Imagens das páginas

avowed in the old established monarchies of Europe. No doubt they meant well, and their eagerness to succeed, perhaps borried them to the brink of that precipice into which they afterwards fell. Without reflecting that the Continental monarchs, in the plenitude of their power and acting in concert, haid adopted, or in practice were prepared to enforce, the maxim that Charters and the definitions of such rights as the people are entitled to can only be derived from themselves, the Portuguese legislators adopted the Constitution of a neighboring State, trusting to time and their own subsequent efforts for the cure of its defects :' they, in short, erred in the means, although their intentions were good.

In the meanwhile, the people implicitly trusting to the labors of their representatives, were unconscious of the course the latter had taken in the performance of their legislative duties, and alike unaware of the intrigues and opposition by which their new order of things was beset. The nobles had hitherto monopolised the chief offices of trust and emolument in the State, and besides enjoyed many privileges and distinctions, from the nature of their habits and education, flattering to their vanity and self-love, yet only specious and empty in the opinion of other nations, where merit is the true standard of pre-eminence: they and their families held the chief judicial, colonial, diplomatic and military appointments; and moreover, the largest church benefices and crown property were at their disposal. To distinguish them from the other orders of the community, and convert them into beings of a superior nature, they were decked with stars and crosses, on which the people were accustomed to look with a degree of awe and veneration. If any one from the middle ranks in life was allowed to join this phalanx, by which the throne was continually surrourded, it was some flatterer who had gained the ear of the Sovereign, or some reptile who had crawled his way through the various intricacies of the palace. It was natural therefore to expect that the pobles and their immediate dependants, with some exceptions, would oppose a Constitution which opened the door to merit, and did not distinguish them as a particular and separate body in the State. The high clergy, that is, the bishops and canons, were also unfavorable to a change, so sudden and important, which curtailed their revenues, and loosened the hold they had hitherto had on the credulity of the people. The judges of the upper courts, no longer able to sell their verdicts to the highest bidder, and stripped of privileges which rendered them the disposers of life and death in the districts intrasted to their administration,

repined at innovations which made them amenable to justice, and answerable to the tribunal of public opinion. i

These are the three classes chiefly opposed to the consolidation of changes which could not fail to affect them most materially; yet the people at large by no means shared either their sentiments, or partook of their apprehensions. In these three classes themselves, there were besides some exceptions. Many of the nobles, residing in the provinces and unaccustomed to court intrigues, disdained the petty strife in which their town colleagues were engaged. The operative clergy, those intrusted with the care of souls, generally speaking, were also favorable to reform. The local magistrates and those invested with municipal power, were perhaps among the most strenuous supporters of the constitutional system, being the best judges of the incipient advantages it produced to the people, notwithstanding its glaring defects. They had the fairest opportunity of contrasting the past with the present, and their conclusions were the result of conviction. The merchants and land-owners; the artisans and manufacturers, as well as the literati, unconnected with the University of Coimbra, or independent of endowments in the gift of the crown, were also anxious to enjoy the benefits of civil and political freedom; and with these hopes many exhilarating recollections, derived from their national history, were moreover exultingly blended.

The King returned from Rio de Janeiro, and the first acts of the Cortes were carried into full effect, without any thing like an organised opposition having shown itself. Retrenchment, bowever, was the touchstone that soon served to mark the real state of public opinion ; this was the firebrand which set the whole community in a blaze: yet retrenchment was unavoidable, if the regeneration of the country was intended, and it could only commence where it was most wanted. From the Treasury returns, it had been seen that the army alone consumed one-half of the annual revenue of the State; that the system of its administration was extremely defective, and the establishment out of all proportion to the wants of the country in times of peace. Thus it happened that the army which had been created to repel the aggressions of the French, and through the whole of the struggle had faithfully and courageously co-operated with us, became a dead weight on the State; and, in the sequel, a large portion of it unbappily covered itself with disgrace. The number of officers was, moreover, exorbitant, and continually pressing heavier on the public purse, in consequence of the quick and extravagant pro

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

motions, so frequent in the course of the year, and periodically
resorted to in order to commemorate the birth-days of the
several members of the royal family.
. This, therefore, was the department which called for the
earliest reform; and, as a public question, infinitely wote
urgent and interesting than that of the monks and friars; yet,
no sooner was it known that the government contemplated a
reduction, than an esprit de corps was roused, and actually
the army threatened and overawed the Cortes, to sucba
degree, that they did not dare even to propose a measure for
the purpose.

A few regiments had aided in the Oporto revolution; and this support served to enbance the demands of the whole army, and taught it to know the importance it was of in the State. So imposing, in fact, was the attitude the army then assumed, that the most popular speakers in the Cortes--those who were unceasingly declaiming against abusos, demanding retrenchment, and attacking the other classes in the State-never once dared to lift up their voices against an overgrown military establishment, which was preying on the very vitals of the country. In justice to some regiments, it must, however, be confessed, that they stood firm to the Constitutional system to the very last; and when the troops belonging to the province of Tras-os-Montes, for the first time, at the instigation of the Silveira family, raised the standard of rebellion, in February, 1823, these faithful troops and the gallant officers by whom they were led on, hastened to repel the enemies of the new order of things, and did not cease the pursuit until the mutineers had found a sure asylum within the Spanish territory. Nevertheless, from the moment the Cortes were unable to pursue their plans of retrenchment, their efforts were paralysed, and their deliberations marked by a wavering and unsteady aim. Writers were hired to cry down the new institutions every engine was, in short, set to work to bring them into disrepute. The separation of Brazil, brought about by the fulness of time, and an event which it was not in the power of any government in Portugal to control or delay, tended to alienate many merchants and manufacturers who had hitherto been strenuous in their adhesion to the new government, because they were themselves disappointed in the erroneous calculations they had made, and in the narrow-minded views they had taken on the subject. Still a public spirit remained firm and favorable to the new order of things, which bid defiance to all its enemies, and even resisted the foreign intrigues which the latter had called in to their support.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Defective as the adopted Constitution had been in its origin, and little improved by the modifications through which it afterwards passed; great as was the clamor of the privileged orders, and alarming the attitude assumed by some of the Pretorian guards; bleeding at the moment as was the wound occasioned by the loss of Brazil, and great the activity of the numerous agents spread by France to create discontent and further her own schemes of political and mercantile competition; roused as was the power of the nobles and clergy; blaspbemously invoked as was the name of religion on this occasion, and immense the sums of money expended to bribe and corrupt; weak and spiritless as was the government'and the Cortes, by the errors into which they had both fallen ; unmasked, as had been, in the course of time, the interested views or incapacity of several of the leaders of the late' revolution, and treason and desertion staring the people full in the face'; plotting as were the principal members of the royal family, and a weak and timid monarch at the head of the executive still the Constitution was triumphant, because the people had already began to partake of its benefits; they had been relieved from many burdens; their confidence, although shaken, was not destroyed; and God only knows what would have been the result, if it had not been for a variety of events which filled the friends of liberty in Portugal with terror and dismay. · War had, for some time, been proclaimed by the Bourbons of France directly against the Constitution of Spain, and indirectly against that of Portugal, when the Silveira revolt, as forming part of the general scheme, broke out in Trás-osMontes, and the engines of bribery were already in full play. Soon the French army crossed the Bidassoa, and a division reached Valladolid. The King and Cortes of Spain were already on their road to Seville, and the utmost consterna

tion prevailed throughout the whole Peninsula. Encouraged -- by the approach of an arniy, advancing to their aid, and doubly so by the professions of the chief members of the Holy Alliance, by which it had been preceded, the Serviles in Portugal redoubled their efforts, and seized the golden opportunity before them. Sepulveda, like the traitors of Spain, 1 Abisbal, Morillo, and Ballasteros, joined a counter-revolution, plotted in furtherance of the general scheme, and in con

formity to a preconcerted plan. This was the signal for tlie 1.23d regiment to desert; and two days afterwards the regulars bin garrison, with Sepulveda at their head, followed its exIr ample, and marched off to Santarem. 17. This, my Lord, is à faithful outline of the great crisis

[ocr errors]

which brought the Constitution of Portugal to the ground, and subsequently converted Spain into a Colony of France, The errors of the Cortes certainly served as a handle to their enemies; yet the wishes of the Holy Alliance would never have been realised, if an army of 100,000 Frenchmen, with the Duke d’Angouleme at their bead, and ample funds for all kinds of purposes at his command, bad not crossed the Pyrenees. Without this powerful, irresistible aid, as well as the immense moral means by which it was accompanied, there were still sufficient energy and devotion left in Portugal to support the new order of things, notwithstanding the defection of the troops and the hostility of the leading members of the royal family. As already stated, in February, 1823, the Silveira revolt, concerted in Paris and supported by five regiments, purchased in Chaves and Braganza, as well as aided by abundance of money and great family connexions, was nevertheless defeated by the Constitutional troops, its abettors driven from the Portuguese territory, and this fresh demonstration celebrated as a national victory throughout all the faithful provinces of the kingdom. To the very last, Lisbon and Oporto remained true to the representative system; and, in the extreme emergency, bad the king only sided with his people had he followed his own feelings, and consulted his real honor and the prosperity of his realm, be would never have become the instrument of Pamplona's vengeance and ambition, or the victim of so many subsequent calamities. The volunteer corps and national guards alone, seconded by the efforts of the people, would have saved him from disgrace, and spared him the agonising pangs he was afterwards compelled to endure.

In a word, King John VI. yielding to the persuasions of courtiers, quitted the capital, forsook the path on which he had entered, and from that moment every thing was reversed. On the 2d of June, 1823, the Cortes assembled for the last time, and signed a declaration, purporting that “as they had been abandoned by the Executive Power, and were no longer able to carry into effect the wishes of their constituents, they deemed it most expedient to suspend their sittings,” &c. &c.

Where, in all this, do we find, my Lord, that the people of Portugal were the forgers of their own chaius; or, in other words, that they then spurned the benefits which they had began to reap from the regeneration of their country? Whence is it the conclusion is drawn that they are unfit to enjoy the blessings of civil and political freedom, adapted to their wants i or disposed to hug the fetters to wbich unhappily


« AnteriorContinuar »