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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 10/202 -


disappointed of victory, the King of Prussia began to listen to proposals of peace sent to him by Dumouriez. [20] A week spent in negotiation served only to strengthen the French and to aggravate the scarcity and sickness within the German camp. Dissensions broke out between the Prussian and Austrian commanders; a retreat was ordered; and to the astonishment of Europe the veteran forces of Brunswick fell back before the mutinous soldiery and unknown generals of the Revolution, powerless to delay for a single month the evacuation of France and the restoration of the fortresses which they had captured.

[The Convention meets. Proclaims Republic, Sept. 21.]

[The war becomes a crusade of democracy.]

In the meantime the Legislative Assembly had decreed its own dissolution in consequence of the overthrow of the monarchy on August both, and had ordered the election of representatives to frame a constitution for France. The elections were held in the crisis of invasion, in the height of national indignation against the alliance of the aristocracy with the foreigner, and, in some districts, under the influence of men who had not shrunk from ordering the massacres in the prisons. At such a moment a Constitutional Royalist had scarcely more chance of election than a detected spy from the enemy's camp. The Girondins, who had been the party of extremes in the Legislative Assembly, were the party of moderation and order in the Convention. By their side there were returned men whose whole being seemed to be compounded out of the forces of conflict, men who, sometimes without conscious depravity, carried into political and social struggles that direct, unquestioning employment of force which has ordinarily been reserved for war or for the diffusion of religious doctrines. The moral differences that separated this party from the Gironde were at once conspicuous: the political creed of the two parties appeared at first to be much the same. Monarchy was abolished, and France declared a Republic (Sept. 21). Office continued in the hands of the Gironde; but the vehement, uncompromising spirit of their rivals, the so-called party of the Mountain, quickly made itself felt in all the relations of France to foreign Powers. The intention of conquest might still be disavowed, as it had been five months before; but were the converts to liberty to be denied the right of uniting themselves to the French people by their own free will? When the armies of the Republic had swept its assailants from the border-provinces that gave them entrance into France, were those provinces to be handed back to a government of priests and nobles? The scruples which had condemned all annexation of territory vanished in that orgy of patriotism which followed the expulsion of the invader and the discovery that the Revolution was already a power in other lands than France. The nation that had to fight the battle of European freedom must appeal to the spirit of freedom wherever it would answer the call: the conflict with sovereigns must be maintained by arming their subjects against them in every land. In this conception of the universal alliance of the nations, the Governments with which France was not yet at war were scarcely distinguished from those which had pronounced against her. The frontier-lines traced by an obsolete diplomacy, the artificial guarantees of treaties, were of little account against the living and inalienable sovereignty of the people. To men inflamed with the passions of 1792 an argument of international law scarcely conveyed more meaning than to Peter the Hermit. Among the statesmen of other lands, who had no intention of abandoning all the principles recognised as the public right of Europe, the language now used by France could only be understood as the avowal of indiscriminate aggression.

[The neighbors of France.]

The Revolution had displayed itself in France as a force of union as well as of division. It had driven the nobles across the frontier; it had torn the clergy from their altars; but it had reconciled sullen Corsica; and by abolishing feudal rights it had made France the real fatherland of the Teutonic peasant in Alsace and Lorraine. It was now about to prove its attractive power in foreign lands. At the close of the last century the nationalities of Europe were far less consolidated than they are at present; only on the Spanish and the Swiss frontier had France a neighbour that could be called a nation. On the north, what is now the kingdom of Belgium was in 1792 a collection of provinces subject to the House of Austria. The German population both of the districts west of the Rhine and of those opposite to Alsace was parcelled out among a number of petty principalities. Savoy, though west of the chain of the Alps and French in speech, formed part of the kingdom of Piedmont, which was itself severed by history and by national character from the other States of Northern Italy. Along the entire frontier, from Dunkirk to the Maritime Alps, France nowhere touched a strong, united, and independent people; and along this entire frontier, except in the country opposite Alsace, the armed proselytism of the French Revolution proved a greater force than the influences on which the existing order of things depended. In the Low Countries, in the Principalities of the Rhine, in Switzerland, in Savoy, in Piedmont itself, the doctrines of the Revolution were welcomed by a more or less numerous class, and the armies of France appeared, though but for a moment, as the missionaries of liberty and right rather than as an invading enemy.

[Custine enters Mainz, Oct. 20.]

No sooner had Brunswick been brought to a stand by Dumouriez at Valmy than a French division under Custine crossed the Alsatian frontier and advanced upon Spires, where Brunswick had left large stores of war. The garrison was defeated in an encounter outside the town; Spires and Worms surrendered to Custine. In the neighbouring fortress of Mainz, the key to Western Germany, Custine's advance was watched by a republican party among the inhabitants, from whom the French general learnt that he had only to appear before the city to become its master. Brunswick had indeed apprehended the failure of his invasion of France, but he had never given a thought to the defence of Germany; and, although the King of Prussia had been warned of the defenceless state of Mainz, no steps had been taken beyond the payment of a sum of money for the repair of the fortifications, which money the Archbishop expended in the purchase of a wood belonging to himself and the erection of a timber patchwork. On news arriving of the capture of Spires, the Archbishop fled, leaving the administration to the Dean, the Chancellor, and the Commandant. The Chancellor made a speech, calling upon his "beloved brethren" the citizens to defend themselves to the last extremity, and daily announced the overthrow of Dumouriez and the approaching entry of the Allies into Paris, until Custine's soldiers actually came into sight. [21] Then a council of war declared the city to be untenable; and before Custine had brought up a single siege-gun the garrison capitulated, and the French were welcomed into Mainz by the partisans of the Republic (Oct. 20). With the French arms came the French organisation of liberty. A club was formed on the model of the Jacobin Club of Paris; existing officers and distinctions of rank were abolished; and although the mass of the inhabitants held aloof, a Republic was finally proclaimed, and incorporated with the Republic of France.

[Dumouriez invades the Netherlands.]

[Battle of Jemappes, Nov. 6.]

The success of Custine's raid into Germany did not divert the Convention from the design of attacking Austria in the Netherlands, which Dumouriez had from the first pressed upon the Government. It was not three years since the Netherlands had been in revolt against the Emperor Joseph. In its origin the revolt was a reactionary movement of the clerical party against Joseph's reforms; but there soon sprang up ambitions and hopes at variance with the first impulses of the insurrection; and by the side of monks and monopolists a national party came into existence, proclaiming the sovereignty of the people, and imitating all the movements of the French Revolution. During the brief suspension of Austrian rule the popular and the reactionary parties attacked one another; and on the restoration of Leopold's authority in 1791 the democratic leaders, with a large body of their followers, took refuge beyond the frontier, looking forward to the outbreak of war between Austria and France. Their partisans formed a French connection in the interior of the country; and by some strange illusion, the priests themselves and the close corporations which had been attacked by Joseph supposed that their interests would be respected by Revolutionary France. [22] Thus the ground was everywhere prepared for a French invasion. Dumouriez crossed the frontier. The border fortresses no longer existed; and after a single battle won by the French at Jemappes on the 6th of November, [23] the Austrians, finding the population universally hostile, abandoned the Netherlands without a struggle.

[Nice and Savoy annexed.]

[Decree of Dec. 15.]

The victory of Jemappes, the first pitched battle won by the Republic, excited an outburst of revolutionary fervour in the Convention which deeply affected the relations of France to Great Britain, hitherto a neutral spectator of the war. A manifesto was published declaring that the French nation offered its alliance to all peoples who wished to recover their freedom, and charging the generals of the Republic to give their protection to all persons who might suffer in the cause of liberty (Nov. 19). A week later Savoy and Nice were annexed to France, the population of Savoy having declared in favour of France and Sardinia. On the 15th of December the Convention proclaimed that social and political revolution was henceforth to accompany every movement of its armies on foreign soil. "In every country that shall be occupied by the armies of the French Republic"--such was the substance of the Decree of December 15th--"the generals shall announce the abolition of all existing authorities; of nobility, of serfage, of every feudal right and every monopoly; they shall proclaim the sovereignty of the people, and convoke the inhabitants in assemblies to form a provisional Government, to which no officer of a former Government, no noble, nor any member of the former privileged corporations shall be eligible. They shall place under the charge of the French Republic all property belonging to the Sovereign or his adherents, and the property of every civil or religious corporation. The French nation will treat as enemies any people which, refusing liberty and equality, desires to preserve its prince and privileged castes, or to make any accommodation with them."

[England arms.]

[The Schelde.]

[Execution of Louis XVI., Jan. 21, 1793.]

This singular announcement of a new crusade caused the Government of Great Britain to arm. Although the decree of the Convention related only to States with which France was at war, the Convention had in fact formed connections with the English revolutionary societies; and the French Minister of Marine informed his sailors that they were about to carry fifty thousand caps of liberty to their English brethren. No prudent statesman would treat a mere series of threats against all existing authorities as ground for war; but the acts of the French Government showed that it intended to carry into effect the violent interference in the affairs of other nations announced in its manifestoes. Its agents were stirring up dissatisfaction in every State; and although the annexation of Savoy and the occupation of the Netherlands might be treated as incidental to the conflict with Austria and Sardinia, in which Great Britain had pledged itself to neutrality, other acts of the Convention were certainly infringements of the rights of allies of England. A series of European treaties, oppressive according to our own ideas, but in keeping with the ideas of that age, prohibited the navigation of the River Schelde, on which Antwerp is situated, in order that the commerce of the North Sea might flow exclusively into Dutch ports. On the conquest of Belgium the French Government gave orders to Dumouriez to send a flotilla down the river, and to declare Antwerp an open port in right of the law of nature, which


History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 10/202

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