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

But Cornwallis finally assented to Article XVIII


Though

this complex question was thus adjusted by March 17th, other matters delayed a settlement.

Hawkesbury still demanded a definite indemnity for the Prince of Orange, but Cornwallis finally assented to Article XVIII. of the treaty, which vaguely promised "an adequate compensation." Cornwallis also persuaded his chief to waive his claims for the direct participation of Turkey in the treaty. The British demand for an indemnity for the expense of supporting French prisoners was to be relegated to commissioners--who never met. Indeed, this was the only polite way of escaping from the untenable position which our Government had heedlessly taken upon this topic.

It is clear from the concluding despatches of Cornwallis that he was wheedled by Joseph Bonaparte into conceding more than the British Government had empowered him to do; and, though the "secret and most confidential" despatch of March 22nd cautioned him against narrowing too much the ground of a rupture, if a rupture should still occur, yet three days later, and _after the receipt of this despatch_, he signed the terms of peace with Joseph Bonaparte, and two days later with the other signatory Powers.[196] It may well be doubted whether peace would ever have been signed but for the skill of Joseph Bonaparte in polite cajolery and the determination of Cornwallis to arrive at an understanding. In any case the final act of signature

was distinctly the act, not of the British Government, but of its plenipotentiary.

That fact is confirmed by his admission, on March 28th, that he had yielded where he was ordered to remain inflexible. At St. Helena, Napoleon also averred that after Cornwallis had definitely pledged himself to sign the treaty as it stood on the night of March 24th, he received instructions in a contrary sense from Downing Street; that nevertheless he held himself bound by his promise and signed the treaty on the following day, observing that his Government, if dissatisfied, might refuse to ratify it, but that, having pledged his word, he felt bound to abide by it. This story seems consonant with the whole behaviour of Cornwallis, so creditable to him as a man, so damaging to him as a diplomatist. The later events of the negotiation aroused much annoyance at Downing Street, and the conduct of Cornwallis met with chilling disapproval.

The First Consul, on the other hand, showed his appreciation of his brother's skill with unusual warmth; for when they appeared together at the opera in Paris, he affectionately thrust his elder brother to the front of the State box to receive the plaudits of the audience at the advent of a definite peace. That was surely the purest and noblest joy which the brothers ever tasted.

With what feelings of pride, not unmixed with awe, must the brothers have surveyed their career. Less than nine years had elapsed since their family fled from Corsica, and landed on the coast of Provence, apparently as bankrupt in their political hopes as in their material fortunes. Thrice did the fickle goddess cast Napoleon to the ground in the first two years of his new life, only that his wondrous gifts and sublime self-confidence might tower aloft the more conspicuously, bewildering alike the malcontents of Paris, the generals of the old Empire, the peoples of the Levant, and the statesmen of Britain. Of all these triumphs assuredly the last was not the least. The Peace of Amiens left France the arbitress of Europe, and, by restoring to her all her lost colonies, it promised to place her in the van of the oceanic and colonizing peoples.


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