Open main menu

Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 5.djvu/578

This page needs to be proofread.

538 THE AGE OF BRONZE. the Channel. Public opinion had differed as to the system on which Napoleon should be treated—and, since his death, there had been a conflict of evidence as to the manner in which he had been treated, at St. Helena. Tories believed that an almost excessive lenience and indulgence had been wasted on a graceless and thankless intriguer, while the " Opposition," Liberals or Radicals, were moved to indigna-tion at the hardships and restrictions which were ruthlessly and needlessly imposed on a fallen and powerless foe. It was, and is, a very pretty quarrel ; and Byron, whose lifelong admiration for his " Heros de Roman" was tempered by reason, approached the Longwood controversy somewhat in the spirit of a partisan. In The Age of Bronze (sects. iii.-v.) he touches on certain incidents of the "Last Phase" of Napoleon's career, and proceeds to recapitulate, in a sort of Memoria Technica, the chief events of his history, from the dawn at Marengo to the sunset at "bloody and most bootless Waterloo," and draws the unimpeachable moral that " Honesty is the best policy," even when the "game is Empire" and "the stakes are thrones" ! From the rise and fall, the tyranny and captivity of Napoleon, he passes on to the Congress of Allied Powers, which met at Verona in November, 1822. The "Congress" is the object of his satire. It had as-sembled with a parade of power and magnificence, and had dispersed with little or nothing accomplished. It was " impar Achilli" (vide ante, p. 535, note 1), an empty menace, ill-matched with the revolutionary spirit, and in pitiful contrast to the Sic volo, sic jubeo of the dead Napoleon. The immediate and efficient cause of the Congress of Verona was the success of the revolution in Spain. The point at issue between Spanish Liberals and Royalists, or serviles, was the adherence to, or the evasion of, the demo-cratic Constitution of 1812. At the moment the Liberals were in the ascendant, and, as Chatcaubriand puts it, had driven King Ferdinand into captivity, at Urge!, in Catalonia, to the tune of the Spanish Marseillaise," Tragala, Tragala," "swallow it, swallow it," that is, " accept the Constitution." On July 7, 1822, a government was established under the name of the " Supreme Regency of Spain during the Cap-tivity of the King," and, hence, the consternation of the partners of the Holy Alliance, especially France, who con-ceived, or feigned to conceive, that revolution next door was a source of danger to constitutional government at home. To meet the emergency, a Congress was summoned in the first instance at Vienna, and afterwards at Verona.