Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century

By William Smart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
1810. TORRES VEDRAS

THE pages of Croker and Creevey show that, in 1810, politics were in a very unsettled state. Perceval, dogged by ill-success, was not popular. The general opinion was that a change of ministry could not long be delayed, and that Grenville and Grey would be put at the head of affairs; but in the ranks of the Opposition there was mutiny and rancorous intrigue.

State of politics.

In the early debates of the session, full advantage was taken of the unfortunate expedition to the Scheldt,1 and of the apparent want of success in the Peninsula. There can be no doubt that the former was a fair object for attack, but the persistent hostility to Wellington seems to argue more regard for party than patriotism.2 On the whole, one does not get the idea that

____________________
1
About half of volume xv. of Hansard is taken up with the evidence given before a Committee of the whole House in this enquiry.
2
The attitude of so many prominent people towards Wellington in these early days of the campaign is very remarkable. "His career approaches very rapidly to a conclusion," wrote Creevey in his diary on 17th February. He was credited neither with a plan nor with results. Even Talavera did not shake the opinion of these critics. It was not to be compared with Maida. It was not a victory but a retreat, marked with all the calamitous consequences of a defeat. It was not decisive; it failed of its object, if it had any. It appeared to Whitbread that Lord Wellington had got his army into a prodigious scrape, and that they had brought him out of it most wonderfully -- like the act of an admiral who first ran his ships among rocks and shoals, and then evinced great skill and ability in getting them off again. When the King's Message asked an annuity of £2,000 for Wellington, "in consequence of the eminent services rendered in the brilliant and decisive victory obtained by the troops under his command against a superior French force at Talavera," the City protested against it; Creevey wrote, "this is too bad!"; and Windham said, "if they lavished their honours thus, and he was to take two steps more, the Court Calendar would not contain him." Wilberforce, however, stood out in honourable exception. According to competent judges, he said, there was not living a more perfect soldier -- as forward to share the fatigues as he was the dangers of his troops. His comprehensive mind embraced every department of the army under his command. He was

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