網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

in the desire of cozening popular attention to gainful objects, but truth should be the sole guide of writers who assume the functions of advisers and directors of those who most need advice and direction, in place of flattering them into error. Nor is this all: they who by dint of long study, experience, and talent of a superior order, it might be supposed best qualified for imparting knowledge, are set at nought by the vicious practice of others writing downward, and regulating their tone solely by the inclinations and feelings of the parties numerically greatest, by whom they hope to profit. In this way the better objects of the press, both as to politics and literature, are, and will continue to be, deteriorated, and the censures cast upon the government, with no consideration about their truth or falsehood, will display their right character and motive.

It is no violation of truth to point at those just foundations of our existing lofty position for which ministers may take credit. We shall be told it is all the result of accident, and that the success of Lord Palmerston's government is one of those happy chances which comes sometimes to the rescue of men less qualified by nature than good fortune. It is well enough to use this argument when no other is available; but the fallacy is obvious, since it is impossible to judge of that of which we can know nothing certain but the result. The same thing has been said out of envy or party spirit a thousand times, in relation to all who have been eminent in any public walk of life. We believe his lordship directs, and will direct, his own cabinet. The people of England, not the court, placed him there in confidence that he would do so.

The Premier is the first minister, for nearly a century, who, at the termination of a foreign war, with brilliant success, has seen tranquillity reign at home; manufactures, agriculture, and commerce flourish; religious differences soften; a vast expenditure incurred without distress ; no oppressive enactments passed to support the government; courtesy dealt to all; the law in some degree amended, the revenue increased four millions in the current year. The firmness of Lord Palmerston and England defeated Russia in her intrigues regarding Bolgrad. These are things on which a minister of England may well pride himself, called to his post as he was by the popular voice, when he had just before been the victim of paltry foreign intrigue. He may well find consolation for diatribes that, partaking too much of the hope of lucre through misrepresentation, do no more than betray their cause. His lordship's ministry has vanquished antagonism, the first which we remember ever to have done so, and done it both in argument and fact. If his lordship be damaged in the ensuing session, it will be from the carelessness of his friends, or the caprices of those whom no consideration invested with the power but that which placed them above their proper sphere of action. In an appeal to the country he cannot fail. Those journalists who slandered him when out of power, now exalt him ; we will not say do him justice, that is no part of their consideration; they change their tune, because falsification just now in his lordship’s case will not pay the piper

. They must not be in the wrong; they feel they are so, and think in the present day, so indulgent to lapses of honest principle, that eating their words will be deemed a peccadillo, or no more than the cry of those whose political virtue consists only in saying, “ Long life to the conqueror!”

NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE, .

THE WAR OF LIBERATION.•

men.

The situation of the Great Army of France at the close of the Russian war has been so fully described by M. de Segur, that the Duc de Raguse refers all his readers to that work for details connected with the disastrous scenes of 1812. In the following year the after-pangs of the Russian campaign were still lacerating France. The army only existed nominally. The effective strength of several divisions did not amount to 900

Those who had escaped death were prisoners, or scattered over the country, without arms or organisation. The corps which had been left behind in Prussia and in Dantzig, had become in their turn victims to the rigours of the season, and suffered a great diminution. It is true that the enemy had also experienced a severe loss, but, cæteris paribus, they were better prepared to go on with the war than were the French at the opening of the campaign of 1813. The defection of Prussia had suddenly arrayed new forces against France, as formidable from the number of warriors as from the spirit which animated them. Dantzig was vigorously blockaded, as well as the other strong places on the Vistula, and yet the viceroy who commanded the so-called Grande Armée, amounting to 12,000 men at the most, had remained in Posen till the last moment. He had there fallen back on Berlin, whence he was driven by the uprising of the Prussian nation, and took refuge behind the Elbe, where he received considerable reinforcements.

The feeling aroused in France by the Russian disaster was extraordinary. The nation, while groaning beneath the weight of war, which threw a great amount of unpopularity on the emperor, had grown so accustomed to victory, that it rose up as one man to avenge a defeat. A feeling of patriotism caused unexampled efforts to place Napoleon at the head of an army which would enable him to regain his lost influence, and continue to dictate laws to Europe. Before commencing the Russian campaign, the emperor, while taking with him every disposable man, had wisely decreed the formation of 100 reserve battalions, known as the cohortes. By a display of injustice, which can only be pardoned by the necessity of the case, he had raised these bodies from the men who had completed their term of service; and, to gloss over the rigour of the measure, these men were informed, by a senatus consulte, that they would only be employed in the defence of the fatherland, and would under no circumstances be called upon to cross the frontier.

M. de Lacépède, orator to the senate, in bringing forward the decree, placing the emperor in possession of these resources, uttered the following remarks, whose

* Mémoires du Duc de Raguse. Vols. V. and VI. Paris : Perrotin. March-VOL. CIX. NO. CCCCXXXV.

[ocr errors]

absurdity was noticed at the moment of their being spoken: “But these young soldiers will have to lament at the fate reserved for them, of remaining far from the dangers and glory of the French army. The theatre of glory drew near to them, and, in fact, came to meet them. A new decree, issued in the winter of 1812-1813, authorised their mobilisation and enrolment in the army under new figures. The 100 cohorts, when organised in regiments, took the numbers commencing at the 122nd and extending to the 150th and odd. These corps formed the first resources the emperor had at his disposal. The annual conscription had already been called out. It filled

up

the strength of a great number of the third and fourth battalions, which were formed into provisional regiments, and sent to the army of observation on the Maine. Soldiers, drawn from the departmental companies, were formed into a regiment of four magnificent battalions. At the same time, Napoleon summoned the marine artillery-a numerous and very valuable corps--from the various ports, to be enrolled among the line. Its strength was doubled by means of recruits, and they were formed into thirteen service battalions, which were attached to Marmont's corps. Lastly, Napoleon called together a corps of three divisions, composed of the troops of the army of Italy, veterans whose glory and bravery recalled the palmy days of French victories. To these troops must be added the Imperial Guard, consisting of 15,000 infantry and 4000 horse—the only cavalry at that period disposable through the entire army. These troops were ready to take the field by the month of April. Still the emperor was not satisfied with these preparations, but ordered fresh levies, and urged his allies to supply their contingents in full strength, although they now existed only in name. The consequence of these energetic steps was, that, by the summer, the French army was as strong as it had ever been, but the ranks were filled with very young conscripts.

In March, Marmont proceeded to take command of his division at Mayence, although he was still suffering severely from his wound. The opening of the campaign brought a severe loss on the French army; at a slight skirmish near Weissenfels, Marshal Bessières' was killed. He was well known as always giving the emperor honest and good advice, and hence his loss was felt through the whole army. The first great battle fought in the campaign of 1813 was that of Lutzen, a plain celebrated for a still greater victory in the Thirty Years' War. In this battle Marmont's troops had to support the brunt of the engagement, and displayed the utmost bravery, in spite of their youth and inexperience. With nightfall the battle terminated, but Marmont's troubles were not yet over :

I had just got off my horse to enjoy a slight rest, when the noise of cavalry coming up was heard ; the Prussians were attacking us. The nature of my wounds enforced some precautions in getting into the saddle, so I threw myself into the square formed by the 37th light. This regiment yielded to a panic, and fled. At the same time my escort and staff retired from the spot where the charge was taking place. This unhappy regiment, in its terror, took them for the enemy, and fired on them. In the midst of this confusion, I thought that as the Prussian hussars were going to sabre us all, it was useless for me to be distinguished from the rest, so I took off my cockeá-hat and plume. The crowd moving quicker than I did, hurled me into the ditch running along the high road, but at last the fugitives stopped. Fortunately, the Prussians were not informed of our disorder; after charging the 1st regiment of Marines, who withstood them boldly, they had retreated. About ten at night four regiments of

a

Prussian cavalry, one of them being guards, attacked us again. On this occasion everybody did his duty; no disorder occurred, and we emptied 500 to 600, saddies, whereupon the enemy retired. .

On the night of the battle, the emperor said to Duroc : “ I am once again master of Europe." It was certainly a great victory for France, and the troops, composed of raw levies, displayed great bravery. The results in trophies and prisoners, however, were absolutely nil, owing to the want of cavalry. In this battle, too, Napoleon exposed himself terribly in re-forming the third corps, which had been broken by the enemy, and he hardly ever incurred such personal risk on the battle-field. At this period, the French troops assembled in Germany amounted to 175,000, although only a hundred and odd thousand were present at Lutzen ; while the combined Russian and Prussian forces probably amounted to 90,000 men.

The reverses of the last campaign had struck terror to the hearts of the princes of the Confederation. Austria from that moment had seen a chance of regaining her ancient preponderance, and was now busily engaged in withdrawing from the alliance those German princes who adhered to the French. Among others, the King of Saxony had been acting in a suspicious manner. He had retired to Ratisbon on the advance of the Russians, but soon after fell back on Prague. At the same time, the Saxon troops were ordered to display the strictest neutrality. But Napoleon soon put a stop to these proceedings after the battle of Lutzen, by sending the king a letter, demanding a satisfactory explanation within six hours. In the case of a refusal, he would be declared no longer regnant. The result was, that the king came back like a whipped child, and was received at Dresden with great state by the emperor and the marshals. For this complaisance the poor king was punished very severely by the Congress of Vienna ; but after all it was quite a chance how the campaign would terminate, and the king can hardly be blamed for attaching more truth to the menaces of Napoleon than to the promises of a Hapsburg.

But the emperor had soon more important matters to attend to than a little German king, for the enemy was pressing him on all sides, and the battles of Bautzen and Wurtzen, in spite of the success achieved by the French army, were beginning to show that the enemy was not paralysed by the usual prestige of victory attending the Gallic arms. On the 22nd of May, the battle of Reichenbach took place, which cost the French more than a defeat would have done, for they lost there the emperor's most honest counsellor, Duroc. He had a presentiment of his death ; for he said to Marmont only a few hours prior to it : “ My friend, the emperor is insatiable for fighting: we shall all be killed; such is our fate.” His death was very peculiar : Napoleon, surrounded by his staff, was riding along a hollow road, when a shell, fired from an immense distance by a battery falling back before the French vanguard, fell among the group. General Kirchau, an excellent engineer officer, was killed on the spot, and the Duke of Friuli mortally wounded in the stomach. The emperor displayed great grief, and spent some time with Duroc in the hut where he was laid. It seems that he tried to justify himself to the emperor with reference to some faults which had been unjustly

[ocr errors]

a

imputed to him. The character Marmont gives of him is so fair that it deserves quotation :

Duroc was of a good family. His father, a gentleman of Auvergne, without fortune, was serving in a cavalry regiment garrisoned at Pont à Mousson, where he married and settled. Duroc entered as a king's scholar in the military school formerly existing in that town, was intended for the artillery, the most advantageous arm at that day for a gentleman who had no patrons or protection. He entered at the same time as myself, and we were both received souslieutenant cadets at Châlons in the beginning of 1792. At a later date, when a portion of the scholars emigrated, Duroc joined the army of the princes, and was present at the siege of Thionville. His natural good sense soon made him comprehend the confusion prevailing among émigrés; he returned to France and came to Metz, where I was then in garrison. He told me what had happened to him, and his resolution to re-enter the service. The government looked over his momentary absence, but made him return to Châlons as a cadet. Soon after, he was attached to the 4th regiment of artillery. Thence he was removed to the army work corps, employed by the army at Nice. There I met him again in 1794.

Duroc continued in his arm of the service, and became aide-de-camp to General Lepinasse, commanding the artillery of the army of Italy. After the battle of Arcola, General Bonaparte, having lost many of his aides-de-camp, consulted me about filling up their place; and I proposed Duroc, who was selected. Such was the origin of his fortune. Duroc constantly remembered it, and ever felt a sincere friendship for me, which time only strengthened. As aide-de-camp he passed through the campaigns in Italy and Egypt. He had attained the rank of colonel when Bonaparte became first consul, and he was appointed steward of his household. When Napoleon assumed the imperial crown, he was appointed grand maréchal, with very extended authority, and had unlimited confidence placed in him. Duroc was entrusted with several diplomatic missions to Berlin and St. Petersburg, which he carried out to the satisfaction of the emperor. He was the centre of a thousand various relations, and the emperor frequently gave him business at variance with his usual duties, in which he always acquitted himself well

. Thus he was always overburdened with employment, and oppressed with fatigue and ennui to such a degree that he was at times wont to murmur against favour and greatness.

The Duke of Friuli possessed a mind of no brilliant order, but wise and just; little passion, but profound reason and limited ambition. Favours came to seek him more frequently than he hurried after them. Naturally reserved, his friendship was sure, and no one could ever reproach him with the slightest indiscretion. Quite ignorant of any feeling of hatred, he never injured a single person; but, on the contrary, performed a multitude of kind acts for persons who ignored them too often. Any just and well-founded claim ever found him well disposed, and he took those steps with the emperor which he considered useful, without claiming any thanks from the person who was the object of his intercession. Simple, true, modest, straightforward, and disinterested, his coldness of temperament would have hindered him from devoting himself for a friend, or compromising himself to serve him; but, in his position, it was a great thing to find, so near the supreme authority, a man without malevolence; for all that can be reasonably demanded and hoped is to find in that station, in addition to justice, a degree of kindness, active when no danger is to be incurred. Duroc was a good officer, and often regretted he had been called from a profession which had great attractions for him. He was very useful to the emperor, and often made him friends. His options, always correct, allowed him, when expressing them, to invest them with a certain degree of independence, although he was greatly afraid of Napoleon. If he had lived during the armistice of 1813, he would probably have exerted a useful influence over the emperor, and made him feel the inconveniences resulting from

« 上一頁繼續 »