« AnteriorContinuar »
those duties. If they are duties which require extraordinary qualifications in the person who is to perform then*, let General Lake, or tho Commander-in-Chief at Fort St. George, or anybody else, be charged with them. But, surely, it is not exactly reasonable to expect that I should remain in a subordinate situation, contrary to my inclination, only to involve myself in fresh troubles and difficulties. I am positively determined that, whether the Governor-General goes or stays, X quit India as soon as Holkar will be defeated.'
We have italicized certain portions of this somewhat long extract, which is taken from the same letter as we quoted above, in order to point out how different were General Wellesley's real feelings from those which Mr. Gleig, following upon other writers, has thought proper to ascribe to him. His views in life -were to be advanced, his inclinations were to be consulted, and the Commander-in-Chief at Fort St. George, or General Lake, or anybody else, might undertake such services as required to be performed. Verily, the Great Duke was, after all, a man, with feelings, and desires, and inclinations, somewhat like the rest of us. Mr. Gleig says,—' The Duke's Indian Correspondence now before the world, shows that in every situation he paid strict regard to the principles of duty, and to that alone.' We do not by any means think that the principle of duty — thus pressed upon Arthur Wellesley by John Malcolm, and frequently enough pressed upon others by Arthur, Duke of Wellington—was in this instance sacrificed to self-interest, for he had served in India for nine years, had finished the work in hand, and was entitled to decline involving himself in fresh troubles and difficulties. He was not obliged by duty to remain in a subordinate position when he felt himself entitled to a higher one; and he judged correctly enough that men could be found in India to do what the public service required. Still it is plain that there was no affectation of any severe or romantic devotion to the abstract principle of duty. There was a reasonable human sense of what would be agreeable and profitable to himself. 'Sail or sell,' said the Duke to the subaltern. 'A European career for me,' said Arthur Wellesley to himself, and to Malcolm, when he thought he had been long enough in India. On the 4th of February, 1805, Malcolm writes much in the same strain to Major Shawe, and in the end of that letter he lets us into the secret of General Wellesley's illness.
'I mentioned the General being unwell. Ho appears plagued with a slow fover. He frets himself, which I never knew him do before. Ho told me yesterday he believed his illness was partly caused by the anxiety and vexation of not being able to decide, in a manner satisfactory to himself, the question of going to Europe. He thinks he
has tis been shamefully used in not being put upon the Staff, &c., &c As he goes lean, I get into condition. I am now as stout as ever •g»in-'
In writing, however, to Malcolm after embarkation, General H'ellesley persuades himself that his inclinations coincide with tbe wants of the public service, thus,—
'I cannot express to you the concern which I felt at leaving Madras. Indeed, I feel if; still; but I am convinced that I never took a step with the propriety of which I have so much reason to be satisfied, whether I view it in relation to my privato views, or to the public interests.'
And again from St. Helena,—
'I am convinced that if I had not quitted India, I should have had a serious fit of illness. I was wasting away daily; and latterly, when at Madras, I found my strength failed, which had always before held oat. I do not recollect for many years to have been so well as I have felt latterly, particularly since I havo been here.'
So that, as Mr. Rave remarks, 'he speedily recovered under the invigorating influence of the sea-breezes, and the tranquillity of niind resulting from a settled purpose.'
In 1807, again, Colonel Malcolm was writing to Sir Arthur Wellesley in the most impressive manner, endeavouring to persuade him to return to India. He said, in the course of a long letter,—
'You know mo incapable of flattery; my opinion may on this occasion be erroneous, but it is fixed beyond the power of being altered, that upon your appointment to be Governor and Conimanderiu-Chief of Madras, the actual preservation of that part of our British Empire may in a great degree depend.'
And Sir Arthur replied on the 15th of October, 1807, from Dublin Castle,—
'But I have no inclination to refuse my services in that country if they should be called for at present, or to do anything here to servo those for whom I must ever retain the strongest sentiments of gratitude and affection. I don't think it probable that I shall bo called upon to po to India; the fact is, that men in power in England think very little of that country; and those who do think of it, feel very little inclination that I should go there. Besides that, I have got pretty high upon the tree since I came here, and thoso in power think that I cannot well be spared from objects nearer home. At tho same time the Indians in London are crying out for my return.'
On the other hand, he strongly recommended Malcolm not to return to England as long as he could retain his office, and as
his his health would allow of his remaining in India. He set forth in glowing colours, in this and in a former letter, the heavy expenses that residence in England entailed, and represented that Malcolm could not exist without a much larger fortune than he possessed, and would find difficulty in getting employed in the line to which he was so well suited and had been accustomed.
In after years, when Lord Wellington was working his way in the Spanish Peninsula, Malcolm was again communicating all his schemes to him, and asking his advice; and the following extracts from a letter dated from near Pampeluna, 26th June, 1813, are interesting, as showing to what he attributed his own rise in life, and how he advised his friend to follow in his steps, as well as expressing his feelings in regard to the comparative efficiency of his own troops and those of the enemy :—
'Although I had long been in habits of friendship with the public men of the day, and had some professional claims to public notice when I returned to England, I believe I should have been but little known, and should not bo what I am, if I had not gone into Parliament. I would, therefore, advise you to go into Parliament if you can afford it, if you look to high public employment. I likewise recommend to you not to fix yourself upon Lord Wellesley, or any other great man. You are big enough, unless much altered, to walk alone; and you will accomplish your object soonest in that way. Don't, however, be in a hurry.
'You will hear of events here. I have taken more guns from these fellows in the last action than 1 took at Assayc, without much more loss, upon about seventy thousand men engaged. The two armies were nearly equal in numbers, but they cannot stand us now at all.'
And he says in another letter of August 1813, which is also published in the latest edition of Gurwood :—
'You had better adhcro to your objects in India. Get into Parliament if you can afford it; be nobody's man but your own, and you will soon be known, and will get on.'
There is much of interest in regard to the Duke in a later part of 'Malcolm's Life' to which we shall again refer. In the mean time we return to his arrival in England from India, as Sir Arthur Wellesley, K.C.B., in September, 1805. The voyage occupied five months, including one month enjoyed in the 'beautiful and salubrious island of Saint Helena.' Omitting the fruitless expedition to Hanover at the close of the year, Mr. Gleig duly records some of his interviews with, and letters respecting, the most remarkable men of the day, his measures for defending his brother's administration in India, his entering Parliament for the borough of Rye (where the 'Government
interest was paramount'), and his appointment to the command of the Hastings district. Much merit is attributed to Sir Arthur for accepting this command. Mr. Gleig says, at page 49 :—
'Had ho looked upon this as a slight rather than a favour, no one ciald have been surprised. The descent was striking enough from die management of great armies in the field, to the routine duty of drilling and inspecting two or three battalions at a home station. But Sir Arthur never for a moment took so unworthy a view of the matter, - I have eaten the King's salt," was his reply to some who remarked on the arrangement, " and consider myself bound to go where I am sent, «ikJ to do as I am ordered."'
We think the point itself is much overstrained. No one knew better than Sir Arthur the wisdom of accepting the first home command that was offered to him. Those who look upon such appointments as slights rather than favours do not get on in the world. His brother was not at the head of affairs in England. The Duke of York promised him employment, and offered him die first suitable command that he had to bestow. It was hardly so unimportant as has been represented. The present Duke says, in his Preface to vol. v. 'Supplemental Despatches.' 'In February, 1806, he was posted to a brigade of infantry stationed on the coast of Sussex, in readiness to resist an expected invasion by Napoleon Buonaparte.' Having returned from splendid prospects in India, expressly with views of European service, he was not likely, with the sound sense that he possessed, to throw away any chance that might tend towards ultimate success. Did be not write to Malcolm, 'Don't however be in a hurry?' We next come to Sir Arthur's appointment, with 8000/. a year, to the Chief Secretaryship of Ireland, in which office, amongst other important trusts, the duty was committed to him, of 'managing what were called the political influences of Ireland,' which 'had been done time out of mind, with just so much of disguise, as to render the corruption over which the veil was assumed to be thrown doubly hideous.' Mr. Gleig has often heard him 'speak of the political system of that period, and always in the same terms.' And the following are some of the expressions which he attributes to him, in the course of a conversation,—
'But if the object sought be the best possible Government, and if that Government cannot be obtained except through the venality of individuals, you surely won't blame those who turn even the moral weaknesses of individuals to good account ?'....' I am one of those who believe that no nation has thriven, or ever will thrive, nnder a scramble. And, therefore, since I cannot command a majority
in in favour of order, except by influence, I am willing to use influence, even though the particular manner of using it may go against the
grain '* It is in counties, and in what are called open boroughs,
that the influence of Government tells most, particularly in Ireland, where in my day at least, almost every man of mark in the state had his price.'
And in the summary of his character Mr. Gleig further remarks:—
'His Irish Administration has, indeed, been described by some writers as disfigured by the grossest jobbery. Is this fair? Is this candid? Certainly Sir Arthur Wellesley jobbed; but let us not forget that in those days Government was avowedly carried on by influence; and that influence, especially in Ireland, meant pensions, places, and hard cash.' . . . . ' He was, perhaps, the most open, and therefore the most honest, trafficker in Parliamentary support that ever bartered place or pension for votes. He never affected to believe in the principles of his correspondents. He knew them to be venal, and he bribed them because it was his duty to the Government which he served to do so.'
But he contradicts himself lower in the same page,—
'He will not arrive at an end justifiable in itself, by means whichcannot he justified. He will never do evil that good may come.'
And again in the following page,—
'Whatever partook, or seemed to partake, of the crooked or disingenuous, was abhorrent to his nature; nor would any considerations of probable gain even to the country induce him to take part in it.'
Looking back upon the Duke's history as a whole, we certainlv feel inclined to exclaim, 'que diable faisait-il dans cette galere.' How came he thus to be made a willing and able instrument of the grossest corruption? No doubt had he refused to govern Ireland by applying to its inhabitants the only motives by which they could be induced to act, he would have done very differently from the public men of that day. Lord Cornwallis, for instance, had a keen sense of the discredit which attached to jobbing of every kind, and in his Indian letters he descants with the utmost acrimony upon the conduct of men as upright as himself, whom he conceives to have practised it—yet in his Irish correspondence he describes * himself as engaged carrying on a system of corruption. But he was
* 'Cornwallis Despatches,' iii. 39 (a.d. 1799). 'Yon, who know how I detest a. job, will be sensible of the difficulties which I must often have to keep my temper; but still the object [the Union] is great, and perhaps the salvation of the British empire may depend upon it. I shall therefore as much as possible overcome my detestation of the work in which I am engaged and work on steadily to my point.'