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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 24


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But Nelson had now tracked the French to their goal, and was preparing to annihilate their fleet. Admiral Brueyes, unable to enter the harbour of Alexandria, had anchored his ships in the Bay of Aboukir, in a semicircular form, so close in shore that he deemed it impossible for ships of war to thrust themselves betwixt him and the land. He had altogether thirteen ships of war, including his own flagship of one hundred and twenty guns, three of eighty, and nine of seventy-four, flanked by four frigates and a number of gun-boats, with a battery of guns and mortars on an island in the van. Nelson had also thirteen men-of-war and one fifty-gun ship, but the French exceeded his by about forty-six guns, three thousand pounds weight of metal, and by considerably more tonnage, and nearly five thousand men.

No sooner did Nelson observe the position of the French fleet than he determined to push his ships between it and the shore. When this order was given, one of his officers said, "If we succeed, what will the world say? " "There is no if in the case," replied Nelson; " that we shall succeed is certain; who may live to tell the story is a very different question." No sooner was this plan settled than Nelson ordered dinner to be served; and, on rising from table, said, " Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey."

It was half-past five o'clock on the afternoon of the 1st of August, 1798, when this celebrated battle was commenced. As the English vessels rounded a shoal, to take up their position, the battery of the island played upon them; but this ceased as they came near the French line of vessels, lest they should damage their own countrymen. Unfortunately, Nelson lost the use of the Culloden, a seventy-four, commanded by captain Trowbridge, which struck on a ledge of rocks, and could not be got off in time for the engagement. Nelson's own vessel was the first that anchored within half pistol-shot of the Spartiate, the third ship of the French line. The conflict immediately became murderous, and Nelson received a severe wound on the head, which compelled him to go below. The battle continued with a terrible fury till it was so dark that the only light the combatants had to direct their operations was from the flashes of their own broadsides.

At ten o'clock the Orient, admiral Brueyes' own great ship, was discovered to be on fire. He himself had fallen, killed by a cannon-shot. The stupendous ship continued to burn furiously, lighting up the whole terrible scene of action. At eleven it blew up with an explosion, which shook the whole contending fleets like the shock of an earthquake, and with a stunning noise that caused the conflict instantly to cease. A profound silence and a pitchy darkness succeeded for about ten minutes. "The smoke," says Louis Buonaparte, describing this awful scene, " first rose from the vessel in a heavy mass, like a black balloon. It then brightened up, and exhibited the objects, of all descriptions, which had been precipitated on the scene of conflict. What a terrible moment of fear and desolation for the French, who witnessed this awful catastrophe! "

Nelson, wounded as he was, had rushed upon deck, before the explosion, to order every possible succour to be given to the shrieking sufferers in the burning ship, and many of the crew had been got into boats, and saved. The cannonade was slowly resumed; but, when morning dawned, two French ships and two frigates only had their colours flying, and were able to get away, none of the English vessels, except the Zealous, being in a condition to give chase. The two ships of the fine and one of the frigates were afterwards intercepted by our Mediterranean fleet, so that of all this fine fleet only one frigate escaped. Had Nelson not been wounded, and had captain Trowbridge been able to bring up his ship, probably not even that frigate would have got away. The English took eight vessels of the line; the rest were destroyed in one way or other. The loss of the English, in killed and wounded, was eight hundred and ninety-five; of the French, five thousand two hundred and twenty-five, and three thousand one hundred and five, including the wounded, were sent on shore by cartel. Captain Westcott, of the Majestic, was the only commander of a ship who fell. Such was the victory of Aboukir; but " victory," said Nelson, " is not a name strong enough for such a scene - it is a conquest! "

Fortunately for the French, admiral Brueyes had secured the transports and store-ships in shallow water, in the port of Alexandria, where Nelson could not come at them for want of small craft. Half-a-dozen bomb ships would have destroyed them all, and have left Buonaparte totally dependent on the Egyptians for supplies. And these he must have collected by force, for now the news of the destruction of his fleet was spread over all Egypt by bonfires, kindled by the Arabs, along the coast, and far inland. He was cut off from all communication with France. The Turks took heart; the sultan issued a manifesto, complaining of the French invading his province of Egypt in a time of profound peace, of pretended amity, and without one cause of dissatisfaction. He called on the pachas of Syria to collect their forces, in order to co-operate with the army collecting at Constantinople, for the recovery of Egypt. On the 22nd of October the people of Cairo rose on the French, and endeavoured to massacre them; but they took a bloody vengeance, sweeping them down with grape-shot, pursuing them into their very mosques, and slaughtering, in one day, five thousand of them. Buonaparte then put out a pompous proclamation, announcing himself as the Man of Destiny foretold in the koran; that he could tell their most secret thoughts, and resistance was vain. But he had made himself odious to the Moslems, and they believed not in his words; they believed only in his cannon, his musketry, and his assassins. He ordered the heads of the slain to be cut off, thrust into sacks, and then brought and roiled out before the people. For six days after tranquillity was restored, he wrote, in a letter to Regnier, that he had thirty men every night murdered in prison, including chiefs, their heads put into sacks, and thrown into the Nile!

The news of the battle of Aboukir produced the most astonishing sensation when it reached Europe. Their own historian, Thiers, says, " Such was the famous battle of Aboukir; the most disastrous that the French had yet sustained, and the one, the military consequences of which were destined to prove the most prejudicial. That fleet which had carried the French to Egypt; which might have served to succour, or recruit them; which was to second their movements on the coast of Syria, had there been any to execute; which was to overawe the Porte; to force it to put up with false reasoning, and to oblige it to wink at the invasion of Europe; which, finally, in case of reverse, was to convey the French back to their country - that fleet was destroyed. This defeat came not to break the spell of the enterprise, but to revive all the hopes of the enemies of France."

Nelson, having blockaded the port of Alexandria, sailed to Naples to repair, There he received the news of the intense rejoicing his victory had spread through England, and that he was raised to the peerage, by the title of baron Nelson of the Nile. He found Ferdinand of Naples already collecting an army to drive the French from Rome and Tuscany. Austria, Switzerland, and other countries were again in arms. The treaty of Campo Formio was at an end by the French violation of it everywhere; and, as it was supposed that Buonaparte would never be allowed to get back again, the spirit of Europe had revived. Nelson, allowing himself as little repose as possible, in November had made himself master of the island of Gazzo, separated only by a narrow Channel from Malta. He had blockaded Malta itself, and it must soon surrender. Pitt, elated by this great success, and in consequence of the death of the old czarina, Catherine, at the end of 1796, now entered into a treaty with her successor, Paul, who was subsidised by a hundred and twelve thousand pounds a-month, and great expectations were raised of the effect of his victorious general, the merciless Suvaroff, leading an army into Italy. When the British parliament met on the 20th of November, the late victory and this new alliance were the themes of congratulation from the throne. Twenty-nine million two hundred and seventy-two thousand pounds were granted with alacrity for the ensuing year; and the nation willingly put its neck under a new yoke invented by Pitt - that of an income tax.

The year 1799 opened by the discussion of this new scheme of revenue. It was a mode of making every man tax himself by stating the amount of his income, on which he was to be charged ten per cent., with the exception only of such persons whose incomes were less than two hundred pounds per annum, who were to be charged less than ten per cent. It was to include all who had more than sixty pounds a-year. Pitt calculated the income of the nation at a hundred and two million pounds, which would thus produce a revenue of ten million pounds. To make this inquisitorial and sweeping imposition the more palatable, the increase in the assessed taxes made the preceding session were to be repealed. To such a degree was Pitt's extraordinary scale of taxation now become familiarised, that this tax was carried through both houses with comparatively little difficulty.

A still more important proposition was laid before parliament by royal message, on the 22nd of January - the union of Ireland with Great Britain. It was argued that the late attempts to bring in a French army, and to alienate Ireland from this country altogether, showed the necessity of drawing closer the bonds betwixt the two countries. On the 31st of January a series of resolutions were agreed to as the basis of this union. These we shall notice at length, when we come to the discussion of the measure. For the present year, the matter ended in a joint address on the subject from both houses being presented to the king.

On the continent, 'the struggle against the French was renewed. The king of Naples and the emperor of Austria, in alliance with Russia, determined to free Italy of them in the absence of Buonaparte; but, without waiting for the arrival of the Austrians and Russians, Ferdinand mustered nearly forty thousand men, badly described, and worse officered, and set out to drive the French from Rome. General Mack, still in high repute, was sent from Vienna to command this army, and Ferdinand, a most self-indulgent and unmartial monarch, was advised to march with them in person. Nelson was employed, with an addition of some Portuguese ships, to land a division of five thousand men of this army at Leghorn. Mack, in true Austrian style, then divided the remaining thirty-two thousand men into five columns, and marched them by different routes towards Rome. Nelson had narrowly watched the manœuvre of Mack, and pronounced him incompetent, and that the whole would prove a failure. This was speedily realised. Ferdinand, with a portion of his forces, entered Rome in triumph on the 29th of November; but Championnet, the French general, who evacuated Rome to concentrate his forces at Terni, soon defeated the other divisions of the Neapolitan army in detail, and Ferdinand fled from Rome back to Naples. But there was now no security for him there. Championnet was marching on that capital with twenty thousand veteran soldiers, and Ferdinand availed himself of Nelson's fleet to get over to Palermo. The lazzaroni defended the deserted city for three days with incredible bravery against the French; but they were betrayed by a republican party in the city, which hoisted the tricolor flag, surrendered the forts to the enemy, and fired on them from the Castle of St. Elmo, which commands the town. Championnet took possession of Naples on the 23rd of January, 1799, and proclaimed a republic, under the title of Republica Parthenopea." Ferdinand had the deposits of the bank and the Monte di Pietà of Sicily with him; but the French levied a contribution of twelve million of francs on the inhabitants of the city, and fifteen million on the inhabitants of the provinces; seized on the royal property, the property of the church, and laid hands on all the statues, pictures, books, manuscripts, and the antiquities collected from Herculaneum and Pompeii, and sent them off to Paris. Yet even Championnet had moderation enough to curb the relentless pillage of Faypoult, the commissioner of the directory, and he was therefore superseded by general Macdonald.

The Austrians and Russians, by this time, were in full march for Italy. Leaving the archduke Charles to cope with Jourdan, who had made himself master of the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein in January, and menaced a march on the Danube, an army of Austrians, under generals Bellegarde and Hotze, entered Switzerland, reoccupied the Grison country, drove the French from the St. Gothard, and menaced Massena at Zurich. Another army of Austrians, under old general Melas, issued from the Tyrol, and drove the French general, Scherer, from post to post in Upper Italy, till he took refuge behind the Mincio. Moreau was then sent to supersede Scherer, but found himself, in April, confronted, not only by Melas, but by Suvaroff, with an addition of fifty thousand men. On the 27th of that month he was attacked by this combined force, and beaten. Brescia and Peschiera surrendered, Mantua was invested, and Suvaroff entered Milan. Moreau was compelled to retreat upon Genoa, and await the arrival of Macdonald, who was rapidly marching from Naples to his aid. But Macdonald was confronted on the banks of the Trebia, and, after a tierce battle of three days, he was routed, and escaped only to Moreau with the remnant of his army. Moreau now stationed himself in the entrance of the Bochetta pass, in the Appenines, behind the town of Novi; but there he was superseded by general Joubert, the directory having lost faith in Moreau. Joubert, however, had no better success than Moreau. Suvaroff attacked him on the 16th of August, routed his army, and killed him; the French abandoning nearly all their artillery on the field, and flying in disorder towards Genoa.

Leaving Melas to complete the subjection of Italy, Suvaroff then turned his army towards Switzerland, where Massena had effectually opposed the Austrians under Bellegarde and Hotze, and defeated a Russian force, under Korsakoff, sent to reinforce them. But Suvaroff found himself unable to unite with Korsakoff till after much fighting with Massena; and the two Russian generals retreated to Augsburg, leaving Massena master of Switzerland.

The French were driven again out of Naples by the end of July. Cardinal Ruffo brought down a wild army of Calabrians, and an army made up of Russians, Turks, Portuguese, and English, completed the expulsion of the republicans, and restored the king. In this restoration Nelson and his squadron took a most effective part; but, unfortunately for his fame, he at this time became acquainted with Lady Hamilton, the wife of the English ambassador, and gave himself up so completely to her fascinations that he was induced to do deeds that leave a lasting stain upon his reputation. Lady Hamilton was the friend of the queen of Naples, a sister of the unfortunate Marie Antoinette, and she instigated Nelson to take a melancholy part in the savage retaliations of the court on the Neapolitan republicans. The title of duke of Bronté and a large estate, were a poor equivalent for these un- English services. Nelson sent commodore Trowbridge to Civita Vecchia to blockade it, and both that port and the castle of St. Angelo soon surrendered, and captain Lewis rowed up the Tiber in his barge, hoisted the English colours on the capitol, and acted as governor of Rome till Pius YI. was nominally restored. The poor old man, however, never returned to his kingdom; he died at Valence, on the Rhone, on the 29th of August of this year. The election of the new pope, Pius VII., did not take place till March, 1800. Before the end of the year, nearly all Italy, except Genoa, was cleared of the French.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 24

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