[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been maintained.
Unusual subscripts have been marked with ^, e.g.: V^te for Vicomte.]
THE LIFE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE
WILLIAM MILLIGAN SLOANE PH.D., L.H.D., LL.D. Professor of History in Columbia University
Revised and Enlarged With Portraits
NEW YORK THE CENTURY CO. 1916
Copyright, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1910 BY THE CENTURY CO.
Published, October, 1910
I. War with Russia: Pultusk................................ 1
II. Check to the Grand Army: Eylau......................... 12
III. An Indecisive Victory: Friedland....................... 24
IV. Napoleon and Alexander at Tilsit....................... 39
V. The Treaty of Tilsit................................... 54
VI. The Path of Napoleonic Empire.......................... 66
VII. The New Feudalism...................................... 80
VIII. The Empires of Land and Ocean.......................... 97
IX. French Empire and European Nationality................ 115
X. The Awakening of Spain................................ 137
XI. The First Revolt of Nations........................... 153
XII. Napoleon and Alexander at Erfurt...................... 171
XIII. The Failure of the Spanish Campaign................... 182
XIV. The Transformation of Austria......................... 192
XV. The Fifth War with Austria—Eckmuehl................... 202
XVI. Aspern, Essling, and Wagram........................... 218
XVII. The Peace of Schoenbrunn............................... 233
XVIII. Napoleon's Fatal Decision............................. 244
XIX. The Austrian Marriage................................. 251
XX. Rigors of the Continental System...................... 262
XXI. The Continental System Completed...................... 274
XXII. The Course of the Peninsular War...................... 282
XXIII. Birth of the King of Rome............................. 293
XXIV. Tension Between Emperor and Czar...................... 303
XXV. The Array of Nations.................................. 313
XXVI. The Congress of Kings................................. 325
XXVII. The Invasion of Russia—Borodino...................... 335
XXVIII. The Evacuation of Moscow.............................. 346
XXIX. The Retreat from Russia............................... 357
XXX. The Horrors of the Beresina........................... 368
XXXI. The Prodigal's Return................................. 378
XXXII. The Revolt of the Nations............................. 388
XXXIII. The First Campaign in Saxony.......................... 401
XXXIV. The Nations in Grand Array............................ 413
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The Emperor Napoleon................................. Frontispiece
Map of the Battle of Eylau....................................... 14
Map of the Battle of Heilsberg................................... 28
Map of the Battle of Friedland................................... 36
Napoleon—by Ingres.............................................. 50
Queen Hortense................................................... 98
Napoleon in his Study........................................... 146
Map of the Spanish Campaign..................................... 184
Joseph Bonaparte................................................ 196
Map of the Battle of Eckmuehl.................................... 212
Two Maps of the Battles of Aspern and Essling................... 221
Map of the Battle of Wagram..................................... 228
Eugene Beauharnais.............................................. 246
Napoleon Bonaparte in 1809...................................... 296
Map of the Russian Campaign, 1812............................... 340
LIFE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE
WAR WITH RUSSIA: PULTUSK
[Footnote 1: References as before.]
Poland and the Poles — The Seat of War — Change in the Character of Napoleon's Army — The Battle of Pultusk — Discontent in the Grand Army — Homesickness of the French — Napoleon's Generals — His Measures of Reorganization — Weakness of the Russians — The Ability of Bennigsen — Failure of the Russian Manoeuvers — Napoleon in Warsaw.
The key to Napoleon's dealings with Poland is to be found in his strategy; his political policy never passed beyond the first tentative stages, for he never conquered either Russia or Poland. The struggle upon which he was next to enter was a contest, not for Russian abasement but for Russian friendship in the interest of his far-reaching continental system. Poland was simply one of his weapons against the Czar. Austria was steadily arming; Francis received the quieting assurance that his share in the partition was to be undisturbed. In the general and proper sorrow which has been felt for the extinction of Polish nationality by three vulture neighbors, the terrible indictment of general worthlessness which was justly brought against her organization and administration is at most times and by most people utterly forgotten. A people has exactly the nationality, government, and administration which expresses its quality and secures its deserts. The Poles were either dull and sluggish boors or haughty and elegant, pleasure-loving nobles. Napoleon and his officers delighted in the life of Warsaw, but he never appears to have respected the Poles either as a whole or in their wrangling cliques; no doubt he occasionally faced the possibility of a redeemed Poland, but in general the suggestion of such a consummation served his purpose and he went no further. That he had no sentiment about Polish nationality is self-evident.
After Jena the Czar displayed great activity. In spite of being compelled to detach eighty thousand men for service against Turkey, he had got together a second numerous army; Lestocq, with a corps of fifteen thousand Prussians, had joined him, and he was clearly determined to renew the war. For a time the French had no certain information as to whether he would cross the Prussian frontier or not, and Napoleon at first expected the city of Posen to be the center of operations. Before long, however, it became evident that the Russians were drawing together on Pultusk. Displaying an astounding assurance as to the stability of his power in France, and without regarding the possible effect upon conditions at home of a second war, at an enormous distance, Napoleon determined to meet them. With the same celerity and caution as of old, the various French divisions were led first across the Vistula, and then over the plains, until in the end of December they were concentrated before the enemy. During the three weeks consumed in these operations much besides was done to strengthen the position of the French and to assure their communications. The Russians were dislodged from Warsaw, and Thorn was besieged; the Vistula, Bug, Wkra, Narew, and other rivers were bridged; and a commissary department was organized. The seat of war was different indeed from any of those to which Napoleon had hitherto been accustomed. It was neither as densely settled nor as well tilled as Italy and Germany, the population was far lower in the scale of civilization, and therefore fiercer. The inhabitants could easily strip their villages of the little forage and the few goods they possessed, and at that season the fields were bare. The roads were of the worst description; the rivers were deep and broad, often with swampy banks and treacherous bottoms. In these circumstances it was almost impossible to secure reliable information, for scouts and spies were alike at fault.
These new conditions of warfare were further complicated by a change in the character of Napoleon's army. After Austerlitz many men of German speech were to be found among the rank and file, and after Jena the character of the soldiery grew more and more cosmopolitan. On the first appearance of the imperial eagles of France in Poland, Jerome was at the head of a whole corps of Wuertembergers and Bavarians; many Poles, Italians, Swiss, and Dutch were in others of the French corps; and among the foreigners there were even Prussians from beyond the Elbe. Some confusion was caused by this, and it was not diminished by the fact that the French themselves had scarcely recovered from the orgies in which they had been indulging for the last six weeks. Moreover, the determination of the Emperor to "conquer the sea by land" had emphasized in his mind the necessity of an overwhelming superiority of numbers, and in November he demanded from the French senate the eighty thousand conscripts who, according to law, could not be drawn until September, 1807. This was the beginning of the fatal practice destined in the end to enervate France and demoralize the army. There was already little patriotism among the men, except what served as a pretext for plunder; the homogeneity of purpose, principle, nationality, and age was soon to disappear.
In the preliminary operations this deterioration was not apparent. The troops marched doggedly through the mud, worked hard when called upon, and although their rations, which were supplied by rascally contractors, were very bad and altogether different from those to which they had become accustomed in the years just preceding, the men ate them without murmuring. But when, on December twenty-sixth, they joined battle, the old push and nerve seemed lacking. The preparations had been made on the plan of concentration, but at the last moment Lannes was detached with his division to cut off the enemy's line of retreat over the Narew. Napoleon, as at Jena, believed the main army of his opponent to be where it was not, and he was incautious in thus dividing and weakening his forces. Accordingly the battle had an irregular and indecisive character. Lannes came unexpectedly upon the mass of the Russian army, two columns forming the center and right, and engaged them from ten in the morning until two in the afternoon. At that hour a reserve arrived under Gudin, and attacked the Russian right. But Bennigsen, the commander of that column, had ready a fresh reserve, and with its aid the newcomers were repulsed. Lannes, who had simultaneously made a final onset, was also beaten off by the superior force of his enemy. On the same day, Murat, Davout, and Augereau reached the neighboring village of Golymin, expecting to find the Russian center there; on the left wing, at Neidenburg, Ney stood face to face with Lestocq and his Prussians. There was nothing but skirmishing at either place, for the French emperor could not drag his artillery through the mud swiftly enough to make it tell at the right time, and both Prussians and Russians drew slowly off. Soult was to have repeated the turning manoeuver as carried out before Jena, but the marching was so difficult, owing to a thaw, that he could not accomplish anything like the necessary distance.
The morning after this indecisive battle the entire Russian army was far away. For strategic reasons and for lack of provisions it had withdrawn to Ostrolenka. There was no pursuit. The natural question, Why? is still unanswered. Some declare that the French troops were too weary and bad-tempered; others, that Napoleon, in view of the quagmires to which the roads were now reduced, dared not abandon his base of supplies, as he was accustomed to do in summer weather and in fruitful lands. There is still a third answer, that nothing was to be gained; for of what use were the few miles of bare, flat land which the army, putting forth its utmost exertions, might have been able to traverse? All these reasons have validity. There was discontent among the soldiers, for there was no booty; not even a soldier's common comforts could be found. For the first time men of the line shouted insults after the Emperor, and with impunity; even the faithful guard indulged in double-meaning quips, but they, on the other hand, were at the proper time soundly berated. "The short campaign of fifteen days," wrote one of them, "made us ten years older." There was also danger in advancing beyond reach of the commissary department,—deficient and contemptible as it was in the hands of unscrupulous speculators,—and there was indeed little to be gained by such a pursuit as was possible, except prestige, which at that moment and at that distance from France was not a valuable commodity.
This element of distance from home was weighty. In far-off Egypt and Syria, French soldiers had fought bravely; an ideal will carry even the commonest Frenchman far, and they then believed themselves to be fighting for a principle. But since the armies of France had begun to fight for booty and glory, they must have both. Of the former there was little or none at all in the lands they now occupied; the latter could be enjoyed only in the jubilations of their kinsfolk; and although no account of any battle was more beclouded than that of Pultusk which the Emperor sent to Paris, the approbation of the fatherland could not reach Poland until long afterward, and in tones that were low and almost inaudible. It is an old French saying that next to the kingdom of heaven France is the most beautiful land, and every Frenchman believes it. The Emperor himself said that his French soldiers were unfitted for distant expeditions by their yearnings for home. In his mind, therefore, the one essential thing to restore the spirits of his men was rest. This opinion was strengthened when he endeavored to visit the posts. Although his carriage stuck in the mud and a saddle-horse could scarcely make its way, yet he got far enough to see that his men were suffering and destitute.
This preliminary campaigning, allowing for all obstacles so far enumerated, was so generally inefficient and futile, that there remains a conviction of further causes not lying on the surface. That which is most to be suspected is the hastening corruption in the character and morals, not of the soldiery,—that has been noted,—but of the generals. One diarist of the time saw four marshals at Anspach. He sketches Bernadotte as "a very tall dark man with fiery eyes under thick brows." Humble as was his origin, his ambitions were lofty and he was beginning to make ventures on his own account, not for the master who had made him. There was also Mortier, fairly tall, "with a stupid sentinel look"; considering his career, he was probably putting up his mask. There too were "Lefebvre, an old Alsatian camp-boy, with his wife, former washerwoman in the regiment; and Davout, a little smooth-pated, unpretending man, who was never tired of waltzing." Mme. Lefebvre was aware of how costly were such drawing-room triumphs as she imaged in her ambitious soul, and where the supplies of booty could be found; Davout and Lannes and Ney were still faithful and efficient; Augereau in action was utterly uncertain, in morals pompous and wrong-headed; Murat knew where and how the great prizes were to be found, and was as dashing and venturesome as he was selfish and worldly-wise. The Russian generals were plodding disciples of routine. Bennigsen was an able Hanoverian mercenary, despising alike his Livonian colleague, Buxhoewden, and his chief, the servile Russian marshal, Kamenski. The Prussian general Lestocq was capable but inexperienced. The chief and his subordinate were far from harmonious.
The measures adopted to secure a period of comfort and repose for the army were, unlike those taken for the campaign, apparently adequate. The Emperor proceeded at once to station the various corps along the Vistula, with provision and munition depots behind them. The commissary department was thoroughly overhauled and much improved. The line ran from Warsaw northwestward through Poland into Prussia, to the river's mouth near Dantzic. Bernadotte had eighteen thousand men; Ney, sixteen thousand; Soult, twenty-eight thousand; Augereau, eleven thousand; Davout, twenty thousand; Lannes, eighteen thousand; Murat, fourteen thousand; and the guard numbered fifteen thousand—a total of about a hundred and forty thousand men. As conscripts and troops from various garrisons came in, a new corps of twenty-three thousand men was formed, and placed under the command of Lefebvre. At the same time, from his headquarters at Warsaw, the Emperor proceeded with the organization of a government for Poland, and with the training of her national guard. The two Russian columns had withdrawn to Szuczyn, where they united under the command of Bennigsen, and the Prussians were at Angerburg under Lestocq. This left open the way to Koenigsberg, and early in January, 1807, Ney, overpowered by the temptation to relieve the miseries of his men, and to make a stroke on his own account by seizing the capital of East Prussia, set out from Neidenburg without orders, leaving Bernadotte's position at Elbing much exposed. Lestocq, however, managed to block Ney's path until the Russians under Bennigsen arrived and compelled the French general to return with his men to their quarters. Napoleon administered a severe reprimand; and well he might, for the advantage thus offered to the Russians had tempted Bennigsen to move, and the Russian army, once afoot, seemed determined to remain so. In this way were destroyed Napoleon's excellent calculations for the season of absolutely essential repose.
The action of Pultusk had made clear two serious defects in the efficiency of Russia's force. During the battle, Kamenski, the general-in-chief, a martinet and disciple of routine, had twice given the order for retreat, and it was Bennigsen's disobedience which made the conflict so indecisive that Russia claimed it as a victory. If a victory, it was a barren one, because a weak and venal administration of the commissary department had deprived the soldiers of sustenance at the critical moment. Kamenski, who was seventy-six years old, was retired on the ground of his health, and Bennigsen succeeded him, but the bad commissary administration was not remedied. The Russian army was strong in regular infantry, but weak in well-disciplined cavalry, although the latter defect was largely supplied by the Cossacks, a peculiar body of riders from the Volga and the Don, who paid the rental of their lands to the crown by four years' military service at their own charges. Then, as now, they fought with barbaric ferocity; they attacked in open formation, each man for himself, and gave no quarter until the Czar offered a ducat for every live Frenchman. They were known to ride a hundred miles in twenty-four hours, and their services in pursuing an enemy were invaluable.
The one remarkable and unique feature of the Russian army in every branch of the service has ever been its personal devotion to the Czar. This feeling is a compound of religious fervor, patriotism, and dynastic loyalty; these elements, welded inseparably, form a sentiment of tremendous strength, which is a fair substitute for enlightened patriotism. The case is different with the Tatar hordes from Central Asia, who fight only for plunder, and in a crisis are often utterly unreliable. At this time both Cossacks and Tatars were in the field, the former in considerable numbers. The appointment of Bennigsen as commander-in-chief, and the results of Pultusk, awakened great enthusiasm among his hungry soldiers, who were now clamorous for a decisive battle. He had ninety thousand men,—at least on paper,—and was not disposed to leave the French in peace to recruit their numbers and physical strength in comfortable winter quarters. Unlike the Prussian officers, he had learned the lessons of recent campaigns, and had the strength of his character been equal to the cleverness of his strategy, he would have been a fair match for Napoleon. Moreover, the King of Prussia, shut up in Koenigsberg with a few thousand men, was in a most precarious situation, both Ney and Bernadotte being within striking distance. Finally, the garrison of the fortress at Graudenz was dependent on the precarious supplies which they received as Lestocq found an opportunity to send them.
Very soon, therefore, the Cossacks were sent out to scour the country. In their repeated skirmishes with the French light cavalry they showed such daring and address that their foes became timid and cautious. In this way the movements of Bennigsen's army were successfully concealed, and he hoped by a swift march to overtake and destroy Ney's isolated division; if successful he would secure access to Dantzic and a connection with Graudenz, Kolberg, and other fortresses, which would give him a position strong enough to jeopardize that of Napoleon at Warsaw. Accordingly, with about sixty-five thousand men he began a rapid and circuitous march northwesterly and around behind the impenetrable belt of dark forests, past Lake Spirding to Heilsberg, where he found Ney in full retreat on January twenty-second. But he had overestimated the strength of his Russians; they were too exhausted to strike quickly. Frost had set in, snow had fallen, and both Ney and Bernadotte made their escape to Gilgenburg, the latter after defeating the Russian advance-guard in a skirmish at Mohrungen. Bennigsen was compelled to retire in order to recruit the strength of his men.
The Emperor of the French was still at Warsaw. The Polish capital was gay and frivolous. New hopes had awakened the spirit of folly in the aristocracy, and the "liberator," now at the very height of his physical power, was often conspicuous in the revels. In the intervals of his serious labors Napoleon gave way to a life of sensuality, and the women were prodigal of their charms. One of them was the well-known Countess Walewska, a beautiful woman, who while yet a child had been forced into wedlock with an aged nobleman. She was now made to feel that the future of her country depended upon her captivating Napoleon, for he had singled her out as the most beautiful of all the crowd which pressed around him on his entry. Indignant when the proposition was first made, she finally listened to the prejudiced morality of her friends, and gave an unwilling consent. It is thought that her child was the first born to Napoleon, and that this fact, combined with his disgust for Josephine's incessant and inconsistent outpourings of jealous complaint as to his conduct, had much to do with his attitude concerning the political advantages of the divorce. Such was the young Polish noblewoman's eventual devotion to the father of her boy, that throughout his subsequent life in Europe she ran every risk to be near her idol, and actually followed him to Elba. Their son, the Count Walewski, was a devoted Frenchman, and a man of quality, filling, with dignity, important offices in the service of his country.
CHECK TO THE GRAND ARMY: EYLAU
[Footnote 2: References more specifically valuable for this and the next chapter are Haeusser, Czartoryski, Marbot, Lejeune, Oudinot, Lettow-Vorbeck, Sir R. Wilson, with the Castlereagh Letters and Napoleon's Correspondence.]
Napoleon's Preparations — His Clever Strategy — The Plan Discovered by the Russians — The Armies at Eylau — Failure of Napoleon's Tactics — The Battle Indecisive — The French Army Demoralized — Napoleon's Anxiety — His Army in Winter Quarters — The Emperor's Activity — Rearrangement of his Forces — An Envoy from the Shah of Persia — Reinforcements from France and Germany — The Neutrality of Austria.
It was not a very rude shock to his sensuous ease, however, when on January twenty-seventh, 1807, Napoleon received the news of Bennigsen's march. In a general way he had been aware for some days that the enemy was moving, but he believed they had no other intention than to derive what immediate advantage could be had from Ney's rashness. In the absence of fuller information he had not changed his opinion, but the army was nevertheless put in readiness, the trains were equipped, and orders were issued for abandoning temporarily the siege of Dantzic and for the complete occupation of Thorn. This step was taken, as a glance at the map will show, to insure a new line of connection with Posen and Berlin, directly in front of his base, in case the oblique one he was holding between Warsaw and Bartenstein should be endangered by a flank movement of the Russians.
Believing that Bennigsen's plan was to reach Elbing and defend his communications with Dantzic, Napoleon issued orders on January twenty-seventh for a countermarch in that direction, to engage him either there or farther to the eastward. The orders given next day to Davout and Augereau show that by swift movements he hoped to attack at Willenberg, break through Bennigsen's center, and scatter his forces right and left. Lannes had been taken ill after Pultusk, and was still an invalid; Savary was therefore put in command of his well-tried corps to bear the brunt of the battle. His business was to cover the line of the Narew for the purpose of assuring freedom of action to the main French army, and with that end in view to attack the Russian corps under Essen, which was menacing it. Three days after the orders of Napoleon were given, his army of a hundred thousand men was in position on a line running in general east and west within the space bounded by Willenberg, Gilgenburg, Mlawa, and Przasnysz, with one reserve of forty thousand on the left, to prevent the loss of Thorn, and another of fourteen thousand on the right. Everything was in readiness for an advance under the most advantageous circumstances, to take Bennigsen by surprise, strike him on his flank, and close the campaign in a single battle. On January thirty-first the final orders were issued for the advance, and the march began. As in Franconia, on the eve of Jena, it seemed as if the victory were already assured, won by the marvelous moving of great bodies of men, this time in the depth of winter.
On what a slender thread hang the fortunes of war! That day a French courier carrying to Bernadotte a particularly detailed account of the Emperor's plan, and orders to advance to Gilgenburg, was caught by the Cossacks. The precious papers were in Bennigsen's hands next morning. The Russian troops were still in a wretched condition, badly clothed, and sustaining life by marauding; moreover, they numbered but sixty-five thousand, Lestocq not yet having come in from Mohrungen. The Russian general saw how he was entrapped, and that he could escape only by a swift retreat. His conduct of the movement was masterly, and on February sixth, though the French columns were not far behind, he had reached Heilsberg. During the day the Russian rear-guard was driven in, and Bennigsen, marching all night, found himself next morning before the town of Eylau, or, more precisely, Preussisch-Eylau, the spot he had selected for a desperate stand in defense of Koenigsberg. The Russian rear-guard was again overtaken, this time at Landsberg, where Murat arrived with his cavalry on the morning of the seventh. All day the Russians slowly resisted him, fighting bravely under Prince Bagration, and receding steadily as far as Eylau, which they held by a stubborn stand until induced to evacuate it voluntarily by the considerations of gathering darkness and a foe superior in numbers. Their loss during the day was upward of two thousand. When night fell the Russian lines were a short distance behind Eylau, and stretched two miles, from Serpalten on the left to Schloditten on the right. Lestocq, coming up with his Prussians, had reached Rositten, between nine and ten miles away, where he received orders to hurry onward. The French held the town of Eylau; in and near it were the troops of Murat, Soult, Augereau, and just in their rear the Emperor with the guard. Ney was farther to the north and west on the left, with orders to cut off Lestocq. The terrain abounded in lakes and ponds of considerable size, but a black frost had rendered them so hard, and the snow had so completely bedecked them, that they were for the purposes of manoeuvering as available as the solid earth, both for cavalry and artillery.
When day broke on February eighth the general arrangement of the hostile lines was such as to favor neither. Soult was before the town on the French left, Augereau in the center, and Saint-Hilaire with one division of Soult on the right. Behind the two latter was Murat with the cavalry; in the rear, on rising ground, was the guard under Bessieres as a reserve. Davout was far out on the right near Bartenstein. The total number of French on the ground was about eighty thousand. The Russian right was commanded by Tutschkoff, the center by Sacken, the left by Ostermann-Tolstoi; their reserve was behind the center, under Doctoroff and Prince Galitzin. Their total number was about fifty-eight thousand, but they were superior to their enemy in artillery. Between the armies, in a low plain, lay several of the frozen ponds, covered with snow. Napoleon's plan was to send Davout around the Russian left flank, while Saint-Hilaire engaged Tolstoi. Augereau and the cavalry were to be hurled against the center and to push toward the enemy's right; the combined onset would roll up Bennigsen's entire line and result in a rout; Ney would intervene, and make the battle not only decisive, but annihilating.
The combination did not work out correctly. It was a raw and bitter day; during the morning there were occasional snow flurries, and at midday a heavy downfall. Bennigsen seized the initiative, and opened the battle by a cannonade. Napoleon, divining his plan, sent a messenger for Ney to come and strengthen Soult. At nine the Russian right advanced and drove in the French left, which was weak, to the town. At that moment the order was given for Augereau and Saint-Hilaire to move. In the driving storm they lost connection with each other, and the latter was repulsed by Russian cavalry, while Augereau's corps was almost destroyed by the enemy's center. The dashing horsemen of Galitzin reached the foot of the very hill on which Napoleon stood, and a panic seized all about him, not excepting Berthier and Bessieres, who excitedly called up the guard to save their Emperor. The Emperor, though almost "trodden under foot" as Bertrand testified, nevertheless remained calm, exclaiming, "What boldness! What boldness!" The pursuers fell back exhausted, and Murat in turn dashed with his cavalry toward the gap between the enemy's center and right. So worn out were both sides, however, that without a collision they ceased to charge, and began to fire.
About noon Davout at last arrived on the Russian left, and drove it from its position, while Saint-Hilaire again charged, and the two in combination effected the movement contemplated by the Emperor. In a few hours the Russians, who were receding in fair order and fighting fiercely, began to waver, and some of the formations broke into flight. In this crisis Scharnhorst arrived with five thousand Prussians; he had been compelled to make a long detour in order to avoid Ney, with whom Lestocq had been engaged. By nightfall the French were brought to a stand, and soon after they were driven back from the hamlets which they had seized in their advance. Night ended the fight. Ney had not received his orders until two in the afternoon, and arrived too late for service. The armies retained their relative positions, and both claimed the day. Neither had lost, neither had gained, the field. But the battle was disastrous for both: from first to last the struggle had been desperate and bloody. The losses were virtually equal—about eighteen thousand men on each side. During the evening Napoleon began to arrange a retreat; in fact, Davout was about to begin it when he learned that there was a great commotion in the enemy's bivouac. Advancing as far as possible, the marshal put his ear to the ground and distinctly noted a diminishing rumble, which convinced him that the Russians were withdrawing. This was an agreeable surprise, and Napoleon, when informed of the fact, ordered his army to stand fast. The morning light displayed an abandoned Russian camp.
It is impossible to tell which army was in the worse plight; both were in the utmost distress. Augereau had been wounded, and, though not disabled, had left the field. This brought down on him the commander's displeasure, and inasmuch as his corps was nearly annihilated, it was disbanded; some of his regiments were virtually destroyed. The living were gaunt, exhausted, and ill with hunger; an eye-witness declared that but for the arrival, about noon, of some Jewish traders from Warsaw with four tuns of brandy, thousands would have perished from cold and fatigue. The dead were strewn thick over the field, and in some places were piled in heaps. On the white background of a Northern winter the carnage was terribly apparent; the prowlers who skulked from place to place in search of booty could be distinguished in all directions. Marauding began on a frightful scale, discipline was slackened by misery, and for miles around thousands of wretched soldiers stripped the scarcely less wretched peasantry of their few remaining bits of property.
The army was eager to be gone from these sickening sights. But Bennigsen had technically admitted defeat by his withdrawal, which the Prussians characterized as "a sin and a shame." Napoleon, therefore, waited to secure his victory, and formally despatched a few parties in pursuit. Murat advanced to within touch of Bennigsen, who had taken his position under the walls of Koenigsberg. At the same time the Emperor dictated a glowing account of the French triumph and of the admirable condition of the army. It was at once despatched for publication in the official journals of Paris. Soon afterward, on February thirteenth, a messenger carried to Frederick William verbal proposals for either an armistice or a separate peace on most favorable terms. In these Napoleon set forth that the relation of Prussia to Russia was mere vassalage, and that her rehabilitation as an independent power was essential to the peace of Europe, agreeing to restore her lands as far as the Elbe, and saying that as to Poland he cared nothing whatever. The confident feeling of the allies was shown by the Prussian king's prompt refusal to accept such overtures, and by his determination to abide by the issue. On the other hand, the mere fact of the proposition was evidence of Napoleon's anxiety. It is said on good authority that the French emissary verbally offered the complete restoration of Prussia if she would desert her ally.
Stern necessity would wait no longer on Napoleon's bravado; in a few days his troops withdrew to the tableland behind the river Passarge. There they found better cantonments, but the food was neither better nor more abundant. The Emperor had only a thatched hovel for his headquarters at Osterode, and, as he wrote to his brother Joseph, lived in snow and filth, without wine, brandy, or bread. "We shall be in fine condition when we get bread," he said to Soult. "My position would be fine if I had food; the lack of food makes it only moderate," he wrote, on February twenty-seventh, to Talleyrand. This was true, because now the army was more concentrated than before; and when headquarters were moved in the spring to Finkenstein the Emperor was more comfortable. The movements culminating in Pultusk clearly prove that Napoleon could not until then adapt his means to the novel conditions of warfare he found in Poland. But in the movements antecedent to Eylau there are, in spite of virtual defeat, a clear apprehension of the difficulties, and an evident ability to surmount them. While Bennigsen constantly assumes the offensive, Napoleon always seizes the initiative, and in the retreat his choice of the plateau around Osterode as a rallying-point displays a continued mastery of all the conditions.
Around the camp-fires there was, during the remaining months of winter, a passive endurance, mingled with some murmuring about the horrors caused by one man's ambition. The Emperor set his men an example of uncomplaining cheerfulness. His health continued as exuberant as it had been for the year past, and his activity, though no longer feverish, lost nothing of its intensity. Savary thought he outdid himself, accomplishing in one month what elsewhere would have been, even for him, the work of three. Mme. de Remusat remembered to have heard him say that he felt better during those months than ever before or after. This vigor of body, combined with the same iron determination as of old, did indeed work miracles, and this in spite of the fact that his indefatigable secretary, Maret, was long at the point of death.
To remedy the blunder of having left Dantzic behind in the hands of the Prussians, Lefebvre was despatched with his new corps to beleaguer it. Savary drove the Russians from the Narew and out of Ostrolenka; Mortier threatened Stralsund and stopped the Swedes, who, as members of the coalition, were finally about to take an active share in the fighting. To strengthen the weakened ranks of the invaders, new levies were ordered in both Switzerland and Poland, while at the same time some of the soldiers occupying Silesia and besieging her fortresses were called in. Both Neisse and Glatz were still beset by French troops, but the siege of Kolberg was abandoned, and still further reinforcements thus became available. In the daily skirmishes which occurred at the outposts the fighting was sharp; but the Cossacks were as saucy as ever, and the French light horse could bring in little news. Meantime Russia's difficulties, of which Napoleon remained ignorant, kept her from reinforcing her army to the proper size. Her credit was so low that she could raise no money on her own account, and when she applied to England for a subsidy, it was refused. The Czar was consequently furious, and strained Russia's resources to the utmost; but he could give Bennigsen no more than enough funds and men to restore his original strength.
The arms of Russia had been fairly successful on the lower Danube, for the Turks had been paralyzed by an unforeseen danger. Great Britain had sent a fleet to Constantinople, and the Sultan, though he immediately declared war against England, was terrified. But Napoleon's emissary, Sebastiani, engaged the English admiral in negotiations until the shore batteries were sufficiently strengthened to compel the British fleet to retire. Filled by this success with new enthusiasm for his Eastern projects, the Emperor of the French devised and set on foot a scheme for the alliance of Turkey and Persia in order to checkmate the ambitions of either Russia or Austria. About the end of April an envoy from the Shah arrived at Finkenstein. He was received with great demonstrations, and France was delighted to see the kings of the East seeking, as she believed, her Emperor's favor. Napoleon's information with regard to the Orient was detailed and accurate; his knowledge of the Eastern character was fraternally instinctive. A treaty was easily negotiated in which France promised to drive Russia from Georgia and to supply Persia with artillery; in return the Shah was to break with England, confiscate British property, instigate the peoples of Afghanistan and Kandahar to rebellion, set on foot an army to invade India, and in case the French should also despatch a land force against India, he was to give them free passage along a line of march to be subsequently laid out, together with means of sustenance. None of the Emperor's achievements during this eventful winter shows more clearly than this how he could rise above the discouragements of a doubtful situation, and how sanguine his disposition was when his health was really good.
Throughout the late campaign the Emperor Francis had occupied a position of non-intervention and hesitating neutrality similar to that of Frederick William the year before. If he had intervened any time during the winter after Eylau, his will would have been imperative. But as Prussia had held off in his hour of need, leaving Napoleon untrammeled, so now he let Prussia drink of the same cup, and remained nominally neutral. Andreossy reported, however, that Austria's strength was being rapidly recruited, and that her preparations foreboded a renewal of hostilities. There was a new prime minister, Count Stadion, remarkable for his energy and insight. Napoleon immediately began to make propositions for an alliance, intended merely to gain time. As he had the previous year called for the boy conscripts of 1807, so he now demanded those for 1808, who were even somewhat younger. The Confederacy of the Rhine was summoned to supply fresh troops, and even Spain, in which there had recently been symptoms of serious uneasiness, was called on for a large contingent of auxiliaries. Before the close of negotiations with Francis, Napoleon had virtually doubled his army; the new levies were kept in Silesia and central Prussia, apparently as a reserve, but they were not far from the Austrian frontier.
On May twenty-sixth, in spite of a gallant and persistent defense by Kalkreuth, Dantzic, the queen fortress of the Baltic, capitulated. This made Lefebvre's force available to strengthen further the army which still lay behind the Passarge. Napoleon again offered Silesia to Francis, this time entire and outright, as the price of an alliance; he was even willing to make an exchange for Dalmatia. On April twenty-sixth, at Bartenstein, Russia and Prussia had signed a new treaty, according to which they bound themselves to make no separate peace, and agreed that they would endeavor to unite the Scandinavian powers with England, Austria, and themselves for a general war of liberation. The Viennese cabinet was again divided on the question of renewing hostilities, and in the end proposed its services as a mediator, provided that Poland should remain divided and Turkey unmolested, and that German affairs should be rearranged. Napoleon coquetted with this proposal until Russia and Prussia gave their reply, which was not an assent to Austria's proposition, but a request for Francis's adherence to the convention of Bartenstein. When Austria's offer was thus refused the French position was virtually secure as against her, at least for the season. Shrewd onlookers could hardly credit their senses, and thought that so far from Francis's policy being one of neutrality, it was a favor of the highest importance to Napoleon. The fact was that Austria knew Prussia's weakness and had little confidence in Russia's strength. Moreover, France had powerful friends in Vienna, where Andreossy was influential, and Austria's own preparations were not complete. It would be a serious matter if she should conclude a treaty with two allies who might be beaten before she could herself take the field. Hence nothing disturbed the impenetrable front of the Danube power; her own plans were maturing slowly but surely, and while the enormous French reinforcements in central Europe were in a sense a menace, she threw a strong military cordon upon the frontiers of Galicia, and haughtily held aloof from anything likely to fetter her own ambitions.
[Footnote 3: On the refusal of Russia and Prussia to join Austria, see Vandal: Napoleon et Alexandre Ier, Vol. I, Chapitre Preliminaire.]
AN INDECISIVE VICTORY: FRIEDLAND
[Footnote 4: References as before.]
The State of France — Remedies Proposed by the Emperor — Napoleon's Self-Indulgence — Perplexities of both Combatants in Poland — Opening of the Campaign — Heilsberg — Friedland — The Result Indecisive — The Strategic Problem — The Statesman's Point of View — The Armistice — Napoleon's Resolution — The Czar's Obligations to Prussia — His Attitude toward Napoleon.
The situation in Paris was even less satisfactory to Napoleon than that in the rest of Europe. Then, as now, France was too much like one of those interesting creatures called by the pleasant scientific name of cephalopod—all head except a few tentacles; so we say Paris, and not France. Imperial interests rested on two supports, Paris and the rest of the world. When Napoleon withdrew behind the Passarge, not all the fictions which his fertile brain could devise and his busy agents spread were sufficient to deceive the astute operators of the Paris exchange. Accordingly, the price of French government bonds went down with a serious drop; England having announced soon afterward that she meant to land a great army on the shores of the Baltic, public confidence was further shaken. A year before, the French nation had been startled by the premature demand for more French youth; the new call to anticipate the conscription filled them with consternation. These were grave matters, and the roads from Paris to Osterode and Finkenstein continually resounded under the hoofs of horses and the roll of wheels as messengers sped back and forth with questions and replies. The nature of this correspondence shows how perfectly the government of France was centralized in Napoleon's person, even in his absence at such a distance: the whole gamut of administration was run, from state questions of the gravest importance down to the disposition of trivial affairs connected with the opera and its coryphees. As to reviving the finances, the Emperor was at his wit's end, and in a sort of blind helplessness he ordered the state to lend five hundred thousand francs per month to such manufacturers as would keep at work and deposit their wares in a government storehouse as collateral; nor did he disdain such measures as the founding of one or two factories of military supplies, or even the refurnishing of the Tuileries, in which he requested the women of his family to spend their money freely.
Of course he was absurdly unsuccessful; scarcely less so than he was in his attempts to restore general confidence by the publication of inspired articles in the newspapers. The censorship was more rigid than ever, and Fouche was instructed to stop indiscreet private letters from the army. Nevertheless, with no great difficulty the senate was bullied into approving the new conscription, and the volatile people soon listened without alarm to the siren voice of their Emperor, which said these boys would be only a national guard, children obeying the law of nature, the objects of his own paternal care. Louis, who was governing Holland with reference to its own best interests, and ordering the affairs of his family rigidly but admirably, received a severe and passionate reprimand from the Emperor for his economy. What was wanted was pay for the troops, plenty of conscripts, encouragement for the Dutch Catholics, and a giddy court where men would forget more serious things, and where the gay young Queen Hortense could make a display. "Let your wife dance as much as she wants to; it is proper for her age. I have a wife forty years old, and from the field of battle I recommend her to go to balls; while you want one of twenty to live in a cloister, or like a wet-nurse, always bathing her child." In the absence of her bogy, Mme. de Stael, who said she loved the gutters of Paris better than the mountain streams of Switzerland, reappeared in the suburbs of that city. When Napoleon heard of it he grew furious, and gave orders to seize her as an intriguer, and to send her back to Geneva, by force if necessary. It was done, but an awful presentiment took possession of the Emperor that she had appeared like a crow foreboding a coming tempest. As if to compensate France for the loss of the exile's literary powers and those of her friends, many means were devised and tried for the encouragement of an imperial literature. In his assumed and noisy contempt for ideals, Napoleon displayed his fear of them: the Academy was ordered to occupy itself with literary criticism; when in public assemblies mention was made of Mirabeau or other Revolutionary heroes, the speaker was to be admonished that he should confine himself to their style and leave their politics alone; the schools were ordered to train the children in geography and in history, but the instruction must be confined to facts, and not be philosophical or religious.
Napoleon's worst qualities and his growing weaknesses were made manifest this winter in two exhibitions of self-indulgence most far-reaching in their results. The first bad symptom was his notorious license, which brought from the Empress expressions of the bitterest reproach. Growing old at forty-three, not forty, as Napoleon gallantly but untruthfully wrote to Louis, the aging Creole dismissed from memory the sins of her own youth and middle age, while in jealous fury she charged her husband not only with his adulteries, but with crimes the mere name of which sullies the ordinary records of human wickedness and folly. She would have followed the Emperor to Poland, but his repeated dissuasions, although honeyed, were virtual prohibitions, and she dared not. His unfriendly annalist, Mme. de Remusat, says he retorted to all Josephine's charges that he needed but one reply, the persistent I: "I am different from every one else, and accept the limitations of no other." Her continuous weeping, he wrote to his consort, showed neither character nor courage. "I don't like cowards; an empress should have pluck." The second sign of weakness was the growing neglect of detail in his work. Life has always been too short for a despot both to gratify his passions and at the same time to be a beneficent ruler, even under the simplest conditions. On the recovery of Maret, the Emperor relaxed very much in his personal attention to detail, while his secretary sought to drown a domestic sorrow and scandal in a feverish activity still greater than that which he had always displayed. This conjunction gave the secretary an eminence he had not hitherto reached, and made him thereafter a power behind the throne whose influence was dangerous to the Empire, to France, and to the peace of Europe.
In spite of the enemy's numerical inferiority, Napoleon had been thwarted at Eylau by the weather, by the unsurpassed bravery of the Russian soldiers, and by the able tactics of Bennigsen. The latter had not been worsted in the arbitrament of arms, yet the Emperor's character for resolution and energy had virtually defeated the Russians, and had given him not only a technical but a real victory. Although he fell back and assumed the defensive, feeling that without enormous reinforcements and the capture of Dantzic he could not resume the offensive, yet nevertheless he had remained for four months unmolested by his foe. Bennigsen's perplexities were great. The Russian court was rent by dissensions, affairs at Constantinople were occupying much of the Czar's attention, and the force available for fighting in the North seemed too small for a decisive victory: he remained virtually inert. There was an effort late in February to drive the French left wing across the Vistula, but it failed. A few days later Napoleon in person made a reconnaissance on his right, and this show of activity reduced the opposing ranks to inactivity. He had proposed to resume hostilities on June tenth, and had by that time increased his strength on the front to one hundred and sixty thousand men, all well equipped and fairly well fed. The reserve army in central Europe was much larger; there were about four hundred thousand men, all told, in the field.
Meanwhile, however, the pleasant season had mended the roads and dried the swamps. The Russians were refreshed by their long rest, and, children of nature as they were, felt the summer's warmth as a spur to activity. Bennigsen had by that time about ninety thousand men, excluding the Prussians, who now numbered eighteen thousand. By his delay he had lost the services of his best ally, the inclement weather; but he had at least come to a decision, and forestalling Napoleon's scheme, advanced on June sixth to the Passarge, against Ney's corps, which was the French advance-guard. Ney retreated, and the seventh was spent in manoeuvers which resulted in uniting his corps with the main army. Bennigsen, having hoped to cut off and destroy his division before attacking in force, felt compelled, in consequence of failure, to retreat in turn, and this movement left Lestocq at a dangerous distance to the right. At this juncture Napoleon determined to assume the offensive himself. On the eighth he began to concentrate his troops, and took measures to find the enemy in order to force a battle. Bennigsen had withdrawn beyond the river Alle; Soult and Lannes, with Murat in advance, were sent up its left bank to Heilsberg; Davout and Mortier were to pass farther on, as part of a general movement to surround; Ney and the guard were held in reserve, while Victor was despatched to block Lestocq.
The first shock occurred on the morning of the tenth, in the neighborhood of Heilsberg; for Bennigsen had sent a considerable number of his troops back over the river to feel the enemy. The Russians were slowly driven across the plain, fighting fiercely as they went, until by six in the evening they reached the heights near the town, which had been intrenched. Here they turned, and for five hours hurled back one advancing French column after another until eleven o'clock at night, when, fortunately for the attacking troops,—so at least thought Savary, who was with them,—it grew too dark, even near the summer solstice and in those high latitudes, to fight longer. Next morning Napoleon woke after his bivouac and looked to see his enemy gone, as at Pultusk and Eylau. But this time a repetition of that pleasant experience was denied him. His losses had been so serious the day before that he spent the eleventh in manoeuvers, further concentrating his army before Heilsberg, and despatching Davout to throw himself between Lestocq and Bennigsen, thus turning the latter's right and checking the former, if all went well. This movement determined the character of the whole campaign. It had the desired effect, and on the morning of the twelfth the trenches in front of him were empty. The Russians had stolen away, and for two days they steadily retreated down the Alle in the general direction of Koenigsberg, until on the evening of the thirteenth they reached Friedland.
Bennigsen had expected to retreat still farther, hoping to reach Wehlau, and cross to the right bank of the Pregel for a strong defensive position before Koenigsberg. Lestocq with the Prussians was well forward on the extreme right toward that place. But at three in the morning of June fourteenth the head of Lannes's column appeared before Friedland, and the Russian commander, supposing he had to do with a single division, turned, and crossing to the left bank of the Alle, passed through Friedland in order to meet his enemy in the open. His evident intention was to follow the Napoleonic plan of overwhelming the attacking divisions one by one as they arrived. His right wing was stationed in the rear of the hamlet of Heinrichsdorf, his left rested on a forest known as the Sortlack. When his arrangements were completed it was nine o'clock in the morning. What information he had is unknown, but what he did remains inexplicable. Starting to seize Heinrichsdorf, he was, after a short conflict, repulsed; for Lannes had stretched his line far to the left for the same purpose, and had been reinforced by Mortier's vanguard. Bennigsen withdrew about noon to his first position, and stood there in idleness for three long hours, exchanging useless volleys with his foe. Having his entire force already on the field, he remained absolutely inactive while the enemy formed their line. In respect to his having massed his forces before the French could form, his position was exactly parallel to that which the latter had occupied at Jena with regard to the Prussians, and which was used by Napoleon with such vigor for a flank attack. But Bennigsen lacked the promptness and insight necessary to use his advantage, and the long delay was decisive. In the interval, Ney, Victor's artillery, and the guard arrived; at three the Emperor issued his orders for forming the line; and two hours later he gave the signal for Ney to attack on the right. The Russians had but shortly before learned that the main French army was in front of them, and were beginning their retreat with the intention of recrossing the Alle, many having entered Friedland, which lies on the left bank of the stream. In the first rush toward the town, Ney was repulsed with dreadful loss; but as Ney's corps rolled back to right and left, Dupont appeared with Victor's first division in the very middle of the breaking lines, and at the same moment Senarmont pressed forward close to the Russian ranks with all Victor's artillery,—thirty-six pieces,—and began to pour in a deadly fire. This routed the enemy, who fled through the town and over the stream; but their right wing, being thus turned into the rear-guard, was caught by Lannes before it reached the crossing, and checked. The wooden bridge was set in flames, and before nightfall that portion of the Russian army which had not yet crossed was virtually annihilated.
About eighty thousand French and about fifty-five thousand Russians took part in this battle; the former lost seven thousand men, the latter sixteen thousand, with eighty field-pieces. It was the only one of Napoleon's great engagements in which he admitted his numerical superiority to his enemy. The same day Soult and Davout, with Murat's cavalry, drove Lestocq into Koenigsberg, and prepared to invest the town. But Lestocq's troops, with the garrison and the court, escaped, flying for refuge toward the Russian frontier. Bennigsen collected at Allenburg the troops he had saved, and, retreating in good order, crossed the Niemen at Tilsit four days later. He then had the option of awaiting Napoleon, who was close behind, or of making peace, or of withdrawing into the interior beyond the enemy's reach, as Alexander had done after Austerlitz. As a matter of fact, he confessed utter defeat. "This is no longer a fight, it is butchery," he wrote to the Czar's brother, the Grand Duke Constantine. "Tell the Emperor what you will," he said again, "if only I can stop the carnage."
[Footnote 5: Oudinot: Memoires, Ch. II.]
The campaign of Friedland shows either less genius or more than any other of Napoleon's victories, according to the standpoint from which it is judged. If he is to be regarded throughout its duration merely as a general, then his conduct shows comparatively little ability. He came on his enemy where he did not expect a battle. Although he had ample time to evolve and execute an admirable plan, and while his loss was trifling compared with that of his opponents, yet, nevertheless, Friedland was a commonplace, incomplete affair. It compelled the foe to abandon Heilsberg, but it did not annihilate him or necessarily end the war. Bennigsen found all Russia behind him after his defeat: twenty-five thousand men came in from Koenigsberg, Prince Labanoff brought up the Russian reserves, and thus was formed a substantial army. A retreat with this force into the vast interior would have left Napoleon as a general just where he was before. This ineffectual result was entirely due to a single deliberate move which terminated his scheme of surrounding and annihilating the foe—the detachment of Davout against Lestocq on the enemy's extreme right.
But when viewed from the statesman's point of view, Friedland appears in a very different light. It is a strange coincidence that in the month previous a rebellion of the janizaries had deprived Selim III of his throne, and that, Sebastiani's influence being thus ended, France's position in the Oriental question was utterly changed. The formal despatches announcing this fact did not reach Tilsit until June twenty-seventh or twenty-eighth, but there is a strong probability that it was known to Napoleon before the battle of Friedland. Is it possible that the Emperor intended Friedland to do no more than satisfy his army's eagerness for glory, and yet leave Alexander in a humor to unite with him for the gratification of those well-known Oriental ambitions of his which he had so recently seen jeopardized by the Franco-Turkish alliance and the consequent ascendancy of French influence at Constantinople? Such a hypothesis is by no means wild; nevertheless, a careful study of the campaign seems to prove that Napoleon, in suddenly changing from the defensive to the offensive, and so finding himself at Heilsberg face to face with defeat, took the quickest and easiest means to relieve a critical situation. It would have appeared something very much like bravado had Davout's corps penetrated between Lestocq's division and the Russian army, and thus have exposed itself to a rear attack. If the easy self-reliance Napoleon felt after a winter of robust health had been somewhat less, and if his intellectual acumen had been somewhat greater, the whole situation might have been foreseen and provided for. As neither was the case, he did as a general the best thing that was possible at the moment. Admitting this, we shall find the statesman making the most of the general's poor situation; for the treaty which followed Friedland is unique in the history of diplomacy.
[Footnote 6: Yorck von Wartenburg: Napoleon als Feldherr, I, XIII.]
There were forcible reasons on both sides for arriving at an understanding. It has been remarked that Napoleon never discharged the stings and darts of personal abuse at Alexander I as he did at the persons of other enemies. In what was almost a personal correspondence at an earlier time the Czar had exhibited his noblest qualities and an enlightened liberalism. To be sure, every humiliation had been heaped on Russia in spurning the Oubril treaty of the previous year and by the light disdain of peace obligations solemnly taken. Yet Napoleon was alive to the present and imperative need of a strong ally if his mercantile attack on England were to have even a chance of success. With Austria he had employed all the diplomatic arts of Talleyrand and Andreossy to no avail: the Polish campaign had made Francis alert, that of Russia was reviving the bellicose spirit of the Austrian army. Negotiation with Frederick William had failed because based on the concept of a new Prussia eastward of the Elbe, a menace alike to Russia and Austria, and a confession of defeat by the King, who preferred to place his trust in Alexander. Francis was equally adverse to Talleyrand's elaborate scheme of a realm eastern in fact as in name, stretching away down the Danube valley to the Euxine, a buffer against Russian aggression, a menace or a support to Turkey as occasion required. It was therefore a categorical imperative which determined the Emperor of the French to woo the Emperor of all the Russias at this juncture. When a proposition for an armistice was made by Bennigsen on June twenty-first, it was not only courteously but impressively accepted, and within a very short time things were moving as if the two emperors were no longer enemies, but rather as if they were already intimate friends, anxious to embrace. At least, even before their meeting, such was the attitude they assumed in their communications with each other and ostentatiously displayed to those about them. Some things are perfectly patent in the Czar's desire for peace. Russian autocracy as a system was still unshakable, but the authority of his house was not: in sixty years there had been no fewer than four revolutionary upheavals, either by the soldiery or by a palace cabal. The instability of the throne had sadly diminished the prestige of the country, and after Austerlitz the nation had been treated with contempt in the person of the Czar, both in his political and his military character, the rest of Europe being profoundly indifferent to Russian chagrin. His situation was not improved by Pultusk, Eylau, or Friedland. Dissensions in the field were not concealed by the hallelujahs and hosannas of the populace in the cities; victory bore no fruits; without Austria the next step could not be taken, and hesitancy still marked that uneasy monarchy as its own. Prussia, although the principal in the fight, was but a feeble power. England, though reaping the harvest of Russia's commerce, had become niggardly in regard to subsidies, and had delayed the long-promised, much-vaunted Baltic expedition until it was useless. The King of Sweden was so hated by his own subjects that his efforts as an ally had been rendered almost futile. In Russia itself there was a strong party, led by the Grand Duke Constantine, which steadily denounced the war as one in the interest of strangers, and in it were included most, if not all, the Russian officers. It was evident that Alexander as an auxiliary would lose no prestige at home in withdrawing from a quarrel which was not Russia's, and in which he had more than paid any debt he owed to Prussia by the sacrifice in her behalf of his guards and of the flower of his army. Moreover, misery abounded among the survivors, and Russian finances were not exactly in a flourishing condition. Such was the general discontent with the war that men of importance—at least so it was said at the time—ventured to remind Alexander of his father's violent death.
On the other side the urgency was becoming acute. As the strategists say, Napoleon had won a battle, but not a victory, at Friedland. The situation in Paris continued highly unsatisfactory. The threatened English expedition to the Baltic might arrive at any time. Contemptible as was Gustavus of Sweden, he was in Pomerania with an Anglo-Hanoverian army of ten thousand men. Most disquieting of all, there were movements both of intellectual agitation and of active partizan warfare in Prussia that presaged a speedy convalescence on her part. It is evident that an alliance with Russia was better for France than one with Prussia as regards both the Oriental and European plans of Napoleon. He therefore determined to suggest the most glittering prospects to Alexander's messenger—nothing less than the partition of Turkey, and the Vistula as the Russian frontier on the Baltic.
But all these reasons on both sides seem inadequate to explain the extraordinary character of the events preliminary to the meeting of the two emperors at Tilsit, of what occurred at that meeting, and of the treaty there negotiated. When Bennigsen first proposed an armistice, Napoleon demanded as a guarantee the three fortresses of Pillau, Kolberg, and Graudenz. His messenger returned with the reply that they were not Russia's to give. Soon Duroc was despatched to the hostile camp. Would the Czar make a separate peace? To do so would be to betray Prussia by expressly violating the Bartenstein treaty. Technically the document was invalid, for Austria had never signed it, although she would gladly have done so when brought to face a Franco-Russian alliance. Morally it would be base for Alexander to negotiate separately, for Frederick William had refused a similar offer. The young Czar, however, cared nothing for the royal Europe of former days, and but little for the theory of a Western empire under Napoleon. What he did care for was Russian influence in geographical Europe under whatever name, for the dismemberment of Turkey, and for the extension of his empire toward the west by the acquisition of Finland from Sweden. Having failed to realize his purpose by a coalition of so-called legitimate sovereigns, and having heard the almost incredible suggestions which Napoleon had made to Prince Labanoff, his messenger, he was overpowered by the temptation thus held out, and, deserting Prussia, answered, "Yes." On the twenty-first an armistice without serious guarantees was concluded between France and Russia; but none was made with Prussia, for the terms offered to her were so severe that, desperate as was her King, he could not endure the thought of accepting them. She was no longer an equal with either France or Russia, but a dependent on either and on both; her nomad court was reduced to Frederick William, his minister Hardenberg, and a few followers who were here to-day and there to-morrow, wherever they felt most was to be gained from the self-interest of either their former ally or their conqueror. The Queen and royal family were at Memel, the farthest outpost of Prussia's shattered domain.
[Footnote 7: On the character of Alexander, see Vandal: Napoleon et Alexandre, Vol. I, Ch. I.]
The attitude of the Czar toward Napoleon was markedly different from that of his predecessors in defeat. Frederick William's ancestor had only a century before bought his title by supplying Prussian troops to the German-Roman emperor, and, like Napoleon, had set the crown on his own head. Francis I of Austria was the grandson of Maria Theresa, a powerful and masterful woman, who held her throne in direct contravention of legitimist theories, because she had conquered it. Both were nevertheless overpowered by the sense of their legitimacy and sacred aloofness. When Francis humiliated himself before his conqueror after Austerlitz, his mien was distant and his salute haughty; the miserable King of Prussia was, like him, dignified and severe even in his beggary. The Czar was too close to the crime which had set him on his throne to assume any airs of superiority with the French Caesar. Having taken the first step, he began to show a childish eagerness for a personal meeting with Napoleon. The Emperor was far from averse, and made a formal proposal to that effect, which was promptly accepted; the intercourse between French and Russian officers grew warmer and closer every day, and the arrangements for an interview between the would-be Eastern and Western emperors were soon completed.
NAPOLEON AND ALEXANDER AT TILSIT
[Footnote 8: For the years of the Franco-Russian alliance the French archives contain a wealth of documentary material: regular despatches, verbatim reports of conversations between the French ambassadors and the Czar, the news of the day in St. Petersburg and the gossip of society. Savary and Caulaincourt may be said to have kept their master in personal touch with their friend and ally. There is likewise the ordinary regular diplomatic correspondence with Austria, Prussia, Turkey, and the other European states. An interesting and invaluable peculiarity of French archives is, that bound up with despatches received are the outlines of those sent, and generally not merely a sketch, but the first draft with all annotations and corrections, these quite often in Napoleon's almost cryptic but still decipherable handwriting. Much of course is in cipher, but the key is available and sometimes the official decipherment. The archives of St. Petersburg are also available for properly accredited searchers; Tratchefski has gone a considerable distance in publishing the decisive papers, and Tatistcheff has printed many important documents in various periodicals. Other sources have been already indicated: the published correspondence of Napoleon and of Pozzo di Borgo, the histories of Bignon, Lefebvre, and Rambaud, and the monumental work of Vandal: Napoleon et Alexandre Ier, are all of the first importance. Bertrand: Lettres inedites de Talleyrand a Napoleon, contains the replies of the minister to his chief. Duckworth's check at Constantinople is fully explained by Juchereau de Saint Denys: Revolutions de Constantinople en 1807 et 1808. Cf. also Hassel: Geschichte der Preussischen Politik, 1807 bis 1815. Choiseul-Gouffier: Reminiscences sur Napoleon Ier et Alexandre Ier. Adami: Louise de Prusse, Erinnerungen der Graefen von Voss. Savary: Memoires. Life of Sir Robert Wilson.]
The Floating Pavilion — Emperor, Czar, and King — The Two Principals — Their Relation to Frederick William — A Diplomatic Novelty — Napoleon's Motives — Great Britain and the World's Commerce — The Orders in Council — Napoleon's Decrees — Russia as an Ally — The Ministers and the Negotiations — Imperial Amusements — The Fate of Turkey — The Two Friends — Work after Play.
On the morning of June twenty-fifth, 1807, there lay anchored in the middle of the Niemen, before Tilsit, a pavilion ingeniously constructed by French soldiers from boats and boards. It was gaily decorated, according to the taste of their country, with flags and garlands. The front bore a large monogram composed of the letters N and A interlaced. Within were two comfortable rooms, one for the sovereigns, one for their suites. At a signal two skiffs put out, one from each shore, amid the mingled cheers of the French and Russian guards, drawn up in view of each other across the intervening stream. The dull roar of cannon intoned the tidings of reconciliation. In one boat was Alexander, suitably arrayed in uniform; in the other was Napoleon, wearing the traditional gray coat and undress hat. The Emperor of the French was first on board the float, and received his guest with all that winning grace which he could so well command. After a formal embrace he began an informal conversation, which then continued without a break as the two schemers withdrew to the apartment arranged for their interview. The staff, at a respectful distance, could catch nothing of what was said, and although the interview lasted nearly two hours, no words of it are known except the opening phrases, reported by Napoleon himself. "Sire," remarked the Czar, "I shall second you against the English." "In that case," was the reply, "everything can be arranged, and peace is made." Some doubt has been cast on the literal truth of this momentous dialogue, since it rests on a single authority. For a century it has not been denied, and the cup of bitterness which England had held to Alexander's lips was certainly brimming. Since the beginning of hostilities Great Britain had failed in every single engagement. Her naval force in the Baltic was puny, but it preyed on Russian commerce; the promised war material did not arrive; her support at Constantinople was farcical; she had no more heart in Turkish partition than before and ever since; Canning was less than half-hearted and favored Austria to Russia's disadvantage; even the money support expected and tacitly promised was refused. The Czar knew that he had been betrayed by England in the interest of Austria: he did not know how grave had been Napoleon's coquetry in a similar suit. He was as much bent on the emancipation of Russian commerce from English tyranny as Napoleon on the "freedom of the seas," the revolutionary phrase for British humiliation. The conversation may well have taken place literally as reported: even though the Czar hoped to postpone the rupture for some months, he may have given his complete confidence under four eyes. Who can measure the fascination under which the young enthusiast fell at first sight? In any case nothing apparently occurred to disturb the amiability of either monarch. It was doubtless agreed that they should form a dual alliance, absolute and exclusive. "I have often slept two in a bed," the suave but inelegant Napoleon was heard to say at a subsequent meeting, "but never three." Savary declared that the smiling and complacent young Czar thought the remark delightful. The meaning of the riddle, if riddle there be, was, of course, that Austria could no longer count as an equal in the Continental Olympus, the membership of which was thus reduced to two.
[Footnote 9: On this point, see Vandal: Napoleon et Alexandre Ier, Ch. I.]
The Czar's conscience smote him in regard to his desertion of Prussia, but with no great effort he obtained material concessions for her from his new ally. The same afternoon an armistice was arranged with Frederick William, by the terms of which he temporarily kept his strong places in Silesia and Pomerania; but his propositions for an alliance were incontinently rejected. Next day there was another meeting on the same raft, but this was tripartite, for the King of Prussia was present. Napoleon was blunt and imperious, reproaching Frederick William with the duplicity of his policy, vindictively (the descriptive word he used himself), and with emphasis, demanding Hardenberg's dismissal. At parting he invited Alexander to dinner, but ostentatiously omitted to include Frederick William in the request. It was agreed that to expedite the final negotiations the three monarchs should remain on the ground; one half the town of Tilsit was neutralized and divided into three portions, each of the three parties to take up his residence in one. This closed the preliminaries, and the two emperors returned with mutual satisfaction to the respective sides of the river from which they had come. The sensations of Frederick William, who accompanied Alexander, must have been those of a soldier on the field under a capital operation in surgery. That very afternoon the Czar removed to the quarter of Tilsit appropriated to him. The King of Prussia took lodgings in the house of a miller, but spent only a part of each day in them, preferring the melancholy solitude of the neighboring hamlet of Piktupoenen, where he and Hardenberg had last alighted.
Alexander was now thirty years of age, sanguine, ambitious, impressionable, and mature in proportion to his years. His features were well formed on Slavic lines, his look was sympathetic, and his form elegant. The many graces of his mind and person were natural. "My friend," wrote Napoleon to Josephine on the twenty-fifth, "I have just met the Emperor Alexander. I have been much pleased with him; he is a very handsome, good young emperor; he has more intelligence than is generally thought." Napoleon himself was only eight years older, but his mind was more penetrating and adroit by a whole generation. The classic cast in his features, which only a few years before made sculptors mold him like the statue of the young Augustus, had nearly disappeared. A complete transformation had been produced in his bodily appearance by the robust health he had for some time enjoyed. He had become more of a primitive Italian and less of a Roman. His skin was now clear and of a rich, dark tint. His powerful frame was fully developed, and while fat, he was not obese; the great head sat on a neck which was like a pillar in thickness and strength. His expression was slightly sensuous about the mouth and chin, but his eyes were quick and penetrating in their glance. It was rarely that his gaze was intent. The good manners and polished courtesy in which he indulged at this time were an unwonted luxury.
Cobenzl said that the last step but one to universal conquest was to divide the world between two. At that moment there was little doubt as to which of these two would ultimately survive. Alexander was impressionable and eager for friendship. He was flattered by the attentive and considerate manner of the greatest man in Europe. The glittering, intoxicating generalities of Napoleon attracted his aspiring mind, while the fascination of the Emperor's person strongly moved his heart. On the other hand, the influence of the Czar on the Emperor was substantial. Beneath his frank and chivalric manners, behind his enthusiasm and romanticism, lay much persistence and shrewd common sense. The advantages which he gained were granted by Napoleon mainly from motives of self-interest, for Russia, strong, was the best helper in reducing Austria to impotence; nevertheless, they were secured largely through personal influence, and were substantial advantages which might be permanent in case of disaster to a single life. Frederick William was only two years younger than Napoleon. His development had been slow; he was well-meaning but dull, proud but timid. Though destined to see a regeneration of Prussia under his own reign, he had as yet done nothing to further it, and in an access of resentment had declared a war in which she had been virtually annihilated. His former ally insisted that he should occasionally attend the conferences, but his presence was distasteful to Napoleon. Thus he sat, dejection and despair stamped on his homely face; haughty, yet a suppliant; a king, yet only by sufferance. Fortunately his queen, Louisa, the woman of her day, beautiful, virtuous, and wise, came finally to his support. Her hopes were destined to be rudely shattered, and her charm was to be used in vain; but it was her presence alone which gave any dignity to Prussia at Tilsit.
Both from the place and circumstances, from the station and character of the persons negotiating, as well as from the nature of the results, the meeting at Tilsit is the most remarkable in the history of diplomacy. The motives which disposed Napoleon to an armistice were plain enough; those which determined his later conduct can only be divined. Prussia had seemed to the French liberals of the Revolution to belong by nature to their system: they were quite as angry with her persistent neutrality as was either Austria or England, both of whom thought she should adhere to them, if only for self-preservation. Napoleon's repeated but vain attempts to secure a Prussian alliance before Jena, or a separate negotiation afterward, rooted this traditional bitterness in his mind. To secure the prize for which he was fighting he had only two courses open: either to restore Poland as the frontier state between the civilization of his empire and the semi-barbarism and ambitions of Russia, or else to negotiate with Russia herself.
The former course meant an interminable warfare with Russia, Austria, and Prussia, at a distance of fifteen hundred miles from Paris; for Russia would fight to the death rather than lose the only possessions which put her into the heart of Europe, and thus be relegated to the character of an Asiatic power. The Emperor of the French had already seen after Eylau how untrustworthy the grand army was, even in Poland; if dejected and insubordinate there, as he may well have recalled was actually the case, what would it be on the banks of the Dnieper, in the plains of Lithuania? Such considerations probably determined not only the fact of peace, but its character. In order to secure what he had gained in western, southern, and central Europe, England must be brought to terms. Russia must therefore not only be an ally, but a hearty ally: as the price of her subscription to the Berlin Decree, and the consequent closing of her harbors to English shipping, she could gratify any reasonable ambition, and might virtually dictate her own terms. With an engine in his hands as formidable as Russia's adhesion to his commercial policy, he could act at the nick of time,—which, as he declared at this very season to Joseph, was the highest art of which man is capable,—could destroy England's commerce, and in a long peace could consolidate the empire he had already won. His empire thus consolidated, he would be virtual master of half the solid earth in the Eastern hemisphere. If ambition should still beckon him on, he would still be young; he could then consider the next step to universal empire.
It may safely be said that Great Britain was never more haughty than at this moment. Her king had turned the ministry of "All the Talents" out of doors; for after Fox's death the combination lost all dignity and power. The Duke of Portland was now prime minister. He was a blind but energetic conservative, his Toryism, unlike that of Pitt in his enlightened days, being of the sort which lay close to his sovereign's heart. England's monopoly of European commerce seemed assured: Sweden, Denmark, and the Hanse towns were the only important seafaring powers of Europe that retained a nominal neutrality, and it was only a question of time when they must accept terms either from France or from her. With every other European nation embroiled in the Napoleonic wars and deeply concerned for its own territorial integrity, the United States of America was her only real maritime rival, and she had bullied us into a temporary acquiescence in her interpretation of international law.
[Footnote 10: The importance of American commerce at that time has not usually had due recognition; statement of its value see Mahan: The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, Vol. II, pp. 231-2.]
When colonies were first recognized as essential to the prosperity of European nations, the rule was universally observed that only the mother country could trade with her own. In 1756 France endeavored to break this rule by permitting neutral ships to engage in traffic between herself and her West Indian possessions. England at once laid down the "rule of 1756," that neutrals should not exercise in time of war privileges of traffic which they were not permitted to enjoy in time of peace; and this principle she was able to maintain more or less completely until 1793, when France declared war on her, and again invited neutral commerce to French colonial harbors. England, having regained her supremacy of the seas, reasserted in 1793 the rule of 1756, but nevertheless so modified it the following year that she permitted neutral traders to break, in their own or in her harbors, their voyages from or to colonial ports. In 1796 France notified all neutrals that she would treat them just as they permitted Great Britain to treat them, and in 1798 shut all her harbors to any vessel which had even touched at a British port. This state of affairs continued until the peace of Amiens. When war was renewed in 1803 between England and France the former again asserted the rule of 1756 as binding, while indirect trade between neutral ports and the ports of an enemy was again allowed, but under the new proviso that the neutral ship did not on her outward voyage furnish the enemy with goods contraband of war. This privilege of indirect trade was invaluable to American ship-owners, and for two years the ocean commerce of all Europe was in their hands. The fortunes they thus accumulated were enormous, while Great Britain saw her own manufactures displaced by those of continental nations, and the colonies of her enemies prospering as never before. In 1805, therefore, she withdrew the privilege of indirect trade, and her flag being, after Trafalgar, the only belligerent one left on the ocean, proceeded both to enforce the new rule and to abuse the proviso concerning neutral vessels carrying contraband of war by ruthlessly exercising the right of search. Under the orders in council of September fifth, 1805, every neutral ship must be examined to see whether its lading was a cargo of neutral goods, or whether it contained anything contraband. This could only mean that every American ship laden with other than American goods was to be seized; and in May of the following year, by the still more notorious order of the sixteenth, Great Britain declared that every European harbor from Brest to the mouth of the Elbe was blockaded. This was a distance of eight hundred miles, and even she had not ships enough to enforce her decree. Trafalgar had turned the heads of English statesmen.
This paper blockade was the challenge which called forth the Berlin Decree from Napoleon. American ships, like those of the French, were for a time seized, searched, and detained by the British on the slightest suspicion that they were either leaving or were destined for a hostile port, while their sailors were pitilessly impressed. The government at Washington authorized reprisals, but American ship-owners found it more profitable to compromise than to resist, and Monroe came to an understanding with the English ministry; the prosperity of American shipping was again revived, and the merchants of the United States continued to prosper by carrying English wares under the American flag into harbors where the union jack was forbidden. By this evasion Great Britain retained her commercial supremacy, and her prosperity was rather increased than diminished. She withheld a similar cooeperation from Sweden and Russia until it was too late, her enterprise being chiefly concerned to open new channels for her commerce in Egypt and in South America.
How was this leviathan, which was drawing the wealth of all Europe to its stores, and eluding or repelling all attack on its chosen element—how was this tyrant of the ocean to be slain? Clearly the Americans must be so harassed and annoyed that in the end the public spirit of the United States would be aroused to resent English control, and bid defiance to Great Britain's assumption of maritime supremacy. To this end the rigid enforcement of the Berlin Decree would be well adapted in the long run, but in the interval much could be done: if its principle could be extended to the destruction of all smuggling, to the absolute exclusion of British commerce from the entire Continent—not only from the seaports, but from the markets—the end would be gained. With Russia's cooeperation alone was this possible. Napoleon's present plan, therefore, was to secure France and the French Empire, as far as won, by compelling the world to a lasting peace through the immediate establishment of a counterpoise, the French and Russian empires against Great Britain, leaving time to do its perfect work of exasperating the rising naval power of the United States into open hostility against the parent land.
These, it seems, must have been the considerations which controlled the course of affairs at Tilsit. The deliberations were both formal, so called, and informal. At the former were present the three sovereigns with their ministers—Talleyrand for France, Kurakin and Labanoff for Russia, Kalkreuth and Goltz for Prussia; at the latter were sometimes all three of the monarchs, frequently only the two principals, for they found Frederick William a damper on their hilarity. The generals, the staff, and the men of the two great armies which had fought so bravely at Friedland harmonized in mutual respect; but the unwarlike King and his suite, both military and civil, were outsiders. Immediately after the formal and brilliant entry of Alexander into Tilsit, Napoleon began the exchange of prisoners, and despatched messengers commanding his forces in Germany to restore to their sovereign the territories of Mecklenburg, whose reigning house was kin to the Czar. For Frederick William there was scarcely a show of kindness—nothing, in fact, but a cold condemnation of Hardenberg, to whose influence, combined with that of the military party, the conqueror charged Prussia's declaration of war. This minister, banished at Napoleon's instance, was near by. The King pleaded in vain that he might still serve as mentor in the coming negotiation; the Emperor scornfully refused. There were no others available, rejoined the King. Napoleon named several: among them, and probably not by inadvertence, Stein. This great name is welded to the regeneration of Prussia, but its bearer was a liberal in the measures he enforced. Hardenberg, great and adroit as he was, stood for the passing conservatism, and while he was indefatigable to the end, he was after all a worker at twilight, unable to see the coming metamorphosis of old Europe into the new. It was a proposition outlined by him which brought forward the first vital question, the partition of Turkey. His sovereign's stateliest lands had been gained by the partition of Austria and of Poland; he now suggested that Russia and Austria should divide the Danubian principalities between them, that France should take Greece and her isles, and that Poland should be restored and given to the King of Saxony, who in turn should hand over his German domains to Prussia. The Czar accepted the paper, which was communicated to him as approved by the King, but kept silence.
A favorite amusement of the two emperors was playing with the French army. Napoleon delighted in the display of his condescension to the men, and in the exhibition of their enthusiastic affection for him. Their drill, their uniforms, the niceties of military ceremonial, the gorgeous drum-majors twirling their batons or marching in puffy state—every detail fascinated the Czar, whose house, said Czartoryski, was affected with the disease of paradomania.