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History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 by C. A. Fyffe

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obedient domestic dogs against marauding foreign wolves. The same personal
view of public affairs had hitherto satisfied the Austrians. It had been
enough for them to be addressed as the dutiful children of a wise and
affectionate father. The Emperor spoke the familiar Viennese dialect; he
was as homely in his notions and his prejudices as any beerseller in his
dominions; his subjects might see him at almost any hour of the day or
night; and out of the somewhat tough material of his character popular
imagination had no difficulty in framing an idol of parental geniality and
wisdom. Fifteen years of failure and mismanagement had, however, impaired
the beauty of the domestic fiction; and although old-fashioned Austrians,
like Haydn, the composer of the Austrian Hymn, were ready to go down to the
grave invoking a blessing on their gracious master, the Emperor himself and
his confidants were shrewd enough to see that the newly-excited sense of
German patriotism would put them in possession of a force which they could
hardly evoke by the old methods.

[Austrian Parties.]

One element of reality lay in the professions which were not for the most
part meant very seriously. There was probably now no statesman in Austria
who any longer felt a jealousy of the power of Prussia. With Count Stadion
and his few real supporters the restoration of Germany was a genuine and
deeply-cherished desire; with the majority of Austrian politicians the
interests of Austria herself seemed at least for the present to require the
liberation of North Germany. Thus the impassioned appeals of the Archduke
Charles to all men of German race to rise against their foreign oppressor,
and against their native princes who betrayed the interests of the
Fatherland, gained the sanction of a Court hitherto very little inclined to
form an alliance with popular agitation. If the chaotic disorder of the
Austrian Government had been better understood in Europe, less importance
would have been attached to this sudden change in its tone. No one in the
higher ranks at Vienna was bound by the action of his colleagues. The
Emperor, though industrious, had not the capacity to enforce any coherent
system of government. His brothers caballed one against another, and
against the persons who figured as responsible ministers. State-papers were
brought by soldiers to the Emperor for his signature without the knowledge
of his advisers. The very manifestos which seemed to herald a new era for
Germany owed most of their vigour to the literary men who were entrusted
with their composition. [155]

[Patriotic movement in Prussia.]

[Governing classes in South Germany on the side of Napoleon.]

The answer likely to be rendered by Germany to the appeal of Austria was
uncertain. In the Rhenish Federation there were undoubted signs of
discontent with French rule among the common people; but the official
classes were universally on the side of Napoleon, who had given them their
posts and their salaries; while the troops, and especially the officers,
who remembered the time when they had been mocked by the Austrians as
"harlequins" and "nose-bags," were won by the kindness of the great
conqueror, who organised them under the hands of his own generals, and gave
them the companionship of his own victorious legions. Little could be
expected from districts where to the mass of the population the old rgime
of German independence had meant nothing more than attendance at the
manor-court of a knight, or the occasional spectacle of a ducal wedding, or
a deferred interest in the droning jobbery of some hereditary
town-councillor. In Northern Germany there was far more prospect of a
national insurrection. There the spirit of Stein and of those who had
worked with him was making itself felt, in spite of the fall of the
Minister. Scharnhorst's reforms had made the Prussian army a school of
patriotism, and the work of statesmen and soldiers was promoted by men who
spoke to the feelings and the intelligence of the nation. Literature lost
its indifference to nationality and to home. The philosopher Fichte, the
poet Arndt, the theologian Schleiermacher pressed the claims of Germany and
of the manlier virtues upon a middle class singularly open to literary
influences, singularly wanting in the experience and the impulses of active
public life. [156] In the Kingdom of Westphalia preparations for an
insurrection against the French were made by officers who had served in the
Prussian and the Hessian armies. In Prussia itself, by the side of many
nobler agencies, the newly-founded Masonic society of the Tugendbund, or
League of Virtue, made the cause of the Fatherland popular among thousands
to whom it was an agreeable novelty to belong to any society at all. No
spontaneous, irresistible uprising, like that which Europe had seen in the
Spanish Peninsula, was to be expected among the unimpulsive population of
the North German plains; but the military circles of Prussia were generally
in favour of war, and an insurrection of the population west of the Elbe
was not improbable in the event of Napoleon's army being defeated by
Austria in the field. King Frederick William, too timid to resolve upon war
himself, too timid even to look with satisfaction upon the bold attitude of
Austria, had every reason for striking, if once the balance should incline
against Napoleon: even against his own inclination it was possible that the
ardour of his soldiers might force him into war.

[Plans of campaign.]

So strong were the hopes of a general rising in Northern Germany, that the
Austrian Government to some extent based its plans for the campaign on this
event. In the ordinary course of hostilities between France and Austria the
line of operations in Germany is the valley of the Danube; but in preparing
for the war of 1809 the Austrian Government massed its forces in the
north-west of Bohemia, with the object of throwing them directly upon
Central Germany. The French troops which were now evacuating Prussia were
still on their way westwards at the time when Austria was ready to open the
campaign. Davoust, with about 60,000 men, was in Northern Bavaria,
separated by a great distance from the nearest French divisions in Baden
and on the Rhine. By a sudden incursion of the main army of Austria across
the Bohemian mountains, followed by an uprising in Northern Germany,
Davoust and his scattered detachments could hardly escape destruction. Such
was the original plan of the campaign, and it was probably a wise one in
the present exceptional superiority of the Austrian preparations over those
of France. For the first time since the creation of the Consulate it
appeared as if the opening advantages of the war must inevitably be upon
the side of the enemies of France. Napoleon had underrated both the energy
and the resources of his adversary. By the middle of March, when the
Austrians were ready to descend upon Davoust from Bohemia, Napoleon's first
troops had hardly crossed the Rhine. Fortunately for the French commander,
the Austrian Government, at the moment of delivering its well-planned blow,
was seized with fear at its own boldness. Recollections of Hohenlinden and
Ulm filled anxious minds with the thought that the valley of the Danube was
insufficiently defended; and on the 20th of March, when the army was on the
point of breaking into Northern Bavaria, orders were given to divert the
line of march to the south, and to enter the Rhenish Confederacy by the
roads of the Danube and the Inn. Thus the fruit of so much energy, and of
the enemy's rare neglectfulness, was sacrificed at the last moment. It was
not until the 9th of April that the Austrian movement southward was
completed, and that the army lay upon the line of the Inn, ready to attack
Napoleon in the territory of his principal German ally.

[Austrian manifesto to the Germans.]

The proclamations now published by the Emperor and the Archduke bore
striking testimony to the influence of the Spanish insurrection in exciting
the sense of national right, and awakening the Governments of Europe to the
force which this placed in their hands. For the first time in history a
manifesto was addressed "to the German nation." The contrast drawn in the
Archduke's address to his army between the Spanish patriots dying in the
defence of their country, and the German vassal-contingents dragged by
Napoleon into Spain to deprive a gallant nation of its freedom, was one of
the most just and the most telling that tyranny has ever given to the
leaders of a righteous cause. [157] The Emperor's address "to the German
nation" breathed the same spirit. It was not difficult for the politicians
of the Rhenish Federation to ridicule the sudden enthusiasm for liberty and
nationality shown by a Government which up to the present time had dreaded
nothing so much as the excitement of popular movements; but, however
unconcernedly the Emperor and the old school of Austrian statesmen might
adopt patriotic phrases which they had no intention to remember when the
struggle was over, such language was a reality in the effect which it
produced upon the thousands who, both in Austria and other parts of
Germany, now for the first time heard the summons to unite in defence of a
common Fatherland.

[Austrians invade Bavaria, April 9, 1809.]

[Rising of the Tyrol, April, 1809.]

[Its causes religious.]

The leading divisions of the Archduke's army crossed the Inn on the 9th of
April. Besides the forces intended for the invasion of Bavaria, which
numbered 170,000 men, the Austrian Government had formed two smaller
armies, with which the Princes Ferdinand and John were to take up the
offensive in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and in Northern Italy. On every side
Austria was first in the field; but even before its regular forces could
encounter the enemy, a popular outbreak of the kind that the Government had
invoked wrested from the French the whole of an important province. While
the army crossed the Inn, the Tyrolese people rose, and overpowered the
French and Bavarian detachments stationed in their country. The Tyrol had
been taken from Austria at the Peace of Presburg, and attached to
Napoleon's vassal kingdom of Bavaria. In geographical position and in
relationship of blood the Tyrolese were as closely connected with the
Bavarians as with the Austrians; and the annexation would probably have
caused no lasting discontent if the Bavarian Government had condescended to
take some account of the character of its new subjects. Under the rule of
Austria the Tyrolese had enjoyed many privileges. They were exempt from
military service, except in their own militia; they paid few taxes; they
possessed forms of self-government which were at least popular enough to be
regretted after they had been lost. The people adored their bishops and
clergy. Nowhere could the Church exhibit a more winning example of unbroken
accord between a simple people and a Catholic Crown. Protestantism and the
unholy activities of reason had never brought trouble into the land. The
people believed exactly what the priests told them, and delighted in the
innumerable holidays provided by the Church. They had so little cupidity
that no bribe could induce a Tyrolese peasant to inform the French of any
movement; they had so little intelligence that, when their own courage and
stout-heartedness had won their first battle, they persuaded one another
that they had been led by a Saint on a white horse. Grievances of a
substantial character were not wanting under the new Bavarian rule; but it
was less the increased taxation and the enforcement of military service
that exasperated the people than the attacks made by the Government upon
the property and rights of the Church. Montgelas, the reforming Bavarian
minister, treated the Tyrolese bishops with as little ceremony as the
Swabian knights. The State laid claim to all advowsons; and upon the
refusal of the bishops to give up their patronage, the bishops themselves
were banished and their revenues sequestrated. A passion for uniformity and
common sense prompted the Government to revive the Emperor Joseph's edicts
against pilgrimages and Church holidays. It became a police-offence to shut
up a shop on a saint's day, or to wear a gay dress at a festival. Bavarian
soldiers closed the churches at the end of a prescribed number of masses.
At a sale of Church property, ordered by the Government, some of the sacred
vessels were permitted to fall into the hands of the Jews.

These were the wrongs that fired the simple Tyrolese. They could have borne
the visits of the tax-gatherer and the lists of conscription; they could
not bear that their priests should be overruled, or that their observances
should be limited to those sufficient for ordinary Catholics. Yet, with all
its aspect of unreason, the question in the Tyrol was also part of that
larger question whether Napoleon's pleasure should be the rule of European
life, or nations should have some voice in the disposal of their own
affairs. The Tyrolese were not more superstitious, and they were certainty
much less cruel, than the Spaniards. They fought for ecclesiastical
absurdities; but their cause was also the cause of national right, and the
admiration which their courage excited in Europe was well deserved.

[Tyrolese expel Bavarians and French, April 1809.]

Early in the year 1809 the Archduke John had met the leaders of the
Tyrolese peasantry, and planned the first movements of a national
insurrection. As soon as the Austrian army crossed the Inn, the peasants
thronged to their appointed meeting-places. Scattered detachments of the
Bavarians were surrounded, and on the 12th of April the main body of the
Tyrolese, numbering about 15,000 men, advanced upon Innsbruck. The town was
invested; the Bavarian garrison, consisting of 3,000 regular troops, found
itself forced to surrender after a severe engagement. On the next morning a
French column, on the march from Italy to the Danube, approached Innsbruck,
totally unaware of the events of the preceding day. The Tyrolese closed
behind it as it advanced. It was not until the column was close to the town
that its commander, General Brisson, discovered that Innsbruck had fallen
into an enemy's hands. Retreat was impossible; ammunition was wanting for a
battle; and Brisson had no choice but to surrender to the peasants, who had
already proved more than a match for the Bavarian regular troops. The
Tyrolese had done their work without the help of a single Austrian
regiment. In five days the weak fabric of Bavarian rule had been thrown to
the ground. The French only maintained themselves in the lower valley of
the Adige: and before the end of April their last positions at Trent and
Roveredo were evacuated, and no foreign soldier remained on Tyrolese soil.

[Campaign of Archduke Charles in Bavaria.]

The operations of the Austrian commanders upon the Inn formed a melancholy
contrast to the activity of the mountaineers. In spite of the delay of
three weeks in opening the campaign, Davoust had still not effected his
junction with the French troops in Southern Bavaria, and a rapid movement
of the Austrians might even now have overwhelmed his isolated divisions at
Ratisbon. Napoleon himself had remained in Paris till the last moment,
instructing Berthier, the chief of the staff, to concentrate the vanguard
at Ratisbon, if by the 15th of April the enemy had not crossed the Inn, but
to draw back to the line of the Lech if the enemy crossed the Inn before
that day. [158] The Archduke entered Bavaria on the 9th; but, instead of
retiring to the Lech, Berthier allowed the army to be scattered over an
area sixty miles broad, from Ratisbon to points above Augsburg. Davoust lay
at Ratisbon, a certain prey if the Archduke pushed forwards with vigour and
thrust his army between the northern and the southern positions of the
French. But nothing could change the sluggishness of the Austrian march.
The Archduke was six days in moving from the Inn to the Isar; and before
the order was given for an advance upon Ratisbon, Napoleon himself had
arrived at Donauwrth, and taken the command out of the hands of his feeble
lieutenant.

[Napoleon restores superiority of French, April 18, 19.]

It needed all the Emperor's energy to snatch victory from the enemy's
grasp. Davoust was bidden to fall back from Ratisbon to Neustadt; the most
pressing orders were sent to Massena, who commanded the right at Augsburg,
to push forward to the north-east in the direction of his colleague, before
the Austrians could throw the mass of their forces upon Davoust's weak
corps. Both generals understood the urgency of the command. Davoust set out
from Ratisbon on the morning of the 19th. He was attacked by the Archduke,
but so feebly and irresolutely that, with all their superiority in numbers,
the Austrians failed to overpower the enemy at any one point. Massena,
immediately after receiving his orders, hurried from Augsburg
north-eastwards, while Napoleon himself advanced into the mid-space between
the two generals, and brought the right and left wings of the French army
into communication with one another. In two days after the Emperor's
arrival all the advantages of the Austrians were gone: the French, so
lately exposed to destruction, formed a concentrated mass in the presence
of a scattered enemy. The issue of the campaign was decided by the
movements of these two days. Napoleon was again at the head of 150,000 men;
the Archduke, already baulked in his first attack upon Davoust, was seized
with unworthy terror when he found that Napoleon himself was before him,
and resigned himself to anticipations of ruin.

[Austrian defeats at Landshut and Eggmhl, April 22.]

[French enter Vienna, May 13.]

A series of manoeuvres and engagements in the finest style of Napoleonic
warfare filled the next three days with French victories and Austrian
disasters. On April the 20th the long line of the Archduke's army was cut
in halves by an attack at Abensberg. The left was driven across the Isar at
Landshut; the right, commanded by the Archduke himself, was overpowered at
Eggmhl on the 22nd, and forced northwards. The unbroken mass of the French
army now thrust itself between the two defeated wings of the enemy. The
only road remaining open to the Archduke was that through Ratisbon to the
north of the Danube. In five days, although no engagement of the first
order had taken place between the French and Austrian armies, Charles had
lost 60,000 men; the mass of his army was retreating into Bohemia, and the
road to Vienna lay scarcely less open than after Mack's capitulation at Ulm
four years before. A desperate battle fought against the advancing French
at Edelsberg by the weak divisions that had remained on the south of the
Danube, proved that the disasters of the campaign were due to the faults of
the general, not to the men whom he commanded. But whatever hopes of
ultimate success might still be based on the gallant temper of the army, it
was impossible to prevent the fall of the capital. The French, leaving the
Archduke on the north of the Danube, pressed forwards along the direct
route from the Inn to Vienna. The capital was bombarded and occupied. On
the 13th of May Napoleon again took up his quarters in the palace of the
Austrian monarchs where he had signed the Peace of 1806. The divisions
which had fallen back before him along the southern road crossed the Danube
at Vienna, and joined the Archduke on the bank of the river opposite the
capital.

[Attempts of Drnberg and Schill in Northern Germany, April, 1809.]

The disasters of the Bavarian campaign involved the sacrifice of all that
had resulted from Austrian victories elsewhere, and of all that might have
been won by a general insurrection in Northern Germany. In Poland and in
Italy the war had opened favourably for Austria. Warsaw had been seized;
Eugene Beauharnais, the Viceroy of Italy, had been defeated by the Archduke
John at Sacile, in Venetia; but it was impossible to pursue these
advantages when the capital itself was on the point of falling into the
hands of the enemy. The invading armies halted, and ere long the Archduke
John commenced his retreat into the mountains. In Northern Germany no
popular uprising could be expected when once Austria had been defeated. The
only movements that took place were undertaken by soldiers, and undertaken
before the disasters in Bavaria became known. The leaders in this military
conspiracy were Drnberg, an officer in the service of King Jerome of
Westphalia, and Schill, the Prussian cavalry leader who had so brilliantly
distinguished himself in the defence of Colberg. Drnberg had taken service
under Jerome with the design of raising Jerome's own army against him. It
had been agreed by the conspirators that at the same moment Drnberg should
raise the Hessian standard in Westphalia, and Schill, marching from Berlin
with any part of the Prussian army that would follow him, should proclaim
war against the French in defiance of the Prussian Government. Drnberg had
made sure of the support of his own regiment; but at the last moment the
plot was discovered, and he was transferred to the command of a body of men
upon whom he could not rely. He placed himself at the head of a band of
peasants, and raised the standard of insurrection. King Jerome's troops met
the solicitations of their countrymen with a volley of bullets. Drnberg
fled for his life; and the revolt ended on the day after it had begun
(April 23). Schill, unconscious of Drnberg's ruin, and deceived by reports
of Austrian victories upon the Danube, led out his regiment from Berlin as
if for a day's manoeuvring, and then summoned his men to follow him in
raising a national insurrection against Napoleon. The soldiers answered
Schill's eloquent words with shouts of applause; the march was continued
westwards, and Schill crossed the Elbe, intending to fall upon the
communications of Napoleon's army, already, as he believed, staggering
under the blows delivered by the Archduke in the valley of the Danube.

[Schill at Stralsund, May 23.]

On reaching Halle, Schill learnt of the overthrow of the Archduke and of
Drnberg's ruin in Westphalia. All hope of success in the enterprise on
which he had quitted Berlin was dashed to the ground. The possibility of
raising a popular insurrection vanished. Schill, however, had gone too far
to recede; and even now it was not too late to join the armies of
Napoleon's enemies. Schill might move into Bohemia, or to some point on the
northern coast where he would be within reach of English vessels. But in
any case quick and steady decision was necessary; and this Schill could not
attain. Though brave even to recklessness, and gifted with qualities which
made him the idol of the public, Schill lacked the disinterestedness and
self-mastery which calm the judgment in time of trial. The sudden ruin of
his hopes left him without a plan. He wasted day after day in purposeless
marches, while the enemy collected a force to overwhelm him. His influence
over his men became impaired; the denunciations of the Prussian Government
prevented other soldiers from joining him. At length Schill determined to
recross the Elbe, and to throw himself into the coast town of Stralsund, in
Swedish Pomerania. He marched through Mecklenburg, and suddenly appeared
before Stralsund at moment when the French cannoneers in garrison were
firing a salvo in honour of Napoleon's entry into Vienna. A hand-to-hand
fight gave Schill possession of the town, with all its stores. For a moment
it seemed as if Stralsund might become a second Saragossa; but the French
were at hand before it was possible to create works of defence. Schill had
but eighteen hundred men, half of whom were cavalry; he understood nothing
of military science, and would listen to no counsels. A week after his
entry into Stralsund the town was stormed by a force four times more
numerous than its defenders. Capitulation was no word for the man who had
dared to make a private war upon Napoleon; Schill could only set the
example of an heroic death. [159] The officers who were not so fortunate as
to fall with their leader were shot in cold blood, after trial by a French
court-martial. Six hundred common soldiers who surrendered were sent to the
galleys of Toulon to sicken among French thieves and murderers. The cruelty
of the conqueror, the heroism of the conquered, gave to Schill's
ill-planned venture the importance of a great act of patriotic martyrdom.
Another example had been given of self-sacrifice in the just cause.
Schill's faults were forgotten; his memory deepened the passion with which
all the braver spirits of Germany now looked for the day of reckoning with
their oppressor. [160]

[Napoleon crosses the Danube, May 20.]

[Battle of Aspern, May 21, 22.]

Napoleon had finished the first act of the war of 1809 by the occupation of
Vienna; but no peace was possible until the Austrian army, which lay upon
the opposite bank of the river, had been attacked and beaten. Four miles
below Vienna the Danube is divided into two streams by the island of Lobau:
the southern stream is the main channel of the river, the northern is only
a hundred and fifty yards broad. It was here that Napoleon determined to
make the passage. The broad arm of the Danube, sheltered by the island from
the enemy's fire, was easily bridged by boats; the passage from the island
to the northern bank, though liable to be disputed by the Austrians, was
facilitated by the narrowing of the stream. On the 18th of May, Napoleon,
supposing himself to have made good the connection between the island and
the southern bank, began to bridge the northern arm of the river. His
movements were observed by the enemy, but no opposition was offered. On the
20th a body of 40,000 French crossed to the northern bank, and occupied the
villages of Aspern and Essling. This was the movement for which the
Archduke Charles, who had now 80,000 men under arms, had been waiting.
Early on the 21st a mass of heavily-laden barges was let loose by the
Austrians above the island. The waters of the Danube were swollen by the
melting of the snows, and at midday the bridges of the French over the
broad arm of the river were swept away. A little later, dense Austrian
columns were seen advancing upon the villages of Aspern and Essling, where
the French, cut off from their supports, had to meet an overpowering enemy
in front, with an impassable river in their rear. The attack began at four
in the afternoon; when night fell the French had been driven out of Aspern,
though they still held the Austrians at bay in their other position at
Essling. During the night the long bridges were repaired; forty thousand
additional troops moved across the island to the northern bank of the
Danube; and the engagement was renewed, now between equal numbers, on the
following morning. Five times the village of Aspern was lost and won. In
the midst of the struggle the long bridges were again carried away. Unable
to break the enemy, unable to bring up any new forces from Vienna, Napoleon
ordered a retreat. The army was slowly withdrawn into the island of Lobau.
There for the next two days it lay without food and without ammunition,
severed from Vienna, and exposed to certain destruction if the Archduke
could have thrown his army across the narrow arm of the river and renewed
the engagement. But the Austrians were in no condition to follow up their
victory. Their losses were enormous; their stores were exhausted. The
moments in which a single stroke might have overthrown the whole fabric of
Napoleon's power were spent in forced inaction. By the third day after the
battle of Aspern the communications between the island and the mainland
were restored, and Napoleon's energy had brought the army out of immediate
danger.

[Effect on Europe.]

[Brunswick invades Saxony.]

Nevertheless, although the worst was averted, and the French now lay secure
in their island fortress, the defeat of Aspern changed the position of
Napoleon in the eyes of all Europe. The belief in his invincibility was
destroyed; he had suffered a defeat in person, at the head of his finest
troops, from an enemy little superior in strength to himself. The disasters
of the Austrians in the opening of the campaign were forgotten; everywhere
the hopes of resistance woke into new life. Prussian statesmen urged their
King to promise his support if Austria should gain one more victory. Other
enemies were ready to fall upon Napoleon without waiting for this
condition. England collected an immense armament destined for an attack
upon some point of the northern coast. Germany, lately mute and nerveless,
gave threatening signs. The Duke of Brunswick, driven from his inheritance
after his father's death at Jena, invaded the dominions of Napoleon's
vassal, the King of Saxony, and expelled him from his capital. Popular
insurrections broke out in Wrtemberg and in Westphalia, and proved the
rising force of national feeling even in districts where the cause of
Germany lately seemed so hopelessly lost.

[Napoleon's preparations for the second passage of the Danube, June.]

[French cross the Danube, July 4.]

But Napoleon concerned himself little with these remoter enemies. Every
energy of his mind was bent to the one great issue on which victory
depended, the passage of the Danube. His chances of success were still
good, if the French troops watching the enemy between Vienna and the
Adriatic could be brought up in time for the final struggle. The Archduke
Charles was in no hurry for a battle, believing that every hour increased
the probability of an attack upon Napoleon by England or Prussia, or
insurgent Germany. Never was the difference between Napoleon and his ablest
adversaries more strikingly displayed than in the work which was
accomplished by him during this same interval. He had determined that in
the next battle his army should march across the Danube as safely and as
rapidly as it could march along the streets of Vienna. Two solid bridges
were built on piles across the broad arm of the river; no less than six
bridges of rafts were made ready to be thrown across the narrow arm when
the moment arrived for the attack. By the end of June all the outlying
divisions of the French army had gathered to the great rallying-point; a
hundred and eighty thousand men were in the island, or ready to enter it;
every movement, every position to be occupied by each member of this vast
mass in its passage and advance, was fixed down to the minutest details.
Napoleon had decided to cross from the eastern, not from the northern side
of the island, and thus to pass outside the fortifications which the
Archduke had erected on the former battlefield. Towards midnight on the 4th
of July, in the midst of a violent storm, the six bridges were successively
swung across the river. The artillery opened fire. One army corps after
another, each drawn up opposite to its own bridge, marched to the northern
shore, and by sunrise nearly the whole of Napoleon's force deployed on the
left bank of the Danube. The river had been converted into a great highway;
the fortifications which had been erected by the Archduke were turned by
the eastward direction of the passage. All that remained for the Austrian
commander was to fight a pitched battle on ground that was now at least
thoroughly familiar to him. Charles had taken up a good position on the
hills that look over the village of Wagram. Here, with 130,000 men, he
awaited the attack of the French. The first attack was made in the
afternoon after the crossing of the river. It failed; and the French army
lay stretched during the night between the river and the hills, while the
Archduke prepared to descend upon their left on the morrow, and to force
himself between the enemy and the bridges behind them.

[Battle of Wagram, July 5, 6.]

[Armistice of Zuaim, July 12.]

Early on the morning of the 6th the two largest armies that had ever been
brought face to face in Europe began their onslaught. Spectators from the
steeples of Vienna saw the fire of the French little by little receding on
their left, and dense masses of the Austrians pressing on towards the
bridges, on whose safety the existence of the French army depended. But ere
long the forward movement stopped. Napoleon had thrown an overpowering
force against the Austrian centre, and the Archduke found himself compelled
to recall his victorious divisions and defend his own threatened line.
Gradually the superior numbers of the French forced the enemy back. The
Archduke John, who had been ordered up from Presburg, failed to appear on
the field; and at two o'clock Charles ordered a retreat. The order of the
Austrians was unbroken; they had captured more prisoners than they had
lost; their retreat was covered by so powerful an artillery that the French
could make no pursuit. The victory was no doubt Napoleon's, but it was a
victory that had nothing in common with Jena and Austerlitz. Nothing was
lost by the Austrians at Wagram but their positions and the reputation of
their general. The army was still in fighting-order, with the fortresses of
Bohemia behind it. Whether Austria would continue the war depended on the
action of the other European Powers. If Great Britain successfully landed
an armament in Northern Germany or dealt any overwhelming blow in Spain, if
Prussia declared war on Napoleon, Austria might fight on. If the other
Powers failed, Austria, must make peace. The armistice of Zuaim, concluded
on the 12th of July, was recognised on all sides as a mere device to gain
time. There was a pause in the great struggle in the central Continent. Its
renewal or its termination depended upon the issue of events at a distance.

[Wellesley invades Spain, June, 1809.]

[Talavera, July 27.]

[Wellesley retreats to Portugal.]

For the moment the eyes of all Europe were fixed upon the British army in
Spain. Sir Arthur Wellesley, who took command at Lisbon in the spring, had
driven Soult out of Oporto, and was advancing by the valley of the Tagus
upon the Spanish capital. Some appearance of additional strength was given
to him by the support of a Spanish army under the command of General
Cuesta. Wellesley's march had, however, been delayed by the neglect and bad
faith of the Spanish Government, and time had been given to Soult to
collect a large force in the neighbourhood of Salamanca, ready either to
fall upon Wellesley from the north, or to unite with another French army
which lay at Talavera, if its commander, Victor, had the wisdom to postpone
an engagement. The English general knew nothing of Soult's presence on his
flank: he continued his march towards Madrid along the valley of the Tagus,
and finally drew up for battle at Talavera, when Victor, after retreating
before Cuesta to some distance, hunted back his Spanish pursuer to the
point from which he had started. [161] The first attack was made by Victor
upon the English positions at evening on the 27th of July. Next morning the
assault was renewed, and the battle became general. Wellesley gained a
complete victory, but the English themselves suffered heavily, and the army
remained in its position. Within the next few days Soult was discovered to
be descending from the mountains between Salamanca and the Tagus. A force
superior to Wellesley's own threatened to close upon him from the rear, and
to hem him in between two fires. The sacrifices of Talavera proved to have
been made in vain. Wellesley had no choice but to abandon his advance upon
the Spanish capital, and to fall back upon Portugal by the roads south of
the Tagus. In spite of the defeat of Victor, the French were the winners of
the campaign. Madrid was still secure; the fabric of French rule in the
Spanish Peninsula was still unshaken. The tidings of Wellesley's retreat
reached Napoleon and the Austrian negotiators, damping the hopes of
Austria, and easing Napoleon's fears. Austria's continuance of the war now
depended upon the success or failure of the long-expected descent of an
English army upon the northern coast of Europe.

Three months before the Austrian Government declared war upon Napoleon, it
had acquainted Great Britain with its own plans, and urged the Cabinet to
dispatch an English force to Northern Germany. Such a force, landing at the
time of the battle of Aspern, would certainly have aroused both Prussia and
the country between the Elbe and the Maine. But the difference between a
movement executed in time and one executed weeks and months too late was
still unknown at the English War Office. The Ministry did not even begin
their preparations till the middle of June, and then they determined, in
pursuance of a plan made some years earlier, to attack the French fleet and
docks at Antwerp, and to ignore that patriotic movement in Northern Germany
from which they had so much to hope.

[British Expedition against Antwerp, July, 1809.]

[Total failure.]

On the 28th of July, two months after the battle of Aspern and three weeks
after the battle of Wagram, a fleet of thirty-seven ships of the line, with
innumerable transports and gunboats, set sail from Dover for the Schelde.
Forty thousand troops were on board; the commander of the expedition was
the Earl of Chatham, a court-favourite in whom Nature avenged herself upon
Great Britain for what she had given to this country in his father and his
younger brother. The troops were landed on the island of Walcheren. Instead
of pushing forward to Antwerp with all possible haste, and surprising it
before any preparations could be made for its defence, Lord Chatham placed
half his army on the banks of various canals, and with the other half
proceeded to invest Flushing. On the 16th of August this unfortunate town
surrendered, after a bombardment that had reduced it to a mass of ruins.
During the next ten days the English commander advanced about as many
miles, and then discovered that for all prospect of taking Antwerp he might
as well have remained in England. Whilst Chatham was groping about in
Walcheren, the fortifications of Antwerp were restored, the fleet carried
up the river, and a mass of troops collected sufficient to defend the town
against a regular siege. Defeat stared the English in the face. At the end
of August the general recommended the Government to recall the expedition,
only leaving a force of 15,000 soldiers to occupy the marshes of Walcheren.
Chatham's recommendations were accepted; and on a spot so notoriously
pestiferous that Napoleon had refused to permit a single French soldier to
serve there on garrison duty, [162] an English army-corps, which might at
least have earned the same honour as Schill and Brunswick in Northern
Germany, was left to perish of fever and ague. When two thousand soldiers
were in their graves, the rest were recalled to England.

[Austria makes peace.]

Great Britain had failed to weaken or to alarm Napoleon; the King of
Prussia made no movement on behalf of the losing cause; and the Austrian
Government unwillingly found itself compelled to accept conditions of
peace. It was not so much a deficiency in its forces as the universal
distrust of its generals that made it impossible for Austria to continue
the war. The soldiers had fought as bravely as the French, but in vain. "If
we had a million soldiers," it was said, "we must make peace; for we have
no one to command them." Count Stadion, who was for carrying on the war to
the bitter end, despaired of throwing his own energetic courage into the
men who surrounded the Emperor, and withdrew from public affairs. For week
after week the Emperor fluctuated between the acceptance of Napoleon's hard
conditions and the renewal of a struggle which was likely to involve his
own dethronement as well as the total conquest of the Austrian State. At
length Napoleon's demands were presented in the form of an ultimatum. In
his distress the Emperor's thoughts turned towards the Minister who, eight
years before, had been so strong, so resolute, when all around him wavered.
Thugut, now seventy-six years old, was living in retirement. The Emperor
sent one of his generals to ask his opinion on peace or war. "I thought to
find him," reported the general, "broken in mind and body; but the fire of
his spirit is in its full force." Thugut's reply did honour to his
foresight: "Make peace at any price. The existence of the Austrian monarchy
is at stake: the dissolution of the French Empire is not far off." On the
14th of October the Emperor Francis accepted his conqueror's terms, and
signed conditions of peace. [163]

[Peace of Vienna, Oct. 14, 1809.]

[Real effects of the war of 1809.]

The Treaty of Vienna, the last which Napoleon signed as a conqueror, took
from the Austrian Empire 50,000 square miles of territory and more than
4,000,000 inhabitants. Salzburg, with part of Upper Austria, was ceded to
Bavaria; Western Galicia, the territory gained by Austria in the final
partition of Poland, was transferred to the Grand-Duchy of Warsaw; part of
Carinthia, with the whole of the country lying between the Adriatic and the
Save as far as the frontier of Bosnia, was annexed to Napoleon's own
Empire, under the title of the Illyrian Provinces. Austria was cut off from
the sea, and the dominion of Napoleon extended without a break to the
borders of Turkey. Bavaria and Saxony, the outposts of French sovereignty
in Central Europe, were enriched at the expense of the Power which had
called Germany to arms; Austria, which at the beginning of the
Revolutionary War had owned territory upon the Rhine and exercised a
predominating influence over all Italy, seemed now to be finally excluded
both from Germany and the Mediterranean. Yet, however striking the change
of frontier which gave to Napoleon continuous dominion from the Straits of
Calais to the border of Bosnia, the victories of France in 1809 brought in
their train none of those great moral changes which had hitherto made each
French conquest a stage in European progress. The campaign of 1796 had
aroused the hope of national independence in Italy; the settlements of 1801
and 1806 had put an end to Feudalism in Western Germany; the victories of
1809 originated nothing but a change of frontier such as the next war might
obliterate and undo. All that was permanent in the effects of the year 1809
was due, not to any new creations of Napoleon, but to the spirit of
resistance which France had at length excited in Europe. The revolt of the
Tyrol, the exploits of Brunswick and Schill, gave a stimulus to German
patriotism which survived the defeat of Austria. Austria itself, though
overpowered, had inflicted a deadly injury upon Napoleon, by withdrawing
him from Spain at the moment when he might have completed its conquest, and
by enabling Wellesley to gain a footing in the Peninsula. Napoleon appeared
to have gathered a richer spoil from the victories of 1809 than from any of
his previous wars; in reality he had never surrounded himself with so many
dangers. Russia was alienated by the annexation of West Galicia to the
Polish Grand Duchy of Warsaw; Northern Germany had profited by the examples
of courage and patriotism shown so largely in 1809 on behalf of the
Fatherland; Spain, supported by Wellesley's army, was still far from
submission. The old indifference which had smoothed the way for the earlier
French conquests was no longer the characteristic of Europe. The
estrangement of Russia, the growth of national spirit in Germany and in
Spain, involved a danger to Napoleon's power which far outweighed the
visible results of his victory.

[Austria and the Tyrol.]

Austria itself could only acquiesce in defeat: nor perhaps would the
permanent interests of Europe have been promoted by its success. The
championship of Germany which it assumed at the beginning of the war would
no doubt have resulted in the temporary establishment of some form of
German union under Austrian leadership, if the event of the war had been
different; but the sovereign of Hungary and Croatia could never be the true
head of the German people; and the conduct of the Austrian Government after
the peace of 1809 gave little reason to regret its failure to revive a
Teutonic Empire. No portion of the Emperor's subjects had fought for him
with such determined loyalty as the Tyrolese. After having been the first
to throw off the yoke of the stranger, they had again and again freed their
country when Napoleon's generals supposed all resistance overcome; and in
return for their efforts the Emperor had solemnly assured them that he
would never accept a peace which did not restore them to his Empire. If
fair dealing was due anywhere it was due from the Court of Austria to the
Tyrolese. Yet the only reward of the simple courage of these mountaineers
was that the war-party at head-quarters recklessly employed them as a means
of prolonging, hostilities after the armistice of Znaim, and that up to the
moment when peace was signed they were left in the belief that the Emperor
meant to keep his promise, Austria, however, could not ruin herself to
please the Tyrolese. Circumstances were changed; and the phrases of
patriotism which had excited so much rejoicing at the beginning of the war
were now fallen out of fashion at Vienna. Nothing more was heard about the
rights of nations and the deliverance of Germany. Austria had made a great
venture and failed; and the Government rather resumed than abandoned its
normal attitude in turning its back upon the professions of 1809.

[Austrian policy after 1809.]

[Metternich.]

Henceforward the policy of Austria was one of calculation, untinged by
national sympathies. France had been a cruel enemy; yet if there was a
prospect of winning something for Austria by a French alliance,
considerations of sentiment could not be allowed to stand in the way. A
statesman who, like Count Stadion, had identified the interests of Austria
with the liberation of Germany, was no fitting helmsman for the State in
the shifting course that now lay before it. A diplomatist was called to
power who had hitherto by Napoleon's own desire represented the Austrian
State at Paris. Count Metternich, the new Chief Minister, was the son of a
Rhenish nobleman who had held high office under the Austrian crown. His
youth had been passed at Coblentz, and his character and tastes were those
which in the eighteenth century had marked the court-circles of the little
Rhenish Principalities, French in their outer life, unconscious of the
instinct of nationality, polished and seductive in that personal management
which passed for the highest type of statesmanship. Metternich had been
ambassador at Dresden and at Berlin before he went to Paris. Napoleon had
requested that he might be transferred to the Court of the Tuileries, on
account of the marked personal courtesy shown by Metternich to the French
ambassador at Berlin during the war between France and Austria in 1805.
Metternich carried with him all the friendliness of personal intercourse
which Napoleon expected in him, but he also carried with him a calm and
penetrating self-possession, and the conviction that Napoleon would give
Europe no rest until his power was greatly diminished. He served Austria
well at Paris, and in the negotiations for peace which followed the battle
of Wagram he took a leading part. After the disasters of 1809, when war was
impossible and isolation ruin, no statesman could so well serve Austria as
one who had never confessed himself the enemy of any Power; and, with the
full approval of Napoleon, the late Ambassador at Paris was placed at the
head of the Austrian State.

[Marriage of Napoleon with Marie Louise, 1810.]

[Severance of Napoleon and Alexander.]

Metternich's first undertaking gave singular evidence of the flexibility of
system which was henceforward to guard Austria's interests. Before the
grass had grown over the graves at Wagram, the Emperor Francis was
persuaded to give his daughter in marriage to Napoleon. For some time past
Napoleon had determined on divorcing Josephine and allying himself to one
of the reigning houses of the Continent. His first advances were made at
St. Petersburg; but the Czar hesitated to form a connection which his
subjects would view as a dishonour; and the opportunity was seized by the
less fastidious Austrians as soon as the fancies of the imperial suitor
turned towards Vienna. The Emperor Francis, who had been bullied by
Napoleon upon the field of Austerlitz, ridiculed and insulted in every
proclamation issued during the late campaign, gave up his daughter for what
was called the good of his people, and reconciled himself to a son-in-law
who had taken so many provinces for his dowry. Peace had not been
proclaimed four months when the treaty was signed which united the House of
Bonaparte to the family of Marie Antoinette. The Archduke Charles
represented Napoleon in the espousals; the Archbishop of Vienna anointed
the bride with the same sacred oil with which he had consecrated the
banners of 1809; the servile press which narrated the wedding festivities
found no space to mention that the Emperor's bravest subject, the Tyrolese
leader Hofer, was executed by Napoleon as a brigand in the interval between
the contract and the celebration of the marriage. Old Austrian families,
members of the only aristocracy upon the Continent that still possessed
political weight and a political tradition, lamented the Emperor's consent
to a union which their prejudices called a mis-alliance, and their
consciences an adultery; but the object of Metternich was attained. The
friendship between France and Russia, which had inflicted so much evil on
the Continent since the Peace of Tilsit, was dissolved; the sword of
Napoleon was turned away from Austria for at least some years; the
restoration of the lost provinces of the Hapsburg seemed not impossible,
now that Napoleon and Alexander were left face to face in Europe, and the
alliance of Austria had become so important to the power which had hitherto
enriched itself at Austria's expense.

[Napoleon annexes Papal States, May, 1809.]

Napoleon crowned his new bride, and felt himself at length the equal of the
Hapsburgs and the Bourbons. Except in Spain, his arms were no longer
resisted upon the Continent, and the period immediately succeeding the
Peace of Vienna was that which brought the Napoleonic Empire to its widest
bounds. Already, in the pride of the first victories of 1809, Napoleon had
completed his aggressions upon the Papal sovereignty by declaring the
Ecclesiastical States to be united to the French Empire (May 17, 1809). The
Pope retorted upon his despoiler with a Bull of Excommunication; but the
spiritual terrors were among the least formidable of those then active in
Europe, and the sanctity of the Pontiff did not prevent Napoleon's soldiers
from arresting him in the Quirinal, and carrying him as a prisoner to
Savona. Here Pius VII., was detained for the next three years. The Roman
States received the laws and the civil organisation of France. [164]
Bishops and clergy who refused the oath of fidelity to Napoleon were
imprisoned or exiled; the monasteries and convents were dissolved; the
cardinals and great officers, along with the archives and the whole
apparatus of ecclesiastical rule, were carried to Paris. In relation to the
future of European Catholicism, the breach between Napoleon and Pius VII.,
was a more important event than was understood at the time; its immediate
and visible result was that there was one sovereign the fewer in Europe,
and one more province opened to the French conscription.

[Napoleon annexes, Holland, July, 1810.]

The next of Napoleon's vassals who lost his throne was the King of Holland.
Like Joseph in Spain, and like Murat in Naples, Louis Bonaparte had made an
honest effort to govern for the benefit of his subjects. He had endeavoured
to lighten the burdens which Napoleon laid upon the Dutch nation, already
deprived of its colonies, its commerce, and its independence; and every
plea which Louis had made for his subjects had been treated by Napoleon as
a breach of duty towards himself. The offence of the unfortunate King of
Holland became unpardonable when he neglected to enforce the orders of
Napoleon against the admission of English goods. Louis was summoned to
Paris, and compelled to sign a treaty, ceding part of his dominions and
placing his custom-houses in the hands of French officers. He returned to
Holland, but affairs grew worse and worse. French troops overran the
country; Napoleon's letters were each more menacing than the last; and at
length Louis fled from his dominions (July 1, 1810), and delivered himself
from a royalty which had proved the most intolerable kind of servitude. A
week later Holland was incorporated with the French Empire.

[Annexation of Le Valais, and of the North German coast.]

Two more annexations followed before the end of the year. The Republic of
the Valais was declared to have neglected the duty imposed upon it of
repairing the road over the Simplon, and forfeited its independence. The
North German coast district, comprising the Hanse towns, Oldenburg, and
part of the Kingdom of Westphalia, was annexed to the French Empire, with
the alleged object of more effectually shutting out British goods from the
ports of the Elbe and the Weser. Hamburg, however, and most of the
territory now incorporated with France, had been occupied by French troops
ever since the war of 1806, and the legal change in its position scarcely
made its subjection more complete. Had the history of this annexation been
written by men of the peasant-class, it would probably have been described
in terms of unmixed thankfulness and praise. In the Decree introducing the
French principle of the free tenure of land, thirty-six distinct forms of
feudal service are enumerated, as abolished without compensation. [165]

[Extent of Napoleon's Empire and Dependencies, 1810.]

Napoleon's dominion had now reached its widest bounds. The frontier of the
Empire began at Lbeck on the Baltic, touched the Rhine at Wesel, and
followed the river and the Jura mountains to the foot of the Lake of
Geneva; then, crossing the Alps above the source of the Rhone, it ran with
the rivers Sesia and Po to a point nearly opposite Mantua, mounted to the
watershed of the Apennines, and descended to the Mediterranean at
Terracina. The late Ecclesiastical States were formed into the two
Departments of the Tiber and of Trasimene; Tuscany, also divided into
French Departments, and represented in the French Legislative Body, gave
the title of Archduchess and the ceremonial of a Court to Napoleon's sister
Eliza; the Kingdom of Italy, formed by Lombardy, Venice, and the country
east of the Apennines as far south as Ascoli, belonged to Napoleon himself,
but was not constitutionally united with the French Empire. On the east of
the Adriatic the Illyrian Provinces extended Napoleon's rule to the borders
of Bosnia and Montenegro. Outside the frontier of this great Empire an
order of feudatories ruled in Italy, in Germany, and in Poland. Murat, King
of Naples, and the client-princes of the Confederation of the Rhine,
holding all Germany up to the frontiers of Prussia and Austria, as well as
the Grand-Duchy of Warsaw, were nominally sovereigns within their own
dominions; but they held their dignities at Napoleon's pleasure, and the
population and revenues of their States were at his service.

[Benefits of Napoleon's rule.]

[Wrongs of Napoleon's rule.]

[Commercial blockade.]

The close of the year 1810 saw the last changes effected which Europe was
destined to receive at the hands of Napoleon. The fabric of his sovereignty
was raised upon the ruins of all that was obsolete and forceless upon the
western Continent; the benefits as well as the wrongs or his supremacy were
now seen in their widest operation. All Italy, the northern districts of
Germany which were incorporated with the Empire, and a great part of the
Confederate Territory of the Rhine, received in the Code Napoleon a law
which, to an extent hitherto unknown in Europe, brought social justice into
the daily affairs of life. The privileges of the noble, the feudal burdens
of the peasant, the monopolies of the guilds, passed away, in most
instances for ever. The comfort and improvement of mankind were vindicated
as the true aim of property by the abolition of the devices which convert
the soil into an instrument of family pride, and by the enforcement of a
fair division of inheritances among the children of the possessor. Legal
process, both civil and criminal, was brought within the comprehension of
ordinary citizens, and submitted to the test of publicity. These were among
the fruits of an earlier enlightenment which Napoleon's supremacy bestowed
upon a great part of Europe. The price which was paid for them was the
suppression of every vestige of liberty, the conscription, and the
Continental blockade. On the whole, the yoke was patiently borne. The
Italians and the Germans of the Rhenish Confederacy cared little what
Government they obeyed; their recruits who were sent to be killed by the
Austrians or the Spaniards felt it no especial hardship to fight Napoleon's
battles. More galling was the pressure of Napoleon's commercial system and
of the agencies by which he attempted to enforce it. In the hope of ruining
the trade of Great Britain, Napoleon spared no severity against the owners
of anything that had touched British hands, and deprived the Continent of
its entire supply of colonial produce, with the exception of such as was
imported at enormous charges by traders licensed by himself. The possession
of English goods became a capital offence. In the great trading towns a
system of permanent terrorism was put in force against the merchants.
Soldiers ransacked their houses; their letters were opened; spies dogged
their steps. It was in Hamburg, where Davoust exercised a sort of
independent sovereignty, that the violence and injustice of the Napoleonic
commercial system was seen in its most repulsive form; in the greater part
of the Empire it was felt more in the general decline of trade and in a
multitude of annoying privations than in acts of obtrusive cruelty. [166]
The French were themselves compelled to extract sugar from beetroot, and to
substitute chicory for coffee; the Germans, less favoured by nature, and
less rapid in adaptation, thirsted and sulked. Even in such torpid
communities as Saxony political discontent was at length engendered by
bodily discomfort. Men who were proof against all the patriotic exaltation
of Stein and Fichte felt that there must be something wrong in a system
which sent up the price of coffee to five shillings a pound, and reduced
the tobacconist to exclusive dependence upon the market-gardener.

[The Czar withdraws from Napoleon's commercial system, Dec., 1810.]

[France and Russia preparing for war, 1811.]

It was not, however, by its effects upon Napoleon's German vassals that the
Continental system contributed to the fall of its author. Whatever the
discontent of these communities, they obeyed Napoleon as long as he was
victorious, and abandoned him only when his cause was lost. Its real
political importance lay in the hostility which it excited between France
and Russia. The Czar, who had attached himself to Napoleon's commercial
system at the Peace of Tilsit, withdrew from it in the year succeeding the
Peace of Vienna. The trade of the Russian Empire had been ruined by the
closure of its ports to British vessels and British goods. Napoleon had
broken his promise to Russia by adding West Galicia to the Polish Duchy of
Warsaw; and the Czar refused to sacrifice the wealth of his subjects any
longer in the interest of an insincere ally. At the end of the year 1810 an
order was published at St. Petersburg, opening the harbours of Russia to
all ships bearing a neutral flag, and imposing a duty upon many of the
products of France. This edict was scarcely less than a direct challenge to
the French Emperor. Napoleon exaggerated the effect of his Continental
prohibitions upon English traffic. He imagined that the command of the
European coast-line, and nothing short of this, would enable him to exhaust
his enemy; and he was prepared to risk a war with Russia rather than permit
it to frustrate his long-cherished hopes. Already in the Austrian marriage
Napoleon had marked the severance of his interests from those of Alexander.
An attempted compromise upon the affairs of Poland produced only new
alienation and distrust; an open affront was offered to Alexander in the
annexation of the Duchy of Oldenburg, whose sovereign was a member of his
own family. The last event was immediately followed by the publication of
the new Russian tariff. In the spring of 1811 Napoleon had determined upon
war. With Spain still unsubdued, he had no motive to hurry on hostilities;
Alexander on his part was still less ready for action; and the forms of
diplomatic intercourse were in consequence maintained for some time longer
at Paris and St. Petersburg. But the true nature of the situation was shown
by the immense levies that were ordered both in France and Russia; and the
rest of the year was spent in preparations for the campaign which was
destined to decide the fate of Europe.

[Affairs in Spain and Portugal, 1809-1812.]

[Lines of Torres Vedras, 1809-1810.]

We have seen that during the period of more than two years that elapsed
between the Peace of Vienna and the outbreak of war with Russia, Napoleon
had no enemy in arms upon the Continent except in the Spanish Peninsula.
Had the Emperor himself taken up the command in Spain, he would probably
within a few months have crushed both the Spanish armies and their English
ally. A fatal error in judgment made him willing to look on from a distance
whilst his generals engaged with this last foe. The disputes with the Pope
and the King of Holland might well have been adjourned for another year;
but Napoleon felt no suspicions that the conquest of the Spanish Peninsula
was too difficult a task for his marshals; nor perhaps would it have been
so if Wellington had been like any of the generals whom Napoleon had
himself encountered. The French forces in the Peninsula numbered over
300,000 men: in spite of the victory of Talavera, the English had been
forced to retreat into Portugal. But the warfare of Wellington was a
different thing from that even of the best Austrian or Russian commanders.
From the time of the retreat from Talavera he had foreseen that Portugal
would be invaded by an army far outnumbering his own; and he planned a
scheme of defence as original, as strongly marked with true military
insight, as Napoleon's own most daring schemes of attack. Behind Lisbon a
rugged mountainous tract stretches from the Tagus to the sea: here, while
the English army wintered in the neighbourhood of Almeida, Wellington
employed thousands of Portuguese labourers in turning the promontory into
one vast fortress. No rumour of the operation was allowed to reach the
enemy. A double series of fortifications, known as the Lines of Torres
Vedras, followed the mountain-bastion on the north of Lisbon, and left no
single point open between the Tagus and the sea. This was the barrier to
which Wellington meant in the last resort to draw his assailants, whilst
the country was swept of everything that might sustain an invading army,
and the irregular troops of Portugal closed in upon its rear. [167]

[Retreat of Massena, 1810-11.]

[Massena's campaign against Wellington, 1810.]

In June, 1810, Marshal Massena, who had won the highest distinction at
Aspern and Wagram, arrived in Spain, and took up the command of the army
destined for the conquest of Portugal. Ciudad Rodrigo was invested:
Wellington, too weak to effect its relief, too wise to jeopardise his army
for the sake of Spanish praise, lay motionless while this great fortress
fell into the hands of the invader. In September, the French, 70,000
strong, entered Portugal. Wellington retreated down the valley of the
Mondego, devastating the country. At length he halted at Busaco and gave
battle (September 27). The French were defeated; the victory gave the
Portuguese full confidence in the English leader; but other roads were open
to the invader, and Wellington continued his retreat. Massena followed, and
heard for the first time of the fortifications of Torres Vedras when he was
within five days' march of them. On nearing the mountain-barrier, Massena
searched in vain for an unprotected point. Fifty thousand English and
Portuguese regular troops, besides a multitude of Portuguese militia, were
collected behind the lines; with the present number of the French an
assault was hopeless. Massena waited for reinforcements. It was with the
utmost difficulty that he could keep his army from starving; at length,
when the country was utterly exhausted, he commenced his retreat (Nov. 14).
Wellington descended from the heights, but his marching force was still too
weak to risk a pitched battle. Massena halted and took post at Santarem, on
the Tagus. Here, and in the neighbouring valley of the Zezere, he
maintained himself during the winter. But in March, 1811, reinforcements
arrived from England: Wellington moved forward against his enemy, and the
retreat of the French began in real earnest. Massena made his way
northwards, hard pressed by the English, and devastating the country with
merciless severity in order to retard pursuit. Fire and ruin marked the
track of the retreating army; but such were the sufferings of the French
themselves, both during the invasion and the retreat, that when Massena
re-entered Spain, after a campaign in which only one pitched battle had
been fought, his loss exceeded 30,000 men.

[Soult conquers Spain as far as Cadiz.]

[Wellington's campaign of 1811.]

Other French armies, in spite of a most destructive guerilla warfare, were
in the meantime completing the conquest of the south and the east of Spain.
Soult captured Seville, and began to lay siege to Cadiz. Here, at the end
of 1810, an order reached him from Napoleon to move to the support of
Massena. Leaving Victor in command at Cadiz, Soult marched northwards,
routed the Spaniards, and conquered the fortress of Badajoz, commanding the
southern road into Portugal. Massena, however, was already in retreat, and
Soult's own advance was cut short by intelligence that Graham, the English
general in Cadiz, had broken out upon the besiegers and inflicted a heavy
defeat. Soult returned to Cadiz and resumed the blockade. Wellington, thus
freed from danger of attack from the south, and believing Massena to be
thoroughly disabled, considered that the time had come for a forward
movement into Spain. It was necessary for him to capture the fortresses of
Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo on the northern road, and to secure his own
communications with Portugal by wresting back Badajoz from the French. He
left a small force to besiege Almeida, and moved to Elvas to make
arrangements with Beresford for the siege of Badajoz. But before the
English commander had deemed it possible, the energy of Massena had
restored his troops to efficiency; and the two armies of Massena and Soult
were now ready to assail the English on the north and the south. Massena
marched against the corps investing Almeida. Wellington hastened back to
meet him, and fought a battle at Fuentes d'Onoro. The French were defeated;
Almeida passed into the hands of the English. In the south, Soult advanced
to the relief of Badajoz. He was overthrown by Beresford in the bloody
engagement of Albuera (May 16th); but his junction with the army of the
north, which was now transferred from Massena to Marmont, forced the
English to raise the siege; and Wellington, after audaciously offering
battle to the combined French armies, retired within the Portuguese
frontier, and marched northwards with the design of laying siege to Ciudad
Rodrigo. Again outnumbered by the French, he was compelled to retire to
cantonments on the Coa.

[Capture of Ciudad Rodrigo, Jan. 19, 1812.]

[Capture of Badajoz, April 6.]

Throughout the autumn months, which were spent in forced inaction,
Wellington held patiently to his belief that the French would be unable to
keep their armies long united, on account of the scarcity of food. His
calculations were correct, and at the close of the year 1811 the English
were again superior in the field. Wellington moved against Ciudad Rodrigo,
and took it by storm on the 19th of January, 1812. The road into Spain was
opened; it only remained to secure Portugal itself by the capture of
Badajoz. Wellington crossed the Tagus on the 8th of March, and completed
the investment of Badajoz ten days later. It was necessary to gain
possession of the city, at whatever cost, before Soult could advance to its
relief. On the night of the 6th of April Wellington gave orders for the
assault. The fury of the attack, the ferocity of the English soldiers in
the moment of their victory, have made the storm of Badajoz conspicuous
amongst the most terrible events of war. But the purpose of Wellington was
effected; the base of the English army in Portugal was secured from all
possibility of attack; and at the moment when Napoleon was summoning his
veteran regiments from beyond the Pyrenees for the invasion of Russia, the
English commander, master of the frontier fortresses of Spain, was
preparing to overwhelm the weakened armies in the Peninsula, and to drive
the French from Madrid.

[Wellington invades Spain, June 1812.]

[Salamanca, July 22.]

[Wellington retires to Portugal.]

It was in the summer of 1812, when Napoleon was now upon the point of
opening the Russian campaign, that Wellington advanced against Marmont's
positions in the north of Spain and the French lines of communication with
the capital. Marmont fell back and allowed Wellington to pass Salamanca;
but on reaching the Douro he turned upon his adversary, and by a succession
of swift and skilful marches brought the English into some danger of losing
their communications with Portugal. Wellington himself now retreated as far
as Salamanca, and there gave battle (July 22). A decisive victory freed the
English army from its peril, and annihilated all the advantages gained by
Marmont's strategy and speed. The French were so heavily defeated that they
had to fall back on Burgos. Wellington marched upon Madrid. At his approach
King Joseph fled from the capital, and ordered Soult to evacuate Andalusia,
and to meet him at Valencia, on the eastern coast. Wellington entered
Madrid amidst the wild rejoicing of the Spaniards, and then turned
northwards to complete the destruction of the army which he had beaten at
Salamanca. But the hour of his final success was not yet come. His advance
upon Madrid, though wise as a political measure, had given the French
northern army time to rally. He was checked by the obstinate defence of
Burgos; and finding the French strengthened by the very abandonment of
territory which his victory had forced upon them, he retired to Portugal,
giving to King Joseph a few months' more precarious enjoyment of his
vassal-sovereignty before his final and irrevocable overthrow.

[The war excites a constitutional movement in Spain.]

In Spain itself the struggle of the nation for its independence had
produced a political revolution as little foreseen by the Spaniards as by
Napoleon himself when the conflict began. When, in 1808, the people had
taken up arms for its native dynasty, the voices of those who demanded a
reform in the abuses of the Bourbon government had scarcely been heard amid
the tumult of loyal enthusiasm for Ferdinand. There existed, however, a
group of liberally-minded men in Spain; and as soon as the invasion of the
French and the subsequent successes of the Spaniards had overthrown both
the old repressive system of the Bourbons and that which Napoleon attempted
to put in its place, the opinions of these men, hitherto scarcely known
outside the circle of their own acquaintances, suddenly became a power in
the country through the liberation of the press. Jovellanos, an upright and
large-minded statesman, who had suffered a long imprisonment in the last
reign in consequence of his labours in the cause of progress, now
represented in the Central Junta the party of constitutional reform. The
Junta itself acted with but little insight or sincerity. A majority of its
members neither desired nor understood the great changes in government
which Jovellanos advocated; yet the Junta itself was an irregular and
revolutionary body, and was forced to appeal to the nation in order to hold
its ground against the old legal Councils of the monarchy, which possessed
not only a better formal right, but all the habits of authority. The
victories of Napoleon at the end of 1808, and the threatening attitude both
of the old official bodies and of the new provincial governments which had
sprung up in every part of the kingdom, extorted from the Junta in the
spring of 1809 a declaration in favour of the assembling of the Cortes, or
National Parliament, in the following year. Once made, the declaration
could not be nullified or withdrawn. It was in vain that the Junta, alarmed
at the progress of popular opinions, restored the censorship of the press,
and attempted to suppress the liberal journals. The current of political
agitation swept steadily on; and before the end of the year 1809 the
conflict of parties, which Spain was henceforward to experience in common
with the other Mediterranean States, had fairly begun. [168]

[Spanish Liberals in 1809 and 1810.]

The Spanish Liberals of 1809 made the same attack upon despotic power, and
upheld the same theories of popular right, as the leaders of the French
nation twenty years before. Against them was ranged the whole force of
Spanish officialism, soon to be supported by the overwhelming power of the
clergy. In the outset, however, the Liberals carefully avoided infringing
on the prerogatives of the Church. Thus accommodating its policy to the
Catholic spirit of the nation, the party of reform gathered strength
throughout the year 1809, as disaster after disaster excited the wrath of
the people against both the past and the present holders of power. It was
determined by the Junta that the Cortes should assemble on the 1st of
March, 1810. According to the ancient usage of Spain, each of the Three
Estates, the Clergy, the Nobles, and the Commons, would have been
represented in the Cortes by a separate assembly. The opponents of reform
pressed for the maintenance of this medival order, the Liberals declared
for a single Chamber; the Junta, guided by Jovellanos, adopted a middle
course, and decided that the higher clergy and nobles should be jointly
represented by one Chamber, the Commons by a second. Writs of election had
already been issued, when the Junta, driven to Cadiz by the advance of the
French armies, and assailed alike by Liberals, by reactionists, and by city
mobs, ended its ineffective career, and resigned its powers into the hands
of a Regency composed of five persons (Jan. 30, 1810). Had the Regency
immediately taken steps to assemble the Cortes, Spain would probably have
been content with the moderate reforms which two Chambers, formed according
to the plans of Jovellanos, would have been likely to sanction. The
Regency, however, preferred to keep power in its own hands and ignored the
promise which the Junta had given to the nation. Its policy of obstruction,
which was continued for months after the time when the Cortes ought to have
assembled, threw the Liberal party into the hands of men of extremes, and
prepared the way for revolution instead of reform. It was only when the
report reached Spain that Ferdinand was about to marry the daughter of King
Joseph, and to accept the succession to the Spanish crown from the usurper
himself, that the Regency consented to convoke the Cortes. But it was now
no longer possible to create an Upper House to serve as a check upon the
popular Assembly. A single Chamber was elected, and elected in great part
within the walls of Cadiz itself; for the representatives of districts
where the presence of French soldiery rendered election impossible were
chosen by refugees from those districts within Cadiz, amid the tumults of
political passion which stir a great city in time of war and revolution.

[Constitution made by the Cortes, 1812.]

On the 24th of September, 1810, the Cortes opened. Its first act was to
declare the sovereignty of the people, its next act to declare the freedom
of the Press. In every debate a spirit of bitter hatred towards the old
system of government and of deep distrust towards Ferdinand himself
revealed itself in the speeches of the Liberal deputies, although no one in
the Assembly dared to avow the least want of loyalty towards the exiled
House. The Liberals knew how passionate was the love of the Spanish people
for their Prince; but they resolved that, if Ferdinand returned to his
throne, he should return without the power to revive the old abuses of
Bourbon rule. In this spirit the Assembly proceeded to frame a Constitution
for Spain. The Crown was treated as the antagonist and corrupter of the
people; its administrative powers were jealously reduced; it was confronted
by an Assembly to be elected every two years, and the members of this
Assembly were prohibited both from holding office under the Crown, and from
presenting themselves for re-election at the end of their two years'
service. To a Representative Body thus excluded from all possibility of
gaining any practical acquaintance with public affairs was entrusted not
only the right of making laws, but the control of every branch of
government. The executive was reduced to a mere cypher.

[The Clergy against the Constitution.]

Such was the Constitution which, under the fire of the French artillery now
encompassing Cadiz, the Cortes of Spain proclaimed in the spring of the
year 1812. Its principles had excited the most vehement opposition within
the Assembly itself; by the nation, or at least that part of it which was
in communication with Cadiz, it appeared to be received with enthusiasm.
The Liberals, who had triumphed over their opponents in the debates in the
Assembly, believed that their own victory was the victory of the Spanish
people over the forces of despotism. But before the first rejoicings were
over, ominous signs appeared of the strength of the opposite party, and of
the incapacity of the Liberals themselves to form any effective Government.
The fanaticism of the clergy was excited by a law partly ratifying the
suppression of monasteries begun by Joseph Bonaparte; the enactments of the
Cortes regarding the censorship of religious writings threw the Church into
open revolt. In declaring the freedom of the Press, the Cortes had
expressly guarded themselves against extending this freedom to religious
discussion; the clergy now demanded the restoration of the powers of the
Inquisition, which had been in abeyance since the beginning of the war. The
Cortes were willing to grant to the Bishops the right of condemning any
writing as heretical, and they were willing to enforce by means of the
ordinary tribunals the law which declared the Catholic religion to be the
only one permitted in Spain; but they declined to restore the jurisdiction
of the Holy Office (Feb., 1813). Without this engine for the suppression of
all mental independence the priesthood of Spain conceived its cause to be
lost. The anathema of the Church went out against the new order. Uniting
with the partisans of absolutism, whom Wellington, provoked by the
extravagances of the Liberals, now took under his protection, the clergy
excited an ignorant people against its own emancipators, and awaited the
time when the return of Ferdinand, and a combination of all the interests
hostile to reform, should overthrow the Constitution which the Liberals
fondly imagined to have given freedom to Spain.

CHAPTER X.

War approaching between France and Russia--Policy of Prussia--Hardenberg's
Ministry--Prussia forced into Alliance with Napoleon--Austrian Alliance--
Napoleon's Preparations--He enters Russia--Alexander and Bernadotte--Plan
of the Russians to fight a Battle at Drissa frustrated--They retreat on
Witepsk--Sufferings of the French--French enter Smolensko--Battle of
Borodino--Evacuation of Moscow--Moscow fired--The Retreat from Moscow--The
French at Smolensko--Advance of Russian Armies from North and South--
Battle of Krasnoi--Passage of the Beresina--The French reach the Niemen--
York's Convention with the Russians--The Czar and Stein--Russian Army
enters Prussia--Stein raises East Prussia--Treaty of Kalisch--Prussia
declares War--Enthusiasm of the Nation--Idea of German Unity--The Landwehr.

[Austria and Prussia in 1811.]

[Hardenberg's Ministry.]

War between France and Russia was known to be imminent as early as the
spring of 1811. The approach of the conflict was watched with the deepest
anxiety by the two States of central Europe which still retained some
degree of independence. The Governments of Berlin and Vienna had been drawn
together by misfortune. The same ultimate deliverance formed the secret
hope of both; but their danger was too great to permit them to combine in
open resistance to Napoleon's will. In spite of a tacit understanding
between the two powers, each was compelled for the present to accept the
conditions necessary to secure its own existence. The situation of Prussia
in especial was one of the utmost danger. Its territory lay directly
between the French Empire and Russia; its fortresses were in the hands of
Napoleon, its resources were certain to be seized by one or other of the
hostile armies. Neutrality was impossible, however much desired by Prussia
itself; and the only question to be decided by the Government was whether
Prussia should enter the war as the ally of France or of Russia. Had the
party of Stein been in power, Prussia would have taken arms against
Napoleon at every risk. Stein, however, was in exile his friends, though
strong in the army, were not masters of the Government; the foreign policy
of the country was directed by a statesman who trusted more to time and
prudent management than to desperate resolves. Hardenberg had been recalled
to office in 1810, and permitted to resume the great measures of civil
reform which had been broken off two years before. The machinery of
Government was reconstructed upon principles that had been laid down by
Stein; agrarian reform was carried still farther by the abolition of
peasant's service, and the partition of peasant's land between the occupant
and his lord; an experiment, though a very ill-managed one, was made in the
forms of constitutional Government by the convocation of three successive
assemblies of the Notables. On the part of the privileged orders Hardenberg
encountered the most bitter opposition; his own love of absolute power
prevented him from winning popular confidence by any real approach towards
a Representative System. Nor was the foreign policy of the Minister of a
character to excite enthusiasm. A true patriot at heart, he seemed at times
to be destitute of patriotism, when he was in fact only destitute of the
power to reveal his real motives.

[Hardenburg's foreign policy, 1811.]

Convinced that Prussia could not remain neutral in the coming war, and
believing some relief from its present burdens to be absolutely necessary,
Hardenberg determined in the first instance to offer Prussia's support to
Napoleon, demanding in return for it a reduction of the payments still due
to France, and the removal of the limits imposed upon the Prussian army.
[169] The offer of the Prussian alliance reached Napoleon in the spring of
1811: he maintained an obstinate silence. While the Prussian envoy at Paris
vainly waited for an audience, masses of troops advanced from the Rhine
towards the Prussian frontier, and the French garrisons on the Oder were
raised far beyond their stipulated strength. In July the envoy returned
from Paris, announcing that Napoleon declined even to enter upon a
discussion of the terms proposed by Hardenberg. King Frederick William
now wrote to the Czar, proposing an alliance between Prussia and Russia.
It was not long before the report of Hardenberg's military preparations
reached Paris. Napoleon announced that if they were not immediately
suspended he should order Davoust to march on Berlin; and he presented a
counter-proposition for a Prussian alliance, which was in fact one of
unqualified submission. The Government had to decide between accepting a
treaty which placed Prussia among Napoleon's vassals, or certain war.
Hardenberg, expecting favourable news from St. Petersburg, pronounced in
favour of war; but the Czar, though anxious for the support of Prussia,
had determined on a defensive plan of operations, and declared that he
could send no troops beyond the Russian frontier.

[Prussia accepts alliance with Napoleon Feb, 1812.]

Prussia was thus left to face Napoleon alone. Hardenberg shrank from the
responsibility of proclaiming a war for life or death, and a treaty was
signed which added the people of Frederick the Great to that inglorious
crowd which fought at Napoleon's orders against whatever remained of
independence and nationality in Europe. [170] (Feb. 24th, 1812.) Prussia
undertook to supply Napoleon with 20,000 men for the impending campaign,
and to raise no levies and to give no orders to its troops without
Napoleon's consent. Such was the bitter termination of all those patriotic
hopes and efforts which had carried Prussia through its darkest days.
Hardenberg himself might make a merit of bending before the storm, and of
preserving for Prussia the means of striking when the time should come; but
the simpler instincts of the patriotic party felt his submission to be the
very surrender of national existence. Stein in his exile denounced the
Minister with unsparing bitterness. Scharnhorst resigned his post; many of
the best officers in the Prussian army quitted the service of King
Frederick William in order to join the Russians in the last struggle for
European liberty.

[Alliance of Austria with Napoleon.]

The alliance which Napoleon pressed upon Austria was not of the same
humiliating character as that which Prussia was forced to accept. Both
Metternich and the Emperor Francis would have preferred to remain neutral,
for the country was suffering from a fearful State-bankruptcy, and the
Government had been compelled to reduce its paper money, in which all debts
and salaries were payable, to a fifth of its nominal value. Napoleon,
however, insisted on Austria's co-operation. The family-relations of the
two Emperors pointed to a close alliance, and the reward which Napoleon
held out to Austria, the restoration of the Illyrian provinces, was one of
the utmost value. Nor was the Austrian contingent to be treated, like the
Prussian, as a mere French army-corps. Its operations were to be separate
from those of the French, and its command was to be held by an Austrian
general, subordinate only to Napoleon himself. On these terms Metternich
was not unwilling to enter the campaign. He satisfied his scruples by
inventing a strange diplomatic form in which Austria was still described as
a neutral, although she took part in the war, [171] and felt as little
compunction in uniting with France as in explaining to the Courts of St.
Petersburg and Berlin that the union was a hypocritical one. The Sovereign
who was about to be attacked by Napoleon, and the Sovereigns who sent their
troops to Napoleon's support, perfectly well understood one another's
position. The Prussian corps, watched and outnumbered by the French, might
have to fight the Russians because they could not help it; the Austrians,
directed by their own commander, would do no serious harm to the Russians
so long as the Russians did no harm to them. Should the Czar succeed in
giving a good account of his adversary, he would have no difficulty in
coming to a settlement with his adversary's forced allies.

[Preparations of Napoleon for invasion of Russia.]

The Treaties which gave to Napoleon the hollow support of Austria and
Prussia were signed early in the year 1812. During the next three months
all Northern Germany was covered with enormous masses of troops and
waggon-trains, on their way from the Rhine to the Vistula. No expedition
had ever been organised on anything approaching to the scale of the
invasion of Russia. In all the wars of the French since 1793 the enemy's
country had furnished their armies with supplies, and the generals had
trusted to their own exertions for everything but guns and ammunition. Such
a method could not, however, be followed in an invasion of Russia. The
country beyond the Niemen was no well-stocked garden, like Lombardy or
Bavaria. Provisions for a mass of 450,000 men, with all the means of
transport for carrying them far into Russia, had to be collected at Dantzig
and the fortresses of the Vistula. No mercy was shown to the unfortunate
countries whose position now made them Napoleon's harvest-field and
storehouse. Prussia was forced to supplement its military assistance with
colossal grants of supplies. The whole of Napoleon's troops upon the march
through Germany lived at the expense of the towns and villages through
which they passed; in Westphalia such was the ruin caused by military
requisitions that King Jerome wrote to Napoleon, warning him to fear the
despair of men who had nothing more to lose. [172]

[Napoleon crosses Russian frontier, June, 1812.]

[Alexander and Bernadotte.]

At length the vast stores were collected, and the invading army reached the
Vistula. Napoleon himself quitted Paris on the 9th of May, and received the
homage of the Austrian and Prussian Sovereigns at Dresden. The eastward
movement of the army continued. The Polish and East Prussian districts
which had been the scene of the combats of 1807 were again traversed by
French columns. On the 23rd of June the order was given to cross the Niemen
and enter Russian territory. Out of 600,000 troops whom Napoleon had
organised for this campaign, 450,000 were actually upon the frontier. Of
these, 380,000 formed the central army, under Napoleon's own command, at
Kowno, on the Niemen; to the north, at Tilsit, there was formed a corps of
32,000, which included the contingent furnished by Prussia; the Austrians,
under Schwarzenburg, with a small French division, lay to the south, on the
borders of Galicia. Against the main army of Napoleon, the real invading
force, the Russians could only bring up 150,000 men. These were formed into
the First and Second Armies of the West. The First, or Northern Army, with
which the Czar himself was present, numbered about 100,000, under the
command of Barclay de Tolly; the Second Army, half that strength, was led
by Prince Bagration. In Southern Poland and on the Lower Niemen the French
auxiliary corps were faced by weak divisions. In all, the Russians had only
220,000 men to oppose to more than double that number of the enemy. The
principal reinforcements which they had to expect were from the armies
hitherto engaged with the Turks upon the Danube. Alexander found it
necessary to make peace with the Porte at the cost of a part of the spoils
of Tilsit. The Danubian provinces, with the exception of Bessarabia, were
restored to the Sultan, in order that Russia might withdraw its forces from
the south. Bernadotte, Crown Prince of Sweden, who was threatened with the
loss of his own dominions in the event of Napoleon's victory, concluded an
alliance with the Czar. In return for the co-operation of a Swedish army,
Alexander undertook, with an indifference to national right worthy of
Napoleon himself, to wrest Norway from Denmark, and to annex it to the
Swedish crown.

[Russians intend to fight at Drissa.]

[Russian armies severed, and retreat on Witepsk.]

The head-quarters of the Russian army were at Wilna when Napoleon crossed
the Niemen. It was unknown whether the French intended to advance upon
Moscow or upon St. Petersburg; nor had any systematic plan of the campaign
been adopted by the Czar. The idea of falling back before the enemy was
indeed familiar in Russia since the war between Peter the Great and Charles
XII. of Sweden, and there was no want of good counsel in favour of a
defensive warfare; [173] but neither the Czar nor any one of his generals
understood the simple theory of a retreat in which no battles at all should
be fought. The most that was understood by a defensive system was the
occupation of an entrenched position for battle, and a retreat to a second
line of entrenchments before the engagement was repeated. The actual course
of the campaign was no result of a profound design; it resulted from the
disagreements of the general's plans, and the frustration of them all. It
was intended in the first instance to fight a battle at Drissa, on the
river Dwina. In this position, which was supposed to cover the roads both
to Moscow and St. Petersburg, a great entrenched camp had been formed, and
here the Russian army was to make its first stand against Napoleon.
Accordingly, as soon as the French crossed the Niemen, both Barclay and
Bagration were ordered by the Czar to fall back upon Drissa. But the
movements of the French army were too rapid for the Russian commanders to
effect their junction. Bagration, who lay at some distance to the south,
was cut off from his colleague, and forced to retreat along the eastern
road towards Witepsk. Barclay reached Drissa in safety, but he knew himself
to be unable to hold it alone against 300,000 men. He evacuated the lines
without waiting for the approach of the French, and fell back in the
direction taken by the second army. The first movement of defence had thus
failed, and the Czar now quitted the camp, leaving to Barclay the command
of the whole Russian forces.

[Collapse of the French transport.]

[Barclay and Bagration unite at Smolensko, Aug. 3.]

Napoleon entered Wilna, the capital of Russian Poland, on the 28th of June.
The last Russian detachments had only left it a few hours before; but the
French were in no condition for immediate pursuit. Before the army reached
the Niemen the unparalleled difficulties of the campaign had become only
too clear. The vast waggon-trains broke down on the highways. The stores
were abundant, but the animals which had to transport them died of
exhaustion. No human genius, no perfection of foresight and care, could
have achieved the enormous task which Napoleon had undertaken. In spite of
a year's preparations the French suffered from hunger and thirst from the
moment that they set foot on Russian soil. Thirty thousand stragglers had
left the army before it reached Wilna; twenty-five thousand sick were in
the hospitals; the transports were at an unknown distance in the rear. At
the end of six days' march from the Niemen, Napoleon found himself
compelled to halt for nearly three weeks. The army did not leave Wilna till
the 16th of July, when Barclay had already evacuated the camp at Drissa.
When at length a march became possible, Napoleon moved upon the Upper
Dwina, hoping to intercept Barclay upon the road to Witepsk; but
difficulties of transport again brought him to a halt, and the Russian
commander reached Witepsk before his adversary. Here Barclay drew up for
battle, supposing Bagration's army to be but a short distance to the south.
In the course of the night intelligence arrived that Bagration's army was
nowhere near the rallying-point, but had been driven back towards
Smolensko. Barclay immediately gave up the thought of fighting a battle,
and took the road to Smolensko himself, leaving his watch-fires burning.
His movement was unperceived by the French; the retreat was made in good
order; and the two severed Russian armies at length effected their junction
at a point three hundred miles distant from the frontier.

[The French waste away.]

[French enter Smolensko, Aug. 18.]

[Barclay superseded by Kutusoff.]

Napoleon, disappointed of battle, entered Witepsk on the evening after the
Russians had abandoned it (July 28). Barclay's escape was, for the French,
a disaster of the first magnitude, since it extinguished all hope of
crushing the larger of the two Russian armies by overwhelming numbers in
one great and decisive engagement. The march of the French during the last
twelve days showed at what cost every further step must be made. Since
quitting Wilna the 50,000 sick and stragglers had risen to 100,000. Fever
and disease struck down whole regiments. The provisioning of the army was
beyond all human power. Of the 200,000 men who still remained, it might
almost be calculated in how many weeks the last would perish. So fearful
was the prospect that Napoleon himself thought of abandoning any further
advance until the next year, and of permitting the army to enter into
winter-quarters upon the Dwina. But the conviction that all Russian
resistance would end with the capture of Moscow hurried him on. The army
left Witepsk on the 13th of August, and followed the Russians to Smolensko.
Here the entire Russian army clamoured for battle. Barclay stood alone in
perceiving the necessity for retreat. The generals caballed against him;
the soldiers were on the point of mutiny; the Czar himself wrote to express
his impatience for an attack upon the French. Barclay nevertheless
persisted in his resolution to abandon Smolensko. He so far yielded to the
army as to permit the rearguard to engage in a bloody struggle with the
French when they assaulted the town; but the evacuation was completed under
cover of night; and when the French made their entrance into Smolensko on
the next morning they found it deserted and in rums. The surrender of
Smolensko was the last sacrifice that Barclay could extort from Russian
pride. He no longer opposed the universal cry for battle, and the retreat
was continued only with the intention of halting at the first strong
position. Barclay himself was surveying a battleground when he heard that
the command had been taken out of his hands. The Czar had been forced by
national indignation at the loss of Smolensko to remove this able soldier,
who was a Livonian by birth, and to transfer the command to Kutusotff, a
thorough Russian, whom a life-time spent in victories over the Turk had
made, in spite of his defeat at Austerlitz, the idol of the nation.

[The French advance from Smolensko.]

When Kutusoff reached the camp, the prolonged miseries of the French
advance had already reduced the invaders to the number of the army opposed
to them. As far as Smolensko the French had at least not suffered from the
hostility of the population, who were Poles, not Russians; but on reaching
Smolensko they entered a country where every peasant was a fanatical enemy.
The villages were burnt down by their inhabitants, the corn destroyed, and
the cattle driven into the woods. Every day's march onward from Smolensko
cost the French three thousand men. On reaching the river Moskwa in the
first week of September, a hundred and seventy-five thousand out of
Napoleon's three hundred and eighty thousand soldiers were in the
hospitals, or missing, or dead. About sixty thousand guarded the line of
march. The Russians, on the other hand, had received reinforcements which
covered their losses at Smolensko; and although detachments had been sent
to support the army of Riga, Kutusoff was still able to place over one
hundred thousand men in the field.

[Battle of Borodino, Sept. 7.]

[Evacuation of Moscow. French enter Moscow, Sept. 14.]

On the 5th of September the Russian army drew up for battle at Borodino, on
the Moskwa, seventy miles west of the capital. At early morning on the 7th
the French advanced to the attack. The battle was, in proportion to its
numbers, the most sanguinary of modern times. Forty thousand French, thirty
thousand Russians were struck down. At the close of the day the French were
in possession of the enemy's ground, but the Russians, unbroken in their
order, had only retreated to a second line of defence. Both sides claimed
the victory; neither had won it. It was no catastrophe such as Napoleon
required for the decision of the war, it was no triumph sufficient to save
Russia from the necessity of abandoning its capital. Kutusoff had sustained
too heavy a loss to face the French beneath the walls of Moscow. Peace was
no nearer for the 70,000 men who had been killed or wounded in the fight.
The French steadily advanced; the Russians retreated to Moscow, and
evacuated the capital when their generals decided that they could not
encounter the French assault. The Holy City was left undefended before the
invader. But the departure of the army was the smallest part of the
evacuation. The inhabitants, partly of their own free will, partly under
the compulsion of the Governor, abandoned the city in a mass. No gloomy or
excited crowd, as at Vienna and Berlin, thronged the streets to witness the
entrance of the great conqueror, when on the 14th of September Napoleon
took possession of Moscow. His troops marched through silent and deserted
streets. In the solitude of the Kremlin Napoleon received the homage of a
few foreigners, who alone could be collected by his servants to tender to
him the submission of the city.

[Moscow fired.]

But the worst was yet to come. On the night after Napoleon's entry, fires
broke out in different parts of Moscow. They were ascribed at first to
accident; but when on the next day the French saw the flames gaining ground
in every direction, and found that all the means for extinguishing fire had
been removed from the city, they understood the doom to which Moscow had
been devoted by its own defenders. Count Rostopchin, the governor, had
determined on the destruction of Moscow without the knowledge of the Czar.
The doors of the prisons were thrown open. Rostopchin gave the signal by
setting fire to his own palace, and let loose his bands of incendiaries
over the city. For five days the flames rose and fell; and when, on the
evening of the 20th, the last fires ceased, three-fourths of Moscow lay in
ruins.

[Napoleon at Moscow, Sept. 14-Oct. 19.]

Such was the prize for which Napoleon had sacrificed 200,000 men, and
engulfed the weak remnant of his army six hundred miles deep in an enemy's
country. Throughout all the terrors of the advance Napoleon had held fast
to the belief that Alexander's resistance would end with the fall of his
capital. The events that accompanied the entry of the French into Moscow
shook his confidence; yet even now Napoleon could not believe that the Czar
remained firm against all thoughts of peace. His experience in all earlier
wars had given him confidence in the power of one conspicuous disaster to
unhinge the resolution of kings. His trust in the deepening impression made
by the fall of Moscow was fostered by negotiations begun by Kutusoff for
the very purpose of delaying the French retreat. For five weeks Napoleon
remained at Moscow as if spell-bound, unable to convince himself of his
powerlessness to break Alexander's determination, unable to face a retreat
which would display to all Europe the failure of his arms and the
termination of his career of victory. At length the approach of winter
forced him to action. It was impossible to provision the army at Moscow
during the winter months, even if there had been nothing to fear from the
enemy. Even the mocking overtures of Kutusoff had ceased. The frightful
reality could no longer be concealed. On the 19th of October the order for
retreat was given. It was not the destruction of Moscow, but the departure
of its inhabitants, that had brought the conqueror to ruin. Above two
thousand houses were still standing; but whether the buildings remained or
perished made little difference; the whole value of the capital to Napoleon
was lost when the inhabitants, whom he could have forced to procure
supplies for his army, disappeared. Vienna and Berlin had been of such
incalculable service to Napoleon because the whole native administration
placed itself under his orders, and every rich and important citizen became
a hostage for the activity of the rest. When the French gained Moscow, they
gained nothing beyond the supplies which were at that moment in the city.
All was lost to Napoleon when the class who in other capitals had been his
instruments fled at his approach. The conflagration of Moscow acted upon
all Europe as a signal of inextinguishable national hatred; as a military
operation, it neither accelerated the retreat of Napoleon nor added to the
miseries which his army had to undergo.

[Napoleon leaves Moscow, Oct. 19.]

[Forced to retreat by the same road.]

The French forces which quitted Moscow in October numbered about 100,000
men. Reinforcements had come in during the occupation of the city, and the
health of the soldiers had been in some degree restored by a month's rest.
Everything now depended upon gaining a line of retreat where food could be
found. Though but a fourth part of the army which entered Russia in the
summer, the army which left Moscow was still large enough to protect itself
against the enemy, if allowed to retreat through a fresh country; if forced
back upon the devastated line of its advance it was impossible for it to
escape destruction. Napoleon therefore determined to make for Kaluga, on
the south of Moscow, and to endeavour to gain a road to Smolensko far
distant from that by which he had come. The army moved from Moscow in a
southern direction. But its route had been foreseen by Kutusoff. At the end
of four days' march it was met by a Russian corps at Jaroslavitz. A bloody
struggle left the French in possession of the road: they continued their
advance; but it was only to find that Kutusoff, with his full strength, had
occupied a line of heights farther south, and barred the way to Kaluga. The
effort of an assault was beyond the powers of the French. Napoleon surveyed
the enemy's position, and recognised the fatal necessity of abandoning the
march southwards and returning to the wasted road by which he had advanced.
The meaning of the backward movement was quickly understood by the army.
From the moment of quitting Jaroslavitz, disorder and despair increased
with every march. Thirty thousand men were lost upon the road before a
pursuer appeared in sight. When, on the 2nd of November, the army reached
Wiazma, it numbered no more than 65,000 men.

[Kutusoff follows by parallel road.]

Kutusoff was unadventurous in pursuit. The necessity of moving his army
along a parallel road south of the French, in order to avoid starvation,
diminished the opportunities for attack; but the general himself disliked
risking his forces, and preferred to see the enemy's destruction effected
by the elements. At Wiazma, where, on the 3rd of November, the French were
for the first time attacked in force, Kutusoff's own delay alone saved them
from total ruin. In spite of heavy loss the French kept possession of the
road, and secured their retreat to Smolensko, where stores of food had been
accumulated, and where other and less exhausted French troops were at hand.

[Frost, Nov. 6.]

[French reach Smolensko, Nov. 9.]

Up to the 6th of November the weather had been sunny and dry. On the 6th
the long-delayed terrors of Russian winter broke upon the pursuers and the
pursued. Snow darkened the air and hid the last traces of vegetation from
the starving cavalry trains. The temperature sank at times to forty degrees
of frost. Death came, sometimes in the unfelt release from misery,
sometimes in horrible forms of mutilation and disease. Both armies were
exposed to the same sufferings; but the Russians had at least such succour
as their countrymen could give; where the French sank, they died. The order
of war disappeared under conditions which made life itself the accident of
a meal or of a place by the camp-fire. Though most of the French soldiery
continued to carry their arms, the Guard alone kept its separate formation;
the other regiments marched in confused masses. From the 9th to the 13th of
November these starving bands arrived one after another at Smolensko,
expecting that here their sufferings would end. But the organisation for
distributing the stores accumulated in Smolensko no longer existed. The
perishing crowds were left to find shelter where they could; sacks of corn
were thrown to them for food.

[Russian armies from north and south attempt to cut off French retreat.]

[Krasnoi, Nov. 17.]

It was impossible for Napoleon to give his wearied soldiers rest, for new
Russian armies were advancing from the north and the south to cut off their
retreat. From the Danube and from the Baltic Sea troops were pressing
forward to their meeting-point upon the rear of the invader. Witgenstein,
moving southwards at the head of the army of the Dwina, had overpowered the
French corps stationed upon that river, and made himself master of Witepsk.
The army of Bucharest, which had been toiling northwards ever since the
beginning of August, had advanced to within a few days' march of its
meeting-point with the army of the Dwina upon the line of Napoleon's
communications. Before Napoleon reached Smolensko he sent orders to Victor,
who was at Smolensko with some reserves, to march against Witgenstein and
drive him back upon the Dwina. Victor set out on his mission. During the
short halt of Napoleon in Smolensko, Kutusoff pushed forward to the west of
the French, and took post at Krasnoi, thirty miles farther along the road
by which Napoleon had to pass. The retreat of the French seemed to be
actually cut off. Had the Russian general dared to face Napoleon and his
Guards, he might have held the French in check until the arrival of the two
auxiliary armies from the north and south enabled him to capture Napoleon
and his entire force. Kutusoff, however, preferred a partial and certain
victory to a struggle with Napoleon for life or death. He permitted
Napoleon and the Guard to pass by unattacked, and then fell upon the hinder
divisions of the French army. (Nov. 17.) These unfortunate troops were
successively cut to pieces. Twenty-six thousand were made prisoners. Ney,
with a part of the rear-guard, only escaped by crossing the Dnieper on the
ice. Of the army that had quitted Moscow there now remained but 10,000
combatants and 20,000 followers. Kutusoff himself was brought to such a
state of exhaustion that he could carry the pursuit no further, and entered
into quarters upon the Dnieper.

[Victor joins Napoleon.]

[Passage of the Beresina, Nov. 28th.]

It was a few days after the battle at Krasnoi that the divisions of Victor,
coming from the direction of the Dwina, suddenly encountered the remnant
of Napoleon's army. Though aware that Napoleon was in retreat, they knew
nothing of the calamities that had befallen him, and were struck with
amazement when, in the middle of a forest, they met with what seemed more
like a miserable troop of captives than an army upon the march. Victor's
soldiers of a mere auxiliary corps found themselves more than double the
effective strength of the whole army of Moscow. Their arrival again placed
Napoleon at the head of 30,000 disciplined troops, and gave the French a
gleam of victory in the last and seemingly most hopeless struggle in the
campaign. Admiral Tchitchagoff, in command of the army marching from the
Danube, had at length reached the line of Napoleon's retreat, and
established himself at Borisov, where the road through Poland crosses the
river Beresina. The bridge was destroyed by the Russians, and Tchitchagoff
opened communication with Witgenstein's army, which lay only a few miles to
the north. It appeared as if the retreat of the French was now finally
intercepted, and the surrender of Napoleon inevitable. Yet even in this
hopeless situation the military skill and daring of the French worked with
something of its ancient power. The army reached the Beresina; Napoleon
succeeded in withdrawing the enemy from the real point of passage; bridges
were thrown across the river, and after desperate fighting a great part of
the army made good its footing upon the western bank (Nov. 28). But the
losses even among the effective troops were enormous. The fate of the
miserable crowd that followed them, torn by the cannon-fire of the
Russians, and precipitated into the river by the breaking of one of the
bridges, has made the passage of the Beresina a synonym for the utmost
degree of human woe.

[French reach the Niemen, Dec. 13.]

This was the last engagement fought by the army. The Guards still preserved
their order: Marshal Ney still found soldiers capable of turning upon the
pursuer with his own steady and unflagging courage; but the bulk of the
army struggled forward in confused crowds, harassed by the Cossacks, and
laying down their arms by thousands before the enemy. The frost, which had
broken up on the 19th, returned on the 30th of November with even greater
severity. Twenty thousand fresh troops which joined the army between the
Beresina and Wilna scarcely arrested the process of dissolution. On the 3rd
of December Napoleon quitted the army. Wilna itself was abandoned with all
its stores; and when at length the fugitives reached the Niemen, they
numbered little more than twenty thousand. Here, six months earlier, three
hundred and eighty thousand men had crossed with Napoleon. A hundred
thousand more had joined the army in the course of its retreat. Of all this
host, not the twentieth part reached the Prussian frontier. A hundred and
seventy thousand remained prisoners in the hands of the Russians; a greater
number had perished. Of the twenty thousand men who now beheld the Niemen,
probably not seven thousand had crossed with Napoleon. In the presence of a
catastrophe so overwhelming and so unparalleled the Russian generals might
well be content with their own share in the work of destruction. Yet the
event proved that Kutusoff had done ill in sparing the extremest effort to
capture or annihilate his foe. Not only was Napoleon's own escape the
pledge of continued war, but the remnant that escaped with him possessed a
military value out of all proportion to its insignificant numbers. The best
of the army were the last to succumb. Out of those few thousands who
endured to the end, a very large proportion were veteran officers, who
immediately took their place at the head of Napoleon's newly-raised armies,
and gave to them a military efficiency soon to be bitterly proved by Europe
on many a German battle-field.

[York's convention with the Russians, Dec. 30.]

[York and the Prussian contingent at Riga.]

Four hundred thousand men were lost to a conqueror who could still stake
the lives of half a million more. The material power of Napoleon, though
largely, was not fatally diminished by the Russian campaign; it was through
its moral effect, first proved in the action of Prussia, that the retreat
from Moscow created a new order of things in Europe. The Prussian
contingent, commanded by General von York, lay in front of Riga, where it
formed part of the French subsidiary army-corps led by Marshal Macdonald.
Early in November the Russian governor of Riga addressed himself to York,
assuring him that Napoleon was ruined, and soliciting York himself to take
up arms against Macdonald. [174] York had no evidence, beyond the word of
the Russian commander, of the extent of Napoleon's losses; and even if the
facts were as stated, it was by no means clear that the Czar might not be
inclined to take vengeance on Prussia on account of its alliance with
Napoleon. York returned a guarded answer to the Russian, and sent an
officer to Wilna to ascertain the real state of the French army. On the 8th
of December the officer returned, and described what he had himself seen.
Soon afterwards the Russian commandant produced a letter from the Czar,
declaring his intention to deal with Prussia as a friend, not as an enemy.
On these points all doubt was removed; York's decision was thrown upon
himself. York was a rigid soldier of the old Prussian type, dominated by
the idea of military duty. The act to which the Russian commander invited
him, and which the younger officers were ready to hail as the liberation of
Prussia, might be branded by his sovereign as desertion and treason.
Whatever scruples and perplexity might be felt in such a situation by a
loyal and obedient soldier were felt by York. He nevertheless chose the
course which seemed to be for his country's good; and having chosen it, he
accepted all the consequences which it involved. On the 30th of December a
convention was signed at Tauroggen, which, under the guise of a truce,
practically withdrew the Prussian army from Napoleon, and gave the Russians
possession of Knigsberg. The momentous character of the act was recognised
by Napoleon as soon as the news reached Paris. York's force was the
strongest military body upon the Russian frontier; united with Macdonald,
it would have forced the Russian pursuit to stop at the Niemen; abandoning
Napoleon, it brought his enemies on to the Vistula, and threatened
incalculable danger by its example to all the rest of Germany. For the
moment, however, Napoleon could count upon the spiritless obedience of King
Frederick William. In the midst of the French regiments that garrisoned
Berlin, the King wrote orders pronouncing York's convention null and void,
and ordering York himself to be tried by court-martial. The news reached
the loyal soldier: he received it with grief, but maintained his resolution
to act for his country's good. "With bleeding heart," he wrote, "I burst
the bond of obedience, and carry on the war upon my own responsibility. The
army desires war with France; the nation desires it; the King himself
desires it, but his will is not free. The army must make his will free."

[The Czar and Stein.]

[Alexander enters Prussia, Jan., 1813.]

York's act was nothing less than the turning-point in Prussian history.
Another Prussian, at this great crisis of Europe, played as great, though
not so conspicuous, a part. Before the outbreak of the Russian war, the
Czar had requested the exile Stein to come to St. Petersburg to aid him
with his counsels during the struggle with Napoleon. Stein gladly accepted
the call; and throughout the campaign he encouraged the Czar in the
resolute resistance which the Russian nation itself required of its
Government. So long as French soldiers remained on Russian soil, there was
indeed little need for a foreigner to stimulate the Czar's energies; but
when the pursuit had gloriously ended on the Niemen, the case became very
different. Kutusoff and the generals were disinclined to carry the war into
Germany. The Russian army had itself lost three-fourths of its numbers;
Russian honour was satisfied; the liberation of Western Europe might be
left to Western Europe itself. Among the politicians who surrounded
Alexander, there were a considerable number, including the first minister
Romanzoff, who still believed in the good policy of a French alliance.
These were the influences with which Stein had to contend, when the
question arose whether Russia should rest satisfied with its own victories,
or summon all Europe to unite in overthrowing Napoleon's tyranny. No record
remains of the stages by which Alexander's mind rose to the clear and firm
conception of a single European interest against Napoleon; indications
exist that it was Stein's personal influence which most largely affected
his decision. Even in the darkest moments of the war, when the forces of
Russia seemed wholly incapable of checking Napoleon's advance, Stein had
never abandoned his scheme for raising the German nation against Napoleon.
The confidence with which he had assured Alexander of ultimate victory over
the invader had been thoroughly justified; the triumph which he had
predicted had come with a rapidity and completeness even surpassing his
hopes. For a moment Alexander identified himself with the statesman who, in
the midst of Germany's humiliation, had been so resolute, so far-sighted,
so aspiring. [175] The minister of the peace-party was dismissed: Alexander
ordered his troops to advance into Prussia, and charged Stein himself to
assume the government of the Prussian districts occupied by Russian armies.
Stein's mission was to arm the Landwehr, and to gather all the resources of
the country for war against France; his powers were to continue until some
definite arrangement should be made between the King of Prussia and the
Czar.

[Stein's commission from Alexander.]

[Province of East Prussia arms, Jan., 1813.]

Armed with this commission from a foreign sovereign, Stein appeared at
Knigsberg on the 22nd of January, 1813, and published an order requiring
the governor of the province of East Prussia to convoke an assembly for the
purpose of arming the people. Stein would have desired York to appear as
President of the Assembly; but York, like most of the Prussian officials,
was alarmed and indignant at Stein's assumption of power in Prussia as the
representative of the Russian Czar, and hesitated to connect himself with
so revolutionary a measure as the arming of the people. It was only upon
condition that Stein himself should not appear in the Assembly that York
consented to recognise its powers. The Assembly met. York entered the
house, and spoke a few soul-stirring words. His undisguised declaration of
war with France was received with enthusiastic cheers. A plan for the
formation of a Landwehr, based on Scharnhorst's plans of 1808, was laid
before the Assembly, and accepted. Forty thousand men were called to arms
in a province which included nothing west of the Vistula. The nation itself
had begun the war, and left its Government no choice but to follow. Stein's
task was fulfilled; and he retired to the quarters of Alexander, unwilling
to mar by the appearance of foreign intervention the work to which the
Prussian nation had now committed itself beyond power of recall. It was the
fortune of the Prussian State, while its King dissembled before the French
in Berlin, to possess a soldier brave enough to emancipate its army, and a
citizen bold enough to usurp the government of its provinces. Frederick
William forgave York his intrepidity; Stein's action was never forgiven by
the timid and jealous sovereign whose subjects he had summoned to arm
themselves for their country's deliverance.

[Policy of Hardenberg.]

[Treaty of Kalisch, Feb. 27.]

The Government of Berlin, which since the beginning of the Revolutionary
War had neither been able to fight, nor to deceive, nor to be honest, was
at length forced by circumstances into a certain effectiveness in all three
forms of action. In the interval between the first tidings of Napoleon's
disasters and the announcement of York's convention with the Russians,
Hardenberg had been assuring Napoleon of his devotion, and collecting
troops which he carefully prevented from joining him. [176] The desire of
the King was to gain concessions without taking part in the war either
against Napoleon or on his side. When, however, the balance turned more
decidedly against Napoleon, he grew bolder; and the news of York's
defection, though it seriously embarrassed the Cabinet for the moment,
practically decided it in favour of war with France. The messenger who was
sent to remove York from his command received private instructions to fall
into the hands of the Russians, and to inform the Czar that, if his troops
advanced as far as the Oder, King Frederick William would be ready to
conclude an alliance. Every post that arrived from East Prussia
strengthened the warlike resolutions of the Government. At length the King
ventured on the decisive step of quitting Berlin and placing himself at
Breslau (Jan. 25). At Berlin he was in the power of the French; at Breslau
he was within easy reach of Alexander. The significance of the journey
could not be mistaken: it was immediately followed by open preparation for
war with France. On February 3rd there appeared an edict inviting
volunteers to enrol themselves: a week later all exemptions from military
service were abolished, and the entire male population of Prussia between
the ages of seventeen and twenty-four was declared liable to serve. General
Knesebeck was sent to the headquarters of the Czar, which were now between
Warsaw and Kalisch, to conclude a treaty of alliance. Knesebeck demanded
securities for the restoration to Prussia of all the Polish territory which
it had possessed before 1806; the Czar, unwilling either to grant this
condition or to lose the Prussian alliance, kept Knesebeck at his quarters,
and sent Stein with a Russian plenipotentiary to Breslau to conclude the
treaty with Hardenberg himself. Stein and Hardenberg met at Breslau on the
26th of February. Hardenberg accepted the Czar's terms, and the treaty,
known as the Treaty of Kalisch, [177] was signed on the following day. By
this treaty, without guaranteeing the restoration of Prussian Poland,
Russia undertook not to lay down its arms until the Prussian State as a
whole was restored to the area and strength which it had possessed before
1806. For this purpose annexations were promised in Northern Germany. With
regard to Poland, Russia promised no more than to permit Prussia to retain
what it had received in 1772, together with a strip of territory to connect
this district with Silesia. The meaning of the agreement was that Prussia
should abandon to Russia the greater part of its late Polish provinces, and
receive an equivalent German territory in its stead. The Treaty of Kalisch
virtually surrendered to the Czar all that Prussia had gained in the
partitions of Poland made in 1793 and in 1795. The sacrifice was deemed a
most severe one by every Prussian politician, and was accepted only as a
less evil than the loss of Russia's friendship, and a renewed submission to
Napoleon. No single statesman, not even Stein himself, appears to have
understood that in exchanging its Polish conquests for German annexations,
in turning to the German west instead of to the alien Slavonic east,
Prussia was in fact taking the very step which made it the possible head of
a future united Germany.

[French retreat to the Elbe.]

War was still undeclared upon Napoleon by King Frederick William, but
throughout the month of February the light cavalry of the Russians pushed
forward unhindered through Prussian territory towards the Oder, and crowds
of volunteers, marching through Berlin on their way to the camps in
Silesia, gave the French clear signs of the storm that was about to burst
upon them. [178] The remnant of Napoleon's army, now commanded by Eugene
Beauharnais, had fallen back step by step to the Oder. Here, resting on the
fortresses, it might probably have checked the Russian advance; but the
heart of Eugene failed; the line of the Oder was abandoned, and the retreat
continued to Berlin and the Elbe. The Cossacks followed. On the 20th of
February they actually entered Berlin and fought with the French in the
streets. The French garrison was far superior in force; but the appearance
of the Cossacks caused such a ferment that, although the alliance between
France and Prussia was still in nominal existence, the French troops
expected to be cut to pieces by the people. For some days they continued to
bivouac in the streets, and as soon as it became known that a regular
Russian force had reached the Oder, Eugene determined to evacuate Berlin.
On the 4th of March the last French soldier quitted the Prussian capital.
The Cossacks rode through the town as the French left it, and fought with
their rear-guard. Some days later Witgenstein appeared with Russian
infantry. On March 17th York made his triumphal entry at the head of his
corps, himself cold and rigid in the midst of tumultuous outbursts of
patriotic joy.

[King of Prussia declares war March 17.]

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