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

Commodore Baudin effected a landing on King Island


from the compilation of the most accurate map of Australia which had then appeared, and the naming of several features on its coasts--_e.g._, Capes Berrouilli and Gantheaume, the Bays of Rivoli and of Lacepede, and the Freycinet Peninsula, which are still retained--the French expedition achieved no geographical results of the first importance.

Its political aims now claim attention. A glance at the accompanying map will show that, under the guise of being an emissary of civilization, Commodore Baudin was prepared to claim half the continent for France. Indeed, his final inquiry at Sydney about the extent of the British claims on the Pacific coast was so significant as to elicit from Governor King the reply that the whole of Van Diemen's Land and of the coast from Cape Howe on the south of the mainland to Cape York on the north was British territory. King also notified the suspicious action of the French Commander to the Home Government; and when the French sailed away to explore the coast of southern and central Australia he sent a ship to watch their proceedings. When, therefore, Commodore Baudin effected a landing on King Island, the Union Jack was speedily hoisted and saluted by the blue-jackets of the British vessel; for it was rumoured that French officers had said that King Island would afford a good station for the command of Bass Strait and the seizure of British ships. This was probably mere gossip. Baudin in his interviews with Governor

King at Sydney disclaimed any intention of seizing Van Diemen's Land; but he afterwards stated that _he did not know what were the plans of the French Government with regard to that island_.[216]

Long before this dark saying could be known at Westminster, the suspicions of our Government had been aroused; and, on February 13th, 1803, Lord Hobart penned a despatch to Governor King bidding him to take every precaution against French annexations, and to form settlements in Van Diemen's Land and at Port Phillip. The station of Risden was accordingly planted on the estuary of the Derwent, a little above the present town of Hobart; while on the shores of Port Phillip another expedition sent out from the mother country sought, but for the present in vain, to find a suitable site. The French cruise therefore exerted on the fortunes of the English and French peoples an influence such as has frequently accrued from their colonial rivalry: it spurred on the island Power to more vigorous efforts than she would otherwise have put forth, and led to the discomfiture of her continental rival. The plans of Napoleon for the acquisition of Van Diemen's Land and the middle of Australia had an effect like that which the ambition of Montcalm, Dupleix, Lally, and Perron has exerted on the ultimate destiny of many a vast and fertile territory.

Still, in spite of the destruction of his fleet at Trafalgar, Napoleon held to his Australian plans. No fact, perhaps, is more suggestive of the dogged tenacity of his will than his order to Peron and Freycinet to publish through the Imperial Press at Paris an exhaustive account of their Australian voyage, accompanied by maps which claimed half of that continent for the tricolour flag. It appeared in 1807, the year of Tilsit and of the plans for the partition of Portugal and her colonies between France and Spain. The hour seemed at last to have struck for the assertion of French supremacy in other continents, now that the Franco-Russian alliance had durably consolidated it in Europe. And who shall say that, but for the Spanish Rising and the genius of Wellington, a vast colonial empire might not have been won for France, had Napoleon been free to divert his energies away from this "old Europe" of which he professed to be utterly weary?

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