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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

De Choiseul as to the evacuation of Hesse and Hanover


Maria

Theresa, however, was in no hurry to enter into negotiations; her enemy seemed to be bending at last beneath the weight of the double Austrian and Russian attack. At one time Frederick had thought that he saw all Germany rallying round him; now, beaten and cantoned in Saxony, with the Austrians in front of him, during the winter of 1760, he was everywhere seeking alliances and finding himself everywhere rejected. "I have but two allies left," he would say, "valor and perseverance." Repeated victories, gained at the sword's point, by dint of boldness and in the extremity of peril, could not even protect Berlin. The capital of Prussia found itself constrained to open its gates to the enemy, on the sole condition that the regiments of Cossacks should not pass the line of enclosure. When the regular troops withdrew, the generals had not been able to prevent the city from being pillaged. The heroic efforts of the King of Prussia ended merely in preserving to him a foothold in Saxony. The Russians occupied Poland.

Marshal Broglie, on becoming general-in-chief of the French army, had succeeded in holding his own in Hesse; he frequently made Hanover anxious. To turn his attention elsewhither and in hopes of deciding the French to quit Germany, the hereditary Prince of Brunswick attempted a diversion on the Lower Rhine; he laid siege to Wesel, whilst the English were preparing for a descent at Antwerp. Marshal Broglie detached M. de Castries to

protect the city. The French corps had just arrived; it was bivouacking. On the night between the 15th and 16th of October, Chevalier d'Assas, captain in the regiment of Auvergne, was sent to reconnoitre. He had advanced some distance from his men, and happened to stumble upon a large force of the enemy. The Prince of Brunswick was preparing to attack. All the muskets covered the young captain. "Stir, and thou'rt a dead man," muttered threatening voices. Without replying, M. d'Assas collected all his strength and shouted, "Auvergne! Here are the foe!" At the same instant he fell pierced by twenty balls. [Accounts differ; but this is the tradition of the Assas family.] The action thus begun was a glorious one. The hereditary prince was obliged to abandon the siege of Wesel and to recross the Rhine. The French divisions maintained their positions.

[Illustration: Death of Chevalier D'Assas----233]

The war went on as bloodily as monotonously and fruitlessly, but the face of Europe had lately altered. The old King George II., who died on the 25th of September, 1760, had been succeeded on the throne of England by his grandson, George III., aged twenty-two, the first really native sovereign who had been called to reign over England since the fall of the Stuarts. George I. and George II. were Germans, in their feelings and their manners as well as their language; the politic wisdom of the English people had put up with them, but not without effort and ill-humor; the accession of the young king was greeted with transport. Pitt still reigned over Parliament and over England, governing a free country sovereign-masterlike. His haughty prejudice against France still ruled all the decisions of the English government, but Lord Bute, the young monarch's adviser, was already whispering pacific counsels destined ere long to bear fruit. Pitt's dominion was tottering when the first overtures of peace arrived in London. The Duke of Choiseul proposed a congress. He at the same time negotiated directly with England. Whilst Pitt kept his answer waiting, an English squadron blockaded Belle-Isle, and the governor, M. de Sainte-Croix, left without relief, was forced to capitulate after an heroic resistance. When the conditions demanded by England were at last transmitted to Versailles, the English flag was floating over the citadel of Belle-Isle, the mouth of the Loire and of the Vilaine was blockaded. The arrogant pretensions of Mr. Pitt stopped at nothing short of preserving the conquests of England in both hemispheres; he claimed, besides, the demolition of Dunkerque "as a memorial forever of the yoke imposed upon France." Completely separating the interests of England from those of the German allies, he did not even reply to the proposals of M. de Choiseul as to the evacuation of Hesse and Hanover. Mistress of the sea, England intended to enjoy alone the fruits of her victories.


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