1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of
WELLINGTON, ARTHUR WELLESLEY, 1st Duke of (1769–1852), was the fourth son of Garrett (1735–1781) Wellesley or Wesley, 2nd baron and 1st earl of Mornington, now remembered only as a musician. He was descended from the family of Colley or Cowley, which had been settled in Ireland for two centuries. The duke’s grandfather, Richard Colley, 1st Baron Mornington (d. 1758), assumed the name of Wesley on succeeding to the estates of Garrett Wesley, a distant relative of the famous divine. In Wellington’s early letters the family name is spelt Wesley; the change to Wellesley seems to have been made about 1790. Arthur (born in Ireland in 1769) was sent to Eton, and subsequently to a military college at Angers. He entered the army as ensign in the 73rd Highlanders in 1787, passed rapidly through the lower ranks (in five different regiments), became major of the 33rd (now duke of Wellington’s West Riding), and purchased the lieutenant-colonelcy of that regiment in 1793 with money advanced to him by his eldest brother. But in all these changes he did little regimental duty, for he was aide-de-camp to the lord-lieutenant of Ireland for practically the whole of these years. Before reaching full age he was returned to the Irish parliament by the family borough of Trim. Little is known of his history during these years; but neither in boyhood nor in youth docs he appear to have made any mark among his contemporaries.
His first experience of active service was in the campaign of 1794–1795, when the British force under the duke of York was driven out of Holland by Pichegru. In 1796 he was sent with his regiment to India, being promoted colonel by brevet about the same time. It was thus as a commanding officer that he learnt for the first time the details of regimental duty. Remastered them thoroughly, gained a minute acquaintance with every detail of the soldier’s life, learned the precise amount of food required for every mouth, the exact weight that could be carried, the distances that could be traversed without exhaustion, the whole body of conditions in short which govern the military activity of man and beast. It was to the completeness of his practical knowledge that Wellington ascribed in great part his later success. It is probable, moreover, that he at this time made a serious study of the science and history of war. His formal training at Angers was altogether too slight to account for his great technical knowledge; no record, however, exists of the stages by which this was acquired except that as soon as he landed in India he began to devote fixed hours to study, giving up cards and the violin. This study was directed chiefly to the political situation of India, and when on his advice his eldest brother. Lord Mornington, afterwards Marquess Wellesley, accepted the governor-generalship of India, he became his trusted though unofficial adviser. In the war with Tippoo Saib the 33rd was attached to the Nizam’s contingent, and Colonel Wellesley commanded this division in the army of General (Lord) Harris. Though his military services in this short campaign were not of a striking character, he was appointed by his brother to the supreme military and political command in Mysore, in spite of the claims of his senior. Sir David Baird.
His great faculties now for the first time found opportunity for their exercise. In the settlement and administration of the conquered territory he rapidly acquired the habits and experience of a statesman, while his military operations against Doondiah, a robber chief, were conducted with extraordinary energy and success, Doondiah being killed and his army scattered. More important, however, than the military side of these operations was their political character. When pressed in Mysore, Doondiah moved into Mahratta territory, whither Wellesley followed him. Here, negotiating and bargaining with the Mahratta chiefs, Wellesley acquired a knowledge of their affairs and an influence over them such as no other Englishman possessed. Simple and honourable himself, he was shrewd and penetrating in his judgment of Orientals; and, unlike his great predecessor Clive, he rigidly adhered to the rule of good faith in his own actions, however depraved and however exasperating the conduct of those with whom he had to deal. The result of Wellesley’s singular personal ascendancy among the Mahrattas came into full view when the Mahratta War broke out. In the meantime, however, his Indian career seemed likely to be sacrificed to the calls of warfare in another quarter. Wellesley was ordered in December 1800 to take command of a body of troops collected for foreign service at Trincomalee, in Ceylon. It was at first intended that these troops should act against Java or Mauritius; their destination was, however, altered to Egypt, with a view to co-operation with Sir Ralph Abercromby’s expedition, and Baird was placed in command. Though deeply mortified at the loss of the command, Wellesley in his devotion to duty moved the troops on his own responsibility from Trincomalee to Bombay, from the conviction that, if they were to be of any use in Egypt, it was absolutely necessary that they should provision at Bombay without delay. But at Bombay Wellesley was attacked by fever, and prevented from going on. The troop-ship in which he was to have sailed went down with all on board.
He returned in May 1801 to Mysore, where he remained until the Mahratta War broke out. The power of the Peshwa, nominally supreme in the Mahratta territory, had been overthrown by his rivals Holkar and others, and he had himself fled. The Indian government undertook to restore his authority. Wellesley, now a major-general, was placed in command of a division of the army charged with this task. Starting from Seringapatam, he crossed the frontier on March 12, 1803, and moved through the southern Mahratta territory on Poona. The march was one unbroken success, thanks to Wellesley’s forethought and sagacity in dealing with the physical conditions and his personal and diplomatic ascendancy among the chieftains of the district. No hand 'was raised against him, and a march of 600 m. was conducted without even a skirmish. Wellesley had intended to reach Poona on the 23rd of April. On the night of the 18th he heard that a rival of the Peshwa intended to burn the city. At once Wellesley pressed on with the cavalry and an infantry battalion in light order, and after a forced march of 32 hours entered Poona on the afternoon of the 20th, in time to save the city. The Peshwa was now restored, and entered into various military obligations with Wellesley, which he very imperfectly fulfilled.
In the meantime Sindhia and Holkar, with the raja of Berar, maintained a doubtful but threatening aspect farther north. It was uncertain whether or not a confederacy of the northern Mahrattas had been formed against the British government. In these critical circumstances Wellesley was charged with "the general direction and control of military and political affairs in the territories of the Nizam, the Peshwa and the Mahratta states and chiefs." Armed with these powers, he required Sindhia, as a proof of good faith, to withdraw to the north of the Nerbudda. Sindhia not doing so, war was declared on the 6th of August 1803. Wellesley marched northwards, captured Ahmadnagar on the 11th, crossed the Godavery ten days later, and moved against the combined forces of Sindhia and the raja of Berar. Colonel Stevenson was meanwhile approaching with a second division from the east, and it was intended that the two should unite. On the 23rd of September Wellesley supposed himself to be still some miles from the enemy; he suddenly found that the entire forces of Sindhia and the raja of Berar were close in front of him at Assaye. Weighing the dangers of delay, of retreat, and of an attack with his single division of 4500 men, supported only by 5000 native levies of doubtful quality, Wellesley convinced himself that an immediate attack, though against greatly superior forces (30,000 horse, 10,000 European-drilled infantry and 100 well-served guns) in a strong position, was the wisest course. He threw himself upon the Mahratta host, and, carrying out a bold manœuvre under an intense fire, ultimately gained a complete victory though with the loss of 2500 men out of a total probably not much exceeding 7000. In comparison with the battle of Assaye, all fighting that had hitherto taken place in India was child’s play. Wellesley himself had two horses killed under him. Uniting with Stevenson’s division, the conqueror followed up the pursuit, and brought the war to a close by a second victory at Argaum on the 29th of November, and the storming of Gawilghur on the 15th of December. The treaties with Sindhia and the raja of Berar, which marked the downfall of the Mahratta power, were negotiated and signed by Wellesley (who was made K.B. in Sept. 1804) in the course of the following month. Not yet thirty-five years old, he had proved himself a master in the sphere of Indian statesmanship and diplomacy as on the field of battle. Had his career ended at this time, his Indian dispatches alone would have proved him to have been one of the wisest and strongest heads that have ever served England in the East.
His ambitions now led him back to Europe, and in the spring of 1805 he quitted India. On his return home he was immediately sent on the abortive expedition to Hanover. In 1806 he was elected M.P. for Rye, in order to defend his brother, the governor general, in the House, and in the following year he was Irish secretary for a few months. He was then employed in the expedition against Copenhagen, in which he defeated the Danes in the action of Kjoge (29th Oct.). In 1808, however, began the war (see Peninsular War) in which his military renown was fully established. In April he was promoted lieutenant-general and placed in command of a division of the troops destined to operate against the French in Spain or Portugal. The conduct of events is narrated in a separate article, and need only be summarized here. Finding that the junta of Corunna wished for no foreign soldiery, he followed his alternative instructions to act against Junot at Lisbon. He landed at Mondego Bay in the first week of August, and moved southwards, driving in the enemy at Roliça on the 17th of August. On the 21st the battle of Vimeiro was fought and won. In the midst of this engagement, however, Sir Harry Burrard landed, and took over the command. Burrard was in turn superseded by Sir Hew Dalrymple, and the campaign ended with the convention of Cintra, which provided for the evacuation of Portugal by the French, but gave Junot’s troops a free return to France. So great was the public displeasure in England at the escape of the enemy that a court of inquiry was held. After the battle of Corunna, Wellesley, who had in the meantime resumed his duties as Irish secretary, returned to the Peninsula as chief in command. He drove the French out of Oporto by a singularly bold and fortunate attack, and then prepared to march against Madrid by the valley of the Tagus. He had the support of a Spanish army under General Cuesta; but his movements were delayed by the neglect of the Spanish government, and Soult was able to collect a large force for the purpose of falling upon the English line of communication. Wellesley, unconscious of Soult’s presence in force on his flank, advanced against Madrid, and defeated his immediate opponent. King Joseph, at Talavera de la Reina (q.v.) on the 27th-28th of July. The victory of Talavera, however, brought prestige but nothing else. Within the next few days Soult’s approach on the line of communication was discovered, and Wellesley, disgusted with his Spanish allies, had no choice but to withdraw into Portugal and there stand upon the defensive.
A peerage, with the title of Viscount Wellington and Baron Douro, was conferred upon him for Talavera. He was also made marshal-general of the Portuguese army and a Spanish captain general. But his conduct after the battle was sharply criticized in England, and its negative results were used as a weapon against the ministry. Even on the defensive, Wellington’s task was exceedingly difficult. Austria having made peace. Napoleon was at liberty to throw heavy forces into the Peninsula. Wellington, foreseeing that Portugal would now be invaded by a very powerful army, began the fortification of the celebrated lines of Torres Vedras (see Fortification). The English army wintered about Almeida. As summer approached Wellington’s anticipations were realized. Massena moved against Portugal with an army of 70,000 men. Wellington, unable to save Ciudad Rodrigo, retreated down the valley of the Mondego, devastating the country, and at length halted at Busaco and gave battle. The French attack was repelled, but other roads were open to the invader, and Wellington continued his retreat. Massena followed, but was checked completely in front of the lines. He sought in vain for an unprotected point. It was with the utmost difficulty that he could keep his army from starving. At length, when the country was exhausted, he fell back to Santarem, where, Wellington being still too weak to attack, he maintained himself during the winter. But in the spring of 1811 Wellington received reinforcements and moved forward. Massena retreated, devastating the country to check the pursuit, but on several occasions his rearguard was deeply engaged, and such were the sufferings of his army, both in the invasion and in the retreat, that the French, when they re-entered Spain, had lost 30,000 men. Public opinion- in England, lately so hostile, now became confident, and Wellington, whose rewards for Talavera had been opposed in both Houses, began to gain extraordinary popularity.
In the meantime Soult, who was besieging Cadiz, had moved to support Massena. But after capturing Badajoz, Soult learnt that Massena was in retreat, and also that his own forces at Cadiz had been beaten. He in consequence returned to the south. Wellington, freed from pressure on this side, and believing Massena to be thoroughly disabled, considered that the time had come for an advance into Spain. The fortresses of Almeida, Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz barred the roads. Almeida was besieged, and Wellington was preparing to attack Badajoz when Massena again took the field, and marched to the relief of Almeida. The battle of Fuentes d'Onoro followed, in which Wellington was only able to extricate the army from a dangerous predicament which “if Boney had been there” would have been a disaster. The garrison of Almeida too escaped, after blowing up part of the fortress. In the south, in spite of the hard-won victory of Albuera, the English attack on Badajoz had to be given up. The same misfortune attended a fresh stroke against Ciudad Rodrigo, and at the end of a campaign in which he had used all his skill and care to compensate for inferior numbers, he withdrew behind the Coa. He had meanwhile been given the local rank of general and had also received the Portuguese title of Conde de Vimeiro.
Wellington had from the first seen that, whatever number of men Napoleon might send against him, it was impossible, owing to the poverty of the country, that any great mass of troops could long be held together, and that the French, used to “making war support war,” would fare worse in such conditions than his own troops with their organized supply service. It was so at the end of 1811. Soult had to move southwards to live, and the English were again more than a match for the enemy in front of them. Wellington resumed the offensive, and on the 19th of January 1812 Ciudad Rodrigo was taken by storm. Again, suddenly altering the centre of gravity, Wellington invested Badajoz in the middle of March. It was necessary at whatever cost to anticipate the arrival of Soult with a relieving army, and on the 6th of April Wellington ordered the assault. The fearful slaughter which took place before the British were masters of the defences caused Wellington to be charged with indifference to loss, but a postponement of the attack would merely have resulted in more battles against Soult. Of all generals Wellington was the last to waste a single trained man, and the sight of the breaches of Badajoz after the storm for a moment unnerved even his iron sternness.
The advance from Ciudad Rodrigo into Spain was now begun. Marmont, who had succeeded Massena, fell back to the Douro, but there turned upon his assailant, and, by superior swiftness, threatened to cut the English off from Portugal. Wellington retreated as far as Salamanca (q.v.), and there extricated himself from his peril by a most brilliant victory (July 22). The French fell back on Burgos. Instead of immediately following them, Wellington thought it wise to advance upon the Spanish capital. King Joseph retired, and the English entered Madrid in triumph. The political effect was great, but the delay gave the French northern army time to rally. “The vigorous following of a beaten enemy was not a prominent characteristic of Lord Wellington’s warfare,” as Napier says. Burgos offered an obstinate defence. Moreover, Soult, raising the siege of Cadiz, and gathering other forces to his own, pressed on towards Madrid. Wellington was compelled once more to retire into Portugal. The effect of the campaign was, however, that the southern provinces were finally cleared of the invader. During this retreat he announced in general orders that the demoralization and misconduct of the British army surpassed anything that he had ever witnessed. Such wholesale criticism was. bitterly resented, but indeed throughout his career Wellington, cold and punctilious, never secured to himself the affections of officers and men as Marlborough or Napoleon did. He subjugated his army and gave it brilliant victories, but he inspired few disciples except the members of his own staff. To the end of his life his relations with the principal generals who served under him were by no means intimate.
Wellington had been made an earl after the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo, and the Spanish government created him duke of Ciudad Rodrigo about the same time. For Salamanca his reward was a marquessate, and a grant of £100,000 for the purchase of an estate. He was also made Duque da Victoria by the Portuguese regency, and before the opening of the campaign of 1813, which was to crown his work, he was given both the Garter and the Golden Fleece.
He was now invested with the supreme command of the Spanish armies. He visited Cadiz in December 1812, and offered counsels of moderation to the democratic assembly, which were not followed. During the succeeding months he was occupied with plans and preparations, and at length, in May 1813, the hour for his final and victorious advance arrived. The Russian disasters had compelled Napoleon to withdraw some of his best troops from the Peninsula. Against a weakened and discouraged adversary Wellington took the field with greatly increased numbers and with the utmost confidence. The advance of the allied army was irresistible. Position after position was evacuated by the French, until Wellington, driving everything before him, came up with the retreating enemy at Vittoria (q.v.), and won an overwhelming victory (June 21st). Soult’s combats in the Pyrenees, and the desperate resistance of St Sebastian, prolonged the struggle through the autumn, and cost the English thousands of men. But at length the frontier was passed, and Soult forced back into his entrenched camp at Bayonne. Both armies now rested for some weeks, during which interval Wellington gained the confidence of the inhabitants by his unsparing repression of marauding, his business-like payment for supplies, and the excellent discipline which he maintained. In February 1814 the advance was renewed. The Adour was crossed, and Soult was defeated at Orthes. At Toulouse, after the allies had entered Paris, but before the abdication of Napoleon had become known, the last battle of the war was fought. Peace being proclaimed, Wellington took leave of his army at Bordeaux, and returned to England, where he was received with extraordinary honours, created duke of Wellington, and awarded a fresh grant of £400,000.
After the treaty of Paris (May 30) Wellington was appointed British ambassador at the French capital. During the autumn and winter of 1S14 he witnessed and reported the mistakes of the restored Bourbon dynasty, and warned his government of the growing danger from conspiracies and from the army, which was visibly hostile to the Bourbons. His insight, however, did not extend beyond the circumstances immediately before and around him, and he failed to realize that the great mass of the French nation was still with Napoleon at heart. He remained in Fiance until February 1815, when he took Lord Castlereagh’s place at the congress of Vienna, . All the great questions of the congress had already been settled, and Wellington’s diplomatic work here was not of importance. His imperfect acquaintance with French feeling was strikingly proved in the despatch which he sent home on learning of Napoleon’s escape from Elba. “He has acted,” he wrote, “upon false or no information, and the king (Louis XVIII.) will destroy him without difficulty and in a short time.” Almost before Wellington’s unfortunate prediction could reach London, Louis had fled, and France was at Napoleon’s feet. The ban of the congress, however, went out against the common enemy, and the presence of Wellington at Vienna enabled the allies at once to decide upon their plans for the campaign. To Wellington and Blücher were committed the invasion of France from the north, while the Russians and Austrians entered it from the east. Wellington, with the English troops and their Dutch, German and Belgian allies, took his post in the Netherlands, guarding the country west of the Charleroi road. Blücher, with the Prussians, lay between Charleroi, Namur and Liege. In the meantime Napoleon had outstripped the preparations of his adversaries. By the 13th of June he had concentrated his main army on the northern frontier, and on the 14th crossed the Sambre. The four days' campaign that followed, and the crowning victory of the 18th of June, are described in the article Waterloo Campaign. Wellington’s reward was a fresh grant of £200,000 from parliament, the title of prince of Waterloo and great estates from the king of Holland, and the order of the Saint-Esprit from Louis XVIII.
Not only the prestige of his victories, but the chance circumstances of the moment, now made Wellington the most influential personality in Europe. The emperors of Russia and Austria were still far away at the time of Napoleon’s second abdication, and it was with Wellington that the commissioners of the provisional government opened negotiations preliminary to the surrender of Paris. The duke well knew the peril of delaying the decision as to the government of France. The emperor Alexander was hostile to Louis XVIII. and the Bourbons generally; the emperor Francis might have been tempted to support the cause of Napoleon’s son and his own grandson, who had been proclaimed in Paris as Napoleon II.; and if the restoration of Louis—which Wellington believed would alone restore permanent peace to France and to Europe—was to be effected, the allies must be confronted on their arrival in Paris with the accomplished fact. He settled the affair in his usual downright manner, telling the commissioners bluntly that they must take back their legitimate king, and refusing—perhaps with more questionable wisdom—to allow the retention of the tricolour flag, which to him was a “symbol of rebellion.” At the same time the opposition of the most influential member of the commission and the most powerful man in France, Fouche, was overcome by his appointment, on Wellington’s suggestion, as minister of police. The result was that when the emperor Alexander arrived in Paris he found Louis XVIII. already in possession, and the problem before the allies was merely how to keep him there.
In the solution of this problem the common sense of Wellington and of Castlereagh, with whom the duke worked throughout in complete harmony, played a determining part; it was mainly owing to their influence that France escaped the dismemberment for which the German powers clamoured, and which was advocated for a while by Lord Liverpool and the majority of the British cabinet. Wellington realized the supreme necessity, in the interests not only of France but of Europe, of confirming and maintaining the prestige of the restored monarchy, which such a dismemberment would have irretrievably damaged. It was this conviction that inspired his whole attitude towards French affairs. If he unwillingly refused to intervene in favour of Marshal Ney, it was because he believed that so conspicuous an example of treason could not safely be allowed to go unpunished. If he bore in silence the odium that fell upon him owing to the break-up of the collection of the Louvre, it was because he knew that it would be fatal to allow it to be known that the first initiative in the matter had come from the king. In the same spirit he carried out the immense and unique trust imposed upon him by the allies when they placed him in command of the international army by which France was to be occupied, under the terms of the second peace of Paris, for five years. By the terms of his commission he was empowered to act, in case of emergency, without waiting for orders; he was, moreover, to be kept informed by the French cabinet of the whole course of business. His power was immense, and it was well and wisely used. If he had no sympathy with revolutionary disturbers of the peace, he had even less with the fatuous extravagances of the comte d’Artois and his reactionary entourage, and his influence was thrown into the scale of the moderate constitutional policy of which Richelieu and Decazes were the most conspicuous exponents. The administrative duties connected with the army of occupation would alone have taxed to the uttermost the powers of an ordinary man. Besides this, his work included the reconstruction of the military frontier of the Netherlands, and the conduct of the financial negotiations with Messrs Baring, by which the French government was able to pay off the indemnities due from it, and thus render it possible for the powers to reduce the period of armed occupation from five years to three. He was consulted, moreover, in all matters of international importance, notably the affairs of the Spanish colonies, in which he associated himself with Castlereagh in pressing those views which were afterwards carried into effect by George Canning.
The length of time during which France was to be occupied by the allies practically depended upon Wellington’s judgment. On the 10th of December 1816 Pozzo di Borgo wrote to the duke enclosing a memorandum in which the emperor Alexander of Russia suggested a reduction in the army of occupation: “no mere question of finance, but one of general policy, based on reason, equity and a severe morality”; at the same time he left the question of its postponement entirely to Wellington. To Wellington the proposal seemed premature; he would prefer to wait till “the assembly had published its conduct by its acts”; for if the new chambers were to prove as intractable as the dissolved Chambre introuvable, the monarchy would not be able to dispense with its foreign tutors. To Castlereagh he wrote (December 11, 1816) that although he believed that the common people of the departments occupied, “particularly those occupied by us,” were delighted to have the troops and the money spent among them, among the official and middle classes the feeling was very different. In view of the weakness of the king’s government, to reduce the army would be to expose the excitable elements of the population to the temptation of attacking it. “Suppose I or my officers were forced to take military action. Suppose this were to happen in the Prussian cantonments. The whole Prussian army would be put in motion, and all Europe would resound with the alarm of the danger to be apprehended from the Jacobins in France.”
The events of the next few months considerably modified his opinions in this matter. The new chambers proved their trustworthy quality by passing the budget, and the army of occupation was reduced by 30,000 men. Wellington now pressed for the total evacuation of France, pointing out that popular irritation had grown to such a pitch that, if the occupation were to be prolonged, he must concentrate the army between the Scheldt and the Meuse, as the forces, stretched in a thin line across France, were no longer safe in the event of a popular rising. But such a concentration would in itself be attended with great risk, as the detachments might be destroyed piecemeal before they could combine. These representations determined the allies to make the immediate evacuation of France the principal subject of discussion at the congress which it was arranged to hold at Aix-la-Chapelle in the autumn of 1818. Here Wellington supported the proposal for the immediate evacuation of France, and it was owing to his common-sense criticism that the proposal of Prussia, supported by the emperor Alexander and Metternich, to establish an “army of observation” at Brussels, was nipped in the bud. The conduct of the final arrangements with Messrs Baring and Hope, which made a definitive financial settlement between France and the allies possible, was left entirely to him.
On Wellington’s first entry into Paris he had been received with popular enthusiasm, but he had soon become intensely unpopular. He was held responsible not only for the occupation itself, but for every untoward incident to which it gave rise; even Blücher’s attempt to blow up the Pont de Jena, which he had prevented, was laid to his charge. His characteristically British temperament was wholly unsympathetic to the French, whose sensibility was irritated by his cold and slightly contemptuous justice. Two attempts were made to assassinate him. After the second the prince regent commanded him to leave. Paris and proceed to the headquarters at Cambrai. For the first time the duke disobeyed orders; the case, he wrote, was one in which he was “principally and personally concerned,” and he alone was in a position to judge what line of action he ought to pursue. His work in Paris, however, was now finished, and on the 30th of October, in a final “order of the day,” he took leave of the international troops under his command. On the 23rd of October, while still at Aix, he had received an offer from Lord Liverpool of the office of master-general of the ordnance, with a seat in the cabinet. He accepted, though with some reluctance, and only on condition that he should be at liberty, in the event of the Tories going into opposition, to take any fine he might think proper.
For the next three years “the Duke” was little before the world. He supported the repressive policy of Liverpool’s cabinet, and organized the military forces held ready in case of a Radical rising, It was his influence with George IV. that led to the readmittance of Canning to the cabinet after the affair of the royal divorce had been settled. It was only in 1822, however, that the tragic death of his friend Londonderry (Castlereagh) brought him once more into international prominence. Londonderry had been on the eve of starting for the conference at Vienna, and the instructions which he had drawn up for his own guidance were handed over by Canning, the new foreign secretary, to Wellington, who proceeded in September to Vienna, and thence in October to Verona, whither the conference had been adjourned. Wellington’s official part at the congress is outlined elsewhere (see Verona, Congress of). Unofficially, he pointed out to the French plenipotentiaries, arguing from Napoleon’s experience, the extreme danger of an invasion of Spain, but at the same time explained, for the benefit of the duke of Angouleme, the best way to conduct a campaign in the Peninsula.
Wellington’s intimate association for several years with the sovereigns and statesmen of the Grand Alliance, and his experience of the evils which the Alliance existed to hold in check, naturally led him to dislike Canning’s aggressive attitude towards the autocratic powers, and to view with Some apprehension his determination to break with the European concert. He realized, however, that in the matter of Spain and the Spanish colonies the British government had no choice, and in this question he was in complete harmony with Canning. This was also at first the case in respect to the policy to be pursued in the Eastern Question raised by the war of Greek independence. Both Canning and Wellington were anxious to preserve the integrity of Turkey, and therefore to prevent any isolated intervention of Russia; and Wellington seemed to Canning the most suitable instrument for the purpose of securing an arrangement between Great Britain and Russia on the Greek question, through which it was hoped to assure peace in the East. In February 1826, accordingly, the duke was sent to St Petersburg, ostensibly to congratulate the emperor Nicholas I. on his accession, but more especially—to use Wellington’s own words—“to induce the emperor of Russia to put himself in our hands.” In this object he signally failed. He was, indeed, received in St Petersburg with all honour; but as a diplomatist the “Iron Duke”—whom Nicholas, writing to his brother Constantine, described as “old and broken (cassé)”—was no match for the “Iron Tsar.” As for the Greeks, the emperor said bluntly that he took no interest in “ces messieurs,” whom he regarded as “rebels”; his own particular quarrel with Turkey, arising out of the non-fulfilment of the treaty of Bucharest, was the concern of Russia alone; the ultimatum to Turkey had, indeed, been prepared before Wellington’s arrival, and was dispatched during his visit. Under stress of the imminence of the peril, which Nicholas was at no pains to conceal, the duke was driven from concession to concession, until at last the tsar, having gained all he wanted, condescended to come to an arrangement with Great Britain in the Greek question. On the 4th of April was signed the Protocol of St Petersburg, an instrument which—as events were to prove—fettered the free initiative not of Russia, but of Great Britain (see Turkey: History; Greece: History).
After the death of the duke of York on the 5th of December 1826 the post of commander-in-chief was conferred upon Wellington. His relations with Canning had, however, become increasingly strained, and when, in consequence of Lord Liverpool’s illness. Canning in April 1827 was called to the head of the administration, the duke refused to serve under him. On the day after the resignation of his seat in the cabinet he also resigned his offices of master of the ordnance and commander-in-chief, giving as his reason “the tone and temper of Mr Canning’s letters,” though it is difficult to see in these letters any adequate reason for such a course (see Maxwell’s Life, ii. 199) The effect of his withdrawal was momentous in its bearing upon Eastern affairs. Canning, freed from Wellington’s restraint, carried his intervention on behalf of Greece a step further, and concluded, on the 27th of July, the treaty of London, whereby France, England and Russia bound themselves to put an end to the conflict in the East and to enforce the conditions of the St Petersburg protocol upon the belligerents. Against this treaty Wellington protested, on the ground that it "specified means of compulsion which were neither more nor less than measures of war." His apprehensions were fulfilled by the battle of Navarino.
Canning died on the 8th of August 1827, and was succeeded as premier by Lord Goderich. The duke was at once again offered the post of commander-in-chief, which he accepted on the 17th of August. On the fall of Lord Goderich's cabinet five months later Wellington became prime minister. He had declared some time before that it would be an act of madness for him to take this post; but the sense of public duty led him to accept it when it was pressed upon him by the king. His cabinet included at the first Huskisson, Palmerston and other followers of Canning. The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts having been carried in the House of Commons in the session of 1828, Wellington, to the great disappointment of Tories like Lord Eldon, recommended the House of Lords not to offer further resistance, and the measure was accordingly carried through. Soon afterwards a quarrel between the duke and Huskisson led to the retirement from the ministry of all its more liberal members. It was now hoped by the so-called Protestant party that Wellington, at the head of a more united cabinet, would offer a steady resistance to Catholic emancipation. Never were men more bitterly disappointed. The Clare election and the progress of the Catholic Association convinced both Wellington and Peel that the time had come when Catholic emancipation must be granted; and, submitting when further resistance would have led to civil war, the ministry itself brought in at the beginning of the session of 1829 a bill for the relief of the Catholics. Wellington, who had hitherto always opposed Catholic emancipation, explained and justified his change of front in simple and impressive language. His undoubted seriousness and his immense personal reputation did not, however, save him from the excesses of calumny and misinterpretation; and in order to impose some moderation upon his aspersers the duke thought it necessary to send a challenge to one of the most violent of these, the earl of Winchelsea. No mischief resulted from the encounter.
Catholic emancipation was the great act of Wellington's ministry; in other respects his tenure of office was not marked by much success. The imagination and the breadth of view necessary to a statesman of the highest order were not part of his endowment, nor had he the power of working harmoniously with his subordinates. His Eastern policy was singularly short-sighted. There might have been good reason, from Wellington's point of view, for condemning Canning's treaty of London; but when, in consequence of this treaty, the battle of Navarino had been fought, the Turkish fleet sunk, and the independence of Greece practically established, it was the weakest of all possible courses to withdraw England from its active intervention, arid to leave to Russia the gains of a private and isolated war. This, however, was Wellington's policy; and, having permitted Russia to go to war alone in 182S, nothing remained for him but to treat Greece as a pawn in Russia's hands, and to cut down the territory of the Greek kingdom to the narrowest possible limits, as if the restoration to the sultan of an inaccessible mountain-tract, inhabited by the bitterest of his enemies, could permanently add to the strength of the Ottoman empire. The result was the renunciation of the Greek crown by Prince Leopold; and, although, after the fall of Wellington's ministry, a somewhat better frontier was given to Greece, it was then too late to establish this kingdom in adequate strength, and to make it, as it might have been made, a counterpoise to Russia's influence in the Levant. Nor was the indulgence shown by the cabinet towards Dom Miguel and the absolutists of Portugal quite worthy of England. That Wellington actively assisted despotic governments against the constitutional movements of the time is not true. He had indeed none of the sympathy with national causes which began to influence British policy under Canning, and which became so powerful under Palmerston; but the rule which he followed in foreign affairs, so far as he considered it possible, was that of non-intervention.
As soon as Catholic emancipation was carried, the demand for parliamentary reform and extension of the franchise agitated Great Britain from end to end. The duke was ill informed as to the real spirit of the nation. He conceived the agitation for reform to be a purely fictitious one, worked up by partisans and men of disorder in their own interest, and expressing no real want on the part of the public at large. Met with a firm Resistance, it would, he believed, vanish away, with no worse result than the possible plunder of a few houses by the city mobs. Wholly unaware of the strength of the forces which he was provoking, the duke, at the opening of the parliament which met after the death of George IV., declared against any parliamentary reform whatever. This declaration led to the immediate fall of his government. Lord Grey, the chief of the new ministry, brought in the Reform Bill, which was resisted by Wellington as long as anything was to be gained by resistance. When the creation of new peers was known to be imminent, however, Wellington was among those who counselled the abandonment of a hopeless struggle. His opposition to reform made him for a while unpopular. He was hooted by the mob on the anniversary of Waterloo, and considered it necessary to protect the windows of Apsley House with iron shutters.
For the next two years the duke was in opposition. On the removal of Lord Althorp to the House of Lords in 1834, William IV. unexpectedly dismissed the Whig ministry and requested Wellington to form a cabinet. The duke, however, recommended that Peel should be at the head of the government, and served under him, during the few months that his ministry lasted, as foreign secretary. On Peel's later return to power in 1841 Wellington was again in the cabinet, but without departmental office beyond that of commander-in-chief. He supported Peel in his Corn-Law legislation, and throughout all this later period of his life, whether in office or in opposition, gained the admiration of discerning men, and excited the wonder of zealots, by his habitual subordination of party spirit and party connexion to whatever appeared to him the real interest of the nation. On Peel's defeat in 1846 the duke retired from active public life. He was now nearly eighty. His organization of the military force in London against the Chartists in April 1848, and his letter to Sir John Burgoyne on the defences of the country, proved that the old man had still something of his youth about him. But the general character of Wellington's last years was rather that of the old age of a great man idealized. To the unbroken splendours of his military career, to his honourable and conscientious labours as a parliamentary statesman, life unusually prolonged added an evening of impressive beauty and calm. The passions excited during the stormy epoch of the Reform Bill had long passed away. Venerated and beloved by the greatest and the lowliest, the old hero entered, as it were, into the immortality of his fame while still among his countrymen. Death came to him at last in its gentlest form. He passed away on the 14th of September 1852, and was buried under the dome of St Paul's, in a manner worthy both of the nation and of the man. His monument, by Alfred Stevens (q.v.), stands in the nave of the cathedral.
Authorities.—The Wellington Despatches, edited by Gurwood; Supplementary Despatches; and Wellington Despatches, New Series, edited by the second duke of Wellington. Unlike Napoleon's dispatches and correspondence, everything from Wellington's pen is absolutely trustworthy: not a word is written for effect, and no fact is misrepresented. Almost all the political memoirs of the period 1830-1850 contain more or less about Wellington in his later life. Those of Greville and Croker have perhaps most of interest. A good deal of information, from the unpublished Russian archives, is given in F. F. de Martens' Recueil des traites conclus par la Russie. See also Sir Herbert Maxwell, Life of Wellington (2 vols., London, 1900), and the literature of the Peninsular War (q.v.), Waterloo Campaign (q.v.)
- At 24 Upper Merton Street, Dublin, or at Dungan Castle, Meath, on the 29th of April or on 1st May; but both place and date are uncertain.
- Isolated fortresses were still holding out for Napoleon in September 1815, e.g. Longwy, which surrendered on the 20th. Much trouble was caused by the behaviour of some of the allied troops, notably the Prussians. Detailed reports of the condition of the country for the first months of the occupation are contained in the Bulletins de la correspondance de l’Interieur, copies of which are preserved in the Foreign Office records (F.O . Congress. Paris. Castlereagh, August, &c., 1815).
- F. O. Continent; Paris: Wellington (No. 32).
- See the interesting letter of Lord Castlereagh to Lord Liverpool preserved in the Foreign Office Records (Congress, Paris, Viscount Castlereagh. July 7–20, 1815), dated July 8, 1815.
- Maxwell, Life, ii. 114 ff.
- Suppl. Despatches, xii. 326.
- Suppl. Despatches, ii. 335.
- Memorandum to Canning of January 26, 1826 (Well. Desp. iii.)
- An interesting account of Wellington’s negotiations in St Petersburg, based on unpublished documents in the Russian archives, is given in T. Schiemann’s Geschichte Russlands unter Nikolaus I. (Berlin, 1908), ii. 126–138.