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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 14


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Soon after his marriage Buonaparte made a tour with his imperial bride. It was very much the same that he had made with Josephine shortly before their coronation - namely, through the northern provinces of France, through Belgium and Holland. He decided, during this journey, on the occasion of his uniting the part of the low countries called Zealand with a department called the Department of the Mouths of the Scheldt, on annexing it to France for ever. But whilst conversing with Louis Buonaparte, his Holland king-brother at Antwerp, he suddenly stumbled on a discovery of some daring proceedings of Fouché, his minister of police, which sent him back to Paris in haste, and ruined that subtle diplomatist with him for ever. In the earlier part of Buonaparte's royal career he had employed the ablest men that he could find in his cabinet, as well as in the field. Talleyrand and Pouche had stood pre-eminent with him; and more able or daring agents it was impossible for him to have for the execution of his plans of universal dominion, or more suitable ones on whom to throw the odium of his many unprincipled measures. But these statesmen had run through all the dark scenes of the révolution, and still retained at bottom a fixed attachment to its principles. They had seen Buonaparte climb over their heads, suppress that révolution, and establish his own absolute power. They were not able to resist this; they were supple enough, and serpent-wise enough to outwardly conform, and to find their interest in serving him. He had heaped wealth and titles upon them with a liberal hand, and they certainly rendered him no trivial services in return. Bat, as he grew more triumphant over neighbouring monarchs, they saw with alarm the unbounded wildness of his ambition leading to a course which must certainly end in the ruin of his power, if not of France. They ventured to remonstrate, and the now incurably inflated man - inflated with his unprecedented success beyond cure-resented it, and gave them sharp proofs of his resentment. Talleyrand he at once discarded; but Fouché was too necessary to him for the present, and was too compliant to be dismissed abruptly. But Buonaparte felt persuaded that both Talleyrand and Fouché had all along retained their connection with an association of old republicans, called Philadelphes, and he was ready to pounce on Fouché on the first moment of his discovery of any secret act opposed to his interests. Such an occasion occurred during his absence in Spain. The legislative assembly, which he permitted to exert an appearance of independence, and which voted by ballot, opposed, to the amount of one-third of its members, a measure on which he was particularly bent. He immediately let them know that this was an act of presumption; that he and his ministers were the originating source of all national measures; they were merely a legislative council, whose office it was to consider and advise, but not to determine. On his return, he immediately asked Fouché whether he agreed with this reprimand given to the legislative assembly. Fouché, who had had sufficient warning in that letter, declared that he approved it entirely; that it was the only way to govern; and that, had Louis XVI. acted thus, he would have been king still. " And yet," said Napoleon, astonished at the unabashed avowal of a sentiment that he did not give him credit for, " I think, duke of Otranto, you were one of those whose votes sent Louis XVI. to the scaffold." "I was," replied the imperturbable Fouché, " and that was the first service that I had the honour to render to your majesty."

Buonaparte could not find occasion to quarrel with Fouché on this ground, but he was growing more and more suspicious of him, and Fouché felt it, and determined to do something to make Napoleon feel how necessary he was to him. Formerly, when dismissed, he had got up the plot which involved the fates of Pichegru and others, and then opened them up to Napoleon, to show him what designs might be surrounding the throne if he were not on the watch for him. He now entered on another scheme of a most daring kind. He thought if he could obtain from the English ministry secretly the terms on which they would be willing to make peace, he should be able to state this fact to Napoleon - who had never been able in his own person to open a correspondence with the king of England - as a very satisfactory piece of intelligence, and therefore to his own advantage. He calculated that the English ministry, weakened by the secession of Canning, and discouraged by the dispersion of the Spanish armies, might be willing to listen to a peace on some such terms as these: - France to retain its dominions on land without colonies, and without a navy; and England to retain the empire of the seas, with ail the eastern and western colonies. If these terms did not satisfy England, he proposed that Holland and Spain should be declared independent kingdoms, and Sicily should remain the property of Ferdinand IV., and Portugal of the house of Braganza. This, in truth, would be making very little additional concession, if Buonaparte's deputy kings, Louis and Joseph, remained in Holland and Spain - especially as Sicily was already in the possession of Ferdinand, and the house of Braganza of Portugal, through the means of the British arms. But ail these offers were merely the offers of Fouché, and they came to a sudden check by an accident.

Whilst Louis Buonaparte was in Paris, in 1809, he was instructed by his brother, the emperor, to send over from Amsterdam M. Labouchère, the agent of a great mercantile house, to London, to see the marquis Wellesley, and to sound him as to the possibility of arranging the conditions of peace. This Louis did, and, soon after his return to Amsterdam, he received a request from Fouché to allow M. Ouvrard, a banker of Paris, passports to England for a like purpose. This also Louis Buonaparte did, supposing that it was only in continuance of the negotiations of which he had before made M. Labouchère the medium. But this was Fouché's own private agent, and, this fact being concealed from the marquis of Wellesley, he was surprised at finding two agents from the French government, employed on the same mission, and yet without any apparent knowledge of each other. He became naturally suspicious, and declined entering into any communication with either of them. This gave great offence to Napoleon; and when at Antwerp, on his tour with his new bride, Louis adverted to the order to furnish M. Ouvrard with passports for England. The astonishment of Buonaparte was intense, and not less so that of his brother Louis, when he learned that he was totally ignorant of the sending of M. Ouvrard. It was at once seen that Fouché had been sounding the government of England on his own account, and from that moment his disgrace was sealed.

Napoleon arrived in Paris only on the 1st of June, and on the 2nd he sent for Fouché, and, charging him with this seeret negotiation, he said, " So, then, you make peace or war without my leave? " He dismissed the tricky minister instantly from his office, and appointed Savary to take his place; but it was with the utmost difficulty that he extorted from him the confidential notes and imperial warrants which he had written to him on affairs of great political moment. Fouché steadily protested that he had regularly committed these papers to the flames as the safest place; but Buonaparte, who knew better, gave him the alternative of a dungeon, and what might take place there, or yielding up these autographs, and they were duly produced. To hide the real cause of Fouché's disgrace, he was appointed governor-general of Rome; but this was merely a blind, and in a few days his appointment was revoked, and he was ordered to retire to his estate, and live quietly there.

The dismissal of Fouché, however, occasioned many uneasy thoughts. Destitute of principle as the man was, and his history charged with many dark deeds, yet he was regretted by the republicans - for he was still deemed favourable to their views - and by many of the legitimists, for he had been mild, and even courteous to them. Others regarded his dismissal as an indication of measures of a more arbitrary kind at home, and of a more hazardous one abroad being in progress; for most men gave him credit for a certain prudence and moderation. The arbitrary nature of Napoleon had developed in full accompaniment of his fortune. The state prisons had increased from one - Vincennes - to six, situated in différent parts of France. They were numerously tenanted by persons supposed to be averse to Napoleon's government. On the 3rd of March of this year he had restored the ancient and detested lettres de cachet; and, though this had been done in the name of Fouché, it was well understood that the obloquy of it only was his. The object was to gratify the personal desire of Buonaparte to put his hand on any one that displeased him at his pleasure.

This arbitrary disposition, favoured by the most un- exampled success, and which admitted of no opposition from any person or quarter, very soon produced consequences betwixt Napoleon and his brothers which made more than ever manifest to the world that no law or consideration could any longer influence Napoleon; that his self-will was, and must be, his only guide. His brother Lucien, who had from the first refused to become one of his puppets, and who was leading a private life in Italy, received an intimation from Fouché that Napoleon meant to arrest and shut him up. In consequence of this friendly hint, Lucien fled from the continent, and ultimately took refuge in England, where he purchased an estate near Ludlow, and there resided till 1814, when the fall of his brother permitted him to return to France. Lucien Buonaparte, the ablest of the family next to Napoleon, now styled the prince of Canino, from an estate which he purchased in Italy, and which the pope raised to a principality, spent the three years in England in writing a poem entitled " Charlemagne; or, the Church Delivered."

But if Lucien, who had rendered Napoleon such essential services in enabling him to put down the French révolution, could not escape this meddling domination as a private man, much less could his puppet-kings, whether brothers or brothers-in-law. He was beginning to have violent quarrels with Murat and his sister Caroline, king and queen of Naples; nor could the mild and amiable temper of Louis, king of Holland, protect him from tbe insults and the pressure of this spoiled child of fortune.

Louis was a conscientious man, who was sincerely desirous of study in g the comfort and prosperity of the people over whom he was placed. But the system of Buonaparte went to extinguish the welfare of Holland altogether. To insist upon the Dutch shutting out the manufactures of England, upon which the great trade of Holland subsisted, was to dry up the very means by which Holland had made itself a country from low-lying sea-marshes and sand-banks. Louis knew this, and winked, as much as possible, at the means by which the trade of his subjects was maintained with England. This produced extreme anger on the part of Napoleon, who used terms towards his brother of the greatest rudeness and even brutality. Louis and his queen, Hortense, the daughter of Josephine, lived on terms of mutual aversion. In fact, they had made a mutual, though not a legal separation; and in 1809 they each demanded that a legal separation should take place. There was such an intimate connection between Buonaparte and queen Hortense that Louis deemed it a matter that concerned his honour as well as his quiet. But Napoleon bluntly refused to allow such a legal dissolution of the marriage, and insulted his brother by calling him an ideologist - a man who had spoiled himself by reading Rousseau. He did not even return a written answer to Louis's demand, but satisfied himself with a verbal one. Champagny, the duke of Cadore, who had succeeded Talleyrand as minister, stated in a report, that the situation of Louis was become critical from the conflicting sentiments in his heart of duties towards France and duties towards his own subjects; and Buonaparte intimated his intention to recall Louis to France, and to unite Holland, as a province, to the empire. Louis, on his part, intimated that, unless means were allowed for the Dutch to avoid universal ruin by the prosecution of their commerce, he would abdicate. Buonaparte had already annexed Zealand to France, and Louis displayed a remarkable indifference to retaining the remainder. On this, Buonaparte seemed, for a time, to pause in his menaces; but not the less did he pause in his resolves to compel an utter exclusion of English goods. The Dutch, who esteemed Louis for his honest regard for their rights, were alarmed at the idea of losing him; for it could only be for Holland to be united to France, and put under the most compulsory system. For some time, they and Louis contemplated laying the whole country under water, and openly repudiating the influence of Napoleon. But cool reflection convinced them that such resistance was useless; and in March of this year Louis submitted to a treaty, by which the continental system was to be strictly enforced. Not only Zealand, but Dutch Brabant and the whole course of the Rhine on both its banks were made over to France. Louis signed the treaty on the 1st of July, but significantly added, "as far as possible."

But no such easy rendering of the contract was contemplated by Buonaparte. He did not even adhere to the letter of it. French officers were to be placed in ail the Dutch garrisons, and eighteen thousand troops were to be maintained, of which six thousand, one-third, were to be French. Instead of six thousand, general Oudinot appeared at the head of twenty thousand at Utrecht. These, Buonaparte informed Louis, were to occupy ail the strong posts of the country, and to have their head-quarters at Amsterdam, his capital. Louis determined to be no party to this utter subjugation of the country, nor any longer to play the part of a puppet sovereign. On the 1st of July he executed a deed of abdication in favour of his son, Napoleon Louis, expressing a hope that, though he had been so unfortunate as to offend the emperor, he trusted he would not visit his displeasure on his innocent family. He then drew up a vindication of his conduct, saying that he was placed in an impossible situation, and that he had long foreseen this termination of it. He sent this to be published in England, the only place in which it could appear; and he then gave an entertainment to a number of his friends at his palace at Haarlem, and at midnight entered a private carriage, and drove away. He proceeded to Gratz, in Styria, where he devoted his leisure to the instruction of his children, and to literature, and wrote " Documens Historiques et Reflexions sur le Gouvernement de la Holland " - being an account of his administration of the government of that country - and also a novel, called " Marie, ou les Hollandaises." His wife, Hortense, went to Paris, where she became a great leader in the world of fashion.

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