Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Chap. a few returned from the mountains of Cumberland and UI' Wales. But, unfortunately, in proportion to its utter

-1814. unsuitableness for the entire inhabitants of the Peninsula, and the abhorrence of the vast majority of the people to its provisions, it was the object of impassioned attachment on the part of the democratic populace in the capital and a few seaport towns. It was so for a very obvious reason: it promised, if established in a lasting way, to put the whole power and patronage of the state at their disposal. Therein the seeds of a lasting division of opinion, and of a frightful civil war at no distant period in the Peninsula, in which it might be expected that 12,000,000 bold, hardy, and loyal peasants, scattered over the whole country, would be arrayed on one side; while 500,000 ardent and enthusiastic democrats concentrated in the capital and chief fortresses, and having the command of the army, were in arms on the other.

The proceedings of the Cortes, and the democratic Universal character of the measures they were pursuing, was well uT/of the known to the Duke of Wellington, and discerned by S,n,rtitu-nd n'm vith. his wonted sagacity. He repeatedly warned the government of Great Britain, that while the spirit of the nation was anti-Gallican, not democratic, that of the Cortes and its narrow body of constituents was democratic, not anti-Gallican; and that it would be their wisdom, without sanctioning in any shape, or interfering at all with the proceedings at Cadiz, to turn their attention exclusively to the expulsion of the French from the Peninsula. * They did so, and with what effect need be

* " The natural course of all popular assemblies—of the Spanish Cortes among others—is to adopt democratic principles, and to vest all the powers of the state in their own body; and this Assembly must take care that they do not run in this tempting course, as the wishes of the nation are decidedly for a monarchy. By a monarchy alone it can be governed; and their inclination to any other form of government, and their assumption of the power and patronage of the state into their own hands, would immediately deprive them of the confidence of the people, and render them a worse government, and more impotent, because more numerous, than the Central Junta."—Wellington to H. Wrlleslev, Nov. 4, 1810; Gurwood, iv. 559.

"The Cortes are unpopular everywhere, and, in my opinion, deservedly so. told to none; but though Spain marched under his Chap. guidance in the career of conquest, and, to external

VII.

appearance, was enveloped in a halo of glory, the work- 1814ing of the democratic constitution was not the less felt, and it had become beyond measure repugnant to the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Peninsula. What chiefly excited their indignation was the selfishness and rapacity of the half-starving employe's, who, issuing from Cadiz, overspread the country in every direction, like an army of locusts, and ate up the fruits of their industry, by exactions of every description, from the suffering inhabitants. The general abhorrence in which these rapacious employe's were held, recalls the similar indignation excited in Flanders by the Jacobin commissioners sent down there by Danton, when the country was overrun by the republican armies in 1792.1 It will be so to^jjt.of the end of the world, in all governments, monarchical <=. x. § 55. and republican, where the executive and legislative func- congS"^ tions are united in one person or assembly; for then v6eTM£?' '• there is no possible check upon the misdeeds of either. ^jj?**' The only security which can be relied upon is to be Ann. iug.

1812 67

found in their separation and mutual jealousy, for then 68.'' they act as a check upon each other.2

The proceedings of the Cortes, and the republican ^ spirit with which they were animated, acted in a still Influence of more important way upon the destinies of the New on South World than those of the Old. The deputies from the Americ*Transatlantic provinces, to whom, in a liberal and worthy spirit, the gates of the national representation at Cadiz

Nothing can be more cruel, absurd, and impolitic than those decrees respecting the persona who have served the enemy. It is extraordinary that the revolution has not produced one man with any knowledge of the real situation of the country. It appears as if they were all drunk, thinking and speaking of any other subject than Spain."—Wellington to H. Welleslzv, Nov. 1, 1812; Gurwood, ix. 524.

"It is impossible to describe the state of confusion in which affairs arc at Cadiz. The greatest objection I have to the new constitution is, that in a country in which almost the whole property consists in land—and these are the largest landed proprietors which exist in Europe—no measure has been adopted, and no barrier provided, to guard landed property from tho

Chap. had been opened, came to the hall of the Cortes, in the YIL Isle of Leon, with feelings wound up to the highest 1814, pitch, from the wrongs they had so long endured from the selfish and monopolising policy of the mother country, and the free and independent spirit which the breaking out of the revolution in the Caraccas and elsewhere had excited in her transmarine possessions. They found themselves in a highly democratic and vehemently excited assembly, in which the noble name of liberty was continually heard, in which the sovereignty of the people was openly announced, the whole fabric of the new constitution was made to rest on that foundation, and in which the most enthusiastic predictions were constantly uttered as to the future regeneration and happiness of mankind from the influence of these principles. They returned to South America, under the restriction which had been adopted of each Cortes to two years' sitting, before these flattering predictions had been brought to the test of experience, or anything had occurred to reverl their fallacious character. They instantly spread among their constituents

encroachments, injustice, and violence to which it is at all times liable, particularly in the progress of revolutions. Such a guard can only be afforded by tho establishment of an assembly of the great landed proprietors—like our House of Lords, having concurrent power with the Cortes; and you may depend upon it there is no man in Spain, be his property ever so small, who is not interested in the establishment of such an assembly. Unhappily, in legislative assemblies, the most tyrannical and unjust measures aro the most popular. I tremble for a country such as Spain, in which there is no barrier for the preservation of private property, excepting the justice of a legislative assembly possessing supreme power. It is impossible to caleulate upon the plans of such an assembly: they have no check whatever, and they aro governed by the most ignorant and licentious of nil licentious presses—that of Cadiz. I believo they mean to attack tho royal and feudal tenths, the tithes of the Church, under pretence of encouraging agriculture; and Bnding tho supplies from these sources not so extensive as they expected, they will seize tho estates of the grandees. Our character is involved in a greater degree than we are aware of in tho democratical transactions of the Cortes, in tho opinion of aU moderate, well-thinking Spaniards, and, I am afraid, with the rest of Europe. It is quite impossible such a system can last: what I regret is, that I am the person who maintains it. If the king should return, he trill overturn the vhole fabric, if he has any spirit; but the gentlemen at Cadiz aro so completely masters, that I fear there must be another convulsion."— Wellington to Dos Diego De La. Vega, Jan. 29,1813; Gurwood, X. 64, 65, 247; xi. 91.

the flattering doctrines and hopes with which the halls ot Chap. the Cortes had resounded in Europe. Incalculable was Ylr' the influence of this circumstance upon the future des- 18U" tinies of South America, and, through it, of the whole civilised world. To this, in a great degree, is to be ascribed the wide-spread and desperate resolution of the 1 Comto do vast majority of the inhabitants in the revolutionary con- £r0X'de test in those magnificent settlements; their frightful deso- [^r"£^" lation by the horrors of a war worse than civil; and their p»'final severance, by the insidious aid of Great Britain, from ii. 265.' the Spanish crown.1

In all the particulars which have been mentioned, Portugal was in the same situation as Spain; but in situation of two respects the situation of that country was more Fa-wtof tha favourable for innovation, and her people were more ^n^t of ripe for revolt than in the Spanish provinces. The royal ^RTMTM"nt family having, during the first alarm of the French inva- neirosion, migrated to Brazil, and dread of the terrors of a sea voyage having prevented the aged monarch from returning, he had come to fix his permanent residence on the beautiful shores of Rio Janeiro. A separation of the two countries had thus taken place; and the government at Lisbon, during the whole war, had been conducted by means of a council of regency, the members of which were by no means men either of vigour or capacity, and which was far from commanding the respect, or having acquired the affections, of the country. While the weight and influence of Government had been thus sensibly weakened, the political circumstances of Portugal, and the events of the war, had in an extraordinary manner diffused liberal ideas and the spirit of independence through a considerable part of the people.

Closely united, both by political treaties and commercial intercourse, with Great Britain, for above a century Its general Portugal had become, in its maritime districts at least, English" °f almost an English colony. English influence was pre- anJ dominant at Lisbon: English commerce had enriched

Chap. Oporto: the English market for port had covered the Y1L slopes of Tras-os-Montes with smiling vineyards. In 18U- addition to this, the events of the late war had spread, in an extraordinary degree, both admiration of the English institutions, and confidence in the English character, through the entire population. Thirty thousand Portuguese troops had been taken into British pay: they had felt the integrity of British administration: they had been led to victory by British officers. Unlike the native nobles who had held the same situations, they had seen them ever the first in the enemy's fire — the last in acts of domestic corruption. Immense had been the influence of this juxtaposition. Standing side by side with him in battle, they had learned to respect the English soldier in war, to admire the institutions which had trained him in peace. Even the hatred in which they had been bred of the heretic, yielded to the evidence of their senses, which had taught them his virtues. In daily intercourse with the British soldiers, they had learned to appreciate the liberty which had nurtured them; they had come to envy their independence of thought, and imitate their freedom of language. The mercantile classes in Lisbon and Oporto, almost entirely supported by British capital, and fed by British commerce, were still more strongly impressed with the merits of the political institutions, from intercourse with a nation governed by which they had derived such signal benefits. Thus a free spirit, and the thirst for liberal institutions, was both stronger and more wide-spread in Portugal than in the adjoining provinces of Spain; and it was easy to foresee that, if any circumstances impelled the latter country into the career of revolution, the former would be the first to follow the example. 27 Ferdinand VII., whom the battle of Leipsic and charactet of conquest of France had restored to the throne of his Vii. ancestors, was not by nature a bad, or by disposition a cruel man; and yet he did many wicked and unpardon

« ForrigeFortsett »