OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

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

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 <8> 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Having, however, to their present satisfaction, arranged this programme of future robberies, the two emperors broke up the conference on the twentieth day, the treaty betwixt Russia and France having been signed on the 7th, and that between France and Prussia on the 9th of July. Frederick William published an address to the provinces which were rent from him, expressive of his deep grief, but also expressive of an undeclared but not abandoned hope. He said, in conclusion, neither force nor fate should ever efface the remembrance of them from his heart. Buonaparte returned to France the triumphant master of nearly the whole continent. He might be said, indeed, to rule the whole of it, by direct domination, or by the terror of his arms. His passage through Germany was distinguished by the flocking round of almost all that had rank or distinction to do him a slavish homage. The picture drawn of the mind and condition of Germany at this moment, by Wolfgang Menzel, one of their best and most impartial historians, is most humiliating: -

" The whole of western Europe bowed in lowly submission before the genius of Napoleon. Russia was bound by the silken chains of flattery; England, Turkey, Sweden, and Portugal alone bade him defiance. England, whose fleets ruled the European seas, who lent her aid to his enemies, and instigated their opposition, was his most dangerous foe. By a gigantic measure, known as the continental system, he sought to undermine her power; but his attempt to ruin the commerce of England recoiled ruinously on himself. But the continent, meantime, paid him a base homage. Napoleon returned to Germany in the autumn of 1808, to make more determinate arrangements with Alexander of Russia and his German satellites for the movement on Spain. For this purpose, he held a personal conference, in October, at Erfurth, whither the princes of Germany hastened to pay their homage, humbly as their ancestors of yore to the conquering Attila. The Company of actors, brought in Napoleon's train from Paris, boasted of gaining the plaudits of a royal parterre, and a French sentinel, happening to call to the watch to present arms to one of the kings there dancing attendance, was reproved by his officer with the observation, ' Ce n'est qu'un roi!' Both emperors, for the purpose of offering a marked insult to Prussia, attended a great hare hunt on the battle-field of Jena. The kings of Bavaria, Würtemberg, Westphalia, Saxony, the prince primate, the hereditary prince of Baden and of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the duke of Weimar, the princes of Hohenzollern, Hesse-Rotenburg, and Hesse-Philipsthal, were present. No one belonging to the house of Austria was there; of that of Prussia, there was prince William, the king's brother. The Allgemeine Zeitung of that day noted, as a high honour paid to Goethe, the one hour's conversation held with him by Napoleon. Yet Wieland, oppressed by age, was allowed to stand an hour in Napoleon's presence, and his asking leave to retire from exhaustion was considered by Buonaparte as an unwarrantable liberty. The literary heroes of Weimar took no interest in the country from which they had received so deep a tribute of admiration; not a patriot sentiment escaped their lips. At the time that the deepest wound was inflicted on the Tyrol, Goethe gave to the world his frivolous ' Wolsslverwand- schaften,' followed by f poem in praise of Napoleon, of whom he says –

'Doubts that hare baffled thousands, he has solved;
Ideas o'er which centuries have brooded,
His giant mind intuitively compassed.'

"The period immediately subsequent to the fall of the ancient empire forms the blackest page in the history of Germany. The whole of the left bank of the Rhine was annexed to France; the people groaned beneath exorbitant taxes and the conscription. The commerce on the Rhine had almost entirely ceased. The great and dangerous robber bands of Damian Hessel and of Schinderhannes afford abundant proof of the demoralised condition of the country. In "Wurtemberg, the new aristocracy, modelled on that of France, was unbearable. The conscription and taxes were crushing, and the peasants were ruined by the great hunts which Matthisson, the court poet, celebrated as festivals of Diana. Personal freedom was restricted by innumerable decrees; freedom of speech was strictly re- pressed. A swarm of informers ensnared those whom the secret police were unable to entrap. The secrecy of letters was violated. Trials in criminal cases were no longer allowed to be public; sentences were passed in political cases, not by the judges, but at the despots' caprice. The people were disarmed, and not even the inhabitants of solitary farms and hamlets were allowed to possess arms to defend themselves against wolves and robbers. The members of the higher aristocracy were compelled, under pain of being deprived of a third of their income, to spend three months in the year at court. The Citizens were oppressed by a variety of new taxes, and by newly-created monopolies of tobacco, salt, &c., and by the tenfold rise of the excise and customs duties.

" In Bavaria, patriotism was more unknown than in any other part of Germany. Christopher von Aretin, in 1810, published a work against the few German patriots still remaining, whom he denounced as preachers of Germanism, criminals, and traitors, by whom the Rhenish confederation was polluted. Charles von Dalberg, the prince-primate, and grand duke of Frankfurt, flattered the foreign tyrant to an extent unsurpassed by the other base sycophants abounding at the time. He would fold his hands, and invoke blessings from the Most High on the almighty ruler of the earth, and celebrate his victories with hymns of joy, whilst his ministers tyrannised over the people. In Würtzburg, Saxe-Coburg, but perhaps above all in Saxe-Weimar, the same base adulation reigned. There the great poets assembled by the deceased duchess Amalia, scattered unceasing incense around Napoleon; but no one came near John Müller, the historian. In au address to the estates of Westphalia he said: - ' It is a marked peculiarity of the nations of Germany, that whenever God, in His wisdom, resolved to bestow upon them a new kind, or a higher degree, of civilisation, the impulse has ever been given from without. This impulse was given to us by Napoleon - by him, before whom the earth is silent, God having given the whole world into his hands; nor can Germany, at the present period, have a wish ungratified, Napoleon having recognised her as the nursery of European civilisation. Too sublime to condescend to every-day polity, he has given durability to Germany. Happy nation what an interminable vista of glory opens to thy view!' We might name a host of similar writers crawling at the feet of Buonaparte. Crome and Zschokke, a native of Magdeburg, naturalised in Switzerland, who declared that Napoleon had done more for Swiss independence than William Teil, Murhard, Schütz, Kosegarten, Benturini, who declared Buonaparte to be ' a second incarnation of the Deity - a second saviour of the world; ' and Posselt, who, in his ' European Annals,' exclaimed, ' Let us raise to Napoleon a national monument worthy of the first and only benefactor of the nations of Germany. Let his name be engraved, in gigantic letters of shining gold, on Germany's highest and steepest pinnacles, whence, lighted by the effulgent rays of morn, it may be visible far over the plains on which lie has bestowed a happy futurity!'

" Such was the deplorable condition into which Germany had now fallen; but the unprincipled address of Müller formed, as it were, the turning-point of German affairs. Self-degradation could go no further. The spirit of the sons of Germany began to rise; and with manly courage they sought, by their future actions, to wipe off the deep stain of their former guilt and dishonour. Amongst the un- bending few, Blucher, at that time governor of Pomerania, restrained his fiery nature, and endured in patience, silently brooding over deep and implacable revenge."

But the Swiss were not at all behind the Germans in the race of servility. The same historian says: - " The Swiss testified the greatest zeal on every occasion for the emperor Napoleon, celebrated his fête-day, and boasted of his protection, and of the freedom they were still permitted to enjoy. Freedom of thought was expressly prohibited. Sycophants in the pay of the foreign ruler - as, for instance, Zschokke - alone guided public opinion. The Swiss shed their blood in each and ail of Napoleon's campaigns, and aided him to reduce their kindred nations to abject slavery. They denounced any one as an enemy to his country who condemned the service of the Swiss soldiers in the French army. And such was the frightful prostitution of language introduced that the Landamann, on the opening of the Federal Diet, in 1806, lauded 'the omnipotent benevolence of the gracious mediator, the emperor Napoleon!'"

On the 29th of July Napoleon arrived at his palace of St. Cloud, and received the homage of the senate and other constituted bodies. The language of literary men there, too, vied with that of Germany. Lacepède, the celebrated naturalist, as speaker of the senate, declared that Napoleon had done, in the course of a few months, what it would seemingly have required ages to effect. He arrayed him in both omnipotence and omnipresence; and added - " We can- not offer your majesty praises worthy of you. Your glory is too much raised above us. It will be the task of posterity fully to estimate it." " So," says Sir Walter Scott, " spoke the président of the French senates; and who that wished to retain the name of a rational being, dared have said that, within the period of seven years, the same senate would be carrying to the downfallen and dejected king of Prussia their congratulations on his share in the overthrow of the very man whom they were now adoring as a demigod? "

The restless spirit of Buonaparte did not allow him any repose, even after his subjugation of the greater part of the north of Europe. Whilst he had been contending with the Russians, he had been planning fresh campaigns - fresh conquests at the opposite extremity of the continent. Godoy, the favourite of the king of Spain, and the paramour of his dissolute queen, who had professed great admiration of Buonaparte, seeing him so deeply engaged in Germany, had suddenly called out a considerable army, and addressed it in a vaunting but mysterious way. The news of this reached Buonaparte on the field of Jena, and, discovering by this means the real sentiments of the Spanish favourite towards him, he vowed vengeance on Spain. It was by no means the first time that he had contemplated the conquest of Spain and Portugal, but this circumstance inspired him with a new impulse in that direction, and a plausible excuse. In his interviews with Alexander of Russia, these views had been avowed; and now, no sooner had he returned to Paris than he commenced his operations for that purpose. He blended this scheme, at the same time, with his great one of shutting out the English trade from the whole continent. Russia had, by the treaty of Tilsit, entered into a compact to enforce this system in her ports. Holland was compelled to submit to it. The kingdom of Westphalia was now in the hands of his brother Jerome, who had been compelled to separate from his American wife, Elizabeth Paterson, and had been married to a daughter of the king of "Wurtemberg, so that the territories now comprised in the new kingdom of Westphalia were under the same law of exclusion. He had extended it to the Prussian ports since his conquest of that country, and to the Hanseatic towns. Denmark was ready to comply, and the treaty with Russia extended his embargo ostensibly to the whole western shores of the Baltic. But Alexander was as little faithful in this part of the treaty as in some others. In fact, he dared not strictly enforce the exclusion of British trade, were he so disposed. Nearly the whole heavy produce of Russia - hemp, iron, timber, wax, pitch, and naval stores, which constituted the chief revenues of the Russian boyards - was taken by the English, and paid for in their manufactures. To have cut off this trade would have made the life of Alexander as little secure as that of his father, Paul, had been. The Russian and English trade therefore continued, under certain devices, and notwithstanding the ukases of the czar to the contrary. Buonaparte knew it, but was not prepared to open up a new war with Russia on that account - at least, at present. He was now turning his attention to the south.

Spain and Portugal - still nominally existing under their native princes, but very much under the influence of Buonaparte - admitted British goods to a great extent. Buonaparte himself had winked at the introduction of them into Portugal, because that country had paid him large sums to permit it. But now he determined to enforce a rigid exclusion, and to make the breach of his dictated orders a plea for seizure of the country. In fact, he had long resolved to seize both Spain and Portugal, but to employ Spain first in reducing her neighbour, and by that very act to introduce his troops into Spain herself. He complained, therefore, that Portugal had refused to enforce the Berlin decree; and he entered into a treaty with Spain at Fontainebleau, which was signed on the 27th of October. By this infamous treaty, Spain agreed to assist France in seizing Portugal, which should be divided into three parts. The province of Entre Minho y Douro, with the town of Oporto, was to be given to the king of Etruria, the grand- son of the king of Spain, instead of Etruria itself, which Buonaparte wanted to annex to France, and this was to be called the kingdom of Northern Lusitania. The next part, to consist of Alentejo and the Algarves, was to be given to Godoy, the queen of Spain's paramour, who was to take the title of prince of the Algarves. The third, including the provinces of Tras-os-Montes, Beira, and Estremadura, was to remain in the hands of the French till the end of the war, who would thus be at hand to protect the whole. In fact, it never was the intention of Buonaparte that either Godoy or the king of Etruria, should ever be more than temporary puppets; but that the whole of Spain and Portugal should become provinces of France under a nominal French king.

No sooner was this treaty signed than Junot was ordered to cross the Bidasoa with thirty thousand men, and march through Spain for the Portuguese frontier. Two additional armies, partly of French and partly of Spaniards, supported him, and another army of forty thousand was stationed at Bayonne, intended, it was said, to act as an army of reserve, in case the English should land and attempt to defend Portugal, but in reality it was intended for the subjugation of Spain itself. Junot, who had formerly been Buonaparte's ambassador at the court of Lisbon, and who had shown himself one of the most rapacious and unprincipled of men, so much so that Buonaparte himself had stigmatised him as a monster, made rapid marches through Spain. The prince regent of Portugal, knowing that résistance was vain, sent the marquis of Marialva to State to the courts of France and Spain that he had complied with the whole of their demands, as regarded the admission of British goods, and demanded the arrest of the march of the invading army. But no notice was taken of this, and Junot pushed on with such speed as to exhaust his troops with fatigue. He was anxious to seize the persons of the royal family, and therefore this haste, accompanied by the most solemn professions of his coming as the friend and ally of Portugal - as the protector of the people from the yoke of the English, the maritime tyrants of Europe.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 <8> 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

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

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About