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Our readers are no doubt aware, at the period of Lord Wellington's that a collection of Lord Wellington's arrival, is-just what it ought to be despatches has been for some time clear, concise, and comprehensive. past in process of publication. Six Though the work be announced volumes of the work have already ap- simply as a collection of “despatches," peared, and as the documents they that title affords a very inadequate contain reach only to the latter part idea of its contents. In fact, it conof 1810, it is probable that at least an tains not merely the despatches-takequal number will be required for its ing the word in its ordinary significacompletion. Colonel Gurwood, the tion—but the whole mass of Lord editor, is well known to be one of the Wellington's letters relative to the most distinguished officers of his rank public service, which it has been found in the service, and having gained his possible to recover.* Of those conhonours under Wellington, may be tained in the volumes already publishsupposed to discharge his duties con ed many are of course official, but the amore. The volumes before us prove great majority are of a nature strictly that he is fully qualified for the task private, and communicate his impreshe has undertaken. His own contri- sions of passing events with a freebutions are always marked by good dom only to be expected in the confitaste and sound judgment, and the dential intercourse of friends. It is prefatory notice of the state of India, needless to say how much this entire
The Despatches of Field-Marshal the Duke of Wellington, K.G., during his various Campaigns in India, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, the Low Countries, and France, from 1799 to 1818. Compiled from official and authentic documents, by Lieut-Colonel Gurwood, Esquire to his Grace as Knight of the Bath. London: John Murray, Albemarle Strect. 1834-6.
* We have been informed within these few days, that Sir Frederick Adam has digcovered Three Volumes of His Grace's Letters in his own handwriting in the Mysoro Residency. These letters embrace the period immediately subsequent to the Duke's taking command of Seringapatam in 1799, up to his illness at Bombay in 1801. They are all addressed to Colonel Barry Close, and there appears to be only one of them which has found its way into print. Some of these are of the highest interest, and they all afford proof, it is said, of the versatility and extent of the Duke's capacity.
VOL. XLI, NO, CCLV.
absence of premeditation enhances their which rarely happens), our concluinterest and value. We read with the sions as to the motives which produced gratifying consciousness of being ad- them, must frequently be dubious and mitted to the full confidence of the imperfect. The decisions of a comwriter, and are often placed in a situ- mander are necessarily influenced by ation to observe the entire progress of many transient circumstances, which his plans, from the first moment of born of the moment, pass with it, and their conception to that of their exe- leave no trace of their existence. Rucution. We learn how he wrote, how mours often false-anticipations not he felt, how he acted, under circum- realized and never recorded and a stances of high and singular interest, multitude of petty but important facts and are enabled to trace the progres- which never reach the historian, consive developement of those qualities stitute, in many cases, the only key which have led to the acquisition of by which the circumstances of a camthe highest honours attainable by a paign can be satisfactorily explainBritish subject, and the most splendid ed. Without a knowledge of these, reputation in Europe. By the mili. the records of war afford but scanty tary student the work will be found instruction, and an imperfect lesson. full of the most important instruc- The premises reasoned from are netion, which he could hope to obtain cessarily imperfect, and of course little from no other source. He will find reliance can be placed even on the in it a lofty example of high talents most logical deductions from partial devoted to high objects of dangers truth. braved-privations cheerfully submit. It is not, however, in the public ted to-difficulties encountered and despatches of a general that we can overcome—an activity that never tired look for the minute and circumstantial -and a professional zeal which shrank details, so essential to accurate judgfrom the performance of no duty how. ment. They can be discovered only ever irksome and laborious. Nor by examination of his private records, will the statesman find the time unpro- - where such exist,—and his secret fitably spent which he devotes to and confidential communications with these pages. Be his pretensions what the higher officers of his army. Pos. they may, we are sure he cannot read sessing these valuable materials, howof the negotiations conducted by Wel- ever, we are placed as it were on an lington with consummate skill ; of the eminence which commands the whole important and complicated interests he events of the war, and are enabled to was often called on to arrange or to decide with accuracy on the merits protect; or observe how completely of the general. his military operations were guided There are probably, however, very by the most subtle and comprehensive few generals who would feel solicitous views of political expediency, without that the world should be furnished gaining some valuable knowledge and with a knowledge so capable of being some enlargement of thought.
used as an instrument of offence. The But apart from such considerations, power of scrutiny which it must neand regarding the work merely as a cessarily carry with it is felt to be too collection of historical documents illus- severe. Even where their operations trative of events of the highest inter- have been successful in result, many est and importance, it would be diffi- generals are conscious of errors and cult to over-estimate its value. His miscalculations, towards which they tory in general can deal only in re- are by no means desirous that public sults, and whenever it attempts more, attention should be directed. To mithe truth of its conclusions is even litary men, at least, the assertion will proverbially admitted to be precarious. not seem incredible, that victories have To military history, in particular, the been gained by a fortunate mistake, observation is applicable in its broad- and blunders on one side have been ocest extent. The latter will be found casionally successful, through greater in many instances to be little more miscalculations on the other. In such than a system of ingenious conjecture. circumstances, of course, the victor
The reason is obvious. Even where has the prudence to wear his honours we are in possession of a minute and in silence. He writes no history of authentic record of the proceedings of his achievements—he publishes no dotwo hostile armies (a circumstance, cuments connected with them - he
communicates no gratuitous particu- the birthright of every Englishmanlars for the gratification of inconve- justice-and where is the man who nient curiosity. The laurels acquired would deny to Wellington that which by one error, he takes care not to en- is accorded to the meanest criminal : danger by another. His papers, It is inconceivable that such an aptherefore, are burned, or consigned to peal should have been made by a man the most obscure corner of his bureau, already in the evening of life; covered and the world is left to form its own with honours; satiated—if ever man estimate of his services, and discrimi. was— with applause; with no remainnate as best it may, between merit ing ambition to be gratified, unless and good luck. Under such circum- from the proud consciousness, that stances, the decision, as might be ex- there was nothing in his past life that pected, is all in his favour. England demanded either colouring or concealrings with his praises. He receives ment. No man has been more the the thanks of Parliament–is invested object of malignant abuse. Mobs have with stars and ribbons—and when he assailed his life, and mob orators his is gathered to his fathers, St Paul's is principles and character. And what graced with a monument to his memo- is his answer? The proudest ever made ry, in which Chantrey represents him by a great man to his calumniators. resting on a cannon, with the true He lays open the record of his serlineaments and bearing of a majestic vices, he discloses every particular warrior.
connected with them, and lets in the It is probable that the sketch we broad light of day, that every transhave just drawn savours somewhat of action in which he has borne a part, caricature. At all events, we wish may be seen by all, in its true colours merely to state, that whatever peril and proportions. This is Wellington's in ordinary cases may attend such reply. How nobly does it befit the disclosures, by the publication of the man ! present work we are put in possession The work, indeed, might, without of every document which can illus- impropriety, have been entitled, “ Metrate the public life of Wellington. moirs of the public life of the Duke of It cannot fail to be regarded as a remark. Wellington," for from its contents able and memorable circumstance, alone, might be compiled a biography that the man whose aristocratic con- far more authentic and minute, than tempt for popular opinion has been we can ever hope to possess of any made the subject of invective by every other warrior or statesman. There Radical newspaper in the kingdom, exists no man whose life is so comshould thus voluntarily place himself pletely historical, so thoroughly and at the bar of the public, and demand inseparably interwoven with the great judgment. He says, “in the first en events of his time, as that of Wellingthusiasm of triumph, you bestowed ton. The part allotted to him has not honours on the man by whom it had only been uniformly great, but played been achieved ; I now, after a lapse of on a great stage. In tracing his cayears, afford you the means of judging reer, therefore, the reader has not to whether these honours have been me- wade through a mass of uninteresting rited." There can be no reason, details, such as are usually necessary therefore, why the final award on the to illustrate the progress of subordinservices of Wellington should not be ate merit to distinction and reward. delivered. He acknowledges the au. To his noble birth, and the political thority of the tribunal. He challenges influence of his connexions, Wellingthe fullest investigation of his claims. ton was perhaps indebted, in the first There exists no doubt as to the authen- instance, for the opportunities of disticity or validity of the evidence ad tinction he enjoyed; but for the manduced. If the reputation he enjoys be ner in which he turned these opporfounded on a false and hollow basis, tunities to account, he was indebted to he has himself furnished ample means no one but himself. Under no cirby which the imposture may be de- cumstances is it conceivable, that tatected. He voluntarily subjects every lents like Wellington's could have action of his public life to the most ri- failed in raising their possessor to the gid and unsparing examination. He highest distinction. But even in the asks no favour, and will accept of commencement of his career he owed none ; le demands only that which is nothing more to patronage, than does