« ForrigeFortsett »
made, not in consequence of a kaT from Mr Frere, but in consefrace of an intercepted letter to Sock. 127 members voted in favour of the inqniry, 220 against it.
Thii debate took place on the 24th of February. On the 16th of Hirch Esrl Grey gave notice that !»* 4juJd move for the production of tic letters from Mr Frcre to Sir Ida Moore. The Earl of Liverpool rralrd, they were private letters to Join Moore, and were not trans~ecd home by that officer, nor referral to in any of his dispatches, pdhfic or private; neither had they :t operation with respect to the loth of the army : for these reasons ibould resist th.?ir production. Hi: Eirl of Darnley afterwards moved for these papers, and i/irri 24. also for a dispatch from General Moore, dated ISth of January. Lord LivcrtiluVu said, that as he understood -to! nearly connected with Sir <o Moore were extremely anxious "hit Mr Frcre's letters should be '"ijdocttL, he would not oppose their ia*l before the House. With Vfea to the dispatch in question, rtcwd consideration whether it • "tipedicnt to produce it. The Eirl of Darnley,however, •'•'-rcA27. renewed his motion for this dispatch on a subse.3=* day; arguing that it was neces
■ -7 to assist the House in deciding
the measures adopted during • caxpiign. To this Lord Liver °d made answer, that when the '•-t papers were communicated, it ^ been thought improper to prothii document; and he assured 'House that when this letter came bid before them, they would ^adearlv perceive the impropriety
■ s»vj>g produced it. When Gtne'oi. a. Part J.
ral Moore wrote it, lie expressed himself as desiring that it might not be considered an official communication, because he was not able at that instant to convey a more correct statement, but would take an early opportunity of sending one. The letter also contained other matter, which clearly shewed that he never intended it to be considered or produced as a public document. These, Lord Liverpool added, were the reasons which would have inclined him and'his colleagues not to have acceded to the production ; but when the noble lords opposite were so strenuous in maintainingacontrary opinion, lie thought it right, upon farther consideration, not to resist the motion; because although considerable detriment was done by acceding to the production of letters of this description, still more injury might arise, if, after being repeatedly called for, they were withheld. He was also the more readily inclined to accede, because the dispatch was worded in that way which left the production discretionary as to a copy or extracts. The Earl of Rosslyn then moved for copies of all instructions and communications which had past between the three secretaries of state and any of the ministers in Spain and Portugal, respecting military measures. Earl Grey supported the motion, asking what had been the consequence of those measures ? Had not every calamity ensued from them, every distress which could harass the soldiers, and wear out the patience of a skilful commander? Such was the situation into which the English were led, that all the personal valour of the troops, and the wisdom of their general, could not extricate them from their difficulties; and Fortune herself, in the most capricious hour
of her changeible dispensation, could not have afforded them relief. To this it was replied, by Lord Liverpool, that the conduct of administra'tion was to be judged by their acts. If any proceedings had been adopted contrary to the mstructions, then it was their business to bring forward those instructions, and thus exonerate themselves. They were ready to take upon them all the acts which had been done, and so far to give every information moved for; but these instructions he could not consider it proper to make public. Accordingly they were refused.
The last dispatch of Sir John Moore was therefore made public. No detailed account of the retreat had hitherto appeared: all that was known was, that the army had suffered severely from forced marches, but had been finally victorious ; and reports had been sedulously propagated of the apathy of the Spaniards, and their indifference, or even inhu manity, towards their allies. This charge was made in strong terms by General Moore. "Had the British," he said, "been withdrawn without attempting any thing, the loss of the cause would have been imputed to their retreat; and it was necessary to risk the army, to convince the people of England, as well as the rest of Europe, that the Spaniards had neither the power nor the inclination to make any efforts for themselves. It was for this reason," he pursued, "that I made the march to Saha
fun. As a diversion it succeeded, brought the whole disposeable force of the French against this army, and it has been allowed to follow me, without a single movement being made to favour my retreat. The people of Galicia, though armed, made no attempt to stop the passage
of the French through the mountains. They abandoned their dwellings at our approach, drove away their carts, oxen, and every thing that could be of the smallest aid to the army. The consequence has been, that our sick have been left behind: and when our horses or mules failed, which, on such marches, and through such a country, was the case to a great extent, baggage, ammunition, stores, and even money, were necessarily destroyed or abandoned." This was a heavy charge against the Spaniards, and it was triumphantly repeated by those who, being the opponents of ministry, became thereby the enemies of the Spanish cause. Yet it might have occurred to them that it was neither generous nor prudent to reproach an undisciplined peasantry for not attempting to defend defiles through which the finest army that had ever left England, with a man who was supposed to be their best general at its head, was retreating faster than ever army had retreated before. If these passes were not defensible, why should we accuse the Galicians for not defending them? If they could have been defended, why did the British army run through, leaving their haggage, stores, and ammunition, their money, their horses, their sick, their dying, and their dead, to track the way ? Trie consternation and (light of the British general would alone have excused the conduct of the Galicians.
This, however, was not their only excuse. Sir John Moore added, " I am sorry to say, that the army whose conduct I had such reason to extol on its march through Portugal, and on its arrival in Spain, has totally changed its character since it began to retreat. I can say nothing in its favour, but that when there was a
prospect of fighting the enemy, the no were then orderly, and seemed fltmi, and determined to do their ■By."—Lord Liverpool warned his opponent*, that if they insisted upon we production of this dispatch, they would at the impropriety of making it public, when too late. Something, to cub:, in this part had been suppreAtd.—" Of what nature," it was uuA, "was this misconduct with wbjc'i General Moore so roundly accned a whole army, almost with his (frog breath? Did the officers bebro ill, or the men, or both? Did tin refuse to fight, or did they refwe to fiy? What had they done, or what had they omitted to do i" Tbese questions were asked by the wiser part of the public, and the narratives of the campaign, which were ifctrwards published, amply answer•i ihrm. It then appeared that the amy, from the hour in which it was :j73?d into a rout, considered them-4m Uke sailors after a shipwreck —released from all discipline by the conrmno ruin ;—that they plundered, bom, and destroyed before them ;— that while many of the officers murdered against the conduct of the ■HBsaaaer, the men cried out loudly igaciat the disgrace of running a"Jy;—that order, discipline, temperax;, and even humanity, were laid a«Je by them in their desperation ; but tfca: they had never forgotten the honour of England; and that whenever a icp; • of facing the enemy was held
out to them, order was instantaneously restored, they were themselves again, and, in spite of all their fatigues and sufferings, manifested that invincible courage which, happily for themselves and for their country, they were allowed to prove upon the French at Coruna.
It is not a little remarkable, that when this dis- Jan. 24. atch was first called for y Mr Whitbread, General Stewart expressed his hope it might be published; because, he said, he was satisfied that it would be to the army the greatest gratification they could receive. A stigma upon the discipline of the troops could not, indeed, have appeared at a more Unfortunate season; for at this time a heavy charge was pending against his Royal Highness the Commander-inChief; and immediately after the first debate upon that subject, the Earl of Suffolk made a speech in praise of the army, as Jan. 31. an act of justice towards him; and instanced the conduct of these very troops in this very retreat, as the effect of his able administration. "The whole object," he said, "of the illustrious duke had been to bring the army to that state of perfection which, by its recent demeanour, it had so nobly proved. It was that discipline which enabled our troops, after a march of upwards of 400 miles, through a barren tract of country, and at an UN
• A parage from Milton was most appositely quoted upon this subject in the ftuwteriy Review.
Descent and fall
hospitable season, to give battle to their adversaries, and gain over them 'a signal victory ; it was that discipline which enabled them to sustain all the hardships and all the privations which they endured in that retreat, and finally to secure and save themselves from a tremendous enemy. This was the effect of the discipline introduced and acted upon throughout the British forces." But it now appeared that all discipline had been at an end as soon as the army began to fly. What else could be expected, when they fled with such precipitation? The dragoons marched 72 miles in 26 hours, during £4 of which they were actually on horseback. When the 1st regiment, or Royals, reached Betanzos, they only mustered, with the colours, nine officers, three Serjeants, and threeprivates: the rest had dropt on the road; and many of those who joined at all, did not join for three days. There was a memorable instance, in this part of the retreat, of what might have been accomplished by presence of mind. A party of invalids, between Lugo and Betanzos, were closely pressed by two squadrons of French cavalry. Serjeant Newman, of the 2d battalion 43d, was among them: he made an effort to pass three or four hundred of these poor men, then halted, rallied round him those who were capable of making any resistance, and directed the others to proceed as they could. This party he formed regularly into divisions, and commenced firingandretiringin an orderlymanner, till he effectually covered the retreat of his disabled comrades, and made the cavalry give up the pursuit.
However grievous it might be to hear thus of the misconduct of our retreatingarmy, thethingitself was what might have been expected, as theihevi
table consequence of such a retreat. But Sir John Moore's dispatch contained a more melancholy and startling avowal. "He had been advised," he said, "to propose terms to the enemy, that he might be permitted to embark quietly." This was indeed an unexpected shock. What! were there then officers in this army, and of such rank in it as to offer advice to the general, who were for askin;; leave of the French to embark, and purchasing by a convention, whic!: might, by its blacker dishonour, hav; put that of Cintra out of remem brance, that safety which half thi army, without horse, and almost with out artillery, won for themselve gloriously, at the bayonet's point From this inexpiable disgrace Si John Moore had saved us; redeemin his own honour, and that of the Br tish troops. But who were the me who had so little confidence in Br tish valour, that they would ha' robbed us of the battle of Coruna Who were they who despaired victory, when victory was so pos: ble, that half our force obtained i Who were they who, instead of rel ing upon their own hearts and ham would have solicited terrns frc Marshal Soult, and set the Spaniai an example of pusillanimity whi would for ever have disgusted the and to which every coward or ev< traitor among them might have; pealed, asapreccdentforanybascnc Some pledge ought to have b< called for from government, that th men should never, on any future oc sion, be trusted w ith command. 1 not a single comment was made Parliament upon this subject, upon any of the information cont; ed in the long-withheld dispatch, furnished no matter of reproach gainst ministers, and therefore it
sot the kind of information which their opponents wanted. Ministers themselves could make no use of it; for, having it in their hands, they had past a vote of thanks to the officers and men, of whose previous misconduct they possessed these proofs ; and instead of defending their own mea
sures, by arguing that the campaign might have turned out well, or at least less disastrously, if the commander had acted with more vigour and more enterprise, they asserted that every thing had been ably executed, as well as wisely planned.