Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

country,* if I forbore to notice, that we are on this day crowning with our thanks, one gallant officer well known to the gratitude of this House, who has long trodden the paths of glory ; whose genius and valour have already extended our fame and empire ; whose sword has been the terror of our distant enemies; and will not now be drawn in vain to defend the seat of empire itself, and the throne of his King. I am, Sir Arthur Wellesley, charged to deliver the thanks of this House to you, and I accordingly thank you in the name of the Commons of the United Kingdom, for your zeal, intrepidity, and exertion, displayed in the various operations necessary for conducting the siege, and effecting the surrender of the navy and arsenal of Copenhagen.” Sir Arthur's reply to this high eulogium, was highly characteristic. “The honour which this House has conferred on myself and my friends, is justly considered by the officers of the navy and army, as the highest this country can offer; it is the object and ambition of all who are employed in his Majesty's service ; and to obtain it, has doubtless been the motive of many of those acts of valour and good conduct, which have tended so eminently to the glory, and have advanced the prosperity and advantage of this country.” Having resumed

his duties as secretary for Ireland, Sir Arthur Wellesley frequently took part in the deliberations of the House, concerning Irish questions. His plans were distinguished by their practical tendency ; his views, unalloyed by violent partizanship, were moderate and conciliatory ; while therefore he was highly esteemed by his friends, he never lost the respect of his opponents. There can be no doubt that his continuance in office would

* Scott's Life of Napoleon.

have produced much substantial good to his native country ; but a new scene of action was now opening before him; the laurels he had acquired on the plains of India, were to be thrown into the shade by the glorious conquests of his Peninsular campaigns ; he was to lead the British troops from one victory to another, to be cheered by the shouts, and rewarded by the enthusiastic thanksgivings of a liberated people.

CHAPTER IV.

Introductory remarks-Conquests of Napoleon-Affairs of

Spain-Charles IV.-Godoy-Ferdinand-Napoleon's designs—Treaty of Fontainbleau-Departure of Portuguese Royal Family-Junot enters Lisbon-Intrigues at the Spanish court-King's Abdication-Ferdinand goes to Bayonne-Insurrection at Madrid-Vengeance of the French-Origin of the Peninsular War-Spaniards desire

aid from England. The commencement of the French Revolution had been hailed with delight by many of the noblest and most generous spirits of the human race : they saw in it only the dawning of a bright and auspicious morning upon the universe, and knew not the sanguinary and fearful excesses in which that morning of promise was to close. The abuses of the French monarchy had been unquestionably very great ; oppressive exactions and political servitude ground down the great body of the people ; a numerous, haughty, and frivolous aristocracy, many of them destitute of legitimate claims to respect, of unbounded profligacy and worthlessness, stood aloof from the people, and refused the slightest redress of their grievances ; other causes which we cannot particu. larize, had also been working for a long series of years. When the people then succeeded in obtaining their legitimate rights, it seems as though fresh vigour had been infused into an ancient kingdom, and a noble example of the blessings of freedom given to the world. Had the constitutional party in France taken their stand on the broad grounds of principle, and trusted to their own resources (they were at first the decided majority of the houses of legislature) without courting the support of the republican faction, the coming danger might have been at least delayed. Had the King been as firm, as he was well-disposed to his subjects, and had the nobles and great proprietors been true to him, the monarchy might have been saved. The royalist party, divided and distracted, now making indiscreet demonstrations of hostility, and again granting sweeping and large concessions, when they could be no longer serviceable to themselves, but only fed the flame of revolutionary ardour, seemed by their folly, desirous of giving a practical proof that the theories of their publican opponents were well founded. Above all, it was suspected that Louis and his supporters meant to deceive the people, and every suspicion of such unworthy expedients, during periods of popular excitement, is attended with the most disastrous consequences. The republican party obtained in effect the dictatorship of France; and what seemed the fair horizon of that ill-fated country was soon overcast with clouds of darkness. One extreme was succeeded by another, the great institutions of the land were overturned, and Europe saw with horror and surprise, the church and no. bility abolished, the King dethroned and decapitated, the most furious and restless republicans possessing the supreme sway, and ruling by the guillotine and the sword, reason deified, and a Republic proclaimed. What history proves to be the end of such a headlong career of national change followed in its course ; and after France had been drenched with blood, its trembling people were glad to seek shelter under the military despotism of Bonaparte.

This astonishing man had been the favourite of fortune. ' After having ascended by the commanding force of his genius to the throne, it appeared as if his lofty elevation had deprived him of much of that forethought and comprehensive wisdom to which he owed his supremacy. The man who had risen from the people, perished by endeavouring to rule them like a legitimate monarch ; the successor of republican chiefs strove to imitate the brilliance of the old regime. Grasping and insatiable ambition led him, like another Alexander, to attempt the conquest of the world. The peace of Tilsit had left him almost sole master of the continent, the greater part of it he actually possessed, the rest was under his controul. No German Emperor had before acquired such dominion over the principalities of that country as Napoleon. The mountaineers of Switzerland, forgetting Morat and Morgarten, submitted to his protection, received his edicts, and recruited his armies. Occupying the triple throne of France, Flanders, and Italy, he had placed one brother on that of Naples, “ made a second King of Holland, and erected a kingdom in Germany for a third, with territories taken indiscriminately from his foes and friends. His sister's husband Murat possessed a principality with the title of Grand Duke of Berg; Eugene Beauharnois, his wife's son, was married into the house of Bavaria, and ruled Italy as his viceroy ; his uncle, Cardinal Fesch, would upon the next vacancy be placed at the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Like the hero of a Spanish romance of chivalry, he portioned out kingdoms, principalities, and dukedoms, from his conquests, among his companions in arms, and we read of Dukes of Dalmatia, Regusa, and Dantzig, among the new nobility of France."

His reputation, political, and military, was at its height; he had done more than Louis XIV. had attempted, he had a wider sphere of authority than Charlemagne. His fortunes had reached their zenith, and, as a most sagacious politiciant told him, each farther advance must be in reality a step in decline. In his pride and madness, he disregarded the warning; the disastrous invasions of Spain and Russia shewed its truth. Napoleon himself, in his early days, would have at once seen that his true policy and only chance of safety, lay in defending and strengthening what he had already gained, and that he weakened himself in proportion as he drew out his lines. Disregarding this, he resolved to have the whole of Europe at his feet, and threw down the gauntlet of defiance to the world ; and only awoke from his dreams when he found himself a solitary, dethroned, and discomfited exile. Like a mad gambler, unsatisfied by cautious and successful winnings, he staked his all upon the cast, fame, wealth, empire : he lost, and was left to lament his folly on the rock of St. Helena.

Ever since the Spanish Bourbons had ascended the throne, an unbroken alliance had subsisted between France and Spain ; and the latter as the weaker country, had acted in submission to the former.

After the downfall of the royal family in * Quarterly Review.

Talleyrand.

« ForrigeFortsett »