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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 22


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Meantime, Buonaparte, summoned by the directory to take the command of the army of England, had arrived in Paris on the 5th of December, 1797, and had taken up his abode in his former residence, in the Rue Chantereine, which the commune immediately changed, in honour of the conquest of Italy, into the Rue de la Victoire. All the distinguished men and women flocked to pay their court to the wonderful young man who had humbled and made peace with Austria, who had disposed of the old and haughty republics of Venice and Genoa, and made the pope tremble at his presence. The precious art-treasures of those conquered capitals had preceded him, and all Paris was in an excitement of flattery and homage. The strange young conqueror seemed to receive these adulations with a proud indifference. He appeared to live in a life of his own, as if inwardly pondering on his own plans. He was stiff and reserved. The celebrated Madame de Stäel put forth all her powers of flattery and pleasing to win his confidence, but failed. From this moment a deep- rooted dislike took place in Buonaparte towards the author of " Corinne." No one was more quick than Buonaparte in discovering the characters of people, and ascertaining, as by instinct, such as would be useful to him. He probably saw that the spirit of the daughter of Necker was not of the kind that would pliantly work under him, and he resolved to keep her at a distance.

The directory, five days after his arrival, gave him a public reception at the Luxembourg. He was received by the whole circle of officers of state, and with a splendour never before used by the revolutionists. Buonaparte arrived, dressed very simply, followed by his aides-de-camp, all taller than himself, but nearly overwhelmed by the respect that was paid to him. He was introduced by Talleyrand, who announced him as "the liberator of Italy, and pacificator of the Continent." He was led to the altar of the country - the only altar much respected in France - and, delivering to the directory the treaty of Campo Formio, made a speech, in which he complimented them on having triumphed over the prejudices of eighteen centuries by establishing the constitution of the year Three. In the year Eight he himself swept away this triumph of a constitution, and restored the " prejudices of eighteen centuries " in his own absolute person!

A banquet was then given to him by the two councils of the legislature. The institute elected him a member, and Chenier, the poet, chanted his triumphs as the conqueror of Italy, and soon to be of England. The leaders of all parties crowded to call upon him. The streets and squares through which he was expected to pass were constantly crowded, but Napoleon never showed himself. He confined himself to the society of a few men of science, as Monge, Berthollet, Borda, Laplace, Prouy, and Lagrange; and of generals, as Berthier, Desaix, Lefebvre, Caffarelli, and Klèber.

But it was necessary that Buonaparte should prepare for the invasion of England, for which purpose he had been called home. All France was in transports of joy at the thought of seeing England at last overrun by their new Attila. The directory had raised their cry of " Delenda est Carthago!'''' "It is at London," they said, "that all the misfortunes of Europe are forged and manufactured; it is in London that they must be terminated." All France glowed at the idea of London, with its exhaustless wealth, being submitted to those ravages at which Buonaparte had shown himself so prompt in Italy. Monge, who had been one of the commissioners of pillage there, on addressing the directory on the subject, said: - " The government of England and the French republic cannot both continue to exist. You have given the word which shall fall. Already your victorious troops brandish their arms, and Scipio is at their head! "

On the 8th of February this virtuous " Scipio" left Paris to examine the coasts of the British channel, preparatory to the sailing of the armament. He was accompanied by general Lannes, Salkowski, his aide-de-camp, and Bourrienne, his private secretary. He visited Etaples, Ambleteuse, Boulogne, Calais, Dunkirk, Furnes, Newport, Ostend, and Walcheren, making at these different ports the necessary surveys, and holding long and earnest conversations with sailors, pilots, smugglers, and fishermen. He returned to Paris on the 22nd, having, in a fortnight, quite satisfied himself that the attempt had better be abandoned.

But though the abandonment, for the present, of this enterprise, so fondly cherished by France, was calculated to cast a damp on the country, Buonaparte had another project ready which flattered the French pride of conquest. This was to seize on Egypt, as the preliminary to the fall of England. He had for some time entertained this idea, and had written from Italy to the directory on the subject the previous September. To insure the real destruction of England, he said, they must make themselves masters of Egypt. Malta and Corfu must be seized first, and for this purpose be conceived eight or ten sail of the line and twenty-five thousand men would suffice. The possession of Egypt, he contended, would draw all the commerce of the east thither, instead of taking the circuitous route by the Cape of Good Hope. He had thoroughly inspired Talleyrand with his scheme. Egypt was imagined to be much more wealthy than it was, and there were monuments of ancient art for Buonaparte and his right-hand bandit, Monge, to lay hands on. The directory, which was extremely unpopular, uneasy at the presence of so popular and daring a person, were glad to be rid of him anywhere, the farther off the better. There were not wanting counsellors who already advised him to perpetrate a coup-d'état, and place himself at the head of affairs; but Buonaparte, by no means averse to the prospect, replied, " The pear is not ripe." He knew that, however popular with his own army, lie was looked on with jealousy by the army of the Rhine, which served under, and prided themselves in, Moreau. He knew that the middle classes hated him for sweeping them away with grape-shot in the affair of the sections. He hoped to make himself yet more popular and more necessary, and that, in the interim, the directory would have completed their full measure of odium.

He now, therefore, plunged into preparations for this grand conquest of the east. We have seen him associating with the men of science and art. He conceived the ambition of uniting military conquest with the enrichment of France by the rape of all that was most celebrated in art and antiquity from every country that he could subdue, and of accumulating these trophies in Paris. He frequented the institute, wore its costume when out of his military one, and selected one hundred and two savans, or men of science and the arts, to attend the expedition. They were liberally supplied with books and philosophical instruments; and henceforth a new department of war was to be established - that of a scientific staff, for the purpose of universal spoliation. Whilst this is in organisation, we must notice a few other events.

The preparations for invasion turned the attention of the British government to ports where it was supposed the troops would be embarked. Ostend was regarded with particular suspicion, and Sir Home Popham was sent, in May, with a small squadron, conveying a thousand men, under colonel Coote, to destroy the ships and sluices of the Bruges canal there. The troops were landed, and did their work, but found themselves unable to regain the ships from the violence of the wind and the surf, and were surrounded, and compelled to surrender. In the autumn of this year admiral Duckworth sailed for Minorca, and landed eight hundred men, under Sir Charles Stuart, who readily made themselves masters of the island. In the West Indies, it was found necessary to abandon the portion of St. Domingo which we had held for the French planters against the revolutionary government of France. An agreement was entered into with Toussaint L'Ouverture, the head of the revolted negroes, by which he agreed to respect the lives and fortunes of the planters, and a negro republic was founded on these terms. Such of our troops as the climate had left alive quitted the island in May, and the French troops followed our example in the autumn, leaving Toussaint and his negro state in present possession of the best part of the island.

The fate of Switzerland was decided this year. The French, under the plea of liberating peoples, needed no other excuse for invading and subjecting them, not only to tyranny, but the most unbounded robbery and the most awful license. They had prepared their way by their usual arts. They had spread their propagandists through the portion of the Swiss cantons where French is spoken, with books and pamphlets, inviting them to free themselves from their federal diet, and accept the blessings of French liberation. This having sufficiently operated, Menard marched into the country with fifteen thousand troops, and made direct for Bern. The council of Bern called together from the sounder and more German cantons twenty thousand militia to oppose him. Menard was soon reinforced by ten thousand more troops, and was superseded by general Brune, who brought up still more forces, so that they now amounted to upwards of forty thousand. Papers were circulated amongst the Swiss contingents, insinuating that they were sold by their governors; and a body of Swiss being surprised and cut to pieces, suspicion spread amongst them, and they retired to their several cantons. Only about fifteen thousand men were left to defend Bern, and these, in a fit of suspicion, arose, and murdered two of their colonels and many other officers. General d'Erlach, a brave Swiss, having been defeated, his soldiers, who had been told by French emissaries that he was a traitor, turned upon him and murdered him.

Having thus scattered demoralisation through the Swiss troops, Brune attacked them on the road to Freyburg on the 5th of March, but was repulsed with a fearful slaughter. But the French, confident in their overpowering numbers, renewed the attack; and papers insinuating treason against their officers being freely spread amongst the Swiss, they gave way, and suffered a terrible defeat. More than a hundred officers, the most distinguished amongst the Bernese nobles, fell, and their names may be seen inscribed on slabs of black marble in the cathedral of Bern. The city surrendered, and Brune, marching in, seized the public treasury, containing thirty millions of francs, and also the treasure-chests of the various guilds and companies. He found and appropriated three hundred cannon, ample stores of ammunition, and arms and accoutrements for forty thousand men. These funds, and many of the guns and arms, went to equip and prepare the army of Buonaparte destined for Egypt. Soon after arrived a commissioner from the directory, named Carlier, who imposed fresh exactions, proclaiming that it was proper the Swiss should support their liberators. He levied on Bern eight hundred thousand more francs; on Freyburg, three hundred thousand, and like proportions on other places; and to insure the prompt payment, he seized and sent to the citadel of Strasburg sixteen of the chief men of these districts. Carlier then turned his attention to the cantons which had invited and fraternised with the French liberators, and levied equally heavy contributions on Zurich, Lucerne, and other towns. The astonished inhabitants, untaught by Belgium and Italy, resisted these testimonies of friendship and liberation, and were answered by troops marched in upon them, by confiscation of property, and by the shooting down such refractory peasants as refused compliance with the French demands.

The directory proclaimed that the Helvetic confederation was at an end, and sent a miniature copy of the French constitution for the adoption of the Swiss, ordering deputies to assemble at Aarau to inaugurate it. The inhabitants of the Waldstätten, or mountain cantons, declined to send deputies, and fifteen thousand men, under the Alsatian general, Schaumburg, were immediately dispatched to compel them; but he was met by a small body of Schwyzers, under Aloys Redding, who, supported by another body of men of Uri, attacked him in the mountain defiles, and slew four thousand of his troops. Unable to advance, Schaumburg made a convention with Redding, by which the Schwyzers were to be exempt from intrusion, and from sending deputies to Aarau. But no sooner had the Schwyzers retired and been thrown off their guard, than Schaumburg marched again, and, on the 9th of September, attacked with all his force a small body of Nidwalders, and, after a desperate battle from sunrise to sunset, cleared the defile with his cannon, slaughtered fifteen hundred of the Swiss, and dispersed the rest amongst the mountains. Schaumburg then gave up the canton to pillage and butchery, as a terrible warning to any who should resist these sanguinary, thieving highwaymen of France. He confessed, in his dispatch to the directors, that priests and women were put to the sword. The cattle were driven off, the towns and villages were burnt down, the fruit-trees cut down, and the gardens and fields laid waste. In the little town of Stanz a chapel has been erected to commemorate the murder of four hundred and fourteen of the inhabitants, including two hundred and two women and twenty-five children, and many other places show the like monuments. Thousands of homeless and parentless children were left wandering in the blood-drenched fields, many of whom were afterwards received by Pestalozzi, and educated in his institution.

Carlier, not deemed active enough in his pillage of the Swiss, was superseded by a fellow-countryman of Schaumburg, named Rapinat, who most amply justified his name. Whilst he indefatigably perpetrated his exactions on all alike, Schaumburg, having disarmed the population, forbade any one to quit his own canton without a passport from the French general. Switzerland now enjoyed those blessings of French liberation which Ireland would have experienced had the Fitzgeralds, the Emmets, and Wolfe Tones succeeded. Belgium, which was first initiated into this process of French philanthropy, was still undergoing it; and continual insurrections by the outraged people were as often trodden out in blood and fire.

The same process was going on in Rome. It was the fixed resolve of the French to be rid of the pope, and to set up one of their model republics. The Roman democrats were encouraged to harass and insult him. Joseph Buonaparte had been appointed ambassador to the papal states, and, not being found aggressive enough - for Joseph loved quietness and ease - two commissioners, of a thoroughly jacobin spirit, were sent to aid him. These were general Duphot and general Sherlock, a descendant of an Irish family. Under the patronage and encouragement of these men, the Roman democrats became audacious. On the 27th of December, 1797, as Joseph Buonaparte was giving a ball, these democrats attacked and insulted the town guard. Some lives were lost, and the next day the. democrats mustered at the Villa Medici, and, encouraged by Duphot, hoisted the tricolor flag; but, on hearing of the approach of some cavalry, they fled to the Corsini palace, the residence of Joseph Buonaparte. They trusted that they should be there protected by the French authority; but the cavalry pursued them into the court, and demanded that they should be turned out. Duphot, who was the next day to be married to the sister of Joseph Buonaparte's wife - afterwards the wife of Bernadotte, and queen of Sweden - like a madman, headed the democrats in a sally against the cavalry, and was shot. The democrats were dispersed, and a good many killed and wounded.

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