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

Otto as unauthorized and invalid


no wise rendering impossible

the seizure of the island and the reconstruction of those works by some future invader. In fact, as the British Ministry now aimed above all at maintaining good relations with the Czar, Bonaparte's proposal could only be regarded as an ingenious device for sundering the Anglo-Russian understanding. The French Minister at St. Petersburg was doing his utmost to prevent the _rapprochement_ of the Czar to the Court of St James, and was striving to revive the moribund league of the Armed Neutrals. That last offer had "been rejected in the most peremptory manner and in terms almost bordering upon derision." Still there was reason to believe that the former Anglo-Russian disputes about Malta might be so far renewed as to bring Bonaparte and Alexander to an understanding. The sentimental Liberalism of the young Czar predisposed him towards a French alliance, and his whole disposition inclined him towards the brilliant opportunism of Paris rather than the frigid legitimacy of the Court of St. James. The Maltese affair and the possibility of reopening the Eastern Question were the two sources of hope to the promoters of a Franco-Russian alliance; for both these questions appealed to the chivalrous love of adventure and to the calculating ambition so curiously blent in Alexander's nature. Such, then, was the motive which doubtless prompted Bonaparte's proposal concerning Valetta; such also were the reasons which certainly dictated its rejection by Great Britain.

justify;">In his interview with the First Consul at Paris, and in the subsequent negotiations at Amiens with Joseph Bonaparte, the question of Tobago and England's money claim for the support of French prisoners was found to be no less thorny than that of Malta. The Bonapartes firmly rejected the proposal for the retention of Tobago by England in lieu of her pecuniary demand. A Government which neglected to procure the insertion of its claim to Tobago among the Preliminaries of London could certainly not hope to regain that island in exchange for a concession to France that was in any degree disputable. But the two Bonapartes and Talleyrand now took their stand solely on the preliminaries, and politely waved on one side the earlier promises of M. Otto as unauthorized and invalid, They also closely scrutinized the British claim to an indemnity for the support of French prisoners. Though theoretically correct, it was open to an objection, which was urged by Bonaparte and Talleyrand with suave yet incisive irony. They suggested that the claim must be considered in relation to a counter-claim, soon to be sent from Paris, for the maintenance of all prisoners taken by the French from the various forces subsidized by Great Britain, a charge which "would probably not leave a balance so much in favour of His [Britannic] Majesty as His Government may have looked forward to." This retort was not so terrible as it appeared; for most of the papers necessary for the making up of the French counterclaim had been lost or destroyed during the Revolution. Yet the threat told with full effect on Cornwallis, who thereafter referred to the British claim as a "hopeless debt."[187] The officials of Downing Street drew a distinction between prisoners from armies merely subsidized by us and those taken from foreign forces actually under our control; but it is clear that Cornwallis ceased to press the claim. In fact, the British case was mismanaged from beginning to end: the accounts for the maintenance of French and Dutch prisoners were, in the first instance, wrongly drawn up; and there seems to have been little or no notion of the seriousness of the counter-claim, which came with all the effect of a volley from a masked battery, destructive alike to our diplomatic reputation and to our hope of retaining Tobago.


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