« 前へ次へ »
and the sword are the necessary remedies; but in what çan skill or caution be better shewn than preventing such dreadful operations, while there is yet room for gentler methods?
It is wonderful with what coolness and indifference the greater part of mankind see war commenced. Those that hear of it at a distance, or read of it in books, but have never presented its evils to their minds, consider it as little more than a splendid game, a proclamation, an army, a battle, and a triumph. Some indeed must perish in the most successful field, but they die upon the bed of honour, resign their lives amidst the joys of conquest, and filled with England's glory, smile in death.
The life of a modern soldier is ill represented by heroic fiction. War has means of destruction more formidable than the cannon and the sword. Of the thousands and ten thousands that perished in our late contests with France and Spain, a very small part ever felt the stroke of an enenny; the rest languished in tents and ships, amidst damps and putrefaction; pale, torpid, spiritless, and helpless; gasping and groaning, unpitied among men, made obdurate by long continuance of hopeless misery; and were at last whelmed in pits, or heaved into the ocean, without notice and without remembrance. By incommodious encampments and unwholesome stations, where courage is useless, and enterprise impracticable, fleets are silently dispeopled, and armies sluggishly melted away.
Thus is a people gradually exhausted, for the most part, with little effect. The wars of civilized nations make very slow changes in the system of empire. The public perceives scarcely any alteration but an increase of debt; and the few individuals who are benefited, are not supposed to have the clearest right to their advan
tages. If he that shared the danger enjoyed the profit, and after bleeding in the battle grew rich by the victory, he might shew his gains without envy. But at the conclusion of a ten years war, how are we recompensed for the death of multitudes and the expense of millions, but by contemplating the sudden glories of paymasters and agents, contractors and commissaries, whose equipages shine like meteors, and whose palaces rise like exhalations?
These are the men who, without virtue, labour, or hazard, are growing rich as their country is impover. ished; they rejoice when obstinacy or ambition adds another year to slaughter and devastation; and laugh from their desks at bravery and science, while they are adding figure to figure, and cipher to cipher, hoping for a new contract from a new armament, and computing the profits of a siege or tempest.
Those who suffer their minds to dwell on these considerations will think it no great crime in the ministry that they have not snatched with eagerness the first opportunity of rushing into the field, when they were able to obtain by quiet negociation all the real good that victory could have brought us.
Of victory indeed every nation is confident before the sword is drawn; and this mutual confidence produces that wantonness of bloodshed that has so often desolated the world. But it is evident, that of contradictory opinions one must be wrong, and the history of mankind does not want examples that may teach caution to the daring, and moderation to the proud.
Let us not think our laurels blasted by condescending to inquire, whether we might not possibly grow rather less than greater by attacking Spain? Whether we should have to contend with Spain alone, whatever has been promised by our patriots, may very reasonably
be doubted. A war declared for the empty sound of ans ancient title to a Magellanic rock, would raise the indignation of the earth against us. These encroachers on the waste of nature, says our ally the Russian, if they succeed in their first effort of usurpation, will make war upon us for a title to Kamschatscha. These universal settlers, says our ally the Dane, will in a short time settle upon Greenland, and a fleet will bat. ter Copenhagen, till we are willing to confess that it always was their own.
In a quarrel like this, it is not possible that any power should favour us, and it is very likely that some would oppose us. The French, we are told, are otherwise employed; the contests between the king of France and his own subjects are sufficient to withhold him from supporting Spain. But who does not know that a foreign war has often put a stop to civil discords ? It withdraws the attention of the public from domestic grievances, and affords opportunities of dismissing the turbulent and restless to distant employments. The Spaniards have always an argument of irresistible persuasion. If France will not support them against Engtand, they will strengthen England against France.
But let us indulge a dream of idle speculation, and suppose that we are' to engage with Spain, and with Spain alone; it is not even yet very certain that much advantage will be gained. Spain is not easily vulnerable: her kingdom, by the loss or cession of many fragments of dominion, is become solid and compact. The Spaniards have indeed no fleet able to oppose us, but they will not endeavour actual opposition; they will shut themselves up in their own territories, and let us exhaust our seamen in a hopeless siege. They will: give commissions to privateers of every nation, who will prey upon our merchants without possibility of
feprisal. If they think their plate fleet in danger, they will forbid it to set sail, and live awhile upon the credit of treasure which all Europe knows to be safe; and which, if our obstinacy should continue till they can no longer be without it, will be conveyed to them with secrecy and security by our natural enemies the French, or by the Dutch our natural allies.
But the whole continent of Spanish America will lie open to invasion; we shall have nothing to do but march into these wealthy regions, and make their present masters confess that they were always ours by ancient right. We shall throw brass and iron out of our houses, and nothing but silver will be seen among us.
All this is very desirable, but it is not certain that it can be easily attained. Large tracts of America were added by the last war to the British dominions; but, if the faction credit their own Apollo, they were conquered in Germany. They at best are only the barren parts of the continent, the refuse of the earlier adventurers, which the French, who came last, had taken only as better than nothing.
Against the Spanish dominions we have never hitherto been able to do much. A few privateers have grown rich at their expense, but no scheme of conquest has yet been successful. They are defended not by walls mounted with cannons which by cannons may be battered, but by the storms of the deep and the vapours of the land, by the flames of calenture and blasts of pestilence.
In the reign of Elizabeth, the favourite period of English greatness, no enterprises against America had any other consequence than that of extending English navigation. Here Cavendish perished after all his hazards; and here Drake and Hawkins, great as they vere in knowledge and in fame, having promised ho
nour to themselves and dominion to the country, sunk by desperation and misery in dishonourable graves.
During the protectorship of Cromwell, a time of which the patriotic tribes still more ardently desire the return, the Spanish dominions were again attempted; but here, and only here, the fortune of Cromwell made a pause. His forces were driven from Hispaniola, his hopes of possessing the West Indies vanished, and Jamaica was taken, only that the whole expedition might not grow ridiculous.
The attack of Carthagena is yet remembered, where the Spaniards from the ramparts saw their invaders destroyed by the hostility of the elements; poisoned by the air, and crippled by the dews; where every hour swept away battalions; and in the three days that passed between the descent and re-embarkation, half an army perished.
In the last war the Havanna was taken, at what expense is too well remembered. May my country be never cursed with such another conquest!
These instances of miscarriage, and these arguments of difficulty, may perhaps abate the military ardour of the public. Upon the opponents of the government their operation will be different; they wish for war, but not for conquest; victory would defeat their purposes equally with peace, because prosperity would naturally continue trust in those hands which had used it fortunately. The patriots gratified themselves with expectations that some sinistrous accident, or erroneous conduct, might diffuse discontent and inflame ma. lignity. Their hope is malevolence, and their good is evil.
Of their zeal for their country we have already had a specimen. While they were terrifying the nation with doubts whether it was any longer to exist; while