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Suchet: War in Spain
Chapter 10c

At this period, all the acts of the government were promulgated in the emperor's name, without any indication being given by the Spaniards of their feeling dissatisfied at the change.

We had yet to perform the task of framing the budget of 1811, and doing away with taxes that were either unnecessary, or opposed by their very nature to the public welfare, as well as to re-model upon fresh bases these administrations which had only been imperfectly organized.

The lottery was suppressed: the manufacturing and disposal of those articles, of which the Spanish government had reserved to itself the exclusive monopoly, having been declared free and open to all, a reduction took place amongst the persons hitherto employed in duties no longer required of them. It had been proved by experience, that the extent of power given to the contadoria of the province had presented solid guarantees to the communes against arbitrary taxation, and secured to them the regular payment of all the supplies which they had furnished; to its functions was accordingly added the duty of examining and passing the accounts of all public accountants. The dilapidations detected by that fostering administration were repressed by measures of severity, and led to important restitutions of funds.

The customs were organized on a principle similar to that which prevailed in France; and out of regard for the Arragonese, as well as for ourselves, the corps of custom-house officers was principally composed of veteran Spanish officers and soldiers, who had voluntarily tendered their services. The administration of national domains was likewise definitively settled, and the small districts were authorised to work on their own account the estates which it was found impossible to farm out, under the condition of their paying three fourths of their former produce. With a view, in short, to complete these measures, the receiver and paymaster were directed to furnish every month to the contadoria a statement of receipts and expenditure, and to make it public, in order to satisfy the inhabitants that the government rigidly and exclusively devoted the produce of the revenues to the service of the army and the administration of the province.

The governor- general soon had occasion to convince himself that the inhabitants of Arragon had appreciated his good intentions, and relied upon his justice. Such was the happy influence of these arrangements upon the state of our finances, that it enabled him to lighten the burden of the extraordinary war contribution, of five hundred thousand reales per month.

During the month of September 1810, the emperor directed that all British merchandise found in Arragon should be confiscated and burnt. The commander-in-chief represented that such an order, if carried into effect, would prove a fatal blow to commerce, which was barely reviving and commencing a new existence; he proposed that a duty of fifty per cent should be levied upon those goods, according to what had been done in Holland, rather than that he should arbitrarily take them from their rightful owners. His proposal, however, was not attended to; all British merchandise found in commercial warehouses was consigned to the flames, in the public square of Saragossa, where a similar act of authority had formerly been exercised by command of Charles IV. Articles of colonial produce not having been specifically named in the emperor's decree, a tax was imposed upon them, the produce of which, though inconsiderable, contributed towards the resources of the public chest. No means were neglected that were in any way calculated to soften down, in the mode of execution, the odium and the arbitrary character which attached to such a measure in the minds of commercial men.

The capture of Tortosa opportunely occurred, to crown the first year of the existence of the government of Arragon, and to hold out to us a brighter prospect for the future. During the course of this siege, which lasted until the 2nd of January, 1811, our expenses were increased by the necessity we were under of maintaining a corps of six thousand men, which the marshal duke of Tarentum had placed at our disposal. On entering Tortosa, our funds were exhausted; the country was so completely drained of provisions and money, that we were compelled to draw from Arragon, during several months, the means requisite for the pay and subsistence of the troops. As soon as tranquillity was restored, an extraordinary contribution of three millions of reales was imposed upon that corregimiento, which contained no more than thirty-two villages; but a considerable time elapsed ere we could succeed in obtaining the money so levied.

With a view to afford relief to the indigent class of the population of Arragon, extensive works had been undertaken in that province. Immense plains, which must have remained barren and uncultivated had it not been for the advantage they derived from irrigation, were wholly indebted for their fertility to the imperial canal, so called from its having been commenced in the reign of Charles V. The sluices, the dykes, and the large basin of the MonteTorrero, which served the purposes of a port, had been destroyed by the army; means were adopted for repairing all the damage done to the canal, and in a short time it was restored to commerce and agriculture. Works were also undertaken for the beneficial object of supplying water to the city of Saragossa, which possessed no public fountains. The requisite level was taken, and measures were employed for the purpose of conveying water through the basin of the Casa-Blanca to a fountain which was erected in the public square, near the ruins of the convent of San-Francisco, in the middle of the Cosso. The quarter between that part of the city and the gate of Santa Engracia was wholly uninhabited since the siege, and a mere heap of ruins. A plan was adopted for clearing the ground, and opening a broad street, planted with trees ; it was carried into effect at a later period, to the manifest satisfaction of the inhabitants.

The hospital of the Miscricordia was repaired ; the revenues of that establishment were restored, and 700 foundlings, who had found an asylum in it, were engaged in the dressing of wool, the tanning of leather, and the manufacturing of cloths. The hospitals of Huesca and Teruel were likewise re-established, and juntas appointed to superintend the administration of them. The spacious and elegant civil hospital of Saragossa, the existence of which bore witness to the generosity of the inhabitants, was also restored to its former condition, together with all the revenues annexed to it; and was likewise used as a military hospital.

The artillery stood in need of saltpetre for the manufacturing of gunpowder. This object was attended to, and afforded means of subsistence to many families. The circus destined for bull-fights had been partly destroyed; it was repaired, and the population of the neighbourhood flocked to the city, in order to witness some of those national amusements. The academy of the Friends of the Country was revived; funds were applied to the school for drawing architecture, and mathematics, which was daily attended by 150 youths of the province. The city of Saragossa was secured against a coup-de-main, by the construction of several works made of earth or masonry. The fortifications of the castle were extended and improved, so as to place the capital of Arragon in a condition to defend itself, at a moment when the army might be called away to other points. With a view to give the Arragonese a more direct interest in the success of our operations, and to find employment for those Spanish officers who had attached themselves to our cause, the commander-in-chief formed four companies of fusileers, and two of gendarmes; they were soon clothed, equipped, and armed for service; the soldiers were all able-bodied men, indefatigable, and excellent guides. They were paid and subsisted like the rest of the army, and claimed our warmest praise by the zeal and valour they displayed on several occasions. The regulations laid down by the principal corregidor, don Mariano Dominguez, and his personal activity, were the means of keeping up an excellent police in the capital. During a period of sixteen or eighteen months, there never existed the slightest disturbance, not even when the course of military operations had compelled us to leave a very weak garrison in the town. Not a single assassination was committed, whilst at a former period, according to the extracts from the registers, upwards of 300 were computed to have occurred every year, in a time of profound peace. A great number of distinguished families, who had fled from the province in consequence of their political opinions, or from the fear of military events, had voluntarily returned, and the sequestration laid upon their property had been accordingly set aside.

Whilst these improvements were taking place, the commander- in- chief learned with considerable astonishment, on the 19th of March 1811, that in virtue of a decree of the emperor, he was directed to lay siege to Tarragona, and that lower Catalonia was placed under his orders, as well as the active portion of the army then assembled in that province. By an increase to his forces of 18,000 men, and the management of an important siege, he was, no doubt, afforded the means of honourably serving his country; but he had also fresh difficulties to surmount. The troops of the army in Catalonia had been paid, and in a great measure subsisted by France; but the pay of several corps was eight months in arrear, whilst others were paid to the day. The state of the public funds did not afford the means of at once bringing up those arrears. The high price of corn increased the disadvantages of our position. The monapolising system, favored by the English, had raised the price of wheat from sixteen to thirty-two francs per quintal. These circumstances called for the utmost exertions on our part; the requisite orders were immediately issued.

Three extensive depots of provisions were to be formed at Lerida, Tortosa, and Mora. Eight battalions of infantry were directed to scour the mountains and collect all the sheep they could find. Our regiments had commenced their march from the different points of Arragon for the purpose of forming new divisions of the army, when the news which arrived on the 21 st of April of the capture of Figueras, compelled the commander-in-chief instantly to proceed to Lower Catalonia.

As the course of events no longer admitted of a moment's delay, he ordered the principal depots of provisions to be established at Mora ; first, because that point presented to us the shortest though the most difficult road for transporting corn to Reuss; in the second place, because the road from Tortosa to Tarragona was reserved for the artillery ; and, lastly, because the road to Lerida did not offer sufficient security, as the Catalonians always kept the open field. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the season, we succeeded in a short time in collecting 9,500 quintals of corn and flour at the town of Mora, 11,000 at Mequinenza, 6,000 at Caspe, 12,000 at Saragossa, and 4,000 at Huesca. Regular and safe convoys were organized by the active vigilance of the director, Bondurand; 4,000 quintals of flour, a quantity of biscuit, every thing requisite for an hospital, and medicines of all descriptions, followed our first columns. Numerous means of transport were collected between Mora and Reuss, and if the enemy should fail in an attempt to break our line, we were in hopes of meeting, for some time, all the wants of the besieging army.

We had subsisted until now without resorting to the ruinous system of contracts ; this was an incalculable advantage in our situation; for the whole of the sums destined for paying the troops would have proved inadequate to satisfy the demands of contractors. Our resources were very nearly exhausted. Upwards of 120,000 sheep. and 1,200 head of cattle of a small size, procured from Lower Catalonia, Valencia, and Arragon, had been consumed in the vicinity of Tortosa during the last six months. We had to guard against the danger of a scarcity of meat in the midst of our siege operations. Yielding to the urgent representations of the authorities of Arragon, and compelled, moreover, to give way to necessity, the commander-in-chief authorized, for the first time, the director, M. Bondurand, to make a public contract for the supply of the cattle required, for the service of the army. In virtue, however, of a special clause in the contract, the cattle were to be brought from France and distributed alive.

It is right that we should enter into some explanation on this subject. Experience had long taught us that in a hostile country, the, service of supplies which is so essential to the success of an army, might be usefully entrusted to military accountants. The fellow feelings they entertained for their comrades, their sense of discipline, the taste s and habits of a military life which support them in the midst of danger render them better calculated to protect the trust confided to their care whereas civil employ's, whose presence in the corps is not only accidental, but also fails to hold out the same guarantees, generally enter upon the temporary exercise of their functions with views of self-interest, which compromise the safety of the service. Such were the considerations which led the commander-in-chief to direct that the cattle should be distributed alive to the respective regiments. Owing to this arrangement, the heads of corps were charged with the duty of superintending the proper distributions to their soldiers, and requiring, that they should be always provided with meat for two days' consumption. The consequence was, that the cattle being thus divided amongst the troops, could subsist with less difficulty, were more effectually watched, never occasioned any delay in our movements, and that, on reaching his bivouac, the soldier was not obliged to quit his quarters or to go out marauding in quest of food. This plan, which was followed during the whole campaign, proved no less advantageous than economical to us. If the regulations of the service were to establish its adoption in the different situations in which our army might be placed in an enemy's country, it might be attended with the advantage of facilitating the movements of the troops, of securing at a less expensive rate a main branch of the subsistence of an army, and of preventing the system of plunder which every where spreads desolation. Towards the end of April, 1811, baron Lacuee, master of requests in the council of state, who was sent to fill the office of intendant-general to the army, arrived at our head-quarters at Saragossa. He was accompanied by six auditors, MM. Combes Sieyes, Dumees, d'Arthenay, de Montigny, d'Hautefort, and d'Arlincourt. One of them remained attached to the general administration ; the other five were to be employed in the provinces. This fresh organization did not in any manner affect the system of administration we had adopted ; the commander-in-chief continued to unite in his own person the civil and military powers; he was specially entrusted with the high police of the province, and his superintendence extended over whatever constituted the intendantgeneral's duties..

On the 3rd of May, 1811, the whole army had reached the camp in front of Tarragona.

On the 28th of June, after a most obstinate defence, Tarragona fell into our hands. During the progress of this operation, Arragon continued to furnish supplies to the army. We have known some of the peasantry of Teruel to have travelled to the town of Mora, a distance of fifty leagues, in order to bring their quota of provisions. A great number of communes had solicited and obtained arms to enable them to resist the inroads of the Guerillas; others had requested that French garrisons might be left to protect them. The municipalities, curates, and public functionaries had shown the utmost zeal in pointing out the places of retreat of malefactors and of the enemies of public tranquillity; private individuals had given precise information respecting the approach of armed bands. In short, many traits of humanity had been shewn towards our stragglers, who had been picked up by the peasantry and kept concealed from the fury of the Spanish guerillas These were no equivocal signs of the general feeling; they held out to the administration a prospect of improvement in the minds of those whom it was appointed to govern.

After taking possession of several places in Catalonia, the commander-in-chief had returned to Saragossa in the beginning of August. Eighteen months had elapsed since he was directed to feed the war by the war, to draw from the country whatever was required for the subsistence of the army, and he had in that space of time succeeded in clearing off fourteen months' arrears of pay, of general charges, and of extraordinary allowances. The expenses of the artillery and of the corps of engineers, the extraordinary requisites for a siege and for the hospitals, the horses required for the cavalry, and the cost of transport had all been liquidated. The charges of administration, of justice, of the police, of finances, the expenses of public works, the ecclesiastical pensions, those assigned to widows, and the retired allowances of military men, had been paid with no less punctuality. Upwards of ten millions of francs, either proceeding from the old taxes laid in the time of the Spanish government, from extraordinary war contributions, from national domains or the private domains of the crown, had been lodged in the military chest, which still contained a reserve fund exceeding 600,000 francs. The army and the fortified towns bad been provisioned by requisitions of corn, wine, brandy, oil, and cattle..

Public order had never been disturbed, notwithstanding the collision produced by a state of war; the inhabitants of the country had resumed their labours as they were wont to do in profound peace; commercial industry, being no Ionger fettered, had considerably extended its speculations; manufactures had been established in Saragossa; the ruins of that splendid city were beginning to disappear, and public walks or establishments of general utility were substituted for them. These results far exceeded our expectations. It is no doubt an easy task to levy contributions and to incur expenses ; but to allay almost on a sudden the hatred of a people enthusiastically attached to their country, to modify their institutions, usages and habits, and whilst overburdening them with taxes, to acquire such an ascendency over their minds as to induce them to second our enterprises without the slightest manifestation of further resistance on their part, without our revolting the national pride, such was the success at which it behoved the superior administration of the government of Arragon to aim, and it was beginning to indulge the hope that it had nearly accomplished so desirable an object. We shall find it perseveringly adhering to the same system in the province of Valencia, at a later period and obtaining a similar result.

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