The foreign expeditions planned by the Grenville Ministry were, this year, attended by disgraceful results, and the news of their failure arrived in time to enable the new Ministry to throw additional odium upon their foes. The news of the seizure of Buenos Ayres by Sir Home Popham and General Beresford had induced the late Cabinet to overlook the irregular manner in which their enterprise had been undertaken. They sent out Admiral Sir C. Stirling to supersede Sir Home Popham, who was to be brought before a court-martial, but he took out with him a fresh body of troops, under General Auchmuty. These troops landed at Monte Video on the 18th of January, and, after a sharp contest against six thousand Spaniards, and the loss of five hundred and sixty British killed and wounded, the place was taken on the 2nd of February. Soon afterwards General Whitelocke arrived with orders to assume supreme command and to recapture Buenos Ayres, which the inhabitants had succeeded in recovering. Whitelocke reached Monte Video towards the end of May, and found the British army, with what he brought, amounting to nearly twelve thousand men, in fine condition. With such a force Buenos Ayres would have soon been reduced by a man of tolerable military ability. But Whitelocke seems to have taken no measures to enable his troops to carry the place by a sudden and brilliant assault. It was not till the 3rd of July that he managed to join Major-General Gore, who had taken possession of a commanding elevation[536] overlooking the city. The hope of success lay in the rapidity with which the assault was made: all this was now lost. The rain poured in torrents, and the men had no shelter, and were half starved. All this time the Spaniards had been putting the city into a state of defence. Still, on the morning of the 5th of July the order was issued to storm. The troops advanced in three columns from different sides of the town, headed severally by Generals Auchmuty, Lumley, and Craufurd. Whitelocke said that it could be of no use to delay the advance towards the centre of the town by attacking the enemy under cover of their houses; it could only occasion the greater slaughter. The command, therefore, was to dash forward with unloaded muskets, trusting alone to the bayonet. Much blame was cast on Whitelocke for this order, but there seems strong reason in it, considering the wholly uncovered condition of the troops against a covered enemy, and that the only chance was for each division to force its way as rapidly as possible to certain buildings where they could ensconce themselves, and from whence they could direct an attack of shot and shells on the Spaniards. General Auchmuty, accordingly, rushed on against every obstacle to the great squarePlaza de Toros, or Square of Bullstook thirty-two cannon, a large quantity of ammunition, and six hundred prisoners. Other regiments of his division succeeded in getting possession of the church and convent of Santa Catalina, and of the residencia, a commanding post; Lumley and Craufurd were not so fortunate. The 88th was compelled to yield; and the 36th, greatly reduced, and joined by the 5thwhich had taken the convent of Santa Catalinamade their way to Sir Samuel Auchmuty's position in the Plaza de Toros, dispersing a body of eight hundred Spaniards on their way and taking two guns. Craufurd's division capitulated at four o'clock in the afternoon. In the evening Whitelocke resolved to come to terms. The conditions of the treaty werethat General Whitelocke's army, with its arms, equipage, and stores, was to be conveyed across the La Plata to Monte Video; his troops were to be supplied with food; and that at the end of two months the British were to surrender Monte Video, and retire from the country. Such was the humiliating result of the attempt on Buenos Ayres. Nothing could exceed the fury of all classes at home against Whitelocke on the arrival of the news of this disgraceful defeat. It was reported that he had made the men take their flints out of their guns before sending them into the murderous streets of Buenos Ayres; and had he arrived with his despatches, his life would not have been safe for an hour. There was a general belief that the Court was protecting him from punishment; and, in truth, the delays interposed between him and a court-martial appeared to warrant this. It was not till the 28th of January, 1808, that he was brought before such a court at Chelsea Hospital, when he was condemned to be cashiered, as wholly unfit and unworthy to serve his Majesty in any military capacity whatever. [336] God's will be done!

From the affairs of the royal family, we turn to a more important subject, the partition of Poland. Poland, lying contiguous to Russia, had for ages been in a condition calculated to attract the cupidity of ambitious neighbours. Its nobles usurped all authority. They kept the whole mass of the people in hopeless serfdom; they usurped the whole of the land; they elected their own king, and were too fond of power themselves to leave him more than a puppet in their hands. To make the condition of the country worse, it was violently divided on the subject of religion. One part of the nobles consisted of Roman Catholics, another of what were called Dissidents, made up of members of the Greek Church, and Protestants, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Arians. Although by what was called the Pacta Conventa the Dissidents had been admitted to an equality of rights, this was totally disregarded by the overbearing Roman Catholics; and in 1736 the Pacta Conventa was formally abolished. Every Dissident was, by this measure, for ever excluded from government, and from all interest in it.

Lord Wellington, early in October, called down his troops from their cold and miserable posts in the mountains, and marched them over the Bidassoa, and encamped them amongst the French hills and valleys of La Rhune. The last division moved across on the 10th of November, the town of Pampeluna having surrendered on the 31st of October. This was a very agreeable change to the troops; but, before crossing, his lordship issued the most emphatic orders against plundering or ill-using the inhabitants. He told them, and especially the Spanish and Portuguese, that though the French had committed unheard-of barbarities in their countries, he would not allow of retaliation and revenge on the innocent inhabitants of France; that it was against the universal marauder, Buonaparte, and his system, that the British made war, and not against the people of France. But the passions of the Portuguese and Spaniards were too much excited against their oppressors, and they burnt and plundered whenever they had opportunity. On this, Wellington wrote sternly to the Spanish general, Freyre.[62] "Where I command," he said, "no one shall be allowed to plunder. If plunder must be had, then another must have the command. You have large armies in Spain, and if it is wished to plunder the French peasantry, you may then enter France; but then the Spanish Government must remove me from the command of their armies. It is a matter of indifference to me whether I command a large or a small army; but, whether large or small, they must obey me, and, above all, must not plunder." To secure the fulfilment of these orders, he moved back most of the Spanish troops to within the Spanish frontiers. The strictness with which Lord Wellington maintained these sentiments and protected the inhabitants produced the best results. The folk of the southern provinces, being well inclined to the Bourbons, and heartily wearied of seeing their sons annually dragged away to be slaughtered in foreign countries for Buonaparte's ambition, soon flocked into camp with all sorts of provisions and vegetables; and they did not hesitate to express their wishes for the success of the British arms. THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON'S DUEL WITH LORD WINCHILSEA. (See p. 300.)

In England the Chancellor of the Exchequer had found no difficulty in raising a loan of thirty-six million pounds, and this money was freely devoted to put the armies of the Coalition in motion. Never had such vast armaments been in preparation from the very north of Europe to France. The Congress had removed its locale from Vienna to Frankfort, to be nearer the scene of action. The Emperors of Russia and Austria, and the King of Prussia, were again at the head[92] of their forces. On the side of Switzerland, one hundred and fifty thousand Austrians, who were liberated from Italy by the defeat of Murat, were ready to march into France; another army of the same number directed its course to the upper Rhine. Schwarzenberg was again Commander-in-Chief of Austria. Two hundred thousand Russians, under Barclay de Tolly, were also marching for Alsace, and Langeron, Sacken, and other generals were at the head of other numerous divisions, all under the nominal leadership of the Archduke Constantine. Blucher was already posted in Belgium with one hundred and fifty thousand Prussians; and the army of Wellington, of eighty thousand men, composed of British, and different nations in British pay, occupied Flanders. The contingents of Holland, Sweden, and the smaller German states raised the total to upwards of a million of men, which, if they were not all at hand, were ready to march up in case of any reverses to those first in the field.


This retreat had been made under great difficulties; the weather being excessively wet, the rivers swollen, and the roads knee-deep in mud. Provisions were scarce, and the soldiers found great difficulty in cooking the skinny, tough beef that they got, on account of the wet making it hard to kindle fires. The Spaniards, as usual,[31] concealed all the provisions they could, and charged enormously for any that they were compelled to part with. In fact, no enemies could have been treated worse than they treated us all the while that we were doing and suffering so much for them. The soldiers became so enraged that they set at defiance the strict system which Wellington exacted in this respect, and cudgelled the peasantry to compel them to bring out food, and seized it wherever they could find it. In fact, the discipline of the army was fast deteriorating from these causes, and Wellington issued very stern orders to the officers on the subject. Till they reached the Tormes, too, the rear was continually harassed by the French; and Sir Edward Paget, mounting a hill to make observations, was surprised and made prisoner.