England in the Eighteenth Century

By J. H. Plumb | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
THE WAR ON LAND 1802-1815

ONCE the sense of relief in being at peace had passed, all England realized that it was only a matter of months before the struggle was renewed. Napoleon had regarded the Treaty of Amiens as a new tactic in his struggle for Empire. This treaty had restored French possessions in the Caribbean; France possessed Louisiana; the vast hinterland was unclaimed, but a secret understanding with Spain allowed Napoleon to dream of a French Empire stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Golden Gate. But, even as he dreamed, his practised mind exploited the confusions of Europe to weaken still further Britain's position: with his grasp of military reality he knew that Britain must be conquered. Whilst Addington shillied and shallied, he took a firm grip on Switzerland, Holland, and Piedmont. When it was clear that public opinion would drive Addington willynilly into war, he sold Louisiana to the Americans, and refused to evacuate Malta. The last was a misjudgement. After astonishing acts of appeasement the British government became stiff-necked about Malta, and Napoleon was at war sooner than he expected or wished, for much of his fleet was scattered in the Caribbean.

It was easier for the government to declare the war than to fight it. Apart from the capture of a few French ships, the British could only wait on Napoleon's intentions, for his armies had swept through Italy, and we lacked allies. It was not long before his intentions disclosed themselves - the invasion of England; every port in Europe was rushed into a frenzy of shipbuilding: the Grand Army was brought to

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