صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

been the plan previously contemplated by the Prussian general. We have already noticed more than once, that his patriotic zeal, and straightforward mode of acting, prompted him, on all occasions, to aim at establishing between himself and those with whom he had to co-operate, feelings of mutual confidence, and habits of perfect frankness and cordiality, in conducting the public service. This seems to have obtained a like return on the part of the Prussian allies; and the ability which characterised his suggestions, united to the urbanity with which they were put forward, gave him a powerful influence in conducting the joint operations of the two armies.

But his talents and activity took a much wider scope than belonged to the mere military arrangements which connected themselves with his own immediate command. He was urgent with the British Government to put forth at once the whole strength of the empire, in order to arrest with promptitude the obvious tendency of Bonaparte's enterprise, again to plunge Europe into that state of precarious and belligerent existence from which it had been recently rescued at so much cost. He was vigilant, also, in removing jealousies, and in obviating misunderstandings amongst the Allies—too many causes for which had already sprung up, even in the earlier proceedings of the Vienna Congress. And, although he deemed it of the utmost consequence to give immediate efficiency to the military means of the Continental states, by ample pecuniary aid from Britain, he resisted, and exposed fully to his own Government, the exorbitant nature of many of the demands that were put forward. The correspondence of this period discloses, likewise, with how much patience and judgment he must have conducted himself

, in meeting the obstinacy, selfishness, vanity, and incapacity, or the officious but indiscreet zeal, which he had often to deal with ;-difficulties which harass and impede public men sometimes even more than obstacles of much greater apparent magnitude.

His sentiments with regard to the plan of operations for the expected campaign, are explained in letters to Lord Stewart, to Prince Schwartzenberg, and to the Emperor of Russia. The plan of operations suggested by him is grounded, as in all other instances, upon a thorough knowledge of the true principles of the art of war, and upon the practical application of them. He deprecates those too extensive combinations, and that dissemination of force, which superficial military theorists, and persons wholly unacquainted with that profession, are apt to regard with so much complacency; and he points out the manner in which the ' armies ought to be brought forward, in order to enable VOL. LXIX, NO. CXL.

Z

them to give each other effectual support, and to bear with their united strength upon the enemy's most vital point.

• I do not approve,' says he, of an extension from the Channel to the Alps; and I am convinced that it will be found not only fatal, but that the troops at sucli a distance on the left of our line, will be entirely out of the line of the operations.'— Vol. xii. p. 360.

But after having fully explained his own views of the subject, the Duke concludes his letter to Prince Schwartzenberg with his usual frankness of manner, and his accustomed readiness to accommodate his own opinions and conduct to whatever may be deemed best for the public service and the common cause :

• Voilà mes idées générales basées sur notre force, notre position, et la force de l'ennemi. Cependant je suis prêt à faire tout ce qu'on voudra, si on n'approuve pas ce que je propose. – Vol. xii. p. 370.

His suggestions on the subject of Commissariat arrangements are uniformly clear and able; and they are always bottomed upon the principle of combining the efficient supply of the troops with measures the least calculated to impair their discipline, or to expose the population of the country to fraud, vexation, or violence. With a just sense, in like manner, of what is due to humanity, and with a clear conception that the favourable issue of a war such as that which was about to be waged, was to be sought for by success in pitched battles, he constantly discouraged all schemes of desultory and petty hostilities, and all projects for stirring up insurrections of the peasants and other inhabitants favourably disposed towards the French King. These sentiments are expressed very decidedly in his letters to Count Blacas and to the Duc de Feltre.

It is worthy of notice, as an indication of the opinion generally entertained of his judgment, and of the confidence placed in his character, that his advice was courted by more than one eminent personage, with reference to the line of conduct expedient for them to pursue in the existing difficult crisis of public affairs.

The period soon arrived, however, when the suspense and perplexity, whether of nations or of individuals, was to be suddenly put an end to.

Bonaparte speedily perceived that the combination formed against him was proof against diplomatic weapons; and that his only chance of safety depended upon his being able to break it by the shock of war. The first conflict was maintained on both sides with admirable constancy; and the result was a balanced success. The second furnished the only trophy yet wanting to complete the military fame of the Duke of Wels lington, by the defeat of a commander who had hitherto been regarded as both the most able and the most fortunate of modern times.

But although this immortal trophy--the victory of Waterloo broke the strength of the enemy in the field, the position in which the British general stood, required the unremitting exercise of vigilant activity and of mature judginent. He had to avail himself, by the alacrity of his military movements, of the great impression which the suddenness and the magnitude of his success had occasioned. He had to guard against the machinations of a subtle and formidable, though defeated, enemy; to be a friendly but observant guide to the French Monarch; and, whilst he was entering France as a conqueror, and making himself master of her fortresses and of her capital, he had to conciliate and to protect her people, and to gain even more, if possible, for the cause he supported, by the wisdom and moderation of his counsels, than he had effected by the edge of the sword. But besides these duties, which circumstances imposed in an especial manner upon the Duke of Wellington, he had to perform, also, the not very easy task of restraining the sternly soldierlike ardour of his Prussian colleague ; and of substituting the recommendations of policy, and the claims of humanity, for those deeply-seated feel. ings of irritation which rankled in the breasts of the Prussian soldiers ; for in them the fresh recollection of outrages and cruelties inflicted upon their country, and of insults heaped upon their Monarch and his family, had raised an almost ungovernable desire of retaliation. The despatches subsequent to the battle of Waterloo, show with how much ability the Duke discharged the various functions thus imposed upon him; and the modesty of his demeanour, and moderation and impartiality of his conduct in the midst of triumphant successes, are not less worthy of admiration than his skill in planning the operations of the campaign, and his vigour in bringing it to a glorious issue. It must also be allowed, that no man has ever earned a more ample acknowledgment of his merits and services, or obtained a stronger mark of general confidence, than that conferred upon the Duke of Wellington by his appointment to the command of the Allied army of occupation, destined to remain during a certain time in France, for the preservation of the peace of that country and of Europe.

The conclusion of the last volume of Colonel Gurwood's compilation, contains an announcement that the despatches which resulted from the above important appointment, are not yet to be given to the public:

• It has been thought advisable,' he says, "here to conclude this work, and not to insert in it, as was proposed in the Introduction, the Despatches of the years 1816, 1817, and 1818—the period of the occupation of France by the Allied army under the Duke of Wellington. The

[ocr errors]

publication of these papers, even at this distance of time, would for many reasons be inconvenient, notwithstanding the change of circumstances.'

This intimation has, no doubt, disappointed many. But the perusal of the despatches which precede it, will supply to all who are fortunate enough to have leisure to read them, an ample guarantee of the competency of the Duke of Wellington's judgment to determine the proper limit which ought just now to be set to the curiosity of the public. As we live, however, in times when the great drama of human affairs seems destined to exhibit a more rapid succession of changes than has ever before occurred, circumstances may perhaps erelong arise to render the fulfilment of the original intention less objectionable than it has been deemed to be at present. In the mean while, the public has obtained access already to a body of original documents of the highest interest and value ; whether contemplated with reference to the transactions which they record, or with reference to the character of the extraordinary man whose career they place before us in a manner so authentic and satisfactory. No man ever before had the gratification of himself witnessing the formation of such a monument to his glory. His despatches will continue to furnish, through every age, lessons of practical wisdom, which cannot be too highly prized by public men of every station ; whilst they will supply to military commanders, in particular, examples for their guidance, which they cannot too carefully study, nor too anxiously endeavour to emulate.

We must not conclude without offering our acknowledgments to the Editor for the manner in which he has discharged the duties intrusted to him. And it is a tribute we consider to be the more justly due, because we have reason to believe that, but for Colonel Gurwood's assiduity, and the confidence deservedly reposed in his talents and integrity, this publication might, in all probability, have been indefinitely postponed.

ART II.-A Tour in Sweden in 1838; comprising Observations

on the Moral, Political, and Economical State of the Swedish Nation. By SAMUEL LAING, Esq., Author of ' A Journal of a Residence in Norway.' 8vo. London: 1839.

[ocr errors]

TH18
This volume was written to complete the picture of the state of

society in the Scandinavian peninsula, the most striking and attractive features of which, Mr Laing delineated in vivid colours in his account of Norway. As the subject of the present work is inferior, so is the manner of its execution. It is treated neither with the same fulness, nor the same care, as the former one. Mr Laing made himself thoroughly acquainted with the condition of Norway, by residing there nearly two years. The satisfactory position of the people of that country under their free constitution, and the charms of nature and of domestic life which he found among them, conspired to engage him with a feeling of cordial interest in the task of searching into and describing their social state. In the condition of Sweden, still in the trammels of feudalism, and depressed, socially and morally, by bad laws and pernicious institutions, he found little to approve, and not much to tempt him to remain in that country longer than was necessary to complete his tour. His observations, put together in the course of a few months, betray many marks of haste, some inconsistencies, and too much anxiety to make out a theory. Nevertheless, his qualifications as a writer of travels, of which we have spoken in our account of his former work, are such, that they cannot fail to make a book of his both interesting and valuable. To trace the effect of institutions so completely the reverse of those of Norway upon the kindred people of Sweden—in close juxtaposition, under the same crown,

with a very

similar climate, and a better soil was an occupation for which he was well suited. Mixing freely with all classes, and making himself acquainted with their habits and pursuits; possessing a knowledge of business, which directed him in his enquiries into the state of agriculture and other branches of industry; and information extensive enough to keep his attention alive to the various subjects that came under his view—he was enabled to form a tolerably fair estimate of the real state of the country, and to penetrate with acuteness into the causes which affect its welfare.

The leading fact which he appears to have made out, and on which he dwells in order to ascertain its cause, is the very low moral condition of the Swedish nation. He states as the result

« السابقةمتابعة »