Under the influence of this persuasion, Buonaparte suddenly made overtures of peace to Great Britain, though, on the conditions which he proposed, they were certain to be rejected. The Duke of Bassano wrote to Lord Castlereagh, offering to secure the independence of Spain under the present reigning dynasty; that Portugal should continue under the rule of the House of Braganza, and Naples under Murat. Lord Castlereagh replied that if by the present reigning dynasty of Spain was meant King Joseph, there could be no treaty, and there the matter ended; for even Fouché says that Napoleon's Ministers were ashamed of so clumsy a proposal of ignorance and bad faith. Failing with Great Britain, Buonaparte turned to Russia herself, intimating a desire for peace, but not finding it in his heart to offer any terms likely to be accepted. In fact, he was now so demented by the ambition which meant soon to destroy him, that he fancied that a mere mention of peace was enough to win over any of his enemies in face of his vast armies. Including the forces of his German and Italian subsidiaries, he had on foot one million one hundred and eighty-seven thousand men. Of these, he led four hundred and seventy thousand men into Russia. Italy, Naples, Austria, Prussia, Würtemberg, Baden, Saxony, Westphalia, and other Confederates of the Rhine furnished each from twenty thousand to sixty thousand men. To swell up his French portion, he had called out two conscriptions, each of a hundred thousand men, in one year, and had organised a new system of conscription under the name of "National Guards," which professedly were only to serve in France as a militia but which were soon drafted off into foreign service. This consisted of three levies, or bans—"the ban," "the second ban," and "the arrière ban." They included all who were capable of bearing arms of all classes. The ban was composed of youths from twenty to twenty-six years of age; the second ban of men from twenty-six to forty, and the arrière ban of those from forty to sixty. By such means was the native population of France being rapidly drawn off into destruction by this modern Moloch.
Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Mr. Arthur O'Connor, nephew of Lord Longueville, went over to Paris to arrange the invasion. In London, Fitzgerald, his French wife, who accompanied him, and O'Connor, were entertained by members of the Opposition, and dined at the house of a peer in company with Fox, Sheridan, and several other leading Whigs; and Thomas Moore, in his Life of Fitzgerald, more than hints that he made no secret to these patriots of the object of his journey, for he was of a very free-talking and open Irish temperament. The friends of Fox have been inclined to doubt this discreditable fact, but no one was more likely than Moore to be well informed about it; and when Fitzgerald and O'Connor were on their trial, not only Fox, but Sheridan, Lord John Russell, the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk, Lords Thanet and Oxford came forward, and gave them both the highest character as excellent, honourable men. These emissaries reached Basle, by way of Hamburg, in the spring of 1797, and there, through Barthélemy, negotiated with the Directory. The Directory objected to receive Lord Edward Fitzgerald at Paris, on account of his connection with the Orléans family through his wife, lest the people should imagine that it was with some design on the Orléans estate; he therefore returned again to Hamburg, and O'Connor proceeded to Paris and arranged for the expedition under General Hoche, whose disastrous voyage we have already related. Fitzgerald and O'Connor did not reach Ireland again without the British Government being made fully aware of their journey and its object, from a lady fellow-traveller with Fitzgerald to Hamburg, to whom, with a weak and, as it concerned the fate of thousands, unpardonable garrulity, he had disclosed the whole. Almost simultaneously the arrest of the revolutionary committee of the North disclosed a systematic and well-organised conspiracy. In March, 1797, General Lake proceeded to disarm the revolutionaries in Ulster, and accomplished his task with ruthless severity.
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Buonaparte allowed his army, now reunited in Smolensk, five days' rest and enjoyment of the stores there, and on the 14th of November he again marched out to force his way into Poland. The second division, under Davoust, followed on the 16th, and the rear, still under Ney, on the 17th. The worn-down Italians of Prince Eugene could not move till the 15th, and did not overtake Buonaparte and assume their proper position till the 17th. The road which Buonaparte was taking was by Wilna, Krasnoi, and Borissov to Minsk; at the last two places he had his stores. But his way was now hemmed in on all sides by Russian armies. Wittgenstein was already at Vitebsk, and thence advanced on Borissov on the Beresina, where Buonaparte hoped to cross; whilst Tchitchagoff, who had joined Tormasoff, and thus raised their force to sixty thousand men, had driven the Austrians, under Schwarzenberg, back on the Bug, and had taken Minsk on the very day that Napoleon marched out of Smolensk. At the same time Kutusoff, with the grand army of Russia, was marching in a parallel line on the left flank of the Emperor, ready to fall on him whenever he was reduced to extremities by the other converging Russian forces. Now was coming the grand crisis. The elements were fighting fearfully against him; his men were wearied, half-starved, and disheartened; his enemies on all sides were alert with hope and revenge. Had Kutusoff used more alertness, and secured the passage of the Beresina as it ought to have been secured, the event which Bernadotte had planned must have taken place, and Buonaparte, with the remainder of his army, must have remained a prisoner there.Though the Duke of Wellington defended him-self against the persevering attacks of the financial reformers, he was busy making retrenchments in every department of the Public Service. So effectually did he employ the pruning-hook, that although the income of the previous year had fallen short of the estimate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer by ￡560,000, he was able to present to the House this year a surplus of ￡3,400,000 available for the reduction of taxation, still leaving an excess of income over expenditure of ￡2,667,000 applicable to the reduction of debt. There was, consequently, a large remission of taxation, the principal item of which was the beer duty, estimated at ￡3,000,000. At the same time, in order to enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet these reductions, an addition of one shilling a gallon was made to the duty on English spirits and of twopence on Irish and Scottish spirits. This Budget helped to clear the political atmosphere and brought a brief gleam of popularity to the Government. The Duke got full credit for an earnest desire to economise, and it was acknowledged by the Liberal party that he had given the most important financial relief that the nation had experienced since the establishment of peace. Notwithstanding, however, the general satisfaction, and the loud popular applause, the pressure of distress was not sensibly alleviated. The burden indeed was somewhat lightened, but what the nation wanted was greater strength to bear financial burdens, a revival of its industrial energies, and facilities for putting them forth with profit to themselves and to the country. Remissions of taxation were but the weight of a feather, compared to the losses sustained by the action of the currency. For while the reductions only relieved the nation to the extent of three or four millions, it was estimated that the monetary laws, by cutting off at least fifty per cent. from the remuneration of all branches of industry, commercial and agricultural, had reduced the incomes of the industrial classes to the extent of a hundred and fifty millions yearly.
[See larger version]On the very next day took place what Burke had foreseen. A deputation from the two Irish Houses of Parliament arrived in London, with an address to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, requesting him to assume the regency as his right. Though the English Bill was now certain to be abandoned, this address was presented on the 26th of February, the day after the arrival, and was received by the prince in a manner likely to mark his sense of his treatment by Pitt and his party. The deputies were entertained at a splendid banquet; the walls of the dining-room at Carlton House were adorned with Irish harps, the shamrock, and other Irish emblems; the arms of Ireland, encircled by a glory, blazed in the centre of the table, and the richest wines flowed in torrents. But these banquetings had not been confined to this more auspicious day. Whilst the great contest had been going on in Parliament, dinners had been given on the Saturdays and Sundays of every week at Carlton House, to which about thirty of the members of both Houses had been invited, and at which the prince and the Duke of York had presided. Besides these, the attractions and persuasive powers of the great ladies on both sides had been enthusiastically called into play. The fascinating Duchess of Devonshire, who, in 1784, had so successfully canvassed for Charles James Fox in Westminster, had now thrown open her house, and employed all her amiabilities to win supporters to the prince's party. On the other hand, the more bold and vigorous Duchess of Gordon had feasted, entreated, and almost commanded adherence to Pitt, through whom it was said her husband had obtained the Great Seal of Scotland, and his brother, Lord William Gordon, the sinecure Rangerships of St. James's and Hyde Parks. The rivalries of these parties had been carried on in the most public manner, by caricatures, lampoons, ballads, and popular jests. Westminster was pre-eminently Whig; but London, which had formerly been so democratic, had become essentially loyal. The Coalition had given the first shock to the popularity of the Whigs in the City, and the sympathy for the calamity of the king, combined with disgust at the prince's levity and heartlessness, had produced a wonderful degree of loyalty there.Whilst Louis lay ill at Metz, France received an unexpected relief. Prince Charles was hastily recalled to cope with Frederick of Prussia, who had now joined France in the counter-league of Frankfort, and burst into the territories of Maria Theresa. He found in Prague a garrison of fifteen thousand men, yet by the 15th of September he had reduced the place, after a ten days' siege. At the same time Marshal Seckendorf, the Imperial general, entered Bavaria, which was defended only by a small force, and quickly reinstated Charles on the throne of Munich. Vienna itself was in the greatest alarm, lest the enemies uniting should pay it a visit. But this danger was averted by the rapid return of Prince Charles of Lorraine from before Strasburg. He had to pass the very front of the French army; nevertheless, he conducted his forces safely and expeditiously to the frontiers of Bohemia, himself hastening to Vienna to consult on the best plan of operations. Maria Theresa again betook herself to her heroic Hungarians, who, at her appeal, once more rushed to her standard; and Frederick, in his turn alarmed, called loudly on the French for their promises of assistance, but called in vain. The French had no desire for another campaign in the heart of Austria. The Prussian invader, therefore, soon found himself menaced on all sides by Austrians, Croatians, and Hungarian troops, who harassed him day and night, cut off his supplies and his forages, and made him glad to retrace his steps in haste.
In the opening of the reign the gentlemen retained the full-skirted coat, with huge cuffs, the cocked-hats and knee-breeches of the former period. Pigtails were universal, and the more foppish set up their hair in a high peak, like the women. The ladies had their hair turned up on frames half a yard high, and this hairy mountain was ornamented with strings of pearls or diamonds, or surmounted with a huge cap edged with lace. They wore their waists as long as possible, with a peaked stomacher, and hanging sleeves of Mecklenburg lace. Their gowns were of the richest silks, satins, and brocades, their skirts flowing; and the fan was an indispensable article.But the most discouraging feature of this war was the incurable pride of the Spaniards, which no reverses, and no example of the successes of their allies could abate sufficiently to show them that, unless they would condescend to be taught discipline, as the Portuguese had done, they must still suffer ignominy and annihilation. Blake, who had been so thoroughly routed on every occasion, was not content, like the British and Portuguese, to go into quarters, and prepare, by good drilling, for a more auspicious campaign. On the contrary, he led his rabble of an army away to the eastern borders of Spain, encountered Suchet in the open field on the 25th of October, was desperately beaten, and then took refuge in Valencia, where he was closely invested, and compelled to surrender in the early part of January next year, with eighteen thousand men, twenty-three officers, and nearly four hundred guns. Such, for the time, was the end of the generalship of this wrong-headed man. Suchet had, before his encounter with Blake, been making a most successful campaign in the difficult country of Catalonia, which had foiled so many French generals. He had captured one fortress after another, and in June he had taken Tarragona, after a siege of three months, and gave it up to the lust and plunder of his soldiery.
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Meantime Cambacérès and Fouché had dispatched couriers to Louis Buonaparte, in Holland, to march down troops to the defence of Antwerp; and he had not only done that, but had opened the sluices on the borders of the Scheldt, and laid the country under water, to prevent the march of the British. He also had ordered the erection of numerous batteries, and Bernadotte arrived in about a fortnight, by orders of Napoleon, to resist the advance of the British. From forty to fifty thousand troops were assembled in and around Antwerp, and hosts of Dutch and Belgian militia swarmed over the country. This was certain to be the case if any time was allowed, and it was now agreed, in a council of war, that it was not possible to proceed further. In fact, they were no longer allowed to remain where they were. Their provisions were rapidly being exhausted, sickness was spreading amongst the troops, and the fire of the enemy's batteries from both sides of the river compelled them to fall down the stream. That was the end of the campaign; the rest was a foolish and murderous delay in the island of Walcheren, without any conceivable purpose. There was no use in retaining the island, for we could at any time blockade the mouths of the Scheldt, and our men on board the ships were comparatively healthy; but in this swamp of death the soldiers continued dying like rotten sheep. The island of Walcheren, to which they were now confined, is a spongy swamp, below the level of the sea at high water. The wet oozes through the banks, and stagnates in the dykes, and is only capable of being pumped out by windmills. The ground is covered often with mud and slime, and the inhabitants are sickly and sallow in aspect, and of loose and flaccid muscles. Yet, in this den of fever and death, the commanders seemed determined to retain the army till it perished entirely. The Earl of Chatham himself returned to London on the 14th of September, with as many of the sick as he could take. At this time he left eleven thousand, out of the seventeen thousand quartered on the island of Walcheren, on the sick-list, and rapidly dying; yet neither he nor Sir Eyre Coote, who succeeded him, seems to have felt the necessity of saving the army by retiring from the place. They attributed the unhealthiness to the dykes being cut, and the surrounding country being flooded in the hot season. No matter what was the cause, the army was perishing, and ought to have been removed; but, so far from this, the Ministers seemed determined to keep possession of this useless and pestilential swamp at any cost. As it was imagined that the drinking of the water was the cause of the fever, Thames water was carried over for the troops, five hundred tons per week being required. But it was not the drinking it only that caused disease and death, but the standing and working in it, as many of them did, up to the middle for many hours together, and the malaria arising from the oozy soil. As the roofs in Flushing were knocked to pieces by the storming of the town, British workmen, with bricks, mortar, tiles, and tools, were sent over to repair them, so as to protect the sick in the hospitals, though plenty of workmen and materials might have been had in the country.
Amongst the provinces employing themselves to carry out the recommendation of the Congress, by framing new constitutions, that of New York was emboldened by the presence of Washington and his army to disregard the Royalists, and to frame a perfectly independent system. Gouverneur Morris took the lead in the ultra party, and declared that the time was now come for asserting entire independence. On the 27th of May a resolution to that effect was passed. The delegates of the Assembly were instructed to support these principles in Congress.The corruptions connected with the Duke of York and his mistress were but a small fragment of the wide and universal system which was existing. The exposures, however, made by this inquiry induced the Chancellor of the Exchequer to bring in a Bill to prevent such abuses. He referred to the sale of commissions which had been brought to light, and which had been carried on by means of improper influence over a man in high office. His Bill, therefore, went to make it penal to demand money for the appointment to office, or to issue advertisements to that effect. The Bill was passed.详情
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