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had been promised relief as a reward for their faithful energies against the French-as an atonement for the losses and sacrifices to which they had been exposed. They were unfortunately disappointed in their hopes, and their situation rendered infinitely more wretched and appalling than before, by the absence of a paternal monarch, whose power and beneficence were often wont to moderate the despotic and extortionate acts of the rapacious minions to whom he was obliged to delegate part of his authority.
Writhing under aggravated wrongs and grievances; deluded in their most confident hopes, and besides eager to repair the ravages of a desolating war, from which they had just emerged, the Portuguese people, with few exceptions, heartily joined the standard of reform; and, I may venture to say, the whole nation adopted, nay even applauded, the means of regeneration held out to them. That they were, in the sequel, a second time, disappointed in the expectations which they late so fondly cherished, is not a proof of their apathy, or an indication of any indifference to the possession of those civil rights and political benefits which they then endeavored to secure. At the time alluded to, they indeed lost the golden opportunity; but that loss is not attributable to them, as may be shown by a closer recurrence to the leading events of the day.
Unfortunately, the men who first entered the path of reform, were either not competent to the task they had undertaken, or not sufficiently united to carry it into effect. They seemed to be appalled by surrounding difficulties. They indeed enacted many wise and judicious measures to correct prevailing abuses, and the people were grateful to them for their efforts. Highly respectable, as individuals, and many of them patriotic, in the extreme sense of the word; nay, some of them worthy of the proudest days of Rome; as a body, they rushed into wild and visionary theories in the formation of a Constitution, opposed to the habits and wants of the people, which afterwards they were unable to reduce to practice. They hastily demolished the whole edifice, perhaps unaware of the difficulty of rebuilding it. Sound as were the principles of local reform on which they acted; zealous, and even successful, as were their efforts in the correction of abuses; eager and interested in the reformation of their country, and fully sensible that the influence of public opinion is the mainspring that moves the political machine, they nevertheless erred in their general plan, as well as in many of the details, for the formation of the new Constitution. In this respect, every measure they enacted savored of inexperience, or was founded on principles dis
avowed in the old established monarchies of Europe. No doubt they meant well, and their eagerness to succeed, perhaps hurried them to the brink of that precipice into which they afterwards fell. Without reflecting that the Continental monarchs, in the plenitude of their power and acting in concert, had adopted, or in practice were prepared to enforce, the maxim that Charters and the definitions of such rights as the people are entitled to can only be derived from themselves, the Portuguese legislators adopted the Constitution of a neighboring State, trusting to time and their own subsequent efforts for the cure of its defects: they, in short, erred in the means, although their intentions were good.
In the meanwhile, the people implicitly trusting to the labors of their representatives, were unconscious of the course the latter had taken in the performance of their legislative duties, and alike unaware of the intrigues and opposition by which their new order of things was beset. The nobles had hitherto monopolised the chief offices of trust and emolument in the State, and besides enjoyed many privileges and distinctions, from the nature of their habits and education, flattering to their vanity and self-love, yet only specious and empty in the opinion of other nations, where merit is the true standard of pre-eminence: they and their families held the chief judicial, colonial, diplomatic and military appointments; and moreover, the largest church benefices and crown property were at their disposal. To distinguish them from the other orders of the community, and convert them into beings of a superior nature, they were decked with stars and crosses, on which the people were accustomed to look with a degree of awe and veneration. If any one from the middle ranks in life was allowed to join this phalanx, by which the throne was continually surrounded, it was some flatterer who had gained the ear of the Sovereign, or some reptile who had crawled his way through the various intricacies of the palace. It was natural therefore to expect that the nobles and their immediate dependants, with some exceptions, would oppose a Constitution which opened the door to merit, and did not distinguish them as a particular and separate body in the State. The high clergy, that is, the bishops and canons, were also unfavorable to a change, so sudden and important, which curtailed their revenues, and loosened the hold they had hitherto had on. the credulity of the people. The judges of the upper courts, no longer able to sell their verdicts to the highest bidder, and stripped of privileges which rendered them the disposers of life and death in the districts intrusted to their administration,
repined at innovations which made them amenable to justice, and answerable to the tribunal of public opinion.
These are the three classes chiefly opposed to the consolidation of changes which could not fail to affect them most materially; yet the people at large by no means shared either their sentiments, or partook of their apprehensions. In these three classes themselves, there were besides some exceptious. Many of the nobles, residing in the provinces and unaccustomed to court intrigues, disdained the petty strife in which their town colleagues were engaged. The operative clergy, those intrusted with the care of souls, generally speaking, were also favorable to reform. The local magistrates and those invested with municipal power, were perhaps among the most strenuous supporters of the constitutional system, being the best judges of the incipient advantages it produced to the people, notwithstanding its glaring defects. They had the fairest opportunity of contrasting the past with the present, and their conclusions were the result of conviction. The merchants and land-owners; the artisans and manufacturers, as well as the literati, unconnected with the University of Coimbra, or independent of endowments in the gift of the crown, were also anxious to enjoy the benefits of civil and political freedom; and with these hopes many exhilarating recollections, derived from their national history, were moreover exultingly blended.
The King returned from Rio de Janeiro, and the first acts of the Cortes were carried into full effect, without any thing like an organised opposition having shown itself. Retrenchment, however, was the touchstone that soon served to mark the real state of public opinion; this was the firebrand which set the whole community in a blaze: yet retrenchment was unavoidable, if the regeneration of the country was intended, and it could only commence where it was most wanted. From the Treasury returns, it had been seen that the army alone consumed one-half of the annual revenue of the State; that the system of its administration was extremely defective, and the establishment out of all proportion to the wants of the country in times of peace. Thus it happened that the army which had been created to repel the aggressions of the French, and through the whole of the struggle had faithfully and courageously co-operated with us, became a dead weight on the State; and, in the sequel, a large portion of it unhappily covered itself with disgrace. The number of officers was, moreover, exorbitant, and continually pressing heavier on the public purse,, in consequence of the quick and extravagant pro
motions, so frequent in the course of the year, and periodically resorted to in order to commemorate the birth-days of the several members of the royal family.
This, therefore, was the department which called for the earliest reform; and, as a public question, infinitely more urgent and interesting than that of the monks and friars; yet, no sooner was it known that the government contemplated a reduction, than an esprit de corps was roused, and actually the army threatened and overawed the Cortes, to such a degree, that they did not dare even to propose a measure for the purpose.
A few regiments had aided in the Oporto revolution; and this support served to enhance the demands of the whole army, and taught it to know the importance it was of in the State. So imposing, in fact, was the attitude the army then assumed, that the most popular speakers in the Cortes-those who were unceasingly declaiming against abuses, demanding retrenchment, and attacking the other classes in the State-never once dared to lift up their voices against an overgrown military establishment, which was preying on the very vitals of the country. In justice to some regiments, it must, however, be confessed, that they stood firm to the Constitutional system to the very last; and when the troops belonging to the province of Tras-os-Montes, for the first time, at the instigation of the Silveira family, raised the standard of rebellion, in February, 1823, these faithful troops and the gallant officers by whom they were led on, hastened to repel the enemies of the new order of things, and did not cease the pursuit until the mutineers had found a sure asylum within the Spanish territory. Nevertheless, from the moment the Cortes were unable to pursue their plans of retrenchment, their efforts were paralysed, and their deliberations marked by a wavering and unsteady aim. Writers were hired to cry down the new institutions every engine was, in short, set to work to bring them into disrepute. The separation of Brazil, brought about by the fulness of time, and an event which it was not in the power of any government in Portugal to control or delay, tended to alienate many merchants and manufacturers who had hitherto been strenuous in their adhesion to the new government, because they were themselves disappointed in the erroneous calculations they had made, and in the narrow-minded views they had taken on the subject. Still a public spirit remained firm and favorable to the new order of things, which bid defiance to all its enemies, and even resisted the foreign intrigues which the latter had called in to their support.
Defective as the adopted Constitution had been in its origin, and little improved by the modifications through which it afterwards passed; great as was the clamor of the privileged orders, and alarming the attitude assumed by some of the Pretorian guards; bleeding at the moment as was the wound occasioned by the loss of Brazil, and great the activity of the numerous agents spread by France to create discontent and further her own schemes of political and mercantile competition; roused as was the power of the nobles and clergy; blasphemously invoked as was the name of religion on this occasion, and immense the sums of money expended to bribe and corrupt; weak and spiritless as was the government and the Cortes, by the errors into which they had both fallen; unmasked, as had been, in the course of time, the interested views or incapacity of several of the leaders of the late revolution, and treason and desertion staring the people full in the face; plotting as were the principal members of the royal family, and a weak and timid monarch at the head of the executivestill the Constitution was triumphant, because the people had already began to partake of its benefits; they had been relieved from many burdens; their confidence, although shaken, was not destroyed; and God only knows what would have been the result, if it had not been for a variety of events which filled the friends of liberty in Portugal with terror and dismay.
War had, for some time, been proclaimed by the Bourbons of France directly against the Constitution of Spain, and indirectly against that of Portugal, when the Silveira revolt, as forming part of the general scheme, broke out in Tras-osMontes, and the engines of bribery were already in full play. Soon the French army crossed the Bidassoa, and a division reached Valladolid. The King and Cortes of Spain were already on their road to Seville, and the utmost consternation prevailed throughout the whole Peninsula. Encouraged by the approach of an army, advancing to their aid, and doubly so by the professions of the chief members of the Holy Alliance, by which it had been preceded, the Serviles in Portugal redoubled their efforts, and seized the golden opportunity before them. Sepulveda, like the traitors of Spain, Abisbal, Morillo, and Ballasteros, joined a counter-revolution, plotted in furtherance of the general scheme, and in conformity to a preconcerted plan. This was the signal for the 23d regiment to desert; and two days afterwards the regulars in garrison, with Sepulveda at their head, followed its example, and marched off to Santarem.
This, my Lord, is a faithful outline of the great crisis