« PreviousContinue »
a leading politician, and had a great object in view—the Union of Ireland with Great Britain. Men of spotless personal honour, such as Windham, had held the office of Chief Secretary and the Prime Ministers of England in succession—no ignoble series of men —had tolerated, and might be said to have sanctioned, the system. Yet we do not exactly see how Sir Arthur Wellesley, a military man, was obliged to accept an office which could only be worked by the means he describes.
But he, no doubt, received in the discharge of these functions lessons of human nature which his observant mind turned to good account in his subsequent dealings with men, both in war and diplomacy.
We turn with pleasure from this bribery and corruption, and these discrepancies, to the birth of his son on the 7th February, 1807; for we find that he had, on the 10th of the previous April, married the same Lady Catherine Pakenham, 'to whom as a Captain of Cavalry he became attached.'
When it was determined to despatch the Copenhagen expedition, to prevent Buonaparte from using the Danish fleet against ourselves, Sir Arthur applied for a command in it. He was, however, doing his work so well in Ireland, that his application was not in the first instance favourably entertained, and he, therefore, wrote to Lord Castlereagh on the 7th June,
• As I am determined not to give up the military profession, and as I know that I can be of no service in it unless I have the confidence and esteem of the officers and soldiers of the army, I must shape my course in such a manner as to avoid the imputation of preferring. lucrative civil employment to active service in the field.'
He also wrote to the Duke of Richmond (the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), about the same time :
'I accepted my office in Ireland solely on the condition that it should not preclude me from such service when an opportunity should offer; and I am convinced that though you may feel some inconvenience from my temporary absence, supposing that it is intendeď that I should return to you, or from the loss of the assistance of an old friend, supposing that it is not, you would be the last man to desire or to wish that I should do anything with which I should not be satisfied myself; and I acknowledge that I should not be satisfied if I allowed any opportunity of service to pass by without offering myself.'
We give these quotations entire from Mr. Gleig's work, as showing how determined Sir Arthur was not to lose any opportunity of military service, of obtaining the confidence of the army, and of carving his way upwards. Better proof can hardly be required of the lofty ambition by which he was actuated, but Vol. 120.-No. 239.
which Mr. Gleig would, in spite of the evidence he himself adduces, deny to his character. Sir Arthur, therefore, leaving a substitute in his Dublin office, joined the Danish expedition under Lord Cathcart.
He proposed wisely, and in a humane spirit, to save Copenhagen from bombardment, and to starve it out by cutting off its means of communication with the main land; but his views were rejected, and he was despatched with his division into the interior, while the remainder of the army was engaged in the siege. He encountered the Danes near Keoge, and defeated them, capturing 1500 prisoners and 14 guns, and after negociating for the surrender of the fleet, he returned to England in the frigate which brought home the despatches. Besides obtaining credit with the army and the Government, and esteem from the native population, in consequence of the protection which he afforded to them, he received the special thanks of the British Parliament for this three months of service. And M. Thiers refers to him in his History, as an officer who, after seeing service in India, was mainly known for his able conduct at Copenhagen.
But he was not now to remain long in peaceful employment. The project which had been entertained of conquering Spanish America in revenge for the disaster of Buenos Ayres fell to the ground on the receipt of the important intelligence that the Spanish nation had risen against their French invaders. Sir Arthur Wellesley had drawn up numerous minutes on the subject between 1806 and 1808, and had been appointed to a force assembled at Cork for transport to South America.
He was next consulted in regard to the best means of assisting the Peninsular patriots, and the offer of a command in the expedition, when it was proposed to divert it to that purpose, was naturally made to him. Mr. Gleig says the offer was clogged with conditions which rendered the acceptance
inconvenient, if not disagreeable. "They' (the Government, we presume) 'insisted on retaining his services in Ireland, and that he should again discharge the duties of his office by deputy. But it could have been no great hardship to him to continue to hold such an office by deputy, and to receive part of the emoluments attached to it, at the same time that he obtained what his soul chiefly coveted—a military command. Whether they' intended and desired him to refuse the command—as believed by Mr. Gleig —or not, he was too much in earnest to be deterred by trifles, and in less than twenty-four hours the whole was settled. Before Sir Arthur started for Portugal, a conversation occurred
between him and Mr. Croker in London, which was afterwards quoted in the pages of this Review.* Mr. Gleig cites the most material part of the conversation :
• They (the French) have besides, it seems, a new system, which has out-maneuvred and overwhelmed all the armies of Europe ; but no matter, my die is cast. They may overwhelm, but I don't think they will out-mancuvre me. In the first place, I am not afraid of them, as everybody else seems to be; and, secondly, if what I hear of their system of manoeuvring be true, I think it a false one against troops steady enough, as I hope mine are, to receive them with the bayonet. I suspect that half the continental armies were more than half beaten before the battle began. I, at least, will not be frightened beforehand.' After making the quotation, Mr. Gleig intimates a suspicion * that Mr. Croker's memory was a little at fault in regard to details; and he adds, the flourish about receiving the French with the bayonet, and the steadiness required to do so, was not, I will venture to say, Sir Arthur Wellesley's, but Mr. Croker's flourish.' But the only reasons he gives for the latter belief are that the phraseology is not the Duke's and the inferences to which it leads would be unsound. He explains that
• The Duke knew better than most men that the only difference then between French and English tactics was this, that whereas the French attacked in column, the English always attacked in line; and that the real resistance to an attack by troops waiting for their adversaries in line comes from the volume of fire with which the column is received. All armies, French as well as English, Russian, German, and Italians, defend a position in line, provided the assailants give them time to deploy. But the English alone have hitherto attacked in line, though I believe that the armies of other nations are beginning in this respect to follow their example.'
The information here given to us by Mr. Gleig is not in all respects accurate. At present, we apprehend, English troops would only occasionally, and other troops would never, attack in line on the field of battle. And we do not believe that any but English troops could now be trusted to resist a serious attack in line, i. e. with a line of battle formed of regiments or battalions in line.
At Waterloo the Duke received the charges of the columns of the Guard with his English troops in line, but he did not venture to trust his foreign troops in that formation at any time during the battle.
At the time of the conversation objected to by Mr. Gleig, between the Duke and Mr. Croker, the question of line versus
Quarterly Review, vol. xcii. p. 519.
column had not, as far as we are aware, been mooted ; and the Duke would naturally have mentioned the steadiness of the British infantry to stand to their bayonets, as his reason for believing that he could beat the terrible French columns (whose charges no other armies had been able to resist), rather than any expectation of receiving them in line, as he found by subsequent experience in the Peninsula that he was able to do.
We confess to at least an average belief in the fallibility of human nature, and mistrust of the accuracy of recorded conversations, but we are certainly inclined in this instance to pin our faith on Mr. Croker.
When Sir Arthur sailed from England in the Crocodile' for the Peninsula he commanded a force of about 10,000 men, with liberty of action ; but, as the ideas of the Government expanded, he became chief of the advanced guard only of an army of 30,000 men, comprising six General officers who were his seniors. He wrote accordingly to Lord Castlereagh to say
* Whether I am to command the army or not, or even to quit it, I shall do my best to insure success, and you may depend upon it that I shall not hurry the operations, or commence them one moment sooner than they ought to be commenced, in order that I may acquire the credit of success.' And he at once showed by his first operations that his confidence in himself was thoroughly warranted. At Roliça his. demeanour and his dispositions commanded confidence and ensured success. Prevented by others—who had not come to run risks '—from following up his victory as he wished to do, he led his corps to the position of Vimiero. Again victorious, and prevented from pursuing his enemy, he signed, under the directions of Sir Hew Dalrymple, the preliminary agreement which led to the celebrated convention of Cintra. On this subject he wrote to Lord Castlereagh, under date wrongly given by Mr. Gleig as the 23rd April, instead of August, 1808:
* Although my name is affixed to this instrument, I beg that you will not believe that I negociated it, that I approved of it, or that I had any hand in wording it. It was negociated by the General himself in my presence and that of Sir Harry Burrard; and after it had been drawn out by Kellerman himself, Sir Hew Dalrymple desired me to sign it.' . 'I approve of allowing the French to evacuate Portugal.' 'It is more for the advantage of the General to have 30,000 Englishmen in Spain, and 10,000 or 12,000 additional Frenchmen on the northern frontier of Spain, than to have the Frenchmen in Portugal, and the Englishmen employed in the blockade or siege of strong places.' His manner became thenceforth distant to Sir Hew Dalrymple,
and Sir John Moore, who had himself been disappointed in not receiving the chief command, shared in his dissatisfaction.
The disappointment which prevailed in England on the subject of this convention determined Sir Arthur to bring the whole matter to a public inquiry, and he set to work with his usual energy and sagacity to represent his own views. But he began later to despair of setting himself right, and in writing to Lord Castlereagh again, on the 14th October, he expressed himself somewhat differently :
*I have always been of opinion that I should not be able to convince the public of the goodness of my motives for signing the armistice; and the late discussions in Middlesex and elsewhere, and the paragraphs in the newspapers, which after all rule everything in this country, tend to convince me that it is determined that I shall not have the benefit of an acquittal, and that the news-writers and the orators of the day are determined to listen to nothing in my justification.
It is singular that Sir Arthur should have consented to sign the armistice, in place of Sir Hew Dalrymple or Sir Harry Burrard, when he objected, as he mentioned to Lord Castlereagh in the first letter, to its 'verbiage' and to the indefinite suspension of hostilities. It was natural enough in the public to look to his signature as a token of his approval, and he was hardly the man to have been coerced into signing anything that he strongly disapproved. But the arrangement was by no means a
The kingdom of Portugal had been cleared of its invaders, after two successful battles, within a month. Sir Arthur would not have allowed the French to escape so easily if he had been left to himself ; but it is evident from the volume (xvii.) of the Napoleon Correspondence published last year that Napoleon (who by no means foresaw the importance of the little cloud that was rising in Portugal) considered the convention to be advantageous to the English. He says:
‘I wish to know why, six weeks ago, he (the Duke of Abrantes) did not intrench himself in a camp at the mouth of the Tagus, or in some other suitable position, and await assistance, having supplied his army? This is what he should have done by the rules of warfare in such a situation.'
After his return to London Sir Arthur wrote (on the 7th of October, 1808) to Sir John Moore :
'I find that by the distribution I am placed under your command, than which nothing can be more satisfactory to me. I will go to Coruña immediately, where I hope to find you.' But he was prevented, while waiting in London for the in