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

He had barely enough to hold the line of the Adige


now despatched Massena's division northwards, to coop up the Austrians in the narrow valley of the upper Adige, while other regiments began to close in on Mantua. The peculiarities of the ground favoured its investment. The semicircular lagoon which guards Mantua on the north, and the marshes on the south side, render an assault very difficult; but they also limit the range of ground over which sorties can be made, thereby lightening the work of the besiegers; and during part of the blockade Napoleon left fewer than five thousand men for this purpose. It was clear, however, that the reduction of Mantua would be a tedious undertaking, such as Bonaparte's daring and enterprising genius could ill brook, and that his cherished design of marching northwards to effect a junction with Moreau on the Danube was impossible. Having only 40,400 men with him at midsummer, he had barely enough to hold the line of the Adige, to blockade Mantua, and to keep open his communications with France.

At the command of the Directory he turned southward against feebler foes. The relations between the Papal States and the French Republic had been hostile since the assassination of the French envoy, Basseville, at Rome, in the early days of 1793; but the Pope, Pius VI., had confined himself to anathemas against the revolutionists and prayers for the success of the First Coalition.

This conduct now drew upon him a sharp blow. French troops

crossed the Po and seized Bologna, whereupon the terrified cardinals signed an armistice with the republican commander, agreeing to close all their States to the English, and to admit a French garrison to the port of Ancona. The Pope also consented to yield up "one hundred pictures, busts, vases, or statues, as the French Commissioners shall determine, among which shall especially be included the bronze bust of Junius Brutus and the marble bust of Marcus Brutus, together with five hundred manuscripts." He was also constrained to pay 15,500,000 francs, besides animals and goods such as the French agents should requisition for their army, exclusive of the money and materials drawn from the districts of Bologna and Ferrara. The grand total, in money, and in kind, raised from the Papal States in this profitable raid, was reckoned by Bonaparte himself as 34,700,000 francs,[55] or about; L1,400,000--a liberal assessment for the life of a single envoy and the _bruta fulmina_ of the Vatican.

Equally lucrative was a dash into Tuscany. As the Grand Duke of this fertile land had allowed English cruisers and merchants certain privileges at Leghorn, this was taken as a departure from the neutrality which he ostensibly maintained since the signature of a treaty of peace with France in 1795. A column of the republicans now swiftly approached Leghorn and seized much valuable property from British merchants. Yet the invaders failed to secure the richest of the hoped-for plunder; for about forty English merchantmen sheered off from shore as the troops neared the seaport, and an English frigate, swooping down, carried off two French vessels almost under the eyes of Bonaparte himself. This last outrage gave, it is true, a slight excuse for the levying of requisitions in Leghorn and its environs; yet, according to the memoir-writer, Miot de Melito, this unprincipled action must be attributed not to Bonaparte, but to the urgent needs of the French treasury and the personal greed of some of the Directors. Possibly also the French commissioners and agents, who levied blackmail or selected pictures, may have had some share in the shaping of the Directorial policy: at least, it is certain that some of them, notably Salicetti, amassed a large fortune from the plunder of Leghorn. In order to calm the resentment of the Grand Duke, Bonaparte paid a brief visit to Florence. He was received in respectful silence as he rode through the streets where his ancestors had schemed for the Ghibelline cause. By a deft mingling of courtesy and firmness the new conqueror imposed his will on the Government of Florence, and then sped northward to press on the siege of Mantua.

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