Page images
[ocr errors]

wicked and impolitic. If the language of reproof is more frequent, more pointed, more unsparing, if a scrutiny more strict, a judgment more severe is applied to the transgressions of France than to those of her opponents, still the latter are neither forgotten nor justified, excepting only when Great Britain happens to be the offending party. Then, indeed, the eye becomes dim, the ear deaf, and the voice of reproach is hushed into silence.

It seems remarkable, when so much is said in the volumes before us, of the disregard of neutral privileges, of the encroachment on neutral rights, of the violence by which pacific nations have been compelled to depart openly from their neutrality, or adopt systems which must lead inevitably to reprisals and war, that no notice is taken of many minor occurrences that belong to the history of that period. For instance, of the memorials of Lord Auckland to their high mightinesses the States General of the United Provinces, in which, after stating at one time as a matter of information "that some unfortunate individuals (meaning, we presume, the members of the national assembly) assuming to themselves the name of philosophers, had had the presumption to think themselves capable of establishing a new system of civil society." (Memor. 25th January, 1793.) He afterwards on the 5th of April, in conjunction with the Austrian Minister Count Stahremberg, after Dumourier had delivered to the Allies some of the commissioners of the national convention, adds in another memorial, "this event (the execution of the unfortunate Louis) which was foreseen with horror, has taken place, and the divine vengeance seems not to have been tardy. Some of these detestable regicides are already in such a situation that they may be subjected to the sword of the law." They then recommend to their high mightinesses "to prohibit from entering your states in Europe, or your colonies, all those members of the self-titled national convention, or of the pretended executive council who have directly or indirectly participated in the said crime; and if they should be discovered and arrested, to deliver them up to justice, that they may serve as a lesson and an example to mankind." And it ought to be remembered that the worst atrocities of the Revolution were not committed, even its revolutionary tribunal was not organized until its leaders were thus publicly proscribed as enemies of the human race.

Neither is any notice taken of the correspondence of Mr. Hailes, with the Minister of Denmark ;* nor of the memorial of

The correspondence between Mr. Hailes and the Court of Denmark, merits particular notice. In his replies to the memorials of the British and Prussian Ministers, Count Bernstorff notices the new doctrine "that two powers shall make re


Lord Hervey to the Minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in which the Grand Duke was ordered "to send away, in twelve hours, the French Ambassador and his suite, or else the squadron under Lord Hood will act offensively against the port and city of Leghorn." "The sole way to prevent offensive operations against the city and port of Leghorn is to acquiesce in the demands now made." Nor of the note of Lord Robert Fitzgerald to the Swiss Cantons, in which it is declared, "that neutrality itself will not authorise any correspondence directly or indirectly with the factious or their agents." "That the present war being carried on against usurpers, any correspondence with them by a neutral state would be an acknowledgment of their authority, and consequently an act prejudicial to the allied powers." It was thus that wherever their influence could reach or their power control, the monarchs of Europe, with Great Britain at their head, employed every means, even force itself to arm all nations against the French people; to cut of all the relations of social life, to interdict in the language of Mr. Burke, all “adulterous intercourse with the prostitute outcasts of mankind,"and yet their apologists continue to express astonishment that these people should turn with vindictive feelings on those whom they considered as traitors to their cause and to their country, whom they found acting in concert and combination with their foreign oppressors.

Even if we look back to the earliest periods of the Revolution when the French had committed no other offence than that of undertaking to reform their government, and read the revilings and bitter denunciations of many, particularly of Mr. Burke, for which he was afterwards pensioned, prophetic denunciations which often lead to their own fulfilment (for vindictive and un

gulations at the expense of a third power, or that belligerent states shall ease the burthen inseparable from war, by throwing it upon their innocent neighbours " He afterwards adds, that his government "cannot conceive how his majesty the King of Great Britain could, without the consent of his Danish Majesty, give fresh instructions to the commanders of the British ships of war which are absolutely contrary to the former instructions and to his treaties with Denmark”—and in the counter declaration of the Court of Denmark, when speaking of the efforts of GreatBritain in 1793 to starve France by interdicting to neutrals the transportation of provisions, it is remarked that in the early part of the last century, when Frederick IV. King of Denmark, on account of his war with Sweden, which required almost constantly importation from abroad like France, could believe that he might adopt the principle, that exportation can be lawfully prevented if one has hopes to conquer an enemy by so doing, and he intended to apply with regard to a whole country, this principle, which is only considered as valid with regard to blockaded ports; all the powers remonstrated, especially Great Britain, and unanimously declared this as new and inadmissible." Thus political justice can change its hue and features according to circumstances, and the doctrines which were totally inadmissible by Great Britain when a neutral, become quite palatable to her as a belligerent-and the arguments of Denmark were remembered and replied to in 1799 and 1807,

disciplined spirits, and such there are in all times and countries, may be provoked to commit, in defiance, deeds of which they have been unjustly accused) we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the reformers of France had no reason to expect from the existing governments of Europe, the powerful ones, at least, a friendly neutrality.

We need not follow these subjects in detail. In the attack on Turkey in 1807, and on Spain, was manifested a determination to ad nit of no neutrality, the very charge so often made against Napoleon and the French. In the attack on Denmark in 1807, concessions were demanded from the Crown Prince, which could not have been granted without ruin to his kingdom. To have surrendered voluntarily his fleet and naval stores to the safe keeping of Great Britain, would have been to furnish Napoleon with a sufficient and unanswerable plea for taking all that remained of the kingdom under his protection. Great Britain could have opposed no barrier to an invading army-even the islands and the capital of Denmark would have been, during the winter, entirely at the mercy of the French. Sir Walter acknowledges that "in the ordinary intercourse betwixt nations, these requisitions would have been severe and unjustifiable,” that "the nature and character of the attack upon Copenhagen were attended by circumstances which were very capable of being misrepresented." In other words, not capable of justification-but that "the apology arose out of the peculiar circum stances of the times. The condition of England was that of an individual, who, threatened by the approach of a superior force of mortal enemies, sees close behind him, and with arms in his hand, one, of whom he had a right to be suspicious, as having co-operated against him on two former occasions, and who, he has the best reason to believe, is at the very moment engaged in a similar alliance to his prejudice. The individual, in the case supposed, would certainly be warranted in requiring know this third party's intention; nay, in disarming him, if he had strength to do so, and retaining his weapons as the best pledge of his neutrality." (Vol. ii. p. 142.) Now, all that we complain of is, that this apology is never made or considered of any avail excepting where England is concerned. The combination of all Europe in 1792-3, is not permitted to form any palli ation for the desperate struggle of the French people, but a remote and very doubtful contingency, a suspicion merely, for there is even yet no proof that a secret article in the treaty of Tilsit, to which, by the by, Denmark was no party, provided for the re-establishment of the armed neutrality, and proposed for this purpose a great northern confederacy, was a sufficient

ground for seizing her navy by force, after having laid in ashes nearly one half of her capital. Against the appeal of the jacobins and the French convention to the people in all despotic governments, may be placed the appeals so often made by Great Britain to all the crowned heads in Europe, and even to the French people themselves, exhorting them to crush the Revolutionary government-and if the rulers of the French nation were actuated by an immoderate and insatiable ambition, which we certainly mean not to deny, we fear a comparison of the map of the world as it stood in 1788, with what it was in 1827, will shew that neither Austria, Great Britain nor Russia ought, in decency, to be the accusers-yet, while indignant justice is made to brandish on high against French rulers and French transgressions, an unsparing scourge, the trespasses of Great Britain are all covered with a mantle of charity, are considered as measures of self defence, justified by the principles of self-preservation, and authorised by a stern and severe necessity.

When, at the close of the year 1813, offers of peace were made to Napoleon, and a manifesto published by the Allied Sovereigns, setting forth, previous to their invasion of France, their claims, their rights, and the principles which must form the basis of any future pacification; the Emperor replied that he "acquiesced in the principle which would rest the proposed pacification on the absolute independence of the States of Europe, so that neither one nor another should, in future, arrogate sovereignty or supremacy in any form whatsoever, either upon land or sea. These conditions will involve great sacrifices on the part of France, but his majesty would make them without regret, if, by like sacrifices, England would give the means of arriving at a general peace, honourable for all concerned."

"The slightest attention to this document, adds Sir Walter, shows that Napoleon, in his pretence of being desirous for peace, on the terms held out in the proposals of the allies, was totally insincere. His answer was artfully calculated to mix up with the diminution of his own exorbitant power, the question of the maritime law on which England and all other nations had acted for many centuries, and which gives to those nations that possess powerful fleets the same advantage which those that have great armies enjoy by the law martial. The rights arising out of this law maritime had been maintained by England at the end of the disastrous American war. It had been defended during the present war against all Europe with France, and Napoleon at her head. It was impossible that Britain should permit any challenge of her maritime rights in the present moment of her prosperity, when not only her ships rode triumphant on every coast, but her own victorious army was quartered on French ground, and the powerful hosts of her allies, brought

to the field by her means, were arrayed along the whole frontier of the Rhine.

"Neither can it be pretended that there was an indirect policy in introducing this discussion as an apple of discord, which might give cause to disunion among the allies. Far from looking on the maritime law as exercised by Britain, with the eyes of jealousy, with which it might, at other times, have been regarded, the continental nations remembered the far greater grievances which had been entailed on them by Bonaparte's memorable attempt to put down that law by his anti-commercial system which had made Russia herself buckle on her armour, and was a cause, and a principal one, of the general coalition against France. It is very true that England had offered to make sacrifices for obtaining a general peace, but these sacrifices, as was seen by the event, regarded the restoration to France of conquered colonies, not the cession of her own naval rights, which, on no occasion whatsoever, a minister of Britain will, can or dare permit to be brought into challenge." Vol. iii. p. 81.

These paragraphs might open a field for ample discussion. They would seem, at first, to contain rather the boast of power than the apology or justification of its exercise and abuse. It was, indeed, not probable that at the period of these negotiations any concessions of her maritime claims would be made by Great Britain, or be required of her by her allies. But, that her naval power and maritime law were viewed with jealous eyes by the nations of Europe, would need no other proof than the testimony of Sir Walter himself, who, in apologising for the attack on Copenhagen, remarks, that Denmark had co-operated against this very naval power and jurisdiction on two former occasions. The correspondence with Count Bernstorff, to which, in a note we have already alluded, may be considered as another controversy so that four times in twenty-five or six years, Denmark, once perhaps alone, but generally with numerous and powerful allies, had been found engaged in ineffectual efforts to circumscribe those very pretensions which we are now told were as (mildly and liberally) exercised by Great Britain, not viewed with the eyes of jealousy.

In Napoleon it was certainly impolitic, particularly if we judge by results, that safe and incontrovertible criterion, to reject at this late period, and when the chances were so much against him, the offers made by the allies. They would still have left him one of the most powerful sovereigns in Europe, even if he were no longer able to control them all-it was unwise to take the position he assumed, when no other power was morally at liberty to support his claim. All were combined against him—all had felt more sensibly his encroachments and his exactions than the naval usurpations of Great-Britain. At a moment too, when Great-Britain stood, as is justly re

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »