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2 de febr. 2020

Britain's involvement in one of Spain's Carlist Wars (1838)

Catalonia was mentioned in passing in the UK House of Commons, in a debate on the involvement of Britain's "Legion" in one of the Carlist War, in 1838. I highlight Spain's oft-repeated financial plight.
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March 27 1838
House of Commons
from p. 1320

P. 1327:
Lord Eliot
"... men within its territory without its consent; and that in the United States have a right to refuse the permission to his Majesty vessels, to raise men within their ports and territories, they are bound by the laws of neutrality to exercise that right, and to prohibit such armaments and enlistments. Acting, then, upon this principle, and looking at the number of men who were subsequently incorporated, under the authority of the order in council, into the British Legion for the service of the Queen of Spain, he felt bound to say, that it appeared to him, that it was the duty of the noble Lord opposite (Palmerston) to have ascertained whether the engagements contracted with them by the Spanish Government were likely to be fulfilled, and whether a due and adequate provision was likely to be made for such of them ad wounds or disease might send back to England with shattered frames and debilitated constitutions. He was sure, that the noble Lord, when issuing this order of council, could never have contemplatel the immense sacrifice of the lives of British subjects which he was then incurring by it. He therefore must be permitted to express it as his opinion, that in issuing that order of council the noble Lord, so far as England was concerned, had not exercised that sound judgment which became either him or the distingtished office which it was his fortune to possess. As far as Spain was concerned, he would ask, whethcr it has a legitimate policy for the noble Lord Io turn, without provocation, British bayonets, to use the. Ianguage of Mr. Canning, against Spanish bosoms? And he would further ask the noble Lord, on the next occasion on which he complained of the atrocity of the Durango decree - a decree which he reprobated quite as strongly as the noble Lord had ever reprobated it - a decree which it was no less illegal than cruel to execute against the British Legion, as that force was clearly entitled to the benefit of the convention which he had been the instrument of procuring - he would ask the noble Lord, he repeated, with what grace the reprobation of that decree could come from his lips from him who had sent into Spain a force to carry desolation and destruction into districts with the inhabitants of which we are not at war? He would not enter into the military question, for he was not altogether a competwnt person to decide upon it. He...
P. 1328:
... would not talk either of the defeat or the disgrace which the British Legion had sustained but he trusted, that the hon. and gallant Officer, the Member for Westminster, would not quarrel with him for speaking of the failure of that expedition. He had received in the course of the last few days the copy of a letter from a Carlistofficer now in London, describing the military resources of the Carlists at the time when the British Legion first landed in Spain, and their military resources at the present moment. The noble Lord and the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster might believe as much or as little of the letter as they liked; but this is the statement: 
"When the Legion disembarked in Spain the Carlist forces in the Basque provinces and in Nararre consisted of about 3000 regular troops, About 8,000 insurgents were in arms in Cataloma, and in Arragon Cabrera and Forcadell were al the head of· about 4,000 men. The total force thus amounted to rather more than 40,000 men. At the present moment the Carlist regular forces in the Basque provinces and in Navarre amounts to about 35,000 men; in Catalonia to about 18,000, formed into regular battalions; in Lower Aragon and Valencia Cabrera commands 34,000 men under arms besides 20,000 who remain in their villages unless their services are required on any particular emergency. The total force is, then, 70,000 men. Of the guerilla bands in la Mancha, Extremadura and Soria, it is difficult to form an estimate. In Catalonia, with yhe exceotion of the Ebro and of the sea shore, is now entirely  in the hands of the Carlists, who are in undisputed possession of Berga, Solsona and the towns of the interior. All Lower Aragon and Valencia, with the excepton of a few large towns, are occupied by the troops of Cabrera, who has placed commandants in every village. At Cantavieja he has establshed a foundery, and cast fourteen pieces of artillery. The Basque provinces remain in much the same state as when the Legion disembrked excepting that the manufactories of arms have been augmented, and the defences of the country hare been strengthened. A traveller may now proceed with a passport from Don Carlos from the Pyrennees to within a short distance of Valencia without interruption by the Christinos, except at the passage of the Ebro and will be furnished with mules and guides by the authorities on the whole of this road."
[An hon. Member: What is the date of this letter?] He was sorry that he could not give the hon. Member the date of the letter. For he had onlv an extract from it with him. He did not even vouch...
P. 1329:
...for the accuracy of the letter, and the hon. Member was at liberty to believe or disbelieve it as he pleased. If, then, the case were such as it was stated to be by the writer of the letter, who, he repeated, was still in London, he apprehended, that the noble Lord, by lending out this Legion, had not produced any faourable effect in the seat of war. The next question which he would ask the House to consider was, whether the noble Lord had produced by that measure any beneficial effect to the government of the queen of Spain in the minds of her own subjects? He was sure, that the noble Lord would recollect, that he had communicated to him, either in conversation or by letter, that whilst he was in Spain he had had a conversation on this very subject with General San Miguel, who was one of the leaders of the Exaltado or Liberal party in that country, and whom the noble Lord would recollect as the Secretary to the Cortes in the year 1823. That gallant officer, in a conversation with him had deprecated all foreign interference in the affairs of Spain, no matter whether it came from France or from England - had declared, that the nation which had not power and energy to work out its own freedom unaided was incapable of enjoying it, and had concluded by saying, that he would rather see the Carlists triumph than owe his victory over them to the bayonets of foreigners. Had not hon. Members seen the declaration recently made by Count Toreno to the Cortes, that in his opinion it would be impossible to settle the affairs of Spain without some transaction, as he called it, with Don Carlos? Had they not read, too, the order of the day issued by general Espartero to his troops, in which he told them that he had asked the Government in Madrid in vain for arms, provisions, clothes, and shoes, and in which he informed them that the only consolation which he had upon not receiving those supplies, which he knew they wanted, was the knowledge that the Carlist troops were even worse off than they were? Was that a State of things likely to prove beneficial to the cause of the Queen and of constitutional government? But was even the Spanish Government grateful for the services which our government had rendered it? Had it extended to our commerce any privileges to which either one or the other was not... 
entitled before? No; at the very moment that Sir G. Villiers was seeking for some relaxation of the Spanish commercial system in our favour, M. Bardají, the Minister of Finance, had issued a decree declaring that no foreign merchants were entitled to any exemption whatever. He contended, therefore, that no gratitude had been displayed by the Spanish Government either to the commerce of
England or to the soldiers of England, who had risked their lives in its service. He would not dwell any Ionger upon this topic. He would proceed to notice an observation of the Hon. and gallant mem-ber for Westminster, that success was no criterion of merit. He admitted this to be the fact: but then it was required of those who undertook or who embarked in great enterprises to show that they deserved success, and that they had adopted and proportioned their means to that end. He thought that the noble Lord would find it a difficult task to show that the sending out a force of 10,000 raw and undisciplined troops was calculated to produce any advantageous effect in putting an end to the war. It was the unanimous opinion of all the French officers with whom he had conversed when that expedition was originally sent to Spain, that an army or 40,000 or 50,000 disciplined and well equipped troop would not at that time have been sufficient to restore tranquillity in Spain: in other words, that that number of excellent troops could not have accomplished that ohjeet which the raw le· ics of the Legion were sent out to accomplish. He would here ask the noble Lord whether he conceived the engagements which we had contracted to the Queen of Spain were either unlimited in extent of supply, or indefinite in point of duration? This House had been told on a former occasion that more than half a million of money had  been expended on the arms and military stores which had been recently sent to Spain. He believed that that sum, large as it was, fell far short of the sum which in that manner had been transmitted as an aid to the Spanish Government. He had been told, that so many muskets had been sent from the Tower to ctimnnt pm of Spain, that at this moment he had not muskets for the supply of our own men. We had been told, that, when new muskets were required for one of the battalions of the Guatds now under orders for Canada, on the ground that their present muskets ...
P. 1331:
had been in use for eleven years, the officer in command had been informed that they had not in the Tower a single new musket to replace the old ones which he wished to discard. [An hon. Member:
thc noble Lord is singularly incorrect.] He might be incorrect, but the existence of such rumours rendered it essentially necessary that the country should know to what extent it was bound by the engagements which our Majesty's Ministers had formed for it. The noble Lord had incurred by his policy a great responsibility to those who, relying on his promises, had taken shares in the different loans which had been made to the Spanish Government. As neither interest nor principal was likely to be repaid, that was in itself a great reproach to the noble Lord. He would remind the House that in a late debate in the Cortes, Conde Toreno had stated the public debt of Spain to be somewhere about 150,000,0001. He had likewise stated that the interest on that debt at two and a half per cent. was 3,500,000l. Now as the expenditure was about 9,000,000l, and the revenue was only about 7,000,0001., there was a deficit on that head of about 2,000,000l.: and if to that deficit were added the interest on the debt, the total deficit would amount to a sum between 5,000,000l. and 9,000,000l. He thought from that statement it was quite clear, that unless the noble Lord was prepared to afford his assistance to the Spanish funds, there was little chance of those who now held such scrip receiving for it anything like the amount at which they had purchased it. He would implore the House to pause before it gave its assent to the course which the noble Lord had been so long pursuing, and which he still seemed inclined to pursue. Let them remember what Mr. Canning said in 1823, when some individuals expressed an opinion that this country ought to have sent out a maritime armament to watch the events that were occurring on the shores of the Peninsular. "Such a course," said Mr. Canning, "would in my opinion, be unworthy of a great and independent nation like our own, and and would degrade us from a first to a second rate power. I do hope that whenever we determine on war we shall determine to wage it, not as an auxiliary, but as a principal. Such had hitherto been our policy, and on all former occasions when we had resorted to war we...
P. 1332:
...had exerted every nerve to bring it to a safe, a speedy, and honourable conclusion. Toto certatum corpore regni. This was the only sound view in which war could be contemplated". Let them couple this with the maxim of the Duke of Wellington, that a great country like ours ought never to carry on a little war. To the policy of Mr. Canning the noble Lord was io former days accustomed to defer, and for the authority of the Duke of Wellington, the noble Lord's colleagues had recently expressed more respect than they had formerly exhibited. The next point to which he wished to call the attention of the House was the conduct of the present King of the Prench. What, he would ask, was the language in which that Sovereign addressed his two Chambers in 1836? Let the House listen to it, and mark it well. "I trust," said Louis Philippe, "that the constitutional monarchy will triumph over the dangers which menace it; but I have wished to preserve my country from sacrifices of which it was  impossible to foresee the extent, and from  the incalculable consequences of any  armed intervention in the internal affairs of tbe Peninsula. France reserves the blood of her sons for her own cause, and
when forced by sad necessity to call on them to shed it in her defence, it is under her own glorious standard that French soldiers march to battle." Could thoughts  more just be clothed in expressions more noble than these? He wished that expressions like those he had just quoted had been found in the speech of our own most gracious Sovereign. If Louis Philippe were determined to act only upon that policy which was conformable to the interests of France, he apprehended that the noble Lord would not be able to count upon him m a member of that Liberal league, in which the free and enlightened states of the West of Europe were to be banded against the despotic pwers of the North. England, he lamented to say, stood at that moment alone. Where, he would ask, was the noble Lord's array of Liberal Governments? Did he rely on Spain or on Portugal? Could he look to America? Could he reckon upon France? No; it was clear that France was not prepared to go hand in hand with the noble Lord in the Quixotic expedition which the fervour of his imagination had conceived..."

... --> p. 1383

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