« AnteriorContinua »
whatever be your resources they must outlast those of all your enemies; and further, that your empire cannot be saved by a calculation: besides, your wealth is only part of your situation; the name you have established, the deeds you have achieved, and the part you have sustained, preclude you from a second place among nations; and when you cease to be the first, you are nothing."
Such were the arguments used in the parliament of Britain on this momentous occasion. Fortunately, not for this country only, but for Europe, those prevailed which preferred an instant and a manly assertion of our rights to enforce the broken treaties of Fontainbleau and Paris, to the equally expensive, and far less effectual measures, of armed neutrality and husbanding our resources, recommended by the opposition. The division in the House of Peers was 156 in favour of the address, to 44 for the amendment moved by Lord Grey. In the House of Commons the parties divided 92 to 331.
If any thing could have rendered the war more a necessary measure in the eyes of the friends of good order, it must have been the views taken of it by those who are almost the professed contemners of the constitution and character of their country, and who have used the right of petitioning only to insult the legislature with the effrontery of sturdy beggars, whose mode of solicitation is threats and abuse. A petition from the inhabitants of Westminster was presented by Sir Francis Burdett. This document stigmatized the proposed war against France as an act not only flagrantly unjust, but resembling desperation or insanity, which they could only impute to the policy of those domestic enemies, who had an interest in stirring up foreign war, that they might cheat the people of their
It was the wealth of Britain alone by which this formidable array could be put in motion. The sum which was to be paid in lieu of her full contingent of troops, was two millions and a half. A similar sum was voted to be applied to the aid of the confederacy, in the mode which should be judged most advisable. This sum of five millions, with one million for the reparation of the fortifications in Holland and Flanders, was voted by the great majority of one hundred and sixty-seven to seventeen votes. The few members who made this opposition, having dwelt much on the ex
there was no hope of peace in the present circumstances, or of any aid to be obtained from beyond the frontiers of France, excepting in case of the success of Murat. The enter prize of that person is so closely con nected with the history of France, that it becomes necessary to trace it to a period, before completing that of Buonaparte himself,
pense incurred in the preceding war with France, were called on by Mr Charles Grant to remember the triumphant effect to which these subsidies had led, and exhorted to expect from the present a result still more triumphant and decisive.
These determined measures on the part of the allies served to convince France and her present ruler, that
Situation of Murat.-Debate concerning him in the House of Commons.—Dis affection in the Milanese Territory.-Riots in the Theatre.-Murat puts his Army in motion-His dubious Policy-He occupies Rome, and commences offensive Operations against the Austrians-His Proclamation from Rimini-→→→ He attacks the Lower Po, and is defeated at Occhiebello-Commences his Retreat-Solicits an Armistice, and is refused —Battle of Tolentino. Murat's Defeat and disastrous Retreat He is intercepted at Saint Germano by General Nugent His Rear-guard destroyed.-Flies alone to Naples-And from thence to France-General Insurrection in Naples and Calabria.-The Queen surrenders to the British-The Austrians occupy NapleSurrender of the Neapolitan Army.-Restoration of King Ferdinand.-Murat in danger of being killed by the Royalists-Flies to Corsica-Refuses a Retreat of fered to him in Austria-His Proclamation to the Neapolitans-Lands near Pizzo-But is defeated and made Prisoner—And tried and executed by a Neapolitan Court-Martial.
JOACHIM MURAT had trodden the paths of French revolution with success, which was only surpassed by the progress of his brother-in-law and patron. Originally the stable-boy, or waiter of a cabaret-then a soldier of fortune-then a jacobin, so enthusiastic, that he requested permission to change his name to Marat, in honour of that deceased worthy-he had become successively General, Marshal, Grand Duke of Berg, and King of Naples. Notwithstanding his share in the treacherous expedition against Spain, and the cruel murders which he perpetrated on the patriotic citizens of Madrid upon the 4th of May, 1808, his opportune desertion of his brother-in-law's cause had given him such claims on the confederated powers, as, with good faith and prudence on his part, might have
confirmed his right to the throne of Naples.
His sovereignty had been attended with considerable advantages to Naples, as often happens upon the introduction of a new dynasty. Ancient abuses had been corrected, assassinations were rendered less frequent by abridging the privilege of sanctuary, the insolencies of the turbulent Lazzaroni had been checked, and a more strict police was established both in Naples and Calabria. His government became rather popular with the nobles, though the common people of the capital, and the peasants of the country, retained their ancient predilections in favour of Ferdinand 'aud his family. The splendour of Murat's public shows, and the distribution of wine and money on these occasions, had not eradicated from the minds of
the populace the more plain, popular, and even vulgar manners of Ferdinand, who had won their hearts by the share which he took in their mirth and their games on occasion of public festivals. Murat was a foreigner, and obnoxious to all objections, real or imaginary, which nations make to a strange ruler. Neither did he possess either wisdom or moderation to balance the popular prejudice against him as a Frenchman. Brave as a lion in war, Murat was at once ambitious and irresolute in his politics, undertaking enterprizes beyond his means, and abandoning them, when, by some fortuitous train of circumstances, he might possibly have succeeded. In person, he was fond of show, dress, and decoration, and obtained among the French soldiers the nickname of Franconi, from a celebrated Parisian mountebank so called.
Such a character was not likely to possess the political skill, prudence, and sagacity, necessary for the security of his dominions in critical times. Murat was aware, that at the Congress his deposition had been urged by Talleyrand, that the English and Austrian courts considered his conduct during the campaign in Tuscany as too dubious to merit favour, and would afford him no further protection than the state of Europe might require. Alarmed at those indications of evil intentions towards him, Murat, by his minister, the Duke of Campochiaro, drew up a laboured vindication of his good faith towards the allies. But this statement was met by a detailed report from the Austrian General Nugent, and another from Lord William Bentinck, both of whom had acted with Murat in the campaign of Italy, and both now contended, that he had totally failed to fulfil his engagement with the allies, and had, instead, played false with all parties, endeavouring to keep the balance
in his own hands, till he could determine on which side he could most safely incline it. To complete the impressions to Murat's prejudice, Talleyrand exhibited, first to the Duke of Wellington, and afterwards to Lord Castlereagh, some documents of correspondence, in which Murat, while acting with the allies, appeared to have expressed himself still favourable to the cause of his brother-in-law. Of five documents thus produced, two were stated by the Moniteur, during Buonaparte's usurpation, to have been manufactured by the French ministry, for the purpose of imposing on Lord Castlereagh. This forgery, or sophistication, if such existed, must have been a work of gratuitous immorality, for the conduct of Murat had been so vacillating as completely to indicate his want of faith; and although the Congress had not settled on the line of conduct to be adopted toward him, there can be no doubt that the throne of Tancred tottered under its new possessor. His conduct, and the line of policy which, in justice and good faith, was to be observed with him, became the subject of an interesting debate in the British House of Commons; but from the documents then produced, and especially from the facts and arguments of Lord William Bentinck, and General Nugent's Memorials, the members were May 2. convinced, that the vacillation of Murat in his engagements with the allies, left them free of any obligation towards him. Still, however, the question of political expedience remained undecided; and it was founded upon by Murat himself, as the best guarantee of his cause, that he was in actual possession of the kingdom in dispute, enjoyed its apparently unanimous homage, and, with the reputation of a great general, commanded an army of eighty thousand men.
While the views of the allies to
wards the King of Naples excited his doubts, his vanity and ambition were flattered by the hope of becoming the liberator, and, in consequence, the monarch of all Italy. The northern part of that fine country was filled with soldiers, who, trained to arms in the wars of Buonaparte, retained an affection for him, and for all his family. The rule of Austria in the Italian dominions has never been either gentle or popular, and at this time there existed a violent ferment in Milan, which was near breaking out into absolute revolt. An alarming riot took place at the theatre of that city, with such acclamations in favour of Italian independence, of Eugene Beauharnois, and even of Napoleon, that the Austrian commandant, Marshal Bellegarde, deemed himself obliged to take the most prompt and severe measures. The theatre was surrounded by the troops of the garrison, and as the contumacious audience issued forth, those who had headed the disorder were taken into custody. Their examinations gave rise to a belief, that this disturbance was but the premature explosion of a general disaffection to the Austrian government. The city was declared to be in a state of siege; eight capital executions, and other punishments, suppressed the appearances of disaffection. This tumult indicated only one branch of the general conspiracy through Italy, of which Murat trusted to avail himself, to further his gigantic plans. His correspondence with Excelman and with Buonaparte had the same object; and thus, while he ought to have studied how to secure the kingdom of Naples, he aspired at the sovereignty of all Italy. It is needless to dwell upon this miserable policy. The struggle which was about to take place would have enabled Murat to make his own terms with the allies, in order to detach him from Buonaparte; and a so
lemn guarantee of his kingdom of Naples would have been the least they would have offered for his neutrality.
Murat's army was such as made him formidable; and he had of late augmented, both his forces by new levies, and his means of supporting them by heavy imposts, neither of which had rendered his government more popular. He possessed about 45,000 troops of the line, and an equal number of militia, and the former were trained to arms under French officers. His court was the residence of revolutionists from all parts of Italy, who kept up an active and efficient correspondence with the various states they belonged to. But the effective strength of his army was much weakened by the recall of many French officers by Louis XVIII., and by his own dismissing others, in order to render himself more popular with the Neapolitans. And the character of the troops of Naples stood very low since 1799, when the French General Championnet routed them with such inferior numbers.
In these circumstances, departing from the neutrality which was his best chance of safety, Murat demanded permission of Austria to march 80,000 men through her Italian dominions, to repel an attack from a French army, which, he pretended to believe, designed to cross the Alps, with the purpose of dispossessing him of his kingdom of Naples. The Austrian minister replied to these strange propositions, that his imperial majesty was determined to maintain the tranquillity of Italy. And to do so with effect, a large body of troops was instantly put in motion to reinforce those in the Italian provinces. Thus the only effect of Murat's first warlike demonstration was, to induce the power who was chiefly threatened to strengthen his forces on the points exposed to danger.