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First Cares and Employment of the French Directory.-Determination to keep alive the Martial Spirit of the French Nation.—And lò Extend their Victories as far as poffible. But, at the fame Time to make a fhew of Pacific Inclinations.-Preparations for War on the Part of the Allies.Attempt towards Negociation between the French and the Allies at Bafe, in Switzerland.-Rupture threatened between the French and Swifs Cantons.-Prevented.-Plan of Directory for Military Operations.-Manifefto of Charette.-Revival of the War in La Vendée.-New Complexion of this.-Total Defeat of the Infurgents.Capture and Execution of Charette and Stoflet.-Manifefto of the Directory for Refraining the Cruelties of their Soldiers.—Lenient Measures.-Good Effects of thefe.
URING the firft months that followed the conftitution fettled in France towards the conclufion of 1795, the chief care of the government was to render it refpectable, and to imprefs the minds of men with a perfuafion, that this great change was calculated for the benefit of the nation. It was not difficult, indeed, to perfuade the public that any fyftem was preferable to that uncertainty which had occafioned fo many confufions. From this confideration, people at large willingly acquiefced in the new arrangements, especially as they promited to restore internal peace, by arming government with fuch extenfive power, to prevent the breaking out of difturbances. But the means to which chiefly the directory trufted for the ftability of their honour was, to keep alive that martial fpirit which had pervaded, with fo amazing an efficacy, the whole mafs of the French nation, and enabled it to perform feats of arms, of which
no records afforded any precedent in their hiftory. As thefe fucceffes were attributed to that enthusiasm which animated them in the cause of their country,' and to the hatred which they profefled for monarchy, it was the bufinefs of their rulers to perpetuate fuch a difpofition, by affording it fupport and aliment; and this they faw would moft effectually be done, by reprefenting the enmity borne to France as unextinguifhed, and that notwithftanding feveral of its enemies had openly laid down their arms, and agreed to conditions of peace, their rancour was still the fame. They had defifted from hoftilities, it was faid, only from compulfion, after repeated defeats, and from the dread which they felt, that unlefs they complied with the requifitions preferibed by a victorious and invincible enemy, juftly exafperated at their unprovoked aggreffion, he might give the fuller loofe to a revenge, which they were not able to refift.
In order therefore to imprint the deeper in the minds of thofe adverfaries, whom they had already fo much humbled, the terror with which they were already infpired, the heads of the republic judged it expedient to extend the influence of their victorious arms, as far as fortune feemed inclined to favour them, and to compel their remaining foes to accept of the bumiliating terms they had impofed upon the others, by reducing them to the like diftrefs.
From ideas of this kind flowed the lofty language spoken upon all occafions, both by the directory and the two councils. As two-thirds of thefe were precifely the fame men who had governed France under the name of a convention, during the three preceding years, it was not to be expected that their difpofitions would alter with their new appellation; and the other third, though not altogether fo violent in their conduct, were influenced by thofe republican principles, without which no man could be reputed a true Frenchman, and which, in truth, were indifpenfible to procure an individual either efteem or advancement in any poft, civil or military.
Another view, it may be prefumed, that ftimulated the members of the directory, who were all men of tried parts and courage, was the defire of proving to their countrymen the uperiority of individuals placed at the head of the ftate, purely on account of their abilities, so perfons promoted through favour, or the advantitious circumfiances of birth and family.
But a motive fill more cogent, both with them and the nation at Jarge, was the earneft defire to re
pair the loffes fuftained, towards the clofe of the preceding campaign, on the borders of the Rhine. Thefe loftes happening fo fhortly after their prodigious fucceffes in the low countries, and in Holland, had fhewn that their enemies, however frequently defeated, had not decreafed in valour; and that, when well commanded, they were ftill a match for all the enthusiasm of the French.
It was chiefly to recover this fuperiority of military prowels, that the directory was folicitous to place the numerous armies of the republie on the moft formidable footing. They had maintained, in the campaign of 1794, a conteft with the braveft veterans in Europe, and had proved more than equal 'to. them. By the fame reafon it might be expected, that, the fame fpirit animating them, they would renew their victorious career, which appeared fufpended, through unforefeen caufes, rather than terminated by a turn of fortune in favour of their enemies.
It was however neceffary to make a fhew of pacific inclinations, without which both their own people and foreign ftates would be justly authorised to accufe them of a wanton and lawlefs ambition, and more intent to gratify their private thirft of falfe glory, at the expence of their country, than ftudious to reftore the bleffings of peace, now become the earneft with of all parties.
While the rulers of the republic were thus employed, the allied powers were no lefs occupied in preparing for the renewal of hoftilites, little hoping that any fincere efforts for the obtaining of peace were likely to proceed from the
their inveteracy to this country, and their readinefs to engage in any attempt to its detriment, efpecially at the prefent period, when they were ftimulated by the most violent refentment at the interfe rence of the British miniftry in the affairs of their country, and its endeavours to restore the monarchy they had folemnly profcribed.
In this conflict of adverfe projects, both the republic and its enemies were equally anxious however, to appear inclined to peace, conformably to the loudly-exprefled withes of their relpective people, and, in truth, of all the people in Europe, who, either directly or indirectly, felt themfelves involved in the rain ous confequences of this fatal conteft.
French; and convinced, that until they thould experience farther reverles, they would ftill continue. indexible in the determination they had folemnly formed, to annex their acquifitions in the low countries, and on the left-fide of the Rhine, irrevocably to the dominions of the republic.
A refolution of this nature precluded at once all ideas of peace. The retention of thofe fertile and fpacious provinces could not be fubmitted to without an evident alteration of the political fyftem of Europe, of which France would poffels a controul, that would per petually diffurb the peace, if not endanger the lafety of all its neigh bours.
The poffeffion of Blgium by the various branches of the Auftrian family, during more than three centuries, had fo far habituated the inhabitants to their domination, that, notwithstanding the oppreffions they had occafionally exercifed over them, they ftill retained a willingnels to return to their obedience, provided they could have been fecured in the enjoyment of their ancient cuftoms and liberties.
The Auftrian miniftry was duly fenfible of this difpofition, and preferved, of course, the hope of recovering, by fone fortunate cafualty, this richeft portion of its inheritance. The British miniftry was no lefs bent on the refloration of the Auftrian Netherlands to their for mer owner. The accenfion of fuch immenfe aud, valuable territories to France, in fo clofe a proximity, and almoft in fight of the thores of this iland, was an object of ferious alarm, and called up the attention of all men who reflected on the reftlels character of the French,
The French, in the mean time, having, by the dint of negociations, as well as of their arms, brought fome of the principal members of the coalition into their own terms, flattered themfelves with the expectation of becoming equally fuccefsful with the others, and held out language promiflory of equitable conditions, in order to allure them
Bafle, a city of note, in Switzerland, was now become the centre of political tranfactions between the different powers, whofe diplomatic agents had fixed upon it as the moft convenient place of refidence, on account of its fituation between the Belligerent parties, in a country allowed to be neutral. The prin cipal negociator, on the part of the French, was the celebrated citizen Barthelemy, at that time in high credit with the directory, for the fervices he had rendered the government of France, in the treaties that had been confided to his management,
nagement, and the iffue of which had been fo advantageous to the republic.
To this gentleman application was made, on the eighth of March, by Mr. Wickham, the British envoy to the Swifs Cantons, in order to found the real difpofitions of the French government. The object in communicating the propofitions directed to the French agent, was, to afcertain, by his anfwer, whether the directory were defirous to negociate with Great Britain and its allies, on moderate and honourable conditions, and would agree to the meeting of a congrefs for this purpofe, and whether, at the fame time, it would fpecify the conditions on which it would treat, or point out any other method of treating.
The anfwer received from M. Barthelemy, in the name of the directory, was, that it felt the fincereft defte to terminate the war on fuch conditions as France could reafonably accept, and which were fpecified in the anfwer; but one of thefe pofitively infifted on the retention of the Auftrian dominions in the low countries; affigning, as a reafon, their formal annexation to the republic, by a conftitutional decree that could not be revoked.
A reply, founded upon an argument, which proved no more than a decided refolution never to part with thefe acquifitions, without alleging in fact any other motive than their will, difplayed an arrogance in the directory, in the opinion of their enemies, that inflantly put a stop to all farther attempts to negociate. No alternative, it was now faid, remained to thefe but to yield unconditionally to their demands, or to try the fortune of arms. Were this to prove adverfe,
they could hardly infift upon more mortifying terms, nor the allies be more difgraced.
The directory feemed at this period refolutely determined to act with a high hand, and to fet all the enemies of the republic at defiance. It intimated to the magiftracy of Bafle, that a rumour was fpread, purporting a defign in that city and canton to favour the irruption of the imperialifts through its terri tories, and that a great part of the helvetic body concurred in this defign; which was a manifeft infractron of the neutrality they had engaged to obferve between France and its aggreflors. An explanation was demanded in fo haughty and peremptory a ftyle, that the regency of Balle felt itlelf highly offended, and returned fo fpirited an answer to the directory, that they dispatched another meflage much more fevere than the first, requiring an immediate explanation of the rumour in queftion, and accompanied with menacing infinuations, in cafe all hoftile intentions were not difavowed. The cantons were fo deeply involved in this bufinefs, that being unwilling to come to a formal rupture with fo formidable an antago nift as the French republic, they judged it prudent to give them the completeft affurance of their determination to preferve the ftricest neutrality. A minifter of an ac ceptable character was deputed to Paris: this was Mr. Ochs, a gentleman of principles favourable to the revolution. He fettled all differences to the fatisfaction of both parties; and Switzerland was delivered from apprehenfions of hoftility.
This tranfaction took place towards the end of March and beginning
ginning of April, when the French were preparing for the enfuing campaign, and feemed refolved to purfue the most active and vigorous meafures against the remaining members of the coalition.
The directory had three objects in contemplation; an invafion of Germany, another of Italy, and the complete reduction of domestic infurgents. Of these laft it entertained the greatest apprehenfion, from the defperate refolution they had hitherto difplayed, and the unyielding perfeverance with which they continued to oppofe the repeated attempts to reduce them. The feverity exercifed towards all who were fufpected of favouring them, inftead of relaxing the attachment of their adherents, ferved, on the contrary, to increase it; and the unfhaken fidelity they obferved in concealing thofe defigns and plans of the infurgents to which they were privy, and in which they co-operated with unabated zeal, affifted and animated their refiftance to a degree that feldom failed to enable them to recover from their defeats and loffes, and to take the field with fresh courage and refources.
Previously then to the great enterprizes meditated against Italy and Germany, the directory thought it indifpenfible to clear France of its internal enemies. Their connections with the most formidable and dangerous rivals of France, the English, made it evident, that while the royal party fubfifted unfubdued, it would probably, as it had done in the preceding year, throw fuch embarraments in the military operations, intended against foreign enemies, as would clog and impede the plans propofed; and, aided by the fleets and forces of England, tie up the
hands of government from those exertions, without which the war on the frontiers of France could not be carried on with any decifive fuccefs, and muft probably be pro-. tracted in fuch a manner as might afford time and opportunities to the foe of recovering from his past difafters, and regaining the ground he had loft.
Fully determined to remain chief. ly, if not entirely, on the defenfive,: until the interior of France thould be wholly pacified, or the opponents of the republic effectually dif abled, the directory pitched upon. one of the ablest men in the com monwealth to carry this refolve into execution. This was the cele-: brated general Hoche, whofe milie tary talents and fucceffes were at that time inferior to those of no officer in the French fervice. He was invefted with the chief come: mand in the departments that were in a ftate of infurrecton; and, hap pily for his employers, acquitted himself in a fhort space of time to their highest fatisfaction.
The refiftance of the infurgents was not conducted on their former.. plan they had, as it were, con-i fumed that ftock of zeal and devotion to the royal caufe, which had produced fuch amafing effects, and rendered them fo long the terror of the republican armies. The pa-.. cification concluded with the governiment of France by Charette, and the other chiefs of the infur gents, had deprived him in a great meafure of the influence which he, with a number of refolute leaders, had exercifed over them; and when they determined to excite another. infurrection they found an alteration in the difpolition of the commonalty, that foon made it apparent how