Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine
Book: Life Of Napoleon
Author: Tarbell, Ida
Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine
Book: Life Of Napoleon
Author: Tarbell, Ida
Preparations For War With England - Flotilla At Boulogne - Sale Of Louisiana
In the spring of 1803 the treaty of Amiens, which a year before had
ended the long war with England, was broken. Both countries had many
reasons for complaint. Napoleon was angry at the failure to evacuate
Malta. The perfect freedom allowed the press in England gave the
pamphleteers and caricaturists of the country an opportunity to criticize
and ridicule him. He complained bitterly to the English ambassadors of
this free press, an institution in his eyes impractical and idealistic.
He complained, too, of the hostile emigres allowed to collect in Jersey;
of the presence in England of such a notorious enemy of his as Georges
Cadoudal; and of the sympathy and money the Bourbon princes and many
nobles of the old regime received in London society. Then, too, he
regarded the country as his natural and inevitable enemy. England to
Napoleon was only a little island which, like Corsica and Elba, naturally
belonged to France, and he considered it part of his business to get
possession of her.
England, on the other hand, looked with distrust at the extension of
Napoleon's influence on the Continent. Northern Italy, Switzerland,
Holland, Parma, Elba, were under his protectorate. She had been deeply
offended by a report published in Paris, on the condition of the Orient,
in which the author declared that with six thousand men the French could
reconquer Egypt; she resented the violent articles in the official press
of Paris in answer to those of the free press of England; her aristocratic
spirit was irritated by Napoleon's success; she despised this parvenu,
this "Corsican scoundrel," as Nelson called him, who had had the hardihood
to rise so high by other than the conventional methods for getting on in
the world which she sanctioned.
Real and fancied aggressions continued throughout the year of the
peace; and when the break finally came, though both nations persisted in
declaring that they did not want war, both were in a thoroughly warlike
Napoleon's preparations against England form one of the most
picturesque military movements in his career. Unable to cope with his
enemy at sea, he conceived the audaious notion of invading the island, and
laying siege to London itself. The plan briefly was this - to gather a
great army on the north shore of France, and in some port a flotilla
sufficient to transport it to Great Britain. In order to prevent
interference with this expedition, he would keep the enemy's fleet
occupied in the Mediterranean, or in the Atlantic, until the critical
moment. Then, leading the English naval commander by stratagem in the
wrong direction, he would call his own fleet to the Channel to protect his
passage. He counted to be in London, and to have compelled the English to
peace, before Nelson could return from the chase he would have led him.
The preparations began at once. The port chosen for the flotilla was
Boulogne; but the whole coast from Antwerp to the mouth of the Seine
bristled with iron and bronze. Between Calais and Boulogne, at Cape Gris
Nez, where the navigation was the most dangerous, the batteries literally
touched one another. Fifty thousand men were put to work at the
stupenduous excavations necessary to make the ports large enough to
receive the flotilla. Large numbers of troops were brought rapidly into
the neighborhood: fifty thousand men to Boulogne, under Soult; thirty
thousand to Etaples, under Ney; thirty thousand to Ostend, under Davoust;
reserves to Arras, Amiens, Saint-Omer.
The work of preparing the flat-bottomed boats, or walnut-shells, as
the English called them, which were to carry over the army, went on in all
the ports of Holland and France, as well as in interior towns situated on
rivers leading to the sea. The troops were taught to row, each soldier
being obliged to practise two hours a day so that the rivers of all the
north of France were dotted with land-lubbers handling the oar, the most
of them for the first time.
In the summer of 1803, Napoleon went to the north to look after the
work. His trip was one long ovation. Le Chemin d'Angleterre was the
inscription the people of Amiens put on the triumphal arch erected to his
honor, and town vied with town in showing its joy at the proposed descent
on the old-time enemy.
Such was the interest of the people, that a thousand projects were
suggested to help on the invasion, some of them most amusing. In a
learned and thoroughly serious memorial, one genius proposed that while
the flotilla was preparing, the sailors be employed in catching dolphins,
which should be shut up in the ports, tamed, and taught to wear a harness,
so as to be driven, in the water, as horses are on land. This novel power
was to transport the French to the opposite side of the Channel.
Napoleon occupied himself not only with the preparations at Boulogne
and with keeping Nelson busy elsewhere. Every project which could
possibly facilitate his undertaking or discomfit his enemies, he
considered. Fulton's diving-boat, the "Nautilus," and his submarine
torpedoes, were at that time attracting the attention of the war
departments of civilized countries. Already Napoleon had granted ten
thousand francs to help the inventor. From the camp at Boulogne he again
ordered the matter to be looked into. Fulton promised him a machine which
"would deliver France and the whole world from British oppression."
"I have just read the project of Citizen Fulton, engineer, which you
have sent me much too late," he wrote, "since it is one that may change
the face of the world. Be that as it may, I desire that you immediately
confide its examination to a commission of members chosen by you among the
different classes of the Institute. There it is that learned Europe would
seek for judges to resolve the question under consideration. A great
truth, a physical, palpable truth, is before my eyes. It will be for
these gentlemen to try and seize it and see it. As soon as their report
is made, it will be sent to you, and you will forward it to me. Try and
let the whole be determined within eight days, as I am impatient."
He had his eye on every point of the earth where he might be weak, or
where he might weaken his enemy. He took possession of Hanover. The
Irish were promised aid in their efforts for freedom. "Provided that
twenty thousand united Irishmen join the French army on its landing,"
France is to give them in return twenty-five thousand men, forty thousand
muskets, with artillery and ammunition, and a promise that the French
government will not make peace with England until the independence of
Ireland has been proclaimed.
An attack on India was planned, his hope being that the princes of
India would welcome an invader who would aid them in throwing off the
English yoke. To strengthen himself in the Orient, he sought by letters
and envoys to win the confidence, as well as to inspire the awe, of the
rulers of Turkey and Persia.
The sale of Louisiana to the United States dates from this time.
This transfer, of such tremendous importance to us, was made by Napoleon
purely for the sake of hurting England. France had been in possession of
Louisiana but three years. She had obtained it from Spain only on the
condition that it should "at no time, under no pretext, and in no manner,
be alienated or ceded to any other power." The formal stipulation of the
treaties forbade its sale. But Napoleon was not of a nature to regard a
treaty, if the interest of the moment demanded it to be broken. To sell
Louisiana now would remove a weak spot from France, upon which England
would surely fall in the war. More, it would put a great territory, which
he could not control, into the hands of a country which, he believed,
would some day be a serious hinderance to English ambition. He sold the
colony for the same reason that former French governments had helped the
United States in her struggles for independence - to cripple England. It
would help the United States, but it would hurt England. That was enough;
and with characteristic eagerness he hurried through the negotiations.
"I have just given England a maritime rival which, sooner or later,
will humble her pride," he said exultingly, when the convention was
signed. The sale brought him twelve million dollars, and the United
States assumed the French spoliation claims.
This sale of Louisiana caused one of the first violent quarrels
between Lucien Bonaparte and Napoleon. Lucien had negotiated the return
of the American territory to France in 1800. He had made a princely
fortune out of the treaty, and he was very proud of the transaction; and
when his brother Joseph came to him one evening in hot haste, with the
information that the General wanted to sell Louisiana, he hurried around
to the Tuileries in the morning to remonstrate.
Napoleon was in his bath, but, in the mode of the time, he received
his brothers. He broached the subject himself, and asked Lucien what he
"I flatter myself that the Chambers will not give their consent."
"You flatter yourself?" said Napoleon. "That's good, I declare."
"I have already said the same to the First Consul," cried Joseph.
"And what did I answer?" said Napoleon, splashing around indignantly
in the opaque water.
"That you would do it in spite of the Chambers."
"Precisely. I shall do it without the consent of anyone whomsoever.
Do you understand?"
Joseph, beside himself, rushed to the bathtub, and declared that if
Napoleon dared do such a thing he would put himself at the head of an
opposition and crush him in spite of their fraternal relations. So hot
did the debate grow that the First Consul sprang up shouting: "You are
insolent! I ought - " but at that moment he slipped and fell back
violently. A great mass of perfumed water drenched Joseph to the skin,
and the conference broke up.
An hour later, Lucien met his brother in his library, and the
discussion was resumed, only to end in another scene, Napoleon hurling a
beautiful snuff-box upon the floor and shattering it, while he told Lucien
that if he did not cease his opposition he would crush him in the same
way. These violent scenes were repeated, but to no purpose. Louisiana