« 前へ次へ »
PREFÀ C E.
We may safely assert, that the public interest was never excited so anxiously, permanently, or generally, as by the domestic and foreign events and transactions of the year 1812. At home the disturbances which agitated our manufacturing districts, for some time created great alarm and apprehension: it was not merely the mystery in which they were involved, the extent of country over which they spread, or the length of time during which they continued, that gave rise to this alarm and apprehension; but the peculiar character which they assumed, the system with which they were conducted, and the suspicion that they originated from more serious causes than want of employment and the pressure of the times, and aimed at objects connected with the stability of Government and the peace of the Country. Happily they subsided, by a judicious employment, on the part of Ministry, of patient forbearance, and well-applied vigour.
Closely connected with these disturbances, the discussions and evidence relative to the Repeal of the “ Orders in Council” may be viewed; it was proved, almost to the conviction, certainly to the silencing of the advocates for these Orders, that they had in their action rebounded on ourselves, with at least as much force as they had acted on the enemy: this circumstance, joined to the expectation, that by their repeal America would be
propitiated, and our trade revived, induced Ministers to give a reluctant consent to this measure; but it came too late, and it was so evidently the result of a regard to our own interest, rather than to the interests or rights of neutral nations, that America 'was not reconciled. A war between the two countries has taken place, which hitherto has exhibited nothing worthy of notice, except the circumstance of our new enemy equalling us in maritime courage, experience, and skill, and exhibiting, in their land operations, a total want of every quality that can form a general or a soldier.
But the most remarkable events in our domestic history are connected with the assassination of Mr. Perceval, a circumstance in itself unparalleled in the British annals. In consequence of his death, negotiations were set on foot for the formation of a new Ministry, the progress and result of which ought to be considered with great attention by all, who wish to obtain a clear and perfect insight into the talents, the character, and the principles of the various parties that exist among our public men. When all the circumstances attending this negotiation are consi, dered, it is apprehended, that few will be at a loss to comprehend the character of the Prince Regent; of the leaders of the Whigs; of Lord Wellesley, and Mr. Canning; of Lord Moira, or of those who constitute the present Ministry; and we are afraid that neither the talents nor the patriotism of those to whom the country naturally looks up,
in this arduous crisis, will appear to great advantage.
In the Peninsular war, the fame of the British arms was extended and increased: whatever may
be the ultimate and permanent result of our military operations in that part of the world, all must acknowledge that the character of British officers and soldiers has risen very highly; and that while we can appeal to the baitles which they have won, we may. challenge for our country as decided and glorious a superiority for military courage and skill, as it has long undeniably possessed on its own peculiar element. If proofs of cool determined and irresistible bravery are called for, we may cite the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz; if proofs of the rarest and most useful talents of a great commander are demanded, we may appeal to Lord Wellington's conduct at the battle of Salamanca.
But the operations in the Peninsula, however great and glorious, were comparatively of confined extent and interest; and the attention, even of the British nation, was drawn off from Lord Wellington to the campaign in the north of Europe. The preparations which Bonaparte had long been making for his intended war against Russia, were unequalled in magnitude, and in the care and attention that had been bestowed upon them. These, when completed, exhibited an army of at least 300,000 men, composed of troops who never marched but to victory; and these troops led on by officers of the utmost skill, and in whom they placed the greatest confidence. Moreover, this immense and perfect army was commanded by a man, whom, from his uniform and unchecked success, his soldiers believed to be invincible:all these circumstances directed the attention of the civilized world to the campaign in the North : and its results were most extraor
dinary. dinary. A nation half barbarians laying waste their territory; opposing the legions of France with the most obstinate courage; and when compelled to relire, opening to the advancing army, reduced in numbers, and straitened in its resources, only a desolate and barren country; and at last offering up their homes, their domestic comforts, and even their ancient and almost sacred capital, on the altar of national independence, shamed the refined nations of Europe, who had been seduced by the promises, or overcome by the arms of France. But if the conduct of the Russians, in this war, was calculated to create great interest, that of Bonaparte was no less inportant in the estimation of all who liad long looked in vain for symptoms in him of that selfdesiructive rashness, which uniform success, when acting on au impetuous and violent disposition, nust sooner or later produce. In this campaign 'the
symptoms were unequivocal; and when the rashness of his character did break out, il involved him in despair, broke the charm of his invincibility, and stripped hun of she finest ariny that he everled to battle. It would be in vain to consult the pages of ancient or modern history, in order to parallel the destriction of the French army, during its campaign in Russia; whether the extent, or the variety of the misery which they endured and sunk under, is considered; never before did hun- , ger, tarigre, excissive roki, and a continually harassing enemy, upite so completely and effectutually in the work of desiruction.
August 13, 1813.