Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

opening on the Baltic. Besides, to the deeply religious Russians a war with the Turks was, up to the most recent times, a Holy War, a kind of crusade. The Empress Catherine succeeded in conquering the shores of the Black Sea, but failed in conquering Constantinople, which she desired to take. With this object in view she proposed the partition of Turkey to Austria in the time of Maria Theresa and of Joseph the Second. According to her historian Castera, she urged the Minister of France to advise his Government that France should join Russia for the purpose of partitioning the Turkish Empire. As a reward she offered Egypt to France, the conquest of which she believed to be easy.

Catherine's offer of Egypt to France is significant, and should be carefully noted. For centuries France, guided by a sure instinct of territorial values, had been hankering after the possession of Egypt, seeing in that country a door to the lands of the Far East and one of the most important strategical positions in the world. The great historian Sorel wrote in 'Bonaparte et Hoche en 1797' that the possession of Egypt was 'le rêve qui, depuis les croissades, hante les imaginations françaises.'

France hungered after Egypt. Her thinkers had planned the construction of the Suez Canal a century before de Lesseps. After the outbreak of the Revolution her historic ambition seemed likely to be fulfilled. The French Republic was at war with England and Russia. England might be attacked in India by way of Egypt, and Egypt might, at the same time, be made a base of operations for an attack upon Russia in the Black Sea in conjunction with Turkey. While England and Russia were thus being attacked a revolution should be engineered in Ireland to complete England's discomfiture. On the 23rd Germinal of the year VI—that is, on April 12, 1798— the Directoire appointed the youthful General Bonaparte commander of the Armée d'Orient, and ordered him to take Egypt, to cut the Suez Canal, and to secure to the French

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Republic the free and exclusive possession of the Red Sea. The aim and object of that expedition, and of the greater plan of operations of which it was to be a part, is clearly and fully disclosed in a lengthy memorandum on the foreign situation, written by Talleyrand, who at the time was the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, and placed by him before the Directoire on July 10, 1798. We read in that most valuable and most interesting document :

Si Bonaparte s'établit en Egypte, quand il aura dirigé une part de ses forces contre les Anglais dans l'Inde, qui empêchera que la flotte française, pénétrant dans la Mer Noire et s'unissant à celle des Turcs, aille, pour consolider cette puissance de l'occupation de l’Egypte, l'aider à reconquérir la Crimée qui est pour elle d'un bien autre intérêt que cette région livrée depuis des siècles aux révoltes des beys ? Il n'y aura pas toujours dans la Méditerranée une nombreuse flotte anglaise. Attaqués dans l'Inde, menacés sur leurs côtes, frappés au cœur de leur puissance par l'insurrection de l'Irlande, dont les progrès peuvent d'un moment à l'autre désorganiser leur armée navale, ils doivent finir par abandonner la station qu'ils auront établie au fond de la Méditerranée, et dès lors pour que nous soyons bien reçus. La destruction de Cherson et de Sébastopol serait à la fois la plus juste vengeance de l'acharnement insensé des Russes, et le meilleur moyen de négociation avec les Turcs pour en obtenir tout ce qui pourrait consolider notre établissement en Afrique..

L'éxpédition de Bonaparte, s'il met pied en Egypte, assure la destruction de la puissance britannique dans l'Inde.

Déjà Malte est en notre pouvoir ; ce succès miraculeux serait seul un coup terrible pour le commerce de l'Angleterre, et quand notre armement n'obtiendrait pas un autre fruit, celui-là serait suffisant. Mais des attentes encore plus sensibles sont réservées à cette nation, livrée à tous les déchirements intérieurs qu'elle a si longtemps entretenus chez nous. L'insurrection de l'Irlande, cimentée déjà par le sang de quelques victimes célèbres, paraît faire des progrès remarquables. C'est dans cette contrée que doivent aboutir maintenant tous nos efforts. Des armes, des munitions, des

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

hommes hâtons-nous de les y porter, rendons à l'Angleterre les maux qu'elle nous a faits. Qu'une République s'élève à côté d'elle pour son instruction ou pour son châtiment. . .

Si nous sommes bientôt en mesure de faire ce que j'ai indiqué en parlant de la Russie, au moins d'en annoncer l'intention, je ne doute pas que la Porte ne sente le prix de ce service et n'associe ses forces aux nôtres pour repousser la Russie loin des bords de la Mer Noire.

The war programme of the French Directoire against England, which included an attack on Egypt, an expedition against India, the support of Turkey, the raising of Ireland in rebellion, and war upon British commerce, bears a curious resemblance to the comprehensive and world-wide war plans of modern Germany.

Napoleon seized the Government of France and became the heir of the grandiose world-embracing policy of the Republic. He took up the plan which was designed to destroy simultaneously the power of England and Russia and to make France all-powerful throughout the world. Catherine the Second, the great enemy of the French Revolution, had died in 1796, and had been succeeded by the weak, eccentric, violent, and scarcely sane Czar Paul the First. During the first years of his reign he also was hostile to revolutionary France and had made war upon that country, but in 1800 he quarrelled with England. Napoleon at once utilised the opportunity and persuaded him to attack England in Asia in conjunction with France. In O'Meara's book, Napoleon on St. Helena,' we read that Napoleon described to his Irish surgeon the invasion planned in the time of Paul the First as follows:

If Paul had lived you would have lost India before now. An agreement was made between Paul and myself to invade it. I furnished the plan. I was to have sent thirty thousand good troops. He was to send a similar number of the best Russian soldiers and forty thousand Cossacks. I was to subscribe ten millions for the purchase of camels and other requisites for crossing the desert. The King of Prussia was

to have been applied to by both of us to grant a passage for
my troops through his dominions, which would have been
immediately granted. I had at the same time made a
demand to the King of Persia for a passage through his
country, which would also have been granted, although the
negotiations were not entirely concluded, but would have
succeeded, as the Persians were desirous of profiting by it
themselves. My troops were to have gone to Warsaw, to
be joined by the Russians and Cossacks, and to have marched
from thence to the Caspian Sea, where they would have
either embarked or have proceeded by land, according to
circumstances. I was beforehand with you in sending an
Ambassador to Persia to make interest there. Since that
time your ministers have been imbeciles enough to allow
the Russians to get four provinces, which increase their
territories beyond the mountains. The first year of war
that you will have with the Russians they will take India

[ocr errors]

from you.

It will be noticed that Napoleon did not suggest to Russia an advance upon India by way of Constantinople, but by way of the Caspian Sea, by a route similar to that which she would follow at the present time, when an expedition against India would be carried by the railways running from the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea towards the northwest frontier of India. That is worth bearing in mind if we wish to inquire whether Russia's occupation of Constantinople would threaten India.

Paul the First was assassinated in 1801 before he could embark upon his fantastic expedition, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander the First. Born in 1777, Alexander came to the throne as a youth of twenty-four. He had been educated by the Swiss philosopher Laharpe in accordance with the principles of Rousseau. The great Polish statesman, Prince Adam Czartoryski, an intimate friend of his youth and of his maturer age, drew the following portrait of Alexander in his ‘ Memoirs':

Young, candid, inoffensive, thinking only of philanthropy and liberalism, passionately desirous of doing good,

[ocr errors]

but often incapable of distinguishing it from evil, he had seen with equal aversion the wars of Catherine and the despotic follies of Paul, and when he ascended the throne he cast aside all the ideas of avidity, astuteness, and grasping ambition which were the soul of the old Russian policy. Peter's vast projects were ignored for a time, and Alexander devoted himself entirely to internal reforms, with the serious intention of making his Russian and other subjects as happy as they could be in their present condition. Later on he was carried away, almost against his will, into the natural current of Russian policy, but at first he held entirely aloof from it, and this is the reason why he was not really popular in Russia.

Alexander was a good man and a great idealist. His dearest wish was to free the serfs and to make the people happy and prosperous. General Savary, Napoleon's temporary Ambassador in Russia, reported to him on November 4, 1807, the following words of the Czar: 'Je veux sortir la nation de cet état de barbarie. Je dis même plus, si la civilisation était assez avancée, j'abolirais cet esclavage, dît-il m'en coûter la tête.' Alexander the First, like the recent occupant of the throne, Nicholas the Second, was a warm-hearted idealist, a lover of mankind, and a friend of peace, anxious to elevate Russia and to introduce the necessary reforms. However, Alexander the First, like Nicholas the Second, was forced into a great war against his will.

In a number of campaigns Napoleon had subdued the Continent, and the French longed for peace. Still Napoleon desired to carry out the great policy of the Directoire, to destroy the power of England and Russia and make France supreme in the world. But as long as the Continent was ready to rise against the French, Napoleon could not safely enter upon a lengthy campaign in far-away Russia. He feared Russia as an opponent as long as Europe was unwilling to bear his yoke. An alliance with Russia would have been invaluable to him. By securing Russia's support

« AnteriorContinuar »