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The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 9

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The new year of 1815 was commenced by a heavy fire along the whole of this defence from thirty-six pieces of cannon, the immediate effect of which was to drive the Americans, in a terrible panic, from their guns, and walls composed of cotton bales and earth. Why an immediate advance was not made at this moment does not appear. It would probably have placed the whole of the American defences in the hands of our troops, and driven the Americans into the city. But even then little advantage would have been gained, for the news of the contest was bringing down riflemen in legions from the country all round, and our men, struggling in bogs, and exposed at every fresh advance, must be mowed down without a chance of retaliating.

In a little time the Americans, recovering their spirits, returned to their guns, and plied them so well that they soon knocked the breastworks of sugar and treacle casks to pieces. As nothing would tempt the Americans to show themselves from behind their cotton bales and embankments, after maintaining this murderous position for two whole nights and days, Pakenham drew back his men, sacrificing some of his guns, and formed a scheme of sending a detachment across the river to turn the batteries, and then play them off upon the enemy. But for this purpose it was necessary to cut a canal across the tongue of land on which the army stood, in order to bring up the boats necessary to carry the troops over the river. Major-general Lambert had arrived with reinforcements, so that against the American twenty thousand Pakenham had now about eight thousand men. All worked at the canal, and it was finished on the 6th of January. Colonel Thornton was to carry across the river one thousand four hundred men, and surprise the great flanking battery of eighteen or twenty guns, whilst Sir Edward Pakenham advanced against the lines in front. A rocket was to be thrown up by Pakenham when he commenced his assault, and Thornton was at that instant to make a rush on the battery, and turn it on the enemy. But they had not sufficiently calculated on the treacherous soil through which they cut their canal. Thornton found it already so sludged up that he could only get boats through it sufficient to carry over three hundred and fifty men, and this with so much delay that, when Pakenham's rocket went up, he was still three miles from the battery - and that in broad daylight - which lie ought already to have taken. Unaware of this, Pakenham advanced against the chain of forts and ramparts. He had ordered ladders and fascines to be in readiness for crossing the canal, but by some gross neglect it was found that they were not there, and there were the whole of the British troops exposed to the deadly fire of the American batteries and musketry. No valour was of any use under such circumstances; but Sir Edward cheered on the few but brave-hearted troops till the ladders and fascines could arrive; but ere this took place Pakenham was killed. Generals Gibbs and Keane took the place of the fallen commander, and still cheered on their men; but it was only to unavailing slaughter: the American marksmen, under cover, and with their rifles on rest, picked off the British soldiers at their pleasure. Gibbs was soon killed, and Keane disabled by a wound. Under such circumstances the troops gave way and retired, a strong reserve protecting the rear; but, once out of gun-shot, there was no further danger, for the Americans would not once show their heads beyond the protection of the defences.

Meantime, colonel Thornton, though delayed, and with only a handful of men, still pushed on towards the battery, surprised the Americans, who expected no attack in that quarter, and carried it against overwhelming numbers. When about to turn the captured guns against the enemy, a messenger came in haste to say that Pakenham had fallen, and the attacking force had retired. But Thornton would not retrace his steps without carrying off a good quantity of the artillery, amongst which was a howitzer, inscribed, " Taken at the surrender of York-town, 1781." On his return to the main body, which he did without any pursuit - for even so small a band the Americans did not venture to pursue - it was found that lie had had but three men killed and forty wounded, he himself being amongst the latter.

General Lambert, who was left in command, now sent in a flag of truce, in order to collect and bury his dead. This was granted for two days. The brave British lay in heaps up to the very front of the enemy's works, showing their undaunted spirit, and the skilful mark of the American gunners. There was not a single American to be seen amongst the dead - a clear proof, if any were wanting, how carefully they had kept under cover. In fact, they boasted that, in the whole of this fighting, they had only eight men killed and fourteen wounded; whilst the British, in this foolish enterprise, had sacrificed nearly two thousand men in killed, wounded, and prisoners. If they had been Americans who had fought on both sides, it is probable, as in the late storming of the Fort Sumpter, not a single man would have fallen.

The dead being buried, it was resolved to retreat; but it was necessary to make a road across the morasses before this could be accomplished; and though this required the labour of nine days, the Americans, now swelled to a vast number by the news of their success, never once made a sally, but contented themselves with firing at them from behind their breastworks, and with sending emissaries to scatter papers amongst the soldiers, inviting them, by all kinds of inducements - the least being fifty or a hundred dollars - to desert; and it is sad to record that some of the men, worn out with fatigue, and disgusted with their unnecessary exposure to hidden marksmen amid these impracticable swamps, were drawn away by these arts.

On the 18th of January, 1815, commenced the final retreat of the British to their ships. They were allowed to march away without molestation, taking all their guns and stores with them, except ten old ship guns of no value, which they rendered useless before they abandoned them. Andrew Jackson, afterwards president of the United States, commanded in this defence of New Orleans, and loud were the boastings of his prowess all over the states, when, in fact, he had not risked a man. His merit was to have shown what excellent shots his countrymen were, and how careful they were to keep out of the reach of shot themselves. So far as the English were concerned, they had shown what there was no need to show, their unparalleled bravery, but, as on many such occasions, their great want of prudence. All this sacrifice of life would have been spared by a single and much more effectual blockade, and the most lamentable part of the business was, that all the time peace was made, though the news of it had not reached them.

But general Lambert did not retire far without striking another blow. His predecessor had failed to take New Orleans, but he had brought away the troops in excellent order, and he passed over in Sir Alexander Cochrane's squadron, and attacked and took the important forts of Mobile, at the confluence of the Mobile, Tombigby, and Alabama rivers - the territories around which have since grown into states. This was a basis for important operations on those shores; but these were rendered unnecessary by the peace.

When peace was made in Europe, the United States became anxious for peace too. Madison had begun the war in the ungenerous hope of wresting Canada from Great Britain, because he thought her too deeply engaged in the gigantic war against Napoleon to be able to defend that colony. He believed that it would fall an easy prey; that the Canadians must so greatly admire the model republic, that they would abandon monarchy at the first call, and that he should thus have the glory of absorbing that great world of the north into the American republic. In all this, he and those who thought with him found themselves egregiously deceived. The Canadians showed that they were stanchly attached to England, and the attempts at invasion were beaten back by the native militia and by our handful of troops with the greatest ease. Meantime, the blockade of the east, and the seizure of the merchant shipping, drove the New England and other eastern states to desperation. They demanded peace with England, and when it was not conceded, menaced that secession which the south recently attempted, and which the northern states, which established the right and the principle of secession in their separation from us, eventually compelled them to surrender Throughout this war Great Britain made a uniform declaration of a preference for peace, but her offers were regularly rejected so long as Napoleon remained triumphant. The United States, professing the utmost love of freedom, were the blind and enthusiastic worshippers of the man who was trampling the liberties of all Europe under his feet. It was not till the last moment - not till he had been defeated in Russia, driven by England out of Spain, routed and pursued out of Germany, and compelled to renounce the imperial crown of France - that the American government began to understand the formidable character of the power which it had so long and so insolently provoked, and to fear the whole weight of its resentment directed against its shores. It is certain that, had England been animated by a spirit of vengeance, it had now the opportunity, by sending strong fleets and a powerful army to the coast of America, to ravage her sea-board towns, and so utterly annihilate her trade as to reduce her to the utmost misery, and to precipitate a most disastrous system of internal disintegration. The New England States, in 1814, not only threatened to secede, but stoutly declared that they would not furnish another shilling towards paying the expenses of the war. They even intimated an idea of making a separate peace with England. In Massachusetts especially these menaces were vehement. Governor Strong spoke out plainly in the legislative chamber of that state. Madison endeavoured to mollify this spirit by abandoning his embargo and emancipation acts, but this was now too late, for the strict blockade of the British, in 1814, rendered these acts perfectly dead.

To procure peace, Madison now sought the good offices of the emperor Alexander of Russia with Great Britain, and these offices were readily accepted, for England had never willingly gone into, or continued this unnatural war. A congress was appointed at Gottenburg, and thence transferred to Ghent. There, on the 24th of December, 1814, a loose and indefinite peace was concluded, in which every principle on which the war had been begun was left to be settled by commissioners; and some of which - such is the difficulty of negotiating with Americans - were not settled for many years. On these points alone were the two powers agreed - that all hostilities between the contracting parties and the Indians should be put an end to, and that both parties should continue their efforts for the suppression of the slave-trade. Such was the joy of the north-eastern states of America at the peace, that the citizens of New York carried the British envoy, sent to ratify the treaty, in triumph through the streets.

When the Bourbons had entered Paris in 1814, they had shown the utmost liberality towards those who had driven them from France, and had murdered those of their family on the throne, and nearest to it. They did not imitate the summary vengeance of Napoleon, whose government, in 1812, had put to death, not only general Mallet, who had endeavoured to restore the Bourbons, but shot, on the plain of Grenelle, thirteen of his accomplices. When Louis XVIII. returned, there were numbers of the bloody revolutionists who had voted for, and some who had acted in, the frightful atrocities of the revolution - many who had urged on the sufferings, the indignities, and the death of Louis XVI., Marie Antoinette, the princess Elizabeth, the princess Lamballe, and the worst form of death of the unhappy dauphin. Yet no vengeance was taken, and numbers of these people were allowed to reside unharmed in Paris. Having been now again driven forth, and seen the readiness with which those who had sworn to maintain their government had taken their oaths and betrayed them, it might have been expected that there would have been some severe punishments. To render the resistance of the Parisians as desperate as possible, it had been eagerly circulated, before the surrender of the city to the allies, that the Bourbons now meant to take a sanguinary vengeance; that the guillotine was to be established in permanence; and that there was a list of proscriptions drawn up of a terrible length. But the natural mildness of Louis XVIII., and the wise counsels of Wellington and Talleyrand, produced a very different scene. Never, after such provocations, and especially to the sensitive natures of Frenchmen, was so much lenity shown. In the proclamation of Louis XVIII. of the 24th of July, nineteen persons only were ordered for trial, and thirty-eight were ordered to quit Paris, and to reside in particular parts of France, under the observation of the police, till their fate should be decided by the chambers. Of the nineteen threatened with capital punishment, with trial before a military tribunal, only Ney and Labédoyère suffered; another, Lavalette, was condemned, but, as we shall see, escaped. It was also stated that such individuals as should be condemned to exile should be allowed to sell their property in France, and carry the proceeds with them. Yet more clamour was raised by the Buonapartists about the deaths of Ney and Labédoyère than had been in any executions by the imperial or the revolutionary parties over whole hecatombs of innocent persons. As for Ney and Labédoyère, their treason had been so barefaced and outrageous that no reasonable person could expect anything but summary punishment for them. Ney had gone out declaring to Louis XVIII. that he would bring Buonaparte to him in a cage, and then carried over his whole army at once to the emperor. Labédoyère had been equally perjured, after the most generous forgiveness of his former treasons, and he had been particularly active in stimulating the Parisians to make a useless resistance to the allies approaching Paris, by stating that the Bourbons were preparing a most sanguinary proscription. Both these officers knew that they had no hope of life, no plea of protection, and they fled in disguise. Yet the most vehement reproaches were cast on the duke of Wellington for having, as the Buonapartists asserted, broken the 12th article of the convention of Paris, by which it was surrendered to the allied armies. Madame Ney, after the seizure and condemnation of her husband, went to the duke, and demanded his interference on the marshal's behalf, as a right on the ground of this article, which she interpreted as guaranteeing all the inhabitants, of whatever political creed or conduct, from prosecution by the restored government. It was in vain that Wellington explained to her that this article, and, indeed, the whole convention, related solely to the military surrender, and not to the political measures of the government of Louis, with which the duke had publicly and repeatedly declared that he had no concern, and in which he would not interfere. When the commissioners from the provisional government had waited on him, so early as the 2nd of July, at Estrées, and claimed exemption for political offenders, he showed them the proclamation of Louis, dated Cambrai, the 28th of June, making exceptions to his pardon, and distinctly told them that he had no orders to interfere with the measures of the Bourbon government. To this the commissioners had nothing to object, and they thus clearly understood that the English commander would not take any part in political, but merely military measures. Nevertheless, when Ney was executed, the clamour was vehemently renewed that Wellington had betrayed him. We now step forward, somewhat, in time, to dispose of this calumny at once, for there never was a party so recklessly and vengefully addicted to charging their enemies with the crime of breach of faith as that of Buonaparte and his followers. The foul charge was so industriously disseminated all over Europe, that Wellington, at Paris, on the 19th of November, 1815, issued a memorial on the subject, which he first caused to be sent to all the allied powers, and then to be published. In this most decisive document, to be found at p. 906 of Gurwood's " Wellington Dispatches," he stated that the convention of Paris related exclusively to the military occupation of the place, and was never intended, and could not be intended, to prevent either the existing French government, the provisional, or any French government that might succeed it, from acting towards political offenders as it might deem proper. He had refused before to enter into a question of settling the government. To make this clear, he quotes the 11th article, providing for the non-interference of the allied army with property, and the 12th: - "Seront pareillement respectées les personnes et les propriétés particulières; les habitants,et en general tout les individus qui se trouvent dans la capitale, continueront à jouir de leur droits et libertés sans pouvoir être inquiétés, ou recherchés en rien, relativement aux fonctions qu'ils occupent ou auaient occupées, à leui conduite, et à leurs opinions politiques "

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