Monday, October 1, 2007

Napoleon Wishes to "Attach the People" of Malta to the French

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 1, pp. 175-176.


Head Quarters, Cairo (4th Fructidor), August 21.

BONAPARTE, Commander in Chief, to the General of Division, VAUBOIS, at Malta.

THERE is an absolute necessity, Citizen General, for your supplying Admiral Villeneuve with every thing necessary (Whether provisions, troops, or seamen), to enable him to fit out the two sail of the line, and the two frigates which he has with him.

Our communications are extremely difficult. I have received no letters from you. I have too much confidence in your zeal, however, to doubt for a moment that the fortifications of Malta are in the best condition, or that you will not make use of all the means in your power to attach the people(1) to us, and to expedite all the intelligence which may reach you from France.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)In the original, captiver le peuple. Sweet, says the poet, are the uses of adversity! the insatiate spoiler who spared nothing, human or divine, at Malta; who stripped the poor of every resource, plundered granaries, emptied the magazines, seized the public treasures, nay, the public curiosities,

Pocula adorandae rubignis, et populorum
Dona, vel antiquo positas a Rege coronas--

Who stripped the churches of their ornaments, the houses of individuals of their little plate, and who carried the wantonness of insult and outrage so far as to steal the archives of the island; (useless to him in every respect) the insatiate spoiler, we say, since his reverse of fortune, is become tender and humane. His thoughts turn to the people whom he injured in the full tide of prosperity, and, trembling for the consequences of his perfidy and his guilt, he writes a whining admonition to his officers to "attach them to him by every means in their power!"

Hypocrite! what MEANS OF ATTACHMENT did you leave to the troops, whom your advice exposed to the just vengeance of an injured nation? every thing which the Maltese regarded with reverence or love, you took with you, or sent to France; nay, such was your unbounded rapacity, that of the treasure you found in the Church of St. John, you did not leave Vaubois a single day's pay for the garrison, who, to this hour, have had no other resource than public and private plunder!

ATTACH THE PEOPLE!--No, the people are not stocks and stones; they will not always be robbed with impunity; nor will they, unless by compulsion, kiss the hands yet reeking with the blood of their wives and children.--ATTACH THEM!--No, your repentance and your insidious kindness come too late. Before your fleet had well lost sight of the coast, THE PEOPLE, stung to madness by their wrongs, rose up as one man, cut off hundreds of their oppressors, and are at this moment waging fierce and inexorable war against those who, protected by numerous fortresses, have hitherto found means to retard the sure approaches of captivity or death!

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