« ZurückWeiter »
Recollect Bonaparte's invasion and conquest of Egypt with forty thousand men, although a British fleet, superior to that by which they were convoyed, pursued and hovered around them; and the expedition of Hoche, the landing of whose army in Ireland the storm alone prevented.
The intrigues of the enemy are still more to be dreaded than his power, and your colonies present various materials for their operation:
I. The prejudices of the different classes of the inhabitants against each other, arising from birth, colour, and personal distinction, may be rendered highly injurious to them all. Each class might be addressed and flattered in the manner most grateful to its interests, its hatreds, its jealousies, and its pride. To the Europeans, the enemy will promise fortunes and honours in Spain; to the Creoles, office, dignity, and vengeance in America: to the planter, the freedom of agriculture; to the merchant, unrestricted commerce; to all the colonists, the abolition of tributes, monopolies, and unpopular taxes.
II. In some of your colonies, a large slave population will afford abundant resources for mischief to an unprincipled foe.
III. The influence of many families residing in Spain, and at the invader's mercy, may be exercised over their relatives in the colonies, in such a manner as he shall direct. Fear may operate upon the innocent; while those who have already betrayed their country will endeavour to shroud their infamy in success, or at least to divide and partition it widely; so that among the multitude of traitors, they may be unnoticed.
IV. Spain itself may have a strong national influence over the minds of the most honourable Spaniards. Their allegiance will be invoked for Spain and its actual sovereign, whoever he may be:--for that country which contains the scenes of their delighted youth, the habitations of their families, and the tombs of their an. cestors. Your enemy is thoroughly versed in the sophistry and rhetoric of usurpation.
V. The sovereign pontiff of Christendom is now the prisoner and the pensioner of Bonaparte; who, when much less powerful than at present, could compel his holiness to attend him at Paris, and consecrate his coronation. The emperor has indeed stripped his holiness of all his temporal dominions, but he would not hesitate to restore them, for a few months, in order to obtain, by means of his influence, any favourite object.*
How are the attacks and machinations of this formidable enemy to be frustrated? A preliminary inquiry suggests itself. Is a struggle advisable? Are there well-founded hopes of complete success? There are, undoubtedly; especially whilst England exists. Her navy, though it does not render the invasion of her territory impracticable, can prevent the invader from receiving those large and continued re-enforcements, by which alone gallant nations, such as Spain and England, can be subdued. If Britain holds out only twenty years, Spanish America, united and directed by a wise, liberal, and vigorous government, may, during that period, be rendered invincible. Should Britain fall before that desirable object were accomplished, the greatest part of her navy might escape, and afford a rampart of defence to those who could shelter and maintain it.
As soon then as the subjugation of Spain becomes certain or inevitable, the Spanish colonies should immediately unite themselves in the name, and for the dominion of their sovereign Ferdi. nand the seventh, by a strong and suitable constitution of government.
I have annexed a plan, or rather the outline of a plan, of such a government for them as I conceive would answer all attainable good purposes, and be acceptable to those without whose consent and co-operation, no efficient general government could be speedily and durably established. Your excellencies are requested to peruse this draught before you proceed farther.
Would such an establishment be justifiable? Might it not deprive Spain forever of her colonies, should fortune restore her to national existence?
If Spain be now completely subdued, she will probably become a French dependency of the lowest order. Her gallant and obstinate resistance will have exasperated the oppressor. He will have injured her too deeply to forgive her. He must know that the Spaniards will abhor him, and he will secure himself against
• The restoration here anticipated was in fact afterwards promised by Napoleon in his last concordat or convention with the pope.
their vengeance by merciless precautions. He will confiscate and parcel out their property: he will destroy multitudes of them on one pretence or another, and reduce the miserable remnant to abject vassalage.
Such has ever been the destiny of nations thus subdued. History scarcely affords an instance of any of them recovering independence until ages have elapsed. Contemplate the former fortune and the present fate of Egypt, of Greece, of Poland, and various other nations, vanquished once, and still in chains.
If Spain could be restored, there is nothing in the constitution now proposed for her colonies, to prevent their re-union with her, on liberal terms. We have often seen the same monarch reign over various kingdoms and states, having their legislatures, their tribunals, and even their laws, entirely distinct.
The constitution submitted to your excellencies does not prohibit or restrain any amendatory alterations which circumstances may require, in the form or substance of the government. It is even especially provided, that if Spain be restored, she shall again become the metropolis of the empire. In fact, every part of the system of government in question, is constructed with a view to its eventual re-union with that of Spain. To form a tolerable constitution for her colonies, is, perhaps, no very difficult task, considering their present tranquillity and organized state. The desideratum is, that their general government may be susceptible of an easy and smooth amalgamation with that of the mother country. If such a system be not maturely prepared, the consequence may be a perpetual separation between them, should Spain be once overrun though not absolutely subdued. In that event, the colonies might at once form distinct governments for themselves; which, hastily constituted, under the pressure of danger, in the confusion of embarrassments, and perhaps amidst the conflicts of destructive prejudices, would probably be essentially separate and independent, and unsusceptible of re-union with the mother country, if not hostile to her.
It is worthy of inquiry whether these possessions have ever furnished to Spain that aid, or a fourth, or even a tenth part of that aid which, under different political regulations, they were capable of affording. With almost half the territory of the earth at her command, Spain has seldom supported half as many troops as France, as Austria, or even as the late artificial kingdom of Prussia.
Suppose that all the states and colonies of the Spanish monarchy had, for only twenty years past, been united by the bonds of mutual interest and affection, wisely constituted, and liberally administered;—who can doubt but that they would have formed at this day, one of the most powerful empires of the world?
The tax of ten per cent. on the income of the inhabitants of Great Britain, yields annually about fifty millions of dollars. The population of the Spanish colonies exceeds the population of that island almost one half, and they possess natural sources of wealth more numerous, extensive, and abundant, than any other country enjoys. It is not, therefore, a vain conjecture, that a similar tax upon them—if their agriculture and commerce had been free, and their industry encouraged for the period above mentioned-might have now produced an equal amount; a sum sufficient, with economy, to maintain two hundred thousand troops in the field.
But in any possible event, as the main objects of the contemplated political arrangements are, to erect for your sovereign and his posterity a kingdom in lieu of that which he will have lost; to provide an asylum for those of his subjects who may escape from the perfidious foe; to perpetuate the name, the race, the language, and the glory of Spain, surely no good Spaniard could ever blame the supporters of the intended establishment. It will indeed be the only remaining resource of your loyalty to your king and your attachment to your country. In the frequent fiuctuations of human affairs, and the strange vicissitudes of fortune, it is possible that the united colonies of Spain may one day be able to contribute powerfully towards the restoration of their parent kingdom.
If they do not establish an united or confederated empire, what other advisable measure of safety can they take? Shall each colony proclaim the king and act separately for itself? This plan would leave each of the colonies dependent on its own resources, and therefore the more liable to be subdued. The resources of some of them are inadequate even to the ordinary support of their own governments; and the deficiency must be supplied by additional taxes; which could not, in such circumstances, be levied without the consent of some kind of council or junta: but the formation of distinct colonial governments, unless approved by general consent, or enforced by some imposing authority, would tend to their permanent disunion, to jealousies and dissentions between them, and thence, probably to the subjugation of them all. Their common enemy is so mighty, that the united and most strenuous efforts of all Spanish America will be no more than sufficient for its protection.
But why frame a new constitution? Why not merely proclaim a regency in the king's name, and allow the present colonial institutions to subsist?
The want of a system of government, fixing and invigorating the authority of the sovereign, and securing the rights of the subject, has been already severely felt, not only in Spain, but in most of the kingdoms overthrown by France. In every new state, some constitution should be immediately formed. It gives confidence to the people: they see before them a regular system: every thing has the name, the form, and appearance of permanent establishment: the cause seems already gained: the government to be contended for appears complete, acknowledged, legitimate; and the confidence arising from these appearances may powerfully conduce to realize them. Opinion holds among men a mighty sway: obtain its aid if possible: have it in your power to say to your people, Behold a government which insures your rights as well as those of the crown; and which your own interest, as well as your loyalty, requires you to support!
The existing colonial system is not popular among the Creoles: to obtain their hearty co-operation, they should be gratified: give them then something new: let the novelty contain nothing dangerous, but much to interest and animate them. From these remarks it will be seen, why it is proposed to give the kingdom itself a new style and denomination. America is a much more popular name than the Indias.
I proceed to explain briefly, the structure of its contemplated government
In every empire composed of various states or dependencies, it appears that a metropolis, or pre-eminent and protecting state, is