Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 30/202 -

France. The occasion was skilfully used by Bonaparte, to whom, as a soldier, the Czar felt less repugnance than to the Government of advocates and contractors which he had attacked in 1799. The First Consul restored without ransom several thousands of Russian prisoners, for whom the Austrians and the English had refused to give up Frenchmen in exchange, and followed up this advance by proposing that the guardianship of Malta, which was now blockaded by the English, should be given to the Czar. Paul had caused himself to be made Grand Master of the Maltese Order of St. John of Jerusalem. His vanity was touched by Bonaparte's proposal, and a friendly relation was established between the French and Russian Governments. England, on the other hand, refused to place Malta under Russian guardianship, either before or after its surrender. This completed the breach between the Courts of London and St. Petersburg. The Czar seized all the English vessels in his ports and imprisoned their crews (Sept. 9). A difference of long standing existed between England and the Northern Maritime Powers, which was capable at any moment of being made a cause of war. The rights exercised over neutral vessels by English ships in time of hostilities, though good in international law, were so oppressive that, at the time of the American rebellion, the Northern Powers had formed a league, known as the Armed Neutrality, for the purpose of resisting by force the interference of the English with neutral merchantmen upon the high seas. Since the outbreak of war with France, English vessels had again pushed the rights of belligerents to extremes. The Armed Neutrality of 1780 was accordingly revived under the auspices of the Czar. The League was signed on the 16th of December, 1800, by Russia, Sweden, and Denmark. Some days later Prussia gave in its adhesion. [89]

[Points at issue.]

The points at issue between Great Britain and the Neutrals were such as arise between a great naval Power intent upon ruining its adversary and that larger part of the world which remains at peace and desires to carry on its trade with as little obstruction as possible. It was admitted on all sides that a belligerent may search a neutral vessel in order to ascertain that it is not conveying contraband of war, and that a neutral vessel, attempting to enter a blockaded port, renders itself liable to forfeiture; but beyond these two points everything was in dispute. A Danish ship conveys a cargo of wine from a Bordeaux merchant to his agent in New York. Is the wine liable to be seized in the mid-Atlantic by an English cruiser, to the destruction of the Danish carrying-trade, or is the Danish flag to protect French property from a Power whose naval superiority makes capture upon the high seas its principal means of offence? England announces that a French port is in a state of blockade. Is a Swedish vessel, stopped while making for the port in question, to be considered a lawful prize, when, if it had reached the port, it would as a matter of fact have found no real blockade in existence? A Russian cargo of hemp, pitch, and timber is intercepted by an English vessel on its way to an open port in France. Is the staple produce of the Russian Empire to lose its market as contraband of war? Or is an English man-of-war to allow material to pass into France, without which the repair of French vessels of war would be impossible?

[War between England and the Northern Maritime Powers, Jan., 1801.]

These were the questions raised as often as a firm of shipowners in a neutral country saw their vessel come back into port cleared of its cargo, or heard that it was lying in the Thames awaiting the judgment of the Admiralty Court. Great Britain claimed the right to seize all French property, in whatever vessel it might be sailing, and to confiscate, as contraband of war, not only muskets, gunpowder, and cannon, but wheat, on which the provisioning of armies depended, and hemp, pitch, iron, and timber, out of which the navies of her adversary were formed. The Neutrals, on the other hand, demanded that a neutral flag should give safe passage to all goods on board, not being contraband of war; that the presence of a vessel of State as convoy should exempt merchantmen from search; that no port should be considered in a state of blockade unless a competent blockading force was actually in front of it; and that contraband of war should include no other stores than those directly available for battle. Considerations of reason and equity may be urged in support of every possible theory of the rights of belligerents and neutrals; but the theory of every nation has, as a matter of fact, been that which at the time accorded with its own interests. When a long era of peace had familiarised Great Britain with the idea that in the future struggles of Europe it was more likely to be a spectator than a belligerent, Great Britain accepted the Neutrals' theory of international law at the Congress of Paris in 1856; but in 1801, when the lot of England seemed to be eternal warfare, any limitation of the rights of a belligerent appeared to every English jurist to contradict the first principles of reason. Better to add a general maritime war to the existing difficulties of the country than to abandon the exercise of its naval superiority in crippling the commerce of an adversary. The Declaration of armed Neutrality, announcing the intention of the Allied Powers to resist the seizure of French goods on board their own merchantmen, was treated in this country as a declaration of war. The Government laid an embargo upon all vessels of the allied neutrals lying in English ports (Jan. 14th, 1801), and issued a swarm of privateers against the trading ships making for the Baltic. Negotiations failed to lower the demands of either side, and England prepared to deal with the navies of Russia, Denmark, Sweden, and Prussia.

[Battle of Copenhagen, April 2, 1801.]

At the moment, the concentrated naval strength of England made it more than a match for its adversaries. A fleet of seventeen ships of the line sailed from Yarmouth on the 12th of March, under the command of Parker and Nelson, with orders to coerce the Danes and to prevent the junction of the confederate navies. The fleet reached the Sound. The Swedish batteries commanding the Sound failed to open fire. Nelson kept to the eastern side of the channel, and brought his ships safely past the storm of shot poured upon them from the Danish guns at Elsinore. He appeared before Copenhagen at mid-day on the 30th of March. Preparations for resistance were made by the Danes with extraordinary spirit and resolution. The whole population of Copenhagen volunteered for service on the ships, the forts, and the floating batteries. Two days were spent by the English in exploring the shallows of the channel; on the morning of the 2nd of April Nelson led his ships into action in front of the harbour. Three ran aground; the Danish fire from land and sea was so violent that after some hours Admiral Parker, who watched the engagement from the mid-channel, gave the signal of recall. Nelson laughed at the signal, and continued the battle. In another hour the six Danish men-of-war and the whole of the floating batteries were disabled or sunk. The English themselves had suffered most severely from a resistance more skilful and more determined than anything that they had experienced from the French, and Nelson gladly offered a truce as soon as his own victory was assured. The truce was followed by negotiation, and the negotiation by an armistice for fourteen weeks, a term which Nelson considered sufficient to enable him to visit and to overthrow the navies of Sweden and Russia.

[Murder of Paul, March 23.]

[Peace between England and the Northern Powers.]

But an event had already occurred more momentous in its bearing upon the Northern Confederacy than the battle of Copenhagen itself. On the night of the 23rd of March the Czar of Russia was assassinated in his palace. Paul's tyrannical violence, and his caprice verging upon insanity, had exhausted the patience of a court acquainted with no mode of remonstrance but homicide. Blood-stained hands brought to the Grand Duke Alexander the crown which he had consented to receive after a pacific abdication. Alexander immediately reversed the policy of his father, and sent friendly communications both to the Government at London and to the commander of the British fleet in the Baltic. The maintenance of commerce with England was in fact more important to Russia than the protection of its carrying trade. Nelson's attack was averted. A compromise was made between the two Governments, which saved Russia's interests, without depriving England of its chief rights against France. The principles of the Armed Neutrality were abandoned by the Government of St. Petersburg in so far as they related to the protection of an enemy's goods by the neutral flag. Great Britain continued to seize French merchandise on board whatever craft it might be found; but it was stipulated that the presence of a ship of war should exempt neutral vessels from search by privateers, and that no port should be considered as in a state of blockade unless a reasonable blockading force was actually in front of it. The articles condemned as contraband were so limited as not to include the flax, hemp, and timber, on whose export the commerce of Russia depended. With these concessions the Czar was easily brought to declare Russia again neutral. The minor Powers of the Baltic followed the example of St. Petersburg; and the naval confederacy which had threatened to turn the balance in the conflict between England and the French Republic left its only trace in the undeserved suffering of Denmark.

[Affairs in Egypt.]

Eight years of warfare had left France unassailable in Western Europe, and England in command of every sea. No Continental armies could any longer be raised by British subsidies: the navies of the Baltic, with which Bonaparte had hoped to meet England on the seas, lay at peace in their ports. Egypt was now the only arena remaining where French and English combatants could meet, and the dissolution of the Northern Confederacy had determined the fate of Egypt by leaving England in undisputed command of the approach to Egypt by sea. The French army, vainly expecting reinforcements, and attacked by the Turks from the east, was caught in a trap. Soon after the departure of Bonaparte from Alexandria, his successor, General Kleber, had addressed a report to the Directory, describing the miserable condition of the force which Bonaparte had chosen to abandon. The report was intercepted by the English, and the Government immediately determined to accept no capitulation which did not surrender the whole of the French army as prisoners of war. An order to this effect was sent to the Mediterranean. Before, however, the order reached Sir Sidney Smith, the English admiral cooperating with the Turks, an agreement had been already signed by him at El Arish, granting Kleber's army a free return to France (Feb. 24, 1800). After Kleber, in fulfilment of the conditions of the treaty, had withdrawn his troops from certain positions, Sir Sidney Smith found himself compelled to inform the French General that in the negotiations of El Arish he had exceeded his powers, and that the British Government insisted upon the surrender of the French forces. Kleber replied by instantly giving battle to the Turks at Heliopolis, and putting to the rout an army six times as numerous as his own. The position of the French seemed to be growing stronger in Egypt, and the prospect of a Turkish re-conquest more doubtful, when the dagger of a fanatic robbed the French of their able chief, and transferred the command to General Menou, one of the very few French officers of marked incapacity who held command at any time during the war. The British Government, as soon as it learnt what had taken place between Kleber and Sir Sidney Smith, declared itself willing to be bound by the convention of El Arish. The offer was, however, rejected by the French. It was clear that the Turks could never end the war by themselves; and the British Ministry at last came to understand that Egypt must be re-conquered by English arms.

[English army lands in Egypt, March, 1801.]

[French capitulate at Cairo, June 27, 1801.]

[And at Alexandria, Aug. 30.]

On the 8th of March, 1801, a corps of 17,000 men, led by Sir Ralph Abercromby, landed at Aboukir Bay. According to the plan of the British Government, Abercromby's attack was to be supported by a Turkish corps from Syria, and by an Anglo-Indian division brought from Ceylon to Kosseir, on the Red Sea. The Turks and the Indian troops were, however, behind their time, and Abercromby opened the campaign alone. Menou had still 27,000 troops at his disposal. Had he moved up with the whole of his army from

History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 30/202

Previous Page     Next Page

  1   10   20   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   40   50   60   70   80   90  100  110  120  130  140  150  160  170  180  190  200  202 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything