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

Aping the tactics of Ali Pacha


The

despatches of our ambassador at St. Petersburg, Lord St. Helens, and of his successor, Admiral Warren, are of the same tenor. They report the Czar's annoyance with England over the Maltese affair, and his refusal to listen even to the joint Anglo-French request, of November 18th, 1802, for his guarantee of the Amiens arrangements.[233] A week later Alexander announced that he would guarantee the independence of Malta, provided that the complete sovereignty of the Knights of St. John was recognized--that is, without any participation of the native Maltese in the affairs of that Order--and that the island should be garrisoned by Neapolitan troops, paid by France and England, until the Knights should be able to maintain their independence. This reopening of the question discussed, _ad nauseam_, at Amiens proved that the Maltese Question would long continue to perplex the world. The matter was still further complicated by the abolition of the Priories, Commanderies, and property of the Order of St. John by the French Government in the spring of 1802--an example which was imitated by the Court of Madrid in the following autumn; and as the property of the Knights in the French part of Italy had also lapsed, it was difficult to see how the scattered and impoverished Knights could form a stable government, especially if the native Maltese were not to be admitted to a share in public affairs. This action of France, Spain, and Russia fully warranted the British Government in not admitting
into the fortress the 2,000 Neapolitan troops that arrived in the autumn of 1802. Our evacuation of Malta was conditioned by several stipulations, five of which had not been fulfilled.[234] But the difficulties arising out of the reconstruction of this moribund Order were as nothing when compared with those resulting from the reopening of a far vaster and more complex question--the "eternal" Eastern Question.

Rarely has the mouldering away of the Turkish Empire gone on so rapidly as at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Corruption and favouritism paralyzed the Government at Constantinople; masterful pachas, aping the tactics of Ali Pacha, the virtual ruler of Albania, were beginning to carve out satrapies in Syria, Asia Minor, Wallachia, and even in Roumelia itself. Such was the state of Turkey when the Sultan and his advisers heard with deep concern, in October, 1801, that the only Power on whose friendship they could firmly rely was about to relinquish Malta. At once he sent an earnest appeal to George III. begging him not to evacuate the island. This despatch is not in the archives of our Foreign Office; but the letter written from Malta by Lord Elgin, our ambassador at Constantinople, on his return home, sufficiently shows that the Sultan was conscious of his own weakness and of the schemes of partition which were being concocted at Paris. Bonaparte had already begun to sound both Austria and Russia on this subject, deftly hinting that the Power which did not early join in the enterprise would come poorly off. For the present both the rulers rejected his overtures; but he ceased not to hope that the anarchy in Turkey, and the jealousy which partition schemes always arouse among neighbours, would draw first one and then the other into his enterprise.[235]


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