Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

That the article is consented to in the name and common interest of all the allied powers, an interest indivisible, and which the two treaties of the 13th and 25th of March designated as being principally that of his majesty the king of France. That it will not be meddling in the acts of the king's government to recall to his majesty engagements made in his name;

engagements which his ministers forget, which individuals proceeded against claim, and of which it becomes the dignity of the high powers that the effect should not be null.

Finally, in all cases, since his highness allows that the high powers are at least bound themselves by a renunciation, what ought they to think at being made to appear as conjuring and requiring the trial of marshal Ney? Is it not the first thing they ought to do in such a conjuncture to disengage speedily the balance of criminal justice from this enormous weight?”

It is not easy to suppose, notwithstanding the evidence of this note, that the duke of Wellington argued diplomacy with a woman in despair.

The duke of Wellington, by way of replication, addressed a memorandum to the ministers of the allied powers. This second pleading merely reproduces his letter to the marshal already given, and refers to the sense in which the convention was understood by “the duke of Otranto,” when he countersigned ordinances of proscription, and by Carnot, who casually referred to it in a printed defence of his conduct. As to Fouché, no one knew better than the duke of Wellington, that he was at the moment a traitor. Carnot, in a letter to

assurance.

a friend at Paris, written on hearing of the duke's appeal to him, admitted that, in the instructions to the negotiators, a military convention only was contemplated. The letter, which, like many other writings, serious and satirical, on the same subject, was circulated confidentially in Paris at the time, contained the following passage:

" We contemplated a military convention, but it was on the understanding that we should be at liberty to choose our government, or at least to make terms for the nation with the Bourbons; you, my lord duke, have had the bad faith (déloyauté) to impose a government on us in violation of your solemn proclaimed

You faithlessly brought in the tyrant under cover of the convention; and you put the seal to your own dishonour by placing the foot of the tyrant and the executioner upon our necks."

Ney was at last brought to trial. One of the principal witnesses against him was the deserter Bourmont, who went over to the Prussians the eve of the battle of Ligny. When Bourmont had given his evidence, Ney rose, and, looking him in the face, said, “ M. de Bourmont has prepared himself in his part : he thought that I should be disposed of like Labedoyère, and that we should never meet again. We are here, face to face. I appeal to M. de Bourmont before God, did he not approve the proclamation ? " Bourmont was silent, but made a sign of dissent.

Ney's counsel no sooner touched on the convention than the court interdicted him, on the ground that “ appealing to

appealing to a convention with

on

foreigners was inconsistent with the dignity of the king of France.” His advocate passed to another point. Ney, he said, was a native of Sarre-Louis, which had become Prussian territory by cession a few days before ; he, therefore, was not amenable to the laws of France. The marshal started up, and exclaimed vehemently, “I am a Frenchman; I will die a Frenchman;" thanked his counsel for their zeal, forbade them to proceed, as his defence was not free, was condemned to death, and shot at nine o'clock on the following morning.

At the moment when Louis's dignity and independence of foreigners were thus acted upon as the ground of depriving Ney of his chief means of defence, those despicable judges knew that the king of France was escorted by foreign bayonets at every step from the frontier to the capital ; that Paris was opened to him by this very convention ; that Paris was at the moment when they spoke in the military occupation of those very foreigners, under a foreign military governor; and that without them he could not sit one hour upon the throne. Such of the peers as thought only of their vengeance were less infamous than the creatures who, under the base influences of favour or fear, stained their consciences with perjury and blood.

The case, as it affects the duke of Wellington, has been fairly stated on both sides, and the reader left to judge. The duke himself, when he reflects upon it, as assuredly he often does, may well exclaim “ This is a sorry sight.” Caraccioli, a man of untarnished honour and patriotism, is not for å

moment to be coupled with Ney; but Nelson had the melancholy excuse of acting under the influence of two abandoned and artful women.

The duke of Wellington is described as a man of kind and humane feelings. How is this to be reconciled with the unhappy affair of Ney? Is it that his head was turned, and his perceptions distorted by his sudden elevation_his heart hardened by the new ambition of politics as well as war, and by the communion and maxims of two veteran intriguers, notorious for regarding political morality as a jest to the wise? It was remarked at the time that he affected a sort of disdain for the conventions of social manners, and even of language. There is in his letter to lord Castlereagh a curious example of the latter.

“ A great deal,” says he, “ has lately been said here respecting the measures I have been obliged to adopt in order to obtain for the king of the Netherlands his paintings and other things out of the museum.” Would it not be supposed that the writer was another Mummius, who would make the carriers responsible, in case of damage, for replacing the immortal master-pieces of Grecian art? But the man who affected this contemptuous negligence of style, as if style were a consideration beneath him, is said to be an ardent and enlightened admirer of sculpture and painting. Perhaps, in the affair of Ney, he thought he might contemn, not only manners and language, but human opinions and human feelings. If he thought so he was 'mistaken, and has discovered his mistake long since. The opinion of Europe was too

strong for him, as he himself said, in his letter, the armies of Europe were for the French people; and he has recently discovered, by the fate of his “ order of the day” against reform, that he cannot run counter to the opinion of England with impunity

The affair of Lavallette, rescued from the scaffold by the devoted affection of his wife, and by the resolute humanity of sir Robert Wilson, Mr. Bruce, and captain Hutchinson, is too well known to be more than glanced at. A rancorous feeling against the English was excited in Paris by the sacrifice of Ney. The generous hardihood of three * Englishmen rescuing a Frenchman from the jaws of death, by an enterprise of great skill and peril, changed, by an instantaneous re-action, national animosity into grateful admiration, among a people both volatile and susceptible in the extreme.

The domestic incidents of this year, during and after the marvellous episode of the hundred days, are few and, for the most part, unimportant. A considerable extension, and new gradation of the Order of the Bath were made by the prince regent, with the view to reward distinguished military and naval services. It was obviously suggested by the closer intercourse with foreign military systems, and condemned by many as a foppery quite alien to the English character. The censure, however, was

* There was a fourth; but the French police was unable to decipher his name in the letter of sir Robert Wilson, and he

« ForrigeFortsæt »