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ordinate as yet, he characteristically accepted the system as he found it, and worked it out with vigorous assiduity distributing among the Protestant gentry the spoils of office with cool indifference, and laying down an admirable plan for holding the country in military subjection. But unlike the contemporary statesmen of his party, he was fully alive to the manifold perils of this mode of misgoverning Ireland; and in the following remarkable letter, composed when Massena was in his front, and the fate of Portugal appeared desperate, he thus refers to the evil consequences of unmitigated repression :
'I concur entirely in opinion with you upon the state of Ireland. The Ministers in England are not aware of the great and general detestation of the Union, and the indifference, even of their friends, respecting the British connexion. You will find even among these last a very prevalent opinion that Ireland could stand alone as an independent nation. . . . I would recommend you to prevent Foster's laying on any new taxes. It is a favourite notion with the Treasury politicians that the income of Ireland ought to be made more equal to the war expenditure; and they allege what is true-that Ireland is taxed neither in proportion to her means or her expenses, nor to the taxation of the other parts of the empire; but they forget the political situation of Ireland—the detestation of the whole people of the connexion, and particularly of the Union and all the measures which have been the consequence of it, and the indifference even of friends which has grown out of it ; and they can't see that in the present temper of that country an unpopular tax might lead to the greatest excesses, and even to general resistance of the measures of the legislature. What I would recommend, therefore, is that you should confine your exertions, till the war is over, to measures for improving the collection and produce of the old taxes, and that nothing should induce you to consent to lay on new. So much for Ireland, where I think matters are in a much more dangerous state than they are even here.' (Vol. vi. p. 587.)
When we add that 47,000 bayonets, entirely lost to the cause of Europe, were detained in Ireland to uphold this policy, it may be conceded that Lords Grey and Grenville were not in the wrong when, in 1807, they urged the claims of the Irish nation, although Lord Liverpool characterised this resolve “ as an unwarrantable attempt to surprise the King's
conscience on a subject on which he was known to have the strongest scruples.'
In 1807 the expedition to Copenhagen removed Sir Arthur Wellesley from Irish politics to a sphere more fitted to his military talents. In the sixth volume of these Despatches we have several details about this enterprise which hitherto have not been made public, and we wish we could quote a memorandum (p. 30.) which gives an account of the operations. As is well known, he negotiated the capitulation, commanded the troops which covered the attack, and, at Kioge, completely defeated a superior force of the Danish army. It will always, perhaps, be a moot point whether, looking at the various circumstances of the time, this expedition admits of justification, on any grounds of right or of policy. In any case, it appears certain that we might have attained the object we sought, and have got possession of the Danish fleet, without resorting to the extremity of bombarding the capital city of a neutral nation. The opinion of the Duke on this point is decisive ; and probably of the officers employed, he alone perceived the difficulty of the subject :
We have it in our power to place ourselves much nearer the town than we are at present; and I think it probable that an advance to this position, the occupation of Amag, and the storming of the Crown Battery, will produce an effect on the minds of the inhabitants which will lead to a capitulation without obliging us to resort to bombardment. . . . I acknowledge that I would prefer an establishment upon Amag as a more certain mode of forcing a capitulation than a bombardment. .... I think it behoves us to do as little mischief to the town as possible, and to adopt any mode of reducing it rather than bombardment. (Vol. vi. pp. 5. I.)
Between 1806 and 1808 Sir Arthur Wellesley was in communication with the Grenville and Portland Governments, in reference to the best method of attacking the Spanish colonies in America. The objects of this projected expedition, which has been very unwisely ridiculed, were to weaken the power of Old Spain, then in complete submission to France, and to open a market for British manufactures, shut out from Europe by the Continental system.
In the sixth of these volumes we find the papers which Sir Arthur Wellesley wrote on this subject, detailing with great minuteness the means of invading New Spain with European troops--a question which has recently acquired great interest since military operations in Mexico have been undertaken by France. The proposed attack was to take place from England, India, and the West Indies, from which points considerable forces were to meet upon the coasts of Mexico; and the inode of promoting the junction of the troops, of guarding them from the effects of the climate, and of providing for their subsistence, is calculated with extreme nicety. It was fortunate, however, for the cause of the world that the only result of this project was to form the nucleus of the expeditionary army which first bore our standards to Portugal. However advisable it might have been to have weakened the strength of Charles IV. while holding Spain as Napoleon's
VOL. CXVI. NO. CCXXXV.
satrap, the case was different when the events of 1808 had disclosed the character of the Spanish insurrection, and given England a battle-field in the Peninsula. It is well known with what timid hesitation the English Government adopted the course of embarking in this momentous struggle, although it is certain that at this juncture they had 60,000 bayonets at their disposal, which probably would have proved irresistible, if brought to bear on the proper point immediately after the rout of Baylen. It is evident from the following minute, that Sir Arthur Wellesley saw from the first the importance of the outbreak in Spain; and it is not improbable that his opinion may have led to the resolution of the Cabinet :
• The events which have lately occurred in Spain, and the intelligence received from Gibraltar, appear to deserve the serious attention of the King's Ministers. .... That which I recommend is to send to Gibraltar all the disposable force that can immediately be found from England, there to join General Spencer's corps, to be prepared to act as circumstances would point out. Arms and ammunition in large quantities ought to be sent with this corps, and its commander to be instructed to encourage the insurrection to the utmost of his power. If it should be found impracticable to make any impression upon the French authority in Spain by the means of the insurrection, he should be then instructed to encourage the principal people of the kingdom to emigrate to America, under the engagement of establishing there an independent government. As the troops are not at present wanted in England, and the transports are already in the service, no inconvenience can result from this measure.' (Vol. vi. p. 80.)
From this period the Duke's career pursues the course of that great contest which struck down the power of France in the Peninsula, and more than any single event, except the expedition to Moscow, contributed to the fall of Napoleon. Independently of its stirring incidents, that struggle possesses a moral interest, and affords memorable political lessons, which have not even yet been sufficiently elucidated. It shows what a great commander can accomplish against very superior forces, if certain conditions concur in his favour. It attests signally the success in war which attends the union of forethought and perseverance with skill in strategy and military combination. It gauges in a remarkable way the strength and the weakness of a patriotic resistance to regular armies, well organised, but wanting in certain elements of power, and operating in a difficult country, It teaches a terrible lesson of the disgrace which divided counsels, disunited generals, commanders subject to autocratic power, and a vicious and licentious military system, may inflict on troops of the highest character. In the base servility of the
notables of Madrid, in the senseless arrogance of the Spanish generals, in the noisy factions of the Cortes at Cadiz, it testifies to the moral decline of the upper orders of Spain and Portugal, while it equally shows the latent energy, the capacity for war, and the love of country which have ever distinguished the people of the Peninsula. But above all, it affords a proof how, in carrying on a protracted contest, a settled and constitutional Power, even under very unfavourable conditions, may have elements of strength and of ultimate success, which may overthrow a military despotism, though guided by the highest individual genius. If at this period the governments of England displayed frequently great incapacity, and committed many administrative blunders,—if they lost several occasions of success, and wasted the military resources of the empire,—if they did not appreciate the nature of the struggle, or the skill and wisdom of their commander,— they did not arm two nations against their troops by reducing plunder and rapine to a system, they did not exact compliance with schemes of sieges and battles planned at a distance, nor were their efforts paralysed or crossed by ruinous jealousies among their generals. By thus avoiding the fatal errors which marked Napoleon's Peninsular rule, made all his brilliant victories useless, and deprived his armies of half their influence, they managed -- notwithstanding their shortcomings — to emerge at length victorious from the struggle, though it must be allowed that Wellington's genius was the principal agent in their triumph.
These cardinal truths, as may be supposed, appear plainly in the volumes before us. We shall not trace them the less clearly if we follow the course of Wellington's campaigns, and add to our illustrations of them a few other incidental observations. When, in 1808, the Tory Cabinet resolved to send a force to the Peninsula, it had the means and the opportunity to strike a terrible blow at Napoleon. Our fleets were dominant in every sea, our transport service of enormous extent, and our land forces, independent of volunteers, were nearly two hundred thousand strong, in a high state of discipline and efficiency. Had even one-fourth of this formidable array been disembarked in Portugal or Andalusia, it must have destroyed either Junot or Dupont, who were isolated from their main supports by the impenetrable masses of the Spanish insurrection. Such a blow, however, was beyond the Administration; and in the measures which were actually taken, Lord Castlereagh evinced a curious felicity in paralysing and checking the strength of the empire. To attack Lisbon, and to enter Cadiz with a force not equal to 30,000 men, was the plan of campaign he set down on
paper; and this was to be accomplished by isolated corps, detached from England at different times, proceeding on different lines of operation, and subject to a happy arrangement that brought three generals-in-chief together to thwart each other at the decisive moment. From the following letter it would now appear that even this plan had not been matured when Sir Arthur Wellesley, with 10,000 men, had been sent to make an attack on Portugal, where Junot had nearly 20,000 and was in possession of all the fortresses.
Spencer has sent me a paper of information, stating that the French force in Portugal amounts to 20,000 men ; and although he knows I have only 10,000, and that he was not employed on any service to the south, he had determined to remain on shore at Xerez, near Cadiz; but I have ordered him to join me, and I expect him in a day or two; and as I don't believe the French have so many as 20,000 men, I shall commence my operations as soon as he with his 5,000, or a reinforcement expected from England of 5,000 men, shall join me. He sent this same account to England, where they took the alarm, and ordered out 5,000 men and Moore's corps of 10,000 men, with several general officers, senior to me, and Sir Hew Dalrymple to command the whole army. I hope that I shall have beat Junot before any of them shall arrive, and then they will do as they please with me. (Vol. vi. p. 95.)
Sir Arthur Wellesley, having been joined by these two corps, of 5,000 each, and hearing that Moore's 10,000 men were about to land on the coast of Portugal, resolved to march against Junot at once, to cut him off from Lisbon if possible, and with the auxiliary force of Moore, which he wished to be placed on the line of the Tagus, to intercept the retreat of the French, and thus to complete the ruin of their army. This combination was worthy of his genius; but it was foiled by his senior officer, Sir Harry Burrard, who superseded him at the crisis of the campaign, and ordered this corps to another direction. We now know the results of this movement:
• I send you my letters to General Burrard (which I request you to return to me when you have perused them). They contain my opinion of the line of operations which ought to have been followed by Sir John Moore's corps ; and as the troops under his command were nearly all landed by the 21st, it is almost certain that if this plan had been persevered in, and the troops had not been re-embarked, we should have been some days ago in a situation to have refused to the French any capitulation excepting on the terms of their laying down their arms.' (Vol. vi. p. 128.)
Though thwarted in the plan of this campaign, Sir Arthur Wellesley at the battle of Vimiero would probably have cut Junot off from Lisbon, bad it not been for Burrard's interference.