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Wagram, when the Russian court continued to entertain the proposal coldly, some diplomatist of inferior rank suggested an Austrian princess. Annoyed at the time by the cooling of Russian cordiality, Napoleon adopted the suggestion of an Austrian alliance. Prince Metternich caught at the idea,* as did Schwarzenberg, and, through the sedulous efforts of both, the negotiation was brought to a successful conclusion. In February 1810 Napoleon made the formal demand of the hand of Maria Louisa. In the last days of March she entered Compiègne and became Empress of the French.
In that year the attention of the French ruler seemed more particularly turned towards the north. He had concluded the appropriation of Italy, and the immensity of the French forces had driven, or was driving, the English within the lines of Torres Vedras. The French Emperor considered the south as actually or virtually his. He proceeded, in consequence, with strange greed to swallow up the north also. Holland he first looked to absorb. The British expedition to the Scheldt had turned his attention to a coast and country so fitted for at least menacing England. He deemed its annexation to France, indeed, a measure so menacing and disagreeable to England, that he empowered the Dutch government or its agents to make proposals of peace in London, the basis of which was a promise to abstain from the intended absorption of Holland, if England would lay down its arms, and sanction the possession of half Europe by the French. Strange to say, Fouché, the Police Minister, set on foot a similar negotiation through the financier Ouvrard. But if Fox could not cede Sicily during his administration, Lord Wellesley could
Gentz's Tagebüch. Germans, breaking up. Their remarks on the other than Austrians, look aghast at marriage were bitter : one said, that the marriage, that seemed to put a by the marriage Austria vaccinated seal upon their servitude, although, Napoleon with its own stupidity and by alienating Russia from Napoleon, ill-fortune.—Lebensbilder aus dem it was the principal cause of its Befreiungskriege, vol. i.
not abandon the Spaniards and their independence. And the offers of Napoleon were scarcely noticed on the other side of the Channel. Meantime King Louis of Holland had come to Paris to be present at the Emperor's marriage, in no good humour; he disagreed vitally with his queen, Hortense, the daughter of the Empress Josephine, and even sought a separation with her. He could never hope to conciliate the Dutch, whilst the injunctions of the Emperor were to annihilate their trade, to withhold all communication with England, and make their country and their resources subservient to his hostility against that kingdom. Harassed by the exigencies of the Emperor in Paris, who at the same time prevented his departure, or, as he meditated, his escape, Louis consented to all the demands made of him, one of which was the cession of the Dutch territories south of the Rhine. In this neither Louis nor Napoleon were sincere. The latter looked to absorb the whole of Holland, whilst Louis had gone so far as to send orders secretly to the Dutch government to resist. This state of things could not continue. And Louis, on returning to the Hague, finding that the French armies pressed on to the occupation of his towns and territories even north of the Rhine, abdicated in favour of his son, and fled to Bohemia. Napoleon, in lieu of Holland, which he annexed to his own empire, gave the young prince the Grand Duchy of Berg, vacant by the promotion of Murat to the crown of Naples, and divided Holland into French departments.
Almost simultaneously with the dethronement of Louis Bonaparte, took place that of Gustavus, King of Sweden. He was the only monarch who came forward as the antagonist of the French revolution, and consequently of Bonaparte, on chivalrous principles. He had been the ally of Russia in this antagonism. But when the Czar Alexander and Napoleon met at Tilsit, Sweden
was sacrificed by the former as Turkey was by the latter. Finland soon became the spoil of the Czar. Had Gustavus shown common prudence and moderate skill, he might have delayed, if not defeated, the conquest of Finland. But he left his generals unsupported, and they betrayed him.
More obstinate from adversity, Gustavus threatened to jeopardise the whole monarchy, and the Swedes, in self-preservation, deposed him. Another sovereign and heir-apparent was found, but the latter dying, and the new king, formerly Duke of Sudermania, being aged, it was necessary to elect an heir. The son of Gustavus should have been the chosen, but it was feared he might revenge the misfortunes of his father upon those who overthrew him. The election in consequence fell upon Bernadotte, the French commander on the opposite shore of the Baltic. Napoleon, though he disliked Bernadotte, and had sent him to that remote command in disgrace, still abetted and approved of his nomination, on condition that he joined the war against England, supported the blockade, and rendered Sweden as subservient to France as Holland and Prussia.
Whilst the northern monarchies of Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Holland were thus reduced to French dependence, Napoleon completed his empire in these regions by a decree, which even his chosen historian, Bignon, records with astonishment at its audacity. It came forth in the shape of a Senatus Consultum apparently for the purpose of annexing the Swiss Canton of the Valais, and converting it into the department of the Simplon; but as a corollary to this appropriation of a Swiss valley, followed the declaration that the mouths of the Scheldt, Meuse, Rhine, Ems, Weser, and Elbe, with the countries adjoining them, were indispensable to the completion of the French empire and its defence against England, and that they were consequently annexed to it. As the enemy pro
hibited all communication by sea, the decree declared it became necessary to supply it by a canal between the Baltic and the Seine. The Senatus consultum of the 13th of December (1810) rendered the whole coast of north-western Europe from the Elbe to the Scheldt French property, curtailing one-fourth of the new kingdom of Westphalia, as well as of the Grand Duchy of Berg. Napoleon's own kindred were under as much alarm and as much incensed at his ever-changing and arbitrary resolves, as were foreign dynasties. “I will have no more petty kings,” exclaimed Napoleon ; “four of this rank are quite enough.”* Murat thus feared ejection from Naples, as Jerome did from Cassel, and Bernadotte from Stockholm. His extension of frontier did not even terminate at the Elbe; the Hanse towns, and consequently Lubeck on the Baltic, being also declared a portion of the French empire.
The rapacity of Napoleon in the north was as fatal to him as his policy founded on the same greediness in the south. One of the princes dispossessed was the Grand Duke of Oldenburg, brother-in-law to the Emperor of Russia. He, as well as the King of Prussia, was not a little alarmed to find the French eagles permanently established on the shores of the Baltic, and worrying them to accomplish the fiscal and commercial death of those regions by the proscription of the vessels of all countries from the ocean. Trade on the Baltic and in Holland was indeed briskly carried on by vessels under the American flag, which, under one subterfuge or another, contrived to introduce English goods, and export the produce of Russia or of Sweden. Napoleon stormed at these interlopers. Nothing less than a seizure and confiscation of all ships showing the American flag would satisfy him ; a demand to which Alexander demurred, but in which Holland and afterwards Sweden acquiesced with impatience and remonstrance; the King of Denmark
* Diary of Queen Catherine. Memoirs of Jerome.
did the same at Altona. To some of these countries CHAP.
XLIII. the injunction of the French Emperor was of the utmost detriment. Holland might be considered as annihilated by them. Sweden and the Baltic countries had no salt, which was an absolute necessity for them in curing their winter provisions: to shut them out from the sea was to condemn them to famine. The result appeared soon after in a general revolt of the Baltic provinces or population against France, analogous to the insurrection of the Spaniards against usurpation and exactions. Whilst compelling other sovereigns to adopt the enactments of his spite against England, he himself relaxed them for his own especial advantage, by the issuing of licences to trade, to those who would export French manufactures, and import in return such commodities as France stood most in need of, naval stores amongst others.
It is astonishing that one so sagacious as Napoleon should have persisted in his course of dictation, aggression, and aggrandisement, offending and provoking princes, whilst grinding and oppressing the populations, and should have had no misgiving as to the dangers which he thus accumulated before him. Neither the finances nor the population of France sufficed to carry out his aims. Each year the numbers of his soldiers were made up more and more of foreign levies, not to be counted upon in case of reverse. Yet he did not stoop to make a friend. Prince Metternich came to Paris after the Austrian marriage, in the hope that he would find Napoleon inclined to make such concessions to his fatherin-law as would render Austria a cordial ally. But no; the conqueror was not prepared to abate of his advantages, or provoke Russian resentment by a decided leaning to Vienna.
The friendship and alliance of Russia were indeed indispensable to the maintenance of the rest of the continent in its state of acquiescence or subjection; and yet Napoleon, however anxious for the preservation of