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The papers contained in this volume relate almost exclusively to the campaigns of 1799 between the forces of the European Powers forming the Third or, as it is sometimes called, the Second Coalition, and those of Republican France. They are a frank revelation of the policy of the British Cabinet, its hopes, fears, projects, efforts and failures, in connexion with the important events crowded into seven months, from the end of March to the end of October, of that year. But as the volume closes while the
was still in progress, and its issue still doubtful, it has seemed better to restrict the Preface to a brief indication of its contents. Another volume bringing the course of affairs down to the peace of Luneville, the Legislative Union of Great Britain and Ireland, and the fall of Pitt's first ministry, will afford a fitting opportunity of reviewing in their entirety the momentous changes that marked the two last years of the 18th century, and of Lord Grenville's official connexion with Mr. Pitt.
As has been already told in the Introduction to Volume IV., Lord Grenville, early in the year of 1799, sent his brother Thomas as Envoy Extraordinary to Berlin to act as “his other self” in forming an offensive league between Great Britain and the leading monarchies of the Continent, to crush the subverting power of revolution which had its seat at Paris, and restore the systems and landmarks its victories had swept away. Negotiations with these objects in view had already begun. The British Government had made repeated overtures to the Tzar; Austria sought aid against French aggression at St. Petersburgh and London. Paul I., Tzar of Russia, had no material interests to serve by waging war against France. But coveting the glory of being everywhere acclaimed as the champion of conservative principles and the saviour of Europe, he yielded to appeals
from the Emperor Francis II. and George III.and spared no effort not only to bring the King of Prussia into the Coalition, but to strengthen it by reconciling the estranged Governments of Austria and Great Britain. Frederick William III., however, clung tenaciously to the neutral policy adopted by his father in 1795. And Lord Grenville, with Pitt's support, refused to subsidize or enter into concert with Austria, until a financial convention signed in London in 1797 had been ratified at Vienna. The matter in dispute was apparently of little real importance. Austria acknowledged her debt; Great Britain did not ask for immediate repayment. But angry reproaches, wounded pride, mutual resentment and suspicion aroused by diplomatic methods, had magnified what
to have been little more than a formality into a point of national honour on which neither party would give way. The consequence was that, at the breaking out of war, France found herself confronted by a coalition so loosely constructed as to afford little promise of long life. It a triple league, of which the Tzar was centre, and connecting link : his allies, the Governments of Austria and Great Britain, forming plans in concert with him but without communication with each other; each intent on pursuing a line of action against the
common enemy according most with its particular views and interests.
Lord Grenville, partly in deference to his brother's complaints from Berlin, sent Lord Minto to replace Sir Morton Eden at Vienna, with some expectation of being able to influence Austrian counsels through a stronger minister. But he seems to have much under-rated the danger to the Coalition likely to result from his own antagonism to the Imperial Chancellor Baron Thugut, on whose position and character foreign letters included in the correspondence throw considerable light. Thugut having acquired complete ascendency over the mind of the Emperor Francis II., exercised absolute control over the armies, as well as the policy of the Austrian Monarchy. Even Archduke Charles the Emperor's brother, and already reputed the ablest Austrian commander since Prince Eugene, seems to have been during this campaign, however unwillingly, a
puppet in his hands. And he pursued his plans with a silent and stubborn tenacity which all remonstrance of an unfriendly or interested character only served to harden.
From the very beginning of the war, and even before Russian succours reached the scene of hostilities, the Austrian generals and armies showed decisive superiority over those of France. Archduke Charles defeated General Jourdan at Stockach and drove his army in headlong confusion across the Rhine. Then passing into Switzerland he dislodged Massena from fortified positions which seemed
to defy attack. In Italy the Austrian General Kray opened the campaign by a brilliant victory over General Scherer at Magnano. Immediately afterwards Marshal Souvarow entered the field with a body of Russians and assumed supreme command of the allied troops. Marching from triumph to triumph he routed in succession the three French armies of Moreau, McDonald and Joubert, captured the fortresses of Alessandria and Turin, and expelled the French from the entire peninsula with the exception of the city of Genoa and a few positions on the Maritime Alps. These splendid successes changed the face of the political situation, and stimulated the hopes and efforts of all the enemies of France. Even the King of Prussia allowed Count Haugwitz to resume the discussion of a project, proposed earlier in the year by Mr. Granville, of joint intervention in Holland for the restoration of the House of Orange.
But the British Government distrusting the king's timidity—and justly, for soon after he suffered the French Directory to entangle him in an elusive negotiation-now framed bolder plans, embracing the same object, but based mainly on the co-operation of the Emperor Paul. These, as unfolded and discussed in Lord Grenville's correspondence with his brother, resolved themselves into three distinct series of military operations : (I.) A joint expedition of British troops and Russians in British pay, to recover Holland and Belgium from France, and restore the Prince of Orange as ruler of the whole Netherlands, or of the Dutch Republic only, as riper knowledge and experience might determine, but terms exceedingly advantageous to Great Britain. (II.) The assembling in Switzerland of a larger army composed of
Russians, Swiss, Wirtembergers, and
of émigrés, also in the pay of Great Britain, but under the command
of Marshal Souvarow, who had nearly finished his work in Italy. It was proposed that this force, operating in concert with the Austrians under Archduke Charles, should expel Massena from Swiss territory, penetrate into France, and take up winter quarters at Lyons, to serve
à rallying point and support for royalist disaffection, in the eastern and southern Departments. (III.) Later in the year when the Netherlands had been conquered, the landing of a strong body of British and Russian troops in Brittany, to capture and destroy Brest, and aid a Chouan revolt which Georges Cadondal was organizing with funds supplied from the British Treasury.
The first of these enterprises, requiring the co-operation of the Russian Emperor only, moved smoothly forward through all its preparatory stages.
Paul granted a tingent of 18,000 troops, and procured from the King of Sweden an offer of 6,000 more, which the British Government declined. The Hereditary Prince of Orange, who had been living at Berlin in constant communication with the adherents of his House in the Dutch Republic, repaired to Lingon. With full powers from his father at Hampton Court, and money furnished by Mr. Grenville, he despatched trustworthy agents to all parts of the Netherlands to rally and organize the Orange party, collect information, and arrange for simultaneous risings when the time for action should have come. Their reports left no doubt of a general desire among people of every shade of opinion to rid themselves of the oppressive yoke of France; of disaffection in the Dutch army and navy; of the reduction of the French garrison to a mere handful of troops; of the hopeful activity of the Orange party, and the discord and deep discouragement of the party in power. To muster the troops, and provide means of transport for them would require many weeks. But neither Lord Grenville
his brother seems to have entertained a doubt that, should existing conditions hold good for that period, the occupation of the entire Netherlands by a powerful Anglo-Russian force, boldly led, would be rather a triumphal march than an arduous military operation.