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XIV.

1808. December.

CHAP. cree reduced the number of existing convents to

one-third. This was to be effected by uniting the members of several convents in one; and no novice was to be admitted or professed till the number of religioners of either sex should be reduced to one-third of their present amount. All novices were ordered to quit their respective convents within a fortnight; and those who, having professed, wished to change their mode of life, and to live as secular ecclesiastics, were permitted so to do, and a pension secured to them, to be regulated by their age, but neither exceeding 4000 reales, nor falling short of 3000. From the possessions of the suppressed convents, a sum was to be set apart sufficient for increasing the proportion of the parish priests, so that the lowest salary should amount to 2400 reales; the surplus of this property should be united to the national domains; half of it appropriated to guarantee the public debt, the other to reimburse the provinces and cities the expenses occasioned by supplying the armies, and to indemnify the losses caused by the war. Provincial custom-houses were abolished, and all seignorial courts of justice; no other jurisdiction being permitted to exist than the royal courts; and another decree, premising that one of the greatest abuses in the finances of Spain arose from the alienation of different branches of the imposts, which were, in their nature, unalienable, enacted, that every individual in possession, either by grant, sale, or any other means, of any portion of the civil

XIV.

1808. December.

Proclama.

or ecclesiastical imposts, should cease to receive CHAP. them.

Buonaparte now addressed a proclamation to the Spaniards. What possible result, he asked them, could attend even the success of some tion to the campaings? Nothing but an endless war upon

Spaniards. their own soil. It had cost him only a few marches to defeat their armies, and he would soon drive the English from the peninsula. Thus, to the rights which had been ceded him by the princes of the last dynasty, he had added the right of conquest: that, however, should not make any alteration in his intentions. His wish was to be their regenerator. All that obstructed their prosperity and their greatness, he had destroyed; he had broken the chains which bore the people down; and, instead of an absolute monarchy, had given them a limited one, with a free constitution. The conclusion of this proclamation was in a spirit of blasphemy, hitherto confined to the barbarous countries of Africa or the East. “Should all my efforts,” said he, prove fruitless, and should you not merit

my confidence, nothing will remain for me but to treat you as conquered provinces, and to place my brother upon another throne. I shall then set the crown of Spain upon my own head, and cause it to be respected by the guilty; for God has given me power and inclination to surmount all obstacles."

But though Buonaparte had thus easily dispersed the Spanish armies, and made himself

XIV.

1808. December.

Buona.

views con

180.

55.

CHAP. master of Madrid, his triumph was not without

alloy. He now perceived with what utter ignorance of the national character he had formed

the scheme of this usurpation, and he complained Change in

of having been deceived, when, in reality, he had parte's

turned a deaf ear to all who would have dissuaded cerning him from his purpose. Till he arrived at Madrid, Spain. De Pradt

, the people, as well as the armies, had disappeared

before him ; the towns and cities were abandoned Rocca, 24. as his troops approached. Twelve months before

there was no other country wherein his exploits were regarded with such unmingled admiration; they had a character of exaggerated greatness which suited the Spanish mind, and as he had always been the ally of Spain, no feeling of hostility or humiliation existed to abate this sentiment: now, it was not to be disguised from himself that he was universally detested there as a perfidious tyrant. But policy, as well as pride, withheld him from receding; unless he went through with what he had begun, he must confess himself fallible, and let the world see that his power was not equal to his will, and then the talisman of his fortune would have been broken. He had committed the crime and incurred the odium; wherefore then should he not reap the benefit, and secure the prize, not for a brother, whom he began to regard with contempt as the mere puppet of his pleasure, but for himself? This was a feeling which he did not conceal from those who possessed his con

and Joseph, and the unworthy ministers

fidence;

XIV.

1808.

own.

who had abased themselves to serve him, were CHAP. made to perceive it, by the manner in which Napoleon, regardless even of appearances, issued

December. edicts in his own name, as in a kingdom of his The obstinacy of the Spaniards in re- 222. 225.

, fusing to acknowledge his brother, he thought, would give him ere long a pretext for treating the country as his own by right of conquest. Meantime no interval was to be allowed them for collecting the wreck of their forces to make another stand.

Three days before the battle of Somosierra, Retreat of Castaños, with his broken army, recommenced army. their retreat from Calatayud. Some ten miles west of that city, near the village of Buvierca, the high road to Madrid passes through a narrow gorge, where the river Xalon has forced or found its way between two great mountain ridges. When D. Francisco Xavier Venegas, with the rear-guard, consisting of 5000 men, reached this place, he found instructions from the Commander-in-chief, requesting him to suspend his march, and take measures for defending the pass, on which, he said, the safety of the other divisions depended; and he desired him to place the troops whom he selected for this purpose under such officers as would volunteer their services, promising to reward them in proportion to the importance and danger of the duty. Venegas was too well aware of its importance to trust the command to any but himself, and he replied, that he would halt there till the rest of

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1808.

succeeds to the command.

CHAP. the army was beyond the reach of pursuit. Early

on the 29th the French came up, 8000 in numDecember. ber, under Mathieu. They commenced an at

tack at eight o'clock, which continued for eight how's: the Spaniards suffered severely; but they maintained the pass, and they effectually disabled this part of the French army from pursuing. On the evening of the following day the army reached Siguenza with all the artillery which they took with them from Tarazona, notwithstanding the bad state of the roads and the fatigue of the men, who had been allowed no rest upon this last march. Here Castaños received a summons from the Central Junta, and resigned the com

mand to Don Manuel de Lapeña. Lapeña

The situation to which this general succeeded was deplorable. The artillery had indeed been saved, and the pass of Buvierca most gallantly maintained; nevertheless the army had suffered during its retreat from all the accumulated evils of disorder, insubordination, nakedness, and cold, and hunger, and fatigue. Sometimes when the rear-guard had been on the point of taking food, the enemy came in sight, and the ready meal was abandoned to the pursuers; this, though it was the effect as much of panic in the soldiers as of any want of conduct in their commanders, gave new cause for dissatisfaction and distrust. The men themselves were ready to fly at sight of the French, because they suspected their leaders, yet they accused their leaders of treachery for not always turning and making head against the

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