HC Deb 08 November 1813 vol 27 cc64-7
Lord Castlereagh

, on rising, in pursuance of a notice which he had given on this subject, alluded to the happy time in which he had this pleasant duty to perform; and said, in calling the attention of the House to this question, he was persuaderl that no doubt remained in the minds of any of them, that the battle of Victoria was that great crisis which decided the question of the military possession of the peninsula in favour of the allies since this great event, he might congratulate parliament on a series of successes on the part of the allied armies, which had placed the war in a situation not less promising in comparison of its former state, than that to which it had been elevated by the victory of Victoria. In the military annals of modern times, there never had been a train of successes on the theatre of war more glorious to the armies engaged, more gratifying to the nations of Europe, or more promising of ultimate triumph to the cause, than the events which had formed the great crisis of the war in the peninsula; and he trusted, that the victory at Leipsic would be followed by events of as decisive an influence on the war in that part of the continent, as those which had occurred since the battle of Victoria had produced on the success of the cause of Spain. The details of theses events, so deeply graven on the minds of Englishmen, would not gain any additional lustre by repetition; but there was one general feature in the present state of the war, which it was necessary to allude to, as of the utmost value:—the transaction since the battle of Vittoria proved, more than all the former operations of the war, the perfection to which the native troops of the peninsula had attained; and as the only object of the British nation, in interposing the shield of its arms between the nations of the peninsula and French aggression, was, to enable them to put themselves in a state high their own battles; so it must be most gratifying to us to learn, that the great end of our interposition had been answered, and that the troops of Portugal and Spain were in that high state of effectiveness, which justified the prince Regent in saying, in his speech from the throne, that in steadiness and unconquerable spirit the three nations were equal. Not only in battles had this spirit been displayed, but in the most arduous duties of the military profession—in the assault of fortresses, and particularly that of St. Sebastian; than which, there was no similar instance in the annals of war that was worthy of more renown. For the arduous duties of storming that place, the Portuguese troops were selected; and such was their military ardour, that the battalions who were not ordered to undertake the duty, begged for a share of the danger of the assault. It was a Portuguese battalion, seconded by another body of their countrymen, which crossed the river and effected the first lodgment in the walls of the town. It was most gratifying to Great Britain, who had made such efforts in their cause, to find that the troops of both the nations of the peninsula had ar- rived at this state of effective discipline. When the French, on a late occasion crossed the river in front of their position, the Spanish troops under general Freyre, as it were, in single combat, drove them repeatedly across the river; and lord wellington, who saw and admitted their behaviour, would not suffer the rest of the army to take from them any part of their glory. From this most desirable state of things, in the event of a favourable occasion, the defence of the peninsular nations might be left to their own vigorous and disciplined troops; and we must feel, that these nations, who had contended with so much ardour for their liberty were now, from their martial spirit, capable of taking charge of their own countries against any hostile attacks. As to the attacks on St. Sebastian (for it was not one only in which the Portuguese and Spanish troops were employed), it was not necessary to state, that the nature of the place was such, that if the first did fail, the failure was attended with no loss of honour Perhaps no siege was ever more arduous in any war, and the praise of the conquest was not more due to the valour of the soldiers than to the skill of that general who had now returned to his native land, after having planted the victorious standard of his country in the French territory. That general adopted in the time of utmost need an expedient which had never before been ventured on, and which was as well executed as conceived, to which the fall of the place was principally to be attributed. Neither was it necessary to carry the attention of the House to the difficulty of the operations by which the frontiers of Spain had been secured: perhaps, even in the extensive experience of lord Wellington, there never were operations more arduous. From the nature of the country the enemy were able to pour into one valley the whole pressure of their numerical superiority, and, notwithstanding the gallant resistance of the troops opposed to them, were able to penetrate to the neighbourhood of Pamplona. When the deficiency of the military communication between valley and valley was considered, and the consequent difficulties which the troops had to surmount, the manner in which lord Wellington combined his forces, after a series of operations which occupied no less than six or seven days, and, with but a portion of his army, not only repulsed all the attacks of one of the most able generals of the enemy, marshal Soult (in a series of combats, in which the bayonet, that weapon which it is the peculiar pride of the British and at present of the Spanish and Portuguese troops, to use, was more frequently than in any former occasion resorted to), but drove him back with immense loss into the territory of France, must be a matter of the highest admiration. Since that period, this great commander had driven the enemy from the position which he had chosen, and had established himself in a situation where with greater facility, he might undertake any operation to which her might think proper to resort. He (lord Castlereagh) had no doubt that the House would agree with him on this as on a former occasion, that lord Wellington had manifested himself the first commander of the age; that the troops under his command had not shewn themselves inferior to their former conduct; and that our allies had acted as Great Britain would always wish her allies to act, and not only had become rivals of our troops, but had stood on that footing of perfect equality with them which had been exultingly remarked in the speech from the throne. The expression of the feelings of the House on the subject, would be the most gratifying to the nations of the peninsula, and the most animating to the further exertions which were still necessary-to success.—He concluded by moving, That the Thanks of this House be given to Field Marshal the Marquis of Wellington, knight of the most noble order of the Garter, for the consummate ability, indefatigable exertion, and admirable judgment displayed by him in the operations which succeeded the battle of Vittoria; by which the enemy have been compelled to abandon the western provinces of Spain, and the allied army finally established on the frontier of France.

This motion was carried, nem. Con.