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Firfl Cares and Employment of- the French Directory.—Determination la keep alive the Martial Spirit of the French Nation.—And ib Extend their Victories as far as p^fjihle.—But, al the fame Time to make a Jhew of Pacific Inclinations.—Preparations for War on the Part of the Allies.— Attempt towards Negotiation between the French and the Allies at Base, in Switzerland.—Rupture threatened between the French and Swift Cuntems.—Prevented.—Plan of DireSory for Military Operations.—]ffatii~ fcfto of Charette.—Revival of the IVar in 1a sendee.—New Complexion of this.—Total D'Jeat of the Insurgents.—Capture and Execution of Charette and S/of et.—Manifesto of the DircBory for Restraining the Cruelties of their Soldiers.—Lenient Measures.—Good EffcQs of these.
DURING the first months that followed the constitution setlledinFrance towards the conclusion of 1795, the chief care os the government was to render it respectable, and to impress the minds of men with a persuasion, that this great change was calculated for the benefit of the nation. It was not difficult, indeed, lo persuade the public that any (ystem was preferable to that uncertainty which had occasioned so many confusions. From this consideration, people at large willingly acquiesced in the new arrangements, especially as they promised to restore internal peace, by arming government with such extensive power, to prevent the breaking out of disturbances. But the means to which chiefly the directory trusted for the stability of tHfcir honour was, to keep alive that martial spirit which had pervaded, wilh so amazing an efficacy, the whole mass of the French nation, and enabled it to perferm feats of arms, of which
no records afforded any precedent in their history. As these successes were attributed to that enthusiasm which animated them in the cause of their country,'and to the hatred which they profesied for monarchy. it was the business of their rulers to perpetuate such a disposition, by affording it support and aliment; and this they saw would most effectually be done, by representing the enmity borne (o France as unextinguifried, and that notwithstanding several os its enemies had openly laid down their arms, and agreed to conditions of peace, their rancour was still the lame. They had desisted from hostilities, it was said, only from compulsion, after repeated defeats, and from the dread which they felt, that unless they complied wiih the requisitions prescribed by a victorious and invincible enemy, justly exasperated at their unprovoked aggression, he might give the fuller loose to a rever.ee, which they were not able to resist.
In order therefore to imprint the deeper in the mints of thole adversaries, whom they had already so much humbled, the terror with which they were already inspired, the heads of the republic judged it expedient to extend the influence of their victorious arms, as far as fortune seemed incline 1 to favour them, and to compel their remaining soes to accept of the humiliating serins they had imposed upon the others, by reducing .hem to the like distress.
From ideas of this kind slowed the lofty language spoken upon all occasions, both by the directory and the two councils. As two-thirds of these were precisely the same men who had governed France under the name of a convention, during the three preceding years, it was not to be expected that their dispositions would alter with their new appellation; and the other third, though not altogether so'violent in their conduct, were influenced by those republican principles, without which no man could be reputed a true Frenchman, and which, in truth, were indispensible to procure an individual either esteem or advancement in any post, civil or military.
Another view, it may be presumed, that stimulated the members of the directory,, who were all men of tried parts and courage, was the desire of proving to their countrymen the- superiority of individuals placed at the head of the slate, purely on account of their abilities, to persons promoted through fa*Mir, or the advanlitious circumstance's oj birth and family.
But a motive slill more, cogent, Roth with them and the nation at JLr'g?, was the earnest desire to re
pair the losses sustained, towards the close of the preceding campaign, on the borders of tl>e Rhine. These losses happening so shortly after their prodigious successes in the low countries, and in Holland, had shewn that their enemies, however frequently defeated, had not decreased in valour; and that, wherl well commanded, they were still a match for all the enthusiasm os the French.
It was chiefly to reeover this superiority of military prowess, that the directory was solicitous to place the numerous armies of the republic on the most formidable footing. They had maintained, in the campaign of 1794-, a contest with the bravest veterans in Europe, and had proved more than equal ' to them. By the fame reason it might be expected, that, the same spirit animating them, they would renew their victorious career, which appeared suspended, through unforeseen causes, rather than terminated by a turn of fortune in savour os their enemies.
It was however necessary to make a stiew of pacific inclinations, without which both their own people and foreign states would be jultly authorised to accuse them os a wanton and lawless ambition, and more intent to gratify their private thirst of false glory, at the expence of their country, than studious to restore the blessings of peace, now become tile earnest wish of: att parties.
While the rulers of the republic were thus employed, the allied powers were no less occupied fn
fireparing for the renewal of holtiites, little hoping that any sincere efforts for the obtaining of peace were likely to proceed from the French; French; and convinced, that until they thould experience farther reveries, they would still continue, indexible.in the determination they hi I solemnly formed, to annex their acquisitions in the-low countrie*, and un (lie left-side of the Rhine, irrevocably to the dominions of the republic.
A resolution of this nature precluded at once all ideas of peace. The retention of (hose fertile and spacious province* could not he submitted to without an evident alteration of the political system of Europe, of which France would potlels a coriiroul, that would perpetually disturb the peace, if not endanger the safety of all its neighbours.
The possession of Blgium by (he various, branches of the Austrian fjmi'y, during more than three centuries, had lo far habituated the, inhabitants to. their domination, tliat, not with standing the oppressions they had occasionally exercised over them, they still retained a willingness to return to their obedience, provided they could have been secured in the enjovment of their ancient customs and liberties.
The Austrian ministry was duly sensible of this disposition, and preserved, of course, the hope of recovering, by sonlte fortunate casualty, this richest portion of its inheritance. The British ministry was no less bent on the restoration of the Austrian Netherlands (o their firmer owner. The accession of such immense aud valuable territories lo France, in so close a proximity, and almost in sight of the shores of this ifland, was an object. of serious alarm, and called up the attention us all .rhefl, \\j\9l reflected on, .-she restless' cSaiacler of the French,
their inveteracy to this country, and their readiness to engage in any attempt to its detriment, especially at the present period, when tlie.v were stimulated by the moll violent resentment at the interference os the British ministry in the affairs of their country, and its endeavours to restore the monarchy they had solemnly proscribed.
in this conflict of adverse projects, both the rt-public and its enemies were equally anxious however,,to appear inclined to peace, conformably to the loudlv-exprelled wishes of their respective people, and, in truth, of all the people in Europe, who, either directly or indirectly, felt themselves involved in the ruiti,ous consequences of this fatal contest.
The French, in the mean time, having, by the dint of negociations, as well as of their arms, brought some of the principal members of the coalition into their own terms, flattered themselves with the expectation of becoming equally successful with the others, and held out language promillbry ofequitabl.conditions, in order to allure them to treat.
Bade, a city of note, in Switzerland, was now become the cen're of political transactions between the different powers, whole diplomatic agents had fixed upon it as the most convenient place of residence, on account of its situation between the Belligerent parties, in a country allowed to be neutral. .The principal negociator, on the part of the French, was the celebrated citizen Bartheleniy, at that time in high credit ui'h the directory, for the (e. vices he had , rendered the go'verjnni-nt oCFrance, in the treaties thai had b'"eu confided to his management, nagemcnt, and the issue of which had been so advantageous to the republic.
To this gentleman application wan made, on the eighth of March, by Mr. Wickham, the Brilifh envoy to the Swiss Cantons, in order to found the real dispositions of the French government. The object in communicating the propositions directed to the French agent, was, to ascertain, by his answer, whether the directory were desirous to negotiate with Great Britain and its allies, on moderate and honourable conditions, and would agree to the meeting of a congress for thh purpose, and whether, at the same time, H would specify the conditions on which it would treat, or point out anv other method of treating.
The answer received from M. Barthelemy, in the name os the directory, was, that it felt the lincerest deirte to terminate the war on such condition* n$ France could reasonably accept, and which were specified in the answer; but one os these positively insisted on the retention of the Austrian dominions in the low countries; assigning, as a reason, their formal annexation to the republic, by a constitutional decree that could not be revoked.
A reply, founded upon an argument, which proved no more than a decided resolution never to part wilt) these acquisitions, without alleging in fa6t any other motive than their will, displayed an arrogance in the directory, in the opinion of their enemies, that instantly put a stop to all further attempts to m gociate. No alternative, it was now said, remained to these but to y'u !d unconditionally to their demands, or to try the fortune of arms. Were this to prove adverse,
they could hardly insist upon more mortif\ iiijj terms, nor the allies be more disgraced.
The directory seemed at this period resolutely determined to act with a high hand, and to set all the enemies of the republic at defiance. It intimated to the magistracy os Bade, that a rumour was spread, purporting a design in that city and canton to favour the irruption of the imperialists through its territories, and thai a great part of the helvetie body concurred in this design; which was a manifest infraction of the neutrality they had engaged to observe between France and its aggreflors. An explanation was demanded in so haughty and peremptory a style, that the regency of Baste felt itself highly offended, and returned so spirited an answer to the directory, that they dispatched another mest^ge much more severe than the first, requiring an immediate explanation of the rumour iu question, and accompanied with menacing insinuations, in case all hostile intentions were not disavowed. The cantons were so deeply involved in this business, that being unwilling to come to a formal rupture with so formidable an antagonist as the French republic, they judged it prudent to give them the completest afiurant-e of their deter-" mination to preserve the strictest neutrality. A minister of an ac* ceptable character was deputed to Paris: this was Mr. Ochs, a gentleman of principles favourable to the revolution. He settled all differences to the satisfaction of both parties; and Switzerland was delivered from apprehensions of hostility.
This transaction took place towards the end of March and beginning ginning of April, when the French were preparing for the enluing campaign, and seemed resolved to pursue ike most active and vigorous measures against the remaining members of the coalition.
The directory had three objects in contemplation; an invasion of Germany, another os Italy, and (he complete reduction of domestic insurgents. Of these last it entertained the greatest apprehension, from, the desperate resolution they had hitherto displayed, and the unyielding perseverance with which they continued to oppose the repeated attempt* to reduce them. The severity exercised towards all who were suspected of savouring them, inflead of relaxing the attachment of their .adherents,- served, on the contrary, to increase it; and the unshaken fidelity they observed in concealing thole designs and plans of the insurgents to which they were privy, ana in which they co-operated with unabated zeal, aflisted and animated their resistance to a degree that seldom failed to enable them to recover from their defeats and lodes, and to take the field with fresh codrage and resources.
Previously then to the great enterprises meditated against Italy and Germany, the directory thought it irjdispensible to clear France of its internal enemies. Their connections with the tnost formidable and dangerous rivals of France, theEnglisli, made it evident, that while the royal party subsisted unsubdued, it would probablv, as. it had done in the preceding year, throw such embarrassments in the military operations, intended against foreign enemies, as would clog and impede the plans proposed; and, aided by the fleets and/rices of England, tie up the