« PredošláPokračovať »
ART. XIV. Exposition of the Practices and Machinations which led to the Usurpation of the Crown of Spain, and the Means adopted by the Emperor of the French to carry it into Execution. By Don Pedro Cevallos, First Secretary of State and Despatches to his Catholic Majesty Ferdinand VII. Translated from the Original Spanish. London, 1808.
E gladly avail ourselves of the appearance of this interesting document, in order to enter somewhat at large into several points, either omitted, or too slightly touched upon, in our former observations on Spanish affairs. But we must premise a few things respecting the state-paper now before us, and its author.
Don Pedro Cevallos, after more than the Pythagorean period of silence on every discussion which concerned the interests of his country, and particularly the two grand subjects, of the French alliance, and the Prince of the Peace, has now happily recovered his speech, and talks like a most patriotic Spaniard, and a bold politician. In truth, to hear him, one is tempted to think it some other Don Pedro than the illustrious person who, for so many years, acted as the tool of the reigning favourite, and helped him out with all his submissions to France. His new principles are no doubt much better than his old; but we cannot avoid just noticing the change as we pass along.
After observing that it is the duty of one who has been placed, in circumstances like his, to develop the various machinations of his country's enemies, (and who, indeed, so fit to make such an exposition, as he whose lot has been cast successively in all parties ?) he proceeds to sketch very hastily the political conduct of the Spanish cabinet, during the interval between the peace of Basle and the late convulsions. This he characterizes with some asperity. To • maintain, at all hazards, the ruinous alliance concluded in 1796, he says, there is no sacrifice which Spain has not made. Fleets, armies, treasure-every thing was sacrificed to France'humiliations-submissions-every thing was suffered-every thing was done to satisfy, as far as possible, the insatiable demands of the French government. The reader of these invectives would scarcely suspect that he has them from the pen of the man who was minister for foreign affairs in Spain, during the period of all those submissions and humiliations-who presided over that department when the fleets of Spain were sacrificed at Trafalgar her armies drafted off to Germany-and her treasure offered up at the feet of France, until England chose to make war with her for the purpose of sharing in the plunder, after a negociation conducted by this very Don Pedro in his capacity of foreign minister. After serving Charles IV. under the Prince of O 4 the
the Peace, he went into Ferdinand's employ when Buonaparte declared for that young sovereign. He accompanied his new master to Bayonne, when, contrary to every suggestion of prudence, he undertook that ill-fated journey. He was there appointed to negociate with the French agent, when Ferdinand was desired to resign his crown on certain conditions. But, according to his own statement, he was found too inflexible a counsellor, and was displaced after repeated and gross bad treatment from the French government. Nevertheless, when Joseph was named King, so completely were all those offences against France forgotten, that, at the new monarch's special and most earnest request, he went with him to Madrid as his minister. Then, finding the insurrection pretty general, and Joseph likely to have the worst of it, he left his service, and immediately starts up again as prime minister to Ferdinand VII.- our beloved sovereign'—in which last capacity he now addresses his countrymen upon the nefarious, perfidious, and shuffling conduct of the French government.
It is scarcely necessary for us to lay before our readers any abstract of the tale unfolded by Don Pedro in this extraordinary memorial, because it has already been circulated so very widely, that we could not hope to find a single reader to whom such an abstract would have the recommendation of novelty. Before proceeding, however, to express any of the reflections which its perusal is so well calculated to suggest, we may just observe, that there are two points, as to which, we conceive, Don Pedro to have completely failed, and one only, though that is by far of the greatest consequence, in which we think he has succeeded. He has failed, we think, completely, 1st, in his attempt to vindicate his own honour and consistency; and, 2dly, in his attempt to show that the original resignation of Charles IV. in favour of Ferdinand, was a free and unconstrained resignation. But he has succeeded in showing to all Europe, that the proceedings of France have been marked, throughout, with the greatest perfidy, and the most atrocious injustice.
With regard to himself, it is enough to say, that after all his pretended protestations against the unprincipled violence and insulting usurpation of the French court, he was asked to accept of the place of first minister to King Joseph Napoleon,—and that he accepted of that offer. It is useless, after this, to attend to his humiliating equivocations, or to enter into any discussion of his prior apostasy from the cause of Charles to that of Ferdinand. There is no honest man to whom his own statement of the two leading facts we have now mentioned will not be quite satisfac-. tory; and perfectly conclusive indeed, as to the personal character of Don Pedro Cevallos.
With regard to the abdication of King Charles, and the dark and disgraceful intrigues by which his unfortunate family dissensions appear to have been consummated, we will venture to assert, that no light whatever is thrown on the subject by the extraordinary narrative of this heirloom of the Escurial,-this fixture in the seat of Spanish royalty. In what degree ministerial perfidy or filial ambition,-foreign intrigue or popular discontent,contributed to this miserable catastrophe, it seems, as yet, too early to determine. But we have no more doubt, that the resiguation of Charles was produced by the threats and the cabals of Ferdinand, than we have, that the resignation of the latter was extorted by the violence and the menaces of Bonaparte. There is something not only incredible, but ludicrous, in the story which Don Pedro tells, of the free and affectionate resignation of this unfortunate monarch,-whom he represents, like some senti-. mental old gentleman in a German comedy, taking his elderly consort by the hand, and addressing her in these touching words. 'Maria Louisa, we will retire to one of the provinces, where 'we will pass our days in tranquillity; and Ferdinand, who is a young man, will take upon himself the burden of the govern 'ment. The innocence of the galleries might perhaps tolerate this trait of Bucolic sublimity; but there is no pit in Europe that would endure it even in a play.
Questionable, however, as we conceive the testimony of Don Pedro to be, we cannot withhold our belief from the story which he tells of the insolence and the outrageous usurpations of Napoleon. It bears upon it, we think, the intrinsic character of truth; and it corresponds exactly, not only with the general character of the persons represented, but with the visible exterior of the transaction which it professes to detail.
In an earlier age of European history, it might have been worth while to have chronicled the steps of this most profligate usurpation; and to have noted the shameful alternations of flattering promises, and ambiguous menaces,-of barefaced and unblushing falsehood, and open ferocious violence,-by which this bold, cunning, and unrelenting conqueror accomplished the first part of his ambitious project. Like the lion-hunters of old, he drew his victims on in the course which he had prepared for them,-by cajoling and by irritation,-by soothing their appetites and exciting their spirit,-till at last, by trick and by open violence, the royal beasts were driven into his toils, and placed completely at the disposal of their stern and artful pursuer. These things, however, are now familiar; and it is among the most melancholy and depressing of the reflections suggested by the tale before us, that it has revealed nothing which all its readers were not prepar
ed to anticipate; and that, atrocious as it is, it harmonizes exactly with the rest of the policy by which Europe has for some time been governed. We turn gladly from this scene of imperial robbery, royal weakness, and ministerial perfidy, to contemplate, though with a fearful and unassured eye, the animating spectacle of that popular and patriotic struggle for independence, to which the other has so unexpectedly given occasion.
In treating of the affairs of Spain, in our last Number, we found ourselves obliged to express an opinion respecting the probable issue of the contest, far less sanguine than that with which the bulk of the people in this country have been fondly flattering themselves; and it is painful now to add, that we can, as yet, discover no good reason for changing that opinion. The glorious efforts of the Spaniards have indeed, in more instances than could have been expected, obtained the success which their zeal and valour so amply merited. The surrender of Dupont's army, -the general retreat of the enemy towards the Pyrenees,-and the flight of Joseph from Madrid,-have all happened since we last touched upon this subject; and as no one was sanguine enough to think the Spaniards could triumph without many severe Josses in the outset of the contest, so, almost every one appears now to view the struggle as already decided in their favour. Because the expectation of beginning with disasters has been agreeably disappointed, men seem to have become much more sanguine than they were at first, and to consider disaster as out of the question. It is not our purpose to examine minutely the probabilities on which this question turns; but we must state a few observations, sufficiently plain, one should think, to have damped the romantic hopes even of the English nation.
Let us reflect what the army is which the Spaniards have repulsed, in order to find out, whether they have as yet come to clofe quarters with Bonaparte. That confummate statesman appears for once to have erred in his calculation, when he expected to take poffeffion of Spain by the mere force of a treaty. Unaccustomed to meet with any refiftance on the part of the people, he thought that his bufiness was completed, as foon as he had got the royal family into his power. He thought he had made fure of his purchase, when he had made them execute the deed of conveyance; and only fent fuch a force as might be neceffary for taking quiet poffeffion. When this force, however, arrived in Spain, it appeared that the whole work remained to be done; and the army which was fent to keep the crown, foon found that they had yet to fight for it. This is the only French force which has hitherto been engaged with the patriots. The whole force of Spain has been oppofed, not to an army fent by France to conquer her, but to a detachment
detachment fent for a perfectly different purpose-to do the mere parade-duty of the new monarchy. That this was a large detachment we do not deny; and ftill lefs would we difpute the claims of those who conquered it to their own immortal renown. We only contend that it was not the army with which France intended to fubdue Spain. Suppose that France were at this moment to declare war against Pruffia ;-no human being can affect to doubt (except, perhaps, thofe wretched drivellers who conduct the French emigrant prefs in London) that the miferable fragments which remain of that monarchy, would instantly crumble into Bonaparte's hand. And why do we fo furely form this expectation? Because we know, that immediately upon the commencement of hoftilities, he would fend a fufficient force to annihilate every thing that might dare to refift. But if, by any unaccountable error in his calculation, he should only fend one half of the requifite force; -if, for example, the Pruffian army being fifty thousand strong, Bonaparte were to fend only thirty thoufand men across the Rhine, or wherever Pruffia is now to be found, and to leave them without reinforcements; or if, by any other blunder, he were to leave fuch a force expofed, having fent it on fome different fervice; they would probably be entirely defeated; yet, would any man fay that Pruffia was restored by this fort of victory? Neverthelefs, it would be quite true that a large French army had been beaten by the Pruffians. And the only reason why this victory would fignify nothing is, that Bonaparte would most certainly pour a hundred thousand men into Brandenburgh the week after.
In like manner, the Spaniards have not yet tried their strength against their formidable adverfary. They have attacked him unawares, and beaten him by surprise. He has not even girded himfelf for the fight; and they have only overpowered him unarmed. He will rally, and renew the combat. The whole battle is ftill to begin. We have seen, in reality, nothing of it. Army after army will be poured through the Pyrenees, and all Spain muft become a field of blood. The zeal of the Spaniards has now to withstand the fkill of the French captains, and the difcipline of their veteran foldiers. The councils of the different kingdoms of which the Spanish monarchy is compofed, are matched against the the vigour and unity of a fingle, practifed, abfolute, remorseless The enthufiafm of the patriots has to contend against the regular, habitual, animal courage of profeffional foldiers; and the queftion is, which of thofe two feelings is likely to prevail in the long run ;-to bear up against difficulties and privations-to furvive difafters and to endure the inactivity of protracted operations. Such is the conteft which is now beginning in Spain, and fuch are the grounds of our melancholy forebodings, that it will lead to the fubjugation of the moft gallant people in the world.