Imágenes de páginas

had been not more remarkable for boldness in enterprize than for audacity in crimes. His conduct in Italy had been alike distinguished by perfidy, rapacity, insolent usurpation, and cold calculating systematic inhumanity. Here he began that system of military murder which before his time was unknown in civilized Europe. Three * of the most honourable inhabitants of Verona were condemned by one of his military tribunals, and executed in sight of the whole city, because their countrymen had been provoked to resist the intolerable exactions and outrages of the French. One of these victims was in his hands upon the faith of a treaty, another as an ambassador, and the third had received a solemn assurance of security. So far from having acted as enemies towards the French, one of them had saved Frenchmen during the insurrection, and another had


times removed their wounded soldiers from the field, when their brutal comrades, and more brutal generals, bad left them there to perish. With the same contempt of the law of nations, the usages of war, and the common feelings of humanity, Buonaparte put the municipal officers of Pavia to death. Military executions were inflicted without remorse upon the slightest pretext; and giving full scope to the brutal passions and corrupted principles of his soldiers, he suffered them to perpetrate every kind of havoc, cruelty, and abomination.

Such had been Buonaparte's conduct in Italy. His Egyptian expedition was characterized by deeper horrors. The massacre at Jaffa, and the poisoning of his own wounded men have frequently been denied, and there have been authors who with felicitous ingenuity have attempted upon these charges to prove a negative in his behalf. Both charges are now established beyond all possibility of further denial, by the avowal of the criminal himself, and by the full testimony of eye-witnesses to the massacres, and of men who were in the camp. These had been his actions before the peace of Amiens; they proved him to be alike destitute of truth, honour, religion, and humanity. “That which is crooked cannot be made straight-Was peace likely to be durable when it depended upon this man's faith? Was it reasonable to suppose that we should gather olives from this upas tree?

During the short continuance of peace, Buonaparte annexed Piedmont to France; he made himself president of the Italian republic; he formed a new constitution for Switzerland, and marched an overpowering force into the country to establish it. The nominal independence of Holland was as little respected; troops were kept there to hold it in subjection, and exact such loans as he thought proper to demand. When England remonstrated against these acts of aggrandizement, and declared her intention of retaining Malta as some counterpoise, inadequate as it was, he replied that England had nothing to do with any arrangements of France; she was hors du continent,- excluded from continental affairs, and so she must remain--for this was now to be the first principle of European policy. The relations between France and England were the Treaty of Amiens, the whole Treaty of Amiens, and nothing but the Treaty of Amiens: and as for her retaining Malta, he said, he would rather see her in possession of the Fauxbourg St. Antoine.

* The names of these victims were Emili, Verità, and Malenza.-A monument should be erected to them on the spot where they suffered. For the history of these transactions, and a view of Buonaparte's character as it was developed during his first Italian war, the reader is referred to an Account of the Fall of Venice, translated from the Italian by Mr. Hinckley. It is to be regretted that so interesting a story should be so ill told.


Nescia mens hominum fati sortisque future he has lived to see her in possession of both. Little dreaming of such an issue, he threatened us with immediate invasion, and the vengeance which five hundred thousand men were ready to intříct. As a mercantile power, supposing, he said, that those words (puissance marchande) were ever again to be allied, England was prosperous, but those Englishmen who knew that a nation never can lose its glory with impunity, had good reason to perceive nothing but disasters before them. He required the British government to send the members of the Bourbon family, and all such emigrants as wore their orders, out of the country; avd to put a stop to the unbecoming and seditious publications with which the newspapers and other works printed in * England were filled. The answer of the British government to this latter demand is well worthy of being held in remembrance,--for the honour of those ministers by whom it was dictated, and the instruction of those simple men who are taught to believe that the war against Buonaparte was a war against liberty. "His Majesty cannot and never will, in consequence of any representation, or any menace from a foreign power, make any concession which can be in the smallest degree dangerous to the liberty of the press, as secured by the constitution of this country.' The laws, they stated, were as open to the French government as to themselves. They neither had, nor wanted, any other protection than what those laws afforded; and never would they

[ocr errors]

Among the improvements which the French government at tbat time was obliging enough to suggest in our constitution, one was, that all ministers, upon going out of office, should be disqualified for sitting in parliament during the next seven years : another proposed that any member of parliament who should insult an allied power (or, in other words, who should express an unfavourable opinion of the designs of the First Cousul) should be debarred from speaking for two years.

consent interval *• War,' says Hobbes, consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but is a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known; and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of good weather lyeth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together, so the nature of war consisterh not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary.'

consent to new model them, or change their constitution, to gratify the wishes of any foreign power. His Majesty, it was added, expected that the French government would not interfere in the manner in which the government of his dominions was conducted, or call for any change in those laws with which his people were perfectly satistied.--Is it to be imputed to an entire ignorance of the state of England, or to an insolent belief that every thing must be subservient to his pleasure, that after this decisive reply Buonaparte returned to the subject, and formally proposed that means should be adopted to prevent in future any mention being made, either in official discussions, or in polemical writings, in England, of what was passing in France; as in like manner in the French official discussious and polemical writings, no mention whatever should be made of what was passing in England ?' England desired no such reciprocity. There was no part of her bistory, no part of her conduct, no part of her intentions, which required concealment. Was she to put out her eyes, because Buonaparte wished to keep France in darkness ?

It is not unseasonable to recall these facts to remembrance, as also the appointment of military spies in our seaports, under the character of commercial agents --Sebastiani's report upon Egypt, indicating clearly a design of repeating the attempt upon that country,—the declaration of Buonaparte that Egypt sooner or later must belong to France, either by an arrangement with the Porte, or by a partition of the Turkish empire,--and finally the memorable assertion that England was not able to contend single handed with France. Were we indeed so fallen, so changed? Were we actually, according to the new public law which was now enunciated, excluded from all concern in the affairs of the continent ? Had we lost not only our rank, but even our place, among the powers of Europe; and were we to be thankful for the moderation which

permitted us still to exist as a mercantile community? If so, it behoved us to demolish Blenheim, to prohibit all books of English history, and teach the whole rising generation the use of French as their common speech, that they might be prepared for the decree which should include Great Britain among the dependent provinces of France,--and London among the good cities' of the Great Empire!—The alternative proposed to us was war, or such submission as, if it were not necessitated by utter helplessness, could be imputed only to cowardice or fatuity; a submission which would have given Buonaparte time to create a navy, and make invasion practicable; which would have delayed the war for no longer a time than suited his convenience-ihat is--till that navy should have been completed, and which would have rendered the war infimitely more formidable when the hour was come. Nor would the interval bave been peace;* it could only have been an armed truce; a state of feverish suspicion, harassed insecurity, and exhausting vigilance. This the people understood; they had been desirous that the experiment of peace should be tried, they saw plainly that the experiment had failed; that no danger could be so great and certain as that of continuing on such terms with such an enemy: when, therefore, the government, in perfect accordance with the sound judgment, the cominon sense, and the honest honourable feelings of the nation, determined upon renewing hostilities, the nows was welcomed in the city of London with huzzas.

There were writers and speakers at the time who affected to regard this manifestation of public opinion with horror, and represented it as proceeding from a brutal insensibility to the evils of war, or a more brutal delight in anticipating its gains. They libelled their countrymen because party-feeling made them incapable of understanding the right English spirit which looked danger, in the face, and thus cheerfully detied it in reliance upon God and a good cause. But had the city statesmen forgotten this memorable and notorious fact when they resolved that the war had been updertaken in opposition to the wishes of the people? We have heard of the omnipotence of Parliament, but the town and country petitioners in their omnipotence attempt to go beyond it; they enact for the past as well as the future, and vote unanimous resolutions which are to alter what has been. A French historian was one day relating some circumstances which had recently occurred, when a person, better informed of the transaction, told him that the facts were not as he represented them : 'Ah Monsieur ! he replied, 'tant pis pour les faits,' so much the worse for the facts! It was honestly said, and is characteristic of French historians : but when men either in public or private assert things in opposition to the truth, and their assertions are disproved, the common consent of mankind has determined that it is so much the worse for the assertors:-a loss of character and of credit is incurred ;-they are convicted either of ignorance, or of wilful misrepresentation, and in such cases ignorance is as poor a plea in morals and in politics, as in law.

The little opposition which was made to the renewal of the war was of a very different character from that which had been manifested at its commencenient. There was a deep, though mistaken


principle in the opposers of the anti-jacobine war,-a passionate persuasion that England was engaged in a bad cause. They who thought thus, believed the declarations of the French, overlooking their actions, or regarding them through a false mediurn, and being, for the most part, ill-read in history and ignorant of human nature. But after the peace of Amiens there was nothing of this delusion; no man dreamt that the liberties of France were invaded, or the rights of men in danger. They who had wished most sincerely for the triumph of those rights, desired now with equal sincerity that the adventurer might be overthrown, who, having it in his power to establish free governments in France and Italy, had chosen to erect a military tyranny for himself. They who loved liberty, knowing what they loved and wherefore they loved it, could have no other wish : experience had shewn them how widely their principle had been misled, and that very principle having rubbed off the rust of its error, pointed to the true north, and directed them in the right course. The few who opposed the war, opposed it upon the score of its inexpediency, and the inadequacy of the plea which had been assigned to indicate the approaching rupture. That plea however was a mere official form, like a fiction in law, in no degree affecting the merits of the cause. The question was placed by the minister upon its true grounds, when he said we were at war, because we could not be at peace :-and it is absurd to call that inexpedient which is inevitable.

The popular character of the war was further manifested by the numbers who immediately enrolled themselves as volunteers. Buonaparte had expected no such unanimity, no such enthusiasm. His generals from Egypt had informed him of what materials the British army was composed, and he had himself received a memorable lesson from the navy at Aboukir and at Acre. Loudly therefore as he had threatened to invade us, the spirit which was displayed upon our shores intimidated him from attempting to put the threat in execution; and he turned away to the easier course of continental aggrandizement; hoping to effect the overthrow of England by excluding her merchandise from Europe, and thus ruining her finances. His operations were now carried on upon a greater scale than had ever before been witnessed in European warfare; his victories were more decisive, his successes more rapid; for having men at command, and being his own general, his progress was never retarded for want of an adequate force, or embarrassed by vacillating counsels; and as for means,-being troubled with no scruples of any kind, he not only supported his troops upon the countries in which they were quartered, but exacted contributions from his allies as well as his enemies. One campaign was followed by another, each more destructive than the last; till


« AnteriorContinuar »