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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 8

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This retreat had been made under great difficulties; the weather being excessively wet, the rivers swollen, and the roads knee-deep in mud. Provisions were scarce, and the soldiers found great difficulty in cooking the skinny, tough beef that they got, on account of the wet making it hard to kindle fires. The Spaniards, as usual, concealed all the provisions they could, and charged enormously for any that they were compelled to part with. In fact, no enemies could have been treated worse than they treated us all the while that we were doing and suffering so much for them. The soldiers became so enraged that they set at defiance the strict system which Wellington exacted in this respect, and cudgelled the peasantry to compel them to bring out food, and seized it wherever they could find it. In fact, the discipline of the army was fast deteriorating from these causes, and his lord- ship issued very stern orders to the officers on the subject. Till they reached the Tormes, too, the rear was continually harassed by the French; and Sir Edward Paget, mounting a hill to make observations through his telescope, was surprised and made prisoner.

As usual, a great cry was raised at the retreat of Wellington. The Spaniards would have had him stand and do battle for them, as foolishly as their own generals did, who, never calculating the fitting time and circumstances, were always being beaten. Amongst the first and loudest to abuse him was Ballasteros, the man who, by his spiteful disregard of Orders, had been the chief cause of the necessity to retreat. But it was not the Spaniards only, but many people in England, especially of the opposition, who raised this ungenerous cry. Wellington alluded to these censures with his usual calmness in his dispatches. "I am much afraid," he said, " from what I see in the newspapers, that the public will be much disappointed at the result of the campaign, notwithstanding that it is, in fact, the most successful campaign in all its circumstances, and bas produced for the common cause more important results than any campaign in which the British army has been engaged for the last Century. We have taken by siege Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, and Salamanca, and the Retiro has surrendered. In the meantime the allies have taken Astorga, Consuegra, and Guadalaxara, besides other places. In the ten months elapsed since January, this army has sent to England little short of twenty thousand prisoners; and they have taken and destroyed, or have themselves retained the use of the enemy's arsenals in Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Valladolid, Madrid, Astorga, Seville, the lines before Cadiz, &c.; and, upon the whole, we have taken and destroyed, or we now possess, little short of three thousand pieces of cannon. The siege of Cadiz has been raised, and all the country south of the Tagus has been cleared of the enemy. We should have retained greater advantages, I think, and should have remained in possession of Castile and Madrid during the winter, if I could have taken Burgos, as I ought, early in October, or if Ballasteros had moved upon Alcaraz, as he was ordered, instead of intriguing for his own aggrandisement."

The siege of Burgos was rendered impracticable in a reasonable time by want of proper siege tools, and even of ammunition. Of this lord Wellington justly complained, as well as of the great deficiency of the means of transporting artillery and ordnance stores. Of one cause of complaint he was rid by the cortes - they deprived Ballasteros of his command, and gave it to general Virues.

The interval of repose now obtained continued through the winter, and late into the spring of 1813. It was greatly required by the British army. Lord Wellington stated that the long campaign, commencing in January, had completely tired down man and horse; that they both required thorough rest and good food, and that the discipline of the army, as was always the case after a long campaign, needed restoration; and he set himself about to insure these ends, not only in the troops immediately under his own eye, but in those under Maitland and his successors in the south. He had, even during his own retreat, written to Maitland, encouraging him to have confidence in his men, assuring him that they would repay it by correspondent confidence in themselves. Lord William Bentinck, however, ordered Maitland to return to Sicily with his army in October; lord Wellington decidedly forbade it. Maitland therefore resigned, and was succeeded by general Clinton, who found himself completely thwarted in his movements by the governor of Alicante, who treated the allies much more like enemies, and would not allow the English to have possession of a single gate of the town, keeping them more like prisoners than free agents. At the beginning of December a fresh reinforcement of four thousand men, under general Campbell, arrived from Sicily, and Campbell took the chief command; but he did not venture to take any decisive movement against the French, but waited for lord William Bentinck himself, who now determined to come over, but did not arrive till July, 1813. Whilst Campbell remained inactive from this cause, his motley foreign troops continued to desert, and many of them went and enlisted with Suchet.

But there could be no wonder at the uselessness of the troops from Sicily when we consider the state of things in that Island. No narrations of this great and ruinous war, in which England had taken upon herself to fight for all nations, whether they were worth fighting for or not, can exceed in folly and wastefulness that of our support of the Bourbons in Sicily. We could not prevent Napoleon driving Ferdinand from Naples, and putting upon his throne his brother-in-law, Murat; but by means of our fleet, and a considerable army, we preserved the island of Sicily for him and his Austrian queen, Carolina, the daughter of Maria Theresa, and sister of the unfortunate Marie Antoinette, And why preserve it? The man was a mere jolly sportsman, taking no care whatever of his people, thinking nothing whatever of his duties as a ruler, leaving all to his active, ambitious, unprincipled wife. The country was in the worst possible condition, the people ignorant, priest-ridden, and ground to the extremest misery by extortionate taxation. Why preserve the island for such people? The population could not have been worse under the French; they might have been better. It could matter little that Buonaparte, having Italy, should have Sicily too. When his time came - when the nation was sufficiently oppressed and insulted - they would rise and put him down. Till they did arrive at that spirit, foreign oppression and insult were better for them, morally and politically, than domestic oppression. At all events, it was no business of ours. Europe was surely large and populous enough to take care of itself, or it was not worth taking care of. Yet we maintained our own army of between twenty and thirty thousand men - English, Maltese, Neapolitans, Sicilians, &c. Besides this, the king was to have a Sicilian army, and we allowed him four hundred thousand pounds a-year to pay and equip it. But, instead of doing this, he and his court received the money aud spent it on themselves, and left his own troops to come to our officers for provisions, for they could get none from Ferdinand. As soon as it was known that our commander took pity on them, and allowed them rations, the court stopped the pay altogether as unnecessary. Thus we paid four hundred thousand pounds a-year, besides maintaining an army, to keep this worthless couple on a throne, and they took it and spent it in court folly and luxury, whilst their subjects were starving, and were ground to the dust by taxes, and duties, and monopolies - and it had been well had this been the worst. But whilst the king ran after his fishing and | shooting, the queen, whom the cruelties of the French to her sister had converted into a fury and a fiend, dipped her hands in the blood of those all around her who had taken part with the French in driving them from Naples, or who had sympathised with the revolution in Sicily.

When the French Republica Partenopea was overturned in Naples, in 1799, and the royal family returned, and remained for about a year, she was remorseless in her vengeance, cramming the prisons with the patriots, and putting them to death without remorse. It was then that Nelson disgraced himself by becoming her tool. Befooled by his passion for lady Hamilton, the wife of the British ambassador at Naples, who was all in all with the queen, he was weak enough and wicked enough to allow the Neapolitan admiral, Caraccioli, to be tried by a court-martial on board his own flag-ship, and hanged at the yard-arm of a Neapolitan vessel alongside. This dark deed was regarded with horror throughout our fleet, and the sailors of Nelson's ship were continually saying that they saw the head of Caraccioli emerge from the waves, following their voyages!

On the return to Sicily, this royal fury continued her persecutions of every one who was an advocate of reform; and, as the English officers discouraged their execution, they remained in the terrible dungeons of the island till they were glutted with victims. And all this we were actually supporting and perpetuating by our arms and our money. We had much better have let Buonaparte rule there, and have let the miserable Bourbons retire to Austria, where the king could have hunted and the 'queen indulged in her tirades against all ameliorations of the condition of subjects. As it was, she declared that the English were encouraging the disaffected, and were ruining the people by false ideas of freedom - the English, to whom she, her effeminate sons, and her sportsman husband, were indebted for a house over their heads!

After the marriage of Napoleon with her niece, Maria Louisa, queen Carolina's views of the French changed. She regarded Buonaparte as an enemy of the revolution which had destroyed her sister and her family, and driven herself and husband from the throne of Naples. She fondly hoped that her imperial relative would allow her family to return to Naples, and she entered into a conspiracy with him to betray the English to him. Buonaparte encouraged her hopes, for his own objects; but, unfortunately for her plans, lord William Bentinck became the ambassador to Sicily, and commander-in-chief of the forces there, in the summer of 1811. He was astonished beyond measure at the condition of things which he found in the island. He declared that there must be a thorough reform. But the virago queen pointed to the Sicilian troops, and her Calabrian guards, and told him she would fight for it, rather than allow any one to usurp the rights which belonged only to the king and herself. Lord William returned to England to lay the state of things before the government, and demand ample powers.

During the absence of the commander-in-chief, general Maitland had remained in power; and an accident suddenly revealed the fact that the British were surrounded by the meshes of a deep-laid and active conspiracy, at the head of which was the queen herself. A Sicilian friendly to the English caught certain words which a boatman of Messina let fall, which flashed the fact upon him that this man had been employed to convey packets across the strait by night. Following up this clue, he soon became possessed of the information that Manhes, the commander of Murat's army, was in constant communication with the queen, and that there were spies and emissaries going to and fro, by night, between them. The boatmen were engaged, by ample pay, to bring the messengers from the Neapolitan side to disguised Sicilian officers of our own, who opened the letters before delivering them to their respective addresses, took fac-similes of them, kept the originals, and delivered the copies. By these letters they became fully possessed of the plot, and of the names and residences of the conspirators, amongst whom were some very near the throne, and the queen at the head of all. The Sicilian flotilla of gunboats at Messina was to be put at the service of Manhes to cross over with his troops, at some crisis when the English fleet was absent, and the English were to be betrayed to the French.

Fourteen of the conspirators were seized, tried, and condemned to death by a court-martial, partly of English and partly of Sicilian officers. As soon as this was concluded, the president of the court burnt the list containing the names of the conspirators, to screen the queen and the rest of the court party concerned. Only one of these traitors was executed; the rest were sent to différent prisons in the islands near Sicily. By this time lord William Bentinck had returned with enlarged powers, and lie set about to frame a new constitution for the country, on the model of the English one. There was a limited monarch, a house of peers, and a house of commons. Any one knowing the character of the Sicilians, the despotism of the aristocracy, the habitual compliance with it by the people, must have known that the very moment the royal family regained their kingdom by the expulsion of the French, this constitution would go to pieces. For the present it raised the hopes of the ignorant people, who imagined that a new constitution meant the abolition of all taxation, and it enraged the queen beyond all bounds. She protested that the English were going to set up a new sans-culotte re- public, and that her head, like that of her sister, -would fall by the guillotine.

Lord William Bentinck went on with his Utopian constitution as firmly as the queen opposed it. He stopped at once the subsidy of four hundred thousand pounds. This brought matters to a solution. Lord Bentinck resolved that the influence of the queen should cease, or the money should not again be paid. On this, the king made over the government to his son, Don Francesco, in January, 1812, and retired to a country seat a few miles from Palermo, where he could shoot and fish at his pleasure. But the queen remained in the city, and continued to fish in the more troubled waters of politics and conspiracy. The power of the army was invested in the English, and the imprisoned patriots were set at liberty: but Carolina, with her emissaries about her, at the head of whom was a French emigrant named St. Clair, continued to plot. Lord Bentinck insisted that she should retire from the city, and her residence was selected at Castel Vetrano - an old town in the hills of the interior. There, however, she assembled around her a desperate band of Calabrian bandits, spies, and priests; renewed her conspiracies more actively than ever, and endeavoured to raise the fanatic people on the English by denouncing them as heretics.

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