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The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 2

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Monsieur and the duke of Orleans hastened to Lyons, and the duke of Angoulême to Nîmes. Corps of volunteers were called out, and an address to the people was composed by Benjamin Constant, calling on them to defend their liberties against Buonaparte; and a woman on the staircase of the Tuileries exclaimed, " If Louis has not men enough to fight, let him call out the widows and childless mothers who have been rendered such by Napoleon! " In the meantime the conspiracy of general l'Allemand and his brother at Lisle, to carry over the garrison of eight thousand men to Napoleon, was discovered by general Mortier, and defeated. Had this plot succeeded, Louis and his family must have been made prisoners. But there ended the feeble adhesion to the Bourbon cause.

When Buonaparte reached Lyons, the soldiers, in spite of the duke of Orleans, of Monsieur, and of marshal Macdonald, went over to him to a man. He was now at the head of seven thousand men, and Maçon, Chalons, Dijon, and nearly all Burgundy declared for him. Marseilles and Provence stood out, the authorities of Marseilles setting a price upon his head. But being now in Lyons, Buonaparte issued, with amazing rapidity, no fewer than eight decrees, abolishing every change made by the Bourbons during his absence, confiscating the property of every emigrant who had not lost it before, restoring the tricolour flag and cockade, the legion of honour; abolishing the two Chambers, and calling a Champ-de-Mai, to be held in the month of that name, to determine on a new constitution, and to assist at the coronation of the empress and the king of Rome. He boldly announced that the empress was coming; that Austria, Russia, and England were all his friends, and that without this he could not have escaped. These decrees, disseminated on all sides, had a wonderful effect on the people, and he advanced rapidly, reaching Auxerre on the 17th of March. He rode on several hours in advance of his army, without guards, talking familiarly with the people, sympathising in their distresses, and promising all sorts of redresses. The lancers of Auxerre and Montereau trampled the white cockade under foot, and joined him. He appointed Cambaceres minister of justice; Fouché, of police; and Davoust minister of war. But Fouché, doubting the sincerity of Buonaparte, at once offered his services to Louis, and promised, on being admitted to a private interview, to point out to the king a certain means of extinguishing the usurper. This was presumed to mean assassination by some of his secret agents, and was honourably rejected by Louis, and an officer was sent to arrest Fouché; but that adroit sycophant retired by a back door, locking it after him, got over a wall, and was the next moment in the house of the duchess of St. Leu, and in the midst of the assembled Buonapartists, who received him with exultation.

Thus surrounded by treason, Louis doubted the fidelity of Soult, who resigned his command; but he trusted Ney, and sent him to attack Buonaparte in the rear, whilst an army at Melun, under Clarke, duke of Feltre, was to attack him in front. Ney took leave of Louis on the 9th of March, declaring that he would bring Buonaparte to him in a cage; but at Lons-le-Saulnier, on the 14th, he received a letter from Napoleon, calling him " the bravest of the brave," and inviting him to resume his place in his army, and Ney went over at once. To abate the public opinion of his treason, he pretended that this expedition had been long arranged betwixt himself and Buonaparte, but this Buonaparte at St. Helena denied.

Astounded by these repeated defections, Louis endeavoured to gather some intimation of the state of other bodies and troops about him. He attended a sitting of the chamber of deputies, and was received with acclamation; he reviewed twenty-five thousand national guards, and there was the same display of loyalty; he inspected six thousand troops of the line, but there the reception was not encouraging. He finally summoned a general council at the Tuileries, and there the generals declared frankly that he had no real means of resisting Buonaparte. This was on the 18th of March, and Louis felt that it was time for him to be making his retreat. At one o'clock in the morning of the 20th he was on his way towards Lisle, escorted by a body of household troops. It was time, for that very day Buonaparte reached the camp of Melun, where Macdonald had drawn up the troops to attack him; but Buonaparte threw himself amongst them, attended only by a slight escort of horse, and the soldiers all went over to him with a shout. Macdonald rode back to Paris, and, following the king, assumed the command of the guard accompanying him. Louis hoped that the troops at Lisle, under Mortier, would stand by him; but Mortier assured him of the contrary, and so, taking leave of Macdonald on the frontiers, Louis pursued his way to Ostend and thence to Ghent, where he established his court. The household troops who had accompanied him were disbanded on the frontiers, and in attempting to regain their homes by different routes, most of them were killed, or plundered and abused.

On the evening of the very day that Louis quitted Paris Buonaparte arrived in it. He had slept on the night of the 19th at Fontainebleau, where, in the preceding April, he had signed his abdication. No sooner had the king departed, than the Buonapartists, who were all ready for that event, came forth from their hiding-places. Lavalette resumed his position at the post-office, and thus managed to intercept the proclamations of Louis, and to circulate those of Buonaparte. Excelsman took down the white flag from the Tuileries and hoisted the tricolour, and a host of the adherents of the old imperial government, hurrying from all quarters, thronged the avenues to the palace, and filled the court of the Carousel. There were ex-ministers of Buonaparte, ex-councillors, ex-chamberlains, in imperial costume - in short, every species of officers and courtiers, down to cooks, and butlers, and valets, all crushing forward to reoccupy their places- The guards at the gates stood with tricolour cockades already on their hats, and the great ladies of that court came driving in, for they were not far off. Madame Hortense, the wife of Louis of Holland, now styled the duchess of St. Leu, had been permitted to remain in Paris, and her house had been the focus of all the Buonapartist adherents and conspiracies. From that centre had been sent summonses to every branch of the Buonaparte family to be in readiness, and all had responded except cardinal Fesch, Louis Buonaparte, and Eugene Beauharnais, who had too much sense to quit Munich with his wife, the daughter of the Bavarian king. Even Murat, to his ruin, had been induced to declare for Buonaparte's return.

When the returned emperor, therefore, drove up to the Tuileries, at nearly ten o'clock on the night of the 20th - a foggy and wet night - his carriage, covered with mud, was surrounded by his friends, as if he had only been absent on one of his campaigns. As he stepped out of his carriage in his old grey great-coat and cocked hat, now to be seen in the museum of the Louvre, he was instantly so hemmed in that he called out, " My friends, you stifle me! " and a number of general officers at once hoisted him upon their shoulders, and thus bore him into the palace and up into the state apartments amid deafening shouts of " Vive l'Empereur."

Thus was the man, who had been put down by all the assembled armies of Europe, not twelve months before, who had quitted Paris weeping like a woman, and threatened, in his exile southward, with being torn limb from limb - thus, as it were, miraculously borne back again on men's shoulders, and seated on the throne of the second time expelled Bourbons! It was far more like a wild romance than any serious history. The peace of the world had again to be achieved. The Bourbons had been worsted everywhere, even in loyal Vendée, and in Marseilles, which had so recently set a price on Buonaparte's head. The duke of Angoulême was surrounded in Marseilles, and surrendered on condition of quitting France. The duke of Bourbon found La Vendée so pre-occupied by Buonapartists that he was obliged to escape by sea from Nantes; and the duchess of Angoulême, who had thrown herself into Bourdeaux, found the troops there infected by the Buonaparte mania, and, quitting the place in indignation, went on board an English frigate.

But the position of Buonaparte was far from being secure or satisfactory. Though the soldiers had come over to him, and endeavoured to rouse the populace of Paris to shout for his return, it was in vain. The guards, incensed at their silence, struck them with the flat of their swords, and bade them cry, " Napoleon and Liberty! " but, though they saw that Napoleon had returned, they very much doubted whether he had brought liberty with him, and they remained cold and indifferent. They saw the armies of the allies looming again in the distance, and they gave no credence to Napoleon's ready lies that he was at peace with them. But he omitted no exertions to enter into such a peace. He dispatched messengers to every court, offering to accept the terms of the treaty of Paris, though he had repeatedly avowed that this treaty consummated the disgrace of France. To these messages no answers were returned. It was already determined that he should receive no communication from the allied sovereigns but in the shape of overwhelming armies. They had proclaimed, in their congress at Vienna, and in their new treaty of coalition, that he had forfeited every claim to consideration, and the British house of commons had fully coincided with them, and already upwards of a million of soldiers were in arms, and in march towards France to finally crush him.

In England the chancellor of the exchequer had found no difficulty in raising a loan of thirty-six million pounds, and this money was freely devoted to put the armies of the coalition in motion. Never had such vast armaments been in preparation from the very north of Europe to France. The congress had removed its locale from Vienna to Frankfort, to be nearer the scene of action. The emperors of Russia and Austria, and the king of Prussia, were again at the head of their forces. On the side of Switzerland, one hundred and fifty thousand Austrians, who were liberated from Italy by the defeat of Murat, were ready to march into France; another army of the same amount directed its course to the upper Rhine. Schwartzenberg was again commander-in-chief of Austria, with generals Bellegarde, Frimont, Bianchi, and Vincent under him. Two hundred thousand Russians, under Barclay de Tolly, were also marching for Alsace, and Langeron, Sacken, and other generals, were at the head of other numerous divisions, all under the nominal generalissimoship of the archduke Constantine. Blücher was already posted in Belgium with one hundred and fifty thousand Prussians; and the army of Wellington, of eighty thousand men, composed of British, and different nations in British pay, occupied Flanders. The contingents of Holland, Sweden, and the smaller German states raised the total to upwards of a million of men, which, if they were not all at hand, were ready to march up in case of any reverses to those first in the field.

To contend against this enormous force, Buonaparte, by the most surprising exertions, had again collected upwards of two hundred thousand men of considerable military practice; but he dared not to name conscriptions to a people already so sore on that point; and he endeavoured to raise further reinforcements by an enrolment of national guards all over France. For this purpose commissioners were sent down into the departments, on the authority of an imperial decree of April the 5th; and he proposed to raise as many federates, or volunteers of the lower orders - the only class which had raised a cheer for him on his return. But these schemes proved, for the most part, abortive. In the north in departments, where heretofore the commands of Buonaparte had been most freely obeyed, the inhabitants showed a sullen and dogged resistance - and the same was the case in Brittany. Further south matters were worse. In the departments of La Garde, the Marne, the Nether Loire, the white flag and cockade were openly displayed; and wherever the tree of liberty was planted - for it was now the trick of Buonaparte to associate the sacred name of liberty with his, a name and a thing on which he had so uniformly trampled - it was cut down, and burnt.

Fouché, now again head of the police department, drew up a most undisguised statement of the universal disaffection, to the great indignation of Napoleon, and dismay of his party. It was considered by them to be really meant to damage Napoleon as much as possible, and that Fouché, too shrewd not to see how events must terminate, was already in secret connection with the allies. And this, indeed, was the truth. Fouché was in direct correspondence with Metternich, and the matter was brought to Buonaparte's knowledge; but such was the hurry and critical condition of his affairs, that the arch-intriguer managed to escape the summary vengeance which he would have received at another period. In fact, Napoleon had little time even to detect and punish treason. Besides the Herculean labour of raising and organising the necessary armies, he had to contend with open rebellion on various sides. La Vendée, under another La Rochejaquelein, Antechamp, Sapineau, and Suzannet, was again in arms, and he was compelled to send against them a powerful force, under Lamarque and Travot. The Vendeans were beaten, and La Rochejaquelein being killed, they laid down their arms; but this did not take place till after the battle of Waterloo, of which a few more days would have informed them. Still further south, the people were ready to seize the first opportunity to rise against him.

It was under such circumstances that Buonaparte had to put his frontiers into a state of defence against the advancing hosts. He had defended the northern side of Paris with a double line of fortifications; strongly fortified Montmartre, and on the open southern side cast up some field-works, relying, however, on the Seine as the best barrier. Paris he placed under the command of general Haxo; and the fortresses on the side of Alsace, the Vosges, and Lorraine, were all strongly garrisoned. Lyons, Guise, Vitry, Soissons, Château-Thierry, Langres, and other towns, were made as strong as forts, redoubts, field-works, and garrisons could make them; and trusting by these to retard the slow Austrians, and even the Russians, till he could have given a desperate blow to the allies in the Netherlands, of whom he was most afraid, on the 11th of June he quitted Paris, saying, " I go to measure myself with Wellington! "

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