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If there be a country in the world which it would be wise policy to leave uninterfered with, it is Spain. Poor, obstinate, bigoted, shut up in a remote corner of Europe, and unmoved by the current or progressive ideas of the day, Spain has every quality that should deter a conqueror, with little calculated to attract one. The mad scheme of subduing all the coasts of Europe, in order to banish English commerce from them, is scarcely sufficient reason. It merely compelled those populations living by the sea to try to exist, that is, suffer and starve, without it. Such were the effects of Napoleon's enforced exclusion of English, which then implied all, trade or navigation upon Holland and the Baltic provinces, Russia included, as well as those of the Mediterranean, Italy suffering as much as Holland.
In striving to strike at England the French ruler really dealt blows upon himself. For he created enmity and disaffection towards his government and its tyranny in the breasts of the entire maritime population of the Con. tinent, and by consequence in those of their rulers.
But Napoleon could not believe, but that the possession of the entire peninsula of Spain must give him some prize npon their vast colonial empires. Unfortunately, too, if Spain as a country did not tempt invasion, the character of its government and royal family did. It is difficult to account satisfactorily for the decay of all intellect and all energy in whatever race has had the misfortune to occupy the Spanish throne. The facility with which the people submit to despotism, the incense with which it worships the throne and suffocates its holders, as well as the ignorant and stupid bigotry of the priesthood, which thrive in such an atmosphere and monopolise power and respect, are not sufficient to explain the deperdition of every royal Spanish race. The qualities to be remarked of the Spanish Bourbons at the commencement of the century were those observable of animals in their lair—imbecility, dissoluteness, ferocity,
CHAP. mutual hate, intellect never reaching higher than cunn
ing, with a religion that was the fetichism of a savage rather than the creed of the rational being. A paramour, who had been the guardsman Godoy, and was created Prince of the Peace, governed the Queen, who governed the King. All these detested the heir to the throne, Ferdinand, who made ample returns of that sentiment. Napoleon began by cajoling Godoy, and making him an instrument to invade Portugal with the bait of an independent sovereignty.
The Spaniards, as was natural, did not display any great devotion to French interests. And Napoleon resolved to send a French army under a French general, Junot, to the conquest of Lisbon. A treaty was drawn up and signed by the two courts, by which Portugal was to be partitioned. The Prince of the Peace was to have the northern portion as a monarchy for himself. The French were to keep Lisbon and the central provinces. The King of Etruria, a Spanish Bourbon, was to be monarch of the Algarves or south of Portugal, Napoleon, of course, taking Etruria. This was the understanding under which Junot led the expedition. The march of the French army across Spain soon aroused the suspicions of the court of the Escurial. But a sudden and dangerous illness of the King turned its attention to what seemed more pressing, the probable accession of Ferdinand. Godoy sought to avert this and laid plans for the purpose. Ferdinand, to escape them, appealed to Napoleon, and offered to marry a French princess, which his mother and her favourite discovering, Ferdinand was arrested. He was menaced with being put upon his trial, but, on his submission and betrayal of supposed accomplices, was set at liberty.
Napoleon, appealed to by both parties, answered or evaded answer by strengthening Junot's force, and precipitating his march. Yet it was little more than 25,000 men, at the head of which that general crossed
the Pyrenees in mid October. Totally ignorant of Spain, CHAP.
XLIII. he considered it the fittest period for marching across a southern country. But the French soon found an inclement winter, and no supplies whatever. They managed, however, to approach Lisbon towards the end of November. And the French official journal having declared that the House of Braganza had forfeited the throne in consequence of its refusal to seize all English merchandise, the royal representatives of that house embarked themselves and their valuables and set sail for the Brazils, leaving Lisbon to the French general and
Junot's easy victory and unopposed occupation of Lisbon did not prevent several French corps from passing the Pyrenees after him. Their presence on the Ebro alarmed the Spanish court, which intelligence from Paris augmented. Godoy and the Queen, therefore, seriously determined to imitate the court of Lisbon, fly to Cadiz, and embark for the colonies. It was not so easy for them to accomplish. The court, however, removed to Aranjuez, a palace south of Madrid, for the purpose. When, on the 16th of March, 1808, the people, suspecting the intended flight of the royal family, raised an insurrection to prevent it, plundered the residence of the favourite, and strove to discover in order to kill him. He escaped, but the King and Queen were not the less counselled to sign their abdication in favour of Ferdinand. Murat, commanding the French troops, took advantage of the disorder to occupy Madrid. And Ferdinand betaking himself thither, received, instead of hisrecognition, orders from the French general to proceed to Bayonne. It was strange, that so mistrustful a personage should have followed such advice. Stranger still, that the King and Queen, who had abdicated, adopted the same resolution. Like foolish birds, the entire royal family of Spain hurried off to Bayonne, to throw themselves into the arms of Napoleon. The Snonish people
foresaw the result, and divined the trick. They rose in insurrection at Madrid, but were sabred and cannonaded into submission. As for the Spanish King, Queen, and Prince, whilst engaged in their mutual recriminations at Bayonne, they found themselves, one and all, set aside, compelled to abdicate in favour of the French Emperor, and then separate for captivity in different provinces of France.
It seems strangely providential, that Napoleon should have taken the means best calculated to rouse the Spaniards to self-exertion and popular resistance. Had he provoked the royal family to flight, or even flung Ferdinand into the arms of the insurrection, the latter would have had a fool and a bigot to direct it, and the French Emperor would not have been chargeable with a mean act of treachery, that filled every Spanish breast with indignation. Alison describes Napoleon's conduct as wise, so far as human policy was considered, but controlled by the superior wisdom of Providence. We can descry much cunning but no wisdom in Napoleon's treatment of the Spanish dynasty and people. His deepest-laid schemes defeated themselves.
There are several ways of conquering a country. That hitherto practised by Napoleon, was to beat the armies of the ruling dynasty, and so terrify it into submission. In Spain he chose to begin by sweeping the dynasty away, and leaving only the people to deal with. For the people he had a thorough contempt, and knew but the one way of dealing with them-terror. * The Spanish people were too scattered for this. Madrid is a capital merely in being the residence of the court. In Spain each province has its centre and its character, and there is no one spot, the castigation or annihilation of which would terrify the rest. Napoleon therefore embarked upon an ocean when he invaded the Penin.
* His correspondence passim,
sula. He might cut through its waters gallantly, but CHAP. storms and waves rose behind and before him, and even the thunder of cannon could not silence the popular cries.
The first military operations of the French in Spain proved how ignorant they and their commander were of the country. Not content with possessing Madrid and the provinces between it and France, they tried to master the capitals of the eastern portion of the kingdom, meeting with desperate resistance at Saragossa and Valencia, the last repelling them altogether. At the same time a large force was poured into Andalusia to capture Cadiz and reduce the province by a mere cavalcade. The Spaniards were not idle. Their Juntas placed several armies on foot, to the equipment of which England equally contributed, and these soon menaced the communications of the French, both between Madrid and Bayonne, and between Andalusia and the Castiles. The Spaniards had, indeed, small chance in the field against the veteran troops and generals of France, and should have carefully avoided, especially at first, any great action. But General Cuesta was too anxious to measure his strength with Marshal Bessières, who totally defeated him in the battle of Rio Seco (July 1808). Castanos was more successful against Dupont in Andalusia. This general had taken and sacked Cordova, but, instead of marching immediately to Cadiz, had lingered in the conquered town, and, threatened in front by Castanos, whilst his communications with Madrid over the Sierra Morena were equally menaced, thought it prudent to retreat. This emboldened the Spaniards, and encouraged them to assume the offensive. Dupont, moreover, divided his forces, and allowed the Spaniards to intervene between his divisions. The result was defeat, and the capitulation of the French at Baylen, about the same time that Bessières triumphed at Rio Seco.