« ZurückWeiter »
He made use of this interval with indefatigable activity in drawing his reinforcements to his camp, securing what he had already gained, and opening out new prospects. In Chalons and Rheims, General Harville and Sparre had drilled 10,000 men, which raised the army of Champagne to 70,000 men. Dumouriez further urged the Minister to send 15,000 men of the Rhine Army by way of Metz to Verdun-a movement in the highest degree dangerous to the Prussian retreat. In the interval a quarrel with Kellermann and Servan threw great and unexpected difficulties in his way. The former, who claimed all the merit of the victory at Valmy, was irritated by the undoubted ascendancy of Dumouriez; and Servan was incessantly urged in Paris to provide for the defence of the capital; and they vied with one another in pressing Dumouriez to retire from his hazardous position, beyond the Marne. Dumouriez on this occasion displayed his great talents in their full splendour. His position, which on the 15th was perhaps a perilous one, now fixed the enemy to the spot on which they stood; and he was just as little inclined to be driven out of it by the Parisians as by the Germans. He was, at this time, the only man in France who steadily defied the roar of the capital; although the volunteers of his army brought its echoes closely and sharply to his ears. It was no easy task to keep his illdisciplined, hungry, and quarrelsome men inactive, in a position in which the enemy cut them off from Paris and their magazines, where the supplies were often interrupted, while the negotiation with Manstein appeared to the volunteers a barefaced act of treachery. But Dumouriez was able to attach his soldiers to his person, to keep down the volunteers, to inspire Kellermann with respect, and to enlighten the minds of the Ministers. The advantages of his system were seen in the daily increasing distresses of the enemy. The Prussians were five days without bread; the exhausted land could supply no more. Bad food produced sickness in man and beast; the cold wet weather, which had annoyed
CH. IV.] DUMOURIEZ ADVOCATES PEACE WITH PRUSSIA.
them on the march, settled into incessant rain, which drenched the ground, destroyed the tents, and in a few days spread a murderous dysentery through one third of the army. Under these circumstances the prospects of the French improved every day; and on the 27th Dumouriez was formally raised to the chief command over Kellermann, a promotion which implied the sanction of his plan of operations. An exhortation was added that he should take the idea of falling back beyond the Marne into consideration; to which Dumouriez replied, by return of post, that he should beware of obeying so foolish an order.
He continued his diplomatic exertions in the midst of these military cares and anxieties. He strongly urged Servan. not to let fall the negotiations with Prussia. "I confess," he wrote on the 16th, “that in my opinion. nothing would be so important to France as the separation of Prussia from the Coalition. Hitherto I have only played the part of battledore to keep the question in motion; but as the Prussians feel confidence in me as a quondam Minister, I could at once proceed to actual negotiation, as soon as it seemed advisable to you.” He would then, he said, demand of the King, recognition of the Republic, evacuation of France, dissolution of the Austrian coalition, and perfect neutrality in a war between France and Austria; and Prussia, on her side, must content herself with a simple intercession on behalf of Louis XVI., without any express stipulations. "I have not, as yet," he concluded, “made any overtures to Manstein on the subject; but I have hinted that it is only in this shape that negotiations can be carried on, and that, moreover, the French care but little about negotiating at all."
These views were received with great satisfaction in Paris, since the immediate danger was past, and the self-confidence of the People knew no bounds. The parties in the Convention thought of nothing but victories, revolution, booty and conquest; and the execution of Dumouriez's Belgian
plan was among the most cherished hopes of Danton as well as of Lebrun. Nothing would conduce more to its success than a rupture of the European coalition by a separate peace with Prussia. And what a triumphant satisfaction would it be, if, in addition to the confidently expected successes against Austria, they could win over the Prussian Monarch to the side of the Revolution! To effect this latter purpose, they considered that they had allurements enough to offer, and the negotiations were therefore zealously resumed, but with the deepest secresy. In deference to the Convention and the Jacobinical theorists, the Council of Ministers decreed that Dumouriez should not treat with the enemy until they had evacuated the soil of France; but Westermann and Benoit were secretly despatched to the Prussian head-quarters, to conclude, if possible, a separate peace. Dumouriez, meanwhile, had endeavoured to prepare the way. The proclamation of the Republic had not yet cooled the zeal of Brunswick and Manstein. On the 26th the arrangement for the exchange of prisoners was completed, in which Prussia made the important concession of silently passing over the Emigrés. Still however the King showed no inclination to desert the Coalition; and Dumouriez, who gradually began to doubt of success, determined to press this all-important point. 1 On the 27th he handed to Colonel Manstein a new memorial for the King, in which he made the separation of Prussia from Austria his sole theme, and purposely expressed himself in sharp and strong language, in order to test thereby the real inclinations of Prussia.
But he had chosen a most unfortunate moment for this communication. The day before, the Marquis Lucchesini who, since the return of the Minister Schulenburg to Berlin, had managed the diplomatic business at head-quarters, but had been absent for a few days in Verdun-had again been with the King, and had completely changed the appearance
i Il ne faut pas, he wrote, que ceci degenère en fourberie royale.
of affairs in that quarter. He was a brother-in-law of Bischoffswerder, but an intimate friend of Manstein. Like the latter, he regarded the Austrian alliance which the former had concluded, as a folly; but he also considered that his military colleague had thoughtlessly entered on a path which could lead to no result at all. The first thing that Lucchesini remarked was that Dumouriez had shown no credentials from his Minister; nay, that in the present anarchical state of Paris, it was doubtful whether the Minister himself had the power to conduct such a' negotiation. He then dwelt npon the fact that Dumouriez alone derived any advantage from the previous truce, which rendered his sincerity doubly questionable, while nothing was more certain than that the very appearance of treating with the enemy would place Prussia in a false light in the eyes of her allies. The truth of these representations forcibly struck the King—who was, however, entirely cured of his war fever, and extremely desirous of an honourable settlement--and he thought that he had been very inconsiderately involved in dealings with the Republicans. In this mood he received the memorial of Dumouriez, which was very ill adapted for its purpose; the King was extremely angry when Dumouriez-in speaking of Prussia's adhering to the Coalition-said, among other things, that he (the King) would thereby sacrifice the weal of his State to an illusory sentiment of honour. Manstein was told to reply, that Dumouriez was welcome to his own principles, but that the King regarded fidelity to his allies as his highest duty. High words were exchanged on this point, and the King, to use Lucchesini's polite expression, "was not restrained by his kindness of heart from expressing in strong language his displeasure with the Colonel,” as the originator of such a negotiation. A portion of the royal anger fell on the Duke of Brunswick, who was compelled to issue a new manifesto on the 28th, in which he repeated all the threats of July against the French. The King himself was desirous of renewing hostilities without delay; the Emigrés were in raptures, and the Russian chargé d'affaires, Prince NassauSiegen, offered to beg his Empress to send a Russian army to join in the Spring campaign. But even the Duke, in spite of his temporary loss of favour, did not find it difficult to hinder any active proceedings, as the relative position of the two armies was entirely changed since the 20th. In an engagement with sick and exhausted troops against an enemy double in number, nothing could be looked for but entire defeat. On this head Lucchesini entirely agreed with the Duke, and the idea of a battle was abandoned as soon as mooted.
If the Prussians were not to fight, their retreat became every moment more urgently necessary. It was already sufficiently dangerous for them to make their way through the boggy passes of the Argonnes, with an army in superior numbers on their flank. Benoit and Westermann arrived at an opportune moment. If Dumouriez had hitherto reaped all the military advantages of the truce, it was now the turn of the Prussians to lessen the evils of their retreat by skilfully prolonging the negotiations.