Изображения страниц



forded no favourable result to the enemy, even if the Prussians had never come up. Sir Walter Scott's conclusion was perfectly right, when_he wound up his narrative by saying, "The laurels of Waterloo must be dividedthe British won the battle, the Prussians completed and rendered available the victory. It was an action of concert from the beginning, and the late arrival of the Prussians was not calculated on. In all reasonable estimate, they were expected on the ground earlier. The heavy rains had clogged and impeded the roads, and made them almost impassable for artillery, tumbrils, and ammunition wagons, rendering the march of infantry slow and irregular. The Duke himself said, "even if Blucher had not come up at all I would have held my ground through the night; he must have been with me early in the morning, and we then would not have left Bonaparte an army." In Captain Siborne's original model, the Prussian advance is represented as over-lapping the French right at Planchenôit at a much earlier hour in the day than this movement actually took place. He was long before he was convinced of this error, of which he finally received full conviction, and altered the model accordingly. The most remarkable incident alluded to in the memoirs of Baron Muffling, is the strange fact that Blucher positively intended to treat Napoleon as a brigand, and shoot him off hand, if the chances of war, a private treaty, or treachery, had placed him in his power; and that it was only through the urgent remonstrances of the Duke of Wellington that the savage old Prussian was induced to give up a measure of personal vengeance, which, if circumstances had allowed him to carry it into effect, would have tarnished his own laurels, and cast an indelible disgrace on his country. Muffling's account of this intended outrage, more worthy of Attila or Genghis, than of a warrior of the nineteenth century, is as characteristic as it is interesting. He says:

"During the march on Paris, Field-Marshal Blucher had at one time a prospect of getting Napoleon into his power; the delivering up of Napoleon was the invariable condition stipulated by him in every conference with the French Commissioners sent to treat for peace or an armistice. I received from him instructions to inform the Duke of Wellington, that as the Congress of Vienna


had declared Napoleon outlawed, it was his intention to have him shot, whenever he caught him. But he desired, at the same time to know what were the Duke's views on this subject, for should he entertain the same as himself, he wished to act in concert with him. The Duke stared

at me in astonishment, and in the first place disputed the correctness of this interpretation of the Viennese declaration of outlawry, which was never meant to incite to the assassination of Napoleon. He therefore did not think that they could acquire from this act any right to order Napoleon to be shot, should they succeed in making him a prisoner of war. But be this as it may, as far as his own position, and that of the FieldMarshal with respect to Napoleon were concerned, it appeared to him that, since the battle they had won, they were become much too conspicuous personages to justify such a transaction in the eyes of Europe. I had already felt the force of the Duke's arguments before I most reluctantly undertook my mission, and was little disposed to dispute them. 'I, therefore,' continued the Duke, 'wish my friend and colleague to see this matter in the light I do; such an act would hand down our names to history stained by a crime, and posterity would say of us, that we did not deserve to be the conquerors of Napoleon; the more so as such a deed is now quite useless, and can have no object.'"

If Napoleon was made aware of the tender dispositions of Blucher towards him, we can readily understand his anxiety to escape from France, and the comparative security with which he must have felt himself surrounded, when treading the quarter-deck of a British seventy-four. It was not easy to divert Blucher from the object he had doggedly taken up, but the Duke prevailed and won him over. Gneisenau's final communication to Baron Muffling on the subject marks the yielding deference paid to the English general, while the Prussian authorities acknowledge no sympathy with his moral convictions::


"I am directed by the Field-Marshal to request your Excellency to communicate to the Duke of Wellington, that it had been his intention to execute Bonaparte on the spot where the Duc D'Enghien was shot; that out of deference, however, to the Duke's wishes, he will abstain from this measure, but that the Duke must take on himself the responsibility of its non-enforcement. It ap-¡ pears to me that the English would feel embarrassed by the delivery of Bonaparte to

them; your Excellency will therefore only direct the negotiations, so that he may be delivered up to us. When the Duke of Wellington declares himself against the execution of Bonaparte, he thinks and acts in the matter as a Briton. Great Britain is under weightier obligations to no mortal man than to this very villain; for by the occurrences whereof he is the author, her greatness, prosperity and wealth, have attained their present elevation. It is quite otherwise with us Prussians. We have been impoverished by him. Our nobility will never be able to right itself again. But be it so! If others will assume a theatrical magnanimity, I shall not set myself against it. We act thus from esteem for the Duke, and-weakness.

"Senlis, June 29th, 1815."

This is unquestionably a very unique official document, and shows the lasting rancour which the excesses of the French in Prussia had implanted in the memories of her children and warriors. Our " gentlemen of England, who live at home at ease," know nothing of these little episodes of war, by practical experience, or they would listen with less unction to the harangues of peace-demagogues, who would fain persuade them that a standing army is an unnecessary evil, and that the soldier's calling is as unholy as it is wasteful and superfluous. An individual case of retaliation on the part of a Prussian officer, occurred within the writer's knowledge, soon after the occupation of Paris by the allies in 1815. He was billeted on a French family, who treated him with great kindness, and he conducted himself with reciprocal decorum.* After two or three months, the eldest son of the house, who had been taken prisoner in the retreat from Moscow, returned from Russia, and came home. The Prussian and he recognised each other at the first glance, and scarcely acnowledged acquaintanceship by a cold inclination. Dinner was announced. The Prussian, for the first time, found fault with everything, swore at the servants, flung the dishes about as wildly as Petruchio does in the farce, broke plates, glasses and decanters, dashed down his chair, and finally, drew his sword and began gesticulating like madman, declaring that he would summon in his troop and inflict chastise

ment on the whole family. The women screamed and fainted. The father wept and implored, but the young Frenchman sat pallid, silent, and appalled. The English officer interfered, and tried to pacify his brother lodger, who, he thought, was seized with sudden insanity.

He became collected in a moment, and resumed his habitual mildness."" "Madam," said he, addressing the lady of the mansion, " pardon me, while I explain my strange conduct. Your son, who stands there, was an inmate of my father's house in Berlin for two months. He was received as I have been by you, with kindness and respect, and all his wants anticipated;" but his daily conduct, without the slightest provocation, was such as I have now exhibited; let him deny or resent this as he pleases. I leave your house, now that he has returned to it; and he knows where to find me." So saying, he left the room. The young Frenchman was too conscious of the truth of this charge to take any further steps in the matter, or evince the slightest resentment. On the march up to Paris after Waterloo, the Prussians occupied the finest chateaux and most comfortable farms; and in the morning before their departure, generally burned the stables, broke the furniture, and particularly wreaked their vengeance on the ornamental glasses and large mirrors with which French mansions are so amply provided. The English army, who followed in their track, found the marks of their predecessors in visible desolation wherever they arrived. When the restoration of the pictures and statues in the Louvre was determined on, the French government entreated the Duke of Wellington to prevent their dispersion; but here he exercised the same conscientious integrity with which he had interdicted personal outrage on Napoleon. He refused peremptorily to interfere. As the French, he said, had seized these masterpieces of art by force of arms and as trophies of conquest, they had a just right to disgorge them when the tide of success turned back into another channel. It was an opportunity for teaching them a great moral lesson, which ought not to be neglected. But again, when Blucher, in an ebullition

* The writer's brother, a young officer in the staff corps, was quartered in the same house.

of drunken frenzy, determined on blowing up the bridge of Jena, and actually ordered a body of engineers, sappers and miners, to get under arms for that purpose, the Duke once more restrained the barbarism of his colleague, and convinced him that the destruction of a monument could neither re-write nor falsify the pages of history, and that Jena was more creditably balanced by Rosbach on the one side, and Waterloo on the other. During the occupation of Paris in 1815, and the early part of 1816, the Prussians literally lived at free quarters, exacted what they pleased-well knowing that in any complaint they would be supported by their own authorities, and that even a gross outrage would be unlistened to, or glossed over. The English were coerced within the strictest bonds of discipline; and a complaint on the part of a Frenchman, however slightly founded, was redressed on the instant. If you even laughed at your landlord which it was almost impossible to avoid, as he was generally in a state of excitement, gesticulating like a galvanised frog on the least provocation -you were certain to be reprimanded by your commanding-officer for a violation of international decorum. We could enumerate some amusing cases which came within our personal knowledge; but we reserve them for a more appropriate opportunity. On the whole, the Prussians were hated, but treated with respect and attention, at a very slight disbursement; while the English paid heavily for small accommodation, and were looked upon as fools, for passing by opportunities which they might fairly have used to their own advantage. But it has been ever thus from remote antiquity. We pay all, fight all, and lose all, by mistaken magnanimity, which nobody understands or reciprocates when all is in our power.

"Three Years with the Duke of Wellington in Private Life," generally supposed to be writen by Lord William Lennox, is a light, agreeable volume, more exclusively anecdotal and domestic than either of the works we have already noticed. Referring back to a period when the author was in the morning of life, it well expresses the admiration and respect of youth for a reputation and renown which filled the world with its loud report, and was then on the topmost pinnacle of cele

brity. The author was attached to the Duke's family for three years, and bears ample testimony to the kindness and consideration with which he treated youth and inexperience. He mentions more than one instance of his uncommon patience in regard to his horses a point in which most men are particularly tenacious. On a particular occasion the young aid-de-camp had lamed the Duke's favourite hunter, for which, in an agony of terror, he expected summary dismissal. The Duke heard the story patiently, and only remarked, "You're not to blame -you did your best. But" (the thought of Othello's remark-'never more be officer of mine,' came across the anxious mind of the delinquent) "but," continued the great chief, "I can't af ford to run the chance of losing all my best horses; so, in future" (the listener quaked, and thought the dreaded climax was coming), "so in future you shall have the brown horse and the chestnut mare; and, if you knock them up, you must afterwards mount yourself." The writer adds, "I left the hero of a hundred battles with but one sentiment, that of overpowering gratitude; and felt that Wellington was as good in all the kindly offices of social intercourse, as he was great in the more extended duties of the field." Anecdotes such as these may serve to unmystify those who, from a habitual misconception, fancy that the great soldier was always "the Iron Duke," and never had his moments of social familiarity, or his intervals of friendly consideration.

This little volume, in some minute details, is incorrect both in chronology and matter; but as they touch no point of historical interest, we pass them by with only a general notice. In one or two instances, we find passages which supply information soaring beyond familiar gossip. A letter to Sir Charles Stuart, on the subject of the meditated execution of Bonaparte, by Blucher, corroborates what we already find in the statement of Baron Muffling, and in nearly the same words. The Duke says, in a communication, dated June 28th, 1815

"I send you my despatches, which will make you acquainted with the state of affairs. You may show them to Talleyrand if you choose. General has been here this day, to negotiate for Napoleon's passing

to America; to which proposition I have answered that I have no authority. The Prussians think that the Jacobins wish to give him over to me, believing that I will save his life. Blucher wishes to kill him; that I shall remonstrate against, and shall insist on his being disposed of by common accord. I have likewise said that, as a private friend, I advised him to have nothing to do with so foul a transaction; that he and I had acted too distinguished parts in these transactions to become executioners; and that I was determined, if the sovereigns wished to put him to death, they should appoint another executioner, who should not be me."

In every transaction of his life, public or private, we never find the Duke swerving or hesitating for a moment on any point when he had once satisfied himself that he was right on principle.

There has been more than one attempt made by celebrated writers, English as well as foreign, to throw discredit on the Duke of Wellington, for not interfering, with his all-commanding influence, to save the life of his late opponent, Marshal Ney, a gallant soldier, "the bravest of the brave," who had fought hundreds of battles for France, and had never drawn his sword against his country. Even warm admirers of the Duke have condemned him for this tacit acquiescence, and have called it the only blot on his character. Lord Byron, who was what Dr. Johnson calls "a good hater," and who lost no opportunity of disparaging, and speaking unjustly of the Duke, from political animosity, goes so far as to write

"Glory like yours, should any dare gainsay, Humanity would rise, and thunder' Nay.' "s

"Query, Ney - Printer's Devil."

This is pungent, and calculated to gain converts. On this important point, opinions are still, and are likely to remain, much divided. We yield to no one in admiration of the Duke, in profound respect for his memory, and in deference to his sound judgment; but we wish he had made a private request to Louis XVIII., and said, "Give me Marshal Ney as a personal boon." We think, for once, (and he seldom made a mistake) that he lost an opportunity. Ney damaged his cause, and diminished sympathy by the unnecessary and utterly theatrical flourish of volunteering to bring Napoleon to the feet of Louis XVIII., in an

iron cage; but the rhodomontade was not more bombastic, and at the time was quite as honest as that of many of his brethren in arms, and associates in politics, who afterwards falsified their promises and oaths with less sincerity. For example, we would have given a thousand Talleyrands and Fouches for a single Ney. Napoleon declared, and justly, at St. Helena, that the greatest political and social mistake he ever committed was not hanging Fouchè on his return from Elba, and Sir Walter Scott says, and with equal truth, that the most wonderful event of that eventful epoch was, that Fouche, who by turns betrayed and sold everybody, contrived at last to die peaceably in his bed. Had this world's retribution fallen on him, he should have been hanged on a gibbet higher than that of Haman. Ney was first ordered to be tried by a court of marshals, of which Massena was appointed president. He declined to fill the office, and broke up the court, representing that he had quarrelled with Marshal Ney while the latter was under his command in Portugal, and that the quarrel was never made uphe was, consequently, incapacitated from sitting on him as an unprejudiced judge. The next court ordered, contained generals and colonels, who pronounced themselves incompetent to try an officer of such superior rank. The case was then turned over to the Chamber of Peers, of which the old Duke de Richelieu (long an emigrant in Russia, and recently returned to France), in virtue of his age and rank, was president. He refused to preside.


During the war of political opinions under the first French Revolution," said he, "I was twice condemned to death. The living generation has vindicated my character and principles; posterity may do equal justice to Marshal Ney." A third time the proceedings were suspended; but a more pliant president was at last hit upon, and the trial proceeded to conclusion, within the short space of three days, when the gallant hero of the Moskwa was capitally convicted of high treason, by a majority of 139 out of 160, and sentenced to the full punishment of death, without appeal; the sentence to be carried into execution within four and twenty hours. Accordingly, on the following morning, at day-break, December 7th, 1815, the tragedy was

consummated in the gardens of the Luxembourg. Ney met his fate like a hero. Le brave des braves died as he had lived a gallant soldier. On the 8th of December, the earthly remains of the Marshal were interred in the cemetery of Pere la Chaise. We were quartered in Paris at the time, and remarked, with astonishment, how little public excitement was produced by the whole proceedings. They were hurried over, perhaps, under an apprehension that the people might rise, or the army refuse to carry the sentence into effect. What could either do, when Paris was bristling with 300,000 foreign bayonets? Ney was shot by veterans like himself, who had faced death under his dauntless leading, in innumerable fields of glory. It has been generally said that he was as fully entitled to the benefit of the 12th Article of the Convention of Paris, as any who afterwards received pardon and indemnity from the restored government. A fair examination must decide against him. Lord William Lennox defends the Duke of Wellington, on the true interpretation of this very 12th Article, on which Ney himself founded his defence. He introduces a letter from the Duke, in reply to an appeal from the Marshal for his intercession, which we believe has never before been made public, and is a valuable document, clear and straightforward, according to the habitual practice of the writer. We subjoin this letter, as being of the highest interest :

"Paris, Nov. 15th, 1815.

"MONSIEUR LE MARESCHAL,-I have had the honour of receiving the note which you addressed to me on the 13th instant, relative to the operation of the capitulation of Paris in your case. The capitulation of Paris of the 3rd of July last, was made between the Commander-in-Chief of the allied and Prussian armies on the one part, and the Prince d'Eckmuhl, Commander in-Chief of the French army, on the other, and related exclusively to the military occupation of Paris. The object of the 12th Article was to prevent any measure of severity under the military authority of those who made it, towards any person in Paris, on account of any offices they had filled, or any conduct, or political opinions of theirs; but it never was intended, and never could be intended to prevent, either the existing French Government, under whose authority the French Commander-in-Chief must have acted, or any French Government which

might succeed to it, from acting in this respect as it might seem fit.

"I have the honour to be, Monsieur le Mareschal, your most obedient, humble servant, "WELLINGTON."


Strange, indeed, are the conventional forms of society. The great, all-powerful conqueror signs himself, "your most obedient, humble servant," in reply to the unfortunate accused, who applies to him to save his life, but which his sense of duty prevents him from doing. That the Duke was conscientiously right on public grounds, is as clear as the sun; that he might have strained a point from private considerations, is a different view of the matter, which will admit of endless controversy, and much variety of opinion. We often wish he had done so, and close the discussion and the volume, with the following observations of the author, in which we heartily concur :


"That Ney was legally guilty, admits of no doubt; but, under all the circumstances of the case, how much more noble would it have been if, instead of taking away the life of this brave man, the king (Louis XVIII.) had ordered all the troops in and about Paris to assemble in the Champ de Mars to hear the sentence read, and then, appearing in the centre of the congregated soldiery, to have given a free pardon to one who had served France with so much honour and distinction. This act of mercy would have been received by all with but one feelinggratitude! "

Maurel's pamphlet is an anomaly: a Frenchman who, without prejudice or national pique, renders full justice to the character and military pretensions of the foreigner who wrested the chaplet of glory from their own great conqueror, and proved the bitterest opponent of France, the greatest check on her ambitious career since the days of the Black Prince and Marlborough. We cannot readily turn to any pages in which a more accurate summary of the life and career of England's great captain is to be found. Lord Ellesmere says in his preface, "I am much mistaken in my estimate of M. Maurel's work, if it do not take rank, now and hereafter, among the most accurate, discriminating, and felicitous tributes which have emanated from any country, in any language, to the memory of the Duke of Wellington. His work will speak for itself, but those who

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »