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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 8


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In the autumn of this year the English admiralty adopted means to blow up and destroy the French invasion flotilla in the harbour of Boulogne - means which the English naval officers had previously condemned, when used by the French, in terms of execration. The French convention had ordered the use, in their ships in the Mediterranean, a few years ago, of a species of Greek fire, which was to be thrown into our vessels during action, and which was of that nature that it would liquefy and spread, and, defying all ordinary means of extinction, destroy both vessel and crew. The experiment, when tried, recoiled on the users, and was discontinued; but it evoked a burst of vehement indignation at the use of such diabolical inventions. Yet here were the English admiralty adopting and employing means of destruction equally devilish in intention? but, as it proved, equally abortive. Robert Fulton, an American engineer - who afterwards more honourably distinguished himself by being the first to produce a steam-vessel in American waters, Symington having previously set the example on the Clyde, in Scotland - had offered the scheme of an infernal machine for blowing up the English ships in 1801. It consisted of a chest, pitched outside and made waterproof, containing forty barrels of gunpowder, which was to be ignited, by a certain contrivance, when it struck smartly against a solid body.

This machine was called a catamaran, from two Greek words, implying something enormously destructive. It was to be sent out amongst ships, and, on striking against one, it was expected to blow it into the air. It was made of such an equipoise as to just keep the upper surface of it on a level with the water - how it was to be guided to its destination seems never to have been clearly shown; for, though there was a talk of towing these machines into the vicinity of the ships to be destroyed, this was more easily talked of than done. Fulton had offered his plan, when it had failed in France, to the English government, but it had been rejected by them; but now some new speculator had, most probably, been more successful. The plan was adopted, notwithstanding the repugnance of lord St. Vincent, the first lord of the admiralty, and, indeed, of every officer and man in the British navy, who abominated all such cowardly and cruel inventions. The experiment was tried by lord Keith, on the 2nd of October. There were one hundred and fifty French gunboats, praams, and floating batteries, anchored outside the pier of Boulogne. Lord Keith anchored opposite to them with three line of battle ships and several frigates, covering a number of bomb-ships, and fire-ships, and the catamarans. Four fire-ships were towed into the neighbourhood of the French flotilla, and exploded with a terrific noise, but did no injury whatever to the flotilla or the French, beyond wounding some half-dozen men. The catamarans exploded, for the most part, with the same failure of effect. One alone, in some degree, reached its object, but this was owing to the incaution of the French sailors. The catamaran was towed by a boat as near to the flotilla as the batteries -would allow, and then abandoned - having a sail set to drive it on the flotilla. The English sailors then put back in another boat. The crew of a French launch seeing this, made for it to seize it, and a number of them had just entered the English boat, when the launch, out of which they had come, Struck on the catamaran, and was sent into the air with the remaining people in her - namely, her commander, and thirteen sailors and soldiers. The whole affair was as ridiculous in its result as it was un-English in its nature, and the catamarans were abandoned, amid the scoffs of the French and the sarcasms of our own people, who thence termed that board of admiralty the Catamaran Admiralty.

But a still more indefensible war was taking place, almost at the same moment, off the coast of Spain, which showed the unprincipled manner in which Pitt was prepared to act in our foreign affairs, and how little right he had to com- plain of the lawless deeds of Buonaparte. Though there had been a declaration of war issued both against France and Holland, there had been none against Spain. There was, indeed, in that country, a very strong party hostile to Buonaparte and his system of aggression. But ministers hearing that a strong Spanish armament was fitting out in the port of Ferrol, and that French soldiers were expected to join and to sail in it, instead of demanding explanations of Spain, and of sending a proper fleet to blockade the port, and prevent the mischief, if any, they dispatched captain Graham Moore, the brother of Sir John Moore, with four frigates - the Indefatigable, the Lively, the Amphion, and the Medusa - to intercept four Spanish frigates bound to Cadiz from Monte Video. The proceeding was totally contrary to all the laws of nations, and it was still more reprehensible, because, if it was only intended to detain these vessels till satisfactory explanations were given, such a force should have been sent against it as would have compelled the Spanish admiral to surrender without bloodshed. As it was, the force was so equally balanced that a battle was inevitable; and the results, accordingly, were most melancholy. Captain Moore, on the 5th of October, fell in with the four frigates near Cape Santa Maria. He fired several shots abreast of them, and sent a lieutenant on board the vessel of the commander, Don José Bustamente, to inform him that he had orders to detain the frigates, and trusted that it might be done without bloodshed. This was a demand that the honour of the Spaniard would not allow him to comply with under any circumstances, but more especially almost within sight of Cadiz, and with a most valuable cargo of specie in his charge. A battle commenced, in which three of the Spanish ships were taken, and the fourth, the Mercedes, blown into the air, with nearly all her people and all the specie she contained. On board of the Mercedes were coming home a captain Alvear, with his wife and fine family of nine children, five grown-up sons and four daughters. He had also with him thirty thousand pounds, the produce of a thirty years' service in South America. When the battle began, captain Alvear and his eldest son went on board the Spanish admiral's frigate, and there, watching the conflict, had the horror to see the explosion of the Mercedes, and the destruction of every soul dear to them. The news of this unwarrantable act. and of the melancholy fate of the innocent family, produced a deep sensation in England. The justice of it was questioned even by those most favourable to the ministry; the cruelty or inconsiderateness of sending only such a force as would compel a fight was strongly commented upon, and abroad it had a most prejudicial effect on the moral character of England. The French had a great right to exclaim, " Perfidious Albion! " The Spaniards were furious in their indignation; an order was speedily issued to make reprisals of English ships and property, and, on the 12tliof December, war was formally proclaimed against us. It is true that the English ministry repaid to captain Alvear his thirty thousand pounds, but they had netted about a million by this indefensible transaction; and, as they could not restore to him his dead, the least they ought to have done was to have doubled the amount that he had lost. But if England was showing little regard to moral principle, Buonaparte, on the other side of the Channel, was, this year, doing deeds of such infamy as to make her crimes appear trivial.

Napoleon's usurpation of the government of France had the invariable effect of all such usurpations; it aroused the resentment of great numbers, and stimulated to revenge the lovers of liberty on the one hand, and the partisans of the Bourbons on the other. They did not remain inactive spectators of this usurpation, but brooded over plans for throwing the usurper down from his arbitrary elevation. The republicans concerted schemes for assassinating him; the Bourbon princes, to whom such schemes were proposed, either by imprudent zealots, or insidious spies, who sought to entrap them into avowed consent to such attempts, that they might be published by Buonaparte, rejected them with indignation, but still sought means to prosecute legitimate war against the seizer of the claims and honours of their family. These movements, the necessary consequences of usurpation, forced, as is generally the case, that usurper upon fresh crimes. Buonaparte had not only achieved the first consulship for life, and established a military despotism, but he, at this moment, was organising a plan for a seizure of the crown, as emperor. In this state of mind, conscious of the enmities which he had aroused by his past assumptions, and by the still more violent ones which he was pre- paring by that which he contemplated, he had put in execution all the lawless practices of the days of Jacobinism, and had renewed a veritable reign of terror. Fouché, who was at the head of the police, and knew all that was fermenting around, and who excited what did not already exist, told him that the air was full of daggers, and that the utmost vigilance and severity were requisite to parry them. Buonaparte had put the press under the most perfect thraldom; it dared to say nothing of its own; it dared not suppress anything that he sent to it for publication. Ha had passed a senatus consultum in September, 1803, which, under the impudent assurance of securing the liberty of the press, had completed its deathlike silence. Every day arrests were going on with extraordinary rapidity. People were dragged from their beds, and hurried off to the prisons of Paris, or to distant and obscure fortresses in the Alps, the Pyrenees, or isolated spots of the interior; spies were discovered to be in every quarter the most unexpected, and no one felt himself safe. There was a military commission sitting constantly in Paris, which performed the villainous business of the revolutionary tribunal, but without any mock jury; and people, who were apparently safe in their families over night, were announced the next morning as having been shot in the plain of Grenelle as traitors. These prisoners were tempted, in the view of sudden death, by offers of pardon, if they would confess accomplices, and reveal plots. To the very moment of firing they were beset by agents of the police importuning them to make such disclosures. For the most part, they had none to make; but, in some cases, they endeavoured to save their own lives by sacrificing other and innocent persons. Where importunity did not avail, actual torture was applied, and the thumbscrew was once more put into active operation. In short, there were no means that the most diabolical tyrants had invented which Buonaparte did not now resort to maintain the fatal power that he had snatched from his country.

There was one man for whom lie entertained a deep and peculiar jealousy. This was general Moreau. Moreau had acquired a military reputation second only to his own. His famous retreat through the Black Forest, in 1796, and his great victory at Hohenlinden, had made him a wonderful reputation, and the kindness and mildness of his disposition had attached his soldiers to him with an enthusiastic feeling of affection and devotion. At the same time, whilst Moreau had no ambition to seize any power or dignity which was not the legitimate fruit of his military fame, he regarded with undisguised abhorrence the lawless proceedings of Buonaparte. No flattery on the part of Buonaparte could win him to coalesce in and subserve his designs against the republic. He was accustomed, in conversation, to speak freely on this subject, and to say to the old republican officers, who gathered around him at his handsome country house near Paris, that the Corsican would not be allowed to put on the imperial crown without fighting a harder battle than that of Marengo. These incautious speeches were regularly carried by spies to the ears of Buonaparte. It was in vain that he sought to conciliate the honour- able Moreau, who had grown up under the revolution, and was sincerely attached to it. He was the son of a lawyer of Morlaix, in Bretagne, where he was born, in 1763, and had risen by his martial talents and bravery, without any of the arts which Buonaparte had practised. On one occasion, recently, Moreau, having occasion to wait on Buonaparte at the Tuileries, as he was speaking with him, Carnot, the minister at war, brought in a pair of pistols, of beautiful workmanship and enriched with diamonds, which were sent from Versailles, as a present to the first consul. " They arrive in a happy time," said Buonaparte, taking them and presenting them to Moreau. Moreau, so far from accepting the pistols with pleasure, assumed a grave demeanour, returned a cold bow, and left the apartment without a word. It was clear that such a man was not to be won over to a dishonourable purpose by any courtesies, and Buonaparte determined to be rid of him.

In doing this, he and his demonaic agent, Fouché, managed to implicate and get rid of a number of other almost equally dangerous, and quite as unpurchasable, people.

We have it on the authority of Bourrienne, for so many years private secretary to Buonaparte, that, at this juncture, Napoleon had dismissed Fouché from the ministry. Probably he had discovered the espionage of that spider-soul on him- self, and so cut it short. But Fouché was not a man thus to be got rid of. He therefore set on a plot which should compel Buonaparte to take him back. He dispatched to London a renegade royalist named Lajolais, who had formerly fought under Pichegru, and, in 1794, had assisted him in his intrigues with the Bourbon princes. Lajolais, instead of escaping with Pichegru, on the discovery of this secret negotiation, had been seized and imprisoned, and, probably, had been bought over in the dungeon. He was still regarded as a suffering royalist, and therefore the fitting tool for entrapping the leaders of that party. On arriving in London, he had interviews with Pichegru, Georges Cadoudal, the Chouan chief, the Polignacs, the count d'Artois, the duke of Berri, &c., and assured them that such was the feeling against Buonaparte in France, that it only needed the appearance of the royalist leaders, and their forming a league with Moreau, whom he truly represented as greatly disgusted with Buonaparte, to produce a revolution, and crush the aspiring first consul. The statements of the spy were listened to, and a vessel, under the command of captain John Wesley Wright, was dispatched to the coast of Brittany, with general Georges Cadoudal, the marquis de la Rivière, the brothers Armand and Jules Polignac, and some others, whom he put safely ashore in the autumn of 1803. Having effected this piece of base perfidy, Lajolais hastened back to Paris to inform Fouché of the result.

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