Chap. durably prevalent in a nation, it is not the less certain ^JI' that the reaction which it exerts upon its character and


destiny is great and lasting. The fires of the Inquisition were not fed with human victims for three centuries in Spain, without producing durable and indelible effects upon the national character and destiny. Independence of mind, vigour of thought, emancipation from superstition, were impossible in a people thus shackled in opinion; adherence to the faith which imposed the shackles was not to be expected among the educated few, who had emerged from its restraints. Thus the Spanish nation, like every other old state in which the Romish faith is established, was divided in matters of religion into two classes, widely different in point of numbers, but more nearly balanced in point of political influence and power. On the one side were a few hundred thousand citizens in Madrid, Cadiz, Corunna, and Barcelona, rich, comparatively educated, free-thinking, and engaged in the pursuit of pleasure; on the other, twelve millions of peasants in the country, hardy, intrepid, and abstemious, indifferent to political privileges, but devotedly attached to the faith of their fathers, and blindly following the injunctions of their priests, and the mandates of the See of Rome. 6. From these circumstances arose an important difference ference between the views of the citizens of the towns and Mdhcou^t" tne inhabitants of the country in political thought and poiitiSj' °f desires. The former, placed within reach of political opinion, advancement, were animated, for the most part, by an ardent desire for freedom, and an emancipation from the fetters on thought and expression, which had so long been imposed by the tyranny of the priests and the tortures of the Inquisition; the latter, living in the seclusion of the country, and having nothing to gain by political change, were enthusiastically attached to the throne, and devotedly submissive to the mandates of the clergy. In the Basque Provinces alone, where important political privileges had from time immemorial been enjoyed by the peasantry, their loyal feelings were mingled, as in England, with Chap. attachment to their constitutional rights; in the other YI1' provinces of Spain, they were founded on their entire 18U" abandonment. "Viva cl Rey apostolico!" was the cry which expressed at once their feelings and their wishes. From the small number of considerable towns in the Peninsula, the largest of which had not two hundred thousand inhabitants, while the generality had not more than thirty or forty thousand, the democratic section of the community was not a twentieth part of the immense mass of the rural population. But from their position in the great towns and fortresses of the kingdom, and their being in possession of nearly the whole of its available wealth and energetic talent, they had great advantages in the event of a serious conflict arising; and it was hard to say, in the event of civil war, to which side victory would incline.

7. The apparent inequality of parties, from the immense preponderance of numbers on the country side, WaS Disposition more than compensated by the temper and feelings of the ofthearm-vArmy. This body, formidable and important in all countries, was more especially so from the peculiar circumstances of Spain, which had just emerged, on the accession of Ferdinand, from a desperate war of six years' duration, in the course of which nearly all the active energy of the country had been enrolled in the ranks of war, and the troops had at last, under the guidance of Wellington, acquired a tolerable degree of consistency. These men, and still more their officers, were for the most part democratic. During the long contest in the provinces, the generals had enjoyed nearly unlimited power in their separate commands, and they did not relish the thought of returning from the rank of independent princes to subordinate command. All of them had been brought in contact with the English, numbers of them, in a friendly way as prisoners, with the French troops ; and from both they had imbibed the free spirit and independent thoughts by which both were characterised. Great, indeed, was

Chap. the contrast between their extensive information and

general knowledge of the world, and the narrow ideas of

1814, the spiritual militia who had hitherto been their sole instructors. The contrast was rendered the more striking, from the brilliant career which had attended at first the arms of France, then those of England, when compared with the almost uniform defeats which their own had sustained. Hence the armies of Spain, as indeed those of all the Continental monarchies, retired from the conflict deeply imbued with democratic principles; and the officers, especially, were generally impressed with the belief that nothing but the establishment of these was wanting to open a boundless career of prosperity to their country, of promotion and elevation to themselves.

8. But if the army was an important, .it might be a The church, decisive ally to the democratic party in the towns, the royalists in the country had a force for their support equally numerous, equally zealous, and still better disciplined and docile to their chiefs. The Church was unanimous in favour of the crown and the establishment of arbitrary power: an unerring instinct told them that freedom of thought would inevitably lead to freedom of action, and the termination of their long-established dominion. Their numbers were immense, their possessions extensive. A hundred thousand priests, doomed to celibacy in a country suffering under the want of hands, and capable of maintaining, with ease and comfort, at least double its number of inhabitants, were diffused over its whole extent, and in all the rural districts, at least, exercised an unlimited sway over the minds of their flocks. Essentially obedient to the voice of their spiritual chiefs, which was everywhere governed by the commands issuing from the conclave of the Vatican, the efforts of this immense body of spiritual militia were entirely devoted to one object—the re-establishment of despotic power, in its most unmitigated form, over the whole Peninsula. The policy of the court of Rome Mas directed to this object in Spain and Portugal, from the same motive which led Chap. it to support the democratic propensities of the Romish YIL Church in Ireland. In both cases, regardless of the real 1814welfare of the people of their persuasion, they were governed by one motive—the furtherance of the power and extension of the influence of their own establishment. In the Peninsula, this was to be done by aiding despotic power against democratic infidelity; in the British Islands, by supporting democratic ambition against heretical power. But when the vast influence and wide-spread possessions of the clergy are taken into consideration, and the absolute direction which they had of the minds and opinions of their followers in all the rural districts and many of the towns, it was a most formidable enemy with which the republicans had to contend, and it was doubtful whether, in a protracted struggle, victory might not incline to the side which it espoused.

9. This influence and importance, in a political point of view, of the clergy, was the more important, from, gene- state of th« rally speaking, the comfortable and prosperous condi-pea*'"'try" tion of the peasantry, and their entire submission to the * voice of their pastors. If the clergy were a zealous and admirably trained phalanx of officers for the church militant, the peasantry composed an incomparable body of private soldiers. Sober, abstemious, regular, and yet ardent and capable of great things, the Spanish peasant is the one in Europe, with the exception, perhaps, of the Polish, who most readily forms a good soldier, and is most easily induced to undertake his duties. The five centuries of incessant warfare with the Moors had nurtured this tendency; the benignity of the climate, and absence of artificial wants among the peasantry, have rendered it easy of retention. The Castilian or Catalonian loses little by leaving his home and joining a guerilla band in the mountains; his fare remains the same, his habits are little different, the sphere of his achievements is much extended. The roving adventurous life of partisan

Vol. h. B

Chap. warfare, with its hairbreadth escapes and occasional VI1' triumphs, suits his tastes and rouses his ambition. Un18U* like the peasant of Northern Europe, the Spanish cultivator is never worn down by the labours, or depressed by the limited ideas, of daily toil. Blessed with a benignant climate, tilliug a fruitful soil, or wandering over vast downs after immense flocks, he can satisfy his few wants with a comparatively small amount of actual labour. The greater part of his life is spent in doing nothing, or in such exercises as nourish rather than depress his warlike disposition. "The Spaniards," says Chateaubriand, "are Christian Arabs: they unite the savage and the religious character. The mingled blood of the Cantabrian, the Carthaginian, the Roman, the Vandal, and the Moor, which flows in their veins, flows not as other blood. They are at once active, indolent, and grave." "Every grave nation," says Montesquieu, in discoursing of them, "is indolent; for those who do not labour consider themselves as masters of those who do. In that country liberty is injured by independence. Of what value are civil privileges to a man who, like the Bedouin, armed with the lance and followed by his sheep, has no need of food beyond a few acorns, figs, or olives V The dolce far niente is as dear to the Spaniard as to the inhabitant of the Ausonian fields; but the precious hours of rest are not spent in listless inactivity: they are cheered by the recital of the ballads, or the recounting of the stories which recall the glories, the dangers, the adventures of war. There was scarcely one at this time who had not his musket suspended over his hearth, which had been used in the guerilla warfare with the French, and his tale to recount of the indignities endured, or the vengeance taken, or the surprises achieved, in the conflict with those ruthless i chat aub invaders- Mutual benefits and dependence, and a long' series of kind actions and good deeds, performed by verone,!. parochial clergy to their flocks, had endeared them to the whole rural population and it was easy to see

« ForrigeFortsett »