Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

the feeling of honor and independence, accompanied by sentiments of freedom ; for how could the latter be wanting, where honor and independence were known to reside; more particularly in a nation which, in order to secure its own regeneration, did not go elsewhere to seek men or foreign aid.

In order to form a just conception of Spain, as she stood in 1808, it is necessary to know all that was done from the very moment of the invasion ; the ineans used, the spirit by which the nation was led, the obstacles met with, and the difficulties overcome. Six years of exterminating warfare do not depress the courage of the nation, or withdraw its attention from the grand object of establishing and consolidating its liberties. It is not Cadiz, it is not a handful of factious and rash men, who make war against despotism, and lay the bases of national prosperity; it is the whole nation that so wills it, from the commencement : the outcry for the Cortes, as the true and legitimate representatives of the people, is unanimous; and it is they who eventually crowned the work, and for ever fixed the destinies of their constituents. This truth, which, through ignorance of the events, perchance more than through malice, would four months ago have been disputed, is now.placed beyond all denial. The confusion and din of arms, the disdain with which the conquerors of the day beheld the efforts of liberty, and the interest Napoleon and his government had in disfiguring the occurrences in the Peninsula; during the war, prevented the real state of things from being knowns and the subsequent peace, which ought to have been the period of national felicity and glory, exhibited to Europe no other than a people oppressed and punished by a deluded prince, for whom they had previously fought and bled. The monuments of national liberty, raised with such great sacrifices, were cast down; the testimonies of the heroic acts of the people burnt or effaced; those persons persecuted who dared to seek to preserve them; and the nation at large condemned to silence, or compelled to adopt the servile language of flattery and disgrace. Even the spirit of party, in order to gain favor, chimed in with the enemies of the nation, and persons were then seen, who considered themselves men of talent, speaking of Spain as Buonaparte was wont to do, and like him, throwing unfavorable interpretations on all her heroic efforts.

How, then, can it be deemed strange, with all this before them, that foreigners should lately have entertained such incorrect opinions of a nation which at present they admirė ? If they had known it-if they had been fully acquainted with all that has therein occurred, from the first period of the insurrection,--in their minds, Spain, no doubt, would have found another species of consideration : they would not have gone to Turkey in search of comparisons ; nay, their surprise would have been less, and their admiration heightened, on beholding what has just happened.

A wish to establish these facts, hitherto disfigured by ignorance, envy; and rancor, has induced us to take up the pen; not to write a history worthy of the events, and such as would comport with a nation that has known how to do such heroic deeds ; but impartially, and in a summary manner, to elucidate the most remarkable occurrences, and make it appear that the Spanish people not only belong to Europe, but also that, notwithstanding the Inquisition, and the despotism of three centuries, they retained, at the very moment of their invasion, that spirit of liberty and independence which had rendered their ancient laws and liberties so renowned among other nations. • It is not, however, our intention, in this brief sketch, to speak of the military events, already known in Europe, and which, notwithstanding the inevitable disasters experienced, have covered the nation with glory; not only because the interest in disfiguring them is greatly diminished, as soon as the moment is passed, but also because the valor and high-minded character which generally prevail among the Spanish military, do not allow them to disguise or depreciate the merit of the enemy, with whom they are called upon to contend. Neither will we stop to repeat the transactions which took place at Bayonne; also sufficiently well understood, through the writings of parties personally engaged in them. We shall therefore confine ourselves to such facts as are less known; more particularly embracing the interior revolution operated within the kingdom, and which, commencing by the unavoidable anarchy of a short period, passed on to different stages; till at last the nation, assembled in Cortes, successfully concluded the work of its own sighed-for regeneration.

[ocr errors]

Invaded by a foreign and numerous army, already in possession of the principal fortresses and even the capital, the Spanish nation, left as it were to itself, bereft of its king, and of every prince telonging to his family, and without any other government than that of a weak Junta, incapable of resisting the orders and strength of the impetuous Murat-spontaneously rises to defend its independence, and repel a foreign aggression. Almost simultaneously, the whole of the provinces rushed into a state of insurrection, and in all were created, as it were by enchantment, Juntas, or local governments, intended to give direction to these sudden movements. Such was the grand and generous sentiment of a nation, irritated at the idea that a false friend, under the pretext of its regeneration

and happiness, should come to dictate to it laws, trampling under foot the most sacred rights, and destroying that truly vital and preserving principle of all states, the national independence.

This simultaneous movement, which took place in all the provinces, without any previous understanding by agreement between each, naturally broke the bond that united them to the shadow of a government, which in the onset, they saw divested of all strength and energy. The local Juntas, respectively formed in each one of the provinces, having no authority to command in the rest, and consequently no mutual motives of obedience, the provinces were left in a separate state of independence, and without any other bond among themselves than the general and uniform sentiment which gave impulse to all, strengthened by the necessity of their reciprocal defence. In this manner, without any previous concert, the general indignation changed the ancient form of government into a true, although imperfect, system of federation. The offspring, as it were, of necessity, the provincial Juntas were almost every where created by acclamation, as it might naturally be expected amidst an effervescence so general. This, in fact, rendered them more popular; the people gladly submitted to their guidance and control ; and by their free will and consent, they thus legitimatised a government, originally created without all the due forms of order and regularity.

The supreme power being thus re-assumed by these bodies in which the most distinguished men of each province were to be found, as well as the most remarkable for their zeal and patriotism they first of all swore fidelity and obedience to king Ferdinand; they entered into mutual correspondence, collected armies, declared war, and employed all the possible means of security and defence. The glorious occurrences at Baylen, Zaragoza, Valencia, and the battle, although a disastrous one, of Rio-Seco, were the first essays of their heroic efforts; and the enemy, harassed on all sides, was compelled to quit the capital and retire to the Ebro. Then it was that the Juntas, considering that their strength respectively, would be better emplayed when under the guidance of a single head ; and, as well as the rest of the nation, anxious for the meeting of the Cortes, at all times deemed the most efficacious remedy for the many evils under which the country labored; ims mediately set to work, in order to re-establish that centre of unity which the first impulse had broken, and agreed to form a central government, composed of members from all the Juntas; which, by taking upon itself the sole and general direction of affairs, should, at the same time, gradually prepare the calling together of the Çortes.

This voluntary surrender of the authority exercised by the Juntas, and to which, from motives of public good, all acceded without

any

resistance, at the same time that it manifests the purity of intention, with which all engaged in the arduous struggle, also proves the good sense and sound judgment inherent in the nation at large. To this measure is chiefly due that early centre of authority, and that essential bond of union, which, in the hearts of the people, gave a form and being to the government of the day, even amidst the subsequent differences and dispersion of almost all its members, saved the nation, and eventually enabled it to triumph over the efforts of the enemy.

The Central Junta, composed of thirty-six members, met at Aranjuez, in the month of September, 1808, not without encountering some obstacles from a body of magistrates that now no longer exists,' and which, without having done any thing for the welfare of the people, but, on the contrary, submitted to the will of the usurper, after the example of the parliaments of France, unduly entertained the ridiculous idea of representing the nation. The general opinion was soon, however, declared against them; and the central Junta, after its installation, was acknowledged, not only by all the provinces of the peninsula, but also by the whole of those of America and Asia.

In the mean time Buonaparte, reinforcing his army, again attacked and entered the capital. The Junta then proceeded to assemble in Seville, and there continued its functions till the month of February, 1810. "The calling together of the Cortes being one of the principal objects of this new government, the attention of the Junta was particularly directed to this point ; and, in order more safely to proceed in an affair of such importance, consultations were held with the provincial Juntas, the superior tribunals, universities, prelates, ecclesiastical chapters, municipalities, and other corporations, whose collective opinions differed little, as far as regards substance. The Cortes and a Constitution were the general cry of almost all Spaniards; the Cortes, with a representation more natural and analagous than the ancient ones, and a Constitution that might for ever banish arbitrary power from the land, and by securing civil liberty, and the other rights of the nation, prevent it from again falling into that fatal system which had already brought it to the brink of ruin. Such were the sentiments prevalent in Spain in 1808; such were the opinions entertained by the people; but the difficulties which continued to arise out of the different usages and customs of the nation, a wish to give uniformity to the national representation, and call to it afresh de

! The Council of Castile,

puties from America ; the varied fate of the national arms, and the exigencies of such a war as Spain was at that time compelled to wage, retarded the execution of the design till the 1st January, 1810 ; when the Cortes were convened for the 1st of the following March, and instructions consequently issued for the elections, in which a part was given to the nation, such as it had never before possessed, and another granted to America, certainly under forms that country had never before enjoyed.

The dread of reforms had already united the enemies of the new order of things; and their attacks on the Central Junta became more vigorous, in proportion as that body advanced in the grand work of re-establishing a national representation. Ambition, under the mask of zeal, conjured up fears of an approaching democracy, and suggested the formation of a Regency, that might frustrate or delay the assembling of the Cortes. The unfortunate battle of Ocana, and the invasion of Andalusia by the enemy, favored their designs, and the Central Junta being forced to abandon Seville, in order to save the government of the monarchy from a total dissolution, towards the close of January again assumed its functions in La Isla de Leon; where, with a view to give to the operations of the administration all the activity circumstances required, its powers were resigned over to five members, who, under the title of Regency, were acknowledged by the rest of the nation. The provinces of America also recognised this form of government, with the exception of Venezuela and Buenos Ayres, which formed particular Juntas, intended to administer the concerns of each, till the return of Ferdinand VII.

These events prevented the operation of the first orders for the meeting of the Cortes, as before stated, convened for the 1st of March. The new Regency, notwithstanding the express injunction laid upon them by the Central Junta, at the time the oaths of office were administered-by which they bound themselves to provide for the assembling of the Cortes-nevertheless delayed it by every means in their power ; till at last, the astonishing force of public opinion produced, in the month of June, a determination that they should be definitively called together in the ensuing month of September. At the appointed time, September 24th, 1810, the solemn assembly of the General and Extraordinary Cortes took place in La Isla de Leon, under the very cannon of the enemy. It would be difficult to deseribe the general enthusiasm that prevailed among the people and army, on this memorable occasion. Tears of joy flowed abundantly from the eyes of all; and it seemed as if á secret presentiment foretold to the people, that by this step their liberty and independence would be for ever secured to them.

« AnteriorContinuar »