moment participate the dignity of the newly ennobled being whom they will now acknowledge for their master; and will further him in his progress, whatever be the object at which he aims. Still more inevitable and momentous are the results, when the individual knows that the fire, which is reanimated in him, is not less lively in the breasts of his associates; and sees the signs and testimonies of his own power, incorporated with those of a growing multitude and not to be distinguished from them, accompany him wherever he moves.—Hence those marvellous achievements which were performed by the first enthusiastic followers of Mohammed; and by other conquerors, who with their armies have swept large portions of the earth like a transitory wind, or have founded new religions or empires.—But, if the object contended for be worthy and truly great (as, in the instance of the Spaniards, we have seen that it is); if cruelties have been committed upon an ancient and venerable people, which 'shake the human frame with horror;' if not alone the life which is sustained by the bread of the mouth, but that—without which there is no life—the life in the soul, has been directly and mortally warred against; if reason has had abominations to endure in her inmost sanctuary;—then does intense passion, consecrated by a sudden revelation of justice, give birth to those higher and better wonders which I have described; and exhibit true miracles to the eyes of men, and the noblest which can be seen. It may be added that,—as this union brings back to the right road the faculty of imagination, where it is prone to err, and has gone farthest astray; as it corrects those qualities which (being in their essence indifferent), and cleanses those affections which (not being inherent in the constitution of man, nor necessarily determined to their object) are more immediately dependent upon the imagination, and which may have received from it a thorough taint of dishonour;—so the domestic loves and sanctities which are in their nature less liable to be stained,—so these, wherever they have flowed with a pure and placid stream, do instantly, under the same influence, put forth their strength as in a flood; and, without being sullied or polluted, pursue—exultingly and with song—a course which leads the contemplative reason to the ocean of eternal love.
I feel that I have been speaking in a strain which it is difficult to harmonize with the petty irritations, the doubts and fears, and the familiar (and therefore frequently undignified) exterior of present and passing events. But the theme is justice: and my voice is raised for mankind; for us who are alive, and for all posterity:—justice and passion; clear-sighted aspiring justice, and passion sacred as vehement. These, like twin-born Deities delighting in each other's presence, have wrought marvels in the inward mind through the whole region of the Pyrenean Peninsula. I have shewn by what process these united powers sublimated the objects of outward sense in such rites—practices—and ordinances of Religion—as deviate from simplicity and wholesome piety; how they converted them to instruments of nobler use; and raised them to a conformity with things truly divine. The same reasoning might have been carried into the customs of civil life and their accompanying imagery, wherever these also were inconsistent with the dignity of man; and like effects of exaltation and purification have been shewn.
But a more urgent service calls me to point to further works of these united powers, more obvious and obtrusive—works and appearances, such as were hailed by the citizen of Seville when returning from Madrid;—'where' (to use the words of his own public declaration) 'he had left his countrymen groaning in the chains which perfidy had thrown round them, and doomed at every step to the insult of being eyed with the disdain of the conqueror to the conquered; from Madrid threatened, harrassed, and vexed; where mistrust reigned in every heart, and the smallest noise made the citizens tremble in the bosom of their families; where the enemy, from time to time, ran to arms to sustain the impression of terror by which the inhabitants had been stricken through the recent massacre; from Madrid a prison, where the gaolers took pleasure in terrifying the prisoners by alarms to keep them quiet; from Madrid thus tortured and troubled by a relentless Tyrant, to fit it for the slow and interminable evils of Slavery;'—when he returned, and was able to compare the oppressed and degraded state of the inhabitants of that metropolis with the noble attitude of defence in which Andalusia stood. 'A month ago,' says he, 'the Spaniards had lost their country;—Seville has restored it to life more glorious than ever; and those fields, which for so many years have seen no steel but that of the plough-share, are going amid the splendour of arms to prove the new cradle of their adored country.'—'I could not,' he adds, 'refrain from tears of joy on viewing the city in which I first drew breath—and to see it in a situation so glorious!'
We might have trusted, but for late disgraces, that there is not a man in these islands whose heart would not, at such a spectacle, have beat in sympathy with that of this fervent Patriot—whose voice would not be in true accord with his in the prayer (which, if he has not already perished for the service of his dear country, he is perhaps uttering at this moment) that Andalusia and the city of Seville may preserve the noble attitude in which they then stood, and are yet standing; or, if they be doomed to fall, that their dying efforts may not be unworthy of their first promises; that the evening—the closing hour of their freedom may display a brightness not less splendid, though more aweful, than the dawn; so that the names of Seville and Andalusia may be consecrated among men, and be words of life to endless generations.
Saragossa!—She also has given bond, by her past actions, that she cannot forget her duty and will not shrink from it.
 Written in February.
Valencia is under the seal of the same obligation. The multitudes of men who were arrayed in the fields of Baylen, and upon the mountains of the North; the peasants of Asturias, and the students of Salamanca; and many a solitary and untold-of hand, which, quitting for a moment the plough or the spade, has discharged a more pressing debt to the country by levelling with the dust at least one insolent and murderous Invader;—these have attested the efficacy of the passions which we have been contemplating—that the will of good men is not a vain impulse, heroic desires a delusive prop;—have proved that the condition of human affairs is not so forlorn and desperate, but that there are golden opportunities when the dictates of justice may be unrelentingly enforced, and the beauty of the inner mind substantiated in the outward act;—for a visible standard to look back upon; for a point of realized excellence at which to aspire; a monument to record;—for a charter to fasten down; and, as far as it is possible, to preserve.
Yes! there was an annunciation which the good received with gladness; a bright appearance which emboldened the wise to say—We trust that Regeneration is at hand; these are works of recovered innocence and wisdom:
Magnus ab integro seclorum nascitur ordo; Jam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna; Jam nova progenies coelo demittitur alto.
The spirits of the generous, of the brave, of the meditative, of the youthful and undefiled—who, upon the strongest wing of human nature, have accompanied me in this journey into a fair region—must descend: and, sorrowful to think! it is at the name and remembrance of Britain that we are to stoop from the balmy air of this pure element. Our country did not create, but there was created for her, one of those golden opportunities over which we have been rejoicing: an invitation was offered—a summons sent to her ear, as if from heaven, to go forth also and exhibit on her part, in entire coincidence and perfect harmony, the beneficent action with the benevolent will; to advance in the career of renovation upon which the Spaniards had so gloriously entered; and to solemnize yet another marriage between Victory and Justice. How she acquitted herself of this duty, we have already seen and lamented: yet on this—and on this duty only—ought the mind of that army and of the government to have been fixed. Every thing was smoothed before their feet;—Providence, it might almost be said, held forth to the men of authority in this country a gracious temptation to deceive them into the path of the new virtues which were stirring;—the enemy was delivered over to them; and they were unable to close their infantine fingers upon the gift.—The helplessness of infancy was their's—oh! could I but add, the innocence of infancy!
Reflect upon what was the temper and condition of the Southern Peninsula of Europe—the noble temper of the people of this mighty island sovereigns of the all-embracing ocean; think also of the condition of so vast a region in the Western, continent and its islands; and we shall have cause to fear that ages may pass away before a conjunction of things, so marvellously adapted to ensure prosperity to virtue, shall present itself again. It could scarcely be spoken of as being to the wishes of men,—it was so far beyond their hopes.—The government which had been exercised under the name of the old Monarchy of Spain—this government, imbecile even to dotage, whose very selfishness was destitute of vigour, had been removed; taken laboriously and foolishly by the plotting Corsican to his own bosom; in order that the world might see, more triumphantly set forth than since the beginning of things had ever been seen before, to what degree a man of bad principles is despicable—though of great power—working blindly against his own purposes. It was a high satisfaction to behold demonstrated, in this manner, to what a narrow domain of knowledge the intellect of a Tyrant must be confined; that if the gate by which wisdom enters has never been opened, that of policy will surely find moments when it will shut itself against its pretended master imperiously and obstinately. To the eyes of the very peasant in the field, this sublime truth was laid open—not only that a Tyrant's domain of knowledge is narrow, but melancholy as narrow; inasmuch as—from all that is lovely, dignified, or exhilarating in the prospect of human nature—he is inexorably cut off; and therefore he is inwardly helpless and forlorn.
Was not their hope in this—twofold hope; from the weakness of him who had thus counteracted himself; and a hope, still more cheering, from the strength of those who had been disburthened of a cleaving curse by an ordinance of Providence—employing their most wilful and determined enemy to perform for them the best service which man could perform? The work of liberation was virtually accomplished—we might almost say, established. The interests of the people were taken from a government whose sole aim it had been to prop up the last remains of its own decrepitude by betraying those whom it was its duty to protect;—withdrawn from such hands, to be committed to those of the people; at a time when the double affliction which Spain had endured, and the return of affliction with which she was threatened, made it impossible that the emancipated Nation could abuse its new-born strength to any substantial injury to itself.—Infinitely less favourable to all good ends was the condition of the French people when, a few years past, a Revolution made them, for a season, their own masters,—rid them from the incumbrance of superannuated institutions—the galling pressure of so many unjust laws—and the tyranny of bad customs. The Spaniards became their own masters: and the blessing lay in this, that they became so at once: there had not been time for them to court their power: their fancies had not been fed to wantonness by ever-changing temptations: obstinacy in them would not have leagued itself with trivial opinions: petty hatreds had not accumulated to masses of strength conflicting perniciously with each other: vanity with them had not found leisure to flourish—nor presumption: they did not assume their authority,—it was given them,—it was thrust upon them. The perfidy and tyranny of Napoleon 'compelled,' says the Junta of Seville in words before quoted, 'the whole Nation to take up arms and to 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.'—Governments, thus newly issued from the people, could not but act from the spirit of the people—be organs of their life. And, though misery (by which I mean pain of mind not without some consciousness of guilt) naturally disorders the understanding and perverts the moral sense,—calamity (that is suffering, individual or national, when it has been inflicted by one to whom no injury has been done or provocation given) ever brings wisdom along with it; and, whatever outward agitation it may cause, does inwardly rectify the will.
But more was required; not merely judicious desires; not alone an eye from which the scales had dropped off—which could see widely and clearly; but a mighty hand was wanting. The government had been formed; and it could not but recollect that the condition of Spain did not exact from her children, as a first requisite, virtues like those due and familiar impulses of Spring-time by which things are revived and carried forward in accustomed health according to established order—not power so much for a renewal as for a birth—labour by throes and violence;—a chaos was to be conquered—a work of creation begun and consummated;—and afterwards the seasons were to advance, and continue their gracious revolutions. The powers, which were needful for the people to enter upon and assist in this work, had been given; we have seen that they had been bountifully conferred. The Nation had been thrown into—rather, lifted up to—that state when conscience, for the body of the people, is not merely an infallible monitor (which may be heard and disregarded); but, by combining—with the attributes of insight to perceive, and of inevitable presence to admonish and enjoin—the attribute of passion to enforce, it was truly an all-powerful deity in the soul.
Oh! let but any man, who has a care for the progressive happiness of the species, peruse merely that epitome of Spanish wisdom and benevolence and 'amplitude of mind for highest deeds' which, in the former part of this investigation, I have laid before the reader: let him listen to the reports—which they, who really have had means of knowledge, and who are worthy to speak upon the subject, will give to him—of the things done or endured in every corner of Spain; and he will see what emancipation had there been effected in the mind;—how far the perceptions—the impulses—and the actions also—had outstripped the habit and the character, and consequently were in a process of permanently elevating both; and how much farther (alas! by infinite degrees) the principles and practice of a people, with great objects before them to concentrate their love and their hatred, transcend the principles and practice of governments; not excepting those which, in their constitution and ordinary conduct, furnish the least matter for complaint.
Then it was—when the people of Spain were thus rouzed; after this manner released from the natal burthen of that government which had bowed them to the ground; in the free use of their understandings, and in the play and 'noble rage' of their passions; while yet the new authorities, which they had generated, were truly living members of their body, and (as I have said) organs of their life: when that numerous people were in a stage of their journey which could not be accomplished without the spirit which was then prevalent in them, and which (as might be feared) would too soon abate of itself;—then it was that we—not we, but the heads of the British army and Nation—when, if they could not breathe a favouring breath, they ought at least to have stood at an awful distance—stepped in with their forms, their impediments, their rotten customs and precedents, their narrow desires, their busy and purblind fears; and called out to these aspiring travellers to halt—'For ye are in a dream;' confounded them (for it was the voice of a seeming friend that spoke); and spell-bound them, as far as was possible, by an instrument framed 'in the eclipse' and sealed 'with curses dark.'—In a word, we had the power to act up to the most sacred letter of justice—and this at a time when the mandates of justice were of an affecting obligation such as had never before been witnessed; and we plunged into the lowest depths of injustice:—We had power to give a brotherly aid to our Allies in supporting the mighty world which their shoulders had undertaken to uphold; and, while they were expecting from us this aid, we undermined—without forewarning them—the ground upon which they stood. The evil is incalculable; and the stain will cleave to the British name as long as the story of this island shall endure.
Did we not (if, from this comprehensive feeling of sorrow, I may for a moment descend to particulars)—did we not send forth a general, one whom, since his return, Court, and Parliament, and Army, have been at strife with each other which shall most caress and applaud—a general, who, in defending the armistice which he himself had signed, said in open Court that he deemed that the French army was entitled to such terms. The people of Spain had, through the Supreme Junta of Seville, thus spoken of this same army: 'Ye have, among yourselves, the objects of your vengeance;—attack them;—they are but a handful of miserable panic-struck men, humiliated and conquered already by their perfidy and cruelties;—resist and destroy them: our united efforts will extirpate this perfidious nation.' The same Spaniards had said (speaking officially of the state of the whole Peninsula, and no doubt with their eye especially upon this army in Portugal)—'Our enemies have taken up exactly those positions in which they may most easily be destroyed'—Where then did the British General find this right and title of the French army in Portugal? 'Because,' says he in military language, 'it was not broken.'—Of the MAN, and of the understanding and heart of the man—of the CITIZEN, who could think and feel after this manner in such circumstances, it is needless to speak; but to the GENERAL I will say, This is most pitiable pedantry. If the instinctive wisdom of your Ally could not be understood, you might at least have remembered the resolute policy of your enemy. The French army was not broken? Break it then—wither it—pursue it with unrelenting warfare—hunt it out of its holds;—if impetuosity be not justifiable, have recourse to patience—to watchfulness—to obstinacy: at all events, never for a moment forget who the foe is—and that he is in your power. This is the example which the French Ruler and his Generals have given you at Ulm—at Lubeck—in Switzerland—over the whole plain of Prussia—every where;—and this for the worst deeds of darkness; while your's was the noblest service of light.
This remonstrance has been forced from me by indignation:—let me explain in what sense I propose, with calmer thought, that the example of our enemy should be imitated.—The laws and customs of war, and the maxims of policy, have all had their foundation in reason and humanity; and their object has been the attainment or security of some real or supposed—some positive or relative—good. They are established among men as ready guides for the understanding, and authorities to which the passions are taught to pay deference. But the relations of things to each other are perpetually changing; and in course of time many of these leaders and masters, by losing part of their power to do service and sometimes the whole, forfeit in proportion their right to obedience. Accordingly they are disregarded in some instances, and sink insensibly into neglect with the general improvement of society. But they often survive when they have become an oppression and a hindrance which cannot be cast off decisively, but by an impulse—rising either from the absolute knowledge of good and great men,—or from the partial insight which is given to superior minds, though of a vitiated moral constitution,—or lastly from that blind energy and those habits of daring which are often found in men who, checked by no restraint of morality, suffer their evil passions to gain extraordinary strength in extraordinary circumstances. By any of these forces may the tyranny be broken through. We have seen, in the conduct of our Countrymen, to what degree it tempts to weak actions,—and furnishes excuse for them, admitted by those who sit as judges. I wish then that we could so far imitate our enemies as, like them, to shake off these bonds; but not, like them, from the worst—but from the worthiest impulse. If this were done, we should have learned how much of their practice would harmonize with justice; have learned to distinguish between those rules which ought to be wholly abandoned, and those which deserve to be retained; and should have known when, and to what point, they ought to be trusted.—But how is this to be? Power of mind is wanting, where there is power of place. Even we cannot, as a beginning of a new journey, force or win our way into the current of success, the flattering motion of which would awaken intellectual courage—the only substitute which is able to perform any arduous part of the secondary work of 'heroic wisdom;'—I mean, execute happily any of its prudential regulations. In the person of our enemy and his chieftains we have living example how wicked men of ordinary talents are emboldened by success. There is a kindliness, as they feel, in the nature of advancement; and prosperity is their Genius. But let us know and remember that this prosperity, with all the terrible features which it has gradually assumed, is a child of noble parents—Liberty and Philanthropic Love. Perverted as the creature is which it has grown up to (rather, into which it has passed),—from no inferior stock could it have issued. It is the Fallen Spirit, triumphant in misdeeds, which was formerly a blessed Angel.
If then (to return to ourselves) there be such strong obstacles in the way of our drawing benefit either from the maxims of policy or the principles of justice: what hope remains that the British Nation should repair, by its future conduct, the injury which has been done?—We cannot advance a step towards a rational answer to this question—without previously adverting to the original sources of our miscarriages; which are these:—First; a want, in the minds of the members of government and public functionaries, of knowledge indispensible for this service; and, secondly, a want of power, in the same persons acting in their corporate capacities, to give effect to the knowledge which individually they possess.—Of the latter source of weakness,—this inability as caused by decay in the machine of government, and by illegitimate forces which are checking and controuling its constitutional motions,—I have not spoken, nor shall I now speak: for I have judged it best to suspend my task for a while: and this subject, being in its nature delicate, ought not to be lightly or transiently touched. Besides, no immediate effect can be expected from the soundest and most unexceptionable doctrines which might be laid down for the correcting of this evil.—The former source of weakness,—namely, the want of appropriate and indispensible knowledge,—has, in the past investigation, been reached, and shall be further laid open; not without a hope of some result of immediate good by a direct application to the mind; and in full confidence that the best and surest way to render operative that knowledge which is already possessed—is to increase the stock of knowledge.
Here let me avow that I undertook this present labour as a serious duty; rather, that it was forced (and has been unremittingly pressed) upon me by a perception of justice united with strength of feeling;—in a word, by that power of conscience, calm or impassioned, to which throughout I have done reverence as the animating spirit of the cause. My work was begun and prosecuted under this controul:—and with the accompanying satisfaction that no charge of presumption could, by a thinking mind, be brought against me: though I had taken upon myself to offer instruction to men who, if they possess not talents and acquirements, have no title to the high stations which they hold; who also, by holding those stations, are understood to obtain certain benefit of experience and of knowledge not otherwise to be gained; and who have a further claim to deference—founded upon reputation, even when it is spurious (as much of the reputation of men high in power must necessarily be; their errors being veiled and palliated by the authority attached to their office; while that same authority gives more than due weight and effect to their wiser opinions). Yet, notwithstanding all this, I did not fear the censure of having unbecomingly obtruded counsels or remonstrances. For there can be no presumption, upon a call so affecting as the present, in an attempt to assert the sanctity and to display the efficacy of principles and passions which are the natural birth-right of man; to some share of which all are born; but an inheritance which may be alienated or consumed; and by none more readily and assuredly than by those who are most eager for the praise of policy, of prudence, of sagacity, and of all those qualities which are the darling virtues of the worldly-wise. Moreover; the evidence to which I have made appeal, in order to establish the truth, is not locked up in cabinets; but is accessible to all; as it exists in the bosoms of men—in the appearances and intercourse of daily life—in the details of passing events—and in general history. And more especially is its right import within the reach of him who—taking no part in public measures, and having no concern in the changes of things but as they affect what is most precious in his country and humanity—will doubtless be more alive to those genuine sensations which are the materials of sound judgment. Nor is it to be overlooked that such a man may have more leisure (and probably will have a stronger inclination) to communicate with the records of past ages.
Deeming myself justified then in what has been said,—I will continue to lay open (and, in some degree, to account for) those privations in the materials of judgment, and those delusions of opinion, and infirmities of mind, to which practical Statesmen, and particularly such as are high in office, are more than other men subject;—as containing an answer to that question, so interesting at this juncture,—How far is it in our power to make amends for the harm done?
After the view of things which has been taken,—we may confidently affirm that nothing but a knowledge of human nature directing the operations of our government, can give it a right to an intimate association with a cause which is that of human nature. I say, an intimate association founded on the right of thorough knowledge;—to contradistinguish this best mode of exertion from another which might found its right upon a vast and commanding military power put forth with manifestation of sincere intentions to benefit our Allies—from a conviction merely of policy that their liberty, independence, and honour, are our genuine gain;—to distinguish the pure brotherly connection from this other (in its appearance at least more magisterial) which such a power, guided by such intention uniformly displayed, might authorize. But of the former connection (which supposes the main military effort to be made, even at present, by the people of the Peninsula on whom the moral interest more closely presses), and of the knowledge which it demands, I have hitherto spoken—and have further to speak.
It is plain a priori that the minds of Statesmen and Courtiers are unfavourable to the growth of this knowledge. For they are in a situation exclusive and artificial; which has the further disadvantage, that it does not separate men from men by collateral partitions which leave, along with difference, a sense of equality—that they, who are divided, are yet upon the same level; but by a degree of superiority which can scarcely fail to be accompanied with more or less of pride. This situation therefore must be eminently unfavourable for the reception and establishment of that knowledge which is founded not upon things but upon sensations;—sensations which are general, and under general influences (and this it is which makes them what they are, and gives them their importance);—not upon things which may be brought; but upon sensations which must be met. Passing by the kindred and usually accompanying influence of birth in a certain rank—and, where education has been pre-defined from childhood for the express purpose of future political power, the tendency of such education to warp (and therefore weaken) the intellect;—we may join at once, with the privation which I have been noticing, a delusion equally common. It is this: that practical Statesmen assume too much credit to themselves for their ability to see into the motives and manage the selfish passions of their immediate agents and dependants; and for the skill with which they baffle or resist the aims of their opponents. A promptness in looking through the most superficial part of the characters of those men—who, by the very circumstance of their contending ambitiously for the rewards and honours of government, are separated from the mass of the society to which they belong—is mistaken for a knowledge of human kind. Hence, where higher knowledge is a prime requisite, they not only are unfurnished, but, being unconscious that they are so, they look down contemptuously upon those who endeavour to supply (in some degree) their want.—The instincts of natural and social man; the deeper emotions; the simpler feelings; the spacious range of the disinterested imagination; the pride in country for country's sake, when to serve has not been a formal profession—and the mind is therefore left in a state of dignity only to be surpassed by having served nobly and generously; the instantaneous accomplishment in which they start up who, upon a searching call, stir for the Land which they love—not from personal motives, but for a reward which is undefined and cannot be missed; the solemn fraternity which a great Nation composes—gathered together, in a stormy season, under the shade of ancestral feeling; the delicacy of moral honour which pervades the minds of a people, when despair has been suddenly thrown off and expectations are lofty; the apprehensiveness to a touch unkindly or irreverent, where sympathy is at once exacted as a tribute and welcomed as a gift; the power of injustice and inordinate calamity to transmute, to invigorate, and to govern—to sweep away the barriers of opinion—to reduce under submission passions purely evil—to exalt the nature of indifferent qualities, and to render them fit companions for the absolute virtues with which they are summoned to associate—to consecrate passions which, if not bad in themselves, are of such temper that, in the calm of ordinary life, they are rightly deemed so—to correct and embody these passions—and, without weakening them (nay, with tenfold addition to their strength), to make them worthy of taking their place as the advanced guard of hope, when a sublime movement of deliverance is to be originated;—these arrangements and resources of nature, these ways and means of society, have so little connection with those others upon which a ruling minister of a long-established government is accustomed to depend; these—elements as it were of a universe, functions of a living body—are so opposite, in their mode of action, to the formal machine which it has been his pride to manage;—that he has but a faint perception of their immediate efficacy; knows not the facility with which they assimilate with other powers; nor the property by which such of them—as, from necessity of nature, must change or pass away—will, under wise and fearless management, surely generate lawful successors to fill their place when their appropriate work is performed. Nay, of the majority of men, who are usually found in high stations under old governments, it may without injustice be said; that, when they look about them in times (alas! too rare) which present the glorious product of such agency to their eyes, they have not a right, to say—with a dejected man in the midst of the woods, the rivers, the mountains, the sunshine, and shadows of some transcendant landscape—
'I see, not feel, how beautiful they are:'
These spectators neither see nor feel. And it is from the blindness and insensibility of these, and the train whom they draw along with them, that the throes of nations have been so ill recompensed by the births which have followed; and that revolutions, after passing from crime to crime and from sorrow to sorrow, have often ended in throwing back such heavy reproaches of delusiveness upon their first promises.
I am satisfied that no enlightened Patriot will impute to me a wish to disparage the characters of men high in authority, or to detract from the estimation which is fairly due to them. My purpose is to guard against unreasonable expectations. That specific knowledge,—the paramount importance of which, in the present condition of Europe, I am insisting upon,—they, who usually fill places of high trust in old governments, neither do—nor, for the most part, can—possess: nor is it necessary, for the administration of affairs in ordinary circumstances, that they should.—The progress of their own country, and of the other nations of the world, in civilization, in true refinement, in science, in religion, in morals, and in all the real wealth of humanity, might indeed be quicker, and might correspond more happily with the wishes of the benevolent,—if Governors better understood the rudiments of nature as studied in the walks of common life; if they were men who had themselves felt every strong emotion 'inspired by nature and by fortune taught;' and could calculate upon the force of the grander passions. Yet, at the same time, there is temptation in this. To know may seduce; and to have been agitated may compel. Arduous cares are attractive for their own sakes. Great talents are naturally driven towards hazard and difficulty; as it is there that they are most sure to find their exercise, and their evidence, and joy in anticipated triumph—the liveliest of all sensations. Moreover; magnificent desires, when least under the bias of personal feeling, dispose the mind—more than itself is conscious of—to regard commotion with complacency, and to watch the aggravations of distress with welcoming; from an immoderate confidence that, when the appointed day shall come, it will be in the power of intellect to relieve. There is danger in being a zealot in any cause—not excepting that of humanity. Nor is it to be forgotten that the incapacity and ignorance of the regular agents of long-established governments do not prevent some progress in the dearest concerns of men; and that society may owe to these very deficiencies, and to the tame and unenterprizing course which they necessitate, much security and tranquil enjoyment.
Nor, on the other hand, (for reasons which may be added to those already given) is it so desirable as might at first sight be imagined, much less is it desirable as an absolute good, that men of comprehensive sensibility and tutored genius—either for the interests of mankind or for their own—should, in ordinary times, have vested in them political power. The Empire, which they hold, is more independent: its constituent parts are sustained by a stricter connection: the dominion is purer and of higher origin; as mind is more excellent than body—the search of truth an employment more inherently dignified than the application of force—the determinations of nature more venerable than the accidents of human institution. Chance and disorder, vexation and disappointment, malignity and perverseness within or without the mind, are a sad exchange for the steady and genial processes of reason. Moreover; worldly distinctions and offices of command do not lie in the path—nor are they any part of the appropriate retinue—of Philosophy and Virtue. Nothing, but a strong spirit of love, can counteract the consciousness of pre-eminence which ever attends pre-eminent intellectual power with correspondent attainments: and this spirit of love is best encouraged by humility and simplicity in mind, manners, and conduct of life; virtues, to which wisdom leads. But,—though these be virtues in a Man, a Citizen, or a Sage,—they cannot be recommended to the especial culture of the Political or Military Functionary; and still less of the Civil Magistrate. Him, in the exercise of his functions, it will often become to carry himself highly and with state; in order that evil may be suppressed, and authority respected by those who have not understanding. The power also of office, whether the duties be discharged well or ill, will ensure a never-failing supply of flattery and praise: and of these—a man (becoming at once double-dealer and dupe) may, without impeachment of his modesty, receive as much as his weakness inclines him to; under the shew that the homage is not offered up to himself, but to that portion of the public dignity which is lodged in his person. But, whatever may be the cause, the fact is certain—that there is an unconquerable tendency in all power, save that of knowledge acting by and through knowledge, to injure the mind of him who exercises that power; so much so, that best natures cannot escape the evil of such alliance. Nor is it less certain that things of soundest quality, issuing through a medium to which they have only an arbitrary relation, are vitiated: and it is inevitable that there should be a reaescent of unkindly influence to the heart of him from whom the gift, thus unfairly dealt with, proceeded.—In illustration of these remarks, as connected with the management of States, we need only refer to the Empire of China—where superior endowments of mind and acquisitions of learning are the sole acknowledged title to offices of great trust; and yet in no country is the government more bigotted or intolerant, or society less progressive.
To prevent misconception; and to silence (at least to throw discredit upon) the clamours of ignorance;—I have thought proper thus, in some sort, to strike a balance between the claims of men of routine—and men of original and accomplished minds—to the management of State affairs in ordinary circumstances. But ours is not an age of this character: and,—after having seen such a long series of misconduct, so many unjustifiable attempts made and sometimes carried into effect, good endeavours frustrated, disinterested wishes thwarted, and benevolent hopes disappointed,—it is reasonable that we should endeavour to ascertain to what cause these evils are to be ascribed. I have directed the attention of the Reader to one primary cause: and can he doubt of its existence, and of the operation which I have attributed to it?