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

Accordingly Markoff wrote to his colleague at London


the fulfilment of these bright hopes one thing alone was needed, a policy of peace and naval preparation. As yet Napoleon's navy was comparatively weak. In March, 1803, he had only forty-three line-of-battle ships, ten of which were on distant stations; but he had ordered twenty-three more to be built--ten of them in Holland; and, with the harbours of France, Holland, Flanders, and Northern Italy at his disposal, he might hope, at the close of 1804, to confront the flag of St. George with a superiority of force. That was the time which his secret instructions to Decaen marked out for the outbreak of the war that would yield to the tricolour a world-wide supremacy.

These schemes miscarried owing to the impetuosity of their contriver. Hustled out of the arena of European politics, and threatened with French supremacy in the other Continents, England forthwith drew the sword; and her action, cutting athwart the far-reaching web of the Napoleonic intrigues, forced France to forego her oceanic plans, to muster her forces on the Straits of Dover, and thereby to yield to the English race the supremacy in Louisiana, India, and Australia, leaving also the destinies of Egypt to be decided in a later age. Viewed from the standpoint of racial expansion, the renewal of war in 1803 is the greatest event of the century.

[Since this chapter was printed, articles on the same subject have appeared in the "Revue Historique" (March-June,

1901) by M. Philippson, which take almost the same view as that here presented. I cannot, however, agree with the learned writer that Napoleon wanted war. I think he did not, _until his navy was ready_; but it was not in him to give way.]


M. Coquelle, in a work which has been translated into English by Mr. Gordon D. Knox (G. Bell and Sons, Ltd.), has shown clearly that the non-evacuation of Holland by Napoleon's troops and the subjection of that Republic to French influence formed the chief causes of war. I refer my readers to that work for details of the negotiations in their final stages.

* * * * *



The disappointment felt by Napoleon at England's interruption of his designs may be measured, first by his efforts to postpone the rupture, and thereafter by the fierce energy which he threw into the war. As has been previously noted, the Czar had responded to the First Consul's appeal for mediation in notes which seemed to the British Cabinet unjustly favourable to the French case. Napoleon now offered to recognize the arbitration of the Czar on the questions in dispute, and suggested that meanwhile Malta should be handed over to Russia to be held in pledge: he on his part offered to evacuate Hanover, Switzerland, and Holland, if the British would suspend hostilities, to grant an indemnity to the King of Sardinia, to allow Britain to occupy Lampedusa, and fully to assure "the independence of Europe," if France retained her present frontiers. But when the Russian envoy, Markoff, urged him to crown these proposals by allowing Britain to hold Malta for a certain time, thereafter to be agreed upon, he firmly refused to do so on his own initiative, for that would soil his honour: but he would view with resignation its cession to Britain if that proved to be the award of Alexander. Accordingly Markoff wrote to his colleague at London, assuring him that the peace of the world was now once again assured by the noble action of the First Consul.[260]

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