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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 16


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Mörner next imparted the secret to general Wrede, whom Charles XIII. had employed to deliver his letter to Napoleon. General Wrede was a man of an ancient and honour- able family, possessed great influence, and was attached to France, and particularly to Bernadotte, in whose house he was a familiar guest. He had left Sweden before the death of the duke of Augustenburg, readily gave credit to Mörner as to the state of the public feeling in Sweden, and was on the very point of returning thither. He at once spoke frankly to Bernadotte on the subject, who, assured by this second overture from such a quarter that the proposition came from the Swedish people, agreed that Mörner should submit it in writing, and that he would lay it before the emperor. Napoleon replied, with affected carelessness, that he would not interfere with the wishes of Sweden. No sooner was this done than Bernadotte accepted the offer; and general Wrede, on the very day that he left for Stockholm, informed M. Lagerbielke of the fact. It was as if a thunder-bolt had fallen at the feet of the ambassador. A transaction of such immense importance negotiated without his knowledge! He looked upon himself as lost. Meantime, Mörner returned in all haste to Stockholm, and spread the report that Napoleon desired to present to the favour of the Swedish nation his able marshal and relative, the prince of Ponte Corvo. General Wrede appeared immediately on his heels, confirming the news. The excitement in town and country became excessive. Each différent party was thrown into terror, anger, or exultation. The aristocratic party, with the king at its head, had resolved on electing the brother of the duke of Augustenburg; the party of Russia and the old dynasty was equally bent on the young prince Wasa. The old king was especially annoyed at this new project, which had sprung he knew not whence. On the very day that the committee of the diet had voted for the duke of Augustenburg, there arrived a message from the consul-general in France, with the formal acceptance of Bernadotte of the proposal on the part of Sweden to make him crown prince, accompanied by his grateful acknowledgments, and portraits of the prince and princess Ponte Corvo and their son, which general Wrede was commissioned to present to the king.

Here was an embarrassment! But Wrede and Mörner set actively to work. The letter of the consul-general and the portraits were presented to the king between eleven and twelve o'clock at night. Numerous copies of the letter were Struck off, and circulated amongst the différent orders of the diet. The letter to the deputies of the peasantry was accompanied by a little picture of prince Oscar, the son of Bernadotte, playing with his father's sword. Poems, songs, and addresses were improvised, and distributed in all directions. A report was spread, with equal rapidity, that the emperor of Russia, disappointed in his hopes of placing his nephew on the throne, was resolved on a fresh invasion, and that Napoleon had determined to defeat it by giving Sweden one of his most wise and valiant marshals as prince royal. The ruse succeeded; and it was amid acclamations and enthusiasm which scarcely permitted the tardiness of legal forms, that the diet, on the 21st of August, 1810, elected the prince of Ponte Corvo prince royal of Sweden, and heir-presumptive to the throne.

Such were the unparalleled circumstances by which Bernadotte, the quondam serjeant of marines, was made king of Sweden; and it would be difficult to say whether the election was more repugnant to the feelings of the main body of the Swedish people, who desired to see their country equally independent of France and Russia - to those of Alexander, who beheld with natural dread a prince and general of France, and a most able and politic one, placed so near to him - or to those of Buonaparte, who had regarded Bernadotte with jealousy and suspicion, and would rather have seen him any where than at the head of a powerful and independent kingdom.

The prince royal elect made his public entry into Stockholm on the 2nd of November. The failing health of the king, the confidence which the talents of Bernadotte had inspired, the prospect of a strong alliance with France through him - ail these causes united to place the national power in his hands, and to cast upon him, at the same time, a terrible responsibility. The very crowds and cries which surrounded him expressed the thousand expectations which his presence raised. The peasantry, who had heard so much of his humble origin and popular sentiments, looked to him to curb the pride and oppression of the nobles; the nobles flattered themselves that he would support their cause, in the hope that they would support him; the mass of the people believed that a republican was the most likely to maintain the principles of the révolution of 1809; the merchants trusted that he would be able to obtain from Napoleon freedom for the trade with England, so indispensable to Sweden; and the army felt sure that, with such a general, they should be able to seize Norway and re- conquer Finland. Nor was this all. Bernadotte knew that there existed a legitimist party in the country, which might long remain a formidable organ in the hands of internal factions or external enemies. How was he to lay the foundation of a new dynasty amid ail these conflicting interests? - how satisfy at once the demands of France, England, and Russia? Nothing but firmness, prudence, and sagacity could avail to surmount the difficulties of his situation; but these Bernadotte possessed.

Napoleon, seeing that Bernadotte was become king of Sweden contrary to his secret will and to his expectations, determined, however, that he should still serve him. He gave him no respite. He demanded incessantly, and with his usual impetuosity, that Bernadotte should declare war against England, and shut out of the Baltic both English and American merchandise. Alexander regarded him first with suspicion, but his spies soon dissipated his fears. They soon perceived that Bernadotte was not disposed to be at once master of a powerful kingdom, and the vassal of France. Alexander made offers of friendship; they were accepted by Bernadotte with real or affected pleasure, and his course became clearer. For the next two years there was a great strife to secure the alliance of the crown prince; and the proud, disdainful, imperious temper of Napoleon, who could not brook that one who bad been created by him out of nothing but a serjeant of marines should présumé to exercise an independent will, threw the prize into the hands of the more astute Russian, and decided the fate of Europe and of himself.

England, which had made some show of restoring the legitimate prince, soon became satisfied that Bernadotte would lean to its alliance. Meantime Alexander of Russia displayed more and more decided symptoms of an intention to break with France. He hastened to make peace with the Turks, and to pour his sentimental assurances into the ear of count Stadingk, the Swedish ambassador. As he called God to witness, in 1807, that he had no wish to touch single Swedish village, so now he professed to be greatly troubled that he had been obliged to seize all Finland- " Let us forget the past," said the czar. " I find myself in terrible circumstances, and I swear, upon my honour, that I never wished evil to Sweden. But now that unhappy affair of Finland is over, and I wish to show my respect to your king, and my regard for the crown prince. Great misfortunes are frequently succeeded by great prosperities- A Gustavus Adolphus issued from Sweden for the salvation of Germany, and who knows what may happen again? " and he began to unveil his disgust at the encroachments of Buonaparte. "What does he mean," he said, " by his attempt to add the north of Germany to his empire, and all its mercantile towns? He might grasp a dozen cities of Germany, but Hamburg, Lübeck, and Bremen, 'our Holy a Trinity,' as Romanoff says! - I am weary of his perpetual vexations! "

The result was the offer of Norway co Sweden as the price of Bernadotte's adhesion to the proposed alliance. England also offered to Sweden as a colony, Surinam, Demarara, or Porto Rico.

But all this could not have prevailed with Bernadotte - who leaned fondly and tenaciously towards France with her old associations - had not the unbearable pride, insolence, and domineering spirit of Napoleon repelled him, and finally decided his course. So late as March, 1811, Bernadotte used this language to M. Alquier, the French ambassador, when pressed by him to decide for France: - " I must have Norway - Norway which Sweden desires, and which desires to belong to Sweden - and I can obtain it through another power than France." "From England, perhaps? " interposed the ambassador. " Well, yes, from England; but I protest that I only desire to adhere to the emperor. Let his majesty give me Norway; let the Swedish people believe that I owe to him that mark of protection, and I will guarantee all the changes that he desires in the system and government of Sweden. I promise him fifty thousand men, ready equipped, by the end of May, and ten thousand more by July. I will lead them wherever he wishes. I will execute any enterprise that he may direct. Behold that western point of Norway. It is separated from England only by a sail of twenty-four hours, with a wind which scarcely ever varies. I will go there if he wishes!"

But Napoleon could never listen to the transfer of Norway; that was the territory of his firm ally, Denmark: Finland, but not Norway. In October of the same year an English agent landed at Gothenborg, under a fictitious name - eluded the French spies - traversed, by night, woods, bogs, and hills - and, in a small village of the interior of Sweden, met a Swedish agent, where the terms of a treaty were settled, in which Russia and Turkey, England and Sweden, were the contracting powers; in which Sweden was to receive Norway, and renounce for ever Finland; and Alexander and Bernadotte were to unite all their talents, powers, and experience against France. In December following, the Swedish aristocracy were astonished to see the countess Armfeldt, wife of général Armfeldt - a Finn, and hitherto one of the most decided partisans of the ancient dynasty - appear at a soirée of the prime minister, Engleström, decorated with the portraits of the two czarinas, the dowager and the reigning empress - to hear that she was appointed lady of honour at the court of Russia, and to see the crown prince enter, take his seat beside her, and, in a long conversation, pay her the most flattering attentions. In the following January the sudden invasion of Swedish Pomerania by the French showed that the crisis was come, and that henceforth Napoleon and Bernadotte were irreconcileable opponents. The proud, brusque words of Napoleon, when Charles XIII. appealed to him for aid on the loss of Finland - " Apply to Alexander, he is great and generous " - were now taken up by Bernadotte. It was a fatal speech.

From that time offers of alliance and aid poured in from all quarters. Prussia - ready to rebel once more against the common enemy - sent secret messages, and was, at the same time, concerting common measures with Russia. The insurgents of Spain and Portugal, where Lord Wellington was in active operation - even the old Bourbon dynasty - paid court to him. Moreau returned from America to fight under his banners, and emigrants flocked from all quarters to combine their efforts against the universal foe - Napoleon. We have traced out these particulars somewhat at large, for they are new and curious, opening up the great scheme by which they led to the final overthrow of Napoleon. For the further progress of it we must wait till the year 1812.

In England a remarkable event closed the year 1810 - the appointment of a regency. For some time the old malady of the king had returned upon him. He had not attended to open and close the last session of parliament, and there was a général impression as to the cause. But, on the 25th of October, when parliament had voted the celebration of a général jubilee, on the king's entrance upon the fiftieth year of his reign, it was announced publicly that his majesty was no longer capable of conducting public business, and the house of commons adjourned for a fortnight. This was a melancholy jubilee, so far as the king and his family were concerned; but the nation celebrated it everywhere with an affectionate zeal and loyalty. The royal malady had been precipitated by the death of his favourite daughter Amelia. On the 20th or 21st of October, he visited her on her death- bed, and she put on his finger a ring, containing her own hair, and, with the motto, " Remember me when I am gone." This simple but sorrowful act completed the mischief in progress, and George retired from the bedside of his dying daughter a confirmed lunatic. The princess died on the 2nd of November, but her father was past consciousness of the event.

At the end of the fortnight, lord Grenville and lord Grey pointed out the necessity of proceeding to appoint a regent. Ministers replied that the physicians were confident of his speedy recovery; but, as there were repeated adjournments, and repeated reports of the physicians still holding the same language, the sense of parliament prevailed; and, on the 17th of December, Mr. Perceval moved that, on the 20th, they should go into committee on the question of the regency; and on that day the same resolutions were passed as had been passed in 1788 - namely, that the prince of Wales should be regent, under certain restrictions; that the right. of creating peerages, and granting salaries, pensions, and offices in reversion, should be limited specifically, as in 1788. The royal dukes made a protest against these limitations; but, on the 30th, they were confirmed by both houses, with additional resolutions for the care of his majesty's person and the security of his private property, which passed on the last day of the year 1810.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 16

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