Изображения страниц

to sustain the wavering fortunes of constitutionalism, and reminded the opposition that during their brief tenure of office in 1834-5, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel had explicitly adopted and re-affirmed the principles of the Quadruple alliance. For the partial failure of the Legion neither the Government nor its commander was responsible; but the Parliament would become so if the moral effect of its continued presence in Spain seemed to be repudiated by Great Britain. But in truth, the question was not one of disappointment on the part of the gallant mover, for he complained quite as bitterly of the success of the Marines as of the repulse of the troops under General Evans :

“It is alleged that the measures of the Government have not produced any good results. Try that allegation by this test. If those measures had not been adopted—if the Auxiliary Legion and the marines had not given their co-operation, what would have befallen the Spanish people? Do you not know, on Major Richardson's authority, that Bilboa would have been taken by assault? and would not the British seamen have seen from afar upon the main the Durango standard of Don Carlos floating from the castle of St. Sebastian ? Take another test if you please it. Let me suppose this motion carried. If you carry the present motion—if you prevent any acknowledgment of the Legion-if you break the character of this force—if


withdraw the marines from the north coast of Spain (the importance and efficiency of whose services you cannot deny)—what will be the result? The courier who will convey the intelligence will VOL. II.


convey tidings of great joy to St. Petersburg, to Vienna, and to Berlin; and he will convey tidings of great dismay wherever men value the possession of freedom or pant for its enjoyment. It will palsy the arm of liberty in Spain. It will fill her heart with despair. A terrible revulsion will be produced; from Calpe to the Pyrenees the cry, We are betrayed by Eng. land!' will be heard, and over that nation which you will indeed have betrayed, Don Carlos will march, without an obstacle, to Madrid.

You cheer me in mockery—do you? Who are you that cheer me? Not your leaders—not the men who are placed conspi. cuously before me. They know, they feel, the impolicy of these rash manifestations. They profess horror at the atrocities of

on Carlos, and deprecate his triumph; but you that cheer me, disclose your hearts and exhibit the wishes by which your political conduet is determined. Cheer on-exult in the anticipated victories of despotism in Spain, and with your purpose let the people of England be made well acquainted. But, turning from you, I call upon the rest of the House, and to the British people beyond the House, to reflect upon the events which must follow the triumph of Don Carlos. Do you not know him? Do you stand in need of any illustrations of his character? What was it that befel Spain when the constitution was suppressed in 1823 ? Do you not think that Don Carlos will improve upon Ferdinand's example, and recollect what model was held out to him ? Have we forgotten the massacre at Cadiz ? Is Riego's blood effaced from our memories ? Do you doubt that the same terrible career of remorseless, relentless vengeance will be pursued by the marble-hearted despot by whom such horrors have been already perpetrated ? With whom, attended with what companionship, encompassed by what councillors did Don Carlos land in England ? Did he not dare to set his foot upon our shores with Moreno, the murderer of Boyd and Torrijos, beside him? But what further evidence of his character and his propensities do we want, than his terrible Durango ordinance ? I have heard it asked whether it be befitting that in Spain, the

theatre of so many of those exploits whose memory will be everlasting, the British flag should be lowered in discomfiture, and before mountain peasants British soldiers should give way? I feel the force of that question; but there is another which I venture to put to every man who hears me, and among all those that hear me-above all-to the gallant officer by whom this motion has been made. I invoke the same recollections-I appeal to the same glorious remembrances; and in the name of those scenes of which he was not only a witness, but in which he bore a part, of which he carries the honourable attestation about him, I ask whether it be befitting that in Spain--that in the country whose freedom was achieved by such prodigies of English valour, where so many of your fellow-soldiers, who fell beside you, lie buried-is it, I ask, befitting that in that land, consecrated as it is in the annals of England's glory, a terrible, remorseless, relentless despotism should be established, and that the throne which England saved should be filled by the purple tyrant whose arms have been steeped to the shoulders in the blood of your countrymen—not slain in the field of honourable combat, but when the heat of battle had passed, and its sweat had been wiped away-savagely and deliberately murdered ? Their bones are bleaching on the Pyrenean snows—their blood cries out; and shall we, intrusted as we are by the British people with the honour and the just vengeance of our countryshall we, instead of flying to arms, facilitate the ascent to the throne of Spain of the guilty man by whom these outrages upon every law, divine and human, have been committed ? Never ! The people of this country are averse to wanton war; but where the honour of England is at stake, there is no consequence which they are not prepared to meet—no treasure which they are not ready to lavish-no hazard which they will not be found prompt to encounter.”

Sir Henry Hardinge's motion was seconded by Sir Stratford Canning, to whose nomination as Ambas

sador at St. Petersburg the Emperor Nicholas was known to have objected in terms sufficiently strong to induce the Government to forego their intention of sending him thither. “There is,” said Mr. Sheil,

a practical antithesis in the right honourable gentleman; for while for the Emperor Nicholas he has no strong personal relish, he is not without some propensity to the adoption of a Sclavonian policy at Madrid." Upon a division there appeared a majority of thirty-six against the motion.

It has been truly said by one who listened from a distance to the strife of parties during this somewhat monotonous period of our Parliamentary annals, “that the speeches of Mr. Sheil were hailed as God-sends amidst the darkness of speeches in ordinary. One was constantly struck with the flashing wit and imagery of particular passages; with his escape out of certain prejudices of his own party by the natural tendency of the poetical feeling to universality; and with the curious additional effect given to his most potential passages by a sort of juvenile buoyancy and impulse, as though he retained an ever-fresh warrant of credibility, on occasions even where older fervour might have been doubted."*

* Letter from Mr. Leigh Hunt, 10th December, 1853.

His loud and vehement utterances received their fitting plaudits. His looks and gestures were appreciable by all. Though we cannot recal them, we can imagine something of the emotion they produced ; but how much of the expressive by-play is lost? Who shall whisper for us the "asides,” sometimes artistically preconcerted— often the offspring of sudden impulse-lesser, but not less lustrous, sparkles of that light that comes not but in the irresistible concurrence of thought and passion.

He was now at the zenith of his reputation as a Parliamentary speaker, and with the exception of Lord Stanley, he might be fairly said to be without an oratorical rival in the House of Commons. Mr. Macaulay was still absent in India, and the powers of suasion and invective, by which others have subsequently become distinguished, were as yet comparatively undeveloped and unknown. " It is all acting," was the muttered cavil of those who possessed neither the ideality nor the susceptibility requisite to sympathise with the man whose fame and popularity they envied. How can so much fervour be genuine, yet under such entire command ? He must assuredly be acting.”

It is curious to observe how closely the sneer of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »