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motives, the wisdom, and the efficacy of the executive government, have been more nicely analysed, where a more animated attempt, supported by more splendid abili ties, has been made to discredit them all, or where the amiable feelings of a generous people, together with the strongest operations of party spirit, have been more power, fully employed for that purpose.
The war with Denmark, and the military and naval measures by which it was commenced, offering the first grand feature of active and successful warfare that occurred in this year, as well as the first specimen of the politics of the new administration, it is now our duty to present this subject to our readers in one connected view; in order to which, we must take a short retrospect of preceding events. We shall then narrate the progress of the war, and we shall also, in this place*, briefly state the discussions to which it gave rise, in the public and in parliament; concluding with such observations connect ed with it, as may be expected from the impartial historian.
In the course of the negotiations which, from the unfortunate peace of Presburg, and the still more la. mentable policy of the Prussian cabinet, terminated in the conclusion of the treatics of Vienna and Paris between Prussia and France, repeated intimations were given by Buonaparte, when he found that the tide of fortune continued to run in his favour, that one of the first and principal uses he should make of his success, would be, to cut off those channels of communication which
Great Britain still preserved with the continent. As the concurrence, and even the co-operation of Prussia was necessary for this purpose, to her were these intimations first addressed. By a most unaccountable infatuation, and inveigted by motives which it were charity not to characterize, she was not long in acceding to those fatal measures, which, ere many months elapsed, proved the cause of her own down. fall. She took_forcible possession of the king's German dominions, and excluded the British flag from her own ports, and from others to which her power or influence extended.
Previously however to the court of Berlin proceeding to this extremity, it was not consistent with Buona. parte's policy that his intentions on the subject should remain secret. It was, on the contrary, very ge nerally rumoured, and as generally credited by the best-informed persons in the north of Europe, that the French ruler would proceed to the immediate execution of this longthreatened measure.
Ile was, at
the time, sure of Prussia: Denmark offered yet a feeble obstacle to his wishes; it was to overawe her that he next turned his attention. To engage her by fair or foul means to shut the ports of her German provinces, and to attempt to ob struct the commerce of England in its passage through the Sound, was the next step in his restless career. This was announced in no unintel ligible terms, by the many official and unofficial agents, which his active diplomancy employed in every court of Europe: the public news
* A more copious statement of these, will of course be given in our account of parliamentary business and debates in 1808.
papers were sometimes made the expounders of his will upon these topics.
The court of Denmark could not be the last informed of what was passing; her own interests, and the desire of Buonaparte, that she should at once learn his determination, and the success he had met with in binding Prussia to it, speedily put her in possession of what she was to ex ect. She took the alarm. In hopes. perhaps, of obtaining some consolatory information, or in the stili more delusive expectation of der ving some assistance by which to aver the impending storm, count Bernstorff, the Danish minister for foreign affairs, undertook a journey to Berlin. That court, divided as it had been, for some months, be tween the honest but feeble endea vours of one minister, and the infamous intrigues of another, to regulate its concerns according to their respective views, had not yet thrown itself into the gul h from which it was never to arise. Its final and official consent to Buona. parte's proposal had not been given. He indeed knew what he had to depend upon; but the well-intentioned part of the Prussian ministry was still in hopes of preserving their own and their country's honour. To these men, count Bernstorff directed his attention-on them his hopes rested; and as they did not despair of maintaining their own independence, they allowed him to believe that they would assist in the support of that of Denmark. He accordingly did not hesitate to assert, that Denmark would resist any attempt upon her independence, from whatever quarter it came. At that time, possibly, he believed it, and the events of the
summer of 1806, rather tended to confirm him in this belief. The bat tle of Jena, however, and its immediate consequences, dissipated the delusion. Then Buonaparte became the absolute disposer of all the north and north-east of Germany: he plac ed garrisons in the Hans-towns; he violated the neutrality of the Danish territory, and assumed, for the winter, a position so bordering upon it, held himself, and by his agents, such language, and authorized acts of such magnitude, that there could no longer remain, in the mind of any unprejudiced man, a doubt as to his future intentions. The first of these portentous acts was issued, as soon as the suspension of military operations allowed of a moment's repose. It was his decree of the 21st of November, declaring the British isles to be in a state of block. ade, and rendering the circumstance of this pretended blockade being violated by any neutral vessel, a ground of legal capture against such vessel. The nature and extent of this decree have been developed in another part of this work; it is sufficient, therefore, to state here, that without individualizing any, it was a virtual declaration of hostility against every neutral power that was in habits of commercial intercourse with Great Britain. If his means of giving full effect to this decree did not equal the injustice on which it was founded, no infer. ence could thence be drawn in fayour of its admissibility. It might be fortunate for neutral nations, that these means were not commensurate to the disposition thus shewn of abusing them; but the intention, although in some instances harmless for want of the power of realizing it, did not the less indicate a hostile
mind, a spirit of encroachment totally incompatible with every idea of independence and neutrality. In this light, even the American government still professes to consider the French decree; a set-off against it has been found in our measures, which arose out of that decree; but in the utmost effervescence of their partiality to France, and of their enmity to Great Britain, the Americans have never pretended that Buonaparte's decree was not essentially hostile. As such they remonstrated against it; as the Danes also professed to have done; but, besides that they have never, although repeatedly called upon for the purpose, produced one public or official act, by which to shew the efficacy of their resistance, it seems to have lasted only until it was ascertained whe ther the French government could carry their decree into full effect. When this was decided in the negative, it became convenient to call the Berlin decree absurd, impracticable, and to put quite out of view its injustice and offensive aggression upon the rights of neutrals. It was then, only a vain and impotent at. tempt, which was made merely for form's sake, to try to distress the natural enemy of France; but which it was wholly unworthy either of England or any other power, to treat otherwise than with indifference. It was to be regarded as an act entirely null and void.
Far other had been the conduct of Denmark upon an antecedent and not dissimilar occasion. When the British flag and commerce had been excluded from the Elbe and the Weser, and those rivers were, in consequence, blockaded by British squadrons, although little was
said of the violation of all right, justice, and public law, by which this blockade was occasioned, yet the English government was incessantly harassed with complaints and remonstrances. Prussia, the power principally concerned, and which suffered the most from our measures, acknowledged the justice of them; nevertheless, we were importuned from day to day, for the interests of Gluckstadt and Altona, and called upon to give up a great measure of national policy for the benefit of the Danish herringfishery. The consequence of these importunities, was, our allowing of such modification in the exercise of our right of blockade, as entitled us to the gratitude of Denmark. But they produced only an increase of angry and captious remonstrance. What had been conceded, was taken only as a ground for asking more, and for aggravating the pretended injustice of withholding any thing. This also was the case, in respect to the very mitigated measure of retaliation adopted by Great Britain, in consequence of the decree of the 21st of November. There too, all the injustice was on her side. Remonstrances, in a tone little suited to the relative power of Great Britain and Denmark, were addressed by the Danish chargé d'affaires in London, to the secretary of state for foreign affairs, against his majesty's order in council of the 7th of January. They were answered by that minister with all the strength which the justice of his cause afforded him, with all the dignity which his station required, and with that degree of temperate reproof which well suited the occasion, and the character of the person to whom his answer was addressed. Although
Although Denmark was the organ through which these remonstrances reached the British court, it is not to be doubted that they originated in French councils, and that they were advised by France, as a means of forcing England to recede from her public measures, or of embar. rassing her in the execution of them. Other steps soon after taken by Denmark, demonstrate beyond all possibility of doubt, the existence of such an iufluence. The official documents of the Danish government on the foregoing subject, had not been long received, when others were presented, upon a topick the very discussion of which would appear to be incom. patible with the continuance of a friendly intercourse between the two countries. The epistolary correspondence still carried on between Great Britain and Denmark, as between countries at peace, and between the former and other continental states, had long been an object of jealousy and dissatisfaction to Buonaparte. The British packet-boats still arrived at Tonningen, delivered there the London mails for Denmark, and for other parts of Europe; and English messengers were sent as far and as often as was thought requisite, in the same directions. Although the French bureau d'espionage may have occasionally benefited by this intercourse, yet the desire of cutting off all our communication with the continent was thought to overbalance this advantage; and Denmark was instructed to propose, that our packet-boats should no longer resort to the ports of Holstein or Sleswig; and that we should, by acquiescing in their exclusion, have the appearance of enabling Den
mark to concede a point to Buonaparte, at which he was so much disposed to take umbrage. This was, at first, brought forward as a plan of amicable arrangement, by which Great Britain could, without injury or inconvenience to herself, disembarrass Denmark from the importunities and threats of the French government. The proposal was afterwards maintained with more or less animation, according as hopes were entertained of the British government acceding to it: it was, however, rejected by that government; and served only to shew the obsequiousness with which, in every even the minutest particu lar, the court of Denmark was disposed to further the designs of France. There were not, however, wanting other co-existing indications of the malignity of those designs towards Denmark herself; and the sort of infatuation with which they, as well as every other means of intimidation employed against her, were overlooked, have convicted her government, if not of being wilful accomplices in Buonaparte's nefa. rious practices, at least of such weakness and submissiveness to his will, as must of necessity produce consequences equally pernicious to Denmark herself, and to the genẹral welfare of Great Britain and her allies. The manner in which the French decree of the 21st of November was notified to the Danish court, conveyed a sufficient notice of the light in which that decree was to be regarded, and of the authoritative style in which it was meant to be enforced. The French chargé-d'affaires at Copenhagen, not satisfied with the accustomary channels of official communication, repaired to Kiel, to make known
his master's will to the prince royal himself, or to his principal minister. With what other threats this intimation was accompanied, or how far the French agent was satisfied with the reception he and his proposal met with at Kiel, may be best collected from the terms in which his master soon after mentioned the subject. In one of the bulletins, published from his head-quarters, in giving an account of the intended operation of his decree, he says, "peut-être le blocus du Continent ne sera-t-il plus un vain mot." This surely was an indication that he had not been altogether unsuccessful in his application to the prince royal. If, however, this supposition be in any degree contradicted or discountenanced by the language he, about the same time, held at the head-quarters at Posen, we find in that language abundant motives to revert to the other alternative, viz. that Denmark was manifesting a very weak, if not avery wil ling submission to his dictates. The town of Hamburg, where this same decree of the 21st of November appears to have been better under. stood, and to have excited conse. quently rather more apprehension, than at Copenhagen and Kiel, thought it advisable to send a deputation of its senate to Buona. parte, in the faint and delusive hope of persuading him to withdraw a decree, which must be fatal to the commerce, and consequently to the independent existence of their town. These deputies were received (with what urbanity the world knows) at the French head-quarters, then established at Posen in West Prussia. Their having dared even to think of altering the resolves of the autocrat, had excited, in no small
degree, his displeasure, which was announced in gestures as well as expressions. Of granting their re. quest, he evidently did not enter. tain an idea; on the contrary, he avails himself of the occasion, as a fit one to frighten all other powers from hazarding a similar interven. tion, and in particular, he addresses a direct and most intelli. gible menace to the prince royal of Denmark. It was, perhaps, diffi. cult to speak to the deputies of the commercial intercourse of Ham. burg, without some allusion to the neighbouring towns of Altona and Gluckstadt, and to the commerce which Great Britain carried on in those, as well as other ports of the Danish provinces. He, therefore, specifically mentions the conduc of the prince royal, and, in a tone of the most despotic arrogance, adds
"Let that little prince take care of himself." The conclusion we should naturally draw from this expression, is, (in contradiction to his preceding oracular delivery,) that he was not yet satisfied with the conduct of Denmark; that he exacted still farther submission to his will than she had yet shewa; that nothing short of the absolute surrender of her independence would saturate his ambition. But if this be the interpretation which an impartial observer of events, which a well wisher of the fair fame and political correctness of the Danish government would desire to put upon the transaction; if it is to be recorded, as the unbiassed historian would sincerely wish, that Denmark was not the accomplice, but the victim of his domineering ambition; in what manner, let us ask, can the government of that country justify to its injured sub.