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Moreau was placed in a subordinate station. But such was the will of Barras.
The new coalition sent an army into the field numbering 300,000 men. The fresh troops of the emperor of Russia made one fourth of this complement, and were commanded by Suwarrow, the conqueror of Praga, the suburb of Warsaw. The Russian general was destined to act in Italy, as a theatre where the courage of the Austrians might be damped by the memory of recent disasters. Hitherto the neutrality of Switzerland had obliged the tide of war to respect and roll on either side of her rocky barrier. But the French had now usurped the country; and as, by a pedantic rule in the military theory of the day, since disproved, the power that possessed the mountains and the sources of rivers could easily master the plain at their feet, and the streams traversing them, the prime object of the belligerants was to dispute with each other the higher Alps. With this view, Austria collected two armies in the eastern frontier of Switzerland, in the Tyrol, and amongst the Grisons, who had called for their aid; whilst the archduke Charles, with another in Bavaria, menaced at once the upper Rhine and the Swiss frontier on the north. To oppose these armies, Massena, early in March, invaded the Grison country, and drove the Austrians from the valley of the Rhine, which he occupied from the lake of Constance to St Gothard. Jourdan, at the same time, advanced against the archduke Charles, and posted his army betwixt the lake of Constance and the Danube.
Here the first blow was struck. The archduke was more than a match for his old antagonist. He attacked the French, in a weak point of their line, forced it, and compelled Jourdan to retreat The latter sought to take his revenge at Stochach. His chief attempt was directed against the archduke's right, and Soult succeeded at first in driving it before him; but, reinforced, it stood its ground. Prince Charles, himself, charged at the head of his cavalry, and after a stubborn contest the French gave way, and suffered a defeat The army of Jourdan, in consequence, retired behind the Rhine. In Italy, at the same time, Scherer experienced like success. If the directory had sought out a commander tc act as a foil to Bonaparte on the theatre of that general's exploits, it could not have chosen otherwise. Scherer, instead of passing the Adige, manoeuvred with vague intention; was beaten by Kray; and driven back, in a short month's time, to the Oglio and the Adda; where, conscious of his incapacity, he yielded up the command to Moreau. But it was too late for this able general to retrieve the campaign. Suwarrow 1799, BATTLE OF TREBBIA. 141
had arrived with his Russians. He forced the passage of the Adda, defeated the French, and, surrounding one of their divisions, compelled it to surrender. Moreau, however, manoeuvred, and took post in the Apennines, to await the coming of Macdonald, who had evacuated Naples and Rome, and was advancing to the aid of his comrades in northern Italy. Betwixt these two generals a plan was formed: Moreau, deceiving Suwarrow, was to cross the Apennines, and descend into the plain near Piacenza; Macdonald, from the south of Genoa, was also to cross the mountains in the same direction, and to form a junction with Moreau, when the combined army hoped to fall on the rear of the Austrians, surprise their scattered corps, and destroy one after the other. The junction never took place; whether owing to Moreau's tardiness, or to Macdonald's rash haste and impetuosity, has not clearly been decided. The latter, issuing alone from the mountains, routed the first Austrian corps with which he came in contact. But Suwarrow, who had divined Moreau's intentions, had retrograded to oppose them; and Macdonald found himself on the banks of the Trebbia, in presence of an overwhelming force of Austrians and Russians. Retreat would have been prudent; but Macdonald stood his ground, and gave battle to Suwarrow. It was renewed for three successive days,—the 17th, 18th, and 19th of June; and even the night brought no cessation to the carnage. The Polish legion, under Dombrowski, was here destroyed almost to a man. The French were defeated with great loss, not a general officer escaping without a wound.
Disasters came thick on every side. In Germany and Italy the French had been routed. Even in Switzerland Massena had abandoned the line of the Rhine, and had retreated to that of the Lint and the Limmat, streams in continuation of the lake of Zurich. An English and Russian army had made good a descent upon Holland. La Vendee and the Chouans showed symptoms of another insurrection. On the directory fell the blame of these evil fortunes. Every class joined in execrating it: the royalists in silent indignation. The military attributed to the lawyers, as they called the directors, the weakness and disorganization of the armies. The patriots declared, with truth, that the government was as imbecile and powerless abroad, as it was violent and tyrannical at home. To submit to dictatorial rule, and yet not find in it energy sufficient to repulse the foreign enemy, was disgraceful and insufferable. If the directory in Fructidor had triumphed over a parliamentary opposition, it was by the aid of the army which it had sent to victory, and in the midst of their triumph and successes, which naturally strengthen governments; but now, when every day brought tidings of defeat, and when the soldiery were as indignant as the people against the directory, a coup d'etat, or stroke of violence, be* came no longer possible for them to effect The period arrived for new elections. They were universally democratic; but the directory dared no longer to cancel them, and adjudge the right of. sitting as deputies to their own defeated cand idates. • A powerful majority declared against them in the council of ancients and of the five hundred, no longer constitutional and royalist, as in Fructidor, but constitutional and democratic. The. lot for quitting the directory falling on Reubel, the noted Sieyes was chosen in his place. Successive attacks now took place against the old members and spirit of the government; Barras, however, being excepted,— that flexible politician having made his peace with the opposition. The directory was deprived of its dictatorial power, —of its right of suppressing journals; and public opinion, thus regaining its organ, became trebly powerful. The majority of the legislature determined to force the three directors hostile to it to give in their resignations. A commission was appointed, a report demanded of the state of the nation, and menaces of proceeding to extremes went as far as parliamentary vigor would admit. The old directors, supported by Lareveillere, remained obstinate. They invoked the constitution, and their inviolability thereby decreed; but the answer was prompt and apt. They had violated the constitution to support themselves in Fructidor. On similar grounds of expediency, it might be violated to their prejudice: they were forced to resign. Ducos, Moulins, and Gohier were appointed in their place. The two last were democrats attached to the dictatorial system, but became ciphers; since Ducos, united with Sieyes and Barras, formed a majority inspired by moderate but vague views, determined, indeed, to carry on as yet the government on the present system, but despairing of that system, which experiment, had so fully proved incapable of establishing either freedom and order in peace, or success in war.
A new administration always endeavors to signalize itself by vigor; and the present, possessed of the legislative majority, were not checked by the extravagance of the measures which they proposed. A forced loan, an extension of the conscription law, filled at once the armies and the coffers of the state, whilst the law of hostages, rendering all the nobles of a province answerable for its tranquillity, com pelled them to exert themselves to put down insurrection, Barras re
1799. BATTLE OF NOVi. J 43
doubled his zeal in his peculiar department, the police; he appointed his creature, Fouche, to preside over it. To the discernment of Barras, France owes the advancement of Bonaparte, Talleyrand, and Fouche: the three names tell ufficiently his discernment. The young' Joubert, in whom the directory hoped to raise rival to Bonaparte, was now commissioned to take the command in Italy against Suwarrow. Like the general whom he sought to emulate, his marriage was simultaneous with and accessory to his appointment. "To conquer or perish," was his parting promise to,his young bride. He crossed the Alps with reinforcements* .^allying the remains }f Moreau's and Macdonald's force. But he was still far inferior in number to-Suwarrow; to whom Mantua, and all the fortresses of southern Italy, had already surrendered. Joubert, however, bent more on acting a heroic part than anxious to defend his country, gave the Russian general battle at Novi. It was fought on the 15th of August with obstinacy and slaughter, but with little skill on either side. Suwarrow, with superior forces, attacked on every point. Joubert advanced to the front to support and encourage his men, when a ball struck him to the heart. His dying word bade his soldiers advance, but in vain. Moreau again resumed the command, and only succeeded in bringing off a defeated and shattered army. Thus Italy was lost in the campaign of a few months.
It was a few days after the battle of Novi that Bonaparte left Egypt to return to France. In the spring the Turks had menaced him with two armies,—one from Syria. This, with his usual promptitude, he marched in February to anticipate, crossing the Desert, and penetrating without opposition into Syria. Jaffa he took by storm. A part of the garrison had retreated into large habitations, and prepared for an obstinate defence. The general's aide-de-camp promised them quarter, upon which they laid down their arms. The countenance of Bonaparte fell, on beholding this long train of prisoners. "What should I do with them?" exclaimed he in anger to the aide-de-camp. He had not provisions for his own troops. To retain prisoners was impossible. To set them free was to place so many enemies on his flank. Yet this last should have been nobly resolved on. Bonaparte hesitated. But on the third day the prisoners were marched out, to the number of several thousands, to the beach, and shot in cold blood, some few escaping who swam out to sea. The soldiers made signs of reconciliation to these wretched men, induced them to approach the shore, and there rnercilesslv shot and slew them. This last act strikes us as one of the greatest blots on the character of French soldiers. The general might plead necessity. But here the soldier, of his free will and caprice, emulated all the atrocity of the Parisian Septembrisers.
Immediately after this, the French were checked before the walls of Acre. They formed in vain the siege. The ferocious Djezzar commanded within, and Sir Sidney Smith aided him with cannon, and at need with sailors to work them. The Turkish army in the meantime advanced, sur* prised and surrounded Kleber at Mount Tabor; but thai general kept them at bay, till Bonaparte came to his rescue, surrounded the Moslems in turn, routed and slaughtered them. Acre, despite this victory, was impregnable; after repeated efforts, and the loss of the bravest officers, the French were obliged to retreat. In passing by Jaffa,* another instance occurred of Bonaparte's placing himself above the common principles of morality. He proposed to administer strong doses of opium to those incurably afflicted with the plague. A system of mercy daily applied to animals he thought might be extended to human life. The surgeons recoiled at a theory of mercy that might be taken for murder. In this instance, as in the more guilty ones of Jaffa and the due d'Enghien, the influence of the revolution is seen. Bonaparte was not naturally either a monster, or even a cruel man. But he had started to manhood at a time when the universal mind of France presented a tabula rasa of all principle, moral and religious. The great doctrine of expeliency had been preached and hallowed by the revolution, Jie energy of which was then, and is still, largely admired, and the grand successes of which, as well as its many salutary consequences, were considered to hallow, if not its crimes, at least to excuse the principle which generated them.
Returning to Egypt, Bonaparte had to contend with the insurrection of the Arabs, and the discontented projects of his own troops. In July a Turkish army landed at Aboukir: the general hastened to attack it. The Moslems showed their wonted valor, repulsed his first effort, till, assaulted again whilst busied in decapitating the slain, they were driven back in disorder. Murat with his cavalry penetrated amongst them, sabred multitudes, and drove the rest into the bay of Aboukir. The sea was strewn with turbans. Having thus wiped off the disgrace of Acre, Bonaparte, whose object
* Bonaparte's touching the plague-sores of the sick at this place should be remembered, not only as an act of heroism, but as evincing his soldierlike belief in predestination, the only and the singular principle of hii creed.