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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 16

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Prussia, which had remained inactive whilst Buonaparte was winning over Bavaria and Wurtemberg to his interests, and while he was crushing Austria, now that she stood alone, took the alarm, and complained that the French troops on the Rhine and in the Hanse Towns, which, by the treaty of Presburg, ought to have been withdrawn from Germany, remained. The queen of Prussia and prince Louis, the king's cousin, were extremely anti-Gallic. They had long tried to arouse the king to resist the French influence in Germany, to coalesce with Austria while it was time, and to remove Haugwitz from the ministry, who was greatly inclined towards France. The emperor Alexander professed himself ready to unite in this resistance to France, and Frederick William began now to listen to these counsels. He withdrew his minister, Luchesini, from Paris, and sent general Knobelsdorff in his place. On the 1st of October, Knobelsdorff presented to Talleyrand a long memorial, demanding that the French troops should recross the Rhine immediately, in compliance with the treaty of Presburg; that France should desist from throwing obstacles in the way of the promotion of a league in north Germany, comprehending all the states not included in the confederation of the Rhine; and that the fortress of Wesel and those abbeys which Murat, since becoming grand-duke of Berg and Cleves, had seized and attached to his territory, should be restored.

Such language was certain to irritate, in no ordinary degree, the full-blown pride of Buonaparte. It is probable that he was only too desirous of finding a cause of quarrel with Prussia. He longed to avenge himself on her for keeping him in a State of tantalising uncertainty during his Austrian campaign; and he longed to bring the whole of Germany under his dominion. He replied, through Talleyrand, that Prussia had no right to demand from him that he should withdraw his troops from friendly states, and that they should remain there as long as he pleased. In fact, he was already watching the movements of Prussia. He was well aware of his negotiations with Russia, he had full information of the meeting and manœuvring of troops, and that the queen of Prussia, dressed in amazonian style, in the uniform of the regiment called by her name, had been at reviews of the army, encouraging the soldiers by her smiles and words. Already he had, weeks before, assembled his principal marshals, Soult, Murat, Augereau, and Bernadotte, in Paris, and, with them, sketched the plan of the campaign against Prussia. Four days before Knobelsdorff had presented the king of Prussia's letter to Talleyrand he had quitted Paris, and was on the Rhine, directing the march of his forces there, and calling for the contingents from the princes of the Rhenish confederation; nay, so prepared were his measures, that his army in Germany, under Berthier, stretched from Baden to Düsseldorf, and from Frankfort-on-the-Maine to Nuremberg. At the same time, he commenced a series of the bitterest attacks on Prussia in the Moniteur and other papers under his control, and of the vilest and most unmanly attacks on the character of the queen of Prussia, a most interesting and amiable woman, whose only crime was her enthusiastic patriotism. Calumny of the most unprincipled kind was always one of Buonaparte's most ready weapons; but he never used it in a more diabolical and disgraceful manner than against this good and popular queen. The Prussian soldiers, when they marched to Paris, in 1816, remembered and avenged these base insults to their queen; but, unhappily, not on Buonaparte, who had fled, but on the unfortunate French people.

But Buonaparte did not content himself with stabs at the reputation of his enemies - he resorted to his old practices of assassination. The booksellers of Germany, ignoring the dominance of Buonaparte in their country, though he had completely silenced the press in France, dared to publish pamphlets and articles against the French invasion and French rule in Germany. Buonaparte ordered Berthier to seize a number of these publishers, and try them by court-martial, on the plea that they excited the inhabitants to rise and massacre his soldiers. Berthier appointed seven colonels to constitute this court-martial. Amongst the booksellers thus arrested was John Philip Palm, of Nuremberg. The charge against him was, that he had published a pamphlet entitled, "L'Allemagne dans son profond abaissement." This production was attributed to M. Gentz, a writer who was most damaging to the influence of Buonaparte, and Palm was offered his pardon if he would give up the author. He refused. Nuremberg though occupied by French soldiers, was under the protection of Prussia, which was, just now, no protection at all. Palm was carried off to Braunau, in Austria. This place was still occupied by Buonaparte, in direct violation of the treaty of Presburg; so that Buonaparte, in the seizure and trial of Palm, was guilty of the breach of almost every international and civil law; for, had Palm been the citizen of a French city, his offence being a mere libel did not make him responsible to a military tribunal. The French colonels condemned him to be shot, and the sentence was immediately executed, on the 26th of August. The indignation and odium which this atrocious act excited, not only throughout Germany, but throughout the civilised world, caused Buonaparte, with his usual disregard to truth, to say that the officers had done all this without any orders from him, but out of their own too officious zeal; but the fact was notorious enough that he had ordered the trial and execution himself; indeed, it was announced in the Bavarian papers, which were under the influence of Buonaparte, that these trials were expressly ordered, and the sentence of Palm approved, by him. Palm left a widow and three children. A subscription was raised for them in Germany, and contributed to in England, Russia, and other countries; and, spite of this martial murder, and the condemnation of five other publishers to imprisonment and chains in French fortresses, the press of Germany continued to comment on the murder of Palm. Buonaparte, in order to strike terror into the press, ordered sixty thousand copies of the sentence of Palm to be printed and circulated through Germany; and the Germans, in return, printed sixty thousand copies of an affecting letter written by Palm to his wife and children just before his execution. The fate of Palm was not forgotten when, in 1813, the Germans rose against the French, and many of their regiments marched against them with the bloody figure of Palm emblazoned on their banners.

On the 9th of October the king of Prussia issued? manifesto from his head quarters at Erfurt, calling attention to the continual aggressions of France - those aggressions which Prussia had so long watched in profound apathy, and which, by timely union with Austria and Russia, might have been checked. But Prussia had, by her mean conduct, now stripped herself of all sympathy and ail co-operation. She would have been very glad indeed of the money of England, bat she had so far favoured the very aggressions of Buonaparte of which she now complained as to receive Hanover from him, and could not even now find it in her heart to surrender it, and make a powerful friend by that act of justice. The emperor of Russia was Willing to cu- operate, but Prussia had made her hostile manifestations before Alexander could approach with his army. In reply to the intimations of Prussia, that she would be glad of the support of England, lord Morpeth was sent to Berlin; but the language of the Prussian ministry was still of the most selfish and impolitic character, and Lucchesini told lord Morpeth that the fate of Hanover must depend on the event of the coming war. With such a power no union could take place, and in this isolated and pitiable condition Prussia was left to try her strength with Napoleon. As for that ambitious soldier, he desired nothing so much as this encounter with Prussia; he saw in it the only obstacle to his complete dominion over Germany, and he was confident that he should scatter her armies at the first shock. He issued an address to his troops full of this confidence: - "They have dared," he said, "to demand that we should retreat at the first sight of their army. Fools! could they not reflect how impossible they found it to approach Paris - a task incomparably more easy than to tarnish the honour of the Great Nation! Let the Prussian army expect the same fate which they encountered fourteen years ago, since experience has not taught them that, while it is easy to acquire additional dominions and increase of power by the friendship of France, her enmity, on the contrary, which will only be provoked by those who are wholly destitute of sense and reason, is more terrible than the tempests of the ocean."

The Prussian people, however, on their part, were clamorous for war; they still prided themselves on the victories of Frederick, called the Great, and the students and young nobles were full of bravado. They expressed their contempt of the French and their desire to fight them by going and sharpening their swords on the door-steps of La Foret, the French ambassador, and they broke the windows of such ministers as they believed to be in the French interest. But, unfortunately, they had not generals like Frederick to place at the head of their armies. The duke of Brunswick, who, in his youth, had shown much bravery in the Seven Years' War, but who had been most unfortunate in his invasion of France, in 1792, was now, in his seventy-second year, placed in chief command, to compete with Napoleon. In his best days the duke would, probably, not have been able to compete with Buonaparte in strategy, but now he was grown close and sullen, admitted none of the other generals to his confidence except Möllendorf, and this excited a disgust amongst the officers, who ought to have been inspired with zeal by him.

Nothing could exceed the folly of his plan of the campaign. The whole force of Prussia, including its auxiliaries, amounted only to about one hundred and fifty thousand men. Of these the Saxons, who had reluctantly united with Prussia, and had only been forced into co-operation by the Prussians marching into their country, and, in a manner, compelling them, were worse than lukewarm in the cause; they were ready at any moment to join the French. Besides these, and the troops of Hesse-Cassel, they had not an ally except the distant Russians. On the other hand, Napoleon had a considerably superior army of his own in advance, and he had immense forces behind the Rhine, for he had anticipated a whole year's conscription. He had, moreover, his flanks protected by his friendly confederates of the Rhine, ready co come forward, if necessary. Under such circumstances, Prussia's policy ought to have been to delay action, by negotiation or otherwise, till the Russians could come up, and then to have concentrated her troops so as to resist, by their momentum, the onset of the confident and battle-practised French. But, so far from taking these precautions, the duke of Brunswick rushed forward at once into Franconia, into the very face of Buonaparte, and long before he could have the assistance of Russia. Instead of concentrating his forces, Brunswick had stretched them out over a line of ninety miles in length. He and the king had their headquarters at Weimar; their left, under prince Hohenlohe, was at Schleitz, and their right extended as far as Mühlhausen. The Prussians, in fact, appeared rather to be occupying cantonments than drawn into military position for a great contest. Besides this, they had roused the ill-will of their Saxon allies by the insolent and oppressive manner in which they had behaved in Saxony.

The Prussians, in truth, were in a condition of corrupt imbecility, that could no more stand against the genius and energy of Buonaparte than an old, rotten wall against a hurricane. If our English statesmen had known the condition of Germany at that time, as they ought to have known it before subsidising it as they had done to such an extent, they would have saved their money, and have awaited the regeneration which must come out of suffering and humiliation. The moral condition of Prussia at this moment is thus described by Wolfgang Menzel, one of the ablest historians of Germany, and the description would apply to Germany generally: - " All the higher officers of the army were old men, promotion depending not upon merit but upon length of service. The younger officers were radically bad, owing to their airs of nobility and licentious garrison life. Their manners and principles were equally vulgar. Women, horses, dogs, and gambling formed the staple of their conversation. They despised all solid learning, and when decorated on parade, in their enormous cocked hats and plumes, powdered wigs and queus, tight breeches and great boots, they swore at and cudgelled the men, and strutted about with conscious heroism. The arms used by the soldiery were heavy, and apt to hang fire; their tight uniform was inconvenient for action, and useless as a protection against the weather; and their food, bad of its kind, was stinted by the avarice of the colonels, which was carried to such an extent, that soldiers were to be seen, who, instead of a waistcoat, had a small bit of cloth sewn on the lower part of the uniform, where the waistcoat was usually visible. Worst of all, however, was the bad spirit that pervaded the army - the enervation consequent upon immorality. Even before the opening of the war, lieutenant Henry von Bulow, a retired officer of the greatest military genius, at that period, in Germany, and, on that account, misunderstood, foretold the inevitable defeat of Prussia, and, although far from being a devotee, declared that the cause of the national ignorance lay chiefly in the atheism and demoralisation produced by the government of Frederick IL, the enlightenment so highly praised in the Prussian states consisting simply in a loss of energy and power."

Buonaparte, confident of his triumph over an army at once so demoralised and ignorantly proud, commenced his campaign by addressing a letter to the king on the 8th of October, in which he insulted him on his letter to himself, which he compared to a wretched pamphlet, such as the government of England hired wretched scribes at five hundred a-year to write; and lie vented much disgraceful abuse of the queen in it, and much on prince Louis. Perceiving the fatal separation of the Prussians from each other, and from their supplies at Naumburg, be determined to cut their army in two, and then to cut off and seize their magazines at this place. He therefore ordered the French right wing, under Soult and Ney, to march upon Hof, while the centre, under Bernadotte and Davoust, with the guard commanded by Murat, advanced on Saalburg and Sclileitz. The left wing, under Augereau, proceeded towards Saalfield and Coburg. The first of the French generals who came into action was Lannes, who marched from Graffenthal and assaulted prince Louis, who was in charge of the bridge over the Saal. Louis, with an inconceivable folly, quitted that post, which, well defended, must have covered the magazines at Naumburg from the French, and advanced to Saalfield, where he was defeated and killed. He had shown as much courage as he had showed little strategy, and, contending hand to band with a French subaltern, that officer called on him to surrender; instead of which, he gave the officer a cut with his sword, who, in return, ran him through the body. The way to Naumburg was now open, and the French marched upon it. Buonaparte, more certain now than ever of victory, could not help writing another letter to the king of Prussia, at once taunting him, and offering to make peace with him, on condition that he abandoned his evil counsellors, and allied himself to France.

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