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

After Fructidor the Directory assumed overweening airs


Such

was the man who now commenced his chief life-work, the task of guiding Napoleon. "The mere name of Bonaparte is an aid which ought to smooth away all my difficulties"--these were the obsequious terms in which he began his correspondence with the great general. In reality, he distrusted him; but whether from diffidence, or from the weakness of his own position, which as yet was little more than that of the head clerk of his department, he did nothing to assert the predominance of civil over military influence in the negotiations now proceeding.

Two months before Talleyrand accepted office, Bonaparte had enlarged his original demands on Austria, and claimed for France the whole of the lands on the left or west bank of the Rhine, and for the Cisalpine Republic all the territory up to the River Adige. To these demands the Court of Vienna offered a tenacious resistance which greatly irritated him. "These people are so slow," he exclaimed, "they think that a peace like this ought to be meditated upon for three years first."

Concurrently with the Franco-Austrian negotiations, overtures for a peace between France and England were being discussed at Lille. Into these it is impossible to enter farther than to notice that in these efforts Pitt and the other British Ministers (except Grenville) were sincerely desirous of peace, and that negotiations broke down owing to the masterful tone adopted by the Directory. It was

perhaps unfortunate that Lord Malmesbury was selected as the English negotiator, for his behaviour in the previous year had been construed by the French as dilatory and insincere. But the Directors may on better evidence be charged with postponing a settlement until they had struck down their foes within France. Bonaparte's letters at this time show that he hoped for the conclusion of a peace with England, doubtless in order that his own pressure on Austria might be redoubled. In this he was to be disappointed. After Fructidor the Directory assumed overweening airs. Talleyrand was bidden to enjoin on the French plenipotentiaries the adoption of a loftier tone. Maret, the French envoy at Lille, whose counsels had ever been on the side of moderation, was abruptly replaced by a "Fructidorian"; and a decisive refusal was given to the English demand for the retention of Trinidad and the Cape, at the expense of Spain and the Batavian Republic respectively. Indeed, the Directory intended to press for the cession of the Channel Islands to France and of Gibraltar to Spain, and that, too, at the end of a maritime war fruitful in victories for the Union Jack.[88]

Towards the King of Sardinia the new Directory was equally imperious. The throne of Turin was now occupied by Charles Emmanuel IV. He succeeded to a troublous heritage. Threatened by democratic republics at Milan and Genoa, and still more by the effervescence of his own subjects, he strove to gain an offensive and defensive alliance with France, as the sole safeguard against revolution. To this end he offered 10,000 Piedmontese for service with Bonaparte, and even secretly covenanted to cede the island of Sardinia to France. But these offers could not divert Barras and his colleagues from their revolutionary policy. They spurned the alliance with the House of Savoy, and, despite the remonstrances of Bonaparte, they fomented civil discords in Piedmont such as endangered his communications with France. Indeed, the Directory after Fructidor was deeply imbued with fear of their commander in Italy. To increase his difficulties was now their paramount desire; and under the pretext of extending liberty in Italy, they instructed Talleyrand to insist on the inclusion of Venice and Friuli in the Cisalpine Republic. Austria must be content with Trieste, Istria, and Dalmatia, must renounce all interest in the fate of the Ionian Isles, and find in Germany all compensation for her losses in Italy. Such was the ultimatum of the Directory (September 16th). But a loophole of escape was left to Bonaparte; the conduct of these negotiations was confided solely to him, and he had already decided their general tenor by giving his provisional assent to the acquisition by Austria of the east bank of the Adige and the city of Venice. From these terms he was disinclined to diverge. He was weary of "this old Europe": his gaze was directed towards Corfu, Malta, and Egypt; and when he received the official ultimatum, he saw that the Directory desired a renewal of the war under conditions highly embarrassing for him. "Yes: I see clearly that they are preparing defeats for me," he exclaimed to his aide-de-camp Lavalette. They angered him still more when, on the death of Hoche, they intrusted their Rhenish forces, numbering 120,000 men, to the command of Augereau, and sent to the Army of Italy an officer bearing a manifesto written by Augereau concerning Fructidor, which set forth the anxiety felt by the Directors concerning Bonaparte's political views. At this Bonaparte fired up and again offered his resignation (September 25th):


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