as vigorous as ever, and of late his speeches in the House of Lords, (always excellent, from the clearness and straight-forward 'character of his views), have possessed a peculiar degree of animation and force. Any degree of unpopularity which his staunch and able advocacy of the principles which he holds, may have created in the minds of those who differ from him, has long since passed away ; while those who agree with him, regard him with a peculiar degree of esteem and veneration ; liberal-minded men of all parties look up to him with that respect which talent and worth command towards one whose public life has been an unbroken course of consistency and excellence.

One other incident in connection with the life of the Duke of Wellington which we have to notice, is the banquet given by the Cinque Ports, at Dover, on the 30th of August last, when many distinguished individuals of all parties, assembled to do him honour. We shall quote at the conclusion of this biographical sketch, the splendid panegyrical oration of Lord Brougham, on proposing the health of the illustrious guest-a speech on which no higher encomium can be passed than to say that its whole tone, and the eloquence and felicity of its allusions, were worthy of the subject.

We are quite aware of the difficulties which present themselves in attempting to form an estimate of the character of the illustrious individual whose career we have endeavoured briefly to delineate; and the portraiture must necessarily be imperfect, as we want those minute touches and incidents of private and domestic life, the relation of which constitutes the distinction between historic annals and biography. So far as an estimate can yet be formed, the record of his life is perhaps suffici

ent; and the reader cannot fail to have remarked some striking characteristics. As he follows Wellington's successful career he must have observed one born for eminence,-endowed with those rare qualities of head and heart which are fit for the highest and most responsible stations, for assuming and maintaining deserved superiority over others, and directing vast and complicated movements, by the clear forethought of a vigorous mind.

The first remark that may be made in contemplating Wellington's character, is, that we have not presented to our notice so much, one or more peculiar and prominent features, as the great harmony of all. Cæsar has been called by Lord Bacon the most perfect character of all antiquity, by the union of military and civil genius : the character of Wellington bears much more resemblance to his than that of Napoleon ; for the undoubtedly high qualities possessed by the French conqueror, were debased by alloys from which Wellington is entirely free; we see in the latter, no striving after effect, but the understanding, clear and serene, unblinded by success ; absolutely unassailable by the clouds of incense and adulation, which so affected Napoleon as to create the wonder and even pity of those around him ; none of that childish superstition, whether natural or assumed, concerning the force of destiny, and the influence of a name, as of a star which had arisen in majesty upon the nations; no vanity, but the totally opposite qualities of providing against the most remote contingencies, of that caution which is the earnest of success, of the improvement of every favourable, and the reparation of every adverse circumstance. We should commit a grievous error did we narrow our view to consider him as a merely soldier and conqueror-or

even a strategist and tactician of the very highest rank ; though this is the point from which he is generally viewed ; and the blaze of military glory which encircles his name, has tended to obscure some more solid, but not less striking features which are apparent upon thoughtful contemplation. In truth, no mere general would have achieved what Wellington has done ; for the man who can dauntlessly win battles, and expose his person like a common combatant, is often the very last man fit for managing extensive and complicated traius of business, for conducting the affairs of conquered provinces, for summoning up the energies of a supine and lukewarm civil government, conducted by men of weak heads and shallow understandings; distracted by mutual jealousies, and alive chiefly to petty interests—as Wellington did in India and Spain ;-in the latter country and in Portugal, single-handed, and yet dealing successfully with both the political and military relations maintained by England with those governments, and with the distant administration of the Brazils. In France, also, after concluding the war, as generalissimo of the confederated army, acting as the main-spring of all the political arrangements connected with the occupation of that country ; and lastly, as ambassador at the Congress of Vienna and Paris, successfully coping with the greatest and most accomplished European diplomatists ;-all this too, it ought to be remembered, without previous training, but from the ready and intuitive insight of a great and comprehensive mind, and by the experimental study of men and nations. Such has been Wellington's career : aloft, as if stationed upon a high pinnacle, ever a mark upon which men's eyes have been turned in fear or in hope. In him, as an able wri

ter has well remarked, we see “ vigour of body and mind ; extraordinary quickness of perception, unwearied application, dispassionate investigation, coolness of temper, undaunted courage, physical and moral, and the habit of conducting great affairs ; aye ! so successfully conducting them, that envious men turned in bitterness to demand of fortune, why she cherished such a favourite ?" Taking all these things together, is it not allowable to say, that his character displays in a very high degree indeed, the majesty of mind ?

All, and much more that we might have said respecting his genius and his commanding powers of intellect, are more than borne out by the perusal of his lately published Despatches, which, constituting a valuable repository for the historian, display to the reader more fully than any other means, the harmonious greatness of his character. From these we see that he calculated every step, and attended to the most minute equally with the most important details ; seizing with the grasp of a vigorous mind the chief points of every subject which came under his notice-neglecting nothing, and providing for everything. Nothing is more conspicuous than his immediate ascendancy over the minds of those with whom he came in contact ; and that moderation and soundness of judgment, which, though in most cases the fruit of disappointment, or at least of experience, would almost seem to have been indigenous in his mind, and were most conspicuously manifested in the very height of suc

The personal qualities developed are not less valuable : the patience of his inquiries, the capacity of his mind for all, even the most opposite kinds of knowledge, and the good-temper, sagacity, and consummate prudence which enabled him to


exercise-or rather indulge his more splendid qualities of promptitude, decision, and valour ; the whole so adorned by simplicity, generosity, justice, and good nature, that we feel disposed to say of his character,

quae si propuis stes, Te capiet magis."* To say that his honour has been ever clear and untarnished, is to say nothing, were it not that the character of many other heroes of ancient and modern times, has been debased and sullied by follies and vices; and that in pursuing greatness they have neglected to have respect also to goodness. And his achievements strike us as still more remarkable, when contrasted with the many most serious difficulties which he had to meet, and the unexampled disadvantages to which he rose superior: he described this when he said in 1812, Serving three of the weakest Cabinets in Europe, I have to contend with the most powerful Government in the world.Aud besides conducting his armies from victory to victory, what other mighty interests had he to decide! Let one who is no flatterer of great men tell. “ The succession to thrones, the rights, or supposed rights, of monarchs ; the construction of treaties ; the composition of constitutions, when

* "If you only read one portion of these letters, you might fancy the writer to have been bred in a merchants' counting-house ; if another, you would say he was a commissaire de guerre, or a professed diplomatist, a financier or a jurist, or that he had travelled all the world over to collect historical and geographical knowledge ; he is the able counsellor of his equals; the honest adviser of his superiors; the merciful chastiser of the erring, the warm friend of the brave, and the best practical politician and moralist of his time; he is throughout the true lover of his country, and if there is one quality more prominent than the rest, it is his inimitable singleness of heart and soul."

« ForrigeFortsett »