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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 19


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But, meantime, in Italy, the French had been completely successful. Buonaparte had married Marie-Joseph Rose Detacher de la PagÚrie Beauharnais, the widow of general, and formerly viscount Beauharnais, who was one of the victims of Robespierre, having been beheaded only four days before that monster's own execution. Madame Beauharnais, better known as Josephine, was a Creole, of much beauty, and more goodness. She was herself imprisoned under the reign of terror, and only liberated on the triumph of the Thermidoriens. She was a friend of madame Tallien, at whose house Buonaparte met her, and married her on the 9th of March, 1796, three days before his setting out for the Italian army, to the command of which he was promoted by the interest of Tallien - or, rather, of madame Tallien - though both Barras and Carnot, after his splendid success, claimed the honour of the appointment. As we have seen, Buonaparte had been assiduously studying the map of Italy during his interval of neglect in Paris, and enthusiastically pointing out the conquests to be made in Italy. He was now called to realise his views. He reached the French head-quarters at Nice on the 26th of March, and immediately set himself to organise and energise the forces, which he found in great disorder; he found the commissariat, also, in a deplorable condition. The troops amounted to fifty thousand; the Austrians, under the veteran general Beaulieu, to considerably more.

The united army of the Sardinians and Austrians, general Beaulieu on the left, d'Argenteau in the centre, and Colli, with the Piedmontese division, on the right, hastened to descend from the Appenines, to which they had retreated at the end of the last campaign against Buonaparte. Beaulieu met his advanced guard at Voltri, near Genoa, on the 11th of April, and drove it back. But d'Argenteau had been stopped in the mountains by the resistance of a body of French, who occupied the old redoubt of Montelegino. Buonaparte, apprised of this, hastened additional forces to that point, and defeated d'Argenteau before Beaulieu or Colli could succour him. Having now divided the army of the allies, Buonaparte defeated a strong body of Austrians under general Wukassowich; and, having left Colli and the Piedmontese isolated from their allies, debouched by the valley of Bormida into the plains of Piedmont. Beaulieu retreated to the Po, to stop the way to Milan; and Buonaparte, relieved of his presence, turned against Colli, who was compelled to retreat to Carignan, near Turin. Trembling for his capital, and with his means exhausted, Victor Amadeus made overtures for peace, which were accepted; the terms being the surrender of all the Piedmontese fortresses and all the passes of the Alps into the hands of the French, and the perpetual alienation of Nice and Savoy. This humiliation broke the heart of the poor old king, who died on the 16th of October. Buonaparte, however, did not wait for the conclusion of this peace; the truce being signed, he hastened on after Beaulieu, whom he defeated and drove across the Po. Beaulieu next posted himself at Lodi, on the Adda; but Buonaparte, after a fierce contest, drove him from the bridge over the Adda on the 10th of May, and, with little further opposition, pursued him to Milan. Beaulieu still retreated, and threw himself into the fastnesses of the Tyrol. On the 15th Buonaparte made a triumphal entry into Milan. He sent troops to blockade Mantua, and now set himself to levy those rapacious contributions of which the French commissioners had set the example in Belgium, but whose lawless oppression the young Corsican, and the equally unprincipled commissioner, Saliceti, now cast far into the shade. The directors "at Paris stimulated that plunder of the natives, which was now so fully inaugurated, by constant demands of money. These new governors had no idea that France should support her marauding armies, but that they should support France; and not only money was demanded, but the generals had orders to secure and transfer to Paris all the masterpieces of art. Buonaparte tells us himself that, during this his first Italian campaign, he not only fed and clothed his whole army, but transmitted fifty million francs to the directory. In Lombardy he first levied twenty million francs on the nobility and clergy5 besides seizing their horses and carriages. In fact, be made his commissioners seize anything they wanted - horses, wagons, provisions, and stores. He was severe in punishing plunder by his soldiers, that there might be all the more for the commissioners. These facts are candidly stated in the memoirs of his campaigns, recently published, from official documents, by his nephew, the present emperor. Of course, he made prize of whatever property belonged to the Austrians or their government. At Milan and at Piacenza they rifled the Monti de PietÓ, the government loan depositories of the poor. Even the smaller provinces, which had never made war, were compelled to pay heavy contributions, on the plea of purchasing peace. The duke of Parma was charged a million and a half of francs, compelled to furnish clothing for the army, and to surrender twenty of his most valuable pictures. The duke of Modena was mulcted in six millions of francs in cash, two millions more in horses, cattle, and provisions for the army, and fifteen of his finest paintings. Not satisfied with this, they formally appropriated his whole territory a few months later. Examples were made of Binasco and Pavia for resisting the outrages on their property and their women; they were given up to massacre and pillage. Lucien Buonaparte himself is a voluntary witness of these bandit-like deeds of his brother. He says: - " The village of Binasco was delivered up to the flames, to expiate the assassination of some of our straggling soldiers. I traversed the burning ruins. Pavia presented me with a spectacle still more deplorable. That great city had been delivered up to pillage; the traces of blood had not been effaced; the bodies of the peasants who had refused to surrender were not carried away; funerals were going on all sides; and the conquerors were publicly selling their spoils to hideous speculators."

Such was the system this great and remorseless robber had already inaugurated, and which he continued in all parts of Europe, except England, for twenty years.

At Leghorn he was particularly delighted to lay hands on the property of the English and of the Portuguese merchants, their allies. He ordered the Italian merchants and commission- agents to deliver all such goods up; and to avoid that, they agreed to pay five millions of francs. He next advanced into the papal states, rifling the Monti de PietÓ at Bologna and Ferrara. Everywhere contributions were demanded at the point of the bayonet, and French authorities superseded the native ones. Pius VI. made haste to sue for peace, and it was granted on the most exorbitant terms, precisely such as a successful bandit would impose. Fifteen millions of francs must be paid down in cash, six millions in horses and other requisites for the army. A great number of paintings and statues were to be selected from the galleries of art, and five hundred manuscripts from the library of the Vatican. The provinces of Ferrara and Bologna must be ceded; the port and citadel of Ancona, and all the papal ports, must be closed against the English. This most costly peace was signed on the 23rd of June, and Buonaparte hastened northward to stop the advance of the army of Wurmser, which had been sent through the Tyrol to compete with the rising Corsican.

Wurmser advanced down the valley of Trento with fifty thousand men, which, by the scattered remains of the army of Beaulieu, was augmented to sixty thousand. With such a force well conducted, the Austrians might have worsted Buonaparte, whose troops were not more than forty-five thousand, and already greatly harassed by rapid marches. But there was no comparison betwixt the genius of the Commanders. The conduct of the Austrians was a series of fatal blunders, which, as it seems, no experience can teach the generals of that nation to avoid. Had the archduke Charles been there it might have been different; but the first thing which Wurmser did, was to weaken himself by dividing his forces, and sending one detachment under Quosnodowich along the western shore of the lake of Guarda, and marching along the eastern bank himself with the other. The quick eye of Buonaparte instantly saw his advantage; neither of the divisions were now equal to his own, and he beat them both in detail. He raised the blockade of Mantua, defeated Quosnodowich at Lonato, chased him back into the mountains, and then engaged and routed him twice near Castiglione, on the 3rd and 5th of August. Wurmser had to make a hasty retreat into the mountains, leaving behind his artillery and many thousand men slain. Buonaparte pursued him into the very gorges of the Tyrol, and inflicted fresh losses upon him. The sturdy but not very bright old Austrian, however, made a detour in the hills, and again issued on the plains from the valley of the Brenta. With remarkable address and agility for him, he made his way to Mantua, and threw himself into the fortress with the wretched remains of his army, about eighteen thousand men.

There was still a fair chance for the Austrians - England had furnished them with money, that money for which all of us are yet paying interest - and two fresh armies were descending from the hills. One of these was led by a brave officer, general Alvinzi, amounting to thirty thousand; the other of twenty thousand, under Davidowich, was marching from the Tyrol to meet Alvinzi near Verona, who was coming from Carinthia by Belluno. Buonaparte did not allow them to meet. He attacked Alvinzi on the 6th of November at Le Nove, and met with a terrible repulse. A detachment of French under Vaubois had been dispatched to impede the march of Davidowich, but was also in retreat. Buonaparte again attacked Alvinzi on the heights of Caldiero, near Verona, and again was repulsed. Had the Austrians united their two new armies before entering Italy, or had Wurmser marched from Mantua to support Alvinzi, the French must have been utterly annihilated. As it was, Napoleon was dreadfully disheartened, and wrote a despairing letter to the directory, saying his best officers were killed, and his men exhausted from fighting and severe marches. But his pride and dogged pertinacity came to his aid. He made a rapid march and got into the rear of Alvinzi, but found himself stopped by a narrow bridge over the Alpone at Areola. The country on each side was a marsh, and the only approach to the bridge was by long narrow causeways. As the French advanced along the causeway on their side to storm the bridge, they were swept down by hundreds by the Austrian cannon. Time after time, Buonaparte drove his columns along the causeway, but only to see them mowed down by grape shot. His men fled into the very marshes to save themselves, and he himself was thrown from his horse into the marsh, and had to be dragged from the mire. Bodies of Hungarians and Croats made a final sally along the causeway, cutting down all before them, and it was marvellous that he escaped them. By this time Alvinzi had brought up his main body to the neighbourhood of the bridge, and the battle raged obstinately there for three days. Seeing it impossible to carry the bridge against that solid mass of troops, Buonaparte dispatched general Guyeuse to cross the Adige at the ferry of Albaredo, below the confluence of the Alpone, and take Alvinzi in flank. Guyeuse succeeded in crossing, but was repulsed on the other side by the Austrians. Buonaparte again, on the 16th, made one more desperate rush at the bridge, but only to receive another terrible slaughter. The next day he threw a bridge over the Alpone,. just above its confluence with the Adige, and sent over Augereau with a powerful force, whilst he again assailed the bridge from his side. These combined operations succeeded. Alvinzi was compelled to retreat to Vicenza and Bassano. Scarcely had he given way, when Davidowich, who ought to have joined him long before, came down the right bank of the stream. He now came only to experience a severe defeat, whereas his timely arrival might have insured a complete victory. He again had recourse to the security of the hills. The belligerents then went into winter quarters, leaving the French victorious. Buonaparte took the credit of having beaten successively Wurmser, Beaulieu, Alvinzi, and Davidowich, but he had done it by a terrible waste of human life. His obstinacy in endeavouring to force such a pass as the bridge of Areola, at such a reckless expense of men, was severely blamed both by military and all humane persons. It showed, however, what became more and more conspicuous, that he would carry his objects regardless of any amount of destruction of life.

Whilst the French had been thus beating the Austrians out of Italy, and thus rendering abortive our new and lavish subsidy to the emperor, ministers had been busy in the election of a new parliament. By the liberal use of the secret service money, so freely voted by the old parliament, Pitt saw a more obsequious majority returned to him, ready to vote away as many millions for war as he might ask. This new parliament assembled on the 6th of October. As Hoche's army had not yet sailed, and as nobody seemed to know its destination, Pitt represented that it probably was for the coast of England, and called for the enrolment of fifteen thousand men from the parishes, half of which were to be sent into the navy, and for sixty thousand militia and twenty thousand more yeomen cavalry, all which were carried, as a matter of course, and as though these arbitrary levies implied no infringement of the liberties of the subject. On the 26th of October Windham, as secretary at war, announced the whole military force of the country at home and abroad, independent of the troops in the East Indies, which were raised and maintained by the company, to be one hundred and ninety-six thousand men, and he demanded for their payment five millions one hundred and ninety thousand pounds. On the 7th of November Pitt opened his budget, requiring no less than twenty-seven millions nine hundred and forty-five thousand pounds for the total expenditure of the year. There was another loan called for of eighteen million pounds, and it came out that ministers had not waited for the sanction of parliament, but had advanced to the emperor of Germany,' one million two hundred thousand pounds. This was such an audacious outrage upon the constitution, as would in almost any other times have caused the impeachment of the whole cabinet. But Pitt knew his parliament, and had no fears. Fox moved that such disposal of the public money by ministers without the permission of parliament was a violation of the constitution, and of the privileges of that house; but his amendment was rejected by a majority of two hundred and eighty-five against eighty-one. Such was the little handful of men who were resolutely opposed to the reckless prosecution of this war, for the defence of incapable and despotic nations the last humiliating occurrence of this year was the return of lord Malmesbury from his useless mission to Paris, productive of nothing but insult to England.

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