In vain did Poniatowski remonstrate; he had no means of resistance. The Turks could no longer defend themselves from Russian invasion, much less assist Poland. They applied to Frederick to intercede with Catherine for peace for them. Nothing could so entirely suit Frederick's plans. He sent Prince Henry of Prussia to negotiate with Catherine, who took the opportunity to represent to her the advantages to the three great powers, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, strengthening themselves by appropriating portions of Poland. The Russians, relieved from contention with the Poles, now pushed on their victories against the Turks; drove them over the Danube, and seized some of their most fertile provinces. To complete their ruin, they, aided by England, attacked and destroyed their fleet in the Mediterranean.

At the period at which we have now arrived France was in a state of the wildest and most awful convulsion. A revolution had broken out, more terrible and furious than had ever yet appeared in the history of nations. The French people, so long trodden down by their princes, their aristocracy, and their clergy, and reduced to a condition of wretchedness and of ignorant brutality, almost unparalleled, seizing the opportunity of the distresses of the impoverished Government, and encouraged by a new race of philosophers who preached up the equality of the human race, had broken through their ancient subserviency, and were pulling down all the old constituted powers, ranks, and distinctions, with a rapidity which electrified the whole world. This insult roused the fiery blood of Spain. The king and queen were excited to paroxysms of rage. They told Mr. William Stanhope that, in future, they would put confidence in no prince except his master, nor admit any one else to mediate for them in their negotiations. But George refused to break with France on their account, and ventured to remind Philip that he himself stood greatly in need of the alliance with France. Blinded, however, by their wounded pride, the King and Queen of Spain now turned their anger against England. They recalled their plenipotentiaries from the Congress of Cambray, which was sitting to settle the affairs of Europe, and professed their readiness to abandon all their hostility to the Emperor of Germany, and to concede all that they had so long demanded from him, on condition that he entered into a close alliance with them against France and England. They sent back to France the widow of the late Don Louis, and also Mademoiselle Beaujolais, another daughter of the late Regent Orleans, who had been contracted to Don Carlos.


CHAPTER VI. PROGRESS OF THE NATION FROM THE REVOLUTION TO 1760. Bearing his prizes with him, Rodney proceeded to Gibraltar, carrying great exultation to the besieged rock by the news of such victory and the timely supplies. He sent on some ships to carry similar relief to our garrison at Port Mahon, and, after lying some weeks at Gibraltar, he dispatched Admiral Digby home with a portion of the fleet, and then with the rest made sail for the West Indies. Digby, on his homeward route, also captured a French ship of the line, and two merchant vessels laden with military stores. This blow to the Spanish maritime power was never altogether recovered during the war.

With such chimerical fancies, the young Corsican saw the fleet, on a splendid morning, stand out into the Mediterranean, the line-of-battle ships extending for a league, and the semicircle formed by the convoy six leagues in extent. On their way to Malta, the first object of their enterprise, they were joined by a large fleet of transports, bringing the division of General Desaix. On the 10th they were before Valetta, a fortress which, properly defended, would have set the French at defiance for months, before which time the British Admiral would have been upon them, and destroyed the whole scheme of the expedition, and probably its commander and projector with it; but the surrender of the place had been bargained for with the Grand Master, Hompesch, before starting. The once formidable Knights of Malta were now sunk in indolence and sensual sloth, and the French agent had agreed for the surrender for a bribe of six hundred thousand francs to the Grand Master. As General Caffarelli passed through the most formidable defences with Napoleon on their way to the house of the Grand Master, he said to him, "It is well, General, that there was some one within to open the gates for us. We should have had more trouble in entering if the place had been altogether empty."

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It is a curious fact, that whilst Cowper was haunted by the most agonising terrors of a nervous temperament, even to despair, his poetry breathes the most consolatory tone. Whilst his mind was often wandering in insanity, there is no composition so sane and so sound in intellectual substance as his. Though seldom indulging in high flights of imagination, yet his verse frequently rises into a richness and nobility of voice nearly equal to the prophetic. The "Lines on his Mother's Picture" exhibit the deep feeling of Cowper, and the ballad of "John Gilpin" the genuine mirth which often bubbled up in a heart so racked and tried with melancholy.

Matters were at this pass when Lord Wellington, who had heard of the attack, at his headquarters at Lezaco, two days before, came galloping up on the morning of the 27th. He found Soult only two leagues from Pampeluna, and saw him so near that he could plainly discern his features. Wellington caused his own presence to be announced to his two bodies of troops, and they answered the announcement with loud cheers. That day the troops of Soult were pushed backwards by a regiment of the Irish, and a body of Spanish infantry, at the point of the bayonet. The next day, the 28th, the French were driven down still farther. On the 29th both armies rested, but on the 30th the fight was renewed with fury; but Picton and Dalhousie, being sent across the mountains in opposite directions, managed to turn both flanks of Soult, and the French fled precipitately as far as Olaque. There the pursuing troops fell in with the right of the French, which[60] had been worsted by Hill. In the darkness the French continued their flight, and the next morning were found in full retreat for France. The British gave chase, and made many prisoners, taking much baggage. These battles, which have been named "The Battles of the Pyrenees," Wellington describes as some of the most severe that he ever saw. He states the loss of the British in killed at one thousand five hundred, but in killed and wounded at six thousand. The French, he says, admitted that they had lost fifteen thousand men, and he therefore gave them credit for the loss being much more. On one occasion Wellington surprised Soult, and had so laid his plans for surrounding him that he felt sure of capturing him; but three drunken British soldiers, rambling carelessly beyond the outposts, were taken, and let out the secret of Wellington being hidden close at hand, behind the rocks, and thus saved the French commander. A second time he was saved by the Spanish generals, Longa and Barcenas, not being at their posts in a narrow defile near St. Estevan, where he could only pass by a slender bridge. Still the British were at his heels, and committed dreadful havoc on his troops in this pass. On the 2nd of August there was a fresh encounter with Soult's forces near the town of Echalar, where they were again beaten, and driven from a lofty mountain called Ivantelly. Soult retired behind the Bidassoa, and concentrated his routed forces; and Wellington, having once more cleared the passes of the Pyrenees of the French, gave his army some rest, after nine days of incessant and arduous action, where they could look out over the plains of France, which they were ere long to traverse. But the army had not much rest here. The French made determined efforts to raise the siege of San Sebastian, while Wellington was as active in endeavouring to force Pampeluna to capitulate. Unfortunately he had still scarcely any proper men or tools for siege-work. He had long urged on the Government the formation of companies of sappers and miners. But, after eighteen months, they had formed only one company, whilst, as Wellington informed the Government, there was no French corps d'arme which had not a battalion of them. This first British company of sappers and miners came out on the 19th of August, and were immediately set to work. Sir George Collier sent his sailors to assist, and on the 31st Wellington considered that he had made sufficient breach for storming. But that morning Soult sent across the Bidassoa a strong body of French to attack the besiegers. These were met by a division of eight thousand Spaniards, who allowed the French to ascend the heights of San Marcial, on which they were posted, and then, with a shout, charged with the bayonet down hill, at which sight the French instantly broke, and ran for it. They were pursued to the river, in which many plunged, and were drowned. In the afternoon Soult sent over again fifteen thousand men, having put across a pontoon bridge. These, under the eye and encouragement of Lord Wellington, were charged again by the Spaniards, and routed as before; many again rushing into the river, and the rest, crushing upon the bridge, broke it down, and perished in great numbers also. The Portuguese troops likewise met and defeated another detachment of French, who had come by another way. These were supported by British troops, under General Inglis, and with the same result. Wellington was highly delighted to see the Spaniards thus, at length, doing justice to their native valour under British discipline, and praised them warmly. Soult is said to have lost two thousand men.