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

Whitworth was to make moderate but firm remonstrances


style="text-align: justify;">But more serious matters were now at hand. Newspaper articles and commercial restrictions were not the cause of war, however much they irritated the two peoples.

The general position of Anglo-French affairs in the autumn of 1802 is well described in the official instructions given to Lord Whitworth when he was about to proceed as ambassador to Paris. For this difficult duty he had several good qualifications. During his embassy at St. Petersburg he had shown a combination of tact and firmness which imposed respect, and doubtless his composure under the violent outbreaks of the Czar Paul furnished a recommendation for the equally trying post at Paris, which he filled with a _sang froid_ that has become historic. Possibly a more genial personality might have smoothed over some difficulties at the Tuileries: but the Addington Ministry, having tried geniality in the person of Cornwallis, naturally selected a man who was remarkable for his powers of quiet yet firm resistance.

His first instructions of September 10th, 1802, are such as might be drawn up between any two Powers entering on a long term of peace. But the series of untoward events noticed above overclouded the political horizon; and the change finds significant expression in the secret instructions of November 14th. He is now charged to state George III.'s determination "never to forego his right of interfering in the affairs

of the Continent on any occasion in which the interests of his own dominions or those of Europe in general may appear to him to require it." A French despatch is then quoted, as admitting that, for every considerable gain of France on the Continent, Great Britain had some claim to compensation: and such a claim, it was hinted, might now be proffered after the annexation of Piedmont and Parma. Against the continued occupation of Holland by French troops and their invasion of Switzerland, Whitworth was to make moderate but firm remonstrances, but in such a way as not to commit us finally. He was to employ an equal discretion with regard to Malta. As Russia and Prussia had as yet declined to guarantee the arrangements for that island's independence, it was evident that the British troops could not yet be withdrawn.

"His Majesty would certainly be justified in claiming the possession of Malta, as some counterpoise to the acquisitions of France, since the conclusion of the definitive treaty: but it is not necessary to decide now whether His Majesty will be disposed to avail himself of his pretensions in this respect."

Thus between September 10th and November 14th we passed from a distinctly pacific to a bellicose attitude, and all but formed the decision to demand Malta as a compensation for the recent aggrandizements of France. To have declared war at once on these grounds would certainly have been more dignified. But, as our Ministry had already given way on many topics, a sudden declaration of war on Swiss and Italian affairs would have stultified its complaisant conduct on weightier subjects. Moreover, the whole drift of eighteenth-century diplomacy, no less than Bonaparte's own admission, warranted the hope of securing Malta by way of "compensation." The adroit bargainer, who was putting up German Church lands for sale, who had gained Louisiana by the Parma-Tuscany exchange, and still professed to the Czar his good intentions as to an "indemnity" for the King of Sardinia, might well be expected to admit the principle of compensation in Anglo-French relations when these were being jeopardized by French aggrandizement; and, as will shortly appear, the First Consul, while professing to champion international law against perfidious Albion, privately admitted her right to compensation, and only demurred to its practical application when his oriental designs were thereby compromised.


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