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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 31


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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.

On the 8th of March, 1801, general Sir Ralph Abercrombie landed in Egypt, near the spot where Nelson had fought the battle of Aboukir - so near, indeed, that one of the ships chafed its cables on the wreck of L'Orient, and afterwards fished up its anchor. General Abercrombie's army consisted of seventeen thousand men, but the horses for the cavalry, which were purchased at Constantinople, were, for the most part, found unfit for use, and the deficiency was but scantily made up in Egypt; but the main body of the army was in a far higher condition of discipline, and furnished with much superior staff officers than we had hitherto had. Our defect in discipline, and in the military education of the officers, had been deplorable, under the duke of York, in Belgium and Holland; and the English public had been fast growing confirmed in the opinion that we could only fight at sea. But a great revolution in this respect had been effected by the persevering efforts of general Jarry, who had served in the German wars with Frederick of Prussia. From the military College established at Marlow he had sent out quite a new race of officers; and from this moment, by his exertions and those of general Arthur Wellesley, a new era of English warfare began.

Menou brought down against the English twelve or fourteen thousand men, including a fine body of cavalry. Sir Ralph Abercrombie landed only about ten thousand in effective order, but these were men full of ardour, and disciplined to perfection. On the 8th of March they landed in face of the French, five thousand being put on shore at once, and these returning no single shot whilst in the boats, though assailed by fifteen pieces of artillery from the opposite hill, and by grape-shot from Aboukir Castle. They were led on by general, afterwards Sir John Moore; and, running, or climbing on hands and knees, up the steep sand-hills, they drove the French from their cannon, and seized them. The French retreated, and posted themselves on some heights betwixt Aboukir and Alexandria. On the 19th, having compelled Fort Aboukir to surrender, general Abercrombie advanced, and found Menou had concentrated all his forces betwixt them and Alexandria. On the 21st of March a general engagement took place. It commenced as early as three o'clock in the morning, whilst quite dark, by an attack on the British left, which was meant to draw all attention to that quarter, then a desperate charge was made on the right by the main body of the French cavalry which hoped to get into the rear of the British infantry; but the attempted surprise failed; the French were driven back with great loss. As the day dawned, the battle became general, and the French found themselves opposed, not only by accustomed English doggedness, but by a precision of fire and an adroitness of manoeuvre which astonished them. The 42nd Highlanders, the 28th and 40th Regiments, particularly distinguished themselves, and the havoc made in the French lines soon became terrible. The most deadly struggle occurred in and around a Turkish cemetery surrounded by a low wall, which was occupied by the 58th and 23rd Regiments. Menou made repeated charges to drive them thence, but in vain, the French being soon attacked in their flank by a part of the 42nd. By ten o'clock a.m. the French were in full flight for Alexandria, leaving seventeen hundred men on the field, one thousand and forty of whom the English buried on the spot where they had fought. The loss of the English was stated at fourteen hundred killed and wounded; of the French, in killed and wounded altogether, twice that number. On the part of the French generals Roize, Lanusse, and Rodet were killed; on that of the English, the generals Oakes, Moore, and Hope, and Sir Sidney Smith were wounded, and, unfortunately, the brave Abercrombie killed. General Moore declared that he had never seen a field so thickly strewn with dead; and the French prisoners, that they had never known till then - no, not even in Italy - what fighting was. The French legion called the "Invincible," from its exploits in Italy, was nearly annihilated; and amongst the standards taken was one bearing inscriptions of triumph in the battles of La Scrivia, Taghamento, Lodi, and others. The immediate effect of this victory was to bring the Arabs, with abundance of provisions, into the English camp; to bring Murad Bey, with his Mamelukes, from Upper Egypt; and to arouse the inhabitants of Egypt, of all classes, to arm and drive away the French. They had no conception of such fighting as they had seen in the English, and all fear of the French had vanished. To complete the success, the Capitan pacha's fleet in a few days brought a Turkish army of between five and six thousand men, and the grand vizier, posted at El Arish, began to march towards Cairo. General Hutchinson, now chief in command of the British army, hastened to join the grand vizier; but, before he could accomplish this, he had to drive four thousand French from a fortified camp at Ramanieh, and meantime five thousand French rushed out of Cairo, and attacked the grand vizier.

On the 27th of June Cairo capitulated, general Belliard obtaining the condition that his troops should be conveyed to the ports of France, on the Mediterranean, with their arms and baggage; yet they left behind them three hundred and thirteen heavy cannon, and one hundred thousand pounds of gunpowder. On the 8th of June general Baird had landed at Cosseir, on the Red Sea, with his Indian army, and was marching through the burning desert for Cairo. The Moslems saw with astonishment troops of swart Indians, commanded by British officers, dropping, as it were, from the skies, and all good Moslems, worshipping in their mosques; so that they were ready to believe them miraculously sent by the prophet to their aid. Menou, cooped up at Alexandria, found it useless to contend further. Before Baird could join the main army, he capitulated on the same terms as Belliard, and the Egyptian campaign was at an end. The news of the French expulsion reached France sooner than it did England, and created a strong sensation. Buonaparte consoled himself with saying that it would have been different had Kleber survived, and that now there was nothing left for it but to invade England.

We have already stated that Portugal had claimed our aid to resist an invasion by Spain, and that we had sent several regiments there. We also sent three hundred thousand pounds in money, and kept a fleet at Lisbon. A peace was made in June, at Olivenza, by which Portugal agreed to surrender a portion of territory to Spain, and shut her ports against the English. But Buonaparte protested against this peace, sent an army of twenty-five thousand men into Portugal, which invested Almeida, and menaced both Lisbon and Oporto. In September, Portugal agreed to confirm to Spain the territory ceded at Olivenza; to give up half of Portuguese Guiana to France; to anul all treaties with England; shut her ports entirely against her ships and manufactures, admitting, on the other hand, those of France. Besides this, Portugal paid to the French twenty millions of francs.

Whilst France thus triumphed on land in this quarter, our fleets and those of France and Spain had various slight encounters on these coasts. Admiral Gantheaume surrounded two English frigates in the Mediterranean, and compelled them, after a hard and most unequal fight, to surrender. Sir James Saumarez attacked a French squadron in Algesiras Bay, opposite to Gibraltar, and, after doing and receiving much damage, was compelled to haul off. Again, on the 12th of July, he pursued the French and Spanish fleets escaping out of the same bay, to endeavour to pass the Straits and reach Cadiz, and, with only five ships of the one, two frigates, and some smaller craft, attacked them, consisting of ten sail of the line, three frigates, and a great number of gun-boats. He set on fire and blew up two Spanish ships of one hundred and twelve guns each, took a seventy-four gun-ship, and did much damage to the others before they could make Cadiz.

Lord Nelson also, on the 1st of August, made an attempt on the French flotilla lying at Boulogne for the invasion of England. He was furnished with a flotilla of gun-boats for the purpose, and he was able to destroy two floating batteries and a few gun-boats, but found the fleet too strongly posted under the batteries of the harbour to make further impression.

The autumn of this year was employed in endeavours to arrange a peace. Lord Cornwallis proceeded to Paris for this object, and went to Amiens, which was appointed as the place for the conference. The preliminaries were signed on the 1st of October, but the treaty was not definitively concluded till the 27th of March, 1802.

The year opened with the negotiations for peace. General Law de Lauriston, the schoolfellow and first aide-de-camp of Buonaparte, brought the preliminaries over to London, and the people, heartily tired of war, expressed great joy at the news. Though Napoleon had neither given up the idea of invading England, nor his other ambitious projects, he expressed a willingness to make peace. He saw that all chance of invading England was vain at present. Nelson was appointed chief in command of the fleet from Orfordness to Beachy Head. The most extensive arrangements had been made both on sea and land to repel aggression; and, from the specimen which Nelson gave of his mode of action at Boulogne, the question seemed rather, whether Buonaparte would be able to protect his flotilla in his own port, than whether he could land in England. The French fleet, during the war, had been reduced to a fragment, whilst our own had grown enormously. Since 1793 we had increased our navy from one hundred and thirty-five sail of the line and one hundred and thirty-three frigates to two hundred and two sail of the line and two hundred and seventy-seven frigates. At the time of signing the peace of Amiens, we had, in fact, including all sorts of vessels of war, eight hundred in number; at the same time, we had captured, of all kinds of French vessels of war, two hundred and ninety- eight, and destroyed fifty-five. We had thus reduced the French fleet, during that period, from seventy-three sail of the line and sixty-seven frigates to thirty sail of the line and thirty-five frigates. The allies of the French had fared no better: we had captured, or destroyed, seventy- eight Spanish vessels of war and eighty-six Dutch, and had ruined the navy of Denmark at the bombardment of Copenhagen. The victories of Howe, Duncan, Jervis, and Nelson, had revived all the glories of the ages of Drake and Blake, and infused into the hearts of the British seamen the idea that on the ocean we were invincible. These facts pointed out where our strength lay, and were rendered still more illustrative of this by our miserable failures on land. Marlborough was dead, Wellington was but in his youth, and we could offer no real rivalry to the vast armies of France, under a leader like Napoleon, on the continent, though we could destroy his isolated force in Egypt, showing what was possible, were numbers in any reasonable proportion to each other. But on the sea we were a match for all the world, and Buonaparte felt that he must wait for some more favourable crisis before attempting the descent on England. He was willing, therefore, to have a short peace with us because it would enable him to prosecute more freely his other plans of domination, both in France and out of it.

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

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