Imagens das páginas







DORSENNE's invasion of Gallicia was happily prevented when it could not have been resisted, but that province remained as inert as before. Overtures had been made from England, to take Spanish troops into British pay, but the Spanish regency, remembering Canning's prodigality, demanded three millions sterling yearly besides arms and clothing, without which the Spaniards could make no efficient exertions! And the introduction of English officers on any other terms was impossible, because the Spanish military men were indignant at the degrading proposal ! The Perceval faction finding it thus, and wanting greatness of mind to support Wellington on a scale commensurate with his capacity, then sought to encourage the partidas as less expensive, and more exemplary for the continental nations in respect to France ; wherefore sir Howard Douglas, successor to general Walker as the Gallician military agent, was directed to increase the supplies to those bodies, and to combine their movements with each other and with the English Biscay squadron. Wellington Douglas's also, at the desire of the ministers, sent the chiefs military presents, with letters acknowledging their services, and justly, for he had derived great advan


Sir Howard



tages from their efforts, and thought he had derived more, because he only knew of their exploits by hearsay. When he afterwards saw them closely he acknowledged, that however willing to act and however harassing their warfare had been, none of them could fight the French without very superior numbers : if the latter occupied a house or church and only barred the doors, neither regulars nor partidas could force them. In like manner Napoleon, rebuking his generals for suffering the partidas to gather head, observed, that when cut off from the English ships they were nullities.

Douglas arrived just as Dorsenne's retreat enabled Abadia to resume his position on the frontier; but the wet season was setting in upon men destitute of the necessaries of life in a province abounding with cattle and goods easily to be procured; for money, although plentiful, was generally hoarded, and hence commodities were cheap and to be obtained in lieu of taxes at the market-price. An extraordinary increase of the customs, arising from the trade of Santander and Bilbao being transferred to Coruña by the war, also offered a valuable

That harbour was filled with colonial goods, and as the appetites of men generaily stifle patriotism and baffle power, a licensed commerce was carried on with the enemy's ports in Biscay; yet without judgment as related to the war; for the return was iron to re-export to the colonies, whereas by an internal traffic of the same kind, clothes and grain for the troops might have been had from Castille and Leon. But confusion and corruption everywhere prevailed, the military exigencies were the last things cared for, and the starving soldiers committed a thousand excesses with impunity. The people were oppressed with imposts legal and illegal, and yet the defalcation in the revenue was great, and the monopoly of tobacco the principal financial resource, was injured by the smuggling arising from the unsettled nature of the times.

The annual charge on the province was 1,300,0001., the actual receipts less than 500,0001. The junta met the deficiency by an extraordinary contribution from all property, save that of day-labourers, which they expected to produce 750,0001., but a corrupt and vexatious collection tormented the people without filling the treasury : the clergy and the


richer classes were favoured as in Portugal, and in six months not even a seventh part was obtained.

From this state of affairs two inferences may be drawn:1°. That England not Gallicia supported the war here as in other parts of the Peninsula. 2°. That as England had in 1808-9 paid to Gallicia three millions of hard dollars, and given other supplies for double the number of troops employed, the deficiency of revenue had been amply compensated, and the causes of distress must be sought for in the proceedings of the authorities, and the anomalous nature of the war, The successive juntas, apprehensive of offending the people, were inert in civil administration, corrupt, and incapable of using the English succours justly or wisely. The junta of this period was factious, intriguing; hostile to that of Leon, unfriendly to that of the Asturias, jealous and contemptuous of the military leaders, who abhorred the junta and were tormented with factions of their own. The regular officers hating the partidas endeavoured to get control of the supplies sent for the latter; and as they necessarily lived by plundering their own countrymen, they strenuously opposed the arming of the peasants; partly from fear lest the latter should resist this licence, partly because the republican and anti-English spirit now influencing the Cortes had also reached

this quarter.

All the clergy clung to the peasantry, with whom they had great influence, but the army, which had imbibed liberal words rather than principles, was inimical to them. A press was established at head-quarters, from whence issued political papers, original or repeated from the libels at Cadiz, in which the Portuguese were called slaves for submitting to British influence; and it was openly avowed that the French yoke was preferable to that of England. The guerilla system and the arming of the people were also attacked, and these writings were met by other political papers from the civil press at Coruña and St. Jago. Frequent change of commanders rendered these evils more prominent; for the local government had legal power to meddle with the military arrangements, and every new commander produced a new difficulty. Thus the junta refused to acknowledge Abadia as their president during the absence of Castaños; and he, complaining alike of their negligence and of their interference, when they proposed to establish a general depôt at Lugo marched a part of his army there to prevent it.

But the occult source of most of these difficulties is to be found in the inconsistent attempts of the British cabinet to uphold national independence with internal slavery, against foreign aggression with an ameliorated government. The clergy, powerful with the mass, clung to the English because they supported aristocracy and church domination; and they were also for the partidas, because commanded by men springing directly from the church itself, or from people attached to the church; while the regular armies officered by the friends of the Cortes disliked the partidas as interlopers and political enemies. The English ministers, hating Napoleon, not as the enemy of England but as the champion of equality, cared not for Spain unless her people were enslaved. They were willing to use a liberal Cortes to defeat Napoleon, but also desired to put down that Cortes by the aid of the clergy and bigoted people; nevertheless as liberty will always have more charms than slavery, they would have missed of both objects, if the exigencies of the continental system had not induced the emperor to go to Moscow where the snow destroyed him; and if the very advocates of liberty in Spain had not in their madness oppressed the South Americans. The Cortes by discovering a rabid love of power in practice rendered their democratic doctrines suspected; but Wellington, in support of aristocracy, used the greatest prudence in policy and in his actions was considerate and just.

In the first conference held at Coruña after Douglas's arrival, the junta as matter of routine demanded more money from England; he advised instead, a better management of their own resources, and pointed out the military measures requisite to render the army efficient. He recommended Orense as the line of retreat rather than Lugo and Coruña; and he endeavoured to establish a permanent depôt in the island of Aroso on the Vigo coast, as a secure resource in the event of defeat; be also furnished the soldiers with shoes and great coats, the hospitals with blankets, and completed the firelocks of the

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

army to twenty-five thousand. There were however abuses
which he could not remedy, and which would seem rather to
belong to the army of an Asiatic despot than a European force
fighting for independence. Innumerable baggage animals
devoured all the forage, and the personal servants
and cooks, who from custom never did duty,

Appendix 7,

gi. Vol. III. were above five thousand! When the sick men were deducted, scarcely sixteen thousand infantry and three squadrons of cavalry remained for service. And so little was there of organization that the troops, although young, robust, patient and docile to the greatest degree, could scarcely be moved even from one quarter to another as a military body : the generals, unable to feed them on the frontier, more than once menaced and in December did actually retire to Lugo, leaving the province open to invasiun.

Abadia at first appeared to enter loyally into the ameliorations proposed. He gave the command of the troops to Portasgo, repaired to Coruña himself, and organized the province in seven military governments, one for each division of the army: each government was to raise a reserve, and supply and clothe the corresponding division on the frontier. Soon however be displayed jealousy of the peasantry and of the English, and confined his exertions to the organization of an expedition against South America, which the Cadiz regency had ordered him to equip from the English stores at the moment when Dorsenne was menacing a new invasion of Gallicia ! Douglas vehemently opposed this, the junta were really averse to it, and Abadia pretended to be so; but he had a personal interest in the colonies and secretly pushed on the armament. To evade Mr. Wellesley's reproaches the regency promised to suspend the embarkations; yet the expedition sailed from Vigo, and the organization of another thrice as strong, including all the best artillery in the kingdom, was immediately commenced, and would also have sailed a few months later but for the vigorous interference of Douglas on the spot and Wellesley at Cadiz.

Gallicia in the latter end of 1811 was without magazines hospitals or system; she was torn by faction, her people were oppressed, her governors foolish, her generals bad; and though

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »