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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 10

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The charges against the administration of the marquis Wellesley in India were again gone into, and Sir John Anstruther not only defended his policy, but moved that the measures of the noble marquis had been dictated by an ardent desire to benefit both India and this country, and this resolution was carried by a hundred and eighty-nine against twenty-nine. Sir Arthur Wellesley, who had been implicated in the charges against his brother, the marquis, was not only exempt from any blame by this decision, but was highly complimented by the speaker, in February, when returning thanks to the general officers who had commanded at the bombardment of Copenhagen. He alluded in the most eulogistic terms to the services of Sir Arthur, both in India, Portugal, and Denmark, and intimated that the country looked to him for yet more signal achievements. Parliament was prorogued on the 4th of July, and the lord chancellor, in delivering the speech, dwelt on the critical situation of Spain from the invasion of Napoleon, and stated that we must no longer regard that country as an enemy, but as an ally.

The government of Spain was sunk into a state of the deepest degradation and imbecility. Charles IV. was one of the weakest of Bourbon kings. He was ruled by his licentious wife, Maria Luiza, and she by Manuel de Godoy, a young and handsome man, who, about the year 1784, had attracted her eye as a private in the royal guards. By her means he was rapidly promoted, and, at the age of twenty-four, was already a general. He was soon created a grandee of Spain, and the queen, who does not seem to have mingled much jealousy with her passion for him, married him to a niece of the king. He was made generalissimo of all the Spanish forces, and, in fact, became the sole ruling power in the country. He was styled the Prince of the Peace, and, for shortness, Prince of Peace, a title perfectly blasphemous, but acquired merely by his having effected the pacification of Basle, which terminated the revolutionary war betwixt France and Spain. By the subsequent treaty of Saint Ildefonso, he established an offensive and defensive alliance with France, which, in truth, made Spain entirely subservient to Napoleon. The private life of Godoy, during all this time, was as infamous as the means by which he attained his elevation. It is said that there was no way so certain to obtain promotion as by pandering to his vices, and that wives, sisters, and daughters were offered to him as the price of preferment in a manner more shameful than had ever before been witnessed in a Christian country.

Whilst the French were seizing on Portugal, the Spanish royal family, existing in this infamous manner, was convulsed by quarrels arising out of its odious position. Ferdinand, the prince of Asturias, and heir to the throne, hated Godoy, as usurping the power which he himself ought to enjoy, and, stimulated by his friends, who shared in his exclusion, appealed to Napoleon for his protection, and, to win his favour, requested him to choose a wife for him out of his own family. This, at one time, would have been a subject of the highest pride to Buonaparte, that a member of the Bourbon family, and future king of Spain, should solicit a personal alliance with his; but that day was gone by. Buonaparte had determined to make himself master of Spain, and he left the request of the prince without any answer. Urged on by his party, headed by the duke del Infantado and the canon Escoiquiz, the prince seems to have determined to do without Buonaparte, and to depose his father, but the plot was discovered, and the person of the prince secured. The imbecile king, instead of contenting himself by the exercise of his own authority, appealed to Napoleon; and, at the same time, to make the disgrace of his family as public as possible, he appealed to the Spanish people, by a proclamation against the conduct of his son, and informing them that he had put the prince under arrest. But the appeal to Buonaparte did not succeed; for his own purposes, the French emperor appeared to take part with the prince, and caused his ambassador, Beauharnais, to remonstrate with the king on his severity towards him. Charles IV. wrote again to Napoleon, and ventured to mention the prince's private application to him for a wife, hoping, the king said, that the emperor would not permit the prince to shelter himself under an alliance with the imperial family. Buonaparte professed to feel greatly insulted by such allusions to his family, and the poor king then wrote very humbly, declaring that he desired nothing so much as such an alliance for his son. Ferdinand, through this powerful support, was immediately liberated. But these mutual appeals had greatly forwarded Buonaparte's plans of interference in Spain. He levied a new conscription, and avowed to Talleyrand and Fouché that he had determined to set aside the royal family of Spain, and to unite that country to France. Both those astute diplomatists at once disapproved, and endeavoured to dissuade him from the enterprise. They reminded him of the pride of the Spanish character, and that he might rouse the people to a temper of most obstinate résistance, which would divide his attention and his forces, would be pretty certain to bring England into the field for their support, and unite England again with Russia, thus placing himself betwixt two fixes. Talleyrand, seeing that Buonaparte was resolutely bent on the scheme, dropped his opposition, and assisted Napoleon in planning its progress; thus enabling him afterwards to charge Talleyrand with the responsibility of this usurpation, as he had before charged him with counselling the death of the duke d'Enghien. In after years, Napoleon used to denounce his own folly in meddling with Spain, calling it that miserable war, the origin of his ruin.

But Buonaparte had already matured his plans for the seizure of Spain, and he began to put them into execution From Italy, where he was violating the territories of the pope, and compelling the reluctant queen of Etruria to give up her kingdom, he wrote to the king of Spain, her father, that he consented to a marriage between the prince of Asturias and a lady of his family. Whilst he thus gave assurance of his friendship, he ordered his army, lying at Bayonne, to enter Spain at different points, and possess themselves of the strong positions along its frontier. By this means the French were received as friends by the people, and neither the king nor Godoy complained of this gross breach of the treaty of Fontainebleau. The impudent tricks by which the great fortresses were secured, each of which might have detained an army for years, have scarcely any parallel in history. At Pampeluna, on the 9th of February, 1808, the French troops commenced a game of snow-balling each other on the esplanade of the citadel, when suddenly they occupied the drawbridge, entered the fortress-gate, and admitted a body of their countrymen, who had been placed in readiness, and the fortress was secured. At Barcelona the French gave out that they were about to march. Duhesme, the general, drew up his men before the citadel, on pretence of speaking with the French guard, near the citadel-gate, passed suddenly in, followed by an Italian regiment, and the place was their own. St. Sebastian was captured by a number of French being admitted into the hospital, who let in their fellows, and Mountjoy was taken by a like ruse.

Nothing could exceed the consternation and indignation of the Spanish people when they found their great strong- holds guarding the entrances from France into the country thus in the hands of the French. Had there been a king of any ability in Spain, an appeal to the nation would, on this outrage, have raised it to a man, and the plans of Buonaparte might have been defeated. But Godoy, knowing himself to be the object of national detestation, dreading nothing so much as a rising of the people, by whom he would certainly be sacrificed, advised the royal family to follow the example of the court of Portugal, and escape to their transatlantic dominions; which advice could only have been given by a miscreant, and adopted by an idiot. To surrender a kingdom and a people like those of Spain, without a blow, was the extreme of cowardice. But, as if to urge the feeble king to this issue, at this moment came a letter from Buonaparte, upbraiding him with having received his acceptance of the match between their houses coldly. Charles, terrified in the extreme, wrote to declaré that nothing lay so near his heart, and, at the same time, made preparations to be gone. The intention was kept as secret as it was possible, but the public soon became aware of the court's proposed removal from Madrid to Cadiz, in order then to be able to embark for America. The prince of Asturias and his brother protested against tlie project; the council of Castile remonstrated; the populace were in a most tumultuous State, regarding the plan as originating with Godoy, and surrounded the palace with cries and gestures of dissatisfaction. The king was in a continual State of terror and irresolution, but Godoy pressed on matters for the departure.

On the 17th of March a proclamation was placarded at the gates of the palace, announcing that the king was resolved to remain and share the fate of his people. Great were the acclamations and rejoicings; but, towards evening, the crowds that still lingered around the royal residence saw unmistakable signs of departure: there was an active movement amongst the guards; carriages and baggage were becoming apparent; and the agitation of the people became intense. The prince of Asturias and his brother protested against the departure; bodies of soldiers, in open revolt, began to assemble, and the people cried that they would have the head of the traitor, Godoy. From angry words the populace and revolted soldiers came to blows with the house- hold troops. Godoy's brother led up a regiment against the rioters, but the men seized him, and joined the people. Whilst one crowd surrounded the palace of Aranjuez, another rushed to the house of Godoy to seize and kill him. They ran all over his house, but could not discover him. The tumult continued all night, but was somewhat appeased the next morning by a royal proclamation, which announced that the king had dismissed him from his offices. This did not, however, prevent the people continuing the search for Godoy, who was at length discovered by a life-guardsman in a garret of his own house, where he had been concealed betwixt two mattresses. Compelled to come forth by heat and thirst, he was dragged into the street, soundly beaten, and would soon have been put to death, had not the prince of Asturias, at the urgent entreaty of the king and queen, interceded, declaring that he should be tried for his crimes, and duly punished. Godoy was committed to custody, in the Castle of Villa Viciosa: his property was confiscated; and. on the 19th, the king, terrified at the still hostile aspect of the people, proclaimed his own resignation in favour of Ferdinand, their favourite: in truth, as little deserving of their favour, by an y moral or intellectual quality, as the king himself. The abdication was formally communicated by letter to Napoleon, whose troops, under Murat, were, during these tumults, now rapidly advancing on Madrid.

On the 23rd, only four days after the abdication of the king, Murat entered Madrid with a numerous body of infantry and cuirassiers, attended by a splendid train of artillery. Ferdinand entered the city the same day. He had formed an administration wholly opposed to Godoy and his policy. The ambassadors of the other powers presented themselves to offer their congratulations; but Beauharnais, the French ambassador, preserved a profound silence. Murat, also, though he professed himself friendly to Ferdinand, said not a word implying recognition of his title. Still more ominous, the news arrived that Buonaparte himself was on the way with another powerful army. Murat took up his residence in the palace of the prince of the Peace, and greatly alarmed Ferdinand and his courtiers by addressing him, not as " your majesty," but merely as " your royal highness." He counselled him to wait, and do nothing till he could advise with Napoleon, and, in the meantime, to send his brother, Don Carlos, to greet the emperor on his entrance into Spain. To this Ferdinand consented; but when Murat recommended him also to go, and show this mark of respect to his ally, Ferdinand demurred, and, by the advice of Cevallos, one of his wisest counsellors, he declined the suggestion. To complicate matters, Murat opened communications with the king and queen, and, not content with that, with Godoy also, assuring him that his only hope of safety lay in the friendship of the emperor. By this means Murat learned all the accusations that each party could make against the other, so that these things might serve Buonaparte to base his measures, or, at least, his pretences upon. Encouraged by this, Charles wrote to the emperor to declaré his abdication entirely forced, and to leave everything to the decision of his good friend, Napoleon. Both he and the queen wrote to Murat entreating more liberty and indulgence to the poor prince of the Peace, who was, the queen said, only suffering for his attachment to them and to France. To propitiate this son of an inn-keeper, they took the sword of Francis I., which lie had surrendered at the battle of Pavia, and, inclosing it in a rich casket, presented it with great ceremony to him, to be laid at the feet of the emperor. It is true that there are doubts as to the genuineness of this sword, for another sword was preserved at Naples as the one worn by Francis I. at the battle of Pavia; but the Spaniards believed this the real trophy, and beheld this gratuitous transfer of it with indignation.

The suggestions of Murat had failed to induce Ferdinand to leave his capital, and go to meet Napoleon; but a more adroit agent now presented himself in the person of Savary, the delegated murderer of the duke d'Enghien. Savary paid decided court to Ferdinand. He listened to all his statements of the révolution of Aranjuez and the abdication of the king. He told him that he felt sure Napoleon would see these circumstances in the same favourable light as lie did, and, by ail means, exhorted him to go and meet the emperor at Burgos, and hear him salute him Ferdinand VII., king of Spain and of the Indies. "Whether lie went or stayed, he appeared equally in the power of the French. Forty thousand French and Italian troops surrounded Madrid. The way thence to the French frontiers was kept by thirty thousand more; whilst the Spanish troops had been partly sent to the north as auxiliaries of the French there, and only about thirty thousand remained scattered in different places through the whole kingdom.

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