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spirit, in the best sense of that term, has often been justly claimed for Pitt; and when writing to his wife, he says to Lady Chatham, “Be of cheer, noble love !” it sounds like Coriolanus speaking to the sister of Poplicola, or Brutus to his wife, the daughter of Cato. If the Chatham correspondence—both in the public and private letters—is distinguished by this stateliness of style, it is no less so by a loftiness of feeling and by the large thoughts of genuine statesmanship.
If Lord Chatham's oratory transgressed into his letters, the reverse may be observed in a living British statesman, more illustrious as a soldier. That simple and somewhat peremptory sententiousness which marks the Duke of Wellington's writings, whether an important public despatch or a private note, is also the tone of his parliamentary speeches. Whether writing or speaking, he uses words with a stern frugality, and sends them straight to their mark. Trained by the discipline of camp to know and feel the mischief of a waste of words, he has gained, through long service as a soldier and a statesman, a soldierly command of the language, producing a practical species of eloquence, wherein the most serviceable words are marshalled in compact and effective order. It is now near fifty years since, in his camp in India, he said that, when business could be done verbally, correspondence should be forbidden, to save the time of officers in perusing, considering, and copying voluminous documents about nothing; and, as commander-in-chief, he
ral has relieved Gibraltar. The Spanish fleet ran into their burrows, us if Lord Chatham was alive." Letters to Mason, vol. ii. p. 179.
said, “If officers abroad will have no mercy upon each other in correspondence, ... I entreat them to have some upon me; to confine themselves to the strict facts of the case, and to write no more than is necessary for the elucidation of their meaning and intentions.” On another occasion, he quietly suggests how writing may be a dangerous qualification : “A very trifling degree of educacation and practice,” he remarks,“ will enable an officer to string together a few words in a letter; ... but this ability is a most dangerous qualification to the possessor, unless he has sense to guide his pen, and discretion to restrain him from the use of intemperate and improper language."*
The voluminous publication of Wellington's letters includes only, it must be remembered, his military correspondence; and whatever subjects it treats of are either subjects of warfare, or are looked at from a military point of view. Indeed, that soldierly vision had become, in a great measure, habitual, and may be discerned in his civic
You have probably heard the story that is told of him, that, when it was represented to him, as constable of the Tower of London, some valuable national archives were deposited very near the magazine, he replied that they could not be of any damage to the saltpetre. Thus there is a ready explanation of a letter to his adjutant-general during the Peninsular War, the subject of which has rather a quaint sound, when briefly analyzed in an index, with the title, “Singing of psalms in the abstract innocent." Military discipline is, of course, a general's first thought and duty, and accordingly he says, "The meeting of soldiers in their cantonments to sing psalms or hear a sermon read by one of their comrades, is, in the abstract, perfectly innocent; and it is a better way of spending their time than many others to which they are addicted; but it may become otherwise : and yet, till the abuse has made some progress, the commanding officer would have no knowledge of it, nor could he interfere. Even, at last, his interference must be guided by discretion, otherwise he will do more harm than good; and it can in no case be so effectual as that of a respectable clergyman.
* Selections from Gurwood, p. 429.
I wish, therefore, you would turn your mind a little more to this subject, and arrange some plan by which the number of respectable and efficient clergymen with the army may be increased."
Like Washington's, the letters of Wellington display the same solicitude for not only the discipline, but the well-being of bis soldiers-the same thoughtfulness of details, coupled with the genius for planning and executing large operations. There is a pervading good sense, (to call it by the humblest name,) whether the subject of the letter be the use of currycombs or hair-brushes for the horses, the stern repression of plunder, the respectful control of impracticable allies, or the report of a great battle. In the despatches to his government, after his victories, there is always a genuine soldierly modesty. After the victory at Salamanca, he begins a letter to Earl Bathurst : “I hope that you will be pleased with our battle, of which the despatch contains as accurate an ac
* Gurwood, vol. vii. p. 231. The odd entry in the Index is to be Sound in the volume of Selections, published in 1851. W. B. R.
count as I can give you. There was no mistake; every thing went on as it ought.”*
One other characteristic of these letters has been thus commented on by one of the authors of the “Guesses at Truth :"66
Among the heroic features in the character of our great commander, none, except that sense of duty which in him is ever foremost, and throws all things else into the shade, is grander than the sorrow for his companions who have fallen, which seems almost to overpower every other feeling, even in the flush of victory. The conqueror of Bonaparte at Waterloo wrote on the day after, the 19th of June, to the Duke of Beaufort : The losses we have sustained have quite broken me down; and I have no feeling for the advantages we have acquired.' On the same day, too, he wrote to Lord Aberdeen: 'I cannot express to you the regret and sorrow with which I look round me and contemplate the loss I have sustained, particularly in your brother. The glory
* Letter of July 24, 1812. Selections, p. 614. There is a passage in one of Lord Wellington's letters from India which I am tempted to quote as (so it seems to me) the concentration of practical wisdom. It embodies good counsel for others besides soldiers : “I wish to draw your attention to the secresy of your proceedings. There is nothing more certain than that, out of one hundred affairs, ninety-nine might be posted up at the market-cross without injury to the publio service; but the misfortune is that, when public business is the subject of general conversation, and is not kept secret as a matter of course upon every occasion, it is very difficult to keep it a secret upon that occasion when it is necessary. There is an awkwardness in a secret which enables discerning men (of which description there are always plenty in an army) invariably to find it out; and it may be depended upon, that, whenever the public service ought to be kept secret, it always suffers when it is exposed to public view." Letter of June 28, 1804. Selections, p. 177. W. B. R.
resulting from such actions, so dearly bought, is no consolation to me, and I cannot suggest it as any to you and his friends; but I hope that it may be expected that this last one has been so decisive as that no doubt remains that our exertions and our individual losses will be rewarded by the early attainment of our just object. It is then that the glory of the actions in which our friends bave fallen will be some consolation for their loss.' He who could write thus had already gained a greater victory than that of Waterloo, and the less naturally follows the
An example of the same fine spirit of humanity, of true soldierly gentleness of feeling, will no doubt readily recur to many minds in the letter of condolence on the death of a gallant son addressed to an eminent American statesman by the victor of Buena Vista. As a part of military literature, the despatches of General Taylor may be spoken of as having received the stamp of history, especially since death has set its seal upon the hero's character. They stand, unquestionably, among the most remarkable productions of the kind in the language, whether considered simply as specimens of genuine and masterly use of English words, as military narratives, or as illustrations of character. They made the soldier, President of the United States. The battles might have been won, the campaigns completed ; but it was the way in which the story was told, and the character uncon
* Hare's Guesses at Truth, Second series, p. 191. There is to this letter a very characteristic and business-like postscript about Colonel Gordon's horse. W. B. R.