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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

While admirably adapted to prop up the tottering Coalition


"As a proof of the zeal and steadiness with which His Majesty adheres to the principles of the Confederacy, and as a testimony of the confidence with which he anticipates a similar answer from His Imperial Majesty, to whom an overture of a similar nature has without doubt been made."

But this correct conduct, while admirably adapted to prop up the tottering Coalition, was equally favourable to the consolidation of Bonaparte's power. It helped to band together the French people to resist the imposition of their exiled royal house by external force. Even George III. thought it "much too strong," though he suggested no alteration. At once Bonaparte retorted in a masterly note; he ironically presumed that His Britannic Majesty admitted the right of nations to choose their form of government, since only by that right did he wear the British crown; and he invited him not to apply to other peoples a principle which would recall the Stuarts to the throne of Great Britain.

Bonaparte's diplomatic game was completely won during the debates on the King's speech at Westminster at the close of January, 1800. Lord Grenville laboriously proved that peace was impossible with a nation whose war was against all order, religion, and morality; and he cited examples of French lawlessness from Holland and Switzerland to Malta and Egypt. Pitt declared that the French Revolution was the severest trial which Providence

had ever yet inflicted on the nations of the earth; and, claiming that there was no security in negotiating with France, owing to her instability, he summed up his case in the Ciceronian phrase: _Pacem nolo quia infida_. Ministers carried the day by 260 votes to 64; but they ranged nearly the whole of France on the side of the First Consul. No triumph in the field was worth more to him than these Philippics, which seemed to challenge France to build up a strong Government in order that the Court of St. James might find some firm foundation for future negotiations.

Far more dextrous was the conduct of the Austrian diplomatists. Affecting to believe in the sincerity of the First Consul's proposal for peace, they so worded their note as to draw from him a reply that he was prepared to discuss terms of peace on the basis of the Treaty of Campo Formio.[138] As Austria had since then conquered the greater part of Italy, Bonaparte's reply immediately revealed his determination to reassert French supremacy in Italy and the Rhineland. The action of the Courts of Vienna and London was not unlike that of the sun and the wind in the proverbial saw. Viennese suavity induced Bonaparte to take off his coat and show himself as he really was: while the conscientious bluster of Grenville and Pitt made the First Consul button up his coat, and pose as the buffeted peacemaker.

The allies had good grounds for confidence. Though Russia had withdrawn from the Second Coalition yet the Austrians continued their victorious advance in Italy. In April, 1800, they severed the French forces near Savona, driving back Suchet's corps towards Nice, while the other was gradually hemmed in behind the redoubts of Genoa. There the Imperialist advance was stoutly stayed. Massena, ably seconded by Oudinot and Soult, who now gained their first laurels as generals, maintained a most obstinate resistance, defying alike the assaults of the white-coats, the bombs hurled by the English squadron, and the deadlier inroads of famine and sickness. The garrison dwindled by degrees to less than 10,000 effectives, but they kept double the number of Austrians there, while Bonaparte was about to strike a terrible blow against their rear and that of Melas further west. It was for this that the First Consul urged Massena to hold out at Genoa to the last extremity, and nobly was the order obeyed.


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