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to restrain foreigners, without having recourse to the courts of law, and THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT, WHICH OFFERS ON THIS POINT, A PERFECT RECIPROCITY, THINKS IT GIVES a new proof of its pacific intentions by demanding that those persons may be sent away whose machinations uniformly tend to sow discord between the people."*
The perfect reciprocity there is no mistaking. The United Irishmen in Paris stood in the same obnoxious relation to British interests which the emigrées in London did to those of France, or rather of its ruler. How was it possible for the leaders of the former, after the publication of the paper from which the preceding document is taken, to place any trust in Buonaparte's faith or friendly feelings to their cause, is indeed, surprising
It is evident, however, that Robert Emmet's information was well founded, and that his opinion of Buonaparte was not a mistaken one. Lord Hawkesbury's reply to this communication, dated August 28, 1802, was a dignified refusal to transport, turn out of the kingdom, or recommend to leave it, any persons who did not infringe the laws. The intention of the Alien Act was, to empower the British government to remove foreigners suspected of being dangerous to it. But if any substantial proof was given, of foreigners in England, distributing proclamations in France, or enticing the people to resist its government, his Majesty would take all the measures in his power to cause such persons to leave the country. With respect to interference with the press, I am sure,” says Lord Hawkesbury, "you must be aware, that his Majesty cannot, and never will, in consequence of any representation, or any menace from a foreign power, make any concession, which can be in the smallest degree, dangerous to the liberty of the press, as secured by the constitution of this country. This liberty is justly dear to every British subject. The constitution admits of no previous restraints upon publications of any description.” No allusion whatever was made to the obliging offer of the perfect reciprocity. Altogether, the correspondence was advantageous (on the face of the published correspondence) to the character of the British minister, and damaging to that of the First Consul. But there is no doubt that Georges and his associates were suffered, unmolested, to pursue their machin
* “London Chronicle,” May 19th-21st, 1803, page 483.
ations in Great Britain, and were supported and countenanced by influential people in England, among the emigrants, and that the pretence was futile, that there was no power under the Alien Act to prevent assassins from plotting against the life of the ruler of a foreign country, at peace with Great Britain, on the part of the Minister for Foreign Affairs ; and no less hypocritical, with respect to the anxiety manifested for the maintenance of constitutional privileges, than the feelings of veneration expressed for the liberty of the press, and the fears professedly entertained of an interference with it.
It cannot fail to strike any reader of the official papers presented to parliament, connected with the mission of Lord Whitworth, that the great cause of Buonaparte's irritation, greater even than the retention of Malta, was the abuse lavished on him in the English newspapers, and by several of the leading members of the opposition, in parliament. The British government in affecting to remedy the grievance complained of, took the course of all others the most displeasing to Buonaparte, the most calculated to bring him into disfavour with the Liberals and Radicals in England, namely, the prosecution of one of those editors, Peltier, which afforded an occasion to Sir James Macintosh for raking the character and career of Buonaparte fore and aft: thus accomplishing the purpose of the government, while apparently bent on protecting the reputation of their new ally.
Was it by mere accident that this trial came on the same day that Colonel Despard was executed ? The Moniteur in commenting on the views of Peltier's conviction, expressed the greatest indignation at the duplicity of the British minister, in taking a course so much opposed to the wishes of the French government, instead of that which had been demanded by their ambassador.
Buonaparte, in a conference with Lord Whitworth, communicated to the British government, February 21, 1803, reiterated his complaints against the British government, in reference to the retention of Malta, in direct violation of the terms of the treaty. He said : “Of the two, he would rather see us in possession of the Faubourg St. Antoine, than Malta.”....... He complained of the protection given in England to the assassin Georges, handsomely pensioned, and of his plans being permitted to be carried into effect in France, and
of two of his fellow-agents, being sent into France, by the Emigrées, to assassinate him, (Bounaparte), and being then in custody. This latter part of the statement was perfectly correct. The two men he referred to, were tried and convicted on their own confessions.
In regard to the abuse launched on him in the English papers, and French emigrant journals, published in London, he said to Lord Whitworth, " The irritation he felt against England increased daily, because every wind which blew from England, brought nothing but enmity and hatred against him."* Lord Hawkesbury in reply to Lord Whitworth's communication, February 18, 1803, made the following admission, for the first time explicitly and plainly expressed :" With regard to that article of the treaty which relates to Malta, the stipulations contained in it, owing to circumstances which it was not in the power of his Majesty to control, had not been found capable of erecution."
In Lord Whitworth's communication (marked No. 38, dated February 21, 1803) to Lord Hawkesbury, an account is given of an interview with Buonaparte, when the latter in reference to the proofs he had given to maintain peace said—“he wished to know what he had to gain by going to war with England. A descent was the only means of offence he had, and that he was determined to attempt, by putting himself at the head of the expedition. But how could it be supposed that after having gained the height on which he stood, he would risk his life and reputation in such a hazardous attempt, unless forced to it by necessity, when the chances were that he and the grealest part of the expedition would go to the bottom of the sea. He talked much on the subject, but never affected to diminish the danger. He acknowledged there were a hundred chances to one against him ; but still he was determined to attempt it, if war should be the consequence of the present discussion ; and, that such was the disposition of the troops, that army after army would be found for the enterprise.”+ He concluded by stating--“that France with an army of 480,000 men, to be immediately completed, was ready for the most desperate enterprize ; that England with her fleet was mistress of the seas, which he did not think he should be able to equal in ten
* “ London Chronicle,” Feb. 1803.
years. Two such countries by a proper understanding, might govern the world; but, by their strifes, might overturn it.."
In the report on the situation of the French Republic, bearing the signature of the First Consul, Buonaparte, presented to the legislative body by a decree of the government, of the 21st February, 1803, the following passages occur :British forces are still in Alexandria and Malta. The government had a fair right of complaint ; but it has received intelligence that the vessels which are to convey them to Europe are already in the Mediterranean..
“But in England two parties maintain a contest for power ; one of those parties has concluded peace, and appears desirous of maintaining it. The other has taken an oath of eternal hatred to France.
While this contest of parties continues, measures of precaution are what the government are called upon to adopt. Five hundred thousand men ought to be, and shall be, ready to undertake its defence, and avenge its injuries. Strange necessity which miserable passions impose on two nations, whom interest and inclination mutually prompt to the cultivation of peace.
Whatever success intrigues may experieuce in London, no other people will be involved in new combinations. The government, says, with conscious pride, that England alone cannot maintain a struggle against France."*
Mr. Pitt, at this time out of office, was playing the invalid in the public prints, “in so precarious a state, (says the London Chronicle, p. 207,) as not to admit of his undergoing the fatigue of a regular parliamentary attendance.” His organs, however, were not idle ; the papers which heretofore advocated his opinions, were busily employed in reviling the First Consul, and deprecating peace with him. At the very period that Mr. Pitt's health was stated in the London Chronicle, in February and March, 1803, to be in so precarious a state, he was more deeply engaged in public business, I was informed by his niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, who then acted as his private secretary, than he had been at any period while he was in the ministry. It is impossible to read the debates in parliament of this period, and not to believe that the Prime Minister, Adington, was more desirous of maintaining peace with France, than the party that had hitherto clainoured against the war. Some of
*“ The London Chron:cle," p. 205, Feb. 26.
the great Whigs of that day, Lord Moira, and Mr. Sheridan, in particular, seemed wholly bent on driving the ministry to hostile measures against France, after having for years made war on the Tory ministry for its belligerent policy. There never was greater inconsistency exhibited by public men than was at this period displayed by Lord Moira and Mr. Sheridan. The whole of their patriotism, at this time, was devoted to efforts to influence the passions of the people of England against France, to supply means for paying the debts, and providing for the debaucheries of the Prince Regent. Mr. Fox, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Whitbread, were no parties to the war-whoop of Lord Moira and Mr. Sheridan.
The appearance of a desire for peace had now been manifested by both governments, for a sufficient length of time, to answer all the purposes required ; the popular will had been deferred to, and no more was then necessary.
On the 9th of March, 1803, a message from the King was delivered to the parliament, wherein his Majesty “thinks it necessary to acquaint the House of Commons, that, as very considerable military preparations were carrying on in the ports of France and Holland, he had judged it expedient to adopt additional measures of precaution for the security of his dominions."
In a debate in the House of Commons, on the 10th of March, 1803, Lord Hobart said, there was reason to hope the disputes with France would be amicably adjusted. In the Commons, Mr. Windham attempted to throw any obloquy that might arise from unsuccessful war, in the event of a rupture, on the opposition. Mr. Sheridan reprobated the idea, that the country, by the peace, had been deprived of the means of going to war. Lord Moira repelled, with indignation, the assertion of Buonaparte, that “ England was unable to contend single-handed, with France.”
Lord Whitworth, in March, by the instructions of his gorernment, demanded an explanation of the motives and objects of the warlike preparations in the French ports; and the reply (not official) of Mons. Talleyrand, was said to have been short, and not satisfactory—“it was the will of the First Consul." Buonaparte, on the other hand, on the 11th of March, at a levde at the Tuilleries, attended by the different ambassadors, sud a great number of distinguished persons, on entering the