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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 25


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Whilst these changes had been effectuating in Italy, the English, with their new allies, the Russians, made an abortive attempt to drive the French from Holland. An army of seventeen thousand Russians and thirteen thousand English was assembled on the coast of Kent; and Sir Ralph Abercromby, who was destined to fall on a more memorable field, taking the command of a division of twelve thousand men, admiral Mitchell put them across to the coast of Holland. Abercromby landed, and took the Fort of the Helder; and our fleet, occupying the Texel, compelled the Dutch fleet to surrender, and mount the Orange flag. So long as Abercromby commanded, he repelled all the attacks of the French general, Brune, with a force more than double in number; but, on the 13th of September, the duke of York arrived with the remainder of the Anglo-Russian army, and took the chief command. From that moment all went wrong. The old want of success followed the royal duke, who, whatever his courage, certainly possessed no abilities as a general. By the 17th of October, notwithstanding the bravery of his troops, he was glad to sign a convention, by which he was allowed to withdraw his army, on condition of the liberation of eight thousand French and Dutch prisoners of war in England.

Buonaparte in Egypt, cut off from all communication with France, soon found himself threatened by the attack of two Turkish armies, one assembling at Rhodes, one in Syria. To anticipate this combination, he determined to march into Syria, where he expected to startle the Turks by the progress that he should make there. He therefore commenced his march through the desert at the head of ten thousand men, easily routed a body of Mamelukes, and took the fort of El Arish, reckoned one of the keys of Egypt. He set out in February, and, passing the desolate wilderness, not without experiencing some of the sufferings which might be expected, entered Gaza, where he found plenty of provisions. He then attacked Jaffa, the Joppa of the Gospels, carried it, and put three thousand Turks to the sword, giving up the town to licence and plunder. But it was here that Buonaparte perpetrated one of those wholesale massacres which blacken his name. In Paris, in the affair of the sections, he had shown his disregard of human life, and again at Cairo; but his deed at Jaffa was still more deliberately murderous. Amongst the prisoners who had surrendered was a mixed body of Egyptians, Turks, and others. He himself admitted to lord Ebrington, at Porto-Ferrajo, that they were little short of two thousand - " à peu près deux mille" Thinking that these men would be an incumbrance to him, and would join the enemy again if' he set them at liberty, he pretended that they bad before made part of the garrison of El Arish; and engaged not to serve again; and that, moreover, the governor of Jaffa had cut off the head of his messenger. To have cut off the head of the governor in return would have been just; but proof is wanting that any great number of these Turks had been in El Arish; and even if they had, when he had accepted their surrender on condition of quarter, they had a claim for their lives. But Buonaparte,- two days after their surrender, marched them out under guard of a strong detachment of his army to the sand-hills south-east of Jaffa, and had them shot down in successive companies, and their bodies piled up in a pyramid were, and perhaps are still, visible as a pyramid of bones. Heaven seemed to put the stamp of its reprobation on this horrible deed by immediately sending the plague into his camp.

He next marched to St. Jean d'Acre, and summoned it to surrender. The pacha, named, from his fierce cruelties, Djezzaar, or the Butcher, instead of returning an answer, cut off the head of the messenger. Buonaparte vowed an awful revenge. But the pacha had warned Sir Sidney Smith, who was off the coast ready to convey the Turkish army to Egypt, of the appearance of the French before Acre; and Sir Sidney, so famous already for his exploits at Toulon, where he and Buonaparte had met, sailed into the port with two ships of the line, the Tigre and the Theseus. Scarcely had Sir Sidney arrived, when he heard of the approach of a French frigate flotilla bringing to Buonaparte artillery, ammunition, and machines for the siege. He captured seven vessels out of the nine, and turned the artillery on the walls against the French themselves. A French royalist officer, general Phillippeaux, took charge of these cannon. The siege began on the 17th of March, and ended on the 21st of May - a period of sixty-five days, during which eight desperate assaults had been made, and eleven as desperate sallies. At one time Buonaparte had to march to Mount Tabor, to disperse an army of Moslems; at another, he succeeded in making himself master of a tower which commanded all the rest of the fortifications; but Sir Sidney Smith, himself leading on a body of his seamen armed with pikes, drove the French, in a hand-to-hand fight, from the tower. Buonaparte, one day walking on the hill still called Coeur de Lion's Mount, pointing to Acre, said to Murat, " The fate of the East depends upon yonder petty tower." When a prisoner in St. Helena he repeated this, saying that, Acre won, he should have pushed on to Damascus; Syria his, he would have assembled a hundred thousand men, taken Constantinople, and have marched to India. His ambitious notions on this head amounted to a species of monomania. But Sir Sidney Smith stood in his way; and the bitterness of Buonaparte against him became rancorous. He declared that Sir Sidney had exposed the French prisoners purposely to the plague, and ended by denouncing him as mad. Buonaparte had now, however, lost several of his best generals, and retreat was inevitable; but he endeavoured to cover the disgrace of it by asserting that it was the plague raging at Acre that drove him from it. On the march he proposed to Desgenettes, the surgeon, to end the lives of some of the wounded who incumbered him, by poisoning them with opium. Desgenettes replied indignantly that his art was employed to save, and not to kill. But the proposal soon grew into a rumour that it had been carried into execution, and that not on a few dozens, but on several hundreds - a rumour which continued to be believed for many years, not only by the other European nations, but by Buonaparte's own army. He continued his march back to Cairos burning the crops and villages by the way, in revenge of the hostility of the natives. He reached Cairo on the 14th June, his reputation much diminished by his repulse.

Buonaparte found that, during his absence in Syria, Egypt had been disturbed by insurrections, which Desaix had put down, and had again defeated, and driven back into Upper Egypt, Murad Bey, who had made a descent thence. Soon after his return, however, Murad was once more in motion, descending the Nile in two bodies, and Ibrahim Bey was moving on the frontiers of Syria, as if to form a union with Murad. La Grange was dispatched against Ibrahim, and Murat against Murad. Scarcely were they repulsed when the cause of their manœuvres became evident. A Turkish fleet, containing eighteen thousand men, appeared in the Bay of Alexandria, commanded by Mustapha Pacha. They seized the fort, and, landing, began to fortify themselves, expecting the arrival of the Mamelukes, as had been concerted. On the 25th of July Buonaparte attacked them, and drove in all their outposts; but, on coming within reach of their batteries and their gunboats, in the bay, the French were checked, and the Turks, rushing out, with their muskets slung at their backs, made terrible havoc amongst them with their sabres, poniards, and pistols. The defeat of Napoleon must have been complete had not the Turks stopped to cut off the heads of the slain, for which they were offered a reward. This gave time for the French to rally. It was now the turn of the Turks to give way, and Murat, who had fought at the head of the troops, followed them so impetuously with the bayonet, that the confusion and panic became general. The Turks threw themselves en masse into the sea to regain their ships; and, by drowning, and the bayonets and bullets of the French, ten thousand out of the eighteen thousand perished. Mustapha Pacha himself was taken, and carried in triumph before Buonaparte. This battle had been fought at Aboukir, near the spot where Nelson had so signally triumphed over them. The victory was the event which Buonaparte needed to enable him to return with credit to France. He immediately embraced it. All his plans and brilliant visions of empire in the East had perished for the present, but private letters from his brothers in Paris, and a number of news- papers, which Sir Sidney Smith had furnished him with to mortify him, roused him to instant action. From these he learnt that the directory had, as he expected, consummated their unpopularity; that Italy, which he had won to France, was again lost by the other generals. To remain in Egypt was to sink into a sort of provincial or proconsular general; to return to Paris was, by a bold and adroit stroke, to make himself the master of France.

He immediately ordered admiral Gantheaume to have ready a couple of frigates, which lay in the harbour of Alexandria; and, taking with him his favourite generals, Murat, Lannes, Marmont, Berthier, Desaix, Andréossy, and Bessieres, and the two principal savans, Monge and Denon, to give an account of the scientific results of the expedition, he rushed on board. He had left the care of the army to Kleber and Menou; and he issued a short proclamation, saying that events in Paris demanded his presence there, but that he would return with all possible expedition.

We are told that Nelson, in quitting Egypt, had left the bay of Alexandria well blockaded. With this French army in Egypt, and the most victorious general of France there cut off from return, if due vigilance had been observed, a most active blockade and watch ought to have been maintained There appears to have been little or none at all. Buonaparte, prevented from returning to France, or seized on his way back, would have given a totally different face to history. But Buonaparte was enabled to traverse the Mediterranean against contrary winds, from the 22nd of August to the 30th of September, when they touched at Ajaccio, in Corsica, Buonaparte's native place, and again till the 9th of October, in all, eight-and-forty days, without interruption from any English vessels. So great does the negligence of the British navy appear to have been - so great the neglect of Nelson, forgetting his duties in the smiles of lady Hamilton, at Naples - that, as they approached the French coast, and saw a considerable English fleet, the admiral would have put about, but Buonaparte ordered him to sail right through them, and they did so without challenge, and they landed safely at Rapheau, near Frejus. The English seemed to have imagined that they had annihilated Buonaparte by the battle of Aboukir, and to have given themselves no further anxiety about him; but he was once more in Paris, prepared to give them more trouble than ever,

Though Buonaparte had been absent, his family had taken care to keep public opinion alive to his importance. His wife, Josephine, lived at great expense, and collected around her all that was distinguished in society. His brother, Lucien, had become président of the council of five hundred; and Joseph, a man much respected, kept a hospitable house, and did much to maintain the Buonaparte prestige. Talleyrand and Pouche were already in Napoleon's interest, and Bernadotte, now minister at war, Jourdan, and Augereau, as generals, were prepared to act with him. The abbé Sièyes, with his perpetual constitution-making, had also been working in a way to facilitate his schemes. He had planned a new and most complicated constitution, which was to consist of four successive bodies: - First, a tribunate of a hundred members, who discussed all legislative measures in the presence of a legislative council, which did not interfere in the discussions, but listened, and then voted in silence upon the measure discussed, the tribunate, which had discussed, not voting at all. The act passed by the legislative council was handed to a body of three consuls, of whom one was to be the head, or first consul, who signed and promulgated it. The third body, a Senate of one hundred members, apparently placed betwixt the legislative council and the consuls, sat with closed doors, and appeared intended as a check on the consuls, any of whom, who appeared inclined to exceed his due authority, they might elect into their own body, whereupon he ceased to be consul, and became merely one of them.

Of the five directors Buonaparte left in office, the most active had been removed: abbé Sièyes bad succeeded Rewbell, and two men of no ability, Gohier and Moulins, bad succeeded others. Roger Ducos, also in the interest of Buonaparte, made the fifth. All measures being prepared, on the 18th Brumaire, that is, the 10th of November, Buonaparte proceeded to re-act the part of Cromwell, and usurp the chief authority of the State, Converting the republic into a military dictatorship. The army had shown, on his return, that they were devoted to his service. Jourdan, Bernadotte, Moreau, and Augereau were Willing to co-operate in a coup-de-main, which should make the army supreme. He therefore assembled three regiments of dragoons on pretence of reviewing them, and, everything being ready, he proceeded to the council of ancients, in which the moderate, or reactionary, party predominated, on the evening of the 10th of November. The republican party in the council of ancients had already taken the alarm, and some of its members were urging it to prompt measures of safety, when Buonaparte entered in full military costume, and attended by his staff. He warned them of some vague danger, and the moderate majority in the council immediately carried two decrees - one to remove the sittings to St. Cloud, and the other to appoint general Buonaparte to See this done. This was all that he could desire; he with- drew, and announced this fact to the military. But the directors not in the secret - Barras, Gohier, and Moulins - caught the alarm, and sent to remonstrate with Buonaparte against any invasion of the constitution. He replied in tones that seemed to paralyse them. The two councils assembled the next day at St. Cloud in a State of great confusion, and the council of five hundred in the highest excitement and indignation. The majority was intensely republican. The Orangerie was cleared for their place of meeting, but was full of workmen when they arrived. Buonaparte also arrived with his troops. He entered the council of ancients, which met in the gallery of Mars. The minority of republicans were in earnest remonstrance against the threatened danger when Buonaparte entered, told them they were sitting on a volcano, that they were calumniated, and he himself styled a Caesar, a Cromwell; but that he came only to save liberty, had he wished to seize on absolute power, he could have done it long ago. He swore to them that the country had no more disinterested patriot; but there was a party which wished to throw them back on revolutionary committees, insurrections, and scaffolds. He would save them from such horrors; he would appeal on their behalf to the valour of his comrades, with whom he had fought and conquered for liberty!

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 25

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