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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 5


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To the sultan Selim these advantages were, however, lost. His subjects, or rather the osmanlis and janissaries, had rebelled, and, before the second of the sea-fights with the Russians, lie had ceased to reign. Selim had commenced a very necessary, but very perilous, system of reforms in his empire. Two of his immediate predecessors had made some slight movements in that direction, but Selim, without possessing the callous and determined character necessary to enable a prince, in a corrupt and fanatic nation, to succeed, had entered on very extensive innovations. From the moment of mounting the throne, he had set about to break down some of those religious prejudices which the doctrines of the Koran foster, and which had stopped all progress of knowledge and civilisation in the realm. He had surrounded himself with Europeans and Greeks, who were acquainted with other countries, and the arts and more liberal customs of those countries. He had encouraged his wealthier subjects to travel themselves, so as to weaken their prejudices, and lie had sent ambassadors to reside in the principal courts of Europe. These measures might have passed with impunity, but Selim set himself also to reform his army, and model it and equip it after the fashion of the European armies; and here he Struck against a formidable power, which ruined him: he aroused the jealousy of the janissaries he introduced a new army on the European model, called the " nizam-gedittes." These were clothed in a costume nearly approaching that of the Christian armies - a measure which excited the deep resentment of the great bady of the people, who regarded this as an actual abandonment of the national faith. They were like the European troops, and were commanded by French, Italian, and other European officers. These troops amounted to ten thousand, and to them was attached a small corps of artillerymen, who had been taught by the French to manage the light field-pieces, which had been presented to the sultan by the French directory, in 1796. These nizam-gedittes were lodged in splendid barracks, built purposely for them, and the cost was met by some new taxes, which were extremely unpopular, and which were collected with considerable rigour. All, however, remained quiet so long as the mufti, or head of the religious system, was friendly; but the friendly one died, and a new one succeeded, who was a fiery fanatic, and utterly hostile to every reform, and to sultan Selim for their introduction. The osmanlis, under his encouragement, began to foment disaffection and resistance amongst the people. The janissaries, mortally jealous of the new troops, and of the general reform of the army, seized the occasion to show their animus. They demanded, on the breaking out of the war of 1806, to be sent against the Russians, though, from their want of discipline, they were sure to be beaten, and thus the nizam-geditte3 were kept back from this service, for which they were far better adapted, and the sultan was, moreover, from this demand of the janissaries, compelled to separate his model troops, and send part of them into Asia Minor. The odas of the janissaries having thus broken down the reliable guard of the sultan showed every Symptom of rebellion. At this moment the sultan most injudiciously attempted to carry out some of his military reforms. He determined to dress and discipline the yamacks, or assistants at the batteries, after the European fashion, and incorporate them in the nizam-gedittes. At the end of May, and whilst still menaced by the Russian fleets, the sultan sent Mahmoud-Effendi to the Castles of the Bosporus, to put the men into the new dresses. These yamacks consisted of wild and ferocious Albanians, Georgians, Circassians, and other adventurers. The moment the effendi unpacked the blue jackets and tight trousers, these desperadoes feil upon him, and endeavoured to strangle him. The nizam-gedittes flew to his assistance, and he escaped as far as the village of Buyukderé, where both he and his secretary were killed. In the meantime, the nizam-gedittes and the yamacks were engaged in a murderous struggle. The nizam-gedittes were worsted, and such as survived retreated to Constantinople. The yamacks assembled in great numbers, put one Cabakchy-Oglou, an ignorant and desperate ruffian, at their head, and sent word to the janissaries that now was the time to stand forward in defence of their ancient privileges and customs. The Spanish ambassador, who was in the village of Buyukderé, near which the yamacks were encamped, hasten ed to Constantinople, and warned the ministers of the danger; but they remained inactive in their fatalism, and, on the 29th of May, Cabakchy-Oglou was in Constantinople at the head of his fanatic yamacks. These were instantly joined by the janissaries, the galiongees, or sailors of the fleet, the topgees, or cannoneers, and by a vast mob. They proclaimed death to all who had been concerned in carrying out the reforming decrees of the sultan, and ministers and officials of all kinds were murdered, and their bleeding heads piled around the Greek obelisk facing the grand mosque of Santa Sophia. The mufti and oulemas were in secret concert with these bloody reactionists, and they next proceeded to depose sultan Selim, and place his cousin Mustapha on the throne in his stead. Had the sultan been as bloody and determined as themselves, he would have taken off Mustapha's head, for he had him safe in the seraglio, and have fallen on the yamacks with his nizam-gedittes; but Selim was of too gentle and too unsanguinary a disposition to carry through great reforms amongst fanatic mussulmans; he submitted quietly, was removed, and Mustapha installed in his place. Selim was not immediately bow-stringed, but Mustapha did not spare him long. All reform was then, for a time, stopped; the janissaries and the yamacks retained all their old supremacy, and the French obtained all the influence they coveted with the new sultan.

One of the events of the early part of this year was the capture of the Dutch island of Curaçoa, by a squadron under captain Brisbane; but by far the most prominent naval transaction of the year was the seizure of the Danish fleet off Copenhagen - a proceeding which occasioned severe censures on England by Buonaparte and the continental nations under his domination. The opposition at home were equally violent in the outcry against this act, as in open violation of the laws of nations, Denmark then being nominally at peace with us. But, though nominally at peace, Denmark was at heart greatly embittered against us by our bombardment of its capital in 1801, and it was equally disposed to fall into and obey the views of Napoleon, who was now master of ail Germany, at peace with Russia through the treaty of Tilsit - yet to be related - and, therefore, able any day to overrun Denmark. Buonaparte was enforcing his system of exclusion of England from ail the ports of the continent, and it was inevitable that he would compel Denmark to comply with this system. But there was another matter: Denmark had a considerable fleet and admirable seamen, and he might employ the fleet greatly to our damage, probably in endeavouring to realise his long-cherished scheme of the invasion of England; at the least, in interrupting her commerce, and capturing her merchantmen. The English ministers were privately informed that Buonaparte intended to make himself master of this fleet, and they knew that there were private articles in the treaty of Tilsit, betwixt Russia and France, by which he contemplated great changes m the; north, in which Denmark was believed to be involved. Upon these grounds alone the English government was justified, by the clearest expressions of international law, in taking time by the forelock, and possessing themselves of the fleet to be turned against them; not to appropriate it, but to hold it in pledge till peace. Grotius is decisive on this point: - "I may, without considering whether it is manifest or not, take possession of that which belongs to another man, if I have reason to apprehend any evil to my- self from his holding it. I cannot make myself master or proprietor of it, the property having nothing to do with the end which I propose; but I can keep possession of the thing seized till my safety be sufficiently provided for." This view would fully have justified the English government, had nothing farther ever become known. But since peace and altered circumstances have taken place, research in the foreign office of France has placed these matters in their true light. The treaty of Tilsit is found to contain, as was then asserted, certain secret articles by which Alexander was permitted by Napoleon to invade and appropriate Finland, and Napoleon was authorised by Alexander to enter Denmark, and take possession of the Danish fleet, to employ against us at sea. These secret articles, revealed to the British government by a party cognizant of them, produced the measure we are about to detail, and the now established proofs of their existence present the full justification of the deed. Fouché, in his memoirs, admits the knowledge of these secret articles. " The success of the attack on Copenhagen," he says, " was the first thing which deranged the secret article of the treaty of Tilsit, by virtue of which the navy of Denmark was to be put at the disposal of France. Since the catastrophe of Paul I., I had never seen Napoleon in such a transport of rage. That which struck him most in this vigorous coup de main was the promptitude and resolution of the English ministry." No man at this time was so virtuously indignant as Alexander of Russia at thus assailing a power not actually at war. He issued a manifesto against England, denouncing the transaction as one which, for infamy, had no parallel in history, he himself being in the act of doing the same thing on a far larger scale, and without that sufficient cause which England could show, and without any intention of making restitution. We only seized a fleet which was on the point of being turned against us, and to be returned at the end of the war; he invaded Sweden, while at peace, and, without any declaration of war, usurped a whole country - Finland, larger than Great Britain. Russia, in fact, had brought Denmark into this destructive dilemma by its insidious policy; but, having seized Finland, in five years more it committed a still greater robbery on Denmark than it had done on Sweden, by contracting with Bernadotte to wrest Norway from Denmark, and give it to Sweden. For the reasons here stated, early in the summer a powerful fleet was fitted out with the utmost dispatch and secrecy by the new ministry, and dispatched to the Baltic. The fleet consisted of twenty-five sail of the line, more than forty frigates, sloops, bomb-vessels, and gun-brigs, with three hundred and seventy-seven transports to convey over twenty-seven thousand troops from Stralsund, a great part of which were Germans in British pay. Admiral Gambier commanded the fleet, and lord Cathcart the army, having second in command Sir Arthur Wellesley, whose services in India and Portugal already placed him second to none in reputation. On the 1st of August the British fleet was off the entrance of Gothenburg, and admiral Gambier sent commodore Keats into the Great Belt to cut off any passage from Holstein for the defence of Copenhagen. Admiral Gambier himself entered the Sound, passed the castles without any attack from them, and anchored in Elsinore Beads. By the 9th of August the whole fleet and. the transports were collected there, and Mr. Jackson, who had been many years British envoy in the north of Germany, and knew most of the Danish ministers, was dispatched to Kiel, in Holstein, where the crown prince lay with an army of from twenty thousand to thirty thousand men, to endeavour to induce him to enter into an alliance with Great Britain, and to deliver the fleet to its keeping till the peace, stating the sad necessity that the English commanders would otherwise be under of taking possession of it by force. The crown prince, though the British had made it impossible to cross over and defend the fleet, received the overture with the utmost indignation, and is said to have upbraided the English for not having succoured their ally the emperor of Russia, attributing the subsequent success of the French to this neglect, and the treaty of Tilsit as its crowning result. This was simply saying that neither Russia nor any part of the Continent was capable of making war without England. Mr. Jackson returned to admiral Gambier, and the crown prince sent a messenger in all haste to order Copenhagen to be put into a state of defence. But there was scarcely a gun upon the walls, and the whole amount of population within them, exclusive of the sailors, was twelve or thirteen thousand men, inclusive of five thousand five hundred volunteers and militia. On the 11th, the crown prince himself and his suite crossed over from Holstein to Copenhagen, the English fleet allowing him to pass unmolested. He gave fresh commands to hurry- on the defences, and then himself crossed into Jutland. After being detained by contrary winds, admiral Gambier advanced up the Sound, on the 16th landed part of the forces at Wedbeck, and then sailed forward and cast anchor before Copenhagen. There the commanders issued a proclamation expressing the most friendly feelings towards the prince and people of Denmark, but stating the reasons which rendered it necessary to prevent the Danish fleet being made subservient to the designs of France, and pledging the British government that, if the fleet were delivered up as a deposit to England, it should be faithfully restored at a general peace. If this offer were refused, then the responsibility would remain with Denmark, admitting the impossibility of any force being able to prevent the capture of the ships. The prince issued a counter proclamation, ordering the seizure of all British vessels and property. On the 17th, during a calm, a number of Danish gunboats came out of the harbour, fired at some of our transports coming from Stralsund, burnt an English vessel, and attacked with round and grape shot the picquets of lord Cathcart's army. These vessels were driven back again by bombshells, and that evening admiral Gambier took up a nearer station north-east of the crown battery, the Trekroner. He then proceeded to surround the whole of the island of Zealand, on which Copenhagen stands, with our vessels. The division of the army landed at Wedbeck having now marched up, was joined by other divisions, and proceeded to entrench themselves in the suburbs of Copenhagen. They were attacked by the gun-boats, but, on the 27th, they had covered themselves by a good battery, and they then turned their cannon on the gun-boats, and soon compelled them to draw off. On the 29th, Sir Arthur Wellesley marched to Keoge, against a body of Danish troops which had strongly fortified themselves there in Order to assail the besiegers, and he quickly routed them. The Danish troops then made several dashing sorties from Copenhagen, while their praams, gun-boats, and floating batteries attacked our advanced vessels, and managed, by a ball from the Trekroner, to blow up one of our transports. The French had now arrived at Stralsund, and commodore Keats was sent to blockade that port, to prevent their crossing over into Zealand; nothing but the extreme rapidity of the movements of the British preventing a powerful army of French being already in Copenhagen for its defence.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 5

Hall of the council
Hall of the council >>>>
Chateau of Fontainebleau
Chateau of Fontainebleau >>>>
Napoleon extricating artillery
Napoleon extricating artillery >>>>
Turkish vessels
Turkish vessels >>>>
Attack on Seraglio
Attack on Seraglio >>>>
General Murat
General Murat >>>>
Napoleon and Alexander
Napoleon and Alexander >>>>
General Junot
General Junot >>>>
Ancona
Ancona >>>>
Borghese
Borghese >>>>
Royal shield of Spain
Royal shield of Spain >>>>
Ferdinand of Spain resigning his crows
Ferdinand of Spain resigning his crows >>>>
Dangan Castle
Dangan Castle >>>>
Sir Arthur Wellesley
Sir Arthur Wellesley >>>>
Marshal Soult
Marshal Soult >>>>
The defiles of Corunna
The defiles of Corunna >>>>
Burial of Sir John Moore
Burial of Sir John Moore >>>>

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