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had sailed from England a few months before, returned, a third of its numbers fallen, depressed in spirits, having lost, like Francis I., all but its honour in that calamitous retreat ; when the hosts of Spain had been dispersed, like chaff before the wind, by the legions of Napoleon ; when Madrid had fallen, and a few thousand men alone remained to prevent the French eagles being forthwith planted on the towers of Lisbon. The English generals engaged in the combat regarded the cause of Spain as utterly hopeless, and the idea of defending Portugal as too extravagant to be for a moment entertained. Sir John Moore and Sir David Baird had written to Government under this impression, recommending that empty transports should be sent to Vigo Bay, to bring away the troops, instead of the thirteen thousand men which had been prepared to reinforce the army. If the French succeed in Spain,” said Sir J. Moore, in November 1808, “it will be in vain to attempt to resist them in Portugal. The Portuguese are without a military force, and, from the experience of their conduct under Sir Arthur Wellesley, no dependence is to be placed on any aid they can give. The British must, in that event, immediately take steps to evacuate the country.”* There were few men in Britain, at that time, with the disasters of the campaign before their eyes, who probably entertained a different opinion. But what said Wellington a few months after, when no intervening success had occurred to shake the grounds of Sir J. Moore and Sir D. Baird's opinion? “Por
be successfully defended against any force the French could bring against it; and the maintenance of that position would be the greatest support to the common cause in Spain.” It was that opinion which was the foundation of the defence of Portugal, and ultimately the cause of the deliverance of Europe.
Like all other men engaged in public life, Wellington had many vexations and mortifications to undergo, owing to the partiality or injustice on the part of Government in promoting men of inferior capacity, and unknown to fame, over his head. But nothing was ever able to shake his devotion to
* Sir J. Moore to Lord Castlereagh, Nov. 24, 1808. Parl. Deb. + Memorandum on the Defence of Portugal, March 9, 1809. GURWOOD, iv. 261, and vi. 5.
his country, or make him for a moment entertain the idea which lesser men would at once have embraced, of throwing up his command on receiving such unworthy treatment. When he was first sent to Spain, he received the command of the expedition at Cork, and he set sail at its head without having received the slightest hint of an intention to supersede him in the command of it. The first intimation he received that he was to be degraded to a subordinate situation was on the 15th July 1808, when off Mondego Bay, being then informed he was to be superseded by Sir H. Burrard and Sir H. Dalrymple. He immediately wrote to Lord Castlereagh, the minister for foreign affairs, “Pole and Burghersh have apprised me of the arrangements for the future command of the army.
All that I can say on this subject is, that, whether I am to command the army or to quit it, I shall do my best to insure its success; and you may depend upon it that I shall not hurry the operations, or commence them one moment sooner than they ought to be commenced, in order that I may acquire the credit of the success. The Government will determine for me in what way they will employ me hereafter, either here or elsewhere."*
When asked by an intimate friend, after his return, how he, who had commanded an army of forty thousand men, and been made a knight of the Bath, and received the thanks of Parliament, could submit to be reduced to the rank of a general of a division of infantry, he replied, “For this reason—I was 'nimukwallah,' as we say in the East; I have ate the King's salt, and, therefore, I consider it my duty to serve with zeal and promptitude, when or wherever the King or his Government may think fit to employ me.” Here was true magnanimity, for it was forgetfulness of self in the cause of duty. Nor did it go without its reward, even in this world. Inferior men, actuated by the jealousy which is the invariable mark of little minds, would probably have resigned the command, and retired from public life on so scandalous a slight; but Wellington remained constant to his duty, the battle of Vimeira succeeded, his greatness outgrew competition, silenced envy, and he lived to strike down Napoleon on the field of Waterloo.
* GURWOOD, iv. 43.
If this was a memorable instance of the singleness of heart and devotion to country of the British hero, not less was the invincible firmness with which he adhered to the discharge of bis duty, under circumstances of difficulty which would have shaken the resolution of any other man, characteristic of the firmness and strength of his character. Like Marlborough, and, indeed, all other great men, he found that the difficulties with which he had to contend in combating his enemies in front were inconsiderable, compared with those which assailed him from the ignorance, selfishness
, timidity, and incapacity of those on whom he was obliged to rely to resist their efforts. His winter campaign with the Allies, to hold the confederacy together, generally exceeded in duration, length, and fatigue, his summer campaign with the marshals of Napoleon. The jealousies and incapacity of the Spaniards, the selfishness and timidity of the Portuguese regency, were more formidable antagonists than either Soult or Marmont. his difficulties confined to the Allied Powers. Energy and zeal were never wanting, indeed, in the British Government; but they were too often entirely and deplorably ignorant of military combination, or the measures necessary to insure military success.
But what said Wellington at the time when the country was ringing from side to side with the repeated discomfiture of the Spanish armies; when the Opposition were incessantly proclaiming in and out of Parliament the utter insanity of continuing any longer the hopeless contest in the Peninsula, and Ministers even laid upon him the whole responsibility of bringing away the army in safety from Lisbon ?*
I conceive that the honour and interests of the country require that we should hold our ground here as long as possible ; and, please God, I will maintain it as long as I can; and I will neither endeavour to shift from my oun shoulders the responsibility for the failure, by calling for means which I know they cannot give, and which, perhaps, would not add materially to the facility of attaining our object ; nor will I give to Ministers, who are
* " The state of opinion in England is very unfavourable to the Peninsula. The Ministers are as much alarmed as the public, or as the Opposition pretend to be; and they appear to be of opinion that I am inclined to fight a desperate battle which is to answer no purpose. Their instructions are clear enough, and I am willing to act under them, although they throw upon me the whole responsibility of bringing away the army in safety, after staying in the Peninsula till it shall be necessary to evacuate it." - WELLINGTON, 21st April 1810. GURWOOD, vi. 48, 49. VOL. III.
not strong, and who feel the delicacy of their situation, an excuse for withdrawing the army from a position which, in my opinion, the honour and interest of the country require that we should maintain as long as possible. I think that if the Portuguese do their duty, we shall have enough to maintain it: if they do not, nothing that Great Britain can afford can save the country; and if from that cause I fail in saving it, and am obliged to go, I shall be able to carry away the British army."
Here is Wellington painted to the very life, and unconsciously, in the simplicity of his heart, painted by himself: desiring nothing from his Government which he knew they might have a difficulty in giving him, seeking to relieve himself from no responsibility, singly sustaining a shaking country and sinking Administration, alone holding together a jealous and discordant alliance, and seeking no reward for all his efforts but that which attends the simple discharge of duty.
The time has now arrived when in a calm and dispassionate retrospect of Wellington's life, we may add to the many instances with which it abounds of the heroic discharge of duty, the manly stand he made against the Reform Bill. It is needless to remind the existing generation what a storm of obloquy his resistance to the popular wishes on this occasion produced; how entirely, for the time, it caused all the great services of the Duke to be forgotten; how shamefully he was, in consequence, treated by the nation which he had made illustrious, and the people he had saved. It is sufficient to refer to the windows of Apsley House, long barricaded as against the forces of a beleaguering enemy : to the hero himself, torn by a furious mob from his horse, and with difficulty rescued from death, in the streets of London, on the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, on 18th June 1832. Yet let us examine what the Duke really did say, which occasioned all this storm of indignation, and brought to light this "hideous display of ingratitude, and see whether there is anything in it at which wisdom would now hesitate, or which faction itself would not admit to be true:
“I am thoroughly convinced that England possesses at this moment a legislature which answers all the good purposes of a legislature in a higher degree than ever has been found to answer in any country in the world; that it possesses the confidence of the country; that it deservedly possesses that confidence, and that its decisions have justly the greatest weight and
* Wellington to Hon. J. Villiers, 14th January 1810.
influence with the people. Nay, my Lords, I will go yet further, and say, that if at this moment I had to form a legislature for any country, particularly for one like this, in possession of great property of various descriptions, although, perhaps, I should not form one precisely such as we have, I would endeavour to produce something which would give the same results, namely, a representation of the people containing a large body of the property of the country, and in which the great landed proprietors have a preponderating influence.” — Speech in Parliament, 20 November 1830. Marims and Opinions, pp. 219, 220.
This is the literal text of what the Duke of Wellington said on this memorable occasion ; and is there anything in it to which every man of sense, of whatever party or description, will not at once subscribe ? Is there any one, now that the perilous experiment has been made, who will dispute that a legislature, to suit the great and varied interests of the empire, must contain "a large body of its property, and that the landed proprietors must have a preponderating influence in it ?” Where are now the boundless anticipations of social improvement, and deliverance from evil, with which the long-continued and vehement discussions on Reform were ushered in ? Is there any class in the community that has gained the slightest benefit from the much contested change ?
Are the interests of the great and important producing classes, agricultural and manufacturing, better secured or more prosperous than they were under the old constitution ? Are the people more contented, has insurrection been less frequent since the ten-pound franchise was introduced ? Has Ireland been tranquillised by its healing influence ; or has the fierce demand for the Repeal of the Union been allayed by its effect? Are the manufacturing classes better satisfied with their lot; and have the heartburnings and jealousy between rich and poor ceased, since so large a portion of the middle classes have been admitted to the representation ? Have the colonies been more prosperous than they were before ? Has Canada always been loyal and quiet; and is the West Indies, as in days of yore, in Nelson's words, “ the right arm of our naval strength”? Have the productions of the soil, and the consequent export of our manufactures to those once splendid possessions, been increasing since popular passion was permitted to carry the legislature by storm, and force on the perilous change of total emancipation ? Has the East been prosperous; have our arms experienced no reverse in Central