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The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 11

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On the 8th of October Murat landed near Pizzo, on the Calabrian coast - a coast more than any other in Italy fraught with fierce recollections of the French. His army now consisted of only twenty-eight men; yet, in his utter madness, he advanced at the head of this miserable knot of men, crying, " I am your king, Joachim! " and waving the Neapolitan flag. But the people of Pizzo, headed by an old Bourbon partisan, pursued him, not to join, but to seize him. When they began firing on him, he fled back to his vessels; but the commander, a man who had received the greatest benefits from him, deaf to his cries, pushed out to sea, and left him. His pursuers were presently upon him, fired at him, and wounded him; and, rushing upon him, knocked him down, and treated him most cruelly. Women, more like furies than anything else, struck their nails into his face and tore off his hair, and he was only saved from being torn to pieces by the old Bourbon and his soldiers, who beat off these female savages, and conveyed him to the prison at Pizzo. His clothes had been already rifled of the rich jewels that he wore in that tawdry vanity which was always his foible; but they now found in his pocket the passport of the emperor of Austria, and a proclamation which he intended to print and distribute, denouncing death on all who did not at once quit the service of king Ferdinand and adhere to him. The news of his capture was a great delight to Ferdinand. He entertained none of the magnanimity of the allies, but sent at once officers to try by court-martial, and, of course, to condemn him. Some of these officers had been in Murat's service, and had received from him numerous favours, but not the less readily did they sentence him to death; and on the 13th of October, 1815, he was shot in the court-yard of the prison at Pizzo, with his characteristic bravery refusing to have his eyes bound, and with his characteristic vanity bidding the soldiers " save his face, and aim at his heart! "

Having now seen the military career of Napoleon terminated, the spell of his conquering power broken, the last of his created kings unthroned and put to death, and himself consigned to a distant captivity, we might leave him there without further notice, as his life out-lasted this reign; but justice to England and some of her officers require us to take a concise review of what took place at St. Helena during his confinement there. Undoubtedly, Buonaparte did not yield to the deportation to that solitary island without a fixed resolve to make his escape thence. His plan was to still surround himself with imperial state and forms, so as to elude the vigilance of his keepers; and when he found that this was not permitted, that he was treated and addressed only as a general, to which rank he had reduced himself by breaking the treaty under which he went to Elba, he commenced a system of insult and irritation towards those who had the surveillance of him, and towards England generally, which has no parallel for its pettiness or its virulence.

In the first place, he declared that England meant to kill him by sending him to a notoriously unhealthy climate. Now, St. Helena, by all the medical authorities who have treated of it, and by the condition of our troops there, is shown to be one of the most healthy islands in the world. As shown by the thermometer, its temperature is mild, and most remarkably equable. In the course of the year - from September, 1820, to September, 1821 - the thermometer never rose higher than seventy-six degrees, or fell lower than fifty-seven degrees of Reaumur. Dr. Shortt, physician to the forces at that time, says that the sickness amongst the troops employed there, and of course constantly exposed to all the changes of weather, did not exceed one man in forty-five; and he attributes this extraordinary degree of salubrity in a tropical island to its being situated in the trade winds, which carry off the superfluous heat, and with it such noxious vapours as might affect the human constitution. Dr. Arnott, and the other medical men who have served there, all bear the same testimony.

Napoleon landed in St. Helena on the 16th of October, 1815, and, till the house at Longwood, intended for his residence, could be fitted up, he took up his abode at a pleasantly-situated villa, called Briars, near James Town. He remained there till the 9th of December, when Longwood was ready for him. At Longwood he was not only farther from the coast, but he had the largest piece of ground around him fit for horse exercise in the island. With in a circle of twelve miles, he could take daily exercise with his suite, and without the presence of any Englishmen. If he wished to exceed those bounds, he could visit any part of the island accompanied by an English officer. He refused to have such attendant, and not only so, to approach any part of the bounding circuit, because he there saw English sentinels. At night, these sentinels drew in and surrounded the house, so as not to be seen from it, but, at the same time, so that no one could go to or from it without their challenge. These regulations, and the regular manner in which they were maintained, as they cut off the hopes of his escape, excited not only his wrath, but that of all his suite. Sir George Cockburn, who remained in command there till a suitable governor of the island should be appointed, though a most gentlemanly man, could not avoid becoming the object of much calumny and abuse both from Napoleon and his followers. On the island resided a Russian, a French, and an Austrian com- missioners, to assist in the onerous task of preventing a second escape of this man, who observed no treaties or engagements, and whose elopement from Elba had cost the lives of so many thousands of men much better than himself. None of these would Buonaparte admit to his presence, because he regarded them as his gaolers, and because they refused him any higher title than that of general. The same causes excluded the officers in the British service there.

In July, 1816, Sir Hudson Lowe arrived at St. Helena as governor, and relieved Sir George Cockburn of his irksome office. Sir Hudson had served in the English army much on the coast of Italy, and had distinguished himself as a good and brave officer in the resistance which had been made to Buonaparte's usurpations in Calabria and other parts of Italy. No sooner, therefore, did he arrive than Buonaparte began a system of the most unmeasured insult to him. He opened his address at his very first interview with " Monsieur, vous avez commandé des brigands." Sir Hudson replied that he had never commanded brigands, but soldiers employed by his country in a legitimate manner, though it might not be in a manner agreeable to him. But this style of insult was not only kept up by Buonaparte, but by the whole of his suite, in whom it was more intolerable. Here were these French people, maintained by England in ease and luxury, and who could at any moment be sent out of the island, constantly employed in abusing the governor, and in inventing all kinds of lying stories to excite the anger of Buonaparte against him. Sir Hudson stated that he could have borne the petulance of Napoleon, and made great allowances for it; but these Montholons, Bertrands, Las Cases, and the women more especially, were a perpetual and insufferable pestilence. Much odium was heaped upon Sir Hudson Lowe and propagated throughout Europe by every possible Channel, and which was received to a very great extent in England, so that Sir Hudson Lowe became rather unpopular. But the fact remains, that the commissioners of the other allied powers on the island at the same time perfectly approved of the conduct of Sir Hudson, and his own government, who had the fullest information on every particular, not only supported him in his proceedings, but afterwards presented him to a far superior appointment - the government of Ceylon. As to the sarcasms of Buonaparte and his suite on Sir Hudson having commanded brigands, it would apply to all our Commanders on that coast, for they commanded mixed troops - Sicilians, Corsicans, and others. General Stuart, the victor of Maida, Sir Sidney Smith, lord William Bentinck, and others, were all in the same category with Sir Hudson.

But the fact was that no one placed in the unenviable position of Sir Hudson Lowe could avoid exciting his unmitigated hatred; and he who had not spared the characters of his own most meritorious officers was not likely to spare that of the British officer set to keep him secure in his island prison. Sir George Cockburn had found that no Word of honour, no parole, could for a moment bind Buonaparte. He expressed such repugnance to have the Company of an English officer whenever lie exceeded his twelve mile circuit, and pledged his word so solemnly that he would hold no communication with the people of the island if allowed to ride about anywhere without such escort, that Sir George accepted his word of honour, and it was immediately broken; he therefore withdrew the indulgence, in consequence of which the most violent outcry was raised, and sent to Europe, against the capriciousness of the admiral.

Sir Hudson Lowe was too well acquainted with the character of Napoleon to need this warning. His flight from Elba was proof enough that nothing but the impossibility of escape would keep him in St. Helena. His Orders from Downing-street were of the most explicit kind. "You will observe that the desire of his majesty's government is, to allow every indulgence to general Buonaparte which may be compatible with the entire security of his person. That he should not by any means escape, or hold communication with any person whatsoever, excepting through your agency, must be your unremittent care." These orders, issued on the 12th of September, 1816, were reiterated on the 26th of October. Whilst advising him to make every allowance for the effect of so sudden a change on a person of his irritable temper, it was added - " You will, however, not permit your forbearance or generosity towards him to interfere with any regulations which may have been established for preventing his escape, or which you may hereafter consider necessary for the better security of his person." Any one has, therefore, only to place himself in the situation of Sir Hudson Lowe, under these explicit orders, and with the tremendous responsibility of such a person escaping once more to embroil Europe, in order to feel that the firmest adherence to his orders was necessary; and, recollecting that Sir Hudson did nothing without consulting his government, or informing it of what he had been obliged to do on the spur of the moment, to understand that the British government, and not the governor, were responsible for the system pursued. So far from the appointment of Sir Hudson Lowe being one of a mean and gaoler-like kind, it was, in truth, one of a most important character - he held in his hands the security of the whole civilised world. But his office was certain to bring down on him the bitterest vituperation of the Buonapartists, and he found them far more ready to vilify him than his own government to justify him. There were those, however, who, from first representations, took a decided part against Sir Hudson Lowe, who, on further inquiry, did him full justice, and amongst these were pre-eminent lord and lady Holland.

Under such circumstances wore on the six years and seven months of Napoleon's captivity in St. Helena. For six years of this time, never, probably for a moment, was there any abandonment of plans for his escape; and the vigilance and ability with which these were defeated necessarily intensified the hatred of Buonaparte and his suite to the governor. General Gourgaud, who returned to Europe in 1818, made no scruple in stating to the British government that plans for Buonaparte's escape had constantly been agitated at Longwood during his abode there, but that the emperor had regarded them all as too hazardous, trusting to some change in the cabinet of England for his liberation.

The story of Buonaparte's captivity is one of constant warfare on his part with his detainers. First he and his followers complained of the allowance of eight thousand pounds a-year for their maintenance. Sir Hudson Lowe had the liberty of extending the allowance to twelve thousand pounds, and he did so at once, and he was authorised to extend it still further in case of any advance in the price of provisions. But no extension diminished the complaints of the French. They ate of the very best that could be procured, and drank claret of the most expensive kind obtainable - namely, Carbonel, at six pounds a dozen, without duty. Every officer of superior rank had a bottle of this daily, and the labourers and soldiers had each a bottle of excellent Teneriffe. All was of no avail. Buonaparte complained that his establishment was starved, and determined to sell his plate to procure the means of more ample supplies. Accordingly, his plate was broken up and sold for old silver, at the same time that it was known to everybody on the island, and this was confessed by general Gourgaud, that he had just received ten thousand pounds in Spanish doubloons! But the thing was done to tell in Europe, and thus to stigmatise the English, who were expending altogether, in detention of this troublesome personage, some hundred thousands of pounds annually. And it had its effect.

The British government sent out the materials for constructing a much better house than Longwood, and Sir Hudson waited on Buonaparte to ask his pleasure as to the proposed building; but he received him with the greatest violence and ferocity, and boasted of it to his retinue. Sir Hudson withdrew, with the remark, " You were pleased to remark, sir, in our last interview, that you had miscalculated the spirit of the English people. Give me leave to say that you at present miscalculate as erroneously the spirit of an English soldier."

The conduct of Sir Hudson in this interview was fully approved by the British government. The new house, said to have cost sixty thousand or seventy thousand pounds, was erected, but being, after the fashion of many English houses, surrounded by a brick fence and iron railings of an ornamental character, Buonaparte immediately imagined that it was intended as an additional means of confinement. On learning his objection, Sir Hudson, finding all explanation unavailing, pulled down the palisades, and levelled the ditch; but in vain - Buonaparte refused to go into it.

Napoleon admitted persons of distinction who touched at St. Helena to an audience, on which occasions he put on his most amiable aspect, that they might carry a favourable impression to Europe, and thus give force to his complaints which he lavished on all who came near him. Amongst these visitors were captain Basil Hall, lord Amherst, then returning from his embassy to China, and Mr. Henry Ellis, the third commissioner of the embassy. In 1817 Buonaparte began to complain of the failure of his health, which he attributed to the air of the island, but which turned out to be the result of an hereditary disease, probably accelerated by his refusal to take necessary exercise under the restrictions established. On the 18th of March of that year a parliamentary inquiry into his treatment, by his great advocate, lord Holland, was made by motion. The chief heads of lord Holland's charges were the climate, the restriction on Napoleon's intercourse with Europe by letter, and the refusal to allow him books. Lord Bathurst showed, from the best authorities, that the island was remarkably healthy; that no restriction was put on his correspondence, but that it was required that all letters should be first inspected by the governor, and this was justified by the constant attempts to organise a plan of escape. With respect to the complaint of the refusal of books, lord Bathurst replied that general Montholon had sent over a list of books for Napoleon, which the general termed a few books, but which would cost nearly one thousand five hundred pounds. All of these that could be procured had been sent. The complaints were so evidently groundless that lord Holland's motion was not seconded.

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