Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

XLIII.

that friendship, would not make the requisite concessions, or show the necessary forbearance. He had won the Emperor Alexander's alliance at Tilsit by the promise of dividing the East with him. Towards this he had given Finland and the Danubian Principalities in prompt payment. He thought, not without reason, that Russia ought to be satisfied with such palpable and immediate gains. But Russia was not satisfied. The Czar could not but see that the conquest of the East was a dream, adjourned to the far future, and that whilst Napoleon undisguisedly proceeded towards the subjugation of all Europe that was non-Russian, he forbade that empire to pass the Niemen on the west, or the Danube on the south. The Russians thought such a partition of Europe to be unfair. If the French were to have all Germany in a greater or less degree of property or dependence, surely they might have left Poland to the Russians. But Napoleon showed unmistakably that he would no more give them Warsaw than Constantinople. The Duchy of Warsaw, which then included Posen, ruled over nominally by the King of Saxony, but really by the French, had, after the battle of Wagram, been aug. mented and strengthened by a portion of Gallicia, which betrayed an evident purpose in Napoleon's mind of one day restoring Poland.

This intention was probably formed and acted upon in consequence of the hostility, if not lukewarmness, shown by Russia in the campaign of Wagram. But it was not less a provocation. Alexander was aware how uncertain were all Napoleon's arrangements with respect to kingdoms and frontiers, which he set up and put down, effaced or extended, according to the caprice of the hour. He therefore demanded to have his fears respecting Poland tranquillised, and he requested the signature of a formal treaty by Napoleon, declaring that the kingdom of Poland should never be re-established, and that the very name of Pole and Poland should

XLIII.

disappear. The Duke of Vicenza, French ambassador at St. Petersburg, signed the treaty to that effect, for which he considered he had powers; and the envoy forwarded the document to Paris at the same time that he sent the demurs of the Russian court respecting the marriage. Napoleon refused to ratify it without sensible modifications. In the course of the same year, 1810, the seizure of Holland, of the Hanse towns, and German provinces of the north, ensued, with the absorption of Oldenburg. On the last day of the year, Russia replied by a Ukase, modifying the Russian tariff in such a way as to exclude all French products, wines and brandies, silks and ribbons, whilst the Russian ports were declared open to neutral vessels, whether they carried English or colonial commodities. This was tearing asunder Napoleon's favourite scheme of continental blockade, and it was accompanied by a decree raising 80,000 customhouse soldiers to enforce the new regulations; a formidable

army, to be arrayed less against English trade than against the power which pretended to proscribe it.

After such a decree war was inevitable. Mixed governments, accustomed to yield to pressure and undergo changes at home, and old dynasties, which have experienced and survived vicissitudes of fortune, may either give way to exigencies, or be moderate in enforcing them. But two autocrats, whose thrones were based on the idea of their almightiness, could not bend. Alexander could not submit to a brother sovereign, who dictated to him the regulations of trade, prescribed his friendships and his enmities, and looked suspiciously into all his acts.* Napoleon could as little bear a rival and could still less afford to show signs of weakness or concession. Europe was at his feet, but it was a

* The recall of some regiments were sufficient to cause angry refrom the Danube, and the erection of monstrances from Paris. some fortifications on the Beresina, VOL. V.

N

CHAP. murmuring and discontented Europe, ready to look up

and rally to any independent banner. The position and prospects of England in 1811 had improved. Not only had it reduced one by one all the colonial possessions of France and its allies, but it stood its ground in Portugal. Cadiz repulsed Soult. Wellington worsted Massena, and his troops won the victories of Albuera and Fuentes. When the emperors had met at Tilsit, it appeared that Napoleon's apophthegm was true, of the conquering power on land being always in the end the conquering power at sea.

He supported his view by instancing Rome and Carthage. And France, the modern Rome, must finally reduce the modern Carthage, England. This, however accepted by Alexander in 1807, was far from showing speedy accomplishment in 1811. The war of blockade and prohibition, which the Northern powers and Russia had consented to, had lasted four years, without fulfilling Napoleon's promise of compelling England to peace. On the contrary, the commercial classes there were as eager for the continuance of war as the aristocratic; and instead of punishing England, the prohibitive decrees had inflicted the greatest loss and privation on the countries which had adopted it. What more than all else prompted Russia to break from Napoleon's prohibitive system and onerous alliance, was the belief that it would fail of its ends.

In the spring of 1811 the birth of a prince to Napoleon, whom he baptized King of Rome, came to promise continuance to his empire, and at the same time to secure it the support of Austria. The outward appearance of this could indeed be commanded. And Austria as well as Prussia were constrained to sign a secret and offensive alliance with France for their aid in the invasion of Russia. It was characteristic of the epoch, and its events, that whilst the Prussian treaty guaranteed the maintenance of its present frontier, the

XLIII.

Austrian treaty contained a promise of enlargement of territory, which could only point to the Prussian province of Silesia. Already in 1811 the French armies poured once more into Prussia, which became their manæuyring and recruiting ground; and considerable drafts took place from the French troops in the Peninsula.

The war in Spain and Portugal had in the meantime been marked by chequered fortune and important events which, viewed in different lights, encouraged both Napoleon and Alexander in their projects, the one of invasion the other of defence. In the spring of 1809, Sir Arthur Wellesley landed once more with an army in Lisbon. After seeing the English embark at Corunna, Soult had marched south and occupied Oporto. The Spanish generals made efforts to maintain themselves in the central provinces; but they were beaten in successive battles, and King Joseph was once more enthroned at Madrid. The English general at the head, not only of his own native army, but of the Portuguese which had been organised and placed under the British commander, first advanced against Soult, and drove him back into Gallicia. He then, in co-operation with the Spanish generals, entered Spain, with the hope of again expelling the intrusive king from Madrid.

The French armies and generals were at the time scattered, and had King Joseph waited for their concentration, Wellesley and the Spaniards must either have been beaten or have withdrawn. The new King of Spain was too elate, and with French troops more than doubling the British, 40,000 to 20,000—the Spaniards, however, making both armies pretty equal—he attacked his allied enemies on one of the last days of June at Talavera. The Spaniards were posted with their right upon the Tagus, the English on hills in continuance of their line. Victor, Duc de Bellune, really commanded the French, and during the evening of one day, and the

CHAP.

whole of the next, he directed a series of attacks upon XLIII. the British positions. But these were defended with

extraordinary skill and gallantry, the infantry repelling each assault, and the cavalry rushing upon the French columns as they failed and withdrew.* The victory of Talavera was complete, and its effect upon the minds of the sovereigns of the north of Europe most important. Each asked himself why Russia and Prussia might not resist the French generals and legions, as well as Wellington and his English army had done?

But for all his victory Wellington was obliged to retreat into Portugal, being unable to face the masses of the enemy which flocked to the Tagus. Napoleon had obtained a great increase of power and renown, first by his defeat of Austria at Wagram, and then by his marriage, which seemed to give to him the entire resources of Austria. He was incensed with Russia, but ere breaking with her, or proceeding to punish her, he wanted to see an end of the British in the Peninsula. Portugal seemed there as a kind of door into which they shrunk when overpowered, to reissue when any circumstance might weaken their enemy. To extirpate these from Portugal as well as from Cadiz was thus Napoleon's double purpose. To effect this, one army was despatched to Andalusia under Soult, the other, little short of 100,000 men, was entrusted to Massena, in order to accomplish what Junot had failed in, the expulsion of Wellington from Lisbon.

In September, 1810, Massena advanced at the head of his large army; Ciudad Rodrigo, entrusted to the Spaniards, fell before him. He first came up with the English at Busaco, found them in their usual position on a range of heights, but as he had one-third more force than they, Massena determined on attacking. He did so, with the same result and the same experience which

* Napoleon, Wellington, Thiers, Napier.

« AnteriorContinuar »