Imagens das páginas


This signal advantage in the north of Spain did not compensate for the loss of Andalusia, nor for the complete defeat and expulsion of Junot from Portugal. At the end of July, a British army had landed in that country under Sir Arthur Wellesley, fought the battles of Roliça and Vimiera, and concluded at Cintra the convention by which the French troops were carried in English vessels back to France.

If the English felt humiliated by the bridge of gold thus made for the enemy, Napoleon was still more so at the convention of Cintra and the capitulation of Baylen. He at once resolved to put matters to rights in the Peninsula, by repairing thither in person and draughting at the same time such large reinforcements as would overwhelm Spaniards and English. These reinforcements could only be brought from the French army Germany. The aspect of affairs there was not fully satisfactory. Austria had been awakened from the passive sullenness or discontent by the account of French reverses in Spain. She began to arm, and evidently to prepare for another conflict. Napoleon saw it, expostulated, and received evasive answers. Several months, however, must elapse ere Austria could be ready. And this would suffice for the complete repression of Spanish resistance.

It was necessary, however, to keep at least North Germany quiet, an aim to be attained by the continuance of the accord with Russia, entered into at Tilsit. To enforce it the French Emperor invited his Russian brother to a solemn meeting at Erfurt. It took place in September, and was as brilliant as it was, to all appearance, cordial. Napoleon encouraged Russian designs of aggrandisement on the Danube and the Gulf of Finland. Russia approved of the installation of King Joseph at Madrid. The French monarch, to be sure, reiterated his objection to seeing Russia at Constantinople. But he gratified Alexander by concessions to


the unfortunate King of Prussia. The French army of CHAP. occupation was in a great measure withdrawn from that country, the principal fortresses excepted. Napoleon had need of these troops in Spain. And a considerable diminution was made in French pecuniary demands upon Prussia.

Notwithstanding these mutual concessions, no progress was made by Napoleon in a scheme which he had conceived, for himself espousing the sister of Alexander, his divorce with Josephine being previously arranged. Alexander, it is said, might have consented, but his mother's prejudice against a French Imperial alliance proved insuperable. However, the sovereigns separated with all the signs of renewed amity, and Napoleon betook himself to Bayonne.

The Emperor had, however, but two months, the last of 1808, to coerce Spaniards and English, and saddle the former with the monarchy of Joseph. He had, however, collected the overwhelming force of 300,000 men, a number quite irresistible. The Spanish armies made gallant resistance, here and there, to the host of French soldiers ere they crossed the Ebro. But their efforts were unavailing. Worsted in every battle, the Spaniards were driven from the plains of Castille; and Madrid was once more occupied by the triumphant enemy. After all was over, and Spanish co-operation impossible, an English army under Sir John Moore penetrated into Spain. It was merely to perceive its mistake, and retreat, as best it might, by the northern provinces to the coast. Napoleon in force rushed after it, and outstripping his main body came within a march of Sir John Moore. The latter was in full flight, however. And Napoleon, receiving despatches that the warlike preparations of Austria were already menacing, he paused, abandoned the pursuit of Moore to Soult, and galloped off to reach Paris and prepare for a campaign upon the Danube. Soult pursued Moore to Corunna, where the latter made a stand in


order to render safe the embarkment of his army. On the 16th of January, 1809, took place the battle of Corunna, in which the French were repulsed, and the future embarkation left unmolested. A cannon-shot terminated Moore's career, in the moment of victory.

Thus Napoleon, at the commencement of 1809, had redeemed the disgrace and washed away in blood the affronts put upon his arms in Andalusia and Portugal. He still rose superior in the struggle with his archenemy, England. For in truth the war, wherever fought, was between these two rivals. Napoleon and our Tory government did not yield to one another in audacity. His, indeed, could only be accounted for by ambitious aims, verging almost upon insanity, yet England's acts, though springing from the necessities of self-defence, were often as outrageous and indefensible. It was thus that the bombardment of Copenhagen and the carrying off the Danish fleet by the English, struck neutral powers, or would-be neutral ones, with feelings very nearly akin to those excited by the invasion of Spain. The decrees of prohibition and blockade, launched by France and England at each other, were of the same kind. Both made enemies; and both, moreover, by this continued enmity, came to task each other's strength and resources to that degree, that the war became a trial of stamina as well as an interchange of blows. England drew upon its credit and internal wealth, an exhausting process. France, without credit, was obliged to live on the spoils of subject countries, but this indisposed them, and, like all oppression, led to schemes of fierce retaliation. Men to Napoleon were as indispensable as money. In the supply of these, France began to fail. The conscription he was compelled to enforce a year in advance, as well as to trust more and more to foreign auxiliaries, and thus fill his armies either with youth, who wanted vigour and endurance, or with men no longer animated with the zeal and spirit


of the French revolutionary soldiers. He contrived, however, to keep up his numerical force, and to count a million of armed men under his banners.

What added to Napoleon's embarrassments was the distance between him and his real enemies. He had to reduce or to awe the powers holding the extremities of Europe-England, Russia, Spain, and Turkey. In embracing Russia at Tilsit, and promising the spoils of Turkey, he had naturally alienated the latter.

And thus, whilst endeavouring to close against England the frozen ports of the Baltic, he opened to them the more important ones of the Levant. Tilsit, which, according to Napoleon's views, was to exclude the English from any footing on the Continent, gave them, on the contrary, the most favourable chances of interference and resistance; whilst the vain attempts to close the ports of Spain and Portugal against British vessels resulted in opening to them all those of the New World beyond the Atlantic.

Whilst the French Emperor was dispersing the Spaniards and pursuing the English, the Conferences of Erfurt were bearing their natural fruit. That meeting of the two autocrats was neither more nor less than a joint conspiracy against the rest of the world. It was a pact to rivet the chains on the portion already conquered or attached. Russia, after appropriating Finland, was to go to Stockholm on one side, and the Danube on the other. Napoleon was to crush Spain, and then proceed to take his share of the Ottoman empire. The Turks soon got wind of the spoliation reserved for them, and concluded peace with England in January 1809. Austria was no less threatened. With Russia grasping the Principalities and extending to the Danube, eastward of Hungary, and France advancing from Dalmatia, south of it, Austria would soon have been an enclave, an isolated spot in the midst of the allied empires. It precipitated its armaments accordingly, encouraged as


CHAP well as warned by the events of Spain. After Erfurt,

Napoleon had summoned the court of Vienna to acknowledge Joseph King of Spain. “We will do so,

" was the reply, “when you inform us what ye, Russia and France, have resolved together at Erfurt.”

Exceedingly displeased at having to provide for another and an immediate campaign against Austria, whilst his veteran legions were still employed in Spain, Napoleon sought to pācify the Austrian court. He offered, in concert with Alexander, to guarantee to Austria its present possessions. But as, in the letter making this offer, no mention was made of Erfurt, or of Russian designs in the Principalities, Austria felt that, the allied emperors had secretly agreed upon some enterprise inimical to her, which they durst not divulge, and Austria was right. Napoleon was very indignant at such a suspicion. He had no idea that any power or prince had a right to object to his overweening aggression or ambitious designs, and so blinded was he by anger, that he actually considered England and Austria as criminal in opposing him. “ The history of my relations with the House of Austria,” wrote he, “is simply that of the Wolf and the Lamb." * He meant himself for the Lamb, and poor, shattered, reduced Austria as the Wolf.

The Austrians, with much more justice, looked upon Napoleon as the Wolf, who was certain to devour them when Spanish resistance was overcome. Many causes, too, encouraged them. England was ready with its subsidies, and they had strong proofs that Alexander, notwithstanding his apparently close alliance with the French, was still fearful of their supremacy, and anxious to shake it off. To these feelings towards France, manifested in the highest quarters, was to be added the leaning of popular opinion in Germany. Prussian statesmen and men of letters were sowing the seeds of that uprising against

* Letter to the King of Wurtemburg, about this time.

« AnteriorContinuar »