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Napoleon In Paris

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Statesman And Lawgiver

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An Heir To The Crown

The Pope

Conscription

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Tilsit Agreement Broken

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A New Army

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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

 

Chapter XVIII.

 

The Pope - Conscription - Evasions Of Blockade - Tilsit Agreement Broken

 

     "This child in concert with our Eugene will constitute our happiness

and that of France," so Napoleon had written Josephine after the birth of

the King of Rome, but it soon became evident that he was wrong.  There

were causes of uneasiness and discontent in France which had been

operating for a long time, and which were only aggravated by the apparent

solidity that an heir gave to the Napoleonic dynasty.

 

     First among these was religious disaffection.  Towards the end of

1808, being doubtful of the Pope's loyalty, Napoleon had sent French

troops to Rome; the spring following, without any plausible excuse, he had

annexed four Papal States to the kingdom of Italy; and in 1809 the Pope

had been made a prisoner at Savona.  When the divorce was asked, it was

not the Pope, but the clergy, of Paris, who had granted it.  When the

religious marriage of Marie Louise and Napoleon came to be celebrated,

thirteen cardinals refused to appear; the "black cardinals" they were

thereafter called, one of their punishments for non-appearance at the

wedding being that they could no longer wear their red gowns.  To the

pious all this friction with the fathers of the Church was a deplorable

irritation.  It was impossible to show contempt for the authority of Pope

and cardinals and not wound one of the deepest sentiments of France, and

one which ten years before Napoleon had braved most to satisfy.

 

     To the irritation against the emperor's church policy was added

bitter resentment against the conscription, that tax of blood and muscle

demanded of the country.  Napoleon had formulated and attempted to make

tolerable the principle born of the Revolution, which declared that every

male citizen of age owed the state a service of blood in case it needed

him.  The wisdom of his management of the conscription had prevented

discontent until 1807; then the draft on life had begun to be arbitrary

and grievous.  The laws of exemptions were disregarded.  The "only son of

his mother" no longer remained at her side.  The father whose little

children were motherless must leave them; aged and helpless parents no

longer gave immunity.  Those who had bought their exemption by heavy

sacrifices were obliged to go.  Persons whom the law made subject to

conscription in 1807, were called out in 1806; those of 1808, in 1807.  So

far was this premature drafting pushed, that the armies were said to be

made up of "boy soldiers," weak, unformed youths, fresh from school, who

wilted in a sun like that of Spain, and dropped out in the march.

 

     At the rate at which men had been killed, however, there was no other

way of keeping up the army.  Between 1804 and 1811 one million seven

hundred thousand men had perished in battle.  What wonder that now the

boys of France were pressed into service!  At the same time the country

was overrun with the lame, the blind, the broken-down, who had come back

from war to live on their friends or on charity.  It was not only the

funeral crape on almost every door which made Frenchmen hate the

conscription, it was the crippled men whom they met at every corner.

 

     While within, the people fretted over the religious disturbances and

the abuses of the conscription, without, the continental blockade was

causing serious trouble between Napoleon and the kings he ruled.  In spite

of all his efforts English merchandise penetrated everywhere.  The fair at

Rotterdam in 1807 was filled with English goods.  They passed into Italy

under false seals.  They came into France on pretence that they were for

the empress.  Napoleon remonstrated and threatened, but he could not check

the traffic.  The most serious trouble caused by this violation of the

Berlin Decree was with Louis, King of Holland.  In 1808 Napoleon

complained to his brother that more than one hundred ships passed between

his kingdom and England every month, and a year later he wrote in

desperation, "Holland is an English province."

 

     The relations of the brothers grew more and more bitter.  Napoleon

resented the half support Louis gave him, and as a punishment he took away

his provinces, filled his forts with French troops, threatened him with

war if he did not break up the trade.  So far did these hostilities go,

that in the summer of 1810 King Louis abdicated in favor of his son and

retired to Austria.  Napoleon tried his best to persuade him at least to

return into French territory, but he refused.  This break was the sadder

because Louis was the brother for whom Napoleon had really done most.

 

     Joseph was not happier than Louis.  The Spanish war still went on,

and no better than in 1808.  Joseph, humbled and unhappy, had even prayed

to be freed of the throne.

 

     The relations with Sweden were seriously strained.  Since 1810

Bernadotte had been by adoption the crown prince of that country.

Although he had emphatically refused, in accepting the position, to agree

never to take up arms against France, as Napoleon wished him to do, he had

later consented to the continental blockade, and had declared war against

England; but this declaration both England and Sweden considered simply as

a facon de parler.  Napoleon, conscious that Bernadotte was not carrying

out the blockade, and irritated by his persistent refusal to enter into

French combinations, and pay tribute to carry on French wars, had

suppressed his revenues as a French prince - Bernadotte had been created

Prince of Ponte-Corvo in 1806 - had refused to communicate with him, and

when the King of Rome was born had sent back the Swedish decoration

offered.  Finally, in January, 1812, French troops invaded certain Swedish

possessions, and the country concluded an alliance with England and

Russia.

 

     With Russia, the "other half" of the machine, the ally upon whom the

great plan of Tilsit and Erfurt depended, there was such a bad state of

feeling that, in 1811, it became certain that war would result.  Causes

had been accumulating upon each side since the Erfurt meeting.

 

     The continental system weighed heavily on the interests of Russia.

The people constantly rebelled against it and evaded it in every way.  The

business depressions from which they suffered they charged to Napoleon,

and a strong party arose in the empire which used every method of showing

the czar that the "unnatural alliance," as they called the agreement

between Alexander and Napoleon, was unpopular.  The czar could not refuse

to listen to this party.  More, he feared that Napoleon was getting ready

to restore Poland.  He was offended by the haste with which his ally had

dismissed the idea of marriage with his sister and had taken up Marie

Louise.  He complained of the changes of boundaries in Germany.  Napoleon,

on his part, saw with irritation that English goods were admitted into

Russia.  He resented the failure of Alexander to join heartily in the

wide-sweeping application he had made of the Berlin and Milan Decrees, and

to persecute neutral flags of all nations, even of those so far away from

the Continent as the United States.  He remembered that Russia had not

supported him loyally in 1809.  He was suspicious, too, of the good

understanding which seemed to be growing between Sweden, Russia, and

England.

 

     During many months the two emperors remained in a half-hostile

condition, but the strain finally became too great.  War was inevitable,

and Napoleon set about preparing for the struggle.  During the latter

months of 1811 and the first of 1812 his attention was given almost

entirely to the military and diplomatic preparations necessary before

beginning the Russian campaign.  By the 1st of May, 1812, he was ready to

join his army, which he had centred at Dresden.  Accompanied by Marie

Louise he arrived at Dresden on the 16th of May, 1812, where he was

greeted by the Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, and other

sovereigns with whom he had formed alliances.

 

     The force Napoleon had brought to the field showed graphically the

extension and the character of the France of 1812.  The "army of twenty

nations," the Russians called the host which was preparing to meet them,

and the expression was just, for in the ranks there were Spaniards,

Neapolitans, Piedmontese, Slavs, Kroats, Bavarians, Dutchmen, Poles,

Romans, and a dozen other nationalities, side by side with Frenchmen.

Indeed, nearly one-half the force was said to be foreign.  The Grand Army,

as the active body was called, numbered, to quote the popular figures, six

hundred and seventy-eight thousand men.  It is sure that this is an

exaggerated number, though certainly over half a million men entered

Russia.  With reserves, the whole force numbered one million one hundred

thousand.  The necessity for so large a body of reserves is explained by

the length of the line of communication Napoleon had to keep.  From the

Nieman to Paris the way must be open, supply stations guarded, fortified

towns equipped.  It took nearly as many men to insure the rear of the

Grand Army as it did to make up the army itself.

 

     With this imposing force at his command, Napoleon believed that he

could compel Alexander to support the continental blockade, for come what

might that system must succeed.  For it the reigning house had been driven

from Portugal, the Pope despoiled and imprisoned, Louis gone into exile,

Bernadotte driven into a new alliance.  For it the Grand Army was led into

Russia.  It had become, as its inventor proclaimed, the fundamental law of

the empire.

 

     Until he crossed the Nieman, Napoleon preserved the hope of being

able to avoid war.  Numerous letters to the Russian emperor, almost

pathetic in their overtures, exist.  But Alexander never replied.  He

simply allowed his enemy to advance.  The Grand Army was doomed to make

the Russian campaign.

 

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