Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

very near

rise to some detestable and utterly improbable fancies, as to the means she had taken of procuring the kingdom to devolve to the House of Brandenburgh. Nor were these slanders silenced by the birth of a son, the present Count of Gottorp: a scene resembling the novel of Marivaux (Henri, roi d'Arragon) was generally asserted to have been arranged; and Monck, a colonel in the guards, and a great favourite, was pointed out as having, on a certain occasion, supplied his master's place with the young queen. A resemblance was found or fancied between Gustavus the Fourth and this officer, and so widely had the opinion spread, that we have heard from a person of very high rank, and opportunities of judging, that had the Duke of Sudermania chosen on his brother's death, to assume the crown, he might have done it with little opposition. Under more fortunate governments such stories soon die away, but in Sweden they were kept alive, first, by the disputes at the diet of Nordkioping; next, by the king's long absence from his country; and lastly, by those events which it is the object of the present work to set in the strongest light. Whatever were those intrigues which it is here hinted Gustavus carried on in Germany, and which afforded a plea to Buonaparte for the atrocious murder of the Duke of Enghien,

—the lamentable death, as the present writers coolly style it,) it is universally acknowledged that this event was, if not the original

, yet the obvious cause of his hostility against France; nor was there ever a more generous motive for hostility than those feelings of indignation at successful crimes, and pity for suffering royalty, which appear to have actuated his conduct. But it was his great misfortune, that he was unable to communicate to his subjects any adequate portion of that sympathy, which the circumstances of friendship with the victim, and vicinity to the catastrophe, had naturally excited in a young and virtuous mind. The situation of Sweden too was not considered by those who knew her best, to be competent to any exertions as a principal in the struggle; and while as yet none of the greater powers of Europe were disposed to awaken, it was earnestly recommended to the king to dissemble for some little time the demonstrations of an anger which appeared so impotent.

Gustavus was, however, by no means willing to suppose his power so inconsiderable, and was still less inclined to restrain an enmity, which, from some interpretations of the Apocalypse, he conceived to be enjoined by heaven. And such are the effects of plain dealing, even in the intercourse of courts and cabinets,--that there is little room to doubt, his open denunciations against France, his sending back the order of the black eagle to Prussia, as soon as it had been contaminated by being offered to Buonaparte, and those other open professions of resistance which his enemies so


U 4

highly condemned, were the means of keeping alive the antigallican spirit in the north of Germany, and of rousing (too late, unhappily for Europe and themselves,) the courts of Petersburgh and Vienna from their unnatural apathy. At that period, indeed, whatever was his unpopularity at home, no individual stood so high in the general opinion of Europe, for honesty, independence, and determined courage as Gustavus Adolphus; and there were not wanting many in Germany, who predicted that he would imitate and excel the exploits of his namesake, in vindicating the liberties of the north against an enemy far more oppressive than the ancient House of Austria.

The Swedes, however, were too much aware of the poverty of their country, and the smallness of their disposable force to share in these lofty hopes; and it happened unfortunately that the two powers who alone were able and inclined to render them active assistance, were both of them suspected and unpopular. Russia, from natural situation, from notorious ambition, and from recent disputes, in which, however, Gustavus himself was the aggressor, was the object of jealousy to all parties; and so low bad England sunk in the opinion of the world, by the unfortunate peace of Amiens,--so unluckily chosen was her pretext for resuming the war, and so perfectly were the gasconades of her enemy believed as to the projected invasion of her coast, that instead of holding her former eminence as the supporter of the rights of Europe, she was considered as a selfish contender for commerce, anxious 10 Faise coalitions on the continent, only to remove the danger from her own ports, and her own metropolis. The iniquity of France, and the measure of European suffering were hardly, at that period, complete,--the aboininable system of oppression and violence, which has since made Buonaparte the enemy of industry over the world, was not yet manifested; and instead of the universal commerce of mankind looking up to the success of Great Britain as its only hope, the traders of Europe were disposed to regard her wealth and her influence on the sea with sentiments of envy and ill will. It was not in 1806 easy to find a cluster of foreign merchants, where soine one or more in company had not complaints to make, or ill humour to vent against the supposed monopoly of England. And it might always be observed, that those nations who had fewest manufactures of their own, were most indignant at having their wants supplied from the warehouses of Manchester or Birminghem: those with whom gold and silver were, from the necessity of things, of least frequent occurrence, were most positive that the treasuries of England were filled with specie, drawn from them by ship-loads. If a commodity was scarce, the English bought it up, -- if cheap, and plentiful, their merchants were ruined,


and their warehouses glutted, because the English, undersold them. Did a lot of iron remain on hand, the Swedish proprietor cursed the machinery of Colebrook Dale and Carron. The politician could not take his breakfast without sighing over the supis paid to England for coffee and sugar. The citizen, who was called on to defray the extravagant expense of his wife's inuslins and cottons, consoled himself that the mercantile tyranny of London must shortly have an end. The remedy to all these evils was indeed of a nature not to be contemplated with equanimity; France and her successes were objects of hatred and alarm little inferior to a bale of cotton or a hogshead of sugar; nor was it altogether clear that her triumph would cure the evils complained of. Still, however, by France herself, the panacea was declared infallible; and so easily are positive assertions credited, that it was hoped that by some means or other, the ruin of England would enable the merchants of the world to grow rich by the sale of commodities which they had not the means of obtaining; and without credit, experience, or capital, to step at once into those advantages which are the slow fruit of centuries of improvement. The avowed object of Buonaparte, the acquisition by France of ships and colonies, and commerce, was regarded by the popular eye with satisfaction rather than with jealousy, and far from viewing the coalition which then was ripening, as a means of preserving themselves from ruin, there was a general impression among the people of Austria, of Russia, and above all of Sweden, that they were about to contend for England, and for English objects only.

One region of Europe indeed there was, where the horrors of French intluence were felt in all their force, and where bitter experience bad taught the people to turn to resistance as their only hope, and to look around with the eagerness of suffering to any quarter whence support might be obtained. The sinaller states of Germany, Holland, and a part of the Netherlands, were actuated as one man by hatred against France : and such is that strange perversity which we often find in public opivion, that in Prussia, whose court was then supposed to be tamely subservient to Buonaparte's views, the cry of the people was almost unanimous for resistance. In every cellar, every coffee-bouse, every cottage, Gustavus was the favourite hero, and an united army of Swedes, Russians, and English under his command, was expected daily to regenerate the north and the west. Such a plan was actually in agitation, and if it had been carried into effect at the time that France advanced against Vienna, it might have been Napoleon, and not Gustavus, who would now have wanted a throne. The Prussian cabinet itself had been secretly induced to join the coalition,---a part of the English contingent, and the whole of the Rus

sian had already arrived on the Elbe, when the scheme miscarried in consequence of the weakness of Sweden, whose army never mustered sufficiently strong to do any real good; the hesitation of Prussia, whose characteristic timidity and selfishness were doubtless increased by want of confidence in her allies; and above all, by the strange and culpable misconduct of Gustavus, who would yield nothing, listen to nobody, and without military experience, or political skill, would manage every thing himself.

The lamentable affairs of Ulm and Austerlitz, and (still more disastrous) the death of Mr. Pitt succeeded, and all idea of farther resistance seemed to have passed away from the world. Gustavus, however, yet persevered in maintaining his position in Lunenburgh, and preserved, in a great measure, the good opinion of Germany. The failure of the coalition was imputed to other causes, the feebleness of England, and the bad faith of Prussia ;while the sober and exemplary conduct of the Swedish troops, was the theme of inerited eulogium, wherever they had appeared. Another storm (it was soon perceived) was gathering, and so much had the eyes of mankind been now opened to Buonaparte's character, that the cry of the populace was every where as loud for war, as on former occasions it had been for peace. Even in Austria, which had lately suffered so terribly, the lower ranks (generally more patriotic and higher minded than their superiors) were eager to wipe off the stain of Ulm; and in Denmark the peasantry and the soldiers were burning to share the renown of their Swedish neighbours. Here too was another opportunity, if Gustavus had united himself with Prussia, of making his enmity to France useful to the common cause. Instead of this, however, he was wrangling with those whom he ought to have conciliated; and when he did at length, for the second time, make his appearance in Pomerania, his efforts were too feeble to injure any but himself and his army. What they might have been, if timely made and properly directed, may be inferred from the pains which Buonaparte took to secure, if not his alliance, at least his neutrality and forbearance. No one, we believe, will assign any degree of credit to the despot's assurances of esteem for Sweden, and of personal regard for a monarch who had always execrated his name; and when we find, that not only the most tempting territorial offers were made to buy him off from Prussia, but that Napoleon hinted that in a treaty with Sweden he would wave his title of emperor, we can easily perceive of what dangerous importance he considered a diversion made in his rear, in the midst of a population thirsting after revenge and liberty. For the failure of Gustavus, however, and the subsequent loss of Stralsund, many excuses were found by his adherents. The ruin of Prussia had been more rapid and total than


any politician could foresee ; England had, from whatever cause, remained most strangely inactive in her co-operation, and the Swedish officers themselves sufficiently evinced, by their want of enterprize and energy, that their hearts were not in the struggle, and that they were ill inclined to second by any extraordinary daring, an enthusiasm which they considered as frantic. The scenes, however, which took place in Pomerania were of very serious consequence to the future fortunes of the king. By his ignorance of the art of war, and by his injudicious pertinacity in points of mere etiquette, he exposed himself to the ridicule of his army, and if we believe the present publication, by his backwardness in the hour of real service, proved that whatever share of political firmness he possessed, he was not a Charles the Twelfth in personal daring. The war in Germany was, however, at an end; and though an unsuccessful war but seldom increases a monarch's popularity, yet his expected return to Stockholm during Christmas 1807, was anticipated by the inhabitants with a revival of loyalty and affection, so much of both, at least, as is generated by expected fêtes and illuminations, which Gustavus was so ill advised as to extinguish by hiding himself in his castle of Gripswold, where he alike disregarded the increasing discontents of his people, and that storm which he had sufficient sagacity to foresee was about to burst on Finland. The alliance with England had, down to this period, been productive of little but disappointment. Even Zealand, which, once conquered, ought by every rule of consistent policy, to have been kept in pledge for the integrity of our ally, and for the restoration of Pomerania as well as Hanover, and which might, and would have been defeuded, had the English generals of that time possessed a proper contidence in themselves and their troops, was weakly abandoned; and the interest which Gustavus had shown in the success of our arms, was remembered with much bitterness and resentment by the restored court of Copenhagen.

How little soever England had hitherto done for her ally, she certainly at this period began a course of exertions in her favour which must retlect the highest honour, not only on her good faith, but her disinterested liberality,—a liberality the more conspicuous, as her efforts were entirely directed to the preservation of a power which could be of little service to her, and whom, while she enabled her to resist aggression, she earnestly exhorted to lose no opportunity of obtaining a separate peace. Of the mismanagement and obstinacy which rendered all these efforts fruitless, of the king's strange conduct to Sir John Moore, and of those other instances of pertinacity and misconception which were generally, though, perhaps, mistakenly attributed to insanity, and which few allies but England would have borne so patiently, we have not now room to speak, nor is

any thing

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »