1902 Encyclopedia > Duke of Wellington

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington





ARTHUR WELLESLEY, DUKE OF WELLINGTON, (1769-1852), was the fourth son of Garrett, earl of Mornington, now remembered only as a musician. He was descended from the family of Colley or Cowley, which had been settled in Ireland for some centuries. The duke’s grand-father assumed the name of Wesley on succeeding to the estates of Mr Garrett Wesley, a kinsman of the famous divine ; the affinity between the families of Colley and Wesley rests, however, on nothing nearer than a common ancestor in the 15th century. In the duke’s early letters the family name is spelt Wesley ; the change to Wesllesley seems to have been made about 1790. Arthur (born in Ireland in the spring of 1769_) was sent to Eton, and subsequently to the military college at Angers. He entered the army as ensign of the 73d regiment in 1787, passed rapidly through the subaltern grades became major of the 33d, and purschased the lieutenant-colonelcy of that regiment in 18793 with money advanced to him by his eldest brother. Before reaching full age he was returned to the Irish parliament by the family borough of Trim. Little is known of his history during these years ; but neither in boyhood nor early youth does he appear to have made any mark among his contemporaries. His first experience of active service was in the disastrous campaign of 1794-95, when, the British force under the duke of York was driven out of Holland by Pichegru. In 1796 he was sent with his regiment to India. Three years more passed before Wellesley became known to the world, but we have his own testimony that it was during these years of obscurity that he qualified himself in one direction for the great military career before him. As colonel commanding a regiment he gained the most minute and accurate acquaintance with every detail of the soldier’s life, learned the precise amount of food

FOOTNOTE (p. 493)

1 In Merrion Street, Dublin,or at Dungan Castle, Meath, towards the end of April or on 1st May ; but both place and date are uncertain.



required for every mouth, the exact weight that could be carried, the distances that could be traversed without exhaustion, the whole body of conditions in short which govern the activity both in peace and war of man and beast. It was to this absolutely complete knowledge of practical details that Wellington ascribed in great part his own success in the highest command. It is probable, moreover, that he at this time made a serious study of the science and history of warfare. His training at the college of Angers is not sufficient to account for his great technical knowledge ; no record, however, exists of the stages by which this was acquired. In 1798 Colonel Wellesley’s eldest brother, Lord Mornington, afterwards marquis of Wellesley, arrived in India as governor-general. The war with Tippoo Saib followed. The 33d regiment was attached to the subsidiary force furnished by the nizam, and Colonel Wellesley was entrusted with the command of this division, under the orders of General Harris. In a preliminary attack upon the works of Seringapatam Wellesley met with a repulse ; in the successful assault upon the town he commanded the reserve. Though his military services in this short campaign were not of a striking character, he was appointed by his brother to the supreme military and political command in Mysore. His great faculties now for the first-time opportunity for their exercise. In the settlement and administration of the conquered territory Wellesley rapidly acquired the habits and experience of a statesman. Nor, in the midst of his work of peaceful reorganization, was it possible for him to abandon the life of the soldier. The frontiers of Mysore were harassed by independent chieftains or marauders, especially by one Doondiah, an energetic leader, who has assumed the title of "the king of two worlds." Wellesley’s operations against Doondiah were conducted with extraordinary energy; his marches in pursuit were prodigious, and his final success complete. More important, however, than the military side of these operations was their political character. When pressed in Mysore, Doondiah moved into Mahratta territory, and into this territory it was necessary for Wellesley to follow him. Here negotiating and bargaining with the Mahratta chiefs, Wellesley acquired a knowledge of their affairs and an influence over them such as no other Englishman possessed. Simple and honourable himself, he was shrewd and penetrating in his judgment of Orientals ; and, unlike his great predecessor Clive, he rigidly adhered to the rule of good faith in his own actions, however depraved and however exasperating the conduct of those with whom he had to deal. The result of Wellesley’s singular personal ascendency among the Mahrattas came into full view when the Mahratta war broke out. In the meantime, however, his Indian career seemed likely to be sacrificed to the calls of warfare in another quarter. Wellesley was ordered by the governor-general, in December 1800, to take command of a body of troops collected for foreign service at Trincomalee, in Ceylon. It was at first intended that these troops should act against Java or Mauritius ; their destination was, however, altered to Egypt, an notification was, made to Wellesley that in consequence of this change General Baird would be placed in command above him. Though deeply offended at the loss of the command, Wellesley so completely sank all personal grievance in his devotion to the public cause that, in opposition to his instructions, and at the risk of incurring severe censure, he moved the troops on his own responsibility from Trincomalee to Bombay, from the conviction that, if they were to be of any use in Egypt, it was absolutely necessary that they should provision at Bombay without delay. The documents in which Wellesley justified this step prove his singularly clear and profound acquaintance with the conditions of a successful invasion of Egypt from India. At Bombay Wellesley was attacked by fever, and prevented from going on to Egypt. He returned with great satisfaction to his government in Mysore, where he remained until the Mahratta war broke out. The power of the peshwa, nominally supreme in the Mahratta territory, had been overthrown by his rivals Holkar and others, and he had himself fled Poona to Basein on the coast. By the treaty of Bassein, mae in December 1802, the Indian Government entered into an alliance with this potentate, an pledge itself to restore his authority. Wellesley was placed in command of the army charged with this task. Starting from Seringapatam, he crossed the frontier on March 12, 1803, and moved through the southern Mahratta territory on Poona. The march was one unbroken success. Wellesley’s own arrangements, which displayed the utmost forethought and sagacity in dealing with the physical conditions to be encountered on the march, would no doubt have secured his victory had resistance been encountere ; but his personal and diplomatic ascendency among the chieftains of the district worked even more powerfully than the fear of his arms. No hand was raise against him, and a march of six hundred miles was conducted without even a skirmish, "The confidence and respect of every class in the provinces south of the Kistna," wrote Major Malcolm, the political agent who accompanied the march, "is in a very great degree personal to Major-General Wellesley. To the admiration which the Mahratta chiefs entertain for that officer’s military character, and the firm reliance which the inhabitants place on his justice and protection, the extraordinary success which has hitherto attended the progress of the march must be principally attributed." Wellesley had intended to reach Poona on the 23d of April. On the night of the 18th, when 60 miles distant from Poona, he received intelligence that Amrut Rao, a rival of the peshwa’s intended to burn the city at the approach of the English. Counting no moment to be lost, Wellesley pressed on with the cavalry, accomplished the march of 60 miles in thirty-two hours, and entered Poona on the afternoon of the 20th, in time to save the city from destruction. The peshwa now restored to power, and entered into various military obligations with Wellesley, which he very imperfectly fulfilled.

In the meantime Sindhia and Holkar, with the raja of Berar, maintained a doubtful but threatening aspect farther north. It was uncertain whether or not a confederacy of the northern Mahrattas had been formed against the British Government. In these critical circumstances, while peace and war hung in the balance. Wellesley was charged with "the general direction and control of all the military and political affairs of the British Government in the territories of the nizam, of the peshwa, and of the Mahratta states and chiefs." Acting in execution of these powers, he required Sindhia, as a proof of good faith, to withdraw to the north of the Nerbuddha. Sindhia not doing so, war was declared on August 6, 1803. Wellesley marched norhtwards, caputured Ahmadnagar on August 11, crossed the Godavery ten days later, and moved against the combined forces of Sindhia and the rajah of Berar. Colonel Stevenson was meanwhile approaching with a second division from the east, and it was intended that the two corps should unite in an attack on the enemy. On the 23d of September Wellesley supposed himself to be still some miles from the Mahratta headquarters ; he suddenly found that the entire forces of Sindha and the rajah of Berar were close in front of him at Assaye. Weighing the dangers of delay of retreat, and of an attack with his own unsupported division, Wellesley convinced himself that an immediate attack, though against greatly superior forces in a strong position, was the widest course. He threw himself upon the Mahratta host, and ultimately gained a complete victory, though with the loss of 2500 men out of a total probably not much exceeding 7000. In comparison with the battle of Assaye, all fighting that had hitherto taken place in India was child’s play. The enemy’s artillery was of the most formidable character, and worked with deadly effect. A hundred cannon were taken by the conqueror, who now uniting with Stevenson’s division, followed up the pursuit, and brought the war to a close by a second victory at Argaum on November 29. The treaties with Sindha and the raja of Berar which followed the overthrow of their arms, and which marked the downfall of the Mahratta power, were negotiated and signed by Wellesley in the course of the following month. Not yet thirty-five years old, Wellesley had proved himself as through a master in the sphere of Indian statesmanship and diplomacy as on the field of battle. Had his career ended at this time, his despatches on the negotiations with the Mahrattas and on the general conduct of Indian policy would have proved him to have been one of the wisest and strongest heads that have ever served England in the East.

In the spring of 1805 Wellesley, now Sir Arthur, quitted India and returned home. He was immediately sent on the expedition to Hanover which was rendered abortive by the battle of Austerliz. In 1806 he was elected member of parliament for the borough of Rye, and in the following year was appointed Irish secretary. After serving in this office for a few months he was employed in the expedition against Copenhagen, where little glory was to be gained. In the summer of 1808 he took command of a body of troops destined to operate against the French in Spain or Portugal. Finding that the junta or Corunna wished for no foreign soldiery, he proceeded to fulfil his instructions by actin against Junot at Lisbon. He landed at Mondego Bay in the first week of August, and moved southwards, the 21st the battle of Vimiero was fought and won. In the midst of this engagement, however, Sir Harry Burrard landed, and superseded Wellesley in the command. Wellesley in vain called upon this general to follow up the pursuit when the victory was gained. The consequence was that Junot’s army, which would have been captured or annihilated if Wellesley’s advice had been executed escaped into a position which secured it the means of retreat if favourable terms of capitulation were refused. The convention of Cintra provided for the evacuation of Portugal by the French, but it gave Junot and all his troops a free return to France. So great was the public displeasure in England at the escape of the enemy that a court of inquiry was held into all the circumstances attending the convention of Cintra. At this inquiry the rejectin of Wellesley’s counsels by his superior officer at the close of the battle of Vimiero was fully proved.

After the failure of Sir John Moore’s campaign in the winter of 1808–9, Wellesley, who had in the meantime resumed his duties his as Irish secretary, returned to the Peninsula as chief in command. His first move was against Soult, who had captured Oporto. He drove the French out of this city by a singularly bold and fortunate attack, and then prepared to march against March against Madrid by the valley of the Tagus. Some appearance of additional strength was given him by support of a Spanish army under General Cuesta ; but his movements were delayed by the neglect and bad faith of the Spanish Government, and time was given to Soult to collect a large force at Salamanca, with which he intended to fall upon the English line of communications. Wellesley, unconscious of Soult’s presence in force in his flank, advanced against Madrid, and finally drew up at Talavera to meet attack of Victor, who had defeated Cuesta and driven him back on the English. The battle was begun on the 27th and continued on the 28th of July. Wellesley gained a complete victory, and decisively proved the superiority of English troops under his command over those of the enemy. But within the next few days Soult’s approach on the line of communication was discovered. It was impossible for Wellesley to follow up his advantages. The victory of Talavera had brought prestige but nothing else. Superiority of numbers had made the French the real winner of the campaign, and Wellesley, disgusted with his Spanish allies, had no choice but to withdrawn into Portugal and there stand upon the defensive. A peerage, with the title of Viscount Wellington, was conferred upon his for his victor at Talavera.

Up to this time Napoleon, with the bulk of his armies, had been occupied with the war against Austria. The peace of Vienna, concluded in October 1809, made him free to throw an almost unlimited for into the Spanish Peninsula. Wellington, foreseeing that Portugal would now be invaded by a very powerful army, began the fortification of the celebrated lines of Torres Vedras, which followed the mountain-bastion on the north of Lisbon, and left no single point open between the Tagus and the sea. The English army in the meantime wintered in the neighbourhood of Almeida. As summer approached Wellington’s anticipations were realized. Massésna, who had distinguished himself above every other general in the Austrian war of 1809, arrived in Spain, and moved against Portugal with an army of 70,000 men. Wellington, was unable to prevent Ciudad Rodrigo from falling into the hands of the French. He retreated down the valley of the Mondego, devastating the country, and at length halted at Busaco, and gave battle. The French attack was repelled, but other roads were open to the invader, and Wellington continued his retreat. Masséna followed, and heard for the first time of the fortifications of Torres Vedras when he was within five day’s march of them. On approaching the mountain-barrier the French general sought in vain for an unprotected point. It was with the utmost difficulty, while waiting for reinforcements, that he could keep his army from starving. At length, when the country was utterly exhausted, he commenced his retreat. Wellington descended from the heights, but his marching-force was too weak to risk a pitched battle. Masséna was in consequence able to maintain himself at Santarem for the winter. But in the spring of 1811 Wellington received reinforcements from England. He now move against the enemy. Masséna retreated northwards, devastating the country with unsparing severity in order to check the pursuit. Such were the sufferings of his army, both in the invasion and in the retreat, that, the French, when they re-entered Spain, had lost 30,000 men.

In the meantime Soult, who was besieging Cadiz, had received orders from Napoleon to move to the support of Masséna. Leaving part of his force in front of Cadiz, he marched northwards and captured Badajoz. Here, however, he learnt that Masséna was in full retreat, and also that his own arm besieging Cadiz had been attacked and beaten. He in consequence returned and resumed the blockade. Wellington, freed from pressure on the south, and believing Masséna to be thoroughly disabled, considered that the time had come for an advance into Spain. The fortresses of Almeeida, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Badajoz had to be recaptured from the French. Leaving a small force to besiege Almeida, Wellington went southwards to arrange with Beresford for the siege of Badajoz. During his absence Masséna again took the field, and marched to the relief of Almeida. Wellington returned in time to defeat him at Fuents d’ Onoro, and Almeida passed into the hands of the British. In the south Soult advanced to the relief of Badajoz. He was overthrown by Beresford at Albuera ; but the junction of the two French armies compelled the English to raise the siege, and Wellington had to retire within the Portuguese frontier. Moving northwards with the view of laying siege to Ciudad Rodrigo, he was again outnumbered by the French, and forced to withdraw to cantonments on the Coa.

Wellington had from the first seen that, whatever number of men Napoleon might send against Portugal, it was impossible, owing to the poverty of the country, that any great mass of troops could long be held together. The French generals, by combining their armies, might for a while be superior to him, but the want of provisions would inevitably lead to their separation after a longer or shorter interval. This was verified at the end of 1811. Soult’s division had to move southwards for support, and the English were again more than a match for the enemy in front of them. Wellington resumed the offensive, and an the 19th of January 1812 Ciudad Rodrigo was taken by storm. The road into Spain was now open; it only remained to secure Portugal itself and the line of communication by the capture of Badajoz. Wellington crossed the Tagus and completed the investment of this fortress by the middle of March. It was necessary at whatever cost to anticipate the arrival of Soult with a relieving army, and on the 6th of April Wellington ordered the assault. The fearful slaughter which took place before the British were masters of the defences caused Wellington to be charged with indifference to the loss of human life ; but, whatever faults may have been made in the actual operations, a postponement of the attack would merely have resulted in more battles against Soult, in which a greater number of men would have perished. Of all generals Wellington was the last to throw away a single life needlessly.

The advance into Spain against the French line of communication between Marmont, who had succeeded Masséna in the command, fell back and allowed Wellington to occupy Salamanca ; but on reaching the Douro he turned upon his assailant, and by superior swiftness in marching, threatened to cut the English off from Portugal. Wellington now retreated as far as Salamanca, and there extricated himself from his peril by one of the most brilliant victories which he ever gained (July 22). The French fell back on Burgos, Instead of immediately have been the better course, Wellington thought it wise to advance upon the Spanish capital. King Joseph retired southwards and the English entered Madrid in triumph. The political effect of this act was very great, but the delay gave the French northern army time to rally. On marching against them Wellington was checked by the obstinate defence of Burgos. Moreover, in consequence of the loss of the capital, Soult was now ordered to raise the siege of Cadiz, and to more to the support of King Joseph. Gathering his forces, and uniting them with the French army of the centre, he pressed on towards Madrid. It was impossible for Wellington to maintain his position, and he was compelled once more to retire into Portugal, while Madrid passed back into the hands of the French. During this his last retreat the demoralization and misconduct of the British army surpassed anything that their chief had ever witnessed. The effect of the campaign was, however, that Cadiz was free, and that the southern provinces were finally cleared of the invader.

Wellington was now invested by the cortes with the supreme command of the Spanish armies. He visited Cadiz in December 1812, and offered counsels of moderation to the democratic assembly, which were not followed. During the succeeding months he was occupied with plans and preparations for a great combined attack, and at length, in May 1813, the hour for his final and victories advance arrived. The disasters of the Russian campaign had compelled Napoleon to withdraw some of his best regiments from the Peninsula. Against a weakened and discoraged adversary Wellington took the field with greatly increase numbers, and with the utmost confidence of victory. His design was to throw himself directly upon the French line of communication, keeping his left pushed forward in advance of his centre, so as to threaten the envelopment of the fortified posts held by the enemy. Napoleon had foreseen that this would be the strategy of the English commander, and had ordered King Joseph to neglect every point to the centre and east, and to concentrate at Valladolid. This order had been but imperfectly obeyed. The advance of the allied army was irresistible. Position after position was evacuated by the French, until Wellington, driving everything before him, came up with the retreating enemy at Vitoria, now encumbered with an enormous train of fugitives, and with the spoils of five year’s occupation of Spain. His victory, won on the 21st of June, was overwhelming. All the artillery and almost all the treasure and stores of the French army fell into the hands of the conquerors. It only remained for Napoleon to commit to Marshal Soult, as his lieutenant, the task of defending the Pyreness, and of delivering, if possible, the fortresses of St Sebastian and Pamplona, which Wellington now besieged. Soult’s combats in the Pyreness, an the desperate resistance of St Sebastian, prolonged the struggle through the autumn of 1813, and cost the English torrents of blood. But at length the frontier was passed, and after a succession of encounters on French soil Soult was forced back into his entrenched camp at Bayonne. Both armies now rested for some weaks, during which interval Wellington gained the confidence of the inhabitants of the district by his unsparing repression of marauding, his business-like payment for supplies, and the excellent discipline which he maintained among his soldiers. In February 1814 the advance was renewed. The Adour was crossed, and Soult, leaving a garrison in Bayonne, fell back on Orthes. At Orthes he was attacked and defeated. Bordeaux now declared in favour of the Bourbons and admitted the English. Soult’s last move was upon Toulouse. Here, after the allies had entered Paris, but before the abdication of Napoleon had become known, the last battle of the war was fought. Peace being proclaimed, Wellington took leave of his army at Bordeaux, and returned to England, where he was received with extraordinary honours.

After the treaty of Paris (May 30) Wellington was appointed British ambassador at the French capital. During the autumn and winter of 1814 he witnessed and reported the mistakes of the restored Bourbon dynasty, and warned his Government of the growing danger from conspiracies and from the army, which was visibly hostile to the Bourbons. "The truth is," he wrote, "that the king of France without the army is no circumstances immediately before and around him, and he entirely failed nation was still with Napoleon at heart. He remained in France until February 1815, when, in consequence of the return of Lord Castlereagh to England to meet the House of Commons, he took that minister’s of the congress had already been settled, and Wellington’s diplomatic work here was not of importance. His imperfect acquaintance with French feeling was strikingly proved in the despatch which he sent home on learning of Napoleon’s escape from Elba. "He has acted," he wrote, "upon false or no information, and the king (Louis XVIII.) will destroy him without difficulty and in a short time." Almost before Wellington’s unfortunate prediction could reach London, Louis had fled beyond the frontier, and France was at Napoleon’s feet. The ban of the congress, however, went out against the common enemy of mankind, and the presence of Wellington at Vienna enabled the allies at once to decide upon their plans for the campaign. To Wellington and Blücher was committed the invasion of France from the north, while the Russians and Austrians entered it from the east. Preparations were pushed forward, and it was supposed that the war would be opened by an attack upon Alsace about the middle of June. Wellington, with 35,000 English troops and about 60,000 Dutch, Germans, and Belgians, took his post in the Netherland, guarding the country west of the Charleroi road. Blücher, with 120,000 Prussians, lay between Charleroi, Namur, and Liége. In the meantime Napoleon had outstripped the preparations of his adversaries, and by the 13th of June had concentrated 130,000 men on the northern frontier about Philippeville. It now become known to the allied leaders that large French forces were near at hand, but Wellington believed that Napoleon himself was still in Paris, and still expected that the war would be opened by a forward movement of Schwarzenberg into Alsace. He was, moreover, strongly of opinions that, if Napoleon did take up the offensive on the north, he would know throw himself upon the west of the English line and endeavour to cut the English off from the sea. Persuaded that the danger lay rather towards the coast than at the centre of the Anglo-Prussian line, he kept his forces farther westward than he would have done if he had known Napoleon’s real intentions. Although the French advance on the centre became evident at the front on the morning of the 14th, it was unknown to Wellington till the afternoon of the 15th (after the Prussians had been driven out of Charleroi) that the French had made any movement whatever. How it was that the advance remained unknown to Wellington for twenty-four hours not been explained ; had he learnt of it at once, he would probably have been able to reach Ligny with sufficient force to turn the Prussian defeat into a victory and to end the war at one blow. Commencing his concentration eastwards twenty-four hours too late, he was unable to fulfill his design to assisting Blücher. New, getting a start on the Brussels road, kept the English occupied at Quatre Bras during the 16th, while Napoleon was dealing with the Prussians at Ligny,—though the ultimate defeat of the French at Quatre Bras, and Napoleons’ own failure to follow up his victory at Ligny by a rapid pursuit, rendered it possible for the allies to effect two days later the combination which they had failed to effect at Ligny. On the morning of Sunday, June 18, Wellington, assured of Blücher’s assistance, awaited Napoleon’s attack on the memorable plain of Waterloo. How, at the head of 30,000 English and 40,000 mixed troops, he withstood the onslaught of the French army, and ultimately, in union with Blücher, swept them from the field, needs not to be recounhnted here.

Ending his military career with one of the greatest achievements in history, Wellington suddenly became, from the peculiar circumstances of the moment, the most influential politician in Europe. The czar and the emperor of Austria were still at Nancy when Paris surrendered. Wellington had reason to believe that Alexander bore so hostile a feeling towards Louis XVIII. Tthat, if matters were not settled before the arrival of the czar at Paris, the Bourbon dynasty might not be restored at all. He therefore took affairs into his own hands, and concluded an arrangement whereby the regicide Fouché, at that moment the most powerful man in Paris, was accepted as the minister of Louis XVIII. The difficulties which might otherwise have been thrown in the way of this monarch’s return to the Tuileries by the troops or by the populace of Paris were thus removed ; and when Alexander arrived he found Louis XVIII. already in possession. The negotiation with Fouchè was not a dignified episode in Wellington’s life ; he stooped, however, to a somewhat humiliating expedient in order to avert substantial mischief. The next manifestation his personal ascendency was of a finer kind. The conditions of peace with France had to be determined by the allies ; and, while the czar urged that France should be left with undiminished territory, Prussia demanded, as a guarantee against renewed aggression, the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine. The British cabinet at first inclined to the Prussian view. Wellington, however, argued strongly for the opposite policy. He urged that the Bourbon dynasty would be hopelessly discredited if its second restoration were accompanied by the loss of the border provinces ; that the allies had in their proclamations distinguished between the cause of Napoleon and the cause of the French people ; and that the French people, by refraining from offering any general resistance, had shown their practical acceptance of this distinction and so entitled themselves to the advantages held out in it. Wellington’s arguments brought the English Government round to his own view, and so turned the balance in favour of the czar’s policy of forbearance and against the annexations demanded by Prussia. The policy which he thus successfully advocated has naturally been condemned by most German statesmen long continuance of the peace of 1815, a continuance which would hardly have been possible if the recovery of Alsace and Lorraine had been added to the other motives which, during the next thirty years, repeatedly brought France tot he verge of war.

Peace being concluded, Wellington was appointed commander-in-chief of the joint army of occupation, by which it was stipulated that France should be watched for the next five years. The administrative duties attaching to this post, and the reconstruction of the military frontier of the Netherlands, were, however, but a small part of the work now imposed upon him. In conjucntion, and sometimes in rivalry, with the representatives of the other powers, he observed the course of French politics, counselling King Louis XVIII., checking to the best of his ability the extravagances of the count of Artois and the ultra-royalist party, and advancing the financial negotiations with Messrs Baring which enabled the French Government to pay the indemnities due from it, and thus rendered it possible for the powers to reduce the period of occupation from five to three years. When this reduction was first proposed, Wellington had not been confident of its wisdom ; he subsequently became convinced that it might be granted with safety, and at the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818 he supported the proposal for the immediate evacuation of France, though this cut short by the two years his own tenure of an office of almost unparalleled influence and emolument. Returning to England, he sank into the comparative insignificance of master-general of the ordance, with a seat in the cabinet. For the next three years he was little before the world ; but in 1822, on the death of Castlereagh, he was sent in the place of this minister to represent Great Britain at the congress of Verona. The main question before the congress was the policy to be adopted with regard to the Spanish movement, whether called revolutionary or constitutional, by which the absolute monarchy of King Ferdinand had been overthrown. It was the settled policy of the British Government to oppose any joint intervention of the powers in Spain ; it was not, however, known at London before Wellington set out that the project of intervention yet existed anywhere in a definite form. In passing through Paris the duke discovered the danger to be more imminent than had been supposed ; he also learnt that, whatever might be the intentions of the French Government with regard to intervention in Spain by its own army, it was determined under no circumstances to give Russian troops a passage through France. NO sooner had Wellington arrived at Verona than he found that the czar was bent upon obtaining a joint declaration of all the powers condemning the Spanish constitution, and committing to the Russian army, as the mandatory of Europe, it task of overthrowing it. In pursuance of his instructions, Wellington now stated that Great Britain would rather sever itself from the European alliance cemented at Aix-la-Chapelle than consent to any such joint declaration ; and the information which he had privately acquired at Paris enabled him to inform the czar that his project of employing Russian troops in Spain would certainly be thwarted by France. Armed with these two powerful arguments—the one public and official, the other personal and private—Wellington had no great difficulty in preventing the summary framing of a decree against Spain like that which had been issued two years before by the congress of Troppau against the constitution of Naples. In this respect the British Government had gained its success was apparent rather than real. Although the congress of Veron published no declaration of joint European action against the Spanish constitution, it was not in Wellington’s power to prevent the negotiations which followed between the French representative and the three Easter courts. Out of these negotiations arose the French attack upon Spain in 1823, accompanied by diplomatic action on the part of the Eastern powers which rendered the restoration of Spanish absolutism more complete and more unqualified than it would have been if France had entered upon the work entirely alone.

In the cabinet of Lord Liverpool the influence of Canning had, since Castlereagh’s death, been predominant on all matters of foreign policy. Though Wellington disliked the tone of defiance frequently used by Canning towards the autocratic courts, he was sincerely at one with Canning’s Spanish policy ; he did not oppose his recognition of the independence of the South-American republics; and, when Canning, abandoning his position of passive neutrality between the Turkish Government and insurgent Greece, proposed to attempt joint diplomatic action with Russia in hope of terminating the struggle, the duke was willing to co-operate in this policy within certain limits. Canning, while really anxious to assist the Greeks based his new policy officially on the need of preventing Russia from acting alone. With the duke, the design of putting a check upon Russia was the sole active motive. He cared nothing whatever for the Greeks, but he did feel anxious to prevent Russia from making their cause a pretext of war with the Porte. He therefore consested, on the coronation of the czar Nicholas in 1826, to carry proposals to St Petersburg for the diplomatic co-operation of Russia and England in bringing about a settlement of the Greek question. On the 4th of April 1827 the protocol of St Petersburg was signed, by which the two powers agreed that the mediation of England should be offered to the Porte, on terms that Greece should be granted local autonomy, but remains part of the Ottoman empire and tributary to the sultan. No provision was made for further action in case the Porte should not accept England’s mediation on these terms, nor was employment of force even alluded to. Scarcely had this protocool been signed when the accession of Canning to the premiership caused Wellington to withdraw from the Government. He was willing to serve with Canning under a common leader, but would not serve under him. The effect of his withdrawal was momentous in its bearing upon Eastern affairs. Canning freed from Wellington’s restraint, carried his intervention on behalf of Greece a step further, and concluded, on the 27th of July, the treaty of London, whereby France, England, and Russia bound themselves to put an end to the conflict in the East and to enforce the conditions of the St Petersburg protocol upon the belligerents. Against this treaty Wellington protested, on the ground that it "specified means of compulsion which were neither more nor less than measures of war." His apprehensions were fulfilled by the battle of Navarino.

Canning died in August 1827, and on the fall of Lord Goderich’s cabinet five months later Wellington became prime minister. He had declared some time before that it would be an act of madness for him to take this post ; but he sense of public duty led him to accept it when it was pressed upon him by the king. His cabinet included at the first Huskisson, Palmerston, and other followers of Canning. The repeal of the Test and Corporation Act having been carried in the House of Commons in the session of 1828, Wellington, to great disappointment of Tories like Lord Eldon, recommended the House of Lords not to offer further resistance, and the measure was accordingly carried through. Soon afterwards a quarrel between the duke and Huskisson led to the retirement from the ministry of al its more liberal members. It was now hoped by the so-called Protestant party that Wellington, at the head of a more united cabinet, would offer a steady resistance of Catholic emancipation. Never were men more bitterly disappointed. The Clare election and the progress of the Catholic Association convinced both Wellington and Pell that the time had come when Catholic emancipation must be granted ; and, submitting when further resistance would have led to civil war, the ministry itself brought in at the beginning of the session of 1829 a bill for the relief of the Catholics. Wellington, who had hitherto always opposed Catholic emancipation, explained and justified his change of front in simple and impressive language. His undoubted seriousness and him immense personal reputation did not, however, save him from the excesses of calumny and misinterpretation ; and in order to impose some moderation upon his aspersers the duke thought it necessary to send a challenge to one of the most violent of these, the earl of Winchelsea. No mischief resulted from the encounter.

Catholic emancipation was the great act of Wellington’s ministry ; in other respects his tenure of office was not marked by much success. The imagination and the breadth of view necessary to a statesman of the highest order were not part of his endowment, nor had he the power of working harmoniously with his subordinates. His Eastern policy was singularly short-sighted. There might have been goo reason, from Wellington’s point of view, or condemning Canning’s treaty of London ; but when, in consequence of this treaty, the battle of Navarino had been fought, the Turkish fleet sunk, and the independence of Greece practically established, it was the weakest of all possible courses to withdraw England from its active intervention, and to leave to Russia the gains of a private and isolated war. This, however, was Wellington’s policy ; and, having permitted Russia to go to war alone in 1828, nothing remained for him but to treat Greece as a pawn in Russia’s hands, and to cut down the territory of the Greek kingdom to the narrowest possible limits, as if the restoration to the sultan of an inaccessible mountain-tract, inhabited by the bitterest of his enemies, could permanently add to the strength of the Ottoman empire. The result was the renunciation of the Greek crown by Prince Leopold ; and, although, after the fall of Wellington’s ministry, a somewhat better frontier was given to Greece, it was then too late to establish this kingdom in adequate strength, and to make it, as it might have been made, a counterpoise to Russian’s influence in the Levant. Nor was the indulgence shown by the cabinet towards Dom Miguel and the absolutists of Portugal quite worthy of England. That Wellington actively assisted despotic Governments against the constitutional movements of the time is not true. He had indeed none of the sympathy with national causes which began to influence British policy under Canning, and which became so powerful under Palmerston ; but the rule which he followed in foreign affairs, so far as he considered it possible, was that of non-intervention.

As soon as Catholic emancipation was carried, the demand for a reform of parliament agitated Great Britain from end to end. The duke was ill-informed as to the real spirit of the nation. He conceived the agitation for reform to be a purely fictitious one, worked up by partisans and men of disorder in their own interest and expressing no real want on the part of the public at expressing no real want on the part of the public at large. Met with a firm resistance, it would, he believed vanish away, with no worse result than the possible plunder of a few houses by the city mobs. Thus wholly unaware of the strength of the forces which he was provoking, the duke, at the opening of the parliament which met after the death of George IV., declared against any parliamentary reform whatever. This declaration led to the immediate fall of his Government. Lord Grey, the chief of the new ministry, brought in the Reform Bill, which was resisted by Wellington as long as anything was to be gained by resistance. When the creation of new peers was known to be imminent. Wellington was among those who counseled the abandonment of a hopeless struggle. His opposition to reform made him for a while unpopular. He was hooted by the mob on the anniversary of Waterloo, and considered it necessary to protect the windows of Apsley House with iron shutters.

For the next two years the duke was in opposition. On the removal of Lored Althorp to the House of Lords in 1834, King William IV. unexpectedly dismissed the Whig ministry and requested Wellington to form a cabinet. The duke, however, recommended that Peel should be at the head of the Government, and served under him, during the few months that his ministry lasted, as foreign secretary. On Peel’s later return to power in 1841 Wellington was again in the cabinet, but without department office beyond that of commader-in-chief. He supported Peel in his Corn-Law legislation, and throughout all this later period of his life, whether in office or in opposition, gained the admiration of discerning men, and excited the wonder of zealots, by his habitual subordination of party spirit and party connexion to whatever appeared to him the real interest of the nation. On Peel’s defeat in 1846, the duke retired from active public life. He was now nearly eighty. His organization of the military force in London against the Chartists in April 1848, and his letter to Sir John Burgoyne on the defences of the country, proved that the old man had still something of his youth about him. But the general character of Wellington’s last years was rather that of the old age of a great idealized. To the unbroken splendours of his military career, to his honourable and conscientious labours as a parliamentary statesman, life unusually prolonged added an evening of impressive beauty and calm. The passions excited during the stormy epoch of the Reform Bill had long passed away. Venerated and beloved by the greatest and the lowliest, the old hero entered, as it were, into the immortality of his fame while still among his countrymen. Death came to him at last in its gentlest form. He passed away on the 14th of September 1852, and was buried under the dome of St Paul’s in a manner worthy both of the nation and of the man. His monuments, a mere fraction of the work originally designed, stands in the chapel at the south-western end of the cathedral.

Authorities.—The Wellington Despatches, edited by Gurwood ; Supplementary Despatches ; Wellington Despatches, New Series, edited by the second duke of Wellington. Unlike Napoleons’ despatches and correspondence, everything from Wellington’s pen is absolutely trustworthy : not a word is written for effect, and no fact is misrepresented. Almost all the political memoirs of the period 1830–1850 contain more or less about Wellington in his later life. Those of Greville and Croker have perhaps most of interest. (C. A. F.)







The above article was written by Charles Alan Fyffe, M.A.; Barrister-at-Law; war correspondent to Daily News in Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71; author of History of Greece, A History of Modern Europe, and The Land Question.




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