« AnteriorContinuar »
consent to new model them, or change their constitution, to gratify the wishes of any foreign power. His Majesty, it was added, expected that the French government would not interfere in the manner in which the government of his dominions was conducted, or call for any change in those laws with which his people were perfectly satistied.--Is it to be imputed to an entire ignorance of the state of England, or to an insolent belief that every thing must be subservient to his pleasure, that after this decisive reply Buonaparte returned to the subject, and formally proposed that means should be adopted to prevent in future any mention being made, either in official discussions, or in polemical writings, in England, of what was passing in France; as in like manner in the French official discussions and polemical writings, no mention whatever should be made of what was passing in England ? England desired no such reciprocity. There was no part of her history, no part of her conduct, no part of her intentions, which required concealment. Was she to put out her eyes, because Buonaparte wished to keep France in darkness?
It is not unseasonable to recall these facts to remembrance, as also the appointment of military spies in our seaports, under the character of commercial agents--Sebastiani's report upon Egypt, indicating clearly a design of repeating the attempt upon that country,—the declaration of Buonaparte that Egypt sooner or later must belong to France, either by an arrangement with the Porte, or by a partition of the Turkish empire,-and finally the memorable assertion that England was not able to contend single handed
actually, according to the new public law which was now enunciated, excluded from all concern in the affairs of the continent ? Had we lost not only our rank, but even our place, among the powers of Europe; and were we to be thankful for the moderation which permitted us still to exist as a mercantile community ? If so, it behoved us to demolish Blenheim, to prohibit all books of English history, and teach the whole rising generation the use of French as their common speech, that they might be prepared for the decree which should include Great Britain among the dependent provinces of France, and London among the good cities' of the Great Empire! The alternative proposed to us was war, or such submission as, if it were not necessitated by utter helplessness, could be imputed only to cowardice or fatuity; a submission which would have given Buonaparte time to create a navy, and make invasion, practicable; which would have delayed the war for no longer a time than suited his convenience-that is--till that navy should have been completed, and which would have rendered the war infimitely more formidable when the hour was come. Nor would the
jaterval have been peace ;* it could only have been an armed truce; a state of feverish suspicion, harassed insecurity, and exhausting vigilance. This the people understood; they had been desirous that the experiment of peace should be tried, they saw plainly that the experiment had failed ; that no danger could be so great and certain as that of continuing on such terms with such an enemy: when, therefore, the government, in perfect accordance with the sound judgment, the cominon sense, and the honest honourable feelings of the nation, determined upon renewing hostilities, the nows was welcomed in the city of London with huzzas.
There were writers and speakers at the time who affected to regard this manifestation of public opinion with horror, and represented it as proceeding from a brutal insensibility to the evils of war, or a more brutal delight in anticipating its gains. They libelled their countrymen because party-feeling made them incapable of understanding the right English spirit which looked danger, in the face, and thus cheerfully defied it in reliance upon God and a good cause. But had the city statesmen forgotten this memorable and notorious fact when they resolved that the war had been undertaken in opposition to the wishes of the people? We have heard of the omnipotence of Parliament, but the town and country petitioners in their omnipotence attempt to go beyond it; they enact for the past as well as the future, and vote unanimous resolutions which are to alter what hus been. A French historian was one day relating some circumstances which had recently occurred, when a person, better informed of the transaction, told him that the facts were not as he represented them : 'Ah Monsieur ! he replied, 'tant pis pour les faits,' so much the worse for the facts! It was honestly said, and is characteristic of French historians : but when men either in public or private assert things in opposition to the truth, and their assertions are disproved, the common consent of mankind has determined that it is so much the worse for the assertors:-a loss of character and of credit is incurred;—they are convicted either of ignorance, or of wilful misrepresentation, and in such cases ignorance is as poor a plea in morals and in politics, as in law.
The little opposition which was made to the renewal of the war was of a very different character from that which had been mani, fested at its commencenient. There was a deep, though mistaken
* War,' says Hobbes, consisteth not in battle uniy, or the act of fighting, but is a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known; and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of good weather lyeth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together, so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary.'
principle in the opposers of the anti-jacobine war,-a passionate persuasion that England was engaged in a bad cause. They who thought thus, believed the declarations of the French, overlooking their actions, or regarding them through a false medium, and being, for the inost part, ill-read in history and ignorant of human nature. But after the peace of Amiens there was nothing of this delusion; no man dreamt that the liberties of France were invaded, or the rights of men in danger. They who had wished most sincerely for the triumply of those rights, desired now with equal sincerity that the adventurer might be overthrown, who, having it in his power to establish free governments in France and Italy, had chosen to erect a military tyranny for himself. They who loved liberty, knowing what they loved and wherefore they loved it, could have no other wish : experience had shewn them how widely their principle had been misled, and that very principle having rubbed off the rust of its error, pointed to the true north, and directed them in the right course. The few who opposed the war, opposed it upon the score of its inexpediency, and the inadequacy of the plea which had been assigned to indicate the approaching rupture. That plea however was a mere official form, like a fiction in law, in no degree affecting the merits of the cause. The question was placed by the minister upon its true grounds, when he said we were at war because we could not be at peace :-and it is absurd to call that inexpedient which is inevitable.
The popular character of the war was further manifested by the numbers who immediately enrolled themselves as volunteers. Buonaparte had expected no such unanimity, no such enthusiasm. His generals from Egypt had informed him of what materials the British army was composed, and he had himself received a memorable lesson from the navy at Aboukir and at Acre. Loudly therefore as he had threatened to invade us, the spirit which was displayed upon our shores intimidated bim from attempting to put the threat in execution; and he turned away to the easier course of continental aggrandizement; hoping to effect the overthrow of England by excluding her merchandise from Europe, and thus ruining her finances. His operations were now carried on upon a greater scale than had ever before been witnessed in European warfare; his victories were more decisive, his successes more rapid; for having men at command, and being his own general, his progress was never retarded for want of an adequate force, or embarrassed by vacillating counsels; and as for means,-being troubled with no scruples of any kind, he not only supported his troops upon the countries in which they were quartered, but exacted contributions from his allies as well as his enemies. One campaign was followed by another, each more destructive than the last; till
the peace of Tilsit. left him undisputed master of the continent from the Elbe to the Adriatic, with Spain in vassalage, Denmark for his ally, and Russia moving like a puppet as be pulled the wires. That he aspired at universal empire was now scarcely disguised; it even seemed as if some drama of religious imposture was in preparation, and that he meant to enact the part of Mahomed as well as of Charlemagne. As in Egypt he had proclaimed that Destiny directed all his actions, and had decreed from
the beginning of the world that after beating down the Cross he s should come into that country to fulfil the task assigned him ; so 1. now he was addressed as the anointed Cyrus of the Lord—the living image of the Divinity—the mortal after God's own heart, to whom the fate of nations was entrusted ;-and in a catechism, which was to be the first thing taught throughout the French empire, it was inculcated in direct terms, that to honour and serve the Emperor was the same thing as to honour and serve God himself! Under these circumstances peace appeared more remote than ever. An attempt was made to obtain it under the motley administration of Lord Grenville and Mr. Fox, but even the Foxites while they were in power felt that peace was impossible. And on this occasion the opinion of the citizens of London was again manifested, as at the beginning of the war; for when the Lord Mayor communicated, on the Royal Exchange, the failure of the negociations, the persons who were present gave three cheers, expressing their preference of open war to an insidious peace, as any peace with Buonaparte must have been, and their approbation of the only course which was consistent with the safety and honour of the country. The usurpation of Portugal followed, and at the close of the year 1807, every state upon the continent had declared war against Great Britain, with the single exception of Sweden. The enemy was undisputed master of the land, but England retained the empire of the seas, and two mighty powers were thus opposed to each other which could not be brought in contact. There was no other hope at this time than what wise men derived from a conviction, that such a system of tyranny as that which Buonaparte had established could not possibly be permanent; but nothing like dismay was felt, nothing like despondency; the people were convinced that the continuance of the war was inevitable, and they knew that while it continued the country was safe,
Things were in this state when Buonaparte kidnapped the royal family of Spain, and appointed his brother Joseph to reign in their stead. If error and guilt may be compared, the political blunder in this nefarious transaction was not inferior to the moral wickedness : it gave us the most persevering nation in Europe for our ally, and it gave us also a fair field. From that time the war assumed a new character. They who were acquainted with the country which was now to become the scene of war, and the
people with whom we were thus connected by no ordinary bond of alliance, but by inseparable interest as well as by the loftiest syn)pathy, felt a calm and settled assurance, that to whatever time the struggle might be prolonged it could only end in the full and entire deliverance of Spain. An impulse of the most generous, the most animating, the most inextinguishable hope was excited in every heart which was not withered by faction, or corrupted by a false and foul philosophy even to rottenness. There were such among us, but they were not numerous ; and for a while the general and ebullient feeling with which all Britain overflowed imposed silence upon the lying lips. Even now it is delightful to look back upon that exhilarating time, when after so long and unmitigated a season, hope came upon us like the first breath of summer; when we met with gladness in every countenance, congratulation in every voice, sympathy in every heart, and every man felt prouder than in all former times of the name of Englishman, of the part which his country had acted, and was still called upon to act. These very men who now tell us that the present distress is the effect of wars unjustly commenced and pertinaciously persisted in, when no rational object was to be obtained these very men who tell us that the war was not popular, that it was the work of a corrupt Parliament and not of the people,--these very men belie themselves as well as their country. They knew that no object could be more rational than that for which the war was persisted in, no object more just, more necessary, more popular ; they were not such idiots as to think otherwise, not such traitors to human nature, not such stocks or stones as to be unmoved: they partook the popular joy, the popular enthusiasm ; they joined in the unanimous expression of public opinion, which called upon Government to assist the Spaniards with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the strength of England. cht would be superfluous to retrace, however briefly, the course of the Peninsular war, fresh as it is in recollection, and recorded for everlasting remembrance, as the noblest portion of British history. During its progress we had indeed our battle critics' at home, who in their deliriums of dissatisfaction upon any advantage obtained by their country, as Steele says of their predecessors in Marlborough's day, fought every action over again as the eneiny's allies, represented our victories as defeats, and triumphantly proved that Lord Wellington was no general. And we had our wise men of the North, who came forward, like the son of Beor, to take up their prophecy in behalf of the Moabite; but the voice of the