Increasing Jealousies betwixt France and England – Encroachments on the part of the former – Instructions given by the First Consul to his Commercial Agents – Orders issued by the English Ministers – Peltier's celebrated Royalist Publication, L'Ambigu – Peltier tried for a Libel against the First Consul – found Guilty – Angry Discussions respecting the Treaty of Amiens – Malta – Report of Sebastiani – Resolution of the British Government – Conferences betwixt Buonaparte and Lord Whitworth – Britain declares War against France on 18th May, 1803.
These advances towards universal empire, made during the very period when the pacific measures adopted by the preliminaries, and afterwards confirmed by the treaty of Amiens, were in the act of being carried into execution, excited the natural jealousy of the people of Britain. They had not been accustomed to rely much on the sincerity of the French nation; nor did the character of its present chief, so full of ambition, and so bold and successful in his enterprises, incline them to feelings of greater security. On the other hand, Buonaparte seems to have felt as matter of personal offence the jealousy which the British entertained; and instead of soothing it, as policy dictated, by concessions and confidence, he showed a disposition to repress, or at least to punish it, by measures which indicated anger and irritation. There ceased to be any cordiality of intercourse betwixt the two nations, and they began to look into the conduct of each other for causes of offence, rather than for the means of removing it.
The English had several subjects of complaint against France, besides the general encroachments which she had continued to make on the liberties of Europe. A law had been made during the times of the wildest Jacobinism, which condemned to forfeiture every vessel under a hundred tons burden, carrying British merchandise, and approaching within four leagues of France. It was now thought proper, that the enforcing a regulation of so hostile a character, made during a war of unexampled bitterness, should be the first fruits of returning peace. Several British vessels were stopped, their captains imprisoned, their cargoes confiscated, and all restitution refused. Some of these had been driven on the French coast unwillingly, and by stress of weather; but the necessity of the case created no exemption. An instance there was of a British vessel in ballast, which entered Charente, in order to load with a cargo of brandy. The plates, knives, forks, &c., used by the captain, being found to be of British manufacture, the circumstance was thought a sufficient apology for seizing the vessel. These aggressions, repeatedly made, were not, so far as appears, remedied on the most urgent remonstrances, and seemed to argue that the French were already acting on the vexatious and irritating principle which often precedes a war, but very seldom immediately follows a peace. The conduct of France was felt to be the more unreasonable and ungracious, as all restrictions on her commerce, imposed during the war, had been withdrawn on the part of Great Britain, so soon as the peace was concluded. In like manner, a stipulation of the treaty of Amiens, providing that all sequestrations imposed on the property of French or of English, in the two contending countries, should be removed, was instantly complied with in Britain, but postponed and dallied with on the part of France.
The above were vexatious and offensive measures, intimating little respect for the Government of England, and no desire to cultivate her good will. They were perhaps adopted by the chief consul, in hopes of inducing Britain to make some sacrifices in order to obtain from his favour a commercial treaty, the advantages of which, according to his opinion of the English nation, was a boon calculated to make them quickly forgive the humiliating restrictions from which it would emancipate their trade. If this were any part of his policy, he was ignorant of the nature of the people to whom it was applied. It is the sluggish ox alone that is governed by a goad. But what gave the deepest offence and most lively alarm to Britain, was, that while Buonaparte declined affording the ordinary facilities for English commerce, it was his purpose, nevertheless, to establish a commercial agent in every part of the British dominions, whose ostensible duty was to watch over that very trade which the first consul showed so little desire to encourage, but whose real business resembled that of an accredited and privileged spy. These official persons were not only, by their instructions, directed to collect every possible information on commercial points, but also to furnish a plan of the ports of each district, with all the soundings, and to point out with what wind vessels could go out and enter with most ease, and at what draught of water the harbour might be entered by ships of burden. To add to the alarming character of such a set of agents, it was found that those invested with the office were military men and engineers.
Consuls thus nominated had reached Britain, but had not, in general, occupied the posts assigned to them, when the British Government, becoming informed of the duties they were expected to perform, announced to them, that any one who might repair to a British seaport under such a character, should be instantly ordered to quit the island. The secrecy with which these agents had been instructed to conduct themselves was so great, that one Fauvelet, to whom the office of commercial agent at Dublin had been assigned, and who had reached the place of his destination before the nature of the appointment was discovered, could not be found out by some persons who desired to make an affidavit before him as consul of France. It can be no wonder that the very worst impression was made on the public mind of Britain respecting the further projects of her late enemies, when it was evident that they availed themselves of the first moments of returning peace to procure, by an indirect and most suspicious course of proceeding, that species of information, which would be most useful to France, and most dangerous to Britain, in the event of a renewed war.
While these grievances and circumstances of suspicion agitated the English nation, the daily press, which alternately acts upon public opinion, and is reacted upon by it, was loud and vehement. The personal character of the chief consul was severely treated; his measures of self-aggrandisement arraigned, his aggressions on the liberty of France, of Italy, and especially of Switzerland, held up to open day; while every instance of petty vexation and oppression practised upon British commerce or British subjects, was quoted as expressing his deep resentment against the only country which possessed the will and the power to counteract his acquiring the universal dominion of Europe.
There was at this period in Britain a large party of French Royalists, who, declining to return to France, or falling under the exceptions to the amnesty, regarded Buonaparte as their personal enemy, as well as the main obstacle to the restoration of the Bourbons, to which, but for him only, the people of France seemed otherwise more disposed than at any time since the commencement of the Revolution. These gentlemen found an able and active advocate of their cause in Monsieur Peltier, an emigrant, a determined royalist, and a man of that ready wit and vivacity of talent which is peculiarly calculated for periodical writing. He had opposed the democrats during the early days of the Revolution, by a publication termed the "Acts of the Apostles;"1 in which he held up to ridicule and execration the actions, pretensions, and principles of their leaders, with such success as induced Brissot to assert, that he had done more harm to the Republican cause than all the allied armies. At the present crisis, he commenced the publication of a weekly paper in London, in the French language, called L'Ambigu. The decoration at the top of the sheet was a head of Buonaparte, placed on the body of a Sphinx. This ornament being objected to after the first two or three numbers, the Sphinx appeared with the neck truncated; but, being still decked with the consular emblems, continued to intimate emblematically the allusion at once to Egypt, and to the ambiguous character of the first consul. The columns of this paper were dedicated to the most severe attacks upon Buonaparte and the French Government; and as it was highly popular, from the general feelings of the English nation towards both, it was widely dispersed and generally read.
The torrent of satire and abuse poured forth from the English and Anglo-Gallican periodical press, was calculated deeply to annoy and irritate the person against whom it was chiefly aimed. In England we are so much accustomed to see characters the most unimpeachable, nay, the most venerable, assailed by the daily press, that we account the individual guilty of folly, who, if he be innocent of giving cause for the scandal, takes it to heart more than a passenger would mind the barking of a dog, that yelps at every passing sound. But this is a sentiment acquired partly by habit, partly by our knowledge, that unsubstantiated scandal of this sort makes no impression on the public mind. Such indifference cannot be expected on the part of foreigners, who, in this particular, resemble horses introduced from neighbouring counties into the precincts of forest districts, where they are liable to be stung into madness by a peculiar species of gadfly, to which the race bred in the country are from habit almost totally indifferent.
If it be thus with foreigners in general, it must be supposed that from natural impatience of censure, as well as rendered susceptible and irritable by his course of uninterrupted success, Napoleon Buonaparte must have winced under the animated and sustained attacks upon his person and government, which appeared in the English newspapers, and Peltier's Ambigu. He attached at all times, as we have already had occasion to remark, much importance to the influence of the press, which in Paris he had taken under his own especial superintendence, and for which he himself often condescended to compose or correct paragraphs. To be assailed, therefore, by the whole body of British newspapers, almost as numerous as their navy, seems to have provoked him to the extremity of his patience; and resentment of these attacks aggravated the same hostile sentiments against England, which, from causes of suspicion already mentioned, had begun to be engendered in the British public against France and her ruler.
Napoleon, in the meantime, endeavoured to answer in kind, and the columns of the Moniteur had many an angry and violent passage directed against England.2 Answers, replies, and rejoinders passed rapidly across the Channel, inflaming and augmenting the hostile spirit, reciprocally entertained by the two countries against each other. But there was this great disadvantage on Buonaparte's side, that while the English might justly throw the blame of this scandalous warfare on the license of a free press, the chief consul could not transfer the responsibility of the attack on his side; because it was universally known that the French periodical publications being under the most severe regulations, nothing could appear in them except what had received the previous sanction of the government. Every attack upon England, therefore, which was published in the French papers, was held to express the personal sentiments of the chief consul, who thus, by destroying the freedom of the French press, had rendered himself answerable for every such license as it was permitted to take.
NOTE BY M. OTTO.
It became speedily plain, that Buonaparte could reap no advantage from a contest in which he was to be the defendant in his own person, and to maintain a literary warfare with anonymous antagonists. He had recourse, therefore, to a demand upon the British Government, and after various representations of milder import, caused his envoy, Monsieur Otto, to state in an official note the following distinct grievances: – First, the existence of a deep and continued system to injure the character of the first consul, and prejudice the effect of his public measures, through the medium of the press: Secondly, the permission of a part of the Princes of the House of Bourbon, and their adherents, to remain in England for the purpose, (it was alleged,) that they might hatch and encourage schemes against the life and government of the chief consul. It was therefore categorically demanded, 1st, That the British Government do put a stop to the publication of the abuse complained of, as affecting the head of the French Government. 2d, That the emigrants residing in Jersey be dismissed from England – that the bishops who had declined to resign their sees be also sent out of the country – that George Cadoudal be transported to Canada – that the Princes of the House of Bourbon be advised to repair to Warsaw, where the head of their family now resided – and, finally, that such emigrants who continued to wear the ancient badges and decorations of the French court, be also compelled to leave England. Lest the British ministers should plead, that the constitution of their country precluded them from gratifying the first consul in any of these demands, Monsieur Otto forestalled the objection, by reminding them that the Alien Act gave them full power to exclude any foreigners from Great Britain at their pleasure.3
To this peremptory mandate, Lord Hawkesbury,4 then minister for foreign affairs, instructed the British agent, Mr. Merry, to make a reply, at once firm and conciliatory; avoiding the tone of pique and ill temper which is plainly to be traced in the French note, yet maintaining the dignity of the nation he represented. It was observed, that, if the French Government had reason to complain of the license of the English journals, the British Government had no less right to be dissatisfied with the retorts and recriminations which had been poured out from those of Paris; and that there was this remarkable feature of difference betwixt them, that the English Ministry neither had, could have, nor wished to have, any control over the freedom of the British press; whereas the Moniteur, in which the abuse of England had appeared, was the official organ of the French Government. But, finally, upon this point, the British Monarch, it was said, would make no concession to any foreign power, at the expense of the freedom of the press.5 If what was published was libellous or actionable, the printers and publishers were open to punishment, and all reasonable facilities would be afforded for prosecuting them. To the demands so peremptorily urged, respecting the emigrants, Lord Hawkesbury replied, by special answers applying to the different classes, but summed up in the general argument, that his Majesty neither encouraged them in any scheme against the French Government, nor did he believe there were any such in existence; and that while these unfortunate princes and their followers lived in conformity to the laws of Great Britain, and without affording nations with whom she was at peace any valid or sufficient cause of complaint, his Majesty would feel it inconsistent with his dignity, his honour, and the common laws of hospitality, to deprive them of that protection, which individuals resident within the British dominions could only forfeit by their own misconduct.6
TRIAL OF PELTIER.
To render these answers, being the only reply which an English Minister could have made to the demands of France, in some degree acceptable to Buonaparte, Peltier was brought to trial7 for a libel against the first consul, at the instance of the Attorney-General. He was defended by Mr. Mackintosh, (now Sir James,)8 in one of the most brilliant speeches ever made at bar or in forum, in which the jury were reminded, that every press on the continent was enslaved, from Palermo to Hamburgh, and that they were now to vindicate the right we had ever asserted, to speak of men both at home and abroad, not according to their greatness, but their crimes.
The defendant was found guilty; but his cause might be considered as triumphant.9 Accordingly, every part of the proceedings gave offence to Buonaparte. He had not desired to be righted by the English law, but by a vigour beyond the law. The publicity of the trial, the wit and eloquence of the advocate, were ill calculated to soothe the feelings of Buonaparte, who knew human nature, and the character of his usurped power, too well, to suppose that public discussion could be of service to him.10 He had demanded darkness, the English Government had answered by giving him light; he had wished, like those who are conscious of flaws in their conduct, to suppress all censure of his measures, and by Peltier's trial, the British ministers had made the investigation of them a point of legal necessity. The first consul felt the consciousness that he himself, rather than Peltier,11 was tried before the British public, with a publicity which could not fail to blaze abroad the discussion. Far from conceiving himself obliged by the species of atonement which had been offered him, he deemed the offence of the original publication was greatly aggravated, and placed it now directly to the account of the English ministers, of whom he could never be made to understand, that they had afforded him the only remedy in their power.
The paragraphs hostile to England in the Moniteur were continued; an English paper called the Argus, conducted by Irish refugees, was printed at Paris, under permission of the Government, for the purpose of assailing Britain with additional abuse, while the fire was returned from the English side of the Channel, with double vehemence and tenfold success. These were ominous precursors to a state of peace, and more grounds of misunderstanding were daily added.
The new discussions related chiefly to the execution of the treaty of Amiens, in which the English Government showed no promptitude. Most of the French colonies, it is true, had been restored; but the Cape, and the other Batavian settlements, above all, the island of Malta, were still possessed by the British forces. At common law, if the expression may be used, England was bound instantly to redeem her engagement, by ceding these possessions, and thus fulfilling the articles of the treaty. In equity, she had a good defence; since in policy for herself and Europe, she was bound to decline the cession at all risks.
The recent acquisitions of France on the continent, afforded the plea of equity to which we have alluded. It was founded on the principle adopted at the treaty of Amiens, that Great Britain should, out of her conquests over the enemy's foreign settlements, retain so much as to counterbalance, in some measure, the power which France had acquired in Europe. This principle being once established, it followed that the compact at Amiens had reference to the then existing state of things; and since, after that period, France had extended her sway over Italy and Piedmont, England became thereby entitled to retain an additional compensation, in consequence of France's additional acquisitions. This was the true and simple position of the case; France had innovated upon the state of things which existed when the treaty was made, and England might, therefore, in justice, claim an equitable right to innovate upon the treaty itself, by refusing to make surrender of what had been promised in other and very different circumstances. Perhaps it had been better to fix upon this obvious principle, as the ground of declining to surrender such British conquests as were not yet given up, unless France consented to relinquish the power which she had usurped upon the continent. This, however, would have produced instant war; and the Ministers were naturally loth to abandon the prospect of prolonging the peace which had been so lately established, or to draw their pen through the treaty of Amiens, while the ink with which it was written was still moist. They yielded, therefore, in a great measure. The Cape of Good Hope and the Dutch colonies were restored, Alexandria was evacuated, and the Ministers confined their discussions with France to the island of Malta only; and, condescending still farther, declared themselves ready to concede even this last point of discussion, providing a sufficient guarantee should be obtained for this important citadel of the Mediterranean being retained in neutral hands. The Order itself was in no respect adequate to the purpose; and as to the proposed Neapolitan garrison, (none of the most trustworthy in any case,) France, by her encroachments in Italy, had become so near and so formidable a neighbour to the King of Naples, that, by a threat of invasion of his capital, she might have compelled him to deliver up Malta upon a very brief notice. All this was urged on the part of Britain. The French Ministry, on the other hand, pressed for literal execution of the treaty. After some diplomatic evasions had been resorted to, it appeared as if the cession could be no longer deferred, when a publication appeared in the Moniteur [Jan. 30, 1803] which roused to a high pitch the suspicions as well as the indignation of the British nation.
The publication alluded to was a report of General Sebastiani. This officer had been sent as the emissary of the first consul, to various Mahommedan courts in Asia and Africa, in all of which it seems to have been his object, not only to exalt the greatness of his master, but to misrepresent and degrade the character of England. He had visited Egypt, of which, with its fortresses, and the troops that defended them, he had made a complete survey. He then waited upon Djezzar Pacha, and gives a flattering account of his reception, and of the high esteem in which Djezzar held the first consul, whom he had so many reasons for wishing well to. At the Ionian Islands, he harangued the natives, and assured them of the protection of Buonaparte. The whole report is full of the most hostile expressions towards England, and accuses General Stuart of having encouraged the Turks to assassinate the writer. Wherever Sebastiani went, he states himself to have interfered in the factions and quarrels of the country; he inquired into its forces; renewed old intimacies, or made new ones with leading persons; enhanced his master's power, and was liberal in promises of French aid. He concludes, that a French army of six thousand men would be sufficient to conquer Egypt, and that the Ionian Islands were altogether attached to the French interest.12
The publication of this report, which seemed as if Buonaparte were blazoning forth to the world his unaltered determination to persist in his Eastern projects of colonization and conquest, would have rendered it an act of treason in the English Ministers, if, by the cession of Malta, they had put into his hand, or at least placed within his grasp, the readiest means of carrying into execution those gigantic schemes of ambition, which had for their ultimate, perhaps their most desired object, the destruction of the Indian commerce of Britain.
As it were by way of corollary to the gasconading journal of Sebastiani, an elaborate account of the forces, and natural advantages of France, was published at the same period, which, in order that there might be no doubt concerning the purpose of its appearance at this crisis, was summed up by the express conclusion, "that Britain was unable to contend with France single-handed."13 This tone of defiance, officially adopted at such a moment, added not a little to the resentment of the English nation, not accustomed to decline a challenge or endure an insult.
The Court of Britain on the appearance of this Report on the State of France, together with that of Sebastiani, drawn up and subscribed by an official agent, containing insinuations totally void of foundation, and disclosing intrigues inconsistent with the preservation of peace, and the objects for which peace had been made, declared that the King would enter into no farther discussion on the subject of Malta, until his Majesty had received the most ample satisfaction for this new and singular aggression.14
While things were thus rapidly approaching to a rupture, the chief consul adopted the unusual resolution, of himself entering personally into conference with the British ambassador. He probably took this determination upon the same grounds which dictated his contempt of customary forms, in entering, or attempting to enter, into direct correspondence with the princes whom he had occasion to treat with. Such a deviation from the established mode of procedure seemed to mark his elevation above ordinary rules, and would afford him, he might think, an opportunity of bearing down the British ambassador's reasoning, by exhibiting one of those bursts of passion, to which he had been accustomed to see most men give way.
It would have been more prudent in Napoleon, to have left the conduct of the negotiation to Talleyrand.15 A sovereign cannot enter in person upon such conferences, unless with the previous determination of adhering precisely and finally to whatever ultimatum he has to propose. He cannot, without a compromise of dignity, chaffer or capitulate, or even argue, and of course is incapable of wielding any of the usual, and almost indispensable weapons of negotiators. If it was Napoleon's expectation, by one stunning and emphatic declaration of his pleasure, to beat down all arguments, and confound all opposition, he would have done wisely to remember, that he was not now, as in other cases, a general upon a victorious field of battle, dictating terms to a defeated enemy; but was treating upon a footing of equality with Britain, the mistress of the seas, possessing strength as formidable as his own, though of a different character, and whose prince and people were far more likely to be incensed than intimidated by any menaces which his passion might throw out.
The character of the English ambassador was as unfavourable for the chief consul's probable purpose, as that of the nation he represented. Lord Whitworth was possessed of great experience and sagacity.16 His integrity and honour were undoubted; and, with the highest degree of courage, he had a calm and collected disposition, admirably calculated to give him the advantage in any discussion with an antagonist of a fiery, impatient, and over-bearing temper.
We will make no apology for dwelling at unusual length on the conferences betwixt the first consul and Lord Whitworth, as they are strikingly illustrative of the character of Buonaparte, and were, in their consequences, decisive of his fate, and that of the world.
Their first interview of a political nature took place in the Tuileries, 17th February, 1803. Buonaparte, having announced that this meeting was for the purpose of "making his sentiments known to the King of England in a clear and authentic manner," proceeded to talk incessantly for the space of nearly two hours, not without considerable incoherence, his temper rising as he dwelt on the alleged causes of complaint which he preferred against England, though not so much or so incautiously as to make him drop the usual tone of courtesy to the ambassador.
He complained of the delay of the British in evacuating Alexandria and Malta; cutting short all discussion on the latter subject, by declaring he would as soon agree to Britain's possessing the suburb of St. Antoine as that island. He then referred to the abuse thrown upon him by the English papers, but more especially by those French journals published in London. He affirmed that Georges and other Chouan chiefs, whom he accused of designs against his life, received relief or shelter in England; and that two assassins had been apprehended in Normandy, sent over by the French emigrants to murder him. This, he said, would be publicly proved in a court of justice. From this point he diverged to Egypt, of which he affirmed he could make himself master whenever he had a mind; but that he considered it too paltry a stake to renew the war for. Yet, while on this subject, he suffered it to escape him, that the idea of recovering this favourite colony was only postponed, not abandoned. "Egypt," he said, "must sooner or later belong to France, either by the falling to pieces of the Turkish government, or in consequence of some agreement with the Porte."17 In evidence of his peaceable intentions, he asked, what he should gain by going to war, since he had no means of acting offensively against England, except by a descent, of which he acknowledged the hazard in the strongest terms. The chances, he said, were a hundred to one against him; and yet he declared that the attempt should be made if he were now obliged to go to war. He extolled the power of both countries. The army of France, he said, should be soon recruited to four hundred and eighty thousand men; and the fleets of England were such as he could not propose to match within the space of ten years at least. United, the two countries might govern the world, would they but understand each other. Had he found, he said, the least cordiality on the part of England, she should have had indemnities assigned her upon the continent, treaties of commerce, all that she could wish or desire. But he confessed that his irritation increased daily, "since every gale that blew from England, brought nothing but enmity and hatred against him."
He then made an excursive digression, in which, taking a review of the nations of Europe, he contended that England could hope for assistance from none of them in a war with France. In the total result, he demanded the instant implement of the treaty of Amiens, and the suppression of the abuse in the English papers. War was the alternative.
Чтобы воспользоваться акцией, добавьте нужные книги в корзину. Сделать это можно на странице каждой книги, либо в общем списке: