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 15

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

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.

Napoleon, notwithstanding the resistance of his brother Lucien to the arrogance of his will, seems never to have contemplated such a proceeding in the case of the more gentle Louis. When he received the intelligence of his abdication and flight he appeared thunderstruck, and then broke out into a violent agitation, upbraiding Louis with his ingratitude, declaring that, when himself but a poor lieutenant of artillery, he brought him up, dividing his scanty pay with him. But even Napoleon might have felt that there were means of cancelling the tenderest obligations in the heart of a brother. He paid no regard to the abdication of Louis in favour of his son. He proceeded to annex Holland at once to France, and contented himself with making his nephew, Napoleon Louis, grand duke of Berg; and, though he was but a child, he admonished him solemnly that his first of ail duties was allegiance to himself, the emperor, the second to France, and the third to his subjects!

On the 9th of July, only eight days after the abdication of Louis, Buonaparte issued a decree, declaring Holland " re-united to France! " Oudinot marched into Amsterdam, and took possession of it in the name of his master. It was declared the third city of the French empire. The French ministers issued reports to vindicate this annexation, which was a disgraceful breach of Napoleon's pledge to the Senate - that the Rhine should be the boundary of France - and also of his repeated assurances that Holland should remain an independent kingdom. They declared that " Holland was but a continuation of France, which may be defined as being formed out of the alluvia of the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt, which are the great arteries of our empire." " Holland," said Champagny, " is, in a manner, an emanation from the territory of France, and is necessary to the full complement of the empire. To possess the Rhine, your majesty must extend the frontier to the Zuyder Zee. Thus the course of ail the rivers which arise in France, or which bathe her frontier, will belong to her as far as the sea. To leave in the hands of strangers the mouths of our rivers would be, sire, to confine your power to an ill-bounded monarchy, instead of extending its limits to the natural frontiers befitting an imperial throne." By this, the reasoning of bloated power, any aggression on neighbouring nations might be justified, and it would have more justly warranted Switzerland in claiming both Germany and France, because the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Danube rise in its mountains.

The annexation of Holland was made without any of that tierce opposition which was displayed by the Spaniards in his attempt on their country; but, nevertheless, the deed sunk deep into the heart, not of the Dutch only, but of every power in Europe, and undoubtedly hastened the day of reclamation. The world saw that Buonaparte was be- come drunk with succe3s; that his grasping ambition could set no bounds to its desires; that what he set up one day he pulled down another, on the most puerile pretences; that he had even now begun to pull down his own puppets, because they were not obsequious enough, and had not hesitated to brand his own brother in doing this as mentally imbecile. He said to the son of Louis himself - " Your father's con- duct is accounted for only by his disorder."

This conviction of ail Europe that the ambition of Buonaparte would swell till it burst in ruin, quickly received fresh confirmation. The trans-Rhenish provinces of Holland did not form a proper frontier for him. He immediately gave orders to form Oldenburg, Bremen, and all the line of coast between Hamburg and Lübeck, into additional departments of France, which was completed by a senatus consultum of the 13th of December of this year. Thus the French empire now extended from Denmark to S-icily; for Naples, though it was nominally the kingdom of Murat, was only nominally so; for the fate of the kingdom of Holland had dissipated the last delusion regarding the reality of any separate kingdom of Napoleon's erection. Italy, Jerome's kingdom of Westphalia, the grand-duchy of Berg - now given to the infant son of Louis - ail the territories of the confederation of the Rhine, and Austria itself were really subject to Buonaparte, and any day he could assert that dominion. More than eighty millions of people in Europe owned this quondam lieutenant of artillery as their lord and master, whose will disdained all control. No such empire had existed under one autocrat, if. not under one single sceptre, since the palmiest days of the Roman supremacy. Denmark retained its nominal independence only by humbly following the intimations of the great man's will. And now Sweden appeared to add another realm to his vast dominions; but, in reality, the surprising change which took place there created a final barrier to his progress in the north, and became the immediate cause of his utter overthrow. The story is one of the most singular and romantic in ail the wonderful events of the Napoleonic career.

Gustavus Adolphus IV. of Sweden, with ail the military ardour of Charles XII., but without his military talent - with ail the chivalry of an ancient knight, but at the head of a kingdom diminished and impoverished - had resisted Buonaparte as proudly as if he were monarch of a nation of the first magnitude. He refused to fawn on Napoleon; he did not hesitate to denounce him as the curse of ail Europe. He was the only king in Europe, except that of England, who withstood the marauder. He was at peace with Great Britain, and Alexander of Russia, who had for his own purposes made an alliance with Napoleon, called on him to shut out the English vessels from the Baltic. Gustavus indignantly refused, though he was at the same time threatened with invasion by France, whose troops, under Bernadotte, already occupied Denmark. At once he found Finland invaded by sixty thousand Russians, without any previous declaration of war. Finland was lost, and Alexander saw his treachery rewarded with the possession of a country larger than Great Britain, and with the whole eastern coast of the Baltic, from Tornea to Memel; the Aland Isles were also conquered and appropriated at this time. The unfortunate Gustavus, whose high honour and integrity of principle stood in noble contrast to those of most of the crowned heads of Europe, was not only deposed for his misfortunes, but his line deprived of the crown for ever. This took place in March, 1809. The unfortunate monarch was long confined in the castle of Gripsholm, where he was said to have been visited by the apparition of king Eric XIV. He was then permitted to retire into Germany, where, disdainfully refusing a pension, he divorced his wife, the sister of the empress of Russia; assumed the name of colonel Gustavson, and went, in proud poverty, to live in Switzerland. These events led to the last of Sweden's great transactions on the field of Europe, and which is by far the most extraordinary of ail.

Alexander of Russia, having obtained all that he hoped for from the peace of Tilsit and the alliance with Napoleon by the conquest of Finland, was looking about for a new ally to aid him in freeing himself from the insolent domination of Buonaparte, who was ruining Russia as well as the rest of Europe by his continental system, when these unexpected events in Sweden opened up to him a sudden and most marvellous ally. The Swedes had chosen the duke of Sudermania, the uncle of the deposed king. The brother of Gustavus III., who had been assassinated by count Ankarström, Charles XIII., was old, imbecile, and childish. A successor was named for him in the duke of Augustenburg, who was extremely popular in Norway, and who had no very distant expectations of the succession in Denmark. This prince - a member of an unlucky house - had scarcely arrived in Sweden when he died suddenly, and not without suspicion of being poisoned; in fact, various rumours of such a fate awaiting him preceded his arrival. Russia, as well as a powerful party in Sweden, was bent on restoring the line of Wasa. Alexander was uncle to the young prince, who, by no fault of his own, was excluded from the throne. Whatever was the real cause, Augustenburg died, as had been predicted; and while the public mind in Sweden was agitated about the succession, the aged king, Charles XIII., applied to Napoleon for his ad vice. But Napoleon had bound himself at Tilsit to leave the affairs of the north in the hands of Alexander, and especially not to interfere in those of Sweden. He, therefore, haughtily replied: - "Address yourself to Alexander; he is great and generous " - ominous words, which were, ere long, applied, to his astonishment and destruction.

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

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 15

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About