Billeder på siden


enemy could not oppose 400,000 men to the 800,000 which would be moved against France. After laying down certain general principles, and the respective bases of operation, or rather co-operation, of the several allied armies, he adds, -“ It is only thus that one of our armies, if beaten, would gain time to recover itself; and that even in case of a second reverse, the enemy would at last sink under continued effort."

The memoir of general Knesebeck, more elaborate than that of Schwartzenberg, has more of conceit, common-place, and military pedantry. The following is an example, and conveys the substance of his plan :

“ Should it be decided to undertake nothing for the present, but to wait until France may be entered in force on all sides, the following appears to be the fundamental lines of such an operation. To beat the armies of Bonaparte; to deliver the French nation from the yoke under which it groans ;- such is the object of the war. To fall upon the Bonapartean army with all possible force; then to direct the movements of the different allied armies in such a manner as that no one of them should be overpowered singly; but on the contrary, that several armies should be together, and, if possible, united on the day of a general battle; -- such is the mode of attaining this end. It results frorn this consideration that if, to put down Bonaparte, Paris should be from the beginning the object of the allied armies, all should be in the same line before a combined movement upon that capital is begun.” He then proceeds to advise in

stail the positions which the several armies should

« In

take, and discovers to the duke of Wellington "that Antwerp should be to him in Holland what Lisbon was in Portugal !"

It is obvious from these papers that the allies proposed to act only upon the defensive, until the whole force of the confederacy, including the Russians, were in line upon the frontier, and that they took their measures with a reference, in the first onset, to the hazards of defeat.

The duke of Wellington conveyed his opinion from Brussels in a private letter, which was submitted to the conference, and appears to have been addressed either to lord Cathcart, or lord Stewart. * It bears no date; but from internal evidence must have been written about the middle of May. respect to the period of commencing operations," says the duke, “I had adopted the opinion that it was necessary to wait for more troops, so far back as the 13th of April. After, however, we shall

, have waited a sufficient time to collect a force, and to satisfy military men that their force is what it ought to be, to enable them to accomplish the object in view, the period of attack becomes a political question, upon which there can be no difference of opinion. I say nothing about our defensive operations, because I am inclined to believe that Blucher and I are so well united, and so strong, that the enemy cannot do us much mischief. I am at the advanced post of the whole; the greatest part of the enemy's force is in my front; and if I am satisfied, others need be under no apprehension.He seems to have

• See the letter in Lord Londonderry's Narrative.

contemplated the offensive on the part of the allies, as decisively probable. “Let us have 150,000 men upon the left, 150,000 upon the right; and all the rest, whatever they may be, in the centre; or, after a sufficient centre is formed, as a reserve for the right, left, or centre, as may be most convenient for their march and subsistence, and I will engage for the result, as they may be thrown where we please. Let us begin when we shall have 450,000 men.”

The views of the duke of Wellington are expressed in this document with a careless vigour and perfect clearness of style, contrasting very advantageously with the Prussian fopperies of Knesebeck, and the confused and lumbering composition of most of his own official despatches. His anticipations of the offensive were disappointed by the event, and his confidence in the defensive strength and union of Blucher and himself was assuredly falsified, by the defeat and carnage of the Prussians on the 16th of June at Ligny, and even by the awful balancing and terrible alternations of victory during the memorable 18th at Waterloo. But a resolute confidence, even though deceived, is one of the first elements of military success, and one of the first endowments of a military chief.

It is observable that the views of the duke of Wellington differ essentially from those of prince Schwartzenberg, and general Knesebeck, and from his own opinion at an earlier period. He would commence operations with half of the allied forces arrived in line. This change is easily accounted for. Napoleon was encompassed by spies and traitors. General Clarke, duke of Feltre, one of the

most ungrateful of those who owed their honours to the revolution and the empire, obtained secret information from subalterns of the war department, over which he had long presided ; and Fouché, the minister of police, whose business it was to discover and denounce the culprits, was

an arch-traitor himself.

When all attempts to obtain peace, or detach Austria from the coalition, failed, Fouché calculated that Napoleon could not maintain himself, and opened a secret correspondence with prince Metternich. He next wrote a letter to the duke of Wellington; and, having established his communications with him, sent an emissary over to London. This agent was a person who had been French charge d'affaires in America, and spoke English. Whether in pursuance of his instructions, or from being himself an adept in the ambi-dexterous manæuvring of his master Fouché, he addressed himself both to the ministry and opposition. A distinguished whig nobleman repelled him as an intriguer, but he doubtless found more favour in the eyes of the ministers; and, having passed ten days in London, returned to Paris undiscovered and unsuspected.

Fouché's correspondence with Metternich was detected. It proved that he was about to send a confidential emissary to communicate with an Austrian agent at Bâle. Napoleon compelled him to give a letter, and the necessary signs of confidence, to one of the cabinet secretaries *, who acquitted himself so well, that he learned the whole secret of


Metternich's mission. The treacherous minister was pot punished, or even dismissed. Napoleon

, summoned him to his cabinet ; asked him why he did not resign if he was dissatisfied; called him a traitor, and told him that all France would rejoice were he hanged. * Why was not Fouché sent to the castle of Vincennes,—at least deprived of his office? The answer, as it may be collected from the various narratives of the transaction, including those of Napoleon, Savary, and Lavalette, is that Napoleon was afraid of offending the jacobin adherents of the minister; that Fouché appeared rather an intriguer than a traitor in the business ; and that, at the worst, he laboured not for the Bourbons, but for a regency in the name of Napoleon's son.

The month of May was now near its close, and the votes of the French people collected by the districts called communes, upon the re-election of the emperor, and acceptance of the additional act, were returned under seal. A new constitution was prepared by the ministers and the council of state, of which Benjamin Constant, the most able publicist of the coterie of Madame de Staël, was easily persuaded to become a member. M. Constant has left a minute record of what passed between him and Napoleon during their first interview. It is an interesting document, and its authenticity guaranteed by the high character of the relater.

“ He did not,” says M. Constant, “ attempt to deceive me as to his views, or the state of things. He did not affect the merit of coming back to liberty from inclination. • The nation,' said he to me, has


[ocr errors]

# Memoirs of Lavalette.

« ForrigeFortsæt »