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The French Revolution and Napoleon; Great Britain and Ireland (1789-1802). page 2

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The "Reign of Terror" had fairly begun. In July, Marat, one of the most bloodthirsty fanatics, died by the dagger of Charlotte Corday, styled by Lamartine "the angel of assassination." Revolutionary committees throughout the country executed slaughter in various forms - by the axe, musketry, grape-shot, drowning - at Bordeaux, Arras, Nantes, and other towns where opponents of the extreme party were found. We need not give details of these atrocities, or of the atheistic follies which attended organised murder in Paris. The more violent revolutionists were alike foolish and wicked. Their absurdities and excesses paved the way for reaction, and for a period of despotic rule in their own country. They supplied the enemies of popular rights with telling arguments and illustrations against political concessions to the body of the people. They injured the cause of liberty in other lands. The first French Revolution, by creating a panic amongst the selfish and comfortable classes, and by arousing prejudice even amongst the sincere promoters of political development, postponed for 40 years the granting of parliamentary reform in the British Isles. The over-ardent French advocates of popular freedom, by seeking to impose the new revolutionary system on neighbouring states, caused a long and desolating European war in which some millions of men perished on the battle-field' or by disease, and the progress of civilisation was, in some important respects, postponed for half a century. As for the sufferings and losses of the French nobility, with all due pity for the many innocent victims included among them, the privileged class reaped only what it had sown. A whole people had been oppressed. The lower class, in town and country alike, had been allowed to exist in misery and ignorance, and, suddenly possessed of power, they inevitably misused it. It may, however, be confidently asserted, that the amount of human suffering, in France itself, inflicted by revolutionary violence in the Reign of Terror, was exceeded a hundredfold by the misery of the people in the long years preceding the day of retribution.

Successes of the allies against French troops, and anti-revolutionary risings in the south and west of France, soon demanded the attention of the Committee of Public Safety. Mainz (Mayence) was retaken, and Valenciennes was captured by the allies. Toulon was occupied by the English, aiding the royalist party, and many French men-of-war were taken or destroyed. Carnot took energetic measures, and a general levy of the male population soon placed 14 armies in the field. The opponents of the republic at Lyon and She towns were crushed with merciless severity. The execution o Marie Antoinette, in October, 1793, was followed by more republican defeats on the Rhine frontier. Then the tide turned Then the tide turned. The allies, in December, were forced to retreat, and the capture of Toulon by the republican forces was due to the young artniery-officer Napoleon Bonaparte. Early in 1794 Robespierre brought to the scaffold his opponents of the extreme party - Hubert, Chaumette, and others - and the more moderate members of the "Mountain," Danton and Desmoulins. In June the victory of Fleurus drove the allies from the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium). A month more and Robespierre fell, with Couthon and St. Just, in the movement of July 27th, or the "9th Thermidor" in the revolutionary calendar. The "Reign of Terror" ended with their execution, and the establishment of a more moderate rule, with the closing of the Jacobin club, was followed early in 1795 by the success of the French armies in every quarter. The English troops were driven out of Holland, and the "Batavian Republic" was founded. The formidable royalist revolt in La Vendee, on the west coast, between the Loire and the Charente, was quelled after a three-years' struggle, and the French republic, crime-stained as it was, became an established fact through the valour, energy, and patriotism of a people resolved to be masters in their own country. Prussia concluded the Peace of Basle, in which Saxony, Hanover, and Hesse-Cassel joined, ceding the left bank of the Rhine to France. At the same time Spain, after warfare on the southern frontier, ceded St. Domingo to the republic, and restored all other territories. In October, 1795, a revolt of the "Sections," instigated by the royalists in Paris, was crushed by Bonaparte on the day styled "13th Vendemiaire" in the new calendar. The system of rule was now changed. The National Convention which had existed for over three years was superseded by the "Directory," the chief members in the executive body of five being Carnot and Barras. Legislative power was vested in a chamber of 500 for proposing laws, while a "chamber of ancients," or "council of elders," approved or rejected them.

The war with Austria continued, and important events rapidly came. South Germany was invaded by armies under Jourdan and Moreau, and Baden, Wurtemberg, and Bavaria were forced to terms. Then a new actor came on the scene in the famous Archduke Charles of Austria, brother of the emperor Francis, and destined to prove himself one of the ablest generals of the age. In the summer of 1796 he defeated and drove back Jourdan, and, turning then on Moreau, he forced him to his retreat through the Black Forest, memorable for the skill displayed by the consummate commander in charge of the French forces. The command in Italy was given by the Directory to a still greater general than the archduke or Moreau, one of the greatest in all history, the man who, born the son of a Corsican lawyer, united "all the brilliance of a Frenchman to all the resolute profundity of an Italian, and reared in, yet only half believing, the ideas of the Encyclopedists, was swept up into the seat of absolute power by the whirlwind of a revolution." As the leader of a fiery and warlike nation, drunk with revolutionary fury, Napoleon, seeking to rival Caesar and Charlemagne, was able to found in Europe an almost universal empire. A vast literature has gathered around the career of the world-famous man who entered Italy in the spring of 1796, and for the space of nearly 20 years made his own history almost identical with that of Europe. This is no place for any analysis of the character of a great bad man, who wrought infinite mischief combined with much good, and left the world its sternest warning against ambition and fatalism. In the proclamation which he issued to the troops on assuming the Italian command, Bonaparte gave the keynote of French policy in that age by invoking the spirit of self-interest and plunder. The system of war supporting itself was introduced, and all needful supplies were taken at the bayonet's point from the people of invaded territories. Success in the field was often due to this rough method, but in the end the hostility which was thus aroused against those who behaved like mere brigands was fatal to the perpetrators. In one of the most brilliant of campaigns, the young general of the Directory routed the troops of the Piedmontese and the Austrians, winning the victories of Lodi and Castiglione, Arcola and Rivoli, and many others of less note. Milan was deprived of many works of art, which were sent to Paris; Mantua was captured; Venice was robbed of Verona and other towns. The Pope, and the governments of Naples, Modena, and Parma, were frightened into submission, and then, in the spring of 1797, the conqueror crossed the Alps into the Tyrol, and in several actions drove back the Archduke Charles. He was advancing on Vienna when the emperor sued for peace, and in October the Treaty of Campo Formio ceded the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) to France, and gave up Lombardy to form part of a new "Cisalpine Republic" in the north of Italy. An iniquitous arrangement made an end of the Venetian republic by transfer of her territory, in a large part, to Austria, and of the Ionian Islands to France. Sardinia ceded Savoy and Nice to the victorious republic, and Bonaparte was received at Paris with boundless enthusiasm by the people, and, by the corrupt Directory, with greetings which veiled a jealous fear of his ambition.

Bonaparte's next military enterprise took him to Egypt, whither he was sent by the Directory in May, 1798, at his own desire, in pursuance of his gigantic plans of Eastern conquest, aimed against British predominance in India. The French expedition, on its voyage from Toulon, was lucky in escaping the vigilant Nelson, and, capturing Malta on the way from the Knights of St. John, arrived at Alexandria on June 30th. Then came the famous "Battle of the Pyramids" in which the Mamluks were overthrown, and the capture of Cairo. On August 1st Nelson's destruction of the French fleet at the battle of the Nile (Aboukir Bay) cut the invading army off from the chance of return, and Bonaparte, passing into Syria, won some victories over the Turkish troops, but had his dreams as regards the East dispelled by his failure to capture St. Jean d'Acre, after desperate assaults and a siege of 60 days. In October, 1799, escaping the British cruisers, he was back in Paris, where he found himself called upon to deal with a grave condition of affairs at home and abroad. Looking first to Italy, we find that in 1798 Rome had been taken by the French, and its palaces, churches, and convents stripped of their works of art. Pope Pius VI. went as a prisoner to France, where he soon afterwards died. Naples was overrun, and the "Roman" and "Parthenopsean Republics" were established. Sicily was safe through the presence of British ships in the Mediterranean, but the whole mainland of Italy was now under French control. A second coalition against France was formed, including Russia, now under the emperor Paul I., Austria, and Great Britain. An invasion of the Netherlands by an army under the duke of York ended in a capitulation of the British troops. In Germany and Switzerland the Archduke Charles defeated Jourdan and Massena, and most of Italy was recovered for a time by Austrian forces and by Russians under Suwarof (Suwarrow), whom we have seen victorious over the Turks. The king of Naples returned to his dominions, where a terrible vengeance was wreaked on the "liberal" (republican) party, and the Parthenopeean (so called from the ancient Parthenope, a Greek colony on the site of Naples) and Roman Republics came to an end. In France the Directory had now fallen into discredit, and Bonaparte, as the political ally of Sieves, one of the body, made an end of that form of government on November 9th, 1799 (the coup d'etat of the "18th Brumaire"), and established the Consulate, nominally of three "consuls" as the executive body, but in reality a monarchy, with Bonaparte as "First Consul," elected for ten years. In Switzerland the military genius of Massena, after some terrible righting, restored matters for France, and Suwarof withdrew to Russia. The new administration of France included prefectures for departments, and subprefectures for arrondissements (districts, subdivisions of departments), and thus arose the still existing centralised system. An arbitrary rule, repealing the revolutionary laws and decrees, established a censorship of the press and political espionage, and so prepared the way for imperial government. When matters were arranged at home, Bonaparte again took the field.

Crossing the St. Bernard pass in May, 1800, the great commander surprised the Austrians under Melas, and captured Milan, and then, after movements involving very brilliant but hazardous strategy, encountered the enemy on June 14th, on the plains of Marengo, near Alessandria, and fought a battle which, in the moment of defeat, was turned into a French victory by the fortunate arrival of a detached column led by Desaix, and by a happy cavalry-charge under the famous (younger) Kellermann. Massfoa, meanwhile, had been left to endure defeat from superior forces of Austrians, and to be starved into surrender at Genoa, after a terrible blockade during which 15,000 people died of famine. The battle of Marengo was followed by a convention with Melas which surrendered to France most of northern Italy. In Germany the French under Moreau won some battles against the Austrians and entered Munich in July, and on December 3rd, 1800, the same great general defeated the Archduke John in the famous battle of Hohenlinden. In February, 1801, the Peace of Luneville, concluded with Germany, extended the French frontier to the left bank of the Rhine; recognised the Batavian, Helvetian, Cisalpine, and Ligurian (Genoa) Republics, and rearranged German territory in a shamefully unjust way for the benefit of minor German princes. In America, Spain ceded Louisiana to France, who sold the territory, in 1803, to the United States.

Turning now to events in Egypt, we find that Kle"ber, left in command by Bonaparte, utterly defeated the Turks, in March, 1800, and was murdered at Cairo in June by a Moslem fanatic. In March, 1801, the British expedition under the gallant Sir Ralph Abercrombie defeated the French under Kleber's successor Menou, at the battle of Aboukir (or Alexandria), in which the British commander was mortally wounded. Then his successor, General Hutchinson, received the surrender of Alexandria and Cairo, and the French forces, evacuating Egypt, were conveyed to their country by the British fleet. In July, 1801, after the re-establishment of the Church in France, a "Concordat" was made with the Pope (Pius VII., 1800-1823), whereby the French prelates were to be appointed and supported by the government, and confirmed by the Pope. The Papal States, diminished by the loss of Ferrara, Bologna, and the Romagna, were well governed by the new Pontiff in the encouragement of trade and manufactures, and an economical administration of affairs.

We must now view some events in the British Isles, and our share in the naval warfare during this period. George III., a man who would have made a good farmer in that age, was a pious personage in his private life, but a deplorable failure as a king-obstinate, wrong-headed, always more or less insane. He was the last British sovereign who took an active and powerful part in ruling. Resolved to break down the Whig oligarchy which had so long held political sway in both Houses, he "managed" the House of Commons through the vast wealth which enabled him to purchase votes. His "Civil List," the annual income voted for the royal expenses, was about a million sterling, and this was supplemented by the royal revenues in Scotland and the revenue of Hanover, while further influence was given to the king by the possession of great patronage in Church and State - the power of nomination to countless posts of emolument, and to sinecures or places on the extensive pension-list. He carefully watched the division-lists in the Commons, and the use of parliamentary influence in other ways, and promotion in the Church, the civil service, and in the army and navy was made dependent on support of the ministers whom the king approved. Public opinion and the power of the press were thus the only restraints upon a system of jobbery and favouritism to which some disasters in war were due. The skill and courage of British admirals and sailors were the country's main defence against commercial ruin, invasion, and subjugation. In domestic affairs, the disgraceful Gordon or No-Popery riots of 1780 in London, a monstrous outbreak of bigotry and violence, showed the neglect of education and religious training among the masses. The repeal, in 1778, of a severe act against Catholics, long really obsolete, was resented by Protestant fanatics, and a half-witted Scot, Lord George Gordon, took the lead in rousing the brutal mob of the capital. For some days they were the masters of London; the scenes which occurred are well described in Dickens' Barnaby Rudge. In a speech on popular education, delivered in the House of Commons in April, 1847, the most brilliant of British historians said: "The ignorance of the common people makes the property, the limbs, the lives of all classes insecure. Without the shadow of a grievance, at the summons of a madman, 100,000 people rise in insurrection. During a whole week, there is anarchy in the greatest and wealthiest of European cities. The parliament is besieged. Your predecessor (the Speaker) sits trembling in his chair, and expects every moment to see the door beaten in by the ruffians whose roar he hears all round the House. The peers are pulled out of their coaches. The bishops in their lawn are forced to fly over the tiles. The chapels of foreign ambassadors, buildings made sacred by the law of nations, are destroyed. The house of the Chief Justice is demolished. The little children of the Prime Minister are taken out of their beds and laid in their night-clothes on the table of the Horse Guards, the only safe asylum from the fury of the rabble. The prisons are opened. Highwaymen, housebreakers, murderers, come forth to swell the mob by which they have been set free. 36 fires are blazing at once in London. Then comes the retribution. Count up all the wretches who were shot, who were hanged, who were crushed, who drank themselves to death at the rivers of gin which ran down Holborn Hill; and you will find that battles have been lost and won with a smaller sacrifice of life. And what was the cause of this calamity, a calamity which, in the history of London, ranks with the great plague and the great fire? The cause was the ignorance of a population which had been suffered, in the neighbourhood of palaces, theatres, temples, to grow up as rude and stupid as any tribe of tattooed cannibals in New Zealand, as any drove of beasts in Smithfield Market."

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