« PoprzedniaDalej »
missioners being nominated to succeed Camus and his colleagues, omitted no means of restoring order, and invigorating the spirit of the French army. General Dampierre, who had evinced his patriotism by his resiftance to the orders of Dumouriez, was provisionally appointed to the chief command, and in a very short time was so fuccessful in his exertions as to be enabled to lead them with confidence into action. From the middle of April to the 8th of May, a variety of partial, though sharp and bloody, engagements took place between the two armies, in which no decisive advantage was gained. On that general Dampierre advanced in person to dislodge a large body of the enemy posted near the wood of Vicoigne ; but martial ardor prompting him to expose his pecson too rafhly to the enemy's fire, his thigh was carried off by a cannon-ball, and he died the following day, deeply regretted, leaving the command in the hands of general Lamarche. In this action the English troops were engaged in the field for the first time in this war, and behaved with all their characteristic intrepidity ; but by the inexperience of the duke of York, their commander (for there is no royal road to the knowledge of military tactics any more than of geometry), being ordered to the attack of a strong poft in the wood, where they were exposed to the fire of some masked batteries, they suffered so much, that it was not thought expedient to make any official return of the killed and wounded.
« Great God !” exclaimed on this occasion one of the French generals to an English officer taken prisoner in the engagement, “ Why do you gallant Britons come hither to destroy us, or be yourselves destroyed? We have no quarrel with you; and are fighting only in defence of that liberty which was purchased for you by the beft blood of your ancestors."
The fiege of Valenciennes being now in contemplation of the prince of Cobourg, it was determined by the allies
to attempt an attack upon the fortified camp of Famars, which protected and covered that important fortress, Condé being already invested. At day-break, on the 23d of May, the British and Hanoverians under their royal commander, and the Austrians and German auxiliaries under the prince of Cobourg and general Clairfait, made a joint assault upon the advanced posts of the French. The conteft was severe ; but the French were evidently worsted, and, in the course of the night, they abandoned their camp, retreating towards Bouchain and Cambray. This success enabled the allies to lay liege in form to Valenciennes. On the ist of June general Custine arrived to take the command of the armies of the North and the Ardennes; but he deemed himself unequal to the talk of rendering effectual relief to that fortress, before which the trenches were opened on the 14th of that month; and, towards the beginning of July, the besiegers were able to bring 200 pieces of heavy artillery to play
Mines and counter-mines innumerable were formed also in the course of this fiege, both by the afsailants and the garrison; and many fierce subterranean conflicts were carried on with various success. But on the night of the 25th July those under the glacis and horn-work of the fortress were sprung, on the part of the besiegers, with complete success, and the English and the Austrians seized the favourable moment for attacking the covered-way, of which they made themselves masters. On the next day the place surrendered on honorable terms of capitulation, the duke of York taking poffeflion of it in behalf of the emperor of Germany. Nearly at the same time the garrison of Condé yielded themselves prisoners of war, after enduring all the rigors of famine ; and Mentz submitted, not without a long and resolute resistance, to the arms of Pruflia.
On the 8th of August the French were driven from the strong position they occupied behind the Scheld, which
was known by the name of Cæsar's Camp: after which a grand council of war was held, wherein it was determined that the British, Hanoverians, Dutch, and Hessians, thould separate from the Austrians, and form a distinct army, not dependent upon the co-operation of the Auftrians.
This was strongly opposed by the prince of Cobourg and general Clairfait, who clearly saw the fatal consequences of a system so different from that which had been adopted with such glorious success by the duke of Marlborough and prince Eugene. The British army, conducted by the duke of York, immediately decamped; and, on the 18th of August, arrived in the vicinity of Menin, where some severe contests took place, and the post of Lincelles, loft by the Dutch, was recovered by the English, at the point of the bayonet, led on by general fir John Lake, though very inferior in force, with a signal display of spirit and intrepidity.
Moving, with little resistance, towards Dunkirk, the trenches were opened before that fortress on the 24th ; and the duke of York, having entertained a secret correspondence with the governor-general, O'Moran, flattered himself with obtaining speedy possession of the place. On the other side, general Clairfait invested the town of Quesnoy; and the prince of Cobourg, who commanded the covering army, having defeated a body of troops which had been fent for its relief, the place surrendered on the rith of September.
With these achievements the successes of the allies may be said to have terminated; and Quesnoy was the extreme point of the progress made in the course of this memorable. campaign by the combined powers against France. We must now once more change the scene, and revert to the state of affairs in England.
It is a fact moft memorable in the history of this eventful period, that, on the second of April, M. Le Brun, minister of foreign affairs in France, addressed a letter to lord Grenville, in which, stating that the French republic was desirous to terminate all its differences with Great Britain and to end a war dreadful to humanity, and requesting a passport for a person vested with full powers for that purpose to the court of London ; and, in a separate letter, he named M. Maret as the proposed plenipotentiary of France, if this intimation produced the defired effect. This letter was delivered to lord Grenville by a Mr. John Saller, notary-public, who formally attested the receipt of them from M. Le Brun. To this noble advance on the part of the French government the British ministry, obstinate in their errors, paid no kind of attention. From this early concession it is probable that the French perceived their mistake in supposing (as they had, indeed, a good right to do, from the tenor of the existing treaty of 1786) that the dismission of the ambassador Chauvelin was intended by the court of London as a declaration of war; whereas it subsequently appeared, from the secret negotiation which Mr. Pitt was at the same time carrying on with general Dumouriez, that this famous dismission was a mere act of pride and passion, and by no means of deliberate and premeditated policy. It is even not improbable that, in the thoughtless precipitation of the moment, the second article of the treaty was not at all adverted to by politicians of such a description as now composed the British cabinet. But the hopes of the enemies of France were now high and fanguine ; and although the French executive government unquestionably would not have made any such overture in present circumstances, had they not been previously determined to give ample satisfaction to England, whose friendship and support must have been of the utmost consequence to the reigning party, this consideration had no weight with the British ministry, who would not even deign, in this second paroxyfm of blind presumption, to hearken to what M. Maret had to propose.
Far from feeling the flightest inclination to encourage an overture so consonant to the dictates of policy and humanity, a treaty was about this time concluded with the king of Sardinia, by which England bound herself not only “ to furnish to his Sardinian majesty a subsidy of 200,000l. per annum, to be paid three months in advance, which was an article of trivial moment, but also o not to conclude a peace with the enemy without comprehending in if the entire restitution of all the dominions belonging to this monarch previous to the commencement of the war;" although it had never been pretended that it was incum. bent upon
Great Britain to enter into the war against France for any such preposterous purpose.
On the re-assembling of parliament after the Easter recess, the attention of the legislature was forcibly attracted by the unparalleled number and extent of the bankruptcies which had taken place since the commencement of the war, as the first blcfied fruits of it, and the almost total stagnation and paralysis of commercial credit. A select committee was immediately appointed to report their opinion to the house on the best means of applying a remedy to this tremendous evil, which originated, as there was good reason to believe, in the alarm occasioned by the invasion of Holland. The report of the committee stated, that it would be advisable to issue Exchequer-bills, to the amount of five millions, to commissioners nominated for the purpose, for the assistance and accommodation of such mercantile persons as may apply, and who fall give proper fecurity for the sums that may be advanced on interest, for a time to be limited. This mode of relief, dangerous in its ultimate tendency and liability of abuse, was found extremely beneficial in its immediate operation, and the tide of commerce soon returned to its accustomed channel.
On the 25th of April Mr. Sheridan called the attention of the house to the late extraordinary memorial of lord Aukland to the States General ; and made, in the course of FOL. III.