Page images

a better instrument, with no body present to direct and employ him? If Bolivar or Sucre should attempt to establish a military despotism, would it be in the name of the legitimate king, and under the royal Spanish flag? These suppositions, like that of an actual military conquest of the country, are obviously not merely improbable, but chime. rical, and full of inherent contradictions. The time to take advantage of internal dissentions, if ever, was the time when they might have been expected to occur; when they did in fact occur; and when the king had his armies in the country, ready to back a discontented leader. If nothing could be done under all these favourable circumstances, it is vain to expect a better result at present, when every circumstance is of an adverse character.

Finally, such is the strength of public opinion prevailing through out the colonies in favour of inde. pendence, that nothing would be really effected, even by successful attempts to create internal divisions, and to gain over the popular leaders. This is evidently shown by the fate of Pueyrredon, to which I have already alluded. Here was a person holding the supreme executive power in one of the new states, enjoying a high reputation, and ap. parently possessing great influence, who consented to employ it in endeavouring to bring about a union of the colony, under his govern. ment, with the mother country, in the most plausible way in which it could be done. This colony was precisely the one in which political dissentions had prevailed to the greatest extent, having assumed, for a long period, the shape of actual civil war. The negotiation presented an additional probability of success, from being carried on

under the auspices of one of the most powerful monarchs of Europe in alliance with his Catholic majes. ty. The king had, at that time, one or two considerable armies in America, ready to lend their aid in promoting the intended object.Here was a case, if ever there was or will be one, in which something might be expected from the effect of internal divisions, and from the adhesion of leading characters. What happened? Did Pueyrredon, under all these favourable circum. stances, succeed in bringing back to its allegiance the colony under his government? I have already stated that he did not carry with him a single man. He could not stay in

his country. He was crushed at once to the earth by the execration and contempt of the whole American continent; and, in order to escape an ignominious death, was compelled to hide himself in some obscure corner, where he has since died of chagrin and shame. Such is the history of the only considerable apostate that has yet been gained from the cause of independence in America. It proves that whatever may be the merits of the contest, there is a force of public Sentiment arrayed in support of this cause, too strong to be resisted by any individual, however eminent; that nothing can be hoped by Spain from the effect of internal dissen. tions in the colonies; and that no means, excepting that of actual physical force, will ever bring them, or any part of them, again under the dominion of his Catholic ma. jesty. The impossibility of employing this means with success has already been shown, and is understood to be felt by his majesty's government.

It has sometimes been said, how. ever, that Spain might reasonably

be encouraged in the hope of recovering her ancient colonies, by the great and sudden revolutions that have occurred in Europe in our own time. The late king of France, after being deprived of his hereditary rights and dominions for twenty-five years, finally succeeded in obtaining possession of them. Why may not the king of Spain, in like manner, recover his American possessions, although he should have lost them for an equal length of time? It is understood that this argument from analogy is considered by some persons of great respectability as the principal one that can be urged in favour of the continuance of the war, and it may therefore be proper to give it some


The conquest of the colonies must be effected, if at all, by the aid of means; and the example of the king of France is applicable, in the present instance, only as far as the same means which were employed to place him on the throne, are now at the disposal of the king of Spain for the purpose of recovering his lost possessions in America. What were these means, and how far can they probably be employed, at present, by the Spanish govern.


The revolution in the government of France, of which the return of Lewis XVIII. was the natural consequence, was accomplished by the military force of other European powers, at a time when the king had not a soldier in the field in his own immediate service. Is it probable that there will be now or ever a similar alliance of these powers, for the purpose of restoring to the king his ancient dominions in America? What was the motive which induced all the sovereigns of Europe to unite in a joint attack

upon the government of Bonaparte? It was no other than the direct interest they had in overthrowing that government, on account of the inconvenience, more or less oppressive, which they all suffered from its continuance. Have they all or any of them any such motive for opposing, at present, the inde. pendence of the Spanish colonies? It is evident that their direct interest, as far as they have any in the affair, is on the other side; and that the independence of America, instead of being an inconvenience to them, is rather advantageous than otherwise, as it affords them a greater freedom of intercourse with these vast and wealthy regions than they would enjoy under any colo. nial system, however liberal. Their interest, therefore, would naturally lead them, considered merely as neutral powers, to take part with the Americans, rather than with the Spanish government. Such of them as possessed extensive and valuable colonies might be supposed, per haps, to sympathize with Spain in this contest, either because these colonies had actually thrown off their allegiance, or might be expected to do so; and these, if any, are the powers which would have an interest in assisting his Catholic Majesty, or in wishing, at least, for his success. What then has been the policy of the powers thus situa ted? France and Portugal have just acknowledged the indepen dence of their ancient transatlantic dominions. England and Holland, the only nations now possessing colonies of consequence, have acknowledged the independence of South America. It so happens, therefore, that the four powers, which have or had colonies, are precisely those which have given the most unequivocal proof, that it is

not their intention to deviate from the line of neutrality, by engaging in the war on the side of Spain. If such be the policy of these nations, which alone had some little indirect interest in common with that of his Catholic Majesty, what can be expected from the rest, which have all a pretty strong interest on the other side? There is evidently no probability that they will enter into a great European alliance for the reduction of America, like that which was employed for the overthrow of Bonaparte; nor is it believed that his majesty's government expect any such co-operation or assistance. It is, therefore, not in their power to take advantage of the same means which were used by the king of France, to obtain possession of his hereditary dominions; and his example has, of course, no application to the present circumstances of his Catholic Majesty.

I fear that I may have taxed somewhat too severely the attention of your excellency, by the length to which these considerations have been already drawn out; but it is difficult to touch, however concisely, upon the several leading points of so great a question, with out entering into a pretty extensive course of remarks. If the above statement of the grounds upon which the government of the United States have formed their opinion in regard to this question, be at all correct, it follows conclusively, that there is no chance of recovering the colonies, either by actual military force, by the effect of internal dissentions, or by the aid of foreign powers. The object of the war is, therefore, unattainable. What remains, then, but to escape, as soon as possible, from its inconveniences, and to con

clude peace at once? Peace is, of itself, and in all cases, the greatest of blessings, and an almost indispensable condition of all public and private prosperity. The advan tages, direct and indirect, that would accrue to Spain from making peace at present with the colonies, are, in the opinion of the govern ment which I have the honour to represent, of even more than ordinary value. I fear that I shall exhaust your excellency's patience; but being charged by my government with the expression of their convictions and wishes upon a subject of such vast magnitude, I should have reason to reproach myself if the effect of their intercession were diminished, and the war protracted, by the omission of any topic that would be likely to have weight with his Catholic Majesty. Allow me, then, my lord duke, to request your attention a little longer, and to state to you, very concisely, as they appear to the government of the United States, the important benefits which would result to Spain from the restoration of peace, and the establishment of friendly rela tions with her ancient colonies.

The immediate inconveniences suffered by Spain from the continu. ance of the war are far from being inconsiderable, and the cessation of them would constitute, of itself, a very serious advantage. These inconveniences are principally the heavy expense necessary to keep up military and naval establish ments adequate to the defence of the West India islands, and the almost entire destruction of the commerce of Spain, by the armed vessels and privateers of the new American states. It is understood that the whole revenue which would accrue from the islands is,

constitute an adequate compensation for sacrifices of such vast importance?

at present, absorbed by the charges of securing them against the danger of an attack. When to this great expense is added that of fitting out, occasionally, at home, expeditions intended for their defence, it is clear that the burthen must be considerable, especially in the present embarrassed state of the finances. The restoration of peace would remove this evil at once, and would, ⚫ also, give new life to the Spanish commerce, which is now almost destroyed by the American privateers. These enterprising navigators not only cover the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and of the passage thence to Spain, but have lately ventured across the Atlantic, and almost blockade, at the present moment, the ports of the Peninsula and the entrance of the Mediterranean. The coasting trade is nearly at an end, and, as far as it is continued, must be carried on under convoy. It is true that the commerce of Spain, under the national flag, has not been, for some years past, very considerable, but the loss of the whole, or the greater part of it, such as it is, is still a serious inconvenience. The desolation of the sea ports, and the fall. ing off in the amount of the customs, show but too clearly the extent of the evil. The duties paid at Cadiz, which, as your excellency did me the honour to inform me the other day, were a hundred millions of reals before the commencement of the present troubles, are now, I understand, something less than four. When the inconveniences of this war are thus brought home to the resources of the government, and to the daily life of his majesty's subjects, is it not time to consider whether it af. fords any advantages or hopes to

In addition to these great mis. chiefs, which are actually suffered, and which would be removed by the termination of the war, there is another, perhaps still more serious, impending in immediate prospect, which, in the opinion of the government of the United States, nothing but a speedy restoration of peace can avert-I mean the loss of the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico. These possessions are, for all purposes of revenue, already in a great measure lost; the whole amount of receipts drawn from them, being, as is understood, exhausted by the charges of their defence. The continuance of the war for two or three years longer, perhaps for one, must, in all human probability, occasion their complete alienation, in one form or another. Hostilities being now at an end on the continent, and the new states being compelled, by the refusal of Spain, to make peace, to keep up their military and naval establishments, they must, of course, employ them upon some active service. The Spanish islands present the most natural and advantageous point for attack, and will, of course, be attempted. Without intending to disparage the valour of his majesty's armies on this station, still less the talent and efficiency of the governor general, an officer of whom the government of the United States have reason to speak in the highest terms of respect and estimation, I may add, that it can hardly be doubted, considering the nature of the population of the islands, and their vicinity to the continent, that an attack would result either in their imme. diate conquest by the new states, or

in a protracted civil war, which would put an end, at once, to their present prosperous condition, and would occasion, in like manner, their ultimate loss. It is believed, on the other hand, by the govern. ment of the United States, that, by making peace now, his majesty might insure the possession of these valuable colonies for a long and indefinite period of time to come. Under the system of free trade, upon which they are now fortunate. ly governed, they have flourished almost beyond precedent. The inhabitants are prosperous and wealthy, and must, of course, be satisfied with their condition. Relieved from the burthen incident to the defence of the islands, they would find their situation still far. ther improved. There is no reason to suppose that, under these circumstances, any foreign power would attempt to molest them, or to infringe upon the rights of his majesty to their government; and, without pretending to prophecy what may happen in the course of centuries, it is every way probable that, for as long a period, at least, as any political combinations, formed at the present day, can be expected to produce effects, these islands would continue to acknow. ledge, quietly and cheerfully, the supremacy of Spain, and to constitute, at once, a rich appendage to the Peninsula, and a convenient entrepot for the immense trade which, in time of peace, must necessarily grow up between the mother country and the colonies.

Such would be the consequences resulting from the mere termina. tion of the war; the removal of the immediate evils occasioned by it, such as the decline of commerce, and the burthen of defending the

islands, would be a real benefit. The assurance of preserving Porto Rico and Cuba would be another; but these negative advantages, however considerable, are of small importance, when compared with those of a positive kind, which this kingdom would derive from the conclusion of peace, and the establishment of friendly relations with the colonies. Permit me, then, sir, to enlarge a little upon this topic, and after touching very briefly upon the present unfortunate position of Spain, to present to you the more agreeable picture of her situation, as, in the opinion of the government of the United States, it might, and would be, under a system of free intercourse with the ancient colonies, on a footing of cquality and mutual independence.

The present distressed condition of Spain is a fact too notorious to require proof, and too painful to be dwelt upon without necessity. In alluding to it, I shall quote the lan. guage of a report made last year by the Treasurer General to the Minister of Finance.

"Spain," says this officer, "has been the victim of political convul. sions. It is extremely unpleasant to me to be obliged to relate disagreeable things, and to present unfavourable pictures; but in the alternative of perhaps putting public tranquillity to hazard, I should consider myself criminal, if any fears or private views made me conceal evils which require an immediate remedy, especially when, with all my efforts, I am unable to stifle the evils which are bursting forth in every quarter. The resources have diminished, and are daily diminishing. The great sums which used to be received from America, and which, in tranquil times, amount

« PreviousContinue »