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Napoleon Bonaparte page 3

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Already the daring idea was entertained by Napoleon of surrounding himself with tributary thrones occupied by his own relations. He began with Naples. The Bourbons everywhere were his natural enemies, and he availed himself of very slight pretexts to announce that the dynasty of Naples was incompatible with the peace of Europe and the honour of his crown, and that it had ceased to exist. His sister's husband, Murat, the son of an innkeeper, became King of Naples. His brother, the gentle Louis, was placed upon the throne of Holland. Joseph reluctantly accepted the throne of Spain, his occupation of which brought only disaster to himself and to Napoleon. Jerome was made King of Westphalia. Lucien would have had a crown also, but his too loyal and pronounced republicanism offended his imperial brother. The principality of Lucca was bestowed upon his eldest sister, Eliza. Pauline received the principality of Guastalla. His adopted son, Eugene, married the daughter of the King of Bavaria. Josephine's niece became Princess of Baden. Bernadotte, one of his marshals, the son of a lawyer, accepted the crown of Sweden. Napoleon impressed it upon all these subsidiary monarchs that their first duty was to him, their next to France. After discharging these claims, they might consider the welfare of the people over whom they ruled. Napoleon's mother lived to witness his fall. She never believed in the permanency of those splendours by which her son had surrounded himself. She stored up what money she became possessed of, foretelling that the kings and queens of her family would one day have need of it Napoleon could no longer hope to reach England with the sword, but he could strike at that on which her life depended- her commerce. He declared the British Islands in a state of blockade, and rigorously forbade commercial intercourse between England and those Continental states over which his control extended. England replied by declaring those states under blockade, and their ships liable to capture. It is in the power of governments to impede, but not to arrest the movements of commerce. Smuggling was a capital offence, and its penalty was so sternly inflicted that a man was shot in Hamburg because a little sugar was found in his house. But men smuggled on a huge scale in defiance of law; and both governments sold for money permission to break the law, thereby earning large profits. From this sale of licenses Napoleon had amassed the enormous sum of sixteen million sterling, which was not entered in the public accounts, but was ultimately used for his military expenses.

During the whole of his career Spain and Portugal had obsequiously obeyed the commands of Napoleon, and placed their resources at his disposal. The fleet of Spain shared with that of France in the destruction inflicted by Nelson at Trafalgar. The flower of her army fought in his Polish campaign, and shed their blood among the snows of Eylau to serve the purposes of his ambition. Portugal, at his demand, placed herself in an attitude of hostility toward her ancient ally England, and was driven so far as to confiscate the property of English citizens who were resident in the country. But even this extreme of subserviency failed to conciliate the selfish and imperious conqueror. It seemed to him that his frontier on the Spanish side required to be thoroughly assured, and that this could not be done otherwise than by placing a French prince on the throne of Spain. In utter disregard of all obligation, and without the decency of even a pretext of quarrel, he overran the Peninsula with his soldiers. The King of Portugal withdrew to Brazil, to wait for happier times. The King of Spain was forced by threats to resign his crown, which Napoleon placed upon the head of his brother Joseph. It proved an unhappy gift, and Napoleon lived to acknowledge that the seizure of the Peninsula was a fatal mistake. When he was soon to be engaged in deadly struggle with Northern Europe, he had made the Spaniards his enemies, and prepared for England a field most advantageous on which to fight out a strife which could have no termination now but the ruin of either of the combatants.

The Spaniards offered what resistance they could, but that availed little against the hosts which Napoleon poured into the country. At this time, however, the great contest entered upon a new phase. England, heretofore, had expressed her hostility to Napoleon chiefly at sea, or by money contributions to the military powers. Now, at length, she resolved to take a more prominent place in the strife, and the Peninsula was the chosen theatre of her operations. Her earliest effort was on a modest scale. A little army of ten thousand men was landed in Portugal. It was under command of Sir Arthur Wellesley, destined in six years of arduous war to drive the French from the Peninsula, and to earn a military reputation second only to that of Napoleon himself.

Portugal was wrested from the invaders without serious difficulty. The first battle was fought at Vimiera. The French massed, as their practice was, in dense columns, attacked the English position. Sir Arthur had formed the opinion that English troops in line could withstand the terrible columns which hitherto had cleft their way through all that opposed them. He had judged wisely. At Vimiera, and onwards to Waterloo, the thin English lines threw back with great slaughter the formidable columns of the French. After the battle, Marshal Junot offered to evacuate Portugal The English accepted his proposals, and agreed to convey back to France the defeated troops of their enemy. The British army, raised to thirty thousand men, and now transferred to the command of Sir John Moore (Sir Arthur Wellesley had been recalled to England. People who were incapable of judging of the circumstances highly disapproved of the convention by which the French had been sent home. Government ordered an inquiry, the result of which freed Sir Arthur from all blame. So strong, however, and so unreasoning was the public sentiment, that Sir Arthur did not regain employment without high influence and considerable difficulty), set out from Lisbon and marched into Spain. It was a "bold measure, and one of doubtful prudence. Napoleon himself was present in Spain, and he had three hundred thousand men scattered over the country. He commenced a concentration of these troops and a rapid approach to the enemy. Sir John, warned of his peril, turned, and by a disastrous and demoralizing retreat, made for his ships. At Corunna he fought and defeated one wing of the pursuing force, himself falling in the battle. The troops, grievously reduced in numbers, were at once embarked for England. There was absolute dismay when the shattered remnants of this splendid expedition were seen by the English people, and again the opinion was loudly urged that resistance to Napoleon, excepting on the sea, was a vain sacrifice of brave men's lives.

So deep was the hatred cherished by Austria, that she suffered herself to be hurried into a premature renewal of hostilities, which resulted in swift and terrible disaster. Her military preparations were sadly defective; her finances were in utter confusion. But the French army was occupied in Spain; and England, it was known, would provide with funds any government which was willing to war against France. Borne up by a vehement popular desire to avenge the wrongs which the empire had endured, Austria once more took the field.

Napoleon was urging the pursuit of the English towards Corunna, when tidings reached him which sufficiently revealed the purposes of Austria. He turned back, on the instant, to direct the greater operations of which Germany was now to become the field. The concentration of his troops was conducted with such energy, that in three months he had three hundred thousand men ready to strike at Austria. Never had his success been so dazzling in the rapidity with which it was gained and the vastness of the results which it yielded. In little more than a month from the opening of the campaign, Vienna had again fallen into his power. The tenacious Austrians fought on; and at Aspern inflicted a defeat which, if sustained by a commander of inferior skill, must have proved disastrous. But Napoleon extricated himself from the perils which surrounded him, and at Wag-ram regained the advantage he had lost. In a campaign of a hundred clays, unhappy Austria was once more beaten to the ground, and a treaty was signed by which one-fifth of the territory and population of the empire was handed over to France. Enormous pecuniary exactions still further weakened the fallen foe. Austria submitted to extreme humiliations. She became bound to reduce her army to one hundred and fifty thousand men. And that no element of bitterness might be awanting, the ancient ramparts of Vienna -the favourite walk of the citizens-were in utter wantonness destroyed by the orders of Napoleon.

When the war with Austria was beginning, Lord Wellington arrived at Lisbon to command the English army of twenty thousand men, and England now put her hand in good earnest to the work of rescuing the Peninsula from the grasp of Napoleon. It was a giant undertaking, to expel from the country they had seized three hundred thousand of the best troops in the world, ably led and amply supplied. Years were required for its accomplishment. The means employed seemed wholly inadequate, the British force in the Peninsula having at no time exceeded fifty thousand men. To this was added a large force of Portuguese and Spaniards, equipped mainly by England, not always reliable when brought to face the enemy. The genius of Wellington bestowed upon these apparently insufficient means an efficacy not naturally their own, In. his hands they achieved an unbroken series of victories in battle, and the final expulsion of the French from the Peninsula, of which they had so lawlessly possessed themselves.

Wellington's earliest care was to provide for his troops a position in which they could find a safe retreat if the fortune of war should turn against him. At Torres Vedras, on the Portuguese coast, he formed three great lines of fortification, which he knew his army could make good against any assailant; and where, at the very worst, he could embark, if that extreme necessity should arise. From the sure basis of these impregnable defences he would extend his operations as his strength permitted.

Wellington had advanced to the Spanish frontier, when the vast forces which Napoleon had directed against him counselled a retreat. At Busaco he waited for the French in a strong position, and having there inflicted upon them a bloody repulse, he continued his retreat to the lines of Torres Vedras. Thither Massena followed him. The French general (Searched eagerly for some point so weak that he might hope to force an entrance, but there was none. He waited for several weeks, expecting that supplies would fail, and that Wellington must come forth and give battle. But the English ships maintained abundance in the camp. Massena himself, obliged to depend upon a wasted country, began to feel straitened. At length the inevitable retreat began. It is memorable as the first step in a backward movement, which was not interrupted till the last invader was driven from the Peninsula, and the victorious British stood upon the soil of France.

During the next campaign Wellington achieved considerable, although not rapid, progress; and at its close Portugal was delivered, and the French possession of Spain somewhat shaken. Wellington was now able to enter Spain, and in quick succession he assailed and captured the great frontier fortresses of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. At Salamanca he utterly defeated the French, who retired precipitately from the field with heavy loss. A few days after, the English army entered Madrid, awakening the rapturous joy of the people, who had long groaned under the lawless and merciless exactions of the French. Napoleon had still an enormous preponderance of force in Spain, but the difficulty of supply compelled their dispersion, and the compact English army, handled with consummate skill, already sufficed to shake to its foundations the rule of France in the Peninsula.

The peace which Napoleon concluded at Tilsit with the Emperor Alexander had now lasted for five years. Latterly it was not anticipated that this concord could be permanent, and for a considerable time preparations had been silently making to renew the strife. In the spring of 1812 the estrangement which had been growing between the emperors ripened into a declaration of war. With the exception of England, which he could not reach, Napoleon had no enemy now but Russia. All other hostile powers had been overthrown. The time seemed to have come when it was possible to accomplish the ruin of the only power which could dispute his sway over the European continent. Napoleon resolved upon the invasion and conquest of Russia. There was scarcely another capital in Europe which had not heard the tramp of his victorious legions, and Moscow was no longer to enjoy this exemption.

It was a stupendous enterprise to which the audacious ambition of the emperor now impelled him; but Napoleon had at his disposal a force which seemed equal to any undertaking. He had one million and a quarter of armed men obedient to his will. After leaving ample forces at home and for the defence of Spain, he had over half a million of men available for his operations against Russia. The composition of this enormous army illustrates the almost universal dominion to which he had attained. Scarcely half the number were native French; the remainder were Austrians, Germans, Italians, Poles, and Swiss. Never had it been permitted to man to wield such power. But already the axe was laid to its root, and its fall was near.

On the 24th June 1812, the French army crossed the river Niemen and entered Russian territory. No such force had ever been seen before-so vast in its numbers, so perfect in its equipment, directed by skill so consummate. The emperor watched the march of his legions in the pride of a strength which he might well deem irresistible. No presage of approaching doom tempered his confidence that a crowning triumph was within his grasp. Could he have foreseen that nearly every man of that countless multitude was about to find a grave in the land he came to conquer, even his iron soul must have been shaken.

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