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

If England meant to keep Toulon


It

remains briefly to consider a question of special interest to English readers. Did the Pitt Ministry intend to betray the confidence of the French royalists and keep Toulon for England? The charge has been brought by certain French writers that the British, after entering Toulon with promise that they would hold it in pledge for Louis XVII., nevertheless lorded it over the other allies and revealed their intention of keeping that stronghold. These writers aver that Hood, after entering Toulon as an equal with the Spanish admiral, Langara, laid claim to entire command of the land forces; that English commissioners were sent for the administration of the town; and that the English Government refused to allow the coming of the Comte de Provence, who, as the elder of the two surviving brothers of Louis XVI., was entitled to act on behalf of Louis XVII.[26] The facts in the main are correct, but the interpretation put upon them may well be questioned. Hood certainly acted with much arrogance towards the Spaniards. But when the more courteous O'Hara arrived to take command of the British, Neapolitan, and Sardinian troop, the new commander agreed to lay aside the question of supreme command. It was not till November 30th that the British Government sent off any despatch on the question, which meanwhile had been settled at Toulon by the exercise of that tact in which Hood seems signally to have been lacking. The whole question was personal, not national.

Still

less was the conduct of the British Government towards the Comte de Provence a proof of its design to keep Toulon. The records of our Foreign Office show that, before the occupation of that stronghold for Louis XVII., we had declined to acknowledge the claims of his uncle to the Regency. He and his brother, the Comte d'Artois, were notoriously unpopular in France, except with royalists of the old school; and their presence at Toulon would certainly have raised awkward questions about the future government. The conduct of Spain had hitherto been similar.[27] But after the occupation of Toulon, the Court of Madrid judged the presence of the Comte de Provence in that fortress to be advisable; whereas the Pitt Ministry adhered to its former belief, insisted on the difficulty of conducting the defence if the Prince were present as Regent, instructed Mr. Drake, our Minister at Genoa, to use every argument to deter him from proceeding to Toulon, and privately ordered our officers there, in the last resort, to refuse him permission to land. The instructions of October 18th to the royal commissioners at Toulon show that George III. and his Ministers believed they would be compromising the royalist cause by recognizing a regency; and certainly any effort by the allies to prejudice the future settlement would at once have shattered any hopes of a general rally to the royalist side.[28]

Besides, if England meant to keep Toulon, why did she send only 2,200 soldiers? Why did she admit, not only 6,900 Spaniards, but also 4,900 Neapolitans and 1,600 Piedmontese? Why did she accept the armed help of 1,600 French royalists? Why did she urgently plead with Austria to send 5,000 white-coats from Milan? Why, finally, is there no word in the British official despatches as to the eventual keeping of Toulon; while there are several references to _indemnities_ which George III. would require for the expenses of the war--such as Corsica or some of the French West Indies? Those despatches show conclusively that England did not wish to keep a fortress that required a permanent garrison equal to half of the British army on its peace footing; but that she did regard it as a good base of operations for the overthrow of the Jacobin rule and the restoration of monarchy; whereupon her services must be requited with some suitable indemnity, either one of the French West Indies or Corsica. These plans were shattered by Buonaparte's skill and the valour of Dugommier's soldiery; but no record has yet leaped to light to convict the Pitt Ministry of the perfidy which Buonaparte, in common with nearly all Frenchmen, charged to their account.


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