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A (see p. 149)
WHEN this passage was written, there had appeared only unauthorised accounts of the Board of Inquiry's proceedings. Neither from these however, nor from the official report of the Board (which has been since published), is any satisfactory explanation to be gained on this question—or indeed on any other question of importance. All, which is to be collected from them, is this: the Portuguese General, it appears, offered to unite his whole force with the British on the single condition that they should be provisioned from the British stores; and, accordingly, rests his excuse for not co-operating on the refusal of Sir Arthur Wellesley to comply with this condition. Sir A. W. denies the validity of his excuse; and, more than once, calls it a pretence; declaring that, in his belief, Gen. Friere's real motive for not joining was—a mistrust in the competence of the British to appear in the field against the French. This however is mere surmise; and therefore cannot have much weight with those who sincerely sought for satisfaction on this point: moreover, it is a surmise of the individual whose justification rests on making it appear that the difficulty did not arise with himself; and it is right to add, that the only fact produced goes to discredit this surmise; viz. that Gen. Friere did, without any delay, furnish the whole number of troops which Sir Arthur engaged to feed. However the Board exhibited so little anxiety to be satisfied on this point, that no positive information was gained.
A reference being here first made to the official report of the Board of Inquiry; I shall make use of the opportunity which it offers to lay before the reader an outline of that Board's proceedings; from which it will appear how far the opinion-pronounced, by the national voice, upon the transactions in Portugal-ought, in sound logic, to be modified by any part of those proceedings.
We find in the warrant under which the Board of Inquiry was to act, and which defined its powers, that an inquiry was to be made into the conditions of the "armistice and convention; and into all the causes and circumstances, whether arising from the operations of the British army, or otherwise, which led to them."
Whether answers to the charges of the people of England were made possible by the provisions of this warrant—and, secondly, whether even these provisions have been satisfied by the Board of Inquiry-will best appear by involving those charges in four questions, according to the following scale, which supposes a series of concessions impossible to those who think the nation justified in the language held on the transactions in Portugal.
1. Considering the perfidy with which the French army had entered Portugal; the enormities committed by it during its occupation of that country; the vast military power of which that army was a part, and the use made of that power by its master; the then existing spirit of the Spanish, Portuguese, and British nations; in a word, considering the especial nature of the service, and the individual character of this war ;-was it lawful for the British army, under any conceivable circumstances, so long as it had the liberty of re-embarking, to make any conceivable convention? i.e. Was the negative evil of a total failure in every object for which it had been sent to Portugal of worse tendency than the positive evil of acknowledging in the French army a fair title to the privileges of an honourable enemy by consenting to a mode of treaty which (in its very name, implying a reciprocation of concession and respect) must be under any limitations as much more indulgent than an ordinary capitulation, as that again must (in its severest form) be more indulgent than the only favour which the French marauders could presume upon obtaining-viz. permission to surrender at discretion?
To this question the reader need not be told that these pages give a naked unqualified denial; and that to establish the reasonableness of that denial is one of their main purposes: but, for the benefit of the men accused, let it be supposed granted; and then the second question will be
2. Was it lawful for the English army, in the case of its being reduced to the supposed dilemma of either re-embarking or making some convention, to make that specifical convention which it did make at Cintra ?
This is of necessity and à fortiori denied; and it has been proved that neither to this, nor any other army, could it be lawful to make such a convention-not merely under the actual but under any conceivable circumstances; let however this too, on behalf of the parties accused, be granted; and then the third question will be
3. Was the English Army reduced to that dilemma ?
4. Finally, this also being conceded (which not even the Generals have dared to say), it remains to ask by whose and by what misconduct did an army-confessedly the arbiter of its own movements and plans at the opening of the campaign-forfeit that free agency-either to the extent of the extremity supposed, or of any approximation to that extremity?
Now of these four possible questions in the minds of all those who condemn the convention of Cintra, it is obvious that the King's warrant supposes only the three latter to exist (since, though it allows inquiry to be made into the individual convention, it no where questions the tolerability of a convention in genere); and it is no less obvious that the Board, acting under that warrant, has noticed only the last-i.e. by what series of military movements the army was brought into a state of difficulty which justified a convention (the Board taking for granted throughout-1st, That such a state could exist; 2ndly, That it actually did exist; and 3rdly, That-if it existed, and accordingly justified some imaginable convention-it must therefore of necessity justify this convention).
Having thus shewn that it is on the last question only that the nation could, in deference to the Board of Inquiry, surrender or qualify any opinion which it had previously given let us ask what answer is gained, from the proceedings of that Board, to the charge involved even in this last question (premising however-first-that this charge was never explicitly made by the public, or at least was enunciated only in the form of a conjecture-and 2ndly that the answer to it is collected chiefly from the depositions of the parties accused)? Now the whole sum of their answer amounts to no more than this-that, in the opinion of some part of the English staff, an opportunity was lost on the 21st of exchanging the comparatively slow process of reducing the French army by siege for the brilliant and summary one of a coup-de-main.
This opportunity, be it observed, was offered only by Gen. Junot's presumption in quitting his defensive positions, and coming out to meet the English army in the field; so that it
was an advantage so much over and above what might fairly have been calculated upon at any rate, if this might have been looked for, still the accident of battle, by which a large part of the French army was left in a situation to be cut off, (to the loss of which advantage Sir A. Wellesley ascribes the necessity of a convention) could surely never have been anticipated; and therefore the British army was, even after that loss, in as prosperous a state as it had from the first any right to expect. Hence it is to be inferred, that Sir A. W. must have entered on this campaign with a predetermination to grant a convention in any case, excepting in one single case which he knew to be in the gift of only very extraordinary good fortune. With respect to him, therefore, the charges-pronounced by the national voice-are not only confirmed, but greatly aggravated. Further, with respect to the General who superseded him, all those who think that such an opportunity of terminating the campaign was really offered, and, through his refusal to take advantage of it, lost are compelled to suspect in him a want of military skill, or a wilful sacrifice of his duty to the influence of personal rivalry, accordingly as they shall interpret his motives.
The whole which we gain therefore from the Board of Inquiry is that what we barely suspected is ripened into certainty and that on all, which we assuredly knew and declared without needing that any tribunal should lend us its sanction, no effort has been made at denial, or disguise, or palliation.
Thus much for the proceedings of the Board of Inquiry, upon which their decision was to be grounded. As to the decision itself, it declares that no further military proceedings are necessary; "because" (say the members of the Board), "however some of us may differ in our sentiments respecting the fitness of the convention in the relative situation of the two armies, it is our unanimous declaration that unquestionable zeal and firmness appear throughout to have been exhibited by Generals Sir H. Dalrymple, Sir H. Burrard, and Sir A. Wellesley." In consequence of this decision, the Commander-in-Chief addressed a letter to the Board-reminding them that, though the words of his Majesty's warrant expressly enjoin that the conditions of the Armistice and Convention should be strictly examined and reported upon, they have altogether neglected to give any opinion upon those conditions. They were therefore called upon then to declare their opinion, whether an armistice was advisable; and (if so) whether the terms of that armistice were
such as ought to be agreed upon; -and to declare, in like manner, whether a convention was advisable; and (if so) whether the terms of that convention were such as ought to have been agreed upon.
To two of these questions-viz. those which relate to the particular armistice and convention made by the British Generals-the members of the Board (still persevering in their blindness to the other two which express doubt as to the lawfulness of any armistice or convention) severally return answers which convey an approbation of the armistice and convention by four members, a disapprobation of the convention by the remaining three, and further a disapprobation of the armistice by one of those three.
Now it may be observed-first-that, even if the investigation had not been a public one, it might have reasonably been concluded, from the circumstance of the Board having omitted to report any opinion concerning the terms of the armistice and the convention, that those terms had not occupied enough of its attention to justify the Board in giving any opinion upon them-whether of approbation or disapprobation; and, secondly, -this conclusion, which might have been made à priori, is confirmed by the actual fact that no examination or inquiry of this kind appears throughout the report of its proceedings: and therefore any opinion subsequently given, in consequence of the requisition of the Commander-in-Chief, can lay claim to no more authority upon these points-than the opinion of the same men, if they had never sat in a public Court upon this question. In this condition are all the members, whether they approve or disapprove of the convention. And with respect to the three who disapprove of the convention,-over and above the general impropriety of having, under these circumstances, pronounced a verdict at all in the character of members of that Board-they are subject to an especial charge of inconsistency in having given such an opinion, in their second report, as renders nugatory that which they first pronounced. For the reason-assigned, in their first report, for deeming no further military proceedings necessary-is because it appears that unquestionable zeal and firmness were exhibited throughout by the several General Officers; and the reason-assigned by those three who condemn the convention-is that the Generals did not insist upon the terms to which they were entitled; that is (in direct opposition to their former opinions), the Generals shewed a want of firmness and zeal. If then the Generals were