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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 10


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Meantime, the Russians had been occupied with the siege of Oczakoff, near the mouth of the Dnieper. There the Turks had endeavoured to burn their flotillas and flat-bottomed boats, in the shallows, or, as they are called, the liman, at the mouth of the river; but besides Potemkin, they had the able Suvaroff to contend with. This sagacious general drew the Russian flotilla under the forts of Kinburn, nearly opposite to Oczakoff, of which they were in possession. Thus safe himself, he swept the broad liman with his guns, destroyed many of the boats of the Turks, as they got entangled in the sands of the shallows, and compelled the capitan-pasha, who commanded, to withdraw his fleet. After several vain attempts, Oczakoff was stormed on St. Nicholas-day, the 17th of November. But this success was only obtained at the last moment, in the very desperation of despair, and when the campaign had cost Russia twenty thousand men, of whom five thousand perished in the final assault.

But the czarina, though mistress of Oczakoff, was far from the end of her designs. She contemplated nothing but the subjugation of the Turkish empire. For this purpose she determined to excite insurrection in all the tributary states of that empire. Her agents had excited the Montenegrins to an outbreak; they had prepared the Greeks for the same experiment, and the Mameluke beys in Egypt, She determined to send a powerful fleet into the Mediterranean to co-operate with these insurgents, to seize on the island of Candia, to ravage the coasts of Thrace and Asia Minor, and to force the passage of the Dardanelles, or, if that were not practicable, to blockade them. Thus opening the communication betwixt her forces in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea, she considered that Turkey- would lie helpless at her feet. To give the necessary- ascendancy to her fleet, she had long been encouraging English naval officers to take commands in it. At the famous battle of Chesme, it was the English admirals Elphinstone, Greig, and others who had made Potemkin victorious. Greig was now at the head of her fleet preparing at Cronstadt for this Mediterranean enterprise. Catherine had also invited the famous pirate, Paul Jones, to her service; but on his arrival all the English officers at once sent in their commissions. To avoid the loss of these most important men, Catherine sent Jones to the Black Sea, where he was at the siege of Oczakoff. The English officers then resumed their services, and Catherine sent out agents secretly to engage English seamen for this grand fleet. She had also engaged eighteen British ships of four hundred tons and upwards as transports of troops, artillery, and stores.

If Pitt at this moment had possessed the far-seeing genius of his father Chatham, it was in his power, as the ally of Turkey, to have stepped in and given a blow to the ambitious designs of Russia which would have saved the country a far more arduous and costly effort for that purpose afterwards. Russia had spared no pains to insult England, especially since the unfortunate contest on account of America. It was certain that if she once obtained Turkey she would become a most troublesome power in the Mediterranean; and it now required only the dispatch of a tolerable fleet to the Baltic, and of another to the Black Sea, to annihilate in a few days every vestige of her maritime force. Such a check would have caused her to recoil from her eastern aggressions for the purpose of defending her very existence at home. Holland was bound to us by the re-establishment of the prince of Orange, our fast friend; we were at peace with Prussia; France was engrossed inextricably with her own affairs; Denmark was in terror of us; and Sweden longed for nothing so much as to take vengeance for Russian insults and invasions. Catherine's fleets destroyed, Sweden would have full opportunity to ravage her coasts, and to seek the recovery of her Finnish dominions.

But Pitt contented himself with half measures. Instead of destroying the Russian fleet in the Baltic, or of attacking it in the Mediterranean, the moment it commenced its operations on the Turkish dependencies, and then clearing the Black Sea of their ships, he contented himself with issuing a proclamation in the London Gazette, forbidding English seamen to enter any foreign service, and commanding the owners of the vessels engaged by Russia to renounce their contracts. Thus the fleet before Oczakoff was left to operate against the Turks, and the fleet in the Baltic was detained there. This was, in fact, the preservation of the Russian power, and the establishment of it on such a footing as has proved most disastrous to. modern Europe, and which still menaces it with a formidable future. But for this, it is probable that the eastward march of Russia would have been arrested for ever at this moment,

To insure a powerful diversion, the sultan had engaged the military co-operation of Sweden. Sweden had been forcibly deprived of Finland by the Czar Peter the Great, and she longed to recover it. She had a brave army, but no money. The grand Turk, to enable her to commence the enterprise, had sent her a present of money, amounting to about four hundred thousand pounds sterling. Sweden put her fleet in preparation in all haste, and had Pitt merely allowed the Russian fleet to quit the Baltic, there was nothing to prevent the execution of the Swedish design on Finland, nor, indeed, of marching direct on Petersburg in the absence of the army.

But the English measures detained the Russian fleet in the Baltic with Greig at its head, and Russia was saved from her due chastisement. The king of Sweden, indeed, landed an army of thirty-five thousand men in Finland; and his brother, the duke of Sudermania, appeared in the Baltic at the head of a strong fleet. Nothing could have prevented Gustavus from marching directly upon the Russian capital, and Petersburg was consequently thrown into the wildest alarm. But Gustavus was only bent on recovering the provinces which Russia had reft from Sweden. He advanced successfully for some time, the Russians everywhere flying before him; but Russian gold and Russian intrigue soon altered all this. Catherine ordered her fleet, which was in the gulf of Finland, with Greig at its head, to bear down on the Swedish fleet, and, at the same time, emissaries were sent amongst the officers of Gustavus's army with plenty of gold, and letters were sent to the states of Sweden, calling on them to disavow the proceedings of the king. Before Gustavus had quitted Sweden with his army, her minister, passing over the king himself, had made similar communications to Gustavus's proud and disaffected nobles, and Gustavus had ordered him out of the country. The Russian and Swedish fleets now came to an engagement in the straits of Kalkbaden. The battle was desperate; the Swedes fought with their accustomed valour; and the Russians, under the management of Greig and the English officers, showed that they were apt scholars. The two fleets separated, after doing each other great mischief, each claiming the victory. Catherine immediately rewarded Greig with a letter of thanks, written by her own hand, and with the more substantial present of a large sum of money, and a good estate in Livonia. But the partial success of Russia by sea had the effect of encouraging the corrupted officers of Gustavus to refuse to proceed further in Finland. He was about to commence the siege of the important city of Fredericksham; but the officers laid down their arms, on the plea, put into their mouths by Russia, that the war was not undertaken by the consent of the states.

Gustavus seized and sent the chief mutineers under arrest to Stockholm; but he found those who remained equally infected. In fact, the whole of the Swedish aristocracy had long aimed at usurping the entire powers of the state, and of dictating to the king. Whilst thus suddenly disabled, the men themselves, in a great measure, assuming the language of their officers, Gustavus found that Sweden itself was menaced with an invasion of the Danes from the side of Norway, at the instigation of Russia. It was necessary to hurry home, leaving the portion of the army in Finland, which remained subordinate, under the command of his brother, the duke of Orthogothia. On arriving, Gustavus issued an earnest proclamation to his people to follow him to the defence of their country. But, to lose no time, he hastened on to Dalecarlia, the brave inhabitants of which had first placed his great ancestor, Gustavus Vasa, on the throne. They speedily mustered to his aid, and he led them directly against the Danes, who, under the prince of Hesse, were already in possession of Stronstad and Uddewalla, and in full march on Gothenborg, the chief commercial town of Sweden.

His arrival gave great joy and confidence to the people of Gothenborg; and at this moment, seeing the consequence of their too easy conduct, the English government sent a peremptory demand to Copenhagen through Mr. Elliot, the British ambassador there, that Denmark should desist from this invasion of Sweden, the ally of England, or, in default of this, that a powerful English fleet should be dispatched to the Baltic. The Danes evacuated Sweden, again retiring into Norway, but Gustavus was left to continue his contest with Russia. His broken army, under his brother in Finland, took up their winter quarters at the strong seaport of Sveaborg; and he himself prepared to make some decisive movement against his haughty and refractory nobles. Besides the order of nobility, three other orders sate in the general assembly of the states; and Gustavus, confident of their affection to him, determined to throw himself upon them for protection against the nobles. He therefore, in the first place, sent for the chief magistrates, clergy, and citizens, and laid before them forcibly his position. He showed them how the recovery of the ancient Swedish provinces on the other side of the Baltic had been prevented by the defection of the aristocracy, and how the country had been invaded by the Danes through this encouragement. Made certain of their support, he then summoned a diet, which met on the 26th of January, 1789.

In this diet Gustavus freely complained of the conduct of the nobles, and they as freely, and more insolently, complained of his acting without authority of the states - declaring that his bringing down the Dalecarlians was done to overawe them, and that the appointment of count Lowenthauft as president of the diet was intended to overawe the diet, as he was the king's sworn friend. The language of the nobles was unbearably insulting; and Gustavus fiercely retorted on them that they were traitors to their king and country - that they made themselves the tools of Russia, and if Russia were not now encamped with her armies in and around Stockholm, it was owing only to resolute resistance to their proceedings. The nobles rose in a body and quitted the assembly; but Gustavus continued his speech to the three remaining orders. He declared it necessary, for the salvation of the country, for him to assume almost despotic powers, and he called on the three estates to support him in punishing the traitorous nobles, promising to secure the liberties of the country as soon as this was accomplished. Not only the three orders, but the public at large zealously supported him. Stockholm was in a state of high excitement. Gustavus surrounded the houses of the chief nobility with his brave Dalecarlians; secured twenty-five of the principal nobles, including the counts Brahe, Fersen Home, and others, who were consigned to the castle. He had already sent and arrested nine of the leaders of the insurrection in the army in Finland, and these officers were now also confined in the castle; others had escaped and fled to their great patroness in Petersburg. To intimidate the king, nearly all the officers of the army, the fleet, and the civil department, threw up their commissions and appointments, believing that they should thus completely paralyse his proceedings. But Gustavus remained undaunted. He filled up the vacancies, as well as he could, from the other orders of the state; he brought the nobles and officers to trial, and numbers of them were condemned to capital punishment, for treason and abandonment of their sworn duties. Had Gustavus been a bloody-minded sovereign, Stockholm would have been deluged with blood. Some few examples were made; the rest, after a short confinement, were liberated, and they hastened to their estates in the country. Not a noble or a noble lady would appear at court, and, if Sweden had depended on so-called noble blood for its management, it must have been lost. But it was found there, as everywhere else, that rank confers no monopoly of talent. The three other orders warmly supported Gustavus, and he remodelled the diet, excluding from it almost all the most powerful nobles, and giving greater preponderance to the other three orders. In return for this, these orders sanctioned an act called the Act of Safety, which conferred on the king the same power which is attached to the English crown, namely, that of making peace or war. They granted him liberal supplies, and he quickly raised an army of fifty thousand men. As he considered the reduction of the restless and lawless power of Russia was equally essential to England, Holland, and Prussia, as to Sweden, he called on those powers to second his efforts. Had this been done, the blood of thousands, the expenditure of millions sterling at Sebastopol would have been spared. But Pitt adhered to his blind half-measures. He would do nothing more than guarantee the neutrality of Denmark; and even this guarantee he permitted to become nugatory, by allowing the Danish fleet to give protection to the Russian fleet in the Baltic. A second Russian squadron, commanded by Dessein, a French admiral, descended from Archangel, entered the Baltic, menaced Gothenborg, and, by the aid of the Danish ships, was enabled to join the other Russian fleet at Cronstadt.

The Swedes cursed the less than half assistance of their English allies, and Gustavus endeavoured to fight his way without them. He continued to win victory after victory on land; but Catherine soon brought down on his squadron of galleys, which attended his march along the coast to keep up his supplies, an overwhelming fleet of galleys of her own. A desperate battle ensued, but the Swedish galley-fleet was, at length, overcome. Gustavus was thus greatly embarrassed, and compelled to stand merely on the defensive, till time to go into winter quarters.

Gustavus continued for twelve months to do stout battle with Russia, and, though with very insufficient forces, threatened the very capital of that country. A little support by England, Prussia, and Holland, would have enabled Sweden to regain its territories on the eastern shores of the Baltic, to curb the power of Russia, and to assume that station in the north which is essentially necessary to the peace of Europe. These countries, however, had not the statesmanship to see this, or the good feeling to effect it, and we must leave Gustavus to struggle on alone whilst we trace other events.

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