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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 10

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Major-general Brock left colonel Procter to defend Detroit, and marched hastily towards Niagara, to surprise the American forts in that direction. But, in the midst of his preparations, he was thunderstruck to learn that Sir George Prevost had concluded an armistice with the American general, Dearborn, and that this armistice stipulated that neither party should move in any manner till the American government had ratified or annulled the engagement. Thus Brock had the mortification of feeling that his hands were tied up, whilst the enemy, aroused to the danger of their position, spite of the truce, were marching up troops, and strengthening every fort and port along the line. As soon as a force of six thousand three hundred men and stores were ready, Madison refused to ratify the armistice. On his part, Sir George Prevost had done nothing to support Brock, and that brave officer found himself with only one thousand two hundred men, partly regulars and partly militia, to repel the swarming invaders.

On the 18th of October the Americans crossed the frontier opposite to the village of Queenstown with three thousand men, and found only three hundred British to oppose them. But Brock was with them, and cheered them so gallantly that they made a desperate resistance. Unfortunately, Brock was killed, and then the brave three hundred retreated, and the American general, Wadsworth, posted himself, with one thousand six hundred men, on the heights behind Queenstown. But the same afternoon he was attacked by a fresh body of about one thousand British and Canadians, and had nearly his whole force killed or taken prisoners. Himself and nine hundred of his men were captured, and four hundred remained on the field slain or severely wounded. The rest, a mere remnant, escaped into the woods, or were drowned in endeavouring to swim back to their own shore. Thus ended Madison's first attempt to conquer Canada.

At sea he was somewhat more fortunate. He took care to liave his war-ships, such as they were, in readiness for sea at the very instant that war was proclaimed. The declaration took place on the 18th of June, and on the 21st commodore Rogers was already clear of the harbour of New York in his flag-ship, the President, which was called a frigate, but was equal to a seventy-four-gun ship, and attended by a thirty-six-gun frigate, a sloop of war, and a brig-sloop. His hope was to intercept the sugar fleet from the West Indies, which was only convoyed by a single frigate and a brig-sloop. Instead of the West India merchantmen, about one hundred sail in number, he fell in with the British frigate, the Belvedere, commanded by captain Richard Byron. Though the two other vessels of war were in sight, Byron did not flinch. He commenced a vigorous fight with the President, and held on for two hours, pouring three hundred round shot into her from his two cabin guns alone. By the explosion of a gun, commodore Rogers and fifteen of his men were severely wounded. About half-past six in the evening the President was joined by the Congress frigate, and then captain Byron cut away several of his anchors, started fourteen tons of water, and otherwise lightening his ship, sailed away, and left the President to repair her damages. By thus detaining Rogers for fifteen hours, the West India fleet was out of all danger. Rogers then continued a cruising sail towards Madeira and the Azores, and captured a few small merchantmen, and regained an American one, and he then returned home without having secured a single British armed vessel, but having been in great trepidation lest he should fall in with some o£ our ships of the fine.

Captain Dacres, of the Guerrière, returning to Halifax to refit after convoying another fleet of merchantmen, fell in with the large United States' frigate Constitution, commanded by captain Hull. The Guerrière was old and rotten, wanting a thorough refit, or, rather, laying entirely aside. She was badly supplied with ammunition, and her gunwale was very indifferent. The Guerrière had only two hundred and forty-four men and nineteen boys; the Constitution had four hundred and seventy-six men, and a great number of expert riflemen amongst them, which the American men-of- war always carried to pick off the enemy, and especially the officers, from the tops. Yet captain Dacres stayed and fought the Constitution till his masts and yards were blown away, and his vessel was in a sinking state. In this condition Dacres, who was himself severely wounded with a rifle-ball, struck, the only alternative being going to the bottom. The old ship was then set on fire, the British crew being first removed to the American ship. Though the contest had been almost disgracefully unequal, the triumph over it in the United States was inconceivable. Hull and his men were thanked in the most extravagant terms, and a grant of fifty thousand dollars was made them for a feat which would not have elicited a single comment in England. But when our officers and men were carried on board the Constitution, they discovered that nearly one-half - a number, in fact, equal to their own - were English or Irish. Some of the principal officers were English; many of the men were very recent deserters; and so much was the American captain alarmed lest a fellow feeling should spring up between the compatriots of the two crews, that he kept his prisoners manacled and chained to the deck during the night after the battle, and for the greater part of the following day.

There were three or four more of these utterly unequal fights, in which the Americans succeeded in capturing small English vessels when at the point of sinking. Such was the case with the Macedon, which, with a crew of two hundred and sixty-two men and thirty-four boys, fought the United States, with more and heavier guns, and with a crew of four hundred and seventy-seven men and one boy. The Macedon was a complete wreck before she struck. Similar cases were those of the Java frigate, captain Lambert, which struck to the Constitution, and the British eighteen-gun brig-sloop the Frolic, which struck to the American brig-sloop Wasp, of eighteen guns. Here the arms were equal, but the crews most unequal, for that of the Frolic had a small crew, very sickly from five years service iu the West Indies, and the ship itself was in bad condition. Within a very few hours the Frolic was re-captured by the British seventy-four gun-ship, the Poictiers. which carried off the American vessel too. In none of these cases was there anything like an equal fight, the Americans being too shrewd to risk that if they could avoid it. In all cases a large proportion of the crews was made up of British deserters. The accounts, however, which the Americans published of these affairs were as usual of the most vaunting character.

This was the fatal year in which Buonaparte, led on by the unsleeping ambition of being the master of all Europe, and so of all the world, made his last great attempt - that of subduing Russia to his yoke - and thus ruined himself for ever. From the very day of the treaty of Tilsit, neither he nor Alexander of Russia had put faith in each other. Buonaparte felt that the czar was uneasy under the real dictatorship of France which existed under the name of alliance. He knew that he was most restless under the mischief accruing from the stipulated embargo on British commerce, and which, from the ruin which it must bring on the Russian merchants, and the consequent distress of the whole population, might, in fact, cause him to disappear from the throne and from life as so many of his ancestors had done. Timber, pitch, potash, hemp, tallow, and other articles were the very staple of Russia's trade, and the English were the greatest of all customers for these. The landed proprietors derived a large income from these commodities, and they asked sternly why they were to be ruined that Buonaparte might ruin Great Britain, whence they drew their principal wealth. He knew that Alexander looked with deep suspicion on his giving the duchy of Warsaw to the king of Saxony, a descendant of the royal family of Poland. To this act was added the stipulations for a free military road and passage for troops from Saxony to Warsaw; and also that France should retain Dantzic tili after a maritime peace. These things seemed to point to the re-establishment of the kingdom of Poland, and the demand, at some Coming day, for the surrender of the rest of the Polish territory by Russia. So the Poles seemed to interpret these matters, for they had, since these arrangements, flocked to his Standard, and were fighting Buonaparte's battles in Spain. To these causes of offence and alarm, which Alexander did not hesitate to express, and which Napoleon refused to dissipate, were added the seizure of the duchy of Oldenburg, guaranteed to Alexander's near relative, and the marriage alliance with Austria. Alexander, on this last occasion, said - " Then my turn comes next; " and we have seen that, in anticipation of it, he had been strengthening himself by a secret league with Sweden.

To the czar it appeared most politic that the war with Napoleon, as it must come, should come whilst the English in Spain were harassing him and draining his resources; and, on his part, Buonaparte, resenting the hostile attitude of Alexander, and suspecting his secret understanding with Bernadotte, determined, notwithstanding the ominous character of the war in Spain, to summon an army utterly overwhelming, and crush the czar at once.

It was in vain that such of his counsellors as dared urged him to abstain from the Russian invasion. They represented the vast extent of Russia; its enormous deserts, into which the army could retreat, and which must exhaust so large a host as he contemplated by following them; the climate; the difficult rivers; the unprofitableness of the conquest, if it succeeded; and the improbability that success there would put an end to the war in Spain, whilst any serious disaster would cause the nations to stand up behind him as one man. These were all arguments of mere policy; for as to the considerations suggested by morality or justice, these had long been abandoned by Buonaparte, and therefore were never even adverted to by his friends.

Fouché, whom Napoleon had allowed to return from Italy, and to occupy his château at Ferrières, near Paris, determined once more to offer his advice. He was closely watched by the police of Buonaparte, but lie shut himself up, as he thought, very securely, and penned a very elaborate memorial to him on the subject. Buonaparte readily admitted him to an audience; but when Pouche thought he was going to surprise him by the substance of his address, Buonaparte said, in an easy way, " I am no stranger, Monsieur le duc, to your errand here. You have a memorial to present to me. Give it me; I will read it, though I know already its contents. The war with Russia is not more agree- able to you than that of Spain." Fouché, astonished, apologised for offering some observations on this crisis. " It is no crisis," retorted Buonaparte; and he went on to say that he had eight hundred thousand men, with whom he could crush Alexander. " My destiny," he said, " is not yet complete; my present situation is but a sketch of a picture which I must finish. There must be one universal European code, one court of appeal; the same money, the same weights and measures, the same laws must have currency throughout Europe. I must make one nation out of all the European states, and Paris must be the capital of the world." With that he turned his back on Fouché, who retired in profound wonder at the means by which the emperor had penetrated the secrecy of his study, and made himself master of his design. He afterwards attributed the discovery to the mayor of a neighbouring town, who had entered his study on pretence of pleading the cause of one of Fouché's tenants, and had managed to cast a glance over the papers of his memorial. The mayor was familiar with such arts, having been employed by Fouché himself in them.

Amongst the rest who laboured to dissuade the emperor from this fatal enterprise was his uncle, cardinal Fesch; but Buonaparte merely led him to a window, and asked him if he saw a particular star. The cardinal replied that he did not. "Then I do," replied Buonaparte; intimating that he followed the star of his destiny, and saw farther than any one else. As for Napoleon's mother, Madame Mere, as she was called, she always had a presentiment that the wonderful fabric of ambition that her son had raised would go to pieces like a fairy dream; and when her children upbraided her with her parsimony, she replied, she was saving money to assist them in their distresses - which, in fact, she lived to do.

Regardless of all advice, Buonaparte hastened to precipitate matters with Russia. He seized and confiscated fifty Swedish merchantmen, and further to express his determination to punish Bernadotte for his refusal to be his slave (he boasted before his courtiers that he would have him seized in Sweden, and brought to the Castle of Vincennes, and he is said to have planned doing it), in January of this year he ordered Davoust to enter Swedish Pomerania and take possession of it. Buonaparte followed up this act of war by marching vast bodies of troops northwards, overrunning Prussia, Pomerania, and the duchy of Warsaw with them. They were now on the very frontiers of Russia, and Alexander was in the utmost terror. He saw already four hundred thousand men ready to burst into his dominions, and as many more following. He had only one hundred and forty thousand to oppose them; he had no generals of mark or experience; confusion reigned everywhere. In the utmost consternation he demanded an interview with Bernadotte, now the sole hope of Europe, at Abo; and Bernadotte, who had his objects to gain, took his time. When the Russian ambassador, in great trepidation, said to him that the emperor waited for him, he rose, laid his hand on his sword, and said, theatrically, " The emperor waits! Good! He who knows how to win battles may regard himself as the equal of kings!"

Bernadotte took his time, and went. It was in March. At Abo, in a solitary hut, he and Alexander met, and there the final ruin of Napoleon was sketched out by a master's hand - that of his old companion in arms. Bernadotte knew all the strength and weakness of Napoleon; he had long watched the causes which would ultimately break up the wonderful career of his victories. He listened to the fears of Alexander, and bade him dismiss them. He told him that it was the timidity of his opponents which had given to Napoleon the victories of Austerlitz and Wagram; that, as regarded the present war, nothing could equal his infatuated blindness; that, treating the wishes of Poland with contempt, neglecting the palpably necessary measures of securing his flanks by the alliance of Turkey and Sweden, east and west, he was only rushing on suicide in the vast deserts five hundred miles from his frontiers; that all that was necessary on the part of Russia was to commence a war of devastation; to destroy all his resources, in the manner of the ancient Scythians and Parthians; to pursue him everywhere with a war of fanaticism and desolation; to admit of no peace till he was driven to the left bank of the Rhine, where the oppressed and vengeful nationalities would arise and annihilate him; that Napoleon, so brilliant and bold in attack, would show himself incapable of conducting a retreat of eight hours - a retreat would be the certain signal of his ruin. If he approached St. Petersburg, he engaged for himself to make a descent on France with fifty thousand men, and to call on both the republican and constitutional parties to arise and liberate their country from the tyrant. Meantime, they must close the passage of the Beresina against him, when they would inevitably secure his person. They must then proclaim everywhere his death, and his whole dynasty would go to pieces with far greater rapidity than it grew.

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