A Message from the Duke of Wellington to the British foreign office in London – circa 1812
While marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by His Majesty’s ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch rider to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit and spleen of every officer. each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.
Unfortunately, the sum of one shilling and nine pence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash, and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issues to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in Western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may comes a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s government , so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of the two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability but I cannot do both:
- To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London, or, perchance
- To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.
Subtle sarcasm of a tired soul!
But nothing has changed even now. The babu log persist with the same retrograde mindset.
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