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CHAP. effect which Eylau had upon him. He called from all XLIII.
sides recruits and reserves,* and laboured to represent the battle in the most favourable light. But in France, where the funds fell prodigiously, as well as in foreign courts, the impression was that the French had at last met their match in the field. A week after the battle Napoleon sent general Bertrand to the King of Prussia to offer terms of peace, and to assure the monarch that he abandoned all idea of reconstituting Poland. † On learning later that Austria had begun to arm, he sent offers of a part of Silesia in order to keep her quiet. When Austria in reply proposed to mediate between France, Russia and the other powers, Napoleon at once accepted (April 16th), which was very different from his language before Eylau.
That battle, however, inspirited his enemies as much as it had mitigated his own pretensions. In the several negotiations which took place in the spring of 1807, the Czar could not consent to see his ally, the King of Prussia, deprived of one half of his dominions. The war accordingly recommenced. By the month of June Napoleon had mustered 180,000 men, which the Russians with all their efforts could by no means equal in number. Napoleon took the road from the Vistula to the Niemen. His first encounter with his foe resembled Eylau, far more than it did Austerlitz. On the 10th of June he attacked the Russians in their entrenched camp at Heilsberg, in which enterprise all the daring efforts of generals and soldiers failed. Instead of surmounting its embankments, the French left thousands of dead at their feet. The Russian commander Benningsen, at Heilsberg as at Eylau, showed all the talents, and seemed attended by all the fortune, of a
* He demanded of the Senate an quant à la Pologne, depuis que anticipated conscription of 80,000 l'Empereur la connait, il n'y attache men, only due in 1808.
aucun prix. Correspondence. † Bertrand luissa entendre que,
great general. But as the overwhelming forces of the French continued to advance, Benningsen's skill and fortune abandoned him. Before such an army and such a general as Napoleon, his better plan would have been to keep on the defensive. But he was always for falling upon single divisions of his enemy, a vain attempt, as the French generals were too wary and experienced to allow themselves to be beyond reach of succour. In an ill-judged sortie of this kind, Benningsen led his whole army across the Alle, and exposed it to the attacks of Napoleon at Friedland on the 14th of June. The battle did not commence till the afternoon, and the field was fiercely contested by the Russians, inferior in number to their foes, and one of their divisions separated from the battle by the river Alle. It was soon evident that they could not sustain the shock, and to avoid destruction the Russian divisions either flung themselves into the Alle, or tried to reach Friedland and its bridge even through the masses of the enemy. Either attempt was fatal to them. The Russians saved their guns by the most desperate efforts, and died rather than surrendered. But they left an immense and signal victory to Napoleon at the very time that he most wanted it. Defeat would have been total destruction to him. Victory gave to him the disposal of Europe.
The surrender of Konigsberg followed the defeat, and on the 18th the Russians demanded an armistice. As a condition the French required the surrender of Gaudentz and other Prussian fortresses, so that the suspension of hostilities was not signed till the 22nd. Alexander then proposed a personal interview, which took place on a raft in the Niemen before Tilsit, the 25th of June 1807. Almost the first words of Alexander announced his more than disgust of England, which meant that he was prepared not only to conclude peace, but an active alliance with France. Napoleon
CHAP: accepted the offer with eagerness. He could not hope
to dominate the world alone, and wanted an ally, which he had never found, or could not keep when found. The ideas of the monarchs were thus in such accord, that from enemies they became more than friends. Alexander and Napoleon took up their joint quarters in Tilsit, freely using each other's articles of toilette, and were inseparable. The King of Prussia was invited to the meeting, but he was not in the secret of the friendship and soon found himself in the way.
It was indeed difficult to communicate or render acceptable to the vanquished monarch the harsh terms which the victor was determined to impose upon him. Napoleon took from the King of Prussia half his dominions, and made pecuniary demands almost equal to the other half, whilst the country and its fortresses were to be held till their ransom was paid. In the west Prussia was deprived of all left of the Elbe, which with Hesse was to be formed into the kingdom of Westphalia for Jerome. In the east Frederick William lost his illgotten spoil in Poland, which with its capital Warsaw was added to the dominions of the King of Saxony. Alexander, apparently to avoid this spoliation, seems to have suggested that Jerome should have the duchy of Warsaw, and be declared king of it and of Saxony, the dynasty existing at Dresden being of course provided for elsewhere. This flattering proposal Napoleon declined, and adhered to his first arrangements, alleging that the direct influence of France should not pass the Elbe. *
Here, perhaps, may best be mentioned the question which has arisen, of whether Alexander was sincere in his sudden conversion to Napoleonism. The above would lead to the persuasion that he was not. The proposal to place Jerome at Warsaw, another brother in
* See Napoleon's Note of July the 4th in his correspondence.
Spain, as well as to subject the West of Germany to the French emperor, could not have been the advice of a well-wisher, but only of one not displeased to see ambition rush into the impossible and the exorbitant. Although the subsequent motive with Alexander for remaining attached to Napoleon, was no doubt their joint plan for dividing the East, this could not have been the first impulse. The desire of extricating himself from a position of humiliation and defeat, by representing the new alliance as in accordance with his interests and his predilections, was probably the prime inducement. But from first to last, there was too much utter selfishness in the calculations of the two monarchs to render it possible to give either of them credit for a nobler sentiment.
On one point Napoleon, as was usual with him when released from the active duties of war, seemed altogether mad. This monomania was to acquire maritime power and possessions, and to push his conquests over the world's hemisphere to India. For this purpose he was not only to keep the southern shore of the Baltic, but the Atlantic ones of Portugal and Spain. To the coast of Dalmatia already acquired he was to add Greece, the Morea and the islands with Egypt, as if he could possibly keep or make use of such territories, were they in his power. For this dream of Oriental dominion, Napoleon gave up to Russia the far more feasible conquest of the Danubian Principalities, and North Turkey, with the exception of Constantinople. It proved indeed eventually that Russia was no more able to conquer even the Danubian Principalities than Napoleon was to land soldiers in Egypt. So that the two mighty potentates, with Europe at their feet, were indulging in an Arabian Nights' dream about the Levant and Asia, with no more reality in them, than in the stories of Scheherezade.
What was most marvellous in this carving and apportioning of the Ottoman territories, was that the
CHAP: Ottomans had been the zealous and faithful allies of
France during the late eventful years, England and its protection having been spurned by the Grand Seignior; and when a British fleet forced its way into the Sea of Marmora, to remonstrate, it found Napoleon's envoy, General Sebastiani, completely master there, and not only dictating Turkish replies but pointing Turkish
The reward which Napoleon destined for the Turks in return for such conduct was the conquest and division of their empire by him and Russia. The pretext given for this treachery was, that Sultan Selim had perished in a popular tumult. But surely there was something more to be considered in Turkey than the ephemeral life of a sultan.
The rest of Europe was as cavalierly treated by the two potentates at Tilsit. Not only did Alexander receive for himself a portion, a small portion certainly, of the Prussian dominions in Poland, but he accepted Finland, the most essential part of the Swedish monarchy, that monarchy which, like Prussia, had been Alexander's faithful ally against France. Moreover all powers were to be awed into open war with England. Russia promised this for itself in case England should refuse its mock mediation. Such powers as Denmark were to be compelled to declare war against Great Britain, and on refusal France and Russia were to declare war against them. In joining this insolent scheme of forcing their vindictive policy upon all other powers, Russia did not see or foresee that Napoleon was really forcing the same upon the cabinet of St. Petersburg, and that on the first symptoms of its wincing or proving reluctant, Russia would be menaced by French legions, just as little Denmark was.
Notwithstanding Napoleon's declaration that French influence should terminate at the Elbe, he erected Dantzic into a republic, dependent evidently upon France, thus rendering himself as much master even of