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

The three exceptions were Trinidad and Ceylon


It

was remarked as significant of the new docility of George III., that the empty title of "King of France," which he and his predecessors had affected, was now formally resigned, and the _fleurs de lys_ ceased to appear on the royal arms.

Thus, with three exceptions, Great Britain had given way on every point of importance since the first declaration of her claims; the three exceptions were Trinidad and Ceylon, which she gained from the allies of France; and Egypt, the recovery of which from the French was already achieved, though it was unknown at London. On every detail but these Bonaparte had gained a signal diplomatic success. His skill and tenacity bade fair to recover for France, Martinique, Tobago, and Santa Lucia, then in British hands, as well as the French stations in India. The only British gains, after nine years of warfare, fruitful in naval triumphs, but entailing an addition of L290,000,000 to the National Debt, were the islands of Trinidad and the Dutch possessions in Ceylon. And yet in the six months spent in negotiations the general course of events had been favourable to the northern Power. What then had been lacking? Certainly not valour to her warriors, nor good fortune to her flag; but merely brain power to her rulers. They had little of that foresight, skill, and intellectual courage, without which even the exploits of a Nelson are of little permanent effect.

Reserving for treatment in the

next chapter the questions arising from these preliminaries and the resulting Peace of Amiens, we turn now to consider their bearing on Bonaparte's position as First Consul. The return of peace after an exhausting war is always welcome; yet the patriotic Briton who saw the National Debt more than doubled, with no adequate gain in land or influence, could not but contrast the difference in the fortunes of France. That Power had now gained the Rhine boundary; her troops garrisoned the fortresses of Holland and Northern Italy; her chief dictated his will to German princelings and to the once free Switzers; while the Court of Madrid, nay, the Eternal City herself, obeyed his behests. And all this prodigious expansion had been accomplished at little apparent cost to France herself; for the victors' bill had been very largely met out of the resources of the conquered territories. It is true that her nobles and clergy had suffered fearful losses in lands and treasure, while her trading classes had cruelly felt the headlong fall in value of her paper notes: but in a land endowed with a bounteous soil and climate such losses are soon repaired, and the signature of the peace with England left France comparatively prosperous. In October the First Consul also concluded peace with Russia, and came to a friendly understanding with the Czar on Italian affairs and the question of indemnities for the dispossessed German Princes.[175]

Bonaparte now strove to extend the colonies and commerce of France, a topic to which we shall return later on, and to develop her internal resources. The chief roads were repaired, and ceased to be in the miserable condition in which the abolition of the _corvees_ in 1789 had left them: canals were dug to connect the chief river systems of France, or were greatly improved; and Paris soon benefited from the construction of the Scheldt and Oise canal, which brought the resources of Belgium within easy reach of the centre of France. Ports were deepened and extended; and Marseilles entered on golden vistas of prosperity soon to be closed by the renewal of war with England. Communications with Italy were facilitated by the improvement of the road between Marseilles and Genoa, as also of the tracks leading over the Simplon, Mont Cenis, and Mont Genevre passes: the roads leading to the Rhine and along its left bank also attested the First Consul's desire, not only to extend commerce, but to protect his natural boundary on the east. The results of this road-making were to be seen in the campaign of Ulm, when the French forces marched from Boulogne to the Black Forest at an unparalleled speed.


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