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The Prime Minister

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England


  Having resolved to employ myself, during a prolonged residence inPortugal, in writing some work of fiction on that country, it struck methat the Times of the Marquis of Pombal would afford a good subject,untouched, as it is, by any other author. For a considerable time Idelayed commencing my undertaking, almost in despair of finding thenecessary materials. I wrote frequently to Lisbon to procureinformation, and mentioned my purpose to several Portuguese friends,who, at length, put at my disposal all the documents they possessrelating to the private history of their families. From them I havecomposed the following work.

  I enjoyed, also, free access to the public Library at Oporto, amagnificent establishment, containing many thousand volumes, in alllanguages. Nor must I omit to mention the courteous attention Ireceived from Senhor Gandra, the chief Librarian, in aiding me in mysearch for the works I required. Here I found several valuable volumes,in French and Italian, relating to the administration of the Marquis ofPombal, and the intrigues of the Jesuits; and some, in Portuguese,giving an account of the earthquake.

  The Library is established in a large building, formerly the Convent ofS. Lazaro, the principal room vying in size and elegance with any ofwhich the first cities in Europe can boast. There are, also, numerousother apartments, occupying the entire floor of the edifice, now crowdedwith books, which it will take many years to arrange.

  My history commences in the summer of 1755, the year of the greatearthquake of Lisbon, some time before which period, the weak, bigoted,and profligate King John the Fifth of Portugal, after allowing hiscountry to sink into a state bordering on ruin, had finished hispernicious reign, and worthless life, being succeeded by his son, Josephthe First.

  Though in the character of Joseph there appears to have been, in somerespects, but a slight improvement over that of his father, he wascertainly less superstitious; while he possessed the valuable quality ofappreciating the talents of others, which caused him to select as hisadviser, Sebastiao Joseph de Carvalho, afterwards created Marquis ofPombal, one of the most energetic men his country has ever produced.Carvalho was now at the head of the administration, and had begun thatsystem of reform, (which ended but with his fall from power,) althoughhe had not then succeeded in gaining that implicit confidence of hissovereign which he afterwards possessed. For the particulars of thehistory and state of the country antecedent to the time I speak of, Irefer my readers to the introduction to the "Memoirs of Pombal," latelypublished, written by the Secretary to the Marquis of Saldanha, MrSmith, though in many points I differ from that gentleman in the view hetakes of the great Minister's character and actions.

  The Marquis of Saldanha is a descendant of Pombal; and his Secretary hasnaturally been biassed in favour of his patron's ancestor. The onlybook he appears to have consulted, besides the documents in the StatePaper Office, is that above-mentioned, which I have before me, inPortuguese, though written originally in French, by an admirer of theMinister. Mr Smith's work did not reach me at Oporto, until my ownmanuscript had been forwarded to England; which circumstance I mention,to exonerate myself from any appearance of ingratitude in speaking thusof a person of whose labours I might be supposed to have takenadvantage. When any similarity appears, we have drawn from the samesource.

  To excuse the barbarous executions of some of the first nobility inPortugal, Mr Smith says, that some of equal cruelty have taken place inFrance and Germany. To show that the complaints made by the victims ofthe Minister's iron policy, who crowded the prisons, were unjust, hecites a memoir, in manuscript, written in prison, by the unfortunateMarquis d'Alorna, who, he says, makes querulous complaints of not havinghis linen changed sufficiently often, though he had frequent intercoursewith his family.

  I have perused an exact copy of the MS. Mr Smith has seen, if not theidentical one. In it, the unhappy Marquis speaks indignantly of thedark, narrow, and damp cell which was his abode in the Junguiera prisonfor many years, he being scarcely supplied with the common necessariesof life, while the Marchioness was confined in some other equallywretched place, separated from her children, who were distributed indifferent convents. The husband states that he received one letter fromhis wife, written with her left hand, she having lost the use of herright side from a rheumatic complaint, brought on by the dampness of herlodging. A year or so afterwards another reached him, written byholding the pen in her mouth, she having then lost the use of both herhands. This was the sort of free intercourse the Minister allowed, and,it must be remembered, neither were found guilty of any crime. TheMarquis mentions the history of many of his fellow-prisoners, several ofwhom died in prison; and, he states, after some years' confinement, bymeans of bribes, they were able to obtain some communication with theirfriends from without. In the body of the work will be found manydetails from the MSS. I have spoken of.

  Mr Smith does not inform his readers, when mentioning the outbreak atOporto, in consequence of the formation of the obnoxious Wine Company,that not only the wine-sellers rose up in arms, but that thewine-growers, who, it was pretended, were to be benefited, marched intoOporto, and demanded its abolition; nor that, when the troops arrivedfrom Lisbon to quell the revolt, the city was given up to theirunbridled license, the chief magistrate and sixteen principal citizenshaving been executed, while the prisons were crowded with others.

  Once established, with its blood-stained charter, a post in the Companywas considered one of the most valuable rewards the Minister couldbestow for services performed for him, his own immense fortune havingbeen acquired, indirectly, through that very Company. Mr Smith affirmsthat the wealth to which the Minister's eldest son succeeded was lefthim by various members of his family; but, as his family wereuniversally known to be poor, such it is difficult to believe was thecase. Mr Beckford, in his Diary in Portugal, laughs at the youngCount, for having endeavoured, during the whole course of a morningvisit, to persuade him that his father had never attempted to amass afortune. Pombal, on retiring from office, left the treasury rich; butthat is no proof that he had not taken care to supply his own chests byany means which he considered justifiable. One can scarcely wonder athis acting as was so generally the custom.

  The aim of these Memoirs of Pombal is to throw a halo of glory over hislife and actions, of which he was undeserving. The Minister is comparedin them, as he was fond of comparing himself, to Sully. I do not makethese observations unjustly to depreciate this work; but that I may notbe accused of unfairly portraying a man whose really great qualities Iduly appreciate; nor have I described him as performing one action thatis not well authenticated. I am not a greater friend to the system ofthe Jesuits than is Mr Smith; but do not wish to abuse them for thesake of exhibiting the Minister in brighter colours.

  Pombal, like Napoleon, was never prevented from doing what he considerednecessary to forward his own views either political or private, by anylaws, human or divine. His motto was, _Quid volo quid jubeo_.

  March, 1845.

  Volume 1, Chapter I.

  Joyous and sparkling waves were leaping up from the deep blue expanse ofthe vast Atlantic, as if to welcome a gallant vessel, which glidedrapidly onward in all the pride of beauty. Her broad spread of whitecanvass, extended alow and aloft, shining brightly in the sunbeams; shelooked like a graceful swan, a being of life and instinct, floating onthe waste of waters, her head turned towards the coast of fairLusitania; her bourne, from which she was as yet far distant, being themajestic Tagus. A fresh summer breeze filled her swelling sails, nowfavouring her like friendship in prosperity, but which would, probably,when the sun sank beneath the ocean, fall away, as friends too often dofrom those whose sun has set in adversity. A broad white flagemblazoned with the a
rms of Portugal, floating from her peak, and thelong pendants which fluttered from her mastheads, showed that shebelonged to the royal navy of that country; and, by the number of gunsshe carried, she appeared to be a well-armed vessel of her class; butthe abundance of gilding and bright paint with which she was in everypart decorated, betokened her to be intended more for show or pleasure,than for the rough work of actual service. She was a ship very similarto what we now call a corvette, having a single battery of long heavyguns, and a high-raised deck at the aftermost part, on which was placedan armament of small brass pieces and swivel-guns, with a few pieces ofthe same calibre on her topgallant-forecastle; so that, although herpurposes might in general have been peaceful, she was, if properlymanoeuvred, fully able to make a stout resistance against any vesselunder the class of a large frigate.

  Several persons were walking the deck, one of whom, by the air ofundisputed authority which sat well upon him, as he paced the starboardside, was evidently the