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

But also relied on its maritime resources


The

motives of Alexander were less questionable. His chief desire at that time was to improve the lot of his people. War would disarrange these noble designs: France would inevitably overrun the weaker Continental States: England would retaliate by enforcing her severe maritime code; and the whole world would be rent in twain by this strife of the elements.

These gloomy forebodings were soon to be realized. Holland was the first to suffer. And yet one effort was made to spare her the horrors of war. Filled with commiseration for her past sufferings, the British Government at once offered to respect her neutrality, provided that the French troops would evacuate her fortresses and exact no succour either in ships, men, or money.[264] But such forbearance was scarcely to be expected from Napoleon, who not only had a French division in that land, supported at its expense, but also relied on its maritime resources.[265] The proposal was at once set aside at Paris. Napoleon's decision to drag the Batavian Republic into the war arose, however, from no spasm of the war fever; it was calmly stated in the secret instructions issued to General Decaen in the preceding January. "It is now considered impossible that we could have war with England, without dragging Holland into it." Holland was accordingly once more ground between the upper and the nether millstone, between the Sea Power and the Land Power, pouring out for Napoleon its resources in men and money,

and losing to the masters of the sea its ships, foreign commerce, and colonies.

Equally hard was the treatment of Naples. In spite of the Czar's plea that its neutrality might be respected, this kingdom was at once occupied by St. Cyr with troops that held the chief positions on the "heel" of Italy. This infraction of the Treaty of Florence was to be justified by a proclamation asserting that, as England had retained Malta, the balance of power required that France should hold these positions as long as England held Malta.[266] This action punished the King and Queen of Naples for their supposed subservience to English policy; and, while lightening the burdens of the French exchequer, it compelled England to keep a large fleet in the Mediterranean for the protection of Egypt, and thereby weakened her defensive powers in the Straits of Dover. To distract his foes, and compel them to extend their lines, was ever Napoleon's aim both in military and naval strategy; and the occupation of Taranto, together with the naval activity at Toulon and Genoa, left it doubtful whether the great captain determined to strike at London or to resume his eastern adventures. His previous moves all seemed to point towards Egypt and India; and the Admiralty instructions of May 18th, 1803, to Nelson, reveal the expectation of our Government that the real blow would fall on the Morea and Egypt. Six weeks later our admiral reported the activity of French intrigues in the Morea, which was doubtless intended to be their halfway house to Egypt--"when sooner or later, farewell India."[267] Proofs of Napoleon's designs on the Morea were found by Captain Keats of H.M.S. "Superb" on a French vessel that he captured, a French corporal having on him a secret letter from an agent at Corfu, dated May 23rd, 1803. It ended thus:

"I have every reason to believe that we shall soon have a revolution in the Morea, as we desire. I have close relations with Crepacchi, and we are in daily correspondence with all the chiefs of the Morea: we have even provided them with munitions of war."[268]


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