Research Subjects: Government & Politics



 

Sébastiani's Report From the Near East, 30 January 1803.

By Tom Holmberg

Introduction

On 30 January 1803 the Moniteur in Paris ran a report written by Horace-François-Bastien Sébastiani (1772-1851), Napoleon's roving ambassador in the Near East, in which he described, according to the British government's interpretation, the British army of occupation in Egypt (which was also have been evacuated under the terms of the Treaty of Amiens –Article VIII stating, "The territories, possessions, and rights of the sublime Porte, are maintained in their integrity, as they were before the war"— but remained in Egypt until March 1803) as an "undisciplined rabble, worn out by debauchery" and observed that it would only take an army of 6,000 Frenchmen to reconquer the country.  The British government chose to see this report as a provocation and a threat.  William Pitt said, "The mere circumstance of a military man having been sent at that time with such a commission to Egypt, was a sufficient evidence of the object of his mission," i.e., "of resuming his [Napoleon's] hostile project against Egypt." This overlooks, however, that by the Treaty of Amiens, Egypt was to have been evacuated by the time of Sébastiani's mission.  In fact, this report may have been published, in part, to point out the British failure to evacuate Egypt and Malta and as a response to Sir Robert Wilson's critical book on Napoleon's Egyptian expedition.

When the British government, in the person of Lord Hervey, complained to Andréossy about the report published in the Moniteur, the ambassador replied, "I am not surprised that the French Government should make use of every means to point out clearly the conduct of England as regards the execution of certain of the articles signed at Amiens.  To go back officially on matters such as the evacuation of Malta and Alexandria is to call into question the Treaty of Amiens.  Thus, in the reserved attitude adopted by the First Consul, England should only discover a signal mark of his sincere desire to preserve peace." Andréossy correctly pointed out to Hawkesbury that, "Without a very considerable navy we could have no designs on Egypt; the business of St. Domingo is quite sufficient for us, and besides, when such designs are conceived, care is taken not to divulge them."

When the object of Hervey's complaints returned to the issue of Malta, Andréossy responded, "You see that in the [Sébastiani] report reference is only made to Alexandria, which should have been evacuated long ago, and which England has on several occasions declared she was on the point of evacuating."  Then Hervey raised the complaint of the disparaging remarks made of Gen. Stuart in Sébastiani's report.  Andréossy replied, "You are very sensitive; and yet every day the London papers are filled with disgraceful calumnies, repugnant alike to decency and good taste.  What construction then do you wish us to put on your attitude?"  "The French papers may say what they please," Hervey complained, "but it is a different matter when it is the Moniteur, the official organ."

Sébastiani, Horace-François-Bastien, comte de La Porta, (1772-1851), a fellow Corsican, Sébastiani was commissioned in 1789, served under Napoleon during the Italian campaign.  Sent on a diplomatic and commercial mission to the Near East in October 1801.  Fought during the Austerlitz campaign and promoted general of division in December 1805.  Served as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1806 and organized the defenses at the Dardanelles against a British expedition in 1807.  Fought in Spain from 1808 to 1811.  Served in the Russian campaign in 1812, the campaigns in Germany the following year and in the campaign in France in 1814.  Served during the Hundred Days on the Rhine and was exiled to Britain after Waterloo.  From 1835 to 1840 was France's ambassador to Great Britain.

Stuart, John (1759-1815), an American-born British general, fought for the British in the American War of Independence, wounded at Guilford; later fought in Flanders (1793-95) and was a military adviser in Portugal.  In 1798, Stuart captured Minorca, but resigned his command in 1799.  Served under Abercromby in 1801 in Egypt.  Commanded British troops on Sicily in 1806 and was knighted, Count of Maida, for his victory over the French forces at Maida, commanded by General Jean Louis Reynier.  Repulsed the French invasion of Sicily in 1810, but again resigned his commission later that year.

Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar, (? -1804), also known as, Djezzar Pasha. A Christian Bosnian, having allegedly committed a sex crime as a youth, he joined the Turkish navy. He eventually fled to Constantinople where he sold himself into slavery.  Ahmad was sold to Ali Bey, ruler of Egypt, who employed him as an executioner.  It was in this capacity that he earned his nickname, al-Jazzar, literally, "The Butcher."  Fled from Egypt to Syria after having murdered a number of Mamelukes he had invited to a banquet. He was awarded the governorship of Sidon for his military service. Ahmad extended his territory to include Acre, forcing the Ottoman Sultan to recognize his control over Damascus, Ahmad's territories covered Palestine and Lebanon. Acre served as his capital from 1775 to 1804.  Wily, clever and cruel, Ahmad was nonetheless an able administrator, collecting taxes without mercy.  He was reputedly between sixty and seventy in 1799.  After his death it was written of al-Jazzar, "The wretch has perished and departed for hell."  

Source: Parliamentary History of England,… 1803. London: Hansard, 1820.

Note: Sébastiani's report has been broken up into paragraphs to make it easier to read.  In the original source the report is printed as virtually one continuous paragraph.

 

 

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