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of the name of Malet, always restless, ever in trouble, was at the time under arrest. He conceived the design of affirming the death of the Emperor, and establishing a republican government in consequence. Escaping from his arrest, habiting himself as a general officer, he first imposed on the troops of a certain barrack, made use of these to break open a prison, liberated from thence two general officers, who could not discredit the story he told them of the Emperor's death, accompanied as it was by the display of his momentary power. They became his accomplices, and under his orders, the police minister, Savary, and his prefect, were arrested, and sent to prison. Malet tried to do the same by the commander of Paris, Hullin, but he demurred and Malet shot him. This led to resistance, rather than acquiescence of the rest of the staff, and at last Malet was recognised and arrested. The attempt made in the morning, and which resulted for an hour or two in Malet and his accomplices being almost masters of Paris, was defeated before mid-day, about the very time when Napoleon was marching on Kalouga. The frightened and restored authorities sent all the parties concerned, the deceived as well as the deceivers, to a court-martial and commanded them all, to the number of twelve, to be shot.
“ How can all this have been ? " exclaimed Napoleon. “ Was not my son thought of, the heir to my throne, and the Empress invested with the powers of Regent?” At Smolensko and Wilna Napoleon perceived that there was no active government in France whilst he was absent. On returning to Paris, he equally learned that without his presence the armies, still considerable on the Vistula, melted to nothing. It is the misfortune of despotism, that it can delegate neither talent nor power, no more than it can bequeath them. “ Even if you succeed in beating the Russians,” observed Prince Metternich at this time to a French envoy, “and if the Emperor Napoleon can regain and make himself master of the
three-fourths of Europe, which he subdued, how could such an empire be preserved by his son, composed of such discordant materials, disaffected population, and princes wounded in their interests and in their pride?”
Napoleon would not hearken to such plain truths. He would not admit that his military resources were weakened, or that the spirit and means of his enemies had risen to a par with his own. Yet his very efforts betrayed the exhaustion. The 100,000 conscripts due in 1813 being already spent, he was obliged to draw on the population for soldiers both in advance and in arrear. Those who had escaped 'from conscription or purchased exemption at fabulous prices, were called up again and made to serve. The noble and gentle classes had always escaped, and these, however hostile to the dynasty, Napoleon now pressed and enrolled in what he called the gardes d'honneur, for they were in a great measure obliged to support themselves. There ensued a long and a wide murmuring throughout France, a murmur of families bereaved, and sad execration of mothers rendered childless. The Emperor himself was insulted in the streets of Paris. What his agents endured, and with what severity they retaliated, in order to execute the Imperial decrees, need not be told.
Counting the hundred thousands of this food for powder, which like coin he was prepared to spend in exchange for glory, Napoleon continued to hold towards Europe the same haughty and insulting language which had been his wont since Jena and Wagram. When he called his councillors together at Paris after his return, their first recommendation was, and could be no other than, peace. To whom should he make the offer? To Russia ? It would be humiliating and vain, till he had appeared once more victorious in the field. But Austria, the ally of the Emperor by marriage, might mediate. It would be necessary then to satisfy Austria, and offer to it conditions calculated to counterbalance the
CHAP. complete restoration of its empire, which the allied
powers already held forth.
There was another power manifesting itself in Germany, quite as important as any of the old courts and princes. This was public opinion, which Napoleon could not bring himself to take into account, which first carried away Prussia in the tide of national antagonism to France, and threatened to leave Austria high and dry, above all influence over Germany, if it resisted or kept out of the current. It was not in the name of religion, but of virtue, meaning the great public virtue of patriotism, that eminent Germans appealed to those masses of their fellow-countrymen in oppression. The secret societies for this purpose, entitled the Tugendbund, dated from 1809, and took their birth in the general disgust at a Bonaparte prince being raised to the throne of Westphalia. Schill, who with 1,000 horse traversed North Germany, and the Duke of Brunswick Oels, who followed him, were but the first sparks of the latent conflagration. The most tyrannical of the French generals had been Davoust. He had unscrupulously mulcted the wealth of Hamburg, and made of Magdeburg a fortified dépôt for the storing of wines and spirits. When he fell back to Dresden, after the Russian retreat, and blew up the fine bridge over the Elbe to prevent the enemy following him, the hearts of the Germans were at once embittered and encouraged.
The Tugendbund and its adepts were nowhere more numerous or more enthusiastic than in the auxiliary corps, which General York commanded, and which made part of the corps of Macdonald. The Russian generals had communicated with York early in December, and Alexander himself declared that he would never lay down his arms till Prussia had recovered its station of 1806. York sent Seydlitz to Berlin, and received in return full authority and power to act as he judged best, it being the intention of the Prussian court to break with
France as soon as circumstances would permit.* York,
XLIII. in consequence, allowed himself to be cut off from Macdonald, and thus in the last days of 1812 united his forces to the Russians.f The King of Prussia still at Potsdam, in the power of Augereau, disavowed York, and ordered him to be put on his trial, making at the same time offers of alliance to Napoleon. They were accompanied by demands of money, due for French requisitions levied in order to facilitate armaments. Napoleon understood the meaning of such demands, and was not surprised to learn that the King of Prussia had fled from Potsdam to Breslau, where he issued a decree inviting volunteers to join him. As a conscription in the name of Napoleon threatened North Germany at the very time, the youth hostile to it preferred taking refuge under the banner of their legitimate sovereign, and the King of Prussia had soon an army around him at Breslau.
The Austrians armed too, and Napoleon, not deeming that they could become his enemies, encouraged it. Metternich proposed that his emperor should mediate between France and her antagonists, and managed to make both France and the allies believe that his mediation was in favour of each. Austria, nevertheless, was a most fitting mediator, since it almost equally dreaded the power of Russia and that of France, and desired simply to bring both to an equilibrium. With this view it insisted on the restoration of German independence. Unfortunately for Napoleon this was what he was least prepared to grant. Spain he was inclined to give up to the demands of England, Poland to those who had partitioned it. But he insisted on preserving not only Westphalia but the Hanse towns and the Confederation of the Rhine. Moreover, to restore the
Stein's Leben, vol. iii. p. 247, leaving Macdonald to continue his 255.
retreat with but 7,000.-—Sir Robert † York and Massenbach brought Wilson's Narrative. over 18,000 men to the Prussians,
Prussian monarchy, at the very time when it had turned with fierce hatred against him, appeared a weakness and a humiliation to which he could not stoop. “ And the marriage of Maria Louisa,” observed a French to an Austrian diplomatist, “ can that be broken?”—“Policy made that marriage," answered the Austrian coldly, “and policy may break it.”
Diplomacy, however, could not expect to accomplish anything alone when such formidable armies were in the field. Napoleon in April advanced from Mayence by the same road which he had taken in the campaign of Jena, along the Saale. He had some 140,000 men, young soldiers, but well officered, and about to be joined by Prince Eugène with 40,000 veterans from Magdeburg. Kutusoff had just expired in Livonia, and the Prusso-Russian command fell nominally to Wittgenstein, but really to the young and ardent courtiers who surrounded the monarch. These had pushed the army across the Elbe, against the advice of both Kutusoff and Sir Robert Wilson, who, though opposed in almost all things, were agreed in thinking the allies no match for the French. The Prussians, however, had not only crossed the Elbe, but were marching towards the Saale, supposing Napoleon still at Erfurth, and hoping to occupy the field of Jena, and defend it when he should come up. With this view the Russo-Prussians marched on the road from Dresden towards Jena by Altenburg, whilst the French were advancing to Lutzen and Leipzig. Learning that their enemy had advanced so far as to be almost behind them, the Russo-Prussians retraced their steps northwards along the Elster, and entered the great plain south of Leipzig at Zwenkau, whilst Napoleon reached Weissenfels and effected his junction with Eugène. The advanced guards met on the 1st of May.
One almost of the first shots fired struck Marshal Bessières, who commanded the Guard.—“Death approaches,"