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

While the Moniteur bristled with articles whose short


have judged it advisable to give an account of Franco-Swiss relations on a scale proportionate to their interest and importance; they exhibit, not only the meanness and folly of the French Directory, but the genius of the great Corsican in skilfully blending the new and the old, and in his rejection of the fussy pedantry of French theorists and the worst prejudices of the Swiss oligarchs. Had not his sage designs been intertwined with subtle intrigues which assured his own unquestioned supremacy in that land, the Act of Mediation might be reckoned among the grandest and most beneficent achievements. As it is, it must be regarded as a masterpiece of able but selfish statecraft, which contrasts unfavourably with the disinterested arrangements sanctioned by the allies for Switzerland in 1815.

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The re-occupation of Switzerland by the French in October, 1802, was soon followed by other serious events, which convinced the British Ministry that war was hardly to be avoided. Indeed, before the treaty was ratified, ominous complaints had begun to pass between Paris and London.

Some of these were trivial, others were highly important. Among the latter was the question of commercial intercourse. The British

Ministry had neglected to obtain any written assurance that trade relations should be resumed between the two countries; and the First Consul, either prompted by the protectionist theories of the Jacobins, or because he wished to exert pressure upon England in order to extort further concessions, determined to restrict trade with us to the smallest possible dimensions. This treatment of England was wholly exceptional, for in his treaties concluded with Russia, Portugal, and the Porte, Napoleon had procured the insertion of clauses which directly fostered French trade with those lands. Remonstrances soon came from the British Government that "strict prohibitions were being enforced to the admission of British commodities and manufactures into France, and very vigorous restrictions were imposed on British vessels entering French ports"; but, in spite of all representations, we had the mortification of seeing the hardware of Birmingham, and the ever-increasing stores of cotton and woollen goods, shut out from France and her subject-lands, as well as from the French colonies which we had just handed back.

In this policy of commercial prohibition Napoleon was confirmed by our refusal to expel the Bourbon princes. He declined to accept our explanation that they were not officially recognized, and could not be expelled from England without a violation of the rights of hospitality; and he bitterly complained of the personal attacks made upon him in journals published in London by the French _emigres_. Of these the most acrid, namely, those of Peltier's paper, "L'Ambigu," had already received the reprobation of the British Ministry; but, as had been previously explained at Amiens, the Addington Cabinet decided that it could not venture to curtail the liberty of the Press, least of all at the dictation of the very man who was answering the pop-guns of our unofficial journals by double-shotted retorts in the official "Moniteur." Of these last His Majesty did not deign to make any formal complaint; but he suggested that their insertion in the organ of the French Government should have prevented Napoleon from preferring the present protests.

This wordy war proceeded with unabated vigour on both sides of the Channel, the British journals complaining of the Napoleonic dictatorship in Continental affairs, while the "Moniteur" bristled with articles whose short, sharp sentences could come only from the First Consul. The official Press hitherto had been characterized by dull decorum, and great was the surprise of the older Courts when the French official journals compared the policy of the Court of St. James with the methods of the Barbary rovers and the designs of the Miltonic Satan.[229] Nevertheless, our Ministry prosecuted and convicted Peltier for libel, an act which, at the time, produced an excellent impression at Paris.[230]

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