EXPEDITION TO RUSSIA,
UNDERTAKEN BY THE
IN THE YEAR 1812.
BY GENERAL, COUNT PHILIP DE SEGUR.
Quamquam animus meminisse horret, luctuque refugit, Incipiam—.
SECOND EDITION, CAREFULLY REVISED AND CORRECTED.
IN TWO VOLUMES,
WITH A MAP AND SEVEN ENGRAVINGS.
TREUTTEL AND WURTZ, TREUTTEL, JUN. AND RICHTER, 30, SOHO-SQUARE.
VETERANS OF THE GRAND ARMY.
I have undertaken the task of tracing the History of the Grand Army and its Leader during the year 1812. I address it to such of you as the ices of the North have disarmed, and who can no longer serve their country, but by the recollections of their misfortunes and their glory. Stopped short in your noble career, your existence is much more in the past than in the present; but when the recollections are so great, it is allowable to live solely on them. I am not afraid, therefore, of troubling that repose which you have so dearly purchased, by placing before you the most fatal of your deeds of arms. Who is there of us but knows, that from the depth of his obscurity the looks of the fallen man are involuntarily directed towards the splendor of his past existence—even when its light illuminates the shoal on which the bark of his fortune struck, and when it displays the fragments of the greatest of shipwrecks?
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For myself, I will own, that an irresistible feeling carries me back incessantly to that disastrous epoch of our public and private calamities. My memory feels a sort of melancholy pleasure in contemplating and renewing the painful traces which so many horrors have left in it. Is the soul, also, proud of her deep and numerous wounds? Does she delight in displaying them? Are they a property of which she has reason to be proud? Is it rather, that after the desire of knowing them, her first wish is to impart her sensations? To feel, and to excite feeling, are not these the most powerful springs of our soul?
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But in short, whatever may be the cause of the sentiment which actuates me, I have yielded to the desire of retracing the various sensations which I experienced during that fatal war. I have employed my leisure hours in separating, arranging, and combining with method my scattered and confused recollections. Comrades! I also invoke yours! Suffer not such great remembrances, which have been so dearly purchased, to be lost; for us they are the only property which the past leaves to the future. Single, against so many enemies, ye fell with greater glory than they rose. Learn, then, that there was no shame in being vanquished! Raise once more those noble fronts, which have been furrowed with all the thunders of Europe! Cast not down those eyes, which have seen so many subject capitals, so many vanquished kings! Fortune, doubtless, owed you a more glorious repose; but, such as it is, it depends on yourselves to make a noble use of it. Let history inscribe your recollections. The solitude and silence of misfortune are propitious to her labours; and let truth, which is always present in the long nights of adversity, at last enlighten labours that may not prove unproductive.
As for me, I will avail myself of the privilege, sometimes painful, sometimes glorious, of telling what I have seen, and of retracing, perhaps with too scrupulous attention, its most minute details; feeling that nothing was too minute in that prodigious Genius and those gigantic feats, without which we should never have known the extent to which human strength, glory, and misfortune, may be carried.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
CHAP. I.—Political relations of France and Russia since 1807 1
II.—Prussia.—Frederick William 6
III.—Turkey.—Sultans Selim—Mustapha—Mahmoud 18
CHAP. I.—Feelings of Napoleon's grandees at the approaching contest—their objections, with Napoleon's replies—real motives which urged him to the struggle 49
II.—Arguments against the war by the Dukes of Frioul and Vicenza and the Count de Segur.—Napoleon's replies 56
III.—His manner of gaining proselytes to his opinions—his avowals to his own family—his discussions with Cardinal Fesch—his declaration to Prince Kourakin 67
IV.—Circumstances inclining him to delay the contest—his proposals to England and to Russia—Russian ultimatum 75
V.—Preparations for commencement—Talleyrand—opinions of the military—of Napoleon's ministers and generals—fresh obstacles to his departure 80
CHAP. I.—Napoleon's departure from Paris—dispositions of the east of France—of the Germans—assemblage of sovereigns at Dresden 86
II.—Arrival in Poland—complaints by the inhabitants of the disorders of his troops—his ineffectual attempts to check them—meeting with Davoust—quarrel between that officer and Berthier—unfavourable impression of Napoleon against the former—arrival at Koenigsberg 97
III.—March from the Vistula to the Niemen—Napoleon's manners with the soldiers—positions of the different corps—dispositions of the army 105
CHAP. I.—Addresses of Napoleon and Alexander to their respective armies—Position of the Russian forces—Napoleon's plans in consequence—Sketch of the operations of his left and right wings during the campaign 115
II.—Passage of the Niemen—Dreadful storm and its fatal effects—Melancholy catastrophe—Napoleon's arrival at Wilna—Political arrangements 121
III.—Feelings of the Lithuanians—Napoleon's answer to the address of the Polish confederation—Coolness of the Lithuanians, and discussion of its causes 131
IV.—Distress of the army and its excesses—Manner in which Napoleon was affected by them 143
V.—Arrival of Balachoff from Alexander—Quarrel between Napoleon and Caulaincourt—Progress of the invading army to the 10th of July 149
VI.—Operations of the King of Westphalia's and of Davoust's divisions—Perilous situation and narrow escape of Bagration 157
VII.—Napoleon's departure from Wilna—Retreat of the Russian army from Drissa to Witepsk—Arrival of the different French corps at Beszenkowiczi—Different partial actions near Witepsk 166
VIII.—General engagement before Witepsk—French attack ordered to cease in expectation of a decisive battle on the following day—Retreat of the Russians—Napoleon's disappointment—Position of his different corps 177
CHAP. I.—Napoleon's first plans for halting at Witepsk—afterwards abandoned, and his determination to proceed to Smolensk 188
II.—Discussions with the officers of his household—their reasons for dissuading him from advancing further, and his replies—Feelings of the army in general 199
III.—Operations of Oudinot's corps against that of Wittgenstein—partial successes on both sides—Napoleon determines to change his line of operation 210
CHAP. I.—Manner in which this manoeuvre was effected—The army crosses the Boristhenes—Character of the Jewish and native population 216
II.—Surprise of Newerowskoi's corps beyond Krasnoe—Bold retreat of that officer 222
III.—Movements of the main Russian army—Plans of Barclay—his dissension with Bagration—hastens to the relief of Smolensk—about to be surprised by Napoleon—Unsuccessful attack of the French on Smolensk 227
IV.—Retreat of the Russian army, and fresh disappointment of Napoleon—Ineffectual attempts of Murat to dissuade his farther advance—Capture of Smolensk 234
V.—Napoleon's reflections on the conduct of the Russians—Intelligence of Regnier's victory over Tormasof—Opinions of the Emperor's principal officers as to the impolicy of proceeding farther 240
VI.—State of the allied army—its immense losses from various causes, independent of the enemy—Napoleon's professed intention to stop, but real determination to proceed 248
VII.—Final evacuation of Smolensk by the Russians after setting it on fire—their army overtaken by Murat and Ney—Death of General Gudin—Battle of Valoutina—Narrow escape of the Russians in consequence of Junot's irresolution 254
VIII.—Results of the battle—Recompenses and rewards conferred by Napoleon—Enthusiasm of the army—Melancholy state of the wounded—Animosity of the Russian population 264
IX.—Napoleon's plans of moving the Russian peasantry to insurrection—Conduct of their nobles to ward off the danger—Napoleon's hesitation as to the plan he should pursue 271
X.—Saint Cyr's victory over Wittgenstein on the 18th of August—Dissension between Murat and Davoust—Discord in the Russian camp in consequence of Barclay's continued retreat—Napoleon's advance to Dorogobouje 276
CHAP. I.—Manner in which the allied army was supplied on its march—Details of the organization of Davoust's corps 285
II.—Napoleon's bulletin and decrees at Slawkowo—Fresh quarrels between Murat and Davoust—Description of the Russian mode of retreat and of Murat's method of pursuit 290
III.—Advance to Wiazma and to Gjatz—Refusal of Davoust to obey Murat—Full development of the Russian plan of destroying their cities and towns 297
IV.—Clamours of the Russians against Barclay—Kutusof sent to supersede him—Great merit of Barclay's plan of retreat 304
V.—Near prospect of a battle—Character of Kutusof—Sanguinary and partial action on the 4th of September—Anecdote of Murat—Napoleon's survey of the ground 309
VI.—Disposition of the Russian army on the field of Borodino—Napoleon's plan of battle 317
VII.—Plan proposed by Davoust rejected by Napoleon—Feelings of the French army—Proclamation of Napoleon 322
VIII.—Preparations of the Russians—Feelings of their soldiery—Napoleon's anxiety—his indisposition on the night before the battle 328
IX. X. XI.—Battle of Borodino on the 7th of September 334
XII.—Results of the battle—immense loss on both sides—faults committed by Napoleon—how accounted for—incompleteness of his victory 356
XIII.—Advance to, and skirmish before Mojaisk—Gallantry of fifty voltigeurs of the 33d—Surprising order in the Russian retreat—Napoleon's distress 364
CHAP. I.—The Emperor Alexander's arrival at Moscow after his retreat from Drissa—Description of that city—Sacrifices voted by the nobility and the merchants to meet the threatened danger 1
II.—Alarm in consequence of the advance of the French army—Determination of the Governor, Count Rostopchin, and his preparations for destroying the capital—Evacuation of Moscow by the principal part of the inhabitants on the 3d of September 10
III.—State of that city just before and after the battle of Borodino—The Governor's departure 18
IV.—Napoleon advances to Moscow on the 14th of September—Feelings of the army on approaching it—Disappointment at finding it deserted 27
V.—Murat's entrance into the city 34
VI.—Napoleon's entrance into the Kremlin—Discovery of the conflagration of the city 38
VII.—Danger which he ran in escaping through the flames to Petrowsky—Hesitation as to his future plans 47
VIII.—His return to the Kremlin—Description of the camps outside the city—System of general plunder—Reproaches made to the army, and vindication of it 52
IX.—Conduct of Kutusof after abandoning Moscow—Rostopchin sets fire to his seat at Woronowo—Partial actions at Czerikowo and Vinkowo—Anxiety and uneasiness of Napoleon—consultation with his chief officers—Sends Lauriston to the Emperor 60
X.—Conference of Lauriston with Kutusof—Artful conduct of the latter—Armistice—Infatuation of Murat—Distress of the French army—Warnings of the impending danger—Napoleon's obstinacy in remaining 71
XI.—Illusions by which he kept up his own and his army's hopes—Count Daru's advice—Rupture of the armistice—Incapacity of Berthier—Disastrous engagement at Vinkowo—Napoleon determines to leave Moscow 82
CHAP. I.—Departure from Moscow—Composition of the army 94
II.—Battle of Malo-Yaroslawetz 98
III.—Distress of the Emperor—Danger which he ran from a sudden attack of the Cossacks 107
IV.—Field of Malo-Yaroslawetz—Council held by the Emperor—Opinions of Murat, Bessieres, and Davoust—Napoleon determines to retreat 113
V.—Kutusoff's similar determination to retreat from Malo-Yaroslawetz, ineffectually opposed by Sir Robert Wilson—Napoleon's projected plan of retreat 118
VI.—Mortier's proceedings at Moscow after the departure of the main army—Blowing up of the Kremlin—Devastations committed by both armies—Capture of General Winzingerode—Napoleon's behaviour to him 126
VII.—Arrival at Mojaisk—Alarming news of the Russian army—View of the field of Borodino 134
VIII.—Abandonment of the wounded in the Abbey of Kolotskoi—Horrible conduct of the suttlers—Massacre of 2000 Russian prisoners—Arrival at Gjatz 139
IX.—Napoleon's arrival at Wiazma—Reproaches to Davoust for his tardy mode of retreat, and that officer's vindication—Danger of the latter and Eugene—Arrival of Miloradowitch 144
X.—Battle between Eugene and Davoust and Miloradowitch, near Wiazma, on the 3d November—heavy loss of the French 149
XI.—Dreadful snow-storm on the 6th of November—its effects upon the troops 155
XII.—Arrival of the intelligence of Mallet's conspiracy—impression produced by it upon Napoleon and his officers—Message from Ney—Perilous situation of that marshal 160
XIII.—Defeat and entire dissolution of the Viceroy's corps at the passage of the Wop 167
XIV.—Arrival at Smolensk—Dreadful sufferings of the troops—Bad arrangements of the administrators—Reasons assigned by the latter in their vindication 175
CHAP. I.—Wittgenstein's attack upon Saint Cyr at Polotsk—Retreat of the latter—Want of concert in the movements of the Russian generals 183
II.—Junction of the corps of Saint Cyr and Victor at Smoliantzy on the 31st October—Opportunity lost by the latter of defeating the enemy—General view of the state of the army—Errors committed by Napoleon and his commanders 192
III.—Napoleon's departure from Smolensk—Dispositions of the Russian army to interrupt his farther retreat—Bravery of Excelmans—Arrival at Krasnoe 205
IV.—March of Eugene from Smolensk to Krasnoe with the remains of his corps—his narrow escape 211
V.—Successful nocturnal attack by Roguet on the Russian camp at Chickowa—Desperate situation of Napoleon—Wilson's fruitless efforts to induce Kutusof to surround and destroy him—Battle of Krasnoe—Bravery of the guard under Mortier 219
VI.—Napoleon's arrival at Dombrowna—Nocturnal false alarm—General disorganization of the army—Davoust's ineffectual efforts to check it 231
VII.—Council held at Orcha to determine the farther course of retreat—Opinion of Jomini—Napoleon decides on Borizof—Quits Orcha on the 20th of November without hearing any thing of Ney—Re-appearance of that Marshal after his departure 239
VIII. IX.—Details of Ney's retreat from Smolensk until his arrival at Orcha 248
CHAP. I.—Capture of Minsk by the Russians—Different opinions in the army as to the causes of their disasters—Rumoured treachery of Schwartzenberg—Napoleon's reproaches to him and Schwartzenberg's reply 270
II.—Details of the loss of Minsk—Movements of Dombrowski, Oudinot, and Victor—Distress and malady of Napoleon—Remarkable conversation with Count Daru 278
III.—Passage through the Forest of Minsk—Junction of the remains of the grand army with Victor and Oudinot's corps—State of the former 284
IV. V.—Preparations for crossing the Berezina 289
VI.—Circumstances which led the Russian general, Tchaplitz, into error as to the point where Napoleon was to cross the Berezina, and consequences of that error—Napoleon crosses that river at Studzianka on the 27th November 299
VII.—Capture and destruction of Partouneaux's division 304
VIII.—Attack made by the Russians under Wittgenstein and Platof on the left side, and by Tchitchakof on the right side of the Berezina, and repelled by the French 308
IX.—The burning of the bridge over the Berezina 315
X.—Napoleon's situation during the preceding actions—Passage over the morasses—His manners to his officers 321
XI.—Napoleon's arrival at Malodeczno—Announcement on the 3d of December of his intention to set out for France 325
XII.—Increased severity of the winter—Partial actions of Ney and Maison with the Russians between Pleszezenitzy and Malodeczno—Quarrel between Ney and Victor 330
XIII.—Napoleon's arrival at Smorgony—his parting interview with his marshals 335
CHAP. I.—Napoleon's journey from Smorgony to Paris—Impression produced in the army by his departure—Dreadful effects of the increased cold 339
II.—Picture of the sufferings of the army from the cold and the climate 346
III.—Arrival at Wilna—Consternation of the inhabitants—Fatal effects of not distributing the provisions collected among the troops—State of the wounded in the hospitals—Arrival of the Russians—Flight of Murat—Evacuation of Wilna—Immense losses which that occasioned—Disaster at Ponari 353
IV.—Details of Ney's mode of retreat—Losses occasioned to the Russians by the severity of the winter—Arrival at Kowno—Ney's defence and evacuation of that place 364
V.—First symptoms of Murat's defection—Arrival at Koenigsberg 372
VI. VII. VIII. IX.—Marshal Macdonald's retreat from Riga—Details of the defection of the Prussian Army under Yorck 377
X.—Conduct of Schwartzenberg and defection of the Austrians—Atrocities committed on the French prisoners at Wilna and Koenigsberg 396
XI.—Defection of Murat 401
DIRECTIONS FOR PLACING THE PLATES.
I. Portrait of Napoleon to face Title, Vol. I.
II. Map of the countries between Paris and Moscow page 1
III. Passage of the Niemen 124
IV. Portrait of Murat, King of Naples 311
V. Portrait of the Emperor Alexander to face Title, Vol. II.
VI. Conflagration of Moscow 48
VII. Portrait of Marshal Ney 268
VIII. Passage of the Berezina 315
Ever since 1807, when the space between the Rhine and the Niemen had been overrun, the two great empires of which these rivers were the boundaries had become rivals. By his concessions at Tilsit, at the expense of Prussia, Sweden, and Turkey, Napoleon had only satisfied Alexander. That treaty was the result of the defeat of Russia, and the date of her submission to the continental system. Among the Russians, it was regarded by some as attacking their honour; and by all it was felt to be ruinous to their interests.
By the continental system Napoleon had declared eternal war against the English; to that system he attached his honour, his political existence, and that of the nation under his sway. That system banished from the Continent all merchandise which was English, or had paid duty in any shape to England. He could not succeed in establishing it but by the unanimous consent of the continental nations, and that consent could not be hoped for but under a single and universal dominion.
France had besides alienated the nations of Europe from her by her conquests, and the monarchs by her revolution and her new dynasty. Henceforward she could no longer look forward to have either friends or rivals, but merely subjects; for the first would have been false, and the second implacable: it followed that all must be subject to her, or she to all.
With feelings of this kind, her leader, influenced by his position, and urged on by his enterprising character, filled his imagination with the vast project of becoming the sole master of Europe, by overwhelming Russia, and wresting Poland from her dominion. He had so much difficulty in concealing this project, that hints of it began to escape him in all directions. The immense preparations which so distant an enterprise required, the enormous quantities of provisions and ammunition collecting, the noise of arms, of carriages, and the march of such numbers of soldiers—the universal movement the majestic and terrible course of all the forces of the West against the East—every thing announced to Europe that her two colossuses were about to measure their strength with each other.
But, to get within reach of Russia, it was necessary to go beyond Austria, to cross Prussia, and to march between Sweden and Turkey; an offensive alliance with these four powers was therefore indispensable. Austria was as much subject to the influence of Napoleon as Prussia was to his arms: to them he had only to declare his intentions; Austria voluntarily and eagerly entered into his plans, and Prussia he easily prevailed on to join him.
Austria, however, did not act blindly. Situated between the two great colossuses of the North and the West, she was not displeased to see them at war: she looked to their mutually weakening each other, and to the increase of her own strength by their exhaustion. On the 14th of March, 1812, she promised France 30,000 men; but she prepared prudent secret instructions for them. She obtained a vague promise of an increase of territory, as an indemnity for her share of the expenses of the war, and the possession of Gallicia was guaranteed to her. She admitted, however, the future possibility of a cession of part of that province to the kingdom of Poland; but in exchange for that she would have received the Illyrian provinces. The sixth article of the secret treaty establishes that fact.
The success of the war, therefore, in no degree depended on the cession of Gallicia, or the difficulties arising from the Austrian jealousy of that possession. Napoleon, consequently, might on his entrance into Wilna, have publicly proclaimed the liberation of the whole of Poland, instead of betraying the expectations of her people, astonishing and rendering them indifferent by expressions of wavering import.
This, however, was one of those prominent points, which in politics as well as in war are decisive, with which every thing is connected, and from which nothing ought to have made him swerve. But whether it was that Napoleon reckoned too much on the ascendancy of his genius, or the strength of his army, and the weakness of Alexander; or that, considering what he left behind him, he felt it too dangerous to carry on so distant a war slowly and methodically; or whether, as we shall presently be told by himself, he had doubts of the success of his undertaking; certain it is, that he either neglected, or could not yet determine to proclaim the liberation of that country whose freedom he had come to restore.
And yet he had sent an ambassador to her Diet. When this inconsistency was remarked to him, he replied, that "that nomination was an act of war, which only bound him during the war, while by his words he would be bound both in war and peace." Thus it was, that he made no other reply to the enthusiasm of the Lithuanians than evasive expressions, at the very time he was following up his attack on Alexander to the very capital of his empire.
He even neglected to clear the southern Polish provinces of the feeble hostile armies which kept the patriotism of their inhabitants in check, and to secure, by strongly organizing their insurrection, a solid basis of operation. Accustomed to short methods, and to rapid attacks, he wished to imitate himself, in spite of the difference of places and circumstances; for such is the weakness of man, that he is always led by imitation, either of others, or of himself, which in the latter case, that of great men, is habit; for habit is nothing more than the imitation of one's self. So true it is, that by their strongest side these extraordinary men are undone!
The one in question committed himself to the fortune of battles. Having prepared an army of six hundred and fifty thousand men, he fancied that that was doing sufficient to secure victory, from which he expected every thing. Instead of sacrificing every thing to obtain victory, it was by that he looked to obtain every thing; he made use of it as a means, when it ought to have been his end. In this manner he made it too necessary; it was already rather too much so. But he confided so much of futurity to it, he overloaded it with so much responsibility, that it became urgent and indispensable to him. Hence his precipitation to get within reach of it, in order to extricate himself from so critical a position.
But we must not be too hasty in condemning a genius so great and universal; we shall shortly hear from himself by what urgent necessity he was hurried on; and even admitting that the rapidity of his expedition was only equalled by its rashness, success would have probably crowned it, if the premature decline of his health had left the physical constitution of this great man all the vigour which his mind still retained.
As to Prussia, of which Napoleon was completely master, it is not known whether it was from his uncertainty as to the fate which he reserved for her, or as to the period at which he should commence the war, that he refused, in 1811, to contract the alliance which she herself proposed to him, and of which he dictated the conditions, in 1812.
His aversion to Frederick William was remarkable. Napoleon had been frequently heard to speak reproachfully of the cabinet of Prussia for its treaties with the French republic. He said, "It was a desertion of the cause of kings; that the negotiations of the court of Berlin with the Directory displayed a timid, selfish, and ignoble policy, which sacrificed its dignity, and the general cause of monarchs, to petty aggrandizements." Whenever he followed with his finger the traces of the Prussian frontiers upon the map, he seemed to be angry at seeing them still so extensive, and exclaimed, "Is it possible that I have left this man so large a territory?"
This dislike to a mild and pacific monarch was surprising. As there is nothing in the character of Napoleon unworthy of historical remembrance, it is worth while to examine the cause of it. Some persons trace back the origin of it to the rejection which he experienced, when First Consul, from Louis XVIII. of the propositions which he made to him through the medium of the king of Prussia; and they suppose that Napoleon laid the blame of this refusal upon the mediator. Others attribute it to the seizure of Rumbold, the English agent at Hamburgh, by the orders of Napoleon, and to his being compelled to give him up by Frederick, as protector of the neutrality of the north of Germany. Before that time, Frederick and Napoleon had carried on a secret correspondence, which was of so intimate a nature, that they used to confide to each other even the details of their household; that circumstance, it is said, put an end to it.
At the beginning of 1805, however, Russia, Austria, and England, made ineffectual attempts to engage Frederick in their third coalition against France. The court of Berlin, the queen, the princes, the minister Hardenberg, and all the young Prussian military, excited by the ardour of displaying the inheritance of glory which had been left them by the great Frederick, or by the wish of blotting out the disgrace of the campaign of 1792, entered heartily into the views of the allied powers; but the pacific policy of the king, and of his minister Haugwitz, resisted them, until the violation of the Prussian territory, near Anspach, by the march of a corps of French troops, exasperated the passions of the Prussians to such a degree, that their cry for immediate war prevailed.
Alexander was then in Poland; he was invited to Potsdam, and repaired thither immediately; and on the 3d of November, 1805, he engaged Frederick in the third coalition. The Prussian array was immediately withdrawn from the Russian frontiers, and M. de Haugwitz repaired to Bruenn to threaten Napoleon with it. But the battle of Austerlitz shut his mouth; and within a fortnight after, the wily minister, having quickly turned round to the side of the conqueror, signed with him the participation of the fruits of victory.
Napoleon, however, dissembled his displeasure; for he had his army to re-organize, to give the grand duchy of Berg to Murat, his brother-in-law, Neufchatel to Berthier, to conquer Naples for his brother Joseph, to mediatize Switzerland, to dissolve the Germanic body, and to create the Rhenish confederation, of which he declared himself protector; to change the republic of Holland into a kingdom, and to give it to his brother Louis. These were the reasons which induced him, on the 15th of December, to cede Hanover to Prussia, in exchange for Anspach, Cleves, and Neufchatel.
The possession of Hanover at first tempted Frederick, but when the treaty was to be signed, he appeared to feel ashamed, and to hesitate; he wished only to accept it by halves, and to retain it merely as a deposit. Napoleon had no idea of such timid policy. "What!" said he, "does this monarch dare neither to make peace nor war? Does he prefer the English to me? Is there another coalition preparing? Does he despise my alliance?" Indignant at the idea, by a fresh treaty, on the 8th of March, 1806, he compelled Frederick to declare war against England, to take possession of Hanover, and to admit French garrisons into Wesel and Hameln.
The king of Prussia alone submitted; his court and his subjects were exasperated; they reproached him with allowing himself to be vanquished without attempting to fight; and elevating themselves on the remembrance of their past glory, they fancied that for them alone was reserved the honour of triumphing over the conqueror of Europe. In their impatience they insulted the minister of Napoleon; they sharpened their swords on the threshold of his gate. Napoleon himself they loaded with abuse. Even the queen, so distinguished by her graces and attractions, put on a warlike attitude. Their princes, one of them particularly (whose carriage and features, spirit and intrepidity, seemed to promise them a hero), offered to be their leaders. A chivalrous ardour and fury animated the minds of all.
It is asserted, that at the same time there were persons, either treacherous or deceived, who persuaded Frederick that Napoleon was obliged to show himself pacific, that that warrior was averse to war; they added, that he was perfidiously treating for peace with England, on the terms of restoring Hanover, which he was to take back from Prussia. Drawn in at last by the general feeling, the king allowed all these passions to burst forth. His army advanced, and threatened Napoleon; fifteen days afterwards he had neither army nor kingdom; he fled alone; and Napoleon dated from Berlin his decrees against England.
Humbled and conquered as Prussia thus was, it was impossible for Napoleon to abandon his hold of her; she would have immediately rallied, under the cannon of the Russians. Finding it impossible to gain her to his interests, like Saxony, by a great act of generosity, the next plan was to divide her; and yet, either from compassion, or the effect of Alexander's presence, he could not resolve to dismember her. This was a mistaken policy, like most of those where we stop half-way; and Napoleon was not long before he became sensible of it. When he exclaimed, therefore, "Is it possible that I have left this man so large a territory?" it is probable that he did not forgive Prussia the protection of Alexander; he hated her, because he felt that she hated him.
In fact, the sparks of a jealous and impatient hatred escaped from the youth of Prussia, whose ideas were exalted by a system of education, national, liberal, and mystical. It was among them that a formidable power arose in opposition to that of Napoleon. It included all whom his victories had humbled or offended; it had all the strength of the weak and the oppressed, the law of nature, mystery, fanaticism, and revenge! Wanting support on earth, it looked up for aid to Heaven, and its moral forces were wholly out of the reach of the material power of Napoleon. Animated by the devoted and indefatigable spirit of an ardent sect, it watched the slightest movements and weakest points of its enemy, insinuated itself into all the interstices of his power, and holding itself ready to strike at every opportunity, it waited quietly with the patience and phlegm which are the peculiar characteristics of the Germans, which were the causes of their defeat, and against which our victory wore itself out.
This vast conspiracy was that of the Tugendbund, or Friends of Virtue. Its head, in other words, the person who first gave a precise and definite direction to its views, was Stein. Napoleon perhaps might have gained him over to his interests, but preferred punishing him. His plan happened to be discovered by one of those chances to which the police owes the best part of its miracles; but when conspiracies enter into the interests, passions, and even the consciences of men, it is impossible to seize their ramifications: every one understands without communicating; or rather, all is communication—a general and simultaneous sympathy.
[Footnote 1: In 1808, several literary men at Koenigsberg, afflicted with the evils which desolated their country, ascribed it to the general corruption of manners. According to these philosophers, it had stifled true patriotism in the citizens, discipline in the army, and courage in the people. Good men therefore were bound to unite to regenerate the nation, by setting the example of every sacrifice. An association was in consequence formed by them, which took the title of Moral and Scientific Union. The government approved of it, merely interdicting it from political discussions. This resolution, noble as it was, would probably have been lost, like many others, in the vagueness of German metaphysics; but about that time William, Duke of Brunswick, who had been stripped of his duchy, had retired to his principality of Oels in Silesia. In the bosom of this retreat he is said to have observed the first progress of the Moral Union among the Prussians. He became a member of it; and his heart swelling with hatred and revenge, he formed the idea of another association, which was to consist of men resolved to overthrow the confederation of the Rhine, and to drive the French entirely out of Germany. This society, whose object was more real and positive than that of the first, soon swallowed up the other; and from these two was formed that of the Tugendbund, or Friends of Virtue.
About the end of May, 1809, three enterprises—those of Katt, Doernberg, and Schill—had already given proofs of its existence. That of Duke William began on the 14th of May. He was at first supported by the Austrians. After a variety of adventures, this leader, abandoned to his own resources in the midst of subjugated Europe, and left with only 2000 men to combat with the whole power of Napoleon, refused to yield: he stood his ground, and threw himself into Saxony and Hanover; but finding it impossible to raise them into insurrection, he cut his way through several French corps, which he defeated, to Elsfleth, where he found an English vessel waiting to receive and to convey him to England, with the laurels he had acquired.]
This focus spread its fires and gained new partizans every day; it attacked the power of Napoleon in the opinion of all Germany, extended itself into Italy, and threatened its complete overthrow. It was already easy to see that, if circumstances became unfavourable to us, there would be no want of men to take advantage of them. In 1809, even before the disaster of Esslingen, the first who had ventured to raise the standard of independence against Napoleon were Prussians. He sent them to the galleys; so important did he feel it to smother that cry of revolt, which seemed to echo that of the Spaniards, and might become general.
Independently of all these causes of hatred, the position of Prussia, between France and Russia, compelled Napoleon to remain her master; he could not reign there but by force—he could not be strong there but by her weakness.
He ruined the country, although he must have known well that poverty creates audacity; that the hope of gain becomes the moving principle of those who have nothing more to lose; and finally, that in leaving them nothing but the sword, he in a manner obliged them to turn it against himself. In consequence, on the approach of the year 1812, and of the terrible struggle which it was to produce, Frederick, uneasy and tired of his subservient position, was determined to extricate himself from it, either by an alliance or by war. In March, 1811, he offered himself to Napoleon as an auxiliary in the expedition which he was preparing. In the month of May, and again in the month of August, he repeated that offer; and as he received no satisfactory answer, he declared, that as the great military movements which surrounded, crossed, or drained his kingdom, were such as to excite his apprehension that his entire destruction was meditated, "he took up arms, because circumstances imperiously called upon him to do so, deeming it far preferable to die sword in hand than to fall with disgrace."
It was said at the same time, that Frederick secretly offered to Alexander to give him possession of Graudentz, and his magazines, and to put himself at the head of his insurgent subjects, if the Russian army should advance into Silesia. If the same authorities are to be believed, Alexander received this proposition, very favourably. He immediately sent to Bagration and Wittgenstein sealed marching orders. They were instructed not to open them until they received another letter from their sovereign, which he never wrote, having changed his resolution. A variety of causes might have dictated that change; 1st, a wish not to be the first to commence so great a war, and his anxiety to have divine justice and the opinion of mankind on his side, by not appearing the aggressor; 2d, that Frederick, becoming less uneasy as to the plans of Napoleon, had resolved to follow his fortunes. It is probable, after all, that the noble sentiments which Alexander expressed in his reply to the king were his only motives: we are assured that he wrote to him, "That in a war which might begin by reverses, and in which perseverance was required, he only felt courageous for himself, and that the misfortunes of an ally might shake his resolution; that it would grieve him to chain Prussia to his fortune if it was bad; that if it was good he should always be ready to share it with her, whatever line of conduct necessity might oblige her to pursue."
These details have been certified to us by a witness, although an inferior one. However, whether this counsel proceeded from the generosity or the policy of Alexander, or Frederick was determined solely by the necessity of the case, it is certain that it was high time for him to come to a decision; for in February, 1812, these communications with Alexander, if there were such, or the hope of obtaining better terms from France having made him hesitate in replying to the definitive propositions of Napoleon, the latter, becoming impatient, sent additional forces to Dantzic, and made Davoust enter Pomerania. His orders for this invasion of a Swedish province were repeated and pressing; they were grounded on the illicit commerce carried on by the Pomeranians with the English, and subsequently on the necessity of compelling Prussia to accede to his terms. The Prince of Eckmuehl even received orders to hold himself in readiness to take immediate possession of that kingdom, and to seize the person of her sovereign, if within eight days from the date of these orders the latter had not concluded the offensive alliance dictated to him by France; but while the marshal was tracing the few marches necessary for this operation, he received intelligence that the treaty of the 21st of February, 1812, had been ratified.
This submission did not altogether satisfy Napoleon. To his strength he added artifice; his suspicions still led him to covet the occupation of the fortresses, which he was ashamed not to leave in Frederick's hands; he required the king to keep only 50 or 80 invalids in some, and desired that some French officers should be admitted into others; all of whom were to send their reports to him, and to follow his orders. His solicitude extended to every thing. "Spandau," said he, in his letters to Davoust, "is the citadel of Berlin, as Pillau is that of Koenigsberg;" and French troops had orders to be ready to introduce themselves at the first signal: the manner he himself pointed out. At Potsdam, which the king had reserved for himself, and which our troops were interdicted from entering, his orders were, that the French officers should frequently show themselves, in order to observe, and to accustom the people to the sight of them. He recommended every degree of respect to be shown, both to the king and his subjects; but at the same time he required that every sort of arms should be taken from the latter, which might be of use to them in an insurrection; and he pointed out every thing of the kind, even to the smallest weapon. Anticipating the possibility of the loss of a battle, and the chances of Prussian vespers, he ordered that his troops should be either put into barracks or encampments, with a thousand other precautions of the minutest description. As a final security, in case of the English making a descent between the Elbe and the Vistula, although Victor, and subsequently Augereau, were to occupy Prussia with 50,000 men, he engaged by treaty the assistance of 10,000 Danes.
All these precautions were still insufficient to remove his distrust; when the Prince of Hatzfeld came to require of him a subsidy of 25 millions of francs to meet the expenses of the war which was preparing, his reply to Daru was, "that he would take especial care not to furnish an enemy with arms against himself." In this manner did Frederick, entangled as it were in a net of iron, which surrounded and held him tight in every part, put between 20 and 30,000 of his troops, and his principal fortresses and magazines, at the disposal of Napoleon.
[Footnote 2: By this treaty, Prussia agreed to furnish two hundred thousand quintals of rye, twenty-four thousand of rice, two million bottles of beer, four hundred thousand quintals of wheat, six hundred and fifty thousand of straw, three hundred and fifty thousand of hay, six million bushels of oats, forty-four thousand oxen, fifteen thousand horses, three thousand six hundred waggons, with harness and drivers, each carrying a load of fifteen hundred weight; and finally, hospitals provided with every thing necessary for twenty thousand sick. It is true, that all these supplies were to be allowed in deduction of the remainder of the taxes imposed by the conquest.]
These two treaties opened the road to Russia to Napoleon; but in order to penetrate into the interior of that empire, it was necessary to make sure of Sweden and Turkey.
Military combinations were then so much aggrandized, that in order to sketch a plan of warfare, it was no longer necessary to study the configuration of a province, or of a chain of mountains, or the course of a river. When monarchs, such as Alexander and Napoleon, were contending for the dominion of Europe, it was necessary to regard the general and relative position of every state with a universal coup d'oeil; it was no longer on single maps, but on that of the whole globe, that their policy had to trace its plans of hostility.
Russia is mistress of the heights of Europe; her flanks are supported by the seas of the north and south. Her government can only with great difficulty be driven into a straight, and forced to submit, in a space almost beyond the imagination to conceive: the conquest of which would require long campaigns, to which her climate is completely opposed. From this, it follows, that without the concurrence of Turkey and Sweden, Russia is less vulnerable. The assistance of these two powers was therefore requisite in order to surprise her, to strike her to the heart in her modern capital, and to turn at a distance, in the rear of its left, her grand army of the Niemen,—and not merely to precipitate attacks on a part of her front, in plains where the extent of space prevented confusion, and left a thousand roads open to the retreat of that army.
The meanest soldier in our ranks, therefore, expected to hear of the combined march of the Grand Vizir towards Kief, and of Bernadotte against Finland. Eight sovereigns were already enlisted under the banners of Napoleon; but the two who had the greatest interest in the quarrel were still deaf to his call. It was an idea worthy of the great emperor to put all the governments and all the religions of Europe in motion for the accomplishment of his great designs: their triumph would have been then secured; and if the voice of another Homer had been wanting to this king of so many kings, the voice of the nineteenth century, the great century, would have supplied it; and the cry of astonishment of a whole age, penetrating and piercing through futurity, would have echoed from generation to generation, to the latest posterity!
So much glory was not in reserve for us.
Which of us, in the French army, can ever forget his astonishment, in the midst of the Russian plains, on hearing the news of the fatal treaties of the Turks and Swedes with Alexander; and how anxiously our looks were turned towards our right uncovered, towards our left enfeebled, and upon our retreat menaced? Then we only looked at the fatal effects of the peace between our allies and our enemy; now we feel desirous of knowing the causes of it.
The treaties concluded about the end of the last century, had subjected the weak sultan of the Turks to Russia; the Egyptian expedition had armed him against us. But ever since Napoleon had assumed the reins of power, a well-understood common interest, and the intimacy of a mysterious correspondence, had reconciled Selim with the first consul: a close connexion was established between these two princes, and they had exchanged portraits with each other. Selim attempted to effect a great revolution in the Turkish customs. Napoleon encouraged him, and was assisting him in introducing the European discipline into the Ottoman army, when the victory of Jena, the war of Poland, and the influence of Sebastiani, determined the sultan to throw off the yoke of Alexander. The English made hasty attempts to oppose this, but they were driven from the sea of Constantinople. Then it was that Napoleon wrote the following letter to Selim.
"Osterode, April 3, 1807.
"My ambassador informs me of the bravery and good conduct of the Mussulmans against our common enemies. Thou hast shown thyself the worthy descendant of the Selims and the Solimans. Thou hast asked me for some officers; I send them to thee. I regretted that thou hadst not required of me some thousand men,—thou hast only asked for five hundred; I have given orders for their immediate departure. It is my intention that they shall be paid and clothed at my expense, and that thou shalt be reimbursed the expenses which they may occasion thee. I have given orders to the commander of my troops in Dalmatia to send thee the arms, ammunition, and every thing thou shalt require of me. I have given the same orders at Naples; and artillery has been already placed at the disposal of the pasha of Janina. Generals, officers, arms of every description, even money—I place all at thy disposal. Thou hast only to ask: do so in a distinct manner, and all which thou shalt require I will send thee on the instant. Arrange matters with the shah of Persia, who is also the enemy of the Russians; encourage him to stand fast, and to attack warmly the common enemy. I have beaten the Russians in a great battle; I have taken from them seventy-five pieces of cannon, sixteen standards, and a great number of prisoners. I am at the distance of eighty leagues beyond Warsaw, and am about to take advantage of the fifteen days' repose which I have given to my army, to repair thither, and there to receive thy ambassador. I am sensible of the want thou hast of artillerymen and troops; I have offered both to thy ambassador; but he has declined them, from a fear of alarming the delicacy of the Mussulmans. Confide to me all thy wants; I am sufficiently powerful, and sufficiently interested in thy prosperity, both from friendship and policy, to have nothing to refuse thee. Peace has been proposed to me here. I have been offered all the advantages which I could desire; but they wished that I should ratify the state of things established between the Porte and Russia by the treaty of Sistowa, and I refused. My answer was, that it was necessary that the Porte should be secured in complete independence; and that all the treaties extorted from her, during the time that France was asleep, should be revoked."
This letter of Napoleon had been preceded and followed by verbal but formal assurances, that he would not sheath the sword, until the Crimea was restored to the dominion of the crescent. He had even authorized Sebastiani to give the divan a copy of his instructions, which contained these promises.
Such were his words, with which his actions at first corresponded. Sebastiani demanded a passage through Turkey for an army of 25,000 French, which he was to command, and which was to join the Ottoman army. An unforeseen circumstance, it is true, deranged this plan; but Napoleon then made Selim the promise of an auxiliary force of 9000 French, including 5000 artillerymen, who were to be conveyed in eleven vessels of the line to Constantinople. The Turkish ambassador was at the same time treated with the greatest distinction in the French camp; he accompanied Napoleon in all his reviews: the most flattering attentions were paid to him, and the grand-equerry (Caulaincourt,) was already treating with him for an alliance, offensive and defensive, when a sudden attack by the Russians interrupted the negotiation.
The ambassador returned to Warsaw, where the same respect continued to be shown him, up to the day of the decisive victory of Friedland. But on the following day his illusion was dissipated; he saw himself neglected; for it was no longer Selim whom he represented. A revolution had just hurled from the throne the monarch who had been the friend of Napoleon, and with him all hope of giving the Turks a regular army, upon which he could depend. Napoleon, therefore, judging that he could no longer reckon upon the assistance of these barbarians, changed his system. Henceforward it was Alexander whom he wished to gain; and as his was a genius which never hesitated, he was already prepared to abandon the empire of the East to that monarch, in order that he might be left at liberty to possess himself of that of the West.
As his great object was the extension of the continental system, and to make it surround Europe, the co-operation of Russia would complete its development. Alexander would shut out the English from the North, and compel Sweden to go to war with them; the French would expel them from the centre, from the south, and from the west of Europe. Napoleon was already meditating the expedition to Portugal, if that kingdom would not join his coalition. With these ideas floating in his brain, Turkey was now only an accessary in his plans, and he agreed to the armistice, and to the conferences at Tilsit.
But a deputation had just come from Wilna, soliciting the restoration of their national independence, and professing the same devotion to his cause as had been shown by Warsaw; Berthier, whose ambition was satisfied, and who began to be tired of war, dismissed these envoys rudely, styling them traitors to their sovereign. The Prince of Eckmuehl, on the contrary, favoured their object, and presented them to Napoleon, who was irritated with Berthier for his treatment of these Lithuanians, and received them graciously, without, however, promising them his support. In vain did Davoust represent to him that the opportunity was favourable, owing to the destruction of the Russian army; Napoleon's reply was, "that Sweden had just declared her armistice to him; that Austria offered her mediation between France and Russia, which he looked upon as a hostile step; that the Prussians, seeing him at such a distance from France, might recover from their intimidation; and finally, that Selim, his faithful ally, had just been dethroned, and his place filled by Mustapha IV., of whose dispositions he knew nothing."
The emperor of France continued, therefore, to negotiate with Russia; and the Turkish ambassador, neglected and forgotten, wandered about our camp, without being summoned to take any part in the negotiations which terminated the war; he returned to Constantinople soon after, in great displeasure. Neither the Crimea, nor even Moldavia and Wallachia, were restored to that barbarous court by the treaty of Tilsit; the restitution of the two latter provinces was only stipulated by an armistice, the conditions of which were never meant to be executed. But as Napoleon professed to be the mediator between Mustapha and Alexander, the ministers of the two powers repaired to Paris. But there, during the long continuance of that feigned mediation, the Turkish plenipotentiaries were never admitted to his presence.
If we must even tell the whole truth, it is asserted, that at the interview at Tilsit, and subsequently, a treaty for the partition of Turkey was under discussion. It was proposed to Russia to take possession of Wallachia, Moldavia, Bulgaria, and a part of Mount Hemus. Austria was to have Servia and a part of Bosnia; France the other part of that province, Albania, Macedonia, and all Greece as far as Thessalonica: Constantinople, Adrianople, and Thrace, were to be left to the Turks.
Whether the conferences respecting this partition were really of a serious nature, or merely the communication of a great idea, is uncertain; so much is certain, that shortly after the interview at Tilsit, Alexander's ambition was very sensibly moderated. The suggestions of prudence had shown him the danger of substituting for the ignorant, infatuated, and feeble Turkey, an active, powerful, and unaccommodating neighbour. In his conversations on the subject at that time, he remarked, "that he had already too much desert country; that he knew too well, by the occupation of the Crimea, which was still depopulated, the value of conquest over foreign and hostile religions and manners; that besides, France and Russia were too strong to become such near neighbours; that two such powerful bodies coming into immediate contact, would be sure to jostle; and that it was much better to leave intermediate powers between them."
On the other side, the French emperor urged the matter no further; the Spanish insurrection diverted his attention, and imperiously required his presence with all his forces. Even previous to the interview at Erfurt, after Sebastiani's return from Constantinople, although Napoleon still seemed to adhere to the idea of dismembering Turkey in Europe, he had admitted the correctness of his ambassador's reasoning: "That in this partition, the advantages would be all against him; that Russia and Austria would acquire contiguous provinces, which would make their dominions more complete, while we should be obliged to keep 80,000 men continually in Greece to retain it in subjection; that such an army, from the distance and losses it would sustain from long marches, and the novelty and unhealthiness of the climate, would require 30,000 recruits annually, a number which would quite drain France: that a line of operation extending from Athens to Paris, was out of all proportion; that besides, it was strangled in its passage at Trieste, at which point only two marches would enable the Austrians to place themselves across it, and thereby cut off our army of observation in Greece from all communication with Italy and France."
Here Napoleon exclaimed, "that Austria certainly complicated every thing; that she was there like a dead weight; that she must be got rid off; and Europe must be divided into two empires: that the Danube, from the Black Sea to Passau, the mountains of Bohemia to Koenigsgratz, and the Elbe to the Baltic, should be their lines of demarcation. Alexander should become the emperor of the north, and he of the south of Europe." Abandoning, subsequently, these lofty ideas, and reverting to Sebastiani's observations on the partition of European Turkey, he terminated the conferences, which had lasted three days, with these words: "You are right, and no answer can be given to that! I give it up. Besides, that accords with my views on Spain, which I am going to unite to France."—"What do I hear?" exclaimed Sebastiani, astonished, "unite it! And your brother!"—"What signifies my brother?" retorted Napoleon; "does one give away a kingdom like Spain? I am determined to unite it to France. I will give that nation a great national representation. I will make the emperor Alexander consent to it, by allowing him to take possession of Turkey to the Danube, and I will evacuate Berlin. As to Joseph, I will indemnify him."
The congress at Erfurt took place just after this. He could have no motive at that time for supporting the rights of the Turks. The French army, which had advanced imprudently into the very heart of Spain, had met with reverses. The presence of its leader, and that of his armies of the Rhine and the Elbe, became there every day more and more necessary, and Austria had availed herself of the opportunity to take up arms. Uneasy respecting the state of Germany, Napoleon was therefore anxious to make sure of the dispositions of Alexander, to conclude an alliance offensive and defensive with him, and even to engage him in a war. Such were the reasons which induced him to abandon Turkey as far as the Danube to that emperor.
The Porte therefore had very soon reason to reproach us for the war which was renewed between it and Russia. Notwithstanding, in July, 1808, when Mustapha was dethroned, and succeeded by Mahmoud, the latter announced his accession to the French emperor; but Napoleon had then to keep upon terms with Alexander, and felt too much regret at the death of Selim, detestation of the barbarity of the Mussulmans, and contempt for their unstable government, to allow him to notice the communication. For three years he had returned no reply to the sultan, and his silence might be interpreted into a refusal to acknowledge him.
He was in this ambiguous position with the Turks, when all of a sudden, on the 21st of March, 1812, only six weeks before the war with Russia commenced, he solicited an alliance with Mahmoud: he demanded that, within five days from the period of the communication, all negotiation between the Turks and Russians should be broken off; and that an army of 100,000 men, commanded by the sultan himself, should march to the Danube within nine days. The return which he proposed to make for this assistance was, to put the Porte in possession of the very same Moldavia and Wallachia, which, under the circumstances, the Russians were but too happy to restore as the price of a speedy peace; and the promise of procuring the restoration of the Crimea, which he had made six years before to Selim, was again renewed.
We know not whether the time which this despatch would take to arrive at Constantinople had been badly calculated, whether Napoleon believed the Turkish army to be stronger than it really was, or whether he had flattered himself with surprising and captivating the determination of the divan by so sudden and advantageous a proposition. It can hardly be supposed that he was ignorant of the long invariable custom of the Mussulmans, which prevented the grand signor from ever appearing in person at the head of his army.
It appears as if the genius of Napoleon could not stoop so low as to impute to the divan the brutish ignorance which it exhibited of its real interests. After the manner in which he had abandoned the interests of Turkey in 1807, perhaps he did not make sufficient allowance for the distrust which the Mussulmans were likely to entertain of his new promises; he forgot that they were too ignorant to appreciate the change which recent circumstances had effected in his political views; and that barbarians like them could still less comprehend the feelings of dislike with which they had inspired him, by their deposition and murder of Selim, to whom he was attached, and in conjunction with whom he had hoped to make European Turkey a military power capable of coping with Russia.
Perhaps he might still have gained over Mahmoud to his cause, if he had sooner made use of more potent arguments; but, as he has since expressed himself, it revolted his pride to make use of corruption. We shall besides shortly see him hesitating about beginning a war with Alexander, or laying too much stress on the alarm with which his immense preparations would inspire that monarch. It is also possible, that the last propositions which he made to the Turks, being tantamount to a declaration of war against the Russians, were delayed for the express purpose of deceiving the Czar as to the period of his invasion. Finally, whether it was from all these causes, from a confidence founded on the mutual hatred of the two nations, and on his treaty of alliance with Austria, which had just guaranteed Moldavia and Wallachia to the Turks, he detained the ambassador whom he sent to them on his road, and waited, as we have just seen, to the very last moment.
But the divan was surrounded by the Russian, English, Austrian, and Swedish envoys, who with one voice represented to it, "that the Turks were indebted for their existence in Europe solely to the divisions which existed among the Christian monarchs; that the moment these were united under one influence, the Mahometans in Europe would be overwhelmed; and that as the French emperor was advancing rapidly to the attainment of universal empire, it was him whom the Turks had most reason to dread."
To these representations were added the intrigues of the two Greek princes Morozi. They were of the same religion with Alexander, and they looked to him for the possession of Moldavia and Wallachia. Grown rich by his favours and by the gold of England, these dragomans enlightened the unsuspecting ignorance of the Turks, as to the occupation and military surveys of the Ottoman frontiers by the French. They did a great deal more; the first of them influenced the dispositions of the divan and the capital, and the second those of the grand vizir and the army; and as the proud Mahmoud resisted, and would only accept an honourable peace, these treacherous Greeks contrived to disband his army, and compelled him, by insurrections, to sign the degrading treaty of Bucharest with the Russians.
Such is the power of intrigue in the seraglio; two Greeks whom the Turks despised, there decided the fate of Turkey, in spite of the sultan himself. As the latter depended for his existence on the intrigues of his palace, he was, like all despots who shut themselves up in them, obliged to yield: the Morozi carried the day; but afterwards he had them both beheaded.
In this manner did we lose the support of Turkey; but Sweden still remained to us; her monarch had sprung from our ranks; a soldier of our army, it was to that he owed his glory and his throne: was it likely that he would desert our cause on the first opportunity he had of showing his gratitude? It was impossible to anticipate such ingratitude; still less, that he would sacrifice the real and permanent interests of Sweden to his former jealousy of Napoleon, and perhaps to a weakness too common among the upstart favourites of fortune; unless it be that the submission of men who have newly attained to greatness to those who boast of a transmitted rank, is a necessity of their position rather than an error of their self-love.
In this great contest between aristocracy and democracy, the ranks of the former had been joined by one of its most determined enemies. Bernadotte being thrown almost singly among the ancient courts and nobility, did every thing to merit his adoption by them, and succeeded. But his success must have cost him dear, as in order to obtain it, he was first obliged to abandon his old companions, and the authors of his glory, in the hour of peril. At a later period he did more; he was seen marching over their bleeding corses, joining with all their, and formerly his, enemies, to overwhelm the country of his birth, and thereby lay that of his adoption at the mercy of the first czar who should be ambitious of reigning over the Baltic.
On the other hand, it would appear that the character of Bernadotte, and the importance of Sweden in the decisive struggle which was about to commence, were not sufficiently weighed in the political balance of Napoleon. His ardent and exclusive genius hazarded too much; he overloaded a solid foundation so much that he sank it. Thus it was, that after justly appreciating the Swedish interests as naturally bound up with his, the moment he wished to weaken the power of Russia, he fancied that he could exact every thing from the Swedes without promising them any thing in return: his pride did not make any allowance for theirs, judging that they were too much interested in the success of his cause, for them ever to think of separating themselves from it.
We must, however, take up the history a little earlier; facts will prove that the defection of Sweden was as much attributable to the jealous ambition of Bernadotte as to the unbending pride of Napoleon. It will be seen that her new monarch assumed to himself a great part of the responsibility of the rupture, by offering his alliance at the price of an act of treachery.
When Napoleon returned from Egypt, he did not become the chief of his equals with all their concurrence. Such of them as were already jealous of his glory then became still more envious of his power. As they could not dispute the first, they attempted to refuse obedience to the second. Moreau, and several other generals, either by persuasion or surprise, had co-operated in the revolution of the 18th Brumaire: they afterwards repented having done so. Bernadotte had refused all participation in it. Alone, during the night, in Napoleon's own residence, amidst a thousand devoted officers, waiting only for the conqueror's orders, Bernadotte, then a strenuous republican, was daring enough to oppose his arguments, to refuse the second place in the republic, and to retort upon his anger by threats. Napoleon saw him depart, bearing himself proudly, and pass through the midst of his partizans, carrying with him his secrets, and declaring himself his enemy, and even his denouncer. Either from respect to his brother, to whom Bernadotte was allied by marriage, from moderation, the usual companion of strength, or from astonishment, he suffered him to depart quietly.
In the course of the same night, a conventicle, consisting of ten deputies of the Council of Five Hundred, met at the house of S——; thither Bernadotte repaired. They settled, that at nine o'clock next morning the Council should hold a sitting, to which those only should be invited who were of the same way of thinking; that there a decree should be passed, that in imitation of the Council of Ancients, which had prudently named Bonaparte general of its guard, the Council of Five Hundred had appointed Bernadotte to command theirs; and that the latter, properly armed, should be in readiness to be summoned to it. It was at S——'s house that this plan was formed. S—— himself immediately afterwards ran to Napoleon, and disclosed the whole to him. A threat from the latter was quite sufficient to keep the conspirators in order; not one of them dared show his face at the Council, and the next day the revolution of the 18th Brumaire was completed.
Bernadotte was prudent enough afterwards to feign submission, but Napoleon had not forgotten his opposition. He kept a watchful eye on all his movements. Not long after, he suspected his being at the head of a republican conspiracy which had been forming against him in the west. A premature proclamation discovered it; an officer who had been arrested for other causes, and an accomplice of Bernadotte, denounced the authors. On that occasion Bernadotte's ruin would have been sealed, if Napoleon had been able to convict him of it.
He was satisfied with banishing him to America, under the title of minister of the Republic. But fortune favoured Bernadotte, who was already at Rochefort, by delaying his embarkation until the war with England was renewed. He then refused to go, and Napoleon could no longer compel him.
All the relations between them had thus been those of hatred; and this check only served to aggravate them. Soon after, Napoleon was heard reproaching Bernadotte with his envious and treacherous inaction during the battle of Auerstadt, and his order of the day at Wagram, in which he had assumed the honour of that victory. He also spoke reproachfully of his character, as being much more ambitious than patriotic; and perhaps of the fascination of his manners,—all of them things considered dangerous to a recently established government; and yet he had showered rank, titles, and distinctions upon him, while Bernadotte, always ungrateful, seemed to accept them merely as in justice due to his merits, or to the want which was felt of him. These complaints of Napoleon were not without foundation.
Bernadotte, on his side, abusing the emperor's moderation and desire to keep on terms with him, gradually incurred an increase of his displeasure, which his ambition was pleased to call enmity. He demanded why Napoleon had placed him in such a dangerous and false position at Wagram? why the report of that victory had been so unfavourable to him? to what was he to attribute the jealous anxiety to weaken his eulogium in the journals by artful notes? Up to that time, however, the obscure and underhand opposition of this general to his emperor had been of no importance; but a much wider field was then opened to their misunderstanding.
By the treaty of Tilsit, Sweden, as well as Turkey, had been sacrificed to Russia and the continental system. The mistaken or mad politics of Gustavus IV. had been the cause of this. Ever since 1804 that monarch appeared to have enlisted himself in the pay of England; it was he also who had been the first to break the ancient alliance between France and Sweden. He had obstinately persevered in that false policy to such an extent at first, as to contend against France when she was victorious over Russia, and afterwards with Russia and France united. The loss of Pomerania, in 1807, and even that of Finland and the islands of Aland, which were united to Russia in 1808, were not sufficient to shake his obstinacy.
It was then that his irritated subjects resumed that power which had been wrested from them, in 1772 and 1788, by Gustavus III., and of which his successor made so bad a use. Gustavus Adolphus IV. was imprisoned and dethroned; his lineal descendants were excluded from the throne; his uncle was put in his place, and the prince of Holstein-Augustenburg elected hereditary prince of Sweden. As the war had been the cause of this revolution peace was the result of it; it was concluded with Russia in 1809; but the newly-elected hereditary prince then died suddenly.
In the beginning of 1810, France restored Pomerania and the Island of Rugen to Sweden, as the price of her accession to the continental system. The Swedes, worn out, impoverished, and become almost islanders, in consequence of the loss of Finland, were very loath to break with England, and yet they had no remedy; on the other side they stood in awe of the neighbouring and powerful government of Russia. Finding themselves weak and isolated, they looked round for support.
Bernadotte had just been appointed to the command of the French army which took possession of Pomerania; his military reputation, and still more that of his nation and its sovereign, his fascinating mildness, his generosity, and his flattering attentions to the Swedes, with whom he had to treat, induced several of them to cast their eyes upon him. They appeared to know nothing of the misunderstanding between this marshal and the emperor; they fancied that by electing him for their prince, they should not only obtain an able and experienced general, but also a powerful mediator between France and Sweden, and a certain protector in the emperor: it happened quite the contrary.
During the intrigues to which this circumstance gave rise, Bernadotte fancied that to his previous complaints against Napoleon he had to add others. When, in opposition to the king, and the majority of the members of the diet, he was proposed as successor to the crown of Sweden; when his pretensions were supported by Charles's prime minister, (a man of no family, who owed, like him, all his illustration to himself,) and the count de Wrede, the only member of the diet who had reserved his vote for him; when he came to solicit Napoleon's interference, why did he, when Charles XIII. desired to know his wishes, exhibit so much indifference? Why did he prefer the union of the three northern crowns on the head of a prince of Denmark? If he, Bernadotte, succeeded in the enterprise, he was not at all indebted for it to the emperor of France; he owed it to the pretensions of the king of Denmark, which counteracted those of the duke of Augustenburg, his most dangerous rival; to the grateful audacity of the baron de Moerner, who was the first to come to him, and offer to put him on the lists, and to the aversion of the Swedes to the Danes; above all he owed it to a passport which had been adroitly obtained by his agent from Napoleon's minister. It was said that this document was audaciously produced by Bernadotte's secret emissary, as a proof of an autograph mission with which he pretended to be charged, and of the formal desire of the French emperor to see one of his lieutenants, and the relation of his brother, placed upon the throne of Sweden.
[Footnote 3: Brother of the deceased prince of that name.]
Bernadotte also felt that he owed this crown to the chance, which brought him in communication with the Swedes, and made them acquainted with his characteristic qualities; to the birth of his son, which secured the heredity succession; to the address of his agents, who, either with or without his authority, dazzled the poverty of the Scandinavians with the promise of fourteen millions with which his election was to enrich their treasury; and finally to his flattering attentions, which had gained him the voices of several Swedish officers who had been his prisoners. But as to Napoleon, what did he owe to him? What was his reply to the news of the offer of several Swedes, when he himself waited upon him to inform him of it? "I am at too great a distance from Sweden, to mix myself up in her affairs. You must not reckon upon my support." At the same time it is true, that either from necessity, from his dreading the election of the duke of Oldenburg; or finally from respect for the wishes of fortune, Napoleon declared that he would leave it to her to decide: and Bernadotte was in consequence elected crown prince of Sweden.
The newly-elected prince immediately paid his respects to the emperor, who received him frankly. "As you are offered the crown of Sweden, I permit you to accept it. I had another wish, as you know; but, in short, it is your sword which has made you a king, and you are sensible that it is not for me to stand in the way of your good fortune." He then entered very fully with him into the whole plan of his policy, in which Bernadotte appeared entirely to concur; every day he attended the emperor's levee together with his son, mixing with the other courtiers. By such marks of deference, he completely gained the heart of Napoleon. He was about to depart, poor. Unwilling that he should present himself to the Swedish throne in that necessitous state, like a mere adventurer, the emperor generously gave him two millions out of his own treasury; he even granted to his family the dotations which as a foreign prince he could no longer retain himself; and they parted on apparent terms of mutual satisfaction.
It was natural that the expectations of Napoleon as to the alliance with Sweden should be heightened by this election, and by the favours which he had bestowed. At first Bernadotte's correspondence with him was that of a grateful inferior, but the very moment he was fairly out of France, feeling himself as it were relieved from a state of long and painful constraint, it is said that his hatred to Napoleon vented itself in threatening expressions, which, whether true or false, were reported to the emperor.
On his side, that monarch, forced to be absolute in his continental system, cramped the commerce of Sweden; he wished her even to exclude American vessels from her ports; and at last he declared that he would only regard as friends the enemies of Great Britain. Bernadotte was obliged to make his election; the winter and the sea separated him from the assistance, or protected him from the attacks, of the English; the French were close to his ports; a war with France therefore would be real and effective; a war with England would be merely on paper. The prince of Sweden adopted the latter alternative.
Napoleon, however, being as much a conqueror in peace as in war, and suspecting the intentions of Bernadotte, had demanded from Sweden several supplies of rigging for his Brest fleet, and the despatch of a body of troops, which were to be in his pay; in this manner weakening his allies to subdue his enemies, so as to allow him to be the master of both. He also required that colonial produce should be subjected in Sweden, the same as in France, to a duty of five per cent. It is even affirmed that he applied to Bernadotte to allow French custom-house officers to be placed at Gottenburg. These demands were eluded.
Soon after, Napoleon proposed an alliance between Sweden, Denmark, and the grand duchy of Warsaw; a northern confederation, of which he would have declared himself protector, like that of the Rhine. The answer of Bernadotte, without being absolutely negative, had the same effect; it was the same with the offensive and defensive treaty which Napoleon again proposed to him. Bernadotte has since declared, that in four successive letters written with his own hand, he had frankly stated the impossibility he was under of complying with his wishes, and repeated his protestations of attachment to his former sovereign, but that the latter never deigned to give him any reply. This impolitic silence (if the fact be true,) can only be attributed to the pride of Napoleon, which was piqued at Bernadotte's refusals. No doubt he considered his protestations as too false to deserve any answer.
The irritation increased; the communications became disagreeable; they were interrupted by the recall of Alquier, the French minister in Sweden. As the pretended declaration of war by Bernadotte against England remained a dead letter, Napoleon, who was not to be denied or deceived with impunity, carried on a sharp war against the Swedish commerce by means of his privateers. By them, and the invasion of Swedish Pomerania on the 27th of January, 1812, he punished Bernadotte for his deviations from the continental system, and obtained as prisoners several thousand Swedish soldiers and sailors, whom he had in vain demanded as auxiliaries.
Then also our communications with Russia were broken off. Napoleon immediately addressed himself to the prince of Sweden; his notes were couched in the style of a lord paramount who fancies he speaks in the interest of his vassal, who feels the claims he has upon his gratitude or submission, and who calculates upon his obedience. He demanded that Bernadotte should declare a real war against England, shut her out from the Baltic, and send an army of 40,000 Swedes against Russia. In return for this, he promised him his protection, the restoration of Finland, and twenty millions, in return for an equal amount of colonial produce, which the Swedes were first to deliver. Austria undertook to support this proposition; but Bernadotte, already feeling himself settled on the throne, answered like an independent monarch. Ostensibly he declared himself neutral, opened his ports to all nations, proclaimed his rights and his grievances, appealed to humanity, recommended peace, and offered himself as a mediator; secretly, he offered himself to Napoleon at the price of Norway, Finland, and a subsidy.
At the reading of a letter conceived in this new and unexpected style, Bonaparte was seized with rage and astonishment. He saw in it, and not without reason, a premeditated defection on the part of Bernadotte, a secret agreement with his enemies! He was filled with indignation; he exclaimed, striking violently on the letter, and the table on which it lay open: "He! the rascal! he presume to give me advice! to dictate the law to me! to dare propose such an infamous act to me! And this from a man who owes every thing to my bounty! What ingratitude!" Then, pacing the room with rapid strides, at intervals he gave vent to such expressions as these: "I ought to have expected it! he has always sacrificed every thing to his interests! This is the same man, who, during his short ministry, attempted the resurrection of the infamous Jacobins! When he looked only to gain by disorder, he opposed the 18th Brumaire! He it was who was conspiring in the west against the re-establishment of law and religion! Has not his envious and perfidious inaction already betrayed the French army at Auerstadt? How many times, from regard to Joseph, have I pardoned his intrigues and concealed his faults! And yet I have made him general-in-chief, marshal, duke, prince, and finally king! But see how all these favours and the pardon of so many injuries, are thrown away on a man like this! If Sweden, half devoured by Russia, for a century past, has retained her independence, she owes it to the support of France. But it matters not; Bernadotte requires the baptism of the ancient aristocracy! a baptism of blood, and of French blood! and you will soon see, that to satisfy his envy and ambition, he will betray both his native and adopted country."
[Footnote 4: Napoleon no doubt spoke of the proposal which Bernadotte made to him to take Norway from Denmark, his faithful ally, in order by this act of treachery to purchase the assistance of Sweden.]
In vain did they attempt to calm him. They represented the difficulties which Bernadotte's new situation had imposed on him; that the cession of Finland to Russia had separated Sweden from the continent, almost made an island of that country, and thereby enlisted her in the English system.—In such critical circumstances, all the need which he had of this ally was unable to vanquish his pride, which revolted at a proposition which he regarded as insulting; perhaps also in the new prince of Sweden he still saw the same Bernadotte who was lately his subject, and his military inferior, and who at last affected to have cut out for himself a destiny independent of his. From that moment his instructions to his minister bore the impress of that disposition; the latter, it is true, softened the bitterness of them, but a rupture became inevitable.
It is uncertain which contributed most to it, the pride of Napoleon, or the ancient jealousy of Bernadotte; it is certain that on the part of the former the motives of it were honourable. "Denmark" he said, "was his most faithful ally; her attachment to France had cost her the loss of her fleet and the burning of her capital. Must he repay a fidelity which had been so cruelly tried, by an act of treachery such as that of taking Norway from her to give to Sweden?"
As to the subsidy which Sweden required of him, he answered, as he had done to Turkey, "that if the war was to be carried on with money, England would always be sure to outbid him;" and above all, "that there was weakness and baseness in triumphing by corruption." Reverting by this to his wounded pride, he terminated the conference by exclaiming, "Bernadotte impose conditions on me! Does he fancy then that I have need of him? I will soon bind him to my victorious career, and compel him to follow my sovereign impulse."
But the active and speculative English, who were out of his reach, made a judicious estimate of the weak points of his system, and found the Russians ready to act upon their suggestions. They it was who had been endeavouring for the last three years to draw the forces of Napoleon into the defiles of Spain, and to exhaust them; it was they also who were on the watch to take advantage of the vindictive enmity of the prince of Sweden.
Knowing that the active and restless vanity of men newly risen from obscurity is always uneasy and susceptible, in the presence of ancient parvenus, George and Alexander were lavish of their promises and flattery, in order to cajole Bernadotte. It was thus that they caressed him, at the time that the irritated Napoleon was threatening him; they promised him Norway and a subsidy, when the other, forced to refuse him that province of a faithful ally, took possession of Pomerania. While Napoleon, a monarch deriving his elevation from himself, relying on the faith of treaties, on the remembrance of past benefits, and on the real interests of Sweden, required succours from Bernadotte, the hereditary monarchs of London and Petersburgh required his opinion with deference, and submitted themselves by anticipation to the counsels of his experience. Finally, while the genius of Napoleon, the grandeur of his elevation, the importance of his enterprise, and the habit of their former relations, still classed Bernadotte as his lieutenant, these monarchs appeared already to treat him as their general. How was it possible for him not to seek to escape on the one hand from this sense of inferiority, and on the other to resist a mode of treatment, and promises so seductive? Thus the future prospects of Sweden were sacrificed, and her independence for ever laid at the mercy of Russian faith by the treaty of Petersburgh, which Bernadotte signed on the 24th of March, 1812. That of Bucharest, between Alexander and Mahmoud, was concluded on the 28th of May.—Thus did we lose the support of our two wings.