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Don Sebastian: The House of the Braganza, An Historical Romance (Complete)

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
NEVER has the pen of history had to record a more affecting event, than that which bore the house of Braganza to another hemisphere: animated by a noble disdain of submitting to foreign despotism, and bravely placing his country, not in the land of Portugal, but in the hearts of her people, the Prince Regent conquered in adversity, and triumphed even at the moment of despair. Like the pious Eneas, who snatched from the flames of Troy, his father and his household Gods, he hastened to save some relics of Portugal; he hastened to embark his family and their adherents on board the national fleet; to launch with them on the hitherto untried deep, and to lead them under the protection of Great Britain, to found a new empire in a new world. It was on the morning of the 29th of November, 1807, that these patriot emigrants quitted the bay of Lisbon; they looked back on their forsaken capital, with emotions too strong and too complicated for description: every individual had left behind him some aged, or infirm, or timid relative, whom it was agony to abandon, and whom he quitted with the conviction of never seeing again; the scenes of their childhood, their vineyards, and their cities, nay even the shores of their native land, were never more to gladden their eyes! A solemn pause had followed the noise and distraction of their embarkation; Lisbon was motionless: profound stillness, like that silence which surrounds the death bed of a mother, rested within her walls: every heart felt its impression. Advancing with majestic slowness down the Tagus, the Portuguese fleet crossed the bar, and entered between the lines formed by the navy of England: the cannons of the two fleets answered each other; the sounds, doubled and redoubled by numerous echoes, were prolonged after the smoke had cleared away, and discovered the ships of Portugal and of Britain mingled together on the Atlantic ocean. Having exchanged gratulation and farewel with the Embassador and the gallant Admiral of the friendly squadron, the Prince Regent gave a last, long look to Portugal, and forcibly tore himself from the deck of his vessel. In the cabin, he found part of the royal family yielding themselves up to regret and anxiety: he suffered them to weep without interruption, till the moment in which lamentation made a pause; he then took the united hands of his daughter, and of his nephew, the Prince of Spain, and pressing them within his own, held them with a look, serious, sad, yet collected. “Let us dry our tears,” he said; “let us bravely submit to our fate, and bless God for having allowed us to retain that which ennobles every situation—Freedom!—We go, my children, to seek a new world; to found there a new empire; it belongs to us to stamp the future character of an unborn nation:—May we feel the gratitude of such responsibility!—As our example shall persuade, as our authority shall impel, so will vice or virtue prevail in Trans atlantic Portugal; her existence, her expansion, her dignity, her immortality, depend upon her princes and nobles. Be this truth engraven on your hearts! may its awful voice resound for ever in your ears, influencing your lives to the exercise of all the social duties.”