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his lordship observed, it would have been long since
XLIII. vacated, but for the report of Sebastiani, and of the changes which had been violently made in Europe. " You speak of the Italian republic, of the kingdom of Etruria, of Piedmont, of Switzerland,” observed Bonaparte. “In all those what is there that you must not have expected?”
Lord Whitworth here no doubt shook his head.
" And Sebastiani's report, which has so alarmed you on this subject. I will speak plainly,” said the First Consul. “I confess that I did, and do think of Egypt. It must be mine one day or other, as the Turkish empire cannot last. But I would not provoke war by attacking Egypt at present, nor do I desire war with you at all, for I have no means of striking at you but by a flotilla of invasion, of which I admit and fully discern all the difficulties and dangers. If you provoke me, however, to this invasion, I will attempt it, and to it will devote all the power I possess. How much better far that the two countries should unite for the subjugation of the world.”
That the First Consul at this interview was the man of passion, rather than of policy, is plain enough. For the ayowal of his ulterior designs upon Egypt was alone quite sufficient to deter the English government from granting the first and chief demand of France, the evacuation of Malta. If such language used to Lord Whitworth indisposed the English government to peace, the address of the First Consul presented to the legislative body immediately after alarmed and incensed Parliament and the nation. He described English parties, as some of them inclined to peace, but others actuated by mere hatred to France. He must therefore have 500,000 men ready to avenge the republic. As to England, it could find no allies in Europe, and was quite unable single-handed to enter upon a war with France.
A royal message to the British parliament was the too natural answer. Increase of army and navy was voted, and Fox himself joined in approving them. This retaliation produced a more violent altercation with the British envoy, whom the First Consul assailed at his levee, March 14, in the following words :
“ You are determined to go to war. After fighting ten years, are we to fight ten years more? The English government talks of my armaments. Where are they? I have not a vessel in my ports. Let treaties be henceforth covered with a black crape, since you will not keep them. You may destroy France, but you cannot intimidate her." In closing this speech, the violent gestures of the First Consul made the ambassador think that personal violence was intended, and the diplomatist put his hand to his sword. The anger
of the First Consul was sincere. He really desired peace, not with the hope of English amity, but to have time and make preparation for meeting his arch-enemy on England's own element, the ocean. His restless aggression in Italy and elsewhere first disturbed the treaty he had concluded, and finally his temper broke it. Two months, however, still elapsed before war broke out. During these, Talleyrand certainly laboured his utmost to preserve peace. Everything turned upon Malta.
Malta. To give it up to the Maltese or to the knights. was illusory, to Prussia or Austria equally so. The same might be said of Russia, but Russia declined taking it. England offered to give up Malta in ten years, provided the island of Lampedousa was then to be assigned to her. After passionately rejecting such a compromise, the First Consul at the last moment* offered to leave Malta in English possession if he were allowed to keep Tarentum and Otranto, with the positions which he held in the kingdom of Naples at the time of the signature of the treaty of Amiens.
* Letters of May 18. Napoleon Correspondence.
This certainly might have prolonged the peace. But Lord Whitworth had no longer the powers requisite to entertain a new proposition. He took his departure, and war was declared. *
From the middle of May, 1803, when hostilities were renewed between England and France, Bonaparte confined his military efforts during two years to the heights and the port of Boulogne. There he collected gradually more than 150,000 men, with light boats to transport them, their horses, and their artillery. The English made many but unsuccessful attempts to destroy the fleet of transports. But, on the other hand, the French commander would not trust his embarkations to the sea till he was the assured master of the channel.
What most prominently and seriously occupied the last months of 1803 and the commencement of 1804, was the conspiracy which the emigrant and violent partisans of the House of Bourbon had prepared. George Cadoudal, the Breton and the Chouan, who had failed in the terrible enterprise of the infernal machine, conceived a new plan. This was to attack, in company with some score of desperadoes, the carriage of the First Consul between the Tuileries and his country residence. He generally had but a guard of twenty horsemen, whom George thought to easily overpower, and then achieve his
purpose of killing Bonaparte. This scheme of assassination, Louis the Eighteenth repudiated and condemned, but the Count d'Artois was weak enough to countenance it, as a feat of war, and not an attempt to murder.
It was part of the scheme of George that the prince should sanction it by his presence. Whilst Cadoudal was thus to make away with the First Consul, General Pichegru, who had escaped from the place of his deportation, came with him to Paris, to take advantage of the deed, and turn it to the profit of the Bourbons.
* For Lord Whitworth's orders, government, see Castlereagh Corind the deternination of the British respondence, vol. v.
Discredited himself, Pichegru sought a more powerful name and support in Moreau, who hesitated, however, gave but half assent to the plot, and disapproved of the Bourbon restoration altogether.
The French police, in the hands of Regnier and Real, was so ineffectually managed, that the conspirators were several months in Paris without being discovered. Fouché at length, though out of office, got wind of the plot, and set the First Consul on its trace. Pichegru, the Polignacs, George himself, were arrested, as well as Moreau, who, refusing to make any confession, even of weakness, was brought to trial.
The French government had thus discovered and defeated this ill-conceived and criminal conspiracy, and could the First Consul have enjoyed his triumph with calm and honourable dignity, he would have derived countless advantages, with an increase of authority and power. But with very many great qualities Bonaparte had also some very small ones. He retained of his Corsican nature a thirst for vengeance, as unscrupulous in its daring as that of George Cadoudal, and wreaked it too often upon victims who had no share whatever in the supposed crime with which the French ruler charged them. What could exceed in petty malevolence the order for arresting and imprisoning all English travellers in 1803? What more puerile than his persecution of Madame de Staël, and other women, simply because they would not flatter him? What more infamous in the annals of crime than his extinction of the House of Condé by the murder of the Duke d'Enghien? That prince inhabited the Duchy of Baden, held there by an amour more than by a political design.
Because George and his accomplices covered their villany by asserting that a French prince was to accompany and sanction their project, the erring malevolence of the
* Moniteur Procès, Desmarets.
First Consul would have the Duke d'Enghien to be that CHAP.
XLIII. prince, despite not only truth but probability. And with no graver charge against him than this suspicion, Bonaparte ordered the seizure of the prince upon neutral and German territory, and his instant transferral to the Donjon of Vincennes. There the young duke was hastily brought before a military tribunal, condemned, and, without delay or mercy, shot in the fosses of that château. Criminal still, if exercised towards a prince who had plotted against him, it was as iniquitous as any act of Danton or Robespierre, with respect to a victim as innocent as he was illustrious.*
This outrageous act so shocked the court of St. Petersburg, that it put on mourning, and in that reprobatory garb received the French ambassador, Hedouville. The Czar, too, joined King Gustavus of Sweden in forwarding remonstrances to the German diet. It was not only the Duc d'Enghien's death that irritated Russia; the Emperor had thrown his protection over the royal families of Naples and of Sardinia, and deprecated altogether the French occupation of Hanover and its Baltic shores. The Czar had even come forward as a mediator to remedy and reform such anomalies. France, to gain time, had at first consented to this mediation, but soon showed that she regarded its result in no serious light.
The death of the Duke d’Enghien made an impression as profound on the court of Berlin, though it refrained from manifesting its displeasure. It had leagued with France so far as to promise to look on in neutrality whilst Austria was crushed. Hanover was to be its reward. But French troops had taken possession of that electorate after the rupture of the peace of Amiens, and the First Consul hesitated transferring it to Prussia on other terms than those of an active and
offensive alliance. From this the King of Prussia shrank, and in the spring
Bourrienne, Rovigo, Mémoires sur la Catastrophe.