Sidebilder
PDF

formation that Sir David Baird was

vetreating.

"In embarking in support of the Spanish cause, his Majesty's minister, were not so weak, so improvident, so foolish, as to expect that the fir* efforts of the Spanish people, contending with suchan enemy, would he crowned with unqualified success; that no discomfitures, no checks, no disasters, no reverses would retard and embarrass the early and crude oprrations of undisciplined bravery, when brought down into open plains, to contend with the superior discipline, the superior strength, and the soperior generalship of such a power at France. No ; weak as the noble lord might suppose ministers, they were not yet guilty of calculating with certainty upon impossibilities; they did not expect that such a cause as the cause of Spain, to be fought for with such an enemy as the ruler of France, could possibly be determined in one campaign. Reverses they had certainly met; but they had not been owing to the cause to which the noble earl seemed so anxious to ascribe them. Those rererees had not been owing to the indifference or the apathy of the Spaakrds. They were to be imputed to their want of discipline; to an illjudged contempt of their enemy,—a sentiment that was to be traced to >ny nther feeling rather than that of apathy or indifference, and that in itself was a proof of their zeal and »rdour: and this, in the commencement, was so much relied upon, that the Marquis de la Romana did not think it would be eventually necesTy for our reinforcements to act in the interior of the peninsula, such confidence was reposed in the native •pint of the country." Hit lordship then omitting all un

necessary discussion upon the previous operations, which had been already so fully discussed, came at once to the question of Sir John Moore's advance from Salamanca. "His army," he said, "by the junction with General Hope, had received its fair proportion of cavalry, and its full proportion of artillery. Thus circumstanced, and apprized, as he then was, of the spirit manifesting itself at Madrid, was it, or was it not an opportunity that called for some effort upon the part of the British army, situated as they then were? What would have been the general sentiment in Spain and in England, had the army retired without attempting any thing i If, in that most interesting crisis, when, after all their repeated disasters, the spirit of Spain was reviving, and her chief city bidding defiance to an immense army at her very gates; if in such a moment a British army, so marshalled and equipped, after a long march to the aid of their ally, had in the hour of trial coldly turned their backs upon her danger, what would have been thought of the sincerity of this effort of British co-operation? But in advancing at this time, it was asserted that Sir John Moore had been influenced, contrary to his own judgment, by Mr Frere. He believed this assertion would not be found correct; at least he hoped it would not, for the sake of Sir John Moore himself. Nothing appeared in the correspoudence to justify it; but it did appear that he refused to suffer Mr Frere's judgment to influence his military movements, and in so doing there could be no doubt of the propriety of his conduct. As to Mr Frere's letter, requiring that the messenger might be examined before a council of war, he did not mean to vindicate not yet succeeded in subduing Spain. I admit Buonaparte has '200,000 men in that country; that his troops arc of the bravest, and his generals a mong the most skilful in the world; and, above all, that he has been hunj self at their head; and yet, with all this, he has not got possession o| more territory than he had last year he only holds such parts as in everj war fell to the lot of whichevei brought the largest army into tin field. A year ago it was said thai either Buonaparte must wholly succeed or wholly fail, for that parti:: successes would never answer his pur pose. What, then, is the fact! H has had partial success; and, not withstanding, he has not yet got in:i his possession more than half ofSpaiu I am far from saying, regard beiuj had to the man and the circumstance of the case, that the Spaniards mua ultimately succeed; but, atthesaro time, looking at the spirit they hati evinced, and the actions that ha happened, particularly the defence o Zaragoza, so gloriously pwtevere in, I cannot feel lukewarm in W hope that their efforts will be crown ed with ultimate success. Consid<J

it; at the same time that he believed too much justice could not be done Mr Frere, as far as respected his zeal for the country's interests, and the purity of his motives. This circumstance, however, had in no degree influenced the conduct of the general. His own letters proved that the advance was the spontaneous result of his own free judgment.

"Whatever," the Earl of Liverpool continued, " may be the sentiments of other persons on this subject, I believe in my conscience that that movement of Sir John Moore saved Spain. There are some, perhaps, who may be startled at the assertion: It is my fixed and decided opinion, and as such I will avow it. After the destruction of Blake's army, the defeat of Castanos, and the dispersion of the army of Estremadura,—after the capitulation of Madrid, which promised to emulate the glory of Zaragoza, and would have done so, had not treachery interposed; the next object of Buonaparte, after such a series of success, was to overrun the south of Spain, as he had done the north; and if at that crisis he had pursued his conquests, by pushing to the southern provinces, the Spanish troops would never have had time to rally there. But they have had time to rally, and to revive with increased vigour; and that time was given them by the diversion created by Sir John Moore's advance in their favour. Never was there a more effectual diversion. If Earl Grey wanted testimony of this, Sir John Moore himself said, that as a diversion it had completely and effectually succeeded. Nor was the moral effect of thus re-animating the spirit of the nation to be wholly overlooked. Let the final issue of the contest be what it may, France has

the great popular revolutions tW have occurred s do they ultimate! succeed without great changes? Swi| zerland and Holland are instance but, above all, America. In tk fatal contest with America we ga» ed every battle; we assailed and tod every town we besieged, until uj capture of General Burgoyne; an yet the Americans ultimately m ceeded, by perseverance, in the CO test. In the present important strnj gle, do not the extent and nature i the country afford a hope of succesi does not its population forbid de pair? The noble earl concluded \\ speech with a ceusure upon the coi i*t of his Majesty's ministers. The r-oble earl may not approve of our KBatrs, so neither do I approve of

* counsels: I do not approve of

sublime operations in Egypt, : Biesos Ayres, at Constantinople, »1 oilier places, that emanated from

wrsdem of those with whom the •whir earl has been used to act. L'ps! the whole, I have the satis, irrion, in common with the rest of nMaiesty's government, to reflect, As, whatever may be the conse■pnen of the struggle we are em■arked in, we have not lost the conifcxr of the Spanish people; we bww that every true Spanish heart tflti high for this country; we know •ial vhktever shall happen, they do 'ot jcco.se us. Submission may be ■he lot tbey are fated to endure in 'Se end j but they do not impute to a the cause of their misfortunes: '.kjwe sensible that neither the thirst ■rtfr commerce, nor territory, nor "tirity, is to be imputed to us, in •it uGstance we have afforded to 'tea cpon this important occasion. Vtwrct may be the result, we have

otT duty, we have not despair<4 wr have persevered, and will do »to the last, while there is any thing iat to contend for with a prospect i itccrss." The whole strength of the debate ••comprised in these speeches. Earl Hoin and Viscount Sidmouth, in 'sppsrting the motion of censure, k**n declared that they did not desnt of the Spanish cause. Lord -nkice spoke with great intempeixr. "It would have been better," aid, "for the service of the council the men who lost their lives in 'kbit campaign had been shot in y Jnres's Park. They were sent

* Spain to be massacred, without 'TpTOsprct of their being able to

do any good. The ardour of the Spaniards had wholly subsided. He could prove that Sir David Baird wrote to ministers an account of the apathy and want of spirit among that people; and that ministers had received the communication when they were pressing Sir John Moore to advance." Had not Lord Erskine suffered party feeling to blind his judgment, every day's intelligence from Spain would have taught him at this time how totally Sir David Baird had erred in his opinion. Lord Grenville affirmed, "that ministers were endeavouring to throw the blame off themselves, and transfer it to Sir John Moore, who could not now speak in his own justification. Such conduct," he hoped, "would not lessen the ardour and zeal of the army, on which the salvation of the country so greatly depended." 92 lords voted for the motion: it was negatived by 145.

When next the lords met, Earl Darnley asked April 24. "whether it was the intention of ministers to recal Mr Frerc? He had heard that it was, and if so, he should be satisfied; but if not, he considered the conduct of that ambassador to have been so improper towards Sir John Moore, that he should feel it his duty to call the attention of their lordships to the subject.'* The Earl of Liverpool replied, M he was ready to vouch for the zeal and ability of Mr Frere, and was convinced his intentions were good; but both he and his colleagues, as they had before stated, were of opinibr, that, so far as related to the circumstance mentioned respecting Sir John Moore, he had adopted an improper mode of carrying his intentions into effect." Here the subject wasdropt in the Upper House. It was then taken

i

up in the Commons, where April 27« Mr Eden moved for a copy

of the letter from Morla andCastel-Franco to Sir John Moore; and also for any information of which government might be in possession relative thereto, or relative to the two letters of Mr Frereto General Moore, dated from Talavera, December 3d, 1808, and to the message which was stated to have accompanied those letters. "On the very day," he said, *« on which Morla wrote to Sir John Moore, requesting him to advance to Madrid, he had an interview with the French commanders; three days afterwards he considered all resistance as useless; and on the 5th (the day when Sir John Moore received the letter) the French were in possession of Madrid. Morla's conduct, therefore, justified a suspicion that it was his wish to decoy the British army into the power of the French; and if that was his design, he could not have desired an instrument more likely to forward it than the letter written by Mr Frere. The situation of Sir John Moore was truly distressing. He found himself at the head of a British army in a foreign country, placed in such circumstances (through no fault of his) that he could not be cheered with any reasonable prospect of success. He knew the extravagant notions of Spanish enthusiasm which at that time so generally prevailed in England, and was aware of the censure he must in all probability incur, if he consulted the safety of his army, by quitting the country without making any farther effort in the cause. Yet, happily, superior to all these afflicting reflections, the gallant general determined to brave the transient obloquy that menaced him, by preserving his men. To this resolve we might attribute his avoiding

the snare; but though the whole oi his armv were not decoyed into tb< power of the French, the disastrom battle of Coruna might be ascribec to these circumstances."

In reply to this, Mr Canning said he had already communicated to M Eden that it was impossible to com ply with his motion, because govern ment had no such papers to produce He left the House, therefore,to jude of the candour of that honourabl gentleman, under these circumstances who seemed to have taken this occa sion to throw out insinuations againf Mr Frere, before the time for discui sing the subject altogether had ai rived. Mr Canning added, he ha heard this with feelings which t would not trust himself to exprrsi When the proper moment came, li would endeavour to discharge his put lie duties, and those of private fricm ship. Upon this Mr Tierney ol served, that it was extremely prop' to move for these papers, eventhoug

fovcrnment had them not to pn uce; for it was very important 1 know that there were no such doc ments,—a fact which did not opera in favour of Mr Frere. Mr Ca ning replied, the fact was, that I* Frere accompanied the junta wh they left Madrid, and could ha known nothing of Charmilly, Morla's letter, had it not been tl: the junta stopt at Talavera, on th way to Seville. There Charmi! found him, when on his way wi a direct communication to Sir Jo Moore, never intended to be fonva ed through Mr Frere—The conv sation then turned upon M. Ch milly. Lord Castlereagh said th' was no foundation for the report tl Charmilly went to Spain with a commendation from him. He 1 indeed applied to be sent, but 1 been told that they did not know of any service in which he could be noted. General Tarleton then rose, to shew how utterly unworthy of any trust or credit this M. Charmilly was. "He had refused," he said, " to pay to a MrDevereux some money which he had lost to him at play, upon the pretence that he was a ruined man; although, as had been afterwards ascertained, he certainly had the means of paying. Now, when this Colonel Charmilly was charged with his conduct to Mr Devereux, what did he do? Why, simply denied ever having played with him at all. The business was not proceeded in, owing to the interference of a very respectable man, the Comte de Vandreuil, who represented the total ruin in which it must involve Charmilly. Such was the person whom Mr Frere chose to authorise to interfere with Sir John Moore."

Mr Eden's motion was, of course, Kgatived without a division. A motion of Mr AberAprtt. 27. crombie's, on the same day, for copies of the orders issued by Sir John in Spain, was not more successful. "His object in moving for them," he said, "was that the character of that gallant and highly-lamented officer might appear in its true colours." Lord Castlereagh veplied, - that sorry as he should be to refuse any papers which might be thought necessary to vindicate the character of that gallant general, he "iost resist the motion: First, because the executive government could nnt comply with it: no such papers seve in his office, nor did he know •here they were, unless they might oe in possession of the adjutant-general in Spain ; secondly, because he thought it a serious question of pru

dence, whether such papers ought to be called for. The orders of generals to the army under their command were conveyed in a tone which might be necessary to keep up discipline, but might not perhaps be quite consonant to the feelings of the House, and should not therefore be made public." Mr Abercrombie answered, "that he thought these objections were of no weight. As to the first, it would be easy for the order of that House to be directed to the adjutant-general, and he would find out where the papers were: As to the second, there could not certainly be any object upon which the House ought more to wish to be well informed, than the state of the discipline of the army. Sure he was, that General Moore never wrote or expressed a sentiment relative to the army under his command, which he would not have published, and wished to be known to the whole world. It was well known that considerable alarm had gone abroad respecting the disorder and want of discipline in his army, particularly during the retreat, and that this want of discipline was not owing to him. Now, if those orders were made public, they would show plainly and clearly that the fault was not with him. If Lord Castlereagh meant that they should not be known to the public, and if it were true, as Lord Castlereagh admitted, that every thing was done by Sir John Moore, in the retreat from Sahagun to Coruna, that could have been done by the ablest general in any service, then the argumentamountedtothis:—Youmust not hurt the feelings of the army, but you may sacrifice the honour and character of the officer who commanded. If any thing had been done by the gallant officer in question which

general

Moore

« ForrigeFortsett »