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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 2


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Nothing could be more just or more excellent than the sentiments and arguments of this letter; but, unfortunately, circumstances, on both sides, were such as really precluded any hope of making peace. England, with its notions that it must include all the continental nations in its treaties for peace, saw Italy under the foot of France; Holland and Belgium in the same condition; Bavaria, Baden, "Wurtemberg, and other smaller German states, allied with France against the other German states. "With her notions, it was impossible for her to conclude a peace without stipulating for the return of these states to the status quo; and, was Buonaparte likely to accede to such terms? Certainly not. On the contrary, we shall see that, at this very moment, besides being in forcible possession of Hanover, George III.'s patrimony, he had been exercising the most unwarrantable violences towards our ambassadors in various German states, and was, at this very moment, contemplating making himself king of Italy, and was forcibly annexing Genoa, contrary to the treaty of Luneville, to the Cisalpine republic - that is, to the French state in Italy. "Whilst he was thus perpetuating want of confidence in him, on the other hand, a league for résistance to his encroachments was already formed betwixt England, Russia, Sweden, and Austria. Peace, therefore, on the diplomating principles then existing, was impossible, and Napoleon must have known it well. True, we had no longer any right to complain of the expulsion of the Bourbons from France, seeing that the nation had ostensibly chosen a new government and a new royal family, any more than France had a right to attack us because we had expelled the Stuarts and adopted the line of Brunswick. But even to this stage of political philosophy we had not yet attained; though we had, by the peace of Amiens, once seemed to recognise the right of nations choosing their own government, as we had long before done it in our own case. Austria, indeed, was anxious that we should treat for peace, and, could we have been content to have left other nations to settle their own affairs, we might have made a peace, which, doubtless, would not have been very permanent. In fact, the very nature of Napoleon was. incompatible with rest; for, as lord Byron says, truly, " Quiet to quick, bosoms is a hell." Buonaparte had repeatedly avowed that he must be warlike. " My power," he said, " depends upon my glory; my glory on my victories. My power would fall, if I did not support it by fresh glory and new victories. Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest alone can maintain me. A newly-born government, like mine, must dazzle and astonish. "When it ceases to do that, it falls." "With such an avowal as that, in entire keeping with his character, there must be constant aggressions by him on the continent: the question was, were we to make ourselves the active opponents of such aggressions? England then thought so, and, accordingly, the English government replied to Buonaparte by a polite evasion. As England had not recognised Napoleon's new title, the king could not answer his letter himself. It was answered by lord Mulgrave, the secretary for foreign affairs, addressed to M. Talleyrand, as the foreign secretary of France, and simply stated that England could not make any proposals regarding peace till she had consulted her allies, and particularly the emperor of Russia. The letter of Buonaparte and this curt reply were published in the Moniteur, accompanied with remarks tending to convince the French that the most heartfelt desires of peace by the emperor were repelled by England, and that a storm was brewing in the north, which would necessitate the emperor's reappearance in the field. But, before opening this next great scene of his victories, in which he completely realised his assertion in his letter to the king of England, that a continental coalition could only increase the preponderance and continental greatness of France, we must notice his conduct to our continental ambassadors, to which we have only as yet simply alluded.

Buonaparte was not only well aware at the time that he made his well-feigned overture for peace, that England had formed a close alliance with Russia and Sweden, to resist the designs of himself on Germany, but he was employing the most universal system of espionage and stratagem, to implicate our ambassadors, at various courts, in charges of encouraging assassination of himself - and, to a great extent he succeeded. The practice of employing their ambassadors at foreign courts to excite hostility towards nations that they were at feud with, and even to organise plans of damage to them, had become too ordinary a part of the system of European diplomacy. This was a gross and dishonourable perversion of the legitimate duties and privilegea of ambassadors, who are ostensibly present in foreign countries to promote a good understanding there betwixt their respective governments. For this reason, ambassadors are clothed with peculiar immunities and safeguards; and, when they step out of their proper and acknowledged functions to promote strife and suspicion betwixt nations, they cease to be ambassadors, and become spies and incendiaries. England had not been more delicate and scrupulous in restraining her ambassadors from such incendiary practices than other nations. She had greatly resented the sending of military engineers to England, by Buonaparte, in the character of consuls, yet she had allowed her ambassadors in différent countries, and especially in Germany, to intrigue, with real or professed agents of the royalists, against the present government of France. True, we were at war with France, but it was not the business of our ambassadors in Bavaria, "Wurtemberg, and other German states now in alliance with France, to promote these plots against France. It was their duty, then, to avoid such doings, because they must be offensive to the states to which they were accredited, and, as a matter of sound policy, because they must be exposed there to the insidious attacks of French agents, those states being in alliance with France. But our ambassadors at Munich and at Stuttgard were not only allowed to act thus dishonestly, but they were entrapped by the arts of Buonaparte, and brought great discredit on England.

Buonaparte, to inveigle the British ambassadors, and, through them, to disgrace England, and justify his own continual violation of the laws of nations, employed a most consummate scoundrel, named Mehée de la Touche. This man had been (originally a quack doctor of Neufchâtel, and had run the whole career of the révolution as a full-length jacobin. He had been sent to Russia and Poland on jacobinising expeditions - had been discovered, and driven out of these countries. He had then become active in ail the terrible doings of the jacobins in Paris; had been secretary of the desperate commune of the 10th of August, and, as such, signed the documents authorising the massacres of September. Like many other fierce sans culottes, he had vowed to employ his dagger against any man who should présumé to make himself king of France; but, like numbers of others, he had become the pliant tool of Buonaparte, and the submissive agent of the very worst practices of a monarchy - those of espionage and seduction. He had learned his art well, successively, under Tallien, Real, and Fouché. He had been transported by Buonaparte, for interfering in the matter of his concordat, to Oleron, and had got back to England as a now confirmed royalist; but, under this character of a royalist, he had really entered into the pay of Réal, Buonaparte's agent of police. He was now dispatched to Germany, to enter into communications with the English ambassadors at Munich and Stuttgard, and to induce them, if possible, to encourage pretended plans of assassination of Buonaparte. These ambassadors - Mr. Drake, at Munich, and Mr. Spencer Smith, at Stuttgard - fell into the snare. They appear clearly to have never suspected that the soiisant agents of the royalists - Mehée de la Touche, and a captain Rosey, who was at once watching La Touche and the English envoys - were the emissaries of Buonaparte himself. They grossly committed themselves in their interviews with these agents, in encouraging plans of annoyance to France, though they appear to have stopped short of any suggestions or approval of assassination of the emperor.

But Buonaparte thought he had sufficient evidence to render them suspected of even this hateful and un-English crime. He therefore caused his grand judge, M. Regnier, to draw up a report, charging Drake and Smith with violating the sacred character of ambassadors, by encouraging insurrection in France, and by hiring brigands and assassins against the emperor. This report was sent to every court on the continent; and not only the German, Dutch, Belgian, and Italian states under the power of France, but Prussia and the United States of America joined in one indignant expression of detestation of the conduct of Great Britain. It mattered not that Buonaparte himself had dragged the duke d'Enghein from Ettenheim, in the neutral state of Baden, and assassinated him, nor that he was more than suspected of the murders of Pichegru and Wright in prison, and that he had outraged the laws of nations and the rights of individuals in a thousand ways; he made his dispatches and the press of Paris resound with the breach of the laws on the part of England, as if he were the most innocent person existing. To corroborate the report of the grand judge, La Touche drew up a statement of his intercourse with the two accused British ministers, and openly gloried in having so completely deceived them. The incaution of these ambassadors, to say nothing of the morality of their conduct, was certainly most disgraceful, for the character of La Touche was notorious in France, and his pretences of being a royalist could at once bave been tested by reference to the royalists themselves. Buonaparte headed, with his own hand, this statement of his spy, with the title of " Alliance of the Jacobins of France with the English Ministry," and circulated it with all activity, in France and other countries, in the form of a pamphlet. It was roundly asserted, too, in the Moniteur, that our ambassadors - Taylor, at Hesse-Cassel, Elliot, at Naples, Hookham Frere, at Madrid - and the rest of our continental ministers generally, were guilty of the same practices.

The same charge was made against Sir George Rumbold, our agent at Hamburg. Sir George was particularly hated by Buonaparte for his exposure of his endeavour to force the senate of Hamburg to insert Rheinhardt's offensive articles, against England in the state gazette. He therefore suddenly made a dash at Sir George, as he had done at the duke d'Enghein, although Hamburg was a free and independent city. At the dead of night, on the 25th of October, 1804, a detachment of two hundred and fifty French soldiers was sent across the Elbe, surrounded Sir George's house, in the village of Grindel, and demanded entrance, on the pretence of having brought dispatches. Sir George refused to admit such couriers, and his doors were immediately forced; he was seized, his house thoroughly ransacked for his papers, and then he was hurried across the Elbe, and carried to Hanover, and thence to Paris, where he was thrown into the Temple. This was the act of a lawless tyrant and freebooter; for, even could Buonaparte have proved what he charged against Sir George, he had, by the laws of nations, ample means of proceeding against him by application to the authorities of Hamburg. The outrage committed on the rights of that free city was monstrous. But no such charges could be substantiated by the examination of Sir George's papers, or by any other means; and Bourrienne, who was Napoleon's agent at Hamburg at the time, says, that not only could nothing of the kind be proved against Sir George, but that ail charges against the British agents anywhere, of countenancing assassination, were equally unsupported. He says: " During nearly six years that I passed in Hamburg, as minister from France, I was in a situation to know everybody and everything. I can declare that neither in the exercise of my official functions, nor in my private intercourse, did I discover anything which gave me cause to believe that the English government had ever contrived any of the plots which dishonoured alike those who conceived and those who encouraged them."

The English ministers were expelled, in consequence of Buonaparte's representations, both from Munich and Stuttgard, and had much difficulty in escaping out of Germany, the gens-d'armes of the French police being on the alert to kidnap them. An English Courier from Vienna to Hamburg was seized by them, his papers taken away, and himself left tied to a tree in the forest, where he was fortunately observed and released by an old woman before he expired from hunger. Sir George Rumbold had been too cautious and honourable in his conduct. Nothing to criminate him being found in his papers, and his lawless arrest exciting great indignation in Europe, at the intercession of Prussia he was liberated, and allowed to return to England, but not to Hamburg. Another circumstance, equally disgraceful to Buonaparte, terminated in a similar manner.

Lord Elgin, as we have stated, was amongst the English seized at the sudden breach of the peace of Amiens, as he was hastening home through France. He had been allowed to live at large on his parole till about the time of the arrest of Pichegru and Georges Cadoudal; he was then suddenly seized, and conveyed to the gloomy Castle of Lourdes, in the Pyrenees. What took place there we have from his lord- ship's own account, given to Sir Walter Scott, and published in his " Life of Napoleon." The commandant of the Castle, whom lord Elgin had known, received him with profound gravity, as a perfect stranger, and treated him with so much asperity and privation, that an ordinary person would have been betrayed into some imprudences of expression; but lord Elgin had been ambassador at Constantinople, and was, moreover, well acquainted with France, and the modes of political action there. He was calm and unmoved. The commandant then allowed him to walk in a court, where he found a person who soon accosted him, and pretended to be a royalist, and to sympathise with him. His lordship did not grant him an opportunity of continuing his conversation, much less did he give him any reply. He refused to re-enter the court; and though the man had the assurance to endeavour to attract his attention at his window, he took no notice of him. As it was evident that no advantage could be obtained over him, he was discharged, and allowed to return to Pau, where he had been residing on parole. But even there he was not permitted to escape the attempts of the French government. The woman in whose house he lodged one day handed him a packet, which, she said, had been left by a woman from the country, who would call for an answer. But the practised diplomatist was on his guard. He bade the woman remain in the room whilst he opened the packet, and read the letters which it contained. There were several, and they were all from the pretended State prisoner at the Castle of Lourdes. One was to himself, giving an account of the alleged cause of his confinement - an attempt to burn the French fleet - and detailing the whole plan, as a thing that an Englishman would like to know. The other letters were- addressed to the count d'Artois and other leading royalists, which his lordship was requested to forward. As soon as he had finished their perusal lie thrust them all into the fire, and, when they were wholly consumed, he told the woman she might go, and he added emphatically, that any letters sent to him through any medium except the post he would forward at once to the governor of the town. He next informed the prefect of the department of the avowed plot for burning the fleet, on condition that no steps should be taken regarding it, unless it came to the public knowledge through some other Channel. Lord Elgin was afterwards informed by M. Fargues, a Senator of the district, that the whole plot had been got up in Paris; and all the letters pretending to come from the state prisoner at Lourdes to himself, to the count d'Artois, and the rest, had been written in Paris and sent down to Pau, in the full expectation that they would be found in his possession, and so would be used as evidence against him; that as to any plot for burning the fleet, it was a mere invention; the only plot had been against himself. " Had lord Elgin," says Scott, " shown one iota less prudence and presence of mind, he must have been entangled in the snare so treacherously spread for him. Had he even engaged in ten minutes' conversation with the villainous spy at Lourdes, it would have been in the power of such a wretch to represent the import after his own pleasure; or had his lordship retained the packet of letters, even for half an hour, in his possession, which he might have most innocently done, he would, probably, have been seized with them upon his person; and it must, in that case, have been impossible for him to repel such accusations as Buonaparte would have no doubt founded on a circumstance so suspicious."

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