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THE OPENING OF THE GANGES CANAL.
FROM distant-lying lands,
Who meet their GOD to-day with thankful prayer:
Sons of the soil now desolate and bare,
And their glad voices rise upon the morning air.
It comes, long-wished-for, comes,
The tamed and friendly flood,
While blatant arms and rattling drums
And you, O ancient peaks,
Still through the night, from ledge to ledge
Still rears its crag and breathless edge
8th April 1854.
Yet may you swell our hymn to-day,
The Hon. James Thomason, late Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces, who lingered too long in India, chiefly in the hope to have been present on the occasion above commemorated.
SPANISH POLITICS AND CUBAN PERILS.
DEAR EBONY,-The political chronicle, since last I wrote to you, is far from offering such stirring incidents as were recorded in my July and August despatches. There has been no fighting, although we were once on the brink of it, and things have gone pretty quietly, and, upon the whole, satisfactorily. After the fray comes the feast; and just as my last letter went off, a banquet was given at the Theatre-Royal, by the press of Madrid, to the ministers and a large number of notable persons. The press took an important part in the recent movements here, and has not been unrewarded, several of its members having been appointed to high posts under government. After the dinner, at which speeches and patriotism were plentiful, the next incident of note was the return to Madrid of the small division that first, under O'Donnell and Dulce, raised the banner of revolt against the Sartorius tyranny, and fought the brief but sanguinary fight of Vicálvaro. But the principal event of the last thirty days, the only one which (with its consequences) is worth dwelling upon, is the departure -I might almost say the escape-of Queen Christina from Madrid and from Spain.
In former letters I have given you an idea of the detestation with which Ferdinand's widow, once so beloved, has long been regarded. To those who remember the affection and enthusiasm testified for her during the early years of her residence in this country, the contrast with the storm of hatred and execration amidst which she has quitted it, is very striking. Then she was the hope of Spain, the idol of the Liberal party; her appearance abroad was the signal for cheers as vehement and heartfelt as any that have since been raised for Espartero. Her name was the soldier's battle-cry, when combating, amidst the rugged hills of northern and eastern Spain, the partisans of Charles V.; it was the burthen of the songs with which he enlivened his brief intervals of repose, and beguiled the weariness of
Madrid, 14th September 1854. the march. As I write, there recurs to my memory the burthen of one of those cheerful ditties, in which Spaniards are called upon joyfully to ex-. claim "Viva la Reina, Maria Cristina, she who broke the chains that bound and oppressed us"-and more to that effect. Little more than a month ago, as I walked through the Puerta del Sol-the heart of Madrid, which is the centre of Spain-blind men and illfavoured women shouted at every corner the titles and contents of scurrilous pamphlets that recounted the misdeeds of " Mother Christina." It may truly be said that, of the fourteen millions that people Spain, not one person (save her own creatures) could be found to raise his voice in her favour. The charges brought against her are numerous, and but too wellfounded. She is accused of gross and wilful neglect of her daughter's education-neglect which has been the main origin of the scandal Isabella has caused, and of the humbled and perilous position in which she now finds herself; her crown tottering on her head, and her only chance of not losing it consisting in implicit obedience to her minister's directions. She is accused of having betrayed the liberties of Spain, which were intrusted to her keeping; of having trampled on the laws she had sworn to maintain; of having built up a colossal fortune at the expense of the nation; of having, by her unscrupulous greed and shameful political intrigues, by her own conduct, and by her patronage of, and complicity with, some of the worst men in Spain, destroyed all public morality, and augmented to an inconceivable extent administrative corruption. On all these charges, an immense jury, composed of the whole Spanish nation, has unanimously found her guilty. And, since her departure, the general hope and prayer are that she may never again set foot in the country she has so deeply injured. "May the accursed Italian," said a newspaper the other day, never return hither to make a traffic of all that is most sacred and holy upon earth.”
But, before she had left, the feeling concerning her was in one respect different. It was the opinion of many that it was neither safe nor just to allow her to leave the country. It was remembered how, during her three years' exile in France, she had intrigued and manoeuvred, and lavished treasure, until, aided by the divisions in the Liberal camp and by the incapacity of the Liberal government, she rode into Madrid in the triumphal car of Reaction. Then, it is true, she had a staunch and interested ally in the wily and unscrupulous chief of the house of Orleans. Deprived of his powerful aid and cooperation, she is manifestly much less to be dreaded. But a portion of the Spanish nation, and especially of the inhabitants of the capital, well acquainted with her great cunning and skill in intrigue, and overrating, perhaps, the elements and resources she can command in a foreign country for the purpose of again disturbing Spain's tranquillity, insisted that she should be caged and not expelled, and moreover that she should be brought to account before the Cortes for the peculations and robberies attributed to her by the voice of the entire nation. You will remember the scenes that occurred at the palace soon after Espartero's arrival here, and the vain attempts then made to get her off in safety, whilst armed and menacing crowds were vigilant to prevent her passage, and could be induced to abandon their watch over their sovereign's palace, and their stations upon the roads from Madrid, only by a promise from the government that the object of the popular wrath should not be allowed clandestinely to depart. But it soon was found that if there was a probability of her being dangerous abroad, there was a certainty of her being so at home. Her daughter's residence again became a focus of intrigue. This got so well known, the reactionary party, encouraged by having their old protectress to lean upon, were so active, and symptoms were observed so dangerous to public tranquillity, that the chiefs of the national guard sent a deputation to the government, urging strongly the removal of Christina from the palace. As the national guard of Madrid now consists
of upwards of twenty thousand men, and as they elect their own chiefs, who must therefore be considered to represent the opinions and enjoy the confidence of the majority, the prayer of such a deputation naturally had weight; and at cabinet councils held on that and the following day, the principal question discussed was What is to be done with the Queenmother? The impossibility of preventing her intrigues, should she remain in Spain, except by confinement too rigorous to be legal, determined the council to expel her from the country; attaching her property until the Cortes should have investigated her conduct, and decided concerning the charges brought against her. This plan resolved upon, it was immediately put into execution. The determination was come to on the evening of the 27th August. On the 28th, at seven in the morning, the ministers were at the palace, to witness the Queen-mother's departure. The adieus were brief. Christina betrayed no emotion at parting from her daughter, who, on her part, dropped a few decorous tears, but was not very greatly afflicted. There has never been much affection between the two queens, although the elder of them, by her astuteness and superior strength of character, has exercised great influence over the younger. The Queenmother then took leave of the ministers, whom she must heartily detest; recommended her daughter to the care and watchful guardianship of Espartero, and entered a large travellingvehicle, accompanied by her husband, who looked grievously dejected, and attended by an ecclesiastic of high rank, and by several persons of her household. Her children's departure had preceded hers. Some were in Portugal, others in France. Escorted by two squadrons of cavalry, under the command of the well-known General Garrigó, she reached, by short stages, and without molestation, the frontier of the former country.
Few persons were present at Christina's departure, although it was stated in the French papers, whose blunders concerning Spanish affairs are incessant and amusing, that the windows of the palace were filled with ladies waving handkerchiefs, and that its
roof was crowded with national guards. The truth is, that hardly anybody in Madrid knew of the Queen-mother's going, until she had actually gone. As the news spread, a certain excitement was manifested, and towards eleven o'clock a crowd of men, many of them armed, thronged the small square in front of Espartero's residence, with menacing shouts of Down with the Ministry! and loud demands for the return of Christina. An aidede-camp presenting himself at a window to address them, firearms were levelled at him, and he was compelled to retire. The fermentation each moment increased. Deputations from various public bodies waited upon the premier to express their disapproval of the step taken. The general impression abroad was, that a trick had been played on the people, that faith had been broken with them, and that the government was pledged not to suffer the departure of Christina until the Cortes had decided concerning her. The verbal pledge given by Espartero to a deputation, at a time when it was a great object to get rid of the bodies of armed men who beset the palace, and infested the environs of Madrid, making it their business to guard against the escape of the Queenmother, was, that she should not depart furtively, either by day or by night. Her departure, therefore, at eight in the morning, when the gazette containing its announcement had been but an hour published, was held to be a violation of this promise, as far as regarded the people. On the other hand, the national guard had insisted, through its chiefs, that Christina should not remain at the palace; there was danger to the tranquillity of Madrid if she continued there; her property in Spain, and her pension of thirty thousand pounds a-year, which was suspended, offered considerable security for the financial improprieties of which she might be found to have been guilty. To let her leave the country was manifestly the wisest course, and it was adopted. It has been urged that it would have been more straightforward of the government, and would have prevented even the imputation of a breach of faith, to have summoned commissions of the national guards, the corporation,
and other bodies, and from them to have obtained, beforehand, that approval of the measure which was almost unanimously accorded to them a few hours after it had been taken. But in cases of this kind there is a wide difference between before and after. The same men who, when the thing was done, supported the cause of order and the government, of whose good intentions they were sure, and of the wisdom of whose conduct they presently became persuaded, might have assumed a different attitude had they been consulted in advance. Moreover, by acting in that way, by deferring on every occasion to the popular voice, whether it spoke words of wisdom or words of folly, the ministers could never hope to gain strength, which was what they most needed. In short, it might have been a very difficult and dangerous business to get Christina out of Madrid, had the intention been published the day before; and doubtless the government preferred risking the unfounded imputation of a deception, to incurring the responsibility of fresh collisions. In my opinion, as an eyewitness of all that passed, it would have been hazardous to have acted otherwise than the ministers did. As it was, not a shot was fired, not a wound received; and three days after the affair, everybody seemed convinced that the best had been done.
I shall not dwell upon the incidents of the afternoon and night of the 28th August, of which you will have already seen accounts. For a short time things looked menacing, and many expected a fight. The council of ministers, assembled in the large building on the Puerta del Sol which is at once the Spanish" Home Office" and the main guard-house, received numerous delegates from the corporation, the provincial deputation, and from other public bodies; expounded to them their views and reasons, and received promises of support. Meanwhile the national guard-a portion of it somewhat sulky and dissatisfied-took up arms and prepared to maintain order. A considerable number of barricades had been thrown up. The presence and exhortations of General San Miguel sufficed for some of these to be removed by their makers. But in a