Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

plication of these hints to the recent movement of the Spanish people. We shall content ourselves with very few words, as there is now probably no great difference of opinion among thinking men, relative to the original and progressive probabilities attendant on this memorable event. One single short question disposes of the whole speculation ; Has liberty, in the sense in which alone it it is of importance to a people, ever been fairly set before the Spanish nation? It is of the essence of this question, to reflect a moment on the condition of the Spanish nation previously to this event; we mean their condition as justly imputable to their own sovereigns, and their own system of government, exclusively of what evils may have accrued to them of late years from the French intrigues and ascendency in their court

. And according to all accounts, that condition was deplorable. Taken in a collective view, the people were ignorant, indolent, poor, dirty, and extravagantly superstitious, fond of tawdry shows and cruel sports, strangers, in a great measure, to ingenious and mechanic arts, stationary in almost all the points of civilization in which the other countries of Europe are advancing, hampered by a clumsy and perverse judicature, in short, bearing the most flagrant marks of an incorrigibly bad government. Thus matters had gone on during the reigns of successive monarchs, and during the reign of probably the last of the Bourbons in Spain, Charles the Fourth. At length, in consequence of we know not what intrigues and private arrangements, the sovereignty passed suddenly from him into the hands of his son, not, of course, without expostulation and repugnance on the part of the father, whose rights, according to all orthodox notions on the subject, were grossly violated by the transfer. All this while, however, a powerful neighbour, whose tenets concerning kingly rights, saving and excepting those of himself and his royal brothers, are deemed highly heretical, had his schemes of transfer prepared, and his machines in operation ; and lo! in a moment both the kings vanish from Spain, and “our brother Joseph” succeeds to the throne. It was found that the two monarchs had been fascinated, as we read of unfortunate birds sometimes being, to throw themselves directly into the mouth of the great serpent. At this juncture began the commotion which has so deeply and justly interested all Europe. A just indignation at the base and treacherous proceedings of Napoleon, rose so high, in some parts of the country, as to issue in an energetic call of the whole nation to arms. This was a tremendous crisis, and a most awful summons; for it might be held certain, that the enemy, defied and challenged in this unexpected quarter, and this new manner, would discharge the whole collected thunders of his martial empire, and, even if unsuccessful, would desperately prosecute the contest with the last battalion that would adhere to his standard. And if such would be his determination, what a scene the patriots had before them! If the emergency should prove to require it, he would be able, at a moderate computation, to bring three hundred thousand soldiers, in successive armies, into Spain. It would be idle to calculate that such a force, a large proportion of it veterans accustomed to victory, and commanded by such a set of generals as never were combined in any other service, could be everywhere encountered, and finally repelled, by less than four or five hundred thousand of the patriots. And if the war should continue even no more than six or eight months, how many great battles would there be, beside the incessant course of partial actions and bloody skirmishes? Would it have been at all an extravagant prediction that, during so many months of such a war, two hundred thousand devoted Spaniards might perish? And then what miseries would be suffered by the defenceless inhabitants, what numbers of aged and sick persons, and women and children, would be exposed to terror, to want, and in many cases even to death ; what desolation of the country, what destruction of habitations, what ruin of agriculture, and what famine, as the probable consummation of all! This picture is inexpressibly too faint for the prospect, which was, or ought to have been, distinctly presented to the minds of those who first summoned, and all who seconded them in summoning, their countrymen to combat with the whole power of France. Now then, we may ask, solemnly, what was that OBJECT, for the attainment of which the country was to be laid open to this most gigantic and enormous train of horrors? What was that ultimate transcendent felicity, the thought of which was to inspire such multitudes of men with the perfectly new sentiment, a contempt of wounds and death ; which was to animate the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of these men to urge them on to battle, and which was to reconcile the whole population to have their country placed, for months, in a situation about parallel to that of a forest infested by tigers ? At the very least, that object could be no less than the noblest system of national liberty that ever blessed any people.

Let our readers recall to mind the manifestoes, and addresses to the people, issued by the provincial Juntas that took the lead, and judge whether this was the object. Some of those publications were strongly conceived, and eloquently expressed. They powerfully expatiated on the treacherous arts by which the nation and the royal family had been inveigled, on the excesses committed in some places by the French troops, and on the glory of revenge; on which last topic we regretted to see the patriots adopting a language, and endeavouring to rouse a spirit, of savage ferocity, fit only for the most barbarous age. But the accomplishment of revenge could be only a very subordinate object with the patriotic Juntas ; nor could it be expected to prove an object adequate, in those parts of the country which had not immediately suffered or witnessed the outrages committed by the French, to stimulate the population to turn their meadows into fields of battle, and expose their persons to the sword; especially as it would be obvious that as soon as Joseph should be enthroned, the excesses of the French must, even for his sake, cease. What, then, it must still be asked, was the grand ultimate object to be attained by so dreadful a war, even presuming it must be successful ? And, as far as we have at any time been able to discover, the grand, the sublime object, which was to animate the people to such a warfare, to compensate its infinity of

VOL. I.

X

miseries, and to crown the final victory, was no other than a return to the old state of things, with the mere exception of French influence, and the mischievous power of the Prince of the Peace, at the Spanish court. None of the indispensable innovations, none of the grand reforms, for the want of which that people had been so long pitied or despised by all the civilized world, were specifically held out, as any part of the incitement or the prize; no limitations of the royal power, or the royal expenses, no reduction of the privileges of the aristocracy, no restraints on ecclesiastical arrogance, no political existence to be given to the people, no method of enabling them to participate or influence their government, no abrogation of the barbarous municipal regulations against the freedom of trade, no improvements of political economy that should contribute to supply clothes to those in rags, and food to those almost starving. No, there was nothing of all this held out to the people; they were to draw on them, to fight, and to expel, the whole power of France, at the dreadful cost that we have described, and then Ferdinand and the old government were to be triumphantly restored, and all would be well! Hundreds of thousands of them were summoned to rush out gallantly to perish, in order that the remainder might continue to be the poor, ragged, forlorn nation, that they were, and are.

If a project for exciting the people to plunge into an unfathomable gulf of miseries and death for such an object, may be forgiven to the statesmen and prelates of Spain, whose catholic imaginations are so stored with prodigies and miracles, what, however, will sober judges hereafter say of the politicians of England, at the memorable juncture? By what reach of conjecture will it be possible to explain, how they, the enlightened inhabitants of a free country, in which they have so often eloquently declaimed on the glory of having permitted no despotism here, on the energy with which noble ideas of liberty will inspire a people to resist the armies of a tyrant, and on the wretchedness of living under a government like that of Spain ; in what way can it be made intelligible, how these enlightened politicians should conceive it possible to rouse a whole people to arms, at the peril of such awful consequences, by any objects held out to them by the Juntas? or should deem it a desirable thing if they could-excepting, indeed, with the mere view of diverting the danger a while longer from our own country, and giving, in our stead, Spanish victims to the French sabres.

What was Ferdinand, or any other individual, to the unhappy people of Spain, who were to leave their families, to have their cottages burnt, to famish, or to bleed for his sake? What had he ever done for them, or attempted to do? If he had been a thousand times more their friend than they had ever found him to be, by what law of justice or common sense could it be, that countless multitudes should go to be slaughtered on his account ?—not to notice the absurdity of summoning a nation to fight for a person who was, as to any possible connexion with them, to all intents, a nonentity.

For a while, we still hoped, that the name of Ferdinand would be suffered to sink, by degrees, out of the concern; and that the project would assume, at length, the bold aspect of a really popular cause. In this hope, we anxiously waited the assembling of the Supreme Junta. At last they assembled, verified their powers, and took the oath which they had solemnly framed. We read that oath, and have never since, for one instant, entertained the smallest hope of the Spanish cause. There were some most vague and insignificant expressions in that oath, about taking care of the interest of the nation; but its absolute sum and substance was, popery and Ferdinand. The first of these, avowed in its utmost extent and grossness, we considered, as we have already attempted to explain, as enough to ensure the fate of the whole design, on account of its aspect relatively to the divine government; and the latter, as furnishing far too insignificant a motive to animate a nation to battle. The Junta began by declaring they had no power to assemble the Cortez, in other words, that they could do nothing for the people; they went on to restrict the freedom of

« ZurückWeiter »