free ebooks

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

But he still inflexibly opposed any retention of Malta


many persons his position has seemed logically unassailable; but it is difficult to see how this view can be held. The Treaty of Amiens had twice over been rendered, in a technical sense, null and void by the action of Continental Powers. Russia and Prussia had not guaranteed the state of things arranged for Malta by that treaty; and the action of France and Spain in confiscating the property of the Knights in their respective lands had so far sapped the strength of the Order that it could never again support the expense of the large garrison which the lines around Valetta required.

In a military sense, this was the crux of the problem; for no one affected to believe that Malta was rendered secure by the presence at Valetta of 2,000 troops of the King of Naples, whose realm could within a week be overrun by Murat's division. This obvious difficulty led Lord Hawkesbury to urge, in his notes of April 13th and later, that British troops should garrison the chief fortifications of Valetta and leave the civil power to the Knights: or, if that were found objectionable, that we should retain complete possession of the island for ten years, provided that we were left free to negotiate with the King of Naples for the cession of Lampedusa, an islet to the west of Malta. To this last proposal the First Consul offered no objection; but he still inflexibly opposed any retention of Malta, even for ten years, and sought to make the barren islet of Lampedusa

appear an equivalent to Malta. This absurd contention had, however, been exploded by Talleyrand's indiscreet confession "that the re-establishment of the Order of St. John was not so much the point to be discussed as that of suffering Great Britain to acquire a _possession in the Mediterranean_."[253]

This, indeed, was the pith and marrow of the whole question, whether Great Britain was to be excluded from that great sea--save at Gibraltar and Lampedusa--looking on idly at its transformation into a French lake by the seizure of Corfu, the Morea, Egypt, and Malta itself; or whether she should retain some hold on the overland route to the East. The difficulty was frankly pointed out by Lord Whitworth; it was as frankly admitted by Joseph Bonaparte; it was recognized by Talleyrand; and Napoleon's desire for a durable peace must have been slight when he refused to admit England's claim effectively to safeguard her interests in the Levant, and ever fell back on the literal fulfilment of a treaty which had been invalidated by his own deliberate actions.

Affairs now rapidly came to a climax. On April 23rd the British Government notified its ambassador that, if the present terms were not granted within seven days of his receiving them, he was to leave Paris. Napoleon was no less angered than surprised by the recent turn of events. In place of timid complaisance which he had expected from Addington, he was met with open defiance; but he now proposed that the Czar should offer his intervention between the disputants. The suggestion was infinitely skilful. It flattered the pride of the young autocrat and promised to yield gains as substantial as those which Russian mediation had a year before procured for France from the intimidated Sultan; it would help to check the plans for an Anglo-Russian alliance then being mooted at St. Petersburg, and, above all, it served to gain time.

All these advantages were to a large extent realized. Though the Czar had been the first to suggest our retention of Malta, he now began to waver. The clearness and precision of Talleyrand's notes, and the telling charge of perfidy against England, made an impression which the cumbrous retorts of Lord Hawkesbury and the sailor-like diplomacy of Admiral Warren failed to efface.[254] And the Russian Chancellor, Vorontzoff, though friendly to England, and desirous of seeing her firmly established at Malta, now began to complain of the want of clearness in her policy. The Czar emphasized this complaint, and suggested that, as Malta could not be the real cause of dispute, the British Government should formulate distinctly its grievances and so set the matter in train for a settlement. The suggestion was not complied with. To draw up a long list of complaints, some drawn from secret sources and exposing the First Consul's schemes, would have exasperated his already ruffled temper; and the proposal can only be regarded as an adroit means of justifying Alexander's sudden change of front.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us