Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

could grow up in France; every opposition must be the faction of the ex-emperor, and its tendency must be rebellious. The rest of Europe, as well as France, had the same interest in his effectual confinement; and no country more than our own. To say nothing of the interest which we above all nations have in a peaceable neighbourhood being maintained, the progress of improvement at home was not merely checked, but nearly stopt, by the universal prevalence of alarm, while the greatest of all our dangers continue to menace from abroad. To every proposition of reform, how temperate soever, one answer was ready. The storm still rages without, threatening each moment to • level all before it; this is no time for touching the beams in 5 order to repair our house; let the hurricane pass away, and we

shall then strengthen the building by removing what time has • rotted.'-Any attempt to secure Buonaparte's person, which did not manifestly render his liberation impracticable, would have left too much ground for men's fears, to get over this constant objection to all wise measures, and this standing defence of all misgovernment and abuse.

It seems equally clear, that England was the power most fit to be entrusted with the custody of his person. Our interest in the publick peace of Europe was less biassed by selfish considerations; we were less likely to use our power over him as a means of annoyance to others; our high character for honour and humanity, gave a pledge that no unnecessary harshness would be used, and no ground afforded for the suspicions usually attendant upon the keepers of dethroned Monarchs when they pay the debt of nature before the accustomed time.

The place chosen, is admitted by all competent judges to be well adapted to the main object of perfect and manifest security, with no other drawbacks upon the comfort of the prisoner than its distance and its confined limits-both of which are essentially necessary for fulfilling the conditions, both being required to render the confinement complete, and to make its completeness apparent. For these reasons, no opposition seems to have been offered in the House of Commons, and hardly any in the Lords, to the Bills for enabling the Government to detain Buonaparte. The necessity of the measure was universally felt, and the reasonableness of the provisions for carrying it into effect, admitted. No man, however, was barbarous enough to assert, that the 'confinement should be perpetual ; all seemed ready to grant, that as soon as the peace of France and of Europe would allow of his liberation, this celebrated prisoner should be set free. This was also stated in express terms, we believe on all sides, during the very brief discussion which arose on the question,

III. It was understood with equal distinctness,—and indeed every consideration of justice, of humanity, of policy, plainly dictates,—that the smallest degree of restraint necessary for safe custody, is alone to be employed. The confinement is merely for securing his person, and not at all for punishing him. The necessity which alone justified the imprisonment, ought to limit its rigours. We have no right to impose a single restriction upon him, that is not absolutely necessary for preventing his escape. It is becoming the generosity of the English character, that so great an enemy, now fallen so low, and by the fortune of war placed in our hands, should be treated with every indulgence which his safe custody will allow. The case is unprecedented; it rests on its own merits. The detention, though repugnant to no principle in the law of nations, can be sanctioned by no express authority, nor justified by any former example. The peculiar exigence of the situation; the extremity of the case--must be the surest ground of the proceeding; and the plea of necessity, proverbially so often abused by power, is, after all, the best defence of our conduct. In circumstances like these, a regard for our own character, as well as for what is right in itself, imperiously prescribes the duty and the policy of rather erring on the side of indulgence. It concerns the honour of the country most materially, to inquire whether this line of conduct has been pursued. A very general belief prevails, both in England and on the Continent, that the treatment of the prisoner is unnecessarily harsh. The unfortunate, no doubt, are apt to complain beyond measure. The friends who still adhere to fallen greatness, are prone to exaggeration, while they echo those complaints,-the rather that they feel a sort of excuse for an artifice which, if not pious, is at least disinterested. Much of what has appeared, therefore, we lay wholly aside in our endeavours to ascertain the kind of treatment which Buonaparte experiences; and we confine ourselves at present to the consideration of the documents recently given to the publick by Mr O'Meara, the respectability of whose character is beyond all question,--the facts stated by whom have been wholly uncontradicted,

When we speak thus of Mr O'Meara, it is not merely in consequence of private inquiries among persons abundantly competent to judge, and altogether unprejudiced in his favour ; ample testimony is publickly borne to his character by Doctor Ferguson, a gentleman high on the Medical Staff, and who has long been honoured with the friendship of the Duke of Glo'ster, having lived formerly in his family, and whose own respectable family is well known and esteemed in the city where we write. It is through Dr Ferguson, who describes him as his most intimate friend,' that Mr O'Meara has given his correspondence to the publick. Captain Maitland, to whom Buonaparte surrendered, adds his unequivocal sanction to the evidence of Dr Ferguson; he states, that during his whole experience in the navy, he never had the pleasure of sailing with an officer in his situation who so fully met his expectations;' he adds, that he has every reason to believe his professional abilities to be of the first class, and that this is the opinion of some of the oldest and most respectable surgeons in the navy;'-that during a very sickly period on board his ship, « his attention and tenderness to the men were such as to call forth his warmest approbation, and the grateful affection of both officers and men; '--and that, had he another ship, he knows no man in the service he should wish to have for surgeon so much as Mr O'Meara.'

The manner of his appointment to St Helena next merits our attention. The place was not of his own seeking—but bestowed in consequence of Captain Maitland's recommendation, who applied to Lord Keith for the assistance of Mr O'Meara in his professional capacity. His Lordship approved of the proposition, and most strongly advised him to accept of it ; * he also applied to the Admiralty, and recommended the appointment, which was regularly made by that Board. In consenting to go, Mr O'Meara made it a special condition that he should be considered as a British officer, paid by the British government, and in no wise dependent upon Buonaparte; that his name should be

* Lord K.'s words were these- It is not in my power to order s you to accept of it, as it is out of the naval service, and is a bu

siness altogether extraordinary, and must be voluntary on your part: But I, as Commander-in-Chief, will authorize you to accept • of it; and I advise you most strongly to do so, as I am convinced

the Government will be obliged to you; and it is a situation which may, with propriety and honour, be held by an Englishman.'There can be no doubt, that the gallant admiral, who is as incapable of wishing to insult or harass, or wear out by ill treatment, the health and the life of the celebrated captive, as he would be of declining to meet him in fair hostility, deemed it clear that the English government must be desirous of placing about his person a skilful and honest physician, as a guarantee against any unfair practice, and to prevent any suspicion of the kind from resting upon the character of the country. This is plainly the meaning of his anxiety that Mr Omeara should go to St Helena. If Sir H. Lowe had felt, in all respects, like his Lordship, he would have been less apt, we should think, to demean himself in such a manner as to render Mr O'Meara's stay there impossible.

continued on the navy list, and his time go on for promotion in the service. He stood therefore, in every respect, upon the same footing with Sir Hudson Lowe-and with a character fully as unsullied; he was appointed by the same authority that sent the Governor there,-commissioned to perform what was also one of his Excellency's first duties, to watch over Buonaparte's safety,--and exposed to no restrictions, nor subjected to any jurisdiction other than the laws of his country and of the service, to which his superior officer was equally bound to conform.

It now appears, however, that Mr O'Meara had the misfortune to incur the displeasure of Sir H. Lowe. It is pretty clear that they soon differed upon the degree of harshness fit to be shown towards their charge : But although less important circumstances may have first given rise to a coolness between them, their first open disagreement had a very remarkable origin. Sir H. Lowe, it seems, thought proper to require that Mr O'Meara should repeat to him the substance of all his conversations with Buonaparte. He told him, that he was no judge of the importance of their subjects '--that he had no business to set up his own judgment on the nature of them '—and that he might consider several things of great importance as trifling and uninteresting.' To this most strange demand Mr O'Meara replied, that $ such conduct on his part would cover him with well-mèrited infamy, and render him unfit for the society of any man of honour;' and he justly added, that any physician who could insinuate himself into the confidence of his patient, and avail himself of the frequent opportunities necessarily afforded of being near his person, to wring from him disclosures of his sentiments and opinions for the purpose of betraying them, under pretence of curing or alleviating his infirmities, and in that confidence which has been, from time immemorial, reposed, by the sick in persons professing the healing art, would deserve to be branded with the appellation of a police spy.' That such were not his Excellency's notions of professional delicacy, and that he was somewhat impatient of contradiction, upon his own peculiar ideas regarding this subject, is sufficiently manifest from the following statement, addressed to him by Mr O'Meara, in December 1817, and wholly uncontradicted ever since~ It is with • infinite pain, Sir, that I feel myself obliged to refer to the ig6 nominious treatment which I have suffered from you in your own

house, especially upon two occasions. Were I culpable, even

a court-martial could not authorize the intemperate and oppro• brious epithets so liberally bestowed upon me, and being twice

turned out of doors in the presence of witnesses; the last time not without apprehensions, on my part, of experiencing personal violence. I have, Sir, had the honour to serve my cun

try in the royal navy for several years, until now without cen6 sure, and, perhaps, not without some little commendation; and ' I must protest against any person, however superior to me in 5 rank, making use of language and treatment towards me un

worthy of, and degrading to an officer who has the honour to 6 serve in his Majesty's navy.'.

Among other points of difference, one which the governor appears highly to have prized, was the etiquette relating to the name by which Buonaparte should be called in the medical reports; as if it could possibly signify a straw to the tranquillity of Europe, whether those bulletins, seen only by the prisoner himself and by our government, gave one title or another to a person confined in the closest custody on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

All these differences, however, and chiefly the refusal of Mr O'Meara to betray the most delicate kind of professional confidence, produced a positive, and, we believe, all who read the act of Parliament, will admit, an illegal order from the governor, confining him to Longwood, unless in certain specified cases. A British officer evidently could not submit to be treated as a French prisoner, merely because he had refused to act as a spy; and the Doctor sent in his resignation, unless the order should be immediately rescinded; demanding at the same time, to be tried by a competent tribunal, if the governor had any charge to bring against him. The resignation was accepted; but attempts were made to show that the order did not place him under such restraints as the French were liable to. Much was said of his disobedience in presuming to write a letter to Bertrand; and a general charge of neglecting instructions was repeatedly made. As to the restrictions, Mr O'Meara answered (nor can any reply be given to the answer), that none of the French were prevented by law from leaving Longwood; the accusation of writing a letter, he desired might be examined by a court-martial, as he could not comprehend its import; and to the more general charge, he answered, that he never had received any instructions to guide his intercourse with Buonaparte, except general and verbal " insinuations, which left him to his own discretion, although he had constantly requested that they might be reduced to writing.

In the mean time, the state of Buonaparte's health was growing daily worse; and he would suffer no one but Mr O'Meara to attend him. This distrust may perhaps seem not wholly unreasonable, to those who reflect that he had chosen this skilful and honourable attendant himself, and had witnessed, on the governor's part, a constant disposition to thwart him, and a line of conduct, calculated by its tendency, if not by its intention, to drive him from the station. This appears to be a ground of

« AnteriorContinuar »