The Political History of England - Vol. X.
by William Hunt
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The expedition under General Hardy, which was to have sailed to support Humbert, was prevented from leaving Brest by the British fleet. From Dunkirk a brig got away on September 4, carrying Napper Tandy and some other United Irishmen, a few soldiers, and stores. Tandy persuaded the French that he was a man of importance in Ireland, and that if he appeared there the people would rise in arms; so the French made him a general, and gave him command of this little expedition. He reached the island of Aran, in Donegal, on the 16th, and heard of Humbert's failure. No one paid any heed to him. He read the letters in the post office, hoisted a green flag, got very drunk, and was carried back to the brig eight hours after landing. The brig sailed to the coast of Norway to avoid capture. Finally Tandy and some of his friends took refuge in Hamburg. The city delivered them up to the English and thereby incurred the wrath of Bonaparte. They were sentenced to death but were not executed, and Tandy was allowed to go to France, where he ended his days.


At last, on September 16th, Hardy succeeded in sailing out from the Raz with 4,000 troops for the relief of Humbert. They were carried in the Hoche (80) and nine smaller ships, under Admiral Bompard. The French took a wide course and arrived off Lough Swilly on October 10. They were met the next day by Sir John Warren with three ships of the line and five frigates. The French, who fought well, were overpowered. The Hoche and three of their frigates surrendered, and three more of their vessels were caught during the next few days. Only two frigates and a sloop returned to Brest. On the Hoche was Wolfe Tone, who had embarked as a French officer. He was tried by court-martial in Dublin and sentenced to be hanged. His request that he might die a soldier's death was refused; he cut his throat and died in prison. Of all the promoters of the rebellion he was, perhaps, the most talented, and was excelled by none either in courage or in whole-hearted devotion to the cause of Irish independence. One more attempt at invasion was made by Savary, who after landing Humbert's force had returned to France. Ignorant of the fate of Humbert's expedition, he sailed from Rochelle on October 12 with three frigates and a corvette, carrying 1,090 troops, and appeared off Killala on the 27th. There he heard of the failure of both Humbert and Bompard. He set sail again and was so hotly chased by some British ships that he threw guns, stores, and ammunition overboard.[287] His ships got away, though with some damage, and returned to Rochelle. So ended the French attempts on Ireland. If in the height of the rebellion a small expedition had succeeded, as Humbert did, in evading the British fleet and had landed in Ireland, it might have prolonged the struggle, but could not have changed its issue. Disorganisation and unreadiness prevented France from seizing the opportunity of doing even so much as that. In the face of England's superiority at sea the despatch of any large force would have ended in signal disaster. Independently of the risk of capture at sea, the little secret expeditions to which France was reduced were a mere waste of money.

Bonaparte sailed from Toulon on May 19, intending to take Malta, conquer Egypt, despoil England of her power and commerce in the east, and gain for France exclusive possession of the Red sea. He had with him 35,000 troops, and a fleet, which finally amounted to thirteen ships of the line, fourteen frigates, and a vast number of smaller vessels, under the subordinate command of Admiral Brueys. Malta was surrendered by the knights of St. John. Bonaparte took Alexandria on July 2, and defeated the Mamelukes in the battle of the Pyramids on the 21st. Lower Egypt was conquered. As the port of Alexandria was unsuitable for his fleet, Brueys stationed it in Abukir bay, near the Rosetta mouth of the Nile, in order to guard the rear of the army. So far Bonaparte's schemes were successful. But they had been formed without taking the British navy into account. Nelson again entered the Mediterranean. Acting on orders from the admiralty, St. Vincent sent him thither, and by June 7 he was in command of thirteen ships of seventy-four, and the Leander of fifty guns. He at once began a long search for the French fleet, in which he was hindered through lack of frigates to do scouting work. He anchored off Naples on the 17th, and believing that the enemy would attack Sicily, passed through the straits of Messina, and sailed along the east of the island. He was off Alexandria on the 28th, two days before the French arrived there, then he searched the Levant, and returned to Sicily for supplies on July 19. On the 25th he put to sea again, sailed along the coast of the Morea, and finally on August 1 discovered the enemy in Abukir bay. The French fleet was anchored in line on the western side of the bay, with wide shoals between it and the shore. It was sheltered by Abukir (now Nelson's) island and its rocks, and its leading ship was pretty close to the shoal off the island. It was composed of thirteen ships of the line and four frigates, and was much superior to Nelson's in the size of the ships and weight of metal. Some of the ships, however, were worn out, and many of their crews were not seamen.


Though Troubridge's ship, the Culloden, and two others were not with the main body, Nelson would not delay his attack, and at 5.30 P.M. formed his line of battle, the wind being N.N.W. and blowing down the French line. Very skilfully the British ships were taken round the island and the shoals. They then swept round, and steering to the south-west headed for the French van about 6.30, led by the Goliath under Captain Foley. Near as the leading French ship, the Guerrier (74), was to the shoal, Foley passed across her bows, and engaged the next ship, the Conquerant (74), on the inshore side. Hood followed with the Zealous, and anchored by the Guerrier, and three more engaged on the enemy's port side, Nelson's ship, the Vanguard, and the two next attacking on the outside. Eight British ships set on the five of the French van, the two others engaged two Frenchmen of much larger size in the centre, and one of them, the Bellerophon, was dismasted and drifted off. Later two of the missing ships of Nelson's squadron and the Leander came into action; the Culloden having struck on a rock off the island, remained aground. By that time the French van was crushed, and the battle raged round the centre. Brueys fell, and soon afterwards his ship, the Orient (120), caught fire. Her assailants poured so fierce a storm of shot upon her that her crew could not get the fire under. The summer night was lightened by the sheet of flame which wrapped her from the water-line to the mast-heads. The fire reached her magazine, and the great ship blew up with a terrific explosion. During the fight Nelson was badly wounded in the forehead. He was soon on deck again, and sent boats to pick up the survivors of the crew of the Orient. The British victory was completed in the morning, and never was victory so complete. Of seventeen French ships two were burnt besides the Orient, one sank, nine were taken, and only two ships of the line and two frigates escaped.[288] Great was the rejoicing in England at the news of the battle of the Nile. Nelson was raised to the peerage as Baron Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe; other honours were conferred on him both at home and by foreign sovereigns, and parliament voted him a pension of L2,000 a year for two lives.

The king's speech on November 20 described the victory as foiling an enterprise against the most valuable interests of the British empire, and as likely to lead other powers to combine for the general deliverance of Europe. Let us trace its effects under these two headings. Bonaparte's conquest of Egypt was designed to be a step towards the overthrow of British power and commerce in the east. He found himself shut up in his conquest. Great ideas presented themselves to him. He would take Constantinople, and conquer Europe by a flank attack. He would be a second Alexander, and after another Issos would drive the English from India. Already French envoys were inciting Tipu Sultan to war. From the shores of the Red sea Bonaparte wrote to bid him expect his army. The letter was seized by a British ship. Nelson's victory encouraged the sultan, Selim III., the nominal lord of Egypt, to declare war. A Turkish army and fleet were assembled at Rhodes, and another army in Syria. Bonaparte did not wait to be attacked in Egypt. The conquest of Syria would deprive the British fleet of its source of supplies in the Levant, and would open the way to a conquest either of Constantinople or Delhi.[289] On February 15, 1799, he captured El Arish, and on March 6 took Jaffa by storm. Then with an army weakened by disease and fighting, he marched on Acre. There he again had to meet a British sea-captain.

[Sidenote: DEFENCE OF ACRE.]

After his distinguished service at Toulon, and some later employment, Sir Sidney Smith, in 1795, was appointed to the command of some small vessels with which he did much damage to the enemy off the Norman coast. He was taken prisoner in 1796 and kept in France for eighteen months. He escaped in 1798 with the help of a royalist officer of engineers, Colonel Phelypeaux, was sent to Constantinople as joint-plenipotentiary with his brother, and, Nelson being at Naples, became senior naval officer in the Levant. Acre, as the best harbour on the Syrian coast, was specially important to British maritime supremacy in those waters. So long as it remained uncaptured, Bonaparte could not advance, for the door would be left open to an attack on his rear. If he took the place, he believed that Syria would rise against Djezzar, its Turkish ruler. The fortifications were weak, but Nelson's victory deprived him of the power of investing it by sea. Smith sent his friend, Phelypeaux, in the Theseus (74) to teach the Turks how to strengthen the place, and followed himself in the Tigre (74). On March 18 he intercepted a French flotilla with the artillery, ammunition, and stores on which Bonaparte depended for the siege. They were brought into Acre; the French were left only with field-pieces, and it was not until April 25 that they could bring up heavy guns from Jaffa. Much fierce fighting took place between the Turks and the French; and the British ships kept up a constant fire on the French in their lines and whenever they advanced to attack. Smith, who was given to vapouring, was offended by some communication from Bonaparte, and sent him a challenge to which Bonaparte replied that he would fight when the English sent a Marlborough to meet him.

Bonaparte's victory over the Turks at Mount Tabor seemed a great step towards conquest. All depended on the fate of Acre. At last on May 7 the Turkish fleet from Rhodes hove in sight. It was becalmed, and the French made a desperate attempt to storm the place before the reinforcements could arrive. They effected a lodgment, but Smith landed his seamen who helped to drive them out with their pikes, and they fell back with heavy loss. On the 20th Bonaparte raised the siege which had cost him nearly 5,000 men by war and sickness. Smith received the thanks of parliament and a pension of L1,000 a year. Though vainglorious and arrogant, he conducted the defence of Acre with sound judgment as well as with energy and courage. By weary marches through the desert, Bonaparte led his army back to Egypt, where he defeated an invasion of Turks. Smith sent him a bundle of newspapers, and from them he received tidings which determined him to leave his army and return to France. Before we enter on the European events which chiefly led to his return, let us see how the ruin of his plan of eastern conquest, the fruit of Nelson's victory, affected the British rule in India.

By reducing the resources of Tipu in 1792 Cornwallis believed that he was establishing a balance of power in India which would enable the English to adopt a policy of nonintervention. This policy was pursued both by him and his successor, Sir John Shore, afterwards Lord Teignmouth. It was defeated through the revival of French influence. The nizam put his army under French officers who held a large part of his territories and paid their troops out of their revenues. Daulat Rao Sindhia, the strongest of the Maratha lords, also employed French officers and was inclined to help Tipu rather than the English. From neither of these powers, which were in alliance with the company in Cornwallis's war with Tipu, could any help be expected in a fresh struggle with him; and as in 1797 Tipu proposed an alliance with France against the English, a struggle could not be far off. In October of that year Pitt's friend, Lord Mornington, was appointed governor-general. On the day that he reached Madras, in April, 1798, Tipu received a French force from Mauritius. Mornington at once persuaded the nizam to enter into a subsidiary treaty by which he agreed to dismiss his French officers and to form a close alliance with the company. The Frenchmen were made prisoners and his army was placed under British officers. Bonaparte's expedition to Egypt encouraged Tipu in his hostility, for he expected that a French army would shortly appear in India. This hope was frustrated by Nelson's victory. Nevertheless, he believed that the time would come when he would be able to co-operate with a French invasion; he tried to play a waiting game, and evaded the British attempts at pacification. Mornington determined to put an end to his subterfuges, and, in February, 1799, ordered an invasion of Mysore under General Harris, the governor of Madras. Harris's army was joined by the army of the nizam, and, on March 27, routed Tipu at Malvalli, the left wing of the British, which consisted mainly of the nizam's contingent, being under the command of Mornington's brother, Sir Arthur Wellesley, afterwards Duke of Wellington. Seringapatam was taken by storm and Tipu was slain. Mornington, who was created Marquis Wellesley, partitioned Mysore, set up a youthful raja, and placed him under British protection.


While Nelson's victory enabled Englishmen to uphold the power and interests of their country in the east, it led also to a second coalition against France. Already mistress of the Batavian, Cisalpine, and Ligurian republics, France occupied Rome in February, 1798, drove out Pius VI., and founded a Roman republic. In August, the Helvetic republic, established partly by intrigue and partly by force, in place of the Swiss confederation, became her dependent ally. The German empire was hopelessly divided, Piedmont was in process of annexation, Naples was threatened. Yet the power of France was not so great as it seemed. Among the peoples of the new republics many resented the destruction of their old independent governments. Pitt poured money from the secret service funds into the hands of agents, who in every country of Europe recruited for the interest of England. He seems generally to have received a good return, except in Holland, where the democratic party remained strong. In other lands the rising feeling against France was of no small importance in the coming struggle.

Paul, the Russian tsar, was deeply offended by the capture of Malta, for he had a romantic predilection for the order of St. John, of which he constituted himself the protector. The eastward advance of the French seemed to threaten the spread of republicanism to his dominions and the revival of trouble in Poland. Encouraged by Nelson's victory, he incited the Porte to declare war on France, sent ships to act with the British and Portuguese squadrons in the Mediterranean, and formed a defensive alliance with the Turks to which England acceded.[290] He tried in vain to induce the courts of Berlin and Vienna to combine against France, and appears to have made a secret treaty with Austria concerning the passage of troops, for some 60,000 Russians were soon marching towards the Danube.[291] Pitt eagerly took advantage of the tsar's disposition. Grenville promised a subsidy if the tsar would enter on the war as a principal,[292] and on November 16 bade Sir Charles Whitworth, the British ambassador at St. Petersburg, propose a coalition between England, Russia, Austria, and Prussia to support Naples, re-establish Austria in Italy, drive the French from Holland, the Belgian Netherlands, Switzerland, and Savoy, and join the Netherlands to Holland to form a strong barrier state.[293] Frederick William III., who succeeded his father in 1797, would not be moved from his neutrality. Russia was only waiting for the arrangement of a subsidy. With Austria there were difficulties. The emperor, disgusted with the greediness of France, was fully determined on war, but wanted a loan of L2,000,000. As England had lost by former transactions with Austria, Pitt would make no further promise until existing obligations had been fulfilled.[294] Besides, the imperial minister Thugut was anxious for delay; he hoped that the directory would be crushed by its own difficulties, and in any case was unwilling to move without the co-operation of Prussia, or before Russia could enter on the campaign. He had formed a defensive alliance between Austria and the Two Sicilies, or Naples, on May 19, but declared that Austria would only support Naples if France was the aggressor, and would give no help if Naples began the war.[295]

His plans were disconcerted by the action of Ferdinand IV. of Naples. After the battle of the Nile the British fleet in the Mediterranean was broken up and employed in different directions. Nelson himself sailed to Naples, was received as its deliverer, and was ensnared by the charms of Emma, the wife of Sir William Hamilton, the British minister. She was a woman of low birth, and in her youth had entered on an immoral life. Though grown stout she was still beautiful, and her considerable natural talents had been improved by Charles Greville, under whose protection she had lived. He passed her over to Hamilton, who married her in 1791. Queen Maria Caroline made a favourite of her, and used her for political ends, for the queen was anxious for British help against the French and the Neapolitan republicans. Under court and female influences, Nelson, who had been ordered to protect Naples, came to consider its fortunes as of the first importance. The queen, far bolder and more energetic than her husband, was bent on war. Mack, the Austrian strategist, took command of the army, and by Nelson's advice Ferdinand declared war on France. Nelson assisted the operations by carrying troops to Leghorn. Ferdinand entered Rome in triumph on November 29. His triumph was short-lived; the Neapolitans were routed by the French, and Naples was threatened. On December 23 the king and queen and their court took refuge on board Nelson's ship, the Vanguard, and her companions, and Nelson conveyed them to Palermo and remained with them there. The French occupied Naples and the Parthenopean republic was established on the mainland of the Two Sicilies. Among other operations in the Mediterranean a small British force took Minorca from the Spaniards in November without the loss of a man, and British and Portuguese ships blockaded Valetta and compelled the surrender of Gozo. In order to avoid offending the tsar, or exciting the jealousy of the Austrian or Neapolitan courts, England renounced all desire for conquest either as regards Malta, where she proposed that the knights should be re-established, or the Adriatic, where Turkish and Russian ships were attacking the French in the former possessions of Venice.[296]


The ill-advised action of Ferdinand of Naples, for which Nelson was largely responsible, caused some embarrassment to the English government, and Grenville anxiously assured Thugut that England was not responsible for it.[297] At the same time it hastened the formation of the second coalition. A treaty of close alliance with Naples was signed by Russia on November 29, and another by the Porte on December 23, to which Great Britain acceded on January 2.[298] England further made a treaty with Russia on December 29 by which the tsar agreed to furnish 45,000 men to act against France in co-operation with Prussia, and England promised a subsidy of L225,000 for initial expenses and L75,000 a month afterwards. Thomas Grenville was sent to Berlin to act with Count Panin in persuading Frederick William to join the coalition. The king refused; the treaty with Russia was modified by a mutual agreement that the Russian troops should be employed as seemed most advantageous to both powers, and the English government suggested that they should act with the Austrians in Switzerland.[299] Austria was soon forced to abandon her temporising policy. A corps of 25,000 Russians was encamped on the Danube. France demanded their expulsion from Austrian territory, and that, as Thugut said, meant war.[300] On February 28 Jourdan crossed the Rhine with 40,000 men. The second coalition of which England was the soul was a direct result of the battle of the Nile.

England was successful alike in arms and diplomacy. She had crushed a long-threatened rebellion and had been unharmed by attempts at invasion. Her fleet had vindicated her naval supremacy in the Mediterranean; Bonaparte's great design against her commerce and power in the east had utterly failed, and she had succeeded for the second time in forming a coalition against the common enemy. Though she was burdened with taxation and debt, and suffering from the evils of a prolonged war, her commerce was increasing and sedition was virtually extinct. In one quarter only is an almost insignificant failure to be recorded. The attempt to conquer San Domingo with insufficient forces, in which the government had persevered since 1793, was abandoned. Animated by republican sentiments, the negroes raised a large army under a former slave, Toussaint l'Ouverture. The small British force at Port-au-Prince could make no head against them, and was withdrawn in 1798. France shortly afterwards withdrew her forces, and Toussaint remained virtually master of the island. England's failure entailed no real loss. She acknowledged the neutrality of San Domingo, and Toussaint opened its ports to her commerce and prevented France from using them for privateering purposes.


[281] Desbriere, Projets de Debarquement, i., 387-90.

[282] Gordon, Hist. of the Rebellion, pp. 166-67, 378-80; Lecky, Hist., viii., 103.

[283] Gordon, u.s., p. 140.

[284] Lecky, Hist., viii., 286.

[285] Desbriere, Projets de Debarquement, ii., 40-42.

[286] Desbriere, Projets de Debarquement, ii., 120-21.

[287] Desbriere, Projets de Debarquement, ii., 182.

[288] Mahan, Influence of Sea Power on the French Revolution, i., 257-71.

[289] Rose, Life of Napoleon, i., 201.

[290] Grenville to Whitworth, Oct. 3 and 5, 1798, MS. Russia, R.O.

[291] Garden, Histoire des Traites, vi., 147.

[292] Grenville to Whitworth, Oct. 23, 1798, MS. Russia, R.O.

[293] Same to same, Nov. 16, 1798, MS. Russia, R.O.

[294] Eden to Grenville, Nov. 16 and 24, 1798, MS. Austria, R.O.

[295] Eden to Grenville, Nov. 8 and 10, 1798, MS. Austria, R.O.

[296] Grenville to Whitworth, Nov. 23, 1798, MS. Russia, R.O.

[297] Grenville to Eden, Dec. 22, 1798, and Jan. 25, 1799, MS. Austria, R.O.

[298] Garden, Histoire des Traites, vi., 147-51.

[299] Grenville to Whitworth, March 15, 1799, MS. Russia, R.O.; Ann. Register, xli. (1799), 211.

[300] Eden to Grenville, Jan. 11 and Feb. 7, 1799, MS. Austria, R.O.



During the earlier part of the war of the second coalition in 1799 the allies gained a series of victories. In Germany Jourdan was defeated by the Archduke Charles in the country between the Lake of Constance and the Danube, and the French withdrew across the Rhine. In Italy they were repulsed by the Austrians, retreated across the Mincio and, on April 12, fell back behind the Adda. Then a Russian army joined the Austrians, and Suvorov, the captor of Ismail, took command of the allied forces. He conquered Lombardy at the battle of Cassano on the 27th-29th. Moreau retreated behind the Ticino, and called on Macdonald to bring his army from Naples to help him. Suvorov's blows fell in quick succession; he advanced into Piedmont, cut Moreau off from communication with Massena, who was operating in Switzerland, and invited Charles Emanuel, who had been forced to abdicate his continental possessions, to return to Turin. Everywhere the Italian people rose against the French. Suvorov designed to crush Moreau and Macdonald separately, to cross the Alps, and restore the French monarchy. He was thwarted by the Austrian court. Thugut disapproved of the proposed restoration of the King of Sardinia, for he was set on the aggrandisement of Austria at the expense of Piedmont. The tsar aimed at the re-establishment of the old order in Europe, the emperor at the increase of his own dominions. Suvorov, though indignant at Austrian opposition, turned to the work immediately before him, and inflicted a crushing defeat on Macdonald at the Trebbia on June 19. Macdonald made a rapid retreat, and finally led his shattered army to Genoa. A new French army was defeated by Suvorov at Novi on August 15, its commander, Joubert, falling early in the battle.

The English government approved of the emperor's designs on Piedmont, for under a strong power the country would be a barrier to French aggression,[301] and as the difference of policy between Austria and Russia hindered the progress of the war, devised a plan for bringing them into accord as regards operations. Suvorov, after completing the conquest of Italy, was to enter Switzerland and prosecute his intended invasion of France; the Austrians were to remain in occupation of Piedmont and enter France by Savoy, while the archduke was to act on the Rhine where his presence would forward a scheme for an invasion of Holland by England and Russia. During the spring and summer the archduke had been struggling with Massena in Switzerland without making much progress, though in August the French evacuated the Grisons country. Shortly before he left for the upper Rhine he was joined by a new Russian army under Korsakov. After his departure Massena utterly defeated Korsakov and his Austrian allies near Zurich on September 26. When, then, Suvorov had, in spite of great hardships, led his army over the St. Gothard, he found his whole plan of campaign overset and his position seriously endangered by Korsakov's defeat. He abandoned the campaign, and at the head of only 25,000 men of the 70,000 sent by the tsar to the war, retired into Germany. In the Mediterranean, Corfu, the other Venetian islands, and several important posts were captured by the combined Russian and Turkish squadrons. Valetta was closely besieged under Nelson's direction; Italy was virtually lost to the French, though they still held Genoa.


England bore a part in the war both by sea and land. On April 25 a powerful French fleet slipped out from Brest. All the southern coast of England was disturbed by the fear of invasion. The French, however, sailed into the Mediterranean. The fleet under St. Vincent was scattered on different services and each division was far weaker than the French, who were expected at Naples, at Malta, and at Alexandria. A crisis was impending at Naples. The upper and middle classes were largely republican, the poor throughout the kingdom were attached to the monarchy. In February, Cardinal Ruffo, as the king's vicar-general, set on foot a counter-revolution. At the head of a horde of peasants he quickly regained Calabria for the king, while a Neapolitan diplomatist, Micheroux, with the help of some Russian and Turkish ships, won back Apulia. On April 3 Troubridge captured Procida and Ischia from the republicans, but on the arrival of the French fleet in the Mediterranean, was summoned by Nelson to join him at Maritimo, and left only one British ship off Naples under Captain Foote. On June 13, after Macdonald had withdrawn his army, the bands of Ruffo and Micheroux entered Naples and took cruel vengeance on the republicans. The castle of St. Elmo, held by a French garrison, and the castles Dell' Uovo and Nuovo by Neapolitan republicans, were besieged by the royalists, by Foote, and by the Russian and Turkish allies. Both sides expected the arrival of the French fleet, and Ruffo was anxious to gain speedy possession of the forts. An armistice was arranged, and on the 19th a capitulation of the forts Dell' Uovo and Nuovo was agreed upon, was signed by Ruffo, Foote, and the Russian and Turkish commanders, and was ratified by the French commandant of St. Elmo.

The capitulation provided that the rebels should surrender the two forts and evacuate them unharmed as soon as transports should be ready to convey to Toulon such of them as desired to depart. On the 21st Nelson, after an interview with the king, sailed from Palermo for Naples. As soon as he arrived, on the 24th, he signalled to annul the armistice, and sent word to Ruffo that he disallowed the capitulation. The next day he sent Ruffo a declaration that he should not allow the rebels to embark; they must surrender to the king's mercy, and he bade Ruffo inform them of his decision. Ruffo refused, and remonstrated in person with Nelson, who gave him a written "opinion" that the capitulation could not be carried out without the king's approbation. The cardinal then sent the rebels Nelson's declaration. On the 26th Nelson promised him that he would not break the armistice and, further, sent him word that he would not oppose the embarkation of the rebels. Did not Ruffo, anxious for British help in case the French and the rebels should renew hostilities, yield to Nelson's opinion that the question of the capitulation should be reserved for the king? We have no absolute proof that this was so, but Sir John Acton, Ferdinand's minister, in a letter of August 1, says that the king pardoned Ruffo because he yielded to Nelson's wise declarations.[302] After receiving a communication from Ruffo, Micheroux informed the rebels, no doubt in good faith, that Nelson had consented to the capitulation. The evacuation was arranged, and the rebels embarked that evening in the belief that they would be allowed to proceed to Toulon. Nelson prevented the transports from leaving the harbour. The king disallowed the capitulation, and put to death a large number of the rebels.

Such are the main outlines of this extremely complicated affair. It is certain that Ruffo exceeded his authority in arranging the capitulation, and that Nelson knew and carried out the king's wishes. He evidently acted with full authority; he neither changed his opinion as regards the capitulation nor did he deceive either Ruffo or the rebels. That the rebels were deceived is certain, but for that Ruffo was responsible, though he may only have been guilty of gross carelessness in not making Micheroux understand the position of affairs. But Nelson's conduct was not creditable. The capitulation was not less valid because Ruffo acted disobediently in arranging it, and it was signed by a British captain. Nelson was justified in suspending its execution until King Ferdinand's will was declared; but, as the rebels could not then be restored to the position they held before it was made, he was bound to use every effort to induce the king not to break it, and to allow the rebels to proceed to Toulon. Unfortunately he had imbibed the vengeful spirit of the Neapolitan court. Blinded by the blandishments of his mistress and the flattery of the court, he forgot the conduct which became a British admiral and the representative of his own sovereign, and pandered to the cruel desires of the Bourbon king and queen for vengeance on those who had revolted against their detestable government.[303]

With the fate of one Neapolitan rebel Nelson was immediately concerned. Francesco Caracciolo, formerly commander of the royal fleet, had joined the republicans, taken command of their vessels, and fired on his king's frigate, the Minerva. He escaped from Naples on June 17, and so was not included in the capitulation; he was arrested, and on Nelson's repeated request was handed over to him by Ruffo on the 29th. Nelson immediately ordered the captain of the Minerva and other royal officers to try him by court-martial on board his own flagship, the Foudroyant. Caracciolo was found guilty of treason, and sentenced to death with ignominy. Nelson ordered that he should be hanged that same evening from the yard-arm of the Minerva, which was accordingly done. He was forty-seven at the time of his death. His treason was patent, and its penalty inevitable. Although Nelson does not appear to have received any written commission from Ferdinand, he evidently had a right to order the court-martial and to enforce its sentence,[304] but the eagerness with which he acted and the indecent haste of the execution are lamentable illustrations of his animosity. The garrison of St. Elmo surrendered on terms, and the royal power was re-established in Naples. The French fleet was still in the Mediterranean. Large as it was, it did nothing of importance, save effecting a junction with the fleet of Spain. The combined fleets reached Brest in September, outstripping the pursuit of the British under Lord Keith, who succeeded St. Vincent as commander-in-chief. In April, 1800, St. Vincent took command of the channel fleet and instituted a strict blockade of Brest.


On June 22, 1799, Pitt made a convention with Russia for a joint invasion of Holland. On the part of England the principal object was the capture of the Dutch fleet in the Texel and the destruction of the naval depot, which would deprive France of maritime aid from Holland, while both the allied powers hoped to follow up the Austrian successes by threatening the French frontier. It was expected that the Orange party would be strong enough to give the invaders effectual help and that the Dutch would rise against the French. The tsar promised 17,500 men, and England agreed to send 13,000, to pay the tsar L88,000 for first expenses, and a subsidy of L44,000 a month, and to provide transports and horses. On August 27 a British force of 10,000 men under Sir Ralph Abercromby landed at the Helder, a point by no means suited for an invasion, which was chosen on account of its proximity to the Dutch fleet. Abercromby repulsed an attack of the Dutch and threw open the Texel to the British ships, under Admiral Mitchell. The Dutch seamen, who were attached to the house of Orange, forced their officers to hoist the prince's flag, and the fleet, consisting of thirteen ships carrying from sixty-four to forty-four guns and other smaller vessels, surrendered, and was carried to Yarmouth. The arrival of the Russians was delayed, and the republicans had time to make preparations for defence. Brune, a French general, took command of the combined French and Dutch forces, and failing in an attempt on the British position, established his quarters before Alkmaar.

On September 12 the first division of the Russians arrived, and reinforcements from England brought up the number of the combined army to about 30,000 men. The Duke of York was ostensibly in command, but the cabinet ordered that all operations should be directed by a standing council of war. A general advance was attempted on the 18th-19th. It was not well planned, and failed owing chiefly to the undisciplined impetuosity of the Russians on the right wing. The British lost over 1,000 killed and wounded, the Russians about 2,500, but the allies took some 3,000 prisoners, mostly Dutch. Heavy rains set in; the republicans broke up the roads and laid the country in front of the allies under water. The invaders, cooped up in a sandy corner of land, were in a sorry plight. A fresh advance was attempted on October 2; there was some heavy fighting in which General, afterwards Sir John, Moore and his brigade highly distinguished themselves, and Moore was twice wounded. It was a drawn battle; and Brune fell back on the formidable line of Beverwyk. The duke attacked him on the 6th, and failed to drive him from his position. It became evident that the allies would not succeed in forcing their way out of the small district they occupied, and that the hopes entertained in England of assistance from the Dutch were fallacious, for the people showed no sign of deserting the French alliance. Accordingly, on the 18th, the duke capitulated; it was agreed that the allies should re-embark unmolested and that England should restore 8,000 French and Dutch prisoners. The British troops returned home and the Russians were assigned winter-quarters in the Channel islands. Dearly as this ill-planned expedition cost England, both in men and money, the country was consoled for its failure by the acquisition of the Dutch fleet, which passed into the king's service in virtue of a convention with the Prince of Orange. About the same time came news of the surrender of the rich Dutch colony of Surinam to Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour.


During the winter the coalition was broken up by the defection of Russia. Paul was angered by the policy of Austria which, under Thugut's direction, was dictated by anxiety for the acquisition of Piedmont; he was irritated by the support Thugut received from the English government which, so far as the continental war was concerned, based its hopes on Austrian success, and he was disgusted by the failure of his arms. He considered that his troops were sacrificed in Switzerland to Austrian selfishness, that they were not well treated in the expedition to the Helder, and, which seems to some extent true, that they were shabbily provided for in the Channel islands.[305] He recalled his troops and withdrew from the coalition. His political attitude exhibited "daily tergiversation," the result of palace intrigues.[306] The hope of gaining Malta for himself and the knights still allured him, and on December 31, he assumed the grandmastership of the order. He kept his fleet in the Mediterranean to assist in the blockade of Valetta, in the hope of making other acquisitions, and to support the King of Naples. Yet his unsettled mind sometimes veered towards France; the "virtues of Bonaparte" would suddenly become his chief topic of conversation and "everything would be in suspense" as regards his policy.[307] Bonaparte had returned to France, and his return was to decide the issue of the war on the continent, though that result could not be foreseen immediately. From the newspapers sent him by Sidney Smith he learnt in Egypt the news of the early successes of the Austrians and the distracted state of France. The government was unpopular, the taxes were heavy, the revenues fell short of the expenditure, commerce was destroyed, the royalists were in arms in the north-west, and brigandage was rife. He left his army in the charge of Kleber, embarked on August 23, evaded the British cruisers, and landed at Frejus on October 9. He joined a party which was plotting against the directory. On November 9 and 10 (18th and 19th Brumaire) he overthrew not only the directory, which was ready to fall, but the legislature also. A provisional government was set up, and on December 13 a new constitution was published. Bonaparte was declared first consul for ten years with powers which, under a thin disguise, made him virtually master of France.

Kleber found his resources failing, no help came to him, for England was supreme in the Mediterranean, and the Turks threatened to attack him. With the assistance of Sidney Smith, who acted on his own responsibility, he arranged a capitulation with the grand-vizier. The convention of El Arish, signed on January 24, 1800, provided that the French should evacuate Egypt and return home unmolested, and it contained no stipulation that they should not serve again during the war. The English ministers, aware that Kleber was in straits, had already ordered Keith not to agree to any terms short of the surrender of the French troops as prisoners of war. Keith informed Smith of this order, but his letter did not reach him until after the convention was signed. On receiving it, Smith sent word to Kleber that his government refused to sanction the convention. When the ministers heard that Smith had assented to it, they generously resolved not to disavow the act of a British officer, and ordered that the convention should be recognised. By that time, however, the French had defeated the Turks at Heliopolis and were determined to make further efforts to hold the country.


Bonaparte lost no time in setting about the pacification of civil strife in France. In December, 1799, Pitt, untaught by experience, was planning an expedition to co-operate with the royalists in La Vendee and Brittany, with the object of reducing Brest, compelling the surrender of the French fleet, which was to be held in the name of Louis XVIII. (the Count of Provence), and taking the Spanish fleet as prize. Bonaparte's skilful policy pacified the disturbed districts, and foiled the hopes of the royalist conspirators. Pitt was forced to postpone his scheme and after a time abandoned it. While he was engaged on it, Bonaparte sent a letter addressed to the king personally, in which he declared his desire for peace. In later days he said that his object was merely to increase his popularity; for the French were weary of war. In this case he probably spoke the truth. Be this as it may, he certainly would not have agreed to such terms as would have given to England and to Europe the security for which England was fighting. His letter was answered by Grenville, who said that the king could not enter into negotiations unless he had a satisfactory assurance that France would abandon the system of aggression, that while he did not prescribe the form of government she should adopt, no assurance would be so satisfactory as the restoration of the monarchy, and that her present government afforded no evidence either of a change of system or of stability. George thought this letter "much too strong," but suggested no alteration. Talleyrand, then French minister of foreign affairs, wrote in favour of a negotiation between the two powers, and was told by Grenville that if the king could see the security of his own dominions and of Europe assured, he would gladly negotiate "in concert with his allies". The position taken by the ministers was sound and honourable, but the tone of their answer to Bonaparte was unwise, for it played his game by uniting the French in a determination to resist foreign dictation with respect to their domestic affairs.

An address to the crown on the French overtures was moved in the lords by Grenville, and was carried by 92 votes to 6. In the commons it was supported by George Canning, already one of the ablest speakers on the government side, and by Pitt who, in one of his finest speeches, reviewed the relations of France with other states from 1792 onwards, as proving that the proposed negotiations would have been illusory; he urged that the exhausted state of France held out hope of a permanent peace, and declared that as a lover of peace he would not sacrifice it by grasping at a shadow. The address was opposed by Fox, who returned to parliament for the occasion. He effectively ridiculed Pitt's oft-repeated assurances that France was exhausted; but his main contention, that if France as a republic had been aggressive, so she had been when under Louis XIV., that she had not acted worse than the allies of Great Britain, and that there was therefore no reason to refuse to negotiate with her, seems academic and feeble. The opposition mustered in full strength, but was defeated by 265 to 64. The divisions prove that the position of the government was unimpaired in parliament.

In the country generally the patriotic spirit aroused by the military aggressions of France and the achievements of the British navy was strong, and revolutionary principles were seldom publicly professed. Some abortive projects of Irish conspirators in 1798 for co-operating with the corresponding society led to the appointment of a committee of the commons, which reported on the revolutionary societies in March, 1799. Bills were passed for suppressing these societies and restricting debating societies, and for compelling printers to obtain certificates and to affix their names to all matter that they printed. In evident connexion with these measures was the law against combinations of workmen enacted in this, and amended in the next session, to which reference has already been made (p. 277); though probably political in intention, it had an oppressive effect on the condition of the working classes. Only three trials for sedition took place during the year, one of them of the printer and publisher, and another of the author of the same libel, a pamphlet by Gilbert Wakefield in answer to one on the government side. Wakefield, who had taken deacon's orders and afterwards left the Church, was a distinguished scholar and a friend of Fox. He was prosecuted by Scott, the attorney-general, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and to find sureties for his future behaviour. The severity of the sentence excited the indignation of the opposition, and L5,000 was subscribed for him. In July Scott was appointed chief-justice of the common pleas, and received a peerage as Lord Eldon.

[Sidenote: THE INCOME TAX.]

The burdens of the country were increasing. In December, 1798, Pitt announced that the supplies exceeded the ordinary revenue by L23,000,000. He repeated the principle which he enunciated when proposing the triple assessment, that loans should not exceed such amount as could be defrayed within a limited time by temporary taxation. The triple assessment had failed, though the deficiency had been supplied by voluntary contributions. He proposed to substitute an income tax of 2s. in the pound on all incomes of and above L200, and of graduated amounts between L60 and L200. The produce, he calculated, would be at least L10,000,000 a year. The opposition, led by Tierney, objected to the tax as inquisitorial, as a grievous confiscation, and as unjust, in that it would fall equally on precarious and on settled incomes, on the produce of industry and on the wealth of the idle. It was carried in the lords without a division, and in the commons by a large majority, and came into operation on April 5, 1799. During the year 1799 Pitt raised L15,000,000 by loan, including L3,000,000 for Ireland, charging the income tax with the interest and redemption of L11,000,000. The loan was raised in the 3 per cents; it created L175 debt for each L100 money, and the rate was therefore 5-1/4 per cent. In his next budget, for 1800, Pitt reported the supplies for the year at L39,500,000. The produce of the income tax for the first year was disappointing, and for the coming year he reckoned it only at L7,000,000. In return for a renewal of its charter the bank of England granted a loan of L3,000,000, without interest, for six years, and Pitt further borrowed L20,500,000, including L2,000,000 for Ireland. The income tax was charged with L13,500,000 of the British loan, and additions were made to the taxes on tea and spirits. Public credit was good and commerce and manufactures rapidly increasing, and Pitt obtained the loan at an average rate of not quite 4-3/4 per cent.

But while commerce was flourishing the poor were suffering terribly from scarcity. The spring and summer of 1799 were cold and wet, and the harvest was wretched. During the twelve months which succeeded September 1, 1799, the average price of wheat rose to 106s. a quarter. Parliament held several debates on the scarcity. Whitbread for the second time brought in a bill for the regulation of the wages of agricultural labourers; Pitt opposed it on sound economic grounds and it was again rejected. During the spring of 1800 parliament made some proposals for the husbanding of wheat and for bounties on importation, but, as we shall see later, the scarcity grew more grievous. The distress of the poor and the burden of taxation strengthened the desire for peace, and a large meeting of London citizens petitioned parliament for negotiations with France. In May the king was shot at in Drury Lane theatre. The incident had no political significance; his assailant, Hadfield, a discharged soldier, was insane and was sent to Bedlam.

At the beginning of 1800 Pitt's hopes were mainly founded on his scheme of co-operation with the French royalists, which was rendered abortive by Bonaparte's measures of pacification, and on the arms of Austria. Thugut knew that from Bonaparte the emperor could not expect to gain better terms than those of the treaty of Campo Formio, and held that the best chance of forwarding Austrian interests lay in prosecuting the war in alliance with England. Austria, however, could not move without English money. The English government promised a loan of L2,000,000 and made subsidiary treaties with the Elector of Bavaria, the Duke of Wurtemberg, and the Elector of Mainz for contingents to serve with the Austrian armies. In April the Austrians under Melas defeated the French in the mountain passes to the west of Genoa, shut up the left wing of their army within the lines of Genoa, and forced the right wing under Suchet across the Var. Their advance was stayed by Massena's defence of Genoa. His troops suffered terribly from famine; they were shut in on land by the Austrians and bombarded from the sea by British ships. Meanwhile Bonaparte was preparing to attack the Austrians in northern Italy as soon as their chief army in the Black Forest country under Kray was effectually held in check by the French army of the Rhine, so as to enable the French to use the Swiss passes. If Massena could detain the Austrians before Genoa until Bonaparte descended into Italy, they might then be taken in the rear. A promise had been made that a British force would co-operate with the Austrians and excite the royalists of southern France to insurrection. If such a force had landed on the rear of the French, Suchet's corps must have been destroyed, Genoa would probably have fallen, and the campaign might have had a different event. But the ministers failed to see the supreme importance of supporting the Austrians. They hesitated, and withdrew troops which should have been sent to Minorca to form an army to co-operate with Melas, in order to employ them in Portugal. There, however, they were not wanted, for Portugal was not attacked. The great opportunity was lost. Sir Ralph Abercromby with 5,000 men sailed from Minorca for Genoa on June 22, but then it was too late.


In April Moreau defeated Kray in a series of engagements and forced him to retire to Ulm. Bonaparte, who had formed "an army of reserve" at Dijon, crossed the Great St. Bernard in May with 41,000 men, reached Aosta on the 22nd, and entered Milan on June 2. On the 4th Massena capitulated, and led his half-starved force out of Genoa with the honours of war. It had done its work by keeping the Austrians before the city. The successes of Moreau secured Switzerland and enabled Bonaparte to summon other French divisions, partly composed of detachments from Moreau's army, to enter Italy by the passes of the Simplon and the St. Gothard. Their appearance upset the plans which Melas was making for defence. He met Bonaparte at Marengo on the 14th, and after a hard-fought battle was totally defeated. On the 16th he signed a convention at Alessandria, which left the French masters of the country as far as the Oglio. Hostilities in Germany were suspended on July 9. Bonaparte returned to Paris in triumph after an absence of less than two months. On June 20, before the news of Marengo reached Vienna, Minto signed a convention with Austria which guaranteed the loan to the emperor, and stipulated that neither power should make peace without the consent of the other. Pitt's hopes were defeated; for the time Austria was completely paralysed. The opposition reproached the government with the failure of its plans. The country, it was urged, desired peace; another defeat would reduce Austria to impotence, and France, disengaged from all continental war, would direct her whole strength against England. Parliament remained steadfast in its support of the government.

Bonaparte, anxious to detach Austria from her alliance with England, offered peace to the emperor, who sent an envoy to Paris to find out what terms he proposed. It was a dangerous move, for the English ministers might have interpreted the mission as a negotiation for a separate peace, contrary to the convention of June 20; and Thugut feared that England might take offence and leave Austria to Bonaparte's mercy. The emperor's envoy was in fact persuaded by Talleyrand to sign articles of peace, generally on the basis of the treaty of Campo Formio. The emperor disavowed his unauthorised action. Austria's interests would be best served by a general peace, arranged at a European congress, at which Great Britain should be represented. This was in accordance with the views of the British government, and on August 9 Minto informed the emperor that his court desired to take part in negotiations for a general peace. The emperor proposed a congress at Luneville in which England should be invited to take part. Bonaparte's design of disuniting Austria from England and treating separately with the emperor was foiled; he could not reject the emperor's proposal, for France was eager for peace. Pitt and Grenville believed that negotiations were certain, and Thomas Grenville was chosen to attend the congress.

But Bonaparte's diplomatic resources were not exhausted. He declared that if the continental armistice with Austria was to be prolonged, it must be supplemented by a naval armistice with Great Britain, and in September he employed an agent named Otto to negotiate this armistice and to propose a separate peace between France and England. Bonaparte's project would have enabled France to revictual Malta and to send supplies and reinforcements to her army in Egypt, and would thus have robbed England of the most powerful means of enforcing her demands in the proposed congress. The king was for rejecting the project absolutely. The cabinet was divided: Dundas and some others were for making a separate peace; Pitt and Grenville were determined to maintain the alliance with Austria, to insist that all negotiations should be for a general peace, and to refuse to throw away the advantages which England derived from her naval supremacy, but, as a speedy termination of the armistice would have been fatal to Austria, they hoped to modify Bonaparte's demands. Pitt, of course, had his way, and the government, after sending Bonaparte a counter-project which he refused, finally rejected his proposal. Bonaparte was enraged and stormed against England's usurpation of the lordship of the sea. Determined to isolate her, he pressed the emperor's ministers to negotiate separately. They foresaw that they might be forced to yield, but so long as they were not assured of advantageous terms, decided to remain united to England; for they were unwilling to stand alone, to lose the money of England, or to risk a possible alliance between England and Prussia.


While the proposed naval armistice was still in debate, the blockade of Valetta came to an end. England's supremacy in the Mediterranean prevented France from relieving the garrison. The only two ships which remained to France of the fleet defeated in Abukir bay were captured, one of them by Nelson himself. The blockade was kept up until September 15, when the place was surrendered after a siege of two years, and Malta passed into the possession of Great Britain. About the same time the Dutch island of Curacao put itself under the king's protection. Earlier in the year Goree was surrendered to a British squadron. Elsewhere British ships were less profitably employed. Some attacks on the Breton coast did little damage to the enemy, and brought no material advantage to England. The government employed the troops which should have been sent in the spring to the support of the Austrians in desultory expeditions. In August a considerable force under Sir James Pulteney was sent against Ferrol. After landing his men Pulteney found that the place was too strong to be taken by a coup-de-main, and abandoned the enterprise. An equally abortive attempt was made on Cadiz in October by a force of 22,000 men under Abercromby, then commanding at Minorca, and by the Mediterranean fleet under Keith. The plague was raging in the town, and Keith could not guarantee that, if the troops were landed, the weather might not cut them off from communication with the fleet, and possibly hinder re-embarkation. Abercromby therefore refused to land his troops, and decided to sail off to Gibraltar. He received orders to attack the French in Egypt in co-operation with the grand-vizier. The troops landed in Abukir bay on February 8 and 9, 1801, with results which must be deferred to our next volume.

The armistice in Germany ended on November 28. A strong Austrian army under the archduke John, a general of no experience, held the line of the Inn. The archduke adopted the offensive, crossed the river, attacked the French under Moreau at Hohenlinden on December 3, and was totally defeated, losing ninety-seven guns and 15,000 men, or more, killed, wounded, or prisoners. The Austrians were utterly crushed; the French crossed the Inn and the Salzach without meeting serious opposition. The archduke Charles again took command of the defeated army, and on the 25th signed an armistice at Steyer. Meanwhile Cobenzl, the imperial ambassador, was haggling over terms of peace with Joseph Bonaparte at Luneville; he refused to negotiate officially without the participation of England, and at last proposed that if a treaty was made, it should not be announced until after March 10 when the Anglo-Austrian alliance would lapse. The battle of Hohenlinden brought the alliance to a premature end. The emperor informed the British court that he was no longer able to maintain the alliance, and gave Cobenzl authority to sign preliminaries independently of Great Britain. The splendid achievement of Macdonald, who led the "second army of reserve" from the Grisons across the Splugen, and the subsequent success of the French under Brune, who forced the passage of the Mincio and crossed the Adige, enabled Bonaparte to dictate his own terms to Austria. By the treaty of Luneville, signed on February 9, 1801, Belgium and the left bank of the Rhine were ceded to France, and the line of the Adige was made the Austrian boundary in Italy; the grand-duchy of Tuscany was to be transferred to the house of Parma, and Modena annexed to the Cisalpine republic, and the independence of the Batavian, Helvetian, Cisalpine, and Ligurian republics was acknowledged by Austria; they remained practically under French domination.

In addition to the loss of her ally, new dangers threatened England in the later part of the year. They arose from the animosity of the tsar. He was angered by England's alliance with Austria, and by the certainty that his hostile attitude would prevent her from handing over Malta to him; for though the government would have ceded the island to him as grand-master of the knights, if he had continued to co-operate with England, it was not bound to do so by treaty, and would not cede it to a sovereign who was fast becoming an open enemy. Paul was greatly enraged, and on February 1, 1800, wrote to Vorontsov, his minister in England, desiring that Whitworth (created Lord Whitworth in March) should be recalled, as he did not want "liars as ministers at his court".[308] He refused a passport to Whitworth's messenger in March, and behaved, Whitworth wrote, in the way which showed that he was "literally not in his senses".[309] At last, apparently on April 1, he demanded Whitworth's recall.[310] After long delay Whitworth obtained a passport and returned to England, leaving the embassy to a charge d'affaires, who was peremptorily dismissed by Paul, and left Russia with the embassy in June. Bonaparte was quick to take advantage of Paul's anger against England. After some overtures to him, begun as early as March,[311] he proposed in July to restore to him 6,000, and, later, a larger number of Russian prisoners taken in Holland and Switzerland, and suggested ceding to him Malta, which was then hard pressed by the British fleet. Paul was delighted, and made arrangements for garrisoning Valetta; but the place was surrendered to Great Britain, and the British government would not part with it.


Paul had already laid his hand on the weapon forged by his mother Catherine in 1780, an armed neutrality of the Baltic powers. The war put many difficulties in the way of neutral commerce. England's maritime supremacy gave the trade of Europe into her hands. For her own purposes she encouraged neutral trade with herself to the great profit of those who engaged in it, but she placed rigorous restrictions on the trade of neutrals with her enemy. France, in a more lawless fashion, had attempted to destroy neutral trade with England, but had only succeeded in driving the ships of neutral states from her own ports.[312] England could enforce her system in every sea. She refused to allow that an enemy's goods were covered by a neutral flag, and insisted that naval stores were contraband of war, and that no trade should be carried on with a port of which she declared a blockade. In 1798 Sweden and Denmark adopted the plan of sending their merchant ships under convoy to exempt them from search. Paul saw his opportunity in the annoyance which the British system caused to neutral states, and in May and June, 1800, invited Sweden and Denmark to resist it. In July a Danish frigate, the Freya, with a convoy was stopped by British ships in the Channel; her captain refused to allow the ships under his convoy to be searched, and after a short resistance the Freya was captured and taken into the Downs. The government despatched Whitworth to Copenhagen to remonstrate on this act of war on the part of Denmark, and enforced his representations by sending a squadron into the Sound.

Christian VII. gave way, and promised to send no more convoys until the question was decided by treaty. He complained to Russia, and Paul in November laid an embargo on all British ships, imprisoned the crews of those in his ports, and seized British merchandise. He further invited Denmark, Sweden, and Prussia to form an alliance for the protection of their flags on the basis of insisting that the neutral flag should cover an enemy's goods, not being contraband of war, that contraband should not include naval stores, and that if a declaration of blockade was to be respected, the blockade must be effectual, and that ships convoyed by a man-of-war belonging to their sovereign should be exempt from search by a belligerent on a declaration by the captain of the convoying ship that they were not carrying contraband goods. This move was highly gratifying to Bonaparte, for it struck at England's naval and commercial ascendency, and a treaty which he concluded with the United States in September contained provisions of a like kind. Frederick William III. of Prussia, seeing that Austria was at its last gasp, was anxious to please him, for he hoped to gain some advantage from him in Germany, and specially coveted the possession of Hanover. He complained that a Prussian ship, laden with timber and bound for Amsterdam, had been seized by a British cruiser and taken into Cuxhaven, a port belonging to the state of Hamburg, and he ordered his troops to occupy Cuxhaven, a measure which threatened George's electoral dominions. That would not in itself have concerned England, but Cuxhaven was at the mouth of the Elbe, the principal route by which British commerce was carried on with central Europe. In the existing state of affairs it was not advisable to give the Prussian king a cause of grievance. The government, therefore, directed the restoration of the ship in the hope of pacifying him, but he nevertheless persisted in the occupation of the port. On December 16 the maritime confederacy was signed by Russia, Sweden, and Denmark, and on the 18th by Prussia.


In January, 1801, Paul sent an ambassador to Paris to arrange a treaty of alliance. Bonaparte's hopes seemed likely to be more than fulfilled. An attempt made on his life on December 24, which many Frenchmen absurdly believed to have been abetted by the English government, gave him the opportunity of crushing his domestic foes. England, the object of his passionate hatred, was bereft of her Austrian ally; he was pressing Spain to invade Portugal unless she would close her ports against English ships; the northern powers were striking at England's maritime lordship; her navy would be deprived of stores, and her people of foreign wheat. An alliance with Russia would enable France to become dominant in central Europe, to overthrow the British supremacy in the Mediterranean, and to preserve her hold on Egypt. Soon every state would shut its ports against British ships, and England's sea-power would be overthrown by the power of France on land. Paul held out yet greater hopes; he would undertake a joint invasion of India and drive the British from the east. Though his wild schemes did not meet with Bonaparte's approval, Paul set an army in motion for the conquest of India. Yet neither the government nor the people of England was dismayed by the isolation of their country nor the number of their foes. Nor had they cause. Bonaparte, great general as he was, could not understand the nature of England's strength, and was indeed profoundly ignorant of all that concerned maritime power and commerce. The British navy was in admirable condition, both as regards material and men; it was blockading the Dutch in the Texel, and the ships of France and Spain in every port in which they lay from Toulon to Flushing, and the thunder of its guns was soon to be heard in the north. In India Lord Wellesley had not only crushed resistance and added a vast territory to the company's possessions, but was establishing the British rule on a firm basis, and there, too, British ships would have to be reckoned with. On January 14 the government placed an embargo on the ships of Russia, Sweden, and Denmark. Orders were sent for the capture of the Danish colonies in the West Indies, and a fleet was prepared to sail for the Baltic under Sir Hyde Parker, and with Nelson as second in command.

Yet, though undismayed by her foes, England was sorely dismayed by the sufferings of her poor. Peace was very needful for her. Wealth indeed was rapidly increasing; her foreign trade which in 1792 was L44,500,000 in value had risen to over L73,750,000. But the poor lacked bread. The increase in the manufacturing population caused an increased demand for food, and England depended on supplies of cereals from abroad. The war restricted the importation of corn and sent up its price. The hopes fixed on the harvest of 1800 were disappointed; the stock of the previous year was exhausted, and wheat rose to the famine price of 120s. a quarter. Bread riots were raised in various places, and were in some cases due to a belief, existing even among persons of education, that the high price of corn was largely caused by the dealers. Some dealers were prosecuted under the old statutes against "forestalling and regrating," and when one named Rusby, charged with buying oats at 41s. a quarter and selling them again in the same market at 44s., was found guilty, Lord Kenyon congratulated the jury on the benefit which their verdict conferred on the country. On appeal his law was questioned and the proceedings dropped. The future looked even darker than the present, for the Russian embargo cut off a main source of supply. The desire for peace was general. Pitt, whose health was giving way, was full of anxiety, for the scarcity seemed likely to embarrass the government in its efforts to maintain the honour of England, and might even compel the country to assent to a peace alike disadvantageous and fallacious. "The question of peace or war," he wrote in October, "is not in itself so formidable as that of the scarcity with which it is combined".

He determined on an early meeting of parliament, believing that some relief might be afforded by legislation, and that, at the least, it would quiet the public mind and check the rise of disaffection. Besides measures for the encouragement of home agriculture, which would necessarily operate slowly, he planned others to meet the immediate crisis, for though as a disciple of Adam Smith he disliked interference with the regular course of trade, he considered that the situation of the country rendered some regulation necessary. Grenville differed from him. He held closely to the maxims of political economy, and though he did not oppose him in the cabinet, he urged on Pitt in private that all interference with the process by which supply and demand counteracted each other must be harmful. Pitt held to his own opinion. Parliament met on November 11. The king's speech invited it to consider means by which agriculture might be extended, and, for the present, the best means of stimulating the importation of grain and promoting frugality in using it, and checked the foolish and mischievous outcry against the dealers by pointing out that the ordinary practices of buying and selling were necessary in the existing state of society. Acting on the reports of committees, parliament granted bounties on the importation of corn and rice, and prohibited the use of corn in distillery and the manufacture of starch, the exportation of provisions, the making of bread solely from fine flour, and the sale of bread within twenty-four hours of its baking. The opposition reproached the government, and especially Pitt, with having caused the scarcity by the rejection of Bonaparte's proposals for peace; but motions for an inquiry into the state of the nation, for immediate negotiations with France, and for the dismissal of the ministers received scarcely any support. It was not from parliament that Pitt's ministry was to receive its death-blow.


Almost as soon as the Irish rebellion was quelled, the project of a legislative union with Great Britain was publicly discussed. Such a union existed from 1654 to the restoration in 1660. At the time of the union with Scotland, in 1703 and 1707, the Irish parliament proposed a union, and its wish was disregarded. Since then various writers on politics had recommended it, chiefly as a means of giving Ireland freedom of trade. The improvement in the material condition of the country which began in the fourth decade of the century strengthened the spirit of nationality, the Irish interest became dominant in politics, religious animosity decreased, and during the American war Ireland, instead of looking to a union as a means of attaining prosperity, found herself in a position to demand the concessions she desired. The abolition of restrictions on her trade in 1779-80 removed the chief motive which had impelled Scotland towards union; the grant of legislative independence fostered the national pride. The constitution of 1782 left Ireland connected with Great Britain only by the unity of the executive in both countries. The Irish parliament might have expressed disapproval of a war or alliance entered on by Great Britain and might have refused supplies; it might have imposed excessive duties on English goods, might have refused a commercial compact with Great Britain, and did so in 1785; it might have taken a different course from the British parliament on a constitutional question, and did so on the regency question in 1789. The empire was weakened by lack of union. English statesmen, and above all Pitt, saw that the tie, precarious in quiet times, might break under some stress, and desired to strengthen it by an incorporate union, and the king heartily agreed with them.

For Ireland a union afforded the only chance of tranquillity, for catholic emancipation could not safely be granted without it. Since the extension of the suffrage to Roman catholics in 1793, emancipation unaccompanied by union would have placed the government of the country in the hands of a popish democracy; for the catholics outnumbered the protestants by three to one, and the act of 1793 established little short of manhood suffrage. A catholic parliament would have made Ireland no place for protestants, and would have provoked a civil war, in which, unlike the late rebellion, England would probably have had almost the whole catholic population arrayed against her. With a united parliament the catholics might enjoy equal privileges with their protestant neighbours, and would be powerless to oppress them. The war with France revealed the dangers of the existing system; the rebellion left the two religious parties at deadly feud; the protestants feared catholic vengeance, the catholics held the protestant ascendency in deeper hatred since the rise of Orangeism and the barbarities of '98. The time seemed ripe for the fulfilment of Pitt's long-cherished hope of union. He desired to do the catholics justice and intended that the union should provide for emancipation, a provision for their priesthood, to be accompanied by an increase of the regium donum, the endowment granted by William III. for the support of the Irish presbyterian ministers, and the commutation of tithe; and this comprehensive scheme was warmly approved by Cornwallis. But the principal men of the government party in Ireland were strongly opposed to the admission of catholics into the united parliament, and in October, 1798, Clare convinced Pitt that the proposal would wreck the chances of union. Pitt therefore dissociated emancipation from union, adopted a scheme of union on a protestant basis, and left the settlement of the just claims of the catholics, which was necessary to the successful working of a union, to be effected later.


The intended union was announced and advocated in a pamphlet by Cooke, the Irish under-secretary. The protestants generally were hostile to the scheme, some from feelings of national pride, others from dislike to the threatened overthrow of the political ascendency of their party. Catholic support might be gained if there was reason to expect that union would be followed by emancipation, a provision for the clergy, which would entail a royal power of veto over episcopal appointments, and the commutation of tithe. Dublin was strongly against a measure which would injure its position as a capital; and the lawyers, who would also lose by it, were formidable opponents. In preparation for the coming struggle the government informed the catholic bishops that, though emancipation could not be included in the measure, they were anxious to make provision for their clergy; a few anti-unionist officials resigned or were dismissed, and the demands of some of the government party, who, as usual, clamoured to be rewarded beforehand, appeared to have been satisfied. The king's speech at the opening of the Irish parliament on January 22, 1799, though not mentioning union, recommended some effectual means of strengthening the connexion. The address was carried in the lords by 52 votes to 17. In the commons it was moved by Lord Castlereagh, the chief secretary, and was strongly opposed by Plunket, Ponsonby, and others. After a debate which lasted from 4 P.M. to 1 P.M. the next day, the government had a majority of only one, and in a subsequent division was in a minority of 5. On the 31st Pitt, in an eloquent speech, moved resolutions for a union in the British house of commons. Sheridan, Grey, and Burke's friend, Laurence, fought hard against them, but were in a minority which varied from 45 to 15. In the lords they were agreed to without a division, and in April both houses adopted an address in favour of union.

The failure of the government in the Irish parliament was hailed with delight and rioting in Dublin. The prospects of the union soon began to brighten. The cabinet made it clear that the measure would not be abandoned. As it seemed likely that the protestants would offer the catholics emancipation in order to induce them to combine against union, Cornwallis was authorised to declare that the government would resist to the utmost any concession to the catholics so long as a separate parliament existed. No definite promise was made to the catholics, but their hopes were excited. In the autumn, Castlereagh, who came over for the purpose, represented to the cabinet the importance of gaining their support; he was told to inform Cornwallis that the cabinet was favourable to emancipation, and that without giving the catholics "any direct assurance," he might safely solicit their support. This he did with general success; and the catholic bishops and many of their clergy, allured by the prospect of a provision from government, were active on the unionist side. The unionist party was further strengthened by the state of the country. Many districts were infested by bands of men, survivals of the rebel armies, who murdered, robbed, and intimidated their neighbours, and mutilated cattle. A fresh outbreak of rebellion seemed likely in the spring; the large British force already in Ireland was augmented, and an act was passed giving the lord-lieutenant power to authorise the capital or other punishment of those convicted by court-martial of rebellion or attacks on the king's subjects. The opinion that Ireland needed a new system of government gained ground. Yet the feeling against union remained overwhelmingly general, specially among the protestants.


A majority in parliament had to be gained by the ministers. The county members, who were independent, for the most part were, and remained, anti-unionists. The preponderance of power lay with the 236 members for the 118 boroughs, of which only eight were free from all patronage. Nearly all the remainder belonged to borough-owners and were regarded as their personal property. A large number of them would be disfranchised by a union. Not to compensate the owners would have been contrary to the general moral standard of the age when uninfluenced by party feelings, and would have made union impossible. As Pitt in his reform bill of 1785 proposed to buy up the patronage of the English close boroughs, so the government determined to compensate those Irish borough-owners whose boroughs were to lose both members. The price of each borough was eventually fixed at L15,000, the market value, and as eighty-four were disfranchised, the sum paid for them was L1,260,000. This was not bribery; it was an open transaction, and the money was paid alike to opponents and supporters of the union. The services of great men were secured by peerages and other dignities. During and at the end of the struggle twenty new Irish peerages were created, sixteen peers were promoted, and five received English peerages. Most of these grants were mere bribes, and so too were the many places and pensions which helped to swell the unionist party in parliament. Some money, though the amount must have been small, was probably also spent in bribery. The government would not risk a general election; the union was to be carried by the existing parliament. Gradually sixty-three vacancies were created in the commons, some by death, some by acceptance of office, most of them doubtless by the resignation of members who would not follow their patrons by becoming unionists, and others, probably, through the purchase of seats by the government from sitting members. The vacancies were eventually filled by supporters of the union. While, then, the extent of the corruption practised by the government has been exaggerated, the union was undoubtedly carried by corrupt means.

Nevertheless, Pitt did not corrupt the Irish parliament; it was corrupt already: he merely continued the immemorial methods of dealing with it on a larger scale than before. Nobles and gentry chose to sell themselves, and, in order to rid Ireland of a source of trouble and danger, and Great Britain of a cause of weakness, he paid them their price. Cornwallis murmured at having to negotiate and job with "the most corrupt people under heaven"; but he did his share of the work. Castlereagh, personally not less honourable, who had much of it to do, did it without compunction, for it was, he said, "to buy out and secure to the crown for ever the fee-simple of Irish corruption, which has so long enfeebled the powers of the government and endangered the connection". It was essential to the welfare both of Great Britain and Ireland that the union should be effected, and that it should be effected without delay; and it could not have been effected by any other means than those which Pitt adopted. It was better by giving these greedy politicians their price to put an end to a system maintained by perpetual corruption, worked in the interests of an ascendant minority, distrusted by the mass of the people, incapable of affording the country the blessings of domestic peace, and dangerous to the security of the empire.

The Irish parliament began its last session on January 15, 1800, and the address was hotly debated. Grattan, who had not appeared there since 1797, spoke with extraordinary eloquence in support of an amendment on the side of legislative independence. Though the vacant seats were not nearly all filled up, the amendment was rejected by 138 votes to 96. The anti-unionists were furious; they raised a fund of L100,000, paid or promised, for the purpose of out-buying the ministers, bought some seats, and paid and offered bribes. The catholics, the yeomanry, and the Orangemen were urged to combine to withstand the union. Some rioting took place in Dublin, but there was no serious outbreak; for the Orange grand lodge kept the society quiet, and the mass of the people, except when excited by agitation, regarded the question with indifference. A fierce struggle ensued in parliament, and it was not until March 28 that the articles of union were carried and sent to England. They were debated at some length in both houses of the English parliament, but were carried by large majorities. They were next presented in the Irish parliament in the form of a bill. It was vehemently opposed. In the debate on the commitment, on May 26, Grattan delivered an oration against it, splendid in diction and inflammatory in tone, and was answered by Castlereagh who spoke, as indeed he spoke throughout these debates, with conspicuous dignity and moderation. The majority for committing the bill was 118 to 73. It was then passed by the English parliament and received the royal assent on August 1. A new great seal and a new royal standard were made for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and on January 1, 1801, the king's new title was proclaimed, from which the words "King of France," retained since the time of Edward III., were omitted.

By the act of union Ireland was to be represented in the united parliament, in the upper house by four spiritual lords sitting in rotation and twenty-eight temporal lords elected for life by the Irish peerage, and in the lower by 100 members.[313] The right of the crown to create fresh Irish peerages was restricted. The established Church of Ireland was declared one with the Church of England, and the preservation of the united Church of England and Ireland was to be "an essential and fundamental part of the union". Commercial interests were mainly settled in accordance with the proposals of 1785, and some Irish manufactures were temporarily protected from suffering by British competition. The debts of the two countries were to be kept separate for twenty years, or until they should be to each other in the same proportion as the respective contributions of the two countries; and until their amalgamation the annual contribution of Great Britain towards the expenditure of the United Kingdom was fixed at fifteen parts and of Ireland at two parts. The first session of the united parliament was opened on January 22, 1801, the members for Great Britain being the same as those of the previous parliament.


The Irish catholics could have prevented the union. They made it possible, some by giving active help, others by maintaining neutrality; and though no definite promise had been made to them, they were led to expect that union would be followed by emancipation, a provision for their clergy, and the commutation of tithe. Pitt recognised this, and further held that his work would be incomplete without these healing measures, which would give "full effect to the great object of the union—that of tranquillising Ireland and attaching it to this country". Accordingly, in September, 1800, as soon as the union was effected, he called a meeting of the cabinet to consider these questions. He said nothing to the king on the subject, thinking, doubtless, that it would be less difficult to gain his consent if a complete plan was presented to him as the policy adopted by the cabinet. The risk was great, for in 1795 George, as we have seen, held that to consent to emancipation would be a breach of his coronation oath, and so lately as the autumn of 1799 he told Dundas that he hoped the government was "not pledged to anything in favour of the Roman catholics". Loughborough, the chancellor, saw an opportunity for ingratiating himself by betraying the prime minister. When he received Pitt's letter summoning him to the cabinet meeting on the catholic question, he was with the king at Weymouth, where George often resided in the summer since his recovery in 1789. He showed the king Pitt's letter, excited him against emancipation, and furnished him with arguments. Lord Auckland, the postmaster-general, who was allied with the chief Irish anti-catholics, was his cousin, and, probably at Auckland's suggestion, the Archbishops of Canterbury and Armagh wrote to the king to strengthen him against emancipation. When the cabinet met, Loughborough agreed to the commutation of tithe, but objected to any further concession, and the matter was adjourned.

Pitt again brought it before the cabinet in January, 1801. The king's feelings were then generally known, and the Duke of Portland and Lords Westmorland and Liverpool more or less decidedly joined Loughborough in opposing emancipation. On the 28th George attacked Dundas on the subject at a levee: "I shall," he said, "reckon any man my personal enemy who proposes such a measure". He requested Addington, the speaker, to remonstrate with Pitt. On the 31st Pitt wrote him a long letter setting forth the general grounds of his desire for emancipation, by the substitution of a political oath for the sacramental test, and for a provision for the catholic clergy, adding that if the king refused his consent, he must resign office. George, after taking counsel with Addington, replied that he was bound by his coronation oath to refuse his consent, and proposed that both he and Pitt should say no more on the subject. In answer Pitt wrote on February 3 that he must resign office as soon as a new ministry could be formed. George, who was incapable of appreciating his splendid services, and showed later that he must often have chafed under his control, invited Addington, a dull man after his own heart, to form a ministry. He consented, and on the 5th the king accepted Pitt's resignation. Dundas, Grenville, Spencer, and Windham decided to go out with Pitt, so did Canning and others who held minor offices, and Cornwallis and Castlereagh also retired. Pitt promised his help to Addington, whose father had physicked the Pitt family, and persuaded some of his followers to join the new ministry. As it was to be an anti-catholic ministry, his conduct has been held to prove that he was paving his way to a return to office, and that the change, so far as he was concerned, was, to use Fox's expression, "a juggle". It should be remembered that the country was engaged in a deadly conflict, and that its safety was always Pitt's first consideration. Emancipation was hopeless. He had felt bound in honour to break up a strong ministry because he could not carry it, and it was his duty to do what he could to strengthen the new ministry so long as it did not prove incapable of guiding the country in critical times.


In this, as in every part of these transactions, his conduct was honourable and straightforward. He would not continue in office when thwarted by the king on a question of great importance, nor would he consent to disappoint hopes which he had encouraged and by which he had benefited. That he was influenced by any other motive, such as that his continuance in office would hinder peace, is a vain imagining. He has been blamed by an eminent historian for not having persevered in his attempt to overcome the king's determination, which on other occasions had yielded to pressure.[314] On none of these occasions had George's religious convictions been concerned. Some experience of the power exercised by religious prejudice in strengthening the resistance which a naturally obstinate person can make to reason, persuasion, and the force of circumstances, leads me to believe that Pitt was right in accepting the king's decision as final and in not engaging in a struggle which might, especially at that time, have had disastrous consequences. Short of such a struggle he did insist on his policy in the only way open to him; he resigned. Where he was to blame, and he acknowledged it, was in keeping his intentions secret from the king. Whether if he had communicated them to the king at an early date, he would have gradually won George over to his policy, it is impossible to say; he certainly went the wrong way to work in disregarding the right of the crown to be consulted on the policy which the prime minister hopes to carry out.

The impending resignations were announced in parliament, and Sir John Mitford, the attorney-general, was chosen speaker in place of Addington, but the completion of the ministerial arrangements was delayed, and Pitt remained de facto prime minister. To prevent public inconvenience he brought forward his budget on the 18th. He announced a loan of L25,500,000 for Great Britain and L1,500,000 for Ireland, afterwards increased by another L1,000,000, which the commercial prosperity of the country, though then in the ninth year of the war, had enabled him to negotiate, at the rate of about 5-1/4 per cent., and he proposed fourteen new taxes to defray the interest. The budget was well received. The delay in the change of ministry was prolonged by the king's illness. He had been much excited and distressed by the late events, and on the 20th again became insane. The Prince of Wales approached Pitt on the subject of a regency, and Pitt told him that, if the necessity should arise, he should propose the restrictions of 1789. By March 6 the king's condition was materially improved and the question became of no further importance. George bade Willis, his doctor, tell Pitt that he was quite well, adding, "but what has he not to answer for who is the cause of my having been ill at all?" Pitt was much distressed. Would an assurance, he asked Willis, that he would not again trouble the king on the catholic question "be material to his health?" "Certainly," Willis replied, "and to his life also."[315] Pitt bade him give the king the assurance. George was much comforted. Pitt's surrender has been blamed in strong terms.[316] It cannot be defended completely. The question was of deep importance to Ireland, and he treated it as a personal matter. It is, however, unfair to represent his conduct as an attempt to resume office. His followers constantly urged him to invite Addington to retire, for they justly regarded him as incompetent, and when they heard of Pitt's message to the king, they expected that their wish would be fulfilled. But Addington had received his appointment, and was not likely to resign it willingly, and Pitt, as Canning complained, would not make any "forward movement towards the king". Nothing was to be got from him except that, if the king and Addington earnestly wished him to continue, he was ready to discuss matters. On the strength of this, Dundas and others went to Addington, who rejected their proposal that he should offer to make way for Pitt, and Pitt himself told them that their action was improper.

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