Peace of 1814 - Subsequent Events

At the close of 1813, it was evident that Bonaparte could hardly defend himself against the vast armaments collected on all hands against him. Early in 1814, having impressed almost every youth capable of bearing arms, he opposed the allies on the frontiers with a force much less numerous and worse disciplined. Even now he was offered peace, on condition that he should only retain France as it existed before the Revolution. But this proposition was too humiliating to his spirit to be accepted; and he entertained a hope that, at the worst, his father-in-law, the Emperor of Austria, would not permit him to be dethroned. Two months were spent in almost incessant conflict with the advancing allies, who, on the 30th of March, entered Paris in triumph; and in the course of a few days, ratified a treaty with Napoleon, by which he agreed to resign the government of France, and live for the future as only sovereign of Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean.

In the measures for settling France, Great Britain concurred by her representative Lord Castlereagh, who attended the allies during the campaign of 1814; and peace was proclaimed in London on the 20th of June. France was deprived of all the acquisitions gained both under the Republic and the Empire, and restored to the rule of the ancient royal family in the person of Louis XVIII. The emperor of Russia and the king of Prussia visited England in June, and were received with all the honors due to men who were considered as the liberators of Europe. Wellington, now created a duke, received a grant of L400,000 from the House of Commons, in addition to one of L100,000 previously voted; and had the honor to receive in person the thanks of the House for his services. Representatives from the European powers concerned in the war, met at Vienna, October 2, in order to settle the disturbed limits of the various countries, and provide against the renewal of a period of war so disastrous. Throughout the whole arrangements, Great Britain acted with a disinterested magnanimity, which, after her great sufferings and expenses, could hardly have been looked for, but was highly worthy of the eminent name which she bore amidst European nations.

In March 1815, the proceedings of the Congress were interrupted by the intelligence that Napoleon had landed in France and was advancing in triumph to the capital. He had been encouraged by various favorable circumstances to attempt the recovery of his throne; and so unpopular had the new government already become, that, though he landed with only a few men, he was everywhere received with affection, and on the 20th of March was reinstated in his capital, which had that morning been left by Louis XVIII. The latter sovereign had granted a charter to his people, by which he and his successors were bound to rule under certain restrictions, and with a legislature composed of two chambers, somewhat resembling the British Houses of Parliament. Bonaparte now came under similar engagements, and even submitted to take the votes of the nation for his restoration; on which occasion he had a million and a-half of affirmative, against less than half a million of negative voices, the voting being performed by ballot. His exertions to reorganize an army were successful to a degree which showed his extraordinary influence over the French nation. On the 1st of June he had 559,000 effective men under arms, of whom 217,000 were ready to take the field.

A Prussian army of more than 100,000 men, under Blucher, and one of about 80,000 British, Germans, and Belgians, under Wellington, wore quickly rendezvoused in the Netherlands, while still larger armies of Austrians and Russians, making the whole force above 1,000,000, were rapidly approaching. These professed to make war, not on France, but against Bonaparte alone, whom they denounced as having, by his breach of the treaty, placed himself out of the pale of civil and social relations, and incurred the penalty of summary execution.' Napoleon, knowing that his enemies would accumulate faster in proportion than his own troops, crossed the frontier on the 14th of June, with 120,000 men, resolved to fight Blucher and Wellington separately, if possible. The rapidity of his movements prevented that concert between the Prussian and English generals which it was their interest to establish. On the 16th, he beat Blucher at Ligny, and compelled him to retire. He had at the same time intrusted to Marshal Ney the duty of cutting off all connection between the two hostile armies. His policy, though not fully acted up to by his marshals, was so far successful, that Blucher retired upon a point nearly a day's march from the forces of Wellington.

After some -further fighting next day, Napoleon brought his whole forces to bear, on the 18th, against Wellington alone, who had drawn up his troops across the road to Brussels, near a place called Waterloo. The battle consisted of a constant succession of attacks by the French upon the British lines. These assaults were attended with great bloodshed, but nevertheless resisted with the utmost fortitude, till the evening, when Blucher came up on the left flank of the British, and turned the scale against the French, who had now to operate laterally, as well as in front. The failure of a final charge by Napoleon's reserve to produce any impression on the two armies, decided the day against him: his baffled and broken host retired before a furious charge of the Prussian cavalry, who cut them down unmercifully. On his return to Paris, Napoleon made an effort to restore the confidence of his chief counsellors, but in vain. After a fruitless abdication in favor of his son, he retired on board a small vessel at Rockfort, with the intention of proceeding to America; but being captured by a British ship of war, he was condemned by his triumphant enemies to perpetual confinement on the island of St. Helena, in the Atlantic, where he died in 1821.

Louis XVIII was now restored, and the arrangements of the Congress of Vienna were completed. The expenses of Great Britain during the last year of hostilities exceeded seventy millions; and the national debt, which in 1763 had been £230,000,000, now amounted to the vast sum of £860,000,000.

During the latter years of Napoleon, a reaction had taken place through out Europe against the innovatory doctrines which, by producing the French Revolution, had been the cause, innocent or guilty, of so much ruinous warfare. Encouraged by this sentiment, the sovereigns of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, had no sooner settled the new government of France. than they entered, September 26, 1815, into a personal league or bond for assisting each other on all occasions when any commotion should take place among their respective subjects. This treaty was composed in somewhat obscure terms; and from its professing religion to be the sole proper guide in the counsels of princes, in consolidating human institutions, and remedying their imperfections,' it obtained the name of the Holy Alliance. It was published at the end of the year, and communicated to the Prince Regent of England, who approved of, but did not accede to it.

In May 1816, the Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, was married to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, a young officer who had gained her affections when attending the allied sovereigns at the British court. In November 1817, to the inexpressible grief of the whole nation, the young Princess died, immediately after having given birth to a dead son.

In August 1816, a British armament under Lord Exmouth bombarded Algiers, and reduced that piratical state to certain desirable conditions respecting the treatment of Christian prisoners.

The year 1816, and the four following years, will always be memorable as an epoch of extraordinary distress, affecting almost every class of the community. The liberation of European commerce at the end of the war produced a proportionate diminution of that trade which England had previously enjoyed, through her exclusive possession of the seas. While all public burdens continued at their former nominal amount, the prices of every kind of produce, and of every kind of goods had fallen far below the unnatural level to which a state of war and of paper money had raised them; and hence the expenses of the late contest, which had never been felt in the fictitious prosperity then prevalent, came to press with great severity upon the national resources, at a time when there was much less ability to bear the burden. To complete the misery of the country, the crops of 1816 fell far short of the usual quantity, and the price of bread was increased to an amount more than double that which has since been the average rate.

On the 20th of January ,1820, George III died at Windsor, in his eighty-second year, without having experienced any lucid interval since 1810. The Prince Regent was immediately proclaimed as GEORGE IV; but there was no other change to mark the commencement of a new reign. .A few days after the decease of George III, the Duke of Kent, his fourth son, died suddenly, leaving an infant daughter, Victoria, with a very near prospect to the throne.