Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

could not bring themselves to be lieve, that he was in earnest in his rear. Such reasoners alledged, that of all men, who had risen from 23 obscure situation to a throne, Bonaparte was the most prudent and wary; that his caution and circumpiction in forming his plans, were as remarkable as his boldness and activity in carrying them into exeration; that no man had ever trasted so little to fortune, or used so many precautions to ensure saccess in all his enterprises; that though no one had ever Esplayed greater presence of mind, or manifested greater resources in danger, no man had ever shewn himsdf more averse to engage unneces. sarily in hazardous undertakings, or more disposed to distrust his fortune in the hour of success. His moderation in victory, which he affected to call magnanimity, they attributed to his prudence; and the ofers and professions of peace, which he was continually addressing to his enemics, they regarded, not as mere traps for popularity, but as indications of a frame of mind, which, though actuated by the most restless ambition, and the sport at fmes of the most ungovernable temrer, was nevertheless too thorough ly impressed with the instability of human affairs, not to seek every opportunity of guarding against the ancertainty of fortune. But, with such an opinion of Bonaparte's cha ricter, it was difficult to believe him Sacere in his threats of invasion against England. For, though the Numbers and discipline of his army, the excellence of his officers, the genius and experience of his generals, might inspire him with the most confident hopes of success, provided the military force of his

empire could be brought into contact with that of England; what expectations could he reasonably entertain, of transporting to her shores an army of sufficient force to subdue the country; and, if he landed with an army of infe. rior, and therefore inadequate strength, what chance had he, deprived of the assistance of a fleet, of maintaining his communications with the continent. But, while the invasion of England was difficult and unpromising of success, the consequences of failing in so great an enterprize, deserved the most sérious consideration. Besides the disgrace that necessarily attends miscarriage in affairs of such magnitude; the injurious effects of the loss of reputation to a military chief, whose popularity was founded on his uninterrupted successes; the probability of discontent and mutiny in his army, at the sight of so many thousands of their comrades sacrificed to an experiment, which, if it failed, every one was sure to condemn; was it not clear, that the continental powers, whom France had recently humbled and defeated, would be roused by her misfortune, to try once more with her the chance of war. Was the disaster of Aboukir already forgotten, or the formidable coalition to which it gave rise? Was Russia less hostile to France than in the time of Paul, or Austria better reconciled to the loss of so many of her ancient provinces? But, while there were so many reasons against attempting the invasion of England, Bonaparte had no urgent cause for stirring at all, and the prospect of many advantages by remaining perfectly quiet. The presence of his army at Boulogne was sufficient B3 without

without invasion, to give occupation to a great part of the English army, and to keep England in a state of constant preparation and alarm. The expences of the war were exhausting the resources of Enggland, while the evils attending that state of things in France were comparatively small. The interruption of her foreign trade had produced little inconvenience, except in some particular districts, after the first six months of the war. Her agriculture was flourishing. Her domestic manufactures were encouraged by the difficulty of procuring manufactured articles from abroad. Her capital was invested in occu. pations, which the hostility of England could not materially disturb. There was nothing to precipitate Bonaparte's measures, except the impatience of his army, which was pining in inaction at Boulogne. But it was not difficult to foresee, that, if the discontents of his troops should ever compel him to take the field, he would contrive to carve out for himself some easier work on the continent, than the perilous expedition against England.

But, whatever opinions might have been held with respect to the probability or improbability of invasion, antecedent to the period of which we treat, the issue of the late unfortunate campaign upon the continent had, at this time, materially altered the grounds, on which the question might formerly have been argued. It belongs not to us, as historians of 1806, to enter at length into the history, or to expatiate on the errors of the illconcerted and worse conducted coalition of 1805. Without any definite or attainable object in view, it was formed of discordant mate

(

rials, which accident had late brought together, but which tim had not cemented. Russia, recent in the closest connection wit France, had been disgusted wit her ally, on account of an atrocion and unprovoked act of violenc committed by order of the Frenc goverument within the territory the German empire, the indepen ence of which Russia as well a France was bound by treaty t protect. The resentment Russia for this offence had been in creased by the bad faith of th French government towards her self, in some private transaction between them, not very reputabl to either party; and the petular and insolent tone, with which he complaints and claims of redre were answered by France, had pro voked her to recal her ministe from Paris, and to break off all ir tercourse with the French govern ment. In this moment of disgus and ill humour, she was unfortu nately prevailed upon by the soli citations of England, to come for ward as the champion and protecto of the liberties of Europe, whic only two years before she had len her aid to oppress and subver Austria, who still owed her a grudg for her conduct on that occasion was, next, most unwillingly and re luctantly dragged into the confede racy. Prussia, without whose co operation, hostilities against Franc should never have been resolve upon, was unaccountably neglecte or overlooked in the formation o the alliance and so little were he sentiments with regard to it known that, even when the allies had take the field, it was doubtful whethe she would not throw her weigh into the opposite scale, and declar

against them. To recapitulate the mistakes and oversights of the disastrons campaign that followed, would be a task as useless as it would be painful. Suffice it to say, that the armies of Austria were rained without a battle; her capital was taken without resistance; and scarcely had the miserable remains of her army joined the Russians, who were coming up to their assistance, when they were compelled to hazard an engagement, which decided the fate of Europe, and completed the triumph of France Over the continent. In this too memorable action it is true that a small part only of the Russian army was engaged. But, as the French justly boasted, the secret of the Russians was discovered, and the inferiority of their blind, though steady courage, when tried against the disciplined valour and scientific tactics of their opponents, was but too clearly and fully ascertained. Russia, indeed, was still unconscious and unapprehensive of this truth. Further and more severe lessons from experience, were necessary to convince her, that the power of an empire is not to be measured by its extent, and that Serfs and wandering Barbarians are removed by an immense interval from an equality with the civilized nations of the west of Europe.

After the peace of Presburgh, France was at liberty to direct her whole force and energies to the subjugation of England. No lenger deterred from invasion by the

fear of a continental confederacy, she had only to decide what was the most expedient and practicable. mode of conducting it. If it ap peared possible to convert the Boulogne Rotilla to any useful purpose, and employ it in the service for which it was prepared, Bonaparte might now risk part of his army in such an expedition, without fear. ing a mutiny of his troops, or rebellion of his people, in case it failed. If transports and ships of war were thought necessary for carrying over his army, he had (besides the ports of France) Flushing and Ferrol, and Lisbon (when he chose), to receive and give shelter to the naval forces which he destined for the enterprize. If England had nothing to apprehend from any number of troops, which he could land upon her shores, there were other parts of the British empire, not equally invulnerable to his attacks. Ireland was exposed by her grievances to the seduction of his emissaries, and easily accessible by her situation to the invasion of his army. Rebellion had in that country been put down, but discontent still existed in the minds of the people. The fire, which had lately blazed with, such fury, was smothered, but not extinguished. The late rejection of the Catholic petition by parliament had not tended to conciliate that body: and, though the more moderate of the Catholics were ready to postpone the discussion of their claims, till the only obstacle to the

"The arrival of the second Russian army was delayed more than a month by the first armaments which the court of Berlin threatened to oppose to those of Russia." Extract from a memoir on the situation of affairs, communicated by Count Stabremberg. Sup. Papers, P. 52.

B 4

full

full redress of their grievances was removed; and the prudent and considerate were disinclined to those violent counsels, from which they had already suffered so much; it was not to be supposed that all the Irish Roman Catholics were moderate and prudent, but, that many of them would join themselves to a French army, as soon as it made its appearance in their country.

At this moment of danger and dismay, when the surrender of Ulm and battle of Austerlitz were still recent events, when the extent of the late calamities was still unknown, and the immediate consequences were apprehended to be more fatal than they have yet proved, there was no efficient go vernment in England. Mr. Pitt, in whose wisdom and patriotism the great majority of the people had, for many, years reposed their confidence, was sick at Bath.. Ilis colleagues were men of very inferior parts, and at that time they had credit for still less ability than they possessed. By giving effect to a system of exclusion, in the formation of his ministry, he had suffered his country to be deprived, at the late critical period, of the services of her ablest statesmen, and he had now the mortification to behold his schemes on the continent baffled by the enemy, and his government at home destitute of any effective support but his own. If any thing could have lessened the public opinion of his colleagues, it would have been the publication, at this time, of their demi-official bulletins, in which they announced a great victory of the allies over the French, after the battle of Austerlitz, on no better authority than the report of a prating messenger, whose idle hearsays

they had the weakness to believe, in preference to the official dis patches, of which he was the bear er.

This miserable fabrication was eagerly circulated by the ministers then in town, and for some days it met with universal credit among their adherents; but when the his. tory, as well as the falsehood of their intelligence was known, it covered them with shame and ridi. cule, and exposed them to the deri. sion even of those who had been the dupes of their story.

In this posture of affairs, parliament, after repeated prorogations, was at length suffered to meet, on Tuesday, Jan. 21, and, as the state of his majesty's eyes did not permit him to open that assembly in person, it was done by commission, the commissioners being the lord chancellor, the archbishop of Canterbury, lord Ellenborough lord chief justice, the earl of Dartmouth lord chamberlain, and lord Hawkesbury principal secretary of state for the home department. After the usual formalities, the commission was read by the clerk at the table, and the lord chancellor then read the speech from the throne.

The principal topics of the speech were congratulations on the splendour of our late naval succasses, mixed with suitable expressions of regret for the lamented loss of lord Nelson, and a reconmendation to parliament to bestow some mark of national munificence on his family. His majesty next informed parliament that he had directed the treaties to be laid before them, which he had concluded with foreign powers; and while he lamented the late disastrous events on the continent, he congratulated

them on the assurances which he continued to receive from the emperor of Russia, of that monarch's determination to adhere to his alli. ance with Great Britain. He then signified to the house of commons, that he had directed the sum of one million, accruing to the crown from the droits of admiralty, to be applied to the public service of the year; and concluded by recommending vigilance and exertion against the enemy, as by such means alone the present contest could be brought to a conclusion consistent with the safety and independence of the country, and with its rank among the nations of the world.*

The address, which, as usual, was an echo of the speech, was moved, in the house of lords, by the earl of Essex, and seconded by lord Carleton, and in the house of commons, it was moved by lord Francis Spencer, and seconded by Mr. Ainslie.

The speech, as was stated by lord Hawkesbury in the house of lords, had been intentionally couched in such language, as, it was supposed, would create no difference of opinion, as to the terms of the address; and, accordingly, the only part of it, which could lead to any discussion or debate, was a passage, in which his majesty, in allusion to the late war and coalition on the continent, had been advised to "express his confidence, that his parliament would be of opinion, that he had left nothing undone, on his part, to sustain the efforts of his allies, and that he had acted in strict conformity to the principles declared by him, and recoged by parliament as essential to

the interests and security of his own dominions, as well as to the general safety of the continent." But where, and in what manner, it might be asked, had his majesty's government sustained the efforts of his allies? was it by landing an ar my in the north of Germany after the capitulation of Um; or, by disembarking troops in Naples, after the French had evacuated that kingdom? or, by sending an expedition to a distant part of the globe, under sir David Baird and sir Home Popham, instead of employing the whole disposable force of the empire in some effective diversion in favour of Austria? Had proposals of peace, of any sort, been made to France by the allies, antecedent to the recommencement of hostilities? as from repeated declarations of his majesty's government, and more particularly from the tenor of lord Mulgrave's letter to Talleyrand, (14th Jan. 1805) the public had *been led to expect. Whatever might have been the principles on which the late coalition was form. ed, could it be denied, that the consequences to which it had led, were so disastrous as to call for the enquiry of parliament? Could any acquiescence, however slight, in the late measures of administration, be expected from those, who, at the conclusion of the preceding session of parliament, taking it for granted that some terms of peace would be offered to the enemy, had entreated ministers that they might be reasonable, and such as his majesty's government, if in the place of the French government, would not think it unreasonable to accept? who had expressed an opi

For the speech itself, see State Papers, page 654,

« ForrigeFortsett »