29-THE QUASI-WAR

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In 1798, the French Republicans, feeling betrayed by the USA, wanted the latter to return the French aid package that had helped them win their independence in 1781. Since Congress was in no position to do that, there was no telling what the disorganized French government of the times would do. It was quite a threat, and if Mayer was to defuse the situation, he needed to have a strong presence in the City. That same year, he sent his very able 21-year-old son Nathan to England. Mayer’s plan was to get the American Congress to send diplomats to France and offer to compensate France by having the USA buy the unoccupied French lands west of the Mississippi, while Nathan worked on a plan to have the English Navy destroy the very royalist and redundant French Navy.

The Quasi-War, as it became known, had to do with the signing of Jay’s Treaty in 1793, a trade agreement that Mayer and Benjamin had deemed indispensable to the growth of the American economy. America and France had signed the Treaty of Alliance in 1778, and Jay’s Treaty was superseding that agreement. The French and many Americans had been incensed, for it had been seen as a treacherous act by both the US Congress and the Directorate in France. Naturally, the French revolutionaries insisted on the return of the 500 tons of French gold given to America in 1778.

When Mayer asked Robert Morris to get Congress to send an American delegation to Paris to offer compensation by putting the Louisiana Purchase on the table, he was sure it would work. If America bought the Louisiana lands from France, the latter would receive a huge sum of money and the Quasi-War would stop. But first, France had to reclaim the port of New Orleans that they had ceded to the Spanish when they left America after the Treaty of Paris, in 1763. Barras was to get Talleyrand to have the Spanish sign a treaty. He was to promise the Spanish that the half of San Domingo that belonged to them and was presently occupied by France would be returned to them in exchange for New Orleans. Once this was done, he would get the Americans to buy the whole of Louisiana from the French, and it would more than compensate for France’s generosity in 1778.

However, when the American delegation, consisting of three diplomats, arrived in Paris, they were treated very poorly by the Marquis of Talleyrand who had the gall to request personal compensation in order to intervene on their behalf. The American diplomats were so shocked by this turn of events that they returned immediately to America to report to Congress. Both parties in Congress spoke with one voice in condemning the French response to their genuine peace overture. Meanwhile, the French Navy continued seizing and sinking American merchant ships in the Caribbean, while the fledgling US Navy retaliated as best it could. That’s where things stood in 1798, and from Mayer’s point of view, the Quasi-War had to be stopped before it escalated.

Mayer especially didn’t want the English Navy getting involved in the Quasi-War. He controlled the American monetary system, that of England, and indirectly that of France, and he didn’t want the three countries who were now under his financial control to be fighting each other. France was definitely not an enemy, and because America, England and France were unofficially trading partners, one navy was all that was needed, the English Navy.

Nathan was to use Bonaparte in order to get part of the French Navy destroyed, stopping the Quasi-War in the process, and it had to be done without his knowledge. Since Bonaparte was being groomed as France’s soon-to-be strongman, he had to be handled with care. Nathan would tell Ouvrard to do whatever was necessary to get Talleyrand and Barras to send young Bonaparte on his Egyptian campaign, and we know what happened to the French Navy in that campaign.

The French Navy would be completely destroyed at Trafalgar a few years later, but for now, the important thing was to put an end to the Quasi-War. Finally, in 1800, when Bonaparte became 1st Consul, a deal was struck regarding the Louisiana Purchase, and the non-existent French-American naval war stopped. The Louisiana Purchase would be finalized in 1803 and it would give Bonaparte the wherewithal to declare himself Emperor Napoleon.

In London, Nathan was doing very well. By 1810, he had taken over from the Goldsmid Bros. and created his own bank, making him the most powerful banker in the City. His bank had immediately started setting the daily price of gold for the whole world. However, because Mayer had wanted to make sure Nathan didn’t have any official ties with him or the First Bank of the United States, Nathan opened his bank in the City, using his own name. That way, all possible ties to a father who lived in a ghetto, to the First Bank of the United States, and to the French real estate scam disappeared. Nobody would ever know where all that power and gold came from. Anonymity was the key to success.

Other than wanting to do a good job and making his father proud, Nathan had another pressing personal matter. He had been introduced to two families in London, and though it had been Moses Elias Montefiore’s family that had taken him in, Nathan had closer ties to the Levy-Barent Cohen family from when he was 18. In 1795, on a trip to America with his father and brothers, they had stopped over in London, and that’s when Nathan had met Hannah Cohen who was 12 at the time. When he arrived in London in 1798, he was quite anxious to see the girl he had dreamt about during all those years.

He lost no time in founding a family. In 1806 he married Hannah Cohen, in 1808 Lionel was born, and in 1809 he moved to St. Swithin’s Lane in New Court, where he proceeded to set up the official home of his banking dynasty. But first, Nathan had to take over from the Goldsmid Bros.

In taking over from the Goldsmid Bros., he was helped by destiny. Benjamin Goldsmid committed suicide in 1808 just prior to Nathan’s moving to Swithin’s Lane. It was said that Benjamin had been depressed for some time. When his 19-year old son converted to Anglicanism, it had shaken him up, and when his wife and daughters followed suite, it appeared to do him in. At that time, he had expressed the thought that he was saddened by the thought of being the last Jew in his family, and no doubt, that had led him to be further depressed, enough to take his life. One morning, he was found in his bedroom dangling at the end of his bathrobe chord.

Abraham was troubled by his brother’s suicide, and doubly so because he was now alone in facing his firm’s business obligations. He had bought £14,000,000 of Government Consols, and in order to do so he had contracted a sizeable loan with the East India Company in Amsterdam. In 1810, for reasons unknown to the public, the East India Company called in Abraham’s loan. That of course forced him to sell the Consols at below market, thus making him suffer a huge loss that resulted in the insolvency of the firm. Abraham honorably used the whole of his personal assets to pay back what he owed, and that left him penniless. He committed suicide in 1810. A handgun was found near his body lying in a wooded area not far from his home.

While Nathan was in the process of creating his bank in the City, Napoleon had turned France into an orderly centralist state. Napoleon had then been encouraged to go and defeat what was left of the Holy Roman Empire in Eastern Europe, which was achieved at the Battle of Austerlitz. By 1810, Napoleon had served his purpose by destroying most of the Ancien regimes, and it was time to get rid of him. But Nathan thought he could use him one last time by sending him to Russia in order to force the Tsar to open the country to private gold mining, and perhaps to let the Tsar know that there was an international power much bigger than Russia. There would always be time to get rid of Napoleon later.

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28-BATTLE OF THE NILE

KNOW HOW WE GOT HERE, AND KNOW INNER PEACE

Because Bonaparte was popular and a nuisance, the great statesman, Talleyrand, who had been invited back from self-imposed exile and who had accepted now that the Terror was over, took him under his wing. Barras encouraged Talleyrand to get Bonaparte to go to Egypt. Nathan who was now in control in the City, had established a French chain of command. He operated through Ouvrard who financed Barras, who in turn financed Talleyrand. Bonaparte didn’t know it, but Nathan wanted to destroy a redundant French Navy which happened to be the fiefdom of royalists, and was sinking American shipping in the Atlantic.

So, Bonaparte went to Egypt, and after unloading his troops along the Egyptian coast, the French Fleet naturally found a place to lay at anchor while waiting for the troops to return. When Nathan got word, he leaked the information to the Admiralty in London, and the British Navy was only too happy to rush to Egypt in order to sink the French Navy that had defeated them at Yorktown. A new war tactic was being created, that of financing both sides in order to get the desired results.

When Bonaparte went off to Egypt in early 1798, the Directorate had chosen Admiral de Brueys to command the fleet. Bonaparte had no choice but to accept this incompetent, boot-licking coward, but he wasn’t overly concerned, for all he wanted was to get as many men as he could to the other side of the Mediterranean. Bonaparte even sacrificed space and sailors aboard the ships in order to transport more soldiers. Bonaparte was quite eager to go to the Middle East. He must have dreamt of riches and glory in wanting to reclaim Palestine, and to dominate trade with India by constructing the Suez Canal. Pillaging Egypt was no doubt in the back of his mind as well.

Admiral Horatio Nelson was the one chosen by the English Admiralty to command the English Fleet. Nelson was taking the looming battle very personally and very seriously. Like most of his countrymen, he wanted to settle the score for what had happened at Yorktown. The English Naval defeat in America had not gone down well, and Nelson had taken off with fourteen ships filled with hooligans hell-bent on killing frogs. Meanwhile, after unloading Bonaparte’s army, De Brueys anchored down in the Bay of Aboukir.

Although his naval force was inferior to that of Admiral de Brueys, Nelson was itching for a fight. When the English fleet was spotted in early afternoon on August 1st, 1798 by the artillery unit deployed on the heights dominating the entrance to the Bay of Aboukir, the Commandant of the French unit duly gave the alert, but there was no reaction on the part of Admiral de Brueys. His ships were at anchor, chained together from bow to stern, thus forming an impenetrable line of defense… or so he thought. Many of his more intrepid officers, Vice-Admiral Cheyla and others insisted he recall the sailors who were on shore and immediately take the offensive, for the favorable winds would have given them a decisive advantage. But he chose to do nothing as fourteen ships filled with vengeful, bloodthirsty Englishmen came bearing down on him.

Admiral de Brueys reasoned that it was 5:00 pm and was too late in the day for the English to attack. He didn’t even see the need to position frigates at the head of his anchored fleet to stop Nelson from sailing behind his position. It was as though he had decided to self-destruct. The great admiral kept repeating that Nelson would not attack on that day. So, the canons were not in position, and the decks were cluttered with everything except cannon balls, powder, and artificers.

Upon seeing the French fleet in such a vulnerable position, Nelson kept on going and attacked the ships on both port and starboard sides simultaneously. The French fleet was blown out of the water, while Nelson’s ships remained unscathed. Admiral Villeneuve, who commanded the flotilla at the head of the line and who could have used the favorable winds to counterattack, decided to escape, thus saving two ships of the line and two frigates.

The Egyptian campaign thus began in defeat. The only good thing that came out of the whole campaign was due to the great number of scientists Bonaparte had brought along with him. They, at least, were responsible for some major scientific discoveries. Politically, Bonaparte left behind an efficient Egyptian governing body. However, with regards to the survey of the proposed Suez Canal, the plan to connect the Mediterranean with the Red Sea was stopped dead in its tracks. Because it was wrongly concluded that the waterway would require locks to operate and would be very expensive and take a long time to construct, it was abandoned. The survey report made clear that the Red Sea was 33ft higher than the Mediterranean, an error of monumental proportion.

Bonaparte had several costly victories in Palestine, but they all went for naught. He had accumulated tons of artifacts, but since he had no ships to bring them back to France, it turned out that it was the English Navy that eventually transported most of those artifacts back to London. As for Bonaparte, leaving his army behind in Egypt, he took off for Paris. When he arrived, his propaganda machine had worked wonders, and he was again acclaimed as a hero. Thereafter, Barras quietly retired, and Bonaparte casually assumed power by declaring himself 1st Consul with Talleyrand by his side.

27-RECRUITING BONAPARTE

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Paris Commune1n late 1793, when Gutle heard of the Vendean genocide, she took it very hard, for she hadn’t yet gotten over Marie-Antoinette’s execution on Oct. 14th of that same year. If her man was the most powerful banker in the world, and he was, he just had to do something about stopping the atrocities.

Mayer agreed. The time had come to put an end to the terror. When Barras returned to the Convention from Toulon, he was widely acclaimed as a hero, and Mayer seized the moment. He wrote to Ouvrard telling him to finance Barras and give him all the means necessary to put an end to the Paris Commune working out of Paris City Hall. Not only was Robespierre running the guillotine at full speed, but he had set up procedures for mass trials after which 50 to 60 victims were executed at a time.

Barras became very affluent in a very short period of time and took charge of the Convention. Barras was influential, and when he sensed that the moderates were ready to get rid of the mad dogs (les sans-culottes) in the Assembly, he moved to have Robespierre and his lieutenants arrested on July 27th, 1794. However, Robespierre was brought to the Hotel de Ville run by his friends, the sans-culottes. So, Barras had no time to lose. He accepted the nomination to become commander of the Paris military forces and immediately went to City Hall to fetch Robespierre. Robespierre was wounded in the process, and the next day, on July 28th, 1794, he was guillotined, followed by 80 more mad dogs the following day. The French Revolution ended overnight.

A year later, when the Royalists threatened to take control of the Convention, Barras had a way to stop them. He employed an idle Bonaparte who had long sought from the revolutionary government to be reinstated as brigadier general. On October 5, 1795, Barras commanded him to stop the Royalists who were marching on the Convention. Using artillery, Bonaparte massacred 300 Royalists on the steps of St. Roch Church. The young man received all the honors of victory, and Barras praised him highly in the presence of the assembly. His appointment to the rank of general of division was voted by acclamation while his protector, Barras, settled in the Luxembourg Palace.

Barras was a completely debauched individual, and he welcomed bribes from military suppliers and big business in order to pay for his mistresses, and his aristocratic lifestyle. Ouvrard himself gave him a contract to supply the Navy. He was quite generous towards his friends as he entertained many at the Castle of Grosbois which served both as his summer headquarters and his hunting lodge. Suppliers, solicitors, horses, and adventurers of all kinds, accompanied Barras wherever he went. Barras was the most popular of the five directors and his court presented a singular mixture of the biggest names of old aristocratic France and ‘nouveaux riches’. Being indirectly financed by Mayer, and having the full support of Bonaparte to whom he had given his mistress, Joséphine Beauharnais, he had nothing to worry about.

From his headquarters in Luxemburg Palace, Barras became known as le ‘roi pourri’, the rotten king. Of course, this dictatorship wasn’t meant to please the Royalists who were almost totally excluded from power, but they weren’t about to demonstrate in the streets of Paris again, especially since Bonaparte, the ruthless one, was in charge of the Paris garrison and was protected by Barras. However, after the Toulon massacre, when Barras had asked Bonaparte to take charge of the Paris Garrison and protect the Convention, he had warned Barras, “Once my sword is drawn, it will not be sheathed until order is restored”.

On March 9, 1796, Bonaparte married Josephine de Beauharnais. Two days after his marriage, Barras sent him off to take charge of the Army of Italy. It was quite a promotion, but it was in fact a way to keep him out of the way. Not surprisingly, what Bonaparte found was an army  weak, hungry, and running out of supplies. Nonetheless, in less than one year, he had recruited one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers, five hundred and forty cannons, not to mention horses, uniforms and weapons for all.

When he went to Italy, he was quite aware that his future rested on the shoulders of his ‘grognards’, and he set about turning them into soldiers. In no time, he had them eating out of his hand, and if they called him “Petit Caporal,” it was not because of his rank or his size, it was an affectionate term they used in addressing a great General who spoke their language. He made them feel he was one of them by showing great familiarity without ever jeopardizing his commander status. He was a man of stature who treated them with respect.

Bonaparte authorized his soldiers to take what they needed in an orderly way, and because northern Italy was such a rich region, the conquering army soon started looking like one. As Bonaparte’s fame and fortune grew, so did his soldiers’ self-esteem, for they were the recipients of many promotions and decorations and they basked in glory. In no time at all, the “grumblers” were draped in well-fitting uniforms, had shining weaponry, and the officers were riding spirited horses. The medals that were handed out in profusion made the spectacular uniforms even more striking. It was only natural for Bonaparte to make Italy his home base, where he accumulated victories and worked on his propaganda machine, for he had Italian blood and spoke Italian.

While he ruled in Italy, Bonaparte never stopped chasing the Austrians. Throughout the autumn of 1796, he whittled away at the Austrian army with victories at Castiglione, Bassano and Arcole. In March 1797, just two months after routing the enemy at Rivoli and driving them from northern Italy, he crossed the Alps into Austria itself, and by April 7, 1797, was within seventy-five miles of Vienna. Stunned by the advancing French armies, the Austrian Emperor sued for peace.

His way of fighting was like no other before him, he made great use of artillery, moved his army with lightning speed, and never satisfied with just winning a battle, he always went in for the jugular. He was a ruthless foe, using ungentlemanly tactics unknown to Ancien Regime field commanders.

Each victory was not only related in detail, often in advance, but embellished as well. In every French village, it was a common occurrence to hear the church bells heralding a news bulletin describing the great exploits of Bonaparte, the crier never failing to stress the General’s great courage and prowess. The fact that these bulletins were more often than not written by the great man himself didn’t seem to bother anybody. The French were a battered people and they couldn’t get enough of these great military feats involving brave Frenchmen. Bonaparte was building a solid reputation that no one in metropolitan France would dare attack, not even the newly-entrenched landed gentry. Understandably, when he returned to France in 1797, he was acclaimed as a hero.