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MEMOIRS OF LIEUT.-GENERAL SIR THOMAS
Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Pictoria GIC.B., &c.
including his Correspondence, from Originals in Posstasjon Family. By H. B. Robinson. 2 Vols. Richard Bentley, Nes
published Letters from the gallant General. It is our unshaken opinion that in all ages, and in every country, the civilian has been ungrateful to the men who have interposed with their energies, their blood, and their lives, between their country, and plunder, ravage, and slaughter. England is not exempt from her share of the obloquy contained in this charge.
When the storm threatens, and the shadow of hostility seems to darken over our hearth-stones, we look up with awe and reverence to the devoted few, whose courage is to turn consternation into safety; we honour them-we laud them—we love them—and when the blood-stained victory is won-we idolize them. But the flush of gratitude is soon over. Then follows the pause of indifference, to indifference succeeds ignorant examination, and self-sufficient cavil. The merit of the battle that saved us, is first debated, and then denied. The hero who fought in “ the imminent deadly breach," finds, to his surprise and just indignation, that he has to fight his battle over again with those who never saw, or intend to see, a shot fired in anger, or lose his hardlyearned laurels ; but even this period lasts not long. The dull stream of oblivion flows over all, and in the apathy of security, the ungrateful, secured, forget at once the victory and the victors.
This is an ingratitude-a deep, a damning one—and, of all men, the gallant, the cool, the intrepid Picton, has had the most to complain of it. Undervalued, infamously undervalued in his life, he has, until now, remained uncommemorated after his death. True, there is the storied sculpture in the cathedral of the metropolis, and the monumental column, erected by private affection, at Carmarthen ; but
thing more durable than the crumbling stone, and the provincial memento, is due to a reputation such as is Picton's. The imperishable records of the pen should, long ere this, have woven the garland of immortality round the hero's sword. Twenty years have elapsed, and till now, no biographer has generously and patriotically stepped forward to do justice to the memory of the Duke of Wellington's selfacknowledged "right hand.”
Independently of the excellence of the work, we heartily thank Mr. Robinson for the mere act of attempting it. The tribute should have been sooner paid, but it is gratifying to find that it has been paid at all.
Of the merits of this biography it is our duty to descant. With Picton's brilliant career before him, the accessibility to public documents, and the glorious pages of our history open, the author could hardly have failed. With talent, industry, a good tact of discriminaDec. 1835,--VOL. XIV.NO. LVI.
tion, and an unbounded zeal for the subject, he has succeeded-completely we will not say—for we are perhaps rather too much inclined to proportion our demands upon the biographer, by the elevation of character and the noble qualities of the hero sought to be commemorated.
We come to the pleasing task of reviewing this work, with perhaps - more numerous and better materials for writing the life, than the author of the life itself. Had we known of his purpose in time, those materials should have been heartily at his service, for we have no other wish than that ample justice should be done to the private, as well as the military, character of the man whom we so much admire, and to whom the country is so largely indebted. Of these materials our limited space will necessarily compel us to make but a limited use; but should Mr. Robinson's work attain to a second edition, to the letters we are about to insert, and all other information in our possession, he is freely welcome. These letters were written to the father of Captain Marryat, with whom he was on terms the most intimate.
These memoirs are very properly dedicated to the Duke of Wellington, and are graced with a portrait, engraved by Dean, after a noble painting of Picton, by the present President of the Royal Academy. The countenance is marked with determination, replete with energy, and in our opinion, even handsome, which Picton was not, but still it is very like him. He then proceeds with a brief notice, all too brief, of his parentage, education, and early life. We find in this part of the work a paucity of anecdote, and a meagreness of information, that we cannot help deploring, and which, in this place, we are sorry we have no room to supply: yet, for merely puerile adventures, we have a great distaste. We too often find out, that, when a man has established his character as a hero, various childish anecdotes are brought forward to prove, that which requires no proof whatever, namely, that a man predestined to be a hero, will certainly turn out
A ridiculous example of this occurred in respect to Lord Nelson, when, in his boyhood, it is reported that his mother, wondering why fear did not drive him back from some mischief, he replied, “ that he never saw fear.” A very childish answer. If the relator of this anecdote meant to imply that Nelson had no such feeling in his composition as fear, it is paying him no compliment, as true bravery consists in conquering, or rather sacrificing, for some good or great object, that jealous sense of self-preservation implanted in us all.
But, if we analyze this famous answer, it will appear to be merely the offspring of simplicity on the part of Nelson, and of his imperfect acquaintance with the liberties that might be taken with his own language. His mother made use of the figure of speech, termed the prosopopeia, or personification; and when she told him, that she wondered that fear did not drive him home, he understood her to mean some identical, living being, known by that name. Had she said to him, “ I wonder that you were not afraid," we should have lost his immortalized answer, and his various and learned biographers, Dr. Southey included, would have had to seek a little farther for some wonderful indication of his future greatness.
Let it not be surmised, from these observations, that we are inclined to deny the existence of early symptoms of mental superiority. Far from it. We acknowledge their existence, but with some reservation. We consider that a child, who hereafter raises himself above the common herd of mankind, is naturally endowed with a mind more vigorous than is that of others, and that this mind expands in proportion with his body. If we would look for superiority in infancy, we should watch for it in the hours of play; and if we found, when left to its own discretion, that a child of three years old felt no pleasure in the amusements suitable to his early age, but sought those more calculated for one of twelve or fourteen, we should not hesitate to pronounce that that child was more gifted naturally than the others. We say, we must see this superiority in play, not in cultured acquirements; for, from the latter, it is a most uncertain method of judging of infant capacities, for these may be overstrained from compelled exertion, and after promising every thing, children thus overtasked, too often perform nothing, and many an intellect, which, not too soon injudiciously overforced, might have eventually proved vigorous and superior, has been wasted away by a mental slow poison, occasioned by undue excitement in the early stages of its powers. The mind, to grow vigorously, requires relaxation and repose, as well as the body, and precocity is more a proof of docility than of power.
We have been led into these remarks, from a wish that the public might have been indulged with some few observations upon the earlier years of a person who, altogether, presented such a singular aspect to society, so little studying the meretricious, and so nobly following up the really good and the grand.
As recorded in the biography we are now noticing, the first time that Picton showed the embryo fire of that spirit and unsliaken resolution that so much distinguished him afterwards, was in his prompt suppression of a dangerous mutiny of his regiment, which refused to disband themselves, and for which he received the thanks of the ministry at that time.
Not succeeding in procuring employment, he proceeded as a volunteer to the West Indies, and assisted materially, in that capacity, in the reduction of many of the islands in that quarter of the world, then in the possession of the enemy.
It is but too often, as Shakspeare has beautifully recorded, that our virtues turn traitors to us, and instead of assisting us to what we should hope would be virtue's reward, plunge us into difficulties, dangers, and too often, into temporary disgrace. The abilities, the courage, the prudence, that Captain Picton had displayed in every operation, connected with his perfect knowledge of the French and English languages, induced General Sir Ralph Abercrombie to appoint him acting governor of the Island of Trinidad, to the reduction of which he had so materially contributed.
Than Picton, no man was better qualified to rule a newly-acquired conquest, inundated as it was by all that was depraved and savage in society. Let the reader bear in mind that he was enjoined, most strictly enjoined by his orders, and by the very wording of his appointment, in all civil matters, to enforce the law then existing, that
is to say, the Castilian code. By his vigour he regenerated the island. He brought commerce to her shores, and plenty and happiness followed in her train. Every respectable inhabitant looked upon him as a friend and as a father. The Trinidadians feared nothing so much as being compelled to return under the sway of their ancient authorities: yet, for all these benefits, he experienced, not from those whom he governed, and whose happiness he consolidated, but from a mean party in England, the blackest persecution and the vilest ingratitude ;-a persecution that ever after rankled in his heart-an ingratitude that he was too noble not to forgive, but too sensitive ever to forget.
All the invidious calumnies launched so vindictively against him amount simply to this:—that he implicitly obeyed his instructions ; and had he not done so, would have subjected himself, not only to reprimand but to removal. He was bound to administer the old Castilian law-he did so, and was persecuted.
These are the simple facts. A woman of loose morals had conspired with her paramour to rob, and actually did rob, her master of more than a thousand dollars. Her evidence was wanted to insure conviction : she was contumacious: there was no moral doubt of her guilt and that of her confederate. The alcade, or magistrate, by whom those offences were cognizable, merely as a matter of course, and in the routine of his office, applied to the Governor Picton, in conformity to the Spanish law then in force, for his signature to apply to her the inconvenience, torture we cannot call it, of the picket. The signature was given as a matter of course ; the picket was applied, the whole truth displayed; the guilty punished, and the defrauded man righted. Substantive justice was administered to all parties.
But let not our generous and kindly-hearted countrymen run away with a false notion of the severity of the punishment of this picket. It was of an infinite shorter duration and hardly more severe than what every English drunkard, in every English village, is liable to receive—the stocks. The punishment of the picket was the compelling the offender to stand upon a surface of one square inch upon one leg, whilst one arm was suspended by a rope above her head. This was formerly the punishment resorted to in the English cavalry for minor offences. We grant that it is not an enviable position, but by no means an infliction deserving the epithet of torture.
But had this infliction been breaking upon the wheel, it would not have been the fault of Picton. He made not the law: he was only there to administer it, and he only administered it upon the demand of the proper officer.
But now, merely to do justice to the memory of this gallant and really good man, let us see if we have nothing similar or, we blush to say it, even worse in England. This female was not only a necessary witness, but also a particeps criminis. In our free country, if a witness is put in the box, and contumaciously refuses to give evidence, immediate and indefinite incarceration is the consequence. Would not this, in any case, have been freely exchanged by the sufferer for a half-hour's picketting ? and that half-hour was the extreme
length allowed to this punishment. But we can go still farther. In England, if a vagabond robs us of a pocket-handkerchief, value twelve-pence, we, being the party not only innocent but the one injured, are liable to be imprisoned for want of security to prosecute this miserable petty larceny, at the same time that our presence in a remote quarter may be necessary for the salvation of thousands of pounds. Is not this a moral torture, and a torture of the worst description ?
This is not an hypothetical case. Not many months ago, a Polish nobleman, under a bond that not only involved his fortune but nis liberty, to return to his country, was actually thrown into prison in England, because he could find no security that he would appear to prosecute some petty rascal who had robbed him to a small amount. Had not the executive interfered to liberate him, not only his property but his life would have been endangered (for Russia was his bondholder) by the moral and physical torture of English law.
The hypocritical outcry and the malignant cant that assailed Picton call for these remarks, as many persons, to this day, may have false impressions upon this subject. We are bound to say that his biographer, Mr. Robinson, has hardly been sufficiently energetic and indignant upon this subject.
But while Captain Picton was thus judiciously, vigorously, and humanely administering the recently acquired conquest, his abilities and his popularity called forth all the spleen and rancour of the neighbouring Spanish governments, who had fixed the price of twenty thousand dollars for his head, because he had made the Spaniards in Trinidad much happier than they were anywhere else. For this very proper appreciation of the receptacle of so much ability, Captain Picton returned these would-be decapitators the following replies, which show most satisfactorily that they did not undervalue what they were so anxious to purchase.
“ Trinidad, 25th January, 1799.
“ Your excellency has highly flattered my vanity by the very handsome value which you have been pleased to fix upon my head. Twenty thousand dollars is an offer which would not discredit your royal master's munificence!
“ As the trifle has had the good fortune to recommend itself to your excellency's attention, come and take it, and it will be much at your service: in expectation of which, I have the honour to be, &c. &c. &c.
“ THOMAS Picton. “ His Excellency Don Pedro Carbonelli,
“ Port of Spain, 25th January, 1799.
“ I understand your excellency has done me the honour of valuing my head at twenty thousand dollars. I am sorry it is not in my power to return the compliment. Modesty obliges me to remark that your excel. lency has far overrated the trifle; but, as it has found means to recom.