Page One Youth

Napoleon In Paris

Out Of Work

The First Italian Campaign

The Egyptian Campaign

Statesman And Lawgiver

The Concordat

Code Napoleon

General Prosperity

Preparations For War With England

Sale Of Louisiana

Establishment Of The Empire

King of Italy

Campaign Of 1805-1806-1807

The Peace Of Tilsit

Napoleon's Empire

Family Affairs

The Berlin Decree

War In The Peninsula

Bonapartes On The Spanish Throne

Disaster In Spain

Alexander And Napoleon In Council

Napoleon At Madrid

Talleyrand's Treachery

The Campaign Of 1809

Wagram

The Divorce

A New Wife

An Heir To The Crown

The Pope

Conscription

Evasions Of Blockade

Tilsit Agreement Broken

The Russian Campaign

The Burning Of Moscow

A New Army

Campaign Of 1813

Campaign Of 1814

Abdication

Ruler Of Island Of Elba

Return To Paris

Hundred Days

Second Abdication

Napoleon's Surrender

Sent To St. Helena

Life In Exile

Death Of Napoleon

Second Funeral Of Napoleon

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Wellington and Nelson

Napoleon and the French Revolution

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Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine

Book:        Life Of Napoleon

Author:      Tarbell, Ida

 

Chapter XIV.

 

The Berlin Decree - War In The Peninsula - Bonapartes On The Spanish Throne

 

     When Napoleon, in 1805, was obliged to abandon the descent on England

and turn the magnificent army gathered at Boulogne against Austria, he by

no means gave up the idea of one day humbling his enemy.  Persistently

throughout the campaigns of 1805-1807 his despatches and addresses remind

addresses remind Frenchmen that vengeance is only deferred.

 

     In every way he strives to awaken indignation and hatred against

England.  The alliance which has compelled him to turn his armies against

his neighbors on the Continent, he characterizes as an "unjust league

fomented by the hatred and gold of England." He tells the soldiers of the

Grand Army that it is English gold which has transported the Russian army

from the extremities of the universe to fight them.  He charges the

horrors of Austerlitz upon the English.  "May all the blood shed, may all

these misfortunes, fall upon the perfidious islanders who have caused

them!  May the cowardly oligarchies of London support the consequences of

so many woes!" From now on, all the treaties he makes are drawn up with a

view to humbling "the eternal enemies of the Continent."

 

     Negotiation for peace went on, it is true, in 1806, between the two

countries.  Napoleon offered to return Hanover and Malta.  He offered

several things which belonged to other people, but England refused all of

his combinations; and when, a few days after Jena, he addressed his army,

it was to tell them: "We shall not lay down our arms until we have obliged

the English, those eternal enemies of our nation, to renounce their plan

of troubling the Continent and their tyranny of the seas."

 

     A month later - November 21, 1806 - he proclaimed the famous Decree

of Berlin, his future policy towards Great Britain.  As she had shut her

enemies from the sea, he would shut her from the land.  The "continental

blockade," as this struggle of land against sea was called, was only using

England's own weapon of war; but it was using it with a sweeping audacity,

thoroughly Napoleonic in conception and in the proposed execution.

Henceforth, all communication was forbidden between the British Isles and

France and her allies.  Every Englishman found under French authority -

and that was about all the Continent as the emperor estimated it - was a

prisoner of war.  Every dollar's worth of English property found within

Napoleon's boundaries, whether it belonged to rich trader or inoffensive

tourist, was prize of war.  If one remembers the extent of the seaboard

which Napoleon at that moment commanded, the full peril of this menace to

English commerce is clear.  From St. Petersburg to Trieste there was not a

port, save those of Denmark and Portugal, which would not close at his

bidding.  At Tilsit he and Alexander had entered into an agreement to

complete this seaboard, to close the Baltic, the Channel, the European

Atlantic, and the Mediterranean to the English.  This was nothing else

than asking Continental Europe to destroy her commerce for their sakes.

 

     There were several serious uncertainties in the scheme.  What

retaliation would England make?  Could Napoleon and Alexander agree long

enough to succeed in dividing the valuable portions of the continents of

Europe, Asia, and Africa?  Would the nations cheerfully give up the

English cottons and tweeds they had been buying, the boots they had been

wearing, the cutlery and dishes they had been using?  Would they

cheerfully see their own products lie uncalled for in their warehouses,

for the sake of aiding a foreign monarch - although the most brilliant and

powerful on earth - to carry out a vast plan for crushing an enemy who was

not their enemy?  It remained to be seen.

 

     In the meantime there was the small part of the coast line remaining

independent to be joined to the portion already blockaded to the English.

There was no delay in Napoleon's action.  Denmark was ordered to choose

between war with England and war with France.  Portugal was notified that

if her ports were not closed in forty days the French and Spanish armies

would invade her.  England gave a drastic reply to Napoleon's measures.

In August she appeared before Copenhagen, seized the Danish fleet, and for

three days bombarded the town.  This unjustifiable attack on a nation with

which she was at peace horrified Europe, and it supported the emperor in

pushing to the uttermost the Berlin Decree.  He made no secret of his

determination.  In a diplomatic audience at Fontainebleau, October 14,

1807, he declared:

 

     "Great Britain shall be destroyed.  I have the means of doing it, and

they shall be employed.  I have three hundred thousand men devoted to this

object, and an ally who has three hundred thousand to support them.  I

will permit no nation to receive a minister from Great Britain until she

shall have renounced her maritime usages and tyranny; and I desire you,

gentlemen, to convey this determination to your respective sovereigns."

 

     Such an alarming extent did the blockade threaten to take, that even

our minister to France, Mr. Armstrong, began to be nervous.  His

diplomatic acquaintances told him cynically, "You are much favored, but it

won't last;" and, in fact, it was not long before it was evident that the

United States was not to be allowed to remain neutral.  Napoleon's notice

to Mr. Armstrong was clear and decisive:

 

     "Since America suffers her vessels to be searched, she adopts the

principle that the flag does not cover the goods.  Since she recognizes

the absurd blockades laid by England, consents to having her vessels

incessantly stopped, sent to England, and so turned aside from their

course, why should the Americans not suffer the blockade laid by France?

Certainly France is no more blockaded by England than England by France.

Why should Americans not equally suffer their vessels to be searched by

French ships?  Certainly France recognizes that these measures are unjust,

illegal and subversive of national sovereignty; but it is the duty of

nations to resort to force, and to declare themselves against things which

dishonor them and disgrace their independence."

 

     The attempt to force Portugal to close her ports caused war.  In all

but one particular she had obeyed Napoleon's orders: she had closed her

ports, detained all Englishmen in her borders, declared war; but her king

refused to confiscate the property of British subjects in Portugal.  This

evasion furnished Napoleon an excuse for refusing to believe in the

sincerity of her pretensions.  "Continue your march," he wrote to Junot,

who had been ordered into the country a few days before (October 12,

1807).  "I have reason to believe that there is an understanding with

England, so as to give the British troops time to arrive from Copenhagen."

 

     Without waiting for the results of the invasion, he and the King of

Spain divided up Portugal between them.  If their action was premature,

Portugal did nothing to gainsay them; for when Junot arrived at Lisbon in

December, he found the country without a government, the royal family

having fled in fright to Brazil.  There was only one thing now to be done;

Junot must so establish himself as to hold the country against the

English, who naturally would resent the injury done their ally.  From St.

Petersburg to Trieste, Napoleon now held the seaboard.

 

     But he was not satisfied.  Spain was between him and Portugal.  If he

was going to rule Western Europe he ought to possess her.  There is no

space here to trace the intrigues with the weak and vicious factions of

the Spanish court, which ended in Napoleon's persuading Charles IV. to

cede his rights to the Spanish throne and to become his pensioner, and

Ferdinand, the heir apparent, to abdicate; and which placed Joseph

Bonaparte, King of Naples, on the Spanish throne, and put Murat, Charlotte

Bonaparte's husband, in Joseph's place.

 

     From beginning to end the transfer of the Spanish crown from Bourbon

to Bonaparte was dishonorable and unjustifiable.  It is true that the

government of Spain was corrupt.  No greater mismanagement could be

conceived, no more scandalous court.  Unquestionably the country would

have been far better off under Napoleonic institutions.  But to despoil

Spain was to be false to an ally which had served him for years with

fidelity, and at an awful cost to herself.  It is true that her service

had been through fear, not love.  It is true that at one critical moment

(when Napoleon was in Poland, in 1807) she had tried to escape; but,

nevertheless, it remained a fact that for France Spain had lost colonies,

sacrificed men and money, and had seen her fleet go down at Trafalgar.  In

taking her throne, Napoleon had none of the excuses which had justified

him in interfering in Italy, in Germany, in Holland, in Switzerland.  This

was not a conquest of war, not confiscation on account of the perfidy of

an ally, not an attempt to answer the prayers of a people for a more

liberal government.

 

     If Spain had submitted to the change, she would have been purchasing

good government at the price of national honor.  But Spain did not submit.

She, as well as all disinterested lookers-on in Europe, was revolted by

the baseness of the deed.  No one has ever explained better the feeling

which the intrigues over the Spanish throne caused than Napoleon himself:

 

     "I confess I embarked badly in the affair [he told Las Cases at St.

Helena].  The immorality of it was too patent, the injustice far too

cynical, and the whole thing too villainous; hence I failed.  The attempt

is seen now only in its hideous nudity, stripped of all that is grand, of

all the numerous benefits which I intended.  Posterity would have extolled

it, however, if I had succeeded, and rightly, perhaps, because of its

great and happy results."

 

     It was the Spanish people themselves, not the ruling house, who

resented the transfer from Bourbon to Bonaparte.

 

     No sooner was it noised through Spain that the Bourbons had really

abdicated, and Joseph Bonaparte had been named king, than an insurrection

was organized simultaneously all over the country.  Some eighty-four

thousand French troops were scattered through the Peninsula, but they were

powerless before the kind of warfare which now began.  Every defile became

a battle-ground, every rock hid a peasant, armed and waiting for French

stragglers, messengers, supply parties.  The remnant of the French fleets

escaped from Trafalgar, and now at Cadiz, was forced to surrender.

Twenty-five thousand French soldiers laid down their arms at Baylen, but

the Spaniards refused to keep their capitulation treaties.  The prisoners

were tortured by the peasants in the most barbarous fashion, crucified,

burned, sawed asunder.  Those who escaped the popular vengeance were sent

to the Island of Cabrera, where they lived in the most abject fashion.  It

was only in 1814 that the remnant of this army was released.  King Joseph

was obliged to flee to Vittoria a week after he reached his capital.

 

     The misfortunes of Spain were followed by greater ones in Portugal.

Junot was defeated by an English army at Vimeiro in August, 1808, and

capitulated on condition that his army be taken back to France without

being disarmed.


 

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