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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

Under the command of General Hoche


The

words of Wolfe Tone, taken from his journal, may be accepted as the epitaph of the first French expedition. "It was hard," says Tone, "after having forced my way thus far, to be obliged to turn back; but it is my fate, and I must submit. . . . Well, England has not had such an escape since the Spanish Armada; and that expedition, like ours, was defeated by the weather; the elements fight against us, and courage is of no avail."

{317}

[Sidenote: 1797--The French and Dutch to aid Ireland]

The French did return, as Lady Moira had predicted. They returned more than once, but there was a long interval between the first and the second visitation, and there were negotiations between the French and the Dutch Republic--the Batavian Republic, as it was called--which had been forming an alliance with France. Neither the French Republic nor the Batavian felt any particular interest in the Irish movement, or cared very much whether Ireland obtained her national independence or had to live without it. France, of course, was willing to make use of Ireland as a vantage-ground from which to harass Great Britain, and the Batavian Republic, which had for some time been lapsing out of European notice, was eager to distinguish herself and to play a conspicuous political part once again. The idea at first was that Holland should furnish the naval expedition and France contribute the troops--5000

Frenchmen, under the command of General Hoche, who were to land in Ireland and form the centre and rallying point for the United Irishmen. The Batavian Republic, however, did not seem anxious to give all the military glory of the affair to France, and some excuses were made on the ground that the discipline of the Dutch navy was somewhat too severe for the soldiers of France to put up with. General Hoche seems to have acted with great disinterestedness and moderation under trying conditions. He saw that the Dutch were anxious to make a name for themselves once more, and he feared that if he were to press for the embarkation of the French soldiers it might lead to the abandonment of the whole expedition. Longing as he was for the chance to distinguish himself in any attack upon England, he controlled his eagerness and consented that the Dutch should have the undertaking all to themselves. Poor Wolfe Tone had to wait and look on all this time, eating his own heart, according to the Homeric phrase. He has left us in his journal a description of his feelings as he saw the days go by without any movement being made to harass the English enemy, and of his own emotions when what might have seemed the heaven-sent chance of the mutiny at the {318} Nore broke out in the English fleet and no advantage could be taken of it to forward the chances of the expedition from the Texel. For now again the skies and the winds had come to the defence of England, and the Dutch fleet was kept to its anchorage in its own waters. Various plans of warfare were schemed out by the Batavian Republic, with the hope of putting the English naval authorities on a wrong scent, but all these schemes were suddenly defeated by the orders given to the Dutch admiral to put to sea at once. He did put to sea, and was encountered by Admiral Duncan, and the result was the great victory of Camperdown, won by the English over the Dutch after splendid fighting on both sides. Admiral Duncan thereby became Lord Camperdown and the Batavian Republic dropped all ideas of a naval expedition against England. Meanwhile the gallant General Hoche had died, and Wolfe Tone lost a true friend, with whom, from the beginning of their acquaintance, he had been in thorough sympathy.


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