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

Exclusive of Olivenza were preserved intact


A

still more striking light is thrown on Bonaparte's diplomatic methods by the following question, addressed to Lord Hawkesbury on June 15th:

"If, supposing that the French Government should accede to the arrangements proposed for the East Indies by England, and should adopt the _status quo ante bellum_ for Portugal, the King of England would consent to the re-establishment of the _status quo_ in the Mediterranean and in America."

The British Minister in his reply of June 25th explained what the phrase _status quo ante bellum_ in regard to the Mediterranean would really imply. It would necessitate, not merely the evacuation of Egypt by the French, but also that of the Kingdom of Sardinia (including Nice), the Duchy of Tuscany, and the independence of the rest of the peninsula. He had already offered that we should evacuate Minorca; but he now stated that, if France retained her influence over Italy, England would claim Malta as a set-off to the vast extension of French territorial influence, and in order to protect English commerce in those seas: for the rest, the British Government could not regard the maintenance of the integrity of Portugal as an equivalent to the surrender by Great Britain of her West Indian conquests, especially as France had acquired further portions of Saint Domingo. Nevertheless he offered to restore Trinidad to Spain, if she would reinstate Portugal in the frontier

strip of Olivenza; and, on August 5th, he told Otto that we would give up Malta if it became independent.

Meanwhile events were, on the whole, favourable to Great Britain. She made peace with Russia on favourable terms; and in the Mediterranean, despite a first success gained by the French Admiral Linois at Algesiras, a second battle brought back victory to the Union Jack. An attack made by Nelson on the flotilla at Boulogne was a failure (August 15th). But at the close of August the French commander in Egypt, General Menou, was constrained to agree to the evacuation of Egypt by his troops, which were to be sent back to France on English vessels. This event had been expected by Bonaparte, and the secret instruction which he forwarded to Otto at London shows the nicety of his calculation as to the advantages to be reaped by France owing to her receiving the news while it was still unknown in England. He ordered Otto to fix October the 2nd for the close of the negotiations:

"You will understand the importance of this when you reflect that Menou may possibly not be able to hold out in Alexandria beyond the first of Vendemiaire (September 22nd); that, at this season, the winds are fair to come from Egypt, and ships reach Italy and Trieste in very few days. Thus it is necessary to push them [the negotiations] to a conclusion before Vendemiaire 10."

The advantages of an irresponsible autocrat in negotiating with a Ministry dependent on Parliament have rarely been more signally shown. Anxious to gain popularity, and unable to stem the popular movement for peace, Addington and Hawkesbury yielded to this request for a fixed limit of time; and the preliminaries of peace were signed at London on October 1st, 1801, the very day before the news arrived there that one of our demands was rendered useless by the actual surrender of the French in Egypt.[174]

The chief conditions of the preliminaries were as follows: Great Britain restored to France, Spain, and the Batavian Republic all their possessions and colonies recently conquered by her except Trinidad and Ceylon. The Cape of Good Hope was given back to the Dutch, but remained open to British and French commerce. Malta was to be restored to the Order of St. John, and placed under the guarantee and protection of a third Power to be agreed on in the definitive treaty. Egypt returned to the control of the Sublime Porte. The existing possessions of Portugal (that is, exclusive of Olivenza) were preserved intact. The French agreed to loose their hold on the Kingdom of Naples and the Roman territory; while the British were also to evacuate Porto Ferrajo (Elba) and the other ports and islands which they held in the Mediterranean and Adriatic. The young Republic of the Seven Islands (Ionian Islands) was recognized by France: and the fisheries on the coasts of Newfoundland and the adjacent isles were placed on their former footing, subject to "such arrangements as shall appear just and reciprocally useful."


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