Imagens da página

wit enough to build a fire-ship? Or what instruments have they to do it withal ?' The English parliament gave as little attention to the alarms of Burke. But as the year 1792 wore on, more and more came to light of the intrigues between French revolutionists and English sympathizers. English representatives presented themselves in the Convention: revolutionary clubs on the Parisian model sprang up all over Great Britain. Some thought a civil war, in which France would be the ally of a revolutionary element, to be at hand. And even thus early the brigand-like character of the New France revealed itself. The system of plunder which the French pursued in Belgium excited English indignation : and when Holland was invaded and the Scheldt declared to be open, the unprincipled and reckless aims of the Convention became clear. They were boldly avowed by Danton: France intended to grasp all that lay within her natural boundaries, the Ocean, the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees. Since the abolition of the Monarchy, England had held no regular communication with the French government. The French Minister, however, remained in London: and through him, though unofficially, the English ministry endeavoured to recall the politicians of France to peace and moderation. But there was in truth no common ground of negotiation. Crediting the reports of English sympathizers, the Parisian politicians believed the English Monarchy to be on the verge of a dissolution as complete as that which had befallen their own. They showed no respect to Grenville's remonstrances : and by the middle of January war was known by diplomatists to be a certainty. The execution of the French King precipitated it. George III then broke off all negotiation with the French Minister, and ordered him to quit England in eight days. England was at war with France, and the Armed Coalition was thus reinforced by all the wealth, power and authority of the leading nation in Europe. The rest of Europe soon followed. Before the summer of 1793 Austria, Prussia, England, Holland, Russia, Spain, and all Italy except the Republics of Venice and Genoa, were at war with the French Republic.

Pitted against such a Coalition France might well expect reverses. She could hardly expect to keep her bold and reckless conquests: she might well have been content to purchase the right to choose her own government with the loss of a con

siderable part of her own territory. Austria and Prussia were bent on dismembering her: England coveted her rich possessions beyond seas. Disaster after disaster befell the armies of the Revolution. The Austrian generals, better skilled in tactics and in command of veteran soldiers, quickly rescued Flanders from the undisciplined levies of the French. At Neerwinden the French were totally defeated: and before the end of March they were driven to their own soil. The Armed Coalition now seemed to have its way made plain before its face. The second invasion of France was a different matter to the desultory irruption of the preceding summer. Condé and Valenciennes were invested: and the capture of Condé was the first-fruits of the invasion. On the 28th of July, 1793, Valenciennes was taken by the Duke of York. In every quarter the prospects of the Republic darkened. Mentz was retaken. From the lower Loire came the news of the formidable insurrection of La Vendée. British ships occupied Toulon, seized the French islands in the West Indies, and did not even spare the petty fishing stations of St. Pierre and Miquelon, which were all that remained to the French of their vast and rich titular empire in North America. British troops seized the poor remains of the once brilliant French empire in India. Greater ills than the loss of Tobago and Pondicherry were menacing at home. Famine stalked through the people. Bankruptcy threatened the treasury. In that dark hour France drew strength from her perils. Throughout the departments the people cheerfully gave up their all to the imperious necessities of the public cause. France became one vast camp. Cathedrals were turned into barracks : church bells were cast into cannon. The decree went forth that all Frenchmen should be in permanent readiness for military service. Custine, the general who had surrendered Mentz, was executed. Meanwhile, the Duke of York was besieging Dunkirk; and the existence of the Republic depended on the defence of the Iron Frontier.. On all sides, indeed, the defence of France aroused all the energy and ingenuity of the French character. And the French were now no longer in the hands of generals who hesitated between the Dauphin, the Duke of Orleans, and the Assembly: who had not decided whether to play the part of a Cromwell or of a Monk. In Carnot, Moreau, and Jourdan they had leaders who were stout and earnest republicans. Pichegru and Hoche defended the Rhine: Davoust and Labourdonnaye the Pyrenees: Kellermann and Massena the Alps. Before the end of the year, La Vendée was pacified: Toulon was recovered: while Moreau and Jourdan had not only stayed the progress of the Allies on the Iron Frontier, but had a second time effected a lodgment on the soil of Flanders. The end of the year 1793 found France, though surrounded by the whole world as an enemy, in a far stronger position than the beginning.

The fortunes of France steadily rose from the hour when the Duke of York was forced to raise the siege of Dunkirk. During the winter, the army in Flanders was reinforced to the utmost : and early in 1794 the command of it was transferred from Jourdan to Pichegru. Meanwhile, the spirit of the Allies began to flag. There was little union or sympathy among them: and as for Austria and Prussia, they hated each other with their old hatred. Prussia, jealous of the aggrandisement of Austria, left her unsupported: there was no combined plan: and the spring was wasted in desultory fighting on the Sambre and the Meuse. The French gained daily: and on the 26th of June the decisive action was fought on the plains of Fleurus, where victory had already in old times twice attended the French arms. Pichegru now entered Brussels; and before the summer of 1794 was ended, the Allies were swept from the Austrian Netherlands and driven back on Holland. Here the party of the Stadtholder had long maintained with great difficulty a doubtful ascendancy. The French sympathizers at once took fresh heart; and throughout Holland the approach of the French produced a powerful revival of the republican party. Everywhere the Revolution reproduced itself. Province after province of the United Netherlands gladly capitulated as the French advanced. While the Stadtholder fled to England, the British contingent was falling back on Gröningen and Friesland: and it at length retired to German soil, and sailed homeward. The French had conquered the key of Europe.

The policy of the Coalition throughout the war was so bad that no French patriot could have wished it worse. Union among them there was none: they had not even united plans for the Flemish campaign. Of the French royalists they made no account whatever. They sometimes sought advice from

the worthless emigrants: but they never sought by any practical means to gain as allies the strong anti-Revolutionary elements which existed within France. Early in the history of the Coalition, Burke had taken up his pen to expose these fundamental errors. He had predicted that the Coalition as it stood could be no match for French energy. Instead of being at the head of a great confederacy,' he wrote, and the arbiters of Europe, we shall, by our mistakes, break up a great design into a thousand little selfish quarrels. The enemy will triumph, and we shall sit down under the terms of unsafe and dependent peace, weakened, mortified, and disgraced, whilst all Europe, England included, is left open and defenceless on every part, to Jacobin principles, intrigues, and arms". A provisional government, he insisted, ought to be formed out of the French emigrants, and this government should be formally recognized. The Parliament of Paris should be organized, and it should recognize the Regent according to the ancient laws of the kingdom. The existing powers in France ought to be considered as outlawed. France,' he wrote, “is out of herself. The moral France is separated from the geographical. The master of the house is expelled : and the robbers are in possession.' Burke emphatically denounced that change which was fast transmuting a holy war into a war of mere plunder. France was, and always ought to be, a great nation. The liberties of Europe could only be preserved by her remaining a great and even a preponderating power. Yet England was foolishly bent on depriving her of her commerce and her marine, while Austria was bent on despoiling her of her whole frontier, from Dunkirk to Switzerland. This was enough to unite everything that was French within the boundaries of France; and to make an enemy to the Coalition out of every Frenchman who had a spark of patriotic feeling.

In little more than a year the predictions of Burke had been accomplished. The fortunes of the Armed Coalition had rapidly declined. In the eyes of the whole world it stood defeated: and its dissolution followed as a matter of course upon its defeat. A third-rate Italian State led the way. Tuscany is by nature indefensible; and the fact that its only commercial centre of any importance, the port of Leghorn, was at the mercy of the

* Remarks on the Policy of the Allies, 1793.

Toulon feet, had hitherto kept the Grand Duke of Tuscany in subordination to France. Dreading the vengeance of the conqueror, he hastened to make peace the moment victory declared for the French, apologizing for his desertion on the ground that he had been compelled to it by threats. The next defection was more serious. The King of Prussia had only engaged in the war in the hope of adding to his Rhenish territories. Liberally subsidized by the English, he sent a few troops for show to the army of the Coalition, and employed the bulk of the loan in an expedition for the dismemberment of Poland. At Basle, on the 5th of April, 1795, the treaty of peace between Prussia and the Republic was signed by Von Hardenberg and Barthélemy. Prussia was to leave in the hands of the French, pending a general pacification, all her possessions on the left bank of the Rhine: for these she was to be indemnified out of the rich fund of the Ecclesiastical Sovereignties. Holland was already lost to the Coalition: and not only lost, but practically annexed to France as completely as the Austrian Netherlands, which had been formally incorporated with France by a law of the Convention. Spain was the next to make peace. Basle was the scene of Spanish humiliation, as it had been of Prussian humiliation. The rich island of St. Domingo, and the fertile tracts of Florida were ceded to France: and the favourite Manuel Godoy, already created Duke of Alcudia, was rewarded with the title of Prince of the Peace. Thus did Spain sow the seeds of which she reaped the fruit in the expulsion of her dynasty, in the loss of her American possessions, in her financial ruin, and in her exclusion from the number of the great nations of Europe. Thus did Prussia sow the seed of which she reaped the fruit in the bloody fields of Jena and Friedland, in her bitter servitude, and in a hazard, as near as nation ever escaped, of total extinction.

These desertions left nothing remaining of the Coalition, save England and Austria Austria had a substantial reason for standing out. Austria had great things at stake: she hoped for the subjection of Suabia and Bavaria, and she had set her heart on the annexation of Alsace. Even if she banished her dreams of conquest, she could not withdraw from the contest worsted and reduced in territory. The French had conquered the Netherlands, her richest possession, and indeed for their size the

« AnteriorContinuar »