OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 31

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 <31> 32 33

Nelson then burnt six line-of-battle ships and eight praams which he had taken, and kept the Holstein, of sixty-four guns. The loss to the British in this action was severe, but not more so than might be expected when contending against land and floating batteries, and against a people famous for their valour, and on fire to defend their capital and navy; it was three hundred and fifty killed, and eight hundred and fifty wounded. But to the Danes it was far heavier - from one thousand seven hundred to one thousand eight hundred killed and wounded, and four thousand taken prisoners. Nelson declared that the bravery of the Danes had never been surpassed, nor the horrors of the fight. The ships, all except the Desiree, being got afloat again, on the 12th Sir Hyde Parker sailed away with the main body of the fleet, leaving Nelson in the St. George, and a few other ships, to repair their damages. Sir Hyde Parker went in quest of the Swedish fleet, which consisted only of six ships, and which had taken refuge behind the forts of Carlscrona. Parker sent in a flag of truce, informing them of the armistice with Denmark, and demanding an answer as to the intentions of Sweden. Gustavus, the king of Sweden, hastened to Carlscrona, and, on the 22nd, informed the English admiral that he was ready to treat with an envoy accredited to the northern powers. Admiral Parker then proceeded towards the Gulf of Finland, to attack the Russian fleet, but was soon overtaken by a dispatch boat from the Russian ambassador at Copenhagen, announcing that the emperor Paul was dead, and that his son, Alexander, had accepted the proposals of England to treat.

Paul, the czar, had shown himself a tyrannical madman. A strong party was formed amongst the nobles and officers of the army to depose him. His son Alexander had, for some time, resisted the proposal for this; but, being at length assured that the czar was jealous of him, and intended to put him to death, or shut him up for life, he consented to the project. The day on which this scheme was to be carried into effect, Paul appeared on the military parade, and wrote a letter, on the crown of his hat, to Napoleon, and others, recalling his ambassadors from Copenhagen and Berlin. When the conspirators appeared at his bedside, and presented for his signature an act of abdication, on the ground of incapacity for government, and in favour of his son Alexander, he refused, and attempted to defend himself; but he was seized, thrown down, and strangled. A physician was called in, who signed a certificate that he had died of apoplexy. His death, however, was concealed till all was secured in favour of Alexander, who, though probably not contemplating the actual murder of his father, was so much implicated in the transaction as to cause it to haunt him during his life with a feeling of horror and remorse.

Parker considered the news of Paul's death as tantamount to the conclusion of peace, and proposed sailing down the Baltic again; but Nelson, who had joined him at Carlscrona, thought very differently. He had blamed Parker's slowness and easiness all through the affairs of Copenhagen, and he now wanted to push on to Revel, and destroy the Russian fleet before the ice allowed it to retire into Cronstadt. Sir Hyde Parker refused; and the fleet was on its way down the Baltic, when an order came, recalling Parker, and giving the command to Nelson. He immediately put about, and proceeded to Revel, but the thaw had allowed the Russian fleet to get into Cronstadt. Nelson, however, opened communications with the emperor Alexander, and proposed to land and terminate a convention with him at once. Alexander, not liking to have Nelson's fleet too near, declined the proposal in terms of courtesy, and Nelson took his leave in no complimentary mood. The emperor thought it best to send after him admiral Tchitchagoff, to assure him that Alexander regretted that any misunderstanding had ever taken place betwixt Russia and England; that all the British subjects seized by Paul should be immediately liberated, all their property restored, and that the emperor would be glad to see Nelson at Petersburg in any style which he liked to assume. But Nelson had now resolved to return at once to England, his shattered health ill bearing the severity of the northern climate; nor was his presence necessary, for, on the 17th of June, two days before Nelson went on board the brig which took him to England, lord St. Helens, who had proceeded to Petersburg as ambassador, had signed a convention, by which all subjects of dispute between the two countries were ended. Denmark and Sweden came into the convention as a matter of course. The death of Paul, and the bombardment of Copenhagen, had broken all the schemes of Napoleon Buonaparte in that quarter. And these schemes, through the means of the excitable Paul, had been of the boldest, and even of the wildest kind. The fleets of Prussia, Denmark, and Sweden, were to have joined that of France, and to have swept the channel of the English. This effected, Buonaparte was to land one hundred thousand men on the coast of England, and make himself master of this redoubtable island. Another army of thirty thousand men was to have joined an army of thirty thousand Russian infantry, and forty thousand Cossack and other cavalry, and, proceeding by the Caspian Sea, and by Persia, was to reach and subdue British India. Thus we were to have been put down on land, at home, on the sea, everywhere, and in India and all our colonies. All these dreams of romance vanished with Paul and the submission of the north; and the allies of Napoleon, even in Germany, rapidly drew in their armies. Frederick William III. of Prussia, another of our beloved and highly-subsidised late allies, who had been encouraged to overrun George III.'s electorate of Hanover, to seize the independent port of Bremen, and close the Elbe against us, now quickly retreated into his own proper limits; and Napoleon, startled from his soaring calculations by these events, and by the defeat of his army in Egypt, which occurred about a fortnight before the battle of Copenhagen, began to think of peace instead of universal conquest." We have now to relate the circumstances of this remarkable Egyptian campaign.

The victory of Marengo, and the appointment of ministers of such great talent as Talleyrand, Fouché, and others, had given Napoleon a vast power in France; yet, during the passing of these events abroad, he had been in imminent dangers. Twice his life had been attempted. The first conspiracy was planned by the jacobins, who hated him for overthrowing their reign of licence, and the immediate actors in it were chiefly Italians, as if they hated him the more because he was their countryman. These were Arena, a Corsican, the brother of the deputy who had aimed a dagger at him in the council of five hundred, Ceracchi, a Roman, Diana, and Topino-Lebrun, also Italians, and some others. They planned to assassinate him at the opera, but one Harrel betrayed them, and they were all seized on the spot. This was on the 10th of October, 1800. The next was a royalist plot. The royalists, seeing him put down the ultra-revolutionists, fondly hoped that he intended to restore the monarchy. Louis, afterwards XVIII., wrote to him on that supposition, offering to make him constable of the kingdom, with any other honour that he might covet. As the queen of Naples had been successful in making a journey to the emperor Paul, to induce him to intercede with Buonaparte, so the royalists thought it a good plan to send the duchess de Guiche, a most beautiful and fascinating woman, to make proposals to the chief consul. The duchess was introduced at the Tuileries, and won greatly on Napoleon, and still more on Josephine. Breakfasting with Josephine, she opened her proposals, but Buonaparte instantly ordered her to leave Paris. Thus disappointed, and now conceiving the real aim of his ambition, the royalist princes resolved to combat his attempts by open force; but the lower and less scrupulous of that party determined to take him off by stratagem. Two Chouans, Carbon and St. Regent, appear to have made themselves acquainted with an infernal machine, first prepared by Chevalier and Veycer, jacobins, and to have forestalled them in the use of it. This was a barrel of gunpowder placed on a cart, and charged with grape-shot, which should be placed in the way as the chief consul went to the opera, and exploded at the moment of the passing of his carriage. On the evening of the 24th of December they carried out their plans; the infernal machine exploded close to his carriage; but, whilst it greatly damaged two or three horses, and killed twenty persons, and wounded fifty-three more, the report being heard for several leagues round Paris, Buonaparte, Lannes, and Bessieres, who were in the carriage with him, escaped as by miracle. The conspirators connected with both the plots - Arena, Ceracchi, Topino-Lebrun,. Demerville, Chevalier and Veycer, the jacobins, and Carbon and St. Regent - were all executed. Buonaparte was too acute a politician, and men like Talleyrand and Fouché were too much of the same stamp, not to avail themselves of these circumstances, still more to increase the power of government. They immediately established a tribunal to try all insurrectionists and conspirators, without jury, and without appeal. A law was passed, enabling the executive to seize and transport, or banish, from France all such persons whose conduct and principles had already marked them out as dangerous to the established constitution. This included every prominent royalist and republican. A more searching and stringent system of police was established by the peculiar genius of Fouché, who still remained its head. It consisted of three different bodies besides the general body: the military police of the palace, the police under the inspector of the gendarmes, the police of the city of Paris. Buonaparte received every day a separate report from each of these bodies; and, whilst he thus made himself certain of learning all that passed, the astute Fouché boasts, in his memoirs, that he had himself his spies on the chief consul - that Bourrienne, his private secretary, for twenty-five thousand francs a month, informed him of all the plans and proceedings of Buonaparte; and that Josephine herself, for one thousand francs per day, made him cognisant of all that passed in the Tuileries. By means of this police, in a hand so practised and unscrupulous as that of Fouché, which was ready to turn on Buonaparte himself, should events become adverse, Buonaparte next enslaved the press, Fouché suppressing in one day eleven journals, and keeping a constant eye on all their motions. Any. literary person of too independent or inquiring a nature was banished France, and madame de Stäel was one of the first to be expelled. To secure the interest of the clergy, and to induce, or rather to compel, the pope to sanction his government, Napoleon made a concordat with his holiness, restoring him to his see and privileges, but stipulating for the complete subjection of the clergy in France to the civil power. The concordat was solemnly inaugurated at Notre Dame in April, 1802, Buonaparte attending with quite royal state, with a splendid retinue of civil and military officers; the archbishop of Aix, the same who had crowned Louis XVI., preaching on the occasion. The name of Buonaparte was introduced, by this concordat, into the catechism of the church, and the catechumens were thus taught to honour and serve him as God himself, to oppose his will being to incur damnation. Blind must the man have been who did not see whither all this was tending. On the return from the ceremony Buonaparte asked Augereau how he liked it. He replied, "Oh, all was very fine; there only wanted the million of men who had died in order to destroy what they were now re-establishing."

Amongst the beneficial tings which Buonaparte mingled amongst his growing despotisms were his giving Orders for the preparation of his celebrated code of jurisprudence, and the establishment of the polytechnic school, in which he had the assistance of Monge, and which has educated so many famous men. He threw open the public museums to the people; commenced a vigorous reform in the management of prisons, and in the system of roads, the erection of bridges, and cutting of canals. Had he devoted himself less to war, and more to these great objects, worthy of the highest sovereignty, he would have shown himself one of the greatest instead of the most tyrannical and blood-stained of mankind. War drew his attention, at this moment, from these objects to Egypt.

General Kleber, whom Buonaparte had left in command of the Egyptian army, was an excellent officer, and he had improved the condition of the forces there. He had raised a Greek legion of nearly two thousand men, and organised a regiment of Copts. Several small reinforcements had managed to reach him from France, though the English watched the Mediterranean vigilantly, and had chased back admiral Gantheaume to Toulon, with four or five thousand men on board. Instead of the French army in Egypt being weaker than when Buonaparte left it, it was much stronger. In 1800 Kleber was attacked at the fort of El Arish, in the Desert, by a strong Turkish force, supported by the English squadron under Sir Sidney. Smith. Being defeated, he agreed to a convention, by which he promised to evacuate Egypt, on condition of his army being allowed to return unmolested to Europe; but no sooner were these terms communicated to the English government, than they disavowed them, declaring that Sir Sidney had no authority to propose them. Kleber, therefore, resumed hostilities, and returned towards Cairo; but, being attacked by the Turks, he fought and routed them with great slaughter, on the 20th of March, 1800, near the ruins of the ancient city of Heliopolis. The Moslems of Cairo, encouraged by Murad Bey, who still hovered about with his Mameluke cavalry, rose on the French there, and massacred such as could not escape into the citadel. Kleber hastened to Cairo, relieved the forces in the citadel, and entered into a truce with Murad Bey, but, whilst thus busily engaged, he was assassinated by an Arab, who declared he was commissioned by Allah to free the country of the infidels. Kleber, who was of gigantic stature, and thence called the u French Hercules," was deemed by Buonaparte an irreparable loss to France. The command was taken by Menou, who had shown such indecision at the affair of the sections, by which he had made way for Buonaparte to display his military genius. Menou had shown himself equally unfit for command in Egypt. He had assumed the Turkish dress and turban, declared himself a Moslem, married an Egyptian woman, and adopted the name of " Abdallah Menou." His administration of the army and general affairs was far inferior to that of Kleber. At the time that matters were changing thus for the worse, amongst the French, in Egypt, the English government was awaking from its folly in making war by small attacks here and there, which could be productive of little general effect, and determined to strike only decisive blows. Dundas, now lord Melville, urged upon them the good policy of sending an army to Egypt and compelling the surrender of the French, thus removing one troublesome and distracting element from the war. He contended that, whilst one army was sent from England, another should be brought across the Persian Gulf from India, and the success made certain. The plan was much too bold, even for Pitt; and the king opposed it energetically, as "a dangerous expedition against a distant province." But the danger of having this French army transferred to Europe at some critical moment - as it would have been had the convention of El Arish been carried out, by which these twenty thousand seasoned men could have been landed in Italy to act against Suvaroff - at length brought the British ministry to dare the attempt.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 <31> 32 33

Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 31

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About