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Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5


Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5>

General Gillmore had supposed that after Sumter was disabled, the iron-clads would be in a position to steam up the harbour and appear before Charleston. But the naval authorities took a different view; and so the siege was turned into a languid bombardment, which was carried on irregularly till nearly the end of the war. In December, one of the finest vessels of the blockading fleet, the WeehawTcen, foundered. Nothing of great importance happened in North Carolina during 1863.

While the United States were thus distracted by civil war, and not in a position to assert, much less to enforce, what is called the Monroe doctrine, that is, the claim of the United States to prevent European states from intervening in the internal affairs of American states, the French Emperor was playing his game prosperously in Mexico. The capital fell into the hands of General Forey this summer, and the project of erecting an imperial throne in Mexico attained shape and consistence before the end of the year. All this had sprung out of the unpretending joint expedition agreed to by England, France, and Spain at the close of 1861. Mexico had so vexatiously and so long evaded its pecuniary obligations to its English and Spanish creditors, and had left so many outrages on individual Englishmen and Spaniards unredressed, that the Governments of the two countries were at last compelled to resort to coercive measures. France also desired to be a party to the convention, nor was it at first understood that the aims of the French Emperor differed materially from those of his confederates. The expedition sailed in December, 1861, having on board 6,000 Spanish soldiers; the English military contingent was only a force of 700 marines; the French contingent was at first weaker than that of Spain, but it was soon increased. A landing was effected, without resistance, at Vera Cruz. On the 10th of January, 1862, the Allied Commissioners published a manifesto, addressed to the Mexican people, couched in somewhat ambiguous language, yet declaring that neither conquest nor political dictation was the object of the Allied Powers, which had long beheld with grief a noble people " wasting its forces and extinguishing its vitality through the violent power of civil war, and perpetual convulsions," and had now landed on their shores to give them an opportunity of constituting themselves in a permanent and stable manner. Yet all this time the views of the French Emperor were extended to ulterior aims of which his allies never dreamed. A pamphlet, well known to be "inspired," from the facile pen of M. de la Guerronière, appeared in Paris about this time. The writer enlarged eloquently on the fundamental differences in endowment, temperament, and ideas, which distinguished the Teutonic from the Latin race. The great Republic of North America had a constitution which was well suited to the practical turn and calmer temperament of a Teutonic people; for them republican institutions were characterised by greater stability than any other. But with a community belonging to the Latin race, the case was far otherwise. Such a people, being endowed with livelier imagination and keener susceptibility of feeling, was morally incompetent to restrain itself, in those ever-recurring political contests which democratic institutions necessitate, within the limits which a Teutonic people can observe without effort, and which prudence and the spirit of compromise imperatively dictate. In all the communities of Latin blood, both in North and South America, which have tried republican institutions on a large scale, the result has been failure. Convulsion has followed convulsion, and an actual retrogression of civilisation has been the consequence. The remedy for this is to adopt a new principle of action, to adapt your institutions to the genius of the people that is to use them. A Latin people loves to give its assent once for all to the form of government under which it is to live, and then to leave to its rulers the duty of administration. Its dignity being consulted by the fact of its being called upon to authorise the Government under which it lives, it thenceforward desires to see that Government strong, centralised, and respected. Such speculations, and many more to the same effect, clearly pointed to the regeneration of Mexico by Caesarism - to an Emperor and a plébiscite.

When, then, after the issuing of the manifesto, the commissioners of the Allied Powers began to exchange ideas, and to communicate to each other the exact nature of the instructions emanating from their respective Governments, the divergence of view between the French and the other two commissioners soon became apparent. The object of England and Spain was simply, by occupying a portion of tlie Mexican sea-board, to obtain a material guarantee for the redress of the wrongs of which their subjects had to complain. Whether this was done by the Government of Juarez (who was then President), or by any other Government, was a matter of perfect indifference to England and Spain. But the French commissioner - evidently with an eye to the eventual introduction of an imperial regime - refused, on the plea of perverseness, renewed outrages, and general impracticability, to hold any communication with the Juarez Government. The commencement of a split was here visible. However, the English and Spanish commissioners, Sir Charles Wyke and General Prim, opened negotiations with the Government of Juarez. But there was a certain General Almonte in the French camp, who was well known as a promoter of the scheme for substituting imperial for republican institutions. The Mexican Government required that Almonte should be sent away; but to this the French commissioner refused to consent. A conference between the commissioners of the Allied Powers and others to be deputed by the Mexican Government, to meet at Orizaba, in April, was agreed to by Prim and Sir Charles Wyke, but rejected by the French commissioner, who insisted that, instead of negotiating with Juarez, the proper course for the Allies was to march at once upon Mexico. Hereupon Prim and Sir Charles Wyke, finding that their views and those of their colleague were irreconcilable, withdrew on the part of their respective Governments from the expedition. General Lorencez, at the head of the French expeditionary corps, then advanced towards Mexico. At Puebla, the gates of which he expected would be opened to him, he met with a vigorous resistance from the Mexican army (May 5, 1862), commanded by General Zaragoza. The French sustained a severe check, and were compelled to fall back upon Orizaba. Here Marquez, a general of the Church party, joined Lorencez at the head of 2,500 men. It was not, however, deemed advisable to attempt a fresh advance until a reinforcement of troops had been obtained from France. This the French Emperor, on learning of the repulse at Puebla, hastened to send, appointing General Forey to the command in Mexico, and dispatching him across the Atlantic with 2,500 fresh troops. Forey landed at Yera Cruz about the end of September; but nothing more was effected that year. The Emperor, at least in words, was careful to disclaim all appearance of dictation to the Mexican people as to their choice of a Government; but the honour and interests of France required an intervention in the affairs of that Republic; and if, under the shelter of that intervention, the respectable portion of Mexican society chose to adopt monarchical institutions, so much the better for all parties. In his letter of instructions to General Forey, the Emperor concludes thus: - "At present, therefore, our military honour engaged, the necessities of our policy, the interests of our industry and commerce, all conspire to make it our duty to march on Mexico, boldly to plant our flag there, and to establish either a monarchy, if not incompatible with the national feeling, or at least a Government which may promise some stability."

Early in March, General Santa Anna - who had been President of Mexico during the war with the United States, in 1847 - 8, and who doubtless believed that the establishment of a strong central Government, under French protection, was the most likely means of securing his country from future insult and dismemberment on the part of the Americans - landed at Vera Cruz (he had been many years an exile), and declared his adhesion to the French policy. The army had already commenced its march; Puebla was soon reached, and besieged in form. On the 29th March, Fort San Xavier, one of its principal defences, was attacked and taken by assault. " For the first time," says General Forey, " the Mexicans felt the points of our bayonets; they gave way before the impetuosity of our attack." Puebla surrendered on the 18th May, under rather extraordinary circumstances. General Ortega, who commanded the garrison, as the supplies of the place had begun to run short, proposed to capitulate, but on condition that the garrison should be allowed to leave with all the honours of war, and with arms, baggage, and artillery to withdraw to Mexico. General Forey refused to listen to this, and sent word in reply that the garrison might leave with all the honours of war, but that they must march past the French army and lay down their arms, remaining prisoners of war. " These proposals," says General Forey in his despatch, " were not accepted by General Ortega, who, in the night between the 16th and 17th May, disbanded his, command, destroyed their weapons, spiked his guns, blew up the powder magazines, and sent me an envoy to say that the garrison had completed its defence, and surrendered at discretion. It was scarcely daylight, when 12,000 men, most of them without arms or uniforms, which they had cast away in the streets, surrendered as prisoners; and the officers, numbering from 1,000 to 1,200, of whom twenty-six were generals and 200 superior officers, informed me that they awaited my orders at the Palace of the Government."

There was no more serious resistance after the fall of Puebla, on the defence of which the Government of Juarez had expended all its resources, and in attempting to relieve which the Mexican General Comonfort had been defeated on the 13th May. Juarez withdrew to San Luis de Potosi, and, on the 10th June, the French army entered Mexico, the capital. The throne of Montezuma was now at the disposal of the conqueror, if indeed on that volcanic soil, mined by revolutionary passions and disintegrated by the convulsions of forty years, the erection of a throne were possible. A provisional Government (June 24) was first established, which took measures to convene an " Assembly of Notables." This assembly - composed of 215 members, taken, we are told, indiscriminately from all classes, though it is not likely that any very influential friends of republican institutions were among them - was requested to deliberate and determine what form of government ought to be definitively established in Mexico; the vote on the question to unite at least two-thirds of their suffrages. On the 10th July, the Assembly resolved that Mexico should adopt monarchical institutions, and that the imperial crown (never worn since the short and troubled reign of Iturbide) should be offered to the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, brother of the Emperor Francis Joseph. In the event of his refusal to accept the crown, the Emperor of the French was requested to select a candidate for the imperial dignity. A deputation of Notables visited the Archduke Maximilian (October 3, 1863) at his villa of Miramar, near Trieste, and offered him the imperial crown. Maximilian hesitated; and well he might. For although there was no Mexican army remaining which could withstand the French invaders in the field, yet the principle of resistance was tenaciously upheld by a large section of the population, and the aversion of the people of the United States to this forcible conversion of their republican neighbour to imperial sentiments was no secret to any one. On the very day on which the French entered Mexico, Juarez published a proclamation, dated from San Luis de Potosi, which breathed nothing but defiance. "Concentrated on one point," he said, " the enemy will be weak on all others; if he divides his forces, he will be weak everywhere. He will find himself compelled to acknowledge that the Republic is not shut up in the towns of Mexico and Puebla; that life - the consciousness of right and power, the love of independence and democracy, the noble pride aroused by the invader of our soil, are sentiments common to all the Mexican people." Nor was the language of M. Doblado, a moderate Liberal, and a man highly respected, who had lately been a rival of Juarez in the contest for the Presidential chair, less outspoken. " the question of party," he said, " exists no more. Henceforth must disappear, along with political animosities, all the deplorable party designations to which our civil wars have given rise. In the bloody struggle upon which we have entered, there are now only two camps - Mexicans and Frenchmen - invaders and invaded." It was evident that for a long time to come monarchy would not be secure in Mexico without active aid from France. But might that aid be certainly counted upon? The opposition in the French legislative body had just been recruited by the accession of some of the ablest politicians and debaters in the country - M. Thiers among the number; the war in America might shortly come to an end; was it so certain that in the face of opposition at home, and ill-will, if not hostility, on the part of the United States, the French Emperor would continue his intervention in Mexico for the time that the circumstances required? Poor Maximilian - a Hapsburg, and the brother of a legitimate sovereign - could perhaps hardly realise the full bearing of the truth, that in the case of a ruler who has come to power by such means as those employed by Louis Napoleon, the interest of the conservation of his dynasty will always override every other consideration. But he hesitated, as has been said; and made his acceptance of the crown conditional on its being tendered to him in pursuance of a truly popular vote, and secured by European guarantees. For the time nothing more could be done. In Mexico, the French arms were everywhere triumphant; Juarez was driven from San Luis de Potosi, and his principal bands broken up or weakened by desertion, while General Comonfort was killed in action. The provisional Government, sitting in the capital, was named the Regency; it had a triumvirate at its head, consisting of General Almonte, General Salas, and the Archbishop of Mexico. Thus for Mexico ended the year 1863.

From the mysterious central lands of Africa information of the most interesting character came this year to England, being communicated by the enterprising travellers Captain Speke and Captain Grant, who landed at Southampton on the 17th June, and five days afterwards received a public welcome at a special meeting of the Royal Geographical Society. Starting from Zanzibar, and penetrating the country in a north-westerly direction, Captain Speke had, though with incredible difficulty, and through the exertion of wonderful patience and adroitness in bribing, coaxing, mystifying, or browbeating the native rulers whose kingdoms he traversed, reached the shore of a vast lake, to which he gave the name of Victoria Nyanza, and seen the White Nile flowing out at its northern end, in the direction of Gondokoro. Captain Speke too hastily assumed that he had found the true source of the Nile in the Victoria Nyanza, just as, nearly a hundred years ago, Bruce was convinced that he stood at the fountain head of the great river, when he had merely traced up the lesser current of the Blue Nile. We now know that the Nile runs out of another large lake, the Albert Nyanza of Sir Samuel Baker, into the Victoria Nyanza; and the true source of the Nile is to this day wrapped in mystery, and will remain so till the entire hydrographie basin of the Albert Nyanza has been explored, or else unless the river discovered by Livingstone (which most geographers suspected to be a branch of the Congo) shall be proved to be really identical with the Nile. Captain Speke, though one of the best hearted of men, was rather too much disposed to self-assertion and the magnifying of his own discoveries; and this led to unpleasant controversy between him and other African explorers, such as Captain Burton. A day had been fixed, in the autumn of 1864, for a discussion between him and Burton on the question of the Nile sources, before a meeting of the British Association at Bath, when a sudden and lamentable accident put a period to the explorer's career. He was shooting in Neston Park, in Wiltshire; and from the posture in which the body was found, he appeared to have been getting over a low stone wall, when by some mischance his gun exploded while the muzzle was pointed at his breast. The charge entering his body passed completely through, severing the main arteries of the chest, lacerating the lungs, and passing- close to the heart. Death ensued in a few minutes.

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Pictures for Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

Archbishop Whately
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Puebla
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Puebla
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Ditch of fort Wagner
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Charleston harbour
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Captain Speke
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