Imágenes de páginas

to be named still more important. The troops of France, inured to victory by fifteen years of triumph over all the armies of the Continent, were led by the generals whom they had followed to their victories; and the greatest of them all both superintended their movements, and, finally, took the command in person. It is very possible, that, placed in these circumstances, Marlborough might have fought and conquered; but

nor arrangement to carry on the contest. They forget that, by the folly and treachery of their own officers, they have been brought into the state, in which they there find themselves."" What can be done for this lost nation? As for raising men or supplies, or taking any one measure to enable them to carry on the war, that is out of the question."

"In addition to embarrassments of all descriptions surrounding us on all sides, I have to contend with an ancient enmity between the two nations, (Spanish and Portuguese,) of which no sense of common danger, or common interest, or anything can get the better, even in individuals."

"I have never been in such distress as at present. As it is, if we do not find the means of paying our butcher's bills, there will be an end to the war at once. Since Great Britain was a naval force, a British army has never been left in such a situation."


Although the army have been engaged two days and have defeated twice their numbers, in the service of Spain, they have not bread to eat. It is positively a fact, that during the last seven days the British army have not received one-third of their provisions. I have already fought one battle on this frontier with defective equipments of all kinds, owing to the neglect of the Portuguese government, and I am on the eve of another."

"But this will not do. There is not another officer in the service who would go through what I daily endure to keep the machinèe together, and it cannot last."

"There is no end of the calumnies against me and the army, and I should have no time to do anything else if I were to begin to refute or even to notice them."

"False reports and deceptions of every description are tried, and the popular insults to show us what the general opinion is of our conduct. However, nothing of this kind shall make me take one step either way which is not dictated by my sense of what is best for the cause."

"It is extraordinary that the revolution in Spain should not have produced one man with any knowledge of the real situation of the country. It really appears as if they were all drunk and thinking and talking of any other subject but Spain. Where it is to end, God knows."

"I persevered in the system which I thought best, notwithstanding that it was the opinion of every British officer in the country that I ought to embark the army; while, on the other hand, the Fortuguese civil authorities contend that the war ought to be maintained on the frontier, for which they wanted not only physical force, but also the means of provid

the difference is, that the great Duke actually did fight and did conquer, which at once decides the question in his favour.

They who foretold that "when he should yield to fate, who had never yielded to man, enemy, or rival, every whisper of detraction would be hushed, and each voice be raised to proclaim his transcendent merit,"* not having reserved themselves till that day unhappily arrived, may well be permitted now to renew their panegyric, the more especially as it is well known that the same eulogies which were pronounced in his presence, had been habitually declared in his absence, and at times of the greatest difference of opinion upon public affairs, and of as entire antagonism as the divisions of party ever engendered."The mighty Captain, who never advanced but to cover his arms with glory-the mightier Captain, who never retreated but to eclipse that glory by the far higher fame of unwearied patience, unbroken energy, indomitable fortitude, the wonders of a skill whose resources are exhaustless, the miracles of a moral ing for the force they could produce in the field. I believe nothing but something worse than firmness could have carried me through the nine months' discussions with these contending opinions."-(1811.)

"If I fail, may God have mercy on me, for nobody else will."-(Jan. 1810.)

"Upon the whole, I entertain no doubt of the final success of the measures I am carrying on."—(1811.)

"If the Emperor of Russia has any resources, is prudent, and his Russians will really fight, Bonaparte will not succeed."—(1815.)

"I can only tell you that if I were a prince of the House of Bourbon, nothing should prevent me from now coming forward, not in a good house in London, but in the field in France; and if England stood by him, I am certain he would succeed."-(1813.)

* This prospect was indeed realized: "The event has surpassed the expectation. All classes, every description of his fellow-citizens, without distinction of rank, or party, or sect-abroad as at home-the country he served, the allies he saved, the adversaries he encountered, in just recollection of benefits, or in generous oblivion of differences, all, not inconsiderately, but with discriminating reflection, have joined with an assent so unbroken, so universal as, I verily believe, is not recorded in the history of human renown."-Lords' Debate, 12th November, 1852.

courage which nothing can shake-despising the thwartings of ill-counselled advice-disregarding all blame so he knew it to be unmerited-laughing to scorn reviling enemies, jealous competitors, lukewarm friends-aye, hardest of all, careless even of the fickle public; but keeping his own course, and casting forward his eye as a man ought, else he is unworthy of commanding men, to the time when the momentary cloud must pass away from the public mind, well knowing that in the end the people is ever just to merit. The ordinary run of mankind are apt to be misled in their judgments. Dazzled by the splendour of great actions, they are prone to overlook the landmarks that separate the various departments of human desert. Oftentimes they are deceived by the glitter of the coin, and regardless of the die that guarantees its purity, or the weight that attests the value of the metal. Thus you hear their applauses lavished upon martial deeds of high emprise,' justly, no doubt, but as if there were nothing more glorious than the triumphs reaped on the well-foughten field. Yet if Vimeira, if the Douro, and Assaye, and Talavera, and Salamanca, and Vittoria, and Toulouse, and Waterloo, -if these shine bright upon the medallion that vainly attempts to perpetuate such fame, sober-minded and thoughtful men will pause ere they pronounce these to be the brightest achievements of the great Captain's career. The reflecting mind will pierce below the surface of men's actions; and point the look of greatest wonder to the contemplation of the lines of Torres Vedras, long sustained by matchless firmness in the most adverse circumstances-the retreat from Burgos, in which consummate generalship vied with consummate fortitude-the battle of Busaco, won under accumulated difficulties. All meditation of human affairs and human conduct teaches us to set the highest value upon that genius which displays its temper and its extent by a skill as fertile of resources under

adverse fortune, as swift in movements to meet sudden variation of circumstances-guided, supported by a firmness of purpose which nothing can shake or can divert-keeping its own counsel unnerved and unshaken-and piercing the surrounding cloud to gain a view of the success upon which it reckons, because it has been well earned. This is a noble-this a moral courage, a courage unknown and incomprehensible to the vulgar brave!"*

Then, if we must go back to former ages in order to find a parallel, the eye rests naturally on Cæsar-the greatest man of ancient times-but he only surpassed the Duke in the "worthless accomplishment of practised oratory, almost epidemic at Rome; our guest himself being all the while, in his own person, (if you will trust a constant witness and no inexperienced judge,) among the most powerful and efficient of debatersCæsar, who led the disciplined and accomplished legions of Rome through the almost unresisting medium of savage hordes, without knowledge, without rule, without art; ill commanded-worse equipped;— led them almost as a boat cuts through the wave, or an eagle cleaves the air-Cæsar, who never measured his arms with a worthy antagonist, until he brought back his troops inured to easier victory, and met the forces of his countrymen marshalled under a warrior broken with years, when the conqueror crossed that river which all the confidence of all the armies under the sun never could have tempted our illustrious Chief even to let the dream of crossing pass over his imagination, the Rubicon, that separates the provinces of the honest, the peaceful, the loyal citizen, and of the traitor, the usurper, the tyrant. Or shall the comparison be made, and only made to be dismissed at once, with the greatest of all the ancient captainsthe Carthaginian leader? But his consummate genius was debased, and the wonderful growth of his great

* Speech at Dover Festival, 1839.

faculties was stifled and choked, by a base undergrowth of the very worst vices that can degrade and pervert the nature of man; and none will think of comparing the unprincipled profligacy, the worse than barbarian cruelty, the worse than Punic faith which predominated in him, with the stern integrity, the straightforward honesty, the artless simplicity, which form the principal charm in the character of the modern warrior."

But in one particular he stands pre-eminent over all these, and especially over Napoleon, him whom he last overthrew; and this difference" divides those chiefs of ancient days and of other countries, by an impassable gulf from ours. They They were conquerors, inflamed with the thirst of dominion, and they spilt rivers of blood to slake it; they were tyrants, and nothing could quench their lust of power at home, but the destruction of liberty, as nothing abroad could satiate their appetite for conquest, but the destruction of their kind. Our hero has never drawn his sword but in that defensive war, which alone, of all warfare, is not the greatest of crimes; never unsheathed it against the liberties of any people, but constantly, blessed be God! triumphantly unsheathed it to secure the liberties of all: the servant of his Sovereign to command his troops, but the soldier and defender of his country; the enemy of her enemies, be they foreign or domestic; the fast friend to the rights of his fellow-citizens, and the undaunted champion of her free Constitution."

The peculiar characteristic of this great man, and which, though far less dazzling than his exalted genius, and his marvellous fortune, is incomparably more useful for the contemplation of the statesman, as well as the moralist, is that constant abnegation of all selfish feelings, that habitual sacrifice of every personal, every party consideration to the single object of strict dutyduty rigorously performed in what station soever he

« AnteriorContinuar »