Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

compelled to embark in a war against England, the most ancient of her allies ; but this compliance tended rather to accelerate than to retard the progress of events. An ariny, under Junot, despatched with the avowed intention of rescuing Portugal from the English yoke, and maintaining her independence, took possession of Lisbon, and with the co-operation of Spanish auxiliaries, reduced the whole kingdom to sullen subjection. Junot soon acted without the semblance of disguise. He publicly announced, that Portugal was no longer sovereign, but an appanage of France. The nation were informed, that "the • emperor willed that Portugal should thereafter be governed

in his name, by the general-in-chief of his army." The supreme authority was then assiimed by Junot, and for the ancient insignia of the kingdom, those of France were substituted. Portugal being regarded as subdued, the attention of Bonaparte was exclusively directed towards Spain. A conspiracy was there, either fabricated or designed for deposing Charles, in which his son, Ferdinand, was implicated ; and the terrified old king was persuaded to embrace the resolution of emigrating to Mexico. The discovery of his intention, whilst he was preparing to execute it, created an insurrection, by which the king being intimidated, resigned the crown to Ferdinand, aud to appease the clamours of the people, imprisoned Godoy, his odious ininister. Murat, the commander-in-chief of the French forces in the Peninsula, upon receiving information of these movements, advanced to Madrid, with 50,000 men, took military possession of the capitol, with the consent of Charles, and prevailed upon him to issue a proclamation, that he had iesigned his crown to his son, by compulsion, and to appeal to the protection of Bonaparte. Ferdinand, alarmed by the proclamation of his father and the approach of the French, was induced, partly by Aattery, and partly by fear, to proceed to Bayonne. His person being there secured, it was necessary for the accomplishment of the perfidivus schemes of Bonaparte, that Charles should follow the example of his son. To effect this, his favourite, Godoy, was removed from his prison in the night, and conducted to Bayonne, under a strong escort. The infatuated monarch, unable to endure a separation from his minion, soon after repaired to Bayonne, with his queen, and all the members of the royal family. When the two princes were thus within the grasp of Bonaparte, a resignation of the crown in his favour was extorted from both, from the father on the 5th, and from the son on the 10th of May, 1800, after which they were conveyed into the interior of France. Thus far, the jotrigues of the emperor of the French had been successful. He seemed to be on the pinnacle of his fortune, to have achieved the bloodless conquest of a kingdom, which, however degraded it might have been, under the Bourbons, was capable of being regenerated by him, and of adding a vast increase to his power and wealth. But, almost from the very moment of the completion of his deep-laid plot, of his “ ruse doublée de force,” in the language of M. de Pradt, is to be dated that resistance of the people of Europe to his reckless ambition, which did not terininate until it hurled him from his lofty pre-eminence, and precipitated himn into the seclusion and exile in which he closed his eventful life.

Intelligence of the occurrences at Bayonne had been no sooner communicated to the authorities of Spain, than addresses teeming with the most fulsome flattery were presented to Bonaparte. The Junta of Government, the Council of Castile, the Municipality of Madrid, and the Cardinal Archbishop de Bourbon, the only male branch of the royal family in the kingdom, entreated for the honour of a king of the imperial stock. Thus secure in the servility of the higher classes, Bonaparte convoked an assembly of one hundred and fifty of the nobility and principal officers at Bayonne, and addressed them in the following proclamation :

" Spaniards, after a long agony your nation was perishing. I have seen your sufferings,-I will relieve them.-Your greatness and power are inseparably connected with mine.--Your princes have ceded to me all their rights to the Crown. I will not reign over your provinces, but I will acquire an eternal title to the love and gratitude of your posterity. Your monarchy is old. It must be restored 10 youth, that you may enjoy the blessings of a renovation which shall not be purchased by civil war or calamity. Spaniards, I have convoked a general assembly of the deputies of your provinces and towns, that I may know your wishes and your wants. I shall then lay down my rights, and place your illustrious crown on the brows of one who bears resemblance to myself: thus securing to you a coustitution which will unite the salutary power of the Sovereign, with the protection of the liberties and rights of the Spanish nation. It is my wish that my memory should be blessed by your latest posterity, and that they shall say, “Napoleon was the regenerator of our country.' ” vol. i. pp. 87, 88.

By these proceedings, the Spanish nation was, at length, roused into a resistance which, spreading from province to province, gradually embraced the whole kingdom. Juntas were formed; all the unmarried men, from eighteen to forty-five, were summoned to arms; a correspondence was established among the leaders in the different quarters of the country; Great-Britain was applied to for arms and amunition, and was recognized as a friend and ally. The singular spectacle was thus presented of popular assemblies supporting the rights of an absolute monarch ; of patriotism, enthusiastic in the cause of a traitor and a coward ; and of a people voluntarily encountering hardships, and privations, and dangers, and death, for the restoration of political and religious despotism. In truth, the Spanish nation, in 1808, were not, nor are they now, desirous of liberty. In Spain, there was no press. The only channels through which information circulated, were proclamations, which rarely extended to the political relations of the kingdom ; and it had for ages, been the policy of its rulers to deprive the people of every means of acquiring knowledge, by which they might be taught, first to think, and then to act for themselves.

“ To a people thus situated, the prospect of political regeneration possessed but little charm. Without knowledge, but that taught by their priests, who inculcated the most slavish doctrines, both political and religious, to them a free constitution was, in truth, nothing but a name. No adage is more true than that a people to be free must be enlightened. The sun of liberty does not rise in the zenith, nor pour down the full flood of his unclouded radiance on regions dark and benighted, The twilight of doubtful struggle must precede his appearance. It is by slow degrees that the clouds which obscure his rays are illuminated and dispelled, till at length, mounting in the horizon, he displays the full measure of his glory and effulgenct.” vol i. p. 164.

But even the slave has, or thinks he has, his rights; and when they are trampled upon, a fame is often lighted up in his bosom, which burns as fiercely as if it were kindled by the noblest and purest excitement. Spaniards were patient under the yoke of native oppression ; but to be transferred to a foreign master, they felt to be an indignity and a degradation, and they resented it as a personal injury and an insult.

The first measures of the Spaniards were eminently successful. Five French ships of the line, lying in Cadiz, were forced to surrender after three days cannonading. General Dupout, who had been sent too late to occupy that port, attacked a superior Spanish force at Baylen, but being repulsed with such loss, that he was unable to effect his retreat, he was compelled to surrender as prisoners, his army of 14,000 men. The French were defeated with great slaughter in two assaults upon Valencia. Palafox, victoriously defended Zaragoza ; and Joseph Bonaparte, after entering Madrid, with the title of king, and receiving the congratulations of the nobles and the inquisition, was under the necessity of retiring beyond the Ebro. Thus, within less than three months, Spain was almost cleared of its enemies by the valour and enthusiasm of its population.

“ This success had been achieved against the first army of Europe, commanded by the greatest generals of the age. At the commencement of hostilities, we know that the French forces in Spain amounted in number to one hundred and fifty thousand men. These, by the energetic courage of the people, had been driven back and discomfited. Not a foreign bayonet had been drawn in their cause. Whatever honour may attach to so splendid an achievement, must exclusively be given to the Spanish people. It is theirs and theirs only. Let this be the answer to those who accuse the patriots of lukewarmness, in the cause which they so gallantly and perseveringly maintained. In truth, considering the disadvantages under which they laboured, the wonder is, not that they did so little, but that they achieved so much. It was manifestly impossible, that a body of undisciplined levies, miserably armed and equipped, without experienced leaders, and deficient in the arms of cavalry and artillery, could successfully contend with the French armies in the field. No sophistry, therefore, can be more gross, than that of those reasoners, who argue that the Spanish people were indiiferent to the cause of freedom, because their armies were frequently defeated in the field. The memory of Baylen, Valencia, Zaragoza, Bruch, and Gerona, will bear imperishable record of the national ardour and perseverance, and give the lie to those who would basely injure the cause of freedom, by villifying the character of its defenders.

" Yet, he would judge erroneously of the character of this memorable struggle, who should form an estimate of the amount and vigour of the hostility of the Spanish people, by an exclusive reference to the operations of their armies. These, in truth, formed but a small part of that widely extended system of destructive warfare, by which the French were encountered in the Peninsula. Wherever any detachment of their armies could be overpowered by the peasantry, they were attacked and massacred. All stragglers perished. The motion of large masses was continually required, to keep open the communication of the different corps, and protect their convoys. The expense of life, by which the invaders were enabled, at any period, to hold military possession of the country, was enormous. Throughout the whole contest, there was a spirit of fierce and unmitigated hostility abroad, in every quarter of the kingdom; an enmity which never slumbered nor slept, which was in continual and almost universal action, and which wasted, like a pestilence, the strength of the invaders.

“ Though the Spaniards owed much of the success which crowned their efforts, to their own zeal and courage, it must be confessed, that some portion of it is attributable to the blunders of their opponents. The French were evidently unprepared for the degree and character of the resistance which they encountered in the Peninsula. They regarded the people with contempt, and were consequently led to attempt important objects, with inadequate means. Defeat was the penalty of these ignorant miscalculations. Something of gratuitous tarnish, something even of dark and memorable disgrace, may have been cast on the national arms, by the misconduct and timidity of those intrusted with command; but it is unquestionable, that the disasters, in which their operations so often terminated, are greatly attributable to those who directed the conduct of the war.” vol. i. pp. 166-8.

The following account of the siege of Zaragoza cannot fail to be interesting even to those who have perused the eloquent description of it by Southey. It must be recollected, that Zaragoza, to a military eye, would have appeared incapable of resisting a formal siege. It was surrounded only by a low brick wall, which presented no regular defences, and it contained very few guns in a state fit for service.

“ Palafox, driven into the city, did not relax in his efforts for its defence. He exhorted the inhabitants to continue steadfast to the cause in which they had gloriously embarked.

" The French battering train was now brought into full action on the city. But the increasing danger which surrounded them, only roused the enthusiasm of the inhabitants to a higher pitch. They planted cavnou at every commanding point; broke loop-holes for musquetry in the walls and houses, and converted the awnings of their windows into sacks, which they filled with sand, and placed in the form of batteries at the gates. Every house in the environs of the city, which could afford shelter to the enemy, was destroyed. The gardens and olive grounds were even routed up by the proprietors, wherever they were supposed to impede the general defeuce. Thus was it, that in this noble struggle for freedom, all private interests were disregarded.

“ The share taken by the women in the memorable defence of Zaragoza, it belongs to history to record. By their voices and their smiles, the men were rewarded for past exertions, and animated to new. Regardless of fatigue and danger, they formed parties for relieving the wounded, and for carrying refreshinent to those who served in the batteries. Of these undaunted females, the young, delicate and beautiful Countess Burita was the leader. Engaged in her blessed work of merciful ministration, with death surrounding her on all sides, she went, with unshrinking spirit, wherever anguish was to be relieved, or sinking courage to be animated. Never, during the whole course of a protracted siege, did she once swerve from her generous and holy purpose. With all a woman's softness of heart, yet without a woman's fears, she partook in every danger and every privation--a creature at once blessed, and bringing blessings.

“ It was impossible, in such circumstances, that the defence of Zaragoza could be otherwise than heroic. Where women suffer, men will die. All ranks and classes of society laboured alike in the defence. Mothers, tearless and untrembling, sent forth their children to partake in the common peril, and to perform such labours as their strength would permit. The priests took arms and mingled in the ranks. The ammunition was made into cartridges by the nuns. In Zaragoza all hearts were animated by a sacred zeal in the cause of liberty and their country.” vol. i. pp. 126–129.

« ZurückWeiter »